Tag Archive | death

Making The Monster

"Frankenstein's monster (Boris Karloff)" by Universal Studios - Dr. Macro. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons

“Frankenstein’s monster (Boris Karloff)” by Universal Studios – Dr. Macro. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons

I thought this week, since most Americans are in some way, form, or fashion recognizing Halloween this Saturday, I would talk a little about… Monsters.

Well, one monster in particular…

Frankenstein’s monster.

Since it first appeared in 1818, Mary Shelley’s classic monster story Frankenstein has undergone dozens of re-tellings, from the horrifying to the comical. The common version is of a scientist named Victor Frankenstein who robs body parts from various cadavers with the intention of re-animating dead tissue. When faced with the hideousness of the monster he brings to life, he rejects it, only for the monster to embark upon a murderous rampage, killing those closest to Victor, including his beloved fiancée. But even as Victor pursues the monster to remote regions of the world, he is unable to kill his creation.

A pretty far-fetched tale, right?

Or IS it…

The tongue has the power of life and death,
    and those who love it will eat its fruit. ~ Proverbs 18:21

While we may not be digging up graves in the middle of the night, we in the church have been inadvertently creating monsters for a long time. While Jesus came to offer us life and freedom, through our own words, we create monsters out of the very people He came to save.

Don’t believe me? Let me ask you…

When was the last time you called someone “stupid”?

Worthless.

Loser.

Moron.

Jerk.

“That’s pretty harsh, Pastor. I don’t call people those kinds of things.”

Ok. How about…

Difficult.

Unlikable.

Disagreeable.

Unfriendly.

While people often do things or act in ways that we may not agree with, does that always constitute who they are as a person?

What about you? Just because you have a bad day, or a traumatic experience, should you be relegated to playing that role for the rest of your life? Sure, there are moments that define us, and there are actions and events we cannot change. However, for the most part, the majority of the things that we experience are moments in time that are soon forgotten, not life-defining events. The fact is, we never know what a person is truly going through at any given time.

Is that person who sits in front of you at church, that you call unfriendly, simply a person with a quiet or shy personality?

Is the child or teenager that you see as unruly actually a victim of abuse or neglect, and simply needing positive attention?

Is that difficult person merely more passionate or committed to the task than you are? Does that person simply have a different definition of success, or “set the bar higher” than the average person?

Does that weirdo raising his hands during worship simply love Jesus more than you do?

I’ll be the first to admit: Friendships and relationships take effort, and getting outside of our circle of influence requires us to step into the unknown and often uncomfortable places. Honestly, in many cases, it is not that a person is __________ (insert negative adjective here). It’s that we’re too lazy to take the time to find out who that person really is. It’s just easier to slap a label on someone than it is to learn what makes them tick. The problem with that is that words have power, and the more a disparaging word is spoken over a person, the more they begin to believe that is who they are. I have counseled good people who have gotten derailed from their true identity because they began to believe a lie that was spoken over them. Yes, we are responsible for our own actions and attitudes, and I am not giving a pass to bad behavior. However, when a person is beaten over the head with words of worthlessness and defeat, it doesn’t take long before those words hit their target (the mind), and they begin to believe a lie. Once that happens, the “monster” comes to life.

Seldom did Jesus use labels…

When He did, it was often in criticism of the religious establishment (see Matthew 12:34). However, for the average “sinner”, His words were life and grace…

Jesus didn’t call Peter a loser or coward after he denied knowing Him in His hour of need. His forgiveness was not only obvious… it was unspoken. He never mentioned the incident (see John 18 & John 21).

Jesus didn’t call the woman caught in adultery a cheater or whore. He challenged those attacking her, and when they backed down, He sent her on her way, unharmed and forgiven (see John 8).

When Jesus saw Zacchaeus in the tree, He didn’t call him a crook or a swindler (he was a tax-collector… an occupation disdained by most people). He simply said, “Come down Zacchaeus… I’m coming to your house.” That encounter became a life-changing experience for Zacchaeus and his whole house (see Luke 19).

So what can you do?

What are those words that you have spoken over someone that have been a curse instead of a blessing?

What was that hurtful thing you said that you don’t think you can come back from?

What were those disparaging remarks that you wish you hadn’t said?

Not sure where to start? If you are guilty of creating a “monster” through your words,  two simple words can start the process of restoration…

I’m sorry.

Ask forgiveness of the person you hurt through your words.

Ask forgiveness from the Father, Whose blood-bought creation you wounded with your words.

Learn to make your first reaction and response to those around you words of life, health, and peace.

Maybe YOU are the monster you created…

Maybe you have spoken curses and negativity over your own life, and are wondering why you are the way you are — why you have low self-esteem. Start now by confessing to your Heavenly Father that you are not those things, that you are who HE says you are (overcomer, victorious, child of the King, etc.), and begin to walk in your true identity.

