His Dream is My Dream

My husband, Benny, shared these thoughts yesterday or our church’s blog (www.lakenonachurch.com). I wanted to share them with you as well. My mother taught me by her words and her example to love and respect Dr. King — it’s hard to believe the speech that rocked the world and my young heart happened fifty years ago!

I’m grateful to God for the racial changes that have happened in our country over the past fifty years. But I yearn for more to come.

I miss Dr. King and his passion for change buried in the gospel.

 

It was 50 years ago yesterday that, arguably, one of the greatest speeches in American history was given on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. As I contemplate that historic day, three things come to mind. I agree with Dr. King that “…I refuse to believe the bank of justice is bankrupt.” As long as our Sovereign Lord remains Sovereign, justice will reign. It may not come as quickly or in a manner that we would prefer, but the promise of Scripture is “And I will make justice the line and righteousness the plumb line…” (Isaiah 28:17)

Second, in the current culture of the “civil rights industry” some of Dr. King’s perspective is lost. “…(as we) gain our rightful place, let us not be guilty of wrongful deeds, we dare not drink from the cup of bitterness and hatred…(we must) meet physical force with soul force.” As long as our preferences remain unexamined and our prejudices unaddressed it is difficult not to drink from that cup.

Third, the local church has the opportunity and the mandate to make a difference. Paul’s words in Ephesians 2:11-22 are timeless. P.T. O’Brien observes of this passage “This paragraph provides one of the most wonderful descriptions of peace and reconciliation…where believers ‘come near’ to God and to one another through the saving death of the Lord Jesus Christ”. As a local church, I want us to demonstrate this gospel-centered perspective of reconciliation in our personal lives and in our corporate expression.

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Pray For Destiny Hope: Part Two

Aside

My post yesterday was the first after my summer break. The response was surprising. It seems my thoughts about Destiny Hope (scroll down to see this if you haven’t already) hit a chord in many hearts.

I’m encouraged!

Why? Because many of you, like me, are aware of the spiritual pride (as one reader defined the sinful attitude we often deal with in relation to “those sinners out there”) that tempts us to view ourselves as better than others because our actions are more outwardly righteous than theirs.

  • “You wouldn’t catch me wearing something like that on national TV…or even at the beach, for goodness sake!”
  • “How in the world could that young woman do those things in front of millions of people???”
  • “Where did she learn to act like that? Who in the world had a filthy enough mind to choreograph those moves?”
  • “What happened to the little girl who went to Sunday School and wore a promise ring?”

I’ll admit it. My first reaction to the teaser clips I saw of Miley’s moves on Fox News wasn’t compassion. They were revolting. Shameful. Disgusting. Shocking. Until I took some moments to look into my own heart.

I was six years old when my friend Linda, the pastor’s daughter, and I were walking around the “dime store” (many of you are too young to know what that means) on a Saturday afternoon. We typically headed straight for the cheap little dolls and their even cheaper little accessories. I don’t remember the details of what I was thinking that day over fifty years ago, but I do remember something important. One of the “magic” baby bottles — where the milk seemed to disappear when turned up to feed the baby — ended up in my pocket when we left. And I didn’t have the 25 cents to pay for it.

It couldn’t have been that bad because it was the pastor’s daughter’s idea! The bottle in her pocket had disappearing orange juice, so between us we could feed our babies juice and milk.

At age six these two young churched girls had already become thieves and liars. And one of them justified her actions because the desire to “go along” with her pastor’s kid gave her just the permission she needed to do what was in her heart to do anyway.

The next time I remember stealing and lying was in fifth grade. I was in the “advanced” reading group and desperately wanted to retain my role as the group leader. This meant I had to read numerous books in a given time period and answer a list of comprehension questions to prove I had actually completed them. I also had the job of checking the other group members’ quizzes and then keep track of their progress in the teacher’s grade book.

Maybe you’re ahead of me. This meant I had authorized access to the answer keys.

I don’t remember if this happened just once, but I remember cheating one afternoon when no one else was in the room. I stole the answers to one (or more?) of the quizzes because my leadership tasks had left me behind in my own reading. My proud heart craved the recognition and respect of being the leader and I wasn’t about to give that up.

There you have it: by age 10 I was already demonstrating my willingness to steal, lie (covering up sin is the same as lying, right?) and rebel against God and my parents/teacher to get what I wanted. This pattern continued into my teen years when I was willing to compromise morally and ethically to keep a boyfriend or be accepted by the “cool” people or get ahead academically.

