Category Archives: Christian culture

Jeremiah 29:11. Insert projectile vomit here.

On Saturday I began the “Scripture challenge” that’s going around Facebook right now. You post one passage a day for five days, and you tag two new people each day to do the same. Truthfully, I find things like that to be hokey, but there was some conviction for me: What could I possibly post that’s more important than the Word of God? I’m not trying to pull a Jesus juke here, but seriously. Sometimes passages are what others need to hear because they’ve lost a lot of hope. Sometimes they cut us where we need to be cut, but there is always the promise of being renewed, rebuilt, and restored. In an effort to not “Jesus juke” the challenge and make it sound like life is peachy and perfect, or that God is a wealth, health & prosperity God, and being a Christian means happy trails all day long, I’m instead posting a passage each day that I hear quoted rather often and with good intentions, but generally the understanding is lacking or the verse is taken out of context. So if you missed them, check out Day 1Day 2, and Day 3.

Day 4 – Jeremiah 29:11

Jeremiah 29:11. The verse seems to bring warm, fuzzy feelings all around. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Aaaaw. Isn’t that nice? Allow me to explain my extreme want and need to hurl whenever I hear this verse quoted grossly out of context.

For those of you who read this verse trying to find comfort because you can’t decide what major to study, what job to take, what person to date, etc (insert hokey life decision here) you MIGHT want to read this verse in context. The Israelites were in captivity. Not just any ol’ captivity that they’d wandered into, but captivity that God had specifically put them in because of rebellion. Furthermore, what does God tell them in the verses prior to? (starting in verse 5)

Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, see the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper. (Emphasis mine)

These people are in the middle of exile.. banishment from their homeland because God had carried them there. Can you imagine the spiritual battles occurring?! Going on…

Yes, this is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: “Do not let the prophets and diviners among you deceive you. Do not listen to the dreams you encourage them to have. They are prophesying lies to you in my name. I have not sent them,” declares the LORD.

God tells them that there are going to be people trying to convince them that they come in the name of the Lord, when really they’re doing nothing but tearing down their spiritual understanding in an already-distressed state. I understand that many people read this as “don’t worry, God has it under control.” Yes, that’s true. However, we’re failing to miss the real point in this story…

God may carry us into, or may allow us to be carried into spiritual exile – James 1:2-4 – “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” Trials are going to happen. The trials Paul refers to are different from the exile that God has carried the Israelites into. Our faith may land us in trials, as does our lack of faith. Lucky us, we all get to face trials, difficulties, and probably even a little bit of exile-type feelings! :) What did God tell the Israelites to do while they were there? Settle down. Make it feel like home, because you’re gonna be here for a while. Get comfortable and go about your daily life. Don’t change anything. Keep on keepin’ on. Too bad we leave that out whenever we read Jeremiah 29. Get comfortable with your distress, because God may need you there to teach you something. Too often I think we look for a way out of our messes. Should we? I’m tempted to think that even when we bring this upon ourselves that we aren’t necessarily going to find a way out. Jeremiah 30: 12-15 –

Your wound is incurable, your injury beyond healing. There is no one to plead your cause, no remedy for your sore, no healing for you. All your allies have forgotten you; they care nothing for you. I have struck you as an enemy would and punished you as would the cruel, because your guilt is so great and your sins so many. Why do you cry out over your wound, your pain that has no cure? Because of your great guilt and many sins I have done these things to you.

Let’s face it: If we need disciplined, it’s because we’ve lacked judgment skills somehow, somewhere. Discipline is necessary. And so when we’re in the middle of that discipline, we can’t act like the two-year-old trying to worm his way out of time-out. We have to see that discipline through to the end. Sometimes discipline might feel a little bit like spiritual exile. And then we try to get out as if we don’t deserve to be there. That’s cute. Don’t misunderstand me: I don’t think God wants us to be miserable. However, for those of us who have this outlandish appetite for sin, sometimes we need to be carried into exile and left there for a while. I’m not talking a forever, done deal, you’re in hell sort of exile. That’s not biblical. I’m not meaning for exile to sound like we’re separated entirely from God. God was still speaking through prophets while Israel was in exile. He hadn’t left them. He was ticked, but he hadn’t left them.

There are going to be moments when we aren’t going to know why things are occurring the way they are. That may be a good time for us to step out of the situation and ask ourselves if we’ve done something to get ourselves there. If so, we can probably assume God’s trying to get our attention.

For those who are truly walking with God, I don’t think he’ll hesitate to allow unfortunate circumstances to happen if that’s what it takes to get our attention when we’re spiritual space cases. I’m a little put off with people that say God won’t allow something unfortunate to happen to get our attention because he “loves us too much” to do something like that. Oh please. That’s the thing – he loves us too much to want to lose us. If it takes a little bit of pain to wake us up and turn us back to him, then I’m pretty sure that’s worth it.

My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

Proof. Hebrews 12:5-11. When God’s trying to get your attention, don’t make light of it. Don’t tell yourself you can put off responding until tomorrow. He’ll do what it takes to get you to wake up.

Does anyone ever read past verse 11 (in Jeremiah 29), or anything besides verse 11? Look at what comes after (starting in verse 12)…

“Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”

So when will we truly find God and truly understand his plans? When we seek him with our whole heart. Can we have a come to Jesus moment real quick? If you honestly expect for God to reveal some magical, perfect plan (or really, any realistic, God-honoring plan for that matter) for your life without ACTUALLY doing a little bit of work, you crazy. No, our relationship with him isn’t based on works, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I see people quoting the bible on Twitter profiles, in tweets, in Facebook statuses, etc. and yet everything else is total trash. Cussing, hardcore partying, disgusting tweets from some sex-laden account on Twitter, getting high, making excuses for addictions. Do you HONESTLY believe that Jesus is your homeboy and has no issue with you not living right? Get serious. “For out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.” Matthew 12:34. Oh. Well snap. Guess that says something. Either you’re pursuing God or you’re not. Get off the fence and pick a side. Lukewarm isn’t the game Jesus plays (Revelation 3:16-18. Look it up.) Yes, he has plans for you, but if you’re sitting in the middle of exile, ask yourself why you’re there. Stop trying to fix the problem yourself. Look to Christ. Let him guide you. Let the Lord take you back to Jerusalem. You have to decide that you want to go back, but you have to allow him to take you back. You fell off the horse? Get back up and get back on the darn thing. Repent and do the things you did at first (Revelation 2:5). Keep going. There are few things as worthless as a Christian sitting and bathing themselves in self-pity. Jesus has this thing under control. Trust him and keep going. Guys, culture has lied to you. A lot of churches have lied to you. Some of you have seen the video of Debriah going on one heck of a rant about the church lying to people – it’s solid. A lot of people have silver tongues that promise a life of abundance if you’ll only believe in God. Please find that for me in the Bible. I must have missed that one. This girl right here has lived one serious lukewarm life. I was the ultimate fence rider for years. So many people did a wonderful job of loving on me during those years and for that I’m forever indebted to them. However, it wasn’t until a few friends basically looked at me, and with a whole lotta love said, “Pick a side. You aren’t a teenager anymore. This game is old. Grow up,” that I finally started doing it. And sometimes we need that. So if you’re pulling the crap I did: partying every now and then (“Hey, what’s a little too much to drink going to hurt?”), playing cat & mouse with the opposite sex (“I’ll only go this far…”), dancing with an addiction to, well, basically sex (“What’s it matter? I’ve screwed this up before. One more time isn’t going to do anything..”) – whatever it is you do – stop. Stop it. Just stop. This isn’t going to get you anywhere. There will always be another time. Knock it off and pursue Jesus. Your emotions may not be involved in your choices for a really long time – that doesn’t give you any excuse or reason to not choose the right thing. You want to know God’s plans for your life? Then pursue him instead of the rest of the world. You can’t do all of those things I was doing (or pick your sin – whatever) and still pursue God. It does not work that way. There’s a difference between falling short while pursuing God and pursuing the world while pursuing God. I was not just falling short – I was in an all-out pursuit for both lives and figuring out quickly that one had to win and the other had to die.

Scripture is a continual love story of God redeeming his people time and time and time and time and time again. But the thing about relationships is both sides have to work at it. Yes, God does have plans to prosper his people and not bring spiritual harm to them, however, if we think we can sit back and enjoy the ride without ever getting to know him, without ever listening for his voice and obeying that voice, without spending time in the Word then we’re lying to ourselves.

We should take heart in the fact that God is so relentless in pursuing us and knowing us that he’s willing to carry us into exile when we need it yet still speak hope into our lives. That’s an incredible God – a god that other religions have yet to ever know. Don’t make him into a shallow God that will be at your ever beckon call. His existence is not to cater to you when you need it and step aside once you have it figured out. We’re to be in communion with him. Walk with him. Spend time with him. Serve with him. He has plans for you, but it’ll be hard to listen for them if you don’t know the sound of his voice.

Pray. Seek. Do.

Soli Deo Gloria.

P.S.

I didn’t include this in the post because it would have made it even longer, however, please keep in mind that this letter is written to a group, not an individual. Often we make it sound like God has one path and only one path for us *as individuals*, and we make ourselves miserable trying to figure that out. Well, take heart, friends. That’s not what this verse is about either. God was speaking to a community, not you as an individual. That’s a different post for a different day, but it’s some food for thought – you can do the dishes. ;)

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With man, this is impossible. With God, it might be improbable. Wait, what?!

