God can never use me again…

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I finally made a mistake that put me over the top. Always being the “half in, half out” servant of God, the nail eventually made its way into the coffin. “My ministry is done. My mistakes have taken their toll.” I remember telling myself that over and over and over. I loved God, I sincerely did, but I just blew it too many times to be used by him any longer. Anyone else feel that way? I have literally told myself a thousand times and a thousand different ways:

  • “I’m no good to God anymore.”
  • “I’m a piece of dirt that God could never use.”
  • “Just live out your life Jon, it’s too late for ministry work.”

If you have ever felt like that, you are in good company my friend. I was reading the book of Acts the other day and something struck me that I believe everyone needs to grab hold of. First the set up.

There was this guy named Saul who was a really nasty guy. He was so zealous to serve as a Pharisee (a fanatical religious Jew), that he sought far and wide to jail and persecute every Christ followers he could throughout all of Israel. So bad in fact, as Stephen (one of the apostles) was being martyred by the Pharisees, Saul told them he would hold their coats so they could be unencumbered in their execution. I could imagine Saul saying, “Go ahead guys, give me your coats. This way you can really get in a good swing.” Stephen was stoned to death at the hands of Saul and the other Pharisees. Let me just say, Saul was a beast!

But then, Saul had an encounter with Jesus. He was traveling on a road to the city of Damascus to persecute more Christians when a bright light suddenly blinded him. People tend to see Jesus more clearly when they lose their sight. This experience left Saul a broken and humble man, realizing that he had been wrong about this Jesus guy his whole life (See Acts 9). Everything turned upside down for him, including his zeal as a Pharisee.

Saul was crushed. His blindness did not go away. He found himself flat on his face, praying at a home he stumbled into nearby. But God tapped the shoulder of a man named Ananias and asked him to seek out this man Saul. God told him to go and pray for Saul so he would receive his sight again. Ananias was deathly afraid of Saul and began to question God. He pushed back on God saying, “Isn’t this the guy that’s going around wiping us all out?” But God knew that Saul was a changed man. Ananias eventually followed God’s prompting and healed Saul of his blindness. This is where the story hit me between the eyes…

Saul spent a few days getting acquainted with the Damascus disciples, but then went right to work, wasting no time, preaching in the meeting places that this Jesus was the Son of God. They were caught off guard by this and, not at all sure they could trust him, they kept saying, “Isn’t this the man who wreaked havoc in Jerusalem among the believers? And didn’t he come here to do the same thing—arrest us and drag us off to jail in Jerusalem for sentencing by the high priests?” But their suspicions didn’t slow Saul down for even a minute. His momentum was up now and he plowed straight into the opposition, disarming the Damascus Jews and trying to show them that this Jesus was the Messiah.” (Acts 9:19-22 MSG)

Does that not speak volumes? It hit me like a ton of bricks. Here you have this guy Saul (who later was renamed as the apostle Paul), a murderous, persecuting Christian hater now pushing through all the ugly noise of his past. This has truly captured my heart, especially knowing all the cruddy things I have done throughout my life. Here’s the truth, I have done some really bad stuff; things I am deeply ashamed of. My guess is that you have too. Think with me for just a minute about the terrible things you have done. It isn’t pretty is it?

And therein lies the rub. We, like Saul, have been rotten apples in our past, and yet Saul found himself thrusting past the guilt and shame and on to following the God who loved him enough to change his entire life. No wonder the apostle Paul wrote things like, “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14). That is not only a model worth following, it is the only model that gives us the freedom to serve and worship God in spite of our failures.

Have you ever told yourself something like this?

  • “I’ve made too many mistakes to be used by God.”
  • “I would serve God if I could do it all over again.”
  • “I’ve blown it too many times to be worthy of God.”

 Those words have literally come out of my mouth or resonated deep within my heart a thousand times over. I have lived in shame and guilt for much of my life and the greatest loss comes from my being totally frozen in serving God. What is worse is when people disqualify you for ministry. Let me just say, DON’T LISTEN TO THEM! Most of the time, when people disqualify other people, they are Pharisees, just like Saul was in his past. They could never keep up with their own standards of perfection, so they put those false expectations on you and me. They are dangerous people. Keep out!

Let me quickly add that there are times when we need to step away from serving in ministry for very good reasons. If you or I are caught up in a particular sin, we may need to step away to heal and grow before we lead others. That is just plain common sense. But that does not mean we are down for the count. Like Saul, once he repented and turned from his sinful ways, he was off to the races. He dealt with his junk and immediately began serving God with incredible passion. God is looking for us to do the same. Sin never disqualifies us, but we may need to deal with it before taking up a leadership role in the church.

Friends, I want you to hear me. God can clean you from head to toe.  If you’ve blown it badly in life, God has your back! He will take the darkest recesses of your past and turn them white as snow. You are not a piece of trash, unworthy of God, you are a broken vessel waiting for God to put you back together for His glory. HE LOVES YOU! He desires to make you whole. Would you ask him to do that in your life?

I am no longer disqualified. My prayer is that you will grab hold of that truth too!

 

Masking the Real Question…

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It’s time for me to confess something that is not only embarrassing, but painfully truthful. It is something I have struggled with for years; probably as far back as I can remember. It is a part of my DNA that has remained hidden, even in the most open and loving relationships.  Ready for the truth? I’m actually asking myself that question, not you…

I’m a liar; a deceitful, shame-filled liar.

