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Archive for the ‘temptation’ Category

“Jesus straightened up and asked her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ ‘No one, sir,’ she said.’Then neither do I condemn you,’ Jesus declared. ‘Go now and leave your life of sin.’ (John 8:10-11)

I am taking a risk and writing on a topic that probably could create a lot of misunderstanding. My subject today is a lingerie model.

This particular 23-year old lady was a huge success in her industry. She won a contest over 10,000 other models to get a job with a world famous agency.

She rocketed to the top.

The young lady is publishing a book this spring that is creating quite a stir. It details how she turned from fame and riches to God.

That’s all well and good I suppose, but Christian males should probably be staying away from stories about lingerie models, God followers or not.

Well, perhaps to my credit (or not), I only scanned the story until I pondered whether to write about this woman.  I write for a religious-oriented media outlet and even thought of detailing her story in an article for them.

However, again I demurred because I didn’t want people to think badly of me. Besides, I didn’t know what me editor would think.

What tipped the scales regarding my thoughts about discussing her in print was when an old high school classmate posted her story on his Facebook page and began mocking her.

The lady’s story does at first glance smack of self righteousness. But it is worth looking at because of what it teaches about God.

As she related her story, the woman told how she had attended what she called a “party” at age 15. It was a church youth group actually, and there she learned that Jesus died for her sins.

She was amazed at that.

Yet, she continued to pursue modeling.  She went to New York and hung around other models, including one Christian.

She began to gain success in the modeling industry.

The young woman’s story seems to show that she was already having pangs of conscience about what she did for a living.

For example, she said that she didn’t drink or spend the night with older men like her other peers. The  young Christian model felt sorry for the girls around her who did all this but didn’t seem happy.

One of them was bulimic.

 

She says that although she was going to church and reading the Bible, she wanted to succeed in the modeling industry. So she posed in some racy photos. She was 16.

Then she met a handsome man  on a trip to Mexico with her parents. This man prayed before meals.

She learned he was a Christian her father knew from work. Her father was a poker dealer when was 8, but doesn’t mention if he was at the time.

Even so, she grew up in Las Vegas and all the billboards of half-naked women gave her a concept of beauty that drew her to the modeling life.

But I regress.

She met this Christian man at 18 and married the fellow the next year. She gave up her career in New York.

However, when she was given a flyer about the famous (or infamous) lingerie agency hosting a competition, her husband encouraged her to go for it. She admitted that even though she was growing in her relationship with God and was a newlywed, she didn’t think twice about “strutting her stuff” in the competition.

However, over the next two years she decided that she was being a bad influence on young girls and was convicted about selling sex.

She sent out a Tweet announcing she was quitting the modeling business. The young woman gave up millions of dollars and  even turned down a gig on an extremely popular prime time television dancing  show.

She now lives in Montana with her husband and is planning a Christian clothing line which contains modest clothes. The young lady is also releasing a book called “I’m No Angel”.

She wants to be a role model from here on out.

(“Angel” was the title given to the women modeling lingerie for the company she worked for.)

When I read the aformentioned Facebook post I replied this way:

 I agree with you  that this woman appeared to be pretty immature at the time. Her husband as well. I read the article on her. In all fairness, though, like many people who come to faith in Christ, over time she began to see that what she was doing did not coincide with her new beliefs. So whether or not one agrees with her faith, at least she should be applauded for not being a hypocrite.

What followed was a couple more mocking  posts (not at me, but at her)  and even a blasphemy. At least one woman “liked” what I had to say.

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 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil;  my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever (Psalm 23:5,6).

As Christmas Day approaches, my nation is reeling from a terrible massacre of 20 innocent six and seven year old children in Connecticut by a deranged 20-year old. He also killed six adults in the school, using a military-style rifle, before shooting himself in the head with a pistol.

Five days later, the country is in shock. The usual issues have popped up, i.e. the need for gun control and the requirement that we do some soul searching about how we treat the mentally ill.

One commentator wrote that such mass killings today are prompted by three things: 1) extreme anger 2)isolation 3) too much time on the Internet.  To me this is a scary cocktail because I see all three operating in my life at times.

What is particularly troubling is isolation. As a person of faith, I find the feeling of being abandoned by God as the worst form of this.

One former pastor turned politician, Mike Huckabee,  got into  some trouble with some people of one political persuasion when he answered the question  “Where Was God?” He told his listeners in an interview that this was an interesting question since for the last few decades we have been kicking the Lord out of the public schools.

In an episode of the old TV series Touched by An Angel, Monica the angel finds herself in a situation where she too asks the question,”God, where are you? Why can’t I feel you with me?”.  She has witnessed a building blow up due to a bombing with a lot of people inside.

