V GENUINE MOTIV TION FEB
YOUNG CHRISTIAN MAN
COURAGE // LOVE
Are you a PORN-AGAIN CHRISTIAN?
IS NOT THE PROBLEM
YOUNG CHRISTIAN MAN 04
Feature Article: Youth is Not The Problem
On The Couch: Table-Overturning Courage
Can You Relate: The Fellowship of Suffering
May God Bless the Hell Out of You: Love Hurts
Cornered by Grace: The Real Resolve of Resolutions
The Recap: Porn-Again Christian
The Recap 2: The Last Sin Eater
The Merry Monk ROB BEAMES WILL DOLE
a publication of On My Own now Ministries
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FEBRUARY2011 Editor In Chief / Rob Beames Art + Creative Director / MIKE MURO & DANIELA BERMĂšDEZ
IS NOT THE PROBLEM
BY RUSS RAMSEY
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I’M STILL SURPRISED WHEN I GET THE OPPORTUNITY TO WITNESS THE CHARACTER OF THE TEENS WHEN THEY DON’T KNOW I’M WATCHING. As an adult who works with young people, I am still surprised when I get the opportunity to witness the character of the teens when they don’t know I’m watching. Recently I watched a group of young people respond to their friend when she received a phone call telling her that her grandmother had been admitted to the hospital. They gathered around her and prayed. No leader was there telling them to do it. They just did it. It made me delight in what young people are capable of by God’s grace. It also made me think of the malleability of young hearts and minds and how much influence their elders can have on them—good and bad. When I was in middle school, I was one of three boys in our small town who rode skateboards. One day at our town’s annual fair I lost control of my skateboard. It glided across the sidewalk—to my horror—directly into the ankle bone of an elderly woman who was being helped out of a car by her middle-aged son. The woman’s son cursed at me calling me a “punk kid.” I was so sorry, yet so hopelessly unable to offer any kind of meaningful apology or help. As my penance I took to heart his words and ascribed them to myself for the next 10 years, regarding myself as a “punk kid.” A few years after the accident, as Christ in His mercy sought after my heart and found me, I read for the first time the words Paul wrote to Timothy in 1 Tim. 4:12; “Do not let anyone look down on you because you are
young.” It was difficult for me to reconcile Paul’s words to Timothy with my view of myself. I assumed my problem was that I was young. I deserved to be looked down upon. I blamed the skateboard incident and other such foibles on my age rather than my carelessness. As with most things in life, I projected my own estimations of myself on to God’s regard for me. I assumed God regarded me in my youth as a punk. He saw me lose control of my skateboard. I drew all kinds of conclusions from this and countless other mistakes about how God regards young people. Youth was an uphill time to make it through. If only I could shake the moniker of “Kid,” perhaps then I could do the same with “punk.” What are the estimations God has for young people? Our culture has plenty of sayings: “Youth is wasted on the young.” “Boys will be boys.” “For kids, nothing good happens after midnight.” I’ve heard all these. But in Paul’s words to Timothy, we are given a better perspective of God’s take on youth. Paul offers Timothy both warnings and charges. In them, canonized in the Holy Word of God, we see the traits God assumes youth are capable of —the estimations of God for an underestimated generation. Youth is not reason enough to look down on someone. I spent years overlooking the latter half of 1 Timothy 4:12. Paul says, “Do not let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in
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speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” In this verse comes a charge to Timothy to set an example for believers in the deepest parts of his character. Since God does not give us more than we can bear, it must be understood that Paul was assuming Timothy was capable of doing this with God’s help. In fact, setting an example in speech, life, love, faith and purity was Paul’s antidote for judgments that might be leveled against Timothy on account of his age. Paul was assuming young Timothy, by God’s grace, could do this. God’s estimation of youth is that young people are capable of deep character—even character that silences elder critics by its integrity. He does not assume young people must wait to grow up into adults to be people of character. But there is another side to this coin, and we see it in Paul’s second letter to Timothy. “Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with all those who call on the Lord” (2 Timothy 2:22).
