Those “little Gethsemane” moments

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“Now my soul is in turmoil, and what should I say—’Father, save me from this hour’? No! It was for this very reason that I came to this hour.

“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”

No doubt about it, Jesus had the real Gethsemane moment. None of us will ever come close to going through what He did that awful night in the garden. And even though He knew that all that suffering would be over in 3 days time, even though He knew that Heaven was just on the other side of it:

He still wrestled…….He still struggled…..He still resisted. But ultimately He trusted in His Father to see Him though.

What about you? You know you are headed for Glory eventually. You know where your real home is, but does that minimize the Gethsemane moments while you are going through them? I admit, knowing that the end of the story is victorious takes the sting out, but when you’re in the dark groping around, the pain is real. It feels like your own personal mini Gethsemane.

Wednesday was a day like that for me. It felt like God was hiding behind a cloud all day. I knew He was there alright, but I couldn’t feel Him. The night before I had slept fitfully. Taunted by the worry demons, they danced around my mind like shadows. I tried to recite the 23rd Psalm but I could hear Satan whisper…..”There are no green pastures or still waters for you….” He’s such a liar.

Right now it seems ridiculous. Yesterday and today I felt like my old self again, but Wednesday was a battle. I went out to my car during break to get some alone time with God. I had visions of playing some quiet music as the breeze wafted through the car windows, but when I got there someone was sitting in the car right next to me with their window open. So much for that.

I even moved my car to the next shady spot, but lo and behold, there was another person in the car next to me again with their windows rolled down. I know God’s sense of humor well enough by now to know that He was playing a little private joke on me.

Guess He didn’t think I needed any alone time.

Sometimes, God likes to play a little hide and seek with us. He hides Himself for just a little while, and it’s good for us. Those times stretch our faith like nothing else can.

Awhile back I was talking to my Dad, who was going through his own mini-Gethsemane moment at the time. He has a lot of those lately. He is 87 and dealing with all the changes that go along with that. He needed some bolstering up. Thinking to be helpful, I started to tell him about someone else who I felt was in a much worse situation. He told me something that I will never forget. He said, “Hearing about someone worse off doesn’t help me because my situation is what matters to me.

It’s my pain that’s real.

He’s right. There are times when it does help to talk or hear about someone worse off than you, but there are other times when you desperately need a loving ear with an open and sympathetic heart. And here’s the thing:

Anytime you hold out your heart to someone you are taking a risk. You hold it out with trembling hands with the hope that someone will treasure it and take it from you gently and treat it with care, instead of dismissing it or ignoring it altogether.

That was an important lesson that I needed to learn and I thank Him for trusting me enough to speak the truth and speak it kindly. I truly believe the best lessons we can learn are the ones we can learn from each other. We’re all still learning.

None of us is perfect and very few are actually out to get us. The best thing we can do is to ask the Holy Spirit to make us humble and able to receive the lessons He wants to teach us through the classroom of each other.

Love consists in this, that two solitudes protect and touch and greet each other.

A person isn’t who they are the last conversation you’ve had with them, they’re who they’ve been throughout your whole relationship. 

Rainier Marie Rilke

Life After Eden…….

 

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“For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.” Romans 8:22-25

On the way to work this morning, I caught the moon going down. It slipped quietly down through the clouds, a pale peachy color. I thought of our world today and how it just seems that each new tragedy tops the one before. It’s been going that way awhile now. Looking at that moon, I thought, how can there still be so much beauty in such a broken world?

I felt for God believe it or not. I often think of how the world was when He first called it into existence and how perfect it all was. I can almost see it, feel it. It’s a train wreck down here. A bad man pays to have a gentle giant of a lion butchered for what? Cecil didn’t belong to him, I feel like he belonged to all of us. He didn’t deserve that. That would have never happened in Eden.

Added to all this there’s the whole nightmare with Planned Parenthood and the unconscionable acts that go along with it, and our own Government refusing to investigate. There are people all over the world being beheaded right and left. There is war on every front, and the terrible Iran Nuclear deal to top it off.  A little girl goes out on her scooter and never returns home. I was just in her town earlier this year.