Mrs. Brittany Bardsley “nominated” me for the Five-Day Scripture Challenge that’s making its way across Facebook at the moment. The bottom line: You post a verse every day and you nominate two new people every day to take the challenge. Pretty easy, but if I’m honest, it seemed highly annoying…and then I realized that I’m a total chump if I’m annoyed at posting Scripture but not sarcasm. So, in order to handle it the best way I can, I’m trying not to Jesus juke this whole thing. I’ll blog about a verse (or a few verses) for the next five days, no problem. The catch: I’m going to try to tackle some verses that we either have a very poor understanding of, or a very idealistic view of (example: Jeremiah 29:11. We quote that WAY too often. That’ll likely show up here too).

Day 1 – Matthew 19:26

“With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

If I had a dime every time someone in college quoted this when a big project was due, I probably could have paid for my student loan debt along with a third of the campus. We have this hilarious tendency of pulling out a verse that sounds really nice and applying it to any and every situation in life, even when it’s a far cry from what was actually taking place. Context, dear friends. Context.

It’s really cute to operate under the assumption that God will make all things possible just because he’s God. At least it’s cute if you’re 11 and at a youth retreat. I mean, okay, fine. I guess he can – he’s God. It’s not like he needs anyone’s permission. But do you honestly think this is the best verse to pull out every single time you know of someone who has a loved one on their death bed? Or when a friend is right in the middle of the most hell-infested storm of her life because her husband has cheated on her with multiple women? Or when a family is learning to cope with their child being paralyzed from the waist down because of being hit by a drunk driver? No, really – I get it. He’s God, and yes, he absolutely can and has raised the dead. He can and has healed marriages that are barely hanging on by the final thread of a final thread. Yes he can and has healed the paralytic. But stop. Just stop for one second. Take off the rose colored glasses and just look. Is this really what Jesus was talking about? Did any of those things take place when he said these words?

Not a single one.

In fact, Jesus isn’t working miracles at all right now. He’s teaching. Back up to verse 16. This entire passage is about the rich young ruler who was curious what more needed to be done to gain eternal life. Jesus says hang on to the Top Ten. Our little beacon of success asks which ones. Jesus tells him the big ones: Don’t murder, don’t commit adultery, honor Ma & Pa Kettle, don’t lie, and love the people around you as you love yourself. The kiddo has this down. He’s been a decent guy. He’s rich, he’s successful, he seems like a decent guy. Props to him, because he realizes he isn’t perfect. He asks Jesus what he still lacks. Jesus cuts right to the chase:

“‘If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’ When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth. Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.’

When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, ‘Who then can be saved”‘ Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’

Translation: For those of us who are completely content and satisfied with the things of this world and the things under our control, it’s going to be extremely difficult for us to deny ourselves. It’s hard for someone who is rich with excess to deny themselves and be humble enough to admit, “I must give this up. If I’m going to truly follow Jesus, then it’s time to lay this aside and be done with it.” When the disciples heard this teaching, they were confused until Jesus clarified; “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (verse 26).

I’m guessing you’ve likely heard verse 26 in this sort of context: “If you believe, God can make it possible. If you have enough faith, God can work in it.” As if our level of faith somehow determines what God can or can’t do. Please. “With God, all good things are possible!” When you actually look at this verse in context it says something totally different. May I?

With man, it will be impossible for anyone to deny themselves.
With man, it’s impossible to make a legitimate sacrifice.
With man, it’s impossible to have lasting self-control.
But with God, the sacrificial things are possible.
With God self-control is possible.

This is very different from the belief that with God, all good things are possible. Yes, all good things are possible, but that doesn’t mean they’re probable. You can have all the faith in the world, but I’d assume that would make it just as likely for you to be a moving target for Satan as you are a recipient of God’s blessing (not that you shouldn’t daily build that faith – good grief, don’t misunderstand me).
 

Let’s not assume that holding fast to rules will somehow gain us eternity. Let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that if we do it all right, a life of abundant blessing will follow. Let’s not turn the Gospel into something it isn’t. Jesus did everything right and we see where that landed him here on earth. But we also see where that took him in death and resurrection. 

 Summary: Please don’t misunderstand me. I adamantly believe that God can and will bless people however he chooses to. However, let’s not use verses as our shouts of health, wealth, and victory when they’re more geared towards being tokens of honesty about our own condition.

The encouraging part is, no matter what we’re holding onto, yes, we absolutely can surrender it, we just can’t do it on our own. Speaking from personal experience here. It wasn’t until I was willing to spend nights on my face – sometimes until 4 or 5 in the morning – in an all-out battle to not fight on my own but to continue surrendering the struggle minute after minute that any amount of headway was actually made.  Sometimes that’s where you have to go. Sometimes that’s what it takes. If you’re still trying to deny yourself with your own power, trust me: It’s why it isn’t working. That moment that you decide to give in is the moment we succumb to this idea that the temptation is “too strong.” Load of crap: If we take God at his word, then we really do believe he will always provide a way out (in Ephesians – forgive me for not having the exact reference on the tip of my tongue..um…fingers at 1:30 AM). That might require swallowing pride in a new way, but he does provide that.

It’s possible to deny yourself and starve the porn addiction.
It’s possible to deny yourself and battle against the food addiction.
It’s possible to deny yourself and surrender the blood-thirsty hunger for control and power.
It’s possible to deny yourself and turn away from the shopping sprees.
It’s possible to deny yourself and close the chapter on your party life.
It’s possible to deny yourself and learn to love who you are for once.

All of this is possible, not with ourselves, but with the power of God Almighty himself.
May we not forget such a bedrock truth.

Pray. Seek. Do.

Soli Deo Gloria.

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First, you’ll need to read this article for this blog to make any sense at all.

http://www.wineskins.org/filter.asp?SID=2&fi_key=380&co_key=2691

I have refrained from blogging about this simply because many of you see enough of my opinion on Facebook. However, what you’re seeing is a very sarcastic (although honest) opinion of what I believe about Barack Obama and his push for gun control backed by his minions. This, however, is a very honest and what I consider to be fairly well-thought out response that covers multiple angles. I know some (possibly many) of you will disagree with me. That’s fine. I will operate under the possibly naive assumption that you have actually considered this side instead of automatically labeling me a heretic.

After you’ve read the above article…

First of all, if we really want to talk about the way of Jesus not making sense, then I would encourage this guy to get off the Internet, sell his computer, sell his home, and take seriously Jesus saying that “the son of man has no place to rest his head.” If we are truly going to follow in his footsteps the way he seems to be interpreting Scripture, then let’s bust out the For Sale signs. To push a few more buttons, how very interesting that some want to label me as unChristian for owning a gun (be it semiautomatic or otherwise) yet they themselves have an iPhone, a Mac, a TV, and so forth. Nevermind the fact that many companies today are exploiting overseas workers through the production of these items, but instead, please tell me how it is Scriptural for you to own any of those luxuries, especially when they can be used for such terrible things. Oh, but you can control what you see on TV? I likewise can control the use of my own guns. And mine are made in the USA – legally, by adults who are paid fairly.

Now, that moment of immaturity out of the way, I’ll actually tackle this a bit more (but don’t tell me I don’t have good reason to use the previous argument!).

Ever since I bought that first handgun, I have wrestled with ownership of it on a daily basis, and I mean daily very literally. I definitely disagree with the guy for multiple reasons, but I’ll get to that. However, he’d be correct to say that Jesus didn’t fight back…at least during his crucifixion, when he was dying for the sins of the world. Jesus was not a popular guy with the government or with religious rulers – we know that much. However, the New Testament doesn’t seem to touch the self-defense issue, while the Old Testament states that it’s entirely justified. Was Jesus ever attacked and we don’t know it? Did he ever have to defend himself and we don’t have it recorded? Logic would say that he would have had to have fought back if his life was going to be put in immediate and grave danger, would it not? He couldn’t die prematurely. He had to die a very specific death. Quite frankly, given the corruption of individuals like Herod, it would in no way surprise me if this guy tried to hire conmen to do away with Jesus before he was taken captive to be killed. Can I make that claim 100%? No! Can I make that claim even 20%? No! Am I justified in wondering? Yes.

Working off that, I think Scripture speaks quite a bit to individuals not fighting back in the middle of religious persecution. We have record of early Christians willingly walking into the arena to be torn apart by wild animals. Iranaeus didn’t consider himself a Christian until he was martyred. However, this isn’t the context in which this guy is writing. Am I going to whip out my gun and shoot someone who says, “Bow to me!”? No. Regardless of Christian beliefs, I know the legal system: if my life isn’t in immediate and grave danger, I can’t pull that trigger without being charged with, bare minimum, second degree murder. If that man pulls a gun on me and says, “Bow to me!” will I do it? Still no. That is religious persecution, and that is what Scripture speaks to. How quickly we forget that Peter was carrying the rifle of his day – a sword. He whipped it out and hacked someone’s ear off, to which Jesus told him to put the dang thing away. How interesting it is that it doesn’t record him calling the weapon evil or reprimanding him for having it, or telling him to sell it. I’m not going to put words in Jesus’ mouth and try to guess why he didn’t tell him to. I just think it’s something we don’t often consider, especially since the following exchange happened with the Disciples:

Then Jesus asked them, “When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?”

“Nothing,” they answered.

He said to them, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment.”

The disciples said, “See, Lord, here are two swords.”

“That’s enough!” he replied.

-Luke 22:35-38

The author of this article talking about religious persecution and trying to cram self-defense into this belief system, and that just doesn’t work. If someone attacks me on the street unannounced and I can defend myself with my pistol, will I? Yes. Quite frankly, I see nothing in Scripture that speaks against this. What in the world does someone attacking me on the street, who doesn’t know me, who has no clue I’m a Christian, have to do with religious persecution? We’re confusing two very different situations.

