The Problem with Freedom

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Memorial Day, 2014
I don’t know that I’ve ever given Memorial Day it’s true respect. Quite honestly, I don’t know that I can without having experienced the life of a soldier. But to the degree that I’m able to say thank you, today I honor the lives of those who fought and died for the right for us to live in freedom.

Unfortunately, I think we’ve messed up freedom for ourselves. The goal of freedom isn’t to re-enslave ourselves, but that’s what we’ve done. The goal of freedom isn’t to live in constant conflict with one another, but if you look at Washington from the lens of the media, that’s what we see. The goal of freedom, as I see it, is this: to empower life. Yet, what we have done, in many ways, is to empower death–to render freedom powerless by installing a mantra of control, the exact antithesis of freedom–rendering the lives of those who paid the ultimate price for freedom far less valuable.

When a prisoner is set free after decades behind bars, he finds freedom baffling. He finds it difficult to navigate the dozens of significant and insignificant choices he has to make daily. In some ways, it becomes preferable to default to being controlled again in order to remove the weight freedom brings. It’s the same in our lives when we choose to surrender our rights as American citizens to those who wish to decide for us what is best and what is not. When we, as a society, chose to defend freedom by sending our young men and women of to war, did we intend to negate their efforts by living in a system that surrenders it willfully?

On this Memorial Day, determine to live free. Determine to make choices that empower life. Determine to honor the lives of those who paid the ultimate price by fighting our own fight to remain free.

Defeat, Defiance or Faith

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Disclaimer: This is a top-of-mind post. It’s not completely thought through, but I wanted to get it down on paper before I lost it.

Here’s my contention – that we speak and act from one of three places: Defeat, Defiance, or Faith.

Do these three cover everything?

Probably not, but I’m going to try and make them 🙂 The other places I imagine we could categorize as the origin of our motives are fear and possibly bewilderment. But for the sake of a three-pronged title, I’m going to lump fear into defeat and bewilderment into defiance.

Defeat

The emotional and spiritual state of defeat comes with the realization that one is trapped and there is no hope for a better future. This usually looks like the man or woman stuck in a crummy job or relationship, and because of fear, has resigned himself or herself to the idea that life has peaked and it’s just time to “accept things the way they are”.

The ‘Defeateds’ have a different tone in their voice. It’s a sadness mixed with bitterness mixed with an edge that comes from someone who has chosen to accept their circumstances.

The symptoms look like a constant sarcasm, a refusal to believe that anyone is truly happy, and a distrust of those who appear to have hope in their lives. These are often the people who are depressed and use various methods to escape from reality, only to find that the escape route has further entrapped them.

The way out for the Defeateds is different for each person, but it will include sacrifice of some sort. The Defeateds feel entitled to partake of the world’s pleasures, because after all, you might as well take advantage of what makes you feel good if this is all there is. This is the ultimate form of selfishness and can only be combated by acts of conscious sacrifice.

Defiance

The Defiance stance is a mixture of denial, a leaning toward hope, and a lack of emotional and spiritual confidence in their ability. They believe that they are largely alone in the world, feel misunderstood and are willing to strive for something better but don’t find themselves reaching that point.

Defiance people may use humor to lift themselves up, but it’s a humor that rests in carnality. They have an appearance of doing well, but a little probing reveals great distress. They fit well with a crowd, have good friends, speak with an upbeat tone, but don’t experience victory over their own shortcomings.

The path out of a Defiance mode looks like surrender. They have created walls of ‘protection’ around their heart and don’t really let people inside due to the pain they experience regularly, so the path to Truth and Freedom requires forgiveness and a willingness to trust again. Healing life’s wounds may take time, but it’s possible. The only trouble is that Defiance people probably don’t realize they are deceiving themselves to survive each and every day. Only the sick need a doctor.

Faith

These people have been through Hell and back. ‘Faiths’ speak with a smile that comes from a place of deep satisfaction with life. Their circumstances have little affect on their attitude and they tend to listen more than they talk. However, when they do speak, they speak with wisdom and compassion.

