Tag Archives: suffering

In our weakness

Sometimes we need to outright declare, to tell the heavens that LIFE, LIFE with capital letters, will have its way. Life, the living breathing Word of God. The Logos. *THE* Truth with a capital T. It is going to set things right, and we get to join in. So, I wrote this song with a few friends in mind… some of them are embattled in the trenches of cancer and sickness. But they’re still crying out to the Father. They’re still clinging to the hope and truth that is, and always will be. _________________________

life takes over the sun in it cracks through the clouds to dry the sweat on our backs A breeze it blows to refresh and to revive we can’t keep this joy inside   Life takes over and the concrete breaks with flowers blooming that erase the hate of the daily life, and all its strife the mundane is swallowed by joy   life takes over bursting from the ground no death can keep the Father’s chosen down No bitter cold – nor getting old can keep us from singing these songs of old   We will sing Your praises in our weakness And we will sing Your praises in our strength   Life takes over hear the heavens sing They see through the lives of pain That the kingdom comes Hear their message as it echoes across the plains   life takes over bursting from the ground no death can keep the Father’s chosen down No bitter cold – nor getting old can keep us from singing these songs of old We will sing Your praises in our weakness And we will sing Your praises in our strength We will sing Your praises from our sick beds We will sing Your praises in our strength   We will sing Your praises in our weakness And we will sing Your praises in our strength

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The Suffering Servant – revisited

I actually wrote this about a year or so ago… I found it, and it hit me hard- I thought I’d share it with you all. There’s been a lot of  rough stuff going on around me as of late, and sometimes God just doesn’t look like we’d like Him to, and that’s worth thinking about…

_______

“For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of parched ground; He has no form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.” Isaiah 53:2

It’s interesting, this description of Messiah. Not exactly the type of savior many want; in fact, if you are honest, I’d be willing to bet that it’s not the type of savior and lord that you want interfering with your life either.

A friend of mine posted this quote:

“Man finds it hard to get what he wants, because he does not want the best; God finds it hard to give, because He would give the best, and man will not take it.” – George MacDonald

God knew what we needed, and as stated above, we often will not take it. Not only do we not take it, we often refuse to believe that it’s even from the hand of God.

We look at that despicable thing happening to us or coming at us, or that frustrating and irritating person talking to us and think, “there’s no way this is God; this is horrible.” But that’s exactly what people said about our Lord. “What good comes from Nazareth?”

“He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and like one from whom men hide their face. He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.” Isaiah 53:3-5

I have a rough time reading these verses. Why? Well, I’ve too often turned away from His horrid face. It’s too hard to look at.

I want to challenge us all to dwell on these passages and images though… deeply. They really should make you weep. They should make you look around and see where you might be hiding your face from Him. They should make us realize that us prideful men often don’t like to look on the face of our Lord at all. We’re grateful that he died for us, but not so happy to watch Him do it.

I find it funny about us, even those who are endeavoring to be dedicated disciples, that we know in our heads that these verses are the very face of our Lord. But yet, in our hearts we still long for a mighty, Hollywood warrior to come and make it all right.

But He doesn’t always make it all right, does He? The Father didn’t make it all right for Him either… did He? And we’re supposed to take up our cross, and follow Him, aren’t we?

It’s for our own good – and it will save us from our wretched selves.

God, our Father… please change our hearts and vision, that we would be able to see the real You, and not long for You to be different. Please don’t let us send you away when we see Your affliction.

Let us receive You openly. Let us welcome You with open arms. Deliver us from our lust for might, strength, and worldly power. Let Your kingdom come, Lord… and let us not be too blind to see it.

Built for Glory, Made to Last

I’ve had a lot of talks with friends lately about the nature of God.

If we’re truly honest with ourselves, I think we’ll admit that we can look around and go, “Wow, this world is seriously messed up? What on earth are you thinking? Why? Why? Why?”

It’s not easy to be here, and to be human. It’s not easy to try and live. It’s just downright hard. What’s comforting is that God knew that, and that’s why Christ came. But that’s a whole different topic.

The apostle Paul stated repeatedly in Romans that it really isn’t our place to question the creator. I know, it’s not an easy pill to swallow. We like to question everything. We want to define everything. We can call ourselves abstract all that we want, but in the end, us westerners love to have it in a box, and figured out.

