Monday, February 28, 2005

Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!

I've been thinking about a passage of scripture that I believe is often mishandled. Sometimes, people use scripture to prove their own points or justify their own ends, rather than examining it and allowing its meaning to inform their lives.

A bit of background and context: in Colossians 2, Paul exhorts the believers, "See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ" (Col 2:8). The fact that he warns about such a thing tells me that I have an enemy seeking to take me captive by philosophy (the 'wisdom' and religiosity of this world) and empty deceit (making something look rich and desirable that is, in fact, meaningless and harmful). Paul goes on in the next verses to remind the Christians of who Jesus is and what He has done for them: circumcising their hearts, raising them from the dead through faith, and "canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands" (Col 2:14).

With Christian identity thus established, Paul tells the Christians:

Colossians 2:16-17, 21-22
"Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ....If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations--'Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch' (referring to things that all perish as they are used)--according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh."

There is an important lesson here if we're going to live in true freedom, and not in bondage to any human (unbiblical) regulations. The Bible lays out clearly that trust in Jesus and an obedient life by the Spirit are what God requires.

The apostles in Jerusalem gave an answer when asked whether Gentile believers should be circumcised and told to keep the law of Moses:

Acts 15:5-14, 19-21
But some believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees rose up and said, "It is necessary to circumcise them and to order them to keep the law of Moses."

The apostles and the elders were gathered together to consider this matter. And after there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, "Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith. Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will."

And all the assembly fell silent, and they listened to Barnabas and Paul as they related what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles. After they finished speaking, James replied, "Brothers, listen to me. Simeon has related how God first visited the Gentiles....Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God, but should write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood. For from ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him, for he is read every Sabbath in the synagogues."

The believers were not (are not) required to keep the Mosaic law, or even to keep a certain day of worship. To begin to believe, practice, and teach otherwise is contra scripture. This is the heart of much of the New Testament teaching on the freedom of the believer.

HOWEVER, many times I have seen Col 2:21 used to excuse behavior or habits that are displeasing to God. This misuse of scripture is along the same lines of "Judge not, man!" Neither scripture can be used as a "proof text" to accomplish your own will, and if you try to use it to that end, you are manipulating the Word of God. Let me give an example: I have seen professing Christians defend violent, sexual movies with passion and incredulity usually reserved for very personal offenses. I have seen the same passion used to defend pot smoking. And what is the battle cry against the person trying to point out the problems in reconciling those things with a Christian life?

"I am so tired of people telling me, 'Do not taste! Do not handle! Do not touch!"

My point is this: God did not give that exhortation so we'd have a license to sin. His desire is for us to walk in truth, and experience true freedom in Him, walking away from the bondage of sin. He admonishes believers not to be goaded into following a deceptive philosophy that will lead them into the bondage they were in before knowing Christ--philosophy that has an appearance of holiness or righteousness, but is dead.

Satan so often brands his routes to enslavement as "Freedom" highways. They are, in fact, the broad road to destruction. Let no one deceive you.

One more passage! Paul goes on to write:

Col 3:1-8a
"If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away."

Let us put off the ways of the enemy and put on Christ.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

A Few More Pictures

The pictures below are a few more from last weekend's trip.

Looking down from the San Marcos Pass Posted by Hello

Pismo Beach Posted by Hello

Off Hwy 1. Posted by Hello

Friday, February 25, 2005

All Interviews Are Up

Holly and Rachel have my interview with them published on their blogs.

I am really excited about Rachel's new blog. Check out her story of ongoing story, of course. It is extremely exciting to watch God working in the lives of others!

Holly is a dedicated, solid, learned, encouraging Christian mother, from whom I hope to learn. She's simply a treasure.

Kim's interview is up now, too. Kim is an amazing, kind-hearted Berean whom I hope to meet someday!

Dave Black also chimed in regarding yesterday's discussion of which book we'd want on a desert island. He also kindly republished "Freedom to Move On" under the title "Ultimate Freedom" here. Thanks, Dave.

Which book?

Drawing from one of the questions I asked some of my sisters to interview them for their blogs (scroll down to the comments and you'll see them), I'd like to, ahem, answer one of my own questions. I would really, really be interested in others' answers to the question, too. It's a fun one, but it doesn't lack depth.

If you were sent to the Isle of Patmos (heh) for the rest of your life and could only bring ONE BOOK of the Bible, which would it be? Why?

For me it would be the book of Hebrews. It's a fantastically rich book, and it's ALL ABOUT JESUS: who He is and why He did what He did. It's filled with awesome warnings for the believer (I like stuff like that--it keeps me on my toes, and Lord knows I need help). It's filled with exhortation. You can tell that the author, who remains a mystery, is consumed with the wonder of what Jesus did for us.

Check out some of these passages. If you aren't overwhelmed and excited, check your pulse. ;)

Heb 1:1-4
Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

You could study and meditate on just that passage for a long time. And I love how the writer starts out with a bang and makes sure you know just what he's talking about.

And the about working out your salvation with fear and trembling. But that's a good thing. Don't let anyone ever tell you that there's something wrong with trembling before the Sovereign God of the universe! Think of the reactions men in the Bible had in even visionary encounters with God, or with His angels: they fainted, felt 'undone,' 'fell at his feet as though dead'! Mightn't you tremble? Yes, tremble, and know that this fearsome, awesome God is the same One who loves you and has numbered even the hairs on your head. Remember His kindness and His severity.

Heb 3:5-6, 12-14
Now Moses was faithful in all God's house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, but Christ is faithful over God's house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope....Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called "today," that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.

Heb 10:26-29
For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace?

That last scripture makes some people angry. But why argue with the Bible? Why not appreciate the whole counsel God has given us? Everything He tells us is for our benefit, that we might dwell with Him forever.

I also love that Hebrews is DEEP. DEEEEEEEP. The writer (who, I am told, writes in beautiful, complex, scholarly Greek) delves into the Rest which Jesus allows us to enter, the Priestly role He fulfills for us, the faith of the saints of the Old Covenant (and faith's centrality to the message of grace), the necessity for the obedience and perseverance of the believer, and the need to look forward to our eternal destination (he was exhorting the Hebrew Christians to continue in the faith and not apostacize during the severe persecutions that were arising).

One of my favorite chapters in the Bible is Hebrews 11, the "faith chapter," because that's what it is all about: faith in Jesus. And this passage shows how God does not change, and salvation has been about faith from the beginning, never through the Law. It's always been through trusting in God to bring about forgiveness of sins and cleansing forever...not through the blood of animals, but through Messiah.

Heb 11:1-2, 6-10, 13-16
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation....And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith. By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God....These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.

Wow...I am excited just reading that again.

So, on my island, I would be able to focus on Jesus, be reminded to keep following Him, and look eagerly to the Heavenly City--all from Hebrews!

Praise the Lord.

This wouldn't be complete, though, without one of the last verses. The writer of Hebrews considered his letter to them to be a short one. And we thought Molly's blog posts were long!

Heb 13:22
I appeal to you, brothers, bear with my word of exhortation, for I have written to you briefly.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Interview from Molly at Three Pennies

Molly is one of my bestest online buddies. I kindly granted her an interview... (KIDDING, people! KIDDING!)

1. What book (in the last year) has most impacted your relationship with God (excluding the Bible)? I used to read a lot of books, and now it seems that I mostly read the Bible and the internet. This year I've read John Taylor Gatto's A Different Kind of Teacher and want to start his Underground History of American Education soon. I discovered his writing while in grad school (I was training to be an English teacher) and absolutely fell in love. I also liked reading Mary Griffith's Unschooling Handbook, and Mary Pride's The Way Home. Those books had such an impact on the way I view marriage, mothering and education. But I digress, because I read them several years ago.

