Archive for the ‘Vision’ Category

by Fred W. Anson
A review of Andy Stanley’s
“Enemies of the Heart: Breaking Free from the Four Emotions That Control You”

Andy Stanley is the senior pastor of North Point Community Church and son of Dr. Charles F. Stanley, who is the senior pastor of the First Baptist Church of Atlanta.  Andy is also the author of several books including “How Good Is Good Enough?” which I read several years ago and, I thought, a solid vernacular treatise on grace versus works. He has an engaging, approachable style and his theology is sound – which, I suppose it could be said, is hardly a surprise given his pedigree, training, and life experience.

enemies-of-the-heart-andy-stanley-i10“Enemies of the Heart: Breaking Free from the Four Emotions That Control You” was published in 2011 so this review is admittedly late to the game. Never-the-less I found that prior reviews had missed an important – but blatant – weakness in this book that this reviewer felt worthy of consideration.

The four “enemies” are guilt, anger, greed, and jealousy which Stanley unpacks like this:
Guilt = “I owe you”
Anger = “You owe me”
Greed = “I owe myself”, and
Jealousy = “God owes me”

The book is short, concise, engaging, thought provoking, easy to read and practical. There’s much sage wisdom here grounded solidly in Biblical truth.

What’s missing – though it’s admittedly a minor irritation – is balance. While the author lightly, and it seemed to me somewhat grudgingly, acknowledges that transitive guilt, greed, and jealously in some contexts and in moderation can be good, even healthy, I could find no admission in the book that this is equally true of anger. Rather, the author seems to have bought into the false modern Christian doctrine that anger is always sin. If so, may I introduce you to Sinner #1, His name is God Almighty:

God’s anger was kindled [against Balaam] because he went, and the angel of the Lord took his stand in the way as his adversary.”
— Numbers 22:22, ESV

“Then my [God’s] anger will be kindled against them in that day [that God’s people worship other gods], and I will forsake them and hide my face from them, and they will be devoured.”
— Deuteronomy 31:17, ESV

“They have made me [God] jealous with what is no god; they have provoked me to anger with their idols.”
— Deuteronomy 32:21, ESV

“But because our fathers had angered the God of heaven, he gave them into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon”
— Ezra 5:12, ESV

“In the temple he [Christ] found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.”’
— John 2:14-16, ESV

I will spare the reader any more proof texting but suffice to say the Bible is full of references to God’s anger. Simply put, God gets angry, yet doesn’t sin, and even speaks openly of His anger as if it’s a good, normal, and healthy thing.

Further, and some of you might want to sit down for this one, no where – again, no where – in the Bible is anger defined as sin. In fact, Ephesians 4:26-27 (which Stanley cites in the book) states plainly, “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.” Did you catch that – the Apostle Paul states plainly “be angry”. That’s mind blowing stuff if you, like me, were raised to believe the false doctrine that anger is a sin. Think about it: If anger is in fact sin, then Paul is giving the Ephesians flawed, even reprobate, counsel.

Rather, the Bible is clear that anger, like guilt, greed, and jealousy can lead to sin if it’s not processed in a righteous manner. What God models for us in the Bible is that anger is normal and healthy when something of value is threatened or requires protection. That’s why we see God getting angry with Israel over their idol worship in the Old Testament and why we see God the Son getting angry over His holy temple being transformed from a sacred space into a common strip mall in the New Testament.

Andy Stanley

Andy Stanley

Put another way, would you be sinning for getting angry if a bully starts beating up your child on the playground for no reason? Or at a pickpocket trying to take your wallet? Or at a vandal spraying graffiti on the side of your house? Or at your spouse flirting with another person in front of you? Or, or, or . . . see my point?

So it’s clear that when expressed in healthy, transitive ways anger is normal, productive, and even godly. It’s only when it becomes chronic, permanent, or gets expressed in sinful ways that the problems begin.

