Posts Tagged With: religion

A King Among Beggars: An Easter Story

Recently I saw my first bald eagle. I was driving home from class, winding through North Florida country- woods on my right, woods on my left, and a curve ahead. I slowed slightly while rounding the curve, and tapped the break a bit more upon glimpsing the flock of vultures partially in the road, to allow them an extra few seconds to gain some altitude. Only half paying attention to the flapping wings, I suddenly caught sight of a white head providing stark contrast to the others. I did a double take, and after a quick glance in the rear-view mirror, slowed the car to a stop with a nod in silent gratitude to the country roads that bask in solitude. I craned my neck hoping to find him, and sure enough the white headed wonder was soaring just over the tree tops.

Maybe it’s a result of growing up in a big city, or just my long standing fascination with birds of prey, but I felt humbled by this stoic, proud, fearless, unapologetic creature. He is it. The king. The lion may be king of the jungle, but the eagle is king of the skies. Every knee shall bow.

What I couldn’t resolve, though, was the question of why in the world this bald eagle appeared seemingly out of nowhere in the midst of beggars. What possible business does he have sharing air space with them, or a meal, if that’s what he was doing? It’s just unbelievable.

But the answering thought was,

“Because that’s what the best kings do.”

The best kings walk among beggars; a true Savior befriends sinners. 

Whether risen from a roadside grave, or a tomb of stone, a true King is unmistakable. He befriends vultures: the lepers, the tax collectors, the prostitutes, the cowardly, the drunks, the suicidal, the afraid, the abused, the abandoned. A true King doesn’t care what the world says of you, or what you’ve done…only your heart and your response to his outstretched hand.

As I watched the bald one circle and rise, unchained to any earthly anchor, the beggars followed suit, unashamed. I thought to the cross, to this day, to Easter. I thought of my Savior, the One unchained. The One the earth couldn’t hold. And I thought of the beggars. Because that’s all I am- a beggar.

All I am, is a beggar, with a King who unbelievably walked with beggars on Earth, so that when He rose, when He called my name, I would have the freedom to follow suit, unashamed.

 

 

Thank you, Jesus. I will follow. 

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The Realization that will Help you Forgive Anyone Who Ever Hurt You

“It’s the hardest thing to give away
And the last thing on your mind today
It always goes to those that don’t deserve

Even when the jury and the judge
Say you gotta right to hold a grudge
It’s the whisper in your ear saying ‘Set It Free’ “

-Matthew West, Forgiveness

forgiveness

When Jesus was hanging on the cross, why did he say, “Father, forgive them, they are blind fools they know not what they do.”

How could they not know what they are doing? They consciously chose to be there, to make the long walk up to the Calvary hill, to drive the nails through His flesh. How could they not know?

Maybe what Jesus meant was they didn’t know He was the Son of God, and if they knew, or rather, believed that he really was the Savior, things would have ended differently.

I don’t think that’s all Jesus meant. I think it goes much deeper. He’s not just asking God to forgive the men who hung Him on the cross, He’s asking God to forgive every human and every sin and every hurt ever inflicted.

In most cases it’s not that we don’t know the difference between right and wrong, at least if we really sat down and thought about it. It’s that we are completely incapable of going through our lives without sinning, without doing wrong, without hurting people.

If we could, we’d never need a Savior to begin with.

We are all of us, fallen, sinful, broken people.

Fallen, sinful, broken people in need of Jesus.

Why is this the realization that will help you forgive anyone who ever hurt you?

I propose this because through this lens, you look at your overly critical mother, your absent father, your sibling betrayal, your thief of a friend, your teacher who embarrassed you, your boss who blamed you, that stranger who sexually assaulted you, that trusted mentor who stopped standing up for you…

And on the other side of that lens, what is left? The cross. And our desperate need for it.

Forgiving someone is not saying IT’S OKAY or IT DIDN’T MATTER. It’s saying IT DID MATTER but with the acknowledgement that humans disappoint other humans. It’s saying we cannot hold our fellow humans to the standards only Jesus can meet. It’s simply understanding that the person who hurt us needs Jesus, and He responded and died on the cross for them. He was whipped and beaten not just for our sin, but for theirs too. And once we start looking at them through Jesus’ eyes, forgiveness becomes inevitable. The anger begins to fade and a level of compassion begins to form.

We don’t forgive, because the person deserves it, we forgive, to release them to the cross. We set them free, and in turn become free ourselves. 

That person who hurt you? It wasn’t okay. But God is still at work in them, He’s not done yet. And more importantly he’s not done with you yet either.  Jesus is filling empty seats and holding open doors and mending broken hearts.

Who do you need to forgive? Do you think looking through the eyes of heaven rather than the eyes of the world can help you achieve this?

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This song “Just Another Birthday” by Casting Crowns, is heartbreaking yet beautiful. It’s an example of pointing to the cross in the midst of brokenness and emptiness and allowing Him to fill the holes left in our hearts be fellow humans.

