Talk To The Hand
The other day Christy and I were sitting in the kitchen, talking about some stuff we've been actively praying over for a long time. Fifteen years. Maybe longer. On the surface, we’ve seen little change. If any. She’s tired. Worn down. Her Hope, capital ‘H’ and her Faith, capital ‘F,’ have been dinged. The look on her face spoke both frustration and hurt. “Why doesn’t God do something?” I get it. Part of me was tired, too.
But, when she said it, something in me got pretty irritated pretty quick. Not at her. I love her. She’s my precious, magnificent wife. Christy is not the problem. The problem is an unwanted guest that, over time, has crept into my house, into our language, our thinking. He is silent, insidious, crafty and evil. Pretty good at tip-toeing. He’s been whispering lies a long, long time. And he has a name. And when Christy spoke those ‘why-doesn’t-God-do-something-words,’ I heard his name.
Resignation is an ever-so-slight-yet-continual chipping away. his goal is to take the Rock of our Salvation, our Chief Cornerstone, our Everest, and over time, chip away at it until he hands us a river pebble about the size of the cap on a tube of Chapstick. he does this by calling into question the truths spoken in scripture. A pretty good example is when satan tempts Jesus. Listen to satan’s words: “If you are the son of God…” The implication there is that He, Jesus, is not, or that He is somehow limited in His power. Jesus responds with Deuteronomy 8: “Man won’t live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” The underlying message there is, “your words don’t proceed from my Father’s mouth, therefore, by definition, they are lies.” satan takes Jesus up to the pinnacle of the temple. Again he says, “If you are the son of God…” Jesus responds with, “Again it is written…” and quotes Psalm 91. Not getting anywhere, satan says, “All these things I will give you…” In response, Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 6. From here scripture records an amazing thing: “then the devil left him.” Jesus countered lies with Truth and the liar shut up. End of story.
At its root, Resignation spins a lie that says our enemy is stronger than our King. Period. Essentially, Resignation is an invisible intruder sitting on your couch, with his feet up on your coffee table, spilling potato chips on your carpet and hollering over his shoulder, “You might win a few minor skirmishes but, at the end of the day, you can't win. Might as well quit now before it gets bad.”
For the record, that’s absolute and complete Bull manure.
Let’s back up. Think about Joshua and Caleb. Ten of their friends come back from a land God has already given them, and they shake their heads, “We can’t win. It’s a land populated by giants.” Their words struck fear into the heart of the people.” That’s another thing, part of what they said was true -- the land was populated by giants. Resignation always tells half-truths. Problem was, The God of Angel Armies, the God of Battle Axe and Spear, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, had promised them this land, that He will never leave nor forsake them and that all they need do is step foot on the land. Just cross the Jordan. Set out. Dip their toe in the river. Caleb, God bless his soul, stands up on a table and shouts in Braveheart fashion, “We are well able to overcome them.”
You might say, “Yeah, and that was 3,500 years ago. A lot has changed.” No. It really hasn’t. They were a chosen people called to walk into a promised land. We are a chosen people called to walk into a land of promises. The giants we face today are the ones screaming in our ear.
Resignation would have us resign ourselves to an impending butt-whooping. Using whispers like, “It's no use." “I didn’t succeed before.” “Nothing’s changed.” “Why should I expect a different outcome?” Or the classic resignation lie, “It's inevitable.” The only thing inevitable is that Jesus is coming back shining like the sun and satan is forever defeated. Period. End of story. I know, I've read it. For me, when Jesus does comes back to judge the quick and the dead and the sons of man, and He gets to me, I do not want him to put a check in the ‘resignation’ box.