YOUTH HAS ITS SHARE OF EVIL DESIRES. AGREED? SO HERE WE HAVE A N OT H E R E S T I M AT I O N — T H AT YO U T H C O N TA I N S PA R T I C U L A R T E M P TAT I O N S A N D D E S I R E S T H A T C A N S O E A S I LY SNARE A YOUNG MAN, AND WE ARE TO FLEE THESE THINGS. Youth has its share of evil desires. Agreed? So here we have another estimation—that youth contains particular temptations and desires that can so easily snare a young man, and we are to flee these things. But we must be quick to recognize at the same time that Paul assumes young people, while perhaps prone to certain evil desires, are not bound for them. They can, by God’s grace, flee. Paul shows us that youth cannot only flee evil, but they can also pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace— along with all those who call on the Lord.
Young people are capable of deep character and integrity. They are capable of fleeing evil and pursuing righteousness, by the grace of God. But they cannot do any of this apart from the grace of Christ. Neither can any of us for that matter. We are all prone to wander. We are all capable, by God’s help in Christ, to flee evil and pursue righteousness. Youth is not the problem. Youth is a creation from God. When we think of it mostly in terms of a time to get through so we can take our lumps and begin the responsible life of adults, we sell short a wonderful part of God’s design. God made us all as infants first, then as children—all knees and elbows during those confusing junior high years. He made us with hearts that fell in love in an instant when that captivating special someone so much as looked at us from across the social studies classroom. He made us to disappear into make-believe worlds. He gave us days where every tree was meant for climbing and every knee was made for scrapes. He gave us youth—lots of it. The point is simply this; youth is not a roadblock to character development or theological understanding. While both young people and old may often tend to make this assumption, God does not. This liberates us to reach out to our young people now—to affirm their capabilities and dependence as people under the gaze of God! I made a careless mistake with my skateboard. But I made a worse mistake when I took to heart the words that followed. I believed I was a punk. Sometimes I still do. My biggest mistake was thinking my youth was the problem. Youth is not the problem—it is a precious gift. The problem is assuming youth is the problem—that I will grow out of carelessness merely through the passage of time. The potential of our young people is far greater than we know. God made it that way. Our responsibility is to look for their potential in the Word of God; to cultivate them, nurture them, love them, exhort them, rebuke them and go after them as God directs. We help to preserve the life of the poet in their hearts by not selling them short, but by esteeming them as God does.
R U S S R A M S E Y I S T H E A S S I S T A N T P A S T O R O F O A K H I L L S P R E S B Y T E R I A N , K A N S A S C I T Y, K A N S A S This article originally appeared in Covenant, the magazine of Covenant Theological Seminary and is reprinted with permission. More than 1,500 other print and audio resources are available for downloading from our Resources for Life archive at www.resourcesforlifeonline.com. Free subscriptions to Covenant are available by signing up at www.covenantseminary.edu/resources/publications or by calling 800.264.8064. For reprint permission, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
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DO NOT LET ANYONE LOOK
DOWN ON YOU BECAUSE
YOU ARE YOUNG, 1 TIMOTHY 4:12
BUT SET AN EXAMPLE FOR THE BELIEVERS IN SPEECH,
IN CONDUCT, IN LOVE, IN
FAITH AND IN PURITY. GM : 07
on the couch
TABLE-OVERTURNING POWER by Randy Kosloski
“THERE IS A TIME FOR EVERYTHING, AND A SEASON FOR EVERY ACTIVITY UNDER THE HEAVENS.”
