Thursday, January 31, 2008

Meme: What About Me?

How ironic. It just occured to me a few days ago that blog memes seem to be falling by the wayside. I don't see nearly as many of them as I once did, and that's probably not a bad thing, overall, since most of them are pretty silly. Some of them are fun though, and give you a little more insight into the "who" of the blogger you're reading.

So then the irony was to learn last night that Brian at Voice of the Sheep tagged me for a Me Meme. I guess the deal is, you reveal 7 things about yourself that your readers do not know, and hope they still like you afterward (this is presuming they liked you before the meme). Hmm. I think I pretty much exhausted that list in my 100 mostly irrelevant things about me, in the sidebar over yonder, but I'll give this a go anyway:

1. I eat a small bowl of cheap, store-brand cheetos every night while I read. The puffy, cheese-flavored-styrofoam-packing-peanuts kind, not the crunchy kind. No, I never get the simulated cheese-like-powder on the pages. I'm a strategic cheeto-eater in that aspect. (I switched to cheetos last year from plain potato chips, since the tater chips were making me feel gacky at night. I've actually lost a few pounds eating the cheetos instead of chips, so you do the math).

2. From the time I was about 7 yrs old until well into adulthood, I wanted to be a CSI (long before they were called that). True Detective magazine and Quincy MD fueled it, to be sure. Then I got married and had 900 kids and did in fact become a CSI, of a different sort. I have a full caseload of ongoing investigations. I just don't get paid for it.

3. I think being barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen is a beautiful thing. The kitchen is where the snacks are. Snacks while pregnant are a beautiful thing.

4. I have a savings account that for the last 14 years has carried a balance of 26 cents. We're obviously not saving for a rainy day.

5. I'm an information junkie. If something captures my interest I devour everything I can get my hands on to learn more about it. I'm also on dial up, so online research has often kept me awake until extremely creepy hours of the morning. (You know, that magical moment of dark:thirty where everything becomes funny and you laugh until your face hurts and you feel light-headed? Yes, I often stay up that late to research.)

6. I have very detail-rich dreams about all kinds of things, and people, just about every night. If you're a blogger or regular commenter (or a chatter), you've likely been in at least one of my dreams. In one of the funnier ones, I was transported to the local ER by the dear wife of a well known blogger, in her mini-van made of logs. Yes, you did read that correctly. The inside of the log-van looked like what you might imagine the interior of a rustic log cabin looking like. In another one, a respected Baptist pastor got his head stuck in a chain link fence, and the local Presbyterian pastor refused to help him. They were both working part-time managing a trailer park. You figure out the moral behind that one. I look forward to having dreams, they're often quite hilarious.

7. When I was about 14, I was approached by a talent/model-scout (or whatever they're called) and offered a modelling contract for a local, Seattle-area modelling agency. My mom checked into it and while it was legit, she said NO. I was upset at the time, but about a year later another girl in my school was offered the same contract and her parents approved. In no time she went from a lovely, sweet girl to an arrogant fashion-slave. I'm glad my mom said no.

So you're probably reading this and thinking "I so hope she didn't tag me for this". I'm going to tag Ann Coulter, Albert Mohler, and Sean Hannity. Since I KNOW they all read my blog and will see their names here, I can expect them to blog on this right away!

*snort (and if they do, I'd likely faint, but it'd be fun to see - before I fainted)

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Keep Fighting

Series: 3) Why Is Preaching Worth Fighting For?
The Responsibilities of the Church: Preaching

What should the pastor of your church - or any Christian church - be best known for? What's the most important thing he can bring to your congregation? Take an important step to evaluating the health of your church today on Grace to You with John MacArthur. LISTEN NOW

When I saw the question in the description of this installment of John MacArthur's series, one popular pastor in the evangelical church came to mind. One pastor that is not known for his preaching but known for the controversial, pragmatic, often worldly and off-color content of his preaching/teaching style.

Last week this subject came up in discussion and the question put to me was "what is YOUR pastor known for?" In my own circumstances, my pastor IS known for his dedication to rightly dividing the word of God. I have talked to several people (and know of even more) that have come to my church because they had heard of my pastor's preaching and wanted to be under a serious, solid teacher of the word. Our family is incredibly blessed to be under his teaching and preaching.

I can't recommend this series more highly.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

No Pity

Its been said (and I would agree that its true), that how you react to disappointing news or a major interruption of a schedule reveals much about your character. That may sound rather obvious, but on the flip side to that, some folks will say you are entitled to feel however you're feeling - and simply dismiss it as that. You have the right to be angry, disappointed or frustrated.

I'm not so sure I'd be quick to agree with that. While you may feel angry, disappointed or upset, and while all of us do experience that in certain circumstances, do you or I actually have a "right" to feel like that? That's a question that can only be answered based on your understanding of God's sovereignty and your place in it. Maybe some questions to ask yourself would be a short list such as:

Is God in complete control of all situations?
Do I trust Him completely?
Were my plans so important that I can't adapt to sudden changes?

I think how we answer those questions will go a long way toward helping us not get angry, upset or disappointed when things come along we didn't expect.

I was talking to a friend recently and the term "pity party" came up. If there is one thing I loathe about myself is the tendency to throw my own pity parties. What's even worse, if possible, is hearing from someone else that I need to stop feeling sorry for myself. Its bad enough to feel that conviction myself but when someone else notices my self-pity it's even more crushing. Another friend recently commented that she so detests this about herself that when she feels like she's headed toward self pity she wants to scratch her own eyes out. I had to laugh when she said that, but I completely understood what she meant. It's a revolting feeling to suddenly realize you were just sitting there lamenting over "poor me", especially when God has blessed you with SO much.

I don't know about anyone else, but for me this whole area of self-pity is really a struggle. This idea that "no one really cares anyway" pops up from time to time and tends to feed the "I don't know why I bother, it's a waste of time" idea, and the two go riding happily off into the sunset of my thoughts and I have to duke it out with them. I hate it, and sometimes I don't have victory over the whole mess right away. Sometimes it lingers long enough that it comes out in my mood when I'm talking to someone and they notice that something isn't quite right with me. I'm a horrible faker so I can't even pretend that I'm "okay" when I'm not, so folks tend to pick up on things like that with me. That's when it's the most humiliating, when other people notice the self-pity. I already know it shouldn't be there but to let it come out for others to see is just an awful feeling.

The irony is, is that I do indeed believe in the absolute and complete sovereignty of God in all things. From the great big things like salvation and eternity, to the wee little things like that mysterious check that came in the mail for $100.00 two days before the electric bill arrived and it was $100.00 (exactly) over what I was expecting. I know for a fact, as much as I know I'm sitting right here in my chair, that God's sovereign hand was all over me and my van last week in my accident - sparing me from serious injury and/or anyone else being hit or injured. I also know in just as much of a factual way that my first husband's terminal cancer was also something completely in God's hand, and that it was His way of driving us both to our knees, attending a local church and hearing the gospel. God's control and orchestration of events in our lives isn't always pleasant, but it IS always constant, and it IS always for the best (even if we don't see it right away).

Part of my arsenal in the battle against self-pity, is remembering (along with prayer, and honest friends and loved ones that aren't afraid to say "Carla, get over yourself" because they love me and don't want me wallowing in icky places). Dates, places, events and various circumstances where God's blessing was so obvious that even a blind man couldn't miss it. It's impossible to continue to feel sorry for myself when I begin to recall His providence because once I start considering it, I see it in EVERY area of my life, from the little things, to the big things, and the private things that only He and I know about. My very existance is saturated with the reality of God's providence. You can't feel sorry for yourself when you come to that realization.

I'm glad that God blessed me with a good memory, so that I can remember His providence, and His blessings all through my life, especially when I'm coming up against a "poor me" moment.

The added bonus is, with a good memory for this, I don't have to scratch out my own eyes. That would really hurt.

SOME things are worth fighting for

Monday, January 28, 2008

Series: 1) Why Is Preaching Worth Fighting For?
The Responsibilities of the Church: Preaching

We have e-mail . . . text messages . . . rapid-fire images on TV and the Internet. In this era of quick and flashy information . . . how should pastors change what they do in the pulpit to stay relevant? Consider that today on Grace to You. LISTEN NOW

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Series: 2) Why Is Preaching Worth Fighting For?
The Responsibilities of the Church: Preaching

It's rule of thumb in advertising to grab your audience in the first few seconds . . . or you won't grab them at all. Any wisdom there for churches - what's a pastor's best strategy for grabbing his audience? Find out today on Grace to You with John MacArthur. LISTEN NOW

Store Stuff

5 Solas for Her Five Solas for HER, completely redesigned.

See the full line right here.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Foundations Worth Firming

In The God Who Justifies, James White commenting on John Murray's interpretation of Phinehas' "righteousness" (Psalm 106:30-31) writes:

"Murray's interpretation takes something for granted that is no longer foundational in many circles: the accuracy, consistancy, andinspiration of Paul as an apostle of Jesus Christ and as an instrument in the writing of Scripture."


The context of this quote is in chapter 12, Romans 4:12: Paul's Biblical defense of the gospel of grace, using Genesis 15:6 as his key proof text. The argument of some, is that there is an inconsistancy between Phinehas' righteousness in Psalm 106, and Abraham's righteousness in Genesis 15. John Murray is quoted to show a fuller understanding of the way "righteousness" is used.

What struck me about the way this was worded, was that in a much broader context within Evangelical Christianity, there are so many things that are no longer "foundational" or a basic understanding when it comes to Christian doctrine.

