Archive for the Devos Category

Controversial??

Posted in Devos on Saturday, August 18, 2007 by drumsalot

My people, prepare for a little Wesleyan controversy. . . .

I love my tattoos. I love my piercings. I love my band. I love to rock. I love life on the road. I love drums and electric guitars in my church. I love killer rock. I love RED and Pillar and POD and Seventh Time Down and Nevertheless and Mute Math and Monday Morning and Jonah 33. I love hard rock that is all dark. I love Project 86 and Staple and Kids In The Way and Underoath and Maylene and War Of Ages and Norma Jean and Demon Hunter. I love worship and contemporary music. I love Plumb and Hillsong United and Steven Curtis Chapman and Nichole Nordeman and Lincoln Brewster and Jars of Clay. I love about a thousand bands I didn’t mention. I even love a ton of “secular” music (and no, I’m not going to hell for it). I love the kids that skateboard in church parking lots. I love watching those kids do crazy jumps, dares, and stunts that would probably leave me in traction. I love potheads. I love stoners. I love teenage alcoholics. I love the kids “too cool” for God. I love all those kids. I love parents and grandparents who might not like the music but come and have fun anyway. I love more “seasoned” fans who have been rocking for 50 years and won’t quit anytime soon. I love crowd surfers. I love mosh-pit cavemen. I love fohawks and dreads and crazy colored hair. I love chains and studs and straps and vintage clothes. I love goth, emo, and punk kids. I love all black as a style of dress. I love watching from behind my drum kit as kids go nuts and bang their nappy punk heads to the rock we’re throwin at them. I love the sweaty hugs I get when we come off our set. I love signing random stuff. I love letting kids play my kit after a show. I love living out of a stinky van for weeks at a time going places I’ve never been. I love having my face rocked off at someone else’s show. I love heartfelt worship. I love a coffeehouse chill acoustic set. I love the kids fighting a skeezy past and struggling. I love being used by God for those kids. I love that they feel at ease talking with me. I love that my own skeezy past can help them. I love that they dig my piercings. I love that they admire my ink. I love that it all opens doors that Joe and Jane Piousholychurchyface would never even dream of opening.

I hate when I’m brought down or called a false or bad Christian for any or all of the above. I hate when people use these things to question my faith. I hate that it happens a lot. I love the people that do it.

Oh. . . And I hate the words “Thee” and “Thou” and adding “est” or “ist” to any verb. . . . unless used by Shakespeare. Or used tastefully in poetry, in a song or in a period book or movie. I’m not a big fan of the King James Version. I love my NIV. Just wanted to toss that out there.

I’m not mad. I’m frustrated. And tired of it. And I want more tats and piercings. I am far beyond the point of convincing that I should let the holes in my face heal up and wear a suit to church. It ain’t happenin’, folks. I don’t even own a suit. I do own a few ties, but I’m not sure where any of them are. I’m going to take a few paragraphs to throw out some of my thoughts on some of this stuff. Feel free to disagree with me. And feel free to tell me so. But please at least hear me out and give a concerted effort to see my side before telling me that I’m going to hell for the cross, bible verse, Christian band logo, and sacred heart I have tattooed on my arms, and the 5 rings on my face.

I love my tats and piercings and feel that they are a powerful and effective witnessing tool. I have had countless conversations with kids at shows and festivals that started with something like “hey, sweet ink, what does it mean?” or “did that piercing hurt?” I have had the honor and privilege to pray with many of these kids, and offer some of the lessons I’ve learned through my past screwed-up-ness. I’ve had hardened kids cry on my shoulder, and pour out loads of regret and let go of crap. I’ve been blessed to pray with quite a few to receive Christ as their savior. These doors all opened because these kids like my tattoos and piercings. That alone is much more than enough for me to say “who cares what the naysayers say, my tin and ink is all fine. If you don’t like it, too bad for you, keep your sentiments to yourself.” But I want to see both sides and explore both arguments so I’m not just blowing off potentially strong reasoning. I want to dive into a little scripture that is most commonly thrown around regarding the issue.

Leviticus 19:28 – “Do not cut yourselves for the dead or put tattoo marks on your bodies” If I had a buck for every time someone has quoted this verse to me in an effort to disprove my faith and prove me immoral for having tattoos and piercings, I’d be driving a Hummer right now. I have done some research on this verse, and asked several respected, trusted and educated Christian leaders (read: have a lot of letters including PHD after their name) what they think. And all of them have advised that context is critical no matter what verse is being quoted, and it must be quoted in a way that reflects the proper and intended direction of the verse. This verse is in the middle of a chapter outlining the “do-nots” of the old testament, and as such, there is no direct subjective context, but there is an obvious implied context provided by the words “for the dead”. Those words are the qualifier for the entire sentence. According to those I spoke with, and all 5 of them independently agreed, the most proper and accurate interpretation of this verse as a whole is that these things are not to be done as a mourning ritual or symbol of personal loss. I wanted to be as sure as I could that this was accurate, so I sat down with a friend who has her masters in English, and is a high school AP English teacher. She advised that this is the best and most accurate interpretation based on the style of writing used throughout Leviticus and the formatting of the sentence. Good enough for me.

