I’ll always be a poser. A loser at heart. The inside is broken. The outside’s a frame. I do it all in Jesus’ name. Fame brings no fortune. And fortune, no fame. The elements twisting. Aligning the game. Run for the hills in Jesus’ name. I’ve always been homeless. A wandering soul. Jealous of nothing. Yet wanting it all. Find contentment in Jesus’ name. Peace brings no freedom. And freedom, no sleep. The contention still lives. It always remains. Til’ the trump sounds in Jesus’ name. Can you value the future? Surrender the past? Love what’s leftover? Relinquish the masks? Just lay them down in Jesus’ name.
I’ve had to learn, Not every love comes with an expiration date, Not every heart comes filled with unrecognized rage, Not every kind word hides secrets full of hate, And fate does not control what God creates. If He is love then love is good regardless of the pain. Perhaps the good is better once the hurt has filled our veins. Maybe love is worth more than we can explain. God gave us hearts that break. And grace to put them back together again. I’m relearning love, and it’s better than it was Because love is more than fairy tales and pretty songs, beating hearts simple thoughts. It’s bigger than castles and kingdoms demons and dreamers roses and poems and old dusty speeches. It’s stronger than iron colder than frozen glass and burns like the summer sun. It’s laughter and tears, turmoil and fear. It’s incredibly happy and unbelievably sad. It’s anger and madness. It’s faithful and kind when things are bad. It’s tough in the struggle, a light in the dark. A whisper in the wind, a hand holding tight when the worst possible news steals your breath and holds it like a vice. Love forgets to remember and remembers to forgive when it does. That’s the paradox of love. It confronts and contends without controlling or pretending. It speaks up but never down. But most of all, it casts out fear. It just throws it out. It wrestles and fights and grabs it tight sometimes from morning to night until finally, perfect light. Suddenly, with flashes of godly light love shines so bright all traces of darkness vanish beneath its might. Finally, fear is forced back to Hell from whence it came.
POST ALERT – this won’t help if you’re not willing to look at it objectively.
“I don’t feel connected and a part of the church…”
As a pastor, one of the things I hear often is, “I’m thinking about leaving because I don’t have any friends, and I don’t feel connected to the church.”
I agree that some churches don’t have a healthy culture, making it hard to connect. However, I want to approach this from the one perspective that we have the power to change, and that is, we may be the reason we’re feeling disconnected.
I want to say not to offend anyone, but if you are offended, it may be that there’s a hurt that needs to be healed, or it may be an indication of something in you that needs to be changed.
Things that affect our ability to connect…
1. Personalities – if you’re shy and don’t push yourself to get out of your comfort zone and be friendly, it will affect how connected you feel.
2. Time – if you don’t make the time to stay and fellowship you’re never going to build relationships.
3. Involvement – if you’re not involved in any ministry in the church, you’re never going to feel connected to it.
4. Faithfulness – if you’re always hit and miss and rarely come to church, you’re more of a visitor than a member, and you’ll have a difficult time connecting.
5. Attitude – if you allow yourself always to be the victim, you’ll for sure feel disconnected, and it will affect the way people perceive you (full-time victims are a drain and are hard to connect with).
6. Mindset – if you’re resistant to church culture and don’t operate outside of your few friends, it will be challenging to feel a part of the church.
7. Doctrine – if you don’t align your life with what the church teaches and believes, you’ll naturally struggle to fit in with the rest of the body (how can two walk together except they agree?).
Hard questions that require honest answers…
1. Are you faithful to church? Be honest.
2. Do you come late and leave early?
3. When you’re there do you show yourself friendly?
4. Do you go out of your way to talk to people or wait for them to come talk to you?
5. Do you ever invite anyone out to eat after church or decline when others invite you?
6. Are you involved in any ministry?
7. Do you attend church dinners and fellowships or avoid them?
8. Do you go to any church events outside of regularly scheduled services?
9. Will you fellowship with anyone or does it have to be a certain select group of people or no one at all?
10. Do you wear your feelings on your shoulder and are you easily offended?
Observations about friendships and connections in the church…
1. Everyone, at times, due to circumstances and changes in life, will not feel as connected as they want to be – this even includes pastors and pastor’s wives – but don’t quit.
2. Friendships, and feeling a part, requires time and effort on our part – we can’t refuse to work at relationships and expect them to just happen on their own.
3. Getting connected will only go as far as you’re willing to go – the church has many opportunities for people to fellowship and get involved, we just have to do it.
4. People who leave a church because they don’t feel a part will almost always get to the next place and feel the same way – the truth is, in spite of all our excuses of why it’s not us, we’re usually the problem.
