Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Spirit vs. Letter

Hmmm...just realized how hopeless I am at this blog thing. I tend to wait til I can think of something really astounding to say before I make a post. Result? I never post anything. Whether this is a lack of creativity or just plain laziness I don't know. However, I am determined to force myself write more. Well, at least til I leave for college, because then I'm not really sure when I'll have any free time. So anyways, here goes, and sorry for my long absence.

"Thou shalt not take the name of thy Lord God in vain." As one of the ten commandments most of us have either heard or memorized this phrase. But most of us also pass it over without thought, letting the words slide off our tongues without taking consideration of its meaning. Most of us think "here, at least, is one commandment I don't have to worry about." But, as so many of the others, this one too has a deeper meaning. Like lusting is the same as adultery and hate is comparable to murder, so taking the Lord's name in vain has more than just face value.

Not only is taking His name in vain something we must literally avoid with our speech, it is also something we ought to guard against in our actions. By claiming the name of Jesus, by calling ourselves Christians we are representing Him. If we play church, act hypocritically and disobediently we are casting a false light on His righteous name. This is "taking His name in vain" or more literally making a mockery of it. When we talk the talk but don't walk the walk it misrepresents Christ to the world around us and gives Him a bad reputation because of our folly.

There are more ways yet to take the Lord's name in vain. (Didn't know it was such a toughie did you?) Moving on to speech, swearing is not the only way that we can disgrace Him. Even by speaking irreverently or flippantly about Him, we are not taking Him seriously and thus throw dirt on His holy name. The Pharisees in the Bible were so careful to literally not take the Lord's name in vain that they would not even say his name. Wherever they read the word YAHWEH they would mentally say Jehovah. Yet they blasphemed His name by their self-righteous actions, priding themselves as God's chosen ones and having a "holier-than thou" attitude they were a disgrace to the name they called their own.

These are the people who, on the day of judgement, will say "Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name..." and He will say "I never knew you." Pretty harsh. I guess all of us could profit from taking a closer look at this commandment and being more careful how we act as Christians in reflecting God's holy name.

Monday, March 15, 2010

We're Gonna Be Partners

Gay Marriage: We’re Gonna be Partners

Imagine this. A married couple moves to their new home in Portland, Oregon ready for a fresh start on life, eager to make friends and find a good church. They are pleased with the newly established laws of the state which define marriage according to Biblical standards and are enjoying their rights under that law. In their dreamy plans for the future they expect nothing untoward or unlooked for, when the unexpected happens. Oregon passes an act which bursts their comfortable bubble of protection and takes away those same privileges of marriage for which they moved to the state. Instead, they find themselves forced to share these “rights” with people entirely undeserving of such consideration. As a final blow, their very status as a married couple is no longer viewed as an “honorable estate,” but an overrated and belligerent imposition.

The Moral Issue

This unfortunate couple’s predicament is one felt by many in today’s society. Yet, deeply ingrained in one’s conscience is the perception that there are certain acts and ways of life that are fundamentally wrong. Homosexuality is one of these. Leviticus 18:22 properly labels it; “You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination.” It is sincerely to be doubted whether anyone could think differently without having first numbed their mind and suppressed their conscience. Morally, physically, spiritually, conscientiously homosexual behavior is wrong. God has made abundantly clear the fact that homosexuality is immoral and sinful (Leviticus). In Romans 1 Paul writes of God’s wrath poured out on the unrighteous among whom he counts drunkards, murderers, gossips, and homosexuals. In Romans 1:27 he explains “The men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.” By Biblical standards same-sex relations are inherently evil and ought to be punished. Unfortunately, such strong anti-homosexual language is rarely, if ever, heard in today’s society.
In America people are brainwashed into immunity and forced into tolerance by the continual droning and pounding of the media. No longer is homosexual sin to be something exposed and publically shamed. In today’s twisted culture one can be proud of one’s sin and flaunt it openly. Wonderful! Just what our country needs! America has encouraged and condoned same-sex relations to the point of sneering at normal marriage. Homosexuality in the state of Oregon has been growing rapidly, wreaking havoc on society, and destroying Biblical principles of marriage. As Christians we ought to fight this movement, outlaw homosexuality, and prevent gay marriage from being legalized.

