Sunday, April 29, 2007

Danger of Shallow Faith

Although there are a lot of reasons why anyone of us can allow our faith to become shallow and unauthentic, the results are the same. As I preached this week- the goal of Christian Spirituality is authentic christianity. I have grown weary of the cultural christianity that so pervades our culture. I am looking to change my life and let it reflect an intense and fervent love for God. I used to believe that allowing my faith to be shallow would lead to sin, now I believe that it is sin. It is an insult to a fully committed God and a Savior who went the distance for us to allow there to be shallow and disingenuous faith in our hearts. If it turns my stomach- it must make God wretch all the more.

What about you? Ever look at your heart and become disgusted at the weakness of your own faith? Ever listen in vain for God's approval on your half hearted commitment. I know I have. What compares to his sacrificial love for us? Whose heart is like his?

God, look at my shallow and frail faith and help me to deepen my roots in your favor. I long to replicate your love to the watching world. I long to connect to your heart in a way that radically infects my soul. Help me to walk this out; to flesh it out; to commit fully to the journey. I know that there is great benefit to my heart - but let me do this in honor of your love. AMEN.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Emotional Affairs

This is an article by Jeff Herring

Affairs, including emotional affairs, are typically unplanned events. Even when we are on that slippery slope, we convince ourselves everything is OK.

"But we're just friends" are four of the most dangerous words for your relationship and marriage.

But over and over in my office and on the phone I hear it: "We are just friends, there is nothing going on."

The majority of extramarital affairs begin as "just friends." While it is certainly true that there are affairs that begin with impulsive one-night stands with a stranger, the most common ones that I see begin as "just friends." In fact, if you find yourself thinking or saying "but we are just friends" you are probably already in trouble.

Gary Rosberg of America's Family Coaches states that there are at least 19 stages a person will pass through on the way to physically consummating an extramarital affair. There are at least two important notions that we can lift from Rosberg's statement:

1) At each and every one of the 19 steps, you have a clear choice between going further down or stopping the process. In other words, these things don't "just happen."

2) An affair - by the way, I hate that term!

It makes it sound like it is this wonderful experience with no consequences ... as in "It was a grand affair." In my marital counseling and relationship coaching experience, adultery breaks up marriages, wrecks families and crushes kids.

Anyway, now that my rant is over, an affair becomes adultery long before the physical act. In fact, emotional affairs can be stronger and more difficult to get out of than physical affairs.

The late Shirly Glass was a pioneer in the area of emotional affairs. In her 2003 book "NOT Just Friends: Protect your relationship from infidelity and heal the trauma of betrayal," Glass identifies three red flags that indicate that you have progressed from a safe friendship to a romantic emotional affair.

1) You feel closer to your friend than you do your spouse.

You find yourself thinking of this person more and more often and looking forward to the next time you are together. When something happens during the day, the first person you think of telling is this friend, not your spouse.

2) Keeping secrets.

You no longer feel comfortable telling your spouse about this person. You begin to cover up so as not to be found out.

3) An increasing sexual tension.

You admit your attraction for each other, but promise (complain) that you can never act on it. You fantasize what it would be like to be with this person. This helps to create a pretend world where everything would be wonderful if the two of you could just be together.

One of the most overlooked and dangerous facts about emotional affairs is that we are all vulnerable. If you believe that this fact does not apply to you, then you are even more vulnerable than everyone else.

How to protect yourself and your relationship

Keep clear boundaries. A boundary is simply what kids mean when they say "don't go there."

Avoid being alone with and/or emotionally close to someone to whom you are attracted.

Talk often about your spouse. "Spouse bashing" does not count. Talk about what you have done lately and what you are looking forward to with your spouse.

If you are going to talk about emotional issues in your marriage, make sure you are talking to your spouse, a trusted friend who is on the side of you and your marriage or a professional who is on the side of your marriage.

Be especially careful at work. More and more emotional affairs are occurring in the workplace. You spend time together, you go through crises together, you solve problems together. Do not make a habit of taking private lunches or breaks with the same person over and over.

