Thursday, March 31, 2005

Credited as Righteousness

Abraham, Noah, Job and Lot are examples of people in the Old Testament whom the Bible labels "blameless" and "righteous." But how can that be?, you think, because you know that

Rom 3:9b-12
For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written:

"None is righteous, no, not one;
no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one."

How, then, could anyone be called righteous?

I already discussed a little of what I believe about this. Were OT saints saved? Yes, by faith. And it was by the same means that they were declared righteous--they believed in the promises and ability of God, which ultimately was belief in the Lamb which was slain "before the foundation of the world" (Rev 13:8).

Faith was credited to them as righteousness. That means they really weren't righteous in and of themselves, but their faith in and obedience to God (obedience is demonstrated faith) was acceptable to God and therefore was granted to them as righteousness--I think of it almost as 'righteousness on loan.' They didn't know God was going to slay His Son for them, but they believed and obeyed God, and thus had a part in the tapestry of salvation that He used them to weave.

Rom 4:3-7
What does the Scripture say? 'Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.' Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness. David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: 'Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him.'

This reasoning, then, did not just apply to Abraham, but to other people who believed God and did what He asked.

Gen 6:9b
Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation.

2 Pet 2:5
And God did not spare the ancient world--except for Noah and his family of seven. Noah warned the world of God's righteous judgment.

Gen 7:1
The LORD then said to Noah, 'Go into the ark, you and your whole family, because I have found you righteous in this generation.'


Notice what Job did--it's not that he never sinned, but rather that He trusted God and did what God required in order to atone for sin. Job's habits speak volumes about his heart before the Lord:

Job 1:1, 4-5
There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil....His sons used to go and hold a feast in the house of each one on his day, and they would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. And when the days of the feast had run their course, Job would send and consecrate them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, "It may be that my children have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts." Thus Job did continually.

James 5:11
Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.


Back to 2 Peter 2--

2 Pet 2:4, 6-9
4For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them into gloomy dungeons to be held for judgment...if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)--if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials and to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment, while continuing their punishment.

Each of these men was righteous because of faith. Faith is defined for us in Hebrews as "the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation" (1:1). They were convinced of that which they did not see and Him in whom they hoped.

Righteousness and faith in God and the promises of the Messiah are inseparable. One is never righteous by deeds, no matter how well he keeps the commandments of the Law. There will be some failure, in heart or by commission, and death is the harvest. What is our own righteousness before a holy God?

Isa 64:5
You come to the help of those who gladly do right,
who remember your ways.
But when we continued to sin against them,
you were angry.
How then can we be saved?
All of us have become like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.

Like those in the OT, we are only righteous through faith--and now we know Him whom the prophets longed to know about. He is our hope and the worthy Lamb, slain to redeem all that credited righteousness--to pay the debt owed by them and whosoever will come to Him, to atone once for all in a way that no animal could do. At some point, anything received on credit has to be paid for.

Matthew 13:16-17
But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. Truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.

John 17:3-4
And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.

John 19:30b
He said, "It is finished," and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Rom 1:16-17
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, "The righteous shall live by faith."

Rom 3:20-24
Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.

But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

I am no trained theologian--I know my words are but a pitiful attempt to meditate on so great a thing. But I am amazed at the mercy and work of God on our behalf. I am thankful that He is a God who credited faith as righteousness, and allowed the Son to be bruised for our iniquities.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

This is a Test

What are we doing here? (No, I am not about to quote Rick Warren.)

This life we are now living is a test, a trial, a training and refining period. Sounds like boot camp...and in some ways, it is. The Word of God repeatedly exhorts believers in Jesus Christ to stand fast in the faith (1 Cor 16:13) and to be on guard (1 Thess 5:6). The Word informs us that we're in a race that we must run to win (1 Cor 9:24). We are told repeatedly to test ourselves and teachings we're given (2 Cor 13:5, 1 Thess 5:21), which I cannot help but connect with the command of Jesus to take up our crosses daily (a continual endeavor that is both commanded and empowered in us by the Lord). Today I'd like to look at some scripture about these things.

First, all the testing--whether we're doing it to ourselves, or whether God is testing us--is done out of love and for our (and others') benefit. God wants to make us like Jesus, and is molding us into That image.

Gal 6:1-5
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load.

No matter what situation we are in, be it restoration of a dear brother or being tempted to exalt ourselves over others, we must be ever mindful of our desperate state before the Lord without His precious blood, and walk in humility. Without Him, we have nothing; we owe Him our lives.

"Let each one test his own work." Is the Lord building the house, or am I seeking to please men with my deeds? Am I simply doing what is right in my own eyes, or has the Lord truly led me? If a refining fire (1 Cor 3) was set upon my deeds right now, would anything be left, or would it burn entirely away? If we take up our cross daily and listen to the Lord's voice, obeying His Word, we are building on a sure foundation:

1 Cor 3:12-15
Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw--each one's work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

We are told to stand fast, test everything, and guard ourselves because we have a real enemy.

Eph 6:10-13
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.

Who, in this world, is told to be on guard, to stand fast and to watch? For whom is it vitally important--a life or death issue? To a soldier at war, watching for the enemy. He's prepared ahead of time and knows what to do if he sees the enemy coming. When he does see the enemy approaching, because he has been on the alert, he is not taken by surprise and defeated or injured.

1 Peter 5:8-9
Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

1 Cor 16:13
Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.

1 Thess 5:6
So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober.

The testing and refining, happening more and more as we obey and abide, is purposed to transform us into the image of Christ. We can take comfort in testing and trials: the Lord knows what He is doing.

Rom 8:28-29
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

2 Cor 3:18a
But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory...

Col 3:9b-10
You have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.

When we face trials, God is doing something. Suffering always has a purpose. I don't say that dismissively; I say it to comfort. I can know, for example, that God has some purpose in the fact that I have not had a child yet. I can take comfort in His sovereign purpose in my life, knowing and trusting that He's got a plan and that He will lead Ryan and me in the way we should go.

The early church faced persecution, as our brothers and sisters around the world currently do, that ranged from the seizure of property to actual bodily harm and murder. In those sufferings God was (is) being glorified and was (is) accomplishing His purposes in and through them. Someday, as the end of the end days come, all Christians everywhere can expect persecution. We must familiarize ourselves now with the suffering that is common to the saints, and prepare ourselves beforehand so we are not taken by surprise.

Heb 10:32-39
After you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. For,

"Yet a little while,
and the coming one will come and will not delay;
but my righteous one shall live by faith,
and if he shrinks back,
my soul has no pleasure in him."

But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.

Matthew 24:9-13
"Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name's sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

I like to remind myself frequently of the many, many times the Bible tells me to stand fast, to be on guard, to watch, and to expect trials and sufferings. It keeps me mindful that I am in a war against an unseen enemy, and that I serve a mighty God. "Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world" (1 John 4:4).

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Created to Be His Help Meet: A Review


This post is part of a group review of Debi Pearl's book Created to Be His Help Meet. Molly and Jenna are joining me in a series of reflections on the book. Today's entry serves as an introduction and covers the first two chapters of CTBHHM.

Debi Pearl, as she writes in her acknowledgements, has received "daily letters...during the last several years" that showed her "the heartache and/or the triumph of thousands of women," whose experiences she has used to "identify patterns of success and patterns of destruction."

