Saturday, June 18, 2011

Fasting from Movies

My family is on a movie fast and I am convinced it was well overdue.

Why? Well, because we have forgotten how to do things with each other that don't include sitting in front of a movie or TV screen. It's called entertainment. Artificial entertainment in the sense that it is manufactured and reproduced on a screen. We all sit and watch the same thing, eat popcorn and laugh or cry about the manufactured images we see on the screen.

I think there is a better way to be a family. I'm not saying all movies are evil, even though some probably fall into that category, but a steady diet of manufactured electronic entertainment is not good for us. It robs us of real, one on one time, looking in each others face, touching each other physically and emotionally. I replaces the reality of human interaction on a deeper level than entertainment we devour today.

Our appetites are ravenous for electronic entertainment and I personally know this to be true since this week of fasting. Attitudes get real cranky, biting each other verbally, boredom sets in, listlessness and plain old laziness. We need a touch from God, a life giving transfusion into our souls. It is shameful how attached we have become to movies and electronic entertainment. Even, I would venture to say, bordering on adulterous.

We have replaced God with The TV screen. What comes off that screen is recited afterwards for a long time. Remember the commercials songs you were fed as a child. You still remember them don't you? Reciting lines from movies is next. My kids can almost tell you word for word what those movies said and the physical activity that goes with them. They know the names of the characters and how they dress and talk. How well do they remember the Bible verse we talked about or the stories we read last week?

Now there is a lot to say about all this but I am experiencing first hand the repercussions of a movie-less week and thinking we really need to change some things around here. We put out DVD's and VHS tapes (yes, we still have some of those things) into storage. It helps to not be tempted by them sitting around for us to lust after.

How will this experiment turn out? I'm not sure yet, but I do know that we need to address the cravings and the addictions we have for electronic stimuli. The rest we will see as we seek God for a balance or negation of what we have been doing. We need to repent from the addiction and trust God will show us what to do from there.

How about you?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

That Dark Spot Within You

As I was listening to the testimonies and hearts of people sharing last Sunday, God placed a verse inside me that I thought I knew the meaning of. It started to haunt me as I pondered its meaning again. The verse was: "If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!" Matt. 6:23

I love how the Contemporary English Bible translates that whole verse. "Your eyes are windows into your body. If you open your eyes wide in wonder and belief, your body fills up with light. If you live squinty-eyed in greed and distrust, your body is a dank cellar. If you pull the blinds on your windows, what a dark life you will have!"

The part that strikes me, as a soul, seeking God, is the "eyes wide in wonder and belief" part, so as to drink up all that there is to what God has to give. That soul is completely given to the entirety of Gods life flowing into them and through them. Such a stark difference from what follows with the picture of darkness.

This is the message we hear from John 3:19 in the Message version: "This is the crisis we're in: God-light streamed into the world, but men and women everywhere ran for the darkness. They went for the darkness because they were not really interested in pleasing God. Everyone who makes a practice of doing evil, addicted to denial and illusion, hates God-light and won't come near it, fearing a painful exposure. But anyone working and living in truth and reality welcomes God-light so the work can be seen for the God-work it is."

When you are operating in the dark, thinking in the dark and walking in the dark, as opposed to walking in the light, something happens inside your mind. A dark place begins to form and a void begins to fill up with all sorts of nasty thoughts. The blinds are pulled shut. Lack of light and communication continues to forms a darker spot yet and then comes the double whammy. That darkness creates confusion and fear. Dread comes over you so you avoid looking people in the eyes, coming out of your room, and just plain fearful of any confrontation from anyone about anything.

So we have the opposition of light and darkness. However, darkness cannot exist when there is light. It seems quite simple that you would just replace the darkness with light. Right? That only works if you want to be in the light and look at what is being exposed by the light. But if the light that is in you is darkness, then you can't really see what the light is exposing because you are really still in the darkness. You just don't know it. You can't admit that you are in the darkness (sin) and that you may be doing something other than what you think you are doing. You have convinced yourself that you are right and the others are wrong. Dark vs. Light. Light and Dark. Not the same!

