Thursday, April 21, 2016

This Soundproof Wall Will Cost You Everything That Matters

Here's what I know: secrecy kills marriages. 

Secrecy gives people the right to make claims, free from rebuttal or defense, about how wrongly they've been treated and how much better they deserve to feel. Words like "emotional abuse" and "verbal abuse" serve as ready-made templates one can mold and shape to fit the needs of the moment, to justify behavior and avoid introspection. 

Abuse is real, and I'm not here to make light of abuse. I'm here for a personal reason: to remove myself from the shadows of secrecy. To leave no doubt that I am a sinner, saved by grace. Not perfect, but being perfected by a merciful and gracious God who loves me in spite of me. 

Life is hard. Multiply that by about one million when you have a two year old. More if that two year old has a temper and a will as strong as his daddy. 

I regret a lot of things I've done. I've put my hand through walls back in the day. I've screamed, yelled, slammed doors, and made all sorts of things worse. Desperation turns to frustration. Unchecked, I brought fear into my family because I was quick to anger, quick to speak, and slow to listen. 

To be sure, I was a monster. A maniac. A tidal wave. Every time I came home from the office, my family cringed and waited to see what kind of mood I was in. I'm not proud of this. I'm telling you this for a reason. 

But God is merciful and mighty to save. He sees our needs before we know we have them. 

"And the Lord God said, 'It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.'"- Genesis 1:18 (NKJV)

God provided me with a helper. A kind, empathetic, caring helper that refused to run when any woman should have. 

This helper taught me about gentle parenting and what it meant to listen to my impossibly difficult son. She helped me transform my relationship with him through her courage, persistence, and determination never to give up on me. 

Now, my relationship with both my boys is better than I ever could've imagined. I'm so grateful to the helper God gave me. Without her, there's no telling what kind of man I'd be or how far away from me my boys would feel. 

But there's no happily ever after to this story. 

How'd I respond to my helper? I ignored her. Took her for granted. Wasn't attentive. Wasn't valuing her the way she deserved to be valued. Didn't keep my word. I betrayed her in some of the worst ways you can imagine. 

How'd she respond? With the grace and mercy only God could put into a woman's heart. Undeserving, I vowed from that day forward to fix this. 

No more secrets. 

Why am I telling you this? Because I want you to know that I'm human. I struggle, like you. 

But here's what I know: if you keep secrets in your marriage, there's a reason you're keeping secrets. That reason is staring you in the mirror. 

Whatever reason you think justifies keeping secrets from your spouse, I've heard before. I heard them from myself, because I've kept secrets. Know why? Because she deserved it. She wasn't attentive enough. She didn't care. She didn't value me the way she should. She took me for granted. 

That's what the self-talk sounds like when you're in the midst of destroying your marriage. I know. I tried. My own selfishness drove me to that point. 

Was that self-talk true about her?

You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.- Romans 2:1 (NKJV)

It started with secrets. 

I justified those secrets, blaming my helper for the things I was guilty of. 

I trashed her in my mind, and I trashed her to others. I built a wall no good she did could penetrate, and I left myself open to all sorts of temptations free from her eyes to see.

When you set yourself up with that level of freedom, and that level of temptation, you will not stand. 

Thankfully, the Lord rescued me. Once again, my helper put herself aside to pull me out of the pig pen. She put aside her own deep hurts and sadness and pain to reach a hand of mercy to this filthy, muddy, stench-filled shell of a man that remained after sin tattered me and took me about as far as it could take me. 

God granted me repentance. See, repentance is a gift. You don't just decide one day that you're going to head in the complete opposite direction. God reveals to you that you can either go north or south on this road of life. There's no in-between. 

North leads to the land flowing with milk and honey. 

South leads to a storm you cannot withstand and to fire. 

I stopped heading south and turned north because God granted me repentance, and he gave me the helper I needed to see my need for repentance. 

Those are gifts for which I can take no credit. 

But here's one thing I know: secrets destroy marriages. Secrets are walls that lock your helper out. Your helper can't rescue you from behind that wall. 

God says that you are one. What are you keeping from yourself?