Then there is the other side. Galatians 6:17 – “Finally, let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.” This one used to be very attractive to me as a rebuttal, and I have heard many pro-tattoo Christians use it to justify our ink. But I’ve also done some research on this verse, and in Second Corinthians, verse 24, Paul tells of how he has been beaten to near death many times, and was given 39 lashes (as Jesus was) on five separate occasions. I feel that these marks are the marks Paul is referencing in Galatians, and I cannot compare myself to that. I refuse to group myself with a man who knows what real persecution is and steal his true pain and sacrifice just because I appreciate body art. Not gonna happen. If I am ever picked to be tortured or beaten for my faith, then perhaps I will quote that verse.

The verses I feel are most relevant are these:

  • Titus 3:9 – “But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because they are unprofitable and useless.”
  • Romans 14:13 – “Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way.”
  • Romans 8:1-2 – “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of Life set me free from the law of sin and death”
  • I Corinthians 10:23-24 – ” ‘Everything is permissible’ – but not everything is beneficial. ‘Everything is permissible’ – but not everything is constructive. Nobody should seek his own good but the good of others.”
  • I Corinthians 10:31-11:1 – “So whatever you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God – even as I try to please everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good, but the good of many, so that they may be saved. Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ.”
  • I Samuel 16:7 – “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

I think God couldn’t really care less if a Christian gets a tattoo. I think He is far more concerned with the fact that some Christians waste so much time bringing people down over their tattoos. And I believe He is more concerned with those Christians who have tattoos and piercings using this controversy to bring down the Christians who are not able to or are afraid to accept them. I think the real Christian thing would be to be willing to stand side by side, tattoos or not, progressive or traditional, and love each other fully and without reservation as brothers and sisters in Christ and not let this ridiculous petty crap impede the work and worship of God. It’s time to stop playing the victim because other Christians bring us down over tats and piercings, and stand strong to our shared convictions and beliefs and in love one to another. It’s time to drop the holy facades and pious attitudes and judgements and work hard to be family in the fullest sense. We need to be a fully impenetrable and unwavering network of support for each other, with absolutely no regard whatsoever for anything except that we are one in faith and worship the same God.

If you want my honest, no crap opinion, I think it’s time for the church to stop whining, grow up, get over it, and stop demanding that people look, act, talk, and dress like they just stepped out of Leave It To Beaver. This is real life and the church needs to step it up and enter real life. The church claims it has open arms and an open heart and will recieve everyone with love and respect with no bias whatsoever, but on the whole I don’t believe it. I go to a pretty good church where people don’t care how you dress or if you have piercings or tattoos or ridiculous hair, but I would never go to many of the churches that we’ve done shows for. It would probably drive me to insanity. If I get another nasty look when walking into a church because I’m dressed comfortably with ink showing and a fohawk, I may just punch a kitten. . . Then I’m quitting church as we know it and I’m starting my own. . . .

I’m just throwing that out there. . . take it or leave it. . .

Gentleness

Posted in Devos on Friday, January 27, 2006 by drumsalot

I have been studying the fruits of the spirit for my personal devos lately. This is probably the fifth time I’ve studied them, and each time they seem to impact a little deeper into who I am. The concepts are simple, but putting them into practice is one of the hardest things to do, so I need a refresher course every couple of years. With things that are happening in my life and in the lives of close friends these days, studying gentleness has really impacted me, and I want to share some thoughts on what I’ve found through my devos.

For me, gentleness is one of the easiest of the fruits of the spirit to understand conceptually, but it is definitely not the easiest to put into action. I do my best to treat those I love tenderly, but often I am not as gentle as I should be. This is not to say I am rough with them or beat them or anything like that, rather it is to say that I often forget to check myself before shooting my mouth off or approaching someone, and I have hurt many people in my life by being quick to speak and slow to listen. Gentleness is a product of practice, patience, and effort, and a constant conscious push to maintain a gentle spirit and attitude regardless of the situation.

Let me make one thing very clear. God calls us constantly to a higher standard. The beautiful and most painful thing about that is though we can attain infinite levels above our present point, we can never reach the top until we are made perfect in Christ on the day we are with Him. This is the most beautiful truth regarding our salvation and growth in Christ. It also can be very frustrating. Gentleness, as with every other fruit of the spirit, is a trait which can only come from God Himself. The only way to become truly gentle is to surrender the gentle and the ungentle about yourself and let God affect the change in your heart. Only God can make such an amazing change in the heart of anyone weighed down by humanity in their genes. Which is everyone. So… What I’m trying to say is, while I am offering my thoughts about how we can work towards gentleness in our lives, the only way to truly attain the true spiritual fruit of gentleness, and not just dull down areas of your life, is to seek totally after God’s will and heart, and let Him work that miracle in your life.

