Monday, February 19, 2018

Aftermath

In the aftermath of yet another tragic school shooting, there are many varied opinions about not only how it could happen, but how to prevent shootings in the future.  There are those who demand more laws.  They place blame with the politicians.  There are those who demand better mental health screening, mental health care, and mental health insurance.  They place blame on the health care industry.  There are those who desire to arm the teachers and secure the schools. They place blame on the school districts.  There are those who apparently have ESP, saying they “Knew this was coming.”  “The whole community knew the shooter would do something like this.”  They place blame on the FBI for not heeding their reports.  There are even those who blame things like violent movies, violent video games and violent television.  They place the blame on Hollywood.  

We all want to blame someone or something.  It is hard to understand such evil could exist and so we try to understand by placing blame.  If only.....it begins.  If only we had fewer guns.  If only we had stricter laws.  If only. If only. If only.

What people fail to see is what is truly to blame.  Because to evaluate the truth would be too “politically incorrect.”  To stare into the matter too long, looking at the truth makes us far too uncomfortable.  Instead, we look for the easy quick fix and blame.  

With the 1973 Supreme Court decision of Roe v Wade, our country, our society, our community began to change.  For over four decades, abortion has ended the respect Americans once held for human life. This loss of respect has had a profound impact.  It has led us down a path of all sorts of debauchery and has given rise to violent crime.  If ending human life is acceptable before birth, why isn't it acceptable afterwards?  Mothers and fathers are willing to kill their offspring and as a society we have labeled it “socially acceptable.”

The Declaration of Independence states “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”  Our society claims it is a women’s right because it is her body and no one can tell her what to do.  This sounds much like the slavery argument from the 1850’s.  A slave owner declared he owned the slave and could treat him any way he deemed necessary.  Slavery is wrong.  So is abortion. 

In his book, Black Belt Patriotism, Chuck Norris states, “Whenever a culture devalues life, children are the ones who grow up without hope or aspiration.  Whenever a culture drives out religion from the public sphere, children are the ones forced to grow up in a society immersed in perverse values: a world where gangster rappers are heroes, where greed and gluttony are good, where immorality thrives, or it is tolerated, or even encouraged.”

With the stamp of approval for abortion on demand, American society says, “You only have value if I say you have value.”  We have decided human life no longer has intrinsic worth.  We have removed the right to life from our very own Declaration of Independence.  Why?  Because life is endowed by our Creator.  To admit this fact in our society means we have to admit there is a Creator.  A God that defines life, truth, right and wrong.  And well, that is not politically correct.  To admit a higher power defines these things means that our behavior, whether stealing a pencil from work or a gold brick from a bank might be wrong.  That means our behavior, whether accepting incorrect change or cheating on our taxes might be wrong.  That means telling a lie or pulling a trigger might be wrong.  And heaven forbid we would want Someone telling us we are wrong.  Pun intended.

The God who created us already knows our ability to quickly sink in the cesspool of sin.  Romans 3:10 tells us:  As it is written and forever remains written, “There is none righteous [none that meets God’s standard], not even one. And in Romans 3:23 it says:  for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. 

But here is what makes all the difference.  Romans 5:8 tells us:  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Did you get that?  In our sin, God loved us.  In fact, what Jesus teaches in John 3 sums things up pretty well.

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

We have no one to blame but ourselves.  We are a society that loves the dark and will not come into the light for fear our deeds will be exposed.  We have bowed down to the idol of convenience and the idol of money.  We have steadily and freely replaced the God of the Universe with self.  Now, what are you going to do?




Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Love

Recently I heard of a man who went to a local church for the first time in many years. He had been a faithful church attender until a series of heartaches left him questioning God and so he just walked away. Now, years later, he was searching. Searching for some answers. Perhaps searching for some peace. So this man went to the large and popular church in his city. His description is interesting and speaks volumes about how the "church" just may be missing the mark.
He described the church as very loud with a preacher who dressed like a skateboarder. He said the light show was blinding. And when finally able to see, what he saw were people engrossed in the electronic device of choice. He felt all his senses were assaulted at the same time and when the pastor finally began to preach, he was ready to run. He said, "I will not return."
Just a short time later, a friend described a visit to a local church where I live in a similar way. He added that the building and sanctuary were more like a sports arena then a church. He described his experience was more in keeping with a rock concert than a worship experience. And while he felt the message was spot on, He added, "The modern church continues to spend more and more money trying to enhance the worship experience for themselves instead of taking the Word where it needs to be." My friend wanted to know how to sort out his feelings for fear of either being too judgmental or falling victim to the light show.
I have heard it over and over. And I feel it too.
I read a blog not too long ago that really struck me and I cannot get it off my mind. I can't stop wondering how it should change me. It is the story of how four minister's wives started going to a strip club before they opened to bring dinner once a week to the ladies. Eventually they got permission from the ladies to put a prayer box in the dressing room. These four women got out of the pew and brought church to a group of ladies who needed to be loved in a Christlike manner.
So I began praying about how to answer my friend's dilemma. I realize that as long as I sit in my own little world, as long as I stay safe in my own little church and life group, as long as I keep from looking around me and seeing, actually seeing the lost, the lonely and the hurting, then I am just like the priest or the Levite who walked passed the man in the story of the Good Samaritan.
Churches spend a lot of money to build bigger facilities and better light shows with the loudest music. And I often wonder what does Jesus think about that? But we are, you and I are the church. What are we doing? How are we going into the world? Now don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that we all are called to minister to strippers. But we are called to look into the eyes of your checkout clerk. We are called to be kind and considerate to the really slow teller. We are called to drive with courtesy. And we are called to use our God given gifts to build up one another, encourage one another and serve one another. At the end of the day, the only question to ask is, "Did I look like, act like and love like Jesus today?'
So, there you have it. I don't know the answer for the churches who are building this and that and everything else. But I do know what my responsibility is. Each day, all I have to offer Jesus is the 24 hours of my time and my heart. I want to make sure I give it to him every day.
I know this probably doesn't really validate your feelings if you too wonder about the direction of your church music and light show. Your feelings are not right nor are they wrong. They just are. What I want to do, what I am learning to do, is to put my feelings aside. I want to carefully choose my focus. I want to see more so I can love more. And I challenge you to do the same. Turn your focus from these things that irritate you to the person in front of you. And as you focus on them, ask Jesus to give you the gift to love them like he does. After all, the commandment is to love God, love people.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

See

The other day I went to Marshall's to kill some time while my husband was in a church meeting.  As I approached the entrance, a young man showed me a Marshall's gift card and explained it had $61 on it but he was trying to sell it for $40.  I did not have cash and quickly walked by.  He did not appear to be the type of young man you would normally find in upscale Frisco.  

I got no further than shoes when I clearly heard the Lord say, "Go back."  So I moved on to luggage.  Again, I heard God say, "Go back."  It was such a strong and forceful command, I could not ignore it.  I went back to the young man who now had a young woman nearby with 2 dogs.  All my safety senses were alert.  A million things ran through my mind like:  Hold your purse tight, Don't get between them, Keep a safe distance, Stay alert to my surroundings.

So I spoke to the young man and explained I really did not have any cash.  But I would go get cash if he would go into the store and get a receipt for the card balance.  And then he showed me he already had one.  It said $61.67.  I asked them where they were from and why did they need the cash.  The man replied they were from California and in Dallas hoping for a chance to work.  Their appearance told me more but I tried not to jump to conclusions.  So I left them there and drove to the bank to withdraw cash.  On the way I passed an In N Out Burger and remembered they were from California.  I stopped to get a gift card so they could eat.  

At the bank as I keyed in $40, I clearly heard God say, "Don't steal from them."  This time I didn't hesitate and keyed in $60.  I rolled the money up and tucked it in with the food gift card.  And promptly drove back to the couple who was still standing in front of Marshall's.  I left my purse in the car so it would not be a distraction for me and prayed for wisdom as I approached the young couple.  

