Some Things Only God Can Do

It’s a terrible feeling to realize your life has become unmanageable. Addiction kills most people slowly. A few precious few, burnout quickly. In either case, addiction doesn’t have to kill you. You can get out—with the help of others and God’s immeasurable grace you can overcome the chains of your addiction.

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Imagine you’re walking in complete darkness and suddenly a sliver of light shines through a door leading to the way out. When you see it, run for it, full speed ahead and don’t look back. Don’t worry about what’s on the other side. It’s better than the dead end road you’re on. The madness will only stop if you’re willing to take that first step toward God. You don’t have to live mired in the depravity of addiction. You CAN change. God can change you. But you got to want it. Nobody can want it more for you than YOU. Only YOU can decide to get off the roller coaster ride and quit trying to be the god of your own life chasing your own foolhardy, selfish will.

And it’s not something you can really do to please others. YOU have to want it. YOU have to come to the realization that because of your addictions your life has become unmanageable. You must recognize that you have spun out of control, jumped off the tracks, and are headed for a major derailment, if you haven’t already landed in the ditch.

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Addiction is a taker. It won’t stop taking from you until it has consumed absolutely everything—including your life and your soul. YOU’RE the only one that can stop this raging fire. The good news is that you don’t have to go it alone. There are people who will help you. There is a God who loves you and wants bigger and better things for you than you ever dreamed possible. Your addiction doesn’t have to end in death. Through God’s grace, you can know what it means to live abundantly with abandon for the One True King. Addiction doesn’t have to take you. You don’t have to become another number in a long line of sad statistics.

Remembering July 7, 2016 (Psalm 22)

Two years ago, at the end of protests on the night of July 7, 2016, a lone shooter ambushed a group of Dallas police officers, killing five men and injuring nine others. The ambush came amid high tensions across the nation concerning a rash of police shootings that received massive media scrutiny and sparked nationwide outrage, particularly in black communities.

Dallas is a city that has witnessed horrific events before. In 1963, JFK was assassinated here. After September 11, 2001, the skies above DFW, normally filled with flying machines, hovered quietly and somberly for days on end as the nation attempted to come to grips with what had happened that fateful day.

Two years after the shootings in Dallas, tensions and dissension remain. Yes, the focus and topics have changed, but the societal gaps have widened. We are not a nation that has been drawn closer together. The cohesiveness and unity of the day after 9-11 are a distant memory.

In the days that followed the cowardly attack, I had the privilege of attending several of the funerals for the officers. Pulling up to park at the memorial service for Dallas Police Sergeant Michael Smith, my friend Mark Jones and I were blown away at seeing the thousands of police cars and motorcycles lining the streets around Watermark Church. Mark and I lamented the state of race relations in America, discussing how, as ministers, we should respond to the ever-increasing tensions between our two respective races.

While we did not assess people by their skin color, we knew that people in the world did. We both believed in law and order and supporting those who protected our families and communities. Our hearts ached for the fallen officers and their families and the tensions splitting our nation apart. Walking to the church, neither of us knew that the Lord would call my friend Mark home the following year, days before the one-year anniversary of the ambush.

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The focus of those days has shifted. The vitriolic venom, though, has not subsided. Our country is not any more united today than it was on that day. The divide still exists. Protests continue. As a nation, we are weary. Weary of the terrorism, tired of war, fed up with the drug epidemics, and frustrated by the unending protests against seemingly everything and everyone.

Psalm 22 The Message (MSG)

A David Psalm

22 1-2 God, God . . . my God!
Why did you dump me
miles from nowhere?
Doubled up with pain, I call to God
all the day long. No answer. Nothing.
I keep at it all night, tossing and turning.

3-5 And you! Are you indifferent, above it all,
  leaning back on the cushions of Israel’s praise?
We know you were there for our parents:
    they cried for your help and you gave it;
    they trusted and lived a good life.

6-8 And here I am, a nothing—an earthworm,
something to step on, to squash.
Everyone pokes fun at me;
they make faces at me, they shake their heads:
“Let’s see how God handles this one;
since God likes him so much, let him help him!”

