Archive for March, 2008

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Beauty – Part 2

March 28, 2008

Violet Blue, writing in the San Francisco Examiner, interviewed a Burlesque dancer who admitted the following:

“I have shared dressing rooms with thousands of ravishingly beautiful women over the last 12 years, and the one thing they all have in common is … none of them think they are beautiful enough. Our society teaches women to pick themselves to pieces, analyzing each and every feature individually and keeping a list in our minds of each and every perceived fault. No one comes out of this scenario feeling good, and when women are in this mind-set, nothing you can say will change the way they feel about themselves. Believe me, I’ve tried. (Have you noticed that most women will argue with you when you give them a compliment rather than just saying ‘thank you’?)

What is this “our society” that she criticizes as the real culprit? Some would say it is men who ogle women and comment on their physical attributes out loud as if they were examining horses at a sale. Others would say it is the millions of women who analyze models to death and love reality shows that parade “almost perfect” women to discover their flaws. Some blame their mothers, others their fathers. There are some who see advertising and television as the villains and still others who find the source of physical self-hatred in the school system.

Who is to blame?

Might it just be “beauty” itself? I think there is an existence or thing we can call “perfect beauty” which none of us attain. Just as there is a holiness that sin has put out of our reach (apart from the gift of God in Jesus), so too there is a beauty that we cannot get a hold of because sin has mostly ripped it away from us.

As I said last time, when man sinned, the consequence was that we were lead down a garden path. At the end of that path is an idea that the physical realm is the only reality. Or if not the only reality, the only reality that we can evaluate. The naturalist would say: “Prove the existence of any other reality and then I will believe”. What they mean by that is “reduce any other reality to physical laws and I will accept it.” That, of course, is ludicrous.

Keats said “Beauty is Truth and Truth, Beauty. That is all ye know on earth and all ye need to know.” He did not mean Truth in the absolute sense, but naturally verified truth…as in “how many legs does a spider have” and “what colors are represented in this sunset”. Being a naturalist, he believed that all matter is beauty.

Tell that to the burlesque dancer with legs that go on forever and she will ask “do these sequins make my butt look too big?” She doesn’t believe all matter is beauty and I suspect that when Keats looked at other women as he was walking down the road with his wife, he didn’t believe it either.

I do remember that moment I held my first child while his body was greasy with afterbirth and his lungs were filling up with air and emptying with wails for the first times. My wife was being cared for and the nursing staff rushed around oblivious to me and my son. I held John and looked into his eyes for the first time. There was nothing for me to see that was appealing. He looked like an overdone lobster. He was messy, noisy, squirmy, and he made me nervous. But for a moment, I saw another realm leaking through. There was a glimpse of beauty, a Shining that came through him. I was tied to him as tightly as my Father in Heaven is tied to me. All three of us were joined and I felt “beauty” as a reality. It was like that moment when looking into a “Magic Picture” where your focus catches the real picture. That is what happened when I caught Beauty in my soulsight.

Beauty lasts…it cannot fade, since it is permanent…but my focus went elsewhere after awhile. I have caught other glimpses of Beauty at the strangest moments. So have you.

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Beauty Examined – Part 1

March 27, 2008

A number of fascinating, coordinating searches have lead me back to the concept of beauty. I am beginning to learn that beauty is much more powerful a reality than I first imagined. The further I looked into it, the more complicated and ominous the subject became.

Take this verse in Psalm 27 for example:

Psalm 27:4

4 One thing I ask of the Lord,

this is what I seek:

that I may dwell in the house of the Lord

all the days of my life,

to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord

and to seek him in his temple.

David speaks of the “beauty of the Lord” as something he is seeking after in the house of the Lord. But what are we always told about beauty: That ‘it’ (beauty) is in the eye of the beholder. The implication is that all things can be beautiful if someone sees them that way. As prosaic as this subjective view of beauty really is, there is little to recommend that viewpoint. God Himself has beauty whether you or I agree upon it. God by definition is absolute and complete beyond any of our opinions. Therefore, there is beauty which exists apart from anyone’s opinion of it. Evolutionary biologists suggest that beauty is found in being most average. Really? That is what they believe. For instance, there are 22 measurements of symmetry in the human body (ears, eyes, breasts, shoulders, legs, etc., etc.). The more these features are symmetrical, the more beautiful someone is perceived…even by babies. The more a person looks like the average person of that race or culture, the more they are perceived as beautiful…even by babies. (We can tell that babies find someone pleasing by their facial and vocal reactions). Symmetry and culturally normal features make beauty. But do they? God is spirit, yet God has a beauty that cannot be denied. Can something be beautiful even if no one acknowledges that beauty?

There is a theory that Eve had a dynamic beauty that took Adam’s breath away. And I contend that Adam and Eve were more focused on the spirit realm bfore the fall of man than the physical (after all, once their eyes were opened, they saw the physical for the first time as important…they hid, the covered up etc.). Eve had a beauty that must have been more than physical, emanating from the deepest parts of who she was.

