Thursday, September 21, 2006

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Wednesday, September 20, 2006


"I said a dirty word" quips Eye-gore in Young Frankenstein as he tries to read his master's charade-motion. The dirty word here is guilt. If you were raised with it, you may be a screwed-up puppy. Welcome to the world of the dysfunctional.
In fact, when you see this word you may think of a certain sin (real or imagined) you commit (masturbation, looking on a woman with lust, hurting someone with a tongue-lashing). The feeling of guilt may linger in your mind and destroy you from the inside-out. This is our flesh and the devil's ploy to undo you in ways that no one knows.
Often I hear of "Jewish guilt" or "Catholic guilt" that children are submitted to as a form of control employed by their parents. 99 times out of a hundred, it is the mother who employs this tactic. A recent study found that 13% of panic attack sufferers were young Jewish men. This may be linked to the cultural use of guilt. There is no doubt that guilt undermines the confidence of a person who is caught up in it. It is a form of bondage which no man can alleviate himself from.
A recent televised interview of Michael Brown (fomerly of FEMA) by a Hurricane Katrina survivor was instructive. At one point in the interview, the survivor tells Mr. Brown, "I forgive you" (it is believed that Brown did not act quickly enough by the survivors of this tragedy). Brown hears the words, is brought to tears and says, "thank you". The weight of this tragedy and the burden of guilt was lifted off this humbled man.
Christians also need to hear that they are forgiven. Whether we have real or imagined sin, guilt is the work of the devil and our flesh. It is the judgment associated with an act that is not quenched by "positive thinking" or ignoring it. In fact, ignoring guilt leads to a hardness of heart and emboldens one in their pursuit of sin.
The work of the Holy Spirit must be differentiated from guilt. He does not bring guilt, but conviction. It is a little like being caught in a lie, and a person says out loud, "that's a lie". You are speechless, and have to admit it. But, God calls this admission repentance, and he brings healing with it.
Guilt, and the subsequent burden can only be lifted by an outside source. This outside source is Jesus. Yes, he has forgiven your sin. He also forgives you for judging yourself. "Therefore, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin ... (Ro. 8:1-3a). You are forgiven in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. God bless and keep you!

"Blood is thicker than water." I have been considering this perspective in light of the Biblical record. While family does play an important role in the development of the individual, it is not the closest relationship a person can have. "For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh" (Gen. 2:24). What is this saying? First of all, it is a commentary on the relationship between a man and a woman inspired by the relationship between Adam and Eve. A couple becomes united in marriage, and that relationship predominates over all others.
If either of the couple's family intrudes into this relationship, the marriage is threatened. It stunts the solidifying of the bond. In short, it is sin. Blood, most decidedly, is not thicker than water. When a man marries a woman, there is a change of order. His wife becomes more important in his decisions and life than his own family, because his wife is one with him. This goes vice-versa.
Without "leaving", the marriage is doomed to enmeshment (with the family) and underdevelopment (in the marriage union). One of the members of the marriage is bound to feel hurt, resentment, and eventually, bitterness over their spouse's emotional infidelity. This explains the wide variety of bitter jokes men make about their mothers-in-law. These men have been deeply hurt by their wives' emotional infidelity to keep personal information and decisions in the marriage, so they lash out in bitter and sarcastic humor.
Men are capable of this kind of infidelity, as well. A man may be close to his mother because she enable him by doing his laundry and making him meals while he his living "on his own". His inability to leave his parents' care continues his childhood. If this pours into a marriage, the wife becomes bitter and resentful. She sees the mother (or father, or both) as competition.
Eventually, the very real emotional infidelity drive the spouse away, and the first sign of this is "clamming up". In other words, they refuse to share personal information out of fear of it being broacast to the in-laws. The next stage might be avoidance, where the spouse intentionally does not come home because of the pain of seeing an unfaithful husband or wife. The third stage is fulfillment of need. If the husband or wife cannot trust their spouse, they will create one. This could be in the form of a co-worker or friend. In any language, this spells danger. An adulterous affair results, in this case, out of the emotional adultery of the spouse.
God has our best interests in mind. He protects marriage by outlining its parameters (one man and one woman) and creating the bond that strenthens it (in addition to sex, emotional transparency and the preservation of trust). Old Testament punishments for adultery were severe, and we should not think that it is any less severe for emotional infidelity.
Christ states, "So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate." (Matt. 19:6). The word "man" is actually anthropas, meaning, human.
For those who may read this article feeling sorrow for their sin against their spouse, there is hope. Christ came to swallow up the whole of your sin in his body broken on the tree. He has suffered the brutal punishment for your sin, and has forgiven you for all of it. If it is time to make ammends with your spouse, do not wait another minute; your marriage hangs in the balance. Blood is not thicker than water.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Prince of Egypt

The other day, my wife and I watched the Prince of Egypt based on a recommendation from a friend. With the recollection of Charleton Heston in The Ten Commandments in my head, we proceeded to watch the animated film.
Although this movie took "creative license", it was true to the core of the events leading up to Moses' attaining of the leadership of Israel as a free people. It has been a while since I'd read the story, and was reminded of Moses killing a man early in his life. Sometimes, we get an image that he was a "holy man", when, in fact, he was a sinner who was holy. It is in the fantastic humbling process that God took him through that we find the hero of the story, rather than just a run-of-the-mill killer.
At the apex of his humbling (as a shepherd), Moses encounters a bush which is on fire, but not consumed. A voice emits from the bush which tells him to take off his sandals for he is standing "on holy ground".
It would be easy to look at Moses' life and see that it is a self-contained Bible story which is nice for kids (exept the murder part) and lends itself to neat special effects for movie makers. However, the Reformers (i.e., Martin Luther and John Calvin) held to a concept of Old Testament Type and Shadow, meaning that Moses' biography points to a reality which had not yet been realized. Moses is a type and shadow of Christ Jesus. This is to say, there are elements of his story which point to Jesus.
Example 1: Moses leads a people who are slaves in Egypt into freedom by sacrificing his high position as prince and becoming a shepherd. Jesus leaves heaven, becomes a human baby and leads people in bondage to sin into the freedom of God's grace and forgiveness.
Example 2: Moses leads his people to the Red Sea (a sure death) and through it by stretching out his hand (Ex. 14:21), thus saving them from death at the had of their enemies. Once Israel walks through it, God tells Moses to stretch out his hand over the Sea again, and the Egyptian warriors who are about to kill them are drowned. Likewise, Jesus stretches out his hands on the cross for our forgiveness; our salvation. He also stretches out his hands to defeat sin, death and the devil (praise be to God!).
There are many other examples, but suffice it to say, this film encouraged me by reminding me that God can rescue us out of any situation and create life where there is only death.