Saturday, June 29, 2013

Promises Of The Dark Side

In Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith, Palpatine seduces Anakin Skywalker to come to the Dark Side, finally convincing him to do so with the false promise that such a conversion will empower him to save Padme from dying in childbirth. (If you're not educated on Star Wars, this Wikipedia article includes a helpful plot overview to orient you.) Anakin believes Palpatine's lie. When Padme realizes that her husband has aligned himself with evil (becoming Darth Vader), her grief strips away her will to live and she indeed dies as her twins are born. By going to the Dark Side, Anakin actually causes the very death he sought to prevent.

What a striking parallel to liberal theology, which falsely promises freedom to those who give in to fleshly desires. Jesus, they claim, offers forgiveness, wanting his followers to be happy...even if their happiness means compromising their holiness.  For instance, in 1993 Contemporary Christian Music superstar Amy Grant divorced Gary Chapman after sixteen years of marriage after a supposedly "Christian" counselor told her that God intended marriage so both spouses could "thrive emotionally." This woman, who sought to honor the Lord with her music, ended up dishonoring Him with her personal life.

Sin, you see, makes false promises that ultimately bring destruction. Palpatine and Amy Grant's counselor offered control, but stepping out on those promises brought disorder. James explained the cycle well:

14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. ~~James 1:14-15 (ESV)

Yes, I understand that Amy Grant now claims her marriage to Vince Gill is happy, but that probability doesn't negate the impact her decision has made. What have her children learned from her example? How has her life emboldened others to abandon their marriages, or perpetuate the notion that God's chief concern is our personal happiness above His purposes?

More to the point: what false promises are you and I tempted to believe, and how might they devastate those around us? Darth Vader received power, and Amy Grant got a "happy" marriage, both at enormous cost to themselves and others. Only by reading Scripture in its proper context can we find the Lord's true promises and, through them, experience the abundant life of His glory.

Friday, June 28, 2013

I Should Sort Through iTunes More Often

Looking through my iTunes library this afternoon, I found "Hallelujah" by Seven Stories Up. Well, it's been a few months since I've been on iTunes, and even longer since I've listened to "Christian" radio (which offers little substance, really), so I'd forgotten about this song. But it's one of those rare contemporary praise songs that actually has theological content.

So, having nothing else prepared for today's blog post, I thought I'd let you enjoy the song. Sorry it doesn't include lyrics; it's the only video YouTube has for this song.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Superman, Delightful Drawings and Ruminations on Gay Marriage

Tuesday, John and I saw Man Of Steel, the new movie retelling the legend of Superman. Despite introducing Clark Kent's struggle, as a young boy, to understand his super powers and his true identity, the writers ignored the story line's potential in favor of overly abundant action and special effects. Both of us came away disappointed, though John enjoyed parts of it.

Visually, it was...well, ugly. The only splash of color was Superman's costume. Otherwise the palette varied little from grays and  browns, so that neither Earth nor Krypton offered any sort of loveliness. Well into the second hour, I realized I'd find no relief from the drabness...nor the  violence. Closing  my eyes, I contrasted the film's dingy images and scenes of destruction with the bright, cheerful things that I tend to draw.

That comparison, in turn, reminded me of Philippians 4:8.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (ESV)

Then yesterday I learned on Twitter that the Supreme Court has once again shaken its defiant fist at the Lord, ruling that "limiting" marriage to one man and one woman somehow goes against the Constitution. The ruling didn't surprise me as much as it reminded me how spiritually dark our world is. The ruling represents just one of many degenerative steps, no worse than any other steps, that humankind insists on taking away  from our Creator. We call it a rainbow, but ignore the encroaching black clouds of impurity and perversion.

