Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Coming Out of Legalism

Legalism is one of those terms that is bandied about often, but is rarely used correctly. I have been accused more than once of legalism for simply obeying the Word of God, or for following my own convictions based on the Word of God. Obeying God, listening to His voice, and following your convictions based on His Word are not legalism.

Legalism is adding commands to the Bible and treating those commands as God-given. The Pharisees were experts at this, and for what it's worth, I believe that their intentions were probably good at the outset. Many of the rules that they made that were not a part of Torah were conceived as a "fence around the Torah"; the idea was, if you never break the command that is not in Torah, then you'll never come close to breaking the command that's actually in Torah.

From Judaism for Beginners:

" Chapter 1, Mishnah 1, from Pirkei Avos:

'Moses received the Torah at Sinai, and passed it on to Joshua, Joshua to the Elders, the Elders to the Prophets, the Prophets passed it on to the Men of the Great Assembly, who said three things: Be patient in the administration of justice; raise up many disciples; and make a fence around the Torah.'

I'd like to focus on 'make a fence around the Torah.' God gave us many instructions in the Torah. All of God's orders, or "mitzvahs," are designed to make our lives better. When we buy a new computer system, there is a handbook which includes instructions. It would be foolish of us to try to handle the computer system without regard to the accompanying manual ('Oh, I don't need that, I know what I'm doing'). Yet, so many of us try to live our lives by doing only what 'feels' good, and we disregard God's instructions, or make exceptions. Our wise sages often felt the need to add 'fences' around the mitzvahs in order to protect us from making mistakes, or misunderstanding, or dispensing with them altogether."

Sounds reasonable. We should stay as far from sin as possible--who could argue with a little help, a few more boundaries just to make sure we don't break the commandments?

The problem is this: I see several places in the Bible that, I believe, contradict this fence-building notion, however well-intentioned it may have been. I'll give a few of the examples I see and comment on legalism in my own life.

Jesus rebuked the Pharisees, who were interested in their own "holy" appearance before men rather than their standing with God. They made sure everyone saw their "piety," and they took advantage of those close to God's heart, such as the widows. The passage below speaks to all of these issues. It's interesting to me that Jesus was not as interested in the myriad "traditions of the fathers" as He was the heart of each person before God.

Matt 15:1-9
Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, 'Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat.' He answered them, 'And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? For God commanded, 'Honor your father and your mother,' and, 'Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.' But you say, 'If anyone tells his father or his mother, What you would have gained from me is given to God, he need not honor his father.' So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God. You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said:

'This people honors me with their lips,
but their heart is far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines the commandments of men

Note that He contrasts the traditions with God's commandments. They are not one and the same. God's commands are recorded in His Word and do not change. Dare we add to them?

Rev 22:18
I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.

He who testifies to these things says, 'Surely I am coming soon.' Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!

It is my opinion that this principle of neither adding to or detracting from God's Word applies to the whole of Scripture as well as Revelation.

God desires us to hear His Words and diligently follow them. His sheep hear His voice; obviously, His voice will always agree with the Bible, as it is God-breathed.

Deut 4:9-14
"Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children's children--how on the day that you stood before the LORD your God at Horeb, the LORD said to me, 'Gather the people to me, that I may let them hear my words, so that they may learn to fear me all the days that they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children so.' And you came near and stood at the foot of the mountain, while the mountain burned with fire to the heart of heaven, wrapped in darkness, cloud, and gloom. Then the LORD spoke to you out of the midst of the fire. You heard the sound of words, but saw no form; there was only a voice. And he declared to you his covenant, which he commanded you to perform, that is, the Ten Commandments, and he wrote them on two tablets of stone. And the LORD commanded me at that time to teach you statutes and rules, that you might do them in the land that you are going over to possess.

John 10:2-5
"Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers."

There is a balance to understanding obedience and freedom. The Lord warns us against doing what is right in our own eyes; there is no license to go wherever our flesh leads. In fact, that sounds a lot like the broad way to destruction, and "many go that way." However, on the other hand, we do have freedom in Christ. Even as we abide in the shadow of His wings, there will be differences between us--matters of conscience and interpretation that are within the parameters of His Word. I believe that to distinguish between good and evil, we must be consistently (daily) meditating on the Lord and His Word, and be open to the working of His Spirit in us.

Rom 12:2
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Rom 14:10-19
Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written,

'As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,
and every tongue shall confess to God.'

So then each of us will give an account of himself to God. Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.

Those of you who know me also know that I am not promoting licentiousness with this line of thinking (see my post on judging).

I called this post "Coming Out of Legalism" because in my own life, I've been bound by it at times. I think that most believers--true disciples who are intensely interested in finding out what pleases the Lord (Eph 5:8-9) and obeying Him (John 15:14)--run into this problem, probably many times. We must guard against making our own 'rules' for ourselves and others in the name of radical obedience.

Please hear me: I love obedience, because the Lord says this is how I am His friend and shows that I truly love Him. But I want to stay in step with the Lord, because the enemy is prowling and is clever. He knows that one of the best ways to trip up a disciple is legalism in the guise of radical obedience.

Here's a litmus test that has been helpful for me: can I simply obey my conscience in this area, or am I constantly pointing mental fingers at people regarding this disputable matter? Am I judging my brother over something that is not in the Scripture (insert topic here)? Paul used meat as an example; we could use dresses or music as examples. There is never anything wrong with taking a stand of conscience unless it is A) unprompted by the Holy Spirit and B) causes you to look down on your brethren spiritually.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Where the Worm Does Not Die

Recently some questions about hell have come to the fore, particularly at Evangelical Update in this post, where Chris wrote, "Maybe someone can blog on the topic of where in the Bible the issue of eternal damnation is mentioned."

I'll briefly examine here what I believe the Bible has to say about hell. Honestly, I think it's really clear; I think that people don't like the idea of hell, so they try to remake it into annihilation or into a fantasy where everyone goes to heaven. These fly in the face of God's justice, holiness and perfection.

Hell was not made for people, but for the rebellious angels who rejected the Lord and were cast out of heaven (they know they are going there at the appointed time):

Matt 25:41 (Jesus talking)
"Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels."

2 Peter 2:4-10
For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment; if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard); then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority.

Matt 8:28-29
When he arrived at the other side in the region of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men coming from the tombs met him. They were so violent that no one could pass that way. 'What do you want with us, Son of God?' they shouted. 'Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?'

Hell is eternal:

Mark 9:42-48 (Jesus speaking)
"And if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck. If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, where
" 'their worm does not die,
and the fire is not quenched.'"

Revelation 14:9-11
And another angel, a third, followed them, saying with a loud voice, "If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he also will drink the wine of God's wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name."

It probably needs to be reiterated about the former passage that Jesus is NOT talking about literally cutting off your hand, foot, or gouging out your eye. While he is making an analogy here, I don't believe the analogy extends to hell, a place Jesus referred to often in his teachings.

I think of this one often:

Matt 10:28
And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

Jesus spoke to the Pharisees about where their practices and hearts were leading them. This passage flouts the teachings of those who want to present Jesus as a frail teacher who would never speak a harsh word to anyone. With many sinners, He was gentle, but He was angered at the hypocrisy of the teachers of the Law who were leading the people astray. The passage, and the one below it, also demonstrate that hell is the place the rebellious are sentenced to at the Judgment:

Matt 23:29-33
"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous, saying, 'If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.' Thus you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell?"

Matt 25:31-46
"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.' Then the righteous will answer him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?' And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.'

Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.' Then they also will answer, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?' Then he will answer them, saying, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.' And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."

More passages that demonstrate the reality and nature of hell are below. In Luke 16 Jesus talks about Lazarus and the rich man:

"There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man's table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.

The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried. In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, 'Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.'

But Abraham replied, 'Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.'

He answered, 'Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father's house, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.' Abraham replied, 'They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.'

