Author Archives: Nicole Cragin Davis

Christians, the well-meaning Trolls

“Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe’s household, that there are contentions among you. Now I say this, that each of you says, “I am of Paul,” or “I am of Apollos,” or “I am of Cephas,” or “I am of Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” 1 Corinthians 1:10-13

Have you ever read or seen The Hobbit? If you have, recall that scene where the Dwarves and Bilbo have been caught by the trolls who are trying to eat them. The trolls are tricked by an outside voice (Bilbo) telling them opposing things about how to best cook Dwarves. They start to fight among themselves, arguing over seasoning and skinning techniques, all while forgetting the primary objective: to eat the Dwarves before the sun comes up! So what happens? They toil in vain, arguing, until the Light of Day reaches the sky and they turn to stone.

We Christians are the Trolls. We spend countless hours arguing over the “Right Way” to do baptism, prayer, evangelism, and every other aspect of Christianity. We have split up the earthly Church into sections, saying “I am a Baptist”, “I am a Presbyterian”, “I am of  Wesley” or “I am of St. Augustine”.  Are we not all of Christ?  Do we not realize that these petty arguments are just devices to impair us from our true purpose: to unify ourselves against the powers of darkness and spread the glory of Christ to all nations.

In this apt analogy, Satan is the “outside voice” that causes the trolls to over think their goal of eating the Dwarves. One of Satan’s best tactics to destroy those who have faith in God is to get us to revisit what God said and distrust it by asking, “Did God really say that?” This is the device he uses against Eve in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3), and it is how he attempts to tempt Jesus in the Wilderness (Matthew 4). Jesus didn’t take the bait and combats Truth with Truth. I encourage you to read through those passages so you can see Satan’s strategy. He recites God’s Word, questions the intention of it, watches as we twist it just a little bit, and hands our doubt to us as a gift wrapped bomb from Hell. We spin in circles, trapped in our eagerness to please God. While we toil in vain arguing over doctrines, we ignore the very commandments of God. If we’re not careful, Christ will come back as the Light when we least expect it, and we will need to account for our distractions.

Beware of False Doctrines

There are false doctrines in the world. I am not suggesting that we mindlessly follow anyone who claims to be of Christ. There are some doctrines worth rejecting, some teachings that are blatantly unBiblical, and others that completely lack Christ as the only path to salvation.

I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. 2 Timothy 4:1-5

But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber. 2 Peter 2:1-3

The point of my teaching today is not that we must accept everything taught to us; it is that we need to pick our battles and keep our eyes on God. There are battles worth having, and there are wolves in sheep’s clothing looking to destroy us any way they can.

The Dangers of Denominations

I don’t have an issue with churches that are part of a denomination. I am not telling you that you must reject your Methodist/Baptist/Presbyterian church and go join a non-denominational one. I am concerned that many churches and doctrines put God in a neatly packaged box, present themselves as having “all the answers” and “The RIGHT Way”. I fear that many well-meaning denominations are earnestly trying to promote Christ throughout the world, but they do it on their terms only. Instead of relying on Scripture and prayer, they rely on the doctrines of brilliant and pious theologians whose interpretations have become doctrines all on their own.

But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion, wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions. 1 Timothy 1:5-7

‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth,
And honor Me with their lips,
But their heart is far from Me.
And in vain they worship Me,
Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ ” Matthew 15:8-9 (also Isaiah 29:13)

How many churches have split over “fruitless discussions” that have nothing to do with the fundamentals of the Gospel? Does the dunking technique of the one baptism really affect your salvation? Does which day you uphold the Sabbath really enough to judge another’s salvation by? Is instrumental music in church really something we need to have a convention over to decide whether it’s safe or not?

A lot of these “rules” were put in place to protect people’s intentions. I get that. But what has that turned into for the masses? It has turned into “confident assertions” that have caused churches to split, caused Christians to doubt the salvation and trustworthiness of other Christians, and it has nothing to do with the Truth that Jesus came on earth to preach.

Follow God, not men

We Christians spin our wheels in toil while Satan sits back and laughs at us. We don’t even need Satan to keep us from spreading the glory of God; we do it so well on our own!  The church in pieces is as ineffective as arguing children. We were meant to be unified, a singular Body of Christ that goes out as one to be the hands and feet of Christ; to do His bidding and love others just as Christ loves us.

Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.

As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; 15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love. Ephesians 1-6; 15-16

I know people will automatically throw out what I have to say because they disagree with me. They are too afraid to consider following a path that’s not theirs, a path that doesn’t fit in their boxed-in understanding of God. A servant is not above her Master. In no way am I saying that my way is better than yours, but I do want you to stop and think: when it comes down to it all, whose way is Sovereign?  Do you act on what men tell you to act on, or do you act on what God says? Do you follow “rules” out of the pure intention of your heart to love God, or because men with degrees and robes tell you to follow them or you’ll go to Hell?

