Pay No Attention to that Man Behind the Curtain

March 30, 2010 Leave a comment

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

Doesn’t this sound eerily familiar to what is coming out of our nations capital these days when there’s even a hint of questioning in regards to the great and powerful evils of a huge out of control government? …a government that ignores the voice of the people and presumes it knows best.

“When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty.” ~Thomas Jefferson

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

Nouwen on True Intimacy

March 3, 2010 5 comments
Hi, my name is Ken, and I’m a recovering self-help junkie.  
 
This makes all the sense in the world…   
 
“Human relationships easily become possessive. Our hearts so much desire to be loved that we are inclined to cling to the person who offers us love, affection, friendship, care, or support. Once we have seen or felt a hint of love, we want more of it. That explains why lovers so often bicker with each other. Lovers’ quarrels are quarrels between people who want more of each other than they are able or willing to give.

It is very hard for love not to become possessive because our hearts look for perfect love and no human being is capable of that. Only God can offer perfect love. Therefore, the art of loving includes the art of giving one another space. When we invade one another’s space and do not allow the other to be his or her own free person, we cause great suffering in our relationships. But when we give another space to move and share our gifts, true intimacy becomes possible.” ~Henri Nouwen

Lord—help us give one another space to move, and ourselves the same. May we experience the true intimacy only you can give.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: ,

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

Tebow Madness and the Murder of Justice

January 30, 2010 Leave a comment
Hi, my name is Ken, and I’m a recovering self-help junkie.
“…it cannot be denied that such a culture of death, taken as a whole, betrays a completely individualistic concept of freedom, which ends up by becoming the freedom of “the strong” against the weak who have no choice but to submit.” ~Pope John Paul II, 1995 
Hats off to quarterback Tim Tebow—a role model in a haystack. He could have been the poster boy for any one of a 1000 other things such as the distribution of free condoms for everybody, partying at South Beach, Nike, Gatorade or some other meaningless cause or product—and made bank. No one would have said squat. But instead he stands up for a message worth something and what’s he get?… head slammed! 
 
The recent Tebow madness all over the blogs and 24 hour news cycle merely highlights the legal slaughter of untold babies and the sale of body parts to industry for profit.  It isn’t a republican or democrat issue. I, for one, can’t stomach either party—both parties are dominated by greed, spin, deceit, hubris and corruption, with a few exceptions (and for the record, I don’t share the same views on several things with the group that produced the ad either, Focus on the Family).  The buzz is further proof of a predominant and growing throw away culture and a lot of the talk about social justice these days is just that, hot air—saving the polar bears is golden, but protecting humans is lunacy? 
 
Hey, I’m nice to animals, turn off lights I don’t need on, give clothes I no longer need to a local homeless shelter and I recycle. But when babies have no rights in a woman’s womb and are worthless enough to toss in the dumpster, I say it’s the murder of justice. 
 
The issue makes people uncomfortable, namely because they are too addicted to the approval of others and it’s easier to sit idly on the sidelines on our hands, unengaged and apathetic. Let’s call this issue it what it is—a human rights issue that isn’t politically correct. This is a “will we who value life stand up and ignore the blindness and cowardice of others and say something?” issue.  
 
Typically, I’m not the world’s biggest Palin fan, but I find myself 100% with her on her recent comments about the Tebow pro-life Super Bowl ad. She said on Greta Van Susteren’s show, “For a pro-life, pro-woman, pro-family ad to be seen as offensive and not empowering women is puzzling.”  But, in a sense, it is offensive Sarah.  It’s offensive because we’d like our consciences to remain numb and the Tebow ad isn’t going to sooth us, it’s more likely to irritate us, or maybe move us.  
 
Why is a pro-life position so threatening to people who are intellectually superior anyways, I ask?  If I said the moon was square there’d be no hate directed my way. Why do those of us who believe that a baby is a human before she enters the birth canal, made out to be nothing more than divisive bigots?  Oh, that’s right, there were and continue to remain those who erroneously maintain that the thirteenth amendment made law in 1865 and the abolition of slavery wasn’t necessary (take a trip to rural Tennessee if you don’t believe me).  The 1st amendment on the other hand, applies to positions not supported by everyone last I heard, and even those held by the minority—Pam and her son Tim included. It wouldn’t matter if the ad aired during the middle of the night on the least viewed local cable channel when no one was watching, the uproar would ensue. 
 
It boggles mind to consider the over 1 million babies who are legally aborted each year here in our country and barely no one says a thing—certainly no rational thinking person would do so. A cat gets stuck up in a tree and the world stops—where is the outrage over the real injustice?  Why do so many “hip” Christians bark about all the other issues (and many worthy… i.e., human trafficking, AIDS/HIV, etc.), but shut up and sit down on this one and let the enemy (not flesh and blood mind you) get his message out loud and clear without a peep. If there ever was an issue that’s about defending those who can’t defend themselves—this would be it. 
 
For those who argue (Donald Miller to name one, a favorite author of mine), that tackling “systemic social problems” among the poor and disadvantaged is necessary when comes to the issue of abortion… Yes, I agree for sure, but it doesn’t then stand to reason that being silent while doctors are authorized to “terminate pregnancies” at will, well, is okay.  Let’s support single moms and mentor kids without dads (and Miller does with his mentoring program), but we don’t have to put a muzzle on truth in the meantime. 
 
As to the issue of women involved in abortion, they suffer too, not just the unborn. I know this firsthand. And I’ve heard the stories of scores of women who were talked out of abortion by those willing to speak up. In many ways women end up being the victims of a defeatist approach on our part when it comes to abortion  (i.e. “we won’t win, so why try? … and we’re only alienating people by taking a stand on such a red hot issue). Adoption is one solution—and a wonderful one. I know couples (many Christians believe it or not) involved in taking on such a high calling.  
 
President Obama made it a point to set the record straight just days after taking office,”For too long, international family planning assistance has been used as a political wedge issue, the subject of a back and forth debate that has served only to divide us… I have no desire to continue this stale and fruitless debate.” 
 
The sanctity of life isn’t a political issue for me Mr. President—it’s not stale, it’s sickening.  And what is a fruitless debate is one that doesn’t take place. 
 
Human life is worth the fight.  
 
If a woman isn’t celebrated when she decides to keep her baby instead of exercising her “right to choose”—and that, amidst struggle, questions and under tremendous pressure to take the easy way out—we have become a very lost society.  
Categories: life Tags: ,

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!