Monday, January 23, 2017

Ode to moms: helpful links

I don't have children of my own. Most women who keep blogs write about this important aspect of who they are in Christ, the role of Mom. Since I do not have children I would not presume to write about children or parenting or motherhood. I do teach children all day long and that's been my main career in life, but that is not the same as parenting. However I know that many women read the blog, and may have parenting concerns.

I began teaching in 1983 and with a break for some years I took it back up 9 years ago. There has been a palpable decline in the family quality of childrens' lives over the past 34 years since I began working with children and families through my career in education. I see the culture's drastic effect on children, I see the fractured family's effects on children. I cannot imagine being a parent in this day and age, fraught with the evils, false religions, liberal doctrines, and general chaos and trying to protect your child. I'd go insane with worry!

God cares deeply for children and intact families. How many Bible verses talk about protecting this most vulnerable demographic in society? Many! The orphans, the fatherless, or the children are spoken of in scores of verses throughout the Old Testament to the New.

See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven. (Matthew 18:10)

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. (James 1:27)

Do not take advantage of the widow or the fatherless. (Exodus 22:22)

So with that, here are some links I've seen last week regarding children, parenting, and the issues moms say moms face. I hope you find them beneficial. :)

Nancy Guthrie has some Divine Words for Desperate Parents
We can teach our child the Scriptures, but we can’t be the Holy Spirit in our child’s life. ... But anyone who’s been a parent for long knows parenting requires a lot more than simply following the right steps to success. To raise a child toward godliness, we need much more than the good advice parenting experts have to offer. We need what only the Scriptures have to offer.

Jennifer at One Hired Late In the Day is entering her 18th year of parenting and has some thoughts about How Our Faith Influences Our Parenting
Rachel over at the Danielthree18 blog wrote a good piece today examining whether or not it is wise for Christian parents to send their kids to public school with the idea that they be salt and light to the unsaved. She has some excellent points and food for thought, so please be sure to click on this link and read her essay. Her post prompted me to examine again the decisions that my husband and I have made regarding our own children and their education. Parenting is one of the most important roles that God gives to us, and I know that I am not alone in having a deep concern for my children and whether or not I am making the right decisions for them and most importantly, pleasing the Lord in how I am raising them. 
I have written before about shepherding the minds and hearts of our children. For today’s post, I thought I would expand on that a little bit and give you some insight into our strategy of Christian parenting.

My friend who is mom of an infant recommended this Christian Living book on Facebook, and it does look very good.

Mom Enough
Are you mom enough?  
The cover of Time Magazine asked this haunting question in bold red letters that hung over the startling image of a young mother breastfeeding her four-year-old. When the issue hit newsstands it re-ignited a longstanding mommy war in American culture. But it turns out this was the wrong question, pointing in the wrong direction. Here is a higher and more essential question faced by mothers: Is God God enough? 
This short book by eight women explores the daily trials and worries of motherhood. In the trenches, they have learned (and continue to learn) how to treasure God and depend on his all-sufficient grace. The paradox of this book is the secret power of godly mothering. Becoming mom enough comes as a result of answering the question, "Are you mom enough?" with a firm no.

Here's Jen Oshman with the question, What if We Kept Doing Family Devotions after Advent?
But first, let me encourage you: no one's family worship time is pretty everyday.  If your kids are poking one another with their toes and screaming out for justice, if they are picking their noses and looking at the ceiling fixture, or if they are rolling around on the floor and feigning interest, then you're doing it right (all three of these things happened in our Advent reading time during one single evening this week).
I am on Pinterest, but I hate Pinterest. I find it awkward, clumsy, and useless (in the constant pinning and never actually getting TO the thing you want to cook/make/read/knit). I also think it is satan's way of encouraging defeat in moms, by presenting a highly skewed picture of life that no one can really match up to. With that in mind, here's a meme I found enjoyable this week:

