Ch-Ch-Changes!

December 14, 2013 — 2 Comments

ChangesLess than 5 years ago, Cheryl and I didn’t have two pennies to rub together. In spite of each of us having pretty good jobs, making pretty good money, we were broke. We were also *broken*. Without hope – lost. We were ashamed of where we were in life. We were in a really good church, but afraid to talk to people about our situation. We were all alone -

(Still don’t know what I was waiting for, and my time was running wild. A million dead-end streets and every time I thought I’d got it made, it seemed the taste was not so sweet. So I turned myself to face me but I’ve never caught a glimpse of how the others must see the faker.)

I wish I was kidding about all this – but about every other week, something was getting shut off – water, electric, phone, cable. Cheryl’s car was even repossessed once in the middle of the night. I remember sitting in the dark, lighting candles for light and warmth, wondering what we could sell on Craigslist to get our heat back on. I wasn’t even thinking about Christmas. We had a tree but there was no reason to even put it up – we had nothing to put on it or under it.

(Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes, turn and face the strain. Ch-ch-changes – don’t want to be a richer man. Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes - Turn and face the strain. Ch-ch-changes, just gonna have to be a different man. Time may change me, but I can’t trace time.)

During this time, I was reminded of a similar feeling Christmas, many years ago, when I learned that my wife (at the time) was having an affair and wanted me to move out of our house. It was too late for me to make any other plans – parents were at my sister’s house on the east coast, all my friends were out of town. So I packed up a few things in my car and drove off, but the car broke down about 20 miles from where I was headed. Then there was a literal blizzard…I thought I was going to die in a 1971 Buick Skylark, in a snow storm, sitting behind a convenience store in the middle of nowhere.

One thing I knew, in both these situations, was that something was not right between me and God. I was a pastor during both these trails. I knew, more than most people know, WHO God is.

But like Jesus said, the demons know as well. And tremble.

(I watch the ripples change their size but never leave the stream of warm impermanence, and so the days float through my eyes. But still the days seem the same, and these children that you spit on as they try to change their worlds are immune to your consultations. They’re quite aware of what they’re going through.)

As it was, we were going to lose everything. Our home, our cars, our jobs. Our lives.

We didn’t start out thinking we would ever end up like this. We had dreams! We had plans and goals! We had it all figured out and what in the name of all that’s holy happened? How did everything get so bad? It’s like our dreams had soured, and our lives had rotted away.

(Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes – turn and face the strain. Ch-ch-changes - Don’t tell them to grow up and out of it. Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes – turn and face the strain. Ch-ch-changes - Where’s your shame? You’ve left us up to our necks in it. Time may change me, but you can’t trace time.)

Even now, if I told you everything was fine, I’d be lying. Different? Yeah. Better? Way. Fine? Define fine.

We have a Christmas tree, but we haven’t put it up yet. Christmas is 10 days off. We are lethargic – mentally, physically and spiritually this year.

(Come, Thou Fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing Thy grace; Streams of mercy, never ceasing, call for songs of loudest praise. Teach me some melodious sonnet, sung by flaming tongues above. Praise the mount, I’m fixed upon it, mount of Thy redeeming love.)

One thing is different between then and now – the way we know God. That one little thing changes all things. He is not just a god (yeah with a little “g”) that we know, pharisaically, in our heads. He is not a god who sits and watches. He is not a list of commands to keep, holidays to observe, or doctrine to learn.

Our God is real, he is One, and when I say I know Him, I mean in a way that involves my heart more than my head. The Truth is setting me free – I know this Truth and His name is Jesus – and He doesn’t care about my Christmas tree, my light bill, or whether or not I love my job. He cares that I know Him – intimately, experientially – and when I do, all these things will be added.

Our God is a warrior God who fights for what is His! And WE ARE HIS!

It just seems like there is so much trouble, so much pain this time of year. But there is more than enough hope to go around. Turn your eyes upon Jesus! Look full in His wonderful face – and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace!

 

- Lyrics above in parenthesis are from “Changes” by David Bowie, and “Come Thou Fount Of Every Blessing” by Robert Robinson

Bears Poo In The Woods

November 4, 2013 — Leave a comment

bear smilingThis is one happy bear. I bet you know why he’s happy. Yes, he’s just eaten the park ranger, wandered through a camp area and scattered all the tents and supplies, and when he made his way back out into the woods, he probably pooed just for good measure.

It’s what bears do.

The thing that often surprises me is that we humans will kill a bear for doing what bears do.

If a bear shows up in my neighborhood and eats the sweet old lady at the end of the road’s Pomeranian, well, it’s bear steaks for us all.

It’s natural for bears to be bears. I don’t think we should blame them for this. There has to be a solution, though. Maybe we can get them into some classes on etiquette at the local college, or a 12 step program like for the sharks in Finding Nemo. People are friends, not food.

We can understand when a bear acts like a bear. We don’t often like it, especially if they end up in our back yard, but a bear is just going to be a bear.

Why is it that we have such a hard time with lost people being lost?

