Friday, April 29, 2005

Is All Sin Equal?

I quoted Miss O'Hara the other day, who pleaded with American churches to stop fixating on homosexuality to the exclusion of other sexual sin that is rampant in the church. Obviously, I agree with many of her thoughts on the issue; I think it's important to expose all sin and decry its effects on us. There is an inherent contradiction in bemoaning the rise of homosexuality while watching Will and Grace and waving good-bye to your daughter, who's going out for a date dressed like a tramp. (For more on the hypocrisy of American TV-watching--and a REALLY OLD post for this blog--go here).

But does any of this mean that all sin is equal? That there is no difference between one sin and another? Yes and no.

All sin is an affront to God's holiness and character, and all who sin (um, that's everyone) are guilty before Him. In that sense, yes, all sin has the effect of creating a gulf between us and God that only a Savior could bridge. That was His ministry of reconciliation, the message of which we've been entrusted to bring to all men.

Rom 3:21-25
But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it--the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.

1 John 3:4
Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness.

So everyone has sinned and is in need of a savior. Even Mary, the woman who found favor in the sight of the Lord to carry in her womb the Son of God, acknowledged her need for a savior, and was told by an angel that a sword would pierce her soul, too! In this way the ground is level at the foot of the Cross: the vilest pedophile, the grossest liar, the bloodiest murderer can find forgiveness, cleansing, and a new Life--a new start--in Jesus Christ. But for the unrepentant, there are degrees of sin and condemnation, and Jesus warns about this.

Rom 2:9-11
There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek, but glory and honor and peace to everyone who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For there is no partiality with God.

Col 3:25
For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality.

There is ample evidence in the Bible, which I'd like to explore in a cursory way today, that all sin is NOT equal in God's eyes. It's not even going to be punished equally--just as rewards for the saints will be different (and this is the unpopular part): according to their deeds. On one hand, I think anyone can grasp this. Should an unrepentant liar who goes to hell be punished to the same degree as Hitler, who was responsible for the deaths of millions? What just judge would render that decision? God is impartial, completely holy, and both merciful and JUST.

1 John 5:16-19
If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life--to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death. We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him. We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.

There are MANY places one could go with the above passage, but my only point here is that John is drawing a distinction between some sins and others, and admonishes the believers that no one who is following Christ is also practicing sin (on an ongoing, habitual basis).

Jesus warned the Pharisees that they were headed for greater condemnation, I believe for many reasons: they knew the Messiah was from God (John 3:2) and yet fought against Him, they led the people astray (Matt 23:15), they were consumed with a lust for power and concerned with outward appearances of holiness (Matt 23). What did Jesus say to them?

Matt 23:14-15,32-33
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you devour widows' houses, and for a pretense you make long prayers; therefore you will receive greater condemnation. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves....Fill up, then, the measure of the sin of your forefathers! You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?

Believers will also reap consequences and rewards for their works of obedience, the quality of which will vary when tested, according to 1 Cor 3. James warns believers who teach that they will incur a stricter judgment (James 3:1).

As unpopular as it may be to mention being judged by what you do, it's very Biblical.

Matt 16:26-27
For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.

Rom 2:3-8
Do you suppose, O man--you who judge those who do such things and yet do them yourself--that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God's righteous judgment will be revealed. He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.

2 Cor 11:14-15
No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds.

2 Tim 4:14
Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. Beware of him yourself, for he strongly opposed our message.

All of these passages are not just saying that a sinner will be punished. They are punished according to their deeds, or rather, according to what their deeds deserve before a just and holy God.

Hebrews 10:26-31 (capitalization is in the NASB)
For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and THE FURY OF A FIRE WHICH WILL CONSUME THE ADVERSARIES. Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?

How much severer punishment? That statement by itself shows there are degrees of punishment in hell.

SO, if you are still with me, all of this is not to say that Miss O'Hara was wrong, or that we should say, "Whew! I am a liar, but at least I am not an adulterer!" or "Whew! I am an adulterer, but at least I am not GAY!" By no means. Everyone who is not cleansed by Jesus' blood and living a holy life will not have a part in the Kingdom of Heaven. I don't want to be concerned personally with DEGREES of punishment, do you? I want to be with Jesus!

But since the Bible does address the issue, and there is general confusion about it that I observe in the church today, I wanted to address it briefly. It is very common to hear people say, "Well, all sin is's all the same to God." It's not all the same to God, and I think our very consciences testify to us that a teenager who steals a shirt should not be punished in the same way a rapist should. We have this sense of fairness and justice because of our Creator, who alone is able to judge these things righteously.

As for us, let us serve the Lord and focus on His hand at work, trusting and knowing that He is in control--and, in That Day, will do no more or less than His wonderful just and merciful nature requires.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Meeting a Challenge

Doesn't that sound better than "I got tagged!"?

Laura tagged me in this post. While I am not as competitive as Amy, I do like a leetle challenge.

How to play: I have to pick 5 occupations out of the list below and post my answers. Then I tag 3 other people to post their answers on their blog. If I tag you, and you don't want to be a part of this, then that is okay. Just let me know and I'll tag someone else.

The Questions: If I could be a scientist...If I could be a farmer...If I could be a musician...If I could be a doctor...If I could be a painter...If I could be a gardener...If I could be a missionary...If I could be a chef...If I could be an architect...If I could be a linguist...If I could be a psychologist...If I could be a librarian...If I could be an athlete...If I could be a lawyer...If I could be an inn-keeper...If I could be a professor...If I could be a writer...If I could be a llama-rider...If I could be a bonnie pirate...If I could be an astronaut...If I could be a world famous blogger...If I could be a justice on any one court in the world...If I could be married to any current famous political figure...

If I could be a chef, I'd work in Cooking Light's test kitchens. MMMMMM. And I'd take a two hour lunch break every day to work out because of all the calories I'd munch every day. (Oops, didn't I just post about gluttony? Heh, heh...move along, folks...nothing to see here!)

If I could be an architect, I'd design low- and middle-income neighborhoods that are energy efficient, environmentally friendly and aesthetically appealing (read: ALL OF THE HOUSES WOULD NOT LOOK JUST ALIKE).

If I could be a farmer, I'd grow whole fields of nothing but cilantro. And I'd have mature avocado trees. And tomatoes. And lemons. And asparagus. If I had to live on just the food I produced, I would also have beans, peppers, strawberries, grapefruit, Romaine lettuce, and various herbs (did I mention cilantro?).

If I could be a musician, I'd play piano and sing hymns. (Hymns are, like, forbidden in modern churches or something.) AND I would thrash the bass!! I win the family air guitar contest every year. (Okay, there are only two contestants, and one of them is actually a musician, but still! I rock at air guitar! All those years of This Is Spinal Tap and MTV had to have some payoff.)

If I could be a writer...oh, wait. I am, and so are many of you. :) Well, if I could be a big fancy FAMOUS writer...oh, you're right. My message will never be that popular. And that's okay.

I tag Rachel, Molly, and Lauren. You're it.

Feel free to grab some of them and respond in the comments! What would you do?

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Marla Talks TV; Miss O' Hara Talks...Frankly

Marla Swoffer wrote a post (My So-Called TV Life) about television that I could have written almost every word of myself, from her constant exposure to TV as a child, to which shows she preferred as a young adult, to why she gave it the boot. I think I was more of a TV buff than she was, though, and it is a temptation to me when it's around (TLC, anyone?). Unlike Marla, I have the capacity to be fascinated with the stupid reality shows and makeover stories. I know that if I had a TV, I could conceivably watch that stuff all day long, then look up and say, "Oh boy, have seven hours flown by so quickly?"

