God

More Fire

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Let me spill it straight from the gut

This heart pain is like an open wound, an unchecked cut

That’s gushing and flowing, never slowing.

Dripping red into a pool of

Scarlet…

Stained…

Fingertips

With firm and constant iron grips

Kneading and applying pressure to the seat of affection.

Generating agitation, resurrection,

Creating discontent and dissatisfaction.

Until it becomes an urgent fervor,

a desperate desire

An aching cry for Refiner’s fire –

Hungry, yearning, burning, crying out for

More. Of. You.

So light a spark down in my soul

Fan the embers, watch it glow.

Blow It, feed it, stir it, grow it.

Breathe the breath of power and life

Upon the flame ‘til it inspires

A raging, roaring, uncontrolled,

Wildfire that cannot be contained

…or tamed.

A passion that is contagious. Outrageous.  Unashamedly gracious.

Intensely touching others with Your. Amazing. Love.

I want

More. Of. You.

Religion IS A Crutch

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Ever heard someone lash out with the words “Religion is a crutch!”  Most of us have heard it more than once.  Many who say they have a faith in Christ get offended, or highly defensive, when they hear this popular criticism.  They tend to argue about doctrines, scriptures, and beliefs in an attempt to convince others that their religion is anything but a crutch.

Well, hold on to your pantyhose.  This Christ-follower fully agrees.  Religion IS a crutch.

Now before you throw those blasphemy stones you’ve got clenched in your raised fists, read on….

 

A crutch is defined as: “anything that serves as a temporary and often inappropriate support, supplement, or substitute; a prop”

Perfectly defines religion.  Temporary.  Unable to truly support.  A poor substitute.  Something that props you up… which, by the way, when removed will trigger a fall.

The definition of religion is “the practice of religious beliefs and/or ritual observances of faith”.  

In scripture, Christ and those who mechanically practiced religion were not fans of one another.

The religious measured others according to their index of proper acts, acceptable behaviors, respectable lifestyles, and appreciable knowledge.  If one didn’t conform to their preconceived notions of tolerable conduct, the religious would judge them as unworthy, unfaithful, even deplorable.

Christ measured others according to His Father, Whose heart knew of every decent and scandalous act ahead of their committal. Whose eyes saw every righteous and unrighteous behavior before they came to pass.  Whose ears heard every respectful and shameful word before they were spoken.  Who knew the measure of every lifestyle, deemed successful or unsuccessful by the fellow man, prior to the first breath of life.  Yet His Father continued to love them, understanding their humanity, yet knowing that He created them with incredible potential and giftings for good.

Christ demonstrated what true faith should resemble, and those who counted on religion were considered inferior and judged harshly by Him for their false teachings and man-centered standards.

Sadly this seems to have been forgotten today.  Today it seems so many still boost themselves up by bracing their lives on pompous practices and spiritually-superficial rites.

Obeying a list of “holy behaviors” will prop one up on a self-righteous and ego-aggrandizing pedestal.  The problem is that this narcissistic truss will only provide a deceiving facade of support.  With the first stumble, or deviation from the tally of rights and wrongs – like an injured man whose crutch is yanked from under him on a slippery surface –  the pseudo-holy foundation tumbles, taking the soul bound by religion with it.

Unfortunately, those who have allowed themselves to be crippled by the demanding and unrealistic checklist, tend to reach for that same list of do’s/dont’s  – making excuses for their own fallings, and holding others hostage to their deformed expectations of virtue.  They find a strange sort of comfort in their religious list.

After all, adhering to a series of hallowed intentions takes less faith and diligence than building a relationship that is truthfully spiritual and real.  The rules, regulations, and human-ordained practices of religion are a poor substitute for living with an honest and faith-filled relationship with the agape loving, grace-permeated Christ.

Religion is a crutch.  It is an inappropriate prop for the self-righteous.  Religion provides a false sense of support and stability and is a temporary aid to bolster the ego.  It is a weak, ugly, foolish crutch that Christ would snatch away in a second to prompt our reliance on Him instead of ritualistic nonsense.

Stand up. Allow Christ to strengthen you as you choose to follow Him… Listening for His voice, obeying His promptings, and walking – unaided by man-made rules of legalism – with Him.  Drop the crutch.

