Out of a broken heart.

I’m so very tired tonight.  I’m literally worn out.  I got up this morning not feeling good and as the day has continued… my emotions are now running a bit thin.  Too many details as to why.  I was driving to a friends house to pick up something and just drove about 4-5 miles past my turn before I realized I had done that… I guess I needed the drive.

I’m being challenged with this question that keeps running through my head:  “Will our children have the faith?”  It seems like I had a book with that as the name while I was in college.  I never read it. But it is one that I have always held on to in order to read it someday.  I gave most of my books away recently…. so maybe I can borrow it back from Randy if he has it…  I may have it still in another box.  Who knows? Enough of that already.

I’m struggling with this… I’m struggling with the hypocrisy I see from time to time in “God’s Country”.  I heard about a friend today who renounced his Christian faith.  He now professes that he is an atheist.  I’m torn up over this.  Not really sure what to say.  He is someone that I pray for regularly.  Regularly just got turned up to daily.

I’m tired of mediocre Christianity.  I’m tired of the games so many people play.  Man, this life is not a game.  Our souls are not toys or pawns played out between God and Satan.  Our souls are alive and are destined to spend eternity with God.  But there is a choice that each human must make.  To trust Jesus or not.  We must quit playing games and take off our fake masks…. come on church we have got to get real!

Parents!  Listen… we have got to get real and be authentic with our lives.  Our children are watching… they need people they can look up to!  They need parents not just with good morals… they need parents who trust God and live by faith… living radical, experiential lives of faith… as I am reading McManus we need parents who will live the Barbarian Way!

God may I raise my children to have faith… a deep faith.  I pray that I can lead my children beyond a religion into a deep, meaningful, identified life with Christ.  God I ask for wisdom tonight.  Thanks!

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different roads together

 On March the 20th, I wrote “Walking by Faith“:

At this time in my life, I’m not sure where I am heading… but I do know I am heading in the right direction.  God has restored a lot in my life.  The stirring in my soul is difficult… yet I know it isn’t being stirred without a real purpose.  I’m excited about it all.

I was introduced to this “road” metaphor by Brad Martin.  Brad was my pastor at The Church at Woodland.  This one metaphor has helped me view life from such a different perspective that has breathed life and hope into my being.  Thanks Brad!

I was reading this morning and this all started coming to mind.  As believers… followers… Christ imitators, we are all heading in the same direction following different roads.  The mental picture that came to mind was an old WWII map from a movie I can’t recall the name of.  But the thought of being in the same military fighting the same fight on different fronts looking for the same outcome… VICTORY over the enemy. 

Just a week or two prior to my decision to follow Christ at that KISS concert – a friend of mine in high school named Derrick once again came into my life to talk about Jesus.  I was at the high school playing basketball.  I hurt my back somehow and was assisted to the bench.  Shortly after that Derrick walks into the gym.  We talked and he asked why was I sitting and not playing.  I told him about my back.  He asked, “Do you think God can heal you?”  I humored him and said sure.  He prayed for me.  My back was healed.  This was strange as I had to be helped to the bench… after praying I could walk without any pain! 

My friend Key was there… when he saw I was OK he asked if Derrick prayed for me or something… I said yes.  We laughed about it for a moment or two.  But today I still remember it.  Just a couple of weeks later Key and I started a new journey.  Different roads – different experiences along the way. Different roads together – looking for the same outcome – VICTORY over the enemy.

Let’s not miss the opportunities that are before us and do something radical like pray for healing, help someone in need, etc… take a step of faith and see how lives can be radically changed.  Remember the words of James, “For you see, it isn’t enough just to have faith.  Faith that doesn’t show itself by good deeds is no faith at all – it is dead and useless.” James 2:17, NLT.

Bullet the Blue Sky

Is there a difference between “American” faith and “Biblical” faith? Our society tends to Americanize everything – to the point that what we preach is only relevant to Americans.

“What is faith? It is the confident assurance that what we hope for is going to happen.” Hebrews 11:1, NLT. “The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living.  It’s our handle on what we can’t see.  The act of faith is what distinguished our ancestors, set them above the crowd.” Hebrews 11:1-2, The Message.

