God Can Be Such a Chore

Is there something in your life that you just keep putting off? Hour after hour, maybe even day after day you find other distractions to pass the time until eventually, inevitably, you just have to break down and do it? We call them chores. A necessary task that we would rather not do, or at least, its no where near the top of our priority list.

Sadly, this sums up our placement of God in situations. I know there have been times when I only read because I skipped the last few times. I’ve only prayed because I felt guilty. I’ve only asked because I needed something.

Have you ever been in a relationship like this? Has anyone ever told you, “you weren’t my first choice” or “you are the best of what’s left”? I sure hope not. But, if we aren’t excited to great God each day and spend time with Him, I’m afraid we might be on the giving end of this type of neglect.

The phrase sounds harsh, and maybe even a little sacrilegious. But if I’m honest with myself, I have made God a chore at times. He has been a burden to me. Something I only did because I had to, not because I wanted to. But I think that honesty will let me rebuild the relationship. I can confess and bask in the new day God has given me.

We live in a world filled with evil when temptation successfully convinces us to shrug off the only hope we’ve ever had. It doesn’t even feel like an attack at all when it happens. Just a passing thought… I’d rather watch TV, or go to the movies, and hang out with friends, or catch a nap, or maybe even do real chores. I’ll spend time with my creator later… when I’m not so busy.

A simple thought. A passing notion. And maybe even a little productivity in life as we run errands or build relationships with others. But demons cheer. They know something we often forget. We are at war and they just separated us from our defense. They drove a wedge between us and our community of faith. They delayed a mighty prayer.

We grabbed a hotdog and played some Sudoku, but they exchanged high fives and danced a fiery jig. Anytime they can make God into this mystical, distant, abstract thought, they win a massive stronghold in our lives. They like to take the humanity away from God.

God became flesh. He walked this earth. We are already made in His image. When we don’t see the face of God, we tend to think more of Him as an ideal. Maybe even a cause. Sometimes I don’t recycle because the recycling bin is too full, or its too far away. Sometimes I don’t give an extra dollar to cure cancer at the checkout line because I’ve given enough already.

But Jesus isn’t a faceless organization. He is our brother. God sent His Son to embrace us as family. When we reject time with him, we aren’t just telling a stranger that we gave at the office, we are telling a loved one that we found someone else. Something better. Something more meaningful to us.

We need to understand the implications of our priorities. This isn’t a plea to go to church. God doesn’t want people to sigh and exclaim, “fine, I’ll go to church!”. He wants His family to join Him in the victory. He wants what we all want. He wants to be chosen back. We all know what it feels like to be left out, forgotten, and ignored. Can we comprehend that we can do this to the one who gave it all for us?


Photo by Catt Liu on Unsplash

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Eating Meatballs With God

Last night my wife made meatballs. They were tasty! Our five year old boy was excited. “Meatballs!!!!!” he exclaimed. As she was portioning out the food to make sure we had enough for tomorrow, she mentioned he was getting 6 meatballs. His excitement turned to concern. “aw… I wanted 7”. He said it again when he heard no response. He was now sad. As he ate his food he kept mentioning how hungry he was and how desperately he needed more meatballs. (of course he was stuffed before he could finish what he was initially given).

If you have any experience with a 5 year old, you know the number does not matter. If she had promised 4 meatballs, he would have wanted 5. If she had mentioned 20, he would have needed 21. But what we can all relate to, even us seasoned adults, is that he did not enjoy his food while he ate because he was preoccupied with what he didn’t have.

Some of us are better about this than others, but I know many adults who still struggle with enjoying what they have and living in the moment. It’s this latter part that is more universal. Living in the moment. Forgetting the past and using the time given to you as you get it to make the most out of life.

We spend so much time idolizing or regretting the past and so much time worrying about or trying to expedite the future, we spend very few moments living in the present. The problem is that God doesn’t promise us an earthly future and He doesn’t care about our past. So the only thing we have that can connect us to God is the now. The moment we live in where we actually have the ability to be Christ-like (Christian).

We can’t connect to God through our past decisions, even the good ones. God doesn’t hold a grudge, He will accept us as we are, but He also doesn’t accept yesterday’s version of you. Our walk with Him isn’t a decision made in the past, its a constant, life changing, on going, daily, adventure where we live and breath while basking in the presence of our Savior.

We can’t connect to God through our future. It hasn’t happened. We can’t control it. We can’t make it happen quicker. The future is futility. Each moment passed is another future moment just out of reach. Tomorrow simply becomes tomorrow the next day. Even worse, Not only do we still have a tomorrow after tomorrow, but now we have another yesterday to pile on that we will likely regret or overly cherish.

So when do we enjoy life? When do we commune with our Lord? When are those moments that build up a fruitful and successful life? We miss them so often because they are so rare. Not rare in quantity but extraordinarily rare in our ability to choose them. They are the moments we have. The time that is given us. The present. The now.

We are given them every day. We have one right this minute. But when we fervently try to refuse the moment, it goes un-lived. Our nose is stuck in the rear view mirror while our foot has the gas peddle mashed in. We live only for the future while trying to change the past. We can’t serve two masters. We can’t live in two time frames at once.

This is not a new struggle. We have been cautioned to ‘stop and smell the roses’. But we have sped up. Stopping isn’t enough anymore. We need to get out of the car. Its the notion that we have control. We can back up and move forward at will and with great speed. And while we think we are having an effect while doing that, all we really accomplish is spinning the wheels over every useful moment until they become yet another regret in our mirrored past.