Remember the story about Jesus turning over the tables in the temple? Probably you do because it was surprisingly out of character for Jesus. Wouldn’t it have been amazing to see Jesus full of passion for His Father’s house and angered by what the merchants had made it? Jesus is most often thought of as being considerate, meek and even mild, yet here, in the “den of robbers,” He is fiery and aggressive. These characteristics do not fit well with our idea of Jesu; but it seems Jesus was not concerned with fitting into the mold which others made for Him. He was more concerned with making His actions fit with His Father’s will. In this situation, Jesus let it be known that He was prepared to take the necessary steps to do the right thing, regardless of what people thought or expected. Conforming to certain norms is a human idea, not a godly one. In contrast the Bible says, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens” (Ecclesiastes 3:1). Like many of us, a former client of mine, Robert, needed to learn this lesson. Unfortunately he needed to learn it about 15 years before I ever got the chance to speak with him. If Wikipedia had a picture under the definition for a middle-aged man, it would be a picture of Robert. He was average height with male pattern baldness. A spare tire hung over his belt. He wore a ‘70s mustache, thick glasses, and must have purchased the bulk of his wardrobe from a golf course. Although his appearance was typical, his family was in disarray. He had two teenage daughters who were in significant trouble, socially, legally and educationally. His wife was domineering and constantly overspending. All the while, Robert kept himself quietly frustrated on the sidelines. Often as I sat facing Robert, listening to his issues, I felt like I was looking at my own future. Robert and I had similar personalities. We were both idealists and we were both passive by nature. He would talk about how his family got away from him, and how he felt powerless to help because no one listened to him. All the while I saw my bald, pot-bellied, frustrated future forming right in front of me. The image shook me. Would I have the courage to overturn the tables when I began to see things heading in the wrong direction? To draw a comparison using our physical limitations, few would say that a handicapped person should be confined by their physical capacity, yet few possess the courage to overcome their obstacles. Nick Vujilic in his book Life Without Limits describes his spiritual growth beyond the limitations of his physical body without arms or legs. Vujilic describes finding the courage to look for God’s will regardless of what it demanded from him, or
regardless of what he believed he could accomplish. The same courage is often required for us in our quest to do what is right. I once met a woman who never seemed to lack courage. I was partnering with some other researchers on a project for which Dr. Maya Angelou’s biographies kept coming up as pertinent material, so one of my research partner’s arranged an interview with her. We were able to spend the day with her—one of the most memorable of my life! I felt joyfully drained following my afternoon with her. She could teach in a second something that would be remembered for the rest of one’s life. And not just with words. Her actions and attitudes were all aimed at doing the right thing. Dr. Angelou did not allow a Type A or Type B personality to dictate her behavior. She was guided by the same ideals as Superman: truth, justice and simply doing the right thing. She taught me that personalities are boundless; that we can be scrutinizing and accepting, assertive and accommodating—all at once. Robert needed courage. He needed to confront his wife and rebuke his daughters in order to try and right the ship God had entrusted to him: his family. What Rick Warren described as the tunnel of conflict creating a passageway to true intimacy applied in his life. Regardless of Robert’s natural personality, he had to find the God-given strength to do what needed to be done. As I discussed these things with him, in many ways, he had already missed his chance, and was relegated to damage-control mode. Perhaps his family could have been more help to him 15 years ago, but that in no way absolved him of his responsibility now. He needed to let go of his dreams along with his self-imposed character limitations and fight for his family.
“FOR I KNOW THE PLANS I HAVE FOR YOU, PLANS TO PROSPER YOU AND NOT TO HARM YOU, PLANS TO GIVE YOU A HOPE AND A FUTURE.”
We too, need to fight for what is right, to turn the tables over, if need be, even if we have a tendency to remain passive. We should seize opportunities to right our own ship early on in the voyage, and perhaps find a better future than the one I saw in the eyes of Robert during our meetings together. “For I know the plans I have for you...plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11). God has revealed His heart to us, so we can trust He has a better future in mind for us!