God’s just not that way. The longer that I live, the more grateful I am for it. God doesn’t let me figure him out. He’s really a good dad, and he lets us make loads of mistakes, and hurt, and be in pain… I’m positive, downright positive that it’s not easy for him to watch, but he lets us none the less. He loves to let us be his hands and feet. He gives us the freedom to make a heaven of our world, or a literal hell. It’s all right in our hands… we pick.

So, I’m gonna leave all of that thought, and give you some lyrics that really touched me today. I was riding my bike, and listening to one of my favorite bands, The Lost Dogs. They’ve got quite a variety of styles and such, sort of a blend of Americana music… and today, this one really hit home with me. Just worth the contemplation, that we’re built for Glory, both God’s and ours. We’re built to be part of something more.

Built For Glory, Made to Last

from the album “Scenic Routes”

(Music and lyrics by Terry Taylor)

I found an old man lying on the street
thought I’d do my good deed
I wrapped my coat around him
and gave him food to eat
With labored breath he struggled
but his eyes held heaven’s light
He whispered ‘Young man don’t feel bad for me,
it will all work out alright’

Chorus
I was built for glory
I was made to last
God formed these feet to walk golden streets
when this hard life is past
Say “he’s doin’ well on the
other side” If anybody asks
say I was built for glory
I was made to last

He said I’ve been a Texas ranger
and I’ve been a railroad man
Lost two sons to consumption
Lost my money in a get rich scam
Buried my wife fifteen years ago
that’s when I took to the road
I’m too crippled now to walk again
but I’ll walk those streets of gold

Chorus

I asked “What’s your name?”
He shook his head, said “It don’t really matter
I’m just another poor soul out on the street
whose rewards in the great hereafter
and Jesus been a friend of mine
when all others passed me by
but He led you here so I could say
these words before I die” yeah

Chorus

The old man held me by the hand
and sighed his final breath
Now his spirit is in heaven
while his body is at rest
Today I’m makin it my mission
to help others understand
We’re all fish out of water
Strangers in a foreign land

Chorus
We were built for glory
We were made to last
God formed our feet to walk golden streets
when this hard life is past
It’s time to make your peace with God
cause this life’s over fast
and we were built for glory
We were made to last

That Jerk Doesn’t Deserve It -or- A Plea to the Christian

Today a friend directed me to the story of Bill Zeller, a young computer programmer who died from injuries he sustained in trying to kill himself. So in the end, he was successful.

He left behind a 4000 word essay, which I’ll admit, I couldn’t get all the way through. It simply hurt too much.

I mentioned it around some friends, and one said, “I guess he closed the program…” and laughed. He wasn’t meaning anything by it, but none the less I told him it wasn’t funny. It bugged me. And I knew that I could have just have easily made such a comment.

Our disregard for life… it’s sick. We are an ungrateful and numb society.

We prey on each other in the worst and most subversive ways.

We are the brunt of each others jokes… and we really don’t care.

There’s always a reason to shrug it off. “Lighten up!” “It’s all in fun” “Don’t take life so seriously.”

But can we shove our excuses aside? Can something be sacred. If we pick just one thing, may I propose ‘life?’

It occurred to me earlier this week that I’ve grown up with the mentality that you don’t give to those who don’t deserve it. You don’t give handouts to people who haven’t earned it. You don’t hand money to a guy who’s only gonna buy beer with it. You don’t treat jerks like nice guys.

I don’t know where this came from. Maybe it’s just part of the sick way we humans think. It certainly all comes down to protecting what’s mine and neglecting what’s yours. But wherever it came from, it’s wrong. Dead wrong!

So here’s where I go getting religious. To those who hate this stuff, I’m sorry, but I can’t change who I am. Christ reached in to my life and saved my life. I’m not talking about saving me from hell. I’m talking about actually saving my life… my physical life.

I was inches from suicide. I wanted to die. I hated everything that was me. I felt like a plague on my wife and kids. I felt like a vampire sucking the life out of others to keep myself alive.

But God the Father in His glory and mercy reached into my life and saved me. He brought me into a real and living Church that actually strives to live out and be the hands and feet of Christ… and I felt Him hug me, love me, and lift my head so that I could walk again.

Why?

Well, He gave it to me, and blessed me with a grateful heart so that I could give it to you. To everyone that I see.

No other reason than that.

I didn’t deserve it. I didn’t do anything to merit this attention to the creator. He just gave it to me.

This guy, Bill Zeller. He described himself quite a few times as angry and mean. He describes himself as the kind of guy many of us would walk away from and avoid. Now, I don’t know if that’s accurate, it may not be. He actually sounds like a sweet guy who was dealt a very very bad hand.

