What Will I Worship Today?

All my life I have gone to church. Anyone can go to church. Church can be a deep and meaningful experience or it can mean nothing at all. There have been times that I blamed other people for the meaningless and unsatisfying experience that church has given me but I now know that nearly everything that I gain from church has to do with me and how I prepare myself to receive it.

A part of that church experience has been called “worship”. It usually involves music. Someone stands in front and plays and instrument and the piano keys get tickled and a voice leads the congregation in beautiful (or not so beautiful) music.

Sometimes this is a really special time, something happens inside and some spiritual need is met and I call that “good worship”.

The fact is I worship constantly. I just tend to worship God at specific times and worship everything else the rest of the time. To be honest, I think I tend to worship myself more than I worship God. I don’t do it intentionally. I have still not learned just what worship is.

Romans 12:1 And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.

What do I want from my relationship from God? Do I want the quick ticket to heaven or do I want more? Do I want a rich and full life or and frustrating and unsatisfying struggle?

I’ve learned a lot over the last couple of years or so. Do I want to decide that is enough? Or do I want to push on beyond the limitations I have set on God?

I don’t have to settle for limited worship and a partial outpouring of God on my life. I can go beyond conventional Christianity. I can lay my all, my entire life, on the altar of sacrifice and contrary to popular belief, it will not kill me.

God doesn’t demand this and beat me when I don’t comply. I have to willingly comply on my own. No matter how much I experience God, there is always more. Worship isn’t just singing away for a while on Sunday morning. It is a way of life. If I refuse myself the worship that I need with God, I will replace it with worshiping something else. It is what I am designed to do. I am a worship machine and if I don’t turn that desire to God, it has to go somewhere.

Because of all God has done for me, because of his never-ending mercies that endure forever and ever, because of his acceptance of me when I refused to accept him and his unconditional love that never fails, I need to be willing to present my body, my life, my will, my all to him as a living sacrifice.

This isn’t the end of me but the beginning because the things that I lay down to die, he will raise in his power and his glory for his kingdom.

It is good to hunger for more out of life. It is better to know how to find it. It is glory to step out in faith and lay myself down as a sacrifice to him.

Today I go to work, I can struggle to do a good enough for my boss or worship God with all I do.

I feel like I have an inside advantage to doing this in my life. I am working the twelve steps through Celebrate Recovery. A lot of Christians don’t feel the need to put in this kind of hard work but I know that I do or else I will collapse like a house of cards in a windstorm.

But even though I have taken a few steps in the right direction, I have so far to go. There is the potential of so much more in my life. Sure, I’m getting older and opportunities don’t come around like they used to but that’s no excuse. God wants my life as much as the next guy’s. He wants yours as much as he wants mine.

It isn’t because he just like collecting people, it is because he wants to make all that he has already done for you worth the cost. He wants us all to experience him the way we were built to experience him. There is more than Sunday. There is more than a quick prayer whispered before a meal.

God loves me twenty-four seven. He just wants me to love him back.

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Holy Moses!

Holy Moses! Is that Charlton Heston? This pose is dramatic and looks awesome in the movies but did Moses actually do this kind of stuff? The short answer is “yep”. You should know by now that I am never going to stop with the short answer, so please read on.

See, one day the Amalekites (these were people, not a brand of toy you tie to a string and let rise into the air) decided to attack the Israelites. I don’t understand why anyone would attack the Israelites back in those days because, let’s face it, Moses was with them. He had split seas and called manna from heaven and delivered the ten commandments…ok, well I don’t know if he had done all those things yet but he had called the plagues down on Egypt and that would have been enough of a deterrent for me! Moses sent Joshua and some men out to go get back at the big meanie Amalekites. So Moses, Aaron (not Hank) and Hur (not Ben) climbed a hill to watch the fight.

Exodus 17:11 As long as Moses held up the staff in his hand, the Israelites had the advantage. But whenever he dropped his hand, the Amalekites gained the advantage. 12 Moses’ arms soon became so tired he could no longer hold them up. So Aaron and Hur found a stone for him to sit on. Then they stood on each side of Moses, holding up his hands. So his hands held steady until sunset. 13 As a result, Joshua overwhelmed the army of Amalek in battle.