That may not sound too different from other Christian marriage books...what's the big deal?

The difference is that Debi gives the most relevant, plain, powerful warnings and stories in this book that I've ever read. Debi writes as I suspect she talks, so the book feels more like an intensive Titus 2 session than a self-help manual, which is one of Debi's purposes in writing it (p.15).

I am not even finished with the book yet, and already it has had a tremendous impact on my life. I don't say that lightly; I hardly read books anymore, honestly, except for the Bible. But I see myself in the stories she presents and in the warnings she issues to young wives. The warnings are not general: they are specific portraits of how wives destroy their marriages with the selfishness, anger and bitterness that can fester in a woman's heart over time. (Women, of course, are not solely to blame for everything that happens in a marriage! But Debi seeks here to teach young women how to avoid very real pitfalls that have brought down millions of marriages. It's not a book for men but for women, so the warnings are for us.)

Proverbs 14:1
A wise woman builds her house; a foolish woman tears hers down with her own hands.

How often that scripture has come to my mind after reacting foolishly to my own dear husband. How much I have wanted to change. Now I know that for the sake of my marriage, for the sake of harmony in my home, I must change, by the power of God's Spirit. This change is totally in God's will for me, so I can expect His help! I am so tired of knowing the Word and yet feeling trapped by my own reactions. By God's power I can repent of rebellion, anger, and bitterness, and instead cultivate humility, servanthood and a merry heart. (Please don't miss Molly's old posts about overcoming bitterness.)

Debi really isn't presenting any newfangled idea in CTBHHM; it's not a scheme she devised. It's the plan of God for women to submit to their own husbands in everything as unto the Lord (Eph 5:22) and for the husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church (Eph 5:25). It's the Lord who has warned women about tearing down their houses with their own hands! Walking circumspectly applies to all of life, and certainly to our marriages, which are to be a reflection of Jesus and the church.

The truth is, as Molly has so often written, modern women have been ill-equipped as a generation of women to be help meets, helpers suitable, for men and to be good mothers to children. The feminist movement sold many of our mothers a pack of lies about "having it all:" the necessity of a career, the expendability of children and husbands, the importance of self before all else. The feminist lies have only become more polished over the years, and this post-emergent feminist generation doesn't even know what a beautiful marriage looks like, for the most part. But there is hope for us that is found in recognizing the commands given to women in the Word of God, and obeying those commands. I do not want to be bereft of the blessings that come with total surrender to the ways of our God.

Excerpt from Jenna's entry that I totally identify with:
"More than anything, I had to deal with the realization that there was nothing wrong with serving my husband. God did slowly convict my heart though, when I read through the creation story yet again, this time as a woman. I was somewhat shocked to come to the realization that woman was created in response to man's need....Whether I am crunching numbers like a personal accountant, whirling a whisk at the speed of light as a cook, or nurturing a sick child, I am doing just what I want to do."

I feel the same way, though I have no child to nurture. Everything I do in my house, every kindness I can show to Ryan, is shown to Christ. Serving him is serving the Lord, particularly since the Lord has shown us in His Word that this is His perfect will for women.

Over the course of the next few Tuesdays, Molly, Jenna and I will continue to reflect on Created to Be His Help Meet, sharing with you the insights we've gleaned from it. This book is going to have a permanent place on my shelf. I may just buy one for every woman I know. :)

Monday, March 28, 2005

Code Words

I was thinking after my posts last week about my experience in the International Churches of Christ (considered by many to be a cult) about code words. I made an allusion to them in my posts last week, which you can see here and here, but I didn't elaborate.

By code words I mean terms that are not used in general Christendom the way they're used in the ICOC. This group, like other cult-y groups, has its own lingo. The few I'll mention are the tip of the iceberg.


The ICOC taught me, correctly, that the definition of a "disciple" is a learner and follower of someone's teachings. That is not how they solely used the term, however. In the ICOC a "disciple" was someone who had already completed the eight required Bible studies and had been baptized by someone in the ICOC. A baptism in another church was NOT considered adequate; the candidate for discipleship, so to speak, would be "counseled" over and over--probably doing the "study" on baptism again and again--until he saw the light and agreed wholeheartedly that his former baptism had not been efficacious to wash away his sins. The ICOC was careful not to proclaim itself the One True Church outright, at least not right away. They told me that there were possibly other Christians in the world, but when they encountered the ICOC, they would join right away, because we were teaching The Truth. (Sounds like the One True Church to me...but the loophole allowed them to claim they weren't saying they were the only ones saved, which was obviously a common charge leveled against them.)

Bible Study

In the ICOC a "Bible Study" is either one of the eight studies you must complete to be a Disciple, or a D-Group (short for Discipleship Group) in which many ICOCers get together with a few non-members to try to recruit them to the church. The big difference I see between an ICOC D-Group and a Bible study with, say, Intervarsity or Campus Crusade is that the ICOC members are not there to collectively learn a lesson or participate's a little more scripted than that. Every member is there to focus on a non-member, gather what information they can that might be useful in proselytizing them, and try to structure their responses to affect the non-members emotionally (through love-bombing, for example). In my experience, while of course a focus of the Bible study is to help unbelievers come to know Jesus Christ, the Christians attending the Bible study are also there to grow, ask questions, and challenge themselves and others. An ICOC Bible Study (both the 8 studies and D-Groups) are much more top-down and always have a very specific and personal agenda that the non-members are unaware of.


ICOC members are on the lookout for "sharp" people to recruit. As I mentioned in a previous post, this equates to good-looking, well-dressed, charismatic and intelligent. The sharper, the better, because sharp people will be more successful at recruiting for the Kingdom (the ICOC). I guess they didn't want to consider 1 Cor 1:26-27:
For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty.

Ah, I love that Scripture.


In the ICOC "fruit" meant converts or recruits (a word they never used, of course). Sure, they'd acknowledge the Fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23), but any time you heard "fruit," it was in the context of evangelism. I had been saved probably a few days when my new sister, Christine, looked directly into my eyes and said, "You need to start thinking about fruit." I knew she meant that I'd better get busy evangelizing (walking up to people and talking to them about coming to church--kinda like a "cold call," but in person). The ICOC was VERY good at justifying their stances with their interpretation of Scripture: Andrew, for example, immediately went to get Peter to introduce him to Jesus. This was an example for us to tell others about Jesus (read: about the ICOC) even if we'd only been saved a day. We were absolutely expected to do this wherever we went. It was exhausting to be standing at a bus stop feeling guilty if you didn't talk to everyone there about Jesus!

Morning Star

This is a specific example of Scripture mangling/re-interpretation I remember from those days.

2 Pet 1:19-20
And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation.

I was told that the "morning star rising in your heart" is the understanding and knowledge that the ICOC is the True Church. It took me a long time to see this Scripture differently.

Fell Away

"Fell away" in the ICOC means that you have left the church. If you malign the church after leaving, you are marked (no one will speak to you--actually, they won't speak to you anyway unless they think you might come back). It is difficult to describe the heartache of losing those friendships, of going from such mutual affection and joy to walking past without a look of recognition. That sent me into a tailspin emotionally and spiritually, as at the time I left I knew no other Christians.

