Sunday, June 28, 2009

32 Signs You May Be an Internet Addict

#1. In the supermarket, you automatically try to add items to your cart by double-clicking them.

#2. You check all of your e-mail accounts, Facebook inbox, and blog's comment box for new messages before your morning coffee has finished brewing.

#3. During worship, you're scoping out the sanctuary for people to add as 'Friend' on Facebook/Myspace .

#4. You desperately wish the Praise team were on YouTube.

#5. Your five-year-old calls from the hallway for help with the bathtub faucet. You mumble, "I'll send you the link and you can do it yourself."

#6. You've listened to more Paul Washer Podcasts than messages from your own pastor.

#7. Your fingers are covered with mouse blisters, and when you wake up in the morning the whites of your eyes look like road maps of Texas.

#8. You don't own a single cookbook, but you have 78 recipes bookmarked.

#9. You know every word John Piper said at this year's Shepherd's Conference in real time, even though it took place two time zones away.

#10. You've exceeded your bandwidth again. You e-mail John Macarthur in frustration, asking him to preach shorter sermons.

#11. It's 5:30 pm, the house is a mess, the laundry is unfolded, and you have no idea what you're making for supper. However, the day is a success as you've thoroughly made a case for historical cessationism on a bulletin board.

#12. You don't know who that guy is, but his very existence makes you feel inferior.

#13. Your self-worth is determined by the numbers on your Site Meter.

#14. You love your computer, because your friends live inside it.

#15. While interacting with co-workers, you are mentally constructing them as Meez avatars.

#16. You consider Tweeting, Skyping, and Super-Poking to be perfectly normal things to do to other people.

#17. You quote Wikipedia at cocktail parties.

#18. You realize you haven't prayed in a while, and make a mental note to IM or Skype Jesus later on.

#19. You use E-Sword more than the hard copy.

#20. Your furniture has more dust on it than your laptop monitor.

#21. Texting while driving?? You'd blog while driving, if your aircard worked in the car.

#22. While in line at Disney World, you start to get jittery wondering what RSS feeds you're missing.

#23. You cannot understand why God still doesn't have e-mail. You get up during meals to check yours.

#24. Over 90% of your news and information comes from other people's blogs and embedded YouTube clips.

#25. You can't unload the dishwasher or iron a shirt without your Playlist providing background ambiance.

#26. If you haven't blogged in 48 hours, you start to panic - what if your rankings in the Stat Counter fall, or your regular readers remove you from their blogroll??

#27. You wonder how civilization survived without downloadable clipart, e-zines, and online banking. The idea of driving to the bank to make a transaction seems like an archaic, unreasonable imposition on your time.

#28. In the evenings, you and your husband sit cozily in the living room. Each of you hunched over your respective laptop.

#29. You Skype friends who live 2 miles away from you.

#30. You talk about the Pyro Guys as if you know them personally.

#31. You have burned meals trying to figure out how hard-core of a Dispensationalist you really are.

#32. You lose sleep not knowing why your neighbor un-Friended you.

What symptoms of addiction have I missed?

On that note.....a brief sabbatical is in order. The kids are out of school, and I must get away from this book project long enough to spend time with them.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

New Blog - Support Network for Bulimia, Anorexia

It's true. It was bound to happen sooner or later - most of the last year has been consumed by reading up on the nouthetic (biblical) approach to addictions, e-mail counseling women who stumble across my testimony online, and writing my book manuscript. Last night, I set up a separate blog to encourage, inform and instruct Christian women with eating disorders:

Hopefully by the time you visit, that Commie-looking star in the upper left corner will have been replaced by a more appropriate and edifying graphic. Fortunately, some Christian bloggers, like Ashley, are also creative web designer-type folks.

My purpose in keeping the new blog separate from this one, where I like to talk about theology and personal insights from the Word, is really two-fold. Helping other Christian women overcome this particular addictive sin has become a ministry of sorts to me, and the internet is a venue where most women feel safe. Relatively few Christian women will proactively seek support or accountability in their own churches, but they will turn to a search engine for answers. (I know. I used to be one of them). One of the few sources of genuine spiritual help and personal encouragement I found in the early days of my repentance was the internet. All it takes to see the spiritual implication of an eating disorder is one or two people with a testimony and a willingness to call sin sin. A regenerate women, even while mired in this lifestyle, is still able to discern the errors of "pop psychology" and listen to the Holy Spirit.