I lie to you, I lie to my family, I even lie to my pastor. I could not even begin to count how many times I have lied, even this past week! And what I lie about is what is so surprising, especially belonging to a church with the vision “real with ourselves, God and others.” Please hang with me though because this confession may turn around and hit you on the backside faster than a bullet-train zipping through the green inland of Japan (WHOOOSH).

There happens to be one question, just one simple question that we all tend lie about when asked. I know that may seem doubtful, but you may be just as big a liar as I am.  It’s a question that begs for a mask to be put on; to cover up the deepest recesses of our soul.  A question that demands relief, sews fig leaves and necessitates hiding in the garden.  Are you ready to see if you are a big fat liar like me? It’s about to get real here folks. Here is that question…

How are you doing today?

Huh?

Yup, you heard it right. “How are you doing today?” It is a simple question indeed.  It is a “surfacy” question that actually bids for an answer from deep within the heart; a question that immediately puts you and I in a predicament we are not willing to address; rather we desperately search for wiggle room to slide out of a truthful response. Seems so inconsequential, doesn’t it?

Think with me for a minute about this elementary question that everyone asks, or are asked nearly every day of their lives. It comes in many shapes and sizes too. The variations include:

  • “How are you doing today?”
  • “What have you been doing with your life?”
  • “How’s your family doing?”
  • “What’s been happening at work lately?”

As I sit here and reflect on that question (or those questions), it really is not a very fair question to ask in the first place. I mean, think about it, you’re asking someone to give a response that digs to the core of their being. Most of us, from time to time, are facing immense pressures in life that would find us putting on a proverbial mask. I do not blame you one bit for lying in moments bearing this type of insolent questioning. But could there be a better way? Might there be a way to ask this question, or even answer this question allowing the “real” you and me to come out in that moment?

Wilson-home-improvement-tv-show-33144924-1024-768.pngThis all reminds me of Wilson from the 90’s hit TV show, Home Improvement. In a twist of blog irony, Wilson never showed his full face to the public. He had many ‘thought-provoking’ conversations with Tim “the Toolman” about the struggles of Tim’s life and the difficulties he was facing with his business, marriage, kids and more. And isn’t that exactly what we do?  We hide just a little bit of our real selves behind a fence. We are never really able to come out from behind the veil and allow our full selves to be shown in all our less-than-perfect glory. Please hear what I am about to say; it is so key to our growth.

Hiding behind the fence or putting on a mask never affords us the opportunity to truly heal from whatever is plaguing our lives.

Hiding is a defense mechanism. We falsely believe that it will keep any more bad from happening to us. In one sense it may just do that. It actually might keep more harm from infiltrating our broken spirits. But, something else is left out as well, something extremely vital to our lives gets shut out as we lock the door on the emotional boogey-man.

Nothing good ever gets in either…

I really hope that hits your core. When we shut out the bad, we also slam the door on the good. As we put up walls, wear masks, hide behind fences and operate in the shadows, we may be shutting out the bad stuff in life, but we are also preventing any of the good stuff from entering in as well. What is that good stuff? Healing.

As we begin to open up our lives to Godly people; you know, the people that love you and are willing to encourage you, speak truth to you, provide grace to you and have deep compassion on you, they will help you heal from your emptiness. Your situation may be your past, it may be your present or it may be something you will be facing in the future. In any instance, a good man or woman of God can help lead you to calmer waters where a fresh drink of crystal clear water awaits. But, it takes a risk. It takes the willingness to answer the question, “how are you doing today?” with truth.

Two final, yet important thoughts. First, I am not suggesting you answer that question with just anyone or at any time it is posed. There is wisdom in determining the appropriate time to share and with whom. I am giving you permission to continue lying when asked that question from the general public. Not everyone needs to know your junk, especially if they are a casual encounter or someone that lacks wisdom. Sharing your life with just anyone can result in further damage, so be wise in this area.

But secondly, this message, this blog is about being real. As I mentioned earlier, the vision of Sandals Church is “real with ourselves, God and others.” I have found, alongside thousands of other people at church, that healing begins when we get real with our lives. It begins first with our selves, second with confession to God and finally a disclosure of our full selves to another person. Yes it can be (and often is) embarrassing to share our dirty, deeply held secrets, but the payoff if monumental. If you have a desire to grow and heal in your life, I can absolutely promise you that being real is a major key to breaking through the barriers that keep you from full restoration.

Yes, I may be a liar. And, I confess it! But I am learning to risk being real, especially with people that I know love me and want to see me grow. As the years have waded on, my lying has given way to being “real” and has shown up in many more of my conversations. The kicker? Scores of people come to me about getting real with their lives, and I’m seeing them heal left and right. It is no shortage of beauty to experience lives changing.

Love you guys! Praying for you, please pray for me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Thought it was Over…

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My wife Kris came to me and said she wanted a divorce.  I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.  I stared back at her with both anger and tears flooding through my eyes.  It wasn’t the first time she made a comment like that.  Those infamous words came out time and time again, but in this moment, I could see she really meant it.  I felt defeated, heart-broken and dead inside.

