Friday, March 26, 2010

The Consequences of Divorce on Our Children

How utterly selfish is this process we as a society have allowed to flourish.  How ironic that in an age when parents are so overprotective of their children that they allow such destruction of their emotional well being just to satisfy their own lusts and immaturity.

My parents enjoyed 61 years of marriage ending with my father's passing a year ago.  I have no ability to know either of their hearts, but as far as I know, their was never any serious issue of the marriage vows being violated.  However, there was a time when my siblings and I were worried that there was such a danger.  And we were very, very anxious about the circumstances.

Kids need the security of knowing that their parents are BOTH going to be there for them.  When there is even an unsubstantiated fear about that security being interrupted, it plays havoc on their emotions.  Merely seeing a divorce play out in the family of a family member or friend is all that is needed to create those doubts.  But statements or actions within the home can drive the insecurity to levels that create emotional trauma.  That trauma can lead to the child taking actions to relieve the stress or lower the pain.

When there is an actual leaving by one parent, then the potential for consequences is even greater.  There are the obvious questions about fault.  "What did I do wrong that caused Mommy to leave?"  There are issues of being left by the other parent.  And, of course all the issues around any loss such as anger, mourning, avoidance of future pain, and so on.

So in a time when we are putting helmets on our kids for skateboarding, carefully selecting the best schools, worried about the best methods of parenting, and involved in endless discussions about this food or that, this video game or that movie, how is it that we individually or as a society are so glib about divorce.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Bible - The Books of the Major Recommendations

Our Bible study class realized as we read through the books of the "law," that God didn't really suggest he was going to create problems for man if he failed to act in accordance with the law, but rather that there were natural consequences of sin.  Do the right things and life will go well for you.  Do the wrong things and you will suffer.

And yet, as every Christian knows, we see those who are sinning apparently doing well, and those who are living fairly righteously suffering consequences.  While I'm certainly not the first to think of this, I had a new take on the issue during my prayer time.

For the person living outside of God's commands and admonitions, even on their best day they are waiting for the other shoe to drop.  They live in fear, or at least stress over, the likelihood that they will get caught by those who are losing because of their gain, that the gravy train will run out, and they will be reduced to living like the rabble they so judge, or that illness or other consequences (STD's, stress related illnesses, etc.) will create discomfort or even death.

On the other hand, those of us who humble ourselves and attempt to live righteously will, as Paul points out, prosper even in our loss.  We will be hopeful when we suffer,  see potential good or gain in every loss, not be subject to stress due to anxiousness over our unexposed sins, and worry less about how others may be angry or unhappy with us.

Thus, we inherit the kingdom of God through our being meek now, not later.  We who may be last come in first now, not later.  Our riches lie in our good health ... healthy outlook ... even when our physical or fiscal health is not so good.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Death, Heaven, and Hell

Turned 62 earlier this week.  Kind of hard not to think, from time-to-time, about death.  I'd like to ask my Mom (84 in 6 weeks) what she's thinking about death, or maybe some of the older folks in my church.  But I feel uncomfortable bringing the subject up.  Why is that?  As far as I can tell, nobody ever talks about death.

We don't talk very much about heaven.  Even in the church.  I suspect that's because we have so many goodies here on earth that the prospect of heaven no longer offers much tangible benefit.  Sure, no more tears.  Sure, we get to meet Jesus.  But in an age of plenty and toys that are so cool we couldn't have imagined them even ten years ago, one needs a very good imagination to think of how things will be even more exciting in heaven. 

I actually think about heaven.  I read Randy Alcorn's book on Heaven, and I've read numerous other books and parts of books on the subject.  I'm totally confident that heaven is going to be amazing in every possible way, and beyond anything we could imagine in our wildest dreams.  But, I don't wake up heavenly minded. 

A close friend at church lost her Dad last week.  She does not have the assurance that he knew Jesus.  In fact, if he did, it would have been a foxhole confession in the last week of his life.  But what about hell.  If we don't talk or think about death or heaven very much, we sure don't talk about hell.  No more pastors talking about hell and damnation.  Can't go there.  Too tough.  People might leave.  Hmmm.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Lord's Prayer - Thy Will Be Done - Intercession

In a series of sermons on the Lord's prayer, Craig Henson, the pastor of Venice Church where I am a member, was discussing the phrase "Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven."  I had always seen this particular request of God as just that.  Please God, would you move the pieces of the chess board around so that people will start doing things on earth as it is in heaven.   Or by including the first few words of the verse "Thy Kingdom come," I thought it might be a request of the Lord that her hurry up with the bring about of His end time plan where things on earth will be like heaven. 

