Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Thinking of Oneself

In the Hiding Place, Corrie Ten Boom wrote:

    "And as the cold increased, so did the special temptation
of concentration-camp life: the temptation to think only of oneself.  It took a thousand cunning forms.  I quickly discovered that when I maneuvered our way toward the middle of the roll call formation we had a little protection from the wind.
     I knew this was self-centered:  when Betsie and I stood in the center, someone else had to stand on the edge.  How easy it was to give it other names!  I was acting only for Betsie's sake. We were in an important ministry and must keep well.  It was colder in Poland than in Holland; these Polish women probably were not feeling the chill the way we were.
     Selfishness had a life of its own....And even if it wasn't right---it wasn't so very wrong, was it?  Not wrong like sadism and murder and the other monstrous evils we saw in Ravensbruck every day.  Oh, this was the great ploy of Satan in that kingdom of his:  to display such blatant evil that one could almost believe one's own secret sins didn't matter."

This thinking only of oneself is such a daily temptation outside of concentration-camp life. I see it in myself and other Christians.  When we grab the first place,  try to be the one recognized or elevated, look for ways that our kids get the best opportunities over others, subtly take whatever it is that we want first for ourselves....this is plain selfishness. Whenever we do it, our actions impact someone (or many) more.  Selfishness has room for only one and it is NOT the other person.  We make excuses: "after all, I worked hard and deserve this"; "I was mistreated and that gives me a right"; "if I don't work to get this it won't come to me";  "it is just a little thing and doesn't really matter"; "my kid is so special and should have this"; and so forth.  Whatever it is, to whatever degree, it is still selfishness and it is still sin. This temptation is rampant in modern American Christianity. We are all about coming out ahead or in first, having it all together and things going our way, and being admired for what we have and are.  We have forgotten what God values: humility, faithfulness, service, sacrifice, and most of all, love. We forget that what we do to the least of the brethren even in small things--all these selfish acts--we actually are doing to Christ.

So what's the cure? Miss Ten Boom said, "It was all Christ's strength...that made the difference."  Christ at work in our weaknesses and sin, Christ showing us our tendency to selfishness and excuses, Christ leading us to repentance and confession, Christ enabling us to put others first instead of ourselves. "Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. (Philippians 2:3)  It starts with putting aside ANY selfish ambition and all excuses for it.  Then changing our minds and our thinking so that we hold others in high regard (esteem).  We actually need to consider others better than ourselves. The rest of Philippians chapter two tells us how Christ lived it and He is our example. What we need is His strength to produce in us self-LESS-ness. 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Stories Collide

Tuesday morning my book club discussed N.D. Wilson's newest book, Death by Living.  In it, Wilson says that this is his statement on "a way of living, a way of receiving life."  He discusses the idea that each life is a story within the great STORY being written by God.  We all contribute to the narrative of that story, touch others' stories, make decisions about whether or not our life will be a good story containing thoughts, words, and deeds that are filled with grace.  He encourages us to do our best, face trouble in such a way that the nature of God is clear to the world, and be thankful for the breaths we take and the lives we get to spend for God and others.  That all of us are careening toward death and we get there by living so how will we spend our life?

Tuesday evening my mother called to tell me that a dear friend of our family had passed away into eternity.  Frank's story is over for now.  His story collided into mine decades ago.  Frank was married to my mom's best friend from childhood.  During the summers of my teen years, I would take the commuter flight from Poughkeepsie to Burlington to travel to my grandparents' house for summer visits.  Often Frank and his wife, Jan, would pick me up at the airport and let me spend the night at their house.  There was always pizza and card playing and laughter at their house.  Next morning my grandfather would pick me up and we would make the 2 hour drive to his house.  Later, when 2 poor grad students decided to get married, Frank and Jan gave my husband and I wedding rings they had inherited to help us out and bless us.  For the first couple of years of our marriage, we had many nights of pizza together with my folks and Frank and Jan.  We taught Frank how to play "nasty Uno", a fast paced, card-flying version of the game.  We finally had to quit, though, when Frank, an accountant, sheepishly revealed that it was getting too easy for him because he remembered all the cards as they went flying past. Frank's life was characterized by joy and kindness.  He always had a smile, sparkling eyes, and a happy take on life. It wasn't that his life didn't have tragedy and sorrow, it did.  I just never heard about it from him.  He wrote his story with kindnesses and those flowed into my life.  Later, my first son was born on Frank's birthday.  I am so thankful for the grace of Frank's life spilling over into mine.

