Sunday, May 31, 2009

Conversing with Satan

I didn't want to even give the enemy the dignity of using his image, even in clip-art. So here's a nice one of a woman conversing with Christ instead.

Here is a great quote from John Macarthur, who is in turn quoting a Puritan writer on how Christians will often fall into the trap of questioning their salvation and even God's love for them. Taken from a phenomenal sermon on the doctrine of assurance, which you can read here. It is from a three-part series in which Macarthur examines reasons people lack assurance, reasons for false assurance, and why a biblical assurance of being eternally in Christ is not "the sin of presumption".

Here is the excerpt:

"The heart of a person with a strong compelling conscience, the heart of a person with a strong understanding of holiness, righteousness and the law of God, the heart of a person who understands justice may find it difficult to accept forgiveness. By the way, may I suggest to you as a footnote that people who feel that way have willingly crowned the devil king. That's right. You have crowned the devil king because the devil is the accuser of whom? The brethren. The devil speaks of guilt. He speaks of violation of a holy standard. He speaks of violation of the law of God. He speaks of justice and he will tell you you're too bad to be forgiven, you belong to me. And if you buy it you crown him king and you say guilt rules, condemnation rules, sin rules. Christ is not king. Grace does not rule. Mercy does not rule. Forgiveness does not rule.

Believe me, Satan wants to do this. Satan wants you to doubt your salvation, that is why you have to put on the helmet of protect your head from the smashing crushing blows of Satan who wants you to doubt. One Puritan writer wrote this,

"Yea further, he that lacks assurance of God's love converses too much with Satan. As he that has the assurance of God's love converses with Christ, the Spirit bearing witness to him that he's a child of God, so he that lacks assurance converses with Satan and Satan, though falsely, bears witness to his spirit that he is not a child of God. And is it not a misery to be in these conversations with Satan, to be under his hellish droppings? O what a pain it is then to lie bedridden of an unbelieving heart. The devil is always following and tempting me to suspect the love of Christ and he does it that he may attain his mind upon me. For the devil knows well enough that the more I suspect Christ's love, the more I shall embrace Satan's love. The truth is, beloved, this lack of assurance of God's love or interest in Christ is an inlet to many sins and miseries, for first a man doubts of his own salvation, afterwards he has continued doubting, then he rises up until a full conclusion saying, `Now know I that Christ does not love me. I did but doubt before, but now I know He does not love me.' And after he has risen to this conclusion, then shortly he rises higher and he goes further thus, `If Christ does not love me now, He will never love me. And if I have not an interest in Christ now, after all the preaching I have heard, and ordinances I have enjoyed, I shall never have it. And so the longer I live the more I shall aggravate my condemnation,'" end quote.

If you crown Satan king and let him crush your head with the law and your guilt and justice, you will will doubt. Both strong preaching of a high and holy standard and a refusal to accept forgiveness cause people to doubt."

In my own observation as a Bible study teacher and discipler, I have noticed that doubts about assurance seem to plague us ex-catholics more often than those who were raised with a biblical understanding of grace. Because of the Jesus + works soteriology in which we were raised, our "default mode" tends towards synergism. Understanding that good works and holiness are the result of a regenerate, born-again spirit and not the catalyst of salvation goes a long way towards transforming one's walk. Ironically, it is most-often the struggling Romans 7 Christian - a true child of God tormented by one's own sense of missing the mark - rather than the adherents of "cheap grace" that most often doubt and question their own assurance.

This is a great series that deals with both the reasons Christians doubt their election and the biblical tests and basis for assurance.

Friday, May 29, 2009

The Initiating, Pursuing, Seeking, Divine Friend We Have in Jesus

I just spent some time reflecting on an insight the Gospels give me into the character of Christ. I am smiling, and want to try and get this down in hopes it will encourage the rest of you foot-draggers. Whenever I draft in Word and upload, the blog is plagued by funky html codes, so forgive the rambling, stream-of-conscious flow of this entry.

What We Know

We all know from Jesus Himself that He came to "seek and save' the lost. We also know from John 15:16, Romans and elsewhere that we did not choose God, but rather he took the initiative in seeking us out - the strongest argument for monergism there is. There isn't a Christian alive who isn't touched by the scene of the Father rushing out to meet the Prodigal Son, and when Jesus calls Himself the Good Shepherd, He is alluding to His tendency to go after that one lost sheep He mentioned in Luke 15.

What We're Supposed to Know

But here is something so reassuring and simple that I often doubt, dismiss or forget: He initiates reconciliation (restoration of fellowship) with the sinning Christian. Even when we go through dry, 'desert' periods of prayerlessness, spiritual famine, and shying away from approaching Him in prayer, He pursues us. We don't have to slide into a season of overt sin and rebellion to shy away from coming to Him in prayer: I do it all the time. I get so self-focused and intent on being "productive" that I blow off devotional time. Then I fall prey to what Jerry Bridges calls "Quiet Time Guilt", and figure I'm such a carnal, uncommitted Christian that Jesus wouldn't really want me around anyway. My energies turn to "doing (spiritual) stuff", to make up for the fact that I don't have the emotional energy or courage to really face Him and repent.