Marla writes,

"And as I observed an incresase [sic] in movies and TV depicting immorality (and usually glorifying it) and a decrease in restraint/regulation of content, I realized it could pose a real danger to a family by exposing children to themes and behavior that did more than reflect a godless society, but actually conveyed as "normal" a set of values (if you can call them that) held by a minority sector of the culture found predominantly in the humanities, i.e. the media, the arts, and education--the 'communicators' with the most power to influence a culture as a whole through language and images. They got a foothold during the 60s and have continued to dominate the media" (emphasis mine).

Addendum: Ruthie at Grace has been blogging about TV Turn-Off Week in a series of posts.

Miss O'Hara, a new friend, has a really interesting and frank post about sex, Christians, and calling a spade a spade here. She is tired of hearing certain sins decried while others are ignored...she advocates decrying ALL sin and exposing hypocrisy within the church:

"[W]hen we become Christians, we are to become new creatures, changed to reflect Him. That means that all sin - ALL SIN - must be removed from our lives, and that includes sexual sins, since our bodies belong in their entirety to Him.

No, it isn't fun or pretty to let God remove these things from us, but they must go, or we are not worthy to be called His own - in fact, chances are that if your life isn't changed when you are born again, something is pretty wrong. (We are all broken, besmirched vessels.)

It isn't fun to hear. But it has to be said, doesn't it? Because something has to be done. We're being a really poopy light to this lost world, if you ask me. Maybe I'm shaking this rat to death because at least it's Truth, and it's painful, but somehow soothing.

Still, despite these admittedly harsh and not-fun truths, we aren't hearing it anywhere, are we? The only things we hear from the churches are "Homosexuals are evil and going to hell!" I beg your pardon, but aren't all sinners going to hell without Jesus' intervention? Hrm? And what qualifies us to condemn gays when our kids and teenagers and (ignored and anchorless) adult singles are dressing and fornicating like porn stars, when our 'married couples' are divorcing and tearing families apart over pettiness, when there is more than enough sin in our own 'special interest group' for us to deal with?

Hello? I feel like I'm in an echo chamber! I know I've been sticking to this topic lately, but perhaps there's a reason. Very few others are getting it out there (I'm shocked and encouraged to see it pop up once in a while), instead spreading messages to the tune of "Christians hate sex" at one end, "Homosexuals are hellbound" on the other, and Rick Warren/Oprah/Deepak the middle, with the truth (which is way better anyhow) being utterly obfuscated. Not good. Is it any wonder our society is a mess in this area (which spills over into others)? Our churches can't get it straight! We're to be God's ambassadors, people! So let's get the message right, shall we?"

Who You Are When No One is Looking

Don't worry, this isn't going to become a Jenny Craig blog (not that there's anything wrong with that, as Seinfeld might say). Meg Logan left this comment (below), and while I responded to her there, I wanted to discuss the topic again here as well. By the way, her wit here is only matched by her deep and probing thoughts and questions on her excellent blog.

"Did you have to post this? *grumble* Nothing like getting a dose of conviction first thing in the morning.

Oh God has been telling me for a long time now that I need to get my act together about what I eat. Specifically to just not eat to satisfy my emotions. Eating when you need comfort is bad! Food is not a tool for comfort! (I have to keep repeating that to myself over and over.) Chocolate does not equal happiness.

I am not fat, only slightly overweight. I have had bloodwork done and apperhently I am pretty healthy. I use these things as excuses as to why I can continue to eat for pleasure, not nourishment. I am a glutton for soda, coffee, sugar in anyform, carbs like chips, oh fast food, boy just about anything that is bad for you is my favorite thing to eat.

To be honest, food is a very hard addiction to conquer, because it is so difficult to convince myself that it is affecting my life. Like, drugs, you know those are affecting your life, there is evidence, missing work, passing out etc etc... but FOOD, sheesh, you cant even cold turkey the stuff! You HAVE to eat! and it doesn't look like it is negatively affecting your life... (oh am I making excuses again! *smack* sorry!)" (emphasis mine)

I often (most of the time??) eat for pleasure and comfort. Some of the time, nothing's wrong with that, because I make about 99 percent of our recipes from Cooking Light, a magazine I HIGHLY recommend despite some of its New Agey indulgences (you can skip those articles and head right to the recipes). The recipes in that magazine are almost always incredible and you'd have NO IDEA it's "light". It's just good. I have looked at Taste of Home, but the recipes and photos just don't hold a candle to the ART that IS Cooking Light.

But when I am eating out (which, unfortunately, we do a lot), I am a lot more likely to give in to milkshakes, fried foods, and desserts. I NEVER make fried stuff at home and wouldn't consider it, but at Folks those fried shrimp look SO GOOD.

Reality Check: I am not going to feel guilty if I eat a piece of chocolate. I think we can tell the things that probably should rarely/never be consumed (like FUN DIP, OKAY, RACHEL?), what should be consumed in moderation (chocolate, which especially in dark form has some benefits), and what we should make our staple foods (whole grain this and that, vegetables, blah blah). It's just a matter of doing it.

I remember reading a book soon after I was saved titled Who You Are When No One's Looking by Bill Hybels, in which he said (paraphrasing here) that character is determined by what you do when (natch) no one will see what you're doing. As Meg and others pointed out, gluttony (painful to type, but let's call a spade a spade) is not a hidden sin if you gain weight easily...but for some of us who are not considered overweight but still eat gluttonously or struggle with gluttony, it is as hidden a sin as rebellion, lying, hatred and greed. Now that I think about it, though, all of those sins can have visible or observable manifestations, too, or they can be carefully concealed.

I wanted to comment a bit more about the Barbie and Ken fixation that transfixes our culture. Look at what we have here: a nation of gluttons and hedonists that want to "have it their way" at the fast food chain, maybe hit the gym for 45 minutes, and then ogle Jen Angelina and Brad and wonder why we don't look like they do.

The answer is not to starve ourselves and work out ten hours a day to look like Bennifer. (Molly, see me for a pop culture primer, since you didn't know Elton John is gay.) Seriously, our focus should be on glorifying the Lord. He is not glorified when we obsess over measuring up to Hollywood's standards, but He is also not glorified when we stuff our jowls with more and more food.

Ron's most recent post and comment (below) is a great vote for moderation while asking the Lord to help us modify behavior that isn't pleasing to Him or beneficial to us.

"Preach it sister! I agree that we're not supposed to abstain from all things sweet and only eat "healthful" foods. I'm a firm believer that God gave us corn for popping and cocoa for candy bars. It's just another area where moderation is key. Enjoyment of God's blessings is one thing - hoarding them or over-indulging in them is quite another."

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Created to Be His Help Meet: Part 5

As we did for the last several Tuesdays (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4),
Molly at My Three Pennies
Jenna at Proletarian
Karen at Roses and Tea
Sal at Stand up and Walk and I are reflecting on Debi Pearl's new book, Created to Be His Help Meet (which you can order here).

Chapter Nine: Finding Your Life in His

This is a short chapter, but it's a wake-up call to those of us--even we who are ardent anti-feminists--who are still clinging to vestiges of the bitter fruit of the "Me Generation." Actually, because we are Eve's daughters and products of the Fall, we all struggle with our flesh: What about ME? What about what I think we should do? Why does HE get to be "in charge?" (The latter "He" can be directed by us at God or our husbands, by the way.) There is a part, large or small, in all of us that persuades us to think we know far better about any given situation than that guy we happened to get married to. But what is the reality?