When I reached them I saw my own children.  I looked into each of their eyes and I saw so much hurt, rejection, and mistrust.  My heart ached.  I wondered if they ever felt secure or loved.  So I asked them if they had parents who were looking for them.  They said no.  The girl's parents were in Florida and she talked to them every once in a awhile.  The boy indicated his parents gave up on him a long time ago.  I asked them some other questions and learned more about them.  They were 28 and 32.....nearly the exact age of my oldest children.  I asked if I buy your gift card how will you use it.  He said for a hotel room.  I asked if they had drug problem.  The girl said, "No." And then she extended her arms and said with excitement, "Look, I'm clean."  The boy said, "Yes, we both have drug problems.  But we've been sober for 18 months."  I looked him straight in the eye. 

As I looked at him I said, "People have made a mess of church.  But I know God.  He's my Father.  He's my Daddy.  He watches out for me.  So if you're scamming me, it doesn't matter.  My Daddy watches out for me."   Then I told them both that God wanted to be their Daddy too.  I said, "I'm not talking about cleaning yourself up to go to church.  I'm talking about just talking to God.  See how much he loves you and let him be your Daddy."  We talked some more.  I finally had the right opportunity to say, "So, tell me about that teardrop tattoo."  

I could tell he swallowed hard and said, "I have a past."  I looked him dead square in the face and I said with great conviction, "I have a past too."  And then I told him that God gave me a future and He has one for you too.  I said, "I suspect that people don't often trust you.  But I want you to know that I trust you.  I believe each of you have value and deserve my love.  So here's the deal.  I have money rolled up and you don't know how much it is.  It could only be a few bucks and not the $40 that we agreed upon.  But the same is true for your gift card.  It could have money on it or not.  But I'm going to trust you.  Do you trust me?"  He nodded his head.  I said, "Good.  Then we have a deal.  But first, will you let me pray for you?"  

Surprisingly, they said yes and held out their hands for me to hold.  I'm really not sure what I prayed but I am confident God was in the midst of it.  I gave them the In N Out gift card along with $61.  I took the Marshall's gift card in return.  I told them where to find my church if they ever needed anything. And left them with this final remark.  "Never forget that God loves you with an unimaginable love.  There is no place that you can go that God's love does not go with you.  And there is nothing that you will do to cause God to stop loving you.  So don't ever forget that."  And I hugged them both and walked away.  I cried.  They could have been my kids.  They were somebody's kids.  And my heart ached for their mom and the broken relationship that lead to their circumstances.  

As I drove to the church to meet up with my husband I asked God what was that all about?  And as clearly as I heard the command to "Go back," I heard God whisper, "See."  That's all.  Just "See."  And I believe that if we open our eyes to see, then He will give us direction to do.  It's time to see.  So let's open our eyes.  

Thursday, August 27, 2015

5, 4, 3, 2, 1

A friend posted on Facebook the following:

Tip to help with an anxiety attack
- Look around you.
- Find 5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell and 1 thing you can taste.

This is called grounding.  It can help when you feel like you have lost all control of your surroundings.

This is great advice to regain your composure when in a panic situation.  But let's take this to the next level for the believer and follower of Christ.  Given the fact that the Bible tells us 365 times “to fear not” leads me to believe a sense of fear, panic or anxiety strikes us all in one way or another.  And strikes often.

So when that knot begins to swell up in your gut, when your heart begins to race, when you want to bolt but you have nowhere to go or when you are frozen with fear….I suggest the following:

-Look up.

-Speak out loud 5 names for the Lord
Almighty, Creator, Healer, Faithful, Trustworthy, Light, Love, Life, Stronghold, Refuge, Redeemer, Conqueror, Mighty One, Holy, Just, Righteous. (these are but a few)

-Remember 4 ways He has shown His faithfulness to you in the past
He has forgiven my sins, He has saved my marriage, He has healed me from sickness, He has made me His child and He has shown me the way.  (these are generic so make yours personal)

-Find 3 ways He has shown love for you today
He made the sun to shine, He sent the rain, He prompted someone to call you, the bill was smaller than expected, you found your favorite shoes on sale, a song played that soothed your heart, a Bible verse jumped off the page.  (these are some of mine to help you think of yours)

-Repeat 2 Bible verses
                Isaiah 26:3
 You will keep in perfect peace
            those whose minds are steadfast,
            because they trust in you.
                Romans 15:13
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace
as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with
hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
(use these or find 2 that meet your needs)

-Say 1 prayer asking God to show you the truth
              I like to pray scripture and so this would be my prayer straight from Psalm 139:23-24
            “Father God, Search me and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.
            See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.  In Jesus’
            name, Amen”

 This is called Kingdom thinking.  It can help you when you have lost the ability to trust God to control your surroundings.  Because the truth is we might think we have control but we do not.  It is good to trust in the One who has never lost control…..even when He went to the cross.  

