Friday, February 26, 2010

How to Be Un-Dragoned

CS Lewis in his Chronicles of Narnia, Volume 6, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (pp106-110) tells of one of the adventures of a stubborn, rather unhappy child named Eustace. By the way, this is more of my own paraphrase than directly quoting the book:

Eustace is tired of taking orders from the other children and sneaks off to get away and have his own adventure.

Along the way, Eustace sees a dying dragon go into its cave, and he follows it to get out of the rain. Once he sees the dragon die, he looks around and discovers all this treasure. Thinking if he had treasure the other children would listen to him and follow his orders, he packs his pockets and then falls asleep.

When he awakens, he senses movement and looks to his right and sees a dragon hand. Filled with fear that the dragon must not have really died, he runs out of cave, he runs and runs until he comes to a lake. Quite thirsty from running, he dips face to the water to drink, but as he looks at the water he sees the reflection of a dragon. Suddenly the horror hits him...With dragonish thoughts in his heart he had become a dragon!

Eustace then becomes quite sorry for the "monster" he had been to his cousins. Thankfully, the other children eventually find him and try to help him, but nothing can change him back into a boy. He was so miserable that he actually became nice. He helped the other children, but was still very sad.

One night, he saw a great lion walking toward him. Even as a dragon, Eustace said he was more afraid than he had ever been in his life. He followed the Great Lion to a great well. The Lion told him to undress and go down into thewater. But then it occurred to Eustace that he was a dragon; he couldn't undress. But perhaps he could shed his skin. He started scratching himself and the scales began to fall off. Eventually the entire dragon skin came off and it looked really ugly just sitting there.

Eustace began to walk down the steps into the water when he realized his skin was still scaly. He wasn't too upset, he just thought he had another skin under his first skin that needed to be pealed off as well. So he scratched and tore and this skin came off. He started to the water again, but again realized there was just more dragon skin underneath.

Finally, Aslan spoke. You will have to let Me undress you. Eustace was afraid of His claws, but he was desparate now, and willing to have the Lion do anything to save him. 'The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I've ever felt. The only thing that made it bearable was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off.'

When he was finished, there was my skin lying on the grass, only very much thikcer, darker and uglier than when I had taken it off myself. Then the Lion threw me into the water, and I became a boy again.

What a picture of the Gospel...because of the Fall, we all wrestle with dragon-ish hearts, thoughts, behaviors, attitudes...and no matter how hard we try, we can't un-dragon ourselves. Our only hope is running to Christ daily so He will remove all that is dragon-like within us...and turn us more and more into the glory of His image day by day.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

A Friend's Thoughts on This Broken World

I was thinking about blogging something CS Lewis-ish on what happened yesterday in Orlando--a trainer killed by Tilly, a 12,000 pound Orca (Killer Whale). There's something so tragically "Narnia-ish" in this when the whole country of Narnia was under the power of the white witch...many of the animals wild and dangerous when that's not the way it was supposed to be in Narnia. Lewis really had a grasp on the "glorious ruins" we are as humans and the "glorious ruin" this world is in every arena of life.

Of course, with Aslan giving his life, "the stone table (of the law of death, danger and disaster because of evil and rebellion) broke and death itself began working backwards (one of my most favorite quotes in all of the Chronicles)." Winter began to thaw in Narnia and Aslan was on the move! What a picture of the hope of the Gospel! Death working backwards in all of the entire cosmos...yet we do not now entirely see all things subject to Christ...but we will...we will.

It is so very tragic that an animal, also affected by the fall, would turn on its trainer. Like I said, I was going to blog myself on this, but my dear friend Scotty Smith from Nashville did the same thing this morning...and as usual, Scotty puts things better than I could have anyway...

so here are Scotty's words (hope he doesn't mind)...

"Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: "To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, forever and ever!" Revelation 5:13

Dear Lord Jesus, I cannot imagine the horror and trauma of those who witnessed the death of an Orca trainer yesterday at Sea World. We pray, especially for the children who were present… bring your healing hand and loving heart to bear. By whatever means you choose, we pray for your redeeming presence in this tragedy.

Jesus, gut-numbing events like this fuel my intense longing for the Day when “every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them,” will sing your praise forever in the new heaven and new earth. What Isaiah whispered (Isaiah 11:6-9; 65:17-25) and John envisioned (Revelation 21:1-5), we will enjoy with them—this very world redeemed and restored by you, Lord Jesus—the one who is making all things new.

