Desperate for…

“The Lord upholds all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down. The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season. You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing. The Lord is righteous in all His ways and kind in all His works. The Lord is near to all who call on Him in truth. He fulfills the desire of those who fear Him; He also hears their cry and saves them.”

-Psalm 145:114-19

 Those beautiful words David wrote thousands of years ago still capture the very workings of our every day life. I wonder sometimes though if here in America we just don’t recognize how desperate we are for the Father. We understand that we “need” Him desperately to be “saved,” but I believe we may be missing the larger point if that is the place where our desperation stops. “But I am desperate!” you say. Yet when is the last time you’ve fallen on your knees begging for Him to come through? Too often we take away the opportunity to be desperate. We try to make enough money to not be desperate. We drive nice cars, have a comfy place to live. Think of every area of your life and try to find one spot where you are being stretched and needy for our Father. One area where you wake up and have to dig in the Word or talk to Jesus because He’s the only one who truly knows you. We typically wait for tragedy to strike before we practice this, but we don’t have to. How do we make desperation a way of life?

I think we first have to be bowed down before Him. If we do not come into His presence humbly, we will always come with our own agenda. This posture makes way for what is to follow, which is receiving our fill when He chooses. The waiting process refines character, builds maturity. We admit our hunger. Sometimes we don’t even realize we are hungry, but we can discern this by recognizing our feelings and behaviors. Turning to porn means we are hungry for something. Turning to food (hungry in two ways), social media, work, and image management are all ways we show we are hungry. We know this because that is often our means to be filled (or rather try to be filled). We can also recognize our hunger by our daily emotions. Constant disappointment, anxiety, sadness, anger, these all reveal a need. Why are you angry? Why are you anxious? Pin-point that and you can spot your need. We recognize our need not with the mindset of entitlement, that it must be met. But simply to bring this need to the Father, the fountain of living water. We open ourselves to receiving what God has specifically to meet our need, to the very core. Think about it, He knows us to levels no one does, not even ourselves. He knows what we need to satisfy when we feel lonely and need attention. He knows how to satisfy when we feel unappreciated and need affirmation, or unworthy and we need to know how loved and valuable we are. He satisfies the depths of our soul.

Choose to be desperate on our Father. Be a foster parent. Adopt. Tell your spouse the truth about who you really are. Spend way below your means or give way more than you should. Serve the poor. Go and radically comfort someone that is hurting. Engage in their mess. I feel I could go on and on. The point is, choose to be needy on Jesus. We don’t just need Him for salvation, Jesus tells us we are to feed on Him daily. He is the living water that we don’t just drink of once and be done. No, maybe just as literal water makes up a large portion of our body yet we need it daily to live, so we are already filled with Jesus as believers yet we need Him every moment for survival, now and eternally.

-Michael

ComeThirsty[1]

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Grace… A Fresh Perspective

I always believed grace to simply, yet still powerfully, be only a reaction to sin. And even if that’s all grace was, it would surely be enough.

BUT WHAT IF… what if grace were more? Could it be that grace, clothed in all her splendor, is rooted not only in the outcome, but even more so in the exposure? We tend to see grace as the response to the exposure of sin, but it seems in His glorious yet odd way of doing things, He is gracious to expose our sins to the world, even expose ourselves to the gravity of our sin and blindness.

Grace is two-fold. PAIN and COMFORT. Both show God’s incredibly deep love for us. Too often we see the pain as punishment, when in fact it is discipline entrenched in grace. We avoid pain and seek comfort. The irony is that we can’t find true comfort without pain. I wonder if that is why we are not expected to venture out in this battle against sin in isolation. Sharing our sin with others is painful, sometimes our worst nightmare coming true. But in the sharing we also experience true comfort and love lavished upon us, the weary sinner. Shame will hunt you down like a ferocious lion, forcing you deeper into isolation. Pain, yes the embracing of doing what’s painful, is the way home to freedom. We have to embrace the grace that the Father is wanting to freely give. So when we are blessed enough to have our sins exposed, we should take that as a hint our Father in heaven abundantly cares for us. Embrace the pain, embrace the comfort.

If you are one that is hiding, thinking there is no way in hell that you could ever say anything, I want to encourage you to reevaluate. Choose not the temporary comfort of hiding from others. Which, side note really actually sucks. Like David said, it feels like your bones are wasting away. It’s a false comfort. Choose the temporary pain. I plead with you. It will bring about the opportunity for peace and comfort that is deep, meaningful, and everlasting.

God’s grace has no bounds. It reaches down, it reaches out. It breaks and it mends. It hurts, it embraces. God’s grace is not halted by our personal preference, but tears down the walls we put up because God will stop at nothing to rescue.

-Michael

 

Confess to one another

vulnerabilitySomebody once said “Confess your sins to the Lord and you will be forgiven, confess them to man and you will be laughed at.”

Okay, I know this is not entirely true. But isn’t it how we feel a lot of the time! That if I confess my sin, if I share my feelings, my heart, or my struggles I will be shamed or embarrassed. I think this stems from our growing up years. I know this is true for myself.

