Today

A few days ago, a young lady I know said she wishes she had been born in the flapper days.

While I prefer to let people think what they will, I had to point out a few harsh realities which probably made me sound like my dad saying, “When I was a kid, we had to walk up hill to school and back, four miles, in the snow, barefoot, using an old feed sack for a coat.”

So, at the risk of sounding like my dad, “I remember the day we got our first air conditioner and I will tell you this, it was amazing!”

I went on to tell about the struggles to cool off in the summer, laying at the wrong end of the bed with my head practically out the window waiting for a cool breeze that never seemed to come.

I really prefer indoor plumbing and not having to trudge through snow and rain to use the bathroom.

I think she finally decided she just liked the clothes and fashion and didn’t care for those days at all.

Just this morning I got lost in thinking that I really wish it was July in Wyoming and I was standing in a river outside of Yellowstone with a huge, mean cutthroat trout pulling line off my reel.

I wonder how many people I encounter every day that have checked out from this life and are mentally engaged in a life that could never be or at least won’t be for quite some time.

The future and the past are nice places to visit but I’ve finally decided I don’t want to live there.

Today, I have to wander out this door, get in my truck and live it.  I’d really hate to miss a chance to make it memorable by pining for what was or dreaming of what could be.  I’m afraid that I would be deeply disturbed if I could see the pile of opportunities that I have passed by pursuing things that are dead or figments of my imagination.

Deuteronomy 30:15 “Now listen! Today I am giving you a choice between life and death, between prosperity and disaster. 16 For I command you this day to love the Lord your God and to keep his commands, decrees, and regulations by walking in his ways. If you do this, you will live and multiply, and the Lord your God will bless you and the land you are about to enter and occupy.”

Hebrews 3:7 That is why the Holy Spirit says,
Today when you hear his voice,
8 don’t harden your hearts
as Israel did when they rebelled,
when they tested me in the wilderness.

It is really easy about this time of year to focus completely on the holiday that is coming.  There are things to prepare and things to do, shopping and cooking and a long, list of other things to get ready for a day that has yet to come.  But at the end of this day, what will I have done “today” when I heard his voice?

Will I have allowed my regrets from the past or fantasies of the future to harden my heart to today? It is a privilege and an honor to hear from God.  But I am afraid that far too often, I don’t listen “today”.  I expect something tomorrow in a land far, far away after I become a Jedi or something.  But he’s here today.  He has plans for today and I need to hear them.

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Stinky Christmas

I have been in a few Christmas plays over the years.  I have been a shepherd or two, a wise man, Joseph and maybe even the backside of a donkey now and then.

Once, when I was a young boy, someone glued hair all over my face and I got to sport a white beard similar to the one I wear today.  I thought it was pretty cool until I got all itchy and when the time came to take it off, it seemed the glue pulled some of my skin off with it.

I had no appreciation for the scrubbing involved to get my face back to what it once was.  It took a few days before I felt normal again.

As I sit here this morning, I look back at how we somehow tried to recreate the sights and sounds of that first Christmas.  People have gone to great lengths to attempt to bring Bethlehem to the church sanctuary for a brief moment in time.

But, having spent some time on a farm when I was younger, can’t help thinking about the smell.  I mean, they were in a stable.

Cows don’t smell so bad when they are scattered across a huge pasture, but put them all in one room and the fragrance isn’t what perfumes are made of.  Throw in a goat or sheep or two, or whatever critter you want in your stable and the smell isn’t exactly ‘O Holy Night’.

Even if you remove the animals, their ‘essence’ lingers on.

You may be reading this wondering what is wrong with this guy?  Why is he making my Christmas story stink?

Well, I tend to think everything is significant.  Jesus could have just as easily been born at the Ritz or a resort along the Nile or even in a palace or perhaps the best hospital around (I know, there weren’t any good hospitals around).

But Jesus was born amid the stench, the excrement, in a place not fit for a man let alone the child of God.  He didn’t have cute baby clothes or a fancy crib.

He came for this.  He came for me.  He came to embrace my dirty, smelly soul.  He brought himself to the lowest of the low and nothing could keep him back, not filth, not a stagnant decaying odor, not death, not even a world of sinful, fallen, broken people.

He came for this, not to condemn and judge it, not to punish it but to take the punishment and condemnation upon himself.

He came for me, stink and all.

2 Corinthians 2:15 Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing. 16 To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved, we are a life-giving perfume. And who is adequate for such a task as this?

