“Nature is our greatest spiritual teacher.” Oprah Winfrey ☆

question mark 2You know who is one of the most influential spokespersons in the world today on spirituality?  Oprah Winfrey!  Read this quote from a CNN interview which shows that she definitely sees herself and her current mission as a spiritual leader.

“. . . I’m very clear about what my role is and purpose is.  This isn’t about me.  I am the messenger to deliver the message of redemption, of forgiveness, of gratitude, of evolving people to the best of themselves.  So I am on my personal journey.  My personal journey is to fulfill the highest expression of myself here as a human being here on earth.”  Hence, she is interested in fostering spirituality but not religion.  She wants people to turn inward for relevant and spiritual wholeness, not to structures, theological systems or the church.  In so many ways, we are talking about one of the most powerful spiritual leaders of our time–more influential and more powerful than almost any pastor or religious leader one can imagine.”

Now, personally I think Oprah is a very talented, confident woman.  She obviously wants to understand spiritual things.  She is articulate and intelligent.  She has a way of engaging folks to talk about what is going on in their lives and wants to help them figure out ways to grow.  She is a very generous woman who takes joy in sharing her wealth with a variety of people, especially those around the world who are the most needy.

Now, I also personally think that Oprah’s spiritual advice is most often–well–WRONG, and that those who call themselves Christians in particular need to ramp up their understanding of God’s word as it stands beside Oprah’s words!  Let’s take the title to this post.  What in the world does this statement really mean?  What “nature” are we talking about?  are we talking about birds and animals and fish?  Are we talking about beautiful scenery and the universe?  Are we talking about the nature of mankind?

And, what “spiritual” are we talking about?  Are we talking about God, or a higher being, or someone or something beyond ourselves?  Are we talking about the deep soul and spirit each of us possesses in this physical body?  Are we talking about ourselves as we look inside and ponder what, who, and why we are?

I find it interesting that Oprah will quickly say she is a Christian, but does not talk so quickly about her relationship with Jesus.  Read this description:

Winfrey said her definition of spirituality is living life with an open heart, through love, and allowing yourself to align with the values of tolerance, acceptance, of harmony, of cooperation and reverence for life.  She said she believes there is a divine thread that connects spiritually to something greater than ourselves.  ‘My favorite Bible verse–because I am a Christian–is Acts 17:28.  It says, “In God I live and move and have my being.”‘”

Another time, she said, “Well I am a Christian who believes that there are certainly many more paths to God other than Christianity.

And another:  “Christ did not come to die on the cross but to bring Christ consciousness.”

And even another:  “And God is a feeling experience, not a believing experience.  And if your religion is a believing experience, if God for you is still about a belief, it is not truly God.”

Oprah has a great variety of friends in realms deemed spiritual.  When she attends megachurches Potter’s House in Dallas (T.D. Jakes) and Lakewood Church in Houston (Joel Osteen) she raises her hands and amens frequently..  Currently, she is close with spirituality author and speaker Eckhart Tolle, who writes and lectures about “the inner state of your consciousness” and “your essence identify.”  Oprah’s Belief TV series in 2015 explored major world religions to display that there is a deep longing inside people to find someone or something beyond themselves which will bring peace, contentment, and joy.  I watched several of this series, and did not see a whole lot of peace, contentment, and joy represented there.

Well, In Oprah’s stepping onto “Christian” turf, she’s in territory I am more familiar with.  When she makes statements like, “Christ did not come to die on the cross. . .” I can go to the Bible to find these words of Jesus when His death was getting closer.  “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say?  ‘Father, save me from this hour?’  No.  It was for this very reason I came to this hour.  Father, glorify Your name!”  (John 12:27-28)

There’s so much more to say–and I’m working on more posts on this subject.  On the surface, the title of this post may feel like a “deep” thought to many–and if Oprah said it, it must be true.  Right?  Hmmmmm.  I see it as a thought which can lead us down a myriad of bunny trails which hide the way to the Truth, Way, and Life who is Jesus Christ!  (John 14:6)

More scratches on the surface of this topic to come soon. 🙂

 

One Shade of Black – The Sequel ☆

How we blow things out of all proportion, until a simple truth is no longer recognizable.

