Tuesday, April 28, 2009


I have been reading the book Not 'Just Friends' by Shirley Glass about infidelity in marriage. She says, This is what I call the Prevention Myth, which states that a loving partner and a good marriage will prevent affairs. This misconception is not supported by any good research, even though it is commonly cited as fact on television shows and in popular books about how to affair-proof your marriage. Any advice based on this bad assumption and simplification of a complex issue is misleading. The fact is, sometimes as affair can be understood by exploring deficiencies in the marriage, but often it cannot. How hard is that for you to believe? It is hard for me to believe. I don't want to accept that their are people who are in good marriages that begin to succumb to temptation and are carried away. It is even harder to comprehend that they are carried away to such hardness that they become blinded to what is good in their marriage and trample on it through an affair. In some ways, that makes us all vulnerable to sin in a way we want to deny. Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings (1 Peter 5:8-9). We are capable of being pulled away from good and even if we have not had an affair their are times we have chosen the foolishness of sin over a larger good - it is just so painful to see this theme played out in something as large as an affair. It is scary to believe that people can go against something as meaningful as a marital covenant and choose a different path with no good reason for their choice. It is frightening to not be able to explain sin. How do we explain Adam and Eve's sin? It wasn't their parent's fault. Powerless and helplessness are very Biblical postures but we don't accept them without a fight. Self-reliance causes us to incessantly and compulsively seek answers to pain and mystery we cannot solve. It is so much harder to anguish, hurt, sorrow, or lament and not explain it away by putting small answers on top of large questions that really don't fit together. There has been a lot of extra noise in my life just because I wanted to explain things I feared instead of letting things I feared work on me in such a way that I was driven to a trust and embrace larger than the mystery and the pain.
The other book I am reading is False Intimacy by Harry Schaumburg. He says, sex addicts create patterns of behavior that allow them to maintain pleasurable states of being rather than admitting that they can't cope with their problems and turning to God and others for help. In short, they arrogantly believe they can solve their problems on their own, that they can nurture themselves, and that fulfillment in life can be self-created. In their hearts, they don't believe that other people, or even God, are interested in responding to the real void within them. Full of self-contempt and rage at the prospect of never having their needs filled by others, sex addicts rely on behaviors that don't require another person's deep involvement. To some real degree he is explaining idolatry. Not only do we feed self-reliance by trying to explain mystery and sin or marginalize people who sin in ways we are afraid of, we also feed self-reliance by not waiting for God and not being open to help from him and others. I cannot even begin to count all the foolish things I have done because I am not willing to wait on God to meet my needs. As I think about it I also can't begin to count all the money I have spent to comfort myself in ways that actually added to the pain instead of diminishing it. My excess food bill alone would be a painful site if I could calculate it. That is one of the reasons I believe things like lamenting and sorrowing are important postures. They are ways to live that help us to wait for God to meet us. So, self-reliance is one of the postures that has made me noisy. Although I still retain much more self-reliance than I can see, I am grateful for changes. Confronting my self-reliance has been a treasure and I see the growth in my trust and rest in God most clearly in my parenting. I am grateful my fathering has not been so deafening. Too loud for sure but not nearly as loud as it could be. For that I am deeply grateful. So, as i think about 'piping down' I pray for more trust and rest in the God I often can't see and more blindness to the lesser gods that haunt me day and night.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Arrogant Accusations

Below you will find a short excerpt from the book I am trying to write on marraige. If it gets published it will be called Common Ground: Disarming Evil on the way to a Marraige of Kindness and Rest. In the book I try to articulate how God calls couples to 'common ground', how evil tries to sabotage common ground and how husband and wives can fight evil to grow common ground. The short (its actually long for a blog) excerpt is from the section where I describe one of the weapons evil throws at husbands and wives to attack common ground.