 

Oh… and drop your stones now also, please and thank you.

 

 

 

 

We All Are Peter

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Ever read a scripture passage that reached into your soul a grabbed hold with an iron grip as if to say “Pay attention to me! I have something for you!”?

This past week I was reading and came across a passage like this. When the women had gone to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body, they encountered a man who told them Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell His disciples and Peter ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’” – Mark 16:6-7

Go and tell His disciples…. and Peter.  In my mind this implied that Peter was being mentioned separately from the disciples possibly due to his sin of denying Christ 3x.

However, every Commentary that I read indicated otherwise.  They all agreed that Peter was not be distinguished from the disciples, but instead was Peter was being singled out to assure that he was informed along with the other disciples… to guarantee that he was included in this report of Christ’s resurrection and His promise that He would come to them again.

Peter’s name was called out to make certain that he knew he was included in the invitation to meet with Christ once again.

I can only imagine how his heart must have skipped when his name was called.  Such a mixture of excitement, anticipation, fear, and guilt.  He had, after all, sworn and uttered curses as he denied even knowing who Christ was in the midst of the God-man’s most physically/emotionally demanding… potentially damaging… days on Earth.  He had abandoned Christ. Turned his back on the Christ that he had walked with, talked with, ate with, slept beside, been taught by, and even been called by.  Peter had refused to acknowledge the One Who had – with all patience and understanding – seen the potential in Peter’s strong-will, brash personality, and impulsivity.

Peter had sworn he knew no such man called “Christ”. Three. Scandalous. Times.

And yet, Peter was being called out by the same, Christ, and acknowledged as His in the presence of all the other disciples… who, most assuredly, knew of his shameful denials.

Scripture later records that Christ appeared to the disciples when they were fishing and John recognized Who was on the shore. And rather than waiting for the rest of the disciples to row there in their boat – for that would take to long –  Peter jumped from the boat and began to swim to shore (is it any wonder with his impulsive nature?).  He wanted to be in the presence of Jesus.

Christ waited until all the disciples were together and had shared a meal.  He then called Peter’s name again. He singled him out once again in the presence of the others.  Imagine… “Peter?”

Was He going to rebuke Peter for his sinful, slap in the face, spurning?  Would he point out how Peter had denied Him and then, publicly, announce that he was no longer chosen to represent Christ?  After all, how could he?

How could Christ, in all good conscience, allow Peter to represent Him and His cause knowing that Peter had stood before many and, cursing and swearing, joined in His ridicule and refused to acknowledge his relationship with Him ?  How could the hand of God continue to anoint Peter’s life with such a blatant rejection?  So many thoughts and emotions must have been leaving footprints on Peter’s mind and heart.

“Peter”  “Yes, Lord?”

“Do you love me?”

Three times Christ asked if Peter loved Him. Scripture says that Peter was hurt because Christ asked him the third time.  Could it have been another painful reminder of Peter’s 3 rebuffs?

“Lord, You know all things.  You know that I love You”

And Christ, for the 3rd time, reaffirmed Peter’s calling to “feed My lambs”… to minister to those who are lost and hurting… to those who have no Shepherd.

“Lord, You know all things”…..

Indeed He does.

Christ knows all things.  He knows that we are human.  He knows that we make mistakes.  He knows that we even, at times, reject or spurn His place in our life with our actions and/or words.  He knows.

And yet, just like Peter, He continues to call out our name.  He continues to let us know that if our heart is still trying to find Him through the dense fog of shame that can cloud our view of Him… if we are still seeking His light in the midst of our own mental and emotional darkness… if we are willing to jump out of the boat and “swim” towards Him – not waiting for things to be just right or others to come along with us… if our response is that pain-filled, guilt-ridden, cry of “Lord, you know all things.  You KNOW that I love you”… then, in spite of our sin, He calls out our name and reminds us that we remain called, appointed, chosen, His.

 

Such marvelous Grace.

 

Me, Myself, and My Messiah Complex

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I’ve got it and I’ve got it bad.

No, it’s not split personality disorder.  Not a sad case of the blues.  I’m not madly in love with someone other than my husband… well, except for myself sometimes.