The longer one stays in this dry valley, the easier it is to stay there (remember the law of inertia?) and the less "worthy" it is to come back and repent. But what's so amazing about the restoration process is that Jesus pursues us even while we're in the valley. So why do we let shame and self-consciousness keep us there? He doesn't need us (God doesn't "need" anything), but for some inexplicable reason He wants us.

Here's what got me thinking on this amazing attribute of God this morning. I was thinking about Christ's restoration of your homeboy and mine, the Apostle Peter. I have seen many devotions and other writings waxing nostalgic about the beach-side encounter of John 21, where Peter leaps out of the boat and comes rushing to Christ for forgiveness. Many consider this the first meeting between Christ and Peter since his callous denial back on the night of Jesus' arrest, and speculate that Peter went fishing that morning to get away from the ministry and go back to his old life as a fisherman. The common assumption is that Peter, not having faced his Lord until the moment He showed up on the beach, was at once eager to set things right.

That's wrong. Things had already been "set right", because Christ specifically sought out Peter when Peter lacked the ability, the courage, and/or the faith to come back. Much has been made of the angel's post-resurrection words, "and Peter", in Mark 16:7 where the angels instructed the women at the tomb: But go, tell his disciples and Peter, 'He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.' " I agree that his inclusion was not coincidental; it is highly likely that Peter felt so much remorse and shame over his denial that he felt himself disqualified to come back to the Lord. He may have even questioned his salvation.

What Peter Found Out

Even more telling, however, is an oft-overlooked verse at the end of the Resurrection account in Luke 24: "They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34and saying, "It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon." (emphasis mine). Later, in his letter to the Corinthian church, Paul also mentions this obscure apparition in passing: "...and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve." From the timing, Christ's personal appearance to Peter must have been concurrent (or nearly so) with the angels' instruction to the women. Given the close timing, could there have been a sense of urgency in getting ahold of Peter? This is pure speculation on my part, but could it have been that Peter just wanted to run away; to distance himself from the other disciples, and his own sense of failure?

These few verses, which do not detail the encounter between Christ and Peter (perhaps to protect Peter's privacy), are loaded with significance. Peter messed up and was ashamed; absolutely devastated. Although Scripture doesn't explicitly say so, it's reasonable to assume he wanted to repent. He was with John when they went to the tomb in John 20:1-9, so he hadn't completely broken ties with the others. But who was the first one Jesus specifically sought out after His Resurrection? The very one who denied him. The most broken one. He didn't wait for Peter to seek Him out - Jesus initiated the first contact. How cool is that?

Maybe when we get to meet him in heaven, Peter will fill us in on that meeting, and who said what to whom. Given what we know about Christ, the tender nature of a regenerate disciple's heart, the nature of offense and the lavishly forgiving character of the Triune God, it's safe to assume it was a painful confession that instantly became an indescribably joyful reunion. That's why Peter leaped out of the boat - he couldn't wait to get back to see Jesus, with Whom his friendship had been eternally restored. The beach-side charcoal fire was the third post-Resurrection encounter Peter had had with Christ (the second was in the Upper Room, see John 20:19-21), but it was the one where he would be fully restored to ministry and his allegiance to Christ reconfirmed. Forgiveness is instantaneous. Healing and restoration come in time, and God's timing is always perfect.

The Conclusion We Can Draw (Hint: Jesus Christ is the Same Yesterday, Today and Forever!)

Why is this insight so significant? It drives home to me how the Lord really does seek us when we go astray (or just grow apathetic) all throughout our Christian walk. I often think of the parables and the "seeking" of God as being pre-conversion, but once we become His children He doesn't suddenly lose interest in us. While we do need to repent, for our part, before true, intimate fellowship is restored, God goes out of His way to woo us back to His Throne of Grace when we would slink back. Is it shame or pride that keeps us away? Perhaps and odd mixture of both. It is easier to convince myself that He is sternly waiting, teeth clenched, for the penitent to come crawling back on his or her knees before He will even condescend to listen to a faltering prayer for forgiveness than to accept His seeking, restoring, vulnerable grace extended to the wayward. There is a desire deep within the human heart to be pursued. We want to be sought after; to be valued. We want God to like us.

Several times, both in earlier periods of lifestyle sin and more recently in seasons where I become keenly aware of my pride (like Peter, probably recalling his earlier boasting), I have noticed unmistakable overtures from God - small but significant signs confirming that yes; I am still wanted. All I had to do was wonder if I could come back home to Him, or if I would arrive only to find that the locks had been changed. Once, in 2003, I was under heavy conviction for blatant unforgiveness I was holding in my heart. Every time I opened the Bible, my eyes would fall on warnings to the unforgiving. Every Christian book - even the Bible study I was then doing - was focused on the theme. To top it off, I heard two different pastors, in the same week, both preach on the importance of forgiveness to the Christian. Finally, I gave in. "Ok, Lord, I get it. You've made Your point." Immediately, He brought my nemesis into my path in Walmart.