I’d be interested to know how he would define who Jesus’ enemies were as well. I’m assuming the answer would be anyone who didn’t agree with his teachings, seeing as how we don’t really have reference to any other type of person within Scripture (yes, there were people who wanted to kill him, but it was because of his teachings). Jesus’ resistors were those who didn’t buy into him being the Messiah. They were the ones who wanted to kill him, for both good and bad reasons (referring to the religious leaders). Bad reasons – their egos were hurt and they wanted this guy out. “Good” reasons (in their mind, for their day and time) – if you believed someone to be an absolute heretic in what they preached, and also believed they were total blasphemers, then by Old Testament law it made sense that they wanted the guy dead! That doesn’t mean they were right, but it at least gives us a little understanding as to what they were thinking. I think there was a guy named Paul who did something similar to Christians and admitted that he thought he was doing good and realized he wasn’t. Back to my original point: Jesus resistors (as far as we know) weren’t people who wanted to kill him in cold-blooded murder with no rhyme or reason. To do so would have gone against Old Testament law. That takes care of the religious leaders. Government officials – this guy was clearly not good for keeping the government in power over its citizens. He was disturbing the peace. Whether or not they followed OT law matters very little in regards to my point. My point is that all of the people who wanted to do away with Jesus had reasons for wanting to do away with him. All of these reasons were justifiable in their minds, culture, and society and actually make sense if we’re willing to be such heathens to go as far as placing ourselves in their shoes. If this guy wants to try to relate unjustifiably justified (ha!) reasons for eliminating upheaval with something like a random attacking, shooting, or home invasion, then I wish him all the luck in the world. The two just don’t add up, and quite frankly, I just don’t see proof that personal defense when attacked ruthlessly and pointlessly is bad or contrary to Scripture.

The fact that he attempted to –

“According to the norms and standards of this world, Jesus’ way is a complete and utter failure. It offers little to no protection to its followers. It’s manner of dealing with evil men does little to dissuade them from their immoral deeds. It gives us no sense of vindication, no gratifying undoing of the wrongs of men.

By men’s standards, Jesus’ way doesn’t work.

That’s why so few would be willing to turn the other cheek, for example. They want turning the other cheek to stop the violent man in his tracks. They want submission to aggression to cause the aggressors to repent of their ways and begin to defend the innocent.”

– tells me he’s missing the disconnect. The NRA has nothing to do with religious persecution. I’m not resisting persecution by being a member. I’m not resisting anything, actually. I’m taking advantage of a freedom and right that I have as defined by our founding fathers (who were VERY Christian, might I add), and I am doing so not to take advantage of being able to take someone’s life. You could argue that I’m resisting the government, but I would challenge your interpretations of my motives. I’m advocating for freedom. Pardon me here, but there are times when I think the, “Live and let live” philosophy isn’t a bad idea. Don’t interrupt social peace and you won’t have to worry about social justice. Period. Use your gun for good and you don’t have to worry about someone else using it, not for bad, but to defend their good.

“Just as Jesus’ way doesn’t fit the real world, the world’s way doesn’t fit Jesus’ kingdom. In the Kingdom of God, the world’s way doesn’t work.”

Please don’t try to tell me that Jesus wasn’t a fan of justice. I don’t even need to reference the Temple incident. I know that’s already in your mind. If you aren’t isn’t a fan of that one, let’s look at one that would seemingly derail my point. The woman caught in adultery. First of all, I’d like to point out that the story had absolutely nothing to do with adultery or the consequences thereof, yet we’ve made it about that to argue that Christians should be against the death penalty. Substitute any sinful act you want, and it still has everything to do with trying to catch Jesus in a bind. They could have used a hundred different scenarios to do this. Adultery was not integral to this story. However, let’s assume it was for the sake of me being on the losing end of the argument. Jesus doesn’t say they can’t stone her, but he makes it apparent that they have no right to (again, nothing to do with adultery) in light of their attitudes and knowing their approach and why they were doing what they were doing. What’s he tell the woman? He doesn’t condemn her, but tells her to go and leave her life of sin. Now allow me to make one of my beliefs very, very clear: Jesus died for eternal consequences. Not earthly ones. This woman, guaranteed, did not live an easy life after this moment. She was a whore. If she had no family or her family wouldn’t take her back, she had nowhere to go. She would have few to no options. Let’s just be real about the situation. The earthly consequences she would have endured from this moment on would have given her challenges for the rest of her life and most likely made her miserable. She is reduced to begging or continued prostitution. Even if she weren’t, the emotional baggage she’s left with, the physical repercussions, the social repercussions, etc are all earthly consequences. Jesus didn’t take these away from her. This is the result of sin. We bring it upon ourselves with our own willful decisions to go astray. This is why you don’t see me having the attitude of, “Woe is me,” because I’m not a virgin anymore (surprise! Hannah’s a sinner! For those of you who didn’t know that, sorry you had to find out this way, but let’s just be honest about stupid decisions in the past). That was my own stupid decision and I have to live with those consequences, fully aware that Jesus has forgiven me, but fully aware that there are consequences to my actions. Jesus didn’t die for those earthly consequences. That’s when you have an imbalance between grace and Truth. For there to be zero consequences would be all grace and no Truth. Perhaps I am horribly wrong, but I’m going to draw the conclusion that the same can be said for an individual who chooses to randomly step in and impose on someone’s well-being by being a life-threat to them. Part of the consequence of breaking into my house with intent to do harm to myself or my family will not bode well for you, gun or no gun. Welcome to natural consequence. If you personally want to take the stance of, “Well, I know where I’m going. I don’t know where he’s going,” then that’s fine. If that’s your conviction, so be it. That is not mine, ESPECIALLY if others dear to me are involved. I will not sit back and make the claim of, “Well, I know where they’re going, so it sucks, but it’s fine.” Quite frankly, I do NOT know where they’re going because I am NOT God. What do I do about family members who do NOT know Christ, as I have MANY of those? Do I allow them to be murdered? If you’d like to accuse me of placing more value on one life over another, I will remind you that three more fingers point towards you when you point one towards me. Unless you are living the life that Mother Teresa lived, I’m going to challenge how much you truly value the lives of others around you. Just because I defend something as controversial as gun ownership and the use of such things in situations of self-defense does not mean I’m the only one defending something that’s up for interpretation. Congratulations on tithing a whole 10%, but please justify the usefulness of owning a new car, a laptop, a Blu-ray player, or a $70 pair of shoes that cost $10 to make and gives back even cheaper pairs to the shoeless “for every pair you buy.” Here’s a thought: buy a pair yourself and give the shoes to someone in your own community. Oh, but heaven forbid we actually do ministry ourselves.

Going further along in the article… All of the Revelation references speak directly to religious persecution – of which I clearly agree with – but they still have nothing to do with personal defense. I have SERIOUS issues with something he said: “It (the way of Jesus) doesn’t protect the weak or avenge the innocent.” If this is true, then expect Esther to show up in hell. She put her head on the chopping block to save her people. Damn her for defending them. Damn her for exposing that shrew Haman. God’s people should have willingly endured what Haman was going to bring against them. Pull away your abortion arguments. Do away with this Kony campaign. Stop defending the innocent.

Can I be brutally honest? Like, Hannah kinda-honest? I whole-heartedly believe Satan is taking advantage of our “turn the other cheek” belief. I really do. I think he’s sinking it into the hearts and minds of Christians that we are to, in no way, defend ourselves against any sort of evil or injustice. God commanded that we endure persecution should we stand toe-to-toe with it. I get that. In my mind it isn’t all that fun of an idea, but I get it. But to willingly allow some random psychopath to take away God-given life? Do we hold so little value over this awesome experience of life that we are in no way willing to defend it? We’ll defend the unborn, but we all of a sudden have a moral dilemma defending the born? We contradict our own views! It doesn’t add up! Someone needs to call David Green and tell him to drop this Hobby Lobby issue. Tell him to supply the healthcare for abortions. No more fighting. Tell him to turn the other cheek and not fight it. If we’re going to use this guy’s logic in one area, then let’s start using it everywhere. If we are going to build a theology off what this man is saying, then we should probably inform every police officer who is a serious Christian that he needs to take off his uniform and put the gun down. After all, they shouldn’t be fighting the violence.

Shoot, let’s get scientific about it. Your parasympathetic nervous system controls fight-or-flight. I am wired in such a way that, in darn near every situation I’m up against, I fight, and I fight hard. Do I look at God and tell him his design was flawed? I know we have the sin issue to deal with, but what do you do when your physiological make-up predisposes you to defense in a literal split-second situation? (let’s not confuse physiological and biological – I don’t want to leave gateways for the alternative lifestyle argument) Why does God design people who have justice (whether it be to defend life against attack be it physically, emotionally, or otherwise) almost literally coursing through their veins? Maybe it’s generations’ worth of sin. Perhaps my family comes directly from Cain and what I think is justice is actually cold-hearted malice. I’m sure you could somehow make the claim that my personality may very well be the result of generations of sin. I don’t have that answer. But I’m having a difficult time trying to figure out why God has made me so damned passionate about justice if there isn’t a reason behind it. Maybe I’m too much like Paul and think I’m defending the right thing when in all actuality I couldn’t be further from the truth. If that’s the case, then I’m hoping I head towards Damascus sooner rather than later, because fecal matter is about to hit the fan in our society. If I’m not supposed to be defending these issues the way that I am, then I hope he pulls me from this road quickly, because I’m very committed to defending what I believe.

If “Jesus’ way doesn’t work,” then I don’t know how you override what seems to be a God-given personality and drive. Maybe I’m supposed to be/should direct it elsewhere. That would make sense. But overall, I’m not seeing a balance of Truth and scriptural proof *IN CONTEXT* in what this guy is saying. He doesn’t explore how he may be wrong. He doesn’t explore the other side to things. I don’t see a lot of wrestling. I see a lot of sensationalist, Jesus-wants-you-to-be-miserableism coming from him, and that’s what I have a difficult time accepting. No, Jesus’ way isn’t easy. Anyone who’s been seriously following Christ for any amount of time knows that. But we contradict our own views as I’ve said before.