I was introduced to God at a young age. I grew up in the Christian Church and with parents that believed in God. However, who I believed God to be was based more off what I saw in others who said they knew Christ. My view of Him was based off what others said about Him, how others responded to Him, and how I personally felt about Him.

The foundation I began to build was one based off disengaged knowledge rather than an intimate knowing of the Father.

At the time, God was a harsh father who pointed out my failures, crossed His arms, and shook His head in disappointment at me. He was sitting on His comfy chair as far away as possible from me and my smelly crap. He applauded when I succeed, but only for a second. There wasn’t time to celebrate, there’s work to do.

For the first 25 years of my life I saw vulnerability as a weakness. Opening up and willingly sharing my faults was absurd!!! I mean yeah, I knew I was a sinner, duh everyone is, but to share exactly what I struggle with and doing so with brutal honesty, that’s for the weak minded who don’t have enough self-discipline to take care of their “issues.” Live in isolation. No one ever told me to do it. It came naturally.

There is this video of me when I was in Kindergarten. My older sister was filming I think. I was getting ready to go to some girl’s birthday party. I remember thinking she was cute. The whole video was my family joking about me and this girl. You know, “no kissy kissy Michael!!” Or “Michael and Katie, sittin’ in a tree!” Blah, blah, blah. You can tell I was embarrassed. I hated that feeling. I remember from that day on, as a six year old, I’m never telling anyone close to me my feelings towards the opposite sex, or for that matter my vulnerable feelings in general. I’ll just get laughed at!

Still today I battle those deeply held beliefs that if I open up, if I am honest I will be rejected, laughed at, or shamed.

Why do we see vulnerability as a weakness?

Playing basketball in front of 24 thousand fans and millions on tv while in college encouraged two things in me to fester: arrogance and a lack of authenticity. I learned to be comfortable in the lime-light, but not necessarily in the light.

The better things are going for us, the more successful we are, the harder it is to share our faults. We assume others are better off not knowing. That couldn’t be further from the truth though.

1 John 1:5-10 MSG

5 This, in essence, is the message we heard from Christ and are passing on to you: God is light, pure light; there’s not a trace of darkness in him. 6-7 If we claim that we experience a shared life with him and continue to stumble around in the dark, we’re obviously lying through our teeth—we’re not living what we claim. But if we walk in the light, God himself being the light, we also experience a shared life with one another, as the sacrificed blood of Jesus, God’s Son, purges all our sin. 8-10 If we claim that we’re free of sin, we’re only fooling ourselves. A claim like that is errant nonsense. On the other hand, if we admit our sins—make a clean breast of them—he won’t let us down; he’ll be true to himself. He’ll forgive our sins and purge us of all wrongdoing. If we claim that we’ve never sinned, we out-and-out contradict God—make a liar out of him. A claim that only shows off our ignorance of God.

You know, I always thought this meant we were to have this general overarching belief that we are sinners! Which I guess is true obviously, but I never grasped the meat of this passage. I believe living in the light is making being vulnerable a way of life. It is confession on a daily, hourly, and for me a lot of times, minute basis.

Don’t you just cringe sometimes though when you hear the word confess? Does anything good ever follow, “I have something to confess to you.” “Oh yes dear, what is it?” (said no wife ever)

I made hiding sin such a pattern in my life, confessing to another became not just hard, but a fear. I remember struggling with thinking I had to “pretty up” my sin before I brought it before God or another. If I’m honest, I still try to do that at times. I’m learning to place more emphasis on the exposure of things and less on fixing them. If my focus is to fix, then disappointment will be an ever present feeling. Shame will dominant my life. But shame loses its power when exposed to the light. So if exposure is the goal, I just have to bring my broken self.

A lot of you either know or heard parts of my story, heard about my bondage to sin and living a lifestyle filled with shame, isolation, sexual immorality, and deception. I had lived in profession of Christ on the outside, but secretly I was a hypocrite.

I was addicted to sex and porn and the affirmation of the opposite sex to meet my every need. In 2012 I confessed to Bryana (my wife) and others everything I could think of that was hidden. I thought it would ruin my marriage, destroy friendships, and humiliate me to the point of death. I literally felt at the time that taking my life might be the better option than to expose the worst of me!

My back was against the wall, it was like confessing was my only option. I was desperate. Not only was I desperate, I was tired of the pretentious, fake life I was living. I didn’t even realize until the weight was gone how heavy it was.

It was at this moment, humiliated and on my knees, that the level of desperation outweighed the need to keep up on appearances!

I guess you could call it a gift. I was gifted the feeling and the potential of losing everything. I lost the respect of others. I lost my job. I lost the future I wanted. I lost friends. And I was on the brink of losing my wife and kids.

Why confess though? What’s so powerful about confession? I know for myself the power was in the stripping away of pride and the development of intimate relationships. Confessing sin, confessing a lifestyle, a thought pattern, emotions, faults, quirks, it forces us into a place of humility, a place to be molded and shaped by God. Secondly, ironically enough, it strengthens the bond of friendships.

