The worst thing a child could do in the sixties was “get into trouble.” Those were the days of unsupervised Saturdays playing around the neighborhood. The days of screen doors slamming as mom called out, “Be back by dark and don’t get into trouble.” The days when neighbors, teachers, and total strangers could scare a kid into line with the phrase, “I’m calling your parents.”
I didn’t like trouble so I avoided it and became a “good girl.”
That’s not all bad. Unlike others, I came through the sixties and seventies with few regrets. Boring stories, but, hey, at least I do REMEMBER those years. I have friends for whom an entire decade is just a fuzzy blur with an Eagles soundtrack.
The problem is that for a long time I attributed my good behavior to virtue. It took me years to see the sobering truth that much of my “goodness” stemmed from cowardice.
Well, that’s what ordinary heroes do.
Remember Raiders of the Lost Ark? I love the scene where Indiana Jones discovers where Marion has been taken captive and instead of rescuing her, he leaves her there! It’s a great moment because we all know the hero is supposed to rescue the damsel in distress
but Indiana Jones is no ordinary hero.
He knows it will serve their ultimate goal if he leaves Marion in her predicament for just a little longer. Of course, Marion isn’t on his wavelength about this. Eventually, Indy saves her but a lot of damsel distress happens in between.
That’s like Jesus. He’s no ordinary hero. We have these expectations about what He should do in our lives and when but He isn’t compelled to serve our expectations. He has a greater plan and sometimes it serves the good of the greater goal to leave us unrescued for the moment. (and they can be unbearably long moments – lifetimes even)
My day job isn’t always this exciting (fortunately) but last week, I was nearly eaten by angry dogs. I showed up for an appointment with a client but she hadn’t warned her housemate. So, for several paralyzing moments, a freakishly tall, skinny woman screamed threats at me to leave her property all the while loosely gripping the collar of her large, snarling dogs.
Here’s the thing.
I wanted to leave. I saw the wisdom of leaving. But I had a job to do – a job about which I’m passionate and determined. Plus, my legs wouldn’t obey my brain. That’s right. I froze from the waist down. Most likely having to do with the snapping, snarling, spitting beasts the tall angry lady was threatening to release.
I tried to explain why I was there.
I asked about her housemate and informed her I’d met in the house the week before. (That was a misstep. Really just made her angrier.)
“I’m trying to help the young woman,” I screamed.
“You people from up state never understand us down here,” she yelled.
Now, that was crazy. For one thing, Rhode Island is only about 30 minutes long so “upstate” is overstating things a bit. For another thing, I live in this woman’s town. Grew up here, in fact.
“I’m not from Providence. I’m from here!” I cried, my eyes on the dogs’ teeth.
She stated lie after lie followed by excuses and justifications and each time I quietly responded, “That isn’t true, is it? This is what’s true. You know that’s illegal. You know that’s not safe. You know that’s not right.”
Each time, her listening ten-year-old looked at her accusingly and stated, “I knew it! I told you it can’t be legal for me to ride in the trunk! I knew it wasn’t safe to let that druggie sleep on our couch! I didn’t believe you when you said the doctor would be okay with you taking my medicine but you told me to be quiet. It’s probably not even okay for us to miss school on days when you want to sleep in, is it?”
This mom lied to her family, to authorities, and to herself. She tried to lie to her little boy but, with a few quiet statements from me, he was able to find the courage to embrace the truth. He knew, somewhere deep inside, what the truth looked like but he needed someone else to say it aloud in order to truly reject his mother’s lies.
Satan had been stewing all day, frustrated at his inability to rob God of joy, so he called a board meeting of his high-ranking officers.
“Ideas. All of you. I require ideas. What have you devised for humans that will bring me pleasure and rob the Almighty of His?”
After exchanging nervous glances, those gathered tossed out ideas:
Old friends know you well enough to see the signs. Old friends have permission to push. Old friends can insist. You need to get away. Leave work. Our plans? There are no plans. Nothing. That’s the plan. Okay, eat, nap, laugh, stare at the lake, stare at the fire, pet the dog. Seriously, no work.
Sheep have a natural fear of rough water. This is what makes it necessary for a shepherd to create a little calm pool, to still the waters for his sheep to drink before they lie down in green pastures.
