Tuesday, August 15, 2006

"Looters of Our Lives"

“Looters of Our Lives”

We guard what we value.
Walk through a parking lot. To the left, an old, “seen way better days” pick up truck, more body putty than paint. Windows open, keys in the ignition, maybe even running. The owner as much as put a sign on it, “Take me, take me, PLEASE, somebody take me!” To the right, a late model Mercedes Benz, Corvette, Jaguar and Cadillac. BREATHE within three feet of them and an irritating, squawking horn erupts to make you the horrified object of passerby’s laughter and gawks. What’s the dif? We guard what we value.
Tell me what you lock, protect, guard, insure, defend, and I’ll tell you what you value.
Why is it, then, that we don’t guard our hearts?

Military personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan wear body armor and helmets. Why? To guard their most vital organs, to protect their lives as much as possible. Why? We guard what we value.
Why is it then that we do not guard our hearts?

Why? Is it that we don’t value our hearts? Must be, because we do not guard them?
Is it possible we don’t know what we have?
Is it possible we allow them to be trampled like yesterday’s newspaper, because we do not realize they are the very key to our lives? Listen to the words of the wisest man who ever lived.

"Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life." Proverbs 4:23 (NIV)

“Above all else,” = more than any other possession, as our most valuable asset in all the world, as that which we would defend to the death, protect with every ounce of strength. “Above all else” said Solomon. Yet we don’t… because we do not realize it is the source of all that matters.

Instead …
we give our hearts, or in the very least, open our hearts to so many things that steal, plunder, ravage – we allow our hearts to be turned into playgrounds for activities we would never admit except under duress.
we open the door of our hearts just enough to allow them to be polluted, thinking it is still clean and end up with toxic hearts, not realizing a little poison destroys.
we sometimes resist the intruders of our hearts at first, but allow them to keep their foot in the door until they talk their way into our hearts.
we sometimes allow the neighbors to convince us to open the door of our hearts. Even when we can see the devastation the intruders have caused in others’ lives when they cannot.
we sometimes believe the pleasant sounding promises of the intruders to fool us, even when we the angels of God are shouting that they are all lies.

How often do we wade through the aftermath of the raiders of our hearts, view the havoc wreaked, the mess made, the filth flowing to feel the regret of allowing such to tramp on our hearts, vowing “Never again!” Only to foolishly unlock the door of our hearts once again?

Is the problem that we do not realize the treasure we possess as owners of our hearts?
Is the problem we do not value the Presence of Christ more than the marauders? Do we forget that to allow the marauders into our hearts is to expel Christ? Only one can occupy the heart. When the intruders walk in the front door, look to the back door. You will see the sad face of Christ, a tear slipping down his cheek as He shakes His head and walks out.

There is another option. If, at the appearance of the intruders, we call to Christ, He will join us at the front door of our hearts. At the nod of our heads, He will close the door, lock it and stand guard over it. And no intruder, marauder, looter, barbarian can come through with Him there. Appealing, but He only aids if we ask.

So, how’s your heart? Guarded or given to pollution? Not sure? There’s a sure fire way to know. Hear Jesus’ words.

Mat 15:18-20 (NIV) "But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man 'unclean.' 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. 20 These are what make a man 'unclean'; but eating with unwashed hands does not make him 'unclean.'""

So how’s your heart. No time like right now for some house cleaning.

Boldly, Herb

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

"Fearing the Right Thing"

“Fearing the Right Thing”

It is not that we will never have fear. There is some kind of psychological term for THAT disorder. To not fear is a recipe for disaster, it is not healthy, proper, right or good. Having no fear leads to harm. Just try living a day without it. It was one of Ben Roethlisberger’s mistakes on a motorcycle. One moment, one car, one mistake almost cost him everything, and the roar could be heard around the world.

Yet there are times when those who appear to have no fear are celebrated. A firefighter runs into a burning building to save a child. A soldier, against all odds, captures a machine gun that is killing his fellow soldiers. A parent marches into the principal’s office to defend and champion a child’s education. A passing motorist jumps into a lake to rescue a stranger, though he cannot swim. Heroes, we call them. Subconsciously, we think, “They must have no fear.” Not true. We may think we are applauding people because they have no fear.

In reality, we are applauding the courage that we see, not the lack of fear that we perceive.

Interview those heroes. What do they say? “Afraid? I was scared spit less! I thought I was going to die. I’ve never been so terrified in my life. I don’t know how I overcame my panic, but I HAD to do something.” What are they saying? “I was MORE afraid of what would happen if I did not do something.”

It was not that they had no fear, it was that they feared something even more than the obvious, in their face, what we see kind of fear.

TRUTH: We will fear. Thus, we have to decide what we will fear most, because THAT will determine what we do.

When I was about 7 my sister and I were playing on the playground at our elementary school. I climbed to the top of the monkey bars, looked down and froze. I was scared spit less. I had just enough spit to cry out to my sister, 6 years old, “Bobbi, go get help. I can’t get down.” Oh, where is Lassie when you need her? Timmy didn’t know how good he had it!