I make no claim to being very good at interpreting scripture.  I am thrilled to have been gifted with a copy of J Vernon McGee's "Thru the Bible" several years ago (Thank you Christian), that is my guide to understanding context and intention.  But I do have my own personal interpretation of this verse. 

Until Your Kingdom comes I pray that my actions would be within Your will so that I might provide evidence of heaven here on earth, and thereby also experience some of what heaven will provide.  This interpretation results in a few important results. 

First, it put the responsibility squarely in my lap.  Jesus was doing the will of His Father.  I am to do the will of my Father.  I have no responsibility for anyone else doing so, nor do I have an control over whether anyone else follows this directive.  To the extent that I do the will of God, it undoubtedly will effect how others act, but my responsibility begins and ends with my own decisions and actions.

Second, I have no control over others anyway.  The only hope I have in helping others to do the will of God here on earth is by example, by prayerful intercession, and by sharing the Word with others.

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Truth About the Bible - How Can Anyone Doubt?

Out of one small population of nomadic people has grown three religions that represent over three billion followers.  By some amazing coincidence these three groups continue in the 21st Century after the birth of Christ to conform to Biblical descriptions of them laid down between 2000 and 7000 years ago.

The Jews, probably most remarkably, like no other group on earth, maintain their identity as a "nation" even though they are scattered over and over again throughout history.  They constantly strive to come back to the nation of Israel just as the prophets said they would.  This very small population group has been more reviled and despised than any other group even until today.  They have been destroyed for no other reason but their identity as Jews over and over throughout history, even until today.  And yet they persist.  They neither proselytize nor subjugate anyone into their faith.  And then, as prophesy proclaims in multiple passages, the Jews return to Israel and establish a recognized state.  AMAZING!

The Muslims, which according to the Bible, grew out of the same root as the Jews, but were described by the Bible as being wrong headed, have shown themselves, even until today, to be a religion which grows by fear and subjugation.

The Christians, growing out of the Jewish root, and following the Messiah, Jesus, have almost without exception shown themselves to be an unselfish, forgiving, and peace loving group.  Their growth has come by preaching and conversion through the free will of the individual to choose Christ.

All of this is written and described and has come to pass in a way precisely laid out in the Bible.  The historic elements of the Bible are specific as to names, places, prophesies, and details of both daily life and civilizations.  The potential for non-believing or even believing scholars to find gaping holes in the Biblical account abound due to all of this detail, and yet no such gaping holes are found.  If there could be a major showing of a huge error, hundreds of millions would fall away from the faith.

How can their be any serious doubt that the Bible is divinely inspired?  If it is the Word of God, how can those who believe it so easily disregard it.  This is the great mystery.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Day -4 - Returning This Blog to Its Original Intent

You can actually watch my life become more secular if you check out the journey of this blog.  Started 5 years ago, it was true to its intent.  The last couple of years, the few postings were much more about me making a living.  If I'm going to change my discipline, then this should be a place of pure intent.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Day - 5 - Christian Discipline: Appreciating the Father in Heaven

Getting up early is not an issue.  I generally wake up before six, and can probably back that down to 5:30 without any difficulty.  I stretched my back, but I'm not ready to work out yet.  I am ready to pray.

When I was in the disciplined mode the last time, I found that using the Lord's prayer as an outline for my time with the Lord was a huge help.  At our church, we are currently studying this very thing.  The teaching that had inspired this approach last time was Could You Not Tarry One Hour?: Learning the Joy of Praying by Larry Lea.  I should probably reread this classic.

What have I learned already on this first morning of getting up out of bed and going to a prayer place to study and pray?  That I am a sinner.  My name should be "selfish."

Like every human being, I am a child of a parent.  Like most, I am a parent to a child.  As I contemplated these roles this morning I found that I am a better parent than I am a child.  Sacrificial, unconditional love comes pretty naturally with regard to your kids.  They are helpless, needy, and you can clearly know that you are responsible for their life.  For most parents I suspect there is plenty of selflessness in their parenting.  One thought I had as I prayed:  how much of our willingness to sacrifice for our kids is based on the fact that we can play god in their lives.  