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C A N YO U R E L AT E
b y THOM MOLLOHAN
One of the greatest challenges to living practical and day-to-day faith is wrestling with the problem of suffering. Lucy Van Pelt quipped in a Peanuts’ cartoon many years ago, “Pain hurts!” So we naturally run from it, hide from it and try to remove it from our lives whenever possible. We can attack the issue with a Modern perspective by dissecting pain into basic components in an attempt to “fix” it, or we can take a Post-Modern approach by masking it, but either way, the problem of suffering doesn’t go away. The history of humanity has always been characterized by suffering. The question of “why” has haunted every generation. Of course, people today still wrestle with pain physically, emotionally and spiritually. Since the problem of suffering has not gone away, neither has the question. People still suffer and still don’t understand why it happens. Why is suffering universally a part of the human experience? Within the Bible we can find answers to this question. In its most simple sense, suffering is part of what it means to be a human being. Suffering is, on the one hand, a result of rejecting God. Our two earliest ancestors, the “heads” of the human race, were the first to suffer because, in their rejection of God,and for the sake of their own pride, they chose the alternative to an ongoing, joyful union with their Creator. Hence, they actually chose suffering. It was the consequence of having their own way. The shadow of suffering and the presence of pain entered into what could have an otherwise been completely joyful life, devoid of suffering in all its forms (see Genesis 3:16-19). Whereas sufferring was forevermore a permanent part of life on this earth, God promises relief for his children. “The salvation of the righteous comes from the LORD; he is their stronghold in time of trouble. The LORD helps them and delivers them; he delivers them from the wicked and saves them, because they take refuge in him” (Psalm 37:39-40). Walking with God opens the door for His power to work in our lives, bringing hope and healing.
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But we find that suffering still comes even when we humble ourselves before God and forsake our own way. Even when we choose to enter into fellowship with Him through faith in Christ, it still comes. What then? Why do “good people” have bad things happen to them? Why does our health fail and sickness come? Why must death claim our loved ones? Why must we struggle with depression or suffer afflictions in our minds? Why must we strive to find that our dreams come to nothing? Why do the very ones we love reject and abuse us? These are difficult questions to answer, but the promise of Psalm 37 can be understood even when our lives seem to be painted by the dark colors of hurt and sorrow. Job of the Old Testament was a man whose eyes and heart were focused on the Lord. He also found himself the target of affliction. Not only did he lose his health and wealth, but death claimed his children while bitterness took away his wife. The loss of his friends could have been the final straw. But in the end, he learned—as did his friends —that sometimes suffering is metered out to us in order to demonstrate the sufficiency of God. In other words, God Himself is the only blessing that we truly “need.” Suffering is at times permitted in our lives to lead us to God. If we have not experienced the wonder and power of salvation then it can help lead us to faith in Him. If we’ve already become His children through receiving God’s gift of salvation, suffering can lead us to more deeply and earnestly seek Him.
Jesus has fully entered into our suffering, and by His Spirit, enters into our suffering in whatever form it takes in our lives today. He addressed our need although it caused Him pain. He did not avoid the cross because there was affliction. He embraced the suffering because, in doing so, He was also embracing us. And now He invites us to revisit the myriad of ways that we might be suffering today. If we’ve ever asked the question “Why?” and felt abandoned, if we’ve considered throwing in the towel, or shaking our fist at the heavens, perhaps we should reconsider. If we cannot find a reason for the pain now, then we might entertain the possibility that God Himself is extending the opportunity for us to enter into a new arena of fellowship with His Son. “I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:10-11). Knowing God is the end-all purpose for which we’ve been created. Knowing Him intimately is the most incredible pleasure and awesome wonder of the Christian experience. If we truly mean the words we say when our mouths utter, “I want to know You, Lord,” we must accept there may be, at times, paths of suffering before our feet. Yet, it is a sweet sorrow. It is one that our Savior will help us to shoulder. By His Spirit’s power we can meet rejection with grace instead of resentment; face injuries with forgiveness instead of retaliation; endure disease with trust in God instead of fear; and even grieve the loss of loved ones with peace instead of bitterness.
SUFFERING IS METERED OUT TO US IN ORDER TO DEMONSTRATE THE SUFFICIENCY OF GOD. IN OTHER WORDS, GOD HIMSELF IS THE ONLY BLESSING THAT WE TRULY “NEED.” SUFFERING IS AT TIMES PERMITTED IN OUR LIVES TO LEAD US TO GOD. Here is an incredible truth: our God is no stranger to suffering. Taking human form, He endured the fullness of human experience. Born in humble circumstances, hungering, thirsting, bearing the emotional anguish of rejection, He was beaten and crucified. He knows fully what we go through in all our varieties of suffering. “Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering… He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth...” (Isaiah 53:4,7).