I’ve got a messiah complex.  A ridiculously inaccurate messiah complex.

It’s my responsibility to save things and fix people. Every. Single. Day.

The world can’t survive without me.  At least that seems to be what I subconsciously tell myself at times.

My students and co-workers will be lost if I take a day off.  Things at church might not go smoothly if I miss a Sunday… or a leaders meeting.  If I say no to an invitation with family it might upset things. My input is important in most any situation. My opinion valid. My perspective pretty awesome and accurate.  My way, quite often, the most reasonable and practical – the wisest way.

See?  I have placed myself on an imaginary pedestal without even realizing it.  I unconsciously believe that I am the all-knowing, troubleshooter of the totality of what is wrong in life.  The ever-wise moderator of relationships and conflicting conversations.  The oracle who sees the errors of ways.  The prophet who speaks the hard-hearing truth.

I have set myself in a high place in my own mind.  I have assumed the position of savior of the world. … again.

There have been several times, in my life, when I have climbed up to this high and lofty mental place of honor.  Times when I wouldn’t – couldn’t – say no for fear of the world stopping if I did so.  Times when I had to be ever-present for everyone or things would forever be marred and scarred (at least in my own mind).

And each time I have gotten soundly, profoundly, and squarely, knocked off that pedestal and painfully back onto my reality-recognizing butt.

My mind, my emotions, my body, or all three at once, take control and say “enough is enough” and they forcefully set me off my feet and onto my kiester, or my back.  This is where I am forced to recognize that the world will continue to spin – tasks will still be completed – life will go on – friends, family, loved ones, students, and co-workers will survive… and possibly even thrive –  all without my influence or interference.

Although I do not believe God is the author of sickness, fatigue, breakdowns, or anything that is evil, I do believe that He allows us to crash and burn at times as a natural consequence of our own ignorance or sin.  And when I have fanned both ends of the candle flame for an endless amount of time, and there is no light left in me because I have been an improper steward of the gifts/talents that He HAS given me, then He allows me to become as a scorched and melted puddle of wax.

At that point I have a choice.  Refuse to acknowledge that I am not the end-all, be-all, messiah without which the world cannot flourish – and thus grow cold and hard as His glow extinguishes and I continue to believe I, alone, can save.  Or remain pliable, willing to be reshaped and reused by submitting to the heat of His character-molding, mind-renewing fire and the blaze of His Spirit.  Allowing myself to be ignited with the His love-shaped, grace-filled Zippo – recognizing that without Him I am nothing. And even with Him, I am simply a broken vessel of light that He has chosen to carry His spark… not to pervert His standing as Messiah and Savior of the world.

Scripture admonishes that man not think more highly of himself than he ought.  Proverbs advises that pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall.

Me, Myself, and my Messiah complex struggle with this at times and forget.  Ever been there?

 

 

Own It

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own it
Ever been blindsided by anger from someone who has misconstrued or assumed something you’ve done or said?  Unexpected, angry words hurl toward you like bullets in a drive-by, causing you to duck and cover internally in order to protect yourself.  Or, your response could be as someone who has been wounded and scarred by life and abuse and so you retaliate, firing back your own volley of venom-filled verbosity while you defend your honor and pride.

Perhaps the warrior of words has been you.  How many times have you been the violent instigator of your neighbor’s wounds because you mentally created scenarios of wrong-doing or imagined them aiming at target-shaped bull’s-eyes on your happiness or character?  So you fire off a round of white hot insults and accusations, causing soul-trauma to the victim of your word weaponry.

Any of this sound familiar?

Most of us can identify with both. Although we’ve all, most likely, been the victim of someone’s harsh and sudden criticism or irritation, we’ve also all dealt our share of oral outrage. We’ve been both the casualty of a verbal violation and the trigger happy dispatcher of uttered ammunition – probably more than once – in our lifetimes.

Truth be told, it gives us satisfaction and gratification to get things off our chest… to spew our sarcasm or anger-laden speech all over someone else.  We may even delight in the fact that our diatribe has suddenly stunned them into silence and our pride increases and ego inflates.