Earlier she had met a little girl named Madeline who was to be her assignment from God. This child was in the explosion. Monica  watches as her colleague the Angel of Death approaches the building, and her heart breaks.

That’s it for Monica. She walks away, walking down the road to who knows where. She has left her post.

As she walks, a charming man in a black sports car offers her a ride. Monica knows who the fellow is.  It’s Satan, otherwise known as Lucifer, the Devil and a host of other names.

Satan has seen his chance to knock an angel out of the heavenly realm and wastes no time tempting Monica. He is conniving, helpful and clever. Why, he understands Monica. After all, he tells her, I’ve been there.

Monica and Satan are now out in the desert, and he says to the distraught Monica,”I remember when you walked through the desert unshod,  unafraid, an angel of God.  Confident of your divine mission.”

Monica is upset, but she tells Satan she wants to be alone. He tells her that she doesn’t have to do anything she doesn’t want to do. “We don’t have to be friends”, he says,”but we don’t have to be enemies.

Monica replies,”You are the enemy.” Satan’s rejoinder? “I’m not the enemy. I’m the alternative. That’ s what you’re looking for isn’t it?”

Satan even asks Monica to come work for him. “You don’t have to work for Him you know. There are options.”

Monica doesn’t want to forget God, though, as the devil suggests she do.  But Satan doesn’t quit. He even asks her where God is as she has done?

When she tells the devil that God is where He has always been,Satan asks,”Then what are you here for?” Monica answers: “Because I am hurting.  Because as much as God loves them they hate each other. Oh, they say the words and they write the books and the songs about love and they make the vows of love, but they don’t love!

Satan then lets Monica observe a scene where she is a human wife and mother. This is because Monica thinks that just maybe she could love better than they can.

The devil offers her this chance. Monica is drawn to this opportunity. “I’ve always wondered what it would feel like to be a mother”, she tells the devil.

After that, despite Monica’s protest that she is God’s and belongs to Him and that she is returning to Him, Satan continues his deceptive assault.  When Monica tells Satan that she will find God again, he replies:

“Where? At Madeline’s grave?  Year after year, century after century Monica, you watch the suffering and the sorrow.  All you can do is stand by and utter the words that sound so hollow every time you say ’em: God loves you.”

After more arguing, including a theological one about the meaning of suffering,  and more temptation to become human, Satan asks her,”How long can you go on like this? Lost between heaven and earth. You must be so lonely.”

Monica tells Satan,”Sometimes.” And as she weeps and falls on his chest in tears, she says,”Sometimes I am.”

Satan sends her off to the desert to think about his offer. He tells Monica to find a high place and when she is ready to just jump. He’ll be there to catch her.

As a viewer, I know that this is like receiving an offer from a slick used car salesman. However, as Monica walks, Satan sings to her.

The devil is known as an angel of light, and his song is beautiful and seemingly promising. Furthermore, it seemingly gives Monica dignity as the lyrics tell her that she gets to make her own decisions apart from God.

No one here to guide you

Now you’re on  your own

Only me beside you

Still your not alone

Truly no one is alone

Sometimes people leave you

Halfway through the wood

Others may deceive you

You decide what’s good

You decide alone

But no one is alone (Mandy Patankin)

Monica eventually comes to the precipice,  and Satan is there to catch her.  She utters the same words to the her Heavenly Father that Jesus did on the cross to God–“Why have you forsaken me?.

Right after this  a bouquet of Monica’s favorite flower , the lilac,  suddenly grows from a stone. Satan has told her as a human that lilacs will smell much sweeter.

However, God has just revealed Himself as the Creator of all beauty.  He is trustworthy and greater than t he ugliness Monica sees in the world.

Satan may have wooed her. But God is the better Romancer.

She is not alone in any sense. Knowing he has been defeated, Satan fades from view.

Monica asks God for  forgiveness. She tells God she wants to come home.  She is restored and returns to her duties as an angel who takes care of humans.

Jesus knows what it’s like to be abandoned.  When He  turned 12, he went to Jerusalem with his parents for the Passover feast. After it was over they headed home, but soon realized that Jesus was not with them. They had forgotten Him at the feast.

After three days they found Him.  His mother said to Jesus,“Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”

“Jesus replied, Why were you searching for me?” Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house (Luke 2:48,49)?”

Popular preacher T.D. Jakes says of this incident,”They found him right where they left Him: in his Father’s house”.  Jakes exhorts today’s believers not to forget Jesus themselves while celebrating the feast that bears His name.

Isolation is a terrible thing. It opens us up to all manner of evil and Satan’s lures. As I said, it scares me, especially if I there is a sense that God has left me.

