Saturday, May 31, 2008

Don't Waste Your Movie Night (and dvd rental fees!)

As you can probably tell, I'm about to rant. Sometimes, we need a good rant.

Every other Friday night we rent dvds. We often rent 2 for ourselves (the grown up people) for a double feature, and one for the kids, and/or a family movie that we all watch together. Let me tell you, it's not easy finding a "family", kid-friendly movie, twice a month. 99.99% of the time however, we manage to pull it off.

This past Friday, did not fall into that majority percentage.

The movie the kids wanted was already rented, so I picked an alternative movie. I saw one with Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman on the cover, and that caught my eye. I picked it up and read the back and thought "hey, this looks pretty good". I rented it without ever once looking at the MPAA rating. It's a movie about superheros, surely there is no need whatsoever to look at the rating... or so I thought.

Boy was I ever wrong. What I rented for them was Justice League: The New Frontier. Now, a more informed parent might have already known somehow, that a movie with classic children's superhero icons in it, was going to be peppered with cussing. A movie buff or a fan of the author Darwyn Cooke might have already known it, or someone that did a bit of checking first, might of known it. Me... well I just ignorantly assumed a movie on the backstory of how the superheros came to be, would be a great, family-friendly, innocent fantasy story for children. WRONG!

While I know we can't shelter our kids from raunchy language (it's everywhere, and we all know it - it's even become vogue for "Christians" to cuss and use profanity and then argue with you about the cultural significance of the words themselves), we can and we should make every effort to provide for them clean, decent movies to watch that don't have this kind of language. We should go the extra mile and give them examples of dialogue where this kind of speech is not included, so that they can hear for themselves how using this kind of language is simply NOT necessary. Not to mention, Scripture is very clear that this kind of speech is offensive, and that alone should be the catalyst that compels us to not have it part of our lives, as much as possible.

It's interesting that the 'product review' makes it seem so exciting for kids.

From amazon.com:

"Inspired by the best-selling graphic novel by Darwyn Cooke and produced by the multiple Emmy award winning animation legend Bruce Timm The New Frontier is the epic tale of the founding of the Justice League. Superman Batman and Wonder Woman are all here of course and so are Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter, and Flash - whose incredible origins will be told for the very first time. Strangers at first these very different heroes must overcome fear and suspicion to forge an alliance against a monster so formidable even the mighty Superman can not stop it. If they fail our entire planet will be 'cleansed' of humanity."

Sounds cool, don't you think?? Well, had I actually taken a moment to look at the rating on the movie, I would have put it immediately back on the shelf. It's rated PG13.

PG13 from the MPAA (emphasis mine):

"A PG-13 rating is a sterner warning by the Rating Board to parents to determine whether their children under age 13 should view the motion picture, as some material might not be suited for them. A PG-13 motion picture may go beyond the PG rating in theme, violence, nudity, sensuality, language, adult activities or other elements, but does not reach the restricted R category. The theme of the motion picture by itself will not result in a rating greater than PG-13, although depictions of activities related to a mature theme may result in a restricted rating for the motion picture. Any drug use will initially require at least a PG-13 rating. More than brief nudity will require at least a PG-13 rating, but such nudity in a PG-13 rated motion picture generally will not be sexually oriented. There may be depictions of violence in a PG-13 movie, but generally not both realistic and extreme or persistent violence. A motion picture’s single use of one of the harsher sexually-derived words, though only as an expletive, initially requires at least a PG-13 rating. More than one such expletive requires an R rating, as must even one of those words used in a sexual context. The Rating Board nevertheless may rate such a motion picture PG-13 if, based on a special vote by a two-thirds majority, the Raters feel that most American parents would believe that a PG-13 rating is appropriate because of the context or manner in which the words are used or because the use of those words in the motion picture is inconspicuous."

You know, I'm pretty sure I've read the ratings classifications before, but it just hit me today that according to the MPAA, the above content is potentially unsuitable for kids under 13 (based on the parent's discernment), but as long as the "violence, nudity, sensuality, language, adult activities or other elements" do not reach the R rating level, they're perfectly okay for kids aged 13-17. Wow.

Needless to say, I was pretty ticked off that some bonehead decided to write cussing into the script that also contained Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman. These are CHILDRENS superhero characters for crying outloud, there should have never been ANY objectionable language in this movie, AT ALL. Clearly however, this movie wasn't AIMED at children, it was aimed at older audiences that the MPAA ratings system deem okay for kids over 13.

UGH. In closing I will say, if you have kids of ANY age, and you don't want them hearing cussing in your own house, don't rent this movie.

National Treasure 2 The Book of SecretsNow here's the most ironic part of our bi-weekly movie night...

We also rented National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets which is rated PG. National Treasure2, we rented for US, the grown ups, and the rating was LOWER than the movie we rented for the kids. What's more - there is not a SINGLE cuss word in the entire movie, and the only reason it's rated PG is due to the violence (bad guys with guns chasing the good guys, car crashes, etc.), and one very brief scene of 2 grownups kissing. Even the kiss scene was done in a humorous way, and not a sensual way at all. Even more than that, it's a GREAT adventure movie, we loved it, and the kids got to watch it this morning and they loved it too.

So, at least movie night wasn't a complete waste of time and money. I'm still pretty ticked off about Justice League though. All the kids were offended by the language in the movie, and that really bothered me. I had to apologize to them for renting it, and promised to ALWAYS check the ratings first, from now on - no matter how innocent I think it might be.

Lesson learned.


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Friday, May 30, 2008

Givin' it Away

Hey guess what? We're having another giveaway at Reflections! w00t - free stuff!!

This one is a little different from the last few, but before we get to the details on how to win, let's talk about the prize:

ANYTHING you want! That's right, any t-shirt (mens, womens or kids, even a dog tee if that's what you're looking for), any sweatshirt, any hoodie. You pick the style, design, size, and we'll get it off to you.

Okay, now to the details on how to win it! It's pretty simple really, just be our 40,000th visitor, and the free T-shirt is yours! How much easier could that be? :-)

Reflections Summer GiveawayRight now the visitor number to the store is well under 35,000, so we're looking to see 5k hits as fast as possible, so we can give away a cool T! Now, that's not really all that difficult, since there are plenty of sites out there that get that in just a days time. Normally our little ole store doesn't get that many visitors in a month, so how fast you win depends on how many folks you tell, and how often you all visit! The more you tell, the higher the counter goes, and you're on your way to free, cool stuff. (You can even grab this little graphic for your site or blog to let your readers know about the giveaway - just make sure you point them back to this page!)

You can even track the visitor counter yourself, by following a few easy steps. From the store's front page, scroll to the bottom of the page:

click here first

In the left menu bar:

find your location

Once you've done that, scroll down to see where we're at:

are we there yet???

If you're visitor #40,000, just send me a screen shot of the page, and we'll get you fixed up with a shiney new, very cool t-shirt of your choice! That's it.

Now, let the clicking begin!



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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Momma Musings

Or... mom's amusing? Either way, here are just a few random mom-thoughts as I stumble through parenthood.

• Motherhood should come with optional, live-in announcers, after the oldest child is 4 years old. This is the age where you begin to become weary of repeating yourself every 42.9 seconds, and this is why anouncers should be optional. They could say things like:

"Get rrrrrready kids, coming soon to a kitchen table near you... BREAKFAST! Yes, now with 11 essential vitamins and minerals, you TOO could be full & happy in just moments! Please wash your hands and quit looking at your sister, and come on down to the kitchen table for... BREAKFAAAAAST!"
Now, the announcer will have to say it like an uber-caffeinated sportscaster or commercial jingle singer, for it to be truly affective. Exciting background music should be optional too, and free. This way, you are free to actually make the breakfast without repeating yourself 893 times, and the kids get all excited and do exactly what the announcer said. It's a win/win, really. He or she could do this for mealtimes, chore times, bedtime and getting ready for church or school-time. It would be very exciting to live in your house, since you'd never know what jazzed up announcement was coming next!

• Why does a load of whites always produce more lint in the lint filter, than a load of darks or coloreds? Does this have any bearing on why EVERY white sock in the universe gets holes in the toes, faster than dark socks? Are the toes in white socks being sucked out of the sock and actually getting stuck in the lint filter? Is there an answer for this, or is this just one of those things we've all come to accept and not question (much), like why jello jiggles, and how it's possible to play a Mike & Ike box like a musical instrument?

