Tuesday, June 30, 2009

No 'Health' in 'Health Department'

You shouldn’t be allowed to use the word “health” in the title of a place that, when you walk in, makes you think you are about to catch a venereal disease. Something about that just doesn’t seem quite fitting.

That was my experience today when I walked into the Polk County Heath Dept. While there were services there for people looking to travel abroad (shots, information, etc.) and families with financial needs, (kid check-ups, dental exams, etc.), the only advertised services were for things that should be treated with a size 15 boot, not a little pill or a long needle. With signs like “Not ready to be pregnant?”, “STD’s Made Simple”, and “Family Planning the Easy Way,” I wondered if maybe I had a stumbled into a make-shift medical clinic that doubled as a clearing house for pimps and prostitutes. It seemed like the only thing being offered was an apparently easy (and tax-payer funded) way out of the physical consequences of an unhealthy, destructive lifestyle. Truth is, few people are actually there because of poor health they’re hoping to change as it relates to the natural body; most are there because of sinful habits they won’t change as it relates to their sexual appetites. Personally, I would change the name of the building to the “Polk County Department for the Unhealthy and Undisciplined,” because that’s primarily what they do and who they serve.

Ah, the good ole’ American tax system at work! Nothing like seeing your hard-earned tax dollars waste away in the abyss of cultural tolerance and moral neutrality. How sad!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Some Thoughts on Love and Marriage

Many people claim to understand love. Some view it as something you fall into, like it’s a great big, surprising pit you tumble into with a pillow-top mattress and a hot chick waiting for you at the bottom. Others see it as something that is in the air – a feeling you catch, almost like a cold that you don’t get over for a really long time. Still others think of it as something you make; so they cook up a string of romantic flings to try and satisfy their sexual appetite.

The error in all of these perspectives – which are the unfortunate but unvoiced opinion of most average people in the world -- is that love starts and ends with them. It can be created by them for their own good. It’s all about their needs and desires. Consequently, love is, to them, a three-letter word: “Get.” Thus, their relationships are, for all practical purposes, fundamentally flawed.

But truly, God understands love best, because, as the Bible points out, he is love (I John 4:8). So to really know love, we need to know God. In fact, this is exactly the point John is making in these verses in 1 John 4 – that loving others correctly starts with knowing God properly.
This matters greatly because when we start with God as the source of love – which he is – we end up in a radically different place than if we start with ourselves. Starting with God means that love is not a three-letter word, but a four-letter word: “Give.” Why? Because giving is exactly what God did to prove his love. This same writer, John, confirmed this when he wrote in another of his letters (John 3:16), “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes should never perish but have eternal life.”

You see, God didn’t need anything. He wasn’t lonely or on the rebound. Yet, he gave of himself so that we – sinners who were separated from him – might be saved. In this way God defined love as no one ever has: the sacrifice of who we are and what we have for someone else’s benefit.

That’s the heart of the Gospel. God, in his great love, has redeemed us through Jesus, for no reason other than it was his good pleasure to. He didn’t have to; we didn’t deserve it. But he loved us, and gave himself in the form of the God-Man Jesus to be the sacrificial substitute for our sin. As Paul declared it in Romans 5:8, “But God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

As a result, all who know God can love like God. Sacrificially. Permanently. Selflessly. Radically. And that’s exactly the kind of love it takes in a marriage. Truth is, without God, marriage is nothing more than two people using each other to get their physical, sexual, and emotional needs met. But with God as the centerpiece, marriage is the avenue by which a man gives of himself to satisfy his woman in every human way. And a woman gives of herself to satisfy her man in every human way. It is the spiritual and physical union of two people committed to giving, not getting.

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God” (I John 4:7).

Friday, June 19, 2009

Resistance vs. Persistance

Saying “no” (resistance) has its place. Just read Proverbs 1 and you’ll see that truth clearly communicated. But it doesn’t have the power that saying “yes” (persistence) does. And that is plainly illustrated in Proverbs 2. Bottom line? Only an deep, internal “yes” brings any meaning to the difficult, external “no’s”.

The New Testament lays out the same process and principle in Colossians 2 and Titus 2. Paul taught us in both places (Col. 2:20-23 and Titus 2:11-14) that there is both a “no” and a “yes” in the life of every believer. We should deny worldliness and ungodliness; we should resist sin; we should stand against our enemy, Satan. But a life that consists of only “no’s” – rules with no reasoning – leads to frustration and eventually a hypocritical existence (see Col. 2:23). Paul bluntly said that a life of only “no’s” is beyond boring. It is insanely futile. Blindly useless. Strikingly stupid. To use his exact words, "of no value."

But grace gives us the reason we need to say “no.” Grace is the deep “yes” of every real believer’s life. Because the Holy Spirit of God will give real sons and daughters of God the desire to say “yes” to Jesus, we can say “no” to Satan…to the world, the flesh, and the devil…to the lies he tells us that would lead us astray and stomp out our spiritual influence. But only after we say “yes” to Jesus. Otherwise, our resistance is temporary at best. Human effort will wear out. You will, as a mere man, get tired. You only have so many “no’s in you apart from the power of God the Ghost in you.

Remember Moses? He saw through the temporary attraction of being in Pharaoh’s family and said “yes” to the deeper call of God upon his life by owning up to who he really was. And remember Jesus himself? He endured the cross and said “yes” because of a deeper love for his Father.