Yet I choose to rejoice that Jesus, the true Super Man, promises to return, bringing His Kingdom of holiness and light. The gray sin and violence of this world shall yield, albeit unwillingly, to beauty that even the most  imaginative artist could never dream up! And, most wonderful of all, Jesus will reign, glorious in all His splendor, replacing all the ugliness with Himself. As I acknowledge the present over abundance of evil currently typified in the Court's sanction of same sex marriage, I rejoice that holiness and righteousness will prevail.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Celebrating The Holy

I suppose I should write a post responding to today's Supreme Court ruling on the unconstitutionality of DOMA. Definitely, the decision is as destructive as Roe v. Wade, and comes pretty much from the same political contingent. So of course I'm sad and troubled that our country sanctions sin and repudiates Biblical morality. No Christian, if he truly believes the Bible's teachings on marriage and homosexuality, celebrates the Court's presumptuous dismantling of God's oldest human institution. Mourning is the appropriate Christian response.

Yet, my second response is to focus on the Lord's goodness. Humans have rebelled against His commands since Eve ate the forbidden fruit, and yet He has consistently offered us grace and mercy--at great cost to Himself. As sin abounds, He  still reveals His glory. Today's ruling doesn't change His beautiful purpose for marriage as He designed it, and we can rejoice that a covenant union between one man and one woman will always show a picture on His relationship with His Bride, the Church.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Our Teacher: Grace

The doctrine of grace indeed teaches that Christians neither earn nor maintain salvation by our own efforts. Hebrews 12:2 identifies Jesus as "the founder and perfecter" of our faith Who promised that those to whom He has given eternal life cannot be snatched from His hand (John 10:28). Therefore, a believer who lapses into sin, even for extended periods, has not lost his salvation because salvation depends solely on Jesus' work on the cross. Our works of obedience contribute absolutely nothing to the transaction!

Some people, however, misunderstand the doctrine of grace to mean that we can give in to various  temptations because God forgives us. In the past few years, the wonderful resurgence of Calvinist teaching has regretfully spawned counterfeit teachers who distort Scripture. Grace, in their eyes, becomes a  permission slip to sin, particularly in regard to sexual behavior (though it's also used to excuse other forms of sin). And such theological  laxity leads to an acceptance of professing Christians allowing for premarital sex, cohabitation and "committed" homosexual relationships.

Scripture never presents such a view of God's grace! As a matter of fact, the very apostle Paul who taught that grace emancipates us from the demands of the Law (Galatians 3:1-14) also insisted that grace leads us to live in holiness.

11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. ~~Titus 2:11-14 (ESV)

Grace  changes us, so that obedience to the Lord becomes our objective. Not that obedience secures our salvation, but rather that it gives evidence that the Holy Spirit, Who lives in us, transforms our hearts so that we desire His holiness. We don't dress sin up as something acceptable, expecting the Lord to smile indulgently down on our blatant rebellion against Him. Much to the contrary, we understand the magnitude of His grace, and therefore realize our indebtedness to Him. And, although we can never hope to repay our debt, gratitude swells in our hearts, filling us with a desire to honor Him.

The Lord paid completely for our salvation, and nothing on our part either brings it about or causes its revocation. But a cavalier attitude towards His grace betrays a lack of understanding that He is holy and has redeemed very unholy people. Praise Jesus that grace takes us out of sin and enables us to share in His holiness! 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Bringing Out True Colors

Friday, as John and I wheeled to South Station via the Rose Kennedy Greenway, I noticed a hydrangea bush in full bloom. Since high school, hydrangeas have captivated me--especially when they're green--and the lilac colored ones so prevalent in Massachusetts delight me. So John wasn't particularly surprised that I asked him to photograph it.

 We have an excellent  camera, and I wouldn't trade it for the world, but the photo just didn't show the vividness of the colors as I saw them. I understand that using photo editing programs such as Photoshop and Paintshop Pro can be considered cheating or reality-altering, but in this case our camera faded the colors as they were in "real  life." So, using Paintshop Pro, I slightly increased the vibrancy

Now, that's the hydrangea bush  I  saw!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Don't Blacklist Alan Chambers Quite Yet

Has Alan Chambers lost his salvation? Absolutely not! Salvation can be neither earned nor forfeited by human mechanisms, so it would be unbiblical to interpret his increasingly liberal stance on Gay Christians as evidence that he's no longer saved.