He came for this, to create perfume from the smell of death and doom.

So, maybe I should try to recreate the stable smell around my nativity scene that sits in my living room this year.  I’m sure that I probably shouldn’t, and for my wife’s sake, I won’t even consider doing that.  But I surely must reflect on the place he brought himself to and the reasons he did it.

And I should also be grateful for the new fragrance that arises from my life and the freedom I have been given from the dreadful smell of death and doom.

Anger Issues

A reblog from when I first started this WordPress site. I think one person ever read it…lol.

New Hope for Dry Bones

I’ve always and forever had a problem with anger. It has consistently been an intruder in my life and far too often caused me to turn a good day into a bad day or a bad day into a failure of epic proportions. If I try to count the times that anger has made any situation better in my life, I have to count no higher than “zero”.

I not only became angry way too much but I lived angry. So, when I didn’t get my way, I went from zero to enraged in nanoseconds. Needless to say, people didn’t like me very much. I know some still don’t like me but it generally isn’t because I am the angry jerk I used to be all the time.

I still get angry but it passes and I don’t make nearly the number of terrible decisions that anger seems to lead…

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The Devil Made Me Do It!

“The devil made me do it!”

I can still see a bug-eyed Flip Wilson in my mind dressed as a very ugly woman standing back and enjoying the laughter of a TV studio audience after uttering that line. He would often say a lot setting up the use of that line. Other times he would act crazy and do some silly stunt to set up that line. I don’t even remember if that line was always funny but I do know that the audience would laugh.

That saying was on t-shirts and TV and stolen by other comedians looking to make people laugh. The devil had become a punch line and not a threat to anyone but Geraldine. The world laughed and the the devil laughed too.

Most people in this country don’t believe he laughs and I’m not sure I actually do either. Maybe he just feels all warm and fuzzy inside when he sees he has pulled off the ultimate deception. He doesn’t exist to most people in America.

Is it a problem if we choose to not believe in Satan? I know it is for me. The biggest problem is that if I don’t believe Satan is a real being, then I have to discard much of what the Bible says. That would include many of the words of Jesus himself. Could the Messiah have been mistaken about Satan? What else might he be mistaken about?

I know that Satan exists for the very reasons that many feel he doesn’t exist. He is a liar and is in opposition to what God is and what God stands for.

John 8:44 For you are the children of your father the devil, and you love to do the evil things he does. He was a murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies.

Why do so many want to discount the words of Jesus here? Why would they want to believe in the creator and all that is good but choose to deny the existence of another power that is evil and opposes God?  It is because he is already doing what he has set out to do. He has limited the power of God’s Word by beginning its dismantling in our minds and fracturing our faith. He is taking away our desire to prepare to deal with him by convincing us that there is nothing to prepare for.

So day after day, people that claim to know God in some way, shape or form trudge off to battle without choosing to admit there is a battle in the first place.

1 Corinthians 11:3 But I fear that somehow your pure and undivided devotion to Christ will be corrupted, just as Eve was deceived by the cunning ways of the serpent.

God is truth and his Word is truth and in order to stand up against the one that would love to convince me that he doesn’t exist I have to embrace truth. I have to recognize that sometimes I am not the only problem in my life. Sometimes I have help being the problem.

I used to frequently watch two boys play together. One would get on his bicycle and the other would build rickety ramps and set up stunts that were destined to fail. The builder of the not-so-well constructed ramps would then sit back with his video camera and record all the carnage as his buddy would inevitably crash and mildly injure himself on his doomed attempt to emulate Evel Knievel.

I’m afraid I’ve unwittingly made Satan the playmate mom told me to stay away from rather than making him my adversary. I’ve thought it was all harmless fun rather than realize that he isn’t something to be toyed with.

John 10:10 The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.

Satan is real and he isn’t hanging around to be the kid that gets me into trouble once in a while by convincing me to have a little more fun. He is dangerous and sticking my head in the sand and pretending he is a myth or a symbolic creation isn’t going to do a single thing to shackle him.

I need to be prepared for victory over this adversary. Yes, Satan is real and his ultimate outcome is inevitable. We can win. Much of the beatdown that we take at the hands of this sneaky snake is completely unnecessary. Step one is to believe God’s truth in his Word, all of it, and take advantage of the tools that God gives to deal with the adversary.

