This Kind of Pride is Good

January 18, 2012

Proverbs 17:6

Children’s children are a crown to the aged, and parents are the pride of their children.

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Shame, guilt and the pursuit of validation in vain sources plague this generation.  I think one of the biggest reasons is found here: we now have a fatherless community on our hands.  And their homes are broken.

So they have lost one of their most foundational sources of dignity and pride.  They have to be their own people; they don’t have mentors in the parents that left, betrayed, ignored or abused them.  Being in and part of a good family is a crown by itself.  Being of a good home is not just a traditional value for conservative Republicans.  There shouldn’t be a page about it in the book “Stuff Christians Like”.  It is a universal and timeless model that God has instituted so that human life may properly flourish.

But that institution, the one of a monogamous marriage between a man and a woman and the stability which that relationship provides for the raising of children, has been compromised.  And the iY generation is now paying the price.

What caused the dissolution of the American family?

Was it our embracing of sexual promiscuity that led to child raising outside of a marriage context?

Have we lost our gender identity so that we no longer see the need to pair with a member of the opposite sex, so that we think we are emotionally and spiritually sufficient to raise children by ourselves?

How can we restore the pride of the children?

Personally, we must be reconciled with our heavenly Father.  Culturally, we must recommit ourselves to solid family structure.  Morally, we must return to values that help keep the family structure intact such as marital fidelity, marital permanence and responsible child raising.

Epilogue:

The crown of the aged

Grandchildren are a crown because they are the legacy left.  In old age, it becomes increasingly difficult to assess one’s self as having a lasting impact on society.  There comes a finality in the end of life that sobers a person up.  As we near death, we begin to wonder if we will be remembered and we think about who our life impacted.  But grandchildren are a memorial; an ebenezer of a lasting legacy.  They are the crown of the aged because they speak of the aged person’s enduring spirit on the earth.  The things they taught, the way they discipled and what they stood for continue to resonate on in the following generations.

But as the family structure dissolves, grandchildren are becoming a more rare occurrence, and so the brokenness of the home affects the glory of the aged as well as the young.  The thinner the thread holding together the family, the more the aged will suffer with wanting to know that the baton they passed will be passed again.  But in a solid home structure, there is a tighter space between baton passes, and thus a deeper sense of purpose for all generations.  As you near death, you will want to know that the difference you made and the song you sang will continue to resonate.  And with whom will it, if not with your own descendants?


On Monday, October 31st myself and the youth pastors from the Oasis of Hollywood, an urban outreach center located just off Hollywood Blvd, took several of the older students who are a part of our program to Six Flags Magic Mountain.  We had received free tickets from another ministry and decided to use them for a day of fun and fellowship.

Halloween Day at Six Flags was perfect.  There were no lines for any of the rides; one of the workers said there were literally only 1,500 people in the entire park.  This allowed us to really enjoy ourselves and experience the breadth of the park without periods of waiting.

At 6:30 p.m. we decided to leave the park temporarily to grab a bite to eat, then return to the park for a couple more hours before they closed.  As we were leaving, just our group of eight were stopped by four sheriffs whose squad cars had been parked along the perimeter of the exit.  We were pulled aside and told that two other park visitors had taken a picture of one of the people in our group because they saw him stealing a cell phone at one of the rides.  The filed report said that it was then given to two of our students who hid it either on them or in their backpack.

Then the investigation ensued.  Two of our students were isolated from us as all of our belongings were searched.  When they found an iPhone in the backpack (one of our students’) and he couldn’t remember his own number (probably would have helped) the students were arrested and cuffed.  One was put into a squad car.  The other stood there in front of hundreds of passersby.

Then a sheriff began to question the student standing on the sidewalk.  Using abusive language and calling him an idiot for not being able to recall his phone number (yelling it at the top of his lungs), the officer forcefully put him on the concrete and later brought him to a squad car as well.  Both students were questioned by officers using abusive language and threats.