Let me start with the very thing I am fighting to do in my own life right now… approach people in a fully Christ-like manner. To me there are three elements necessary as Christians when approaching anyone, whether a close friend, someone we are reaching out to, and even (especially) someone we don’t like or consider an enemy. Those elements are gentleness, love and respect. They are helpful in every aspect of approaching others, but I find that they are absolutely necessary when talking with others. I am often so eager to get a point across that I forget that I am not necessarily the only one that knows what I am talking about, and will often force a point or ignore a counterpoint, or…. and this is a kicker for me…. I will pretend to be listening while formulating my response or dissecting their point in my mind while they speak. This shows absolutely no respect, and is evidence of a lack of love in some form for the person I’m speaking with, and it leads to a lack of gentleness in my response because I have automatically placed myself on the offensive. I have only one solution to this: stop thinking, stop talking, and start listening. James 1:19 says “My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry” I have found that I am much gentler in my responses when I actually listen and hear what the other person is saying, because I can then understand their point and after considering their statement respond appropriately instead of aggressively.

In the book of Proverbs, Solomon goes nuts on how we use our mouths as Gods people. Proverbs 10 has 32 verses, 12 of which are about the dangers of the untamed mouth, and many verses throughout Proverbs equate loose and ungodly talk to a doorway for Satan to control parts of our lives. But throughout Proverbs, Solomon also directs us in how to close those doors and carefully use gentle words for good. Proverbs 12:18 says “Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Proverbs 15:1 says “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Proverbs 29:20 says “Do you see a man who speaks in haste? There is more hope for a fool than for him.” Obviously God has a huge expectation for us as His people when it comes to how we conduct our words. We have a huge responsibility when it comes to our mouths, and we have to check every word that rolls through our brain before it reaches our mouths. We are not responsible for how people take what we say, just for how we say it. If what we say is wholesome, edifying, and done gently and according to what we feel God would have us say and the people on the receiving end still take offense or are somehow upset by what we say, that is between that person and God, and we have done our part by being in line with what God would have us do.

You may be wondering why for an expository on gentleness I choose to concentrate on our words when our world is filled to overflowing with violence and war. We only have to watch the news for 5 minutes to hear of a shooting or an abusive parent beating a child half to death. Don’t get me wrong, I hate violence. In my 13 years as an EMT I have had many responses to abuse, shootings, stabbings, and many other violent acts, and each one sickens me. I detest those who beat children and spouses, and there were several times I came face to face with parents who had beaten the snot out of 3 and 4 year olds over such things as a crayon drawing on a wall, or men who had severely beaten their wives because of such inane crap as over-cooking something. I wanted to bring it back on them a hundred times over and if it wasn’t for my badge on my chest and the duty and honor it bound me to, I probably would have done it. I have been to shootings over nothing except how one guy looked at another, or criticized his car, or said hi to his girlfriend, or some other junk, and have come under fire myself. These things all repulse me, but I feel they all find root in our language and attitudes towards each other when we talk. Our words hold great power. They can build up or tear down. Excessive words can aggravate and annoy, and too few words can hurt and leave people wondering and worrying about what wasn’t said. Gentleness and forethought about what comes from our mouth can erase a lot of pain and prevent a lot of hurt, and gentleness and forethought in our responses can erase a lot of anger and prevent a lot of arguments. It’s all about how we filter what comes out of our mouth.

I look at Proverbs 15:1 as a perfect reasoning for why I feel this way. “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” how incredibly true in my life. I think it works in a few ways. The obvious one is the easiest: “If you respond gently to me, I’ll be less likely to be nasty to you.” The second way is perhaps a little tougher: “My response must be gentle so I don’t make the other person any angrier.” The third is definitely the hardest, but I think if it can be understood and acted on, it can be life changing. It is: “I know that if I respond gently now, and keep responding gently, no matter what the other person says, I will not be provoked to answer in anger and I will not act in wrath, because my focus will be responding only with gentleness and treating the other person with gentleness, love, and respect.” It’s similar to the second, but so much deeper and implies a proactive approach instead of just rolling with the punches. The words you speak you can never get back, so I’ve decided to work my butt off to make each word that comes out of my mouth something I would want to give as a gift to God. Proverbs 17:27 says: “A man of knowledge uses words with restraint and a man of understanding is even tempered.” I think that pretty much sums it all up.

God is a gentle God with only our best on His heart. God detests all abuses and violence, and has called us to be as Christ is: a gentle servant with no motives except to further Gods kingdom and serve Him with every ounce of our being. Christ was an absolutely perfect example on the day of his death. He took all the abuse and torture then responded to those beating and cursing Him by loving them and asking God to forgive them and never striking back, but humbly and gently taking it all. Most likely none of us will ever face crucifixion or even just the preliminary beating He faced, yet we all find it so hard to be gentle and humble in the face of our minor issues. Looking towards the cross really puts it all into context.

By all means God wants us to be physically gentle, and treat each other tenderly in all aspects, and I strongly feel that needs to start with our mouth. If we can master our mouths, the rest of the body will follow. James 3 compares the tongue to a bit in a horses mouth and the rudder on a ship, both are tiny compared to the thing they are attached to, but are able to steer and control it none the less. Our words steer our lives and control us in ways we usually don’t even realize, and if we can tame them, then the control is put back in our hands to give to God. James also compares the tongue to the spark that starts a forest fire. We have a choice to make our tongue the spark that starts the fire, or the water that keeps one from spreading. If we can tame our tongue and make it a gentle tool for uplifting and encouraging, we can control the fire and put it out before it burns out of control.

