Big Empty

worshipTo my reader that has wondered where I have been, I am back. Too long have I sat on the sidelines being a Christian useless and tormented. I have stood in the green grass on the sidelines like a wallflower; basking in the pain and troubles of myself and what my life had become; unmanageable. Well, I have had enough of it. It is time that I fight back vehemently and go down like a great man, and not just a man. And to my first time reader, I invite you to go back and re-read my other posts, as it would assist you in understanding just who under the Sun I really am. I am a struggling Christian that doesn’t always put God first, even though he knows that he should. I have written blogs that inspire, blogs that convict, and blogs that inflict undying love for the Holiest of Lords. I spend too much time playing video games, and fighting the struggles that I could easily lay at the foot of the cross. I have a life void of who I could have, and show a protruding God-shaped hole where I should be showing a completed work. To my Father God, I am sorry. I am sorry that as a faithful servant, I have not always been faithful, or a servant. I long for you to do your work on me and through me. Nothing makes me happier than when I am in your Word, and Scripture. I know how you must feel as a Father when I see pain and heartache in my own child’s eyes. Truly, I need you more now than ever. And finally to Satan, you devil; fallen from grace and damned…I am coming for you. No longer will I wait for you at my door, scared as a child. I will meet your temptations head on, and I will be pious. I will pray for forgiveness when i fall, and not dwell on it. This is my holy covenant that My Father has promised me. My Holy armor is on, and I am ready to get some things out of my way so that I can get on being the Godly man that I should be.

So, with that in mind: “Hello, my name is Michael, I am a grateful believer in Jesus Christ who struggles with past drug and alcohol use, and also sexual integrity.”**

That is how I see my past, and that is what I ran from. I was a pothead who was hardly ever clear-minded for a few years. I saw the problems that I was dwelling in as bigger than the world, and it hurt me to see my life with a real dose of reality playing behind it. I never had a “drug problem,” rather society had a problem with me doing drugs. The same could be said about liquor and other various forms of alcohol. I was never an alcoholic, but man I sure could pound a few handles* of Captain Morgan’s spiced rum monthly. I am a man of excess, somewhat like King Solomon. I tried to live my life to the fullest, because I knew if I did, then I would never feel down about how my life really was. This was of course, a flawed logic, and as a result I was never quite the way God made me to be. It was only after my second relapse of smoking marijuana that I realized that I was not only hurting myself, but also my family. I was also trying to join Calvary Christian in Winchester, and as a result I knew that I would not be all that I could be in God’s army if I did not come clean and give it all to Him. Not very long after that I also decided to give my alcohol up as well. Part of the Bible talks about how you should treat your Holy gift of flesh given to you by the Almighty:

“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.”

1 Corinthians 6:19-20

CelebrateRecoveryMainI knew as I dug into scripture, that I would have to do a better job all the way around, and so I did. But as my pastor said to us one dreary Sunday morning, there is likely some personal sin that we would not give to God. And for me, that was doing what so many men do by not honoring our wives in the proper way and delving into the sludge of the internet. I had first been introduced into the smut that had a hold of my life when I was only 11 or 12. As I grew, I knew what I wanted from females, and I was going to try to get it as much as I could, and in any way possible. The problem was, that women are like snowflakes, and no two are ever alike. My wife was never as free with her sexuality as I was, and as such I could not just be the man I should have been. Internet chatting, sites with graphic images, and videos as well as a host of other vile things had set up a place in my heart. It was a chain that I would not break, and had no desire to. That is, until I met the fine folks at Celebrate Recovery.

CR is an organization that has helped thousands of Christians who struggle just like I struggle. They have helped people with addictions to overeating, overspending, drinking, drugging, sexual integrity, child abuse and a variety of other issues get over their hurts and become who God meant for them to be. It helps to know that I am not alone, and that others have issues with sin in their lives and the resulting tearing down that it causes to both them and their families. I applaud Calvary for being bold in the faith that God wanted a CR to be at our church, and I think that God has richly rewarded them as our own leader has become a regional leader now as well. CR is a family; we are all together united in Christ. Never will you see a group happier to do God’s work, and happier to support one another. I truly love them all, and know that I will grow in their halls.

Also, I recently started a 12 step program to help me with my depression, and anxiety as well as my anger and sexual integrity issues. It has really turned out to be a blessing. Step 1 of the program says, “We admitted we were powerless over our addictions and compulsive behaviors, that our lives had become unmanageable.’ The biblical comparison to this is Romans 7:18.

“I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.”

powerlessI am powerless. I am powerless against an enemy that has no face, and that has no body or mouth. I cannot directly see him, but when I do spot him it is too late and bad things happen my way. God knows that I will fall. He counts the times that I do, but only so that He knows how many times He has encouraged me to get myself back up. There is never a stain too big on my soul that my God does not accept me back with open arms. His will is always done, and that is whether I get in the way, or move aside. My will doesn’t stand a chance against He who made all. God knows that I have a realization to make that I am not God, and that when I steer this car of my life, I tend to veer off the beaten path and into the nearest ditch that I can find. Thankfully, He is there to not only pick me up, but to also calm me and dry my tears. It is because of the father that He has been to us all that I want to get a deeper relationship with Him and come to try to love Him as much as He loves me.

So, in closing…Satan, I AM coming for you, but I carry a Holy insurance policy. One big enough that He cast you out from the Heavens and sent you asunder from His grace and mercy. One that if I ask, will remove my character defects and assist me in becoming a greater man. The same God that can do all that also made it apparent that I needed more from myself, and led me to CR. My God is one of hope, and solemn promises. It is for Him that I have now put even my most buried of sins out in the open, and am addressing them. I have now went a good period of time without incident of any kind, and I am happy to admit that this new found purity is one that I am trying to enjoy. I keep my guard up, as Satan tries in many ways to unthrone God in my heart, but with His strength behind me, I cannot fail. It is by His grace that I am saved; it is by His love that I am now full of hope. A new creation I am, and a new creation I will evolve yet to be.

Amen to that.

*Handle = 2 & 1/2 fifths of alcohol. that is 750 ml of alcohol per fifth for you playing the home game

** We introduce ourselves at Celebrate Recovery by stating who we are, that we are a grateful believer in Christ, and what we struggle with past or presently.

Where’s your Crown, King Nothing?

king david and solomonHello to all those of you who have read my works in the past, and if you stumble across this as a new blog, greetings to you. It has been a while since I have last been on here. And by a while, I mean a long time. A lot has happened. Commitments were broken, alliances were forged. I added a dog, and lost a job. There has been a lot of turmoil in my life, but there has been way more turmoil in my spiritual journey. God has had His thumb on me. I am sure of it. We have been not seeing eye-to-eye, and if you know Him, then you know one of us is losing worse than Notre Dame against Alabama. I have had a poor showing of faith and it all culminated in me turning down a nomination to a church leadership position because I felt like I could not be a competent leader of men. It was a Deacon spot, and even though I felt like He may have been in my ear telling me to just step back out of the shadow that had been cast over my life – I resisted because I felt as if I wasn’t ready. But a few days after I declined this spot, I listened to a beautiful sermons delivered in back to back weeks about King David and also about King Solomon. And, in my infinite, self-proclaimed doubt, guilt, and otherwise mess of my life, I thought long and hard about what kind of person I was: was I like David, or was I like Solomon?   What kind of King in my own life was I in relation to them?