9-11 And to think you were midwife at my birth,
setting me at my mother’s breasts!
When I left the womb you cradled me;
since the moment of birth you’ve been my God.
Then you moved far away
and trouble moved in next door.
I need a neighbor.

12-13 Herds of bulls come at me,
    the raging bulls stampede,
Horns lowered, nostrils flaring,
    like a herd of buffalo on the move.

14-15 I’m a bucket kicked over and spilled,
every joint in my body has been pulled apart.
My heart is a blob
of melted wax in my gut.
I’m dry as a bone,
my tongue black and swollen.
They have laid me out for burial
in the dirt.

16-18 Now packs of wild dogs come at me;
thugs gang up on me.
They pin me down hand and foot,
and lock me in a cage—a bag
Of bones in a cage, stared at
by every passerby.
They take my wallet and the shirt off my back,
and then throw dice for my clothes.

19-21 You, God—don’t put off my rescue!
    Hurry and help me!
Don’t let them cut my throat;
    don’t let those mongrels devour me.
If you don’t show up soon,
    I’m done for—gored by the bulls,
    meat for the lions.

22-24 Here’s the story I’ll tell my friends when they come to worship,
and punctuate it with Hallelujahs:
Shout Hallelujah, you God-worshipers;
give glory, you sons of Jacob;
adore him, you daughters of Israel.
He has never let you down,
never looked the other way
when you were being kicked around.
He has never wandered off to do his own thing;
he has been right there, listening.

25-26 Here in this great gathering for worship
    I have discovered this praise-life.
And I’ll do what I promised right here
in front of the God-worshipers.
Down-and-outers sit at God’s table
    and eat their fill.
Everyone on the hunt for God
    is here, praising him.
“Live it up, from head to toe.
    Don’t ever quit!”

27-28 From the four corners of the earth
    people are coming to their senses,
    are running back to God.
Long-lost families
    are falling on their faces before him.
God has taken charge;
    from now on he has the last word.

29 All the power-mongers are before him
—worshiping!
All the poor and powerless, too
—worshiping!
Along with those who never got it together
—worshiping!

30-31 Our children and their children
will get in on this
As the word is passed along
from parent to child.
Babies not yet conceived
will hear the good news—
that God does what he says.

The Devotional Guy_preach the gospel

In Psalm 22, we find David weary and frustrated, feeling despondent, and wondering if God had forsaken him. Yet, he remained confident that God would look after him. Frustrated by God’s apparent lack of response to David’s prayers, he found encouragement through remembering God’s past faithfulness and goodness.

David teaches us a valuable lesson through his response. We see David demonstrating attitudes and concerns in similar ways that we do when the world seems to be piling problem after problem at our door. Amidst the turmoil swirling around his situation, David steps back long enough to remember the Lord’s previous mercies and grace. This made his present troubles appear small in retrospect.

David outlines his dire circumstances and then confidently expresses his personal trust in the Lord and belief that the same God who provided for him before will deliver him from certain death now.

When we find ourselves mired in the valley, we forget what we experienced on the mountaintop. My late friend Mark would often say something like “Don’t forget in the darkness what God showed you in the light.”

Yes, in this life we will have trouble. But, as we see in this Psalm written by David centuries ago, we can be confident that we serve a God who is trustworthy. God is able. With an able and faithful God on our side, we have nothing to fear in this life.

As a nation, I pray we will remember what we share in common is far greater than that which divides us. We must move past the vitriolic discourse and begin having honest conversations about what ails us. In my lifetime, I have seen our nation move far away from God. We have forsaken and forgotten Him, pushing Him out of virtually every facet of our lives. We’ve taken the wheel. We’ve become the pilots now. At best, we ask God to be our co-pilot, to ride along with us, as we pursue our will and seek out our own ways. Along the way, those who have pledged to protect and serve us are slaughtered on the battlefields far away and those close to home.

DPD Memorial 2016Please checkout Gary Miller and I discussing “Everythingness” on the WorshipMinistry.com podcast.

