Disaster Averted

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I had this old water heater in my last house. One night I noticed a tiny droplet of water on the bottom the expansion tank. Close by was a spot that looked rusted over. Directly below, at the bottom of the heater itself was another rust spot. Around that was a water spot on the platform that the water heater sat on. My assumption was that the drip from the expansion tank had been leaking onto the base of the water heater and causing it to rust. So I shut the water off and ran to the store to buy a new tank. Once I got that replaced I felt confident that the problem was resolved. A couple weeks later the water spot around the tank looked larger. I examined the tank that I replaced and all seemed well. I made a plan to come back and look at things in another day or two. But…it didn’t make it that long! The next day I get a call from my wife telling me how the garage is flooding. The water heater had ruptured. I told her how to shut off the water until I could get there to clean up the mess. My awesome father in law and along with one of my friends came to the rescue and helped switch out the tank for us before I even got there.

A slow drip had turned into a disastrous leak. Just like sin in our lives. There are things that are hurting us and are slowly showing signs of concern. Some allow anger to build and it slowly alters the way they treat others until one day they explode. Some allow lustful thoughts to creep in until one day they are wrapped up in an affair. Some pour themselves into their careers more and more year after year until one day they are so distant from their families. We have a choice to address those signs early and correct the problem before the flood happens. We can’t be negligent with sin. We can’t put it off for another day. Our motto cannot be, “I’ll just get through this and tomorrow I’ll do it differently.” Tomorrow will be too late.

I can’t say that I blew off the water heater issue. But I was not diligent in discovering the entirety of the problem so only part of it was solved. Partially dealing with our sin amounts to doing nothing. The disastrous flood is coming unless the sin is wholely addressed. We need to figure out why this is part of our lives. Why do I put such a high priority on work? Why do I lust after others? Why am I angry? There’s always a root and it’s not always easy to find. That’s why we need to be surrounded by safe people who we allow to speak into our lives. That’s why we need to abide in the Lord and devote ourselves to being connected to Him. That’s why we need to spend time consistently reflecting on our lives and motives. None of us are leakproof but we can all be patched up and made whole by the One who made us.

Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed;
    save me, and I shall be saved,
    for you are my praise.

Jeremiah 17:14 ESV

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Craving the Slop

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Have you ever craved the slop? I know I have. My life story is full of it.

One of my favorite stories that Jesus told was about a family torn apart by greed and selfishness and later restored by love and grace. In most Bibles, it’s labeled as the Parable of the Prodigal Son. It’s part of a series of stories that Jesus told relating to the idea of things that were lost but searched out and found by God. They are stories of discovery that bring hope to even the most wayward soul. They are also stories that most people can relate to. I definitely can.

In Luke 15, Jesus talks about a boy who decides to go out on his own. He’s done with his family and all he wants is to claim his cash inheritance and live a self-indulgent life. As with anyone who chooses this path, life was empty and unsatisfying. For many, that lifestyle usually runs people into the gutters of despair. The young man from Luke 15 hit rock bottom. In verse 16 it says that he was so desperate that he craved the slop that he was feeding to the pigs as a hired worker. He had wasted all his money and was employed in one of the lowliest possible professions. It was a filthy job feeding unclean animals. Not only that, but he couldn’t even afford to eat. He was so hungry that he wanted to devour the nasty food that the pigs ate. That’s desperation. I’ve been there.

I too have craved the slop. In my darkest year (2009) I was wallowing in the slop. For me, the slop was an addiction to pornography, caught in a cycle of alcoholism and self-loathing, divorced from an adulterous woman, and at an end to a hopeful career. Just like the young man in Jesus’ story, I was craving all the wrong things and it led me into a destructive lifestyle. The scene from Luke 15 takes me back to that year in my life. I too needed to come home. I too needed to right many wrongs. I too needed to crave the right things.

This world presents us with more slop than things that actually provide for our need. The slop is anything short of anything that draws us closer to the Lord. My slop was creating an image for myself, gaining approval, and enjoying the flesh. I had the same aim as the young man from the story in Luke 15. I wanted to set out on my own. I wanted to get mine. I wanted to live a self-centered life. That’s what leads us to the slop. That’s because the slop feeds self, not the soul. The fortunate ones are those who come to enlightenment and realize they need to go home. They realize that where their life has led them is nothing more than a pigsty. The unfortunate ones are those who are living in a pigsty and don’t even realize it.

