Thursday, August 27, 2009

I have spent the last two months using most of my spare time to focus on the book I am trying to write. Monday I emailed a book proposal to a friend who is forwarding it on to a friend who has some connections in the Christian publishing world. Nothing may come or something may come of that. We will see. In any case, I had a little time to put some words together for the blog...

“Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?” It seems to me that this question by the serpent put Eve on the defensive. There was a sinister accusation in the question and one Eve plays into when she changes what God said in her response to the evil one. How often are you being asked questions that put you on the defensive in regards to something God has said to you? Did God really say your job was a gift? Did God really say that children were a blessing? Did God really say your husband was a good man and he was worth fighting for? Did God really say he had good planned for you and not evil? Did God really say???? Did God really say??? Did God really say??? Did Jesus really rise from the dead and does it really make a difference? Have death and sin been vanquished and will there really be a new heaven and a new earth? You are not going to stop hearing those questions the rest of your life. Is God really good?
This morning as I drove to work I was listening to the song, I Believe in a Promised Land. These words from the song spoke to what I often experience in this world.
“There's a dark cloud rising from the desert floor
I packed my bags and I'm heading straight into the storm
Gonna be a twister to blow everything down
That ain't got the faith to stand its ground
Blow away the dreams that tear you apart
Blow away the dreams that break your heart
Blow away the lies that leave you nothing but lost and brokenhearted
Well the dogs on Main Street howl 'cause they understand.
If I could take one moment into my hands
Mister I ain't a boy, no I'm a man
And I believe in a promised land
And I believe in a promised land
And I believe in a promised land.”

Mister I ain't a boy, no I'm a man. Why is it maturity to proclaim belief? Why does it take so much to stand up into the things we say are true? What is it about saying you believe in something that takes strength? I have been struck in the past several weeks how often we have to keep standing to protect that actual good and beauty that is in our life. Fighting simply to keep saying yes to the things we really believe are yes.

The devil is a bully that wants to cast doubt on our love for God and make us believe we actually want to follow and worship evil. He is a personal force behind wickedness that pushes people away from God. For instance, year nine in our marriage was a very vulnerable period in my life. There were several major stressors in my life that came together at once and tipped my faith towards unbelief and fear. We had three young children (a newborn, a two year old and a four year old), had recently purchased our first house that needed work (we had neither the money to pay for the work to get done and I didn’t have the ability or time to do the work), I worked part time at a young struggling church and part time as a counselor at a non-profit organization I started and was trying to get off the ground, and at the same time had just started work on my doctoral degree. We were doing this in a very materialistic culture on a ministry salary. I was overloaded with stress and was very vulnerable.
The evil one kept pointing out to me how ‘unfair’ God was. He regularly brought to mind the couples younger than us who had nicer homes and could easily afford to pay for home projects. He also waltzed families before me that had relatives in town who could provide childcare. In general, if Dawn was getting a rest it was because I was with the children. Although Dawn was regularly working to exhaustion her frailties and failures were like billboards in my mind. It was often all I could see. I so often felt foolish for being in ministry and caring about others when I couldn’t adequately provide the time or financial resources my family needed. The evil one saw the frailty of my faith and regularly suggested that God didn’t care about me and that Dawn wasn’t doing her part. I was regularly tempted with the thought of an affair or divorce. Although I didn’t want to do either of those things I kept finding the desire pulsating within me. Evil was inflaming my flesh and trying to make me believe it was what I wanted. The evil one tried to wear me down so that I would choose those options. In fact, the arousal of my fleshly nature which is naturally hostile towards God contributed to me considering that hurting God through such a decision was a good option. My life was like a desert boiling with heat and there seemed to be no water anywhere so I was susceptible to hallucinations that came in the form of temptations towards a divorce or affair.
The adulterous woman described in Proverbs 9 is a metaphor for evil. The wise man says the adulterous woman is brash and that she seeks men who are minding their own business (9:13-15). I was simply trying to love my wife and girls and find a place in ministry and evil kept waltzing temptation by me to try and get me to bite. We often explain the sin in our life by focusing on our choices and believing that whatever sin emerges grows out of choices we have sought after and fought for to make happen. Quite often this is not true. There are many times evil keeps irritating us tempting us and the guilt over temptation and the weariness from battling wears us down to the point where we sin because we are so battered it seems like what we want. As Proverbs indicates Evil works like a prostitute. She stands out on the corner seeking and calling to men minding their own business. A prostitute puts her wares out for the taking specifically attempting to subjugate weak men. This is a picture of how evil works. He tries to bully us away from the truth by pushing on our vulnerabilities. A bully pursues someone vulnerable and uses harassment and commotion that further weakens his victims and gets them to cower before they even consider standing up. We forget that evil is the antithesis of God. He has no grace or mercy and pursues us with a vengeance especially when we are vulnerable. Until you stand up to a bully and call him on his bullying you live with a fear that makes his power seem much larger than it actually is. “He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour,” (1 Peter 5:8). The evil one is a personal being who deceptively tries to bully the children of God away from what God calls them to so that he can desecrate God’s glory in the process.
Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don't try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way. If you don't know what you're doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You'll get his help, and won't be condescended to when you ask for it. James 1:2-6 The Message

I want to stand up and keep standing up. I want my yes to be yes and my no to be no. Today I just want to say Jesus died and rose from the dead. It matters. Sin and death have been vanquished. There will be a new heaven and a new earth. I believe it.