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
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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!
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.
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.
Consider the image above. Can you picture yourself as the little child, reaching up and taking hold of the hand of our God? Jesus tells us that the kingdom of Heaven belongs, not to children, but to those that are like children.
I was at a friends house when he wanted to show off how much his child had grown. Just barely able to walk now, he asked of the kid… “go get daddy the remote”. It took some pointing and some repeating but the little boy wobbled across the living room and brought back the sought after prize to the father. His dad held out the remote and exclaimed, “THAT is why you have kids!”
The little boy was excited. He was happy to please his daddy.
I want to be like that boy. Pleasingly and dutifully serving my God no matter how trivial the task may seem.
I’ve noticed that although God holds my hand, he will allow me to let go. And those are the times when I realize big change. When I bring my hand down, that is when I get angry in traffic. When I pull away, I worry about me. When I stop holding my Dad’s hand I look out for myself and dwell on my own problems.
When I’m firmly clasped into the fingers of our Lord, I’m on HIS journey. I’m along for the ride while doing HIS business.
The cross is all about proximity. Jesus didn’t have much to say throughout the actual ordeal. Nails, crown, falling under its weight and His exhaustion. But when he took on our sin and found separation from the Father… then He spoke. “Why have you forsaken me?” Now we get to the real agony… distance away from God.
Jesus didn’t come to earth to heal our cars. He didn’t face the burdens of the cross so we would have a favorable tax year. Ultimately, he didn’t leave heaven to make life easy, answer all of our questions or hand out free passes. Jesus endured absence from the Father so we wouldn’t have to.
I want to be God’s little boy… bounding through my community, hand in hand with my Daddy. Everyone tends to focus on growing up. I want to grow down. I want that carefree love and enjoyment of life. Where a funny face makes us laugh. Where we are completely unaware of social media or its lack of impact on us. Where we don’t understand what embracement means. And… where we only know how to speak from our hearts.
I think a lie that has become easy to accept is that as we age, we grow older. What I mean by that is that we stop being children. We become adults, parents, grandparents, and we get promoted in our jobs. At some point, life is too important to be left to children. But that is the lie. The truth is, we never stop being God’s children. Unfortunately, sometimes, we just stop acting like it. Are we so ‘grown up’ that we can’t still hold His hand. Can we not let Him lead us to our best version of ourselves? Can we not trust Him?
If you are into corporate or proper prayer, try calling Him papa the next time you pray. Climb up in His lap. Take hold of His hand. Listen to His stories of what He has done for you. Pray directly to Him as though He came out of the tomb after the cross… because He did. The Man that thought we were worth dying for has something to show us. Are we able to follow?