Sunday, February 22, 2004
Read a good article relating to work which made me think. Here's an excerpt:
The first thing I want to say is that we should remove the linkage between our jobs and our self worth. If we need money and prestige for our self worth than we would chase the job that give us more of both. But if our self worth is rooted in our relationship with God, and our identity as children of God, then nothing in this world can add on to, or take away from, our self worth. Realizing this frees us to look at job changes more objectively.
The second thing I want to say is that a Christian should be biased to NOT change jobs. Two Christian values that every Christian should bring to their work and workplace are creativity and community. And both require time.
God knows we need more creative out of the box thinking in every discipline in our rapidly changing and needy world. But creativity only emerges when one has been around long enough to learn the ropes of our job. Rushing from job to job would just result in our bringing our same level of competence and creativity from job to job without any growth and development.
This last point spoke to me because I'm tempted to look for a better paying (hey, I have a new addition to my family) and less stressful (I have to do rotating 7x24 pager support) opportunity. I just can't seem to fully shake off this restlessness in me. But the article makes some good points that challenged me to think about my motives and my mission more carefuly. Oh Lord, give me contentment!
The article closes thus: "... it boils down to obedience. Lord, what would you have me do? Seek the mind of the BOSS. Talk it through with trusted friends. Ask them to pray for you and to help you discern." Dear friends, please pray for me and share your wisdom with me!!
Wednesday, February 18, 2004
I'm on 7x24 pager duty this week, and got buzzed an hour and a half ago ... and now I can't get back to sleep.
My friend, who'd been out of work for some time now, finally got a job offer. I'd been trying to get him hired by my manager, and after being interviewed, my friend was kept waiting. So, he continued to look elsewhere. So he gets this job which is really close to where I live (it would take me 15 minutes to get there instead of an hour like it does to get to where I work), and pays 50% more than my job (doing roughly the same thing). Sure, his job demands a bit of travel (he has no kids), but it doesn't involve 7x24 hour pager duty.
OK, confession time: although I was very happy for my friend, I was ticked off at my company for not hiring him; I think he would have made a great addition to my team. But hey, that's their loss and his gain. But more than that, it brought back feelings I had when I first got started my present job last summer. I'm a bit bummed out that with an extra child to care for, and my wife on sabbatical, I'm underpaid and overworked, working twice as hard for 50% less the pay that I am used to.
But it's not just about the $$$. It's about the time. I no longer have time to read and pursue biblical studies to the depth I once was able to. My shelves display books that are gathering dust. I hardly have time for my family or church. Why Lord, why? Is this what life is all about?
And then the one day you find, ten years have got behind you
No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun
And you run and you run to catch up with the sun, but it's sinking
And racing around to come up behind you again
The sun is the same in the relative way, but you're older
And shorter of breath and one day closer to death
Every year is getting shorter, never seem to find the time
Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines
"Time" - Pink Floyd
Maybe I'm just cranky 'cause I'm not getting enough sleep, or maybe I'm just a disillusioned old fart ...
Saturday, February 14, 2004
Joshua Harris, not even a hint: guarding your heart against lust. Multnomah, 2003.
Joshua Harris, best-sellling author of I Kissed Dating Goodbye, tackles a subject that most Christians are uncomfortable talking about: sexual lust. We all struggle with it (male or female, single or married, as Joshua points out), yet it's a taboo subject in most Christian circles. About the only time we talk about it is when some well-known Christian leader makes headlines because of yet another sex scandal.
The first thing that strikes the reader of this book is the author's honesty and vulnerability: he writes as a fellow struggler. Indeed, the book begins with this confession: 'I need this book as much or more than anyone else who will ever read it. I wrote it not because I've "conquered" lust and have a foolproof plan for you to follow; I wrote it because I've experienced God's power to change, and I know He wants you to experience that power too.' Such transparency is refreshing and continues throughout the book. This should encourage all Christians to honestly confront their own struggles in this area.
Secondly, with such a "delicate" subject, Josh is very tactful, neither being shrill and making legalistic pronouncements nor sensationalistic and being unnecessarily explicit. He is not afraid to talk about pornography and masturbation (gulp! the dreaded "M" word) without dragging our minds further into the gutter by going into lurid details.
The ten chapters in the book are divided into three sections:
- The Truth About Lust
- In the Thick of the Battle
- Strategies for Long-Term Change
I will not attempt to give a chapter-by-chapter review of the book; rather, I shall limit myself to just a few main points.
Joshua begins by pointing to three areas where he feels people are misguided in their battle against lust: the wrong standard, the wrong source of power to change, and the wrong motive. He then he proceeds to helpfully clarify what lust is and is not. In particular, I like his quote from John Piper: "Lust is a sexual desire minus honor and holiness" as well as his reminder that "Lust covets the forbidden". (I mention Piper's quote not only because I like it, and because I enjoy his books, but because I think his vision of Christian hedonism is revelant to this). I also appreciated Josh taking the effort to explain some theological truths (e.g. justification and sanctification) that are foundational to a true understanding of our salvation and Christian life. Without this foundation, Christians would be prone to either legalistic moralism or mere pious platitudes. It is very helpful to be reminded that we are called to be free from the bondage of sin into a glorious life of freedom and holiness in Christ - if we walk by the Spirit (Gal. 5:13-14, 22-25).
