Saturday, December 29, 2007

Reefer Madness

I live in Denver, Colorado where there is a push by certain groups to legalize or minimize the penalties for marijuana use. One group uses the term “safer” as their motto. I think it has two uses. Many people will vote for something they don’t know anything about because it will make us safer. The organization using the slogan says that marijuana use is safer than alcohol use.

I’ve had a lot of personal experience in the use and effect of marijuana. I was around fourteen years old when I tried it for the first time. I fell in love but for two years, my use was limited by availability. At around sixteen, I used it more and within a year was smoking every day, all day. I was also selling so I had unlimited availability and some cash as well. This continued until I became a Christian at eighteen.

As I look back, I see two major problems with marijuana: it makes you stupid and lazy. You can even see that in movies that are sympathetic to pot use. The characterization is usually the goofy mess-up.

When I was smoking daily, that is all I cared about. My day was centered on pot. I had zero ambition concerning anything else. I had money and I had dope, that is all that mattered. My friend and I had great plans for the future but neither of us did anything to make it happen. The only constant was making sure the next pound was bought and that enough customers were serviced to keep the cycle going.

I came across some studies recently that cast an even darker light on pot use. It seems that the studies are showing that regular pot use can lead to psychosis. I’m going to give some quotes. If you are interested further you can look up the cites for more info.

Does Cannabis Cause Schizophrenia?

A meta-analysis suggests that cannabis use is associated with a 40% increased risk of psychosis in later life.

The risk for psychotic outcomes (defined as a range, with schizophrenia as the most severe manifestation) was higher in individuals who had ever used cannabis (adjusted odds ratio, 1.41) than in those who had not. A dose-response effect was observed, with increased risk in people who used cannabis most frequently (OR, 2.09).

— Leslie L. Iversen, PhD

Dr. Iversen is Visiting Professor, Department of Pharmacology, University of Oxford.

Published in Journal Watch Neurology November 27, 2007


Cannabis and Psychosis: Two Studies

Evidence for the association is consistent across population-based studies, and cannabis use is associated with later worsening of psychosis.

Comment: Clearly, cannabis use is associated with heightened risk for onset or worsening of psychotic symptoms. Degenhardt et al. point out that their study showed only a small increase in psychotic symptoms in people with psychotic disorders and daily cannabis use. However, cannabis use is a modifiable risk factor and is associated with increased rates of use of other illicit drugs, which may also worsen psychosis. The evidence seems sufficient to justify warning people of cannabis-associated risks and to try to minimize its use by patients with psychotic disorders.

— Deborah S. Cowley, MD

Published in Journal Watch Psychiatry September 17, 2007
As I look at these studies and my personal experience, I have many reasons to oppose loosening the reigns on marijuana use. However, I don’t think any of it would mean anything to someone who wants to get high. They are in a different world. I know; I have been there.

Philip

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Jamie Lynn Spears

This is Britney's sister. Until last week I didn't know she existed. Now I know that she is 16, pregnant and the father is her boyfriend.

"It was a shock for both of us, so unexpected," she said. "I was in complete and total shock, and so was he."

Well I assume it wasn't a virgin birth so I don't understand the shock. I guess it must be the thinking that "it couldn't happen to me."

What really amazes me is the pseudo shock that the media is expressing. Are we to believe that the average Hollywood actress, 16 or not, is abstaining from sex? The reality is that most pregnancies like Jamie's end in abortion.

As the church in general, we don't have much room for outrage either. Statistically, twenty-four percent of abortions are done on women who identify as evangelical Christian. Depending on who you listen to, either a majority or a high percentage of youth group girls are sexually active and many of the resulting pregnancies are covered up by abortion.

So back to Jamie...I sure don't condone her situation but it is kind of amazing that she hasn't dealt with it by abortion.

We have to ask ourselves if the typical youth group girl would make the same decision or if she would feel that abortion might be easier.

It's difficult, but we have to learn to mix a stand for righteousness with compassion and forgiveness.

Of course, we should help them understand that even if they believe that sex is only for marriage, if they don't have proper boundaries, sex is almost inevitable. Their heart may say one thing but privacy mixed with aroused passion can get out of control very quick.

Philip

Friday, December 21, 2007

Don’t Borrow Trouble

From my morning reading.

You have a disagreeable duty to do at twelve o'clock. Do not blacken nine, and ten, and eleven, and all between, with the color of twelve. Do the work of each, and reap your reward in peace. So when the dreaded moment in the future becomes the present, you shall meet it walking in the light, and that light will overcome its darkness. The best preparation is the present well seen to, the last duty done. For this will keep the eye so clear and the body so full of light that the right action will be perceived at once, the right words will rush from the heart to the lips, and the man, full of the Spirit of God because he cares for nothing but the will of God, will trample on the evil thing in love, and be sent, it may be, in a chariot of fire to the presence of his Father, or stand unmoved amid the cruel mockings of the men he loves.

George MacDonald
From Daily Strength for Daily Needs
- Mary Tileston

One of my wife Wendy’s favorite sayings is, “don’t borrow trouble”. She will say it when I am talking about something that may or may not happen in the future. Her words and the above words are a reminder to live well in the present. Do what needs to be done now and deal with the future when and if it comes.

Philip

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Agenda for 2008 Democratic National Convention

7:00 pm Opening flag burning

7:15 pm Pledge of Allegiance to the U.N. in Spanish

7:20 pm Ted Kennedy proposes a toast

7:25 pm Nonreligious prayer and worship with Jessie Jackson and Al Sharpton

7:45 pm Ceremonial tree hugging

7:55 pm Ted Kennedy proposes a toast

8:00 pm How I Invented the Internet – Al Gore

8:15 pm Gay Wedding – Barney Frank presiding

8:35 pm Ted Kennedy proposes a toast

8:40 pm Our Troops are War Criminals – John Kerry

9:00 pm Saddam Memorial Rally – Cindy Sheehan and Susan Sarandon

11:00 pm Ted Kennedy proposes a toast

11:05 pm Collection of Osama Bin Laden kidney transplant fund – Barbara Streisand

11:15 pm Free the Freedom Fighters from Guantanamo Bay – Sean Penn

11:30 pm Oval Office Affairs – William Jefferson Clinton

11:45 pm Ted Kennedy proposes a toast

11:50 pm How George Bush Brought Down the World Trade Towers – Howard Dean & Rosie O'Donnell

12:15 pm "Truth in Broadcasting Award" – Presented to Dan Rather by Michael Moore

12:25 pm Ted Kennedy proposes a toast

12:30 pm Satellite address by Mohmoud Ahmadinejad

12:45 pm Nomination of Hillary Rodham Clinton by Nancy Pelosi

12:50 pm Speech and toast by Hugo Chavez to the departure of "the great satan", G. W. Bush

12:55 pm Hillary proposes a toast to our 89 million new Democratic Mexican voters

1:00 am Ted Kennedy proposes a toast

1:05 am Coronation of Hillary Rodham Clinton

1:30 am Ted Kennedy proposes a toast

1:35 am Bill Clinton asks Ted Kennedy to drive Hillary home.