My intention is that this new blog will be a place where Christian anorexics and bulimics can do just that.

Secondly, an agent spoke with me yesterday about my book project. He said that my proposal and chapter summary were well-written, which is encouraging. However, as an unknown first-time author, he suggested I build a "platform" (target audience) before trying to get the book published; otherwise, the proposal will be a hard sell. Unfortunately, having a doctrinally-sound, well-written manuscript is not the only factor in getting published. Publishers are less likely to take on projects from authors unaffiliated with ministries.

Who knows where God is leading - if I end up self-publishing, so be it. I will make the book available as a downloadable file online, and whoever may benefit from the message is welcome to it. Hopefully, others will contribute testimonies and writing for the new blog, as well. I would like it to be an interactive, helpful forum.

In other news, today is my 38th birthday. Yippee! The kids were so excited for me to get up this morning (I crashed about 1:30 am; I was up late creating the new blog) so they could give me the presents they had carefully chosen from Dollar Tree. It was so sweet - Natalia gave me a purple plastic face fan with a neck strap "for da beach"!; Stefan a carefully wrapped tube of shampoo; Miro a Sugar Pear Body Scrub (it even has the rough beady thingies); and Valentina a jar of hot salsa and homemade tissue paper and pipe-cleaner rose.

My husband brought me real roses (and Lindt white chocolate balls, too!) Very fun and heart-warming. So yep; I'm a year closer to the big four-oh.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Satan Bites the Dust Again

...and another daughter of the King finds freedom from bulimia.

This from my inbox today:

"Bless the LORD, O my soul, and ALL that is within me BLESS His HOLY name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not ALL His benefits. Who forgives ALL your iniquities, who heals ALL your diseases, Who redeems your life from the pit. Who crowns you with STEADFAST Love and Mercy" (Psalm 103)


Thank you for your e-mail. Oh, what a FAITHFUL God we serve - I am so grateful for your prayers and encouragement - now I am able to write to you with news of AMAZING breakthrough, cleansing and freedom - the GLORY all going to my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. He truely has redeemed my life from the pit and crowned me with steadfast love and mercy. By His Grace I am back in a place of TOTAL SURRENDER to Him, safe in the arms of His beautiful and gentle Love, drinking from the living WATER that springs up to ETERNAL LIFE.

One day I will stop and read [my book] through completely. I am so thankful that you have written that book. It will help many people to recognise that repentance is needed from eating disorders. Oh how amazing it is when God washed us clean and removes our transgressions as far as the east is from the west. He has faithfully helped me to turn all over to Him and give Him the reigns. Is it always easy? NO. Is it the only thing I would ever want to choose? YES.

For three weeks I have been attempting to eat three healthy meals a day - even if for the evening meal that means buying healthy eating ready meals for now. Many times the temptation to make food a god again was so strong - to turn to it for comfort instead of running to the loving arms of a faithful SAVIOUR. Some nights I did fall to over-eating, and yet somehow God in His Mercy gave me strength to get up the next morning and once more look to Him and walk the narrow path....I can surely say like Joseph, "What the enemy meant for evil, God has used for good".... for it has been a weekend where I've had to trust in God by Faith as never before - and seen just how strong He is and the beauty and strength found in His sanctuary no matter what the external circumstances.

This Evening I can lift my hands once more to worship and praise Him. i am the richest person alive. We all are who know Christ Jesus as Lord. Oh how He has blessed me - not just helping me back to work and to my place in His body in the church, but also taking me on a journey everyday deeper into His heart. When it is hard I will look to Him and remember this weekend......

Nothing is too difficult for God. His HOLY WAYS are the delight of my soul. HE IS FAITHFUL and has promised to never leave or abandon His heritage. He loves us more than we could ever know. I'm so excited for when the strength in my limbs returns to be able to dance and jump in praise to God once more........I thought the enemy had won, I had totally given up, i thought there was no hope..... but it was a lie, there is always hope in Christ....ALWAYS. Even (and especially) for sinners like me. Today I stand forgiven and justified because of the price Jesus paid in His suffering and pain. What can i do, but give all my life back to Him in worship and thanks.

