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Thursday, May 3, 2012

Holy Sex


 In the movie, Apollo 13, there is a famous line uttered by Tom Hanks playing the character Jim Lovell.  “Houston, we have a problem.”  It was a bit of an understatement as the spacecraft was in danger of not completing its mission and all the astronauts being killed in the process.
            That line is appropriate for our day and age when it comes to having a Biblical view of sexuality – “Houston, we have a problem!”
            There have been many different views in popular culture but by far the most prevalent view today is sex is a personal way of self-expression.  Timothy Keller states this view in his book The Meaning of Marriage,  “[Our culture sees] Sex is primarily for an individual’s fulfillment and self-realization, however he or she wishes to pursue it.”
            One of the Biblical expressions of being a follower of Jesus is that Jesus becomes the Lord of your life.  (See Romans 10:9)  The idea of Jesus being Lord means that Jesus is in charge.  For those who are followers of Jesus, this is the daily choice we face – who is going to be in charge?  Am I going to be in charge or am I going to relinquish control to Jesus?
            For a person who is not a follower of Jesus, this idea that someone else would be in charge of me is absolutely ludicrous.  If there is one thing that Americans value, it is their freedom.  No one tells me what to do – I am the captain of my own ship; I am a rock, an island; I make my own destiny.  Of course, they are all lies, but that doesn’t make them less popular.
            This popular view of sexuality is a reflection of our belief that we are in charge and the goal of life is to figure out how I can be most self-fulfilled.  And it is in direct opposition to a Biblical view of sexuality.  The Apostle Paul sums up the Biblical view of sex and life most succinctly in his first letter to the Corinthian church (6:19-20):  “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price.  So glorify God in your body.”  In other words, God is the one in charge – you aren’t.  It isn’t all about you and your self fulfillment, it is all about God and his glory.
            Lest you begin to think I am a prude or a spoilsport (and even worse, that you would view God that way), know that God designed and created our sexuality for wonderful pleasure and joy.  But we only experience that when we live according to the owner’s manual.  A fine wine will still make us drunk and sick if we guzzle the whole bottle.  The finest sports car will still blow up when we red line the engine constantly.  It is not the wine’s fault nor is it a defect with the car that ruins the experience, it is the fault of the user.
            God is clear on what Holy Sex is all about.  When we become clear about it and live according to God’s design, there is great blessing.  We’ve got to read, study and understand the owner’s manual though.  And, if God talks about it, we should be talking about it too. 
Holy Sex.  It isn’t a misprint or a contradiction.  It is a blessing.

This Sunday at Cold Springs Church - 8, 9 and 10:30 we are going to continue our series on meaningful relationships with Like Me!  Holy Sex.  You don't want to miss it!

Peace and grace,
David

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Like Me! Falling in Like


            A few years ago I was standing in line at the hardware store and a couple of friends were talking about the project they were working on.  As one friend described his house it became apparent that is was one of the very old homes in our community.  One of the problems he discovered was with the foundation – there wasn’t one!  Apparently, back in the day, the foundation consisted of a pile of big rocks under each corner of the house.  The rocks had slipped on his house and now the house was off kilter.  That would be quite the project – and quite the problem!
            Foundations are critical.  If there is a good foundation, there is the chance to build a solid structure.  But if the foundation is off, then everything is thrown off and it quickly becomes a mess.
            When it comes to building meaningful relationships, love is what makes them meaningful.  But love has many nuances.  For the Greeks, they used four different words to describe love.  In CS Lewis’ book “The Four Loves”, he describes the simplest and most foundational form of love as Appreciative love.  This Appreciative love can stand on its own but it also weaves its way into meaningful friendship, meaningful erotic love and meaningful covenantal love.
            If there was one word I would use to understand Appreciative love, it would be delight.  When we “like” someone there is a certain level of delight we take in them.  Delight finds enjoyment in someone.  We find ourselves choosing the longer line at the grocery store because we “like” a certain employee and they are working that line.  We go to Starbucks at the same time and use the drive-through because we have come to delight in the smile and friendly banter of the barista.  Appreciative love finds us stopping and just drinking in our children and grandchildren because they are just so goofy, silly, crazy – they are just so… delightful.
            Charlie, one of my softball buddies, has this great way he engages in the encouraging chatter toward his teammates on the field.  It’s always positive and it ends with this unique, sort-of-funky upward voice inflection.  Every time I hear it, I smile.  It’s just delightful – it’s him and it’s good.  I told him I appreciated it.
            The problem with Appreciative love is, no doubt, it won’t be long before we run into things we don’t appreciate or we don’t find delightful in another.  What then?  Well, we can pretty quickly fall in and out of like.  And much of it is dependent upon time, location, opportunity and choice.  Everyone has undelightful things about them.  The deeper loves look beyond those things and search for and focus on the delightful.  But here is the kicker – you can’t get to deeper, more meaningful loves without first finding delight in and appreciating another.
            So, here’s the assignment – practice “liking” others.  Seriously.  Look for the things that are delightful in others.  Look for the things you can appreciate.  In your struggling marriage, find the good.  In your punky, driving-you-crazy kid, find the delight.  In your overbearing, controlling parents, find what you appreciate.  It isn’t all there is to love but it is foundational to love.  And it is your choice.

