Wednesday, March 30, 2011

March 30 Caving in to Peer Pressure

I Samuel 15:24 Then Saul said to Samuel, "I have sinned. I violated the LORD's command and your instructions. I was afraid of the people and so I gave in to them.."

Even Saul succumbed to peer pressure! I'm not sure if we should find comfort in that or warning - we know how Saul ended. He gave great power to what other people thought of him, constantly comparing himself even to David, the boy, the friend of his son. Yes, David did amazing things, but Saul was the king. Still Saul struggled with insecurity.

So what about us? I wondered if we took some time to review the previous day's or week's activities, how many choices would we find we had made because of what someone else might think. Perhaps we might have chosen to do them anyway, but the most powerful impetus was the fear of man - what others would think about what we might do or say.

Then one more thought came to me as I rehearsed this passage: when we succumb to peer pressure over our own sense of what is right and wrong BECAUSE we are in relationship with Jesus Christ, we are violating our relationship with God, violating His commands. Consider the first and great commandment - to love the Lord your God with your heart, soul and mind. Allowing others that much power to influence our choices would indicate we loved them and perhaps what they could do for or to us that we love God.

Giving the power of influence to the world, our friends or even family, when it belongs first to God, must grieve Him deeply.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

March 29 It's Not About Numbers

I Samuel 14:6 Nothing can hinder the LORD from saving, whether by many or by few.

Smith says this: Faithfulness and trust in God's power-not numbers-were the keys to Israel's military success. As I reflected on this, I wondered how trusting God would affect the soldiers, and similarly how trusting God influences the way we behave.

When I say I trust God, what does that really mean? Well, first of all it means I take Him at His Word. What He says will take place; I can rely on both His written Word and His love for me. He says He will never leave me nor forsake me, Hebrews 13:5. People frequently talk about a life verse, and I don't have one official verse, but this one is right up there. It give me great comfort to know that I can trust God to never leave me nor forsake or abandon me, the latter being a more permanent separation.

It means that no matter how many are against me, I am not alone. God loves me and filters everything allowed into my life, never allowing a temptation greater than my capacity to resist or endure, I Cor. 10:13. He has promised to make a way through it that it will not overwhelm me...and when it does overwhelm me, He has not failed. I drifted outside of that way.

And when I think about this verse in relation to my family, my students and my friends, I am comforted. Nothing can keep God from saving or protecting them; He does not need my help. Oh, He may use my help, but He doesn't need me to do His work. He may use many influences to do His work; I think of the sowing of seed, the watering of the seed, the weeding and the harvest, all used to accomplish His work, even in human lives. And sometimes He uses one, not many to do it all. The point is, I can trust God to do His work in the lives of others, I just have to be available to Him.

Finally, as I think of this whole concept, I think of the courage it gives those used by God. What a difference it makes knowing we are prepared (taught) and empowered by God the Spirit! We can go into the world, or the workplace, or our front yard confident, knowing God is right there, present with us.

As I minister to and pray for people, I am grateful that God will accomplish His work, and He doesn't need a crowd. He needs me to trust Him and obey His revealed will. And I am so thankful that we have His Word, printed manual or map for life's journey.

Monday, March 28, 2011

March 28 Calling all "Nobodies"

I Samuel 9:21 Saul answered, "But am I not a Benjamite, from the smallest tribe of Israel, and is not my clan the least of all the clans of the tribe of Benjamin? Why do you say such a thing to me?"

Am I not the least? Don't ask or expect anything from me. I don't have any special talent. I'm just an average girl who just wants to get married and have babies. As a teacher, Dean and counselor, I've heard it all, and if it makes me sad, I wonder how it makes God feel. He knit us together before we were born, pulling all the threads together to fit us for the work He has for us to do.

I wonder how many presidents, how many CEO's, how many teachers, how many pastors could say that. "I'm just a nobody from nothing." But they had a vision of what hard work and ambition could produce. And some of them had a vision for how God could use them. And who has the right to call God's handiwork a nobody anyway?