Faiths are prone to looking out of place in a ‘normal’ society, but they are also leaders in their own right. Many will quietly give gifts, encourage others and find joy in the little things in life.

Their history has involved being a Defeated and a Defiance, but they have made it through and now live in a place of confident rest that God is in control. Their scars are filled with stories and their eyes understand your pain. These people will laugh a lot and cry a lot.

The Faiths’ concerns are for others, but not in a controlling way. Faiths enjoy watching others go through the process of Defeated to Defiance to Faith and understand that it’s the journey that makes being a Faith valuable. They realize that true joy comes from fellowship with everyone, regardless of their individual state and that life is about unconditional love, not ability, appearance or performance.

What Are You?

Where do you fall on the scale of Defeat, Defiance or Faith? Are you happy where you are? How do you see yourself getting from one state to the next?

Just Because He’s Good

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I’ve often asked things of God with an expectation of receiving, but only because I was going to use what he gave me for a worthy cause. As long as I was benefiting the Kingdom of God with the gifts God gave me, then I was more likely to receive good things.  I think this stems from a need to be responsible with my belongings.  Being responsible with gifts is a great thing, but they are rarely given, even in the natural, because the giver knows that the gift will be taken care of.

Bill Johnson once said of giving to the homeless that it’s not my responsibility to make sure they use the money for something good; it’s just my responsibility to give. This isn’t a post about giving to the poor, so I won’t go into my thoughts on handouts to corner-standers, but it’s about our heart and our ability to trust God to continue the good works that we began.

I have given thousands of dollars away to people, causes, organizations and the like, but I have never said, “Now, can you show me that my gift is being used wisely?” No, that’s a spirit of control. It puts an expectation of performance on the recipient, which doesn’t make it a gift, rather an investment.

God doesn’t invest in his kids. He gives good gifts. He knows that some kids will use gifts wisely, while others will squander them. Our level of healing helps determine how we deal with gifts, but our relationship with God is what he’s most concerned with.

So when I pray for healing, or I pray for provision, it has occurred to me that there’s nothing tied to a “yes” answer. It’s just free. I’m his kid and he’s a good daddy. Nothing more.

See Matthew 7, and the parable of the prodigal son

Two Opposite Truths Cannot Occupy the Same Space

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Blue cannot be red and red cannot be blue. Within the dimensions of space that humans occupy, two facts, resting on identical assumptions, cannot conflict. Science depends on this law and our lives rely on it to be true. What are some other examples? A dog cannot be a cat, a table with one leg cannot stand straight up if it’s built to have four.

Here’s another one: God’s word is truth. If our lives do not exhibit the Word of God, then we are not living out of this truth.

How many of these verses are there? John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believes in Him, shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” The truth here is that belief = everlasting life.

John 14:15 says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”

I don’t have a problem with either of these.

Here’s one: “By His stripes, you are healed.”

Now that’s a little more difficult to swallow. But in order to make the argument, the second truth must be established as fact. Many do not accept this and that’s fine. Faith comes into play when religion is at steak. I’m not going to pretend to be able to convince the skeptical reader in this single post that God’s word is truth, but here are some things to think about.

When your girlfriend looks you in the eyes and mouths the words, “I love you,” how do you know it’s true? Can you scientifically prove that she loves you? Sure, there are actions that are kind and an interdependence that exists primarily when love is present, but I could argue that other situations could include the same behaviors.

If you have ever looked at the stars on a clear night and seen the moon shine in its fullness, there’s an overwhelming sense of beauty. The sky is nothing more than a huge mass of matter, with very little pattern and symmetry. How is this inherently beautiful? But no one I’ve ever asked has said that the sky is ugly on a clear, star-filled night.

The tragedy of death is sad. My dog recently had to be put down and it was one of the most horrible days of my life. The truth of the sadness of death is irrefutable, but try to prove it to me scientifically. The fact that everyone agrees that death of a loved one is sad proves nothing. Mass agreement is not scientific.