As it turns out, nobody in our group stole a cell phone (or anything for that matter).  We had been with them the entire day without any room for mischievous or criminal behavior.  However, the sheriffs, after roughing up our students, kicked them out of the park (even though they found nothing on them).  The situation was embarrassing, stressful and vexing.  These were students who have had rough pasts, but have since come out of that lifestyle, trusted in Jesus for salvation and have displayed signs of tremendous progress and good behavior. Our night had been stained by a false accusation and a case of being mistreated and abused without any cause.

Our students expressed anger and frustration for being falsely accused and treated the way they were.  They wanted to get revenge and give the officers a piece of their mind.  I reminded them of how Jesus was treated.

Jesus was betrayed by one of his very own disciples, arrested and brought before the Sanhedrin (the religious ruling body of the time, men who were supposed to represent the Lord and His ways). The Sanhedrin brought in false witnesses to accuse Jesus of crimes He never committed.  Then, after professing who He was, they struck the innocent Savior on the face with their fists, spit on him and led Him away to a prison until the next morning.  As He and Barrabbas, an unrepentant murder, were standing before Pilate and the Sanhedrin, the people screamed for Barrabbas to be released instead of Christ.  Jesus was then sentenced to be flogged and then crucified.

Our Lord was betrayed, falsely accused, mistreated, abused, abandoned, beaten and murdered, and all the while He was perfectly innocent.  1 Peter 2:20: “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth”  And the writer here goes on to describe how Jesus handled Himself under these circumstances: “When they hurled their insults at Him, He did not retaliate.  When He suffered, he made no threats.  Instead He entrusted Himself to Him who judges justly.”

I have met many Christians who have been mistreated, offended and abused by those who claim to represent the Lord.  And our desire to be vindicated moves us to  retaliate and, if we do not get our way, resort to holding a grudge; bitterness and cynicism inevitably follow.

But may we learn something from the life of Jesus: when we try to defend ourselves by retaliating and responding with insults, we become our own judge and we dethrone God from that rightful place of His.  But when mistreated, we must entrust ourselves to God, who is the perfectly righteous judge who possesses perfect timing.

 

Our sufferings and abuse, no matter how grievous, can never measure up to what Christ suffered.  And He suffered it for you. If Christ did not hold on to unforgiveness, then how much less should we?  And if Jesus placed the Sanhedrin into God’s hands to be judged by Him, how much more should we give our “rights” and offenses to God?  That is why John Bevere has said, “A person who cannot forgive is a person who has forgotten what he has been forgiven of”.

 

Have you ever been mistreated, falsely accused or betrayed?  The person who can sympathize and identify with you most is none other than Jesus Himself.  Do not turn to others who will coddle your bitterness and cater to the offense that is plaguing your heart.  Turn to the Lord who, through the greatest injustice known to man, remained silent before God and gave Himself to complete humility.

Hebrews 2:18: “Because He Himself suffered when He was tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted”

Hebrews 4:15: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are, yet was without sin”

It isn’t really.  But it’s something I am doing for a number of reasons, and I am writing this post to elaborate on the reasons as to why I am going to be refraining from social media for a month.

 

Reason #1: Social Media dwarfs our relationships.

 

Commenting on a friend’s wall post or retreating their update is actually not a true expression of friendship.  Since the explosion of social media, we have come to think that these are methods of genuine interaction, but they are not.  We have gotten to the point of even substituting hearing each other’s voice and enjoying one another’s actual presence to exchanging volleys of 140-character text updates and Likes.

 

Reason #2:  Social Media can be addicting.

 

There has been good research done that gives evidence suggesting that our addiction to social media is exactly that: an addiction.  We’ve become overly vested and consumed with who is posting on our wall, how many Likes our statuses are getting and how many followers we have on Twitter.  We cannot put our phones down any more.  We get anxious when our phone vibrates or the red notification icon pops up at us.  In an honest self-assessment, I have found that this addiction has had presence in my life and networking.

 

Reason #3:  Social Media is a time-suck.