And since suffering can allow us to know Jesus more intimately because He enters into our suffering as we cling to Him, the fruit of our fellowship with Him will be to willingly enter into the sufferings of others around us, shouldering what we can, helping where we may and giving what we have. When we do this, we have opened the door to make sense of the suffering.
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MAY GOD BLESS THE HELL OUT OF YOU
BY THE MERRY MONK
THE OBJECT OF YOUR LOVE WILL KILL YOU.
My love of drinking is no secret to anyone who knows me. The taste, the laughter among friends, the lack of self-consciousness…each are parts of a whole that have had me smitten since the first few clandestine beers out in the woods with my mates. When I got older, I found scotch. Oh baby. I remember our first time. Her name was Glenmorangie. She was 15 years old, finished in a Sherry cask after being matured in American white oak and soaked in bourbon. She was complicated, a little pricey, and worth it. It was love. But let me tell you something I’ve learned about love…the object of your love will kill you. There’s no escape. It’s a fact we have to deal with. Hear the words that filled the mind of Thomas Merton upon receiving communion on his first day in a Trappist monastery:
“Do you know what Love is? You have never known the meaning of Love, never, you who have always drawn all things to the center of your own nothingness. Here is Love in this chalice full of Blood, Sacrifice, mactation. Do you not know that to love means to be killed for the glory of the Beloved?”
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“GREATER LOVE HAS NO ONE THAN THIS: TO LAY DOWN ONE’S LIFE FOR ONE’S FRIENDS.” JOHN 15:13 John 15:13 says, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” So there you have it. Love is suffering and ultimately dying for the beloved. And we all love someone, or something. Jesus laid it down for His friends. Merton laid it down for his Jesus. And I’ve laid it down for my booze—and for Jesus too, but having two lovers sucks. My mentor, Steve Brown, teaches that if you’re a Christian, God will never be mad at you again. I believe that. I not only believe that, I’ve tested it…thoroughly. Let me tell you what I discovered. I’ve found that just because God will never be mad at you, it doesn’t mean that there’s no penalty for bad behavior. But the penalty doesn’t come in the form of eternal fire, losing crowns or God giving you the cold shoulder for a few weeks until you’ve learned your lesson. The penalty comes in the form of consequences. Why? Because the object of your love will kill you. It’s true no matter what you love: scotch, religion, porn, work, family, friends or God. You’re gonna do penance. You’re gonna suffer for whatever god you choose. So choose well. Remember that sweet 15-year-old I told you about? She used to give so much in return, but after a while I started getting the short end of the stick. Merton talks about his late nights of drinking with friends before he became a monk: “It was nothing unusual for me to sleep on the floor, or in a chair, or on a couch too narrow and too short for comfort—that was the way we lived, and the way thousands of other people like us lived. One stayed up all night, and finally went to sleep wherever there happened to be room for one man to put his tired carcass. It is a strange thing that we should have thought nothing of it, when if anyone had suggested sleeping on the floor as a penance, for the love of God, we would have felt that he was trying to insult our intelligence and dignity as men… and yet we somehow seemed to think it quite logical
to sleep that way as a part of an evening dedicated to pleasure.” I once had the opportunity to spend the night sleeping on a bench. I was sober, in an airport, trying to get home to my family after a long weekend working at a seminar for hurting Christians. The next plane didn’t leave until morning. I thought about Merton’s quote and I decided to offer the night as penance for the love of God. I’ve been drunk before and had to sleep in the back of my truck, on the floor, in a tub…you name it. Never once during any of those times, did my beloved drink whisper to me, “I love you too,” just before the lights went out. But, that night on the bench in the Philadelphia airport with God was different. I heard the blessed whisper, “You are my beloved son in whom I am well pleased.” Why is the Heavenly Father pleased with me? Because I slept on a bench? Because I’ve dedicated my life and talents to serving Him and His Kingdom? Because I’m faithful to my wife? Because I’m raising godly kids? Are you kidding me? He’s well pleased with me because Jesus didn’t just go around talking about love and laying His life down for His friends, He did it. Because of Jesus’ self-sacrificial love on the cross, I’m 100 percent acceptable to God the Father…period. So, what about acts of penance? When asked that question, Martin Luther is reported to have retorted, “What kind of arrogance would make Christians think that anything they could do would ever be more sufficient than the blood of God’s own Son?” Will He love me more if I quit drinking? Nope. Even so, I need to be careful who and what I love. You too. Why? Because the object of your love will kill you. Love God and you’re still going to suffer. Really loving God may kill you. But that’s okay. He’s the only One who’s worth it. He not only loves us back, He loves us first. In fact, we love Him because He first loved us. May God bless the hell out of you.
