Christians still killing Jesus

I read an article today that has been gnawing at my brain stem for most of the day.  I found myself filled with an anger I didn’t know how to categorize.  Was it righteous?  What exactly am I angry at?  So I have been gnawing on it with the Holy Spirit, talking to the Lord about what exactly has me so riled in spirit.  I am not used to my spirit being so riled.  My feelings, my pride, or my want to be right is often the source of my riling.  This felt new and different.  And it has taken me most of the day to figure out what has upset me.  As I talked it out with H.G. (aka the Holy Ghost) I came to realize that I am upset because we—meaning us Christians—are still killing Jesus.

I know I have probably just offended you if you are Christian reading this.  I offended myself when I realized I was complicit in the continued murder of my Savior.  But H.G. walked me through this offense and I hope some of you will walk along with me.

So my journey started when I read an article about how multi-site churches are from Satan.  I am a member of Mars Hill Church, a multi-site church, and so I was offended that someone said I basically am a member of satanic gathering.  I have also been a member of a small church of maybe 150 people.  Both Pastor Dan and Pastor Mark Driscoll love Jesus, preach Jesus, and have taught me a great deal.  I am not biased one way or another.  I think both styles of churches are needed to suit the countless styles of God’s children.  I belong to a non-denominational Church, and I have belonged to a Baptist church.  Again, I am not biased on denominations as long as they teach the Bible and preach the good news of Jesus Christ.  This isn’t about what type of church is best, or what style of church you prefer, or the personality of the Pastor you learn the Bible the best from.  That is between you and H.G.

What bothered me is that this article was written by a Christian and was posted for a Christian blog/magazine/website thing.  I don’t know how to categorize it anymore, but I am sure you get the point.   Now I would understand the point of this article if it said that these multi-site Pastors were not teaching the Bible, were not proclaiming the saving grace of Jesus Christ, and that the Holy Spirit was not involved in the church at all.  Then yes I would understand the article.  But that’s not what the article said.  Instead it went on about how these Pastors are guilty of the sins of pride and idolatry.  But guess what …every single person is guilty of the sins of pride and idolatry.  It doesn’t matter if you Pastor a large flock or a small flock.  I am guilty of the sins of pride and idolatry.  So if a church is ‘from Satan’ because the Pastors sinners, then all churches must be from Satan.

10 I appeal to you, brothers,[a] by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. 11 For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. 12 What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” (1 Corinthians 1:10-13)

The Bible teaches against this.  I don’t go to Mars Hill because I believe it will save me, or because I idolize Pastor Mark’s teaching ability.  I go to Mars Hill because I learn the Bible there.  Jesus is who saves me.  Do some people idolize Pastor Mark?  Sure.  But people idolize their small church Pastor’s too.   If I idolized Pastor Mark it wouldn’t be Pastor Mark’s fault.  It would be my fault.  It would be my sin to deal with and my heart issue.  As Christians we need to stop saying ‘my way of doing church is better and more holy than your way of doing church’.  If Jesus is proclaimed and the Bible is taught, PRAISE THE LORD!  Be grateful and thankful that God’s work is being done.  The world and potential-Christians criticizes us enough, we don’t need to give them fuel for their fire.

When I was a pagan this was a major problem I had with Christianity.  Churches and professing believers tore each other apart, slandered one another up and down the internet, and generally acted like middle-school kids.  And that is how I saw you treat people who were a part of the ‘family of God’.  Why would I want to be a part of that family?  Why would I voluntarily skip into the middle?  When you, as a Christian, come out and call a style of Church satanic…why would any non-believer then go to that Church?  How many people have we just cut off from the saving grace of the gospel because we disagree with how things should be done?  Is it really worth that person’s soul?  Is your opinion of how Church should be done so important that it is worth this cost?  Are you really that prideful?

“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)

The article talks about how sinful multi-site church Pastors are.  So I am going to let you in on a not-so-secret secret about Pastor Mark Driscoll.  He is not perfect.  He is a sinner.  He gets things wrong.  He says things wrong.  He gets angry.  He needs Jesus’ grace.  He needs forgiveness.  He is just like me.  Imagine that.  Pastor Mark Driscoll isn’t Jesus.  He says that often.  Want to know something else about Pastor Mark Driscoll that so many people tend to overlook?  He repents.  He repents publicly, in front of cameras, to thousands of people.  He apologizes to thousands of people.  He talks about his failures and his sins in front of thousands of people.  Unlike me.  I sometimes have a hard time talking about my failures with just my community group.  I don’t have to eat humble pie every Sunday in front of everyone.  I do it privately with my husband and H.G.

