Sunday, February 28, 2010

No More "If Only"

Thoughts from my reading in Whiter Than Snow: Meditations on Sin and Mercy by Paul David Tripp.

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.
Psalm 51:5

It's so easy to slip into an "if only" lifestyle. I find myself slipping into it often. The "if only" possibilities are endless:

If only I'd been from a more stable family.
If only I'd had better friends as I was growing up.
If only my parents had sent me to better schools.
If only I'd been given better intellectual gifts.
If only that accident hadn't happened.
If only I'd had better physical health.
If only that degree program had been as good as advertised.
If only I'd been able to find a better job.
If only I didn't have to fight the traffic every day.
If only I'd been able to get married.
If only I hadn't gotten married so young.
If only I'd understood marriage more before I got married.
If only I had a more understanding spouse.
If only I'd come to know Christ earlier.
If only I'd found a good church when I was young.
If only I didn't have to struggle with my finances.
If only it was easier and more comfortable for me to communicate with others.
If only I could find a small group that I could be comfortable with.
If only I could have had children.
If only my children were more obedient.
If only I knew the Bible better.
If only that boss hadn't fired me.
If only I had a better place to live.
If only I could find some place where I feel like I really belong.
If only God seemed closer to me.
If only I didn't have to work so hard to make ends meet.
If only . . .
"If only" is the reality we live in. Our broken, sin filled world is messed up. Things are not what they could have been. The people who have sinned against us have done real damage.

Are we going to let "if only" determine our present and future? Here is a line from the devotional that sums it up: The "if only" lifestyle tends to say, "My biggest problems in life exist outside of me and not inside of me."

The real problem is sin. The thing inside us causes our deepest problems.

Think about it this way: it is the evil that is inside of you that either magnetizes you to the evil outside of you or causes you to deal with the evil outside of you in a way that is wrong. It is only when you begin to accept that your greatest problem in all of life is not what has happened or been done to you that you begin to get excited about the rescuing grace of Jesus Christ.
In admitting my sin, I get the help I need. God's grace enables me to deal properly with all of the external things that are not as they should be. They no longer control me.

Here is a question from the meditation:

When you are dealing with the often difficult realities of life in this fallen world, what are the "if onlys" that tend to flood into your head?
Here are a couple I think about: If only I had more money; life would be much easier. If only I could communicate better; those extroverts have it so easy.

Lord Jesus, thank you that you cause all things to work together for my good. Thank you that you can use the external circumstances of my life for your glory. Thank you that even my deficiencies can be used for good.


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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Medical Marijuana: What the Colorado Constitution actually says

Colorado is in a dangerous place as politicians, under the guise of regulating medical marijuana, attempt to liberalize the current law. A constitutional amendment passed in 2000 allows medical marijuana to be used in closely controlled situations by a limited group of people.

Colorado voters rejected the legalization of marijuana in 2006 by 60-40 percent. Many politicians are now trying to subvert the will of the people. As dispensaries have exploded across Colorado, some politicians act as if they are trying to fix the problem but what they are doing will essentially legalize marijuana and is in no way listening to what people actually voted for in 2000.

One of the primary reasons for the explosion of marijuana dealers opening up shop in our neighborhoods is that in a lawless act, US Attorney General, Eric Holder, announced in February of 2009 that the Obama administration will no longer enforce Federal laws regarding marijuana in states that have medical marijuana laws.

Here is what the Colorado Constitution actually says about Medical Marijuana:

The first requirement is that the recipient has a debilitating medical condition. Stated examples are cancer, glaucoma and HIV. Also included is a chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition, or treatment for such conditions, which produces symptoms such as severe pain, nausea, seizures, spasms, etc. The mere claim of pain is not enough. A condition producing the pain must be clinically diagnosed.

When the people voted for medical marijuana did they really envision the 20-year old holding his back, telling the dope doctor that he “really, really hurts” and wink, wink, and the man in the white coat writes the referral? 90% of current registrants claim pain as the reason for application. Just five doctors in Colorado have authorized 49 percent of all recommendations.