Jesus and Merton sing the same song.
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RESOLVE OF RESOLUTIONS
D ERE E N R C O G R AC BY by ERT ROB MES BEA
or those of us who may have blinked, we’re already into the second month of year, which means we are probably already breaking those New Year’s resolutions— if we haven´t completely abandoned them. If there are one or two still standing, we know it’s only a matter of time until they all end up on the scrap heap of broken promises we’ve made to ourselves. When the last commitment falls by the wayside, we’ll likely express our guilt with thoughts ranging all the way from, “Whew! That’s a load off my back,” to “I’m such a pathetic loser...I knew I’d mess up sometime.” Whether we answer only to ourselves or to others for our commitments, we tend to “hedge our bets.” Some of us have even devised elaborate ways to avoid the embarrassment of complete failure by adding a couple easy resolutions to our list. In this way, when asked if we kept our resolutions, we can answer “yes and no.” However, it’s not God who places us on this resolution roller-coaster ride of success and failure. If we’re through with the thrills this ride provides, then this is the year God wants us to hear the same words Paul heard and believe: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weaknesses” (2 Cor. 12:9).
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It’s a good thing to set goals and to strive to reach them, but we should consider what these self-promises will do to us in the end. The hidden resolve of resolutions is not to make us better, but to cause us to lean less upon God. Will we be better if we keep them? Perhaps a little, but they will almost always, subtly increase our self-reliance. To this promise they will be true. If we aren’t careful, we can be drawn to our accomplishments and lose focus on the relationship He wants to have with the broken servants we are. In the midst of the sacrifices we make to reach our goals, it’s easy to forget the most pleasing sacrifice we can give to Him: a broken spirit and a remorseful heart (Psalm 57:17). Don’t worry though, since He loves us, He won’t let us forget this for long.
Believe it or not, God isn’t impressed with our ability to set goals for ourselves, even when we exceed them. Believe it or not, God isn’t impressed with our ability to set goals for ourselves, even when we exceed them. In fact, when we break our resolutions, it can be exactly what we need. We may be quick to blame ourselves or others for our failure to meet these self-imposed objectives, but it could be that it was the desire of God. Granted, He wants us to succeed, and He continues to bless us repeatedly, but one the greatest gifts He can give us is humility. So, the next time we break the perfect streak we had going in our workout routine, fall off the junk-food wagon, or ruin any other spiritual record we had going, it might just be an opportunity for us to see the power of God being “made perfect in our weaknesses.” Our Father has a proven track record of breaking those He loves, and keeping us from trusting in our own power. Skeptical? Try asking Moses, Abraham, David, Paul or even a personal friend with an obvious heart for God. They can all tell us grim stories of failure, which brought them so low they could only look up. Resolutions can serve as a smallscale reproduction of this concept, because in the end, they contradict humility. So we can make all the resolutions we want, but God’s more than happy to break them, when necessary.
