Body Image, Books, Death, faith, relationship, Women

True Peace

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I was at Mission Barbeque at Opry Mills last Friday, and when I went into the lavatory there was a picture of Marilyn Monroe over the urinal. I read this book about Marilyn Monroe, and as I wrote this post she came to mind. With all due respect to those who knew her I have to pity her because she never knew true peace. Her worth was found in men, and Hollywood used her the way I use a vacuum cleaner to clean Nashville homes. She allowed it however, and I think our Father’s mercies are upon her now even these plethora of years later as she is not subject to the discarding of Hollywood’s definition of worth. Never let a human being define your worth. Let my Father see you as a unique creation on which He does not fail. Period. 

A sense of humor is important, but there are some subjects within the context of community and more personal relationships when it’s too early to laugh.

I do not need to take myself so seriously that I can’t laugh at myself, but there is a time to take myself seriously as it pertains to overcoming a particular shortcoming or sin.

Coming to grips with the damage done is a very serious matter that I meditate on, but to gravel in guilt and shame is of course straight from the agenda of Satan himself. Satan may not be directly involved, but he doesn’t have to be for it to be grafted into the thinking of a human being.

We’ve always lived in dark times, but the statements created that become beliefs can be overcome.

We are not left alone to our brokenness even when the end is suicide. If someone drags you and a loved one through shit because they took their own life just walk away because you’ll get it on you.

Boundaries are powerful, and God created them for our protection.

That’s why the word propitiation is so powerful in the text. In my paraphrase I take “hilasterion” and phrase it “boundary.” Boundaries cover and protect, and my LORD’s “atoning sacrifice” and “propitiation” is a boundary from destruction, perishing or annihilation. I am forever secure in the presence of my Father even in death.

That is the reason fear is done away with literally. Oh, I have to choose to believe it because He does not force it upon me.

And I believe it, hence all things can become new.

I pray your faith dive to that kind of depth because you can take all the Prozac in the world, and you’ll never have that kind of peace.

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Books, faith, leadership, Prayer, Story

Theological Depth

Woman relaxing on a couch at homeI’m an essayist. I need to turn it into an income stream. Some would call it freelancing, but to me freelancers have to have a specific subject to write about. Much of my essaying is about faith because I am a minister’s son, and both my degrees are in religion. It’s what I know, and I experience week after week in a congregational setting. I love it. I don’t just choose it now because my parents chose it for me for 18 years. I choose it now because not only was it real then, but it’s even more real now as I face adult life issues. If someone delivers an ultimatum I can weigh it intelligently without giving into it right away. That someone could be me as a lie enters my head. Don’t believe everything you think, and for Christ’s sake don’t lean on your own understanding because not even He did that. That’s why He and we pray. God reveals things to us we cannot come to know with our knowledge or experiences. The world and Heaven are limitless, so I choose to trust the One who orchestrated the drama that took place between Job, his three friends and God himself. That doesn’t even include the interaction that happened between God, Satan and the angels who participated in the conversation about Job.

Back to my point about lies we tell ourselves. Most of us I would imagine overanalyze things. We are narcissistic enough that we make life all about us. It’s not as if I had to tell you that. I realize I don’t, but believe it or not if you’re anything like me, you need a gentle reminder every once in a while. That’s free of charge of course. 🙂 We create what we think someone else is thinking, and many times we are dead wrong. Let’s carry our thoughts to the worst possible conclusion, and many times if that happens we actually live to see another day. When I look back at the “epic” failures and sins in my life had I done this I could have saved a bunch of money by switching to Gieco. I digress. I couldn’t resist the creative license. No really. Had I paused long enough to really analyze the facts I would not have done what I did, but hindsight is 20/20.

For me the rub is still in my faith. I’ve been thinking a lot about God’s love for me. It sounds like a Sunday School platitude, but it’s the deepest theological subject we delve into corporately and privately. If everything rises and falls on leadership I’d like to argue that that orginated in the Godhead speaking creation into existence, not least of which was man and woman, and again woman was created from man’s rib, not his damn heel. Jesus Christ had a high view of women in His ministry, and some of them were generous affluent disciples who gave of their own means to support what our Savior was and is doing. There’s still many of those giving women who inspire me as I post here.