Peace and grace,

David

Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4, ESV)

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Dallas Willard - Hearing God Through the Year

God's Word Can Disturb Us
For this is what you asked of the LORD your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said, "Let us not hear the voice of the LORD our God nor see this great fire anymore, or we will die." Deuteronomy 18:16

Perhaps we do not hear the voice of God because we know subconsciously that we intend to run our lives on our own. The voice of God would therefore be an unwelcome intrusion into our plans. His word might be a disturbing element into our lives, just as the Israelites believed that to hear the voice of God would bring death.

In How to Live, G. Campbell Morgan addresses the person who makes his own plans and lives where he pleases, never hearing God's disturbing voice: "You know no disturbing voice? God never points out for you a pathway altogether different from the one you had planned? Then, my brother, you are living still in the land of slavery, in the land of darkness."

In truth, when we welcome God's voice, we find ourselves enveloped in God's loving companionship.

REFLECT: In what areas of life do you wish that God would not disturb you by talking about it to you? Where do you wish God would leave well enough alone? How would your character have to change to welcome God's words in that area of life?
From <i>Hearing God Through the Year</i> by Dallas Willard. &copy;2004 by Dallas Willard and Jan Johnson. Published by InterVarsity Press. All rights reserved. No part may be reproduced without written permission from InterVarsity Press, P.O. Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515 or permissions@ivpress.com. Sent from the Hearing God Devotional. For devotionals like this one for your iPhone, visit us at 43rdElement.com


Don't forget God's grace is bigger than anything you will face today! 
Peace. David Cooke

Sent from my mobile. 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

WE vs. ME


We is always ________________ than me.”

What fits in the blank?  What would you put in?  For some, “We” is a word of disappointment and pain.  Friends, family, church, bosses, co-workers, neighbors have let them down so the blank is filled with decidedly negative thoughts.  It may be the temptation to fill it in with “more disappointing”, “more unsafe”, “more hurtful”, etc.  The challenge of life leads to greater isolation from others because – so the thinking goes – if you don’t get close to me, you can’t hurt me.
            But no one wants to be alone and lonely.  Sure, we all want our space at times but we were designed for relationship on pretty much every level – emotionally, physically, sexually, spiritually, mentally.  There is a reason that solitary confinement is a known effective punishment that can eventually lead to complete breakdown – emotional, physical, mental and spiritual.
            So, what would the Bible put in the blank?  What is the Biblical benefit of the “We” in our life?  How about this:  better, stronger, wiser, safer, richer.  Sure there is a cost – like my wife reminded me, we always uses more toilet paper than me!  How true, how true.  Especially when the “we” are kids.

Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.” (Proverbs 11:14, ESV)
Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.” (Proverbs 15:22, ESV)
A wise man is full of strength, and a man of knowledge enhances his might, for by wise guidance you can wage your war, and in abundance of counselors there is victory.” (Proverbs 24:5–6, ESV)
Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9–12, ESV)



            “We” is how God intended us and created us.  But there are many who are far from “We” and lost in “Me.”  There was an article in the November/December 2010 AARP Magazine entitled All The Lonely People.  (OK jokers - no, it isn't my subscription!)  A few of things they discovered:  Over 44 million people are lonely and long to connect to someone else.  Most are ashamed that they are lonely and it drives them further away.  The highest percentage of people who suffer loneliness are those in their 40’s and 50’s but it affects all ages.  And, there was a 15% jump up to 35% who would be defined as chronically lonely from a similar survey 10 years previous.
            Now, let me ask you a simple question and the answer is not Disneyland:  What should be the least lonely people/place in the world?  The answer?  The Church!  But, I’ll bet our statistics aren’t a whole lot further off.  I’ve known many who have wandered away from CSCC and, after a little prodding, their reason was they didn’t connect – they were in a big group of people, all alone.  That breaks my heart.
            The essence of being a disciple is to Love God with everything we have and to Love People sacrificially.  Being a disciple of Jesus means we step out of our comfort zone to make room in our lives, reach out and just start loving people.  It starts with simple conversation – noticing when people are there and when they aren’t and then reaching out to them.
            We is always better than Me.  Find someone that needs a “We” and be Jesus in their life, love God, love them.  Make room, reach out, start loving.  It’s as simple and difficult as that!  And for those of us who are lonely, it is up to us as well to take the risk to step out, reach out and begin to take steps of trust.  Yep, you are going to get hurt, disappointed and let-down some of the time - just like you do to others.  But it doesn't change the truth that you need others and others need you.  Take the risk.

We is always better than Me.

Peace and grace,
David

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Is the message of Jesus to "be good"?


