Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Masks We Wear

Hello all you little crazy people,

It’s that time of year again, the pagan festival that gives most of us Christians “the willies.” Tonight is Halloween night, when all the little ghosts, ghouls, and goblins come out of their caves once again to shake us down for candy and treats, having no idea of the evil, demonic roots of this festival, nor the significance of much that goes on in the name of “just good, clean fun.”

But we already know that the devil has long had our communities staked out for his kingdom and will do everything he can to keep them in hellish darkness. That is why it is so important that we pray against him and his schemes. But I want to bring up something that the devil counts on to give him traction and to weaken the people of God and to hinder the effects of our prayer life.

I can still remember back when I was a kid, my friends and I would dress up for Halloween and wear masks to go out Trick-or-Treating. But very often, before the night was over we would find ourselves doing malicious, destructive things that we normally would not have done, because the masks gave us a false sense of courage and a feeling of anonymity. The masks veiled our identities and emboldened us to do those wicked things.

Many of the children who come to our door tonight will be wearing masks. However, many of us grownups wear masks everyday, and that is far more disturbing.

Sometimes, adults wear masks because we want to appear more perfect than we really are. But the reality of it is, all of us are so very imperfect. Yet we persist in wearing masks to hide who we really are from others because we fear their disapproval, believing that we have to present ourselves in a certain way in order to fit in and be accepted. We are afraid of letting people see the real “us,” so depending on the occasion or circumstance we slip on a mask to fit the need of the moment. At work we may throw on a mask of authority and power in order to seem like we’re in control of our environment. At home we may put on a mask of “everything is okay,” out of fear that our spouse might stop loving us if they find out we have real problems. Some people wear their super-religious masks to conceal the guilt and shame of their secret sins. Sometimes we wear our happy-face mask to conceal our fear, anger, hurt, worry, and even depression.

Even at church many people put on a mask of self-righteousness and pride to try and convince others that they really have their stuff together, when they don’t at all. This is especially sad because church is the place where all our masks should come off and we should be genuine before God and before God’s people. God’s house is the place where we should be able to bring the ugly sinful things in our life and lay them before our Heavenly Father. We should not be concerned about what others think but only about what God knows. Yet on and on we go, shuffling our masks on and off from situation to situation. So why do we wear these stupid masks anyway? In a nutshell, we wear masks to conceal things about us that we don’t want others to know, because we are afraid of what they will think, say, or do when they find out about us.

But there are some observations I would make about masks:
1. Masks are always uncomfortable because they rub and chafe, and they force us to stay on our toes and constantly be on our guard of what we say and do.
2. It is extremely lonely behind a mask. Masks force us to keep our distance from others. They prevent us from opening up and having meaningful relationships with one another.
3. Other people are not really fooled by our masks anyway. The only person fooled is the one wearing the mask, but most people can spot a phony pretty quickly.
4. God’s doesn’t even look at our dumb mask. His eyes pierce straight into our heart.

So how do we remove our masks and become the people God wants us to be? The apostle Paul gives us some clues in Colossians 3:12-17. Read these verses with masks in mind and I think you'll be able to connect up the dots for yourself.

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. 15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

One other text comes to my mind. Genesis chapter 3 tells about The Fall, which has had tremendous repercussions on all of God’s creation, including us.
“Then the eyes of both of them [Adam and Eve] were opened, and they knew that they were naked and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings” (Genesis 3:7). When they disobeyed God and sinned Adam and Eve fell from their state of innocence. They experienced for the first time guilt and separation from God. They realized that they were naked and so they tried to cover their nakedness with fig leaves. But God can see through fig leaves! It is always a waste of time and energy to try and hide from Him.

Do you see the spiritual lesson here? Lots of people put on “fig leaves” to hide themselves from God’s scrutiny. Maybe the fig leaves of good works, religious devotion, piety, or sincerity. But God can see through our fig leaves! He sees our sin. He sees our spiritual nakedness. You can’t fool Him!

In the same way, many of us Christians wear masks. We pretend to be something that we are not. We have our “Sunday mask.” We have our “model-parent mask.” We have our “happy Christian mask,” etc. etc. We try to hide our true character from each other, and even more amazing, we think we can hide our true character from God!

But masks are like fig leaves, and God can see through fig leaves! And He can see through our masks just as easily. We need to quit trying to hide from God and let Him change our character so we don’t have to wear masks and fig leaves anymore.