So yay, my Pastor isn’t perfect, but neither am I.  He shows me what repentance looks like.  He leads me in how to be humble, how to swallow my pride, and how to talk frankly about my sin.  And guess what …your Pastor should do this too.  I find it completely comforting to know that my Pastor gets it, and is willing to be humbled before the world so that I learn how to be more like Jesus.  The only perfect Pastor is Jesus Christ who happens to be in heaven right now.  All Pastors have sinned and all Pastors fall short of the glory of God.  We, as Christians, need to let this sink in and we need to stop crucifying them for being as imperfect as we are.

“And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:7)

Stop throwing stones at my Pastor.  Stop throwing stones at Pastors who teach the Bible and preach the saving grace of God.  Just.  Stop.

“One’s pride will bring him low, but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor.” (Proverbs 29:23)

The article then goes on to say that as a member of a multi-site church I cannot hold Pastor Mark Driscoll accountable.  As if I should be able to be the accountability partner in my teaching Pastor’s life.  That right there is a huge ego and pride check.  Pastor Mark teaches me the Bible, and preaches the saving grace of God.  Pastor Mark is not my accountability partner.  Pastor Mark is not my friend.  If I had a pressing issue in my life I wouldn’t run to Pastor Mark for the answers.  And guess what ….when I belonged to a small church it was the same way.  Why?  Because they aren’t my personal and close friends.  I don’t hang out with them.  I don’t have them over for dinner.  I am not against becoming friends, but I don’t demand that be a requirement for me to sit beneath their teaching.  The same way I wouldn’t demand a college professor to be my friend before I take his class.

Pastor Mark Driscoll has an amazing gift for teaching the Bible, as do other multi-site church Pastors.  I learn so much from Pastor Matt Chandler, Pastor James MacDonald, Pastor Rick Warren, and many others.  I don’t know any of them.  And I hardly think I need to nitpick my way through their lives and demand they explain everything to me.  If you need that close relationship to your Pastor, then by all means go to a small church where that is possible.  I don’t begrudge you that need, but please don’t call me a Satanist because I don’t share that need.

Pastor Mark Driscoll is my teaching Pastor at my church.  He isn’t my personal Pastor.  Pastor Dave Bruskus is a fatherly Pastor for me.  He is a Pastor I would reach out to for big questions as I have seen his wisdom and love for God’s children.  Pastor Sutton Turner is a warrior Pastor for me.  I see him on the front lines for God’s glory, working to spread the good news of Jesus Christ far and wide.  These two men are accountability partners for Pastor Mark Driscoll …and I completely trust them to do that job.  I don’t feel the need to do it myself.  Now my personal Pastor is actually at my Church at Mars Hill Downtown Seattle.  For a while it was Pastor Joel Brown, who is completely amazing at speaking the truth in God’s love.  He was the Pastor I went to when I needed a Pastor.  God has called him away to Mars Hill Tacoma.  So now my personal Pastor is Pastor Matthias.  I am still getting to know him, but I trust him already with knowing he is a man of God’s heart and would give wise counsel.

Why am I telling you this?  Because I am a member of a multi-site church, and I want people to know that I do have a Shepherd (Pastor) and I’m not just some consumer/groupie who stares at Pastor Mark on a screen.  I go to watch Pastor Mark on a screen because he teaches the Bible in a way I understand.  I do the same with the other Pastor’s above whom I mentioned.  But if that’s not for you, I get it.  We are all called to understand Scripture in different ways; just as all Pastors are called by the Holy Spirit to serve the spreading of Scripture in different ways.