Missionary to the cannibals in the New Hebrides, John G. Paton, revered his mother and father. He wrote how he learned to submit to the will and sovereignty of God through listening to his mother pray. His mother's faith, her lifetime of devoting herself to the good of the family, and to prayer, along with his father's teaching and faith, gave Paton his foundation and sustained him throughout terrible trials at the hands of the cannibalistic pagans he'd sailed across the world to serve.
How do you claim the promises of God for protection when your wife was equally faithful but, rather than being protected, died; and when the Gordons on Erromanga were equally trusting in those promises and were martyred? Paton had learned the answer to this question from listening to his mother pray, even before he leaned the theology that supports it. When the potato crop failed in Scotland, Mrs. Paton said to her children, "O my children, love your Heavenly Father, tell him in faith and prayer all your needs, and he will supply your wants so far as it shall be for your good and His glory" (p. 22) (source)
Moms, please know that I admire you and pray for you. Your job is one of the most important in the entire world.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Franklin Graham's unwise comment about rain

Pastor Gabe Hughes at WWUTT (When We Understand The Text) had a 90-second video response to Franklin Graham's unwise comment at the Inauguration of Donald Trump.

Here is a screen shot:

Here is WWUTT's 90-second video. (All their videos are 90 seconds, check them out!)

As noted in the video, the rain that fell in Genesis was a judgment on all the people of the earth (except for the 8 faithful in Noah's family). Also as noted in the video, Jesus said in Matthew 5:45 that rain falls on the just and the unjust.

God raises up leaders and He takes them down. (Daniel 2:21, Psalm 75:7). Just because President Trump won the election does not necessarily mean God is blessing him or America. God could be judging America by raising up President Trump. The same could apply to ex-President Obama. We don't know what was in God's mind when He raised those men up. We do not know why He allowed President Harrison to lead for only 30 dayswhile He has allowed Queen Elizabeth II to reign for 23,725 days.

In order to state that rain is a sign of blessing at any particular moment, one would have to be able to interpret the omen. God used the Prophets of old as a sign to the people. When Moses threw down his staff and it turned into a snake, it was a sign (omen) and Pharaoh understood it as a sign. He did not interpret it correctly, of course, since he had his own wizards standing by who performed the same sign. Pharaoh interpreted that Moses' God was as not powerful as his false god and that Pharaoh could continue to resist God with no harm, no foul. He was wrong.

And that's the problem with interpreting omens. Without a Prophet having heard directly from God, those who are claiming that rain occurring at any given moment means this or that are in fact claiming to know the mind of God. And that is presumptuous. Here is what the Bible says about interpreting omens, excerpt from GotQuestions:
These portents occurred in the Bible, usually through God’s prophets, when it served God’s purpose. However, the Bible expressly forbids divination of any kind: "Let no one be found among you who . . . interprets omens. . . . Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord" (Deuteronomy 18:10–12). We do not live by superstition, and we should not be searching for good or evil omens. Our understanding of the spiritual world does not come through the occult. God has given us the ultimate sign of His goodness, love, and grace in Jesus Christ (1 John 4:9). The Bible is our source for spiritual insight (2 Peter 1:19–21).
It is a shame, and it is unwise that Mr Graham said this. It's unwise not only for his own soul but because he said it while standing on a platform in which his words would be broadcast globally. If one wanted to give the world a lesson on interpreting the mind of God by divination, one could not have chosen a better moment.

I've written before that Graham's partnering with Catholics at his Crusades is also indicative of a heart that does not understand what the Bible says to do and not to do. (for example, do not interpret omens as already discussed, in the case of partnering with Catholics, do not be unequally yoked, 2 Corinthians 6:14).

May the Lord in His mercy send a spirit of repentance onto Mr Graham, and dispense mercy meanwhile.


Further Reading

2016: Franklin said on his Facebook pagein response to Tim Kaine's hope that the Catholic Church would change its stance against same-sex marriage to accepting one, that
I appreciate the Catholic Church remaining very strong on moral issues through the years, and I pray they will be immovable on the teachings of the Bible.

