Tuesday, October 27, 2009

How Jesus is the Solution: Installment #4

"Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus... he humbled himself..." (Phil 2:5,8)
Pride is a universal intrapersonal enemy in the life of every human being to be fought with resolve and defeated . It starts early in child development as autonomy is explored for the first time. But, like the "sweet tooth," it must be held in check, tamed before it destroys a life. Every person made in the image of God has the right to, head held high, look every other person in the eye. But this does not mean being prideful.
"Where there is strife, there is pride, but wisdom is found in those who take advice." (Prov 13:10 TNIV)
Pride leads to closed hearts and heads. It builds walls in relationships - often injuring the people we love the most. It fuels anger and grudges. It keeps us from learning from other people, destroying the synergistic value of human community.
The Disney theme parks are designed, built and maintained by a group called the Imagineers. Their highest principle comes straight from Walt Disney: Everyone has a voice, everyone has useful thoughts and ideas. With that mentality, they have tapped the minds of engineers, children, doctors, parents, and custodians - anyone who might have a stake in the end product - and constructed the most effective entertainment experiences in the world. It takes humility, but it is how we were made to live together in community.
Good illustration: A professor of mine in grad school tells of when he was working on his PhD - a Greek scholar - translating texts that most scholars had never even seen before. He was teaching a Sunday school class and brought up a nuance on a Greek verb. An elderly woman at the back of the class raised her hand and corrected him. He looked up what she suggested when he got back to his office and realized she was right. When he asked her how she knew, she told him she had been widowed for about 40 years and wanted to spend her extra time understanding the Bible better. She got a Greek primer and taught herself Greek - and had been studying ancient Greek consistently for 40 years. Without a high school degree - yet reading at the level of a Greek scholar - she taught a scholar the value of humility. My professor used this illustration to teach us that everyone has a voice - and to listen.
"Before a downfall the heart is haughty, but humility comes before honor." (Prov 18:12 TNIV)
"Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up." (James 4:10 TNIV)
Sometimes the most difficult humility for some is to humble ourselves to God. There are commands in scripture that don't make sense to us or match our perspective. In a culture where we like to mold and shape our own life experience, the prospect of someone else - i.e. our creator - making demands upon our lives rubs us wrongly.
From the life of Jesus, what helps me is to see his example praying to God in the garden before he was crucified. He prayed, "...yet not as I will, but as you will." (Mat 26:39 NIV)
It seems to me that humility is saying, "It's not about me. It's about you." To our friends, enemies, family, and especially to God. In our humility and dependence upon God comes a promise that "...he may lift you up in due time." (1 Pet 5:6)

Humility breaks down walls, opens dialogue, heals wounds and promotes true community for which we are created.

Humility is part of the solution.


Wednesday, September 09, 2009

How Jesus is the Solution: Installment #3


(Eccl 3:11 NIV) He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.

Famed psychiatrist, Viktor Frankl, who gained and shared much from his experience as a prisoner at Auschwitz wrote, "There is, in fact, a religious sense deeply rooted in each and every man's unconscious depths." (The Unconscious God, 10) Frankl learned through experience and observation what God revealed long ago through the mind of Solomon. God put that "religious sense" there. That "sense" or "eternity" gnaws at our hearts and begs the question, "What is the meaning of life?" So people - individuals, groups, families, nations - continue the quest for meaning.

Frankl added, "...man is not he who poses the question, What is the meaning of life? but he who is asked this question; for it is life itself that poses it to him." (23, 24) Only human beings, when confronted with life are innately asked the question.

This meaning, the answer to the longing, the diagnosis of the nagging sense that something is not right in the world, this common human inkling that there must be meaning outside our temporary faulted milieu - is found in Jesus.

The Apostle Paul wrote, "I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead." (Phil 3:10-11 NIV)

Our meaning and purpose through suffering, and in joy is the same; to fellowship with our creator - to have relationship with God. That relationship is found in Christ Jesus.

"For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus." (1 Tim 2:5 NIV)

So, for now we need him as our go-between, "Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known." (1 Cor 13:12 NIV)

In Christ we find resurrection. We find eternity. We find relationship with God. In Christ and only through him do we find meaning.

Man's constant quest for meaning is part of the problem.
Finding ultimate meaning is part of the solution.

Please find him.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

How Jesus is the Solution: Installment #2


"Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you." (Col 3:13 NIV)

Grudges, hatred and anger sever relationships. Our families, communities and nation are built on relationships and without relationships success alludes us. In a time when radical individualism grips our culture, there is a fierce need for forgiveness to heal hearts. We are not an island. No one succeeds alone.

Jesus Christ's example is the paragon of forgivness. Nailed to a wooden cross to suffocate and bleed to death, Jesus prayed a powerful prayer, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." (Luke 23:34 NIV)

Can you imagine a world with that attitude? Our country needs a healthy dose of forgiveness. Forgiveness is found in Jesus Christ, not only in the eternal sense that Christians often emphasize, but in the everyday relationships of life.

Please choose to follow Jesus.
Please choose to forgive.

Forgiveness is part of the solution.

Monday, August 31, 2009

How Jesus is the Solution: Installment #1


“…Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his steps. He committed no sin and no deceit was found in his mouth.” (1 Peter 2:21-22)

A Jesus-following culture would be a place where people are taught that honesty truly is the best policy and where truth is more important than temporary gain.

