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How Time Heals

July 7, 2010 2 comments

Hi, my name is Ken, and I’m a recovering self-help junkie. 

Henri Nouwen again, from a daily email I receive…

“Time heals,” people often say. This is not true when it means that we will eventually forget the wounds inflicted on us and be able to live on as if nothing happened. That is not really healing; it is simply ignoring reality. But when the expression “time heals” means that faithfulness in a difficult relationship can lead us to a deeper understanding of the ways we have hurt each other, then there is much truth in it. “Time heals” implies not passively waiting but actively working with our pain and trusting in the possibility of forgiveness and reconciliation.

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Fellow Pilgrims, Strugglers, Fighters, Saints and Sinners…

March 17, 2010 Leave a comment

Hi, my name is Ken, and I’m a recovering self-help junkie. 

Here’s an article for the ages which I have shared before but it’s more than worth sharing again. Must reading for any thinking Christian. It’s written by my friend Michael Spencer (aka imonk) who has recently been given 6-12 to live in his battle with cancer.

For fellow pilgrims, strugglers, fighters, saints and sinners…

From the iMonk Archives: When I Am Weak: Why we must embrace our brokenness and never be good Christians

The Perfection I Hope to Possess

February 10, 2010 Leave a comment

Hi, my name is Ken, and I’m a recovering self-help junkie.

I needed this reminder today…

“I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” ~Philipians 3:12-14, NLT

Memo: Horrific Earthquakes Don’t Discriminate

January 22, 2010 Leave a comment
Hi, my name is Ken, and I’m a recovering self-help junkie. 
 
I was wondering today in the light of the lame and reprehensible comments Pat Robertson recently made—where were all of the promoters of karma, the converts to the laws of reciprocity and “The Secret” addicts when it came time defend such views… I mean isn’t it one and the same, doesn’t the door swing both ways? 
 
What’s wrong with saying “they got theirs”, when basically, it’s the very line of thinking you’ve been peddling all along?  It’s like saying there’s only one kind of racism instead of acknowledging that the knife cuts both ways.  Seems to me Pat was merely repeating a line out of some best-selling postmodern book on why bad things happen to bad people and only good things will happen to you when you are good (now, raise your hand if you’re one of the good people… no, come to think of it don’t).  
 
Your gurus can’t say everyone gets what they have coming to them and then slam the door on a guy just because he’s a “preacher”, a conservative, a bible thumper, he’s not on your team—or because he doesn’t look, dress or talk like you. 
 
Where I come from they call that a double standard.
 
Truth is, we all deserve hell.  And that God spares any of us from dying under the rubble of a building decimated by an earthquake is sheer mercy—deal with the devil or not.  If a deal with the devil is criteria for an earthquake Pat, what’s the criteria for Septemeber 11, 2001?  So much for deals with the devil. 
 
Now, you can blame God for an earthquake if you like, but you better be sure too thank him for the air you have to breath too if you’re going to travel down that road. If you want to talk about the devil and who he targets, well, he’s too busy chasing down those who are a threat to his vast empire to worry about those he already has is his fold.
What I’m really wondering is this: Just how big of a rock is in front of Pat’s cave?  Seriously, there’s like a million abortions a year that take place here in our country every year. We have more run-away greed, excessive consumption and needless waste than any other country I’d bet.  And the pace at which the pornography industry is expanding in the U.S. the last couple decades surely rivals the speed at which our national debt is climbing.  America isn’t “baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet”. 
 
Now, if you’re going to agree with Pat’s comments you’ll have to throw out the book of Job while you’re at it. What about the Jesus loving Christians in Haiti who were killed when their church collapsed on them while they were at choir practice?  God could have spared them but he didn’t.  He may have reached out his arm and helped rescue a heathen instead, who is to say?  
 
We don’t know why earthquakes happen some places and not other places, other than that fault lines play a major role.  And we don’t know why some parents have children who are stillborn and others have healthy children. 
 
Why did Paul the apostle barely have shoes on his feet as he went island to island preaching the gospel, beaten and left for dead?  And why did Jesus himself have no where to lay his head?  Are we to applaud today’s charlatans who fly around the globe in their own private jumbo jets wearing Armani suits snacking on caviar while half the world goes hungry—teaching financial prosperity and seed theology as the height of Christian doctrine at the expense of people’s eternal destinies?  If God was going to see to it anyone was the victim of an earthquake, wouldn’t it be those snake oil salesman?  Were Paul and Jesus cursed by God for some pact they had made with the devil?  How about those we read about in Hebrews 11 who were sawed in two for their faith in Christ?      
          
Just as terminal cancer can strike the most positive young woman you know and an untimely stroke can happen to the healthiest man you know (and not because they failed  to follow some law of attraction), likewise, horrific earthquakes and other unexplainable disasters don’t discriminate.