I hope you will join me as I take my eyes off my circumstances and choose to look up.  Five, four, three, two, one. 

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Him


“What was I thinking?”  I said to myself as I walked out of Vacation Bible School training.  I was about to turn 57 and wondered if I hadn’t made a huge mistake.  The church was expecting up to 1000 children.  I would be in charge of a small group of 4th graders.  As I drove home, I confessed to the Lord that I simply did not want to do this and hoped I would find a legitimate excuse to get out. 

The following week I gathered once again for training the night before VBS would start.  The director for VBS along with the 4th grade directors did an amazing job organizing and preparing so as to make the week as easy as possible for the volunteers. 

I’ll have to give a twenty minute Bible story and the rest of the morning I’m basically a line leader making sure my group of 4th graders get from one rotation to the next without incident.  I met my teaching partner and I settled into a decent attitude.   As the leaders were about to close our training session, I asked if I could close us in prayer.  I’m not sure about what I prayed but I am certain of this:  I asked God to give us, the 4th grade team, eyes to see these children as Jesus does. 

Monday morning arrived and VBS began without incident.  We had finished the worship rally, the drama time, the Bible story and craft.  As we went outside for the recreation time I laid eyes on him for the very first time.  He was off by himself and everything about his body language and movement screamed anger and hostility.  I asked if anyone knew what was going on and I heard things like, “Melt down during craft.”  “I don’t know but he refuses to participate.”  “He’s been a challenge since he got here.”

I went over and tried to talk to him.  He was madder than mad and I was determined to find out why.  As he walked around kicking at his name tag which was on the ground, I asked him.  His only reply through clenched teeth, “I hate this place.”  I picked up his name tag and told him he had to sit down.  “I don’t want to.”

I said, “I understand you don’t want to, but I said you have to, now sit.”  Surprisingly he complied and thus began my friendship with this 10 year old boy who apparently had more problems than I could imagine, more diagnosis than I was educated to handle, and a new friend too naive to stay neutral. 

At first what I saw was a 10 year old that was really fit to be tied that he had to be in VBS and if he misbehaved enough, we would call his mom and he would get what he wanted, to go home.  I thought to myself, “Not on my watch, Bubba.”  And I told him in no uncertain terms I was NOT going to call his mother.  I looked him straight in the eyes and said, “I will pursue you like God will pursue you.  I will love you like God will love you.  My heart is tied to yours and you can run but you will never get away.  God and I together will reel you in and win you over.  Now let’s go to snack.”  I put my arm around his chest and shoulders and forced him to walk with me.  We got ½ way to snack before he realized what had happened and he finally pulled away.  I let him go but bent over and firmly whispered in his ear, “Stay with me or you won’t eat.” 

The room was very crowded and I picked up a snack.  As I went back to where I left my new friend, I couldn’t see him at first.  I panicked for just a moment and then my eyes spotted him.  He had followed behind me to the snack line, picked up his own snack and was standing at a table eating.  My friend began to relax and I could see the frustration and tension slip away.  I wondered if he had hypoglycemia. 

My friend and I began to talk.  We went to the last rotation of the day and chatted all the way there.  I began to learn about his life at school.  Unbeknownst to him, I had filled my pants pocket with animal crackers.  So as we walked, I handed him one.  Then another.  And another.  He chuckled when I brought out the third one.  Fifteen minutes later when I brought out the 5th or 6th cookie he said, “How do you do that, are you magic?”  I shrugged my shoulders and said, “Maybe.”  And I found out he also liked chocolate animal crackers and goldfish.  That information would prove to be useful.  As the day was about over I asked him if he wanted to come back.  He said he did but he probably wouldn’t be allowed.  I asked him why and he told me that once the other teacher tells his mom, his mom will yell at him and keep him home.  And I don’t know what that means….really I don’t.  But what I clearly “saw” was a boy that was always in trouble and had very little hope.

