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Archive for October, 2011

“You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain (Psalm 139:5,6).”

Jimmy McNulty  is a detective enjoying a Saturday out with his two boys. Theyare browsing around a Baltimore farmer’s market when McNulty spots Stringer Bell, an elusive leader of the Barksdale drug gang.

In an episode of the hit TV series “The Wire”  called “Lessons”, McNulty tells his sons to employ a game he has taught them called “Front and Follow”.  One boy walks in the path Bell is facing while the other tails him from behind.

McNulty doesn’t follow Bell himself. The crook knows who he is.

Bell leads them out into the street outside the market area. There he gets into his car.

One of the boys steps aside and takes out a pen and paper. He writes down the license number of Bell’s car before the mobster drives away.

The technique their Dad taught them has proven to be quite effective. There was no way they were going to lose sight of Stringer Bell.

The kids are so good at this spy game that not only do they get valuable information about a criminal, but they lose their father.  McNulty, having lost sight of his boys, ends up having to get the market management to help him find them.

With the boys’ effective strategy, Bell has no idea that he is being followed. He has no clue that  people who are perilous to his welfare are lurking around.

In this world, believers in Jesus Christ have the same problem as Bell. We are being tailed by some expert followers of Satan who wish to do us harm.

According to the Apostle Paul, Satan is pretty good at blinding people, especially those who have chosen to ignore God and reside under his authority. The devil and his minions are out of sight, but they are doing their own version of “Front and Follow” in order to get the goods on their targets (II Corinthians 4:4).

If you you think Satan is not alive or well today, or some guy parodied at a Halloween party, think again. Better yet, pick up a copy of Bill Scott’s book “The Day Satan Called.”

In this book Scott relates a true story of his encounter with a demon at the radio station where he once worked. The call was initially handled by a colleague.

When Scott first met with the situation, the coworker had just gotten off the phone and was white as a ghost. He related to Scott that he had just talked to a demon.

Scott was skeptical at first. However, once he took one of the calls, he too was quite scared.

The actual calls were placed by a 16-year old girl who claimed she was living in a witches coven and would be sacrificed on Halloween, which was coming in a few days. She would then be interrupted by a demon, who would come on the line in a voice that was not human and spit out venom, blasphemy and threats.

While not blind to spiritual things like those who do not follow God, believers are still subject to Satan’s “Front and Follow” techniques.  Paul himself didn’t see the devil visually, but he felt him. Paul wrote,”We are hard pressed on every side (II Corinthians 4:8a)”.

The Scriptures discuss not only our openness to the devices of Satan, but also to the world system under his control (I John 2: 15-17; I John 5:19). We are surrounded by an increasingly chaotic culture in which right and wrong have been turned upside down.

David Jeremiah notes that believers are under a lot of pressure to conform to the culture today. In a message calling for the Christian to be totally consumed by commitment to Jesus Christ he says:

“We are in a very vulnerable place in our nation and in our churches. If we continue down the road of just trying to be Christian enough so that we can get counted on the roll, we are going to be victimized by the culture in which we live.”

It is as if the believer is a submarine being hunted by an enemy on the surface whom they cannot see.  However, the “ping, ping, ping” of the sonar is there.

When the attacks come, our boat is subject to collapse under the pressure.  If we don’t have internal fortitude, the stress will kill us if the external bombs don’t.

Thus, not only do we have to battle against Satan and the world system, but also fight our own selves. This is why it is so necessary to have the radical commitment to Christ Jeremiah talks about.

He summarizes one of Paul’s arguments for this: “If we’re going to function, if we’re going to be faithful in this culture, you have to present everything there is about you to everything you know about Him.”

One of the things I do know about God is that He is omnipresent. He is present everywhere.

God is not controlled by space. He is not limited by time. Thus, there is no ability for us to  slip out of His sight (Jeremiah 23:23,24; Hebrews 4:13).

God also doesn’t fall asleep at the switch. He constantly has His eye on things. The Psalmist writes:

 He will not let your foot slip—
   he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
   will neither slumber nor sleep.

  The LORD watches over you—
   the LORD is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
   nor the moon by night.

  The LORD will keep you from all harm—
   he will watch over your life;
the LORD will watch over your coming and going
   both now and forevermore. (Psalm 121:3-8).

Another thing I know about God is that He calls Himself our Father. However, he is not a Dad cut in the mode of a Jimmy McNulty.

He is completely “all that”. Our Father will not lose track of us. In fact, He wouldn’t put young boys up to a dangerous surveillance mission of a mobster either.

Indeed, God has His own version of “Front and Follow” which He engages in on His own. While Satan and his demons are out there spying on us, God has His own eyes on those evil beings on our behalf.

The only difference is that God doesn’t need two of Himself to play the game! It’s mind boggling.

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“The one whose walk is blameless is kept safe, but the one whose ways are perverse will fall into the pit (Proverbs 28:18).”

On January 30, 1972 a large number of people in Northern Ireland decided to thwart the British government’s ban on public protests in their area and took  to the streets.  By the end of the day, 26 people were dead.

The event, known as “Bloody Sunday”, shook Ireland. Meant to be a nonviolent protest against discrimination along the lines of those held by Martin Luther King, Jr. in America,  the protest was just the opposite.

British soldiers stormed through the predominantly Catholic crowd shooting protestors. Official accounts immediately following the massacre cleared the British troops of wrongdoing.

According to the soldiers involved, the killings were justified because the protestors were armed and using their weapons against them. Most eyewitnesses disputed these claims, but to not avail, at least at the time.

