Do the Blog Hop

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Gentle Reader,

A couple of weeks ago the lovely Jolene Underwood asked if I would like to participate in the Blog Hop. The purpose of the Hop is twofold: to give you, dear friend, some insight into my writing process and to introduce you to three “blogging buddies,” authors who have consistently blessed me with their words, a fact that I need to make plain with each of them as I am a notorious “lurker” rather than commenter.

If you aren’t following Jolene, you’re missing out! Head on over to her entry into the Hop and get to know her a little. You won’t be disappointed in the time spent.

And now, the questions:

What am I writing or working on?

I would love to tell you that I’m working on a book, but I’m not. Honestly, I am beginning to see why I have always felt such a pull toward journalism, though I’ve never worked for a newspaper. My style and voice are better suited to articles than to books. I don’t see a need to belabor a point, and so much of what passes for Christian nonfiction these days could be said in half the words. I don’t like it when people waste my time and I don’t want to waste yours.

So, my public writing appears in two places: this blog and the Far East Broadcasting Company Gospel Blog. I spend a good deal of time in private writing, whether in my journal or in sending out cards and emails. I believe that God has called me to share His truth and encourage others whenever I can, and a lot of that happens through a a few lines jotted on the inside of a pretty card.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I am a woman who blogs, but I am not primarily a woman’s blogger. I’m hard-pressed to think of any recipes or craft ideas I’ve shared here; my husband does the bulk of the cooking and I can’t craft to save my life. I don’t have children, so I don’t share parenting advice. I do write about my marriage, but I don’t offer marriage advice, other than to say, “Jesus, help us all.”

None of these things are bad. I’m not in any way dogging on any of the wonderful women who write about such topics. My focus is simply different. I explore theology. I study God as I walk this journey, and I share that study and that journey with you.

Why do I write what I write?

I have to write. I may not post here 365 times each year, but it’s rare that a day goes by without me writing something. This is the way I communicate.

God gives us all talents that can be used apart from Him. An amazing athlete is an amazing athlete because God made him that way, but that athlete doesn’t have to acknowledge God to be good at his sport. I was seen as a good writer long before I gave my life fully over to the Lord, and I say without any trace of melodrama that it frightens me when I consider the kind of damage my words could have done if I had remained on my own, rebellious path. I’m neither kidding nor boasting when I say that I could have become a very successful news reporter, but that success would have been based entirely in playing the media game. There would have been truth in my words, but that truth would have been spun. (I’m sorry, dear reader, but there is simply no such thing as “fair and unbiased” reporting).

It’s taken years for me to let go of the dream of commercial and financial success. When I submitted to God, I thought for sure that He’d make me the next Beth Moore. He has had to pound out of me vanity and pride. Over and over again, He draws me into questioning my motives. Why am I doing this? Why am I using this public platform? What do I hope to gain?

The bottom line: I write because God made me to write, but I write about Him and His word because He has given me the gift of teaching. He has taught me so much through the straightforward reading of His word and through teachers and preachers far smarter me, and I want to share what I’ve learned. I’m compelled to share what I’ve learned. Learning is a lost passion among the people of God. I want to do what I can to ignite a desire for truth and knowledge in the hearts of His children.

How does my writing process work?

I tried using a calendar to plan out my posts, but the art was lost on me. I hate, hate, HATE doing outlines. Oddly, for someone so riddled with anxiety, I’m not much for vision casting. I don’t really know what this blog will look like next week, let alone a year from now.

As talked about above, I usually write about what I’m learning. Sometimes a clear idea for a piece or a series comes into my head and I assume that such direction is where God is leading. I edit as I go along. Recently I’ve had the need to pray over each entry pressed upon my heart. It’s not that I don’t pray; I want to share what God wants me to share and I want Him to bless the words. The Holy Spirit has just given me a heightened awareness of the privilege and responsibility it is to have this blog. I don’t want to write anything that is detrimental to His name or His people.

Now, the fun part! Please allow me the distinct pleasure of introducing you to:

* This lovely lady will forever be Mrs. Solsvik to me, as I came to know her through the student-teacher relationship in high school. She taught me and my rowdy classmates literature, journalism and creative writing – and somehow emerged with her life. Mrs. Solsvik’s writing never fails to refresh me as she combines humor, thoughtfulness and a sincere devotion to Christ into the lens through which she views life.

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Heather Solsvik is a teacher, wife, friend, lover of animals, books, writing, and Jesus; she is also work-in-progress and self-proclaimed nerd. Born and raised in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, Heather enjoys the way all four seasons highlight the beauty of the Pacific Northwest and speak to her soul. Her blog, A (Slightly) Worn Path, is a place for her to practice writing and chew on the details of life, and share those things with others. Stop by for a visit!

* Deanna and I connected through Five Minute Friday and the #fmfparty Twitter chat on Thursday evenings. Though I have not been a follower of her blog for long, I appreciate how honestly Deanna writes. She shares her life openly, high and low points, all while giving praise and glory to God.