In order to establish these truths, you have to have a common agreement of the human condition — that we are a mixture of mind, body, and spirit. Feel free to differ with me on the terminology. Some may call it soul, some may call it intellect, but the truth remains that as beings we experience unscientifically proven things every day. A reliance on pure science is to deny fact, and thus a double standard.

Now, I understand that proving the existence of one thing by explaining the existence of another is equally bad science, but I’m not trying to prove God, I’m simply hoping to open the door of possibilities.

In so doing, I hope I’ve not offended. Here’s the argument once again: Two truths cannot occupy the same space. Thus, if Earth’s truths do not always mesh with God’s truth, then we must conclude that two planes of truth exist. If both truths are irrefutable, then both must exist in different spaces.

This is encouraging. It means that in order to experience the other, we must figure out how to get to the other plane. Fortunately, we have a way of discovering how to do this. It’s called faith.

In faith, experience bows to belief. In faith, the natural cannot trump the supernatural. Here’s a verse:

Matthew 17:20. He replied, “Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

How does one without a belief in God read this and not laugh out loud? Am I saying that the literal translation of this is what was intended? Not necessarily, but neither am I saying it’s not. In faith, boundaries do not exist.

The context of this verse is where Jesus’ disciples were trying to cast out demons from a man’s son and they were unable. Jesus, frustrated with them, brought them back to a place of ministering in faith, instead of the assumption that miracles would continue because they had in the past. See, experience, even miraculous experience, is not faith. Experience bows at the feet of faith.

That begs the question: “How do we get faith?” Answer? The Word of God–God’s truth. It’s only in our entering the realm of God’s truth that we gain the only tool necessary to experience it.

So our argument now has a satisfactory conclusion. Two truths cannot occupy the same space. Our experience in life is not the only truth; it’s a truth. We have the option of experiencing another. We do that by abiding in His Word. We do that by seeking His Truth. And in our abiding, in our seeking, we will find Truth. Jeremiah 29:13.

Sarcasm Degrades Credibility

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Sarcasm degrades one’s credibility. It’s a reactionary verbal tool, not a rationally formed response. Emotional reaction will always be less powerful than rational thought.

Glen Beck needs to respond with clearly formed rational thought to the mistakes of the Obama administration in order to be taken seriously by his critics or risk the worst fate of a political opinion personality — being ignored.

The Guy’s Job

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Being single and male has its perks. We get to focus on our jobs and nobody questions it. We get to live the “bachelor” lifestyle and people expect nothing different. We also get to prepare our lives to one day include a woman in them. For many, this may not seem like a big deal, but it’s more difficult than one might image. I’ve come up with a few things that are also the guy’s job in preparing for a life that may one day include marriage.

It’s the guy’s job to seek out a woman, not who is perfect, but who has been prepared and is being prepared for this moment in time. It’s the guy’s job to discern and hear from God who He says is ready for relationship. It’s the guy’s job to see beyond beauty, beyond intelligence, beyond family, beyond wealth and look at the heart of the woman. This often takes time and patience. She is not one to be handled roughly, but with care and kindness. Her heart must be protected at all cost, her joy sought out, her ways known, her love gained. Why?

Because that’s how Jesus sees his bride, the Church. He woos her ever so gently. He looks beyond all the blemishes and sees past the hurt in her eyes. He knows she doesn’t trust easily because she has been hurt by life. Yet, he pursues. He seeks to know her, but realizes that only she can decide how much she lets Him into her life. She continues to grapple internally with her identity, but He calls her beautiful. He protects her heart by allowing her to come to Him when she is ready, always standing with open arms. He seeks out her joy by whispering kind words in her ear. He learns her ways as He watches as she move to and fro, steady and fleeting, but with a compassionate heart. He gains her love by always being there, by building trust, by finding small ways to make her smile. He loves her so.

Yes, it’s the guy’s job to love a woman as Jesus loves the Church.