As depicted in the movie, “Bloody Sunday”, the truth was that the British troops went crazy. They basically murdered many unarmed civilians without cause.

The film reveals wounded people in the  crowd being targeted by the soldiers. In one instance, one of them shoots a protestor lying on the ground at point blank range.

The movie’s portrayal of events are true. Later government investigations determined that the killings were out-and-out murder.

One cannot help but become angry watching “Bloody Sunday”.  How could the government allow such a thing to happen?

Surely, the protest was illegal. In addition, there had been violence between radical IRA elements and British troops. However, nothing justified the murders which occurred on “Bloody Sunday”.

Most of my life I have witnessed such protests as this one on television and generally thought the government was in the right. After all, they are there to protect us and ensure the common good.

In fact, I have always been something of a “good soldier”. I am not one to rock the boat or hold contests with authorities.

However, in the last year something has changed in my attitude.  This is because I have begun to be personally affected by what is nothing more than corruption in high places.

For the first time in my life, I have experienced moral rot in high places that has impacted me. I haven’t dealt with the experience very well. In fact, I have at times squealed like a pig.

I think part of this sense of injustice comes from my having originally been one who trusts established institutions and authorities. As  a Christian, I have subscribed to biblical teachings that tell me to submit to these powers (I Peter 2:13-21; Romans 13:1-7).  

I have understood that those in authority arent’t perfect. I understand that they are human.

However, what I have found is that they are in fact not always worthy of my trust, which to me is something needed for respect to happen. I have seen in my own deaslings what I interpret as either chosen ignorance, or perhaps worse, cowardice by people entrusted with power over me.

It has been very disheartening. People who I thought had my back did not.

We humans are created in God’s image.  Yet, I should not be surprised that we don’t carry it very well. God has told us that in His Word:

God presides in the great assembly;
   he renders judgment among the “gods”:

 “How long will you defend the unjust
   and show partiality to the wicked?
Defend the weak and the fatherless;
   uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.
Rescue the weak and the needy;
   deliver them from the hand of the wicked.

 “The ‘gods’ know nothing, they understand nothing.
   They walk about in darkness;
   all the foundations of the earth are shaken. (Psalm 82:1-5)

When the corrupt are in power over you, your world gets rocked. No wonder the Bible tells us that people in such a condition lay low, hoping to avoid trouble (Proverbs 28:12,28).

Oh, how wonderful it would be to be surrounded by people like David’s mighty men. These fellas had his back.

They looked out for him and kept his enemies at bay. When most people deserted David, they hung tough. These guys are described in II Samuel 23.

For example, Eleazar killed Philistines alone with David until he was too tired to hold his weapon anymore. Of course, the rest of the army only showed up to collect the benefts (v 9,10).

Then there was Shammah. He stood alone in a field when once again the Israelite army had fled. Shammah, however, held his ground and the Lord gave him a great victory (11,12).

When David wistfully longed for a drink of water from the well of his hometown, a troika of  these boys snuck by the Philistine garrison there and brought some back to him. David was so awestruck by this action that he refused to drink the water.

He gave it in worship to the Lord in thankfulness for men who would risk their lives for him on a minor whim (v. 13-17). David knew these men were rare, and a gift from God. 

My favorite “Mighty Man” was Benaiah.  He is described as having done “many mighty deeds”.

My favorite of these  is when he chased a lion down into a pit with only a club. Benaiah scrambled down this muddy hole and killed the beast (v 20). How many people do you know that actually run TOWARD a dangerous animal?

The Scriptures indicate that corrupt authorities who have power over you are similar to a menacing predator. The wise man of Proverbs describes them as “like a roaring lion or charging bear” (Proverbs 28:15).

It is difficult to know what to do when you are faced with people like this. My own prayer of late has been the Serenity Prayer:

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Behind all this tainted behavior in high places is a menace the Scriptures describe as a lion: the Devil himself (I Peter 5:8). He is mad as hell because he knows the jig is up, so he is out there ready to take it out on believers like me (Revelation 12:12).

I am willing to follow the biblical admonitions to stay alert and resist him when he attacks . However, I don’t think I have the wherewithal or the courage to actually chase him down into his hole as Benaiah did.

This would mean I’d have to go on the offensive against Satan and his power grab around me. That’s asking a lot from one person.

However, there is a Mighty Man willing to take on the task I can’t. It is the almighty and all powerful king of kings and lord of lord: namely, Jesus Christ.

As I walk the unclean halls of power in my life, which for me are unmanageable, I can trust Him to keep the devil down in his hole there. There is no doubt He will give me the insight to do business that will glorify Him, help me keep my footing on those slippery paths, and protect me along the way.

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” ‘I will make you a light to the Gentiles, and you will bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.’  The Lord, the Redeemer and Holy One of Israel, says to the one who is despised and rejected by the nations,  to the one who is the servant of rulers: ‘Kings will stand at attention when you pass by.Princes will bow low because Lord has chosen you. He, the faithful Lord, the Holy One of Israel, chooses you’ ((Isaiah 49:6b-7, New Living Translation, Life Recovery Bible).”

The time between the first and second world wars of the 20th century was a period of languishing for some military officers.  This included the famous George S. Patton of the United States Army.

Patton chose as his career field the area of tanks. Unfortunately, until World War II, they went unappreciated.

Less well know was Fredric “Johnny” Walker of the Royal Navy. He devoted himself to anti-submarine warfare, which also was not held in high regard.

Indeed, when Walker went to a specialist course in this area after World War I, he was consigning himself to a backwater of military prestige.  The field of anti-submarine warfare was a dead end when it came to glamour and promotion.