This is how it works. We make resolutions we should easily keep. The longer we keep them, the more we become convinced that we are capable of doing great things, and the less we begin to believe that we need His Spirit to accomplish anything. We then boast in our accomplishments—if only to ourselves. God can’t allow us to continue in this delusion, because He loves us. He knows He is the only One who sustains us, so He chops us off at the knees, and suddenly we know we need Him again. Through all of this, He tells us His mercies are new every morning (Lam. 3:22-24). That’s good, because they have to be! We seldom get very far every morning before we fail, and need His mercy again. When we realize that we constantly fail, we begin to understand that He constantly gives us power. It doesn’t mean we quit trying. Sometimes we’re successful because He wants to bless us. Sometimes we’re not, because we need to see His power demonstrated, more than we need the lame “manpower” we were utilizing. It doesn’t seem right in our accomplish-based society, but great things are accomplished in our failures. God wants us to know that He sustains us, and that He is the One who makes us “stand firm in Christ,” (2 Cor. 1:21), or in any endeavor, for that matter. So if we boast at all, “we will boast all the more gladly about (our) weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on (us)” (2 Cor. 12:9). This doesn’t seem fair to manly men like us who need to prove to the world that we can carry it around on our shoulders, but God’s love isn’t fair. It’s overwhelmingly skewed to our benefit. The best thing for us every morning is the realization that we are nothing without Him, so that’s why He reminds us every chance He gets. After all He has promised to be our God, and He is not about to let us down. “For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, …was not ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ but in him it has always been ‘Yes.’ For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ.” (2 Cor. 1:19, 20). We may want to answer “yes” and “no” to the resolutions we made in order to ease our guilt complex, but fortunately, God doesn’t have this problem. He has promised us peace, forgiveness and even joy! He has also promised that He will not condemn us any longer. It’s difficult to believe that He gives us these things completely, especially in our failures. Unlike us, God isn’t wishy-washy. He isn’t on again/off again like our resolutions. In fact, when we ask Him how He did on His resolution to consider us fully pleasing, totally forgiven, absolutely accepted and 100% complete in Christ; His answer is always a resounding, “Yes!” Ask Him. He is eager to reply. (I believe He wanted me to remind you of this.)
I BELIEVE H E WA N T E D ME TO R E M I N D YO U OF THIS
Book by: MARK DRISCOLL Review by: WILL DOLE
Pornography: one of the most severe issues facing American men today, including many Christians and church leaders. And yet when we address it, we tend to do so in largely secular ways, especially through secular psychology. If these tactics are working, why is porn still a multibillion dollar annual industry? Perhaps because we as Christians know that it is a sin, and yet we simply have no understanding of why this sin is offensive to God. This is the issue addressed in Porn-Again Christian, by Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle. The subtitle promises “A frank discussion on the issues of pornography and masturbation,” and Pastor Driscoll, one of the more controversial figures in the modern American church for his “Peasant Princess” sermon series on the Song of Solomon, in which he uses arguably blunt and crude terms from the pulpit, delivers.
Those of us familiar with this series will find much of the same in this book. Driscoll says in the first chapter, “While God spoke frankly to Israel, He is certainly not crass like some meat-headed high school boys killing time in a locker room. God is honest and forthright about the truth and His people must not be so prudish as to try and speak in ways that are holier than their God. In our age of lewdness and perversion we, like our Father, must avoid crassness, while wisely and boldly speaking frankly.” Driscoll practices that preaching, for sure.
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o n: PORN-AGAIN CHRISTIAN
The introduction and first chapter lay out the very real problem that pornography and masturbation are in our culture. Driscoll explains that this is a distortion of God’s design, and points out that God uses some very harsh language in Scripture regarding His opinion of sexual sin. He then spends three chapters going over the theological and practical problems with pornography. This, in my opinion, was the most helpful part of the book. Far too often we separate what we’re doing in our rooms or in front of a computer from what is happening in our hearts. Any idea that this is “okay”
is thoroughly dismantled. The final three chapters of the book deal with masturbation, answers to common questions, and the slippery slope of pornography, respectively. Also included is an appendix dealing with prostitution and the sex-trade, which is, honestly, quite an eye opener for those who aren’t aware of how bad the issue is. Overall, this book may not tell us anything we haven’t heard before. If we’ve studied our Bible, or even read a book such as “Every Man’s Battle,” by Stephen Arterburn and Fred Stoeker. Porn is a sin, and as Driscoll argues, there is general agreement that it inevitably leads to further sin, and will hurt our relationships with the opposite sex. But, what separates this book from most on the subject is the absolutely straightforward and blunt way in which the information is presented. Driscoll minces no words in calling sin what it is. Will this book be a great reference tool or help for someone who has never struggled with these issues? Most likely not; as stated earlier it’s probably not a lot of new info, nor is it even exceedingly thorough—it’s only 55 pages, including the appendices. Where is does have great value is the frank and forthright way in which it is written, as well as the fact that it is available online, for free. The way we tend to skirt issues like porn brings to mind the words of 19th century Danish philosopher
Søren Kierkegaard: “The matter is quite simple. The Bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand, we are obliged to act accordingly. Take any words in the New Testament and forget everything except pledging yourself to act accordingly. My God, you will say, if I do that my whole life will be ruined. How would I ever get on in the world? Herein lies the real place of Christian scholarship. Christian scholarship is the Church’s prodigious invention to defend itself against the Bible, to ensure that we can continue to be good Christians without the Bible coming too close. Oh, priceless scholarship, what would we do without you? Dreadful it is to fall into the hands of the living God. Yes, it is even dreadful to be alone with the New Testament.” Driscoll manages to bring us face-to-face with the fact that sin is sin and is abhorrent to God. But as Ephesians 2:4, 5 says, “because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” God loves the unlovable and calls us to follow Him in worship. Our faith needs to be followed by works, including the putting to death of our sin in these areas, and Driscoll’s book serves as a healthy reminder to those of us who are prone to act as “scheming swindlers.”