5. All our arguments and justifications of why we don’t feel connected don’t change the facts – it may or may not be us, but whatever it is we need to be willing to look at it objectively if it’s ever going to get better.
6. The church is full of people just like you that would love to be connected – believe the best in yourself and in others and I promise you’ll start to feel like you belong.
Humility is one of those challenging things to teach, write, or speak about because anything said sounds exceedingly, shall we say, not humble? I’ve written rather sterilely about humility here, here, and here. However, looking back, the realization washes over me that I was writing theoretically from head knowledge rather than from practical experience. To be plain, I was pridefully writing about the importance of humility. Arrogance is an interesting component of the human experience. For example, there is a mythological, nearly universally held belief that arrogance is exclusive to the rich, the powerful, the famous, the intelligent, and the beautiful. This is not so, pride is not a respecter of persons, and it will happily trap the poor, the weak, the silly, the obscure, the ugly, and the witless.
Pride is not a respecter of persons, and it will happily trap the poor, the weak, the silly, the obscure, the ugly, and the witless.Tweet
Most alarmingly, pride initially creeps into a heart like undetected cancer, attacking the healthy cells and gradually gaining greater and greater control. Like cancer, many suffer from pride long before they realize it is even in their system. The longer pride has been allowed to fester without confrontation, the more intensive the treatment process becomes. Furthermore, the certainty of a complete recovery becomes less and less assured as pride silently attacks more vital areas of the soul. Early detection can mean the difference between spiritual destruction and deliverance.
Pride initially creeps into a heart like undetected cancer, attacking the healthy cells and gradually gaining greater and greater control. Like cancer, many suffer from pride long before they realize it is even in their system.Tweet
Without being too personal, this past year (really longer) has been the most painful season of my entire life. Agonizing pain, absolute rejection, abject betrayal, and total disappointment leave an individual with a profound sense of powerlessness. The desperation that ensues leaves no room for pride. It’s almost as if God surgically removed every cancerous tumor of pride from my soul without warning or anesthesia. At first, I treated God like I treated my heart doctor as a child prepped for a fourth open-heart surgery. “Why are you hurting me?” I’d shout indignantly towards the heavens. God responded just like that doctor, “I’m trying to save your life, but the process is painful.”
There are two spiritual results of humility that we typically overlook. One, genuine humility produces desperation that encourages complete dependence upon God. Two, desperation and absolute dependence upon God set the stage for a freakish (almost nonsensical) level of faith that activates the miraculous. Oddly, humility and desperation are much closer cousins than we typically realize. And, humility and desperation are the foundation of almost every major miracle described in the Bible.
Humility produces desperation that encourages complete dependence upon God. Desperation and absolute dependence upon God set the stage for a freakish (almost nonsensical) level of faith that activates the miraculous.Tweet
Oddly, humility and desperation are much closer cousins than we typically realize. And, humility and desperation are the foundation of almost every major miracle described in the Bible.Tweet
Recently, a respected friend enlightened my thinking regarding a perplexing faith enigma in the ministry of Elijah. The enigma is this: Why would Elijah have the faith to confront the prophets of Baal and call down fire from Heaven only to flee from Jezebel and sink into suicidal despair moments later? What changed? Why the drastic difference from one moment to the next? I believe there are two reasons, but I’ll only share one now, and I’ll save the second reason for another article. We tend to think of Elijah’s showdown on the mountain as an act of confident superhuman faith. But, I think the text and the context support the thesis that Elijah was acting out of an absolute dependence that gave him no choice but to completely put his faith in God. In other words, Elijah reached a place of such deep desperation that he realized God was going to do it or he was going to die praying for God to do it.
It is not paradoxical to say that faith and despair are tightly connected in the realm of the miraculous. God does not respect desperation without faith, but faith without desperation is rarely genuine faith. I know that it takes a minute to get your head around, but Scripture overwhelmingly supports this concept. Psychologically speaking, the connection between desperation and the miraculous makes a great deal of sense. We do things we would never otherwise do when we are dangling from the end of our rope, looking down at the jagged rocks below. When we have nothing left to lose and everything to gain, we become willing to do what God has been telling us to do all along. Tepid levels of faith resist the voice of God when it thinks it still has other valid “less crazy” options.