In my world, my kids have an advantage that a lot of kids and even adults today don't have. They are homeschooled and they have a Bible course that they open up five days a week, then on Sunday they sit under qualified, dedicated teachers that teach solid Bible doctrine. For six out of seven days, my kids are being taught what many would call Basic Bible 101. They are being instructed in foundational Christian teachings, and having that foundation made more sure, and more secure, with each passing week. They are blessed to have this kind of teaching, and I am blessed to be able to provide it. [Which is not to say non-homeschooled kids aren't be properly taught, since we all know that many of them are, and praise God for dedicated parents who do this!] I can only hope that this foundational teaching they're receiving as children, will stay with them as they grow up and hear so many unBiblical worldviews and theological ravings, that they will be able to counter such things with the truth of Scripture.

don't be sunkThe difference between this and so many other children and adults should be obvious. They are not in the Word each day, not actually studying it each day, and not building any kind of foundation to base their beliefs on, except maybe what they hear on "Christian radio" or watch on "Christian television" or read from the "best-sellers" rack at the local Christian bookstore, or at best, 30-45 minutes a week in a good Sunday school class, followed by another 30-45 minutes of a good sermon by the pastor. As most of my readers would agree I'm sure, so much of what you'll find in those areas of radio, tv and bookstores will do nothing to sure up a firm foundation, but in contrast can often take years to unlearn, once a dedicated study of Scripture begins, and being under sound Biblical teaching begins. In many cases, its nothing more building a foundation of quicksand, but its also doctrinally a dangerous place to be in.

It doesn't take more than a quick look around 'Christian' websites, blogs and huge mega-ministries to get a good idea of what I'm talking about. There is just no shortage of quicksand Christianity out there. From this movement to that one, prosperity teachings, word of faith, denial of the Trinity or the deity of Christ, or the Lordship of Christ, Paul's authority, unpacking this, redefining that, and on and on it goes. I know so many people that have a testimony that speaks to this very thing. People who have come from horrific, unbiblical, anti-trinitarian, anti-sovereignty, man-centered teachings - who spend years and years unlearning the things they thought they knew or believed.

I overheard a conversation recently about a new book out there that seeks to "unpack" Christianity and "redefine it" for a new, postmodern age. First, I'm so sick of hearing this lingo I could just scream, but more importantly, I find it striking and ironic that so many people fancy themselves wise enough to write books on this subject, when they don't even know what in the world they're writing about, nor do they even have any assurance of what they're writing about - but they want you and I to have that same sense of confused, ambiguous, fluffy foundation that they have, so we can all ooze along this journey together and dialog about it. Aside from being such utter drivel and a monumental waste of time, the startling thing is that scores of people are eating this up like candy.

No thanks. By His grace, I have a Bible (and Bible teachers who know what they're talking about) and I know how to use it. It's not at all complicated either, you just open it and expect and prepare to be humbled, molded, taught and set on a sure and straight course.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Remember These People - this is where we came from

Whitman MemorialFrom the time I was a little girl until I was 18, I went with my family every year across the mountains from western Washington to eastern Washington on Memorial Day weekend. We'd have a family reunion of sorts, and spend part of the weekend going to the cemetary to take flowers to the final resting places of my long-gone relatives. One of the places we often went to while in Walla Walla, is the Whitman Mission National Historic site. In a nutshell, in 1847, Dr. Marcus Whitman (a Presbyterian doctor) and his wife Narcissa, along with 11 others were massacred on the site, when the Cayuse Indians became convinced the measles outbreak among them was the result of the missionaries poisoning them. There are conflicting reports of how many were taken hostage (some say 60 men women and children) and how many survived and escaped but the story still touches my heart today the same way it did when I was a little girl.

One of the old stories that really captured my attention as a little girl, was the account of one of the surviving children. Just a little girl herself, she scooped up one of the babies at the main house and as the slaughter was going on, she ran with the baby down to the river and hid in the reeds to try and escape the same fate. One story says she escaped but the baby drowned, while other stories have various endings of her being caught and sold as a slave to the Cayuse, or her and the baby both being rescued by farmers. I still don't know which version of this story is true, or if any of them are true at all. As a little girl hearing the story, and even now as a mother I like to believe and hope that the version that was true, is that both her and the baby were found by local farmers and taken to safety.

Mission HouseWhen we'd visit the Whitman Memorial site, we'd walk up the hill where the mission used to be, to the memorial up at the top, and just read each plaque along the way, all over again. I can still remember when I was too young to read, and mom would read them outloud to us kids. Knowing that I was standing in the very place where those children once played, connected deep in me somewhere. When you'd walk the hill to the memorial site, you can see the path to the river where one of the children is said to have run to hide with the baby. I remember more than once having a brief wave of sadness rush over me while I was there seeing the pathway, and even now as I think about it so many years later, I feel the same. I can't even begin to truly imagine what life was like for them in that day, or what fear they faced on that fateful day in 1847. The families came to teach and to share the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, and many of the children never made it out, and many of the others who did, made it out of the mission as orphans.

September DawnWhat brought all this to mind today, was watching September Dawn recently. Sometimes I feel like I have my head unintentionally in the sand when it comes to US History. Its not that I'm not interested in it (I am, in fact I'm rather fascinated by it), its just that my own life and family and home take up so much of my time that I often just don't have the time to investigate things outside my little circle that is my world.

Oddly enough, I'd never heard of the movie, and only vaguely recall hearing (at some point in my life) about what I remembered as "the Mormon massacre" back in the 1800's. Like the missionaries at the Whitman Mission in Washington state just ten years prior, the emigrants that travelled by wagon train through Utah in 1857 were pioneers in the West, looking for hope in a new land. Instead what they found was a nightmarish scenario that they could have never expected, at the hands of religious zealots. The early pioneers expected and often experienced battles with the Indians in those days, but a group of emigrants from Arkansas and Missouri couldn't have anticipated being slaughtered in the Utah territory by a militia of white men, decieved by a cultish religion.

If you haven't seen this movie, I would recommend that you do so. I would not recommend it for children under the age of 12, only because it contains some pretty graphic violent scenes that may be too much for a child to handle well. Truth be told, it contains scenes that a 43 year old mom didn't handle well, but from all I've read on it, were quite accurate, historically. We watched the movie with our 17 yr old and had to pause it several times to address some questions or topics of notable things that came up in the dialog in the movie.

When we read in Scripture about the brutal wars between believers and unbelievers, it often seems almost surreal, and so far removed from our own circumstances. I think the same sense of detachment comes even when we read of cases of persecution and brutal attacks on Christians in our own day, but in countries with names we can't pronounce, will never visit... let alone be able to find on a map. In both the case of the Whitman Mission and the Mountain Meadows tragedy, these were people that lived just prior to (for most of us) our grandparents being born - and for many of us - who lived and died in places we live as well. We shouldn't forget these people. As American Christians, some of us are related by blood to these people, but all of us are related by faith, among the household of God.

In addition, I would recommend that you visit Chris Arnzen's blog and listen to the interview he has available with Carole Whang Schutter, the Christian author of the screenplay for the controversial motion picture and the novel of the same title, as well as the interviews he has with William Norman Grigg, a former high priest in the Mormon church, now an evangelical Christian who shares his thoughts on the Mountain Meadows tragedy.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Meditations on Mercy

Not long ago, someone asked me "how can I pray for you today?" I thought about it for a minute or so, and simply replied "pray that I might be more merciful." This is one of "those" areas in which I know I lack, and it has bothered me for some time. its not as if I'm completely without mercy ever, its just that I'm not as merciful as I know I should be (and desire to be) and that bothers me enough to want to have more opportunities to be merciful, and be mindful of it.

The dictionary defines mercy this way:


compassionate or kindly forbearance shown toward an offender, an enemy, or other person in one's power; compassion, pity, or benevolence


The Bible defines it this way:


eleos: kindness or good will towards the miserable and the afflicted, joined with a desire to help them

When I read those two definitions I noticed that in the first, mercy is defined more as an attitude (implying a tolerance or in a sense "putting up with" those in need) and in the second its defined as not just attitude but coupled with action. While its certainly a good thing to have a merciful attitude and a tolerance, its a better thing to be merciful in word and deed as well.

When I hear this word the first verse that comes to mind is this one:


Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.(Matthew 5:7)

Followed by this one:


And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.(Luke 18:13)

In the first verse mercy is defined in the context of men towards men, and in the second verse its a plea for God to extend His mercy toward an unworthy sinner. Some years ago I heard someone explain the difference between grace and mercy in this way:

Grace is not getting what we do deserve, and mercy is getting what we don't deserve.
In the strict context of salvation this quite accurate. By His grace we're spared from His wrath, and due to His mercy we're counted justified in Christ. Its all of Him, and not because of any works we could ever hope to do. This mercy in the eternal sense of our souls, is something that is beyond my ability to really address adequately in mere words. I know that in me is absolutely nothing that "deserves" the reward of eternal life. God's mercy is extended to me based on what Christ did on the cross, and His righteousness is what I cling to. Indeed I do not deserve what I have, and that only makes me more thankful that I have it at all.

As I considered mercy in the context of men toward men however, I kept going back to the definition of the most common use of the word in Scripture. In this case its the word eleos and while I am not an expert in Greek grammar, it is clear from the use in Scripture that being merciful is definite action, not just an attitude or a sense of compassion.

So the question that was left for me after considering this, and reading selected verses of Scripture on mercy was this:

Is "merciful" a word that defines my character? It was a scathing question and one I was rather uncomfortable answering.

It struck me especially after this past week when I had my very frightening accident on the icy roads, that mercy is something I expect from God because I know Him to be faithful. It never once entered my mind as I prayed that He might not be merciful to me, but I prayed in full assurance that He would indeed show mercy on me in that situation. Mercy, and being merciful is defintely one of the attributes of God, and every Christian knows that. There is rarely a day that goes by that in my daily prayers His mercy doesn't come to mind. In the course of nearly every day, something obvious occurs that demonstrates the mercy of God on either myself or someone close to me. In reality, His mercy is displayed in even the smallest most overlooked events in the course of each day.

In that vein I had to question myself once again and ask "is mercy or being merciful something that others expect of me, because they know me to be faithful in extending mercy?" Again, the answer I had to honestly deal with was not one that I was happy with.

