Monday, February 27, 2017

One Way to Celebrate the Good Life

If you’re looking for Broken Hearts, Redeemed, where we’re looking for peace and learning how to live The Good Life, you’ve come to the right place!

I’m on hiatus this week as I celebrate growing another year older. My son's also checking off another year. What a great birthday present he was to me! (If you've read all of this blog, you also know what a miracle he is too.)

Around the Owan household, birthdays are sacrosanct days—times to reassess the past year, thank God for the blessings of it and the life He’s given us—and share that celebration with others. A co-worker of mine once joked to another co-worker (when he thought I was out of ear-shot), that I thought my birthday should be a national holiday! I came around the corner in time to respond, “You bet it should!” Well, I don’t think that, really, but I’m all for people taking a holiday on their birthdays to celebrate life. It’s so precious and fragile, and not to be taken lightly. Next year’s going to be a big one for me, and I have much pondering to do about what I want to do with and make out of this year.

So thank you for allowing me this little indulgence with the most important people in my life.

And Happy Birthday to my precious son, Cory!!

Meet you back here next Monday, though, when we’ll uncover more ways to have peace!



Image by Google

Monday, February 20, 2017

Recipe for the Good Life: Part 6

            Are you in pursuit of the Good Life? Just daydreaming about having it? If you’ve been with me the last six weeks, you’ve been learning what the Good Life is and how to have it. We found the prescription for it in a letter St. Paul wrote to the Thessalonian church—seventeen-plus exhortations about behavior and attitude that will guide your life toward Good, fruitful, satisfying, intentional living. Today, we’re coming to the end of the list—two “Do not’s” and two (actually three if you break them down carefully) do’s that can guide and positively shape your life. So let’s dig in!

 In 1 Thessalonians 5:19, Paul says, “Do not quench the Spirit.” But just what does “quench” mean, and what, or who, is the Spirit?
 By definition, quench means to “extinguish, stifle, or suppress” something. To literally snuff it out, like you snuff out a campfire with a bucket of water or sand, leaving nothing but the sound of snapping water molecules, fluttering ashes, and spiraling smoke spindles in its wake. And what’s left after you finish snuffing that fire out? Nothing but a cold, black mound that produces no heat, no function, no service. Just an odor and residue that clogs your nostrils and lungs. Remnants of what used to flame there.
And that’s what Paul’s talking about here—doing nothing in your life that would snuff out the Spirit working in you. And who’s the Spirit? It’s the Holy Spirit. The indwelling of God within you—the helper, friend, guider of those who belong to Christ. It is not your natural spirit, but God’s Spirit. The Spirit of Christ who lives and reigns in you. It is the third person of the Trinity.
            But just what could you do to quench the Spirit?

 One of our pastors gave a great sermon several weeks ago that included this discussion. And the bottom line answer is: sin. Sin in a believer’s life—either sins of omission or sins of commission—can and will quench the Spirit, throw water on Him. Dilute His power in your life.
  And what kinds of sins are we talking about? Well, anything that grieves God’s heart. There are plenty of them named in the Bible, but we can go back to the Old Testament to find God’s top 6 hates. You can go to Proverbs 6:16-19 to find the list. They are, in order:

1. Eyes that are arrogant.
2. A tongue that lies.
3. Hands that murder the innocent.
4. A heart that hatches evil plots.
5. Feet that race down a wicked track. (Feet swift to run to evil.)
6. A mouth that lies under oath.

 And then it adds one that God “loathes with a passion.” A troublemaker in the family (The Message). The New King James Version renders this passage as “One who sows discord among brethren.”

 Ever done any of those? Presented proud, haughty eyes? (Hello, parents?) Ever lied about anything? (White lies and deliberately misleading someone by leaving out pertinent information counts.) Ever murdered an innocent? In the NKJV this reads “shed” which means to spill. It doesn’t seem to mean killing, as would happen in war or defense, but premeditated murder. Murder and kill are not to be considered interchangeable in the Bible. (Many render the Commandment “Thou shall not murder.” as “Thou shall not kill.” The second translation is incorrect. It really has to do with premeditated murder. Never done that yourself? Maybe not, but may I ask a sensitive question: What is your view on abortion? Is a pre-born child not an innocent? Just asking.

            Have you ever concocted a plot to get revenge on someone, either physically or verbally? Ever post something nasty about someone on your social media page? It’s getting easier and easier to do, and it’s occurring evermore frequently.
            Ever pounded the pavement intent on doing something evil? The King James Version renders this the softer word “mischief” which could encompass so many things. But the word seems to favor something stronger, like calamity.

            Have you every lied under oath? Promised to tell the truth and then didn’t or hedged it? One of my son’s, who is studying communication and communication in law has learned that people, including those being questioned for jury duty, lie all of the time, and the lawyers know it. They deliberately omit information about themselves so they can chosen for jury duty. A famous cold case detective I just heard speak said that he doesn’t trust witnesses, because they lie all of the time. Disheartening, isn’t it? How do you rate on that one?

