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Archive for June, 2011

Busting Ghosts

Do you ever feel like you live in a haunted house?

I do. The ghosts are not vaporous ghouls, nor do they pop around corners and say, “BOO!”

Instead, they quietly whisper, “You should be…”

These ghosts are all the exemplary people I’ve known, or read about. People who are meant to inspire, but whom I allow to haunt. Whose lives I allow to be a measuring stick, compared to which I can never measure up.

They are not me. Yet somehow, I believe that I should be them.

I spent a bit of unexpected time with one of my ghosts in recent days. I felt the inner struggle of voices inside, and began to realize how absurd it was to think that I should strive to be….someone else.

I started ghost-busting.

I then began to recognize a few other hosts of ghosts in the graveyard of my emotions, each freighted with baggage that I (the recovering perfectionist) allowed myself to take on my journey with me.

Time for more ghost-busting.

Are you haunted like this sometimes? How do you bust your ghosts?

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A Dutch Welcome

Yesterday, my wife and I attended a memorial service for someone whom the vast majority of my readers never met. Never saw. Never heard of.

But if you know me, you have been impacted by Helen Driesse.

From my perspective, I can summarize her life in one word. Welcome.

Helen was the living embodiment of hospitality. When Sandy and I first came to New Jersey, Gerry and Helen Driesse opened their home and their hearts to us, and that welcome mat stayed out for years. From Gerry (for whom I worked during the summers for years as a mason’s assistant), I learned the art of hard-working craftsmanship. From Helen, we absorbed the lesson of an open front door.

At times, from the outside, the Dutch culture can seem a bit insular. If there is any truth to that stereotype, the Driesse’s embodied the opposite.

Gerry and Helen were 10 years ahead of us in life’s journey. They didn’t make any efforts to “teach” us. They didn’t have to. We watched and learned.

Some of you who have met us remark about how open our home is. It is our intention (and joy) to live a lifestyle of hospitality. And while we have no known Dutch genealogical roots, you should know that our front door is imported directly from the Netherlands. Figuratively speaking (or maybe not – it is a Dutch door!)

Helen showed us how to use it.

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Titles

Today is Father’s Day. Five young men call me “father,” and it is an honor to have that title, however imperfectly I fulfill it.

We all have earthly titles. At work, you may have earned the title “Senior Manager,” or “Executive Director.” In the military, you may be a Master Sergeant. If elected in a free society, you may be granted (for a season) the title Representative; or, in a dictatorship, the ruler may appoint you to be Vice President of Propaganda (wait – that occurs in lots of places!)

These temporary and shifting titles identify us in our roles, but they don’t really define our essence. What enduring and unchanging titles do we possess?

Sadly, in the framework of naturalistic evolution, there is only one title: “_______” Our only significance can be whatever temporary importance we assign to ourselves during this random and ultimately meaningless existence. As a species, and as individuals, we are, ultimately, a blank.

Of course, every particle of our being rebels against this notion. It is an alien thought process, self-imposed against the undying sense that we are very significant, and our individual lives matter very much. While our minds may reject God, deep in our souls we are fully that our title cannot be “_______”

In Jesus, God calls His believing people sons and daughters. We are princes to a sovereign king, a title freely given to unworthy subjects by a gracious and wise Father. We are Beloved, the Bride of Christ.

Even those who don’t yet know Christ are profoundly aware that they are special, because the image of God is stamped upon us:

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?
Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor.

(Psalm 8: 3-5)

Instead of living as vice-regents, we choose the slavery of sin. Jesus put it this way, in John’s gospel (8:34-36):

Truly I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.

We will never be satisfied with temporary earthly titles. We will never rest when there is a “________” after our name. We are made for much higher titles, by a Father who knows all, sees all – and loves those who have abandoned their inheritance. The Father who welcomes back His prodigals who return to Him in repentance and faith.

The Son can set you free to live in the most important title of all this Father’s Day – son or daughter of the King.

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The Starting Point

To my sons –

You started as a hope in our hearts. Your mother and I were meant to have children, and God placed each one of you in your mother’s womb so that we could love you and give you the best start possible.

And so we have tried. Failing many times along the way, but seeking to show you – to live before you – a life of godliness and faith. With a fair bit of earthiness mixed in!

Now that you’re older, you look around and you realize how much brokenness there is among your peers. You understand that a good start matters – a lot. Take this life lesson along with you:

There’s one sure way to arrive at the right destination. Pick the right starting point.

If you want to set a record sailing across the Pacific, you don’t launch out from the shoreline of New Jersey. Where you choose to begin pretty much determines where you’ll end up.

And it’s that way in all of life.