His rebuke leaves no sting. His assurance comes from many different places - through preaching, many times books, His Word itself. God orchestrates circumstances in our lives to illustrate that He's paying attention and wants to draw us closer (like the incident in Boston yesterday). The net result is the same: He's taking the first step towards us, to restore what's broken in our relationship to Him. He doesn't wait for us to muster up the initiative on our own, because He knows that we can't (and even if we could, shame keeps us away). He is not ashamed to call us friends, and as He did with Peter, He will find a way to let us know we're still wanted.

So what are we waiting for?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

What God Told Me on the Way to Work Today

...okay, not really. At least, not in the way all you closet continuationists were hoping for. But that title sure got your attention, didn't it?

(Lunchtime and I'm already home from work...don't you all wish you had my job? Before you start secretly envying me, know that I have already driven 124 miles today. All things considered, it's pretty sweet, though. They pay me to talk. That's hilarious!)

Actually, He did show me something - which directly built on the frustration I shared in my last post about not feeling free in worship. And comparing myself to the hand-raisers, all the while wondering if bathing suits are too carnal.

About a mile from the hospital district in Boston where I work, an ambulance comes screeching through the 3-lanes of bumper to bumper congested traffic. As I pull over to the median, I happen to notice the woman driving the truck to my right - she's engaged in a passionately animated monologue....there's no one else in the car. She was praying. And I mean, really praying. Trying to stare without being obvious about it, it occurred to me she must have been praying for the person in the ambulance as her outpouring began quite spontaneously.

This woman really looked like she was worshiping - but she wasn't singing. There was no rhythm. She bobbed her head Stevie-Wonder style a few times, with her eyes closed, and she had that slightly-in-pain countenance typical of charismatics when they pray.When the light changed, cars behind her started beeping (one is oblivious to green lights when one's eyes are closed). Still watching her in the rear view mirror, I noticed she finally did pull up and go through the light - still praying out loud. Not a single fish or JesuChristo bumper sticker on her nondescript truck, either (I checked). Just a few rust stains.

I am not making this up.

So I start reflecting on this scene and why it struck me so much. I don't know how it is in the Bible Belt, but that is not something you see everyday in Beantown (especially during the height of the commuter hour!) She convicted and inspired me at the same time, if such a thing is possible. From all appearances, she was overflowing with reverent praise to the God of All Compassion, presumably interceding for a complete stranger in peril. As many have noted, the more focused we are on God and others, the less focused we will be on ourselves. I wonder why I struggle to worship sometimes, but I considered what the meditation of my heart had been at exactly the moment before I spotted this lady.

The radio was off, a rarity for me. I quickly tired of Audio Adrenaline and decided to pray instead. Fresh from reflections of God's sovereignty at last night's Bible study, (yes, I finally did read the chapters), I let go of the "What If's" in my life as per Linda Dillow's suggestion. I considered how I'd react if the Mission's Committee rejects my proposal to support a church in Bulgaria ("It's Your call, God"), and realized if my book is not picked up by a publisher, I will not be devastated - it can still be uploaded online. "The whole purpose in writing it is to help others, not get rich". (See how spiritual I am? I won't even be disappointed if my "plans to be faithful to God's calling" don't work out the way I'd planned.) That's mighty big of me, deciding to let God be sovereign, wouldn't you say?

One of the dangers of being a highly productive person is that you unintentionally equate "producing" in your spiritual life with being close to God. And then you have the nerve to be surprised when you don't feel that intimacy with Him that fuels true worship.

When that ambulance passed, siren blaring, I confess it never entered my brain for a nanosecond to offer up prayer for the victim. Praise God just for Who He is, because He is worthy? Didn't cross my mind. If anything, I might have felt a momentary flash of frustration at missing the light and having to wait (even though I was early for my patient's appointment). That's when I saw her, and the difference between my heart attitude and hers was in-my-face obvious (even though I don't know this lady from Adam). That's so typical of how God reveals lessons He wants me to learn - privately, and without public humiliation.

Once again, I'm flattered He was paying attention and humbled by His gentle correction. It's so cool how He helps His children to offer Him the kind of praise of which He's due. The music isn't the point - the desire and motivation behind authentic worship is what counts, and He generates it in a humble and grateful heart.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Of Bathing Suits, Holiness, and Hand-Raising in Church

What is true holiness, and how do you worship? That's a loaded, rhetorical question that's been on my mind lately. I have a four-page translation that's due Thursday and I haven't yet begun to read the material for the Bible study I'm teaching tomorrow night. So here I sit blogging, pondering the unanswerable.

