Tiger Woods is but a foretaste

I, like everyone else, had tears in my eyes Sunday watching Tiger Woods win his fifth green jacket at the Masters.   Against all odds, Woods treated all of us to the beautiful, joyous story of redemption as he raised his fists in triumph on the 18th green in Augusta.

GettyImages-1142670334

This was Tiger’s first Master’s win since 2005 and first PGA major win since 2008.  Since that time, Tiger has been famous for things other than golf, such as his sexual addiction, divorce, DUI, and four back surgeries.    Any one of these things could understandably ruin a person.  Taken together, it’s a shipwreck.   But little by little, step by step, Tiger Woods put one foot in front of the other culminating in the resurrection you see pictured above.

I’m not crying, you’re crying!

There is a simple explanation why stories like these evoke such emotion in us.    There’s a reason anyone with a pulse gets teary eyed over stories of redemption like the one played out for us this past weekend (and the one about to be played out for us next week on Easter Sunday).     That reason is this:  You and I are like our Father in Heaven.

If you wonder why you get excited and joyous and, yes, even tearful, when someone comes back from something that should have destroyed them it’s because God is like that. 

In Luke 15, Jesus tells a few stories about what the Kingdom of Heaven is like and he does so by describing the emotions God (and all of heaven) has when someone lost is found.    In heaven, Jesus says, there is much rejoicing over the one sinner who repents – the one who is down and out and shipwrecked.    All of heaven celebrates when even one of us overcomes.

The story of Tiger Woods inspires us not because golf is great or because Tiger Woods is great.  It inspires us because God is great and has made us like himself, giving us hearts that long for and explode over resurrection.   And you want to know something even better that that?   We don’t resurrect ourselves.  God does.   It’s all a gift!

This truth is both liberating and devastating.   Liberating because, once the truth of it hits home, you realize you don’t have to do this alone.  You don’t have to be stronger, or better, or smarter, or braver, or have more will power.   Deep down you know that if that were the case, you’d be damned for sure because you’ve tried all that before and failed.  We can’t resurrect ourselves.    It’s going to require a supernatural intervention.    Which is why this is also devastating.   We are so used to being self-sufficient.  Our lower nature, the one that too often controls our thoughts, has us convinced that we are the master’s of our fate.   It is devastating to learn that only God can and must be our Master, and we have not allowed him to be such in our lives.

Tiger’s story is but a foretaste of what can be with God.   There is an even better story than Tiger’s coming to us this Sunday.  It’s the one where God became a man in order to die on a cross for my sins and yours.   It’s the one where God chose to become all that is shipwrecked in my life and yours so that the works of the shipwrecker, the devil, might be destroyed.   It’s the one where God then raised from the dead the one who takes away the sins of the world, setting us free to live as new creations, not just better ones.

And all of heaven rejoiced.   And this day, as with any other day, all of heaven is waiting on pins and needles (much like we all were as Tiger sunk his last putt), to see your redemption story.    Will you trust the one who is ready and able to write it?

May you have a blessed Holy Week.

Advertisements

A Prayer for Sanctuary Cities

I try to avoid politics on this blog but sometimes it is unavoidable.   News this week coming out of the White House is that our current administration is considering busing immigrants into sanctuary cities.    Trump tweeted today:

Due to the fact that Democrats are unwilling to change our very dangerous immigration laws, we are indeed, as reported, giving strong considerations to placing Illegal Immigrants in Sanctuary Cities only.   The Radical Left always seems to have an Open Borders, Open Arms policy – so this should make them very happy!

This probably amounts to little more than a childish taunt.   Setting aside the very well documented fact that Democrats are not advocating for “open borders,” the attempted dig towards a group of people or a city for having “open arms” should strike any follower of Jesus as unchristian.   Christians should be the most welcoming people on earth because we ourselves have been welcomed with grace upon grace.   Our adoption as heirs into a kingdom of which we were once alienated – based on no merit of our own – is a spiritual adoption to be sure, but one that Jesus insists should be reflected in how we welcome physical strangers both near and far.

Governments are not meant to be Christian.   They have a purpose which is different from that of the Church, but sometimes (by the grace of God) those purposes overlap.   Where the government fails to act justly – even giving preferential treatment to the poor, the marginalized, the stranger – the Church must and should be it’s conscience.    This is one of those times.

And so it is that these sanctuary cities may have in the near future an opportunity to live out in radical ways the grace of God.   Should Trump follow through with his threat, these cities will be inundated with people in need.    Often, our greatest ideals sound great on paper but in reality would overwhelm and sink us.   Who among us doesn’t give lip service to the goodness of Jesus’ command to turn the other cheek but when afforded an opportunity to practice it fall short of the glory of such an ideal?   We all have been there.   And without the power of prayer and the support of fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, we would fall often.

