Working through my frustration at God

This morning I went on a run in the rain.  Not super fun, but once you get into it and warm up a bit it’s not THAT bad.  The weather was fitting for the state of my soul.  Very frustrated.  I pray when I run…and as I did I found myself beating around the bush with God, as if He doesn’t know my heart better than me anyway!  Honestly, I was frustrated at God.  First off, we need to know that it’s ok.  Frustration is a secondary emotion to something deeper….pain, confusion, disappointment.  The Important thing is what we do with our frustration.  Have you ever been disappointed with God?  Are you now?  I was disappointed with God this morning because I always seem to come back to the same basic struggles…ruts of sinful & self-centered patterns that sabotage me from the inside out.  So why was I frustrated with God?  Because He’s God, and He’s supposed to fix me right?! 

Sometimes all of us get frustration, angry, even enraged at God because He doesn’t overcome the natural limitations that He has setup in this world…whether it’s in our own hearts, or in the fallen world we live in.

I was angry at God because I want Him to do a miracle in my life, and deliver me from my crap so don’t keep making the same mistake.  I was reminded that the Apostle Paul wrote:

“I don’t want anyone to think more highly of me than what they can actually see in my life and my message, even though I have received wonderful revelations from God. But to keep me from getting puffed up, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from getting proud.  Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My gracious favor is all you need. My power works best in your weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may work through me. Since I know it is all for Christ’s good, I am quite content with my weaknesses and with insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.  (2 Corinthians 12:6-10)

So I kept running out the stink in my soul, and began feeling better…more relaxed knowing the God is indeed with me in my journey through this short life. 


Sex is not a toy

Sexuality is by far one of most powerful forces inside of us.  It’s supposed to be, we were made that way by our Creator .  That being said, everything that our Heavenly Father creates has purpose…and sex is no different.  As a father of teenagers, and a still-recovering teenager myself, I am thoroughly disgusted by the denigration of one of God’s most precious and holy gifts to men and women by those who would make it merely a toy…a pleasure to indulge in, like a piece of cake.  We live in a culture where sex is practically idolized as a goddess, we just don’t have it attached to a mythical “Ashera” or “Aphrodite.”  Biblically, sex was created to be such a wonderful, special, holy glue between a husband & wife that they would spend their whole lives exploring & enjoying it together… hoping never to get over the bond it creates as it interconnects their very souls.


When God made me, He made me ______

Answer this question about yourself:
“When God made me, He made me _________________.”
Fill in the blank with that one, timeless attribute of you that is the most immutable, timeless, persistent aspect of your personality throughout your entire life.  Avoid the temptation to fill the blank with something you would like it to be, or something religious.  The answer needs to be totally primary for it to be worth anything…something deeper than any behavior…morally neutral.  For me, it’s the word “rebellious.”  That may surprise you, because it doesn’t sound morally neutral…but it all depends on what you’re rebelling against and the effect the rebellion has on the world around you. Ask anyone who’s known me for most of my life and they’d likely agree that “rebellion” has been a common theme with me…for better or for worse.  That’s the point I want to make.  So often, we don’t appreciate who God has made us to be, the gifts He’s given us; so we spent our lives frustratedly trying to be someone else, instead of embracing His intention for our quirkiness and letting Him use it for His purposes.
Now, just as all of God’s greatest gifts can be used either for good or evil, to elevate self or others, to make matters better or worse; each of us has the ability to wield our gifts as instruments of God’s plan to bring beauty and love and unity in the world.  Or not.  God grants us the gifts as well as complete control of how they will be used in our lives, their influence on others, and the world we inhabit.

The Apostle Peter wrote, “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.  If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.”  (1 Pe 4:10-11)
So…..who are you?  And what does God want to do in you and through you?

Moments of Peace

These words really inspired me today…written by my new friend John Garrick:

“Peace is a state of mind and spirit that occurs when I align myself with a loving, creative and ever present God who delights in interacting with His kids. And at that moment, His unconditional love and redemptive work through Christ overshadows my penchant to fix on the temporal, uncontrollable circumstances that bend my trust and hope toward my own limited capacities and capabilities. Although I cannot fully understand it, I embrace it.”


believe or BELIEVE

What does it mean to “believe in God?”  Does it matter? Does it make a difference, or is it just a non-confrontational way of saying “I believe there is a God out there but my idea is no better than your idea so let’s not fight about it?” Is that really believing?  What did Jesus mean when He said the word “believe?”  What did the Apostles and eyewitnesses mean who recorded his Words & peoples’ reactions, and gave us phrases and meanings that were meant to completely transform our lives?  In my opinion, there is a huge chasm of difference between what we mean when we say “believe” and what Jesus and the Apostles mean when they say “BELIEVE in scripture.”