James 4:7 So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

The Christmas Machine

It seems that the Christmas season is getting longer and longer. I used to think that putting the tree up the day after Thanksgiving was making for a long Christmas celebration. But as artificial trees got more popular, it became more practical to put them up sooner and those people that make money off of Christmas found an opportunity to bombard us with Christmas cheer in the form of commercials persuading us to spend more than we have. All this was to celebrate a holiday filled more with Santa and less with Jesus. Now the Christmas hype starts as soon as the goblins hibernate at the stroke of midnight at the close of Halloween.

Thanksgiving is on the verge of being sucked into the Christmas machine. Big businesses have a hard time making a lot of money off of us being grateful for what we already have. There are billions to be made from making us want more.

As the Christmas machine becomes bigger it waters itself down further and further in an attempt to get money from everyone, all sorts of religions are included as we go from the Christmas season to the holidays. It seems that all sorts of folks are offended if I call Christmas by its real name.  I’ve got nothing against celebrations of all religions, but as a Christian, it is important that I renew my focus on the foundation of my faith.  While I am saddened that the distraction away from Christ is so strong for others these days, it is most important that I not become distracted.

I’ve been reading what I can about Christmas in the bible. There isn’t really much written about it. No mentions of what Mary and Joseph were wearing, what stores they went to, what they had to eat, what was trending on Pinterest, Black Friday or Cyber Monday.

It was a mere starting point, the point where God breathed his first breath of air in order to survive, the point where Mary delivered her part of the Gospel message.

I feel the need to lower my expectations this Christmas. I’ve had Christmases that left me dissatisfied and ungrateful. I’ve had the season leave me depressed and unfulfilled. I’ve been disappointed and disillusioned after all the lights and bows and wrapping paper had run its course.

But the first Christmas, as Jesus lay in the manger wasn’t about what had just happened. It was about what was to come. It was the beginning of a something truly amazing that changed the world. Man has done his best to mess it all up over and over again. But the message of Christmas is still there, pure and unblemished if I care enough to drop all the pretense and fakery to find it.

I’ve discovered what God did all this for. He didn’t do it so that I could make myself into something that I could be proud of. He did it so that I could take my rightful place in his kingdom. He does the making, he does the leading, he does the transforming. I do the obeying.

He gave me the greatest gift of all. Because of it I can get out of bed in the morning a better man than I was yesterday. I always have that hope and if I make my choices based on him and that hope, I see that hope come to be my reality. Because of that great gift I have tomorrow, I can face it and know that no matter what happens, God will be with me and he will continue to work in me even if it feels like I am alone.

I try to give gifts and outdo what God has done. I try to make people grateful for me when I should be pointing at what God has done and why glory and thanks are due to him and him alone. It is a foolish endeavor and one that will never be unless I can somehow diminish what God has done in the eyes of others. I’m afraid that is sin and I am guilty.

Another Christmas stands at the door, another season of commercials and ads fighting for my attention, another season of Jesus placing his greatest gift before me so that I can celebrate it and allow it to be the driving force in my life.

It is the starting point that never has to be taken down or put away. Its season lasts as long as I breathe the same air that hit the lungs of the Messiah as he drew his first breath. I don’t celebrate a day and forget it. I bask in the remembrance of it and start all over again.

Isaiah 9:6 For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7His government and its peace will never end. He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity. The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen!

The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies began working on my behalf with the gift of his only son. Oh, the commitment was there but being a human from the Show-me State I have to see something, so he sent his son for me to see. I haven’t seen him? Oh, yes I have. I only have to look. If I look past Santa and Rudolph, past the lights and trees, past the sales and stores, I can see him. I see him living in that dark and dirty place. He moved in before it was cleaned it up, before it could be made ready. He lives in me and whenever I look for him I find him.

The Christmas Machine can malfunction and break down, the stores grind to a halt, the money become worthless, Santa can be forgotten, the carols can cease to be sung but the gift from that first Christmas will last and it will rule and reign forever and ever.

Not My Beatitude

I’ve written several times from the Beatitudes.  I can remember browsing through them and checking off the ones I had a shot at and the ones I didn’t. I assumed that some people are blessed one way and others were in different blessing categories. While it may seem that some of the Beatitudes apply more to other people I know than me, I am cheating myself to think that Christ won’t freely give all of these blessings to me. These brief statements are a checklist and road map to receiving the fullness of Christ and avoiding just knowing Christ a little bit. Have I ever been even remotely happy with the guy I have become? No. Who can be happy being someone so very far from being the creation Christ desires?