Measure 36

By looking at the history of this movement in Oregon one can quickly realize how disastrous an effect is produced by the promotion of sin, and how rapidly an entire society can be undermined and corrupted. Early in 2004, officials of Multnomah County, Oregon deemed it unconstitutional to deny same-sex couples the right to a proper marriage. Almost immediately, they began issuing marriage licenses by the hundred to homosexuals (Wikipedia).
Naturally, many people were angered by this incident and fought to stop the outrage. As a result, the case ended up in court and a hullabaloo ensued. That fall, Measure 36 appeared on the ballot. Proposed by marriage defenders, this Measure defined marriage as “between one man and one woman” (Wikipedia). To the satisfaction of many, Measure 36 was voted into law and marriage defenders began to relax. But too soon. The homosexual advocates were not to be defeated so easily. Soon, they exercised their power and pressured Governor Ted Kulongoski into signing the Equality Act which protected gay people from discrimination. Shortly afterwards, in 2007, the Family Fairness Act came into being and dealt Biblical marriage a stunning blow essentially giving same-sex couples all the rights and privileges belonging to marriage partners (Wikipedia).

The Family Fairness Act

The Family Fairness Act bears some explanation in order to justly give an idea of its destructive effects on society. Under this act, homosexuals of 18 years and older are granted the right to enter into a “domestic partnership” (Family Fairness Act). This domestic partnership is in turn granted those rights which originally were intended for marriages only (Family Fairness Act). Included in these rights are adoption and parenting rights, legal protection, hospital visitation rights, and medical decision rights (Basic Rights Oregon). Imagine the damage done by such a law. Same-sex couples can now adopt and raise children. Despite being an awful situation for any two people to be in, think of how it would be to throw a child into such circumstances and be taught that it’s normal and right. Besides the mental ramifications, the child might also be subjected to physical harm (Catholic Apologetics International). This is the environment which children can now be placed and legally bound into thanks to the Family Fairness Act.
Also, because of the Act these domestic partners can legally make medical decisions for one another, receive benefits of insurance and tax credits as a married couple. If one dies, the other legally can receive the remaining property and money if it is not addressed in a will. Even under normal circumstances that is a significant responsibility and privilege. In homosexual cases, there is hardly a single example where the partners have remained together long enough to justify such power. Homosexual couples rarely stay together and usually have multiple partners (Catholic Apologetics International). The Family Fairness Act declares discrimination against same-sex “oriented” people unconstitutional and even promotes it to the disadvantage of the heterosexually “oriented.” As Christians we cannot but see that sinful and immoral behavior ought to be punished, not celebrated, disparaged and cast out rather than legally protected. Obviously the Family Fairness Act attacks true marriage and takes away the constitutional privileges enjoyed by heterosexual partners.

The Ongoing Battle

This is the state of things in Oregon today; marriage is attacked and shamed, Biblical principles are rejected and trampled upon while Folly is given the seat of honor and welcomed in every public institution. But the homosexual agenda does not stop there. Those in sin do not stop until every nagging, irritating, disparaging voice is weeded out and they need not be reminded of such an inconvenient thing as their conscience. At present they are seeking to root out the foundations of Biblical marriage entirely and establish themselves in its place. Being domestic partners is not enough, they must be allowed actual marriage. “Domestic partnership is a step in the right direction, but it has many limitations. That is why Basic Rights Oregon is dedicated to winning marriage equality” (Basic Rights Oregon). The same-sex advocates are campaigning through Oregon for the institution of gay marriage and the repealing of Measure 36 (Basic Rights Oregon).
This is not merely a battle of words, but a clash of principles. By overturning Measure 36 they hope to destroy and corrupt the definition of marriage and so establish themselves victorious over long-standing religious opponents (Basic Rights Oregon). They seek not only to legalize their sin, but to dominate the market. It should be abundantly apparent to Christians especially that this campaign is destructive to traditional family values, the core of true marriage and causes insecurity and instability in the home. It is infiltrating every walk of life and today one can find it in the work place, the school and sadly, the church. It is an uphill battle, but one which must be waged against the power of sin to reinstate Biblical principles in their proper place.

