Monday, August 31, 2015

Hurts, Habits, Hang-ups, and Contrived Means

It's been a while hasn't it?  Yes, I was blogging, and then my life got busy with working at my church's school and doing music and generally tending to my husband and family.  Such is the cycle of women who have blogs.

But I have a thought that I want to think out loud.  Over the summer, I decided to start attending my church's Celebrate Recovery program.  CR is a place where people can come sort out their "hurts, habits, and hang-ups."  It is basically Alcoholics Anonymous but it's based on Jesus and it's for people with all kinds of issues.  In fact, only 3% come needing help with alcohol or drugs.  I've never been on drugs, alcohol, and mostly kept all my sin on the inside my whole life.  I'm just there because I was born, I'm a sinner, and I've been redeemed by Jesus.

That's not the point, however.  It's only a tangent.  This past Saturday was Charles Finney's birthday.  The infamous preacher who influenced many people such as Billy Graham and Keith Green in their evangelistic methods.  The problem with Finney, however, is he was not a believer.  He did not believe that Jesus's death on the cross paid for the sins of redeemed man.  In fact, he did not even believe that man had original sin.  He only needed to find the right path for living, and Jesus provided that example.  Billy Graham and Keith Green, while true believers who preach the true Gospel, followed the methods of this man who never went to seminary and only believed that revival was not a work of the Holy Spirit but in his own words, a result of "contrived means." 

I think that if Finney had a true disciple today, it would be a man that the world loves and who impresses me from time to time.  That would be Rick Warren.  Rick knows the Gospel, and loves Jesus, but sadly, his methods can be boiled down to things men and women can do to improve their lives with Jesus simply as a sponsor and a guru and nothing more. 

Why pick on Rick?  Because I genuinely love the guy and I think he has good ideas.  Why bring up CR?  Because it started at his church, Saddleback. 

I like CR because it provides a safe place for me to talk about all my past issues and find healing.  It's like having a counselor but, it's free and I don't need insurance.

Where can CR improve?  As a woman who follows Reformed theology, a la John Calvin, and who believes this theology truly follows the Bible's teaching, I want to take what I like from CR, and include it in what Jesus has already established in his Church. 

CR already involves creeds and memorized prayers.  Granted, they are their 8 Principles based on the Beatitudes according to the Message Bible, the 12 steps based on AA but with Jesus as the focus, and the Serenity prayer written by Reinhold Niebuhr who had terrible theology (but don't get me wrong, I like the first half of the prayer, the part that ends up in greeting cards).  Martin Luther thought it much better to simply pray to the Lord by remembering the Ten Commandments, the Apostles' Creed (not Scripture but a precise nutshell of what we believe), and the Lord's prayer, and to pray to the Lord for his grace in following his commands and living out his Gospel as a result of his saving work in our lives.

Perhaps I can examine all of this and see how it could simply lead to true recovery in the Lord and not just following his principles without looking to him.  I suppose I can start such a series on my blog but you must also remember that I don't blog consistently these days.  May the Lord help me.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

My True Caretaker

Ephesians 5:22-24 is the passage that says that husbands should love their wives the way Christ loved the church.  Christ gave up his life for the church.  Christ, the Church's only husband, has exclusive right to worship and adoration from his bride.

Revelation 12 is that odd passage about a woman who gives birth to the Christ child and a dragon set to destroy both her and the child.  Well, the dragon did destroy the child, but the Child came back from the dead and has defeated the dragon.  He now can take his bride, the woman distressed by the dragon, and live happily ever after.

All people know that Mary physically gave birth the Jesus.  If we take the passage literally, then it would be taking about her.  This being a vision given to John about salvation and the kingdom's consummation, this is actually more than Mary.  It is the whole Church.  Just like Mary's son happens to be her own Creator and Redeemer, so we are the reason Christ came to earth.  We carry his Holy Spirit in us as his redeemed.  In a sense, we gave birth to him, but he is our Creator, Sustainer and eternal Husband.

In some odd way that defies human logic and relations, the Church is both my mother and myself while God is my Father, and Jesus, who is God the Son, is my husband and brother. 

A true local church will allow you to be wed to your husband.  You have doffed the name of your former household and taken on the name of Christ your king.  Therefore, the church needs to allow you direct access to your husband since we no longer need a mediator between us and God the Father.  We should not have to go through anybody other than Christ to get to Christ.  Not a priest, pastor, elder, deceased person, mother, grandmother, father, etc.  You have complete privilege to come into Christ's presence because Christ was slain by the dragon and then defeated that same dragon by rising from the dead and taking his power.  He did this for you the Redeemed.