 

It has become a bottomless pit of entertainment, news-feeds, correspondence, messaging, etc.  Our lives have so many distractions, and social media is one of the largest of our generation.  It is difficult to hear God’s voice, practice solitude, stay pure, maintain mental focus and energy and do God’s work with so many voices and forces pulling at us.  Social media, I have found, is a force that has the potential to pull us; many times it is away from our time with God.

 

There are other reasons but these are the chief three.  So From August 1st to September 1st I will be taking a break from all social media.  This includes Facebook, Twitter, Google+ (yes, I caved already) as well as movies and secular music.

 

You up for the challenge?

 

An article on http://www.cnn.com tells the story of a surveillance camera catching a homeless man urinating in an 8 million gallon Oregon reservoir.  The Portland Water Bureau responded with the decision to completely drain the reservoir.  The bureau is coming under heavy fire for the decision, with critics citing it as a gross over-reaction.

The reservoir was used for drinking water and other human uses in and around the greater Portland area.  And the bureau thought that 16 ounces of urine (the most amount of urine a human bladder can contain) was enough to contaminate the reservoir and to start over from scratch.  The drainage will cost the state approximately $35,000 in  tax-payer dollars, according to CNN.

And I think this incident parallels God’s thoughts toward His church in a very profound way.  If the PWB is that zealous over one of its reservoirs, how much more zealous do we suppose God is over His church?  In a number of places, God calls us the “temple of the Holy Spirit”, that anyone who believes in Jesus Christ and puts their faith in Him receives the Holy Spirit to dwell in them.  In other words, the very Spirit of God comes and lives inside of a human being.

Mind-blowing, if we really try to fathom it.

And I wonder how zealous we as His temple should be to make sure that our “reservoir”, our soul, mind, body and heart, is free of any contamination.  If we have the privilege of having the Creator of the universe living inside of us, how seriously should we take it?  Paul says in 2 Corinthians 7:1 that we are to purify ourselves from ANYTHING that contaminates body and spirit, PERFECTING holiness out of reverence for God.

How about a step further thanks to Ephesians 5:3: “But among you there must not be even a HINT of sexual immorality…” (NIV).

The point is this: our hatred of sin should be so deeply cultivated that even the slightest contamination would cause us to do all that is necessary to pursue purity.  Because sin really is that destructive.  And that offensive.  And that serious.

Yet how easy is it to tell a small lie, linger for just a moment on a lustful thought or cheat for just a hot minute on our taxes and brush it off as inconsequential?

The truth is, God cares deeply about your purity, your commitment to living life free from sin and your ability by God’s grace through the power of the Holy Spirit to do so.

So I think God smiles on the draining of this reservoir, not because I am saying He thinks it is a good idea (only God knows that), but because it is serving as a testament to the utter importance of living contaminant-free lives.

How is your “reservoir”?  If you caught yourself with 16 ounces of contamination even among 8 million gallons of water, would it cause you to take the actions of repentance before God and the pursuit of righteousness?  If not, then it is time for a re-examination of our own commitment to righteousness.

P.S. – $35,000 dollars to deal with one act of contamination?  Sometimes it’s going to hurt.  There may be a high price to pay.  But God is telling you, “It’s worth it”.

Go ahead.  And watch what happens…

 

I’ve had a change of heart.

Fact: Reading the Bible is one of the more destructive things you can do for your spiritual life.  If you are wanting to learn more about God or grow in your walk with Him then my suggestion is to take reading the Bible off your To-Do List.

I have not read my Bible in months.

And it has changed my life.

Reading the Bible is most of the time the most common way a person misses out on what God is saying.  The Bible is not to be read like any other book.  It is the only book that is alive and active (Hebrews 4:12) and the only book that has the ability to purify (Psalm 119:11).  All Scripture is God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16) and none of it came from man (2 Peter 1:20-21). And when you read the Bible, you can so quickly pass over truths and gems that have incredible meaning and substance, missing out on the deep work God wants to do in you.  Quality, not quantity, is most often job one when it comes to the Scriptures.

