Archive for September, 2011

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The Seasons of Passion – Spring

September 21, 2011

Two counseling sessions just hours apart convinced me I understand Passion poorly. I have always assumed “passion” was characterized by youthful exuberance, confidence and new ideas. And it is. But that is only one season of passion.

The first couple in my office were not there for counseling. I asked them to help me with a project I was working on. I wanted to interview two people who had been married for longer than 30  years. I could have interviewed my wife and I, but that seemed to lack objectivity. There are four chairs in my office: My office chair, two arm chairs and a love seat. This couple sat in the two arm chairs. They laughed a lot, corrected each other many times, finished the other’s sentences and by the end weren’t saying too many words. She flashed suggestive glances his way. He sucked in his belly like a freshman walking through the student lounge. I could tell, it was on for those two.

The second couple chose the love seat. They could have chosen one of the arm chairs considering how little space they took up. Married less than a year, their hands were frequently on each other’s faces, hair, hands and necks. They threw out little endearments and nicknames. I was impressed by how much they enjoyed each other.

Now which couple had passion? See: It is not as simple as age, enthusiasm and confidence.

Nature demonstrates clearly the purpose of Spring. Dormant seeds and fertile soil are bathed in sunlight, water and nutrients in adequate amounts. The DNA of the seed says “We’re going topside” and green abounds. Verdant and hungry, Spring exudes the promise of new life. Every life needs and craves these seasons. It is a mistake to think that Spring Passion has anything to do with age. Sometimes you have to rediscover passion after it has lain dormant for awhile. A man entering retirement needs to have a new vision and determination or he will be forever stuck in the Land of No Passion. A woman whose children are all gone from the home needs a Springtime passion again to propel her up from the basement of mediocrity. She has fulfilled the role of custodial parent. Springtime passion will move her into the next role.

Springtime passion can be seen in the life of Zaccheus.  In Luke 19, we are told his story. He was a despised tax collector (a redundant statement if there ever was one). He also was very short. He had spent years cheating most residents of his town out of money. The occupying Roman army gave him that right and enforced it for him. Jesus was the first new thing to come into his sorry existence for a long time. He heard the rumor that this radical Bible teacher, this healing, loving, miracle-working man was coming into town. A spark of passion swept his soul and he made up his mind to see Jesus. But he had an obstacle. The crowds would be there and he had two things working against him: He was short and could easily get swept up in a crowd; and most crowds would gladly sweep him away without a second thought.

Springtime passion says “I have to see Jesus”. In the biblical account, he climbs a huge sycamore-fig tree to wait in its branches. I can only assume his cadre of Roman guards watched the trunk of the tree. Sycamore-fig trees have 30–50 foot limbs. I can see him straining and wiggling out as far as he could to get the best view. When Jesus walked along he deliberately went right under where Zaccheus was sitting. “Zaccheus, come on down here” he said, “I must stay at your house tonight”. The short guy vaulted out of the tree and invited the Master to come to his house. He must have been pinching himself along the way at this newly found relationship. New love, new job, new school can all be like that. But in his zeal, he also picked up a counter-melody in the crowd. The whisperers along the way were wondering how Jesus could go and spend any time with “that sinner”. Perhaps a part of him wanted to spare himself and Jesus humiliation. He could have just called the dinner off.

Instead, spring-like passion compelled him to shout out: “Listen, here and now. If I have cheated any man out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” Jewish law required that a thief pay back a quarter more of everything he stole. Zaccheus turns that requirement on its head in his passion to cement his relationship with God’s son. You can just see everyone figuring out how much he owed them. This was going to cost him a lot.

Springtime passion says “money is no object”. Springtime passion says “Full speed ahead”. Springtime passion says “Any man who plows a field and looks back is not worthy of the Kingdom of heaven.”

Loren Cunningham, the founder of Youth With A Mission, had a vision many years ago of waves and waves from the ocean coming to shore. The Lord showed him these were thousands upon thousands of young people becoming missionaries and changing the face of the Church forever. At this writing, no other movement in this last century has been as successful at launching missionary careers as YWAM. I personally know several of the early leaders of the movement, and they all tell tales of great vision, moving passion, incredible faith and lasting truth. It was the springtime of their passion and it was good.

When is the last time you had a springtime passion? Jesus once told the “old fogey” Pharisees that a great follower of God is like a man who goes into his treasure house and brings out both old and new treasures. The Pharisees had the old treasures of the Law and the Prophets. But they did not possess a desire nor a stomach for new things that God was doing. Fine aged wine is nice, but so is new ale.