Three loved ones from this picture are now gone into eternity this past year.  Frank, my dad, and my mother-in-law.  Heavy losses indeed, but also opportunity to remind myself of how their stories made mine so much better.



Friday, October 18, 2013

Arrival

Then came Avery.  His destiny from before the dawn of time wrapped in the name given him by his parents.  He was born to be the wise ruler of all the elves, a sage counselor to mankind, and a noble warrior to wrest the kingdom from the Dragon.  His parents also gave him a powerful strength charm when they bestowed his second name.  His strength would come from the magic of generations praying, hoping, seeking a blessing of the Great King to send them a child, a ruler, a deliverer.  Jordan, the descender, was his gift. So much power and faith and hope wrapped up in one small bundle sleeping under the star kissed sky.

Soli Deo Gloria!!!!!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

"7"

          I am convinced that the social gospel promoted today as the path to better Christian living is not THE GOSPEL of our Lord Jesus Christ.  This social gospel is preached in almost every Christian church in America  and is popular, elevated, and venerated.  It certainly seems holy, but what are the tenets of this social gospel?
          The book “7” by Jen Hatmaker is subtitled, “an experimental mutiny against excess.”  Within its pages Jen declares that as a Christian her life is now all about “justice” and battling “inequality”.  She says, “It’s too soon to declare the Bride [the American Christian church] hopelessly selfish or irrelevant.”  Her belief is that if we choose to battle inequality then “our generation could turn this ship around.”  I suppose by that she means that we could see justice and equality come to town and fix all the problems with our society.  She certainly lays on the guilt about how much we all have and waste and disregard the poor and needy both here and abroad.  She comments that the church has good intentions but misguided theology and spends way too much time building expensive churches and too much energy on Bible studies, conferences, sermons, and resources on itself.  Lastly, she uses the term “deconstruction” to describe what she thinks needs to happen to Christianity’s paradigm before it can become the right one.
          Hatmaker’s orientation on “justice and inequality” seem good, but my concern is that this is NOT what THE GOSPEL really is.  The social gospel has been around for a long time.  Wikipedia’s article on the social gospel’s origins and history reveals that the goal of this movement was designed to make Christian churches more aware, motivated and responsive to the social problems of a generation.  An early proponent and spokesman for the movement was against the selfishness of capitalism and made social reform the primary focus of Jesus’ teaching.  Dwight Moody countered this by claiming that concentrating on social aid and reform kept people from hearing about the good news of salvation through Christ.  I find it interesting that the article mentions that the supporters of the social gospel were connected to the liberal wing of the Progressive movement and were liberal theologically but conservative when it came to social ills. 
          Fast forward to today.  On Michele Malkin’s website (accessed 10/8/13) she addresses the foundation of the Common Core curriculum as derived from “progressive” reformers who operate in the name of “fairness, diversity, and social justice.”  Malkin also mentions that a key word for these reformers is “deconstruction” which in the reformers’ ideology means moral relativism.  And these are the same words that author Jen Hatmaker uses in “7”. Can this be a coincidence? 
Jen also reveals that while she is all about justice and promoting this social gospel, her children are sent to public school where they can be conveniently exposed to anti-God indoctrination for 6-8 hours per day.  She mentions that she had spent her time in “baby prison”.  Really?  How can any of us justify “saving the world” when we are not sacrificing to save our own children?  As a teen in the 1970’s I heard way too many incidents of missionary and pastor’s families that had “done the Lord’s work” while their own children grew up and left the faith.  The social gospel takes the Christian’s focus off of the primary duties.  We are to love God with all our hearts and love our neighbors as ourselves.  As Christian women, our husbands and children are our nearest neighbors.  If we labor at fulfilling that priority well, then God may grant us faithful children and faithful generations to come.  Our society needs faithful husbands and wives, faithful children, faithful families that will in turn build faith filled churches and communities.  But first things first: if we bring social justice and equality to the whole world but we lose our souls or the souls of our children, what have we gained for Christ and His kingdom in the end?
“7” is about the social gospel.  Jen Hatmaker uses all the same terminology as the social gospel and liberal progressive reformers both from the past and from today.  She lives what she believes and focuses on getting the church to “wake up” and get to work fixing all the problems with society.  This is not all bad.  After all, there are many problems with our culture and society at present. The social gospel is being preached in almost every church in modern evangelicalism.  Christians are told to go and do good works, get busy in an outreach ministry.  While many of those activities and works are good, they can come at the expense of what God says in His Word are our priorities.  Those God ordained duties may not seem glamorous, but faithful living in our most intimate relationships is the gritty training ground for more public ministry.  

