Thursday, January 31, 2013

Love, Not Compromise

Last night, I came across Confession From A Christian: I'm Not Trying To Change My Gay Friends, which two of my friends posted on Facebook. In one sense,  I agreed with the author. Gay people need as much love as any other person, especially if they don't know Christ. The specific type of sin that enslaves a person is secondary to their sin of not believing in Him, and there's no sense in making homosexuality out to be "the sin above all sins."

Yet the underlying assumption in this article is that love never confronts another person's sin. I'm not advocating beating people over the head indiscriminately with our Bibles, but there are times when love compels us to confront sin (regardless of its form) and say, "This  is not God's desire for you." 1 Corinthians 13:6 says love "does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth" (ESV).

The woman who wrote the article never actually explained what loving her gay friends entailed, nor did she explain how deep these friendships went. I recently had a brief, surface-level friendship with a young woman who was in a lesbian relationship, but said nothing about her lifestyle because I didn't know her well (she merely helped out a few times when my PCA couldn't come), and now she's moved away. Had she been able to continue helping me, hopefully John and I could have told her about Jesus, and then about His ability to free her from all sin...including lesbianism. Actually, we most likely would have.

As friendships between Christians and non-Christians progress, inevitably the time comes when sin must be discussed, and the Christian must take stands that the non-Christian considers unloving and intolerant. To non-Christians, love and tolerance demands that Christians approve  of ideas, attitudes and behaviors that run contrary to Scripture.

Increasingly, professing Christians bow to these demands, congratulating themselves for being "fair and open-minded." I fear the writer of the article I read yesterday has made such concessions to her gay friends. At least, that's the tone of her article. And that tone scares me, not because I'm homophobic, but because we must not compromise with the world by calling good evil and evil good. When opportunity presents itself, we have a responsibility to make a stand for the Lord, even though we risk being rejected or persecuted.

Loving people requires hating whatever blocks them from knowing Jesus. It necessitates being honest even when they find our honesty offensive. And loving the Lord to the point that pleasing Him displeases  some people remains our highest priority. In choosing to obey Him, we embrace both  love and truth.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Lord's Economy

John's hospitalization is the only heavy thing to directly affect me recently, but there's a general heaviness everywhere I look. Friends facing the deaths of parents. Other friends going through divorces that they don't want. Church difficulties. A collapsing economy. Religious freedom being sacrificed on the altars of "reproductive rights" and "marriage equality."

And the evangelical church's capitulation with the world.

I'm saddened to see the encroaching spiritual darkness, even though the Lord minced no words in predicting it.

And Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains.
“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name's sake. 10 And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. 11 And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. 12 And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come." ~~Matthew 24:4-14 (ESV)

The dreadful things I see around me don't surprise Jesus, so they really shouldn't surprise me. I don't like seeing such a massive rejection of Christ, and (in my human pride) I'd like to turn the tide. Ah, but that pride is actually opposed to God, deceiving me into supposing that I'd be a better savior than He is! Such a realization makes me tremble with shame!

Jesus is the perfect Savior, and He has a purpose for allowing sin and suffering that our finite minds aren't equipped to understand. He isn't accountable to us, as much as we demand He should  be. In His kindness, however, He assures us that all the filth ans wickedness slithering around us, as well as all the sickness and heartache, will not go to waste.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. ~~Romans 8:28 (ESV)

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

This Beautiful Moment

John got home at 5:00 last night, understandably tired and weakened...but very happy to be home! And his wife (that would be me) is equally happy to have him home! We've, of course, been inundated with unsolicited advice by people who genuinely love us, but who forget that the combination of Post-Polio and last spring's colon surgery make his situation somewhat unique. But we'll keep modifying his diet, hoping to find ways to minimize hospitalizations.

This latest separation reminded me of a conversation we had about nine years ago with the pastor who  officiated at our wedding. That pastor's wife had died suddenly from a reaction to medication, leaving him with three adolescent children and one of the most broken hearts I've ever seen. As John and I expressed our sympathies, he steadied his voice and charged us: "Whatever you do, cherish every moment you have with each other!"

Indeed, the time I have with John goes breathtakingly quickly, reminding me of Goethe's Faust pleading, "Stay, beautiful moment!" (Not that I want to sell my soul to Mephistopheles in exchange for more time with John.) These past ten and a half years have  sped by, leaving me increasingly aware that we won't be man and wife very long. Yes, we'll be in heaven together for eternity, and our relationship there will be perfect, but we won't be married. So I treasure this brief marriage relationship as a special gift from the Lord. Since it's fleeting (and each time he goes to the hospital, I remember how fleeting it really is!), I think of that widowed pastor's words with a renewed determination to apply them.

