Friday, June 2, 2017

So What About "Hoarders?"

We sat in a hotel room, relaxing, eating pizza--and watching an episode of "Hoarders."

Maybe you've never seen it. Maybe you've started, but just can't stomach the clutter and decay. My guess is you're fascinated or repelled. How can people not SEE the problem? And when/if they do, how can they refuse help? And why would they choose to live that way?

If we dare to think about it long enough and truthfully enough, we realize we're all like that. We have habits, stuff, hobbies, jobs, people--even ministries--we're desperate to keep. We don't see the problem. And if/when we do, we don't want help. Whatever it is, it's become a necessity--our air and breath.

What starts as an interest or casual fancy becomes an obsession, consuming our thoughts, dreams, changing our plans, removing the future, despairing the present, regretting the past. Slowly, gradually, our vision narrows until that one thing is everything. Without it, my world collapses. And in that moment I am forced to ask, "How am I loving God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength?" Where is God in my reality? And I must admit He is not there.

God is not there. People are peripheral. If I were to answer the question, "In this activity/obsession, how am I loving others as myself?" I'm not. I have become both the source and receiver of need. As I face myself in the mirror of Truth, there is room for only one--me.

It happens with good things: dieting, gardening, music, work, relationships. Sometimes it begins with hard things: loss, grief, failure, violation. It morphs into ugly things: eating disorders, workaholism, depression, substance abuse, hoarding. Suddenly the shore is lost, I'm overwhelmed by waves, and the shimmering shell in my hand has become a ball and chain.

"So what would a biblical counselor say about hoarders?" our daughter asked. I gave the Sunday School answer, "They need Jesus."

How does that solve the problem? Jesus fulfills us. He is the need that has been unmet. Sin no longer requires salving, ignoring, covering, or hiding. I have no debt to pay. I have no need to work for reward. "It is finished." And in taking Jesus at His Word I find freedom, forgiveness, acceptance, healing, belonging...being. And in Him I have life--a new, eternal life that starts now and never, ever ends.

NOTE: If you don't get it, or you're very lost in the ocean of self, please seek godly counsel. Talk to a pastor or friend who knows Jesus--and lives like it. Here is a list of organizations with individuals who know and use the Bible to help others: Biblical Counseling Coalition--Find a Counselor. In general, these individuals work within local churches to help, direct and connect you with God and His people who offer their services freely. "Freely you received, freely give." (Matthew 10:8)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. (John 1:1-4) many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:12-13)

 For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him. (John 1:16-18)

His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. (1 Peter 1:3-4)

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

You Know; Do They?

Tonight was a mark in time. Our public high is preparing to graduate another group of young people, and this evening we celebrated at their baccalaureate service. Since our family does not worship in our community, it was a unique time to gather in church with those we've lived with all these years. Pride swells as young men and women stride down the aisle in matching robes! I had just looked at their pre-kindergarten pictures--and look at them now! Having spent time with them in classrooms and extra-curricular activities, I have grown to love and admire them. They are not mine, but they are part of me, part of our family. We share a history, memories, people and places that no one else ever has or ever will.

And as the speaker shared the gospel, the centrality of Jesus, the cross, the wrath of God and the forgiveness Christ purchased with His blood, tears of gratitude, love...and loss seeped from my eyes. Some came tonight because of a devotion and love for Jesus. Some came because it's the thing you do when you're graduating from high school. Maybe some came for their parents. Whatever the reason, they heard, once again, the old, old story of Jesus and His love.

