Oatmeal, Enemies, and Morning Catharsis

The bible clearly has a lot of instruction about how we’re supposed to treat people, and lead our lives in such a way we can represent Christ to those who don’t know him and have not heard the good news.

My problem is that I want those people to be nice. That often isn’t the case. There’s a great many red letters in my Life Application Study Bible detailing what we can expect to face from people when we share Christ with them.

Persecution, hatred, even death.

I don’t want to be persecuted. I want to be welcomed. I want to talk about God with people who already know how awesome He is. I don’t want to defend my faith, and I don’t want to turn any cheeks.

I want to hit people back. I want to go “Chuck Norris” on my enemies.

Scripture tells me I can’t. This morning I read Proverbs 25: 21-22 while I was eating my oatmeal, and I didn’t like it.

If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals in his head, and the Lord will reward you.

The first thing I thought about was why the heck should I do that for my enemy? And while I might not have any personal enemies, certainly it could be argued that as Christians there are a great many people who hate us for believing in something besides ourselves and trying to lead our lives so they demonstrate that.

Certainly today’s social and political climate in the United States is a vivid demonstration of how a great many people feel about Christians and what they stand for, or perhaps “stand against” would be more apt.

That’s neither here nor there.

To my mind, what it’s about is a human response to an affront vs a Godly response.

We are not God. We are people, and our human nature is to respond like to like. So if someone cuts me off (or flips me off) in traffic, I want to make sure I “get them back” in some way, even if that involves a raised finger of my own or a few shouted words.

If someone insults me, my family, or my faith, I want to respond in kind. I want to out-protest their protest. I want to make them look like idiots because they tried to make me look like one.

Jesus tells me I can’t do that. His Godly nature demonstrates how lacking in grace my human nature is.

It is solely through his presence–his inhabitation–that I can show any grace at all.

Because I have been shown grace, I can be graceful.

Because I have been shown mercy, I can be merciful.

Because I have been shown love, I can be loving.

The trick is, it’s more important I show these things to enemies than friends. My family and friends already know they are loved.

Enemies being enemies, they expect a certain response to their actions. Unfortunately, we often give them what they’ve come to expect from us. It’s in our nature.

With God’s nature, we suddenly have the ability to respond how they do not expect.

That changes everything. In my opinion, it is difficult to respond to love with hate.

Unfortunately, it’s also hard to respond to hate with love.

Yet as we progress through a season of changing political and religious tolerances, it seems clear that unless we change something, entropy isn’t just going to be a concept we learn about in high school.

We’re going to destroy ourselves.

It’s not too late to seek harmony instead of entropy.

It’s not too late to respond to hate and persecution with love.

It’s not too late too late to look at the person in the mirror and ask them if they truly know God and care about His will for their life.

It’s not too late to manifest that will for our lives in our lives.

So the next time you’re confronted with hate, or prejudice, or persecution, try and respond with love.

They won’t expect it, and you’ll heap burning coals on their head.

Satan Wants My Squeaker

I had this dog for a while who would utterly destroy all his squeak toys. It didn’t matter what they were made of, it typically only took him a few days to get at the toy’s squeaky little heart.

He would do it through small wounds, generally, and just work the toy over. He’d pull out little bits of stuffing from each tear in the material and deposit them on the living room floor as he worked to get at his ultimate goal–the messy death of the squeak toy.

When he finally got there, he’d crush the squeaker between his jaws and then just lay there and enjoy the carnage he’d created.

This morning I was thinking how much my faith is like one of those dog toys.

I’ll get wounded from time to time–small tears in my fabric. A little stuffing will come out, sometimes more than a little. Yet because my heart is still squeaking, I convince myself my wounds are only superficial. It’s only a cut or two.

I tell myself the cuts are no big deal, and since they don’t (really) threaten my life, I don’t need to worry about them.

The world–and life–are the cause of the tears in my fabric.

The world can’t get to me because of my faith, or because my wounds really aren’t that bad.

My wounds are not mortal.

And then the truth came.

1. It isn’t one singular tear in the fabric of my faith that will be my undoing.

2. It’s the collective whole of my wounds and the blame apportioned for their cause that can draw me away from God if I let them.

3. It’s separation from God that will kill me.

4. The tears in the fabric of my faith are caused by doubt, and by whispered lies from the enemy about God, and myself, and my wounds.

Another truth that came to me today is that for every lie we’re told and believe there is a corresponding truth from God.

We can fight the lies with truth, and it is that same truth that heals the tears in our fabrics–in my fabric.

It’s normal to doubt. Doubts mean you take your faith seriously, and provided you don’t allow them to overrun your faith, they can help you in the end. That is, if you seek the truth with a disciple’s heart. Doubt can only overcome you if you let it–if you do not fight.

Make no mistake, there is an enemy to fight. He prowls around like a lion (or perhaps an angry dog), looking for something to devour (1Peter 5:8).

That something is you. And me. It’s tough to hear, and even tougher to talk about. People want to hear platitudes, and that everything is good and beautiful and that they are saved from harm by faith.