I also keep coming back to The Excellent Wife, Martha Peace's book on being a godly wife. It's never really been a book I read cover to cover. I have read the whole thing, but I digest it in chunks and keep coming back, especially to the first few chapters, to remind myself of what the Lord desires me to be. It's kind of a kick in the rear, which I REALLY appreciate from anything I read.

Fiction has really fallen by the wayside since I started studying the Bible more intensively...I just don't have time, and if I do have time, I like to focus on things I deem important (like this blog, hehe). I did read Pride and Prejudice this year, though. For the millionth time. And I think I read Persuasion again.

2. How is your relationship with your in-laws?

Great!! They are awesome! My in-laws are such giving, GIVING people. My FIL is a detective for a DA, and my MIL is a nurse. Their whole lives have been dedicated to serving others. (I am not saying that because they read this, either...I don't think they've ever seen it.) They say I am the daughter they never had, which touches my heart--they have three grown boys (I mean, MEN).

3. You have talked in the past about wanting to be a mother but struggling with apparent infertility, and I know that's been a tough one (I wish I could help!). How are you dealing with this now?

Thanks, Molly. :) I posted regarding that in January. Kelly S. on Ladies Against Feminism really said it all for me there.

We have not been given a medical diagnosis of infertility; I'll give everyone here some background to understand our situation. Shortly after we married, Ryan and I were convicted regarding birth control. It was a very sudden thing: I had been on the Pill for eleven years, and I just accepted it as part of my life. A month or two after marrying, though, I was gripped by a certainty that the Pill was not something God wanted me to take. We searched the scriptures with open minds, looking for answers as we prayed. What we found in the Word blew our minds: children are blessings from God, not burdens. God says so. The Bible teaches that God opens and closes the womb. We decided then to give our fertility to God, asking Him to bring a child in His timing.

We thought that would mean baby after baby, right away...and so did our worried parents, who told us outright that we were crazy. We felt certain about our decision, though, and believed that the Word of God backed us up.

In the four-plus years we've been married, I have never been pregnant. We've thought about getting medical attention, but quite honestly, whenever we've gotten near that, God has let us both know that it's not His will at this time. We don't think it's wrong to go to doctors, or anything like that. But we know He doesn't want us to pursue that avenue, at least not now. I am hoping it's because He wants every bit of the glory when He does a miracle! (And every conception is an incredible miracle. Don't get me started.)

4. What toppings go on your icecream sundae?

A whole lotta hot fudge, ideally. I am a big fan of banana splits.

I had one recently with CARMELIZED bananas...ohboy. That was good.

5. When you think of the nations (and missions), what country is heaviest on your heart?

Cameroon, which is in West Africa, next to Nigeria. Ryan and Robert, Ryan's father in the faith and our brother in Christ, went there for three weeks before Ryan and I were married. We're affiliated with Bread for Life, an organization run by native Cameroonian Ernest Ehabe. You can see Robert and Ryan in Africa here. Note: it looks like Ryan has a long ponytail in that picture...he doesn't, I can assure you!

I forgot to add...I'll interview the first person to ask me, like Molly did. :) It's a game that, I think, Carmon started. You get interviewed, then you interview someone else.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Response to Not_Crunchy

Below is a humble, much-too-short response to Not_Crunchy's questions.

Hey N_C. First, I've got to let you know that each of your questions is worthy of a book-length answer, so anything you get in the comments is very much a Readers' Digest version, ok? And I can guarantee you'll get some differing answers to these questions. :) By the way, I am from the South too.

1. Do you believe that I am going to hell because I do not accept the divinity of Christ?
Well, yeah. Here's the thing, though--Christians aren't telling you that because you're some kind of jerk that they can't stand. (Forgive me; I know you've heard at least some of the following stuff before.) We have ALL sinned against God. That means we've broken His commandments. He gets to make the rules because He made everything, including you. That gives Him authority to do whatever He wants. He is completely holy, though: set apart, perfect, without any wrong or evil in Him. That's a problem for us, now, since we've rebelled against Him (it's happened since Adam. You've done it when you lied, cheated, or were rebellious to your parents, etc.). We deserve, because of our rebellion, to be without God for eternity (we were created with souls that are eternal, so obliteration isn't happening).

Hell actually was created for the devil and his angels, according to the Bible. Not for people. Jesus made it clear in his teachings, though, that rebellious people will be placed with the rebellious angels in the lake of fire at the resurrection. I'm not going to lie to you. If you respect Jesus' teachings, why not believe what He said about Himself, and about the end of our lives? What did He say to do? 'Repent,' (which means to turn and change), 'for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.' The fact is that the Son of God, the Messiah, tells you in His teachings what's going to happen. You will face God someday at judgment, and Jesus has indeed paid the price that none of us could (see my previous post). You have the choice to reject that or to believe that. Sounds to me like He's calling to you.

2. Do you believe that every word of the Bible is true? What about the parts that contradict one another?

Yes, I believe the Bible is true and infallible in the original Greek and Hebrew (and a lil Aramaic). However, people seem to fall into some traps when considering this issue: Hebrew and Greek, like any other language, employ idioms, poetic devices, parables, laments, songs, and proverbs. Each type of communication should be understood as it was meant to be, not forced into a box of literalism where it's clearly absurd. Jesus says that unless I hate my mother and father, I cannot be His disciple (Lk 14:26). Ack!! He's contradicting the command to honor my parents!! No, that's an erroneous assumption about what He means. Compared to our love for and devotion to Him, all other 'loves' in our life are like hate...they pale that much in comparison. Also, Jesus is talking about the cost of discipleship (following Him and learning from Him). If you accept and follow Jesus, you suffer rejection, often from those closest to you. Your love for Christ has to be greater than for your family or whoever would try to get you to leave Jesus.

Jesus very often spoke in parables, or in ways that make you dig for understanding. Also, understanding is given by the Holy Spirit.

So, the short answer is yes. And I don't think there are any parts that truly contradict each other. There are, however, lots of people who don't interpret correctly.

3. What is your ultimate authority on the fact that the Bible is divinely inspired?
My absolute conviction of its truth (simply knowing it), my own testimony (changed life, empowerment through the Holy Spirit in often miraculous ways), and the historical accuracy of the text and the events depicted in it.

Part of the way the saints in the end times overcome the devil is 'by the word of their testimony.' That and the sacrifice of Jesus. Going back to your first question, can you see why it's really important to believe Jesus is the Son of God? There is power in what He did. Denying who He is recognizes nothing about what He did for you. He wasn't just a teacher.
Rev 12:10-12
And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, "Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death."

4. Does God offer only one path to salvation? If so, what about all those people in the non-Christian world? Did God allow their creation so that they can go to hell?

a) Yes, knowing and following Jesus is the only way to salvation. The Bible makes that clear. Check it out:

1 Tim 2:4-6a
[God] desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all.

Because of our standing before God, we needed a sacrifice for sin. The temple and sacrifices in Jerusalem--and the office of the High Priest--were symbols and signs of the fact that blood is required to pay for sins. Animal blood doesn't do it, though. We needed something more, a replica of us, perfect and sinless, to agree to take the punishment. That's what Jesus did.

Hebrews 9:6-7
the priests go regularly into the first section, performing their ritual duties, but into the second only the high priest goes, and he but once a year, and not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the unintentional sins of the people.