This might all make sense if our God who became man was still buried in a tomb. It would be fitting that people who seemingly worship the past would be the followers of an ancient god that once lived but now rests in a sealed crypt forever. We could ponder what he once was and how it could have been.

But since we are the followers of a risen King… a living God… our monument’s door is open and the insides are kept, clean, and EMPTY… so, past tense doesn’t really work for us. He wasn’t god… He is God. He is alive. And so our worship is to Him. It is with Him. Now. Today. Right now.

Our minds have become tombs of their own. Past conversations… what I should have said, what I would do if I had the chance, how I felt. They aren’t just full of regrets, but feelings, memories, expressions. One of the first things we need to do as we don the label of Christian, which means Christ-like… the first thing we need to do to resemble Jesus… is to blow the door off our own graves and let out the past.

Free it. Let it go. That isn’t us anymore. We can’t be the transformed person God wants us to be if we are clinging to the past. We can’t be renewed if we are prisoner to our mistakes and missed chances. Through Jesus, we have died to that life. When we climb out of that mausoleum, we are faced with the now. The moments that actually matter… the ones that contain that magical ability to live. To actually live free from regret and worry.

This is when we can grasp the Savior’s hand and walk with Him. And when we do that, there is no fear or worry, because our future becomes every waking moment, thoroughly enjoyed and gracefully lived to the fullest. This is where we can taste the meatballs and enjoy them in the moment. No taxes, no root canals, no bills, no traffic… just savory goodness.

Because this moment right here… it’s all we have… and it’s where God is. He isn’t in the worry over things not seen, and He isn’t found in the regret. He wants to eat meatballs with you, but we have to rise to our new life in this open, unclaimed moment and pick up the fork with thanksgiving.

We can all shovel food down our throats and effectively accomplish the task of eating. Each of us knows how to breath and we can turn oxygen to carbon dioxide with the best of them. But that doesn’t mean we are LIVING. The living God left his tomb behind. We are meant to join Him.


Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash

When God says, ‘No’… or, Chase vs. Pokemon

Our son gets an allowance.  He typically wants the first thing he sees in the toy section… or maybe even the end-cap before the toy section.  Like many of us, hes a “stuff” centered kid.  He’s an amazing, good-hearted boy, but he likes toys.

When he saw the Chase stuffed animal, he fell apart (in a happy, good way).  He has allowance money so we confirmed that he wanted it and he happily exclaimed, “YES!”.

As we continued shopping, he hugged the animal, told it he loved him, and was pretty much as happy as he could be.

But when we reached the checkout isle, he spotted a Pokemon key-chain.  First you need to understand that he has never seen Pokemon.  Not the show, not the movie, not even the commercials.  His only reference to Pokemon is that his friends at school (most of whom are older) like it.

Any parent knows, this now means he likes it too.  Even though he has never watched an episode, touched a toy, or has any reference to it whatsoever.  But that doesn’t matter in the eyes of peer pressure… even at just over 5 years old.  “I want that!“, he shouted exuberantly.

I clarified he was talking about the key chain and then parenting kicked in.  (albeit newbish, frustrated parenting).  I thought, ‘this will be quick’ and asked the question.  “Well, which would you rather have, the animal you have been hugging for the past 30 minutes or this keychain?”  Before I could even finish, he blurted the answer… “POKEMON KEYCHAIN!!!!!”.

I screamed as loud as my internal brain could scream to itself without letting any actual words out, … “YOU DON’T HAVE ANY KEYS!!!”

This could have gone down a few different ways.  It’s his allowance and we generally try and let him decide how its spent.  He tithes a little, but we also let him make some mistakes as well to try and get those lessons in him about how he spends his money.

In this case, I just couldn’t do it.  Something he loved and adored versus something he didn’t even understand on multiple levels.  He has no keys, there is no way to really ‘play’ with a keychain, and he doesn’t know the first thing about Pokemon.

So I had to be the bad guy.  (for about 3 minutes).  The simple fact is, I know better than he does.  I’m not smart or better or special.  I just have more experience than he does.  And I know that keychain would have been buried in a toybox never to be seen again after about 10 minutes of looking at it.  And the next time we went to the store he would have wanted the Chase stuffed animal with no allowance available to buy it.

So I said no.  I said he couldn’t use his own money to buy something.  I think the picture above shows how he handled the event.  Sad at first, but he has fed his stuffed animal, let him do his home work, watched movies, slept with it, and pretty much hasn’t done anything without Chase by his side.

I knew something he didn’t.  I knew how much more happiness would come from a “no, I’m not gonna let you do that”.  He experienced 3 minutes of sadness while we stared at that dangling, shiny key chain during checkout.  But once the car was packed in the parking lot, he had already forgotten about it.  Days later, he loves every life moment with Chase glued to his hip.

It’s easy to put myself in dad-mode and bask in how happy my son is with some swift, logical parenting… but like in most parables, I’m not the parent in this story.  I’m the boy who wants things that aren’t good for me, wastes stuff, covets, and gets sad when things don’t go my way.  MY way.  God… He is the one who knows whats best.  He is the one who lovingly withholds, carefully plans, and masterfully executes things I may never understand.