Isn’t that a great sentence?  I ran across it today in – of all places – a murder mystery.  I think it is the perfect summary of the sensational press for books and movies such as “Fifty Shades of Grey.”  Just take a look at movie titles and so many of them scream of seduction, infidelity, sexual crimes, violence, witchcraft, and making normal things abnormal.  TV shows make comedy out of sexual innuendos, affairs, teenage escapades, and activities which most of the general public still considers to be inappropriate.  And, yet, they also find them funny.  Go figure.

Going beyond the comedy are very graphic depictions of murder, kidnapping, violent crimes, crimes against children, and pornography of all levels.  The Greeks had a word for this:  porneia – the selling off or surrendering of sexual purity; promiscuity of any type.  Sound familiar?  And, that word is in the Bible!

So, what about Fifty Shades?

“To truly understand the success of Fifty Shades, one first has to revisit the book’s roots.  Despite a determined campaign of internet scrubbing by author E.L. James and her publishers, it’s still relatively common knowledge that Fifty Shades began its life as an online Twilight fan fiction serial called Master of the Universe.”♦♦

Author Kirsten Andersen summarizes the Twilight plot, and says Fifty Shades is simply the same teen story told for adults.  Both tell the stories of shy, innocent girls/women who are attracted to very attractive and magnetic boys/men who have an innate desire to hurt them.  The women agree to things they would not ordinarily agree to because of the intense attraction and the intense high from having a popular, incredibly powerful man seemingly interested in them.  That someone finds them that attractive, is enough to erase their inhibitions about intimate moral activity.

Let’s face it.  Heightened appetite for anything can overrule our best intentions.

Paul addressed a Greek audience in I Thessalonians 4:3-5 when he said, “God’s will is for you to be holy, so stay away from all sexual sin.  Then each of you will control his own body and live in holiness and honor–not in lustful passion like the pagans who do not know God and his ways.”  (NLT)  Now, the pagans he was talking about were those living in a Twilight and Fifty Shades mentality.  They were coming out of a culture which made sexual activity common place even in their religious temples.  Their appetites had been groomed to accept overindulgence as the norm.

Once you acquire a taste for something, it’s hard to stay away from it.

God knows the strength of our passionate feelings.  He created them – and they are good.  Our tendency is to single out sexual intimacy as our entitled right, and that is so much less than God wants for us.  Just look at the list of Spiritual Fruit in Galatians 5:22-23:  love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  And, there are no lows against any of these!  Imagine our lives if we took full advantage of all these things which are part of our inheritance in Jesus Christ!

Is it possible to learn self-control of body appetites?  Absolutely!

Is it easy?  Nooooooooooooooooooooo!

The pattern has been set.  The enemy of our souls has taken a God-given desire and turned it into an addictive frenzy which will not subside any time soon.  I’ve discovered the truth of Psalm 119:11 which is a life-long pursuit – that of hiding God’s word in the heart to keep sin at bay.  Now, understand that I am certainly no Pollyanna.  Just ask my friends.  This verse brings responsibility into focus.  And that is not easy!

I wrote to a very good friend recently, “Sometimes I feel like I’m in the deep end of the swimming pool because my experience is far below my knowledge – – – thankfully so!”  He wrote back, “Our culture has gone off the cliff, especially in our handling of our sexuality.  When you think of sexual desire simply as another bodily function like eating, why not indulge with whomever you want?  It is and will be a lonely walk for those living under clear biblical teaching.”

How true, how true.  So, fellow onesomes, stand firm!

  •   The Brutal Telling, Louise Penny, Minotaur Books 2009, page 179
  • ♦♦ Just search for “why is 50 shades of grey so popular” for interesting insight to some of what guides our culture.