There are ample opportunities each day for me to be merciful, in the context of showing kindness and compassion and offering help to those who are in need. Those who are in need are not just the miserable and afflicted in the strict sort of medical or emotional sense of the words - but they can be those who are unsaved and perfectly content in that state (as many of us were deceived to be content in that state). Those in need can also be my children or my husband. They can be people in my church, people I know I online, or someone I come across at the grocery store. They can also be people that I know that I strongly disagree with, or that quite frankly just get on my last nerve and drive me to monumental frustration.

If being merciful can be defined as having compassion for and kindness towards those in need, combined with a desire to be a help to them - then the opposite of merciful would have to be apathy or unkindness with no desire to help at all. I am not proud to admit that there are times when that is exactly how I feel towards certain people and/or situations. Other times I feel a sort of combination of maybe feeling compassionate but no real desire to help. This is definitely not something I like but its an honest assessment of my character when it comes to being merciful.

I recently finished Jerry Bridges' Respectable Sins, and this post is a result of the deep thinking and daily prayer that has occured after reading the book. These are things that the Lord had been bringing to my thoughts for some time now, so the timing of the book making its way into my hands was without question in my mind, purely God's providence.

I am thankful that the Lord orchestrates events and circumstances that allow us the opportunity to be tested, and to further our sanctification. Sometimes they're painful, sometimes they're scary and sometimes we might feel like we've failed with flying colors, but the truth of the matter is that these are good things, and will cause us to seek His wisdom and guidance all the more.

And He gives it, because we are indeed those who are miserable, and afflicted.

Friday, January 25, 2008

sniff... sniff...

I'm trying really hard not to be a whiner, but the cold is finally getting to me. It happens every year about this time, where in my estimation, winter should end now and spring should be here. I figured it had more to do with the fact that I'm not from hearty Canadian stock (I have Northwestern Washington rainwater in my vains, not snow), but even Kim (who is indeed a real live Canadian) is lamenting the cold and doing some California dreamin'.

So I got to thinking...

If I could stuff the furnace full of wood and get the temp in the house to 90, I could put on my favorite summer skirt with palm trees on it, go barefoot and make a key lime pie and pretend it was July. Of course it sounds silly but we're at the Silly Point of Canadian winter when even Canadians are just about fed up with the cold. Realistically, we still have about 6-8 more weeks of yucky weather, before we can check the forecast and NOT see any "minus" signs before those numbers.

Even the travel agencies are now airing those evil commercials that show shivering Canadians booking their mid-winter vacations to those lovely places with gorgeous beaches and blue skies. Evil I tell you!

Okay, I'm done whining. For now.

Store Stuff - New Stuff

Yes kids, its once again time for Store Stuff. I like t-shirts, and I like t-shirts with funny sayings on them. Once, when I was shopping, I saw a t-shirt that had a saying on it that made me laugh outloud, right there in the store. Laughing is a good thing (even if you do it when you're all alone, and in public, and people might think you're a major wacko).

What I do NOT like, is trying to find funny t-shirts and having to wade through the vulgar, obscene, or profane graphics or sayings. Yeah yeah, some folks find that junk funny, but I sure don't. Therefore...



Now THATS different!

If you like funny t-shirts too, and have no desire to wade through trashy sayings and vulgar images, come on by our Just 4 Fun section at Reflections. I try to keep the designs fresh, and add new things often, so be sure to sign up for the newsletter too.

Speaking of the newsletter, each week we send a newsletter with what's new in the store (and we never even see your email address - so no worries about us selling it or doing any of those nasty things people do with email lists), and post the current newsletter online as well, so folks can see what's up, before they sign up. You can get all the scoop in the newsletter on what's new this week, but I just HAVE to post this one here, because it was so much fun to work with:

Radio Free GenevaOriginally created by Micah, (one of the brilliantly creative & talented brothers who is a part of the Secret Webpage Guild [woopsies, guess its not a secret anymore!] that magically transformed the aomin.org site from the slow, 90's style layout to the fantastically quick, snazzy and visually appealing new design), then donated to the TeamApologian store, I tweaked it only slightly, for a great fit on the TeamApologian gear. In other words, Micah rocks! :-)

Also new in store this week, is this fun design that dispells the myths about Calvinists, and this essential gift item for your favorite seminary student.

Happy shopping, and remember - shopping without leaving the house is the best kind - and all proceeds from the TeamApologian store go directly to the financial support of Alpha & Omega Ministries. So buy lots, and bless a faithful brother in a much needed apologetics ministry!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

CULTURE SCHMULTURE

mmm... culture
Everywhere you look these days you'll find a lot of focus on culture. From Christian blogs to secular, liberal books and resources, everyone seems to be dwelling on culture and how we should adapt to it, raise our kids in it, "do church" according to it, and benefit from it.

Its ironic however, that to many people, "culture" is associated far more commonly in a biological sense - with a little glass dish where you let things rot, decay & grow mold so you can document the process of degeneration and/or attempt to locate beneficial or medicinal propereties as a result of the smelly and toxic growth. Hmm... the similarities are rather striking, don't you think?

While I certainly don't pretend to be a culture expert, I am just like everyone else in that I live in it, and have to figure out ways of dealing with it, both good and bad. Not all things in our culture are bad, i.e., technological and medical advances, but when it comes to the way we think and the way we live as a culture in general, its pretty hard not to remember that highschool petrie dish that held the putrid thing we documented each day in science class. We certainly didn't show up every day expecting it to be better. Quite the contrary - we showed up to class knowing it would be uglier, smellier, and more rotten with each passing day.

Often when I read the news or overhear the conversations of others, I can't help but think of how as a society we are degenerating. The evangelical church hasn't been immune to this either, considering the underpinnings of the emerging/ent/ish/whatever movement are solidly nailed into and compelled by... you guessed it: culture.

Last night as I clicked over to the FOX news site I must admit I was a little surprised to see the news of Heath Ledger's passing, the biggest headline FOX can give it. Complete with a morbid shot of EMT workers wheeling the actor in a body bag, toward the ambulance. Its a rhetorical question but one that I will ask anyway: do we as a society really need to see this?

We're obsessed with the lifestyles and the destruction of the rich and famous. When Britney Spears blows her stack and does something irresponsible, it's headline news. When Hannah Montana is in town, its a media circus. When an actor dies, especially a young one, it's all over the cable news channels, in more depth than you'd ever expect. When a rock star says something profound (I suppose its possible, barring brain damage from years of substance abuse so common to many of them), we get all excited.

I would guess that someone with a big ole pile of degrees could tell us all exactly why we're so shallow and insatiable when it comes to the minute details of the rich and famous - whether they're doing something exciting in life, or checking out of this world in a scandelous way. The only pile of anything I have is laundry, but I'd suggest one of the reasons (especially for young people) we're so bedazzled by such things, would include a large dose of covetousness. We equate success in life with money and recognition - and since that is what the celebrities have, we see them as successful. We want what they have, so we keep up to date with what they're doing, how they're dressing, what they're singing, who they're seen with, etc. so forth and so on. We seem to think that their lives are somehow a pattern for how our lives should be, or how we wish they were.

This couldn't be further from the truth, and by truth I mean the truth of Scripture. The vast majority of Hollywood celebs and artists in the music industry didn't get there by putting God first. No, they put their career first and did whatever they thought it took to see that career go where they wanted it to go. In other words, they put SELF first, and in most cases, they keep self first and make no room for the things of God. This flies directly in the face of the Christian moral character Jesus taught about in the sermon on the mount, but it also lines up perfectly with the ungodly moral character defined in 2Tim.3:1-5, Romans 1:29-32, and Galatians 5:19-21.

Now I realize that many of these people are considered nice, kind, generous and thoughtful. They donate huge amounts of money to charity, they join all kinds of charitable organizations that rally for this cause or that one, and nearly everyone has great things to say about them and so on. No question, in a strict sense of the word, they most likely come across as "good people". If doing good things makes one a good person, that is. The Bible doesn't say that, but culture does, so by culture's standards they're considered good people. Good people that still reject the things of God, most importantly the gospel of Jesus Christ.

So when they die, yes indeed it is sad. Its sad for those who are closest to them and who will feel their loss the deepest, but its sad in an eternal context that they gained the whole world, but lost their soul. Its sad knowing that such gifted and talented people squandered those gifts on themselves, rather than glorifying God with them, and its sad that they step from this life into eternity, without Christ. Its also sad that so many of us still look at these folks in our culture and still equate what they have, to success.

And now, for your updated local forecast...

Just a couple of updates:

1.) I didn't think I was hurt in yesterday's Highway Ice Capades, but later yesterday afternoon I was very sore, all over. I'm still sore today, but I suppose it'll go away soon. I guess that's what happens when you tense up in such situations.

2.) Yes, Canadians actually do know how to drive in snow (as compared to say, people who live in Arizona), but yesterday was just so intense, so quickly, not many people had a lot of success on the roads. In the exact same place I went off the road yesterday, at least 3 more cars did too. Not only that, local news reports say there were 500 accidents in our area in just 12 hours. Another local news source reports some eyewitness accounts of what it was like out there in the worst part of it. I was in that weather yesterday, and I can sure believe it. I'm just so incredibly thankful I wasn't in one of the massive pile ups that happened.

Thank you all for the nice comments and emails yesterday.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Near-Perilous Mis-adventures of a Rather Non-adventurous Homeschool Mom

Alternately titled: Things that make you scream, pray, and say "GACK!" outloud.

Well, today was a day to go down in my own personal history of near-misses. While running some errands in town, I attempted to leave a parking lot to drive to my next errand. I say attempted, because once I neared the exit I realized I was toast. We had a good amount of snow overnight and it's still snowing now - and nothing in town had yet been plowed. Not the streets, not parking lots - nothing. As I neared the exit of the parking lot of course I had to slow down and that was more or less my doom. Once I slowed down, I was stuck. I couldn't go forward, or backward - I just sat there spinning my wheels, literally.