It’s just too much.  It’s just too all-encompassing. Which is why I think we so wholeheartedly jumped on the bandwagon to impune that Dentist, who is now nowhere to be found with good reason. He was such an easy mark. It was such a terrible senseless thing for him to do and now the arrow that pierced poor Cecil has gone all around the world.

I was thinking on the way to work that history has really taught us nothing. I was thinking of how the Nazi’s treated their dogs to wonderful dinners while marching Jews out of their homes into the cold, babies and children and old men and women. They treated them as less than human. All these years later, many of us have gone to the museums and seen the ovens and the trains.

We have tsk-tsked and shaken our heads sadly and said that it will never happen again, and yet right here in America for many years, we have rewarded and paid into an organization whose founder has valued some of Hitler’s very own ideals. Here’s a sample of what Margaret Sanger thought and believed:

The purpose in promoting birth control was “to create a race of thoroughbreds,” Birth Control Review, Nov. 1921 (p. 2)

More children from the fit, less from the unfit — that is the chief aim of birth control.” Birth Control Review, May 1919, p. 12 

“The most merciful thing that a large family does to one of its infant members is to kill it.” Margaret Sanger, Women and the New Race

Sanger believed that, for the purpose of racial “purification,” couples should be rewarded who chose sterilization. The Career of Margaret Sanger, by David Kennedy, p. 117, quoting a 1923 Sanger speech. 

What a society sows, it will reap. And this is where we’ve come. If a baby comes at the wrong time or is not convenient, or doesn’t fit in with our plans, or if it’s not perfect,  it is perfectly acceptable to kill it, even while it’s blissfully tucked away. But God sees it.

It’s the same kind of crazy psychology that allowed a sophisticated society like Germany to go along with an evil it slowly came to see as normal.

I wonder what God thinks. I think He cries,  personally. I think He weeps. I think He remembers how it all started out and how He created it perfect. Not one drop of blood was shed until we decided we knew what was best. I think He wept as He killed the animal that made the clothes that Adam and Eve wrapped around themselves as they left the gates of Eden.

I think He wanted them to know that with sin always comes death, heartache and sacrifice. But He also wanted them to know there was a way back home, and that Way came with the blood of His very own Son. God in the flesh.

There is so much beauty still in the world, sometimes I wonder how there can be. And yet, everywhere I look there are traces of Eden. And hope.

There is a way home. God holds out forgiveness as a gift to all of us who accept it. There is forgiveness for you if you have had an abortion. There is forgiveness still if you see nothing wrong with it. There is forgiveness for Dr. Walter Palmer, the dentist who killed Cecil.

And while all of Creation groans, we know it’s only temporary…….just this side of eternity, a new Earth is waiting to be born.

RIP and run free Cecil……..

And the wolf will dwell with the lamb,
And the leopard will lie down with the young goat,
And the calf and the young lion and the fatling together;
And a little boy will lead them.
Also the cow and the bear will graze,
Their young will lie down together,
And the lion will eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child will play by the hole of the cobra,
And the weaned child will put his hand on the viper’s den.
They will not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain,
For the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord
As the waters cover the sea. Isaiah 11:6-9

No Wiggle Room in the Beatitudes

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Yesterday I wrote a post. It was after I had read something that fired me up a little. But after I posted it, it didn’t feel quite right. I felt a bit unsettled the rest of the day. And a friend’s comment made me think, (Thank you Mark). Sometimes we get off track a little because we just want to say what we want to say. And sometimes all it takes is a thoughtful nudge to get us going in the right direction again.

I have since taken the post down, but the gist of it was that I didn’t think we had an obligation to pray for our leaders when they are corrupt. Rethinking that position, I think that maybe we need to pray for them even more. The reason why is because when we do that? We get fresh healing ourselves.