The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body.
It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire,
and is itself set on fire by hell. ~ James 3:6

We can use our tongues for evil or for good.

We can use our tongues to speak life or to speak death.

If you choose to speak life, you are speaking the language of Heaven — the fountain that flows from the throne of God and brings blessing to the soul, and health to the heart.

However, if you choose to speak words of negativity and death, don’t be too surprised by the misery that comes from the “monsters” you help to create.

Choose LIFE.

Finding Your Song

This is a wonderful sentiment by the late Maya Angelou…

“A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.”

imageOne has but to walk outdoors on a sunny day and listen to the sound of a chorus of birds to understand this thought. Even in the captivity of a small cage, a bird still has the ability to find its song. A friend once told me about taking a walk one day, and feeling the Spirit of God encouraging him to sing… to lift up a new song to Him as he strolled in God’s cathedral, the Great Outdoors. As he walked and began to sing, he noticed something interesting began to happen. He noticed the sound of creation getting louder and louder. As he found his song, creation itself joined in the chorus, and the birds in the numerous trees about him began to lift up their voices as well. After a time, he said he stopped singing, and something uncanny happened…

Many of the birds stopped singing as well, and the sound of creation slowly died away.

In Luke 19, we find this story…

Then, as He was now drawing near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works they had seen, saying: 

“Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!
  Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

And some of the Pharisees called to Him from the crowd, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.” But He answered and said to them, “I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out.”

We are all given a song. For some, that song is sung in the midst of gratitude and thanksgiving; a song of grateful worship to God for His goodness and favor.

But for others, that song may be sung from a place of hardship and pain.

How do you sing for joy when you are watching a loved one slowly slip away because of Alzheimer’s Disease or ALS?

How do you sing with gladness when the diagnosis is cancer?

How do you worship when you are a parent standing over the grave of a child gone too early?

We sing, not because we have the answer, but because we have a song. We worship, not because we are good, but because He is Holy. We seek out His presence, not as an escape from the world we are in, but as a place of safety and refuge for our souls while we are on the journey through this life.

 An interesting thing about dementia patients is, even as they are losing their ability to remember friends and family members — as well as their ability to even talk — many still have the ability to recognize songs and sing or hum a tune.

There is something about the language of music that speaks to all of us on a spiritual level. We are all made for worship. God has put His song into our DNA, and pursuing an intimate relationship with Him in worship is the first step to finding your song. The Psalmist wrote…

I will sing to the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have my being. ~ Psalm 104:33

He was determined to worship as long as he had breath in his lungs; no qualifier, no expectation.

Maybe when we get to the point of unconditional worship — when we are singing our song, not because we have an answer, but because we have a God-given song — we’ll find that, in that obedience, we will find the answers we are looking for in His presence.

It could also be that, by spending time in His presence, we’ll discover that knowing the answers will become less important than knowing Him.

America: A Covenant with Death

With recent events in our nation, we are a people in fear…

The Oklahoma tornadoes. We are afraid of forces of nature we cannot control.

The Boston Marathon terror attack. We are afraid of an enemy we cannot see.

Government scandals at the highest levels. We are afraid of a corrupt government that we can no longer trust.

Quite honestly, we’re not just afraid of the shadows… we’re afraid of our own shadows.

I believe that fear was Job’s fatal flaw. Job stated that “… the thing I greatly feared has come upon me, and what I dreaded has happened to me.” I think that Satan knew that fear was Job’s “Achilles heel”, and was drawn to that flaw like a moth to a flame. But Satan’s attack on Job was not just about picking on a righteous man… his attack on Job was a part of a greater strategy:

 But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face. ~ Job 1:11

Satan’s strategy was to use Job’s fear as a catalyst for him to turn his back on God. Everything that Job went through was simply for the benefit of Satan seeing Job shake his fist at God, and curse Him to His face.

So what fear has you paralyzed?

Fear of life?

Fear of death?

Fear of the enemy?

Fear of man?

Fear of insignificance?

Fear of the future?

FlagI could go on and on for days. But the fact of the matter is that, because of our fear, we have allowed the enemy to build a stronghold in America. While the voices of ungodliness and fear are running amok, the real voices of truth and hope have been cowed into a corner of anti-Christian, anti-American, and un-Constitutional silence.

We have called evil “good”, and good “evil”.

We have embraced our enemies while alienating our friends.

We have slaughtered the innocent in the name of “choice”, while rabidly fighting for nonsensical liberal causes in the name of being “conscientious”.

We (as the church) have sacrificed morality, decency, and holiness on the altar of moral relativism, self-improvement, and dead works.