You didn’t choose to be born, nor did you choose all your early influences. But now, as you start moving into adulthood, you have choices to make about your personal starting point. With each year, Dad and Mom let go more and more. With each year, you take growing responsibility for your own direction. And all that we have sought to teach you comes down to this one starting point, this one heart-commitment that will make or break you in the future.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

Personality, abilities, knowledge, friends – these things can move you along the current of life. But they can also move you into inexorably toward the reef, if you decide that you’re smarter than the God who created you. For a time, living without God and without wisdom might seem fun. But if the bright skies and fresh breeze of today are heading you toward a typhoon tomorrow – and you choose to turn off the forecasts and the navigational aids in favor of another beer before the shipwreck – what have you accomplished?

You will seek your own pleasures and fear the displeasure of your friends. Or, you will seek the pleasure of God. Two very different starting points. Two very different lifestyles and outcomes. No middle ground.

Half-belief is unbelief.

Now, your friends may consider you a whack job for giving up a self-directed life of sin, and starting over from a place of humility and wisdom. But if you are to be a true friend to them, you will show them godliness, and a better starting point, rather than drifting downstream with them toward destruction.

Real men stand with God, even if that means standing alone. And with the fear of the Lord, and the grace of Jesus, you are never truly alone. You have a Friend who stays closer than a brother.

I’m sure we failed a thousand times in giving you the best start. But it’s always been our goal that you boys would not merely follow us, but far exceed us.

Get started.

Love, Dad

(Image credit)

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It’s very common for people to put science and religion in opposition to one another.

Science, rightly understood, is a process whereby we test theories (through observation) and deduce general laws and likely facts. I think it is safe to say that the human mind is hard-wired to do science. To put a “religious” spin on that – God made us to do science.

So where’s the problem?

The problem isn’t with science. It’s with naturalism (from World English Dictionary: a scientific account of the world in terms of causes and natural forces that rejects all spiritual, supernatural, or teleological explanations)

The practice of science is here subordinated to an ontological (the nature of existence), philosophical (conceptual framework of knowledge), epistemological (how we know what we know), and theological (the attributes/knowledge of God) set of commitments.

The entirety of naturalism has a hidden set of first principles, all of which are….wait for it….faith-based.

As soon as you say, “I will only accept conclusions that reject supernatural explanations,” you are displaying your faith commitment. Your presupposition has nothing to do with science per se – in fact, it is unscientific because it refuses to consider observable phenomena and potential alternatives.

If there is a real and active God who has done one solitary thing in the past or present to disrupt your deterministic natural processes, the entire edifice crumbles. Science survives, of course. But naturalistic religion crashes down.

That’s why the priesthood of naturalists is rabid about denial of supernaturalism. It’s heresy. It threatens core dogma.

Believe what you will. But let’s at least be honest in the discussion. Naturalists do not possess some kind of scientific high ground. They do possess different turf of personal belief, with one chief dogma as the central altar.

Thou shalt not question our closed system of faith.

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Rain

It rained again last night.

I can go out, and try to count the droplets clinging to leaves, and stems, and buds…but there are not enough numbers to contain raindrops, and in a few hours, they will all disappear like smoke in a fresh breeze.

They’ll be back. Another day, another night, another morning – the rain will return and water the earth. As it has for millenia.

We doubt, at times, that God will come to us. That Jesus will shed grace abroad into our parched souls.

Times of drought and dryness and decay are there to teach us our need. We are not to believe that our ultimate destiny is to wither into oblivion.

We are to look up, and learn. The earth and its rain are locked in unending embrace. The God of life gives the water of life.

You are parched, but you are meant to be watered. Will you cease your foolish cursing, and your fruitless striving, and turn your crying face to the rain?

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Denial

Hypocrisy. Vanity. Lying. Covering up.

We have an instinctive revulsion for that which we instinctively do ourselves. Yes, I find myself ready to excoriate a character like John Edwards. I find it so easy to aim verbal barbs at the lying cheat, the self-indulgent manipulator. The word “despise” easily escapes my lips.

But a look in the mirror reveals that I’m no different in kind. Maybe in degree, but if my sins are restrained in the least, that is only through the grace of God.

What ends up exposed publicly in the lives of some, regularly occurs beneath the surface in the hearts of all of us. We might not have broken our vows and lied before a watching world openly, but who among us is not a hypocrite and a foul-mind behind the curtains of our soul?

That stone I really want to pick up and throw? God could rightfully dump a truckload of them on my head. Because He has seen everything that has been covered up and denied. Even the thousands of sins that never found outward expression.

Proverbs 28:13 puts it like this: He who covers his sins will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion (that applies to “she” and “her” equally).

It’s not a matter of whether or not you’re a sinner. It’s whether you live in denial. Those who continue on a pathway of pursuing sin, while denying and lying and covering up and excusing, will not prosper. But, wonder of wonders, those who come to the merciful God with an honest and contrite heart will find, not stones flying, but forgiveness extended.

The light and pardon of Christ can turn a denier into a confessor. The proud can be made humble, the impure clean.

That’s what I need. Far more than any stone-flinging practice.

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