Posts Tagged With: God

Alcohol and Jesus

(Read Update here: https://daniellovett.wordpress.com/2013/12/24/jesus-and-alcohol-my-confession/)

Six weeks ago I had a dream that compelled me to dispose of around 8 gallons of alcohol. I’m not an alcoholic by any means, but had recently taken up a new hobby of making wine. I had stumbled on a Youtube video of dandelion wine and since my front yard was full of them, I decided to give it a try. As with any of my hobbies, I threw myself into this new hobby for a while and learned all I could. All while I was doing this I questioned whether I was stepping out of God’s will for me. “Is this OK?” I would ask, and one time I heard a “pour it out.” I dismissed this as my own religious notions or something and disregarded it.  And then I had the following dream:

I saw the world for what it truly was in the spiritual dimension. It was a place of darkness and confusion and the air was filled with poison. It was as if the entire world was a house filled with carbon monoxide. People were dropping around me like flies and I was shaken by it. Someone, who I perceived was the Lord, was trying his best to rescue people. But the people were hiding from him. Demons were also constantly busy hiding people from Jesus and in frustration he said to himself (the Trinity) “It seems like they are going to get away with everything.”

I woke up stunned around 3 am or so and walked downstairs. I knew that at times, I was the one hiding from Jesus and that, at times, I was using alcohol (among other things) to do just that. I knew that currently many others and, in fact, a great portion of the population of planet earth was using alcohol to hide from Jesus (not to mention the billions throughout history). I wanted no part of it! I didn’t want be a hindrance to Jesus and his ongoing rescue operation. I wanted to help! I wanted to be an asset. These are precious people to Jesus. He desperately loves them (and you) and felt their loss deeply.

“Pour it out”, I heard again. I wasted no time, because I knew if I delayed I would find some way to excuse myself from obedience. So I poured out 3 gallon batch of dandylion wine, 4 gallons of hard cider, and a nearly full $10 bottle of wine.  Every last drop of alcohol… gone.

It was a painful act of obedience.

My alcohol use history:

I remember when my mom once tried to cure us from the notion of ever turning to alcohol by letting my brother and I try a beer. I was 15 and my brother was 14.  I didn’t care for it at all. Apparently it is an acquired taste and I wondered why anyone would want to acquire a taste for piss water.

But then the trouble started.

images-1When I was 17 my parents started to fight a lot and during most of my later teen years we were not really a very happy family. I started turning to alcohol.

I found friends whose parents would drink and we’d raid their stash.  I remember drinking a bottle of Jack Daniels in the car before a school dance. I remember getting instantly drunk on just one sip of Everclear (95% alcohol) and walking down the street in my underwear. I remember drinking an entire  bottle of tequila, smoking two packs of cigarettes, passing out and waking up drunk the next day. We’d find someone to buy a case of beer and throw a party with all my new drinking friends. I did stupid things, I said stupid things, I made a fool of myself. I am ashamed of that year of my life.

Why did I do it? Was it to numb the pain of the strife at home? Was I looking in the wrong place for a sense of identity?

I must admit, it wasn’t just the pain of my parents conflict at home. It was the pain of sin itself. And drinking wasn’t the only thing I did to try to numb the pain and mental anguish. I would take steak knifes and cut up my arms and legs (still have the scars). I would bash my head with rocks. I tried marajuana. I am ashamed to admit what else I turned to… and so I won’t.

You get the picture. I was a wretch. I was a broken sinner and felt alienated from God. But I was also a “Christian”. I had been since I was young. I tried to reach out to God and he certainly helped me through a lot. But I never felt a sense of relief. I never fully landed on the peace I longed for.

When I reconnected with Jesus at 18, I didn’t drink again for probably 10 years or so. It wasn’t a temptation at all. I never thought about it. I was never even inclined to. I remember at one point getting pulled over because the police officer thought I was drunk. I told him I hadn’t had a sip of alcohol in 6 years, I’m just a bad driver.

As time went by I started to have some beer a few times a year. I had, after all, years ago developed a taste for the piss water and I soon discovered my favorite Wisconsin micro brewed craft lagers and ales. In my early 30’s my habit had been to, every few months, buy a six pack and have one a day for week and then forget about it for another few months. That was it. I enjoyed one beer or a glass of wine on a very occasional basis. No more than one. No problem. Totally under control.

Then in the late summer of 2012 I had something of an identity crisis (mid-life crisis?). I struggled with who I truly was versus who I presented to the world. I would have bad days and painful and sometimes shameful memories would plague me. It caused me to swear and turn to alcohol. I can just hear the Christian say, “Why didn’t you just take every thought captive to Christ and overcome?” To which I would respond, “Where were you when I needed a true friend?”

I began to loathe all the posing that goes on among Christians. I loathed myself for being one of  the posers. If I am not a genuine Christian who loves everyone from the overflow of Gods love at work in me, why in the hell would I pretend to be?  The pretense nauseated me and I searched for meaning in other things, in hobbies. I renewed some interests I had as a kid. I got into the outdoors. Fishing, hiking, eating wild edible plants, and gardening. (By the way, there is nothing wrong with developing some hobbies! I was long overdo for hobbies other than reading my bible all the time and trying to convert everyone on facebook.)

gryllsBy December I really got into watching Man vs. Wild. I watched every episode I could and soon discovered why I loved Bear Grylls so much. I learned he is a Christian brother! He, however, was not a religious poser. He seemed real, not afraid to just be himself. He seemed comfortable in his own skin. He would say, “Expect good things from God because God is good.” His faith was simple. His relationship with God was simple. He loved life and took it all in. And so, for better or worse Bear Grylls became my new role model. (I was so into Bear Grylls that some of my very dear friends called me Bear Doogle, and if you’re reading this, it’s ok to still call me that once in a while. The doogle part of it is “Daniel’s google”.)