Walker spent years on the Big Ships. He became disillusioned with his peacetime service.

What was worse for Walker was the view his superiors had toward him in the 1930s prior to World War II. He received poor evaluation reports.

One of these was given  by a commander-in-chief in the Far East. Walker was the commander of his personal yacht, a post not suited for the purposeful officer.

Eventually, Walker was able to get back into anti-submarine research prior to the outbreak of hostilities. However, it was not until German U-boats began to strangle Britain that the military brass began to pay attention to him and his area of expertise.

In the biography of Walker called “The Fighting Captain”, author Alan Burns says that no one did more than Captain Walker to regain control of the North Atlantic. In the Foreword to the book, Admiral of the Fleet Lord Lewin writes, “Captain Johnny Walker’s contribution to the winning of the shipping war was immeasurable.”

Indeed, Walker was something of an unsung hero of World War II. Burns notes that no one generally knows how close Britain was to being brought to its knees because of the success of the U-boats. 

In summary, Frederic Walker was a disrespected nobody until he was reborn during the greatest challenge of his life and his generation. His role during World War II changed everything for him.

When you are young as Walker was when he was an ambitious young midshipman, you are full of hopes about the future. Greatness lies before you.

Then “life happens” and you find yourself in middle age (or worse) staring at the walls and wondering what happened. All those hopes and dreams never materialized, and your kids are closer to 30 than you are.

The Bible is full of the stories of men and women who received promises and dreams from God, and then came up against reality. As they moved out into life, these messages from the Lord seemed to be a distant drummer.

For example, Abraham was told to move his brood to Palestine. It is commonly called “The Promised Land” because God has promised it to him.

The Life Recovery Bible notes that Abraham didn’t see much when he arrived. The country was ravaged by famine. He must have had a few questions.

Joseph had a dream as a teenager that he would be lord of his brothers. The next thing he knew, he was stewing in a prison in Egypt for several years.

To his credit, the Life Recovery Bible says of Joseph,”…through all his trials, Joseph remained faithful to God. It would have been easy for him to start playing the victim and just give up.”

It is impossible to know how Jesus felt exactly in the Garden of Gethsemane. However, the Scriptures give us some idea.

Jesus sweated blood. Matthew 26 tells us he said to his closest friends,”My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and watch with me.”

The friends of Jesus fell asleep. They were a nonfactor in his suffering. This wasn’t very helpful to a man with a crushed soul.

Jesus was alone. His anguish was so great he asked His Father if perhaps there could be a Plan B, something other than dying for the sins of the whole world.

Theologians make note that Jesus took the shame and guilt of our failures on Himself at the Cross. Could it be that those emotions of taking the sin of the world on Himself began in the Garden, as He experienced insurmountable grief and hopelessness?

Jesus didn’t deserve such treatment, but like Joseph he did not give up.  He fulfilled His mission, rose from the dead and can offer eternal life to us instead of the death he was facing in the Garden.

Jesus knew that in this life that He had to die before life would come. He said before His crucificixion:

“The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” (John 12:23-25)

 It seem in this temporal life that we do have to face death as Jesus did, before we reach the promised resurrection, and we have to do it every day. All the self-made garbage has to go. (Luke 9:23; I Corinthians 15:31).

Letting go of this stuff is painful and gut wrenching. We have to face it and feel the shame over it before we dispense with it. We have to die.

Jesus added to the above statement about the necessity of His death: “Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.” (John 12:26)

For some of us, resurrection and honor seem to take a lifetime. We feel like Frederic Walker must have felt between the wars. We feel like life has passed us by and the hope of being useful to our God has vanished.

Here’s the hope people like us have. The Scriptures say that God does have a purpose for us and that we will glorify Him.

We don’t know how. Yet, the truth is that God has us in His quiver, as it were, holding back this special arrow. He’s waiting for the right moment to use it (Isaiah 49:1-3).

In the meantime, He polishes us, retools us, shapes us.  

Our experience in this sharpening and rebuilding in the plan of God is one of grief and frustration. God has given us His promises, but their fulfillment is nowhere to be found. Our whole lives seem to have been a waste:

 He said to me, “You are my servant,
   Israel, in whom I will display my splendor.”
But I said, “I have labored in vain;
   I have spent my strength for nothing at all.
Yet what is due me is in the LORD’s hand,
   and my reward is with my God. (Isaiah 49:3,4)

We’re stuffed in God’s bag, with no light and no hope or purpose. What is God’s reply to this complaint?

 He says,”You’re time will come. Hang on. You’re an arrow in my quiver.”

Paul spent his life barking down the wrong tree until he encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus. Through our Lord’s grace, he redirected Paul in a moment of time and made him His messenger to the world of His day and ours (Acts 9:1-15).

To his world Paul was the missionary to the Gentiles, who did not know anything about God. To us, he is the author of a great deal of the New Testament by which we live.

Remember the pickup games as a child when captains chose their teammates? In the game of life, Jesus chose Paul. He chose Abraham and Joseph, too.

Guess what? Today, He chooses you and me, also. You can’t lose if you are on Jesus’s team!

 It’s tough feeling like a loser. The University of Virginia football team, the Wahoos, usually mediocre, won a big game against a ranked opponent yesterday.

Their coach Mike London told Sports Illustrated of the effect of the victory:

“This is one of those wins that can change the perception of what you think about yourself,” the second-year coach said. “Last-second play against Indiana. Last-second play against Idaho. Overtime. But this is one of those wins against a good team with a lot of accomplishments that you can try to turn the corner on, about how you think about yourself.”

