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

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