Monday, January 22, 2007

SIN 2007: News from the Frontline

Well the first ten days of battle are largely unremarkable. Other than to say, yes I have blown it repeatedly already. Let's see, I became angry when notoriously hostile Memphis gate agent "Bob" (not his real name) refused to list me for the jumpseat last Saturday (1/13). As you may know, I am an airline pilot by profession and I commute back and forth to Memphis, TN. where I am based. Well, Bob (I like to refer to him as "little Attilah") refused to list me for the jumpseat; even though I arrived well before departure time, because he was too tied up with other matters. Since this was the last flight home to Atlanta that evening, I had to spend the night at the airport. Needless to say, I was not a happy camper. I didn't give "Bob" the proverbial piece of my mind; however, I did say some rather rude things about his height and his uncanny resemblance to the "Travelocity travel gnome" inside my head. I repent, I repent . . . I guess.

Along with that, I had my usual variety of improper thoughts regarding some very attractive women who have been passengers on my flights and in the various airports and cities I've traveled to. In order to snuff them out as quickly as I can, I have taken the advice of pastor John Piper. In his devotional, "Pierced by the Word" (which is excellent by the way), he gives this antidote for lustful thoughts:

" . . . have you ever in the first five seconds of temptation demanded of your mind that it look steadfastly at the crucified form of Jesus Christ? Picture this. You have just seen a peek-a-boo blouse inviting further fantasy. You have five seconds . . . demand of your mind that it fix its gaze on Christ on the cross. Use all your fantasizing power to see His lacerated back. Thirty-nine lashes left little flesh intact. He heaves with His breath up and down against the rough vertical beam of the cross. Each breath puts splinters into the lacerations. The Lord gasps. From time to time He screams out with intolerable pain. He tries to pull away from the wood and the massive spokes through His wrists rip into the nerve endings and He screams again with agony and pushes up with His feet to give some relief to His wrists. But the bones and nerves in His pierced feet crush against each other with anguish and He screams again. There is no relief. His throat is raw from screaming and thirst. He loses His breath and thinks He is suffocating, and suddenly His body involuntarily gasps for air and all the injuries unite in pain. In torment, He forgets about the crown of two-inch thorns and throws His head back in desperation, only to hit one of the thorns an inch into His skull. His voice reaches a soprano pitch of pain and sobs break over His pain-wracked body as every cry brings more and more pain."

"Now, I am not thinking about the blouse anymore. I am at Calvary. These two images are not compatible. If you will use the muscle of your brain to pursue - violently pursue with the muscle of your mind - images of Christ crucified with the same creative energy that you use to pursue sexual fantasies, you will kill them. But it must start in the first five seconds - and not give up."

Unfortunately, I am still sometimes a little slow on the draw. But when I do employ Dr. Piper's strategy I am able to snuff out the snuff. . .Thank God! I have also found that visualizing the crucifixion scene from Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" is a vivid means to kill lusty thoughts.

It seems that the largest part of my war is between my ears, as it is for most of us. Although, these sins haven't "hurt anybody", I realize first and foremost that my sin is against the Holy God who has sacrificed His best for His children. It is to my shame that I have betrayed the precious blood of my Savior and Lord and I long for the day when this will not or ever can be the case again.

Has their been any victory in this part of the battle? Why, certainly . . .
We have His promise "that He who began a good work in you WILL bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ."(Phil. 1:6)

The War Continues . . .

B. L. B. B.
(Be Like the Bereans, Baby!)

Friday, January 12, 2007

SIN 2007: This Time It's Personal

I'm not big on New Year's resolutions. But this year it seems that a series of God's providences have led me to declare my own personal War on Terror, the terror of sin.

What providences? Well, for one, my pastor has been preaching through the book of Hosea for the latter part of 2006 to present. The Lord really used Hosea to denounce Israel's sin. Secondly, the theme for January's edition of "Tabletalk" magazine (Ligonier Ministry's-R.C. Sproul-monthly mag)is, "Mortification of Sin". Third, and most importantly, I have truly noted in myself an insufficient hatred for my own sin. Sure, I regularly confess my sin to the Father; but honestly, I don't always feel the shame and heartbreak that sinning against a Holy, loving and good God should inspire. I genuinely want to see and despise my sin the way God does.

Am I asking for punishment? God forbid! I'm just one for putting one's money where one's mouth is. I also realize that my posts usually deal with the problems I observe in the church today. This time, I'm going introspective. This will be an attempt to remove the "plank" that is in my own eye. Do I expect to stop sinning, like a certain flight attendant turned prophetess claims to have done? No. Am I expecting a certain percentage of "sin reduction"? Not necessarily, how would I calculate that anyway? My goal is to have obedience be more natural for me than sin and to be constantly aware the fact that I do live Coram Deo, before the face of God. I believe that consistent understanding of that fact and complete dependence on the Holy Spirit will cause my sins to be fewer in number. It will also cause my hatred of sin to be greater in intensity.

So, how do I plan to wage this war? Well, borrowing from our nation's war on terror, I have named my plan: "Shock, Awe and Disclosure" (one small disclaimer: I fully understand that I cannot accomplish this goal in my own strength. I am not depending on myself or any "plan" I can conceive. Whatever success that I achieve in this endeavor rests fully on the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. I realize also that sin will not be eradicated until the Lord Jesus comes back for us!).

The "Shock" and "Awe" portions of my plan consist of my focused study of sin itself (its nature, effects, etc.). I will be focusing my Bible reading and study this year on the subject of sin. Armed with my Strong's concordance, I will dissect sin in its every appearance in Scripture. In addition, I will focus my extra-biblical reading on this topic also. To that end I have launched my first salvo with:
Jeremiah Burroughs' "The Evil of Evils", John Owens' "The Mortification of Sin", "The Enemy Within" by Kris Lundgaard and "Grow in Grace" by Sinclair Ferguson. That's two dead guys and two living guys for those of you who are keeping count! This
part of the strategy is the aerial attack. Using God's word we'll strafe the area and force sin out into the open. These bunker-bombs of truth will put the"sinsurgents" on the run.

The "Disclosure" phase of the plan is the most risky part. This is where you, my readers, come in. Your mission, Mr. Phelps should you choose to accept it, is to become my accountability partner. I intend to document the war here in my blog. I will regularly share with you from the battlefront and I invite you to hold my feet to the fire when I screw up. I promise not to be graphic (how embarrassing would that be?), but I will reveal in general terms where I've dropped the ball and I will solicit your prayers and Godly advice. I repeat, GODLY advice! I won't be doing any "hail Marys", praying toward the East or "karma" balancing acts!

I'll consider you guys my Special Forces.

At this point, I feel compelled to quote (albeit tailored to this particular situation) John Belushi's great monologue from that epic motion picture, "Animal House": ". . . Over! Over! Was it 'over' when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Nothing's 'over' until we say it is . . . Lying, he's a deadman! Stealing, dead! Cheating, dead! Lust . . ."

Otter (Tim Matheson): "Dead! Bluto is right. We've gotta take these guys. Now, a conventional war could take years and cost millions of lives. No, what this situation absolutely requires is that a stupid and futile attempt be made on someone's part. And we're just the guys to do it!"

Good luck, Jim. As always if you or your team are compromised we will disavow any knowledge of your actions. This post will self-distruct in five seconds.

B. L. B. B.
(Be Like the Bereans, Baby!!!)