What I mean is did I start like Solomon, or like David? Will I end like Solomon or like David?

To be honest, both were great kings and both had awesome minds. To dig in and unpack this a bit more, think about what kind of man David was. David, the slayer of giant Goliath, youngest son of Jesse of Bethlehem would become king at age 30. David was a conqueror in the name of Him. David makes his capital in Jerusalem and seeks to build a massive temple in the name of his Lord. God tells him that his son will build this temple, and he would have the House of David and an established throne forever.* But for all the good that David has done, and all that he has done to please God – he starts to show evil, and wickedness. He lays with Bathsheba, and she has his child while still married to Uriah the Hittite. But a turn of events leads the prophet Nathan to tell him that the child born to him will die, as God sees what he has done as sin. After his son had died, he and his new wife had another child and named him Solomon, and it says that The Lord loved him. But the Bible tells that as David grew older, his faith was restored and he loved God passionately. To his dying breath he used his life to please God, even though the patch he had in the middle made you wonder if he would ever be shown favor in God’s eyes again.

Solomon on the other hand was blessed from birth. God showed him favor. He was chosen to be the ruler for reasons supported by The Lord. In 1Kings 6-14, we see the following passage:

Solomon answered, “You have shown great kindness to your servant, my father David, because he was faithful to you and righteous and upright in heart. You have continued this great kindness to him and have given him a son to sit on his throne this very day.

“Now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?”

The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. So God said to him, “Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be. Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for—both riches and honor—so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings. And if you walk in my ways and obey my statutes and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life.”

Solomon started out with all of the right answers. He was compassionate, he did exactly what the Lord, his God commanded, and he was shown great favor due to this. However, The Bible shows that he was lead astray from God by his relationships with the many women that he had in his life. He knew better, but was made to worship false idols because he did not stay true to God’s wishes. As a result of Solomon’s follies, God exacts punishment and removes 10 of the 12 tribes of Israel from the Israelites. But that was a microcosm of how King Solomon’s reign would go. He would make God happy, and then fall. He built the temple as God had proclaimed to his father David, but to do so, he made enemies of the people whose backs were doing the labor. He lived to excess; he denied himself no pleasures. In 40 years, his reign went from pleasing to The Lord down to the point of shameful. God allowed forces to rise up from outside his tribes, as well as within. It was sad to see that he had so much given to him, but did so little with it.

But isn’t that true of many of us today as well?

imagesSo which king are we? Did you find yourself on fire to begin your spiritual journey, but then fading away and not listening to God daily as Solomon did? Did you find favor early with God, only to forget Him, and then return as Solomon’s father David did? I think if we look in the mirror, and this is so true of myself as well, we would see that we share something with one if not BOTH of these men. Both were wise and tough. Both were in love with the World and God. Both were the same way graced by The Lord, but also had the hand of The Lord against them. In Solomon’s case, it cost his kingdom, as well as the Lord’s favor, while David lost his son when he lost the Lord’s favor. Sin is always punished, and it was then as well. God turned away from these great men when they could have quite honestly had anything that they sought if only for the guidance of God. But then again, aren’t we in the same spiritual vessel that they were? We sin daily. We fall short of God’s grace. We fail to live up to the standards of what He has set in motion and in place for all of us. Sin is still punished, however, luckily for us the sin’s cost has been already paid in full. The death of Christ Jesus on the cross at  Calvary took away that debt’s burden. It is still a world where we have to make our own choices, and we WILL fall short daily. But, the beautiful thing is, that God will still accept us, no matter what kind of person we are. He has and will always be there to lift up the righteousness in all of us.

So what kind of King are you? Now that you know the answer to that – what are you going to do to fix the issues in your life? The choice is yours, but that doesn’t mean that you have to make it alone.  God will always be there for you if you ask. Take comfort in that.

*Isiah 22:22-23

The space in between us

Hello again all you beautiful people that await a sweet word of God from the edge of my rattled and frayed mind to land on a keyboard before hitting the screen of your handheld phone, iPad, or home computer. It is a special series of days for me to speak about today. I am in a special time of the year, personally. This is a week after my 2 year anniversary for being clean, sober, and no longer chemically dependent. That is great for anyone who has ever been under the control of any substance to know; you feel accomplishment for simply doing nothing at all. It is a great feeling to see that you have been given an opportunity and then made something of it. As I recently discussed with a friend from church, those of us that are defeated once for being addicts are made whole again in the healing grace of His love and patience. His grace truly is sufficient, and as such I am made whole by the grace of God for the second year from my pains and addictions. Hallelujah!!! Secondly, this is my anniversary/birthday week. I have been given many gifts in my life, but above all I cherish my family. I have been blessed to have a beautiful bride that has somehow found a way to put up with me for 12 long, and I am sure she thinks grueling, years. The best decision that I ever did was give her the chance almost 30 months ago to change my heart for the Lord and for church. To say that she is a trendsetter, and a spiritual force driving our family is an understatement. She is more than a woman, and more than a wife. She is a prodigal daughter of God, and a warrior for Him on my behalf . I truly love her. Also, it is my 34th birthday week. Although, frankly I am wondering at what year I can officially stop saying that I am “x years old,” and just start referring to myself as “old.” Maybe I should just start wearing suspenders, and my pants up like I am expecting a flood. That may sell the idea a bit better. Well, what else can I say – it has been a 34 years with as many highs as lows, so I cannot look back on it with anger, or remorse. Besides, as I just mentioned I have been married for 12 years of that time, so it couldn’t be all bad, right? The point of all of this is that I have attained victory in this first paragraph, as well as in this week – through Him, I have been blessed with much and the Bible says to take time to celebrate victory in this world, because it is hard to come by.

“Victory comes from you, O Lord. May you bless your people.”

Psalm 3:8

I have noticed that my heart had turned away from Him slightly. I was filling the void of time that I would have been spending with God doing a host of other things; not all of them what I would consider kingdom worthy. In this life, we are fickle and we become complacent before we know what has happened. We are in a nation that sees the “newest,” “best,” or “favorite” thing of this moment change day to day. It is easy to devote time to anything other than God when we become absent minded to the needs of the Kingdom. It is up to all of us to take a swing at the mainstream, and slow our lives down to the point where we can teach our kids right from wrong, while spending quality time with those that we hold dearest, including God. The Bible also tells us to do all things in prayer, and as such, we should cherish time here as we await the second coming of our Lord. To enjoy, and thus fully become, in this life we must trust Him, and give ourselves over to Him completely. That means He has to be present in all aspects of your life. This includes your job, your finances, your marriage, your recovery, and even your birthdays. After all, without He who created us by knitting us in our mother’s wombs, we would not be present to experience all of these things. We would not know pain before triumph, nor turbulence before peace.