'No, father Abraham,' he said, 'but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.' He said to him, 'If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.'

Again, hell has much to do with God's judgment--His place as the just Judge. His heart is with the oppressed and poor, and those who have been taken advantage of will be avenged by Him:

James 5:2-4
Your wealth is rotting away, and your fine clothes are moth-eaten rags. Your gold and silver have become worthless. The very wealth you were counting on will eat away your flesh in hell. This treasure you have accumulated will stand as evidence against you on the day of judgment. For listen! Hear the cries of the field workers whom you have cheated of their pay. The wages you held back cry out against you. The cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty.

Greg wrote something I agree with in the comments at EU (below). I don't go around trying to evangelize by telling people they're heading for hell if they do not repent, unless the Spirit prompts me to do so, which is rare for me personally. I support preachers who teach about hell, though--they should. Jesus mentioned it quite often. I think that we should be honest about what hell is and why people go there. Jesus said it in a passage above: those who are consigned there are workers of lawlessness, who refused to repent and obey God.

Romans 1 lets us know that everyone is without excuse. I've realized after lots of conversation with many atheists that they are angry with God in some way--it's not so much that they totally can't conceive of the notion, though that's what they say at first. The idea of hell, or something hurtful that has happened to them or to a loved one has made them angry with God...and that's a far cry from really not believing He exists.

"I don't think anyone is going to "come to faith" by having their understanding of Hell clarified. It is not the removal of mental obstacles that brings us to faith and repentance. It is a terrifying encounter with God’s holiness, the devastating realization of my own sinfulness, and the awesome reality of God’s free gift in Jesus Christ.

Hell makes perfect sense in light of God's holiness. His holiness is not His majesty; it is that which completely separates us from Him in our (un)natural condition. Chris, you said, 'We're trying to understand how/why someone would be condemned there,' and that is precisely what I am getting at by saying we must understand His holiness before we will understand Hell."

Thursday, May 26, 2005

On a Thirst for Authenticity, and Avoiding Dumb Rules

Last week I posted about the Emergent movement for the first time (1, 2, and 3). There's some lingering things out there, from the comments and from other pieces I've read, that I'd like to address.

Keith wrote,

"You're right: emergent outreaches DO tend to differentiate themselves from traditional churches even in their naming, because post-modern people encounter only modern approaches in them - and no connection is made. "Different" is not always "sinful." Maybe what we need to be doing is examining scriptural approaches that do reach post-modern people, and incorporate them into traditional churches.

Have you found anything about emergent approaches (hopefully on their web sites, not just on those who criticize them) that's worthy of commending? The apostle Paul once said he was delighted that Christ was preached, even if for the wrong motives. Is there something to that?" (emphasis mine)

Maybe I gave the impression in my other posts that I wholly condemn everyone who has associated themselves with this movement; that isn't the case (and I would never paint with so broad a brush).

Rev-Ed's recent post, Culture Shock, made me think of the EC, and the conversation, I think, intersects with what we've been talking about here:

"Not only does America have it's own culture, but Christians -- especially American Christians -- tend to have our own culture as well. We have certain standards of behavior to which we expect conformity. "Don't rock the boat. Don't examine our reasoning too closely. Don't look at things as Jesus would. Just do it our way." How nice.

There are many customs which we elevate to a status equal with Scripture at times. Oh sure, we'd never admit outloud that our traditions were that important, but just try to break one of those unwritten (and occasionally written) rules. Some church boards come unglued if the pastor changes the order of service. Tongues start to wag if a person attends church in less than shirt and tie or a dress and heels. And heaven help the mother who doesn't sprint from the sanctuary when the baby starts to fuss during the sermon....

Today a lady was telling me about the current controversy at her church. There are a few young men who attend the services wearing ball caps. And apparently there are some who equate a baseball cap with the gates of hell. Actually, many are complaining that the guys are not showing respect by refusing to remove their caps in the sanctuary. Such an act, they believe, is an offense toward God. I haven't spoken with the young men in question, but I'd bet it has more to do with them not wanting to fix their hair on a Sunday morning. But these guys don't consider it a lack or respect. To them a hat is just another item of apparel, not an instrument which causes disruption. Either way, some questions are raised. Is it more important to honor cultural norms like removing one's hat or simply to be in worship to begin with? Is covering one's head disrespectful in general or just disrespectful in our current culture? What standards of behavior do we expect to be a part of a worship service? Are we just being legalistic? "

(Ach, the whole post is so good I just want to re-post it in its entirety!) THIS is where I see merit in what some people who are attracted to the EC are saying. Some relatives of mine were recently incensed with a young male friend of my cousin's. Why? He, like MANY other guys his age, didn't remove his hat after coming indoors and eating with the family.

This stuff happens in churches all the time, and it's nothing short of ridiculous. It brings dishonor to the name of Christ. I once attended a church that had people who were apoplectic when the order of service was rearranged (I'm not kidding--the poor pastoral staff was fielding angry calls all week!).

I commented to Ed's post,

"I would agree with those who find Emergent stuff tantalizing because they have a thirst for authenticity, which I think for many people translates to: "I just want Christianity without all these Pharisaical rules." (Your example of the baseball cap was, IMO, a great example of this, as were your other examples.)

I am sure you know what I think of the other aspects of the EC, but I can totally relate to that passionate desire to break things down to the bare bones.

You wrote, 'More importantly, how many people have we driven away from Christ and from His Church by expecting a recent convert to have instantly rid herself of all habits and behaviors which traditionalists could find offensive?'

ITA. Even when it comes to not living like the world--it's a process. God works in our lives over time. We have to help new (or stumbling) disciples understand what it means to live the Christian life without snuffing out the smoldering wick."

So, to answer Keith's question--yeah, I find things in what the EC people say that isn't all bad. And I apologize for leaving that part of the discussion out. I do find it more important to warn my brothers and sisters, though, about a movement I (still) consider errant and very capable of leading others astray than to talk about the areas in which it's okay. But there is a time and place to do that, so here we are.

The thing is, the major problems with the Emergent movement are not about baseball caps and contemporary songs vs. hymns (and Ed's post wasn't about the EC). The problems I've mentioned go deeper--what is truth? Is the Bible the inspired, infallible message from God? Is Jesus the only way to salvation and the Kingdom? I can't and won't compromise on any of these big issues that I see the EC wanting to "question." I asked those questions, and had them answered by the Holy Spirit (and by subsequent study), when I decided to follow Jesus and be His disciple. Actually, He's still answering many of questions--but I know that He does have all the answers, and that they're not found anywhere else.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Created to Be His Help Meet: Part 9

As we did for the last several weeks (see my sidebar for archived review posts),
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). Molly usually joins us, but she's just had a son, so she's a little indisposed!

Yeah, I am still behind in my reviewing. You know, the great thing about blogging is that it's not schoolwork, and I can't have points deducted for tardy work! Heh. Anyway--down to business.

At this point in the book (all the other reviewers pointed this out last week), Part One ends and Part Two begins: Debi breaks down Titus 2:3-5 into chunks to show women how God's Word is actually blasphemed if we do not obey Him in these designated areas.

Titus 2:3-5
The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; that they 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.

"Even though it is not the unpardonable sin," she writes, "it sure is a scary thing for Paul to say about young wives." The Greek word translated "blasphemed" in the KJV is blasphemeo, which other Bibles translate as "dishonored" or "maligned." Honestly, those sound watered down to me. If it blasphemes the Word for women to disobey God in these areas, then let's call a spade a spade!

Chapter 15: To Be Sober

This is one of the chapters that seem to be written for a mother at home--but that doesn't mean that nothing applied to me (a childless woman who works outside the home). Debi charges women to thoughtfully care for their homes in order to maintain peace and joy within its walls:

"When a woman soberly considers the needs, time schedule, and resources of her home, then she will be a more efficient help meet. This planning will eliminate tension and help set a peaceful mood."

