The Secret is not a secret

The best selling book The Secret is not a secret – it’s the same old “man is god” nonsense.  

According to this review, one of the keys to The Secret is the law of attraction, which demands only this:

  1. Know what you want and ask the universe for it.
  2. Feel and behave as if the object of your desire is on its way.
  3. Be open to receiving it.

There are many flaws with this philosophy.  But one is completely fatal to its premise and nearly self-evident: What if two people want the same thing, such as marrying the same person, or opposite things, such as the farmer wanting rain and the family wanting a sunny picnic?

This flawed worldview is really tragic.  I know a person who is consistently miserable but holds tenaciously to the view that he creates his own reality.  Without me even having to ask, “So, uh, how’s that working out for you?,” he’ll concede that it isn’t working well at all.  He thinks he just has to try harder. 

I’ll stick with the Gospel.  It isn’t a secret, but it is true and it has the power to save and transform lives, now and for eternity. 

Put on your (stolen?) yarmulke

yarmulke.jpgThe mystery of the lost stolen yarmulke has been solved (A yarmulke is a skullcap sometimes worn by Jewish males.  The pronunciation sounds like “yamaka.”). 

As part of my oldest daughter’s confirmation class we went to a Jewish synagogue service.  They happened to be having a Bar Mitzvah as part of the service.  I went to a couple Bar Mitzvah parties as a teen but never to an actual service.

Anyway, as we entered the synagogue we were given yarmulkes to wear.  I didn’t notice anyone collecting them when we left, so I assumed I was supposed to keep it.  It had the name of the boy stamped inside.

We found out later that I was supposed to have turned it in when we left.  Oops. 

We couldn’t find it for years and assumed it was lost, but it just turned up during some serious cleaning.  Anytime the subject of a yarmulke comes up my family reminds me of my transgression.  Thanks to Adam Sandler’s Chanukah Song this happens more often than one might expect.

Stealing a yarmulke has got to be a pretty serious sin.  Really, I thought it was a souvenir.  That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

2 Samuel 1-2

Greetings!  Today we start 2 Samuel (1 Samuel and 2 Samuel were originally one book, so we are just picking up where we left off with 1 Samuel.)

It appears that the man below was lying to win David’s favor, as his account differs from that of 1 Samuel 31.  He assumed that since Saul had tried to kill David that David would reward someone who finished Saul off.  He was wrong.  Despite being chased and threatened by Saul for roughly a decade, David was still loyal to God’s annointed King.

2 Samuel

David Hears of Saul’s Death

1     After the death of Saul, David returned from defeating the Amalekites and stayed in Ziklag two days. 2 On the third day a man arrived from Saul’s camp, with his clothes torn and with dust on his head. When he came to David, he fell to the ground to pay him honor.

3 “Where have you come from?” David asked him.

He answered, “I have escaped from the Israelite camp.”

4 “What happened?” David asked. “Tell me.”

He said, “The men fled from the battle. Many of them fell and died. And Saul and his son Jonathan are dead.”

5 Then David said to the young man who brought him the report, “How do you know that Saul and his son Jonathan are dead?”

6 “I happened to be on Mount Gilboa,” the young man said, “and there was Saul, leaning on his spear, with the chariots and riders almost upon him. 7 When he turned around and saw me, he called out to me, and I said, ‘What can I do?’

8 “He asked me, ‘Who are you?’

“‘An Amalekite,’ I answered.

9 “Then he said to me, ‘Stand over me and kill me! I am in the throes of death, but I’m still alive.’

10 “So I stood over him and killed him, because I knew that after he had fallen he could not survive. And I took the crown that was on his head and the band on his arm and have brought them here to my lord.”

11 Then David and all the men with him took hold of their clothes and tore them. 12 They mourned and wept and fasted till evening for Saul and his son Jonathan, and for the army of the Lord and the house of Israel, because they had fallen by the sword.

13 David said to the young man who brought him the report, “Where are you from?”

“I am the son of an alien, an Amalekite,” he answered.

14 David asked him, “Why were you not afraid to lift your hand to destroy the Lord’s anointed?”

15 Then David called one of his men and said, “Go, strike him down!” So he struck him down, and he died. 16 For David had said to him, “Your blood be on your own head. Your own mouth testified against you when you said, ‘I killed the Lord’s anointed.’”

David’s Lament for Saul and Jonathan

This section is where the phrase, “Oh how the mighty have fallen” comes from.  Note how open David was in his grief. 