Neither should we assume, at this point, that Alan was never genuinely saved in the first place, or even that he's wandered from the faith. Currently, he appears to have adopted a distorted theology of grace that ought to cause us (especially those of us who know and love him) very deep concern. But each of us, at one time or another, has believed doctrinal error, losing perspective on certain points of theology, so it may be that God will correct Alan's thinking as time progresses. If he persists in the direction his address Wednesday night indicates, then we may need to regard him as unsaved. Right now, however, we need to pray that he will be delivered from deception and restored to a proper understanding of grace.

Yes, Alan has embraced a potentially dangerous course of action in his apology to the LGBTQ community in that he perpetuates their myth that God can not transform someone who struggles with same sex attraction. I doubt Alan personally buys into that myth, but his remarks do give that impression. Those who believe homosexuality is determined at birth and consequently is as morally neutral as being left-handed will understand the closing of Exodus as an endorsement of homosexuality. Although I agree that some teachings and techniques Exodus and its ministries employed hurt people, much greater damage will result as people lose incentive to repent of homosexuality and walk towards holiness.

Judging Alan's salvation right now only reveals our own self-righteousness, which Jesus condemned much more visibly than sexual sin. While his permissive understanding of grace definitely should alarm us, let's be careful to pray that the Holy Spirit will correct and restore him. I look forward to seeing him in heaven.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Alan Chambers' Lost Faith

 But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. ~~2 Timothy 3:1-5 (ESV)

Last night, Alan Chambers addressed the opening assembly of the 38th Exodus International Conference. With a conventional lump in his throat, he alluded to ways in which God has used Exodus to minister to people who have been enslaved to homosexuality, but the bulk of his message reiterated an apology to the LGBTQ community. Then, again with an appropriate catch in his throat, he announced that Exodus will disband.

Alan has been moving toward a more "tolerant" position on  Gay Christians since January 2012, when he participated on a panel for The Gay Christian Network's conference and assured his audience that he regards them as Christians. Last night, he elaborated on this stance by saying that, while he personally still believes that heterosexual marriage is the only legitimate context for  sexual expression, he embraces those who have differing opinions. Admitting that he still experiences same sex attractions, he concludes that God therefore can't change sexual orientation. (Yet Alan is madly in love with his wife.)

Every believer has residual struggles with sin. Those struggles, however, don't negate the Holy Spirit's power to transform lives. The very fact that Alan's love for Leslie continues to increase, despite on-going attractions to men (on which he doesn't act) demonstrates a change in his sexual orientation. Sadly, he now disregards this change in favor of assuming that recurrent responses to attractive men mean than the Lord hasn't changed him. That God can't change homosexual orientation.

Perhaps Exodus should disband, but not because it once called men and women to walk in the sort of repentance that offers hope. It should disband because Alan has bought into the lie that continued temptation indicates a lack of transformation. I've loved Alan since meeting him in 1995, and it deeply saddens me to see him capitulate to those who insist that change isn't possible. Exodus needed a leader who believed in God's power.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Wrapped In Annoyance

My thoughts both shocked and shamed me yesterday as The RIDE van pulled into the parking lot. I knew who the next passenger would be. And, since I also knew that the storm would cause a traffic nightmare (which it did), the prospect of extended travel with an intellectually disabled person threatened to make a bad situation even less pleasant.

When John had scheduled his doctor appointment five weeks ago, we had assumed that weather would permit us to cancel The RIDE return trip so we could spend a  couple hours wheeling through Boston before taking the Commuter Rail home. But the weather forecasts convinced us to keep The RIDE, and the drops that fell as the driver boarded John confirmed that we'd made the only possible decision. Three other passengers shared our van, all of whom would be dropped off before us.

The two ladies were amiable, and the one who had  been on the van before our pick-up was especially sweet. But I'd been on a van with the young man earlier this year, and I knew he talked to himself. As he boarded, I found myself thinking: "I am not very patient with intellectually disabled people."

At that moment, I felt ashamed of my hypocrisy. Certainly, I expect people to accept my physical disability! So why did I regard this young man as an annoyance? My attitude toward him must have broken the Lord's heart! In an act of repentance, I began praying that he could know Jesus, and found myself looking forward to a joyous reunion with him in heaven.