Secrets lead to "privacy." "Privacy" is a fancy way of saying you're free to do what you want without any accountability. Without any covering or hedge or restraint, you make the rules. 

You see what satisfies your hunger, what's pleasing to the eye, and what seems desirable. You listen to the voice that whispers, "God would never deny you something good. You must've misunderstood what He said." The secret wall you've built locks out the voice that says, "You're headed for danger." The warnings shout from outside your soundproof wall of secrecy, but all you hear is your hunger and your appetite. 

So you do what you think is wise. 

What's your reward? How'd that fruit taste?

Like Adam and Eve, you blame. You hide. You feel shame. You feel naked. You got more than you bargained for. 

Your helper wants to rescue you from the death you're biting into. 

But you can't hear his cries. He's on the other side of your soundproof secret wall. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Who Watches the Watchers?

I just watched a fascinating episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. The episode is called "Who Watches the Watchers?"

The entire episode is a thinly veiled mockery of beliefs about God and anything supernatural. But two interesting moments from Captain Picard vividly illustrate the problem this anti-God view creates.

In the episode, a group of people on a distant planet have come to believe that Captain Picard is a god - "The Picard" - capable of bringing gentle winters, good hunting, and even raising people from the dead.

Captain Picard vehemently objects to the suggestion that he should go down to the planet and pretend he's a god, to rescue a captured crewman:

"Doctor, your report describes how rational these people are. Millennia ago, these people abandoned their belief in the supernatural. Now you are asking me to sabotage that achievement? To send them back into the dark ages of superstition and ignorance and fear? NO!"

The dark ages of superstition and ignorance and fear. What an achievement it'll be when humanity shakes such impediments to real progress!

But despite the supposed advances in intellect and achievement that take humanity to the stars, there is one thing they lack.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

What Does a Real Encounter With God Look Like?

Want to meet with God today? You're in luck. In the next few minutes, I'm going to show you exactly how. But you won't have to take my word for it.

Thankfully, God isn't hiding from us. He regularly walked with Adam and Eve in the cool of the day. One day, they didn't show up. Who was hiding? Adam and Eve were. What was God's response? He called out to them.

When the prodigal son came stumbling and bumbling to his father, did his father hide? The father ran to his son.

God wants you to meet with Him, right now. Not some sort of wishy-washy sense of religious relief that you read your bible today, or checked "prayer" off your list. He wants to meet with you, so that you see Him clearly.

But wait...

Are you sure you're ready for that kind of glimpse of the Lord?

I mean, people begged Moses to cover his face, because even the afterglow of someone who had been close to God was so overpowering that they thought they would fall over and die.

But if you're ready, here's what an encounter with God looks like. The kind of encounter God wants you to have with Him right now. The kind that leaves you changed forever.

You know those books that people write, claiming they've been to Hell (or Heaven) and come back? I'd like to talk to you about one of those. Through the eyes of this man, we'll see how we, too, can meet with God in a way that leaves us changed forever.

You sure you're ready for this?

"In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord."

This man says he saw the Lord. I want to see the Lord. Do you want to see Him, too? Let's journey back in time with this man - so we, too, can see the Lord.

What was it like? Listen as this man tries to describe the indescribable, grasping for words in a language totally incapable of expressing the magnitude of the moment:

"(The Lord was) sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.  
And one cried to another and said: 
'Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
The whole earth is full of His glory!'
And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke.

What a scene! Is that what you see, when you see the Lord? Does it terrify you? It terrified this man.

In that instant, everything he thought he knew about his God faded away, replaced by a clear revelation of God so awe-inspiring that he couldn't stand.

In the light of seeing who God is, in all His majestic glory, he clearly saw himself. No more masks of religion, self-righteousness, or shred of supposed dignity to hide behind. Take a look:

So I said: 
“Woe is me, for I am undone!
Because I am a man of unclean lips,
And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips;
For my eyes have seen the King,
The Lord of hosts.”

How did God respond to this man?

Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth with it, and said: 
“Behold, this has touched your lips;
Your iniquity is taken away,
And your sin purged.” 
Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: 
“Whom shall I send,
And who will go for Us?”