31 “So I tell you, every sin and blasphemy can be forgiven—except blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, which will never be forgiven. 32 Anyone who speaks against the Son of Man can be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven, either in this world or in the world to come.” (Matthew 12:31-32)

The last point that really rankled me in this article was the critique against the pastors who served these Multi-site churches.  A man needs to be called by the Holy Spirit to become a Pastor.  The Holy Spirit then usually calls a Pastor to a certain church for a certain ministry.  That calling is between that Pastor and the Holy Spirit.  This is the work of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus warns us very poignantly against calling the works of the Holy Spirit as something evil or from Satan.  We are really not supposed to blaspheme the Holy Spirit.  Which is what we are doing if we are saying what the Holy Spirit has called these men to do is from Satan.  Who am I, and who are you, to judge what exactly the calling of the Holy Spirit is on anyone else?  The will of the Holy Spirit cannot be held in check by anyone’s will, design, or church style.  If the Holy Spirit calls a Pastor to a small church, yay Jesus!  If the Holy Spirit calls a Pastor to a mega church, yay Jesus!  If the Holy Spirit calls a Pastor to a multi-site church, yay Jesus!  We should be rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit to still stir up the affections of men’s heart to serve the LORD rather than trying to dictate how that service should look like.  We, as Christians, really need to stop trying to shame one another into worshipping God as we see fit.  Otherwise we are exactly like the Pharisees.

Jesus did not teach like the Rabbis of the Pharisees.  Jesus did not follow their traditions or man-made rules and laws of what worshipping God should look like.  The gospels are full of this battle of wills, of these demands the Pharisees made that Jesus conform to how they thought synagogue should look, sound like, and be lived out.  They were so outraged by Jesus’ nonconformity that they failed to see people drawing closer to God, repenting, and living a new life.  They murdered Jesus for this.  And we are still doing it today.

Church is about Jesus.  As Christians we need to be about Jesus.  And when we lobby accusations and insults at other Christians who are worshiping Jesus in a different way ….we become a Pharisee.  We put our preferences, our traditions, and our own opinions about how serving the LORD should look before the fact that this is really supposed to be all about Jesus.  When we do this we kill Jesus for the non-believer.  When we do this we kill Jesus to the skeptic watching on.  The world around us is killing Jesus enough on its own ….the children of God shouldn’t be helping them.  Stop throwing stones.  Stop giving the LORD a bad reputation by our own preferences.  Enough already.

Is the Pastor teaching the Bible?  Is the Church preaching the saving grace of Jesus Christ?  Is the Holy Spirit moving the people toward God?  If the answer is yes …then shut up about how you think things should be done.  Go to a church that suits your needs and worship and praise the LORD for providing us with so many ways to glorify Him!  Put your stones down.

If you don’t like a Pastor, then don’t like that Pastor.  Don’t help the world tear a servant of the LORD down by adding fuel.  Don’t go on various social media’s and spread contempt for the servants of the LORD.  You aren’t serving Jesus by doing this.  You aren’t glorifying God by doing this.  We need to put our feelings and opinions (our pride) aside and seek after the glory of the LORD first ….not the glory of ourselves and our opinions.  As Christians, we need to stop killing Jesus before the world who is definitely watching us crucifying our own.

“In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise.” (Proverbs 10:19)

 

“He who guards his mouth preserves his life, but he who opens wide his lips shall have destruction.” (Proverbs 13:3)

 

“Whoever guards his mouth and tongue keeps his soul from troubles.” (Proverbs 21:23)

“The heart of the righteous studies how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours forth evil.” (Proverbs 15:28)

“A fool's mouth is his destruction, and his lips are the snare of his soul. “ (Proverbs 18:7)

“The discretion of a man makes him slow to anger, and his glory is to overlook a transgression.” (Proverbs 19:11)

“A fool vents all his feelings, but a wise man holds them back.” (Proverbs 29:11)

Flipped around Repentance

Oh my soul

Oh my Jesus

Judas sold You for thirty

I’d have done it for less

Oh my soul

Oh my savior

Peter denied You three times

I have denied You more

As the nails went in

I was standing right there

As you breathed Your last

I shook my head and I cried

Oh my God, What have we done?

We’ve destroyed Your Son

Oh my God, What have we done?

We’ve destroyed Your Son

Oh my soul

Oh my Jesus

Judas sold You thirty

I’d have done it for less

Oh my soul

Oh my Savior

Peter denied You three times

I have denied You more

And the blood ran down

I was standing right there

And the water poured

I shook my head and I cried

Oh my God, What have we done?

We’ve destroyed Your Son

Oh my God, What have we done?

We’ve destroyed Your Son

Oh my God, What have we done?

We have destroyed Your Son

Oh my God, What have we done?

We have destroyed Your Son

As the nails went in

I was standing right there

And You breathed Your last

–          Lyrics to “What have we done?”