Whether married or single, each of us has at least one precious person to appreciate. We mustn't cling so tightly to those special people that we end up worshiping them in Christ's place, but neither should we forget what remarkable gifts they are. Time, if I may be trite, flies, and nothing we can do will restrain it. But we can hold our loved ones close for this beautiful moment, thanking the Lord for the relationships He gives us.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Good News on John

I just called John, and he's gotten rid of his blockage!!!!  Praise God! As soon as he can eat solid food and make sure it passes through, he can come home. Please pray they'll let him eat solid food tonight. We'd really like him home tomorrow (we always hate being separated). Also, pray that the doctors can figure out why this keeps happening. We thought he was drinking enough water, but maybe in this  cold, dry weather he needs to drink even more...?

I'm thankful to all the ladies who have helped feed me meals. I'd like to set up help for Tuesday just in case. The Lord, as always, has been faithful.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Binding Agreements And Incantations

Acts 8:9-25 narrates the account of Simon, a Samaritan magician who appeared to come to faith after witnessing the miracles that the Holy Spirit worked through Phillip. When Peter and John arrived from Jerusalem and conferred the Holy Spirit's power on the new believers of that city, Simon exposed his lust for authority over the people (which he'd previously enjoyed as a result of his magic) by offering the apostles money in exchange for the ability to give the Holy Spirit to people.

When I read that passage yesterday, after a sleepless night of trying to bargain with the Lord to end John's hospitalization, I saw myself. Right now, my flesh isn't interested in how God might be using this situation for His glory. I want my husband back! I tried to find just the right words to "convince" Him to bend His will to mine, quoting Scriptures as if they were either binding agreements or incantations. Where's the magic bullet? How can I gain control?

But I don't want to use prayer as a tool of manipulation to force the Lord's hand. My flesh does, but my regenerated spirit gasps in horror at my self-serving attitude. Frankly folks, it's a struggle.

Having such a vested interest in what happens to John makes praying for God's will to be done over and above my own extremely difficult. Slowly, I'm making the surrender, but denying the Simon in me takes discipline...determination. Perhaps one of God's purposes here is to deal with my willfulness. Can I stop my ridiculous attempts to make God do my bidding? Really, I must, lest I be a false disciple like Simon. How good of God to warn me so clearly!

Friday, January 25, 2013

More Hospital Time

Yesterday, John went to Mass General Hospital Emergency Room with another intestinal blockage, and was admitted at around 8:00 last night. He has a tube down his nose, draining his intestine (horrible for him), which has alleviated some of his discomfort in his tummy. He called this morning, needing the alternate power cord for his ventilator because his cord shorted out, so our friend Al  will take that to him. He sounded fairly chipper, although talking while using the hospital's ventilator was difficult for him. So I know little else. Pray that his bowels move soon so he can come home (I'm concerned about all the germs in the hospital, especially with the flu season being so terrible). Pray that he'll have opportunities to share the Gospel, and that he'll take those opportunities.

I'm covered for lunch and supper today. John's mom will do Sunday lunch (so no one will miss the business meeting at church), so I need tomorrow lunch and supper and Sunday supper. (Wish I could go to church and the meeting, but it will be too cold). Spiritually, I'm wrestling with the Lord, very scared, heart-broken and angry, but clinging  to Scripture memory verses. Obviously this weather prohibits me from visiting John, so I'm lonely for him. Please pray for my physical, spiritual and emotional needs. Thank you all.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Blink Of A Cursor

The cursor blinks impatiently, commanding me to fill  the screen with something that will draw in readers. My thoughts lean toward serious topics, though my feelings insist that I've been much to heavy this past month, and therefore really ought to balance things out with a witty, light-hearted post. Okay. I'm game. I'm willing to be either sober or funny. But it's after 5:00, and (if I'm going to compose a blog post of any sort) I'd better start tapping my keyboard!

As the cursor continues to blink, however, ideas scamper away from me like children teasing a nanny. In the end, they'll return with wonderful submission, and clothe themselves with words, sentences and phrases that will, hopefully, present them splendidly. They may be weighty or frivolous, but they'll say something well worth reading. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow. But I'll keep typing, as relentlessly as my cursor keeps blinking, assured that in most cases I will produce posts that deserve to be read.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Ignore Multitudinous Ramifications

"She'll be hopelessly retarded. Really, nothing but a vegetable. Put her away and forget you ever had her."

In 1953, abortion was illegal, so the baby was born. Though she was a month late, she weighed only five pounds, had a dislocated hip and was jaundiced. She would be severely retarded, with a very minimal quality of life...if she'd have any quality of life at all.

If such a child was detected during her mother's pregnancy today, doctors would pressure the mother to abort. They'd emphasize the low quality of life that stretched ahead of the baby, insinuating (or perhaps saying outright) that permitting such a child to live is cruel and immoral. And the mother's quality of life would be lowered as well. Not to mention the inevitable drain on taxpayers!

