Keep Moving Forward

 

To give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace.  – Luke 1:79

 

In this verse, Zechariah has just received his ability to talk again.  He is singing praises to God.  The angel of the Lord had made him mute for months because he refused to believe what was being told to him.  The day his son John the Baptist was born, he was able to speak again.  He is excited about what God is going to do through his son.  I love this verse as I read it today.  I just read it over and over and marvel.

 

I have sat under four different pastors for the last couple of months.  I’ve needed counseling.  I’ve needed to spew out in anger and say exactly what is in my heart and mind.  There was just no way that I could keep all that hurt inside.  In response, I’ve heard them all return stories of great hurt.  I found out quickly that I’m not even close to alone.  I even found out that my story really pales in comparison to others.  Today, I want to allow John the Baptist to do what he was born to do.  If you are in a dark place, the words contained in this one verse can lead you out.  It led me out.  This past Sunday, I believe my wounds completely healed.  I didn’t know that I went through this process, but now that I know, I believe I’m supposed to write about it this morning so someone here can walk through it intentionally.

 

To give light to those who sit in darkness

 

First and foremost, it is very important that you do not sit in darkness.  If you are sitting, you aren’t moving.  It is absolutely crazy how if you get hurt, especially by people within the church walls, it paralyzes you.  You can’t move forwards, backwards, or sideways.  The worst part of it all is that you just sit and stew in darkness.  Darkness constantly whispers in your ear reminding you of all your failures, telling you that you just need to quit, and making sure that you pour out only anger and hatred towards those who you perceive did you wrong.  This is the worst place possible to be sitting.

 

and in the shadow of death

 

As soon as I see the words “the shadow of death”, I think about Psalm 23.  It says, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.”    You have to go from sitting to walking.  You’ve got to get up and move.  I remember a specific time about a month ago that I wanted to quit.  In my mind I had been walking through of the shadow of death.  I thought of turning back.  Immediately this thought popped in my head, “What if the distance forward is less than the distance backward?”  I understood that I would be walking either way.  I could not bear the thought of going backwards and that distance being longer than the distance if I had just kept moving forward.  Know this:  When surrounded by darkness, you have got to walk and walk until you get past the shadow of death.  You cannot stop moving.  It is so easy to stop, sit, and sulk.  You also need to keep your mouth shut.  While you are here, you can say things you are almost certainly going to regret and have to apologize for later.  Only talk to people you can absolutely trust and you know will tell you what you need to hear, not just what you want to hear.

 

and to guide us to the path of peace.

 

So this past Sunday I sat through a sermon called “Peace on Earth.”  Absolutely everything felt tailor made to me.  I just marveled as the Holy Spirit of God just flowed right through me as if I were brand new in the Lord.  Peace rested on me once again.  It was so simple.  I realized that it had been right there in my reach all along.  My circumstances didn’t change a bit, but man did they ever shrink into nothing.  When His peace comes upon you, you just know that nothing else on this planet matters.  You just know that peace is not found in anything this world offers.

 

Peace is found in Him.

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Walking and Praying Through the Tabernacle (Part 3)

 

Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.  – Hebrew 4:16

 

Who would dare come boldly unto God’s throne?  This was written to the Hebrews because there wasn’t a Jew alive that thought this was actually possible.  Remember Uzzah in 2 Samuel 6?  All he did was touch the ark to steady it and he was struck dead.  Not a person alive reads that and says, “serves Uzzah right.”  It terrified everyone that saw it that day, and it should terrify us now.  In Exodus 19:24 the Lord says, “The people must not force their way through to come up to the Lord, or He will break out against them.”  Needless to say, Hebrews 4:16 would have been the opposite of what most Jews had been taught.

 

So now, what is the difference?

 

Today, our mediator, Jesus Christ, has made us clean.  If the great exchange has been made, your sin for His righteousness, God sees you as Jesus.  On the cross, God saw Jesus as you and me, so that all who would ever come to Him could be seen as Jesus.  “For He has made Him, who knew no sin, to be sin for us; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21).  It is with this in mind that we are allowed to “come boldly.”

 

As I think about all of this, I am also convicted.  How many times have I just barged into prayer?  There is a difference in coming boldly to the throne and presumptuously making requests for Him to grant.  Americans tend to think of God as Aladdin’s lamp.  If you rub Him the right way, you can get what you want.  In reality, we come boldly so that we can grasp just how merciful God is.  We come boldly so we can receive help to live this stuff out.  Once you are aware of how great sin is, you become aware of just how great a sacrifice God made so that you can be remade and forgiven.  With that in mind, of course you can come boldly because you realize it isn’t because of anything you did at all . . . it was all Jesus!