How did the man respond? Naturally, out of a heart that had been changed by the gentle, merciful touch of Almighty God, he responded this way:

Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.”

There are a lot of reasons people study God's Word. Some study because they feel like they "should." Others want to know how current events fit into prophecy, or how to teach their children to behave properly.

But God has something else in mind for you today, and every day. Something so life-changing and awe-inspiring that the best moment you have planned today pales in comparison.

He wants you to see Him.

Paul prayed for the Ephesians, that "He may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know Him better."  In fact, Paul prayed the same thing for just about everyone, no matter who they were or what circumstances they found themselves in.

What Paul wanted for everyone he met, talked to, or discipled was the same: that they would know Jesus better.

So what can this man's experience teach us?

No matter what, seek to see Him. To know Him. Not about Him. Not His rules. Not His biographical facts. Seek to see Him like that man did.

Open the pages of God's Word. Like Paul, when He first encountered the Lord, ask: "Who are you, Lord?" Let that one question fill you with curiosity.

Let God show you who He is. Today, a baby Christian and one who's walked with the Lord for 100 years needs the exact same thing: a fresh revelation of who the Lord is.

When you see Him:

  • Worship will come naturally to your lips.
  • You'll see yourself clearly, and quit trying to hide behind your fig leaves of self-righteousness. 
  • God's mercy will touch your lips and your heart. 
  • You'll cry out, "Send me!"
  • Repentance will flow naturally out of your revelation of Christ.
  • The reality of God's Spirit living in you and loving through you will flow naturally as He transforms your mind through greater revelation of Himself. 

The best news of all is the God wants you to experience Him this way every day.

So what's the key? Look for Him. Seek Him.

"You will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart."
Jer 29:13

What do you search for when you come to God's Word?

Seek Jesus.

Today, open your bible. It really doesn't matter where.

Ask, "Who are you, Lord?"

Watch God reveal Himself to you. Push the other stuff aside, until you clearly see the Lord.

Are you up to it?

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

What Makes Islam So Great?

President Obama: What's your opinion about jihad?

"The phrase 'jihad' has a lot of meanings within Islam, and is subject to a lot of different interpretations. But I will say that, first, Islam is one of the world's great religions. And more than a billion people who practice Islam - the overwhelming majority - view their obligations to their religion as ones that reaffirm peace and justice and fairness and tolerance. I think all of us recognize that this great religion, in the hands of a few extremists,  has been distorted to justify violence towards innocent people that is never justified."

What's so great about Islam? What does Islam teach?

Let me tell you what Christianity teaches: Christ died for us. Know what radical Christianity looks like? What a fanatical Christian does?

He turns the other cheek when someone slaps him. He loves the unlovable, and forgives all of his enemies, because he knows how much he's forgiven.

He's patient and kind. He does not seek his own well-being over others, and keeps no record of wrongs. He pours his life out daily for those around him - especially for the most unlovable - because Christ first loved us and gave His life for us.

Do all "Christians" act this way? Hardly. But THAT'S what radical Christianity looks like.

What does "radical" Islam look like? If Mohammed is my hero, should I emulate him? If he's my example, should I strive to live like he did? What words of Islam inspire, build up, and edify? What does Islam offer that makes this religion so great?

Do so-called Christians do dumb things? Certainly. Even hateful things? Surely.

So what makes Christianity so great?

Jesus died for me.

Without that, I have no hope, though I have all the riches in the world. With that, I have everything I need.

Christ died for me - purchasing my forgiveness, a clean conscience, and right standing with God that no amount of "goodness" (bribery) can purchase.

Christ died as me - releasing me from my futile self-effort and a life of self-gratification that leads down a road to nowhere but pity and sorrow.

Christ lives in me - providing the daily enabling power that helps me live a life that pleases God.

Christ lives through me - loving others and producing joy, love, and peace in my own life through genuine, heartfelt service (instead of service out of selfish ambition or false humility).

That's what makes Christianity so great.

So I ask, with all sincerity: what makes Islam so great? Show me. I see the fruit of Islam - what's actually taught in mosques across this world - when a 19 year old kid places a backpack on the ground next to an 8 year old boy and watches him die.

