All I gotta say is Jesus told you so.
I finished up Harry Potter 5 a couple of weeks ago, and there was this one discourse between Dumbledore and Harry that stuck out to me so much that I wanted to share it with you:“Do you see, Harry? Do you see the flaw in my brilliant plan now? I had fallen into the trap I had foreseen, that I had told myself I could avoid, that I must avoid.” “I don’t -“ “I cared about you too much,” said Dumbledore simply. “I cared more for your happiness than your knowing the truth, more for your peace of mind than my plan, more for your life than the lives that might be lost if the plan failed. In other words, I acted exactly as Voldemort expects we fools who love to act. “Is there a defense? I defy anyone who has watched you as I have – and I have watched you more closely than you can have imagined – not to want to save you more pain than you had already suffered. What did I care if numbers of nameless and faceless people and creatures were slaughtered in the vague future, if in the here and now you were alive, and well, and happy? I never dreamed that I would have such a person on my hands.”
I find this to reveal what I find myself feeling so often when working with youth. Sometimes the full truth is as tough to tell as it is to hear. As a spiritual leader I hate talking about hell or the truth of what will happen to a youth if they continue on the path that they’re on or telling a parent the truth about what their teen has been up to. A partial truth is at times so much easier, but undoubtedly, you’ll end up with a regret-laden discussion with the one you withheld the full truth from – like Dumbledore. It’s just another symptom of the part of our fallen nature that doesn’t want to ruffle feathers and just be a man-pleaser. I want to be a spiritual leader known for my integrity – known for the fact that I’d rather be a God-pleaser than a man-pleaser – no matter how hard the “full” truth is to tell.
“Earn this.” These are Captain Miller’s last words to Private Ryan in Saving Private Ryan, one of my absolutely favorite movies. If you’ve seen the movie, you know that these 2 words are the burden that the veteran Ryan has to bear as he nears the end of his life. He wanted to know if he had lived a good life, a life that was worthy of the men who died to save him. If I were in his shoes, I know I’d never feel like I had lived up to that request. And I think we all see that Miller’s plea is justified.
Then, I think of Jesus’ death. What if He had looked at you as He breathed His last breath, and said, “Earn this”? No person could ever earn the death that He went through. That’s the most beautiful thing about salvation. We can’t earn it, and we don’t have to earn it. Could He have said this? Yes. He had every right to. But instead, He died and defeated death by resurrecting and offers us this victory out of grace and mercy. But I still find myself working for His approval, working to earn the blessings that are in my life. Humanity is programmed to work and earn the things we have. I think this goes back to God telling man after the curse that he would have to work in order to take care of himself and his family. We work for our paycheck. We work for our spouse’s and friends’ approval. We work to impress people. Even when people give us gifts, we want to think that we deserve it. Gifts aren’t earned. But we even want to earn the gifts we get. And it’s all about pride. But for salvation we have to lay down all our pride and just give up our desires to earn what God freely gives. So God’s plea isn’t “earn this”. It’s “accept this”.
We Want Your Soul
A neat little music video that challenged me. So many things call for our attention in this life. What’s really important?
Here is about 20 minutes of Drew Marshall on the 100 Huntley Street program. I had never heard of either of them until today (props to the Weary Pilgrim). But this is some of the best “Christian” TV I’ve ever seen. There are 2 reasons I really appreciate this segment. First, it’s funny and profound all at the same time. And it’s pretty much all unintentional and catches the hosts a little off guard. You can sense the uncomfortability (if that’s a word). Tension just about always makes for great TV. Second, what Drew says resonates strongly with me. All the “dressings” of the American church are probably ugly in the eyes of God. I remember hearing pastors ask, “If Jesus came to your house, what books, magazines, movies, etc. would you hide?” as if the appearance of our home is really that important to Him. I don’t think Jesus would give a rip. And even if we did hide that stuff, He’d know what and where it is. If Jesus actually did come to my house, I’ll admit, I’d go crazy making my house look nice, but I think that’s a weakness and flaw. Certainly not a strength or a sign of holiness. We’re so concerned about what people think of us. We have to present just the right image. But like I said, I don’t think Jesus would give a rip. He always, always, always dealt with the heart – the inside of the man and never the outside (Matt. 23:25-28). All I gotta say is, “Ouch, that hurts!” It’s certainly a struggle. I want people to think I’m holy, but I’m not – I struggle and I fail, but as Drew said, “He’s never given up on me.” Thanks, Drew.