The very fact that Orca are better known as “Killer Whales” just underscores the fact that nothing in this broken world is the way it’s meant to be. Orca were meant to sing and play, not attack and devour. The odious stench of sin, decay and death permeate every sphere of your creation. In fact, it’s far more incomprehensible to realize that over half of the world’s families exist for a whole month on the price of one Sea World ticket. Have mercy, Lord Jesus, have mercy… I know that you have, and I know that you will."

Well said, Scotty...well said.

Even so, "Come quickly, Lord Jesus!"

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Do You Have What it Takes?

I only watch 2 television shows...well, that is, if all sports programs don't count (because, hey, they're not a series!). Anyway, the two shows I watch are 24 and LOST...LOST pierced my soul last night...wasn't really fair, 'cause I wasn't ready for it.

I am not EVEN going to try to tell you what LOST is about (though I will say it's like Back to the Future on steroids...but completely different!).

There is this one character, Jack, sort of the leader of a group of people who plane-crashed on a mysterious island. Jack is a doctor, a man of science who struggles with matters of faith. He had a rocky relationship with his dad...a man he could never quite please. Apparently, one day, Jack's dad looked straight at him and said "You don't have what it takes."

Now I'm sure in his own sick way, Jack's dad thought it might motivate Jack to succeed...what a stupid man.

It marked Jack for his entire life.

Imagine that.

A man with all his gifts, talents, with the Echo in his mind every moment of every day..."You don't have what it takes." So sad.

I know something sadder...

Every human being, in one way or another, hears the same evil echo..."You don't have what it takes."

"You don't have what it takes" to make it in your marriage; You don't have what it takes to make it in your career; You don't have what it takes to be a good parent; You don't have what it takes to make it through adolescence; You don't have what it takes to make it as a Christ-follower; You don't have what it takes to....

Well, you get the picture.

Unfortunately, it's what theologians call a result of "the Fall." When humanity fell into rebellion, something broke in the human soul that has been passed on to all of us...and I mean ALL of us!

So, here I am last night, sitting next to our youngest son, and this scene begins in the middle of LOST. Jack is with HIS son; it's "his weekend" if you get what I mean. You can tell their relationship is strained. Jack has to leave for a bit and when he returns home, his son is gone. Jack is worried. He really loves his son...He longs for a relationship with his son...but he doesn't know where his son is and he doesn't know why things are so hard and difficult between him and his son.

He runs over to his "ex's" house to see if his son is there...he's not. But there's a message on the answering machine...Jack listens. It's some music conservatory talking about a scholarship performance that his son is to play that evening. Jack looks at his's scheduled to take place in just a few minutes. He rushes to the conservatory just in time to listen to his beloved son play, practically flalwlessly a very difficult piano piece by Chopin.

Jack is moved to tears.

After the performance, his son rushes outside to get back to Jack's place...and Jack meets him. Jack asks him why he never told him he was still playing the piano and why he didn't tell him about the conservatory performance. This is where it gets least for me...

His son looked into his dad's eyes and answers...

"I didn't tell you...because I didn't want you to see me fail."

Jack's eyes fill with tears...again...only this do mine.

Jack looks at his son and tells him something that changes their relationship. "One time when I was about your age, my dad, your grand-father looked at me and said words I'll never forget...he said, "You don't have what it takes." Jack, again moved to tears, looks into his boy's eyes and says, "I NEVER want you to fear that you might be a failure in my eyes...and there is nothing that you could ever do that would ever cause me to stop loving you. I will ALWAYS love you...all I want is a relationship with you."

Now his son is moved...and now...I am moved to tears...again.

What was going on in me? The brokenness of the Fall hit my consciousness. I, like Jack, often hear the echo of the Fall: "You don't have what it takes." Sure, we all have family issues I guess...but my dad NEVER said anything like that to me...nope...I was hard-wired that way. We're ALL hard-wired some kind of way that is broken. Mine has always been, "You don't have what it takes."

But here's the amazing thing...the things Jack said to his son...those are the things our Father in Heaven says to us through Christ...

"I NEVER want you to fear that you might be a failure in My eyes...and there is nothing that you could ever do that would ever cause Me to stop loving you. I will ALWAYS love you...all I want is a relationship with you."