Thanks to my friend Dave Rupert for sending me this.

Philip

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Mio Auto GPS

I am amazed. I bought an auto GPS on Monday and am in wonder of what it can do. In my business, I am at a different location every day and sometimes several in one day.

I have had a set of maps from Mapopolis on my Palm handheld since 2001. The company hasn’t issued an update since 2005 so on occasion I can’t find a location as it is newer than the map. I couldn’t find a comparable map product since.

I first started looking at an auto GPS about a month ago. I didn’t want to spend a fortune but a must have feature for me was text to speech. This is so the GPS gives the names of the streets and not just “turn right at next intersection.” Most of the cheaper ones don’t have that.

I came across the Mio C230 and found that it had everything I wanted. It normally runs about $200. I saw it on sale at Radio Shack for $150 (till December 24). It’s very easy to use and makes navigation to the most obscure locations a breeze. With what I know now, I wouldn’t hesitate to spend the whole $200 if I had to. You can find them on Amazon for less than $200 as well.

Today I drove about 70 miles, which is much more than normal. I had three locations to go to. If you know the Denver metro area I was in Morrison first, then southeast by Park Meadows then west by Colorado Mills. I know all three areas fairly well but in each case, the exact location where I had to go was a little obscure. The Mio made it easy. Before I left this morning, I entered each address and it took over from there. On Friday I am going to Highlands Ranch and if you have ever navigated there you know a map or exact directions is essential. It will be easy now.

So if you get around a lot, an auto GPS can be an incredible tool. I have mine mounted in my work van but I can pop it out, put it in my shirt pocket and head out. It’s about 3.5 inches square and less than an inch thick. It will also be great for long bike rides next spring. I can see my wife wanting to use it as many times she asks me how to get to some location around town. As easy as it is to use, anyone can pick it up and be an expert navigator.

Philip

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Goodbye Matthew Murray


I had the privilege to be at Matthew Murray’s funeral. It wasn’t announced, only family and friends were invited. There were several hundred people, every seat filled and many standing.

I spent a lot of time staring at Matthew’s picture on the front of the program. I looked deep into his eyes and wondered what went wrong with that young man. So many tried to reach him, to love him and yet it wasn’t enough.

I wondered how you do a funeral surrounded by such tragic circumstances. I was amazed. What came across was God’s incredible love, grace and forgiveness.

We heard stories from friends and family about Matthew and of what he meant to them. It was obvious that he was loved and will be missed by many people.

We heard about the meetings between Matthew’s family and the families of the YWAM victims. Love and forgiveness were poured out.

For many the pain will never end. Friends and family are dead. Questions will go unanswered. Lives will never be the same.

Another message from the funeral was a reminder of what Christmas is all about. Jesus came into a sinful world to bring redemption. He reaches out to each of us, wanting to free us from our bondage. We can be free and He wants to make us free yet many refuse the offer. Tricked by the lies of the devil some never experience freedom. Innocence turns to hardness. Hurt turns to bitterness. Lives are not what they could have been.

We were encouraged to take the message of love, grace and forgiveness out into the world with us. That is something we can do. Those of us who have experienced it first hand can make a difference. We can demonstrate God’s amazing love to a hard, hurt and bitter world.

Goodbye Matthew, I didn’t know you very well but my remembrance of you will cause me to live different in this world.

Philip

Here is an article about Matthew’s family.

Monday, December 10, 2007

When Homeschoolers Kill

People were killed yesterday at YWAM and at New Life Church. I heard of it in the afternoon.

This morning on talk radio, I heard people calling in and saying they thought a homosexual did it. Their reasoning was that New Life and YWAM were opposed to homosexuality so some poor oppressed person was striking back at them.

Now we know the killer had been homeschooled. I wonder if the critics are disappointed. Now they will have to switch gears and talk of the poor oppressed homeschooled kid.

I know the killer’s parents. We used to go to church with them. Matthew Murray, their son, was in one of my son’s Sunday school classes when they were very little. We had continued contact with the family through the years in homeschool circles and various events with common friends.

I didn’t really know Matthew but a way to describe him was “dark.” He always seemed troubled and I know his parents were always trying to figure out what to do. I can’t even begin to think of what they must be going through.

When my wife and I were married, we established a Christian home. We followed Jesus and were going to raise our children to follow Him too. We figured that everything would turn out well. Of course, we have had a rude awakening and many disappointments. We have a daughter who is a prodigal. She wants to figure things out her own way. She has had a lot of heartache and our prayer is that some day she will come to her senses and realize that all she ever wanted is what God has provided.

I know what it is like to have a child go the wrong way. I’ve seen it happen in many other good families as well. Children exercise their free will and they don’t always do the right thing.

Matthew Murray went to the extreme. When it all comes out, I think we will find out that he wasn’t just a kid who went the wrong way. Some will say he had mental problems and others will say that he was demon possessed. He could have found healing in Christ but something kept him away.

Pray for his parents, their life will never be the same.

Philip

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Death Comes Quickly – Part 2



This ten-year-old girl was killed last week. She was caught in the crossfire of a gang shootout involving her parent and some other people.

What brings me to write is an article in today’s paper showing a very nice school picture (above left) and the principal of her school’s comments. She knew the girl in the school picture. The girl represented by her parent’s MySpace page (above right) appalled the principal.

The shooting could have happened across the street from me. A household of gang members lives there. I wrote about them in Death Comes Quickly. At this point in time they are on their best behavior. They were about to loose their welfare housing, etc so they are doing their best to hide their true colors.

Look at the pictures below. They are from one of the boy’s MySpace pages. Their little sister is being trained from a young age to flash gang signs. She is part of a gang family. That will be her identity long before she understands what it means.



There was a shooting in front of their house a few months ago. Some of their friends shot at a car that was driving by. The friends took off on foot. When the police arrived, they wouldn’t even tow the shooter’s car. It didn’t matter that we saw all this happening out of our front window. The police took off after about 20 minutes. I guess a shooting isn’t enough, you must need a dead body. A few minutes after that a guy came and drove the car off.

The whole thing did bring some heat on the gang house. So now they are laying low. Instead of parking in front of the house, people will park down the street. The danger remains but I guess that's a risk of gang life. It’s sad how many innocent people are killed in the gang shooting crossfire, many times kids. People get upset but as time goes on, they forget about it until the next killing.

This isn’t the first and it won’t be the last. I do hope it doesn’t happen to the little girls across the street and especially not to my kids.

Philip

Monday, December 3, 2007

Rick Warren is off the Reservation


Rick Warren is off the Reservation

I thought this is a very good post from the LTI blog. Not just the part about Rick Warren but how people become the self-anointed spokesman for whatever.