This is one of my most favorite songs I have ever heard.  It is one of the most difficult and convicting songs I have ever heard.  Several of the bands at Mars Hill church sing this song.  And when I hear it being sung by so many voices around me … I am overwhelmed by this bitter sweet loving pain.  Because I don’t know if I would have been one of the women following Jesus, carrying His cross, and weeping.  Or would I be a scoffer?  Or in passive defiance of the Perfect Lamb by merely watching what was being done to Him?  I do know I wouldn’t have understood the cup of wrath I have been pouring into my entire life … was about to be drunk to the very last drop by Jesus.

And Jesus didn’t just drink my cup.  If every single sin that will ever be committed was but a single drop into that cup … I can’t even begin to fathom how huge that cup had to be.  Jesus drank every last drop.  He endured the wrath of God.  He did it for me.  He did it for You.  He did it for everyone.  Every last single person that has ever existed and will ever exist.  It is mind blowing.  It is completely scandalous!  The Holy Father, the Holy Son, and the Holy Ghost did all of this out of a love I won’t ever really understanding until I am standing in the presence of the LORD.

I recently listened to a sermon preached by Pastor Paris Reidhead, and he said that through the cross and the blood of Christ is the only way God could get glory out of a human being.  I wanted to argue with him but the stink of my pride in that argument shut me up pretty quickly.  His statement is bothersomely true; which is why my heart cringes and aches each time I sing “I was standing right there”.  It is why I am continually baffled by the love the LORD continues to pour out on me in spite of the fact that we have destroyed His Son.

It doesn’t matter that I wasn’t there myself.  I destroyed His Son with each sin I have committed and will commit.  I drove those nails in every time I deny Jesus because of fear of man issues that honestly mean nothing in eternity.  Every lash of the scourge that tore through His flesh I brought down on Him by willingly walking into and toward as many temptations as I could find.  And, yes, I do know I have been forgiven all of these things and a good deal more.  I know that right now I am hid in Christ before God, spotless and blameless.  I know I am cherished, loved, and a treasured daughter of the LORD.  These are all truths spoken to me from pages of the Bible.  But these heart felt facts don’t change what I have done, or what I still do.

Pastor Paris Reidhead spoke of repentance as well.  He said that most people’s idea of repentance is nothing more than Gospel glossed humanism.  That most people don’t understand the enormity of their sin, the depth of their guilt by a Holy and Righteous God; and, that they only repent and tremble in fear of God because their skin is about to be singed from the fires of hell.  He put it plainly when he said that repentance isn’t about a good person dealing with the punishments of a bad God.  It is about a bad person standing before a Holy, Righteous, and Good God.  That we all deserve hell, because we are sinners and we love our sin.  Every time we sin we have added another drop in that cup of wrath that Jesus drank.

Sure, He already drank it.  But I had never viewed my sin like that.  The LORD knows everything.  He knew how much I would sin.  He knew how much you would sin.  That cup of wrath is precise.  This doesn’t give me free license to carry on as if it is all taken care of.  If I truly love Jesus I can’t.  I don’t want to add any more to that cup.  I want my drops to decrease and not increase.  I am just sitting here so dumb at not having seen something this simple.  The LORD knows what I will do already, but now I am aware of this on a level I simply wasn’t before.  I know I have, but I don’t want to destroy Jesus.  He is my Savior.  I love Him.

Which is why I am really grateful for this song.  I can’t truly repent with all that I am unless I fully understand the weight of my sin.  I need to understand what my sin has completely done to my Holy God.  I know that only being thoroughly wrecked by my sin and failures can I then be picked up by the Holy Ghost to unimaginable heights of freedom in Christ, and drenched in the love of the LORD.  I can’t just take the gift of salvation without lovingly meditating on what this gift cost.  I want to savor every last drop of grace the LORD has given to me.  I don’t want to take it for granted.  I don’t want to see it as something casual or non-spectacular.  God’s grace is scandalous.  And I am thankful for that.

The last thing Reidhead touched on was how we love Jesus.  Do we approach the throne of God with the cross as a bargaining chip?  You know, I’ll take Jesus in exchange for heaven.  Jesus isn’t a bartering chip.  Jesus didn’t die on the cross for my eternal happiness as His prime product.  It is a by-product but it wasn’t the point.  Which is a real slap in the face because I think I have seen Jesus like that before in my life.  Pastor Reidhead then spoke a truth that woke me up, and made me truly examine how I feel about the LORD.  He said that those who truly love Jesus and worship Jesus, and obey Jesus … in their hearts say, “LORD I will love you, obey you, and worship you even if at the end of all things I end up in hell.  If that is where you want me to go.  Because YOU alone are worthy of my love, obedience, and worship.  Because YOU deserve all of me.  Hell isn’t a deciding factor.  YOU LORD are the only factor I see or care about.”