• Why is it, that when one of my kids says "mom, what are we having for dinner?" and I say something along the lines of "a large pot of hairy, one-eyed bugs with snake-nose gravy, mmmm, your favorite!", they never believe me, and think this is gross? By contrast, why is it when I say that whoppers (chocolate coated malt balls) are actually dinosaur droppings, they think that's funny and repeat it and giggle about it? For that matter, why is it that they ever think they're going to get a straight answer out of me on the "what's for dinner" question, when they never have, and they never will?

• Some multi-faceted parenting tasks are fairly simple and you figure them out early on. For example, the 4 Limbed Gotcha-Covered trick. This is the manuever you pull off when you have a baby in a cradle:

While rocking the cradle with one foot, you turn the page of your book with your left hand, as you sip your coffee with your right hand, and periodically kick the cat/dog away with your other foot. With all four limbs you're multi-tasking, and before long you can do this trick without even thinking about it. Advanced proficiency in this area even allows you, for example, to change a poopy diaper with one hand (and apply diaper rash cream), if you've injured a hand/arm/shoulder and have it immobile in a sling or a cast. Mothers who've been there, know exactly how this works.

Those are the easy parenting tasks, even though they might look hard at first. They're the "hands-on" things that you can control, and take care of. What's not so easy is when they grow up and they still need your super-mom skills but they think they don't need them, and then you have to find a balance between offering them, and backing off. Sometimes, finding that balance is much harder than just kicking the cat away from the cradle without ever spilling your coffee in your lap, or dropping your book.

• Why is there a Barbie commercial where Barbie is "dancing" in her flashy outfit, and then the camera zooms in on her butt? Someone please explain this to me, because the last time I checked, that falls into the category of purely wicked and depraved to even consider combining anything sexual, and children's toys. Soddom & Gomorrah, anyone? Here's the way this shakes out (no pun intended), from my worldview:

a.) Barbie merchandise and tv commercials are aimed at the target market of little girls between 5-10 years old, give or take.
b.) Barbie is plastic, therefore does not technically have a butt, but is made to appear as if she does.
c.) Girls from 5-10 watch this commercial and for some mysterious reason, are suddenly and very, VERY subtly exposed to sexualization in marketing. Nice trick, kids never notice this stuff.
d.) Within a few years these once innocent-hearted little girls are so saturated with the sexualization of everything from Barbie's non-existant plastic butt, to cake mix and house paint and dog food commercials, that you're already trying to combat the twisted messages that marketing is flooding/has flooded their minds with.

A few potential solutions:

- Have a yard sale and sell the tv. (This will only work if you're also planning on moving to a cave where there are no outside influences whatsoever)
- Make a comment in passing, whenever you see something like that on tv. Say something like "well, that was strange, I wonder why they did/said that?" Pointing it out to your kids without ranting on for an hour about the heathen slime in television marketing, will go a lot further in equipping them to notice it and talk about it. Talking about it provides them an avenue to ask questions, and you an avenue to give the good answers. Resist the temptation to rant about heathen slime, or call your best friend and do it, because they'll understand.
- Take advantage of commercial free programming, as often as possible. Most cable/sat companies have a lot of choices like this, and we all like commercial free stations anyway. This doesn't eliminate all the junky-sleazy messages from your kids brains, but it does eliminate some of them, and that's a good thing.

Okay, that's all for now. I still have at least 13 more years of kids living at home, so I can only assume I'll have a few more random momma musings, between now and then. That is of course, assuming I stay alive, sane, and capable of expressing thought, between now and then. Maybe exercising that optional, live-in announcer feature, would be a good thing about now.

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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Encouragement, Endurance, Patience

Gloomy, bummed out, despairing, moody, sad, melancholy. Not very encouraging words, are they? Well no, of course they're not and they're not supposed to be. These are a small collection of words that can often quite accurately describe the feelings we all have from time to time.

There are a million and one reasons we all get like this at times, and tomorrow there will be a million and two reasons. It seems like every day, the world we live in just feels a little more dismal, a little more hopeless, a little more senseless and a little more depraved. All it really takes to see it, is a quick headline scan of the local paper or any online news site. I saw a t-shirt the other day that said "hey, where are we going and why am I in this handbasket?" Funny, but not funny at all, at the same time. Where the world and the morality of the world is headed, is grievous and depraved, and it just gets worse all the time.

Add to this, the variety of complex relationships we're all in (parent/child, spouses, friends, co-workers, etc.) that can at times be so stressful and demanding that sometimes you just feel a sort of sensory overload, and/or even feel like the biggest loser on the planet. Maybe you had a disagreement with your child or spouse, or maybe your best friend got upset with you for something, or maybe your boss is being a dictatorial tyrant. Maybe they all happen on the same day and then someone else comes along with an unkind, thoughtless word and makes you just feel about . <-- that small, and find the temptation to crawl under a rock, very alluring. For a lot of women anyway, those are the days where the tears flow at the drop of a hat, and it can be hard to stay focused on much of anything.

It's a safe bet to say, we've all been there (and will all be there again, since it is unavoidable in life to skip past the hard things). Someone reading this might even be there right now, and wondering when this season of despair will pass.

It no longer 'surprises' me when I'm going through something specific, and the Lord sends someone along to cross my path, that addresses the very thing I'm feeling, or dealing with. It could be something incredibly private that I haven't shared with anyone but the Lord in prayer, and the next day I might hear a radio program that addresses that very specific issue. While it no longer surprises me, it also doesn't go unnoticed. God is ever-faithful to meet the needs of His people, and He does it in lots of different ways. This very thing has happened several times now, over just the last few days. It's nothing short of incredible how God will even at times, send someone along that uses the very same words you just used in prayer, to address your situation (and they don't even know you have a situation). It's amazing to literally see the hand of God actively working in your life, for your good.

So, that was all just a really long intro to something that I believe will really bless you. My friend (and I'm honored to call him that) Dr. James White has posted several pastoral youtube videos in recent days, that I would like to share with you. Life and life events can be truly painful and difficult at times, but there is hope, and there is comfort.


Encouragement, Endurance, Patience (Part 1)
Just some thoughts about living faithfully as a Christian during difficult times. Continued in part 2.
Encouragement, Endurance, Patience (Part 2)

On Tragedy and the Comfort that Comes from God The tragedy in the life of Steven Curtis Chapman reminds us all of how precious life is, and that God has a purpose in suffering.

On Tragedy and the Comfort that Comes from God Part 2 Continuation of part 1

I hope that you will not only watch those, but let the message minister to your heart and encourage you. (It sure did that for me.)




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Saturday, May 24, 2008

Pet Peeves: Figures of Speech

Sometimes, I have issues with words, or figures of speech. Lately, a few of those that have come up that bugged me were "heart of gold", "guilty pleasure" and "don't waste your blog". I'm not sure that last one falls into the figure of speech catergory but whatever.

must only be worn with long layered skirts, Bohemian style hippy-blouses, and wild hair.  In other words, if you're not Stevie Nicks, forget it. Back in the day of big hair, spandex and black leather granny boots (yeah, I still have mine too, and they're still just as cool as the day I bought them), REO Speedwagon had a song called Girl With the Heart of Gold. Some very delusional young man once dedicated that song to me, and while it was a bit of an ego booster at the time, it did annoy me a tad bit as well, because it's one of those sayings I don't like. It doesn't make any sense! If your heart was gold, you'd be dead. Period. Of course, it's not meant to be literal but fluffy and sentimental and complimentary; I get all that, but it's still a dumb thing to say.

Next up, is "guilty pleasure". Oddly enough I heard this figure of speech on the local classic rock station where they're having an 80's celebration weekend. No doubt, they've already played REO's music at least a few times. During the intro to the segment yesterday, one of the DJs admitted that while he is a monumental music snob (me too!) his one "guilty pleasure" is a few songs from the 80's. Now, here's where this gets weird for me. This is multi-topical so please remain seated in your car at all times and keep your hands inside, and try to follow along.

First of all, there were probably less than 20 songs in the entire decade of the 80's that could by all rights be called "good songs". Overall, the 80's should just have never happened, musically. Even by saying 20 songs, I'm being very generous. (Of course I'm referring to pop/rock music that the world listens to, so this exempts any other music written during this decade).