I got the privilege recently of hearing my incredible dear mom pray outloud at the lunch table. My own mom opened my eyes to the writings of the late Elizabeth Elliot, and I can’t even begin to describe the love I have for my mom’s mom, Grandma, and my dad’s mom, Ma. I cannot wait to see them and my Aunt Sue again. Those 4 women have molded me into the man I am today, and I could write books about them. Maybe I will.

It’s funny how these posts evolve. When I first came to write I had in mind the subject of relationships because I’m up late waiting to pick some friends up at the airport. And I’ve opened up this whole can of worms about 4 precious women in my life. The encouragement of one special lady named Caty means the world to me too because she frequently post words of affirmation about my writing on Facebook. Thank you dear Caty!

As you know I am one broken man, but when I rejoice in the wealth of relationships I have I can’t help but feel healed. This life is painful, but the pain is there to show us the incredible people who lift us out of it. We hurt, cry and suffer, but we laugh and celebrate too. Our God does love us, and even though we might think it’s a cute little children’s song there’s a verse I want to close with that’s as deep as the ocean.

Jesus take this heart of mine. Make it pure and holy Thine. Thou hast bled and died for me. I will hence forth live for Thee.

Yes Jesus loves me. Yes Jesus loves me. Yes Jesus loves me. The Bible tells me so.

 

 

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Books, faith

The Wise Man

bible1When I persevere against the resistance of life, yet extend the hand of grace to myself something very powerful happens because panic is not part of the equation.

I have found that the only real way around a trial is through it, and I know this might be obvious, but looking at that sentence reminds me it isn’t. I would imagine people of antiquity like Job and Joseph found this to be true, and I can’t help but think about the cup bearer who forgot about Joseph in prison until about 2 years later. I’ve fought depression formally for the last 10 years, and I know how long 2 years can seem when you think God has forgotten about you. Obviously He doesn’t do this, but it most certainly enters my thinking. Ruth told Naomi she would never leave nor forsake her, and she never did. God says the same to us, and because of my faith I stand steadfast even in the midst of suffering.

There’s not a one of us who isn’t afraid at some point in life, and there is not a one of us who doesn’t suffer. Comparing our suffering to someone who has it “harder” does not resolve the conflict within, so please stop comparing yourself to others because God does not do that to you.

Pain is real, and denying it because someone else has it “harder” only makes your situation worse, and it’s ungodly pride that drives us to this mindset. Are there people who cry over spilled milk? Of course there are, but that’s between them and God. As image bearers of the King we are asked to place our faith in Him even when life doesn’t make sense.

As I find myself between a rock and hard place right now that I’m not going to elaborate on I know God is going to deliver me like He delivered by biblical namesake from the mouth of lions. He’s been delivering all those who call on His name since the beginning of time, and He’s God. He doesn’t change. He is as much Emmanuel now as He was yesterday, and as He will be tomorrow.

We have to believe this.

When we start putting our beliefs in other things other than God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit we fall prey to greatest lie in human history. That lie is that we don’t need God. We can do it ourselves, and reality is that we cannot. How long do I have to live to realize that there is nothing good in me except what glory of God I allow to shine through me? I am bankrupt without the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Jesus. I will never survive the shacks I go through without Her presence, and I did write Her on purpose because I love The Shack’s theology by Paul Young. God created male and female, and I suspect He’s come down here in female form. I can’t prove it, but I can’t prove the existence of God either. I can only offer evidence of my own faith that He is here. Billy Graham said he can’t see the wind, but he sees the effects of the wind.

When we are driven to the depths of faith, and that’s all we have something powerful happens because ultimately we know this is not all there is, and I thank God that’s the case.

Not a single one of us stands to fall before any other being but God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, but we run around all day and week trying to make others happy. Where does it get us? We end up right where we started, demanding our own way. If God becomes the center place, albeit imperfectly, of all our decisions we don’t have to worry about anything. He literally came to set men free, but we continue to bow our knee to a myriad of idols we think will make us happy. They don’t, but we continue to turn to them. These things aren’t wrong, but our dependence on them is.

Our dependence has got to be in God because without Him we labor in vain (Psalm 127).

I close with the lyrics of The Wise Man Built His House Upon the Rock.