Set up a review committee in your mind. Ask yourself, "Would my wife, my mom, my wife's mom, my sister approve of what I am doing right now?" or, "Would my husband, my dad, my husband's dad, my brother approve of what I am doing right now?"

If the answer is no, then I offer you what I call my RLH prescription.

RLH stands for Run Like Hell!

Here is a cold dose of reality: 75 percent of marriages between affair partners result in divorce.

Not at all the result wanted at the beginning of an emotional affair.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


in·teg·ri·ty /ɪnˈtɛgrɪti/
adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.
the state of being whole, entire, or undiminished: to preserve the integrity of the empire.
a sound, unimpaired, or perfect condition: the integrity of a ship's hull.

One of the fundamental things required of a minister or a servant of the Lord is personal integrity. Within the heart of a man or woman of God there must reside an unwillingness to compromise with the core convictions that are demanded of the privilege of ministry. The definitions above show that moral and ethical character and the concept of wholeness and soundness are intertwined in the concept. Ministry affords the opportunity to hide the lack of integrity or at least, to cloak it in religious garb, so that it is not seen by others. The mechanics of ministry do not guarantee the integrity of soul.

Keeping the soul clean and unemcumbered is no task for tenderfoots. Living a spiritually full life is really a fight. So much sin begins in the heart. A bitterness entertained, the coveting of your neighbors wife, the lie- all are easily covered with a smile and a " I'm okay!" The problem with letting these kinds of cancer live in you is that they spread within. No longer localized to the easily hidden areas, they begin to conquer the soul within.

It is popular these days to talk about accountability. This is spoken of as the magic bullet of spiritual integrity. But accountability is not something that someone does to us, as in "hold us accountable". Accountability is what we allow to be done in our life by significant others. The soul whose integrity has been compromised will not let itself be held accountable! Integrity is found in accountability rather integrity is the foundation of accountability. It is simply too easy for someone to ask " How are you doing?" and for you deflect the questions seriousness with a frivolous answer.

The minister must look within, he must own his own weaknesses and sins rather than blame them on another, and he must bear them to the cross of Christ. In those moments of confessing sin, admitting his brokenness before a Mighty God his life can be restored to it's integrity. There need not be emotional angst, though there may be. It is simply the job of cleaning up the soul. It is our duty to present to God a heart in which he can dwell, with no unconfessed sin, with no poisonous duplicity, with no bitterness, lust or lies. He is holy- and those who handle holy things, must make every effort to purify their lives for the King of Glory to live and work among them.

This is not easy. It is the hardest thing any minister does. And when a person stops having personal integrity he becomes a characture, a shallow vapid empty shell of a servant that simply performs the mechanics of ministry. For some in the church in this century that is enough- that they perform well is all that the church demands of its servants. But what if they are not well? While all men may be fooled by the pretence, God is not.

Proverbs 15:3 The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

3 things I learned from Planet Earth

In nature, usually those animals with there eyes on the side of their heads are prey, while those with their eyes in the front of their heads are predators. (Of course, those with eyes in the back of their heads are mothers and fathers!) Despite the obvious indication from our bathroom mirrors that we are the predatory type, we are prey as well as predator.

In my last post I spoke about how the devil deserves his due. From watching Planet Earth series on the Discovery Channel this weekend I came up with 3 spiritual lessons for prey.

1) Satan wants to isolate you from the herd. There is safety in numbers and Hell's most effective (and not so secret) tactic is to isolate you from the rest of your christian brothers and sisters. Bill Willetts writes in the book "Creating Community" that isolation causes a lost perspective, a fear of intimacy, and selfishness. That in itself is tragically self perpetuating, but consider that when Satan is after you, he like the wolves on the lamb or the lions on the baby elephant will run you away from the protection of the herd.

2) He (the devil) is doggedly determined to wear you out. You cannot keep away from him. When we are first seperated from the herd we think that we can keep him at bay, but fatigue is a reality. You simply have to know that you can't last forever running from the devil. And he will stay on your butt until you drop over.