Secondly, if you actually like a song or two from the 80's, either you've picked one of the good ones (good choice) or one of the the 97 trillion syntho-tech-doofus-pants-too-short-creepy-pre-emo-hairdo-Flock-of-Duran-Tears-for-Lauper-Billy Idol, and either way - if you like it, you like it. Either you have good taste in music, or you need years of therapy, but either way it shouldn't really fall into the category of "guilty pleasure", should it? I think that should be reserved for the dieting person who sneaks a pan of brownies, or something like that. Not that I've ever done that or anything, to know...

Which brings me to "don't waste your blog". Now, just exactly what does this mean? Well, wasting your blog is in the eye of the commenter, I think. Some would say wasting your blog is using this space for recipes, or posting pics of your cat (Toby rocks, do NOT mess with Toby!), talking about what homeschool curriculum you use, or your summer workout plans. Others might say that wasting your blog is posting hard-hitting doctrinal essays or rich theological studies (doctrine divides, dontcha-know? it's all about 'Jesus loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life', don't bog us down with all these technical things!). Still others would say that posting about anything other than whatever interests them, is a waste of blog space. It's all very subjective, isn't it?

In trying to come up with an example of what wasting your blog might look like, I thought of a comment I read once at a blog that went something like "I'm a Christian, and I'm a blogger but I'm not a Christian Blogger. I want to write about all kinds of things and don't want to be labelled solely as a Christian blogger". I paraphrased, because I read this a long time ago. The thing was, I went through that person's blog and never found a single post with Christian content. Not one. They posted about tv shows, music, movies, kids, the weather, and everything else under the sun, but not a single post with any kind of Christian content. The blogger was a pretty good writer, and the blog was enjoyable enough (what I read of it) but I kept thinking "hey pal, you're missing an opportunity here to exalt the name of Christ and share your faith with your massive amounts of readers!" For all I know, I even left a comment toward that end, but I don't remember. The blogger had TONS of comments on their posts, so I knew they were pretty well-read. To me, that seemed like a really bold example of wasting your blog. Sure we all like to connect with like-minded folks on everyday things like cool movies, or comiserate with others on dumb fashion trends, and things like that... but if you're a Christian and a blogger... that doesn't want to be known as a Christian blogger, something's missing there.

So, there we have it. Wisdom from the game room. Someone will no doubt say this was a waste of space, but at least I feel better now.

Time for brownies!


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Friday, May 23, 2008

Deep Down Joy

We've been on Spring Break around here this week. During the normal Spring Break period all the kids were so sick with flu and we decided we'd have a real break later in the year, so we took it this week. Unfortunately, until yesterday the weather stunk so the kids have spent most of their break inside. After a hefty pricetag (although considerably less than if we had it done in a commercial garage, thankfully), we did get the brakes on the van fixed, so that allowed me to go rent a steam cleaner and attack my carpets. I guess it hasn't been a total loss for a spring break, even though my plans were a lot different. I'm still learning how to go with the flow and not get too upset when the Lord's plans are clearly and obviously different than mine. His way is always better than my way anyway, so it's a good thing to graciously accept what comes.

So, I have clean carpets and that's good. I also have several new designs in the store and that's good too - and you can see this week's newsletter here. I'm especially pleased with Unspeakable Joy, as it was inspired by a lot of thinking & praying this week about what it truly means to walk with Christ. You know, no matter what comes, no matter how long the season of trials and tears, stress and heartache, there truly is an unspeakable joy that anchors your soul.

Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls. (1Peter 1:6-9)

Great passage to dwell on.


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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Prayer for the Chapman Family

Earlier this evening I received the tragic news that Christian recording artist Steven Curtis Chapman's 5 year old daughter Maria, was accidentally hit and killed in the family's driveway, by her older brother.

I cannot imagine the pain this family is suffering right now, but the Lord knows. Please join our family in lifting this family up to Him. He's the only one who can bring them comfort, and they certainly need it right now.


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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Because Someone Should Say It, Already

Well then... it's time to vent. Or rant, or something a long those lines. Maybe it's just a matter of saying what ought to be said, since there's this pesky little tradition of knowing the big ole elephant is sitting in the room and folks just want to tippy toe right past it and chit chat about the weather. I really dislike that, it seems so phoney.

In short, in numerous ways, the evangelical church is in a sorry, pathetic state. Inclusivism, ecumenism, cultural relativism, wimping out, watering down, and on it goes. Allow me to share some quotes that have stood out to me over the last few days:

"We must resist the tendency to be absorbed into the fads and fashions of worldly thought. We need to emphasize, not downplay, what makes Christianity unique. And in order to do that effectively, we need to have a better grasp of how worldly thought is threatening sound doctrine in the church. We must be able to point out just where the narrow way diverges from the broad way." - John MacArthur
"As Christians we must understand that whatever opposes God’s Word or departs from it in any way is a danger to the very cause of truth. Passivity toward known error is not an option for the Christian. Staunch intolerance of error is built into the very fabric of Scripture. And tolerance of known error is anything but a virtue." - John MacArthur
"We must all ask ourselves in the blogosphere, when a media firestorm is created by a Christian spokesperson, has it been because of ones faith in Jesus, standing strong for His truth, or heralding Christ and Him crucified; or some lesser issue? It's easy to attract a crowd. Spurgeon one time remarked: if you want to draw a crowd, pour kerosene on yourself, strike a match, set yourself on fire, and people will come from miles around just to see you burn." - Steve Camp
"Yesterday four radical judicial revolutionaries decided to overthrow centuries of practice and law and create a monstrosity called "gay marriage." No such thing exists. That is like a round square, or a light of darkness. Marriage is not defined by judges who believe themselves free to create new realities. Marriage is a divine institution. But yesterday, the far-reaching proclamation (it wasn't a decision) of the CA Supreme Court made historic and biblical Christianity officially bigoted by granting civils rights on the basis of deviant sexual practice." - James White

You may be wondering what these three brothers, or these four quotes have in common (since they do appear to be somewhat diverse in topic). The common factor in these quotes and with these brothers is that they do not shy away from the elephant in the room. They address it with grace and with truth and with firm conviction that the Bible is the measuring rod by which all Christian faith and practice ought to be followed by professing believers.

Another common factor among these brothers (and they're not the only ones, there are others, thankfully) is that it doesn't take much googling to find plenty of criticism of all of them, for having the audacity to declare God's truth, God's way. They're accused of being unfairly harsh, judgemental, divisive, mean, rude, old fashioned, out of touch, etc. so on and so forth.

In my opinion, the attitude these men come to the table with is the attitude the evangelical church needs a lot more of, not less of. There is a lot of garbage filtering through the doors of evangelical churches, and we need more men like this who aren't afraid to call it what it is, tell us why it's garbage, and exhort us to keep the trash where trash belongs - instead of trying to be non-confrontational and attempting to find some redeeming quality of trash that we can all "appreciate" and learn from.

I love what John MacArthur said here:

"Truth and error cannot be combined to yield something beneficial."

and then again here:

"If we really believe the Word of God is true, we know that everything opposing it is error. And we are to yield no ground whatsoever to error" (source)

Incredibly enough, there are a lot of Christians that will run the other way from this. Being intolerant of error is not something they themselves are willing to do, nor is it something they support when other Christians do it. And then when we look up and look around at the direction of the local church and the monumental amounts of unsound teachings and teachers within it, how can we dare to question how it came to be?

Many years ago I heard a pro-life message from a woman who summed it all up for that issue (as well as this one) when she said "silence is consent". When the leaders of the evangelical church are unwilling to stand when standing is needed, speak up when speaking is needed, and refute false teaching when that is needed, what we end up with is a wimpy, tolerant, fluffy, erroneous version of what used to be a strong Christian voice in local communities.

As MacArthur pointed out in his recent post "Now is not the time to make friends with the world. It is certainly no time to capitulate to worldly cries for ecumenism and inclusivism." I would also add, that now is not the time to run from confrontation of error in our church in any form. Now is the time to speak up with grace and with truth and combat it with sound Biblical doctrine.

There's a generation coming up after us. What will the evangelical church look like in 20 years if we just sit silently by, looking for things to "appreciate" among the vast amounts of error? While I am grateful for people like John MacArthur, Steve Camp, James White, Phil Johnson, Albert Mohler and others who take the same stand they do, I'm afraid they are in the minority, as our "culture shift" is sliding straight into some sort of wimpy, watered-down, effeminate, group-hugging, Kumbaya-singing version of what the Scriptures say a real church and real leaders should look and sound like.