God’s “no” is so much more loving than any man’s “yes”.  Not only loving, but good for us.  We often have the freedom to make our own mistakes, and we can usually learn a good lesson when we do.  But praise God for the “no” answer.  That wonderful experience where He steps in and decides that against our better judgement, He isn’t going to let us mess that up.

Thank you, God… for all those times you save me from myself.  And please forgive my response, which often isn’t eternally focused.

Are you plugged in?

I lost internet for two days over the weekend.  Many will read that sentence and feel my pain.  I can feel the shared sympathy.  Thank you!  There was a time when the internet could have gone out and I would have never known.  That time is long since past.  Now, it does not matter what I am doing, it involves the internet.

I have over 20 internet enabled devices in my home, and quite honestly, that is without trying.  I’ve passed on many options to include the internet that most likely won’t be options soon.  Did you know they make refrigerators that connect to the internet?  They have for years.  Soon it will be standard on all models.  I don’t own an internet watch, a web based doorbell, or WiFi light bulbs… but all of these have existed for quite some time.  My 20 devices online at the moment will likely become 40 in a very short amount of time… without even trying to buy internet enabled devices.

The true testament to how deeply I rely on the interwebs can be seen when the internet connection is dropped.  Because nearly everything we do relies on some form of connectivity, my plans are deviated when the outage occurs.  In other words, every single time the internet goes down, I have to find something else to do.  I have my own top 10 list of things I attempt to do to pass the time while the internet is out:

  1.   Organize my email (check from my backlog, reply, file things in folders, etc).
  2.   Play online games
  3.   Online banking
  4.   Get caught up on Facebook.
  5.   Watch videos on YouTube.
  6.   Talk to someone (using Skype or VOIP technology)
  7.   Just watch a movie (Netflix, Prime, Hulu, etc)
  8.   Do some shopping (Amazon, Newegg, Slickdeals)
  9.   Engage any of my hobbies (writing, photography, etc all requiring online tools)
  10.   Misc (Check news, sports stats, fantasy teams, taxes, browsing, etc… all online).

I have to go through a routine of shock and confusion before it sinks in that everything I do routes back to the internet in some way.  Even with the knowledge that my connection has been severed, my gut reaction based on habit and muscle memory is to try to do things that I forgot relied on that link.

This is very similar to how our relationship with God should be.  All things lead to Him.  He is a part of everything.  Everything that we do should honor Him and point to Him in some way.  Should He ever be apart from us… we would be hopeless.  Lost.  Worthless.

Jesus was disconnected from God when He took our place on the cross.  We call that ‘Hell’.

It’s getting more difficult to find things to do when the data stops pouring into my home.  Can we think of things that we can accomplish without God?  Can we imagine a world without God?  My hope is that we are so committed to the life God blessed us with that we serve Him in every act, word, and thought… so much so, that even without thinking, our muscle memory and great habits take over and we continue to nurture others as we build on the relationship ourselves.

 

 


Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

War, What is it Good For… if You Run?

When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near. For God said, “Lest the people change their minds when they see war and return to Egypt.”  But God led the people around by the way of the wilderness toward the Red Sea.  – Exodus 13:17-18

If they face war, they might return to Egypt.  You might be tempted to think something like this:  Why would a mighty God lead people around difficulty… especially when most of the Bible is filled with God taking people straight through the middle of difficulty and providing them a way to make it through?  (Much like He had just done by leading them out of Egypt).  In other words, doesn’t this approach seem weak?  Doesn’t it feel timid?  Doesn’t it sound un-God-like?

God can lead the 300 to defeat the hundred thousand. (Judges 7)

He can bring down walls and deliver cities to those marching in circles. (Joshua 6)

He can bring down a giant with a sling shot toting boy. (I Samuel 17)

So why would God fail when the Israelites saw war? I’m glad you asked. God would not have. They would not have fought. They would not have stood their ground. They would not have prayed and trusted God.

They would have fled. Ran. Tucked their collective tails and scurried away. This is easily identified as their M.O. Miracle after miracle they consistently complained when things didn’t go their way, often blaming God for their freedom while claiming oppression, prison, and slavery would have been better.

God, being the intelligent Creator that He is, knew exactly what their response to war would have been.  They would have gotten completely out of Dodge.  Promptly.

The bottom line is that God won’t use people that aren’t willing to be put into usable situations.  You can’t start a prison ministry if you aren’t willing to step through that barred gate.  You can’t go on an overseas mission trip if you won’t walk on a plane.  You can’t witness miracles if you aren’t in over your head trusting God and following His commands.  And you certainly can’t defeat an enemy while running in the opposite direction.

It’s not really that God can’t… it’s more that He won’t.  God loves us so much that His plan fully includes us.  We are a part of the plan… we are the plan.  It’s operation ‘rescue people’.  And He was willing to let His Son go in order to pull it off.  We have a part too.  We have to accept.  We have to listen.  We must obey.

In Matthew 15:21-28 a woman confronts Jesus and He turns her away.  While there is likely a bigger story here, she still played her part.  She reasoned with Him and pleaded with Him.  And He changed His answer allowing her daughter to be healed.  The opposite happened in Matthew 14:22-33 when Peter walked on water.  He played his part and stood with Jesus on the waves in the storm.  But when he was distracted, he began to sink, losing the favor His Savior had previously given him.