“The matter is quite simple. The Bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand, we are obliged to act accordingly. Take any words in the New Testament and forget everything except pledging yourself to act accordingly. My God, you will say, if I do that my whole life will be ruined. How would I ever get on in the world? Herein lies the real place of Christian scholarship. Christian scholarship is the Church’s prodigious invention to defend itself against the Bible, to ensure that we can continue to be good Christians without the Bible coming too close. Søren Kierkegaard
GM : 17
on: THE LAST SIN EATER Movie by: MICHAEL LANDON JR. Review by: JEFFREY BRIDGMAN
“The Last Sin Eater” is a film adaptation of the novel by Francine Rivers. It takes place among the woods of the Appalachia in settlement community of Welsh families during the 1850s. Although America was to be a new start for this community, they brought with them the dark secret of an ancient rite which chose a “sin eater” to take upon himself the sins of those who have passed away to save them from judgment. This sin eater is considered unclean and has to live as an outcast in the wilderness atop Dead Man’s Mountain, only coming down when the death bell is rung to take away the sins of the dead at funerals. Cadi, the protagonist, is a young girl haunted by the accidental death of her younger sister, who fell trying to follow Cadi across a log bridging the gap over a gorge. Although warned not to look at the sin eater at a funeral, Cadi does so, and instead of a dark evil, she sees warm blue eyes, much like her own, staring back at her in sorrow. Wishing to be set free from the guilt of her sister’s death, she seeks out the sin eater against the rules of her community, hoping that he can eat away her overburdening sins. Although the sin eater only eats away the sins of the dead, after some hesitation, he agrees to attempt it. However, following the ritual, she cries out in despair, disappointed that nothing has changed. She still feels the same. Soon afterward, unable to bear the guilt, she plans to throw herself off the same log from which her sister fell, but she is stopped by a stranger to that part of the mountains—a traveling preacher who asks her why
THE 2 RECAP
she would want to do such a thing. After hearing her story, he tells her the story of Jesus, who is the last Sin Eater, taking away the need for any more sin eaters to come after Him. Set free from her guilt, she shares the truth with those around her, setting the stage for even bigger, darker secrets than her own to be brought to light. The theme of forgiveness is played out beautifully in this movie. Cadi experiences the weight of sin lifted from her when she gives her sins over to the last Sin Eater, Jesus. This exemplifies the kind of forgiveness detailed in I John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” At the end of the movie Cadi is able to share her experience with her mother. During the conversation, she learns her mother had also been blaming herself for what happened. By talking it over, their relationship was restored. James 5:16 says, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed...” Yet, how often do we sacrifice healing, joy, peace and love because we’re unwilling to strip away our pride and be honest enough to confess to one another? This is just a sample of the kinds of thoughts “The Last Sin Eater” provokes. Although this movie may not be the newest and greatest action flick, it is well worth a watch for a moving illustration of the concept of forgiveness—and those lovely Welsh accents are great, too!
GM : 18