We met several years earlier at church and it felt like a fairy tale ending.  We were best friends, loved the same music, and truly enjoyed spending time together.  We were a match made in heaven!  But something went terribly wrong along the way.  I was controlling, manipulative and of course “holier than thou.”  She was depressed and suffered from excruciating anxiety.  As the years went by, we fought and became isolated. Eventually, our marriage came to a point where she didn’t want to go on any longer.  Like I said, I felt dead inside.

As she stood at the doorway of our home, I can remember telling her, “just leave then,” and off she went.  As tears streamed down her face, she opened the door and slammed it behind her.  I was left sitting in a chair staring out the window wondering what would happen next.  In my mind, all I could say was, “God, please help me.  Please help us.  I don’t want my wife to leave me.  I feel so dead inside.  Our marriage is dead.”

Jesus was still angry as he arrived at the tomb, a cave with a stone rolled across its entrance. “Roll the stone aside,” Jesus told them. But Martha, the dead man’s sister, protested, “Lord, he has been dead for four days. The smell will be terrible. Jesus responded, “Didn’t I tell you that you would see God’s glory if you believe?” So they rolled the stone aside. Then Jesus looked up to heaven and said, “Father, thank you for hearing me. You always hear me, but I said it out loud for the sake of all these people standing here, so that they will believe you sent me.” Then Jesus shouted, “Lazarus, come out!” And the dead man came out, his hands and feet bound in graveclothes, his face wrapped in a headcloth. Jesus told them, “Unwrap him and let him go!” Many of the people who were with Mary believed in Jesus when they saw this happen.” (John 11:38-45)

Several hours later I heard the creeky sound of the front door opening.  I was still sitting in that same chair wondering about how I’d lost everything.  God heard my prayer; God heard her prayer.  While we were apart for those desperate hours, we both reached out to Jesus in our pain.  Our prayers echoed the same sentiment of asking God to bring life back into our dead marriage.  As we softened our hearts to hear Him, he warmed our cold souls with a newfound hope.

Kris passed through the living room and over to where I was sitting.  She grabbed my hand and we held each other for what seemed like hours.  We cried, we talked, we asked for forgiveness and our marriage has never been the same.

I know many, many people that have faced or are facing a similar situation.  Death seems to have gripped your marriage, or even a treasured relationship, but God can breathe life into any situation.  Yes, we needed to soften our hearts in order to come back together, but more than that, we needed to allow Jesus to roll away our stoney hearts in order to expose the stench of what we had created.  The beauty of our situation was found in four sentences Jesus spoke.

We first needed to “roll the stone aside.”  Our hearts were hard as a rock.  I saw her as wrong, she saw me as wrong.  What we failed to see is that we were both wrong.  Jesus had to do some business in our hearts.  It was incumbent upon us to focus on ourselves rather than on each other.

Second, we needed to believe that Jesus was the answer. “Didn’t I tell you that you would see God’s glory if you believe?”  Many times in my life as I’ve faced bleak situations, my belief has tumbled into the weeds.  Like Peter walking on water, the moment he saw the wind and the waves, he began to sink.  We both needed to believe that God could do a work in our marriage.  As we gave way to our disbelief, Jesus came through.

Third, as Jesus was working in our hearts, he commanded, “Jon & Kris, come out!”  We needed to do our part.  It wasn’t as simple as Jesus “taking the wheel.”  We needed to also drive towards loving each other sacrificially, admitting our wrongs and be willing to walk out of the graveyard.

Last, we needed to ask Jesus to humbly “unwrap us and let us go.”  We were covered in guilt and shame.  We both felt that we were no good to anyone, especially to each other. Our anger towards one another was really vitriol towards ourselves.  It took the grace of Jesus to remove our grave clothes and allow us to walk in freedom.

As you look at your own life, are you finding that you may have stumbled into a tomb? Are you feeling as though death has completely defeated your relationships?  Never let that be! Jesus is the great restorer, rebuilder and redeemer.  We all wander into the crypts of death from time to time.  It’s a matter of trusting Jesus to roll away the stone so that we can step out into a new life.

My prayer for you?  That you will…

  • Allow God to roll away the stone of your heart
  • Believe that God can and will do a work in your life
  • Come out of the grave and take a step towards truth and freedom
  • And, accept the grace and love that Jesus has given you

One thing I can be sure of, God wants you to have incredibly fulfilling relationships!

Kris and I are not only best friends today, but we have a marriage that I never thought was possible.  Do we still stumble towards the graveyard in our relationship?  Yup!  But we have learned how to quickly turn toward Jesus and walk in a new direction when things get tough.

The Real Me: Deceitful

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I hate to even admit this, but I have realized over the past few years just how deceptive I can be. It all started with the realization that when I was a kid, I would make things up just to look good. I would come home from school, my mom would ask how my day was, and I would blurt something out like, “I hit a home run today in softball.” A seemingly un-harmful variation of the truth, but it was setting me up for a very deceitful future.

As the years went by, I found myself lacking in self-value. I didn’t think much of who I was, so I had to paint a different picture. My inside never matched my outside. So, on came the exaggerations, amplifications, elaborations, embellishments and aggrandizements. A new version of truth became commonplace; became my reality.

