Saturday, January 30, 2016

Wholehearted Love

Have you ever been wholehearted in something?

A hobby?
A relationship?
A sport?
A job?

How often are you wholehearted in your love toward others? I mean really loving them, all the way.

When we’re halfhearted in our love for others, it’s actually because we’re being wholehearted in our commitment to our own comfort or safety or whatever. That’s why we calculate and begin to plan our path of minimal (or at least controlled) cost-to-me.

But Jesus said, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” He is calling us to be all-in for others like we are naturally all-in for ourselves.

Jesus showed us what this kind of love looks like in the parable of the “Good Samaritan” (Luke 10:30-37, emphasis added):  
Jesus replied, "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, 'Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.' Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?" He said, "The one who showed him mercy."
Loving his neighbor looked like compassion to a stranger. His heart went out to this man on the street. But he didn’t stop there. He actually did something about this man’s plight. He went to him, which means he took a risk. It could have been a ruse. The robbers could have been lurking behind a rock waiting to pounce on this compassionate but unsuspecting soul.

He bound up his wounds. He poured on oil and wine. He gave time and resources. He gave them willingly. And he went all the way with it.

It’s so easy to begin to calculate. To seek to minimize the outlay. This man wasn’t looking for the minimum requirement. He was committed to loving his neighbor as himself.

So he set the man on his own animal and brought him to an inn…AND he took care of him. He didn’t just drop him off. He took care of him. This man he didn’t even know. And the next day – he must have been there overnight taking care of him – he paid for their stay (and then some). Perhaps the man was now stable enough that some normal R&R would lead to recovery. So, the Samaritan left him in the care of the innkeeper, promised to cover any additional expenses, and promised to return. THAT is wholehearted love.

And Jesus said… "You go, and do likewise." (Luke 10:37)

How in the world do we do that?! 

By warming ourselves at the wholehearted love of God for us dire-straits sinners. 

God wholeheartedly loved this world and willingly gave us his only Son. We were in worse shape than the man on the road in Luke 10. And the Son of God took on flesh to love his neighbor to the utmost. He didn't just nurse us back to health. We were spiritually dead and without hope. He died and rose again so we could be resurrected, made alive together with Christ. He didn't just give up some of his resources. Though he was rich, yet for our sake he became poor, so that we spiritual debtors could become rich with his love and mercy (2 Cor 8:9). Get near the blazing glory of that love, and experience it (Eph 3:19), and your heart will swell with wholehearted love for neighbor. 

We love because he first loved us (1 John 4:19). Aren't you glad God isn't halfhearted in his love for us? 

Friday, January 29, 2016

Does God Get Weary? Yes and no.

Does God get weary?

No. He's self-sufficient and omnipotent. He needs no sleep and he doesn't get tired.
Psalm 121:1-4 I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth. ... he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
Isaiah 40:28 Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.
Yes. Our sin and our hypocritical worship and words can weary him.
Isaiah 1:11-14 "What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the LORD; I have had enough of burnt offerings... "When you come to appear before me, who has required of you this trampling of my courts? Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me. ... they have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them.
Isaiah 7:13 Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also
Jeremiah 15:6 You have rejected me, declares the LORD; you keep going backward, so I have stretched out my hand against you and destroyed you-- I am weary of relenting.
Malachi 2:17 You have wearied the LORD with your words. But you say, "How have we wearied him?" By saying, "Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the LORD, and he delights in them." Or by asking, "Where is the God of justice?"
Isaiah 43:24 ... you have burdened me with your sins; you have wearied me with your iniquities.

Do human beings get weary? Duh. Of course we do. But it's important to see how the Bible speaks of why we get weary, and where we must go with that weariness.
(The people of God have looked for answers everywhere but from God.) Isaiah 47:13 You are wearied with your many counsels; let them stand forth and save you, those who divide the heavens, who gaze at the stars, who at the new moons make known what shall come upon you.
Jeremiah 9:5 Everyone deceives his neighbor, and no one speaks the truth; they have taught their tongue to speak lies; they weary themselves committing iniquity.
(The people of God are weary by their own doing, but they blame it on God. So, God responds.) Micah 6:3 "O my people, what have I done to you? How have I wearied you? Answer me!
The bottom line is...we weary ourselves with our idolatry and sin. We think God's call to repent and trust in him alone is too much to bear; too heavy a burden. We keep pushing away the One who comes to help. And we wear ourselves out running after false gods and saviors.

What burdens God and wearies him is not our continual coming for more grace and mercy. It's our stubborn refusal to call on him and come to him for grace and mercy.
Isaiah 43:22-24 "Yet you did not call upon me, O Jacob; but you have been weary of me, O Israel! ... I have not burdened you with offerings, or wearied you with frankincense.
Our problem is not that God requires to much. Our problem is our unwillingness to trust and obey him. He is burdened when we stubbornly try to bear our own burdens. He gets weary of our refusal to to trade our weariness for his strength and joy and freedom.