Who were the MVP’s in this battle? Well, God yeah. But what I mean is who was crucial to winning? Joshua and his men did the fighting, Moses raised his hands and let God’s power defeat the enemy. But is was Aaron and Hur that stepped up and helped Moses when he could no longer continue. The Amalekites would have won if Aaron and Hur had figured they weren’t in the fight and Moses could handle things on his own, you know since he was Moses and all.

Why do I like this story? I like the way God shows us that even the people we may think don’t really need us, well they need us. It may be a lot easier than we think to make a huge difference in someone’s battle. So today I think I need to try to hold someone’s arms up and find them a place to sit. Who knows what will happen? Lots of grace all over the place today.

The Greatest

I grew up listening to an obnoxious guy with a bad wig holding a microphone up to a handsome black man that said, “I’m the greatest!” so many times that he became known as “The Greatest”.

For those of you that didn’t grow up when I did and still have no clue who I may be referring to, “The Greatest” was Muhammad Ali.

Looking back, it seems there will never be another Muhammad Ali.  Maybe he was the greatest, at least when it comes to boxing.

Man seems to have a desire to be great, to have power, to be able to disable and disarm his opponents and to be better looking.

Athletes, actors, politicians, celebrities, plumbers, mechanics, hair stylists and Frosted Flakes all strive for greatness.  It seems that if someone says they are great, to a large enough crowd of people and backs it up once or twice with some amazing feat like knocking a guy’s brain around in his skull or making us cry in a movie, they become some sort of great.

They become so much so, that they can use their platform of greatness to say all sorts of things, some very stupid, and people latch onto them like pearls of wisdom.

People become so enamored with their own greatness that others don’t really matter, if they acknowledge their existence at all.

Oh, to be in the greatness club.  To be recognized as great, to be known as the best and brightest must be a fantastic thing.

Matthew 18:1 About that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?”
2 Jesus called a little child to him and put the child among them. 3 Then he said, “I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven.

It is kind of a sobering thought that I have spent a great deal of time, striving for something that can keep me out of the Kingdom of Heaven.  I have fed my pride, my ego, my desire for the love or fear or awe of men and abandoned what it takes to find my place in the eternal.

What if I did get to the place that I could announce that I was the greatest and the world clung to every word of it and agreed?  What would become of me if I could go to bed every night on a fresh bed of laurels?

I would be lost.

Jesus said this was the truth, being greatest in heaven is not nearly as important as getting there and if I truly want greatness, become the most humble of the humble.

In this world the self-promoting, self-serving and self-righteous get their reward.  It means nothing to God.  Greatness that lasts forever comes to those that have no need for it.

Greatness comes in small packages.  I must become small to display the greatness of a mighty God.  Great things may seem small to human eyes but uses billions and billions of small actions to become great miracles.

So today, let the great things I do be for the good of all, for the glory of God and let them fill the places my own desires currently dwell.  Let me know that God is the greatest without qualification or condition and that all he has it at my disposal to live a life of a humble man that does great things.

Where to Sit, Stand and Walk

Sometimes I walk out the door in the morning and expect that I am so holy and righteous that I can do no wrong. It is good to have confidence and security in knowing that God is with me. But if I am going to really be holy and righteous, I am going to have to be aware at every moment of the things that can cause me to accomplish the exact opposite of that goal.

First of all, my righteousness better be the real deal or else it is self-righteousness and that always explodes under pressure. That’s not good for anything.

Holiness is an honorable goal. Reaching that goal is hard but not impossible. But I tend to often do things that guarantee that I will not be holy.

Psalm 1:1 Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, 2 but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night.

The psalmist writes about walking, standing and sitting. That covers the positions I am in at most any time of the day that I am not asleep. I am not reading here that we are not to live among those that believe differently than me or that I am not to love everyone. I am still obligated to show the love of Christ everywhere I go and not shun folks I don’t see eye to eye with.

I am not to walk in step with the wicked. Another translation says that I don’t take advice from the wicked. My daily walk should reflect God’s expectations and not the expectations of those that despise him.

