Posted: September 7th, 2012 |
Filed under: life | Tags: change, deception, grace, purpose, spiritual abuse |
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You never really know what’s going on. Like sheep following the sheep in front of them, some have never even met the Shepherd.
“The religion scholars and Pharisees are competent teachers in God’s Law. You won’t go wrong in following their teachings on Moses. But be careful about following them. They talk a good line, but they don’t live it. They don’t take it into their hearts and live it out in their behavior. It’s all spit-and-polish veneer.” -Matthew 23:2-3 MSG
When denominations become corporations, leadership becomes a career. So come the politics of spit-and-polish veneer.
I heard a story a few months ago. The president of a denomination has a secret that could destroy his credibility, but only in a world where a person’s credibility is based on his ability to be a perfect example of the rules he sets forth. It wouldn’t have destroyed his credibility with me and probably not with you, either. We would have found hope in the rawness of life, knowing that everybody makes mistakes. He could have entered the world of grace instead of avoiding it by hiding under a blanket of technicalities. Good leadership is honest about their mistakes. Bad leadership makes people think it’s possible to be perfect.
“You can’t be a leader if you’re divorced unless you can prove that you had no fault, but you can never remarry, unless you can prove you were tricked.” Or, there about. All bylaws of loopholes and small print. The smart people can study the contract and find a way out of needing forgiveness. But, in the Kingdom world, they’re only finding a way to not need Jesus.
If those who get what God gives them only get it by doing everything they are told to do and filling out all the right forms properly signed, that eliminates personal trust completely and turns the promise into an ironclad contract! That’s not a holy promise; that’s a business deal. A contract drawn up by a hard-nosed lawyer and with plenty of fine print only makes sure that you will never be able to collect. But if there is no contract in the first place, simply a promise—and God’s promise at that—you can’t break it. -Romans 4:14-15 MSG
As a result of the rules of the corporation denomination, men publicly hang the character of their ex-wives, just so they can keep their jobs. Women tell all of their ex-husband’s secrets and none of their own, just so they can still teach Sunday school.
“I’ve had it with you! You’re hopeless, you religion scholars, you Pharisees! Frauds! Your lives are roadblocks to God’s kingdom. You refuse to enter, and won’t let anyone else in either.” -Matthew 23:13-14 MSG
This system has been set up to not ever be able to admit your fault. There is no grace there.
The wife of the denomination president had grounds to divorce him, but didn’t want to hurt his career. She got a legal separation instead. That way he could keep his job and nobody would ever have to know the secrets that could destroy the facade. He was able to later retire with no one the wiser. The inside was broken while the appearance remained in tact.
What about all those under him who feel abnormal and wrecked because they didn’t have the power to hide? What about the women with alter call carpet embedded into their knees? They’re begging God to take away their stains because they’ve been taught that you can’t have stains. What about the men who are no longer allowed to do what they know God has called them to do? They think they have to live out the rest of their lives with the chains of sin still wrapped around them.
I met a preacher who got his papers taken away because he made a mistake. His passion is still preaching. There’s a hollow ache in his disposition. But he’s only allowed to hammer nails.
“Still like Jesus,” I tell him, though I know my kindness can’t reach him.
What about him?
“Do you have any idea how silly you look, writing a life story that’s wrong from start to finish, nitpicking over commas and semicolons?” -Matthew 23:24 MSG
“Writing a life’s story that’s wrong from start to finish.” It’s wrong from start to finish because you are not the Author. You can write all you want, but He is the One who’s published.
Nitpicked lives are slaves to their sin. Being a slave to sin is more than obeying the impulse. It’s believing it has the power, so much so that you devote yourself to avoidance more than you release yourself to God.
He writes your life story and He’s already said that He made the destroyer. Nothing the destroyer can form will be able to destroy you. No matter how bad your situation looks, it does not have the power to destroy you.
If anyone attacks you, don’t for a moment suppose that I sent them, and if any should attack, nothing will come of it. I create the blacksmith who fires up his forge and makes a weapon designed to kill. I also create the destroyer—but no weapon that can hurt you has ever been forged. -Isaiah 54:15-17 MSG
The way into God’s Kingdom is through Jesus and it’s only by grace. Grace is for sinners. It’s not a safety net. It’s a gate.
Be open and honest about your failures. Let God’s grace wash over you. It completely transforms you. It lights you on fire and sends you blazing. That’s where the power comes from. It’s not from you and your ability, it’s from grace. God’s children need to see it. The people need to see that there is hope for them, too.
Nobody goes through life without knowing they’ve been saved from something that had every right to destroy them. Don’t set yourself up as someone who is so far away from that, that it steals the hope of grace from everyone else. Use the moment of someone’s failure to rejoice about the vibrant display of mercy, grace, and restoration that God is about to show. That’s when you can really see Him. It’s the rainbow after the storm. It’s in the eyes of someone who believes with everything in them that God has a plan for this, too.
You never really know what’s going on. Don’t be the sheep who follows the sheep in front of you, but has never met the Shepherd. No matter what people want you to think, everybody has some damage that only Jesus can justify.