Political Correctness

Gay marriage advocates use a number of arguments in defense of their position. One of their primary appeals is to justice. As homosexuality has grown over the years, it has come to be viewed as a sort of ethnicity or orientation. They argue that if a couple love and commit to one another, they ought to receive marriage rights as well. “Same-sex couples were finally afforded the rights and responsibilities that should be provided to all couples who make the commitment to care for one another” (Basic Rights Oregon).
The first major problem with this appeal is that gay couples do not as a general rule make that kind of commitment. Most homosexuals have between 20 and 100 partners per year while heterosexuals have on average 8 per lifetime (Catholic Apologetics International). While they may argue that the relationship is one based on real affection and care for one another, it is apparent from these statistics that these partnerships are primarily based on sexual desire and sinful lust.
The small percentage of domestic partnerships that do last petition that as an established family entity they have the rights to adoption and parenting (Nolo, 2008). Aside from the obvious problem that two people of the same gender cannot naturally have children together, there are numerous other issues with this argument. Child security and environmental safety activists seem to have fallen asleep on the job where homosexuals are concerned. For one thing, they are making a conscientious effort to recruit and indoctrinate children for their own cause (Catholic Apologetics International). Also, 33% of homosexuals admittedly partner with minors and many confess to being pedophiles claiming that love between adults and children is perfectly natural. Additionally, 33% of child molestations in America are caused by homosexuals which means that about 1 in 20 homosexuals is a molester (Catholic Apologetics International). Shouldn’t these statistics be considered before children are thoughtlessly sent into such unhealthy, unstable environments?
A third major argument for homosexuality is that it is a natural and perfectly normal condition. Arguing that it is a matter of sexual orientation they claim to be an almost ethnic group and as such assert their rights to protection from discrimination under the Constitution (Family Fairness Act). Is it natural that 78% of homosexuals have STD’s, AIDS, and other diseases? Is it normal that 50% of the gay population are depressed and suicidal? Can it be the product of a perfectly natural state that homosexuals rarely live past their 40's? (Catholic Apologetics International).
As the movement spread Gay/lesbian advocates have tried and largely succeeded in gaining legal protection against discrimination. But pendulum swings don’t solve issues. By trying to desensitize the public and infuse an attitude of tolerance on people, America has gotten so busy trying not to discriminate against homosexuals that it discriminates against heterosexual marriage. This state of affairs is neither right nor natural and Christian Oregonians must swim against the tide, fighting the desensitizing process and working to restore marriage to it’s former glory.

A Lost Cause?

Although their rights and privileges under marriage were blown away by the winds of homosexual precedence, the couple from Portland did not give up. Realizing the impending disaster spelled by homosexual advancement in Oregon they have fought to keep Measure 36 and make sure gay couples do not win the battle to destroy marriage entirely. This battle Christians must join in order to prevent the legalization of gay marriage and eventually blot homosexuality from the laws of the land. Although it seems to be a lost cause, Christians cannot give over the fight, admit defeat and allow themselves and their families to be desensitized and tolerant to such sinful behavior. If we unite in an effort strike down the gay marriage campaign we can put Oregon on the road to recovery and eventually place marriages back where they belong.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Generational Fruit

Well, I can't help feeling rather inadequate to begin this subject and I know there will be much lacking. There is so much to say and so few words to say it with. My Grandparents' legacy is something difficult to pin down in mere phrases and sentences, but easily observed in their incredible impact on lives around the world, their Godly children, their own habits, their very lives.