I’ll stop with those and just claim there are a plethora of stories where Jesus acted in response of us.  Humans.  People.  Even in the old testament when man talked directly with God they would reason and ask Him to reconsider.  He did.  Moses got his brother Aaron on the payroll of the Egyptian exodus after arguing his inexperience to God.  Abraham convinces God to spare Sodom if only 10 righteous are found in it.  Lot convinced the angels to allow him to flee to a small town after they commanded he run to the mountains.

The point is… we have something God gave us.  A choice.  We can accept His commands.  We can speak with Him and lift our concerns to Him.  Or, we can simply deny Him.  The Egyptians made a habit of ignoring God.  And He knew it.  Still loving them in spite of their disobedience, He gave in to their contempt and took them the long way around, knowing all too well that if he blessed them with the shortcut, they would have bolted before looking to see if God was still with them… or even bothering to recall the countless situations He had already delivered them from.

God can, if you can.  He doesn’t require us, but history shows He won’t empower us if we aren’t willing and trusting.  If we won’t equip the full armor of God, you can safely bet He isn’t going to be toppling armies before us.  David beat Goliath because he was willing to sling the stone.  The walls of Jericho fell because the horns blew after the march was complete.  When commands are followed, miracles are witnessed.  When obedience is observed, God provides.

I have tried eating triple cheeseburgers and praying for weight-loss.  It just doesn’t work that way.  God gave me the ability to make my own choices.  If I can’t give my own life some effort, why should He?  When I stop yelling “Supersize!” at every drive through window I pass, God becomes more attentive.  When I start exercising and tossing out late night snacks, I feel burdens lifted.  God cares.  And He works in our lives.

He does not need us to do anything and we cannot earn anything from God.  But we still have our work to do anyway.  Most often, that work is bending a knee.  Sometimes its bending an ear and following instructions.  But the ones that had the best relationship with God… the ones who favored the most through trying times and impending danger… they were the ones who dropped everything and lived in a constant relationship with Jesus Christ.  Listening, sacrificing, following, obeying.

God didn’t strike down the enemies of the Egyptians in this passage because they wouldn’t lift up the sword.  They complained about the conditions of their freedom, they complained about the travel, they complained about the food, they blamed God and Moses for every inconvenience.  Their alternative was slavery, torture, and most likely an early death.  Yet they just expected to live posh lives while God delivered every nicety unto them.

What we often forget is that the story of the Egyptians isn’t just a lineage narrative.  It’s a parallel to what God has also done for us.  We are facing an eternal life of unimaginable negativity.  (grossly understated, of course)  And Jesus has delivered us from that as well.  But while on our journey, we will face the enemy along the way.  Just like the Egyptians, we can either run, endure more, and fully risk losing our path… or we can fight with God on our side.  Better put, we can fight on God’s side.

I can’t help but wonder why God isn’t more active in my life.  And then I remember the Israelites and I can plainly see when I’ve chosen to pick up the sword and where I’ve simply complained to God while doing nothing.  How embarrassing when I find out God is leading me the long way around.  It shows my lack of faith, my unwillingness to obey, my fear, and my inability to see the concrete past where God has kept His promises and provided.  It’s not a testament to what God can’t do… its about what I didn’t do.  Its a mirror image of my failure and a reminder that life is easier in the trenches with God than it is on the outskirts without Him.

 


 

It’s All in the Name

We received a new foster child that will be in our care until the parents sort out a few issues.  In this case he has a great relationship with his parents, so calling us mom and dad is not an option.  With all the stress, frustration, and fear that the child is going through, we have our own issues.  The bigger things matter to us as well, but sometimes the logistics can feel pretty important.

What should he call us?  It’s been a week and 99% of the time he shouts, “Hey guys!” when he wants our attention.  I really don’t care what I’m called, but in an effort to help teach respect for others I’ve really tried to reinforce, Mr. Barry.  It hasn’t landed.  It’s not a battle I’ve really chosen to fight, but he hasn’t grasped the name anyway.

There are multiple anecdotes where he has asked for “the other lady that lives here”, “the person downstairs”, or any other descriptor that fits his recent memory of us.  While playing ball, he decided to make everything into a race.  Of course, with his energy and his rules, he won.  That night at dinner he calmly said, “hey slowpoke, it’s time for dinner!”.  He then used the term later in the evening as well.  Not with a smirk or grin, but just in passing to identify me.

It took a week, but I now have a name.  It’s slowpoke.  Had I known… I might have run a little faster and tried a little harder in the races that preceded it.

We often give ourselves our own names. Sometimes we let the world identify us. They call us mistakes and we listen. They call us loser and almost prophetically we make it so. They call us failure and we wallow in it.  These terms are often handed out with as much forethought as our foster child used.  Spur of the moment with a notable smidge of perceived truth.  And we wrap ourselves in it and display in shame for the world to see.

Broken.  Lost.  Poor.  Uneducated.  Simple.  Sinner.  Trash.  Some of these terms come about innocently enough.  They are never intended to carry such poisonous barbs.  But the wrong person overheard, or we were just trying to be funny, or we simply didn’t think before speaking.  What a lesson we could learn in how we treat each other.  But some of them are more hurtful.  More intentional.  In our current social climate we toss out such hate and slander.  Bigot, racist, hateful, evil, monster, …

I’d like to say we don’t have to accept the names given to us by others.  And its true that we don’t.  But, I also know how psychologically difficult it is to shed the perceptions of the masses once that hook sinks into our hearts.  But what does carry great weight, and what should lift those unnecessary burdens off of us, is that we are promised a new name.