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Deanna Wiseburn is a Christ follower, writer, encourager, survivor, and dreamer.  Her personal mission is to love others by becoming involved in community, helping others to learn Gods word and bring encouragement as she follows Jesus wherever He leads as she lives out His call on her life. Her mission on The Pure Sacrifice is to challenge you to grow in your relationship with Jesus, to remind you of your hope and future in Him, and to encourage you to live in surrender of God’s plan for your life. You can connect with her on TwitterFacebook, and Pinterest.

* I’ve been following James at Morning Meditations for…I don’t know how long. Long enough to consider him a friend even though we’ve never met. I never fail to learn something when I read his posts. We interact with each other through this blogging world regularly, and James always encourages me and pushes me to think a little deeper.

meI’m an ordinary guy walking a path of faith and trying to understand my relationship with God. I’m not a Pastor, teacher, or leader of any kind. All of my opinions are solely my own. I don’t claim to have any special insight into what makes the Bible, Jesus, or God “tick”. I’m just a Christian husband married to a Jewish wife.

Part of this blog has to do with the joys and challenges of being intermarried and part of it has to do with my return to church, struggles with faith, and the unique role of the Messianic Gentile. Sometimes I write reviews of sermons, books, and other “religious” content. I also write a great deal about how a Christian can look through a Jewish lens and get a better perspective on life, love, and the God who made us all.

I hope you take the time to check out each of these fantastic writers. You’ll be blessed!

Grace and peace along the way.

The Detox Diaries: Confidence

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Gentle Reader,

I’ve been working on memorizing a few passages of Scripture, one of them being Proverbs 31:25 -

I am clothed with strength and dignity. I laugh without fear of the future. (NLT; personalized and emphasis mine)

That’s what I want. I want to be in the moment and enjoy it without any fear of the near or distant future.

Matthew Poole, on this verse:

She lives in constant tranquility of mind, and a confident and cheerful expectation of all future events, how calamitous soever, partly because she hath laid in provisions of a rainy day, and chiefly because she hath the comfortable remembrance of a well-spent life, and, which follows thereupon, a just confidence in God’s gracious providence and promises made to such persons.

A just confidence in God’s gracious providence.

Yes.

Grace and peace along the way.

To read all the posts in The Detox Diaries series, go here.

Purity of Doctrine

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Gentle Reader,

As I touched on in Friday’s post, I have been confronted with the need to, once again, examine some of the things I believe and to reconsider some of my stances on those beliefs. This is always an uncomfortable place to be, but it’s not a bad thing. After all, the Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy:

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. – 2 Timothy 2:15 (ESV)

The wording isn’t past tense; he does not say, “you did your best and presented yourself.” The sentence carries with it the sense of a present, ongoing action. This verse couples well with the sentiment expressed in Deuteronomy 11:16:

Beware that your hearts are not deceived, and that you do not turn away and serve other gods and worship them.  (NASB)

Again, it is not, “you were aware and so you were not deceived.” We must be aware now and continue to be aware.

Here, my friend, is where I am. Listening to a single webcast at work last week brought to my attention a place of blindness. A place where I was not aware.

For the past few months I’ve been listening to Dr. James White’s webcast, the Dividing Line. Dr. White is a stanch Calvinist, and so there are definitely things I disagree with him on. (To balance out the listening time, I went on the hunt for a non-Calvinist who was as good a presenter as Dr. White. I came across Dr. Michael Brown, a Messianic Jew. I haven’t listened to as much of his stuff yet, but what I have, I’ve enjoyed). Despite these disagreements, I really enjoy Dr. White’s teaching, which is primarily focused in the realm of apologetics and, currently, dialoguing with Muslims. He is knowledgeable about the subjects he addresses, does not engage in bashing those on the “other side” of whatever it is he’s talking about and has a sarcastic sense of humor, which I always appreciate.

I haven’t gone through the Dividing Line episodes in chronological order, so the topics have been wide-ranging, to say the least. Last Thursday I found this floating around the YouTubeness. If you have the opportunity right now, take an hour and listen. For those of you who don’t have the time, the webcast was aired the day that Pope Francis was elected. Dr. White delves into his own view of that event while remarking on his surprise that many Christians (honestly, myself included) failed to understand the issues.

Let me make something very clear: I am not about to get into Catholic-bashing. I absolutely, one-hundred percent believe that there are true, sincere Christians within the Catholic Church. If someone were to ask me, “Are Catholics Christian?,” I would have to respond with, “Let’s go talk to some and see what they say.” And with that we have the other thing I need to make clear: While I truly believe that there are real Christians within the Catholic Church, I do not believe that the Catholic Church teaches the true Gospel.

And I just lost some readers.

I considered not writing this, but I can’t be so cowardly. The seed for this post was planted when Dr. White went through some of the Pope’s titles in the webcast. I was brought up short when he illuminated the implications of calling him “Holy Father,” two words used in Scripture to describe God Himself. (Before you object, yes, Christ calls His people to holiness. Yet we would be real idiots to think that our daily striving for set-apartness and cleanness comes anywhere near the perfect purity of the Lord). Are Catholics actually calling the Pope God? I don’t think so. I don’t think they mean it that way. Nevertheless, it makes me squirm.