As the storm intensified, the young man started bickering with himself, using two distinct voices to express his points and counter-points. During the dialogue, he admitted that the thunder and lightening scared him "to death." Rather than feeling repulsed by his behavior, however, I longed to climb into the seat next to him, wrap motherly arms around him and reassure him that the Lord wouldn't let anything happen to him.

I'm pleased that the Lord so quickly transformed my attitude, allowing me to experience His love for the man. He showed me my sin, not to leave me in shame, but to change my heart. The trip, lasting two hours and 20 minutes, was still horrendous, but I know it was a wonderful gift from God.

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Neglected Trinity

"God in three Persons, blessed Trinity!" Hymn singers will undoubtedly recognize that majestic closing line from "Holy, Holy, Holy," a hymn that praises the magnificence of God by exploring various aspects of His glory. Yet, could our familiarity with the hymn (for those of us who still sing hymns) cause us to gloss over its doctrinal declaration that the one and only God exists as three distinct Persons--God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit? And how often do we think about the Trinity anyway (except briefly when and if we sing "Holy, Holy, Holy")?

The doctrine of the Trinity seems to receive very little attention in our present time, perhaps because our inability to "wrap our heads around it" embarrasses us. Of course our analogies of H2O (water, ice and vapor) and shamrocks fall short of providing adequate explanations of  how He could exist as three distinct Persons while being one in essence, and the shortcomings of those illustrations frustrate our desire to present convincing arguments. Mystery makes us uncomfortable. So we avoid the discomfort by simply minimizing or ignoring the topic altogether.

The strategy of   neglecting the teaching, however, places people at risk of entering eternity without a true understanding of Who God is. Of Who Jesus is. And that's very scary, since we must acknowledge Jesus as Lord (which necessarily assumes His deity) as a condition of salvation (Romans 10:9). So, while no human possesses the intellectual capacity to  comprehend how one God can exist in three Persons, it's essential to understand that this doctrine is true. Jesus and the Holy Spirit are every bit as much God as the Father.

Having lost a dear friend who belonged to a church that denied the Trinity, I believe it's imperative that Christians regain an insistence on teaching this vital doctrine to young believers. A year before my friend's death, I made the opportunity to tell her the true Gospel, and I emphasized the doctrine of the Trinity. Sadly, she gave no indication of accepting what I had to say, but I can  hope that the Holy Spirit worked in her heart before she died.

And I pray now that evangelicals will increase the preaching of the Trinity, so people will know God fully. Rather than neglecting the doctrine for the sake of intellectual comfort, let's boldly embrace it with joyful conviction. Oh, no one will actually comprehend how He could be a Trinity, but the very wonder of God in three Persons can draw us into worship.  "God in three Persons--blessed Trinity!"

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Spiritual Lumberjack

It's really too late in the day to begin blogging, especially when matters that mustn't be discussed online currently occupy my thoughts and prayers. Yet I know I'll be in Boston Tuesday, both for John's check-up and for a little recreation, so  I wanted to post a little something today to let my readers know I'm still here.

Today, I'm not reflecting on fatherhood. As I indicated yesterday, that's a remote topic for me, since I pretty much grew up without Daddy. No, today I'm wondering where God needs to correct my heart, and where I've tried to extract  splinters from the eyes of other people while ignoring logs in my own. Not a fun place, obviously, but probably a very important one! Excuse me if I'm not specific, but I can't get into detail. I can, however, praise my Heavenly Father Who shows His love by offering me discipline.

And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?
“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
    nor be weary when reproved by him.
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
    and chastises every son whom he receives.”
It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. ~~Hebrews 12:5-11 (ESV)

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Unorganized Ramblings From My Father's Daughter

Since my dad died when I was 10, Fathers Day has always been awkward for me. Not particularly sad, but I'm never quite sure what to do with the day. Yes, I understand that God is my  Heavenly Father, and I'm truly grateful for His grace in calling me His daughter. But I'm so over "visualizing" Him bouncing me on His knee, holding my hand, and all the other spiritual goosebump experiences that I tried to conjure up during my years in Charismatic circles.