A couple things recently have brought this general topic to the forefront of my so-called mind. One is a general (although strong) desire I have to follow God and be sure that I am in obedience to Him. A fellow blogger posted a probing entry on the subject of heart-holiness recently, which has helped articulate my own uncertainty about the matter. Ashley and I share a heartfelt passion to serve our Lord with our whole being. I want to worship and be fully devoted to His use. I desire a heart like His. I fail so completely that generally I don't know where to start.

What's interesting is how confusion about a seemingly-trivial matter can throw me into a tailspin of uncertainty and even insecurity about my standing with Him. One thing Ashley has written a lot about is modesty, and I agree with much of what she and others convey to Christian women. Never particularly vain by nature, I don't think that's been a problem in my own life (although I don't own a single denim jumper and never will, thankyouverymuch). I think I'm pretty modest already, uncovered head notwithstanding.

"Is Next......SVIM-VEAR!! Veddy Niiiiice...."

Swimsuit season is nearly upon us.

Let me say from the outset, I strongly dislike bathing suits. Fortunately, living in New England, you really only have to consider them for about 5 weeks out of the year. But summer does invariably come, and unless you are a recluse or a Mennonite, there might be a chance you will be somewhere near a body of water when it's hot.

So yesterday I stopped at the mall with my daughter, who already has a bathing suit.

Just so you know, we're talking about 1-piecers here. I have never owned a 2-piecer, more out of self-protection than anything else. (Irish skin that has never seen the sun should not be exposed to the sun for hours at a time. Bad things will happen.) So I'm going through the racks bemoaning the fact that the only even REMOTELY modest suits for women only come in huge sizes. My daughter (the 12-year-old fashion consultant) directs my attention to the tankinis, which cover most, but not all, of the tummy. "These are more stylish," she helpfully offers. "I don't care what's stylish," I snap. "I care about modesty."

As soon as the words were out of my mouth, I realized the absurdity of that statement. If I really cared about modesty, I would not have been in the swimwear section of TJ Maxx. I explained that I hate bathing suits because they're immodest by definition.....when else does a person walk around with 90%+ of their body showing. My son clarified, "Well, that's because you're swimming. In the water." In case you're wondering, my aversion has NOTHING to do with body image insecurity or anything like that. I just finished drafting a 17-chapter book on eating disorders, and I can honestly say that is so 1993. BT,DT. This is rooted in nothing more sinister than a desire for reasonable Christian modesty.

I seriously considered buying a pair or spandex knee-length shorts and a top instead. My mind started spinning (I actually said to myself at one point, "What Would Ashley Do?") Then I chided myself for being stupid, and started an inner dialogue with the Lord. "Well, I don't think any of these are modest; even if they add a tiny scrap of fabric for a skirt, I would never wear a skirt that having your back uncovered immodest? What if I just don't buy a bathing suit. That won't kill me. But.....Lord, what if the kids want to go to the pool this summer? Should I go and just sit there in jeans? Or not go? But then won't I be sinning by not being a good Mom? Well, you know my heart....." As I went down this rabbit trail, I realized there was no good solution to this dilemna short of moving to Northern Canada. So I suggested we go do something else (we were getting hungry anyway).

I finally did decide on a suit at Old Navy and my daughter and I each got "swim skirts" to go over our suits, but that's not the point. This ridiculous shopping dilemna points to a different battle I wage often: a desire to follow God's will (ie. be holy), and a seeming inability to do so.

I do not want to agonize over such models as this when I think of "holiness":

No indeed. Rules and regs distract us from the true purpose of holiness, which is pleasing God out of a heart of love. As CCEF counselor Ed Welch wrote, "Obedience is post-liberation thankfulness". It truly is a matter of heart condition, a concept that should be self-evident to any blood-bought child of God.

But here's the rub. Holiness is gonna show up in outward behavior. We are, in a sense, to be different and set apart. If we look just like the world, something's wrong. It's not a matter of measuring the inseam of your shorts to make sure they come within a centimeter of your own arbitrary standards of modesty.

But where does the line fall between hypocrisy, and necessary outward display? (Again, rhetorical question). Here's another thing I struggle with, that frankly I think is more serious than the bathing suit issue.

I do not like to sing in church. Now, granted, in my early years as a Christian, it might have been a childish rebellion associated with the nun in 6th grade who shrilly berated us pupils who had not sung in chapel. However, I haven't seen Sister Ellen Marie in 25 years so she doesn't get a vote here. It's an internal thing, and I can't seem to fix it.

The fact of the matter is, I can't sing. Not a note. I may have gifts in other areas, but no musical ability or sense of rhythm whatsoever, so those around me should be spared. Still, that's not the whole story - lots o' people can't sing, but there is clearly a biblical precedent for singing and music being acceptable worship. I can't weasel out of the injunction by claiming 'Well, my writing glorifies God and I tell Him eloquently all the things I love about Him. That's my worship.' Now, it's obviously true that we worship God with our lives and in many ways, but that's not the point.