For some, that feeling of superior euphoria is short-lived.  There is recognition that the momentary verbose vindication deflated the spirit of another God-imagined, hand-crafted masterpiece.  The light has been extinguished from their eyes.  Their soul is wounded. Auditory arrows have been shot into their hearts and it grieves to the core.

For others, the personal pleasure and pride continues to grow.  There is refusal to admit any wrong.  Dialectical damage is ignored and the journey goes on, one day at a time, leaving bruised and battered beings in the dust… behind… where they cannot be seen.

Time to put the big girl panties, or the big boy drawers, on.

Time to own it.  Own the fact that we do, at times, allow ourselves to be used as tools of the enemy.  Time for all of us to stop playing the marred martyr and instead man – or woman – up.  Take responsibility for our own words. Admit that we have not, will not, choose to control our tongues when we are offended or anticipating attack… no matter how figmental that attack may be. Confess that we, at times, put our own need for one-upmanship over relationships and recognition of God-value in every human being.

After owning our sinful, spiteful, hateful motivations behind our agitated outbursts – and asking the God who created our targets for forgiveness – we owe a heart-felt, care-filled apology to those we’ve wounded. They deserve to have their dignity restored as we humble ourselves and acknowledge our vainglorious frenzy.  No excuses. No justification-filled reasoning.  No lengthy dissertations. Excessive words marked the genesis of this injured exchange. So keep it simple. Make an offering of a  few honest, authentic, apologetic words. This primes us, and those around us, for maturity – and allows opportunity for restoration and healing in the souls of all involved.

Own it.

Admit it.

Repent.

Apologize.

 ________________________________________________________

19 Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. 20 Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires….26 If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless. – James 1:19-20, 26

People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. 10 …Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right!….17 But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. 18 And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness. – James 3:7-18

A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. – Proverbs 15:1

Made For More, Frenemies, and Cement Shoes in the Church

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Hey Christ-follower, Ever found yourself in that in-between place where you’re not sure if the church you attend is the church where you belong?

Due to family situations, employment positions, or ministry transitions I’ve found myself swirling in the gap of longing for belonging more than once. I have also been at the place of questioning whether the church body where I have been attending is the right place for myself and/or my family.  With all of the life-altering dispositions, changing conditions, impositions, and re-positions I have found myself at both of these places more than once in the last quite-a-few years.

I remember lamenting to my counselor about my self-imposed frustrations with not trusting church leadership, feeling ignored and unappreciated as a divorced female called to ministry, and carrying around the baggage filled with my hurts imposed by “church people”.  My counselor listened patiently and then asked a dang good question.

She asked me if I had ever considered what my “absolutes” were.  What must the church absolutely do – according to my values, morals, beliefs, and convictions?  What must the church absolutely NOT do – according to the same?  And then her encouragement was that the in-betweens shouldn’t swing the pendulum towards belongingor not.  An impacting question followed by some needed, and balanced, exhortation.

Recently my soul and emotions have been, again, filled with that flustery feeling of restlessness with regards to life and ministry. It seems that the daylight occupation and crisis situations have demanded so much time and attention of late that life has resembled a breathless trek in a hamster wheel so much more than a meaningful journey of influence and inspiration.  For me, my friends, this is not what I was created for (In fact, this is not what any of us were created for).  And so, my frustration factor has increased along with my cries of “I was made for more!”

Consequently and habitually, as I have become more unsettled in my soul, I have found myself turning my dissatisfaction towards the church. Although my co-workers have long-sensed my turmoil with purposeless days, I realized I have been turning a more critical, sometimes untrusting, eye towards my community of Christ-following comrades.  After all, it’s an easier target for uneasiness and boredom than the salaried situation that supportsmy family, lifestyle, and penchant for giving “just because”.

Within the last couple of weeks I have come to several realizations based on reviewing my counselor’s questions, conversation with God, and self-examination and ego-busting.

1. I absolutely, positively, was made for more than what my life looks like at this moment.  However, in order to get to that “more” requires less… and more  Less time focused on the mundane and mind-numbing.  Less money spent on things that are pretty yet purposeless. Less energy given to emotional emergencies and perturbing pressures.  More time spent on the meaningful and missional.  More money focused on projects of principal. More energy invested in inspiring and engaging adventures.  I WAS made for more.  But making excuses for why life is less, instead of changing little things that can accomplish more, is a cop-out way of not being – doing – impacting – more.