Don’t get me wrong… I am the worst at what I’m writing about. I have to fight daily to keep my mouth shut and respond gently, and 9 times out of 10 I screw it up. I have been the worst offender when it comes to letting my mouth loose. I find that I’ve often tried to make up for my shortcomings by unleashing wrath on someone to preempt their words which may be hard for me to hear. I have lost friends and the respect of people I look up to on many occasions because of this. I’ve alienated important and amazing people that have touched my life because out of fear I responded in haste with pointed words and left all evidence of gentleness, love and respect on the back steps. I was an idiot. I don’t want to be an idiot again. Don’t be an idiot. Your gentle words and actions will affect those you deal with and change your own life. Live with gentleness, love and respect towards everyone and before you know it, it will spread like wildfire and your entire world will start changing.

Peace

Posted in Devos on Thursday, December 22, 2005 by drumsalot

I’m sure that many people reading this realize that my blogs have been focused on the personal study I’m doing on the fruits of the spirit. I’m taking a some time on each and dissecting them and putting some of my thoughts down in the hopes that someone out there in the world of the net will learn more of who God is by seeing who He is in my life and how He has changed me and continues to change me. This one is a little different. I have been studying peace in my personal studies for the past few days, but it’s more about the season than the study in this entry.

In this tumultuous time in our world, peace seems to be out of reach. War rages on our own homelands soil. Gangs rule inner cities, every night the news in most areas broadcasts the grim news of killings and violent crimes. Road rage, kids beating other kids in school over the way one looked at another, random acts of meaningless violence on the streets of even the usually peaceful towns, even Christmas shopping is becoming a contact sport as people are getting trampled in Wal-Mart trying to get the hottest toys for their kids. The rest of the world is just as crazy. Our brave troops are fighting for the survival of a foreign land’s innocent and many are making the ultimate sacrifice. Areas of the world are attempting to build nuclear arsenals and assessments are being made as to the viability of an assault on America and other nations. Peace is a lost concept for many souls as well. There are countless people who are constantly living in turmoil. People anxious about jobs, relationships, family issues, finances, the future and so much more. So many that we know are not sure of who God is, and struggle with the questions about the meaning of life, the existence of God, the meaning behind tragedies and why God would let them happen.

Isaiah was given the gift of seeing the coming of Jesus, and with Him the peace the world longed for. He saw the distress and turmoil that the world was suffering, and he saw the coming of a King more powerful than any before, a king that ruled not just the kingdom of David, but the whole world. He knew that Jesus would not only rule the world, but would be a light in the darkness, that He would be peace for a peace-less world. He saw true hope, and a promise of life as he knew God really meant it to be.

“Distressed and hungry they will roam the land; when they are famished, they will become enraged and, looking upward, will curse their king and their God. Then they will look toward the earth and see only distress and darkness and fearful gloom, and they will be thrust into utter darkness. Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the Gentiles, by the way of the sea along the Jordan — The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in he land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as men rejoice when dividing the plunder. For as in the day of Midian’s defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor. Every warrior’s boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire. For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government will be upon his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince Of Peace. Of the increase of His government and kingdom there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.” (Isaiah ..8:21.. – 9:7)

Obviously God has it for us to live in peace. Isaiah wrote those words hundreds of years before Jesus was born, anticipating the coming of a king so the world may know peace and be ruled in righteousness. Isaiah knew that God despised the distress in the world, and He would soon send a savior that would redeem the world. We, as Isaiah had, now anxiously await the return of the Prince of Peace. To me, the first part of that passage sounds a lot like the world as we know it today. The great part about that is the hope that comes next. We are in a tough and distressed time, but God has something amazing up ahead. To me, that is what Christmas is all about.

My favorite Christmas song is “I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day” The words are so amazing. It was written in 1864 by Henry W. Longfellow. The trial and strife of the American Civil War spoke loudly through the original third and fourth stanzas, which have been omitted by contemporary hymnals. (I’ve written the whole hymn out at the bottom of the page with the original stanzas intact) The second to last verse is my favorite. “Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: “God is not dead, nor doth He sleep; The wrong shall fail, the right prevail, With peace on earth, good will to men.” What a truth, what a promise for this crazy lost world. It makes sense in the context of the song as we know it today, but when read through with the original lines, this stanza means so much more. Our blessed country was tearing itself apart. Brother against brother, father against son. Families divided at the Mason Dixon line, sharing loyalties with the north and south instead of with the blood in their veins. But through it all, in the midst of a despairing country, words of hope rang loud and clear; “God is not dead nor doth he sleep!” written by a man who lost his wife in a fire in July, 1861, just three months after the start of the Civil War. Longfellow himself had been severely burned in the fire and was unable to care for himself or his children for several weeks. Around Christmas of 1863, his son, Charles, a lieutenant in the Army of the ..Potomac.., was severely injured when a bullet passed through his shoulder and destroyed a spinal process. But on Christmas day, 1864, just under five months from the end of the war, Longfellow wrote the poem “Christmas Bells”, which later became “I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day”. A man who had seen so much tragedy, and had lived for just under 4 years in the hell of war ravaging the country in which he lived and which he loved. He knew of God’s promises, and believed that His hand would soon restore the peace they had known.