I saw this first hand when I was a DivorceCare counselor at a local church. On one hand, many of the Christians there (including me, I confess) would have benefited greatly from this book because they were holding onto and expressing their anger in ways that were unproductive: Needlessly extending legal action out of spite, drawing their divorcing spouses into conflict, damaging community property, making a “scene” in public, using the children as weapons in their war with the other party, choosing to hate and distrust all men/women, etc., etc., etc. Their anger fueled sin was easy to see, easy to understand  and easy to identify. Yet believe it or not, they were actually the easy ones to counsel to a place of balance.

Far harder were the Christians who had been told that anger was a sin and, as a result, they refused to fight for their marriage, their children, their property, or even their basic, inherent rights as a person created in the image of God. These poor souls would simply let their aggressive divorcing spouses roll over them like a steamroller and do nothing. In some cases they had marriages worth fighting for yet they wouldn’t fight! And no amount of logic, reason, or prayer would convince them that there is, “a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.” (Ecclesiastes 3:7&8, ESV) In their mind tearing was sin, speaking was sin, hate was sin, and war was sin because they all involved anger.

And this is the nuance that Andy Stanley “whiffs” on badly in this book. In his quest to make his point it seemed to me that the author got it right in three cases and struck out on one – normal, protective, transitive, even godly, anger. In fact, had he made this distinction I would have no complaints with the book.

Never-the-less, and regardless this flaw, this is a book that I heartily recommend with this suggestion: Whenever the author uses the words, “guilt”, “anger”, “greed” or “jealousy” simply insert the clarifying adjective “chronic” in front of each of them.

HeresToThePast

by Fred W. Anson
They say that if you don’t have any regrets then you’re probably not trying hard enough. If that’s true then I often wonder if I’m trying too much because I have a lot of regrets. In fact, after I joined the Facebook groups for my old High School and the Nazarene Church that I grew up in I spent the first couple of weeks apologizing to everyone.

Then a funny thing happened, I realized that most of the people that I thought I’d so offended back in the day either didn’t remember or didn’t care any more. So essentially I’d spent all those years needlessly beating myself up, avoiding others, and taking side streets shadowed in shame when all I needed to do was show up and be myself.

The truth of the matter is I’d been lied to and had squandered much of my life as a result of it.

Actually, I should have known all this since Michael and Stormie Omartian warned me in song way back in 1978 . . .

Ms. Past
(click above to hear song)
Don’t look, don’t look back just let her go,
Lately, all she’s done is lay you low.
Don’t look, don’t look back just let her go,
Lately, all she’s done is lay you low.

Ms. Past, she’s such a wicked lady,
Ms. Past, she’s always there a waiting,
She’s the Devil’s favorite tool,
She’ll play you like a fool,
She’ll try until she rules.

Don’t look, don’t look back just let her go,
Lately, all she’s done is lay you low.
Don’t look, don’t look back just let her go,
Lately, all she’s done is lay you low.

Ms. Past, she’ll always try to feed you,
Ms. Past, she’ll say He never freed you.
But don’t fall for her disguise,
And look back in her eyes,
She wants you paralyzed, by all she knows.

Don’t look, don’t look back just let her go,
Lately, all she’s done is lay you low.
Don’t look, don’t look back just let her go,
Lately, all she’s done is lay you low.

Don’t look, don’t look back just let her go,
Lately, all she’s done is lay you low.
Don’t look, don’t look back just let her go,
Lately, all she’s done is lay you low.

And there’s certainly no doubt that I’ve been a “tool” allowing Ms. Past to constantly sting and restrain me with fiery darts of regret!

In the end, I most certainly want to learn from the past but I don’t want to be bound by it.  After all, as Larry Norman observed, “Your life’s a play you can’t rehearse.” And mistakes are actually a blessing in disguise since, if you learn from them, you can avoid making the same ones again, again, and again.

What’s more, human development experts (not to the mention the Bible) tell us that mistakes are one way (actually the main way) that humans grow and mature in a number of areas.  So, that means that occasionally we’ll pick up a regret or two in the process:

If you don’t, then you’re just not trying hard enough.
And if you do, don’t look back, just let it go.