How easy it is to think that because we are good with one thing that we can be good with everything. That is one lesson I have learned as a handyman. I can do many things very well and there are a lot of things I leave alone. It's good to know your limitations. It keeps you from getting in over your head.

I had a friend who was on a Focus on the Family broadcast in the early 90's. He had become very popular in the prolife movement. He told me that as they walked down the hall to the studio, James Dobson advised him, "don't believe your own press." Sadly, he didn't listen and became very arrogant over time.

We all get our 15 minutes of fame and sometimes a little more. Don't get used to it and don't sell out to keep it going.

Philip

Monday, November 26, 2007

Gonzo

I read this book for the same reason I stare at an auto accident and then drive around the block for a better look.

This is the story of a horrible wreck. Lives were damaged in many ways.

I subscribed to Rolling Stone in the early seventies. Hunter Thompson was a writer for it at that time. It's possible I read some of his stuff but I don't remember. I haven't since.

My memory of him was of his drug and alcohol excess. That is what this book is mostly about.

It was also about how he would borrow money and not pay it back, how he would steal, about various crimes he would commit and about how hard it was to get him to do his job.

Yet he was a hero. He was an icon. He was the pinnacle of the drug, alcohol and sex generation. I think that is why it was hard for his peers to criticize him. To do so would call into question all they had fought for.

It was the same reason the feminists couldn't denounce Bill Clinton over the Monica Lewinski scandal.

A recurring theme in the book was how hard it was to get Hunter to do his writing. The drugs and alcohol got in the way. It was always late if at all. Assistants and editors would be driven close to insanity with the process.

He was on the lecture circuit for a while but even though he could have made millions, his lifestyle was in competition. He would either be hours late, not show up at all or be incoherent.

It's amazing that he lived as long as he did. He ended his life with a .45 slug through his mouth and brain stem. His grandson was in the other room.

After his death, his fans held him up as a man totally in control of his life to the end. They say he decided how he would live and how he would die.

He may have ended his life but he didn't control how he lived it. His personal demons did that. The drugs and alcohol ruled.

To someone with experience of a transformed life this is a particularly sad story. Things could have been different.

The fun turned to tragedy. Many people besides Hunter were hurt by the way he lived and the example he set.

So what about us? What is trying to get control of our life?

Is something controlling us, are we trying to control our life or is God in control of our life? Don’t live life Hunter’s way.

Philip

Monday, November 19, 2007

Surrender

Most of us are slow to recognize that we have lost the war against our besetting sin. We deceive ourselves about the progress of that war, taking false comfort in inconsequential successes, distracting ourselves with elaborate battle plans and issuing orders to internal forces we cannot control. Our losses continue to mount, affecting everyone around us, but we ignore them. We imagine that we are "fighting the good fight" against sin, but the battle is already lost. All that remains is the formality of surrender–and the opportunity, the wondrous alternative, of surrendering to God instead.

Until we grasp the magnitude of our defeat, the prospect of surrendering to God is distasteful to us. We recoil at the thought of giving up, fearing a loss of our imagined liberty, and we frantically carry on our feeble resistance. But on that great and awful day when the inner defensive ring finally collapses, we fall toward God exhausted, and there to our inexpressible relief we find welcome instead of rebuke, dignity instead of shame, and life instead of death.

From Samson and the Pirate Monks
Whose struggle is this? Is it common to every Christian or is it only speaking of really bad sinners who aren't serious about following Jesus?

One of my Samson Society friends read this book quote Saturday night. It landed on all of us like a ton of bricks. But it was good!

I think everyone of us must pass through this struggle and more than once – sometimes every day. Sin and the devil are on a rampage and we are in a battle for our very souls. It's something we will fight until we are out of this world.

Being the proud people we are, we want to do it ourselves. Somehow, we think we can demonstrate our spirituality by winning the battle. That is where this book quote comes in. All we can do is surrender. No matter how long I walk with Jesus, I will never be able to do it alone. My flesh will always be my filthy flesh. My righteousness will always be as discarded menstrual rags (Isaiah 64:6).

And what about that besetting sin? I think that is common to all of us. There is that one (or more) thing we just can't get a handle on. Some would call it a thorn in the flesh. The thing that keeps us from boasting and drives us to the cross (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).

The solution is surrender–I am hopelessly lost and weak. In that surrender I find victory and a Lord who speaks words of comfort, strength, peace and life. I am home where I belong.

We can't focus on the failures. We need to admit defeat, confess our sin (again), ask God to fill us with the Holy Spirit and continue to walk in the right direction. I'm also finding it is good to have a friend we can share these struggles with. That person can remind us that we are in a battle common to all Christians and that our concern about our sin shows that we really do want to walk with Jesus.

Not so bad after all.

Philip

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Chlamydia Hits Record Level in U.S.

More than 1 million cases of chlamydia were reported in the U.S. last year — the most ever reported for a sexually transmitted infection (STI), Fox News reported.

Gonorrhea rates also increased after hitting a record low, federal officials said. Syphilis is rising, too.

"It’s vital that everyone understand how the increase in sexual activity at younger ages is skyrocketing the number of STIs in our country," said Linda Klepacki, sexual health analyst for Focus on the Family Action. "Pre-teen and teenage girls are at much higher physical risk of contracting STIs than mature females. Youth should not be encouraged to be sexually active.

"Parents need to teach their children about sexuality and the health that God built into His plan for sexuality."

From CitizenLink.com

Monday, November 12, 2007

Crazy for God

I read a lot and I read very fast. This book was around four hundred pages and I finished it in a few days. I wanted to get to the end so I had the whole picture before I passed judgment.

Do you know who Francis Schaeffer is? He was a famous Christian apologist, founder of L'Abri (a Christian study center in Switzerland), husband of Edith and father of Frank (Frankie) Schaeffer who wrote this book. Thankfully, Francis is deceased, Edith is very old and suffering from memory loss and neither of them will have to read this book. I doubt a book like this could have been written if they were around. The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him. Proverbs 18:17

The book is Frank's memoirs: life as he saw it, looking through brown stained glasses.

A review I read of the book promised "dirt" on Frank's parents, their ministry and most of the rest of the evangelical community. I must say it didn't disappoint. I know some of what Frank says is not true so I suspect a lot of the rest.

I wonder if it was written to try to find a place on the bestsellers list with the other anti-God books that are so popular now.

Once passionately prolife, Frank has now found that abortion is not as simple as the "nutcase" prolifers made it out to be. Of course, he has rethought homosexuality as well. He is not even sure God exists.

I think this book shows what happens when unforgiveness produces bitterness. It shows what happens when a person lives life on their own terms with God pushed to the fringes. It shows what happens when someone who was on the "inside" tries to excuse their failures by poking their finger in the eye of old acquaintances that did something good with their life.