I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and BELIEVES him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. (John 5:24)

Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who BELIEVES in me will never be thirsty.  (John 6:35-36) 

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever BELIEVES in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:16-17) 

If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and BELIEVE in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you BELIEVE and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, “Anyone who TRUSTS IN HIM will never be put to shame. (Romans 10:9-11) 

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God…This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. (1 John 5:1-4)

Perhaps, as a Jesus-follower, if I am experiencing inner-condemnation and shame, it’s because I’m not truly believing that I am forgiven and free from the power of sin.  Or if I’m losing the struggle against my own thirsts and desires, it’s because I’m not fully believing that the satisfaction and peace I seek can only come through Jesus. Or if I’m not overcoming the word – but being absolutely beat-down & buried by it – it’s because I’m disobeying God’s way…and thereby relying on my own strength rather than the mighty power of Jesus in me.
“Belief” in the Bible is translated from the same root as the word “faith” – “To put one’s trust in”, “to be committed to.”  Biblical BELIEF breaks the chains of injustice, makes sacrifices, loves the unlovely….leans heavily on Jesus in the ebb & flow of life, just as much as a surfer depends on his board to stay afloat and ride the wild surf!  This kind of BELIEF is totally focused on Jesus and His priorities for our lives, rather than how we can USE HIM to improve our comfort or status.  How is this kind of BELIEF different from the dismissive kind of “belief” we so often fall into when we proclaim Jesus with our lips but deny Him by our lifestyle?  
Let’s believe Him today.

This Is The Secret Of Happiness

The secret is that happiness, the way this world defines it, is that you’ll never find it by seeking it…It’s a mirage that pales in comparison to the JOY that is found in relationship with the God who made you and loves you.

This is not about being pessimistic or negative, it’s about being real and transparent…and taking God at His Word.  We cannot ultimately find lasting happiness in this life.  But what we CAN DO is experience JOY that is anchored beyond it into the realm of its Almighty & Loving Creator!  That’s how God set it up, and created us.  But it doesn’t seem like most people want that answer, so they end up chasing after alternatives…one after the other…in a never ending cycle of disappointment.  Many of us naturally spend our lives going from one thrill to the next, or burrowing deep into one bottomless pit, because God built us that way so that we would seek Him and His Kingdom.  This is the true adventure…the macro-story and meaning of the whole world!  It’s kind of like the Matrix, but again, most people don’t see it, and don’t want to.  This is essentially why people get into drugs, have affairs, and cheat on their taxes.  They’re looking for something else to fill the void.  Because we think we need more of something to make us happy.  I can say from personal experience, after smoking lots of pot in my teenage years, that the freewheeling sensation of being high never fulfilled what I really needed.  And I had to keep doing more of it to feel the same way.  We all have little false gods, and struggle with them every day.  I am so thankful that, in my 16th year of life, I discovered a truth that set me free!  The truth is that this world is just a stepping stone to eternity…a test…a practice run.  But it’s rigged because the world is broke, and so is the heart of every one of us:

“The creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. (Romans 8:20-22).”

 “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? ‘I, the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve.” (Jeremiah 17:9-10)

OK, don’t stop reading….this is the GOOD NEWS!

“We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do….Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it….For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?  Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!…Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.” (Romans 7:15-8:4)

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers….What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?….We are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  (Romans 8:28-39)


The Death Of Church?

Yesterday morning, my family and I visited the last Sunday morning service of Potter’s Hands Christian Church…a congregation we helped to start from 2003 through 2006.  It was a bitter-sweet morning for sure!  We reconnected with lots of old friends & kids who had grown; and we saw & heard many memories from our past.  It felt like a cross between a reunion and a funeral.  It was a chance to honor & celebrate what God had done through the past 11-years of a vision, but it also had the taste of death to many people who still called that congregation ‘home.’  The closure, in short, was the result of struggles in leadership, involvement & finances over the past several years….which had finally came to a head…so they had to ‘close the church.’  My heart went out to those people, many of whom I labored with years ago…but I also found myself hearing a lesson that the Holy Spirit desperately wants us to learn in American churches…that Church is not an institution or occasion…it’s the people, not what we do when we gather on Sundays.