SeasonsOfTheSoulAlbumCover(from the album “Seasons of the Soul”)
Lyrics by Stormie Omartian, Music by Michael Omartian
© 1978 “See This House” Music, Used by Permission, All Rights Reserved.

Heavenly Father, I need Your Holy Spirit to help me not think and live according to my old ways. I place my childhood fears and bloodline curses behind me and ask You to cancel them. By faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, I choose not to be enslaved to them any longer!

Today I lay aside my fear of facing the pain from the spirits of pride, bitterness, lying, self-exaltation, rebellion, witchcraft, and the occult. I choose not to walk in these any longer. When I am tested by these deceiving spirits, I want to respond in godliness. God, please remove any mental strongholds and to help me think and see clearly.

I choose NOT to listen to other spiritual voices. Instead I choose to listen to Your voice. From this time forth, I will NOT trust in lying spirits nor the spirits who claim to offer me protection from evil. I close every door to Satan. I will not seek a false defense to shield myself from wrong, exploitation, or harm. I look to You, Lord Jesus and place my trust in You to protect me from the harm of well-meaning people and from demonic spirits. Jesus, I choose You to be my Savior and Holy Spirit, I choose You to be my defender.

Lord Jesus, please forgive my sins. I confess that I have NOT loved rightly. I have resented others. I now recognize this as sin and confess this to you now. I choose to forgive those who have hurt me. By Your blood, I forgive them as You have forgiven me. I am sorry for my sins. I confess and renounce them, known and unknown. By Your blood I am cleansed of my guilt, my shame, and my regret. I believe that You died on the cross for my sins, and that You rose from the dead and ascended to God the Father. You now sit at His right hand. With repentence in my heart, I ask You, Lord, to deliver me from the snare of the fowler and to set me free. Your truth is a shield to me. Under Your wings, I seek refuge.

Lord Jesus, I claim Your promise in Psalm 91:14&15: Because I have set my love on You, You will deliver me. You have set me on high because I have know Your Name. I will call on You and You will answer me. You will be with me in trouble. You will deliver me and honor me.

Amen

98622[1](adapted from “Unmasking the Jezebel Spirit” by John Paul Jackson; pp. 166-168)

by Fred W. Anson
Here’s a challenge: Read through the following and try to guess who wrote it.

When It’s Love
Hey, everybody’s lookin’ for somethin’
Somethin’ to fill in the holes
We think a lot but don’t talk much about it
’til things get out of control, oh

How do I know when it’s love?
I can’t tell you but it lasts forever
Oh, how does it feel when it’s love?
It’s just somethin’ you feel together
When it’s love

You look at every face in a crowd
Some shine and some keep you guessin’
Waiting for someone to come into focus
And teach you your final love lesson, oh

How do I know when it’s love?
I can’t tell you but it lasts forever
Oh, how does it feel when it’s love?
It’s just something you feel together

Oh, when it’s love
You can feel it, yeah
Nothin’s missin’, yeah

Yeah, you can feel it
Oh, when it’s love
When nothin’s missing

How do I know when it’s love?
I can’t tell you but it lasts forever

Ooh, how does it feel when it’s love?
It’s just something you feel together, hey

How do I know when it’s love?
I can’t tell you but it lasts forever

When it’s love
Ooh, when it’s love
Hey, it’ll last forever

When it’s love
Give it up
We’re gonna feel this thing
Together

When it’s love, ooh
When it’s love, baby
You can feel it, yeah

We’ll make it last forever
Ooh, when it’s love

a_hole_in_my_soul_by_Alx_GFX_Cropped

Who did you guess?  Perhaps it was Blaise Pascal who I quoted in my last recontextualization article as saying…
“There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every person, and it can never be filled by any created thing. It can only be filled by God, made known through Jesus Christ.”
– from “Pensees”

… after all the poem starts with, “everybody’s lookin’ for somethin’, somethin’ to fill in the holes” in true Pascalian fashion. 