I praise the Lord for rescuing me from the dark pit of both my pre- and post-ICOC days. Surely, He set my feet on a Rock and has helped me through every trial.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

I Don't Have Words for This

I'm just going to point you to Laura's blog again--she and her family have been in Florida as supporters of Terri.

Our pastor said on Thursday that this case is a turning point in our nation's history; Terri's plight is this generation's Roe v. Wade. I couldn't agree more.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, Catez, as usual, offers worthy insights. (Thank you, Catez, for your wonderful work for Terri. I am sure you've done more than you know.)

A Meme from Rachel

Rachel from Newness of Life passed me this meme, and I am always one to answer a bunch of questions. You know those "Carol Adams" questionnaires with approximately 1,786,453 questions? Yeah, I respond to those.

Some definitions of "meme" that I just read: "contagious ideas" or "An element of culture that may be considered to be passed on by a non-genetic means, esp. imitation."

Anyway...without further ado:

You're stuck inside Fahrenheit 451--which book do you want to be?

Maybe I could answer this more intelligently if, um, I'd read Fahrenheit 451. My class read 1984 instead.

Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character?

Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice would come really close to that, I suppose. I sho' did like him. And Pa in Little House...but that's interwoven with memories of Michael Landon on TV. I loved him when I was a kid! Argh...this is embarrassing.

The last book you bought is:

Created to Be His Help Meet by Debi Pearl.

The last book you read:

A Different Kind of Teacher by John Taylor Gatto.

What are you currently reading?

I am reading the Bible and BLOGS, mostly, but I am also working on Seeds of Deception by Georgiana Preskar and the Debi Pearl book.

Five books you would take to a deserted island:
1) The Bible (DUH!)
2) AT Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament
3) 1001 Ways to Eat Coconut (i'm sure it exists, somewhere)
4) Pride and Prejudice
5) A Hymnal

Write your own responses in the comments, if you'd like! :) I'm curious.

Friday, March 25, 2005

I Do the Very Thing I Hate

The struggle against our own flesh is so difficult and painful. So many times I know God's Word in my heart, yet it's almost like I watch myself do the very things I have been praying against doing, the things I hate, the things that keep me from knowing God more, resting in Him, and being at peace. I long to be transformed, renewed, but then I mess up and feel like I've been set back--like Christy said in a comment recently--at "square one." It's like I am at war with myself. Oh, wait, I am at war with myself!

Paul knew what I am talking about:

Romans 7:14-25
For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

This seems to be talking about the condition of man before Christ, and I think to some degree, it is. But you know what? That war is still going on inside me. I still desire to do right but find myself doing things I hate (I am not talking here about fornication, murder, etc., but about being easily angered, jealousy, quibbling, etc.).

If we are disciples of Christ, we are being transformed into His image, but sanctification is not a instantaneous occurrence; it's done over a lifetime of choosing to obey God, developing a closer and closer relationship with Him through and by His Spirit. Even though I can know I am a child of God (1 John 5:13), it doesn't mean that I don't struggle with my own putrid, clamoring flesh.

But God has opened up for me a Living Way through Christ. I don't have to be defeated by my own sins, by my own weakness. When I stumble, I can know there is a straight path next to me upon which I may regain my footing, and a Hand I may grasp. Praise God that I don't have to remain on the ground or in a pit:

Psalm 56:12-14
I am under vows to you, O God;
I will present my thank offerings to you.
For you have delivered me from death
and my feet from stumbling,
that I may walk before God
in the light of life.

Rom 8:1-8
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

I find myself battling the flesh and stumbling the most when I am not walking in the Spirit (I know, amazing revelation). When I get my eyes off Jesus and onto myself, almost right away I begin to sink like Peter on the water.

It brings me back, once again, to Jesus' own words:

Luke 9:23
And he said to all, 'If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.'

I pray for all of us, that we would follow Jesus and take up our crosses daily, and that we will resist the devil so that he will flee from us. I praise the Lord for providing a sacrifice for sin so that I am not left in mine!

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Fruit in Keeping with Repentance

Jay (who also has a lovely blogging wife) over at regeneration and I were just talking about salvation in the Old Testament/Covenant. He writes that he and his home group

"somehow got into conversation about the term 'living water' (cross-referencing Old Testament passages) how they worshiped and the different dynamics before and after Jesus such as worship, sacrificing, and sin atonement etc.

For all you Old Testament Scholars... The question was raised: Were the people before Jesus came saved?

My response (because I’m personally studying Hebrews 10 right now) was related to covenants and Jesus' sacrifice resulting in a new covenant from God. Since the old covenant was defunct and because of God's love for us He gave His Son and therefore instated a new covenant. Again the question...were the people before Jesus actually saved?...

Some said yes, because it is in God's character to be merciful, but why then would He have had to give His Son? (Is this just what western civilization likes to think because we like happy endings?"

Ohboyohboy, I love looking at this. My answer is a resounding YES, and I'll tell you why. I'm going to post what I wrote to Jay with more commentary thrown in.

Without question, they were saved. Jay already cited Hebrews. I think the crux of the issue is there.

Hebrews 11:6, 13-16
"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....These [OT saints] 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."

I am no "Old Testament scholar," but I'll tell you what I believe. Salvation--from the beginning--has been by faith. So OT saints were saved by believing in the promises of God. What was that promise, ultimately? Cleansing from sin, relationship with God apart from the blood of animals, redemption...Jesus. From Genesis to Malachi, Jesus was the promise of redemption and cleansing. The OT is full of prophecy, theophanies, and pictures of Him. Jesus is the true subject and promise of the entire Old Testament.

Jay wrote,

"Does this also mean that since the Israelites were the only ones as His 'chosen people' with faith, the covenant and atonement system until Jesus that they were the only ones who were generally saved?"

My response:
Salvation has always been individually by faith, not corporately. John the Baptist warned the Pharisees not to assume they are children of God because of their lineage:

Matt 3:8-10
"Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not presume to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father,' for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire."

Gal 3:5-7
Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith--just as Abraham 'believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness'? Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham.

In Israel, there were always Gentile proselytes, but they had to BECOME Jews. The Ethiopian eunuch is an example of a Gentile who had converted to Judaism. Ruth and Rahab are other examples. These converts saw that the God of the Hebrews was the true God, and they followed Him and believed in His promises. So the same thing applies to them, but they were INCORPORATED into Israel by faith, individually.

Now, in the New Covenant, we Gentiles are grafted in to the vine by faith:

Rom 11:13-24
Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry in order somehow to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them. For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead? If the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, so is the whole lump, and if the root is holy, so are the branches.

But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you. Then you will say, "Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in." That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but stand in awe. For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God's kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off. And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. For if you were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, the natural branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree.

Notice something? We are grafted in and stand fast by FAITH. Not by birthright, being cool, being naturally worthy, etc. Nope, it's by faith. Just like it has been from the beginning.

Our God does not change: He has always looked at the heart, He has always been merciful, He has always had a plan. The blood of animals was a picture of the ultimate sacrifice that was to come--it was not efficacious apart from believing faith that God would do as He promised, and that sins would be temporarily atoned for until the coming of the Suffering Servant.

Heb 9:6-14
These preparations having thus been made, 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. By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the holy places is not yet opened as long as the first section is still standing (which is symbolic for the present age). According to this arrangement, gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper, but deal only with food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until the time of reformation.

