What have you done?

In the Lion King movie, Scar orchestrates the death of Mufasa and he is successful.  After Mufasa died, the first to arrive on the scene is his son, Simba.  While the shock of his father’s death is sinking in, Scar arrives and asks Simba.  “What have YOU done?”

When rejection comes into our lives, the first thing most people hear is that sentence.  “What have you done?”  Somehow you are responsible for the rejection.  We clothe ourselves with what happened.  As a rape survivor said awhile back.  “What is wrong with me!!  I must be fucking defective!!”  Somehow we find a way to make it our fault.  We cover ourselves with sadness and gloom.  Guilt.  Shame.  Humiliation. 
Many of us experienced this in school.  Kids can be exceptionally brutal.  During counselling a young lady started to pull her hair out.  She had beautiful red hair.  She hated them.  She bared the brunt of the teasing in her school.  One day she looked in the mirror and heard a voice telling her it is because she has red hair that everybody treats her this way.  It was her fault.
Some of us experienced rejection in the church, where a sinner was unexpectedly found.  “Oh, the horror”.  Let’s crucify him/her. 
Then there is the slow death of loneliness.  It creeps up on us.  In the background, the voice remains.  “What have you done?  This is your fault.”  You are not special, enough.  You bear the burden.  You carry the load.  This is yours to keep.  You are ALONE. 
We hide.  We play is the dark.  We cover up.  Outside we are “fine”.  We smile.  We’re OK.  But on the inside we are ALONE.  We scream to a God that does not hear us.  Why should He?  Why would He want to love me anyway?  (We need a reason to be loved.). 

I experienced this.  We moved a lot and in one of the schools I was bullied.  While playing one day, I was shoved down an embankment.  Got 5 stitches in the leg for that one.  But the bullying was more psychological than physical.  One of my teachers died on my birthday.  He was hit by lightning.  The children accused me and told me it was my fault that he died.  I did not understand what was happening.  What did I do wrong?  I was 12 years old.  We moved a year and a half later.  By that time I valued friendship a lot.  But in the new school a friend betrayed me and that was the end for me.  I remember walking around and took a grim oath that I will never open up to anybody again.  I WILL smile.  I WILL look happy.  In a way I killed who I was.  But one thing I knew for certain.  I was not special.  So I became everybody’s friend.  Blending into the background.  I was there for people, but never allowed people to be there for me.  I knew who I was.

In our second year at university we went on a Christian camp.  God, The Father, came to me and told me, He loved me.  Not only that, He likes me.  I rebelled.  I told Him He was out of His mind.  I can understand Him loving all the other people, but me? No way.  Why the hell would He want to?  Did He not know me?  Did He not know that I was a nobody?  I was “defective”.  I told Him to leave me alone.  It took 4 of those camps to crack my walls.  God, The Father, came and opened my heart to myself.  It was terrible.  He spoke of stuff only I knew about.  After that I had no place to hide.  This was between Him and me.  I broke down.  “You win, Father.  I don’t know why, but You love me.”  It was the most wonderful lost fight in my life.  He gave me these verses. (Put your own name in the place of Joshua)

Zec 3:1  In another vision the LORD showed me the High Priest Joshua standing before the angel of the LORD. And there beside Joshua stood Satan, ready to bring an accusation against him.
Zec 3:2  The angel of the LORD said to Satan, “May the LORD condemn you, Satan! May the LORD, who loves Jerusalem, condemn you. This man is like a stick snatched from the fire.”
Zec 3:3  Joshua was standing there, wearing filthy clothes.
Zec 3:4  The angel said to his heavenly attendants, “Take away the filthy clothes this man is wearing.” Then he said to Joshua, “I have taken away your sin and will give you new clothes to wear.”

In life, we usually hear 2 voices.  One accuses and takes us away from God.  The other one takes us towards God.  The one that leads us back to God, can sometimes be more frightning.  It takes us out of our hiding place.  It takes us out of the darkness.  It causes us to be vulnerable all over again.  We bring this “mess”, called “I”, to God the Father.  Trust that has been burried gets out of the grave.  He sees you.  Runs.  Pick you up.  There is a silence.  You don’t know what to say.  A sob escapes from somewhere deep.  You cannot stop it.  The dam breaks and you cry.  You cry for the pain.  You cry for the lost years.  You cry for yourself.  Suddenly there is a wail above your crying.  You look up.  He cries with you.  His tears are like raindrops.  He holds you tight.  Rocking back and forth.  Time passes.  After what feels like an eternity, He puts you on your feet.  Suddenly there is a loud thunderous clap.  You look up.  You look in His eyes and you know.  You will never look down again.  Never again will you hide.  Love begins to flow into you. 