Let's see this insanity for what it is and realize that it is the Omnipotent, Kind-Hearted, Stubborn-Love, Burden-Bearer that we push away! We need to hear the good news again. Our great-hearted, resolute Savior came to rescue us and he did not give up or give in.
Isaiah 42:1-4 Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not grow faint or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his law.
Isaiah 53:4-6, 10-12 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned-- every one-- to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. ... it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; ... by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. ... he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.
And he did it all so he could say (Matthew 11:28-30),
"Come to me, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." we could experience Isaiah 40:28-31:
Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Defining Epic, And Choosing Your Weapons Wisely

Think about the epic, superpower showdown that took place in the wilderness between Jesus and Satan.

Matthew 4:1-11:
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 
And the tempter came and said to him, "If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread." 
But he answered, "It is written, "'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'" 
Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, "'He will command his angels concerning you,' and "'On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.'" 
Jesus said to him, "Again it is written, 'You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.'" 
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, "All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me." 
Then Jesus said to him, "Be gone, Satan! For it is written, "'You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.'" 
Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.
This was one of the most epic showdowns ever. Consider the cosmos-shaking power and weaponry at the disposal of the Son of God and the Prince of Darkness. The two most powerful beings to ever walk the earth. And yet, if you tried to portray this battle cinematically, there would be no mixed martial arts, no light sabers, no blasting each other around in the wilderness with Jedi or Sith hand thrusts dispensing the power of The Force, no wizard staffs, no red laser beams shooting from their eyes, no pyrotechnics, no nuclear explosions.

The uber firepower utilized that day was in the form of words. Three times the Dark Lord uttered deceitful, crafty words intended to upend the cosmos (after all, it worked the first time). Three times the Prince of Light parried with the seemingly pedestrian reply, “It is written." But these were not just any words. They were omnipotently powerful words. The words of the One who spoke the cosmos into being.

No wonder the armor of God includes the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. If that is God's weapon of choice, we would do well not to downgrade its potency.

Ephesians 6:10-14, 17:
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore ... and take ... the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

A Conversation With The Man Behind The Undercover Planned Parenthood Videos

The undercover videos exposing Planned Parenthood's practices in selling baby parts may have faded from the mainstream news media, but their work goes on. Watch below as Russell Moore (ERLC President) and Jim Daly (Focus on the Family President) have a conversation with David Daleiden.

From the ERLC (The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission) website:

Friday, January 8, 2016

Fighter Verses for 2016

Can I encourage you to commit to a Bible memory program for 2016?

Let the grace-filled promises of Psalm 1 draw you in:
Blessed is the man who[se]...delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. 
He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.
What better way to meditate regularly on God's Word (and thus experience Psalm 1 rootedness, fruitfulness, durability, and flourishing), than by meditating weekly on a passage as you memorize it?

I'm sure there are lots of good programs out there, but the one we're going to use at Bethel this year is called Fighter Verses. It was developed by Desiring God and is available for iPhone (or iPad) or Android devices. There is a one-time cost of $2.99 for the app, but you will then have full access to 5 years worth of verses, and a TON of other helpful resources built right in. For instance, every verse has been put to song, so you can tap on a link and hear your verse sung!

The app looks like this:

You can see the "F" for Fighter Verse emblazoned like a cross on the shield.

What if your use of this "F" dwarfed your use of this 'f' in 2016?

Or what if you simply reviewed your Fighter Verse every time you checked Facebook? Do you think you'd regret it by the end of 2016? 

I encourage you to find another person (like someone in your community group!) to commit with you. That way you can encourage each other and hold each other accountable to stick with it through the duration of this next year.

By the way, if you're not a smart phone / tablet user, you can still buy the hard copies here. The packs are available in ESV and NIV.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Why French Kids Don't Have ADHD, or, Vive La Resistance

For a number of years, I've been interested in, and concerned by, the phenomena of ADHD. In our country, we are very quick to diagnose and medicate. The virtual absence of this "disorder" in many other cultures and in previous generations is a thing worth pondering. It would do us good to chasten our tendency to view our cultural location and moment as the wisest and most progressive. But who am I to say?

A little while back, the title "Why French Kids Don't Have ADHD" caught my eye. I was even more interested to find it was written by an experienced family therapist and posted on I'm guessing "psychologytoday" is not the Johns Hopkins of the psychology/psychiatry guild, but still -- when an "expert" from within voices a challenge, it's worth taking note. I say, may her tribe increase (though she's certainly not alone, as this challenge to typical ADHD diagnostic practice shows).