If you can stand the bad language and sex there are some lessons to be learned from this book. Too bad Frank Schaeffer didn't learn them.

Philip

Crazy for God at Amazon

Saturday, November 10, 2007

How to Obey God's Laws

From my morning reading.

So now we can obey God's laws if we follow after the Holy Spirit and no longer obey the old evil nature within us. Romans 8:4 TLB

Are you not glad that the Word of God makes things so simple? If we really want to obey God's laws, His resources are available to us. First and foremost, the Holy Spirit abides within to guide us. While it is true that we have all of the Holy Spirit at the time of conversion, we cannot expect the full blessing and power of God until the Holy Spirit has full control of all of us.

As we appropriate the fullness of His Holy Spirit by faith, we are supplied with supernatural power to obey God's laws. That supernatural power, even, is contingent upon our cooperation in that we must not only commit ourselves to the Holy Spirit but we must also be familiar with the Word of God if we are indeed to obey its commands.

Obedience is a key word in the Christian life. This verse points it out quite clearly, for we either obey God's laws or we obey the old evil nature. The choice is ours as we are controlled and empowered by the Holy Spirit.

Someone has well pointed out that all of life, really, is nothing more nor less than a series of choices. The secret of the successful Christian life is in making the right choices. And even the wisdom to make the right choices is available - as a gift from God.

That leaves us, you and me, without excuse. We can, if we choose, through the enabling of the Holy Spirit, obey God's laws and thus accomplish His purpose for us as believers.

From Promises
A Daily Guide to Supernatural Living
by Bill Bright

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Chastity

Here is an article on chastity by one of my favorite authors, Lauren Winner.

Some meaty thoughts!

Philip

"Chastity is the most unpopular of the Christian virtues."
— C. S. Lewis

Friday, November 2, 2007

Not My Will

Not my will, but yours, be done. Luke 22:42

I’m going to stretch this verse in a little different direction. Jesus spoke these words in the garden. The decision had been made that the Father’s will would be done. There was no other way to accomplish the mission of Jesus.

Here is where my thoughts on this have drifted. We hear a lot about will power. Some people even go so far as to say that if we think something, we can accomplish it. As Christians, we deal a lot with the will. It usually goes along with a promise we make to God or someone else. “I will not do that again!”

Maybe what we need to do is give up our will and let God’s will work through us. The truth is that the only power or will power we have is through His grace and mercy. I will be much better off when I quit trying to live in my own strength.

It’s hard to let go of it sometimes. If God does it all then I can’t boast of my discipline, will power or look down my nose at brethren who can’t seem to overcome some sin in their life.

What got me thinking about this was an article I read by Chuck Colson where he quoted Lauren Winner. She explained the problem with chastity pledges and young Christians. “Pledgers promise to control intense bodily desires simply by exercising their wills. But Christian ethics recognizes that the broken, twisted will can do nothing without rehabilitation by God’s grace.”

The article goes on to say: She also rightly draws our attention to the brash individualism of such pledges. Quoting Methodist bishop William Willimon, she writes, “Decisions are fine. But decisions that are not reinforced and reformed by the community tend to be short-lived.”

The article also spoke of the lessons learned in working with prisoners, that a community of support is needed if lasting change is going to happen there and when they get out.

Here is the final paragraph: It is not easy work, but congregations must step forward to engage in the difficult work of becoming grace-filled communities that support and undergird the values central to a biblical worldview.

I like what has been said here because I am learning these things in my life. I am weak and poor. My will is not enough. I need God’s grace and power and I need my brothers and the church at large. In that there will be victory.

Philip

Monday, October 29, 2007

Shame

We talked about shame the other night at our Samson Society meeting. Shame that makes us hide, that makes us afraid to be real with others and shame that can crush us.

A thought came to mind that I read in a book by Paul Coughlin called No More Christian Nice Guy. It was about the difference between guilt and shame. He speaks of the abuse in his childhood and the effect. “The abused carry a belief that there is something wrong with them not because they are sinners but because they are defective.” One thing he shows is this results in confusion between guilt and shame. Listen to this:

Guilt is not destructive to a person, because it's a response to what he does, and because something can be done about it. We can acknowledge our wrongdoing, change our behavior, and experience forgiveness.

Shame, however, goes beyond the understanding that "I did wrong things" to "I am worthless through and through." This is an anti-biblical view of creation, a lie that, when believed, robs YOU of how you perceive your own value.
Many men carry that shame either from childhood abuse or from the pressure of a world that views them as defective.

_______________________

Here is something I read last week, written by Nate Larkin’s (a Samson cofounder) pastor:

The best way to describe The Samson Society is through a well-known story recorded in Mark’s gospel. One day, four good friends took their paralyzed friend to Jesus on a mat, each man grabbing a corner. Removing the tiles of, perhaps, a stranger’s roof, they risked lowering their friend to the One rumored to have the power to heal.

A typical Samson Society small group consists of five broken men and one mat-each one taking his turn on the mat, while the other four learn how to carry another man to Jesus. The accountability these men give one another focuses first on hearing and believing the gospel together. From that core value, “busting” each other for indiscretions and encouraging one another in important disciplines flow.

Restoring Broken Men
by Scotty Smith
I do want to put the word busted, used above, in context. That doesn’t happen in a Samson meeting. It may happen in a Silas relationship. That’s where you tell your story day after day to a friend who you have chosen to walk along with you. Most of the time each of us knows where we have messed up. It is those things that have pushed us into the dark corner of isolation. We don’t need anyone else to tell us. What we do need is another guy, who is not me, to listen, pray, tell us we are not alone, tell us we are like all other men, not some freak of reprobation. Yes, we need a savior; we know that too. And sometimes we need another guy or group of guys to help us reach that Savior.

Philip

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Global Warming

I should get a prize for this. I’m thinking of a Nobel like Al Gore got.

If global warming exists, I have found the cause of it. If I could just come up with the solution then we will be set. That is where I need your help. Think through this with me. Ponder the problem and maybe together we can solve it.

Okay, here is what I discovered this morning. The source of global warming is my kids leaving the doors open during the winter. The house cools down, the heater comes on and bit by bit, we are warming up the outside. The change is hard to detect but with the cooperation of thousands and probably millions of other children, it is a worldwide catastrophe.

Help me please, how can we fix this problem?

Philip

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Bella - the Movie

I don't see movies very often but I saw one yesterday that I want to encourage you to see. Jump on it quick because it may not be in theaters very long.

The movie is called Bella. I heard about it from several Christian ministries. It was an incredible movie with a great message. The less you know about it when you see it the better.

Here are some links about the movie:

The movie website

Movie trailer

Family Life Review

Citizen Link Article

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Escape

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
1 Corinthians 10:13

Last night the suggested topic at the Samson Society meeting was escape. Two perspectives were brought out. One was the escape mentioned in the above verse. When we are tempted, God provides a way of escape. Another perspective is that sometimes we commit various sins as a way of escape from the problems and stresses of life.