We classify their sins, we do our best to stay out of their way. We may put a church invite or a gospel tract in their mailbox, unless we think they may be watching. But we don’t want to get our hands dirty. We really don’t want to interact with “those kinds of people.” The sinners. The addicts. The adulterers. Heaven forbid we dirty ourselves.

We are often just as much a bunch of Pharisees as the Pharisees. We are so religious! So pure! We hold the keys to heaven in our hands, and by the God of heaven, we will not be made unpure by such sinfulness!

Why would you think that a lost person would act anything but lost? Jesus came to seek and to save that which was lost, which at one point was you.

Just how lost were you? I don’t know about you, but I was *lost*. Going to hell. Forever. And in that mess that was my life, Jesus found me and he saved me!

Now, I am called to be a fisher of men. Ever been fishing? It’s a messy business. To catch the fish you first have to be willing to get dirty. You have to bait the hook – worms in worm dirt, covered in slime all over your fingers.

Then, once you actually hook something, you work your tail off to get it into the boat.

And after you get the fish in the boat, you have to scale it, gut it and fillet it.

Messy to say the least.

When Jesus called us to be fishers, he knew just what he was saying. We have to be willing to get dirty and work with people who are dirty and we have to lead them to the one who will wash them whiter than snow.

Bears are gonna be bears. People will be people. And both will be messy and cause problems. Don’t write them off! One will wander back into the woods and leave you with a cool story to tell around the water cooler. The other – well, you may just be telling the next Billy Graham all about Jesus.

Think about it – but not too long. This is your calling! This is your purpose! This is a huge part of why you are here on this earth – to share what Jesus has done in your life – to be fruitful and multiply!

Bears bear, bees bee. Christians share who they are, where they came from, how they got where they are now – start today!

Hide and Seek

November 1, 2013 — Leave a comment

Camo dog

People spend so much time seeking things. My wife spends more time in the mornings looking for her phone (in her pocket) or her keys (on the hook by the door) than she does actually getting ready for work.

My oldest daughter is headed the same direction. Every day – where’s my phone, where’s my pencil, where’s my house key?

Some people seek lost keys, lost kids, or that elusive first kiss (do they still have those?). People also seek better jobs, harmony in their relationships and the perfect key lime pie.

As for myself, my seeking is pretty much all whiny. Why am I here? What’s my purpose? Is this all there is? Why can’t I be an astronaut?

Notice that in general, people seek for things they can’t find, or can’t see. That’s the entire premise of the game hide and seek. One person looking for things/people that are hidden.

Part of the problem, and I hope you all have discovered this, or at least are on the way to discovering, is that most often, what you seek, you will find. Are you seeking to have more money, to have more stuff, to get ahead? It is possible to do each, but with each comes a sacrifice. What are you willing to give up to get more money? What is the cost in getting ahead? What does that even mean to you?

What is the solution? We have to get out of seek mode, and realize that we are what is lost. And we are so lost that we will never find our way. The path is dark, and we’re blindfolded to boot. It’s like that tour you can take at Carlsbad Caverns when they turn off the lights. But somehow even darker.

Don’t get depressed by this. Why? Because we are being sought after, and this is very good news to those who are lost – you can’t find yourself, you can’t find your way, but you can be found!

One of my favorite stories in the bible is just a short little parable Jesus told. Easy to remember, but some people miss what’s being taught. In Luke 15, there is a woman who has lost a coin. A very important coin. This one coin may have represented an entire days wages, or even more. Did she just say, “Eh, I’ve still got 9 more. No worries!” No – she did everything she could to find it. She flipped over the sofa cushions, looked behind the dresser, pried off base boards, went through that old purse in the bottom of the junk closet. She searched high and low for what was precious to her, and eventually she did find it – and she was so happy she had a party! With queso and pizza and everything!

Just like that lady who searched high and low and in and out and every which way for that coin – just that same way, God is searching for you!

Think about this – can a lost coin call out for help? Can a coin give any assistance to the person looking for it? No – it doesn’t even know it’s lost. It has no knowledge of lostness or that it is being looked for. And so it is for people. We are hopelessly lost and alone, and totally oblivious to this fact.

But then…then one day we are found! And once found, everything changes. We are found and given purpose, hope, a future. And all we really have to do is accept being found by the one who was searching. Not that God doesn’t know where you are – but in this case, being found is the precursor to repentance. Repentance is accepting the fact that you have been found, and once found, life will never be the same for you again – you will never be lost or alone ever again.

Isn’t that an awesome promise?  That the God of all the universe has time to seek for you, and once you are found, you are His from that day forward, forever.

What are you thinking or feeling right now? Have you been found, or are you still playing hide and seek with God? I am praying for you right now – that you will be found, that you will accept being found by God, that you will choose to follow Him.

Selfies!

October 28, 2013 — Leave a comment

pic of meSelfies! You know what I’m talking about here – the pics are all over the ‘tubes. Grainy, low light, flecks of some unknown substance on the mirror. Partially clothed for the most part. Pics of you that you want the whole world to see!

Why this is a thing, I don’t know. Probably some kind of issue with vanity. I imagine we’ve all done it – hopefully most of us have not posted these self shot pics of ourselves to the internet.