I read Bear Grylls book “Mud, Sweat, and Tears” and loved it. In the book he mentions his hobby of making cider and home brewing. Thus the inspiration for my taking up this new hobby of home brewing.

But, by this time in my life (in the midst of my identity crisis) alcohol started to become a bigger part of my life. My wife and I would fight about it and I’ll tell you why. I would have my “one” drink on an empty stomach and drink it fast. I would have a tall glass of wine to make sure I would feel it. I would buy beer with more alcoholic content. I would drink alone. I would hide my alcohol so as not to provoke a fight with my wife and sometimes, I would have 2 beers instead of just one <gasp>.

I never viewed it as a problem.

The day I realized it could be a problem (and why) happened when I went on a camping trip with a Christian brother. That whole first day was amazing! We both just gloried in God’s creation and truly experienced the wonder and awe of of it all. We enjoyed ourselves, we enjoyed each others company and conversation, and most of all, we enjoyed God’s fellowship. I could feel the Holy Spirit shining in my heart… and then, I broke out the 6 pack of high alcohol beer, had one, got a buzz and got silly. It was fun, but I couldn’t feel the shining presence of God as much… (I talk more about this later). And then, I had another… and then another, until I made myself sick. I felt nauseous and on the verge of puking all night long and woke up that way too. I was ashamed and regretted bringing alcohol at all.

I will never again abuse alcohol I vowed. Within a week I had the dream and poured it all out.

I decided to take a 6 week break from alcohol (which I did) and then planned to enjoy it responsibly from that point on. Someone might wonder, why not give it up altogether? We not be a teetotaler?

Answer: Because its in my blood. My grandfather on my mothers side was a rum runner during the prohibition. My grandmother on my fathers side was an alcoholic who died getting hit by a truck carrying a case of beer across the street.

OK, while those stories are both true, this isn’t the reason why I refuse to be a teetotaler. The answer is, (and I mean this!) is that this is a freedom in Christ issue and I am taking a stand. We have the right as Christians to eat meat (even brats – pork ones too!) and drink wine and enjoy all the gifts of life that God has given us.

Of course we also carry a tremendous duty to love one another and not make choices in our freedom to offend and cause someone to stumble. As believers we don’t belong to ourselves anymore and must obey our Master Jesus.

When Jesus was here he took the high road of defending the liberty of the Christian life to the great offense of the self righteous religious. He ate meat. He drank wine. His first miracle was to convert water into over 120 gallons of the finest wine the world has ever tasted. Wine was his idea. He doesn’t hate wine or alcohol just because well over half the world abuses it and uses it to hide from God. He has no vendetta against wine any more than he does against sex. Both are gifts to the human race to be enjoyed. If you abuse either, you are glorifying the gift above the giver. It is idolatry.

I told my wife recently, “What if we drank wine for the glory of God? What if we were to submit alcohol and the enjoyment of it to Jesus and his glory?”

But then you go to Bible study and see the guy whose life has been wrecked by an addiction to alcohol there. He comes for the free food and leaves before the annoying talk about Jesus. You sense he is on his way to hell with a drink in his hand and there is nothing you can do about it. He asks you for money and lies about why he needs it. He is an absolute train wreck, all thanks to alcohol.

That is sobering.

And then you hear stories from genuine Christian brothers who had a past with alcohol, who were brought down and wrecked by their addiction, who were then radically set free by Jesus and avoids alcohol like the plague. They can’t imagine what anyone sees in drinking the poison of alcohol.

That is sobering.

And then you hear first hand stories of people whose dads drank and beat them and abused them or even molested them. You hear stories about people who have actually died from alcohol poisoning, or drunk driving or about someone’s alcoholic grandmother who died while crossing the street carrying a case of beer.

That is sobering.

And then you read Scriptures about how drunkards will not inherit the kingdom of God and the many strong warnings by God in his word against drunkenness listed here (please read them):

 “Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit” Ephesians 5:18 NLT

“When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, 21 envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.” Galatians 5:21 NLT

“Wine produces mockers; alcohol leads to brawls.
Those led astray by drink cannot be wise.” Proverbs 20:1 NLT

“Don’t you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, 10 or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people—none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God. 11 Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

12 You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is good for you. And even though “I am allowed to do anything,” I must not become a slave to anything. 13 You say, “Food was made for the stomach, and the stomach for food.” (This is true, though someday God will do away with both of them.) But you can’t say that our bodies were made for sexual immorality. They were made for the Lord, and the Lord cares about our bodies.” 1 Corinthians 6:9-13 NLT

“Who has anguish? Who has sorrow?
Who is always fighting? Who is always complaining?
Who has unnecessary bruises? Who has bloodshot eyes?
30 It is the one who spends long hours in the taverns,
trying out new drinks.
31 Don’t gaze at the wine, seeing how red it is,
how it sparkles in the cup, how smoothly it goes down.
32 For in the end it bites like a poisonous snake;
it stings like a viper.
33 You will see hallucinations,
and you will say crazy things.
34 You will stagger like a sailor tossed at sea,
clinging to a swaying mast.
35 And you will say, “They hit me, but I didn’t feel it.
I didn’t even know it when they beat me up.
When will I wake up
so I can look for another drink?” Proverbs 23:29-35 NLT

