8/26/09

An Actor's Confession

As I rested on June 14, recovering from a long struggle with bronchitis and pneumonia, I read my newspaper’s magazine, Parade. One article in particular, "The Mixed-Up Life of Shia LaBeouf," pp. 4-5) gripped my heart. The 23-year-old star of Transformers and Holes told interviewer Dotson Rader about his insecurities and disillusionment; but this part of his transparent interview revealed his heart: “I don’t handle fame well,” he said. “Most actors on most days don’t think they’re worthy. I have no idea where this insecurity comes from, but it’s a God-sized hole. If I knew, I’d fill it, and I’d be on my way.”

A God-sized hole. The concept isn’t new. The philosopher Pascal wrote, “Where else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself.” (Pensees, 10.148). The Church Father Augustine wrote (Confessions, 1.1.1), “You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless till they find their rest in you.”

People stuff alcohol, drugs, gambling, sex, food, compulsive spending, thrill-seeking, personal “goodness,” and many other things into the emptiness of their lives, but when the fa├žade cracks, they instinctively know that there is “something more.” Without God, our hearts are deluded and sinful (Jer. 17:9; Eccl. 9:3). In fact, the human heart and mind are hostile to God until He comes in to fill the void with Himself (Romans 8:7).

We were made for eternity (Eccl. 3:11), and nothing else completely satisfies our souls except eternal life with our Creator. He places His fingerprints around us and within us to point us to Himself (Psalm 19:1-2; Romans 1:20). All religions try to connect man with God in some way (through traditions, rules, and works, primarily), but in biblical Christianity, God connects to man through His Son (1 John 4:19; Luke 19:10). My prayer is that Shia LaBeouf will come to know life in God—the security he seeks.

What do you try to stuff into the place where only God belongs? Is God your Best Friend? See "Better Ways to Connect with Your BFF."

8/19/09

Are You a Flirt?

Ever been to a pig farm? Not a pretty sight. Never once have I seen a filthy sow sporting finery and bling. It’s incongruous. Dress them up; pigs are still pigs.

This incongruity is noted in Proverbs 11:22: “Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman who shows no discretion.” Proverbs has much to say about the seductive woman, the woman with no discretion. The seductive woman is a flirt. She uses her words, ways, and wiles to cause men to lust in their hearts. In the Old Testament, God warned about the women of Zion—His chosen daughters—who pranced around, “flirting with their eyes” and using the bling of their day to get men’s attention; and God brought judgment on these women! (Isaiah 3:16-17)

We tend to think of seductive women as flirtatious single women who are on the prowl for men, but Proverbs 6:23-25 and 7:4-5 speak of the “wayward wife” who uses seductive words. Women, no matter their position in life, must be careful not to practice flirtation or seduction with the men around them. It is not “innocent flirting.” Some women feel they must flirt to validate their worth. Single women may feel they have to flirt to communicate their interest in a man. But flirting is an attempt to play around with someone’s thoughts and emotions—and that is always wrong. [By the way, it’s not just women who try to flirt and seduce!] 1 Timothy 5:2 instructs all believers to treat each other as family members—with absolute purity. There are plenty of ways to communicate our thoughts, emotions, and interest to others without resorting to seduction.

In contrast, the godly woman knows that true beauty comes from within—from a worthy spirit that is feminine, gentle, and quiet (1 Peter 3:3-6), a spirit controlled by the Holy Spirit. A woman with a gentle, quiet spirit does not insist on personal rights or demand her own way. She is not pushy or manipulative. She clothes herself with Christ, and doesn’t think about ways to gratify the desires of her sinful nature (Romans 13:14). She guards her purity of mind and body, not wanting to cause men to stumble into sin (Matthew 5:28). A godly woman chooses wisdom and discretion. Remember the pig!

What do you think about this topic? Where do you draw the line between having fun around men and not-so-innocent flirting? How do you know when you've crossed over into a dangerous area? We're talking about wisdom here.

For more help, see Pursue Wisdom with Passion.

8/12/09

Faces Harder Than Rock

Have you ever seen a set jaw—the sign of a stubborn heart? In the Old Testament, God’s people stubbornly rejected His call to repentance. Jeremiah wrote, “…You have struck them down, but they felt no anguish; you have consumed them, but they refused to take correction. They have made their faces harder than rock; they have refused to repent” (Jer. 5:3). Isaiah wrote similar words when unbroken Israel continued partying and reveling while God urged prayer and repentance (Is. 22:12-13). When God’s people refused, the Lord had no choice but to proclaim judgment (Jer. 5:6; Is. 22:14).

While there is, in the church, a greater awareness of America’s culture sinking into an abyss of sin, there is little discernment about how the church has sunk to the culture’s dismal level. Christians today are toying with truth, and playing around with purity. Peter wrote, “For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God” (1 Pet. 4:17a); and Paul reminded us that if we would judge ourselves, we would not be “condemned” with the world (1 Cor. 11:32-32). God desires that we hold our lives up to the absolute standard of the Word of God, and respond in brokenness and repentance where our lives do not measure up. The cost of refusing to repent is too great.

Brokenness is the sacrifice that God will never despise (Psalm 51:16-17). Tears of brokenness are treasures in heaven, preserved by the One who loves us (Psalm 56:8). True brokenness brings healing to the soul. Jesus illustrated this well in Luke 7:37-50; Mark 14:3-9—the story of a woman with a shattered heart who broke her alabaster box and poured its precious ointment on Jesus’ head. She set aside her pride, not concerned about others’ opinions, and Jesus praised the simple, loving act that flowed from her contrite heart.

What a contrast: unbroken Jews with faces set harder than rock versus a woman poured out in repentance, with tears streaming down her face. Body of Christ, we always have a choice—stubborn refusal or repentance. God help us to grieve over our sin, broken before Him.

8/5/09

God Never Blinks

As I read Regina Brett’s 45 Life Lessons in a time of personal distress, I had to smile. “Everything can change in the blink of an eye,” she said, “But don’t worry; God never blinks.”

As a college student in Pennsylvania, I often listened to the late-night radio programs coming from Chicago’s Moody Bible Institute. As I drifted off to sleep each night, I loved a particular theme song on one program. The words of that song are still with me: “He never sleeps. He never slumbers. He watches me night and day. He never sleeps. He never slumbers. He keeps me safe along the way.” What an awesome thought! The same God whose eye is on the sparrow watches me all day, and all night. As Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s Christmas carol, “I Heard the Bells,” says, “Then pealed the bells more loud and deep; God is not dead; nor doth he sleep….”

Psalm 121 in the Message describes our never-sleeping Father God: “… your Guardian God won’t fall asleep. Not on your life! Israel’s Guardian God will never doze or sleep” (vv. 3-4). Because God never sleeps, we can lie down in peace and sleep in safety (Psalm 4:8; 121:5-8). God did not need to rest in creation because he was tired, because God never gets weary (Isaiah 40:28). He merely paused in His creative acts. But we humans need rest, and God offers it to us in Jesus (Matthew 11:28; Hebrews 4:9)

The fact that God never blinks is reassuring, but it also reminds us that He is the Sovereign God—in control of His creation, 24/7. Because God does not sleep, He is the only one who can be our true guardian.

When my boys were very small, I walked into their room as they slept and stroked their hair. They rested securely, knowing that Mom and Dad were there to protect them; but they could not imagine the fragility of human protection. God, on the other hand, stands steady watch over His children; He never lags in attention and He is all-powerful. He is our rock and fortress (Psalm 62:1-2).

When we choose to not rest in God, what does that say about our faith in His control?