This is how I feel about the truth that Jesus chooses me. I have gone from being one of the world’s all time losers to a winner. It changes everything I think about myself and my future.

Wahoo!

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“Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres (I Corinthians 13:6,7).”

I am teaching my student’s in my academic writing class about plagiarism these days. If you don’t recall your university days or aren’t a best selling author, plagiarism is when you take someone else’s ideas and use them as your own.

There are a lot of conventions in academic writing for acceptable, non-plagiarized work. Here is an exercise from John Swales and Chris Feak which help delineate what they are.

 “Here are some approaches to writing, beginning with a plagiarizing approach and ending with an acceptable quoting technique.  Where does plagiarism stop? Draw a line between the last approach that would produce plagiarism and the first approach that would produce acceptable work.

 1)Copying a paragraph as it is from the source without any acknowledgement.

 2)Copying a paragraph making only small changes, such as replacing a few verbs or adjectives with synonyms.

 3)Cutting and pasting a paragraph by using the sentences of the original and leaving one or two out, or by putting one or two sentences in a different order.

 4)Composing a paragraph by taking short standard phrases from a number of sources and putting them together with some words of  your own.

 5)Paraphrasing a paragraph by rewriting with substantial changes in language and organization, amount of detail, and examples.

 6)Quoting a paragraph by placing it in block format with the source cited.”

(John N. Swales & Christine B. Feak, Academic Writing for Graduate Students (Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 1994), 126.)

Swales draws a line after number 3. Feak draws hers after number 4. Numbers 1-3 are plagiarism in academia.

The authors note that when plagiarism comes up, an issue that is regularly discussed is “intent to deceive.” In other words, did the writer knowingly violate the conventions, or did they cheat in ignorance.

This “intent to deceive” issue is one reason I cover the issue of plagiarism and show them how to avoid it. After that, I hold them accountable.

They have to learn how to paraphrase and summarize. These are skills, and I do not expect perfection in their papers. However, I at least expect a decent attempt to give credit where credit is due and put ideas in their own words.

Occasionally I will come across students who blatantly cut and paste material from the Internet and not change anything. This is where the “fun” begins. It is a “weeping and gnashing of teeth” scenario for both me and the student, and sometimes even the school administration.

As I said above, the rule for me is that they have been taught about plagiarism and the ways to keep away from it. If they still clearly copy from someone else, they’re in big trouble.

In this “everyone gets a smiley face” and “everyone plays” society, far different from the one of my youth, it seems to me that students are given a lot of slack on this “intent to deceive” issue. In my experience, the words “mistake” and “clarification” have been used as a defense for what I see as clear plagiarism.

I do know that some people in this world think that lying is not only acceptable, but actually a virtue if the falsehood is meant to benefit them in some way.  Thus, cheating on an exam or an academic paper is seen as within the realm of honorable behavior.

When the cheater is caught, the lying is also thought to be all right as a strategy for avoiding punishment. It is extremely frustrating.

Even Christians have a hard time making decisions about what to do when faced with two competing agendas.  The choices involve doing what is right for themselves or their loved ones, or obeying some authority such as the government.

I even recall reading some Christian book on situation ethics in church youth group when I was a teenager.  I think it was called “It Really All Depends” or some similar title. This was the heyday of that philosophy, as proposed by Joseph Fletcher.

An introduction to Fletcher’s book “Situation Ethics: The New Morality” reads:

Igniting a firestorm of controversy upon its publication in 1966, Joseph Fletcher’sSituation Ethicswas hailed by many as a much-needed reformation of morality–and as an invitation to anarchy by others. Proposing an ethic of loving concern, Fletcher suggests that certain acts–such as lying, premarital sex, adultery, or even murder–might be morally right, depending on the circumstances. Hotly debated on television, in magazines and newspapers, in churches, and in the classroom, Fletcher’s provocative thesis remains a powerful force in contemporary discussions of morality.

Here is the question in my mind:”When is one person’s lying and deception honorable (or at least tolerable) and another’s unacceptable (or intolerable)?”I believe Fletcher would save that what we do must be done out of “love” to be honorable.   

One Bible story that always engenders a lot of discussion is the story of the Hebrew midwives. These ladies saved the lives of  Israelite babies (including Moses) in counter to the orders of the Egyptian government.

The Egyptian ruler ordered up a form of what Hitler called “The Final Solution” when it came to the treatment of Jews.  He told the midwives to kill the babies on the birthing stool.

The Hebrew midwives did nothing of the kind. They let the children live, and had to deal with the wrath of the king.

When called to task, the midwives lied, saying that the Hebrew mothers were so energetic that they gave birth before they could participate. The Scriptures say that God blessed the midwives for their actions (Exodus 1:1-21).

In another story, one that doesn’t have a commentary which says that God was pleased or not pleased, an advisor to King David deceives the monarch’s rebellious son Absalom, who has begun a civil war with his father.  Hushai is planted in the court of Absalom to give bad advice, and he does so.

The good news for David was that his son took Hushai’s advice over that of a highly regarded advisor named Ahithophel, whose counsel was thought to be almost a “word from the Lord”. This led to David’s escape from Absalom when he was in a weakened state and eventual victory in the civil war ((II Samuel 16:23-18:16).

In this story, it seems God again favored the lying and deceitful party. The Scriptures say “…the LORD had determined to frustrate the good advice of Ahithophel in order to bring disaster on Absalom (II Samuel 17:14).

In both the case of the Hebrew midwives and Hushai, the “intent to deceive” was clear. Both parties sought to give false impressions, and both gained God’s support.

Yet, God has his own set of rules we call The Ten Commandments. One of them says,”You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor (Exodus 20:16).” How do we  reconcile God’s seeming support of deception over and against His command, this one in particular.