“I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace”

John 16:33

In closing, I want anyone out there that is celebrating something soon to do so the way that God would be proud of you doing so. Include Him in everything, and as the lyrics of the song that I snatched this title from says, “All I really want to do is to fall into the emptiness that is the space in-between us, to break this division. All I really want to do is to fall into the emptiness that is the space in-between us; Erase it and bring us together again.” Bridge that gap! Keep Him centered on your life, and centered in both your victories, as well as defeats. He will bring you out of the highest highs to ground you and center you when needed, but He will not forsake us and leave is in our lowest lows if we but look to Him for help, and guidance in all things. I am happy that I took my life seriously 2 years ago, and a week after my soberness started, I also submitted to Christ through baptism. Just another reason that God is so good, and another reason to celebrate His victories through us all. Praise be to Him.

The Space in Between Us

The Dual of Fates

So, I am a Star Wars Geek. There…I said it. I cannot help it. Since I was about 7, I was the hugest fan of Star Wars that has ever been. I owned toys, made my own play-sets outside*, and would generally scare my Mom to death on the balcony having phony light saber battles with invisible Dark Jedi who were threatening the balance of good and evil. But all of that was when I was a younger lad, and surely I would see it pass.  In fact, as I got older, I assumed that this would be a thing of the past, but instead it grew. I owned books now, graphic novels, comics, action figures, micro-machines play sets, and movies of my own. I then got a talking bank, some video games, and a few other “big purchases.” I started the SW Role-Playing game, and bought trading cards for the card game. I bought more video games, and went to see the new set of movies. I was in line to buy tickets, in line hours early to get seats for each of them, and went to watch each of them at least twice in the theaters. When the movies re-released, I went to them. I bought all of the re-releases when they came out to DVD, and even went to see them when they re-re-released. I knew spoilers, read novels, had text messages and phone calls about non-important secondary characters that had snippets of mere seconds in the movies, knew their back stories, and how they fit into the overall Star Wars Universe. Short answer would be that I have it pretty bad for Star Wars. It consumes me.

When I then look at the reason that I am gripped so tightly by it, I understand that it is two things that gather my interest so much: Good vs. Evil, and The Force. Essentially, I see the force as a form of religion, and the good vs. evil always seems to rev me up in any conflict that I get emotionally involved in. I can SEE why I am so involved with Star Wars. It was a strange thought, but a few Sundays ago I actually thought about this as I was eating lunch after church. There are a lot of similarities to Star Wars that also keep me interested in church activity/service/leadership/attendance. Not trivializing the Church in any way, indulge me as I elaborate a bit. I am aware that just like The Force did for Luke, or any of the host of other characters in the Star Wars Universe, religion has filled a gap in my life to help me become who I am and who I was destined to be. Before you say, “Mike…The Force allows people in those books and movies to move giant rocks, and choke those that oppose them while doing crazy feats that no ordinary human could actually do – just based on the belief of it…,” what part of that would Christianity NOT allow you to do? Want an enemy smited because you are fighting on the behalf of a greater power? God has done this for His people. Many times over. Remember in scripture God: Destroyed Jericho on behalf of His people**, Left more sunlight for Joshua to pursue the Amorites(while also lobbing large hailstones down upon them)***, and Then swallowed up Pharaoh’s army with the Red Sea as well. Well, what about the Jedi moving items that were too big for a normal person? In scripture, The Bible says:

”He replied, “Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

Matthew 17:20

Need something or someone to tell you about rejoicing for those that we lose? Like in Star Wars when Yoda tells Luke, “Death is a natural part of life. Rejoice for those around you who transform into the Force. Mourn them do not. Miss them do not. Attachment leads to jealousy. The shadow of greed that is.”  In the Bible, we are told in many different places about rejoicing for those we lose as we will see them again, and as they do not feel pain anymore and that we ought to rejoice for them*****. The Force is even referred to as religion in the movies a few times even:  “Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid.;” “The Jedi are extinct, their fire has gone out of the universe. You, my friend, are all that’s left of their religion,” and “Don’t try to frighten us with your sorcerous ways, Lord Vader. Your sad devotion to that ancient Jedi religion has not helped you conjure up the stolen data tapes, or given you enough clairvoyance to find the rebels’ hidden fortress…” I find that interesting as well. In all instances, it was almost meant as slander to the character in question, but that just goes to further how Christianity is  scrutinized in remote parts of the world, and by non-believers. The similarities are striking, and then they also make a case for one of the main reasons that I am so impassioned by both; one from my youth, and one from now.

When you think about the internal conflicts that the characters were experiencing during the plot of these movies, there is a constant battle between good and evil. Who will ultimately win out? Is it the good side, that is difficult and hard to stay on the path of – or evil, which is easier and more instantly gratifying to some? I am not, again I keep saying this, trivializing Christianity to some set of movies from the past. I am merely pointing out what I always thought about then, and how it compares to now. The Dark side is always pointing out how the Jedi fail, and how they are never good enough, while the light side makes the characters way more powerful if they can just stay the course and always do what is required. In the same breath, the Devil and The Holy Spirit wage this conflict within me now. The enemy stands in my way daily to allow me to know of my many failures and how I let myself and others down constantly. I am never good enough for His grace, and I should just give up and stop trying to be more than i am. But the Holy Spirit comes along to remind me that He loves me no matter what I do, and if I accept Him into myself and try to do all that I can in His name, He will reward me for staying the course. The Bible says:

“But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

Matthew 7:14

There are many more similarities that I can see, and I could list these all day, but these are the main ideas. I hope that this in no way came across blasphemous, or silly to anyone of my readers, but it was just May 4th, and of course all of us SW geeks were running around, as per the norm, spouting “May the fourth be with you.” I then saw a video for the fight scene from The Phantom Menace, and the song that plays is called “Dual of Fates.” I thought about how that connected to the battle waging within each Christian at the hands of God, and Satan. I thought about how we are tempted – even Jesus was******. I thought about how the Force allows people to do extraordinary things, then saw Chad Varga at my church yesterday speaking about leaving a job in the NBA/overseas leagues making almost $1M a year to do kid’s ministry. All of it fell together for me in that instant. I went home and started to spitball ideas, and write down some more on my iPhone. There were a ton of reasons that I love Star Wars, and a lot of them could easily translate into why I am so engulfed in Christianity as well. In closing, I would like to take a few passages from the Book of Yoda******* that also apply to God’s teachings:

“You must unlearn what you have learned.”

“Train yourself to let go… of everything you fear to lose”

“Anger, fear, aggression. The dark side are they. Once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny.”

“So certain are you. Always with you it cannot be done. Hear you nothing that I say?”

“Try not. Do… or do not. There is no try.”

ALL of these could be looked at in a Biblical term for my life as well. I must learn to look past myself, and what I already knew. I have to fix my eyes on Him, so that I am not attached to anything Earthly. Once you turn away from God, no matter how hard He pursues us, WE must be the ones to look back for Him(I proved this myself). Faith can move mountains, and God has proven this. We cannot be “Sunday Christians; Faith is something that we must do at ALL times, not just when it is convenient for us. See? I wasn’t off my rocker after all, now was I?

