- 2017Feb 22
September 20, 2005
It has been a long journey together, but today I need to let you know that I have finally decided to leave you for good. You may be surprised by what seems like a sudden decision on my part but, if you will search your heart, you will have to confess that you likely saw this coming. Although you know me so well, I feel compelled to walk away from you forever today. We both know that most breakups occur with the one leaving saying something like, “It’s not you. It’s me.” That is not the case with us. It's you. That is right, Religion, this is 100% on you. I have experienced enough of your ways to finally conclude that you are beneath me. Religion, please believe me when I say that you are not worthy of my time and devotion. I cannot spend another day in a relationship with you. Not only do I no longer find you attractive, I have met Someone else. You used to pretend like you were Him, and you had me fooled in earlier years after I ignorantly gave myself to you. Things are different now because He has called me to make a choice between you and Him. My decision has been made and I am making it official today: I am breaking up with you and fully devoting myself to Jesus. He's awesome.
Religion, you used to make me feel secure. You were a whole lot better than the one I was with before I met you, that's for sure. Rebellion was a terrible partner, and I really do appreciate the fact that you were there for me when Rebellion and I could no longer walk together. You seemed safe when I knew that Rebellion had put a hit out on me. He would have killed me if I had not learned of you. I owed you something for that, I suppose, but I have far surpassed paying off that debt. If I am being honest, Religion, you were initially attractive to me too. And all the discipline you brought to my crazy life back then! I guess I should thank you for that too. In reality though, I ran to you on the rebound after Rebellion and I reached our end. You took me in and made me feel like I belonged somewhere. But then you started utilizing guilt to control me. You misrepresented God to me. You really knew how to twist the Bible to get what you always wanted out of me. I never felt like I measured up to your expectations and, frankly, it was exhausting trying to make you happy, Religion. I poured everything out that I could offer but, when I went to bed at night, I always felt like I needed to be and do more satisfy your demands. Religion, please don’t take this too personally, but I found myself no longer attracted to you a long time ago. Don’t get me wrong, you always looked immaculate on the outside but, honestly, there wasn’t much to you beyond what we saw externally. You have no joy, Religion. You don't know how to love either. It was weird that you had all that control and authority, but I finally realized that you have no real power outside of manipulation. I needed help on my inside and you just don’t have what it takes. I lost my true self in you for a while, Religion, and you didn’t care.
When I was at my lowest with you, that is when I met Him. Jesus came and spoke to me with understanding, compassion and hope. He won me on, like, the very first day. I knew He loved me like nobody else ever could. But I also knew that I could not be fully His until I decided what I would do about you. He does not share those whom He loves with anyone else. He's humble, but He calls me to undivided devotion. What would people say if I left you? Would I lose the friends that we had in common? Would you talk badly about me, Religion, if I mustered up the courage to leave you? Jesus kept showing up and making Himself irresistible to me. Really, Religion, if anyone is to blame for ending our relationship, it is Jesus. You may need to take it up with Him because I have fully committed to Him now. He is very tender but is also amazingly strong. He tells me that I can’t flirt with you ever again, Religion. He tells me that you have actually seduced so many others that He views you as a true enemy to His Kingdom and glory. He called you a prostitute - I did not know He would talk like that, but He is no softy for sure. Religion, you may not know this but Jesus does not like you at all. He told me that His enemy, Satan, is actually very good friends with you! How did I miss that during all the years you and I were together? When I really understood that fact, I knew I had to leave you. I do not make any apologies to you, Religion. You are a deceiver. You are a controller. Jesus was born of the Holy Spirit, but you are the offspring of the Devil and human reasoning. I will not marry into your family! As a matter of fact, when I see you courting other people, seducing them like you did me, I plan to expose you to them. Do not ask me, “Can’t we still be friends?” The answer is a big, fat “There is no way in Heaven that I will be your friend again!” You need to hear this from me, Religion: We. Are. Finished.