This is not the place for a long theological treatise, but here are some thoughts:

In some respects, I believe Joseph Fletcher was correct. Sometimes, when we are caught between a rock (obeying God’s commands) and a hard place (an extremely damaging circumstance), we may need to deceive and lie. It may in fact be the “loving” thing  to do.

On the other hand, we ought to give the matter a lot of prayer. To me, the matter almost has to be “life and death”, as illustrated by the biblical cases above, to consider lying or deceiving.

Furthermore, we should be willing to accept the consequences of our deception if we are caught. Righteous people in World War II sought to hide the Jews from the Nazis, and paid the price for it when found out.

Consider even the case of a professional American football player when he was fined for a flagrant violation of the rules. His story was reported this week in Sports Illustrated:

“Saints safety Roman Harper says he does not regret a late hit on Carolina receiver Steve Smith that drew a $15,000 fine from the NFL this week.

Harper says the fine was worth it and that his decision to shove Smith as the receiver slowly crossed the goal line last Sunday was good for his team and got his point across.

Harper had said after Sunday’s 30-27 Saints victory that if a player is going to score on the Saints, he’s not going allow anyone to just ‘walk it in’ the end zone.”

Harper thought his punishment was acceptable when compared with the return he and his team garnered through his actions.
 
All I can say is, when we think about deceiving and lying to authorities or other institutions or persons, it ought to be out of love for other people. It had better be worth it!

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“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed (James 5:16a).”

“When I eat I feel like a failure.”

“I take more than the suggested dose.”

“My family is rich, but I shoplift every day.”`

“I am a peaceful person who happens to be filled with violent rage.”

Those are just some of the messages placed on postcards in a video made by a band appropriately called “The All American Rejects”. Their song is “Dirty Little Secret.”

Here are some more of the messages:

“I hate feeling alone.”

“I’m afraid to take the next step.” 

“I fear I have an undiagnosed mental ilness.”

“I had gay sex at church camp-3 times.”

“Three years ago I tried to kill myself..now I’m 18 & people say I’m happy…but I still want to die.”

The messages in the video came from the Post Secret website. Post Secret is an organization where people send their confessions anonymously.(Source: Wikipedia)

A review of their website shows that some of the confessions are silly, some are minor, and others are deadly serious. If you have any kind of heart, you can’t help but be moved when you watch the video made by the All American Rejects.

What these messages say is that there are a lot of hurting people in this world. Unfortunately, they can’t tell their secrets to anyone, so they have to put them on a postcard and send it to some faceless organization to post on their website.

While the song “Dirty Little Secret” isn’t particularly uplifting in the inferences made, some of the lyrics are telling. As this line says, people are afraid in the supposed glitz and glamour of this world to admit who they really are and what they struggle with:

“When we live such fragile lives,
It’s the best way we survive..”

The effects of all this secrecy and dishonesty is mind boggling:

Who has to know?
The way she feels inside.
Those thoughts I can’t deny.
These sleeping thoughts won’t lie.
And all I’ve tried to hide
It’s eating me apart
Trace this life back!

It’s just outrageous. 

My experience is that the only place you can go to get true help with your own “dirty little secrets” is a counselor or a recovery program like Alchoholics Anonymous.  These programs are not necessarily “Christian”, although they give aknowledgment to a “higher power” in their steps to recovery.

Who thinks of the church as a place to go for help with addictions, suicidal thoughts and out of control rage if you are a Christian?  Why, these behaviors are just unacceptable there.

It’s fine if you demonstrate such weakness as a non-believer. The church will just tell you to step right up and get saved and all will be well.  NOT!

The above charge against the “church” is, to be fair,  rather vague and anecdotal. There are exceptions.

One megachurch in California sponsors a recovery program that has mushroomed and gone worldwide. I attended a meeting in my local community in the States and was impressed with the transparency and focus on Christ as the answer to our problems. 

The truth is, though, that programs of this nature seem to be a little like the illegitimate child in the church family. We acknowledge their necessity, and even feel a little sorry for the folks involved in them, but the general church goer will not admit to the need to attend themselves.

Baloney! My educated guess is that most of us need to be sitting in those circles in the recovery meetings.

A recent report indicates that 40 percent of Europeans suffer some form of mental illness. Given that North America is part of the western world, I would surmise that the statistics in the United States and Canada are similar.

The other 60 percent may not be “officially” mentally ill, but that doesn’t mean peope don’t suffer from moral, spiritual and emotional disorders. They are all part of the human condition. We just don’t want to admit it!

Here’s another postcard message from the All American Reject’s video:

“I haven’t spoken to my Dad in 10 years… and it kills me every day.”

Absalom could have written a similar sentence. He was estranged from his father David for five years.

If there were a Post Secret organization in ancient Israel, Absalom could have written these postcards”

“My father committed adultery and had the husband of the woman murdered.”

“My brother raped my sister.”

For the last “secret”, Absalom murdered his brother Amnon. The young man had sexually assaulted Absalom’s sister Tamar (II Samuel 13:1-19).

Absalom developed very bad feelings over this. His postcard would have read:

“I am the king’s son and I am filled with hate and rage”. (II Samuel 13:22).

Absalom’s father David was angry about the rape of Tamar, but he did nothing. It was his family’s own “dirty little secret”.  As a result, Abasolom took matters into his own hands:

“I murdered my brother.” (II Samuel 13:28,29).

When he did, Absalom fled. When David finally relented and let him back in his kingdom, he refused to see him, until he softened (a little) after 2 years and met with his son.