Thus, abortion takes on an altruistic character. That in-and-out procedure prevents an avalanche of suffering and expense by eliminating a life riddled with the multitudinous ramifications of birth defects. Abortion, by preventing God knows how much human suffering, extends mercy.

But God, actually, is the only One who knows what a child's life will become. Doctors can make as many dire predictions as they wish, but they are more fallible than most of them care to admit. For all their years of medical training, not one of them has achieved  equality with God, either in healing abilities or in foreknowledge. They may predict that a fetus or newborn will have no quality of life, recommending abortion or institutionalization, but they may not necessarily be correct in their prognosis.

That baby girl in 1953, by the way, was me.

Monday, January 21, 2013

A 33 Minute 180

Do you have 33 minutes to spare? If not today, would you have it sometime this week? Maybe next week? You see, there's a video embedded at the end of this blog post that you really ought to see. Granted, it's not exactly entertaining, and it may demand that you do some serious thinking about a number of issues. So hey, if you'd rather spend that half hour watching Family Guy, going to a bar or playing on Twitter, that's certainly your choice.

But it's only 33 minutes, and it may offer you a different perspective. Oh, you may disagree with the conclusions of the video, but you'll need to figure out why you disagree,  hopefully using the same logic as the creators of this video used. Accept my challenge. After all, it's only 33 minutes of your life...

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Trillions To Mourn

Forty years ago this coming Tuesday, the Supreme Court legalized abortion. What can be said, from either the pro-life position or the pro-choice position, that hasn't been said a million times? If I could only find a fresh angle to help people understand that these are babies we're killing, not blobs of tissue, I'd surely put those words in every corner of the internet I could find. Anything to stop the senseless slaughter of helpless babies who deserve a chance to live!

Today, on an anniversary that should never have been reached, I feel tired and sad.  Too tired and sad to offer the well-reasoned arguments against abortion, though there are many from science.  Another day, I probably should address some of the beliefs held so dearly by the pro-choice camps, demonstrating the faulty thinking behind their conclusions. Even without turning to the Bible that started my opposition to abortion (though ultimately, I must turn to it), I can demonstrate that a fetus is actually a human being, worthy of protection. I can write about Norma McCovey. the Roe who won the right to abort her child and who, in recent years, has become a leading pro-life advocate. And I can write about Margaret Sanger, who founded Planned Parenthood as a vehicle of eugenics (making President Obama's support of the organization very strange).

But on this anniversary, it's simply time to remember the trillions of children, every bit as innocent as the precious 22 children gunned down in Newtown Connecticut last month. It's time to grieve for them, and for their mothers. Wednesday, we can dry our tears, square our shoulders and resume the fight to end this barbaric practice. And we will win.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

She's Grown To Be A Wise Woman

This afternoon, as our Bible Study group wrestled with Colossians 3:16 ("Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly...), Sarah came up with a profound insight.

Now, I really should be used to her incredible sensitivity to the Lord, remembering her account of her salvation experience that she presented to the church membership committee when she was a young teenager several years ago (her testimony had a depth that most testimonies by kids from Christian homes lack). But I'm dense enough to think that a college sophomore really can't yet glean any substantial truths from Scripture. No...that's not it. I'm dense enough to forget that Sarah's no longer the 10-year-old girl I met when I first moved to the Greater Boston Area.

Anyway, the discussion (which, by the way, was so much fun that I wondered how anyone could possibly consider the Bible to be boring) moved around to the question of what it means to have the word of Christ dwell in us. After we bandied around a few very good ideas, Sarah spoke. She said that when someone moves into his own place, he changes it to suit his personality. Things that don't fit who he is have to go.

Similarly, she continued, when the Word of Christ (Scripture) takes up residence in a Christian, it rearranges that Christian to reflect the Lord's personality. Certain attitudes and behaviors can no longer be tolerated because that Christian is now His house. Nothing that He finds objectionable may remain. All rubbish must be resolutely kicked to the curb, without the slightest thought of it returning.

Paul's letter to Colossae came about because, being in a multicultural city, that church contended with a variety of false teachings that deviated from Christ's teachings. Paul wanted the Christians of that church to be so filled with Christ's teachings that they had no room for philosophies that might either add to it or water it down, not to mention ideas that would twist or downright pervert it. And the only effective way to kick false teaching to the curb is to let the Word  of Christ take up residence in us so thoroughly that the Lord rearranges us to suit His personality.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Glorious Train Wreck

Several months ago, Trevin Wax (or was it Tim Challis?) blogged about three books on sharing the gospel with people who have homosexual struggles. The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert by Roseria Champagne Butterfield immediately caught my attention, probably because Butterfield was a professor of English Literature at Syracuse University. Although she tried to address a few too many topics (her later chapters focus on her experiences as an adoptive mom and homeschooling), the book does much to demonstrate Christ's power to completely transform a life.