Well, that's one thing I wanted to say today!

My other thought came from yesterday's reading from I Samuel 3:10, The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, "Samuel, Samuel." Then Samuel said, "Speak, for your servant is listening."

Smith asks whether, though we may hear, do we really listen? He also makes the statement that learning to listen is a sign of maturity. I fear we have a lot of immature people, and some of them are well over 40. I think listening is an act of love and respect, of unselfishness. So we certainly need to learn to be better listeners to each other.

Then we must learn how to be still enough to not only say, "Speak Father for I am listening," but wait long enough to hear what God has to say. If we are rude to other humans, as I often put it, listening with our answer running, are we any less rude to God? I hear people all the time rationalize an unwise decision saying, "I prayed about it." The problem was not in the praying, but in the listening.

Oh God, help us to be better listeners.

Friday, March 25, 2011

March 25 The Chaos of Moral Authority

Judges 21:25 In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.

Well, that worked out well for them! You do know that I am saying that facetiously? Israel rode a roller coaster, didn't they? They did get their way; kings were installed, and it seemed like the nation had more downs than ups, as they followed the men who led them.

But it never works out well for anyone does it, doing over time just exactly what we, by ourselves without counsel or parameters, would do?

I just learned that physicians and dentists, two of the wealthier professions, also have the highest suicide rates. Right now, the news is full of stories about various Hollywood stars and politicians who have lived according to their own will regardless of the larger community moral code. These people are not doing well, headed to prison or rehab, drummed out of office, regardless of their money, fame or power. Things have not ended well for these people who did as they saw fit apart from God. And our culture holds those elements as most valuable: money, fame, power, the right to do as one sees fit.

It appears that we continue to be a nation of slow learners. We can look back over thousands of years and see what happens when people make their own laws, defining right and wrong as it pleases them....and review civilization after civilization that has fallen.

And here we are with the solution at hand. God says Love me and Love others. That's what it boils down to; in fact, He says all the commandments and laws hang on these's all about love.

So maybe we need to rehearse that truth - at least six times today, and perhaps every day. Research tells us that we need to rehearse something six times to move it from our short to long term memory...So, if we really want a life of joy, of peace, of love, we need to follow God's prescription, recognizing that any deviation for his plan will ultimately lead to the same destruction Israel experienced.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

March 24 False Comfort from Religious Trappings

Judges 17:13 And Micah said, "Now I know that the LORD will be good to me, since this Levite has become my priest."

Smith makes the point that it is possible to find religious leaders who will hold or take a position to justify anything we want justified and that there is a temptation to find a leader you like and follow him, rather than God. I wonder if that is why we have such a plethora of churches and related church-hopping. If this church, its pastor or people say something that offends you or that you don't like, you can find another. There's lots to choose from. And if you don't like what already exists, you can start another, one where you can make the rules and can feel virtuous about it.

I am not advocating hanging in there if your church takes a position that is contrary to Scripture, nor am I advocating for keeping alive the search for a church that matches your every desire. Furthermore, I am not crazy about how easy it can become to criticize anyone who holds any position that differs from our own.

I grew up in a movement that held dearly to the position of "individual soul liberty," which means that every individual, whether a believer or an unbeliever, has the liberty to choose what their conscience or soul decides is right in the religious realm.

It sounds really good, doesn't it? We don't impose our beliefs on anyone. The problem is that though they said it, they didn't practice it, not really. Though people were allowed to hold their own position, it was pretty certain, that if it differs from the church's, it must be wrong - even if it was difficult to nail down clear biblical support for the church's.

The point is the church decided what individual soul liberty should look like and didn't, and if you didn't fit, you were not made to feel welcome. I am grateful to attend a church now that makes welcome every person who attends, regardless of what he or she might look like. I noticed a cigarette disposal device the other day at the different than from other public places. Today, we recognize that most public places are nonsmoking. The message was, "We know that some of you smoke, and we want you to feel welcome. We are just a nonsmoking building." I think that must be more welcoming to smokers than making no provision for them, as though they were invisible.