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Behind the Scenes

Read on Congressman Raul Labrador's site last night that one of the provisions in the Republican's resolutions that President Obama is refusing to consider is that the POTUS and all his administration and all Congressional members and their staff must use the Obamacare insurance exchange for their own personal healthcare.  LOL! What a great proviso.  If this healthcare is so wonderful, then the President himself will have no problem agreeing to THAT!!!!  But we all know he will never do that.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Life Updated

Five years ago now....my oldest son designed this blog and got it up and running.  He did it for me and with me.  The idea is that we would have a blog for movie and book reviews and odds and ends that anyone in the family would want to post.  It was to be an outlet for our "Literary Society" nights where our family shared pieces of writing that we had done during the month (or more depending on the regularity of our meetings).  Some of us used pen names, especially the younger members.   

Like many of my ideas and attempts at implementing them, it didn't quite turn out like I imagined.  My son grew up, got married, and is expecting his first child.   His writing time is greatly reduced.  Of the remaining siblings who enjoy writing, they like to create in private.  Apparently I am the only ranter in the bunch.  Yet, I have felt I should get away from the rant and turn more toward what might edify or be less controversial.  Since my goal this year was to read at least one book per week, I still think some book reviews will be on the agenda.  I want to add some of my own personal Bible study or book study notes.  We shall see...it may end up on the list of ideas and attempts that didn't quite turn out like I imagined.

So I am trying to update the site a bit.  Please be patient as I experiment with design.  

Monday, June 10, 2013

4th Amendment in Ashes

The 4th Amendment of the Constitution is for the Protection Against Search and Seizure and reads as follows:  "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, SHALL NOT BE VIOLATED, and no warrants shall issue but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized." (emphasis is mine)

In the words of Edward Snowden, the recent NSA whistleblower: "the government grants themselves these powers...."  He means that the Obama administration has decided that in searching all Internet emails, documents, videos, photographs, and content and seizing millions of American citizen's phone records the government has torched the 4th amendment and granted itself the power to ignore the Constitution and do whatever it wants.  This Constitution is the very one that when the President took the oath of office he swore before God and all the nation he would to the best of his ability "preserve, protect, and defend."  Obviously Obama decided to ignore that promise and search and seize papers and effects without a warrant and without probable cause.  

Mr. Obama said for us not to worry because he and his people examined these ongoing violations of our freedoms and cleaned them up and then left the cleaned up versions in place.  He said that "to protect us" they have to search all our electronic actions and personal papers and private phone calls.  Really?  Their spying on Americans didn't do one thing to stop the Boston bombing so the program is not even doing what he claims it is supposed to do.

 What happened to the 4th Amendment?  Where is the outrage of the citizens of our country?  Our president and his administration have made it clear that the Constitution is NOT important and that he can use whatever means he wants to achieve his ends.  Remember Machiavelli?  "The ends justify the means."  This philosophy has been used by tyrants, despots, and dictators throughout history.  God help us.  Contact your representatives and senators and express your outrage over the VIOLATION of our Constitution and our RIGHTS to be safe from this type of intrusion into our own homes.  Impress upon them the need to demand that these violations cease.  The government of a free people does NOT spy on its citizens.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Socialist State of North Idaho

Let's be clear.  Socialist governments hold elections.  Those elected officials then decide what they believe to be best for the society.  Translation:  they get to tell everyone else what the rules are going to be and how to live.  They will pass and enforce laws to make you do what they decide.  The socialist rulers believe THEY are the ones who should decide for everyone else what is "good" for them and society.  Socialist officials are the elite;  the common people simply do not know what is "good" for them or "in their best interests".  Common people do not get to be free to follow their conscience, ONLY the rulers and the ones who agree with them.

Historically, socialist governments tend to slide into communist ones.  The ruling socialists get tired of putting up with elections and the public meetings where the common people voice their opinions.  So, they do away with elections, because it is "in the best interests" of the people and start ruling anyways and telling everyone else what to do because it is "good" for them.  It helps if they have some muscle behind the transition and openly and outwardly force compliance with the ruling committee's ordinances.  But make no mistake about it.  The only difference between the socialists and the communists is elections; both forms of government decide and tell all the rest of the individuals in a society what to do, how to live, and how it is going to be.  In either case representative government is obsolete and freedom of life, liberty, and conscience no longer exist.