2014:Franklin Graham part of "a new evangelization" partnering with Catholics, Graham's Three Rivers Festival hosts Catholic Bishop Zubik
Bishop David Zubik was the Catholic representative, and he was invited to give the opening prayer. Worse, seekers were encouraged to come to the Catholic church for counseling, since they were 'right next door.'

Saturday, January 21, 2017

The fruit of sin

But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. (Romans 6:21)

Paul is asking this rhetorical question in the majestic section of "The Wages of Sin." What has sin profited you? What fruit, then, has sin produced?

I'm a lover of art. I saw Caravaggio's Bacchus in the Uffizi some years ago. Caravaggio's Bacchus is a decadent painting, becoming more so as one gazes at it. Bacchus was the Roman god of the grape harvest, winemaking and wine, of ritual ecstasy, fertility and so on. Dionysus was the parallel Greek god. Here he is:

How is it decadent, one asks? We see the heavy-lidded youth, the Bacchus, reposing against his dirty sheets, with his own covering having slipped off, exposing his fleshy upper torso. He fingers the opening suggestively. His face appears ruddy, from outdoor farm work in the vineyards, or perhaps more to the point, the florid blush of too much wine. On close inspection, the bowl of fruit shows its over-ripeness. The pears are bruised and browning. The figs are burst and oozing. The peaches are in obvious decay.

Decay, rot, decomposition is the theme of the entire portrait. And anyway, it's a false god.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23)

Does sin bring the fruit of love?
Does sin bring the fruit of peace?
Does sin bring the fruit of patience?
Does sin bring the fruit of kindness?
Does sin bring the fruit of goodness?
Does sin bring the fruit of faithfulness?
Does sin bring the fruit of gentleness?
Does sin bring the fruit of self-control?

Can you think of any sin which brings any of the good fruit of the Spirit? Does jealousy bring love? Does bitterness bring self-control? Does gossip bring kindness? Does adultery bring peace?

Or does sin's fruit bring decay, rot, and decomposition? The fruit of love only grows brighter as it ripens. The fruit of sin brings festering putrefaction, flies, and disease. Eventually, death.

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23).

Flee from that sin, sister. Resist it, slay it. God has given us His Spirit to aid us in this, and the free gift of eternal life is ours so we can enjoy His Holy self forever.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Christian books: It's not "just fiction"

I love to read. With the New Year and all the 'Reading Challenges' that emerge as people make decisions at the start of the year, I'd decided to go back to reading for pleasure. This is an activity that had fallen by the wayside as I got busier, and my eyes grew more tired at night. Aging. It's not for sissies, lol.

I also decided to read the books that were on my own shelves to start with, rather than going out to buy a bunch of new books. Shop my own shelves, so to speak! So as I'd picked up that novel or this novel I'd had on my shelf since before salvation, and began to read them, I became dissatisfied. Sadly, the secular novels of today, even the literary ones, contain things my sanctifying soul objects to. Especially if there is profanity or blasphemy.

Are Christian books safer? Well, no. Take the book The Shack, for instance. This was a runaway bestseller back in 2007-2008 and onward. It was sold in Christian bookstores as a Christian book. Its author, William P. Young, wrote about a man who was staggering under heavy grief due to the kidnapping and death of his little daughter, which had happened in a derelict shack. One day the man received a handwritten note in his mailbox, with no stamp or postage, requesting his the shack. It turned out to have been an invitation from God. Curious, the man goes to the shack, where he also 'meets' Jesus and the Holy Spirit in addition to being greeted by 'God.' It turns out that according to the author's presentation of the Trinity, God is a woman, as is the Holy Spirit. The book goes on to present discussions between the persons of the Trinity and the man, regarding sin, evil, salvation, judgment, and other doctrines. The book teaches that sin is its own judgment, that hell exists to purge away unbelief (not punish for sin), that there is universal reconciliation, and other aberrant, non-biblical doctrines.

