Friday, April 8, 2011

spotlight on Life Verses

Ps. 25:5
Lead me by your truth and teach me
for you are the God who saves me
all day long I put my hope in You

Friday, March 25, 2011

Be careful little eyes...

When I was a child learning about how the human eye processes images, it was likened to a camera- snapping an image and feeding it to the brain, where it is processed and stored. The brain has a magnificent ability to recall any snapshot instantaneously. This function combined with the gift of imagination can create a powerful place of great beauty. Artists, authors and talented creatives count on this realm to be their playground and workspace. It is a retreat to the weary at times and a reprieve from the mundane. It can also be a terrible, haunting, and poisonous place. Just as quickly as the mind can bring up a vivid picture of any happy memory - the perfect rainy day, the face of a loved one- it can recall something you wish you'd never seen.
At about the time I was looking at diagrams of the eye and adding words like cornea to my vocabulary, I was also listening to children's radio theater. There was one episode in a series that featured a song about the brain. I still remember the chorus:
Input, output, what goes in must come out
Input, output, that is what it's all about

Not high art to be sure, but it stuck. It communicated this basic truth- that what we see becomes part of us, affecting who we are, what we think about, and what we do. Any time I feel convicted about something I've seen, I hear that chorus ring in my head. Tonight that chorus is on full blast repeat.
I went to see the midnight showing of a film that I had low expectations for, and I can report that all of them were met, and exceeded. As I pulled into the parking lot, a memory from a similar venture played in my mind and I could hear the echo of my father's voice saying "There are some things you regret seeing, and I think this would be one of them." Sucker Punch was never going to be a high minded artistic film packed with deep and meaningful messages, and the posters let you know you're in for young women scantily clad doing impossible things, shot in a stylistic, dark and video game like universe. It absolutely delivers this product without pretense and is built to create moments of intense sexual tension as well as flashy adrenaline spiking special affect sequences. Not to mention every cliche in the book thrown in there. These girls are dressed to the nines in fetish costumes that are just as suited for zombie nazi killing as any of Natalie Portman's Black Swan costumes would be for fending off storm troopers. All of these were things I expected. And though I had expected these things, I found myself surprised at the responses I had emotionally and internally. As I watched the lead character "Babydoll" work her way through the contrived farce of a plot with parted lip and doe like eyes any anime girl would die for, I found myself wondering if the actress and her 4 comrades of similarly scant coverage knew what they were in for when they signed on. I wondered if they knew they were being used.
True, the film has a rating that is below an "R" grade. The film does something I consider far more dangerous than what could earn the higher rating- it appeals to the playground of the imagination.
"...though it's fetishistic and personal, I like to think that my fetishes aren't that obscure. Who doesn't want to see girls running down the trenches of World War One wreaking havoc?" - Snyder the director on the content of the film.

As I drove away from the movie theater I remarked to my passenger "I am sad that men I love have seen the movie, and I wish we hadn't." Why did we? Why did I go to see a movie that openly invites the viewer into a celebration of the fetishes of the flesh, objectifies young women and cheapens purity? In light of the previous post, Purity is something we need to fight to maintain internally. The place where memory snapshot meets imagination can be the playing field the enemy wants to camp out on and claim as his own. I know this, and still I went.
I went because I'm old enough to think for myself, I can handle it, it's not really crossing the line, and every other rationale we tell ourselves when entering the "grey area" of what is and is not appropriate. Truth be told, the line of "appropriate" usually gets fudged over, smudged and blurred based on the immediate circumstances, convenience and majority rules. Here's the problem - I trust myself too much.
I think far to much of my own ability to discern what is and is not ok for me to consume. I usually side on the end of "I can take it" instead of "I want to avoid the opportunity to sin." I have a false perception of my human strength being capable to resist temptation. I'm practicing self trust - the opposite of what we're supposed to do.
In Philippians 2 Paul talks about how to shine brightly for Christ. Verse 12 and 13 talk about how much trust we are to have in ourselves

"So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure."