Several things came to my mind during the discussion. One was a quotation that I have carried on my PDA for many years. It is on endurance:

When you feel you cannot continue in your position for another minute, and all that is in human power has been done, that is the moment when the enemy is most exhausted, and when one step forward will give you the fruits of the struggle you have borne.

Sir Winston Churchill
I pictured in my mind how many times we are on the edge of victory and fail to take the final step that would have led us into another realm. Or, maybe it is when I hold my tongue during an argument and the result is a small victory toward proper communication. I was also reminded by this quote that my enemy is tired. Sometimes the strongest will determines the winner. I remember that when I am weak then Christ can be strong on my behalf. His will takes the place of mine and victory comes.

So we have two kinds of escape, the one God provides and the false one. I picture the false one as a very broad road with a flashy sign and many false assurances. The one God provides may seem obscured and the path is much narrower. Sometimes we can’t even see it until we take the step of faith beyond the easy road. Our experience tells us that the wrong escape route usually leads to a messy situation.

Another thing that came to mind was something I read in my devotions yesterday morning. Here it is:

Using Prayer to Overcome Temptation

Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.
Matthew 26:41

Christian men continually face temptation. Our world seems to thrive on appeals to our desire for material goods, worldly pleasures, and self-gratification. Yet, continued praying strengthens Christian men spiritually, morally, and ethically. With prayer, overcoming our temptation is certainly possible.


Jesus made this truth plain to Peter in the garden the night of the Savior's arrest and trial. Jesus was facing perhaps the hardest night of His life. He was facing the cross, and He knew it! The Bible says that Jesus fell back on His continual habit of prayer to make it through that night. He realized that prayer would be a source of strength for Him.


And at one point, Jesus told Peter to learn from what he had seen. Not only on that one night but also for the rest of his life, Peter would have to keep praying, especially if he wanted to fight temptation. Jesus then uttered those oft-quoted words,
"the spirit is indeed willing, but the flesh is weak".

We have remembered those words fairly well, probably because they seem to give us an excuse for not performing well. We should have remembered the preceding words--
"Watch and pray, that you do not enter into temptation"--for they give us the way to win over sin.

Father, as I now pray, please help me to overcome the temptation that I'm now facing. Amen.


From God’s Man
A Daily Devotional Guide to Christlike Character
Edited by: Don M. Aycock

These are good words. Step by step and prayer by prayer we become more like Christ – the thing we truly desire.

Philip

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Grace is here!

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, it trains us to renounce ungodly living and worldly passions so that we might live sensible, honest, and godly lives in the present world. Titus 2:11-12

As I read this verse a few days ago, it struck me as it hasn’t before. The word grace stood out. Grace came in the form of Jesus on the cross and salvation became possible. But what really stood out was the effect of grace.

Grace trains and equips us. We are trained to give up our ungodly and worldly ways and are equipped to live righteous lives.

There is power in the grace that God gives to us. Here are some verses I came across that bear this out:

But by God's grace I am what I am, and his grace shown to me was not wasted. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.
1 Corinthians 15:10

But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
2 Corinthians 12:9

Grace doesn’t just come and wag its finger at us as it points out our sin. It gives us the power to overcome that sin. We will always be weak and God will be glorified because it will be obvious that the good in us and through us is from Him.

If we try to overcome sin through our own strength we will fail. It’s only as we receive God’s grace in our lives that we will succeed. I know that is easier said than done many times but as we continue to receive from Him it will become a reality. We were saved by grace and we live by grace.

Philip

Monday, October 15, 2007

Sinners

He who is alone with his sins is utterly alone. It may be that Christians, not withstanding corporate worship, common prayer, and all their fellowship in service, may still be left to their loneliness. The final breakthrough to fellowship does not occur because, though they have fellowship with one another as believers and as devout people, they do not have fellowship as the undevout, as sinners. The pious fellowship permits no one to be a sinner. So everyone must conceal his sin from himself and from their fellowship. We dare not be sinners. Many Christians are unthinkably horrified when a real sinner is suddenly discovered among the righteous. So we remain alone with our sin, living in lies and hypocrisy. The fact is that we are sinners!
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1954), 112

What a loaded statement! We can fall on one side or the other. Are we looking down our nose at the sinner? Are we afraid to admit the truth of our sin?

In a healthy fellowship, neither happens. We realize that our sin is just as bad as the next guy. We stand together at the foot of the cross and we seek to bring others there. Not one of us raises our head higher than another and we all seek to rise together.

Think about the following sins. There is no hierarchy yet many times in the church, we think that some of them are worse than others. In our ranking we would put the sexual ones and probably drunkenness at the top. Now the deeds of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, fornication, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfishness, arguing, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. Galatians 5:19-21

Reality is that my outburst of anger is right up there with orgies. People who gossip and cause division are right there with the fornicator. Envy is equal to adultery. The one who argues might as well get drunk.

There but for the grace of God, go I should be our realization. We are all sinners who need a Savior. God is our strength; we don’t have it within ourselves. Any victory we have over sin is from His grace; we don’t have room to boast. We should help others and accept help in humility.

Philip

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Repent


The word repent translates metanoeo´, "to change one's mind." Not surprisingly, this word is rarely found in Classical Greek because "Greek society never thought of a radical change in a man's life as a whole, of conversion or turning around." In fact, the whole concept of conversion is not found in Greek thought, but is derived from the NT.

The idea in this word, then, is to turn around, change one's mind, relent, and in the theological sense involves "regret or sorrow, accompanied by a true change of heart toward God."
From A Word for the Day: Key Words from the New Testament.

I thought it is interesting that the concept of a complete turnaround was unknown to the Greeks.

Some years ago at my dad’s house we found an old report card of my sister’s. The grades represented were not very good. We started to show it to her kids and she got very upset and did not want them to see it. At first, I didn’t understand why a grown woman would care about her kids knowing that she wasn’t always an outstanding student.

After thinking about it I understood. She never had a complete turnaround in her life. There wasn’t a before and an after so her past lived in the present.

As a Christian, even though I am ashamed of a lot of my past, I realize it was before I came to Christ, before I repented for the first time. It doesn’t bother me that my kids know that I messed up in school and was a drug user. I can use these things both as a warning and as a way to show that God can change us.

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
1 Corinthians 6:9-11

Repentance is something we should live with each day because we sin each day. The great thing is that with repentance comes God’s forgiveness and cleansing. Amazingly, He doesn’t hold up the list of how many times we have done the same thing. He doesn’t point out that we said we said we were sorry yesterday and yet did it again. He gladly receives us and pours out His grace on us.

Wow!

Philip

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Impulse

I did something dumb yesterday. It was an impulse; I acted without thinking. I was ashamed almost immediately. I thought about it all day. Last night in our Samson Society meeting, the discussion topic was pride. I knew I had to come clean.