Arrogant Accusations
The world, the flesh and the devil work together to spawn and nurture deceptive strongholds that spread the work of evil. The two types of strongholds will we examine are arrogant accusations and fleshly grooves. An arrogant accusation is a deceptive notion that grows a wicked energy force full of shame and condemnation that bully people away from God and his truth. This type of stronghold is haughty and accusatory because it is specifically designed to lift evil’s falsehood above God’s wisdom while mocking God’s ways at the same time.
In regards to the way evil attacks marriage he uses arrogant accusations to push the believer away from a biblical view of marriage or the callings of the husband and wife I discussed earlier. For instance, one arrogant accusation might be, “Two people who love each other will not struggle that much.” Thus, if you have any type of regular or ongoing struggle in your marriage you feel a sense of shame and condemnation that you are doing something wrong. At times this can be true (there is a little bit of truth in every accusation the evil one makes) but often time’s ongoing struggle is part of a good marriage. Another arrogant accusation would be, “husbands are only kind to their wives when they want sex.” I have seen this accusation cause many wives to feel ashamed at responding to good kindness from their husband when he wasn’t doing it for sex. I have also worked with men who were genuinely striving to be kinder to their wives and were ashamed if they began to hope that the kindness might lead into sex. Evil was accusing them of being like other men, “Who are only nice to their wives to get sex,” when that wasn’t the case.
Evil plants lies in the world that cleverly twist God’s truth into deception and he entices humans to agree with his deception. As people agree with the misleading notion and act on it they participate in adding strength to the evil force. The force becomes like a hurricane that breeds destruction wherever it lands. These accusations will browbeat husbands and wives and mock their call to follow God and grow redemptive love.
Paul refers to these types of evil assertions when he says, “We are human, but we don’t wage war with human plans and methods. We use God’s mighty weapons, to knock down the Devil’s strongholds. With these weapons we break down every proud argument that keeps people from knowing God.” (1 Corinthians 10: 3-5). In referring to Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians Clinton Arnold says, “Some of the Corinthians had been duped into believing dangerous and erroneous ideas about Jesus and his gospel. It is against these arguments and ideas that have settled into the minds of some of the Corinthians as “strongholds” that Paul utilizes divine weapons to demolish. His objective is to purify their understanding of Christ. Satan not only struck at the identity of Jesus, but also at understandings of the efficacy of his work and the nature of his relationship with his people. In other words, the devil attempts to convince people that what Jesus did was not enough, nor is he present or powerful enough to help us.”
I want you to recognize with a little more depth how these arrogant accusations impact married couples. Consider the assertion that wives are ‘high maintenance and need to be catered to.’ Evil casts this lie so that men resist the call to use their advantages to sacrifice for their wife. If a wife is ‘high maintenance’ a husband can feel justified in being uninvolved until his wife becomes ‘low maintenance.’ Many wives acquiesce to the accusation of being high maintenance by going overboard in trying to please their husband even if he is being selfish.
This indictment is often easy to dissect in a group of husbands that talk about their wives. Such husbands will mention with subtle contempt how their wives impossibly require so much from them. They’ll talk about how their wives don’t stick to the budget, how they complain too much or how they don’t enjoy sex enough. In the same conversation these men won’t mention that they often buy large dollar items that totally blow the budget or they won’t spend time helping each other consider ways to make their marriages more sexually inviting and refreshing for their wives.
Let’s suggest a group of Christian men are entertaining this accusation and one man in the group is battling with alternating thoughts inside of him. The spirit keeps reminding him of the dignity in every wife and some of the ways his wife has cared and sacrificed for him. He wants to suggest to the group that wives are a mixture of selfishness and unselfishness and that it’s not helpful to spend all their energy focused on how much their wives require of them. Evil enjoys mocking these thoughts in this man’s mind and he uses the ‘life’ in the group to mock him. The group banters back and forth with many examples of how their wives can be self-absorbed. Many of the examples are true but it is the way they are talked about by the husbands that attaches them to evil. In the presence of a group that is celebrating an arrogant accusation the husband with alternating thoughts begins to feel foolish for wanting to fight for what is good in wives. Evil is shaming him back into submission.