God is too awesome for words. His kindness truly does lead us to repentance, and He sets our feet on that solid Rock. That's three women in two months who've found their strength in Christ to walk out of their self-inflicted prisons. He will restore the years the locust has eaten, and is already turning their mourning into dancing!

Riddle Me This

Help me out here. How, exactly, does the following passage jibe with Eternal Security of the Believer? I'm just sayin'.

Mark 9:43-50

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. 45And 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. 47And 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, 48where
" 'their worm does not die,
and the fire is not quenched.' 49Everyone will be salted with fire.

50"Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with each other."

Explain it to me as if I were four. Bonus points if you can do it without quoting Calvin.


UPDATE: Yesterday, I read a great sermon from John Piper's archives that deals in some depth with the question I raise here. He has preached on this several times, and is always questioned, "Are you saying a person can lose his salvation?" That's not what he's saying, (if you know John Piper, you know he's like a 23-point Calvinist), but the subject of saving faith and sanctification cannot be done justice by taking a small, sound-bite quote out of context.
"Our response: the battle for obedience is absolutely necessary for salvation because it IS the fight of faith. The battle against lust is absolutely necessary for salvation because it is the battle against unbelief. Faith alone delivers from hell and the faith that delivers from hell delivers from lust."
The righteous shall live by faith, basically.

Now go read the whole sermon, and a whole bunch of other ones he has at "Desiring God" that are similar. Good stuff.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Humility on Display of International Stage (Ken Lee)

This is hilarious, in any my boss at one of the hospitals where I work called me over to show me this (the Polish interpreter had shown it to her, and her reaction was, "I gotta show Marie that!!") This is the funniest thing I've seen all week.

This is a case study in why you should strive to cultivate a little humility - worst case scenario, you might end up an international laughing stock. (If you don't speak English and can't sing, don't do Mariah Carey in public). The exchange, which is subtitled, is taken from Bulgaria's "Music Idol":

And now, Mariah Carey's reaction:

This girl became a big hit in Bulgaria, after taking some English lessons:

At least she has a healthy self-esteem!

This brings up an interesting question in my mind, as my sons are currently watching an obese person fall off of huge rubber balls into mud ("Wipe Out"). Is it morally wrong to laugh at people who go on national TV and make fools of themselves?? I mean, some of these individuals aren't really rocket-scientist material, but really seem to think they're the cat's pajamas. I rarely catch any TV, but when my attention is called to it I invariably notice the high opinions folks tend to have of themselves - without the goods to back it up. Funny stuff.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Avoid Sound Doctrine Ministries Like the Plague!


You've been warned.

Before becoming enmeshed last week in a lordship salvation debate with a confused soul who doesn't really understand the premise of regeneration, I had come across a website purporting to be pro-lordship which was offering free books entitled "Even the Demons Believe". Who can argue with a title like that? Said book has been sitting in my basement bookcase for over a month, whilst I resolved to get around to it one day.

This morning I had to get my brake pads changed (ground themselves right into the rotors, the blasted things) so I read it while drinking swanky coffee in the dealership's Customer Appreciation Department. I already understand that true conversion will always result in fruit, but I figured this book would give me a more concise explanation of the lordship of Christ for future discussions. I tend to go off on tangents, in case you haven't noticed, and that's not a virtue when you're explaining doctrine.

So.....even the demons believe. We all agree so far. The introduction sounded like an even-handed reaction on the part of sincere Christians to emotion-based appeals and easy believism. "Sound Doctrine Ministries" evidently was started to combat the "cheap grace" so rampant in post-modern evangelicalism, and the foreword sounded legitimate enough. I was about 7 or 8 pages in before I started to get the willies. The overall tone of the book is severe - completely joyless. No doubt, the first thing that made me raise my eyebrows (although certainly not heresy) was the following sentence: "Jesus hated His life while He walked on this earth." Really, now? No context for that whatsoever. The Gospels several times mention His joy (Luke 10:21; Luke 15:5; John 15:11; John 17:13) and complete submission to the will of the Father -- which was for Him to live as fully man. Nothing in the Gospels indicates Jesus "hated" His life - there was no sin in Him, and He delighted in doing the Father's will.

Moving on...on the next page, I encounter this gem:
"In the first place, Jesus did not come to make Christians, but disciples. This is an important distinction, mainly because when someone refers to themselves as a Christian they consider it a done deal. But Jesus looked at it differently. He sought to make disciples, and a disciple is someone in the act of continually learning from God...becoming a disciple demands a degree of humility and teachability that being a Christian does not require. A Christian sounds like a finished deal.....a disciple is in the process of being saved and waits for God's "coming of salvation," "revealed in the last time."
(emphasis mine).