Erik Guzman’s Resolution Solution

January 20, 2010 Leave a comment

Hi, my name is Ken, and I’m a recovering self-help junkie.

It’s January 20th and by this time some of you have already broken every last one of your 2010 new years resolutions, or at least most of them.

A couple months ago I stumbled upon the following in the only magazine I read cover to cover (okay, it’s like 8 pages max). Erik Guzman has a blog and is the producer of Steve Brown’s varied radio programs (if you know me at all, you know I totally dig Steve).  The article came to mind cause I’m always looking for something to post here that has been helpful to me that might be to others.  I don’t normally re-print a post or an article in its entirety from someone else (as I am more inclined to simply provide a link), but this was so good I had to… and in the event Erik ever takes it down off his blog (The Merry Monk), I’ll have it here. 

I had quite a year. I made a few resolutions at the beginning of 2009 and I’ve done well.

I worked out 5-6 times a week and became a vegetarian. My resolution was to become a vegan, but cheese kept finding its way into my mouth (it snuck in on veggie pizza and goldfish crackers). I also ate an egg. Then there was the mahi-mahi my wife and I ate while celebrating our 15th wedding anniversary…and the lunch meat I tasted when making my kids’ lunch. (Hey, it could have gone bad. I was throwing myself in front of the salmonella bus to save the children.) But that’s not the point.

The point is that I made some New Year’s resolutions and I’ve done well. With all the exercise and my vegetarianism, I lost 50 pounds. I also quit drinking and sneaking my boss’ pipe tobacco. I’m like a Nazarite without the hair. I’m going to get a life insurance policy with premiums in the basement before I lose it and go on some kind of crazy meat and beer binge, gain all the weight back, and grease up my blood. But that’s not the point.

The point is that as of right now, I’m living as cleanly as I ever have. And on top of that, I started seeing a counselor to work through my stuff, to name “my demons” and kiss them on the mouth, in an effort to live in greater degrees of freedom. And on top of that, I’m working on another master’s degree at Reformed Theological Seminary. The way I’m going, I might get translated straight into heaven like Enoch. I hope the life insurance policy pays out even if they don’t find a body.

2009 has been a year of personal reformation in just about every area of my life. Do you know what I’ve discovered in the process of getting my act together? I’ll tell you anyway. God isn’t happy with me because of my efforts. I thought he would be. I went to him and said, “Look, Father, I’m finally starting to behave like a “real” Christian. What do you think of me now?” And he just replied, “Good for you.” I could tell by the way he said it that he wasn’t impressed.

There is something twisted in me that wants to make God happy, but I’ve found that it’s useless. Trying to make God happy is like standing on the beach, collecting the waves in a child’s bucket and pouring the water back into the surf in an effort to get the ocean wet.

God is already happy and nothing I do can add to or subtract from that.

“This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” Those words from our Father were the air Jesus breathed. He did only what he saw the Father doing, and God the Father was constantly and consistently happy with God the Son.

Because of the cross, those are the Father’s words to us too. Listen to that still small voice that’s almost drowned out by self-condemnation and the accusations of our enemy and you’ll hear the words like a cool breeze in the heat of the day, “You’re my beloved child and I’m happy with you.”

Not only is the Father happy with me because I’m part of the body of his beloved Son, the fact is…he’s just plain happy. It is part of the package that comes with being the eternally blessed source of all goodness.

You don’t have to read much of the Bible to see what I mean. In Genesis, he says a few words and everything that exists springs into a good and pleasant existence. He didn’t create because of any need or loneliness on his part. The Trinity was enough. Instead, he shared his image with dust simply to bless us with the overflow of his happiness. And then, within an instant of our shattering that image and running from his blessing, the biblical account shows him chasing us to cover our shame. He proclaims his name in Exodus 34:6, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” Romans 11:35-36 reveals God’s overflowing wealth of blessedness this way, “Who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid? For from him and through him and to him are all things.” He doesn’t need anything or owe anyone…he’s the very definition of satisfied.

The Old Testament is filled with commands to rest and celebrate in God’s goodness. We’re so uptight he had to order us to share in his happiness. All those feast days were not solemn occasions. Check out this seldom quoted command from Deuteronomy 14:22, 25-26 that reveals the spirit of the law, “You shall tithe all the yield of your seed that comes from the field year by year…bind up the money in your hand and go to the place that the LORD your God chooses and spend the money for whatever you desire—oxen or sheep or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves. And you shall eat there before the LORD your God and rejoice, you and your household.” I bet you’ve never heard those verses used in a sermon on tithing.

In the New Testament we see God the Son frequenting so many parties he’s accused of being a drunk. The last book of the Bible reveals that the world ends with the biggest wedding celebration ever. Everyone’s invited and there’s an open bar: “The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price” (Revelation 22:17).