Well played Lucas…well played…

*My representation of the Mos Eisley Cantina made out of clay and dirt at the foot of my parents yard was MOST excellent, even for a 7 year old…

** Joshua 6:6-26

***Joshua 10:1-15

****Exodus 14:28

*****Psalm 34:18, Revelation 21:4, John 16:22, Psalm 116:15, and Matthew 24:35 to name a few.

****** Matthew 4:1-11

*******NOT in the NIV, if you are looking by this point…

Anticipation

I hate the way that I feel sometimes. I feel like I am always waiting for something. It may be something good, and it may be something bad. It may be something that I am in need of, and it may be something that I would rather take a horse-whipping then go do, but it seems as if my life is always based upon waiting on someone or something to do what is expected. That feeling that you get – the same one that you get three days before Christmas as a kid, or before your first prom – is anticipation. And, to be quite honest…I am not a very patient person most days, and I seem to be losing my love affair with “waiting on things to happen.” I hate waiting on the inevitable conclusions that I have to seek day to day, and the ones coming in the next month or two. I hate waiting. It is kinda my thing. I am struggling with this part of my life almost as much as anything right now. It makes me feel depressed at times, and repressed at others. I feel like screaming; I feel like just sleeping away a day at a time so that I can make time speed up. Essentially, I feel like things should be happening faster, or with more frequency, or without issue – whatever the particular situation calls for. I am not a fan of this mindset, but without the blind melancholy that I feel at times I am not sure that there would ever be a difference from day to day. And I realize that I have done a post on patience from my Fruit of the Spirit series, (that I promise to finish fully soon), but this week has been BAD as far as patience goes, so bear with me please.

I was hoping for divine intervention. To start my new journey toward being a follower of Christ, I had hoped that this was one of the things that I would just “lose.” I have come to find out, however, that being a Christian does not quick change this outcome. Trying to dedicate one’s life to Christ doesn’t just automatically change you, and make things all better for you. Should it? Well, if we could sell out to God and feel the healing touch of Him rather than still be pursuing what we seem to always be after, then maybe so. The problem is, that while most of us claim to be a follower of Him, we simply do not have it all together enough yet to get these type of feelings conquered. So, instead we are left to see things the way that they are for us, and not the way that they could or should be. The other main issue with not giving it all to the one who made us who we are, is that we see the glimpse of what it should be and then see how we fall short, and start to self-doubt and second guess ourselves. This is fairly easy to do as we always have the enemy behind us pointing out every flaw that we succumb to. Patience is something that we all preach in one way or another, but few of us actually take care of. It is the reason that we have disagreements with spouses, and children, and ultimately God Himself.

“But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.”

1 Timothy 1:16

So where does that leave us? It makes us a group of tired, stressed, and ultimately unhappy people. We almost always say patience is a virtue, but truthfully how many of us get it? I know that I don’t. God calls us to be patient, but I can seriously count that as an issue that I have trusting Him. I tell myself that isn’t the case, because I don’t want to feel like I don’t trust God. But to truthfully give everything over to Him means to give it all. For the Bible says that you cannot serve two masters, and that means that it is His way or my way. One of us is perfect, never fails, and doesn’t make a poor decision; the other is a self-loathing Neophyte that has control issues and cannot follow simple predicated commands. If I, or anyone else that struggles with control or patience, could seriously stop and fight the urge to not look ahead, we would lead better lives. We would be blessed beyond belief.

God’s way is immeasurably perfect. His logic is fundamental, and sound. He is never wrong as He is the Alpha, and the Omega. He never says that things will occur in our time frames, but in His. God uses this lesson to humble us beyond measure, and ridicule the fact that we think that we are still in control. The way I look at it is that we have 2 choices: accept that we are a very small blip on the radar of God’s story, or make the story all about us and be forever frustrated that the script doesn’t run as we would want it to. The Devil waits for us at every turn to try to make us complacent, and to make us feel like we should be given more. Truthfully, God owes us nothing and we should stand in awe of the fact that even with this being the case, we are lead into a relationship with Him. He desires us, even though we in no way sustain Him. All we have to do is be more than we normally are. Be more caring, more understanding, and above all(for me anyways) more patient. The possibilities of what good that could do in our lives is astounding. Be more. Be Godly. Be patient. Trust in Him, and allow Him to take away all that the enemy has to persecute us with. Patience IS a virtue; and it is one that I will be mastering for a time to come. Hopefully I understand it in time to take my place among my peers in Heaven.

“But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

Matthew 7:14

Live like you were dying

So, this week was pretty amazing for me. God never ceases to amaze me. This time just 2 years ago, I was a lost person running down my life with substances, and inebriation. God saw fit to reign me in. I quizzically went to an Easter service, and God transformed what was likely an already powerful sermon by the preacher and made it into a convicting cry for attention that I can never explain fully. God saw me at my lowest, and not caring about much when I came into His presence after all those years. He saw me broken, and my wife crying out in pain for the Maker that she had come to embrace just a few years before she met me. We both were lost, and we both were crying. God had extended His mighty arm to us, and we quickly saw a turn in our lives when we decided to accept Him and get up off of our tail ends to do what He wanted all along – love Him. By nature, God does not need me to be sustained. But the funny thing is, God DOES lack if I am not there, and He cries out to us to accept His perfect plan so that we may get to walk in the garden with Him forever. We will sing and praise, and nothing that we did on Earth will come close to that day.

If you are now in God’s presence, then how then can you not be changed? We are just coming from the Easter season and into a different time, but we need to stay mindful of the miracles that Christ performed and be thankful daily for the sacrifices that He made. Basically, we need to be just like Him, and by nature we need to live every day like it may be our last. We need to start living like we were dying. Not sure how to do that? Well, here is a few examples to chew on and see how they feel to you. Give to a charity, support a child abroad, go and serve in the community, give without thinking, and step out of your comfort zone to make a difference with as many people as you can. Go do the Lord’s bidding – no matter what that entails. Remember that His way is perfect, and yours is not. This is as hard of a statement to accept as any that you will try to pursue in your faith, but God has made the rewards so worthy of this challenge. Now, as I think about my family, and the small contributions that we make, we do a lot on that list. We would never have done things like we have done in the last year – including trying to support a child overseas.* There was only one thing that I have not seen enough out of us on that list, and that would be giving without thinking. But some recent events have transpired that is making that a reality for us, and we are happily moving foreward.

“Let’s start the path to giving” says a voice in my heart. It is the same voice that my beautiful wife had as well. We progress from there, and the next thing I know we are inviting a friend to come stay with us. This friend is special to us, and as such I know that she is already special to God. She has been absent from our lives for almost 5 years, but then when she shows back up, it was as if she had never left. She had some really bad things happen, and she had been through a lot, but she is still the same beautiful person that she always was. All that I know is that she was reduced to nothing, was left with nothing, and now was about to be without a place to stay. To the core of me, when I heard the stories all I could keep thinking about was a verse from Matthew:

“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” Matthew 25:40

Without even thinking both my wife and myself were having a meeting of the family and decided to invite her into our home. Has she had the best life until now? Not always. Has she always lived for God? Not as much as she wants to now. But you know what, God took a chance on me and He would want me to do the same for a member of His family. So we are extending a second chance at living life to the fullest to a very good friend, and it is eerie what that is doing for us so far. She is going to help around the house, and that is where we need the most work in our busy lives. She hit it off immediately with our 4 year old, and now my daughter cries if she can’t see her. She attended church with us Sunday, and was very happy with where she was at. This is a far cry from where she was just weeks ago. Feeling loved, and appreciated goes a long way – be it from family, friends, or God. I don’t say this because I want praise or thanks from her or anyone else, or any personal kudos – I just want us to honor our brothers and sisters for who they are and love them as we were and are loved by Him.