Listen to just a very tiny list of only a fraction of the names that belong to God:  Healer, Savior, I Am, Lord, God, Almighty, Truth, Light… Father.

The God of many, many names…. one of which is our Father, has a new name for us.  Each of us.  It’s not a title or a credential.  It’s not our profession and it doesn’t relate to our social status.  It’s a unique, handpicked name just for you.

May I encourage you to live for THAT name.  To let only God define who you are.  To proudly stand against all the sinners who throw that useless tag at you… because you know that Jesus wore that tag on the cross.  It’s been spent.  It’s over.  You are no longer that person.  That name, the old one, has been ripped off and burned in fire.  You will be called something new.  From the lips of your heavenly Father, you will be called it.  Just for you.  Set aside.  Set apart.  Special.  Fashioned with love.  Solely for you.

Just like the tried and true ‘kick-me’ sign, Satan has attached to us something that doesn’t belong.  We can ignore that temptation and brush it off knowing the full truth.  Or we can accept that lie and bend under the weight as the world accepts his faulty claims.  As always, its our choice.

Any Given Sunday you can Worship. Do you?

Do you go to church to sing pretty songs, or do you go to make war against the enemies of God?  You can dress that question up semantically however you like, but war has found you.  And while the end may be determined, the inhabitants of that end have not.  War is about more than staying alive… its about dragging the wounded off the battle field with you.  It’s letting that heroes’ heart take over and determining that counting is in increments of 1.  That life matters.  Every life matters.  Each soul is precious.  The call to worship is a battle cry.
If my throat is not sore, if my eyes are dry, if my feet aren’t tired, if my knees aren’t worn, if my heart is not moved, if my mind wanders.  If I am not shaken into the embrace of God… then I have NOT worshipped.
Read 1 Chronicles 16:23-31.  I’m going to list just some of the words from those verses that describe worship: (if the words repeat, they did so in the passage).
“Sing to the Lord (not to each other).  Proclaim.  Declare.  Glory.  Marvelous.  Great.  Worthy of praise.  Feared.  Splendor.  Majesty.  Strength.  Joy.  Ascribe to the Lord.  Ascribe to the Lord.  Glory.  Strength.  Ascribe to the Lord.  Glory due His name.  Bring an offering.  Come before Him.  Worship.  Splendor.  Holiness.  Tremble.”
Tremble.
“Tremble before Him.”
Who should tremble before Him?  The disciples?  no.  The Pharisees?  no.  Just the old testament?  no.  Who should Tremble?  “all the earth!”.  (exclamation mark included).
“Let the heaven’s rejoice, let the earth be glad, let them say among the nations, “The Lord reigns!”
Read it again.  Read it every day.  Read it right before worship.  Read it during.  Have you ever worshipped in such a way?
Stand face to face before the Lord your God and tremble (“come before Him”), ascribe, declare, and worship.
We can sing pretty songs anytime we want.  When we join in worship,  we are worshipping a mighty and living God that will approach us as we approach Him.
He responds in kind.  And our offering?  An attempt to sing quieter than the person next to me so no one can hear how bad I sing.  Or a trip to the cry room so I can stretch my legs.  Perhaps “meditation” when I don’t like the next song?  Even the jubilant singers… if that isn’t for Him… if the jolly isn’t for the Savior, then it isn’t worship.
We just don’t always stop and think that when we ask God to join us… He will actually come.  Some of us need to share our loving Savior with others.  Peacefully and gracefully.  Some of us need to refine our worship.  We need to remove the volume cap and let the praise flow out.  We need a reminder that our scripture isn’t as complex or cryptic as we are made to think.  A sacrifice of worship isn’t simply singing on key.
Some of us need to worship for the first time in our lives.  Some of us know people who go to church every single Sunday and they haven’t yet put one foot over the battle line.  Ask yourself… please… sincerely ask yourself.  Why are you going to church?  To stretch out your new dress shoes?  To get a good spot in the ‘singles’ section?  Or is it to let go of ourselves so God can take hold and lead us to greatness for His name?
This Sunday millions of Christians will go to church and sit on their hands expecting God to make the first move.  Or they will sing under their breath.  Or, they will share scripture in monotone drudgery.
Listen to just the verbs in the passage above:
Sing. Proclaim.  Declare.  Fear.  Ascribe.  Bring an offering.  Come before Him.  Worship.  Tremble.
God may be where the power is at, but we have a responsibility to take action.  Look at the woman who sought Jesus out for healing.  First she carried her sick person directly to Him.  Then she had faith that Jesus had supernatural powers.  Finally she reached out to Him and touched Him.  (Matthew 9:20-22)
Had she not combined 3 key elements ( her faith, her action, and God’s willing power) she would not have been healed.
She was bold to reach out and touch someone who she already believed was who He claimed to be…. God.  Did she do it with fear and trembling?  Most likely… that is worship!  She went to be face to face with the Savior and made the choice to give all she had (faith and action) and to involve Him in the moment.
Worship is… If and only IF… you are face to face with the savior, reaching out and being ready to grab hold of what He has in store for you!
You can win this Sunday.  You can choose to step onto the spiritual battlefield and accept the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, our Savior.  You can introduce others to Him and give them a fighting chance as well.  The enemy, literally, wants you and everyone you love to go to hell.  Don’t just sing a pretty song in response…. go to war!