The point here is not that all of the household management rests on the woman's shoulders; it's that there is so very much a woman can do to make things run smoothly in the home, making it a "refuge from the stress of life."

This is an area I've allowed myself to be lax in, using my childlessness and personal living situation as an excuse. I'm really good about meals, but have a tendency to procrastinate about everything else. I'm so tired after working all day and making dinner at night, but if I planned more diligently and wasn't so (ouch) lazy at times, my house would be more in order. (Note to self: less blogging, more cleaning.) Anyway.

Chapter 16: To Love Their Husbands

(I suppose I should warn you that I get a teeny bit graphic here.)

One thing I've heard about Purpose-Driven Life that I like (no, I am not a fan, but that's another post) is that Warren tells people: "It's not about YOU." I like that. I need to hear that. Over and over.

"Loving [your husband] means putting his needs before your own....We were, and are, created to be help meets. Every day and every night we need to be ready to minister to his needs."

WHAT? You mean I am supposed to esteem others more highly than MYSELF?!

Phil 2:3-4
Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.

Debi takes this opportunity, in telling us to LOVE OUR HUSBANDS, to exhort women to wholeheartedly, enthusiastically cultivate their sex lives with their husbands. I completely agree with her and believe that this area should be laid out for women much more clearly and emphatically than it usually is.

"There are a multitude of excuses women use to explain why they would 'rather not' or why they 'cannot respond' sexually. I believe I have heard them all. Her husband knows in his spirit that all her excuses are just that: excuses for not wanting him. When a woman is not interested in his most consuming passion, he feels that she is not interested in him. When a woman just 'allows, cooperates, and tolerates,' it leaves a man feeling sick at heart....A man's most basic needs are warm sexual love, approval, and admiration. For his wife to be willing but indifferent, speaks of neither sex nor love. A woman is a fool to believe her own excuses..."

Look, there may indeed be some legitimate reasons why a woman (or a man) is not able to get excited. I have two things to say about that: A) it is absolutely that person's responsibility to seek to rectify that, and B) we're not really talking about medical exceptions here. We're talking about, "Oh, honey, I have a headache." Night after night.

Changing one's attitude about this is just like changing attitudes about everything else we've addressed in these reviews--it's not different because it's sex. Every married person deserves a fulfilling sex life, and it's part and parcel of what you VOWED TO DO before God and man. It's not created to be drudgery or "duty;" it's created to be joyful and satisfying. If we're regarding it as the former, the very first thing I believe we should do is examine our hearts and see what kinds of thoughts we've allowed ourselves to think that may be leading to our distaste or coldness or inertia.

Sorry, I've got to quote this part (priceless!!):

"If you are not interested in sex, then at least be interested in him enough to give him good sex."

And one more, because her warning provides sobering food for thought.

"It is a man's duty to walk in truth and have high integrity, but a woman who trusts in a man's ability to endure all things, while providing circumstances that test him to the max, is a fool. It is your duty to fulfill his sexual needs."

This duty is not just that of the wife--the husband has the same obligation (wonderful obligation!) to his wife.

1 Cor 7:2-4
But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Choosing Home: Unfastening the Latch

This post is a part of the collective house-warming party for Choosing Home, a beautiful site that represents the combined efforts of Molly and Jenna (whom you may recognize from our myriad CTBHHM reviews). The ladies have issued a general invitation to all bloggers interested in writing something touching on the topic of choosing to stay at home.

I suspect that my post will be unlike all the others. I've wanted to be a full-time home manager (heh) since shortly after I married--and I knew even before that that I wanted to stay at home and raise my child(ren), should I be so blessed. Time and again I was drawn to the Proverbs 31 Woman, who is such a wonderful steward of her resources, managing her home beautifully and efficiently, and the Titus 2 directive, which (I believe) reveals the beautiful plan the Lord has for women:

Prov 31:13-18
She selects wool and flax
and works with eager hands.
She is like the merchant ships,
bringing her food from afar.
She gets up while it is still dark;
she provides food for her family
and portions for her servant girls.
She considers a field and buys it;
out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
She sets about her work vigorously;
her arms are strong for her tasks.
She sees that her trading is profitable,
and her lamp does not go out at night.

Titus 2:3-5
Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.

In the first months of my marriage to Ryan, I pored over books like Mary Pride's The Way Home and Martha Peace's The Excellent Wife. I researched homeschooling, pregnancy and birth, and anything touching on domestic arts with a voracious appetite. In those precious months I established my personal understanding of and desire for homemaking.

There was just one problem...we were in major debt. We still are. Our debt is a result of my grad school loans, two bouts of unemployment (thanks, dot-com bust), and a hefty dose of "we're twenty-five and don't know how to budget" foolishness. Ryan and I made an agreement that I would work until we had a child or got out of debt...and four years later, here we are.

Looking at the whole of Scripture, I believe it's in the best interest of the home (especially the home with children--but really, any home) for the wife to be primarily, well, in the home, basing her ventures from there and ensuring, day by say, that the household runs smoothly and well.

It's been an encouragement to me to see God use me in my places of employment (and there have been many in those four years!). I've been a teacher, an editor, a church secretary, and a personal assistant, and in each place it's been clear to me why the Lord has placed me in my particular situation. It's not a surprise or a mystery to Him. We can't make Titus 2 and Prov 31 an edict: "Thou Shalt Be at Home No Matter What." But that doesn't mean it's not the Scriptural ideal, and one we should desire and seek to attain.

I eagerly await the next chapter in my own life. Whether or not the Lord opens my womb or lays it on our hearts to adopt a child, I long to stop being a secretary for other men and be a full-time helper for Ryan. I see my own home in a constant state of near-disarray (okay, major disarray); I am always flying by the seat of my pants, hanging on by my fingernails. And I just don't believe it's quite supposed to be this way.

I don't judge women who aren't at home--I look at my own situation and understand that circumstances sometimes prevent us from doing what we see as the ideal in God's Word. But where are our hearts, and when we have freedom to choose, what do we choose? Are we willing to listen to the Lord, and value what He does?
It is beautiful when Christian women, regardless of their domestic situation, recognize and reach for God's best in their lives. Regardless of my past and all my mistakes, He can make good come out of it, and He will--using my current circumstances to His glory in the process!

Friday, May 20, 2005

A Bit O' Friday Fun

From Friday's Feast:

Approximately how many hours per day do you spend watching television?

Ummm...just about none, since we don't have TV. We do go to the apartment complex's gym, and sometimes we're subjected to other people's viewing choices. Lately I've seen things I never thought I would: an episode of Punk'd, a disturbing look into Flava Flav's relationship with Brigitte Nielsen, and some show about a casino in Vegas. Blech. Always reminds me, as if I needed a reminder, why we don't have TV.

Which colors decorate your kitchen?

We live in a tiny apartment in Southern California. It was newly renovated before we moved in, but hey, it's still an apartment. Cream-colored walls, maple cabinets.

Name 2 brand names you buy on a regular basis, and what do you like about them?

1. I'll buy almost anything from Trader Joe's. If we move away from CA, this might just be what I'd miss most!
2. Alessi White Balsamic Vinegar. That, a little olive oil, feta cheese and romaine lettuce, and I am set!

Main Course
What is your biggest fear?
Apostasy. And being killed. But, that said, I know that the only thing I need to fear, in the Biblical sense, is the Lord. Jesus said:

Luke 12:4-6
"I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that have no more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear the One who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him!"

If you could wake up tomorrow and find yourself in another location, where would you want to be?

Either my mom and dad's house in Georgia, my old home in South Carolina, or Hawaii.

Bonus Birthday Question
What's your favorite flavor of birthday cake?

Ah, I love tackling the really tough questions. I love the traditional yellow cake with fudgy icing!