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.

This makes me rejoice in the character of our awesome God!

This sums up, in my view, the heart of the Lord:

Hosea 6:6
For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice,
the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.


Gen 22:7-8
And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering? And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together.

Worthy is the Lamb pictured here, who was and is and is to come!

Wednesday, March 23, 2005


For geeks like me who are constantly on the internet, a bit of news about Blogger:

There will be a 90 minute outage on Blogger tomorrow night at 10pm (PST). During this outage we will be addressing power management in the Blogger cluster, thus allowing us to substantively increase the number of machines serving the site.

Hopefully the work they're doing will help clear up all the issues we've been having lately.

What Makes A Cult? Definitions and Analysis

Argh, the title sounds like a college paper!

I have always been a little reluctant to call the ICOC a cult, for many reasons: I loved the people with all my heart, and most of them are incredibly sincere; and they do teach a lot of truth about the gospel, more than many modern churches (it's just that little "we're the One True Church and We're Here to Control You" thing that gets in the way). Regardless of my reluctance in the past to name them as such, though, they are a cult.

Rick Ross, an internationally known cult expert and watchdog, describes a cult below.

Webster's Dictionary defines a cult as:

'1. A formal religious veneration 2. A system of religious beliefs and rituals also its body of adherents; 3. A religion regarded as unorthodox or spurious: also its body of adherents; 4. A system for the cure of disease based on dogma set forth by its promulgator; 5. a: A great devotion to a person, idea, thing; esp.: such devotion regarded as a literary or intellectual fad, b: A usually small circle of persons united by devotion or allegiance to an artistic or intellectual movement or figure.'

This definition obviously could include everything from Barbie collectors to old 'Deadheads,' 'Trekkies' to diehard Elvis fans. American history might also include within such a definition the devoted followers of Mary Baker Eddy the founder of Christian Science, or the Mormons united through their devotion to Joseph Smith. Both these religious groups were once largely regarded as an 'unorthodox or spurious.' However, the most important concern today is not simply who might be somewhat 'cultic' in their devotion now or historically, but what groups might represent potential problems regarding personal or public safety. That is, groups that are potentially unsafe and/or destructive.

Psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton, who wrote the definitive book about thought reform (often called 'brainwashing') also wrote a paper about cult formation. Lifton defined a cult as having the following three characteristics:

A charismatic leader, who increasingly becomes an object of worship as the general principles that may have originally sustained the group lose power.

A process [is in use] call[ed] coercive persuasion or thought reform.

Economic, sexual, and other exploitation of group members by the leader and the ruling coterie.

Frankly, the ICOC has all of this down pat, and more.

A Charismatic Leader: Well, the church didn't believe in spritual gifts (ho HO!! I am a crackup!), but Kip McKean was definitely a charismatic leader--people in the church talked about him like the was the very next thing to God. He and his wife were regularly featured in the church's magazine, Inside Out, and from what I could tell, we were all supposed to be in total, slack-jawed AWE. Kip McKean started the church out of the old, dead COC, and now we are alive! We're so thankful we're not like all those dead churches! Our own leaders (each person has an individual "discipler," and there are many other leaders over them) were to be revered and strictly obeyed. Disobeying an authority was disobeying God. I loved my discipler beyond words...she symbolized to me all the love, beauty and purity that I had not had before I was saved, but now did have in Jesus. It tore my heart out to have her friendship taken away when I was "marked" (church members have nothing to do with non-members unless the non-member is interested in "doing the studies" and "becoming a disciple").

Coercive Persuasion: In other words, how the cult convinces you to do things you would never do otherwise. This reminds me of one of the incidents that really opened my eyes to what was going on. Our youth leader, Kit, was "challenging" us about evangelism. The ICOC is VERY, VERY big on walking up to people you don't know and trying to get them to come to church with you. Kit was trying to get us to kind of "pledge" a number of people we'd promise to talk to the next day, and people were throwing out numbers ("30!" "50!" "100!") in a little game of spiritual one-upsmanship. I was frightened...the numbers kept going up. I honestly didn't want to be obligated to walk up to 100 people and try to get them to come to church. There was a small silence after a few people had pledged, and then Kit looked around the room, clearly disappointed. "Well, I see how many people in this room have faith," he said. Something in me snapped. How many have faith?! I have to talk to 30, 50 or 100 people tomorrow or I don't have faith? Something was awry. But the pressure was there, and constant.

Exploitation of Group Members: I saw some of this myself, and some I heard about from other former members. I myself saw the coersion (a form of exploitation, IMO), the sleep deprivation, and the housing situation (many disciples were required to live with several other disciples and give the rest of their money to the church). The disciples were all so, so tired. Many of them were college students not doing well in classes because they were constantly involved with church-REQUIRED activities. Sure, no one would beat you up if you didn't attend something or weren't involved in something, but you'd be seen as someone who is "falling away" and in need of help or discipline. Involvement was non-negotiable and as demanding as a hungry newborn. Other ex-members describe being told when they could and could not have relations with their spouse and how they could spend the money in their checking account. MANY ex-members report being "encouraged" to give almost all of their money to the church. Kip and his ilk lived like KINGS. My question was and still is: where is room in all of that for the Holy Spirit to do His work? The disciplers did all of it for Him.

In my post-ICOC years I made my way to organizations like REVEAL, whose name is an acronym: "Research, Examine, Verify, Educate, Assist, Liberate." Resources from REVEAL and posting to newsgroups helped me understand what had happened to me, and the magnitude of what was happening to others.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

What Makes a Cult? My Own Story


When I was a new freshman at the University of Georgia, by all accounts my life looked great: I was an A student with a stable home, I came into the University with college credits and a partial scholarship, and I had friends from home who were attending UGA.

But I became involved in a cult, and strangely enough, I can't untie completely the threads of that cult and my very real salvation. That cult was the International Church of Christ (ICOC or Boston Movement).

*Let me hasten to say here that ICOC is NOT the same thing as the mainline Churches of Christ. I grew up in a church similar to that (from the same Restoration Movement) and there are many people who love the Lord in those churches. Right, JP?

I have mentioned in previous posts that my B.C. days were not good; suffice it to say that I was headed to hell in a handbasket. However perfect the honor-student veneer was on the outside, the inside was crumbling. The ICOC stepped in at exactly the right time: I was vulnerable, somewhat alone, and I had a realization that my life was NOT what I wanted it to be. I was not the person I wanted to be. I felt soiled and depressed. When I looked at my own life I didn't recognize myself.

Just at that time, I met Kimberly. Actually, I'd already met her. We went to a professor's party together, and I remember her trying to tell me that the Bible was true. I spat, "The Bible is full of CONTRADICTIONS!" (Mind you, I couldn't have named one. I have no idea why I said that.)

Soon after that conversation, though, I changed my mind, because God reached down and helped me see myself: I saw clearly that everything I'd done was a big dungheap. I deserved nothing and was sullied and broken. I knew, beyond a doubt, that Jesus was real and I needed Him, or I'd never be clean.