Suddenly the accuser is back.  “What have you done, he shrieks?”  You turn to him.  You look him in the eye.  Does it matter?  I am loved by the Father.

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My faith heroes (parts 2+3)

Corrie ten Boom and her sister Betsie

Corrie ten Boom was born on April 15, 1892 in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, the youngest of four children.  Her father was a well-liked watch repairman.  Corrie followed in his footsteps and began training as a watchmaker in 1920 and in 1922 became the first female watchmaker licensed in the Netherlands.  Their home was always an “open house” for anyone in need.

In 1940, the Nazis invaded the Netherlands.  By 1942, Corrie and her family had become very active in the Dutch underground, hiding refugees. They rescued many Jews from certain death at the hands of the Nazi SS. They helped Jews because of their veneration for God’s Chosen People and even provided Kosher food and honored the Sabbath.  They were betrayed and the Germans arrested the entire Ten Boom family on February 28, 1944.  They were sent first to Scheveningen prison (where her father died ten days after his capture.  He was 84 years old), then to the Vught political concentration camp (both in the Netherlands), and finally to the notorious Ravensbrück concentration camp in Germany.  It was in the concentration camp where espesially Betsie’s faith began to shine. 

Corrie sometimes was very tempted to hate all the cruel men around her, particularly the guard who made life extra hard for them. Betsy constantly told her, “No hate, Corrie. Don’t look at it. You know you can only give it to Jesus.”  Oftentimes, Corrie would hear her sister say “I feel so sorry for them,” or “May God forgive them.” It only took a moment to realize that Betsie was referring to their enemies. At first, Corrie didn’t understand this compassion for the very people that were mistreating them. But, as time went on, faith took the place of fear and Corrie understood.  Life in the camp was almost unbearable, but Corrie and Betsie spent their time sharing Jesus’ love with their fellow prisoners.  Many women became Christians because of Corrie and Betsie’s witness to them.

Betsie saw a vision and described it to Corrie. In it was a concentration camp – not the one where they were, but another – becoming a place of refuge for all who had endured as they had, that they might be free. She also described an elaborate house, much bigger than the one she and Corrie grew up in, that would be used for the same purpose. And she saw in the vision that both of them would be free before the New Year.  Betsie told Corrie of her plans to start a camp for people to find healing from the scars caused by the concentration camp. Corrie listened and planned to make this dream come true…knowing that Betsie would be by her side.

Betsie died (aged 59) in the hospital before the New Year.  Three days after Betsie’s death, Corrie heard her name read out over the loudspeaker; and she was told to stand to one side.  She was also released before the New Year. She found out that just one week after her release, all the women her age were taken to the gas chambers.

Four of the Ten Boom’s lives were lost due to their commitment, but Corrie came home from the death camp.  She realized her life was a gift from God, and she needed to share what she and Betsy had learned in Ravensbruck:  “There is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still” and “God will give us the love to be able to forgive our enemies.”  After the war, Corrie returned to the Netherlands to set up rehabilitation centers. She returned to Germany in 1946 to help the German people.

She became a missionary, traveling the world, living out of a suitcase until she was 85 years old.  She visited more than 60 countries telling people of God’s love and forgiveness.

She died on April 15, 1983, her 91st birthday. She was said to have been happy about dying on her birthday because she could “celebrate it with the Lord”.

What Corrie did for me.  She had a childlike faith is God.  She is an example how far God’s love and forgiveness goes.  A good storyteller.  I think what impressed me the most was her age.  She experienced the horror of concentration camp aged 53.  She is always direct about God’s love.  When I look at her , I see someone like a child, faithful following God.  She showed me God in all circumstances.  She gave me a chance to visit the world through her eyes.  She put me in touch with the worldwide church.  She made my world larger.  The whole Ten Boom family showed me that I cannot sit back when evil comes into people’s lives.  I’ve often asked God why Betsie died in the camp.  She was the one with the “stronger” faith and love.  To me it seemed “wrong”.  Betsie’s life however is a testimony that the love in our hearts can, in effect, outlive us.  Her love was so real that she never “left” Corrie and she changed people’s lives for the better long after she died.  And she did it, only by loving Jesus.  Will the same be said of me?  Only time will tell.