 

Walking through the tabernacle slowly and methodically makes me hyper aware of this.  By the time I get to the Holy of Holies where the Ark of God is, I feel that I have respected God and honored Him.  I didn’t just treat Him casually.  I’ve honored all that it took to make me clean and with a heart of thankfulness and praise I enter into His Holy presence.

 

Let’s go through the whole process together.

 

We walk through the gate of the tabernacle and bring Jesus’s words to mind: “I am the gate; whoever enters through Me will be saved.”  (John 10:9). Thank You Jesus for making a wayThank You for being the way, the truth, and the life.

 

We pass the brazen altar where the great sin exchange took place.  In our mind, it is the cross of Christ.  We kneel and remember that glorious day we were saved.  We remember the day that He took our sin and He made all things new! Lord, I’ll never be able to repay you, nor will I ever be able to thank you enough!  Thank You for being so good to me!

 

We walk by the bronze laver and realize that even now we’ve got some cleaning up to do.  Lord, I’ve been selfish lately.  I’ve walked in this world and things have stuck to my mind that I wish would leave.  I’ve only been interested in comfort and making things as easy as possible for myself.  I’ve forgotten about you way too many times during the day.  I wash these sins away and ask You to make me clean.  Purify my mind.  Clean me up, Lord.  Forgive me.

 

We go to the inner court and pass by the showbread.  Jesus, you are the bread of life.  Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from your mouth.  I get way more concerned with what I physically eat than what I spiritually eat, Lord.  Help me flip that script.  I want to live by Your Word!  I praise You God for Your Word!

 

We walk to the golden lampstand.  Lord, I have emptied me of me the best I can so that I might be filled with You.  Send the Holy Spirit as a rushing mighty wind and fill me up.  Rush through my body, rush through my heart, and rush through my mind.  Help me follow You and Your ways as well as any man on this planet ever has.

 

We go to the altar of incense.  A coal from the brazen altar has been placed upon it.  As the smoke rises in a thin stream you realize that it is ascending to the great, the mighty, and the living God.  He invites you to come in to the Holy of Holies.

 

The Holy of Holies

 

As you walk in, you see the Ark of God with two cherubim on top overshadowing the mercy seat.  Blood has been sprinkled upon it.  It is a reminder that it is only through the blood that I am here.  It is only through the blood that I have access to all of this.

 

If you look back in Genesis 3:24, God placed cherubim to guard the tree of life.  Yet, here we are allowed to go between those cherubim.  We now have access to God.  We now have access to the tree of life.  We can walk with Him.  We can talk with Him.

 

Enjoy His presence.

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Walking and Praying Through the Tabernacle (Part 2)

 

Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise.  Give thanks to Him and bless His Name.  – Psalm 100:4

 

There are three parts to the tabernacle: The outer court, the inner court, and the holy of Holies.  There are three parts to us: Body, mind, and spirit.  Last week, we walked through the outer court.  It cleansed our bodies.  Today, we are going to cleanse our minds by setting our minds on Him and His Word as we continue to walk through the tabernacle.

 

Table of Showbread

 

In your mind, the first thing you see when you enter into the inner court is the table of showbread.  It was not a bread to be physically eaten.  Therewass so much attention to detail that had to be given to this showbread.  For the purpose of prayer, just know that the bread represents Jesus.  “I am the bread of life.  Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:35). Jesus is also called “The Word.” (John 1).  At this point, as you pray, you want to remember and recall any promise from God’s Word that you need.  If you don’t know what you need, read the Word for a while.  Ask God to show you a Word for your situation.  For example, I’ve been carrying guilt around for a while after losing my church position.  Did I do something wrong?  Maybe I could have done this better or paid more attention to this or that.  So, this morning, I looked at what the Word said.  It says, “There is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1).  It says, “If anyone be in Christ, he is a new creation, old things pass away, all things become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17). So, you know what?  I’m going to “eat” this bread.  “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God!” (Matthew 4:4). Whose report am I going to believe?  I’m going to believe the report of the Lord!

 

See how it works?  I’m getting all happy just typing!