Look, I’m not preaching a prosperity gospel that life is all roses, lollipops and puppy dogs. I know better and I’ve got a few scars to remind me. When I forget, Paul reminds me that “in this life we will suffer hardship” and “We are pressed down but not crushed…” But here’s the truth of the matter, and listen because this is key, you get to choose. You get to choose whether to fix your eyes on the giants or the King on the Throne. And while you’re letting your eyes focus, let me add this — our hardship does not determine His character or His love for and of us. Our hardship doesn’t make Him any less King or any less capable or any less good or any less in love with us. Our enemy tells us it does, but that's a lie. A big fat one.
Let’s go back to the central lie at the base of this: “The enemy we face, satan, is more powerful than our King. Cause if our Resurrected King was all powerful, He'd have done something about it by now.” Really? If you could see me, I’m scratching my head. Just when did it make sense for the created to question the Creator? “It is He who made us, and not we ourselves.” (Ps. 100:3) Did you or I stretch out the heavens? Tell the sea where to start and stop? Kick Lucifer out of heaven? Defeat death and the grave. Rise again?
Let me ask you something — do you know the reason that propane smells? The reason it smells is because in its natural state it is odorless so a chemical odorant is added to it. Without it, propane can be really dangerous. Let’s say for a moment that an odorless gas has filled your entire house. Every room. What would you do? You probably wouldn't light a match. But you would, open all the windows, turn on all the fans and create a whirlwind in your house blowing that stuff out. Then, you’d find the source and cap it. Or remove it altogether. This thing in your hands is me adding smell to whispers of resignation.
How do you cap it? Jesus cap’d the source with Deuteronomy 8, Ps 91 and Deuteronomy 6. Psalm 1 says ‘blessed is the man who meditates on His law day and night.’ I think one of the reasons this is true is because the guy with his face in The Word has, by definition, the tools in his hand to cap the gas leak in his house. To remove the tank buried in his yard.
Let me give you another example — The son of a king inherited a hundred thousand acres. Choice land. Flowing with every good thing. Pretty soon, a conquered, punk moved in next door. One night, with no warning, the sniveling worm of a neighbor relocated his good neighbor’s boundary line. Quietly acquiring a couple hundred acres. This occurred night after night. Pretty soon, the King’s son is living on a postage stamp. Unwilling to deal with the conflict of maintaining his own boundary line, he says, ”No big deal, he can have it. I don’t want to start a fuss. I’m a Christian and I'm supposed to love my neighbor. Do stuff for the least of these. Give him the shirt off my back and all that. I’ll just reflect the person and character of Jesus.” Somewhere 'Kum-bay-yah' is playing softly. This makes me want to puke. First, it’s not a ‘fuss.’ It’s a fight and you’re in one whether you agree that you are or not. If not, then explain Psalm 144 to me. Then, Ephesians 6. Second, the punk next door doesn’t want part of your land. He wants it all. And once he has it, he wants to post your head on a stake outside his new city wall. Thirdly, there is a difference between laying down your life and being a resigned, passive doormat allowing people to walk over you because you’re a spiritual wuss.
We think if we just pacify our enemy, he’ll quit stealing our land. Leave us be. “Can’t we all just get along?!” You’ve seen the bumper sticker: “Coexist.” He doesn’t want land. He’s not interested in your existence. He wants total domination. Wipe you off the planet. Eradicate your scent. Your unwillingness to engage him, your silence, is his greatest weapon.
Earlier this year, I said 'indifference is the curse of this age.' I still believe that but I’d like to add to it. Indifference and resignation aren’t opposite sides of the same coin.
What if Moses had resigned himself to defeat when he reached the Red Sea with a couple million Hebrews in tow. What if David had resigned himself like his brothers before Goliath? What if Jesus had resigned himself to the futility of The Cross because He knew that even his best friends would betray Him? That we would betray Him? Can you imagine Jesus walking up to the Cross, looking into the future, to here, shrugging this shoulders and saying, “What’s the use?” Don’t skip over this. Jesus was all human and all God. What if the all-human part had stood at the foot of the Cross and said, “They hadn’t gotten the message since Adam. They’re not about to get it now. Might as well just let them burn."