The end result is a challenge to read Scripture, to use the myriad of study aids so accessible online and trust the Holy Spirit to help you understand what God wants you to do or know. Always be careful when you identify yourself in relation to another person's position apart from God's. And remember that God calls us to love one another, not just those whose theological grid and practices exactly match our own.

Our comfort must come from our relationship and intimacy with God.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

March 22 Choosing at the Crossroads

Ruth 1:6 But Ruth replied, "Don't urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God."

Yesterday I heard of a student who just got engaged, an event to celebrate, had she gotten engaged to a man who shared what she has said is her faith. But he is not; as far as we know, he is of another major faith though he does not practice it, or so he says. Someone asked her about how their children will be raised because his church requires the children of its adherents be raised in that faith. Her, to me naive, answer was, "I will face that when we come to it."

She thinks she has won; a man has put a ring on her finger indicating he chose her, but has he? Or do either one of them really know who they have pledged themselves to? Is she hoping she can change him, or is he hoping he can change her? Either way, someone is going to have to give up something, and at what cost? Is she aware that she has said, "Where you go, I and my children will go?"

Certainly she has just made one of those choices, at what Smith refers to as a critical juncture of her life. Smith says "the only real issue is whether we decide to go with God." I cannot help but wonder how much consultation she did with God and whether she even fools herself about who influenced her to go that way.

Then I wonder about the choices we make at critical junctures in our lives, junctures we don't even recognize as critical. We only make them because they are in front of us to be made. Perhaps it's a job, and we base our decision on how much money we might make or how it will affect our career. Perhaps it's a date or a future mate, and we base that decision on how lonely we are at a given moment or how much peer or parental pressure we might feel. Perhaps it is as simple as how and with whom we spend our leisure time, giving significant entree into our lives influences who do not love God.

One of the first things I thought of when I read this passage was the words of Psalm 1:1, "Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful." 

Ruth walked away from those influences, braving the unknown people of her mother-in-law because of the known God. Imagine the courage it took her, to walk away from her family to go alone (yes, her mother-in-law was there, but she had her own issues) into a new country to a people who called hers pagan. Because she had met God; it could be for no other reason.

I want to be always marked with the courage of a Ruth and the relationship with God Ruth must have had to make such a life-changing decision.

Monday, March 21, 2011

March 21 When Vows Become Shibboleths

Judges 11:35 When he saw her, he tore his clothes and cried, "Oh! My daughter! You have made me miserable and wretched, because I have made a vow to the LORD that I cannot break."

The word vow brings so much to mind; first I am reminded of all the fox-hole vows soldiers have made - promising God that they would clean up their act and go to church or something similar if He would just deliver them safely through the attack. Then I think of all the believers who have made similar promises or vows to God: if you will just heal my child, or bring my spouse home safely, or help us out of this scary place, then I will surely serve you better or give you more or.....

How sad it is that it would take a challenge to make us pay attention to God, to realize our need for Him, to even notice Him!! But unfortunately that is too often true. We take God for granted, access to His Word for granted, and His love for granted, only calling on Him when we have dug ourselves into a hole.

Smith suggests that Jephthah may have recognized the difference between passive faith and active faithfulness. I wonder if there can be such a thing as a passive faith because faith by its nature calls us to an action, a different action than the one who has no faith.

An active faith trusts, and anyone who thinks that trusting is a piece of cake has never had to trust. Trust carries in its definition believing and relying on something when it might not make sense given the circumstances. That takes a lot of action - choosing to take God at His Word, moving forward despite the situation, exercising hope, believing God and persevering through the challenge confident that God is right there with you.

When we have made vows or promises to God that we did not keep, we must recognize that we have lied to Him. We have dishonored the gift of life He granted to us. I am grateful that He is quick to accept our apology when it is real and that we can once again enjoy fellowship with Him. However, we must also recognize that we have grieved Him. He loves us, and just as we don't like being lied to by those we love, God doesn't like it either. It grieves us because it first grieved Him.

Well, I kind of wandered around to day, but it's been on my mind.