Last night, the Coeur D'Alene city council members voted 5-1 to adopt and to begin to enforce an ordinance to protect the gay and lesbian and transgender population from "discrimination".  This was done in opposition to the majority of about 400 people denouncing the proposal and informing the council that they did not want it here.  Council members had obviously made up their minds before the public meeting to adopt the ordinance.  They made it clear that they were doing what was "in the best interests" of everyone in the community.  Do you see a similarity here to the description above of socialist rulers?  Those council members are clear cut socialists and have no thought of representing the majority of their constituents.  Their sole purpose was to enforce their beliefs on the society we live in. They made the decision for the rest of us, ignoring the multitude of voices raised up in opposition.  

We need to be clear!!  We live in a socialist state where the elite, elected officials do not represent the people, but rather decide to force everyone to follow what they deem "good" for us.   One "common" man said that this ordinance will be used as a "sword not a shield".  Across the country these types of ordinances have been used as swords against business people who refused to sell goods or services to gay and lesbians.  Business owners have been taken to court and have judges tell them they HAVE TO do business with the homosexuals.  Where is the freedom in that?  O! I forgot; socialism is freedom for the officials and those who support and agree with them.  It is freedom for the intellectuals and liberals and elite and special interest groups.  It is NOT freedom for anyone else.  Welcome to the Socialist State of North Idaho people.  Don't come here if you want freedom of conscience or liberty.  The elected officials declared last night that you won't get any of that here.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Valley of the Shadow of Death

He pulled out his smart phone and found the album on our cloud library and pushed the button to play.  Out came the soothing voice and lyrics to "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms".  We three started singing.  Then "How Great Thou Art" and "Softly and Tenderly" and "The Old Rugged Cross".  We kept on singing more hymns and the room seemed illuminated with soft light and HIM.  The beauty of His presence, unseen, yet there. 

I had not noticed before how so many of the great hymns of the Christian faith are filled with references to heaven, our promises to go there, the joy of being there, and how wonderful it will be when we are there.  These reminders came in welcome waves tonight while we sang.

Beyond the singing, there under our voices and melody, there my dad lay in the shadow of death, but he is not quite through that lonesome valley.  And tonight, his Savior and mine, gave us assurance that He is with us in even this dark place.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Barbaric

Heard an interpretive talk today at a major historic site on the east coast.  I was actually at a respected colonial and revolutionary leader's home but I didn't hear one thing about his or his family except negative things.  I heard for 30 minutes about the barbaric way he and his family enslaved negroes.  I heard about how the blacks in their household had to clean chamber pots, wash bed linens, cook food, sleep on floors, dress the children, and serve in that house.  About how the leader and his wife made awful decisions on the disposal of their "personal property", the slaves.  I heard about how they made those decisions based on economic and social reasons and ironically never applied the ideas of freedom and liberty to the enslaved and disenfranchised people around them.  I heard of atrocities performed by owners on their slaves in that town and the claim that such violence and wickedness happened every single day in a place considered civilized.  And so it went.

I have no doubt that much of the presentation was true.  I also understand the voice of a historian is often laced with their own personal agenda and worldview.  When history is researched and examined, it is often to acquire information to fit a particular paradigm.  I offer no excuses for the actions of the white owners.  Many of them were Christians and should have known better just from the teachings of Scriptures.  However, what bothered me most was the arrogance of a man from the 21st century judging the actions and lives of 18th century men and women.  How can we of this century self righteously make judgments when we didn't live in those times, culture, or ideological frameworks?  How can we, who are guilty of even far greater crimes, fully condemn people who were trying to manage the conditions they faced?

In the 21st century, people of all races commit heinous crimes everyday against a group of people they consider their own "personal property".  They make awful decisions about the disposal of that property for economic and social reasons, denying that group of enslaved and disenfranchised people the very liberty and life those making the decisions enjoy. 21st century humans perform atrocities against fellow humans claiming they have the right to do so.  This, in a time when we consider ourselves so advanced and wise when it comes to human rights. 