 

Golden Lampstand

 

The lampstand is basically seven lit candles.  Officially, it is called the Menorah.  Here is where I begin to ask for the fire of God to enter me.  I don’t want to get stagnant and go through the motions.  I might sing here, “Lord, set a fire down in my soul, that I can’t contain, that I can’t control, I want more of You, I want more of You, God!”  I ask God to give me a fresh filling of the Holy Spirit.  I have a purified body, I have a clean mind, there is absolutely no reason for Him to deny me this request.  I may pray in tongues for a bit while just feeling the Holy Spirit flow through me.  I ask Him to surround me, take over me, and let Him know that I only want to be His.  “I only want to know You God.  I want no other lovers in my life, Lord.  You and You alone are the one who is worthy of blessing and honor and glory and power.  Use me.”

 

I hope you are feeling just a taste of true prayer and what it feels like.

 

Altar of Incense

 

I will admit that I don’t know as much about this as I should.  I may or may not specifically study it in the near future.  All I can tell you about it is what I think about when I get here in my mind when I’m praying through the tabernacle.  I imagine that every step that I have taken up until this point has simply been creating the fire and the purity that I need to go and meet with God.  The censer had coals from the brazen altar.  The very fire that burned the sacrifice for your sin and made a way for you to be clean is now in a golden censer in the form of a little coal.  I always imagine a stream of smoke rising up from it all the way up to the ceiling.  In my mind, that smoke continues up forever and ever.  That stream of smoke gets God’s attention.  He smells that smoke.  It is such a sweet aroma to Him.  He has to come down and see who is on the other side of it.  He thinks to Himself, “Who has gone through the process to truly meet with Me?”  I ask, “Lord, may I come in to the holy of Holies and meet with You?”

 

“Yes! Yes, you may!”

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Walking and Praying Through the Tabernacle

 

Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping.  “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. – Matthew 26:40

 

I want you to honestly answer a question for me:  Have you ever prayed for one solid hour?  I have been a Christian for 28 years and never did it until the year 2019.  I wanted to.  Every once in a while, I’d start a timer and go for it.  After emptying my brain of just about everything I could, it was always less than 30 minutes.  I would have sworn it was longer.

 

I think you also need to answer this question honestly:  Does spending an hour in prayer even sound appealing to you?  If the answer is yes, then the next three weeks of WMD’s are going to be for you.  If you take these seriously, you will experience God like never before on the day before Thanksgiving.  If you adopt this method of prayer, you will have to set a timer, but not to see how long you have prayed.  You will set the timer to make sure you leave in time to get to work or wherever else you need to be on time.

 

I do want to warn you, though.  If you treat God casually and are just pretty much interested in hanging out at church for an hour a week, you probably should skip this little series.  The last time I tried to teach it, some people took it and ran with it.  Others thought it totally useless.  We only made it 2/3 of the way through the tabernacle.  That final 1/3 was the Holy of Holies.  It is the place that, once you get there, you just don’t ever want to leave.  It is also the place that will kill you if you don’t enter the right way.  Nadab and Abihu messed up the very last step right before going into the Holy of Holies.  They offered strange fire on the altar of incense.  Because they didn’t do it God’s way, the very same fire that blessed Moses and Aaron in Leviticus chapter 9 actually killed Nadab and Abihu in Leviticus 10.  I’m just saying be very careful with this and don’t treat it as worthless or casually.

 

Enter into His gates with thanksgiving and into His courts with praise.  Give thanks to Him and bless His Name.  – Psalm 100:4

 

This one little verse gives us a blueprint into the very presence of God.  We will be thankful through the outer court which consists of a gate, an altar, and a basin for washing called a laver.  We will praise God through the inner court which consists of a table of showbread, seven lighted candles known as a menorah, and an altar of incense.  All are very significant.  When all of those are treated properly and with respect, we will give thanks directly to God Himself and we will bless His Name.

 

The Outer Court

 

Just Google “The outer court of the tabernacle” and get some mental picture of these things in your mind as you pass them by:  The gate, the altar, and the laver.  This is where we will begin the journey into God’s Presence.

 

The Gate

 

In John 14:6, Jesus straight up says that He is absolutely the only way to heaven.  In John 10:9, He says “I am the gate.”  This means that as we journey through the tabernacle, we have to start at the gate.  You can’t jump over the walls.  You can’t crawl under the fence. There literally is no other entrance.  You must go through the gate.  Jesus is the gate.  Are you thankful for Him?  Tell Him.  Spend time here marveling at the gate.  Be amazed that He saved you.  Be amazed that the God of the universe actually made a way for us to be saved.  Remember the day that it all got started and He came into your life.  Enter into this gate with thanksgiving in your heart.