You can see Sal's responses here and Carla's responses here.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Discerning and Staying Informed

The Emergent discussion is continuing here from this post. I appreciate it so much when we can dialogue, as Doug and others have done, without getting personally offended with one another.

I want to mention a few new blogs and some beloved websites/ministries to you that have helped me stay informed about what's going on spiritually in the world and in pop Christianity:

Slice of Laodicea is an awesome blog that Carla pointed to today. When you visit you'll see why I immediately added it to my blog list.

The same goes for Deception in the Church, which Joanna found a few days ago.

I mentioned Emergent No in a recent post.

The following are sites I have mentioned before, but they're so good I hate for anyone to miss them, and they've been quite useful to me.

Kjos Ministries

Al Dager/Media Spotlight

Both of these sites have a wide range of resources on myriad topics of interest to Christians.

I'd like to address a comment Doug made, while we're talking about discernment and exposure. He wrote,

What I was reacting to is the wholesale panning an entire movement based on the comments and behavior of some of those who associate them selves with that movement. I am certainly with you on standing against practicing homosexuals that claim to be Christians and therefore attempt to legitimize their lifestyle under the 'compassionate' umbrella of 'Christianity'. Let's call a spade a spade and sin, sin. But there's a difference to me between calling out that individual's sin and calling an entire movement - and by extension all who identify with it - false or dangerous. These sort of blanket judgments, even when some in the group deserve it, hurt the many others who do not....So what I'm saying is call out the sin of the individuals, expose their heresies. Be specific and stand up for God's standard, but let's not judge the entire group by the words and deeds of some of them. Doing so creates a label that they then have to work to overcome. Oh, your a part of the emerging church. (Emphasis mine, italics his.)

I think there are times and places to do both--to expose an individual false teacher or a movement that is, as a whole, promoting a dangerous agenda that includes false teachings. For instance, in Scripture, Paul exposes Hymenaeus and Alexander (1 Tim 1:20); Jesus denounces the Pharisees as a group (Matt 23) and in Revelation says He hates the teachings/practices of the Nicolaitans (Rev 2:6). To me, this is precedent enough to say, "Hey everyone, there's a movement claiming to be Christian, and there are some problems." Dangerous, false-teachy kinda problems.

Now, just because I decry a movement doesn't mean that everyone who is in it is rejected by me and labeled a false teacher. But I think the "label" and the concomitant caution that the movement has to "overcome" is warranted. When I was in the ICOC, the fact that it had the reputation of being cult-like was part of my wake-up call. It is my belief that people shouldn't align themselves with this EC movement--so I want them to have some reason to re-examine why they are identifying with it, and exactly WHAT they are choosing to label themselves as. "Christian" and "Disciple of Jesus Christ" have served me well for a long time. Why do we need more? To separate ourselves from conservative, fundamentalist fuddy-duddies?

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Created to Be His Help Meet: Part 8

As we did for the last several weeks (see my sidebar for archived review posts),
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). Molly usually joins us, but she's just had a son, so she's a little indisposed!

I have noticed that when I step outside God's intended role for me, when I get rebellious, selfish and petulant and start stewing about my rights, everything falls apart pretty fast. Embarrassingly often, I look in the mirror, as James says, and forget what I look like.

Why do we (I'll at least pretend not to be the only one who does these things) seek resolution and comfort in the wrong things and the wrong ways? Why do I think I am going to gain affection or "win" an argument by pouting or getting huffy?

Why do I lose my bearings so easily?

As Debi pointed out in a couple of chapters, it's our thoughts that are often the genesis, the root, of later emotional disaster. After a mistake that sends me spiritually and emotionally hurtling through space (okay, maybe that's a little dramatic), I can see in hindsight what I could have done differently, and it's usually such a small change that could have snuffed the flame before it burned down the forest: a softened tone, a laugh, an altering of my own thoughts, a willingness to back down or be wronged for the sake of peace. The fruit of clinging to insolence and 'justice' is never sweet.

In Chapter 14 Debi instructs women on reverencing their husbands--not a popular topic, but a woman who has made mistakes in this area (and recognizes their fruit) readily sees the wisdom in it. Again, everything in this book goes back to the fundamental notion that God created women to be a helper to the man. We cannot lose sight of our purpose and role, or our marriages and families will suffer.

Our modern society has conditioned us to expect him [our husband] to serve us. It hurts our feelings if he doesn't do things that we feel he owes us, but that is not the plan God set into place. Our failure to know and believe the written words of God has caused us to accept a cultural lie.

It's this next part that grips me, because there are so many times Ryan sees right through every veneer I paint on.

Reverence is not just how you act; it is how you feel and how you respond with words and with your body language. It is not enough to get up and serve him; your eyes and the quick, carefree swing of your body must indicate your delight to be engaged in serving your man. You cannot fool a man. He can see your heart as well or better than you can (emphasis hers).

Sure, some men can be fooled. But how many women think they appear to be serving with a willing heart, when in truth their husbands see right through them? I just happen to have a husband who will call me on it then and there because he wants absolute freedom and love in our relationship, and he knows that if my heart is angry, we're not right before God together and are not really loving each other. He sees right through me when I am pretending to serve him but my heart is not there, and it's hollow for both of us.

Part of the reason it's hollow, I think, is that it does not reflect the relationship that is between Christ and the church. Jesus doesn't want a Bride that will not serve Him whole-heartedly! And He doesn't think a lot of lukewarmness, either...

Rom 1:9a
God, whom I serve with my whole heart in preaching the gospel of his Son...

Rom 6:17
Once you were slaves of sin, but now you have obeyed with all your heart the new teaching God has given you.

And stay with me here--I hope you can see that this verse, too, is apropos for this point. We are NOT our husbands' slaves, and we are their equals in Christ. So, too, Christian slaves were the spiritual equals of their earthly masters. But again, this whole discussion is not about equality, but about authority. Notice here that a slave isn't just to ostensibly obey his master--he is to be sincere in his heart with his service.

Eph 6:5-6
Slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ; not by way of eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart.

In the last half of the book Debi tackles the Titus 2 verse, breaking it down and arguing that when women obey these verses, they glorify God and honor their husbands, but when they disobey these commands, God is actually blasphemed:

Titus 2:1-5
But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine: that the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience. The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; that they 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.

More to come on this later this week (really this time).

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

More EC Thoughts

I know today is CTBHHM day, but I want to address this first. I realized I had so many things to say to the commenters that I'd better blog it to avoid HaloScan's 3000 character limit. Jerrad wrote,

"It is not just a right, but I believe even more that it is a responsibility that we have to each other, to encourage critical thought and cogent debate both in a spirit of gentleness and understanding."

Yes, absolutely. I don't have a problem with critical thought and cogent debate. But I will call a spade a spade. I don't have to fast and pray for a week to know that U2 is not who I should be looking to for spiritual guidance, or that a practicing homosexual is not someone I should partner with in ministry.

I am willing to listen to others' viewpoints, but I am, naturally, going to have my own. But more importantly, what does the Word say? Is the Bible derisive or respectful towards old ways, I ask those who speak boldly about eschewing tradition?

Jeremiah 6:16-17
Thus says the LORD,
"Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths,
Where the good way is, and walk in it;
And you will find rest for your souls.
But they said, 'We will not walk in it.'
And I set watchmen over you, saying,
'Listen to the sound of the trumpet!'
But they said, 'We will not listen.'

The question is, what tradition, which ancient paths? Paul instructs Christians to hold fast to the traditions he had handed down to them.

1 Cor 11:2
Now I praise you because you remember me in everything and hold firmly to the traditions, just as I delivered them to you.

I am not interested in MAN'S traditions, but I am intensely interested in those instituted by God.

I don't want to give the impression that all of this is totally new to me. Although the Emergent movement is fairly new, the things I clearly see it teaching and the kinds of things it identifies with are evident to me even through cursory research. I think it goes back to the dollar bill analogy I cited here before: if you spend a lot of time handling real money, when a counterfeit crosses your palm, you know it. Even before the police run their tests or you use your special marker to test it, you know it--it doesn't have the look and feel of the real thing.