And I had never looked at my faith that way.  Would I still love Jesus, worship the LORD, and obey His laws … if I knew I was going to hell?  Would that change how I feel?  Would His holiness, His goodness, His righteousness … be enough for me to devote myself in abject adoration to the LORD simply because He deserves it?  I would have to say in past times of my life I shamefully say no.  Right now I think I give, and live out, an uncomfortable yes.  I know each day my yes becomes stronger and more comfortable bit by bit.  But this is definitely a lifetime of sanctification to get it there.  It just flips everything around.

I’m not a Christian because of anything I did.  I am saved by the Blood of Christ because I am His reward for His suffering.  He deserves me for the price He paid.  He deserves so much better than I give Him.  God willing, and through the power of the Holy Spirit, I am starting to change that.  Thank you LORD.  Thank you God.  Thank you Jesus.  Thank you Holy Ghost.  I am so blessed.  Undeservedly showered by Your grace.  Thank you.  And please continue to grow in me this vine of You and Your values.  For I am nothing without You and I can do nothing without You.  Amen.

Proud about being Humble

“Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders.  Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’” (1 Peter 5:5)

This verse has stuck with me these last few days.  It is like a splinter just beneath my skin.  I think it has become like a vulture in my mind because I don’t consider myself a very proud person.  I have seen, and I know, some very proud people and I tell myself I act nothing like this.  Which is where my problem with this piece of Scripture is coming from: I am comparing myself to others.  Am I proud in comparison to Jesus?  Oh yeah.  And yet I still have a very hard time writing that.  Not because I think I am anywhere near as humble as Jesus, but because I really want to say I am more humble than I am proud.

The ironic part of that sentence is that it is my pride that keeps me fighting this.  I am proud of being humble.  I like to pat myself on my back about it.  Granted I don’t do this out loud, nor do I post it on my Facebook account, but I will acknowledge these thoughts from deep in my heart.  Thoughts like these mean some of my humble acts really are selfish acts to feed my pride about being humble.  I should be performing all these acts to feed my relationship with Christ, and to shine His light … not to feed my own self-worth.  And I really just want to highlight this entire post so far, delete it, and move on.

But I know the Holy Spirit has kept this piece of Scripture in my head for a reason.  This is a sin I really need to work on.  It is a sin I hadn’t given a lot of thought to before.  I have only considered pride in more obvious, outgoing ways that glare in everyone’s face from other people.  I hadn’t ever taken a peek under the unseen rocks of my motivations and soul to seek out my own sinful pride.  I know I need to because of one very key word in that verse: opposes.  God opposes the proud.  I know He can see beneath my actions and under my skin.  He can see the pride in me that I haven’t been looking for … and He opposes me for it.  I really, really don’t like that.

I do not like to be considered God’s opponent.  I know I am no longer God’s enemy since I have washed myself in the blood of Christ.  I know when my heavenly Father now looks on me He sees me in Jesus.  It is those very reasons why that word “opposes” really bothers me.  For example, I love my fiancé and so I actively strive to not give him reasons to oppose me.  I do not want to be the enemy of the man I am going to marry.  Considering I love God so much more than I could ever love Jeremy I want to do things that make me His enemy even less; despite the fact I know that God has already forgiven me of all of these reasons through His Son Jesus.

So the first thing I have to do is state my sin: I am a proud person.  And I really, really hate saying that.  It fills me with shame.  I know we live in a culture and a world were ‘pride’ and ‘self-esteem’ are two of the most important things to achieve high scores in.  But Christ’s Kingdom has different rules, values, and ethics.  Jesus humbled Himself by becoming a man.  I have a hard time wrapping my head around that sometimes.  Jesus set aside all His divine power, His place on a throne in heaven where angels sang to Him, where He ate the most delicious food and drank the most divine wine, and came down to grow up as a man … with acne, aches, pains, ingrown toe nails, upset stomachs, hunger … and to hear the people He created shout “Crucify Him!”  And that is just one way Jesus humbled Himself.