You can read her story in “The hiding place”.  She also wrote “Tramp for the Lord”.  I suggest chapters called “one finger for the glory of God”, “music from broken chords” and “love your enemy”.

Quote
“We must go everywhere, and tell everyone.” There is no pit so deep that He is not deeper still.”  Betsie stared into her sister, Corrie’s eyes, with the pure love that she was.

My faith heroes (part 1)

I have 4 faith heroes, well actually 5, but one was not written about a lot.  All of them are dead for us here on earth.  But they probably keep God busy a lot.  Well one of them anyway. 🙂

Let me introduce them to you in no particular order.

Keith Green
He was born October 21, 1953.  If you know nothing about him, he wrote the hymns “O Lord, You’re Beautiful” and “There Is A Redeemer”.

After becoming a Christian he and his wife, Melody, purchased the home next door to their own to provide housing and care for prostitutes, drug addicts, and the homeless.  Later they rented five more to do the same.  In 1979 Keith surprised many by refusing to charge money for concerts or albums.  Keith and Melody mortgaged their home to privately finance an album called “So You Wanna Go Back To Egypt.”  The album, which featured a guest appearance by Bob Dylan, was offered through mail-order and at concerts for a price determined by the purchaser. In May 1982, Keith had shipped out more than 200,000 units of his album – 61,000 for free.  They started Last Days Ministries and began publishing a newsletter that was sent out to 300 000 people worldwide.

Keith died July 28, 1982 in a plane crash with two of his children, three year old Josiah, and two year old Bethany along with 8 other people.   He was 28 years old.

I heard one of his songs on a compilation album and went “What?”  I was hooked.  He had an obvious love for God.  He was intense, fiery and he challenged me with his songs and with what he said.  His music was not prettiest, but it was beautiful.  Listen to psalm 23 as he renders it.  His songs were a mixture of happy, sad, serious, playful and sometimes downright scary.  (The sheep and the goats.)  He sang with emotion and it touched everybody listening to his songs.(The prodigal son).  His music is a reflection of what was happening in his life.  And through his life and music, he gave words to what I felt in my heart.  I think the biggest gift he gave me was emotion.  To follow God not just with my head, but with my heart as well.  My closed up heart started to feel.  He gave me a steely determination to follow God, no matter what.  He helped me to ask uncomfortable questions.  For that I will always thank him from the bottom of my heart.

Here is a few of his lyrics.

Make my life a prayer to You

Make my life a prayer to You,
I want to do what you want me to,
No empty words and no white lies,
No token prayers, no compromise,
I want to shine the light you gave,
Through Your Son, you sent to save us,
From ourselves and our despair,
It comforts me to know you’re really there.

Oh, I want to thank you now, for being patient with me,
Oh, it’s so hard to see, when my eyes are on me,
I guess I’ll have to trust and just believe what you say,
Oh, you’re coming again, coming to take me away,

I want to die, and let you give,
Your life to me, so I might live,
And share the hope you gave to me,
The love that set me free,
I want to tell the world out there,
You’re not some fable or fairy tail,
That I made up inside my head,
You’re God, The Son, you’ve risen from the dead.

Song To My Parents

I need to say these things cause, I love you so,
And I’m sorry you get angry when I say that, you just don’t know,
But there’s a Heaven waiting for you and me.
I know it seems every time we talk I’m only trying to just make you see.
And it’s only that I care, I really only want just to see you there.

Please try and overlook my human side,
I know I’m such a bad example and you know I’m so full of pride.
But Jesus isn’t like that, now He’s perfect all the way,
I guess that’s why we need him, cause by ourselves, there’s just no way.
And it’s only that I care, I really, really only just want to see you there.
To see you there.

Open Your Eyes

Open your eyes to the world all around you, open your eyes, open your eyes.
This world is much more than the things that surround you.
You must arise, and open your eyes.
Sometimes we’re too busy to share, but Jesus wants to care, to care.

Open your arms to the naked and shivering, open your arms, open your arms.
We need a little less taking, a whole lot more giving.
We’re so safe and warm, we can open our arms.
And love a little bit stronger, and pray a little bit longer, longer.