Last Sunday, I realized something: people who raise their hands in church make me feel inferior. Yup. I actually envy them - because they are 'holier' than I, and are able to give God a purer, truer worship that I can't seem to muster up. This is a symptom of Recovering Charismatic-Wannabe Syndrome, without a doubt. Regardless, I should be secure enough in my identity in Christ that I wouldn't even notice.

But I do, you see. And I notice the phenomenal sound of the worship team (they are professionals and have released a CD), the predictable spontaneity of the worship routine - two fast songs; two slow ones - and struggle to squeeze the requisite emotion up like the last bit of toothpaste out of a tube. I have difficulty being joyful on demand. As horrible as this makes me sound, I confess that the emptiness I often feel during corporate worship only underscores my lack of true holiness. God forgive me, during the third song, I catch myself thinking, "only one more to go."

It's not a matter of disliking the music or disagreeing with the lyrics (with a very few exceptions). In fact, a lot of the praise songs we sing in church I also listen to in the car, and agree in my heart with the words. I still don't sing though, even in the car. Well, maybe once. Or I might have hummed. Does anyone else ever feel this way in church? The more I consider my aversion to singing, the more self-conscious I become about it, and that's yet another counter-productive rabbit trail. Focusing on "self" is the very opposite of holiness - including scrutinizing our own spiritual shortcomings.

I don't think the answer to cultivating holiness is "fake it 'til you make it", and in any event I'm not going to start getting jiggy with it in church. I am far too white and nerdy to consider pulling a stunt like that. I know God knows my heart, but there is just no music in my heart. This belies a lack of true holiness, the child-like abandon that the hand-raisers seem to have.

I'd like Him to light the fire again. I just don't want to sing about it.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

A Word to the Wise

Let’s talk about blogging and using wisdom for a moment.

Since most of my regular readers (all 10 or so of you) are Christian bloggers, some of whom are involved with online ministries, I am speaking primarily to the Christian blogosphere (and other forms of online communication, such as Christian message boards). It is easy to let our guards down, especially when we are involved in some media or forum where, we assume, all other participants are honest, fine, upstanding folks.

And that may be - most of them are. Everyone reading this may be Internet savvy, worldly wise, and completely honest. ‘Be shrewd as serpents and gentle as doves’, the Lord warned. I have noticed that on several of your blogs (particularly the two who deal with politics and apologetics – no faster way to get traffic), there are many, MANY troublemakers who come in with hit and run comments simply to stir up trouble. I have not had to deal with that (much) on this blog, mainly because I’ve stayed away from politics, and frankly I have a much lower tolerance for rudeness and surly attacks than some of you. However, if I may state the obvious here, the internet is as public a venue as it gets.

Literally anyone can read anything you write, and depending on your subject matter, you may make enemies. Until the last month, I had never received a rude or inappropriate comment on my blog. After posting an AP piece on the destruction of Bibles in Afghanistan – a soldier’s private property – a link to the entry was posted on an atheistic site and I moderated quite a few inappropriate comments (I define “inappropriate” as anything containing obscenity, passive-aggressive rhetoric, or slandering the Name of Christ.) I simply delete such comments. You want to attack me, I’ll print it – provided you don’t sound like a drunken sailor. You slander my Savior, you’re looking at being perma-banned. I’ll permit sarcasm, provided it is directed at me personally. Frankly, it makes the commenter look stupid.

In response to various “red flags” I’ve seen online over the last few years in Christian blogs and forums, I’ve put together what will hopefully be a helpful list of pointers to those of you who blog.

Keep comment moderation “ON”.
There are several reasons for this, the most obvious one being the afore-mentioned Rudeness Issue. Even if you don’t mind your blog being turned into a debate forum by unbelievers, you should still take the time to moderate comments because of the risk of sabotage. A fellow Christian blogger wrote:

“A hidden link is where someone who knows what they are doing can have a word that you click and it sends you - lots of bloggers do that in their articles when they say "read here" and the "here" has a link. I had someone do that to me with a web address that they wanted me to check out for them - ostensibly - and they wanted my comments. It was just someone trying to get my goat I guess (you know, found the e-mail on the blog) because the link looked like an interesting address but it came up to a hard-core porn site which was not the same address as the bogus one sent. Well that one must have planted something on my computer because a couple weeks later I'm on the net and a pop-up came on my screen that was hard to get rid of and it was a bunch of photos of bare-breasted women. I had told my wife about the false link when it happened - complained to her about the disgusting people on the net. She was sitting with me when the pop-up happened which, of course, got her furious - "how can people be so evil?!" I had a geek at work tell me how to clean out all the plants, viruses, spies, et al and then we got a neat program that has all the known "bad" sites in it and it won't let you get to it. So if I had that with that nasty hidden link, it would have come up with a page that says it's not authorized. It also looks at photos and if it doesn't like them it will not let the photo come even if the site is okay. Real neat. It's called "See No Evil." I haven't had any problems since, and that was about 7 months ago.The pastor who set me up with the blog said he had that happen to him a couple times where people imbed links for you to go to and he said he got a nasty virus that took forever to get rid of on top of the porn pop-ups. One thing I learned from that was to not go to a site someone wants me to "check" if they send me a link and I don't know them. Evil, evil world. But it will also help me when I check out links that come with people's comments - no bad stuff will come across.”