Mike Huckabee offered viewers one other explanation as to where God was at that school during the killings. He explained that while evil was present, God was there in the presence of the first responders and the teachers who courageously protected their kids.

I too have realized where God is in my own community.  Jesus is right where I left Him. He is over there at the church in my town that I’ve been staying away from for so long. And He’s there in the pastors and people who go there.

It’s a foolish thing to walk away from God. He’s the only source of beauty and love in this sometimes ugly world.

 

 

 

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“Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me.  Do not banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation,  and make me willing to obey you (Psalm 51:10-12).”

There is a trail that runs between  my town and the other major city in my area that I have been wanting to hike. As the weather this week is unseasonably cool and overcast, I thought that today would be as good a time as any.

I was even more convinced I needed to go on this walk last night. I read of a man who felt very cold in his spirit and walked back and forth for three hours dealing with it.

I did not have a very good day yesterday. It didn’t get any better  this morning.

I had not been out of bed long when our power went out. I was cranky and irritable, and it spilled out in how I treated my family. Come hell or high water, I knew I needed to get out on that trail and look under the hood.

The Hucklberry Trail  begins at a shopping mall and ends six miles later at the public library in my town.  It meanders along railroad tracks, rural roads and streams.

The trail runs through a forest. As the hiker gets closer to my  town, it runs by cornfields and pasture land. The vista becomes quite wide and the Blue Ridge Mountains come into view.

Eventually, the trail curves and goes under the bypass and onto the campus of the local university. It continues by the football stadium, which houses the local idol worshipped here on Saturday afternoons. I am only half joking : ).

As I began my walk, I begin to search my spirit for muck. I asked God to reveal it.

I have been particularly frustrated by my current unemployment. I can’t seem to find a job good enough to fit my skill set and support my family.

I recently turned down a job offer in Asia and other opportunities elsewere in the States because I felt like God had led me to return from my overseas post and stay put where my family lives.

I determined before I left this overseas assignment that I am needed at home, and my own walk with Him would benefit from the fellowship at my church. The Lord seemed to back this up in speaking to me from the Scriptures.

In returning home, I believed I would best be “seeking first His kingdom and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33)”. The “bargain” with God (if you will) is that  He would meet our financial needs. Yesterday I was wondering down deep in my heart where God’s end of  this deal was.

I told my wife this morning that I felt like the Lord was sqaushing me. Indeed, I had read a verse earlier in the week which pretty much told me that. He is mashing me like a piece of clay these days (Isaiah 45:9).

I am hopeful that God is actually answering my prayers in this process. While my situation is not easy, I am trusting that perhaps He is remaking me for new purposes that will glorify Him.

There is Scriptural precedent for God doing this. He once  remade the whole nation of Israel. He led Jeremiah down to a potter’s house to give him the object lesson:

The Lord gave another message to Jeremiah. He said,“Go down to the potter’s shop, and I will speak to you there.”  So I did as he told me and found the potter working at his wheel.  But the jar he was making did not turn out as he had hoped, so he crushed it into a lump of clay again and started over.  Then the Lord gave me this message:  “O Israel, can I not do to you as this potter has done to his clay? As the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand. (Jeremiah 18:1-6).

Hiking down the Huckleberry Trail, I was taken by scenery that reminded me of the legacy from which I came. The railroad track reminded me that my father once earned his living working on trains.

The small park which memorializes the coal mine that used to be there also made me look at my bloodlines. My grandfather was a coal miner a a  good part of his life.

Thus, God affirmed the goodness of work to me by noting how my grandfather and father worked to provide for their loved ones. A good man leaves behind a legacy to his kids of industrious labor. My patriarchs surely did that for me.

The Scriputes  also illustrate through  Jesus’s Jewish ancestors what it means to give our children a legacy.  Abraham and Rahab left behind a godly heritage for the Son of Man. They were models of faith combined with action (James 2:21-25). 

The trail not only gave me teaching from my heritage. It also put into my mind that there are dangers out  there which can destroy me.

A man walked by with a dog. From afar, it seemed to be loose and perhaps menacing. Then, as man and pet came closer, I noticed the leash.

God brought to mind that Satan is out there ready to devour me. However, God will rein him in if I do what He tells me to do, which is to resist that beast (James 4:7).

However, the Lord had more than the externala for me out there this morning. He got down to business by having me look at my own heart. One mess in  there is my battle to be bold in sharing the gospel.

I saw a man about a hundred yardd ahead of me. I thought I should try to catch up to him and share about Jesus, but it was inconvenient. I didn’t want to be bothered.

In addition, I wondered why I was motivated to share with this man out of guilt. Where was the joy of knowing Christ that made me overflow with excitement at the prospect of telling this man about Him. “Oh, wretched man that I am”, was the message in my soul at that point. 

