Let Love Lead

Several years ago, my daughter Hope came stomping through the living room visibly upset. Her mom asked, “Hope, what’s wrong?” Hope stopped, turned and yelled, “Dad’s being a jerk!” (I probably was.) When I heard her say this, I followed her to her room and had a one sided discussion that went something like this; “You have a right to feel whatever you feel about the things I decide. You have a right to express your feelings and to argue your point. You have my permission to say ANYTHING you need to say to express your feelings. But you DO NOT have the right to be rude or disrespectful while doing it. Are we clear?”

While Hope clearly has a flawed father to deal and reason with, I’m wondering what is the right way to approach our Father, God? Oh I don’t mean when life is wonderful and we are feeling all the love our tiny souls can muster for Him, I’m talking about the other days. The days when the bills out pace the pay, the days when the car, washing machine and the vacuum all stop working, and then the dog throws up on the floor. I’m talking about when we pray and ask Him for simple things like, “Let me pass my test, or get the job, or find my keys or make the cut” and none of those simple things goes in our favor. I’m talking about when we ask the big ones too, “Save my marriage, heal my child, let the scan be clean, let the test results come back negative” and the silence from the one who loves us most is thunderous. What is the right way to approach God in those moments?

Rich Mullins, wrote a song shortly before his death called, Hard to Get, in the song he pours out his frustration with God.

“Do you remember when You lived down here

Where we all scrape to find the faith to ask for daily bread

Did you forget about us after You had flown away

Well I memorized every word You said

Still I’m so scared, I’m holding my breath

While You’re up there just playing hard to get”

I can’t prove it, but I think He allows us to be as bold in approaching Him as our love extends toward Him. Jesus Christ made it possible for us to go directly to God. To go “behind the curtain” to step into the throne room and say exactly how we feel, to pour out our hearts and yes, even be angry at Him. He does not live in time and sees our lives in the context of eternity rather than the snap shot of our years.

I guess what I’m saying is that I think He can handle our attempts at saying how we feel, even when it is raw and pain driven. They key, it seems to me, is to let love lead—we can have angry and pain-filled words, but when those words need to be expressed, have your Love for God hold the leash and lead the way so the Pit bull of your pain is restrained and led by love.

telemicus out

What Are We Waiting For?

The boldness of righteousness intrigues me. I don’t mean the morally faultless; I mean the pure of heart. I’m amazed at the way God treats boldness in his servants. Abraham recognized it was a bold move to bargain with the Lord for the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. The prophet Jonah, when asked by the Lord, “Do you have a right to be angry?” shot back, “I do! I am angry enough to die!” Very bold. David, spoke boldly of his own righteousness and called on God to do all manner of harm to his enemies. Beyond that, he boldly declares his trust in the Lord to support him against his enemies. Fascinating.

Let’s consider two aspects of this, the boldness of righteousness and boldness in approaching God. In recent weeks, Miss California captured more than her fifteen minutes of fame because she answered a loaded question from an agenda driven miscreant judge concerning gay marriage. Without prejudice, she said boldly that she believed in the traditional view of marriage. For her boldness, she is both honored and vilified.

Being bold is not being willing to argue with everyone we meet about our view of righteousness. Boldness is being without fear when we face an enemy. It’s also standing firm when we are afraid. It is speaking the truth regardless of the consequence. It is walking with integrity of the soul that will not compromise our faith. It is standing with and defending the cause of the oppressed when we have no power to wield. It is confidence in cause over capability and it is risk with no certainty of reward.

In the Old Book David says, “When I called, you answered me; you made me bold and stouthearted” (Psalm 138:3). In the movie, Return of the King, as they made plans for a diversion to give Frodo a chance to complete his mission, Gimli said, “Certainty of death, small chance of success… What are we waiting for?”

The Lord makes us bold and stouthearted. To be honest, I’ve been more stout-headed than stouthearted in my life. I want to be bolder for the Lord—not in my convictions, but in my actions. I think we need more boldness for the cause of righteousness. I suppose we will need a greater hunger for it in our lives. Boldness is not arrogance or confidence in ourselves, boldness is a reckless confidence in the Lord and His Presence in our lives—“you made me bold and stouthearted” well then, what are we waiting for?

telemicus out

Learning from History

There’s been a lot of talk this week about Tea Parties. I know some people think that all the protesters are doing this because they don’t want to pay ANY taxes. That is not the case. Everyone, (not counting crazy people) knows that taxes are a necessary part of our social and government systems. The conflict is over the level of taxation and the fairness of its confiscation.