Hidden links are fine to use in the body of a blog entry when you want to refer the reader to another article. I use them myself, and if you are on a trusted site, you should be able to click without anxiety. Once, before I had comment moderation selected, a machine-generated comment was left by a Spambot – with a link, of course. It didn’t go anywhere pornographic, but it was a strange website. We all know not to open an e-mail (either attachment or embedded link) that is clearly Spam, but did you know that the same holds true for unknown senders forwarding hidden links? Don’t let them gain access to your blogspot.

Don’t put your e-mail address on your blog.
See above. Do you really want to be getting A) additional Spam, or B) e-mails from people you don’t know? If they are really sincere and just want to comment on something you’ve written, they’ll leave a message in the combox – that’s what it’s there for.

Don’t leave comments after you’ve been drinking.
This is more intended for drive-by commentors, who love to antagonize Christian bloggers. At least do us all the favor of waiting until you sober up. Sometimes the things you type hiding behind the anonymity of your computer screen make you look really, really stupid.

Avoid inappropriate intimacy, or becoming overly-familiar.
Yes, I’m talking to you Christians. Do I really need to elaborate on this one? To adults? Yes, unfortunately I do. The internet is not the place to be cultivating “friendships”, especially with members of the opposite sex. Shannon Ethridge devotes most of a chapter to this touchy subject in one of her books. On an online Christian forum (which I have long since stopped visiting), I have witnessed full-grown adults making plans to get together (one on one) at Christian music festivals, “disciple” one another via e-mail, and develop cyber-friendships (some of these folks were married). There may be a tendency to relax “the rules” a bit when it’s a “Christian” community, but this is a mistake. Pursuing friendships (online or not) with members of the opposite sex is something you give up your right to once you are married (and is risky business before that). In fact, e-mailing is even something with which you should use great caution – in this day and age, it is near-impossible to make a hard and fast rule about never e-mailing with a man (if you’re a woman), but there is a difference between an exchange of information and friendly chatting. The latter is fine with other Christian bloggers of your same gender, but otherwise, communication should be public (limited to leaving comments on others’ blogs).

If you wonder if it should be said, it probably shouldn’t.
I have seen even public communication that is, IMO, wildly inappropriate. Be very careful about using words such as “love” in the second person singular. Yeah, I know; we Christians are called to love one another, and brotherly love is phileos and we all have agape and they all mean love and so forth. Truust me; I don’t need a Greek lesson. Certain terms are loaded with connotations and mean certain things in certain cultures; or at the very least have subtle implications. This even comes through in some of the…ummm…questionable CCM we hear (Matt Redman’s “Let My Words Be Few” comes to mind). I am not splitting linguistic hairs here. Avoid over-familiarity on other people’s blogs, especially if they are of the opposite gender. Yes, I am speaking to Christians here. (The same goes for Facebook, which I have heard has become a real cesspool of worldliness….the “Christian” groups have become just like the world.) As Paul said, avoid even the appearance of evil.

Any other tips/comments you bloggers think should be added? (And by the way, feel free to leave me a comment. Just make sure it’s on topic, and don’t you dare step out of line!)

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Done for Now.

Work on my book, that is.

Since Wednesday, I've revised the initial draft, tweaked it, moved some stuff around, added the odd thought, and revised some more. Wrote a detailed proposal and sweated over a chapter summary (it's 17 chapters. That's a heck of a lot of summarizing). Agonized over query letter. The working title is, "Redeemed from the Pit: Biblical Repentance and Restoration from the Bondage of Eating Disorders".

Do you people know how boring it is to read 84,000 of your own words? Repeatedly?!?

I don't want to think about eating disorders anymore. I don't want to write about it anymore. When it's time to start supper, here I sit, pecking away intently. The other night, I burned the rice. The whole reason my husband bought me this laptop was so I wouldn't burn any more meals. I was working here in the kitchen - 2 meters away from the stove. See how dangerous these food issues can be? Even your family starts to suffer....burned rice. Unreal.

I finally sent whole package off today to an author from church (who's published 3 books with Zondervan) to gauge interest from his contacts in the publishing world. I hope to have an agent soon, but it's hard to get an agent when you've not yet published a book. (Kind of like applying for a credit card when you don't already have an established line of credit).

Now the waiting begins. The excruciating waiting. Still waiting for my article to be published in a certain well-known Christian magazine, too (it's slated for late this summer). I hate waiting.

My wrists are stiff from typing. My eyes feel like sandpaper when I wake up in the morning from staring at the monitor for hours at a time. Somehow I've kept up with the housework, and interpreted three days last week, too. But actually getting a quality, helpful piece of writing that will glorify God into print has consumed most of my time and brain power these last few weeks. For now, I can take a break and wait for feedback. Which is good, because I'm supposed to be leading Bible study on Wednesday night and I've not read the book yet.