The only way to know what God says is to get into Scripture yourself.  Stop blindly following people who tell you how to live your life based on their own interpretation of what God says. Don’t even take my word for it. I want to encourage you to forget doctrines created by men. Start following God, and do it with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength. God will lead you where you need to go.

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Forget Apathy

Apathy is a lack of interest or concern, especially regarding matters of general importance or appeal; indifference.  (Definition provided by The Free Dictionary.)

The Worst Kind of Apathy

If you find yourself in a repeating pattern of apathetic spirituality, it may look like this:

  • You have a house littered with Bibles and you don’t make the time to read Scripture at least once a day
  • You go through an entire day (or more) without thinking once about God’s vision or purpose for your life
  • You use prayer strictly as a vehicle to tell God what you want out of Him

I have found at my worst moments that I viewed God as an entity who served me and my needs rather than me being the one to serve God.  If I didn’t  pick up the Bible, it was because I was too tired, too busy, and I still prayed asking for things I needed without thinking of what God needed of me.  I was apathetic toward God.

Do you fall into that trap?  Do you profess to be a Christian without bearing fruit of a relationship with God?  If you find yourself going through the motions of acting like a Christian without really dedicating your life to God, then please rethink the health of your spiritual life.

Therefore the Lord said:
“Inasmuch as these people draw near with their mouths
And honor Me with their lips,
But have removed their hearts far from Me,
And their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men,
14 Therefore, behold, I will again do a marvelous work
Among this people,
A marvelous work and a wonder;
For the wisdom of their wise men shall perish,
And the understanding of their prudent men shall be hidden.” Isaiah 29:13-14  (referenced again in Matthew 15:8)

God does not like it when you draw near with your mouth, honor Him with your lips, but keep your heart far from Him.  This is a false relationship that God does not tolerate:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  Many will say to me on that day,‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ Matthew 7:21-23
The great news is that you can change with the help of God.  I did.  I’m still changing for the better.  If you want to sincerely seek after the Lord, just tell Him, and then pursue Him and love Him with everything you have.
“He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Luke 10:27
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” Matthew 7:7-8

Christians are World-Changers

So what’s next?  If you have a strong relationship with God, then let’s move on to the next step: defeating world apathy.

Do you think Christ was apathetic toward political and social injustices?  He traveled around healing people of their illnesses, speaking against corrupt leaders who abused their subjects, and teaching people that the lawful thing to do was not always the righteous thing to do (see Matthew 5).  John the Baptist spoke against the materialism and greed that is seen in so many of us today in Luke 3.  “He who has two tunics, let him give to him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise.” Luke 3:11

You can’t focus on everything.  That doesn’t mean you can’t stay well informed about important political or social topics.  Never should you say “I just don’t care” or “This doesn’t pertain to me and my life”; anything that has to do with the human experience should speak to you because you are part of the body of Christ.  Realize that you can’t be the Hero of abolishing sexual slavery AND abortion AND racism AND oil spills AND exclusive healthcare.  God didn’t put you on earth to fulfill the needs of every human; that’s Jesus’ job, and Jesus does it way better than you or I ever could.

What you and I are called to do is to live up to Christ’s standards by passionately seeking God and allowing the Holy Spirit to work through us.  Ask God to see the world through His eyes, and the pain and suffering of the world will be revealed to your heart.  God will make our purpose known to us the more we seek after Him.

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.” Romans 8:28-30

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 11 If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.” 1 Peter 4:-10-11

If your mission in life is clear, pursue it with a godly passion, and support the other worthy causes around you with money, encouragement, or time.

The Crux of Apathy

When you get down to it, apathy is really just a disguised form of selfishness.  Perhaps you find yourself so overwhelmed by the injustice of humanity that you have shielded yourself from the pain by becoming apathetic.  Maybe you’re so keen on finding that perfect job or graduating from college or providing for your spouse and children that you have completely put the needs of the world out of your head.  It is easy to be self-involved, and it is easy to ignore passionate proclamations on Facebook statuses (some should be ignored anyway…).  It is not easy, however, to take up your cross and follow in the footsteps of Christ.

Forget what the world says about putting your needs first.  Put God first:

He [Jesus] answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Luke 10:27

Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.” Mark 8:34-27

Love God, love people.  Deny yourself the life you think you ought to have and God will open up to you a life more beautiful and fulfilling than you could ever imagine.