So I do what everyone does in such a situation; I throw up my hands and say "great" to no one in particular, and step outside into a foot of snow to see how bad it really is. Its bad. Real bad. Nearly a foot of snow and ice, hugging all four tires. I look at the van, then look at the cars and trucks driving by on the road, oddly not stopping to help me. I can't imagine why city folk would bother with such trivial matters like stopping to help a lady stuck in the snow, but eventually two women did stop, and were kind enough to push my van (read that again men, TWO WOMEN STOPPED AND PUSHED MY VAN) until I was on the road. I thanked them profusely and wish to thank them again. So, for the two kind ladies in the little red car that pushed the gray van out of the parking lot by the Woodstock Farmer's Market today, THANK you so much for your kindness and selflessness.

It would have been great, had my adventures stopped there. They didn't. I had 2 more stops to make and then I could go home. At this point I still hadn't seen any plowing going on, but I managed to get my other errands done and head toward the highway to go home. I noted the time as I was leaving town and heading out toward the country, where I live. I noted the time because a.) Kev had to leave for work this afternoon and b.) I wanted to be home in time to get my cold, wet boots off, grab a hot coffee and catch the Dividing Line. I briefly considered blogging about the nice city ladies that helped me, but other than that my thoughts were on the road and being careful. The roads were mostly ice/snow packed and our van doesn't handle as well as the last van, so I was being extra-extra careful all the way.

A good distance before my turn, I began to slow down. Everything was fine for a few seconds, until the van started to slide. Everything happened so fast I'm not really sure which order any of it happened in. I do know that just before this, there were all kinds of big trucks barrelling down the highway, in the oncoming lane. It's a busy highway and it was busy today as well. I had the morbid thought also, before the van even started to slide that if for some reason I crashed, I hoped the Lord would be gracious and not let it hurt. I am a giant wimp when it comes to pain, and have been in a car accident before, and also hit by a car once. It hurts, and it hurts a lot.

Suddenly, I wasn't just sliding, I was fishtailing. I tried every "this is what you do in case you're sliding in the snow/ice" tip I've ever heard, or read. I steered into the skid, I let off the gas, let off the brake, let go of the steering wheel at one point, but nothing I did helped, it just got worse. The back of the van was swinging back and forth from left to right, and it seemed like it was gaining momentum with each time. First I was in my lane, then the oncoming lane, then back to my own. I have no idea how many times this happened, but I did notice there wasn't a single oncoming car or truck. The van was completely out of control, and my adrenaline was rushing at 150% when I simply prayed "please Lord", closed my eyes and slammed on the brakes with all my might. When I stopped I was back on my side of the highway, about halfway down an embankment, just past the turn off to my road. I wasn't hurt, I didn't hit anything, no one hit me, and I just started to laugh and cry at the same time and say "thank you Lord!" over and over again.

While sitting there laughing and crying, likely appearing to look like a complete lunatic, I heard a tap on the window and looked to see a woman standing out there in the blizzard like conditions. As it turns out, she was a police officer on her way to work, and saw the whole thing. She checked to make sure I was okay, then called a tow truck for me. She advised me to keep my flashers on (I've never even used them, but it was the first thing I did after I realized I wasn't dead. I guess I just kicked into "practical auto-pilot"). All the while I could look directly across the cornfield and see my own kitchen porch.

So I just sat there, and waited. While I waited several cars & trucks stopped to see if I was okay and/or needed help. One man offered to pull me out but I told him the tow was coming and thank you anyway. About that time I could see Kevin hoofing it in the driving snow, across the field toward the van. He said he wasn't even sure it was me, but even if it wasn't, it was someone stuck in the embankment that needed help.

Two more trucks stopped, one picked up Kevin and drove him to the van, and another full of men stopped and said "we don't need a tow, we've got a chain, we'll get them out in no time". The couple that drove Kevin to the van then drove me back to the house. Turns out, they're country folk too and live just one dirt road away from us. The men in the other truck got out and hooked up the chain and pulled the van right out. Yay!!

No damage to me, no damage to the van, and we both made it back home safe and sound. I was (and still am) just struck with such gratitude through all of this today. First of all, the Lord was so incredibly merciful to clear the highway of oncoming vehicles while I was spinning around out there. No one hit me and I didn't hit anyone or anything. Then He saw fit to make sure the first person on the scene was a law enforcement officer, who could call for help (our cell phone is out of time and sitting here on my printer). Next, He sent country folk to do what country folk do - help a neighbor in a time of need. With all due respect to nice folk in the city, country folk just have that hospitality & generosity thing down 10,000% more accurately than city folk.

So I am deeply, deeply grateful today. Thank you to the nice couple with the sleeping toddler in the back seat that drove Kevin to the van, then drove me home. Thank you to the first man who offered to tow me out. Thank you to the lady cop who stopped so quickly. Thank you to the men who did hook the chain up and pulled the van out.

I did miss the Dividing Line, but that's okay. I'll catch the archives. :-)

Oh, and one last thing. When I got home I told my daughter what had happened between her house (her place was my last stop) and mine. I told her I was going to blog about it, and after she scolded me and said "MOM, don't EVER do that again, you scared me!", she told me to add this:

"It's a good thing I used the facilities at my daughter's house before I left".
Spring is looking better all the time.

I think I need a nap now.

Review: Respectable Sins - Confronting the Sins We Tolerate by Jerry Bridges

Respectable Sins

If you'll notice in my sidebar, I've moved Respectable Sins into the category of "finished in 2008". I didn't mean to finish it so quickly. I really did want to take my time reading it but it was too hard to stop reading. Imagine that, a book that deals with the most troublesome, most persistant, most commonly overlooked sinful conduct, was too hard to put down.

I don't pretend to be a book reviewer but I'm going to give it a go.

Style before Substance

Before I get to the content of the book, I wanted to take a moment to address the style with which Jerry Bridges writes. This is an author that has been recommended to me for several years, and for one reason or another I had just never had the opportunity to read his work. I must say, I've been missing out for a long time. Jerry Bridges is indeed a gifted writer in that he understands full well how we are prone to think, and prone to allowing our thoughts to drift off focus. Not only does he remind us in this book to stop thinking about other people as we read about the sins we tolerate or overlook as not so sinful, he reminds us several times that our focus should be ourselves, and not others. This was especially helpful for me, as I found my thoughts drifting in places to seeing the particular content I was reading, in the conduct of others around me. Each time I'd "go there" I'd see again another reminder that this book is for me, and not them. I needed this reminder and I certainly appreciate it.

Content Unbecoming

If someone could peek into my heart and mind and look at my mental list of issues that grieve me about myself, they might be able to come up with a list very similar to the one Jerry Bridges uses for this book. I'm pretty sure if we were all completely honest with ourselves, each of our lists might look quite similar. The list used in the book:

Ungodliness
Anxiety and Frustration
Discontentment
Unthankfulness
Pride
Selfishness
Lack of Self-Control
Impatience and Irritability
Anger
The Weeds of Anger (Resentment, Bitterness, Hostility, Strife)
Judgementalism
Envy, Jealousy and Related Sins
Sins of the Tongue
Worldliness

Even before I began the book, as I read over the topics covered, I knew I was in for a bumpy ride. I knew also that it was exactly what I needed to hear (read) and while not all of the things on the list seemed to apply to me directly, some of the things surely did (and do) and those were the ones I was a little nervous about reading.

During the course of reading this book I was discussing it with a friend and she asked if the type of sins covered are simply pointed out, or handled in the way that cause the reader to be introspective in a productive way. I think this is an important question, since its quite easy to just say "you're sinning, stop that!" and leave it there. This is not what Jerry Bridges does, at all. Not only does he remind the reader that these are sins common among all believers (himself included) but offers a very practical and very Biblical method of dealing with them. Using a combination of honest, humble self-examination over each topic, reminding yourself that the gospel is for sinners, not just the lost, continued reliance on the Holy Spirit, applying and memorizing appropriate verses, Bridges gives a very methodical and applicable way of approaching these sins within our our thinking and conduct.

Another friend I discussed the book with (who has already read it) commented that Bridges could have gone much deeper with each section. I agree that he definitely could have, and I would have still read this book if it were twice as long. It's only 180 pages long, so considering the amount of material covered in 180 pages, its pretty clear much more could have been said. Bridges actually agrees with this and mentions it several times in the book. His purpose wasn't to provide an exhaustive look at each subject, but to give the reader key things to think about and humbly ask themselves if that section applies to them, even in the smallest way.

Some More Than Others

As I read through the chapter headings before I started the book, I already knew that some things were going to apply to me more than others. What I didn't expect was to find that some of the examples given in the sections that I didn't really think applied to me as strongly, helped me to see certain things in a way I had never considered before. Once I applied those examples to my own situation and my own reactions, I realized that yes, those too applied to me.

One of the biggest struggles I have personally, is to read this kind of material and then forget to apply it. I'm not sure why I do that, unless its just a mixture of being lazy, being busy with other thoughts, and doing what we all do in allowing myself at times to tell myself that I'm not 'that bad'. In this book Bridges strongly encourages the reader to make the content a matter of daily prayer, and to even survey your own family members to get an honest opinion of others closest to you, to see if these things indeed apply. There are several other ways he lists to help keep you from "forgetting" what you've read and to daily apply to the remedy to these things.

I briefly discussed this book last night with a friend, and suggested to her that in some ways, I couldn't help but think of this book in a similar way as a burn victim goes through medical treatment to recover. The process is excrutiatingly painful but required for the ultimate goal of healing and restoration. As you read through this book and realize that each of these kinds of "respectable sins", these sinful beahviors that we tolerate in ourselves are truly a form of "cosmic treason against God" as Bridges describes it, you will begin to see things in a different way.

Each person's circumstances will vary to some degree, but I read this book as a mother, wife, teacher, evangelical believer, blogger and business owner. In each of these areas of my life there are opportunities each day, in various ways to interact within the bounds of personal relationships. Some of the material covered in the book applied more directly to marital relationships, while other things applied directly to how I react and respond to my children. In truth, there wasn't a single area of my life or a single personal relationship that I have that something in this book didn't apply to. Your own circumstances may be different but no matter if you're a student, a child still living at home, an employee or a leader in your church or community, you'll find that those areas will be covered as well, since these things are truly a matter of the heart, and apply to any believer, in any situation.