Many credible leaders in the faith negatively reviewed the book. I reviewed it negatively also. A common rebuttal to our negative view of the book was, "Lighten up. It's only fiction!" Or, "It's only a novel!"

Dear reader, novels teach an author's point of view, either subtly or overtly. It's no different for Christian novels. Novels with Christian themes use narrative to teach. We must all be Bereans and check to see that these things in the 'Christian' book are so, in whatever form the doctrines are coming to us. Doctrine is taught in songs, poems, sermons, lessons, theological books...and fiction.

Below are three essays regarding Christian fiction and theology that flesh out these issues.

Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr. serves as president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. In this first essay I'm linking to, Albert Mohler offers thoughts on the missing art of evangelical discernment as encapsulated by evangelical response to The Shack. The massive popularity of the book meant that Christians were accepting of, or at least overlooking, the heretical doctrines The Shack espoused. Fiction or not, false doctrine is gangrenous, (2 Timothy 2:17) and spreads infection to all who come into contact with it. Infection is no respecter of literary genres.

Though The Shack was published 10 years ago, it is still evidencing strong sales, sure to be spurred by the imminent release of the movie of the same name. Dr Mohler wrote,
Even as Wayne Jacobson and others complain of those who identify heresy within The Shack, the fact is that the Christian church has explicitly identified these teachings as just that — heresy. The obvious question is this: How is it that so many evangelical Christians seem to be drawn not only to this story, but to the theology presented in the narrative — a theology at so many points in conflict with evangelical convictions?
[Professor Timothy Beal of Case Western University] then asks: "What are these progressive theological ideas doing in this evangelical pulp-fiction phenomenon?" He answers: "Unbeknownst to most of us, they have been present on the liberal margins of evangelical thought for decades." Now, he explains, The Shack has introduced and popularized these liberal concepts even among mainstream evangelicals.

So we see that Christian fiction is deliberately used to bring heretical ideas to the masses and worse, popularize them. Christian reader, beware! It's not "just fiction"!

In this linked essay, Samuel D. James muses on the current state of Christian Publishing, where adult coloring books and bubble-gum devotionals litter the top ten, and wonders why there is a gap between the thought-provoking content we regularly read on social media and blogs, versus the tripe we're exposed to in hard copy publishing.
As I look out on the confessional evangelical writing scene, I see a lot of good, even in places where I’d find much to disagree with. There is quite a bit of thoughtful, meaningful commentary out there right now. So when I see a list like this, I can’t help but wonder: Where’s the disconnect? Why am I seeing such a stark difference between the content I inhabit on a daily basis and the content that the average Christian is consuming at bestselling rates? I don’t have an answer for that.
There are a few things I do know:
The space right now for creative Christian writers is enormous. There is a real material need in American Christian culture for literary talent. We can’t talk to teenage and twentysomething believers about using their gifts for the good of the body of Christ and only point them toward vocational ministry or the mission field. Christian art matters (it always has), and it requires Christian artists. They won’t grow out of the ground; they have to be cultivated, encouraged, identified, and supported.
Hear hear. Where are the new authors? People who might have written acceptable fiction twenty years ago are not only growing older but many of them are growing more liberal (Max Lucado...Ted Dekker...etc) Where are the young credible, solid authors coming up? Many of those older authors have taught their own family and their offspring are now writing books, such as Max Lucado's daughter Jenna, and Beth Moore's daughter Melissa. This is even a more important question because the twenty-somethings of today have been raised entirely in a liberal, prosperity, market-driven church growth model with sermonettes passing for deep theological thought and 7-11 praise songs that pass for hymns.

Jesus noted the pattern when sinful doctrine is allowed to remain for periods of time in teaching, the next generation adopts it.

But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. 21 I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. 22 Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works, 23 and I will strike her children dead. (Rev 2:20-23a).