Debi relates a situation between a man who left accounting to be a dairy farmer and his "suffering" wife, who wishes he were still at his old, responsible job and not out living some crazy cow-tending dream; she laments the change in their lifestyle to Debi, whom I can only assume she thought would be sympathetic (!). Debi writes:

"Adam commenced his rule of the planet before God created Eve to help him in his life's goals. Adam didn't need to get Eve's consent. God gave her to Adam to be HIS helper, not his partner. She was designed to serve, not to be served, to assist, and not to veto his decisions....God made us women to be help meets, and it is in our physical nature to be so. It is our spiritual calling and God's perfect will for us. It is the role in which we will succeed in life, and it is where we will find our very greatest fulfillment as a woman and as a saint of God" (emphasis hers).

Oh, I am smarting for the feminists who read that! It even shocks ME! But are you, am I, bold enough to argue with God? What is Debi saying that isn't true? Yes, in some senses we were created as 'partners' in life, and the woman is worthy of respect, admiration, trust and love as a fellow heir of salvation and child of the Living God. But Debi's point here is not about worth, but about authority. Are we making ourselves a kind of Executive Board that our CEO husbands must go through to get anything done? Are we the "committee of one" he must answer to?

This short chapter is a challenge to us to redefine our understanding of our role and purpose, both in our marriages and in our lives, for the rest of our days. Consider this: the end of this road called Life is forked and ends in everlasting Joy with God, or eternal torment in Hell. What matters most is doing the will of God. His Kingdom is the Pearl of Great Price and the only lasting inheritance. Why should we moan and wail about who He has made us to be? Is it not better to submit and be molded into the image of Jesus Christ, the God-Man who came in the form of a servant?

Chapter Ten: Reactions Define You

This may well be my favorite chapter of the book, because it hit home so powerfully for me personally. It held a mirror to my spiritual face, and my face was marred. I need surgery. Debi writes,

"Reactions are not premeditated actions springing from our best motives, carefully thought out, planned, and weighed. They are emotional responses, breaking loose like wild horses when we feel hurt, cheated, used, or misunderstood. They are often retaliatory, sometimes condemning, confrontational, or adversarial, and eventually vengeful and punishing. Your reactions break you loose from your social inhibitions and manifest who you really are inside and what you really believe at your core level" (emphasis hers).

Anyone else starting to sweat a bit there? Is it just me? But Debi provides some help here for those of us who struggle with everything she wrote above: we must manage our thought life, and this Biblical thinking will lead to purity in heart and action, by the power of the Spirit in us:

"You can control your future reactions considerably by changing the way you think before you are pressed into a response. The way you think every day determines the way you feel, and it will determine how you will react in stressful situations....The heart is filled with thoughts, and it is out of that reservoir of thoughts that the mouth speaks words of praise or bitterness. When the pressure is on, and the dam of reservation breaks loose, you cannot control what you say, because you will speak from the abundance of your heart--from the 40000 thoughts you had that day, and all the days before" (emphasis mine, italics hers).

Some Scripture to corroborate her points:

Luke 6:45
The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

James 3:10-12
Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.

All of this ties in to the central message of the book: we women were designed to be helpers to our husbands. We can either live our lives as crabby, nagging, inexplicably angry harpies, or we can submit to God and watch Him transform us into joyful, grateful, malleable, servants of the Most High God who, loving Him because He first loved us, are willing to deny our flesh and find out what pleases the Lord. He made us, and He has given us everything we need for life and godliness (2 Pet 1:3). It's not about deciding to be perfect and then never messing up for the rest of our lives (or I'd be in big trouble). It's about submitting to God and watching Him work. We KNOW it's His will, so we just have to say, "Okay, I am willing to be who You designed me to be. I know nothing, and You everything. Mold me."

Are you willing?

Monday, April 25, 2005

Your Body

Do you ever think about the spiritual implications and repercussions of what we do with our physical bodies? Are there any? If so, how far do they go?

Our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. In the passage below, Paul is talking about fleeing sexual immorality:

1 Cor 6:12-20
'All things are lawful for me,' but not all things are helpful. 'All things are lawful for me,' but I will not be enslaved by anything. 'Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food'--and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, "The two will become one flesh." But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

Disclaimer: In no way do I think that passage means that sin is permissible. But that was another post.

The context here is sexual immorality, but the implications of our bodies being the temple of the Holy Spirit are far-reaching. Certainly, there are bodily consequences to sin--in the given example, sexual immorality, they can include STDs, AIDS, and children conceived outside of marriage.

Rom 1:21-27
For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

But what about sins we don't talk about so much? What about gluttony?

I confess, quite often I eat more than I should (what we call "stuffing ourselves" in the South). While I don't think it's quite equivalent to sexual immorality, is it sin? Is it an offense against God for me to eat things that are bad for me?

I don't mean to sound legalistic. Look, I just ate lunch: a cheeseburger and a Coke. Not diet. Coca-Cola is actually one of the very items that made me think about this at all. My husband (half)jokingly calls it "devil water." "It's the total opposite of water," he says. "It's dark, it dehydrates you, it's full of sugar, and it rots your teeth out." He's right. Sweetened colas have been villified as a leading contributor to our nation's skyrocketing rate of Type II Diabetes cases:

"The average American consumes over 165 pounds of sugar foods yearly. In addition, we consume gallons of soft drinks, colas, tea, coffee, expresso, and alcoholic beverages - trading a few minutes of physical pleasure for years of depleted health." (link)

I've been ruminating frequently on the similarities between toxic foods and sin.

Bad Food: epicurean pleasure for a moment, but the harvest is fat and disease.
Sin: pleasure for a season, but the harvest is death (Heb 11:25, Rom 6:23).

How many times have I resolved to eat right, but I keep sneaking back to the Nerds, Fun Dip, and SweetTarts? I think the parallel between sin and all of these chemical-laden, toxic food is there. Honey is good, the Bible says, in small amounts...but there is a 'but.'

Prov 16:24
Kind words are like honey--sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.

Prov 25:27
Just as it is not good to eat too much honey, it is not good for people to think about all the honors they deserve.

Jesus said that it is not what goes into a man that defiles him, but what comes out of a man's heart that defiles him:

Mark 7:18b-23
'Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?' (Thus he declared all foods clean.) And he said, 'What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.'

So I am not talking about being defiled by eating in that way. But when we deliberately choose to gorge ourselves on things God never intended for us to eat, is it glorifying to Him? Can we honestly say that it totally doesn't matter, even while thousands of us are led into physical disease by what we choose to eat?

I hope this doesn't sound at all condemning. I have been really encouraged by people who are choosing to treat their bodies well, like my friend Jim at Berean Blog, in his posts here and here.

Also, I realize that our culture is totally fixated on looking like Barbie and Ken. That's not what I am talking about. I do think that despite the "idols" held up for our adoration via Hollywood, there is a gluttony and epicurean hedonism that characterizes our culture. Like most things I post about, I notice it in my own life too, and want to change. The excuses I make not to change sound too much like the excuses I hear about sin.

"But I really LIKE it! I can't live without it!"

1 Cor 6:12-13
'Everything is permissible for me'–but not everything is beneficial. 'Everything is permissible for me'–but I will not be mastered by anything.

Anyone want to join me and Jim in trying to do better? Jim's already fighting his flesh in this area. Let's encourage him and one another.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Resist the Devil, Draw Near to God

I wanted to write about resisting the Devil, and lo and behold, the scripture directly followed the one I just posted about! The passage intrigues me, not only because it's a command to believers (we have a responsibility to DO something here), but because we're told what will happen:

James 4:4-10
You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, "He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us"? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, "God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble." Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

Notice that we're not just told to resist the Devil, but to DRAW NEAR to God. These commands go hand in hand. As C.S. Lewis wrote (and I'm paraphrasing from memory), we are always either moving toward or away from God. There is no true stagnation; even if we feel we are standing still, we aren't. That's why we must run the race to win and not fight as though beating the air.