Instead of a high priest, we have the fulfillment of that system: Jesus. His blood is what was required to pay the sin debt.

b) What about those who have not heard? First, it's important to understand that everyone is without excuse before God for their deeds:

Romans 1:18-20
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

God made everyone, and He inscribed in all of us some basic understandings. For example, when I look at the complexity of life on earth, I see a Creator, a Designer. That is evident from just looking at what's here. Across almost all cultures, there's a sense of what justice, perversion, and righteousness are. Sure, all cultures are screwed up, because the world is fallen. But the things people are doing wrong are done against their consciences, the knowledge of God placed in their hearts.

My friend Robert has an excellent response to this at This Gospel.

c) No, the above scripture (1 Tim 2:4) shows that God did NOT create some people just for hell; He desires all people to know Him, and the blood of Jesus was spilled for the sins of all men (1 John 2:2--"He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world"). You'll get different answers on that one, but if you read the Bible without prejudice, you'll see what it says. Like I said, hell was created originally for the devil and his angels (Matt 25:41). We choose either to follow God or to reject Him in this life, and we choose our eternal destiny in the process. That's the short answer.

N_C, you'll probably receive better answers than mine from others. And I encourage you to ask God. Seriously. His answers are the best. :) Thanks for asking the questions and for being interested.

Freedom to Move On

One of the things I treasure most about the Christian life is the opportunity to repent, change, and move on from a transgression. Part of the pain of my past was having to wallow in what I'd done--how I'd sinned against God--with nothing to do about it (or even a clear recognition of what the problem really was). I just had grief, bitterness, and raw pain rising inside of me due to my own sins, with no idea what to do. I wanted to fix everything, but how?

When I ran to Christ, there was a clear sense inside me that I was soiled. I remember at the time knowing that Jesus was what I needed--that none of the other 'answers' that had presented themselves in the form of other religions would cut it. I knew it. I needed someOne to pay a debt I couldn't begin to repay.

I needed to change my legal status before God. I didn't exactly think in those terms at the time: I just knew I had to cling to Jesus, right now. I was messed up and unholy, an undeserving creature that had spat in His face. I had nothing to offer Him, but I wanted Him. Without the blood of Jesus, which was offered as the sacrifice for my sins, I didn't have the power to legally change anything about my state before the Lord.

But Jesus had the power, because He had sacrificed Himself and is at God's right hand! Isn't it amazing that He would speak up for us, just because we ask Him to? He is always interceding for us. That means that when we mess up, He is there as an advocate:

Hebrews 7:25-28
Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself. For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever.

1 John 2:1-3
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments.

That makes me really glad, because did I mention that I am a screw-up?

And Jesus solved my problem about what to do when I sin (as you saw in 1 John above). Not only have my past sins been cleansed totally, but when when I sin now, I know what to do about it--and it's all about what He's already done about it! There is repentance available to me: real change. That's what I didn't have before; there was no way to change. There was just human will, human resolution, and human failure, time after time.

Hebrews 9:11-14
But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the sprinkling of defiled persons with the blood of goats and bulls and with the ashes of a heifer sanctifies for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.

How much more will the blood of Christ purify my conscience from dead works to serve the living God... Not only has God provided the way out of sin and condemnation, but He has freed me so that I can serve Him. The ultimate freedom is beautiful, joyful servanthood. Only my God could come up with that! But that's a discussion for another day.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

First Love

Revelation 2:3-5
I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name's sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.

I have been thinking about Jesus's stern warning to the church at Ephesus. Actually, the Lord has brought it up to me for several months now. Now that I have been a Christian for several years, I see why the Bible warns the Christian so frequently to watch, stand fast, guard our hearts, hold on, not grow weary, and the like: it is so easy to drift back to our old ways, to get in the "old man's" skin again, to be 'busy' and practically forget about God. Reminds me of the parable of the sower: some seeds were choked by the weeds, the cares of this life.

You know where I really see this in my own life? When I go without daily reading the Word and daily having time alone with God. I am absolutely convinced that this is the Christian's sustenance. And it's not the same to "talk about" God or to "read about" God. No other word is living and active, sharper than a two-edged sword (Heb 4:12). I do plenty of reading and talking "about" Him, but if I have not spent time with God, I am empty, parched, a wilting flower.

I think that many American Christians have an erroneous concept of repentance: that it is something done once, and then is unnecessary to do again. Like it's a one-time event, and ever afterwards, "Oh, I've done that." On the contrary; repentance must be happening whenever we stumble, whenever we see that we have strayed from the narrow path Jesus told us about. Repentance, which means "to turn" and implies change, is a gift that renews us through the blood of Christ.

I need renewal. There is no substitute for God: not church, not programs, not books, not blogs. I need Him, and so do you.

Cove Posted by Hello

On the San Marcos Pass Posted by Hello

Off the 1. Posted by Hello

Leaving the hotel in San Francisco Posted by Hello

Notice the gray sand on the beach Posted by Hello

I'm back

Call off the dogs...I'm okay! ;-)

We're back from our weekend trip to Pismo Beach, San Francisco, and Chico, CA. It rained on us some of the trip--but not the whole time, as I was expecting.

Will post pictures ASAP.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Revisiting 'True Love'

I was reading the comments under Ambra's post about purity, and this one struck me. It's exactly what I was talking about when mentioning the 'crusades' the other day:

"I have 3 grown children, ages 25, 22 and 18. Two married (and were virgins along with their spouses). Selling abstinance is the wrong way to go. It starts with beleif, not behavior.

Last October my 18 year old took a group of non-religious friends to a FCA event before the Wake/FSU game. Her first inkling that it would be a long day ocurred when they opened with cheers for Jesus... "We love Jesus- yes we do! We love Jesus, how bout you!" Things went quickly downhill from there.

Next came a series of talks, all prempted with... "There's a devil at the door." Among the demons was premarital sex. So here is my sweet, cool Lander putting her rep on the line by taking popular friends to hear about Jesus... you feel her pain? Not yet.
Next they were asked to sign abtinate pledges for each demon, ie: drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling. I can just imagine those speakers bragging at the next conference, "I speak to thousands of highschoolers each year and have them sign..."

Posted by Chip Atkinson at February 17, 2005 07:08 AM

He makes a point there re: the 'talks', though I do advocate teaching abstinence. Belief very often precedes behavior, so I differ with him there. Belief is the foundation of my behavior.

Bonnie at Off the Top blogged on a similar topic.

Movies, Media, and me

I think this post might be a 'Part A'. There's a lot to tell.

I told you a little about my testimony here the other day. I realized, though, that although I've talked a little bit about how I feel about media, I haven't told you much about how Ryan and I arrived at the decisions we've made for our lives.

I've been a movie junkie my whole life. It's completely related to being a bookworm: both media tell stories, reveal characters, and present issues. My first job was at a mom-and-pop video store in my hometown, and I worked at a video store while in college. I was secretary of our University Union's cinema club, which was responsible for bringing films to our theater. I mention this just to show you how into it I was! For most of my life, a weekend without a movie was a bad weekend.

Early in college, I ran to Jesus when I came face-to-face with my sin and my own filthiness before God. I threw out my music that had any profanity (kept the rest), but my movie-watching continued unabated. I justified the nude scenes or profanity by emphasizing the story. I argued that movies presented visual essays on the human condition, and they are mirrors to ourselves, helping us to know ourselves and our fellow man better--and in the long run, to minister better to others.

