Friday, June 26, 2009

Painful to watch

Occasionally, we talk about how hard it is to watch someone we love destroy him/herself. We watch our little brother choose the wrong friends. We watch a friend engage in substance abuse. We see our daughter dating that loser. Our neighbor ending a salvageable marriage because he thinks it will make his life easier and end the hurt and teach her a lesson (it won't).

It's hard to watch. It's like watching someone run in front of an 18-wheeler and refusing your pleas to return to the side of the road, out of danger.

Here's what I have just realized: just having one person in your life like that is heartbreaking. But imagine what it's like for God. He loves each of us more than you or I has ever loved anyone. He watches most of us engage in self-destructive behavior over and over again.

One soul at a time, He implores us to take a path which will lead to life. Some listen, but so many times, He sees us go down another path, one which won't bring us joy, which will only kill us, little by little.

He sends people into our life to speak truth. He practically begs us to choose life. He sends the 2nd person of the Trinity to die in our place, to rescue us. He provides the 3rd person of the Trinity to help us and guide us. Yet He watches, heartbroken, as we choose some other path. It's like watching your favorite child run into the street in front of the aforementioned 18-wheeler. That thought is painful enough, but then multiply that by a few billion.

I cannot imagine what that must feel like, but it seems immeasurably painful. This is what God feels when I sin, especially certain destructive, addictive sins that press certain buttons in me. I feel like crap as I write this, despite the fact that I haven't lately engaged in such sins. But it is bringing up within me a new kind of sorrow about my past sin, a sorrow that I don't remember feeling before. Not that it makes me feel condemned, but I am just so much more sorry for my sin, because it has been so heartbreaking to Him. At the same time, I am all the more thankful that He has somehow rescued me and allowed me to be on the side of the road, out of danger, in His safe arms.

It occurs to me that the analogy of watching someone you love play in the middle of the street in front of an oncoming truck isn't the best analogy. Perhaps an even more appropriate one is to see someone in the middle of a hot desert, someone you love very much. And they are dying of thirst, and you have a cool glass of sparkling, life-giving water that you are trying to hand to them. And they don't take it. They continue to suffer, even as the water is within arm's reach. Instead, they scoop up some sand and try to drink it, sapping even more life from them.

Here's the offer: “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him” John 7:37–38

This isn't just about salvation. It certainly includes His free gift of salvation which leads to an eternity with Him instead of Hell. But it's much, much more than that. And it isn't just for the lost. It's for all of us, especially those of us who have chosen the wrong path, the one leading to death, at one time or another.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Up will make your marriage better

We all see movies we like from time to time, and occasionally we like one enough to recommend it to friends. I love movies, so I am careful not to recommend them to people because I would do it all the time. Today I am making an exception. I am imploring all married men to take their wives to see Up. It's supposed to be a kid's movie, but the message is about marriage, keeping promises, and noticing the normally unnoticed blessings of God that are all around you.

Please note that when I say it's animated but more for adults, I'm not comparing it to movies like Shrek or Aladdin which are kid's movies where some jokes are thrown in that only adults will get. I'm saying this is a story for married people, and there are some things in there that make it digestible for kids, too.

That said, when it got to the turning point, the place in the movie which emphasized the blessing that this man's wife had been to him, I looked over and Jacob (my 7-yr-old) was welling up with tears. So he got it. Not as good as he would get it if he were a married adult, but he got it. That said, I came out of the theater wishing I had seen it with Beth. Our anniversary is this Friday, and I'm hoping she will be up for seeing it that night rather than waiting for the DVD.

If you feel weird going to a kids movie without any kids, don't worry about it. Before we had kids, Beth and I went to Toy Story and Aladdin, and a couple of others. It was no big deal. Go at night if you don't want to be surrounded by other people's kids.

By the way, some of you never go to the movies anymore. I understand that. We are the same. We average one movie a year at the theater. Even if you fall into this category, I recommend you make an exception here. I would be surprised if you come out of it without a changed (for the better) outlook on marriage, and a renewed intentional focus on making your marriage an adventure.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Being that close, then blowing it

If you've been a Christian for even a short time, you are probably familiar with the following sequence of events:
1. Israelites are rescued by God, led by Moses out of Egypt.
2. Israelites spend 40 years in the desert.
3. Israelites have a chance to go into the Promised land, but 10 of the 12 spies they sent were afraid of the existing inhabitants.

As with many of the most familiar stories, there is much more to this one. Upon a recent re-reading, I encountered some troubling items; troubling because they have highlighted many of my own shortcomings. Let's look at just one.

In Numbers 13, we see God instruct Moses to send out twelves spies to check out the promised land. To be clear: this was God's idea. There was nothing wrong with sending out spies, and by inference, we can say that this is nothing wrong with taking note of the giants, the armies, the challenges which awaited the Israelites. Likewise, there is nothing wrong with strategizing to meet the obstacles that might be in our way as we carry out what we believe to be His plans for us today. Still, God had promised them this land, and they should have kept that in mind when giving their report after 40 days of of spying. Instead, all except Caleb and Joshua said "no dice". The giants are too big, and the job too tough.

Numbers 13:31 But the men who had gone up with him said, "We are not able to go up against the people, for they are too strong for us."

and here was the result:

Numbers 14:1 "Then all the congregation lifted up their voices and cried, and the people wept that night."

So this is no longer about meeting the challenges. It's about a disbelief in God's ability to fulfill a promise. As these 10 men spread their discouraging message, the masses exhibited their own lack of faith in God's character by lamenting the fact that the Promised Land was not meant to be.

Now, here's what many do not realize: At this point, the Israelites were only 2 years into their release from Egyptian bondage. Not 40. Two. God gave them the chance to forgo the 40 years of aimless wandering that turned out to be their fate, and only their unbelief stood in their way. This early in their voyage, after 400 years of slavery, and they were right on the edge of the Promised land! And they blew it!

God told them He wouldn't allow them entry in the land of milk and honey until the faithless died off:

Numbers 14:22-23 "Surely all the men who have seen My glory and My signs which I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness, yet have put Me to the test these ten times and have not listened to My voice, shall by no means see the land which I swore to their fathers, nor shall any of those who spurned Me see it."

then, although they are right there, on the edge, God sends them packing:

Numbers 14:25 "turn tomorrow and set out to the wilderness by the way of the Red Sea."

This makes me wonder, and shudder at the thought: how many times have I missed out on something God has good for me, because I have reject Him, misunderstood Him, lost faith in His promises, or otherwise blown it? I'm afraid that if I ever found out the number, I'd be in shock, then cry for days. As it is, I know I want all that He has for me, and I pray that from this point forward, when I hear His voice, I take it seriously, and I obey the first time, in order to glorify Him, to do His work, and to enjoy His blessings.