Tuesday, January 25, 2011

learning to hate

Other men, other Christian men, have shared with me that they have been tempted by pornography or sexual fantasies.

About three years ago, I shared one of my more personal diaries, reflecting on my willingness to fall into this temptation myself… and God’s amazing ability to pull me out.

And yet, even after that miraculous God event, I continued to disobey. Vows to repent, feelings of guilt and heartfelt prayers would be followed by moments of weakness… and at some point… when I was no longer afraid to ask for forgiveness… an abundance of God’s grace. Rinse. Repeat. Rinse. Repeat.

That changed about a month ago.

My Saturday bible study group was looking at Psalm 139. And with snow delays and other schedule conflicts, we ended up going three weeks without a meeting. Three weeks with Psalm 139.

I have since come to learn that this Psalm holds a special place in the hearts of many people I know… men and women who have taken the time to memorize the words. If you take the time to read this lyrical prayer, you will quickly understand why.

You have searched me, LORD, and you know me.

It opens with a poetic statement of intimacy… describing an active, personal relationship between a single person and the creator of the universe… a God who has taken the time to listen to you… to know you by name.

Where can I flee from your presence?

Through the highs and the lows, the darkness and the light, our God is with us in every way possible… always at our side.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

God not only loves all people… he loves me… me… for the precise person I am... the soul, the personality, the being that is uniquely me.

And then… in the midst of this psalm of intimacy and closeness, David takes an abrupt turn in verse 19.

If only you, God, would slay the wicked! Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty! They speak of you with evil intent; your adversaries misuse your name. Do I not hate those who hate you, LORD, and abhor those who are in rebellion against you? I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them my enemies.

Where did this come from? God and I were having this nice chat, and then all of a sudden we are talking about slaying, hatred and enemies. What’s up with that?

Now I have no enemies… and certainly not any enemies that I was looking to whack. Did not Jesus tell us to love our enemies? And who are ‘those who hate God’… atheists? Muslims? Were they not God’s children as well? These words did not resonate in any way. And what happened to that God of love and intimacy from verses 1 through 18?

To be honest, I kind of glazed over these verses the first week. Then when I hit week two of re-reading Psalm 139, I think I may have intentionally skipped these lines. By the third week, however, God was speaking to me through these verses in a new way. In a way that has changed my life.

You see… I had previously spoken about the inclination to let my mind wander toward sexual fantasy as a weakness. I was being tempted. Being lured into a place I had no desire to go. Yes, I was the victim. Helpless.

But that’s not really the case.

Because I had the power to hate. To hate the sin that drove me from God. To hate and despise the mere thought of this act. And on that day, this temptation no longer stood as a weakness, a flaw. It stood as an enemy. One that needed to be hated… one to be slayed.

That was a month ago. Any this hatred still burns today. And my enemy has not dared to show his face for all this time. And I am glad. And strong. And free.

For my Lord has searched me. And knows me. He leads me in the way everlasting. And I would hate for it to be any other way.

Monday, January 24, 2011

owning my soul

Interesting discussion at church yesterday, delving into the difference between your “spirit” and your “soul”.

Rich explained it like this: the spirit is the life force/God force within you – and if you could see inside a person, everyone’s spirit would look the same. The soul, however, is the uniqueness of you.

Got me thinking… on the cross, at the time of his death, all four gospels relay the same account: And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.

He gave up his spirit. But he kept his soul.

Of all the gifts the Father has showered upon me, only one is unique to me: my soul. I can give the Lord my strength, my heart and my mind. But to love the Lord with all my soul does not mean giving my soul to God – he does not want this gift back – I think he just wants us to honor him by owning our soul.

We must fight to own our soul.

We must be true to who we are… never afraid to “be ourselves”… never ashamed of whom we are… never trying to be someone else… or change who we are to fit in to someone else’s picture of us.

We must also defend our soul against the one being who is willing, and anxious, to buy it.

We must fight to own our soul.

Will you join me in prayer today?

Lord, I want to honor you with my soul. I want to own my soul, defend my soul and love my soul, because you created it… and my soul is perfectly and fearfully made. I thank you for my soul. And I thank you for all of the souls that are owned by the ones for whom they were created… my brothers… my sisters. I want to love you God. I want to love you with all my soul. Which means I can’t give any of it away.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

on fatherhood

i may be dense.

ok, i am dense.

but often i need to experience something before i can internalize, see and understand. here are two examples from my experience of being a father.

first... the limitless nature of love. you grow up learning to love one mother. one father. one spouse. but it was not until after the birth of my third that i understood that the addition of each new child only increased the love i had for the ones that came before. cool, huh?

second... when i was 17, god and i had a little falling out. because i believed that if i truly loved god with all my heart, soul, mind and strength i would drop everything and become a missionary or priest. because i wanted no part of that, i assumed it meant i simply did not love god.

as a father, however, i do not want my three children spending their lives attending to my needs. i do not want them to pursue careers that interest me. i do not want them spending every waking hour thinking about me. i want them to live, love, explore and find out who they are as individuals... and then to follow the path before them with passion and joy. you see, what delights me most is when brian, meaghan and erin are the best brian, meaghan and erin they can be.

yes, that is what delights me most.

so today... love the lord by being what delights him most... you.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

december treasures

… beauty & essex… audrey’s pecans… cozy caroling to guitar strums... ringing the bell with jim lang… pick-up lunch with brian… singing four calling birds with my father-in-law… finding the perfect shower radio… erin’s reaction to the scooter… the blizzard… backgammon with eileen…