The word “integrity” means being the same on the outside as you are on the inside. It is about being the same person when you are at home all alone in the dark, as you are when people are watching you. We need to become men and women of integrity. All of us come to God broken. That’s a fact! Maybe it’s alcoholism, pornography, adultery, drug addiction, selfishness, gossip, a nasty temper, greed, or envy. What is it that hides behind your mask? It doesn’t matter. In Christ there is genuine and complete cleansing and forgiveness. Moreover, God forgets what we were and only sees us as we are now in Christ Jesus. The masks can come down now. We don’t have to pretend with Him. He knows everything, and He loves us anyway. How cool is that?

Let take off our stupid masks since they don't work anyway, and let’s make sure that we don’t slip them back on. And remember, God loves parties, but His are always “come-as-you-are parties,” not “masquerade balls.”

Just thinking out loud again,

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Gettin' Old Ain't For Sissies!

Hello all my crazy young friends and relatives,

"Gettin' old ain't for sissies!" I saw that on a bumper sticker on the back of a Cadillac flying down the road at about 75 mph and thought to myself, how true it is. When I was a kid 60-years-old seemed as far away as Mars. I can remember back when I was in the fourth grade, my sister, Janis, seemed very old and grownup to me. She was 16 and a junior in high school at the time. She seemed so worldly-wise and mature. Isn't it funny how our perspective changes.

I recently went around the bend, turning 60 on October 14. My much older friends, like John Wold and Ken Flurry, tell me not to sweat it. They say that 60 is the new 40. However, my body never received that memo. My body thinks that 60 sucks big time. Let me give you an example.

On my birthday, Ramel kicked me out of bed at the unnatural hour of 7 AM, kidnapped me and forced me to drive her out to Sherwood where we ate a hearty breakfast at Rose's. She had an omelet, I had chicken-fried steak. Then, she forced me to drive her to McMinnville to spend 5 hours at the Aeronautics and Space Museum where Howard Hughs' "Spruce Goose" is hangered. Seriously, that place is awesome! I could live there. I especially loved all the WWII aircraft on display. They have a B-17 "Flying Fortress" in cherry, airworthy condition. Ramel paid the extra $4 and insisted that I take the guided tour through the B-17. I fought her on it but lost. Anyway, as I was standing there awaiting my turn I was chewing a piece of Big Red gum. All of a sudden, one of my back teeth fell out, or at least the crown and half the tooth came out and I chomped it up with the gum. Yuck! My point is, my body knew that it was my 60th birthday and so some internal mechanism sent out a message saying, "He's old now, let his teeth start falling out."

That may not be exactly what happened but that is how it felt at the time. I don't like getting old. I'm not doing it gracefully. I plan to kick and scream and pitch a fit about it.

P.S. I wrote this entry in this big bold script because some of you are getting a little long in the tooth too. I thought it might be easier to read for some of my really old friends.

Your crazy ol' pal,


Monday, October 12, 2009

MMA Theology

Hello you friendly fruitcake fight fans,

I need to start by explaining my long absence from writing on this blog. I've been busy. That's it. That's all the explanation you are going to get. Take it or leave it.

Anyway, Chris had his last fight way back on Sept. 16th and he came out on the short end of the deal. He lost in the third round when he got caught by a guillotine choke. He fought well and bravely, yet he was bested by his opponent, Mike Pyle. It won't be Chris' last fight. He will win some more battles in the future, but will probably lose a few, too. It goes with the territory, as they say.

It is always disappointing to lose a battle, whether it is in martial arts, on the field of war in Afghanistan, or in our daily lives. Losing never feels good. It is always a challenge to our character. Anyone can win. Winning comes easy to most people. We like to win because it makes us feel like "winners." But we hate to lose because it makes us feel like "losers."

Yet life is about more than winning and losing. Sometimes we need to lose to win. For example, insistence on putting our point across, getting our way, and proving that we are right may injure a relationship beyond repair. Sometimes the right and prudent thing to do is shut up and stop insisting that we are right and just back down, lower our battle flag, and become a peacemaker. That takes more guts, grit, and character than just forging ahead, determined to win at all costs.

If we would learn and apply this lesson there would be less wars, less marital breakups, and more peace among men in general. At least that's what I think.

Back at the keyboard,