Forget Acceptable Nutrition

What’s the world say about healthy eating?  They recommend it, but no one really believes you can do it unless you’re one of “those” people.  Corporations cater to the fact that you think you’re too busy to really care about what’s in your food.  Do you even know what you’re eating half the time?  Can you pronounce half of the chemicals in your food, let alone contemplate the havoc it’s wreaking on your body?  The world says you shouldn’t care, that you have better things to do with your time, but forget everything you know about acceptable nutrition, and see what God has to say.  If you’ve ever read Leviticus, you know He’s definitely interested in your diet and health!

I’ve got news for you, my friends.  God wants us to be healthy.  He designed our bodies to operate like perfect machines.  Consider a car engine; if you put the right things in, it will work – and you need to take continuous care of it.  If you put regular gas in a premium gas car, you are going to have some engine troubles.  If your brake line is broken, you will crash.  If you don’t replenish your oil or fill up your tires with air, then you’re not going to get very far after a while.  Your car will break down.

Have you ever felt that way about your own body?  Do you find yourself frequently getting headaches or feeling tired?  I once claimed that I had better things to do than spend an hour working out, and that I had no time to do anything but heat up a can of Chunky Chicken Soup or microwave some Bagel Bites, and my body and health suffered for it.  If my body was an engine, I was putting in tar and expecting to run on Premium.  Does this sound familiar in your own life?

Let’s look at some of the ways your body and health can affect your spiritual life:

Your body is a temple: glorify God in your body and in your spirit.

“Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body.  Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?  For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.” 1 Corinthians 6:18-20

This passage is often only thought of in terms of sexual morality, but it applies to nutrition and diet as well.  A clean diet leads to better health.  Certainly there are some health things we are not in control of, so please don’t think I’m telling you that people with cancer have sinned in some way and brought their disease upon themselves. For most of us, our energy and overall health will improve if we improve our diet.  This directly affects our ability to serve God with our whole hearts, minds, bodies, and souls.  We are to glorify God in both body and spirit.

Lack of discipline in your body can lead to a lack of discipline in your relationships.

“So husbands out to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself.  For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church.” Ephesians 5:28-29

Interesting to note: America has one of the highest rates of obesity and divorce.  Could neglect and abuse of our own bodies directly affect our loved ones?  If we cannot discipline and love ourselves at the most basic level, how can we discipline our minds and hearts to love someone more than ourselves?  Again, I’m not saying overweight people are incapable of loving their spouses, but I am drawing an eerie correlation between self-inflicted bad health and broken relationships.

If you are disciplined already, be careful not to let that turn into pride. 

“For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.” 1 Timothy 4:8

“For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame – who set their mind on earthly things.  For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.” Philippians 3:18-21

On the flip side, if you are experiencing self-obsession with your body image, pray about that.  If you are obsessed with your diet, whether gluttony or some trendy diet you’re proud to follow, pray that God would change your heart.  Do not let your body be your god.  Our bodies are a temple for the One True and Living God.

Let’s get to it!

This year I was convicted to start making myself healthy.  For years I’ve known what I had to do, but I kept putting it off for various reasons.  My loving husband, who’s a real health nut himself, constantly encouraged me and prayed for me to feel internally motivated to work out.  When I started praying God would change my heart toward healthy living, He did.  And He can change you, too.

It took me the better part of 8 years to really embrace this new lifestyle for myself.  Why did I recognize exactly what would make me feel healthier, happier, and stronger, yet ignore it?  This is the great irony of the American way: we have all the resources, all the time, and all the professional advice we could want or ever hope to have, and yet a lot of us ignore it.  If you can improve your health with diet and exercise, what’s holding you back?  Surely your health should be more important to you than your extracurricular activities, your promotion at work, or the new season of your favorite TV show.

If you’re still feeling resistant, get help for it.  Seek out a work out buddy, a partner in prayer, and maybe even a nutrition expert.  You are welcome to comment on this post or email me at thegodfiles@gmail.com if you need any help.  My husband’s favorite hobby is helping people be healthier, and I can give you some encouragement and tips!

Please, my friends, if you’re at the point now where you recognize that your human engine needs to be fixed, then please don’t just read this blog post – do something about it.  You can do it.  God will empower you, internally and externally, if only you ask.

Good health is vital to serve God, good diet and exercise shows discipline, and an overall fit body will make you feel great and give you energy to serve others.  Plus, being fit and humble when so many are either overweight or fit and prideful will make a great witness to the masses, and give encouragement to your brothers and sisters in Christ who are also trying to be healthy.

Remember, forget everything the world tells you about ignoring your health and focus on God.  You’ll be happier and healthier for it.

Forget Everything You Know

God’s determined that the year of 2013 will be my year of health exploration.  As much as he’s been transforming my mind, body, and soul, the main lesson I’m being constantly reminded of is: FORGET EVERYTHING YOU KNOW.