I'd like to say I feel better after this rant, but quite truthfully, the idea of where the evangelical church is heading with such aversion to standing on solid truth, gives me the creeps. May the tribe of bold men with courage to speak God's truth in God's way, increase in great abundance.


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Monday, May 19, 2008

Seeds of Mercy

And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so. And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good. And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so. And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good. And the evening and the morning were the third day. (Gen. 1:9-13)

You know, there is nothing new under the sun. There is no new thing that I could ever say here at this blog that hasn't been said before, or that could be said by someone far more intelligent and articulate than I will ever be. Be that as it may, there is something about the way God created, the order that He created, and the purpose with which He created, that really seems profound to me. You'll note my emphasis in the above section of the creation record in Genesis.

On the third day of creation (and yes I do believe they were literal, 24 hour days), three days before man was created, God commanded vegetation to appear on the earth. If you drop down to the creation account of man in v.29, you'll note that the reason for the creation of vegetation is stated:

"And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat." (food, consumption)

We all know this, but here's why I find it so profound. Three days before man was ever created, long before Adam sinned and brought sin, sickness and death into our world, God had already created vegetation that would not only serve as food to nourish our bodies, but that would also have medicinal, healing and comforting properties for the illnesses that didn't even EXIST yet, when the vegetation itself was created.

God, in His wisdom and incredible mercy knew full well that man would sin, that sickeness and death would enter the reality of human being's existance, and had already created plants that would be used for medicinal reasons to at least ease the illnesses that were coming.

I'm sure there are probably all kinds of plants that we extract medicines from that I don't even know about, but a few that come to mind are aloe for skin irritations, peppermint and ginger for stomach troubles, and all the common and exotic herbs you can find in various teas. Not to mention all the perscription medications that are actually derived from natural ingredients - or - synthetically reproduced from natural ingredients.

Part of the reason this stands out as profound to me, is that even before God's righteous justice and judgement came down on mankind as a result of Adam's sin, He had already mercifully created natural remedies that would serve to bring some amount of comfort into our world.

I'm not even sure I can really get my thoughts around this, but I know it's clear evidence of the mercy of God, even at the same time as His righteous judgement is on all men.

Simply incredible.

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Saturday, May 17, 2008

No biggie

Just a few things...

• The store's weekly newsletter is up, and we've got a few really fun, brand new designs in Just 4 Fun.

T-Shirt Magazine.com has put Reflections Apparel in their Spotlight this week with an interview with me (that was fun) and highlighting the store. That was pretty cool.

• The brakes on our van went out, and so it sits in the driveway until we can figure out what to do. We live in the country, have only 1 vehicle, and Kev is on vacation for 11 days. At least he's not missing work - that would be much worse. Every plan we had for his time off, is out the window. No going to church, no going to the grocery store, no nuttin'.

I am sufficiently bummed out. This too shall pass, I think?


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Friday, May 16, 2008

Something YOU Need to Hear

In light of the recent decision regarding gay marriage in the state of California, I would strongly encourage all my readers to listen to today's Dividing Line - AND - pass this link on to everyone you know.

Yes, it matters.


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Children: Saved by Grace - Just Like Everyone Else

(Okay, so my fishing trip was cut short, and I'm back. Some day I'll learn that the best laid plans are almost always interrupted by other stuff.)

There is a common thought among Christian parents that the spiritual health (genuine Christian faith) of your child hinges on what YOU do, or don't do, as their parent. While I do believe 100% that we are to be involved in their lives and investing into their lives in all the right ways, I want to emphatically but simply declare one truth:

You can do all the right things, you can read all the right books, you can expose them to the gospel from the cradle, you can pray for their salvation (and you should) you can love your child with your whole heart, but ultimately, the spiritual health of your child is in the hands of God, and ONLY by His regenerating power, will that child love Him, serve Him, and follow Him.

Sometimes I find it a bit of a paradox when Christian people agree with this as it pertains to strangers, friends or non-family members (or other people's children) - but when it's their own children they seem to want to apply a different standard, or make exceptions, or assume in the positive. I suppose part of the reason for this has to do with the deep love that parents do have for their children and assuming the best is something we all really do want to do, but the very real danger there (for both parent and child) is to assume God has a different standard for our children in the first place. He doesn't - and He never has. I'm pretty sure most Christian parents understand that growing up in a Christian home does not seal the salvation of their children, but at the same time the topic does get a little fuzzy when it comes to our own children.

Resting in the sovereignty of God is easy to do when it's at a distance from your own life. When it's not so easy to do, is when Jesus' words ring true in your very home:


Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.
Some years ago, I met a brother online who's four grown children had all turned away from the faith they were raised in. He and his lovely wife were both heartbroken for many years, as all four of their kids who once professed faith in Christ, were model "Christian teenagers" and brought them great joy as parents, dove headfirst into lives of sin and rebellion and denial of Christ. I had met him online, just as their first son repented of years of wicked living, and came to Christ. What this brother and his wife had discovered was that their children had only gone through the motions of making an outward profession, to please their parents, church, and extended church family. Despite raising them up in church, with the truth of the gospel in their home, daily family devotions, summer Bible camps for many years, private Christian schooling, constant prayer for them all; none of them knew the Lord in a saving way. While every parent grows and learns better ways of parenting, for all intents and purposes, this couple did all the "right" things in bringing up their kids in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

For this family coming to the realization that none of their adult children truly knew the Lord (coupled with the blatant, sinful lifestyles they were all living), it was a quadruple heartbreak for them. God, in His astounding grace and mercy however over the next few years, did eventually draw all four of their adult children to Christ and established a spiritual unity in that family that blessed them beyond what they ever expected.

For Christian parents who raise up children that are saved and do know Him, this is a truly wonderful thing. In fact, it is the deepest heart's desire of every believing parent that this will be the outcome of growing up in the gospel. Seeing that hope and that dream come to fruition is a joy and a blessing that has no real measure by this world's standards. The danger however is in the assuming. Assuming the profession of faith is legit, assuming if you do and say all the right things that they'll just get saved, assuming that it's ultimately up to you to begin with.

I certainly don't want to diminish the importance of a solid Christian upbringing because that does matter. In my own life, when I heard the gospel again for the first time at age 29, every gospel message I'd heard as a child in Sunday school, and all the talks I had with my mom about the Bible were all confirmed for me as true. In a type of memory-avalanche, every truth about Christ and Him crucified that I'd ever heard, came flooding back to me on that day when my eyes were finally opened. Having that Christian upbringing made a monumental difference in what I knew and what I understood when I was finally and genuinely converted to Christ. In a very real way, I had sort of a headstart that I am quite thankful for.

At Pulpit Live, there is a rather short, 2 part series called Evangelizing Your Children. If you haven't read it, I'd suggest that you do, and when you do, take these words to heart - because they know what they're talking about over there. In fact, make time to read all the parenting posts there, it will only serve to equip you and bless you.

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

Learning to Love: 101

While life once again has interrupted my plans of some serious spring cleaning both inside and out (and both literal and emotional and spiritual as well), I really must address something that I read yesterday. Joe Carter at the evangelical outpost asks a question that I suppose every Christian privately asks themselves at some point in their walk with God:

"How do we make a friend of someone who chooses to remain an enemy of God?"

I need to address this because it's one of those things that God has been dealing with me on, on a very personal level, for quite some time. I need to address this because Joe wrote:


"On this one, though, I not only don't have an answer; I don't have a clue. Somehow I've managed to spend thirty years as a Christian without learning something so basic as how to truly love an impenitent sinner."
While I will not pretend for a moment that I've learned this well, I can say that it's an ongoing, humbling, learning process that must take place in the life of every Christian, before we can dare say that we're genuinely living the "law of Christ" in loving our neighbor as ourselves. I felt I needed to address this because I think it was really good of Joe to be so honest about this and admit what a lot of Christians aren't comfortable admitting - myself included.

Yesterday at school, Ruth's Bible lesson was on "who is my neighbor?" We read the story of the good Samaritan and then we discussed it afterward. It's a familiar story to every Christian, and one that every child ought to be taught from birth, and have reinforced consistantly throughout childhood so that they grow up understanding the concept of treating others as they ought to be treated simply because all human beings are made in the image of God, and ought to be treated with the same kindness and compassion that we ourselves would hope to be recipients of, when needed.

