Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Do You Love Yourself?

A week or so ago, I came home from work, with my briefcase slung over one shoulder - my clothes were rumpled and creased from a long day at work.  My four year old daughter greeted me at the door with a hug (sometimes leave it to Beaver isn't just a TV show).  After she hugged me, Haley looked intently up into my eyes and said, "Daddy....do you love yourself?"  It was sort of one of those deep and jarring moments a parent sometimes has around an awkward question.  I might have been less thrown off by my daughter's question if she had asked, "Daddy...will you tell me where babies come from?"  Something about Haley's question pierced deeply into my soul.  Do I love myself?  Is it ok to love myself?  Can my daughter tell that I don't always love myself?  Is it that obvious?  How did she get so smart?  I tried to recover with a similar and parental retort; "Yes, I think I do Haley.  Do you love yourself?"  And Haley shot back with an instant smile and a "YES...daddy."

But let me put the same piercing question to you today.  Do you love yourself?  If you are like me the question meets you with a strange mix of of self-consciousness and embarrassment.  But why?  We are told by psychologists that unhealthy self love can develop into a kind of self-adoration (or narcissism) [Actually narcissism the way it is classically understood by the DSMIV is not a developed personality trait but an ingrained behavior disorder].  Loving ourselves, as we often think about it seems strange and aberrant.  However, the Bible is clear that loving ourselves is a central part of our ability to love God and to love others.

When Jesus is asked the trick question by the pharisees, "What is the most important law?" [Side note, there were two separate arms of pharisaism/sadducism in the first century.  There were those who felt that the first four commandments were the most important, those relating to God.  And there were those who felt the second set, 5-10 were the most important, those relating to humans.  Jesus does not fall for this trick.]  Jesus response was, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind and all your strength," and the second is like it, "love your neighbor."  The final piece is the one that relates to the love of ourselves...."love your neighbor AS yourself."  The Greek word for AS here is tough to pin down, but the notion is that we should love our neighbors "IN THE SAME WAY AS" we love ourselves.  And the fact that Jesus suggests we should love God in same way that we should love our neighbor (in like manner), the suggestion is even more stark.  We should love ourselves in the same way that we love God.

And of course, the implication here is just as startling.  If we don't love ourselves in the same way, or with the same amount of "heart, soul, mind and strength" as we love God and we love our neighbor, we are not hitting the mark of perfection that God seeks from us.  Actually, one fundamental form of fallenness for humans is the inability to love ourselves as we love God and we love our neighbor.  Great, I now have another thing to ask forgiveness for, not loving myself as God wants me to love myself.

About an hour later, I found my daughter Haley playing with her stuffed animals in her room.  I came in and I asked, "Haley, can I ask you a question?"  She said, "yes,"  "Do you love yourself?"  Haley said, "Daddy, I already answered that question.  Yes I do."  Quite right!  Multiple answers to the question of whether we love ourselves or not might imply that we are somehow insecure about the answer, and that we need to work on that healthy God given form of self love.  And so, I will just write it down as a beginning point of self-discovery...


There I feel better...

All For Now,

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Refocus on the Family

For this week's blog post, I am inserting a section of a new book published by my friend, Jim Daly, CEO and Director of Focus on the Family.  Jim's book is full of great insights about how evangelicals should engage the larger culture on issues that we hold dear and upon which we have strong convictions.  Jim kindly uses an illustration from my own ministry (enclosed here) to help illustrate how loving Christ followers need to interact with people who come from all different areas of dysfunction and brokenness.

The following incident actually occurred at Highlands Church while I was serving as founding pastor there in about 2009.  The example represents the kind of church that I feel God is calling us all to be - loving and full of mercy!

Excerpted from “ReFocus: Living a Life That Reflects God’s Heart” (Zondervan)
The law was brought in so that the trespass
might increase. But where sin increased,
grace increased all the more.