17 David took up this lament concerning Saul and his son Jonathan, 18 and ordered that the men of Judah be taught this lament of the bow (it is written in the Book of Jashar):

19 “Your glory, O Israel, lies slain on your heights.

How the mighty have fallen!

20 “Tell it not in Gath, proclaim it not in the streets of Ashkelon, lest the daughters of the Philistines be glad, lest the daughters of the uncircumcised rejoice.

21 “O mountains of Gilboa, may you have neither dew nor rain, nor fields that yield offerings of grain.

For there the shield of the mighty was defiled, the shield of Saul—no longer rubbed with oil.

22 From the blood of the slain, from the flesh of the mighty, the bow of Jonathan did not turn back, the sword of Saul did not return unsatisfied.

23 “Saul and Jonathan— in life they were loved and gracious, and in death they were not parted. They were swifter than eagles, they were stronger than lions.

24 “O daughters of Israel, weep for Saul, who clothed you in scarlet and finery, who adorned your garments with ornaments of gold.

25 “How the mighty have fallen in battle!

Jonathan lies slain on your heights.

26 I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother; you were very dear to me. Your love for me was wonderful, more wonderful than that of women.

27 “How the mighty have fallen! The weapons of war have perished!”

David and Jonathan were best friends.  Some people try to say that they were gay lovers because David described their loving friendship as being more wonderful than that of women.  Those people are pretty sick and are bad at reading things in context.  In the event that they make it to Heaven, I’m sure King David and Jonathan will be glad to clear that up with them.

David Anointed King Over Judah

2     In the course of time, David inquired of the Lord. “Shall I go up to one of the towns of Judah?” he asked.

The Lord said, “Go up.”

David asked, “Where shall I go?”

“To Hebron,” the Lord answered.

2 So David went up there with his two wives, Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail, the widow of Nabal of Carmel. 3 David also took the men who were with him, each with his family, and they settled in Hebron and its towns. 4 Then the men of Judah came to Hebron and there they anointed David king over the house of Judah.

When David was told that it was the men of Jabesh Gilead who had buried Saul, 5 he sent messengers to the men of Jabesh Gilead to say to them, “The Lord bless you for showing this kindness to Saul your master by burying him. 6 May the Lord now show you kindness and faithfulness, and I too will show you the same favor because you have done this. 7 Now then, be strong and brave, for Saul your master is dead, and the house of Judah has anointed me king over them.”

War Between the Houses of David and Saul

The followers of Saul did not give up easily.  They still wanted to be in charge.  David ruled over Judah (the southern half of Israel) for 7 years before the kingdom was united.

8 Meanwhile, Abner son of Ner, the commander of Saul’s army, had taken Ish-Bosheth son of Saul and brought him over to Mahanaim. 9 He made him king over Gilead, Ashuria and Jezreel, and also over Ephraim, Benjamin and all Israel.

10 Ish-Bosheth son of Saul was forty years old when he became king over Israel, and he reigned two years. The house of Judah, however, followed David. 11 The length of time David was king in Hebron over the house of Judah was seven years and six months.

12 Abner son of Ner, together with the men of Ish-Bosheth son of Saul, left Mahanaim and went to Gibeon. 13 Joab son of Zeruiah and David’s men went out and met them at the pool of Gibeon. One group sat down on one side of the pool and one group on the other side.

14 Then Abner said to Joab, “Let’s have some of the young men get up and fight hand to hand in front of us.”

“All right, let them do it,” Joab said.

15 So they stood up and were counted off—twelve men for Benjamin and Ish-Bosheth son of Saul, and twelve for David. 16 Then each man grabbed his opponent by the head and thrust his dagger into his opponent’s side, and they fell down together. So that place in Gibeon was called Helkath Hazzurim.

17 The battle that day was very fierce, and Abner and the men of Israel were defeated by David’s men.

18 The three sons of Zeruiah were there: Joab, Abishai and Asahel. Now Asahel was as fleet-footed as a wild gazelle. 19 He chased Abner, turning neither to the right nor to the left as he pursued him. 20 Abner looked behind him and asked, “Is that you, Asahel?”

“It is,” he answered.

21 Then Abner said to him, “Turn aside to the right or to the left; take on one of the young men and strip him of his weapons.” But Asahel would not stop chasing him.

22 Again Abner warned Asahel, “Stop chasing me! Why should I strike you down? How could I look your brother Joab in the face?”