God is Accessible

I was asked to contemplate an attribute of God.  Any one I wanted.  While that may sound simple, I didn’t want to bring anything into this.  So I set my ears to ‘open’ and waited on something to grab my attention.  I didn’t want to be the tiny human trying to explain the almighty God… I wanted Him to teach me something in this.

The very next day, in church, we were singing, “oh God how I need you”.   Several emotions were stirred by this verbiage.  The “oh” signifies desperation.  Or possibly its just an amplification of how much we need Him.  The “how” shows depth, which is a different type of need.  I need you desperately, but also, in this many things.  “oh” is qualitative, while “how” is quantitative.  The “need” shows importance.  I don’t just “want” You, Your presence is more significant than that.  I’m at an impasse.  The obstacles aren’t moving.  Progress has stopped.  If I’m ever to go forward, I “need” God.

And the final word, the one that hit me the hardest, was ‘God’.  I was whisked away to a time years ago where I frequented chat rooms.  (talking (rather typing) in real time to strangers on the internet, if you aren’t familiar with the term).  I said something seemingly innocent in my own mind and caused quite a stir.  I wrote ‘God’.  I was quickly corrected.  “You need to show some respect and type G-d.”  Highly confused I opted for other words like Jesus, Lord, etc.  At every turn I was met with extreme anger and prompt correction.  They simply believed that you can’t say His name.

For some, it wasn’t even an issue of respect, it was a practice to prohibit taking God’s name in vain.  For others, they held God so high above themselves that He was almost like a Greek deity.  Up in the heavens and far too good to be in our presence.  Think about that a moment.  A God whose subjects can’t say His name?  Or even type it?

Let’s compare my mom with my grandmother.  I love my mom.  But she had some rules that kept the house in order.  It wasn’t so bad it felt like a museum, but it was close at times.  No shoes on the furniture.  Never, under any circumstances, could you jump on the furniture.  No food outside of the kitchen, no running in the house.  Etc.

Then I go to grandmother’s home.  There she chose to spoil me.  And I took full advantage.  I would chase the dog relentlessly.  I would get a running start to jump up and plop down on the sofa causing every cushion to suffer an aftershock.  I ate ice cream and drank soda in every room of the home.   Sometimes, I would chase the dog, while running, AND jumping with a drink in my hands.  Multi-tasking!

There weren’t different amounts of love between the two houses.  There were simply different expectations.  My grandmother who didn’t have to worry about my college, or my car, or my expenses, or her own job because she was retired… she just wanted me to be close.  To be happy.  She wanted to hear the words, “I want to go to grandmother’s home!”.  When you aren’t responsible for the children, you seem like a superhero to them.  Parents have rules and boundaries and curfews.  Grandparents have candy, toys, and freedom.  It’s really not fair to the parents.  But hey…. who doesn’t want candy?

God has blessed us with free will.  And just like grandma, He wants us to choose Him.  I feel pretty comfortable in saying, our God, is a jump on the couch kind of God.  He just wants us home with Him.  He wants our laughter, our fat bellies, and our sticky fingers hugging Him around the neck.  Heaven is not going to be a museum.  Museum’s have rules, glass cases, locked doors and tons of security.  Heaven is going to be a playground.  There will be running and jumping and food and drink and singing.  He has chosen to make Himself accessible.  And this is the attribute I am focusing on.

Consider Matthew 12.  Verse 50 says this:  “whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother”.  And this is why I don’t find it irreverent to say God’s name… or type it… or sing it… or cry out to it!  Written in the word’s of our Savior is that we are the brothers and sisters of Jesus when we follow Him.  Who is He following?  God.  Who is God?  His daddy.  Our brother, Jesus, calls God, Father.  What father doesn’t yearn to hear his baby say, ‘dadda’?  Why do children say mommy and daddy first?  Because their parents are accessible.

Not only accessible, but constantly holding, feeding, changing, and teaching the child.  Exactly what God does for us.  And I do believe He wants us to call on His name.  Father, daddy, pops, God, Lord.  He has many names.  (Isiah 9:6, et al).  And His children are allowed to use them.  And we are encouraged to use them.

The Lord’s prayer is exactly that.  Our Lord and brother, Jesus stopped to teach us how to pray.  He actually said the words, “This, then, is how you should pray…”  And what words did He choose in this epic teaching moment?  How do we start our conversations with God?  “Our Father in heaven…”.  God is accessible.  He is near.  He is present.  We can sing to Him, we can speak to Him, we can worship and praise Him… like He is right in front of us… because He is.

God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.  ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.  – Acts 17:27-28

Amen!

 

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Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Dear Devil, I’ve Missed You, Welcome Back!

When I first found my faith, you were there.  I remember it.  At first, it was questionable, but every day as I grew firmer in grace you came closer.  When my heart was wholly in God’s hands you had become a regular addition to my life.  You were even a little predictable.  When temptations didn’t work, you moved on to family and friends.  When they wouldn’t waiver you worked outside the box.  Illness, stress, relationships, even loss of loved ones.

You liked to work on my temper, my social issues, and how hard it was for me to say no.  I loved it when I found you in the middle of my mess.  Like a baby deer in headlights you leapt away knowing the name of Jesus was just behind my lips.  But, to your credit, you never came back with an old trick… at least not the same way.  You are the king of subtlety and calling audibles.  Slinking back before I could finish laughing at your escape, I barely noticed how you changed your advances.