I found that understanding of media in general to be the mainline American Christian attitude towards entertainment: it's the story that counts, and if you have to overlook some ugliness, it's worth it, either because you are entertained, or because you 'learn' something, or both. If you read most reviews on Plugged In, Crosswalk, or Hollywood Jesus (what?), you'll see that kind of rationale. Usually, there's a summary of the plot, a list of "bad things" and a list of "good things." Most of the time, unless the content is really egregious, they don't tell you not to go see the movie.

For a long time, I accepted this way of thinking without question. When something has always been a part of your life--and you love it, to boot--there's not a lot of motivation for looking at it differently.

I met my husband while I was in graduate school for English Education. I'd been attending a small group at a church with a leader who was pretty radical (you can see his site here) by my standards at the time. He didn't go to movies or watch TV! What a weirdo! But my fiance, a good friend of his, shared his values.

Around this time, I began studying the Bible intensively. What I found as I read the Scriptures perfectly echoes Kim's revelation the other day. I realized that the Way to life is narrow. I realized that God is a jealous God who desires my whole heart. I realized that there are things that are abominable to Him, and that doesn't change. I realized that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. I realized that without holiness, no one will see the Lord.

It is almost impossible to describe the impact that actually READING the Bible, in context, had on me. I say "in context" because prior to this time, I'd done what I call "devotional reading," meaning I read the Bible in snippets, either prescribed by the devotional book I was reading, or randomly happened upon as I plopped it open for a few minutes. Systematic study and reading, though, revealed God as He is, not as I piece-mealed him out to be.

I'll tell you why I reject the above arguments regarding media: they don't stand up to the Word. They sound good ("Only one nude scene! Just a few curse words!"), but the bottom line is that you are putting something evil before your eyes (Ps 101) and filling your ears with refuse. Job covenanted before God not to look upon a woman with lust; David determined not to put evil things before his eyes. Are we different than they? With all the light available to us in the Word, we are without excuse if we continue making friends with the world.

Boundaries have been erased and redrawn over the past several decades; things that used to garner a film public censure and an X rating are now celebrated and considered normal--and protestors are labeled prudes and freaks.

When I posed a couple of honest questions to myself, the answers ruled out most of the movies I ever watched and that have been released ever since:

1. Does this media (movie, book, whatever) contain things or glorify things that are abominable to God? (This includes fornication, homosexuality, adultery, etc.)

2. Can I honor God and watch this in good conscience?

3. What is the message Hollywood is sending?

4. Is this an okay use of my time before God?

Look, I am not saying that I NEVER EVER watch any movies and that they all are from the Pit. Rather, I am saying that when I examine them before God and from the Word, I must reject the vast majority of them. I believe it grieves the Holy Spirit when we justify and rationalize things that are an affront to God.

There's so much more to say. I just wanted anyone who reads what I write about media to understand some of my journey, where I've come from to be where I am. I'm not judging my brothers and sisters who don't feel exactly the way I do about all of these things. The Bible says what it says, though, and it's so clear. I pray with all my heart for greater understanding to come upon the church.

Revelation 2:19-20
I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance, and that your latter works exceed the first. But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Philippians Discussion...What Do You Say?

Another great discussion is happening now at Amy's.

Unplugging the Postmodern Christian

I found Christian:Unplugged from a link on Dave Black's awesome blog.

Check out their mission statement. I like it.

Here's a bit of it--nah, here's the whole thing (emphasis mine, as usual):

The most prevalent and destructive heresy plaguing the visible Church today is the notion that “all truth is God’s truth.” This false belief, which is the philosophical kin of postmodern relativism and pluralism, has spawned a new way of Christian thinking that embraces world-proven “wisdom” as a source in which to direct the Church’s teaching and activities. Whether it is through the Purpose-Driven Church, Emergent Church or other current evangelical movements, the focus is to utilize these supplementary “truths” to create newfound success in evangelism and discipleship.

While this may seem a praiseworthy endeavor at first blush, it is actually a haphazard strategy that is rapidly eroding the biblical foundations of our faith and destroying our Christian salt. Adapting the so-called “truths” of science and philosophy has brought forth the rising acceptance in the Church of humanistic ideas that are completely foreign to the clear teachings of Scripture. It has led to the rampant utilization of pragmatic business methods to increase our church size, the use of Jungian psychology to develop our spiritual health, and the promotion of New Age mysticism to deepen our experience with the divine. As a result, churches have become glorified malls of consumerism, sin has become a personality defect, and pagan ritual has now become the new pathway to God.

The reason for this continued descent into apostasy is simple. The “truth” generated by the world is not a neutral force detached from natural man’s sinful nature, thus the Church should avoid it at all cost. It is a wisdom developed by man for the sheer purpose of playing out and indulging in his fleshly tendencies. It is part and parcel of the “world” system that the Bible warns us about in 1 John 2:15-16: "Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.”

Today’s Christian leaders, therefore, need to realize that there is no reliable source for truth outside of God. It isn’t “all truth is God’s truth;” but rather “God’s truth is all truth.” We need to remember that much of what passes for wisdom in the world today is nothing more than hay and stubble that must be tested in the fires of God’s word. It is folly for men, in their limited understanding, to think that they can detect so-called “truth” in the vacuum of human experience and pragmatic success and then somehow integrate it into the revelation of God. Such arrogant reliance on man’s self-styled wisdom is what brought swift death to Nadab and Abihu who thought they, too, could intermingle their “strange fire” with God’s ordained mode of worship (Leviticus 10:1-3).

God has plainly declared: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways” (Isaiah 55:8). To ignore this revealed truth and actively promote synergism between the two opposing ways of both God and man is to nullify God's sovereignty in all areas of His people's life and thought. In fact, James clearly teaches us that "a double minded man is unstable in all his ways" (James 1:8).

It is our belief, therefore, that professing Christians must “unplug” themselves from these postmodern influences of relativism, pluralism and ecumenism, and return to the biblical model of faith. We advocate a return to spiritual discernment that only comes by God's grace through a thorough interaction with the Truth of God's Word. We must study, reflect upon, and understand the theology it represents and the doctrines it teaches; and we should ground this noble pursuit on the confession that God, through His divine power, “has granted to us EVERYTHING pertaining to LIFE and GODLINESS, through the true knowledge” of Christ" (2 Peter 1:3).

Indeed, God’s truth is all the truth we need, and until we realize that much of the world’s wisdom is not part of God’s truth, we will continue to stumble like the blind following the blind. Unplug yourself from the seductive power of the world and return to the old path that God has provided for us through His word. “Thus says the LORD, Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; and you shall find rest for your souls…”

It is our hope and prayer that the material on this website will help you in returning to that ancient path. Please read the following articles and testimonies with a prayerful spirit, test their suppositions against Scripture, and then, like the Bereans, see if these viewpoints are in line with the Bible and therefore, are indeed “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.”

Remember, the “world” is not neutral.

Get the Coffee and SIT DOWN...

Because Kim's telling it like it is!

All I can offer to that is a hearty AMEN, Kim! Thanks again for all your encouragement. The Word of God is truly living and active (Heb 4:12).

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

From Ambra

I had to share this from The following is just a snippet--you've got to read the whole thing. She's writing about Kanye West's "Jesus Walks."

There is a fundamental problem with "Jesus Walks" and "Jesus is My Homeboy" and every other pop culture fad that attempts to water down the person of Jesus Christ. The message is faulty in that the Jesus presented requires nothing of the individual. It takes little effort on our part to acknowledge that Jesus is our friend, our homeboy, and walking with us every day. That is a given. If it weren't so, we'd all be dead by now. But Jesus never told us to wait for him to come walk with us. Instead, He asked us to walk with Him. Big difference.

