Archives For life

 

A few weeks ago I was on my way to work, I stopped at a light and my truck kinda shuddered, then the check engine light came on.  Then it went off, so I was thinking whatever.  Then at the next light it did it again this time the light stayed on.  It was a steady light – not blinking.  When it’s blinking, I think there’s a timer somewhere counting down to when the vehicle explodes or something.

The truck was running like it always does, there didn’t seem to be a problem but I took it to the mechanic anyway.  They couldn’t find anything, so I paid them a lot of money for nothing and went on my way.

Today, a week later – same thing.  Truck acts weird at a stop light, check engine light comes on, runs great afterward but the light is still on!

I don’t know what to make of it, but I have a piece of black tape somewhere and it’s going over that stupid light.  The light that tells me absolutely nothing.

I wonder what it would be like if we had a check engine light for life?  Eating too much queso?  Check engine light!  About to make a huge mistake?  Check engine light!  Ignored you doctor’s warning about clipping your toenails too short?  Yeah, maybe there’s no light for that one.

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Let me tell you a little bit about myself, so that you'll know where I'm coming from.  I'm 46 years old, I am a sinner saved by the grace of God, and because of what he has done for me, instead of living in a van down by the river, I'm living right in the big middle of his will for me - and I couldn't be happier!

It wasn't always like that, in fact there was a time in my life when I identified with old Matt Foley.  Life was sad, and I tried any number of things to motivate myself, to pull myself out of the hole I was in.  Unfortunately, the kind of change I needed in my life, I could not accomplish on my own.

What I have learned, from a very wise man, is you can no more change yourself than you can reach down and grab your own feet and lift yourself off the ground.  I'm not talking about self help or 12 step programs.  I'm talking about real life change at the soul level.

In the beginning, and you can read this for yourself in Genesis 3, Adam and Eve made a choice - they chose knowledge over life, and their choice doomed all of us.  We all rely on our own thinking to get us through life, and we end up like Matt Foley - living by ourselves in a self-imposed prison down by the river.  We think so often that we are doing good, and it will count for something at some point, but your actions, good or bad, cannot earn you salvation or any amount of favor with God.

Which brings me to Lucifer.  What an angel he must have been!  Chief among angels, the most beautiful and most wise of any of God's creations.  Ezekeil 28 is about the Prince of Tyre, and many people believe it is a depiction of Lucifer as well.  His heart became proud, his wisdom was corrupted, and he longed for the glory that can only belong to God.  In Isaiah 14, he is described as the morning star who would make himself like God, and was cast down from heaven because of it. 

Like Matt Foley, Lucifer tried to become something he is not through his own power.  He lied to mankind in the beginning, and now because of that, more often than not, we all live our lives exactly the same way.  We think we deserve something, we chase our desires, we imagine in our minds that we can change ourselves and do better or be better.  And many times, by an act of our will, we can choose good - we give to charities, we quit drinking or smoking, we treat our neighbors with respect, and we work hard at our jobs.  And when our lives are over, then what?

Matt Foley is a sad excuse for a motivational speaker.  He's a joke!  The sad thing is, many people feel like that on the inside and just put on a happy mask for the world to see.  Freedom is about becoming the person you were created and redeemed to be, and nothing you do will get you there.  Ever.  It is something that happens on the inside, in your soul, due to an outside influence.

What Lucifer did, and what we do, is we rely on ourselves and we are not good enough, we're not stong enough, we're not smart enough, we are not in control, no matter how good, how strong or how much of a control freak we are.  Our destiny is sealed and we will suffer the same fate as Matt Foley in life - it will be a worthless joke of an existence - and we will suffer the same fate as Lucifer in eternity - forever separated from the source of life - God.

By an act of our human will, we developed medicines that save people's lives, we put men on the moon, we developed wonderful technology that enables me to write this and you to read it.  We build our towers into the heavens, trying to reach God on our own terms, and completely miss the mark every time.  There is so much more!