In closing, think about it like this: Money is not everything, but it darn sure helps. But money to us is different than money to someone who has none.** When you have less money than you require, or need then you lack in part of your life. This is a sad reality for us here, but even greater abroad. I have a friend right now showing me just how big God can be if you let him, and it is amazing to see the transformation that is occurring in him both spiritually as well as physically. My pal, and and all around great guy, Brian Carpenter is walking his feet raw on a pathway known as the Appalachian trail as we speak. (I will put a link to his blog on my blog roll, as well as add it to the bottom of the page.) He is truly living like he is dying right now. He is “walking for water” to fund wells for those that walk miles daily to secure water for their families. This is something passionate that he has felt in his heart and is answering a calling to do so. He is right now a month in, and has already done great things by gathering enough money to fully fund one well so far! This is what God needs us to do. Die to ourselves, and put others needs before ours. Be the big brother to a person in need, and show love when you can. Be a helping hand like no other, and walk until your feet are ready to bleed because no sacrifice is as great as the one that God made for us by sending Christ to be crucified. Be the hands and feet, heart and spirit of God to somebody else. He will prosper you as He has stated. He would not forsake us, and so He simply asks us to not forsake others. Is that too much to ask of someone that you have given everything to?

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

Brian’s Blog can be found here.

You can donate to the well here.

* Now, we are not monsters mind you, we were just bad with money due to outside influences.

** Or to someone that has lost it all

Cry Victory when you fear Defeat

We had a special week in my state. My University of Kentucky Wildcats were rolling roughshod through the NCAA Tournament, and I was getting some time to watch the journey. In fact, I think I may have missed 2 halves of 2 separate games in a full 40 game season. I am a fan; in fact, more than a fan. I am a fanatic. When it comes to basketball in this state it is almost classified as religion. People camp out for practices. We race out into the streets when we are victorious. We sell out gyms to see shoot-arounds. Overall it is crazy here; and the fact that we just won the 8th national title in school history makes it at a fever pitch. This should be the focus of my week. It always has been in the past. If we were in this section of the year, and my Cats were still playing then they had my undivided attention. Sports has always been the biggest part of my life. As I stated, I am a fanatic from way back, and to not be crazy for UK basketball in this state is beyond poor judgement – it just makes you weird.

This week, however…I guess that I am just weird because I can’t seem to put all my attention on the games, or even the championship. I didn’t cry too much when we won. I just have had other things more important on my brain, as well as in my heart. In service Sunday, I cried…a lot in fact. We are doing a series on Easter and the miracle of Christ rising from the grave to save humanity from it’s sins. The music that we have been singing in worship has had a deeper meaning for me than it normally has had. My pastor would likely say that I am turning my heart to more of the “Kingdom needs” than “needs of the world.” But truthfully, I have been trying to think more about the sacrifice that Christ made for me than I ever have. Have I joined a small group for it like 3/4 of my church has? No. Have I been studying more scripture than normal seeking answers? No. But, from sunrise to sundown, I seem to be seeking knowledge from within. I am literally finding that if I stop doing ANYTHING that I am thinking about Christ. I have never met this man, yet He decided to die for me. Not just for me, mind you but He died for me all the same. Christ willingly went to his end when He could have decided to not endure this on our behalf. This man, this Son of God was not normal. He was far from ordinary. The son of man, and the Great I AM. He who came to Earth to serve, and not be served. This man died on my behalf and I can not even say thank you to Him. Or can I? When I pray, and when I praise. When I serve at church, or when I help someone overseas* to get closer to God, am I not thanking Christ? When I decide to do something extraordinary, and go out of my comfort zone by talking to someone about Christ, am I not thanking Him? When I close my eyes, and cry as I say over and over in my head Hosanna in the highest, am I not thanking Christ? I am notorious in my blogs for never giving myself any credit, or any benefit of the doubt, but this week I have a different approach. God has to be pleased with how I am feeling right now, even more than I have come to realize that He already has been. I want to burst out in tears, and dance and scream at the tops of my lungs that God is good, and He is my King.

You see, it it true – Once you’ve come into contact with Jesus, accepted Him as your personal savior, and are washed clean by His blood – you are never truly the same person ever again.

Now that I have put out there where my feelings are, let me tell a little story about how the blood of Christ changes everything. When Jesus was captured, He had a disciple with Him that took a sword away from a Roman Centurion and sliced the ear off of the High Priest. Jesus calmed His impetuous servant down, telling Peter that those who live by the sword will surely die by it as well.** Peter was showing his desperation to protect Christ, whom he not only believed to be the savior of his soul, but also regarded as a dear and personal friend. Jesus was then subjected to things that no man should ever be put through. Flogged with an instrument meant to rip flesh, bone, and muscle out of his body. A crown of thorns placed on His head to pierce His brow. His hands bound and then nailed to a cross weighing nearly what He did. His side was pierced with a spear. He was then made to walk the Via Dolorosa to Calvary to be executed. Along the way, Jesus was made to walk through many, many people. These people would have naturally known that this spectacle was happening and rushed down to see Him. Many were mocking Him, while others were mourning Him. His apostles had been scattered. He had no one. Due to the length of His trip to Calvary, Jesus could not bear the weight of this burden alone. He knew that He must make it, but His will was outliving the flesh. As He happened near a large group of Jews, one of the Romans cried out to a certain man to come and pick the cross up for Him. The man was Simon of Cyrene. Simon was not expecting to run into Jesus that day. In fact, he had just come many miles with his family to sacrifice a lamb for the Jewish Passover. He would have no doubt been dressed in his finest clothes. His expense to get here was great, as this would likely have been a once in a lifetime event. When he had just reached town, he was then subjected to helping carry the cross for Jesus. The blood, and sweat, and just scent of death was now embedded in what Simon was wearing. As a result, he would now be deemed unfit to enter the tabernacle to present his Passover lamb. As a result, Simon’s visit was ruined. He had walked all the way to Jerusalem for nothing! It would take days or weeks before he could be deemed worthy to even enter the temple, and by then Passover would be long completed. When Simon awoke this final morning of his long and arduous journey, the last thing that he thought would happen was him being effected by the man called Christ. But, even though the Bible does not go into detail about it, one would think that Simon had to have some sort of rare personal relationship forged by sharing such an intimate moment with Him. Jesus recognized, no doubt, that this man from Cyrene had come not to see Him, or be any part of what was occurring with Him, presently. He was simply a means to an end for the Romans, and as they had rule over the Jews, there was no saying ”I decline” to the soldiers. Little did Simon know when he was made to carry the cross with Jesus that he was helping with the sacrifice of the ultimate Passover lamb. A needed, prophetic end of the lamb of God. And the blood that covered him would continue to do so long after it was washed from him and his clothes.

