Friday, 8 March 2013

Turning Life Inside Out and Upside Down - Part I

21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature[a] a slave to the law of sin.  Romans 7:21-25

In his co-authored book Relationships – a mess worth making Paul Tripp goes in great detail as he unpacks Romans 7: 21-25.  Paul goes on to say that “Since relationships are about being other-centered, the self-centeredness of sin will inevitably subvert God’s design.”  It is on accepting this principle that the next several blog postings will be built.

It is tempting to blame another person when our relationships get a little messy.  However in this Romans passage Paul is saying the real problem is the war that is going on inside of me.  The problem is not outside of me it is inside of me.  I am a prisoner to sin.  The most prevalent manifestation of sin in me is my self-centeredness.  It is about the kingdom of me wanting to judge and criticize others for not doing life the way I think it should be done.  It is about the little things that go wrong daily that prevent me from getting my needs met, my wants satisfied and my purposes accomplished.  Life is all about me.

Before you are too quick to cast stones my way, remember the Apostle Paul is writing about himself and he is addressing fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.  You see the war that is going on in me and most likely in you is the war between the kingdom of me and the kingdom of God, i.e. do I want to pursue my purposes or God’s?  Do I want to clutch on to my self-centeredness in hopes of gaining what the world has to offer or do I want to surrender to God and become other centered.

In case you haven’t connected the dots husbands and wives are prisoners to their own self interests, each with a war going on in the members of their body.  James 4:1-2 says that is why we have conflict, we are each seeking our own agenda, our own way, my will be done.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Building Sandcastles

I have never been very artistic.  If it would have been possible to fail third grade art I might have.  I can’t draw a straight line with a ruler and my artistic wife would tell you that though I am not color blind I might as well be.  This word picture may be one of my best attempts at art.

It is through this lens that I filtered a message delivered by one of our pastors yesterday.  The subject he was preaching on had nothing to do with art but he painted a word picture of building sandcastles.  Since life is primarily about me my mind took a momentary deviation, as it is prone to do even during the best of sermons, and I started thinking about some magnificent sandcastles I have seen over the years.  I dwelled if only for a moment on the talent it takes to make such a creation and how inept I am at even that artistic expression.

Fortunately I snapped out of my mindless travel to get the real drift of the message.  The point of the sermon and the application to marriage has everything to do with how we tend to emphasize the temporal over the eternal.  We spend hours building a sandcastle that will be washed away by the evening tide.  In a similar way we spend years working to accumulate enough stuff to satisfy our egos and perceived needs, while neglect “washes” away some of the most important relationships we will ever have.   Much of what we wish for, hope for and do, when filtered through the lens of eternity is no more than building a sandcastle that will be eroded by time.

Monday, 4 March 2013

The Elephant and the Stake

There is a parable about a tourist who saw large elephants tethered to a small stake.

The tourist asked the trainer "How can you keep such a large elephant tied to such a small stake?"

He said "When the elephants are small, they try to pull out the stake and they fail. When they grow large, they never try to pull out the stake again."

Elephants never forget. And as a baby elephant grows older, she never forgets the failure to free herself as a baby. She remembers the pain. And so, even when she grows up she thinks it’s impossible to become free, and so doesn’t  even try!

The problem is that many humans are also affected by some such "mental constraints." They have emotional barriers that stop them from living the life that God intended.

I must be very careful not to judge or become overly critical of individuals who have allowed their past to not only influence but dominate their present and adversely affect their future.  It saddens me to see so many people who are bound to a stake from their past, albeit a big stake.  Often when in a counseling session the person unveils a devastating tale, one that has had a significant impact on how they have lived their lives.  Much of my first wife’s unhappiness was derived from her perception of never being good enough, never measuring up to the standards set by her older sister.  Just prior to her going home to be with the Lord I think she was beginning to come to grips with the fact that her sister wasn’t the bar by which she should measure herself.

To an extent when we are dominated by memories of our past it manifests itself as a form of self-centeredness.  The thoughts of years gone by effect the way we relate to people in the here and now, not to mention how negative thoughts can impinge on our concept of God.

In The Meaning of Marriage, Pastor Tim Keller writes, “Self-centeredness is a natural condition and not the product of mistreatment.”  Our preoccupation with ourselves, regardless of how horrific our past, does not give us a license to inflict our prior pain on our current relationships.

Unlike the grown elephant, with the help of God we can break free of the shackles of the past and choose to live in the light instead of the darkness.