Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Dalai Lama on Sex

"Sex invariably spells trouble, says Dalai Lama"

Chistians shouldn't expect to always agree with the renowned "Buddhist Master." But we don't always disagree either. He wants world peace, for example, and so do we.

There's some truth lurking in his observation headlined above as well. What griefs, woes, suffering and agonies have issued from the corruption of this God-given wonder?

We'll come back to that, but here's a "strange" (as Paul Harvey likes to say): Isn't it highly inconsistent for someone's offspring to demonize sex? After all, how was he conceived himself?

Within the tenets of Buddhism, of course, he's not guilty as charged. That's because Buddhists believe the Dalai Lama represents a divine incarnation (another bit of common ground with Biblical Christianity which also affirms divine incarnation ... but only in Jesus Christ.) I, for one, am convinced that the Dalai Lama was conceived the same as every other human being (save one).

Nevertheless, his reflection has merit. Just think of the untold tragedies stemming from the misuse of sex: betrayal, heartache, abandonment, divorce, neglected children, domestic violence, unspeakable abuse, suicide ... In a sexless world all of the above would occur at only a fraction of their current levels!

So why don't we just all give up sex? After all, we now have technologies to ensure the procreation of the human race.

Let's take it further: why did God create sex in the first place?

Yes, it is God's gift. In fact, human sexuality holds unbelievable power. It is the power to beget a soul made in the image of God. (Not so for the beasts. They can only procreate animal life.)

No wonder it causes so much havok. It's a little like a giant bulldozer capable of moving tons of earth for much benefit, when used properly. But imagine the destruction it could cause if it were allowed to run amok.

When God gave us the ability to have children He made us co-creators with him. He intended that our use of this power would result in benefit to the creation: helping others, fixing brokenness, bringing beauty, improving the world. In short, He wanted us to bless the world in His name. And all of these have been done, in abundance, by people made in God's image and born through human volition.

To give this ability to mankind, though, was not without risk. So we have the enormous consequences of the misuse of human sexuality, throughout human history and all over the world.

I think we can draw at least two conclusions: 1) God places a very high value on people. Apparently, for God, the more people the better! 2) He knows something He hasn't told us about the end of the story.

But that's for another blog entry.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Still Fighting After All These Years

Do you see the suggestion of a skull near the middle of the picture? You're looking at the "Place of the Skull", near the Garden Tomb just outside the city wall of old Jerusalem.

At the top of this cliff ... or maybe at the bottom ... is maybe where Jesus was crucified for the sin of the world.

The other possible site is now covered with the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, inside the old city. Maybe Jesus died there, maybe here; we don't know.

What we do know is that yesterday, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was the scene of an unbelievable "Christian fight."

Here's the story as reported by ICEJ News under the headline, Christian monks brawl at Jerusalem's Holy Sepulchre

A mass brawl erupted on Sunday between Greek and Armenian Orthodox monks at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the traditional site of Jesus' crucifixion, burial and resurrection located inside Jerusalem's Old City walls. Stunned onlookers watched as the clergymen dressed in their vestments traded punches, pushing and yelling while decorations and tapestries were scattered. The fighting began as Armenian monks marched in an annual procession to mark the Feast of the Cross, a celebration of the 4th century discovery of a cross thought to be used to crucify Jesus. Meanwhile, the Greek clerics demanded that they be allowed to place a monk near the site thought to be Jesus' tomb. The Armenians refused the request, however, seeing it as a power play for control of the site and a deviation from the Ottoman-era status quo agreement that governs relations between the six main churches who oversee the holy site. The Greek monks then blocked the procession from continuing, causing a melee that was ended by Israeli police who ended up arresting two clergymen, one from each denomination. Although there have been conflicts between the six denominations that control the site, police are rarely required to intervene. Tensions have been so high that a ladder placed on a ledge near the entrance has remained since the 19th century because of a dispute over who has the authority to remove it.

An odd juxtaposition--Christ followers in a knock-down, drag-out fight right at the place of His passion.