The trail was also prone to temptations. A scantily clad woman jogged by. I thankfully only glanced her way, but I was reminded of  a dependency that I know I have which can wreck my soul if I let it: lust.

I was aggravated at that woman. “Why, doesn’t that woman know that she tempts me and subjects herself to predators on lonely stretches like  this!”

I also was teed off by the bikers who kept coming by from behind and warning me of their presence. (“On your left!).

I jump out of my skin when that happens and have had a pet peeve toward bikers all summer. I was humbled when I saw that along the way a billboard revealing the park rules which REQUIRE bikers to warn pedestrians as they come upon them.

Thus, the Lord  gave me a new item in my messy heart to deal with out on the path: a critical spirit. As with my other known sins, I confessed them and obtained God’s forgiveness and cleansing (I John 1:9).

Yes, the walk today was a “flush and fill” operation. I am hoping that a lot of the trash heap in my life was swept away by bringing it before God to clean up.

I’m also desirous that the garbage in my heart was replaced with the blessed Holy Spirit. I surely need His presence and leading in the days ahead.

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“My heart has heard you say,’Come and talk with me.’ And my heart responds, ‘LORD, I am coming’ (Psalm 27:8).”

Gregory House has had many relationships over the last eight years of the TV medical drama that bears his surname. He has had several girlfriends and even a trumped up marriage meant to get a woman her green card. Dr. House has also had complicated relationships with the members of his medical team.

However, the most important connection he has had is the one forged between him and his best friend, Dr. James Wilson. They have been so close that some critics of the show have termed their friendship a “bromance”.

The pair met at a medical convention in New Orleans. As both recounted to a police officer in another state who was holding them on old charges,  Wilson had been arrested for assault and vandalism. (He threw an object through an antique mirror in a bar argument.)

House thought Wilson had spunk and was interesting, so he bailed him out. Thus began an enduring friendship.

Their relationship has hit the skids at times, however. An almost fatal rupture occurred when House indirectly was involved in the death of Wilson’s girlfriend. House didn’t cause the death, but his dysfunctional behavior led to Wilson’s flame Amber being in the situation which led to her demise.

Healing occurs when Wilson becomese part of a plot to make sure House goes to his father’s funeral. The ole curmudgeon has no intention of going because he despises the man and he believes he isn’t  his biological father anyway.

House is drugged by his boss.  When House wakes up, Wilson is driving him along the highway to the funeral location.

They have not seen each other in two months, as Wilson  quit to get away from House’s damaging and self-seeking  influence. When he notices House reviving, Wilson looks at him and says,”This doesn’t mean I care.”

After House confronts Wilson about his dumping him because of Amber’s death, Wilson becomes angry and throws an object through a stained-glass window at the church where the funeral is held.

House’s response? “Still not boring.”  On the way home House provokes Wilson as they discuss a current case:

“This is fun, isn’t it?”, House says, smiling knowingly at Wilson.

Wilson decides to take his old job back. When he tells House in the office, the latter says wryly,”If you’re coming back just because you’re attracted to the shine of my neediness… I’d be okay with that.”

Wilson tells House why he is truly coming back:

“I’m coming back because you’re right. That strange, annoying trip we just took was the most fun I’ve had since Amber died.”

Fast forward a couple of years. House drives his car into the front window of his girlfriend’s house (his girlfriend is also his boss) after she finally has had enough and ends it. In the process Wilson, who is a bystander, is injured.

Eleven months later House is paroled from prison and returns to the hospital. Wilson never visited and is cold as ice to him.

House reaches out to Wilson, telling him that he likes him, has fun with him. “Do what you have to do to get over this”, House says, suggesting a couple of acts of physical violence Wilson could perpretate toward him.  Wilson replies,”The thing is House, I DON’T like you.”

After House solves the case of Wilson’s dying patient, pushing Wilson in the process and making him a better doctor, Wilson walks into House’s office and punches him in the face, flooring him. “Dinner later?”, asks Wilson.

Fast forward in time to what is now the end of the series. The writers of “House” have chosen to sum up eight seasons by focusing on the relationship between Gregory House and James Wilson.

House learns that Wilson has cancer and has five months to live. Wilson refuses any further treatment after a dangerous chemotherapy experiment he requests House to perform “under the table” doesn’t get results.

Wilson is an oncologist and does not want to go through the slow death that he has seen from his patients. House, on the other hand, does everything he can to get Wilson to change his mind. “I need you” he tells his friend.

House is so frantic to keep Wilson around that he conducts a series of hospital pranks aimed at getting Wilson to give in. One collapses a bathroom, injures some doctors and damages an expensive medical instrument.