I told him that if he apologized to the other teacher, I bet we could make sure he was allowed to come back.  And with all sincerity, he looked the teacher in the face and said he was sorry.  “Tomorrow will be a better day.” He promised.  They called his carpool group and off he went before I had a chance to say anything else.

I prayed he would be back on Tuesday. 

On Tuesday morning I learned they had transferred my friend from group six to my group.  He walked into the gym and I smiled at him.  He smiled back.  I told him I was really glad he was here and told him he would be in my group.  We had a really good day. 

I had a pocketful of chocolate Teddy Grahams and would hand him a few every so often.  And although he still wouldn’t participate in anything, he followed all directions.  I saw this as a huge victory and hoped he did too.  I learned many things about him.  Too many things really.  He’s been in several elementary schools.  I said, “Oh my, how many times have you moved?” 

“None,” he replied, “I’ve been kicked out of a few.”  I handed him a Teddy Graham.  I asked him if he could tell me why.  He said that when he gets angry he goes downhill fast.  I told him that I understood, sometimes that happens to me too.  This time we both ate a Teddy Graham.

Before I knew it, the day was over.  I reminded my friend that Wednesday was crazy hat day.  I told him I would bring one in case he forgot.  And off he went into the carpool line. 

I prayed he would be back on Wednesday. 

On Wednesday morning I packed a little white sailor’s hat and my own crazy hat and went up to the church.  My friend arrived on time and I gave him the sailor’s hat.  I wasn’t sure he would wear it and it warmed my heart to see him flip it inside out and upside down trying to determine his style.  It also gave us lots to talk about.  I learned his family owned a boat.  And I learned his paternal grandfather was a naval officer in WW2.  We looked him up on my phone.  My friend was proud to tell about his grandfather. 

We got to craft rotation and I could see my friend begin to get frustrated.  He colored his paper with a vengeance.  The cramped conditions irritated him.  The warm room made him feel closed in. But both were low key enough that he maintained control.  We left craft and headed to recreation.  He had previously told me how excited he was to do the rec activity this day.

But as soon as we entered the church gym, his entire countenance changed.  He hit the wall.  He kicked a ball with force.  He went over the PVC pipe-built 9 square structure. 30 years of being a mom told me very quickly, he intended to bring that structure down.  So I went right up to him and asked him why?  He appeared a bit startled as well as puzzled.  I asked him a second time.  “Why do you want to bring this down?”  What followed nearly tore my heart out of my chest.  He told me how he can’t.  He just cannot do anything athletic.  He.  Can.  Not!  He told me how he had no one to play with and that other kids were mean to him and made fun of him.  He said no one comes to his house to play because they don’t like board games or reading.  These are the things he liked to do.  I could see how so much anger had caused so much hurt and all the hurt just added to the anger. 

I directed him to the stairwell and there we sat.  I pulled out the Teddy Grahams and he talked a bit more.  He began to calm down and we talked about a variety of subjects.  He loves History.  I showed him pictures of my father in law in his WW2 uniform and told him some stories about my father in law.

The crisis averted and his anger subsided and soon we were off to the next rotation.  He got a snack even though we were late.  It didn’t matter.  I felt like my friend had experienced a victory.  He managed his anger through conversation and a little help from some Teddy Grahams.  When we got to the end of the day, it was time for worship rally.  I couldn’t help but praise our God in heaven for this small success.  And as if he read my mind, my little friend got up and danced.  It was only a few bars, but he danced.  He clapped his hands and he danced!!

Thursday morning arrived and everyone is dragging just a bit.  And my little friend was no exception.  He entered the gym with a scowl and I asked God for an extra measure of patience.  My friend is exhausting for this old gal.  And I wondered if his mom wasn’t just plain worn out.  I would be.

The morning moved along quickly and in no time at all we were at craft.  The craft was a really neat one as the students were to trace a cross onto water color paper with a black sharpie.  And then using washable markers, they colored their crosses carefully.  When they were all done, the leader would spritz some water onto the paper and all the colors except for the black sharpie would bleed together.  All the other kids understood and followed directions and soon there were the most colorful array of crosses.  My friend likes patterns and I could tell he was intent on making something blue, violet and red.  He meticulously went in order and all was good until he picked up the wrong color marker and made a mistake.  The anger welled up inside him like a volcano and the lava started to ooze out.  He crumpled his paper and squeezed it as tight as he could.  We were in a room with about 40 other children and I quickly asked my friend to walk with me.  I grabbed the bag with the Teddy Grahams.