Jesus says, when we love someone in His name, we’re loving Him.
Jesus says, when we touch someone in His name, we’re touching Him.
And we’ve got to show them the light, we’ve got to pour out our lives.

Open your hearts to the ones who are desperate,
open your hearts, open your hearts.
They may never repay you, but their souls are worth it,
The life you impart when you open your heart.
Jesus loves all men the same,
So we’ve got to go out in His name.

If you do not have it, go and buy his music.  It is one of the best investments you will ever make.

A word or two

Hi, just to say I’m sorry that I do not write more often.  As I’ve said before, I tend to be sceptical and cynical when it comes to talking about Jesus. (All the talking, and talking and talking gets us where?)  The past 2 weeks I’ve been feeling a little melancholy.  Please pray for me.  Pray that I will find the words that is in my heart. 

thanks

Grace

My favourite musician is Keith Green.  This is the lyrics for a song called “Grace By Which I Stand

Lord, the feelings are not the same, I guess I’m older, I guess I’ve changed.
And how I wish it had been explained, that as you’re growing you must remember,

That nothing lasts, except the grace of God, by which I stand, in Jesus.
I know that I would surely fall away, except for grace, by which I’m saved.

Lord, I remember that special way, I vowed to serve you, when it was brand new.  But like Peter, I can’t even watch and pray, one hour with you, And I bet, I could deny you too.

But nothing lasts, except the grace of God, by which I stand, in Jesus.
I’m sure that my whole life would waste away, except for grace, by which I’m saved.

But nothing lasts, except the grace of God, by which I stand, in Jesus.
I know that I would surely fall away, except for grace, by which I’m saved. 

Thank You Jesus!!

Wild Abandon

When it comes to stories, Mike Yaconelli is a great storyteller.   This is the one I enjoyed the most.  It is a retelling of a story by Bill Harley and was told on National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered”.

It is the story of a young girl who ended up breaking the rules, rejecting the expectations of all around her, because she loved with abandon. Here is her story:

Last year, my young son played T-ball… .Needless to say, I was delighted when Dylan wanted to play…. Now on the other team there was a girl I will call Tracy. Tracy came each week. I know, since my son’s team always played her team. She was not very good. She had coke-bottle glasses and hearing aids on each ear. She ran in a loping, carefree way, with one leg pulling after the other, one arm windmilling wildly in the air. Everyone in the bleachers cheered for her, regardless of what team their progeny played for.

In all the games I saw, she never hit the ball, not even close. It sat there on the tee waiting to be hit and it never was. Sometimes, after ten or eleven swings, Tracy hit the tee (in T-ball, the ball sits on a plastic tee, waiting for the batter to hit the ball, which happens once every three batters). The ball would fall off the tee and sit on the ground six inches in front of home plate. “Run! Run!” yelled Tracy’s coach, and Tracy would lope off to first, clutching the bat in both arms, smiling. Someone usually woke up and ran her down with the ball before she reached first.  Everyone applauded.

The last game of the season, Tracy came up, and through some fluke, or simply in a nod toward the law of averages, she creamed the ball. She smoked it right up the middle, through the legs of 17 players. Kids dodged as it went by or looked absentmindedly at it as it rolled unstopped, seemingly gaining in speed, hopping over second base, heading into center field. And once it reached there, there was no one to stop it. Have I told you that there are no outfielders in T-ball? There are for three minutes in the beginning of every inning, but then they move into the infield to be closer to the action, or, at least, to their friends.

Tracy hit the ball and stood at home, delighted. “Run!” yelled her coach. “Run!” All the parents, all of us, we stood and screamed, “Run, Tracy, run, run!” Tracy turned and smiled at us, and then, happy to please, galumphed off to first. The first base coach waved his arms ’round and ’round when Tracy stopped at first. “Keep going, Tracy, keep going! Go!” Happy to please, she headed to second. By the time she was halfway to second, seven members of the opposition had reached the ball and were passing it among themselves. It’s a rule in T-ball—everyone on the defending team has to touch every ball.
The ball began to make its long and circuitous route toward home plate, passing from one side of the field to the other. Tracy headed to third. Adults fell out of the bleachers. “Go, Tracy, go!” Tracy reached third and stopped, but the parents were very close to her now and she got the message. Her coach stood at home plate calling her as the ball passed over the first baseman’s head and landed in the fielding team’s empty dugout. “Come on, Tracy! Come on, baby! Get a home run!”

