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The Real Deal

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Gentle Reader,

There’s nothing like Easter.

After the horrible betrayal. After the mocking trials. After the bruises, the wounds, the spitting, the torture. After the crown of thorns. After the agony of the Cross. After it was finished. After the dreadful silence of the tomb.

Easter.

PAR-TAY!

I say that with all seriousness. If there is ever a day when Christians should celebrate with abandon, Easter is it. Jesus is alive! The Evil One is defeated! Death couldn’t claim Him! The grave couldn’t hold Him! He is wrapped not in moldy, decaying funeral rags, but in a glorified, perfect body. And yet a body that still bears the marks. Our names carved upon His hands.

God became flesh and made His dwelling among us.

I love seeing the little girls in their frilly dresses and the boys in their bright shirts. I love seeing extended family come together for church and a good meal. I love seeing the budding trees and new flowers. The sense of hope and promise hangs thick in the air.

A new season.

A new life.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I don’t understand how people live without Jesus. Looking at the state of the world, from wars to human trafficking to poverty to hunger, makes me cling to Him all the more. I am desperate for what only God can provide. On my own, I say and do stupid, stupid things. Selfish things. Mean things.

I am a sinner.

I need grace.

I need a miracle.

 

Jesus’ resurrection is that miracle. He takes all that ugliness, all that sin, and washes it in His blood. He sends His Spirit to live in me and make me into the person I was meant to be. No amount of self-help or positive thinking can do what He does. He pokes and prods at all the deep, secret, dark places. He brings things to the surface, things I want to keep buried, and teaches me how to look at them in His light. He teaches me how to walk the right path. He teaches me how to worship Him as the True and Forever Lord.

He teaches me how to be real.

And God? He’s the complete real deal. He is totally honest, totally Himself. He doesn’t have a messed-up side. He doesn’t try to manipulate or guilt-trip anyone. He just lays out the facts. He says, “This is Who I Am and this is how it is.” Then He lets us decide. Empty or whole. Heaven or Hell. New or old. Together or alone.

When Jesus left the tomb that glorious morning, the way was made clear for each of us. The great enemies of sin and death were slain by the only One Who could do it. We don’t have to live in the pit. We can cry out, “Jesus, save me!” And He will. He’ll reach in and pull us out. And we see the Great King with eyes that blaze with the fire of holiness. We are bathed in the beauty of His love and the fantastic mystery of mercy. Draped in the robes of His righteousness, we realize how small and shriveled we are, and how glowing and healthy we can become in Him. Because of Him.

We approach the Throne of the Holy One, welcomed as His beloved children.

Because of Jesus.

Because of Easter.

Grace and peace along the way,

toujszda2

 

 

 


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Not the Fundamentals: Family Size

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Gentle Reader,

Accepting the Bible to be inspired by God necessitates the belief that God affirms the value of life, and therefore children. So before we even begin this emotionally-charged discussion, know that I stand firmly within that belief. (Especially as a pacifist). All the kids in my life are special. In no way do I think that there should be governmental restrictions on the amount or gender of children that a couple has. Basically, kids are a good thing.

Nevertheless, despite this affirmation, I strongly object to the Quiverfull movement and it’s often-attendant theology of Dominionism. (Please note that not all people who ascribe to the Quiverfull movement also ascribe to Dominionism, but the two can be generally linked). In essence, Quiverfull adherents believe that any and all forms of birth control are sinful, because a married couple should always be open to the blessing of more children. Dominionism is a complex system, but essentially makes no distinction between Israel and the Church; the Church is subject to the same blessings and curses found in the Sinai covenant and it’s subsequent reiteration in Deuteronomy. Dominionists believe that Christians must bring about the total reformation of society as a whole, distinct from the mainstream idea of Christ changing the individual. When the two systems are linked, the focus lies on “outbreeding” everyone else, especially secular humanists and even other Christian groups, which may or may not be seen as legitimate.

As you might imagine, the families treading this path live within a very legalistic structure, with emphasis on outward conformity. (Again, this is a generalization. Certainly not all Quiverfull families are legalistic. However, based on what I have read, there is a great deal of pressure toward certain “norms.”)

Dominionism is based on a poor hermeneutic, one that I simply cannot get behind. The Church has not replaced Israel; at the very least, Romans 9-11 makes that clear. The prophecies found in Revelation were not all fulfilled in the years immediately following Christ’s ascent. Certainly, some of them were, but many of the prophecies can and do have a dual meaning and therefore a dual fulfillment. Christians aren’t to set up Christ’s kingdom before He returns. Outward conformity does not indicate true faith.

I could go on, but we’ll leave it at that.

The Quiverfull movement is based on a poor understanding of Scripture and of medical science. Firstly, the movement bases itself on Psalm 127:3-5 -

Children are a heritage from the Lordoffspring a reward from Him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their opponents in court.”

As far as I know, you won’t find a single Christian person who disagrees with the above. Children are a blessing. Children are from God. Yet how one jumps from this to “have as many babies as possible” is still somewhat mystifying to me. And yes, surely, God did command Adam and Eve to “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28), but taking this as a literal command for all future generations fails to take context into account. Additionally, the argument that the Bible “doesn’t talk about birth control” means nothing. The Bible also doesn’t talk about smartphones.

