Friday, June 15, 2007

Ahhhhh...It's Friday

First let me say how thankful to the Lord I am to be feeling better; you really appreciate health after you're sick for a little while. This phenomena is heightened when you are a complete wimp about feeling bad, anyway. So, I am officially into trimester 2, and starting to almost pop buttons off my pants. I read today that the baby is now the size of a jumbo shrimp. Is it just me, or is that a really weird ananogy?

Today was the last day of VBS at our church, and, though it was fun, I must say I am glad it's over. I have an especially clingy 18-month old, and my house looks like it's inhabited by squatters. But, not to be gripey....I had the honor of praying with one of the kids in my class of fourth graders to receive Christ! I won't say I 'led him' to Christ; obviously the Holy Spirit has been working in his heart for quite a while, but it was still so neat to be a part of that process. Another fabulous thing about teaching VBS is the Teachers' Lounge. Yes, folks, a place to hang out and eat...and eat...and talk--and eat. I don't know if it's just that now that my nausea is gone, I am rediscovering food, or what, but this was truly a highlight of each day. My friend Heather is also expecting, and she was kind enough to keep eating with me and keep me from being too obvious on the third trip to the snack table (those plates are SO small!), so that was nice.

The kids had a great time, and as usual, Lifeway's material was great. Lots of great truth gets into the kids; even the songs have some good theology in them. So tonight, when I'm unable to sleep because I can't stop singing the "Game Day Central" theme song, I will remind myself that this week was really, really worth it.

Can We Please God?

As I was driving home today I was thinking about the concept of pleasing God. I thought of bible verses like Isaiah 64:6a, "We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment [menstrual rags]." My first thought was that this verse can't be related to true believers, but then I remembered the personal pronoun 'we'. Isaiah includes himself in this pronouncement by inspiration of the Holy Spirit. If that can be said of Isaiah, what about us? Can we be pleasing to God?

I can easily identify with the Apostle Paul who wrote, "For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out" (Rom. 7:18 ESV). That describes me perfectly. There is NOTHING good in me. "I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me" (Gal. 2:20). Anything good that I do doesn't come from me because I am inherently evil (cf. Mt. 7:11) and NOTHING good dwells in me. Any good that I do is a work of Christ in my life: "for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure" (Phil. 2:13). We do not please God. He is working in us to please himself!

But what about Hebrews 11:6 you ask, "And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him"? I would refer you to my earlier post on the origin of faith. God's pleasure with us is not based on anything we do or have done. It is based solely on the finished work of Christ on our behalf (doctrine of justification). His imputed or declared righteousness (cf. Jer. 23:6; Rom. 3:22; Phil. 3:9; 1 Cor. 1:31).

It's a hard thing to realize that I get all the blame for my sin and disobedience, but God gets all the credit and glory for any good that I do! "He must increase and I must decrease" (Jn. 3:30).

Below is an excerpt from ChristMyTreasure blog that so eloquently communicates what I've been trying to 'say':
"I hear many say that they are going to do something in order to 'please God.' But, here is something to consider: there is NOTHING that we can do to please God! Christians are justified based on the merit of Christ and Christ alone. Therefore, true Christians that are being sanctified by the Spirit live a life of obedience as a result of having been justified and not as a means to please God or justify themselves. So, if I make a decision to live my life in a hard area, that decision does not make God any more pleased with me. However, I can GLORIFY God more in certain decisions than others.

The Christian can make decisions that show God as more glorious than other decisions. If I make a decision to live in a hard area, I may say that God could be more glorified in my life by that than if I had chosen to live the easy life. God is not more pleased with me because of that decision (for nothing can make God more pleased with me than Christ Himself). To even imply that God could be more pleased with me because of an action I take spits in the face of justification by faith alone. However, some Christians may glorify God more than others by pursuing God in hard ways and laying down more of their life as a result of having more joy in God. God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him. Therefore, since Christians have differing levels of joy, some Christians may glorify God more than others. But, all Christians are EQUALLY pleasing to God because all Christians are justified by faith alone through Christ alone."
How liberating it is to realize that I do not and cannot do anything to please God. He has done it all! My righteous living (glorifying God) will inevitably result from my relationship with him. If I know Christ and his resurrection I WILL live a godly life (cf. Mt. 7:17; Jn. 14:15; 15:4-16).

"Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely DO IT" (1 Thes. 5:23-24, emphasis mine).

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Apocalypse Code

At LIFE group a couple of weeks ago I saw a book by Hank Hanegraaff entitled 'The Apocalypse Code'. I had been hearing about it on his radio show (The Bible Answer Man) and was very intrigued. From what I had heard it sounded like this was a treatment of eschatology (study of the end times) that was completely different from what I had been taught all of my life.

Over the last several years my paradigm has changed in the way I view things, especially doctrine. In the past I would've heard of something new and dismissed it because it was just that, new. However, as I've gotten older I've come to recognize the wisdom of my mentor at Texas A&M, Marlin Crouse, who said: "The more you know the more you realize you don't know" and "Ignorance is bliss!".