I am over the drama of life the way I live on my own. I’m really open to guidance and error correction. I spent fifty years using my unique blend of God and myself to create a chaotic and disappointing life. To continue to live the same way and expect things to change is just insanity.

As I said, I used to kind of browse the list and exclude myself from eligibility on some of these promises. Why? Some of those conditions are hard. Yeah, they can be really hard. Many, many times hard is worth it and easy is only easy for a while and it becomes hard. So when I read the next verse, I simply excluded myself from this condition and accepted the fact that I wasn’t getting this blessing.

Matthew 5:5 God blesses those who are humble, for they will inherit the whole earth.

The word ‘meek’ is used in many translations instead of humble. It also denotes gentleness. I have never been meek, humble or gentle. I enter a room and I am immediately drawn to the center. I dominate conversation and push my opinions upon others.

I accepted the fact that this is who I was and that was how it was going to be. Don’t accept things like this about yourself. As I have come to study God’s Word more faithfully and attempt to apply it to my life, the attitudes and actions I accepted were defined as sin. I do not have to accept my selfishness, anger and ego as simply being who I am. I am a new creation. I don’t have to choose to carry the old one along with me. Change may be hard, it tends to get easier along the way. Remaining in sin only gets harder and can get to the point that living in it isn’t even an option anymore. Sure, God made me a certain way but the way it manifest itself in my life should NOT be sin.

Meekness and humility do not intimidate others to manipulate their actions. They do not feed my fragile ego and compete with others for glory and attention. I don’t have to demand action to satisfy my lust for blood or justice. What does it mean? Putting God first. God first before everything I do. Putting God first before everything I do doesn’t just change what I do but it changes the way I do it. Stopping to say, “Is there a better, more Godly way to do this?” changes things, changes others and changes me. It is hard but it gets easier.

But then it gets hard again. At least it does for me. Because once I get to the point that I can do this, something big happens. Something huge that rocks me and my faith like an earthquake happens and I almost forget, sometimes I do forget, to put God first. And then my eyes open. This whole putting me second thing changes me so much what if I go for third? What if I put myself last?

Why not? God is flooding me with things like peace and assurance. Why not put him to the test and step way out of the picture and put lots of others before myself? By putting God first, I have allowed God to provide and he has been faithful. I don’t understand about inheriting the whole earth. I don’t really want the whole earth. I do understand peace a lot more. I do understand the hug of a stranger saying, “Thank you”. I understand what it is like to be loved by people and the satisfaction of having a lot more people around me to love. I understand the joy of seeing a scowl on someone’s face being transformed into a giant smile by simply saying, “Merry Christmas”. I’m left wondering, “What is in store next if I keep changing and understanding this humility and gentleness thing even more?”

Those things didn’t happen to the old Mike that began each day as a self-serving, self-promoting and self-destructive enterprise of selfishness. Only putting God first brought those things into my life. Is it sinful to think that I don’t care if I inherit the world as God promises in this verse? I am satisfied with what God is giving me now. It is indescribable. It is uncontainable.

Indescribable, uncontainable,
You placed the stars in the sky and You know them by name.
You are amazing God.
All powerful, untameable,
Awestruck we fall to our knees as we humbly proclaim
You are amazing God.

Laura Story

It is hard at first. But then I realize just how great and awesome the one I am deferring to is. Then it gets easier and it is worth it.

Great Joy

I always imagine Jesus and the disciples in the midst of deep philosophical and spiritual discussions, somber faces pondering thoughts from another realm.  My mind shows me long periods of silence while the group meditated and wondered.

I don’t know why I think that is the sole extent of the lives of Christ and the apostles but I always kind of figured that Jesus didn’t have the capacity to enjoy watching a game of baseball or going to a museum or gallery.

Yesterday’s sermon at my church sent my mind into a frenzy as the subject of joy was taught.  Surely, a man that was the word, that was referred to the one that will bring great joy was more than just a sad and worried looking guy that all the classical paintings have captured.

Luke 7:34 The Son of Man on the other hand, feasts and drinks, and you say, ‘He’s a glutton and a drunkard, and a friend of tax collectors and other sinners!’ 35 But wisdom is shown to be right by the lives of those who follow it.

I’m left here with a vision of a Jesus that wasn’t a stick in the mud, he didn’t go around pooping parties.  There was joy where he went.  I’m fairly certain that the crowds didn’t follow him and to spend time with an old fuddy duddy.

John 15:11 I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! 