That is why instead of reading your Bible, you should study, memorize, and meditate on it.  Reading the Bible moves you too fast through God’s Word, which is so full of wonderful things (Psalm 119:18).  And if there are wonderful things in His Word, then there are also good things.  Sure reading it like a novel will pick up the good things.  But who wants to wear silver when you can rock diamonds?

God is wanting to change the way we as His people interact with His Word.  We have short-changed ourselves far too long because we treat the Bible like a check-list task and not like the meaningful adventure it is.

So drink it up.  Sit on it.  Don’t understand a verse?  Say it over and over until you get it.  Cross-reference other verses.  Dig deep.  Search and dissect, explore and give yourself Selahs.  There is no room for the microwave here.

Sometimes I spend 30 minutes on one verse, especially in the book of Proverbs.  Those axioms are jam-packed with nutrients.

So don’t read your Bible anymore.  Give it the attention, depth and care it deserves.  Then let it change your life and rock your world.

It’s rocking mine.

 

Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path...

Being fit can even make a mullet look good. Then again, it is AC Slater

Beginning Wednesday June 22nd, 2011, I will begin a two-week nutritional program that is considered one of the most difficult dietary high-protein, low-carb schedules ever created.  It will end on Tuesday, July 5th, 2011.

The diet eliminates nearly all fat (even good fat), sugar, carbs and almost all cholesterol and requires an intake of approximately 350 grams of protein, 25 grams of carbs and only 10 grams of fat.  The purpose of this diet is to shred fat after a minimum six-week fitness and dietary commitment.

Doing this will be a challenge.  And it got me thinking about how much (or how little) energy we put into being spiritually fit and strengthening/purifying our relationships with God.  If physical exercise has some value and godliness has value for all things (1 Timothy 4:8), then how much more energy should I be putting into training myself to be godly (1 Timothy 4:7)?  In the case of an intense diet or fitness plan, the lower the intake of carbs and fat, the quicker the results will arrive.  Any honest nutritionist will agree that almost all fast-food should virtually never be consumed because of the impact it can and will have on a person’s physical health.

But as Christians we tend to saturate our spiritual diet with excess weight and the things of the flesh, which cause us to be malnourished, unable to hear God’s voice and ineffective in true ministry and love.  This is why we must purify ourselves of anything that contaminates body and flesh (2 Corinthians 7:1) and work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12).

Are you feeding on God’s Word and His presence?  Or have you allowed the junk of this world to debilitate and stifle your spiritual growth?

May the Church rediscover what John meant when he wrote, “Do not love the world or anything in the world.  For all that is in the world: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, do not come from the Father but from the world.  This world and its present form are passing away.  But he who does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2:15-17).

Let the diet(s) begin.

Recognizing Potential

March 12, 2011

On set today of a show that shoots on stage 5 at Disney Studios in Burbank.  We had been on set for five hours when they broke for lunch and sent us either to the commissary or off-location to fend for ourselves.

I chose the commissary.  And as I was walking toward it I found myself in stride with a fellow extra who had made the same decision.  As we were nearing the food court, we passed a father with his 4 year old daughter.  She was adorable.  Fair-skinned, blonde hair and she was trying her very best to open a chocolate milk container while keeping up with her father’s long strides.  I couldn’t help but smile at her.

And just after we passed her, my fellow extra made a comment I will not forget.

He said, “That little blonde girl, she’s a future playmate.”

And I, partially concealing my true reaction with an awkward chuckle, responded, “what a horrible idea!”  He continued, “How old is Heff nowadays?  He’s only got a few more years left in him, right?”

“I’m not sure,” I said.  And with that we entered the commissary with he heading toward the food line and I parting ways toward the restroom.

And it was there that my heart began to knot.  I wept over how far we have come as a nation.  We seem to have released ourselves of regard for God’s ways or His kingdom.  We said, “enough with His standards and way of life.  We our going to go this other way that we have made for ourselves”.