Tastes more like cough syrup next to the sugar-coated message that's so popular in a song like "Jesus Walks".

Walking with Jesus requires something of the individual. No one in the Bible ever encountered Jesus Christ and remained the same. Their countenance and their lifestyle changed drastically. I know mine did. We continue to spread a misleading message to a dying culture when we make it seem as though Jesus is just another concept at the "Pick 'n Grab Store". Jesusfreak one day, bedroom freak the next. Jesus at the club? Jesus on the side? Jesus on the half shell? Baked, fried or broiled? This choose your own Jesus recipe stuff is killing people off.

I'm sorry, but this fluffy stuff is not going to be what gets this generation from where we are to where God needs us to be. Does Jesus love the world? Absolutely. He loves pimps, hos, prostitutes, corporate extortionists, murders, liars, thieves, adulterers, and even I. But God's intention was that we would recognize His love, repent (change our way of thinking), and live our lives in a way that pleases Him. We crucify Jesus every day when we fail to properly acknowledge His sacrifice. This isn't a game. People are dying and it's going to take more than some shallow messages of Jesus that stroke us and make us feel better about our sin and lack of obedience.

Yeah Jesus walks, but will we walk with him?

God bless her!

Relating to Others/Being In But Not Of

Several of us have been discussing, among other things, Christians' interaction with unbelievers and with the culture at large. Some issues were touched upon that I'd like to address.

Here is David's thoughtful response to Amy, emphasis mine:
The masses didn't follow Him [Jesus] around because He lived without a house like a radical or because was telling Him the truth about what was screwed up with their way of thinking. That's what happened while they listened to Him, but He had to engage them first. He had to love them. He ate with them. He talked with them.

The Pharisees didn't like that.

Secular America doesn't see enough of this. Especially here in the south, where everyone grew up in church but left it when they got out on their own. They know what it's like.

Why are our lights so dim? Because we don't love God like we should. We don't see a God-saturated everything. But why doesn't the culture want to engage us?

They can't tell the difference between our worldview and theirs. They just see our gossiping and backbiting and hypocritical rules. They just see our "intolerance" and our "ignorance" because they've never had anyone kind enough to sit down and explain to them WHY we think it's wrong to be a homosexual, WHY we think it's wrong to have an abortion, WHY we think it's wrong to leave God out of the picture. We'd rather lobby Congress (a secular institution) harder and harder for a stricter moral code, and nobody even understands why morality matters anymore.

They just see us producing record after uninspired record, movie after cheesy inoffensive movie, Christian coffeehouse after wretched Christian coffeehouse. What's wrong with their music, they wonder? It sounds just the same--better, even, usually. What's wrong with their cofeehouses[sic]? They certainly make better coffee.

We're so afraid of eating unclean meat that we've left the whores and moneylenders to feed themselves.

And rubbing our set-apartness in even harder isn't going to draw anyone to the Lord.

David makes some wonderful points here; I just wanted to respond to a few things.

1. I agree wholeheartedly that in most cases, evangelism and discipleship are best nurtured into existence through a loving relationship--if I know you love me, I am much better able to understand and accept a difficult message than if I think you automatically disapprove of me! But that doesn't mean that is the only context in which truth can be communicated and received (not that David was saying that--just making the point).

I've been convicted, sharpened and edified by strangers communicating hard truth to me at times. It all depends on how God wants to speak to someone's heart; HE knows what they need in that moment. No matter what we do, if we are communicating the true gospel to someone, it is a difficult message, and many will simply not accept it no matter how you package it.

However, David's point here, I think, is that we shouldn't hold ourselves back from engaging with non-Christians over meals, etc., where we might be able to talk to them. I heartily agree with doing this as the Lord leads (I got in many scrapes as a new believer by continuing to spend time in relationships that God was not leading me to be in. The people I was with were not saved, and I was dragged down--and I've seen that happen to others).

2. 'Why doesn't the culture want to engage us?' There are at least two answers to that question, and David does a great job with the first: the "pop Christianity" culture doesn't engage unbelievers because it's overwhelmingly lame. I don't say "our" culture, because, frankly, I don't claim it. When I became a Christian, there are many ways I separated myself from the world--but it doesn't mean I became part of the pop Christianity culture by default. To be honest with you, I view it with as much caution, and approach it with as many prayers for discernment, as I do anything in the world.

Another answer to the question above is, 'Because the world is NEVER going to engage us.' Not by and large. There will be individuals who respond to the Good News, and their lives will be changed. But Jesus said in John 15 that the world would hate us:

John 15:18-19

If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.

We don't need to run around trying to get their's not coming. Many things that are done in the name of reaching out to seekers is really just ear-tickling. We need to seek the Lord and communicate the Gospel in the same pure way that has opened and melted hearts since Jesus' resurrection. Sure, now that we have various technologies, the Lord may use those to communicate to people. But the message and discipleship will not change.

3. My favorite thing David wrote: "they've never had anyone kind enough to sit down and explain to them WHY we think it's wrong to be a homosexual, WHY we think it's wrong to have an abortion, WHY we think it's wrong to leave God out of the picture." HOW TRUE! That's my heart, in a nutshell, in reaching out to those who don't know Jesus. Many people simply haven't heard the truth, spoken lovingly and rationally. They're on one 'side of the fence' and may not have thought about why. They may not even realize that Christians are not mean people who say "NO!" to everything!

4. Lastly, regarding "rubbing in" the "set-apartness"--agreed. But a follower of Jesus still must separate from the world, to a Biblical degree (I know there is a lot of debate there). A prideful separation that looks down on others is obviously not godly and, I believe, angers the Lord (Ps 138:6, Prov 6:17).

I know this is turning into a novel, so I'll shut it down. Thanks, David, for all of your incredibly gracious and thought-provoking comments yesterday. I appreciate the way that you lovingly disagree with others.

Also, give Molly's wonderful comments a look.

Monday, February 14, 2005


It will help you understand where I am coming from here if you know the history of Rock N Roll, and maybe read Media Choices and the Christian.

I offer the following simply because I run into this issue so much. I have seen whole blogs devoted to this. There is no other artist, it seems, who inspires as much worshipful rapture as does Bono, lead singer for U2. Does his life mirror Biblical Christianity?

I have encountered myriad Christians who take it as the greatest insult if I express grave doubts about the 'Christianity' of Bono. The Bible tells us to "test everything; hold fast what is good." (1 Thess 5:21). Some people believe you aren't supposed to hazard any guesses about who is a Christian and who is not. To them I offer 1 John 3:10:

This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother.

Why would John give us a way to know who the Christians are if we are never supposed to know, if there is no way to tell?

"But you can't see his HEART!"

Jesus said that out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks (Matt 12:34). What someone does has everything to do with where their heart is: our actions are connected to our life in Christ. Now, I don't claim that the 1 John passage is the only way to know--there are other scriptures that help us determine what it means to be a Christian, to claim to follow Christ. But my point here is that we are indeed able (and expected) to discern these things.

First, check out these lyrics. Everyone probably knows this song...what is it saying?

I have spoke with the tongue of angels
I have held the hand of a devil
It was warm in the night
I was cold as a stone

But I still haven't found what I'm looking for
But I still haven't found what I'm looking for

I believe in the kingdom come
Then all the colors will bleed into one
Bleed into one
Well yes I'm still running

You broke the bonds and you
Loosed the chains
Carried the cross
Of my shame
Of my shame
You know I believed it

But I still haven't found what I'm looking for...

The writer knows what Jesus did for him, but still hasn't found 'what he's looking for.'

