Monthly Archives: December 2013

The Do

It is easy to remember both events as if they happened only yesterday.  In reality it has been much, much longer in both cases. The events consisted of different scenarios, in different decades, which brought the very same unwanted message.  BIG, BOLD, FOUR INCH HEADLINES!  Broadcast on loudspeakers, the Internet, television, email, facebook, the United States Post Office, Netflix, carrier pigeons, the pony express, and smoke signals. So if a message was made so eminently clear, why did it have to be driven home more than once? And who is to say that it might not have to be communicated again? I have an identity problem. Do you?

Reading Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost For His Highest one morning, I cringed at the title alone. “Do You Worship the Work?” For there are those of us who find ourselves constantly operating from within this framework, and put simply, words like these simply aren’t what we want to hear.

  • Financial pressure? Work more, harder, and longer.
  • Daughter getting married? Dive in deeper to the work – it’ll pay the bills.
  • Needing additional transportation? A mere 10 extra hours a week, of work, will bridge that gap.
  • Things not perfect at home? Find refuge! Stay at work!
  • Haven’t yet met your potential? Seeking more recognition? Need affirmation? You’ll find it all, and much, much more, at the office.

And don’t even start with all the clichés about dying men never wishing they had worked more, and spent less time with their families. And don’t ask the question of having ever seen an armored car following a hearse. Heard ‘em all. Been there, done that, bought t-shirts, and, one would think, learned lessons.

Why is it such a constant battle for many of us to keep things in priority? Did anyone ever actually teach us that our identity should come from our mode of employment? Our profession? It’s easy to say, but hard to live it out. And to be truthful, if working more or harder is the perpetual effect, there is likely a fairly important cause undergirding it. Make all the excuses you want or care to come up with. (Never mind the energy expended) It’s easy. I do it, and I’m very, very good at it.

Seeking the affirmation or results we crave through our work, at the expense of literally everything  and everyone else important in our lives has become a standard for many. Man? Woman? Really doesn’t matter. But the truth of the matter lies in that we really know better. We know that we are to “love our neighbors as ourselves.” We can’t forget that of faith, hope, and love, “the greatest of these is love.” But still, our work is our identity, our “go-to” guy, the rock that doesn’t roll, old faithful. And what is revealed in our lives when the layers are peeled away and we get to the heart of the matter,. And it is that again, we have found, we are worshipping at the throne of something – anything – except the One who gave us all. And He did not tell us, “I have come that you might have work (or fill in your own word), and have it abundantly.”

An extraordinarily wise counselor and friend once said to my wife, and me, in a season of crazed crises, “There are times when God will remove the ‘do,’ in order to reveal the ‘who.’ Inescapably, this realization always seems to come as a painful and costly reminder.

I can’t speak for you – whoever you are. I can however say, it’s time for me to revisit God’s purpose for me on this planet. A check-up from the neck-up, if you will. Shouldn’t be a difficult exercise, because I already know what the answer is not.

 

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Little Glass Houses

I remember all too clearly the life of a family in ministry. My grandfather was a pastor, and my father as well. Knowing that everyone is watching you, taking notes at what they see, and then taking aim when they don’t like it, is to put it simply, exhausting. When everything you say and do is scrutinized up and down by the congregation and townspeople, it is easy to get a little bitter about having to live in a home where figuratively, everybody can see in. We called it, “living in a glass house.” We learned to cope with it fairly well, but after years of contemplating the effect that living in the glass house had on me personally, I think I further developed what was at one time a lifelong skill – hiding things.

I don’t mean hoarding or stowing candy and goodies where nobody could find them (although I got pretty good at that too), I mean hiding who I was, what I was doing, and a myriad of other things. The glass house syndrome helped to create a personal façade – one that fit the outside of me to the liking of others, but created an individual who on the inside was horribly muddied by shame and guilt. How many of us have ever thought or even uttered the words, “What if they really knew me?”

Haven’t we all?

For the longest time I really didn’t want anyone knowing what a messed up person I was. If they could hear my thoughts, my desires, and my innermost feelings really talking, surely they would never speak to me, or even worse yet, share a shred of respect for me again. Truthfully, although I suspect they had an inkling of my own personal struggles, it’s hard to think that even my family knew of “the real me.”