There are some things, like seeking to merge Christianity with Eastern mysticism, using curse words to "be authentic," or generally living like the world (in entertainment choices and deportment) that I have already examined by the Word of God, and I reject those things. I understand that the people who identify with the EC believe varying things and cannot all be painted with the same brush. But by identifying with the movement, they bring themselves under an umbrella that includes, as Marla points out, lesbians who call themselves Christians, proponents of "contemplative" spirituality, and various kinds of heterodoxy and heresy. I do think many people interested in the Emerging movement are sincere in their search for connection, community, and authenticity. But I believe that if they are willing to be led by the Spirit of God, they will be led right out of this.

Salguod wrote,

"I'd say the same about the emerging church. If it does [not] appeal to you or make sense to you does not make it evil in general. Christianity is not about Orthodoxy or tradition, it is about the restoration of our broken relationship with God and our transformation into His likeness. It was broken due to our sin and can only be restored through Jesus and without that restoration, we will never be transformed....I do not stand in defense of the emergent. Mostly, I gather they are just people searching for Jesus and God in the way they know how. The traditional church that may make sense to you and I is like a foreign land to them, absolutely unrelatable and undesireable" (emphasis mine).

When did I say that I am a huge traditionalist when it comes to a church building or program? Actually, I am a home church advocate, though we currently attend a church that meets in a building. Ryan and I have always distanced ourselves to some extent from the idea of church as an 'institution' rather than the gathering of disciples of Jesus Christ. We are in our early thirties. I imagine that we share many commonalities with EC proponents, culturally and personally.

This is not directed at Doug, Jerrad or Keith personally, but generally it seems that if someone speaks out about the false teachings and dangerous leanings of the EC, he is considered narrow-minded, ill-educated, and paralyzed in stuffy tradition. I can assure you that none of the above apply to me, or to any of those I've seen who are seeking to warn anyone who is listening about any movement that seems to be going off course from Biblical orthodoxy (that's not a bad word). I am not basing my words on a couple of articles I read; rather, the articles confirmed to me what I'd suspected from the reading I'd already done, and what the Lord has already shown me through His Word and through discernment.

Is it okay to question the modern church and seek authenticity and meaning, even if what you find looks different from the big fancy church down the street? YES!

Is it okay to embrace things the Bible condemns in the name of the search for authenticity and unity? NO!

Well, that's my, um, ten cents. Okay. Twenty-five.

I hope what I believe is clearer. I respect and value all of you who left a comment, whether you like the EC or think it's from the pit. I am always willing to talk about things like this--but everyone probably won't like what I have to say.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

The Emergent Movement

Joanna, a Christian mother who reads this blog, wrote to me a while ago asking me what I know about the Emergent Church. I had not heard of it, frankly, until I began reading blogs. After my correspondence with Joanna, I kept an eye out and read some links, but I didn't launch an all-out investigation. What I did see reminded me of other seeker-sensitive writing I'd read.

I'll level with you: my first reaction to something--some "movement" or "conversation" within Christianity--that claims to be new is strong caution and guardedness. As the writer of Ecclesiastes states, "There is nothing new under the sun," though I have seen the enemy try to recycle old things, seeking to pass them off as new over and over again.

I'd like to direct your attention to a couple of posts that I thought were excellent primers to this issue (and I see no need to reinvent the wheel by doing all the research when these fine ladies have done it for us and presented it so eloquently!). Carla wrote a little about the EC here the other day, but she has a separate blog called Emergent No where she provides updated research on the movement. Carla writes,

"As some of you know, last year I began researching all this business about the emerging church. Since I first began researching, I've read more pro-emergent literature than I ever really wanted to. I needed to, to understand it more. While my very first impression of ec (emerging church) was basically 'Christianity embracing eastern mysticism.' I didn't really think that was a fair assessment, because there is so much to the ec, that this seemed a rather limited definition. the more I researched I became fairly convinced the ec is a blend of eastern mysticism, post-modernism, liberalism, ecumenicism, and just flat out rebellion."

I don't think we should take a warning like this lightly. Carla mentions some names she's seen identified with the movement, and among them is Sue Monk Kidd. Kidd was the editor of Guideposts (a saccharine 'Christian' magazine) for years, but if she was a Christian, she apostasized and chose to follow a pagan path (a process she details in Dance of the Dissident Daughter). If you read that book, by the way, have a barf bag handy. Suffice it to say that name grabs my attention.

Marla also provides an excellent piece here. Marla informs us,

"The Emergent Church is heralding Get Up Off Your Knees: Preaching The U2 Catalog. Googling "Emergent" and "U2 Sermons" yields over 2000 results. I could find scant criticism of the book's premise which is definitely theologically questionable, but what I couldn't find at all was that this collection of sermons was put together by two women pastors in the ECUSA who condone their denomination's stance on same-sex unions and that the prose-poem section dividers between the sermons were written by a lesbian theologian.

A closer look at the people involved with this book and with those promoting it turns up a case of strange bedfellows. It's not that the editors and contributors are hiding their beliefs; it's that that the evangelicals singing its praises haven't bothered to do their homework. But it goes farther than that. It goes to the heart of the emergent movement itself, its ecumenism and its refusal to wrap itself around absolute truth, which makes its stance (or lack thereof) on Biblical teachings about homosexuality ambiguous" (emphasis mine).

If you read this blog regularly, I probably don't have to tell you that my palms start sweating when I think about a book that instructs us to "preach" from the "U2 Catalog." Um, I'd like my sermons from the Bible, thanks.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Seeds of Deception: A Review

Mind and Media provided a copy of Seeds of Deception: Planting Destruction of America's Children for me to review. I didn't receive anything other than the book for agreeing to do this.

This book is not a "fun" read, nor will it wind up in the annals of great literature. But its message, and the research provided in it, is both timely and important. I'll let you know what the book is about, what I think of it, provide links to other reviews, and suggest some resources to learn more and go deeper.

Georgiana Preskar, the author, describes a gradual awakening she had in the course of researching a government-funded program called SEED (Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity). You can read more about SEED at Georgiana's site, as well as here (a pro-SEED site) and here (an anti-SEED site).

What is SEED?

"The National SEED Project on Inclusive Curriculum, a staff-development equity project for educators, is in its nineteenth year of establishing teacher-led faculty development seminars in public and private schools throughout the U.S. and in English-speaking international schools. A week-long SEED Summer Leaders' Workshop prepares school teachers to hold year-long reading groups with other teachers to discuss making school curricula more gender-fair and multiculturally equitable in all subject areas." (link)

Sounds pretty good, right? What could be wrong with that? Let's investigate further.

From the pro-SEED "Key Ideas" page:

"Intellectual and personal faculty development, supported over time, is needed if today's schools are to enable students and teachers to develop a balance of self-esteem and respect for the cultural realities of others, in the U.S. and in other parts of the world. S.E.E.D. seminars often involve other school staff along with teachers; SEED seminars have also been held in colleges and universities, and with parents and students....

The S.E.E.D. Project works within schools to deepen the practice of a democratic balance between self and others in classrooms, schools, and society....Group conversation, intentionally structured, can support teachers and administrators in creating accurate, nourishing curriculum material, and pedagogical strategies that are more gender balanced, multiculturally equitable, and globally attuned....Schools contribute a $3,000 participation fee toward the cost of the summer training and year-long technical support. They also provide a $1,000 book budget for the school-based, voluntary seminar. SEED Seminars are led chiefly by teachers in K-12 classrooms. In some cases, parents, college teachers, and administrators have also led seminars."