We live in a country, (one that I love and would proudly defend) that has some whacky tax situations. For example… my mother-in-law worked a part time job in which she earned about $2100 last year. She is in her 70s and is now disabled. But because the church that she worked for didn’t take the taxes out and filed on her as a self employed person, she had to pay almost $300 of that little amount in taxes. Something isn’t right.

There is a need for some reasonable changes in taxation. We are told that about 40% of all earners pay no taxes at all (meaning, no withholding—even the devil has to pay FICA). I heard this week that the top 10% of earners (those that earn the most) pay over 70% of the entire tax revenue that comes into the treasury. There is clearly a need for some sanity in this process. I don’t think that I’m smarter than many people, but I am smart enough to know there’s a better way.

When the wisest man to ever live passed from this life, he gave his son the role of King over Israel. His name was Rehoboam. When he became King the people asked him to cut their taxes so they could live with less of a burden. Rehoboam asked them to give him three days to think it over. He asked his father’s advisors and they gave good advice, but he rejected it. Then he asked his friends about cutting the taxes. They convinced him that it would serve their interests and make life better if he raised the taxes instead. So that’s what he did.

The people of Israel revolted (Tea Party) and the country divided. The nation never truly recovered from all the harm caused by a wise King who made foolish decisions and left an ill-equipped son to lead God’s people. Rehoboam never set his heart to follow God (2 Chronicles 12:14).

If they’re going to tax our tea, they had better know that there is a limit. If this young man president is going to listen to his ‘friends,’ tax like there is no tomorrow and spend like there is no end to the money; if he continues to proclaim, “only the government” then don’t be surprised if he ends up like another young king who divided the nation because he wouldn’t listen to wisdom, the people or set his heart to follow God.

telemicus out

I Make All Things New

In the movie, Passion of the Christ, Jesus falls and Mary comes and kneels down beside him. Jesus looks at her and says, “See mother, I’m making everything new.” This phrase is from Revelation 21:5. This Sunday is Easter. As I was thinking about what I should speak about this week to our church the Word came to me, “Tell them I’m making everything NEW!” No, I didn’t hear a voice, but I heard it loud and clear.

The book of Hebrews is partly about the ways in which Christ is better than anything that came before him. He is better than Moses, He is a better High Priest, He is a better sacrifice, He is better than angels. He is better than the Law and provides a better covenant. He grants better access to the Father and offers a better rest. Jesus death on the cross gave all of humanity something better.

But beyond the elements of our religion, Jesus gives us the opportunity to live new lives. On that Sunday morning when the stone rolled away like the doors at the Target store and he walked out a free man, everything changed for us who belong to Him. “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12).

When we enter into relationship with him, He forgives us, for everything, for good. We enjoy the depth of His teachings. We mature in Him. We walk in and with Him by the Spirit. We have the capacity for holiness. We are no longer slaves but free! We are not under law, but grace. We are not illegitimate, but adopted into the family of God. We are not under the curse, but the blessing. We have peace with God. We have comfort in sorrows. We have family by faith. Because of Him, we can face the horrible, forgive the unforgivable, believe the impossible, endure the unbearable and overcome the insurmountable.

The Old Book says, “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness” (2 Peter 1:3). Oh He truly does make everything New! The thing that is most incredible to me about all of this is when a person allows Christ to change their heart. When the heart of stone becomes soft and teachable, when bitter becomes forgiving, when closed becomes open, when wounded becomes healed, when anger becomes happy, when hateful becomes loving—this is Him making us new.

telemicus out

What Are You Arguing About?

In the movie, Leatherheads, there is a scene where the Duluth Bulldogs are playing a “Mud Bowl” type game against Chicago. It’s the end of the game and Duluth has to have a trick play to win. So Dodge Conner (George Clooney) uses one play to take out one of Chicago’s players, and trades places with him as they carry him off the field. Because mud covered every player on both teams, no one notices. This means that Dodge is covering his own man. The perfect distraction—Duluth wins!