“What sorrow for those who get up early in the morning
looking for a drink of alcohol
and spend long evenings drinking wine
to make themselves flaming drunk.” Isaiah 5:11 NLT

“It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything else if it might cause another believer to stumble.” Romans 14:21 NLT

“Do not carouse with drunkards
or feast with gluttons,
21 for they are on their way to poverty,
and too much sleep clothes them in rags.” Proverbs 23:20-21 NLT

“I meant that you are not to associate with anyone who claims to be a believer yet indulges in sexual sin, or is greedy, or worships idols, or is abusive, or is a drunkard, or cheats people. Don’t even eat with such people.” 1 Corinthians 5:11 NLT

“Now, however, Israel is led by drunks
who reel with wine and stagger with alcohol.
The priests and prophets stagger with alcohol
and lose themselves in wine.
They reel when they see visions
and stagger as they render decisions.” Isaiah 28:7 NLT

“Alcohol is for the dying,
and wine for those in bitter distress.
7 Let them drink to forget their poverty
and remember their troubles no more.” Proverbs 31:6-7 NLT

“Then the Lord said to Aaron, 9 “You and your descendants must never drink wine or any other alcoholic drink before going into the Tabernacle. If you do, you will die. This is a permanent law for you, and it must be observed from generation to generation. 10 You must distinguish between what is sacred and what is common, between what is ceremonially unclean and what is clean. 11 And you must teach the Israelites all the decrees that the Lord has given them through Moses.” Leviticus 10:8-11 NLT

I LOVE this one:

“It is not for kings, O Lemuel, to guzzle wine.
Rulers should not crave alcohol.
5 For if they drink, they may forget the law
and not give justice to the oppressed.” Proverbs 31:4-5 NLT

So with all these sobering serious warnings regarding alcohol abuse you would think it would probably be best to never use it at all. Many Christians have, and that is fine if they want to, or are led by the Lord to do that. They have the freedom to abstain, but Christians also have the freedom to partake and enjoy. It is for that freedom I am taking a stand.

When I read through the Bible last time I was surprised at how the Lord put alcohol, when used in it’s proper context, in a good light. This verse was surprising and refreshing regarding instructions to sojourners to Jerusalem for festivals:

“When you arrive, you may use the money to buy any kind of food you want—cattle, sheep, goats, wine, or other alcoholic drink. Then feast there in the presence of the Lord your God and celebrate with your household.” Deuteronomy 14:26 NLT

Isn’t that amazing! Feast and celebrate! Let the finest wine you drink and the best meal of your year be in the Lord’s presence with your family, celebrating God’s goodness! God has given us all things to enjoy! We must honor the Lord Jesus in our wine drinking, in eating, in sex, in everything he gives us to enjoy. Honor the giver in every gift he has given.

“Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy.” 1 Timothy 6:17 NKJV

Timothy, to whom the above verse was written, was apparently a teetotaler and was suffering for it. Paul advises him to have some for it’s healthful benefits:

“Don’t drink only water. You ought to drink a little wine for the sake of your stomach because you are sick so often.” 1 Timothy 5:23 NLT

And lets not forget the previously mentioned first miracle of Jesus when he transformed between 120 and 180 gallons of water into the finest nonalcoholic wine the world has ever seen (just seeing if you’re paying attention). You can read about this story in John 2. Do you honestly think Jesus didn’t enjoy some of that wine with his disciples at this wedding celebration? If you think he didn’t, you better think again. He admits to it!

“The Son of Man, on the other hand, feasts and drinks, and you say, ‘He’s a glutton and a drunkard, and a friend of tax collectors and other sinners!’ 35 But wisdom is shown to be right by the lives of those who follow it.” Luke 7:34-35 NLT

Jesus loves celebrations! He loves people! He loves when we share a glass of wine with family and friends! He is right there with us laughing and sharing our joy!

Is it so inconceivable to imagine that wine isn’t meant for hiding from God but to bring us closer to him and to each other? He is right there in the midst of our celebrations! Why would we shame ourselves? Why impose guilt onto the gift? Why has alcohol become something dark people use to slink off into the shadows away from God?

I am not suggesting that Jesus ever got drunk, but anyone who drinks wine knows the difference between the calm, relaxed, and yes, sometimes silly effects of alcohol and the rip roaring out of your mind drunk. I believe motivation and the state of one’s heart has everything to do with this and whether it is “OK” or not. This is between you and the Lord Jesus. Talk to him about how much is too much or if you should refrain altogether.

On my camping trip for instance. Why would I even question the freedom to enjoy a beer with my friend (providing it wasn’t getting me drunk)? I now believe it was wrong only because of what alcohol had become to me and my habits leading up to that point, this was why that beer became a sin and a snare to me and I’m convinced it was the sin that left me feeling farther from God, not the beer itself. And I should not have had more than one.

The Bible tells us that to the pure, everything is pure.

On that occasion, one beer led to another and another toward drunkenness because beer was not pure to me. It was not offered to the glory of God. It was darkness and an idol.