The wise man built his house upon the rock. The wise man built his house upon the rock. The wise man built his house upon the rock, and the rains came tumbling down. Ohhh the rains came down, and the floods came up. The rains came down and the floods came up. The rains came down, and the floods came up, and the wise man’s house stood firm.

 

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Books, faith, leadership, relationship

Submission?

IMG_0326I went to a book signing for With Or Without You by Cameron Conant at a coffee house on Belmont’s campus. As time passed Cameron suggested that writers write, not the exclusion of reading, but there should be balance of writing to reading as you develop your own writing style.

Peace drove me to post here and now. I’ve been nursing a cold all day, and the anticipation of cleaning 3 houses tomorrow doesn’t have me worried because I enjoy my work, and the people I work with. I haven’t always been able to say that. It’s so easy to forget the dark nights of the soul when everything is “good.” Gratitude for a cup that runs over needs to look back at the dry times when hope was absent. I’m of the mind that to dwell there is foolish, and to spell out the details of the pain, unless your writing a memoir, biography or novel, doesn’t need to be done. Avoided really. If you can assign a bold faced heading to the experience do that instead of a 50k word chapter about it. My ability to move out of my shack is directly proportional to the time I can separate myself from the pain of epic sin and failure.

Some days are better then others.

I turned on the golf channel with no volume today because I enjoy watching golf. It calms me down. It takes me to a place of peace that even my chill pill doesn’t. It simplifies my life as I move my existential questions around in my mind. You have your peaceful places. I was mulling over some recent tradeoffs as they related to my hobbies, business and responsibilities to my wife and daughter. My conclusion was that I made good and important tradeoffs. And now as I sit here watching Tin Cup on silence I’m moved even more that it’s never too late to do what you might have done.

Seasons of life are experienced by everyone, but only a small few are able to look at them outside themselves enough to see our worth is not in our performance, but rather in how we recoup from failure. Failure is inevitable. Conflict doesn’t just find a few of us. It engages all of us, and so we must allow the ebb and flow of life to work it’s way through our minds and actions. When you fight a certain, feeling, thought or bad choice you rob yourself of the affluent experience it brings. I’m not talking about money here. I’m talking about something more powerful than money. I’m talking about a connection with another human being that transcends time, space and membership. Oh sure, you can buy friends. That never changes, but to receive the loyalty of another human being who would walk through fire with you is quite another privilege that some never experience.

And it’s sad because our Father offers that kind of connection all the way through life.

The peace that passes understanding is what I ultimately speak about because when life gets hectic and complicated we don’t have time to post on Facebook that we need a friend. Our day in and day out existence must mold itself into a force that is greater than all of us combined, but it never forces itself upon anyone. It’s very much a reciprocal relationship, and the only way to access it is to let that peace come on it’s own timetable. We don’t know how to live this way, but the effort is worth it when our submissive moments outnumber the demands.

 

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Books, faith, leadership, relationship, Story

Small Group Theology

beyond-sad-twitter-headerI start guitar lessons again on Friday April 7th. The number of times I’ve stopped and started guitar lessons is too numerous to count. My friend Kevin has yet to give up on me. I keep coming back time and again to aim for my goal of leading small group worship. My brother Jeremy is actually a worship pastor at a Christian Church in the Orlando area, and he is a big motivator for me in staying with my aspiration to develop the skill to lead acoustic worship.

I’ve brought people into the presence of God through worship since I was able to lead singing, and being a pastor comes natural to me even though I’m not paid by the church anymore. Some things happened that led me into the marketplace away from paid church work. I am thankful that God continues to call me into partnership with Him to bring people nearer to Him. God has always used human beings to draw other human beings closer to Him, and it’s always a blessing when I get to be a conduit of His grace.

The ministry of presence is a powerful discipline among believers that is overlooked by all of us, and even though I have a bachelors and masters in religion from an evangelical school that doesn’t mean those who are educated in seminaries are the only ones who can pastor others.

The Apostles were unschooled, ordinary men who changed the face of Christianity, and we are still following in their footsteps as we study the Gospels, Acts and letters they wrote about the work Jesus began really since creation. I’ve said here  before that I agree with my professors and Phillip Yancy that calling the Bible that Jesus read the Old Testament. Yancy actually has a book called The Bible That Jesus Read. It should be called the Hebrew Bible. When the New Testament was written they read from the scrolls of Isaiah, and they did not call it the old testament. It was and is God’s word to us all today.