I believe, based on observation and research, that Bono talks some of the talk and doesn't walk the walk. I don't take away anything from his good deeds; that's great. But what does he believe and say?

The following is taken from a Beliefnet interview.

"'I've successfully avoided talking about my faith for 20 years,' he said after we completed this interview, which he did by phone from Ireland."

What Christian avoids talking about his faith? The Bible says to always be prepared to give an answer for the hope you have. The goal of a Christian is to spread the faith, not avoid talking about it.

"During U2's Zooropa tour, you would often call prominent figures by phone from the stage. In London, you were dressed as the devil character you invented, MacPhisto, and, as you tried to call the Archbishop of Canterbury, MacPhisto remarked that religious leaders were some of his closest friends."

[Bono]"It's true. I often wonder if religion is the enemy of God. It's almost like religion is what happens when the Spirit has left the building.

God's Spirit moves through us and the world at a pace that can never be constricted by any one religious paradigm. I love that. You know, it says somewhere in the scriptures that the Spirit moves like a wind--no one knows where it's come from or where it's going. The Spirit is described in the Holy Scriptures as much more anarchic than any established religion credits."

This has an ecumenical, even universalist ring to it. And the Holy Spirit of God is not anarchic--God is a God of order, not chaos or confusion (1 Cor 14:33, James 3:16).

Now it gets even more interesting:

"For all that, U2 has often been seen as a Christian rock band.

We really f--ked that up, though. We really f--ked up our corner of the Christian market. I think carrying moral baggage is very dangerous for an artist. If you have a duty, it's to be true and not cover up the cracks. I love hymns and gospel music, but the idea of turning your music into a tool for evangelism is missing the point.

Here's where things should get very obvious. God commands us in His Word to be pure in our speech. One of the first things I knew, immediately after getting saved, was that the f-word had to go (for me, at the time, that word was used VERY OFTEN). If a baby in Christ knows that, why doesn't Bono? Could it be that he doesn't care about God's commands concerning our speech?

And what about music being used for evangelism? For a follower of Christ, how is that missing the point?

Another interesting statement: "The most powerful idea that's entered the world in the last few thousand years--the idea of grace--is the reason I would like to be a Christian." That's so full of pathos, to me. He would like to be? Why isn't he?

I like the anger of the blues--I think being angry with God is at least a dialogue. You know, [Robert Johnson's] 'Hell Hound on My Trail'--the blues is full of that. And [it runs] right through to Marilyn Manson.

These are big questions. If there is a God, it's serious. And if there isn't a God, it's even more serious. Or is it the other way around? I don't know, but these are the things that, as an artist, are going to cross your mind--as well as "Ode to My New Jaguar." [laughter] The right to be an ass I will hold on to very tightly. I just have to be allowed that."

Marilyn Manson is an avowed Satanist, an actual "clergy" member in the church of Satan. Bono claims to like the anger of the blues, and cites Manson as one of its agents of expression today.

Please do check out the links from do a great job on video of showing Bono's MacPhisto character. In the video, Bono holds up an upside-down cross.

I am just really, really tired of the world mixing with Christianity, and I'm tired of Satan deceiving people into thinking that Bono actually represents a wonderful Christian. If he represents this to you, I urge you to take up your Bible like a Berean and really examine how a Christian is to live and speak. Let's pray for Bono to repent and be saved, but let's not pretend that he is a paragon of Christianity. To do so is to ignore the Word of God itself, and the holiness of life in Jesus.


I can really appreciate Ambra's State of the Blog Address.

I'm weary of labels because I think they should follow and not precede. You don't have to declare yourself to be anything. Just be 'it', and if 'it' is, people will recognize and call it as such. Only insecure ninnies need to be called something to feel validated in it. Lately, it seems like people are trying to catch up with their descriptors. Instead of just being, they announce.

She's writing primarily about political labels--people calling her (or expecting her to be their exact version of) "conservative" or "Republican."

It's far more important--and it's my goal--to be recognizably Christian, as in "Disciple of Jesus Christ". Anything else you might call me should flow from that primary identity, and by God's grace, will be consistent with that identity.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Transforming the Culture?

Over at Amy's there's an interesting discussion going on.

I tend to agree with Sandra's comments:

There is another element to this dialogue that needs to be brought to the table. That is that darkness hates the light, and wants no part of it. So those who are excellenct [sic] in what they do, and boldly make Christ the center of it, will be coldly turned aside. I don't know exactly how this fits into the discussion. But we have to be careful about thinking that if we just play our cards right (i.e., attractive marketing), the world will readily receive the Gospel since it is relevant, surrounded by excellent art, philosophy, etc.

It's never a matter of making the Gospel relevant. The Gospel is relevant. But even if we remove as many barriers to receptivity as possible, it is still the Gospel. The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing (I Cor. 1:18)

The cold, hard truth is that Jesus expected the world to hate us because of our love for Him. They hated Him first (John 15:18-19). (emphasis mine)

I like Amy's point, too, that Christians must be salt and light to give the word "Christian" any meaning at all; to be seen as separate from the world, well, there must be an actual separation. Seems like an obvious point, but too many professing Christians say that 'Christians can live like the world--it's okay!' for me to believe that it's as obvious as it should be. The true way is narrow; it is the path to destruction that is broad. Be not deceived.

As for Cal's comments, and all the rest of the discussion about that subject, I am a little at a loss. I believe that Christians should listen for the Lord's Spirit speaking to them; I believe we should study the Word diligently to show ourselves approved. We already know from the Word that whatever we do, we should do as unto the Lord. But as for the culture (no tomatoes, please!), I do not believe we will transform it. We must seek out those who have ears to hear the gospel, preaching in and out of season so that those who have not heard may hear and believe.

To think that we will change the entire culture flies in the face of what the Word says about the end times. HOWEVER, I do believe we should stive to be salt and light, individually and collectively, wherever we are. But keep watch, and don't be surprised when the days get darker. That's not a call to inertia--it's a call to love Jesus and live the Life more and more "as we see the Day approaching" (Heb 10:24-25).

2 Tim 3:1-5
But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Friends from BHC, over for dinner Posted by Hello

My cousin :)  Posted by Hello

Friday, February 11, 2005

So Talk to Me about Translations

We've had a lively discussion about the NIV, NASB, ESV and Message today.

What's your favorite translation, and why? What do you find yourself using most often? I know Kim posted something about this the other day after her Bible-hunting trek, and Amy is trying to help us win an ESV Bible.

I think I mentioned that I use the NASB. I like a translation that's on the literal NIV use has been mostly out of habit. I have several of them, and it's what I had when I first came to Jesus.

I read up on the ESV a tiny bit and was extremely impressed with what I saw.

Why The Message Drives Me Nuts

Oh Message, how do I loathe thee? Let me count the ways.

I could write a book about Eugene Peterson's rough paraphrase of the Bible, titled The Message, that is inexplicably sold next to Bibles in the Christian bookstores. Due to time constraints and domestic duties, however, this blog will have to do.

Perhaps I should explain, first, how I see the Bible. In the original Greek and Hebrew (and a bit o' Aramaic), it's perfect, infallible, and wholly God-breathed. In my opinion, all translations are going to fall a bit short somewhere, which is why I like to study many different ones and go to the original languages in my studies. But at least the NIV, NASB, KJV and many others can claim to be translations. I fear many readers don't know that The Message is a paraphrase. There is a HUGE difference. Nothing gets my hackles up like someone distorting the Word of God.