Wilson in the meantime is upset again with House. Even his own fatal disease is all about House, it seems.

In the meantime, House finally accepts Wilson’s wishes and their relationship is “good”.  However, House is told the vandalism has violated his parole and he will have to go back to jail.

“How long?”, he asks. “Six months”, the hospital lawywer tells him. House will miss any remaining time his friend Wilson has on this earth because of his hijinks.

House apparently collapses from the strain. He goes off to a warhehouse, does heroin with a dying patient. 

Wilson tracks him down after two days. However, the warehouse is now burning and as Wilson stares at House through the window of a blazing room, his friend is buried under the collapsing buillding.

However, House in typical fashion has had it all planned. He has faked his death.

House sends Wilson a text message as the latter is blasting his friend in a eulogy. “Shut up you idiot” the text says.

Wilson now knows House is alive.  He meets up with House, telling him he has thrown his life away. House replies,”I’m dead. What do you want to do with your remaining five months.”

The series ends with House and Wilson sitting on motorcycles. Wilson tells House,”Uhh..when the cancer gets bad..”.

House interrupts, looks at Wilson and says,”Cancer is boring.” They drive off together, presumably doing what Steppenwolf sang about: “looking for adventure and whatever comes our way.”

What a friendship! Despite its ups and downs, the relationship between House and Wilson is an enduring one.

They both get fulfillment and complete satisfaction in it. This is despite the trials.

I was sitting at home a few days ago not feeling particularly close to God.  I believe this was because I hadn’t really met God’s expectations, just as House and Wilson did not fulfill each other’s wishes at times.

I understand, however, that  even though the closeness of these two men is admirable and even to be emulated, a relationship with the my Lord and Master Jesus is of a different kind on one important respect. Jesus told his disciples,”You are my friends if you do what I command (John 15:14).”  If we want God to confide in us like a friend, we need to fear Him (Psalm 25:14).

As I sat there on my couch, trying to have a quiet time, I missed the fellowship with God. There is nothing on this earth like it. 

I asked Him to take me back into His confidence.  He did.

There is nothing so precious as friendship with God. No experience, work, hobby, or any other relationship can replace it.

I was pretty scared when I thought that I might have lost His friendship for good. It gave me a clear perspective on what is important in this life and how to live.

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“When I smiled at them, they scarcely believed it;  the light of my face was precious to them (Job 29:24).”

I think six months of winter is a little much, even for the Finns. Finally, today I have seen the possibility that it might be over.

As I walked by the largest lake in the country around noon, I could see pools of water developing. They were intermingled with the ever -weakening ice and the last vestiges of the white snow that has dominated the landscape here for months.

I groaned inwardly as I walked through the harbor in my town.  Having any winter the last week of April made me long for something different.

I also sighed inside because the icy lake, though beginning to turn liquid again, reminded me of my own soul. After a lifetime I have grown tired of the winter in my being and at last have begun to see my frozen spirit begin to melt.

These feelings come on a day that it seems major issues in my life all confronted me at once. This tends to happen when a computer is used. Too much communication, or perhaps not enough real life.

Recently a pastor told me that I was just “going through a season in my life”. When it was obvious to him that I was getting ready to object, that nothing was going to change, he added,”Oh, this doesn’t mean necesarrily that your circumstances will change, but…”.

I don’t remember the rest. I probably can’t recall because I was stuck on the unsettling truth of his first clause just sinking in.

Today I am fed up with myself. Not only that, I am disillusioned with the world I live in every day, including the features of modern-day Christianity.

I guess I’m not alone in that. Andrew Sullivan just wrote a piece in Newsweek advising Christians to follow Jesus and not the church.

No news there. The letters to the editor in the following edition both praised him and criticized him for his article.

I guess I am feeling a bit singled out today though, perhaps by Jesus Himself. I ask,”What I want to know, Lord, is why I have to keep paying the price for my sinfulness and other believers I know seem to be getting a pass?”

I know for a fact that they struggle with the same stuff I do: temper, sexual temptation, greed, envy, self indulgence…the list could go on and have made the same mistakes as a result of failing in these areas. Yet, these folks seem to be carrying on, their smiling Facebook images glaring out at me each day.

I, on the other hand, have to pay the piper for my lifetime of not really following Jesus all the way. Without going into detail in public print, let’s just say I have a bunch of messes, mostly originating from the biggest cesspool in my life: my heart.

I cry with the Psalmist,”My problems are going from bad to worse (Psalm 25:17a).”  (He adds pleadingly,”Save me from them all!”)

These same people who are getting a free ride on their sins, from my point of view anyway, are not shy about telling the rest of us what to do about ours. (I don’t know, even as I write that it seems a little unfair. I do the same thing-trying to play God in the lives of others.)