Facts are important, and that’s why I spent so much time in formal training taking a very high view of Scripture as a younger man, and I revere those who dedicate their lives to understanding Aramaic, Hebrew and Greek, but to wax eloquently on about theological subjects is not the end game. God wants us to love Him with all our mind, but heart and soul are factors as well. I do not take away the importance of scholarly level devotion to the ancient texts because there’s nothing ancient about the truth of God. His word is living and active, and the less that becomes so the more we as individuals, families and churches become desensitized to the message of corruption Satan feeds our world.

We cannot force submission on anyone history has shown over and over, but we can do things like learn to lead worship in a small group setting so others can draw near into communion with the One who knit them together in their mother’s womb. And the closer we are to Him the closer we come to each other.

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Books, faith, Money, relationship

A Good Good Father

IMG_1967The March 14th Jesus Calling and accompanying scriptures are transforming. None of us are still. My mom is the best at it I know. I wish I still had the Big Tent Revival album with 2 Sets of Joneses on it because it talks about 2 different families who make drastic different decisions. Materialism drives many, including me, to frantic levels of activity that can only be overcome with a submissive heart of surrender to the Creator. It’s literally killing us. Jesus, however, is not done winning hearts and minds over to His ways. His pursuit of all things pure and holy do not trump material things, but they do put them into perspective. It’s an hourly pursuit that obviously does not change over night. We’ve spent years developing habits of pursuing things, and logic teaches us that it will take years to develop new habits. Be patient. Can God heal instantly? Absolutely, but my experience has taught me He wants a soft heart moldable to His will. He does not want to force change when a person isn’t willing. Nothing can be won by force what can only be won by submission.

This isn’t a quota we have to meet for this quarter’s sales objectives. If there is one lost sheep our Father will stop nothing short to find that sheep. He doesn’t look at it as 1 out of 100. He sees a life needing to be saved, and He saves it no matter how much time it takes. Remember that to God a day is like a thousand years and vice versa.

If we seek to ask for balance God never ignores a prayer. Our answered prayers are never in question because a good father always answers, but it may not be the answer we are seeking. I have probably unfairly criticized the book The Prayer of Jabez, but if God puts it on your heart to ask for affluence I think He has reason for it. Affluence is not bad. Poverty is not good. Our prayer should be that God make our minds right about the things He has given us. We are stewards. We are not hoarders who store away treasures for a rainy day. I’m not saying we shouldn’t plan for retirement either. But if we allow these things to cause us to lose sleep or the ability to sit still with our families then we need to repent.

There is nothing more real to be than my relationship with Jesus Christ, the Father and the Spirit. It’s in that that I have a reservoir of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. My LORD doesn’t get tired, hungry or have destructive anger. His perfection is limitless, and all things on Earth belong to Him. He does not withhold things from me because I’m not good enough, smart enough, attractive enough or rich enough. His Garden concept of complete safety and security was not lost on two people who rejected it, rather He was showing us all that there is a pervasive evil among us that teaches us to be our own judge, jury and executioner. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I love the fact that this message of love is pervading our world even in the midst of unchecked evil like the Taliban, ISIS and United States superiority. America will become great again when it submits to God. What makes us think we are greater than any nation before who fell because they did not turn to God? Does God sit in the heavens judging us because He is great, and we are not? I don’t think so. He interacts with us on a minute by minute basis even as we sleep. I don’t want to get into a discussion about what blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is, but I’d like to offer that there is no unforgivable sin, and Christ Jesus is always seeking to bring redemption to the broken.

We have made a mess of this world, and it might get worse before it gets better, but know this, every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is LORD.

That is where our ultimate hope is at. Your parents will fail you if they haven’t already. Your partner will fail you if they haven’t already. Your offspring will fail you as well. The only Being among us that does not fail is Jesus Christ.

But Daniel, religion is a crutch for the weak. I worship survival of the fittest. How’s that working for you? I suspect it might work for a season, but when you get old come find me, and let’s talk about your gods. My pastor talked about leaning your ladder against the wrong wall this past Sunday. I’ve done that. I might be doing that now because I think sometimes I can save myself. I can’t.