"Aha!" said I. "They're confusing justification with sanctification. This could get interesting." Reading on, I learn that being born again is a lengthy process, much like becoming a medical doctor, and we will not really be Christians until we "graduate" and see Christ face to face. "Disciples are individuals that were saved, are being saved and will be saved. Salvation, like discipleship, is a process. God has given us free choice and we can stop this process of saving grace and thus fall away."

Haven't heard that line since Catholic school. Raw deal for that guy on the cross who believed Christ was who He said He was in his last moments, huh? To continue, I learn that if a man then hardens his heart, he cuts off the power of grace and will forfeit eternal life - therefore he must "simply say "yes" to the grace of God every day" in order for God to keep him from falling. So then....who is the one controlling our salvation? Certainly not God, if we can gain it on Monday, lose it on Tuesday....gain it back on Wednesday...only to lose it again on Friday.

Guess what? There's not a Christian alive who hasn't "said no" to God's grace at least one day of his life. That's what makes grace "grace" (def.: undeserved gift; unmerited favor). A true child of God will not stay in a hardened or unrepentant state (Luke 15) - God knows His own. After myriad warnings of all the ways I can lose my salvation, I'm told that I must "make every effort to be saved" and pay the price (after an undetermined amount of time contemplating and counting the cost).

What does that cost entail, you ask? Well, Williams has included a 31-point bullet list of "a few things to consider before [I] make [my] decision to follow Jesus. I'm cautioned to "please keep in mind these are only a few things that [I] should consider long before calling [myself] a Christian."

  • A despising and hating of money [spoiler alert: turns out this group, which is based in Washington, means by this that I should fork it all over to them].
  • A hatred of my time, rest, comfort, fun, and joys [lots of hating going on here already, dontcha think?)
  • A realization that God regrets making me [Wowzers! Don't think I've ever seen Genesis 6:6 taken QUITE that far out of Bible also says He takes great delight in me and rejoices over me with singing - Zeph. 3:17]
  • To work out my salvation with fear and trembling, knowing I could lose it [I swear I am not making this up - do I really need to post all the references that promise the Christian eternal security, assurance of salvation, and perseverance?]
  • To pray all of the time [even while I'm asleep, I gather]
  • To be prepared to stop associating with anyone who claims to be a Christian but is a hypocrite [So I really don't have to deal with my parents! I'm off da hook! I KNEW there had to be a loophole to that pesky 5th Commandment thingy!]
  • Come into the Light where my whole life is open before God and the church [Hmm. Based in what I've read so far, that sounds like a thin veneer for a high control group. Starting to smell like ICOC, me thinks. Spoiler alert: founders were once involved in ICOC. I can smell cults a mile away, I tell you...I'm getting good.]
In conclusion, we learn that "....we cannot hope for a resurrected life without first carrying the cross the Holy Spirit gives us." Shaking head and blinking here. That gives the expression "putting the cart before the horse" new meaning. How can one hope to carry a cross before conversion (becoming a child of God?) Why would the Holy Spirit expect us to "prove" ourselves by cross-bearing prior to being placed in Christ, and where would we get the strength (let alone the desire) apart from a vital union with our Savior?

One thing I learned while writing my own book was that when discussing doctrine and applied theology, your wording must be very, very precise.

The one doctrine of grace that "Even the Demons Believe" handled accurately was Total Depravity. However, even there, Williams says more than the Bible does (in regards to the elect): "God's grace requires full surrender of all pride and self-justification, [true] for God is "grieved" that he (sic) made you. [patently untrue]. As He looks at your life and what you have become "pain" fills His heart." Again, the author is taking Genesis 6:6 out of context and overlooking the fact of God's omniscience - He knows the end from the beginning and rejoices over His elect. He does not wish any to perish, but repeatedly out of love calls men to repentance. This mixing of truth with error is typical throughout the book, and it grieves me that younger Christians might read this and believe it is an accurate representation of lordship (or, worse, an accurate picture of God's view of them).

