Thursday, August 28, 2008

double standard

Came across a great article from the Marriage Connection email I received today. Here's a link to the full article at Christianity Today.

Why You Need A Double Standard
http://www.christianitytoday.com/mp/7m1/7m1008.html

A few of my favorite quotes from the article - some of them not applying just to marriage.
"The person who understands the evil in his own heart is the only person who is useful, fruitful and solid in his beliefs and obedience. Others only delude themselves and thus upset families, churches and all other relationships. In their self-pride and judgment of others, they show great inconsistency." (John Owen, puritan scholar)

"No one is of the Spirit of Christ but he that has the utmost compassion for sinners. Nor is there any greater sign of your own perfection than you find yourself all love and compassion toward them that are very weak and defective. And on the other hand, you have never less reason to be pleased with yourself than when you find yourself most angry and offended at the behavior of others." (William Law, eighteenth-century Anglican)

That was the holy double standard I needed. As I become more unyielding and aggressive in attacking my own sins and weaknesses, I must extend more and more grace and gentleness toward others in theirs.

If each of us assumes our spouse has it the hardest and that we miss the mark most frequently—and act accordingly—we'll find a mix that's just about right. When we adopt this double standard, we find that encouragement replaces accusation, appreciation replaces resentfulness and understanding replaces judgment. And isn't that the type of marriage we're all looking for? (Gary Thomas)

lost self

I admit it, I am now an unabashed Henri Nouwen fanatic! His writing touches me in very deep places. You'll be seeing more and more of his quotes here, as I devour his books.
I am beginning now to see how radically the character of my spiritual journey will change when I no longer think of God as hiding out and making it as difficult as possible for me to find him, but, instead, as the one who is looking for me while I am doing the hiding. When I look through God's eyes at my lost self and discover God's joy at my coming home, then my life may become less anguished and more trusting.

Wouldn't it be good to increase God's joy by letting God find me and carry me home and celebrate my return with the angels? Wouldn't it be wonderful to make God smile by giving God the chance to find me and love me lavishly? Questions like these raise a real issue: that of my own self-concept. Can I accept that I am worth looking for? Do I believe that there is a real desire in God to simply be with me?

I understand the whole concept of God looking for us, desiring us, may stretch some, but don't forget the garden... from Genesis 3

8 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the LORD God called to the man, "Where are you?" 10 He answered, "I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid." 21 The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.
I always think of verse 21 as a special love note from God! He wants to be with us, to spend time with us, to walk with us, and to cover us with His unconditional love!

When Tempted, Seek Support

Great devotion today from Rick Warren...

When Tempted, Seek Support
by Rick Warren

You are better off to have a friend than to be all alone . . . . If you fall, your friend can help you up. But if you fall without having a friend nearby, you are really in trouble. Ecclesiastes 4:9–10 (CEV)

*** *** *** ***

When you’re tempted, reveal your struggle to a godly friend or support group. You don’t have to broadcast it to the whole world, but you need at least one person you can honestly share your struggles with.

The Bible says, “You are better off to have a friend than to be all alone . . . . If you fall, your friend can help you up. But if you fall without having a friend nearby, you are really in trouble” (Ecclesiastes 4:9–10 CEV).

Let me be clear: If you’re losing the battle against a persistent bad habit, an addiction, or a temptation, and you’re stuck in a repeating cycle of good intention–failure–guilt, you will not get better on your own! You need the help of other people.

Some temptations are only overcome with the help of a partner who prays for you, encourages you, and holds you accountable.

God’s plan for your growth and freedom includes other Christians. Authentic, honest fellowship is the antidote to your lonely struggle against those sins that won’t budge. God says it is the only way you’re going to break free: “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed” (James 5:16, NIV).

Do you really want to be healed of that persistent temptation that keeps defeating you over and over? God’s solution is plain: Don’t repress it; confess it! Don’t conceal it; reveal it. Revealing your feeling is the beginning of healing.

Hiding your hurt only intensifies it. Problems grow in the dark and become bigger and bigger, but when exposed to the light of truth, they shrink. You’re only as sick as your secrets. So take off your mask, stop pretending you’re perfect, and walk into freedom.

© 2008 Purpose Driven Life. All rights reserved.

Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., one of America's largest and best-known churches. In addition, Rick is author of the New York Times bestseller The Purpose Driven Life and The Purpose Driven Church, which was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th Century. He is also founder of Pastors.com, a global Internet community for ministers.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

addiction

Now Matt Tullos is getting way too personal. Check out his thoughts on the flesh and addiction. It's his journal, so I guess he can get as personal as he wants to, huh? Don't want to lose this one, so I'm also gonna cut/paste it below.

flesh is our great superpower adversary-used by satan- caused by the fall.

flesh seeks to seduce us into doing things that will kill the pain and fill the void. Flesh is the producer of those private, personal "tv commercials" that will play until you buy into the temptation. commericals include flashbacks of feeling good in the flesh, remembrances of times when flesh saved the day, and emotionally charged reasons you deserve to feel good momentarily. (all lies ofcourse...flesh is the original sick freak)

flesh will tell any lie to feed itself. flesh is amoral- in other words, it doesn't understand the concept of moral reasoning. it doesn't understand faith, it doesn't understand God. That's why it's so dang hard and/or miserable to be a fleshy disciple. All flesh knows is that it wants to use drugs, sex, food, accomplishments as pain killing and feel better stuff. Usually things that make us feel better have some use in the proper context: food is necessary, sex causes procreation, drugs can sometimes heal, and accomplishments- well- they accomplish. But alas, once flesh learns about how chemicals and experiences can push the feel-good buttons in the brain, it is incapable of seeing why we shouldn't just push those buttons all of the time.

Flesh will carry on a conversation throughout the day as you go to lunch, as you watch tv, as you stand before powerful minds and speak, as you drive down the road. "If only we could shut that dirty son-of-a-....gun up!"

Fortunately we have a Brother who has the power to shut that son of a gun up. That's not to say that flesh goes away when we walk the "cross road." It simply means that we have hope.

Why God Shouldn't Use You

Why God Shouldn't Use You

by Matt Tullos

You may say, There are many reasons God shouldn’t use me. You’re right! But don’t worry, you’re in good company.
Moses stuttered.
David’s armor didn’t fit.
John Mark was rejected by Paul.
Timothy had ulcers.
Hosea’s wife was a prostitute.
Amos’ only training was in the school of fig-tree pruning.
Jacob was a liar.
David had an affair.
Solomon was too rich.
Jesus was too poor.
Abraham was too old.
David was too young.
Peter was afraid of death.
Lazarus was dead.
John was self-righteous.
Naomi was a widow.
Paul was a murderer.
So was Moses.
Jonah ran from God.
Miriam was a gossip.
Gideon and Thomas both doubted.
Jeremiah was depressed and suicidal.
Elijah was burned out.
John the Baptist was a loudmouth.
Martha was a worrywart.
Mary was lazy.
Samson had long hair.
Noah got drunk.
Did I mention that Moses had a short fuse?
So did Peter, Paul—well, lots of folks did.

But God doesn’t require a job interview. He doesn’t hire and fire like most bosses, because He’s more our Dad than our Boss. He doesn’t look at financial gain or loss. He’s not prejudiced or partial, not judging, grudging, sassy, or brassy, not deaf to our cry, not blind to our need. As much as we try, God’s gifts are free. We could do wonderful things for wonderful people and still not be wonderful. Satan says, You’re not worthy. Jesus says, So what? I am. Satan looks back and sees our mistakes. God looks back and sees the cross. He doesn’t calculate what you did in ’98. It’s not even on the record. Sure. There are lots of reasons God can’t use me or you. But if you are magically in love with Him; if you hunger for Him more than your next breath, He’ll use you in spite of who you are, where you’ve been, or what you look like. I pray that we will step out of our limitations into the unlimitable nature of who God is. Then our passion for God and our passion to communicate Him will make mincemeat of our limitations.

Reprinted from Actors Not Included: 303 Scripts for Church Drama, © Copyright 1999 LifeWay Press.

Between "Failure" and "Fraud"

I ran across the following great article at:

http://www.christianitytoday.com/le/2008/001/14.106.html

Between "Failure" and "Fraud"
I hear two voices—assessing, accusing. Which will I listen to?
by Mark Labberton

Pastors have always been Sunday fare, but performance expectations can arrive by special delivery any day of the week. On one such day, a congregant arrived in my office to tell me just what she made of my performance as a pastor. In summary, not much.

She was expansive in the adjectives she used to describe my deficiencies. As I listened, I recognized some truth in what she said. But she wanted more than my agreement, she wanted my resignation. Her logic was simple: "If you are not who you should be, you shouldn't be a pastor." By grace, I realized there was another logic worth considering. It says, "You are not who you should be, and God wants to use you anyway."