3) Your aversary wants to devour you. In every capacity, your life will be desimated and destroyed. He will dismantle what took years to build and errode every aspect of trust and faithfulness in your life. Jesus made his determination clear- to rob, to kill , and to destroy- YOU!

Am I inciting fear? Am I exaggerating? No, just warning that as prey we must practice some community to keep our souls safe.

Don't Discount the Devil

Honestly, we act as if the success of a church relies entirely upon hard work and programs. Now don't get me wrong, those two things have there place. I have seen many a pastor fail for lack of willingness to work hard for long hours. God doesn't excuse laziness. Programs give us the skeletal outline of our ministry and help us to organize ourselves to address needs (both spiritual and physical). But success in the christian life and , especially in ministry, comes to those who give the devil his due.

We are in a spiritual war. 1 Peter 5.8 warns us to be "self controlled and alert" because " Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him..." In all our work and our designing programs to address the various needs of the ministry and the people of God, are we resisting him? Or have we ignored him by putting together wonderful programs and slickly produced ministries?

Resisting the devil takes more than resisting temptation. Temptation is the entry level manner in which the enemy compromises our soul and weakens us. Make no mistake- spiritual power will not work through a vessel that consistantly compromises with sin. But satan will do other things as well to compromise ministry. He will discourage and defame; he will depress and spiritually wound; he will stir up problems around you; he will weaken you with a barrage of his resistance; he will distract you from your call. People will rise up against you- good people who are easily mislead by the devil- they will attack you, slander you, cause confusion and/or stand against you. Your call is to resist. We resist the discouragment by recieving only the Lord's accessment of our situation (from the Word); We resist the slander by not attacking back but by speaking truth in love; we resist distractions by prayerfully centering our life on the heart of our mission; we resist the confusion by speaking a clear vision for our life and ministry. Too often Christians are waylaid by the enemy because they haven't given the devil his due respect. Yes, respect for his power, for his craftiness, and for his effectiveness. This enemy is no joke!

The Call to Resistance is to stand in prayer and not let the enemy have his way with your soul, your mind, or your spirit and attitude. So ministry leader, how is your prayer life? What time do you invest in the presence? Or are you expecting to win a spiritual war with fleshly weapons? or can we say with Paul...

2 Cor 10:3-53 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.(NIV)

Friday, April 06, 2007

What do you see?

Good Friday

Behold the Lamb of God...

What were they thinking, these who gathered around the cross. Soldiers, penitents, mothers of Israel, young zealots, disciples and friends all gathered at the foot of the cross. Some turned away from Jesus thinking that his life was cut short in shame."What a waste this young life spent in vain,... would that he would have followed his fathers way and been a carpenter, a good citizen, a husband and a father to children..." But in fact he did follow his Father's way- the way of sacrificial love- they just couldn't see what was in front of them.

Some wept great tears in sympathy for Mary's loss. To lose a son is one thing, to see him crucified and suffocating under his own weight on a rough hewn cross by gentile armies is another. "What needless violence done to this one," they thought. "And all in the name of religion...why does he have to take his faith so seriously..." But, in fact, he was taking their loss seriously- their loss of relationship with his Father, their estrangement from real love, their alienation from divine intimacy- They just couldn't see what was in front of them.

Some vowed vengence for this mistreatment of an innocent. They looked at Jesus and saw a symbol for their cause. Some felt abandoned and doubted the teaching of this one they had followed for so long. Some, in a whirlwind of confusion, couldn't understand how all this was supposed to work out for their good. Some grieved the loss of a friend who helped, healed, and encouraged them to believe in a God they could not see- where was his God now? They just couldn't see what was in front of them.

As I look at the cross, with a naked Savior hanging crucified, shamed, humiliated, and misunderstood. What fills my heart is not simply a sense of loss, nor a grief for my sin, nor even an appreciation for his sacrifice. As I look at the cross I am filled with fear... fear that I can be this close and miss what he is doing, what he is saying, his love and what he is ...