Go to God and ask Him to show you what new things He may be doing right now in your life. I rarely find a time where one or two new things aren’t being born.

But as satisfying and life-giving as Spring is, it may just pale when compared to the majesty of summertime passion.

Next time.

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Pat Robertson, you Flaming Heretic…Repent!

September 15, 2011

I am a gentle man. I am a man who sometimes laughs at the foibles of others. I am a man who does not get angry easily.

What Pat Robertson has now done is too much for me. That buffoon of a Bible Teacher, that political juggernaut wolf disguised as a sheep has gone TOO FAR!

Read this article. In a recent episode of his show, he advised a man that he would be better off divorcing his wife who has Alzheimer’s since she has experienced “a kind of death anyway”.

This is a  ridiculous, heretical teaching. She is not dead. Her spirit is very much alive inside of that tortured mind. With this logic, the little children with severe mental retardation should be abandoned. With this logic, any time we feel our spouse or friends or children don’t meet up to our standards of a quality of life, then we should consider them dead to us.

I know a man whose wife had a stroke. She could not talk, could not walk, could not smile, could not have sex, had to be fed, drooled most of the time. Yet, every single night, he dressed in a three-piece suit and visited her in the hospital so they could eat their evening meal together. Every night he brought her a flower and every Sunday a bouquet of roses. He told me “I had the better part for 30 years. I have the worse part now. It’s worth it.”

I know another guy however, who divorced his wife because she was in an iron lung from polio. I know another guy whose wife developed a medium degree of mental illness and he felt justified in divorcing her because “she isn’t the woman I said my vows to.”

Repent Pat Robertson. If the 100 other nonsensical teachings  you have brought forward over the years are not enough, this one disqualifies you. Shame on you. This woman needs to have her husband by her side until her last day, if for no other reason than because it shows the undying love of God for us who were dead in our trespasses and sins.

If you think I’m being too hard on Robertson, then you don’t understand how much a privilege it is to be a teacher. He has abused that privilege and as a fellow teacher I am calling him out.

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Failure Can Be Success

September 14, 2011

In a recent New York Times Article, Failure is Success, the author quotes one of the city’s leading principals as saying that kids would be better off failing at times and being given harder and harder obstacles to overcome than the ease with which we have graced their lives:

The most critical missing piece, Randolph explained as we sat in his office last fall, is character — those essential traits of mind and habit that were drilled into him at boarding school in England and that also have deep roots in American history. “Whether it’s the pioneer in the Conestoga wagon or someone coming here in the 1920s from southern Italy, there was this idea in America that if you worked hard and you showed real grit, that you could be successful,” he said. “Strangely, we’ve now forgotten that. People who have an easy time of things, who get 800s on their SAT’s, I worry that those people get feedback that everything they’re doing is great. And I think as a result, we are actually setting them up for long-term failure. When that person suddenly has to face up to a difficult moment, then I think they’re screwed, to be honest. I don’t think they’ve grown the capacities to be able to handle that.”

I think he’s completely right. We fear failing so much that we don’t realize it is only those who have learned how to overcome it that become the most successful members of society. Read the entire article.

 

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Prenatal Effect on Our Stress Levels

September 12, 2011

During the World War 2 occupation of Holland, the Germans blockaded that country in the winter of 1944, thereby causing mass starvation and all the stresses that accompany this horrific state.

An exhaustive study has been done in recent years looking at the effects of that winter not only on the people who survived it, but also upon the children conceived during that winter. That time is called the “Dutch Hunger Winter” and there have been dozens of scholarly inquiries into the effects on fetuses. This gives us one of the most poignant insights into the effects of stress on unborn children. You can read all the findings on this site.

But here are some remarkable conclusions. The children conceived in the Hunger Winter have much higher rates of the following

  • Heart Disease
  • High Cholesterol
  • Stroke
  • Renal disease
  • Headaches
  • Stress-related mental illness.

All of the above symptoms are recognized as classic results of stress. That means the unborn infants of those under extreme stress will be susceptible to stress’ effects also. To me, this is another indicator that we need God’s help to eradicate not only the consequences of our own actions, but to heal the legacy left to us by those who brought us into the world. God is the only perfect parent who can help us achieve the health and vitality we were meant to have. As it says in 1 Corinthians 6: “The body is the Lord’s and the Lord is for the Body”.

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Hours and Hours

September 11, 2011

There are 168 hours in any given week.

Coincidentally, 168 hours is the average amount that Americans watch television in a month.

