Monday, July 15, 2013

A Serious Moment on My Way to the Bank

While riding my scooter home from the bank I saw James. We met a couple years ago. I met his wife and two daughters. The girls belonged to James’ wife by a previous marriage. They seemed happy. James was doing a landscaping business and had helped us out a few times. He was a recovering alcoholic. He had been attending a good church.

Someone told me recently that James was having issues. “He and his wife have split up and he’s drinking again.”

So when I saw James, I pulled a U-ey, which is easy to do on a scooter. He looked haggard and had a five o’clock shadow.

“How are you?”

“Fine. Okay.”

“I heard things are not going well for you?”

“Yeah, we’re getting a divorce.”

We exchanged a few more sentences. Feeling pain and a strong desire to help, I said, “Is there any hope? You’ve gotta maintain some hope, James.”

“No. It’s better for us to be happy and apart than to be sad and together.”

“I’m sorry, that really sucks.”

“It does,” he admitted, toeing the grass where he was standing.

Feeling powerless, I ended with, “I love you. Don’t give up.”

As I rode away, I felt like crying. “O God, help James not to quit.”

One day Jesus was questioned about divorce.

 After telling the Jewish teachers that marriage is God’s idea and that it’s a lifetime commitment, they asked this question. “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?” He said to them, “For your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.[1]

That part jumps out at me, “For your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.”

Divorce is not God’s intention.

The problem is “hardness of heart.” James has it.

I have it too. I have the potential to divorce my wife because of the hardness of my heart. It’s part of our human fallenness.

What is hardness of heart? It’s attitudes and words like, “It’s not my fault!” “You’re wrong!” “I’m sick of trying, it’s up to her.” It’s a failure to take responsibility for our own part in the demise of the relationship. It’s an unwillingness to talk about it.

As I approached home, I felt really bad.
May God have mercy on our marriages. No matter how tough it gets, don’t allow your heart to get hard. “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”[2]

The opposite of a hard heart is a tender heart. One Old Testament king was told, “… because your heart was penitent (or tender), and you humbled yourself before the Lord, … I also have heard you…”[3]

Pray for James and for all who are contemplating divorce. Pray for healthy marriages. If you’ve gone through a painful divorce, pray that you’ll keep a soft heart now in your present circumstances. Don’t give up!

[1] Matthew 19:7-8 (Revised Standard Version)
[2] Proverbs 4:23 (NIV)
[3] 2 Kings 22:19 (NIV)

Monday, July 1, 2013

That's Terrible

A few days ago I sat in a theater with two of my daughters. In the preview of a coming comedy attraction, a white man sat at a table full of African Americans and spoke and acted like he was black.  Behind me I heard a woman snickering, trying to suppress a laugh, yet saying, “That’s terrible.” It was obviously a farce and it was taken as a joke. But her muttered words mirrored where our society is at. Even the hint of racism is about as bad as it gets.

The same day I read of the fall of celebrity chef Paula Deen. She used the “N” word. As a result of a word she spoke, her career is basically destroyed. Her subsequent tearful appeals on interviews have not yielded mercy.

“That’s terrible,” say most; no one is laughing.

As a young Christian, I remember hearing of the verse in the Bible that says, “Sins against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.”[1] We used to talk a lot about what that meant. What was the sin? Some thought it was one word. Others said, “No, it’s a willful, sustained walking away from the Lord and His commands.” I always opted for the second explanation. The first one was too scary. A random word could mean eternal judgment and damnation? What if I slipped in a moment of anger and said that word. It would be all over.

America has sort of become like the first option. We’ve lost our sense of humor. Certain words, if spoken, are crimes. If you say this word, you are that. Period. No hope. No mercy.

Paula Deen lost her job for a word spoken. Dumb on her part. Yes. Evidence that she is a racist? No. In America, there is no freedom to speak that word. It’s a bad word. But freedom has been the casualty. I wonder what words will be next?

Historically, many have lost their jobs over words spoken. Consider the actions of notorious Nazi Joseph Goebbels. “… (Goebbels) made sure teachers and lecturers were teaching what he had wanted them to teach the university students, otherwise they'd be dismissed. From 1933-38, more than 3000 academics were dismissed.”[2] Today it’s fashionable to condemn and dismiss people whose words are not politically correct. No we’re not Nazi Germany. Not even close. But aren’t there increasingly some parallels?

One day Jesus spoke to a Canaanite woman whose daughter was sick. “It is not fair to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”[3] Society would destroy Billy Graham if he called a foreign woman a dog! Jesus must have been a chauvinist. Two verses later we read, Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.[4]

A word spoken does not a person make. Pray that we will not continue to lose our freedoms, even the freedom for people to say words we don’t like.

To be judged for a word spoken, now that’s terrible.

[1] Mark 3:29
[2] Shawn Hsu, “Life in Nazi Germany 1933-1945”
[3] Matthew 15:26
[4] Matthew 15:28

Quotes of Note ... The Invisible World

“Spiritual warfare is learning to recognize the strategies, refusing to cooperate with them, and aggressively cutting off the schemes of the devil in Jesus’ name.” Dean Sherman

“those who protest that God cannot exist because there is too much evil evident in life… Evil exists; therefore, the Creator does not. That is categorically stated… If evil exists, one must assume that good exists in order to know the difference. If good exists, one must assume that a moral law exists by which to measure good and evil. But if a moral law exists, must not one posit an ultimate source of moral law, or at least an objective basis for a moral law? By an objective basis, I mean something that is transcendingly true at all times, regardless of whether I believed it or not.” Ravi Zacharias

“But the Devil is no big threat to God’s purposes; he is not even remotely comparable in power. He has been given a limited time before his final judgment to try to prove his case, just as all other moral beings who have chosen to live in rebellion against heaven.” W.A. Pratney

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I've served as a life-long missionary in Samoa, the Pacific region, India, and now in Pennsylvania. The Christian faith is reasonable and works in real life. It is true to the facts. Hope you enjoy some of the thoughts. I appreciate feedback.

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