Sometimes I feel like fighting fire with fire when it comes to what is expected of me by those that want to destroy God’s place and all he represents. I feel like filing lawsuits and launching verbal attacks and spewing the same kind of venomous hate that the people that oppress the message of God in our country are doing.

But God calls me to walk in a way that always reflects the walk that Jesus took. That walk was difficult and there were times the way seemed doomed to fail as he hung on the cross. But his walk didn’t end there. His walk ended as he ascended into heaven.

I’m also not to stand in the way that sinners take. When I ignore the advice of the wicked, I am looking at a different map. Their walk takes them down a path that I don’t need to travel. I need to get over my fear of taking a less traveled road and just do it. I can wander far from where they wander and there is joy and blessing.

Then, after a hard day of following the advice of God and walking the path that he directs me to follow, I find rest. My rest and refreshment comes from the throne of grace, not in the accolades and pats on the back from those that try to separate me from God. The world around me is full of mockers.

People used to be more afraid to mock God. But today there seems to be a boldness and unfettered defiance that is a rising force around us all as we try to follow in God’s will. There is pressure to remove God from anything and everything. It is more important than ever for me to follow the advice in these first verses of the Psalms. Life is going to be hard and I am going to have this urge within me to fight God’s fight for him. The problem is that anytime my fight against the world resembles the cheap and dirty tactics of the fight against God, then I am joining in with the mockers.

A few years ago, Natalie Grant, a Christian music artist was recently in attendance at the Grammy award ceremony. Call the Grammys what you want, but a bunch of people getting together to worship a little statue was sort of frowned upon by God in the bible. She was soon sitting amongst people making a mockery of God and what he stands for.

The advice of the wicked would tell us that it was all just entertainment and harmless fun. It wasn’t all harmless fun at all. God tells us not to be a part of that. Natalie stood up and walked a different path that took her away from that spectacle. She didn’t say a lot. She just expressed the joy she had following the advice that God gives us in the verses above. I pray that God is blessing her with delight as she reassesses what success really means in her chosen career.

Sometimes we all have to take another look at what success is. If I define it by the standards of those that stand firm against what God wants for me, then my advice and judgment is coming from somewhere other than God. My rest doesn’t lie in the things that man can make and give. My joy doesn’t come from applause and the praise of men. It comes from the approval of God (at least that is my goal).

The old me still jumps to life a little bit when those things come my way. I have to remind myself to look at where I sit, stand and walk. God has blessings and joy for me if I do those things well.

Radios Were an Option

As I sit here this morning, I can think of four people right off the top of my head that I need to forgive.

I don’t want to forgive them.  In fact, two of them are the kind of people that I believe don’t deserve forgiveness because they are probably getting out of bed trying to come up with a scheme to hurt someone right this very minute.

Forgiveness isn’t optional.  I so much want it to be.  I even want permission to get vengeance.  There are some people walking around wielding their brand of hurt like swords in the hands of mighty warriors that I’d like to see taken down a notch or two.

There are others that have just hurt me and the hurt doesn’t seem to want to go away.  How can I forgive that?  Why would I?

I remember when you could go into a dealership looking for a car and find one with no radio.  Growing up when I did, being a long-haired rock and roll wannabe, I didn’t understand a car with no radio.

These days, you can hardly find a new car that doesn’t have every option in the book.

But radios were optional.  A guy could buy a car and drive down the road in complete silence.  He couldn’t listen to music, hear the news or talk radio.

That’s not a bad thing for driving, but treating forgiveness like an option is akin to me driving down the road unable to hear God.  I can’t hear him teaching me, directing me, loving me or bringing me the joys of what life as a Christian is all about.

All I hear is my great reasoning to not forgive.

Matthew 18:32 Then the king called in the man he had forgiven and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. 33 Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’ 34 Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt.
35 “That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart.”

I don’t like that parable all the time.  In fact, right this very second it doesn’t really appeal to me.  God is going to torture me if I don’t forgive the way he forgave me?