Growing up without Daddy didn't exactly hurt, but I always felt aware that he was missing. The only real painful sensation regarding his death occurred 39 years later, when another man walked me down the aisle on  my wedding day. As much as I love the pastor who served as a surrogate dad for me that day, as the organist played the first chord of "Here Comes The Bride," I suddenly yearned for Daddy.

This Fathers Day, I pray people will appreciate fatherhood. Forget  the ultra-feminist line that a mother is all a child needs; it's absolute propaganda! Although my mom did a wonderful job raising two daughters by herself, she couldn't give us a father's love. She never wanted us to grow up fatherless, and certainly never chose to be a single mother. But perhaps her courage to raise us while openly admitting that she wished she could have shared the experience with Daddy made me realize the value of fathers.

Friday, June 14, 2013

The Ecstasy: Michelangelo's Sketches In Boston

Thanks to Twitter, I learned that the Museum of Fine Arts ran an exhibit of sketches by Michelangelo. On loan from  Casa Buonarroti (Michelangelo's family home in Florence, Italy), the collection has been in Boston since April 23, and will leave June 30. How we missed it when we were there three weeks ago baffles me, but I'm so thankful to have seen that Tweet! Having taken two art history classes on Italian Renaissance art in college (one of which focused almost exclusively on Leonardo and Michelangelo), I quite definitely wanted to see these drawings.

The curator of the exhibit divided the sketches between architectural and figure studies, beginning with a study for the facade for the church at San Lorenzo. I vaguely remember my professor droning on and on about that facade, so I felt a surge of excitement at seeing it first-hand.

As I steered my wheelchair through the other architectural studies, I noticed Michelangelo's firm grasp of geometry. I felt as if I leaned over his shoulder, having just a tiny glimpse into a mind every bit as complex and brilliant as Leonardo's.

But, as anyone who looks at my drawings might guess, Michelangelo's figure studies attracted me. His study for the Madonna and Child highlighted his preference for sculpture, and I could practically feel his mind whirling and calculating as his chalk and charcoal defined the Child's arm and abdomen.

Likewise, his study of fabric draping over a leg with the leg's movement and position directing the garment's folds showed Michelangelo's passion for three dimensional art. Though amazingly skilled at drawing and painting, this man was a sculptor above all else!
His portrait of Cleopatra delighted me, but also mystified me by transforming the Egyptian queen into a Greco-Roman goddess. But perhaps her marriages to Julius Caesar and Marc Anthony had, in reality, made her Roman anyway, and Michelangelo wanted to emphasize that marriage had ushered her into Roman culture. Notice that her hairstyle isn't the angular fashion so iconic of Egypt, but the soft curls piled on the head that a lady of Rome might wear.
After lunch, we returned to the exhibit, carefully looking at each sketch a second time with the knowledge that we'll probably never see anything of Michelangelo's in person again. Stopping at a sketch that hadn't particularly interested me earlier, I dutifully looked again, understanding that it was a study of the Christ Child's leg.

Again out of duty, I looked at the card next to it, suddenly recognizing the photo of the painting for which Michelangelo had done the study.

My heart pounded, as I stared at the photo of the Doni Tondo (also known as The Holy Family). It had been one of my favorite works of Michelangelo's 39 years ago, when I took that class on Leonardo and Michelangelo. According to John, I glowed! That moment of connection with the Michelangelo I'd met in college was why I'd needed to attend the exhibit! Praise God for Twitter!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Big Difference

About a year ago, a song came out on Christian radio on the topic of wanting to be different for Jesus, which certainly  has Scriptural merit. Throughout the Bible, the Lord makes it evident that He wants a people of His own, separate from the rest of humanity. Christians indeed should be distinct from their peers because of our unique relationship with Him.

The song  (which I can't locate on YouTube) concludes that "the difference is love." Sounds good, until you realize that many non-Christians have a tremendous capacity for showing love. And, while  many might make the case that the love of non-Christians is tainted by some form of self-satisfaction (if only in assuring themselves of their altruism), we Christians engage in pretty much the same sort of self-congratulation, adding extra pats on our own backs for having "pleased the Lord." So love, taken by itself, doesn't necessarily distinguish Christians from anyone else.