When Jesus was on the cross, being mocked, spat upon, hanging naked, bleeding, struggling for breath, taking the wrath of God that you and I deserve upon Himself - having done nothing on this earth worthy of a criminal's humiliating death - he cried out: "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they're doing."

He died for me.

That's what makes Christianity great.

What makes Islam so great?

Friday, December 14, 2012

School Shootings and Old Wineskins

This morning, another tragic school shooting - this time in Newtown, Connecticut - took the lives of 27 people. At an elementary school, a man with two guns opened fire. 18 children are among the victims.

Recently, Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher killed his girlfriend and himself. A man opened fire inside a movie theater in Colorado.

The outcry is as painful as it is predictable.

"More gun control."

"More mental health."

One Tweet said: "There can be no debate now."

But there is a solution to all of this. It's not gun control. It's not more mental health. It's the solution nobody wants to hear about. It's the solution nobody's talking about - even among "Christian" circles.

The solution? New hearts.

Jesus put it this way:

“No one puts a piece from a new garment on an old one; otherwise the new makes a tear, and also the piece that was taken out of the new does not match the old.  
And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine will burst the wineskins and be spilled, and the wineskins will be ruined.  
But new wine must be put into new wineskins, and both are preserved. 
And no one, having drunk old wine, immediately desires new; for he says, ‘The old is better.’” 
Luke 5:36-39

All the gun control and mental health in the world won't change what's inside a man's heart. Unless we become a nation of changed hearts, we will continue to see school shootings.

You must be born again.

When you are, God gives you a new heart, with new desires. The evil you once loved, you now despise. The righteousness you once ran from, you now run toward. Because that's what you crave.

When that happens, you influence the people around you with the good news, that this new heart is available to anyone who humbles himself, quits pretending he can find the answers on his own, and calls upon the name of the Lord.

When you do, they get new hearts, too.

Until then, we will continue to drink up iniquity like water.

And we'll continue to see school shootings.

Please share this post on Facebook and Tweet it

Thursday, December 13, 2012

What Kind of Trophy are You?

Every person who is born again recognizes that we are saved by grace, through faith. It's the gift of God - not of works - so that none of us can boast that we got what we "deserved."

But why? Why did God save you and me?

Because you're His trophy.

Don't believe me? Take a look at what the bible says on the matter.

Have you ever stopped to think about the magnitude of the verses before the famous "grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone" verses?

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,  
even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),  
and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 
Eph 2:4-6, NKJV

Why did God do all of this for us?

that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 
Eph 2:7

God is going to display His grace for all of eternity in what He has done to save you and me.

Think about that.

In Job's day, Satan had a conversation with God. God said, "Have you considered my servant Job?"

The whole book displays how Job became God's demonstration of grace. Job was God's display upon the mantle for all the world to see.

Through Job's circumstances, God revealed His character: His holiness, His power, His grace, His generosity...

Job was a trophy of God's grace.

Know who else was a trophy of God's grace? Samson. God used Samson in mighty ways. Samson was a "hero," but he was hardly heroic.

Despite himself, Samson was a trophy of God's grace.

Know who else was God's trophy?


Judas was a trophy of God's justice and righteousness. Judas got what he deserved. Frankly, he got what we all deserve. Because we're all guilty of "selling out" - setting Jesus aside for money, or career, our our own selfish desires.

You're going to be God's trophy for all of eternity. The most devout Christian, the most hard-hearted atheist, and every other human being that has ever lived will be God's trophy.

The question is: what kind of trophy will you be? Will you be a trophy of God's justice and righteous judgment?

Or, in the coming ages, will God use you to show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward you?

Better yet, will you allow God to use you to show the world today the exceeding riches of His grace - through the kindness He shows you today?

But how do you do that?

"In Christ."

Every spiritual blessing is "in Christ." Everything you need is "in Christ." Think you understand what that means?

I challenge you today, while it's fresh in your mind, to set aside some time. Pray about and think through what it truly means to be "in Christ."

Not sure? Need help? Read through Ephesians 1-3. Slowly. Camp out there for a while. Let God show you what it truly means to be "in Christ."
You'll know you've hit the sweet spot when all you can say is, "WOW."