Kimberly invited me to study the Bible with her just at that time. I was very excited, but a little trepidatious. I knew nothing of the ICOC; I assumed she went to a "normal" church and that our Bible study was going to be a one-on-one dialogue. Instead, I was met by both Kimberly and the woman who discipled her, the college pastor's wife. Over the course of the next week or so they took me through eight studies that everyone goes through who becomes a member of the church (that's another post in itself).

I became enthralled with the church and its people. They were so loving to me and excited about me. (I later learned this is something done to new recruits called "love-bombing".) The guys in the group showed their interest and asked if I was yet a "disciple" (so they could date me; you are only allowed to date within the group). Something was always happening. I finished the studies and was baptized, a requirement to become a disciple. The ICOC believes you are not saved unless you are baptized with them.

I began to notice how very tired many of the brothers and sisters were--they faked an energy and enthusiasm that, for some of them, was strained. They rose very early to meet or pray, and were required to stay up late evangelizing or fellowshipping. There was a drive to all of it that was exciting...but it wasn't the Holy Spirit.

Meanwhile, my parents were quite frightened. Even my phone demeanor had changed to a fake, monotone voice that scared them. They went to the local TV station to do research on my group and discovered that the ICOC was gaining wide recognition as a cult, particularly on college campuses.

My leaders told me they were my new family, and they gave me instructions about what to do if my parents tried to kidnap me (they would come and get me if I could escape and call them from a pay phone). I began to feel uneasy, but they said that my parents were instruments of Satan since they were not a part of the church. They told me my parents would try to get me to leave the church. If I did that, I would no longer be a Christian.

I had been in the church about two or three weeks at this point.

My parents did indeed try to convince me of the danger the church presented, but to me this seemed to be evidence of what my leaders had warned about.

This is where the "stable home" did have a reward. I am an only child, and my parents and I had always been extremely close. It was so painful to think of them as Satan's unwitting minions. The church had warned me that I would have to cut ties with my parents: fewer, if any, visits would be chaperoned by another church member. For my safety.

Finally, the week after my parents' visit, I left the ICOC. And went back. And then left for good. The pull on my heart that the church had was palpable--I felt physically affected by the separation. I wondered if I was going to hell. It was a long, long time before I could look at certain verses that they had falsely interpreted and understand them correctly.

I want to look at the idea of cults again in another post, but I wanted you to know my story first (this is quite an abbreviated version). Maybe you can see why it's hard for me to tell people about how I got saved: it's so complicated!

Monday, March 21, 2005

To Will and to Act

Many of you know my approach to the Bible by now. I believe all Scripture is true, and it's all there for a purpose, even if I don't fully understand every aspect of that purpose (which is true for all of us--now we see through a glass darkly, but then we will know even as we are known).

Paul wrote to Timothy,

"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Tim 3:16-17).

He was writing, of course, about the Old Testament, but we know his words also apply to the New Testament. How awesome that the words Paul wrote to Timothy about the OT were also true of his own letters! What a mighty God!

Since the Bible is completely trustworthy and true, I don't argue with it. I generally dislike labels (like Calvinist, Arminian, charismatic, etc.) because almost inevitably that label has some baggage I don't want to communicate to others about my beliefs. I understand they can be useful shorthand at times, but they chafe me. I can tell you this: what I do want is to seek to understand ALL Scripture by the Holy Spirit. Whether or not I completely understand what God is saying, whether or not I happen to like what He's saying (in my flesh), whether or not my pastor/best friend told me something different.

I passionately love God's Word. I don't want any doctrine of man to stand in the way of my understanding of it. It's easy (and tempting) to start identifying with a label and allow a certain system of understanding Scripture to color the way you see the entire Bible. I believe, though, that those systems usually wind up limiting our understanding of God and His Word. I'm talking about Arminianism and Calvinism, but not just those. When I review the doctrines, am I on a certain side of the fence? Yes. Am I going to allow either of those sets of doctrines to define how I am permitted to view Scripture? No.

I was thinking about all of these things as I drove to work today and meditated on one of my favorite Scriptures. It reminds me of the great mystery, greatness, and sovereignty of God:

Phil 2:12-13
Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed–-not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence–-continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.

In these verses I see an admonition to continue working out my salvation with fear and trembling before the Lord. I also see--and this was really the scripture I was meditating on today--that God Himself works in me to want to do, and to DO, what He wants me to do (the Kristen paraphrase). I have always found that astounding, and immensely comforting.

This scripture means that I can ask the Lord to soften my heart. I can ask Him to help me WANT and DO His will. It's not on my shoulders! I can take His yoke on without feeling a heavy burden. He is the one who is able to bear the load I would otherwise carry--or rather, that I am not even capable of carrying. I identify with the father who wanted his son healed and cried to the Lord, "Help my unbelief!" I absolutely do believe in a measure of free will given to us by God, but that does not preclude His working IN us. He can work in us to accomplish His purposes. He gives faith as a gift. I see this interplay of our will, God's will, God's purposes, and the work of the Holy Spirit as a great and beautiful mystery that unfolds in our lives as we walk with Jesus and obey Him.

My page has a disclaimer that I am not reformed, which I put up because I'm not a Calvinist, and most of the Christian blogosphere is (or so it seems). I am taking it down, not because any of my beliefs have changed, but because I want what I write to speak for itself. I am not here to teach doctrine, but I hope to be understood as someone who loves the Word of God and lets it and the Holy Spirit alone be her instructors.

Just Before the Hunger: A Visit with Terri

How can anyone claim this woman is in a persistent vegetative state? It's nothing more than a sickening lie of monstrous proportions.

Please read this article by Terri's lawyer, Barbara Weller. An excerpt (emphasis mine):

Terri was sitting up in her lounge chair, dressed and looking alert and well. Her feeding tube had been plugged in around 11 a.m. and we all felt good that she was still being fed. Suzanne and I were talking, joking, and laughing with Terri, telling her she was going to go to Washington D.C. to testify before Congress, which meant that finally Terri’s husband Michael would be required to fix her wheelchair. After that Suzanne could take Terri to the mall shopping and could wheel her outdoors every day to feel the wind and sunshine on her face, something she has not been able to do for more than five years.

At one point, I noticed Terri’s window blinds were pulled down. I went to the window to raise them so Terri could look at the beautiful garden outside her window and see the sun after several days of rain. As sunlight came into the room, Terri’s eyes widened and she was obviously very pleased. At another point, Suzanne and I told Terri she needed to suck in all the food she could because she might not be getting anything for a few days. During that time, Mary Schindler, Terri’s mother, joined us for a bit, and we noticed there were bubbles in Terri’s feeding tube. We joked that we didn’t want her to begin burping, and called the nurses to fix the feeding tube, which they did. Terri’s mother did not come back into the room. This was a very difficult day for Bob and Mary Schindler. I suspect they were less hopeful all along than I was, having lived through Terri’s last two feeding tube removals.

Suzanne and I continued to talk and joke with Terri for probably an hour or more. At one point Suzanne called Terri the bionic woman and I heard Terri laugh out loud heartily for the first time since I have been visiting with her. She laughed so hard that for the first time I noticed the dimples in her cheeks.