Tracy started for home, and then it happened. During the pandemonium, no one had noticed the twelve-year-old geriatric mutt that had lazily settled itself down in front of the bleachers five feet from the third-base line. As Tracy rounded third, the dog, awakened by the screaming, sat up and wagged its tail at Tracy as she headed down the line. The tongue hung out, mouth pulled back in an unmistakable canine smile, and Tracy stopped, right there. Halfway home, thirty feet from a legitimate home run.

She looked at the dog. Her coach called, “Come on, Tracy! Come on home!” He went to his knees behind the plate, pleading. The crowd cheered, “Go, Tracy, go! Go Tracy, go!” She looked at all the adults, at her own parents shrieking and catching it all on video. She looked at the dog. The dog wagged its tail. She looked at her coach. She looked at home. She looked at the dog. Everything went to slow motion. She went for the dog! It was a moment of complete, stunned silence. And then, perhaps, not as loud, but deeper, longer, more heartfelt, we all applauded as Tracy fell to her knees to hug the dog. Two roads diverged on a third-base line. Tracy went for the dog.

Two roads diverged in this little girl’s life. One is the road of rules and expectations, the other is the road of love. The roads of our lives are much the same. Will we go for the safe, predictable road of rules and expectations? Or will we go for the One we love, Jesus, who bids us come with wild abandon?

Need I say more?
 

The love of God (part 3)

 In Rom 8:38 -39 Paul says the following:

For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,  nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 As you all know by now, I like Brennan Manning a lot.  This is what he has to say on these two verses.

The question which the gospel of grace puts to us is simply this: Who shall separate you from the love of Christ? What are you afraid of?
Are you afraid that your weakness could separate you from the love of Christ? It can’t.
Are you afraid that your inadequacies could separate you from the love of Christ? They can’t.
Are you afraid that your inner poverty could separate you from the love of Christ? It can’t.
Difficult marriage, loneliness, anxiety over the children’s future? They can’t.
Negative self-image? It can’t.
Economic hardship, racial hatred, street crime? They can’t.
Rejection by loved ones or the suffering of loved ones? They can’t.
Persecution by authorities, going to jail? They can’t.
Nuclear war? It can’t.
Mistakes, fears, uncertainties? They can’t.


The gospel of grace calls out: Nothing can ever separate you from the love of God made visible in Christ Jesus our Lord.  You must be convinced of this, trust it, and never forget to remember. Everything else will pass away, but the love of Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Faith will become vision, hope will become possession, but the love of Jesus Christ that is stronger than death endures forever. In the end, it is the one thing you can hang onto.

Thank You Jesus!

When I am weak (part 3)

 Peter, do you love Me?

In Matthew 16, Jesus tells His disciples that He is heading for the cross.  Peter, who was impulsive and loved Jesus a lot, did not want the cross to happen to Jesus.  Jesus was not too impressed with Peter.

Mat 16:21  From that time on Jesus began to say plainly to his disciples, “I must go to Jerusalem and suffer much from the elders, the chief priests, and the teachers of the Law. I will be put to death, but three days later I will be raised to life.”
Mat 16:22  Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “God forbid it, Lord!” he said. “That must never happen to you!”
Mat 16:23  Jesus turned around and said to Peter, “Get away from me, Satan! You are an obstacle in my way, because these thoughts of yours don’t come from God, but from human nature.”

The cross of Jesus was also a cross for Peter.  Peter was a loyal friend.  He was a 100% friend.  He was prepared to use a sword to defend Jesus.  But somehow Jesus did not want to be defended.  Jesus took the sword out of his hands.  A few hours later Peter found himself totally out of his depth.  The religious scholars accused his Friend of stuff, he knew was not true.  What could he do?  How could he help? He was a fisherman for crying out loud!!  Jesus should be defended!  But what will he say?  Will they listen to him?  “Something, anything, please God please!! I have to do something!  They are going to kill my Friend.  Please God, not this.  Anything, but not this!”

Unexpectedly something happens, he was not prepared for.  “You are one of His disciples, aren’t you?”, comes a voice from behind.  Suddenly self-preservation kicks in.  “Am I willing do die with my Friend?  Should I stand with Him till the end?  Make my stand with Him?”  I think those few seconds must have felt like eternity for Peter.  Perhaps he had the following thoughts.  “What the hell happened between yesterday and today?  I am not prepared for this!!  Why is Jesus allowing this?  He calmed the storm for crying out loud!!”

