Archive for May, 2012

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The Hardest Prophecy ever Given by God

May 29, 2012

When we think of the Love of God, it is very possible to slip into a motif of sentimentalism. Be assured of this: God is not sentimental. His love does not drip of syrupy platitudes and pictures of little puppies. He loves the old gnarly dogs just as much as the cute youngsters.

But most people don’t define love the way God does. That makes it more difficult to understand some of the things God does and says. There may not be anything more difficult than Ezekiel 24:15-18. Here’s what it says:

15 The word of the Lord came to me: 16 “Son of man, with one blow I am about to take away from you the delight of your eyes. Yet do not lament or weep or shed any tears. 17 Groan quietly; do not mourn for the dead. Keep your turban fastened and your sandals on your feet; do not cover your mustache and beard or eat the customary food of mourners. ”

18 So I spoke to the people in the morning, and in the evening my wife died. The next morning I did as I had been commanded.

God tells the Prophet Ezekiel that his wife is going to die that evening and he is not allowed to outwardly mourn her in any way. This may be one of the most incomprehensible things God has ever asked anyone to do. Leaving aside for a moment that God is telling someone their loved one is about to die. Leaving aside for a moment that, from the way it is worded, it appears that Ezekiel and his wife were very close and loving.

Actually, we can’t leave those things aside. He is not asking this of a divorced prophet or of a man whose wife was a shrew. This is the love of his life. Not only is she about to die, but he is not allowed to grieve and he has to talk to people about why he is not speaking.

Why would a loving God do this to one of his best people? The love of God compels God to do the best thing for the most amount of people while keeping two truths in mind:

1. That people have freedom of choice over their own lives.

2. That sin is powerful and if allowed to go unchecked will destroy every person on this planet. God’s purpose is to deal with this second truth without completely violating the first truth.

The entire nation of Israel has wandered away from God and is practicing witchcraft, rampant immorality, idol worship, child sacrifice and war cult activity. God has given Ezekiel and a handful of other prophets messages to pass on in warning about where these actions are leading. No one is paying any attention to them. But as the days before consequences for their actions get closer, the messages of God become sharper. Finally, God uses a metaphor that will drive home the point. But it requires a picture that will not easily leave people’s minds.

Several things to remember. First, we all die. And death is in itself not a curse. The cross of Christ has removed sin from death and therefore taken away its sting. Second, we will all die when it is our appointed time to die. Nothing anyone else does or says can change that. Third, those of us who believe in God do not see death as a final moment. Fourth, sometimes for many of us, grieving has to be postponed due to other critical issues.

The nation of Israel are about to be attacked and attacked and attacked by their enemies. This time, God is not going to stop the attacks. People will die by the thousands, not because God is unloving, but because the nation didn’t want to acknowledge God any longer. This prophetic action God is calling Ezekiel to (i.e. not mourning his wife’s death) will mirror the coming days when the chaos and confusion of being attacked will leave people no time to grieve as they run for their own lives.

God gave them this picture to warn them and perhaps shock them into seeing what their actions would cause. They could have changed their minds and their ways and turned back to God. It may not have prevented everything from happening, but God is a forgiving God and will help us when we turn to Him.

We ought to remember the words of C. S. Lewis in “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” when describing Aslan, a figure of God Himself: “He is good, but He’s not safe”.

Not safe indeed. But He is loving, good and forgiving. And just so you know, God did comfort the prophet after he gave this word. At the end of that chapter he does tell him there will be a time he can openly grieve and God will help him.

What we all need to know is that when we think God does not care about the smallest things in our lives, we can be assured He does. But there are moments when God’s actions tell us He has bigger fish to fry. If we know he loves us fiercely, that can help us get through the tough times.

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Wedding Shows Are Another Ploy

May 24, 2012

I once officiated at a wedding where the Bride and Groom spent over $18,000 on the wedding ceremony. There were real swans on the lawn as she drove up, ten musicians playing coronet trumpets as she ascended the stairs, a 20 foot train on her wedding dress and the church was a 200-year old landmark that her father pressured politicians to allow her to use. Result: Their marriage lasted 5 years and they split up. That’s about $3500/year.