In Light of Our Inexplicable Heartache

My heart aches for the people of Parkland, Florida as I am sure many of yours do also. I can not begin to fathom the pain the children, parents, teachers, and all involved are enduring. This is suffering of excruciating magnitude.

Words are insufficient in explaining the inexplicable. Debating the politics that come from this without moving forward with tangible solutions only adds to the hurt we feel. It exasperates the frustration that stems from incidents like this that we all agree happen way too often. Truthfully, once was too many. Unfortunately, once happened long ago.

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Personally, I don’t have all the answers. I doubt I have any. We can’t cure evil. You can’t solve what goes on in the mind of a maniac or develop a test that helps us identify who in their right mind would unleash something this horrific on their community. People in their right mind don’t do this. Even if we know what triggers this type of action, it will be an unsatisfying knowledge. Knowing why won’t really matter. It won’t bring back the lives the world has lost.

While I’ve heard that prayer has been proven ineffective, I personally know that nothing could be further from the truth. Prayer does work. It opens the door to healing and comfort in egregious times of trouble. Prayer starts a conversation with the God of the universe, allowing us to cry out to Him in our anguish. And prayer works in reality too. I have witnessed prayer at work, changing lives, healing hurts, and even inexplicably curing disease. No, prayer doesn’t always yield me the answer I want. Sometimes, when I pray, I get no answer. Experience has taught me that receiving a no or having my prayer be met with silence actually works out for my good. If God had granted me everything I’d every asked for, I’d be more of a mess than I already am. Prayer is anything but ineffective. It is an action. It does make a difference.

Prayer Works

I recently heard a parent boast that he teaches his children that religion doesn’t matter. Again, nothing could be further from the truth. What you believe about God is really the most important thing about you. It informs how you live. Or at least it should. It guides you in the decisions you make. Or I hope that it would. What you believe or don’t believe matters greatly. Sure, we shouldn’t allow someone’s beliefs to impact how we view them or treat them. At least that’s what my understanding of Scripture teaches. I am to be loving and kind towards others, not because of who they are or who I am, but because of who God is.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. 

1 Corinthians 13:13 (NIV)

We seem to be caught up in somewhat of a chicken and egg argument. Is it the mental illness that is the problem or the access and availability to guns? Honestly, a rock in the hands of a mentally unstable person is a dangerous tool. What leads a person who feels unloved and feels isolated to do this? I don’t know. It seems unreasonable to expect that anyone can reason with an unstable person. Truthfully, I quit caring about why they do it once they pull the trigger. Yet, how I wish that someone could have done something to prevent this tragedy striking the community of Parkland, Florida.

I have heard it said that it seems like there is more of this atrocity than there used to be. Is there more evil in our world today than there was in past years or long-forgotten ages? While I would like to think that is the case, I’m not sure it is. I would like to think it is because in a crazy, delusional sort of way it might help me make sense of the madness seemingly occurring all around us at a rate of every other day or weekly, depending on whose statistics you want to believe. I’m not sure it is, because even the Bible depicts stories of horrific violence and sheer evil. I doubt the people of Sodom and Gomorrah would let go of their crown of vileness easily.

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We must do what we can to not let evil win, knowing that ultimately, God has already won the victory for us all through the atoning sacrifice of His son, Jesus. We have to cling tightly to the promises God has given us. He is faithful. He has not forgotten us. He has not forsaken us. His mercies continue to be new with every morning.

While this post of mine may not make you feel better or provide you with the answer your heart desperately desires, know at the moment it is the best response I can muster. Forgive my inadequacy. Excuse my inability. Hear my heart. Like yours, it aches. 

In the aftermath of another tragic situation, we can do everything we need to do to learn from it so that we can do whatever we need to do to prevent it from ever happening again. The answer won’t come overnight. Individually,  we can remain watchful and vigilant, saying something when we see something, doing something when our gut gives us every indication something needs to be done. Hindsight is always 20/20. Let us learn from yesterday, so that we can make a difference tomorrow. It’s time for a change.

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