“If you’re looking for something that works, don’t look to Jesus’ teachings. But remember one thing: if you choose what makes sense to men, you’re choosing something that God despises. If your views line up with the views of your non-Christian neighbor, you’re probably not using God’s values. If your outlook is that of the Democrats or the Republicans or the Tea Partiers or NPR or the NRA, then you’re probably not following Jesus’ way.”

This is manipulation and it pisses me off. If nothing is ever going to make sense in this world, then first of all, you’re saying God can’t make sense of it. If it makes sense to no man, then I’d challenge whether it makes sense at all. I have a lot of non-Christian friends who are against guns. I guess that gives me freedom to value them… In all seriousness though, this man is attempting to bring doctrines of persecution into things that have absolutely nothing to do with persecution, and as I’ve said, that’s the root of my issue with what he’s saying. Also, the NRA holds prayer meetings, and my views are pretty in-line with that, so I guess I’m as sinful as they come (sorry, more sarcasm)..

Maybe I’m “clinging to guns & religion.” Shoot, maybe I’m just clinging to guns.  Until God convicts me that defending my own life that HE gave me against monsters who have nothing to do with persecution, chances are I’m not going to give up this fight. If Obama or some ISIS extremist wants to knock down my door himself and tell me to bow to him or I get shot, then that’s different.

From Titus 1: “For there are many rebellious people, full of meaningless talk and deception, especially those of the circumcision group. They must be silent, because they are disrupting whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach – and that for the sake of dishonest gain.”

Maybe I need to do some examination and this is me. Maybe I’m not conforming to the image of Christ. When I pray, “More You, less me,” maybe I’m not really open to that. After all, there’s no record of Jesus carrying a weapon (also no record that he didn’t, but let’s operate under the assumption that he didn’t just so I’m on the losing end), but there’s also no record of him rebuking at least one of the disciples for carrying one.

One more thing. It’s interesting that some Christians want to bash gun ownership and gun owners any time this topic is brought up. That’s probably a super effective way to evangelize to those who are adamantly pro-gun and yet don’t know Jesus. I hear that whole relating thing is worthless. Afterall, the Bible never mentions anything about becoming all things to all men.

Oops.

Yeah, I know. More sarcasm when I could be a bit classier. I’ve had it up to my nose with being considered very unChrist-like because of my stances on gun control issues. Quite frankly, I’m very, VERY disappointed with those Christians who are adamantly refusing to see the other side ESPECIALLY when the argument for pro-gun practices CAN be made WITH a biblical perspective. I’m disappointed because individuals who have never taken into consideration how a person CAN own a gun and CAN defend life and CAN still follow Christ is far beyond irritating. Think critically, dear friends. Think far more critically than you are now. I’m always thrown for a loop when someone who knows little to nothing about gun ownership begins making claims about how terrible weapons are (those scary black, semiautomatic sinful things!) and yet considers someone like me who actually knows how these “beastly” things work to be idiotic. That’s quite interesting if you ask me.

I’m becoming more and more negative with every word I type, so I will wrap this up. I don’t mean to end on a sarcastic note, so please know that when I become sarcastic, it’s due to frustration with being told what to believe. I’m okay with people not wanting to own guns themselves. That’s fine. But do NOT tread into territory where you’re telling me that I’m not allowed to own them, be they semiautomatic or not. If you don’t like the thought of someone attacking you and your life with a gun, then I recommend you buy your own, carry concealed, and be a peaceful citizen. And when judicious and accurate marksmanship is called for, I hope you’ve taken it upon yourself to train with your sidearm. Please do not ask me if we should therefore make hard drugs legal. The arguments are not equal. Use of drugs is not the same as use of a firearm, and if you believe that to be a false statement, do not bother to argue this with me. I do not consider you a rational being. If you want to take drugs, that’s your prerogative. As an adult, you are capable of your own decisions. I don’t find them to be good decisions, but I will not stop you. If your drug use endangers my life, THEN we will have a problem. Your abuse of freedom will not be tolerated once it crosses boundaries into abusing my freedom. I would expect you to have a similar view on firearms. If I want to own a firearm and you don’t like them, I would assume rational beings to not seek to infringe upon that, but to instead take the view that they are willing and ready to defend their freedom should I ever put their freedom in a compromising situation. It is not the government’s responsibility to protect you. They have a record of failure in this department. Defend yourself. Defend the people you love. Defend the gift of life God’s given you instead of trying to be a martyr in a situation that doesn’t call for martyrdom. Find the lives of the innocent valuable enough to defend them both before and after they’re born.

Hannah.

Self-Defense vs. Persecution

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The ‘L’ Word: The world will hate you for it.

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.” -John 15:18-20

 

Warning: If you have sensitive feelings, you might want to click that X up in the corner right now.

I’ve had it up to my nose with this crap about loving people in a sense that we are to accept all behaviors. If you’re a Christian and there isn’t a single person in this world who hates you because you have a biblical worldview, then perhaps you aren’t defending the Gospel and the teachings of Jesus to the degree which he seems to expect. The verses I just quoted seem to be pretty darn explicit with how this whole following Jesus thing works. Sometimes you’re going to look like a jerk because you have chosen to accept, defend, respect and honor a Scriptural worldview. If you don’t agree with Scripture and you don’t like the teachings, then stop calling yourself a committed follower of Christ (that was NOT a passive aggressive comment to any single person. I believe this about Christianity in general). You’re going to have to look like a jerk at some point because you have to take a stand for one side or the other. Being a “martyr” for the sake of others’ feelings is nothing but cowardice and lukewarm faith.

I’m going to provide a little push-back on my own view. I’m wrestling with a lot of what I’ve already talked about/will talk about in the rest of this blog. I’m not trying to prove my own opinion as the correct opinion. I’m simply goin’ with Scripture here, folks, and I’m working it out as I go. Anyway.. Push-back..

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” -John 13:34

We turn to this passage a LOT in Christianity, as we definitely should. What we should not turn to, however, is a worldly definition of love. Does this agape love mean that we accept any and all opinions, belief systems, or even personal definitions of love? I can’t say yes to that in good conscience. Brotherly Christian love does not allow unbiblical, worldly things to stand in the way of their brother’s life. Loving one another does NOT mean accepting any and all behaviors. It doesn’t mean never offending people. When people have gotten in my face over something in my life that needed corrected, was I offended?! Yeah! Who enjoys being told their lifestyle is wrong?! Would it have been loving to let it go by the wayside and for them to have never said anything? Actually, that would have been the exact opposite of love: fear. Fear that they would offend me. Fear that perhaps I would push back on what they were saying. Fear that they’d choose the wrong words. But allow me to quote a lengthy, but amazing passage from Scripture (I would normally just reference it, but I want to make sure you read this). From 1 John 4:7-21…

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.
God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 
We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.”

You cannot have fear in love. You cannot love God if you hate your brother. I’m led to believe it’s difficult to love your brother if you fear loving him. So, how do we know what love is?

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.” -1 John 3:16

Love means laying down one’s life. Commitment. Sacrifice. Servanthood. Love does not mean accepting what any definition or personal opinion has to offer. I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but it does not mean embracing alternative lifestyles as acceptable. It doesn’t mean sitting on the sidelines and never getting involved in defending the Gospel. It doesn’t mean you get to go to church on Sunday morning and be let off the hook. It doesn’t mean you get to justify your bad behavior with excuses. It doesn’t mean you get to say yes to Jesus and no to his teachings! If we are to love Christ above all else, then that means EVERYTHING better be submitted to Christ: our views, our opinions, our definitions, our lifestyles, etc. It means that because Christ laid down his life for us, we do the same for him. We put it all on the line. We lay our reputations on the line. We lay EVERYTHING on the line. Why? Because that’s love, guys! That’s love! Being willing to totally die to self and live through Christ!

A love that accepts anything and everything isn’t supported in Scripture. It just isn’t. If you have a problem with this, then go take it up with God. The media wants you to accept everything. Political correctness wants you to accept everything. Tolerance wants you to embrace and accept everything (unless it’s Christianity – because those nutjobs are intolerant, so we’re going to say that we need to be tolerant of everyone but the intolerant, therefore shooting our own logic in the foot. Real tolerance would tolerate the intolerant, but that must be beside the point). Nowhere, NOT ONE PLACE to do I read that Jesus accepted sinful behavior with open arms. How many times do we read about him saying, “Go and sin no more,” or, “Go, leave your life of sin.” How many times?! Quite frankly, Jesus ticked a lotta people off! He died to make the unrighteous righteous, therefore constantly pissing the Pharisees off because they thought they had their acts together and deserved first place. If he died to renew the sinner’s life, then we spit in his face if we choose to continue our lives without allowing Scripture to critique and correct our lives. We deny love if we elevate others’ feelings to being above Truth. Many walked away from Jesus because they couldn’t accept the Truth he brought. John 6: Jesus says that unless you’re willing to eat his flesh and drink his blood, it’s a no-go (verses 53-58). But what happens after that?