Williams writes:
"When a man or woman stops carrying the cross, the new life God created starts to die because the old you begins to take over again. If this situation continues long enough, the new life God started totally dies and the person becomes more fit for hell than when God first started. Better that he never even started trying to be a Christian."
#1. 1 Peter 1:23 says "you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God." If God creates a new life, it cannot die. (John 11:26; John 3:36) and no one can snatch that life out of God's hand (John 10:28) because that life is now hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3). See why it's important to read your Bible, and not let pious-sounding purveyors of man-made doctrine confuse you?

#2. Let's look at Matthew 23:15 in context, shall we? "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are." Jesus here was addressing the Pharisees, who were lost and blinded in their own hypocrisy. The warning of being "twice as fit for hell" was not addressed to Christians who had momentarily dropped their "cross"; it was addressed to apostate Judaic teachers who refused to bend the knee to Him as the Messiah. (Ever notice Jesus never threatened Peter with hell, even after his denial?)

#3. Salvation is a work of God. No one "tries" to be a Christian; God draws him (John 6:44). In fact, the Bible repeatedly affirms that man does not seek God on his own initiative (Romans 3:11) because the heart is inherently deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9).

Next, an entire chapter is devoted to "proving" baptism is the "next step" in the process of salvation. Acts 2:36-40 is used as a proof text, and the actual water is declared to be salvific.

(Whew...this is getting complicated! I wonder if that Samaritan woman or the adulteress Jesus forgave...or Zacheus the wee little man or the Extraordinarily Sinful Woman of Luke 7 knew any of this, or that repentance is a threefold process. I think they just came to Christ, broken but in faith.)

On it continues in this vein. If I may state the obvious: This is NOT Lordship. Trust me. I love John Macarthur. I like Paul Washer. Sometimes, depending on what kind of mood I'm in, I can even tolerate Tim Conway (wonderfully balanced message on God's love and holiness can be seen here). All "Lordship Salvation" is, is a recognition that if Christ is our Savior, He is fully our Lord and if we call ourselves disciples, we'll walk in obedience. There will always be some evidence of a changed life in one who has been reborn - sometimes sooner; sometimes later. As I wrote in my own book recently, once you know that love and that unfathomable mercy, you can't help but be changed by it. Obedience is birthed out of gratitude - there's a desire to die to self and to live for Christ. (If living for self were working for us, why would we have become Christians in the first place?) Lordship does not mean you will never struggle with sin, nor is it works-based salvation (the epitome of pride).

Usually, but not always, when a ministry labeling itself Christian gives away books free on the internet, it's a safe bet they're a cult. (Gospel for Asia is one notable exception). A few years ago, an "evangelical" group e-mailed me asking me to translate one of their books into Bulgarian. They turned out to be an esoteric cult based in Korea. (For the price they were offering, I wouldn't have done it even if it had been for Billy Graham!) About 10 minutes of research turned up that these purveyors of the "true gospel", Sound Doctrine Ministries, is a pseudo--Christian cult (their publisher is Carried Cross Books). Many people have shared their testimonies of deceit, manipulation and destroyed lives in online forums; Moriel Ministries discussed the group's red flags as well.

You've been warned. Beware of them. Be Bereans.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Where's The Beef?

Two dueling Puritans

You all thought I was going to embed another Wendy's commercial from the '80's, didn't you? (That's not what this post is about, but the commercial was still funny - check it out here.)

No, actually the "beef" to which I refer is an escalating tension between two camps in Christiandom: Dispensational and Covenant Theology.

UPDATE: If you're really interested in the differences between the two 'systems' but can't afford to go to seminary, here's a very readable discussion from the site:

Although I have studied a reasonable amount of systematic theology, (enough to grasp the basic differences, which mainly fall under ecclesiology and eschatology), I was unaware until a week ago that there was any real animosity between respective proponents over doctrinal differences. This may be somewhat surprising to you, as I spend a fair amount of time in the Calvinist-leaning Christian blogosphere. I also attend a Calvinist-leaning church, which also happens to lean dispensationalist. (Confused yet?) We uphold both God's sovereign election and man's responsibility in conversion, which makes us less Calvinistic than, say, John Macarthur or R.C. Sproul, but a great deal more than (for instance) Bill Bright.

Salvation is by grace through faith. Justification is by grace alone, includes repentance, and regeneration results in progressive sanctification. That's a fancy way of saying the Gospel is preached, and I don't know a Reformed, Baptist, dispensationalist or Covenant Theologian alive who would disagree on any of those points.