Where have you resigned? Seriously. Look, I'm guilty. It's in my life, too. I’m no better. But, I’m walking around my house and I smell something funny in the air. Something isn’t right. Scripture says, that in these days, there are those who will lose faith. Those words, “lose faith,” is a biblical term for a twentieth century adage called “throwing in the towel.” We give land for peace because we value perceived short-term peace today over prolonged future conflict.
Resignation is death by a thousand cuts and it always produces fear.
This is not something you can think your way out of. Your and my thinking got us into this mess. Resignation is an Ephesians 6 spirit without a body. It's a 2 Cor 10 "argument that exalts itself against the knowledge of God." A stronghold. It’s time we bring it crumbling down.
What's that you say? “How?”
You sound like Moses. “Who am I to go before Pharoah?”
God responds. ”I will be with you."
Moses stutters, “Well, what will I say?”
God sizes him up. "What's that in your hand."
Here's my encouragement to you. Take the rod in your hand and beat back Resignation. Drive it out of your house. Your heart. What’s your rod? It’s His Word. His promises are yes and amen and they are true and they will not return void. Counter every lie with two promises of God. Make bookends.
“But, I don’t know what His Word says.” Then learn it.
“But, it’s always been tough for me to get into. I don’t really —“ Stop. You’ve mastered the iPhone, Facebook, Instagram, fat-chat and on-line fantasy football drafts. Man up. Crack the cover and let The Word wash you from the inside out. We’re sheep. He’s our shepherd. Trust me, He speaks our language. Psalm 50 says, “Call upon me in the day of trouble, I will deliver you and you will glorify me.” So, call.
And for those of you like Christy who have faithfully been praying for something a long time, I’m reminded of Anna. A prophetess “of great age, a widow of about eighty-four years, who did not depart from the temple but served God with fasting and prayers night and day.” How long had she been there praying? I don’t know but, in the end, she hold the infant Messiah to her bosom. You think all her prayers weren't answered in that millisecond?
The Lord is building people of Faith in a day and age when many are growing weak. And, without Faith it’s impossible to please Him. His Word says, “The just will live by faith” and "I have tested you in the furnace of affliction." Think about it. Our sovereign, loving King is allowing us to Know affliction because it is, as Paul says, “creating in us something more valuable than Gold. Our faith.” No I don't like it, but here's the bottom line. I'm the Created. He's the Creator. I trust HIm. Even when my circumstances suck.
Some of you are more upset by my use of the word ‘suck’ than the reality of your resignation. “Excuse me, Charles, but we don’t use language like that in our church.” Really? Resignation is the bully in the swimming pool holding your head under the water. He’s the pudgy kid on the playground who just pushed you down and stole your lunch money. Trust me, he’ll be back tomorrow.
Be honest. Take an inventory. Look at your relationships. Look at your relationship with The Lord. Look at your relationship with The Word. You’ll see it most evident there. Where are you living in resignation? Where have you given land for peace? Where have you said, "You know, I believe this whole bit about Jesus and freedom and living life abundantly but only within the boundaries of my experience and failures and pain." Let me translate you for you: that's you saying, either consciously or unconsciously, "My enemy is stronger than my King. At the end of the day, He'll only be able to do what my enemy allows him to do."
Really?! That is total horse pucky.
Right now, a dude named, ‘Resignation,’ is sitting in your house with his feet on the coffee table, stuffing his face with your Doritos and Oreos, with this smug look face. He's lighting one cigarette with the glow-plug end of the other. Remote in hand, he's switching between Freddy Krueger and Poltergeist. "Dude...I got a right to be here. You left the door open. Plus, you don’t really believe all that dribble about Jesus’ victory. If He could do anything, He would have. You can fight all you want but what use is it? I own you. Bring me a beer.”
That right there is “an argument that exalts itself against the knowledge of God.”
