Monthly Archives: July 2014

Primal Scream 2

NOTE: This is a post for Christians only. I want to deal with an issue we seem to face every day, yet no one wants to admit the elephant is in the room.

I’m sitting here on what most Christians claim as the Lord’s Day. I’ve just come from a worship service where God Most High was present, so you’d think I’d have peace like a river dwelling in my soul.

Ha! Not!

I’m disquieted intellectually by something I don’t understand. We all call ourselves by the Name of Precious Jesus, yet we can’t seem to let each other live peaceably if we don’t agree on the slightest jot or tittle.

I am tired of all the denominational in-fighting and petty bickering. You might be Presbyterian, Pentecostal, Lutheran, Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, or whatever. That doesn’t mean that your denomination is the only way that Jesus will save His people or that your denomination is the only way to serve God.

We seem to want to let doctrinal differences pull us away from what Christ calls true religion: caring for the widows and orphans, loving God with all we are and can ever be, and loving our neighbor as lavishly we would love ourselves.

As I see it, the whole denominational thing boils down to what I understand as a writer. Every word in the Bible was inspired by the Holy Spirit and written by men to specific audiences undergoing a given set of circumstances. It is Truth and worthy of all our attention.

However, centuries later, we’ve lost the context and sense of audience. We’re trying to suck every bit of marrow of meaning out of those precious Words of Life while we miss surrounding information. We’re trying to decide whether the language was figurative or literal. Again, that is something you can’t do without context and sense of audience.

And then, it’s a question of how do you want to worship on a weekly basis. Do you need a steady, stable format? Do you like to rock the house down with loud, exuberant praise and worship? Do you need some blend of the two?

So, if the non-denominational nurse on the next block decides to convert to Latin Rite Catholicism, I don’t care. If the Lutheran cousin wants to go Assemblies of God, I don’t care. If the Episcopalian housewife feels she needs to go Methodist for unity in her marriage, I don’t care.

What I do care about is whether you are living your lives in such a way that the Gospel is preached wordlessly through your actions. Do you have the respect of all–neopagan, Hindu, Muslim, Jew–because you’ve lived a quiet life, worked your job honestly, and tried to be peaceful and interested and caring? Have you lived in such a way that no one could discredit your walking testimony and they would fail if they tried?

It’s time to stop fighting over denominational differences. It’s time to pick up the Cross and starting working out our salvation with fear and trembling by winning the respect of outsiders through love and loyalty and peace and service without watering down doctrine and losing the ability to identify and deal with sin properly.

*steps off soapbox*

We now return you to your regular, rant-free blogosphere…

PS: My still, small Voice just gave me reading assignments. Please pass anything by Corrie ten Boom my way; also send me anything written by those growing up in Northern Ireland. Thanks!

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Fraternal Correction in the Era of Social Media

Christians are called to live a life of purity and righteousness by faith. We know that we aren’t perfect, and we expect to stumble and fall. The faltering and falling flat is sin (whether we like that word or not).

Believers are to unite and work together to help each Christian press on toward the goal of eliminating sin and experiencing the grace necessary to persevere to the end. Part of that working together is fraternal correction.

Jesus Himself encourages fraternal correction. In Matthew 18:15-17, Jesus lays out the various stages of correction. I’ve summarized them below:

  1. Approach the brother/sister one-on-one and explain what the issue is.
  2. If the believer again refuses to listen, approach him/her, but this time take two or three people who have witnessed the issue.
  3. If the believer again refuses to listen, you bring the issue before the local body.
  4. If after the church has listened nothing changes, you may disfellowship the person.

St. Paul does cite a few sins that would permit immediate disfellowship in 1 Corinthians 5:11. However, for argument’s sake as well as simplicity, I’d like to stick to the pattern set by Christ.

Initially, you have to decide what counts as “sin” in a social media context. A man may have to challenge a buddy for visiting certain Facebook pages frequently; a woman may have to challenge her BFF for something that begins to look like an online affair. It may be inappropriate pictures, or it might be a political ideology expressed in language that makes the Inquisition look like a cake walk.

Then, you have to ensure that you are in the right in challenging this behavior. You have to ensure your motives are pure. Otherwise, you yourself might fall into the same behavior.