Mrs. Butterfield came to Christ while writing a book intended to denounce "the Religious Right." As she began meeting with a pastor and his wife who offered to explain the Christian perspective on various issues, she soon developed a friendship with them that eventually led her to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Describing her first dinner with them, she writes, "Ken  and Floy didn't identify with me. They listened to me and identified with Christ." (Kindle location 298).

Once converted, her life became (in her words) a train wreck. Besides losing her lesbian partner, she also sacrificed her academic reputation and career as she moved away from its feminist, post-modern agenda in favor of Biblical principles. She writes (Kindle location 717),  "Conversion didn't fit my life. Conversion overhauled my soul and personality."

Roseria Butterfield didn't add Jesus to her life so much as she allowed Him to subtract everything from her so that He could give her the life He has for her as a pastor's wife and homeschooling mom. She does not accept the lesbian label, but rather calls homosexuality one of many manifestations of pride. Her book holds a high view of Scripture, and shows Christ's power and willingness to bring the most improbable people into His kingdom.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Poor Taste? Well...

Since my last few posts have been fairly intense, I decided a little sick humor might provide a little break:

After all, who wants to be serious all the time?

Did I mention that my husband and I have a tradition of ordering Chinese for Christmas? Well, maybe you really didn't want to know that at this particular moment...

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Letter To John J. Smid

Monday, as I mentioned, I finished reading EX'd Out: How I Fired The Shame Committee  by John J. Smid. John served as the executive director of Love In Action, the ex-gay ministry that employed me from 1985 to 1997 as a correspondence counselor and, for my final two years, editor of their monthly newsletter.

In 2005, Love In Action became a target of a nationally reported protest against its newly implemented program for teenagers who identified themselves as homosexual. That protest launched John on a journey of soul-searching, during which he resigned from Love In Action to form a ministry called Grace Rivers. As years passed, sadly, John has concluded that homosexual behavior within committed relationships is not (as he once taught) sinful. Further on, he admitted publicly that his attractions to men never left him. He now considers himself to be a gay Christian.

Over the past year, John's train of thought has grieved and disturbed me. He rejected comments I posted on his blog as being "rebukes," and unfriended me on Facebook for reminding him that God disciplines those He loves (Hebrews 12:7-11), asking me to confront him privately.

Although I believed (and continue to believe) that I had biblical precedent for challenging John publicly since he's been very public in his renunciation of "traditional" teachings on homosexuality, I chose to respect his wishes for a private challenge (despite my slip on Facebook). I spent over a year studying Scripture on homosexuality, as well as studying his blog and the Gay Christian Movement. I took care in how I blogged about homosexuality and gay Christians, keeping his name and identity concealed until I could write to him.

After finishing his book Monday, I finally felt ready to write the email, which came out very different from anything I'd anticipated writing. I share the letter below, editing it to protect certain individuals:

Hi John,

First of all, let me say that your book very much helped me understand much of your struggles with ex-gay ministry. I'm so sorry for the pain you experienced, and I can see how you've arrived at your conclusions.Your book organized so much of what you've written on your website, helping me better understand how your thinking has evolved, and why you've once again accepted homosexuality as your identity. Of course I strongly disagree on your theology regarding homosexuality. No surprise there. But please believe that your book caused me to feel a compassion for you that I didn't feel before reading it.

Let me offer a few examples of where my heart has softened toward you, beginning with the point that struck the deepest chord with me. During the chapter about your daughters, I had tears in my eyes. [Here I wrote personal comments, including something from my own life that applied to the situation with his children.]

As you wrote about the more clinical structure in Memphis, I agreed! Sometimes, I believe Love In Action should have stayed in San Rafael, where Open Door would have resisted many of the changes you implemented. But even before you came in 1986, I felt troubled by the ministry's reliance on psychology rather than Scripture. In my counseling letters, as you'll recall, I'd try to focus back on the Bible, as opposed to all the techniques the rest of you talked about. I knew Love In Action wasn't as Bible based as it claimed to be, though I kept hoping I'd be an influence.

I didn't know that the residents in the program were emotionally abused until I saw "This Is What Love In Action Looks Like.  [a film John and his friend Morgan Fox made to "expose" Love In Action]. That abuse has yet to be fully acknowledged. I know you shielded me from knowing what went on in the houses (like removing bedroom doors), but were you protecting me or yourself? If I had known the extent of regulation imposed of the guys, I might have been very vocal in opposition, and I'm sure you knew that fact!