I guess what I’m trying to say through all this is that Christmas is not what we’ve made it. Longfellow knew that through all he had suffered, and the war that destroyed his beloved nation, God still had control, and God still wanted for his people to live in peace. Cannons roared outside his house, but Longfellow had peace in his soul. In this season it’s hard to remember that peace is more than the peace on earth, good will to men we hear so often. This season is about the Prince of Peace and in everything, peace is the goal. God gave us His Son for Peace. Jesus Christ is coming back to bring Peace!! Not just peace on earth, but peace in every aspect. Peace for the heart, the soul, the mind. Peace within families, churches, governments, nations, the whole world! Peace through the amazing gift of His sacrifice and the blood that was shed in violence to bring us salvation and peace!

An amazing thing about our salvation is that not only does it ensure an eternity with the Lord in Heaven, but it is peace. Salvation is the acceptance of Christ of our savior, but it is also the cessation of the war that is fought within our souls. We will still have trials and we will always have struggles, but the most important element of our existence, the future of our soul, is settled and that element of our life is at peace. If we allow God to work in our lives and build on that salvation, the peace our souls experience will spread to the rest of our lives, no matter how crazy life gets. I can really attest to that fact after the past three months. I have been through what I felt to be the worst possible thing life could ever throw at me, but through it, I have an amazing peace that I know only comes from God. I love where I am. I have a great life now. I know where God wants me and I know how to ge there, and no matter what people do to try to keep the past alive and drag me down, God has granted me His peace and led me with His hand. I know I’ll have hard times, and there will nights when I just want to hide under my blankets for a few years and let the world move on, but the pervasive and encompassing thing in my life is the peace I have. No matter what happens, God is my strength, God takes my hand and grants me His peace. The best feeling in life is knowing that the Lord of all creation, the God of the universe loves you enough to reach down at your worst and pick you up, calm you down, and grant you his peace. Not just a ceasefire, but everlasting peace. Nothing compares.

Peace isn’t just the absence of war, violence, or turmoil. It’s the absolute presence of God as the true source of peace. That is the meaning of Christmas. Peace is a tough concept to grasp when looking at the world we live in, but that’s why God sent His Son. We could never really grip what peace is without the grace of God And the example set by His sacrifice. As Jesus told His disciples in the upper room,”Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27). There’s no peace more real than that. Christmas is the time when we are supposed to remember the first time the earth had ever felt the touch of God in human form. It was the first time the world had ever known true peace, even if there was still turmoil, because the Prince of Peace was now on earth. And it was the day that all creation had a hope of salvation and there wasn’t a need to sacrifice any more because the sacrifice for our sins was now in our midst. Peace was now a tangible reality, and a new and amazing hope was alive for the first time. I think Christmas should be as it was in Bethlehem 2005 years ago. I think it needs to be celebration – a loud, crazy, off the wall celebration in honor of our Lord’s birth. But I also feel it should be a time for families and friends to stop and reflect on who we celebrate, and why He came. Taking a few moments in peace is a good way to honor the Prince of Peace. I really don’t feel like honoring Mattel and JC Penny this year. I will most definitely get gifts for my family and friends, but if I were to get nothing except a few more minutes sharing the amazing reality of what Christmas actually is with family and friends, then I have gotten the most awesome thing I could ever ask for.

I think Linus put it best: “And there were in the same country shepherds, abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them , and the glory of the Lord shone round about them, and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, ‘Fear not! For I bring you tidings of great joy which shall be to all people, for unto you is born this day in the city of David a savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; You shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying ‘Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, and good will towards men!’ That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown”.

I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play
And mild and sweet the words repeat,
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

I thought how as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had roll’d along th’ unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

‘Til ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime,
Of peace on earth, good will to men!

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound the carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn, the households born
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bow’d my head:
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong, and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men.”

Patience

Posted in Devos on Saturday, December 17, 2005 by drumsalot

Patience stinks. I hate having to be patient for what I want five minutes ago, and my impatience in these times usually leads to me goofing something up and making my wait longer. I am often too impatient to stop and pray for patience. I have often wondered if I was an absolute idiot for praying for patience, and my gut reaction is… yes I am an absolute idiot for praying for patience. I have been warned a million times about the danger of praying for patience, about how it’s “the prayer God hears first, answers fastest and takes advantage of the most.” I have come to the conclusion that praying for patience is the best possible thing you could ever do for your spiritual life. There are many people close to me who are gasping in horror right now because of that last sentence. Don’t worry, I have not gone nuts, just bear with me for a minute.

Patience, for being the biggest pain in the butt, has always proven itself. Take Jacob and Rachel for instance. Jacob loved Rachel so much that he put himself to work for her father for seven years just to earn the right to marry her. I personally would have hated that, and been miserable, whiny, and begged God to make it end. But Jacob had the drive and patience to make it easy. Genesis 29:20 proves that; “So Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her.” And that’s not all. Jacob was deceived by Rachel’s father, and once he had Rachel he was made to work another seven years for her father. That’s patience…. and a load of dedication.