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”-Matthew 11:28-30 MSG
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Posted: August 2nd, 2012 |
Filed under: life | Tags: faith, grace, healing, purpose, sin |
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“Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward.” -Jesus to Peter in John 13:36 ESV
Peter loved Jesus. He dropped everything to follow him and never looked back. They ate, slept, prayed, and walked on water together. It’s so much more than any of us have done. Peter witnessed the healing in His words and hands. He saw Him loved, rejected, worshipped, and lied about. In all that they had been through, it didn’t make sense that he couldn’t go with Jesus where ever he went. Things weren’t clear just yet.
“Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” -Peter to Jesus in John 13:37 ESV
In the same conversation where Jesus told Peter that he would go with Him ‘afterward’, Jesus also told Peter that he would betray Him. And Peter, as much as he loved Jesus, betrayed Him big time. He denied knowing who He was as the people were beating him up and dragging Him off to beat Him up some more.
“Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times.” -Jesus to Peter in John 13:38 ESV
You can know that you’re going to deny Jesus in some way, but not really believe it. We all know we’ll mess up, but …not really. You love Him, so you wouldn’t purposely withhold your devotion or feed your good intent to the dogs. But, when the moment comes and you make a quick decision, that decision ends up marking you as a betrayer. The rooster crows and the sinking panic of being “that guy” sets in.
This is where Peter is different than a lot of us. He knew that Jesus saw his betrayal coming, but He never said that Peter would be lost forever. Peter was never with Jesus again. Jesus died after the mob was finished with Him. Peter knew something that ended up giving him the ability to recover from his betrayal, start the Christian church, and be reunited with Jesus after his death.
I want you to know what Peter knew so that you can recover from your sin, so that you can get back in the fight, and so that you can be assured that you’ll be united with Jesus after your death.
Jesus knew about your sin long before you even got here. Proof of that is not only in His conversation with Peter, but more so in the fact that He died for your sin. You didn’t just make it up. You’re not some anomaly that tears at the truth of the Gospel. God’s not wringing His hands, wondering how He can save you.
Sandwiched between your love for Jesus and your eternity in Heaven is your betrayal. It’s a horrible, bitter thing to experience, but don’t ever let your faith in the finished work of Jesus dwindle so scarce that you don’t think His sacrifice was enough for you.
Jesus knew all about you. He carried it with Him like a splintery cross on a ripped open back. The thing that gave Him the strength to carry your weight was the fact that He knew you would never have to. He kept walking because He knew it would work.
Remember that every time you think His arms are too short to reach the depths to where you’ve fallen. Every aspect of our existence is His territory. He owns those depths.
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Posted: June 26th, 2012 |
Filed under: life | Tags: faith, purpose |
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Difficulty reveals character. It’s what is exposed when all of your shallowness is hidden in the shadows while the depth of who you are gets exposed by stress. People don’t buy umbrellas on sunny days. When the rain comes, it drowns the hairspray of pretense and reveals the natural texture. Those who love you find beauty in what you thought were flaws.
You thought the mountain was manageable, but then a cloudy day turned into a storm. Your equipment breaks, your stuff gets stolen, and you don’t have enough to fix it or replace it. But, the mountain is still there and you still have to climb it. When it rains, it pours and you hope it just comes in three’s, but it doesn’t. You’ve lost count. Maybe it’s just the three worst. But it’s all so annoyingly inconvenient that it’s hard to distinguish which is worse.
“Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour.” -John 12:27
Any wisdom you may find is only borrowed.
There is purpose in difficulty and it is for that purpose that this difficulty has come. You thought you could get ahead, but it seems that every step forward is against a current. If crisis reveals character and testing increases faith, then the current is there to strengthen you. It seems you can’t get through, but every day passes and it’s one day closer to who-knows-what because it’s not crushing you. It’s not cruelty to be able to survive for another day of fighting the current.
It’s beautiful to finally reach your place of rest, that level ground after a long climb, and know that you got through it, but not be able to explain how. The lack of words is a pregnant silence. All those who have been there will know. You can see it in their eyes and you can see yourself more clearly in the reflection.
“You can always recognize who has been through the fires of sorrow and received himself, and you know that you can always go to him in your time of trouble and find that he has plenty of time for you.” -Oswald Chambers
We’re all in this together, but the hardest part is the one you have to do when you feel the most alone. You’re gong to get through it. And when you do, carve your name in the side of the mountain before you move on to your next destination. Leave a legacy next to the legacy of others so that the collection of names lets those who come after you know that they’re not the only ones.
Difficulty reveals character. It’s the most difficult when all the stuff you’ve been relying on to get you through gets taken away. What do you have now? Nothing but God, and that’s the way He wants it. Like a mother with an infant, He removes your toys and your blankets when He holds you the closest.
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Posted: May 27th, 2012 |
Filed under: life | Tags: faith, purpose |
7 Comments »
I have a friend who collects bird houses. Not in a weird, overrun sort of way, but she lives in a beautiful home out in the Ozark Mountains and she has wildlife all around her. She put this ornate bird house on her back balcony because it was interesting, not necessarily because it was something a bird would want to call home. It was brightly colored and a touch gaudy, but it was a souvenir from her world travels and a touch of color to decorate her view.