Have you ever been in a cave? when the lights are turned out it is pitch black in that cave. It is scary and confusing. You cannot see your hand in front of your face. You can't see anything. If you try to walk, you will be sure to run into something or fall in some hole. You are in a dangerous place and not able to guide yourself out. You need help. You need someone to guide you. But if that person can't see anything either you will both end up in the peril of life threatening stumbling and wandering in the dark. What you need is light. You don't have any light nor are you filled with light. Darkness and light cannot co-exist in the same place at the same time so without any light it will be dark.

When our minds get darkened and deceived by the deceitfulness of sin, we hide from God and run into the darkness. Then when we are in the darkness we are overcome with it and we can't find our way out. We are too proud and stiff-necked to admit we might be standing in the dark or can't find our way out. We refuse to ask for help and we continue to think we are OK but we really are not. We need some light. We need someone who has light.

That is what that verse means. "If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!" Matt. 6:23

So how do we over come that darkness?

When you were standing in that pitch black dark cave, just a match or small light could illuminate the entire area around you. You could see where to walk and not stumble or fall. You could even lead others who were in that darkness out as well. That small light could drive out the darkness. You need someone to give you some light.

Now imagine that place being flooded with light. Imagine that a hundred people in that cave all had very bright lights. Imagine that a giant spotlight was then turned on and everything around you was revealed. You could see the walls, crevices, small little creatures, fine lines in the walkway, every inch of every surface all around you. Nothing would be left to your imagination. Nothing would be in a shadow or hidden from your view. You would have no problem at all in defining the place you were in or what was around you. That is what the saints and the Holy Spirit of God is like.

How do we find that light?

There is a plan that God has for your life. That plan centers around you walking in the Light of His Son, Jesus Christ and in the presence of His Body, the Church, those who are called according to His purpose. Put away the childish thoughts and the ways of your own understanding. Put into practice the ways of Light and Truth, demonstrated by the love God has placed before you, in unity with His Bride. Relinquish your own selfish thoughts and ways and join with those who are walking on the God-path. You will find a new and glorious life that only God can give you when you empty yourself. Embrace the Light. Look full into the face of God and let your eyes be wide in wonder and belief. Give up and let the God-light direct you out of darkness.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Good Intentions

"Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do." James 1:22-25

Your good intentions are not righteousness in the eyes of God. Talking about, dreaming about or just thinking about doing something righteous does not equal a good or righteous act. Imagine telling God, as you stand before Him one day,"But, Lord, I had so many good and righteous thoughts about doing everything you commanded me to do, I just didn't get around to getting it done!". We shall all suffer shame from our procrastination and slothfulness. It is our lack to follow through on the commands of God that judges us guilty.

I want you to go to the mirror and look at your self right now. Then look deep into the eyes of that person who is facing you and ask God, "Please show me where I am being disobedient and slothful. Please show me Where I am lazy and where I just don't care about doing what is right but what I want to do." I dare you to walk away and not admit how bad that person is that looks back at you in the mirror. I want you to get tough on that person and be in reality about all those things that you continually put off. We can be so painfully lazy.

Did I say lazy?

Yes! You and I can be lazy. Sinfully lazy to be more precise. We continually look for a place to sit down, relax and let someone else do that thing we just cannot bring ourselves to do. We can turn on the TV, watch movies, eat our snacks, lounge in our recliners and become a part of the good ole American way of living. But we won't give up our comforts or time to do what it takes to be a friend to the friendless, hope to the hopeless or salvation to the lost. We have out limits and there are just certain things we will not do. We don't subscribe to giving up our lives. We want to "live it up and enjoy life today, while it is called today, before we die and don't have a chance to live the good life any longer." Isn't there a Bible verse that says that? 

How lazy are we?

We are so lazy we will avoid all appearance of laziness by talking bad about everyone else and draw the attention to them, rather than us. We will hide in our rooms or homes, to avoid contact with people who will hold us accountable because we want our own own way. We want to be entertained. We feed our bellies and satisfy our lust for whatever makes us feel good. We are shallow and insincere. We are only interested in doing what pleases us!

Getting the picture?

So where are the good intentions?