Friday, March 18, 2011

March 18 Reluctant Role Reversals

Judges 4:9 "Very well," Deborah said, "I will go with you. But because of the way you are going about this, the honor will not be yours, for the LORD will hand Sisera over to a woman."

Smith says, "The issue is not what a woman has the ability to do, but what a man is called to do." I would go one step further, it is also a matter of what a woman is called to do.

Maybe this is a pet peeve of mine, about people in general, and I know it started with the fall.  BUT we all care a whole lot more about what we cannot do and what we cannot have than what we can do and what we do have.

God says we are to be our husband's helper. He reserves that word, used in Genesis 2, primarily to speak of himself in the Old Testament. He is Israel's helper! Is he inferior to Israel, subservient in some way? I think not. Instead, he must know all about Israel, and her needs and not only how to meet them but be able to meet them. It's really a big deal to be able to help as the verb is used here. It carries a sense of responsibility and capacity.

So God has called wives to help their husbands, indicating to me that she has to be pretty bright and observant and capable and sensitive to be able to do that. She has to understand what he needs and be able to give what he needs in a way that he can accept it. She must be able to do so without his feeling so diminished that he cannot accept and use her counsel.

As we step outside of marriage, I wonder how important these principles continue to be. Men need our help. We are, as believers, to submit to one another, or in plain language- not try to be the boss of everyone else, but be willing to yield our desires to what is good for the body, and my sister or brother. And in the submission, be helpers.

In relation to the helping thing: this world in recent decades has put a lot of pressure on women, and even Christian women have felt it, to rise to the top, to exercise power.  Something serious has been lost, at least I think so. Is it possible that women (and men) have become more self-centered and less community centered? Have we lost the reality that helping is a calling?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

March 17 Just a Single Generation

Judges 2:10 After that a whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up who knew neither the LORD nor what he had done for Israel.

One generation, that's all it takes to forget. A few years ago a professor at BBC retired and passed away within a few years. I remember when he left BBC, people talked about how he would be so greatly missed and how people would never forget him. It took less than two years for our student body to say Dr. Who??? Oh, his students remembered him, but the new generation were not terribly impressed by the stories because they did not share the experience the others had.

Today, we have a generation of second or third generation believers who are walking away from the church, and all kinds of research is being conducted to find out why. I wonder if the last few words of this verse hold the answer: who knew neither the LORD nor what he had done for Israel.

I think about my children - they grew up churched. But as I reflect on those years I wonder how much of our time together was actually spent rehearsing what God had done for us. I wonder how much time we spent rehearsing how we were blessed by God. Not enough I fear.

It is not that my children have walked away from God. That is not what I am saying. What I am saying is that I think we worked so hard, as first generation believers, to get it right, to do what we were taught, that we missed the simplicity of the gospel - God loved us, and he loved us so much that Jesus gave his life to pay our sin debt. Then he just asked us to love God and love one another.

I grew up in a climate of fear, within and without the church. We had bomb drills where we hid under our school desks or in dark halls, not that I think now that would have done a lot to save us. As children, we lived in fear of the fire alarm that would instead announce an invasion or the dropping of a bomb. And in my church, we lived in fear of the Second Coming and not being ready. That we would not be saved up or confessed up or worked up enough. So we worked hard and tried to remember all of our sins and ask God to forgive us, especially when Communion came around.

SO when it came my turn to parent, I was distracted by duty. Oh, I did love God, but the message I heard was to be busy, to "burn out" for Christ....not so much about taking time to appreciate his love for me, to love him back, and a generation paid the price.

Here we are, given another chance, and in the middle of another generation who found out that duty did not satisfy. They are searching, a we searched. And I pray that we slow down enough and have enough humility to share with them that doing holy things is not where it is at, that God doesn't see a difference between the sacred and the secular. That everything we do can be holy when it is done because we love him.