Once a person has received a doctor’s recommendation for medical marijuana, they cannot legally possess marijuana until they receive their registry identification card unless 35 days have passed since they sent in their application and they have proof of mailing.

The law allows for a primary caregiver. The Colorado Court of Appeals has ruled that “to qualify as a ‘primary care-giver’ a person must do more to manage the well-being of a patient … than merely supply marijuana.” They went on to say that “the ‘significant responsibility’ contemplated … involves more than being accountable for just one aspect of a patient’s well-being … but also requires managing a patient’s well-being. The Colorado Supreme Court has interpreted ‘manage’ to mean ‘to direct, control, govern, administer, oversee.’”

The law also requires that the caregiver be designated in writing and the caregiver can only act in that capacity after such designation. If a patient changes caregivers then the same process must be followed within ten days. This prohibits using multiple caregivers.

A patient and caregiver, if there is one designated, may only possess collectively up to two ounces of a usable form of marijuana and no more than six marijuana plants, with three or fewer being mature. This prohibits wholesale growing operations and also prohibits a caregiver from possessing marijuana until designated by a specific patient. Almost all dispensaries as they are now operating are illegal under these requirements.

The 2000 amendment to our Constitution is being used by drug legalization advocates and politicians to pull the wool over our eyes. The dispensaries we see springing up in our neighborhoods do not fit the spirit of the law. There are more dispensaries in Denver alone than there are Starbucks in all of Colorado. At the beginning of 2009, after being in effect for 9 years, there were about 2000 registered medical marijuana users in Colorado. Thanks to the Obama administration’s action, it is now estimated that we will soon have 60,000.

We do not have to settle for the fix that many politicians are proposing. Contact your legislators and demand that they legislate according to the amendment and not liberalize marijuana laws.

The amendment approved in 2000 is Article XVIII Section 14 of the Colorado Constitution.
Access here.

The Colorado Court of Appeals decision cited is No. 08CA0624 announced October 29, 2009.
Access here.

Philip Faustin was a heavy user and seller of marijuana in the early 70’s and knows firsthand the effects and dangers of this powerful drug.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game

On Friday afternoon the book arrived from the library. I finished it Sunday night. I could hardly put it down.

I’ve seen The Blind Side movie three times. What an incredibly moving story. If you are not familiar with the story, it’s about Michael Oher and the family who took him into their home. Michael was the Baltimore Raven’s first round draft pick last year.

Michael’s life began in the third poorest zip code in the United States. How he got to where he is now is what the book and movie are about. I read that one studio turned the story down because “it was too good to be true.”

As I read the book I found out that the movie didn’t puff the story although there were things that were changed around for the sake of a movie. I found things in the book that would have made an even more dramatic story both in sadness and incredible happenings.

If you liked the movie you will love the background that the book gives.If you haven't seen the movie you should.


Book link:

Movie link:

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Aren't You Glad You're Not Like David?

Thoughts from my reading in Whiter Than Snow: Meditations on Sin and Mercy by Paul David Tripp.

To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba. Title of Psalm 51

Aren't you glad you're not like David,
Such blazoned sin, how could he?
Aren't you glad you're not like Saul,
Making up his own rules; what was he thinking?
Aren't you glad you're not like Cain,
Violence against his own brother?
Aren't you glad you're not like Rebekah,
Such planned deceit?
Aren't you glad you're not like the Israelites,
So easily seduced by idols?
Aren't you glad you're not like Absalom;
How could he be so jealous?
Aren't you glad you're not like Elijah;
How could he forget God, be so depressed?
Aren't you glad you're not like Nebuchadnezzar;
How could he be so obsessed with power?
Aren't you glad you're not like Samson;
How could he be so easily deceived?
Aren't you glad you're not like Jonah;
How could he run from the Father's call?
Aren't you glad you're not like the Pharisees,
So religiously right yet spiritually wrong?
Aren't you glad you're not like Judas,
Selling the Messiah for a little bit of silver?
Aren't you glad you're not like the Corinthians,
So much better at division than at serving the Lord?
The truth is, if we are honest we will see ourselves in them and identify in so many ways. They were human and so are we. They are like a mirror where we see our reflection.