The most dramatic event of this visit happened at one point when I was sitting on Terri’s bed next to Suzanne. Terri was sitting in her lounge chair and her aunt was standing at the foot of the chair. I stood up and learned over Terri. I took her arms in both of my hands. I said to her, “Terri if you could only say ‘I want to live’ this whole thing could be over today.” I begged her to try very hard to say, “I want to live.” To my enormous shock and surprise, Terri’s eyes opened wide, she looked me square in the face, and with a look of great concentration, she said, “Ahhhhhhh.” Then, seeming to summon up all the strength she had, she virtually screamed, “Waaaaaaaa.” She yelled so loudly that Michael Vitadamo, Suzanne’s husband, and the female police officer who were then standing together outside Terri’s door, clearly heard her. At that point, Terri had a look of anguish on her face that I had never seen before and she seemed to be struggling hard, but was unable to complete the sentence. She became very frustrated and began to cry. I was horrified that I was obviously causing Terri so much anguish. Suzanne and I began to stroke Terri’s face and hair to comfort her. I told Terri I was very sorry. It had not been my intention to upset her so much. Suzanne and I assured Terri that her efforts were much appreciated and that she did not need to try to say anything more. I promised Terri I would tell the world that she had tried to say, ”I want to live.”

As usual, Catez has all the details (she's an amazing researcher!).

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Saturday, March 19, 2005

So I Met Amy the Humble Today...

I'll give you a blow-by-blow, because heaven knows what SHE'LL write.

First, I will go ahead and confess something to you. You will probably never have occasion to be intimately acquainted with my punctuality, but I'm confessing nonetheless: I am freakishly early for things. Amy and I agreed to meet in Santa Barbara at 11 AM. When was I there?

Yep, 9 AM. So, I had a little while to look around. Praise God, it wasn't raining (just a little misty) at that time, and downtown Santa Barbara, I discovered, is absolutely beautiful. Like an idiot, I forgot my digital camera, so the only picture I have to share with you is the one Amy e-mailed me of us.

I don't know how she felt, but to me she immediately seemed like an old friend.

We met at a healthy-food restaurant, Sojourner Cafe, and sat there forever. Our server(s)probably hated our guts. Our waitress must have come back five times before we ordered our food. Amy or I would grimace apologetically and say, "Um, sorry, we're still not ready..."

I'm going to steal (I mean, um, borrow) an idea that we joked about while we were talking.

10 Things You Didn't Know about Me and Amy, Especially Amy:

1. Amy has the clearest green eyes you've ever seen. They look like the water in the Gulf.

2. She tried to take PICTURES of the MENU for Molly because dishes included tofu.

3. Did I mention I was two hours early?

4. Girlfriend is BOLD. She doesn't mind asking a stranger to take a picture, or an elderly lady if she wants to get in front of her in the Rite Aid line, or the Starbucks barista if he will PLEASE HAND HER A STRAW. And she's got volume to back it up. Don't let her "Prairie Muffin" look fool you--this chick can get it DONE.

5. She is a financial whiz. I knew when she used the term "realized gain" that she is waaaaay out of my league.

6. We are, in fact, not bottomless pits. I regret to inform you that we could not finish our hot fudge sundae. (Random detail: one of the topping options was carob sauce. Ewwww. Amy said, "What's carob?" I answered with a sneer, "Fake chocolate.")

7. Amy thought my voice was going to be high and squeaky (!!!). Au contraire.

8. Amy and Greg's answering machine is in French. I am not kidding.

9. I needn't have worried that we'd have nothing to say, or about awkward pauses. (Can you say two chatterboxes? I knew you could.)

10. Proverbs 31:16 "She considers a field and buys it..." Um, she really does.

You know how sometimes you build up expectations of someone and're kind of disappointed? That did not happen today. :) She's everything you think she is and more. It was my honor to make her acquaintance.

Amy also wrote about our day. DON'T LISTEN TO HER! That whole "axe" thing was JUST A BIG MISUNDERSTANDING...

Lord Willing...

I will post pictures of my visit with Amy tomorrow. You know, the one who's so humble.

She is afraid that I might be, you know, an axe murderer, or a MAN, or something. I hastened to tell her I am not. The other Amy can tell her I am not, for sure.

You guys are all jealous of me! I'm going to get to see the other side of the face of Amy the Humble!!

Friday, March 18, 2005

Terri's Fight Continues, with the Clock Ticking

*New Information Added at Article's End*

I haven't blogged about Terri, perhaps because others like Catez have done such an incredible job (Catez regularly writes stimulating posts that are comprehensive and timely, such as her recent science and Christianity showcase).

But that doesn't mean that I, along with thousands of other Christians around the country, haven't been praying for her and thinking of her as these precious days pass before her feeding tube is scheduled to be removed. CNN is reporting that the House of Representatives has subpoenaed Terri and her parents to appear before Congress next week:

"The congressional action is a last-ditch attempt to block the removal of Schiavo's feeding tube....The U.S. Supreme Court late Thursday rejected an emergency appeal by Schiavo's parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, to stop the tube's removal. Meanwhile, legislation that would keep her alive has appeared to stall in Florida's Legislature and in Congress."

I first learned about Terri's horrific plight from Lisa Ruby, who writes at Liberty to the Captives. She's been following the Shiavo case for a long time--long before I heard anything about Terri in the mainstream press.

Addition (10:30 PM Pacific): Terri's feeding tube was removed today. Please check out Laura's account of what Terri said right before the feeding tube was removed...Laura, who has been a part of the protest outside the Florida courthouse, was right outside. Here's part of what Laura wrote:

"We are now in Pinellas Park, at the hospice where Terri lives. Her feeding tube was removed after quite a bit of tug-of-war between different government entities. But before this, Terri actually said "I want to live." From what we heard standing outside, Terri was asked if she wanted to live shortly before her feeding tube was removed. When the answer was affirmative, they asked her to repeat one word at a time: I want to live. Apparently, she spoke each word clearly, and she yelled the word WANT so loudly that the police officers in the hall hurried into the room to see what was going on! More about this over at The Empire Journal. Nevertheless, they pulled the tube out."

(Thank you, Carmon, for pointing me to Laura's site.)

Let's keep praying for sweet Terri and her family.

A Little Change is Better than None

So, I installed Haloscan comments. They seem to be working. Your (and my) previous comments have not been deleted, just hidden. I'll work on that. But in the meantime, if you've wanted to add two cents (or three, if you're Molly) go ahead and try it. I double-dog dare you.

LISTEN...there's something you need to know:

1. Haloscan only allows 1000 characters per comment, but unlimited comments. If you're verbose, just comment twice or however many times you need to say what you want.

2. Rachel, the guru of my blogging existence, altered my template so you can see previous comments. Just click on "view and leave comments" to see old Blogger comments, new Haloscan comments, or to write a new comment. :)

Hopefully, I'll be moving soon, and this will all be a fading memory.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

On Being a Berean

Well, as you can see, the topic for today is...

What? What's that you say?

You want to know if I am planning on leaving Blogger? Why, YES I AM!!! More to come on that soon. But if you've wanted to leave a comment and couldn't (sorry, Amy and whoever else that has happened to), those days of misery are almost over!

But back to the topic for today (that no one will probably be able to comment on).

Some of the best instruction that can be given to a new believer, in my opinion, is to search the Scriptures and NOT simply embrace whatever teaching comes down the pike, even from a beloved pastor or friend. When we disciple folks, we tell them, "Don't just listen to us; see if what we're saying is in the Bible." Then we show them where some of the earliest disciples did just that when Paul spoke to them.