Flying home from college one summer I sat next to a journalism major from another school. Upon learning my major (Bible and Religion) he made the comment, “That’s interesting, I’m in school to learn how to lie and you are in school to learn how to tell the truth.” I was flabbergasted! Isn't journalism supposed to be about reporting on true things?

But hasn’t this become pretty common? Those who lie well are rewarded handsomley for doing so. Politics, jurisprudence, marketing and sales, business (and even journalism!?) are industrees that often reward good liars.

Aristotle once said, “The smallest deviation from the truth will soon multiply a thousand fold.” Any country where people are taught to lie, and rewarded for doing it well, suffers greatly. People don’t know who to trust. People in helping professions fearfully watch their backs. Friends are double-crossed, destroying relationships. Marriages disintigrate scarring hearts for life. The weakminded are exploited. Trillions are spent on litigation, and it takes weeks to buy a house (not to mention you have to write a book with your own signiture.)

Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.” Jesus Christ (Luke 16:10)

Please don’t take that step down the road toward dishonesty. Be honest even with the little things, even when no one will know the difference, with everyone you come in contact with - even and especially yourself.

Learn honesty from Jesus Christ.
Make our nation, and your family better.

Telling the truth is part of the solution.

Tell the truth.

(p.s. and vote for people who tell the truth.)

Monday, July 27, 2009

Spiritual (v.) Physical

After a 7-month break - here we go.

"Are spiritual problems or physical problems more important?"

This question is asked in many ways by people in various fields who have given their lives to causes in which they believe strongly.

For some the answer is easy - though they disagree.

Some say "spiritual" problems are more important. Spiritual problems include "sins" of selfishness, pride, dishonesty, irreverence, etc. Jesus himself said "What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Mat 16:26 NIV) Obviously, the sins that separate us from God (Isaiah 59:1-2) have eternal, not just temporary consequences. The Apostle Paul said, "So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." (2 Cor 4:18 NIV) According to this view if you starve to death, but are able to be saved for eternity you are better off than if you lived a well-fed life and die and are subsequently condemned for eternity. Who would argue with that?

Others say "physical" problems are more important. Physical problems include disease, war, poverty, hunger, etc. Jesus himself said, "He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'" (Mat 25:45 NIV) So Jesus confirms his expectation that his followers respond to physical problems. Obviously, justice is important to God. Matthew attributed the prophecy of Isaiah 42:1-4 to be of Jesus in Matthew 12:18-21. In it God's servant "...will proclaim justices to the nations," and will lead "justice to victory." Social justice is at the heart of physical problem in our world that are very near and dear to the heart of God.

So which is more important?

I wonder this - "Why must the two be in competition?" The Bible says that "faith without deeds is dead." (James 2:26) Jesus follows his statement in Mat 25:45 by saying that those who do not care for the physical ailments of those in need "...will go away to eternal punishment..." (Mat. 25:46) It seems like our response to physical problems carries heavy spiritual consequences.

I'm interested in dialogue.
Why have these two choices been pitted against each other?
Should they be separated? Why or why not?

Grace and Peace!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Your Spiritual Thermostat

I'm reading a great book right now by Dr. John Gottman, a relationship expert who has studied in depth over 2,000 married couples over 2 decades of research. In his book Why Marriages Succeed or Fail he highlights a quality in strong marriages - an internal thermostat.

For a marriage to work, he concludes that there needs to be a 5 to 1 ratio of positive to negative interactions. Couples with strong marriages have an internal gauge that can measure, unconsciously, this ratio. If there is too much negativity during a given period of time, they pump in more positive interactions. Surprisingly, healthy marriages also gauge the other way. If there are too many positive experiences, motivation to strengthen the marriage dwindles. Thus, in times when things are going really well, sometimes couples will find themselves arguing about something that doesn't even matter, just to have a negative experience, to motivate more positive interactions, and so keep the general 5 to 1 balance - fascinating.

Does this happen to our spiritual relationship with God too?

When you're really struggling through a difficult life issue, do you find yourself in God's word, on your knees praying or seeking guidance from a spiritual mentor? Conversely, are there times when things are going really well, and the same old doubts emerge and cause you to dig in a little deeper for awhile to strengthen your faith?

I am blessed with great parents who have been successful with a long-term, healthy marriage. They have implanted in me through my own observation a pretty good thermostat in my marriage. Likewise, they modeled a healthy relationship with God. This concept makes me all the more motivated to be the kind of example to my kids with these two important areas of life so that one day they will naturally pursue a strong relationship with their spouse, and with their creator.

For what other areas of life does this internal thermostat apply?

Do you struggle with your spiritual thermostat?

May God bless you richly today.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Reflections on Revelation 13

This is another entry for anyone in my Revelation class who wants to discuss some of the issues from Revelation.

This week we are looking at implications of Rev. 13 In the reading I gave you that is a reflection on this chapter, the author makes a couple statements that I think would make good discussion points. Feel free to respond to one, all, or add your own.

1. "The entire history of our nation is infused with biblical idealism, with the notaiton that this country is God's special land." With that, he goes on to talk about how we can be more patriotic about this country than about the kingdom of God. What do you think about this statement?

2. "The problem arises when we allow any of these loyalties to become the ultimate loyalty in our lives, when a commitment to job, family, or nation takes priority over all other commitments, including our commitment to God." When does this happen.

3. In what ways has Western (American) culture lulled or allured Christians? Why are numbers of conversions dropping?

4. "Between Rom. 13 and Rev. 13, where does the modern (American) Christian stand?"