We see that we are not righteous. We need mercy! Because of God’s great compassion and love, we can step out of darkness and self-deceit. We can admit who we are.

Here is a question from the meditation:
Do you humbly identify with the weakness, foolishness, and failure of the characters of Scripture, or do you tend to tell yourself that you are essentially different from them?
For many years, I didn’t look at Scripture in the way mentioned here. I didn’t think of it as a place where I could see myself in history. Of course I believed it to be God’s word and I studied it but for some reason I didn’t place my life next to the characters I read about.

I missed out on two things. One was the reality that they did stupid sinful things just as I do and the other was to be prodded to look at their lives and then to ponder if I have the same faults in myself.

I’m thankful for the grace of exposure and for the grace of change.


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Sunday, February 14, 2010

Violent Grace

Thoughts from my reading in Whiter Than Snow: Meditations on Sin and Mercy by Paul David Tripp.

Let the bones that you have broken rejoice. Psalm 51:8

Do you ever think of grace as violent? Have you ever had a bone broken by God? Is our tendency to think of grace in syrupy terms, all warm and cozy? So how does grace operate when we are getting too comfy with sin?

As sinners we all become way too comfortable with our sin. The thought that once bothered becomes an action that no longer plagues our conscience. The word that troubled us the first time it was uttered now is accompanied by others that are worse. The marriage that was once a picture of biblical love has now become a relationship of cold-war detente. Commitment to work degenerates into doing as little as we can for as much pay as we can negotiate. A commitment to a devotional life becomes perfunctory and empty duty, more like getting our ticket punched for heaven than enjoying communion with our Lord. Minor, unexpressed irritation, which once troubled our hearts, is now fully expressed anger that is easily rationalized away. Sin is like the unnoticed drips of water that silently destroy the foundation of a house.
It's the violent, uncomfortable grace that God uses to pull us away from our sin. It brings pain. We realize something must be done; the ache points to something deeper going on. It can't be ignored any longer. We can rejoice in the pain that pushed us toward healing.

So God's grace isn't always comfortable because he isn't primarily working on our comfort; he's working on our character. With violent grace he will crush us because he loves us and is committed to our restoration, deliverance, and refinement. And that is something worth celebrating.
The celebration comes after the healing. We look back and can thank God. We are thankful for the conviction from the Holy Spirit. We are thankful for the people God put on our back. We are so thankful God didn't leave us in our comfortable, pitiful state.

Here is a question from the meditation:

Have you allowed yourself to become comfortable with something that God does not want to have bring you comfort?
What comes to mind for me is that I don't do well at resolving conflict. While it doesn't bring comfort, I try to avoid the discomfort of tearing open wounds. I ignore and forget about things that need resolve and suffer the consequences in other ways.

Dear Lord, thank you for not leaving me in my sinful comfort. Thank you for the people and things you use in my life to break the bones that result in change in my life.


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Sunday, February 7, 2010

Accurate Self-assessment

Thoughts from my reading in Whiter Than Snow: Meditations on Sin and Mercy by Paul David Tripp.

For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.
Psalm 51:3

Sin lives in a costume; that's why it's so hard to recognize. The fact that sin looks so good is one of the things that make it so bad. In order for it to do its evil work, it must present itself as something that is anything but evil. Life in a fallen world is like attending the ultimate masquerade party. Impatient yelling wears the costume of a zeal for truth. Lust can masquerade as a love for beauty. Gossip does its evil work by living in the costume of concern and prayer. Craving for power and control wears the mask of biblical leadership. Fear of man gets dressed up as a servant heart. The pride of always being right masquerades as a love for biblical wisdom. Evil simply doesn't present itself as evil, which is part of its draw.
As I read and thought about these words all this week, they spoke louder and louder. It's easy to see these things in other people; it's something completely different to start to see them in me.

The meditation goes on to talk about the deceptiveness of sin and how we become self-swindlers. We can sure see sin in others but are blind to the very same thing in ourselves. We are even blind to our blindness.