It is not paradoxical to say that faith and despair are tightly connected in the realm of the miraculous. God does not respect desperation without faith, but faith without desperation is rarely genuine faith.Tweet
Scripture emphasizes how the woman with the issue of blood spent everything she had and tried all the “reasonable” avenues before desperately touching the hem of Jesus’ garment. Peter had nothing to lose when he stepped out onto the water. If Jesus didn’t intervene, he was likely going to die anyway. So, he stepped out onto the sea with desperation induced faith. When Moses stretched out that rod towards the Red Sea, he had no other choice but to trust God or die. Every leper that Jesus healed was already an outcast and freak in society, so they had nothing to lose by running to Jesus. What did blind Bartimaeus have to lose by ignoring the critics and screaming for Jesus to stop and have mercy upon his situation? He had nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Three and a half years of drought. No revival or repentance. Elijah was lonely, righteously indignant, and bone tired. Those were the perfect ingredients for a freakish act of faith, like publicly calling down fire from the sky. Sometimes it takes a certain level of indifference towards the miracle. An attitude of almost spiritual recklessness that says, “Lord, I’m trusting you with the impossible, and if I end up looking foolish… who cares!”
Three and a half years of drought. No revival or repentance. Elijah was lonely, righteously indignant, and bone tired. Those were the perfect ingredients for a freakish act of faith, like publicly calling down fire from the sky.Tweet
Sometimes it takes a certain level of indifference towards the miracle. An attitude of almost spiritual recklessness that says, “Lord, I’m trusting you with the impossible, and if I end up looking foolish… who cares!”Tweet
Think of the humility it took for the three Hebrew boys to say, “God can save us from the fiery furnace, but even if He doesn’t, we will not bow to the king’s idol.” Almost every major act of faith comes down to the willingness to do something utterly crazy, believing that God can do anything, but inwardly determining that even if God doesn’t, you will still do the right thing. It’s nearly impossible to have that mindset until every drop of pride has been drained from your soul.
Freakish faith and desperate dilemmas are almost inseparable. You’ll likely never tell a mountain to move out of the way in Jesus’ name unless you are desperate beyond words to get to the other side. You won’t pick up your bed and walk until you stop caring what people think about you. You won’t let Jesus rub mud and spit in your blind eyes until your pride is dead. Prideful prayers don’t move God. Prideful praise offends God. But humble, desperate, freakish faith calls down fire and closes the mouths of lions. And just when everyone thinks your freakish faith has finally gotten you killed, you will answer from the pit like Daniel:
“…O king, live forever. My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions’ mouths, that they have not hurt me: forasmuch as before him innocency was found in me; and also before thee, O king, have I done no hurt. Then was the king exceedingly glad for him, and commanded that they should take Daniel up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no manner of hurt was found upon him, because he believed in his God.”Daniel 6:21-23
Freakish faith and desperate dilemmas are almost inseparable. You’ll likely never tell a mountain to move out of the way in Jesus’ name unless you are desperate beyond words to get to the other side.Tweet
You won’t pick up your bed and walk until you stop caring what people think about you. You won’t let Jesus rub mud and spit in your blind eyes until your pride is dead.Tweet
Prideful prayers don’t move God. Prideful praise offends God. But humble, desperate, freakish faith calls down fire and closes the mouths of lions.Tweet
Royal veins flow through my blood. It pumps and drips and falls and floods. Like a saga, it journeys on never stopping to hear the song. And if I could quiet the noise in my ears the melody could take me far away from here, and every mistake, every twisted trace. But for now, this throbbing pain is all through my brain, it fills my thoughts like a sinful stain, it melts my heart without a trace.
The ache is real but the hurt is fake, and it’s all I can do to stay awake. But I have resolved to pray and pray until these demons have gone away.
Would you do more if you could see your fears like tangible things springing into your atmosphere? Or would you cower into the shadows like an overgrown child running from faith like it was out of style? These are the questions we ask when we have too much time, too much space, and too much at stake.
The ache is real but the fear is fake, and it’s all I can do to stay awake. But I have resolved to pray and pray until these demons have gone away
Twisting grace has become the norm for some and now everyone’s soul is on the run. Every turn brings a brand new pain and every valley leads into a deeper place. Until mountains are dimly lit memories from another space, and time that won’t return, until we learn to turn back to the Son that saved us all with blood, and nails, and wood, and grace. We forgot that place as we traveled along never stopping to sing the song.
The ache is real but the fear is fake, and it’s all I can do to stay awake. But I have resolved to pray and pray until these demons have gone away.
And away they’ll go if I can keep the faith, walk in the light and not the gray. But strange voices pull and they tug, nameless faces call my name from dimly lit places on every lane. The strain is strong as I pull away back into the light of day.
The ache is real but the fear is fake, and it’s all I can do to stay awake. But I have resolved to pray and pray until these demons have gone away.
Twisting grace has become the norm for some and now everyone’s soul is on the run. Every turn brings a brand new pain and every valley leads into a deeper place.Tweet