So, on several points, I agree with you that Love In Action had serious problems. And I especially believe dragging minor children into a program against their will was unethical! Frank [Worthen, the founding director of Love In Action] once said he didn't want younger people in the program because he doubted that they were really there because they wanted change. He didn't want kids there trying to please their parents. Had I still been on staff, therefore, I hope I would have questioned that program. John, I agree with you and Morgan Fox that holding those kids against their will was highly immoral!

I'm not certain that either Love In Action or Exodus actually promised heterosexuality to its participants, although I guess we too frequently implied that such was the goal. But I remember many occasions when people explicitly stated that holiness, not heterosexuality, was the goal, and that premature marriage usually intensified homosexual desires. (I distinctly remember counseling girlfriends using those very words.) I do see how a general expectation of heterosexual orientations developed, but I do not think anybody actually taught that we made gay people straight.

I am sure [certain person] forced you to make a decision regarding your  then girlfriend [whom he married], and wouldn't be too surprised if that person lobbied toward marriage. And I agree that keeping her hanging indefinitely would have been cruel. (After three years of online dating, I told John we needed to either get engaged or break up because my heart was in limbo.) [From there, I confronted him on things he wrote about his marriage.]

Thank you very much for your chapter acknowledging those of us who saw Love In Action as a good thing. I'd been hurt and angry that the ministry changed its name and disassociated itself from its history, knowing that it did so because of you and Morgan Fox. I can't even post my employment history on Facebook, and that has hurt me deeply. I treasured my time there, and still believe the Lord offers freedom from homosexuality. I regret that my unwilligness to endure the nursing home and MATAPlus caused me to leave (though the relationship with my boyfriend in the nursing home was sinful and toxic). Your acknowledgement of LiA's supporters was healing to me. Again, thanks.

I've been blogging, off and on, about the objections to the Gay Christian Movement. Up until now, I've refrained from using your name, wanting to first address your changed position privately. But, since you've been very public in denouncing Christians who believe homosexuality is sinful, I believe I have the right to publicly, but respectfully, refute you. I bear no malice, and pray that the Lord will show both of us how to love the gay community without compromising His Word. I love you, and pray for you often.

Choosing joy,

Monday, January 14, 2013

When Experience Reads The Bible

I got caught up in reading a book, all the while thinking about the "blogging time" my reading cut into. At present, I'm not prepared to comment specifically on the book (written by someone I've known for many years), other than to say my emotions scatter wildly.

My goal in reading this book was to better understand the conclusions my friend has reached. That goal, at least in some respects, has been achieved. Yet, I still strongly disagree with his primary conclusion. I'm filled with sorrow that, in his battles, he has decided to embrace certain emotions that the Bible calls him to renounce. He is convinced that God approves of his decision to embrace these emotions...indeed, that God actually created him this way.

So many people from my past have diverted from Biblical Christianity, preferring less demanding perceptions of Jesus. Typically, they emphasize grace, love and acceptance. All very real attributes on our glorious Lord, I agree, but attributes that must be balanced with an understanding of His holiness and righteousness.

How do we achieve such a balance? We can't, but He can lead us into understanding as we come to His Word, carefully reading and asking Him to speak through it. Sometimes, Scripture contradicts personal experience, and I'll openly confess that I've been guilty of interpreting such troubling Scriptures through my experience rather than interpreting my experience through Scripture. But experience, because it's always subjective, breeds imbalance apart from the correction of the Bible.

Do I harp on this theme of placing Scripture's authority above experience? Yes. And I'll continue doing so! Reading my friend's book has reminded me how our personal experiences, when left unchecked by God's Word, can not only deceive us, but can in turn cause us to deceive countless others! So, accuse me of riding a hobby-horse if you wish. It's a horse worth riding.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Not Praying For Deliverance

Acts 4 follows the healing of a physically disabled man and Peter's second public sermon. In that sermon, he emphasized Christ's crucifixion and resurrection. In so doing, he angered the Sadducees, a sect of the Jews whose liberal theology rejected any notion of the supernatural, particularly the doctrine of resurrection. So these Sadducees managed to jail Peter and John for the night, hauling them before the high priestly family the next day.

During the examination, Peter reiterated his sermon, adding that salvation is found exclusively in Jesus (verse 12). Although the Jewish rulers didn't appreciate this propagation of the gospel, the man's healing was so evident in Jerusalem that they knew further imprisonment of the apostles through whom Jesus healed the man would be a political mistake. So they released Peter and John with a warning not to preach about Jesus again. But Peter and John countered that they needed to obey God, not men, and that it was impossible not to talk about Him.