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Help Me Find It

 

This song by Sidewalk Prophets has been stuck in my head for days. It has a catchy tune, but also powerful lyrics that speak a prayer held in many of our hearts. “If there’s a road I should walk help me find it, if I need to be still give me peace for the moment.”

None of us have a crystal ball or can see the future. Though many of us often wish we could. Humans throughout history have searched for the meaning of life and questioned our purpose on Earth. I don’t think that answer is one we can ever fully understand, but there is a simple response. We are here to seek God, to reside in his presence, to grow and learn and evolve, and to spread his Kingdom and bring glory to him.

Of course it doesn’t always work out this way because of a tricky little thing called free will that we all have and a tendency to want to make our own choices.

What we often forget, is that letting go and deferring to God’s will and God’s plan will actually make us a heck of a lot happier, and bring us much more joy and blessings than we could ever achieve on our own.

Learning to come to the well and rest, let go of our anxieties, and have a little faith…. is the key to a peaceful life. And when I say peaceful, I do not mean easy. Life will never be easy. Jesus warned us that it would never be easy. But there is an inner peace, in the midst of utter chaos and stresses, that comes from the Spirit alone.

I once heard, “fear is faith in the devil.” I like that. We have what many call “healthy fear” but I think of that more as knowledge, and wisdom. To not be reckless, and to understand when things are going to hurt you…that’s being wise, not afraid.

If we have faith “the size of a mustard seed” we could tell a mountain to move from here to there and it will move. Faith, allows us to walk on water, to part the sea. The same power within Peter and Moses is within each of us: The Holy Spirit.

I admire that kind of faith, that kind of peace… and I’m not there yet. I pray I get there someday.

Lord, your way has always brought me farther than my way. My way brings struggle and stress, and your way brings freedom and peace. If there’s a road I should walk help me find it, if I need to be still give me peace for the moment.

 

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“What’s yer hurry?”

God really does speak to us all the time, communicate, interact with us. The problem is many of us forgotten how to listen. Whether it’s our poor listening skills, or interference in the spiritual realm, or all the noise and busyness in our lives that make it hard to hear… many times he will use other things and people as vessels carrying the message he is trying to give. At that point we have to be open-minded enough to realize the message is his and fight the urge to make excuses or let doubt win.

Last night my friend Katlyn and I went to Tybee at 1 a.m. for the sole purpose of being able to lose ourselves on the beach surrounded by endless ocean and sky, so dark they seem to unite as one, covered by a blanket of stars and the smell of saltwater in the air… a place where I feel a little closer to heaven and am usually able to gain some perspective. We sat under the pier and prayed for a solid hour about everything that is drowning each of us right now, everything we’re struggling with, our confusion, our fears, our insecurities. We left our sand-filled sanctuary and headed back to the car and back to earth, and headed back down the main drag leaving the island. Katlyn was driving my car and isn’t used to how it feels and didn’t realize how fast she was going. Realizing she was 18 m.p.h. over, I called it to her attention and we slowed down. As Murphy’s Law goes, the only other headlights on the road belonged to a police officer who was far enough behind us in the dark that we couldn’t see it was a cop car…until the red and blue lights began the light show. We had slowed back down to 5 over, but he had been behind us the whole time.

Katlyn immediately froze and told me she didn’t have her license, she grabbed it quickly before we left not realizing it was actually her state i.d. not her driver’s license, and I didn’t have mine either. The officer walked up the window and I was expecting the routine, standard, “License and registration?” Considering it was now 2:30 in the morning I doubted this officer would be very nice or in any kind of good mood or care what we had to say. He came up with a questioning smile on his face and instead of “license and registration..,” three completely different words were spoken- “What’s yer hurry?” Katlyn immediately handed over her state i.d. and apologetically and full of resignation said she mistakenly grabbed this instead of her i.d., though she didn’t try to offer any excuses. He asked if I had mine. “No.” He asked where we were going. “Home.” Then he said “Just slow down,” turned and walked back to his car and drove off in the opposite direction.”

We breathed a huge sigh of relief, the awe and shock evident on our faces as we looked at each other, and I said, “well that was God.” What I meant was that God had helped us not get a ticket or Katlyn get hauled off to jail because the only reason we were even out there was to pray and spend time with him. But soon Katlyn said, “I think it’s more literal than just that.”

“What’s yer hurry?”

What’s your hurry, my daughters? I have not forsaken you. I am with you through both the ups and downs, whether you are at the top of the mountain or stuck in the pit of the valley. Just slow down. Look around and enjoy this life I have given you. You have come to me in prayer, and I will answer, as I always do…in time. Be patient. Have faith that I am at work and I will raise you up from these current stresses just as I have raised you up countless times before. What’s your hurry? Enjoy the ride.

Kind of gives you goosebumps, doesn’t it? For all I know that cop didn’t even exist… maybe he was some kind of angel delivering that message. Who really knows when it comes to the power of God. We mere humans certainly can’t wrap our brains around it.