Or perhaps, you thought of St. Augustine who wrote…
“Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee”
— from “Confessions”

… when you considered the lines that said, “You look at every face in a crowd – some shine and some keep you guessin’. Waiting for someone to come into focus and teach you your final love lesson.” Isn’t that how Augustine might have put it had he written in the English vernacular of 20th Century America rather than in 4th Century Latin?

Or perhaps when you considered the words, “how does it feel when it’s love? It’s just something you feel together,” you thought of Jesus Christ who said of His covenant relationship with those who believe in and live for Him, “Abide in Me, and I in you” (John 15:4 NASB) – that would certainly explain and make the recurring line, “it lasts forever” even more poignant given the fact that Christ also said, “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” (John 17:3 NASB)

Yes, all these themes and ideas are certainly there – surprisingly there’s great depth in this simple yet powerful song.  I confess that I have listened to this song through tears on many an occasion since, for me, it echoes all these themes and resonates deeply within.  Here, try it for yourself:

Yes, folks believe it or not, this deep and beautiful song was written and performed by Eddie and Alex Van Halen, Sammy Haggar, and Michael Anthony – that is, to use the words of one reviewer, that “band of idiots” known to the world as Van Halen.

After all they’re not immune to the deeply seeded need that all humans have to know unconditional love and acceptance. Whether it’s a straight arrow, feet-on-the-ground world pastor  or a jelly brained, out-of-touch rock star we all feel this need – and clearly the guys in Van Halen do too.

Nor, apparently, is Van Halen any more immune to incorrectly diagnosing the “fix” as romantic love than anyone else is – as the video illustrates well. My hope and prayer for these guys that someday, somehow, the they “get” the wisdom of St. Augustine that  “our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee.”  Perhaps on that day they’ll join us in singing this song through tears of fulfilled joy rather than longing, despair, and confusion.

by Fred Anson
In a prior post, I introduced the idea of recontextualizing works of music pointing out not only how Martin Luther, Charles Wesley, and Fanny Crosby recontextualized the music of their day – some of it secular with no discernible religious roots – and turned them into songs of praise and worship, but how modern Christians have been doing the same thing with secular rock music.

I pressed this point further stating, “I confess a certain frustration when fellow Christians take diminish or take umbrage at the idea that unbelievers, with whom we share common life experiences not the least being “the human condition”, can find small echoes of divine truths within His fallen creation.”

Personally, I can think of no experience more common to the human condition than the deeply seeded need that all humans have to know unconditional love and acceptance.  Be it the silver spooned debutante or the beggar rummaging for his next meal in the trash we have all feel this need at some time, some place – perhaps you’re even feeling it now. I would go so far as to say that this may be the deepest most persistent need that human beings feel – and my observation is that it’s certainly the most common.

Now I suppose it will shock no one when I assert that most rock artists incorrectly diagnose the “fix” for this “hole in the soul” as romantic love.  However, as anyone who’s had their heart broken by a lover or spouse who left them will tell you, “That ain’t it!”

Nor can we find the fix in the love of parents for parents get old and die (as I type through my tears since both of mine have “passed”).  And I know from the 12-Step groups I’ve been in that a heartbreaking fact is that one of the things affected by the fall was the relationship between parent and child – as a result, some adult children are looking for healthy love from a broken parent that, sadly, may never come.

The fact of the matter is that human love simply won’t fill that hole in the human condition that it seems God has reserved for Himself.   As French mathematician, physicist, inventor, writer and Christian philosopher Blaise Pascal said well:

 “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every person, and it can never be filled by any created thing. It can only be filled by God, made known through Jesus Christ.”
– from “Pensees”

And though it was written from quite a different context[1] no song comes closer to expressing this crying need than this one . . .

Lover Reign O’er Me from the 1979 movie “Quadrophenia” 

Love Reign O’er Me
(Pete’s theme)
Only love
Can make it rain
The way the beach is kissed by the sea.
Only love
Can make it rain
Like the sweat of lovers’
Laying in the fields.