I’ve wrestled with this concept.  I’ve wondered why my vision of Jesus was of such a sad and, to be honest, sometimes creepy kind of guy and my idea of joy just don’t go together.

The bible mentions joy 1,032 times (warning: made up stat) and I spend most of my time trying to follow a Jesus that was a sourpuss or constantly on the verge of tears.

I’m all fouled up here.

I think part of the problem is that I have perceived joy as the impulse to put my hands on my belly, lean back and give a mighty, “Ho ho ho”, in the face of trouble.  Maybe that’s why the world seems so much more inclined to believe in Santa Claus than Jesus Christ.

Jesus was known as a man of many sorrows and there were times he truly felt great pain, he felt the weight of life, he felt scorned, hated and alone.  He felt real.  Yet, he never lost his joy.

That makes no sense to me if I think of joy as defined by Walmart or Hugh Hefner or most of the other people in this world.  But joy is not an emotion, here today and gone tomorrow.  Sometimes I see it and grasp it, sometimes it seems far away and out of reach but it is always, always there.  I’ve just become conditioned to seek it in the wrong ways.

When Christ was born, the angels brought tidings of great joy.  No, it didn’t cause shepherds to do backflips across the pasture or the wise men to write a new song that went number one on the Bethlehem charts.

It brought an eternal hope that no matter what the circumstance, no matter what the situation, no matter who seemed to be in power, no matter what my body feels today or the pain my tortured mind may be experiencing that I am eternally and forever connected to the maker of this universe and one day I will dwell with him.

This joy reminds me that I am created for more than what this planet today has to offer.

There will still be sorrow and grief, but there will always be the hope of joy in the morning, a hope that will come to pass and exceed all my expectations.

The Jesus of this great joy definitely knew celebration.  He was always finding his way to a feast of wedding.  He was always bringing joy to the party.  He had something I want, something I desperately need.  I need to seek it in him and not in the things money can buy or the power it can bring.

May you find joy today.

Good Mourning

Growing up, I was a “church kid”.  I didn’t really know what the other kids did on Sunday mornings, Sunday nights or Wednesday nights.  

I can remember being teased by the upcoming ‘Wonderful World of Disney’ episode and watching the animation at the beginning of the show.  I would be getting caught up in watching the first minute or so and Dad would say, “Get in the car!”  

Dad would bark out the order in hopes that all four of us would hear him and go running to the car and be waiting, quietly settled in when he arrived.  I don’t think that ever happened but that never stopped being one of his goals.  

We’d all get in the car and be ready to go and someone wouldn’t be there.  Mom would have to go back into the house and get the kid that was hiding under the bed or playing in the bathtub.  In the meantime, Dad would be getting nervous and we would be getting fidgety.  It was a hard thing to be consistent about going to church with a load of kids that seemed hell-bent on giving their dad a heart-attack at a young age.  
Well, I learned a lot about God and the bible.  I could recite all the books of the bible and find them in a flash.  My old navy blue King James Version was well-worn and had been read in its entirety.  I learned a lot.  I thought I knew a lot.  But after praying a sinner’s prayer and trying to follow the rules of “don’t cuss, don’t drink, don’t dance, don’t go to the movies, don’t smoke” (there were plenty more don’ts!) I was constantly battling for my spiritual life and I was one of those people that succumbed so often and so completely that I just gave up.  I began to question God and his motives.  Why does God want me to live such a guilt-ridden, hopeless life filled with one failure after another?  He knows I can’t follow all these rules!  I am too flawed and failure-prone.  
Matthew 5:4 God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
I thought this verse was in the bible for the year both of my grandpa’s died.  I had never experienced the loss of loved ones before that.  My grandmother died when I was little but I really didn’t get the impact of that.  But I had spent a lot of time with my grandpa’s.  We had a relationship that had been obliterated by the irreversible act of death.  It was gone.  I understand this kind of mourning.  God has comforted me in these times.  I trust him to do it again when the time comes.
But I mourned my spiritual failure and my weak nature.  I allowed it to consume me and dictate my direction in life.  I grieved over the things I did that killed my relationship with God over and over again.  The guilt ate away at me inside and I felt completely abandoned by God.  I have met many others that have done the same thing and wound up in the same place.  God did not abandon me, not for one minute, not for one fraction of a second.  I abandoned him.  I packed up my failures and my rule-book and headed out on my own, wondering why God didn’t bless me in spite of all I was doing wrong.  
Remember the list of rules?  My behavior changes when I give my life over to God.  But I don’t make a list of rules to live by, my church doesn’t make the list, God does.  Matthew 5:4 is a rule, no, it is more like a law of God’s nature.  I bring my hurts, habits, hang-ups, failures and flaws to him.  I no longer carry them on my shoulders.  If I do this, He comforts me.  He comforts me, no matter how well I follow the rules and no matter how great my failure.  He comforts me.  I lay my burdens at his feet and he lets me experience life without that heavy load.  
Psalm 55:22 Give your burdens to the Lord, and he will take care of you.  He will not permit the godly to slip and fall.
As I go through the day, I tend to pick things up.  I pick up a little guilt here, a little worry there.  At day’s end I have picked up enough little things that I am pretty loaded down.  I have a choice to make.  Do I carry that load again today or do I lay it down and start anew?  So each day, as I sit here and write, I try to lay them all down.  
Matthew 11:28 Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” 
A lot of you are mourning the state of our country.  Don’t allow yourselves to believe that God has forsaken us.  The early church flourished in the most pagan of cultures under the most corrupt leadership.  Even though the persecution reached the state of killing Christians in those places, they did not lose faith in God.  God is greater than anything any man or government can impose upon us.  I don’t even have to fear death.  He has conquered that.  
Take your mourning, worry, fear, anger and pain to the Lord.  He has a place for those things.  Learn to be comforted.  Choose to be comforted.  Travel light today.