My fellow believers, this game playing is so wrong. The words of Billy Joel explain what I feel about you:

If you search for tenderness
it isn’t hard to find.
You can have the love you need to live.
But if you look for truthfulness
You might just as well be blind.
It always seems to be so hard to give.

Honesty is such a lonely word.
Everyone is so untrue.
Honesty is hardly ever heard.
And mostly what I need from you.

I can always find someone
to say they sympathize.
If I wear my heart out on my sleeve.
But I don’t want some pretty face
to tell me pretty lies.
All I want is someone to believe.

Honesty is such a lonely word.
Everyone is so untrue.
Honesty is hardly ever heard.
And mostly what I need from you.

I can find a lover.
I can find a friend.
I can have security until the bitter end.
Anyone can comfort me
with promises again.
I know, I know.

When I’m deep inside of me
don’t be too concerned.
I won’t ask for nothin’ while I’m gone.
But when I want sincerity
tell me where else can I turn.
Because you’re the one I depend upon. 

If I can’t get my brothers and sisters in Christ to honestly tell me who they are, and to give me listen t my much as well, where shall I go. Frankly, unbelievers do a better job of being honest about themselves than we Christians do. 

The reason we aren’t honest with each other, I suppose, is that we are afraid. Afraid of rejection.

In an ideal world, we would behave toward each other as Billy Joel suggests:

Don’t go changing, to try and please me
You never let me down before
Don’t imagine you’re too familiar
And I don’t see you anymore
I wouldn’t leave you in times of trouble
We never could have come this far
I took the good times, I’ll take the bad times
I’ll take you just the way you are

Don’t go trying some new fashion
Don’t change the color of your hair
You always have my unspoken passion
Although I might not seem to care

I don’t want clever conversation
I never want to work that hard
I just want someone that I can talk to
I want you just the way you are.

I need to know that you will always be
The same old someone that I knew
What will it take till you to believe in me
The way that I believe in you.

I said I love you and that’s forever
And this I promise from the heart
I could not love you any better
I love you just the way you are.

Until we get to this, we will be far away from each other, and in reality, from God as well. And revival? Forget about that.

One more postcard on the All American Rejects video says this:

“I miss feeling close to God.”

My postcard this hour to you is this:

“I miss feeling close to you.”

I hate Satan for what he has done to us and this world. How about you?

Let’s do something about it. The first step it seems is to be honest with each other about the impact he has made on our lives.

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“But you, God, see the trouble of the afflicted;you consider their grief and take it in hand. The victims commit themselves to you;  you are the helper of the fatherless (Psalm 10:14).”
 
re·sil·ience Listen to audio/rɪˈzɪljəns/ noun
 
[noncount] 1 : the ability to become strong, healthy, or successful again after something bad happens
▪ The rescue workers showed remarkable resilience in dealing with the difficult conditions.

 2 : the ability of something to return to its original shape after it has been pulled, stretched, pressed, bent, etc.
▪ the resilience of rubber ▪ Cold temperatures caused the material to lose resilience. (Source: Merriam-Webster English Language Learner’s Dictionary)
 
Dan Berchinski has resilience. His main squeeze Rebecca Taber does, too.
 
The Army lieutenant stepped on a hidden land mine in Afghanistan in the summer of 2009 and lost both legs, in addition to suffering a broken jaw and shattered arm. He is now back in the States recovering.
 
At his side is Rebecca Taber. Her relationship with Berchinski is portrayed in the Washington Post this week. 
 
She is a typical young woman in Washington, D.C. where she works and lives, and where Dan is rehabiltating. Like many young people in D.C., Rebecca is smart and determined.
 
She is a former student body president at Yale, has a coveted job at a D.C. consulting firm and is currently on loan to the State of Delaware in an importan post. However, her main focus is Berchinski.
 
Before he went off to war, they had met and romanced a little. However, the relationship did not seem to have much of a future.
 
After Dan was sent home, Rebecca was determined to be his friend and stand by him. She visited him in the hospital several nights a week after work.
 
The friendship has blossomed into romance. When she is not working, she is with Dan.
 
Dan himself has suffered none of the trauma usually associated with the returning combat soldier.  Greg Jaffe of the Post writes in his article “Love After War”:

Dan carried some anger about the war, which he thought was bloated and wasteful. But he considered himself lucky. He felt responsible for Yanney’s death (note: a soldier under his command) who died shortly before Dan was injured), but it did not haunt him. He experienced no nightmares, no post-traumatic stress disorder and none of the memory loss associated with traumatic brain injury. He still had his hands.

 Later in the article, Jaffe says:

The truth is that Dan is mostly fine. Doctors at Walter Reed view him with admiration and some puzzlement. He has been able to set aside his trauma and move forward with humor and little regret.

A lot of that can be credited to the influence of Rebecca. She set up a white board in his room where she wrote personal and professional “to-do” lists for him. He now maintains them by himself.

He is venturing into business. In the future, he and Rebecca want to attend business school a Harvard or Stanford together.

How many of us could have the resilience of a Dan Berchinski or a Rebecca Taber?  When all hope seems to be gone, what is left?

I doubt many of us think we would have the inner moxie to carry on as they have. I don’t think I have it in me to do what they have done.
 
 One man I admire in the Bible for his resilience is David.  He seemed to bounce back a lot.
 
Once his family members and those of his combat comrades were kidnapped by some raiders while David’s troops were out campaigning. The men thought of stoning David because of his poor leadership.
 
What did David do? He got on his horse and led his men to recapture all their families. (I Samuel 30:1-19).
 