“On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”
Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him.”
  From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.
  ‘You do not want to leave too, do you?’ Jesus asked the Twelve.
Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the worlds of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God. ” -John 6:60-69 (emphases mine)

Let’s make something crystal clear: Jesus let the people walk away. He gave them a choice as he did/has from the dawn of time. Love is a choice. Love is an action. Why did Jesus let MANY of his disciples walk away? Because crapped out, half-hearted, half-interested, half-committed, lukewarm, do-it-when-it’s-convenient, do-it-on-my-time, Sunday morning faith is NOT what this guy is after! Having a handful of people willing to go the distance is of far more value than having droves of fans who show up for a concert and then leave. Christians, we need to nut up or shut up. Jesus didn’t have a bleeding heart when they didn’t stay. Why? Because following him is hard and it takes being willing to be hated by all others as the price. While he absolutely wants everyone to walk the narrow road, he himself said few will walk it. Few find the gate so small. Following Christ is about surrendered perseverance. It’s defined by endurance. It isn’t like a microwave. It isn’t instant. It isn’t simple. It isn’t easy. Not because loving Jesus is hard, but because living in a world unfathomably complicated by sin is what is hard. We have confused the two. Obedience shouldn’t be viewed as something that takes strain and pain. Obedience to Christ should be easy, yet it’s complicated because we must battle fleshly sins at the same time. Following Jesus ain’t hard. Dying to yourself, however, is impossible without obedience and surrender.

I’m not saying go out and attempt to get people to hate you. I’m not saying that at all. What I am saying is that if you’ve had the opportunity to defend the Gospel and you’ve passed up on such an awesome opportunity, then maybe it’s time to put the cares about others’ opinions of you on the back burner and bring the urgency of the Gospel to the front. Every time we choose to not defend that which is Right, True, and Just when we know it’s needed is a laugh for Satan. It’s another victory for him. It’s another crack of the whip on the back of the Savior who died for us.

All that being said, allow me a moment of narcissism. Allow me to bring myself back into this picture.
There are few times, if any at all, that I’m unwilling to go toe-to-toe with someone who wants to slander and slash the Christian lifestyle, the Bible, etc. Not because I claim to have wisdom or knowledge about anything, but because I do think I am capable of removing the veil of culture and popular Christianity from over my own eyes. All that being said, my presentation of the Gospel isn’t one that’s always super attractive. I don’t sugarcoat a darned thing. I’d go as far as to say I might be confrontational (which is totally unrighteous and not cool if it’s prideful) in a bad way at times. I’ll step on the feelings of others because I just. don’t. care. It’s not that I don’t care about the person, but I just don’t care about hurting feelings because that seems to be ALL the rest of the world cares about. What I care about is a clear view of the Gospel. I care about Truth. I care about peoples’ salvation, not their happiness. I care about the Gospel being defended intelligently in a time that tries to skew it to fit personal lifestyles. I care about the Gospel being defended when those who know absolutely nothing about it try to act like they do. Reading the Bible really isn’t all that impressive. Anyone who is literate can do that. Applying the Bible, understanding the context, culture, language, and time period in history when it was written all need to be present when drawing conclusions about Scripture. That’s what gets my heart racing. Nothing will wake me up more than someone providing a pathetic definition of love, Christianity, faith, etc. I’m far more critical of those who claim to be followers of Christ than I ever will be of those who want nothing to do with him. Why? I don’t expect the dark to behave like the light. I do, however, expect the light to shine in the darkness. Christians, please. Understand that you do no good in choosing to never stand up for the Gospel. When you stand face to face with Jesus, is he going to ask you, “Why didn’t you tell them? Why did you stay quiet when you knew there was injustice, when you their behavior was wrong?” I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: Saving people isn’t your job. Let Jesus do that. Telling them about him and defending Scripture is your job.

Love requires some sort of battle. The cross told us that much. I’ll leave you by asking this. What are you fighting for? Are you even fighting at all? Or maybe, are you even willing?

Pray. Seek. Do.
..Hannah

 

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The “L” Word

I have been giving love a TON of thought this summer. I’ve been mulling over how our culture uses it, how God’s church uses it, how I use it, how the media uses it, etc. and I have come to a conclusion: Most can’t come up with a definition, and those that can have given some pretty crappy definitions that aren’t even definitions at all (more on that later).

As of right now, I’m planning on doing a few blogs on this topic, but maybe not all one right after another. To try to cover multiple facets of this in one blog would mean this would be the size of a short novel. This particular blog will cover the way we Christians use the word “love” when it comes to dating relationship and marriage.

A few weeks ago I found myself in a discussion over Deuteronomy 22: A chapter that covers the punishment for things like taking advantage of a woman, consensual sex, etc. Some of the final few verses delve into the punishment for the “rape” (if you’d like to know why it’s in quotes, it’s because we CANNOT apply our definition of Western, brutal, vicious rape to the Hebraic word that is used. There is NO biblical evidence for applying such a definition) of a woman who is not pledged to be married to another man. The punishment is that he is to pay the girl’s father 50 shekels and he must marry her and not divorce her all the days of her life. He is to care for her from there on out. Wait, what? A man rapes a girl and she has to marry him? Yeah, loving.

Actually, yes.

Remove your adorable, butterfly-giving, heart-racing, OH MY GOSH HE’S WONDERFUL! feelings and definition of love. Don’t even bring that to the table because that’s nothing but crap. Humor me and assume that you don’t have a good definition of love if you have even the slightest hint that you might think love might fit the definition I just gave. If you define love as being thrilled to be around someone even when you’re bored, if you define love as finishing each others’ sentences and then giggling about how you must be so wonderful for each other, if you define love as having found that one person that just makes you “feel” different, then assume you’re someone who doesn’t have a decent definition of love. Just humor me for a second.

Back to our raped Israeli girl.
Let’s talk about a shekel. This was not a coin. The rapist did not pay 50 coins of silver. Consider a shekel to be equal with a pound. Fifty POUNDS of silver. This was not one month, two months, or even two YEARS worth of wages. This could have been as much as TEN YEARS’ WORTH of wages. Find me another culture in this time period that would have punished so severely (or even at all) for the rape of a woman. Keep in mind that during this time, women were NOT highly valued. For there to be this big of a punishment was huge. And that wasn’t it: he had to marry the girl. If he didn’t, she had one option: prostitution. Virginity was so highly valued that if a woman wasn’t a virgin, she was worthless. She was dirty and had an irreplaceable flaw. Prostitution was the only option. Now that she had had her virginity taken away, she couldn’t be with another man. For him to have to marry her, support her, care for her, etc. is, again, a consequence of his actions…and that’s ON TOP of having to pay fifty shekels. Tell me something.. If he is spending a decade of his life paying for what he has done, don’t you think the father is going to keep a close watch on how his daughter is being treated within the marriage? With reprimands this extreme, how often do you think rape even occurred?! In the end, is this not itself love?

Ah ah, wait. You’re saying no. You have picked up your definition of love again. Put that thing back down, I’m not done!

What if love has absolutely NOTHING to do with emotions? I don’t mean that there is just a small part of love that has to do with emotions, I mean there isn’t a single darn thing that connects love and emotion. But how could that possibly be true? Don’t we as Christians tell each other all the time within dating relationships that, “Well, if you just aren’t feeling it, maybe you should just end it?” In our culture, that makes total sense. It makes PERFECT sense, actually. Our culture is all about feelings. How many times a day do you hear others say or say yourself, “I feel like…” For example, “I feel like that doesn’t make sense.” You don’t FEEL like that. You THINK it doesn’t make sense. How we have overused such words! Words mean things, folks!

To quote a verse that we all know by heart (haha, what irony…): John 3:16: For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son..” etc etc.

Another verse. 1 John 3:16: “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.”

I see nothing about butterflies in the tummy, gigantic smiles on the face, etc. In fact, both of those verses are sobering. Both verses tell us what was given up: a son and a life. Sacrifice. The level of commitment is incomprehensible to those of us who have never had to go to such lengths (and as far as I know, I haven’t yet met anyone else who has given up a child to save the world, nor have I met a person willing to endure crucifixion to save anyone else).

Love also has nothing to do with attraction. I find it slightly humorous that among Christians today we often find ourselves saying, “Well, there has to be SOME level of physical attraction there. I don’t think God has a problem with that.” After giving that some thought, I think we’ve bought into another lie. Jesus didn’t die for the attractive people. We don’t lay down our lives for our attractive Christian brothers and sisters. That’s not a requirement. So why in the world have we added that to our standards for “love” in a relationship? Oh, because you’re looking for marriage and you want to be attracted to the person you’re having sex with? I’m calling shenanigans on this one. You’re entering into a relationship for what reason? We must first start there. There is a multitude of answers here, but quite frankly if the answer isn’t an honest answer of, “To glorify God in seeking marriage,” then we’re dating and seeking marriage for selfish reasons. Marriage isn’t about you. I don’t have to be married to understand that. Shouldn’t marriage be a commitment? Shouldn’t it be a sacrifice? I have this really big inkling that if you commit yourself to a relationship and commit yourself to selflessly serving the other person and consistently putting their needs before your own and they’re doing the same, chances are you’re going to wind up attracted to them at some point. I honestly believe that. You’re going to see a side of them that others aren’t seeing, and the same will be true for them seeing you. We have so heavily influenced a physical attraction because we’re going to be waking up beside this person for the rest of our lives. What the heck are you gonna do when all of a sudden you’re 50 years old and you don’t have the body or the face you once did? We ask this question all the time, but we don’t seriously consider it.

We all believe that there “has” to be some sort of physical attraction (myself included. I’m not exempt from having bought into this culturally-induced fabrication), but I just don’t find a biblical basis for it. Marriages were arranged, to begin with. Both parties didn’t always have a say. “Oh, but that was the culture then, Hannah. It’s different today.” Correct you are. Does a change in culture merit a change in truth though? Don’t we become more like the world when we allow that sort of reasoning in regards to something like this?

We do the same when we say, “But I just feel different with him/her.” Love is a feeling? A temporary feeling that WILL die? Please find me a couple who has been married for five decades that has been sustained by such a statement. Brothers and sisters, we can’t continue to trick ourselves into believing that this sort of thing is “okay.” The divorce rate is over 50% in America right now, and Christians aren’t exempt from that! That tells me that more than one couple has probably tried to sustain their relationship on these sorts of concepts! Marriage is no longer sacred in society today. It’s not fought for selflessly.