It used to be that people found this story amusing. It used to be that people found it to be quirky, unique and out of the ordinary. Now, it doesn’t really cause anyone to bat an eye. Why? They see this all the time on the half dozen “Wedding” reality shows. And I believe the effect this is having on couples is much more insidious than people realize.

Most people who read this blog regularly are followers of Jesus Christ. I realize a number of you are not. So, let me be clear on a few things that the Bible teaches us. I am not asking you to agree with what the Bible teaches, just to acknowledge that it does.

First, there is nothing wrong with being single. There is nothing that makes a married person more important than a single person. In fact, the Apostle Paul almost seems to endorse the idea that if you’re single you can serve God with a greater fervor than a married person. Let me say it this way: If you want to be single, good for you. God has no problem with that.

Second, God also tells single people that having sexual relationships with other people is unhealthy. Sex does more than bind two people physically together. It creates emotional, psychological, relational, spiritual, social, financial and memory bonds that cannot be broken completely. The reason for sex within the marriage covenant is that sex creates ties that are best expressed when there is a lifelong commitment attached.

Third, the Bible teaches that if you’re single and the need for sex is getting too strong, there is nothing wrong with getting married soon. And the goal is to stay married.

Now, what do wedding shows have to do with this? They make weddings so altogether more important and EXPENSIVE than they need to be. In some misguided ideal promoted by wedding dress manufacturers, cake designers, rental hall companies etc. we are led to believe that you cannot have a great marriage without a correspondingly great wedding ceremony. There could be nothing further from the truth.

The sole purpose for a wedding ceremony is to drive home the permanent nature of the vows to the bride and groom. All the rest is fun and games; and I don’t have anything against the rest of the hoopla except this. If the cost and complications of a wedding ceremony are keeping you from getting married any time soon, you need to do one of three things:

1. Get married now in a simple ceremony and have the big ceremony later.

2. Ditch the big ceremony altogether.

3. Break up and find someone who hasn’t been sucked in to wedding shows.

I’m not trying to be funny either. People have always struggled with sex outside of marriage. I am not here to pound that pulpit or say that everyone is evil. Sex is as natural a need as we have. But there isn’t a person on this planet that doesn’t think that sex complicates great friendships. And I don’t know a lot of people who can be in a deep committed relationship who can abstain from sex forever.

So, my advice for all of us who have a biblical mindset is to stop watching these unrealistic and distracting wedding shows and just go back to being smart again. Have a small wedding and enjoy your guests. Put away the swans…put away the huge meals…and have a wonderful marriage. That’s a thousand times more important.

Or stay single and celibate. It doesn’t matter.

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Why You Can’t Remember Traumatic Events

May 2, 2012

Let me get the scientific part out of the way first. To understand the rest of this article, I need to define three things:

  1. Traumatic Event: Any happening which effects major change in our emotional, physical and memory functions
  2. Glucocorticoids: Substances produced during trauma that help our brain cope with the overwhelming nature of the event
  3. Hippocampus: The central core of our memory system that allows us to take events and store them in long-term memory.

Armed with those definitions, let me walk you through recent discoveries with memory research. In about a dozen studies (but most recently in this one by Benno Roozendaal et al), it has been shown that when we have a traumatic event in our lives, the body produces major amounts of glucocorticoids. This helps to calm us down so we can cope. It also gives us that “numb” feeling that many people describe during stress. But glucocorticoids have a transverse effect. They destroy neurons in the Hippocampus. This means that the more stress we are under, the less we will be able to store the traumatic event in long-term memory. This partially explains how some people who endured years of trauma through abuse have very little memory of the entire season of events.

However, there is one other effect of Glucocorticoids. They enhance the limbic system in the brain. The limbic system helps us store our emotional reactions in events. Our brains can actually store our emotional output during a traumatic event much more completely than we can store the facts of the event.

The implication of these two findings is huge for TPM (Theophostic Management) counseling. TPM counseling accesses emotional reactions in the present time and follows them back to their original memory. Since emotions are actually heightened during trauma, they are a more accurate way to access traumatic memories than any other method.

I consider this a true endorsement for TPM and EMDR approaches to emotional and spiritual well-being. Each of these counseling methods relies on triggered emotions to go back to false beliefs and decisions that are still affecting our lives from those trauma.

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