That’s true, but not the only truth.

Our enemy–and I do mean Satan–can and will stop at no height or depth in his quest to separate us from God. He tears at the fabric of our faiths, and our lives. He burrows deep in our guts, attempting to get at our hearts.

He can’t unless we let him. We don’t have to.

We can fight.

We can pray the armor of God daily, and we can seek the Lord’s truth in and for our lives.

Otherwise, the world is the least of our worries. We’ll end up like this poor thing, but for eternity.

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Live Blogging Revelation Song

1715 MST. It’s interesting to sit here with the sanctuary empty except for the worship band and myself and listen to the practice.

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There’s so much more intimacy. It’s as if the worship service is just for me.

1717 MST As I type this, they’re playing “Revelation Song” and I can hear my wife’s lovely voice rising to heaven, singing “Holy, Holy, Holy.”

It occurs to me that praises sung to God with 1 person in the audience are every bit as much heard as if there were 500.

“You are my everything, and I will adore you…”

They’re singing about Jesus, but they’re singing to me. I’m sitting her almost shuddering with anticipation of what the service will hold tonight.

1720 MST Practice continues…”I Cry Out Your Name”

On Fire

I’ve been thinking of a song all day today. “On Fire,” by Switchfoot.

It’s a beautiful song, and one of those ballads you could easily take as either about a relationship between a man and woman, or between a believer and God. Jenny and I heard it at the first concert we went to as a couple, back in 2008. Before I go any further, just listen:

This is actually from the very show we attended:

I love the song, and when I hear it I think of falling for Jen, long before we were planning to get married.

“But everything inside you
Knows there’s more than what you’ve heard
There’s so much more than empty conversations
Filled with empty words”

I’d spent so much time talking to different women. Some I wanted to be involved with and never got to be. Some I shouldn’t have been involved with, but was. It wasn’t until I started spending time with Jen that I knew what it could really be like to have God in common in a relationship—to have Him mean the same thing to each person..

Things change when that happens.

“There’s so much more than empty conversations
Filled with empty words”

I discovered that when Jen and I started talking, and I will be ever grateful she sent me that first email. It changed my life in every way a life can be changed.

Today, though, I was thinking about the song in a different way, and the part that kept repeating in my head was this:

“Give me one more time around
Give me one more chance to see
Give me everything you are
Give me one more chance to be near you

When everything inside me looks like everything I hate
You are the hope I have for change
You are the only chance I’ll take”

Today, I was thinking about God when the song was playing in my head, and the funny thing is, I didn’t even listen to the actual song today until I typed this sentence.

I’ve been feeble and inconsistent in my devotional life, and it shouldn’t have come as a surprise to me that I was having difficulty.

I’ve been feeble and inconsistent in my prayer life as well, and that is perhaps worst of all.

Perhaps as a result of both of these things, I’ve been down on myself tremendously of late. Mainly, this has been because I feel like I’ve been epic failing in my ministry commitments at church, and questioning whether or not my current involvement in Youth Ministry is even where I’m supposed to be involved.

I’ve been really giving myself a ration of crap.

So today I found myself singing quietly to God:

Give me one more time around
Give me one more chance to see
Give me everything you are
Give me one more chance to be near you

When everything inside me looks like everything I hate
You are the hope I have for change
You are the only chance I’ll take

And I also began to think about how easy it is to start looking at ourselves as piles of garbage—piles of crap.

Our enemy wants us to have these sorts of images of ourselves, and the opposite is true.

We were not created worthlessly, no matter the circumstances of our births.

We were not created to offer weak prayers and insincere pledges of fealty to God based on what we think our needs are.

We were made not as piles of excrement or garbage, no matter what our erroneous self-images may tell us.

We were made in His image, and meant to offer Him our most sincere prayers—and our hearts—and to cry “Holy, Holy, Holy.”

This is my prayer—that I find that ability within myself, and also the ability to tune out the things and negative thoughts that help no one, least of all myself.

So that When everything inside me looks like everything I hate, I will be able to remember what I am actually worth to my God.

I Have Decided

People talk a lot about what it means to be saved. They discuss the semantics of it, and different ways they believe it can and cannot be achieved.

Many doubt there is even such a thing as salvation at all. In order for salvation to exist, there must be a thing or perhaps circumstance we are delivered from. In order for mankind to be delivered from sin, sin has to exist.

If sin exists, what is it, and what is the punishment for committing it?

Perhaps a very simple way to put it would be that it is something that pulls us away from God and toward the world, or ourselves, and our own gratification and glorification becomes paramount. The punishment is death.

The semantics of sin have generated endless hours of arguments, likely millions of written pages, and one dead and resurrected savior.

So what does a person have to do in order to be spared eternity outside the presence of God?

Some believe all one needs is to a be a good person. Treat people well and be nice to dogs and homeless veterans.

Others think faith in God receives the gift of salvation rather than causes it.

Then you have decision theology, which tells us one must make a conscious decision to “accept” Christ and follow his teachings to be saved from sin and its penalty.