It’s a really big lesson that smacks me in the head just about every day, and here’s why:  the world is wrong.  My decision making paradigm has been focused on what the world tells me is healthy, attractive, successful, and expected.  While it’s gotten me to some good places in life, it has definitely left a strain on my mental and physical health.  Worst of all, my spiritual life was consistently inconsistent.

What’s curious to me is how much I’ve been tricked into believing what the world says is correct, even though I try so hard to ignore worldly advice.  I would say it comes down to the way I process advice.  If I stop to ask myself, “Is this what God wants for my life?”, then I can really cut through the smut a lot faster and focus on what Jesus desires.  The trouble comes when I first accept advice before consulting God, and try to work God around it.

Do you find yourself doing this too?  Ask yourself these questions:

  • Am I constantly stressed or tired?
  • Is my body physically healthy?
  • Do I get anxious or overwhelmed frequently?
  • Is my career my primary preoccupation to the point where I exclude my family, friends, and hobbies from my life?
  • Do I skip taking a day of rest every week?
  • Am I forgetting to prioritize God’s will for my life?
  • Is there something lacking in my physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual health?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you also need to rewire your brain away from the world.  The world teaches us that these things above are a normal and expected part of a human’s life. We’re taught that being overweight, stressed, and constantly on the go is a natural part of a human’s life, especially a successful one.  American culture in particular tries to cover up these stressors with pills and quick fixes.  While there are those who recommend a healthy diet, exercise, and reading Scripture daily, even the people with the best intentions can inadvertently cause others to focus first on “fixing the problem”, and secondly on God.

What’s the best remedy?  First, rid your mind of everything you think you know: Forget Everything.  Then, completely and absolutely focus your mind on God.  So many people mistakenly try to fit God around what they know rather than letting God shape their hearts, minds, and bodies.  I know I did.  I will be updating based on these topics to share what I’ve learned recently in my own life.  In the meantime, truly think about how you can improve your overall health, and pray that God would give you the wisdom, guidance, and desire to be a healthier you.

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2

2013 Resolutions

What are your New Year resolutions?

At the start of 2013, God has blessed me with new beginnings.  I am starting a new job in a new field, and I am expanding my horizons in my strengths and talents.  This new job offers half day Fridays and no weekend work, which is a big change from my non-profit Symphony job where I worked most weekends. Ironically, when God gives me an opportunity for rest, I often find ways to fill it up again! I have a tendency to over-commit myself to things when I see my schedule change or open up.  So when my colleagues asked me what my New Year’s resolutions were, I thought very hard about what God had been pressing on my soul for several months:

Rest.

My New Year’s resolution is to have a day of rest every week.  This seems obvious, doesn’t it?  God commands us to keep the Sabbath holy, yet this commandment always seems to slip my mind.  Of course, this commandment is hard to keep if my commitments, however worthy, obstruct God’s insistence on putting my health first.  I had to seriously ask myself what my priorities were.  When I realized that I was in a position where I could not prioritize God and His promptings, I asked Him to help me make necessary changes.  First He made changes in my heart and my self-discipline, then he made some big changes I wasn’t necessarily expecting.  But all of these answers have given me a chance to follow the Lord’s leading in my life.

I don’t intend to waste my day of rest by lying around all day and playing on Facebook; instead, I will take it as an opportunity to know God more intimately.  I want to make God the center of my life everyday, but I want my day of rest to be a conscious day of learning, prayer, and spiritual rejuvenation.   This will ground me in my upcoming week and  end my prior week on a spiritual high note.

 

This is what I expect will naturally occur because of my New Year’s Resolution – my day of rest:

1) Recuperation in God’s presence

2) Mental and physical stress relief

3) Inspiration for my inner creativity and time to carry it out

4)  Focused work ethic during the week because I know I’ll get a break

Of course, I have other resolutions that play into this.  I would like to pursue my music more seriously and give myself more opportunities for performance.  I would also like to travel every few months with my husband to nearby cities.  I am hoping to blog more regularly and join a local small group (or start one!) that meets once a week.  I am putting a greater focus on my diet and exercise than I have in the past.  Some of these goals are compatible with my day of rest, and keeping that as my main resolution will help me to center God in my life and keep myself from over-committing.

Tomorrow’s my first official day of rest for the year, and I have been looking forward to it all week.  I worked extra hard this week to ensure that I would not have any work to do tomorrow.  My husband and I are attending church with some good friends of ours, and then we are all going straight to the movies to see Les Miserables (again).  Then I plan to learn how to cook some healthy quinoa vegetarian dish, drink soothing hot tea, read a chapter of John White’s Daring to Draw Near (thought provoking book on prayer) and clean a bit.  After that, I’ll have to go to bed early because my new job STARTS at 7 AM and this girl is not used to seeing the sun rise. 🙂

I hope you also have a restful day sometime this week!  If you’re currently unable to commit to one day a week due to your work schedule, do your best to capture a few days or half days a month to give your body and mind some much needed rest.