And I wish all that had stopped when I graduated high school!

appomattoxchurchofchrist.org

appomattoxchurchofchrist.org

You see, a couple of months back I reacted angrily at Benny (my husband) and threw my cell phone at the wall near him. That same attitude of entitlement I had decades ago (didn’t I “deserve” that baby bottle and expedited quiz grades and cute boyfriend?) remains to some degree to this day. When Benny did something that tempted me to react angrily, to his shock I picked up my phone and heaved it toward the wall. Sigh. At least I didn’t throw it right at him. Because I don’t typically express my anger outwardly (even though it’s alive and well in my heart) he and I both realized this was a sign that something was deeply affecting me. The little girl who “deserved” a toy she couldn’t pay for became a wife who “deserves” her husband’s sensitivity, attention or encouragement. I’ve spent some good time with the Lord asking Him to search out the things in my heart that allowed me to act so wrongly toward Benny.

So what does this have to do with Miley?  What if her actions, like mine as a kid and even recently as an adult, are symptoms of heart issues of which she isn’t even aware? Are her actions really the biggest problem? Or is there something deeper and even more serious going on?

The only reason you and I become aware of what is motivating us is because God shows us. I don’t see my sinful anger, greed, self-pity or painful sadness over being sinned against with my own eyes. And neither do you. Perhaps like me, you want to blame things like outbursts of anger on disrespectful kids or incompetent store clerks or gossipy friends or unkind relatives. We see — or are even willing to see — the roots of sin or brokenness or grief in our hearts when the Spirit of God kindly shows them to us. Left to ourselves, like Miley, we would go our own way without thought to how our actions begin in and flow out of our hearts.

Jesus talked about this when He said: “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander” (Matthew 15:19). Hmm…sinful actions begin in the heart. Pornography and gossip, adulterous affairs and teens making out in the backseat of cars, lies and murder all begin in the heart before they ever come out — to just one person over lunch or to millions on TV.

Seeing how similar Miley and I alike are helps me to cultivate Christlike compassion rather than pharisaical judgement toward her. We both have a heart problem. I have been declared not guilty of my many sins while she seemingly remains in need of a Savior who is just as able to forgive her as He has me.

P.S. By the way, my conscience got the best of me and I told Mom about the magic baby bottle.  She and the pastor’s wife had a good talkin’ to with LInda and me (well, not just a talkin’ to!) and we both had to return the toys to the store. The manager tried to give them back to us to say thanks for having the courage to return them (what courage??? our Moms made us!) but our moms wisely declined. They paid the 25 cents each for them, but then we all left the store with the man holding them in his hand. Thanks, Mom!

Please Pray for Destiny Hope

The summer is nearly over and was full of memories with my family and church. I am a richly blessed woman indeed! But as fall approaches I am starting to feel stirrings of blog ideas. Today I’m sensing an urge to write about someone I’ve never met or with whom I will never have contact.

Her name is Miley Cyrus.

She wasn’t always Miley. In fact, when she was born in November 1992 to her country singing dad, Billie Ray Cyrus and his soon-to-be-wife, she was Destiny Hope. As a young girl she became a Disney star on the show, Hannah Montana, where her character was named Miley. She was raised in a Christian environment and attended a Baptist church regularly. In fact, it’s told that as a teen she wore a purity ring to demonstrate her desire to walk in sexual purity until marriage.

Fast forward to this past Sunday and what many have called her pornographic performance that aired on the 2013 Video Music Awards. Last night I was watching Fox News when teasers of their coverage of her song began. Donning a seductive bikini-like outfit, the sexual gyrations and vulgar use of a fingered prop commonly used at sporting events began. I was stunned and quickly changed the channel.

Then the disheartening thoughts began.

How did a beautiful little girl named Destiny Hope who grew up in the church end up on national television acting out so recklessly as to cause Hollywood spectators themselves to blush? What happened in the heart and life of a toddler who used to attend Sunday School and a pre-adolescent who wore a visible reminder of her desire to walk in purity end up nauseating many just days ago with her degrading and bawdy actions while millions watched…or even lured? What made me turn my eyes away and email Greta Van Susteren about my disappointment that this was considered Fox “news”?

Why is it news that a lovely young woman shamed herself on national television? Because there is still something in the human heart that says, “That was bad.” There are still women out there who hate that their sisters allow ourselves to be objectified; men who don’t want to see a woman on a stage doing and dressing and acting and moving in ways only meant for the privacy of some bedrooms; mothers and grandmothers who are moved to tears because a once-interested-in-purity young girl has given in to the lure of money and sex and a possible craving for significance to lead her down the road to destruction rather than self-worth and inner beauty.

My heart is grieving today for Destiny Hope.

Turning 16: disneyorama.com

Turning 16: disneyorama.com

I ache for her and for all the little girls who are growing up in a sex-saturated culture where what they wear and how they act and how much attention they get from boys is where they find their worth. When I can’t find a modest and feminine outfit for my 7-year-old granddaughter in store racks full of teen-looking or “Girls Rule” garments I feel frustrated and sad.