Maybe we need a refresher course in First Corinthians.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

March 16

Just a note to check in...I have been pretty sick since my last post, but am well on my way to wholeness. I love it how God uses our infirmities so beautifully.  It appears that it is too easy to fill up the hours with busyness and feel good or at least OK with it, and miss what is really most important.

Thursday night I couldn't sleep - my ear hurt.  Friday I dressed for work, and on the way in, knew it was a much better idea to see the doc.  To make a long story short, an antibiotic and antibiotic ear drops with prednisone and two days under the blankets brought my fever down and restored me to semi-vertical life.  But the delight came in the next twp days when I was finally clear enough to read but to weak to do much more.  God came to me in very special ways through his Word, I have been studying I John and a book I had just bought and stashed for summer: An Altar in the World by Barbara Brown Taylor.

It took all of that for me to slow down long enough to really listen, to begin to pay attention once again to the love of God behind his Words....and today I am feeling both spiritually and physically refreshed. 
Let me share a few of the lines from Taylor's book that pressed me further into God's presence.  I know they may not move you as they moved me, or provoked me to thinking....but humor me and see if there might be some line here that God would encourage you to think about how it relates to you.

I had forgotten that the whole world is the house of God....
When had I made the subtle switch myself, becoming convinced that church bodies and buildings were the safest and most reliable places to encounter the living God?........(and my note, at what cost?)

...part of what they (some church people) need saving from is the idea that God sees the world the same way they do.

In reference to Francis of Assissi: Francis could not have told you the difference between the "sacred" and the "secular."  (my note - should here be? to the believer?)

I am a guest here charged with serving other guests.

Wisdom is gained by practicing what is right, and noticing what happens when that practice succeeds and when it fails....Wisdom atrophies if it is not walked on a regular basis.

Well, that is enough for today....

Thursday, March 10, 2011

March 10 Crossing Our Own Jordan

Joshua 1:9 Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.

For the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go, what a thought!! I wonder if it boils down to a simple matter of belief…do we believe, more than accept as real, but rely on as we make life decisions, that God is with us everywhere we go.

If we did believe and practiced his presence, would courage or fear or discouragement even be problems? I think of a little child taking a walk with her father. She is not afraid of anything. She is not discouraged. She feels safe and protected. Her daddy is there, and he will take care of her.

Is it so very different for us as believers? Our Abba Father is there with us, no matter where we go. He is God, the All-powerful, the All-wise, the All-present One. There is no one like him. And He will never leave us nor forsake us.

And even better than our earthly father, God’s love is not conditional. Every day I hear about earthly fathers who have failed or abandoned their children. Our heavenly Father will never leave us, regardless of our failures. And He cannot fail to love us, by His very nature.

I guess we should be concerned about the flip side of this as well; we do take God wherever we go! And in the taking, we must recognize that we can bring him grief. He loves us, and the wrong decisions we make, the ones that offend His holiness, hurt Him because He knows that ultimately they will hurt us.

Just as God loves us and will never leave us, should we not love Him back and honor His presence?

Monday, March 7, 2011

Mar 7 A False Sense of Security

Deuteronomy 29:19  When such a person hears the words of this oath, he invokes a blessing on himself and therefore thinks, "I will be safe, even though I persist in going my way." This will bring disaster on the watered land as well as the dry.

I love it when different parts of my life come together, like the way this meditation complemented yesterday's message in church. Our church is starting a seven week series on the Apostles' Creed, and this week Pastor talked about the first two words, "I believe."

These two subjects come together on these two words - I believe. I think about how many young people, and older ones, who said " I believe" once years ago, and now they persist in going their own way. One young woman comes to mind immediately, well actually several. They said they had prayed to receive Christ as the Savior, or "into their heart." But they have chosen a life style characterized by anything but loving Christ or living out that belief. So we have to discuss what it means to believe.

Pastor boiled it down at the end of the teaching this way: I means me. Not what my parents or my church or my family believes, but what I personally have chosen to believe and am responsible for. Then believe: it means more than I think something is true. It has a sense of choosing to rely on that truth and to respond to it - to make choices based on this being real in my life.