Jerusalem, where he was headed when another "power play" took place:

"We are going up to Jerusalem," he said, "and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise."

James and John … came to him. "Teacher," they said, "we want you to do for us whatever we ask." "What do you want me to do for you?" he asked. They replied, "Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory." … When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John.

Jesus called them together and said, "You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

We like to think we're so much more sophisticated than James and John. As soon as Jesus has announced He's going to be murdered, they start positioning to be in charge when He's gone. How could they be so crass and self-serving.

But lately Jesus' words have been striking my own heart, challenging in me the same ugly self-centeredness that broke out in one of Christianity's most sacred places yesterday.
  • Do I have any idea what it means to be a servant?
  • Am I really willing to die to my own ambition?
  • Why do I chafe when I think my gifts and talents are being submerged?
  • When do I ever stop for a nobody, as Jesus did for a blind beggar in the immediately following story in Mark 10?

There's nothing sophisticated about selfishness, and there's no cure like recognizing Jesus' presence. Which reminds me of my youth.

Like most siblings, my brother and I had a real doozy of a fight from time to time. Sometimes Dad would catch us at it, and of course we immediately stopped. But he had a most effective discipline method. "Oh no," he'd say, "Don't stop. You just keep fighting! I want to see you." You know, with him watching, there was no fight left in either of us. Our attempts to keep it up, as he insisted, were pathetic and lame in his presence.

Whether we're standing outside His long-empty tomb or somewhere else, Jesus is there. If we just remember and practice His presence, what a powerful cure that will be for selfishness and turf wars.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

My Audacity of Hope

Last month, Valerie and I, with Dan & Bev Mayerle, enjoyed four days of touring England on our way home from Russia. It was our first visit and I hope we get to go back.

On a city bus, an older gentlemen asked me, in broken English, if a particular building in the distance might be St Paul’s Cathedral? When I replied that we ourselves were headed to that famous landmark, he immediately responded, “Oh, good, we’ll go together!”

“Persia!” was his answer when I asked where he was from. He was proud of the land of his fathers, but ashamed of its leaders (“we have a very bad government”). He fell back on the ancient name rather than admit he was from Iran.

Our few minutes together, walking slowly down the street to the great cathedral, comprised a pleasant exchange about our families and snapping photos together (touched up here to protect their identity). We left them with a brief word of testimony of Isa, the only One who died for them and loves them still today.

It was my first time to meet anyone from Iran, and the story serves to frame something about yesterday’s election. More about that below, but first some general observations:

• America has a new President elect. I salute Obama’s remarkable success and genuinely want him to be an effective president. He deserves opportunity to succeed. But given what we already know about his positions, such a hope seems audacious indeed. Praise God that our hope, and faith, are not in Obama but in Jesus Christ.

• Obama’s achievement has cast an important new vision for all black Americans.

• This election looks like very bad news for unborn children. I hope a President Obama does not continue his senatorial trajectory of approving the murder of innocents. Robert George has written a compelling article clearly spelling out that Barack Obama has been not only “pro-choice” (if such a moniker is even accurate) but clearly pro-abortion. Until now, there has been no pro-abortion law he would not support, nor any protection of the unborn, however miniscule, he would not reject.

• Obama comes to the office at a moment of ponderous global challenges. Within hours of his election, Russia announced it is deploying missiles inside Europe in defiance of a U.S.-led missile defense plan. The Taliban has called for an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. These may portend what’s to come and we need to pray for courage and wisdom for a new, untried President Obama.

I also hope a President Obama does not fulfill his pledge of no-conditions discussions with global thugs like Ahmadinejad. Which brings me back to that delightful couple from “Persia.” I read today that, “Polls taken inside Iran show that the Iranian people are the most pro-American in the Middle East, after Israel.” Reading that, I understood the warmth of our encounter with two strangers on the streets of London. May their favorable view of Americans … and the attendant opportunity for the spread of the gospel in their land … remain undiminished in the coming months and years.