When we were constantly at odds life felt complete.  Everything made sense.  Good versus evil, good always wins, it just felt right.  Like Wile E. Coyote you would scamper away, the victim of your own disobedience, while my Savior protected, healed, and loved me.

True to your name, I never even saw how you did it…  That day, when I stopped turning to God for help.  It was so casual and uneventful.  Life calmed down and that rut felt like a comfortable groove.  Church days brought extra rest, Bible time became TV hour, and Prayers were things I did to make myself feel better.  They were more like checklists and observations than any semblance of conversation.  And since I didn’t care to really converse, He didn’t choose to answer.  Days turned to weeks and weeks stole away months before years finally ravaged a significant portion of my life away.

You did it.  I let my guard down, I guess.  I thought I had you all figured out.  But your trickery dismantled my dreams, my hopes, my life, and my heart.  Kudos on how slow and methodical you approached the situation.  A violent attack would have been deflected and I always saw those coming.  But you pulled the long con.  Years and years passed while the pot slowly boiled beneath me.  And to be honest, there were a few times where I actually noticed things weren’t quite right, but I preferred the new sauna I was simmering in.  I was certain of my full downfall when I saw the truth in it all and reasoned that it would be tomorrow’s problem.  ‘Tomorrow’… the battle cry of the defeated.

I did learn something that I somehow always knew.  Once you had everything you wanted out of me… you didn’t want me anymore.  All the drama, all the fights, all the cruelty of life diminished. Living just became a gentle sunny day.  Sure, I was in quick sand, but it was slow and breezy and warm.  It felt like being at the beach.   Your absence was noted as much as His.  With my soul no longer aligned with the Savior’s your time was better spent on someone else.  We spent so many nights fighting.  Battling.  Maneuvering each other.  And then, poof!  You have better things to do.

This isn’t the first time you turned your back at the worst possible moment.  Do you remember the cross?  You turned your back on Jesus with a smug grin on your face.  And you left Him to rot in that tomb for 3 days before you realized that you blew it.  Not just literally, but eternally.  And now you turn your back on me before your work is fully done.  The man that blew away that stone has grabbed my hand again.  I’ve found His footsteps.  And His grace was fully prepared to accept one such as I back again.  He doesn’t care where I come from or what you and I were up to.  He just welcomes me back with open arms.  I must say, coming back is different than the first meeting.  This time… I ran to Him.

Have you ever hugged Jesus?  I guess not, or you wouldn’t hate Him like you do.  It’s incredible.  And it reminded me of something.  And I think it reminded you too.  Because once we embraced, you shrieked.  You showed back up in my life again.  Years of your absence while I floated through life in a waste of inevitable doom and now I finally have something you want again.  Forgiveness, hope, love, a Friend, a Father, a Lord, a God.  You want those things, don’t you.  Because here you are.

When I say, “I’ve missed you”.  I mean that I noticed your absence.  I observed how you only show up to take, destroy, ruin, and then move on.  And here you are.  I see you in the shadows.  I see that hate and fuming regret drizzling from your teeth.  I see resolve in your eyes.  You want this bad.  Just like Jesus, you had me… but you couldn’t hang on.  I don’t want you back in my life, but I welcome what your interference means.  If I didn’t have something good for you to take, you wouldn’t be here.

As evil as you are, you have a good tell.  You don’t waste time on people who aren’t a threat to you.  So now I know two things.  I know that Jesus has taken me back and I know that you want me.  You don’t want me back.  You want me away from Him.  I’ve become a threat again.  A target for your cause.  Where once I was afraid, now I can grin safely in my Savior’s arms.  You want what you can’t have.  Jesus won.  You can’t ever undo what happened on the cross or in the tomb.  While my soul may still be ‘in play’, I’m telling you that you can’t have that either.  Because to take it, you have to go through Him… and we both know how that will end.

I know this won’t stop you, and we will be seeing a lot more of each other as I choose the light of the world.  But one thing is different this time.  I’m not just trying to save myself.  Because I have already been saved, I will be trying to save others.  I’m not ashamed to say His name anymore.  I’ll speak it freely.  The timid boy you once knew has a sword and shield.  Where once I hid behind religion I now stand tall behind THE God.

I know better than to taunt you or tease you.  No insults or threats here.  I just wanted you to know that I see you have returned.  And to be honest, it feels good.  The world is right again.  I am by my Savior’s side and you work tirelessly to pull me away.  What a compliment you give.  That I might be a threat to you.  I know its not me you fear… but you know what even most Christians won’t acknowledge… That Jesus works through those that allow Him to.  He isn’t bound.  He just chooses to work were welcomed.  And He is MOST WELCOMED here!

I never chose you, but you tricked me once.  I do not welcome you in my life, but now I understand why you try so hard.  You know given the choice between a hateful, spiteful, selfish, evil, demon and a loving, saving, forgiving God you wouldn’t have any volunteers.  So you pervert the game.  You obscure the rules, and you confuse the players.  You corrupt and rot because you don’t have the ability to compete fairly.  God creates and heals.   You make the valley of dry bones and God resurrects.  You spread disease and God cures.  You dismantle families and God reunites.  You cheapen and God restores.