The Reverend Graham J. Baird is the senior pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Colorado Springs. Prior to coming to Colorado, Graham served as the founding pastor of Highlands Church in Paso Robles, California. The ministry started with twenty-five people in a drive-in movie theater and has since grown to over two thousand weekly attenders. Graham’s philosophy has been to pull down the barriers and make it easier for those wanting to come to church to learn about God. He has done a good job. Wherever he’s been a pastor, whether in rural California or the front range of the Rocky Mountains, he has led with a straightforward ministerial motto: “No perfect people allowed”—pastor included.
During his time in Paso Robles, Graham encountered a variety of family scenarios, including a lesbian couple married in a state where same-sex marriage was legal. They began coming to his church and eventually had twins via in vitro fertilization. He had an opportunity to lovingly share the Bible’s perspective on human sexuality. They continued to attend. When the couple asked to have their children baptized, he had a dilemma on his hands. According to his Reformed theology, the baptism of a child does not “save” a person but represents a commitment from the Christian parent to raise the child—or children—in the faith. Graham explained that given the couple’s same-sex relationship, he couldn’t ask them to present the child and make that commitment since they weren’t actually members of the church. They were disappointed. Graham asked why they didn’t simply find a church that would accommodate their request. Their response was powerful. “This is the only church where we have felt loved in,” they told him. The children were later presented for baptism by their grandparents, who were members of the church.
Graham went on to explain what I believe strongly—that people know very quickly whether or not they are loved. The fact that this couple continued to attend—even though the church’s theology with regard to sexuality was at odds with their personal actions—suggests that Highlands Church truly loved them for a variety of reasons, but especially for this one: They know that nobody is beyond the reach of God.

All For Now,

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Spiritual Rhythm

This past week I discovered a new Spiritual truth about life - rhythm is more important than rest!

So, because I have a new 7 week old baby in my life, and because I am new on the job at First Pres as it's new Senior Pastor, I have been sort of "scrambling" over the past month or so to figure out how to juggle it all (I hasten to add that it's been a fun juggle!).  My regular day off is Friday, but because I have had several weekend work related tasks on Friday and Saturday, this past week I took Monday off instead.  Again, I figured that it would be easy to change one day for another, to trade out one slot with another slot, to switch days off, move them around, like cards on a poker table.  What I found, of course, was exactly the opposite.  I found that that since I usually take days off on Friday, my system, by body was used to Friday as a day off, and since I usually work on Monday, my system is used to Monday to work.  So, even though I working on Friday, my system was really resting, and even though I was resting on Monday, my system was actually working.  The rhythm of my life had superimposed itself on the attempt to find rest in my life.  I discovered the need for

Spiritual Rhythm!

For the past five years, our country has been dealing with a financial crisis like no other it has experienced since the Great Depression.  The Harvard economist, Nial Fergason, has called it the "Great Recession."  One of the things that has been so hard for American economists, strike that - world economists, in dealing with this crisis has been the unpredictability of it all.  No one guessed this would happen.  Economists have called it, "A rogue wave" of financial trouble.  "Rogue wave" is a term borrowed from oceanographic study - RV's happen in the ocean when great huge waves come along that nobody can predict or pinpoint on a weather chart or map.  Nobody knows where they come from, how they originate, how they formed.  The hard part about both economic rogue waves and real ones is that they are out of sink with the rhythms of natural weather phenomenon.  When rhythm disappears, so does a sense of balance, equilibrium, wholeness  - SHALOM, SHABBAT.

SHABBAT is a good word to use here.  SHABBAT (the phonetic variant of the Hebrew word for rest), was something that we learn about for the first time in the book of Genesis.  SHABBAT is something that God takes for himself after creating the world for six whole days:  "Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast away.  By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested (SHABBATED) from all his work.  And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested (SHABBATED) from all the work of creating that he had done," (Gen. 2:2-3).  There are several fascinating features to God's SHABBAT.  First, notice that God's SHABBAT is totally disconnected from His need for rest.  God doesn't need to rest, God is all powerful - omnipotent.  However, God does need rhythm.  Even God needs rhythm!  Second, SHABBAT is a holy experience.  The Bible calls the seventh day - holy, because God made it so.  SHABBAT, rhythm then is a holy experience of our lives.  Finally, there is the rhythmic nature of SHABBAT - it must occur every seventh day, on the seventh day, like clockwork for it to work.  The moment that the SHABBAT is invaded, so also is the holiness of that moment.

Are you tired and depleted right now?  Is the pace of your life overtaking the presence of God in your life?  Are you too busy?  The answer for me (to that question) is an indefatigable yes.  However, what I have learned is that much more than the need for rest in my life is the need for re-established rhythm.

All for Now,