Here is something Nate Larkin said on I, Samson that helped me understand myself. He was talking about the difference between Samson and David. It was about reflex verses reflection; just doing verses thinking.

Samson took on a very confrontational style. His first large scale provocation of the Philistines actually was an escalation of a cycle of confrontation that he had started by picking a fight. He started catching foxes and when he had caught 300 of them, he put them together in pairs, tied their tails together, tied torches to the tails, lit them and set the foxes loose in the Philistine fields. They responded in fury and they invaded.

Early on when he was a young man, he had developed the habit of wandering alone through Philistine territory looking for trouble…
I have done this a lot in my life. I’ve picked some fights with the enemy that got me in more trouble than I expected. Of course, I didn’t think about it so expectation of consequences wasn’t really part of it. I’ve also picked fights within my family. Done something or said something dumb and then been left with the consequences.

This is an area of my life where I would like to be changed. I need transformation so that my actions don’t harm my family or the cause of Christ. I don’t want to end up like Samson.

So here is the story: I went to the Columbus Day Parade in downtown Denver. One of my sons was with me. The American Indian Movement and various other radical and anarchist groups decided to block the parade route. The police were ready and cleared the street. The parade started and awhile later another group of them blocked the street again. A guy stood in front of where we were standing. He was obviously one of the organizers of the protest. I made a comment to him that it seemed that a lot of the protestors were professionals and weren’t really there because of Columbus but because they had some other beef with the city or with America in general. Then a woman joined him. She was taking pictures. On impulse I flashed my hand in front of her camera. She responded furiously, elbowing me in the chest. The guy then started yelling at me. Thankfully, there were police all around or something else might have happened.

I know it was a stupid thing to do and nothing good was accomplished by it. I could have gotten beat up.

I admitted what I did at the Samson Society meeting last night. One thing I knew is that I could be honest and someone wasn’t going to lecture me or rub my nose in it. I already knew what I had done was wrong. Now I needed someone to walk with me, pray with me and to hope with me for change. It made honesty easier. It made stepping beyond my pride easier.

I made a commitment in my mind that I would do the hardest thing imaginable; I would tell my wife. She already knows that I do many dumb things and it is hard to admit another one to her; but, I want change and transparency. I admit it to you as a reader of this as well. My first step toward freedom is confession. I make a step beyond isolation and pride. I admit I am flawed and need others to help me get beyond myself. It feels good.

I know that impulse can be good sometimes. It can be good to give money or a part of myself without thinking too much about what it will cost me. I need more of that and less of me going around making trouble.

Philip

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Oatmeal

Last week I was talking with some friends and the subject of Bible reading and devotions came up. One of the guys said he thought it was good to start the day off with even a small section of Scripture. He went on to say that many times we feel we need to have a big study session in order to have an effective devotion. He disagreed with that although he said that those feasts are nice when they happen. He maintained that his day seems to go better and be more focused when he starts it off this way.

As I thought about that, oatmeal came to mind. To many people, oatmeal represents a very bland breakfast. At our house, we have a box of instant oatmeal. There are ten packets, eight that are flavored and two plain. It seems that when the box nears empty, the two plain remain. All are nutritious and it could be argued that the plain may be the most nutritious of all.

Some days when we open the Bible, we may have a breakfast of plain oatmeal. There doesn’t seem much to it and depending on the person, the taste is good, tolerable or nasty. Other days we grab one of the flavored packs and revel in cinnamon, apple, peaches or maple syrup. And of course some days we have sausage, hash browns, eggs, toast and orange juice.

What’s important is that we have something for breakfast; it starts the day out right. Less important is what we have.

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV)

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12 ESV)

Philip

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Pankration

Are you ready to rumble?

A few weeks ago I came across a daily devotional that has become one of my favorites. Called A Word for the Day: Key Words from the New Testament, it gives a word study and encourages application of the principles of one Greek word from the New Testament each day.

A couple days ago was the word that is translated wrestle in Ephesians 6:12: For we do not wrestle against people made of flesh and blood, but against persons without bodies--the evil rulers of the unseen world, those mighty satanic beings and great evil princes of darkness who rule this world; and against huge numbers of wicked spirits in the spirit world.

Here is what struck me from the reading:

Both ancient boxing and wrestling were horrendously brutal. In boxing matches, the "Greeks fought almost to the death with gloves reinforced at the knuckles with an iron band three quarters of an inch thick." The head was the only target, and "there was no rule against hitting a man who was down." There were no rest periods or rounds. The fight continued until one surrendered or was incapacitated. As the brutality increased in Greek times, wrestling and boxing were combined into a new contest, the pankration - from pas, "all," and kratos, "power," so literally, "game of all powers." Anything except eye gouging and biting was permitted, even kicking in the stomach. Some famous competitors won by breaking the opponent's fingers. One was noted for striking so viciously "with straightened fingers and strong sharp nails that he pierced the flesh of his adversary and dragged out his bowels."

That's why Paul says we are at war! As graphic and barbaric as the ancient pankration was, he says that we "wrestle" against an even greater spiritual foe. This fight is, indeed, "for keeps." It's not a "police action," a minor skirmish, a border dispute, or any such thing. It's an all-out war to the death. The devil has declared war on us, and we must do the same to him.
Maybe that's why many are drawn to various fighting competitions. We can live the battle vicariously and either imagine ourselves involved or pick up tips on strategy.

It is true that we can learn some spiritual principles from earthly battles. What we see with our eyes and understand about war can help us in the spiritual realm.

If you want to be involved in the ultimate fighting championship then take spiritual warfare seriously. You can be sure that the enemy of our souls does.

Philip

Sunday, September 30, 2007

What If?

History was made last night as the first meeting of the Samson Society in Lakewood, Colorado was held. By God’s grace and through multiplication, many men will find freedom through authentic friendships with other men.

Here is a verse we pondered at the beginning: Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him--a threefold cord is not quickly broken. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 ESV) Here is how another version renders verse 10: If one of them falls down, the other can help him up. But if someone is alone and falls, it's just too bad, because there is no one to help him. (Ecclesiastes 4:10 GNB)

I have thought a lot about these verses recently as I have reflected on the objectives of the Samson Society. I don’t want to walk alone anymore. I used to think that a man’s wife prevented him from walking alone. What I have found is that since my wife and I have many times when we are not on the best of terms, I need a friend who can look objectively at my life and help me sort things out.

I came across an article the other day that helped me understand these thoughts even better. It was about lessons from the fall of Ted Haggard. A sidebar written by Nate Larkin, a founder of the Samson Society, provided some great insight. I would encourage you to read the whole thing. Here is a link.