Distractions can be good. We all need something to take our minds off the dragons that have us in turmoil or tangled in details. But, when there is a pressing matter that needs our attention, distractions can render us ineffective and waste our opportunities.

In Mark chapter 9, Jesus spent some time on a mountain with Moses and Elijah. Peter, James and John were also at this meeting and as they returned to the town, they found the other nine Apostles engaged in an argument with the teachers of the Law. Jesus says, “What are you arguing about?” Out of the crowd a man speaks up and says, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by an evil spirit . . . I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not” (Mark 9:17-18).

There you have it. The father brings his son, tormented by an evil spirit and because the Apostles were not spiritually prepared to face this evil spirit, they could not cast it out. Instead of dealing with their own spiritual weakness, taking the boy to a private place to minister to him, taking him to Jesus so that He could cast it out, instead of any other course of action, they got into a shouting match with the teachers of the Law about the fact that they couldn’t cast out this evil spirit.

And the Enemy wins.

What frustrated Jesus here is not the evil spirit. You can see that by the way he dealt with it that is was not a giant battle for him. No, what frustrated Jesus was the unbelief and the lack of preparedness in his own followers. For while his disciples argued about their own efficacy and power, a boy still was being tortured.

We see this in politics, where those we elect go and fight with one another on Capitol Hill and the talk shows, while ignoring the real people who need help. They say their fighting for us, but it’s rarely about us. It happens in churches too. While people need to know the love and forgiveness of God, “leaders” argue about what they want or don’t want to happen. I wonder . . . if Jesus walked into our building or attended one of our meetings, would he say, “Keep up the good work?” or “What are you arguing about?”

telemicus out

Like That Other Dad…

I wish I were different. I’m not good at acting or sounding religious. I don’t say spiritual things and if on occasion I do, it seems about as natural as wearing scuba flippers on a bicycle. I’m certainly a believer, but I don’t think I’m good at it. I pray, but those prayers do not resonate with confidence. It seems to me I rarely know what God really wants. How should I know! He’s God and I’m as far from that as anyone should want to be.

Folks like me are honest with Him. When we mess up, we say so. We apologize, ask forgiveness and state our plan for changing. We beg when desperate. We know when things are totally in His hands. It seems like He says, “No” to me a lot. I’m not complaining. He is just and his judgments are right. I’m just explaining how I feel about all this. Those who never struggle with the “No’s” baffle people like me. Those who have a grand faith really break my heart, because I feel so weak and inadequate in their presence.

Have you ever struggled with the idea that some of God’s children that are simply not favored? (Some of my strong friends would say, “This is why you experience these tough times.) Perhaps—but I don’t resent God for being who He is or feeling the way He does. I believe He loves me, forgives me, saved me and will invite me into heaven when this deal is over. I belong to Christ. What else can I say?

I believe that God is good and capable of anything He wishes to accomplish. If He says no to any of His children, it’s because it suits His purpose and is best. The Old Book says, “Love does not seek its own.” I love Him, so I do not make demands. I pour out my prayers and trust He will do right by me. And when I beg for His help, like the dad in Mark 9, I say, “If you can, please help me.” Then He tells me, “All things are possible for the one who believes.” At that moment, I fall at His feet and proclaim, “I do believe, help me overcome my unbelief.” (vs. 24).

I don’t have great faith; but my doubts aren’t about God, His righteousness, grace or power. I struggle with my own stumbling faith; that my needs or desires matter to Him. I’m a dad. I know what it’s like when your child asks for things that are not what is best. It breaks my heart when things happen in life, that we can never understand on this side, and perhaps even the next. So, like that other dad who professed his faith in Jesus, but just as passionately begged for help to overcome his unbelief, I fall into the arms of a Father who understands me and is utterly trustable.

telemicus out

We Would Help Them . . . Wouldn’t We?