We sleep 200 hours a month. Therefore, we watch almost as much television as we sleep. If you add our Internet habit to our television habit, we actually watch more than we sleep.

No wonder Starbucks sales are so brisk. No wonder we have become more stupid.

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The Core Values of God

September 9, 2011

During World War 2, Corrie Ten Boom’s family hid Jews escaping the Nazis. Corrie’s father was a follower of God and could not stand to see the devastatingly cruel way the Jews were being treated. He was caught in the horns of a dilemma though. He also did not believe in lying, even if passively (i.e. withholding the truth). Therefore, when regular sweeps were done by Nazi soldiers, he was sometimes asked if he knew the location of certain Jewish families. On more than one occasion, they asked him about people hiding in his house.

This used to be referred to as “Situational Ethics”. In Situational Ethics, the ethical beliefs are not absolute, but change to match the situation. These kind of ethics are frowned upon by Absolutists who believe you should always tell the truth, always be faithful, always keep to your value systems.

But the Ten Boom family did not have a changing value system. What they had was a Conflict of Values. Though it does not happen often to people with strong moral and ethical convictions, there are times when two or more of a person’s core values come in conflict with each other. That is an awful moment. I think of the movie “Chariots of Fire” where sprinter Eric Liddle is competing in the Olympic Games. He is also a preacher and son of missionaries. A Fast Christian. On the boat to the Olympics in Paris, Liddle learns he must run his first heat on a Sunday, which would violate his belief that one should not violate the Sabbath.

He had a conflict of values: The value of representing King and Country versus the value of keeping one of God’s commandments. This conflict is much different than situational ethics. With situational ethics a person decides whether or not they want to apply their ethical principles in a given situation. With Conflicting Ethics, a person has to decide which ethical value carries more weight than the other.

Liddel was asked by the Prince of Wales if he would honor his King and Country above the Commandment. He chose the commandment. Ten Boom was not asked, but he had to choose between Telling the Truth and rescuing someone oppressed by evil forces. He chose to abandon truth-telling.

The more ethical a person is, the deeper they hold their convictions, the more painful the conflict will be when their values collide. In the Lord of the Rings, Bilbo has to choose between preserving his life and saving all of Middle Earth. Almost every great hero of literature has to choose between two values and decide which one carries more weight.

No one has greater and more consistent core values than God. Therefore, no one has a greater problem in reconciling those moments when God must sacrifice one of those values for another. Let me show you how this works by listing seven of the most prominent core values of God:

1.    Free choice for man

2.    The Will/plan of God

3.    The holiness/justice of God

4.    The love of God

5.    Truth

6.    To create a family for Himself

7.    To reveal himself to all creation

As we will see in the articles following this one, God does have several junctures where he has to choose between two core values. We can observe through the Bible and through our experience exactly which ones God has chosen. And because God has all of these values, there must come times when He has to weigh his own value system and choose which ones are weightier.

If you look at the list above, I believe this is the order of weight God places upon each value. This weighted system only exists now that there is a being that can freely choose (man) and did not exist before we were created in exactly the same way. Just so you can see this weighted value system in action, let me mention some very simple points in time when God had to choose between two values.

Creation of Adam and Eve: Adam and Eve were created with the ability to freely choose anything they wanted. God gave them a moral choice in order to test the value the two of them placed on this abillity to choose. They were forbidden to eat from the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil. God is a holy God and his holiness is something He wants to see in all the universe (Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven). But a holy God, allowed Adam and Eve to exist as sinners. He allows the Devil to exist as a sinner. Therefore, even though God’s plan is that all creation live in righteousness and stay away from sin, the moment Adam and Eve sinned, God allowed it. If God had not allowed it, sin could not have existed. Therefore the Free Choice of Man is weightier than God’s justice when God has to choose.

Revelation and Truth: We are told in Deuteronomy 29:29 “The hidden things belong to our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever.” This means that God has a lot more knowledge than he has ever revealed to us. In fact, historic Christianity believes and teaches that God revealed his truth slowly over the centuries after the Flood. This is called Progressive Revelation. Instead of instituting the Cross right after mankind sinned, God brought about a teaching program that included animal sacrifices. He did not let them in on the full truth until much later. Therefore, the plan of God to bring about understanding of Himself with mankind was more important than a full revelation of who God is to all of us.

God has very clear value systems. Next time, we’ll see that God brings all of them together in the Cross without losing any of them. The Cross is the one place in the Universe where all of God’s values were accomplished.

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