I can't think of anyone that wouldn't benefit greatly from reading this book. I highly recommend it, and also recommend getting the study guide as well.


Monday, January 21, 2008

To the Birthday Girls!!



HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU
HAPPY BIRTHDAY DEAR MY MOMMY AND MY BABY CARYN-EEEEEEEEE-EEEEE!
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO THE BOTH OF YOU!

Today is my Mom's birthday, and tomorrow is my oldest daughter's birthday. Both of them mean the world to me, and my life wouldn't be the same if they weren't in it.

I love you guys!!!

Kitchen Table Moments

I think just about every report, survey result or poll I've ever read about family dynamics, says that families who eat their evening meal together, are stronger, happier families. I can see the logic in that.

When you share at least one mealtime together each day, you have time to relax and talk about things. You have the opportunity to hear what's going on with other family members, and this time together just becomes a normal part of your day. When my oldest was about 10, and began to venture off into the social world of 4th graders, she told me one day that NONE of her friends sit down and eat dinner together and that we were just a weird family. I thought that observation was rather charming, in light of the comment she made about 10 years later after she'd moved out, when she said something along the lines of "I'm so glad we always ate dinner together!" This is the way I grew up, and this is the way my kids have grown (and are growing) up, and by His grace this is the way it'll always be.

I thought about this last night as we gathered in the kitchen to have our family devotional time. Often on Sunday nights we gather there instead of the living room, because Sunday night is dessert night! As we sat there my thoughts sort of drifted and wondered how many times the previous family that lived in our house, also gathered there? We live in a big old farmhouse and the kitchen is huge. The same family (3 generations of it) lived in this house for 120+ years before we moved here, so I would just assume they gathered there often. Did those kitchen walls hear hymns being sung in there? The acoustics in my kitchen are nothing short of amazing - when we sing in there, even the least talented singers in my family (which include myself) harmonize beautifully together. How about laughter? Frustration? Personal chats between husbands and wives, and sisters, best friends and parents and children? I'm betting if those walls could speak, they'd have stories to tell that would probably both break our hearts and warm them all at the same time.

I know that for myself, some of my fondest childhood memories are things that took place at the kitchen table. Hilarious conversations, holiday meals, family game night, and important news delivered at the supper table. Over the last 25 years as I've raised my own family, it's those same types of events that tend to take place at the kitchen table. If there is important news to share with the whole family, it's done there. If someone had a wild dream they want to tell, it's done there too. Prayer needs, funny jokes, reminders of undone chores or tasks - those are also part of what make up kitchen table moments. It's those kitchen table moments that make up a lifetime of memories that you really enjoy recalling.

Yes indeed, I can see the reasoning behind all those studies that tell us families who eat a daily meal together, are stronger, happier families.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

You Calvinists Are All Alike... right?

The other day I received an email that somewhat took me by surprise. There was a time when I used to get email like this one all the time (at least once a day, often several times a day), but thankfully those days are long past.

The gist of this email was this: I am a blogging Calvinist and therefore influencing people with a false doctrine and should really be careful about what I'm "teaching" via my blog. The sender of the email (whom I do not know and have never heard of), listed several (what they believe to be) inconsistancies with John Calvin's teachings and that of the Scriptures, encouraged me to understand that Romans 9 is not speaking to individuals but to a nation as a whole, to prayerfully reconsider all my awful Calvinistic ways, and don't ever teach that non-Calvinists are not really saved.

There wasn't anything overtly insulting or rude in the email and for that I am thankful. It does stand apart from other emails like it, in that regard. However, there also wasn't anything in this email that I haven't heard before, discussed/debated (at length) before, or heard debated before. The sender of this email disclosed that he is a "former Calvinist" and as he says "until I did a lot of research into the scriptures and found that I had to put a square peg into a round whole to make it fit." Further, he goes on to say:

"Like many others, I had based my beliefs on my many book readings by John Piper, RC Sproul, and John MacArthur and not Jesus Christ and the apostles. I hope this note inspires you to seek further and to work with others not of the same mindset."
It's funny, for several years I spent ample amounts of time each day (I have no idea where I had the time to do this, but I did it) in online chats having these very discussions with people. Same topics, day in and day out. There was a time I got so tired of hearing the same objections over and over again to the doctrines of grace, that the first time I heard James White say on the Dividing Line webcast that these are seemingly just template sermons that men pass around and share with each other to preach against this, I actually said outloud "YES! that's exactly it!!" (Yes, I talk to my computer - and my tv too, doesn't everyone?)

I don't debate doctrine anymore. I just got tired of it. Some would say that it wasn't my place to begin with to do that, others would argue that the call to contend for the faith once for all delivered to the saints is every believer's duty - but that may be a post for another day.
I do however want to address one of the more common allegations made by folks who presume to know how you got sucked into this horrible TULIP garden. Before I do that however, let me clarify for the sake of being completely honest: I am a Calvinist in the strict sense only that I agree 100% with the five points of the TULIP. By saying that I am a Calvinist, I am not saying I agree with everything else Calvin held to, such as infant baptism (which always seems to be the sticking point when folks hear you're a Baptist AND a Calvinist. If anything could trigger spontaneous human combustion, that one comes awfully close, for some folks). It would be much more accurate to say that I am a monergist when it comes to soteriology; I staunchly hold to the sovereignty of God in all things and that does indeed include the salvation of man.
It wouldn't matter what the man's last name was, whether it was Calvin or Hubergoober, if he got that part right, I agree with him and more importantly, the Bible teaches this very same thing. Let's just all be very glad TULIP was never associated with a man named Hubergoober. Moving right along...

If I had a dollar for every time I've ever heard or read someone say that either you cannot arrive at this understanding of God's sovereign character by reading JUST the Bible - but have to have been under the teaching of someone else (meaning face to face) - or - you read key authors/leaders/pastors in the evangelical community and arrived at your position based on what they say... I'd have a whole whack of dollars. I have personally always found it interesting that these folks almost never list CH Spurgeon among the horrible Calvinistic leaders that likely influenced you. Reason being, a lot of them really like Spurgeon and often quote him themselves, not even knowing that he too held to the very same thing about the soveriegnty of God and the salvation of man. I once referred a pastor (online) to Spurgeon's Defense of Calvinism and he accused me of being a liar and making the whole thing up. To say that he was intensely angry with me, would be a serious understatement. That was a real eye-opener.

After discussing these things online with like-minded believers for the last 10+ years, I've long since learned that my own circumstances that led me to believe what I believe today, are not all that uncommon. In the fall of 1996 the Lord simply blessed me with a hunger for the word that I never had before that. I was like a starving woman suddenly sitting at a banquet table and allowed to eat all I wanted. I just couldn't get enough! At this time, I held to free will (or thought I did anyway, I grew up hearing it and assuming it was true - without ever really questioning it) and was attending a hyper-charismatic AoG church. Something in my heart told me that being a Christian and living a Christian life was more than just "catching the fire" and "jumping into the river" of the latest nationwide "Holy Ghost revival" going on. The only way to find out what that "something more" was, was to study the Bible and so that's what I began to do.

At this time, I had never heard of John Piper, John MacArthur, John Calvin, John Knox, John Hubergoober or anyone else named John who liked tulips. The only thing I read aside from my Bible was my Strongs Concordance (it's all I had) and my own notes from my pastor's sermons that kept nagging at me because they didn't seem to line up with what I'd find in Scripture.

It was only after I began to see that this alleged free will that men hold to so dearly didn't truly exist (much to my shock), that I heard of John Calvin, and learned other people believed the same way I was beginning to realize that I believed. Like countless others in the last 30 years or so, the first time I heard "Calvinist" I immediately thought of a pair of jeans. I knew nothing of church history so for me the connection just wasn't there. Folks began to call me a Calvinist long before I had ever read a single word he wrote, or anything anyone else had written on the topic of God's grace, except of course what was in my Bible.

Our Heavenly Father has brought many people to a deeper understanding of this teaching in exactly the same way. He didn't do it by directing us to the uninspired writings of men (no matter how good they are), He did it by putting a hunger in us to understand His inspired word better, and study it voraciously, seeking to be molded by it and corrected with it.

The last part of the sender's email that I quoted above is interesting to me:
"I hope this note inspires you to seek further and to work with others not of the same mindset."
The timing was interesting indeed, considering this was a topic that came up last the other night when we had some friends over for a time of fellowship. The email sender was referring to maintaining a unity among professing believers and not considering "us in this camp" and "them in that camp" - or even going beyond that and saying those that do not hold lock step to my theological/doctrinal views are not saved at all. Well, I don't believe that, so that's not really an issue anyway. I know that there are many who are currently in the exactly the same place I once was - regenerated by the grace of God and still under a system of errant teachings. It happens, and it happens often. Up above I linked to Spurgeon's defense of Calvinism and here's something he said in that, that bears repeating:

"Well can I remember the manner in which I learned the doctrines of grace in a single instant. Born, as all of us are by nature, an Arminian, I still believed the old things I had heard continually from the pulpit, and did not see the grace of God. When I was coming to Christ, I thought I was doing it all myself, and though I sought the Lord earnestly, I had no idea the Lord was seeking me. I do not think the young convert is at first aware of this. I can recall the very day and hour when first I received those truths in my own soul—when they were, as John Bunyan says, burnt into my heart as with a hot iron, and I can recollect how I felt that I had grown on a sudden from a babe into a man—that I had made progress in Scriptural knowledge, through having found, once for all, the clue to the truth of God. One week-night, when I was sitting in the house of God, I was not thinking much about the preacher's sermon, for I did not believe it. The thought struck me, How did you come to be a Christian? I sought the Lord. But how did you come to seek the Lord? The truth flashed across my mind in a moment—I should not have sought Him unless there had been some previous influence in my mind to make me seek Him. I prayed, thought I, but then I asked myself, How came I to pray? I was induced to pray by reading the Scriptures. How came I to read the Scriptures? I did read them, but what led me to do so? Then, in a moment, I saw that God was at the bottom of it all, and that He was the Author of my faith, and so the whole doctrine of grace opened up to me, and from that doctrine I have not departed to this day, and I desire to make this my constant confession, "I ascribe my change wholly to God."