Here are the thoughts I have grabbed from it:

Ever since adolescence, I had wrestled in vain against the unspeakable power of sexual fantasy. I hated the things it made me do and I hated myself for doing them, but I found that I could not hate my sin or hate myself enough to stop. Well, that's not exactly true. I could stop. I just couldn't stay stopped for very long.

I'd tried all the remedies I knew. I'd repented ad nauseam, forswearing illicit sex until I couldn't bring myself to mock my Maker with another empty promise. I'd prayed until my knees hurt, studied until my head swam, memorized Scriptures and repeated them like the rosary. I'd sought counseling. I'd submitted to prayer for deliverance. I'd even confessed to my wife. Each new effort brought some temporary relief, but my hopes for sexual integrity were always dashed eventually.

During the darkest years of my life, I begged God time and again for a private solution to my private problem, but He never gave me one. Today, I'm glad He didn't. Today, I can finally see a purpose in His apparent passivity. My weakness, which the enemy intended to use for evil, God was determined to use for good.

God had not afflicted me, but He had decided not to remove my affliction. He loved me too much to remove from my life the one lever big enough to force me out of isolation and into honest relationships with other disciples. In the end, I found victory over my sin by surrendering not just to Christ, but also to the body of Christ.
That is what I am seeing in my life as well. I’m not going to gain victory over anger or critical speech, etc. by self-improvement and I’m not going to be able to do it alone. Two reasons are that God wants the glory and He wants me in close relationship with other men.

Even though our sins may be different, we are not that different. The solution to our besetting sin may be authentic relationships with others.

So what if this has been the reason all along that even though we have prayed and begged God for help, it has not come; at least until now?

Philip

Monday, September 17, 2007

I Hate My Life!

I hate my family!

I wish I could say that. I wish I could say that my life lines up with Luke 14:26. Listen to this: If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.

Heavy words; I was reminded of them in my morning reading. Here is what it said:

Can You Hate Your Family?

Luke 14:26 -27

Many passages of Scripture encourage us to love our families. That is why it's startling to read Jesus' statement in Luke 14:26 -27. He used the word rendered "hate" in reference to our families. In other words, we are to love Christ so much, that even our families take second place to Him. This instruction was especially relevant in Jesus' day, for deciding to become His disciple often meant rejection by family as well as persecution and possibly even death.

All of us have accumulated possessions and made relationships that are precious to us. We sometimes sacrifice time and energy to preserve them. Family members can easily win so much of our attention that they sidetrack God's call for us to be committed followers of Christ.

Here's the unspoken challenge for us as men of God. The Lord has called us to lead our families to the same level of devotion that He wants us to have. In other words, they must give Jesus first place in their lives. You and they undoubtedly will be rejected by some. As disciples, you and your family must be ready to face and accept such rejection. With God's help, you can!

Dear Lord, please give me and my family the strength to remain committed followers of Your Son, regardless of the personal cost. Amen.
From God's Man
A Daily Devotional Guide to Christlike Character
Edited by: Don M. Aycock


We get the full meaning as we look at Matthew 10:37 where it says: Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. So the issue is comparison. Do I love Jesus more? Do I care more about what He says? Do I care more about what He thinks of me? Is my devotion so radical that in comparison it seems that I don’t care about my family at all?

Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. (John 12:25)

And what about me? What about my life? Is my commitment to Jesus supreme or do I care more about ME?

I will remember these words the next time I hear a teenager say, I hate my life or I hate this family. Maybe they are on to something. Maybe they can learn a little from the words of Jesus.

Philip

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep

I cried as I read the newspaper this morning.

Let me give a little background. In 1979, the year after we were married we had twin boys who died. Wendy and I were just kids and hardly knew about life let alone death.

Wendy was about five months pregnant when she went into labor. The boys died during the delivery. One was fourteen ounces and the other eight. There was nothing that could be done to save them.

The nurse asked Wendy if she would like to hold them. Of course she wanted to. A few minutes later, they took them away. We were asked to sign some papers. The hospital would take care of the details. We never saw them again.

As the years went by, we were blessed with two daughters and three sons. A couple years later Wendy was pregnant again. Two weeks before her due date something seemed wrong; she could not feel the baby move. We went to the doctor, an ultrasound was done and then the sad news - our baby had died.

Four days later, he came into this world. What a sad time. We were a little more prepared than the first time and knew some questions to ask and things to do. Our other children came to the hospital and spent some time with their brother. By this time, many tears were shed. We took turns holding him and were able to take pictures. Pictures were something that we didn’t think of the first time we went through this.

And that is why I cried this morning. The story in the paper was about a group of volunteer photographers who go to the hospital to take pictures of babies who have died or who are about to die. These are not snapshots like we took but photo memories done by professional photographers. As one mother said after viewing the photo presentation that was set to music: "Do you know what you've done? You've given me my son."

I know exactly what she meant. It's the difference between the memories I have of my twin boys who died and of our later son who died.

The organization is called Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep. They provide this service free of charge. They can use donations. I plan to send one.

Philip

Click here to read the story.

Click here for Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep.

Click here to read more about my son Nathaniel.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

A Challenge to Christian Leaders

Click here for an excellent blog post from Scott Klusendorf at Life Training Institute.

It’s about challenging Christian leaders to preach about and equip their people regarding abortion.

Follow his links to see the three minute This is Abortion Video. Or click here for the original version.

How can we tolerate this?

Philip

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Chick Fight

The following are from books about women, written by women:

Sarah Pevey, twenty-three, from Knoxville, Tennessee, cyber-sighs to me: "Ahh ... chick-fighting. I'm a veteran. I've heard some people say that the world would be more peaceful if women ruled the world. I don't think so. I think that if women ruled the world, we wouldn't just bomb the enemy. We would turn their friends against them and crush their spirits so badly that they would bomb themselves."
Shalit, Wendy. Girls Gone Mild New York: Random House, 2007

I remember when my son was in first grade. I thought, "What a great question!" I asked my boy what was the difference between how girls fight and how boys fight. I will never forget his answer: "Well, Mom, when girls get mad at each other, they get other girls to be mad with them, and stay mad forever. When boys yet mad at each other, they yell and shove, then they forget about it and go play ball."
Schlessinger, Dr. Laura C. Woman Power New York: HarperCollins, 2004

Sunday, September 9, 2007

By My Self


The Lord said to Gideon, "The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel boast over me, saying, 'My own hand has saved me.' (Judges 7:2 ESV)

It seems that a mark of a child growing up is when they want to do things "by myself." They see independence as a good thing. Sometimes it is and sometimes not. As a parent, we have to help them see the difference and protect them when they are not quite ready to do things alone.

Every one of us wants to be in charge of our life. We don't like someone else telling us what to do and we don't like to defer to others. A sign of maturity is when we willingly accept proper authority over our lives. We place ourselves under others and realize our need for outside input and direction.

Along with this, we need to realize that we need help from others. There is no such thing as a self-made man. If we have attained anything good in life it is because others have helped us whether we realize it or not.