It doesn’t sound like he ever got to meet Jesus. Not the ‘confess-your-sins-and-say-this-prayer-jesus’ that doesn’t actually change anything in your life, but the Jesus that walks, talks and holds you in your pain. He touches your face and you know that He loves you. He looks into your eyes, and you look back, and know without a doubt that you could leave anything behind so that you can follow Him wherever He goes.

The living, breathing savior that isn’t just in a book but truly brings light and life into your life, and SETS YOU COMPLETELY FREE!

This is the Jesus that I met and chose to join. And this is obviously the Jesus that never got a chance to meet Bill Zeller.

or maybe He did…

Maybe you’re a part of that Jesus, but you forgot the gift of life that was given to you. Maybe you, you who call yourselves the Body of Christ (and I’m pointing the finger at myself just as much here) maybe you saw a guy like Bill in a fit of rage in the checkout line. For a split second, you contemplated stepping in to offer a hand, but then the thought occurred, “That jerk doesn’t deserve my time!” and you walked away with your conscience clear.

Maybe you saw him on the side of the road, talking to himself, and for a second thought of giving a ride… maybe buying him a burger or something. But then, you remember that he needs to learn to take care of himself. You wouldn’t want to enable him to keep being a bum right.

But you didn’t notice the darkness. You didn’t see the thoughts surrounding him. You didn’t hear the voices screaming in his or her head, or see the memories of rape, pain, tragedy and suffering in front of their eyes.

You, me, we… miss the real person and their pain.

We will continue to miss it if we don’t start disposing of our predisposition to protecting ourselves and reach in to a dangerous mind and plant the seed of love. Just like Christ did for us.

If we claim to be His followers, then there really is no other road. It’s not an option. He said that the world would be blessed through us, and He even went so far as to say that we would do greater things than He did if we believe in Him and follow His commands!

Can you believe it? I know that I have a hard time with it… but it is truly who we as the Church are made to be. We’ve been given a gift of life and love from the Father, and that compels us to give it freely to everyone that we see and touch.

God, please give us grateful hearts

Please change our minds to not just see faceless creatures, but your beloved children everywhere that we look

Please God… help us be like you

Help us to truly understand that there is no greater love than to lay down our lives and get uncomfortable with a new friend

God, please give us the grace to be like You

Angry at what you see? Be silent…

“God!!! How long will I call for help and feel like you’re ignoring me?!?

I keep telling you, ‘VIOLENCE! THERE’S VIOLENCE AND CHAOS EVERYWHERE!!!’

Yet, You do not stop it…

Why do You make me see such horrid things everywhere I look? It’s everywhere!

Destruction and violence are all around me.

Strife and contention are rising.

The law is ignored and justice is never upheld.

The evil surround those who would do good, the righteous… and because of this, justice is continually perverted.”

No, this isn’t the typical thing to wake up to on Christmas. In fact, I’d be sort of surprised if you’re reading this on Christmas. But you know what, that’s what Christmas is all about.

The above is a paraphrase of the first few verses from the prophet, Habakkuk. I doubt that any would disagree with the sentiments. This world often feels like it’s run by the wicked.

In chapter two we hear God’s reply to the desperate man. God assures him that the wicked will bring about their own demise. That their plans will always turn on them.

And in the end of it, the prophet states plainly;

“But the Lord is in His holy temple. Let all the earth be silent before Him.”

The rest of His account is an amazing and humble prayer of surrender to the ways of the Almighty. A surrender that few of us have the courage to take. It’s a song of praise to the God that seems so bizarre and frightening sometimes, whose ways can seem so off in our mindset. But the books ends with the deepest prayer of surrender that a man can make…

“Though the fig tree may not blossom, and there may be no fruit on the vines… even if all our hard work to grow food should fail…

Even if our livestock is lost and our stalls and cupboards are empty…

Yet, I will exult in the Lord,

I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.

The Lord God is my strength, and He has made my feet like the strong back legs of a beast… He makes me to climb to high places.”

This declaration of surrender can save our lives.

You see, things are simply not as they should be. Read the scriptures, you’ll find that God frequently laments the state of our world. He never intended for death and disease to rule over us. Creation truly does groan for the coming of our Lord. That’s why sing out to the Father to come, come Immanuel, God with us. Ransom us, captive to death, hatred, sickness and violence. Rescue us who are held captive to this sick and sad world!

But as the prophet said, the Lord surely is in His temple. Meaning: He sees and knows, and has a plan.