Oh yes - Stefan (Kindergarten) won the prize for Sparkies at the AWANA banquet last week for the most verses memorized. He blew away the competition (mostly first and second graders) with 33 verses memorized in 4 months. That's my boy! Future John Macarthur, I tell ya what.

Friday, May 22, 2009

General Messages

This is a "catch all" entry that I have added for all off-topic comments, questions, or miscellaneous messages you may have for me. I will respond to each one here, and welcome feedback from everyone (even peeps who disagree with me). This set-up is instead of listing my e-mail address here on my blog and keeps all communication public.

So go ahead and chat!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

And Now for Something Completely Different....

This has nothing to do with theology, but it was my absolute favorite commercial of all time. In the early '80's, Wendy's aired this spoof on monotony of Soviet life, then pulled it because of the PC police. (Note Lenin portrait in background - yes, they really were everywhere). Recently I stumbled across it on YouTube. I hope it makes you laugh as hard as my husband and I did.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Analyze the Lyric #2

More gems from the Christian music world (CCM this time; we'll go back to cheesy praise choruses next week):

I know you trippin’ off of this production
To preach Jesus and promote zion
To claim the death and ressurection
Go get the bible if you think I am lyin’
‘Bout to take over the nation
Sinners become a new creation
To spread the gospel is my mission
Taking you to school and pay tuition

Look we done took over the malls
We’re everywhere
Going up and down the school halls
We’re everywhere
We done took over the courts
We’re everywhere
We done took over the sports
We’re everywhere
We drive the biggest cars
We’re everywhere
We are the biggest stars
We’re everywhere
We wear the baddest clothes
We’re everywhere
And we owning all of the stores
We’re everywhere

This gem comes from Canton Jones, a Christian artist. From another of his songs, "24":

(We ride on 24’s)
You ain’t never seen a church boy
ridin with the top down swervin
Everybody see me bend the curve

Every whip on 24’s
Every crib got 50 doors
don’t get nervous

Payin tithe
finally paid off

We ride on 24’s
we let them people know
Every city and state we go

Can’t keep that name on low
Roll eep and switchin lanes

Roll wit me and they rep
the name
Roll real don’t play no games

see the symbol on the chain
Rep tinted and ridin high
scream Jesus when we ridin by

Where you gonna be
when you die
Ima be in the sky

we ride 24’s don’t have
to sell no dro
Bust music to get that dough
preach the gospel to the po

Cadillac on 24’s
made back on 24’s
Bently Coup on 24’s
Chevy Hoop on 24’s

Drive dem then I giveaway
Why ause God said give away
But the more I give away I
got more coming back to me

Now. Ahem. Clearing throat here. Jones hails from the mega-church of one of the following three pastors. Is it:

A) John Macarthur
B) the aptly-named Creflo Dollar
C) John Piper

Discuss the implications.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Cool Prayer from a Puritan

We were talking about grace and the Gospel over on Emily's blog, and how often we get discouraged by constantly repenting and "trying to do better". (This past Sunday, my pastor touched on what he calls "the mud pie syndrome" in his sermon - just trying to do better tomorrow is like putting frosting on a mud pie.) We need grace every minute of every day, not just for salvation (justification) but to live in obedience to Christ (sanctification).

One of the commentators posted a very insightful prayer from one of the Puritan writers that I had not seen before. Rather than continuously going back to look for it, I decided to post it over here. I hope that some of you are as blessed by it as I was:

Thou hast imputed my sin to my substitute
and hast imputed his righteousness to my soul,
clothing me with a bridegroom’s robe,
decking me with jewels of holiness.
But in my Christian walk I am still in rags;
my best prayers are stained with sin;
my penitential tears are so much impurity;
my confessions of wrong are so many aggravations of sin;
my receiving the Spirit is tinctured with selfishness.

I need to repent of my repentance;
I need my tears to be washed;
I have no robe to bring to cover my sins,
no loom to weave my own righteousness.
I am always standing clothed in filthy garments,
and by grace am always receiving change of raiment,
for thou dost always justify the ungodly,
I am always going into the far country,
and always returning home as a prodigal,
always saying, Father, forgive me,
and thou art always bringing forth the best robe.
Every morning let me wear it,
every evening return in it,
go out to the day’s work in it,
be married in it,
be wound in death in it,
stand before the great white throne in it,
enter heaven in it shining as the sun.
Grant me never to lose sight of
the exceeding sinfulness of sin,
the exceeding righteousness of salvation,
the exceeding glory of Christ,
the exceeding beauty of holiness,
the exceeding wonder of grace.

Puritan Dude got it. Do you?

Friday, May 8, 2009

Sign of the Times

The Associated Press headlines Benedict's visit: "Pope Expresses Respect for Islam in Jordan".

