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February 2010 entries

Love Hurts

I've talked to several people lately who are really going through some stuff. You would think, given the economy, problems would be related to money. I would guess that as well, but we would both be wrong. The single most troublesome thing most people deal with is a difficult relationship. It may be a parent who has a disrespectful child, or a spouse who has become distant or abusive, or a work associate with whom it is hard to suffer through an 8 hour workday, but it is still a relationship issue. Many people cope with the problem by withdrawing. They try and isolate themselves from the person who is hurting them. In doing so, they also estrange themselves from those who may be associated with that person. Before long they find that their world has become safe, but very small. That leads to bitterness and anger thus alienating them further from the few people who were in their small space. I think C.S. Lewis sums it up in his book, The Four Loves

Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully around hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in the casket - safe, dark, motionless, airless - it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. 

As the classic rock song so aptly put it, "Love hurts!" Just ask Jesus. 


Steps in the Dark

Sometimes God shows up when you least expect it. Take Sunday for instance. I preach in series. Everyone knows that. I had just finished "Paranormal" and was preparing for the next "f.Y.I." Working toward Easter I realized there was a stray Sunday where series and messages left a gap between the two. It just happened to be February 14th, Valentines Day. Knowing that Valentines Day rarely occurs on Sunday I figured it would be a good place to put together a message about love and committment. So you see, my decision making was more practical than spiritual. It wasn't a throw away Sunday by any means. I take every message seriously. How God showed up, however, took me by surprise. Not only were people weeping during the message, but their tears filled the altar afterwards as well. God knew all along people were hurting even when I couldn't see any further than the end of my nose.

I have been reading about people and pain. I have been focusing on people who suffer because of their faith and their devotion toward the Lord. I thought this might help some of you.

Near the end of the 16th century, a Spanish monk, St. John of the Cross was imprisoned for supporting reforms to the Catholic Church. He was only 35. He was locked in a tiny closet that doubled as a room to put human waste. He was taken out only to be flogged for the enjoyment of other monks at their dinner time. He was starving and becoming seriously ill because of his conditions. In his darkest hour he felt compelled to write love songs to God. His guards were so moved by his words that they began to smuggle pen and paper so he could record these songs. After nine months, John escaped from the tiny prison.

 He went on to write of his experience in a book called "The Dark Night of the Soul." Here is part of what he wrote: "When spiritual beginners are going about their spiritual practices with the greatest emthusiasm and pleasure and it seems to them that the sun of divine favor is shining most brightly upon them, God suddenly darkens all that light. He slams the door shut. He cuts off the source of their spiritual waters they had been drinking from..."

"Left in such a dry place, not only do they find no satisfaction in their reliable old spiritual practices, but these things actually become tasteless, even bitter.... He weans them from their dependencey on the breast so that they can become strong. He lays aside their baby clothes and sets them down from His arms so that they can learn to walk on their own two feet."

How cruel a baby must think a parent has become when they let go of their hands and bid them come to them on their own two feet. How certain is the initial crash to the floor. Instead of carrying us from that day forward, the parent picks the child up and sets them off on their own again. Always the parent compels the child to walk into their arms and not away. So it is with God. He wants us to grow. He wants us to take steps of faith. It may seem cruel but in reality He is forcing us to walk toward Him. Faith is knowing that He is there even when we fall. The devil will try and tell you that your Father has left you alone. That is a lie. That is never the case. He always has His eyes on you even when you take your eyes off Him.

 Matthew 14:28-31 (NKJV)
28 And Peter answered Him and said, "Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water."
29 So He said, "Come." And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus.
30 But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, "Lord, save me!"
31 And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?"

 


When the New Car Smell Fades

I've found my favorite book ever. Outside of God's Word, of course. I can't tell you much about it yet. I haven't read it all. Well, I have actualy only read a single chapter. I was captured by the title, "Second Guessing God, hanging on when you can't see his plan." I heard Brian Jones interviewed a few months ago nd I remember thinking; "Wow, finally an honest pastor." I don't think pastors regularly are dishonest about the Bible, but they are often untruthful about their own personal struggles.

