Addicere has serious problems. She is obsessed with pornography and she dares not take even a sip of alcohol or she will soon be drunk. This young woman is amazingly talented and comes from a home with loving parents who raised her with strong moral values. Yet despite their good example, their daughter is on a road that will end in tragedy if she does not come to a crucial spiritual understanding.
Teesha* was my waitress as I ate at Barrio Cafe in the Phoenix Airport while waiting for my flight to El Paso. As she refilled my lemonade I noticed a tattoo on her neck, “this too shall pass.” When she brought me my bill I asked her if she would tell me the story behind those four words. She immediately shared that she had a rare blood disorder and had almost died on numerous occasions. While wiping her forehead in the hospital, her mother would often say to her, “This too shall pass.”
In Genesis 19, we read one of the saddest stories in the Bible. Evidently, the behavior of the valley inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah was so awful that the Lord with two angels came down to investigate. Fearfully, Abraham asked Him if He would spare Sodom if He found just ten righteous people there. He was concerned because his nephew Lot lived in the city. The Lord replied, “for the sake of ten I will not destroy it” (18:32).
Jamaal and Hannah spend hours each day playing video games. Their mother Roxanne*, says it is “okay”—at least they are not doing drugs or out on the street involved with the wrong crowd. Today we have Jamaals and Hannahs in their mid-thirties who devote hours each day to gaming. Their spiritual lives are mediocre and their contribution to advancing heaven’s agenda is abysmal. Their parents let them feed their infatuations when they were younger so long as the obsession was “harmless.” But there is no such thing as a harmless infatuation.
I apologize in advance for this illustration but I am not trying to be crude in making a crucial point. Each night I walk our two dogs, Hero the Labrador retriever and Saber the Sheltie. When the three of us walk, Saber has a habit that is extremely annoying. If he comes across what I suspect is dung from another animal (I’m guessing raccoon), before I can stop him, he literally does an in-the-air rollover dive into the mess and slides his chest and back all over it! Now I’m mad because I have to clean him (a difficult task with his thick and long hair) and he stinks. Furthermore, can you imagine what people would think of me as an owner if they came upon Saber in such a disgusting condition?
One of the reasons I love to study the Bible is the amazing way God speaks to the times in which we live. Read what the prophet Hosea wrote to his countrymen sometime between 755 and 722 B.C. and see if his words speak to your nation.
If ever there was a need for prayer, it will be for a man named Obama. He inherits a nation at war with a stressed out economy. He will pilot a land divided in opinion in the midst of a world looking for a messiah. He will render senior leadership in a most complicated government with junior experience and little room for failure. He will face a press that is woeful in gathering all the facts and enemies that would love to see this nation destroyed. He will need wisdom from above in a culture that increasingly follows an ethical theory and practice “that emphasizes reason, scientific inquiry, and human fulfillment in the natural world and often rejects the importance of belief in God.”*
When we navigate with a compass if we don’t keep on line with the precise azimuth, we get off course. Just walking across uneven land, over hills and through brush will change our direction and can easily cause us to get lost. I remember as a child in Japan, descending from the top of Mt. Fuji with two other boys. We left the sure circular path to take a short cut. But coming down the steep slope, we walked at an angle and ended up far away from our intended destination, lost and separated from the rest of our group.
When Nancy was thirteen years old she was diagnosed with a disease in her heart, osteoporosis, and the verdict that she would never bear children. She and her mother bargained with God. They would pray wherever they were every day for two months at six a.m. and six p.m. if He would heal her. At home they had no food and life was miserable. One day several Costa Ricans came to her Nicaraguan church. While the visiting pastor spoke with Nancy’s mom, his wife spoke with Nancy. On a Friday afternoon she told her that she would receive everything back in double for her faithfulness. On Monday when the doctors examined her, she was completely healed. Though He did not have too, God in His mercy, blessed the young girl.
My office is the scene of constant battle. On the front line of my desk, two forces are engaged—the Pile Army led by General Intentions versus the Orderly Army led by General Tidy. The Pile Army constantly bombs the white-painted plain where I work with papers, books, writing instruments, mail, business cards, pictures and occasionally food and drink. Tidy is outgunned, outmaneuvered and so seldom wins victories that his army is often prone to quit fighting. Bills, deadlines and voting ballots are sporadically missed—all casualties beneath the deadly aim of Intention’s battle captain—Procrastination. On occasion, when I take trips, my wife visits the frontlines and brilliantly supports the Orderly forces with such pragmatic movements that I can actually see my desktop when I return.