I know that many (if not most) of my Christian friends will disagree with me. I don’t have a problem with that. But if the first judgment call we’re making when it comes to getting to know someone is based on whether or not we’re immediately carnally attracted to them, then we’re already starting out on the wrong foot because we’ve made our pursuit of love about us. Perhaps it may do some of us some good to get to know the person we haven’t immediately been attracted to. While it may not end in a relationship, it could probably end in us being better humans. Heaven forbid we give people the time of day.
I’m sure somehow, some way, someone could find a verse in the Bible in an attempt to prove me wrong. If you have to try really super hard, then I’d question the legitimacy to begin with, but once again, who’s it about? You? If so, we’ve lost sight of what love is.

Hear me when I say that I am not intending to berate any other Christian’s views on this topic. I’m simply trying to provide a bit of push-back in regards to it. I hear the word “love” used all the time (and I catch myself using it far too often as well) and it’s starting to get underneath my skin. What do we mean when we use the word? Can we define it or are we simply attempting to explain an emotional high/reaction to something new or something we haven’t experienced in a long time?

To be honest, I have been guilty of believing all of the above mentioned definitions of love. This summer I have really been giving a ton of thought to love on all fronts, not just relationship-y love as I said before I dove into this. This particular topic is rather close to my heart (ha! again! irony!) because I hate, I mean absolutely ABHOR divorce and how often it occurs among Christians today. It’s why for a time I wanted to study marriage & family counseling because I wanted to help in combating this phenomena among couples today. I hope that we as Christians are constantly looking at how our lives say we define love. I am, but I know I have a long way to go. It’s never too late to start doing things differently.

Pray. Seek. Do.

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Wake up, O sleeper!

Realization about my generation: we will do whatever possible to take the easy route. We’ll allow projects to be mediocre, we’ll give less than half our effort and say it’s enough, we use about an eighth of the passion instilled in us by our Creator, etc. It is, first of all, pathetic. Secondly, it’s a terrible witness to those outside the Christian faith. I may have the story slightly skewed, but there is a man who is known as “The Friendly Atheist.” There is a bid for his story on Ebay, and for every ten dollars bid, he will spend an hour in the local Irish Catholic church, or, if the bidder wants him to be in a different church, he’ll go to a different local church. The point being he is MORE THAN WILLING to convert to the Christian faith if someone can just prove to him it’s worth it. If someone can answer the legitimate questions he has, then he will sign on with the Christian faith. To get an introductory idea of the whole shabang, check this out http://friendlyatheist.com/faq/

It’s really no surprise that he hasn’t been convinced. Even in the services that accept everyone, why would he be sold on Christianity? Our contemporary, relaxed services sort of have me annoyed. We show up ten minutes late. No big deal, it’s just church! I think it’s great to invite people to bring in coffee cups or whatever else, but at the same time, I’m frustrated by it. We’re in WORSHIP people! We’re communing together, as one body, with the HOLY GOD! Yes, God is a personal God. He’s an all-loving, enduring, faithful, and unfathomably gracious God. Christ called him Abba – a Jewish term that literally means “Daddy!” But he is still an awesome, righteous, and holy God. He’s still a God that deserves our reverential attitudes and deserves our best worship, our full attention, and our full devotion. No wonder people aren’t convinced by what we believe. If we believed it, we’d actually LIVE it out! But let’s face it. We look, talk, and act the same. My generation thinks we’re entitled to success, happiness, and a pat on the back just because we gave 45%. After all, people should be thrilled that we’ve even considered to grace them with that 45%.

I’d really like to know when this cancerous thought began. At what point did my generation find it okay to tell the world “Screw you!” until we get our way? I’ve noticed this in my attitude towards Orchestra lately. Here’s my side of things: the top players in Wind Ensemble are expected to be in Orchestra. I personally did NOT sign up to be in Orchestra – it was decided for me. I’m not paid to be in Orchestra. I didn’t decide to be in Orchestra. Quite honestly, I think those of us in both WE and Orchestra are screwed over. We have rehearsals five days a week. Everyone else in the music department…EVERYONE ELSE…has four days a week or less. Yet somehow it’s okay for the twenty or fewer people who are in both ensembles to rehearse everyday. The best players, whether they be performance majors or not, or music majors or not, have to rehearse five days a week. How many times have I been to Orchestra rehearsals on Friday this semester? Twice. I have been there twice. I skipped one rehearsal, and the remaining weeks I’ve had other things going on. Why? Well, sorry, I have other things to do that are required of me for which I’m receiving credit because I actually CHOSE to sign up for those classes, thankyouVERYmuch. Full Orchestra technically meets twice a week. It’s not my fault the conductor chooses to run the same piece that doesn’t include the piccolo every Wednesday and never run the piece that includes piccolo on Wednesdays. That’s only done on Fridays. That’s ridiculous in my mind.

See? Entitlement. I don’t have to go because I’m entitled to what I want, what I believe, etc. Do I believe that the rehearsal schedule needs changed? Yes. I think it’s ineffective, unreasonable, and unfair. I’m not a professional musician, I never intend to be one, I’m done with music after college, etc. Quite honestly, I’m growing further from music the more I’m involved in our music department. I’m pretty turned off to it because I’m sick of the typical musician’s attitude. Yes, our department is FULL of the typical musician. That’s a completely different rant though. My attitude about Orchestra should be different. I should be THRILLED that I have the opportunity to make music with the group as a whole for five days a week. Others don’t have that freedom! Others don’t have that opportunity or privilege! If I were TRULY devoting my ability to make music to Christ, then I wouldn’t have this attitude. I would be thrilled to make music. Fact is, kids, that’s not my attitude. I despise it. It’s the exact opposite.

Back to what I was saying.
My generation needs a wake up call…and quick. Whether it be our attitudes or our work ethic, all of it is completely unrighteous.

“Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” -1 Corinthians 10:31

Our actions don’t speak of giving glory to God, especially when we slack. Just tonight I experienced this frustration when people thought they were entitled to recital credit just because they stayed for a small portion of the recital. That’s not how recital attendance works. It’s all or nothing. That’s how our walk with Christ needs to be : all or nothing. If you’re going to ride the fence and only do what’s convenient for most of your life, then stop. Seriously. Get out now. If we aren’t willing to go the distance in EVERYTHING we do, then it’s not even worth it. I’m not say do everything perfectly. Ain’t none of us gonna pull that one off. But if we aren’t even willing to try, if we aren’t even willing to step out on that limb and give God at least a shot of faith…then maybe we shouldn’t really bother with calling ourselves Christians. I’m not surprised The Friendly Atheist hasn’t converted. He’s seeing half-potent faith. Church looks like a routine, not something we actually look forward to. Christ said either be hot or cold. If we’re lukewarm, then he’s going to spit us out without thinking twice. I think most of our lives look lukewarm. I had a friend from high school tell me she’s struggling with her faith. She has multiple Muslim friends, and they are COMMITTED to Allah. They’re consistent in their prayer lives, they know the Koran inside and out, and they live out what it tells them. How often do we spend it prayer? I’m not talking about those moment-by-moment spontaneous prayers that we have throughout the day. I’m talking about meaningful prayer that says something to God and let’s him know we’re thrilled to be talking to him. No wonder she’s struggling with her faith. She’s comparing a half-baked faith to a faith that’s sold out in what they believe.

“Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” -Ephesians 5:14

The alarm clock went off a long time ago. Are we going to continue to hit snooze or are we going to wake up, put our feet on the floor, and make Satan shudder at the very thought that we’re awake again? Wake up, O sleeper!

Daniel

Descriptive title, hm? :)

I read through the opening chapters of Daniel last night, and it made me change my view on worship a little bit. Typically I’m someone who isn’t much of a supporter of music in worship sounding like that of society today. In fact, when I hear worship that more or less resembles a parody of a popular song, I want to ralph. I’m not necessarily talking about parodies in worship, but this whole crappy singer-songwriter style. Let’s be real here folks. I’m talking about the people who dress like hobos, don’t comb their hair when they wake up, wear glasses that have no prescription, etc., and walk on stage with just an acoustic guitar. THAT style of music. Have you ever listened to the lyrics of those songs? Half of them are so dumb lyrically-speaking. Honestly. It proves how little our generation thinks. Just because words rhyme, doesn’t mean they should be used. I’m not being prejudiced against their music. I call it they way I see it. I described their appearance in honest detail and gave a pretty accurate assessment of the music. Now, back to worship…

This is showing up more and more in worship music. Artists are sounding exactly like the world. Quite frankly, some of the lyrics are just as ridiculous as a secular song. Not all, but some. Let’s leave the “some” out of this for the sake of the point I’m trying to make.

Let’s talk about Daniel. In chapter one, Nebuchadnezzar (king of Babylon) besieges Judah and orders Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility (young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well-informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace) and teach them the Babylonian language and literature. The king, in turn, gave them a daily amount of food and wine from his own table. They were to train for three years, and after that enter the king’s service. Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were among the men chosen. Ashpenaz gave them new names – Belteshazzar (Daniel), Shadrach (Hananiah), Meshach (Mishael) and Abednego (Azariah).

