Thursday, February 15, 2018

The Darkest Hour—Until the King Came

It is the darkest hour, not merely for England, but for the man who literally carries the weight of the world on his shoulders: Winston Churchill. To surrender and negotiate terms of peace and live, or to fight and likely lose and die and sacrifice thousands of innocents? The leaders of parliament and even his own armies are calling out to negotiate. With a tiger, a madman, a tyrant: Adolph Hitler. There is only one man Hitler seems to fear: Winston Churchill. And only Churchill understands that there can be no peace, ever, with a tyrant. Only slavery.
Belgium has fallen and France nearly so. 300,000 British soldiers have been surrounded and pushed to Calais and Dunkirk on France’s northern coast where German bombers are finishing the job. There is no hope. Churchill decides to sacrifice 20,000 troops in Calais by having them draw all the enemy fire, while hoping to evacuate the rest at Dunkirk.
But the skies remain clear for German bombers. And Calais falls. Only the narrow English channel stands between the Nazis and home. It is over. Negotiation is the only hope of preserving his people.
Churchill is utterly alone. His own party is against him, his military leaders have given up, even the King has talked of evacuating the royal family. To Canada. Only his wife remains by his side.
The rest of this scene (which I can't find!) is where everything changes. King George comes to visit him! Churchill asks the king for his thoughts on all of this. And the king responds, “I'd rather hear yours first.” Churchill mutters that he cannot imagine negotiating with a dictator. And the king whispers, “I'm with you.”
The King. Of. England. Has come to Churchill. And whispered his support.
And in that pivotal moment, everything changes. Suddenly, Churchill finds courage to do what he knows is right…
Because the king came and whispered.
We, too, have a King. The King of Kings. He is so anxious to whisper in our ears. Words of encouragement and compassion and purpose. He hears our cries and longs to speak, if we'll but slow down and be silent long enough to hear Him. What He says can change everything in a moment.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The Day I Quit Christianity

I can still remember the day. It was right after another failure, a sin that won me over instead of me winning over it. As I walked the dog afterwards, I looked up to the heavens and said, maybe even out loud, "I'm out. I can't do this. I can't live looking like the good Christian, leading stuff, praying and reading my Bible, but I've got this monster that I can't kill and won't run away. I can't live like this. I'm done. If you want to fix this, you have to, because I can't."

And I'm pretty sure two things happened. One, huge rocks began to screech as they shifted against each other, like great tectonic plates being freed, causing earthquakes everywhere.

And God laughed out loud, probably scaring some angels nearby. He'd been waiting for just this moment.

Somewhere along the way, I'd believed that my spiritual journey depended on me, that God only blesses the obedient, and that if I was truly His, I'd be obedient. Some of that is actually taught in church, and on the radio, and in devotionals and other books. Jesus never taught that. Obedience matters for other reasons, but even that is not dependent on us. It just isn't in us. We really do believe that all of it is dependent on us, and we know, if we're honest, and that we aren't nearly as good as we'd like to be or should be. We know our failure. And we know that God knows. But we don't know how to get better, how to become more obedient. And eventually, we begin to doubt. We look around and see others who seem to be doing much better, who don't swear anymore, or drink as much, whose kids are perfect, and who wear the joy of the Lord all over their faces all the time. And we wonder, "What's wrong with me?" And we conclude that we're not even saved.

So we either try harder, if we're not exhausted yet. Or once exhausted, we give up.

There's some good news: God doesn't want us to live like this, frustrated and full of doubts. Riddle me this: do you want your kids to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are loved, accepted, encouraged, protected, cared for, and believed in, no matter what? To the ends of the earth? Yes, that's what we want for our kids. We don't want them laying in bed wondering if one day they'll be cast out of our homes.

How could God possibly want any less for His kids?

He doesn't. And I know that sounds like heresy to many, but before you throw rocks, let's look at Jesus for a moment. What did He do, exactly? He gave up His life, for what? To pay for our sins. His very last words from the cross are: "Tetelestai!" (Literally, It is finished, which is how most Bibles translate it. Or Paid in Full.) It's so important, I put it on my arm!

So what is finished? What is paid for? If you say, our sins...then what are you trying to do every day? Pay a God who has already paid off your account? Are you trying to pay a bill that's already been paid? Doesn't that seem silly? Yet it's how we live our lives, believing somehow that God cannot love the disobedient. Well, in Romans 5, Paul addresses that, too. When did He first love us? When we were enemies. Now that we've become His kids, are we to imagine that He suddenly gets a bit conditional over His love? In other words, is He saying, "If you do this, then I'll do that?" He grabbed us out of our desperation, out of the swamp and darkness and hopelessness, when we had no interest in Him...and chose to love us even then. Now that we're trying to love Him and let Him love us, will he suddenly be aloof or expect payment in return?

When we keep trying to earn something that Jesus already accomplished for us, we completely disregard His work. It's already done. He did what we can't—make us righteous, right before God.

What's happened that past 12 years since that day that I quit, is that God took the job. The very God of Gods, the omniscient, omnipotent, infinite God, who lives IN me, was freed to do in me what I could never do. And suddenly, sin patterns that I could never break, were defeated forever. He did it, not me.

I've talked to many believers who say that the day their lives changed was the day they got tired of trying to be good and just gave up. They couldn't obey God. (Caution to any of you who believe that you do obey God rather well...the sin of self righteousness is even worse, as we walk away from God and count on ourselves to do the dance each day, never knowing just how far from His Righteousness we've fallen.)

So I encourage you: Quit. Just stop trying to earn what's already been given to you. Believe that and receive it until you become convinced of it. And then you'll find freedom and rest as the pressure is off to perform, you're actually free to fail, knowing that He'll receive you back. And victory will be sure because God's the one fighting for you. He already has, and He'll finish the fight He started.