Last night my mother and I sat together for several hours discussing this subject and as we sat there reminiscing, tears streamed down our cheeks and we felt overwhelmingly blessed. Blessed is the only word I can think of to adequately describe the joy of having truly God-fearing, wonderful parents, grandparents and great grandparents.

My dear Grandpa and Grandma are now in their 80's, but still going they have done their whole lives. They spent every moment of every day seeking how best to minister to others and glorify God. Through their mission work in India they have touched countless lives and as the key leaders at the Children's Home there, they became father and mother to hundreds of Indian boys and girls. In the meantime they did not neglect their own four children (one of whom is my mother) but encouraged and blessed them with Godly examples, rich memories and love.

My Grandma, I may safely say, is one of the most Godly women I know. When I read Proverbs 31, I feel like I am reading about her. Although I realize that of course she is imperfect and sinful, but through her many years she has had a quiet determination to serve the Lord, to grow better, stronger and more whole day by day. This is what the name of my blog signifies. Becoming whole. Living day to day, waking each morning with the decision to glorify God in your actions and grow in faith. This is what it means to be perfected until the day of Jesus Christ.

It is easy to feel overwhelmed by my Grandma's beautiful example, but that is not what she intends. If you ask her how to become like her, she will look at you thoughtfully, kindly, but slightly confused..."why, I don't know, just by taking each day as it comes." Every morning she prepares for the day reading passages of Scripture that by now are like old, dear friends. She spends time praying diligently for every one of her children (biological and spiritual) her grandchildren, her husband, her friends, missionaries, families, governments, countries, she prays without ceasing. As one of her grandchildren how can I help feeling blessed and encouraged to know that she prays daily for me to grow into a Godly woman.

Last night, as my mom and I talked, we began to discuss what the death of these dear ones would look like. They are in their later years now and steadily declining in health, but I feel sure that they will not cease to live every day to the fullest, up until their death. I'm sure my Grandma will spend her last evening in prayer for her loved ones and delightful meditation on God's Word as she has done for so many, many years. As we cried I looked up at my mom, realizing, that we were not crying out of sadness for that day, but delight and anticipation in knowing that their work would soon be completed and their lives perfected, their joy fulfilled and their sorrows no more. But until that time, I know they will press on, working and serving Him faithfully with every breath. To borrow an illustration from C. S. Lewis, I imagine my Grandparents (figuratively) sailing on with the Dawn Treader until she can go no farther, paddling on with their coracle until it sinks, and swimming on until their bodies fail when they will sink with their noses pointed to the east.

I know that there are people in whom God delights. These people, He will meet at the gates of Heaven with out-stretched arms and a smile. The only place I can truly think of my Grandparents as little children is in Jesus' arms. What a day of reconciliation and happiness that will be!

As a grandchild of this rich legacy, I feel as if I were born with my "nose pointed east." This is what being a child of the covenant be born with your feet in the right direction. You can choose to turn from it, but what a benefit it is to start off this way. This is the blessing of generational fruit. If I were to choose in my life the richest and most wonderful blessing it would be this. I am thankful for my Great-grandparents, my Grandparents and my parents and I pray for my own children and grandchildren to whom I sincerely hope to impart the same legacy of love and faithfulness.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

"Not a Tame Lion"

Next on the list is "Not a Tame Lion" by Terry Glaspey. It is about the life, thoughts and legacy of C.S. Lewis.

As a boy Lewis experienced pain and grief through the death of his beloved mother and later in the horrifying tragedies of World War I. At that point he turned his back on God and it was many years before he grudgingly admitted faith into his life once more. At last, after long, earnest debates and discussions with his close friends, J.R.R. Tolkein and Hugo Dyson he came to belief and trust in Christ. In the years following his conversion he passionately defended Christianity and became one of the greatest Christian apologists of the 20th century.