On my wedding day, Chad who officiated stood by Tim as they watched my dad light a candle in the front of the chapel.  Chad told Tim that the candle symbolized the truth that responsibility for my care no longer falls on my mom and dad.  It now falls on my husband, Tim.  Therefore, if I'm in trouble, I will go to him before I call dad and trust him to take care of me completely.  We need to love our Lord the same way but only better.  Tim may fail me, and I may fail Tim, but Jesus will always succeed for us and bring us to our proper home.  We simply need to let go and trust.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Stunted Trees

Back in February, Tim and I went to Panola Mountain and took a guided tour up the mountain.  At the top we saw these amazing trees that had grown through the rocks.  Turns out that the mountain had actually stunted their growth, but the State Parks of Georgia do what they can to preserve them.

Today, with Tim out of the country, I went to the park and walked the trail with my brother Andrew.  Seeing a toddler in a 25-year-old man's body trail along with me was so relaxing.  Autistic people like Andrew are considered inferior in society and even a waste of resources.  These people are usually the same people who want to save the stunted trees on top of Panola.  Which is more valuable in the long run?  Definitely the Andrews.  You don't know joy unless you get lost on Panola's Watershed trail and help your brother down big steps and try to protect him from tripping on tree roots.

Desiring God made an excellent article linking Bullying with Abortion.  The main idea behind bullying is to prevent people from making other people feel inferior based on race, religion, disability, beliefs, etc.  What they always forget is that this applies to developmental stage, too.  Most abortions are aimed at people like Andrew, the stunted trees.  Planned Parenthood goes to the most impoverished neighborhoods, the neighborhoods with the most racial minorities.  Doctors can abort a baby simply for being the wrong gender.  Only 8% of Down Syndrome kids are born. 

How is this not bullying?  Why is it wrong to cut down a stunted tree on a monadnock but perfectly alright to pass laws that can euthanise amazing people like my brother?  Why can't people see the amazing uniqueness caused by their challenges?  Sometimes I even hypocritically think like these people when it comes to people who have terrible personalities and do nothing but sit and watch TV and eat and try to boss other people around.  We are all to blame for this.  How can we take the most annoying person we know and try to see his or her uniqueness and cherish that?

C-bomb: Harry Potter spoilers

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban has a bizarre time travel sequence that also reminds me of the Reformed tension between predestination and free will.  Harry and Hermione are lost in the woods.  These scary Dementors arise and try to kiss out Harry Potter's soul.  Harry tries to do his Patronus charm but can't.  Suddenly a stag Patronus comes and saves Harry.

Not too much later, Harry and Hermione go back in time and wait for their past selves to get to the same point.  Harry sees the Dementors preying on himself on the other side of a lake and wonders why that stag Patronus has not come.  Then he realizes that he sent the Patronus to himself!  He then sends it and saves himself.

In JK Rowling's world, Harry was destined to send his Patronus to save himself.  It was already planned.  At the same time, Harry had to make the decision to send his Patronus.  The whole of history was already planned, but Harry is still responsible for his decisions.  He still has a free will.

It will always be a mystery, but the Bible teaches it and I believe it.  Acts 13:48, "And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed."

Thursday, May 14, 2015

C-bomb with fandom spoilers: Link and Zelda

I want to see how many days in a row I can blog while my hubby is out of the country.  Here is my first day.

I started reading the Legend of Zelda manga series.  I don't have time to play the game, but after putting together a puzzle of the map of Hyrule, I decided I needed to explore those places.

To the dismay of some people, the first book, "The Ocarina of Time," reminded me of the Calvinistic struggle between God's sovereignty and man's decisive responsibility.  Link, the main character, travels to Hyrule Palace to see if he can help solve the darkness that has come over the land caused by the evil Ganondorf.  He meets Princess Zelda who claims she dreamed of a green angel who dispelled the darkness over the land.  He was destined to be the Hero of Time, and on learning that he collects the three stones that make the Tri-Force that summons the goddesses and opens the Temple of Time so that Link can play the ocarina, sleep for seven years and age into a teenager, and win against Ganondorf. 

So, it's rather pagan, but it goes to show that everyone knows they do not completely control their lives, but they still have a responsibility to carry out their purpose in life.  Link did not decide to do nothing while he became the Hero of Time.  He actually worked to find the stones and then to fight Ganondorf. 

In the Bible, you can see this same tension.  In Romans 4:3, Abraham is credited with righteousness because he believed.  He believed simply because God gave him a promise and chose Abraham to bless the world through that promise.

At the same time, James 2:14-17 talks of people who wish to end poverty and hunger but do nothing to help the people.  "Faith without works is dead."  Abraham became righteous because God chose him, but he waited mostly patiently for 75 years until he could have a son with his lawful wife Sarah.  Yes, he tried to help God by having a son with another woman, but despite his flaw, God sustained his faith so much that he was willing to sacrifice his long-awaited Isaac on an altar as a burnt offering because God told him to do so.  No questions asked.  He just packed up and went to Mt. Moriah, and then God pre-enacted Christ's crucifixion and resurrection by sparing Isaac and sending a lamb to take the punishment for Isaac's sins. 