And I really want to minimalize my pride.  I want to say it isn’t so bad, or even noticeable to anyone beyond me and my Creator.  At which point the Holy Spirit is kind enough to point out to me that even if my pride were as small of an issue as possible … it is still big enough to hammer the nails into Jesus’ hands and feet.  God is the one, in fact, who opposes my pride … not the rest of the world if they saw it.  And still I struggle against my pride of not being proud.  Feel free to laugh.

I need to repent and pray to the Holy Spirit.  I know only the Holy Spirit can give me the ability to strive toward the humility my Lord and Savior has.  Rather than fighting and resisting this conviction I need to lay it at the feet of Jesus, and beg Him to take away all the ways in which I am proud.  I know all other sins are birthed out of pride, so I really need to work on this issue in myself.  I know, now, that this issue isn’t a small one inside of me.  It is just one cleverly hidden behind and beneath other things.

So there you have it.  I don’t know if this has made any sense.  It feels like word vomit.  I feel like I am chasing my tail in a circle.  I really don’t like this part of myself, and I really don’t like sharing it with others.  But that too is my pride.  My pride is behind the things I do for others  at times … my pride is in keeping up appearances of being perfectly okay when I am suffering … my pride is in wanting to appear as a good Christian.  My pride motivates good actions.  My pride has me lie to make myself look good.  My pride seeks gratitude for the good things I am doing.  My pride keeps me withdrawn from my Kiwi longer than I should be when he hurts me or when we disagree.  My pride has kept a distance between myself and my Savior.  And I really don’t like any of this, or any of my pride.

Holy Spirit, please … I beg of you … help me weed out all these deep roots of pride.  Help give me the longing to be more like Jesus.  Fill me with a divine fervor to strive for my Father’s heavenly Kingdom rather than this earthly one.  Abba, Father …Divine Daddy … lease forgive your rebellious daughter for having dismissed, diminished, and denied this sin that crucified Your Son.  Jesus take out my heart of stone, and replace it with one of flesh that hungers only for Your bread of life.  I pray all of this in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Abba, Father I am struggling

“(2) My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, (3) knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.  (4) But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” (James 1:2-4 NKJV)

“(2) Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, (3) because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. (4) Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”   (James 1:2-4 NIV)

“(2) Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, (3) for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  (4) And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”  (James 1:2-4 ESV)

 

This is one of those life verses for me.  My life hasn’t been all sunshine and roses these last four years.  And I have only been a Christian for four years.  I didn’t become a Christian lightly or by chance.  It was by God’s design.  In God’s providence He prepped me right as I found out I had cancer.  The Holy Spirit gave me the will to read the Gospel of John three times before I had the surgery to have the cancerous tumors removed.  And then right before I went under Jesus spoke to me three very simple words, “You are mine.”

Those three words changed everything.  They rocked my world.  When I woke up everything was different.  I was a completely different person.  If I had the money I would have legally changed my name.  So many I was ‘lucky’ in the sense that I got saved while dealing with cancer.  I was never under the false impression that my life would be easy simply because I was a Christian.  Which is a really good thing because my life has been one really had challenge after another since Jesus reached down and claimed me for His team.

I have trials of many, various kinds.  And I put the three different versions of these verses up there because I think if you read the slightly different variations you get more out of them.  Or at least I do.  All of Scripture is God breathed, so I believe the various versions can really help paint an over all picture of what my Father is trying to say to me.  Especially when I am not feeling very patient, steadfast, or filled with perseverance.  I get there most days, but some days it is hard to reach that spot.  It is a daily walk, or hobble in my case.

My struggle right now is personal, and has nothing to do with my physical health.  It is a struggle I have been dealing with for a long time so I am actually pretty good at steadfastness and perseverance.  I waiver on the patience more than I ought to.  I try to change things even though I know I can’t.  All I can do is pray and let the Holy Spirit do the rest.  The one aspect of this struggle that I have a very hard time grasping is counting it as a joy.

I don’t see it as a joy at all.  It is painful.  It causes my heart harm.  Some nights this struggles has me cry myself to sleep.  I don’t know how to look at it and see it as a blessing.  It just hurts.  And I know it likely won’t stop hurting any time soon.