Much later in his life he met Joy Davidson Gresham and began a friendly correspondence with her. After going through a painful divorce and stranded with her two boys Joy found that her passport was running out and she must return to America...or marry an Englishman. Lewis, out of compassion married her in a civil ceremony so she could remain in the country. Soon afterward she was diagnosed with a terminal cancer and was given mere weeks to live. At last, C.S. Lewis discovered his own love for the woman and wished their marriage to be acknowledged by the church so he brought in a priest and they were married by her hospital bed. He took her home to die in his lovely estate called "the Kilns." Miraculously, Joy went into remission and the couple spent three happy years together before her cancer came back and claimed her life. The grief Lewis went through at this time was truly deep, emotional pain, yet of a different kind than his earlier grief for his mother. The one had driven him away from God, the other drove Him straight into the arms of his Heavenly Father. His book, "A Grief Observed" deals intimately with the struggles he went through at the time and how he dealt with the problems of grief and sorrow.

C. S. Lewis wrote many, many books on all sorts of topics, mostly theological, yet his style was readable, understandable, enjoyable, humorous and pithy. He is perhaps best known for writing the "Chronicles of Narnia," a series of allegorical fiction, and "Mere Christianity," quite literally a discussion on what it means to be a Christian.

Personally, growing up reading or listening to the "Chronicles of Narnia," I fell in love with the story, the majesty and holiness of the great Lion Aslan and then discovered in Christianity the same wonderful, awesome (in the truest sense of the word), glorious Character. At first it was the action and adventure of the stories that appealed to me and the more confusing 'theological' books (like "The Last Battle") were less interesting, but now, Lewis' brilliant illustration of Heaven in "The Last Battle" brings tears of joy and longing to my eyes and I eagerly await the day when we will all run together up the bright green slopes, charge up sparkling waterfalls, tumble down steep, mossy embankments, pick ourselves back up laughing and unhurt to follow the cry "Further up and further in!"

"The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning...All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story, which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before."

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Context is Everything

Hello readers! I decided that my next few Blogs will be about books I’ve been reading. My book list of late has grown larger and my time to read grown less, but I’m still plugging away, one chapter at a time whenever I can spare a minute. Hope you enjoy!

First and foremost: Kings. In my Bible I’ve been reading through the book of Kings and boy were there some bad ones in the mix! At first I thought...”ok, what’s the point of reading about all these guys? How does that help me in my Christian walk or further my faith?” In the movie Collisions Doug Wilson at one point speaks about reading the Bible in context; reading the poetry books as poetry, prophetic books as prophecy, history books as history. All at once, it made sense. I needed to stop reading Kings expecting a doctrinal treatise and instead read it as I would any other History. Although to many people history is just a bunch of old dead guys, it can really be a useful tool in life. One of the best reasons for knowing your history is in order to learn from its mistakes. You can bet those Israelite kings made lots of mistakes, but it is fascinating to see God’s hand working through it and playing out His story of love and redemption. It is the same story He is writing now in my life...and yours. One of the primary purposes of these stories is so that we know how to live our own lives; imitating those who behaved righteously and being warned away from evil. Next time you find yourself slogging through some of the duller portions of Scripture and wondering how God is going to use it in your life, try thinking about it in context and perhaps it will make more sense.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Giving Thanks

Ok! I'm now officially a blogger...but instead of starting off with something new and original I'm going to be lame and use an essay I've been polishing up for my Senior Thesis class. Hope you enjoy!