 

Whatever your resolutions are this year, I pray you can focus on these areas of your life:

1) Grow in your personal relationship with God, the Church, and your loved ones (Spiritual and Social)

2) Take care of your physical and mental health by eating well, exercising, and controlling your emotions in a healthy manner (Physical and Emotional)

3) Exercise your mind with art, literature, stimulating conversation, and mind games;  Know thyself by learning and utilizing your strengths (Intellectual and Occupational)

When you ignore one of these areas, it is very difficult to feel fully operational as a human and certainly as a Christian.  You will feel unbalanced if you neglect an important area of your life.  Your consistent actions will betray your true priorities.  Do you put work over family or God?  Do you study or practice long hours yet neglect your body’s strength and health?  Do you hide from your God-given strengths because you fear what God may ask you to do with them?

Whether your have specific or vague goals, approach God in prayer and humility and ask Him to bless you.  He will open doors for you in ways you never imagined.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding;

In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.

Proverbs 3:5-6

 

May you have a blessed 2013!

A Prayer for the Victims of the Sandy Hook massacre

Let us take a moment to grieve and pray over the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary.  Pray your own prayer, or feel free to pray mine.

Father, I lift up the families of the murdered children in prayer.  I cannot imagine the pain of those parents who lost their flesh and blood, especially so close to Christmas.  Lord, in a few days we were meant to celebrate the birth of your Son, of our Savior.  This is supposed to be a happy season full of good memories and joy.  Lord, I grieve now for those families who will only know pain this Christmas and every Christmas that follows.  I ask that you provide them with family and community members who will help them during this difficult time.  Be with the siblings and grandparents of the lost.  Shower them with grace and comfort.

For those children who survived, I ask that you allow them to heal from physical injury and mental torment.  Do not allow trauma to damage the innocent.  Give strength to the parents who did not lose their children so they can help the parents who did.  Remind all families how precious their time is together.

Lord, bless the school teachers and administrators of that school.  It will never be the same again, and darkness will haunt it.  Send your angels to beat back the darkness and pain and shroud this school in light and hope.   Be with the families of the lost adults.  Allow the names of those teachers to live on with honor.  Heal the remaining teachers and give them strength to face what will come.  Provide the school with good, strong leaders to replace the heroes who were killed when they tried to protect the children.

Lord, please be with the family of Adam Lanza.  They are grieving too, and they will likely face trials and hardships they never expected.  Do not let the community hate them or blame them for Adam’s actions.  Do not let them blame themselves and succumb to misery.  If we find in time that Adam’s actions were spurred by past abuse or encouraged by a member of his family, then please provide the police with these answers and let justice come swiftly.  But until then, let us not cast blame on anyone but Adam.

We ask that you give wisdom to our leaders during this time.  Allow them to make decisions that are motivated by purity, and not by political ambition.  Encourage them to do what is right, what it just, and what is noble.  Allow the rest of us to respect our leaders and accept their judgment, or if we disagree, to voice it in a manner that would make You proud.  We do not need more hatred in our country, Lord.   

Father, you tell us to pray for our enemies.  I grieve for Adam – for what he turned into, and for the torment he will undoubtedly receive at the hands of Satan.  Lord, keep this evil that plagued Adam away from us, away from our loved ones.  Allow us to see the darkness that haunts others and provide us with ways to help them.  Give us strength to speak out against evil and discernment to know when we need to get help for ourselves or others.

Lord, remind us to fight for goodness, to battle evil, and to succumb to your light.  There is no other way to rid our world of evil.  Let this tragedy bring our communities, our families, and ourselves closer to You, closer to your redeeming grace.

In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

Trusted friends are a Godsend

I am so lucky.  I have a large group of trusted brothers and sisters in Christ who I can call on at any point in time for guidance, prayer, or just to catch up.  These people are family to me, and I truly treasure their impact on my life.  I can talk to my friends about anything — careers, love, politics, religion — and any of my friends would be able to hold an intelligent conversation full of encouragement and respect.

Do you have people like that in your life who you can turn to when you want or need to talk?  More importantly, do you have friends who you can trust to encourage you in godly ways?

I recently realized just how unique my relationships are.  It turns out that not everyone enjoys the kind of trustworthy advice and comradeship that I am blessed to receive.  I often forget that my friends and I spent years honing this kind of deep and fruitful relationship.