Once that’s done, you have to follow the steps outlined by Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew. I propose the following as suitable social media equivalents (note I focus on FB because that’s the social media I use most):

  1. Send the person a private message outlining the offense. Include related Scripture so it’s not just what you think or say.
  2. If this doesn’t work, use a group message. Include the person who committed the offense as well as two or three other witnesses.
  3. If this doesn’t work, make a post to friends only on your wall. Outline the offense and related Scriptures.
  4. Finally, click the unfriend option.

Praying Down the Fear Dragon…

In the past, I’ve written about the importance of wrestling the fear dragon into submission. I believe that two of the strongest tools we have are communication with the still, small Voice and using the Words of the still, small Voice as we wrestle the dragon.

I’d like to share a prayer I use in wrestling the fear dragon. I wrote it over a year ago. It is based on Psalm 46:10, Isaiah 51:16, Malachi 4:2, Luke 12:25-26, and 1 John 4:18. It also covers the dragon’s cousins of worry and anxiety. Feel free to share!

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Lord, worry, anxiety, and fear are strong in me. I see them on a continuum, that one leads to another.

If I don’t take my thoughts captive at the worry stage, I end up with erratic fear with no basis in reason.

I repent of the lack of surrender that leads to needing the wrong kind of control and not trusting You. I choose to remember that You said I cannot lengthen my life by worrying and that science shows worry shortens life.

When I worry, fret anxiously, and feel afraid, please Jesus help me be still and know that You are God. You have hidden me in the palms of Your hands. Replace my faithless fear with reverential respect that hopes for healing from the wings of the Sun of Righteousness and longs for Your perfect love that casts out all fear.

Perfect me in my experience of Your perfect love so that ungodly fear disappears and reverential respect rises in me. Give me peace, allowing me to trust You and surrender to your perfect will.

The Unholy Herd

We’ve talked about wrestling fear, anger, and mistrust before. Now we’re moving on to some of the most amorphous and unsettling creatures yet. I call them the unholy herd. You start with them, and then get a good thesaurus and deal with all of the synonyms in their family lines because these critters are tricky and intermingled and difficult to untangle.

Jealousy, envy, slander, malice, gossip, backbiting, criticism… They are all so subtle, difficult to detect, flying under the radar. They can disguise themselves as compliments–“What a lovely blouse! Where did you get it? How much did you pay?”–or as prayer requests–“You’ve just got to pray for Sister Louisa. She can’t seem to get her act together today.”–or helpful hints, “It might work better if you were more logical and did A, B, and C.”

On the surface, they all look harmless enough. We’re connecting and interacting, sharing our lives and our thoughts. Yet, we never take a step back to see the real picture. We never stop to consider our true motives.

We don’t consider in our hearts and minds why we might say some of these things. We don’t look deep enough into our thought processes to see the envy, the desire to have what someone else has; to see the jealousy, the idea that we are better than the other person so we deserve their lives and objects; to see our own brokenness, that we hurt so deeply we’d rather embarrass or wound another person than deal with our own pride or arrogance in the need to always be right.

When we miss this, we miss the sword our tongues and actions can become, and this unholy herd just eats up every angry glance, every hidden teardrop, every ounce of wounding. The herd members hop from person to person, inciting greater wounds and greater damage and greater chaos until nothing is left but shattered lives and torn groups and tons of additional fuel for the other monsters we’ve discussed in the past as well as new ones we’ll discuss in the future.

So how do we wrestle this unholy herd that is so difficult to identify and so easy to unleash?

I wish I had a good, solid answer. Too often, I am guilty of taking a verbal blow and then carefully planning out the next countermeasure. Too often, I compare my second-hand SUV to the new Audi I passed on the highway. Too often, I get jealous when a co-worker gets a promotion and raise at work or a fellow Christian gets an awesome new ministry opportunity.

I think it has to start with examining each and every thought. I have to look at what I am thinking, compare it to the Word of God, and then discard whatever would not please my still, small Voice. Every argument or plan that does not match with God’s Word must be made subject to the still, small Voice.

