Overcome

We are not born innocent

We are born sinners

We are not pure of heart

Our hearts are deceitful

Our ways are not good only to be tainted by what we are taught

Our ways are wicked from the beginning

Hatred, envy, greed, lust, selfishness are all inborn characteristics

We are born unrighteous into a fallen world

And we stay that way

It is who we are

 

So, do not be dumbfounded

When you see the unspeakable

Do not be amazed at the depths to which man can fall

And ask how can this be?

It can be because it is who we are

The murderer, the rapist, the slanderer, the racist

It is you

It is me

It is us

And we cannot overcome by pretending it isn’t us

By pretending we are not born this way

We cannot overcome by pretending we are good

We cannot overcome by passing a law

Or saying the correct thing or by imagining that the flaws in them

Are not the flaws in us

 

Our only hope is One who has overcome

Overcome sin for us

Overcome deceit for us

Overcome hate and envy and greed and racism for us

Overcome the very world that we are born into

Overcome our very selves

You cannot grow out of who you are

But you can be born again

Born anew

Born into a new life

Not by works or by anything you say or do

But by the One who overcomes

By the Overcomer

 

If there is to be hope

Peace

Change

It will not come from you

Or me

Or them

But it comes from the Overcomer

For He has overcome

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Down for the Struggle

If you are struggling. Keep struggling.

It’s better than not struggling.

Better than giving in.

Better than giving up.

 

Everyone struggles. There is no way around it. You have struggled, are struggling, and will struggle.

It’s called life.

 

And contrary to some Christian teachers today, becoming a Christian does not exempt you from struggles.

 

Our struggles are with circumstances. With sin. With ourselves.

 

The problem today is that too often we look at our circumstances and say:

I can’t change anything. This is my lot in life.

So we just accept our circumstances.

 

We look at our sin and say:

What I am doing is not that bad. Heck, what I am doing shouldn’t be a sin.

And many times we draw a line in the sand, saying I will not cross this line and do that and then we cross it and we draw another line and cross it and draw another line and cross it and draw another line and cross it and draw another line and cross it and soon we have drawn so many lines we can’t even look back and remember where we started.

So we just accept our sin (we don’t even call sin sin anymore).

 

We look at ourselves and say:

This is just who I am. I am me and there is no need to change.

So we just accept who we are and never look to improve or change…because I can’t change my circumstance and I can’t change my sin, so why change who I am.

 

We have become too accustomed to giving in too easily.

At the first sign of trouble or struggle, we give up.

 

But we need to struggle. We need to fight.

If you are struggling with something, keep struggling. Don’t be concerned or depressed or disillusioned if you are struggling with a circumstance or a sin or yourself.

That’s a good sign.

If you are struggling and kicking through something, that means you recognize that there is something better.

It is when you stop struggling and just accept things that there needs to be concern.

It means you have given up or given in.

 

And as Christians we are called to not give up or give in to the world around us or the sin within us.

 

The Apostle Paul says we are to press on to our goal. And our goal is Jesus.

Jesus has overcome the world.

If Jesus has overcome the world – and we have Jesus – we can overcome our circumstances, our sin, ourselves.

 

Paul says we are to press on.

He says we are to strain forward.

We are to struggle.

 

And in that struggle we will win.

We lose when we don’t struggle. When we don’t press on. When we don’t strain forward.

 

Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 3:13-14 (ESV)

 

Keep struggling.

Keep straining.

Keep fighting.

 

You may lose some battles, but you will win the war.

That Great Sermon?

That sermon was great. It was amazing. We hear this all the time from so many people every Sunday.
Oh wow, the sermon today was great.

For a sermon to be great it has to be effective and for it to be effective change has to happen and for change to happen Jesus has to be involved and the Spirit has to move.

How many great sermons from great preachers is it going to take before something changes in your life?
Your circumstances haven’t changed. But the message was great.
Your view of your circumstances hasn’t changed. But the message was great.
You know God wants you to do something and wants something different for you and your life, but you still struggle and question everything. But the message was great.

Let’s move away from the personal and move to a more macro view of things…
There are numerous preachers and pastors that are extremely gifted orators. They can weave humor, pop culture references and pragmatism with scripture and they do so with a skill that rivals professional speakers and actors.
These preachers and pastors are leading small, medium, large, and mega churches. Because of technology, their reach is almost unlimited. No longer bound by the confines of a building, their words and teachings can travel not only out of their town, but even out of their state and country!
Every week they deliver messages that reach audiences small and large and every week countless people will comment to each other, either in person or on social media, that the message that they heard was great.

And yet the church universal has problems. Church attendance is on the decline. The percentage of people who identify as Christians is on the decline. Non-believers have an extremely negative view of churches and Christians. Ask people what word comes to mind when they think of Christians and the words hypocritical and judgmental pop up the most often.

But the sermon was great.

Again, unless these ‘great sermons’ are generating changes in our lives, our circumstances and the way we view our circumstances, and the way we treat those around us, they really can’t be that great.

Part of the problem is that today’s preachers, pastors, and teachers – gifted as they may be in delivering smooth, polished sermons that hit the right tones and tickle the right ears – are missing something.