            And finally, when was the last time you acted as a troublemaker in your family? When was the last time you shared gossip about another family member, said nasty things about one of them to someone else? Chipped away at their character. What about someone in the church? They’re your family. They’re family that might be closer than your blood relatives. Have you stirred up strife among the brethren?
            All of these behaviors are destructive to mankind and civil society. We see all of them in practice right now, in overdrive, and it doesn’t bode well for us. Other things on the quenching list can be not spending time with the Lord in prayer, learning His will for your life; not spending time reading the Bible, which guides, teaches, and enriches our lives; actively indulging in worldly lusts and activities. Anything that “hinders our growth in grace,” as Matthew Henry put it.

            There are plenty of other actions that quench the Holy Spirit, and you can find those throughout the Bible. Paul has a list of them in several of his letters to churches. As Matthew Henry also noted: “We must search the Scriptures. And proving all things must be to hold fast that which is good. We should abstain from sin, and whatever looks like sin, leads to it, and borders upon it. He who is not shy of the appearances of sin, who shuns not the occasions of it, and who avoids not the temptations and approaches to it, will not long keep from doing sin.
            Do your own study and make a list. And then ask yourself: Lord, how am I quenching the Holy Spirit? He’ll reveal these to you.

            The next “do not” is “Do not despise prophecies.” The commentators define this exhortation as a problem the Thessalonians had with looking down their noses and disparaging the prophets who preached to them. This attitude then depressed the prophets and quenched the Holy Spirits work among them. They also could have been placing greater emphasis on the showy and dazzling gifts, like speaking in tongues. Evidently speaking in tongues seemed more miraculous to these baby Christians than inspired, anointed teaching.

 Then we move onto the last two instructions, which are both stated in the positive. “Test all things: hold fast what is good.” Hold fast in this sense means to retain. Keep what is good. Not the type of “good” we saw in verse 15, about doing good to ourselves and others; but the kind of good that is honorable and beautiful. Whatever we hear or read or learn is to be tested against the litmus paper of God’s word, by testing and proving; and whatever aligns with God’s word is to be grasped tightly and held firmly. We are not to accept all things as truth, because, while they can all be wrong, they can’t all be right! That is so critical to remember in our age of every-fluid “relative” thinking and teaching. What a fallacy we’ve swallowed.

          Finally, Paul tells us to “abstain (keep away from) every form of evil,” and that includes any action that even appears to be evil. It is self-serving and selfish to believe that you can do whatever you want to do and live any way you choose with no regard for people’s opinion of you and your actions. People are watching you. They’re making assumptions; they’re making judgment calls. They’re copying your behavior.

            These are ways we can indeed “live as shining stars in the midst of this wicked and perverse generation.” And, ultimately, live in such a way that man will see your good works—and your Good Life—and give glory to your Father in Heaven.
            So let the Good Life begin!

I’ll be on hiatus this week and next as I celebrate my and my son’s birthdays. So please plan to rejoin me on Monday, March 6 when we revisit peace, start delving into the other two meanings of this word, and learn what it means to practice and have real Peace!


May you prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers (3 John 2).

Images by Google

Monday, February 13, 2017

Valentine’s Day: What’s (Real) Love Got to Do With It?

            AH, L-O-V-E! It’s nearly springtime, when love will be wafting through the air! Along with the awakening ground, animal hormones will re-awaken, as will human hormones, if you live in an area where you’ve been snowed or iced in all winter, feeling kind of morose and lethargic with the incessant cloudiness and darkened skies. Kind of like you’ve been hibernating physically, unless you’re an ice fisherman or ice hockey player who lives for this time of year. (I never did understand how some kids I went to college with went giddy when the word came that the northern lakes had frozen over, and they could drive up there, pull a storage shed-sized house behind their car and park it over some hole they chain-sawed through the ice, so they could dunk a fishing line into it for three days and hope they scored some ice-cold fish. I guess it was the three days of sitting around in flannel underwear and Michelin tire-sized parkas consuming cases of beer that were the appeals.)
            Anyway, I digress. Soon, love will be in the air, blooming right along with the roses, and here in the United States we’ll be getting a head start on it tomorrow, even though our national groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, crept out of his winter hole on February 2, spied his shadow, and scurried back inside for another six weeks of winter this year. Tomorrow, February 14, we celebrate Valentine’s Day, our nod to Cupid, the Roman god of desire, erotic love, attraction and affection. We portray him as some chubby cherub, which defuses some of the erotic love impression.

            Thousands of dollars will be spent on jewelry and roses to demonstrate to our sweeties our endless gratitude and undying love to and for them. Tykes in elementary school will pass out “Be Mine” candy hearts and slapstick Valentine’s Day cards to one another, and adults and teens without sweethearts will bemoan their singleness. And mothers, in their attempts to keep their kids little, cute, and attached to them will send Valentine’s Day cards with mushy sentiments to their adult children. Merchandise businesses have a field day and spend a boatload of bucks advertising for it.