I remember reading that the first time with a lump in my throat and tears stinging my eyes. The more I read, the tears spilled down my face as I thought to myself "yes, this is it!" Still, when I read it today it's a bit overwhelming as I remember also the moment I realized that God was at the bottom of it all and the very Author of my faith. I had already been regenerated by His grace, and now by that very same grace my eyes had been opened just a bit more and I began to understand in some small way, a deeper sense of God's majesty and supremecy over the very beating of my heart, the breath in my lungs and my eternal state. It took me a little over a year to really come to get ahold of this, it was all so incredibly overwhelming. It felt like the equivalent of a theological freight train hitting me over and over again, but instead of destruction and damage, was nothing but me saying "thank you Father for such grace" in a very helpless voice. I think I had a tiny glimpse into Isaiah's heart when he said he was "undone" or "ruined - meaning brought to utter silence with nothing at all to say (Isaiah 6:5).

Therefore... while I no longer "debate" the doctrines of grace (there are plenty of believers out there that are far more gifted than I could ever hope to be, that do this and do it well), I did want to share this today in the hopes that someone out there sees that not all "Calvinists" are created equal, and that what you may have believed about us, may not be as accurate as you thought.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Store Stuff

CONTEXT!
New in the store today. I think I need one of these, since I say it all the time.

Also new at the store is a new victim volunteer model in the rotating, front page ad. Some of you bloggers might recognize him.
:-)

Friday, January 18, 2008

Christian Content SEO?

I've noticed this week that the top search phrase that leads people here is "how to keep a prayer journal" which of course sends them here to the post of January 4th. If you go to google and type that phrase in, you wont see the link to that post until you go to page 2 (as it stands currently, anyway) and it's the second one on the page.

Because I own an online retail business, I know a little bit about SEO (Search Engine Optimization - a fancy phrase for "how to get ranked higher in google so people click YOUR links first"), but I don't know nearly enough about how it all works, to really "work it" the way a lot of people can and do. It's all a part of internet marketing and it's a good way to get your name/product/work/brand recognized. Not only do I not know enough about really working it out well, I just don't have the time to initially invest in it, and then to consistantly maintain and upgrade. I'm a busy mom with 900 loads of laundry every day, I don't have time to do all that stuff.

I do a few things at the store to make sure my products can be located if someone were actually looking for that particular design, but for the most part, I rely on word of mouth advertising - mostly by other kind bloggers who link to to my store, and kind recommendations from customers who have shopped there and enjoy the products. From a strictly business point of view, most would say I'm not doing nearly enough to get my brand "out there" and establish my business. While it is my dream (however unrealistic it might be) to see the business do well, and while I was a fairly successful salesperson in the retail/services industry when I was in the workforce, I'm really really bad at successful self-promotion.

If all of this makes Christians feel somewhat squeamish, I can understand that because it doesn't really sit well with me either. In a moral sense it really does fly directly in the face of being meek and modest and not going out of one's way to draw attention to one's self. On the flip side of that of course, is the idea that being SEO savvy to promote the gospel is not at all a bad idea, and one that brings glory to God. Indeed it seems like a bit of a paradox, but in this world of electronic communication it's one of those strange things we're all dealing with every day. Even if we never give it much thought - just by using google we're all dealing with it. We've all come to expect to find what we're looking for there, and hope we don't have to wade through page after page to find it. We're relying on the work other people have done in the area of SEO, to make our searches a little easier.

Most folks who are 'in the know' about all this SEO stuff, will say that if you don't rank in the first page of google (top 10), you're not going to do very well traffic wise. Other experts argue that the top 5 spots are the key targets to go after. The theory goes, that if someone has to click more than 3 times (once on the link, once on the page, once on the specific product) they wont bother to click at all. So, being ranked anywhere other than page 1 of google puts you in 4th click territory (click to page 2, then repeat the process above). It all sounds very weird I agree, but that's what the experts like to tell us. Maybe they're right, I don't really know. I do know that the first time I read that I thought about my own research methods and knew it didn't apply to me because I scan for text content in the descriptions, and will click several pages in google until I find what I'm looking for. I suppose a lot of people do the same thing, but that more people will settle for what they find on page one -simply because popularity is usually what puts you on page one, and it's likely that this is where the item is they're looking for.

All of this online marketing business came to mind when I noticed folks were looking for ways to keep a prayer journal. It may be cliche, but the truth of the matter is, I really don't care one way or another how important google thinks that phrase is - if just one person clicked that link and took my suggestions for themselves, began a prayer journal and is currently working toward a richer prayer life, then to God be all the glory and amen! It just blesses my heart when I know someone was in turn blessed by something that edified me too. This is one of the sweet fruits of fellowship, even if it is done in this strange electronic world we're fellowshipping in. Would I be tickled pink if even more than one were blessed the same way? Well sure, but then I might be tempted to start blogging for the quantity instead of the quality, and that's a trap a lot of Christain bloggers very easily fall into. I've been there myself and have to remind myself NOT to do it, on a regular basis (its the reason I removed my blog from all those blog ranking sites that tell you how 'popular' you are - it's a real ego booster [or by contrast a good way to feel like no one cares one way or another what you're saying] and I hate that). If, in some way someone has figured out how to blog for both quantity without compromising quality, and without letting the high traffic be what motivates them, then my hat is off to them. As for me, I can't do that and balance it all out.

I'd be interested to know your thoughts on this. Does your blog's "rank" really matter to you? Do you put your traffic (readership) first, or do you focus on content first? Is there a practical way to balance all of this out without letting it all go to your head?

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Confronting ME

I am not a Christian dream interpreter, nor do I play one on the net. Or tv, or anywhere else. I just wanted to put that here first, in case anyone gets the wrong idea. Quite often however, the most intense and bizarre dreams I have (and for those who know me, they know they're pretty bizarre) seem to come at a time when I'm also dealing with a sort of spiritual crossroads. No doubt these things are connected somehow, but I won't even pretend to understand the inner workings of the sleepy mind (or wide awake mind, for that matter), and why we dream the way we do.

The other night I had a dream in which our house was destroyed (sort of) over and over again by deadly tornados. We'd come up from the basement to see if it had passed, and see another one coming and head to the basement again. From the basement we could hear the devastation and destruction happening upstairs. When the sounds stopped we'd come up and the house was fine, everything perfectly in order. We'd see another one coming as we'd look out the windows toward the west and see the sky a dark greenish/gray color with thick thunderheads rolling around above us, with tree branches whipping and snapping in every direction, then we'd head the basement again. Then, we'd hear the same sounds all over again. Loud bangs, breaking glass, crashes and thumps along with the moaning sound of the wind tearing through the house. We heard it, but there was no outward evidence of it. We saw it coming straight for the house, but all visual signs said it missed us. It was a very strange, and very intense dream from which I woke up feeling like I just run a marathon.

I thought about this dream the next day, and as much as it doesn't make any sense, wondered if there was any sense to be made of it? Considering that lately I have been thinking a lot about growth and the details in the process of ongoing sanctification, I suppose its entirely possible that I somehow - in my sleepy state of mind - mixed up the verse of Scripture that tells us that like the wind that you can hear, the Holy Spirit goes where He wants to (John 3:8) and that the work He began in you, He will be faithful to keep doing (Phil. 1:6). Of course this is all just speculation but it was the only thing that really made any sense on the spiritual front. Its also entirely possible that I just have a dreaded fear of having our house wasted by a tornado, and that the weather man is full of baloney half the time when he puts us under a tornado watch.

While I do have some very wild dreams, there is a pattern of consistancy (of sorts) in that the ones I have where there are things such as gigantic flesh-hungry wolves breaking into the house, or out of control fires, earthquakes and things like that - come at a time when I'm dealing with a deep spiritual matters. How it all connects I really don't know, I just find the pattern interesting.

Oddly enough, the next day after having this dream, while reading my new book (that is sure to cut me down like a tornado), I read this:
"About this time, you may be tempted to throw this book across the room. You didn't pick it up to be condemned or have your subtle sins exposed." (pg. 26, Chapter 3)

I didn't really feel tempted to fling the book, but there was a time I'm sure I would have. Then I read this just a few pages later:
"That, then, is the bad news about your sin, and, as you can see, it is really, really bad. How do you respond? Will you deflect it onto other people whom you see to be sinners? Do you find yourself wishing that a certain other person would read this chapter?" (pg.30, Chapter 3)

And at this point the book went flying across the room. No, I didn't really throw the book but I did read that section several times. It shouldn't surprise me that Jerry Bridges in Respectable Sins would know ahead of time that indeed while reading chapter 3, I might have had a hard time staying focused on myself. This is an author that has been recommended to me for years by others who've been richly blessed by his work. Clearly, he knows how to get through to his readers.

As I read through chapter 3 the same thing began to happen with this book that happened when I read Humility: True Greatness by CJ Mahaney. All through the book he used very relatable examples of everyday folks displaying righteous and godly behavior and conduct, and contrasted it with the ungodly conduct of arrogance and pride. As I read many of those examples I thought of other people that I've known or know, that have either done or said the very thing Mahaney wrote about, or that generally tend to display the kind of ungodly character he was writing about. It bothered me a great deal that I kept thinking of other people instead of how this applies to me, so I tried hard to stay focused on me, and not "them". The most ironic thing of all, was the reaction of a friend (at that time) when they learned I was reading a book by this author. Instantly the criticism began due to his charismatic position, and that example was a really hard one to ignore. As a staunch cessationist 5 pointer, apparently I shouldn't have been reading such folks. Well I did and I was blessed and challenged, in many ways.