“Nothing so much brings one person in contact with another as the confession of sin. When a friend tells us of his success, he stands at a distance from our heart; when he tells of his guilt with tears, he is very near.” –Fulton Sheen

What is the overarching reason we struggle to confess to others? Is it because I am thinking “what will others think of me?” Is it about losing control? Is it because I believe “my sin struggle” is the worst? Or could it be a struggle to trust another individual, which most likely comes from a place of being wounded and hurt?

How can I better involve others in this process of my struggles?

I struggle to confess for multiple reasons, but the main one has to be that I am ultimately fearful of another person having an unfavorable view of me!! I believe I can control their opinion of me, which is absolutely bogus. Because no matter how hard I try, freaking people still judge, criticize and disagree with me. I have no clue why people would ever disagree with me.

I’ve learned though, that contrary to my default, I will not be abandoned if I am honest. I believe one of the enemy’s greatest ploys is to convince us to live in isolation. Proverbs 18:1 says “whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment.” Bonhoeffer tells it like this, “whoever is alone in his sin is utterly alone.”

It takes courage to be open. I believe confession is the beginning of healing. It is the ultimate expression of humility and helplessness.

We are all seeking something out of relationships whether we know it or not. We desire love. We yearn for affirmation. We’d die for worth. We need significance. But the irony is that when we wear masks, only our masks receive the love, affirmation, worth and significance we want so badly from God and others. I am a work in progress for sure, but I am learning to let my true self be seen. It’s weird, because as I do this I feel the most satisfied. Yeah, it’s uncomfortable at times. I’d rather tell Bryana or my close buddies that I ain’t strugglin’ at all, that I haven’t been better. The reality is quite the opposite more often than not though.

Again, here’s Dietrich Bonhoeffer on confession and community:

“In confession there takes place a breakthrough to community. Sin wants to be alone with people. It takes them away from the community. The more lonely people become, the more destructive the power of sin over them. The more deeply they become entangled in it, the more unholy is their loneliness. Sin wants to remain unknown. It shuns the light. In the darkness of what is left unsaid sin poisons the whole being of a person. This can happen in the midst of a pious community. In confession the light of the gospel breaks into the darkness and closed isolation of the heart. Sin must be brought into the light. What is unspoken is said openly and confessed. All that is secret and hidden comes to light. It is a hard struggle until the sin crosses one’s lips in confession. But God breaks down gates of bronze and cuts through bars of iron. Since the confession of sin is made in the presence of another Christian, the last stronghold of self-justification is abandoned. The sinner surrenders, giving up all evil, giving the sinner’s heart to God and finding the forgiveness of all one’s sin in the community of Jesus Christ and other Christians. Sin that has been spoken and confessed has lost all of its power. It has been revealed and judged as sin. It can no longer tear apart the community.”

If I could encourage us in one area, it would be to make a daily practice of letting go of who we think we are supposed to be and allow others in on who we really are.

I still crave affirmation and attention from others, but I am learning to first be filled by Christ. To wait patiently for the worth and value He places on my life.

Psalm 51:17 says “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”

I want to be known, not as the guy who has it altogether, but as the one who is altogether broken before God.

-Michael

Don’t be deceived

“Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.” -Sir Walter Scott

blogiceberg

You say you’re in control, but what you do behind closed doors speaks a different story. Hey man how’s your purity? “Oh good, good,” you say. “You know, like, I’m trying to ‘bounce’ my eyes.” Yeah, okay. ‘In control’ is one of those terms we use liberally. What does it actually mean…to you? In control is not appearing to be pure, but in reality you just looked at porn last night (side note, some of you may justify what you looked at not as porn because of ‘this’ reason or ‘that,’ but whatever you want to call it, it has the same damn…ing effects). In control is not showing fake vulnerability, sharing how lust has definitely been a struggle, when you have been secretly having an affair or visiting prostitutes or strip clubs or bikini baristas or massage parlors for a happy ending. We feel most in control when we think we can manage or manipulate one’s opinion about us. We share to the point we are comfortable in being labeled. I think that shows your deepest belief, your deepest motivation, the driving force for your life. My friend, let us put off the façade and the masks we so habitually wear. Can we change the definition of being “put-together?” What if the new normal within the Christian community was admitting the messiness within us, and the crazy person was the one that was always just fine with no problems whatsoever? Don’t be deceived about your current state. Be brutally honest with yourself, with our gracious Father, and with a few select others. Figure out the real reason you want to appear so grandiose to others and start admitting it. Your hidden life, and if you’re a man reading this you MOST LIKELY have a hidden life sexually to one degree or another, has to be brought to the light. Don’t be deceived, you will never, seriously, never experience freedom if not. If you decide to keep those parts of you in the dark forever, then that will reveal what you are truly living for. There is no on the fence, you have to choose. The web is sticky!

 

-Michael