2. Those in my community of believers are not my enemies.  Nor are they my several-faced frenemies.  They are friends. Associates. Companions.  And, most importantly, my mission mates.  Withhearts growing in God, there are few evil-hearted agents attempting to subvert the Body of Christ.  So very few vicious villains with motives to distract and deter those far from the Father. Considering my Crossroads comrades, I cannot convincingly contend that they do not wish to heal the hearts of the hurting or introduce others to the Lover Of Their Soul as passionately as I do.

These are not my enemies.  There is only one enemy of faith and community and he has no power where it is not given.

refuse-to-be-enemy-rock

3. When I waver in my position and am constantly looking for reasons to question my “wheres”, I am a “double-minded man (human)…unstable in all my ways”. I cannot learn contentment. I will not grow in stability and strength. I am unable to make a significant impact in the lives of others when I am earnestly scoping for greener grass.  I am uncommitted.  If I do not plant my feet and allow God to grow and increase my gifts and influence, If I do not go “all in”, then not only will my rewards be few – but my leadership leverage decreases, and my personal potential and purpose can’t produce fruit… for I have no roots.

So I’ve committed.  I’ve put on my cement shoes and I’m jumping in the water to be fully submerged in His Spirit and the sea of congregational intimacy for at least a year.  And with the plantingof my feet has come peace.  Contentment. Roots.

Will I ever be satisfied with my level of influence and leadership?  I hope not.  I hope that I continue to maintain that I was made for more, for this is a motivator to movement.  However, I must learn to be patient and content with where God has allowed me to be in order to grow and learn.  THIS is what will enable me to do, live, BE more.

 

For those who may wonder about my absolutes, they are as follows:

  1. The church must teach relationship with the heart and character of God – not the rules and regulations of man
  2. It must not twist scripture to prove man’s point – but instead teach scripture in a contextually accurate manner
  3. The church must show a heart for the hurting and seekers of truth
  4. It must accept and welcome my unique and eccentric family
  5. The church must extend grace and allow for all walks of life to be introduced to the unconditional, unfathomable love of Christ
  6. It must foster community, authenticity, and honest accountability
  7. And finally, the church must encourage the development and use of individual gifts and wirings of its members

 

 

 

Everything Happens for a… Reasonable Objection

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I HATE the phrase “Everything happens for a reason” – especially when it is used to placate others in tragic, or difficult, situations.

No, there is not “REASON” for everything that happens.

However, THE reason that tragic/difficult/evil things happen is because we live in a world that is the target of the enemy of God…

A world where political courtesy
has taken the place of right and moral fidelity…
Where saying “the right thing” for approval and status
has taken the place of DOING the right thing because the other person matters…
It’s a time when popularity, fame, and prosperity,
trump character, honesty, and integrity…
where Jerry Springer, Judge Judy, and Maury
capture fascinations while humanity scorns a righteous man’s story…
So yes, there’s a “reason” for all that happens.  For every tragedy, every disaster. Every bad, sad, mad thing that’s occurred.
Simply put, we live in an immoral and corrupt world.
A world where faulty women and men ruled by selfish ambitions
put themselves on a pedestal over God and fellow humans.

Now, don’t get it twisted.  Don’t make a mistake.  Don’t under-estimate it.
The God of the Universe can take any situation, that is entrusted to Him –
given to Him,
and work in and with it.
He can “IN all things…work for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose”.  He can.
He will. Yet this doesn’t mean that He causes all things that happen to man.
He ALLOWS us to make choices. To exercise our will. To DO as we like.
We seem to forget that there are natural consequences to every choice that we make.

Perhaps instead of casually stating “everything happens for a reason”, one should stop
and consider
Perhaps, just perhaps,
the continuing deterioration of morality –
the slap on the wrist for blatant criminality –
the open acceptance of crass and obscene behaviors and words –
or the fascination with the violent, the ridiculous, the shocking, and the absurd –
could be “the reason”…
And along with that REASONable conjecture
stop and think what part YOU play in this juncture.

Self-examination and growth is much more fruitful and mature than placation.