I was reading a book last week on Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD), an all-too common emotional problem. With BDD, a person obsesses over one physical feature that they believe is damaged or marred, whether this is true or not. A classic example of this would be a pop singer who thinks their nose is ugly, so they go through surgery after surgery to correct it; and end up creating an ugly proboscis. BDD patients not only obsess over body parts, but they can think of little else. They are convinced everyone is staring at their nose, their hair, their breasts, their tummy, their skin all the time. Even when they actually have a deformity, if it isn’t the same one that they have been obsessing on, they will ignore it and just focus on their supposed defect. It can destroy their school life, home life, love life. They are firmly encamped in the idea that they can never be beautiful or even normal. Beauty is always elusive to them. This obsession seems to have an ideal behind it: Is it possible that sufferers of BDD actually have an intuitive sense of beauty and are devastated because their fear and shame get in the way of finding it?

Is that what the daughters of Eve are always pining away for? Is that what the sons of Adam wish they could recapture? Is beauty a quality of life? And if it is, can we have it and not know it? Can we have it for awhile and lose it? Will we know it if we see it in others and in nature? Can it be found in nature? Is it found in all of nature? These are some of the questions that come up when I look at Beauty.

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Internet Porn Panic Button

March 25, 2008

If you aren’t already familiar with it, the best resource for accountability in the use of the Internet is called “Covenant Eyes“. This program is not designed to stop you from visiting a site (try looking up anything on “Breast Cancer” with NetNanny or SafeSurf”) but rather it sends out a report each week on where you’ve been. There is virtually no way you can trick the program and get around it. For a very small fee each month, you can have your report sent to anyone…your spouse, your boss, your pastor, your counselor…or maybe even an accountability partner. I have my reports sent to two different people. Knowing that my wife and my accountability partner would be able to see everywhere I go on the Internet virtually eliminates the temptation for me.

But now, Covenant Eyes has another feature. It is called “The Panic Button”. It is reserved for those people who still struggle with porn and are totally committed to removing it from their lives. As you use the Internet, if the temptation to view porn is too great, and you don’t want to give in, you can hit the panic button and it will completely prevent you from using any part of the Internet. Then, when you feel your self-control returning, you can call them up and they will reset it in your computers.

Of course, I advocate getting Theophostic therapy for any addiction, but this is a good additional tool to help with the occasional mental slipups.

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Back from the Dead

March 19, 2008


In view of the message I am giving this Sunday on what we are told by one who comes back from the dead, we will go from the ridiculous to the sublime. Today, the ridiculous

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Telling Part of My Story

March 18, 2008

I’m not entirely sure if this blog entry will turn out to be instructive or cathartic. Perhaps a little of both. I’ll tell you what I did first, what happened as a result, and then we can discuss together what it means.

Reading this book by Viola and Barna last week brought back memories of 1997. I spent a lot of that year working on a book I wanted to market on a similar theme as Pagan Christianity. I had been thinking for a long time about Christianity’s American expression and not happy at all with what I saw. In particular, I took exception with how much American pastors were still playing the dominant role in church ministry and how individual members felt like second-class citizens in the Kingdom of God. This problem is nothing new: It has existed since the first century. On this point, Viola is accurate and astute. The concept of the Priesthood of all Believers has not worked out well in practice.

The book I decided to write was going to be called “Releasing God’s People”. At the time, I was still marketing my first book and doing radio interviews with stations across the country.

A Denver radio station asked to do a 15 minute interview with me which was to be followed up with listener questions. In the minutes before we started, the interviewer told me that they usually had one or two callers at that time in the morning and I shouldn’t expect to be on the phone for more than 20 minutes total. During the first ten minutes of on-air time, we talked about my book on parenting techniques and he pretty much followed the “questions list” my publicist had sent him. At one point, he stopped and asked if I was working on any new projects at that moment. I blurted out that I was writing a book on “Releasing God’s People” which would center on taking much of ministry out of the hands of the pastor and giving it back to the average disciple of Jesus. It was like I had woken the interviewer up with a slap on the face. He went from disinterested radio jock to curious enquirer. I should point out that this was not a religious radio station.

After ten minutes of questions, he opened it up to the listeners. From what he later told me, they had never had that kind of response. The phone lines were jammed with people wanting to ask questions of this “pastor guy”. After almost an hour of the question/answer banter, the radio guy cut it off and finished his slot for the day. When we got off the air, he asked me if I would send him a copy of the book when it was done. I assured him I would send it upon its publication.

He never got a copy of the book. It was never published. The manuscript still sits in the bottom of a file drawer awaiting its day. I am going to explain the two reasons for that in a moment.

I was approximately 80% finished with the book when I did that interview. The portion I was working on not only was the most difficult, but also the section I felt the least amount of peace over. It was the part where I explained what I thought should be done. In preparation for one of the chapters, an idea occured to me. It seemed so brilliant at the time that I really didn’t ask anyone if they thought it was a GOOD idea. That might have saved me a lot of anxiety.