So it is that I want to offer up a prayer for sanctuary cities.    This prayer is really for any city or church or person who determines they will have open arms extended towards the least of these – fellow children created in the image of God, the Father of every nation and tribe and tongue.

Most merciful God, we pray today for cities across this land  – land which is not ours but Yours – which have felt called to become and remain cities of refuge.   If the plans of some – plans meant to cause confusion and strife  – come to pass, we pray that in your power these places would prosper.   We pray that you would rise up in these cities men and women of faith who trust in a God who turns meager loaves and fish into abundance to supply multitudes.   We pray that they would not succumb to a theology of scarcity but live into one of abundance.   We pray that you would fortify them with wisdom, patience, and endurance to fight the good fight and not grow weary in doing good.

Father, we pray for those families being torn between political ideologies.  These are mothers and fathers and children whom you know by name.  Grant them every good gift, Lord.  Do for them instead of us this day.    Wherever they are planted we pray you would water the soil and produce abundant fruit.  May the cities that welcome them prosper. May creativity flourish.  May your favor shine upon them.   May their fields increase.  May the spirit of peace and love, which casts out all fear, abound.   According to your word, give them every good thing.  

Holy Spirit, raise up more cities like these.  May the love and goodwill shown to your nomadic children serve as judgment against we who have closed the eyes of our hearts from seeing them as Your beloved.  Stir up in Your church a revival where we will never again be known by our political party but by our love.    May your will be done here on earth as it is in heaven.  

We ask all of this in the mighty name of Jesus.    Amen.  

Everyone should read John Piper

Every Christian should read and listen to the sermons of John Piper.

I have not always believed this.  In fact, I would have laughed at such a suggestion for most of my adult life.  But I’m convinced of this now more than ever.

Last year I wrote a post taking issue with John Piper’s advice on how to defeat lust.   I took exception to the fact that one of his six steps was Enjoy Jesus more than sinful pleasure.   In my thinking at the time, I felt like this was heaping unnecessary shame and guilt upon people who already know they should enjoy Jesus more, but don’t.    Not a terrible feeling to have, but not a terribly correct one, either.

I think sometimes it’s easier to concern ourselves over the shame and guilt others might feel than we are with sharing them truth in love.   In doing so, I think we rob people of opportunities to experience the power of God resurrecting their life (the resurrection assumes a death) in favor of ensuring they feel comfortable in this present life.

Piper will have none of that.  His sole purpose is to glorify God.   He wants everyone to discover that they are only truly happy when they find delight in God.   And this is why everyone should read him.

I’m reading now his wonderful companion to Desiring God entitled When I Don’t Desire God: How to Fight for Joy.   In this book he masterfully and pastorally handles the issue I took with him suggesting we enjoy Jesus more than sinful pleasure but, even more, he awakens in me a desire to know and love God more intimately than I ever have (a thirst that, to be sure, will never be fully quenched).

I have some theological disagreements with Piper to be sure, but there is no doubt in my mind that he is head over heels in love with Jesus and submits himself wholly to the holy words of God with child-like awe and wonder.

That is something I desire.   And the good news, according to both Jesus Christ and John Piper, that desire is a gift of God and one which will grow and grow and be filled and filled, also as a gift of God, assuming we continue to pursue Christ and his righteousness.   Seek first the kingdom of God, and all these things…

If you are experiencing a lack of faith, a dry spell in your walk with God, or if you know it to be true of yourself that, quite frankly, you enjoy and find delight in many things more than God, then I commend to you the works of John Piper.    It is often said that the reason we worship together corporately is so that in those seasons where we may not have faith, we can lean on the faith of others.    If you are in such a season, I pray that Piper’s deep and abiding faith and utter joy he finds in the Person of God might serve as a crutch for you today, and inspire you to new heights and greater desire tomorrow.

Grace and peace,
Chad

Weapons From Wounds

I love this testimony from a guy I met when I was doing recovery ministry. He helped launch it with his wonderful talent as a musician, but what really captivated me and the church was his heart for God. I love this line!…

The wisdom I would share would be “Find out where you’re weak and let God transform it and use it.” Don’t be ashamed of your wounds cuz they’re now weapons!!

davis mitchell

Heart
“Find what you’re good at and go do that”. I think I’ve heard people tell me that all my life. I’m not sure it’s bad advice but it’s made me think there’s more to it than just that as I get along in my journey. For years I think I’ve followed this very advice. Let me explain.

