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

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