I’ve participated in innumerable discussions about politics. And when I say “about politics”, I mean about government, law, policies, political candidates, people who hold public office – just about any topic that could possibly come up in regards to politics. And today, I just have to say that I hate politics. I haven’t always hated it. In fact, I would say that I used to be addicted to it. I was raised to be a conservative, Rush Limbaugh-loving, never-recycle Republican, and that’s exactly what I would’ve held to – until about 4 or 5 years ago. I couldn’t pinpoint when or what happened to cause it, but regardless, it happened. I used to watch all the right news shows and discuss why so-and-so (with the (R) next to his name) is good and the other guy (with the (D) next to his name) is bad. But I really, really hate that scene now. And I’ve never actually put my hatred in writing or tried to coherently explain why I abhor it now. So (possibly in a “get it off my chest” kind of way) here are my (hopefully clear and somewhat logical) thoughts on the topic. Before I start – just to be clear – this isn’t a “party” thing. It’s a “politics-in-general” thing. And just as a warning, I may have to quote a Derek Webb song. But we’ll see.
The first thing that bugs me is the lack of choices in parties (specifically in the presidential elections). I want more choices when I vote. Two parties are not enough. I know it’s been said before, but I hate feeling like I have to choose between the lesser of 2 evils. There isn’t anyone, no matter what party line they ride, that I could support wholeheartedly (which we’ll get to later), but I want more choices so I could possibly make a decision I feel good about. I don’t see this being remedied in my lifetime, but I can always hope. Of course, you’d still have to rely on the potential politician being honest before getting elected, but, like I said, I can always hope.
The next problem I have is all the rhetoric and “fakeness”. With most politicians my crapometer rises above the acceptable level. I smell the phoniness – in action and in word. Gotta get your picture taken with this person at a specific venue. Gotta talk about this topic when talking to this group. Gotta kiss up to the religious people. Gotta kiss up to the African-American, Hispanic, etc. population. Gotta spin your past mistakes to sound like this or that. Gotta defend every single decision you’ve ever made. Gotta show up to vote for this bill (but that other one doesn’t really matter). Blech. All I ask is that you show me that you’re a real person with real passion that can be honest. Also something that I don’t see changing. Comes with the territory I guess. Sad. Anyone that desires to be elected should be required to watch “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” and be tested on it.
The last thing that really gets under my skin is the loyalists, pundits, publicists, etc. I’m mainly talking about those people that truly believe that their party and its leaders can do (and have done) no wrong. They act like they would defend their party or candidate to the death. When the topic of candidates comes up, I always tell people that there is no man on this earth that I could back 100% in any election which in turn makes it a tough decision. But there is one Man I can willingly give my full support to without hesitation. Most of you know what’s coming. Jesus. I can (and by His grace would) defend Him to the death. He’s never made a mistake in the past or present, and I can know He’ll always do the right thing in the future. To sum up: I have a much greater allegiance for Jesus than my allegiance to this country (or any man), but I’ll leave that topic to Derek Webb.
I definitely could lengthen this list without any effort, but I’ll stop here. I know I’m not offering any kind of solution. I’m really not that smart. But I sure do feel better. And if you’re wondering what party I belong to today, your guess is as good as mine. I just want to stand up for what is good and just and abhor what is evil.
Disclaimer: I am in no way bashing America. I love this country. I love my freedom. I think our system of government is about as good as it’s going to get in this corrupt, fallen world. It is only by God’s grace that I was born here, and I thank Him for providentially placing me in this country at this time in history. I just hate to see man continually corrupt something that has some good in its roots. But that’s what man does best, and it’s just the world we live in.
I’ve been wandering around Jerusalem without any destination in mind since I finished my work today. I really don’t want to return home to face my family. I even have a hard time making eye contact with my children. The heavy burden of letting them down has crushed my spirit. My so-called friends don’t want to hear about the pain. I feel like the shell of a man. My job has made me despised by my community. I knew that going in but never imagined that it would be quite like this. How could God ever accept or forgive me after all the things I’ve done? There’s no one to turn to. There’s no one who understands how guilty I feel.
Guilty. An ugly word. David called his guilt a burden too heavy to bear. This one’s heavier than I could’ve thought possible. I don’t want to drag this burden around any more. I’m guilty of so much. I’m a sinner. Without hope. In need of extreme mercy.
Mercy. A word of beauty. I recall reading in Jeremiah’s writings that His mercies are new every morning. Fresh mercy. Every day. I yearn for His mercy. I think of mercy as I walk towards the synagogue. A place where I’ve heard the religious leaders hang guilt over the heads of the crowd. But I’ve also heard the special message of a new Rabbi. He promised mercy to all who were in need of it. For all who would cry out for it. His firm, but gentle tone appealed to my soul. I need that mercy.
Tonight, as I follow the crowd into the synagogue, I search for a place to pray. A place to get alone and talk to God. My head sinks. My eyes are drawn to the floor. I can’t look up. As I kneel in this crowded place, it transforms into a room where I stand alone in front of a holy God. I’m oblivious to those around me. My focus becomes the rottenness I’ve allowed to overtake me. I see all the sin I’ve been convicted of. I see all the hurt lives, the damaged relationships, my selfish attitude, and all I can do is beat my chest in an act of desperation. I can bear the pain no longer. And I cry, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!”
Then I went home.