For me, it’s a travesty that 70-80 people who love God and each other, who are bound together as a spiritual family, can’t find a way to continue following Jesus together without having a traditional worship service led by paid staff in a rented facility.  This underscores a chronic problem that is closing the doors of American Churches at the highest rate in our nation’s history…when push comes to shove, we instinctively believe that church is a religious organization, rather than a sent people…that worship is singing praise songs once a week in a sequestered environment, rather than following Jesus every day in a messy world…that organization and leadership dictate the existence of a congregation, rather than existing to empower a group of people to impact society in ways that could never be directed or controlled.  This is not what Jesus and the Apostles meant when they said the word ‘Church.’

I hope and pray that I’m not coming across as cold & jaded….I sincerely care about those people and the legacy we share together in Christ.  But I’m tired of hearing about, and experiencing, congregations closing their doors in disillusionment while the harvest fields are white all around us.  We need to reevaluate who we are and what we’re doing if we’re going to be effective in the Mission of Jesus.  Founding pastor Sean Thome’ returned to PH to preach yesterday, in what I think was the best sermon he ever preached.  He reminded us that it all comes down to 3 things: Remaining in Jesus, loving each other, and producing fruit.  I think there’s a multitude of ways that communities of faith (aka ‘churches’) can pursue these simple, foundational aspects of following Jesus together.

Dear Church that was/is Potter’s Hands, I am praying for you that the Living God will indeed encourage you and empower you to be His Church….you are not dead!


Darkness Does Not Exist

Did you know that?
Think about it….what is darkness?  It’s not a thing, it’s the absence of a thing: LIGHT.
And cold….again, the absence of something: HEAT.
Hatred….the absence of LOVE.

Why is this important?  Because it’s a great metaphor for God inside us…in the world around us…and the way His truth & love interact with us in this fallen, broken world. We tend to throw lots of time & energy into things that don’t exist….and wonder why we struggle with anger & depression & disillusionment.  If we fail to invest into those things that offer light and heat in a dark & cold world, then we will end up seeking false hopes…trying to find peace & contentment & meaning in people, things, activities that will never give them.  If we react to the lovelessness inside us by turning against those who hurt us, we fall prey to the trap of bitterness and hatred.  In the end, all these things are mirages, shadows cast by untruths.

The way of Jesus is often opposite to our instincts & impulses:

  • ”Find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them…But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible…Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. (Ephesians 5:10-16)
  • “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21)
  • “You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. (Galatians 5:13)
  • “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 sons of your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:43-45)

Gluttony of the Spirit

Quote of the Day: “A glutton is one who raids the icebox for a cure for spiritual malnutrition.” Frederick Buechner

Oddly enough, I really needed to see this today.  Odd because I keep myself in super-good shape, race in running & triathlon event, but really struggle with food cravings.  Not cravings like, once in awhile I like sweets or junk food….but cravings like “standing at the kitchen counter at 11pm eating as many chips as possible for 15-minutes before my conscience can catch-up to tell me to stop” cravings.  Why do I do that?  I don’t like how it makes my stomach feel for about the next 18-hours, I don’t like the weight gain, I don’t like the feeling of being out of control….I LOVE the taste, but a few chips would fix that.

This is where my subconscious mind…what the Apostle Paul calls the sinful nature…struggles against the voice of God within me.  Not that eating chips is sinful…food is a small thing in comparison with other, larger issues in life…and enjoying chips, sweet treats, and other pleasures is just fine!  BUT when that obsessive switch within me turns, it becomes something unhealthy; and it connects to the bigger stuff in my life as well….and pulls the focus of my spirit away from depending on God for peace & comfort, and instead seeks solace in a convenient but insufficient counterfeit.  What, exactly, are “urges?”  Why do we have them?  What do they mean, in the eternal scope of things?  They are echoes of the larger battle within us between living for God and living for Pleasure… Today’s reading is Galatians 5:16-25:

“I advise you to live according to your new life in the Holy Spirit. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. The old sinful nature loves to do evil, which is just opposite from what the Holy Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are opposite from what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, and your choices are never free from this conflict. But when you are directed by the Holy Spirit, you are no longer subject to the law.

“When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, your lives will produce these evil results: sexual immorality, impure thoughts, eagerness for lustful pleasure, idolatry, participation in demonic activities, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, divisions, the feeling that everyone is wrong except those in your own little group, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other kinds of sin. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.

“But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Here there is no conflict with the law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. If we are living now by the Holy Spirit, let us follow the Holy Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.”