Here is what I’ve thought of lately that makes my friendships solid:

  • We’ve all spent countless hours together studying God’s Word, praying, and praising.

You bond with your family of Christ when you worship God together, just as you bond with your college roommate over TV shows and your siblings with your nerf gun wars.  Staying in touch and praying for each other even when you’re not on the same continent is so important.  Technology is a great resource for Christians.  Capitalize on it!

 We ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love all of you have for one another is increasing.  Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring.” 2 Thessalonians 1: 3-4

  • We learned to forgive quickly.

We come from completely different theological and cultural backgrounds.  We spent years stepping on each others’ toes with our conflicting theological viewpoints and our personalities.  This means we learned to forgive one another.  We learned to not just roll our eyes at each other’s quirks, but to embrace them.  We actually listen to our friends’ opinions and consider them to be relevant rather than something to just tolerate.  We don’t shy away from the difficult topics, but discuss them and learn.

“And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” Mark 11:25

  • We don’t gossip.  We just don’t do it.

Nothing good can come out of gossip.  We go out of our way to lift each other up in praise.  If we’ve felt wronged by a friend, we take it to them quickly so it doesn’t fester.  We must be quick to forgive and quick to say I’m sorry.

“A perverse person stirs up conflict,
    and a gossip separates close friends.” Proverbs 16:28

  • Judgement is futile.

There are definitely times when you should consider talking to your friend about hurtful or sinful behaviors.  But sometimes — and perhaps you know what I’m talking about — you get this “I should really talk to ___ about ____, because they’re really annoying when they do this and need to grow up.”  This isn’t a Holy Spirit prompting, it’s a you-wanting-to-fix-your-friend impulse.  God works on His perfect timing.  People are always growing in their relationship with Christ, and sometimes it’s not up to you to force feed them into a “better” direction.  Keep in mind that other people are most likely thinking the same exact thing about you.

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.  Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?  How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” Matthew 7: 1-5

  • When one of us is having a difficult time, we empathize but we don’t stay in the pit of despair.

One of my closest friends has also been married a little over a year.  When I’m confused or upset over something my husband has done, I turn to her for encouragement.  She doesn’t say, “Yeah, my husband ___insert typical man fault here___  too!  Let’s be irrationally angry at them together and continue to discourage one another!”  Instead, she says, “Yes, I have experienced this difficulty.  You will get through it, I promise!  You love your husband and respect him, so speak with him about what’s upsetting you and pray about it.”  When I get off the phone with her, I am never angry anymore.  I feel encouraged, uplifted, and my emotions are in check.  (By the way, my wonderful hubby is not a constant annoyance.  He just served as a good example.)

“I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong— that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.” Romans 1:11-12

  • We try to listen as much as we talk.

Every person has something valuable to offer.  If you’re stumped, take it to your friend.  If you need encouragement, don’t hesitate to call your friend and tell him or her so.  It becomes clear that every person has their God-given strength.  One person might emerge as a constant source of godly encouragement; another is the organizer of the events that brings you closer together.   In any case, value each person for his or her gift, and trust them for what they bring to the table.

“We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.” Romans 12: 6-8

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What have you experienced from your group of brothers and sisters in Christ?  What instances, “rules”, or Bible verses have kept you all happy and in healthy relationships?  I’d love to know, so please comment to share!

If your group of friends isn’t quite there yet, don’t despair!  It takes a lot of time and effort to have a deep friendship.  My friends and I went through 4 years of college together in a very intimate environment, and we’re still learning.  Follow the example of Christ in everything you do, and you’ll have great relationships in your life.

Beth Moore: Heretic or Healer?

I ran into this radio post through someone else’s facebook page.  This guy offers critical analysis of sermons to point out all their faults.  This particular post caught my eye because I happen to be a fan of Beth Moore, and I’ve honestly never heard of anyone calling her a heretic before.

I have to say upfront that the speaker on Pirate Radio, Chris, annoys me with his incessant tone of superiority.  I almost couldn’t get through the first 3 minutes, and I struggled for the next 50.   I had to stop after that because it’s late!  I will have to finish it later.

There are many moments where the speaker, Chris, is just plain mean.  I don’t understand how a Christian could treat another Christian (or anyone!) with such disdain and rudeness.  I was really hoping this would be a purely intellectual discussion.  You can listen to it here, if you like: http://www.extremetheology.com/2010/03/beth-moores-dangerous-bible-twisting.html

Chris had a few valid points.

1)      Beth Moore alluded to Hebrews 10:35-36, which she appears to take out of context.  “Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.”  Beth uses this verse to encourage her listeners to believe in their God-given confidence and abilities.  Chris gives a comprehensive explanation of what he believes Hebrews 10 is referring to.  I do think Beth was taking this verse out of context and constructed a message around it.  It is concerning, and this is what incenses Chris.  But Chris is convinced that Beth is trying to teach believers to have confidence in themselves alone.  He constantly refers to this, even when Beth appears to have moved away from the Hebrews passage to make her point.

