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June 2007 Archives

June 1, 2007

Parenting for Intimacy

Song of Songs 8:2-4 (CEV)
2 I could take you to the home of my mother,
who taught me all I know.
I would give you delicious wine
and fruit juice as well.
3 Put your left hand under my head
and embrace me with your right arm.
4 Young women of Jerusalem, promise me...
never to awaken love before it is ready.

I don't know if I've ever made an entry from this book in the Bible. In fact, I feel a little awkward even addressing the subject today. This passage jumped out of today's reading because of something I saw on TV last night.

I'm flipping around the TV channels as usual, and stopped for a moment at "Hogan Knows Best." The Hulkster is concerned with the way his 17 year old daughter Brooke (who's a new teen pop singer), how her "image" is being developed by her managers and record company. He feels that it's too adult, too sensual, and in his words, "As a parent, and as her dad, I'm offended. It's not right." Who knew that Hulkamania would take a stand for common sense.

This got me thinking about how female sexuality is being warped by our culture. We live in a day when being a stripper is an acceptable profession and being an internet porn star can make you rich. The culture "sells" women that to be comfortable with your sexuality you must be assertive to even aggressive, use your sensuality, and be willing to cross boundaries (why else is MTV filled with images of young girls kissing each other or the success of Girls Gone Wild). What has broken down? I think it has to do with the fact that the culture has taken on the responsibility for sex education because parents have forfeited it.

In this book, the most intimate of all ancient writings, we find a woman who has a healthy sexual identity. She is unashamed in expressing her affection for her lover and completely uninhibited. How did she come to be this way? Did her friends show her? Has her identity been shaped by the images of her culture. No. V2 gives us some insight - her Mom "taught" her. Does this mean that her Mom put her through some kind of class or watch some video? Of course not! My assumption is that this woman had an open, trusting and even frank relationship with the primary female in her life. Her mother helped to shape her as a person, gave her a healthy sense of identity and self-esteem. Because of this confidence in who she was, the "beloved" carried this sense of value, trust, and openness into the most intimate area of her life.

There was also something passed down to her from her mother (and father too, I hope). It's a healthy perspective on life. That's seen in v4 - "don't awaken love before it's ready." In a world that confuses lust with love and substitutes cheap romance for commitment, this is a hard choice to make. Young people feel pressured not only by their own hormones, but by a culture that equates peer acceptance with infatuations with the opposite sex. Most adolescent dating relationships become mini-marriages (with physical intimacy included) that end as mini-divorces. Pre-teens and young adults need to be taught how to develop healthy relationships with the opposite sex instead of getting involved exclusively in "dating" relationships. This too is a parent's job.

As my wife and I have the privilege of working with students for 10 years, and now helping to heal marriages for the last 10, we have found this area of sexuality to be a huge area of pain and confusion in people's lives. I don't want that to be the case for my son or daughter. We want them to enter into their future marriages with a healthy sense of who they are and a complete freedom to be that person in every area of their lives, including their sexuality. That it would not be warped by culture or "experience," but to be vibrant, unafraid and un-scarred, able to experience the joy of authentic intimacy.

June 5, 2007

Heartless Words

Ecclesiastes 7:21-22 (NKJV)
Also do not take to heart everything people say,
Lest you hear your servant cursing you.
For many times, also, your own heart has known
That even you have cursed others.

One of the challenging things about pastoring is dealing with the things that get said about you. For the most part people are affirming and thankful for the ministry that they receive. But there's a whole other group who feel free to express their disappointment in and frustration with you, but never to you. They think you should be doing this or that, or you should change something. They'll talk ungraciously about your shortcomings and failures without considering how their words injure and wound. This kind of thing comes with the territory. What I'm ashamed to admit is how many times I've done that to others.

Yesterday I was reading the blog of a young pastor who's getting a lot of heat because of how quickly his church is growing. He wrote an interesting entry, about what we tend to do to each other as pastors. Now serving again as an associate, I've got to be very careful about what I say. I don't want my own need for validation to cause me to counterfeit affirmation by degrading someone else. Neither do I want to participate in conversations where others are doing this to someone. It's harder to do than you think.

Lord, help me to guard my heart from the thoughtless words spoken about me by others. Help me to guard my mouth from doing it to others.

June 6, 2007

Beauty and Eternity

Ecclesiastes 3:9-14 (NLT)
What do people really get for all their hard work? 10 I have seen the burden God has placed on us all. 11 Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. 12 So I concluded there is nothing better than to be happy and enjoy ourselves as long as we can. 13 And people should eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of their labor, for these are gifts from God.