I think that some people make it a lot more complicated than it actually is. They’ll talk about theology like monergism and that doesn’t sound like Jesus at all to me.

I think you truly do have to simply decide to follow Jesus, and then do it. It is a lifelong commitment, and it is not always easy.

I think of the old hymn, composed in India “I Have Decided To Follow Jesus. Who knows how this hymn was actually composed? I’d like to believe it’s the first version given in the above linked web page, but the truth is that even if it is not, that does not make the words any less true.

Here is a beautiful version of the song, and the story behind it.

As for me, I have decided to follow Jesus.

Something Needs to Change

I really hate election time.

Maybe I’m not being realistic, but I’d hope it would be possible to hear about hear about what ails the country and how each candidate plans to fix it without this almost feral ugliness going on right now.

It seems like people are more interested in making others afraid of the uncertainties to come and who is to blame for them rather than addressing what’s going on and how to fix it.

No candidate is completely innocent of this kind of sensationalism, though supporters of the incumbent president seem to possess a little more in the way of political vitriol than the hopeful candidate’s do.

It’s easy to see by a simple search of social media.

Regardless, this behavior does continue, and in my opinion it is not just because we allow it, but we also condone and support it.

I don’t know what the solution to that is.

Do you?

Haters Gonna Hate

People love their causes. Every time you turn on the news, someone is protesting something, and that’s cool. You get to make a sign, and scream slogans. Maybe you get on TV, or even sleep in a tent in a park and miss a few days of work. And you can say “I was there.”

I just feel like people’s love of a protest is in a sense jumping the shark, as the saying goes. What may have been an effective way to draw attention to a cause at first has now become more about drawing attention to the protestor, in many cases.

I think now, it has become commonplace to try and suppress opinions we don’t agree with. While it happens with both conservative and liberal groups of people, of late the avalanche of protests appears to skew toward the left.

Because conservatism is hopelessly archaic and no longer useful to what has become a more progressive and certainly more liberal world.

I just feel like if we are not careful, protesting is going to go the way of occupying and class action lawsuits.

Something that was once (and still can be) effective is going to become a joke, and make our country a joke.

Effective protest:

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Now, it’s a little more like:

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It doesn’t have to be.

The Upper Room

Jen and I went to the Wednesday night youth service last night, and it was really good, even from the cheap seats. This particular service was a little heavier on music than usual, but the music was awesome, led by Sam.

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It was probably one of the more memorable evenings at church I’ve had in some time. What made the night stand out for me was not what I would have expected.

Sam and the band were great, and Zeb’s sermon was convicting (I’m sure he was talking directly to the old guy in the back row), but it was this young man next to Jen that got to me.

I know him a little, and he’s a really great guy. He’s probably only a year or two removed from youth group himself, but I don’t think I know another person of any age I’ve seen worship with such abandon.

I was truly in awe of this young man’s total submission to God during the service. We didn’t speak last night, but every time I would glance in his direction he was worshipping on a level I’ve never gotten to. Raising his hands, singing at the absolute top of his lungs–it was a beautiful thing. Just him and God.

I hope I can get to that point. I want to praise and worship like that–as if no one else is in the room.

As it is, I’m probably a little beyond self conscious when it comes to worship. I’m not one of those people who is unaware of his own presence in a room. I’m typically one of the largest people there, and if I kicked it up more than a little during worship time, I’d probably look like a manatee having a grand mal seizure.

So I usually just chill out and do my own thing, even though I sometimes feel my own thing is not necessarily the best I can give God.

The young man last night was definitely giving it all he had, and didn’t give a rip about who was in the room, and whether or not they were paying him any attention (though people downstairs may have heard him singing).

It was a great night, and gave me lots to think about. Plus, Magen was holding a really cute puppy.

Two Songs

It’s interesting how every now and again music (especially praise & worship music) will sort of ambush you with conviction. It could be a completely new song to you, or one you’ve heard a bunch of times. It won’t matter. You’ll just get kicked in the nuts and convicted in a really powerful way.

It happened to me twice today (so far). The first was on the way to work this morning when I heard this:

Lead Me, by Sanctus Real. It describes very well what it takes to lead a family, and this morning it spotlighted the areas where I’ve been remiss.

Nut shot number one.

Later on, I had to drive back to town on an errand, and I was just kind of looking around at the fields as they went by on the way back to the office. I started thinking the countryside out here was not much to look at. Master of irony that I am, I wondered for a minute what God was thinking when he made this particular little patch of desert.

Then I heard this song:

Nut shot number two. Filled With Your Glory, by Starfield.

I realized I take the things and places God made completely for granted. There is beauty in all His creations, and if I choose to see only ashes, that’s on me. I think I need to also try and make sure the eyes of my heart are open when I’m driving. You can see better that way.

The desert is magnificent in its own way, and that people can actually (and quite successfully) pull crops from it is truly a testament to God’s glory and man’s God-given resourcefulness.

Take a listen to these songs, and maybe they’ll mean something to you, too.