I’ve been around long enough, carried enough grudges, carried enough hate, carried enough hurt and desire for revenge, that I know that God is not the one torturing me.  My refusal to forgive simply does not allow God’s forgiveness to finish its work in me.

I buy into salvation but don’t want to give a little extra for the radio.  I stop hearing God and all he has to say to me about being a better man and life gets real, real hard.  God doesn’t torture me.  I choose to allow what I think to stand between me and understanding God and his nature.

I torture myself.  When I forgive, the torture of piercing my heart with hate and the desire to get even goes away and healing begins.  Healing can’t happen until I stop the torture.

God desperately wants us all to stop the pain.  He did everything he could do without taking our brains away and replacing them with robot brains.  It is up to us to forgive as he forgave and put an end to the renewing of our own hurt.

Forgiveness isn’t an option.  It is not just the radio that I can choose to delete from salvation.  It is the driving force that brings the fullness of salvation into my life.

It may take more than a prayer and a flip of the forgive switch to work all this out in my life but I desperately need to stay with it.  It’s vital for me and those around me that I do.

 

What Does God Hear?

A couple years or so ago I had surgery on my left ear. This left me temporarily deaf in my left ear. I didn’t realize that being unable to hear out of one ear can screw up my hearing so bad in my right ear. It still hears just like it always has but add a little background noise to a conversation and understanding becomes more difficult. Turn the TV on and a voice just blends in with the noise and is pretty much indecipherable. If I am in a room with several conversations going on at once, just put me in a corner and ignore me until everybody leaves because I have no idea who is saying what or who they are talking to. Sound turns to a cacophony of jabbering and senseless voices clashing in waves of confusion.

Being the patient and easy-going man that I am (insert sarcasm here) it doesn’t grate on my nerves one little bit.

To really communicate, I have to eliminate distractions and focus on one voice. Even after the surgery has healed successfully, I still have to attempt that.

I am reminded of the scene in the movie ‘Bruce Almighty’ where Bruce hears the prayers of all the people in the world. I know that God is everywhere all the time and can hear us. I have to wonder if he can hear us better if we are all in one voice seeking his will instead of millions of voices asking for our will? There isn’t much good theology in a Hollywood movie, but what do our voices sound like to God?

Romans 15:5 May God, who gives this patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other, as is fitting for followers of Christ Jesus. 6 Then all of you can join together with one voice, giving praise and glory to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

God certainly wants to hear us as one voice. We were not created to go into survival mode on a remote island on our own. We were created to sing one song in harmony with others. We are to have right relationships with God, our spouses and families, our church, our friends and others in general.

Sometimes I get frustrated with dealing with people. I don’t like the way they talk and the way they act. They say things that make no sense to me and do things that are just plain stupid. They have too many problems and it gets on my nerves.

I can tell you what those folks biggest problem is. Their biggest problem is me because I am not doing what I ought to be doing according to God’s Word!

Romans 15:2 We should help others do what is right and build them up in the Lord.

If someone around me really is as messed up as I think they are (and they probably aren’t) then I have some work to do. Complaining about someone else doesn’t help them at all. Avoiding them doesn’t lift them up. Criticizing them isn’t building, it is tearing down. I have a responsibility to others. I don’t really like to hear that. Who has time for more responsibility? God expects me to make time. Even as I write these words, they are stinging a bit.

Romans 15:7 Therefore, accept each other just as Christ has accepted you so that God will be given glory.

Christ has accepted me when I was too disgusting to touch. I was filthy and gross yet he did not hold back his grace from me. When I was obnoxious and judgmental, his grace covered me. When I was immersed in myself and couldn’t see him in anything, he was my savior. I was far from what he desired me to be, I was corrupt and wicked and he accepted me as I was. Do I EVER do this for others? I honestly don’t think so. There seem to always be some sort of conditions and limits that I place on my relationships. I seem to always draw a line in the sand somewhere that they had better not ever cross. God is asking me to erase that line. That’s not easy to do but I have to do it.

