Everybody hates the Big Guy

Big Government. Big Oil. Big Brother. This morning I even heard a story on the news about Big Whiskey (wasn’t that the setting in “Unforgiven”?). There is this distrust of anything or anyone big. Why?

Maybe it’s because of the fear that anything or anyone too big won’t play by the rules. The thinkings is that the Big Guy ignores the rules and overpowers the Little Guy — you and me. But what if the Big Guy makes the rules? Then what?

God tells us in the Bible “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.” (Psalm 115:3) For the average person in the culture I live in, that is a threatening statement. It threatens because it takes any kind of control I may have out of my hands. Like anything or anyone Big, we ask “But does he know what’s best for me?” “Can I trust him?” And, the big question whether we ask or not “What about my rights?”

Anyone who takes a moment to look at the world around them soon will realize that there is much that goes out of control. War. Weather. Relationships. But ultimate control rests in God’s hands, who created this world. The less we choose to believe this, the greater our distress in what looks like chaos in this world.

That is a battle I fight every day. A favorite passage of mine is I Peter 5:6-7, where it says “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on Him, for he cares for you.” Just prior to that, it says that God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. So, my battle is to be humble and trust the “mighty hand of God” — that is, the God who does spectacular things for his people.

So, the battle is to trust the ultimate Big Guy who makes the rules and does more than I could possibly do. And part of that battle is to not make myself the Big Guy, because I don’t have the authority or the power to run the world, even my own little one.

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It can get much better, and does, with God

Wesley Hill has written an insightful essay at The Gospel Coalition’s blog called “With God, It Gets Much Better” as a response to the new campaign to reach out to LBGTQ kids called “It Gets Better.” The campaign looks to encourage those in this group who have been abused verbally and physically.

Hill, who authored the recently published “Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality,” commends the effort but says that it doesn’t go far enough. He cites his own experience growing up and what he learned from it:

What I ended up discovering instead was a community of Christians who told me the story of the gospel and, energized by its hope, reached out to me in love.

My Christian friends told me that God is a good creator, explaining that he made humanity male and female and designed marriage, a covenant union between one man and one woman, as the place for human sexual desire to flourish (see Genesis 2:20-25 read together with Matthew 19:4-5). But they also described creation’s subsequent fall into sin and death. The biblical narrative of an originally pristine world gone horribly awry on account of human rebellion made sense of the fact that, through no conscious choice of my own, as an inheritor of Adam’s sin, I found myself experiencing desires for what seemed, in Christian terms, to be the wrong objects (see Romans 1:24-27). East of Eden, even our bodies are in need of redemption, my friends pointed out (see Romans 8:23).

Above all, the Christians I got to know pointed me to Jesus. Single, celibate, with no place to lay his head, Jesus understood my feeling of being broken and the loneliness that came with it. More than that, he died and was raised to secure for me eternal life with his Father in their Spirit—a life in which all bullying, sadness, and self-harm have no place. Trusting in him, I could count on God to see me not as a damnable failure but as an adopted son, a fellow heir with Jesus, a justified sinner. And I could look forward to a bodily resurrection patterned after Jesus’ own.

And while the theological “it gets better” message leaves hope, Hill said his friends didn’t just leave it there but demonstrated true love:

The Christians I got to know committed themselves, through the unity secured by the Holy Spirit rather than through biological ties, to being my family if I never experienced marriage firsthand. They invited me into their homes, took me on vacation with them, and encouraged me to consider myself an older sibling to their children. And they recruited me to join them in causes of hospitality, in making room for bullied kids—and bullies—at our dinner tables.

Such a message, surely, is more powerful than an optimistic forecast of a future in which love and acceptance may be found—but also, perhaps, may not. The Christian gospel heralds a God who does not leave us to our sinful desires, our broken selves and sexualities.

 

You don’t play around with the devil’s work

The Boundless Webzine has a good column by Matt Kaufman discussing a recent report on the effects of pornography. Unfortunately, this addiction is everywhere in our society and hold many in its clutches. According to the report, it promises much but offers a declining level of satisfaction that, in the end, leaves its abusers depressed and unfulfilled. The dangers of the addict are one thing, but even dabbling in it is dangerous. That is because it creates a place in our brains that needs to be fed:

The second pleasure system [in our brains] has to do with the satisfaction, or consummatory pleasure, that attends actually having sex or having that meal, a calming, fulfilling pleasure. Its neurochemistry is based on the release of endorphins, which are related to opiates and give a peaceful, euphoric bliss. Pornography, by offering an endless harem of sexual objects, hyper-activates the appetitive system. Porn viewers develop new maps in their brains, based on the photos and videos they see.

Because it is a use-it-or-lose-it brain, when we develop a map area, we long to keep it activated. Just as our muscles become impatient for exercise if we’ve been sitting all day, so too our senses hunger to be stimulated. The men at their computers [addicted to] looking at porn [are] uncannily like the rats in the cages of the NIH [National Institutes of Health], pressing the bar to get a shot of dopamine or its equivalent. Though they [don’t] know it, they [have] been seduced into pornographic training sessions that [meet] all the conditions required for plastic change of brain maps.

So, it’s not a take-it-or-leave-it kind of thing. The beast that we create demands to be fed. As Kaufman points out, we need to realize that we are in a battle. As Christians, we realize it is a spiritual battle and the Devil is using pornography as a powerful tool against us. However, we know that every temptation we face is one that Christ experienced as well while he was on earth. (I Cor. 10:13; Hebrews 4:15). But, we must be wise and not play in the Devil’s toolbox.