But the more telling time for me this morning was my recognition that after my parents sacrificed so much for me, shouldn't I be willing, even anxious to return to favor.  Shouldn't our thankfulness for their huge contribution to who we are result in an outpouring of devotion to them, rather than a begrudging sense of duty to call or visit from time-to-time.

Of course we are busy.  Hugely busy raising our own kids, working for a living.  We have other responsibilities to spouses, friends, siblings, brothers and sisters in Christ, hobbies, and God.  Taking an hour a week for Mom and even less for Dad is about all that we can honestly spare.  Let's see.  50 hours a year for the 30 years that you and they are both adults.  1500 hours.  They spent that in the first year of your life.

Maybe an hour a week is enough.  Or two or three.  I think the real issue is the begrudging or duty part.  And that's where we get to the God parallel.  Is my hourly time of devotion with my heavenly Daddy going to be a time of duty offered up as a begrudging time when I'd rather be watching TV?  Or getting more sleep in the morning so I can stay up for TV later tonight?

If we believe that God is who He says He is, how can we not want to spend half the day with Him or even more.  The problem should be tearing ourselves away from our time with Him, not finding the time to spend.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Day - 6 - My Daily Chrisitan Discipline Plan

If you checked out my insanity blog just below (and if you didn't you should), I am going the almost full immersion route to try and get myself back on track.  So the title above is correct.  I haven't started yet.  Today is day minus 6.  I am starting on Friday, March 12.  My birthday is the 16th, which might have had some sense to it.  I picked Friday because two of my favorite TV shows end their season this week. 

I am winding up (down) toward that day.  More time in prayer this morning.  Only reading Christian literature.  Listening to classic music on the radio, not news. 

Stay tuned if you like.  I'll try to remember to post daily.

Humans Are Stupid, Dumb, Even Insane - Repeat Their Mistakes

Definition of Insanity - Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

Back pain, I'm happy to report, is rarely an issue for me.  Chronic back pain even less so.  But a few years ago I did tweak my back in such a way that no amount of rest, heat, vibration, or Motrin seemed to get me any closer to relief.  Then one day I was putting away Diet Pepsi cans on the shelf of my fridge, and I decided not to baby my back.  Instead, I fully stretched my back with each few cans that I lowered to the bottom shelf.  WaLa!  The next day my back felt great. 

Fast forward a couple of years.  The last three weeks (after installing a water heater), my back was not responding to heat, vibration, rest . . . you get the point.  And I have been . . . uhh, babying it.  Has anyone else had a similar experience with their physical issues?

So that those who occasionally stumble across this blog become fully aware of my own insanity, here is a much sadder tale.  In the early '90's I made a decision to seek the face of God through daily devotion and discipline.  I began by immersing myself in the things of God, which by extension, meant divorcing myself from the things of the world.  I stopped listening to news, reading secular magazines or books, and even turned off the TV. 

The results couldn't have been better.  For over ten years my experience with the Lord was nothing short of amazing.  My prayer time was not limited to the hour in the morning, but was rather a constant connection during the day.  My ministries soared as I participated in Men's ministry through Promise Keepers, taught adults, sang on the praise team, wrote a book on teen abstinence, did radio and appeared on the Geraldo show.

Amazingly all of these things were easily accomplished while raising four kids and running a medium sized manufacturing business.  Looking back, it seems impossible.  But I have witnesses.  :  )

One would think that a life that blessed would keep even the dumbest guy on track.  One would be wrong.  Having nothing to do with my work for Jesus, the business began to have troubles in the early '90's.  Many decisions that I made to keep the company from folding were not Godly at all.  But even the desperate and inappropriate decisions were not enough to save the business, and it was sold at fire sale in 2007. 

While conducting myself in a way I knew was not Biblical, I pulled back from ministry.  How could I minister to others while behaving in a way I would never have counseled them to do.  I was pretty sure that God didn't want to help me out or maybe even have much to do with me.  So my prayer time evaporated.  (Of course, I really just didn't want to hear Him tell me to STOP sinning.)

Well, it's now over two years since I sold the business.   I'm not sinning, but my spiritual life reaches about as far as the ceiling (I know.  It isn't original, but it is exactly how it feels.)  But, reaching back to the parallel story about my aching back.  How smart would I have to be to see that I just need to stretch my spiritual muscles and begin to exercise again. 

Are you experiencing anything like this?  Have you fallen into a rut that has a clear answer?  One that has even worked for you before?  But you are plan insane, like me?  I'd love to hear your story.