What I wonder is if my earthly life can still be redeemed. I am beginning to feel like one of my favorite fictional characters, Dr. Gregory House-the king of curmdgeons.

House consistently displays his flaws from week-to-week in the TV drama that bears his name. Into his eighth and final season, it doesn’t appear as if the not-so-good doctor will ever change.

He is left with only one loving aspect it seems. This was revealed recently as he dealt with one of his colleagues, Dr. Robert Chase.

Chase is about to tell a nun who had previously struggled with her beliefs that her renewed faith and desire to return to the convent has to do with a chemical reaction to her brain from a near-death experience, not a spiritual awakening. Chase has fallen in love with the nun and wants to keep her.

But he has his own issues, which House sees right through. It’s not that House is particularly religious -far from it.  He just realizes Chase would be making a big mistake, trying to bring the woman back to him for all the wrong reasons.

For one, Chase himself has just had a near death experience. A few weeks before a patient nearly stabbed him to death.

Chase defends his rationale and attacks House for his intent to bring him to his senses:

Chase (to House): She’s throwing away her life because of blind faith.

House: So are you! She’s found something she wants to build her life around. It’s a total illusion, but apparently she’ll take a little ignorance with her bliss. And you want to take that away?

Chase: How many times have you thrown the truth in people’s faces?

House: Because it’s the truth, not because we’re gonna live happily ever after.

House: Either your relationship just blows up like every other non-magical romance, or she stays with you but blames you for stripping all the meaning out of her life.

Chase: (angrily) This has nothing to do with the truth. You don’t like that I’m reassessing my life, that I want to change it, that I can.

House: Anyone can screw up a life. I never said that wasn’t possible.

Chase: You’re incapable of human connection, so you want everyone to be like you.

House: If I wanted you to be like me… I would be urging you to make a stupid, stubborn decision that blows up your life and leaves you lonely and miserable. You reassess your life when you’ve made mistakes. You didn’t. You just got stabbed. 

Thus, the only goodness that can come from House after a life of curmdugeonliness is to tell someone else,”Don’t be like me!”.

I am hoping my life isn’t so far gone that I end up being some old guy who tells young whippernsnappers,”Do as I say, not as I do (or did).”

What I discovered though as I walked through the harbor today is that what really matters is what Jesus Christ thinks of me, not what others, even those closest to me, think. More than that, what He thinks of me is more crucial than what I think of myself.

What I know is that Jesus died to give me grace. He paid the price for my sins, past, present and future.

Can this aging leopard change his spots at this date (Jeremiah 13:23). I don’t know, but if any transformation is going to come about, it is going to happen through completely turning my life over to the care of Jesus.

So instead of looking at my dirty smudges, and the frowns of those around me who don’t care much for them either, I think it’s best I just look into the face of Christ. There I’ll get a smile.

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“These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come. So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!  No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted,he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it (I Corinthians 10:11-13).”

This weekend I’ve encountered the lives of three people. The most charitable word I could use for their sojourns on this planet would be “dysfunctional”.

I didn’ t meet these folks personally while taking a walk around the lake  or supping tea at Galleria. Nope. I met them in the movies and in a book.

The first person I ran into is well known. In fact, his name is synonymous with evil: Adolph Hitler.

I was familiar with the German-language movie about him called “Downfall”. The film is about his last days in a bunker in Berlin during World War II, and I knew of it because of the postings on You Tube in which his German rants are given subtitles in other languages.

In these diatribes, Hitler is raging against the news about his sports teams. They’re quite funny.

The true story is not so humorous. In his underground headquarters, Hitler demonstrates that he has lost touch with reality.

For example, the dictator insists that certain army groups perform maneuvers to save Berlin and defeat the attacking Russian forces.  All his generals know that these armies do not exist anymore, at least as functional entities, but Hitler is not convinced.

In addition, he muses with Albert Speer, his beloved architect, about the future plans for Berlin. While his own bunker is getting shelled, he views a gradiose model of the city and discusses what will happen after he defeats the Russians who are encircling him as he speaks.

The other character I met this weekend is less well known, but he is a national hero in Finland where I live at the moment. I am speaking of Matti Nykänen.

In the 1980s he was an icon here. Nykänen was a highly acclaimed ski jumper who won numerous Olympic medals (including several gold) and world championships.

As the movie “Matti” shows, he is able to exhibit amazing discipline and skill as he skis down a long ramp into the sky. However, the ski jumper is less adept at controlling himself.

Matti is a boozing, lying, woman-chasing horn dog. Because of his heroics, the authorities look the other way when he gets into trouble and thus aid and abet his dysfunction.