Daniel had resolved not to eat the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to eat this food. The word specifically used in the NIV is ‘defiled.’ This could have meant that the food was forbidden by Jewish law (such as pork) or because accepting the king’s food and drink was, really, the first step in following the king and relying on him. Daniel was in the middle of a culture that didn’t obey God’s laws at all, but he was still determined to follow them himself. After asking if he could skip out on eating the food, the official said he was afraid that Daniel would begin to look sickly in comparison to the other men. If this were to happen, the official would have been put to death. Daniel said to the chief official, “Please test your servants for ten days: Give us (Daniel (Belteshazzar), Hananiah (Shadrach), Mishael (Meshach), and Azariah (Abednego)) nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.” (Daniel 1:11-14)

As many of us know, at the end of the ten days they looked way better than the other guys who were piggin’ out on the king’s buffet. The Babylonians were trying to change the thinking of these men by giving them a Babylonian education, their loyalty by changing their names, and the lifestyle by changing their diet. Without compromising, Daniel found a way to live by God’s standards in a culture that had chosen to not honor God. He chose to negotiate instead of rebel. Daniel suggested an experiment. What we see is we may adjust to our culture as long as we do not compromise the commands of God.

For those of you who are like myself and don’t enjoy worship or even contemporary Christian music that heavily resembles music of our culture, perhaps we should all think again. If it isn’t blatantly going against God, then maybe we need to lighten up.

 

Now look at life. The Babylonians were doing everything possible to try to break down the Jews line of thinking. They were completely immersing them in Babylonian culture, yet four men were standing up to it and refusing to be swayed by their attempts. For me, this is also a story that enforces my desire to, IF and I mean IIIIIF I ever have children, put them in public schooling. Right now the only factor that would seriously sway my opinion is if the education at the closest public school wasn’t up to par. THEN I would homeschool. I refuse to keep my children (um..my ‘pretend’ children) from culture just because it doesn’t follow Christ. If my husband and I are doing our jobs as parents, then I shouldn’t have much fear for whether or not my children are going to stand up for Truth. Quite honestly, from what I see on this campus, MOST (not all) of the time I cannot believe the naivete of kids who were homeschooled for the entirety of their high school careers. Many of these kids don’t have a clue what problems the real world has. Many haven’t experienced spiritual warfare, family members who are addicts to something, homosexual friends, etc. They’ve been kept in a bubble. I will not do that to my kids. I’m so against parents who remove their children from a public school just because of the risk of sin. Eventually we have to cut the umbilical cord, folks. Why do parents fear the path their child will take? If they DISCIPLINED their children (as in, spanking. Yes, that’s completely acceptable, liberals. Get over it.), showed them adequate amounts of love, grace, and mercy, and also spoke the Truth and nothing BUT the Truth, then why worry? I have to wonder if homeschooling covers up the mistakes the parents made and not ones the child made.

Okay, I’ll get off the soapbox.

Back to my point. Get involved in culture and stand up for godly lifestyles and principles. Don’t compromise, but be sneaky. It’s possible to be a Christian in today’s world and not worry about whether or not King Nebuchadnezzar will kill you for it. ;) Unless you’re like me and have a tendency to speak your mind the minute something enters it. Plan on getting killed socially-speaking for that one. =P Or, hey, physically, depending on where you are! You never know!

 

Pray on, friends. :)
…especially for Japan.

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Pro-Life or Pro-Birth?

I’m currently reading Why Pro-Life? Caring for the Unborn and Their Mothers by Randy Alcorn. It’s a book written in defense of the pro-life opinion. Alcorn is a Christian, but this book is not written on an argument of faith, but of scientific research and discovery. I highly recommend this to anyone, be you pro-life or pro-choice. I’m not very far into the book, but far enough that I’ve come to realize our Christian, pro-life stance on the issue is hollow. Yes, hollow.

I argue that most of us Christians fight for pro-birth, but we aren’t really pro-life. No, I’m not arguing this from an anti-death penalty view because I’m for the death penalty (we’ll tackle that argument some other time). I’m arguing this from our nice little conservative boxes that we confine ourselves to.

How many of us vehemently stand on the side of pro-life, yet when that baby is born, the argument then ceases? We won, didn’t we? The mom didn’t have an abortion! Let’s go find the next teenage girl who’s walking towards Planned Parenthood. But what about the teenage mom who just had the child? If we’re supposedly pro-life, won’t we continue to fight for the good of that mother and child? Or, instead, do we revert to our conservative views of, “Well honey, havin’ a kid is rough work. Get a job and start supporting that kid. The world doesn’t owe you anything.”

Tell me I’m wrong and that you’ve never had this thought run through your mind when you hear of a pregnant teenager. Tell me I’m wrong. I dare you.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve thought this. I had friends in high school who became pregnant and I remember thinking, “Wow. They’re idiots. Seriously? Can’t you just wait to sleep with someone until marriage? Oh well.. it’s their problem, but she better not have an abortion. That’s just plain wrong.”

Allow me to point out the controversy in my thought process.

“It’s their problem, but she better not have an abortion.”
I turned the child into an inconvenience. I could argue (with myself no less, ha!) that I intended for the situation of becoming a teenage mom to be a problem. That does not excuse the fact that I could be heavily misinterpreted, and furthermore, come across as a very, very hypocritical Christian. Unplanned children are not “problems.” They’re unexpected, that’s for sure. And perhaps they’re fabulous instruments of fear (ha!), but they are not problems.
I continued my ignorance and immaturity through the thought of “…but she better not have an abortion.” This is controversial to my first statement. If the child really were a problem, why not abort it? Secularly, chances are we believe in evolution. If the child is a problem, then we should seek to eliminate said problem. Survival of the fittest, after all (nevermind the numerous loopholes that can be found in this theory). Religiously we seek to surrender power to Christ when we find problems. They aren’t ours to conquer. Christians shouldn’t be having abortions, yet, “43% of  women obtaining abortions identify themselves as Protestant, and 27% identify themselves as Catholic. Two-thirds of America’s abortions are obtained by those with a Christian affiliation. Eighteen percent of all U.S. abortions are performed on women who identify themselves as born-again or evangelical Christians. That’s nearly a quarter million abortions each year in Bible-believing churches (Alcorn 17).” For those of us who aren’t in this boat, think about your first reaction to the statistics I just listed. Horror? Shock? Disgust?

I return to my original statement. We fight for birth, not life. If we fought for life, our first reactions would be that of heartbreak, not only for the unborn, but for the mothers who sat through our church services, yet were never encompassed with the love of Christ that should have influenced their decisions. Instead of turning to the church for help and aid, what caused these mothers to feel so rejected that they would hide away from our churches once they become pregnant? Do we really come across as a place and a people so judgmental that she can’t come to Jesus, even if she does have an abortion?

Church, we have to stop being pro-birth and start being pro-life. Stand in the line of fire for those who are already nearly-mortally wounded by society or, God forbid, the church. If we fight for birth but not life, we defeat the purpose. A poverty-stricken child isn’t given a chance at life. We can’t keep turning our eyes from this issue (Not poverty, but our insensitivity to the mothers and children post-birth, just because they don’t look, act, talk, or think like us). I’ll be the first one to admit that I need to change. Over the past few weeks I’ve noticed my insensitivity and pride have sky-rocketed. Faaantastic. I never realized how great is the analogy of the church being a body. Cancer can start small, but it has the potential to destroy in a very minute measurement of time. All it takes is one member who is prideful and/or insensitive and the cancer will go from Stage I to Stage IV in no time.

I know we (as an entire Body) have the ability to do this. With the grace of Christ, we can run to those who are hurting and wrap our arms around them. I think we just need a perspective shift. Pro-life. Not pro-birth.

Pray on, friends.

 

*Edit on 9/6/12
There is NOTHING in this post that is seeking to speak against the death penalty. Please see my other post, https://lifeaccordingtohannah.wordpress.com/2011/07/23/the-long-awaited-opinion/  for clarification on my views of the death penalty.

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Stop Slow Dancing with Jesus.

Worship songs have now been ruined for me. *chuckle* No, but seriously…

From some of the horror stories I heard at the beginning of the year, it sounded like I wasn’t going to enjoy any of Dr. Cherry’s classes. Well, false. Completely false. The two classes of hers I’m currently in are profoundly relevant and VERY much needed for what I’m studying. She expects/demands a lot, but I’ve learned more in just these first six weeks about the evaluation of worship songs, styles, etc than I have the past two years. Granted, not all of my classes have been centered around worship, but you get what I’m saying. I am glad, however, that I started out taking Dr. Yoder’s classes first. They laid a FANTASTIC foundation for integrating into the theology department to study worship on top of church music.

Today we turn in a project that evaluates 25 of CCLI’s top 25 worship songs (albeit from February 2005, but hey, they were still top 25 at one point). We had to evaluate them based on the following:

-Whether they were objective (main focus was on God) or subjective (main focus is “I”)
-List all the names for God mentioned throughout the song
-State the members of the Trinity
-Corporate or personal

Our of the list of top 25, only three came out corporate; 23 were personal in nature and weren’t all-inclusive for the congregation as one worshipping body. I don’t have the paper in front of me so the next few details are approximates. Two referred to the entire Trinity (God, Jesus, Holy Spirit).  Most used “Lord.” Lord can refer to both God and Jesus; this isn’t so much a problem, it’s just for clarification and variety. We aren’t referring to God with many biblical names!

Bottom line: worship songs are in desperate, desperate need of being revamped.

Praise and worship songs, as a whole, tend to focus on emotions. While there is a definite need for this in our worship services, we’ve, well, in my opinion we’ve perverted His love. Yes, you read that correctly. Before stones start being cast allow me to explain. How many of our worship songs focus on love? Think about it. Allow me to give you a few…

Draw Me Close

Draw me close to you,
Never let me go.
I lay it all down again
To hear you say that I’m your friend

You’re all I want
You’re all I’ve ever needed
You’re all I want
Help me know you are near

You are my desire
No one else will do
Cause nothing else could take your place
To feel the warmth of your embrace
Help me find a way
Bring me back to you

Take that out of a church service and insert it into a junior high dance. There is zero mention of God in this song. Sure, you as a Christian look at it and decide it’s to God because the typical powerpoint will have “You” capitalized. This is a love song, but I’m sorry, this isn’t really a love song to Jesus. Jesus isn’t mentioned one time, and no where, NO WHERE in the Bible have I yet to read about God or Jesus loving his people with the AMERICAN view of romance. If you want to throw the view of God being married to his bride, the church, okay, let’s talk about that.