Here are some excerpts from this helpful post by Marilyn Wedge (my emphasis added).
In the United States, at least 9 percent of school-aged children have been diagnosed with ADHD, and are taking pharmaceutical medications. In France, the percentage of kids diagnosed and medicated for ADHD is less than .5 percent. How has the epidemic of ADHD—firmly established in the U.S.—almost completely passed over children in France? 
Is ADHD a biological-neurological disorder? Surprisingly, the answer to this question depends on whether you live in France or in the U.S. 
In the United States, child psychiatrists consider ADHD to be a biological disorder with biological causes. The preferred treatment is also biological—psycho stimulant medications such as Ritalin and Adderall. 
French child psychiatrists, on the other hand, view ADHD as a medical condition that has psycho-social and situational causes. Instead of treating children's focusing and behavioral problems with drugs, French doctors prefer to look for the underlying issue that is causing the child distress—not in the child's brain but in the child's social context. ...
Moreover, the definition of ADHD [in France] is not as broad as in the American system, which, in my view, tends to "pathologize" much of what is normal childhood behavior. The DSM specifically does not consider underlying causes. It thus leads clinicians to give the ADHD diagnosis to a much larger number of symptomatic children, while also encouraging them to treat those children with pharmaceuticals. ... 
From the time their children are born, French parents provide them with a firm cadre—the word means "frame" or "structure." Children are not allowed, for example, to snack whenever they want. ... French children learn to wait patiently for meals, rather than eating snack foods whenever they feel like it. French babies, too, are expected to conform to limits set by parents and not by their crying selves. French parents let their babies "cry it out" ... if they are not sleeping through the night at the age of four months. 
French parents, Druckerman observes, love their children just as much as American parents. They give them piano lessons, take them to sports practice, and encourage them to make the most of their talents. But French parents have a different philosophy of discipline. Consistently enforced limits, in the French view, make children feel safe and secure. Clear limits, they believe, actually make a child feel happier and safer—something that is congruent with my own experience as both a therapist and a parent. Finally, French parents believe that hearing the word "no" rescues children from the "tyranny of their own desires." And spanking, when used judiciously, is not considered child abuse in France. ... 
As a therapist who works with children, it makes perfect sense to me that French children don't need medications to control their behavior because they learn self-control early in their lives. The children grow up in families in which the rules are well-understood, and a clear family hierarchy is firmly in place. In French families, as Druckerman describes them, parents are firmly in charge of their kids—instead of the American family style, in which the situation is all too often vice versa.

Not surprisingly, her article received some push back. She responded with part 2, where she takes her kid-gloves off and swings a little harder. If you have any attention span left (poor pun intended) for this overly-long post, here you go:
... The main point of my article was that there is no scientific evidence that ADHD is a real biological disorder. Medical scientists have not isolated a biological cause for ADHD, nor is there a laboratory test for it. ADHD is a social construction by a committee of psychiatrists who author the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Many of the authors of the DSM-4 (56% to be exact) have financial ties to pharmaceutical companies who stand to profit greatly from medicating children. 
...I think it is important to realize that the DSM is an artifact of culture, and that not all cultures construct human problems and suffering in the same way
As I point out in ... ADHD: The Emperor’s New Diagnosis, …the moniker ADHD merely describes a cluster of externally observed symptoms: the child often fidgets, makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, often loses his pencils, has difficulty waiting his turn, blurts out answers in class, and so forth. This is like defining diabetes as excessive urination, frequent thirst, lack of energy, and having sweet-smelling urine. Of course doctors do not define diabetes by these observable symptoms because diabetes has a well understood biological cause. Diabetes is a metabolic disorder of the pancreas being unable to produce sufficient insulin. But ADHD is defined only by externally observable symptoms
In my own work as a family therapist for twenty three years, I find that searching out the underlying cause of a child’s distractibility, inattentiveness, fidgetiness, etc. in the child’s social context (family, school and friends) is a safer and more effective way to help the child get over his problems than by dosing him with amphetamine drugs like Ritalin. As French psychiatrists found before me, diagnosing the child with ADHD does not help at all if one’s goal is to solve the child’s problem rather than mask his symptoms with potentially harmful drugs
Many parents are beginning to cotton on to the situation as well. As Bronwen Hruska explains, in her New York Times article of August 18, 2012, “Raising the Ritalin Generation”, the cause for a child’s antsy, disruptive behavior in the classroom may well be due to a social context factor like having a teacher who “doesn’t know what to do with boys.” Hruska also describes her shock when she read about the possible side effects of a medication her doctor said was safe for her son’s ADHD-like symptoms... 
Recently, I discovered another interesting fact that might throw even more light on why French children have not been plagued by the ADHD epidemic in anything like the numbers of [A]merican children afflicted by it. French children are not exposed to TV screens nearly as much as children in the United States because they are protected from it. The French government has actually banned French television programs designed for children under three-years-old. ... based on a ruling by the French High Audiovisual Council: “Television viewing hurts the development of children under 3 years old and poses a certain number of risks, encouraging passivity, slow language acquisition, over-excitability, troubles with sleep and concentration, as well as dependence on screens.” 
As mental health professionals seeking clarity in our thinking and ever new ways to help our clients, we must be aware of ourselves as living and working within a cultural context. Stepping outside of our own context to see how other cultures construct human problems helps us become more aware of what is natural and what is cultural.