Acts 17:10-12
As soon as it was night, the brothers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea. On arriving there, they went to the Jewish synagogue. Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. Many of the Jews believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men.

Notice anything?
1. They were willing to receive the Word of God, willing to listen.
2. They were excited about the good news being preached.
3. They compared what was being taught to the Scriptures.

Over and over the Word admonishes us to guard against false teaching, and to study the Word ourselves to ensure we know the Truth and can defend it (as Christy and rev-ed were pointing out the other day).

2 Tim 2:15
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.

Heb 3:14
But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.

Heb 4:12
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

If we will but read (or hear), the Holy Spirit will perform surgery on us with that piercing sword, healing our hardened hearts. We'll be able to see and hear what pleases the Lord if we know His Word and are open to listening to His Spirit.

Eph 5:8-11
For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.

Let us find out what pleases the Lord through His Word, and through obeying His command to test and approve what is good:

Rom 12:2
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is–-his good, pleasing and perfect will.

I submit to you that our minds are renewed daily by spending time with the Lord, denying ourselves, taking up our crosses, following Him, and meditating on His Word. Let us encourage one another to seek the Truth.

Psalm 1:1-2
Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.

Psalm 119:15-16
I will meditate on your precepts
and fix my eyes on your ways.
I will delight in your statutes;
I will not forget your word.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

What Does Submission Look Like?

Jodi commented after yesterday's post:

"If you think about it, I'd be interested in what submitting to your husband means to you in everyday life. What are some examples of circumstances where you would submit but someone else might refuse to? As I said, I'm still learning..."

First, Jodi and everyone else, I gotta tell you that I am not the poster child for this. I just feel like I have so far to go, many times (kind of like what Christy was saying about feeling like you're at "square one" after a petty quarrel). So I write this to all of us, to encourage us and challenge us, not as someone who's got it all figured out and does it right every time (I know, shocker).

To me a big part of submission is recognizing that Ryan is the leader and acting accordingly. He is the head of me, as Christ is the head of the church (1 Cor 11:3), and the Word instructs me to obey him as unto the Lord (Eph 5:22), a phrase you do not see applied to the husband's submission to the wife (the mutual submission referenced in the preceding verse). I am charged with helping him (Gen 2:18) fulfill his calling before the Lord. Part of that calling, de facto, is leadership over his household.

Okay, that's still abstract, and you wanted to know how it works out in real life. I can only speak for my own situation, but for us things come up daily--situations that need to be resolved, decisions that need to be made, plans that need to be implemented. Ryan trusts me, for example, with our finances, and I am the one who enters everything into Microsoft Money. We've worked it out where we don't have to "ask" each other about every little thing we buy ("Honey, can I go to Starbucks this morning? Thanks!"), but in bigger things, we do. He wouldn't buy some pricey gadget without talking to me first (um, generally). ;-) Ryan and I are both satisfied with this arrangement. But let's say that he felt we were spending too much money, and he felt led to take the financial "reins" and (horrors!) halt our Starbucks forays. Sure, I can tell him what I think (respectfully), but ultimately it's my duty and role to say, "Okay, sweetie--we'll do what you think is best." It is his duty not to be unloving and harsh, and to make decisions he thinks are the best for our family and are in God's will.

So many of the specifics are going to depend on the personality and preferences of you and your husband. Some men much prefer for their wives to make the "little" decisions, like where to eat when they go out, what's for dinner (can you tell I am hungry?), clothing, and bigger ones, like keeping track of the finances. Other men like to have a say in what goes on even in little things, and that's okay, too, as long as he is loving to his wife and she respectful to him.

The hard part is being obedient and loving when the other person isn't, er, being everything God calls them to be at that moment. If I am selfish and petulant, for example, it doesn't automatically throw God's Word out the window and give Ryan license to be harsh and unloving. Loving one another with God's love means that even when your spouse is stumbling, you're looking to Jesus (not your spouse) for strength and guidance. We are all responsible to the Lord for our individual walk with Him (we can't blame bad attitudes and disobedience on anyone else, even our spouse who is dropping the ball). Ryan and I have had talks about this recently, as at times (GASP!) one or the other of us drops the ball. We HAVE to be rooted in Christ, deny ourselves, and take up our crosses to do any of this according to the will and Word of God.

I don't know if I gave you instances where others would "refuse to submit." The whole thing is a heart condition: how willing is the husband, and how willing is the wife, to be like Jesus? Many times, either you realize what God is calling you to be as a man or woman in Christ, and you're willing to do as He asks, or you're going to demand your "rights" and, basically, not do things the way God lays out.

Rachel had some incredible answers to her friend Jenn's questions about Christianity--and her response related to this topic, which is far more stellar than my above ramblings, can be found here (the last comment posted so far).

Also, Molly had an incredible series on marriage that had a huge impact on me. It's one of the first posts I read of hers.

Addendum: Matthew McDill also has some insights in his March 14th post.

Guys, I don't know if I presented this one clearly, so please ask for clarification if something seems wack. I am a little foggy and not feeling tip-top, so go easy. :)

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Our friends' son, Gabe, reacting to his first cookie. A picture of pure, unadulterated delight. Posted by Hello

Should False Teachers Be Named?

The bottom line right away: um, yes. But I have a better answer than that.

To get into my topic, I've got to introduce a neat couple who both blog: Jason and Brandy. They're already linked on my sidebar. Jason recently wrote about false teaching, and his sweet wife brought up a question I hear a lot. She wrote,

"Did the Lord really name names, Mike? Think about that before you answer. Did He really name specific names? Groups of people (Sadducees and Pharisees) yeah sure. But specific people's names? And Paul? Did he? By all means, if they did, please provide the Scripture. I make no claims to my memory being the greatest, so if I'm all for learning if I'm correct or not.....I just never remember either Jesus Christ nor Paul (not that they are on the same level) naming specific names as you are suggesting that they did. Oh, yeah. Would you mind posting the Scripture or Scriptures that back your point -- the one saying it's ok to point out specific people and to name them by name and to point them out as false teachers."

It's an excellent question, because often people do not think you can name names. This particular thread had an interesting discussion about Benny Hinn, but he won't be my subject today. Let's examine the Scripture to see whether false teachers can ever be named specifically.

Certainly there are many general warnings against false teaching. Jesus' Olivet Discourse and Jude come to mind immediately:

Matt 24:11, 23-24
And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray....Then if anyone says to you, 'Look, here is the Christ!' or 'There he is!' do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.

Jude 3-4
Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.

Here the Holy Spirit did not name names. There are times to give general warnings, especially when many teachers, perhaps, are spreading a particular false teaching. It's always the principalities involved with whom we are at war, not a person, so we should take care to direct our ire at the lies of the enemy.

However, we'd be missing part of the scripture, and an important tool for keeping the body of Christ clean and safe, if we skimmed over the verses where Paul does mention a couple of people--by name for the purpose of warning the flock against their teaching.

2 Tim 4:14-15
Alexander the metalworker did me a great deal of harm. The Lord will repay him for what he has done. You too should be on your guard against him, because he strongly opposed our message.

2 Tim 2:16-18
Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. Their teaching will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have wandered away from the truth. They say that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some.