Christian reader, keep your eye out for good new authors, and buy their books and encourage them personally by offering good reviews on Amazon or even directly through their social media or email (if published).

I recommend reading the remainder of Mr James' article, also. He has several additional bullet point thoughts on the matter that are worth your time.

Here is the third article for your consideration, 12 Fiction Books That Will Shape Your Theology

I am mentioning this article not for the list, which may or may not contain books that are healthy 'eating' for the Christian, but for the fact that the author writes that it's a given that Christian fiction shapes theology.
When we think about the role of reading in our spiritual formation, we generally think of non-fiction books that help us understand scripture and theology, but fiction powerfully shapes the ways in which we think faithfully about God and the world. Here is some of the best fiction that has been most formative in my own theology. 
Here Albert Mohler states, that Christian books, specifically The Shack, are in fact sustained theological arguments.
In evaluating the book, it must be kept in mind that The Shack is a work of fiction. But it is also a sustained theological argument, and this simply cannot be denied. Any number of notable novels and works of literature have contained aberrant theology, and even heresy. The crucial question is whether the aberrant doctrines are features of the story or the message of the work. When it comes to The Shack, the really troubling fact is that so many readers are drawn to the theological message of the book, and fail to see how it conflicts with the Bible at so many crucial points.

What is meant here is, is the heretical message simply a mechanism to propel the narrative, as in an
example of a character who believes something unorthodox but eventually is saved from his sinful devotion to an aberrant theology, or is the aberrant message THE point of the book?  One of my favorite books of all time is Elmer Gantry by Sinclair Lewis. It tells the story of a false convert who rose to fame and celebrity pastor status, all the while not being a believer in any sense. The message of the book was to illustrate how this can happen, not promote that hypocrisy is to be accepted. The sustained theological argument of Elmer Gantry is that hypocrisy is bad, while the sustained theological argument in The Shack is that God does not punish sin and everyone will eventually be reconciled to God.

Friends, do not accept the argument that "it's just fiction!" Unorthodox theologies come to us in song, poems, art, sermons, movies, and books. We must be Bereans and test every theological argument that we absorb. If this sounds like a lot of work, it is. Paul repeatedly advised his readers to be vigilant. (For example, 1 Corinthians 16:13). We are on a battlefield in a war, and we don't only hear the cannons booming, but we must be alert for snipers, too. When it comes to accepting things not of the Lord, it all matters. A sniper is not "just a sniper," and Christian books are never "just fiction."


Further Reading

The Gospel Coalition, Christian Reading List for 4th-5th grade (other grades and reading levels at link)

Pilgrim's Progress: (free online)
Pilgrim's Progress is a great work of Christian literature. Originally composed in the 17th century, this spiritual allegory has entertained and delighted innumerous readers for over 300 years. Part I tells of "Christian" and his journey to "Celestial City;" Part II tells of the journey of Christian's wife Christiana and their children to Celestial City. The two parts work together as a unified whole, which describes and depicts the believer's life and struggles. Indeed, given the easy style of the book, readers of all ages can understand the spiritual significance of the depictions in the story. However, Pilgrim's Progress does not simply instruct readers with spiritual allegories; it entertains them as well, through Bunyan's creative story telling. Enjoyable and spiritually instructive, Pilgrim's Progress is highly recommended. 
Pilgrim's Progress at Amazon for purchase

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

At table: What the Table of the Showbread signifies

Our relationship with God is like a meal with Him at table.

From my Ligonier class 'Understanding the Tabernacle', we read,
We tend to appreciate a delicious meal enjoyed in the company of good friends. Such delight in a common meal should not surprise us, because the Lord in His Word describes many times in both the Old and New Testaments how our relationship to Him is like a meal we sit down to enjoy together with Him. In this lesson, Rev. Hyde explains to us the "bread of the presence" in the tabernacle and how it communicates to us God’s desire for intimate covenant fellowship with His people by way of presentation, preservation, and participation.
Here is the main verse where God tells Moses what and how to make the items for the tabernacle.