Romans 15:13 I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Paul writes in a kind of step-by-step logical manner. After imploring us to join together in one voice, in harmony, and accept each other as Christ has accepted us, he prays this prayer. Until I learn to do the things Paul is teaching previously, there really isn’t room for me to be filled completely with joy and peace because I am filled with other things. I need to let go of my fear of others hurting me or disappointing me and trust God to work in my relationships just as I trust him for my salvation. This will empty me so that I can be filled with peach and joy.

Here Lies the Truth

If you’ve known me for long, even just a few years, you know that I can be a blow-hard know-it-all that can do it all. I can’t stand it when others feel the need to be like that but yet I lived like that every single day.

Why anyone would want to be know for being just a notch below God in knowledge and power is beyond me. But unlike God, mostly I just talked about how great I was at what I could do and didn’t really actually do all that much.

If I had been able to do all I led others to believe I could do world hunger would pretty much be a thing of the past. I’ve got to live in reality. I’m not all that powerful. The only thing I truly excel in is weakness.

Have you ever seen the deal at the carnival where you take the big hammer and send the weight up toward a bell? If you hit the bell, you get a little prize but the main thing is that you can set the hammer down and walk around like a tough guy for fifteen seconds.

A huge part of my life has been taking the big hammer away from God and whacking away at each day. But I didn’t ever try to build much. I mostly went to the carnival attraction to show off by trying to ring the bell and light up the lights.

To tell you the truth, I wasn’t very good at ringing the bell even. Each day became more and more embarrassing. I’d take a big swing and it wouldn’t come close to going out of the park. My life looked more and more like a bunt. So I’d have to exaggerate a little bit to make it look impressive. When I exaggerate, it isn’t just making things a little more interesting. It is lying. Lying is a pretty harsh addiction. It is perhaps the most destructive and life-limiting one I ever experienced.

Boasting, for me, almost always turns into lying.

2 Corinthians 11:30 If I must boast, I would rather boast about the things that show how weak I am.

In the last few years, God has led me through a lot of growing. I have changed beyond what could be expected from man but it isn’t a surprise to God. I’ve gone from being a lying no-good low-down dog to being a grateful believer and follower of Christ. I’ve seen the miraculous happen in myself and others and I have been privileged to be a part of it.

But NONE of that happens without the power and wisdom of God himself. He has the hammer and he doesn’t use it to show off how powerful he is. He builds. He built me up when I was sure I should just be condemned and burned down. I am on my way to becoming something that makes me happy to be me!

It is tempting at times to stand back and say, “Look at what I have done!” But when I truthfully look at what I have done I need to always look back at that old place that needed to be condemned. If I like what I see today I need to say, “Look at what God has done!”

2 Corinthians 12:6 If I wanted to boast, I would be no fool in doing so, because I would be telling the truth. But I won’t do it, because I don’t want anyone to give me credit beyond what they can see in my life or hear in my message, 7 even though I have received such wonderful revelations from God.

Humility is the cure for boasting about the wrong things. Celebrate Recovery is a constant reminder that humility is truly an honorable and necessary goal in life. Being a blow-hard know-it-all that can do it all pushes people away and causes me to worship myself. Being a humble man that serves God draws people in and I am never alone in my struggles.

2 Corinthians 12:10 That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

I’m not so sure that I always take pleasure in the tough times. I may be a ways off from that but I am striving to become that guy. It seems kind of impossible sometimes but when I look back at how I once was, well, back then I couldn’t take pleasure if I didn’t like the way someone else dressed or walked down the hall. Anything could set me off and it looked pretty impossible for me to become the guy I am now. I suppose I should keep an open mind about what I will look like next year.

I have Celebrate Recovery to keep me on track in being the humble man God desires. It is a staple in my march to honesty and truthfulness. If you don’t have some people in your life helping you conquer your demons, find some people! God uses other people’s miracles to work miracles in our own lives. Giving up the addiction of lying is reason enough to find help. Learning to find help brings joy to life.

Fame

Fame, it’s not your brain, it’s just the flame
That burns your change to keep you insane

David Bowie

When I look back at the dreams of my youth, one of them was to be famous. I wanted to be a famous musician. I worked hard enough at it to become pretty good. But I never committed myself to the point that I was going to work toward that end goal or have to sleep in a van down by the river. I played it safe and I was only famous in my own mind.