I got into music when I was a sophomore in College at the University of Tennessee, many moons ago. I had a roommate named Jeff who was from my hometown of Columbia, Tn. Jeff was/is an extremely talented musician. He had been in a couple bands in high school and I thought he was the coolest guy. He had long hair and earrings(cuz that was cool then) and he had a bumper sticker on the back of his car that said “Question Authority.” (My parents have me hell about being friends with Jeff…

View original post 1,140 more words

Two Upcoming Conferences

I’m looking forward to attending two weekend conferences coming up, both of them addressing our sexual brokenness and the healing that can be found in Christ.

The first conference is the last weekend of April and is the Pure Life Ministries Annual Conference.

plm

This will be my first time attending their annual conference since graduating from their live-in program back in 2012.   My wife will be attending with me and I am excited to introduce her to a place which has held a special place in my heart for the last many years.

The second conference is the Sexual Integrity Leadership Summit in Atlanta the first weekend of May.

sils

I’m excited to attend this conference as I continue to discern what God has in store for me in future ministry (both in the ongoing work within myself and sharing that with others who struggle with compulsive, addictive behaviors).    One of the speakers at this conference, Jay Stringer, has written an excellent book I highly recommend:  Unwanted: How Sexual Brokenness Reveals Our Way to Healing.

Please pray for those of us attending these conferences that God may use them to draw us closer to Christ.   And, if you are looking for a place to spend a weekend which promises to be a rewarding experience for your spiritual growth, consider registering!

“God Friended Me” Theology

I admit I got hooked on the CBS Sunday night series God Friended Me.   Even though I find myself rolling my eyes far too often at some of the cheesy coincidences or the many ways Miles and Cara awkwardly inject themselves into the middle of people’s lives, I still find myself moved by the story line and blaming my watery eyes on allergies.

The show is about Miles Finer (played by Brandon Michael Hall), an atheist who is also the son of an Episcopal priest (played by Joe Morton) who gets a friend request from someone named God.    Each show centers around a friend suggestion made by God which Miles and his band of friends (Cara and Rakesh) strive to help.   The side story happening alongside the drama of helping their new-found friends is their quest to discover who is behind the God account, because, well, the atheist Miles knows it most certainly can’t be God.

While the story line is intriguing, the theology behind it is not surprisingly dreadful.   Miles’ dad, the priest, offers very little in the way of correcting whatever misguided views his atheist son or lesbian daughter have.   More importantly, he presents his role as priest, and that of his church, as nothing more than a place where people discover their purpose in life.  The implication is that faith is simply discovering what your heart wants and going after it.

What’s implied by the father is explicit with his son.  In this week’s episode, Miles and Cara are discussing life and both affirm the necessity for everyone to follow your heart’s desire.   In fact, Miles states, your heart will never lead you astray.

In this way, God Friended Me does a marvelous job at positioning the Self at the center of the universe.   It affirms what all of us are all too easily persuaded to believe:  If I desire it, it must be good.   In this show, God friends me and affirms all that I am and the Church is there to support and nurture that belief.

Scripture, of course, has something very different to say about the nature of our hearts and the innate goodness of our desires.   The prophet Jeremiah warns us that our heart’s are deceitful and desperately wicked (Jer. 17:9).   Who can know it? he asks.   It can be known, but to do such requires wisdom, and wisdom requires a fear of God (Prov. 9:10).   Without a holy fear of God, without surrendering our hearts, our wills, our lives over to God,  we cannot rightly trust any desire we have.

I know in myself that I have desires which are not of God.   And I am not speaking of just the obvious ones, or the addictive ones.   I am not speaking merely of those desires which if acted upon might cause harm to myself or others.  I am speaking also of those secret and not so secret desires which can parade themselves as virtue in our culture today.    Desires like ambition, greed, fame, pride.   A desire to be liked by others.   A desire to be known for my good deeds or pitied for my bad.   These desires, and many like them, are not from a pure heart but from one that is rooted in the things of this world.   To advise me to trust my heart and follow after it would be foolish indeed.

CBS is not the only platform telling us to trust our heart’s desires.   This message comes at us from all angles, including the Church.   I’ve written here in the past about the impasse the United Methodist Church is experiencing over homosexuality.    At the root of this struggle is a God Friended Me theology, one that suggests that if a person loves something and is not harming anyone, it must be good.   It’s an easy, and appealing theology to embrace.    It certainly tickles the ears.

One of my daily practices is to read a portion of Psalm 119.   There is one theme in this longest chapter of the Bible which is abundantly clear:   The writer desires nothing more than to be molded according to the word of God.    If the desire does not spring from God’s law, the psalmist wants nothing to do with it.     I have written in the past about how praying this to be true of me has changed my life.    It’s a prayer I continue to pray today, and have begun praying for our Church.