What does all of this mean? It means that accurate self-assessment is the product of grace. It is only in the mirror of God's Word and with the sight-giving help of the Holy Spirit that we are able to see ourselves as we actually are. In those painful moments of accurate self-sight, we may not feel as if we are being loved, but that is exactly what is happening.
Have you tasted this freedom? Doesn't it feel good to see sin in your life, to be able to admit it and to see it's power broken as you speak the words of confession? Then comes power and cleansing, the sweetness of amazing grace!

In this way, Psalm 51 is both the saddest and most joyous of all the psalms. It is sad that David has to confess what he must confess, but at the same time the fact that he is accurately seeing, and fully acknowledging his sin is a cause for celebration.
Here is a question from the devotion that spoke to me:

Do you pray for open eyes to see yourself more clearly? Is your confidence in Christ so firm that you are unafraid to pray that God would free you from your own patterns of self-swindling that keep you blind and inhibit your growth?
I want to be able to say yes always. Why is it so hard? Why is our first thought to hide, to lie and to make excuses? Oh yes, the deceptiveness of sin.

Thank you Lord Jesus for making grace possible. Help me to grow into the freedom of admitting what I am so you can make me into what you want me to be.


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Saturday, February 6, 2010

Why I Stayed – The Choices I Made in My Darkest Hour

I just finished reading the book Why I Stayed by Gayle Haggard. Gayle is the wife of Ted Haggard. Ted was the pastor of New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado. In November 2006, it was revealed that Ted was involved with a homosexual prostitute and used illegal drugs. The book was a fascinating read. I only spent about three days on it; it was hard to put down.

As I guess is inevitable from a book like this, it is definitely from Gayle’s and probably Ted’s perspective. A lot of hurt is expressed over being cut off from their church and having to move away from Colorado Springs. I can’t imagine another way of dealing with the situation. Gayle points out that Ted repented soon after the accusations became public. She seems to think that they should have been able to have contact with the church, its staff and members soon after too.

A group of men called overseers were brought in to deal with the situation. According to the church’s bylaws it was the job of these men to become involved in a time like this. From the Haggard’s perspective, they should have become uninvolved as soon as Ted admitted his sin and agreed to resign. I can’t imagine how difficult the overseer’s job must have been. Gayle admits a lot of anger toward these men.

The book gives some detail of the things Ted was involved in that led to his downfall. Some of the things like drug use I had heard of when they were accusations but I had never heard them admitted to. Other things like pornography and masturbation I hadn’t heard of but they are things I would have expected to be a part of his story as they are essential stepping stones to the other behaviors.

I have a feeling the Haggards will look at things a little different in ten or twenty years. Their wounds will take some time to heal and after that time they will probably understand why things had to be done the way they were. I know it must have been incredibly painful to be cut off from your friends and ministry associates but what alternative was there? Ted was a very powerful leader, started the church 21 years before and I can’t imagine anything other than chaos if they had been allowed to show up at church. The consequences of sin are horrible. Even with repentance, the repercussions can continue for a long time.

The focus of the book is Gayle’s decision to stay with Ted. She admitted she had Biblical grounds for divorce and if she had taken that option who would have disagreed. The book also painfully details what it was like for her when the truth came out. Anger, betrayal and shock were just a few of the emotions she experienced. I don’t think she is a woman who is mindless or one who didn’t want to admit what had happened. What I do see is a woman who loves Jesus and understood forgiveness and redemption. She understood that divorce wouldn’t have fixed things and would have only created a whole new set of problems. You need to read the book to get the whole understanding of what she went through and the choices she made. Her story is amazing considering the frivolous reasons so many Christian men and women give these days for divorcing their spouses.

I highly recommend this book with a caveat: be careful of taking the Haggard’s side against New Life Church and the others who ended up having to deal with them. I’m sure there is a lot of the story untold. But do learn from Gayle’s decision to learn love and forgiveness in a whole new way.


Where to get and more info:
Why I Stayed: The Choices I Made in My Darkest Hour