Sometime after the age of 40, God helped slam the door on the “good guy” that even I had come to believe I was. It wasn’t that I was a criminal or an assassin or some type of miscreant, but I was . . .

A fake. (Who me?)

A fraud. (No way!)

A poser. (You’ve clearly got the WRONG person!)

And although I was a reasonable facsimile of the husband and father God wanted me to be, and that I desperately wanted to be . . .  I was flawed. In my estimation, horribly flawed.

One of my sons enlisted in the United States Navy right out of high school, and I remember him telling us that one of his commanders, when upset with the ranks, would refer to them as “jacked up units.” I laughed the first time I heard that reference, but for some reason it stuck, and for other reasons, I have come to understand, it really fits me!

But it doesn’t club me over the head like it might have at one time. It simply reminds me, with a chuckle, that I am no better than any other person with whom I might or might not come into contact. The best part? God wants me anyway. Just like I am.

Doesn’t it strike you as ironic that God wants you and me as His own even though we haven’t mastered His character? Even though we, in spite of our very best intentions, continue to repeat some of the same mistakes we’ve made for much of our lives? Even though we don’t live out and pour into our spouses and children in the ways He has so carefully laid out for us? Even though we are all “jacked up units?”

Even better yet, His best for us includes our imperfections! The Perfect One would rather us be known as incomplete and fallible – but humble. And though He longs for His children to live without sin, He’d rather enjoy an intimate relationship with us that includes honesty with both Him and the people with whom we relate on any given day.

You want to see a grown man cringe? Utter the word transparency. Define what genuineness really means as a man of God. Most of us work so hard to ensure that others don’t know who we truly are, that we have very little time or energy left to work on developing that challenging, worrisome, never-to-be-attained character of Christ. And regardless of our best intentions, when it gets down to where the rubber meets the road, being genuine – transparent – requires a special focus and quite frankly, the hand of God.

Even with God’s hand waving like a crossing guard at a busy intersection, many men continue to see transparency not as something needed and genuine, but something to be completely avoided. We have this generational tendency to think that being a man – even God’s man – when it requires the engagement of transparency, is indicative of weakness. We ask, “What good does it do for me to admit that I fell short? How is it a good thing that I confess wrongdoing? And how would I ever benefit from allowing others to know they hurt me?”

Between those kinds of questions and the expectations of a true man (God’s expectations), lies an expansive chasm. But the only means for closing that looming gap between the canyon’s walls is through Christ – The One True Man.

Remember, HE was a man of sorrows. His feelings got hurt, and when they did, He expressed it. I doubt there was ever much question about how Jesus was “feeling” regarding a particular issue, topic, or someone’s behavior. Here’s the deal though. When Jesus was happy, he showed it. Sad? Same thing. And don’t forget that he called the Pharisees out in true righteous anger! Yeah, this is the same guy who kissed babies and wept when a good friend died.

Jesus didn’t hide in, around, or behind anything. Do you think exhibiting all these characteristics took courage for Him? Probably not. He didn’t worry about what people thought, because He was God. And though you and I are created in His image – commanded to live like Him, the difference for us is quite simply, peer pressure. What will other people say if I confess that I had an affair? How will I be judged if I tell my boss or my wife that my feelings are hurt, or that I am angry?

Truth is, I fear that for being transparent, there may be consequences.

But what is the cost for posing? Pretending?

Being truthful is hard. When does our human nature lead us to be truthful? When we get caught. Even then it is sometimes difficult to admit shortcomings and be transparent. This stress defeats many good men who desire to be Godly. It opens cracks in the façade – chips away at the cleft in the rock – the one designed for God’s presence, but now made available for Satan. Our sinful nature leads us to protect ourselves, rather than accept vulnerability. That nature strives for the ideal rather than the real. Problem is, that ideal is a fake – a movie prop. There is no substance behind it. It’s just a perception.

I’d like to challenge all of us to intentional create our own little glass houses!

I don’t want to live with secrets.