How do I resist the Devil?

I think half the battle in resisting the Devil--certainly the necessary first step--is recognizing him and the work of his minions. So many people who love Jesus and want to follow Him are distracted by the enemy, giving into the enticements he presents or the carrots he dangles ("the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life," 1 John 2:16). He is the father of lies, so all of his promises are empty and his enticements phantasms.

How can you resist him if you have no idea what he looks like or what he does? My heart sinks when I see Christians streaming into movie theatres to sit at his feet for a few hours (yes, there are exceptions, but they're just that. Most of what Hollywood puts out is dung: feminist, licentious, pornographic propaganda. People who partake often of it are desenstitized and defensive, but the Hollywood's putrid fruit speaks for itself). Why are actors and actresses called "idols"? It's not without reason.

But lust for entertainment is only one avenue Satan strolls down in our lives. We are the temple of the Holy Spirit if we are in Christ, and when we fail to discern the enemy's tactics and ploys, we unlock the door and open the windows of that temple, making ourselves easy targets.

I truly think that the more we spend time with the Lord in prayer and read the Bible, hiding the Word in our heart--drawing near to God--we will recognize the deceptions of the enemy and know exactly what to resist. And the more we resist, the more awareness we have when we are again confronted by his attempts to deceive us. Pummkin made a great point about this on Alvin's blog, Invisible Footprints, in the comments for this post:

"How does a bank cashier tell a counterfeit note from a genuine note??? Do you think they'd scrutinise every single method of counterfeit or examine every kind of counterfeit notes??? Not at all. They just count real cash, hourly, daily, yearly. And because they are so accustomed to the feel of real notes, the moment they come across a counterfeit, they will know straight away. This is not to say, ignore Satan's schemes. While keeping our eyes focused on God, we have to know our enemy's movement too."

I am not trying to make it sound like resisting is all "our effort." It is not God's will for us to be deceived, and that's why He's given us so many warnings in the Scripture, and why His Holy Spirit is commissioned to lead us into all truth:

John 16:13-14
When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

The Spirit leads us into all truth, but we are not compelled to automatically do whatever is right. We must resist the devil (and our flesh!)--but God will help us. We do not fight alone, and in fact, it is God who goes before us in any battle.

Drawing Near to God

I always think of relationship with God in terms of my relationships with others, in this respect: if they are really bosom friends, we talk often. We look forward to communicating. We don't go long periods without speaking (okay, sometimes this happens with friends, but go with the analogy). I think about ways I could delight them. If someone speaks ill of them, I don't give credence to it--I'd never believe lies about them. I'd unearth the truth no matter what. My relationship with them isn't dependent on my moods and vicissitudes. We've been through so much together: I know them, and they know me. Nothing changes our love.

In the same way, drawing near to God has much to do with communication with him; fear, reverence, and warm love for Him; and desiring to do His will ("find out what pleases the Lord," Eph 5:10).

Someone was recently complaining that she doesn't feel close to the Lord anymore and can't hear Him like she used to, but her life is seemingly so filled with engagements, media, tasks, and...just...static that it's no wonder to me that she can't hear His voice in all that racket. (NO, it wasn't me. But now that you bring it up, I do resemble that remark!)

I am sure we could all identify with having too much "static" to some extent. But when you feel distant from the Lord, could there be a reason? He is not far from each one of us (Acts 17:27), but sometimes it seems He is. While every day isn't going to be a "mountaintop" experience, if we feel distant and can't hear the Lord, isn't it time to evaluate if we are seeking to draw near to Him?

Friday, April 22, 2005

Fresh and Salt Water: Cursing

I just read this post from Carla at Reflections of the Times. She makes a wonderful point about profane/vulgar/crude language that reminded me of our discussion the other day about the way we speak to one another.

Carla writes,

"I admit, when I was unsaved, I had a horrid problem with this kind of language. I didn’t know then, it was a problem, everyone I knew spoke the same way – it was normal to me. It was only after I was converted to Christ that this became a sticking point for me."

I could have written that. My speech was liberally peppered with choice words before I met Jesus. But you know what? Almost the INSTANT I was saved--when I "got it"--I knew by the Holy Spirit that I could no longer speak as I did before. It was part of the New Creature: no more fornication. No more cursing. No more drugs. No more lying. No more pro-choice activism (yes, the Holy Spirit spoke that to me right away).

I didn't have fifty scriptures for all those things; I just knew. It was a JOY to give up those things and embrace the purity and cleansing that was mine in and because of Jesus.

Sorry if this seems too blunt, but anyone who thinks they can curse without repentance needs to check his spiritual pulse.

I won't reinvent the wheel, because Carla's post is excellent.

James 3:9-12
With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.

Clinging to Worthless Idols

I love the Bible's consistency. Wherever you find a precept, you will find other scripture to corroborate it and to strengthen your understanding of what God is saying.

The transience of this world and the things in it has been on my mind, I suspect because I have been making the mistake of focusing on other things rather than God. When this happens to me--when the cares of this life or a fascination with 'things' crowd my mind--I feel tired, irritable, anxious, and vaguely restless. All of those are red flags that I have not been drinking from the wellsping of Life.

1 John 2:15-17
Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love 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 pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.

When does peace come? I know both from experience and from the Word. (See related post: Be Anxious for Nothing.)

Phil 4:6-8
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

There's the prescription right there. I am so thankful that the Holy Spirit is quick to say, "Hey, you're getting a little off course." A ship that veers just a few degrees off course can wind up many miles away from its intended destination. I can tell you right now that I don't want to take the helm from the Lord.

The Lord warns us many times in the Bible not to become a friend of the world and not to covet what the pagans (those who don't know Christ and worship false gods) do:

James 4:4
You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.

Matt 6:31-33
So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

My head and heart know that these words are true. The problem comes when my world starts flying past me, like I am a car picking up speed down a steep incline; I don't make the time for the reflection and meditation on the Lord that I need, and things start falling apart. I start falling apart. It's nothing that anyone else would notice, but I notice. My peace isn't there, and I feel like a piqued bird standing by the shore with ruffled feathers, darting about looking for food with a sharp eye and jerky movements.

Loving the world has everything to do with this, because where do our eyes go if they are not on Jesus? "The lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life." Our eyes fall on ourselves and on whatever it is we want, or whatever the devil has held before our eyes and convinced us we want. Clothes, beauty, children, approval...anything can be an idol if we focus on it over the Lord or instead of the Lord. The temptation to love the world is often a subtle one; we must guard our hearts and fix our eyes on Jesus.

1 John 5:20-21
And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. Little children, keep yourselves from idols.

The world is passing away, but the one who does the will of God abides forever.

NOTE: As has often happened with us, Rev-Ed has posted something similar that goes well with my post. Check it out here.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Online Homeschool Convention

Spunky has the first Online Homeschool Convention up now at her blog. I am totally blown away by all the articles and information she's gathered. Check it out!

Don't miss the First Online Homeschool Convention
Thursday, April 21, 2005
Spunky HomeSchool Convention Center
The Convention Opens at 9 AM (EST)
Admittance is Free but Comments are Encouraged

A Few of My Favorite Peeps: A Series

(The first installment of this series covering various blogroll buddies is here. The previous post was about Rachel.)

I am still getting to know my new friend Lauren at Desperately Seeking Surrender (I certainly can identify with the title of her blog!).

First, by way of introduction, I'd like to draw your attention to this post, where Lauren introduces her family (with pictures!) and shares a bit of her testimony.