I can see what Beth Moore is trying to convey.  To me, it’s clear as day that she’s talking about having a confidence through Jesus Christ.  Women (I can’t speak for men, but probably men too) are always second guessing themselves and often think they have to rely on themselves for strength rather than on Christ.  We are supposed to find our confidence and strength through Jesus.  This is what I would have assumed Beth was saying.  Perhaps this is because I have read several of her books, so I have the benefit of knowing her mind a bit more than a first-time listener.

I’ve read Beth Moore talk about the lack of confidence in her life.  It crippled her to the point where she was not effectively serving Christ.  This is how I’d explain it: God called her to speak, and she refused, much like Moses doubting his ability when God called him to lead the Jews. (Exodus 3:10-16)  Beth didn’t have confidence IN Christ, and she didn’t have enough OF Christ’s confidence.  They’re different, but they’re closely linked – you need to have a belief that God can do what He says He CAN do through you (confidence IN Him), and you need to trust that God WILL do it (having all OF God’s confidence).  Any less than total confidence in Christ is detrimental to your personal spiritual life and your effectiveness as an agent of God for the Kingdom.

2)      There’s a lack of Scriptural teaching in this message.  Beth is a good storyteller.  She’s able to use her personal experiences to convey a lesson God taught to her.  She does this in her books, but usually it’s fairly balanced along with Biblical text and teachings.  I can agree that her message in this recording is a bit sparse on the Biblical side, and a little more “feely” to appeal to the mostly female audience.

Where I think Chris is wrong:

1)      Beth says Christ’s spirit (Romans 8) takes up residency in our spirits and therefore we gain His attributes like His confidence and His competence. The speaker harps on the literal version of the translation.  Romans 8 does not use the words “Christ’s confidence and His competence”.  This is true.  This is an inserted opinion that Beth tried to use as a literal interpretation.  I can see her point.  If Christ dwells in us, then His mind, wisdom, and heart dwells in us.  Doesn’t this mean his competence and confidence also?  Colossians 2:9-10 seems to say so: “For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority.” I can understand Chris’ wariness of inserting meaning into this text without full Biblical context and additional references.

2)      At one point Beth says, “If we receive Christ as our Savior but we never recognize and by faith believe Him to also be our healer and restorer, then we stay just as cracked as when we got here.”  The speaker calls this heresy.  I call this Biblical truth.  The Bible doesn’t use the words “healer and restorer” as far as I’m aware, but the Bible does say that faith without works is dead. (James 2:14-26)  If we believe Christ to be our Savior, then we will allow Him to deliver us from our sins, teach us the ways of righteousness, and restore us.

I have the benefit of knowing Beth’s common language and usage – when she says “healer”, she doesn’t literally mean “If you aren’t healed of your cancer, you aren’t a Christian.”  I’m going to assume Chris thought she was saying something along those lines.  It’s true that when we accept Christ into our lives, we don’t have to work to gain salvation.  But it’s true that if you truly accept Christ into your life, your life will drastically change.  What was dead is now alive; the old flesh is cast off. (Ephesians 2:1-10, Colossians 2:11-15)  Is that not healing and restoring?

(As a side note: It’s funny to me that Chris always calls Beth legalistic and then he condemns her for giving personal life stories rather than speaking specifically about stories in the Bible to teach about God.)

3)      Beth Moore said, “Each and every single one of us has been created with an area of brilliance.”  The speaker quips, “You’re missing the whole major point of the Scripture that we are dead in our trespasses and sins.”  I thought the whole point of the Gospel was that Jesus freed us from our sins, that we are no longer slaves to our sins.  We WERE dead in our trespasses and sins.  Now we are alive and free in Christ.  (Galatians 5:19-25, Romans 8:1-11) I think I understand that Chris’ theology believes all humans are evil and corrupt from birth, so therefore we can’t be born with a shred of goodness and we can’t ever become good while on this earth.   I disagree with this, as do several other denominations.  In fact, some people on the opposite side of the spectrum would call Chris out for heresy for saying we are always dead even after we become believers.  Food for thought. . .

4)      The host of the show says, “If we really know God, His love will be on our hearts” – to which Chris says “LAW, law, LAW!”  as if that explains anything.  He’s claiming that the people involved in this discussion are false teachers who are preaching legalism.  I don’t understand why this quote is so troublesome.  I wish he had explained what he thinks, rather than assuming I agree with him.