What happened next challenged me as I read it this afternoon:

23 When they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24 And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, 25 who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit,
“‘Why did the Gentiles rage,
    and the peoples plot in vain?
26 The kings of the earth set themselves,
    and the rulers were gathered together,
    against the Lord and against his Anointed’—
27 for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. 29 And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, 30 while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” 31 And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness. ~~Acts 4:23-31 (ESV)

In looking at their opposition, the apostles and disciples didn't adopt a victim mentality, bemoaning the fact that they had encountered resistance. On the contrary, remembering Psalm 2:1-2, they recognized God's sovereignty in the persecution. Rather than praying for an end to the persecution, they trusted that the Lord had actually predestined it. That faith inspired them to pray that they would continue speaking His word with boldness!

I have often been asked to be less vocal about Jesus, and it grieves me to confess that sometimes I've acquiesced to those demands. The truth is, however, that the Lord wants to use whatever opposition I face for His purposes, whether I understand those purposes or not. My responsibility is to pray for opportunities to speak of Him boldly.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

The Vitality Of Structure And Stability

We hired someone to work as my Personal Care Attendant quite quickly, praise the Lord,  and she's already done one shift. Did well, too! It's still that awkward period where she's just learning, so there's some discomfort and apprehension on both sides. That's probably normal in any job. Thankfully, the awkward period usually passes rapidly, and the routine takes control.

Routine often appears to be a negative word, denoting boredom and disengagement. Certainly, those elements exist, if we let them. But, in terms PCA situations, routine offers the reassurance of structure and stability, freeing me to focus on other aspects of life.

What of routine in terms of one's relationship with God? Clearly, it does hold potential for reducing devotion to mere rituals that have little to do with worship and adoration of Him. We distract ourselves with, to cite just one example, reading a certain quotient of Scripture each day as if our principle objective was to complete Revelation 22 on December 31, and in that race with the calendar we miss insights from God's Word that would help us know Him better. That sort of routine deadens us.

But, when we deliberately schedule Bible reading/study into our daily routine with the expectation that the Holy Spirit will speak to us through those ancient, timeless words that He inspired the prophets and apostles to write, the discipline becomes a wonderful vehicle of relationship with Him! In the routine, He lays the foundation upon which we can build lives that radiate the joy and excitement of intimacy with Him.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Enough Is All I Need

Why do so many Christians with leanings toward Reformed Theology reject the concept of listening prayer, in which God supposedly speaks to His sheep (who know His voice) in their hearts, augmenting, enhancing and/or explaining the Bible? A secondary, though important reason for the rejection lies in the history of the Protestant Reformation, which stood against many errors in the Roman Catholic Church, including mysticism. Sola Scriptura (Scriputre Alone) was a main tenet of those early reformers.

As a freshman in a Catholic-oriented college 39 years ago, I spent probably a week or so in my Political Science of the Renaissance class studying the Reformation under a professor who attributed Luther's challenge to papal dogma to a lifelong struggle with constipation. (I'm not making it up!) As a result, I'm not very qualified to argue against listening prayer from history, though I believe studying the writings of Puritans would give me insight.

The primary objection to listening prayer, however, comes more easily. Listening prayer, despite the adamant denials of those who practice it, attacks the doctrine of Scripture's sufficiency. Although the Lord demonstrated His overwhelming graciousness by giving us the Bible (as well as His Holy Spirit to interpret it to us), we demand a more personal spiritual experience from Him. We require Him to speak to us directly, as He spoke to the prophets and to the apostle Paul.

Such conversations with God are, according to many 21st Century evangelicals, considered normal. Perhaps even a mark of Christian maturity. Yet the notion that we need direct words from Him implies (whether we admit it or not) that the Bible isn't enough to communicate God's will.

Hearing from the Lord through Scripture isn't as glamorous as a mystical experience, admittedly. Those of us who pray to speak to Him and read the Bible to hear from Him lack the respect and admiration lavished on those who claim to hear from Him. Yet He says more in the Bible than I've been able (or perhaps willing) to apply in the 42 years that I've read it, even though I read it almost daily. Why should He add to what He says to me? If I'm still just beginning to digest the meat of His Word, what makes me think I'm ready for the dessert of extra-biblical conversation with Him. Am I so spiritually greedy that I regard Scripture as less than enough to show  me His heart?

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Wrong Train To The Right Place

Yesterday's Boston Adventure definitely had its twists and turns, moreso than usual. A detailed narrative would indeed make interesting reading, if I had the energy to compose such an account. But I have yet to watermark our photos from Boston Common and Kings Chapel Burying Ground, and  I'm tired. So I want to skip Boston and talk about our time in Quincy.

