12 Oct 2009
Warm greetings to everyone!
Our blog is slowly coming out of many months of hibernation…we hope that the thoughts we share here in the days to come will encourage our readers, stirring your thoughts and ponderings to truth and mercy!
22 May 2009
We usually pray twice a week here in the Philadelphia office. It’s a good time to touch base as many of the staff are out teaching and training more often than not.
I was struck by one prayer offered by Bob Heywood recently. He was to speak to a group of seminarians and wanted to speak in a way that was both winsome and helpful. Since they would eventually pastor congregations, Bob was anxious that he equip them well—especially as they ‘walked into people’s hearts.’
That phrase struck a chord with me. So often church leaders and teachers forget the impact they have on people’s lives simply because of their position! Even when I pick up the phone here in the office, it’s easy to forget that I too have an impact on people—especially if they are working up their courage and calling for help for the first time.
Bob’s words were and are a reminder that we need to take care as we step into someone’s life—either as a pastor or simply as a friend. We need to enter carefully lest we do more damage then good; and we need to be sure that we have actually been invited! Often it isn’t advice that is needed. Often the best help we can offer is our presence, our awareness of their circumstance, and our willingness to walk alongside someone at a messy time in their lives.
We’ve all had someone not just walk into our hearts uninvited but stomp around in great big muddy boots and not even close the door when they eventually left! My thoughts about such people are always less than edifying. Bob’s prayer keeps rattling around my brain, and I hope I never forget it. May I always tread carefully, and may you do the same!
18 Dec 2008
This post was originally placed on the website of Covenant Eyes, www.covenanteyes.org, an amazing internet accountability ministry.
Welcome friend, hope it’s ok to call you friend? It’s fairly personal and we probably don’t know each other but I do want you to know my heart is tender towards you. And while I’m not entangled with pornography, I’m much more like you than different.
In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis, Lucy sees Aslan, the great lion, for the first time. She was afraid, and rightly so. Lucy whispered to Mrs. Beaver, “Is he safe?” “Safe?” Mrs. Beaver replied, “Of course he’s not safe! But he is good; he’s the King, I tell you!”
Lewis meant for Aslan to be a picture of Jesus—not an exact imitation, but a type. And so this line from the well-loved book has been quoted extensively. I’ve mostly heard it quoted to counter the unbiblical view that following Jesus is a path of ease or boredom. Or the quote is meant to show the ‘wild’ side of God, that he is God, the supreme ruler, and that we can’t contain him in our boxes of comfort. But does that mean that we can’t call him ‘safe’?
I do agree that devotion to Jesus is one of joy and radical surrender, and I do agree that God is God, that he rules and reigns as loving creator and LORD. However, I wouldn’t have said it the way Lewis said it. God is safe, and he is good. In him, our fears, insecurities, and anxieties get swallowed up by the safety of his loving refuge, his very presence. No, he’s not boring, and no, he’s not a genie in a bottle we pull out for our means. This is the radical nature of who he is: He is a powerful king, yet very safe!
“ Keep me safe O God, for in you I take refuge. I said to the Lord, ‘You are my Lord.’ Apart from you I have no good thing!” (Psalm 16:1-2)
Loving people well and living holy lives with our sexuality requires a good, powerful, and safe God. We have one friends! We have One!
04 Dec 2008
Fear is the enemy of love. Fear is the enemy of trust, honesty, sharing of oneself, and thus the enemy of intimacy.
In his book False Intimacy: Understanding the Struggle of Sexual Addiction, Harry Schaumberg defines this concept of false intimacy as essentially a selfish strategy and self-created illusion for a person to avoid the relational pain inherent in real intimacy by pursuing sexual experiences—whether through fantasy, solo sex, or acting out with another person. False intimacy reveals a deep commitment to controlling or managing actual or potential emotional disappointments or pain and seeks emotional comfort, security, peace, and autonomy over the best interests of another person.
How does Schaumberg’s idea relate to the fears and unbelief in your past or present struggles? Fear is the enemy of love, but love is the enemy of fear. Love and truth fight fear and unbelief. (Does this sound like Yoda of Star Wars or a Haikou poem?) If love is a verb, and living in truth means confession, vulnerability, and self-disclosure, then how are you doing in loving God and others, with truthful self-discovery and honest self-disclosure with others? “Heart work” is the hardest work of all.
Since God accepted you and me when we were still enemies (Romans 5:8,10), what have you been so afraid of? What has distorted your vision of God’s goodness and trustworthiness? How are you seeking honest relationships now?
False intimacy—and the fear that drives it—is endemic in our culture, and not just because of porn, which is an extreme variety of avoiding real intimacy and controlling emotions by using real people. Someone has said that the three rules of a dysfunctional family are 1) don’t talk, 2) don’t feel, and 3) don’t trust. Yet we are called to be true brothers, the real family of God, a community of true honesty, acceptance, and mutual support. Jesus said, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35, ESV). Jesus is against the fear of false intimacy. “Perfect love cast out fear” (1 John 4:18). And, “God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7). The true meaning of Christmas is to set us free from the fears that enslave our hearts.