            But is this really what Love is, the kind that Valentine’s Day really represents? To the world, maybe, but not to the first three centuries of Christ-followers. And not to present-day Christ followers who really understand what LOVE is. To get an understanding of what real love is, we need to start with the Author of it. And we need look no further than what He has to say about it, and how he demonstrated it.
             Flipping to the famous “Love Chapter” in 1 Corinthians 13. You’ve heard it many times before, at weddings and at funerals. But I’ll take the liberty of putting it all down for us again.

            “Though I speak with the tongues of men and angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging symbol.
            And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
            And though I bestow all of my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.
            Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up;
            does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil;

            does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in truth;
            bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
            Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away.
            For we know in part and we prophesy in part.
            But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.
            When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
            For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.
            And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

            Beautiful, isn’t it? I think we could spend a lifetime studying this, trying to work out and perfect all that it entails. And, indeed, we should. But to fully understand and appreciate this passage, we need to know that this kind of love is what is known as an “agape” love. It is the purest and highest form of love. It is the love of God for man and the love of man for God. It is unconditional love. A love driven not by self but by selflessness. It’s not brotherly (philia) love or erotic (eros) love. It is a humble, meek, sacrificial love, a self-denying love. A perfect love. A love that never gives up or goes away.
            In a nutshell, it's a love that seeks the best for others above one’s self. It’s a love that thinks only the best, speaks only the best, hopes only the best, focuses on only the best, puts up with, endures, suffers repeated injustices, and hopes, hopes, hopes. In the end, your smarts and your faith and your charitable donations won’t matter if you don’t have, and haven’t demonstrated, this kind of love. If you don’t have it, you’ll end up sounding like a discordant brass band.
            There is only one source for this kind of miraculous love.

           We can’t possibly understand it all right now, but eventually we will. All will become crystal clear to us.
            For now, and for always, love will prevail. Not brotherly love, not erotic love. But
agape love.
            And that’s what this day should really be celebrating. Not romance, candy, hearts, and flowers.

So enter into the scene a Roman priest name Valentine. Ever heard of him? Know anything about him? Well, he's a man who demonstrated the kind of love we’re talking about.
Priest Valentine lived under the rule of the Roman emperor Claudius II, a guy who persecuted the church. He also enacted an edict that young people could not marry, because it was believed that bachelor soldiers were better fighters than married ones. Married soldiers might be too distracted about the safety of their wives and families.
 The society in which Valentine lived was permissive. Polygamy was popular. Yet many young people were attracted to the Christian faith, and they wanted to get married rather than live together or practice polygamy. The church, holding a sacred attitude toward the marriage covenant, encouraged this one-man-and-one-woman union. Because Valentine’s desire was that the young people remain in the faith, he violated Claudius’s edict by marrying them in secret.
            Well, you can probably guess what happened, especially since Valentine went on to be canonized after his death to become St. Valentine. He was arrested and imprisoned. Legend has it that he performed some miraculous healings of people while incarcerated, which resulted in more people coming to faith in Christ.
            But Valentine was sentenced to a gruesome death of beating, followed by stoning, and then, finally, having his head cleaved from his body. Valentine demonstrated this perfect love by placing his faith above all else, standing for truth, giving hope to others, defying evil, and laying down his life for others and what he believed.
            And how did we get the sending love letters, notes, and cards on this day? Another legend says that the last letter Valentine wrote from prison he wrote to a young girl he had healed of blindness. He signed it “from your Valentine.”
            Valentine has become the Catholic patron saint of young lovers. But not just for romantic love. For the adhering and sacrificial love that exists (or should exist) in a marriage. And it goes beyond the two lovers. It involves the God who brings them together and joins them as one, the God who will bind them together for life. It is the meeting of God through his Son, Jesus Christ, the joining together around Him. That’s the best kind of love there is. And may I be so bold to say it, but if you don’t enjoy that kind of cord-of-three binding and loving in your marriage, you’re missing out. Your matrimony falls short. You really don’t and can’t enjoy marriage to its fullest potential.
            It is the kind of love that hopes all things in your marriage when all seems hopeless. It’s the kind of love that doesn’t put down, doesn’t nag, doesn’t demean, doesn’t act selfishly. It is the kind of love that bundles up faith and hope and puts feet on them.
            It’s the kind of love that sends a son to the cross so that people might be saved from themselves.
            Without that, we’d be left with some fat little, worn-out plastic Cupid slinging star-crossed arrows at us. After a while, that kind of love is destined to lose its luster, break, or get discarded in the love trash heap.

            Please do lavish love, flowers, gifts and exquisite food on your sweetie, but keep it going all year, and don’t forget who the Author of that real love is and what it means for the two of you!

Happy Saint Valentine's Day!

Next week we’ll finish up our Good Life list, and then return to some discussions about peace.


May you prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers (3 John 2).

Images by Google
St. Valentine information gathered from CBN’s “St. Valentine: The Real Story”