Not only that, but God is constantly whispering to our hearts, "You DO have what it takes! Because I've promised to give you in Christ all that you would ever need!"

2 Peter 1:3--His divine power has granted to us ALL THINGS pertaining to life and godliness! Read those words again...slowly...believing the Gospel...ALL things...You and I, in Christ, DO HAVE WHAT IT TAKES!!

Hebrews 13:21 basically says that God Himself promises to bless us and equip us with everything good, with everything we need to do His will...He promises to bless us by actually working into us everything we need to live a life pleasing to Him!! You and I, in Christ, DO HAVE WHAT IT TAKES!!!

And we are to remind each other of this every day.

God is out to replace the old tapes of the Fall with a new Echo...the Echo of His validation/affirmation/love...just like He called out to Jesus at His baptism: "This is My Beloved Son, with Whom I am well pleased." THAT is the new echo that the Father wants sounding about in our hearts and minds!

As I sat on the couch with my youngest son...I wondered (and this was part of the tears)...what message have I sent him? What messages have I sent my other two children? What messages have I sent my wife? My friends? My church? Are people "afraid to fail" in my eyes? Do I somehow, sometimes, send the message, "You don't have what it takes?"

I want to be a man that leaves every believer I come into contact with thinking, feeling, knowing, "You have what it takes!"

If you're reading this...and you know REALLY do...You DO have what it takes!

So...Go For It!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Bound or Free?

In John 11:38-44 we read the amazing account of Jesus' good friend Lazarus being raised from the dead. Besides being an amazing miracle that displays once more the divinity of Christ and His Messiahship, it is also a beautiful picture of what Jesus came to do for ALL who trust and follow Him.

Jesus not only gives life to the dead, granting us new hearts and making us new creations through faith in His finished work...He is also beginning, even in THIS life, the process of "unbinding" us, of liberating us, from "old grave clothes"...of "linen strips and cloths" that bind us and blind us.

We are born-again by the power of the Spirit through grace alone by faith alone in Christ alone--our sins are forgiven, we are granted a new standing/status before God as beloved sons and daughters...He declares us to be as perfect as His One Eternal Son, Jesus! I'll never get tired of writing or reading those words!!

As those who hope in Christ alone, the reign and rule of sin is broken, but it's presence is not eradicated...yet. For some reason, in God's wisdom, He allows indwelling sin, a defeated enemy, to continue to have a presence in our souls...We are in fact raised from the dead...but there are still some old "grave clothes" that need to be removed and replaced with a new wardrobe.

These grave clothes with which we arise out of the tomb of the Old Man Adam, are strongholds of sin and evil which Christ intends to free us from...just as He commanded Lazarus to be unbound...just picture Lazarus, alive, somehow shuffled from the tomb, but looking somewhat like a "mummy," waiting for total freedom!

The "linen strips and cloths" that bind us and blind us could be pains and wounds from past sin (our own, or from being sinned against), stubborn sin patterns we have chosen in a desperate attempt to escape brokenness in our own efforts, even strongholds of evil that seek to pull us back into the grave.

BUT CHRIST...He is the Resurrection AND the Life! Jesus is the Resurrection--He raises us from the dead, He gives us new life, He makes us into new creations. Yet, though we are genuinely new, we are not yet completely new...not until the New Heavens and New Earth.

BUT ALSO the Life! He is the Author/Giver/Perfecter of the Abundant Life...a life now on this planet with the hope of being increasingly "unbound" from our own grave clothes.

Christ is at work daily, by His Spirit, replacing linen strips of sin and cloths of blindness and brokenness with a new wardrobe! Not only does He give us at conversion a Robe of IMPUTED Righteousness...His OWN righteousness that gives us and grants us the Perfect Standing and Status before the Holy Father; Christ is also daily fitting us with a new wardrobe of IMPARTED Righteousness...actually working His own righteousness and holiness and freedom into our hearts!

And, as in John 11, Jesus most often uses friends, the Fellowship, The Body, to unbind and free us.

As He spoke in Luke 4:18--The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed.

As a good friend of mine says constantly: Outside of Christ, people are constantly struggling to be free; In Christ, as we walk in grace, we are free to struggle...until the wardrobe change is complete.