Helpful resources from Boundless:

Pure intimacy

Enjoy your Starbucks, but don’t think it makes you a better — or worse — person

For those who haunt places like Starbucks, you can sometimes get the impression that you’re doing much more than enjoying a $5 drink. What? Well, according to the Starbucks itself (from the back of a cup): Everything we do, you do. You stop by for a coffee. And just by doing that, you let Starbucks but more coffee from farmers who are good to their workers, community and planet. Starbucks bought 65% of our coffee this way last year–228 million pounds–and we’re working with farmers to make it 100%. It’s using our size for good, and you make it all possible. Way to go, you” (emphasis original).

This kind of ultra-coolness can go to your head. So much so that people say things like: “I think we have managed to, with a simple cup of coffee and a very unique experience, enhance the lives of millions of people by re-creating a sense of community, by bringing people together and recognizing the importance of place in people’s lives.” That’s actually a statement from Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, as quoted in Bryant Simon’s new book “Learning About America from Starbucks,” which tells us in bits and snippets how Starbucks shapes our lives.

Kevin DeYoung, in a great post at his Gospel Coalition blog, cuts through a lot of the baloney with some great insights. For one, he says churches have almost nothing to learn from how to be a “community” from Starbucks. Rather, DeYoung says, you would do better reading Ephesians. As far as coffee culture, don’t get too wrapped up in being cool or uncool, hip or unhip. You’re not saving the world with you five-cent donation, but enjoying coffee and coffee house trappings is not the worst thing in the world either. Enjoy your coffee, by all means, but love your neighbor as yourself. That’s good advice from the Bible, not a coffee cup.

The daily earthquake of abortion is right in your back yard

On Jan. 12, 2010, a deadly earthquake hit Haiti. It has been estimated that anywhere from 150,000 to maybe up to 500,000 people lost their lives in this tragedy. There is still much suffering as many who have survived have been left homeless. There are many ways you can help beyond being there physically. Among many choices you can consider I would offer Compassion International, which works with children and their families, and Food for the Hungry. I cannot strongly enough urge you to help in whatever way you can.

Since that day when the major quake hit Haiti, there has been an equally devastating human tragedy that has hit among the most defenseless people in our society. I am talking about abortion. There are some estimates that 3,000 babies in the United States and 130,000 babies worldwide are killed by abortion. John Piper puts it in perspective in his sermon on his observance of Sanctity of Human Life Sunday yesterday at Bethlehem Baptist Church.

There are about 3,000 abortions a day in the United States and about 130,000 a day worldwide. Which means that the horrific, gut-wrenching reality of Haiti’s earthquake on January 12 happens everyday in the abortion clinics of the world. And it is likely that if the dismemberment and bloodshed and helplessness of 130,000 dead babies a day received as much media coverage as the earthquake victims have—rightly have!—there would be the same outcry and outpouring of effort to end the slaughter and relieve the suffering.

Americans have been giving 1.6 million dollars an hour for Haiti Relief for the last ten days—a beautiful thing. I hope you are part of it. It is so unbelievably easy to give with phones and computers. But the funding and resistance to the suffering of the silent, hidden destruction of the unborn is not so easy. So the 3,000 babies who are crushed to death every day in America by the earthquake of abortion go largely unnoticed.

If you have been compelled to perhaps adopt a Haitian child because they have been left orphaned, how much more so should you consider adopting a child that may be aborted. Is there really any difference? The point is not that we should do less for situations like the one in Haiti, but rather that we should not ignore a far greater tragedy in our society. As I sat in my own church on Sunday I couldn’t help but feel disappointed that nothing was mentioned about this tragedy. It is much safer to be concerned about Haiti. I hope we can muster our courage to change that.

A Sweet and Bitter Providence: Piper examines sex, race and God’s sovereignty in his new book

John Piper’s latest book, A Sweet and Bitter Providence: Sex, Race and the Sovereignty of God is now available. In it, he examines the book of Ruth and how it’s themes are relevant in the 21st century. From the publisher:

The sovereignty of God, the sexual nature of humanity, and the gospel of God’s mercy for the undeserving-these massive realities never change. And since God is still sovereign, and we are male or female, and Jesus is alive and powerful, A Sweet and Bitter Providence bears a message for readers from all walks of life. But be warned, Piper tells his audience: This ancient love affair between Boaz and Ruth could be dangerous, inspiring all of us to great risks in the cause of love.

Getting away from it all: The McFarthest place in the U.S.

mcdonaldsMy best friend lives out on the rolling plains of South Dakota in a place that seems far from everywhere. I have visited him there once and long to go back there again. I tell people he’s a real-life cowboy because he ranches with his brother-in-law and often the mode of transportation is a horse. I like that one of the nearest towns is called Faith, because you have to have a lot of it to live so far away from the “modern” conveniences.

That’s why I had a smile when I came across this post by Stephen Von Worley where, while lamenting the spread of the strip mall to the country, he plots the point in the United States that is the most-distant from a McDonald’s. Why McDonald’s? Well, Worley puts it well when he says: “To gauge the creep of cookie-cutter commercialism, there’s no better barometer than McDonald’s – ubiquitous fast food chain and inaugural megacorporate colonizer of small towns nationwide.”

Using data from AggData, which is cool site in itself, he came up with the answer: the rolling plains of Northwest South Dakota.

When I saw this, I was amused because it is the neighborhood of my cowboy friend. If there was ever a place (in the U.S., that is) you could say you were getting away from it all, it would be where he lives. This is where he calls home:

I can testify that you can survive without a McDonald’s down the street. I know, I’ve talked to him from time to time and he’s quite normal. I’ve never heard anyone say they can’t live without McDonald’s, but the point is that there is more to life then what we consider “modern conveniences.”