Fast forward to today and I still find myself struggling in this area. “I didn’t wake up at 6am, I got up at 5:30am.” Why would I say that? Because I look better getting up earlier than when I actually did. “It took me 5 hours to complete that assignment, not the 3 hours it actually took.” Same reasoning, I’ll look better by stretching out the truth.

“A person making things up tries to make himself look good. But someone trying to honor the one who sent him sticks to the facts and doesn’t tamper with reality.” (John 7:18)

There was something in this verse that really struck me this morning. First of all, it states the obvious, “A person making things up tries to make himself look good.” Yup, I get that one. But when it goes on to say that honoring people is sticking with the facts, it makes it less about me and more about you! I want to honor you with my life, not stretch the truth with dishonor.

It has truly been a terrible curse to feel the shame and guilt that goes along with these overstatements. And, it’s sinful to boot! I end up heaping on even more shame when something shameful is actually sinful. But I need a way out of this wilderness; a rest for my soul that is grounded in truth.

I’m learning every day how to fight this twisted side of me. I’ve confessed this to my boss, my close friends, and I’ve even asked them to hold me accountable. I know I’m on my way to a more truthful future. I’m fighting this battle and with God’s help, I will win.

Why is this all coming out this morning? Two reasons. First, it feels SO GOOD to confess my stuff, to be real. I know, that sounds really strange. But, there is immense truth in confession (James 5:16). Our vision at Sandals Church is to be real with ourselves, God and others. I’m committed to living out that vision. (But please be careful who you share your stuff with. This isn’t an open invitation to just blurt out all your sins. There’s wisdom in when, how and to whom).

The second reason? I want you to find healing yourself. Perhaps you are an exaggerator? Maybe there’s an area in your life that you’re not exactly pleased with? Would you do one thing? Confess those sins to someone that loves you. Confess to a person that wants to see you heal and grow! Being real will be the best step you have ever taken. You will find yourself honoring people, honoring God, with your becoming an authentic person.

Love you all!

Shamelessly, join us at Sandals Church any time! We’re located in Riverside. You’ll see what being real really looks like!www.sandalschurch.com

It was Time to Clean House

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My life was in a state of unbelievable chaos. I was experiencing some of the worst pain I could have ever imagined. Divorce, loss of a job, inability to see my kids, drug abuse and so much more. My life was in shambles and everything was coming to a major head.

At the time I didn’t understand what was happening. I was one of those “sort of” Christians. You know, I said I loved God, but I didn’t actually live it out. Some of you might be feeling the conviction of that statement right now. But that was the truth. I had one foot in the world (well, maybe a foot and a half) and the other in God (at least in my mind). I wanted God. I wanted Him to rescue me, lift me up, change my circumstances, make all my problems go away, but it was me that wasn’t wiling to commit my life to him one-hundred percent; not even fifty-percent if I were to be honest.

“When the Passover Feast, celebrated each spring by the Jews, was about to take place, Jesus traveled up to Jerusalem. He found the Temple teeming with people selling cattle and sheep and doves. The loan sharks were also there in full strength. Jesus put together a whip out of strips of leather and chased them out of the Temple, stampeding the sheep and cattle, upending the tables of the loan sharks, spilling coins left and right. He told the dove merchants, ‘Get your things out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a shopping mall!’ That’s when his disciples remembered the Scripture, ‘Zeal for your house consumes me.'” John 2:13-17

What I love about this picture is the compassion that Jesus has for you and me. “What compassion” you might be asking? Listen up. When you see the temple talked about in the Bible, it is always a picture of our own personal lives. When Jesus went into the temple and took care of business on behalf of the Father, you just need to put two and two together; it’s a picture of Him cleaning up the junk in our own lives. There is no more veil between God and man. The curtain that separated us has been abolished. The law has been completely fulfilled through Jesus. The temple where God resides is now in our very hearts.

Jesus saw that the temple in Jerusalem was being abused. He cleaned house on behalf of his Father just like he did in my own life so many years ago. Everything about me was a complete wreck and Jesus wasn’t about to sit around and continue watching me squander away the gift of life he had provided for me. My hope is that this begs some questions in your own life…

Is your temple a place of worship or a place that Jesus needs to do some cleaning? In some respects, we all need an occasional garage sale in our temple. But, is your temple where mine was many years ago; a complete mess that is in need of a serious scourging?

I love the last line of verse 17, “Zeal for your house consumes me.”

Your Dad in heaven loves you so much, His zeal for you is so consuming, that he will not allow you (or any of us) to continue living in a way that will destroy us. That is what a loving Dad does. That is our Dad in heaven.

Prayer for the day… Dad, would you reveal to me the temple of my heart? Would you show me what trash needs to be taken out to the curb? Would you give me the strength and courage to make the choice to invite you in to clean out my temple? I love you Lord and I need you. I also thank you for loving me enough to take me through whatever is necessary to change the course of my life.

This may be a painful process. It was for me. But its all about God’s love for you. He loves you enough to clean house when it is necessary.

DON’T MISS THIS PARTY!!!

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Hey guys, my Dad is throwing a huge party for my Brother! He’s asked all of us kids to let everyone know. And the best part? You’re all invited!!!