Lauren's blog is so beautifully designed, but the appeal of her blog isn't just aesthetic. Desperately Seeking Surrender is the blog portion of a larger ministry site, A Humble Heart, which, in addition to articles and scriptural encouragement, also hosts the C-H-I-L-D ministry site. C-H-I-L-D is an acronym meaning "Celebrate HIM in Life Daily" (something Lauren seems to do, and joyfully). Here's a snippet of their mission statement:

"C-H-I-L-D's number one goal is to encourage Christian youth to truly celebrate Jesus everyday in full obedience to His Word. As in the days of the New Testament church, they would actually turn this world upside down for Christ if they would daily celebrate the greatest gift anyone could ever receive, Jesus the Christ."

Lauren, if you'd like to tell us more about your ministries, we'd love to hear it, I'm sure. :)

Her encouragement and willingness to examine the Scripture are such a blessing to me, and I am sure, to her family. Lauren, I can't wait to get to know you better.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Created to Be His Help Meet: Part 4

As we did for the last several Tuesdays (Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3),
Molly at My Three Pennies
Jenna at Proletarian
Karen at Roses and Tea
Sal at Stand up and Walk and I are reflecting on Debi Pearl's new book, Created to Be His Help Meet (which you can order here).

Chapter Seven: Wisdom While There Is Yet Hope

This chapter is, I believe, meant to jolt young wives into recognizing that
A) many women take their husbands for granted, henpeck them, belittle them, and generally make them feel like failures for not living up to an arbitrary standard
B) many of those women wind up alone, largely victims of their own tongues and emotional distance from their husbands.

Debi publishes a letter and a testimony in this short chapter. The letter is from "Susan," who wrote a derisive missive to Debi about her husband. She laments that her husband allows the children to watch TV and admits that she has "expressed her concern" to her husband and has "nagged." She writes, "This has led to my being resentful and angry at him to the point where I feel no respect or love toward him." (emphasis mine)

One Scripture leaps to mind:

Prov 14:1
The wise woman builds her house,
But the foolish tears it down with her own hands.

Perhaps some would see Debi's response (below) as a radical scare tactic, but I'd have to disagree. She immediately informs Susan of the possible consequence of allowing her "righteous" attitude about the TV to sow such bitter seeds in her heart.

"Just imagine what it would be like if your husband just disappeared one day--no more bad commercials, no more questionable TV, no warm beds, just lots of long, lonely nights and days of toil at a job away from the children....If you continue to dishonor your husband, the above scenario will likely become your own personal nightmare--soon! You describe yourself as resentful and angry. Your soul is slowly being molded into a bitter person....The truth is, you ran him off because he watched commercials you declared unrighteous. You left his heart. And he has left you emotionally--all because of your 'playing the Holy Spirit.'"

It is a fact that divorce happens. Quite a lot, actually. And I bet neither party ever thought it would happen to them. Something changes between the time of vows and beaming faces and the anguish of divorce. Sometimes it's the fault of one party, but many times, both are culpable and could have acted differently in order to honor their vows and save their marriage--perhaps forging a joyful one in the process.

Debi also includes a testimony, a plea from a divorced woman to young wives not to make the same mistakes she did. Time grants distance and, often, wisdom, and Carolyn wants to warn us:

"It never crossed my mind that my husband would ever leave me....Today, I see and hear young wives [taking] for granted that [their husbands] would never leave them and file for divorce. This sense of security seems to give them the feeling that they have the liberty to take their stand, in myriad ways, against the wrongs, failures, and inadequacies of their husbands."

Carolyn goes on to make a heartbreaking list of the things she did wrong and what she'd do differently if she had it to do again. After listing them, she writes, "The marriage strangled to death from the load of mistakes, sin, and selfishness on the part of both of us. One day, to my shock and surprise, he just left....He no longer felt the natural desire to protect and support his family."

Debi asks us at the end of the chapter, "What did you practice today?....He practices his faults, and you practice your bitterness. You are both practicing divorce."

Chapter Eight: Wisdom to Understand Your Man

This is especially interesting in light of Marla's recent TypeBlogs foray.

Although I am just as curious about myself and others as the next blogger, I generally don't put TONS of credence into the little personality tests and categorizations. They can only tell you so much and often don't take God's transforming power into account--but they can be useful where accurate.

I find the categorizations Debi and her daughter Rebekah have formulated here, though, to be quite useful. According to their analysis, men are combinations of three types (with each man, obviously, being more of one category than another):

1) Command Men--quite dominant, born leaders, "known for expecting their wives to wait on them hand and foot," do more than is required of them, courageous, see the big picture. According to Debi, who is married to one, a woman married to this kind of man must "earn her place in his heart by proving that she will stand by her man, faithful, loyal, and obedient. When she has won his confidence, he will treasure her to an extreme."

2) Visionary Men--"Shakers, changers, and dreamers," call people to task for their inconsistencies, hate the status quo, consumed with a need to communicate his views. "Every Visionary needs a good, wise, prudent, stable wife who has a positive outlook on life...the Visionary needs his woman's support....Learn to enjoy the trip....Be flexible."

3) Mr. Steady--caring, providing, faithful, protective, avoids controversy, content with the wife of his youth. doesn't put "undue pressure on your to perform miracles....You rarely feel hurried, pushed, pressured or forced." Debi warns women married to these sweet men, "When you are married to a man who is steady and cautious, and you have a bit of the impatient romantic in you, you may not see his worth and readily honor him."

I believe I am married to a combination of the Command and Visionary man--probably mostly Visionary. I am pretty good at being flexible, but because of pride and stubbornness have often chafed at the whole, well, submission thing. Never the idea of submission, mind you, just the pesky working out of it.

Regardless of our opinions about Debi's categorizations of men, we can probably agree that to have a godly marriage, we need to understand our husbands and seek to be the helper they need, not the helper we designed in our own minds. I pray the Lord will shape us into useful vessels for Him and for the men we are to help.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Talking to Each Other in a Casual Culture

American conversation is inherently casual. In the past several decades, many formalities that used to exist have been dropped and now are viewed as quaint. Example: a child is widely expected to call adults by their first name ("Sally, say hello to my friend Deb," whereas once Sally would have been instructed to call Deb "Mrs. Smith"). Similarly, students often call their professors by first names.

I am not necessarily knocking all of these changes--it's more of an observation of the culture of which I am an offspring. I gravitate to casual settings and enjoy casual banter. I want a cafe atmosphere as much as the next Gen-Xer (or Gen-Yer or Buster or whatever I am supposed to be). I am not advocating a return to the attention to the minutiae of social intercourse that the Victorians had.

But with the tearing down of "quaint" formalities and societal expectations, I think that somewhere a need surfaces for us to be careful in our speech toward one another. I've been thinking lately--and the Spirit has brought many Scriptures to my mind--about how brothers and sisters speak to one another.

One of the first Scriptures that leapt to my mind is from 1 Peter. I think of it often and am convicted every time.

1 Peter 4:7-11
The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear-minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.

I tend to hone in on v. 11--"as one speaking the very words of God." I confess to you right now that every word that comes from my mouth does not honor that Scripture! Help, Lord!

We sing a song at church--in fact, we sang it today--that contains the lyric, "You are God in heaven/And here am I on earth/So I'll let my words be few..." Conviction arrests my heart whenever I sing it, but I sing it with a concomitant prayer that I will become more like what I am singing about.


Eph 4:29
Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.

So I should only be speaking what is good for others' edification, and words that the Lord Himself would have no problem with.


We are also warned by Jesus not to malign our brothers. I know there are varying interpretations of the passage below, but I think we can all agree that at the very least we'd better use caution about calling our brother a 'fool' or any other epithet, at the very least. And as always, with the Lord there's a heart condition at the root of the tree; the epithet we hurl at our brother is the bitter fruit of the anger we harbor against him.

