29 June 2012

Set Apart

A really good friend and I were talking tonight about the phenomenon that is Magic Mike and 50 Shades of Gray. We are both apalled that anyone who calls themselves Christ-followers would seek out these as entertainments, and laughingly said that if you were going to do it, you surely shouldn't advertise on Facebook that you are doing it! :-)
The thing is, it's true that this movie and those books are extremely popular right now. But as Christ-followers, we have to remember that we are NOT to follow the crowd! The Bible tells us in Leviticus 20:26, "You must be holy because I, the LORD, am holy. I have set you apart from all other people to be my very own."
He has SET US APART...we aren't like the world...we are set apart from ALL other people. Furthermore, in Matthew 5: 27-30, we see that  “You have heard the commandment that says, ‘You must not commit adultery.’But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. So if your eye—even your good eye—causes you to lust, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your hand—even your stronger hand—causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell." 
Do you really think that because it is generally women who will be looking at, and lusting after, men that God's commandment is any less applicable? Do you really believe that a man lusting after a woman is adultery but a woman lusting after a man is OK? Of course it isn't!
Continuing this idea, we see in Matthew 18:16-20:  "Don’t you understand yet?” Jesus asked. “Anything you eat passes through the stomach and then goes into the sewer. But the words you speak come from the heart—that’s what defiles you. For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander. These are what defile you. Eating with unwashed hands will never defile you.”
Can you imagine the frustration Jesus must have felt at His disciples? 'Come on, people! Don't you get it yet?? It isn't about the washing of the hands, guys! It's about the principle behind the washing of the hands!'
There's a pithy saying: GIGO - Garbage In, Garbage Out. It's true folks! You can't serve God and your own fleshly desires! If you put in the garbage that is contained in the movie and those books, I guarantee you that garbage is what will be coming out - in your thoughts, in your expectations, and maybe even in your words and deeds. 
We can not let our minds get any more polluted with the world. When something is a raging phenomenon in the world, especially, especially, especially when that raging phenomenon is the "hottest thing since..." we as Christ-followers should closely examine it against the standards Paul gave us in his letter to the Philippians: 
And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. (Phil 4:8)
I hope I don't have to further point out that letting your 12 or 13 year old daughter watch Magic Mike is akin to taking your 12 or 13 year old son to a strip joint. If you wouldn't do the latter, why in the world would you do the former???

Thanks for letting me rant a little, as I take just a few more steps toward Home...


all Scripture is from the New Living Translation of the Holy Bible, (c) 2007 by Tyndale House, and retrieved from Bible.cc
any emphasis in the Scripture text is mine, and is not meant to change the original intent of the Word of God, but just to point out my point. :-)

04 June 2012

Nonsense and sensibilities?

Somehow I missed the news that more than 100 civilians had been massacred in Syria recently. Perhaps it's because I don't really follow the news as carefully as I might. My husband, though, is really up on things...and he didn't know about it. Even today, more than a week later, there is little coverage except on CNN.com and news magazines like the New Yorker, and the CNN coverage is from the 27th of May. What does this have to do with me, today, in rural Georgia you ask? Why should we, half a world away, care?

We should care because it is evil. We should care because civilized society shouldn't include images like this or this. Yes, I posted links to the unedited, unvarnished photographs of children - babies even - dead. They have parts of their skulls exposed. Their brains are on coverlets behind their heads. One has no arm. One has a gaping wound that once was her head. It's ugly. It's brutal. It's infuriating. It's real.

Most news outlets won't show the photos. Martin Fletcher, writing for the London Times, says that not printing the photos lets the brutal Syrian army under the control of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad get away with the wickedness that they have perpetrated. He's right. Because of our delicate sensibilities, we conveniently ignore the gruesome reality of things we don't want to face. Because we cannot offend, we are blind to the injustice heaped upon the innocents of this world. We don't want to look. We don't want to know. We don't want to feel responsible.

I'm not supposed to be writing this tonight. No, in fact, I'm supposed to be praying right now. No kidding! My friends and I have embarked on a seven-month-long journey of purposeful living modeled after the journey documented in the recent book 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker. We are working together to shed our reliance on consumerism, to streamline our lives, to cut away excess, all in order to better serve our King. This month, our focus is on reducing stress, and one of the ways we are supposed to reduce our stress is to purposefully pause for prayer 7 times each day [Please visit our blog about this journey to learn more]. The prayer I am supposed to be praying right now is the prayer at bedtime - the Great Silence. In the Latin Hours, it is the hour of compline. It is supposed to be a prayer of rest, of contemplation, of trusting God for His protection through the night. Interestingly, it is also the time to bring to Him your personal sorrow, and I confess I feel a great sorrow on behalf of these murdered women and children. My prayer tonight is being poured out in this blog, as I pour out my heart to you, as I share what little insight I have gleaned from this horror.

It occurs to me that we are the murderers. Our sin is ugly. It is brutal. It is vile. It disgusts our Lord. In Habakkuk 1:13 [weird little book, close to the end of the Old Testament], the prophet Habakkuk says about God: "Your eyes are too pure to approve evil, and you cannot look on wickedness with favor..." The amazing thing is, God didn't cling to His sensibilities. He didn't ignore our sinful condition because it disgusted Him. He didn't avert His eyes so He wouldn't have to look at our ugliness. Romans 5:8 makes this abundantly clear: "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." Did you get that? While we were still sinners! We were ugly! We were disgusting! I was repulsive - but Christ allowed Himself to be killed for me. He allowed Himself to be beaten, to be whipped, to be mocked, to be humiliated...all for me. Like the monsters in the service of  al-Assad, I killed the innocent, the noncombatant - Jesus. Like those men, I had no mercy. My sin was the sin that placed Him on the Cross, and my sin was the sin that held Him there. My sin...and yours.

Many in this world don't want to look at that Sacrifice. It offends their sensibilities. Like al-Assad and his sycophants, they deny their connection to it. It has nothing to do with me, they say. I am not responsible, they say. I live a good life, they say. They are the U.N. observers, just one town over. A few short miles...and an unbelieving, unrepenting heart away. The U.N. observers wring their hands and decry the injustice, but they do nothing. The unbeliever wrings his hands and declares that he (or she) wants to believe, wants to follow, but they do nothing.

I choose to believe. I choose to acknowledge the ugliness, the brutality, the depravity that is my sin. I choose to see the Sacrifice wrought for me. I gratefully accept the gift of His all-encompassing grace that tells me that my involvement in the massacre is forgiven. I bow on my knees and cry to the Lord God that He protect me through the night...and that He break me of my complacency, of my disregard, of my ignorance of the evil in this world. His hands hold my sorrow tonight. It is a sorrow borne out of a deep sense of displacement. I want to be Home, where innocent children are not slaughtered in their sleep for the crime of being. I want to sit in my Father's lap, and have Him tell me there isn't going to be any more sorrow, that pain is gone forever. I want Him to wipe away my tears. 

For now, though, I will open my eyes to evil. I will acknowledge it. I will not let it escape punishment because my sensibilities are too delicate to bear it. I will add my voice to the cry that resounds throughout the world: I will not tolerate evil. I will no longer turn my head from pain. I will, instead, fight for the ones who can't fight, love the ones who don't love me back, speak for those who can't speak, and know that at the end of my day, I have done it all in His name for His children.


All scripture quoted from the New American Standard Bible, (c) 1995 by The Lockman Foundation.