Earlier this week the family watched the show, “What would you Do?” In this edition, they had a group of college students (actors) publicly hazing fraternity pledges. In one scene, they tied a student to a light pole with plastic wrap and a passerby took out a pocketknife and cut him loose. When it appeared to be going too far, people stepped up and got involved. They repeated the bit with sorority girls and surprisingly, people did not get involved—many simply watched.

In another part of the program, they showed a young, attractive, nicely dressed woman collapse on a busy sidewalk. They ran the experiment many times and people came to her aid within five seconds every time. However, when they repeated the experiment, using what looked like a homeless man; people were far less responsive. While the actor lay on the sidewalk for almost twenty minutes, a homeless woman, powerless to do anything, asked passersby to call for help repeatedly. One man actually stopped and slipped a piece of cardboard under his head (better than walking on by I suppose.)

I heard or read a story some years ago about a child who, upon hearing the story of Mary and Joseph being turned away from the Inn in Bethlehem, said to his mother, “We would help them, wouldn’t we?” We would all like to think that, faced with situations like these; we would step up and do the right thing. A friend commented on Facebook this week that she wished John Quinones (the host of “What Would You Do?”) would come to her town and test her. In our living rooms, it’s easy to know what we would do.

We lived in some apartments many years ago and early on a Saturday morning I heard a child crying outside. I stepped out on the patio and looked down in the courtyard. Wearing only a diaper and t-shirt with no shoes, a toddler stood—lost, cold and scared. I ran down and tried to talk to him, but he wasn’t old enough to tell me anything beyond crying for his mommy.

I was afraid to pick him up. I was afraid to take him into our apartment, but I knew I had to help him. (I know it sounds like a no brainer, but we live in a time where things are complicated.) So I took him by the hand and we walked through the property. I found an apartment with the door standing open; a woman was sprawled on the couch while another baby screamed in a playpen. I knocked on the door and when she woke up, she was mad at me for having her son. I explained that I found him wondering in another section of the complex. She took the boy, scolded him and slammed the door.

We see people all the time that need our help, whether they deserve it or not. Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40). We would help them, wouldn’t we?

telemicus out

Hope and Heath

My youngest daughter is getting married in two days. On one hand, it’s no big deal. She is always been a solid kid and I’m not worried at all. On the other hand, it’s a scary world and no one is ready at 20 years old for what it is going to do to them. The truth is, we can’t protect our kids from the world or life. We can only give them a solid foundation. Hope has that.

Last night Hope came in after work, I was in my office working. In our little talk, she told me everything I needed to know. She related all that had gone wrong leading up to the wedding over the past several months. The she said, “But stuff happens and you gotta go on with life—it’ll work out.”

That’s my girl!

Heath is a good man. He loves Hope and wants to make a good life with her. He has dreams and plans for his life; knows what he would like to do and is making plans to get there. We love him and look forward to his being a part of our family. We are a strange heard, but we support each other and have fun together. That’s what counts.

Hope is unique. She loves to laugh and have fun. She cracks us up all the time. We are proud of her “can do” spirit. We are proud of her commitment to remain pure for this day. Since she was little, she has decided what she wanted and then gone to get it. She is strong and has learned to be sensitive. We don’t agree on everything. Brittany said the other day, “It’s like you two look at each other and one is speaking Chinese and the other Korean.” That’s accurate, for some reason we don’t communicate well, and it frustrates both of us. Nevertheless, we love each other just the same.

One thing I know. Heath is a lucky man, because Hope makes life better for the people around her. Things work. She will enjoy much laughter and success. If the axiom is true that behind every successful man there is a good woman, then Heath has a bright future. He is marrying a great girl.

A few weeks ago, I was standing in my office and hearing someone talking outside I opened the blinds. I saw Hope and Heath standing by his car talking. It was fun to watch. They were laughing and I could see in both of their faces that this simple conversation was pure joy for both of them. Hope’s soul lights up when she is talking to Heath. I hope it always will.

telemicus out

ps. The wedding is at 1:00 P.M. Saturday March 7 at Mesquite Valley Christian Church, 1401 Clay Mathis, Mesquite, Texas 75181. Everyone is welcome.