One Shade of Black! ☆

By now, everyone is aware of the book and movie titled “Fifty Shades of Grey.”  I’m here to tell you that you can find out the plot, see still pictures, view the movie trailers, and read graphic quotations – and get all you need to know without reading the book or seeing the movie.  This trilogy (with “Fifty Shades Darker” and “Fifty Shades Freed”) came out in 2011-12 and gained renewed energy in 2015 with the release of a movie – on Valentine’s Day – the supposed most romantic day of the year.

Reading the host of reviews is quite interesting.  One said the trilogy will “possess you, obsess you, and stay with you forever.”  Really?  Do you really want the rest of your life to be affected by someone’s imagination?  Some reviewers are saying “boring,” or “didn’t show enough detail.”  Hmmm.  I’m glad I don’t know what they have been watching.  I have yet to find a review which says, “right on,” “what an inspiring story,” or “something I’d take my children to – or want them to read.”  Unfortunately, a lot of teens and tweens are devouring this book, and even though the movie has an “R” rating, many are seeing the movie with – and without – adult permission thanks to creative ways to enter the theater, DVDs, and the internet.  If the World Wide Web is to be believed, and in this case I think it is, even the number of Christian women reading this book is astounding.  Sad commentary.

Now, sex is a good thing.  In its simplest form, it is what differentiates us as men and women.  It’s a big factor in what attracts us to one another.  It is one of the most intimate forms of relationship which can be experienced.  God created it to be all these things.  AND He put it into the context limited to a man and his wife.  (NIV) Genesis 2:24-25:  “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.  Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.

The human anatomy has pretty much remained the same since the beginning.  We know what we look like.  We’re taught from the earliest age that certain parts of the body deserve the dignity and respect which keeps them protected and covered.  Why?  Because they have the ability to create new life – let alone create intense feelings.  Let’s face it.  Other parts of the body simply do not have that incredible function.

What in the world has happened to bring such focus to areas which are worthy of privacy?  Why are we not ashamed?  We all agree that violation of private areas of a child is wrong.  So, when is a person not a child anymore?  Why are younger and younger children experimenting with one another – and where do they get their ideas?  How is it that teenage sex is becoming a normal thing?  A lot of teens might pause if they think, “what if Grandma was watching me right now?”  But, what if Grandma is preoccupied with reading books like “Fifty Shades?”  If we accept everything we see on TV and movies, why do we agree that rape is wrong?  I could ask a lot more questions, but you get the gist.

Well, the answer to “what in the world has happened” is that the enemy of our souls, the Devil, has taken something God meant for good and has made it into a twisted tool for over-satisfying imaginations and appetites.  Purposefully inflicting pain on someone you love, especially during a time which is meant to express deep affection, is not an expression of the husband loving his wife mentioned in Ephesians 6:28.  We agree that folks who hurt themselves and others need help!  It is simply not the way it is supposed to be!

We all like stories.  I find mysteries especially riveting – the ones which do not describe or show gore in disgusting and violent ways, that is.  I like a good love story, too.  I do find, however, that personally I must limit my reading or watching movie love stories, because they always end with boy getting girl and vice versa.  While that is sweet, it is not realistic, and even the most G-rated movie can tend to feed my thoughts with growing unfulfilled yearnings – because in real life, boy does not always get the girl and vice versa!

One thing “Fifty Shades” shouts loud and clear:

“Abuse is not glamorous or cool.  It is never OK, under any circumstance.”

This is a quote from an excellent article written by Mariam Grossman, MD about the destructive effects of “Fifty Shades of Grey” which deserves our attention.

Well, I’m sure this will sequel itself into another post. 🙂

 

 

Really good resolutions for us all! ☆

resolutionsAre you a list-maker?  Do you get great satisfaction in crossing off things accomplished on your list?  The real question is – do you make New Year’s Resolutions each year even though prior lists have gone the way of the dodo bird?