God has always rewarded those patient in him. We as believers are charged to wait patiently for the return of our Lord and our patience and faithfulness will be rewarded with immeasurable treasure in heaven. It is also promised that patience and perseverance will serve to grow our faith and improve who we are in Christ. In Romans 5:3-5, Paul says basically that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance produces character, and character produces hope. So my deduction is that since perseverance in the end produces hope, patience has the same outcome, since, at least to my mind, patience and perseverance require each other. So…. I have to believe that my patience will serve to create in my life an improved character, and ultimately, hope. Sounds like a winner to me!

All this is evident and understood by me, but I still can’t wrap my brain around being really willingly patient. I have been “forced” into being patient by the things that have happened in my life over the past few years. I had to learn to rely fully on God for everything, but mostly for the peace and patience not to go nuts while everything went different ways from where I thought they should. I hated it…. and still do to an extent. I hate the feeling of having no control over my own life and the things I want now and the things that should have happened yesterday. It’s those things I had to give totally over to God. And that’s how patience is bred in a heart, getting to the point of realizing that you cannot control it, and giving it all over to God trusting that his timing is perfect, and it’s not going to kill you to wait on Him. My patience in the last years, although it was a hard road, and incredibly difficult to get to the point of being past my desires enough to be patient, has definitely paid off. I have so much more now than I did when it all started, and my faith and relationship with God is absolutely amazing. It’s still tough, and I still miss some elements of my past, but I’m glad they are behind me, because it opened a huge door for God to take my life and do amazing things. Patience is suffering sometimes, but if we rely on God through it, it will be well worth it. As C.S. Lewis so eloquently remarked, “As Christians we are called first to suffer, service is a secondary project made more effective by the suffering.”

Romans 8:18-27 says; “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by it’s own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from it’s bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.”

God desires that we be patient and lean on him, and according to my understanding of those verses, God subjects us to the frustration of waiting with the intent of giving us the means to liberate ourselves from our bondage by learning to rely on Him. The whole of creation shares in our frustration, Those who are saved and have accepted our adoption as sons have the frustration of waiting to be with our Father for eternity, and those who are still unsaved have the frustration of a life that is against God’s will, whether they realize it or not. It is amazing that the Spirit goes to God on our behalf regarding these frustrations, I definitely need the backup! I have to believe though, that the Spirit isn’t asking God to make it all stop, but to make it a little easier on us, and give us the means to patience when we need it most. The verses say that the Spirit intercedes only to the will of God, so I know that the Spirit is asking the best possible thing for me.

Patience is unnatural. Patience is painful. Patience is against the will of man. And that is why patience is so important. If we can be patient and wait on God’s almighty and perfect will and timing, and not rush headlong into what it is we want, we will be in God’s will and have been improved by Him in the waiting. God requires that we test his will, that we put every leading to a litmus test of scripture, prayer, and patience. If we assume that every leading we have is God’s will and fly right into it, chances are we are missing his true leading much more than we are following it. This patience in seeking an assurance of his leading and will is perhaps the most important patience we can have, because if we don’t, and what we feel to be a leading from God is actually not from God, we can do so much damage in our own lives and the lives of people around us, perhaps even losing souls by our impatience. If it truly is Gods will, it’s not going anywhere, and He’s going to be there waiting to make it real in your life on the other side. The only benefit to rushing in is the fulfillment of our own desires and selfishness, and nothing of that is ever in Gods will. Patience does not always produce what we want, but it always produces God’s perfection in that aspect of our lives if we are willing to trust his hand through the time of waiting. I hate patience, but it is the very thing I am called to, and God has promised His help through it, and there are amazing rewards at the end of the waiting. And that’s more than enough for me.

Self Control

Posted in Devos on Saturday, October 8, 2005 by drumsalot

Self control is more than just holding yourself to 2 Oreos and having just one glass of wine with dinner. Self control is the safety on each individual aspect of your life. Take the mental picture of each aspect of your life being a gun locked and loaded and ready in all aspects. Individual circumstances dictate whether the gun is pointed at you or at someone else, but no matter what, it will do damage, sometimes devastating, if it’s allowed to go off. We all have hundreds of areas in our lives that are just like this, and it’s up to us not to let them “go off.”

I love guns. I specifically love handguns, and one of my favorite handguns of all is the Glock 21. It is a long barrel .45 used mainly by S.W.A.T. teams and precision target shooting teams. The 21 has a projectile propulsion of 1185 feet per second, so technically, if the world were a vacuum, the projectile would clear a mile in just 4.53 seconds. The 21 has enough gas push behind it’s fired projectile to penetrate 4 inches of pressure treated wood at 10 yards with a full metal jacket round. Obviously, the 21 is an amazing weapon, and as such it deserves and is given 3 specific safeties, 2 internal, and a trigger safety. The 2 internal safeties you have no immediate control of in a shooting situation, but the trigger safety will not allow the hammer to activate unless you apply direct and deliberate pressure on both the trigger and the trigger safety. Glocks are awesome handguns because of this safety system, because you must want to discharge the weapon in order for the trigger to pull.

