Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Abdicated Discipleship

This week I read an article at The Wall Street Journal, spring-boarding from Rick Santorum’s recent controversies about birth control to a commentary on the societal effects of contraceptives.  For my purposes, I’m going to sum up part of their report:

            Before birth control, women stipulated that they would only have sex with a man willing to take care of any resulting children (either only married sex or sex with the promise of marriage should she conceive). 

            After birth control and legal abortion, many women became willing to have sex, feeling like there was less potential responsibility attached. 

            These women’s willingness to fornicate raised the pressure on other women to also fornicate – even when they were less able to use birth control, or unwilling to abort.  Men began expecting sex as part of a premarital relationship – and if one woman wasn’t willing to give it, they could leave her and find someone who was, without commitment.  Why sacrifice yourself to take on the responsibilities of marriage? 

As I read the above view of history, my brain worked to find the solution.  Obviously my hope is to marry a good man who believes that sex is sacred to marriage, and hasn’t jumped on board with the trends in this country. 

Men in the secular world pressure women to have sex or do without relationships.  Men in the secular world make marriage hard to come by.  But what’s the excuse for men in the Church?  Why is marriage hard to come by for a Christian woman? 

The norm, the expectation, for a man living in the United States is to go through a series of dating relationships, enjoying the benefits of intimacy, eventually getting around to marriage when he’s been with a woman for a long time and has a good job to (not support her and her children; she works and there will be far less children than in marriages of the past; but:) fund the engagement ring, wedding, and honeymoon.  Men in this country are not taught self control or responsibility – nor the value of marriage and fatherhood (only obligations of the two).  They are not equipped. 

Because our secular world doesn’t tell stories about good men pursuing women with purity, marrying them, and fathering children – our Christian men are also unequipped.  No one is training the men outside the Church, so the men inside the Church aren’t being taught the necessary life skills either. 

Isn’t that last point part of a much bigger problem?  Since when did the Church depend so much on the unchristian world to teach and disciple people?  Why don’t we have an alternative story, an alternative school of sorts? 

Is it because the Church has made it our goal to blend with the world around us?  Is it because we have refused to be separate and holy, refused to be creative, and refused to labor in building the kingdom of God?  We convert citizens of the world to belong to the kingdom of God – but is our task to transform their institutions as well?  Or have we been given a different kind of material to build a completely unique society?  Are we building their culture or God’s? 

In God’s kingdom, singleness has great value – not in avoiding responsibility and commitment, but in refocusing those virtues to the building of this other culture.  In God’s kingdom, marriage is part of the typological design, where institutions and interactions breathe testimony to and imitation of the love of God.  It is to be sought and desired by those called thereto, prepared for and invested in.  Bearing children in a stable family is made to bring the next humans up in the fear and admonition of the Lord.  It is not supposed to be a regrettable consequence of giving in to lust. 

Are there common features of the Christian community and the kingdom of the world to which the Church has lazily abdicated its roles?  Of course.  One of the powerful tactics of our Enemy (against whom we are supposed to be waging offensive war – in other words, building God’s kingdom for His purposes using His ways) is to take things that were created to be an instrument in the godly culture, and to take them out of their context and twist them just enough that they are ineffective.  By doing this, he gives people the impression that they are still practicing the good things God ordained.  They are also in little danger of those practices accomplishing what God intended them for.  And the more we get used to the twists and decontextualizations, the more the Enemy can bring the things farther away and the more he can morph what they actually are, still lying that they are the things we read in the Bible. 

1 Corinthians 10:31, “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.

1 Timothy 4:4-5, “For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving:  For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.

To God be all glory.

Thursday, March 15, 2012


I’ve been reading Job.  One of the Bible's most complex poetry books, about suffering, usually attracts people when they feel afflicted.  That’s not really why I started in on it this time.  Job is one of my favorite books, mostly for the last few chapters at the end.  (The discourses in the middle typically confuse me.)  This month some friends have been talking about sermons they heard about Job at their church.  On a quiet night a few weeks ago I turned on an online audio Bible.  As I listened, Job 13 resonated with me.  In one verse, I felt like Job summed up his plea.  He said that he wanted to ask and have God answer - either that or for God to speak and Job to get to listen.  This righteous man had lost almost everything, and what he wanted most was not to get everything back, but to know God better than he ever had. 

So I’m excited to read Job each night, delighted that it makes more sense to me than it ever has.  Here is this man I feel I can really respect.  You may have encountered in your life the scarcity of godly older men to be examples of faith.  And here he is.  This man isn’t all about doing – though he makes it clear he knows right from wrong, and has spent much of his life pursuing goodness.  Job was interested in knowing God more.  The more I read, the more I see it.  Even if by coming to him, God was going to humble Job and reveal his sin and judge him, Job was willing to take that risk for the chance of knowing God.  I know the end of the story. 

As I read of Job pleading for God to visit him, I get excited about the moment when God does all that Job asks.  YHWH Almighty comes and reveals His glorious wisdom to Job.  He asks questions and Job answers.  Then at last Job is content.  Then Job lays his hand over his mouth and says “How can I reply?”  All along Job has wanted to know who he was, especially relating to God.  He knows now.  He responds with more humble worship. 

The end of it all is that God is pleased with Job’s faith.  The man who met with God (perhaps more a theme of the Old Testament than I ever noticed before) is restored.  Blessings of prosperity, family, and usefulness to others’ spiritual lives return upon Job.  I assume the devil was astounded by this incredible mercy, that mere man may speak with God and live.  Take away the hedge God had placed around Job, and God surrounds the righteous man with His own presence.  This is not only Job’s heart; it is God’s as well. 

To God be all glory.