I know my lack of patience is a sin.  I know I am supposed to wait upon the Lord.  And when I am waiting during my trials, while I am persevering, and holding steadfast I am to turn to Jesus because he is my strength.  I know I cannot do this on my own.  I am not even sure why I try.  Pride.  Pride is why I try if I am honest.  I think I can handle this on my own, that I can do this on my own, that I should be able to take care of things on my own.  Pride.  Pride.  Pride.  Pride.  Pride.  I am not sure why my pride comes out so strongly when I am struggling.  Humility, humbly seeking out Jesus should always be my first response.

I, of course, say it is.  But I don’t do much more than say a quick prayer to him while I am annoyed.  I don’t seek Jesus out in His word.  In my frustrations and fears I turn inward, wanting to figure everything out myself (my pride again) and I alienate everyone around me.  Rather than turning to those who love me for help, rather than seeking the aid of fellow Christians, and rather than seeking out godly counsel.  Besides, I am in too bad a mood to listen to it anyway.  I wouldn’t want to subject them to me (pride again) so it is better if I just keep to myself.  The devil is really good at telling me little lies to feed my frustrations and lead me further and further from the very person who can help me.  Jesus.

Humility is hard.  Telling someone you can’t do something, and that you need help is hard.  Swallowing my pride and going before a large group of people and asking for help is hard.  Getting angry, getting frustrated, getting annoyed, and withdrawing from the world is easy.  The devil always makes his path easier than God’s path.  That is why his traps are so easy to fall into.  God’s way takes thought, effort, consideration, love, devotion, care, and utter selflessness.  We have to die to ourselves which means giving up my pride.

Which is really a kinda funny, odd sorta thing to realize.  The biggest struggle I have with finding joy in Jesus is pride.  Pride is the biggest thing this world tries to sell me.  I would rather have Jesus.  The joy isn’t what is important, Jesus is.  And I need to realize that when I go down that easier path, when I pick pride, annoyance, frustration, and anger….I am telling Jesus that He isn’t worth it.  I am telling Jesus He isn’t the most important thing.  I am telling Jesus He is second place.  I am saying Jesus, even though you are God and have promised me only good things….I don’t trust you enough to handle this.  So I am going it on my own.  I don’t need you.

“I don’t need you”

Those four words make my soul shutter, and I cry thinking about how my actions and deeds actually say that to Jesus.  I am horrified and shamed to think of how those four words stack up to the soul sweet, life altering three words Jesus spoke to me, “You are mine.”  And the thing is Jesus doesn’t need me.  Jesus wants me.  Jesus wants me and loves me.  Jesus pursues me even when I betray Him and give Him a gabillion reasons not to.  I am not just undeserving of Jesus, I am ill-deserving.  It is a miracle and a mystery why He would want me and love me.  I am just grateful God does.  And I am grateful that the Holy Spirit never gives up on me and is always by my side to pick me up again.

I know I will go to bed tonight wrecked and in tears over this struggle, repenting in my heart with the pure hope I will do better tomorrow.  I am also shamefully afraid that tomorrow I will do just as bad a job of it.  The one thing I am not afraid of, though, is losing Jesus’ love.  I do not fear the Holy Spirit turning His back on me no matter the countless times I have, and will, turn my back on Him.  I pray I will do a better job tomorrow.  I pray for joy in this trial, as well as the others in my life.  I know that Jesus fully understands what I am going through.  I know the Holy Spirit knows my mind and heart.  I know my Heavenly Father will answer my prayers, and only give me good things.  I know this in my heart to be true.  I just have to be patient.  I need to persevere.  I need to worship Him in steadfast love and adoration.

Abba Father, you know I am not perfect at this.  You know I never will be perfect this.  I will never give up trying.  Just as I know you will never give up on me, your daughter.  Thank you for being a dad on whose chest I can beat my fists in pain and frustrations.  Thank you for being a daddy in whose lap I can curl up and cry out my sorrows on Your chest.  Thank you Dad, for being somewhere safe for me to be myself, where I am enough….in all my flaws, brokenness, and imperfections …it is nothing but beauty and perfect for you.  Thank you for always being the one man in my life I can count on to be faithful, honest, and true.  To love me without conditions, restrictions, and comparisons.  Abba Father, I know you are Holy and Divine and Righteous.  The Creator of heaven and earth.  But tonight, right now, you are my heaven dad.  Just that, right now, for me.  So thank you daddy, for being here for me.  I love you when you are Mighty, and I love you when you are mine.  I love you when I am Yours.  Amen