I'll do another geeky illustration of this in my next blog.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Zombie Day

It was Easter, and I was on facebook.  I scrolled to a post from a person I knew in high school, an open atheist.  Easter is the first "Zombie Day" according to her post.  I cannot remember if it was an article or not, and I never read it if it was, but it had me thinking.  Can the Christians call Easter a Zombie Day?

From what I can tell, the popular culture defines zombies as dead corpses who come back from the dead in all their decayed glory and roam around looking for brains.  So 1)dead corpses who 2) walk 3) still decayed who 4) seek out living brains.

I can affirm the dead corpse part of the answer.  Ephesians 2:1-3 is clear that "And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind."

The next part confirms the second section, we walk. Verses 4-7: "But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus."  Praise God, I was dead and am now alive.

Now, am I still decayed? Romans 7:24-25: "Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin."  So yes, although God has made me alive to holiness through Christ, I still have a part of me still attracted to sin.  Only when Christ returns will he give me a new body free from sin and decay.

Do I seek out other people's brains?  I suppose that would mean I have no brain to start with.  All I know is that I lived, then I died to the law, and now that I'm alive in Christ, my heart, soul, and mind all belong to Jesus. So my brain is not my own.  It belongs to my King.  And I do want to see people give their brains to Jesus.  It gets worse than that, I want to give him their souls and hearts, too.

So yeah, I guess I'm a zombie.  However, it's a resurrection from a life to which I would not return.  Jesus lived a perfect live and died the death I deserved so that I could live on his righteousness.  And one day, I will be a complete human because Christ will come back and complete the ones he saved.

During Spring Break, I had to work at the school and watch kids while their parents worked.  I played some YouTube videos.  One girl requested "God's Not Dead" as done by Newsboys/ DCTalk 2.0.  It's a great rocking song, but do the kids at CCS really believe that God is not dead.  Sure he's out there holding things together, but is Jesus really alive?  They want to go to heaven, but do they want Jesus to be Lord of their lives?  Praise God, he is alive.  I know because he sent Jesus.  Jesus is real and I want him to be my Lord.  I want the kids to want him as their Lord.  Maybe then they won't have spells of insult and unforgiveness.  They would love each other even when not happy with each other.  They would do what I say the first time I say it, not argue with things I say, and simply listen to me.

I don't know, but Jesus is truly alive which is good news for the sinner.  He can raise you up and make you whole.  Please show your kids the importance of letting him be their Lord. 

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Casting Sad Songs

Casting Crowns always baffles me.  They have such theologically rich songs and good tunes, but the radio plays their more depressing songs over and over again.  They are from Atlanta area so our stations play them all the time.  Sometimes I hear them and think "yay!"  Sometimes I think "Casting Crowns again?" and turn on a Skillet CD.

I still think they are great people and when I heard that Mark Hall had surgery for kidney cancer it was like I was praying for a friend.  He at least goes to church with women I do Bible study with.

We did a song in church today by Mark Hall called "Love Them Like Jesus."  Some people complain that praise and worship songs in church are too happy and don't deal with the real world like the Psalms do.  This song is for you guys.  It has one verse about a man leaving his wife and kid behind and another about a baby being stillborn.  Those parents have already painted the room and have the shower gifts.  It tells people who know them to "love them like Jesus."  It's heartwrenching and comfort at the same time.  It's like, yeah, God is wonderful and has a plan, but it's still alright to grieve even hopelessly at times.  Our hope is in Jesus, the high priest who experienced everything we had but never sinned.

Psalm 13 and 88 were not afraid to honestly express anger and frustration.  Psalm 73 is also a good one that points the the big picture of God in his temple.

I'm thinking, what are other good Christian songs that deal with grief?

It's been on the radio a while, but the Afters have a song called "Light up the Sky."  Apparently they wrote that album when a friend of theirs died.  The song is not very interesting to play, but the video will break your heart.  It shows a woman weakened by chemo and facing terminal cancer, another woman abandoned by her husband, and a man who lost his job.

It's like I've discovered this song that's been around for 5 years now for the first time.

There is also a terrible joke about a photon, or light particle that checked in at a hotel.  When asked if he needed help with his bags he said, "No, I'm traveling light."  With that, here is an excellent duet from Joel Hanson and Sara Groves called "Traveling light."

I can just find myself heeding the advice of Hebrews 12 to throw off everything that hinders and run the race marked out for my by God.

And speaking of Joel Hanson, he has plenty of amazing songs that are just right for hurting people.

Jeremy Camp has helped me in grief.  Switchfoot has helped me in disappointment.  And whenever I think that I'm one step away from everything falling apart, I have to remind myself that I don't hold it all together anyway.  Jesus holds it together and there is no hope apart from him.