Oh, Jesus precious King of my heart
Let me never miss the beating of yours
May my life be purified, my vision cleansed
To see in you all that you are.
Forgive my blindspots, my agendas, my earthly
thinking, my limits
Make me to see what this sacrifice means
For me
For the watching world

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Cursed for me

Thursday Holy Week

Gal 3.13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us: for it is written. "Cursed is everyone that hangeth on a tree"

Cursed is a strong word. We don't use it except in the most dire circumstances. When life is extraordinarily difficult or when things seem to be damned by God in heaven. Imagine the juxtaposition - Jesus cursed from heaven. It is hard for us to imagine. But this is the extent of Divine love for man- even sinful man.

When we feel like things are bad- even cursed- we must remember that Christ became cursed for us. This exchange (his blessing on us in exchange for our curse upon him) is a guarantee for all who love him and submit to him. The good news is that God never asks us to get it all together at once. Rather, gently - slowly- he deals with us on one area of our lives at a time. It is a beautiful dance- this overature of God to the responsive heart of a sinner. But as we let him lead- he really takes us for a spin.

Years later, I remember my first spin with God. He was so gracious ever time and yet I am freer that I have ever been in my life. It isn't financial, or social, it is an internal quality of freedom that makes me more comfortable with me- because he is changing me.

So when things seem cursed- I have to remind myself " I am blessed" because he took my curse. He guarantees his involvement to bless us in the words of Romans 8.

Rom 8:28-2928 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. NIV

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Finishing Work

Wednesday Holy Week

Heb 1:3 The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.

I am again amazed at who the Godhead sent to save me (and you!). Who would dream that the Father would send his Son? This Jesus, who was the exact radiance of his glory and who sustained all things. (A little study reveals that Jesus was the perfect picture of the Fathers character and glory and that the universe that he would enter into was upheld by the proclamation of his mouth!) The writer almost passes over the entire event of the cross. He refers to the sacrifice, the agony, the pain and death simply as "providing purification". We know from reading the accounts of the gospels that this was emotional and physically painful. Why gloss over Calvary then? Because we emotional human beings get caught up in the groanings and agony and loose site of what it was that Jesus was after- what he was procuring for you and I. He was after the purification of his church.

Amazingly God not only demands that you be holy (Be ye holy...) but makes every heavenly effort to insure that your holiness is worked inside you. Praise to God who is moving heavens and earth in order to purify me! But why? because he desires your intimacy and fellowship.
When all else is said and done at the foot of the cross- we are closer to God and purified from our sin. What then does Jesus continue to do? He sits down on the right hand of the Majesty on high- because all the working that needs to be done has been done. All that is left is to intercede that the finished work of the cross- all that God has prepared and promised is brought to fullness in our hearts and lives. Let it be so, Lord.

It is finished!

Grace Unleashed

Tuesday Holy Week

1 Cor 15:3-113 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.
9 For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them-yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. 11 Whether, then, it was I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed. NIV

First, In this meditation we see that the Gospel is based upon historical facts. This is no late writing made up to confuse an easily misdirected public. This is verifiable. Those who saw this crucifixion and even the risen Christ, were still around. They could be questioned and queried to find out thier "version" of the facts. To those, like me who are hopelessly sin-filled; whose life is without fleshly remedy; whose heart is broken for being so far from God- this is the good news! It really happened in time and space. God sent his son to redeem broken man. What love! that God would care for us feable creatures - wounded and shallow-hearted, and die our death that he might have fellowship with us! Oh, praise to the King!

Second, we see that inspite of our unworthiness (for the persecuter Paul was made an apostle!) he makes us what he will. By the grace given to each of us he makes us what he desires us to be. Though we are constantly changing for the better, morphing into the man or woman of God that he envisions for us- it is never our doing. His grace has its effects! May God mold us - that we too, with Paul, might say "His grace was not without effect in me!"

Thirdly, this meditation reveals that our work ethic, our labors, our ministry and strength all flow from this grace. No wonder that the cross is central in the theological system of Christianity! For from the cross of our bleeding savior flows the strength, and grace, the power and the love, the wisdom and the direction of GOD to us.

Help us, oh Lord, to yield to your grace. AMEN.