One Spring, she noticed a male bird checking out the wild little house. She watched as he inspected it, inside and out. He must have liked it because he returned the next morning, perched himself on it, and began singing his heart out. That’s how males attract their mates. They find a home and sing. Morning after morning this little guy sang and morning after morning he was rejected. My friend noticed that other males were joined by females in her other bird houses. But, not this little guy. The house was too flamboyant for the other birds. They set up house and started their families, and this little guy stood alone by his fancy house.
His singing was relentless. She could hear it throughout her house and made it part of her routine to sip coffee and watch him. There was something endearing about how different he was. She imagined his eccentricity and smiled as she recognized his tenacity.
Spring was well under way and the chances of this little guy finding a mate were dwindling. It would seem that the evolutionary process was going to snuff out the dreamers in exchange for the more predictable. It was a little heartbreaking because he was so determined in spite of the daily rejection.
One morning, my friend poured her coffee in silence. Maybe the little guy gave up. It had been weeks of singing the same love song next to the same peculiar house with no reward for his amazing find. She looked out the window, expecting to find the quest abandoned, but instead, found that he had company. They were making a nest together.
It’s a hard world for a dreamer. It’s the disease of the creative. You fear rejection, you’re afraid that nobody will want what you create, nobody will like your ideas, and nobody will like you. Sometimes your fear paralyzes you. You try to be more average, but are still rejected. You try to use your wings, but end up falling on your face. It seems there is no spot for you. The mold doesn’t fit and you’re lonely in the potential that only you seem to be able to see.
Don’t let the difficulty keep you from starting every day as if it were brand new. Maybe this is the day that somebody hears your song and wants to be a part of it. This isn’t about finding a mate, though it could be. This is about being exactly who you are and not being paralyzed by people who don’t ‘get’ you.
You’re different and you have good ideas. And, yes, you have some not so good ideas, too. But, you could be the next game changer. You could be the one who brings color to a white canvas. Stop trying to make people like you. Create expressions of yourself and keep creating. Put yourself out there in all your potency. Maybe one day, people will look at your life’s art and say you were way ahead of your time.
painting by EarthArt
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Posted: May 23rd, 2012 |
Filed under: life | Tags: hope, purpose |
5 Comments »
No matter where you are or what you’re going through, somebody somewhere is going through it, too. Honesty is your calling card on the bulletin board in the lobby of life. Honesty is where you meet people, form alliances, and decide to travel together until the next phase.
The thing that breaks up unity is dishonesty. Dishonesty isolates people because only one person can fit behind one mask at a time. Even people with masks try to find connection. Sometimes they forget they’re wearing a mask until they need something real. Then they’re afraid to take it off because they’ll lose their ‘friends’. They feel trapped by the fact that they’ll have to suffer loss to gain what they’re really after.
Have you ever reached that place where hope hurts because you’ve been let down too many times? We don’t need help being realistic. The pressure is on, the stress is real, and the ache for a breakthrough steals the trinket happiness that has been getting you by.
God knows how to find you and He knows when to speak.
Your purpose in this life is to be ‘one’ with the Father. It’s the way the world knows that He sent Jesus. Your purpose is to be ‘one’ with each other. It’s the way the whole world knows that He loves them (John 17:20-23). Everything you go through, every prayer you pray…it’s for the purpose of bringing further in to Him and to each other. Your relationship with Him is the kind of ‘want’ that wants more. You go after Him and He goes after you. It’s the constant tug of trying to get to each other. It’s passionate.
Any action you take should be in response to that Love. Too many of the actions we take are to get that Love.
He’s jealous (Exodus 20:5). He doesn’t want you spending too much time working, even if you’re working for Him. He gets jealous if you give more of your time to something or someone else than you do to Him. He knows you’ve forgotten your True Love when you think you have to earn it.
So, He lets pressure get thick and the hope hurt so that you stop trying and let Him find you. Like a child lost in the store, you’re looking in all the wrong places. You’re His child. Call out to Him if you can’t see Him. Let Him be the adult. His ears are trained on you.
The child calls out and the Father answers, “I’m right here.”
Relief. “I thought you left me.”
“I would never leave you (Hebrews 13:5).”
God is not concerned about our plans; He doesn’t ask, “Do you want to go through this loss of a loved one, this difficulty, or this defeat?” No, He allows these things for His own purpose. -Oswald Chambers
God is not cruel. He doesn’t let you hurt just to see how much you can take. It’s that belief that is keeping you from knowing His love. You don’t just believe He loves you. You know it.
We are one. Life is lonely when you forget that.
Something you have to remember is that your life isn’t your own. You can’t hold on to your plans so tightly. I know it’s hard because we’re dreamers. Just line your dreams up with His. It goes beyond you. His dreams are for the whole world and what you’re going through is necessary for that. The pressure and stress is to reveal your insufficiency so you’re forced to come out from behind your mask.
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