I have seen fame come and go to a lot of people. I’ve noticed that fame isn’t very healthy. Fame tends to age people, wear them down, break them down and tear them apart. Still, for a very long time, I wanted some of that.

I could look up how the dictionary defines fame but I kind of see it as getting others to confirm my own grandiose perception of how important I am. If I think I am awesome, even if it is only for my bloated opinion of my own opinions, then everyone else should think I am awesome too. Worship me, for I am awesome!

The drive to fame can be overwhelming but it always comes at a price. The famous at some point have to lose their own voice and find one that resonates with the largest common denominator. Politicians are great at playing the fame game. We know them but we don’t. Most have lost themselves and their convictions along to way to pander to the most people.

Some pretty great people have found fame just because they do some great things. But fame didn’t just find them and leave them alone. It turned them into shadows of who they once were and ended their lives far too soon.

This pride that drives so many to give all for fame is in us all to some degree. I have seen it rear its ugly head in myself when I didn’t get the credit I deserved. I wasn’t getting enough fame at work, in the neighborhood, from my family and even at church. I wasn’t famous for being the best on the worship team or how was I the best Christian in the place. I wasn’t even nominated to be a deacon.

There is no place for fame in my life. Fame is the size of the fire that I feed with selfishness and all the other things it takes for me to prove I am better than most everyone else.

The other night I saw a friend of mine tell a group of people what her husband does for other people. The look on his face said, “I don’t want other people to know about that.” A flash of color shot across his face. It was clear that his motives for what he did were between himself and God. A little recognition was uncomfortable for him.

I felt that humility go deep inside my chest. I need more of that! I need to be less dependent on having others know what great stuff I do and less eager to hear what a great guy I am. I have so much growing up to do even though my white beard says it’s all downhill from here. I can’t coast. I have to get to the place that I become the smallest and God has become the greatest.

1 John 2:15 Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. 16 For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. 17 And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.

Nothing this world has to offer is as hollow as fame. Even if they should all fall down and worship me, I am no more of a man and certainly no god. Only God deserves fame and only he deserves any man’s praise.

The Ache in Our Hearts

There is no shortage of ways to get a broken heart in this world. I’ve seen so much of it. I’ve felt so much of it. Even this morning, my heart has taken a few hits and is aching quite a bit. A little pain in the chest of my soul lets me know that I am treating it as it was intended to be treated.

For a long time, I ran from the pain. I insulated and isolated so that I wouldn’t feel pain. I numbed myself and pushed others away in order to cope with each day.

But that pain was still there, unsoothed and untreated, festering and becoming infected. I blamed everyone around me for the lack of healing in my soul but even though I couldn’t block the pain, I could block the healing.

I didn’t even understand that the one setting myself up for my spiritual failure was me. So I blamed everyone else including God. I looked around and saw thousands of people that had no clue what I going through and their smiling faces just annoyed me because they weren’t getting their fair share of pain.

Thank God, I now know that everyone gets their fair share and more. There is no one on this planet that gets out without suffering.

Today, when my heart is on the verge of breaking, I will be tempted to pull back and hide my heart away to keep it from getting hurt more. I’ve finally learned that I will only make things worse for others and myself if I give in to that temptation.

2 Corinthians 6:4 In everything we do, we show that we are true ministers of God. We patiently endure troubles and hardships and calamities of every kind.5 We have been beaten, been put in prison, faced angry mobs, worked to exhaustion, endured sleepless nights, and gone without food.

Paul made a commitment to keep putting his heart in harm’s way. It didn’t always go well as you can see by the above scriptures. Why would I want to commit to this?

First of all, trying to protect myself from this has only caused me grief and exposed my lack of strength and wisdom. I am living proof that it can’t possibly work. Hidden inner turmoil doesn’t go away. Ignoring it only fertilizes it and causes it to become an uncontrollable beast. Sooner or later the beast inside begins to devour its master.