While in seminary Brian was deluged with liberal theological input. These were his professors and mentors. They often discounted the truth of God's Word. Absolutes were discarded for relative truth. While under their influence the author's faith began to shrivel and die. He writes, "the new car smell of my faith had worn off, and I found myself fighting to hang on." LIsten as he remembers the words that chnged the direction of his life.

"One night in a last ditch effort to salvage whatever remnant of faith I had left, I called a mentor and professor of mine from college and shared my struggle with him. I told him, "My faith in God is now like a walk on the beach. I've taken off my shoes, and as I stand at the water's edge, the tide has started to roll across my feet. It feels wonderful. Up to this point my spiritual journey has been incredible, but in the last six months doubt has begun to paralyze me. It's like when the water begins to go back out into the ocean. It is washing away the sand underneath me, and my feet keep sinking lower and lower and lower. If this keeps up there won't be anything left to stand on.""

"Without hesitation he shot back, "Brian, I have stood where you're standing. I have felt the water cascade across my feet. I know how wonderful that feels. But I have also had the water go back out to sea. I have felt the sand get washed out from underneath my feet.""

"He paused - I think he heard me crying - before he slowly finished. "Brian, listen to me when I say this. When the last grain of sand is finally gone, you're going to discover you are standing on a rock.""

Brian Jones writes, "That one sentence saved me." What a great word! So to all of you who are human enough to admit that you struggle sometimes with your faith; this books for you.

P.S.

So many have been fascinated by the "Paranormal" series I just completed. I thought I would add one more to the list of incredible encounters with the supernatural. Today, after 4 weeks, a survivor has been found in Haiti. Doctors say it is impossible to survive that long without water. How did the rescued man explain his ability to survive for so long? A man dressed all in white was bringing him water while he was pinned by the rubble. AWESOME!!!   

   


What Should We Be Seeking?

I realize with all this talk about the paranormal those who read this blog and hear my messages concerning the paranormal may think I only value experiential faith. That would not be true. I only suggest we have unfairly relegated experience to past saints and present fanatics. I still believe our experiences must be validated by the truth of God's Word. Let me explain.

The great Christian author, C.S. Lewis, was promoting proper theology and Bible study when a soldier in attendance interrupted. This man argued that such mental faith was not to be valued over true spiritual experiences where a believer may encounter almighty God. The officer then told of an experience he had while stationed in a remote desert all alone. He talked in glowing terms of such an encounter and he was obviously deeply moved and dramatically changed by the "Paranormal" experience. When he finished Lewis did not discount the importance of this man's encounter with God, but attempted to put it in perspective with an analogy. He said that standing at the edge of the Atlantic Ocean is a deeply moving experience as well. There you may hear the surf, feel the salt spray in your face, and be overcome with the immensity of the sight. Contrast that scene with a map. Just lines and color printed on paper. Not nearly as impressive as the ocean itself. Now imagine you wanted to go deeper into the ocean. You want to travel on it's waves and be carried by it's winds to distant and exotic lands. Which would be more important then? You could not travel if it were not for the ocean lifting you up from below. But you would be lost if it were not for the map. The map would allow you to know more about the ocean than your senses allow you to experience. It would keep you from poor and even dangerous evaluations about the scope and magnitude of the Atlantic. One fills you with wonder and makes you want to know and explore more. The other, the map, assists you to make the most of the experience by informing you about the magnitude of the ocean by those who traveled it's water before.

The danger of living for paranormal experiences alone is that it will land you in dangerous and frightful situations. Those who go spirit hunting without being spirit filled find themselves out numbered and out-gunned. No, the truth of God's Word says that it is not necessary to seek out evil spirits. We are to seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.  You don't have to look for the devil. He is around you all the time. We should pray as Jesus teaches "and deliver us from the evil one" because he is "roaming the earth seeking whom he may devour." So appreciate divine encounters when they occur and consistently check the map for validation of the truth of your experience.