I don't intend to reinvent the wheel in this short article. Other ministries, pastors, teachers and leaders in the church at large have already sounded the alarm about Petersen's work. I highly recommend this article, which includes tables showing side-by-side Message/Bible comparisons:

Throughout both Old and New Testaments, God forbids us to distort His Word. Additions and deletions are strictly forbidden in Scriptures like Deuteronomy 4:2 and 12:32, Proverbs 30:6, Galatians 1:8-9 and Revelation 22:19. Acts 17:11 exhorts us to learn from the Bereans who 'examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.'

Eugene Peterson would probably agree. His own interpretation of 2 Corinthians 4:2 holds him accountable to this timeless standard:

'We don't maneuver and manipulate behind the scenes. And we don't twist God's Word to suit ourselves. Rather we keep everything we do and say out in the open, the whole truth on display, so that those who want to can see and judge for themselves in the presence of God.'

While the above verse corresponds to the original Greek, many other passages do just what The Message promises not to do: they 'twist God's word to suit' human inclinations. In fact, the very next sentence (verse 3), fails the test. It does not 'keep... the whole truth on display.' Instead, it deletes the original references both to 'those who are perishing' and to the glory of 'Christ, who is the image of God.'

It doesn't take a Greek scholar to recognize the appalling distortions of God's holy Word. Any Bible student willing to compare Peterson's Message with a Greek/English Interlinear Lexicon and take time to look up key words in a credible New Testament Bible dictionary will discover alarming deletions, distortions and additions to the original text. If Peterson is right, then all our other Bibles - the KJV, NASV, NIV, Greek-English interlinear Bibles - are false."

Dave Hunt writes in The Berean Call:
"The Message, like other paraphrases, substitutes man’s words for God’s words! Peterson says that The Message is 'not...a word-for-word conversion' of God’s Holy Word into modern language but what he thinks God’s Word means -- not a translation but an interpretation (Introduction). What audacity to rewrite the Bible!....Paraphrases based upon 'dynamic equivalency' partake of two destructive errors: 1) instead of translating the words of Scripture, they interpret in modern language what they believe are the ideas presented; and 2) they dumb down the language to make it 'understandable.'

Interpretation is proper in sermons and commentaries, which listeners/readers can compare to the Word of God. The Message, however, is offered as 'This version of the New Testament...' (p. 7), misleading readers into thinking they have the Scriptures in their hands."

I'll level with you: the widespread acceptance of The Message and its seemingly permanent place next to real Bibles frightens me. It means that when I talk to someone who has had that book as their 'Bible' from the inception of their Christian walk, we are probably going to speak two different languages when we talk about the Word, the Gospel, and God. So much damage is being done to new disciples because of one man's biases and hubris.

If you've been using The Message, I ask you, I challenge you to compare Petersen's words with Scripture.

Proverbs 30:6
Do not add to his words,
or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

The Kindness and the Severity

Kim got me thinking about this topic this morning.

Romans 11 admonishes us to consider the KINDNESS and the STERNNESS of God. A lot of heartache, bad fruit, and loss can come from emphasizing either one to the exclusion of the other. This chapter contains one of my favorite passages of Scripture, because it reveals so much about God's character and our relationship to Him. In it Paul is speaking to Gentile believers about salvation, Israel, and their own standing as Gentiles:

Romans 11:13-22
"I am talking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I make much of my ministry in the hope that I may somehow arouse my own people to envy and save some of them. For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? If the part of the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; if the root is holy, so are the branches.

If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, do not boast over those branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, 'Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in.' Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but be afraid. For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either.

Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off."

A sobering warning, to be sure. But our God is that awesome, that amazing, that terrifying (do a study on "fear" and see how many times people are terrified, frightened, phobeo in the Greek--yes, even in the New Testament).

This is the very same God who speaks in a still, small voice; who is a consuming fire; at whose name demons tremble--and yet is the God who numbers the hairs on our heads and whom children were unafraid to gather around! Who is this amazing and wonderful Creator?

He does not change. He is the only true God (John 17:3), and He is the same in the Old Testament as in the New. Did you know that the Hebrews in the desert, after fleeing Egypt, had the gospel preached to them?

Hebrews 3:17-19, 4:1-2
And with whom was He angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who were disobedient? So we see that they were not able to enter because of unbelief.
Therefore, let us fear if, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you may seem to have come short of it. For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard.

The gospel has been preached, in a sense, throughout the entire Bible. Salvation has ALWAYS been by grace through faith, even for those in the Old Testament.

Which brings me to another favorite passage...Heb 11, the "faith chapter."

Heb 11:1-2, 6-10
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the men of old gained approval....And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.

By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise; for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.

By faith, by faith, by faith. Look at the whole chapter, at the saints of the Old Testament, the faithful, those who hoped in God: they believed that He had a plan. Many people make the mistake of thinking that for faithful Jews in the Old Testament, salvation came through the Law. Many places in the NT make it clear that it never came through the Law--it has always been by faith, and was made complete by the obedience and suffering of Jesus Christ on the cross. By Him we gain entrance to "a better country, that is, a heavenly one" that Abraham and the other OT saints looked to and believed in (Heb 11:16).

Let's press on in faith, that we too might enter His Rest (Heb 4:1-6).

Dave Agrees

I posted the other day about True Love Waits, and some problems I have with the whole paradigm of crusade-like, parachurch 'ministry'. Dave Black writes:

"It doesn't matter how much people focus on getting our youth to pledge their purity as long as we refuse to deal with the more fundamental problems in our 'evangelical' youth culture."

Problems such as: a lack of understanding of the rudimentary teachings of Christianity, ignorance of the "teaching about righteousness" (Hebrews 5:13), and compromise with the world come to mind. Again, I don't blame the kids. I want to search for solutions for them, because the current setup at home, school and church is obviously not working. There is no quick fix. I understand that ministries like True Love Waits can have an impact, and I praise God for all lives that have been changed. But it's not the's a band-aid at best and, as I said before, a spiritual one-night stand at worst.

What does God say?

Deut 6:6-9
These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

Prov 22:6
Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

People in Virginia...Keep Them Pants UP!

Virginia isn't taking it any more.

Yahoo! News - Va. Bill Sets Fine for Low-Riding Pants

"Virginians who wear their pants so low their underwear shows may want to think about investing in a stronger belt. The state's House of Delegates passed a bill Tuesday authorizing a $50 fine for anyone who displays his or her underpants in a "lewd or indecent manner."

HILARIOUS! I can't tell, though, if it's aimed at men or women? Sad to say, both are now dropping the "under" in "underwear."

I wonder if they will also outlaw those little lingerie tops (camisoles, whatever) that women are wearing now? Since when is lingerie appropriate attire outside of the bedroom?

Amy the Humble Gets Her Comeuppance

Well, not in the traditional sense. But she was given the Best New Evangelical Blog Award! (Insert trumpet blast here.)

One of my bestest blogging friends was interviewed yesterday, and it's posted at Evangelical Underground.

Here's one of the amazing, brilliant (and, of course, humble) things she had to say:

"Regarding my opinion of present day soul-winnin’ techniques, I don’t think it should be an either/or, but a both/and. We are called to be people of grace, but the gospel itself is a stumbling block. I do my best to 'live at peace with all men', but the gospel truly is offensive to those who are perishing. We do have a responsibility to communicate the gospel to all people, so I personally do not buy into the just-live-your-life-and-people-will-somehow-fall-on-their-knees-in-repentance method. It’s never worked for me. I think the 'living the gospel' approach is just another method we modern Christians made up in order to shirk the mandate. We love our reputations more than His commission.