Matt 5:21-22
You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.

I hope you're sitting down. Here's another one:

Titus 3:1-2
Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.

Am I the only one writhing under the conviction? OUCH!! But praise the Lord, because His Word is for our instruction, and He will complete the work He has begun in us as we abide in and obey Him. He will work in us to will and to act according to His good purposes.

How can we build up our brethren?

Eph 5:19
Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.

Titus 2:1
But as for you, speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine.

James 2:11-13
For he who said, "Do not commit adultery," also said, "Do not murder." If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

Psalm 49:3
My mouth shall speak wisdom;
the meditation of my heart shall be understanding.

May the Lord set a guard at our mouths and help us to speak in order to edify.

My First Earthquake

Today my parents and I were eating at Eric Ericsson's in Ventura while my husband and our friend Robert surfed.

In the middle of our meal, an earthquake measuring 5.1 on the Richter scale hit Maricosa, CA. Apparently, it could be felt as far away as L.A.

I can assure you that my father and I felt it. We both were privately thinking something was very wrong with us when Dad mentioned that he felt a little off-balance (I felt like the table, floor, and my own innards were moving, too).

Mom, however, felt nothing.

As you can see from the pictures below, we survived the deadly quake and lived to tell the tale. ;)

A squirrel on the beach with a Peep an elderly gentleman had just fed him Posted by Hello

At the Ventura Pier with Mom Posted by Hello

Art festival in Ventura Posted by Hello

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Me, Ryan and demolished cake Posted by Hello

My father (right) with friends from our church Posted by Hello

My mother and I Posted by Hello

Birthday dinner at a Thai place! (Recognize my friend, Kim from Coffee and a Muffin?) Posted by Hello

Friday, April 15, 2005

Gettin' Old

Well friends, tomorrow, April 16, I will be (*drum roll*) 31 years old.

My parents are in town (have picture, will post ASAP). Ryan has something planned for tonight, but he won't tell me what it is! All I know is, it's an hour away, and I have to be ready to leave at 5 PM.

So far, turning 31 isn't nearly as hard as turning 30 was. I'm kind of getting used to it: I can't eat ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING like I used to (in fact, it seems like a simple piece of cake can send me into a metabolic tailspin!). I'm seeing some wrinkles and gray hairs (!!). I can't drink coffee after, like, noon.

BUT, on the bright side, I am not nearly as dumb as I was, say, ten years ago. The Lord has done so much in my life, and I rejoice. When I look at spry Barbara I told you about a couple of days ago, and when I think about being ever closer to being with the Lord, getting old doesn't seem nearly the all-consuming disaster that the magazines tell me it is.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Paring Down the Reading List: A Clarification

Anne has a thoughtful post regarding her (and our) responses to issues within the Christian community (being a godly spouse, education of children, etc.). You can read it here, and part of it is quoted below:

"I'm also a perfectionist. I'm avoiding reading some Christian materials that I know will cause me to think 'aha- that's the best book in the world' or 'that's the right way to look at this subject!' Because then I'll jump wholeheartedly on the bandwagon, all gung-ho in trying to live up to some book. And then I'll fail. And then I'll get discouraged and beat myself up."

I am really glad she brought this up, because first, I agree with her; second, it gives me an opportunity to expound on my own views about books and other Christian media.

Every Tuesday for the past three weeks, as you know, Molly, Jenna and I (and some new compatriots, Sal and Karen) have been reviewing Created to Be His Help Meet by Debi Pearl (see the two posts below for links). In my first review I told you guys that this kind of endorsement is unusual for me:

"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."

Look, I love to read; I always have. But Anne's points are so important: what is the fruit of the reading? How am I affected by reading or hearing this (e.g., does it provoke me to love and good works, hope in Jesus, or to anxiety and depression, or an erroneous understanding of the Scripture?)

I believe that Christian culture in America is inundated in general with books and new teachings ad nauseam. To be quite honest with you, the book/teacher crazes that rip through Christendom like wildfire often concern and even sicken me; it seems that everyone is always jumping on some bandwagon being popularized by a (usually suspect, fluffy, and ear-tickling) man or woman.

I used to be a voracious reader of both non-fiction and novels, and this post is not meant to criticize or condemn anyone who still is (though I encourage you to be very discerning in what you read). I still read all the time, but I am usually reading

1- The Bible
2- Blogs or news online
3- Some non-fiction relevant to the Christian life that I honestly think is worth my time or feel led to read by the Holy Spirit
4- A bit of Austen now and then (or the equivalent, like Dickens' Bleak House).

PLEASE DO NOT HEAR ME SAYING THAT READING ANYTHING OTHER THAN THE BIBLE IS WRONG. The only dictum that I think applies to all of us who are disciples of Jesus is this: prayerfully consider whether your reading and listening is Spirit-led and is leading you to know Jesus better, or if it's basically just entertainment, a massive waste of time, or false doctrine. (NB: Entertainment is not wrong, it's just something to watch ourselves about. It's like kudzu--it can take over in no time, and its worth is debatable!)

In reading Debi's book, I was doing something a little unusual (I rarely read Christian "teachers'" books, preferring to read a few trusted sources). In reviewing her book one day a week, I am communicating to you just how singular a book I believe it is, and as Molly pointed out, one of the things that makes it different from the norm is its consistent steering of the reader to Scripture.

I believe that sitting down with this book is like having a nice, long conversation with the "Titus 2 Lady" who is missing from most of our lives. You'll get an earful about what she's seen women do wrong over the years that caused them to lose their husbands' hearts, or even just not live the joy-filled lives they could have had with their husbands. She freely admits there are many times she has screwed up: it's not about perfection here (or I would already have given up--as I said in the comments, I messed up last night, not being as respectful to Ryan as I should have been!).

It's about practicing behavior that is clearly laid out in the Word as God's will for us as wives, and by the power of the Spirit, making that behavior a habit that takes residence in our heart over time.

Part of my insistence on spotlighting it, too, is that I am experiencing things in my marriage that I had longed to--even been desperate to--and what I desired had eluded me. Debi held up a mirror (the Word and her own observations of others through the years) and showed me myself, through Scripture. Simple but powerful.

I hope that is clearer than dried mud on a windshield.

Anne, I want you to know that I agree with every principle you brought up, and normally I wouldn't take so much time on something a person wrote. (And I know your post was about much more than my piddly reviews.) But I think that in this exceptional case, the wake-up call to younger women from an older woman is worth the horn tootin'. :)

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Addendum to CTBHHM Review

Yesterday I received a package in the mail from Hawaii.

It was from my sister in the Lord, Barbara Durden, who is in her 70s and is one of my favorite people in the world. You will not find a lady with more joy, spunk, energy, and willingness to dish out the truth in love.

We met online, when Ryan and I were first married. On Sunday afternoons Ryan and I would listen to an online preacher (O, technology!); through the program we used, he could talk to a group of us who were physically located around the world, and then if we had microphones, we could also speak to the group. That's how we met Barbara and Dawson. They called us, and we eventually visited when they came to Atlanta.

Yesterday, my mailbox was so stuffed full of mail I had to tug like I was getting a honey-fed Pooh out of a hole. The culprit was a large package from Barbara.

I took it inside, and what do you think it was? (Yes, you're so smart.)

TWO COPIES of Created to Be His Help Meet. She told me in her note that the book had dramatically affected her marriage (in her 70s! Talk about a teachable heart!), and she wanted me to give the extra copy to anyone who might benefit from it.

How awesome is that? We haven't spoken in a while, so Barbara had no idea I am reading the book already. I started laughing and told God, "You wanted me to have this book one way or the other, didn't You?"