One piece of singles advice I used to get regularly was, “Have you made a list of what you want in a husband?”  And then, “Have you prayed over your list?”  Another piece of advice:  “Write letters to your potential future unknown husband telling him what is on your heart.”  It didn’t dawn on me then that these pieces of golden words were almost always given by folks who had already walked down the wedding aisle.  I took every word to heart and when it seemed that nothing was coming of all the effort, I assumed it was because of some great deficit in my character.  Or worse, I assumed that God was teasing me with some sort of golden carrot just out of reach.  Why else would He not be “giving me the desires of my heart?”  (Psalm 37:4)

I have to say that I did write a number of letters to that future ideal husband, baring my heart and soul.  When I discovered it was bringing more pain than hope, I stopped.  They sort of fell into the genre of romance novels.  There was always a “happily ever after” in both, and reality was that more often than not “happily ever after” didn’t happen – at least not the way I wanted.  Both letters and books left my heart in a great empty closet which was full of sorrow and broken dreams.

So, where is my heart today?  Well, some days I live with great contentment and joy.  Other days, loneliness weighs heavily making it hard to breathe.  As I read journals from years past, I can climb right into those empty spots and cry.  What is different today is the realization that no matter how permanent something feels, it isn’t!  Now, I can tell myself, “Have a good cry and then go wash dishes.”  Having spontaneous lunches with good friends also helps, by the way.  They put me back into the real world.

Now, on to the title of this post.  What is a really good list of resolutions for us all?  It can be found in Philippians 4:4-9.  The apostle Paul is writing to his beloved church in Philippi, telling them (my summary):

Rejoice!  Pray!  Reflect God’s character in your daily life!  Do not wallow in worry!  Give thanks!  Rest in God’s indescribable peace!  Fix your mind on things which are true, honorable, good, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and ponder-worthy!

This is challenging, isn’t it?  I know the more I determine to think about things of good report, the more I see the muddy elephant which sloshes through the room of my mind with reckless abandon.  That is where I realize I am in the midst of a great war.  Elephantine thoughts versus the much broader concepts of joyful living which can transform elephants into gentle giants.

Let’s hear it for the Gentle Giants!

Blessings to you, my friends!

What in the world is a “Christian sexual atheist?” ☆

double arrow

The Christian Post ran an article in the Spring of 2014 called “Sexual Atheism: Christian Dating Reveals a Deeper Spiritual Malaise” which highlights an alarming reality in today’s single society.  It uses information from a 2014 survey done by christianmingle.com called State of Dating in America.  While this was not limited to those who claimed to be Christians, a significant number of Christians participated.  It is worth your while to look at all 81 pages of this report which includes dating etiquette, deal breakers, expectations, and a host of other information.

Out of 2,600 singles from 18 to 59 years of age, over 80% believe that engaging in any sort of sexual activity with someone outside of a committed relationship is considered as unfaithfulness.  This includes flirting and texting suggestive messages and pictures.  But, even though fidelity is given lip service, about 25% would consider marrying someone who has been unfaithful to them, with a slight % increase of those who admit to having been unfaithful in a relationship.  So, faithfulness is important, but not so important that it is a limiting boundary in many lives. In the scale of faithfulness and temptation to infidelity, the temptation often proves more appealing – of greater value – more important – irresistible.

The Christian Post article says that 63% of the Christians surveyed indicated that they would have sex before marriage.  This is not terribly surprising to us given the world we live in today.  Sexual messages smack us in the face in advertising, movies, and online opportunities.  We all know folks who choose to live together outside of the marriage commitment, and sometimes children are also in the picture.  And, we are not surprised.

Some who say they have given their lives to Jesus Christ and are committed to honor and glorify Him are ones who admit they are sexually active outside of marriage.

What has happened to disconnect these folks from honest and straight-forward teaching on moral conduct and holy living?  Is this just a reaction to strict and discompassionate lectures of the past?  Is it just a reaction to the common command, “No sex before marriage,” with no solid and honest help to deal with a normal strong desire built into us by the God Who created sex and everything else?