5)      Chris harps on the host’s call to take care of the children all over the world who are dying from lack of something basic, like water or food.  Chris essentially asks why they’re bothering to put effort into feeding these children if they aren’t evangelizing to them and teaching them the way to eternal life.  First of all, these people didn’t say they weren’t evangelizing, they were just trying to encourage those who were not in South Africa (or wherever) to take immediate action and GIVE to these children in need.  Evangelism without social justice is like praying “the prayer” without believing in Christ.  Christ called us to care for people AND preach to them.  (Matt 10:5-8)  I’d argue, what good is a sermon if a man needs a coat and you do not give him your coat?  Just as I’d imagine Chris would  argue, what good is prolonging a man’s earthly life if you do not give a man the way to receive eternal life?  If Chris gave me proof that the host’s plea for money for these children was not attached to any sort of gospel message, I might understand Chris’ indignant outcry.  But without that, he just sounds like an overly judgey guy who gets off on criticizing and insulting people.

I’m obviously not convinced by this radio show that Beth Moore is a heretical teacher.  I think she does wonderful ministry work.  None of Beth’s teachings in this recording raised a red flag to me, but perhaps you think differently.  I’d be very interested in what you have to say, because there might be something I haven’t thought of before.  Feel free to defend Chris or Beth.

The Church as an army

A pastor recently said that in 1920, 80 percent of Americans went to church.  IN 1960, it was 60 percent.  Today, only 40 percent go to church.  He further commented, “The church is under attack.”

I was incensed and wanted to jump up and yell, “What do you mean, the church is under attack!  The problem is not the church being under attack ; it is that the church is not attacking!  It’s time to get this army back in the war!”

– Maverick, In the Dragon’s Lair

Thoughts?

Prophet by R. J. Larson

I read one of the free books I received from the International Christian Retail Show.  I didn’t mean to read it yet.  I was packing my things from my old apartment to move to my new one, and I had every intention of just reading the first chapter or two to see if I wanted to temporarily store it or bring it to my new place.  But this book was so good, and I was so desperate to escape from reality that I read half the book in one night.  Escape I did, into an colorful world in an Old Testament-era time period with fictional kingdoms, prophets, and kings.

The book is entitled, Prophet (Books of the Infinite), by R. J. Larson.  A young woman of 17 is called by the Infinite to become a Prophet and save the nearby kingdoms from the Infinite’s just wrath.  Ela is a likable character with honest feelings that any person could relate to.  The Infinite is obviously an allegory to God, but the god of this book is only ever referred to as “Infinite” and “Creator”.  I found it interesting that Larson never used “God” or “Lord” within the book.  Even though this book is infused with religious-inspired stories and perspectives, it seems to make it more accessible to non-Christians.  I read an Amazon review of a self-identifying atheist who said she was shocked by how much she enjoyed the book.  Initially I was surprised she valued it so highly, as my new-found love for this book comes from the many spiritual realizations I had while reading it.  However, it became clear in retrospection that this is a great book for an open-minded atheist or a struggling Christian.

This book does a wonderful job of portraying a just and merciful God, a concept that many have a difficult time reconciling.  What this books reveals is the perfect heart of God — a completely loving, generous Creator who wants nothing more than his creation to repent and return to a relationship with him.  But when his creation refuses time and time again in their own pride, He does not hesitate to do what is just and destroys them and their evils ways.  It’s clear in the book that he takes no pleasure from it, and his prophet, Ela, has a compassionate heart despite her role as the Infinite’s doomsayer.  The thoughtful questions Ela has for her Creator is matched by wise responses that appear to be entirely Scripture inspired.  It was a blessing to read responses that made logical sense and fit with God’s character.

Ela is a strong female character, but unlike the modern day version of a “strong” female, Ela is humble, submissive to God, and compassionate.  Too often I see female leads attempting to overcompensate for society’s expectations and they end up being horrible role models for young women who desire to seek God.   I found Ela’s intelligence, her strength in character, her honest recognition of her weaknesses, and her love for her family and friends very inspiring.  Her relationship with her sister, her captors, and her friends will touch you.  The book does not shy away from the fact that she is a female Prophet.  I am sure there will be good character development in the next two books.  I only wish there was more back story about Ela’s past.

Some readers will be displeased with the lack of scenic detail in this book.  I do not find those sorts of things distracting because I typically spend all of my time concentrating on dialogue and relationship building between characters.  I’d say her style of writing reminds me a bit of The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.  I should mention that if you’re wary of authors inserting words into God’s mouth, then you might have a difficult time warming up to this book.  Of course, it’s important to realize that the author never claims her story is a factual depiction of God.  It’s really just a story to inspire you to seek God in all you do and listen to His every word.  I highly recommend it, especially to young women, and I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did!  I look forward to the next books in the series.