I’ve never met Pope Francis. I have no idea who he truly is. Like much of the rest of the world, I was interested when he came to power. I tracked the proceedings that day and I prayed for him. There have been moments when I’ve said, “I like that he said ___________” or “I like that he did _____________.” I’m not trying to pass some sort of judgment on the man. Yet he stands in a position with accompanying titles that take my breath away.

It’s not just the “Holy Father” thing, either. How about “Vicarious Iesu Christi,” or Vicar of Christ? The term vicarious means “acting or done for another.” Tertullian, writing in the third century, applied to the term to the Holy Spirit, in Prescriptions Against Heretics, Chapter 28. And rightly so, for Jesus said that the Father would send the Spirit “in My name” (John 14:26).

But this was not the big problem for me.

“Alter Christus.”

That’s the big problem for me.

I have been to Mass before. There were things about it that I liked: the sense of sacred space, the beauty of the architecture. But I had no idea just what it was the people in attendance believed about the priest. In paragraph 1548 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church we read, “Now the minister comes by reason of the sacerdotal consecration which he has received, is truly made like to the High Priest and possesses the authority to act in the power and place of Christ himself.” The priest is an alter Christus, meaning “another Christ.” I can feel the heat rushing to my cheeks as I think about that. Another Christ.

No.

In paragraph 1549: “The bishop is typos tou Patros: he is like the living image of God the Father.”

The living image of God the Father?

We give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of your love for all the saints; because of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, of which you heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel, which has come to you, as it has also in all the world, and is bringing forth fruit, as it is also among you since the day you heard and knew the grace of God in truth; as you also learned from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf, who also declared to us your love in the Spirit.

For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy; giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyedus into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.

For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwelland by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.” – Colossians 1:3-20 (NKJV, emphasis mine)

Pretty sure all of that refers to Jesus, not a bishop.

In brief, consider:

* Transubstantiation, the dogma that declares the bread and wine to become the literal body and blood of Christ, which one must ingest in order to be saved. Thus Communion becomes a “re-sacrifice” of Jesus Christ for our sins, or as a “re-offering” of His sacrifice. This defies several passages of Scripture, most notably Hebrews 7:27, which states:

“Unlike the other high priests, He does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins for all when He offered Himself.”

And Hebrews 10:10:

“…we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” (emphasis mine)

- John 6, particularly verses 53-57, is interpreted in an extremely literal way in order to arrive at the conclusion that the bread and wine must become the body and blood, because Jesus appears to be saying that we must literally eat His flesh and drink His blood. Yet verse 63 has Jesus declaring:

“The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.”

Jesus uses physical concepts to teach spiritual truth.

* The Marian dogmas, particularly the teaching that Mary is a mediator between God and mankind. Catholicism also asserts that she intercedes for people. Both deny the truth of 1 Timothy 2:5 & Hebrews 7:25:

“For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus…He always lives to intercede for them.”

- Mary is often referred to as “the advocate,” a title given to the Holy Spirit (John 14:26).

- In unofficial (i.e. non-dogmatic) teaching, Mary is the “co-redemptrix,” meaning that she “uniquely shared in the work of Jesus to redeem the human family, both by giving Jesus His body, the very instrument of redemption, and by suffering with Him at Calvary in a way unparalleled by another other creature.” Reading that sentence actually makes me angry. Nobody - NOBODY – but Christ engaged in the work of redemption.

* Oral and written tradition. Catholicism heartily rejects sola Scriptura, or Scripture alone, and instead insists upon the existence of an oral tradition that is just as authoritative as Scripture. This means that the source of authority can (and does) come from somewhere other than the substantiated Word of God that anyone can access. This may not directly cross into Gnostic territory, but it certainly flirts with the line.

What truly baffles me is just how little Catholicism considers Judaism, the very roots from which the Christian faith grew. All of the Apostles were Jewish. Every single one of the concepts discussed here would have been absolutely blasphemous to them. There is no way they taught any of that.

There are many other points of deep concern, but this post is already nearing the 1900 word mark.

I am not a trained apologist. I don’t know the original languages. I don’t know the ins and outs of all the sophisticated, philosophical arguments. But I can read the teaching of the Catholic Church and assess it next to the teaching of the Bible. Doing so leads me to this conclusion:

There are true Christians in the Catholic Church, but they became Christians by reading Scripture and through the grace and mercy of God, not through anything the church teaches. Rome preaches a false gospel. 

I just lost some more readers.

Due to this conclusion, I will be going back over the Sola What? series I wrote two years ago and doing extensive editing. My thoughts on the subject have definitely changed. However, the direction of this blog is not taking a big turn or leap. I don’t intend to focus exclusively on Catholicism. I’m not out to “stick it to” anyone. I simply want everyone and anyone who comes across my writing to be presented with the true message of the Gospel: Christ and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2).

Grace and peace along the way.