Recently, however, two women ministry leaders at church brought to my attention the fact that here in New England, in particular, there is a real growing hostility between the two groups - most of it coming from the Covenant side. "There is a real 'hardness'," my pastor's wife said. Some Covenant churches (presumably 5-point Calvinists) are even telling their members not to associate with dispensationalist congregations, as we are theologically aberrant. Come again?

A few months ago, I commented half-jokingly to my PW that I strive to be a 5-point Calvinist, but I just can't seem to go the whole hog. The cyber-Christian "intelligentsia" seems to be made up almost exclusively of such, and I like to think of myself as a bit of an intellectual. She replied that it was probably better that I'm not, as she's noted a real lack of joy among the 5-pointers she's known. There seems to be a correlation between hyper-Calvinism and Covenant Theology, but I can't quite seem to define it.

In any event, I follow Jesus Christ; not John Calvin.

Surprised to hear that dispies were shunned by Covs, I did what any theo-geek with a pressing query would do: I e-mailed the Pyro Dudes. Here is a response I received from Dan:

I think everything you say is accurate, and have observed and experienced the same things.

Dispensationalism has been made a friendly "off-limits" focus for Pyromaniacs.

I have however written about it a number of times on my own blog, and am about to publish a review of a book on dispensationalism, probably later this week (Lord willing).

You can see my main posts on the subject here and here and here and here.

Another site you might find amazingly useful is Michael Vlach's site. He is a doctor, a theology professor, and a dispensationalist Calvinist.

(I particularly enjoyed the second link, "25 Stupid Reasons to Diss Dispensationalism"). So this Cov. Theo/disp has really become an official Big Woop among Bible-believing Christians. I admit, I'm surprised. Covenant Theology, in a nutshell, sees all OT law as being in effect unless abrogated by the NT. I know that they are okay with infant baptism, seeing it as a continuation of a covenant - specifically, baptism becomes the NT version of circumcision. (Given all the verses that link personal faith and repentance to baptism, I'd say that's a bit of a stretch, but it's certainly not rank heresy). The Church and Old Testament Israel are essentially seen as one Body - unlike dispensationalism, which views Pentecost as the birthday of the Church. Covenant Theologians generally take an amillenial or post-millenial view of eschatology, (as opposed to the pre-trib/pre-millenial dispensationalist view), and use a more symbolic hermeneutic to interpret parts of Scripture than the grammatical-literal principal common to dispensationalists. There are a few other distinctives along these lines, with some variance.

Call me crazy, but I thought it was the Gospel that matters. It's not that I'm not familiar with the two systems' variances. I just don't care.

Last week, I spent several hours perusing websites devoted to diagramming, parsing and debating the distinctives of each camp. Trouble was, most of them were from the Covenant Theology side and they misrepresented dispensationalist belief. We were called anti-nomian on one (Really? Ever met Macarthur?).

Part of the reason it surprises and dismays me that there would be controversy about these matters among Christians is that I have sat in the churches of very godly pastors of both streams. When I lived in Bulgaria and attended First Evangelical Church of Sofia, my pastor, Rev. Hristo Kulichev (about whom I've written before) preached the Gospel unfailingly. A veteran of Communist prisons and labor camps, he taught his congregation to stand strong in the face of both persecution and carnal temptation. After reading his books "Salvation and Predestination" and "The Existence of the Church" last summer, I realized he is a Covenant Theologian. (In case I cared. Which I don't.) My current pastor preaches the same Gospel as he did; the same love for Christ; the same no-compromise approach to faithful obedience. Although he happens to believe the Church will be Raptured before the Tribulation. (I hope he's right. But if he's not, no biggie. I just want to focus on being ready).

If we were to lock these two humble men of God in a room with me to interpret, they would disagree on the finer points of theology. However, I simply cannot imagine them arguing or having a chip on their shoulders over these doctrinal distinctives - their hearts are too focused on the Gospel itself to get side-tracked by what most would consider non-essentials.

I am the first to assert that sound doctrine does matter. Although I abhor argument for argument's sake, most of the heated debates I've found myself embroiled in have been over theological matters crucial to the Gospel. There are, in fact, certain fundamentals of Christianity. Failure to adhere to certain key doctrines means that, by definition, you are not a Christian. I simply don't see ecclesiology as falling into that category, and there is probably no branch of theology more open to debate than eschatology. Hence my question: "Where's the beef?"