The pro-SEED pages are filled with code words I, as a former educator, are intimately familiar with ("diversity," "self-esteem," "respect"). I spent two years as a graduate student in education, where I was prepared to teach English to children between the ages of 12-18. In my secular university education classes, I learned that "diversity" is code for the inclusion of every group into the conversation of the classroom. Educators, I learned, should strive for every voice to be listened to and given legitimacy within the democratic classroom community.

The Christian teacher or student quickly discovers the caveat to all this inclusion: the "voice" of the Christian is not desired or legitimized by those who dessiminate information through programs like SEED. The Christian, insisting on one Truth and one God, a God who judges sin and has a Law, is either entirely unwelcomed by the facilitators or is given a thin-lipped half-smile, chided for "intolerance" (another code word) of differing perspectives, and her raised hand rarely called on in discussions (or given a dramatic *sigh*). Honestly, even in the best-case scenario, the Christian is taught that his "truth" is no better than anyone else's, and while his "voice" is legitimate, there are many other understandings of life that are just as "true."

From the pro-SEED site:

"Perhaps, the only truth that remains...is that "Beauty is," still no small truth to expound upon.

For me, the beauty of the classroom gathering lies in its possibilities for seeing new varieties of Beauty. This multiplicity, in turn, enables both students and teachers to be engaged in conversation about an evolving definition of the beautiful. Such dialogue requires the practice of both/and thinking as participants acknowledge the varied experiences of reality which frame individual human perspective."

Where there are "varied experiences of reality" and "evolving" definitions of "beauty" (which here seems like a code word for that which is perceived to be good and right to an individual), there is no room for God to come in and say, "I AM." At least, not without a chance for a pantheon of other gods to rise up and say, "Well, I am TOO!"

This pluralistic pedagogy discourages fundamentalism. It's designed to. It's designed to deconstruct everything you thought you knew and make you see it in a new way--which happens to be a New Age, Socialist/Marxist way--and make you think that you "discovered" your own truth by delving into yourself and engaging with others' perspectives.

That's not to imply that ALL interest in diversity and multiple perspectives is wrong. Obviously we are all coming from differing socioeconomic and racial groups, for example, and certainly gender can influence perspective. And obviously, any person seeking to live like Jesus doesn't just talk, he listens. No problem. But programs like SEED do not merely attempt to help students dialogue and understand other perspectives. Instead, they actively seek to undermine tradition (including the student's religious beliefs) and delegitimize any perspective that argues against pluralism ("a theory that there are more than one or more than two kinds of ultimate reality").

As usual, when Satan is up to something--and when he really wants to thoroughly deceive--truth and lies are mixed, and lines are blurred. SEED is not the root of the problem--it's a leaf on a very large tree. But we can learn a lot about a tree from its leaves, and SEED is a really good example of what's been happening progressively (pun intended!) in public schools for years. It's not new. SEED is just a flowering bud on the New Age tree, preparing the last generations for the full-blown fruit of Mystery Babylon.

Preskar's work is really an unveiling of research, though it's presented as the story of her personal awakening to the New Age, paganistic underpinnings of modern American pedagogy (particularly the English classes I was trained to teach--but it exists in all subject areas). She is passionately concerned for the children who are being indoctrinated, and I appreciate that and share her concern.

Preskar reminds me of my parents: she grew up in the 1950s and sees that bygone era with rose-tinted glasses, waxing rhapsodic about how innocent things were then, and how much they've changed. While I don't think things were as hunky-dory then as she does, I do agree with her that America has descended morally at an alarming rate. (The people to whom I speak who disagree with this often end up, on closer examination, to be ill informed about occult history, current events, and how the enemy is infiltrating every aspect of public and private life.)

I did feel, while reading the book, that ideas of "conservatism" and "tradition" were too closely aligned with Christianity for my taste (I tend, as I've told you before, to be uncomfortable with labels whose baggage I dislike), but that is a small complaint in the face of the painstaking research Preskar has undertaken in order to sound the shofar. Those who think public schooling has not changed even from when you were in it needs to do more research and learn the lingo of modern pedagogy.

Other reviews, which do not really agree with mine but which present some good points and some other perspectives (because, of course, mine can't be the only right one--HA! Get it?....Get it?):

Questions and Answers

Mind and Soul


Don't miss this one: Dr. Henry Walther

Also, if you're interested in this kind of research, I have a couple of websites you should check out (also found in my sidebar). I can't speak highly enough of these ministries:

Kjos Ministries (see especially Education)

Adullam Films

Thursday, May 12, 2005

One More Thing!

...And then I am really, really going to bed.

You've got to check out the conversation going on at Alice's great new blog, Evangelical Update. It's new, so you don't have to scroll down too far to check out the first post and see what she's up to.

Alice, whom you may remember as Not Crunchy (I first met her around this time), is not a Christian, but by a wild series of events, most of her blogging friends are. In an attempt to better understand these fascinating creatures called "Conservative Christians," Alice birthed Evangelical Update. Non-Christians and Christians are participating in conversations about topics ranging from feminism to homeschooling to gay marriage, but unlike most "debates" you see where things turn ugly really quickly, at Alice's blog there's a real attempt--by everyone involved, I think--to respectfully communicate. It makes all the difference.

Falling, Rising, and the Net Effect

It's been a little while since we talked about this (see the posts here and here), but I'd like to continue the conversation once in a while. A way of keeping each other (well, especially me) accountable.

How are you doing with food? Or, more broadly (for the non-gluttonous among us), How are you doing with self-indulgence and self-control, in any area in which you've struggled?

A couple of days ago Sal mentioned setbacks. Every Tuesday, we review Created to Be His Help Meet. This week, Sal wrote,

"I had promised some testimony on our progress with this material, but we have encountered some setbacks. In fact, I had considered not posting on CTBHHM this week because of my discouragement."

I've been there. No matter what aspect of following the Lord we're talking about--being a godly wife, exercising self-discipline, studying the Word--we're going to screw up at some point. We're going to fall short at some point. I wrote to Sal in her comments,

"You know what? I've had setbacks too, and I have had weeks where I didn't feel like writing about this because of those setbacks. But it's like our walk with the Lord--we don't stop or back down because we screw up (or we'd never take the second or third steps!). We get back up and keep going. Obviously you are doing this, because here you are, posting, but I want to encourage you. We CAN take these lessons to heart, and things DO change, cumulatively, over time.

Your testimony isn't a testimony because you've been perfect in every way since finding out more about being a godly wife. But how has the Lord enlightened your heart, and what changes are you seeking to make as a result? When you HAVE done well, what was the fruit? Therein is your testimony."

Again, how have YOU been doing? When there are setbacks, what is your response?

I've brought this Scripture up recently, but perhaps we cannot be reminded too often:

Prov 24:16
for the righteous falls seven times and rises again,
but the wicked stumble in times of calamity.

I wrote about food a couple of weeks ago, as I mentioned above. I have made some changes to my diet and exercise habits since those posts. I've eschewed Cokes and fries (have had a few Diet Cokes, though), cut back on sugar, scaled down my portions, eaten more vegetables, and upped my almost daily cardio from 20 minutes to 45 min to an hour. I can see and feel the difference. Granted, it's only really been a few days, but habits start somewhere.

Likewise, whether we're talking about disciplining our bodies or strengthening our marriages, the same nose-to-the-grindstone principle applies. When you fall, do you get up? Are you harder on yourself than the Lord is? (A dangerous question, because in many ways our flesh entices us to "go easy" on ourselves and give in to it.) But the Lord knows we stumble. It doesn't shock Him.