 

The Brazen Altar

 

In Old Testament times, you would have come to this altar with the best lamb or bull that you had to offer.  The priest would transfer your sins to it, and then kill it.  You would look at that dead animal and realize that you were clean, but that poor animal had to die to make it so.  In your mind, make that altar the cross of Christ.  Jesus is the lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world.  Kneel at the foot of the cross of Our King who gave His life that we might live.  See it all in your mind as vividly as possible.  Thank Him.  Kneel before Him and be as grateful for what He did as you’ve ever been.  Hang out with our crucified Savior and marvel at all that it took to bring salvation to you and to me.

 

The Bronze Laver

 

Walk to this Old Testament version of a sink and begin to scrub.  It is here that you will confess your sins to God.  Leave nothing out and be brutally honest.  Have you cared about things more than Him?  Then you have committed idolatry . . . tell Him.  Have you neglected Him?  Then you’ve had other gods before Him . . . tell Him.  Have you honored your father and mother like you should?  If not, tell Him.  Have you lied, stolen, cheated, or coveted?  You get the drift.  Suck it up and bring up all the filth that is all over you and in you.  But, as you do, wash with the water in the laver.  Wash those sins away.  This is the right way to be clean.  This is the way that God has ordained that we be clean.  Be amazed that the God of all glory has made a way for us to be truly and purely clean.

 

We just entered into His gates with thanksgiving.  Next week, I will attempt to lead you through His inner court with praise.

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Planned

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

 

I watched the movie “Unplanned” Saturday morning.  I have to say, other than “The Passion of the Christ,” it is the hardest movie I’ve ever watched.  My insides were tormented watching some of the scenes.  Abby Johnson worked for Planned Parenthood and became the director of one of their clinics.  What she saw in a single moment in time turned her whole life upside down.  Here is what I want to write about today . . . God did end up changing Abby’s heart and mind, but He changed her in His time . . . His perfect time.  To Him, nothing was unplanned, it was all planned.

 

Many (and I mean many) of today’s Christians won’t give people any time to change.  For the most part, if you aren’t at least half as far along in your walk with God as they think they are in theirs, they are very judging and condemning.  Believe it or not, Abby was a believer in Christ.  She attended church services and convinced herself she was doing a good thing despite most people in her life telling her otherwise.  To me, the champions of the movie were her parents. They hated what Abby did for a living.  They knew that she knew that they disapproved of her career choice.  When her job came up in conversations, they would only say things like, “You know how we feel.”  They never once condemned her to hell or told her that she was a bad person.  They just kept on quietly believing and praying for their daughter.  As she moved up in those ranks at Planned Parenthood, you know as well as I do that things seemed to them only to be getting worse, not better.  You know it had to feel as if God was not listening to their prayers at all.

 

That is, until the single day that it all changed.  Abby was called in to actually witness one of the procedures.  She couldn’t handle it.  She ended up joining the Coalition for Life immediately, the very group she thought was against everything she believed in.  In an instant, she was changed.  And because she had such a high position in the Planned Parenthood organization, and because nobody had ever done what she did, hundreds of thousands of people know about her and her story . . . including me.  It was planned.

 

I say all that to say this:  Give people time!  Give God time!  I know He can change things in an instant . . . but for the most part He doesn’t.  He knows the plans He has for us.  He knows the exact moment that He is going to unleash His presence on a situation.  He also knows the faith, the patience, and the perseverance that is developed in the waiting.  He knows how to receive maximum glory from any given situation.  He knows how to make sure the maximum number of people are informed and affected by these stories.  He just knows . . . He’s that good!

 

As I apply this to my own life, I have prayers that I want God to answer.  I have people in my life that I want to be saved.  I pray for them very often.  I also have people in my life that are saved but are not living or acting like they are saved.  I could use some Bible verse from the Word of God and pound them if I wanted to.  I could let them immediately know how wrong they are, how dire their situation is, and exactly where they are headed if they don’t change.  Is that really the way to go?  No way!  As long as I know that they know how I feel and where I stand, I’d much rather pray and wait.  I’d much rather get in the presence of my Heavenly Father and say, “God, I trust You!  In Your time, will You move on ______’s life in a way that is just crazy awesome?  I love You, Lord.  Bring _______ to a place where they love You, too!  There is no one like You!  Only You can change the hearts of people.  If I am to say anything, Lord, give me the exact words and the exact timing.  Let Your Holy Spirit flow through me.  I can do all things through You!”