I am realizing the same with my relationship with God. There is nothing good in me without Him. I don't have a strength of my own.

It seems that through the years a belief came into my life that as I grew as a Christian I could become strong through various disciplines such as prayer and Bible reading. While those things are good and should not be neglected, they were not the source of my strength or success. Only God is responsible for that. What I need to realize is that those disciplines help me to know God and to understand His ways. With that, I can cooperate better with what He wants to do in my life.

But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Corinthians 12:9 ESV)

I am weak and He is strong. His strength shows in my weakness.

With that understanding, things can really improve in my life.

Philip

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Weeping Whores

As soon as the angel of the LORD spoke these words to all the people of Israel, the people lifted up their voices and wept. (Judges 2:4 ESV)

Yet they did not listen to their judges, for they whored after other gods and bowed down to them. They soon turned aside from the way in which their fathers had walked, who had obeyed the commandments of the LORD, and they did not do so. (Judges 2:17 ESV)
My morning reading has taken me to the book of Judges. I am reminded of the roller coaster of spirituality that God’s people experience. Not only in the book of Judges but in all the Old Testament the story is the same. The people end up in bondage, spend years in captivity, finally God has mercy and brings deliverance and some years later, they repeat it again.

Don’t you wish we were not like them?

I know that as I look back on my life I can see some well-worn ruts that I have repeatedly traveled. A crisis may cause me to pay particular attention to certain areas of my life but time goes on, lessons are forgotten and sure enough, I end up on that path again.

One of my roads is summed up in this verse from Ephesians 4:29: Do not use harmful words, but only helpful words, the kind that build up and provide what is needed, so that what you say will do good to those who hear you.

I am really good at recognizing and pointing out the faults of others. I have a very hard time recognizing and pointing out the good things that people do. It’s something I pray about daily – that I would have encouraging speech, that I would recognize good done and that I would bring grace and joy into my home.

I think I am doing better on holding back some of the bad words but not as good in expressing the good I see in people. Even though I see it sometimes, I have a hard time saying it.

If you have any good ideas on how to cultivate the edifying speech, I would be glad to hear them. I would like to see some of those old ruts filled in.

Philip

Monday, September 3, 2007

Would we write the Psalms?

Would we? Could we?

Maybe the 23rd Psalm, as it is so nice and acceptable. But what about the ones that are so brutally honest, that express doubts and fears? Would we or could we write those? What would happen if we did? Would our position in the church or amongst Christian friends be diminished? Would people be concerned that we are having a crisis of faith and need to be put on the prayer chain?

We may proclaim that honesty is something we value as Christians but what happens when someone is really honest? How do we view the friend who tells us of their despair or the one who tells us of their struggle with sin? Do we applaud their honesty and embrace them or take a step back?

What would happen if your pastor preached a sermon that expressed the doubts, fears, and despair that David voiced so many times in the Psalms? Could he only preach it if it was wrapped up all nice and he indicated that he was near to feeling those things but summoned his strength and pulled himself out of it?

The psalmist David had a good relationship with God. 1Samuel 13:14 said David was a man after God’s heart. Could that be because of David’s reality with God and others? He sought after God, recognizing his imperfection and wasn’t afraid to admit what was going on in his life to God or others. Perhaps that honesty enabled him to move beyond those feelings rather than stuffing them deep down and acting like everything is okay.

Many of us crave transparency. We want to be known as we really are and are sick of the plastic, protective front. But what is the price – that is what we wonder. I heard a statement on the radio the other day that fits with this: the church needs to be a place where shame meets grace.

May it be so. May each of us lay aside our superior, judgmental attitudes and embrace the honest while gently helping them toward the healing they need. We hold God’s standards with a firm hand, realizing that we are also weak, not hiding our own past or present struggles, being vessels of the grace of God.

It’s coming.

Philip

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

By Chance

On my son’s blog, he raised the thought that sometimes we question why God didn’t do something when the true question should be why we didn’t do something. I came across this in my reading today and I thought it went well with Phil’s thoughts.

How many are the sufferers who have fallen amongst misfortunes along the wayside of life! “By chance” we come that way; chance, accident, Providence, has thrown them in our way; we see them from a distance, like the Priest, or we come upon them suddenly, like the Levite; our business, our pleasure, is interrupted by the sight, is troubled by the delay; what are our feelings, what our actions towards them? “Who is thy neighbor?” It is the sufferer, wherever, whoever, whatsoever he be. Wherever thou hearest the cry of distress, wherever thou seest any one brought across thy path by the chances and changes of life (that is, by the Providence of God), whom it is in thy power to help,–he, stranger or enemy though he be,–he is thy neighbor.

Arthur Penrhyn Stanley.
From Daily Strength for Daily Needs
- Mary Tileston

Philip

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Get Up and Run

There was a picture in yesterday’s newspaper of the woman who won the woman's division of the Pikes Peak Marathon. She fell three times on the way down. What mattered wasn’t that she fell but that she got back up. And she not only finished the race but won. She had cuts and bruises on her shoulders, back, arms and legs. She had lived in her car all summer while training for the marathon. She kept going after the three falls because she decided this would be a "no fear" race.

We are going to fall. That is reality. 1 John 1:8-9 says: If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. The presumption is that we are going to sin. It's not an excuse and we shouldn't abuse grace but that's the truth. Get up, confess your sin (again), let him wipe you off and cleanse you and then go on with no fear or condemnation. Finish the race.

It also helps to have some friends running alongside and standing along the path to cheer you on.

Philip

Monday, August 20, 2007

Samson Society

www.samsonsociety.com

I came across this group several weeks ago. I am intrigued by it. Here is a description of the society:

The Samson Society is a fellowship of Christian men who are serious about authenticity, community, humility and recovery - serious, but not grave. Samson guys are traveling-companions on a great spiritual adventure, not grim pilgrims on a death march to personal holiness. We challenge each other daily to believe the incredible news that God actually knows us, loves us, and has restored us to himself. As we follow Christ together, we find our lives progressively interrupted by righteousness, peace and joy.

We are not a church.
We are simply one extension of the church universal.

We are not an "accountability group."
Instead of living our lives separately and reporting (or lying) about our progress, we try to live our lives together.

We are not a "men's group."
Okay, so there are no women, but that doesn't make us a men's group, does it? Please. Most of us have had it up to here with men's groups.

We are not a 12-step group.
Sure, most of us have been trapped in some kind of compulsive activity, but our addictions do not define us, and we do not segregate our membership by behavior.

We are not perfect.
Not even close. We are broken individuals, but in our fractured fellowship we find a foretaste of God's approaching re-creation.

For more information about the society, listen to the message
I, Samson.

I read the book by one of the founders called Samson and the Pirate Monks. It deepened my hunger to walk like this with other men.

I want to see a chapter formed here in Denver. Anybody with me?

Philip

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