Untangled

The last thing any of us like to see is pile of jewelry all tangled up together into one big glob with all the pieces practically indistinguishable from each other. We look at all the knots and twists and turns, and we’re ready to give up before we’ve ever started. What was beautiful has somehow morphed into an absolute disaster, one nerve away from a trip to the garbage can.  HEEEEEELLLP!! Usually, someone with a lot of patience and some time can salvage the jewelry fiasco. But what about our lives?

I remember a time when I looked at my life, and I seriously doubted that it could ever be “untangled.” I had made such a mess of things. Potential and promise had been destroyed. The years of pain and addiction had wound around me, extended into the lives of my family and friends, and insinuated its chains into every facet of my world. One giant knot of hurt. I hated the sound of my own voice and doubted that God could or even would  help. Hopelessness.

I began to cry out to the Lord, desperate pleas to a God I thought I knew:

 God please, just get me right and then kill me before I can screw it up again! I don’t care what it takes; put me in prison, give me cancer, please just somehow get through to me! Jesus, I want to know you, not what they told me you were like, but YOU!!

He heard my cry. And with great love and patience and care and mercy he began the process of untangling all the knots- healing, restoration, and reconciliation. He saved me, and he’s still saving me today. Salvation! God, taking our death and giving us his life, untangling it all in Jesus. HOPE.

You have not gone too far.

Advertisements

1:51

Unto you O Lord do I lift up my soul.

I will seek Your face for you are continually before me.

How wonderful it is that I awake to find you calling me,

Extending to me Your steadfast love.

 

It is Your faithfulness my God that keeps me,

          Your strong right hand that upholds me.

And though I cannot see my way before me,

You, O Lord, know the path that I should walk.

 

I entrust to you my family, their perpetual care.

I know that you love them perfectly.

My wife, my children, my mother, brother, my in-loves,

All whom you have given to me I commit into Your hand.

 

 

As for me, I will dwell in the secret place of the Most High.

I will call upon the name of the God of my youth, the Faithful One

Who has sustained me even as I walked through the darkness.

I will trust in the God who hears my cry and delivers me.

 

I know that your intentions towards me are good.

Let me regard You in faithfulness.

May I not sin against You with an evil, unbelieving heart.

For I have seen you power and received Your tender care.

                                                   I know that You are with me.

 

I will sing praises to you upon my guitar.

I will magnify the name of my God before creation awakes.

In the stillness of the hour I will greatly rejoice.

Unto You alone will I sing.

For I know that you are with me.

 

Operation Cold Heart

And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold.

One of the most if not the most tragic signs of the end of the age is one we tend to overlook the most-hearts in which love has grown cold. The Christian heart, indwelt by the Holy Spirit is to be ablaze with love for God and love for others. But as we witness the strategies of the Evil One being played out across the land, we understand that perhaps his primary goal is to replace the flame of a heart filled with the love of God with the icy resolve of love for self.

True agape love as it is understood within the context of the Trine God is always “other than.” The Father says of the Son, “Your throne, O God, is forever.” The Son says to the Father, “I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.” The Spirit glorifies the Son as God’s love is poured out in our hearts, and we cry, “Abba!” And then ultimately we see God’s “other than love” realized in the person of Jesus who gave himself for and to us. This heart of humility, preference , and sacrifice as seen in Christ is to burn within us. We are to have the same disposition as was found in Jesus who, “though he was God, did not demand and cling to his rights as God, but laid aside his mighty power and glory, taking the disguise of a slave and becoming like men. And he humbled himself even further, going so far as actually to die a criminal’s death on a cross.” This is a heart on fire with love! A stark contrast to the cold, self-centered heart we see on display in many who name the name of the Lord today.

Now the Holy Spirit tells us clearly that in the last times some will turn away from the true faith; they will follow deceptive spirits and teachings that come from demons.

Sadly, even now many of us are being deceived and have grown cold as deceptive spirits and demonic teachings insinuate themselves into our hearts. One characteristic that is always present in a heart grown cold is the emphasis on “my, me, and mine.” As lawlessness increases the heart can be taken captive by “causes, movements, and things.” The sad result is a heart that once burned with the love of God and others becomes a cold heart that loves itself more than anything or anyone.

Fortunately, when it comes to “Operation Cold Heart,” we have been provided with a fullproof defense: “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.”

I Know A Man

I know a man who knew from the time he was a little boy that there was a God who loved him and that he was called to share His word.

I know a man who as a child experienced abuse and abandonment.

I know a man who as an adolescent began to turn from the Light and descend into darkness.

I know a man who abandoned his family, his mother, his brother, and his own children.

I know a man who was a thief.

I know a man who was a liar.

I know a man who was a murderer, taking the life of his own unborn child.

I know a man who stayed locked in a room for days, staying high, drunk, ranting and raving like a madman.

I know a man who has participated in unspeakable acts of perversion.

I know a man who could not buy food to eat.

I know a man who sat in a parking lot for two days, with no money for a spare tire, until a stranger showed him kindness.