23 But Asahel refused to give up the pursuit; so Abner thrust the butt of his spear into Asahel’s stomach, and the spear came out through his back. He fell there and died on the spot. And every man stopped when he came to the place where Asahel had fallen and died.

Persistence isn’t always a good thing.  Asahel was warned to turn back and he didn’t.

24 But Joab and Abishai pursued Abner, and as the sun was setting, they came to the hill of Ammah, near Giah on the way to the wasteland of Gibeon. 25 Then the men of Benjamin rallied behind Abner. They formed themselves into a group and took their stand on top of a hill.

26 Abner called out to Joab, “Must the sword devour forever? Don’t you realize that this will end in bitterness? How long before you order your men to stop pursuing their brothers?”

27 Joab answered, “As surely as God lives, if you had not spoken, the men would have continued the pursuit of their brothers until morning.c

28 So Joab blew the trumpet, and all the men came to a halt; they no longer pursued Israel, nor did they fight anymore.

29 All that night Abner and his men marched through the Arabah. They crossed the Jordan, continued through the whole Bithrond and came to Mahanaim.

30 Then Joab returned from pursuing Abner and assembled all his men. Besides Asahel, nineteen of David’s men were found missing. 31 But David’s men had killed three hundred and sixty Benjamites who were with Abner. 32 They took Asahel and buried him in his father’s tomb at Bethlehem. Then Joab and his men marched all night and arrived at Hebron by daybreak.

The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

1 Samuel 31

Greetings!

Why did Saul commit suicide?  He might have recalled what happened to Samson when the Philistines captured him (torture and humiliation). 

Saul had everything most people would want: An imposing physical presence, strength, power and wealth.  But he was miserable without God, just like Solomon was a few decades later when he abandoned God for a time. 

Matthew 6:33 (NIV) says, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”  That isn’t marketing spin or some inane advice.  If we don’t put God first we won’t truly enjoy the other good things in life as much.  Think about how many other rich and famous people have committed suicide because life seemed so empty to them.

Saul Takes His Life

31     Now the Philistines fought against Israel; the Israelites fled before them, and many fell slain on Mount Gilboa. 2 The Philistines pressed hard after Saul and his sons, and they killed his sons Jonathan, Abinadab and Malki-Shua. 3 The fighting grew fierce around Saul, and when the archers overtook him, they wounded him critically.

4 Saul said to his armor-bearer, “Draw your sword and run me through, or these uncircumcised fellows will come and run me through and abuse me.”

But his armor-bearer was terrified and would not do it; so Saul took his own sword and fell on it. 5 When the armor-bearer saw that Saul was dead, he too fell on his sword and died with him. 6 So Saul and his three sons and his armor-bearer and all his men died together that same day.

We will all face moral dilemmas.  The armor-bearer had to decide whether to obey his king or his God.  He chose wisely.  Drawing a line ahead of time with respect to what we will or won’t do is crucial.  Waiting until temptation comes is a bad idea.  As Joshua 24:15 says, “but if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

7 When the Israelites along the valley and those across the Jordan saw that the Israelite army had fled and that Saul and his sons had died, they abandoned their towns and fled. And the Philistines came and occupied them.

8 The next day, when the Philistines came to strip the dead, they found Saul and his three sons fallen on Mount Gilboa. 9 They cut off his head and stripped off his armor, and they sent messengers throughout the land of the Philistines to proclaim the news in the temple of their idols and among their people. 10 They put his armor in the temple of the Ashtoreths and fastened his body to the wall of Beth Shan.

11 When the people of Jabesh Gilead heard of what the Philistines had done to Saul, 12 all their valiant men journeyed through the night to Beth Shan. They took down the bodies of Saul and his sons from the wall of Beth Shan and went to Jabesh, where they burned them. 13 Then they took their bones and buried them under a tamarisk tree at Jabesh, and they fasted seven days.

The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Real men don’t . . .

baby1.jpgWhen counseling guys who would come into CareNet Pregnancy Center with their wives / girlfriends, around 20% would come across as abortion-minded.  After talking with them I would find an interesting distinction, though.

One group was very hard-hearted.  This pregnancy was in the way and had to be ended, and the sooner the better.  If you offered up the possibility of adoption he would say something like, “There’s no way someone else is going to raise my kid!” 

You never get completely used to the juxtoposition of that faux macho response against his desire to pay a perfect stranger to crush and dismember his kid.  Somehow that was lost on him.

