Leaving the Past
When your words and actions can continue to be consistent – regardless of who is present, or who is no longer in your presence – that is when integrity follows you.
When your opinion of another remains the same – regardless of who is present, or who is no longer in your presence – that is when you can be trusted with relationships.
When it isn’t necessary to play the victim role or the pity card for attention – regardless of who is present, or who is no longer in your presence – that is when you are strong in character… and in internal stature.
When your personality and values do not change – regardless of who is present, or who is no longer in your presence – that is when you carry yourself with authenticity.
When you no longer need to “keep up with the Jones” – regardless of who is present, or who is no longer in your presence – that is when your security is not in things, and you have learned to be content.
When your convictions remain firm – regardless of who is present, or who is no longer in your presence – that is when your beliefs are your own, and not wavering with the winds.
When your worship and wonder of God remains outside of Sunday mornings – regardless of who is present, or who is no longer in your presence – that is when your “love relationship” is with God and not 4 walls of brick and mortar.
Who are you?
Taking no thought of who is present…… or who has walked away……..
Who are you?
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.
One of my best friend’s house burned this past weekend. The fire started in the rear bedroom and burned so hot that it collapsed the floor and burned everything in the basement. In the basement had been stored boxes of books that belonged to me…and books are one of the things that I absolutely treasure.
I have learned so many things from reading. In reading a book I can go places in my mind that my body may never be able to travel. Words paint pictures in my mind. I “feel” the heart of the writer when I read. And God shows me so many things – beyond the written words – in even “every day, ordinary” books… I absorb those things into my heart like a dry sponge. Words, especially written, are one of the things that speaks to the very depths of my soul. So books are a treasure to me. And now most of them were gone. Lost in a pile of charred rubble.
I went with my friend to see her home after the fire. As we stood outside and looked down through that bedroom window into what was left of the basement below, lying on top of the blackness – outside of the pools of black water – was one of the most important books in my life Heart of the Artist. It’s a book about creativity and the heart of God, worship versus performance, servanthood versus stardom, accountability, and how God can use the heart of the artist to reach into others’ souls and touch even the very deepest and darkest places with His love and His light. And there it was. It’s full-color cover was still intact and it stood out to me in the midst of the darkness surrounding it. And God spoke to me, about my life, through that image…
In the last several years, the things that had brought me feelings of security, those things that I had considered stable in my life, had collapsed. Things that had been comfortable and safe were gone. Things that I had invested my life in were no longer there. All had been lost in the rubble of a world that had fallen down all around me, charred from the fires of conflict and anger, seemingly destroyed.
And for the last several years I’ve cried… watering the rubble that was my life with my tears. Tears of shame for the marriage that I had lost. Tears of guilt for the failure that I had become to my children – not living a life that I was willing for them to follow. Tears of grief for the ministry that I loved passionately, and was no longer able to do… no longer “fit” for in my mind. So many tears in the last few years. So many days and nights weeping for things that I had lost hope of ever being restored. Unable to forgive myself. Unable to recover, rebuild, or even heal in some of the wounded places of my heart and soul.
Yet as I wept I yearned for that closeness with God again. I longed to sense Him. To feel His touch. To KNOW that He was still there. That He still heard. That He still loved. (Knowing this with regards to others was easy, but accepting it for myself – one of the impossible things in my own mind). I ached for some kind of confirmation that I was still “worth-it” to Him… that His gifts and callings – in my life – were without repentance… that my heart was still His and His hand was still on my life to minister to others – to use those creative passions in my own heart to touch the hearts of others. This has been my painful journey for the last 5 years. Tears of black water over a life of rubble.
Then today I see, untouched, The Heart of the Artist in the midst of a pile of crumbled, charred, tattered debris.
And although my heart is not untouched by the destruction in my life, God showed me – through this simple image – that my heart is still His. It can be restored. “Full-color” creativity can be uncovered and recovered by Him. My gifts and talents are still intact and He still sees me worthy to carry those gifts.
I am humbled by the reminder that in the midst of the rubble that has been my life of late, God can still use the heart of this artist to reach into – and touch – the hearts and souls of others with His love and his light.