"You shall make a table of acacia wood. Two cubits shall be its length, a cubit its breadth, and a cubit and a half its height. You shall overlay it with pure gold and make a molding of gold around it. And you shall make a rim around it a handbreadth wide, and a molding of gold around the rim. And you shall make for it four rings of gold, and fasten the rings to the four corners at its four legs. Close to the frame the rings shall lie, as holders for the poles to carry the table. You shall make the poles of acacia wood, and overlay them with gold, and the table shall be carried with these. And you shall make its plates and dishes for incense, and its flagons and bowls with which to pour drink offerings; you shall make them of pure gold. And you shall set the bread of the Presence on the table before me regularly. (Exodus 25:23-30).

Did you ever wonder about this verse below...where the beginning part of the verse states that the Angel of the LORD (Jesus) encamps around those who fear Him, and then the verse goes into tasting and seeing that the LORD is good? What does a encampment have to do with tasting? If you remember that our relationship with the LORD is like eating with Him at table and enjoying a meal, the verse shows that you are enjoying intimate fellowship with Him even in the midst of enemies.

The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear Him, And rescues them. O taste and see that the LORD is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him! (Psalm 34:7-8).

Especially in the midst of enemies! As David wrote:

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. (Psalm 23:5).

If you read Exodus carefully you might notice a particular word that occurs often, it's the word 'regularly'. I underlined it in the verse above. The LORD regularly meets with His priests who represent the People. He makes regular visits with His people at table. Often, frequently, repeatedly. What a God we have, who regularly meets with His people to partake of intimate fellowship!

In the tabernacle, there was a table on which the priests would place the bread. The table had a raised crown molding around the edge. The description of the table reminded me of the table that was in my old living room growing up:

There was a lip around the edge of it. In the Tabernacle, the raised edge signified the following:
The table contained crown molding to keep the bread and utensils from falling. This prevented the bread from becoming defiled. This pictures the Lord’s preservation of His people. He who never slumbers ever keeps His children in the grip of His grace. The table permitted partaking in the bread, denoting the participation of God’s people with Him. Source: Ligonier Connect courseUnderstanding the Tabernacle

On the last day, we will join the Lord in His presence and eat with Him and drink with Him.

I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom. (Matthew 26:29).

And the angel said to me, "Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb." And he said to me, "These are the true words of God." (Revelation 19:9).

Blessed are those invited (called, elected) to participate with intimate fellowship in Him, our King, Priest, Friend, and Savior at His table!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Deuteronomy passage reveals a stupendous God!

Just bask in this wonderful passage. We can never extol the virtues and attributes of our God enough. He is so wonderful, holy, perfect, majestic! He revealed Himself through His word. What a gift.

Deuteronomy 4:32-40,

The Lord Alone Is God
32 “For ask now of the days that are past, which were before you, since the day that God created man on the earth, and ask from one end of heaven to the other, whether such a great thing as this has ever happened or was ever heard of. 33 Did any people ever hear the voice of a god speaking out of the midst of the fire, as you have heard, and still live? 34 Or has any god ever attempted to go and take a nation for himself from the midst of another nation, by trials, by signs, by wonders, and by war, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, and by great deeds of terror, all of which the Lord your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes? 35 
To you it was shown, that you might know that the Lord is God; there is no other besides him. 36 Out of heaven he let you hear his voice, that he might discipline you. And on earth he let you see his great fire, and you heard his words out of the midst of the fire. 37 And because he loved your fathers and chose their offspring after them and brought you out of Egypt with his own presence, by his great power, 38 driving out before you nations greater and mightier than you, to bring you in, to give you their land for an inheritance, as it is this day, 39 know therefore today, and lay it to your heart, that the Lord is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other. 
There is no other God. Our God did all that, and He allows us to know Him! He meet with us at table, comforts us, gives us what we need, loves us. He is a great God, and there is no other.