Part 2 of the book opens with a chapter reminding us that our struggles are common and yet unique to each of us. Here, Josh gives practical advice regarding "lust triggers", such as TV, magazines, music, the Internet, certain places and times of the day, and others. In our sex-saturated society where we are constantly bombarded with images and sounds (e.g. shock radio) that are openly sexual, it is imperative that we learn to identify the danger areas in our lives that can trigger lust and temptation. For example, most Christians waste far too much time watching TV; with all the sleazy crap that's on these days, I've personally stopped watching it. If you think you can "handle" it, well, I think you're fooling yourself. Images (especially for guys) can linger in our minds indefinitely it seems, and can pop up suddenly down the road.
Josh includes a number of excerpts of interviews with both men and women in his book, clearly revealing that both men and women struggle with lust, though perhaps in different ways. In conversations with my oldest son (presently in grade 9), he laments how difficult it is when one is surrounded by sex/trash talk all the time and girls "dress like sluts" (as my wife would put it). It doesn't help when Christian girls (whether obliviously or intentionally) dress and act in the same provactive manner as the unsaved. Then there's MTV videos with pop tarts like Britney Spears and others strutting their stuff. Even movies always seem to include some obligatory eye candy. Yes son, it's tough to be a Christian teenager these days. Yet, it seems that the teen abstinence movement is still making headlines, which is a good thing, though I wonder how many remain true to their pledge.
This leads naturally to the topic of masturbation. Christians who do deal with this taboo subject seem to be divided on this: some think it's an acceptable way to relieve frustrations and temptations, while others think that it is harmful in the long run. Josh takes the latter viewpoint and argues his case well, providing some practical tips to overcome this habit, including his "final piece of advice": namely, "Get married". Of course, his answer is very biblical: "It is better to marry than to burn with lust" (1 Cor. 7:9b; NLT). But if it was only that easy. I know of several Christian brothers who are constantly struggling with the intertwined struggles of loneliness and lust. One brother I know has struggled with this for almost 15 years now, after God saved him from a life of gangs, drugs and sex. Having tasted of the fruit of sexual delight (albeit in a sinful way), this brother faithfully serves the Lord in many capacities, and yet he undergoes fierce battles with lust and temptation. I'm happy to say that other than the occasional lapse into channel surfing, he has not succumbed to renting porn vides, viewing Internet porn, or soliciting prostitutes (some Christians do). I also feel for those who are divorced, who hunger for sexual intimacy they once enjoyed, as well as trying to heal from the pain of a failed relationship. My friend desires to be married, but so far has been unsuccessful at finding the right prospect. So, is he condemned to struggle for another 15 years?! Meanwhile many Christian teens are having their kicks, fooling around in church youth group sleepovers or at camps. Sometimes the frustration and "burning" drives him crazy .. but masturbation is not an option, right?
Second of all, marriage does NOT necessarily spell the end of the habit, as some married folk would confess. In any case, I don't think Josh is to be blamed for his advice to get married (after all, it is scriptural as I said). However, why doesn't God bring an end to the struggles, especially if both marriage and sex within marriage are good gifts for us to enjoy? Why is it so hard for some singles to meet the right marriage partner?
Because sexual material is so prevalent and accessible, the need for mutual help and accountability is vital. Josh gives some good practical suggestions in this regard, especially the need to not just sympathize with, but also to challenge one another ("the wounds of a friend are better than the kisses of an enemy"). In an earlier chapter titled "Half a Poison Pill Won't Kill You", he also gives helpful advice (much of which is common-sense, though it never hurts to be reminded) on discerning your habits that could lead to temptation (like being more selective and serious about what movies you watch). I think most Christians are far too lax about the whole matter of lust and sexual sin. In a reaction to the earlier legalistic strictures of fundamentalism, today's evangelicalism has often been too casual about worldliness and sin.
Anyhow, this review is gettting way too long. Let me close by thanking Josh for writing this book and giving me a helpful tool I can use to initiate conversation with my boys and other Christians. And thanks to Covenant Life Church, where Josh pastors, for sending me a free copy to review. I heartily recommend the book to all Christians; it may not be the last word on the subject, but it can be the first one in getting the conversation going.
Readers may also be interested in these sites, though I've not reviewed them enough to say how good they are (the last one seems geared to men entirely):
- Not Even a Hint blog
- Pure Life Ministries
- Getting Serious About Lust in an Age of Smirks
- Slaying the Dragon
- Pure Restoration
Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person--such a man is an idolater--has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.
Ephesians 5:1-5; NIV
Sunday, February 08, 2004
On Thursday we had a couple over to chat and pray about some concerns we had. The husband was here for studies and just as we're getting to know them better, they'll be leaving in a few months. Then on Friday, we had a family over for dinner. in this case, the wife was here to study and brought along her son, leaving the husband back home. He was happy to be re-united with his family for awhile, as he as was on vacation. Anyhow, the wife became a Christian here in Vancouver. I was able to share with both of them how God saved me when I was a student at university. The husband is a well-read man, and had some good questions about Christianity and he listened respectfully to my answers (which his wife translated for him, as he knew only a little English). Despite the language barrier, I truly enjoyed conversing with him and not only did we talk about Jesus, but also Nietzsche, Kafka and Bob Dylan!
They both have had contact with Christians in their homeland, as some of their family members and friends were Christians. However, they were turned off by some of their teachings (a version of the Health and Wealth "gospel") as well as the churches' constant emphasis on tithing and money. I was able to share with them how I felt chuches today have indeed become overly pre-occupied with money, power, prestige, etc. and have lost the simplicity of the NT church. They were happy to hear of a different vision of church life: authentic relationship and community, serving one another in love, participatory gatherings, etc.
And then the sad reminder that the wife would soon complete her studies and would return home with their son less than 6 months from now. This scenario seems to have played itself over and over in our lives of late. It is so painful to develop relationships and enjoy the growing friendship and fellowship, only to lose them so soon.