If your life is a list of ridiculous rules with no reasoning, get a clue. Jesus demands more than “white knuckle Christianity” from those who say they truly follow him. And he delivers more than that as well. He delivers a power through his Spirit that enables us to do more than resist; it allows us to persist. Chase his will. Follow hard after him. Fight the good fight and finish the course. If that’s what you really want, then live for the deeper “yes” – knowing Jesus. Only in “knowing Him” does “no-ing them” make any sense and contain any lasting significance.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Our Crazy Culture

If you ever wonder just how upside down our culture has become, watch how they punish sin/crime. Most of the time, they get it backwards.

For instance, Michael Vick engages in gambling and betting using dogs as the centerpiece attraction, even killing some of them as part of his wrongful acts. Consequently, he went to prison, underwent the proverbial “scourging” by the NFL, and was scrutinized daily for well over a year, with many commentators/media voices saying he should never be allowed back in the NFL because he isn’t “worthy.” I guess you can’t really “pay your debt to society” for certain crimes (like animal cruelty).

But Dante Stallworth gets little microscoping after his drunk driving “accident” that killed a person (yeah, a real live human with an eternal destiny in play). In fact, he only got 30 days in jail according to ESPN, and will be playing again probably. He is hardly even mentioned in other newscasts or headlines.

I guess getting greedy and killing dogs has a higher price tag than getting drunk and killing people.

But this is only the most recent in a chain of upside-down values held by our culture. Like saving whales and fish, but killing babies. Like letting a sexually sick beauty pageant judge calling a contestant a b**** on his public video blog (whatever happened to hate crimes?) with no real kickback, but letting a firestorm break out over Miss California's politley expressed opinion (which was actually an answer to a question). It's just crazy how inverted (perverted) our culture sees things!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Birthday Theology

When it comes to being born, I had nothing to do with it. It was all a work of my parents. Simply put, by their own willful actions and desires, I was born.

Funny how birthdays, though, rarely celebrate the people truly responsible for the birth. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not suggesting a celebration reformation among birthdays (although my wife and I have jokingly talked about what it might look like if the kids gave the parents the gifts – we’re up for that! :) ). But let’s be honest – celebrating a birthday is more about expressing joy that, due to nothing on your part, you’re here!

There’s a theological lesson here, and you’re ahead of me, aren’t you? God birthed me spiritually. I had nothing to do with it. His grace alone brought about everything needed to birth me into God’s family. Consequently, our spiritual birthdays shouldn’t be centered on us – how “’we found Jesus” or what a good thing that happened when we “turned our life around with God.” That’s as crazy as a birthday party for a 2-year old and then thanking the little toddler for working with his/her parents and being born.

In ruminating on this one day, I was struck by the wording in Luke 15, where three things are found: a sheep, a coin, and a son. And in each case, it was all the work of the finder. The coin didn’t light a flare for the seeker; the sheep didn’t send out a S.O.S. And the son had no bargaining chips when he was seen from a long ways off. Yet, they were found, due to the grace and kindness of the finder. Period. And yes, a party followed, but not to reward the acts of the found, but rather to celebrate the fact of the find. Therein lies the best reason to throw a party – He found us!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Don't Ask! Don't Tell!

No, this isn’t the military mantra from years back pertaining to homosexuals in the armed forces. It’s my advice to parents when their kids get married and are no longer under their authority – Don’t ask! Don’t tell!

Yep, it’s true – once your kid (son or daughter) leaves and cleaves, don’t be nosy and don’t be voicy! (I made that word up, but I like it!) It’s the best bit of wisdom a parent can hear in those early days/years when they want to tell their child and their new mate just how to do everything. And how they know everything. But don’t. Seriously – back off! Let them leave and let them cleave. Those words can't happen when mom and dad are in the way.

Is this easy? Well, was childbirth painless? Of course not. But the best gift a mom/dad can give their newly married “child” is freedom and privacy. Freedom from your suggestions (which they didn’t ask for) and privacy from your parental invasion. So bite your lip – don’t ask and don’t tell! Just let them be a new couple under God’s authority, not yours. You read that right – they don’t answer to you anymore.

Why am I a little more revved up about this than normal? Because too many parents nod in agreement while they sit in church, but still act like marriage intruders to their grown children. In fact, I shared this simple principle recently in the concluding message of my “Home Run!” series (albeit a little more calmly), and you could immediately feel the tension rising in the room. Whew, I was dangling by a thread and loving it! You know why the tension got thick quick? ‘Cause people don’t know what it means to let their children leave and cleave. The grown, married kids know mom and don;t get it, and the parents know they don't get it. But nobody ever says, "Hey, you don't get it!" Today I'm saying it -- some of you ain't gettin' it!

So here it is plain and simple (as if God’s original words needed explaining…that’s funny!): Don’t ask. Don’t tell. If they want to know what you think, they’ll ask. If they want your opinion, they’ll let you know. Till they do, mums the word. Sure, they’ll make mistakes, fall, look stupid, and mess up. But they’ll learn far more and far quicker if we, the parents, stay out of the way unless we are invited. (even then, double check the invitation!)

(Here's a link to an article by a woman who writes about this in a sweeter way...enjoy! http://proverbs31devotions.blogspot.com/2009/06/other-woman.html)

Monday, June 1, 2009

Fashioning Arrows

Just some additional thoughts re: Psalm 127.