I’ve been a little discouraged. Over the past couple of weeks, my Dad told me that even though all the preparations have been finalized; an incredible “A” list band, wine that you will not believe, and world class food, almost everyone invited has said they’re too busy to come. Most of the folks my brothers and sisters asked came up with the lamest excuses! One of them told me he had to wash his car, another girl said she’s going out with another friend that night. I mean, this is a huge party that nobody wants to miss!!!

Well, my Dad told me and my family to go out and find anyone, even people we don’t know! He wants this party to be off the hook because he’s kind of a party guy. He even told me personally to go out on the streets (if you can believe that) and invite people that nobody would expect or even want at their party. I couldn’t believe it! I told him, “Dad, are you crazy?” He responded that he just loves people and that he wants them there. He really does have a huge heart!

So we invited EVERYONE and it’s kind of strange… The people I expected WOULD be coming, you know the rich ones, the movers and shakers, the people that have it all together, aren’t the one’s coming. Strangely, It’s the people I never would have guessed in a million years that are coming; a guy who feels worthless and lives behind a grocery store, a girl that was raped repeatedly as a young girl and now barely survives as a prostitute, and an old, old man that used to work for a big oil company who lost everything; he’s coming too! There’s so many people like that. It’s funny, all the people showing up seem to be those that have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Go figure.

Anyways, the party is going to be awesome. You don’t want to miss it! I hope you’re all there. Love you guys!

PS: Dad says he loves you too!

This is my take on Matthew 22:1-10. Yes, it’s found in the bible. I hope it speaks to you…

A Sad True Story…

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A true story…

A pastor friend of mine was recently awakened to the desperate appeal of stammered knocking on his front door just after 3am.  His wife had woken up mere moments before to a terrible nightmare.  Obviously something was happening in the spiritual realm, but was not obvious to this point.  After sliding the safety lock over, he slowly cracked open the door and saw a young woman standing before him; shaking, worried and clearly disturbed.  In a panic, she relayed that someone was after her and that she needed to get inside quickly.  My friend, with a flash prayer and a moment of godly risk-taking clarity, slid back the lock, opened the door and proceeded to allow her entrance into his safe place.  It was as if God himself told him to make way for her.

As they began to talk, she was plainly a woman of the streets.  Her behavior was suspicious and she was out of touch with reality.  Abuse, drugs and a long hard life had taken their toll, both emotionally and physically.  In short, her life was in shambles and she was in need of desperate healing.

Their conversation took many twists and turns.  My pastor friend inquired where she lived so that he could get her a lift home.  Although she seriously needed his help, her past didn’t allow her to fully trust him and when she found out he was a pastor, her reply was unexpected, “I was raped by a pastor from the ages of 4 to 6.  Everyone is safe at the beginning.”  This broke my friends heart nearly to tears, but he knew God brought her there for a reason.  The cab eventually arrived to take her home to her mom and the very next day, this pastor worked diligently to get her into a rehab facility that could help her begin overcoming her addictions.

24 hours later, her skepticism turned to astonished gratitude as she sent him a text thanking him for what he had done.  She said that he was the first man that had ever treated her with such “genuine care and dedication.”

Many stories don’t end this way and the reality is, we do not ultimately know how this one will end.  But my friend was faithful; faithful to Jesus and faithful to this woman.  But, I turn my thoughts to two people. Those that are in need of healing, and those that are called to heal people.

It would probably be safe to say that all of us need healing on some level; maybe in our marriage, finances, physical body, loneliness, depression, substance abuse or other areas.  If I might be so bold and tell you that Jesus wants to bring healing into your life.  It doesn’t matter what you’re facing, Jesus desires to heal you.  And this sounds like such a crazy thing to say, but Jesus absolutely promises healing.

There are scores of verses in the Bible that talk directly to healing.  I do not believe anyone knows how many people Jesus healed, but my guess is that it reaches into the tens of thousands based on his 3 years of ministry.  People literally fell at His feet and were healed the moment they touched him.  The apostles went on to write about the power of healing.  We see in James 5:14 a call to the elders of the church to anoint and heal those that are sick.  Over and over we see that God is into healing.  He wants to do an incredible, yes even miraculous work in all of our lives.

A word of caution though:  Healing may not look like what you think it should.  Healing comes in many different forms and for many different purposes.  There is a staggering mystery to God which leaves many of us asking why, instead of pressing into God for comfort.  Many of my own loved ones have been healed by entering into heaven; not quite the outcome we were praying for.  Truth is that healing often looks very different than what we expect or want.  But you need to really get something here…

God desires to heal you, however you must be open to his method of healing.

  • Does that mean that my marriage may not be put back together?  Maybe.
  • Does that mean my business might fail?  It might.
  • Does that mean I won’t have any children?  That’s very possible.

So why pray?  What am I actually asking of God when I ask for healing?

Those are great questions.  I have a personal take on this simply from my own experiences.  I believe there is a very simple answer, but it may be hard to grasp.  God’s greatest desire is to be as close to you as he possibly can.  He loves you and is looking for a deep relationship with you.  As you experience tragedy, difficulty and pain, God is yearning for you to connect with him so that he can heal you and your situation, but more importantly, so that you would come closer together.  I believe the most important part of that equation is his closeness to you.

Do not doubt, your healing will come.  Your life absolutely will get better, but it hinges on your relationship to God through his son Jesus.  As we pursue God through our tears, our closeness is the greatest healing we could ever receive.  As God heals us and our situation, we begin to see him much more clearly and our desire moves away from the healing and into our relationship with Jesus; where our deepest desires are fulfilled.