Now, just because something is 'new' doesn't mean it's true. I'm reminded by what I'm learning about the Emergent Church Movement (ECM) that 'new' sometimes means ignoring or invalidating essential doctrines of the faith. We must submit ourselves to God and to the authority of his word. The bible is the final authority for all faith and practice. Without the absolute truths (old truths) of the bible we would be left to our own imaginations which invariably leads to anarchy (cf. Judges 17:6). We must follow the example of a group of first-century believers, called Bereans, and examine everything against what the bible says:
"Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so" (Acts. 17:11 ESV).

The 'Apocalypse Code' is basically a defense of partial preterism (Latin praeter, meaning "past"). A preterist believes that most end-time prophecy was fulfilled in A.D. 70 with the destruction of Jerusalem and the Jewish temple. An aberrant view of preterism, called full or consistent preterism, believes that ALL prophecy was fulfilled including Jesus' 2nd-coming. This book does not subscribe to the latter view.

Hanegraaff does a masterful job in refuting the dispensational premillennialist position of such well known authors and prophecy 'experts' as Tim LaHaye and Hal Lindsay. He consistently uses scripture, especially the Old Testament, as his basis of interpretation. The reader is reminded again and again that scripture must interpret scripture. In fact, the book is based on a hermeneutic or basis of interpretation from an acronym he developed called LIGHTS. Each letter of the word describes an interpretation method which is critical to our understanding of not only eschatology but the bible in general:
L - Literal Principle
I - Illumination Principle (exegesis)
G - Grammatical Principle
H - Historical Princple
T - Typology Principle
S - Scriptural Synergy (harmony)
One of the most compelling arguments that the book makes is for an earlier dating of the New Testament (NT) than what we had previously thought or had been told. I'm convinced that the book of Revelation must have been written prior to A.D. 70 if for no other reason than the Apostle John doesn't mention the destruction of the temple at all (or any of the other NT books for that matter). How can the most important thing in Jewish life, the center of their 'universe' both sociologically and theologically, not be mentioned anywhere unless the writings preceded the event?! And if the cataclysm of A.D. 70 hadn't occurred, then it's highly probable that most, if not all, of the allusions to judgment and the apocalypse, especially in Revelation, would be a reference to the impending destruction of Jerusalem. It also follows, logically, that the canon would have been completed before the destruction of Jerusalem as God's way of preserving and disseminating his word due to the dispersion of true Israel (diaspora).

One of main distinctives of dispensationalism is its emphasis on a literalistic interpretation of the bible. That's OK if you understand that the bible is literature and you recognize the different genres within it (e.g. history, poetry, prophecy, allegory, etc.). Hanegraaff exposes the inconsistencies of the dispensational method in such passages as Matthew 24. The dispensationalist wants to interpret the personal pronoun 'you' as some future (21st?) generation (cf. Mt. 24:33-34). How would this have made any sense to the intended audience, the disciples, in this context? He also does a masterful job at explaining the apocalyptic language (grammatical principle) that Jesus uses (cf. Mt. 24:29; Mk. 13:24-25; Lk. 21:25) and how it has its basis in the Old Testament (cf. Is. 13:9-10).

There's so much good stuff it's hard to know where to stop. I highly recommend the book to anyone. It's an easy-read if you have a dictionary handy and can get past Hank's frequent use of alliterations!

God gave us his word for us to understand: "and you will KNOW the truth, and the truth will set you free" (John 8:32). For so long I've mistakenly thought that the book of Revelation was a mystery that couldn't be understood. The mystery of Revelation and the whole bible, for that matter, is the person of Jesus Christ. If we understand nothing else it should be about him and his sacrifice for his church: "The revelation of Jesus Christ..." (Rev. 1:1a).

Further Reading:
The Future of Israel Re-examined, James B. Jordan

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Protecting the Gift

I just finished reading a book called "Protecting the Gift" by Gavin De Becker. It's about keeping your kids safe from predators. Mr. De Becker has an obvious evolutionary worldview, and if you can get past all his talk comparing people to animals, I would recommend this book for parents. He advocates being aware of warning signs about people, and also listening to that still small instinctive voice (God-given, not evolved) that we sometimes discount because it seems irrational. He also gives great advice to women about how to avoid becoming a victim of violence. This is especially timely given the horrible news about Kelsey Smith's abduction and murder. For those of you who haven't heard, Kelsey was an 18 year-old girl, who just graduated high school, who was abducted in neighboring Overland Park on Saturday. She was leaving Target when a man abducted her in broad daylight. De Becker's book reminded me that you always want to fight for your life before you are taken to a secondary location; even if you are injured in the fight, it's likely better than what will happen to you if you are taken to a more private location. Sorry to be a downer today, but thinking about these awful possibilities and preparing for them is better than burying your head in the sand and being unable to protect yourself from people with evil intentions...

Monday, June 04, 2007

This Week in News

Wow...The past week's been fun, and sad, and exciting, and at times, very difficult. Here's a rundown.