Why do I say all this? Well… we have 3 distinct safeties when it comes to controlling our lives and bodies, just like a Glock. The two unmodifiable internal safeties are: God and our conscience. God, through His word, His hand, and the still small voice He often whispers into our ears at just the right time. As we all know, our conscience is a little overflow sensor God installed so our inherent Good Vs. Bad filter can try to keep us from being stupid. The “trigger safety” of our lives is the ability we have as humans to stop, think the situation through, and say no, not now, not like this, heck no, or run away when we need to. Some of us are stupid anyway, and ignore all three. I have to admit that probably 50 percent of the time, that’s me…..

I was told recently by an acquaintance that he couldn’t wait a few weeks to ask a girl out because 1) he decided that it felt right, so it must be God’s will, and 2) he is a very impatient person and couldn’t hold on that long to get what he wanted. What he knew and refused to consider through all this is the girl had been engaged, and had broken up with her fiance, but the two of them had remained very close, and she was sending strong signals that reparations were possible. Her ex of course was devastated when my acquaintance used the line “it’s Gods will” to convince the girl that she needed to go out with him. He used a private spiritual matter to get his way by shedding a sour light on her ex and forcing them apart. His actions were almost responsible for a solid Christian guy walking away from God because of the pain they brought in the misused name of God and in a declaration of “God’s will.” They were responsible for the destruction of friendships, huge amounts of pain, and the destruction of a quickly growing and very effective ministry, all because of a lack of patience and self control.

Allow me a moment for a quick clarification. Please don’t take me wrong, I fully believe in God sharing his will with us, and using his hand to guide us from point to point. I also believe however, that you must test what you feel to be God’s will and be 100 percent sure that it is truly God’s will well before acting on it. A happy fuzzy feeling is rarely God’s will. It’s up to us to discern what God’s will truly is, and learn to get past what are actually the desires that we all have towards someone or something that often feels too good to be true and clouds our vision. Ephesians 5:17 says: “Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is” I personally feel it is foolishness to say that because you thought and prayed for a little while and didn’t hear a blatant “no” that your wants must be in line with God’s will. It is absolutely necessary to have confirmation from God before pressing on in His name, claiming that what you are doing is His will. God’s will isn’t going anywhere, so take your time and test the feeling with scripture, prayer, and patience. If it is Gods will, it will be waiting for you at the other end, if it isn’t God’s will, suck it up and move on and find out what His true will is. Another way to know if what you are doing truly is God’s will is to seek the heart of those around you. Pray for discernment for them, and honesty from them, and those who are involved that have a relationship with Him will know, whether they like it or not. But I digress.

I have had and am still fighting through some hard issues with self control myself. I enjoy speeding, even though I know it’s against the law. I like spending money and often will find myself spending on things I don’t need, whether I can afford it or not. I like eating junk that is really not doing me any good at all. In high school I had huge self control issues with alcohol, drugs, and sexual temptation. I used to have a bad temper when I’d been pushed too far. There are aspects of my life that I’ve fought for years, and still have to fight like nuts to totally control, and there are areas that are so easy to control that I don’t even realize that they still are a potential stumbling block most of the time. Having self control means having the guts to stop yourself and make sure of the activity, the possible outcomes and the long and short term consequences before letting yourself do the activity, then after all is said and done, making sure God would smile on every aspect of the activity, especially your thought life and the things that no one sees and no one is directly affected by.

David, whom God himself announced as a man after His own heart, couldn’t control himself once, and wound up making a mistake that haunted his whole life. 2 Samuel 11 tells the story of David and Bathsheba. The nutshell story is basically, David was taking a walk on the balcony of one of his palaces one evening, and happened to gaze upon Bathsheba bathing on the roof of her house. David immediately wanted her for himself, and her husband was off fighting with the army of Israel, so he had his people bring her over, and slept with her. He then sent her home, and not too long after that she sent him a message saying she was pregnant. David immediately sent for Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, who was an honorable man and one of David’s finest soldiers. David tried to get him to go home and be with his wife to cover up the illegitimate pregnancy, but Uriah wouldn’t go home because his men were still fighting and sleeping on the dirt and longing for their wives and Uriah, being honorable and caring for his men, wouldn’t let himself be better off than they were. so David had him sent to the front lines where the fiercest fighting was, and ordered that the army withdraw quickly, stranding him to die quickly. David then took Bathsheba as his wife after her time of mourning had passed. The hardest verse to swallow is the last, where it says “But the thing David had done displeased the Lord.”

David could have prevented this whole thing by using just a tiny amount of self control. He should have controlled his eyes and looked away from Bathsheba when she was bathing. He should have forced the adulterous thoughts from his mind and never asked for her to be brought to him. He should have faced up to what he did rather than kill an innocent man to hide his rampant indiscretions. A small amount of self control at the beginning of it all would have prevented multiple sins that had massive effects on those around him. Self control in that moment would have kept Uriah and an unknown number of soldiers with him alive. It would have kept David and Bathsheba pure, and it would have prevented the consequences David suffered later. Most of all, it would have saved God the heartache of seeing “the man after God’s own heart” go directly against God’s heart in so many aspects.