What if I told you that, by an act of your will, you could have everything that God has promised you in his word?  You can have victory in this life, power to live every minute of every day as God intended - free!  All you have to do is decide one thing - you have to use your will to surrender you will to God.  When you decide that you've had enough doing it your way, when you've had enough struggling trying to make everything work out and your big reward is you end up in a van down by the river, when nothing you do can make anything make sense, when you've had enough of doing it wrong and you realize something isn't right, that is the time to act.  Your strength, your thinking, your actions cannot get you to God.  But surrender of who you currently are can.

When you surrender all that you are in your soul to God, he breathes new life into you, he changes your mind, he renews everything about you, and then everything will change forever.  And it really is just that easy.  Ask him.  Just step right up and say, "God - I surrender my will to you, now take me and change me.  I want a real relationship with you."  He doesn't want or need anything you can give him or do for him.  He doesn't need you or your resources or your knowledge.  But he does want to know you - and he wants you to know him.

If that's what you truly desire, then ask!  You'll receive.  Your life will start over and you'll see things totally differently than you ever have.  You'll be seeing the physical world through spiritual eyes.  You'll experience power in your day to day life.  You'll give sacrificially and it won't even matter because God will give it back 10 fold.  I've been like Matt Foley.  It's no good, no way to live, and now being on the other side of it, I wonder what took me so long because it is so awesome I can't even put it into words.  God is Good and he wants to share everything with you - will you let him?

When was the last time you felt really alive? Like all your senses were on high alert, your energy maxed out, radiant with life and enthusiasm?  When was the last time you felt on top of the world?  Can you remember the last time you enjoyed life so much that you laughed till your stomach ached, or the last time the alarm went off in the morning you just couldn’t wait to launch into another day?

Or do you more often feel like life is dull, insignificant, unexciting. You find yourself hanging a poster of Ecclesiastes 1:2 on your fridge door – “‘Meaningless! Meaningless!’ says the Teacher. ‘Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.’” Do you feel that life is a chore? Nothing but routine?

I’m not talking about temperament here – we all know people who are just naturally bubbly and seem to be really alive all the time. We all know people that are just naturally the opposite.  I’m talking about more than that. I’m talking about how you feel about your life – do you feel full and meaningful and significant and alive, or do you feel empty?

I’m also not talking about what I call “beer commercial” living – beautiful people with cool sunglasses and perfect bodies in bikinis and speedos playing volleyball barefoot in the snow.

I AM talking about how you feel about your life in those quiet moments of reflection.  What do you think of your life before you go to sleep at night?  No matter how you feel or what you think, the good news is this…

Jesus is Alive!  And Jesus said, in John 10:10: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” By “the thief,” He means Satan. And He contrasts the devil’s desire – to steal and kill and destroy, to rob us of life and joy and happiness – with His desire, which is to bring life “to the full.”

It is clear from Scripture that God’s desire for us is to know a fullness in life here on earth. His desire is that we could in all honesty respond to that question, “how are you really doing?” by saying: “I’m doing great!.”

If that is not your response, you may have been robbed of the life that God desires. The thief has slipped into your life and stolen something that does not belong to him, and has replaced the true life that God desires for you with disappointment and disillusionment.

I’m not saying Jesus is here promising a life of ease and luxury. But, in the midst of all that is “life” here on earth – which includes challenges and disappointments and sickness and loss – in the midst of all that, are you truly alive?

I’ll talk more about this tomorrow, but for today, what is the Holy Spirit saying to you right now?  What do you need to lay before God – what do you need to give to Him so that you can receive the blessing He wants to give you?  Pray on it tonight -

There Will Be Blood

March 19, 2012 — 1 Comment

I am the 4th of 5 kids, which if you think about it makes me next to last.  I have a little sister, an older sister and two older brothers.  The fact that my little sister and I are adopted never really mattered.  We were always family.

Just like any family, the sibs will squabble.  My oldest brother was grown and in Vietnam by the time I started remembering things, my older sister was in the army, but my other older brother was around quite a bit.  He pretty much tortured me a lot.  I have always had a thing with heights.  He would hold me over railings, balconies, out windows, and he’d say, “Don’t squirm so much I might drop you!”  Which would make me squirm even more.  But he never dropped me.  Not that I remember anyway.