Two of the most beautiful scriptures addressing the sovereignty of God are included in this passage from Ecclesiastes; "God has made everything beautiful for its own time" (emphasis added) and, "He has planted eternity in the human heart" (NKJV - "...in the hearts of men"). They also form a unique juxtaposition. These two concepts, God's purpose and God's plan, are often points of theological conflict. We know that not everything that happens in life is beautiful. In fact, life is often ugly and painful - that's why the "teacher" comes to the conclusion he does in v12. This is the world's philosophy on life - "eat, drink,and be merry, for tomorrow you may die." What we fail to understand is the sense of God's timing. The key phrase in this concept is not "God has made everything beautiful" (for his essence is goodness and beauty, so what else could he create?), but "for its own time." Since we have not yet experienced eternity (and consequently have no concept of eternity), we project outcomes to situations/circumstances that impose our limited experience (for an interesting scientific look at this I recommend Stumbling On Happiness by Daniel Gilbert) . Since we are not God, we're not able to see God's beauty in them or understand the purpose of them. This is why the apostle Paul later says, "And we know that in all things God is working for the good..." (Romans 8:28 - NIV) (To read the whole context. click here). The beauty that is inherent in all of creation, and therefore in all of our life's circumstances is that God is working in them and will reveal His glory through them.

This brings us to the next concept, the fact that having been created in his image, mankind is an eternal being. This is in contrast with our temporal physical existence. This physical existence encompasses our subsistence, yet it does not define our existence. The pleasure we derive from living and experiencing life is a gift from God says Solomon in v13. But, this is only temporal compared to the eternal. As eternal beings, there's more to living than just working, eating, dying...There's meaning to these things that is sought to be known by men. That's why every person comes to the conclusion at some point in their lives, "there must be more than this." That's because there is.

God's plan is that all things would point men to Himself ("beauty"). God's purpose in these things is to reveal himself to men; to be known ("eternity"). These concepts can appear to contradict each other, but they don't. Instead the contrast between them compliment each other and display that God in His sovereignty is good and right. Although we may not be ale to "see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end" (v11), what I know of His beauty, and what I hope for of eternity will be realized.

I like both kinds of music...Country and Western

It's a little known fact outside of my family that I'm a big country music fan. Say what you will, but I've been one since I was 10 or 11...must have been something about growing up in an agricultural area on the Central Coast of California (and nothing to do with living 5 years in NashVegas).

Anyway, I was listening to the radio on my way to the ballgame last night an heard what makes country music so great and embarrassing at the same time - a sappy hook. This one takes the cake (and will probably win some award too)..."I'd like to check you for ticks."

I actually did have to do that to my kids a couple weeks ago after a hike while camping...

June 13, 2007

Humility or Humiliation

2 Chronicles 12:5-8 (NIV)
5 Then the prophet Shemaiah came to Rehoboam and to the leaders of Judah who had assembled in Jerusalem for fear of Shishak, and he said to them, "This is what the LORD says, 'You have abandoned me; therefore, I now abandon you to Shishak.' "
6 The leaders of Israel and the king humbled themselves and said, "The LORD is just."
7 When the LORD saw that they humbled themselves, this word of the LORD came to Shemaiah: "Since they have humbled themselves, I will not destroy them but will soon give them deliverance. My wrath will not be poured out on Jerusalem through Shishak. 8 They will, however, become subject to him, so that they may learn the difference between serving me and serving the kings of other lands."

Early on in the era of the divided kingdom (Judah separating from the rest of Israel), both sides fall into a religion of self reliance. Jeroboam, in the northern kingdom (Israel), initiated idol worship motivated because of his fear of losing his power. Rehoboam, Solomon's son, allowed it in the south (Judah) because of his relative success; cites in the region became fortified, people moving south because of Jeroboam's religious "adultery," and out of loyalty to the house of David. . Despite Rehoboam's heavy hand, the region prospered. It seemed to validate his authoritarian rule. But like any man who refuses Godly council and chooses instead to secure his own position, any future success is dependent upon one's own skill and wisdom and not on the favor of God. There is a measure of success that can be self-created, but sustaining it where the problems begin. When success is self-created, spiritual complacency sets in. (g)ods of our own choosing, and eventually our own creation, replace our dependence upon the one true God. That's why the phrase "and they did what was right in thier own eyes" defines the Divided Kingdom era.

Early on, the people were still sensitive enough to know when they had violated God's relational principles (usually when they're facing some kind of hardship or attack). In this case, Egypt and invaded and had taken control of Jerusalem. At least Judah knew what they needed to do - they humbled themselves before the Lord. The Lord acknowledged their humility, but allowed them to experience the consequences of their unfaithfulness. This seems to be the pattern. Pride (self-reliance and self-sufficiency) is always followed by either humility or humiliation. Humility is realizing that you're way in over your head and you can't get yourself out. You repent, and God responds on your behalf. He still allows you to experience the consequences of your choices, without bearing the full weight of them. This experience serves as a discipline. Humiliation is what happens when you bear the full consequence of your self-dependence. This punishment is self-inflicted.