1 Tim 1:19-20
Some have rejected these and so have shipwrecked their faith. Among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme.

It's not like these verses are preached a lot, so I can totally understand why Brandy would have the questions she did.

I gave an example in the comments section of their post that I want to expound on a bit (some of you have probably heard it before!). If I found out that there had been a psycho putting cyanide in bottles of Tylenol, and those bottles were headed for a CVS near your house, would I tell you, " might want to watch out. I heard some pain relievers might be poisoned or something"? Or would I say, "There are bottles of Tylenol poisoned with cyanide headed for your neighborhood CVS!"?

You guessed it...I'd tell you specifically what the problem is, why, and how to avoid it. That's what I see Paul doing here.

As for Jesus, honestly, since the Sadducees and Pharisees were known to everyone and taught more as a group than as individuals, I think He was kind of calling them out when He taught the disciples about them:

Matt 16:11-12
'How is it that you fail to understand that I did not speak about bread? Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.' Then they understood that he did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

Brandy correctly pointed out that Jesus specifically warned against them. I think we have the same heart on the issue, but I just wanted to clarify, for anyone who wonders about this, that from the Word of God you can support exposing false teachers.

We can never support doing things--even 'righteous' things--out of spite or hatred, and God knows our hearts anyway. Naming names should be done in a way that is grounded and reasoned from the Word of God, with the purpose of helping God's children not to be led astray from the truth, as Jude wrote. It should not be done simply to humiliate, to threaten, or cast a pall on someone with whom we simply disagree in the Lord. We must, though, know the Truth well enough to know when it is being attacked, and defend it without compromise. Paul is a good example of this love and firmness in action.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Morro Bay--overcast but beautiful Posted by Hello

Overlooking Pismo Beach, by the cliffs. We walked down those stairs to the beach. Posted by Hello

Pismo bird (anyone care to identify this cute guy who was running from the surf?) Posted by Hello

As Unto the Lord

Yep, you guessed it...this post is about submission, headship, and mutual marital love. I thought it a timely subject after our talk about headcovering, where the discussion, by the way, is still going on. It is truly a pleasure to dialogue with such wonderful brothers and sisters. As always when I tackle a subject WAY too big for me to handle in a post, the disclaimer applies (see "Heads and Hair" post). Boy, I need to just tack it at the bottom of this blog!

I'll start by laying out my understanding of the Word of God as it applies to this subject. I am sure that it falls under normal, "conservative" Christian standards, but you can't take anything for granted nowadays. :)

Beginning with the last passage we examined, it's apparent that "man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman, but woman for man" (1 Cor 11:8). In the beginning, God saw that it wasn't good for man to be alone, and He made woman to be a helper suitable for the man (KJV "help meet for him"). In marriage, as we learn in the New Covenant scriptures, we have a glimpse into a beautiful mystery--the mega musterion.

Ephesians 5:22-33
Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh." This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

Notice something? Both the man and the woman are given a charge: she is to respect and submit to him, and he is to love her as Christ loved the church (wow--blows me away every time).

Some people emphasize one of these dicta to the exclusion of the other (and it happens on either "side"), which is mighty sad. Those who "kick against the goads" miss the beautiful picture God is painting in a Christian marriage. We are a reflection, a shadow, a picture, an image of the relationship between Jesus and the Church! For this reason, even though we are heirs together of God's grace and completely equal at the foot of the Cross, God has called women to submit to their husbands, to reflect the headship we already briefly examined in 1 Cor 11 and to be an example to all the world, and even to angels, of God's plan, His mercy, and the beautiful fruit that the Gardener's hands produce.

Look at the example of Christ, who submitted to the Father though He, Jesus, is God in the flesh!

Phil 2:5-8
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death--even death on a cross!

How awesome is that? What a mighty God, yet He was willing to humble Himself to the point where He would call Himself a worm (while on the cross--given prophetically in Psalm 22). My heart is so full when I read that; I feel I could burst. Truly our Lamb is worthy of all the worship we can give Him.

And what is our pride but a bunch of filth? It should be laid on the dungheap, right next to our righteousness (Isa 64:6). If God Himself could lower Himself a little lower than the angels, can we, women, submit to our husbands as unto the Lord, which God has called us to do? Can this be part of our "reasonable service" to One so worthy of devotion (Rom 12:1)?

Men are also called to love their wives as Christ loved the church (oh! Evan had a wonderful, related post here), and that should be just as emphasized as the wife's role of submission. However, I am going to let the brothers handle admonishing one another there. :) But without both the man and the woman submitting to GOD'S design for them in marriage, the picture is woefully incomplete. And remember, while the woman is to submit to her husband as unto the Lord, the husband is also called to engage in mutual submission with his wife (Eph 5:21).

I do want to address something about the Ephesians passage, though, that should not escape our notice: "as unto the Lord." When we consider what it means to obey or to submit, this cannot be left out of the discussion. I once read a book called Me? Obey Him? with which I disagreed at points. The author contended that if a husband asks a wife to sin, she is to obey. I believe this violates a higher law: that we must obey God rather than man if the two are in conflict. We have an example of this in Acts 5:27b-29:

...the high priest questioned them, saying, 'We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man's blood upon us.' But Peter and the apostles answered, 'We must obey God rather than men.'

I believe this applies to women who are asked, for example, to murder their babies, to commit adultery, and the like. We may not sin against God in the name of obeying Him; we obey as unto the Lord, or rather, as though He were asking. He would not ask me to sin against Him. He would not violate His own holy nature. It is not hard, I think, for a disciple who knows and loves Jesus to see His heart on this subject. When has He ever cared more about the jot and tittle than the principle and the fruit?

I can recommend Martha Peace's book The Excellent Wife, and I am currently reading Debi Pearl's Created to Be His Help Meet, which I love so far.

My primary encouragement to women is to embrace the example of Christ, whose glorious humility and loving obedience pleased the Father. Let's throw off the shackles of feminism with its serpentine claims and embrace the role our Father has lovingly carved out for us.

Update and Strange News

Ryan and I went to the beach (again) this weekend. Pictures coming soon. Is there anything that's a whole lot better than walking on the beach? And, as I am discovering, CA beaches are great places to find shells, sand dollars, and COOL rocks (I was an avid geologist when I was, um, 8).

In much more sobering news, I suppose everyone with a TV has been hearing a lot this weekend about this story. As some of you know, I am from Atlanta, so the story held special interest for me. I know a court reporter there; we used to work together as voicewriters and scopists at a transcription company that is now defunct. (If the name of the stenographer who was killed has been released, please tell me so I'll know whether it was my friend.)

Brian Nichols was captured this weekend thanks to the efforts of Ashley Smith, a woman who gained the trust of this killer, talked to him about God, and convinced him to release her (she then called 911).

Dan at Getting Elected has some commentary on this story. I am so thankful that Brian was captured peacefully; I just wish that the whole thing could have been prevented. The things Ashley told Brian are interesting ("'You're here in my apartment for some reason,' she told him, saying he might be destined to be caught and to spread the word of God to fellow prisoners. She told him his escape from authorities had been a 'miracle.'"). I don't know that I agree with that, but I am profoundly thankful he has been caught, and the events of this weekend do seem to have happened by God's mercy!

I am brewing up a post on husbands and wives, which I hope to post later today.

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