My pastor recently made a comment from the pulpit about how we're so good at playing the blame-game. "No Lord, it's not me you should be concerned with, but this woman you gave me, she's got some serious problems". (Adam to God). Then Eve: "oh but it was that horrible serpent!" From Adam we've all inherited this sinful reaction to deflecting onto someone else, the very thing we need to be dealing with in ourselves. If you're a parent, you see it in full, living color in your little ones when they get busted for doing something naughty and the first thing out of their mouths is an attempt to blame someone else. Grown ups do it too, we just have a different way of doing it.

No question about it, this kind of self-examination is really hard. It's "toss the book across the room" hard, for just about all of us. Imagine a scrumptious cake sitting on your table. It's perfectly frosted and beautifully decorated, and smells just heavenly. Now imagine cutting into that cake and from the center begins to run all over the table the most foul smelling raw sewage you can imagine. That's a pretty disgusting image, right? Well, as rancid as it sounds its not really any different from us. We can look good on the outside (in word and deed) but in each of us deep down there dwells some pretty nasty stuff. We'd much rather console ourselves with our own good looking outsides and notice the nasty stuff coming from other people, than deal with the nasty stuff right in our own thoughts & attitudes.

This book came at just the right time. While I can honestly admit I don't really want to deal with the nasty stuff in me, I can also admit that I know I need to, and for that reason I want to. If that sounds familiar its because Paul said the same thing in Romans 7:14-25. I do, but I don't, but I do, but I can't, but I want to, and I need to, but I hate that I don't. This is the battle every Christian has with the flesh, and it's a hard one.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Culture Slop, anyone?






Now, about those priorities... I have laundry to do.

Reprioritizing and all that jazz

I said here at the blog last week that I had some things that needed my attention so I'd be online much less for a while. Well, I still have things that need my attention but after a few much needed tasks of 'cleaning up' in the online department, I've been able to free up several things that were a major time-eater. Contrary to what it may look like, I actually have been online less, but the time spent here has been more focused. For me, that's important.

As I've been thinking about "ordinary life details" over the last week or so, Kim does what she always does and posts something that I was about to post on, on the same day (and almost always posts it before I get the chance to). She's either psychic or it's a simple matter of being in the same "place" as a wife/mother/blogger/student of the Word as I am right now. She just gets up earlier than I do so she gets to post about it first.

As I read her post this morning thinking about details in my life that need to be looked after, it occured to me that I am the only one that can look after them the way they need to be looked after. That's sort of a scary thought. It's a responsibility that can sometimes feel very overwhelming, considering the rumor that I have 900 kids is partly true, and 900 kids brings with it a whole host of little details that make up a very full day.

Last night at church I was briefly chatting with a lady that has a life somewhat similar to mine in that she has five kids (although they're a bit older than mine). I asked how her week was going and she asked about mine, and somewhere along the conversation we laughed about how in our minds everything is running like clockwork, but when asked "mom, what's for dinner?" we have a strategic approach to answering without actually saying "I have no idea yet, let me alone in the kitchen for 20 minutes and I'll figure it out". She commented on what a victorious feeling it is when we actually know the answer to that question in advance, and I heartily agreed. Those moments are the best kind.

Over the years when people learn I have 900 kids (or 7, depending on your math) I've had all kinds of reactions. One of them that has left the biggest impression on my mind is the comment "I don't know how you do it, I could never handle that". Well, yes you could. It's not as if I woke up one day and there were 7 kids of varying ages sitting on the porch needing a mother. Now that scenario would be a monumental challenge. Rather, in the Lord's timeframe that was appropriate for my life, each new person came along and we all adjusted our lives and schedules and sleep patterns, to accomodate the new family member. Some of those new people were easier than others but sooner or later the household shifts into a new schedule and we all get used to it.

All that to say, life's little details are (or should be) all about prioritizing. When a new baby arrives, baby comes first and everyone and everything else comes next. Sometimes you can swing tending to baby as you tend to something else too (like rocking the cradle with your foot while you fold a load of laundry) but when push comes to shove, you will put baby's needs above anything else. If you have a teenager dealing with a social issue, that comes above cleaning the mold in your fridge (unless you can talk it through while you're cleaning the fridge, which is always convenient too). It's a complicated yet simple matter of assessing the general situation and sort of mentally checking off what might be top priority and saying "these need to be addressed first" then moving on to the less critical matters, but matters that need to be addressed all the same.

I don't sit around all day looking for spiritual applications in life's details, but because I am a Christian and I do think like one, I can't help but see the application in all of this. Talking to a dear sister yesterday about an area we are both growing in and learning to understand a little better (which is both frightening and exciting at the same time) I know that for myself personally, this is much more of a top priority than say, studying eschatology. I know that I need to spend more time in certain spiritual areas of my life than others - which is not to say that all areas are not important - but it is to say that some require more attention than others.

Thanks to all the fine folks who do their book shopping through my book blog, I had enough saved up to buy myself a treat recently. Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins We Tolerate by Jerry Bridges is not a book that many people would call a treat, because I have a strong feeling I will be both challenged and convicted by the content. For me though, it's a book I know I need, and the content is material I know I need to be challenged by. For me, it's a priority. This is why when I picked it up at the post office when it arrived yesterday, I opened it in the van and read the dustjacket (inside and out) and then began to read the introduction.

I'm very much looking forward to this book. My "spare" time over the course of the next couple of weeks or so will be dedicated to consuming this book. I read fast so I could potentially finish it in a day, but I want to read it slower and take my time to really consider the important topics it addresses. If you haven't read it yet and think you might like to, go here to Kim's blog and read her ongoing series of posts as she's read through it.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Where will YOU be?

THIS POLL IS NOW CLOSED
FINAL TALLY:


Your church schedules a business meeting for the same time as SuperBowl Sunday - where will YOU be?

75% At the church for the meeting (34 votes)
20% Neither (9 votes)
4% Watching the game (2 votes)
==============================

The results and resulting comment thread on my last poll on pirated software were pretty interesting. Time for a new poll - which you'll see in the sidebar over yonder --->

However you vote, please take a minute here if you like, to leave your comment as to why you voted the way you did. THIS should be even more interesting than the last poll. I'll reserve voting until the last day of the poll, in 2 weeks.

However you vote, will be a fairly strong voice for the issue of church life and culture, so this should be fun.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Going Public?

Just a disclaimer of sorts before you begin. One, this is very long, and you may be tempted to click away for that reason. I understand that but I hope you will not do that. Two, this is subject matter that applies to every Christian, no matter age, socio-economic standing, or any other type of boundary. My only goal in posting this material that took me several days to compose (over much discussion, thought and prayer), is to encourage my few readers to a Biblical worldview in the face of a message in evangelical Christianity that screams "culture first!" at every turn. May God alone be glorified in what you're about to read.

A friend recently made a comment about persuing those things in life and in ministry that would leave a type of beneficial, lasting impact. I suppose its supposed to work this way, but the older I get the more I think about the same kinds of things. How I spend my time, how I say what I say, and the fruit of such things. Indeed this applies to Christian blogging for me, as well since blogging (writing) is part of what I do. In fact, one of the first things I ever read on a blog was the intro post explaining "why I'm blogging", where the man said he wanted to leave an electronic footprint for his infant son to someday read. I found that intriguing then and still do today. The way we communicate has changed so much, in both style and substance.


Last week, someone who attends Mars Hill Church in Seattle, WA asked me if I had heard the first sermon in the "Ask Anything" series being preached by their pastor Mark Driscoll. I had not heard the sermon, and they suggested it might be considered rather scandelous by some. No big shocker there since Driscoll is and has been well known for his shocking language/content when he speaks. Let me first however be quite clear that this post is not about Driscoll. There are plenty of places you can go to read his praises or his critiques. One such place is here, on the latter, which begins with this profound quote by AW Tozer, that I believe bears repeating, and repeating often:

"Pure Christianity, instead of being shaped by its culture, actually stands in sharp opposition to it."

Pure Christianity stands in sharp opposition to culture? Is this true? Is this Biblical? Is this a worthwhile thing to take seriously and see how or if it's something that affects us directly and personally?


While Driscoll himself is not the subject of this particular post, his already infamous impact on what many now call post-evangelical Christian culture is in fact the catalyst for the topic that I want to address today, and hopefully encourage and edify you.


Up above I said that the way we communicate has changed in both style and substance. That may well be a great understatement but I think we'll all agree that it's true. On style, none of us need look any further than our own blog rolls to get a good example of that. I would even go as far as saying that likely every blogger has struck up a friendship with someone else in the blogging world that were it not for this method of communication, they would have never met this side of Glory. Add to this the idea of typing with your thumb on your cell phone or some other high tech toy while you're driving down the highway, or using your laptop in an airport somewhere, or using youtube for evangelistic purposes. The way we communicate has changed drastically just in the last 20 years.


Not only has there be a drastic shift in style, there has indeed also been a drastic shift in substance. My own first exposure to the content of what complete strangers were willing to discuss with each other, was online. Back in the day when the 'net was still called "The Information Superhighway" by fumbling newscasters who obviously had no idea what they were really talking about, and those of us online were cruising along at 2400 baud - folks were already using the method to strike up conversations with total strangers, with content that they'd never discuss face to face. The imagined anonymity (I say imagined because no man is anonymous with God) of the 'net gave people courage to say things from behind a screen that they'd never have the audacity to say in person.


Somehow, and in some way, and some time in the last 20 years, our culture (and Christian response to it) has also shifted toward this kind of communication. There are numerous works anyone can read on this cultural shift, some are good and have a solid Biblical worldview, and some are completely wacked out and are quite frankly a waste of paper. Those that I would consider good sources (your mileage may vary) would be David Wells, Nancy Pearcy, Gene Edward Veith, Albert Mohler and Michael Horton. There are more to be sure, but those alone will keep you busy for a very long time.