Keep silent, be still, and let Him whisper His assurance to you, that you, yes, even you, may be part of the answer along side of Him.

I give you an old hymn to dwell on this Christmas day.

Let all mortal flesh keep silence,
And with fear and trembling stand;
Ponder nothing earthly minded,
For with blessing in His hand,
Christ our God to earth descendeth,
Our full homage to demand.

King of kings, yet born of Mary,
As of old on earth He stood,
Lord of lords, in human vesture,
In the body and the blood;
He will give to all the faithful
His own self for heavenly food.

Rank on rank the host of heaven
Spreads its vanguard on the way,
As the Light of light descendeth
From the realms of endless day,
That the powers of hell may vanish
As the darkness clears away.

At His feet the six winged seraph,
Cherubim with sleepless eye,
Veil their faces to the presence,
As with ceaseless voice they cry:
Alleluia, Alleluia
Alleluia, Lord Most High!

A Father’s Gaze- Know Who You Really Are

It’s Christmas time, and I let my kids stay up way too late. But I think it’s okay to let that slide now and then.

My little fairy, Aletheia, my oldest, has a rough time falling asleep. What makes it worse, is that she’s a total night owl, and she’s a blast to hang out with at night. Simply put, she’s just more herself in the late night hours.

So, it’s 10:20, and she really needs to go to sleep.

I’ve got her in bed and decide to give some soothing daddy time.

Sometimes I forget how absolutely crucial this is for the little ones. As soon as I sat down by her side on the bed and started stroking her hair, she just started gazing up I to my eyes.

She’s just so beautiful. I can hardly stand it, she’s my little angel. But she was there, looking up at me with those deep blues, and was soaking in my love. I could tell that it was truly feeding her.

I started telling her just how much I love her and that “she’s mine” and things like that. She just snuggled down, secure in the lavishing of love.

It made me think of what I think God would love to do for us every day.

____

Last night, I got the privilege of being invited to a campfire gathering of a whole bunch of young people. They wanted to get together and talk about God. The asked me to bring my guitar and share some stuff too.

As the night went on, we sang songs and talked about things that we were all going through. It was nice. At one point though, I wanted to sing them a particular song. It’s a rendition of the Lord’s Prayer by Jon Foreman of Switchfoot called, ‘Your Love Is Strong.’

The bulk of the song though, it’s drive is that the love of the Father overpowers everything. His love is truly strong. And after singing the song, I really wanted to drive that home to the kids, and I’d like to drive it home to you as well…

Did you know that you are the Father’s precious child?

He has made you, YOU, for a reason. He created you and your personality to express some part of Him that He wanted to show the world. Yes, God made you to express a part of His very nature and being through you to the world around you.

He knew long before the earth was made that in you, in all of your victories and failures, some part of His nature would be brought to the world. He knows your rising and comings and goings, He sees it all, and He desperately wants you to gaze up at Him and see His face. He wants the gaze to be unbroken. He hates the things that get in between you and Him because He simply loves you so dearly.

You belong to Him and Him alone… and He is so desperately in love with you.

Don’t forget it.

Let it soak in. Let it overcome all of your inhibitions. Let it take over your whole being.

Stay next to Him.

Become who you’re made to be…

Filled with that love, you can overcome any obstacle that you have today.

Filled with that love, you can have so much to give to everyone that you touch and see today.

I’d Rather Be An Idiot!

So, I posted what I did yesterday because I really wanted to get moving in a direction of talking of talking about life in God from a different perspective.

God has loved me. He’s loved me a lot. He’s been relentlessly patient with my stubborn self. But that’s because He’s not surprised at all by my stubborn self. In fact, He made my stubborn self.

I didn’t pick my ‘religion’ because I agreed with it. Simply put, the more I paid attention to it, the more that I saw it was true. Even when I desperately tried to run away from it, God followed me and hunted me down. (and I’d bet there’s more than a few of you being hunted down as you’re reading this… if you pay attention) He called me out to lead a different life, a life that doesn’t honestly make much practical sense in a concrete and technologically driven world… at least, not until you let it take hold of you.

I think that a lot of religion and philosophy is wishful thinking. That may step on some toes, but I believe that it’s true. It’s often good wishful thinking, but wishful thinking no less; often shaping our ‘god’, ‘religion’ or philosophy in the image of how we think that things should go.

Before I try to get to my point, I need to say that I’ve been noticing more and more lately, the sickly lack of reverence that our culture has for anything. Very little is sacred, and true fear of the Most High God is pretty much nil. People in our society just don’t think that way.