 

Think about the way you treat people . . . especially people not like you.  Those are the ones for whom you will give an account to God.  This is why the warning against passing judgment is there in Matthew 7:1, God will use the same measuring stick on you that you use on other people.  The verse is not there so you can say, “You don’t get to judge me!”  It is there so you will know that the way you treat people who are not like you is the same way God will eventually treat you if you don’t cut it out.  This is terrifying to me because there are people right now that I can’t stand.  People I know that believe in the same God that I do.  When I think of them, I think of the religious Pharisees in the Bible.  I have wanted to “call down fire from heaven on them” just like James and John wanted to in Luke 9:54. But here is the thing:  I know and am very aware that I am wrong for thinking like this.  Jesus didn’t die for me to be like that.  He came so that all would come to repentance.  I don’t want to judge them publicly because I know that God could easily show me some religious attitude in my heart and mind and judge me just as harshly on the day that I stand before Him.  I really don’t want that!  I’m terrified of that!

 

So, what do I do?

 

Lord, for thousands of years you have been in the business of performing the greatest miracle that still happens on this planet:  Changing the hearts and minds of people who hate you, your ways, and want nothing to do with you.  I’m learning that it is an even greater miracle to change the heart and mind of the Pharisee who thinks he is doing it right.  Keep me childlike.  Keep me innocently believing in you and do not let some religious system creep into my heart.  If it is too late and I am deceived, show me, and show me how to kill it, Lord!  You’ve changed me so much.  Continue to change me in your way and in your time.  Create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit in me.  Help me not think the way I think towards some Christians.  I pray that you would bring your people together.  You said that the world would be changed based on the fact that we love each other.  The world doesn’t see that.  Just start with me.  Help me to love my enemies.  Help me to pray for those who have no patience for me or my family.  Help us all to be longsuffering and really give people time to change and time for you to work on them.  I do love you, Father.  I pray that you will always help me to obey the greatest commandment . . . to love you with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength.  Through that, will you help me to love my neighbor, all of my neighbors, as myself?  Help me to believe that absolutely everything is planned and works out for good if I truly love you and am called according to your purpose. 

 

You know the plans you have for me.

 

Amen

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Embracing the Past

 

Then I will teach transgressors your ways, so that sinners will turn back to you. – Psalm 51:13

 

Could you imagine writing a song about your greatest failure in life?  Not only write about it but know that people were going to sing about and talk about it for years to come.  That is precisely what our beloved King David did.  He could have written about his greatest victory.  He could have gone into just how he brought down the 9-foot giant with only a sling and a stone.  He didn’t do that.  He wrote about his greatest moral failure.  Why?

 

Read the main verse one more time.

 

Brutal honesty is rarely seen in Christians today.  Most people just gloss over their sins.  American Christians have mastered justification, and I don’t mean the theological kind.  I mean the kind where we make excuses for absolutely everything we do that we know is wrong.  I believe David did this for about nine or ten months.  But when he murdered Uriah, married Bathsheba, and Nathan the prophet came and confronted him, there was no more justifying this.  David had to embrace his past. This led him to a place of true repentance. Had he not gotten to this place, he would have just gone on thinking he didn’t really need to be forgiven.

 

I like the fact that while he was writing this all down, David was aware that others will need these words.  He knew there would be people who would sin greatly.  He knew they would also need to turn back to God and find mercy, grace, and forgiveness.  Therefore, he just laid it all out there for the world to read.  I am glad he did.  I have prayed many times, “Lord, create in me a clean heart.  I just want to be right before You.”  I’m following the lead of King David who lived 3,000 years ago.  That’s pretty incredible!

 

Brutal honesty will get you in trouble.  I bet there were people out there who used this against David.  They could easily take his public confession and turn it on him.  In 2 Samuel 15:4, even David’s own son, Absalom, began to worm his way into the hearts of the people.  A public confession like this would have been the perfect opportunity to bring dad down and take his place as king.  Temporarily, it worked.  But in the long run, David remains victorious.

 

As I type this out, I can’t help but think of the times putting my life on public display has been used against me.  I admit that I had a foul mouth, so kids will say, “Well you cussed.”  I admit that I slept around and looked at porn, so others will say, “Well you did, too.”  People have come to me after I’ve preached and told me that I made them uncomfortable; or told me they’ve heard me talk of sexual immorality enough already.  But here is the best part:  100% of the time, someone else has contacted me, wanted to meet with me, and confessed to me that they struggle right now with the same things I did.  They want to know one thing . . . “How can I be set free?”  Doesn’t that make it all worth it?  Isn’t that what David was shooting for in Psalm 51:13?