Then there was that “thing” with Bathsheba. He was resilient there, too.
 
“Come on”, you say. This was one of David’s darkest hours. What is there to celebrate about adultery and the murder of your lover’s husband?
 
What is honorable here is that when David and his affair were outed, he didn’t sit in his room drinking a Guinness. He”manned up” and took responsibility.
 
Sure, he grieved over his sin. However, his attitude was more than “sorry that I got caught.”
 
He fasted and prayed and begged God for the child he had fathered with Bathsheba. When the baby died, David had the fortitude to carry on and even comfort his wife Bathsheba. (II Samuel 12:1-25).
 
He made the best out of a bad situation by acting honorably, and so did God. In fact, out of that whole mess Solomon was conceived and born.  You may know him as the wisest man to ever live, the author of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. 
 
 What enabled David to bounce back from his defeats? The Scriptures indicate it was his humility with and hope in his God.
During the Ziklag affair, when he himself was weeping and his men were ready to take him out, the Scriptures say he “found strength in the Lord his God (I Samuel 30:6b).” During the Bathsheba incident, he admitted his sin, didn’t shoot the messenger (Nathan the prophet), and even had the courage to comfort his wife Bathsheba.
 
Shortly thereafter, David went back to being the king and the commander of the army. The Life Recovery Bible says of him:
 
To David’s credit, even though he had made some poor choices, he made a dramatic comeback. He went back to doing the things he should have been doing all along. After a relapse, we would be wise to follow David’s example.
 
Sometimes even bloggers must show resiliency. As I was writing this earlier, I lost a good part of the text I had written. I hate when that happens and think if never returning to piece it back together again: it’s too much work!
 
Therefore, I went and made a cup of tea and read a book. I figured that perhaps God might have some other message here to write later if this particular piece of writing was important. I didn’t expect the message to come so soon.
 
It came from my book,  called “The Judas Gate”, a thriller by Jack Higgins. In the chapter I was reading over my tea, there is an encounter between the antagonist and a priest.
 
Jason Talbot, has just lost his grandfather, a nasty old man whom he hated. The priest is trying to convince him to forgive the man.
 
The priest tells him:
 
“Forgiveness is everything. Christ even forgave Judas when he stepped in through the gate at the Garden of Gethsemane to betray him.
 
Jason replies:
 
“Well, as he hanged himself, it didn’t do him much good.”
 
The priest answered:
 
“Because he couldn’t forgive himself. Once he stepped through that gate -The Judas Gate as it has become known -there was no going back. It is the same for all of us when our actions betray our loved ones, we also betray ourselves.” 
 
Had Judas accepted the forgiveness of Jesus and forgiven himself, perhaps things would have been different. As it was, Judas saw himself as having no hope in this life or the next, went through with his awful task and then killed himself.
 
When Dan Berchinski was laying on the battlefield with horrible wounds, he told his fellow soldiers that the man who had died in the platoon was the lucky one. He felt with his injuries that his life was over.
 
Little did he know as he lay there that out of it all he would get a Rebecca. Post reporter Jaffe writes:
 
Rebecca sometimes wonders whether she would have felt the same attraction to Dan if he had come back from Afghanistan intact. She lists the qualities in him that she most values: his strength, his humor, his ambition. “I am still kind of torn whether these sides existed or whether the injury brought them out,” she said. “The qualities I admire most in Dan weren’t immediately apparent to me.”
 
Indeed, the last sentence in the Washington Post article reads,”Without his injury, she never would have dated him.”

The Art of Manliness blog discusses resiliency today. It says we are more resilent than we think.

The title of his piece is “This Too Shall Pass”.  He goes on to cite studies of how resilient we are after horrible events, which would explain Dan Berchinski’s response. He also mentions how life is filled with “peaks and valleys”.

I am not sure about that. It seems for a lot of us, life is one big crevice from which it is impossible to escape. Things seem to go from bad to worse.

In those circumstances, it becomes really easy to lose hope that there will ever again be any happiness. All we have from all appearances is another day of struggle ahead.

It is pretty hard to bear, whether you brought the circumstances on yourself or this corrupt world just treated you unfairly.  What to do?

In the former case, we ought to learn from Judas, who did not forgive himself. Perhaps others may not ever forgive, but Jesus does.  Indeed, He died so he could offer it to us, so how can we reject it!

The Scriptures do not say it, but David probably forgave himself, too. How could he have ever gotten the strength to get back in the saddle at home or work again otherwise?

Who is as isolated and alone as an orphan? God says he sees what’s happening with those who are alone in their misery and takes care of them.

He is  the only hope we have that life will get better. His support is  the only reason we have to get out of bed in the morning.

When we do, the “woe” has to go and the hope has to flow into our bloodstream with our morning Joe.  The truth that Jesus is on our side is the reason we can still have hope in this life.

For a pessimist like me, that’s hard to fathom, but man, it’s the only way to keep going. My message to myself is, “Why not show a little humility and believe Him for once?”

 

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“Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; love and faithfulness go before you.  Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, LORD.  They rejoice in your name all day long;  they celebrate your righteousness (Psalm 89:14-16).”

Jimmy McNulty can’t win for losing. He’s a loser at office politics.

Jimmy is a fictional detective in the TV show called “The Wire”. He’s something of a rebel, at least to his superiors in the Baltimore Police Department.

Jimmy doesn’t really mean to get his bosses mad at him. He just wants to be a good cop. However, all he does is get himself into trouble and get himself isolated.

The “fun” begins when McNulty attends the murder trial of DeAngelo Barksdale, a member of a drug running family. When a witness backs off her story and DeAngelo is freed, McNulty is there.