I will be with Jesus from now on. He has already pledged Himself to me and, frankly, I have been cheating on you with Him for a while. I am not proud for straddling the fence on this decision for so long, going back and forth between you two. It makes me feel like a fool even thinking about how I vacillated when His offer was so pure and good. I should have run away from you and into His arms a long time ago. I am just now, today, finally able to take courage and say that I am leaving you for good and going to be with Him forever. It may sound scandalous to you because you think I owe you something. I do not. I do owe Jesus everything but, surprisingly, He makes it seem like our relationship is all about what He has done for me, and what He wants to do in the future. His kindness and mercy and grace and love make it so easy for me to give myself fully to Him. He has never made me feel unworthy or ashamed. I always felt those things when I was with you.
So, I hope you will understand the finality of what I have written. You and I are forever done, Religion. Please do not come knocking or calling. Don’t text me or message me online. Jesus taught me your scent, so I will sniff you out before you get to me again. I will be alerting others to your fragrance too. In spite of my efforts, I am sure you will continue to have plenty of willing people to satisfy your need to shame and control. You just need to go ahead and take my name off your list.
I have found my true Love, and today’s decision to leave you and follow Him is ridiculously easy.
Dogmatically and sincerely,
- 2017Feb 04
“Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment.” – Proverbs 18:1
The individual in the proverb above is described as someone who purposefully separates himself from others. In essence, it would seem that the person is, in some fashion, hiding from others so as not to have to listen to their counsel. He has learned to trust only in himself and has no willingness to listen to others who might share wisdom with him. He’s a self-determined dissident who has, for some reason, crossed a line where he no longer values what others have to offer. By the way, he feels very safe but also…very alone.
Many of us had to learn the hard way that to live a detached life is not to live at all. God has created us to live in community with one another. An isolated life is a contradiction in terms because God has neither ordained nor permitted us to live unto ourselves. He created you and me for His own glory, and that glory is to be put on display before others. What good is a song if it is never heard? A poem can be masterfully written but if there is no audience to ponder the prose then it becomes a mockery. Beauty is said to be in the eye of the beholder, but what good is it if is never displayed before beholding eyes? Your life and mine are precious gifts, entrusted endowments from on high, to be publicly presented to any who care to see them as reflections of our Creator, Redeemer and King. I love the words of the recently gifted lepers of 2 Kings 7:9-10 who said, “We are not doing right. This day is a day of good news. If we are silent and wait until the morning light, punishment will overtake us. Now therefore come; let us go and tell the king’s household.” These starving, dying men had stumbled upon a treasure trove of provision and had initially chosen to keep it to themselves. Spiritual reason eventually overcame them, and they understood that the bounty bequeathed to them was meant to be shared with others. So it is with your life. God has given it to you for the benefit of others and the magnifying of his name. The greatest downside of isolating yourself is that people are robbed of experiencing something wonderful which God made. That wonderful thing is you.
Hurt can result in hiding, but we are least like the Savior when we withdraw from others. Retreat and self-preservation are anti-God qualities in us. He is eternally pursuant and sharing. He reaches out and relentlessly seeks for others. Remember that God is actually rejected more often than He is received, yet He refuses to withdraw from humanity. Amazingly, He has no need or deficiency in Himself that motivates His reaching out to others; His doing so is entirely for the benefit of the one pursued. Could we imagine the abysmal thought of how things would be if He retreated and hid Himself from us because of the great pain we’ve caused? Not a one of us is without sin, and our sin was toward Him, upon Him and against Him. His response? Chase down those heinous violators of all that is good and holy and…make Myself known to them in compassion, grace and mercy.
We deadbolt our doors and draw the blinds. He kicks the door off the hinges and opens the windows to afford us every possible means by which to be restored to Him. Herein is another piece of evidence as to why He is Lord and I am not.
Grace and forgiveness are the twin antidotes to bitterness. Hostility isolates. Self preservation decays. Bitterness poisons us all the way down to the spiritual atoms of the soul. The enabling force to prevent us from isolating ourselves and refusing the wisdom, counsel and investment from others is the realization of Christ’s response to us when we have committed spiritual treason against Him. I must forgive as one forgiven. I must reach out as one who has been reached. I must offer embrace to others because I myself am lavishly welcomed by God. My emotions will tell me that sometimes the perfect place for me is found by putting life in reverse gear and backing slowly into my self-preserving shell. Adam was the first to hide from Someone, and we have inherited his fearful DNA. Some of you are being called out of from behind your fig leaf. God is telling you that it is time to risk it again. The room you have been withdrawing to only has enough oxygen for one, and He is knocking on the door to let some fresh Kingdom air in, and to walk you on out. Unbolt the door, friend…raise up the blinds…the shining sun will chase the shadows, clarify your discernment and reveal to you those around you who have much to offer. Be there when it happens.