Last Monday we worked around here on odds and ends, and didn't have any fabulous Memorial Day plans til mid-afternoon, when my dear friend Dawn called and invited us over for a last-minute get-together. This is a huge treat for my kids, as Dawn's family is tons of they have horses, kittens, bunnies, chickens, hamsters, dogs...maybe I'm forgetting something....Anyway, it was a great time with some dear, like-minded friends.

Tuesday morning, Kevin picked his Mom up from the airport. She was ours for six days! It was so good to have her. She worked her little tail off changing diapers and doing laundry and cooking and ironing for us. I know...I am so disgustingly lucky! (I mean blessed, of course!) The kids had a great time with Nana. They quickly discovered that when they asked Nana to go outside to play or play a game or pretty much do whatever their little hearts desired, she always said 'yes'!

Wednesday, Mom took the older four to the library and then to McDonald's. Right around dinner time, I took off for praise team practice at church, and then cut out afterward for a **date** with my hubby. We had fun driving around, but unfortunately I started feeling nauseated, so our plans degenerated into a trip through the drive-through. But if I must be sick, Kevin's my favorite person to do it with...

Thursday we hung around here. I had to tweak a talk I was giving at the youth girls' banquet that night. I was SO nervous, but God is faithful, and even if my delivery was shaky, I know He gave me the message to share with the girls. It really was neat...The girls were told to dress formally, and their dads were their surprise dates. The food and decorations were great--candlelight and everything. Kevin and I left after my talk, but I think the dads had a special dance with their daughters and then presented them each with a letter they'd written for them and a gift. Isn't that great?

Friday Mom released me (okay, practically pushed me out the door) and I picked up Kevin for lunch. We had a wonderful time together; it was a beautiful afternoon, and we spent most of it shopping for clothes for the both of us and talking. I love being married to my best friend. (And he's really cute, to boot.)

Saturday morning Keely and Mom headed out to do some birthday shopping for Keely. They went out for breakfast and then shopped til they dropped--or, at least til noon. I must say that it is bittersweet when your almost nine-year-old comes home with nary a toy in sight; just clothes. I think just last year clothes were a non-present to her...she really must stop growing up so fast. After Keely and Nana got back, we got ready to attend the funeral of a little girl we'd met last fall in our homeschool co-op. Marielle was 8, and the Lord took her home after a year and a half battle with cancer. She was a precious, polite, and spunky little girl whom Keely had become friends with. Her family amazes me with their complete trust in the Father, even though they are so stricken with grief. The service was so glorifying to God, and the gospel was presented so clearly. The pastor encouraged us to consider our own deaths, and brought up the point that our culture doesn't spend time considering the brevity of life, and in fact employs so many distractions to fool us into only thinking about the 'now'. Martin, Marielle's Dad, spoke at the service, and made the most beautiful analogy. He talked about how every dad envisions the day when he will walk his daughter down the isle and give her away to another man. He said that he counted himself blessed, as he watched Marielle slip away in those last moments of her earthly life, to be able to, in a sense, entrust Marielle to her true bridegroom, Jesus. Please pray for this precious family as they deal with their grief and loss.

Sunday we went to church as always, and it was nice to have Mom here. The day was really nice so after naps, we went up to the pool for the neighborhood pool opening party. Lots of hot dogs, chips, and lemonade, and lots of kids with chattering teeth and blue lips. But, you remember; it was worth it when you were a kid, too.

This morning the kids and I set out for what was to become a very long day. We headed to the house of a friend and fellow homeschooler from church for the annual homeschool field day. The kids are divided up into groups by age, and have a blast moving from station to station to compete in events such as the three legged race and timed sit-ups. The prizes are coveted candy bars. Keely stayed with a friend, but the rest of us had to run off early to make it to swim lessons for Lily and Noah. About 15 minutes into their lesson, Rowan slipped and smacked her nose on the edge of a bleacher bench, and I immediately knew that some stitches were needed. So, with the help of a sympathetic Dad, I whisked everybody into the van ( was more of a straggle holding a 22-pound baby on one hip and a 31-pound 3 yr old on the other, while trying not to cry, yelling over my shoulder at the two others to grab their towels and move their heinies! I am not a calm and collected Mom in moments of crisis, as much as I'd like to be.) Thankfully a friend allowed me to crash her afternoon plans and keep the other kids while we waited at the doctor's office. About four hours later we were headed home, with a derma-bonded cut, and a likely broken nose. We'll get the x-ray results tomorrow. But, Row's doing great; she was a real trooper, and quite happy all afternoon, believe it or not. I told Kevin that she was probably loving getting to have Mom and Dad's undivided attention and sympathy for a whole afternoon!

So, how's that for an exciting day? Even though it's terrible when your kids get hurt, it really makes you realize that you would do anything for them; anything to protect them. It reminded me today how precious Rowie is. To be quite honest, she is such a stinker lately that I feel pretty put-out with her most of the time. So, thank you, Lord, for a little reminder to treasure and enjoy this little person.

Wow, this is a long post. Maybe it makes up for the long days between entries. I will post some pics of the week with Nana and of Rowan soon. I am going to bed. :)