From there Jesus, nailed to the cross, was lifted into the sky to suffer. This man who was the son of God, then begged His father to let Him pass. But God had to turn His eyes from Christ. Christ had decided to take all of humanity’s sin and wickedness upon His shoulders, and as we all know God can know no sin. In those moments when Jesus needed His father the most, His own father could not look at Him. When Jesus saw that the men below were casting lots for His clothing, He told His father to  Forgive them as they knew not what the did.*** While the soldiers thought that they were just crucifying any other man, Jesus was asking for forgiveness of His prosecutors. When the people mocking Him thought that they had broken His spirit, He was making an eternal follower out of one of the criminals that was hanging crucified beside Him. And when the Pharacies thought that they had defeated Him, Jesus cried out, tetelestai.**** Victory was His, as He rose 3 days later to tell those around Him that He was truly the son of God as He had been saying. Imagine how His apostles felt upon seeing the risen Christ; the man whom they had faithfully served, was true to His words. He was salvation, and He had risen. The blood of Christ had torn the veil, and we were now free to worship God whenever we chose, and in whatever capacity. Jesus had paid it all, and we were now free of sin, and able to accept God’s grace freely.

His blood had changed Simon, and had forever changed His apostles. It would do the same, He taught, for anyone willing to accept Him as Lord and Savior. But as accepting as we are for the blood to wash us free from sin, and keep Him close as Savior, do we always accept Him as Lord? In Romans 1:1, Paul referred to himself as “Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God.” For anyone wondering what Paul meant by bond-servant, the definition is A slave; one who is bound to service without wages. That was what Paul meant, too. Accepting the blood of Christ, and being reborn as a Christian means that you forego yourself and think of Kingdom business. Dying to yourself while being “buried” in baptism, and then taking up your cross daily. Not all of us have the ability to physically take up Christ’s cross as Simon did, but we all have the ability to deny ourselves and choose Him when we touch the floor with the soles of our feet every morning. Being re-born…free to be a slave. A powerful servant of the Lord Jesus. Every situation that I have found myself in this week, I have looked to the cross. I have put my worries at the foot of it. I have asked for understanding and discernment when it comes to it. And finally, I have felt a wholesome comfort from it; the type of comfort that comes when you think about an old friend and what they have done for you in certian times of need. After all, that is what Easter is all about – The great comforter, and Wonderful Counselor to us all. Jesus, the Christ – Lord and Savior to all of humanity.

Hallelujah! Christ is risen! Saints, Spread the good news!!!

*Yesenia is my little girl from El Salvador that I sponsor through Compassion International(there is a link at the bottom of my blog to the right).

**Paraphrased from Matthew 26:52.

***Paraphrased from Luke 23:34.

****Greek meaning=It Is Finished!

My way or the Highway

In my younger days,* I used to listen to a lot of angry rock music. Now, mind you, it didn’t have to be death metal or anything to send angry messages. One of the songs I used to listen to extensively was Limp Bizkit’s ‘My Way.’  In the song, the singer Fred Durst is talking about infighting and bad relationships. About how he is tired of not being heard, and pushed around. About how he is one step away from snapping and telling you exactly what it is, and how he feels. Essentially, it is a song about what you are going through as a 14-22 year old in a privileged society. The chorus to it says,

“This time I’m ‘a let it all come out, This time I’m ‘a stand up and shout! I’m ‘a do things my way…It’s my way;
My way, or the highway”

this is an easy thing to understand for people my age. We probably heard that threat from our Mother/Father so much that we were blue in the face. The real funny thing about it, is that when we are young, we are compliant with it. Mom says ‘NO,’ we get angry and sulk, but it is inevitable. She helps pay the bills, and she cooks the meals. What she says is law, and we better mind. As we get older, and more independent, we tend to want to “buck the system” more. We feel entitled, as we have had to put up with rules for far too long. In essence we are wise beyond our years, and if people would just shut up and let us make our own decisions, we would be just fine. We get so irritated when older people try to tell us what they would do in situations, or what the smart choice is that we want to fight anyone due to the angst rolling around in our hearts. Then one day we get to be master of our domain! The days of someone else telling us what to do are long gone and you know what? Good riddance to them! We will do just fine without guidance, and we will be better off to get some real world experience under our belts. What is the worst that can happen?

Anyone that has ever read my blogs know that the second paragraph is usually the “but then this happens” section of my writings. Sure songs like the above fueled a flock of young people to thinking that they were right, and that it was ok to question authority. The good thing about this is that we tried something on our own, and threw caution to the wind in more situations. But the bad supremely out-weighed the bad as we often fell on our faces, and we ranged from just looking silly to actually being in trouble. Did all this come from this song, you are asking? No. But, it was a creative idea that Limp Bizkit had and they knew that they could turn that late teen aggression into dollars at the stores. Someone would hear this, want to fight, and then bad things would happen. But it wasn’t the band’s fault. They just made something that was already happening into a hit on the music charts.  What the point of the song gets to is at the heart of what I am writing this week. We knew what was best, and we fought back against authority. We didn’t listen to those that had been there before we were, and we were dismissive of their knowledge.

Doesn’t this sound A LOT like my religious journey to this point, boy-o.

God gave me a road map. He gave me a book that taught me how to be all that I can be, and be in His service first and foremost. He gave me His knowledge in the form of Jesus, the Apostles, David, and Moses. He showed me the folly of man’s attempt to do it all on their own in scripture. He laid out everything that I could ever need for me, but I still wanted to do it my way. God allowed that too. For so long, even when I didn’t know it, I walked in the shadows. Now I am learning to embrace the light. I stood alone, but now I stand and am counted as one of His children. I looked like a shell of a human, but now with God’s help I am more than just a man. God does not make mistakes, and that means there was no mistake made when He made me the way that I am. Even if I am unruly, don’t follow instructions well, and am bullishly always doing things the way that I know best, God still accepts me. He doesn’t fret that I took so long to realize that my way was inconsequential when compared to His. My will is ok, but His is sufficient. My knowledge is stronger for the way that I got here, but His is infinite. He knows the amount of hair on my head in number.** His way is right, when my way falls so short. If we all remember this daily, then we will all be ok. As for me? I need more of this understanding not only day to day, but minute to minute.

My way or the highway has morphed into “Jesus you are the Way.” It is a slow process to be sure – but one that I am happy to report I am making headway on.

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

Galatians 5:1

*Still hard to swallow that phrase…I feel like I should be 23…but I am 33.

**Granted, I am doing my part to make it easier to count for Him…:D

Reunited: And it feels soooooo good

I know this is a corny title, but indulge me for a moment if you will. I have been in a 3-4 month funk where I have been gaining weight like crazy, not been been happy with myself or my faith, and slowly shutting down from people. Anyone who has read my posts lately knows that…well…there haven’t been any posts. I have just been very busy, and not feeling like I have anything to say anyways. But then again, that seems to be a microcosm of what all I have been going through anyways. If you were to look back near the front end of this posting history on my blog, you would see that around August of last year I posted a thread about being on fire and running for my faith. I had lost a ton of weight and was getting in better shape. then as you read past that, it is easy to see when I started to veer off the beaten path and away from the light. I had a bunch of issues both personal, and private that put a strain on all of my closest relationships. Unfortunately this included God too. I had been still “trying to fit Him in” when I had a chance, but I was back off of the routine and was no longer where I needed to be. I still made my way through the days. When I was down I thought about what I wanted to be and what I was. I thought about where I was and how far I had fallen. My clothes were tighter, and my mind was lazy. I had just become lethargic in life and in faith. I needed another seismic event to shake me up as if God hadn’t done enough already.