- 2017Jan 11
We are ten days into the new year and I thought it was time to post a devotional blog, focusing on a passage of Scripture. Spending my morning in Matthew’s eighth chapter, I was struck at the difference between how this chapter begins and how it ends. Look at this with me:
Matthew 8:1 – “When He came down from the mountain, great crowds followed Him.”
Matthew 8:34 – “And behold, all the city came out to meet Jesus, and when they saw him, they begged him to leave their region.”
Although these two verses took place at different moments and in different areas, the polarized responses to Jesus by the people in these two verses captures my thinking. One moment, they are chasing Him down, enraptured by the wisdom He shared in His sermon from the hillside (chapters 5-7). They long to be with Him and to hear more. Then, inexplicably, the chapter ends with people begging Him to leave their presence. Humanity is revealed as desiring Jesus passionately in one moment, then outrightly rejecting Jesus the next moment.
So, what happened in between verses 1 & 34? What activity do the verses in between reveal? Observe what the Holy Spirit moved Matthew to write down in these verses:
Jesus touched and healed an unclean leper. In doing so, He broke a religious rule that forbids anyone from touching an unclean leper. (8:1-4)
He exalted the faith of Gentile military man over the blood-ties of Jewish brethren. He affirmed the Roman officer’s faith, and then taught that many who were not Jews by race would be in the eternal Kingdom, while many who are Jews by race would be excluded from the eternal Kingdom. Jesus affirmed a Gentile while exposing the presumption of His Jewish brethren. This was a huge no-no among the Jews. (8:5-13)
He healed scores of people from their sicknesses while delivering many others from demonic possession. There was no real scandal about this work, but it would not have been nice, neat, nor religiously tidy. There would have been sights, smells and sounds associated with the multiple deliverances. Demons don’t go quietly, and people who are miraculously healed do not typically give a quaint, quiet nod of thanks. This would have been gloriously dramatic! (8:14-17)
He refused those who presumed to casually follow Him, citing that discipleship was an issue that must trump all lesser loyalties. Jesus reveals that discipleship is not casual, but costly. This is still an unpopular message. (8:18-22)
He mightily displayed His full authority over nature by causing a storm with a word from His mouth. This was the climax of the chapter. The One who defied social and religious expectations, who went for the least, the sick and the demonized, who commanded that nobody approach Him with casual follow-ship…was the same One who successfully commanded nature to sit down and shut up. (8:23-27)
What ultimately led to the people evicting Jesus from their town was that He showed compassion to the two town bullies of Gadara who were notorious problems for others. In delivering them, He also allowed for His plan to cause a financial hardship for some pig-herders. The deliverance of the two men costs the townspeople something and they were so displeased that they asked Jesus to leave. While Jesus was treasuring souls, the townsfolk were treasuring swine. (8:28-33)
So, after Jesus does repeated miraculous works of power and authority, the strongest desire of some was to distance themselves from Him. In the end, He was too much Savior for them to be comfortable with. This still happens today, unfortunately. When Jesus was just talking, the crowds ran after Him in big numbers. However, when He started messing with the system, breaking religious taboos, calling people to costly discipleship, entering into loud and messy ministry, pouring into the lives of Gentiles, lepers and demon-possessed people, the people asked Him to move on to somewhere else. There is something to think about in all of this.
Jesus is the Truth and the Word, therefore preaching will always be important. Yet, Jesus is also the Light and the Life and the Way. Because of this we need to anticipate spiritual heat, spiritual breath and spiritual movement. As Paul once testified that he did not come in word alone, but in demonstration of power, we should expect no less in our own lives and churches. Jesus is determined to move. When He does, please do not ask Him to move on.
By the way, Jesus never went back to that region. He went there once, expelled demons, was asked to leave…and He did. When Jesus walks in, honor what He comes to do. If we do not, He is not above walking out. Where He is welcome, He will work!