May you walk this day, more and more in the freedom of life in Christ!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Thon at Penn State

Penn State Dance Marathon (The Thon) 48 hours straight of dancing that raises money for helping battle childhood cancer. Here's what one sorority girl had to say about her experience some years ago...

"By hour 30, my head falls; gravity has won. A sob begins deep in my gut, pushes up thru my chest, briefly catches in my throat and finally forces itself thru my lips. My head lowered, I clench my eyes and fists angrily, fighting to stop the tears.

After a few seconds, I release my fingers and slowly open my eyes, only to see two little red Nike sneakers touching the tips of my worn-out aerobic shoes...Blinking quickly, I focus to see two deep, brown eyes staring up at me. Clad in worn Toughskins and a huge yellow T-shirt that is hanging below his knees, a wide-eyed boy studies me intently.

I immediately notice that all of his hair is somehow tucked under a faded Phillies baseball cap. With a second glance, however, I see that there is not hair on his head to tuck under. His cheeks are swollen slightly and dotted with a red rash. But his physical features are swallowed by a look of concern in his eyes.

'Hi. Are you Okay?' he asks. Before I can attempt an answer, a heavy-set woman comes to his side, gently takes his hand and smiles at me. 'You're Stacie?' she asks. As I nod my head slowly, she embraces her son and holds him closer to me, almost as if to give me a better look. 'Thank you for giving me more time with my son.' With that, she drops to her knees and begins massaging my calves."

That's what it's all about, folks. Love your neighbor as yourself.

Friday, February 19, 2010

There's Some Good in the World

From LOTR--Samwise to Frodo--“It's like in the great stories Mr. Frodo, the ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were, and sometimes you didn't want to know the end because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end it's only a passing thing, this shadow, even darkness must pass. A new day will come, and when the sun shines it'll shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you, that meant something even if you were too small to understand why. But I think Mr. Frodo, I do understand; I know now folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn't. They kept going because they were holding on to something. That there's some good in the world....and it's worth fighting for"…are we fighting for good today?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

How a Prince Can Screw Up the World...and How a Prince Can Save It

The first "preliminary screw up" in "10 Books that Screwed Up the World" is The Prince, by Niccolo Machiavelli. That book had such an impact upon culture we have a character adjective in our vocab that people use...people smarter than me, I guess, because though I know the word, I'm not sure I've ever used least correctly.

Anyway, the word is "Machiavellian" and it means, according to the entry--living according to principles in which "political expediency is placed above morality and the use of craft and deceit to maintain the authority and carry out the policies of a ruler is described...characterized by subtle or unscrupulous cunning, deception, expediency, or dishonesty."

The scariest and most evil principle Machiavelli puts forth in The Prince is that "the whole idea of being rather naive," and that what is important is not "being good, but appearing good." Another principle is that you can get away with anything if you are able to "appear religious." Machiavelli asserts that if you can "appear" religious then people are more likely to trust you and think you are moral and good and it is then easier to deceive them so you can get what you want.

Machiavelli puts forth the idea that evil can be used to accomplish things one thinks are other words, he is one of the first people who truly popularized the idea that "the ends justify the means." It's interesting that the author points out that The Prince was one of Lenin's favorite books!

The problem of course is that evil truly exists, and if one begins to believe that evil may be used for good, it will eventually deteriorate into using evil for any reason at all, quite apart from thinking about the least possible benefit to humanity.

Machiavelli is also one of the first writers to popularize pragmatism as a world-view. Don't worry about whether something is good or beautiful or true...only live by what you think is most whatever you feel is necessary and forget about whether the world thinks it is right or wrong (let alone whether an infinitely Personal Creator God has Written absolutes into our existence!)

Machiavelli rejects the Christian world view and despises it by saying that Christians will think of heaven and it makes people ineffective in working in the world. He also wrote that Christianity "ties our hands" by limiting what we want to do with all kinds of rules.

There's the summary...but here's the scary do Machiavellian principles dwell within my own heart? First, how often am I more concerned about appearances than the actual condition of my soul? How often do I set up my posing self in oder to appear moral or good or righteous before others? How am I often one person in public and another completely different person when no one else is around? How often do I put forth the appearance of "loving God" when my heart is cold? How often do I walk into Church on Sunday mornings as nothing but a poser?