I have this thing I do in the mornings. After we get the kids to school. I take my Bible and walk outside with my coffee. Then I walk around my pool reading God’s word back to Him. Usually Psalms. I do this to remind me, not Him. He knows what it says. When I’ve done that, I set my Bible down and I walk around my pool, praying, with my hands in the air. Doing so humbles me before Him. It’s how I walk into the throne room. “Better is one day in your courts…” And “your lovingkindness is better than life.” Job said he rose early and made sacrifice to the The Lord. Sounds good to me. Count me in. My neighbors might think I’m crazy. Ok. Probably won’t be the worst thing they think about me. The thing that this pool-walk does for me is take my eyes off the waves threatening to swamp the boat and puts them on the Savior who beckons me, “Come.” Walking around my pool with my hands up draws me into His presnence. It opens Revelation 4 to me, and I’m invited in with all the heavenly host to the courts of My King where the train of His robe fill every square inch of the room, where a river flows from His throne, where hundreds of millions of angels sing continually, where the sound of His voice sounds like Niagara, where…you get the point.
So back to Christy and me. We were stuck. Quagmire. Christy said to me with heavy shoulders, "We've been praying about that so long. Why doesn't God do anything about it? It never changes. Never gets any better." When Christy spoke those words of hopelessness and faithlessness, they hurt my heart. I teared up. I had literally just walked in the door from the pool deck where I’d been doing laps. I said, “Honey, what you’re saying doesn't come from Jesus. It's a lie from the pit of hell. I know, I been sitting at His feet. And if you’d been there, if you had a right vision of Him, the words you just spoke would break your heart, too. We need to take our eyes off our circumstances and put them on Him. Job said I have heard of you with the hearing of the ear, but now I’ve seen you withy eyes. That needs to be us.”
Look, I am not somehow stronger than you. I have my moments. This is just not one of them. When Resignation opens its pitiful, squeaking mouth, I want the words on my lips to be: Lord, “Let Your lovingkindness and Your truth continually preserve me.” (Ps 40:11) “Greater is He that is in me than he that is in the world,” and “there are more for us than for them.” I will not leave the shadow of the throne only to stare into my circumstances, scratch my head, and say, "You know what, Mr. Jesus King of the Britons, I don't think you've got what it takes, big guy. We're getting our butts kicked down here. Why don't you do something about it." His ways are higher than mine. I won't question Him. But I will trust Him. “Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust, And does not respect the proud, nor such as turn aside to lies.” (Ps 40:4)
Note: I am not fighting my wife here. I am fighting something that wants her head on a platter. Sometimes, when I say this, Christy rolls her eyes at me. Like, "lighten up. Take a load off. Life is not always warfare.” Granted, I could do a better job of laughing with my wife and Kids. Guilty. But, lighten up? I think not. My job is to tend my garden. Stand between her and the lies that threaten to snuff her out. That’s the place where I’m to lay down my life. Not when my punk neighbor wants my inheritance. My wife is a precious and magnificent daughter of the King. It should not surprise us that she has an enemy because she reflects The Father. I’m fighting for her heart and my enemy can NOT have it.
To Christy’s great credit, she saw it. Despite being beat down, she mustered some gumption and grit and while we didn’t really feel all that spiritual or holy, we prayed right there at the kitchen table. The two of us, knocking on the doors of heaven where He's promisde us that He will, "break down gates of bronze, cut through bars of iron and show us treasure hidden in secret places." It’s been a week and no, nothing’s visibly changed. That doesn't mean it won't. Here’s what I know: I hate Resignation with a deep hatred. It can go to hell and stay there. It will not rob my wife of her magnificent heart or my children or me. Yes, it is a constant battle, yes I get tired, yes sometimes I feel like someone has just kicked me in the teeth, but, “He gives us strength in the day of battle…” And “He delivered me because He delighted in me.” You think Resignation delights in you?
I don’t know why God does what He does and I don’t understand His timetable, but I will not let my inability to understand the One who breathed me into existence cause me to doubt for one second that He has some unspoken limitation or that our enemy is greater or stronger than my King or that He is somehow powerless to affect change in our lives.