It doesn’t have to be this way and I believe Jesus wants to redeem the drinking habits of the world and wants people to recognize it for the gift that it is. He wants to take it out of the shadows and into the light. And he most certainly wants to take it off the pedestal in our lives. Piss water is not worth worshiping! If you do, you will soon be bowing before something you piss into (hint: it’s made of porcelain).

Jesus is worth worshiping!

That’s my perspective anyway. I would love to hear yours. Leave a comment!

“You send rain on the mountains from your heavenly home,
and you fill the earth with the fruit of your labor.
14 You cause grass to grow for the livestock
and plants for people to use.
You allow them to produce food from the earth—
15 wine to make them glad,
olive oil to soothe their skin,
and bread to give them strength.” Psalm 104:15 NLT

Thank you Father, giver of all good gifts!

Advertisements
Categories: Exposing Self-Righteous Religion | Tags: , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Cross Roads by William Paul Young (book review)

hqdefaultI have to admit it. I really do like William Paul Young! Yes, I even enjoyed his book The Shack, and I enjoyed immensely his latest book Cross Roads. I thank God for Paul Young. He is a gift to the human race. Could it be that God thought so much of his son Paul and his book that he said, “I want the world to read this! I want the world to hear his heart! I am so proud of my boy! I am especially fond of him!”

Sadly, I know I will get flack for standing with my brother Paul Young. I know many of my Christian friends think he is a heretic. I think many of my Christian friends need to repent for passing judgement on a fellow brother working in such a creative way to reunite God’s lost kids to their heartsick Papa. That’s what I think.

After reading Cross Roads, I went down stairs and picked up the Bible to see if the same relational unconditional-love-filled God that William Young writes about in his books is the same God that the apostle Paul presents in his letter to the Romans. Surprisingly he is, though for years I read it differently. I saw Jesus differently.

This is when I realized the power of paradigms in my own life. The following are some quotes from an interview William Young gave regarding the Shack and his new book Cross Roads:

“When Jesus showed up he was not recognizable inside the paradigm that religion had constructed.”

“Your paradigm will change the words right in front of your face. You will read it the way your system believes it should be rather than what it truly is. How do we read law into words of grace? How do we read performance into unconditional love?”

“God will go down any road to find you. He has come for every last one of his lost kids. Jesus didn’t come to make people Christians or to start a new religion instead he came to destroy religious thinking by introducing relationship. Relationship always moves you away from control and into mystery. The mystery of relationship.”

“It always hurts to get kicked in your paradigm.”

Over the past several years I have moved toward grace and relationship and away from a demonic fear controlled religion. My paradigm has shifted. The way I read Scripture has been transformed. The blinders are off. I see Jesus and he has a beautiful heart!

Legalistic self-righteous religion is a graceless, judgmental, and ugly thing. It makes God into a petty capricious bully with whom you never know where you stand. There is nothing that boils my blood more than to realize how many are being dragged down (and quite possibly to hell) by a form of religion that denies the slave who ascribes to said religion the joyful freedom that Christ offers us in a pure simple loving relationship.

I would propose that Jesus didn’t come to start a new religion but to set humans free to know and be known, to love and be loved by their God who created them to love them. What are your thoughts? Leave a comment.

Categories: Exposing Self-Righteous Religion | Tags: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

The Bricks and the Scale

WILL MY GOOD DEEDS OUTWEIGH THE BAD?

“Nothing at All”

“I have done nothing at all in my life, to earn your favor
I have done nothing at all in my life, to earn your love
I have been broken and bruised by my sin and my folly
But you have been broken for me redeeming me with your blood

And how is it that I am accepted?
How is it that I am made clean?
Why should you even care for a wretch like me?
And how is it that I am made righteous?
And how is it that you have saved me?
Why would you choose to die for a wretch like me?

You have been longsuffering, as I have tested your patience
You have been calling to me, as I have wandered from you
But you go to great lengths to prove that you still care
And you went to great lengths to woo my heart back to you

Your blood cries out Father forgive them
Your blood cries out Father I love them”

(Lyrics to “Nothing at All” – a song by Daniel & Catherine Lovett which appears on their latest album, “I Will Bring You Peace” – See the Support our Music link above to learn more about this project! Or visit: www.reflectworship.com)

Here is a video of this song on Youtube:

Several years ago, I had an epiphany – an insight into something that was ingrained in my thinking patterns. I know that I had learned this same lesson on several occasions before, but a dialogue I had with my wife drilled it home once again. Here is how that went down:

My wife and I were visiting with my sister-in-law Stacy. During our visit, Stacy told us that she had felt ill for the past few months and after many visits to the doctor she was just told that she has cancer. The doctor had given her about a year to live. Of course this news was a blow to my wife and I. We couldn’t imagine how they were handling the fact that she was facing imminent death.

The thing that amazed me the most was that she was more worried about her husband having to raise the kids by himself than the fact that she was going to die. During our visit I did not sympathize as I should have. Instead I said something like, “Well, we all are going to die.” I went on to philosophize about death and how we are all living on borrowed time anyway and how fragile life really is and what a miracle it is that any of us are breathing. It was very eloquent.

On the way home my wife confronted me about my lack of compassion. I became instantly defensive, and then went into a tirade of how I must be condemned because I have no love in my heart and where is the activity of God in my life anyway that I should be such a heartless jerk? I was being slightly facetious because, in fact, I really did love myself and thought very well of me. I must humbly admit in retrospect however, that I was very wrong. Anyway, most of what spewed from my mouth left me feeling terrible and alienated from God.