“No, umm, I do not know Him”

Are you sure?

“Yes, I’m sure”

I’ve seen you with Him.

“Listen you stupid people.  Leave me alone!  I never met this Man!  I DO NOT KNOW HIM.”

In the background a rooster crows and Peter knows.  He betrayed his Friend.  He thought he was Jesus’s best friend.  But now, what was he?  Who was the man called Peter?  A BETRAYER.  A FAILURE.  A DESERTER.  He ran away and cried like a baby for a very long time.  I think the day after Jesus died, could have been the worst day in Peter’s life.  Then he had time to think things over.  “I could have done this or that.  I should have.  I wish I was dead.  Why God, why?” 
What about the second day after Jesus died?  “Oh no, here comes John and Luke.  They found me!  What if they had heard what I said?  I will be known as a betrayer forever!”

On the third day there is an empty tomb and rumors that Jesus is alive.  I think Peter possibly hoped Jesus was not alive.  What would he do if Jesus was alive?  How could he possible look Him in the eye after what has happened?  A week later, Jesus suddenly appears to all of them.  Peter probably stayed in the background.  No jumping ahead in the queue this time.  Jesus talks about sending, receiving the Holy Spirit and forgiveness and then is gone again. 

No angry words.  No accusations.  Forgiveness?  “Could I be forgiven?  Surely not.  If only I could see Him one more time.”

“We’ve been fishing all night and nothing.  What is the man on the beach saying?  Throw the net out on the right side of the boat?  Great, another nut.  WHAT? It’s the Lord!  I have to know.  I have to know, NOW!  This boat is to slow.  I cannot afford to lose Him again.” 

“HERE PETER, HAVE SOME FOOD.  EAT WITH ME.” 
“He wants to eat with me.  That means I am forgiven!!”
  I think if there was one moment in Peter’s life that he would have remembered, it would have been that one. 🙂

Jesus asks Peter three times.  “Do you love Me?”  Three times Peter says “yes”.  I think Jesus asked Peter three times because of what the cross did to Peter.  Peter was not the same man.  He was no longer the world’s best friend.  He was no longer the man he was 2 weeks ago.  He met himself and it sucked.  Big time.  Could he ever again say anything with assurance?

But Peter had to know that broken people are capable of love.  Broken people love, not because they are so wonderful, not because they are so steadfast, not because they are so trustworthy, but because Jesus loves them.  Never again could Peter point to himself as an example to be followed.  He could only point to Jesus, the Lover of us all.

p.s.  It is interesting to note that Jesus tells Peter in John 21:18-19 that Peter is going to die for the glory of God.  After Jesus says this to Peter, He says, “Follow Me!”  Legend has it that Peter was crucified about 34 years later.  Peter got a second chance to be with his Friend at the cross.  He must have been smiling.

When I am weak (part 2)

Yesterday, I talked about the cross and strengths.  This post is a continuation of that.  Unfortunately there are people that give me the creeps inside the church and this post is aimed at a select few in the church today.  It’s going to sound angry.  Sorry, but this can be put under ranting. 🙂 And as always, I am generalizing.

For those who are strong in self-discipline, self-control, willpower, determination, purpose, reason, explanation, rationalization, resolve, doggedness, revelation, perseverance, urgency and resolve, I have a special message for you. 

The cross is NOT something that you can “make” happen.  It is NOT a place where you can “just” come and lay down your live because you choose to.  It is NOT a place where you can put up the good fight.  It is NOT a place where you are an example for all to follow.  It is NOT a place where you can give easy answers. 

So please stay away from people that are struggling.  You have no idea what they are going through.  And if you are near them, keep your trap shut.  You are on holy ground. 

For most of you, moments of the cross is a bump in the road.  Something that you overcame.  It did not lead you to trust in the Father, but it served in making you stronger.  You used what God has given you, and it paid off.  You are now an example to be followed.  You came through.  Be like me, is your motto.  And you use the words “JUST” and “ALL” a lot, as if everything is as simple as what you’ve experienced.  “JUST pray more.”  “ALL you have to do is to trust the Father.”  “JUST ask God for more faith.”  “ALL you have to do is to praise God more.”  “ALL you have to do is to let go of the past.”