We have come a long ways indeed when we can see pornographic potential in a four year old girl.  My heart was wrenched for the girl, but it was more so wrenched for the 18 and 19 year old girls this year who will audition for Playboy and pornographic films in order to gain money and prestige or because someone told them that it was a thing of beauty.  Men and women will move to LA this year and will give up their morals, values and high view of sex because they are fed the idea that they will not make it in the industry unless they do.  But in the process they will forfeit their God-given dignity and value.  They will take further steps away from the pleasure of knowing God and experiencing His presence.  They lose out on the kingdom of righteousness, peace and joy.

Something is wrong with the system when a grown man feels nothing in his conscience when he can make such a comment of potential about a little girl with a chocolate milk.

But that’s what he was doing.  He was recognizing potential.

Pornography cheapens sexuality, objectifies the human body, reducing it to an object of gratification.  We have canvassed our culture with the paintbrush of promiscuity because we bought into the slogan, “sex sells”.  And we’ve become so good at it that we’re already planning 14 years ahead on the next instruments of our own lusts.

And to appease your own conscience you’ll use buzz-phrases like, “It’s art,” and “pornography is liberating”.  Or, “a woman can do with her body what she wants.” But these are a cover-up for an addiction to the indulgence of the fallen nature.

Our culture is excellent at recognizing potential from a young age. It trains, even breeds younger and younger talent in order to tap into the multi-billion dollar a year tween market.  They do it to maximize their financial gains in the industry to enjoy the finer things of life as well as the prestige that accompanies it.

How much more should we be diligent in recognizing potential in the next generation for the sake of the Kingdom of God?  Immorality is radically progressing.   Righteousness is as well, but we must renew our resolve to teach and to train the young to live for God with all of their hearts.  Don’t just teach them.  Show them that obeying His Word is in fact where liberation actually resides.  It is when we surrender ourselves to God that we find true freedom, and not in choosing our own ways.

God, may You work mightily in this nation once again so that they may know that You are God and that You are turning their hearts back to You.

Of course, not as a principal actor (yet).  I am busy these days being an extra or background actor.  The rate for a non-union background actor is $64.00 for 8 hours.  After taxes the paycheck is $52.07 for the day.

If you’re on set for eight hours, chances are you will only work 2-3 of those hours.  The rest of the time is spent in “holding”, an area that crew has cordoned off exclusively for the extras.  Oh no, it’s not for our pampering.  When they need us they see us.  And when they don’t, well, get back to holding please.

And I’m on set right now as a background actor for a television show shooting at Sony Pictures in Culver City.  My check-in time was 8:00 a.m.  It is now 10:30 a.m. and we have only gone through check-in and wardrobe.  The rest of my time is spent finding a wireless network, eating the great food at “crafty”talking to a fellow extra, Mike, whom I’ve seen before on another set.  And another extra named Kristina, who corrected me on how to spell her name.

So we’re watching them set up the shot and rehearse for the show.  The scene currently transpiring is one that lasts 1 minute and 12 seconds.  The time spent setting up cameras, wardrobe, makeup, audio, lighting, grip and cast was hours upon hours.  The audience of this television show only sees the brief finished product.  But the crew and cast understand the labor required to make that 1 minute as funny and excellent as possible.  If they can get you to laugh four times every minute, the writers have done their job well.

Preparation of the heart and soul are crucial to the performance of life and what you do for God.  And each task we undertake for God, regardless of how short, requires a great deal of character development.  The soul must be chastened by God’s Word.  Spending time with God is preparation for which no amount of training, education or self-promotion can substitute.

An effective leader is one who invests much in what happens outside of the proverbial limelight.

How important is the limelight to you?  Does your level of integrity and preparation match what you aspire to do and accomplish?

Since the 1940s four different realms of morality are observable.  A realm of morality is a period of time in which a particular philosophy of morality is evident.  Our understanding of virtue and purity as a nation has evolved through these realms.   They can be summed up in relation to what we did with morals.