God's mysterious strategy is to use fallen people to witness to a gospel of hope and transformation. That means underperformance is built into the paradigm. It means those who do not live up to expectations are the very people God uses to call others who don't measure up either. This approach is completely counterintuitive, but then so is grace.

Grace is not an excuse to hide our deficiencies or deny our failures, and it's not a heat shield to protect us from getting burned. But grace does mean our failures don't have to paint us into a corner where the only way out is to abandon our call. Grace sets our lives in what the psalmist calls "the broad place," off the knife-edge of judgment, and nowhere near the winner-takes-all option some may offer us.

I tried to respond gently to the outspoken critic in my office. "You are more right than you know," I told her. "I don't have many of the qualities of a gifted pastor. But you have the wrong list of deficiencies. The real list is far worse. God knows the real list, and God, by his grace, has still called me to be a pastor."

I believe what I said, but living it is far more difficult. The temptation in ministry is always to focus on expectations rather than grace.

In a very difficult season when finances were tight, I was driving a dilapidated car that had been donated to the church. It had lots of problems, including a ceiling lining that drooped down and grazed my head every time the broken shock absorbers launched me from the seat toward the roof. The car began to speak to me. It said, "Failure." Why couldn't I get my life together? I was getting older every year, I had a family, this car was humiliating, and I felt like a failure.

This continued for months until the day I took the car to the airport to pick up my nieces. It was a very hot day, the air-conditioning in the car didn't work (surprise), so all four windows were down. Only later did I realize vinyl flakes from the sun-scorched dashboard were being blown into the backseat and covering my sweet nieces.

That day, still without the funds to buy a second car, we leased a new car. It was wonderful! No flakes, no droopy ceiling lining, no broken shocks. I was thrilled until the day this car also began to talk. Its message was also just one word: "Fraud." I was no more put together, no more successful with this new car than with the scuzzy borrowed one. It just looked better. I was a fake.

My life swings between voices calling "failure" and "fraud." The key is not listening to either. I'm not as bad as my critics accuse me of being, but I'm not as good as I've led some to believe. And right there, in the truth somewhere in between, is where we hear the voice of God. He still says to me, and to everyone called to follow Jesus, "I want you and I will use you."

In ministry performance matters, but grace matters more.

Mark Labberton is pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Berkeley, California.

Copyright © 2008 by the author or Christianity Today International/Leadership Journal. Winter 2008, Vol. XXIX, No. 1, Page 106

Monday, August 25, 2008

Let it go, Louie!

I use this phrase from time to time, and seems like many have not heard it, or don't remember these commercials... so here it is...

Monday, August 18, 2008

Authentic Friendships

from The Purpose Driven Life Daily Devotional...

Authentic Friendships
by Rick Warren

But if we live in the light, as God is in the light, we can share fellowship with each other. Then the blood of Jesus, God’s Son, cleanses us from every sin. If we say we have no sin, we are fooling ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 1 John 1:7–8 (NCV)

*** *** *** ***

In Christian fellowship people should experience authenticity.

Authentic fellowship is not superficial, surface-level chit-chat. It’s genuine, heart-to-heart, sometimes gut-level, sharing.

It happens when people get honest about who they are and what is happening in their lives. They share their hurts, reveal their feelings, confess their failures, disclose their doubts, admit their fears, acknowledge their weaknesses, and ask for help and prayer.

Authenticity is the exact opposite of what you find in many churches. Instead of an atmosphere of honesty and humility, there is pretending, role-playing, politicking, superficial politeness, and shallow conversation.

People wear masks, keep their guard up, and act as if everything is rosy in their lives. These attitudes are the death of real friendship.

It’s only as we become open about our lives that we experience authentic fellowship. The Bible says, “If we live in the light, as God is in the light, we can share fellowship with each other. . . . If we say we have no sin, we are fooling ourselves” (1 John 1:7–8 NCV).

The world thinks intimacy occurs in the dark, but God says it happens in the light. We tend to use darkness to hide our hurts, faults, fears, failures, and flaws. But in the light, we bring them all out into the open and admit who we really are.

Of course, being authentic requires both courage and humility. It means facing our fear of exposure, rejection, and being hurt again.

Why would anyone take such a risk?