There is another side to this equation and that is a quick word to those called to heal people.  If you call yourself a Christian (a follower of Jesus), then you are in the business of healing people, period. The Bible makes it clear that we are to be imitators of God. Jesus healed people. He healed a LOT of people. And if you are to be imitators of Him, then roll up your sleeves and begin healing people.

Some of you are asking, “How on earth can I heal anyone? I don’t have those gifts.” Ah, but you do! Every one of us are gifted to be like Jesus if we love him and serve him. Here’s how you heal people. Are you ready for this?

You spend time with them, pray over them, sacrifice your personal time for them, share your life with them, encourage them, provide for them, challenge them, invite them in and most of all, LOVE THEM!

When we give of ourselves to people, they heal. When we allow ourselves to be totally inconvenienced for the sake of people, they heal. When we give up making life about US, people around us will heal. We are called to heal the lost, lonely, hurting and disconnected.  Maybe we all need to take a moment to evaluate our lives.

Are you the kind of “Christian” that walks in and out of church, never really taking the time to love others, avoid getting into deep conversations with those in pain and makes everything about what makes you happy?  If so, you are most likely not healing people.

Healing others takes real sacrifice.  It can mean taking a phone call just as you crawl into bed.  You may have to endure meeting after meeting with someone that doesn’t seem to be “getting it.”  Your day off may end up being a day where all your plans have changed because someone needs help.  At its purest form, we are to live a life of total surrender to God’s calling.  That is the picture of a healer.

The pastor I mentioned in the story above lives out that vision of sacrifice and healing.  He could have left the door shut, told everyone in the house to be quiet and waited for the young girl to go away, but he didn’t.  He answered the call.  She needed healing and he provided it for her.  This all begs two very simple questions that we all need to wrestle with.

What do I need Jesus to heal in my life today?
How can I begin healing those around me?

Friends, answer those two questions for Jesus and you will unlock a powerful life.

It’s Time to Grow Up!

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“Quit judging me you dumb bitch.  You treat your kids like s–t yourself.”

If you can believe it, this was a recent Facebook post I read while trolling peoples not-so-private lives.  And yes, I’m sure you can believe it.  We can all believe it.  I mean really, which one of us doesn’t come across a post like this almost daily?  I have to say though, what was hard to believe is who they came from.  At least one of them would call themselves a Christian.  You know, a follower of Jesus, a disciple, a believer.  The sad truth is that the new social media culture has ushered in an avenue where people can drive their unabated thoughts relentlessly down the highway of intolerance without any immediate consequence. And yes, even those of us who call ourselves Christians weave webs of mayhem causing serious pain and division that can sadly scar people for years.

In the 2008 election cycle, I was an avid supporter of MY candidate.  I would defend, attack and argue why my guy was the one America needed most.  My diatribe of ideals would often send my foes into their own bursts of ideological indignation.  It was reminiscent of a classic McEnroe v Connors Wimbledon match.  The volleys went back and forth only to escalate into more hateful serves and an occasional net smash.  It was brutal beyond words.  So barbarous in fact, that I later went back and deleted almost every post.  I was embarrassed to say the least.

When is the last time you went back through your own social media feed and evaluated the content of your character?  What we write is a direct reflection of our character.  Do you find that your words are healing and encouraging, or do you see something different?  Perhaps you see something downright ugly.

Let me first encourage you by saying that you’re not alone.  We all fall into the traps of speaking (or writing in this instance) without first thinking it through.  Like I mentioned before, I’m not going to be the pot calling the kettle black.  I’m just as guilty as the next guy or gal that slays dragons in the name of philosophical superiority.  We are all sinners and say things we wished we never said.  But I want to take this one step further.  Jesus not only wants us to stop saying things that are unseemly, he’s looking for us to take radical steps in another direction.  Check this out…

27 But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. 28 Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other cheek also. If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also. 30 Give to anyone who asks; and when things are taken away from you, don’t try to get them back. 31 Do to others as you would like them to do to you.”

Yes, I just went there.  Those verses are found in Luke 6:27-31 and straight out of the mouth of Jesus.  I would like to challenge you to read those five verses five times in a row.  But let His words sink in deeply. Allow what Jesus is trying to communicate hit at your very core.  Okay, now re-read it five times again and then come back.

Listen friends, this is a picture of what true spiritual maturity looks like.  It is certainly a very difficult pill to swallow.  I mean think about what Jesus is saying here.  He wants us to love our enemies.  He’s exhorting us to do something good to someone that hates us.  And think of the audacity of Jesus when he asks us to pray for someone that has hurt us.  This stuff is crazy!  And yet, this is the life of a true follower of Jesus; we think less of ourselves and far more about others.

I want you to take note that there is something far bigger going on here than simply how we respond to people on social media.  Facebook jabber is nothing more than a window into our character.  Matthew 15:18a makes it really simple, “But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart…”

Friends, what’s in your heart?  Do you find yourself blowing up in anger over something someone has said or done to you?  I’m not suggesting that we shouldn’t experience hurt or that we’re not ever to be angry.  What I am trying to highlight are the very words of Jesus.  There is power in His Word.

When Jesus commands it, He equips us for it.