We left the room and walked around the upstairs hall.  He told me how he hates to make mistakes and he feels so dumb when he does.  Through clenched teeth he told me at least 5 times how much he hates making mistakes.  My heart broke into a million pieces.  I could relate and told him I hated it when I made mistakes too.  And I told him that I liked doing art stuff and I showed him pictures of the cards I like to make.  Then I told him that I had some of that same paper at home and I would bring some tomorrow so he can try the craft again. 

He looked at me with eyes as big as saucers and asked, “You would do that?  You really would bring me some more paper?”

I laughed and said, “Yes.”

He smiled really big and said, “Gee, thanks.”

His anger was under control and we went forward with the day.  We missed snack and half of the worship rally, but he went home content.  I am exhausted.

It’s Friday morning.  I arrived a bit early for VBS.  I feel tired and somewhat satisfied.  It’s been a hard week and yet I feel so certain God lead me down this path to intersect my life with my new friend.  I know I am going to hate to say goodbye and it is with some guilt that I admit I will feel relief as well.  I went to the sanctuary early, before my friend arrived.  I heard later that he was afraid I wouldn’t be at VBS when he didn’t see me in the gym.  Another teacher convinced him that I was already in the “big church” and he cautiously followed her.  He hugged me this morning.  He has my heart.

As we waited for the program to begin he told me about a gift he made.  He meant to bring it, in fact, it was sitting right by the door.  He said he hoped his mom would be able to bring it later.  And then he told me how he took a small jar and decorated it to make a candle holder.  He wanted to make sure I clearly understood that I shouldn’t use real candles because the glass may break.   I promised I would use the battery candles. 

His mom arrived with my gift.  She seems like a really terrific lady and I feel ashamed that I passed judgment on her earlier in the week.  Her life can’t be easy.  I asked God to remind me to pray for her often. 

My friend followed me from worship to drama to Bible story and finally to craft.  Today was a victory in my mind as we completed the entire craft without incident.  After craft we headed to recreation and my friend agreed to sit on the bleachers so I could get some VBS paperwork completed.  He lasted all of five minutes and came in.  He proceeded to tell me it was far too hot outside for him so we went to the gym.  Only a few other people were in the gym and my friend was able to play by himself with a few beach balls.  He was much more coordinated than I expected and it makes me wonder what goes through his mind that causes him to believe he cannot play sports.  His mental illness is cruel.

Finally, it was time for the last rotation of the day and we headed to the sanctuary for the final worship rally.  He still does not participate by singing or dancing, but I can see the joy creeping into his demeanor.  He is less guarded.  He is more relaxed.  I praised God for this sweet moment. 

The music faded and I told my friend that soon he would have to go.  I asked for a hug and he submitted.  We agreed to look for each other on Sunday.  I told him I was so glad we got to be friends.   And as suddenly as he entered my life, they called his carpool line and he was gone. 

I am changed forever by him.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Disturbed

I am saddened by a trend I see among women, especially women my age, who are flocking with eagerness to see a movie or read the latest version of books like 50 shades of Grey, Twilight or Heaven is Real.

I am disturbed by the comments, posts and tweets regarding these books or movies.  Everything from loving a fantasy to a fantasy heaven, these books replace the truth with a lie.  I understand fantasy literature and its intended purpose.  My concern is that Satan takes what is good, in this case literature, and uses it to deceive.  The word of God says our enemy, Satan, is on the prowl like a lion to kill, steal and destroy.

The truth is that heaven is real.  And God has revealed to us all we need to know and all He wants us to know in His word.  John 3:13 says, “No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.”  John 1:18 says, “No one has seen God at any time.”  And Hebrews 9:27: "And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment." 