Can anyone tell me what is wrong with the following picture?  We have a lady.  Let’s call her Joanne.  She is beautiful.  She is married to a wealthy broker.  She does not have to work.  She has a good figure because she goes to the gym daily and she has a personal trainer.  Her 3 children are quite bright.  They go to one of the best private schools in the country.  Her eldest, a daughter, is thinking of becoming a doctor.  The second, a son, is very good at athletics.  And her third, also a son is enjoys the piano a lot and is academically gifted. 

Now we have a second lady.  Let’s call her Vicky.  Her husband does not really have a regular job.  Mostly a handyman, but he tends to drink a lot.  Vicky never recovered her figure after her 3 children.  She works in a bar.  Her eldest, a son, decided to drop out of school.  The second, a daughter, struggles with her weight and is not popular at school.  Her third, a son, is generally a happy child, but a little on the “slow” side.  Vicky is a little depressed.  Recently she started to go to church.  When possible, she attends a small group.

Joanne and her husband look after the welfare of the small groups in the congregation.  They visit different small groups to determine what kind of help is needed.  One evening, Joanne visits the group where Vicky attends.  Vicky finally has enough courage to share her struggles.  After listening to her, Joanne turns to her with the following words.

“EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE OK.  ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS TO TRUST GOD.”

All of us struggle at the cross, but not all of us die there.  Some have been gifted with inward strength and has used that strength to escape the cross.  Maybe it is only me, but I find easy answers of the escapees insulting. 

Moments of the cross are NOT something to be bypassed.  Moments of the cross are NOT a nice idea.  Moments of the cross are NOT a place for the successful.  

So when you draw near to a person who is struggeling, take of your shoes be quiet.  God is busy. 

When I am weak (part 1)

We all have strong points and limitations.  Strong points are the stuff that we depend on to get us through life.  Some people have a strong will.  Others have determination.  Some are analytical.  Some stay calm in difficult situations.   Weak points usually tend to be our Kryptonite.  It could be anger.  Or inaction.  Perhaps laziness.   

Personality tests usually show us what our strengths and inadequacies are.  My strengths are stuff like I’m easy-going, faithful, reliable, relatively unaffected by my environment, reserved, peaceful and generally self-content and kind.  Add to that a few others like consistency, being relaxed, rational, curious, observant, dry sense of humor, compassionate, good listener, determined and gentle. 

My weaknesses are that I have difficulty sharing my feelings, tend to be to idealistic, indecisive, selfish, lazy, careless, sarcastic and resists change.  I resent being pushed.  I get extremely frustrated with people that dwell on trivialities.  Add to these the shadowside of each strenght and there is a lot of stuff to repent of. 🙂 

The thing is, I’ve always considered my weaknesses as the stuff that made God sad and angry and it is those things I should struggle against.  And it is this constant, everyday battle.  Add to this our hidden sins, and we have a lot of fighting everyday.  The Bible tells us to be vigilant.  We have to put on the whole armor of God.  And in the background we hear the refrain that says:  This is not how a Christian should look.  This is not how a Christian should act.  This is not how a Christian should respond.  So we try to be better.  To be pleasing to God.  We do our best.  During this struggle, we have our strong points to help us.  We look at them as our gifts that God gave us to help ourselves and others.  We fall back on what makes us strong.   

There is only one problem.  It is not our weaknesses that are the main barrier between God and us.  It is our strengths.  They are the things we depend on to get us through.  We use them to plan our lives.  We fall back on them when life gets tough.  They make us look “not broken”.  What is left when our strengths are taken away?  What will we give Jesus when nothing is left?   

Jesus said in Mat 16:24.  “If any man would come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” 

The cross has to do with dying.  It involves the whole person, and “yes”, that includes our strengths.  Are you experiencing a “place” where you are hopeless?  Where all your plans are as dependable as walking on quicksand?  Where your strengths are crumbling?  Well, that is usually a place where we can either surrender, or keep fighting to keep us alive.  Usually we fight with every fiber in our being to stay alive.  With surrender, we come to a place where we have to trust our Father.  It is a place where we, like Jesus, will ask “where is God?”  But like Jesus, it is a place where we will say, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!!”  The cross is a place of surrender, trust and rest and dying.  It is the worst place to be.  It is the best place to be.  It is a place that frees us from ourselves.  It is a place where God is found in disappointment, failure, frustration, collapse, and disillusionment. 

That includes being freed from what makes us strong.