In addition to pressure from the outside he feels shame inside. He remembers how often he has jokingly said to his wife, “If momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” Sometimes, he has felt like his wife is high maintenance and has even indicated that to her. He has participated with the accusation in his own marriage and he feels shame in the moment for having done that. This too pulls him away from confronting the accusation. The evil one says to him, “How dare you expose these men to what they are doing when you have done the very same thing. You are no better than these men. Shut up and go back to enjoying the little crumbs you feed on. You are not man enough to fight for more.” He actually was going to confront his own sin by bringing it up but the shaming denunciation from evil shuts him down.
The small inkling he feels inside to confront the arrogant accusation that all wives are high maintenance to be a problem to their husbands and to suggest that the mood of the conversation doesn’t seem honoring to wives pales in comparison to the history and life of the accusation he is confronting. He ignores the slight prick in his heart and adds to the ‘life’ in the conversation by throwing in an example about his wife.
Can you recognize how this accusation strikes at the work and ministry of Jesus or “at the efficacy of his work and the nature of his relationship with his people?” Jesus died to restore wives and women to the dignity they were created with. Much of the trouble wives live with can grow out of the injustice they experience in their marriage. Wives must wrestle with selfishness just like husbands and they need help doing it especially from men. Instead of walking hand in hand with evil these men could be talking honestly about the way their wives can be selfish and how Jesus can help them embody the Gospel in grace and truth to help free their wives from bondage. They could also talk about the ways in which they have sinned in words and deeds to diminish the dignity of their wives. If they moved away from celebrating the arrogant accusation and talked candidly about some hard truths, Jesus’ forgiveness and ministry of reconciliation would become more meaningful to them in that moment.
Because Satan is prince of this world and arrogant accusations have such life in them when husbands and wives get together and talk about marriage the topics of conversation will often flow along lines that affirm arrogant accusations and undermine the calling of God as husband and wife. In typically male dominated cultures (for example: sports, construction, the military) you will find women marginalized or degraded by the way they are talked about. Often, in these settings women will be talked about like sexual objects that have nothing meaningful to give to men other than their bodies (they are celebrating the accusation that men just want women for sex). In another way it is common for a group of men to talk about their pressures at work in such a way that they feel justified or compelled to over extend themselves in their job. Because Satan is prince of this world there are many arrogant accusations that mock the call for husbands to grow tenderness, compassion, strength or endurance to care for their wives as a way of life. In the majority of groups a husband is a part of the cultural atmosphere will push him away from what God calls him to as a husband.
In addition, you often won’t find a group of wives talking in such a way that they are honoring the call of God in their lives. Where do you find groups of women that talk honestly about how controlling or condescending they can be towards their husbands? On the other hand, how many groups of women are talking about the anquish they feel for not being able to recognize and support the good going inside their husbands? A good topic for a prayer group of wives would be, “Asking God to help us learn to endure ongoing relational pain while celebrating little changes in our husbands that are reflective of God’s work in their life.” I can’t image an explosion of these types of groups in our churches. Such a group of humble wives could help each other recognize good in their husbands and pray together that God would protect and nurture that growth.
On the other hand, how often do you hear women sharing tidbits on fashion, work out routines, or diets? I already mentioned the way they way evil uses this area and he casts arrogant accusations at wives that they must look a certain way for their husbands to really pursue them. A ‘beautiful woman’ in our culture is physically emaciated and personally empty. I can’t imagine how stressed and unhealthy the eating habits are of any wife who is trying to live up to the popular image of physical beauty held up in our culture. The physical beauty portrayed in popular culture is supported by huge amounts of energy and money. True beauty is inner and any woman who wants to grow it must direct her energy and resources to walk with God and wrestle with evil as she grows inside beauty and rest. When women try to make outward beauty the way to life they are side-stepping the faith and endurance needed to walk with God. As we celebrate and support the images of beauty paraded around in popular culture we are helping energize a system that wears women down and opposes the purposes of God. A wife who can name, celebrate and fight for the work of Jesus in her husband will be far more attractive than one who is owned by the way she looks. There are so many arrogant accusations that are celebrated and affirmed that undermine God’s purposes that every husband and wife is encountering a major conflict just to hear and respond to their callings from God.