The next day I started once again in the new mercies of God, but I had to ask myself why did I react in this way? Then this thought hit me:

“Will my good deeds outweigh my bad?”

I realized then that I had been carrying around this idea of a “scale” that weighed and measured my good deeds against my bad deeds. My worth depended on how well I performed and how well that scale was balanced.

This mentality was so deep-seated in me that I reacted badly when anyone dared to confront me with a fault. It was as if they were adding one more brick to the ‘bad deeds’ side of the scale. For this reason, I hated taking responsibility. In fact, I hated words such as “responsible” and “accountable”. I didn’t want to face the punishment for my own sins, much less be held responsible for someone else and have their blood on my head. This was why I, in the past, I didn’t function so well as a worship leader in “church leadership”. I felt that I was responsible for people’s souls and I could not cope with that. I would even wish for sickness or a broken down car at times to escape the constant pressure. Of course this is just one of the many ungodly beliefs that over my lifetime have become embedded in the gray matter.

I began to recognize that I was not alone. Many people operate out of this mentality in which they “hope” that their good deeds will outweigh their bad in the end. Whole religious systems of thought are based on this idea. As I thought this way it led me to try to seek approval through doing good and performing well. I thought that by just adding more good bricks to the good side of the scale that things will all work out in the end, and in the meantime, I will feel better about myself and be accepted.

My good bricks were my good deeds. For instance, if I played spiritual concerts for the elderly at nursing homes, then I would finally be accepted and approved by God. Each “successful” concert left me feeling much better. In fact I only considered a concert a success if it left me feeling better about me. I had to feel good.

It was thrilling for me when I preached my first sermon, because in my mind this was a good and heavy brick. I would definitely be in God’s favor now! I called my mother and left a message for her, “The most exciting thing had happened to me! I just preached my first sermon!” A few days later she called me back and told me how proud of me she was. As she was telling me that, I had a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. As I reflected on my initial reaction to “my first sermon” and how excited I was about it, I realized that yes, I could be excited about it, but not for the reasons that I was. I now see that the Lord is just as offended by the good bricks as he is by the bad ones. Trying to earn God’s favor is an insult to his grace.

Radical New Perspective

I have come to see that God doesn’t want us burdened with any bricks (good or bad) that weigh us down and keep us from following him. Besides, the constant balancing act is no way to live. Jesus wants to liberate us and he invites us to drop all of our “bricks” at his feet and learn to walk with him and live for him as we are meant to.

At one point after about nine months of playing hymns for the old folks several times a week the Lord asked me, “So when are you going to start doing these concerts for me?” Wow. His question cut me to the heart.

I was playing these concerts for me. It is true that I became free from a long seven year stretch of chronic depression when I first began to bless the elderly with music. How could I not be changed by a constant interaction with, not only the liberating truth that is in so many classic hymns, but also the love and support of so many of my elders? How could I not be blessed when I have a hundred year old lady shake my hand and say, “God bless you”?

In spite of all the good things that came from all my good deeds, my performance mentality still stood in the way of the relationship that the Lord desired to have with me.

In his letter to the Romans, Paul comments about his Jewish brothers. He says, “I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.” (Romans 10:2-4 NIV)

I could identify with this Scripture but I didn’t know how to change. Ever since I became a “Christian” I was always trying to establish my own righteousness. It’s not even that I was raised to think this way, but perhaps this is just a universal human default mentality to want to (or feel like you have to) earn God’s favor. I even once caught myself praying, “Lord, make me worthy of your grace.” I was missing the point of grace altogether.

My own grandfather was once presented with the good news of Jesus by my parents. At the time he told them, “If I can’t have a part in my own salvation, I am not interested.” He has since passed away, and it burdens me now more than ever to think where he might be.

Why is it so ingrained in human nature to want to earn our own way? Why is it so difficult for us to receive God’s saving grace – his unmerited favor and blessing? Our own pride is the enemy of our own salvation.

“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6 NIV)

We must humbly admit that we cannot do a thing to save ourselves (be “poor in spirit”). We must humbly admit that we cannot even add an ounce of our own righteousness to the scales that will somehow make us acceptable to God. On our own, the scales will always be out of balance and never in our favor. Thank God that he does not leave us on our own.

Of course the Lord knows our desperate situation and has given Jesus as his answer. I believe he is telling us to abandon our scales and bricks once and for all and then simply come and follow him. Jesus will teach us how to truly live. He will teach us the “unforced rhythms of grace”. See Matthew 11:28.

THE EXAMPLE OF THE APOSTLE PAUL

The apostle Paul had a pile of good bricks. He was a pure blooded Israelite. He was able to say that he kept the law faultlessly. He was a Pharisee, the most zealous and strictest sect of the Jewish spiritual leaders. By all appearances he was a model example of spirituality. Yet he says, “Whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ – the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith” (Philippians 3:7-9 NIV emphasis mine).

Paul abandoned his bricks for a new approach to spirituality. A spirituality based on and flowing out of an affirming love of God that is entirely separate from any good deeds.

Think about it. Before Jesus had even begun his ministry, his Father spoke from heaven affirming him with his love saying, “This is my Son, chosen and marked by my love, delight of my life.” (Matthew 3:17)

As you trust in Jesus, the Father will speak those same words over you. You become the delight of his life. As you trust in Jesus, you become his beloved. As you trust in Jesus, you become a member of Christ’s body – part of Christ himself! As you trust in Jesus, the Father says that he loves you as much as he loves Jesus! Because you are one with Christ and in Him!