Let's call it confirmation. Now I just need to pray about who needs a book. :)

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Created to Be His Help Meet: Part 3

As we did for the last two Tuesdays (Part 1 and Part 2),
Molly at My Three Pennies
Jenna at Proletarian and I are reflecting on Debi Pearl's new book, Created to Be His Help Meet (which you can order here).

This week we're joined in our reviewing by Roses and Tea and Sal from Stand up and Walk! Welcome!

Chapter Five: The Gift of Wisdom

James 1:5
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.

Debi tackles several main points in this chapter:

- Whether my husband acts in a godly manner, loving me as Christ loves the church, or not, the commands from the Lord to me remain the same.

Sometimes I depend on my husband's mood or behavior to determine my own. Not good. If he gets down, I mope. If he's elated, I'm reeling. I can't live that way (it's a strain on me emotionally, and Ryan feels the burden of his own vicissitudes intimately affecting someone else), and what's more, God doesn't want me to. Debi encourages wives in this chapter to simply believe God's Word to women:

"You can doubt God and say, 'I know God does not expect me to honor this mean man,' or you can say, 'God, I know Your Word teaches me to be a woman who is there to help meet all my husband's desires and dreams. Make me that woman'....Until you embrace that Divine plan for your life, your life will never make sense. You will always be struggling."

She's right. We can argue with God, telling him all the reasons why obedience isn't possible right now and describing all the ways our husband doesn't deserve a helper. But we and our families will pay the price for this rebellion against God. And it is rebellion: no matter what soft, comely language we couch our resistance in, it's still rebellion against God.

- The Bible says what it says. Any attempts to water down God's directives to women cannot be upheld Scripturally, evaluating precept upon precept the whole counsel of God's Word.

Here Debi's really tackling the popular teaching that women really don't have to obey their husbands, and they really aren't set in a submissive role in a marriage (did anyone just hear the hiss of a serpent? "Did God really say...?").

"There are many books written by men, 'scholars,' that undermine the beauty of a woman's help meet position....They talk in elaborate and 'learned' terms about 'the original languages' and the 'cultural settings' in which the words of Scripture were written....I do have a solution. There is one verse they have not yet contested: 'The aged women...may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.' [emphasis hers, italics mine]

Nuff said.

- God's blueprint for marriage is for the woman to submit to her OWN husband, and be subject to him in everything.

It brings everything into sharp focus to realize that I am only called to be Ryan's helper. Not the pastor's, not any man or woman on the internet, not my friend's, not my father's. He is my head.

He doesn't deserve it. I didn't deserve the blood of Christ, either, but did He withhold Himself because I wasn't worthy? Or did he come in the form of a servant?

Phil 2:5-8
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Dare I raise my head in pride and grumble about having to serve a man? Or is it my privilege to imitate my Savior?

- Wisdom is a gift.
I can't earn it, and James 1:5 says I can ask for it and God will give it to me! Help me, Lord!

Chapter Six: The Beginning of Wisdom

God tells us at least three times in His Word that fear is the beginning of wisdom (Ps 111:10, Prov 9:10, 1:7). As Debi says, "Anything God says three times is worth heeding."

The fear of the Lord is not just "respect" or "reverence," as is often bandied about today. Please see Christian Conservative's great post here to read more about the fear of God.

I saw a lot of pathos in this chapter; Debi writes about the many older women she's seen who are, to put it mildly, not teachable. They are bitter and hardened, tearing their house down with their own hands.

"I saw that my advice needed to be directed to those young wives who are still trying to find their way. While still young, they need to be warned, and they need an instruction manual to prevent them from growing into bitter, crazy old women."

The fruit of this "instruction manual" is growing in my life. Have I stumbled? YES. But like I said in previous posts--and as Debi says at the end of the book--my life will never be the same. Once your eyes are opened, there is no closing them; what you've already seen is burned on your mind and heart. A change is occurring in my marriage, and Debi's words have helped catalyze it.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Fixing Our Eyes

Yes, there's a pun intended.

Quite regularly (okay, practically every day) I go through, at some point, some depressing navel-gazing. I don't realize I am doing it: I start thinking about how I screwed something up, or how someone else screwed something up, or how I am generally, well, screwed up. I feel my heart constrict within me, and I feel saddened and anxious. Tense. What should I do? How can any of it be fixed? I feel broken beyond repair.

Right about that time I realize that I am totally focused on the wrong thing and am listening to the wrong voice. My eyes need to be fixed, because they're locked on the wrong course; and they need to be fixed onto Jesus Christ.

Heb 12:1-3
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

The Spirit of God reminds me, as I start to sink into depression (looking at MYSELF), that I am suffering needlessly and in the flesh because I am refusing to look at JESUS!

When I deliberately stop moping and remember Him, when I think of what He did and who He is, the cloud invariably lifts.

Jesus said that it matters a WHOLE LOT what I "see":

Matt 6:22-23
The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

AND, like the awesome God He is, He gives me understanding about what I should think about. My thoughts, by the way, are a choice. When I start navel-gazing and the Spirit helps me recognize that's what I am doing, I then have a CHOICE to either sink back into depressing "self-examination", or to lift my eyes to God and think on what He's commanded me.

Phil 4:4-9
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me--practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

Col 3:1-3
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.

I am thankful that God doesn't leave me hanging. He doesn't give a "don't" without a "do." I am thankful that He pulls me out of the mire and shows me, for the zillionth time, the Way.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

A Few of My Favorite Peeps

Now, I can guarantee you that this will be a series. Lord willing. :)

I've been adding to my blogroll for a while, and it's slowly dawning on me that everyone doesn't know each other. I am the kind of person who assumes that people know how to get to my house if I am having a party (what? you need directions?), or that you've met my Aunt Betty, even if you haven't known me that long.

From time to time, then, I will be highlighting someone on my blogroll, just so you know more about them. I'll try to include a fun detail or a link to a representative or favorite post of theirs.

My first victim buddy I'll highlight is Rachel from Newness of Life. I'll admit to you right now that although I met Rachel probably a month and a half ago, I talk to her almost every day.

She recently had the wonderful experience of hearing the Lord call her back to the straight and narrow path, and the Lord saw fit right about that time to make us buddies. Don't miss Rachel's post about Chapter Summaries. It's a great way to systematically study the Bible.

Rachel is a voracious reader (she shares my passion for Austen, and for P&P in particular), she's a html whiz who graciously made my template for me when I grumbled about my old one (innocently--I really didn't know she could do that!), and she is a math nerd (there's where we part ways).

She can even make recipes a fascinating read; she's seriously one of the wittiest people I've ever met. No wonder she enjoys Elizabeth Bennet.

Ome more thing: she's an incredible photographer. INCREDIBLE. She got a Nikon recently and devoted a whole blog to its fruit. My favorite pictures are here, here, here, and here.

All that is to say, in the words of Prince Humperdinck, "Love her as I loved her, and there WILL BE JOY." (Please, please tell me you know where that quote comes from...)

Friday, April 08, 2005

Oh Yeah, That's Me

This just goes to show how hard it is to put someone in a box! (Or is it just I who is a perpetual square peg in a round hole?) I took this quiz and, as I told Joe, was muttering at the screen like a madwoman. Some of my beliefs were simply NOT THERE, so I had to choose the closest one. I would have thought that numbers 3 or 4 would be my number one...and there wasn't even a headcovering question!

Thanks, Joe, for bringing this up.