The sibling I interacted most with was my little sister.  For so long, it was me and her against everything.  No room to go into it here, but when I was 5 and she was 1, many, many times we were alone for days at a time.  I learned not to butter the bread before putting it in a toaster, and how to change a diaper, and she learned not to mess with me when Sesame Street was on.

We made it past all that, and as teens she learned what buttons to push to make me angry and even jealous.  For many years, I believed that my parents didn’t love me, that they only took me because they had to to get my sister.  I was the one always in trouble, and nothing she did, no matter how wrong, ever resulted in punishment.  Sometimes I even got in trouble for things she did!  At least, that’s what I believed.  Now, all these years later, I know it’s a lie, and that the enemy used that lie to try and destroy me, to keep me from fulfilling God’s design for my life.

This reminds me of a story from the bible, about two siblings.  Brothers.  Their names were Cain and Abel.  Check out the story in Genesis 4.  Cain was the firstborn, and there may have been others between him and Abel.  The bible doesn’t say, but it does speak of that same spirit of jealousy that developed in Cain’s heart, and it tells the story of how that spirit destroyed people’s lives.

Cain was a farmer, and I bet he was the proud type of farmer.  You see them a lot in Lifetime movies.  The ground is hard, it won’t rain, but that old farmer is still out there plowing and planting and trying to get the harvest that will pay off that new John Deere.  Abel was a shepherd boy, like so many heros of the bible.  Humble, hardworking, innocent.

Out of Abel’s abundance, he recognized his condition before the Lord God, and he brought the best he had as a sacrifice.  The bible says he brought the fat portions, the portions that would make the most smoke.  He wanted God to see his atoning sacrifice.  He wanted God to smell the blood and the burning of the meat, so that God himself might look down on him and extend grace and acceptance.

Cain on the other hand, well, he probably saw what was going on with Abel, and he hastily gathered up some of the weird carrots and potatoes.  You know, the ones at the bottom that you always save til last because they look funny?  But you never use them you just throw them out and buy more.  And maybe some kale, because seriously, it’s kale.

So, basically when Cain got around to it, he brought God some leftovers that he had no intention of using anyway, and he offered it to God.  And God saw both of their hearts in that moment and he had regard for the one, but for the other, not so much.  Cain was furiously jealous, but not murderously so.  Not yet anyway.

God saw what was going on, and asked Cain a pretty simple question – “What are you so mad about?”

Don’t you think Cain had seen these types of sacrifices before?  Don’t you think Cain knew what was right?  He did.  He knew the right thing, but his eyes were blinded by the lie that it wouldn’t matter anyway – “everyone loves Abel.  He’s the golden boy!  Can do no wrong, that kid.”  Why even try?

“What are you so mad about Cain?”  He’s mad because You cursed the ground, because his work is backbreaking.  It’s a daily grind with no relief in sight.  Once you’re a farmer, that’s pretty much it.  No way out.  And he’s thinking, “You made me for this?  This is Your big plan for me?  I want no part of it!  I didn’t ask for this!  And look at him over there, the chosen one, the beloved, mamma’s boy.”

And Cain’s jealousy became unbearable, and he looked at Abel, shook his fist at God and shouted, “You want blood!  Take his!”  And Cain murdered his baby brother in a fit of rage, because of a lie.

I fell for that lie.  I bought it – I was all in.  I saw the success of those around me, and I considered myself to be way better than them.  Funnier, smarter, better speaker, better student.  And in a lot of cases I was all those things and more.  I was driven to succeed, but it eluded me because of my jealousy.  I learned to rely on myself instead of God because He wasn’t going to show up anyway.

And in a fit of jealous rage, I lost everything.  My ministry, my life, my future.  For 4 years I wallowed in self pity.  I turned my back on God because he loved the sacrifice of others more than mine.  Then, that one little piece of me that was Him that didn’t die started breathing again.  Just dry, shallow, ragged breaths at first.  Then, over time, in fits and starts, my heart started beating again, my spirit became alive again, I remembered what it was to hope.  And God asked me, “what do you have to be mad about?  I love you and I made you for a reason.  Now get up and go!”