McNulty understands that the body count in the section of Baltimore where the Barksdales operate is due to their brutal methods. In a visit to an old friend, a powerful city judge, he brings this up in conversation.

The next thing you know, McNulty is being called on the carpet for insubordination. The judge has made a phone call to the detective’s boss.

When a witness who actually did testify in DeAngelo’s trial is murdered after the verdict, things get even worse for McNulty. He suggests to his fellow detective that the murder was probably done by the Barksdales as payback. When the story is spun that way and published on the front page of the Baltimore newspaper, McNulty gets the blame, although he has not talked to a reporter.

Afterwards, his superior officer walks into the cubicle area of the office looking for McNulty and when he finds he isn’t there, takes his hand and clears a bunch of stuff off his desk. When he learns from the sergeant manning the office that the desk he has just mutilated belongs to another officer, the boss turns around and walks away in exasperation.

McNulty’s problem is that he just doesn’t trust his bosses, and with good reason.  They are the types who will cover their own behinds and are motivated more by politics than doing the right thing. When McNulty does try to do the right thing, he is slapped down.

Furthermore, his superiors seem clueless. McNulty is a detective, which means he does his homework. However, his bosses just don’t want to make waves and ignore the problems in their department and in the city of Baltimore, to the detriment of both.

Caught in the middle between the big bosses and McNulty is Lt. Cedric Daniels. When the police heads have to address the murdered witness issue because of the headlines, they put him in charge of a sham unit assigned to investigate.

The section by design is loaded with incompetents and do nothings. Only McNulty and another female detective are capable.

When Daniels complains to his wife about the case, she advises him to “get out of it”.  Her husband asks her how he could do that, and she replies. “I don’t know, but you cannot lose if you do not play.”

She summarizes Daniels situation for him. She tells him that if he pushes to hard and things go wrong, he will get the blame. On the other hand, if he does nothing, he will get the blame for that, too.

She reminds him that he is investigating a case his bosses do not want. They have given him bad people to sabotage him. “You cannot lose if you do not play”, she reiterates.

The choices are not good when you are dealing with poor supervision. You can either demand to be heard or do nothing, but in either case you are left  alone and hung out  to dry when your bosses are corrupt.

 The Bible has a story that shows what can happen when those in charge actually do get behind their subordinates. It involves King David and some of his ambassadors.

In the episode, recorded in II Samuel 10, David decides to honor an ally by sending emissaries to their king’s funeral. He has had a good relationship with this man, the leader of the Ammonites.

However, the dead monarch’s son isn’t so friendly. On the suggestion of his advisors, he is suspicious of David and humiliates his ambassadors, cutting off their clothes at the buttocks and shaving off half their beards. (A full face of hair is the sign of a man in the Middle East.)

Imagine yourself in the place of these ambassadors. Most of us, given our experiences with today’s employers, would have probably expected David to ignore the whole situation.

However, this is not what happened.  David told the men to lay low until their beards grew back, thus showing them respect. Then, he began a war against the Ammonites, which he won in a mighty fashion. He brought everything to bear against the opponent  (II Samuel 10:1-19).

David sent a message to those who thought they could get by with double dealing and chicanery. After their defeat, these people were afraid to mess with David and his people in the future (II Samuel 10:19).

We shouldn’t be surpised at today’s workplace. The source of all the chaos comes from one source. Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones wrote some lyrics which describe him:

Please allow me to introduce myself
I’m a man of wealth and taste
I’ve been around for a long, long year
Stole many a man’s soul and faith

And I was ’round when Jesus Christ
Had his moment of doubt and pain
Made damn sure that Pilate
Washed his hands and sealed his fate

Pleased to meet you
Hope you guess my name
But what’s puzzling you
Is the nature of my game.

So who is this person who makes people like our bosses walk away from our troubles? What is his name and what is his game? Jagger later tells us:

Just as every cop is a criminal
And all the sinners saints
As heads is tails
Just call me Lucifer
‘Cause I’m in need of some restraint.

Behind all the messiness at our jobs is the devil himself. Ironically, the song “Sympathy for the Devi”l caught hell from “good” people when it was released. However, Stones guitarist Keith Richards explained its true meaning in 2002:

“Sympathy is quite an uplifting song. It’s just a matter of looking the Devil in the face. He’s there all the time. I’ve had very close contact with Lucifer – I’ve met him several times. Evil – people tend to bury it and hope it sorts itself out and doesn’t rear its ugly head. Sympathy for the Devil is just as appropriate now, with 9/11. There it is again, big time. When that song was written, it was a time of turmoil. It was the first sort of international chaos since World War II. And confusion is not the ally of peace and love. You want to think the world is perfect. Everybody gets sucked into that. And as America has found out to its dismay, you can’t hide. You might as well accept the fact that evil is there and deal with it any way you can. Sympathy for the Devil is a song that says, Don’t forget him. If you confront him, then he’s out of a job.” (Songfacts.com)

The problem in today’s office is that employers refuse to follow Richards’ advice and confront evil. They’d rather wash their hands of it like Pontius Pilate. In that respect, Jagger is correct when he says that “Sympathy for the Devil” is also about the darkness of man.

If the boss won’t do it, I suppose it’s still up to us, if we are followers of God.  It’s our task to look Satan in the eye and take him out in our places of work.

If our employer isn’t on the side of good, we still have an ally walking the halls of work with us. That would be Jesus Christ, the Son of David and the Son of God.

Like His ancestor and His Father, when we cry out to Him over the injustices in our offices, He cares. Also like David, Jesus will do something about them, even if our bosses won’t!

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