Let me make it plain – anyone who runs from the Father will end up in the pigsty, craving unclean things, surrounded by unclean things. The father in this story is meant to depict our Father in Heaven. He will let us go. He will let us run from Him. He will let us choose the slop. But He will always be watching for us and wanting us to return home. He will always come running to those who choose Him. It doesn’t matter how dirty we are from wallowing in the mud. He will always come running to embrace the wayward child who turns to Him.

Just as 2009 was the darkest year of my life, it was also the year I returned home. It was the year I felt the Father run to me and embrace me. It was my year of enlightenment and deep repentance. I felt what it was like to be separated from the Father and to be held in His loving arms. If you have wandered from the Lord as I did, just know that He’s waiting and watching for you. All you have to do is take the first steps home and He’ll come running your way.

So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’  But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’ And they began to celebrate.

Luke 15:20-24 NASB

Do you really want to be made whole?

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After this there was a Jewish feast, and Yeshua went up to Jerusalem. Now in Jerusalem there is a pool by the sheep gate, called Bethzatha in Aramaic, which has five porches. In these a crowd of invalids was lying around—blind, lame, disabled.

Now a certain man had been an invalid there for thirty-eight years. Seeing him lying there and knowing he had been that way a long time, Yeshua said to him, “Do you want to get well?

The invalid answered Him, “Sir, I have nobody to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up. While I’m trying to get in, somebody else steps down before me!”

Yeshua tells him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk!”

Immediately, the man was healed! He took up his mat and started walking around. Now that day was Shabbat, so Judean leaders were saying to the man who was healed, “It’s Shabbat! It’s not permitted for you to carry your mat.”

But he answered them, “The man who made me well told me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’”

They asked him, “Who is the man who told you, ‘Pick up your mat and walk’?” But the man who had been healed didn’t know who it was, for Yeshua had slipped away into the crowd in that place.

Afterwards, Yeshua finds him in the Temple. He said to him, “Look, you’ve been healed! Stop sinning, so nothing worse happens to you.” The man left and told the Judean leaders that it was Yeshua who had made him well.

John 5:1-15 (TLV) [my emphasis]

 Do you want to get well? The only thing that stands in our way of being freed from addiction, anger, depression, lust, and the like, is whether or not we want to be free of it. Jesus offers wholeness to everyone but not everyone will choose it. It seems ridiculous that someone would choose to not be whole. But sin is a choice that people make. Staying in sin is no different. The man’s desire to be made well is what brought him to the pool time after time. His desire to be made whole is what put him in the place to meet Jesus and experience His liberation. But if someone doesn’t really want to be made whole, to give up that addiction, to experience freedom, then they won’t. Jesus has never forced someone to choose freedom and wholeness. But He offers it freely to all who are willing.

Get up! To live in freedom takes action on our part. Once Jesus speaks healing over us we can’t lay by the pool any longer. We need to move. This man couldn’t walk for over three decades. Then Jesus said, “get up!” When Jesus replaces our anxieties with peace, we walk in that peace. We don’t go back to the pool of anxious thoughts. When Jesus crushes the chains of addiction, we walk as though we are no longer addicts. 

Immediately, the man was healed! Sure, healing can take time. But wholeness can also come in an instance. To say otherwise is to say that Jesus’ power was great enough to make a lame man walk but not give me joy in the place of my anger. It’s saying Jesus can create the world in 6 days but He cannot replace my depression with hope. If we want to be well, we can be with one word from His mouth. 

 “It’s Shabbat! It’s not permitted for you to carry your mat.” The path to our being made well will often be met with resistance from people around us, sometimes from those closest to us. When I made the decision to no longer drink alcohol seven years ago, I had several people try to talk me out it. People often attack what they don’t understand or what may even make them feel conviction. But we can never let the words of people unravel in our hearts what Jesus has already spoken over us. 

“Look, you’ve been healed! Stop sinning, so nothing worse happens to you.” We hold the key to the longevity of our wholeness. I admit I’ve been set free only to walk back into the filth again. When Jesus makes us new, He makes us white as snow. He doesn’t wash us clean so that we can go back to playing in the mud. 

I too am the crippled man at the pool. I want to be the healed man who takes up his mat in the newness of life. I have heard my savior say, “get up and walk my child.” I am so thankful that He came to meet me at my pool of Bethzatha (Bethesda) which happens to mean the pool of mercy. Be encouraged my brothers and sisters because He has come to meet you in your hurt and struggles as well. His question is the same to all of us: “do you want to be well?”