So, if someone said "I believe in Jesus," we should see that belief influencing and changing his or her life. If the life is not changed in response to the belief, then we must question whether the individual really believes. Affirmation of something as fact is not what this Greek word means in the New Testament.

When Paul and Silas say "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved," Acts 16:31, they are not saying you should just agree that he exists. They are saying put your faith in this reality - that Christ paid your sin debt and live out your awareness of this. Respond to His love. As you live out your belief or awareness of what Christ did for you because He loved you, you will love Him back. You will love His children. You will want to do what He tells you to do.

So there is that full circle here, praying some words, saying I believe when one's life says you didn't, leaves you living with a false sense of security.

Friday, March 4, 2011

March 4 Dining Separately

Leviticus 11:47 You must distinguish between the unclean and the clean, between living creatures that may be eaten and those that may not be eaten.

The law was given to help the Israelites recognize they could not be righteous on their own, they needed a Redemptor, at least redemption from the penalty of sin. Smith says, "...they were a constant reminder to Israel of their need to be separate from both pagans and from sin."

So what do we do as Twenty-first century Christians with this? Scripture tells us in Matt. 5:15 and Luke 11:33 that we are not to hide our light under a bushel. The implication is that our testimony or faith should be visible to the how separate does that mean we are to be?

In II Cor. 6: 17, we find these words speaking to the issue: "Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean [thing]; and I will receive you." Now how does that help us? It seems as though we are to be close enough to the world that they can see our light, our difference, and far enough away from the world that we are not seen as fellowshipping with or partaking in ungodliness.

Smith puts it this way, "If we truly want to be seen as separate, it will come in our conversations and values." Think of it this way: even when we are surrounded by unbelievers, they should be more influenced toward Christ by our differences than we are influenced toward evil by them.

I wonder how much of the problem today is that we have ceased to think in those terms: clean and unclean. And since we find it so difficult to label sin as sin and it is much easier to call it a mistake, we see no reason to separate from it. Just a thought!!!!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

March 3 Spiritual Isolation

Deuteronomy 24:8-9 In cases of leprous diseases be very careful to do exactly as the priests, who are Levites, instruct you. You must follow carefully what I have commanded them,. Remember what the LORD your God did to Miriam along the way after you came our of Egypt.

Miriam challenged Moses' spiritual leadership, and God struck her with leprosy and isolation outside the camp for seven days. For seven days only.

Smith makes these remarks in regard to the infection of sin, "When spiritual infection is in the air, the cure is the same as for the physically infected-cut them off! But here's the caution, not forever. ..It's not the person we are trying to get rid of, only the disease.

She had been my best friend in college, and after about five years apart, we reconnected. I was so glad to have her back in my life until she confessed a sinful relationship in which she was engaged. The joy of reconnection was soured by this news, and hung like a black cloud over the telephone - our main method of communication. Every time the phone rang, my stomach would start churning, and I felt that big lump forming in my throat.

Though I shared truth with her, and though she knew this sinful relationship was wrong, no change appeared on the horizon. Needless to say, I prayed and prayed over all of this. I loved her, but came to the realization that as long as I would continue the relationship, it was almost as if I became complicit in her sin. Finally, I told her that I could not continue to talk to her as long as she continued in the sin. I grieved as though a friend had died, but I also felt a measure of relief. I was out from under the weight of that ugliness.

I would like to say she repented, and all is well, but I can't. I tracked her down a couple of years ago, thank you google, and at the end of our conversation, she said, "I know I should find a church." Was I wrong to end the relationship? I don't think so; it did not move me toward God, and it did not appear that it was doing her much good either. Did God use the reconnection? Perhaps. It did appear that she was moved toward God by that reconnection, and I have to trust God about all of that.

I guess the point is, are our relationships moving us toward God or away? It is our responsibility to be light....and when the light has a bushel thrown over it, perhaps it is healthier spiritually to move that light least for a while.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

March 2 Sexual Taboos

Leviticus 18:24 Do not defile yourselves in any of these ways, because this is how the nations that I am going to drive out before you became defiled.