Let us look to His Word to see how to react to setbacks: rise again.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

A Note of Interest

I was really glad to read, over at Carla's blog, that RC Sproul Jr. has apologized and clarified his position. Since it was his post on April 20th that started much of the current round of whether women should blog and what they may write about, I thought that you should all be informed about his new statements. I'll repeat here what Carla quoted, and you can find RC Jr.'s post here:

"I have two apologies to make. The first is comparatively innocuous, and isn’t designed to hinder the reality of the second. I begin with the lesser crime,recognizing that a greater yet looms over me. First, I was insufficiently clear in what I wrote with respect to women bloggers. While reading the first dozen or so people grumble that I was misapplying Paul’s admonition that women should not exercise authority over a man, I simply thought, “Interesting that these folks should fault my understanding of a text I did not quote, while failing to deal with the text that I did quote.” When the second and third dozen followed in the same footsteps, I came to believe that the problem was mine. I jumbled together issues of male and female roles, teaching with or without authority, Internet and in-real-life relationships, and Internet diaries and polemical blogs into one too-brief piece, and made a mush of the whole thing. For that I am deeply sorry. I misused the medium by trying to tackle half a dozen serious issues with an off-the-cuff commentary. Ironically, in short, I hit myself with my own friendly fire.

The more serious confession, however, comes, again without missing any irony, from what I learned in reading sundry responses. I was familiar, before I wrote the piece, with the ministries of Deborah and Priscilla. I am well aware, as is the most ardent patriarch, that the Proverbs 31 woman buys a field. What I failed to grasp was exactly what so many pointed out to me: Titus 2 isn’t designed to be a complete list of what a woman may teach, nor even whom she may teach. Not only did Priscilla certainly bring something more to the table than “Wives, submit to your own husbands” (though I would argue that such isn’t simply a simple, discreet bit of data that we can simply learn and move on from), but I have learned from, been inspired by, and grown in grace through the gifts of women such as Elisabeth Elliot, Nancy Wilson, and, not least, my own dear wife.

What I should have said is this: The Internet, because it allows for decentralized communication, multiplies the dangers that are inherent in our egalitarian age. Once upon a time, parachurch ministries, for all their dangers, had as an advantage that it took some level of financing to get the thing off the ground. That meant, however wobbly, some kind of broad accountability. Now we live in a world where someone with $15 a month can devote themselves to finding thousands of devoted students. Technology has made “Let not many of you become teachers” become a greater danger than it ever had been before. And “Do not lay hands on anyone hastily” (I Timothy 5:22) hasn’t yet been translated into “Do not add Mr. or Mrs. Self Professed Expert to your list of favorite links hastily,” as it perhaps should be. The Internet, whatever its strengths, makes it easier for people, male and female, to “teach,” albeit without authority, and makes it easier for people, male and female, to sit at the feet of “teachers,” albeit without authority. I sinned in my own lack of care not only in how I said things but what I said. I failed not only to communicate accurately, but more importantly, to communicate biblically. Again, I apologize.

Now, for all those kind folks who cheered me on through this debacle, let me say this: While I am happy now to concede that Titus 2 doesn’t give an exhaustive list of all the things of which a woman may speak, or to whom she may speak them, I’d still like to encourage folks to consider whether they are doing what they are commanded to do before they consider what else they might be allowed to do. If a woman is not first teaching younger women to love their husbands and children, to be discreet and chaste, to tend their homes, then perhaps she shouldn’t be expanding her curriculum to include other subjects. The same is true for men. We too ought to step away from the keyboard if we are not speaking the things which are proper for sound doctrine, that the older men be sober, reverent, temperate, sound in faith, in love, in patience.

I do ask for forgiveness as widely as my sin went forth."

As I believe I said here before, I don't know much about RC Jr.; I'd heard of him but am not a regular reader of his blog.

I really appreciate what he says here and am really glad to see that he doesn't believe women's mixed-gender conversation is as limited as it seemed he did. He is a man, and his opinion holds no more weight than someone else's unless it's grounded in the Word of God; even then, it is the Word that holds weight, and not the man.

Last night I had an opportunity to experience the power of a sincere apology that was given to me for a legitimate wrong done to me by a close friend. Never underestimate the sheer emotional and spiritual force of an honest admission of wrongdoing, a contrite apology, and a repentant heart. I am really glad to find out that Sproul is a man of integrity who knows when to just say, 'Wow, I spoke too soon. Here's what I said wrong, and here's what I should have said.' I, for one, appreciate it.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Created to Be His Help Meet: Part 7

As we did for the last several Tuesdays (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5 and Part 6),
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).

By the way, for a man's take on the husband side of the coin, please see Ron's seven-part series on "The Ephesians 5:28 Husband." (That's part one; here are parts 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7.

Chapter 13: The Great Mystery

I like this chapter. As I noted in other reviews of this book, Jesus came as a servant, though He was in His very nature God (Phil 2:5-8). The marriage relationship was created by God to reflect and to illustrate the relationship between Jesus and the Church. Our marriages can serve as examples that point us and others to Jesus Christ. The Lord desires for us to see the parallel, and for that knowledge to influence the way we live with our spouses.

The hard part is that this lovely picture must play out with broken people who have been redeemed but have not yet been perfected. (I know, it's a blow. You're not perfect yet, I hate to break it to you!) Translation: we are required--AND EQUIPPED--by God to do things that we wouldn't even WANT to do in our flesh.

2 Pet 1:2-4
Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.

For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.

Don't miss it: He has given us everything we need for life and godliness. Man, that doesn't leave me with many excuses.

The heading for this chapter reads,

"A wise woman understands that her husband's need to be honored is not based on his performance, but on his nature and God-ordained position. She learns quickly to defer to his ideas or plans with enthusiasm. She looks for ways to reverence him. She knows this is God's will for her life" (emphasis mine).

The old feminist in me bristles at this. Why should I have to defer to HIS ideas? What if I think they're hare-brained?

NB: I am not one of those women who thinks you should giggle and fawn like a bubblehead over every sentence your husband breathes. Most intelligent men don't want that, anyway. I have not read the book--and no offense meant to its fans--but I've heard that Fascinating Womanhood recommends such behavior. When I think about enthusiastically deferring to my husband's ideas and plans, I think about respect. Not ditziness.

Eph 5:28-36
In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church—for we are members of his body. 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.' This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

Debi writes about marriage, Christ and the church:

"He [Jesus] seeks to create in me and my relationship to my husband a working scale model of his relationship to the Church throughout eternity. Amazing as it sounds, marriage between a man and a woman is what God chose as the closest example of Christ's relationship to His bride, the Church....Submission, reverence, and honor are virtues God seeks to establish in His Son's bride. Your marriage to your husband is preparing you for your marriage to Christ" (emphasis hers).

One of the things I really like about this book is Debi's frankness and practical bent. She wastes no time going from abstraction to application:

"As I reverence my husband, I am creating a picture of how we, the Church, should reverence Christ....Reverence: To revere; to be in awe; fear mingled with respect and esteem.

1. Obedience is doing what you know the other person wants you to do.
2. Submission is your heart giving over to the other person's will.
3. Reverence is more than just doing what a man expects or demands. It is an act of the woman's will to treat him with a high degree of regard and awe" (italics mine).

I love that little list. It confronts my own selfishness, excuses, and desires to be served rather than to serve. And it reminds me of just what it means to respect my husband.

One more thing from this chapter: this book slapped me in the face with the realization--as I told you at the outset of these reviews--that divorces happen all the time. To Christians. What keeps a marriage healthy? What behavior and what heart does God desire, and what will keep my husband a happy man, as far as it depends on me?

"[Men] highly treasure their families and like for their homes to be comfort zones. They want respect and a family that gives them security and purpose....When a woman does not provide for her husband a comfortable nest and a reverent attitude, she had to rely on his goodness to 'keep him' faithful. She is a fool to expect him to be a good husband when she is not being the help meet God created her to be. A man coming home to a tense or messy home, lousy meals, and a wife who is critical might not have the 'goodness' to remain faithful if a sweet young woman at work seeks to pull him away with the promise (illusion) of a more fulfilling comfort zone."

I realize there are incredibly broad generalizations here, and I will say that I think different people's "nests" and the ways in which they reverence their husbands will vary widely. But the truth of her statements stand, and are fortified by the church's divorce statistics.