Neither is morality a mark of distinction, although many secular people in this post-modern age tend to increasingly veer from the moral structure prescribed in God's Word (particularly in the realm of sexuality). Yet Christianity isn't alone in laying  out a code of behavior that reveres chastity, marital fidelity and heterosexuality. For instance, Islam and Mormonism share those very values. So, even though Christians should, by all means, contrast society by firmly holding to "traditional" values, morality in and of itself doesn't always differentiate us from everybody else.

Christians differ from others by believing that Jesus is our righteousness, as well as our God. Out of gratitude, we submit to His authority, knowing that we are completely dependent on Him. He enables us to love purely (despite our lapses of self-congratulation) and He gives a desire to honor Him in our behavior. We aren't different for Jesus--we're different because of Him!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Unloving Same Sex Love

For fun, let's pretend proponents of gay theology understand the six key Scriptures correctly, being ever so much more enlightened than  the vast  majority of Biblical scholars over the past 2000 years. Let's pretend with them that the prohibitions against homosexuality apply to gang rape, idolatrous practices or pedophilia, and that God smiles down on loving, committed same sex relationships. Even if this  make-believe  scenario could stand up to scrutiny, overarching Scriptural principles make it doubtful that homosexuality should be openly celebrated within the  Christian community.

Romans 14  teaches that Christians who enjoy greater liberties must be mindful not to impose their freedoms on those who have stricter scruples, lest those "weaker" Christians sin against God by violating their consciences.

20 Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats. 21 It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble. 22 The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves. 23 But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin. ~~Romans 14:20-23 (ESV)

Obviously, I don't really believe that the sinfulness of homosexuality is up for question. And, while many websites do a far better job of expounding on the passages that condemn the practice, perhaps I should attempt to explain why the passages actually mean what they say (what a concept!). At the moment, however, I'm more interested in the idea that Gay Christians, by demanding that the Church at large abandon long-held understandings of the Bible, could be causing people to sin.

Asking someone to set aside convictions, simply so you can flaunt your liberties (real or imagined) exposes unloving selfishness, according to Romans 14:15. Therefore, even if homosexuality was morally neutral (which an honest reading of Scripture refutes), boldly practicing it is wrong because doing so could tempt others to go against their convictions. Conversely, true Christian love restricts its own liberties out of respect for  those who maintain stricter values. So, homosexuality still violates God's law, if only by offending Christians with sensitive consciences.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Suspended Blogging

With less than an hour before the next scheduled interview for a PCA, I'm not sure I can do much of a blog post today. Most applicants are contacting me via email, so I'm typing responses and   giving phone numbers  to call. As you might surmise, I can't focus very well on writing, so I hope you'll understand my little vacation from blogging while we go through the interview process.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Black Holes, Body Snatchers And Personal Care Attendants

There must be some sort of black hole that sucks up Personal Care Attendants. A month ago, I hired a wonderful gal, who embodied pretty much everything I'd wanted in a PCA, and she seemed dependable. She called in sick, and again called in when she was hospitalized. A week and a half ago, she came because she wanted to be certain I got to bed. She said she'd be going to her doctor the next day, and would call after her appointment to let  me know if she needed more time off. We never heard  from her again, despite sending emails and leaving voice mails asking her what was happening.

This isn't the first time a PCA has mysteriously vanished, although two reemerged briefly to demand letters of termination so they could collect Food Stamps (though both refused to explain their failure to show up for work). Several others have never called. People surely can't be that irresponsible! No, there must be a sinister force that abducts them, sending them to an alternate  galaxy.

John's more scientifically oriented than I, but even he wonders how so many PCAs manage to fall into this black hole, vortex, sixth dimension or whatever it is. And, while the Lord faithfully provides me with the care I need, I'm tired of constantly advertising, interviewing and training. And wondering why they disappear. If body-snatchers have invaded the Greater Boston Area, I really wish they'd stop targeting my PCAs.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Yours To Answer

Since we now know that the National Security Administration can listen to our phone calls and read our Facebook pages, perhaps professing Christians had better ask ourselves whether or not our daily activities produce evidence that we truly follow Jesus. Sadly, I see things that some of my friends from various churches post online, and they seem just as worldly (and sometimes more worldly) than my blatantly non-Christian friends.