James couldn’t be more clear when he wrote that temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away (James 1:14).    Having a healthy skepticism of our heart and it’s desires is wise, and praying continually that our heart and it’s desires be conformed to the word of God is prudent.   Doing so gives us assurance that indeed, God has befriended us, and we are his friends if we obey his commands (John 15:14).

 

 

 

Will Jesus do many miracles among us?

A few years back I met a missionary from Africa who was here in Tennessee sharing the gospel with Americans.  I was fascinated (and convicted) as he shared the heart he and his church back home has for the lost here in my own backyard.  One thing he said to me I’ll never forget:

In Africa, we witness miracles all the time because we depend on them.  Without God meeting our daily needs, we would die.   The reason you see so few miracles here in America is because you’ve learned to depend on technology and modern medicine to meet your needs.   God is not so necessary.

I don’t know about you, but I want to live a life where God is absolutely necessary, where I am increasingly dependent upon him to meet all my needs.   This is true of me less than I care to admit.

March Madness is right around the corner and you’ll no doubt hear many players and coaches reciting a line I remember hearing often during my brief time playing ball in high school:

Leave it all on the court.

After this game, don’t be the one who looks back with regret that you didn’t give it your all.   I wonder at times whether I will one day look back on my life and be satisfied that I left all behind for the sake of Christ, who left all to give me life.   I wonder if I will one day know all that could have been accomplished by God’s power working through me had I believed the impossible.

Or will it be said of me that Jesus could not do many miracles with Chad because of his unbelief (Matt. 13:58)?   I’m sure he’s done and will do some.  But many?   How much is many?

When I moved into Church of God country I witnessed for the first time in my life the gift of tongues and interpretation in full display.  Growing up a Nazarene I had never seen this gift.  I didn’t believe it was still in operation.  But churches in Cleveland, Tennessee proved otherwise.  Why is the gift of tongues a dominant gift in the Church of God but rarely if ever heard in the Church of the Nazarene?  Maybe because people growing up in the CoG have faith that this is a gift for them.

Why do so many preacher’s kids grow up to become pastors themselves?  Maybe because they saw their imperfect parent rising to the call and had faith that maybe they could, too?

Maybe miracles happen where people come to expect and believe that they will.

This may seem like I’m stating the obvious, but what we believe about ourselves comes to pass.   If you and I believe we can do something, than we will, or at the very least, we will die trying.   And if you and I believe we can’t do something, we won’t, nor will we try.

When I was floundering in my sexual addiction there were numerous things I believed wrongly, but two are pertinent to this post:

  1. What I’m experiencing isn’t sin, but addiction.
  2.  I’ll always be an addict

The turning point for me in my life was when I came to my senses and saw how my behavior was not due to me being an addict but due to me being a sinner.   I was a slave to sin.

The distinction is an important one, I believe.    My experience has been such that when I saw myself primarily as an addict, I did so to my detriment.   My identity as an addict put a veil between myself and a miracle working God, causing me to place my trust in a program to provide at best a daily reprieve from my addictive behavior.

But when I saw myself as a sinner, a person who has become addicted to sinning in a particular way, there was a seismic shift in my spirit.   Naming my condition rightly opened up the door for the Holy Spirit to minister to that condition.  It tore the veil separating myself from God and helped me to see that there is indeed a remedy for sin – the blood of Christ – and that in his grace and mercy he has provided wonderful tools (such as the steps, a group of brothers, a sponsor, and most importantly, his Word) to enable me to walk in the Spirit rather than the flesh, one day at a time.

There is so much brokenness in our world today.  So much that is outside of God’s intended design for us.  I see it in my own heart.  I see it in my family. I see it in our churches.   And the world cannot be healed or saved when the church is sick.  I believe God is aching to heal us of our brokenness, that this has always been the case, yet we are so often unaware or unwilling.   Jesus is calling out to us still, like a mother hen, longing to bring us under his wings.  But so often we reject the message, and the messenger (Luke 13:34).

Whether the issue be pornography, divorce, homosexuality, greed, lust, anger, racism, etc., it is becoming increasingly difficult to tell the difference between the church and the world.   And this is to be expected.  For when the body of Christ ceases to name these things (and more) as sin, it ceases to avail herself to the One who died to destroy the work of sin (1 John 3:8).    We see so little victory over these sins because we do not believe victory is possible. 

It is imperative that we get our thinking – our hearts – right and aligned with the Spirit of Truth if we are to experience the joy and freedom Christ purchased for us with his blood.   It is imperative we do this for the sake of our mission to the world which has not seen, nor has it heard, nor has it entered into their hearts what God has prepared for those who love him (1 Cor. 2:9).

May it be said of all of us one day that we left it all on the court, and within our midst, Jesus did many miracles.

Learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' ~ Jesus