But garbage identification and removal is only half the battle. I have to fill up the empty spaces with something clean and pure. I need to listen to positive, wholesome music. I need to ensure the television I watch doesn’t sully the very areas I’ve cleaned. I need to read materials that focus on the still, small Voice. If I don’t do clean fill, I will have a dark mass seven times as bad as the original area.

Finally, I need a stronger brother or sister who follows the still, small Voice to work with me and challenge me. I won’t always be able to identify which of the unholy herd I’ve fallen under. I won’t always be able to see the sword my words and actions are wielding. I need someone with more experience in right living to whisper me back onto the path the still, small Voice intended for me.

My Kids and Facebook :/

My ex and I have very different opinions on everything related to parenting from discipline to privileges. This includes Facebook. Consider this post a humorous look at the situation for those not in it, and a word to the wise warning for those in a similar situation.

I have many issues with non-adults holding Facebook accounts. Even as an adult, I find it too easy to have diarrhea of the mouth and spew the wrong thing in the wrong place. The security and features are constantly changing, making it difficult to understand all the intricacies of the technology. When you don’t personally know someone you’re adding to your friend list, it’s too easy to add a wolf in sheep’s clothing or demons masquerading as angels.

I found out some months ago my ex gave his old account to my children (yes, I used my) and started a different one. I was less than pleased. Chagrined and frustrated don’t even begin to cover it. After a few months of listening to me gripe, my current hubby just plain asked me to either stop talking or do something.

What exactly do you do? I paced. I griped with excessive words to my still, small Voice. I stomped.

When I got done, I decided to apply a two-pronged approach. First, you rehab the account. Then, you set some guidelines.

After having the kids log into the account in my presence, I used the following steps to have the kids rehab the account:

  • I had them reset the security globally to Friends only. I can’t review every post (and I have a feeling I would need a warehouse full of the pink, minty liquid if I tried), so the best I can do is make sure only their “friends” see their mistakes (we are still working on that friend definition).
  • We reviewed the friends list friend-by-friend. We started with 160+ friends with images that looked like gypsies, tramps, thieves, and demonic entities were visiting. Each child looked at the friends; if they were personally unknown, they were unfriended. By the end of the hour, we were down to less than 100.
  • We worked to change some of the images to things more appropriate for their natures. I would have liked to get rid of some of the photos, but that might have been a little much.

Next are the guidelines. I am going to write them off the top of my head and print them later. I was just too enervated from the rehab effort (and sickened by the characters my ex left behind with no concern for guidance of the non-adult children in handling said issues).

  1. You must keep your security at Friends at all times. Do not customize the security…unless you want to block someone. This rule stands until you’re 21.
  2. If you do not know the person in real life, do not add them as a friend. This stands under my roof until you are 21.
  3. You do not share your whereabouts and schedule with your friends list. If your account gets hacked (somebody accesses it without your permission), you don’t want to make it easier for them to steal your CDs, nail polish, and stuffed animals (and my computer, jewelry, and sanity).
  4. If you wouldn’t wear it to school or church, you shouldn’t post photos of yourself in it. This includes any portion of your birthday suit that is covered by your bathing suit. Also do not post photos of yourself in a bathing suit.
  5. If you wouldn’t want your mammy or your uncle or me to hear you say it, you probably should just refrain from posting it.
  6. It is okay to block someone if they seem to not take a hint and keep making comments after you’ve asked them to stop.
  7. If something someone says on your posts or something someone does on your posts makes you feel creepy, trust your gut and ask me or another trusted adult for help. This goes for private messages as well.
  8. You will not access the accounts from my home unless I am watching. Sorry, this is non-negotiable.
  9. My rules go with you everywhere you go. I may not be able to control you when you’re with your dad, but I think I’ve shown you enough of who I am that you know I love you enough to give you reasonable boundaries that you should be able to follow in my absence.
  10. If any of the rules are broken by any one individual sharing the account, you all lose privileges at the house to access the account. All for one and one for all, circle the wagons, etc.

I think these are some very simple rules. Let me know what you’ve done with your kids.

Why Tithe?

Tithing is a tricky subject to discuss, even in the most devout of Christian circles. Many feel that it’s discussed only to enlarge the coffers of the preacher making the request. This shows a clear misunderstanding of the purpose of the tithe.