Enter Winter Jam 2012.

Last year, in 2011,  I was introduced to the phenomenon that is Winter Jam. Before the show, I was a fan of David Crowder, Red, Newsboys, and a few others, but after the show I was a fan of Kutless, Chris August, and a host of others as well. Man did these groups inspire! It was literally ALL that we talked about for a week or more. My favorite group at the time was Red and I remember buying a shirt that had their logo on it, and being so happy! It was like my old days of going to see hard rock shows like Slipknot and Avenged Sevenfold. Only when I left this time, my neck wasn’t sore from the headbanging – my arms were tired from lifting my hands high to God for a continuous time frame. We waited in a mild day with a forever long line to get bad seats and no real shot at getting up to shop or grab food. We literally must have waited for 4+ hours to get in! it was only $10 though, and I remarked at how awesome it would be once we were there. We spoke at length, however, last year that we needed to look into VIP treatment the next time. the tickets were steep but you got in early, got a t-shirt to wear, had free time to shop without anyone else packing the lines, got seats wherever you wanted, and had Q&A sessions with the band before the show. Well, of course when we found out that Skillet was headlining for 2012, the whole thing just kicked up a notch. they are awesome, and I have heard that their stage show is unrivaled live. But something happened; by the time I went to register for the tickets, I had really fallen out of sorts with my faith. I didn’t really care a whole lot that we were going, and I was now even a bit visibly irritated with the price that we were paying to get in. Begrudgingly, I went ahead and signed us up. I was encouraged by seeing how happy my wife was to be going, and also by some of the youth in my church that were going. We waited in a much smaller line with our lanyards* around our necks, and then we went in to grab some merchandise and have a sit down. Took us a while to get where we wanted, and we actually had great seats about 3 rows up from the floor. My wife is kinda short, so we couldn’t do floor seats, but that was okay. Some of the lesser know acts played, and I was cool with it. It was loud, and I didn’t know a lot of the songs as I hadn’t been listening to contemporary Christian music as much as I had been the year before.** I was blown away by Building 429. they played to the partisan UK crowd, and they also had such beautiful melodies. I really liked them at Freedom Fest in July, and they did not disappoint on the big stage of Rupp Arena either. Peter Furler came out and really rocked as well. I was very surprised by them. Group 1 Crew came out with glow in the dark neon on and really set the stage ablaze. All of it led up to Skillet. We knew that they ere the feature act, but I was amazed at how they engaged with the crowd. I knew I was in for a spiritual awakening of sorts as I started to feel a tingle in my spine and I thought about the first Skillet song that i connected with. The song was called ‘Awake,’ and it dealt with a person being transformed by the spirit and becoming more than they thought they could be due to the Lord. I knew what songs would be in their set. I knew almost all of them by heart. I had worn out 3 or 4 to no end. I did not care; this was live and they were about to rip the building in half.

Man the air was thick with anticipation. I had already figured out that if the other acts had been loud enough to about make my ears hurt, Skillet was going to make them bleed. That was fine. I needed to hear 25,000 other Christians screaming out to the Lord in worship. Even if it hurt my ears, my head, and my voice – I needed this. And skillet did not disappoint. They had a great set, and really made us all feel like a part of the show. There was pyro, giant speakers, and a few other effects like smoke and lights that set the mood. Skillet employs 2 very accomplished musicians to travel with them and play electric violin, and electric cello. In short order – it was very awesome. When the show was over we made our way out to the lot and to our car. My voice had almost given out, but that didn’t matter as I really couldn’t hear how I sounded anyways. We ran into a few friends from church and they all sounded just like me. I was excited to be a part of it all.

That showed me something about myself, however. I had a great time, but also reflected during some of the artist’s songs. As hard as it is to imagine, while the pyro was exploding and the speakers were booming, the guitar was screaming and the singers were yelling over the crowd – I had moments of reflection. That says something about the power of God. How else could I have accomplished all of what I have in my life up to this point? When your life is at it’s loudest point, and the world seems to be screaming in your direction and you feel the heat from the pyro of Satan as he is trying desperately to get you to follow him, you still have  God to protect you, love you, comfort and listen to you. He has been here for me even as I wavered, and even as I have had very little positive movement towards Him as of late. I am refocused now, and will start my new diet/workout plan today. It will be hard, and I will be sore. I will curse, and moan and generally be a bear to be around but at the end of the day I will be getting myself back to where I am supposed to be. This is only due to Him who is more and me who is less. Otherwise, this magnificent event that occurred a few weekends ago will be just another concert that I have a shirt from, and nothing more. It is up to me, as it is up to all of you who read this to make faith decisions, not overall but daily. Hourly if needed. I for one love challenges, and I will be getting off my duff to make this one pan out the way that He has planned for me. Every baby has to crawl before it walks, and in my case, that proves to be twofold – both in faith as in workout. I am reuniting myself with my God, and even though I am learning to trust Him, He has always trusted me. I cannot wait to see my results.

Psalm 18:2 “The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.”

*lanyard=Little plastic tag showing that I am admitted access

** Now it is ESPN sports radio…seriously, I cannot get enough of it. I may have a problem.

Pursuit of Happiness(What does it all mean)

I woke up Sunday, the same as I have for the last 3 months, and felt the call back to my bed instead of singing a song of worship in my head as I laced up my shoes like I had all the many months before. I was not sure that I would have an impact or that by going to church I would even be any good to anyone. I hadn’t slept much, and I looked like a mess when I went in the building. I went in to the sanctuary to hear our Worship team doing what they do best*, and our worship Pastor killing it as always. As I settled into my chair as we were told that we could be seated, I started to hear a spectacular sermon that I really needed to hear. I looked at my iPhone in my notes section where I house my Blog notes and jot stuff down, and I was surprised to see that I had not only one, but two of the main ideas that our sermon covered written down as possible ideas for blogs in the future. I was also blown away to see that we had even used the same wording on a few things. That was good enough for me. It was time to do what I needed to do, and get some time to put pen to paper.** The sermon consisted of being smarter with our money. Now, we were not hearing a sermon on managing money, and shoveling our cash towards the church to fund anything. There was no extra collection time where we took up dues and fees. We were not chastised for the fickle way that we skip the donation plates or that we fail to follow up to God’s wishes with our giving. That all could have been a fair topic given the day and time that we live in and the country in which we reside, but instead we did what we should have done in church and we stayed firmly in scripture. And let me tell you, if you think that Jesus of The Bible didn’t speak at great length about money and what we do with it, then you need to brush up on the book and the man again. I never even knew that there was as much discussion about it as there was. But I was happy to see our Pastor attack it so vigorously. I started to take notes from my head, and combine them with what he was saying and I started to get an outline for what is to follow. So, indulge me if you will, and listen to what my mash up of ideas along with key parts of his sermon produced. Hopefully it sounds as good on paper as it did in my head, but we will let God help me get that all working and fine-tuned.

Here we go. By the way, I am back baby, getting that fire back in my belly – and that may not be a good thing today.