This is the ‘mystery’ that Paul keeps referring to throughout his letters. This is what Paul was so excited about that even imprisonment, beatings, persecutions, and all the other sufferings and hardships that Paul experienced did nothing to dampen this flame of Christ within him! This was Paul’s cause to live and to die for – Christ, the one new man – “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3 NIV).

———–

O God, thank you for Jesus. Thank you that we no longer need to sweat about our own efforts and our lack of “measuring up”. Thank you for Jesus, your gift to us, who did all the measuring up for us on our behalf. Thank that as we simply trust Jesus, we are included in all that you have planned – all of the wondrous and beautiful and glorious blessings that you delighted so much in planning for us to experience.

We trust you. We trust in you our kind Creator and our good shepherd. We trust your good intentions for us and in your salvation which runs far deeper than we can even or ever imagine. We thank you that our salvation is not depended on our own efforts, but that you have freely given salvation to us all who least deserve such a gift. Help us to receive your grace well and learn to, once and for all, lay down the scale and the bricks at your feet… at the cross.

Related articles
Categories: Exposing Self-Righteous Religion, Redemption | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

My Hitchhiking Adventure With God – The Journey “Home” (Part 4)

As with any story, it is best to start at the beginning:

Here is Part 1 of My Hitchhiking Adventure With God (not to be missed!)

PART 4 – the final chapter:

The YWAM directors (a husband/wife team) just so “happened” to be going on a vacation the following day to Monroe, Louisiana (though I suspect they formed their plans around me). They gave me a ride north to Highway 20 to a rest area on the way to YWAM in Lindale.

While waiting by the ramp at the rest area, a woman walked up to me and propositioned me for a threesome sex with her and her boyfriend. She had such a look of shame on her face and could hardly get the words out that she came to ask me. She told me that her boyfriend had put her up to it.

I talked to her about Jesus and prayed with her and she went back to tell her boyfriend that I was some sort of preacher. A few minutes later I went over to their RV not knowing what exactly I was going to say but wanting to say something to them both that might make some difference in their lives. What came out my mouth surprised me. I said, “Do you know why Jesus was baptized? He came to identify with us as sinners. He came to save us sinners from all our sinful ways. He came for all the sick and broken people like you and me.”

As a side note, I have since come to believe that everything Jesus has done is on our behalf. His was a substitutionary life for all of us. He kept the Father’s law of love on our behalf. His baptism was also on our behalf. For everyone who failed to obey his command of baptism, or couldn’t for whatever reason, do not fear, for he was! His death became our death to sin! His burial became our burial to the old sinful life! And best of all, his resurrection became our resurrection to new life in the Spirit! It’s all about Jesus! Everything he did, and everything he is becomes our salvation. Just as his name “Jesus” means: “I AM salvation”! – I just googled “I Am Salvation” for an image, and the image of my video popped up:

I caught a ride with a truck driver back to the YWAM ranch in Garden Valley. As I walked back into the camp I saw a few of the friends I had met. They were happy to see me and I related to them how the trip went. Maybe an hour passed and then my mom showed up to give me a ride home. Had someone called her? I still don’t know how she knew to meet me there. But I figure that she had told them to call her immediately if her crazy son ever showed up there again.

Everyone had indeed thought I had lost my mind and gone off the deep end. Of course I knew I hadn’t so it didn’t really matter what anyone else thought. I knew I was following Christ. One of the ladies back at GFA was praying for me and received the following Scripture for me:

images-2“Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.” Romans 14:4 NIV

This Scripture has helped me through the years not to judge other servants of God. It isn’t our place to judge and the Lord is able to make them stand. That goes for you and for me.

What I haven’t mentioned thus far is that I had been in a long distance relationship with a young lady named Catherine at the time of this little adventure. We had met about nine months prior and we both knew from the first day that we were destined for each other. Catherine was the daughter of a long time friend of my moms when we had lived in Wisconsin some 18 years earlier.

God had made it clear to the both of us that we had found our perfect God-ordained match. But, at the time, I was resisting this. I wanted to please God (and was afraid of God) so desperately that I wanted to forsake marriage altogether for the sake of service to God. I was convinced that this would please God more. I had to have a life that pleased God to the utmost or I was convinced my life was a waste and that God would just move on to someone else who would be willing to give everything up to follow him.

A month passed after coming back to the Dallas area. I tried teaming up with YWAM in Dallas but it seemed like a mess. They weren’t really doing much of anything except trying to convert the Mormons who would come to visit and try to convert them. I would often go down to Deep Elum or places like that to witness on the streets. I would talk to anyone on the street about Jesus and ask to pray with them. I remember one time at a stoplight getting out of my car and witnessing to the people in the car behind me. At the time I was making plans to go to Mexico on another crazy mission for God, and then later to Sydney Australia to the YWAM base there to evangelize at the upcoming Olympics.

In March I finally got around to obeying what the Lord had told me while walking toward Shreveport. He had told me to buy a one-way bus ticket to Wisconsin. I bought a round trip ticket for two weeks (I never did use the second half of the ticket). The clerk at the Greyhound bus station in Dallas couldn’t spell Manitowoc so I just had them send me to Milwaukee instead. I had never discussed with my mom or anyone else what God had told me about going to Wisconsin.