The thing that I should be practicing is this: "Self-distrust, serious caution, tenderness of conscience, watchfulness against temptation, timidly shrinking from whatever might offend God and discredit the name of Christ."(Amp.) But I don't. I chance it. I take the risk, relying on my human wisdom to keep me from danger. That is neither faith, nor faithfulness. I bank on my ability to fence the things I'm filling my mind with from interacting too powerfully with my flesh's imagination. I am taking a terrible risk. Instead of running and striving to protect the work of the Lord in my heart and mind as he purifies and renews me, I put it to the test- an unnecessary, selfish, and vain test. Instead of choosing to honor God, I am honoring the desire of the moment.
Is it worth the risk? Once the experience is over and the moment fades, what I have done is given my brain plenty of snapshots that can be used as ammunition for the place of imagination to be twisted with temptation, haunted with the things I put in there. It's MY input. It will come out.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Spotlight on PURITY

Growing up in a Christian community, the message is given pretty loud and clear that we need to wait to have sex til marriage. There are the talks given and ceremonies held where we pledge our bodies to the Lord and wait for future spouse. We're told to guard ourselves against physical transgressions and be wise in the way we interact with the opposite gender. Pretty soon, we're operating on a long list of 'don't- Don't do this, don't do that. We pinpoint all the things we are not supposed to do and operate with a mindset of can't, don't, won't.
Is this purity? The lines we carefully draw in the bounds of male and female interaction? To keep within the bounds of technicality to stay on one side of a line?

Pure: Definition-
unmixed with any other matter, free from taint.
Free from what weakens or pollutes
The definition of Purity appears to be about what is contained inside. It's not just an external thing. So if your guide is simply in regards to external activities, is that true purity?
In Matthew 5, Jesus addresses the Jewish people on the subject of the law that they have been following for generation upon generation. When he gets to the subject of adultery he says this:
"You have heard the law of Moses says, 'Do not commit adultery.' But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust in his eye has already committed adultery with her in his heart."
The heart. Jesus was saying this: It's a matter of the heart. What's going on inside of you? It's not about containing the thoughts we have and stopping things from coming out of us... it's about purity where the thoughts start.
What is in your heart?
Our deeds are an overflow of what we have going on inside of us. If you are containing the things of the Lord in your heart, the things of the Lord will be in what you do. If your heart is engaged with things that are impure, and being filled up with thoughts of lust and the flesh... it will be harder and harder to stop that from coming out.
So what do we do? How do we have true purity and avoid temptation and falling into the flesh?
Psalm 119:9-11 How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your word. With all my heart I have sought You; do not let me wander from Your commandments. Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You.
The heart work. The Psalmist has maintained a pure life by seeking the Lord with all his heart. He spends time with the Lord, and fills his heart with the word of God. This is where we hit the tough stuff. Purity isn't about just hedging up one area of your life and maintaining a physical boundary. Purity is about the WHOLE heart. In order to live and maintain a walk with Christ that is successfully pure, we need to be willing to address every area of life. How are we doin in that? How's your heart work going?
Here's the cool thing- when you let Jesus work in your heart and take over everything, obedience to the guidelines of purity that are in His word- will be something you want to do. You will want to love Him actively. You will desire obedience instead of satisfying the flesh. So turn it over- give your WHOLE heart to Him. Surrender it. Because to live on a list of "don't" as your guide to holy living is not wholly living. Do- live in Christ. Dwell in the Lord and He will dwell in you.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Worship God (Revelation 22:9)

Because He is the Lover of my soul
I will sacrifice
Because He is my Mighty Fortress
I will surrender
Because He relentlessly pursued my heart
I choose to be in love with him
Because He is Higher
I will bow down
Because He is able
I will run to him
Because He holds my sorrows
I will give him myself
Because He is real-He is truth
I will lay down my idols... and crush them into dust

God doesn't want us merely to lay down our idols. He loves us too much to leave things hidden in the secret recesses of our hearts. He will uproot, and he will reveal, and empower and enable. He is a jealous God who wants our entire being to be surrendered and completely devoted to Him and Him above ALL. Let us crush our idols that keep us bound from actualizing a walk of abandon. Grind them to dust, and allow the wind to carry the specks of our former gods to the corners of the unknowable- as far as east is from west. Never to be brought together again.
Praise our God who does not leave us as we are but shakes us, breaks us and empties us. Come Lord Jesus and fill me with You and only You.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Put to DEATH

"Those we served before are dead and gone.
Their departed spirits will never return!
You attacked them and destroyed them,
and they are long forgotten."
Isaiah 26:14
What did I serve before?
Mostly my own flesh.
I can't serve two masters.
I need to put my flesh to death. All flesh.
The flesh that cries to the body- "feed me!"
The flesh that cries to the soul - "coddle me."
The flesh that cries to the spirit - "Pacify me"
The flesh that cries to the heart - "Sooth me"
The flesh that cries to the mind - "entertain me"

Death to the flesh, means dying to my fleshy desires and practices. These practices run deep.
How many things would I claim as a right, instead of recognizing it only as something I'm conditioned to accept, desire, demand that is not a right at all? Especially a God given right...
The right I have in Christ Jesus is the right to walk in Spiritual freedom. What is that? It's the freedom from slavery... to flesh. Freedom to worship openly under the blood offering of the lamb of God. The right to a new name given by God my father, and the right to live under the sovereignty of my new master- who I serve lovingly, staying willingly. All he demands of me is putting to death all other masters. Including my flesh.