The Apostle Paul gives a clue as to what is missing in the sermons and in our lives and what is needed in order to bring about the change that should result when one preaches and when one hears a truly great message.
“My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.” (1 Corinthians 2:4-5)

A message that is delivered smoothly with funny anecdotes is not the definition of a great sermon. A great sermon is one that has the Spirit behind it.

If you walk away marveling at a message or are in awe of a speaker/teacher/preacher your focus is on the wrong thing and the speaker has done a poor job of allowing God’s Spirit to work.

We should walk away in awe of God. Preachers are to shine the light on God and His Son and His Spirit. That is what changes people. Not “great” messages.

Lesser of two evils…

Another election season…another time of melodramatic, hyperbolic wranglings about people moving if ‘so-and-so’ is elected, or how if ‘the-other-so-and-so’ is elected it will be the end of the world as we know it (and I feel fine).

You aren’t moving. And the world will keep turning after Nov. 8th.

I’ve written about this before (see archives) but it bears repeating:

God is not going to look down upon the earth on the morning of Nov. 9th and say, “They elected who??!!??”  Even though this year it may seem He has all the more reason to do that –  In reality, God will look down and it will be just as He planned.

You see, it is God who really elects leaders – (Deuteronomy 2:20-22; Daniel 4:17; John 19:10-11; Romans 13:1)

He is in control. Always.

It is something as Christians we would do good to remember – that despite any and all circumstances – He. Is. In. Control.

Forever in control.

Yes, the choices may not seem to make sense. And this year they may seem to make even less sense. It has always been that depending on your political party the opposition candidate was a harbinger of horrible things. This year it appears that most people are resigned to the fact that both candidates aren’t very good (putting it mildly) and realize they are voting for the lesser of two evils.

I was going to wax poetically about these choices and how we shouldn’t be focusing on the candidates and the end of the world and all that but instead be focused – always – on God and His power and His sovereignty…and then I came across this from C.S. Lewis…

“I feel a strong desire to tell you–and I expect you feel a strong desire to tell me–which of these two errors is the worse. That is the devil getting at us. He always sends errors into the world in pairs–pairs of opposites. And he always encourages us to spend a lot of time thinking which is the worse. You see why, of course? He relies on your extra dislike of the one error to draw you gradually into the opposite one. But do not let us be fooled. We have to keep our eyes on the goal and go straight between both errors. We have no other concern than that with either of them.”
–CS Lewis

 

Despite

Just another poem. How do I live? How do I carry on despite everything? Everything the world is throwing at me and everything of my own doing? This contains my answer… 

DESPITE

I have hope

Despite it all

 

The folly of it does not escape me

I am not totally blind

To the world I see

Not yet

I cling with aching fingers to it

The irrationality of hope

 

The drumbeat gets louder

Beating relentlessly

Pound, pound, pound

I am not submitted

Nonetheless

 

Not just outside

But inside I am aware of my fault

They do it to me

I do it to myself

Another attack, another incursion

Another slip-up, another misstep

But I do not give in

Not yet

 

Instead I bow down

In the face of pain

Sorrow

Loss

Chaos

Everything the world throws out at me

Everything I throw at myself

I bow down

To the only One who can make something

Of this disorder

He is the Reason

 

Despite it all

I still have hope

Beyond All Belief

Just another writing. How things are bad and good at the same time and how the echoes of the good come from God. Or something totally different. 

Beyond All Belief

There is a smell within the aroma of Spring

The sweetness of the grass and its tickle in the nose

Is interrupted ever so slightly

Ever so slightly

By something that doesn’t fit

Something that doesn’t belong

That seems out of place

Is it me?

 

The grandeur of God in all His creation

From the galaxies and stars to the rocks and sand

Something is off ever so slightly

Ever so slightly

Something doesn’t make sense

Something can’t make sense

It is never steady

Is it me?

 

There is sickness and death and disruption

It is there and can be felt by all

It ruins perfection ever so slightly

Ever so slightly

Nothing is correct

Nothing is right

And I smile

Is it me?

 

In the good the bad is there

In the bad I feel its weight

Hoping for good to break free ever so slightly

Ever so slightly

By something

By someone

By anything

Can it be?

 

In this juxtaposition of death with hints of life

Good with echoes of bad

Ever so slightly showed itself

As beyond all belief

Wrong made right

Bad made good

By One who only knows

Love

Let it be

Running to Nowhere

 

Just a poem on feelings from a moment in time…not much explanation is needed (I don’t think)…

Running to Nowhere

I can’t see the light

Unforeseen forces push me about

Doubts fill my head

It won’t stop until I’m dead

Running

Running from you

Running to you

 

I’m running

Running

Running

Running to nowhere

Running to you

 

You are the question

I cannot ask

You are the answer

I cannot hear

And still I run

I run

I run

Somewhere

Anywhere

 

I’m running

Running

Running

Running to nowhere

Running to you

 

I have no direction

I go down not up

Standing still is not an option

So I run

From you

To you

I run

 

I’m running

Running

Running

Running to nowhere

Running to you

I hope