Here was my idea. If anything was going to change, it probably needed to come from the people at the center of the problem: pastors. And if I was going to write a book about what I thought should change, I should be willing to lead the way. I still believe that. I just realize now that my idea was faulty. It didn’t seem that way at the time, but it was.

Here is what happened. I was teaching a series on Ephesians 4 in preparation for presenting some of my new ideas on the role of the pastor. During the week before the message, I had taken a sign off my door. The sign had given my name and my title and was situated at the front right hand corner of the sanctuary. I took off the words “Senior Pastor” and just left my name there. Then, at the beginning of my message, I announced I was resigning as “The Pastor” of the church. After allowing the gasps and emotions to subside a bit, I then explained myself. I looked at the Scriptures concerning the role of leadership in the church and found that it is rare for one person to be called by God to lead alone. It did happen a few times in the Bible, but the more common pattern was for God to raise up many leaders and give them various degrees of spiritual authority. What I was “resigning” from was the idea that I was the only leader in the church, the only minister, the only real servant of the Lord, the only one who could be called “God’s Anointed”.

After that service concluded, several people came up to me with concerned and worried looking faces and told me “I love you Mike, but I don’t think this is going to turn out well for all of us”. Several of the people I saw as the most mature members of the Body shared this same opinion with me. I hate to say that my wife was one of them. In fact, the people who loved what I had to say the most were the scariest ones: The rebellious, goofy and immature. Immediately I had to ask “what have I done?”

The next year was a horror story for me and the church as a whole. As I sought to bring changes to the leadership structure of the church and to have those changes filter to every level of the church’s experience, more and more incidents of sin, rebellion, and people trying to exert improper control over each other happened. In one year, 8 members of the church had to be disciplined for sinful behavior. We had only disciplined a half dozen in the 9 previous years. There was a huge split in the leadership team. A year later, half the board split off and formed their own church. The church voted to leave the fellowship of churches they had been a part of since their founding 16 years earlier. We had been the fastest growing church in town at that point and now we were shrinking like an iceberg in the Sahara.

And all I did was remove my title from the door. What harm could that have done? I mean, it was only a title, right?

Some of the wisest leaders in God’s church that I know have pondered this situation with me. I have written several people whose books sell millions and who are acquaintances…and they have shared their wisdom. I have sought the Lord and He showed me some things. Ministry leaders, prayer warriors, worship leaders, deacons, elders, small group leaders, Bible College presidents and evangelists have weighed in on this situation. Their wisdom amounts to three principles that I didn’t see the full value of at the time.

1. Human beings want God’s authority vested in other human beings. This goes right back to Israel’s first King. God didn’t fight it…he realized we have trouble with being lead by the unseen God. The Bible is clear that God raises up leaders (even secular leaders) to bring his hand of order and discipline.

2. The spirit realm is all about authority. When someone relinquishes authority, there is a vacuum into which the enemy can work more freely. King David is the classic example of this when he committed adultery with Bathsheba after refusing to be the leader of the Army going into battle. Never were there more ominous words in the Bible than these: “It was the time that Kings went out to war, but David stayed home.”

3. Rebellion is always waiting to show itself as soon as there is anarchy. You cannot have a group of people without a leader. For if you do not designate a leader by some means, the strongest and most power-centered person will take charge.

By not recognizing these three principles, I had caused God’s church irreparable harm. I have publicly confessed that sin to that congregation almost before it was too late. God did repair some of the damage, but most of it remains to this day. I refused to finish that book and publish it as a result. I think I know what the answer can be. I am waiting for someone else to write it, since I believe I have lost my right to be the one to say it. May God raise that person up.

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I Love How this Sounds

March 18, 2008

Here is the 8th Psalm as translated in “The Message”. I don’t normally do this, but the word images are so crisp and poignant.

8 God, brilliant Lord,
yours is a household name.
2 Nursing infants gurgle choruses about you;
toddlers shout the songs
That drown out enemy talk,
and silence atheist babble.
3–4 I look up at your macro-skies, dark and enormous,
your hand-made sky-jewelry,
Moon and stars mounted in their settings.
Then I look at my micro-self and wonder,
Why do you bother with us?
Why take a second look our way?
5–8 Yet we’ve so narrowly missed being gods,
bright with Eden’s dawn light.
You put us in charge of your handcrafted world,
repeated to us your Genesis-charge,
Made us lords of sheep and cattle,
even animals out in the wild,
Birds flying and fish swimming,
whales singing in the ocean deeps.
9 God, brilliant Lord,
your name echoes around the world.

Eugene H. Peterson, The Message : The Bible in Contemporary Language, Ps 8:1-9 (Colorado Springs, Colo.: NavPress, 2002).
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Apology is Needed

March 17, 2008

I do want to apologize to readers of this blog for my vain attempts at humor regarding pastors. I admit that I don’t do sarcasm well…and for that I am grateful. It does reveal to me that I have some issues with a few of my colleagues which would be better served by praying for them or talking to them…or both.

I have removed the entries that don’t belong in this blog. That’s the reason you no longer see them.

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