I think one of the biggest barriers to this however, is the conflict of spirit. As much as any believer may truly desire to love and befriend an impenitant sinner, there will always be this conflict. The one who loves the Lord and desires to live according to His word, is driven by the Holy Spirit of God. The one who loves their own sin and who has made themselves the lord of their own life, is driven by the desires of this world. This is a very real barrier to friendship, since it effectively cuts off a "togetherness" or like-mindedness on various levels. Worldviews, moral issues, relationship issues, spiritual and religious issues and more. Amos 3:3 says "Can two walk together, except they be agreed?" The answer to that question is no. While you can easily have much in common in certain areas, there will always be a certain seperation.

The one who loves their own sin and sinful lifestyle certainly doesn't see it as sinful or wrong, and will by nature be put off by the Christian lifestyle. Likewise, the believer who desires to run from sin and cling to Christ will equally be put off by the sinful lifestyle choices of the unbeliever. There is a wall there that cannot be broken down, but by the grace and mercy of God.

While this is a very real barrier, it is also something that can be worked "around" in a way, but only after a few other barriers are broken down first.

Christian Arrogance

I don't know any Christians that would admit that they have this, but to one degree or another a lot of us do. It's not that we wake up one day and think "today would be a good day to feel holier-than-thou and I think I'll look down my spiritual nose at those outside of Christ". No, it doesn't happen that way at all. I think for a lot of Christians, being so far removed from a life of sin we might begin to insulate ourselves from the former ways, and become so detached and divorced from those still living that way, that we begin to feel a bit of "us and them" or superiority over them (even if we don't admit it). Sadly, pride is natural to all men, and even among Christians sometimes we far too easily forget that were it not for the grace of God, we'd still be living a life of sin ourselves.

Hardened Hearts

If we allow the holier-than-thou attitude to prevail even in the tiniest way without dealing with it by prayer and repentance and humility before God, we'll become hard and harsh and uncaring toward those that are "not like us". In other words, we become the kinds of Christians that non-Christians can't stand to be around. The offense they find is not the natural offense that comes from a sinner confronted by the sinfulness of sin, but they are rightly offended by the ugly and compassionless attitude of a so-called follower of Christ. Unchecked arrogance leads to (among other things) apathy and seperation and this is always a bad thing.

I've only been a Christian for 14 years, so there is still much for me to learn. One of the things I am learning however, is that we have to be very careful in these two areas so that we don't become the person described on those two paragraphs above. We as Christians have to always remember that it was by grace WE were saved, and that while WE were yet sinners, Christ died for us. If we really take that to heart, and we should, it's much easier to have a genuine compassion and care for those outside of Christ. When we truly take into consideration what Christ did for us while we were in the world, loving the things of the world, loving our own sin, rebelling against Him, even mocking what Christianity stands for, it should make us feel very very small, and desirous to show that same kind of care, and love, and compassion on others (even when their sinful lives grieve us, as we all know ours grieved Him).

Sometimes, as it's needed, the Lord will ordain circumstances in a believers life that will break their hearts and cause them to see things in a much different light, before they will ever begin to truly deal with these things. Sometimes, it can be so hard, especially when you didn't know you needed your heart broken to begin to deal with it in your own life. Indeed it is a process, and while it is not always easy, it is what He has called us to do - to love our neighbor.

Something to always keep in mind is that He has called us to love them, the person. He didn't say love their sin, or endorse their opinions, or agree with their choices - He said to love them.



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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Life Happens

I hate fish, so to say "gone fishin'" wouldn't be quite accurate. Instead, I'll just say, I'll be back when the stuff that needs tending to is tended to, the stuff that needs cleaning up is cleaned up, and all that sort of thing. In the meantime, you could all go buy a shirt for yourself or someone else and I'd be real happy. (click the spiffy graphic below)


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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Culture Crash: Racy Profiling

There are a lot of Christians who have their finger on the pulse of North American popular culture, trends, entertainment news, cutting edge technologies, and the like. They know who's who, what's what, where to shop for the best high tech toy at the best price, and all that sort of thing. These are people who have the time to invest in that sort of thing, and they offer a great service to the rest of the Christian community by doing what they do.

I however, am not one of those people. I don't have time or the ability to do those things, because I have a lot of laundry, grocery lists to make, kids to teach, and things to dust. In no way am I minimizing the work I do as a stay at home mom/homeschool teacher. I'm simply saying that my role is much different than someone else's role - and that due to the nature of the work I do, I just don't have time for other things. I don't watch daytime tv, since daytime is when we're in school. I don't watch the vast majority of prime time tv, since the vast majority of it repulses me as a Christian. I have intentionally limited my "exposure" to pop-culture because instead, I fill my time with more wholesome things. Some would argue that this is sticking my head in the sand, while others would point out that wallowing in filth only makes one filthy. Everyone has to make the right choices for them, and this is the right choice for me.

Quite often, I'll read something in the news or hear about something that is either setting a trend in pop culture, or in some other way influencing the way young people think about a variety of morality/lifestyle issues. I read one such thing today and while I was not in the least surprised by it, I was indeed repulsed by it.

In a recent article on the changing dynamics within the structure of young, homosexual marriage, Albert Mohler wrote:
"We are living in the midst of vast cultural change. It is almost as if an entire civilization is being transformed before our eyes." (source)

I would go a step further than Mohler and say it's not "almost" as if, but rather it simply is.

What I read this morning is likely old news to some people, but as I stated earlier, I don't follow pop culture and I'm sure there are a lot of things going on within it, that I am completely ignorant of (and truthfully, that's not always such a bad thing). In brief, I read a news blip about a pop culture bi-sexual icon who is a self-made celebrity, mostly via her website. In short, she posted all kinds of sleezy pictures of herself in various stages of undress, and both men (of all ages) and women (and teenage girls) flocked to her site to be her "friend". Without linking to her page or giving her name, I will simply say that even with safe-search filtering for explicit images on, google will display pictures of this young woman that I wouldn't want my kids (or my husband) to see. Obviously it's time to upgrade the filter to the most strict level, since nearly nude pictures of people are not something I want flashing onto my screen when my kids often read over my shoulder as I work or read online.

The thing is, the way this young woman is posed in the pictures google flashed on my screen, reminded me of pictures of young women I see ALL the time on various social networking sites. Young women and teenage girls of all ages and from all walks of life, setting up their own photoshoots to make themselves appear alluring, desirable, beautiful and sexy. From elaborate backgrounds to barely-there clothing options, to intentional poses and facial expressions, and A WHOLE LOT of photoshop editing going on - the whole picture is a set-up, to get attention. Sadly, some of the girls who do this are girls I know in real life (you know, offline, not some phoney screen-name "friend" you wouldn't know if you walked right past on the street), and I know for a fact that what they look like in real life, is NOTHING like that they pretend to be online, or what photoshop magically transforms them into. (I work with photoshop every day, I can spot an edit a mile away).

The girls who do this, do it for one reason: attention. They want to feel and look beautiful, and they want others to compliment them on their picture. It's a real ego builder, and they feed on it. Truthfully, anyone would.

The saddest thing is, that they seek this kind of attention in the first place in this way and that they GET it, in all the wrong ways. They've convinced themselves that being themselves just isn't enough, so they have to go the extra mile and take/create these kinds of pictures of themselves and post them for all to see.

I've known for a long time that the internet, used wrongly, can be a most addictive and destructive tool in the lives of many people. More and more, it just proves itself out. More and more I shake my head in disbelief that some day (very soon) I'm actually going to have to talk to my 10, 9, 7 and 4 year old kids and actually have to say "no, taking your clothes off for internet profile pictures is VERY bad thing, and here's why".

You would think that such conversations would never truly need to take place. Apparently, since all you have to do is cruise through any "social networking" site to see it for yourself, these conversations haven't taken place often enough.

Yes indeed, it IS a matter of an entire civilization that HAS transformed before our very eyes. God help us to live and love in a righteous and moral and modest way, and raise our kids to run far & fast from these destructive and demoralizing pop cultural trends, and trendsetters.


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Reminder: God's Ways Are Always Good

Sometimes, you get a little taste of something and it's SO amazingly delicious, you immediately want more. Scripture is like that for me.

Yesterday, a dear friend reminded me of a verse that brings her great comfort, and as I re-read it I read the surrounding context of the verse.