So, how does the evil one twist God’s design? He whispers to the sheep that they should fear still waters.
The general public is getting dumber every day.
I’ll stand by that statement. I believe it’s true because we’re willing to swallow lies like vitamin supplements along with our morning coffee. Every half-truth the media serves that we ingest kills vital brain cells required to distinguish truth from deception. Stupidity is a choice.
The apostle Paul warns us: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2 (ESV)
As we conform to the world, we lose our ability to test, discern, and know what is good from what is bad. We inhale deception and when we exhale, unless we’ve filtered that deception through the word of God and the spirit of discernment, we’re likely to pass the pollution on to others.
Take this simple statement I hear from people every day when discussing the news: “Well, there are two sides to every story.” Raise your hand if you’ve heard or said this line in the past seven days. See, I told you it was widespread.
Why wouldn’t we? That’s only logical, right?
God programmed pain into our design as a sort of alarm system. Pain signals to us that we’ve done something wrong, encountered something bad, or have engaged with something that we should avoid in the future. God designed pain to be unpleasant so that we wouldn’t court it.
We do accept, however, that pain can’t be entirely eliminated from our experience, so in modern times, we’ve created an entire industry devoted to a concept we call “pain management.” I was in an office complex and saw a waiting room full of people at the “Pain Management Clinic.” It usually takes a plan that crosses several disciplines – physical/medical/mental health/spiritual life/behavior management/ and occupational therapy to manage complex pain.
I’m thinking the Body of Christ could use a pain management consult right about now. Even more so as we travel into the corridor of time which will be remembered for all eternity as “the end times.”
Since in my day job, I have acquired some expertise about working across disciplines, I happily accept the challenge of suggesting some pain management techniques for the Body of Christ for use through the end times.
This is part one.
Bombs created holes in parents’ hearts this week.
A plane fell from the sky. Amid the wreckage, cell phones flashed with unrequited calls.
In a room with flowered curtains in a sleepy summer town, one young woman eased a drug into her vein and closed her eyes forever. A boy clicked on a pop-up and fell through an open manhole into hell. One couple pooled their hard-earned tip money to end a life before it forced them to change their vacation plans and in the UK, police rounded up six-hundred suspected pedophiles and THAT number was not a topic of discussion on news shows.
This is where I repeat my astonishment that anyone doesn’t believe the Bible is powerful and true because it says things like this:
“But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.” 2 Timothy 3:1-5a (ESV)
Now, this is where I could mention some good that occurred on the planet this week. There is good because there is light at work in the world pushing back against the darkness so I could say that the good outweighs the bad or at least balances the scales.
But here’s what’s true:
One man set out on a long walk fraught with risks and dangers except he didn’t know the walk would be long and no one had warned him about the dangers.
Another man of similar size and strength set out on the same long walk fraught with similar risks and dangers. He didn’t know the particulars of what he would encounter but he expected it to be hard and to require all of his strength and capabilities. He undertook the walk, anyway, because he also understood his purpose, knew he had a task that only he could accomplish, and kept an eye out for fellow travelers.
Which man do you think completed the journey?
Generations of people, from the time of the early church until very recent history were warned that following Jesus is not an easy choice. The first believers knew it might cost them their lives. Entire generations chose to follow Jesus, not based on the promise that life would get easier but based, instead, on the truth that Jesus is worth following no matter the risk.
Sometime in recent history, a generation of people heard the gospel presented as if Jesus was just another flavor of religion. Coke or Pepsi? McDonald’s or Burger King? Jesus or Mohammed? They believed promises of lives straightened out, of blessings to flow unhindered, of financial, health, and emotional benefits unknown by people of other faiths.
And Jesus sounded like a good deal so they took Him.
Except the only ones that were taken was this generation of believers. At first, following Jesus did seem like a great time, especially when they stopped living according to the desires of their sinful natures and chose, instead, to live by the Spirit, to obey God’s word. Initially, life improved.
But, rain fell on their lives just like everyone else’s. And, not just rain. Marital stress, financial troubles, loved ones wrestling with addiction, disease, unemployment, and every kind of loss. At times, they saw miraculous answers to prayer but at other times, they suffered just like everyone else.