The sheer irony of this statement is impossible to miss. This is from the same man who re-affirmed the Council of Trent's heresy that salvation is not obtained by grace through faith alone. Spitting in the face of Protestant and Evangelical Christians worldwide, in July 2007 he declared that Gospel-preaching churches "cannot properly be called 'churches'" and categorically affirmed that we are outside the "one true faith" by our refusal to embrace Romanist apostasy.

The article leads:

Pope Benedict XVI began his first trip to the Middle East on Friday, expressing his "deep respect" for Islam and hopes that the Catholic Church would be a force for peace in the region as he treaded (sic) carefully following past missteps with Muslims and Jews.

"My visit to Jordan gives me a welcome opportunity to speak of my deep respect for the Muslim community, and to pay tribute to the leadership shown by his majesty the king in promoting a better understanding of the virtues proclaimed by Islam," Benedict said shortly after landing in Jordan, a mostly desert country where Moses is said to have viewed the Promised Land.

He said Jordan was in the forefront of efforts to promote peace, inter-religious dialogue and to "curb extremism."

Jordan's king praised the pope and said the world must reject "ambitious ideologies of division."

"We welcome your commitment to dispel the misconceptions and divisions that have harmed relations between Christians and Muslims," said Abdullah. the head of one of the "one true church" is committed to "dispelling divisions" between Christianity and a sickeningly violent, demonically-inspired false religion? Good luck with that. Seems Christ Himself had a little something to say about unity with those who would destroy the Church:

"But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.

Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn
" 'a man against his father,
a daughter against her mother,
a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law -
a man's enemies will be the members of his own household. (Matthew 10:33-37)"

The Cross is, by definition, divisive. It is an offense and a stumbling block to those who don't believe. If the Vatican's head honcho isn't man enough to admit that publicly, I truly pity and fear for his soul.

Don't believe that Islam condones murder of members of one's own family who turn to Christ? Voice of the Martyrs is a good place to start (also see Islam's "holy" books, the Haddith 9'57 and Sura 3'85).

The article also states:

Benedict's three-day stay in Jordan is his first visit to an Arab country as pope. He is scheduled to meet with Muslim religious leaders at Amman's largest mosque — his second visit to a Muslim place of worship since becoming pope in 2005. He prayed in Istanbul's famed Blue Mosque, a gesture that helped calm the outcry over his remarks.
(emphasis mine)

Did you catch that? The self-proclaimed "Vicar of Christ" - His very "representative" on earth - is now praying in pagan houses of worship. Somehow, I can't imagine Jesus Christ, during His sojourn to Caesarea Philippi, praying in the nearby temple of Pan to placate the region's Canaanites. (With all this political correctness, it makes me wonder whose god the pope is praying to). This is not exactly a new precedent - his predecessor said mass with a statue of Buddha and other pagan symbols on the altar. Don't believe me? I'll post a photograph if challenged. It was an "interfaith mass" - one in which only Evangelical leaders, to their credit, refused to participate.

One shouldn't expect highly principled behavior from a politician, and that is precisely what the pope is. I suppose this spiritual dualism is all in the name of "respect" - which presumably makes it more palatable. The Muslim world is a formidable force to be reckoned with, and no politician with interests to protect wants to alienate jihadists.

Would that the pope had so much "respect" for Bible-believing Christians. May God open his eyes to the Truth in Christ.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

U.S. Military Destroyed Christian Bibles

This report comes from OneNewsNow and appeared yesterday:

The U.S. military is confirming that it has destroyed some Bibles belonging to an American soldier serving in Afghanistan.

Reuters News says the Bibles were confiscated and destroyed after Qatar-based Al Jazeer television showed soldiers at a Bible class on a base with a stack of Bibles translated into the local Pashto and Dari languages. The U.S. military forbids its members on active duty -- including those based in places like Afghanistan -- from trying to convert people to another religion.

Reuters quotes Maj. Jennifer Willis at the Bagram Air Base, north of Kabul, who said "I can now confirm that the Bibles shown on Al Jazeera's clip were, in fact, collected by the chaplains and later destroyed. They were never distributed."

According to the military officials, the Bibles were sent through private mail to an evangelical Christian soldier by his church back home. Reuters says the soldier brought them to the Bible study class where they were filmed.

The Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, told a Pentagon briefing Monday that the military's position is that it will never "push any specific religion."

Well, that's bleeping brilliant, now isn't it? We've had troops in these Taliban-run hellholes for.... how many years has it been now? - ostensibly "keeping the peace" and trying to return some semblance of sanity to a volatile, satanically-controlled region, a soldier has God's Word sent to him from his church halfway around the world, and our own military destroys the Bibles so as not to give offense. Sheer genius. By all means, let's keep out the Gospel. Wouldn't want to be all "politically incorrect" now, would we? Who knows what exposing these brainwashed genocidal maniacs to Christianity might do.

This poll ran as part of the article:

Results from our related poll

What's your reaction to the decision by the U.S. military

to destroy the soldier's Bibles?