I know a man who in his brokenness was forsaken, written off, and left for dead…

BUT:                                                                              

I know a Man who is God.

I know a Man who bled and died.

I know a Man who is eternal life.

I know a Man who sought out the wanderer and cared for his wounds.

I know a Man who said to the forsaken, “I love you; you are Mine.”

I know a Man who forgave the liar, the thief, the murderer.

I know a Man who fed the hungry.

I know a Man who said to the immoral, “I don’t condemn you. I have come to set you free.”

I know a Man who said, “I will NEVER leave you, abuse you, or abandon you.”

I know a Man who heals broken families.

I know a Man who restores to the hardened the tenderness, awe, and wonder of a child-like heart.

I know a Man they call Jesus.

 

A Choice Between Trees

In our brokenness, we have become estranged from Love. All that is left to us now are but shards of a shattered reality which cut and wound us even as we embrace them. Thorns and thistles, the sweat of the brow remind us that “knowing,” apart from Love, yields a harvest of death. “Where are you?”

Apart from Love we cover our nakedness with shame and guilt, seeking desperately to hide behind a fortress of lies. Approaching footsteps ring echoes of terror as our new found insanity warps the very fabric of creation and distorts the image of Love’s intentions. “I heard you coming and was afraid.”

Our proximity reveals our betrayal. Love’s embrace is exchanged for a self imposed exile which foreshadows the hell of separation and fatality of realized appetite. Shuffling feet and the assignment of blame become the posture and vernacular of creatures who have willfully abandoned their place in Love. ‘”What have you done?”

In his brokenness, Love removes our estrangement. He was cut and wounded as he embraced the shards of our shattered reality. A crown of thorns and thistles, the blood of his brow remind us that only in knowing Love can we have true life.

No One But You

Lord, here I am down on my knees
and I lift my voice to you
Humbly I pray show me your glory

All I can imagine could not compare
to what I’ve found in you
Oh how I need your grace and your mercy

How I hunger for you Lord
How I thirst for you my Lord

There is no one but you, no one but you,
no one but you Jesus for me
There is no one but you, no one but you,
no one but you Jesus for me

What words can I bring that would describe
all you are to me
You are my light and my salvation

When I was dead and lost in my sin
your cross availed for me
You gave your love with no hesitation

How I hunger for you Lord
How I thirst for you my Lord

There is no one but you, no one but you,
no one but you Jesus for me
There is no one but you, no one but you,
no one but you Jesus for me

You are all my heart desires
Let me burn with your holy fire
Lord, I give myself to you
There is nobody, nobody, no one for me but you

There is no one but you, no one but you,
no one but you Jesus for me
There is no one but you, no one but you,
no one but you Jesus for me

Looking, Loving and Speaking

“And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him…” (Mark 10:21)

How often do we really look at people? In our “I have 5,450 friends on Face Book” culture, it is so easy to not look at each other. Oh, we’re quick (especially us preachers) to tell people how they should live, what they should and should not do, where they should and should not go, etc…; but do we take the time to truly look at the folks we’re talking to? In reading Mark 10, I was struck by the way Mark described Jesus’ reaction to the “rich young ruler.

The young man had come to Jesus, curious as to how one goes about gaining eternal life. The conversation was not too intense at first. Jesus tells him, “You know the commandments.” The young man replies, “I’ve kept those all of my life.” And then, instead of immediately launching into “You need to do this” or “You need to do that,” Mark tells us that Jesus looked at him. So often, we spout off spiritual prescriptions to people without taking the time to ask God to help us see them as He does. We have become a society of people who prefer surface level relationships, and very rarely take the time to go deeper. We spend hours looking into the computer screen, but have a hard time looking into each other’s eyes. Check out the progression in the verse above: Jesus looked, and then he loved.

How can we love people we don’t look at? I believe if we would slow down, pray for wisdom and discernment, and ask God to help us see people by his Spirit; we would be able to truly love them. Jesus looked at the young man in our verse, and he loved him! True spiritual insight will move us to respond from a heart of genuine love and concern, instead of a desire to hear the sound of our own voices. Like Jesus, if we would but look, and let God fill our hearts with love for those to whom we would minister, we would then be ready to meet the real need in their lives. Only those who look and love can discern what it is that a person needs to hear. Remember, Jesus looked, loved, and then spoke.

Sadly, I must confess that there have been times when I loved the sound of my own voice more than the person to whom I was speaking. I just couldn’t wait to offer my “two cents worth,” and probably what I said did more harm than good. Jesus, motivated by love for the young man in our verse, clearly saw the area of need in his life, and addressed it with laser precision. People don’t need flippant, trite, prepackaged responses; they need our attention and love. Jesus was able to be brutally honest with our young man because he loved him. He saw the man’s heart, which revealed the man’s need, and then, with love and clarity, provided the answer to his initial question.

If we really want to connect with people and truly minister to them, I think perhaps we should remember: look, love, and then speak.