Thursday, April 16, 2009


Job 13:15
Though he slay me, I will hope in him; yet I will argue my ways to his face. (English Standard Version)
God might kill me, but I have no other hope. I am going to argue my case with him. (New Living Translation)

Today as I was talking with a friend they pointed out how often the first part of the above verse is quoted as a rallying cry for accepting the difficulty God allows in our life with a stiff upper lip. When people have quoted the first part of the verse (Though he slay me, I will hope in him) without the second they seem to be saying, “My confidence in God is rock solid and no matter what He has or lets unfold in my life I will firmly keep hoping in him.” In such a way that verse is often used as a way to condemn questions, laments or struggling with God. The same friend who mentioned the verse expressed great anguish that the second part of the verse is left off by most people who quote it (Yet, I will argue my ways to his face). When you read the whole verse in the NLT is seems Job is saying, "Because I am going to argue my case with God I am afraid he might kill me but I have no were else to go so I am bringing my case to him." The rest of Job would affirm this reading.* It is amazing to think that by simply not quoting the whole verse people have used it to mean the exact opposite of what it means in context.

When you read Job narratively you will notice that the tension between Job and his friends exists because Job is telling them, "I have no where else to go so I am bringing my case to God and I will have no rest until he answers me." Job's focus is vertical (this is about God and me) while his friends focus is horizontal (this is about you and what you have done wrong). When God finally answers Job I don't take this as God shaming Job for his questions. What I hear God saying to Job is, "Job I affirm your integrity for making this about me because I am sovereign and you were going to the right place. And you where also right to say you would have no rest until I touched you so here I am. I have come with strength to touch you so stand up and prepare yourself for the ANSWER to your question. God then proceeds to give more of himself to Job. Phillip Yancey says, "We go to God looking for answers when he wants to give us more of himself." Job's 'answer' was more of God which to Job was a stronger more transcendent taste of the sovereignty and awesomeness of God. When someone goes through what Job did (unexplainable suffering) their world is more than rocked. The ground beneath them feels like shifting sand. When we answer their questions with platitudes we pour more sand under their feet. However, when we help them ask better and maybe even harder questions and wait with them for God to show up (however long that make take or however slowly that may unfold) then we are helping to facilitate a foundation under their feet that nobody can take away. God answered Job's integrity filled questions with an answer that was hard to forget. No shifting sand there. Although whatever I have suffered in this life is infinitely smaller than an ounce of what Job suffered, I understand the theme. Good questions, hard questions, passionate questions and a little bit of patience can often be a good part of helping us 'pipe down'. I have to imagine Job lived a little bit quieter the rest of his life.

Before I leave the story of Job I do have to say my favorite part of the narrative is when the Lord says to Job's friend Eliphaz, "I am angry with you and your two friends, for you have not spoken accurately about me, as my servant Job has. So take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and offer a burnt offering for yourselves. My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer on your behalf. I will not treat you as you deserve, for you have not spoken accurately about me, as my servant Job has.” (vv 42:7-8) Those guys thought they were defending God and in the upside down world of the Gospel the Lord turns their words on them. I think Job was probably so quieted inside that he didn't find so much satisfaction in their humility but I have to think he was struck by the irony of it.

*(As a side note the New Living Translation is a context sensitive translation which means they interpreters are trying to convey the meaning of the words, whereas the English Standard Version is a word sensitive translation which means they are trying to accurately translate each word which at times means you might loose some of the meaning. Good Bible study involves using both types of translations)

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Gordon C. German

As I continue to think on the things that have helped me to become quieter in my life my maternal grandfather Gordon C. German, who I was named after, comes to mind. He lived two towns (about 3 miles) away from me the whole time I was growing up. Grandparents in general ought to be a picture of grace in our lives but my grandfather was much more than that. I think parents should raise children and grandparents ought to enjoy grandchildren. Parents raise, grandparents enjoy. I certainly felt enjoyed by grandparents. I can remember how they always had candy (Charms and Peppermints) in the bottom right corner drawer of their hutch or when I slept over their house they would have little cereals for breakfast that I could choose from. They provided little kindnesses that mattered. There were numerous things my grandfather did that impacted me but I think most of all it was his posture towards me and his other grand children that made such a difference. He was selflessly involved in our lives. He was very attentive to our needs and development. Not in an, “I am responsible for your well-being sort of way,” but instead it was more like, “if I can sacrifice some to help you then I will do it. I enjoy being a part of your life.” He communicated both the kindness of God and the attentiveness of God that said to me I mattered, and I mattered to him. I remember one time he took me out to get sneakers and he wanted me to get ‘PF Flyers’ and I wanted the more expensive Nike or Converse (I can’t remember which ones). He said to me, “You don’t have to have the best sneakers to be a good athlete.” In my my prideful adolescent mind I thought, “You don’t have any idea what you are talking about.” I didn’t think my grandfather knew anything about sports because he never talked about himself. At the time I didn’t know he was a good athlete and that he played football for Rutgers or that his nickname was ‘Zip German.’ I didn't find that out until after he died. Although I wish I had heard more about his past while he was alive, what strikes me now was how he little he felt he had to impress me or make our relationship about him. His posture said, “Your life matters and not mine so much. I want to sacrifice so you find your way.” My first job was cutting his lawn and a neighbor’s lawn across the street when I was 13. I inherited the job from my cousin. I eventually grew the little business into about six lawns. He had me open a savings account so I could put money away. He got me little receipts and I started writing monthly invoices to my ‘clients.’ He took an active interest in making the little job about more. I also remember him working with me on my ‘Pinewood Derby’ car. We spent weeks on that little car and he took time to teach me little things along the way. He was so disappointed we didn’t win the race. We did however get 2nd or 3rd place for design. There were other things he did that struck me but again it was his posture. He was a humble man. I remember one time in high school he called me to come help him move some boxes. From the way he asked it seemed like there was a bunch of boxes. When I got to his house there where two little boxes he might have been able to move himself. When I was done he asked me if I wanted to stay for lunch which of course I did but I remember being taken back at the time that he just wanted to spend time with me. In this fallen world grandparents can be a great kindness. My grandfather was a caring and thoughtful man who at times mirrored a love much bigger than himself. When I think of my formative years and the people, events or things that helped my soul to find rest I remember my grandfather.