On the other hand, we bring shame to the very message we preach when we do not 'live our best life.' I think gospel must be both spoken and lived."

That's just the beginning of the good stuff she shared. Amy loves the Truth, and I am glad to have found her.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Off the Top

Check out Bonnie's blog. I'm glad Molly commented on her latest post (both make intelligent, insightful points). This is one of my favorite things about blogging: the connections, the conversation. It enriches all of us.

And Such Were Some of You

I am so thankful that the Lord has delivered me from who I was, and continues to deliver me from who I struggle with being.

1 Cor 6:9-11 contains one of my favorite warnings (did I mention that I find them exciting?), as well as a reason to be supremely thankful:

"Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God."

The Spirit says we are not to be deceived: the wicked will not inherit the Kingdom. If we are walking in Christ, though, and have trusted Him for salvation, we have been and are being washed, set apart (sanctified), and justified (made right with God) by the blood of the Lamb and by His Spirit. Praise God!

Part of my testimony comes from my wild past. People who meet me now are shocked to know a little bit of what I participated in before Jesus. I mention it not to glorify anything from the past, but to marvel at how the Lord so completely cleanses and delivers. I used to pepper many of my sentences with expletives; I took drugs; I did not keep myself pure (to put it mildly), and in fact despised purity when I saw it in others.

But that girl is dead, and God has raised me to new life.

Rom 6:1-4
What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

Holiness is so beautiful, in part because I know how incapable I am of being holy on my own. When I "strive to enter the narrow gate" (Luke 13:24), it is not through works that are of the flesh, but a striving that comes from the Spirit within. It is Christ in me that is the hope of glory! But it manifests in transformation, personal transformation that I could not effect by myself. It is not silent or invisible.

Back in those dark days--the first months of my collegiate life--I hit bottom through a set of circumstances that showed me clearly what my life had become. I cried out to Jesus, because in my filth I knew of only One who could clean me up.

Obviously, I am not perfect now. I struggle, I stumble. But God has changed me so much. The same girl who used to spew profanity...doesn't. The girl who was so defiled was made new. I felt new and clean, and I knew only God could do that. I lost friends; some started calling me "Virgin Mary" because they knew that now I was chaste. I took it as a high compliment (though, of course, it was an epithet to them) and rejoiced that they did see a difference.

Eph 3:16-18
I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will give you mighty inner strength through his Holy Spirit. And I pray that Christ will be more and more at home in your hearts as you trust in him. May your roots go down deep into the soil of God's marvelous love. And may you have the power to understand, as all God's people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love really is.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Million Dollar Baby Ain't Worth Two Cents

Please check out Cindy's interview with Joni Eareckson Tada, a quadriplegic who lives victoriously in Jesus Christ.

Clint Eastwood lied to you about his new movie. Read this interview and tell me if you see anything remotely indicating the dark topic that this film is really about.

Here's a pretty typical media synopsis:

"Boxing trainer Frankie Dunn has been unwilling to let himself get close to anyone-- then Maggie Fitzgerald walks into his gym. In a life of constant struggle, Maggie's gotten herself this far on raw talent. But more than anything, she wants someone to believe in her. The last thing Frankie wants is that kind of responsibility, but won over by Maggie's sheer determination, he begrudgingly agrees to take her on."

Aww, kinda sounds like Karate Kid, right?

The truth is that Eastwood's movie is about euthanasia. I don't care if that's a spoiler: I think knowing the truth and eschewing the devil's propaganda is more important. The media has been complicit with the conspiracy to keep the "spoiler" under wraps so that audiences will be hit with the full force of the "power" of Eastwood's film.

What does God say? I don't have space and time to list everything that's relevant to this in the Word, but here's a start:

Job 12:10
In his [God's] hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.

Daniel 5:23 (speaking to King Belshazzar)
You praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood and stone, which cannot see or hear or understand. But you did not honor the God who holds in his hand your life and all your ways.

Psalm 31:15
My times are in your hands.

Psalm 68:20b
...from the Sovereign LORD comes escape from death.

Life and death are in the hands of God. We dare not have the hubris to assume that murder is sanctioned because we deem it to be just. The sad fact is that our country has already traveled this road with the infant holocaust that is abortion; this is just propaganda to take us down the same road with the issue of assisted suicide.

Saturday, February 05, 2005


Did you have any experiences with God as a child?

I did, and perhaps my experience with the Lord was one of the reasons why there was never a doubt in my mind about whether God exists.

I went to church with my Uncle WC and Aunt Sylvia when I was probably nine years old. Aunt Sylvia and WC went to an Assemblies of God church (or maybe Church of God?), so I saw some things that night that, believe me, I'd never seen before, including someone praying in tongues. I didn't know what they were.

The pastor called for a time of prayer. Aunt Sylvia, who is the most soft-spoken, gentle, genuinely sweet, Southern woman you'll ever meet, grabbed my hand and marched me right down the aisle to the front of the church (maybe other people were going down to the front to pray; I don't know). We knelt at a pew at the front of the church. I looked at her. She was praying earnestly, head down, so I closed my eyes and tried to do it too.

This is the part I remember very clearly: I felt like I was surrounded by light, but my eyes were tightly shut. I felt, literally felt, God pour love down on me like water--like honey. I knew it was Him, and I knew He loved me beyond anything I could understand. I basked in it--I just felt so happy.

Similarly, when I was even younger, maybe four or five, I had what I can now only call a vision, though a very simple one: I knew what it felt like, or at least what He revealed it felt like, for God to give me a hug. I imagined hugging Him: His robe was softer than anything I'd ever felt, and I've never since had such a feeling of utter peace--the ultimate "everything is okay right now" feeling.

When I think of being with Jesus, I most often think of how those two experiences felt, and I can't wait to go Home. And I want to be as much of a child as He wants me to be right now to remember (and to feel) what it felt like to experience His love and trust Him so totally.

We often talk about not building our understanding of God on feelings--and that's very true. The Bible says that the heart of man is "deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked" (Jeremiah 17:9). We must test everything by the Word of God. But that doesn't mean that God won't give us glimpses of His love and His amazing character, and that we can't experience that through feelings. I thank Him that He gave us the ability to experience His love in the here and now.

Friday, February 04, 2005

A Controversial Issue

Nope, it's not abortion, the State of the Union Address, or homosexuality (though I'd be glad to talk about any of those).

It's music.

Ryan and I first encountered Fight the Good Fight ministries in 2001. We'd heard a few of Joe Schimmel's messages and were really impressed by his handling of scripture and willingness to tackle tough issues. We ordered the audiotapes of Joe's expose on Rock N Roll and were blown away.

His message was simple and difficult to swallow at first because of our culture and upbringing: Joe set about proving, through artists' own words, song lyrics, and Scripture that Satan, the enemy and accuser of man, is the guiding power behind RNR and is using music to shape popular culture and usher in the New World Order.

When you first hear what it's about--well, it sounds crazy. If you believe in the Word of God, though, and have ears to hear, I challenge you to just listen to what he says. I recommend his video--particularly the one from 1992--so highly. If you don't have the money for it, no sweat. Blessed Hope will give them away; they just want the message out there.

At the very least, you will learn things you didn't know before and hear lots of scripture. But if you're like us, you won't ever look at pop culture the same way again.

Just to clarify: Ryan and I do not believe that certain 'beats' are wrong, or that drums are wrong, or anything like that. We go to a church that has contemporary worship. My husband plays guitar. It's about who is being glorified through music, and what message is being preached through it. There's always, always a message coming through all media: art, music, text, film. What message are you listening to? Are you conscious of what's being said to you?

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