Like this post? Please Tweet It and Share It on Facebook.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Reading the Bible in a Year? Count Me Out

(In case you're wondering, I have not forgotten the promise I made in the previous post. I'm preparing my case. Besides, I'd like to get some more answers from you first.)

After the lights come off the tree and the last gift is unwrapped, most of you will turn to thinking about what you want to accomplish in the New Year. Like many, I use this time to look back at how the year has gone, what went right, and what I wish I had done differently. I resolve to make the upcoming year better by thinking about what's most important.

In fact, this blog was born from one of those heavy thinking sessions. (No, I didn't keep those resolutions.)

People often decide that January presents a perfect time to "get serious" about reading the bible. "This is the year I'm going to do it," Christians say as they gleefully start in Genesis 1. By the end of February, the genealogies have taken their toll and the laws have done what only law can do. They've brought death to your mighty ambition to read the bible in a year.

I've been thinking about this a lot lately. I'm told to put on the full armor of God, right? That includes the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. I imagine myself picking up my sword and charging into battle. But the only sword I have is a tiny plastic knife.

How mighty will I be in battle? When the storms come, will I be prepared? When trials come, will I be able to stand my ground and not compromise?

Not with that kind of "sword."

So I can follow the crowd, get all excited, and gloss my eyes over the pages. What's today? Genesis 1-3. Great! Let's do it. Check off the boxes. I'm all set. See you tomorrow, Jesus!

I was thinking today about how I wish my life had more fruit to show for it. I wish I was stronger in my faith. I wish I could stand my ground, serve with compassion, and lead my family with conviction.

So I decided I'd get serious about reading the bible.

I came to this:

1 Blessed is the man
   Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,
   Nor stands in the path of sinners,
   Nor sits in the seat of the scornful; 
2 But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
    And in His law he meditates day and night. 
3 He shall be like a tree
    Planted by the rivers of water,
    That brings forth its fruit in its season,
    Whose leaf also shall not wither;
    And whatever he does shall prosper. 
4 The ungodly are not so,
   But are like the chaff which the wind drives away. 
5 Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment,
   Nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. 
6 For the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
   But the way of the ungodly shall perish. 
Psalm 1, NKJV

How do I become the person God wants me to be? Meditation. Really thinking about what God has to say. Taking time to slowly, carefully consider the words instead of stuffing my face full of "bible."

What if, In 2013, I became the man in this Psalm? What if, by God's grace and with His help, I began to truly delight in His Word? To think carefully and deeply about what God has to say, "day and night?"  When I'm writing to you at this time next year, how much richer would these posts be? How much deeper would I know Christ? What would that fruit look like in my life? How refreshing would that be?

What if these 6 short verses are the only Scripture that I applied next year? Some of you will read the bible through next year. Some of you more than once. I applaud you. If I only get through one book, or five, and truly become one who delights and meditates on God's Word, I'll take that "plan" over any one-year plan in a heartbeat.

If you're ready to get serious about God's Word, and be transformed by the renewing of your mind, you've got the right idea. Whatever "plan" you choose, though, keep the goal in mind. Why do you come to the Word? To get your to-do list? To learn some cool prophecy? To find verses that support your side of the argument?

My heart says of you, "Seek His face!"
Your face, Lord, I will seek
Psalm 27:8, NIV

Make that your goal. Come to Scripture to seek His face. Everything else will fall into place. Lord, show me your glory. That's all I want and all I need.

Need some help? There are a million ways you can meditate on Scripture. One way I've found extremely helpful is the one Janet Pope presents in "His Word in My Heart." If you've been struggling in your Christian walk, I invite you to check it out and give it a try.

Most of all, pray. Delight in God's Word is a gift from God - not something you conjure up through effort. Pray that God will help you delight in His Word, and He'll answer that prayer. I guarantee it.

Let's be like trees planted by rivers of water this year, that bring forth fruit in its season. When the trials come, we won't wither. Whatever we do shall prosper. We have God's Word on it.

You with me?

If you like this post, please Tweet it and Share it on Facebook.