God has so much and is so much that he’s described as the fountain of living waters. We’re told that he delights in sharing his abundance with his children. Luke 12:32 reads, “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”

There is that word again, “pleasure.” God is pleased and it’s his pleasure to share the happiness of his abundance.

In the face of all that, it’s absolutely comical that I would want to make God happy, but I do. It’s ridiculous, but not unprecedented. In fact, it’s the same arrogance that motivated Adam and Eve to cover themselves with leaves instead of coming to God for clothes.

I am like the guys Paul talked about in Romans 10:2-4, “They have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness that comes from God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.”

That is what’s so dangerous about commitment in general and New Year’s resolutions in particular. Our efforts to be good can blind us to the only real righteousness there is.

Do you want to know what gave me the juice to get my act together this year? A life insurance policy with low premiums…and grace. It really is true that the only people who get any better are those who know that if they don’t get any better, God will still be happy with them anyway.

To be honest, when I first heard that message, I started smoking and drinking and rebuilding the CD collection I threw out when I first became a Christian. All because I really believed in the imputed righteousness of Christ. I was sure God was happy. But here’s the kicker…I wasn’t. I was absolutely miserable.

That is the upside of sin. If you’re really a child of God, it makes you sick. Keep it up and you’ll get more and more miserable, and consequently more and more determined to stop. You look around at the pigs you’re sharing dinner with and remember the celebrations at the Father’s house. You remember that he’s happy, that he has more than enough, and that if you go home, you’ll be happy too.

I didn’t get my act together this year to make God happy. I did it to make me happy and that’s why I did so well. When I pointed out my success to God and he said, “Good for you,” he meant it. God’s correction is his gift to us. But sometimes you don’t see that until you realize God’s already happy and he doesn’t need you to finish the job. And sometimes you don’t see he’s already happy until you get drunk and miserable and stumble home.

Hear these words from Nehemiah 8:9-10, “‘Do not mourn or weep.’ For all the people wept as they heard the words of the Law. Then he said to them, ‘Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.’”

Remember that if you find yourself feeling fat and undisciplined after all the holiday parties and food and overindulgence. As you haul that last garbage bag of torn up wrapping paper to the curb and start thinking about making some resolutions, don’t forget that God’s joy is your strength.

Don’t resolve to be good to make God happy. Instead, enjoy his happiness and you just might be surprised by your faithfulness. Even if you don’t get any better, it’s the best chance you’ve got at having a Happy New Year.

Now…does anyone want to go get a beer?

This piece was originally published in the Key Life Magazine. Click here for a free subscription and get articles like Resolution Solution and a whole lot more!

 

Who I Am

December 13, 2009 1 comment

Hi, my name is Ken, and I’m a recovering self-help junkie.

The last several days it has come to my attention that I’ve hit a wall on several fronts in my life.  My plans to get a book deal have stalled (and not so I could become some big shot author by any means).  In addition, I could list 7 other things that have come to a halt—that is if they ever had gotten started to begin with.  I am collecting a paycheck right for which I can be very thankful (especially after being unemployed for over a year and considering how many others remain jobless). But for me a job is merely a means to an end.  My life consists of much more than what I do between the hours of 9-5.  

You see, my life has turned out to date much different from how I planned it say 20 years ago.  Oh, I know, the next chapter remains unwritten and that’s cool, because this chapter has been long and painful.  But it isn’t all bad… that is the inconviences, dissapointments, heartache and frustrations.  This unwelcome chapter after all has served to define me in a sense, and it’s also helped me find out some things I just had to know.  

 “Let the redeemed of the LORD say so,
    whom he has redeemed from trouble…” ~Psalm 107:2

It’s our trouble that he uses to redeem us after all.  

I’ve learned who I am, and maybe even just as importantly, who I am not.  Whether I am anyone else’s or not, I am God’s beloved child.  I am a sinner covered by sheer mercy and saved by amazing grace.  My name is written in the Book of Life with ink that cannot be erased.  So, no matter what awaits me, and irregardless of whether the rain is pouring or the sun is shining tomorrow—I am spoken for, I am forgiven, and I am in the company of the Lord’s redeemed.

The Criteria for Coming to Jesus

June 9, 2009 Leave a comment

Ran across the following today on a blog a frequent, I took the advice.  Maybe you could use it as well.

Jesus does not say, ‘Come to me, all you who have learned how to concentrate in prayer, whose minds no longer wander, and I will give you rest.’ No, Jesus opens his arms to his needy children and says, ‘Come to me, all who are weary and heaven-laden, and I will give you rest.’

The criteria for coming to Jesus is messiness. Come overwhelmed with life. Come with your wandering mind. Come messy.

~Paul Miller, A Praying Life

HT: Jared Wilson