So here I am, learning a whole new way of seeing things.  God is not who I thought He was.  He is more than my words will ever say, but I still have to try to say them!  He is bigger than I will ever know, but I still have to try to know Him!  He is more powerful, more beautiful, more loving, more kind than my mind can ever understand.  The depth of His love and mercy puts me on my knees because I don’t deserve it, but He sacrificed so much more than any of us can know or understand and because of it I live!  I know the lie and I know the truth and sometimes they get all confused in my head, but when they do, there He is!

My other brothers and sisters are doing great.  We recently lost my dad.  He was such a great man, and it still hurts.  I know where he is though, and I know, and have known for some time, that he loved me, and was proud of me.  It makes me happy to know that.  But you know what makes me alive with hope?  My Father, my Creator, my God feels just the same way.  And in case you’re wondering, He feels the same way about you, too.

Facebook Friends

December 13, 2010 — Leave a comment

I just went through all my Facebook friends and deleted a lot of them. That wasn’t my goal. My goal was to see who all was there, if I know them, if I interact with them in any way. I don’t play games on Facebook – anymore – but when I did I would get requests from all over the planet and just say yes to all of them.

As I was looking, I began thinking, “why are these people on my list if I never have anything to do with them?” So, I deleted them. I also deleted people who are in their underwear in their profile pic, most people whose names I can’t pronounce, and accounts set up just for playing games (sorry ZoMbIeFaRmEr_1287). It was most refreshing to refresh the screen and see that I had a lot less friends than I did just moments before.

Now I think you all know that, even of the ones that are left, some of them I don’t know. I’ve never met them and will never meet them. Some of them are friends just because they’re famous or say funny things or have information that I need from time to time. Others I felt sorry for – one guy has like 12 friends and nobody said “happy birthday” to him, so I kept him out of pity I guess. But overall, yeah, my list is lighter and I’m happy about that.

Sometimes my life seems to get cluttered like that. Sometimes I feel like I’m carrying around a lot of excess and need to offload before I collapse – mentally, spiritually, or even physically.

Sometimes I feel that way because my attitude stinks and I need to do away with wrong thinking. Sometimes I have some kind of habit that I need to drop, or some way of doing things thats wrong that I need to correct. When make I the proper adjustments, I feel lighter, more free, like I can do anything. Maybe that’s the point.

This whole process reminds me of John 15:1-5 – read this – “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

God does 2 things according to these verses. The first thing is, he cuts off branches that don’t bear fruit. What that means is, if you’re a Christian and are self absorbed and only focused on your own life issues, watch out. God is forgiving, and in fact if you’re saved, you’re already forgiven, but if you’re of no use and you’ve been given ample opportunity to change your ways, He may just go ahead and bring you home.

The second thing is, if you are bearing fruit, He will prune you. I worked in a peach orchard one summer. Part of the job was pruning trees. Trees are pruned for 3 good reasons – safety, aesthetics, and health. Sometimes a branch is broken and in danger of falling off – so we go ahead and prune it to keep it from falling on someone’s head. Sometimes, the tree grows rapidly on one side and looks out of balance, so we prune it to make it look symmetrical. Sometimes, there are dead or diseased branches, so we cut those out to restore the tree to health. Doing all of this allows the tree to focus on what it’s supposed to be doing – bearing fruit.

It’s the same in our Christian life. Have you ever been shocked to find out that a Christian friend has a foul mouth when driving in rush hour traffic? Or maybe you saw the leader of your small group bible study light up a giant cigar and just couldn’t believe it. Maybe there’s some secret sin in your life that you just don’t know how to deal with, and you feel like it’s destroying you on the inside.

That’s where God comes in. He cuts all that stuff away, and the result is, a leaner, lighter, freer you. A you capable of doing what you’re suppose to be doing – bearing fruit.

So back to Facebook. It’s not like it runs faster because I have less friends. I just never got anything out of being friends with them, and as far as I know, they never got anything from me either. So, I let them go. They will never show up on that little list on my profile, I’ll never get another invite to play Texas Hold ‘Em from them, and their birthday won’t pop up anymore. Less overhead. Less distraction. Now I can focus on the rest of you. I want to learn from you, interact with you and hopefully I can teach you something as well.

As for the rest of you, thanks for being my friends!