             Did you know that not once does the Bible say, “Be good.”  My friend Steve says to me that he can sum up pretty much any Sunday with this – “Be good, do good.”  Now, the Bible does say we are to “do good.”  But it doesn’t say anything about “be good.”  There is a reason for that.  In our language, “be good” has the following meaning:  be nice, be safe, be polite, be considerate.  “Being good” has a sense about it of some benign, non-threatening, bland idea of niceness.  Steve is probably more right than I want to admit.  Too often the message we can walk away with is that we just need to “be more good.”
            Here are some facts to think about:
·      The typical U.S. Congregation draws an adult crowd that’s 61% female, 39% male.
·      Over 70 percent of the boys who are being raised in church will abandon it during their teens and twenties. Many of these boys will never return.
·      This Sunday almost 25 percent of married, churchgoing women will worship without their husbands.
o   Stats taken from www.churchformen.com
What these statistics seem to indicate is the typical message of “be good” is coming through loud and clear to men and they aren’t impressed.  So, by and large, they are staying away and walking away.  That is a travesty.
Is “be good” really the message of Jesus?  Is “niceness” the ultimate Christian virtue that we are to attain to?  I think not.
One of my favorite books is by John Eldridge - “Wild at Heart.”  I think every man should read it.    His message is pretty simple and it is this – every man needs three things – an adventure to live, a battle to fight and a beauty to rescue.  I like that and I actually think it is a pretty good summary of the story of Jesus.  You can’t read the story of Jesus without recognizing the drama of adventure.  The story of Jesus is full of battle – John’s telling of the birth of Jesus in Revelation is the in form of a cosmic battle against Satan.  And, the New Testament makes it clear that Jesus fought for and continues to fight for his Bride – the church  (that would be you and me!).  Adventure, battle, rescue.  All the elements of a great story.
The last thing I want men to come away with on a Sunday at Cold Springs Church is to “be more good.”  I long for all but especially the men of CSCC to see their lives as a story that is fully discovered in God’s story.  I want men inspired to go for the adventure, to rush into the battle and be the hero through the power God.  I want men to see that the goal of life is not to be a good husband/father/man but rather to be a mighty man of God that is a holy husband/father/man.  “Goodness” is safe, holiness is dangerous.  We need more dangerous men that take seriously the call of God that transforms their world with the love of God.  Being good will keep you out of trouble but that isn’t what Jesus’ life was about.  Jesus’ life was about a deep connection to God that directed and empowered everything he was and did.  And Jesus was dangerous.
Men, it’s time to step up and move beyond good and pursue being holy.  I need you, the church needs you, the world needs you.  Step up!

I’ve got your back.

David
for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” (2 Timothy 1:7, ESV)

Friday, February 17, 2012

Compassion


If I get to the newspaper first in the morning (of which I usually do), I keep an out for that part of the paper which occasionally shows up designed to pull the heartstrings of readers.  It is the section where there is a picture of some cute puppy or little kitty cat that is in need of a home.  I keep my eye out for it because I know when my wife Pam sees it, there will be some emotional response – depending on the cuteness factor.  You see, my wife is very compassionate.  She is moved by the plight of others – four-legged and two-legged.
            The root meaning of the word “compassion” is “to suffer with.”  Let’s be honest – compassion is an inconvenience.  We spend much of our energy making sure we don’t personally suffer and then along comes compassion, which requires that we suffer because of someone else’s needs.
            No one could say that Jesus tried to hide from suffering.  In fact he seems to invite it into his life most of the time.  And one of the ways he does that is being aware and attentive to those around him.  In his awareness, Jesus was regularly emotionally impacted by their needs.  He suffered in his heart because he saw the suffering of those around him.  If we are going to follow Jesus, if we are going to more and more live our lives like his, compassion will be something we grow into.  As we become more like Jesus we will be more aware of the needs of those around us and we will be moved by them.
            But here is something really important to understand about the compassion of Jesus:  compassion always moved him to action.  Compassion will move us to action if it is motivated by Godly love.  Jesus was moved with compassion when he saw sick people and he healed them.  Jesus was moved with compassion when he saw hungry people and he fed them.  Jesus was moved with compassion when he saw ignorant people so he taught them.  Jesus was moved with compassion when he saw hurting people and he comforted them.  God was moved with compassion when he saw us lost so he sent his Son Jesus to seek and to save us from our lostness.
            We are passionate about raising up compassionate followers of Jesus Christ to be risk-takers for God.  That is our mission at Cold Springs Community Church.  Compassion is an essential element of living out God’s mission in the world.
            Feeling compassion is an invitation to take the risk of acting in love to meet the need of another.  We haven’t been compassionate until we have acted upon the feeling.  We haven’t been like Jesus until we have actually done something in response to the need by which we have been moved.
            Here is my challenge – start exercising your compassion muscle.  Over the next five days pay particular attention to someone God has put in your life – a parent, daughter, son, spouse, neighbor, co-worker - and try to see a need they have each day and then do something to meet that need.  Decide you are going to act with compassion.  When you do this, you will become more like Jesus and you will probably really surprise some people!
            “…a compassionate follower of Jesus Christ…”  There’s no better way to live.

Peace and grace,
David