Fear is the worst enemy we fight. Adam and Eve were afraid they’d miss out if they didn’t give into Satan’s convincing sell. And here we are thousands of years later still afraid we’re going to miss out. We aren’t because our Father is a good good Father.

We need to live into that.

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Books, Death, Depression, faith, leadership, Prayer, relationship

Conflict Resolution

Conflict shows you who you are, but I’d be amiss if I didn’t say I enjoy times of peace. What I mean by that is times when I do not have human conflict. I suppose you could see conflict as evidence that you get up every morning, and you put forth the effort to engage the world. For some people that may just be one other person for most of the week, but I dare say every human being even if they live alone is going to have conflict. We have to go to the grocery, and even if you utilize Publix delivery partnership with Instacart we have to interact with the delivery person, and where two or more gather there’s the possibility of conflict.

I’m not trying to be a doomsday personality in the blogosphere, yet I am being real as I unpack what it means to live with depression. Those who do not struggle with depression have conflict, so this particular post is for all of us. I’ve read bits and pieces of the book Getting To Yes, so all of us as we move through life are trying to get more yeses in a row, but expecting life to go our way all the time is a Pollyanna approach that will sadly leave one longing for more that doesn’t come. That’s the sad thing about many vices in our fallen world. They promise what they don’t deliver. We see it too little too late, but as a classic late bloomer I testify to having enjoyed the fruits of later labor. I think the point of life is not to dot every i or cross every t, rather it is to put one foot in front of the other as we repeat the mantra to never give up. I’m not at all throwing those who check out early under the bus because in many respects they are braver than me. We must not ever, however, give up on any human being because there is nothing more important than a human being.

I think that’s what made Jesus so incredibly important. Whether you believe Jesus is a liar, lunatic or LORD is beside the point, but if you sit down right now and read any amount of the New Testament I think you’ll discover that Jesus the man was very in-tune with human beings. My faith confesses he was God, and he gave up every divine convenience to become a flesh and blood human. You may not believe that, and that’s perfectly fine. This blog is not for apologetics. My faith pours out from every post, and I will not stay silent about my faith even in death, but I’ve not been called to “prove” that Jesus was LORD. You’ll have to come to that conclusion through your own experience.

I think even atheists who study the life of Jesus will have to agree with me in that Jesus of Nazareth knew how to connect with men, women and children. The stories in the Gospels over and over show a compassionate man who deeply loved those he came into contact with, and all the great stories, fiction and non-fiction, through the ages have human beings who overcome obstacles to love others. We as Christians are inspired first and foremost by our Adonai, Hebrew for Daddy, Jesus or Joshua and the Holy Spirit given to us at baptism (Acts 2.38). The good people of the world who don’t have a faith based approach prove as well that love and kindness are more productive ways of living than an eye for an eye. If we perpetuate an eye for an eye eventually the whole world will be blind, but of course as believers we know this planet will become a new earth when the one we’re on now is destroyed.

The point of my post is not eschatology (end times) or even ecclesiology (church stuff) because there are billions every day who do not even think about such things, much less speak or write them on the internet. They, like me, are simply trying to work hard, make a living and give back to others who need what they have.

None of this happens without conflict. Attitude is everything when it comes to our day in and day out efforts to complete our chores. Not everyone is going to like the decisions I make. Not everyone is going to like the decisions you make, and the decisions we make have consequences. We have a system of checks and balances that keep things in order even when we watch horrendous things on the evening news. We want fairness, but as my 12-year-old is discovering life ain’t fair. The Bible says it rains on the righteous and the evil, and we know situations where good people suffer. There’s nothing new about that. Ecclesiastes teaches me that there’s nothing new under the sun. What will be will be, and what has been will be again, but when the rubber meets the road is when we remember how God has brought us to this point. I’ve found He never leaves me, nor forsakes me. As I put one foot in front of the other every morning I say prayers of gratitude that He continues to sustain me through conflict as I strive for humility and confidence in a paradox that will never make sense in my present form. When I am changed into an immortal being I may not even care because all of this will be in the past.

And as I wrote this morning on a chalkboard, “The past is gone.”

There’s power in that mantra.

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