 

What about you?  Are you someone who just wants to appear that you are “fine” all the time?  Do you belong to a church where everything is just neat, and in perfect order?  Or, do you belong to a church where things can just get brutally honest and messy?  What about your Christian friends?  Which type are they?  My life was changed at one of the messy churches where they talked about real problems and didn’t mind brutal honesty.  Conversations with men who were unashamed to tell me where they’ve been and what they’ve done have slowly shaped, chiseled, and transformed me.  Be that type of man or woman of God.  For then and only then, “transgressors will learn the ways of God, and sinners will turn back to Him.”

 

Lord, my mind goes to Luke 7 when the sinful woman broke the expensive alabaster box, poured the perfume on your feet, and used her tears and hair to wipe your feet.  At that moment, nobody was more in love with you.  At thot moment, nobody understood mercy, grace, and forgiveness more.  Yet, how many times have I been the Pharisee watching and thinking that I was ok and could sit at eye level with you?  When I think I’m ok, I don’t love you very much and I certainly don’t see you rightly.  When I realize how great my sin is, I think about what a great Savior you are.  I bow my heart to you this morning.  I give my life to you one more time.  For where would I be today had you not entered my life?  If embracing my past could possibly save another . . . If being brutally honest could possibly set another free who currently is where I’ve been . . . Use me, Lord.  Then I will teach transgressors your ways, so that sinners will turn back to you.

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Embracing the Hurt

 

Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.  – 2 Corinthians 12:8

 

For a month now, I have been playing frisbee with God.  I have been down on myself.  I’ve been kind of just moping around in my spirit while trying to outwardly cover it up.  Every time I have prayed, I’ve just envisioned in my mind handing this hurt to Him.  Every time it has come back to me.  This has been kind of unusual for me.  This is not how it normally works.  Finally, I just had to say, “What the heck, God?  I’m trying here!”

 

Well, I have just received my answer.  First of all, God has shown me that there is a big difference between hurt and sin.  Sin must be handed to Him, for that is why He gave His life as a ransom for many on the cross.  Hurt, now that is a different ball game.  Hurt, especially at the hands of men, must be embraced.  Jesus said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”  I recently finished reading the book of Mark.  Jesus embraced the hurt in those last few chapters.  Peter denied Him, Judas betrayed Him, the other disciples scattered when He was taken, Pilate ordered Him scourged, and ultimately it was the religious people, the very people who should have embraced Him that wanted Him crucified.  That’s a lot of hurt to have piled on you in just a few hours.

 

Sin is to be given to God.  In fact, the sooner the better.  Where else can one go to have sin removed and forgiven?  No other religion on this planet offers such a marvelous reset button.  On the other hand, hurt is to be embraced.  My favorite line in a movie comes from the Passion of the Christ.  Jesus is about to be scourged.  He simply looks up to heaven and says, “Father, my heart is ready.”  Then, he embraces the hurt.  He takes the beating of a lifetime.  He doesn’t try to get out of it.  He just takes it.  Not only does He take it . . . He takes it with ultimate peace in His heart.

 

Can you and I not take anything?  Are we so comfortable as Americans that we just expect to live pain free lives?  The Bible says He will never leave us nor forsake us.  I don’t know about you, but when I am really comfortable in this life, that is precisely when I think about Him the least.  I have been really uncomfortable lately.  I’ve been trying to hand Him this discomfort and He has been handing it back.  I now know why.

 

Yesterday morning I was handing Him this hurt once more.  When it came right back, I got a bit frustrated.  Then, I had a very deep conversation with a very good friend who has been praying for me relentlessly.  When I prayed again, there was that old hurt coming right back to me.  Instead of throwing the frisbee back to God one more time, I caught it, looked at it, and embraced it.  The very next reading in my Bible was Mark chapters 15-16.  I saw how Jesus embraced the cross.  I saw that it killed Him.  I also saw how three days later, He rose again.

 

Immediately, when I recognized this and saw this hurt as a good thing, there it was . . . the Presence of God.  I was like, “Lord, why in the world didn’t you let me just do this right off the bat?”  He said, “Would you have remembered it?”  I said, “No.”  He said, “Exactly.”

 

Don’t you just love Him?  Is there anyone or anything on this planet like Him?

 

I hate how we waste the words “amazing” and “awesome.”  We say the dumbest things like “These French fries are awesome!”  Those words should be exclusively reserved for Him and Him alone.

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