How often am I a complete pragmatist? How often am I thinking about how I can control my life, my circumstances, even people in my life to "get what I want" in the most effective and necessary way and fail to consider the way of the Gospel which is loving God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength and loving my neighbor as myself? Let's be is not often very pragmatic...and it's never easy.

You see, the same evil that lurked within Machiavelli's heart is not so far from mine...nor your's. This is why we need to flee to Christ continually...only the power of His death and resurrection and the sin-defeating might of His amazing grace can rid my own heart of Machiavellian leanings.

The saddest thing of all, perhaps, is that Machiavelli completely missed the point of the Christian life...we're not to be so heavenly-minded that we're no earthly good! The hope and vision of heaven is to be in our sites so that we work toward bringing the Kingdom of God into reality on this planet NOW! Certainly many, many Christ-followers miss this, but the Christian is not only concerned about the eternal destiny of the souls of people. We are concerned primarily about the glory of God...and God is glorified as suffering is alleviated, evil oppression is eradicated, people are educated, widows and orphans are taken care of, and yes, even nature is cared addition to being concerned that all the nations hear the Gospel!

The Christ-follower who truly knows Christ and His word knows that the end NEVER justifies the means, that love must always win over pragmatism and that we are to work with all our strength to bring the reality of the Kingdom of God, in all it's beauty and goodness, to bear upon this planet in our every sphere of influence, including all our vocations and all our relationships.

So, the only answer to books that have screwed up the world is The Book that tells us how the world got so screwed up, why there are screwed up books and how Christ, the TRUE PRINCE, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, is ruling to change the world...and invites us to join Him.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The U2 Concert at the Y This Morning

Many of you, I'm sure, are incredulous that it’s been weeks since I’ve blogged on a U2 song. See, I really do have other interests! But working out this morning, to U2 of course, during the shuffle on my iPhone, a song called “Always” came on. I’ve heard it before, of course, lots of times…but it hit me differently this time.

As usual, Bono is not shy about bringing his spirituality (in my opinion, clearly Christian spirituality) and in this song seems to be singing on the brevity of life.

The first stanza is this:

Here today
And gone tomorrow
Crack the bone, get to the marrow
To be the bee
And the flower
Before the sweetness turns to sour

The line clearly points to the book of James 4:14—“you do not know what tomorrow will bring; What isyour life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time then vanishes.” This is a Biblical truth repeated often throughout the Scriptures. In 1 Corinthians 7:29 Paul reminds us that the time is short, so to make the most of the time we have (an idea repeated in Ephesians 5:16, that we should make the best use of the time because the days are evil. See also Isaiah 40:6-8).

Bono is reminding us that our days on the earth are short…so live life to the fullest. Suck the marrow out of life…a common expression written by Henry David Thoreau in Walden meaning to seize the day, get all you can from life. Of ALL people on the planet, Christ-followers like Bono, recognize the call from God to suck the marrow from life; we’re to be like bees flying to the flowers of life so that we might enjoy the nectar…not that we’re to be hedonists…that would be entirely self-centered…but we can honor God by responsibly enjoying to the fullest the creation He has provided for us. And Bono warns us not to allow fear or apathy to tempt us to wait to long or hold back…because sweetness can turn sour.

Another stanza that hit me this morning during leg curls of all things, was this verse:

Get down off your holy cloud... always
God will not deal with the proud... always
Well if you dream then dream out loud... always
Eternally yours... always

Again, in the book of James 4:6, we read that “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Interesting, yet another verse that appears repeatedly throughout Scripture (eg, 1 Pet 5:5). Beware of self-righteousness. Beware of spiritual pride getting in the way of your walk with Christ. We can have big dreams for our lives and honoring God, dream big...but recognize your need for God to be in the dreams and His grace to be what brings them to pass...not your gift package...and then remember that the big dreams are not about you or me and our glory...but His glory alone.

Grace—God’s undeserved, unmerited favor, kindness, mercy, love, goodness toward sinners. There is an interesting issue arising from the verse in James, however…grace, it seems, while unmerited and undeserved, is actually NOT unconditional. It seems the condition is that we are not proud, but humble…funny, its actually an anti-condition…a non-condition. It’s not something we need to be good at to received grace…it’s actually realizing that the only thing, ultimately, we have to offer God is our failure and need.