The writer of Hebrews says “without Faith it is impossible to please Him.” Resignation requires no faith. If you’re having trouble making a distinction between the voices in your head, let me put it this way: there are two sources of supernatural power on this earth. Jesus. And satan. If what you’re hearing does not come from Jesus, then, by definition, it does comes from satan. Let that sink in.
Read the great faith hall of fame in Hebrews 11. Read all the stuff those simple folks like you and me did with a little bit of faith. “They subdued kingdoms, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens, women received their dead raised to life again…” Resignation played no part in this.
I'm 45 years old. Married 22 years. 3 boys. Ages 18, 15 and 12. My body aches in places it didn't used to. I wear readers now. Run slower. My sons are faster and stronger. And like the rest of you, I have enough big people problems to keep me busy and preoccupied, out of the throne room and not circling my pool. Trust me, I could go on right now about difficulty. You should see my inbox. Life isn't all lollipops and toothfairies. I get it. Welcome to earth.
But, a few months back, I was having a tough day at my computer so I dug the label printer out of a drawer and printed a phrase to stick on the face of my iPad. It’s here right now. Staring at me. It reads, “Jesus Christ is Lord of All.” That bears repeating. And when you hear me say, this, you should see me standing on my desk. Shouting at the top of my lungs. “JESUS CHRIST IS LORD OF ALL!”
Anything less than that proclamation, any reduction, any slighting, any chipping away, if your hand is anywhere near the towel, that’s resignation.
Since then, anytime the whisper of resignation has entered the conversation in my head, I have decided to respond with, "Jesus Christ is Lord of All." Let me enemy deal with that. Put that promise between me and them. Drive it like a stake in the ground. Be Anna who after holding Jesus, "spoke of Him to all those who looked for Redemption in Jerusalem."
Without Jesus, I'm a black-hearted, scum-sucking sinner, literally damned to hell and fully deserving of seeing my head on a stake. But with Him, I'm a child of King. Heir to the throne. Clothed in a robe He gave me. ”What great love He has lavished on us that He would call us children of God for that is what we are." I'm a child of the One who spoke Everest into existence, who dug the the Grand Canyon with the words of His mouth, who set the planets in motion, who told the sun to wake us up this morning but not get too close, who fashioned you and me out of the dust then pressed His lips to ours and breathed life into us. And His name is Jesus and He is Lord of All. End of Story.
Here's the thing -- if I knew your house was full of gas and you didn’t, how would you rather I get your attention? Would you like a gentle, snively, little tug on the shirt sleeve, "Excuse me, um…” or a bullhorn, "Hey, your house is filled with propane!” We're talking about your and my life. This matters. Jesus came to give us life to the full and yet most of us have accepted life to the least. Life with boundaries set by our enemy and we’ve resigned ourselves not to challenge him for fear that what he's telling us might come true.
Resignation reduces. Resignation retreats. Faith endures. Faith stands. Both are a choice.
There is the danger in this anti-resignation rah-rah, that you hear me saying, "Just try harder little camper. Buck up." Nope. Not saying that. What I am saying is, "When I am weak, He is strong." "He gives me strength in the day of battle." What I am saying, is that you get to choose to be resigned, or step foot in the river. To pick up 5 smooth stones. To stand on the table and shout, "We are well able..." When I was in high school, I taped Teddy Roosevelt's "Man in the Arena" speech to my locker. In it he talks about "those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat." I was not the best athlete, but I knew that when the last whistle blew, I did not want to be counted with cold and timid pansies. Whoever was wearing the other uniform was going to have to beat me. Now that gumption, that Rudy-Braveheart-Gladiator-Jesus-like heart, did not necessarily change the outcome and I didn't all of a sudden become name-your-football-icon, but here I am thirty years later and I'm giving you a win one for the Gipper speech. By the way, I also taped something else to my locker, it sounded like this:
We are not now that strength which in old days moved earth and heaven,
that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield. (Tennyson, 'Ulysses')
Here's the truth, you and I sit at a crossroads where resignation meets faith. We get to choose. The Cross placed that decision in our lap. Laid it out on a silver platter. To think less, denigrates The Cross. Listen to the writer of Hebrews: (10:26-31)  For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins,  but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.  Anyone who has rejected Moses' law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.  Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?  For we know Him who said, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay," says the Lord. And again, "The LORD will judge His people."  It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
See those words, "No longer remains a sacrifice," and "fiery indignation which will devour," and the most painful, "trampled the Son of God underfoot." Resignation tramples. It "insults the Spirit of Grace." We tend to skip scriptures we either don't understand or don't like so don't miss that last one about "it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God."