What Doesn’t Belong

One of these things is not like the others,

One of these things just doesn’t belong,

Can you tell which thing is not like the others

By the time I finish my song?

Did you guess which thing was not like the others?

Did you guess which thing just doesn’t belong?

If you guessed this one is not like the others,

Then you’re absolutely…right!
My life is filled with things that don’t belong.  Things like grudges, resentment and mistrust.  Relationships are difficult and it isn’t always easy to let go of these things.  I become blind and oblivious to these things that don’t belong anymore.  But just because I don’t acknowledge them or dwell upon them doesn’t mean that they are harmless bystanders in my life.  No, they toss their weight around every day and influence my decisions and thought process on things I would never dream of.  Sometimes I try to look at my life and root these things out like a gardener weeding a flower bed.  It is a great exercise.  It is actually more than great, it is essential in order for me to grow.  Left alone to weed itself, a flower bed usually turns into a weed-bed.  There has to be some intentional grooming from time to time.  
I have learned, though, that despite doing this weed-pulling regularly that I don’t always know what or how to pull up the offending sprout that is rooting inside me and getting ready to sprout up into something ugly and vile.  I’d like it to be a simple process and be able to sing the little Sesame Street song and in the end be absolutely…right!  It doesn’t always work that way.  When Jesus came onto the scene he recognized this struggle that man has with righteousness.  The rules were getting complicated and watered down.  It became harder and harder to discern what should be growing inside of man and what needed to go out in the morning garbage.  So he gathered a bunch of people together and told them how.  Yes, God has told us how to get rid of the things in our lives that don’t belong.  
Matthew 5:1 One day as he saw the crowds gathering, Jesus went up on the mountainside and sat down. His disciples gathered around him, 2 and he began to teach them. 
I’m really glad that God had these things written down.  I’ve come to really enjoy reading them.  Here is the first step to getting rid of the things of the things that are sucking the life out of me:

Matthew 5:3 “God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.”
Jesus first tells us that God will bless us if we realize how much we need him.  This is counter to what we are taught, especially in this country.  But if I continue to fill my life with me, working hard to be self-sufficient and to make my future self-fulfilling, then my rewards are only going to be here on the earth and will vanish when I am gone.  By realizing that my needs cannot possibly be met by myself or my wife or my friends or my government, not even by my church, I am opening the door for God’s blessings in my life.  In essence, when I open the door to take out the garbage, fresh air blasts in to fill the void.  Light permeates the darkness and dry soil becomes moist.  God blesses me and things begin to grow.  Good things take the place of the dead and dying.  For far too long I have hung on to the bad things.  I felt I was justified and entitled to be bitter and unforgiving.  Perhaps I was but Christ was justified and entitled to leave me in my sin.  I’m glad he was able to overlook that and walk the walk.  If he had spoken these words and not lived them out they would be pretty meaningless.  
Lord, I come, I confess

Bowing here I find my rest

Without You I fall apart

You’re the One that guides my heart
Lord, I need You, oh, I need You

Every hour I need You

My one defense, my righteousness

Oh God, how I need You