The Bible always applies to our lives, but there are some days, some circumstances, some thoughts and some deeply troubling moments when you read a verse or passage and it just ministers right to the very core of what you're experiencing at that slice of time. This particular passage did that for me yesterday:

Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it. (Isaiah 55:6-11)

I'm so glad that God's timing is always perfect, in all that He does. Even in reminding me of what I already knew, but needed to hear again.


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Sunday, May 11, 2008

Simple Quotes, Simple Joys

I read something the other day that really encouraged me. When it comes to being a mother, I know my own strengths and weaknesses quite well, and the weaknesses desperately grieve me. Those are the areas I pray about each day, and I hope that some day the Lord will see fit to "grow" me up. So when I read the following quote recently, I was just so blessed by it.


"The success in a family is first off, a love for God, and secondly, treating each other like you want to be treated," Jim Bob Duggar said. "Our goal is for each one of our children to be best friends, and everybody working together to serve each other makes that happen." - Jim Bob Duggar, husband of Michelle Duggar - who is due with child #18, in January 2009. You can read more about the Duggar family here.
I first read about the Duggar family several years ago (when some smart-alec sent me a link about them and said something like "and you think YOU'VE got lots of laundry!?"). I've read about how they run their household, how much they all eat (and may I say, GACK their grocery bill is insane?) and how the homeschooling all works out for them. Truth be told, that family has a monumental advantage over most families, in that they have quite a fantastic set-up, that they call home. But the one thing about that family that I admire a great deal, is their love for one another. No question they probably have the same kinds of "family issues" with one another as any family does, but that love they have is pretty obvious in the interviews they give.

My dear friend Kim, who only WISHES she had 18 children (*snort) has made the same sort of comment to me (that Jim Duggar has often been quoted as saying) before about families and children especially, learning how to serve one another. Sometimes, when someone says something it's so simple, and yet so profound at the same time, it really sticks with you. This is one of those "things".

A love for God, treating each other with respect, and serving each other. Amazingly simple, and yet astoundingly NOT done by the vast majority of families. It's definitely something we're much more mindful of now, than we were even five years ago. It's definitely something we've been praying about much more often, in just the last year.

On Friday night while daughter #5 was at a play with her friend, daughter #4 and I spent some girl-time in the kitchen making cookies. When the first batch was done, we put some on the nice dishes and placed them on a tray, so that she could be the waitress. She was very proud of her first time cookies, and happy to serve them to her family.

I found it exceptionally touching today then, when we arrived home from church to see a great big trampoline sitting in our front yard (and when I say big, I mean HUGE). When we came inside and found daughter #1 and her boyfriend inside, we learned that they arrived right after we left for Sunday school, and spent the morning setting this up for the kids (not an easy thing to do when the wind is blowing like crazy). The looks on the younger four kid's faces, was absolutely priceless, and by the end of the day they had all spent about 6 hours on this thing. I'd say it was a big hit.

If that wasn't a great enough gift today, on Mother's Day, when I was leaving #2 daughter's house this evening, my absolutely, fantastically beautiful grand-daughter looked at me and tilted her little head to the side and waving, said "bye-bye gamma". I melted, of course. That was the first time she said "gamma", so I had to come back inside and give her great big hugs and kisses.

The greatest gift I think I've ever received on Mother's Day, was in seeing my kids mindful of one another and doing it with real joy - not out of any obligation at all (as in "you'd better be nice to your sister, and enjoy it, or else!") To top that off with hearing my grand-muffin call me gamma, just made this the best Mother's Day I think I've ever had.

I think now, I'll end the day with a pineapple hot-caramel sundae and my new John MacArthur book. Yeah, that sounds really good.



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Saturday, May 10, 2008

What IS Sin?

In the comment section of this post, there have been some pretty great comments made. If you haven't read it, I'd strongly suggest it. This is where today's post is coming from, but to lay out the context I have to quote a few segments of comments so it'll all make sense.

In the comments there, Eric says this:


"In short, I am simply attempting to convey that distasteful music choices are merely a symptom of many other underlying issues, and treating the symptom on its own is likely going to be counterproductive."

I replied:


"The draw that rebellious, angry, self-centered music has on people (young or old) is indeed a symptom of a much deeper issue. If you are looking at the situation from Christian worldview, you'll recognize immediately that this deeper issue is a sin issue and a proclivity to follow after the sinful avenue. Of course it's tempting, the Scripture is very clear (and we can all attest to this) that sin is indeed pleasurable - for a time. It's still sin, however. The earlier that kids understand this, learn how to recognize it and avoid it, the better for them."
Eric replied to that last statement and asked:


"Unfortunately (and perhaps obviously) I do not see from a Christian world-view. After reading this a few times, I would like to know what your definition of sin is. From my own understanding, sin is an act, or (in my psychological terms) overt, observable behaviour, that is judged as wrong. With this definition, I would still consider sin to be a symptom of another issue. However, I get the sense that you have a different definition, and would like to know what it is. "
Now that, is really a great question. How do you define sin, in the context that it is a sin issue that compels people to seek out sinful forms of entertainment (such as certain types of music)?

Well, the more I thought about this question, the more obvious it became to me that you have to back up first, and explain sin from the beginning - before it will make sense as to the "now" or in the context of daily lifestyle choices. I don't mean to sound condescending when I say that, so I sure hope it doesn't come across that way. It just doesn't seem right to me to jump in "in the middle" and explain something without the vital background.

In our Bible class for school several years ago we had a course that taught the Westminster Shorter Catechism. I found this a very useful tool for helping the kids understand critical points of Christian doctrine, in a way that even helped me as an adult. As to the question of "what IS sin?":


Q. 14. What is sin?
A. Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God. (Leviticus 5:17. And if a soul sin, and commit any of these things which are forbidden to be done by the commandments of the LORD; though he wist it not, yet is he guilty, and shall bear his iniquity. James 4:17. Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin. 1 John 3:4. Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.)

The thing about this answer is, is that is will quite likely bring more questions. I remember when I heard it for the first time, I had questions. When we went through the WSC at school, the kids had more questions when it came to this definition. Question 13 just before it tells us how sin came into the world, then 14 defines it, and the next several questions address how that affects us, how God views it, and more. It's a really great tool for teaching, and for summarizing what Scripture teaches about key Christian doctrines.

Due solely to the fact that I am incredibly long winded, my definition would certainly include the breaking of God's law by either omission or comission, but I'd have to give a bit of further explaination, such as; we sin when we either do, say or think something that God's law says we should not do, or when we DON'T do, say or think something that God's law says we should be doing.

So then, why are we like this, and why is God's law the standard by which our lives are being measured?

God's law is our standard because He is the one who created us. The WSC addresses this in the first three questions:


Q. 1. What is the chief end of man?
A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.
Q. 2. What rule hath God given to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him?
A. The Word of God, which is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him.
Q. 3. What do the Scriptures principally teach?
A. The Scriptures principally teach, what man is to believe concerning God, and what duty God requires of man.
Man's #1 purpose in life is to not only exalt, glorify and magnify God, but to also enjoy Him, forever! The very God that created us - and sustains our every breath and every heartbeat - also wants us to not only know Him but to enjoy that fellowship with Him, forever. He also gave us Holy Scripture to understand what we should believe about Him, what we need to understand about ourselves, and what we should do about that. I find that pretty incredible that the God that created us did this, and desires this from His creation.

The problem with this is, man is totally depraved (meaning, every part of man is affected by sin; intellect, rationale, reasoning, emotion, spiritual condition even physical condition) and can't glorify God OR enjoy Him on his own OR believe what the Bible says about either Him, or man.

Why?

Adam, our representative head and first man, was given the liberty to make his own choices in the garden. One of those choices was to sin against God. When he did that, all humanity fell into a state of sin, right along with him. Adam's choice left a mark on humanity that resulted in the spiritual deadness and blindness of every human being from that point onward. In a very similar way that you might inherit green eyes or blonde hair from your parents, you also have a spiritual heritage in Adam, in that you and I and every other person ever born, are born physically alive, but spiritually dead, blind, and in rebellion against the the things of God.

It's that spiritual deadness that is at the root of why we sin against God. When we do what we ought not do, or don't do what we ought to do, as an unbeliever, we're doing it because we are in fact slaves to our very nature. We can't do anything BUT sin against God, because it's who and what we are; we are sinners, therefore we sin. Just as a cat cannot change itself into a dog, a spiritually dead man cannot give himself spiritual life and change his own nature. That act has to come from the supernatural working of the Holy Spirit of God.