As Jesus leads us down the radical path of love and grace, he knows it won’t be an easy road.  He understands that his calling is one that is completely opposite of the world.  But He has also provided us the strength to carry out his mission to love others above ourselves.  What I have personally found is that when I respond in a loving manner to someone who has been hurtful, or even hateful, I am at total peace.  I can rest in those moments.  I don’t take it personal.  And as I respond with peace and restfulness, I am able to love someone that isn’t so lovable.  Call it crazy, but it works!

Recently, I helped someone who was struggling financially.  Moments later they turned around and hurt me.  The details aren’t important, but what was important is how I responded.  I prayed for them.  I prayed for me, asking God to help me love them even though they hurt me deeply.  And you know what else?  I gave them my shirt; meaning I helped them again.  It has been the most freeing thing to give from a position of love rather than respond from the standpoint of anger and hate.

You have a choice today.  You can continue to come back with hatred, bitterness, loathing, hostility, resentment and revenge, or you can counter the way Jesus would have.  He loved people that hated him.  He healed people that doubted him.  He saved people that hurled horrific insults at him.  And yes, he died for people that hung him on a cross.  In Jesus’ own words, are you willing to take up your own cross and die for those around you?  That’s what it takes friends, death.  Death to our selfishness and maligned will.  But life to those around us who are hurting.

Keep one last thing in mind, most people respond in hurtful ways because they themselves are hurting.  If you find yourself in emotional turmoil, Jesus (and his followers) are the answer. As you begin to deal with your pain, you will find your heart changing and your Facebook posts becoming different.  Most of all, you’ll find a freedom and rest that allows you to show Jesus to a damaged world.

Awaken the Sleeping Giant…

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I woke up yesterday morning, brewed a fresh hot cup of aromatic coffee and sat down in my quiet place to talk to the Almighty as I have done for the past 20 years of my life. At first it felt normal, quaint, even usual.  In that same moment something different was stirring.  As I uttered my first few words, I felt a sense of disappointment; a rendering in my soul that quietly whispered, “there’s something missing.”  My faith was seemingly taken to task.  Every part of my spirit was simultaneously crushed and yet filled with anxious hope all at the same time.  I was on to something.  God was moving deeply.  I didn’t quite know what it meant, but I craved for understanding.

Most of the time, I follow my very articulate prayer list to the tee.  It has served me well for two long decades, but somehow it looked old and dusty.  I stared at this long list of requests and thought, “Why?  Why am I doing this over and over and over.”  Of course I reasoned with myself.  “Because you care about people, you care about God.” That made sense, so I started in again with my prayers.  Prayers for my amazing wife, my struggling kids, my hurting family and my lost friends.  Prayers that can take quite some time to get through if I fervently seek out God.  All this is good, but like I said, something was missing.  Let me first make something very clear here…

There was absolutely nothing wrong with what I was praying, it was how I was praying that gave me great pause.

Discipline and routine are wonderfully needed.  It can take years before we realize how much we need a good sense of structure in our lives.  Most of the people I know that have significant struggles tend to be less disciplined.  I know this well because that was me for many years.  My point is that the very thing I was missing had nothing to do with my prayer structure but had everything to do with how I entered into God’s presence.

I love my kids and I know they love their dad.  I could never count the number of times they have come to me to ask for things.  When they approach me, it’s usually pretty straightforward.  My kids don’t mince words, they just come out and say it.

“Dad, can you give me twenty bucks so I can go to the mall with my friends?”

“Dad, can I take the car tonight?”

“Dad, I really want that new make-up, can you get it for me?”

They ask and I answer.  But I couldn’t imagine them coming to me, cowering in shame or fear, giving me those same requests.  It wouldn’t even feel right.

“Dad, my friends are going out and I’d like to have some cash on me.  Can I get twenty bucks from you?  You don’t have to give it to me if you don’t want to.  Just thought I’d ask.”

“Dad, I’d really like to use the car this afternoon.  I know it’s probably stupid to ask, so if you say no, I’ll totally understand.

“Dad, I’ve been looking at this make-up online and it’s pretty cool.  Man, I’d love to have it.  I know you probably think it’s too much for me, so don’t worry about it.

Can you see the difference?  The way my kids approach me is bold and real.  They just ask and tell me their heart.  They don’t mince words and give me an out, they just say what they want and leave it in my hands.  Certainly I can answer any way I want to, and even disappoint them from time to time, but that never changes the way they ask.  They simply come forward and talk to their dad.

How come I always qualify my prayers?  You know what I mean?  Have you ever done it yourself?  You know…

“God, would you help me with this? But, not my will, your will be done.”

It’s almost a fatalist view of prayer.  It isn’t bold.  It isn’t sharing the depth of what you desire.  And the truth is, it’s filled with fear.  Check out what’s written in 1 John 5:14-15,

“And we are confident that he hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases him. And since we know he hears us when we make our requests, we also know that he will give us what we ask for.”

John writes that we should have complete confidence when we make our requests to God.  Don’t get me wrong here, God will not just give us anything we ask for.  But what I do see Him saying is, “Ask me with boldness.  Tell me your heart.  Don’t hold back and don’t be afraid.  Just ask.”  And if our hearts are aligned with His, our prayers, as bold as they can be, will be answered in ways that may surprise us.