03 Dec 2008
A close and dear friend leaves town on Saturday and I’m already missing her, feeling the ache of her absence. You know, goodbyes are a part of this fallen world, and will be destroyed when Christ restores creation to the beauty of God’ sinless design. And yet, while we live on the soil of this earth, He calls us to love well and let go when paths go in different directions. And for me, goodbyes are HARD because emotional pain is hard… scary even at times.
So… what do we do with the pain of goodbyes and/or change? Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in his amazing book Life Together teaches how as believers we are not to relate “directly” to one another but always through Christ. The person of Jesus is the One in whom we live and and move and have our being and He is to always be “inbetween” ourselves and others. The beauty of this is that we can trust Him to draw our hearts close, and to bring distance; to allow us to journey together, or perhaps to know one another from a distance. When Christ is central, He grants closeness and He grants distance.
To love deeply and sincerely does open our hearts to the pain of loss and change… but it’s worth it! We participate in the sufferings of Christ, who Himself experienced loss and change in His relationships. People MATTERED to Jesus and He invested His heart, life and affections in relational ways. I’m not nearly as courageous as Him… but I’m learning step by step to love… and to let go.
Dan wrote last week about being “ruthless”…taking seriously the call to delight in Jesus at the cost of delighting in sin. It is a ‘cost’ to not give way to our selfishness so as to fully delight in the provision we have through Christ.
As I shared a few thoughts last week, often our relationships and the people with whom we have them (peopling!) can often become the focus of our treasuring, of our cravings for life and satisfaction. When this happens, if often comes at the cost of our worship and devotion to Christ. I’ve found that in my own ‘ruthless’ battle (which I’m sometimes weak in for sure) to keep Christ first, that I must find hope and guidance not only in the sweet promises of Scripture, but also in the sober warnings. Take for example Psalm 16:1-4, a key passage for my heart.
“Keep me safe O God, for in You I take refuge. I said to the Lord, “You are my Lord, apart from you I have no good thing. As for the saints who are in the land, they are the glorious ones in whom is all my delight. The sorrows of those will increase who run after other gods; I will not pour out their libations of blood or take up their names upon my lips.”
In the pursuit of treasuring Christ above all, and in letting go of those struggles that seem to rule us, consider the promises and warnings given to us as a gift in these few verses:
· God is one in whom we find safety and refuge.
· Apart from Him we have no good thing…with Him and in Him, we have ALL good things.
· Fellow journeyers are to be delighted in…deeply delighted in!
· Sorrows DO increase (multiply) when we run away from the True God, to other gods.
I’ve experienced the joys of delight in people that flow from the safe refuge of Jesus and I’ve also experienced multiplying sorrows when I’ve run after “other gods”. What about you?
13 Nov 2008
This weekend, close to 2000 people are gathering in Philly for the annual conference sponsored by the Christian Counseling and Education Foundation (www.ccef.org). The theme this year is “The Addict in Us All.” There will be many seminars addressing the many facets of addiction. Substances, behaviors, thoughts, relationships.
How do you define addiction? A life-controlling thing? Something that has seized you? One way the Bible addresses addiction is in Hebrews 12:1-2 where followers of Jesus are called to “throw off everything that hinders and the sin which so easily entangles” (ESV). Habitual sin, activities, behaviors, thoughts, relationships, emotions that consistently entangle and encumber us from a Christ-centered life.
I’ve never been addicted to alcohol, drugs, porn, or even sex—but I have been what we might call a “people addict.” Or, like I said in my first post, an emotional connection junkie. Ed Welch of CCEF says that people are our favorite idols or addictions. We worship people and our relationships when we let them make or break our day, when they rise to the highest place in our thoughts, affections, and energies.
Are you a people or relationship addict? How do people “rule” you, and what has been helpful to you in your relational and spiritual journey to be free of these entanglements? What has helped you learn how to love and not use people?
10 Nov 2008
Mr. Jones and Mr. Smith were hanging out.
Jones says, “Listen to this quote: ‘My heart is restless until it rests in you.'”
Smith laughs and retorts, “Must have been written by a girl.”
Jones, quiet for a while, says, “Well, sometimes I am restless. In fact, last night, I spent three hours looking at porn.”
Smith asked,”Was it good stuff?!”
Jones:”I find that the free porn is okay, but you have to put out the bucks for something satisfying.”
Smith: “Three hours, eh. Must have been some hot stuff.”
Jones: “Naw, it was basically reruns.”
Smith: “So now you’re taking up reading Bible-looking books?”
Jones, holding the leather-bound book, says, “It’s St. Augustine’s Confessions.” Then, after a pause: “From the 5th century A.D.”
Smith: “What the…huh? Who? What are you talking about?”
Feeling dejected and a bit scorned by Smith, Jones left to take a walk with uncomfortable questions poking at his conscience.
“What do I really want?”
“Can I be satisfied with a woman made of pixels—a pixelated woman?”
“Wonder why she did that photo shoot?”
“What does she really want?”
“I wonder if she is as desperate as I am.”
Jones stopped at a park bench. He took up the book, found his book mark, and read the whole quote.
“You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”
Are you like Jones? Where does your restless heart wander?
And are you satisfied where your wandering heart takes you?
What, Who can satisfy your restless heart?
Tolle Lege—”Take up and read”