Being the caring sister, she just stood there. Smiling. Didn’t get help, run for home or even show empathy. If I remember correctly, she laughed that evil, younger sister laugh. At that moment we heard it, “THE WHISTLE.” Everyone in the neighborhood knew, “THE WHISTLE,” heard for blocks and hated by dogs, dad’s signal for the Shaffer kids to get home and quick. It was never explicitly stated what would happen if we didn’t get home quick enough, but my imagination had conjured up all manner of torture. I can picture neighbors standing at their doors, watching to see how quickly frightened little legs can move. “THE WHISTLE” struck fear in my heart as little else. I’m alive today because I answered the call of “THE WHISTLE.”

Meanwhile, back at the monkey bars. One moment I was paralyzed, pleading for my sister to get help. The next, hearing “THE WHISTLE,” without concern for safety or thought of method, I climbed, no, flew down, and was running the block back to the man whistling. Did circumstances change? No. Was I miraculously infused with climbing abilities? No. Did I suddenly have no fear of heights? No, I still hate them today. It was an autopilot, internal decision, because of what I feared most. Just as the firefighter, soldier, parent and motorist, I realized there is something greater to fear. From somewhere deep inside I decided I would rather risk breaking my neck than having my dad wring it.

PRINCIPLE: What we fear most will determine what we do. Without exception. So what do you fear?

This is what Jesus was talking about when He said,
4“Dear friends, don’t be afraid of those who want to kill you. They can only kill the body; they cannot do any more to you. 5But I’ll tell you whom to fear. Fear God, who has the power to kill people and then throw them into hell.” (Luke 12:4-5, New Living Translation)

We will always have fear. That fear will control our actions. If we fear God more than all else, other fears will submit. If we truly believe that He alone controls our now and our eternities, then we will not allow those things to control us. Even monkey bars or whistles.

So what do you fear? What you do when you don’t have time to think reveals it. Not what we say, sing, or claim in our controlled moments, but in moments of danger. Only God deserves that place and only by giving it to Him will we find what we really want.

Boldly, Herb

Friday, August 04, 2006

"What a Melt Down Means"

“What a Melt Down Means”

I know very little about Mel Gibson’s recent problems, except that he was stopped for driving with an illegitimate level of alcohol flowing through his veins, that he raged with anti-semitism when stopped, and that he appeared contrite in asking for forgiveness in national media. I know even less about his personal life – what was going on behind the scenes.

But there are some things that we do know for sure about him, us and the human race.

First we know that Mr. Gibson has been all over the map with his movies. And that movies are not real life. Thus, when he did his Lethal Weapon movies, he displayed anything but the character I want my kids to emulate. When he portrayed Braveheart, he inspired me to give myself for something beyond myself. In The Patriot and We Were Soldiers I was challenged to determine what I am willing to fight and die for. When he sacrificed and endured criticism to produce The Passion of the Christ, I wept in sorrow at my sin and the suffering Jesus went through for me. I was disappointed and refused to see What Women Want because of the huge amount of sexual content.
So who is the REAL Mel Gibson? Can’t tell by the movies.

We also know that Satan will do all he can to discount God’s truth. When Mel Gibson took on the project of making The Passion of the Christ, he placed himself in the crosshairs of the devil. Doesn’t matter whether Mel personally lives out the truth presented, the forces of the evil one were put in motion to discount in every way possible the truth presented. The criticism during the film’s release were just the tip of the ever present iceberg. It will go on as long as we continue to view the DVD. Thus that which Mel struggles with most and drove Mel to heavy drinking will be used by the enemy to make people wonder if the truth of the movie is a farce.

We know that none of us is perfect. Though I have a friend (Gary O) who claims to be, in jest. I hope. We have no idea why Mr. Gibson made these particular blunders, but we do know he is not perfect. Neither are we. And, as Augustine said after viewing a sinner caught in terrible sin, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”

Finally, most importantly and what is most disconcerting, we know that what we do comes from somewhere inside of us, regardless of the circumstances. Please don’t misunderstand me here, there are NO EXCUSES. But there are reasons. And the reasons should cause us to freeze in our tracks. We do stupid things because of what is inside of us. “Garbage in, garbage out.” It is exponentially stupid to dismiss actions with “I didn’t really mean that, it is not really me.”
Mel Gibson made a series of mistakes that led to the debacle of his ranting. It might be that he fights the feelings his dad drilled into him growing up, that he is struggling to give up alcohol, that there is conflict in his family or that he is stinging from a recent deep hurt. If any or similar conditions exist, my heart goes out to him. HOWEVER, what came out in the traffic stop was inside of him. What we do is determined by who we are. Our character is revealed in the hardest of times, when the chips are down, when the bullets are flying, when danger boils and especially when we are alone. Mel is guilty of stupidity and shameful behavior, made worse by his fame and moral claims. He needed to apologize and ask for forgiveness. He needs to get help for the root causes. He should not expect people to easily forget, but rather to earn their respect. So are we, so do we, so should we.
So here’s the important question. What stupid and shameful things are you guilty of in recent months. What does it reveal about you? Fear, faith, anger, peace, hurt, joy, worry, confidence each result in different actions. What’s inside comes out in our behavior.

Jesus said it this way…
Mat 7:16-23 (NIV) "By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. 21 "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' 23 Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'"

The only hope for Mel, Gary, you and I is to get the inside changed. That’s a job only God can do and only if we turn to him with no excuses, full submission and a willingness for Him to do extreme spiritual surgery. I pray that for Mel and for you.

Boldly, Herb