Do you?

Too stressful!

I’m committing to clean the windows on my glass house – daily. What people see when they look in needs to be the real deal. Can you hang out with me there?

John 14:13:

You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father.

I’d like to leave you with two questions today:

  1. Why do you think it is that we have this idea that we can get away with dishonesty or deceit when it comes to God?
  2. We all have specific areas of life where being transparent is a real struggle – where we “hide things.” What is yours?

Remember, it’s not how we started, or even where we are today, but how we finish.

And, as always . . .

FINISH WELL!

Logical Schmogical

So after a week or two of hearing hardly anything but what a homophobic, racist pig Phil Robertson (Duck Dynasty) is, I decided to go read Drew Magary’s article in GQ magazine to decide the man’s fate for myself. (as if . . .)

Upon reading the article through (twice), I have come to a couple of conclusions that I think it would be good for us all to consider.

But please let me get my own rant out of the way so I will feel better. From what I see as an educated and trained journalist, the article itself is somewhat benign, although well-written. Mr. Magary blended the “controversial” comments, his personal thoughts, and the life of the Robertsons quite well. Aside from Mr. Magary’s own unnecessary profanity, it was really, a pretty enjoyable read.

The hype it has received however, is clearly media-driven. The level of hatred we have all seen spewed across magazines and video screens based on a few opinions Mr. Robertson shared about values and morality, is pathetic. And racism? Really? Race was mentioned only once in the entire article and what Mr. Robertson said was anything but racist. In fact, quite the opposite. Although I did not agree with everything Mr. Robertson said – primarily some of his ideology – the man and his family have become the hate target of media outlets and fringe agendas that are always on the lookout for a feeding frenzy just like this one.

Phil Robertson simply made a few comments regarding immorality and sin, and shared his opinion about homosexuality (among others), which put simply was, “I don’t understand it.” Following the thoughts, he said “But hey sin: It’s not logical man. It’s just not logical.” Later in the article, when asked of Magary, “What, in your mind, is sinful?” Phil followed with: “Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men,” he says. Then he paraphrases Corinthians: “Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers—they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.”

In another series of questioning, Magary asked Phil about an incident many years ago where he assaulted a man and woman in Arkansas and fled the state. His wife later approached the couple and settled the issue out of court with a cash settlement. When asked by Magary if he ever went back to apologize to the couple himself, Robertson replied, “I didn’t dredge anything back up. I just put it behind me.”

There are a couple of things for us all to take from this article. First, regarding Mr. Robertson’s views on sin in general, he’s spot on with one exception.

Let’s be transparent. We’re all sinners. It doesn’t make one bit of difference whether or not we’ve received God’s mercy gift, or if we have rejected it.

I’m still a sinner.

The reason? Oh wait . . . doesn’t salvation make you perfect? Make you invincible to the wiles of sin? Doesn’t Christ’s sacrifice “cleanse” us from our sinful nature? NO IT DOES NOT! It cleanses us from our past sins, but that nature is still in us! Mr. Robertson stated that in his mind, sin is not logical.

Stop. Think a minute. Regarding our sinful nature, sin IS logical! It makes sense! We lean toward sinful habits and behaviors because they DO seem appealing and logical to our minds. But Christ in us causes our hearts to hate the sin, and lean on His word and power to avoid it. (I Thessalonians 5:22 – “Flee from every appearance of sin.”)

Paul himself, the author of about a thousand books in the New Testament, and a member of “Faith’s Hall of Fame,” said, (Romans 7:14-25 – We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.[c] For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!)

When we’re operating in our own selfish, sinful minds, hey, sin: It‘s logical man. It just is logical.

And to complete my thoughts for this day, I want to encourage Mr. Robertson to find that couple, if they are still alive, travel to them (it’s not like he can’t afford it!), and ask their forgiveness for his previous acts against them.  We all need to find those against whom we have sinned. Asking forgiveness from those I have wronged is not really about them, it is about me. It is about being obedient and doing my part.

Then I can rest knowing I have repented, and no longer live under the weight of that particular sin. I am promised that. So are you.

FINISH WELL!