Samson amazingly typified the nation of Israel. He was specially chosen by God, and empowered with eye-popping strength. Yet, like his countrymen, he chose the cravings of his flesh and failed miserably. What prompted the man set apart for God to make decisions set apart from God?
“There is no sun,” the people cried. “Don’t talk to us about sun. Every day it is the same. We can see only so far in front, so far above and that’s the way it is. Life is a mist, soak it up. What we see is far more important than what we don’t see. What we believe is beyond us is of no consequence to what we experience. We do what we want to do and we want to be left alone. When we die we die and so it is better to live for whatever makes us happy.
This is another one of those topics most of us would rather not be bothered with—to our own peril. We want God to be just and fair but we often fail to understand that His fairness is effectual because of what lies underneath it—His wrath. How can anger have anything to do with fairness? Well, let someone try and grab your daughter and abuse her and you’ll have a good idea. Watch someone blatantly run a red light and see if your blood begins to boil. The Bible teaches us that “God is a righteous judge and a God who shows His wrath every day” (Psalm 7:11).
Once upon a time a young man, Foye, crossed the ocean to explore Vacuities the world’s most powerful nation. Everywhere he went he met a myriad of people moving from city to city, looking for meaning. Inside a harbor graced by a noble statue, he first encountered the City of Results. But for all the accomplishments the city boasted he constantly met people disappointed that their goals brought no lasting satisfaction. It was like they worked and worked, but for what? Traveling inland, he spent time in the City of Retirement—a most sought after destination. Yet, here he discovered that there was little to live for among those entranced with ease, so most just died.
David Sarasohn, a local writer, slammed President Bush for falsely portraying events in Iraq, in an editorial in The Oregonian. He mocked the President for ignoring the reality of life in Iraq as the media portrays it. Shame on the Commander-in-Chief for believing the direct eyewitness account of soldiers and statesmen instead of the six o’clock news! Because I am privy to inside information to a wide array of events in that land, I am increasingly dismayed by the biased and distorted view David and most of the media portray. It is bad journalism to daily report the number of casualties and castigate the Bush administration for every misstep while selectively ignoring every positive development that occurs in the rebuilding of Iraq’s broken infrastructure. If loss of life is truly the media’s concern, why don’t they tally and print the number of Americans killed each day in traffic accidents in the United States? If morality is so important as to fester for weeks over prisoner abuses, why is there no outrage over drunk drivers or the daily despotic practices of lawless terrorists? Could it be that deeper principles are at work? I’m convinced the media is not about reporting information it is about selling philosophy—truly bad news for everyone.
My parents were missionaries which meant that we didn’t often see members of our extended family. One year we took a trip to Washington and stayed with Grandma and Grandpa Erickson. My cousins happened also to be there and we spent great time playing together and competing. Loren and I, as the oldest, got to stay in Grandpa’s Winnebago parked just outside their home. One night Loren decided to teach me a game I’d never played—strip poker.
James Hewett, in Illustrations Unlimited, tells the story of an Irish priest, who, newly arrived in New York City, decided to visit the Bowery—a haven of homeless alcoholics and other derelicts. While walking the streets he suddenly felt a gun against his ribs. Then he heard a raspy voice: “All right mister, gimme all your money!” As he quickly reached for his wallet the holdup man noticed his clerical garb. Overcome with shame the thief said, “Forgive me, Father. I didn’t know you were a priest.” The priest replied, “That’s all right, Son. Just repent of your sin. Here, have a cigar.” The robber replied, “Oh, no, thank you, Father, I don’t smoke during Lent.”
Years ago, when we bought bicycles for our children they came unassembled. I did not pull the parts out of the box and say, “Kids look at the picture. Now build it!” Nor did they say, “We don’t need your help we can do this our own way.” We worked together. They followed my directions, while I explained the instructions inside the box. Much of the work I did because they didn’t have the abilities necessary for many of the tasks.
In 1725, Franciscan monks established the Convent of Ocopa to evangelize and civilize the tribes of the Peruvian jungle. Located about 45 minutes from the city of Huancayo in the central Andes, this monastery contains a library with over 25,000 volumes of antique literature. Adorning many of the walls of the splendid building are paintings that date 200-300 years in age. It is a most impressive place where the walls literally seem to breathe with stories.
In Oregon an evil cloud camps over the Catholic Church as certain priests stand accused of pedophilia. The scandal is not unique to this northwestern state. Perhaps what is lost in this brooding scandal is the misleading charge of the press. First, the real issue is not whether the cause of these problems is the vow of celibacy priests invoke. Second, it is more than abusing boys that is occurring, it is homosexual relationships—something the press will not touch for fear of offending the homosexual community.