2 Corinthians 6:9 We are ignored, even though we are well known. We live close to death, but we are still alive. We have been beaten, but we have not been killed. 10 Our hearts ache, but we always have joy. We are poor, but we give spiritual riches to others. We own nothing, and yet we have everything.
11 Oh, dear Corinthian friends! We have spoken honestly with you, and our hearts are open to you.

Things get tough, times get hard, visibility becomes perilously low. But yet I can push on and keep opening my heart. God designed our hearts to endure struggle yet thrive and feel joy even in the midst of pain. He heals us so we can do it again and again. I have to remember that he is the maker of heaven and earth AND the healer of my heart.

2 Corinthians 6:2 There is no lack of love on our part, but you have withheld your love from us. 13 I am asking you to respond as if you were my own children. Open your hearts to us!

There is nothing to be gained by closing others out and hiding in my own pain. My past failures tell me that opening myself up is going to hurt. It isn’t the kind of thing that destroys me. Going to the gym hurts but I should still go do it. Lots of things that are good for me in the long run aren’t exactly a walk in the park but some of them insure that I will enjoy many more walks in the park in the future.

So this morning, I take my aching heart and put it out there. If God can use it somehow, I pray he does. I am willing to take a chance and allow it to hurt again. I know that God sees the needs and desires of my heart and does not ignore them.

One Smooth Stone

Every day, I see someone, hear someone and at times listen to someone that explains that we as a people are too advanced, too enlightened and just too plain smart to believe in God anymore.

1 Corinthians 3:9 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God. As the Scriptures say, “He traps the wise in the snare of their own cleverness.” 20 And again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise; he knows they are worthless.”

It is easy to condemn those that don’t believe and stand behind that belief but at least they know where they stand. I have denied my disbelief and pretended that I trusted in God but yet in my heart, my actions said that I stood firmer in my disbelief than my faith.

Israel loved to claim to be God’s chosen people but when it came down to faith, they trusted their disbelieving hearts over God’s Word. They chose their fear of today over God’s unwavering faithfulness that had thrown grace all over their disobedient past.

As Goliath stood before them, taunting them and their God, humiliating them, they lost all faith that God could and would intervene. They were trained warriors trembling before a godless freak of nature.

One boy said he would go out and face the giant. They tried to dress him up to look like a warrior. The costume didn’t fit.

On this day, God watched an army of soldiers stand back in fear as one boy stepped up and announced God’s faithfulness. One boy knelt and picked up a handful of smooth stones and placed one in his sling and that one boy stood on the faithfulness of God and announced to Goliath what was about to take place.

1 Samuel 17:45 David replied to the Philistine, “You come to me with sword, spear, and javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies—the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 Today the Lord will conquer you, and I will kill you and cut off your head. And then I will give the dead bodies of your men to the birds and wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel! 47 And everyone assembled here will know that the Lord rescues his people, but not with sword and spear. This is the Lord’s battle, and he will give you to us!”

I’m not going to be loading up a sling and fighting Andre the Giant today. But I will face opposition. The people around me that are standing in fear and doing nothing will tell me God can’t help me.

My inner demons will taunt me and claim victory. But I do not have to fear them or let them rule over me. It is time to pick up what God has given me and go after them fearlessly, courageously, trusting that God goes before me and lays waste to my enemy. And when my enemy falls I must cut off its head to prove to the world that this weak, flawed, broken man can win because the God they say isn’t real has fought the fight for me. The battle is the Lord’s!

God’s word tells us that we will face trouble and trials. Life isn’t going to be a flower show followed by afternoon tea. It is a tough, transforming challenge. There are giants in front of us every step of the way. I have chosen to fight them by pretending they don’t exist and hiding in the living room on my couch hoping they are like the zombies in the movies that can’t figure out how to work a doorknob.

It isn’t the unbelievers around me that I should fear. It is the giant that keeps me from obeying God that I should fear the most. Some people claim to have no fear and show no fear. They are really good liars. I’ve been one of them. I still, at times, prefer to lie. I still, at times, run and hide. But today. armed one one smooth stone of faith…

1 Samuel 17:48 As Goliath moved closer to attack, David quickly ran out to meet him.