Refresher Course on Integrity

When I was about thirteen, dad walked into my room and handed me a picture of a poem with a gold plastic frame. He said, “I want you to memorize this and I want you to hang it on your wall.” I never did get the whole thing memorized, but it did have enough impact on my life that I never forgot the opening stanza and I will never forget the assignment. The fifth stanza is occupying my thoughts this week. We are hearing a lot about bailouts, losses, toxic assets, layoffs, stimulus plans, accountability, etc. Like many of you, I’m weary of it all.

Somewhere the notion of losing became foreign to us. We have schools that won’t fail students who fail. Our kids play on sports teams that protect them from losing by refusing to keep score. Pro athletes get no cut, guaranteed contracts. During the mortgage fiasco, people got NINJA (No Income, No Job, no Assets) loans—and no accountability.

Life is hard. There are winners and losers. And most of the time we all experience moments of both heart crushing losses and thrilling victories. Risk and loss are part of life experience. I don’t care to hear people whine about their losses. It is part of our being here. Risk gives life flavor and texture. The danger can be thrilling and devastating. It can lead to tremendous loss and unimagined gain. To fail to risk is to fail to live. Kipling said . . .

If you can make one heap of all your winnings,
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
And never breathe a word about your loss;

People in business should be required to face their losses with integrity. If you don’t want losses, be wiser. Return to the reality that in business a certain amount of risk is required. It’s true in life as well. I don’t know what to call people who want to be insulated from every loss. Sissy seems to be too nice, but some of the more pejorative words might be inappropriate (you may insert your term of choice here.)

I’d like to see just one of those C.E.O. types stand before Congress and say, “We loaned money to people who did not have the ability to pay it back. We will eat the loss and change the policies that led to this.” (Yes, I know the government forced some of that. Here again, integrity died on the alter of political expediency.) “We took a chance on product or resource development that did not pay off. We will take the loss and improve our research.” As Kipling said it, they need to take their losses, start again at their beginnings. In regard to their hard times and losses, I think they need to shut up and go to work.

telemicus out

What Needs to Happen

I don’t care for sappy spiritual talk. I’m not one of those “Praise Jebus” types, (that would be those who “talk Jesus” but don’t really know him.) I am sharing my weak and struggling heart on this. I don’t always readily turn to prayer. I pray and I trust as best I can, but I rarely feel that God heard me and that he is on my side. I wish I felt different. I believe He is good, just, holy, and righteous. If there is a shortcoming in the relationship, I have no doubt that it is mine.

That the country and the world are in a bit of a mess economically is clear. The solution does not lie in the ideology of the Republicans and Democrats. The solution is with God. We have to listen to God and what he says about His judgments. We are studying Hosea in our Sunday morning Bible class. Our country is nowhere close to as wicked as Israel was when Hosea prophesied. But we have repeated many of their mistakes in our relationship with God.

So what needs to happen? We who have knowledge of God need to attack the ignorance of our people about God and his character. In Hosea’s time, the spiritual leaders of the people were involved in all forms of wickedness and did not help the people come to know God. He said, “my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also reject you as my priests; because you have ignored the law of your God, I also will ignore your children” (Hosea 4:6).

When God’s people were in trouble, they called for help from neighboring nations like Egypt and Assyria instead of from God. But He said, “—he is not able to cure you, not able to heal your sores” “Then I will go back to my place until they admit their guilt. And they will seek my face; in their misery they will earnestly seek me” (Hosea 5:13 & 15). So we need to ask God for help; not Congress, not our politicians and not Hollywood or horoscopes. It is God who heals and provides.

He needs to hear from our hearts. We need to teach our children to cry out to Him as well. Crying out in misery or fear is not the same as crying out from our hearts. God said, “They do not cry out to me from their hearts but wail upon their beds” (Hosea 7:14). The children of Israel were crying out, but it was about their misery, it wasn’t about God.

I’m not overly spiritual. But I know this, our problems extend far beyond the politics of the country. We need to increase our knowledge of God. We need to look for help only from God and he needs to hear our longing and dependence on Him and not simply for relief in tough times. I am a positive person. I don’t think we are headed for disaster or we are nearing the end. There are plenty of prophets of doom. (Those clowns should join a circus and earn an honest living.) I’m simply saying we need to listen to God about this and seek him with our hearts. It’s going to be all right. He has everything under control.

telemicus out