Contrary to their beliefs, birth control does not cause abortions. Birth control prevents pregnancy from happening. Unless you believe that an egg and a sperm are, on their own, viable human life, this should be apparent. No fertilization and no implantation equals no baby. Furthermore, the alarm cry that using birth control directly leads to breast (or other) cancer is far too loud, as this clearly points out.

There is a willful blindness at play. I’m all for trusting God to provide, but I’m also all for the common sense that He gave each of us and that is enhanced and developed by the Spirit. For example, if you have three kids and know that you aren’t in a position to take care of a fourth, then don’t have that fourth. If there are medical issues that would prevent you from properly caring for children, don’t have them. In neither case does this point to a lack of salvation or faith. It means that you’re using the brain God gave you to recognize your situation and handle it appropriately.

Those who have been reading this blog for awhile know that I am unable to have children, but that isn’t why this issue is so important to me. I hate what kids suffer because of the actions of their parents. I don’t dislike it, it doesn’t annoy me. I hate it. Children don’t ask to be born. They don’t ask to suffer because of a lack of time, money or other resources. They don’t ask to be neglected. They don’t ask to take on adult-sized responsibilities long before they are able. They don’t ask to be the children of selfish people who should never have been parents.

This is what the Quiverfull and other fundamentalist movements fail to take into account. God does not call each of us to the exact same life. Singleness is blessed. Marriage without kids is blessed. Marriage with two kids is blessed. Marriage with one kid and the mission field is blessed. Marriage with adoption is blessed. Blended families are blessed. So long as one is walking with the Lord, there are as many variations as there are Christians.

Finally, I fail to see how the size and shape of my family is the business of anyone but myself, my husband and God. I know large families and I know small families. I know blended families. I know families who have adopted. I know widows, widowers and never-marrieds. To say that any of them are outside the will of God claims a sight that I know no human to have.

Grace and peace along the way,

toujszda2


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Not the Fundamentals: Entertainment

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Gentle Reader,

“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” – Philippians 4:8 (NKJV)

Paul’s words serve as our best guide when it comes to entertainment choices. He doesn’t tell us to avoid books. Or magazines. Or television. Or movies. Or paintings. Or newspapers. Or sculptures. Or music. Or lectures. Or magazines. He doesn’t even tell us to – gasp! – avoid dancing. I know. You probably need to take a break from reading and process that.

Now, of course this reality doesn’t give us a free pass. There are things that we shouldn’t indulge in. Pornography isn’t true, noble, just, pure, lovely or of good report; it lacks virtue and there’s nothing praiseworthy about it. There are many musicians that glorify or trivialize drug and alcohol abuse, promiscuity and violence. Much of what passes for good television isn’t worth the drop in IQ that comes from watching it. For women, fashion magazines often contribute to our sense of ugliness or worthlessness, and so should be treated with caution.

Yet there isn’t a hard and fast rule here. When it comes to entertainment, the journey in faith is highly individualized. For example, I used to be a fan of Grey’s Anatomy. Most of the episodes were very well done – the characters were complex and interesting and so were the story lines. For years, nothing bothered me about it. And then I just couldn’t watch it anymore. I realized that I was watching something that, despite having good qualities, didn’t line up with what I said I believed. The same thing happened last summer when I got hooked on Parenthood.

The truth is, I don’t watch a lot of television or movies. Part of that came after learning in therapy that everything – and I mean everything – impacts the way I think and feel. That lesson was repeated just a few months ago when I figured out how to use Spotify. I built a playlist full of songs from my high school days (N*SYNC, anyone?) and got a real kick out of listening to it. Slowly and subtly, I began to romanticize and long for that time in my life. I wasn’t living in the moment. I began to feel discontent. It was the music, and I had to delete the entire playlist.

 Could another Christian person watch Grey’s Anatomy or Parenthood and listen to music from their high school days without feeling convicted about it?

Absolutely.

We walk by faith, not by sight. Those who believe follow the path that God illuminates, and He often shines light on different things at different times for different people. I can’t stand the song “Blurred Lines,” and I’m happy to talk with anyone about it should the conversation arise, but I’m not going to judge my Christian brother or sister by whether or not they like it. I’m not going to assume their faith is lesser than my own. And while I firmly believe that we have to protect our minds and thereby our hearts, I also believe that the art of protection is never fully achieved. There are probably things in my life right now that I think are fine that I won’t be able to watch or listen to a year from now. It’s a process.

Lastly, nowhere in Paul’s words, and nowhere in Scripture, in fact, do we find a basis for detaching from artistic expression. Anyone who believes that faith equals the possession of nothing more than a Bible and a commentary set needs to go out and look at a flower. God is an artist. He is the ultimate Master. And so I would dare to say that Christians should be pursuing the arts with vigor. Who better than the redeemed to write, act, dance, sing, paint, sculpt, draw and speak? Cannot all of this bring glory to God?

Grace and peace along the way,

toujszda2

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