I began to pray differently that morning.  I asked for things in a bold and fresh approach.  I left the whole, “thy will be done” stuff off the table.  It didn’t make it’s way into my conversation.  God knows his will prevails.  I don’t need to remind him.  What I do need to do is “…come boldly to the throne of our gracious God” as stated in Hebrews 4:16 and let him know my requests.

Friends, God isn’t a Genie in a lamp that we need to rub the right way in order for him to appear.  God is our Dad in heaven!  He is waiting for you and I to come to him with boldness in our time together.  Yes, routine is great, discipline is wonderful, but being fearless is even better.

If your prayer life has become dull like mine, take a fresh approach to God.  Love him with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and then approach him with your requests.  He’s a big boy and can handle it.  Leave the decision making up to him, BUT BE BOLD!  I do not believe for one second you will regret it.  I’m beginning to think that when I ask for God’s will at the end of every prayer, what I’m actually professing is fear.  No more fear for me and no more fear for you.  Let’s go to God with boldness and be a fearless prayer warrior with a Dad that loves us more than we could ever imagine.

She was NOT Happy…

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The day could not have started off any better.  After sleeping in and preparing ourselves for a long journey, we were off to see the Emerald City, Seattle!  We hit the road around 9am and the Google map said, “ETA 11:57AM.”  We were excited to say the least.

Kris hadn’t been to Seattle for nearly 15 years.  I couldn’t believe it had been that long, but she was right!  I think Maddie was probably around 3 years old when we last made the trek.  In the excitement of the adventure, Kris decided she wanted to drive.  The beautiful forest was calling her name.  So we pulled over at a Starbucks, got a yummy, piping hot sugar-free vanilla latte and back on the road we went.

It wasn’t but a few miles when she looked in her rear view mirror and said… well, I won’t say what she said, but she said it!  And yes, the flickering red and blue lights reflected off the rear view mirror and into her squinty eyes.  Nailed for speeding!  It certainly wasn’t the end of the world for me (after all it wasn’t my ticket), but for her, I could see the tenseness in her face; the tight grip on the wheel.  It was pretty clear that her afternoon wasn’t going to end well.

As I looked over from time to time, I could see she was lost in thought.  I asked her a few times how she was doing, and of course she said, “I’m fine.”  But she wasn’t.  She was really bothered.  And that bothered me.  I really wanted her to let it go and have fun, but that wasn’t going to happen, at least not right now.

Isn’t that just life?  You’re having the time of your life, and then WHAM, it all comes crashing down.  The heart races, the face turns grimm and the soul feels crushed.  I felt for my girl and she definitely wasn’t in a good place.  It’s times like this when we realize how much we need to take a brake and chill out. It reminded me of Mark 6:32,

“So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place.”

Even Jesus knew there were times when they just needed to stop and rest.  So we decided to hit a Rest Stop.  Oh yeah, and I can take over the driving…

As we pulled in, I immediately noticed how calm it was.  It was a serene, comfortable place designed specifically for rest.  It actually gave Kris the breathing room to alleviate the negative thoughts from her mind.  She took a little walk toward the woods, and I puffed on a smooth-draw cigar.  It really was a much needed rest that got me thinking.

As much as we needed a rest stop, it wasn’t our final destination.

Sure, we all need to stop and rest for a while; reflect on life and get our priorities back in order, but we also need to keep moving forward.  Sometimes too long of a rest can be a trap.  Maybe you’ve found yourself in a familiar ambush…

  • Your financial situation has you against the ropes and you simply ignore the calls from the creditors (I’ve done this myself)
  • You just lost your job and every part of you gives up looking for another one. (done this too)
  • You’re married to Freddy Krueger or Mommy Dearest and you just want to sleep it all away. (Kris did this one with me!)

There is a healthy rest and a not-so-healthy rest.  One of them connects you to God which pushes you forward.  The other connects you to your flesh, which freezes you in your tracks.  Can you imagine if we had just stayed at the Rest Stop?

Certainly, the rest stop was peaceful, tranquil and comforting.  There was a restroom, fresh brewed coffee, plentiful snacks and gorgeous places to hang out.  But it wasn’t permanent.  It wasn’t our destination.  And that’s often what we do; we find a rest stop, but sadly, we make it our journeys end.

Look at what Jesus and the disciples did in Mark 6:32 immediately after they rested…

Jesus saw the huge crowd as he stepped from the boat, and he had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.”

Jesus received his rest and then went right back to work.  That’s a prescription for Godly success!

Friends, I write this to encourage you.  We all walk an often turbulent road, and God certainly calls us to rest in Him at times.  But that rest needs to be intentional.  It’s a rest where you get away in order to get back on track.  It’s a place where you meet God in order to move forward.  And that’s what we did…

After about 30 minutes of resting, we decided it was time to move forward.  We washed up, got in the car and off we went!  We laughed again.  We held hands in the car and we listened to photonic grungy-metal all the way to Seattle.  It ended up being an amazingly memorable day that ended oh-so sweet!

If I could just end with a short Bible verse that tells us exactly how to get back on the path that moves us forward.  It’s found in Proverbs 3:5-6.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.
Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.”

Isn’t that amazing!  God only wants us to seek him out with all our hearts.  And when we do, our path forward becomes crystal clear.