We see Bono crying out in desperate need for his God in the repeated lines:

I want you
I want you
I want you

May that be the cry of our souls continually...Father, I want you; Lord Jesus, I want you. Holy Spirit, I want you. Bono is too good of a poet, and too smart to not be intentional about repeating the cry three times corresponding to the Three Persons of the Trinity!

The last line I’ll comment on is near the end of the song:

Turn each song into a prayer... always

Bono gets it…all of life can be lived out as a prayer to God. All we do can be considered worship as we live for Him. It’s surprising to me how many fanatical U2 followers love their music but miss their passion…Bono and the boys in fact do what they sing in that line…they DO, in fact, “turn each song into a prayer…always.”
Listen to their music…listen with ears in tune with the Spirit…Always!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Comfort or Confusion?

I was asked by a dear friend recently about the topic of the Sovereignty of God. Light conversation, I know. Just to be clear, the doctrine of sovereignty has to do with God foreordaining whatsoever comes to pass...yet in such a way that He is never the Author of Evil...This is a profound mystery...a mystery beyond our ability to figure's that for just throwing a grenade into the room and running?

I think when it comes to thinking about the sovereignty of God we need to keep in mind the "wills" of God. First, there is the REVEALED will of God...Scripture...and we are called to respond to that Word in obedience out of gratitude for God's love for us in Christ. We are to obey God's Word out of a love response toward Him because He first loved us.

Second, there is what we call God's sovereign or mysterious will that we don't DISCOVER through is simply what happens...whatsoever comes to pass. However, we can never, obviously, excuse our disobedience to God's REVEALED will, His Scripture, and just say, "Oh well, its obviously God's sovereign will, since I did it..."

There is a mystery here that is WAAAAY beyond our comprehension because we are first, finite, and second, fallen. What we DO matters and what we CHOOSE to do matters, and sovereignty can never be an excuse to minimize the enormous importance of our choices, actions...or even inactions. One of the temptations of Jesus by the devil was exactly this: IF You ARE the Son of God, throw Yourself down from the Temple and He will send His angels to protect you...and Christ responded, Do not put the Lord to the test. God is absolutely sovereign and mankind is completely responsible. Hmmmmm. Brain freeze!

However, and this is REALLY important, God teaches us about His absolute sovereignty in Scripture in order to lead us to freedom (as well as submission, but I'm going to focus on the freedom part here)! Because of the fall of humanity into sin, we all have a tendency to be control freaks...just ask my wife and kids about my idol of control...but it's all an illusion...we are NOT in control...even though we are absolutely responsible! Think of all the ways people seek to protect their jobs, work hard, only to have some unforseen lay-offs occur. Think about people who are obsessive hand-washers, only to get sick from a bad hamburger...

If we don't learn to live with this tension that no matter how responsible we try to be, we're still not really in control, trust me, we'll end up in a rubber room surrounded by nice people in white jackets. This tendency to seek to control every detail of our lives is what leads people to be neurotic!

We spend WAAAAY too much emotional and intellectual energy trying to FIGURE out God's will...God's will is not some needle in a haystack that we need to find...the best way to be "in God's will" 5 years from now is to respond in faith and obedience to the REVEALED will of God that we are aware of over the next 5 minutes! The real issue is seeking Christ and His wisdom, not investigating "chicken guts" seeking to divine our way to a decision.

So, as my basketball coaches used to tell me: Play loose. Enjoy the game. Use your gifts. Play smart...and Play to win!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

10 Books That Have Screwed Up the World

One of my elders told me he was listening to a book on CD that caught my attention by the title alone: "10 Books that Screwed Up the World (And 5 Others That Didn't Help)" by Benjamin Wiker, Ph.D.

By the way...the solution is NOT to burn these books (as many, in my humble opinion, "whacko" Christians have done over the years)...but for intelligent, articulate, mature Christ-followers to READ them (or, as in my case, at least become familiar with them...though I'm not sure I fit the "intelligent, articulate, mature" description!), critique them, discover how the very falsehoods contained in them reside in our own hearts and seek to restore our broken world to wholeness and truth...The point is not censorship of bad books as much as striving to make the truth more attractive and more winsome and to gently point out the internal inconsistencies of error.