Faith is “used” for a variety reasons these days.  Ultimately, our faith is to please God and is not a tool to be used for ourselves or to bring attention to ourselves.  Hebrews 11:6 states, “It is impossible to please God without faith.”  Each one of us has been given a measure of faith… 

Living a life of purpose unto God is never about ourselves.  Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Life starts off with this sentence, “It’s not about you.”  This life we live by faith does not have me and you as the central focus.  It has always been and always will be about God…  The author and finisher of our faith. (Hebrews 12:2)

I keep a piece of paper with this quote on it in one of my Bible’s.  I don’t recall where I heard it but it was meaningful to me at the time. “Faith does not get you around trouble… it gets you through it…” 

A crucified life is a faith-filled life.  A life of sacrifice.  I life of giving of yourself so that others may live.  It’s carrying the mark of being a follower of Jesus.  Again, Galatians 2:20 rings loudly,  “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”(NJKV).

I’ve always thought – as a body of believers – we have put too much attention on the blessings that come from following Christ over the cost -thus making the blessings our central focus and not Christ.  (I guess that sells more books…).

I know several men right now who are in the midst of a storm.  They are each in a dangerous place right now in following God.  They are at places where strong and deep decisions are being made.  It’s not a fun place to be… yet exciting.  I have walked that road and there is no doubt that I will return.  One of the men I know made this statement the other day, “It’s better to go with God in the storm than to be without him in the calm.” Erwin McManus writes, “If the safest place to be is in the center of the will of God, then why is the biblical word for witness actually the word for martyr?” 

So this guy comes up to me – His face red like a rose on a thorn bush – like all the colors of a royal flush and he’s peeling off those dollar bills – slapping them down – 100, 200… and I can see those fighter planes – I can see those fighter planes – Across the mud huts where the children sleep, through the valleys and the quiet city streets – we take the staircase to the first floor – we turn the key and slowly unlock the door – A man breathes into a saxophone and through the walls we hear the city groan – Outside it’s America… outside it’s America…. I feel a long way from the hills of San Salvador where the sky is ripped open – the rain pouring through a gapping wound  – pounding the women and children – pounding the women and children…. And run into the arms of America. Bono, “Bullet the Blue Sky” Live version from Rattle and Hum.

Too often we run for safety and too quickly remove ourselves from the difficult road we are walking.  Too often we blind ourselves from the troubles of others and run from their troubled road to travel our “safe” paved roads. 

Faith is not about what we receive but rather what we give away.

Would I have denied Christ?

I’ve debated whether I should write about this or not.  The debate is over and I have chosen to write about it.  It’s going to be difficult to keep it short.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Peter today.  He did so much as a disciple and follower of Christ.  So much is written about all he has done.  He gets made fun of for a lot of the bone-headed things he did.  The one thing that I have been thinking about today is Jesus’ statement to Peter that he would deny Jesus 3 times that day.  I have wondered what really went through his mind and emotions that led him to deny Christ. 

I had an experience this weekend that my good friend Joel brought to my attention that was not much different than Peter’s denial. 

Our church held what I hope will be the First Annual Egg Drop.  I missed the entire event while I was out at the back entrance to the park directing traffic.  When the Sheriff’s deputy showed up to help with traffic – as people were beginning to leave – I began to walk back to the football field where the egg drop took place.

As I made my way to the field, I encountered several people who had just attended the festivities.  I heard comments like, “Needed more planning.” “Next year don’t let the adults on the field.” “Thank you!!  It’s amazing that you all would do this for the community.” “My child only got 2 eggs… this was ridiculous.” “Fine job…”  That last comment was not a happy one… it was with much sarcasm and anger.  I didn’t realize it until I laughed and smiled and started to say thank you.  I listened and asked questions of this individual.  Apologized and told him I would relay his comments to the leadership.

As I made my way to the stage, all I wanted to do was take off my yellow t-shirt that labeled me as a volunteer.  I didn’t want to hear any more comments like that one.  I was a little un-nerved by that last individual. 

I think everyone was rather overwhelmed by the event.  There were some 5,000 people there.  Way more than what was anticipated.  After we loaded up the gear that was on the trailer Joel pulled with his vehicle we headed off to unload and drop off the trailer.  We were debriefing the day.  I was hearing really for the first time what all happened while I was still out at the street directing traffic. 

I told him how at one point I wanted to take off my volunteer shirt so I wouldn’t have had to hear anymore comments like the last one.  Joel reminded me of Peter and his denial of Christ prior to the crucifixion.  When he made the comparison internally I froze.  And the thought of that has stayed with me all day today.

I’m reading Erwin McManus’, The Barbarian Way and am being challenged.  I highly recommend this book!! McManus states, “God’s will for us is less about our comfort than it is about our contribution.  God would never choose for us safety at the cost of significance.  God created you so that your life would count, not so that you could count the days of your life.” (44-45).