In trying to avoid controversy and conflict, we have given the reins of power to the ungodly and corrupt. By “going along to get along”, we have remained silent in the midst of a chorus of voices that mock our sacred beliefs. By compromising with evil at every turn, America has made a covenant with Death.

Now, are you ready for some good news? When Satan attacked Job, he failed at his primary goal. In everything that he went through, Job reiterated one sentiment: “Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

On Sunday, May 26, 2013, I will be returning to the pulpit of Abba’s House with a powerful word… for our church, our community, and our nation. I am going to let you know that there is, in fact, hope for America! You do not want to miss this important message.

For service times, or to watch LIVE online, please visit http://www.abbashouse.com

Whys, Lies, & The Mysteries of God

Why?

It is the single word ground into the bloody soil of every battlefield in the world.

It is buried in the rubble of every civilization, state, and neighborhood that has been devastated by a natural disaster.

It lies in the ashes of the burned-up dreams of a family that just lost everything.

It can be heard in quiet, night-time sobbing of a little girl whose mother just succumbed to cancer.

It resonates in the screams of a father as he buries his son.

It is the shortest, most-asked, and

least-answered question in the English language.

Why?

You’ve heard it asked thousands of times, and while there are sometimes physical reasons that events happen in our lives, reasons – even good reasons – don’t answer why.

Or, to be more specific…

Why did God allow this to happen?

Whether you are just wondering, have gone through something that you have come to terms with, or are in the heat of that emotional torture right now, I don’t presume to have an easy answer for you, or have anything to say that is going to make the pain magically disappear. In reality, I believe we have a very skewed, 21st Century perspective of life, pain, and suffering (and I’m as guilty as the next person). We don’t want to believe that “bad things happen to good people”. We cannot conceive a loving God who allows tragedies and atrocities to occur. We stand on the words of Thomas Jefferson and claim “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”, while forgetting the words of Jesus that promised, “…In this world, you will have trouble…”.

Quite honestly, it is a mystery… pure and not-so-simple.

Mystery… one word that encapsulates the very nature of God.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,

neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. ~ Isaiah 55:8

The Bible is filled with references pertaining to the mysteries of God. The word mystery, by its very definition, means something that is difficult or impossible to understand or explain. There is not the time, knowledge, or vocabulary to begin to explain either the mysteries of God or the mystery that is God. However, there is truth that, while it may not give us answers, can give us hope.

All of us are going to see difficult times. Because of the Fall of Adam and Eve, and the subsequent curse that altered the course of human history from a state of perfection to what we find today, we will all face problems, suffer hardship, and experience death. It all goes back to the verse I mentioned earlier…

… In this world you will have trouble…

But the hope lies in the rest of the verse:

But take heart! I have overcome the world.  John 16:33

While suffering in every conceivable way is part of the deal our ancestors signed in the Garden of Eden, Jesus assures us that He has it all in hand because He has overcome the world.

Whatever we are going through, HE has already been there. Bad things do happen to good people. If you don’t believe me, just think of Jesus. While being the sinless Son of God, He was falsely accused, suffered at the hands of sinners, and was killed in a horrific way by sinners.

For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. ~ 2 Corinthians 5:21

The mystery of this verse lies in the first 4 words: For He made Him… When Jesus went through all of the agony of being our sacrifice on the cross, God didn’t just watch it happen, or even allow it to happen… He MADE it happen. He wrote the law that provided our way of escape as a result of the fall, and then executed the plan even though it would cost Him His only Son. He did that for you.

When you are in your darkest night, there will be no shortage of people making inappropriate (and even stupid) comments. Some people truly want to help, but don’t know what to say, so they say the wrong thing. Some people just want to be judgmental, give you your why in the form of condemnation and criticism, and throw gasoline on your emotional fire. If either of these describe what you have gone through, you are in good company… consider Job. Everything that happened to Job was simply because Satan wanted to prove a point, and God took the challenge – at Job’s expense. When the bottom fell out in Job’s life (along with losing his possessions and health, he tragically lost his ten children), his “friends” showed up, and immediately started telling him everything he may have done wrong. His wife even chimed in, telling him to “curse God and die”. However, after all of the criticism, nay-saying, and unsubstantiated accusations from his friends, Job was vindicated. Not only was Job restored and blessed (even more than previously), but the very people who criticized him had to go through Job in order to be forgiven by God (see Job 42:7-10).

Whatever life sends your way, none of it gets by Him.

The fact of the matter is that God has a pretty profound list of whys as well. Why did God have to allow Jesus to go through all of the frustration, humiliation, sorrow, pain, and death? Why did He decide to offer a faithless, ungrateful, and fallen race a second chance with Him? Why did He decide that we were worth loving when He knew we would fail Him over and over again?

It’s a mystery I don’t understand.

But… I’m sure glad He did.