All over the place. We speak of love but fail to do it. We complain about our neighbors, relatives and people we don't even know in order to make ourselves look good, but all the time we are just hiding behind those good intentions. We will send our money, (Only what we have left over after we get what we want.) but we won't lift a finger to DO anything other than dial the number or click on a pay button. We don't really care about doing anything, we are just interested in looking good in front of our peers. We want people to think kindly about us and befriend us. We think that God will reward us for being so generous. What a sham! Are we really this evil? YES. We are evil and we are worse than that.

I don't know how many times I have said I was going to do something and didn't follow through with it. I can't even remember all the things I have had good intentions about doing. I'm sure they sounded really good at the time I said it, but there was not one ounce of effort put into doing anything about it. Not even the effort to write it down so I wouldn't forget to do it. And what about all those to-do lists that items never got checked off? And the things that were half done and not finished?

 I'll be right back . . . an hour and a half later . . .

The meeting starts at 7 PM . . . 7:38 you arrive and want to get an update on what was talked about for the past half hour. This happens every week.

Even the things I really felt inclined to do failed to produce any fruit because the vigor and feeling of"I want to" dimmed and went away. It was there, just a little while before but other interests took its place and those good intentions became a fleeting series of thoughts only. After time I couldn't even remember what they were.

What about the phone call you were going to make? The person you were going to visit? That box of clothes you were going to take to GoodWill? The car that hasn't been cleaned out since you bought it? The refrigerator you were going to clean out? The visit to the dentist? Do you have a problem showing up on time to anything that is scheduled? I don't mean a few minutes late, I mean actually a few minutes early.

What in the world are we doing? Is there any hope for any of us who meet these descriptions? Can we possibly think that we can change and become doers rather than talkers? No. We cannot. We are just deceiving ourselves if we do. There is not one ounce of ability in us to do anything different. Why? Let's be honest and tell the truth. Because we just don't care! We certainly don't care about doing anything about the way we are or we would have already started doing something more than talking about it. Don't be deceived into thinking your thinking is different than it was before you read this. It's not. You are still just reading these words and thinking, how can this guy, who admitted to being as lazy as I am, tell me I am this lazy bum who will never change?

Because it is the truth. You may not want to admit it but it is.

DO you want to do something about it? If so, WHAT do you want to do about it?

Let's see . . . Nothing? Something later? Something one day? Something when I have to? Something right now? Good Intentions? Lot's of talking but no action? What has to change for you to start doing something different?

I'll tell you what needs to change. You need a heart transplant and you need a brain washing or a new mind to think new thoughts with.

The only way you are going to ever change is to experience a transformation inside of you. You are going to have to get on your knees and pray to God that He doesn't kill you before He forgives you for being so totally wretched and wicked inside of your lazy and worthless self. And then you are going to need to ask Him to change you so you can learn how to do the things you need to be doing. Ask Him to change you from a lazy bum into a doer of His commands. From a wicked person to a righteous saint. Pray for mercy and grace. Then and only then do you have a hope of actually changing.

I know there are those that struggle with doing the right thing and are not just slothful. There are those that are trying to do the right thing. They are working in their own strength and they are trying day after day but meet with failure over and over again. They just can't quite get it to happen. Eventually they will slide into despair and give up. They lose hope of ever being different. They join the ranks of good intenders. Or should we say great pretenders?

Once you give up all hope of fixing yourself and muscling through all your good intentions with the might of your hand, you are started on the right track. You must give everything  you have become over to God. He will change you, save you from yourself and all you think you can do. When God changes you, you will have what it takes to do those things you have in your heart. You won't become the victim of your circumstances or the wimp with every excuse known to man. You will be empowered to do those things that God has for you. You will start caring about those things and people around you. You will learn to love and give up your life.

So here is my hope for you and all those that are the great pretenders and have good intentions. That the God of all that is will visit you in person and pull you out of the fire of destruction. I pray that you will give up the personal fight for perfection or the flight from responsibility and embrace the hand of God that is reaching out to you. Commit your life to being led in every way, every day, by the one who loves you far more than I could ever be trained to love. Look in His face and see who you are. Then let Him change you and empower you with His Life forever.

No more "Good Intentions"!

No more pretending!

Be real to a real God and enjoy the Life He has to impart to you. Let Him change your "good intentions" into the "righteous acts of God" before it's too late.