But let me give some background as to why we ended up in Quincy: Since there's snow on the sidewalk leading to our apartment, we'd arranged for The RIDE to take us to the Quincy Center T Station, where we'd catch the Red Line into Boston and to which we'd return on the Commuter Rail (there meeting The RIDE to come home). John, forgetting that The RIDE wouldn't pick us up at Quincy Center till 4:25, opted to take the 2:11 train, getting us to Quincy well before 3:00.

So we wheeled across the street to the Adams National Historical Park Visitors' Center, where we enjoyed studying the wonderfully detailed timeline on the left wall. I noticed a poster for a film associated with the 2008 HBO miniseries, John Adams. (Sadly, we didn't write down the film's name, nor can I find it online.) We asked the ranger what times the film was shown, to which he answered, "I can start it for you now--it's only 25 minutes!"

The film covered the four generations of Adamses that lived at Peacefield, the home John and Abigail moved into upon their return from London. Following John, the house was home to John Quincy Adams (sixth President of the United States), Charles Francis Adams (ambassador to the United  Kingdom during the Civil War) and historian Henry Adams. I'd known nothing of Charles Francis or Henry, so it was great seeing how they built on the family legacy.

The film closed with one of my favorite John Adams quotes:

The Science of Government it is my Duty to study, more than all other Sciences: the Art of Legislation and Administration and Negotiation, ought to take Place, indeed to exclude in a manner all other Arts. I must study Politicks and War that my sons may have liberty to study Mathematicks and Philosophy. My sons ought to study Mathematicks and Philosophy, Geography, natural History, Naval Architecture, navigation, Commerce and Agriculture, in order to give their Children a right to study Painting, Poetry, Musick, Architecture, Statuary, Tapestry and Porcelaine.

My husband's "mistake" was a blessing from a sovereign God who, as always, knew how to delight me.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Between PCA Interviews

The drawing I did just before my last computer died was fun, and extremely enjoyable to do.

But, being the perpetual editor that I am, and not wanting to get bogged down in anything that couldn't tolerate interruption (such as blogging about the Lord), I decided to play with my creation:

Monday, January 7, 2013

A Credit To My Alma Mater?

This is my third attempt at posting here today. I figured, since I have PCA interviews throughout tomorrow, and may possibly steal away into Boston Wednesday, that I should take advantage of having both time and  energy right now. Sadly, most of the topics in my mental file drawer require even more time and energy than I have.

So, in a way, right now I'm writing for the sake of writing. Which, although not serving a greater purpose of enlightening, informing or entertaining my readers, might not be entirely bad. At least I'm practicing the craft of taming thoughts into words, words into sentences and sentences into paragraphs, keeping  my writing abilities nimble in preparation for times when I tackle more substantive subject matter.

After I graduated from college, a great frustration I felt was that I'd gained the tools to write well, but I had nothing to write about. Now, 35 years later, I indeed have much to say. And I'm learning new things. But often, I fail to capture my thoughts and life experiences in the "clear, cogent prose" befitting of graduates from Dominican University of California. As I write, all too frequently I stumble awkwardly about the keyboard, trying to wrap the points I desire to  convey successfully in language that's both functional and artful. It's not enough to state my points; I must state them well.

To state my points well, it necessarily follows, I must write in a manner that engages my readers. Not too flowery, lest my infatuation with vocabulary, syntax and imagery actually overpower my message. But neither should my writing be lackluster. And, because I value my subject matter, I desire writing skills that present my thoughts both understandably and in ways that hold my readers' attention. Consequently, sessions (like this one) of writing solely for the purpose of exploring what I can do with words gives me exercise, preparing me to blog about things that matter to me.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

If Only I Had Time...

Thursday evening, all day Friday and briefly Saturday morning, my friend Jerusha stayed with us. What's so great about that, you ask? Well, it had been well over a year since I'd seen anyone from California, and I've had a beautiful history with this young lady. I'd planned to blog about that history today, but...

But I've been busy advertizing for a new Personal Care Attendant, answering emails from people responding to the Craigslist ad. The interviews begin tomorrow. So my blogging time will be severely limited for a while, and I'm out of time today. So content yourselves with this photo John took before Jerusha left yesterday morning.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Wanting More Than The Bible

Once again, the topic of whether or not God speaks apart from Scripture has gained center stage in my attention, resulting from a conversation on Twitter. It began when the other person quoted Kenneth Hagin, the "father of the Word of Faith movement" (which essentially teaches we can have whatever we want by believing God promised it and telling others that He has given it to us.) Hagin based this false teaching in "personal revelations" from God, augmented by Bible verses taken out of context. Big surprise, huh?

I understand that the idea of God speaking directly to Christians is appealing. I used to relay a story about the first time I believed He spoke to me, always trying to ignore that little feeling of spiritual pride that I had heard from God.