Here are the books he covers:

Preliminary Screw Ups
--The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli (1513)
--Discourse on Method by Rene Descartes (1637)
--Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes (1651)
--Discourse on the Origin and Foundations of Inequality Among Men by Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1755)

10 Big Screw Ups
1. The Communist Manifesto by Marx and Engels (1848)
2. Utilitarianism by John Stuart Mill (1863)
3. The Descent of Man by Charles Darwin (1871)
4. Beyond Good and Evil by Friedrich Nietzsche ((1886)
5. The State and Revolution by Vladimir Lenin (1917)
6. The Pivot of Civilization by Margaret Sanger (1922)
7. Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler (1925)
8. The Future of an Illusion by Sigmund Freud (1927)
9. Coming of Age in Samoa by Margaret Mead (1928)
10.Sexual Behavior in the Human Male by Alfred Kinsey ((1948)

And finally, one Dishonorable Mention
--The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan (1963)

I hope to blog briefly on each of these over the next several weeks.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Gospel Armor Against Temptation

Just before celebrating the Lord's Supper last month I shared some words that others have asked me to post. The words were these: Those Christ-followers who are covered up with guilt and shame and self-condemnation are most open to giving in to temptation. Conversely, those Christ-followers who are most willing to receive and hope in the wondrous grace of God are most strengthened against temptation.

When we are wrestling with shame and guilt, the pain of the defeat and condemnation is so intense that we'll look for anything that will numb the pain...the narcotics of choice, then, are often the pleasures of the world that we are deceived into believing will get rid of the pain. But that just creates a downward spiral of more guilt and shame and the pain multiplies. Guilty and condemned Christians will always be desperately looking for relief from their pain...and temptation to seek that relief in sin is very alluring.

However, Christians who are convinced of the hope of forgiveness and live in the grace of God are less trapped by feelings of shame and guilt, experience more joy, and are therefore more strengthened in the battle against sin...we still will be tempted by the so-called "pleasures" of the world, but equipped with the peace of forgiveness and the joy of grace, even when we blow it, we will be quick to repent and experience afresh the wonders of God's love...thus entering into the Spirit-filled upward cycle of forgiveness and joy and strength.

There is no one who does not's what we choose to do with that sin that makes all the difference. If we beat ourselves up and live in self-condemnation...we will be more open to looking for relief from the pain and will be less equipped to fight against temptation. If we acknowledge afresh our need for amazing grace, we'll experience forgiveness and will be gripped again by the love of the Father...and we'll be more equipped to say no to sin and yes to righteousness.

This is why the sacrament of the Lord's Supper is so vital to Christian health...there's no need to beat ourselves up over sin because Christ's Body was broken for us; and there's no need to live with guilt and shame because His blood was shed to grant us full and total forgiveness.

Monday, February 1, 2010

How BIG is Your World?

Yesterday during worship we sang Matt Redman's popular and powerful song, You Never Let Go. It was Global Mission's Sunday at Oak Mountain Church, and before the Pastoral Prayer I commented that Redman's song really does have a strong tie to Global Missions. The point of the song is that we, as Christ-followers, no matter where we go or what we face, we need not fear any evil because our God is near us, He is for us and He will never let us go. If we fail to believe those great truths however, we will end up living like orphans in this life...

Think about how an orphan if there is no one to depend upon except themselves...self-protective mechanisms shift into high gear...the size of the world shrinks so that the only world that matters is the world of becomes a dog-eat-dog world...get all you can for yourself because no one else cares about you.

When I fail to believe that the God of Heaven is favorably disposed toward me and pours forth all of His goodness and power toward me even when I am in difficulty, then I don't really have the energy to care about the rest of the world...the fate of the nations isn't really on my radar screen.

However, as I rest in the Father's love and care for me as an adopted child in His family, I can become progressively freed from my orphan mentality and not be so self-absorbed or self-consumed. I can become freed from self-concern and begin to be concerned about world soul's "radio station" is no longer tuned to "WBOB...All Bob ALL the Time!" but instead I can actually begin to care about the nations.

So...sometime today, listen to Matt Redman's song...let the truths wash over your orphan soul...and ask God to increase the size of the world you live in...a world bigger than my 6 foot 1 inch frame...a world that encompasses all the nations of the earth! Because the fact is, there are billions who long to know the promises rehearsed in the song, "You Never Let Go!"