After telling you the story of what I experienced at Saturday’s Egg Drop – I still wonder what would I have done if I had been wearing Peter’s shoes.  Would I have denied Jesus?  Would I have wanted to take off that which labeled me a follower of Christ?  Would I have wanted to walk a much easier road than the one chosen for me?  I want to live a radical life for God… but how far am I really willing to go?  Is it just to the point of being uncomfortable?  Has my faith become “civilized”?

I’m reminded of Galatians 2:20 where Paul states, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”(NJKV). 

The Message reads, “I identified myself completely with him.  Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ.  My ego is no longer central.  It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God.  Christ lives in me.  The life you see me living is not ‘mine,’ but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.  I am not going to go back on that.

Paul was marked by Christ.  100% identified with Jesus.  He was known without shame or compromise as a follower of Jesus!  He chose the dangerous road.

I’m thankful for the insight Joel brought my way on Saturday.  It’s been a tough lesson to learn.  God wants nothing less than my full unashamed attention… for me to be identified with Christ.

The Warrior

I took a long nap today… sleep won’t visit me tonight.

My wife… “The Warrior.”  I don’t know if I know a more tender-hearted warrior than her.  Tender-hearted warrior? 

Yep.  That’s what I said.

Lori has been praying about a lot of things lately.  Praying with faith… believing God will do and bring about those things she is praying about.  She is so very quiet about it too.  I’m probably embarrassing her by even writing about this.

I was talking with my daughter Valerie this weekend.  I told her that we (Lori and myself) were praying.  She said. “Yea, I know.  Lori told me.  She said we (Valerie and Alexa) should start praying about it too.”

What is being prayed about is not important.  What is important is that my wife is praying.  My wife is also teaching the children to pray with faith.  Having hope in God. 

I’m proud of her for taking the things of God seriously.  She is a great warrior!

looking forward from the past.

I’ve been visiting the early days of my life in Christ as you have read over the past week.  It’s been good for me to revisit those days in my life.  Much of what I was taught as a young believer came from several bands and friends.  What I was taught was radical… deeply life changing… and scary to some who saw the change in me.  I’ve always tried to live my life with that raw unbridled  edge to it that some have scoffed at or at least questioned.

I can look back over my days growing up and see where God had been at work all along the way.  The day I responded to God’s love as He reached out to me was December 26, 1983. 

I was in the midst of a half house crowd at what used to be the Omni in Atlanta.  The band on stage was KISS.  Standing there in the middle of the mayhem Gene Simmons gave an altar call… no – not really… but I heard God tell me (not audible) “You don’t belong here… I have something better for your life.”  I leaned over to my friend Key and told him, “God doesn’t want me to stay here.”  He responded, “I was thinking the same thing.”  Together the two of us started a new journey in life.  I would like to say we left but my brother was there too so we stayed – but my life was changed.  I surrendered my life to Jesus right there in the middle of the “Lick it Up” tour the first show KISS did without makeup!

I re-visit these days in order to see where I am today.  I question if I have become comfortable in my religion… Have I become comfortably numb? (Thanks for the wording Pink Floyd). 

“Perhaps the tragedy of our time is that such an overwhelming number of us who declare Jesus as Lord have become domesticated – or, if you will, civilized.  We have lost the simplicity of our early faith.  Beyond that, we have lost the passion and power of that raw, untamed, and primal faith.” Erwin McManus.

I know there’s much more of me that must die each day I live.  My greatest desire is to be the person I was created to be.  I don’t want to live it someday – I want to live that now!

Lord, I ask You to come take my heart and use it for your purposes.  I’m seeking to know where I belong at this time in Your Kingdom.  Invade my life – capture my heart – I am Yours.

“To belong to God is to belong to His heart.  If we have responded to the call of Jesus to leave everything and follow Him, then there is a voice within us crying out, ‘Fight for the heart of your King!'”Erwin McManus.

The Barbarian Way…

…Unleash the Untamed Faith Within                                         Choose a Dangerous Road

This is a new book I bought today at church.  It is written by Erwin McManus one of my favorite thinkers and writers.  I was reading on the back cover and discovered it goes with the ideas and thoughts I have been having… and conversations I have been having with Joel and Randy about a deeper walk with Christ.  It reads…

“Jesus never made a pristine call to a proper or safe religion.  Jesus beckons His followers to a path that is far from the easy road.  It’s a path filled with adventure, uncertainty, and unlimited possibilities – the only path that can fulfill the deepest longings and desires of your heart.”

I’m ready to embark on the journey through this book… who knows what’s on the otherside once I’m done.