I’d like to start a movement. A club of sorts. Members will be identified by a crimson red rubber bracelet. It can be our Ebenezer. I’m serious. Somebody reading this has got to have access to a company that makes those things. Rather than 'just do it,' 'be strong,' or 'stand strong' or even 'what would Jesus do?’, I'd like a JCILOA bracelet. As an aside, when it comes to WWJD, most of us don’t honestly know what Jesus would do because we've resigned ourselves to think He either wouldn't or can’t do very much.
If we really believed that "Jesus Christ IS Lord of All," we would approach conversations like this one a little differently: “Charles, you can’t..."
Before they finished the sentence, we'd be shaking our heads: “Stop! See my crimson bracelet? Jesus Christ is Lord of All.”
“Hah. Funny. Nice gimmick. But. let’s be serious a minute, you won't ever…"
“My Redeemer lives. Jesus Christ is Lord of All.”
“Charles, saying a bunch of mumbo jumdo, changes nothing. Look at history…”
“Really?' What history are you reading. Who died and made you God? My God is able to make all Grace about to me and He will supply all my needs according to His riches and glory and He gives good gifts to His children and He speaks that which is not as though it is, and He will never leave me nor forsake me, and…Jesus Christ is Lord of All.”
“Okay, but you’ve been praying this a long time and He's never done anything about it.”
“Thank God we're that much closer to an answer. The testing of our faith produces perseverance. Perseverance, character. Character, Hope. And Hope does not disappoint… Jesus Christ is Lord of All.”
“You'll never find…"
“Get off my couch. Get out of my house. Jesus Christ is Lord of All.”
“Don’t set such high expectations. It'll never get…"
“Be muzzled. Jesus Christ is Lord of All.”
“But, God didn’t..."
“Get behind me. Jesus Christ is Lord of All.”
“But, God hasn’t..."
“Jesus Christ is Lord of All.”
“But He was absent when you needed Him…”
“I know that Jesus can do all things and no purpose of His can be withheld from Him. Jesus Christ is Lord of All.”
“Charles, you are feeding people false hope. You should know better. How can you prove any of this…”
“I'm not offering proof. I'm asking, in the same way Jesus asked Peter, 'who you do say that He is?' I'm saying, 'Jesus Christ is Lord of All.'”
“Seriously, Charles, be reasonable. A bunch of guys walking around in togas, is not a reputable movement…”
“I worship a King, robed in spotless righteousness, who stepped off His throne to die for a filthy man like me. Nothing about that is reasonable. Jesus Christ is Lord of All.”
“Charles, you have a reputation. People read your books.…“
“You can stick my reputation. The name of the Lord is a strong tower. The righteous run to it and are safe. Jesus Christ is Lord of all.”
“You could be and do so much more if you weren't always pushing this Jesus thing. The New York Times List isn't filled with Jesus freaks. Neither is Hollywood. Can't you just tone it down —“
“Talk to the hand. I’m going for a walk around my pool while Rich Mullins sings ‘Creed’ really loud in the air around me. Jesus Christ is Lord of all.”
“Jesus Christ is Lord of all.”
“Jesus Christ is Lord of all.”