Not Knowing Right Away

When I was in junior high, I remember telling a Bible study leader that if a Christian was walking with God, she wouldn’t have to “pray about it” before she knew whether God wanted her to do something or not; she would already know.  Back then I was pretty biblically ignorant, and didn’t have much experience as a Christian trying to walk with God.  I don’t agree with what I said then.  Sometimes, no matter how closely you are walking with God, He wants you to wait on Him, to seek Him.  So He is quiet on what you should do, for a while. 

To God be all glory.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Soda Pop

Where to begin?

Ever since I was little, I've enjoyed pop.  My favorite (probably because that's what my parents let me have) was Caffeine Free Pepsi.  When I got older, and started eating combos at fast food places, I began to enjoy the extra bite of regular Pepsi.  Coke doesn't compare.  Caffeine Free Coke is even worse.  Cherry Coke is tolerable as a substitute.  Dr. Pepper is my second favorite.  I don't touch Mountain Dew.  And Sprite is for treating illness or spicing punch.

this boycott out about Pepsi, and I've reluctantly joined.  At first I figured I'd just ignore it, but Pepsico was so blatantly not sorry, so flaunting of its research endeavors, that I just had to write them and tell them that, sad as I am, I'm not buying their products anymore.  I even wrote my three favorite grocery stores to tell them about why I'm not buying Pepsi from them anymore.  And before you try to gently reassure me that drinking Pepsi is ok, Pepsi is lying to people who write to them.  There are legal documents establishing Pepsi's connection with Senomyx, and what techniques that company uses to test its flavors.  Also, I know that Pepsi owns almost everything, and that I'm very unlikely to be boycotting all of Pepsi.  I'm focusing on not buying or consuming Pepsi drinks.

A few years ago I drastically cut back on my soda intake.  Late last year I fasted from it altogether for a few weeks.  I can do it.  When I get to craving pop, I know that I can substitute something else with lots of flavor - or preemptively drink so much water that I'm not even thirsty.

Soda is not so good for you, though it does have its tummy-settling uses, and it is a yummy way to consume caffeine (to treat headaches or heavy eyelids).  With government-run healthcare coming soon to a doctor’s office near you, I am starting to lean more towards a healthy lifestyle, avoiding the need for a doctor as much as possible.  So I have been trying to slowly cut back on my intake of things like high fructose corn syrup and other highly processed foods, eating fruits and vegetables and grains instead. 

I went on a search for some inexpensive “natural” soda, for those days when I decide to do the less healthy thing and splurge.  Safeway’s Refreshe brand has a natural soda.  But it only comes in four flavors: Cola, Lemon Lime, Root Beer, and Strawberry Kiwi.  The Cola flavor is ok, but not wonderful. 

So I have a plan.  I’m going to make Cherry Cola.  Natural.  I found bottled Black Cherry juice concentrate (not frozen) from Knudsen at Sprout’s this week.  And I bought some.  I figure a teaspoon or less per glass should sufficiently flavor my soda, but I’m going to start experimenting soon. 

To God be all glory. 

Friday, March 09, 2012

Temptation Makes Sin Manifest

I’m not perfect, you know.  But my YHWH is merciful.  One of the ways that He demonstrates His mercy is by revealing my sin to me.  He treats me like He did David.  Sin is seeded in my heart when I don’t trust God, when my delight is in something besides Him.  And I don’t notice.  (When I’m slipping down the sin track, I don’t often take time for self-evaluation.)  So God allows me to be tempted.  There’s the way of escape, of course.  I have access the whole time to the power to resist the temptation.  But I don’t.  I give in.  I speak an unkind, impatient word.  I spend recklessly.  I think lustfully.  Thus God shows me myself.  Repentance isn’t real when it holds back.  When my sin causes me to sorrow, God invites me to kneel before Him and be cleansed.  The cleansing often goes much deeper.  Making-up is precious because it heals up the breach that had been between us before I acted on it. 

The sermon I heard this last Sunday pointed out that in Psalm 51, David acknowledges the hidden sin of his heart which led to his ghastly outward trespass of adultery and murder.  The story in 2 Samuel 24 and 1 Chronicles 21 about David taking a census of the fighting men in Israel suggests a similar thing, that there was sin in Israel that made God angry, but it was not obvious sin.  He wanted to bring it out, so He could deal with it.  So God allowed Satan to provoke David to do this thing that offended YHWH. 

I believe that God has the power to prevent us from being tempted.  This is what Jesus taught His disciples to pray for.  However, I think that prayer is not sincerely being prayed or desired when I am keeping doubt and distance in my heart toward God.  I am not trusting Him for my daily bread; if I think of mentioning it to Him, it is a demand.  I am not begging Him for His will to be done on earth; I think my will is better.  And I am not zealous for His glory, His kingdom, and His power.  These things go together with being preserved against temptation and evil. 

Pleasing God is much more than outward things.  It is the direction of my spirit.  When I “walk in the Spirit” and “abide in Christ” and “delight myself in YHWH,” then I will successfully serve God and bear fruit.  These will be to His credit, and that will bring me joy. 

To God be all glory.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Hit You Not Hurt You

A woman sits in a room lit by lights from other rooms.  She’s sitting on the floor with her back to an empty chair.  And she’s crying.  The man happens by and notices.  “Why are you crying?” he asks.  That’s when it happens.  Her fist swings with all the force swelling her tears, straight into whatever part of him is nearest.  Words just won’t cut it; they haven’t been, for weeks and months.  She wants him to realize her emotion, to force him to feel it.  But she doesn’t want to hurt him.  Too bad her fist is bony and his ribs were nearest and the bruising will keep him sore for days.  I mean it; it’s too bad.  She shouldn’t have done it.  She needed to find a way to accomplish her goal without this contrary side effect.  Is there one, though? 

To God be all glory.