That's enough for now. I'll blog on Chapter 14 later this week.

Monday, May 09, 2005

What You Wish You'd Known

Karen has a hilarious post, marking her 30th anniversary, about what she wishes she'd known about being married.

A snippet:

"Husbands like to fix things, stuff in the house as well as stuff in my life. If I had wanted someone to commiserate with me about feeling fat or having a bad hair day, I should have kept my college roommate. A husband will never take you to Baskin-Robbins to listen to you drown your cellulite troubles in a triple dip Rocky Road sugar cone. Husbands do not understand that your bad hair can be fixed by browsing through Nordstrom's online shoe department."

Let's just say I can identify. I wonder how long it took Karen to figure this out...because it took me a long time. I think I am a slow learner relationally. I concur with her: wives should not attempt to plug husbands into the "girlfriend" outlet. I can't count the number of times I have said or thought, "But I just wanted to TALK about it! I'm not looking for a SOLUTION!" To which, if I actually said that, Ryan replies, "Why did you bring it up if you don't want to solve it?" That's what I get for marrying a smart, frank, matter-of-fact engineer. He is a problem solver. TIMES TEN.

But, you know, sometimes you just need to talk without being given a solution for a problem that a) is not fixable, b) isn't a problem, really, but you're dealing with PMS crankiness, or c) you already know the answer to but JUST WANT TO TALK IT OUT.

If someone had informed me that all (okaaaaay, most) men are problem-solvers, and if you just want to talk you'd better call mama or your best friend, it would have saved me a lot of confusion, and Ryan a lot of frustration (poor guy--I mean, it does make sense that someone would want a problem solved. Women are illogical in this area, I'll readily admit).

What do you wish someone had told you before marriage?

(NB: I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Karen's post on women bloggers, which she wrote in response to the issue several of us discussed recently. I found her perspective interesting.)

Saturday, May 07, 2005

A More Excellent Name

"Angel" paraphernalia is everywhere. "Angel" statues and pictures usually look nothing like a Biblical angel is described (Isa 6:2, Ezek 10:10-14). Many people are fascinated by little cherubs that look like overweight babies or diaphanous women. I can't venture into a card store or a gift shop without being inundated with images like this or this. Book stores offer volumes that purport to bring messages from angels to us. Check out the synopsis for Sylvia Browne's audio recording, Angels and Spirit Guides: How to Call upon Your Angels and Spirit Guide for Help (warning, unbiblical junk ahead--have barf bag handy!):

"New York Times bestselling author of Adventures of a Psychic live lecture! Includes a powerful meditation led by internationally renowned psychic Sylvia Browne. Reveals how to call upon your angels and your spirit guide! On this uniquely forthright and captivating audio program recorded live, psychic/bestselling author Sylvia Browne addresses the fascinating concepts surrounding angels and spirit guides. Every religion has angels, Sylvia tells us. Different from spirit guides (we each only have one of those), angels are spiritual messengers who are available to help us if we will simply ask for their assistance. Sylvia goes on to discuss the properties of angels; the true nature of God, good, evil, and the other side; and explains how we can overcome guilt, accept ourselves, and thereby understand our own particular 'contract.'

In the second half of the program, Sylvia leads a meditation that invokes the presence of our angels and individual spirit guides, and invites them to communicate with us. We feel their protection, receive their healing, and with Sylvia's encouragement, learn how to ask them for the help we desire" (emphasis mine).

"Every religion has angels," Browne says. How very interesting, since the Bible tells us that over a third of the angels who were in heaven fell in the Satanic rebellion (Rev 12:3-4). Some subtle twisting is going on in the above paragraphs: angels in the service of the Most High are indeed messengers (aggelos means 'messenger, one who is sent') and "ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation" (Heb 1:14). However, the Bible never instructs people to ask angels for help or to attempt communication with them. While it is a function of angels to aid the elect, they are under the command of the Lord, not men, and believers are only told to call upon the LORD. There is no other name than Jesus Christ by which men can be saved (Acts 4:12), and praying to other gods (in this case, any of God's creation) is idolatry. What is prayer but communication to a higher being, a request for strength or assistance we cannot produce ourselves? Demons will take advantage of opportunities such as this. A person opens himself up spiritually by asking "guidance" from an angel rather than from the One True God. You might as well send an engraved invitation to the demons ("New and ready for prompt move-in: house swept clean and put in order!").

"Psychics" like Browne, whose sorceries and witchcraft are forbidden in Scripture, like to couch their heresies in Biblical phraseology to deceive the unwise and unlearned.

Col 2:18-19
Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.

Do you know Who is so far above the angels? Jesus Christ. The entire first chapter of Hebrews extols the accomplishments, glory and very being (the I AM) of Jesus. (You know how I can get about Hebrews...I'll try to contain myself.)

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

For to which of the angels did God ever say,
"You are my Son,
today I have begotten you"?
Or again,
"I will be to him a father,
and he shall be to me a son"?
And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says,
"Let all God's angels worship him."
Of the angels he says,
"He makes his angels winds,
and his ministers a flame of fire."
But of the Son he says,
"Your throne, O God, is forever and ever,
the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.
You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;
therefore God, your God, has anointed you
with the oil of gladness beyond your companions."
"You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning,
and the heavens are the work of your hands;
they will perish, but you remain;
they will all wear out like a garment,
like a robe you will roll them up,
like a garment they will be changed.
But you are the same,
and your years will have no end."
And to which of the angels has he ever said,
"Sit at my right hand
until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet"?
Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?

Notice in Hebrews 1 that Jesus is contrasted with the angels. Paul warns in Titus 1:14 that the church should guard against "Jewish myths," which included--from what I understand--angel worship in the first century. (We see similar perversions of Judaism today in the ancient and pop studies of Kabbalah that are not rooted in the right understanding of Scripture.) As long as Satan is unbound we will see perversions and counterfeits of the truth and of God's ways.

We can be centered in the midst of a whirlwind. We can have a Rock in the midst of the storm: Jesus has inherited a more excellent name than even God's holy angels, who behold His face before His throne (Matt 18:10)! The writer of Hebrews is not finished with the comparison of Jesus with the angels, however. In Chapter Two he warns the believers against neglecting so great a salvation, and reminds them that everything has been put in subjection to Christ, who was, for a while, like us--a little lower than the angels:

Heb 2:1-9
Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.

Now it was not to angels that God subjected the world to come, of which we are speaking. It has been testified somewhere,

"What is man, that you are mindful of him,
or the son of man, that you care for him?
You made him for a little while lower than the angels;
you have crowned him with glory and honor,
putting everything in subjection under his feet."

Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

When He ascended to the Father, Jesus sat down at the right hand of God, where He lives to make intercession for the saints (Mark 16:19, Heb 7:25). We have no need to pray to anyone else. Only prayers to the Lord, made humbly and from a righteous stance through Jesus' blood, are efficacious anyway.

1 Thess 1:6-10
And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything. For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.

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.

Some Charismatic teachers are fond of yelling at the devil and pretending to trample on him. This is not wise--and we are warned about this kind of behavior in the Word:

Jude 8-9
Yet these false teachers, who claim authority from their dreams, live immoral lives, defy authority, and scoff at the power of the glorious ones. But even Michael, one of the mightiest of the angels, did not dare accuse Satan of blasphemy, but simply said, 'The Lord rebuke you.' (This took place when Michael was arguing with Satan about Moses' body.)

Angels are created higher than we are--but we are to serve the Lord and worship HIM only (Matt 4:10). We are under the wings of God, taking refuge, and we do not stand by our own power. Let us be thankful for the work of God's angels for our benefit, but let our eyes not be turned from the One True God to worship His creation or to accuse and revile principalities and powers. Our task is to fix our eyes on Jesus, hear HIS voice, and do what He says.