More than 11 years ago, when we started Good News Club at the elementary school, a woman asked what we were teaching. She had concerns and wanted to know before sending her son. Using a classic of  Child Evangelism Fellowship (that we still use today), I shared the Wordless Book:

  • The gold page reminds us of God who is perfect and holy, eternal and loving. He cannot sin or be in its presence. He lives in a place, called Heaven, that the Bible says has streets of gold. (1 John 1:5)
  • The black page represents our sin. We have all sinned and deserve God's wrath and punishment. We are separated from Him because of the things we think, say and do that are against His character. (Romans 3:23)
  • The red page reminds us of Jesus' death on the cross. He lived a perfect life and died in our place, taking our punishment, and rose again so we could be forgiven. (1 Peter 3:18)
  • White is for forgiveness. When we believe Jesus took our place and come to God asking forgiveness in Jesus' name, He will wash our hearts as white as snow. (Isaiah 1:18)
  • And green is for growth. When we have accepted Jesus' death and resurrection, we will grow in our relationship with Him by reading the Bible, praying, meeting with other believers, and telling others about Jesus. (2 Peter 3:18)

This friend asked why we would do that. Why did we even need Good News Club? I pointed to a man walking down the street. "If you knew that man was going to die before he reached home, what would you do? Would you stop him or let him keep going?" "I'd tell him," she said.

"That's what we do in Good News Club, tell children and families that Jesus is the only One who can save them from eternal punishment. That's all. We're not here to cram it down anyone's throat or push ourselves on anyone, but we love them too much to say nothing at all."

Do you love those who don't know? What are you doing--what are you willing to do--to save them?

Deliver those who are being taken away to death, And those who are staggering to slaughter, Oh hold them back. If you say, “See, we did not know this,” Does He not consider it who weighs the hearts? And does He not know it who keeps your soul? And will He not render to man according to his work? (Prov. 24:11-12)

For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written,
I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
And the cleverness of the clever I will set aside.”
Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. (1 Corinthians 1:18-25)


Thursday, May 11, 2017

Got Spinach in Your Teeth?

One of the most uncomfortable feelings is having people look at me, snicker, turn away, gawk, or simply act uncomfortable. A true friend tells you there's spinach between your teeth, your zipper is undone, or your hair is out of place. Have you ever felt like you have spiritual spinach in your teeth?
James says that looking into the Bible is like looking in to a mirror: "But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing." (James 1:22-25 ESV)
Here are some simple observations:

  1. A mirror is only as useful as the person in the reflection. If I do not use what I see, the mirror is useless.
  2. A mirror is objective. It doesn't change the reflection, it simply shows what's there. Whether I agree or disagree with the mirror doesn't ultimately change anything. If I want the reflection to change, I must change.
  3. If I look at a mirror without a reflection (from the side or at a distance), I can believe it is true, right, even beautiful. A beautiful mirror, however, has little purpose apart from a reflection.
  4. Use of  mirror (or lack thereof) is obvious. The more I use it, the more adept I am at making changes. The less I use it, the more unkempt I am.

What are the implications?
  1. I cannot change (will not change) apart from the Word of God. It is only as I submit myself to God's truth and allow Him to work change in my desires and thoughts that the spiritual appearance of my life reflects God's. (James 4:1-10)
  2. God's Word does not change. I am sinful, fallen, far from the perfect ideal, but the Bible is objective and true. It honestly reveals my faults, failings, and the means of change (Isaiah 40:8, Romans 3:23, Romans 12:1-2).
  3. God used words to bring the world into existence. Jesus is the dynamic, living Word. The Bible is  not simply a decorative display; it is a source of change to those who believe and apply it. It is living, powerful and active. Through the Bible, His written Word, God restores us and gives us spiritual life. Through the Bible--the mirror of truth--He changes us and makes us His children, reflecting the image of His Son, like Jesus Christ (Genesis 1:3, John 1:1-3, 2 Peter 3:9, Hebrews 4:12, Romans 8:28-29, 1 Corinthians 3:18).
  4. The more intently we look, the greater the change. It is not the looking that changes us, but our response to the image we see reflected back. A humble life reflects a godly image; a proud, self-sufficient life reflects a sinful, unchanged image. (James 1:25; James 4:7-10, Philippians 2:1-11).

Good friends point us to the Word of God as the standard and power of change. Got spinach in your teeth? I have a mirror you can borrow.