Who would choose you?  Not me.  Not again.  I’m taking the narrow path.  The one you have hidden behind lies, manipulation, and coercion.  And until I go, I’ll be showing it to others.  Signs, lights, markers, whatever I have to do.  I’m not worried about me any more.  It’s them that need saving.  So stay with me.  Send your worst.  I can’t handle it, but my God can.  And while you piddle around with bad days, corrupt governments, illness, money issues, and any other obstacles you can conjure up, I’ll be too busy carrying the lost away from you to notice.  I’ll take your temporary misfortunes and hurtful accusations.  I’ll take poverty and loneliness too.  I’m just not interested in this world anymore.  And that is all you’ve got.  You can’t offer ANYTHING that won’t burn away.

I’m going home… and I’m taking them with me!

When Satan Attacks

There is a simple reason why Satan is so good at what he does.  Lets be honest.  He is great at it.  He is the grand manipulator.  Weaving in and out of situations, circumstances, and even people.  He masterfully creates illusion, subterfuge, and outright lies to get us to a point where he can do his work.  How is he so successful?  What makes him so good?  Its quite simple.  We rarely ever see him coming.

We see our spouses.  We see our friends.  We catch glimpses of family and coworkers.  And then the damage begins.  Strained relationships, stress, duress, feelings of insignificance, misplaced blame.  The enemy sidesteps and all the blame goes to our loved ones.  It’s ‘their fault’.  ‘They said’.  ‘They thought’.  ‘They wanted’.  Meanwhile the enemy cackles as his schemes take root.

Have you ever played hide and go seek?  Most people like to be the hiders.  They are the ones holding all the cards.  They know exactly where the finder counts from.  They can hear the seeker coming down the hall.  Hiders have time to leave misdirects and seek cover in hard to think of places.  But every once in a while a bad hider will emerge.  Especially if you play with younger children.

Its so obvious.  A human sized indention rests behind the curtain.  Sunlight casts the perfect silhouette on the floor before the window.  The child hears you approach and begins to laugh.  Noise erupts and the curtain shakes.  ‘I wonder where they could be?’ the seeker says sarcastically.

Satan’s power is in mistaken identity.  Trickery.  He is your spouse.  He is your friend.  When you see HIM… he has no power.  God can show you him.  It’s like the monster under the bed.  Sleep Number sold a child’s bed with a monster detector in it.  When I asked the sale’s rep about it, I couldn’t help but chuckle at the thought of the bed actually telling the sleepy occupant that there was, in fact, a monster found.  He assured me that the bed was ALWAYS supposed to give an ‘all clear’, but there was one reported incident of the bed misbehaving and alerting a poor child to his worst nightmares coming true.

monster

But isn’t that most of the fear?  Wondering?  Is something in the closet?  Did something just move under the bed?  Fear is the unknown.  Once we know what we are facing, we operate on different emotions.  Adrenaline, survival, flight.  Healthy instincts kick in that allow us to navigate what our senses know and understand.  If we could see the monsters, we would know where to run.  If we could see the devil at work in us, not only would we not lose out on the blame game in our relationships… but he would lose all power.

It happens every time.  When you see the enemy at work in your family, your family can strengthen together, pray together, unite, and laugh at the shaking infant behind the curtain.  When you call him out to others and join in watching him ‘try’ to work, no one will buy his lies.  He is defeated when found.  While his tricks are many, and his power unfathomable, he can’t accomplish anything when we know what he is up to.

We don’t respect enough, how damaging he can be.  We don’t appreciate how irreparable his spite is.  And I’m not attempting to taunt him now as I know that is a mistake.  But with all his power, and all his ability, he is like a cartoon when Jesus shines the light on him.  The Bible tells us that God is our provider, our protector, and our deliverer…. but only when we live in Him and call on Him.  Even though the power comes from God, we have spiritual obligations to live out our lives in safety.

By putting God first in our life, Satan becomes much more detectable.  When you can find the devil, he has no power over you.  Victories are quick once his plans are ruined.  But so is his return.  Our biggest mistake can often be underestimating how quickly and how much better equipped he will return.  We have no time to gloat when his plans are foiled as he will be right back.  Better.  Stronger.  Darker.  More secretive.  More hidden in the last places we would ever look.  But if we are bought by the blood of Jesus, we will return prepared for his hidden attacks.  Our Father will join us in the search and help point him out.  We need only believe and ask.

In the song, You Never Run Dry, one of the lyrics is, “Valleys make room for the river of God.”

I love all of the many things this means for us.  First, it reminds me that if I don’t praise God sufficiently, the rocks and hills will cry out and do it for me.  And while I appreciate God’s creation singing back to him, I can’t let the rocks do a better job than me.  Call it pride, I want to praise God better than the trees.  But I also think about a valley growing and stretching in preparation of the Savior.  That is us.  We have to make room for God in our lives.  And if we make the room for Him, He will fill it.  A roaring and raging river will sooth and nurture everything prepared before it.

You may have noticed the other lyrics in that song mention the desert.  It does not matter the landscape that surrounds you.  If you prepare the way for the Lord, He will fill that space.  And this is so important to remember while you are constantly being attacked by the devil who wants nothing to do with that River.  He will lie, cheat, steal, and manipulate until you either give up or win.  You win… by digging that valley.  May you see the enemy in all of his schemes before you.  As you grow closer to God, the attacks will increase in severity and number.  But as you continue to dig, so the river will grow.  The world needs a healing savior.  May you dig very deep.