Meanwhile back in Manitowoc, Catherine was praying for me and for our relationship.  God told her, “Daniel is coming on April 5th.” She marked her calendar and believed God all the while in spite of all my rejection and resistance (we were not on speaking terms at the time). Her mom tried to tell her not to get her hopes up.

I called up Cindie, Catherine’s mom, a week or so prior to my trip and said, “I know something you don’t know.”

She said, “No you don’t. You are coming on April 5th.”

I had to look at my ticket and sure enough it had me arriving on April 5th. I asked her, “How did you know that?” Then she told me her side of the story.

So I came to Wisconsin on a Greyhound bus with my $100 guitar and some clothes and belongings in some very ugly luggage that my mom was glad to part with. I never did use that second ticket and that is how I came to live in Wisconsin.

God works in mysterious ways.

Related articles
Categories: faith adventure, Listening to God | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

My Hitchhiking Adventure With God – On to New Orleans (Part 3)

As with any story, it is best to start at the beginning:

Here is Part 1 of My Hitchhiking Adventure With God (not to be missed!)

PART 3:

AT GRACE HOUSE IN ALEXANDRIA, LOUISIANA

The next morning at Grace House I woke up, ate a brownie, read my Bible, had some fellowship and prayer with a brother there, and set out on the road. The day was absolutely perfect. It was such a beautiful morning! Sunny skies, the perfect temperature for a walk, and that fresh morning smell in the air. It was indescribable!

As I was walking south on Highway 49, a girl named Charity picked me up. She told me that years ago her mother had picked up her father while he was hitchhiking.  Ladies, don’t pick up hitchhikers! I can vouch that they are known to be unstable and shady characters. Charity, as her name implies, was really nice. She tried to buy me lunch but I couldn’t eat. (In fact I had eaten very little over the past two days and this continued throughout the entire trip. I do remember, however, drinking several Cokes along the way and ended up with stomach ulcers.)

Charity even trusted me in her truck with her keys while she stopped to run some errands and I trusted her with some of my lame poetry about God. Finally she dropped me off at a truck stop on the way to Baton Rouge.

Here is an example of one of the poems I left with Charity:

Flying into the Glory

Flying along in a spacious canopy of air
At four thousand feet not a worry to spare
All I could think of was God’s gracious presence
His warmth and intimacy and his great transcendence

As I gazed out the window I heard him say so clear,
“I love you my child, you to me are so dear”
“Thank you my father” was all I could say
As his joy filled my heart in such a marvelous way
“I love you sweet Jesus” was my hearts cry
You gave me so much when you suffered and died

A streak of light out the window then caught my eye
“The engines aflame, we’re all gonna die!”
The intercom blared, “stay calm, don’t panic.”
But hysteria mounted with all passengers frantic

“Jesus”, I prayed, “Your will be done”
“Welcome home”, he replied, “my beloved son”
A brilliant flash, billows of flame
For a moment I felt intense searing pain

Then instantly riding in a chariot of fire
It was awesome to gaze upon my true desire
Permeated with the most intense brilliant light
As the word of God echoed, “there shall be no more night”

Angels flew by my side with joyous glint in their eyes
Celebration for me? It was such a surprise
The death of his saints so precious in his sight
My moment had come, it was time to delight

Hovering over a great sea of glass
I strode up to his throne, finally at long last
I knelt down and bowed low, submissive to HIM
He stooped down in love and lifted my chin

He gazed into my eyes and then I realized
His love is so real, a truth most people despised
Forever will I, praise him and glorify
The most worthy, most holy, Jesus Christ

A poem by Daniel Lovett – August of 1996

Near the truck stop a man was stopped on the side of the freeway on ramp cleaning out his car. I just assumed that he had stopped for me, which wasn’t the case, but he was nice enough to give me a ride all the way to New Orleans after a quick stop by his home in Baton Rouge. He told me he had been debating about whether to go to New Orleans at a friends invitation anyway.

The drive along the elevated highway through the alligator and snake infested swampland was interesting to say the least. As we drove he told me about how New Orleans was below sea level and how they buried 90% of people above ground.

When we arrived in New Orleans I stopped to pick up a map for $2.95 so I could locate the YWAM house. When the cashier handed me back a nickel after I handed him 3 dollars, it reminded me of what the man said to me the night before about my faith being worth less than a nickel. How valuable is our faith to God? Priceless.

On the third day of hitchhiking I arrived at the YWAM base in New Orleans. While I was at the YWAM base in Lindale, Texas they had called ahead to the YWAM base in New Orleans so they could expect my arrival. It seemed that the Lord had planned for everything.

It was so surreal to finally be there in New Orleans. I met a man at the YWAM base who greeted me right away and prayed for me thanking God for sending me. He told me his story about how he had been a drunk. One day while intoxicated he tried to jump onto a moving train for the fun of it and slipped and fell. The train took off his arm. Now, though missing his left arm, he loves Jesus with all his heart. (I later learned that he was inspired by my journey and took a “Spirit-led” trip of his own to Seattle.)

I met another man who was a seasoned evangelist. I wish that at the time I had been more teachable and more mature. I would have listened more and tried to learn from his experience. He had a practice of handing out Gospels of John. This is a practice that I picked up and still continue to do in my ministry in the nursing homes.