“Teach us to number our days that we may present to you a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12). Sometimes it takes a major wake-up call to remind us of this principle. As a child, I was blissfully unaware of sadness or suffering. Death was only something that happened on the screen or in far off places. When everything is going well, it is only too easy to take life for granted. How true this was for my family during the summer of 2008. My parents had just been blessed with a baby girl and we were all enjoying the liveliness of our little two year old Andrew. Little did we realize just how quickly life can be snuffed out or how soon our faith would be tried through a nearly tragic accident.
Every year our church has a “Day of Rest;” a relaxing day of singing, preaching, feasting and fellowship at a cabin on the Imnaha River. The Imnaha cabin is 45 minutes away from any large town, any grocery store, or any hospital. On that eventful morning we had a glorious time of fellowship and rest. The subject of the sermon was trusting God during times of trial; a concept that seemed foreign in the idyllic, tranquil setting. However, it was not long before our own confidence and trust were set adrift in an ocean of doubt. Through a frightening accident-turned-miracle we were taught to number our days, trust in God, and give thanks.
Little knowing how our faith would be tested in the hours ahead we listened to the sermon emphasizing the need to strengthen our faith and “number our days.” Psalm 90 verse 12, the text, brought out the necessity to give God a heart of wisdom and be faithful during trials. Throughout our own trials later in the afternoon, this verse was unforgettably emblazoned on our minds. Before the day was over we had all been given a chance to live out its admonition and consider the frailty and brevity of life.
Later in the day, people lazed around, picking cherries, fishing, eating, swimming. As the afternoon wore on, people began leaving and a mere handful remained to clean up. Andrew, an exceptionally active and rambunctious toddler, did not adjust well to the slow tempo of the afternoon and before long attracted trouble. Under the supervision of my mother he again and again threatened her patience and wore her out.
At last came the moment he was looking for. Her eyes were momentarily engaged elsewhere and he took advantage of that instant to make his escape. Immediately, Andrew headed for the fast-moving river where he had earlier seen many older kids playing, splashing and jumping in the water. The moment my mother discovered that her son had disappeared, she floundered about, frantically searching for him and calling his name. By pure providence one man remained fishing at the river’s edge. As Andrew’s tiny form came hurtling past tossing and tumbling like a leaf in an autumn wind, Mr. Ellis spotted him and called out for help.
Suddenly the serenity and stillness of the day was broken like a wave against a rock as everyone dashed towards the river en masse. All at once two of the remaining men sprinted ahead to the water’s edge. Seeming to walk on water in their haste, they reached Andrew and pulled his blue figure from the water. Time stood still. In the stillness, we heard Andrew cry and knew that he was alive. There were many tears, there was joy, there was fear, there was hope. But the danger was not over yet. Due to his cold, blueish skin and sleepiness, we decided that it would be best to take him to the hospital.
During the long drive to the hospital that followed, prayer upon prayer was poured out begging and pleading with the God of mercy to have compassion. Despite our fears and doubts somehow every one of us reached a point where there was no other alternative but trusting God.
Each of us quietly bridged the gap of uncertainty and discovered peace like a tidal wave overwhelming and enveloping us. Throughout that car ride we were taught to pray as never before and to trust that the God of all the universe would do right.
By the time we reached the hospital, Andrew was pretty much back to his own active and mischievous self. The doctors, after examining him, discovered no water in his lungs which they explained was in itself a miracle. Relief flooded our senses. Gratitude poured over us and filled us to overflowing. Finally, our family surrounded the hospital bed crying, laughing, rejoicing, and praising God for his mercy which imparted peace and comfort to us like a lighthouse beacon to a ship lost at sea. Our secure little world was shaken that day, and I still tremble to think how easily it could have turned out differently. The day taught us many things; most importantly, to give thanks.
Sometimes God uses frightening events to grab our attention. He used this accident to teach our entire community about the awesomeness of His power and the vastness of his mercy. As the scene unfolded we were forced to trust Him. The reality of death and the transience of life were acknowledged to a greater extent as we began to number our days. At last, we were brought to our knees in thankfulness to God for His great compassion. Long afterward, merely the sight of Andrew brought tears to our eyes and a prayer of gratitude to our lips.