What has happened to honest exploration of Scriptures such as I Corinthians 6:12-19:

  •      * I can do anything – but everything is not beneficial.  I have choice!
  •      * God created me to glorify Him in what I choose to do.
  •      * Immorality – sexual practice outside of its intended parameters – is harmful to the body.
  •      * Therefore – choose not to harm your body – the temple of the Holy Spirit – in this way.

A much more pressing issue is, the Church has said “don’t” for centuries.  But the question of “why” has not been answered adequately in order to build a good enough reason into single hearts to comply.

Just as “because I say so” is not necessarily a convincing statement to a defiant child, “because God says so” is not necessarily convincing to a person whose hormones are screaming for release.

Consider this quote from The Christian Post article;

“. . . nearly nine out of 10 self-proclaimed single Christians are, in practice, sexual atheists.  In other words, God has nothing to say to them on that subject of any consequence or, at least anything meaningful enough to dissuade them from following their own course of conduct.  It is the ultimate oxymoron.  A person who at once believes in a wise, sovereign and loving God who created them and all things, can also believe simultaneously He should not, cannot or will not inform their thinking or living sexually.  It reminds me of those famous red letters in Luke’s Gospel where Jesus says, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’ and do not do what I say?”  (Luke 6:46, NIV)  There is a disconnect between identity and activity.”

Well, my brain is off and running on this topic!  I hope this has spurred some new thinking for you.  Your comments most welcomed!

Does the Bible really tell singles to “wait?” ☆

“Waiting” is one of those words which we use in a number of ways:

  •    *  Time spent in inactivity in anticipation of a desired result.
  •    *  Time wasted when only one bank teller window is open and there are 20 people in line.
  •    *  Having to sit through three red lights because of road construction.
  •    *  For the single person, time spent preparing for marriage as the only desired goal – and being disappointed by God’s timing – or by looooooooooooooong-term or permanent earthly singleness.
  •    *  In a dating situation, abstaining from mutual close physical activity which is inappropriate in singleness, appropriate in marriage.

Sound familiar?  I think most of us think of “waiting” as wasted time.  And, for the single, a great many might consider “waiting” for marriage as an outdated notion thought up by killjoys.  Our culture has been relentlessly pushing “if it feels good, it must be good,” messages for so many years that even some Christians of all ages have adopted that thought pattern.

“God can’t really expect us to live out expectations written to a totally different age and society can He?”

“He wouldn’t give us one of the strongest pleasures known to mankind and then put equally strong restrictions for its usage – and expect us to obey them – would He?”

Well, yes!  the use of unlawful sexual activity for lustful purposes is condemned from Genesis to Revelation – for the unmarried and the married!

While it is true that verses relating to unmarried folks throughout scripture do not use the words “wait” or ‘be celibate,” that is certainly the understanding.  Words used are ones like “flee immorality,” “don’t commit adultery,” behave decently” [in terms of sexual morality], “there must not even be a hint of . . .” and “honor the marriage bed.” ♥

So, what about ‘waiting?”  Once again, I cannot find that Scripture tells unmarried folks to spend time waiting for marriage, or even to assume that is his promise for our lives.  We do, however, have clear indication of what the object of our waiting should be!

“I wait for the LORD, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope.  I wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.”  (Psalm 130:5-6)

So, how does this help when physical desires threaten to overtake us and we are tempted to chew the upholstery off the sofa if we cannot express them?  Oh how I wish I could give 4 easy and effective steps to victory in the lust area!  I CAN say that God’s restrictions are meant to spare us the pain of guilt and shame which comes as a result of carelessly and hastily sharing the most intimate parts of our bodies and souls with the opposite sex.  He wants to spare us from the complications and heartbreak pregnancies outside of marriage cause.  He wants to spare us the fear and consequences of STDs.  He wants us to understand the “two becoming one” in the covenant of marriage alone.  (Mark 10:8)

I CAN also say that God listens with understanding when we holler at Him a bit.  He’s not surprised by anything, by the way.  We don’t need to pretty up any language for His ears.  So, pray, pray, pray, run, flee, talk to an accountability friend, AND realize that as strong as our passions and urges are, they do not last forever!