Matti is also a wife-beating jerk.  The movie shows two of his marriages (he has been married four times), and displays the rage he manifests within them.

Nykänen hits rock bottom when due to financial indebteness, he becomes a male stripper. Even he understands this is beneath his dignity, but he is too weak of a personality to get himself out from under the mess which his codependent manager and mate Nick Nevada has gotten him into.

Matti is finally rescued by a woman named Mervi Tapola, a millionaire who eventually marries him. She is as dyfunctional as he is and they make a match.

As I write this,  Nykänen is preparing to enter jail for at least the third time on a charge of abusing Mervi. He has become a national embarrassment.

The third party I met up with this weekend was a man from the Bible called Lot. This fellow’s problem is described in the pages of the Life Recovery Bible:

“Many people in this world live for wealth, comfort, and the easy life. And they want to get it as quickly as possible! To make this happen, they often sacrifice the really important things in life. This was true in the life of Abraham’s nephew Lot. Looking for  the easy road to wealth and comfort, he made decisions that ended up destroying everything he had lived for.”

The Life Recovery Bible notes several examples of the selfish choices Lot made. First, he chose the rich lands of Sodom and left his godly uncle Abraham the rugged hills to live in.  Second, he was willing to give his daughters over to a lecherous Sodomite mob when they demanded he send out some angels when they were visiting Lot at his house.

What makes Lot particularly interesting is that despite these flaws he was cited as a just and righteous man by the apostle Peter (Life Recovery Bible). God spared him from the punishment he inflicted on wicked Sodom (II Peter 2:7,8).

We all have our strengths and weaknesses. Even Adolph Hitler occasionally demontrated a soft side.

The movie “Downfall” is based on the account of his secretary Traudl Junge. She said of Hitler:

“I admit, I was fascinated by Adolf Hitler. He was a pleasant boss and a fatherly friend. I deliberately ignored all the warning voices inside me and enjoyed the time by his side almost until the bitter end. It wasn’t what he said, but the way he said things and how he did things.” (Wikipedia/Traudl Junge)

However, it is not so easy to find a positive side to Matti Nykänen. One must read between the lines.

Finnish sports reporter Kari Merilä calls him a “sports hero and a soap opera in the same package”.  In truth, Matti does have to be given credit for his amazing ski jumping accomplishments. It is a difficult sport to master.

The movie shows that Matti does have a soft side. For example, he visits a paralyzed child in the hospital and seeks to comfort him.

Barney Ronay of “The Guardian” says of Matti:

If Nykänen has a redeeming feature, though, it is his enduring, almost unbelievable, popularity. The Finns don’t just tolerate him fitfully. They really, actually seem to like him. “He’s a simple sporting character really,” Peltola (a Finnish reporter)  sighs. “He’s a lovable guy, a friendly guy – always in a good mood. And as a ski-jumping legend, he will always have a place in Finnish hearts.

If we humans, even those as dyfunctional as Adolph Hitler and Matti Nykänen, have the capacity for good, why is it we fail so often? I think Hitler and Nykänen show that part of the problem is that we  have huge blind spots.

The Bible documents a story of a people called the Jebusites whose inability to account for their blindness in some areas led to their defeat. The story tells of how David overcame them and took their city for himself:

The king and his men marched to Jerusalem to attack the Jebusites, who lived there. The Jebusites said to David, “You will not get in here; even the blind and the lame can ward you off.” They thought, “David cannot get in here.” Nevertheless, David captured the fortress of Zion—which is the City of David.  On that day David had said, “Anyone who conquers the Jebusites will have to use the water shaft to reach those ‘lame and blind’ who are David’s enemies.]” That is why they say, “The ‘blind and lame’ will not enter the palace.” (II Samuel 5:6-8).

Matthew Henry believes the reference to the “blind and lame” concerns idolatrous images which the Jebusites trusted for protection, noting that David had used similar terms to describe false gods.  Henry even surmises that the Jebusites put the disabled, the “blind and the lame” on their walls of their strong fortress to mock David.

As this story notes, David used a tunnel which the Jebusites used to access water outside the fortress, to defeat them.  It was a blind spot in their thinking.

We Christians have our own spiritual blind spots. I know I do.

I fail to account for areas of my life where I can easily be defeated. Satan is more than happy to fill in my spiritual field of vision and blind me so I am not aware of them.

This means I have to make a conscious effort to protect myself. This work involves being aware of my spiritual, physical, mental and emotional state at all times so I can do that.

I am grateful for the examples of what can happen to people who don’t protect themselves. The Helsinki Sanomat newspaper says of Matti Nykänen:

Contrary to the heroes of traditional tales, Nykänen has no mission, no clear goal which would end the story once it is reached. He is also no prodigal son, as he does not learn from his mistakes.