I need to be reminded of the difference between serving God and serving the other things that want to rule my life. I can choose humility or experience humiliation.


June 18, 2007

Happy Father's Day

Yesterday was a special Father's Day...My daughter and I got to sing a song I wrote in our church's services. Below is what I videoed at the 6:00 PM service.

A once in a lifetime moment...a day to remember...forever.

I BELIEVE IN YOU
W&M by Jeff Hamilton © 2007

An answer to our prayers,
look at you, sitting there;
everybody says that you
are Daddy's little girl.
You know I'm growing fast,
you know these times won't always last.
Before they slip away there are
some things that you should know.

I believe, you kiss me when I'm sleeping.
I believe, you'll catch me if I fall.
I believe, there's nothing I can do
to make you love me
more than you already do.
Daddy, I believe in you.

One day I'll be grown
and living life out on my own
and faced with questions about who
I'm supposed to be.

But you've been shaped with love
and cared for by the Father above.
So if you've any doubts some day,
remember what I say.

I believe, in miracles with pigtails.
I believe, your smile lights the sun.
I believe, that you'll be everything that God imagined
for you to be.
Baby, I believe in you.

You know there's more to life that makes up living;
more in giving than receiving,
more in loving and forgiving,
more in trusting and believing.

I believe, that hope is never-ending.
I believe, that love will never fail.
I believe, that you'll be everything that God imagined
for you to be.
Daddy, I believe...
Sissy, I believe...
I believe in you.

June 27, 2007

The End of A Season

This week my wife and I are in Solvang for what has been an annual event for the past few years. I have had the privilege of serving on the Board of Directors for my tribe since the fall of 2000. It's been a very tumultuous season in our movement. The BoD has had to navigate a major transition in denominational leadership, new financial structuring and reporting, the establishment of a foundation to fund worldwide evangelism, and currently we're developing an educational strategy that may ultimately result in a national university system along with a world wide process to train pastors and ministers. I'm proud of the work we've done and the direction we're headed. It has been one of the greatest honors of my life to serve the movement that I've been a part of my entire life, but my term has concluded and this week is my last meeting as a board member. Last night we were honored for our service, but I am the one who has been honored to serve.

June 28, 2007

The Scarlet Thread of Redemption and Restoration

Ruth 4:13-15 (NKJV)
12 May your house be like the house of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah, because of the offspring which the LORD will give you from this young woman.”

13 So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife; and when he went in to her, the LORD gave her conception, and she bore a son. 14 Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the LORD, who has not left you this day without a close relative; and may his name be famous in Israel! 15 And may he be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age; for your daughter-in-law, who loves you, who is better to you than seven sons, has borne him.”

As we were praying today (during our BoD meetings) there was a spirit of introspection and repentance. The Lord brought me to this passage in Ruth as I recalled the words of v 15, "may he be to you a restorer of life..." These words were spoken to Naomi, a widow weary and bitter because of her perspective of how God has dealt with her in the past. As I began to meditate on this passage I skimmed the overall story of Boaz, Ruth, and Naomi. I want to try to record my observations for my personal future reference.

First, v 15 has some imagery that I'd like to connect. It's understood that Boaz is a picture of Jesus, the Kinsman Redeemer. The "he" in v 15 has an application to him. "He" also refers to the LORD "who has not left (her)." The "he" could also refer to the child born to Ruth and Boaz who brings comfort to Naomi and will sustain her, like the Holy Spirit does, and is the validation of her identity. This is so important to Naomi who feels she had lost everything. Upon her return to her homeland (Bethlehem), she is so wounded that she tell those who come to greet her to call her "Mara" - bitter. Mara(h) is the place where the bitter water became sweet after the staff had been cast into the waters - a picture of the cross removing the bitterness of sin. Now Naomi (which means "pleasant"), has experienced God's restoration and redemption. God had taken the shame of her past and honored her. This happens to the entire genealogical line of Ruth and Boaz as well.

Boaz's own family line (and Naomi's as well as a distant relative to Boaz) is filled with shame as well. His great, great, great, great-grandfather Perez was the offspring from the nearly incestuous relationship between Judah and his daughter-in-law Tamar (read the story here). Tamar's story is one of rejection and broken promises - a woman who felt forced to take her situation into her own hands. Her resulting pregnancy with twins brought forth Perez, the one who has "broken through," had the "scarlet thread" tied to him to become the holder of the birthright. The shame of Perez's conception was covered by a legacy of blessing. That "scarlet thread" of redemption now has tied Naomi and Ruth not only to Boaz, but to the Messiah who would come through this line.

The last words regarding Naomi leave her nursing the fruit of her own suffering. What a tender picture! From shame to honor, bitterness to fulfillment, breakdown to breakthrough! He is a restorer of life.

About June 2007

This page contains all entries posted to JustJeff | Life Journal in June 2007. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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