When God says No

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I recently had an experience with God where I was in the middle of worship and I felt Him come down and sweep me up in his arms.  As I’m standing there in the physical with my eyes shut, hearing the sweet voices around me praise Jesus, Papa God was sitting my spirit in his lap and I could tell he was about to say something I needed to hear.

It was not a good night as far as how I felt.  My stomach hurt and I didn’t want to be at church, but it’s always so good that i figured it was worth the sacrifice to gain some holy goodness from worship and teaching.  I had also forgot to wash my socks over the weekend, so I was wearing my gray dress pants with brown, ankle-high socks.  So add to the experience of not feeling well being slightly embarrassed of my fashion feau-pau (sp?).

As I sat there in Papa’s lap, not feeling well, He leaned in close to my face, stared lovingly into my eyes and said, “I’m not going to heal you.  I love you more than anything, but I’m not going to rescue you from this illness.”  My analytical mind raced to process the implications of such a statement.  My mind raced, “Does this match my theology??  Does it even make sense???  What about the words that I’ve received about being healed??

Then I forced my mind to shut off and simply listen.  My theology isn’t important when He speaks.

But I wasn’t fearful.  I wasn’t angry.  My heart knew that He needed to say that because He’s the only one I could hear it from and believe.  As those words begin to sit in my soul and penetrate the barriers of analytical thought, teachings and experiences with others, it started making sense.

What is one of my hang ups with spending time with God?  Why don’t I trust Him to do what He says?  Why do I have trouble obeying, stepping out on faith, and forgiving my own father?  Because I have set the expectation that He must heal me from Crohn’s disease in order for me to fulfill the destiny that HE has put in my heart!!  Does God heal?  Absolutely.  Am I sick and in need of a miracle?  Yes.  Is it possible for God to redeem the years of pain and agony and sorrow that I’ve gone through with a divine touch to my body?  Most definitely.  So why would He say that He’s not going to heal me?

My spirit knew at that moment that He was calling me out.  If I was going to wait for a miracle, I would never step out until He did what I expected Him to do.  The healing would lead to greater expectation and further disappointment.  If I take the miracle off the table, I’m now free to do what I know He has put in me without feeling betrayed and utterly alone. I can know that He is with me, that He loves me totally and completely, that He’ll show up when I ask Him to, but that I cannot control His timing, His will and His sovereign grace.

It’s a redefining of grace.  What I thought looked like a miracle, He thinks looks like me discovering the greatness He has put inside me through the Holy Spirit.  His grace looks like me putting that one thing that I deserve, that miracle of healing, because ‘it’s His nature’, and stepping out into the unknown with a faith that is once again complete.

What if when God told Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you”, God was saying, “It is because I AM Grace that I allow you to suffer. You need to put aside your expectations and do what I’ve put in your heart to do”?   That verse is very controversial, and I don’t claim to have it figured out, but I leave open the possibility of this interpretation. Like a butterfly who needs to wrestle its way out of the cocoon in order to build up the strength to fly, perhaps I need to fight my way into the destiny that God has set before me to build up the character, perseverance and wisdom to stand firmly in the place He has prepared for me.

WOW!!!  My father isn’t going to rescue me because He finally sees in me the ability to come out of it myself!!!  How amazing is that!  What a privilege to be able to use my imagination, discover new ways of depending on Him, and learn what the Father’s heart is really like.

Suddenly, I thought of all the things that I’ve put off because I’ve been waiting for God to heal me.  Ministry, counseling, businesses, marriage… and tons more that I can’t think of.  Maybe it’s okay for life to be difficult.  Maybe I don’t need things to line up the way I expect them to in order for me to walk out my destiny.  Maybe, just maybe, God doesn’t have to heal me for me to believe that He loves me.

Thank you, Jesus, for your grace.  The pain I undergo isn’t something You want, but I believe that You see purpose in my ability to step into a greater level of ministry without being rescued.  I ask you for the wisdom, the patience, the confidence and the discipline to obey to the glory of your name.  Amen.