Let’s revert back to New and Old Testament times. Now, if we’re going to do that, we’re going to have to look at society and cultural views of people of this day. Men and women, um, excuse me, boys and girls didn’t fall in love and then get married. Their parents decided who they would marry, they were pledged to be married to that person, and the male had to buy his bride from her family. There was no dating, no courtship, no nothing to see if the two were “compatible,” as Americans would want to know. More often than not they didn’t have sex figured out, they didn’t have love figured out, they honestly knew nothing outside of what they’d seen in their own households. They were married and as time grew on, they fell “in love,” if you will.

Now that you’re thinking as an Israelite 15 year old would have (scared out of your mind? Yeah.), apply that to how it lines up with today.

Oh wait..

It doesn’t.

To win our younger generations over we use highly emotional songs to draw them into worship and feed them with this view that God wants to romance them and win their hearts over. While I will agree that there is truth to that, I will not go as far to say that is entirely true. I won’t go on to say how we’ve messed up girls’ minds with the view of “Jesus is every girl’s boyfriend,” but I’ll cover that at some point. We fill our youth with emotionally high music, and then what happens after the honeymoon phase is over? What happens to them when they leave a revival and two weeks later they don’t have the same “feeling” they did at that revival? We haven’t taught them that the Christian walk encompasses FAR more than an emotional high. Keep going on down the road, they become young adults, and eventually they’re 30-something soccer moms and dads who aren’t involved in our churches anymore. Why? Well, honestly, how connected were they really to a church to begin with? Some of you may not think this has ANYTHING to do with the music we put in front of them, but to quote Plato, “Show me who writes a nation’s songs and I care not who makes its laws.”

Powerful? Yes.
Correct? More yes.

What is the theology our congregations are gaining from our music? I will go to bet that I can ask many, many members of a congregation to give me their top five favorite worship songs and they’ll do it in no time flat. Can I ask the same of their top five favorite sermons they’ve heard? Some may be able to do it, but I’m going to assume it will take them at least a few minutes to figure out five sermons they can even remember let alone deem their favorite. We repeat songs all the time in our Sunday morning services… How often do we repeat sermons? Bottom line: If we’re going to repeatedly put songs in front of our congregations, they better one, have more theological integrity than what we see many have. Two, they need to stop focusing on the subjective, personal experience.

A list…

Here I Am To Worship
Hungry (Falling On My Knees)
Above All
Open the Eyes of My Heart
You Are My King
You’re Worthy of My Praise (I Will Give You All My Worship)
Trading My Sorrows
I Give You My Heart
Lord Reign In Me
Lord I Lift Your Name on High
Breathe
The Heart of Worship (part of me has to laugh at the title and how it talks about ‘It’s all about you Jesus’ but the entire song is more focused on ourselves)

I just gave a pretty healthy list of favorite worship songs (albeit oldies but goodies). I absolutely love some of those songs and I know many of you do as well. Those songs were part of the top 25 list I mentioned at the beginning of this blog.

What a surprise. America’s church is focused on me-worship. Perhaps you personally don’t understand my urgency…

Let’s again revert back to Israelite worship of the Old Testament…
Completely congregational. Their festivals? Their feasts? Hello, THE EXODUS!?!? God chose Israel as his people. He didn’t choose this person and that person. He chose an entire body. Why is our worship so exclusive? Their’s HAD subjectivity to it, for example Miriam & Moses’ song after coming out of Egypt. But the heart of their worship was done on days set aside and they worshipped together.

Let’s talk New Testament…
Paul talks over and over about what bodies of believers should do as they come together. There are canons all OVER the New Testament, and honestly they’re not exactly, “Thanks Jesus for loving ME and blessing ME and making ME feel all warm and fuzzy on the inside.” Are you kidding me? The NT worshippers were gettin’ blessed through persecution, and they saw it as such. We get ticked when bad days come our way, yet they were rejoicing at such an honor. Furthermore, again, they worshipped as a body. We come into worship and expect God to move in a very personal way. I won’t apologize for this: Worship is not for you or your individual “feelings” about God. Worship is FOR God and initiated by Him. We don’t worship until he ushers us in. If you sit in a pew or a chair on Sunday morning, stop believing you’re there because you decided to be. Who wakes you up every day? Who gets you there safely? Don’t tell me you’re there on your own terms. Furthermore, when we show up, we best be thanking God for the privilege to worship him that morning. It’s not like we actually deserve the ability to worship him, thankyouverymuch.  Honestly, it’s not really up to us whether we worship or not. There is always a reason to worship. Christ died and rose again! The man DEFEATED death! I THINK we all have a reason to worship..

I’ve done my fair share of harping on praise & worship, so you’re probably wondering if I have anything good to say about it. Yes. Definitely yes. I think it has a place. The worship that heavily emphasizes “I” and leaves out the congregation as a whole? Use it in your own worship time! I have absolutely no problem singing worship music of this type when I’m in my own room with no one else around. The song is between God and I, so what would the purpose be in using it in a congregational setting? It’s perfect for personal time.

As far as the worship that makes Jesus out to sound like a boyfriend or a lover… Well… I’m sorry. I can’t do that.  While Jesus was on earth, please tell me when he portrayed his love to someone romantically. He didn’t. Just because he isn’t hangin’ around with us physically anymore, how did we all of a sudden come up with this, “Jesus is my boyfriend” garbage? There is SUCH a huge difference between romantic love and intimate love. We’ve lost that understanding.

Do I think songs like Draw Me Close has a place? Yes. Do I think that place is in a congregation where there are people who are on different points in this journey called a relationship with Christ? No. You’ll have some who don’t have a clue what Christianity is about. Couldn’t that song make them wonder what kind of God we TRULY serve if that’s the way we sing about him? For the Christian who is just starting out, again, are we making Christianity into a sea of emotion and nothing more? I honestly don’t think songs like this should be put in front of people unless they’ve been at their walk for a while and they understand the context and understand that it isn’t a song about being wooed by Jesus.

Game on. Pray on.

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“Oh, Canada!”

Well, it’s 1:30 AM. Canada Day is officially over. Allow me to explain why Canada Day gets its own blog…

The Canadians here are INTENSE about their partying on Canada Day. Of course the Christian ministry kids were invited.. The whole town is invited to the Canada Day party. Four kegs. GONE by 11:30. I didn’t get there til about 10:45. My friends (not the ACMNP team) were quite lit. I won’t lie; most of the night was pretty hilarious. I met some pretty …outgoing… individuals throughout the night. The rest of the ACMNP had a glass or two of beer. Totally cool; they’re all over 21. At one point, one of our Canadian friends came over and started pouring them all some margarita. Again, it’s cool. She offered me some and I, of course, refused. I’ve always said there’s no way I’ll drink before I’m 21. I’m totally against underage drinking. Well, after she left someone tried to give me a little. First thing outta my mouth, “Would you care if I tasted it?”

“Psh. No, go for it.”

I put the glass up to my lips and almost did it. I was very close. Then I remembered the pact I made with God. I couldn’t do it. I gave it back and he’s like, “Dude seriously. Not a big deal. Have a sip.” I had to continually fight it off. I’ve never been tempted to drink before tonight. Rest assured, I never did, but it was really strange to be tempted like that for once.

I was having a blast the whole night until the last twenty or so minutes I was there. First, I noticed a girl who was completely smashed trying her hardest to find the hottest guy she could so she could take him home with her. That didn’t rip my heart out the most. I expected to see that everywhere. What DID do it for me was when I saw a girl I work with completely drunk and completely stoned. As far as I know she’s never been one to drink to the point of being completely hammered, and she’s never said she likes pot. I’ve never seen someone so far gone. Her face had no color, she’d broken out in what had to have been a cold sweat (did I mention it’s only about 40 or so degrees tonight?), her eyes were blood shot beyond belief, and she could barely hold herself up. And man, were there a number of guys taking note of that. I’m half scared to death that she’s currently in bed with someone she doesn’t know, and that it wasn’t exactly her decision to wind up there if you know what I mean. I tried to talk to her a little bit, but she wasn’t even understanding anything I was saying. She was just laughing at the fact that all the guys kept saying her name. I should have just picked her up and dragged her off. Granted, I would have had a number of people after me, but still. I hate myself for not doing it.

I’ve heard it said a half a dozen times that most people come here to get away from everything for the summer. Most of the people here (mainly the 20-30 somethings) are here to leave the crap they have at home, and to have a good time for the summer. This typically means getting drunk more than once a week. There is so much hurt here. There is so much potential. It’s hard to keep that in mind, though, when so many people see the ACMNP kids as a joke. A lot of people, with a lot of problems, running away from a lot of things, chasing everything down with a lot of alcohol and other substances. This world needs a savior, but what do you do when no one wants one? Alcohol (in crazy-huge amounts) doesn’t save anyone. It creates more problems. People cover up all the pain they deal with something that will never do them any good. It’s so frustrating..

Some of you may be questioning the ACMNP kids going to bars and parties (yes, I can go to bars until a certain hour out here), but remember… Jesus didn’t come to save the ones who didn’t have problems. He came for the destitute, the weak, the hurting, the abused, the addicted, and most importantly, the sinner.

Pray on.

Victoria Donner

Sometimes you can cattle rope your heart and sometimes you can't.

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