Because it’s the only way to grow spiritually and be emotionally healthy. The Bible says, “Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed” (James 5:16 MSG).

© 2008 Purpose Driven Life. All rights reserved.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Come Home

There are two realities to which you must cling. First, God has promised that you will receive the love you have been searching for. And second, God is faithful to that promise.

So stop wandering around. Instead, come home and trust that God will bring you what you need. Your whole life you have been running about, seeking the love you desire. Now it is time to end that search. Trust that God will give you that all-fulfilling love and will give it in a human way. Before you die, God will offer you the deepest satisfaction you can desire. Just stop running and start trusting and receiving.

Home is where you are truly safe. It is where you can receive what you desire. You need human hands to hold you there so you don’t run away again. But when you come home and stay home, you will find the love that will bring rest to your heart.

- Henri Nouwen

The Inner Voice of Love (p.12)

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Shack revisited (i.e., finished)

My "quote of the day" is from The Shack.
"The trouble with living by priorities... is that it sees everything as a hierarchy, a pyramid... If you put God at the top, what does that really mean and how much is enough?"

"I don't just want a piece of you and a piece of your life. Even if you were able, which you are not, to give me the biggest piece, that is not what I want. I want all of you and all of every part of you and your day."
I just finished (finally) The Shack by William P. Young. Evidently it's pretty controversial, although the back of the book clearly reads "FICTION". ;-)

I won't labor the controversy, but if you're interested you can google and come up with plenty of banter. I mentioned this before in an earlier post, where Christianity Today states, "a tale of tragedy redeemed, not a theological treatise." If you want an exhaustive theological analysis, I'd suggest clicking here or here. If you want to hear Al Mohler rail against it, click here [skip ahead to the 11:21 mark].

Since I'm not a theologian, I won't argue with any of these reviews. The book and the reviewers do a fine job of speaking for themselves. Honestly, I did wince several times during my read. But as mom used to say, "eat the meat and spit out the bones", and I think that's pretty good advice for this book, which again, is clearly listed as a work of FICTION.

So, what do I think? I think it's a good book, maybe even a great one. I enjoyed the read, and I had tears in my eyes several times during the last few weeks as I read it. The author touches the theme of grace more than once, and drives home the point that God is "especially fond" of you... (no matter how dark or far away from God you might feel) ...something that I don't think gets said in most churches nearly often enough. I'm not big on fiction so this is a real stretch, but I'd recommend this book, and I may even read it again myself. (After I finish devouring all the Henri Nouwen that I've checked out from the library.)

If you're uncertain or don't feel like you're strong enough to discern some of the shaky theological concerns, read or listen to the analysis' I referenced above, then dive in to a work of FICTION, and try to allow yourself to hear the author's heart of encouragement for those who are hurt, wounded, broken, grieving or have other great sadness in their lives. I think you will be blessed.

(Did you notice I kept capitalizing the word FICTION?)

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

the BIG 4 - 0

Happy Birthday to my wonderful wife, whose birthday is today!

solitude

Solitude is the garden of our hearts which yearn for love. It is the place where our aloneness can bear fruit. It is the home for our restless bodies and anxious minds. Solitude, whether it is connected with a physical space or not, is essential for our spiritual lives. It is not an easy place to be, since we are so insecure and fearful that we are easily distracted by whatever promises immediate satisfaction. Solitude is not immediately satisfying, because in solitude we meet our demons, our addictions, our feelings of lust and anger, and our immense need for recognition and approval. But if we do not run away, we will meet there also the One who says: "Do not be afraid. I am with you, and I will guide you through the valley of darkness."

Let's keep returning to our solitude.

- Henri J.M. Nouwen (from "Bread for the Journey")
as quoted in "The Dance of Life", p.72-73

systematic theology - 2

A scientist can explain the universe in which common-sense men live, but the scientific explanation is not first; life is first. The same with theology: theology is the systematizing of the intellectual expression of life from God; it is a mighty thing, but it is second, not first. . . . If we put it first, we will do what Job's friends did, refusing to look at facts and remaining consistent to certain ideas which pervert the character of God.
- Oswald Chambers
(as quoted in "The Gospel According to Job", p.257)

Sunday, August 03, 2008

quote of the day

We don't need to grasp the divine. We need the divine to grasp us - just as we are.
- Michael Andrew Ford (from The Dance of Life, p.31)

peregrinatio est tacere

To be on pilgrimage is to be silent.
- Abba Tithoes