Now, this morning my devotional spoke of the need for urgency, and through all this I am reminded of the importance of balance and where that comes into all this. This morning it said, “As we get older, our vision should improve. Not our vision of earth, but our vision of heaven. Those who have spent their life looking for heaven gain a skip in their step as the city comes into view. After Michelangelo died, someone found in his studio a…note to his apprentice… The great artist wrote: “Draw, Antonio, draw, and do not waste time.” Well-founded urgency, Michelangelo. Time slips. Days pass. Years fade. And life ends. And what we came to do must be done while there is time.” -Max Lucado

Some might be confused by a message one night for slowing down, and 7 hours later for urgency, but I take it as God reminding me of the intricate balance that is necessary to manage our time.

Slow down. Embrace the season of life you are in and understand that he is using the hills and valleys and ups and downs of life for our GOOD. This is how he molds us and shapes us. I stood at the edge of the water last night watching the ebb and flow of the water, my eyes unfocused on the waves. The tide was extremely low. The waves are persistent and relentless, firm but gentle, not overbearing, but always there, always at work, constantly shaping and re-shaping the coastline. That is what God does to our hearts, it’s a give and take. Sometimes the tide is low, sometimes high, but always shaping and molding.

Do not waste time. Our life is a blip of time in the span of eternity. We are like a gust of wind, here for a moment then gone again, come from ash and returned to ash. Live deliberately. Walk through life with urgency and purpose. Use every opportunity to point upward, to spread his word and his glory, to be his hands and feet and a vessel of his love to others. Live a life that leads and don’t take days off from doing so. Even in the slow seasons of life where you feel as if you’re walking through thick mud, walk through that mud for God’s kingdom.

So today, may you slow down as you refuse to waste time.

Savannah area peeps: Casting Crowns joined by Sanctus Real, The Afters and Lindsey McCaul will be in Savannah, October 15th!!!!! I’m so excited! Get tickets on hisradio.com or local Christian bookstores 🙂

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By their fruit you will recognize them

Matthew 7:15-23 – A Tree and Its Fruit

 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. BY THEIR FRUIT YOU WILL RECOGNIZE THEM. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. THUS, BY THEIR FRUIT YOU WILL RECOGNIZE THEM.

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prosphesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ “

WHAT KIND OF FRUIT ARE YOU PRODUCING?

I’m sitting here at my kitchen table, a delicious chicken caesar pita filling my tummy, dogs at my feet, with Casting Crowns in the speakers, “Lord this time, I’ll make it right, here at the altar I lay my life. Your kingdom come but my will was done…. This time, Jesus, how can I be sure, I will not lose my follow through between the altar and the door?”

There is a reason the saying, “actions speak louder than words” is such a popular phrase. It’s because it’s easy to say something, to give advice to another, to recommend an option or path, but it’s much harder to follow through with those very things you say. It’s not easy, and it wasn’t meant to be. It’s supposed to be hard and we are warned as Christians that it WILL be hard. I think it’s common to lose our follow through between the altar and the door, and I have been convicted of doing this myself. What good are my words, if my actions don’t follow? What good am I as a disciple of Christ, spreading the gospel, if I don’t follow through? Will anyone believe me? Can they? Can others take me seriously if I proclaim to abandon my life to God’s will, but continue to do things my way? What message am I giving to my brothers and sisters in Christ about what it means to be one?

We cannot say with our mouth we love Jesus, while in between words putting harmful things into that same mouth. Our body is a temple of the Holy Spirit. It does not belong to us, but was bought at a price, a very high price, by our Savior. We cannot acknowledge this and still immerse our bodies and minds in drunkenness. Yes, even Jesus drank wine, and the Bible does not say drinking in itself is a sin, but drunkenness is. Getting hammered every night, to the sloppy point of sending drunken text messages and barely remembering what happened in the morning, is not respectful of our temple. Cigarettes, drugs…

….lies, judgmental words, lofty glances, gossip, hatred, hypocrisy, teasing, etc. Yes, when He let Himself be nailed to a blood soaked cross heavy laden with our sin, he bridged the gap between humanity and Himself, he provided us a way out, a way to be forgiven. If we ask forgiveness, it is done. As he said, “It is finished,” then he hung his head and died. But for one, if we use that as a get-out-of-hell-free card, and then continue to live life our way, do our own will, isn’t it moot? Do we become the “evildoers” Jesus speaks of in Matthew 7:23, as He sends them away? And for two, is that really how we thank our Creator/Redeemer/Healer/Savior/Father?

I hope not.

Yes, we are all human. We fall. A lot. And our Father catches us, as fathers do. But just because we are human and have the tendency to fall, doesn’t mean it’s okay to decide to stay on the ground. He loves us just as we are, yes, but He loves us too much to let us stay that way. And we shouldn’t want to! If we love Him as we say we do, then let us daily strive to better ourselves, to grow towards Him, to let His light fill us from the inside out. If we truly love Him, let us offer our hands and feet, our hearts, our wills and lives.

Is it worth it, to gain the whole world, and lose your soul?

Do others look at you and recognize you as a disciple of Christ because of your fruit?

What fruit are you producing today?

 

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