The people who are considered personal property these days are infants in the womb.  This entire group of humans, for more than two generations, has been victims that 20th and 21st century humans have justified in killing and maiming for economic and social reasons.  These unborn humans have been denied liberty, freedom, and life.  I ask, what will the humans of 3 centuries from now say about us?  How will they condemn us?  Or are the facts that we have learned nothing from history, nothing from the 18th century treatment of slaves, nothing from the Scriptures and God's Laws, nothing from our "modern mind"---are these actions going to show that we are just as barbaric as that interpreter described our 18th century forbearers? That we are, in fact, even more barbaric because we have the technological means to do more good but we use it to inflict more harm?  That our society is becoming more barbaric even while we decry what happened in history? "Don't judge, lest ye be judged."

History needs to be told.  It needs to be honest and balanced.  Historical accounts in God's Word are starkly direct about people's sins.  Yet, God also offers forgiveness and grace to fallen people.  We are those fallen people and we need to learn history, learn mistakes of the past, learn how God deals in the affairs of mankind, and we need to consider what we learn and apply it to ourselves.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Holding us Hostage

The President of the United States of America is holding the American people hostage.  Mr. Obama wants tax increases.  More and more and more taxes.  He was given over 600 billion dollars in tax increases at the first of the year.  But now, he demands more.  Since there are legislators on Capitol Hill who believe the government should cut spending and they are insisting on a plan to reduce spending, Mr. Obama and his administration are now threatening the safety of the American people--- people he swore to defend and to protect.  He is responsible for the release of hundreds of criminal illegal aliens that were being held in detention centers in Arizona.  In actuality, we are no longer hostages, we are now the prey.

God have mercy upon us.  Our own president is loosing criminals back into our streets to spawn fear, danger, and unrest so that he can achieve HIS goals.  He is no longer representing us...he is tyrannizing us.  He uses his power to unleash harm and danger upon his own people.  And would have us give up any means to defend ourselves from them or him.  God have mercy upon us and deliver us! 

Consider what this action indicates about the lengths this man and his supporters are willing to go to induce compliance on the parts of U.S.citizens.... and over a budget bill!!!!  God help us!  Read the Declaration of Independence and the list of abuses that our forefathers wrote about during their time.  We have a ruler who cares not for the safety of his citizens at all.  God have mercy upon us!  

The outrage of Americans should be so HUGE and CLEAR that we will not stand for a bully to bend our wills unto his own.  Should men be forced into submission to one man's whims and demands or should men be free to follow God and His laws?  God have mercy upon us!  Pray for the citizens of Arizona and all of our land where our lives, property, and liberty are now threatened due to the actions of our own president.   

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

His Own Received Him Not

"He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him." (John 1:11)
"He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him." (Isaiah 53:3)

Scriptures are given for our instruction.  I find that they are a great comfort as well.  Christ came to His own.  He didn't come to people who were not His, He came to His own.  He belonged with them and they belonged with Him, but they did not receive Him.  Not only did they not receive Him, they despised and rejected Him.  Then comes the word "we" in the verse in Isaiah.  WE hid our faces from Him, we despised Him, we did not esteem Him. We did it.

How can this be a comfort?  First, Christ knows our grief and sorrows.  He knows what it is to have those who are His own turn their backs upon Him.  He knows what grief it is to come to your own: your own son or daughter, your own parent, your own spouse, your own friend, your own brother or sister...and to be despised and rejected by them.  He knows what pain, anguish, and sorrow it causes when it happens. He knows how we run it over and over again in our head about how it happened.  He knows how we long for the joint that is crooked to be made straight.  He knows how we desire for fellowship and to belong to our own and received by our own, and loved by our own.  He knows because this kind of grief He experienced in a very real and personal way.

Second, Scripture points out that WE hid our faces from Him.  Isaiah 53 says that we didn't find any beauty in Him or comeliness.  It reminds us that we have been the guilty ones of  doing the rejecting.  We did it to Christ and our shame comes from our own guilt.  The comfort comes from something amazing. We are guilty of doing the rejecting.  Yet by Christ, who we rejected, and His stripes...we are healed.  Healed of our guilt of doing the rejecting, and healed of OUR sorrows when we are rejected and treated as Christ was.  This is Christ. The rejected one bearing the sorrow of the one doing the harm.

This is streaming through my mind, trying to weave it into my soul so that I can find humility and healing and wisdom in this Christ who was wounded for my transgressions.  Can I find through Him the grace to bear the grief and sorrows of my own not receiving me?  This, this is the challenge.  To be like Him and be willing to be despised and rejected when He deserved to be received, loved, and embraced.  To be willing to go lower, to decrease and let Him increase.