In Scripture, there are 4 occurrences when God gave a human a glimpse of heaven.  These are not near death experiences, they are Holy Spirit inspired visions.  While Paul felt he could not speak of what he experienced, the other men: Isaiah, Ezekiel, and John, all give a God exalting description in scripture that included, I might add their own powerful fear and trembling at God’s holiness.  These accounts are found in Isaiah 6:1–4; Ezekiel 1, 10; and Revelation 4–6.

First of all, I do not know what Colton Burpo experienced.  And I am certain he is accurately describing what he thought he experienced.  All I know for sure is that his description of heaven does not square with the Bible's description.  Bible trumps man, in my book, every single time. 

What makes this book dangerous is that it replaces the truth with a lie.  We get a warped and unbiblical picture of heaven that not only is bad doctrine that leads to confusion.  It gives a false hope that leads to disappointment.  And when a believer prefers a glossy, pie-in-the-sky account of heaven instead of biblical accuracy, they are walking on thin ice. 

The Twilight books made me feel unsettled since the beginning.  And I couldn't quite put my finger on it until I picked up the first book and began to read it.  I have heard it said that I have missed the whole point of the story.  That there are many redeeming elements of the books....it represents good vs. evil; moral vs. immoral; and the themes of abstinence, marriage, and family overcome. 

I found the story to be intensely sensual where the main character tells lies and where it is ok for a man to stalk a woman, abuse her and control her.  What really disturbs me is the how deeply steeped in the occult these stories are.  And the Bible clearly warns us about flirting with Satan. 

Both the Old and the New Testaments forbid us to have anything to do with the occult.  The occult springs from Satan’s desire to usurp God’s power and authority.  Deuteronomy teaches us God’s opinion of occult practices, and He is quite clear:  they are detestable to him.  See Deuteronomy 18. 

God is also quite clear regarding the drinking of blood.  Leviticus 17:11 says, “For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.”  Jesus fulfills our need for atonement when He pours out His sacred blood to pay for our sins.  We were bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6:20). 

The Twilight books are dangerous because they replace the truth with a lie.  Resonating with Satan’s lie to Eve to become “like God,” Bella eventually becomes a god-like vampire, perfect in beauty, she escapes her humanity and becomes a goddess. The message of these books is clear.  The way to have immortality or eternal life is to become a vampire.  It eliminates a relationship with Jesus Christ.  It ignores our huge sin problem. And it completely overlooks our need for forgiveness.  The most dangerous part of this message is that it belittles and degrades the work of Christ. 

I remember back in the 70’s when out of the women’s rights movement “Playgirl Magazine” was published.  And I remember thinking “I don’t want a naked man, I want a knight in shining armor.” 

And it is not a secret, the way to a woman’s heart is romance.  Romance novels generate over a billion dollars in sales per year with over 7,000 published books annually in the US alone. 

50 Shades of Grey would fall into the category of a romance novel.  I call it pornography.  It is not necessary to enumerate the dangers of pornography as related to men.  It is epidemic in our society.  The bottom line:  pornography destroys lives, families, and marriages.  And now it is about to spread like a wildfire into a whole new population: women.

1 Corinthians 6:18, “Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.”

1 Thessalonians 4:3-5, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God;

Matthew 5:28, “But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman [OR MAN] with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

This book is dangerous because it replaces the truth with a lie.  The book is written to appeal to a women’s sexual appetites.  And just like a real wife cannot live up to a photo shopped centerfold, neither can a real husband live up to the make believe world of a romance hero.  Just like pornography in a man’s world leaves him discontent at home, so do books like 50 shades of Grey leave a woman emotionally discontent.  It is finding sexual pleasure outside of your marriage.  This is true of both married and unmarried women.

If you have read any of my blog postings, you are aware of how much I admire Daniel of the Old Testament.  Daniel was taken captive by a hostile and culturally very different country.  He went from living in a God-honoring environment to one not unlike America today.  The picture of Babylon is that it was indulgent and permissive, in every way.  It was an extravagant and extreme philosophy, not just a city.  And to live there was to follow this path.  Except for Daniel and his three friends. 