Realm #1 – 19??-1950s: Those who knew morality and embraced it. The family core was strong, traditional values of education, community and honesty were popular. The divorce rate was low, along with statistics on school violence, depression, suicide and pornography.

Realm #2 – 1960s-1970s: Those who were taught morality and experimented with immorality. The true introduction of this realm happened in 1967 with the Summer of Love in San Fransisco, CA.  It was a generation that understood traditional morality but decided to branch out away from it into immorality.  This opened the door to the age of drugs, promiscuity and post-modernism.

Realm #3 – 1980s-2000s:  Those who knew of morality but embraced “amoralness”. For the last three decades American culture has made a deliberate shift away from morality and has adopted a new rule: whatever one chooses to be their own moral code, this is what is moral.  But really that is like saying, “There is no such thing as true moral law”.  When a person is given the power to write their own value structure they may choose to do with it what they will.  Post-modernism and moral relativism are by-products of our desire to be our own kings.

Realm #4 – 20??-20??: Those who know nothing of morality. The next and inevitable realm is the forsaking of morality.  But it will be more dangerous than saying, “I don’t want to choose the path of morality.”  We will find our kids and their kids soon saying, “What is morality?  I don’t see the point.”  We will be infinitely self-absorbed, a living Hell of our own choosing, when we set ourselves up as the rulers of the moral kingdom, wreaking havoc on our own lives and preying on the young.  Theism?  It will be stronger than ever: we will be our own god and we will have no problem with it.

If in the last 70 years we have progressed this rapidly, we will obviously be well into realm #4 in a very soon time.  Unless a turn-around of morality occurs in this country, this will be our eventual destination.  I see one of two outcomes happening:

Either: we learn the hard way and it steers us back toward traditional morality.  The United States experiences an awakening of virtue and righteousness.

Or: we destroy ourselves from the inside out.  Classrooms and Congress and churches and children will be the casualties of war.  The Devil will have his way.  Thus we will learn the hardest way after it has become too late.

It’s up to us.

Contrary to secular humanism, Jesus taught that the human heart was inherently sinful.  At the very core of ourselves, we are selfish, wicked, corrupt and vile.  There may be times when we do good things, but these are the product of God’s common grace to all of us.

Jesus read our mail in Mark 7. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him ‘unclean’? What comes out of a man is what makes him ‘unclean’. For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean’.”  I don’t think anyone is able to say that they are exempt from this description of the human condition. In fact, I’d venture to say that every person is guilty of at least three things on this list (and that is being quite generous to ourselves, because I’m inclined to believe that all of these things are found in all of our hearts).

And this is why Jesus tells us to cut off our hand if it causes us to sin in Matthew 5. Not because we should actually cut off our hand if we sin with it. Jesus here was addressing a 1st century belief that sinfulness was found in our actual physical bodies: our skin, bones, tendons and ligaments are what cause us to sin. But this isn’t true. If it was, then we should gouge out our eyes and self-amputate. As it is, if a person who sins with their hands cuts them off, they will find a way to sin the same with their feet. A blind person can lust and a quadriplegic can steal.  Sin is rooted and happens in the heart.

My heart needs cleaning on a daily basis.  Galatians 5:16-22 makes it clear that there is a constant fight between our sinful nature and the Spirit of God living inside of us.  Not living by the Spirit enables the flesh to have its way; it gives the heart license to deceive, entice and manipulate us into doing things that are contrary to God’s perfect will for us.

And that might be why Paul tells us (Philippians 2:12) to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God who works in us to will and to act according to His good purpose.  This journey toward living the life that Jesus lived (1 John 2:6) is a daily task to put to death those things in our lives that do not honor God.

My heart requires itself to be rebuked.  It needs chastening and discipline.  It needs to be told and put in its place.  And the sinful nature should be put to death, buried and pushing daisies.

When my sinful nature longs to resurrect itself back from the dead, I must drag it back to its grave by the grace of God and His power and command it to die.  I think this has to happen every day.

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