To those of you that have – my hat is off to you. I never would have imagined you, sir, in that pink tutu, bowler hat, and wolf howling at the full moon t-shirt.

Honestly – there may be something wrong with some people. I mean – if you see some of these pictures what could they have been thinking? That they look good? Someone got lied to!

Please – don’t let this happen to you! I’m not saying don’t snap that pic – just please – for the love of all that’s holy – keep it to yourself!

The thing is, we all check ourselves before going out – to make sure all the hairs are where they are supposed to be, or plucked from where they aren’t, to check if something is hanging out our nose, to make sure we didn’t miss a spot with the make-up. All normal. But how do we check ourselves mentally or spiritually?

How can a person gauge for themselves what they really look like – on the inside I mean? Under all the makeup, all the layers of clothing – all the masks we wear?

What kind of mirror can we look in to get an accurate picture of what is really going on inside?

A great place to start is the Word. As you study and read God’s Word, you will see His character – and you will have opportunity to see if that character is reflected in you – in how you act, how you live, how you think, what you say and do. In fact, the Word says if a person hears the Word and doesn’t do what it says, it’s like looking in a mirror and then forgetting what you look like!

On the other hand, if you do what it says – if you accept that the way of Christ is the right and only way – then you will walk in freedom and be blessed in everything you do!

People tend to spend so much time looking at themselves because they see flaws – but what they want to see is a perfect reflection. Sin can distort how you see yourself, how you live your life, and how you see and treat others. But sin doesn’t have to be what you see in your spiritual reflection.

If you are in Christ – to the degree that He took sin onto Himself, that’s how righteous you are! There is no wrath, no anger of God waiting for you! You are righteous, pure, whole, sons and daughters of God! And if God sees you as His – if He can find no fault in you – how can you continue to find fault in yourself?

Pray right now – that you would see what God sees when He looks at you. He loves you more than you can know, He is proud of you! He wants to know you and He wants to bless you! You have to be willing to make the first move – and allow yourself to be seen by Him.

 

Heinz KetchupHave you ever had to wait a really long time for something? When I was a kid, it took forever between the time we put up the Christmas tree, and when presents were actually opened. It was horrible! I was never a patient kid – not on Christmas or birthdays or any other event when I knew I might be given something.

JUST GIVE ME MY STUFF NOW DANG IT!

Now, as an adult with kids, I see that same thing in them – an impatience when they know something good is coming.

I still see that same impatience in myself, too. I need to get over that. The last week has been pretty rough. I gave up a habit that I felt was holding me back, and I guess I expected everything to change immediately, and when nothing changed, I got all twisted up about it.

I really felt like good things would happen if I could just do this one thing. Maybe I even deluded myself a bit about it. But still I quit dipping snuff, and almost expected the heavens to open and gold coins to come falling down on my head. Instead I got a sinus infection.

Waiting is hard. It’s the hardest part. The bible addresses this by saying “hope deferred makes the heart sick.” Hope can be a very pleasant thing – something great is coming! There’s a blessing just around the corner – just hang on! Be patient and God will show up and work a miracle in your life!

Hope can also be a beast. It can be torture. Something is coming – something good! But when? What do I do in the meantime? Do I just keep doing what I’m doing and keep hoping? When is this blessing supposed to arrive? Tomorrow at noon? Today would be better, but I can wait a day or two. But not three days.

I have been waiting years. Sometimes I feel like the little kid with presents he can see just sitting there. But my mom is keeping an eye on me so I can’t even get close – I know something is there but I can’t have it, can’t touch it, can’t experience it. But I also know the day is coming.

Sometimes I turn my back on what I know is there and get all twisted up over it and forget that the giver of these gifts doesn’t actually owe me anything. Sometimes I act like a spoiled brat, demanding my inheritance. Sometimes anticipation is making me late.

A few days ago, I met with a person I had never actually spoken with before. We’re facebook friends, and I consider him a mentor – He’s one of about 5 people that I read everything he writes. His words are full of wisdom and understanding. So I sent him a message on facebook, and we met for coffee early one morning.

He sized me up pretty quickly. I told him pretty much everything. He told me that my heart had grown sick because of anticipation. He told me that my confidence in God had been shaken – that I didn’t trust Him to be who He says He is, and in turn, I can’t be who He created me to be.

All because of a problem with patience.

We hear that good things come to them that wait. But I have become hesitant – I lost sight of how absolutely good God is, how much He really loves me, how He really wants to bless me!

If hope deferred makes the heart sick, how much more will those who wait upon the Lord renew their strength? How much more will those who wait patiently for the promised blessings mount up with wings like eagles? How much more will I run and not be weary, and walk and not grow faint?

That’s what I’m talking about right there! That’s the life I want! I don’t want to care about specifics – did I get a pack of socks for my birthday or is it that new video game I’ve been dying for? That’s not what it’s all about! It’s about walking with God in the cool of the day, and just knowing that you are His, and He is yours.

My prayer for me and for you – that instead of being impatient children, we will become spiritually mature, and learn to wait upon the Lord!