My blog is called The Wonderful Counselor, and on one page when describing myself, I say I am a ‘Struggling Christian.” Now, I have been told many times before that there is only struggling Christians in this world, because our flesh will not allow us to hold any other position under His rule and reign. But this sermon that I heard made good light of another way that showed me that we may all be struggling a bit more than I thought we were. Money is the culprit, and it is deep rooted in our lives, society, and personal goal. Simply put, we have allowed money to corrupt us all, and we have to spend a great amount of time, energy, and prayer to overcome it and its lustful ways. One of the ways I saw this recently in my own life was a small financial windfall that my family received. It should have made us happy, but circumstances arrived*** and we had our happiness taken down a few notches. It wasn’t what we thought it would be when it finally showed up, and not the amount, so much as the fact that it did not solve any problems. Sure, it alleviated some financial stress, but that did not fix the issues that were effecting us as a family, or us personally. It just made us feel more comfortable. Because, you see, money is comfort I am finding out. Money=comfort. If you have money, you can live comfortably. You can eat whenever or whatever you want, and you can have a big house with a huge television, sectional couches, surround sound movie atmosphere, and a popcorn maker if you want. You can sleep in all day every day in king sized beds with fine linen sheets, and have big fluffy heated blankets and comforters to wrap yourself in. You can go for a dip in your Olympic-sized swimming pool, and dry off after you sit in the shade of your swim up bar with big fluffy towels. You can get in the hot tub when your back hurts after playing tennis at the local country club all day. You can jet-set to other countries and spend money like a lavish prince having the time of your life at ski resorts, private islands, or the biggest party hot spots in the world. When you are tired, go for a ride on the ocean in your private yacht, and have a crew pilot you around until you land in a beautiful foreign land, and spend more and more cash until you have everything that you could possibly want. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh…..doesn’t that sound great? To have millions of dollars at your disposal? To be able to accumulate stuff, and do anything that you want? You would be the Lord of your domain, and King of your castle. Heck, you may even start to feel like…God.

Do you REALLY think that is what life is about? Because I am pretty sure the next part is gonna be hard if that is the case. May as well sit that imaginary umbrella drink back on that imaginary tray and cover up that imaginary tan line, because this is going to be pretty harsh. There is no way on Earth(or in Hell, for that matter), that God wants us pursuing any of that. Instead He wants us to be thinking ahead. Not like “tomorrow,” or the “next month” kind of thinking ahead. I mean like Kingdom thinking. And no where in the Bible does the Lord once tell us to horde stuff, and gather all the money and thus comfort that we can get our grubby little fingers on. Believe it or Not, God did not send Christ to die for your flat screen TV. Does that sound bad to you now that you have read it? Did the blood of Christ get you a two-seater convertible to ride around in? It made me sick just a bit to even write that right now. But that is the sad state of affairs in this great country that we live in daily. Corporations,  advertisers, billboards, social media, and everything else tells us that we have nothing at our homes. Doesn’t matter that you have the new phone, because it it obsolete now -go get another one. Why eat at home like a family when you can just run through a drive thru and drop 25 bucks to feed the kids? You are saving time, and heck, extra time means that you can see them more, right? This type of lifestyle is not what we should be striving to get to. It is time for all American Christians to understand that there is a fundamental breakdown between what God wants for us, and what we all want for ourselves. Remember how I said earlier that money=comfort? Well let’s correlate that real fast. Money=comfort, and money=this world. Guess what else is in this correlation? This world=broken, this world=Satan. Money=comfort=this world=Satan. Money=Satan. Digest that for a minute. How is money truly not the root of all evils, then? Satan is the root of all evils, and trust me when i say he will gladly use anything to get us caught up in him and not in God. Money is a very easy way of doing that in our culture whereas it may not be as easy to do to Christians overseas, or in different situations.  We are always wondering why we will never have happiness through money, when it is plain to see that in this life on this world we are pursuing the wrong things! Have we allowed the world to corrupt us? Have we truly forgotten what sacrifices were made on Calvary for us? Why we have the ability to run around as spoiled and petulant children of God instead of being attached to His leg like a little kid?  We need to step back and look at things all over again as we have missed the point completely. This is unacceptable to God, and as such should be unacceptable to Christians.

“No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.”

Matthew 6:24

This leaves us at this crossroads then: how can we be happy in this life and also happy in the next life, too? Well, that is fairly straightforward and easy. We need to store up our treasures, but make sure that they are in the right house, and not the one here on Earth. Money has made it’s was into being as sovereign as God is in our lives whether we want to admit it or not. The verbiage that my pastor used this Sunday that I also had in my notes was the word ‘it.’ We are always looking for ‘it.’ ‘It’ can be anything: stuff, money, cars, homes, wives, husbands, toys, games, guns, or anything that we seek out. Well, I propose to you that ‘It’ needs to start becoming Jesus. Jesus is the only ‘it’ that when we seek, we will be glorified. He is ‘it.’ The alpha, omega, beginning and end. If His grace truly is sufficient enough for us as He has promised, then why can we not just turn a blind eye to money for a while, and try Jesus? I think we would get farther ahead than we are now. And to be honest, this is a problem that effects both Christians and non-Christians alike. It is not global, but as far as what the average person reading this sees, it may as well be. Christ liked to speak in parables, and that was the second idea that I had on paper. Matthew is my favorite book in the Bible, and one of the many reasons it is deals with Christ’s teachings. As I have stated before, he was kind to the sinner, and harsh to the “religious elite” of His time. My favorite part of Matthew would have to revolve around choosing good soil to build on. In Matthew 7:24-27, Jesus says:

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

I am a firm believer that we are not at liberty to interpret what Jesus meant by the things that He said. If Jesus said it, then He meant it. That is not up for negotiation. We are like the foolish builder that does not build on firm ground. We put our faith in anything that money can buy us at times, and stray further from the gilded path. The Gospel is not up for debate. God says to obtain true treasure, we need to simply seek Him out and share in a relationship with Him. We are to serve others as Jesus did, because as we know The son of man did not come to be served himself. Money=comfort. Jesus=no comfort. Not here. Why would He? He slept on dirt. On the ground where ever He could. He kept no money, no possessions, and ate sparingly whenever He could. He was never given comfort the entire time He was on our planet, but you know what? He found comfort in the end. If you had given Jesus money, He would have in turn given it to the poor, and sick, and those that need it. He was not in need. Why? Because as the son of God He had His comfort coming when His journey was over. He knew what was in store for Him when He got there. But we all do too! The Bible tells us the beginning, the end and the middle of the story of God. In this, we know where we stand with Him, and where we will be going if we seek out a loving fruitful relationship with Him. We need to start building wisely, and not in a physical sense of the word. We need to do away with creature comforts, and dive deeper into the uncomfortable fact that when we die, we can’t take any of this stuff with us. Imagine how we would live our lives from day to day if we could only do that?

Let us truly pursue happiness. Let us pursue Christ. Live this life for the next one, and not for what gratifications Satan puts before us.

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Romans 12:2

*What they do best, is lay it all out and get down

**Figuratively. I didn’t draw all over my CPU monitor of iPhone.

*** Don’t they always though?

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