I may have met my match with systematic theology. It's giving me a headache.

I wonder if our Heavenly Father ever feels that way...?

Monday, June 8, 2009

Nepali Minister released; Son of Hamas Leader Meets Christ

God still works miracles, my staunch cessationist position notwithstanding.

What an awesome, patient, faithful Father we have. Even though I spend far too much time screen-sucking, I am glad I booted up the ol' laptop this afternoon, as in a few minutes time I have had the pleasure of reading about two glorious works of God. Feel free to rejoice with me.

The first is a testimony of God's faithfulness in a prison in Nepal. For those of you who have followed Gospel for Asia's ministry for any length of time, you may remember the gross injustice of Pastor Manja Tamang, one of the very few GFA native missionaries in that country. He was framed for murder and imprisoned for 20 years by an anti-Christian group in Nepal, after he reported a dead body in the river to the police. During his imprisonment, which GFA supporters around the world have prayed to end for nearly a decade, Tamang led many fellow prisoners to Christ. Here is a brief excerpt of the story:

Gospel for Asia native missionary Manja Tamang was released from a Nepali prison Friday after serving 9 years of a 20-year sentence. Manja was imprisoned in 2000 after being falsely accused of murder.

Manja was freed along with 13 others in his prison and 120 others from jails around the country. His release was the cause of celebration among Christians in Nepal and was praised by GFA Founder and President K.P. Yohannan.

"We rejoice that our faithful brother has been released from prison," said Dr. Yohannan from his Carrollton, Texas, office. "He was unjustly accused and has spent nearly a decade in jail. But his testimony is a parallel with the testimony of the Apostle Paul. Even in prison, our dear brother was preaching the Gospel and bringing people to Christ. Whatever has happened has been used by the Lord to bring even more people to Him."

...All through his imprisonment, Manja continued to be a joyful witness, sharing the Gospel with the other prisoners. He organized and led Bible studies and worship services, with at least 30 inmates attending many of those services. And several men in his little "prison congregation" chose to follow Christ. Manja also taught social studies classes in the prison's education system.

"Manja's patience in bearing all these difficulties and injustices is a lesson for all of us to learn," said N. Sharma, GFA's leader in Nepal. "Whenever I saw Manja in prison, he was always smiling. He reminded me often of the Apostle Paul's own statement from prison ‘rejoice in the Lord always.' This is a quality that can only be developed through bearing pain from within, such as our brother Manja has done."

Manja's wife, Rati, was equally as strong during his long imprisonment. During her time as a "single" mother of two, she completed studies at a GFA-affiliated Bible college and carried on her husband's ministry. She also works with the Women's Fellowship and teaches the children in the GFA Bridge of Hope Center in her village. Manja was reunited with Rati and their two children on Friday. He was also welcomed back to freedom by Sharma and other pastors from both Nepal and India.

"The Body of Christ from literally around the world has been praying for this day, and now we can all rejoice together at what God has done in releasing our dear Brother Manja," Dr. Yohannan said. "Let us continue to pray for him as he and his family begin a new chapter of their life—together for the first time in many years,"

You can read the full story here and watch a slide show of Tamang's release and family. Many praises to the God of all comfort for this answered prayer!

Concurrently, the son of an imprisoned Hamas leader has embraced Christ and is encouraging other Muslims to leave the religion he described in an interview as "a drug". The Palestinian terrorist organization virtually controls the West Bank region where Masab Yousef grew up. A "chance" meeting with an Evangelical tourist caused him to start questioning the foundation on which Islam was based, and after one reading of the Bible Yousef gave his life to Christ. He is now living in southern California and hopes soon to return to his Palestinian hometown. Becoming a Christian in Yousef's culture takes "counting the cost" to a whole new level - he is now an outcast and if he returns, his life will be in very real danger.

Watch this interview, "Escape from Hamas":

Demographically, the Muslim world seems poised to take over within another 50 years or so. Even so, we know Who is on the throne and His individual dealings with His elect - from every tribe, nation and unlikely sociological background - are astounding. What an amazing God!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Origin of Breakdancing

Watch this clip - your life will be so much the richer for it:

Those guys have some moves.