Sometimes you could eventually get through to him.  If that didn’t work, you prayed that the girls would be strong enough to tell him, “No.”

The other group was quite different.  They started off resigned to the fact that abortion was their only “choice” because of economic circumstances, parental issues, etc.  But it just took a friendly chat to get them to change their minds.  They wanted someone to talk them out of abortion and were relieved when someone did.   

If you know someone considering abortion or suffering from post-abortion trauma, please refer them to a Crisis Pregnancy Center where they can get free help and guidance.  There is a better way.

Twelve tests of love

heart.gifToo many people mistake infatuation for love and suffer life-long consequences.  But how can you tell the difference?

I highly encourage singles to consider these Twelve tests of love to help determine if you are in love or if it is just infatuation. 

Chip Ingram was the author.  He did several shows on Family Life Today last month. 

If my wife is reading this, then rest assured that all the answers were L’s (really).

Seriously, save a link to the site and consider the questions for any relationships you have. 

Exploring Christianity – Part 7 – Prayer

prayer2.jpg

See below to see the latest installment of my friend Nicholas’ interview with me about Christianity or click here for the whole thing.  

Nicholas wrote: In my experience, most prayers fall into one of two general categories – prayers of thanks and prayers of request. I understand the first quite well, and I understand that prayers of the second type help one to feel as though they are helping – but do they really? Does praying to God with a request make Him more likely to pay attention to that request, or is it purely a symbolic act? After all, if you believe God is all-knowing, then He is already aware of your request before you make it.

Hi Nicholas – good questions.  The Bible is the primary way God speaks to us and prayer is the primary way we speak to him.  The more time you spend with someone the more you act like them.  In our “Santa Claus God” culture we tend to only think of praying for things that benefit us.  But prayer is a huge opportunity and blessing for us to “approach the throne of grace with confidence” and do so much more than that.

There are prayer paradoxes (or “prayeradoxes,” as I call them) – seemingly contradictory statements that are still true.  Here are a few things I do know about prayer.

Jesus said to pray, to pray often and to pray fervently.  He followed his own advice and set an example for the Disciples.  Let me know if you want verses for any of those (there are plenty).

You are right that we believe that God is omniscient and knows our requests before we ask him.  Jesus said that very thing just before teaching the Disciples the Lord’s prayer:

Matthew 6:8-9 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. “This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name . . .

So the paradox of God knowing what we’ll ask and God telling us to pray anyway was not lost on Jesus.  He noted as such in successive sentences.  There are obviously still reasons to pray.

Prayer is definitely not just symbolic.  But I don’t think the effectiveness is as formulaic as God saying, “Well, 999 people prayed, but I’ll only answer this prayer if 1,000 pray.”  There is a little mystery there.

I have come across many examples of answered prayers.  Will they convince a skeptic?  Usually not, but sometimes they do.  But that isn’t the purpose of prayer according to the Bible.

C.S. Lewis pointed out that Satan’s desire would be a heads he wins / tails we lose scenario: If prayers aren’t answered, people will assume God doesn’t exist or at least doesn’t answer prayers.  If prayers are answered, we’ll rationalize that they could how they could have been answered anyway. 

Prayer does so much more than just offer thanks and requests.  You are conversing with the one true God and your Creator.  He knows everything you’ve said and done, so you don’t have to be fearful in confessing to him.  And confession literally means to say what God says.  You aren’t telling him anything He didn’t know.  You are saying that you agree with him now and plan to do things his way.

One key, of course, is to pray in line with what Jesus would want.  When we often say, “In Jesus’ name,” that isn’t some type of superstition.  It is a recognition that we think we’re praying for the same things He would want and that we’re praying with the power of his name.

While we’re on the topic, here’s an acrostic that spells out A-C-T-S.  It is a prayer primer that some people use.  It covers some of the basic attributes of prayer.

A – Adoration / Praise

C – Confession

T – Thanksgiving

S – Supplication (a fancy church word for requests)

For anyone wanting a more thorough discussion on prayer, I recommend Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference? by Philip Yancey.  We just studied it in our Sunday School class. 

Previous installments

Introduction

Part 1 – The Bible

Part 2 – Credibility of the Author(s) – A

Part 3 – Credibility of the Author(s) – B

Part 4 – Hell and More on Hell

Part 5 – Interpreting the Bible or abusing it? – A

Part 6 – Interpreting the Bible or abusing it? – B