Thankfully, unlike Matti I do have a goal in the coming year, which is take care of my health in all areas, including spiritually. My error has been in not dealing with my blind spots.

Hopefully, after this weekend I have learned my lesson.

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“Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the  mountains would tremble before you!  As when fire sets twigs ablaze 
and causes water to boil, come down to make your name known to your enemies and cause the nations to quake before you! For when you did awesome things that we did not expect, you came down, and the mountains trembled before you.  Since ancient times no one has heard, 
no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him (Isaiah 64:1-4).” 

Michael Crow knows who the enemy is. As Pogo noted, it is us.

Crow, the president of Arizona State University, says  scientists today are so proud that they are unable to understand that there are limits to our knowledge. In an article in the webzine “Issues in Science and Technology”, he calls the failure of academia to see that the problems of mankind are NOT external to ourselves “hubris”.

Crow cites six areas of limitation to our ability to control nature. Of particular interest are the knowledge and philosophical constraints he mentions.

Regarding knowledge, Crow makes an interesting point about our own capacity for self governance. He says that we do not even have the ability to manage ourselves well enough to confront the challenges of dealing with the damage we have done to our own world.

Regarding philosophy, Crow believes science in unable in this hyperactive age to discover real meaning behind our relationship with nature.  Such age-old questions as “Why are we here?” and “How should we behave?” are beyond the researcher today.

While Crow laments the literal answers to meaning that science provides, calling them a “mockery”, his purpose in questioning current approaches is far different than mine. His goal would be unified effort to be good stewards of the planet.

When I think of our lovely world, I understand it as God’s creation. Yet, I acknowledge that I have barely scratched the surface in understanding the beauty He has made, and more importantly, why he has made it.

Crow says of our hubris (and I include myself in the human race on this):

 We trumpet the onset of the “knowledge society,” but we might be much better off if we accepted that, when it comes to our relations with nature, we are still pretty much an “ignorance society.” Our situation is reminiscent of Sherman McCoy, the protagonist of Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire of the Vanities, who fancies himself a “Master of the Universe” just as his life is taken over by events far beyond his control. We have the illusion of understanding and are not humbled by the fact that we do not understand. We refuse even to consider the possibility.

I did indeed stumble into a deep thought over the weekend regarding God’s purpose in nature, however, despite my own selfishness and pride. I got an epiphany that God has put it there partly to help me deal with the things I cannot control.

The first s of the Twelve Steps of the Celebrate Recovery movement, adapted from Alcoholics Anonymous, is:

We admitted to ourselves that we were powerless over our dependencies-that our life had become unmanageable.

In a couple areas of my life, this confession holds true. It took a walk through the forest this weekend to help me get hold of an idea that God’s creation is an antidote to the addictions that would want to consume me and draw me away from God.

Sunday was a gorgeous, cool day in Finland, the county where I currently reside. I knew I would be stupid to spend my day inside, so I decided to walk a trail that leads past the gigantic lake in our region and into town. (In addition, the aspect of God’s work called “my body” needed the exercise.)

As I was out there, it was so beautiful that I realized something. I understood that the next time I was facing one of my common temptations, I could look seek out God through His creation.

Methodologically speaking, this could mean anything. For example, today I set a beautiful autumn scene from my home state on my computer wallpaper.

In any case, the idea is to put off the sinfulness and put on God (Romans 13:13,14).  I can’t see God because He is invisible, but I can see His likeness through what He has made (Romans 1:20).

Let’s get back to science for a minute. In the opening page of his book “Science and Its Limits”,  Del Ratsch notes that there is no accepted definition of natural science.

This is not a problem, according to the author:

That might seem to be an insurmountable difficulty.  How can we investigate the nature of science if we do not, strictly speaking, know what we are talking about?   But such problems are not insurmountable in comparable situations.  For instance, it is almost a cliché that  no one can define love.  But that does not stop us from proclaiming (often correctly) our undying version of love to select persons on Valentine’s Day, and it does not stop us from marrying for love. We can often recognize  instances of  and characteristics of a concept even if we are unable to formulate an ironclad definition  of it, and we often have a good general idea even if we cannot specify all the details. Such is the case with the concept of science.

And such is the case with the concept of God. His beauty, His love,  and His personal care for me are all there in the woods and the waterways of the area in which I live.

My dependencies are cheap imitations and limitations. I can find the real deal in nature, and that reality is spectacular, far greater than my flesh, the world, or the devil can conjure up.

So the next time I am tempted to succumb to the pull of temptation, I have to endeavor to find a way to muse on God’s beauty in creation. It’ not hard to find. It’s everywhere.

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