And then I’m reminded of me. Yes, how often do I choose an outfit to get attention or fit in? What stirs in my heart when my husband doesn’t give me the attention I want or think I deserve? When I feel self-pitying or unimportant because people don’t applaud or give me the kudos I crave, what sinful things would I do if the gospel didn’t govern my wayward heart?

Rather than condemn and judge Miley, let’s remember Destiny Hope. I’m asking my readers to consider taking some time to pray for her. Pray that memories of growing up in her Baptist Church will invade her thoughts. Pray that the hope of the gospel — the fact that it doesn’t matter if you’ve flaunted and shamed yourself on national TV, Jesus came to seek and save lost sinners like her and you and me. Pray that her heartbreaking actions before millions will lead a few to carry her to the throne of grace, asking for mercy and help in her time of need.

www,style.mtv.com

www,style.mtv.com

Will you join me in praying for her now…and when God brings her to mind?

Lord, I confess my temptation to self-righteous judgement of this lost and broken woman. I am more like her than I am like You without Your power to change a heart bent on sin. If not for Your pursuit of me I would be wandering, searching and desperate for attention, too. Please draw her to Yourself. Open her eyes to see that the only destiny that will bring her true joy is being cleansed and loved by You. Give her a desire to know You, Jesus! And turn her quest for significance and worth toward the One who came to seek and save the likes of her…and me. 

More on Common Temptations

A friend who read my son, Jake’s, posts from last week (you can scroll down to read them if you’re interested) shared this blog from Desiring God as a follow up to what Jake communicated.  It really hit home to me regarding my own pesky temptation to grumble and complain. It’s written by Desiring God president, Jon Bloom, and is shared in its entirety. (You can find more excellent stuff over at http://www.desiringgod. org.)

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. (1 Cor 10:13).

“No temptation.” I love that phrase. It covers them all. But the temptations that Paul is talking about specifically in the preceding verses are sexual immorality (1 Cor 10:8) and grumbling (1 Cor 10:10).

These are not grand temptations like jumping off the temple into angel arms or denying Jesus when threatened with torture. These are “common to man” temptations. These are the temptations you and I will face today. And tomorrow. And the next day. They dog at our heels and whisper in our ears at the slightest glance or inconvenience.

Common to Man Temptations Are the Most Dangerous

And they are the most dangerous temptations we face because they’re aimed at where we are weakest: our profound, pathological fallen selfishness. This is why Satan concentrates most of his efforts on them. They encourage us to nurture a fantasy that the world we perceive is our world. And in this fantasy-world we ought to possess what we desire and things ought to go our way.

The more we indulge this fantasy the more we want it to be true. It feeds and expands our sinful desire-appetites. It increasingly shapes our thinking and behavior. If not resisted and battled vigorously, we will eventually pursue as real an image we created.

This is rank idolatry, which is why Paul makes a connection between these temptations and Israel’s golden calf a few verses earlier (1 Cor 10:7). We are not to play with these “common to man” fantasy-idols. They are lethal. They destroy people every day. They “[bring] forth death” (James 1:14-15).

Look for the Escape

So what do we do when we feel like grumbling or when we’re enticed by some lustful indulgence today? We look for the escape. There’s gospel in 1 Corinthians 10:13:

God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape.

God promises to always provide an escape. But what kind of escape does he promise? God’s escape is almost always a promise to trust.

Temptations are promises. The temptation to sinfully grumble is a form of the promise that if you can be your own god and have your own way you will be happy. Grumbling is a form of rebellion against the incompetence of God. The way of escape is trusting promises such as,

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. (Proverbs 3:5–6)

And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19)

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

The temptation to indulge in sexual immorality is the promise that a forbidden sexual experience or the selfish use of someone else’s body for your own pleasure regardless of how it affects them will make you happy. The way of escape is trusting promises such as,

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

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16:11)

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. (Matthew 5:8)

For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. (Ephesians 5:5)

Every escape will be slightly different. But it will be there in the form of promises. When temptation hits look for the promises.

Prepare to Not Want Escape

The hardest part about fighting these temptations is that we often don’t feel like we want escape in the moment. Don’t be surprised. Remember. Fighting temptation means trusting promises over perceptions. “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). Follow the promises of truth, not the appetites of error. Joy will come with the former and horrible regret with the latter.

And when we’ve failed and fallen into sin, we are invited to go straight to the cross where our cancelled sin has been paid in full. There, “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

So today, let’s trust that Jesus, “who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15), will provide a way of escape that is more persistent (Hebrews 13:5), far more powerful (1 John 4:4), and far more satisfying (Hebrews 11:25–26) than what our “common to man” temptations are promising.