When, as a Christian and a believer, we sin against God, it's because we are still struggling against and battling against that old sin nature, even after becoming born again or regenerated spiritually by the Holy Spirit. The unbeliever will sin against God and not even realize or acknowledge that this is what he is doing, because there is no righteousness/sinfulness basis for him to view this by. For him, it's just a matter of choices, likes, dislikes, opinions, etc.

When the believer sins against God it's because he's given in to his own sinful desires rooted in that first nature and done or thought or said the very thing he wanted to do, without regard to whether that thing was good and right, or not. The book of James tells us "But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed." (James 1:14). Simply put, we sin because we want to.

Now, to put this all into the context of how sinful desires are what lead people into sinful choices, such as undesirable musical content.

In the most subtle but very common examples, you could select any rebellious young person (rebellion alone is sin) full of self-absorbed attitude (also sinful) toward any kind of correction (yep, more sin). That person is already primed for hearing a song that speaks to this very attitude and tells them it's OKAY to have that attitude, that parents are stupid, God is not real, please yourself, get revenge, do whatever you want, etc. so on and so on and so forth. That song, and all the others just like it, are going to attract that rebellious young person because it's a voice that validates how they already feel. So yes indeed in this situation, the choice to listen to this kind of music is in fact a symptom of something deeper than just musical preference.

Depending on that young person's spiritual condition (either an unbeliever or immature Christian struggling big time with the old sin nature), they will either continue to feed themselves with this kind of destructive music (it definitely will not help them, it will only fuel a fire already burning), or they will be convicted by the Holy Spirit that the whole attitude to begin with was purely selfish and wrong, and they'll eventually dump the music along with the attitude, and truly repent of that sin. The latter example is a very real one that describes a lot of Christians I've known over the years. Many will testify to just what a stronghold ungodly music once was, in their lives.

The unbeliever, on the other hand, will quite often just find some sort of humanistic numbing solution to his problems, something that makes him feel better about himself and carry on with his life - still rejecting God and never once addressing or even admitting that he has a sin issue to begin with, because he's spiritually dead in the first place, and blind to the things of God, and put off by the very suggestion of turning TO God, for his answers.

That answer, to the sin issue? God's answer is found in faith in what Christ did, in our place. If someone doesn't understand that, I would suggest reading Romans 5, and the gospel of John, for starters. The word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Heb. 4:12) There is just no way in the world I could have ever said that any better than this.

I hope I have Biblically, fairly and adequately addressed this. This is a gigantic subject, and one that I'm not 100% certain that even I can adequately address, so I hope that I have been able to do that. While I am indeed certain of my own faith, I'm not all that certain of my ability to express it to others. I suspect this will probably raise even more questions, and as always, I welcome input and feedback, and those questions.

(I may not have opportunity to get back to this today - connectivity is still brutally unstable, and the sun is shining and the lawn needs a haircut.)



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Friday, May 9, 2008

Spring

You've heard of synchronized swimming?

Well, I think this is sort of a variation of that:



Doggy Days



Synchronized Spring Lawn Rolling?


I've spent some good time outside this week taking pictures and just enjoying the fantastic weather. You can see more of my recent pics here.



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Open Doors: Movies and Television

(This is the second in the Open Doors series - you can read the intro here, and part one here)

Depending on the kind of cable or satellite package you have, there are some really great tv channels and movie channels you can have in your house. From the comfort of your own home, you can sit with your family and watch some spectacular documentaries, historical biographies, the original Pink Panther cartoons, or some of the most fantastic movies ever made. Really, having a tv in your house can be a wonderful thing - if used properly.

It can also be a really bad thing, and every parent already knows this.

What kids don't know, and what teenagers don't know (as much as they will argue with you about what it is that they do know) is that what they watch on tv slowly becomes a part of them, just as much as what they listen to on the radio or via their iPods. They will want to deny this with their very last breath however, because they honestly do see themselves as individual thinkers. The very idea that their minds are susceptable to this kind of influence is an insult to them. Well, welcome to reality, it can be pretty ugly.

Something I have told all my kids for as long as I can remember, is that there is a reason why companies go to the lengths they do, and spend the kind of money they spend on advertising. They do it because they want to land the best campaign to convince YOU, to buy their product, wear their apparel, drive their cars, or shop in their stores. They do this because it works, and it makes money for THEM. They'll use all kinds of tricks too, to make their product memorable to you. Betty Crocker is famous for creating this picturesque environment of a loving, inviting, warm, happy home - as long as you're baking a chocolate cake. As silly as that sounds, it actually works - to get us all to buy that brand. From catchy jingles for antacid tablets, to "where's the beef?", to beautiful Clydesdale horses for selling beer, just about every national product out there has a memorable ad campaign geared directly to influencing the buying public - and it works. We are very easily influenced, no matter how much we'd prefer to think of ourselves as being able to think for ourselves.

TV shows and movies work in very much the same way. They have a story to tell, or an image to sell, and they want us to believe it. They want it to be so appealing, that we'll watch it again and again, buy it on dvd, and tune in every week when it's on.

The difference between ad campaigns for products and tv shows and movies, is that one just wants our money, and the other wants our attention. Where they are exactly the same, is that they will indeed affect our thinking, and influence us toward that object (whether it's a Barbie doll or a tv show about sleezy beach babes).

Without coming across as overly-conspiracy theory or paranoid, the truth is, is that there is a battleground out there in TVland for your kids. TV show producers don't care how you're raising your kids, THEY want your kids to like their shows no matter what the content is. That content ranges from evolutionary teachings, to paganistic tree hugging messages, to occultic and/or atheistic overtones. In younger children's television programming and movies, most of those messages are often still rather subtle and veiled (obviously Harry Potter and that genre are excempt, since there is nothing subtle about that), but as a discerning parent it's rather easy to spot them. Add to this mix, kid tv shows where the stars of the shows are kids themselves, and kids with a smart mouth, rotten attitude, disrespect for parents, kids who lie at the drop of a hat, skip school, betray their best friend or bully others on the playground - and you've got a nice balance of ample trash all vying for your kid's attention.

If that's not bad enough, the tv shows and movies aimed at the pre-teen and teen crowd only get worse. They zero in on all the things that we as Christian parents teach our kids are immoral, and they promote it as normal, acceptable, and common. Getting drunk, doing drugs, sexual promiscuity, homosexuality, lying, betrayal, gossip, slander, narcissistic "me first" attitudes, and more. In fact, if you lined up "works of the flesh" (Gal. 5:19-21) with the plot line of any tv show or movie aimed at teenagers, I think you might be surprised at just how many of those character traits are portrayed and actually promoted. It's always a pleasant surprise when a movie aimed at the teen crowd actually defies this, since it's something producers have been aiming for, for decades. (Rembember the slasher flick popularity that began in the 70's? Target audience: teenagers. Main themes: sex, deception, violence & death.)

Not that long ago, my 17 year old was flipping through the channels one night to find something to watch. She stopped on what I call a Skank Show. Then she flipped the channel to another Skank Show, and then yet another one. On these particular shows, the combined plot lines went like this:

One of the teenage girls had slept with another one's boyfriend, and he was actually gay, but hadn't come out of the closet yet (he did later, to a very accepting and supportive group of friends and family and school), so she was hatching some vile scheme to get back at her and ruin her life (and it did, and she tried to commit suicide). Another character on one of the shows couldn't handle teenage life anymore so she consoled herself with sleeping with older, married and unmarried men & staying high on drugs all the time. Not only were the entire plot lines pure trash on all the shows, but the language used was vulgar and profane, the Lord's name taken in vain CONSTANTLY on all the shows, by all the characters, and the way the girls were dressed in various scenes on one of the shows (the setting was a beach city in California) would make a pole-dancer blush.

Now keep in mind, on all three of these shows, the main setting was highschool, and the main story lines seemed to revolve around girls. Girls in highschool are between 14 and 17 years old, and these are VERY popular shows (at least here in Canada). So this is the kind of tv show that teenage girls get to watch these days where every possible "work of the flesh" is promoted as normal, common, and even desirable.

So, mom... dad... what do you do?

Ideally, you're reading this when your kids are little and you can begin to really invest the time into watching their shows and movies with them, so that you know what they're watching and can talk to them about it. In doing that, by the time time they're teenagers they already have a habit in practice of questioning what it is they're watching (or being tempted to watch) and can think about these things.