We’re an exceedingly compartmentalized people who can read something that’s completely challenging and inspiring to our lives, get excited about it, tell our friends about it… and yet, never once consider actually doing it. If you watch for it, and are honest with yourself, you’ll see it in many facets of your life. But then, maybe I’m just an idealistic slug. The more I think about it, the more uncomfortable I get with the way I let things go in one ear and out the other…

I don’t want to simply be a hearer… I want to be a doer.

____

So, on to being an idiot.

The other day myself and a couple of friends were talking about the mindset that says, “Wasn’t that neat what God did?”

You know the type. They see God in everything; the sunrise, the moon, the flowers, the pleasant experience that they had waking up in the morning and sitting in the quiet… even down to hitting a green light at the right moment.

I’m not trying to idealize myself, but I often think that way, and I get picked on about it by some. It can make some people uncomfortable.

So, this one friend pulled me aside and challenged me. He said, “What proof do we have that it’s God? How can we have facts?”

I said, “I have no clue.”

So I went off and thought about it.

The movie ‘Signs’ popped into my head. There’s that wonderful scene with Mel Gibson and Joaquin Phoenix where they’re talking about how there’s two different sorts of people in the world; simply, one sees God in everything, and one sees that He’s alone, and fighting for Himself.

Granted, this thought is much more subjective, and it may leave you scratching your head, but I think the thought is worth tossing out there, especially for those who claim to follow the Messiah. And this can be a rather hard view to swallow.

So here goes…

I propose it’s better to look like an idiot and look for the hand of God in everything. And for the record, I’m not just talking about having rose colored glasses on. I’M TALKING ABOUT EVERY SINGLE THING.

That’s where it get’s hard to swallow.

You may ask…

“So, you’re saying I should take it as God’s doing if I lose my job?”

yes

“… if my dog dies?”

yes

“… if I break down on the side of the highway?”

yes

“… if I’m stuck in line at the grocery store and there’s some obnoxious guy belittling the cashier?”

yes

“… death?”

And I’m speaking from experience here… yes.

As I said in the last post, our world is poisoned… and God is relentlessly trying to reach out to His children. If you’re reading this, and have a pulse, YOU ARE MEANT TO BE HIS CHILD! Sick and sad things happen everywhere. I can’t explain why. I hate it. I stinkin hate it. Rape, death, hate crimes, theft, disease, divorce… I hate it.

But God, God is so much bigger. And with tears I say to you that He is mighty and holds life and death in His hands. He sets the rising and setting of the sun and knows every detail of every man, woman and child. He causes the rain to wet the just and the unjust… and personally, I believe that He watches with tears.

But each of us, especially those who join the Kingdom, are remedies to that.

We are a new race who embody The Living God in the Earth. WE ARE CHRIST! And we are the cure for the pain.

Mother Teresa didn’t try to cure sickness… she came along side men and women in their suffering.

Why? Because that’s what God did.

In Christ, God came along side of us in our suffering. He wanted us to know that we weren’t alone.

I can’t begin to even try to explain or fathom why He doesn’t fix it all, I feel like I’d be giving some cheap, prepackaged thought…

I don’t take writing this lightly. It’s a huge perspective change, and requires a fairly un-westernized and fairly un-politically correct shift. To fear and respect the God of all creation really means to lower your head in His presence and say to Him, “I can’t even fathom your ways.”

And these can’t be cheap words… this is a resignation to give over our sight, and take on His. He has a vision for humanity that is far beyond ours… and from my experience, the more I allow Him to give me His eyes, the more compassion and love wells up inside of me like a spring.

And here’s the result…

If you let the Father of all creation give you His eyes, the eyes He has for each and every one of His children, then you become the answer to prayer. We, the Kingdom, are the solution. We are the suffering servants. We ease the pain. We bring the music that sets hearts at ease. We are meant to be the hands and feet of God. We are meant to live day in and day out, practicing the Father’s love. How will they know Him unless they see us live it… and how can we live it, unless we give ourselves over to this unimaginable, unfathomable, unexplainable love?

He gave us a promise, that I know without a shadow of a doubt is true!!! And that is that all things work together for the good of those who love Him. And the more that I get to know Him, the more that I find that I truly do love the Father, and all of His mighty ways.

Again, these aren’t cheap words. And you can’t just say that to someone going through suffering and agony. We have to be them! We have the privilege of not merely talking about God, but being the revelation. We get to do exactly what Christ did for us… a demonstration of the heart of God.

I think I’ll stop there for today…