And so, my friends in Christ, we are called to be the Daniel’s of our day.  To be resolved not to be defiled by the ways of “Babylon.”   We are commanded to live by a higher standard.  Leviticus 11:45 says, “I am the LORD, who brought you up out of Egypt to be your God; therefore be holy, because I am holy.” And it is repeated in 1 Peter 1:15-16 “But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’”  I do not want to be “holier than thou.”  I want to be a Daniel….set apart to impact a nation or maybe just one person. But to do all that I do because I have a heart like His. 

Let’s be determined to influence Babylon and not let Babylon influence us.


Saturday, May 17, 2014

Where?

A few weeks ago was Mother's day and as I perused Facebook, it occurred to me that Mother's day is not always a wonderful holiday for everyone.  The weeks leading up to Mother's day, my friend  spent in the hospital as they watched their son lose his battle with heart disease.  My friend is regularly on my mind and it has made me aware even more than ever that in the midst of the affluence of north Texas, there is also much pain and suffering.  So on Mother's day I posted on Facebook this comment:  "I am profoundly aware that this day can be as painful for some as it is joyful for others. Praying for those who are hurting today. Christ's grace is sufficient."

The event of my friend's son's memorial service has opened my eyes to see people around me just a little bit differently.  I can't quite put my finger on it but I know that God is at work wanting to awaken my compassion and shape me to look and act more like Christ.  I am trying very hard to cooperate with Him. 

But back to Facebook for a moment.  I check my Facebook page regularly enough to keep up with what is going on in the lives of my friends and acquaintances.  Reading Facebook often reminds me of receiving that Christmas card in the mail. You know the one I mean.  The one with the three page newsletter describing in detail the events of The Perfect Family.

Now before anyone gets offended, let me assure you.....I have sent said letter for many Christmases.  But I have to admit, often my letters were purposefully vague.   Everything wasn't always perfect in our family. 

And then it struck me.  Where do people go when they can't go to Facebook?  After all, I've never seen this posted on Facebook:  "So proud of my girl!  Today she will graduate at the bottom of her class.  Somebody had to do it and my baby girl did!"

Or this post:  "Thrilled to announce my son's job loss.  This would be his third since graduating college last year.  Way to go, son!"

Or how about this one:  "Discovered my kid's alcohol stash today.  So proud of myself for being clever enough to check under the bathroom sink.  Smarter than an 8th grader!"

What if your Facebook post would say:  "While your daughter was graduating, mine was arrested for shoplifting!"

Where?  Where do people go when their life looks like this?  I don't know where they go.  I know where my friends went and I know where I go.  I want to tell you so you can go there too.  His name is Jesus.  And the Bible says in I Peter 5:7 that we can cast all our anxiety on him (Jesus) because he
cares for you.  Isn't that wonderful news?  One translation says "throw your whole anxiety on him."  I like the image that creates in my mind.  I throw like a girl but when it comes to my troubles I can hurl them to the feet of Jesus.

I love what I found in Notes on the Bible by Albert Barnes [1834].  Mr. Barnes writes about 1 Peter 5:7 and says:  "The meaning is, that we are to commit our whole cause to him. If we suffer heavy trials; if we lose our friends, health, or property; if we have arduous and responsible duties to perform; if we feel that we have no strength, and are in danger of being crushed by what is laid upon us, we may go and cast all upon the Lord; that is, we may look to him for grace and strength, and feel assured that he will enable us to sustain all that is laid upon us. The relief in the case will be as real, and as full of consolation, as if he took the burden and bore it himself. He will enable us to bear with ease what we supposed we could never have done; and the burden which he lays upon us will be light."

I hope you didn't miss any of that.  Read it again.  Did you notice that relief will be real?  I assure you it is. And my friends who lost their son?  They can assure you too.  Mr. Barnes could not be more accurate.  But why can we trust Jesus like that?  It says because He cares for you.  I wonder do you know what it means that Jesus cares?

Jesus is not a god that is distant and uncaring like what you would find in Greek or Roman mythology.  Jesus is not a myth.  The word care means with watchful care of interest and affection.  God's love for each of us is real and it is demonstrative.  It says in Romans 5:8 "that God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."  Oh how He loves you and me!

So where do you go when you are being crushed? Where do you go when your Facebook post would shock your friends or when your Christmas letter would get you shunned by the family.  Where?  Follow me to Jesus and start casting because He cares for you!