Just the same as music influence, you have to be willing to talk to them & willing to enter into what might be a bit of confrontation & disagreements. Ask them why they're watching that, ask them what about it they find exciting or entertaining. Ask them if they honestly think the way these young people act on these shows is the way the Lord would have them act, or set before their eyes as examples. Be prepared for teen-logic to come into play here, such as "it's just a show" and "they're just actors, they're not like this in real life". Be prepared to answer those questions. In addition, be prepared to hear some rather pleasant surprises. It's not all bad, when dealing with teenagers!

Even more importantly, you have to be willing to be the bad guy and simply turn it off and not allow it in your house - with a very thorough explaination as to why. These visual images combined with the high-drama and intrigue can be even more destructive and addicting than music can. Sometimes, you just have to be the "bad guy" for the best interest of your kids, even if they don't understand it. In doing this, a lot of people will counter with "but, if you outright ban it from your home, that will make it even more tempting and they'll go after it!" That's actually not always true. Not all teenagers run after destructive things. Some kids might do that, but the painful truth of the matter is, those kids would have done that anyway, if that's where their heart was leading them. Your job is to have the courage to BE the parent, and do what YOU know is right for your kids.

Don't take this influence lightly. Sure, it's "just a show" and sure it may be "just a movie" but the enemy wouldn't be more pleased if you'd just slack off and let your impressionable teenagers fill their minds with blatant examples of exactly how NOT to act, or think of themselves or others.

No, taking this lightly or ignoring it is definitely not something you want to do as a parent.



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Thursday, May 8, 2008

Open Doors: Music

This is the first in a series that I referred to yesterday, on "open doors" when it comes to Christian parenting. Influences that will affect your parenting, and the minds of your children, that we all have to be mindful of. I certainly don't have all the answers but I do have some thoughts on this that I hope you find helpful. As always, I'd love to hear from you, on these things.
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When I was a teenager, I liked the kind of music that made my mom cringe. Mom was country, I was rock 'n roll, and never the 'twain shall meet, except for a few very talented southern rock bands/artists such as Neil Young and Lynyrd Skynyrd. Still, in those days (it wasn't really that long ago, I'm referring to the period between about 1976-1982), there was a big difference between Southern Rock and Country Western. I think that's changed quite a bit over the last two decades.

The reason it made mom cringe, aside from the style that she just didn't like, were the lyrics. Not so much the actual words themselves, but the way that she couldn't understand them. To her, the way these songs were sung they were unintelligable garbly-glop and it made her dislike the music. As a teenager I thought it was sort of humorous that my mom didn't know the words, but the truth is... there were more than a few times I read the lyrics myself on an album cover only to realize I song I had been singing along to, was actually saying something else. Yes, in a few cases I had what is known as Chronic Lyricosis, and sang the wrong words to the song. I'm fairly certain that there were quite a few songs I wouldn't have known what they were saying either, if I hadn't read the album covers.

If that were the only problem with musical styles between parents and teenagers, we could all pack it up and go home right now. If that were the only problem with music, it would be a welcome relief.

For those that love music, or are related to someone who does, we all know just how powerful music can be. It can bless your heart when you're sad, it can make you cry when you least expect it, and it can quite literally change the way you think, the way you act, and the way you speak. It is an incredibly powerful medium, and almost everyone in the world is affected by it in one way or another.

How Christian parents balance a love for music, and an encouragement to explore and appreciate all kinds of different music, with the powerful influence that music has, is the real trick. You might like your kids to discover the beauty of music, but at the same time you can neither be too lenient and let them listen to/buy whatever they want, nor can you be so restrictive and only allow them A, B, or C. It's a very difficult area to balance, for a lot of different reasons.

I know a pastor who is pro-actively involved in the homeschooling of his girls, and who also loves music. He wants his girls to be critical thinkers when it comes to musical choices (and life choices in general as well) so he's devised a type of musical curriculum for them to learn how to do this. On each of their iPods, he pre-loaded numerous selections of different genres. From rock, to jazz, opera, hymns, alternative, and more. He shared with me that as a part of their "music class", what they do is listen together to the same song, and then have discussion about it. How was the song arrainged? Was it comforting, exciting, depressing, angry or other? What did the lyrics say, and what did they mean? Were they God honoring, or neutral, or blatantly anti-God?

When I first learned of this approach, I really liked it. It not only teaches younger minds to explore music, but to question what it is about the music that they like. Most of us I'm sure don't really know why we like what we do, we just know that we do and that's good enough.

One of the most dangerous trends I've seen with my own kids and people their age, is the affect that popular music has on them. Popular music has always had an influence on young people (my generation included) but the lyrics and the arraignment of today's music is far more "in your face" and anti-God, than it ever was in my time. Sure there were the Satanic, European death metal groups in the 70's, but they certainly weren't "popular" and/or listened to by the mainstream teenager world. They were just creepy and most of us thought so then, and still think so now.

Today's popular music teaches girls that it's okay to have pre-marital sex, get drunk & do drugs, and act like a common prostitute. It teaches boys that it's okay to treat girls like that, and for both of them it teaches that it's acceptable to spit in the face of authority, from your parents to police, to teachers and God Himself. Now, before I start sounding really ancient (or like Tipper Gore), let me just say that I only wish I were making this stuff up. The difference between the "rebellious" musical content that parents railed about in the 50's and 60's, is that back then the message was often veiled or candy-coated in the songs, and it wasn't the MAIN message in the majority of popular songs. Today, this IS the message and the main theme of popular music. It's not candy-coated but spelled out in vulgar and profane lyrics, and it conveys an unmistakable message that it's OKAY to be this way.

Unfortunately, this is the music that young people want to listen to. These are the songs they download and fill their mp3 players with, the ones on the radio constantly and these are the bands that are playing at the concerts they want to go to. You can see the influence this music has on their dress, their attitudes, and their language. Just like every generation of teenagers, the music they listen to is reflected in who they are. Not only do they emulate the message of the songs they hear, they also mimic the singers themselves, and will often begin to dress differently. Those singers are their role models, so it's a normal progression for them to do this. (Yes, my generation and my friends did it too, there was a time where we all looked like roadies for a rock band - and we didn't come up with that look on our own, let me tell you that!)

So then, the real dilema for parents is this: where do you draw the line? Do you put your foot down and say "this trash will not be allowed in my house, ever" ?? The argument could easily be made for this, if say for example, what they were listening to was one of those Satanic death metal bands I mentioned above. No question you'd not allow that in your house, right? But this is popular music and what "everyone" is listening to and you're just being an old geezer and trying to ruin their life if you lay down that law. So then, do you just trust in the way you raised them that they're smart enough to discern the trash from the good and let them buy/listen to whatever they want? You might do this, and find out a year or two down the road that the wicked messages in those songs were far more attractive than the morality that you raised them with. By then it's too late and they can't "unhear" what they've already heard, and allowed to become part of their very personal expression.

The balance is simple, really. It's also very complicated too, because you're definitely going to get some disagreements from your teenagers.

You talk to them.

Ask them what that lyric said, or what it meant. Ask them why they like that style of music, and if they think it's pleasing to God, a sort of "neutral" area, or blatantly anti-God or anti-Christian morality. Be prepared for some answers you might not have expected too, because eventually they will come. Also be prepared to have to make some choices that they're not going to like when you DO have to say, regarding certain music, that it will not be permitted in your house. They will dislike this, but as the parent you know far better than they do what is absolute poision to their souls, and what they are not old enough and mature enough to discern for themselves. Don't just lay down the law with an iron fist though - but tell them why. Read the lyrics yourself, or better yet have them read the lyrics outloud to you, and your spouse. So much of today's music is so filled with vulgarity and profanity, that it's a good bet your teenager would be quite reluctant to actually read them outloud to you. When they are reluctant, ask them why they're willing to sing along with it, but have a hard time reading them outloud without the driving beat in the background. That will make for a very interesting conversation indeed.

The teenage years are a time of your kids discovering who they are, what they like, where they're going and why. It's a rough time, and whether they admit it or not, they NEED a strong support that helps them through it, helps them think things through, and not just follow the trend of the day - whether that's music or any other trend. The more you encourage them to think about these things and not just zone out and take them in, the better for them in the long run.

The more you take this as serious as it is, and start this kind of interaction with them about music even when they're 6 or 8 years old, the easier those conversations will be by the time they're teenagers. I only wish I knew 20 years ago, what I know now.


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