The first mention of a tithe as such appears in Leviticus 27. In this chapter, God commands the people of Israel to give Him one-tenth of everything from the land that is produced. Also, the animals in the herds and flocks were considered part of the tithe. An Israelite could redeem the animal or harvest by paying the value of the tithe plus an extra fifth on top.

In Numbers 18, the tithe was to be used by the Levites as they kept the temple prepared for worshippers.

The concept of the tithe (without being called a tithe) actually appears in Genesis. Abraham, a hero in the Hebrews Hall of Fame, has been journeying from Ur of the Chaldees to Canaan, and he and his family have ended up somewhere around Sodom and Gomorrah. He is still called Abram. Lot, Abraham’s nephew, was living in Sodom. There was a battle of some kind, and Lot was taken hostage. Abram rallies the remaining family members and charges in to save the day. His group rescues Lot, the people with Lot, and many possessions. After the battle, Abram meets Melchizedek the King of Salem. Melchizedek gives Abram a blessing. In exchange,  Abram gave a tenth of everything he acquired to Melchizedek.

God so values the tithes that He actually indicts non-tithers and issues a challenge in Malachi 3:8-10 (The Message):

“Begin by being honest. Do honest people rob God? But you rob me day after day. You ask, ‘How have we robbed you?’ The tithe and the offering—that’s how! And now you’re under a curse—the whole lot of you—because you’re robbing me. Bring your full tithe to the Temple treasury so there will be ample provisions in my Temple. Test me in this and see if I don’t open up heaven itself to you and pour out blessings beyond your wildest dreams. For my part, I will defend you against marauders, protect your wheat fields and vegetable gardens against plunderers.”

When it comes to the tithe, it’s a simple matter of faith. Who is in control of my life? Do I trust God to give up that 10%, or am I going to try to manage and control everything myself?

For me, I’ve not always had that faith. I saw it work for my parents. They’d have an unexpected bill, and miraculously a refund for something would arrive that would cover the bill plus bread and milk. However, they never really discussed why they did it or how to start. Later, I was challenged by a friend in college to try it, but I just wasn’t ready. It never seemed or felt right, but I wasn’t right; I wasn’t ready to even begin to hand over control of my life or my possessions to anyone or anything.

About ten years ago, with my life and finances in shambles, I started. It was not easy. And I can’t say that I’ve had the results my parents had. However, I think God has responded in other ways–steady work, the cast-offs from a friend, a sale at the grocery store. I have also found that each new level of faith has been preceded by a challenge to the tithe–a large bill that comes through unexpectedly, a financial negotiation that soured.

Daily, I have to take in the Truth David wrote so eloquently in Psalm 37 (NIV): I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread. As I try to put on the righteousness of Christ Jesus, I have to believe that God will provide for all my needs according to His riches in glory.

 

Hoka-hey!

I’ve mentioned before that I make unusual connections. Today was no exception.

There is a Native American quote, “Hoka-hey,” that loosely translated means, “Today is a good day to die!” It was about being a warrior and going off to fight bravely, fiercely, honorably in way that protects your people yet results in your death.

It was used in an 80’s movie Flatliners. The med students decided to make themselves die and bring themselves back so they could explore what it was like to die. The life review scenes had the kind of cinematography that gave me nightmares for years.

From there, I thought about the Socrates (or maybe Plato) quote that talks about the unexamined life not being worth living. I suspect the author was challenging readers to think carefully about their lives and the consequences of their choices.

Then I thought about Saul of Tarsus: “For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” and “We always carry in our bodies the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may be revealed in our bodies too. For we who are alive are always being handed over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that Jesus’ life also might be revealed in our mortal bodies.

The point is that when we choose Love, we choose Life. We give ourselves to others in service. We temporarily ignore our wants and needs and take our focus off ourselves, thus dying to what we want and need and choosing to live in the Light of Love and reflecting the Glory of Christ to those around us.

Each day, when we review our choices and consciously choose to live life better in our thoughts, behaviors, and conversation toward and with others in the days to come, we choose to die to self and live for Christ, not just as Christ but as the Christ we see in our neighbors.

So yes, today is a good day to die… to myself and my selfish desires… and thus choose to live.