So today, I go back to those crowds and that dusty road where Jesus walked in the middle of the throng, and I imagine myself as the woman pressing against Him reaching for the hem of His garment. You see, she had no illusions. She knew she needed healing. Sometimes I forget I still need it to.

This morning as I leafed through the pages of my big old marked up red Bible, the one I reach for when I need to remember when it was all so exciting and new; and I heard Jesus voice ringing through the hillsides when He preached that famous sermon on the mount known as the Beattidudes.  And surprise, surprise……I found no wiggle room there when it comes to love and forgiveness. No wonder those words seemed so radical back then. They still do.

You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. Matthew5:43-45

Even Isis, Lord? Even those who might seek to do me or my family harm? Even those who misunderstand what I am trying to say, who misinterpret and twist my words? Even someone who might even kill someone I love? Even them?

The answer is always the same. Yes. We are called to love and forgive. Anything and everything. Because He did.

He forgave me everything, and He intercedes for me even up to this very day, and pours fresh grace into my life, even when I make bad choices. He has filled me with His Holy Spirit who enables me to do the impossible. I think of the laundry list of things I have neglected to do for Him, times I have turned the other way when someone who glanced my direction may have really needed a kind word.

All the things I said I would do tomorrow.

I am humbled afresh today. I think it’s possible to stand down for peace even while holding up your convictions. The Beatitudes have taught me again how far I have to go in that direction.

Holding onto His hem today……….all I need is one touch.

Jesus got up and began to follow him, and so did His disciples. And a woman who had been suffering from a hemorrhage for twelve years, came up behind Him and touched the fringe of His cloak; for she was saying to herself, “If I only touch His garment, I will get well.”……Matthew 9:19-21

I believe what I believe…….

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I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.

Who, for us men for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.

And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life; who proceeds from the Father [and the Son]; who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets.

And I believe one holy catholic and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

According to Wikipedia, the purpose of a creed is to provide a doctrinal statement of correct belief, or Orthodoxy.  The creeds of Christianity have been drawn up at times of conflict about doctrine: acceptance or rejection of a creed served to distinguish believers and deniers of a particular doctrine or set of doctrines. For that reason a creed was called in Greek a σύμβολον (Eng. symbolon), a word that meant half of a broken object which, when placed together with the other half, verified the bearer’s identity. The Greek word passed through Latin “symbolum” into English “symbol”, which only later took on the meaning of an outward sign of something.

In the year 325 AD a controversy arose whereby Arius, a Libyan presbyter in Alexandria, had declared that “although the Son was divine, he was a created being and therefore not co-essential with the Father, and “there was when he was not,” This made Jesus less than the Father, which posed soteriological challenges for the nascent doctrine of the Trinity. Arius’s teaching provoked a serious crisis.”

The Nicene Creed of 325 explicitly affirms the co-essential divinity of the Son, applying to him the term “consubstantial”. The 381 version speaks of the Holy Spirit as worshipped and glorified with the Father and the Son. The Athanasian Creed (not used in Eastern Christianity) describes in much greater detail the relationship between Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Apostles’ Creed makes no explicit statements about the divinity of the Son and the Holy Spirit, but, in the view of many who use it, the doctrine is implicit in it.

On its own, this statement of belief would be only a collection of words, however, since it is rooted and grounded in the Holy Word of God it stands forever as a unifying standard that applies to all Christian Churches. I never recited this growing up as a Baptist but when I visited other churches and they would recite it, I always loved it though inwardly I cringed a bit with the “Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church” because I thought I was being hypocritical saying that part when I wasn’t Catholic. But in this case, the word “catholic” is derived from the Greek adjective καθολικός (katholikos), meaning “general”, “universal. (Although some Catholics might disagree on that point)

This morning, millions of churches will gather together and break bread over these words. In this instance, we are totally unified despite our different denominations. I found myself saying these words this morning as a awoke, well really singing them. In the 1970s Rich Mullins wrote a tune to these very words and I played it on the way to work yesterday. Of these words he says:

And I believe what I believe
Is what makes me what I am
I did not make it, no it is making me
I did not make it, no it is making me
I said, “I did not make it, no it is making me”
It is the very truth of God
And not the invention of any man…….