I had also learned that Carman, a famous Christian singer, was putting on a concert and also that Benny Hinn was in town doing a healing crusade that same night I arrived. That first night I took a walk down along the levee along the Mississippi river and prayed. I walked down to a bar and stood outside it. An older man came out to me and said, “What do you see boy?” Without thinking I said, “I see Jesus Christ.” The man stumbled back when I said that – visibly shaken.

Another man came out of the bar and stood next to me. I learned that he was a Native American from the Pacific Northwest where I had grown up and we got to talking. I told him of my hitchhiking adventure and that I had come to share the good news of Jesus with people. I don’t remember how it came up but I remember telling him that lust was a shameful sin. He tried to justify it saying that if women were willing to do it then what’s the harm. He finally admitted to me that it was wrong and I was able to pray with him.

MARDI GRAS (FAT TUESDAY)

New Orleans is crazy wicked during Mardi Gras. I saw pimps with prostitutes parading down the street and all sorts of vulgarity on display. I mostly stayed on the street closest to the river. I couldn’t even go to Bourbon Street (the fourth street in from the river and where most of the activity was) because it was just so spiritually oppressive.

I spent most of the time just praying and talking with people about Jesus. I approached people and prayed with whoever I felt the Holy Spirit lead me to. I soon got separated from the two guys I was ministering with because I spent too much time talking with one older guy.

I once found myself standing next to this younger guy about my age who exposed himself to a group of girls on a balcony for some beads. As he was zipping up his pants he looked down and read a Christian tract lying face up on the ground. The cover read, “How will we escape the fires of Hell?” This guy said, “Well, I’m just glad that God is a forgiving God.” This guy was like me. We were the same. We are all the same. Every one of us is in need of a forgiving God. We are all very screwed if God isn’t forgiving.

One time on the ferry I approached a young man to share Christ with him and he said to me, “Get the f*#! away from me or I’ll kill you.” I walked away. On that same ferry there was a ministry evangelism team doing a skit/song & dance and sharing about Jesus.

I wasn’t afraid because I had the philosophy that what you project into the world has a way of coming back to you. People respond to love and kindness. I wasn’t going around preaching a “turn or burn” message but simply sharing God’s love and praying with people. Scripture says that while we were at our worst Christ died for us and where sin abounds, grace much more abounds. It’s called “good news” for a reason. It’s good news for even the worst of us sinners.

My favorite experience happened on the day after Mardi Gras. For the first time in my life I set foot in a Catholic Church. I went with Charamie, a girl I had met there at YWAM, because she invited me. I was struck by how similar the message was compared with all the various other Christian churches I grew up in. I was also impressed that I didn’t feel judged even though I looked just like any other guy who had partied hard the night before. I had a hair wrap with the colors of Mardi Gras in my hair – Purple, Gold, and Green.

I was told by one of my new friends the following Christian representation of the colors: The purple represented the royalty of Jesus – the gold, the splendor and glory of his kingdom – and the green the new life he brings. The priest put the wafer on my tongue, “the body of Christ” he said and marked my forehead with the ashes in the form of a cross.

Charamie and I then spent the day with a homeless street musician named David who played the harmonica. He had a box full of harmonicas and would play the most amazing tunes. He would say to a passerby, “Spare change for a white piece of trash?” The joke was on them, he would say, because he was just exposing what they were thinking anyway. He showed us around and introduced us as locals. We had lunch together on Bourban Street and I had my first Po-Boy shrimp hoagie sandwich and for no apparent reason got a bloody nose in the restaurant. I had Charamie carry my money for me.  I told her that if people asked me for my money I would just give it all away.

That reminds me of the previous day when I had approached a man to share Jesus with him and he thought I was asking for some money. He had that look of feeling sorry for me and I could also tell he didn’t want to give me money but dug in his pockets for some change. Before I knew what was happening he was handing me some change and I didn’t know what to do except thank him. A woman nearby said, “You don’t need that! Give it back to him!” So I did. I did wonder if God was intervening at that moment perhaps saying through the incident, “No child of mine will ever have to beg on the street.”

The following day I was walking down Bourbon Street again with Charamie. As I walked past a restaurant I felt inclined to go in and pray for a woman. I walked in and went to the back where she was. I talked with her and when she told me that she was blind I wasn’t sure what to do. Did God want to heal her? I had no idea. I tried to pray for her but she became hostile, told us not to touch her and yelled at me to go away. The staff at the restaurant was giving me a bewildered and shocked look and so I left not knowing what in the world had just happened. What was that all about?

What does it mean to be led by the Spirit? Are we just ordered around blindly and compelled to do what He says? What if we don’t obey? Does he leave you like he did king Saul and move on to someone who will listen? Once, after I had got home, I was sitting on the couch praying and I heard the Lord say, “Stand up.” So I stood up. He said, “Go to the door.” So I went to the door. “Go back to the couch.” So I did. “Sit down.” So I sat back down. And then He asked me, “Is this what you want?”

I knew in that moment that a life of faith was far more than just blind obedience to some supernatural guiding voice. God has in mind for us something far more intimate. He wants a partnership. He wants a friendship. It would take many more years for me to learn this lesson… and I’m still learning.

What thoughts do you have in regards to the relationship God would want to have with you? What difficulties do we face in realizing this relationship? What can we do to foster it? Leave a comment!

Categories: faith adventure, Listening to God | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Create a website or blog at WordPress.com