To die = gain.
To live = Christ.

Monday, March 8, 2010

He's got it out for you.

"In every battle you will need faith as your shield to stop the fiery arrows aimed at you by the evil one." Eph. 6:16
He's got you in his cross hairs. How easily we forget this. Maybe we even find it hard to believe. Hard to feel like I'm even that important, that he wants to take me-lil' old me who is only one person and don't account fer much when you look at the world as a whole-out of the picture. Off the playing field, down with a fiery wound that does deep burning damage.
Really?!? Really Satan? Was I THAT big of a deal that you HAD to take me down?
Hard to imagine... unless we really think about what the word of God says about it. We might piece together a different picture.
The God of the universe goes to great trouble to express to us how each one of us- down to the hairs on our head (Matt 10:30) is VERY IMPORTANT to Him. He cares for us individually. He loves us individually. He prizes each and every single one of his children, and encourages intimate relationships with each one, even lil' old me. Luke 15 goes on and on, through several examples (first a sheep, then a coin, then a man) about how important the ONE individual is. Wouldn't God's immortal enemy fight with a method that matches his opponent's strategy? Of course Satan cares about the individual- because God does.
One of Satan's tactics is to get us to stop believing this. "You're not important" he'll whisper to us. "In the span of things, you're nothing, you don't matter" he convincingly coaxes. Here's a plummy little twist- he'll persecute us, and use his own wiles as an example of how God 'doesn't' care. "If he really loves you, how can he let this happen?" We can enter a spiral where we begin to doubt God's goodness and character.
"One day maybe he'll hold out his hands and say 'look at these hands- do these look like the hands of a God who doesn't care? All those times you wondered if I cared, do you have any doubts now?" -Randy Alcorn

Our God cares so much, that he gives us the tools to defend ourselves and fight back. In Ephesians there's a whole list of things. The defense for the fiery arrows of the enemy is Faith. Believe with strong conviction, loyalty and trust that the Lord our God DOES care. He DOES work in my life. He IS my defense and my shelter. The Holy spirit my comforter. The Son my savior and redeemer. Remember God is who he says he is- he goes to GREAT lengths to show us.
AND (from Eph 6) there are more tools:
God's righteousness- note, not our own righteousness (which is as rags) but the perfect righteousness of God.
the Gospel of Peace- remind yourself about the peace we have in the gospel! Christ's redeeming power because of his death in our stead, it's no little thing folks. (How often we trivialize this!)
Salvation- it transforms us. We ARE saved. Forever! Live like it, in gratitude and worship.
The WORD of GOD- GET INTO THE WORD. Hide it in your heart, treasure it. Digest it and live it.
It's so important to be ready with these tools at all times. The scripture emphasizes over and over again, be ready for attack! Christ told us to expect it. (Matt 10) It's never gonna be a picnic. You're either gaining ground, or losing ground- there is no treading water. It's either sink or swim. Let's live in power and strength, liberated by walking in our God's way, worshiping in Spirit and Truth.
GRRRRRRR - go get em!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Dare You To Move.

If the Lord has placed a calling on your heart he will enable you to do it wherever you are. The calling is not dependent on the strength and resources of those who are called, but the one who calls. It’s not a waiting game. Don't wait to be completely prepared and perfected (according to your own standards.)
Jesus repeatedly spoke of being willing to forsake all things immediately, no waiting. Do it now.
When he calls you, immediate is the appropriate frame of time to respond. No turning back to tie up loose ends. No final farewells to the familiar. Cut loose and go.
Have you recognized a calling and burden in your heart that the Holy Spirit has been speaking to you?
Why have you not done what you have been moved to do?
Clinging to the familiar for strength turns quickly to shackles that chain us and keep us from growth and achieving the purposes the Lord has for us.
Sometimes, we need adjustment to our own vision. You may not even need to leave where you are. The things the Lord calls us to do might be accomplished in your current location and community; touching the people around you now. So often we're waiting for some grand opportunity or distinctly huge voice to move us. Sometimes the Lord does work like that, but sometimes He wants to use you where you are. If you have a burden, but have yet to receive a calling to somewhere out in the great blue yonder, look around you for ways the Lord can fulfill that calling right now!