Christian, what does your online activity say about you?

Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Need To Fear God

"She's a God-fearing woman" sounds archaic and provincial even to Christians. Over the past sixty years, churches have minimized Scriptural injunctions to fear the Lord in favor of depicting Him as some sort of Cosmic Bellboy or Indulgent Grandfather Who exists primarily to meet "felt needs." Quite properly, most evangelicals verbally deny having such expectations of Him, but when He allows great enough trials, their real attitudes toward Him rise to the surface. Rather than addressing Him with respectful fear, they lash out at Him in unrestrained anger, assuring themselves that He is "big enough" to handle their wrath.

Last year, as John faced major surgery for colon cancer only six weeks after suffering a heart attack brought on by a colonoscopy, I found myself raging at God. No, I wasn't simply giving Him an honest account of my fears and frustrations. I screamed so long and hard that the lining of my throat felt lacerated for hours afterward. I pelted Him with bitter accusations, declaring that I hated Him for putting His will above mine. I shouted that He had no right to take John away from  me, and that I was sick of surrendering my will to His! At that moment, fearing Him wasn't as important as bullying Him into healing  John on my terms and schedule.

At that awful moment, I learned the startling truth that, instead of fearing the Lord, I resented His sovereignty and wanted to brow-beat Him into obeying me.

Since that time, I've been thinking (quite a bit, actually) about what it means to fear the Lord. According to the Bible, God calls us to have a healthy fear of Him, similar to fearing our parents when we were little or fearing police officers now. Respecting authority doesn't cause us to cower in terror, but it keeps us mindful of a power to correct and even punish us if we cross certain boundaries. Fearing the Lord, therefore, accepts His authority with humility, responding to that authority by studying His Word with the purpose of obeying Him.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
    and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight. 
                     ~~Proverbs 9:10 (ESV)

The fear of the Lord helps us conform our wills to His, accepting that our expectations, desires and even our comforts remain secondary to His will. My fury last year didn't intimidate the Lord into restoring John to me. No, He healed my husband in mercy that neither John nor I deserve because He has purposes for John (and  for our marriage) that will glorify Him and advance His kingdom.  Fearing Him, in contrast to expecting Him to do my bidding, helps me align myself with His purposes, reminding me that everything's really about Him. In His graciousness, may He bring His people back to fearing Him!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Oh My Goodness: The Myth And The Remedy

Randomly ask someone if he or she is a good person. Most of the time, the answer will be yes, though more humble sorts may say, "I hope so," or "I try to be." And among people that believe heaven and hell exist, most people feel very confident that, because they're basically good, God is pretty much obligated to assign them to heaven.

Of course, Scripture clearly teaches, in many places, that there's no such thing as a good person. With the singular exception of Jesus, every human who has ever lived has been thoroughly corrupted by sin, and possesses no power to become acceptable to the Lord. You might work tirelessly for your church, serve the disabled, give to charity, maintain sexual purity, memorize long passages of Scripture and pray incessantly, but sin is still intrinsic to your nature. No amount of good works can atone for the ways you've offended God.

And, lest you accuse me of a holier-than-thou attitude, let me state plainly that I struggle against my temptations to sin many times a day. Often, I succumb. My battles to live in holiness, and especially my failures to do so, graciously remind me that I desperately need a Savior. In fact, the haunting realization that I deserved eternity in hell led me to commit my life to Jesus back in 1971, and it keeps me running to Him for mercy.

I'd love to say I'm a good person, but that would be yet another lie  I've told. My conduct doesn't come close to securing me a place in heaven. But Jesus, by dying on the cross in my place, has paid my debt to God on my behalf! His goodness thus replaces my vileness, allowing me to come before the Father boldly. When God looks at me (or any true Christian), He sees His Son's righteousness, and considers me righteous solely on that basis.

Before anyone can have salvation, they must understand their need to be saved, as well as their absolute inability to save themselves. As long as they cling to the fantasy that something in them can possibly commend them to God, heaven remains shut to them. But once they admit their moral bankruptcy, they're able to recognize the Lord's abundant goodness!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Heresy Or Honest Disagreement?