Amen, dear Rich, you have been living that out with Jesus for years already. I can’t wait to meet you……..

My prayer for today:

“Oh Father, though the streams of culture and the world flow swiftly and changeably around us, Your words are like a mighty rock it swirls around. The world has its eyes turned elsewhere, but ours are forever turned to you. You are the first and the last, and your words were formed long before this world existed and they will stand for all eternity. We thank you that though everything else changes, you never do. In an unsettled world, we draw tremendous comfort from that. I pray that the church will continue be an open door for people coming in from the world battered and bruised and that we in the church might be a conduit for the great love and mercy you have shown to us. You are light in our darkness, without you, we have nothing.” Amen

Why traditional marriage doesn’t need defending

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I was going to stay silent. I thought maybe my two cents really didn’t matter. But then, I kept getting these thoughts and they weren’t going away. Usually the ones that don’t go away turn into blog posts because I feel it’s the Holy Spirit nudging me to speak. I will start with these thoughts:

Marriage is a perfect institution, made up of imperfect people.

Marriage will never go away on this earth because it was instituted by God in the garden of Eden.

Marriage is Holy.

Marriage is a physical depiction of a deeper spiritual illustration of Christ (the Groom) and the Church (the Bride)

These aren’t my ideas, they come from the Bible. That’s why marriage (and when I say that, I mean the traditional kind) can stand on its on. God started it and God will end it as well.

Jesus answered this question when He was on earth.

That same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question. “Teacher,” they said, “Moses told us that if a man dies without having children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up offspring for him. Now there were seven brothers among us. The first one married and died, and since he had no children, he left his wife to his brother. The same thing happened to the second and third brother, right on down to the seventh. Finally, the woman died. Now then, at the resurrection, whose wife will she be of the seven, since all of them were married to her?”

Jesus replied, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. But about the resurrection of the dead—have you not read what God said to you,  ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’ He is not the God of the dead but of the living.”

When the crowds heard this, they were astonished at his teaching.

So, marriage was started by God and it will be ended by God in eternity. End of story.

Marriage has really taken a beating in our modern society. I have heard it mocked, seen it twisted into all sorts of shapes and sizes and kinds. I have heard cynics blast holes in it, and I have seen people ignore it completely. I have heard the argument that it ruins a good relationship. I have seen people scoff at it and roll their eyes over it. I have seen people marry over and over again until it’s just about stripped of any meaning.  

But none of that taints the perfection or the Holiness of the institution itself.

The thing that concerns me the most about this whole debate is what it means for the future of our nation. For I still believe that a nation that supports a healthy view of the traditional family will remain strong, while a nation that loses its moral fiber will perish. (Think of Rome, for instance)

Those of us who don’t recognize the validity or right of two people of the same-sex to marry will be called all sorts of ugly things. I have already seen it. We will be labeled as hateful, bigoted, homophobic, unkind, and intolerant. Not to mention ignorant.

While those who do support it will be painted as loving, tolerant, compassionate, kind and wise.

Both sides will forget to love.

Both sides will forget that we are all in this together.

And with all this talk of love and rainbows floating across the news feeds of America and the world right now, there is really only One great love worth celebrating.

His name is Jesus, and He came to this world to defeat sin and save sinners (of whom I am chief, right along with the Apostle Paul) He was and is love personified. Love with a capital “L.”

He came down here to defeat sin and death forever, and He had to die a terrible and tortuous death meant for you and me in order to do that.

He even went to hell so we would never have to go there because He doesn’t want us to be separated from Him ever again.

That is the Love I am celebrating today and everyday. And everyday, I am grateful and in awe of His great Grace that continues to cover my great sin.

 That’s a Love worth celebrating.