Not too long ago a young friend of mine, who is a strong Christian, fell to temptation and got knocked out drunk a few times. She shrugged it off as “finding out who I really am.” Self control and self discovery are often butting heads. Personally, I feel that getting drunk multiple times in potentially compromising situations while still underage is stupidity, and has absolutely nothing to do with self discovery. God has given us means to self discovery without necessitating a loss of self control or straying from His will. God wants us to stay pure in every aspect, so our lives can be as blameless as possible and our witness and ministry can thrive through our example. Any time the words “I couldn’t help myself”, “I wanted to discover who I truly am”, “We went overboard”, “It felt like the right thing to do”, “We got caught up in (fill in the situation)” and many more are uttered, chances are it’s all because of a lack of self control. Unfortunately, usually the lack of self control is hand in hand with a lack of faith in God, and a lack of willingness to ask for His strength and seek his leading situation to situation. God’s will and leading will never stray from scripture, so no matter how right it felt to get drunk, sleep with someone outside of marriage, cheat, lie, etc, it is not condoned by God. It is a lack of self control. And each time you fall, one or more of those guns in your life is going off, probably right in your face.

Self control is incredibly hard to practice in every aspect of day to day life, but it is exactly what God calls for. Romans 7:25b says: “So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin” 6:19b says: “Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness.” I take that to mean that we have the responsibility to exert the necessary self control to make the law of sin, our impurity and wickedness a part of our past by constantly and consistently striving towards righteousness. That takes a load of self control, especially when the very nature of man is sinful, we are all under attack by our minds and the crazy and sinful world around us. We have to learn to put on the armor and fight the urges that our nature and the world throw at us. God wants nothing more for our lives than the fullness of joy through holiness, and holiness is unattainable until the old self is gone, and we can keep it gone. It takes a ton of self control for me not to let myself get sucked back into the junk of my past. I could probably fall easily back into drugs, alcohol, and sexual temptation if I didn’t constantly check myself and constantly build and use more and more self control. We all have these mini wars within us, that we win or lose minute to minute depending on how strong we are second to second. And God is gracious, and will help us with controlling these battles. We all have to learn self control to truly win these wars, and we need to learn to kill those parts of our lives that impede our striving for holiness, the parts we fight with every second of every day. It’s amazingly hard, and we all fail more than we succeed, but God knows this, and that’s exactly why he invented Grace.

Joy

Posted in Devos on Wednesday, September 21, 2005 by drumsalot

When do we learn about joy? I cannot remember when my parents sat me down and said “Son, joy is…”. I cannot imagine that they ever did. In my mind, Joy is an inherent trait we are all born with. I have seen a 5 week old baby light up and laugh with a monster huge smile on her tiny face when her daddy entered the room. I have seen a family with four children who live constant and consistent joy because it is the most natural thing to do in a life and family truly directed by and dedicated to God in every possible aspect. Sure the kids have their little sibling fights, and there are rough days, but the most pervasive of feelings when you step through the door is love, followed very closely by joy. This is not a rich, easy living, well off family…. they have often had to fight hard to keep their heads above water. But through it all, Joy has been the second most evident fruit in their lives, hot on the tail of love. When I worked on an ambulance in Pennsylvania, I had the honor of delivering 4 babies. I have never felt such fear as the moments leading up to delivery, but very little compares to the joy of being the first to see and hold a brand new life that just seconds before felt air for the first time. It is a rare and amazing thing to see true joy spread across the exhausted face of the mother, and the nervous excited joy of the father. It is a vision of God in one of his barest and truest forms. God is all things in one, but Love and Joy seem to be his most visible and most expressed traits.

I have found that God has an amazing way of knocking sense into someone as thick headed as me. A while ago I lost the woman I loved and was sure I was going to marry to my closest friend in an act of betrayal that almost destroyed me. It was an act that destroyed the band I so dearly love, a band that should have reached millions…. God used this all to make me real for the first time in my life. I thought I couldn’t make it through, and He became my supply. I lost so much, and He showed me so fully how He is truly all I need. I lost the people and the things that brought me the most happiness, and He became my fullest and richest joy….. a joy that is all encompassing and has filled my heart so full I fear it may burst. I have learned so fully how God is the one true source of Joy. It was an amazingly painful lesson to learn, but it is the most amazing knowledge to truly own.

Romans 5:3-5 says; “We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.” I don’t think I could put words to my feelings and the change in my life that could even remotely come close to the way that verse puts it. It is so true, and it is life changing. The joy of the Lord truly is my strength…. and I am stronger than I have ever been now…. My Lord is the greatest joy I have ever known….. I know that this pain has been the catalyst for a movement of Christ in my life…. I just hope I can be used of him to be a conduit for his truly amazing joy to reach those who maybe have never realized how God can truly be their joy. Joy makes worship real, and makes God much more understandable. Joy is truly the most amazing feeling in the world when it is true joy fueled by God’s love for us.