Smith makes this comment today: "Practices once thought outrageous and shocking by grandparents are but casual recreation for their grandchildren." Unfortunately, it did not take me much thinking or reflection to see how accurate this is. I just told a colleague that there are words and behaviors our students are very familiar with that I did not know at all in college. Now I am not sure if that is the culture during my college years - though I grew up during the hippie years, or the company I kept. But whatever the reason, my personal culture was not as defiled as the one in which my grandchildren live.

Smith also makes another very meaningful comment, "Because of the profound spiritual implications of sexual intimacy, ...." and herein lies the problem, I think. They have no idea of any kind of spiritual implications of sexual intimacy. Sexual intimacy isn't intimacy, at least not if you share that act with a lot of people. It has lost its impact, its purpose as a kind of glue that cements or makes intimacy between two married people. It has become little more than a pathetic act in search of momentary pleasure.

In this last few days, I have heard of second graders engaging in oral sex because they have seen it. Middle-schoolers know more and have probably experienced more than I had as a young married. And I do know that not all middle-schoolers have experienced sex acts, but more know more about it and more have experienced it than we could possibly imagine. However, I can promise you, they have not found what they are looking for.

So what do we do about this? God designed sexual intimacy for a husband and a wife, and it is in that context that it is at it is blessed. And sexual intimacy is way more than intercourse. God calls these sexual acts in Leviticus, and I think the sexual acts called normal in our twenty-first century culture, taboo and defilement. If our children do no see it that way, why not? Who have we allowed to have the greater impact on their thinking? And when do we begin talking to them about these issues?

I am thinking it is way before this - the age of the college students who make up my world. And I fear it is before the age of my middle-schooler grandson. In fact, I think of my littlest grandchildren, age four and almost three, when do we begin helping them understand what God desires in relationships - two married people enjoying blessed physical expressions of their love?

When do we talk to them about what they see and are surrounded by that are what God would consider defiled? I'm thinking it has top be pretty early because everything in their larger world will reinterpret God's will for them, telling them the lies that a pursuit of pleasure and excitement as defined by the world do not have any cost, even though we know different.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

March 1 Dignifying the Poor

Deuteronomy 24:10-11 When you make a loan of any kind to your neighbor, do not go into his house to get what he is offering as a pledge. Stay outside and let the man to whom you are making the loan bring the pledge to you.

I guess before I go any further I want to apologize or explain my absence these past few days. We have been struggling with the same bugs that have hit every other person on campus, the kind which seems to have a direct effect on one's sleep and energy level. Then I found that I had left my book at home when I was ready to write I spent some time working on message I am sharing at a retreat in a couple of weeks...enough whining.

To make it up to you, I want to share a provocative and helpful article on prayer. You can find it at the following URL:

If you have ever felt guilty feeling like you don't pray good enough or like someone that you respect highly, this might be just "what the doctor ordered."

Now to today's text and subject: Dignifying the Poor. Isn't it interesting how everything really boils back down to love? God calls us to love our neighbor; He tells us that without love, there is no faith. There are well over 200 verses in the New Testament on the subject, so it is important in the way we relate to each other, regardless of economic status.

However, I wonder whether there might be another way we relate to each other - involving the word power, instead of love. So as we give gifts of any kind, how much of the way we give them is related to power, we want the person to recognize who we are in relationship to who they are - that we have power because we are the giver?

It makes me think of a student years ago who told me she had the gift of giving. She loved to give gifts and to take people out to eat, and she was generous with anything she had. BUT, when I asked her if people always knew who the money or gifts came from, she said yes. I explained that the person with the gift of giving loved doing so in a way that no one knew about it, that they enjoyed giving in such a way that it was never a matter of getting credit for it here.

So I think that's where the issue of dignity comes in. Are we willing to give so that no one knows who did the giving? Do we respect the other person's need for dignity, or are we more about how the gift meets our needs, for recognition ,for power, for attention? It is true, we cannot always give so that no one knows we are the giver, but we can give so that God gets the glory.