In some way, this type of indiscriminate online behavior that I speak of, has found its way offline and into the daily lifestyles of the folks right in our own schools, workplaces, communities and churches. Believers and non-believers alike, laypersons and pastors, younger people and older people, it would seem that this cultural shift in manners, propriety, common sense and common decency no longer has the same boundry it had when I was a teenager just 30 years ago. Much has changed, and while some of it may be good (i.e., the convenience of global communication in seconds), much of it is not good at all. It doesn't take more than a few mouse clicks to prove this out, when you enter an innocent search phrase at google and it yields hard core pornographic links in return. Another prime example is the "see related videos" section at youtube. You might be viewing a completely innocent video, but that doesn't mean the selection of clips in the sidebar is anything remotely close to innocent. What was once considered by polite society to be private, discreet, personal and confidential, is now public fodder via the net, cable & satellite, various face to face relationships and yes, even in our own churches, apparently.


I make no apologies for saying that I am "old school" when it comes to certain topics. This is one of them. However, I don't want to assume that just because that was the type of culture I grew up in, that its automatically the correct attitude to have - these things have to be tested according to what the Scriptures teach, lest any of us find ourselves guilty in a sense, of defending traditions just for the sake of the fact that they are our traditions. If the sacred cow or "subjective experience" or "cultural tradition" needs to be tipped, then I say we tip it. If it falls according to the measure of the Word of God, then it was a cow that needed to be tipped all along. Its well worth the effort to ask yourself if "polite society" was deemed such because of prior generations holding to higher standards of cultural eitquette based on their own ideas, or if there was a time in North American society when Biblical values had much more of an impact on culture than they do today. Along the same lines, it is equally imperative that we take the time to understand that we as a society - Christian culture right along with secular culture - have gradually become so desensitized to sensitive things, that subject matter "polite society" once revered as "not for public consumption" has become prime time entertainment for the masses. We didn't get here overnight, and we didn't get here because someone else put us here. We arrived at where we are because our sinful cravings for controversy, scandal and private things, fueled the media machine that gave us exactly what we asked for. The end result being evident and obvious even in the fashion industry, when our 7 year old girls are asking to dress like common prostitutes (because it's common among their peers, not because they understand it to be improper and wish to simply rebel) and parents are giving in. We put ourselves here when we shoved Biblical principles out the door and accepted what became common, in a morally degenerating society. This is our own doing, and every one of us is guilty in some way.


I don't (and never have) subscribe to the idea that intimate subjects [such as Driscoll can be heard teaching on] should be discussed in mixed company (men, women, married, unmarried, etc.), in an open setting. While I certainly do believe they are important subjects and should be considered important enough by the stronger, more mature men and women in the church that the younger believers have a trustworthy source to turn to and learn from (please read my dear friend rozie's post on this, she nails it perfectly), I also believe my thought process on this one to be a Biblical one. I'd like to explain why, so if you've already read this far, I hope this is still making sense to you, and you'll keep reading.


While we are indeed all fallen creatures with corrupt emotions and instincts, for the most part almost all of us sense a bit of nervousness or discomfort when certain subjects are brought up among mixed company. I can only speculate that this may be our natural reaction, an innate sense to something that deep down we know is explicity personal, and too delicate to be just tossed out there for public discussion, opinion, jokes or whatever else might be said about the subject. While that part is speculation, the next part is not.


The Scriptures teach us that we are to take every thought captive (2Cor 10:5) to the obediance of Christ. Further, the Scriptures are filled with teachings on how God thinks of our thoughts, that He knows them, how they affect us and drive us (either to paise Him or sin against Him), and why our very thought life is critical to our growth in Christ. Anyone can do a comprehensive search and study in the Scriptures about 'thought life' and how central it is to the reality of Christian living, but for starters I would direct you to this subject in Job, the Psalms, Isaiah, and especially the passage in Philippians 4 (v.4-9) that address the Who (does the guarding), the what, and thy why of the need to have our hearts and minds guarded against those things which are not pleasing to God. I could easily list all the specific verses here but it would be rather redundant to do that. I would simply hope that most older Christians reading this would already know and agree that keeping our hearts and minds guarded against sinful thoughts is the expected conduct of a believer.


There is a very good reason I stated that first, before I move on. Part of the reason is that I'm fairly certain that there are young believers that don't really know this at all. For them, and due to the culture they have grown up in, the lines have been blurred and in some cases completely obliterated. There is a lack of solid Biblical teaching for young and old alike, but for those who have grown up in this modern promiscuous, irreverant, "post evangelical" culture that makes it all the more important to really address this issue head on. What was obvious and foundational to young people 30 years ago is many instances, completely foreign and unheard of to young people today. This should disturb you, if you have loved ones under the age of 30. I hope it compels you to seriously consider what I am saying. (And please know I am no expert on this, I'm just a mom of seven very important people, dealing with these very things myself, from a Biblical worldview and a desire to please my Lord).

The other part of the reason I wanted to mention thought life first, is because of the various situations & settings we might find ourselves in, where tempting thoughts can lead to sin as James 1:14-15 says. As fallen beings battling with sinful flesh every day, we need to be brutally honest with ourselves and know that anything we set before our ears or eyes that might cause us to be tempted, is to be avoided as much as it is possible to avoid. This is the very heart of the reason we teach our girls to dress modestly and our boys what a virtuous woman is (and is not). This is practical Christian living, parenting, and critical to our maturity in Christ.


There are many reasons why open discussion of private matters can lead to these kinds of sinful situations, but allow me to address just one of them first. (Allow me to say here as well, that I believe this applies to Christian bloggers as well and the material they post for a mixed reading audience).


I'm thinking of an object that is small enough to hold in my hand, is red in color and grows on a tree. Washington state is famous for their production of these items, it is said that one a day keeps a doctor away. They're handy for various baked dessert items, sauces and even dipped in caramel.

While some reading might wonder what in the world I'm doing stating the obvious, I can tell you without question that the majority of those reading this just thought of an apple. It's a very elementary teaching tool and most people over the age of 8 never give this much thought. Children are more familiar with this process because they learn it very young from teachers who know how the brain works, and how to stimulate thought, imagination, and memory. Point being, in your thought process as you read the description you had a visual image in your mind of an apple. Maybe just for a split second the picture flashed in your thoughts, but this is almost assuredly what you "saw" in a snapshot-memory in your mind. Almost all of us do this, it's just the way we are. When we hear or read a description of something, we attempt to understand what it is we're hearing by visually associating it in our minds with what it is that we've seen or heard that bears that same description.


Using that same process (and I'm approaching this cautiously), consider the scenario of men or women standing in mixed company graphically describing for all to hear, a private marital act. Those present and hearing this will get the same exact results, with a much different picture/visual in mind. In this setting, those hearing will associate the described act with whatever it is they know that to be. If the speaker used themselves as an example, the hearer will (regardless of whether they wanted to or not) be tempted to have the very speaker in mind in that visual image.

Its the latter visual in this scenario that is the point. While the apple image bears no danger in any way, the same process to mentally identify it, is the very process most people will use to process information via images in the mind, whatever the subject is. In a mixed group (married, unmarried, men, women, older and younger) who among them all is so spiritually mature as to not let that image affect them in any way, but merely consider it from an antisceptic, medical or clinical view? Who among them is desperately weak or struggles painfully with this specific issue and will allow that visual thought to lure and entice them as James1:14-15 says is what leads us into sin? Who also, among that mixed crowd just had the visual of the speaker, doing the very thing the speaker described, and is now attempting by God's grace not to have that image in their mind? Point is, who knows? - it's an open, mixed group of possibly strong, weak, mature, immature, along with those with damaged and confused thinking from horrible past experiences, or those with misinformation from well meaning but ill-informed sources and all present and each dealing with a war against the flesh, in varying degrees.


If anything, such a setting is more of a certainty for harm, than for good. If we're all honest with ourselves, we'll admit that of all the aspects that pertain to our humanity, this is the one that can be the most explosive, most controversial and can lead to the most grievous and shameful situations for a believer. (Please consider here for a moment the crippling affects of pornography addiction that affect believers in the very same way unbelievers are affected). While I will again stress that these are important matters to be discussed, the way in which we discuss them is equally important and should certainly never be approached so casually, flippantly, or irresponsibly. To approach this subject and handle it responsibly, there are several factors that should be taken into very serious and prayerful consideration.


This is just one aspect of the very real and very great potential for mishandling this subject. Just as any pastor and/or mature Christian man or woman worth their salt would never advocate a man and a woman (either of them married or not) discussing private marital matters with one another either privately or publicly [I want to be clear here that I am not referring to pastoral counsel, while even that situation can be awkward and uncomfortable for pastors and they must take great care to deal with these things in a Biblical manner and with discretion and discernment - often referring women to a godly, competant and mature woman either within the congregation or in the field locally. I want to also note that even within the secular counselling field there are laws in place to protect both counsellor and patient. The potential for lines to be crossed and emotional attachment is very real when discussing these private matters. If even the ungodly have laws to protect them from personal harm, this should speak volumes to those who follow the Lord and His word!], this open type of setting is equally a very bad idea, with even more potential for disasterous results, since there are more people involved.


Give no man (or woman) a reason to stumble, as much as it's within your control to do so (Romans 14:13). This basic approach to Christian living applies to absolutely every area of our lives. In what we do, what we say, how we say it, and who we say it to.

Those among us who are considered leaders and more mature, have a responsibility to be living examples holiness, modesty, wisdom, discernment, and at the same time be willing and able to be the kinds of personable, approachable, trustworthy mentors the younger generation of believers need in their lives to learn from. We have a very Biblical reason (as opposed to chalking it up to bygone eras of Victorian prudes who blush at "dirty words") for keeping the private things private, while having a confidential avenue and a resource to address very important questions and concerns in matters which are private.


Culture has changed, there is no argument there. However, the Scriptures have not. Which do we conform to, and which is pleasing to God?


The answer there should be quite clear, to both questions - no matter the moral decline of the culture you grew up in, or the excuses being offered by the adherents of the "culture friendly" crowd insisting that we have to "do church" in a way that panders to culture - as opposed to living Biblically because it's what the Scriptures say to do. If the answer is still not clear, please read the Tozer quote above one more time, and then read this:


And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. (Romans 12:2 - emphasis mine)


If that were the only verse in the entirety of Scripture to address this subject, it would be more than sufficient.