That pride attended all my mystical spiritual experiences, which I delighted in recounting...sometimes even with skillfully feigned "humility." I garnered the desired reputation as a "spiritual giant" among my friends, and I cherished that reputation. It made me feel important, and distracted me from worshiping the Lord as my only source of righteousness.

Additionally, I preferred more direct guidance than the Bible alone offered. Sure, John had all the qualities I wanted in a husband, but I demanded a specific sign that God would bring us together in marriage: I required Him to let me see three bluebirds that day. I only saw two, though I later remembered a bluebird on my computer's screensaver. (Rolling my eyes!)

The Bible, I secretly thought, wasn't enough. There had to be something beyond it.

But my dissatisfaction with Scripture was laziness. With a little diligent study, I could have learned what I needed. I would have clearly seen that John's godly character was enough confirmation for accepting any marriage proposal he might offer. And if, as I claimed to believe, the Bible was actually God's Word, I'd do well to apply everything I read on its pages before expecting the Lord to instruct me further.

God doesn't need me puffing out my spiritual chest, gloating over mystical spiritual experiences when, quite frankly, I haven't yet learned to obey basic Biblical precepts like...oh, I don't know...doing unto others as I'd have them do unto me? Why would He tell me anything beyond Scripture when I don't yet fully obey His  instructions there? Yes, He speaks to Christians today, if we'll only trust and obey the Bible.

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, ~~2 Peter 1:3 (ESV)

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Worship, Recently Downloaded

So I've just been in the iTunes store,  using some of the iTunes gift card that my mother sent me for Christmas. Although some of it will eventually buy some Motown, Big Band, 50's, 60's  and 70's music, today I wanted to focus exclusively on hymns. Don't misunderstand; I like much of the contemporary worship and praise music. It's fun, and some of it indeed has encouraged my devotion to the Lord. Ah, but those old hymns, though most churches nowadays abandon then in hopes of attracting younger people to their sanctuaries, offer such rich textures of theology!

I've read that hymns were originally written to make the great doctrines of the Christian faith accessible, especially in times when people were largely illiterate. The music helped people memorize foundational points, based on Scripture's teachings. Indeed, the Psalms in Old Testament times had melodies, enabling the Jews to incorporate theology into their minds.

Thus, hymns function as  teaching aids. In contrast to the shallow lyrics of many praise songs written in the last 50 or 60 years, the old hymns proclaim our need for salvation, the grace of the cross, the holiness of God, the deity of Christ and the assurance of His Second Coming...among other things. For instance, "Holy, Holy, Holy" surveys many amazing aspects of "God in three Persons/ Blessed Trinity!"

1. Holy, holy, holy!  Lord God Almighty!
 Early in the morning our song shall rise to thee.
 Holy, holy, holy!  Merciful and mighty,
 God in three persons, blessed Trinity!

2. Holy, holy, holy!  All the saints adore thee,
 casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea;
 cherubim and seraphim falling down before thee,
 which wert, and art, and evermore shalt be.

3. Holy, holy, holy!  Though the darkness hide thee,
 though the eye of sinful man thy glory may not see,
 only thou art holy; there is none beside thee,
 perfect in power, in love and purity.

4. Holy, holy, holy!  Lord God Almighty!
 All thy works shall praise thy name, in earth and sky and sea.
 Holy, holy, holy!  Merciful and mighty,
 God in three persons, blessed Trinity.

Don't those words stir you to worship?  As they describe the Lord as God Almighty, united as One Being in Three Persons, I  certainly understand why we (His saints) will cast the crowns He gives us back at His feet. And despite our sinfulness obscuring our ability to comprehend His glory, He remains pure, receiving praise from all of  His creation. WOW!

Or how about "Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise" for showcasing God's majesty?

Immortal, invisible, God only wise
In light, inaccessible, hid from our eyes
Most blessed, most glorious, the Ancient Of Days
Almighty, victorious, Thy great name we praise

Unresting, unhasting and silent as light
Nor wanting, nor wasting, Thou rulest in might
Thy justice like mountains, high soaring above
Thy clouds which are fountains of goodness and love

To all life Thou givest, to both great and small
In all life Thou livest, the true life of all
We blossom and flourish as leaves on the tree
And wither and perish but naught changeth Thee

Great Father of glory, pure Father of light
Thine angels adore Thee, all veiling their sight
All praise we would render, o help us to see
'Tis only the splendor of light hideth Thee

Sumptuous lyrics, don't you think? They also demonstrate God's majestic power in contrast to human frailty, pointing to both His justice and His love.

Later, I may download some music that's more popular, but I'll treasure the old hymn's that I've downloaded this afternoon. They bring me back to the foundations of worship, to the timeless doctrines of the Bible. If I never download anything else from iTunes, today's investment will satisfy me until I stand around Christ's throne to sing with saints and angels.


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