Celebrating our Differences

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Yesterday on Facebook I made a statement and it was something to the effect of, “I am so glad Jesus didn’t try to put us in boxes and say, this is how you need to look to fit into my group.” Instead, He invites us to come just as we are and trust Him enough to let Him reassemble us from the inside out. We, on the other hand, like to section people off. Especially in church. Single people here, Marrieds here, 50 plus over here. It makes us feel safer I think. Maybe it’s easier than trying to figure out where they belong.

But why do we insist on “pigeon-holing” people if Jesus didn’t? When we try to put people in categories we’re comfortable with it only serves to make them feel bad when they don’t fit into the box we try to force them into. Certain men don’t know one tool from another but are made to feel like they have to volunteer for the “Habitat for Humanity” project. Certain women are great architects and designers but are made to feel like their only usefulness is baking cookies or working with children.

Jesus however, accepted people at face value, He approached people of all ages and walks of life; all different talents and abilities.  He was never put off by people’s differences, but rather met them where they were in every instance. The reason He was so effective was because when they looked into His eyes they immediately saw the depth of His compassion, His holiness, His goodness. And by contrast they saw their own sinfulness and inability to save themselves.

He gave them an immediate solution to their “sin problem.” He offered forgiveness, wholeness, reconciliation with a God they had fallen out of love with.

Last weekend I was playing my Brooklyn Tabernacle DVD…….it’s what I always reach for when I want to get a glimpse of what Heaven will be like. I see all those colors, all those ages, all those ethnicities, all those pasts. I see people, men and women in beautiful suits and dresses, all lifting their hands to the Lord because they remember what He brought them out of. Many have been homeless and addicted to drugs and alcohol. Some have been very successful in their careers and made a lot of money.

Some have the tattoos they got before they were saved, some have the tattoos they got after they were.

But the thing we all have in common is that each of us have a unique and beautiful redemption story.

It’s the life story that God records in each of our books. You know those baby books parents make when their kids are born? Well, God has one for you and me. He has kept record of our progress all through the years. And I think maybe He opens it and leafs through it because I know He makes the additions. And I think He smiles.

And when we get to Heaven, folks? I don’t think we will be prepared for what we are going to see. God is going to restore all things. That means every single animal that was part of His original design will be there. Colors we never even thought of and  beauty this world has never seen.

And every time I watch the news and catch myself saying, “Even so come, Lord Jesus?” I breathe a prayer and say, not just yet. There are still people who haven’t heard. Still more souls that need saving.

New Every Morning

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How many times in life have you said to yourself or someone else, “Man, I should have known better!” We make mistakes, we are human after all and not machines. Sometimes though, the world expects the precision of a machine. And the world is merciless…….it doesn’t care what the reason was but only that it doesn’t happen again. With the world, you may not get a second chance. But with God, each day, each moment it’s possible to get another chance. God is a God of do-overs. His mercies are new every morning. Listen to what His word says about Him:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end;
 they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
    “therefore I will hope in him……Lamentations 3:22-24

My friends……this is the Good News. God will never hold a mistake over your head the way the world does. He doesn’t keep a rolling report of all the times you’ve messed up. With Him, you don’t have a rap sheet. All you have to do is come clean, admit your mistake, your sin, your failure. And not only will He purge it from your record, He actually forgets what you did. (Unless you have the habit of reminding Him over and over like I tend to do.)

The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
    slow to anger, abounding in love.
He will not always accuse,
    nor will he harbor his anger forever;
he does not treat us as our sins deserve
    or repay us according to our iniquities.
 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
    so great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
    so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

Psalm 103:8-12

I don’t know about you, but this is quite possibly the most hopeful verse in the entire Bible. I have heard it said by others that “they never make the same mistake twice.” I am not such a fast learner. Yesterday I made a mistake at work. It was one of those, “I should have known better” moments. When I got back from break there were three people huddled around my station. That is hardly ever a good thing. By the end of the day, I was almost shaking there was so much I had to do between 5:00 and 5:40, when the oncoming Shift came in. Add to that the damage control I had to do to ensure all the powers that be that “it would never happen again.”

Today, right now, this morning I am reveling in the fact that I have a merciful God.

And after all, He’s the only One I really need to worry about.