1: Anabaptist (Mennonite/Quaker etc.) (100%)
2: Baptist (non-Calvinistic)/Plymouth Brethren/Fundamentalist (89%)
3: Pentecostal/Charismatic/Assemblies of God (89%)
4: Methodist/Wesleyan/Nazarene (82%)
5: Church of Christ/Campbellite (78%)
6: Seventh-Day Adventist (70%)
7: Congregational/United Church of Christ (65%)
8: Baptist (Reformed/Particular/Calvinistic) (64%)
9: Presbyterian/Reformed (44%)
10: Eastern Orthodox (40%)
11: Lutheran (36%)
12: Anglican/Episcopal/Church of England (29%)
13: Roman Catholic (25%)

Bearing with One Another

Sometimes it's hard to live with one another day to day. I'm not talking about our internet "community," because while we share ideas and are able to love one another, to a degree, from a distance, we don't see each other's pesky mugs day in and day out. We don't dine at meals together; we don't solve problems together; we don't witness each others' idiosyncracies. (Perhaps these thoughts are partially stemming from here).

The difficulty I am talking about is that which arises from daily intimacy with people in person. And no, I am not really talking about spouses.

Look at the early church in Acts:

Acts 4:42-47
And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

Doesn't that sound wonderful? Isn't that what our hearts long for?

But this side of heaven, we and our brethren will struggle with the flesh. As we spend time with one another, at times our flesh will rise up--and we'll be irritable, frustrated, or even angry with our brother or sister, a fellow heir to the Kingdom.

Phil 4:2-3
I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you, loyal yokefellow, help these women who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.

I have always found this passage very interesting. Obviously, these two women had a disagreement, and it wasn't a case where one was grievously at fault and the other innocent, nor was it a huge topic that Paul needed to address in his epistle. He just wanted them to put the issue aside, with all its concomitant bitterness and division, and agree with one another in the Lord.

Don't get me wrong, please--this is not an ecumenical call for all of us to "put our differences aside," because, sorry, some of those differences are really important. I am writing here about our lives with the people closest to us, though not necessarily family (though I am sure it applies there, too!). Where we have carnal or insignificant differences with brethren, we are commanded and exhorted to lay those aside.

What's the root, anyway, of allowing these petty differences or dissimilarities to fester in our hearts? Pride. Stubbornness. Refusal to die to self.

Col 3:12-14
Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.

I'll tell you right now that "as the Lord has forgiven you" strikes a holy fear in my heart. I've been forgiven of a lot. Dare I harbor bitterness?

Eph 4:1-4
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit--just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call--one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

Rather than being eager to hold on to my cherished "right" to be angry/irritated/(insert derogatory adjective here), I do believe I am supposed to lay it aside, to throw it into the sea of forgetfulness, because of what Jesus did for me.

"Bearing with one another" means, to me, that what I will have to lay aside isn't necessarily a one-time thing. If someone exhibits a behavior, for example, that is particularly irritating to me, and that person is my brother, it is my responsibility and obligation to continue to lay that aside, dying to it rather than watering the seed of bitterness.

Jesus had strong teaching about forgiveness.

Matt 18:21-35
Then Peter came up and said to him, "Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?" Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.

Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, 'Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.' And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, 'Pay what you owe.' So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, 'Have patience with me, and I will pay you.' He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. Then his master summoned him and said to him, 'You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?' And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart."

I really wrote this to myself. I have a tendency to let little things build up over time with someone, and have been going through a particular trial in this area. I pray that the Lord will help me (and you!) to see things His way, and to remember the GREAT DEBT which was forgiven us if we are in Jesus. When I look at the mountain of my sin that was forgiven versus the molehill of the problem with my brother, well, it just brings the whole situation into focus.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Why We Must Watch

Dave Black posted something today I want to share with you as I offer my own thoughts.

From what I have said on this website for the past three years now, you know I am convinced that hard and testing days lie ahead for the church in America, the more so because the prophecy about the false shepherds in the sheepfold will be amply fulfilled, indeed is being fulfilled already. How beautiful, then, to see so many induced these days to live in the reality of Christ abstemiously -- rather than indulging in what Pascal called "licking the earth." They are reading the Bible with a voracious appetite (and related literature as well), and they know Jesus Christ and follow His way, even if that means inconvenience of a major sort. Like Bunyan's Pilgrim, they go withersoever the true path leads -- sometimes through pleasant pastures, at other times over gigantic hills, at still other times into sloughs and valleys of the shadow of death. But in their eyes there is always the vision of the Celestial City, not just in prospect, but in glorious and daily reality.

You fellow citizens of a heavenly kingdom, I applaud you with joy and honor, for it is to you that these web musings are primarily directed. You are precious friends and fellow travelers.

May you continue to refuse the Unholy Grail. (emphasis mine)

This post might wind up being a series, because my heart is so full on this subject. We could go many directions from here with our discussion: false teachers, end times, watching to stand fast in the faith. I think I'd like to talk a little about the last two today: keeping watch because of the end times.

Below I have quoted most of Matthew 24, a passage I consider very important for understanding what we can expect as the parousia (Second Coming) draws near. I am not going to delve today into all I believe about the end times--that'll be another post.

Matt 24:3-27
As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, 'tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the close of the age?' And Jesus answered them, 'See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, "I am the Christ," and they will lead many astray. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains.

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. And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let the one who is on the housetop not go down to take what is in his house, and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a Sabbath. For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short. 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. See, I have told you beforehand. So, if they say to you, "Look, he is in the wilderness," do not go out. If they say, "Look, he is in the inner rooms," do not believe it. For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.

Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

First and foremost, why is Jesus saying these things?
- v.4 So that "no one leads you astray" (misleads or deceives you) This tells us that the enemy will indeed seek to deceive us on this issue. Jesus doesn't warn for nothing.

So what can we expect?
- False Christs/prophets who lead many astray (popular, not rare)
- Wars and rumors of wars
- Famines and earthquakes
- Tribulation and hatred toward Christians, who will be martyred
- An increase in lawlessness (I see this being particularly fulfilled in our day)
- A Great Tribulation that is worse than anything the world has ever seen
- A Second Coming that everyone will see and hear (not a secret coming, but I won't get into that now)

And those are just some of the indications of the end times. I believe as the end draws nearer, those things will increase in frequency and magnitude, as it says lawlessness will.

(By the way, I think about "lawlessness" a lot. Have you noticed that more and more people attempt to eek by the traffic light after it's red? That too is lawlessness--a disregard for law (especially God's Law), and choosing to do your own will instead of obeying God. It's amazing to watch this playing out in our society. Scripture is being fulfilled before our eyes as "each man does what is right in his own eyes.")

And notice, later in Matthew 24, what Jesus tells the disciples to make sure they are doing:

Matt 24:36-51
But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. As were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. But if that wicked servant says to himself, 'My master is delayed,' and begins to beat his fellow servants and eats and drinks with drunkards, the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know and will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Jesus goes on in Matthew 25 to tell the parable of the Ten Virgins. Short synopsis: five were ready when the Bridegroom came; five were not. Only the prepared five went with the bridegroom and had entry to the wedding feast.

We do not know the day or hour, but will Christians be ignorant of the times? Will we be utterly taken by surprise? I say no, based on this passage:

1 Thessalonians 5 discusses the Day of the Lord; the same image of a thief is used. The world will be marrying and giving in marriage, in utter ignorance that the end has come, but Christians, who were warned ahead of time in the Bible what is to come, will be watching.

1 Thess 5:1-6
Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, "There is peace and security," then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober.

We are not in darkness that any of the enemy's schemes should take us by surprise (2 Cor 2:11)! The admonition to watch applies just as much to our everyday lives as it does to the end times.

There is MUCH more to say regarding the timing of things as the end draws near, but for today I just wanted to agree with Dave and exhort everyone to keep watching. Regardless of your eschatological beliefs--if we all hold fast to Jesus no matter what happens, no matter what tribulation or terror befalls us, we will one day rejoice with Him face to face!

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