Love, reign o’er me.
Love, reign o’er me, rain on me.

Only love
Can bring the rain
That makes you yearn to the sky.
Only love
Can bring the rain
That falls like tears from on high.

Love Reign O’er me.

On the dry and dusty road
The nights we spend apart alone
I need to get back home to cool cool rain.
The nights are hot and black as ink
I can’t sleep and I lay and I think
Oh God, I need a drink of cool cool rain.

Love!

… and I’m continuing to hope and pray that the composer of this classic, perhaps even inspired, song may someday know the peace, serenity, and love of God that I, Blaise Pascal, and others have found for himself some day soon.

Ethan-Russell_04(“Love O’er Me” by Pete Townshend was originally released on the 1973 album “Quadrophenia” by The Who) 

NOTES:
[1]  As Pete Townshend, the song’s composer once explained:
(strong language alert for those of you with sensitive ears and eyes) 
“‘Love Reign O’er Me’ is similar to ‘Drowned’ [editor: another song on the Quadrophenia album] in meaning. This refers to Meher Baba’s one time comment that rain was a blessing from God; that thunder was God’s Voice. It’s another plea to drown, only this time in the rain. Jimmy goes through a suicide crisis. He surrenders to the inevitable, and you know, you know, when it’s over and he goes back to town he’ll be going through the same shit, being in the same terrible family situation and so on, but he’s moved up a level. He’s weak still, but there’s a strength in that weakness. He’s in danger of maturing.” 
(from http://www.thewho.net/linernotes/Quad.htm )

Click here or a more thorough analysis of Pete Townshend and his religious affiliation with Meher Baba.

Words and Music by Lindell Cooley and Lenny LeBlanc

Father I just want to be where You are
My life is filled with everything but You
Lord I really want to see Your glory
Let the fire of Heaven fall on me

Can You feel my passion
Can You see my hunger
Do You know how I long for You
No walls between us
Take away this darkness
Come break this heart of stone
Hear my cry open up the sky

Everywhere I go there is a feeling
That soon we’re gonna see Your kingdom come
Can You hear the sound of desperation
A prayer on the lips of every nation

Lord we really want to see Your glory
So let the fire of Heaven fall on me
Open up the sky

© 2001 Integrity’s Hosanna! Music
(as performed on “Open Up The Sky” by Lindell Cooley)

child-rain-dance-dancing-girl-rain-Favim.com-100493

I think that 2013 may well mean that it’s time
(I can hear the calling – do you?) 

Words and Music by Lindell Cooley

It’s time for the dead and gone
Time for the broken ones
to live again
It’s time time for the dead to rise
Time for the wings to fly
to live again

I can hear the calling
I can hear the sound of rain
Over the mountains and over the valleys
I hear the calling it’s time

It’s time for the dead
to sing
Time for the walls
to ring
With the songs of freedom

It’s time for the numb
to feel
Time for the wounds
to heal
With the songs of freedom

It’s time time for the tide
to turn
Time for our hearts to burn
with a desperation
It’s time it’s time for a sacrifice
It’s time that we paid the price
for our generation

Over the mountains and over the valleys
I hear the calling it’s time

It’s time for the dead
to rise
It’s time for the wings
to fly
I hear the calling it’s time

It’s time for the numb
to feel
It’s time for the wounds
to heal
I hear the calling it’s time

It’s time that we paid
a price
It’s time for
a sacrifice
I hear the calling it’s time

Over the cities and all through the nations
I hear the calling it’s time

It’s time for the dead
to rise
It’s time for the wings
to fly
I hear the calling it’s time

It’s time for children
to return home
It’s time for the prodigals
to come back
I hear the calling it’s time

It’s time to break down
the walls
It’s time to see them all
fall down
I hear the calling it’s time

Over the cities
and all through the nations
I hear the calling it’s time

child-rain-dance-dancing-girl-rain-Favim.com-100493(as performed on “Open Up The Sky” by Lindell Cooley)