Fighting for sound doctrine certainly is important, and too few evangelicals engage in  contending for the faith. Partly, laziness keeps people from digging into Scripture. Many Christians my age and younger read the Bible superficially, more intent on finding a "personal word for the day" than patiently mining it to learn what the Lord has revealed about Himself and His plan for history. Such study requires a time commitment, an abandonment of self-referencing and good old-fashioned hard work!

People also shy away from doctrine because it divides, and one cannot deny the nobility of that motive. Many New Testament passages  command unity among believers. And arguably, a Church (meaning Christians as a whole rather than specific congregations) at war with itself can often discredit the Gospel before a watching world.

We walk, therefore, in tension. On one hand, we see the enormous responsibility to uphold sound doctrine, studying both carefully and tirelessly to understand the Lord's perspective and His nature. And on the other hand, we appreciate the value of setting aside disagreements for the sake of unity. As usual, the Lord calls His people to both postures...presumably to show us our complete dependence on Him.

This tension presented itself to me today as I noticed a Tweet from a woman who shares my Calvinist convictions. Quoting Michael S. Horton (with whom I agree 99% of the time), she tweeted:

"The evangelicals who faced this challenge of Arminianism universally regarded it as a heretical departure from the Christian faith."Horton

As a former Arminian, I had great difficulty characterizing my old approach to theology as "heretical."  While I now believe salvation is exclusively God's work, and that the Bible overwhelmingly teaches election rather than free-will, I recognize that my Arminian friends study Scripture as diligently as I do and have drawn slightly different conclusions about man's role in salvation. Obviously, I no longer agree with them, but I know the verses that lead to their theology well enough to understand how they've formed their views.

Some Arminians, please note, sincerely believe Calvinists are heretics.

Christians in both camps, however, believe that salvation comes through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. Even though Arminians would emphasize human responsibility in "accepting" God's grace, calling them heretical seems extreme and uncharitable. Can't we pray for them to better understand the doctrines of grace, perhaps helping them see how Scripture supports our position, and still recognize that they do adhere to the fundamentals of the Gospel. Doctrine should divide us from false teaching, not from variations within the truth.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

It's All Perspective

Sometimes, the little comments people make reveal their true spiritual conditions. I think, in particular, of a friend I had back in the '80s who had a seeming earnestness concerning her relationship with the Lord that I admired almost to the point of envy. She evangelized telemarketers, and handled Jehovah's Witnesses with amazing finesse. Although various hurts she'd suffered during childhood left her emotionally immature, she expressed  great depth in her desire to serve Jesus as she pursued her career.

In a moment of honesty during that time, she off-handedly remarked that she thought heaven sounded boring. "I'm not sure I'll enjoy sitting up there worshiping Jesus all the time," she declared. From her tone of voice, all of us in the room could tell that, rather than making a reluctant confession, she spoke with defiance.

Ten years later, she no longer attended any church, and had embraced a lesbian lifestyle. Her zeal for Christ had vanished, and she severed all her ties with Christians.

In the eighteen  years since I last  heard of her, I've often wondered if her expression of disdain at the prospect of spending eternity praising the Lord might have been a clue that she didn't really know Christ. At the time, I simply reminded  myself that I had too many logs in my own eye preventing me from presuming to fish the speck out of her eye. But in retrospect, it appears that she had the bigger log, blinding her to just how worthy the Lord is of eternal adoration.

Those who even catch a glimpse of how holy the Lord is, how hopelessly sinful we are apart from Him, and how lovingly gracious He was to shed His blood as an atonement for our sin understand that eternity will never give us nearly enough time to praise Him. Actually, it just may be that when we finally see Him face-to-Face, beholding the entirety of His glory, we won't tolerate anything that even threatens to distract us from lavishing praise on  Him.

Admittedly, in this present age, my fleshly nature all too frequently lures me away from worshiping the Lord. Other pursuits, most of which are morally neutral (or even good), draw my attention away from adoring Him. But that very struggle to love the Lord my God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength only increases my longing for that day when He will liberate me from myself so that I'll be able to whole-heartedly worship Him. Instead of being boring, an eternity of worship will be the most wonderful experience possible.


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