“I have the right to do anything” you say–but not everything is beneficial.  “I have the right to do anything”–but I will not be mastered by anything. . . Flee from sexual immorality.  All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body.  Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?  You are not your own, you were bought at a price.  Therefore honor God with your bodies.  (I Corinthians 6:12,, 18-20)

♥  I Corinthians 6:18; Exodus, 20:14; Romans 13:13; Ephesians 5:3; Hebrews 13:4.  All Scripture quotes – NIV.

 

 

If there was a degree in waiting, I’d have a PhD! ☆

Not too many folks like to wait and we do not generally block out time in our calendar for it.  It just seems to happen doesn’t it?  And, at times, it turns into waaaaaaaaaaaaaiting!  It can seem interminable when tryiwait hereng to figure out how to navigate a twosome world as a onesome.

My friend Noah Webster defines “wait” like this:

  •      * To watch, observe, take notice.
  •      * to stay or rest in expectation and patience.
  •      * To stop or remain stationary until the arrival of some person or event.

Aren’t those great ways to change our perspective from time wasted to actively participating in life’s timetable?  We tend to think of waiting as being forced to do nothing when we could be productively involved in some more enjoyable activity.  Most often, we do not choose waiting with joy and patience and self-control – three of those fruit of the Spirit we read about in Galatians 5;22-23.  We do not see it as “resting in expectation and patience.”

In terms of unwanted singleness, so much energy can be used up looking at the object of our wait that we miss out on the goodness waiting can uncover.  Unfortunately, we are surrounded with messages of instant gratification.  Lyrics to songs tell us things like, “if it feels so good, how can it be wrong?”  We are groomed to rely on feelings and emotions as accurate and adequate guides for decision-making.

There once was a man who was enjoying a pleasant spring evening on his balcony.  Across the courtyard he saw a beautiful woman who was also out enjoying the evening, totally unaware of an admirer who couldn’t keep his eyes off her.  “I must meet her,” he told himself, and asked around until he found out who she was.  He was married.  She was married.  But that didn’t seem to matter as his emotions and body worked in tandem to put an affair into action.  This was not a man unaware of what life history lessons said about faithfulness between husband and wife, and the terrible consequences of adultery – unfaithfulness of a physical nature which starts in the mind and heart, acting itself out in the body.  The choice was his to keep watching or to use concepts of self-control and obedience he knew well as a skillful leader.  He wrote in his journal often about the steadfast character of his God and his deep desire to delight in God’s ways.  At this moment, however, all that dimmed as he chose to follow his cascading feelings, even going so far as to carry out a plan to kill the woman’s husband so he could have her all to himself.

Sounds like the plot of a good movie, right?  Well, it comes straight out of II Samuel 11 as a vivid illustration of a king named David who let his feelings override his good judgment and knowledge of righteousness.  He took advantage of Bathsheba who was probably flattered at the attentions of such a renowned king.  Later on, she because the mother of Solomon, another renowned king who followed God in wisdom and faithfulness – until his eyes, mind, and feelings began to wander and he ended up with 700 wives and hundreds of other playmates.  Wow!  (I Kings 11:3)

So, if these two men, used mightily by God in the foundation of our faith, could not keep temptation from overwhelming them, how in the world can we?  Psalm 119 is a good place to start:

How can a young person live a clean life?  By carefully reading the map of your [God’s] word.  (Psalm 119:9 – MSG**)
I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.  (Psalm 119:11 – ESV**)

These verses are the start of what Paul calls “fleeing immorality.  He writes:

Run from sexual sin!  No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does.  For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body.  Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God?  You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price.  So you must honor God with your body.  (I Corinthians 6:18-20 – NLT**)

Sigh!  It must be time to reaudit the basic class:  Waiting 101.  See you there!

** MSG – The Message; ESV – English Standard Version; NLT – New Living Translation

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *