Jeremiah 29:11: For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future."

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Tightrope walking

I've never walked an actual tightrope.

Frequently I feel like parenting adolescents must feel a lot like walking a tightrope. One has to balance just right and there are dire consequences if you lean too much to either side. In this case the sides being control vrs freedom, speaking vrs remaining quiet, involvement vrs staying out of it.

I want my teen sons to have ever increasing freedom and to experience the natural consequences (good and bad alike) of their actions so that they can become competent decision-makers. I want to create an environment that supports independent thought on their part. It's just not always easy watching them make decisions that I think are poor and knowing how much I should say, or if I should say anything.

I've invested into my sons for years and am confident that they've been given a foundation of the Bible and following after Christ. I know that I've messed up a lot, but I've always been honest about it with them, and they've always seen me repent when I'm wrong and accept God's forgiveness and move on. They can't help but have observed God's continual blessings on my life. They hear me frequently speak words of gratitude for how He has, and is continuing to, bless me. Speaking about what the Bible says on various day to day living issues is a routine part of how we live, praying when things come up is as natural for us as breathing. So I know the foundation is here.

But did you know that scientists say that the brain is not fully developed until some time in the late teens or early twenties? I saw a documentary regarding this a while back and it explained how maturation of cerebral fibers in the frontal lobes typically occurs during one's early twenties. Guess what the functions of the frontal lobe involve - the ability to recognize future consequences resulting from current actions, to choose between good and bad actions (or better and best), override and suppress unacceptable social responses, and determine similarities and differences between things or events. So why are we surprised when teenagers sometimes do dumb stuff and when we ask them why they did it they can not really explain?!

Did I mention the incredible hyper-sensitivity of a teenager?! They can say all manner of unkind things toward parents, but oh my goodness, no one knows like the parent of a teen how just the smallest comment can bring about a volcanic response that leaves one stunned and wondering what did I say that brought this result? My 15 year old actually said the other day that he shouldn't have to be concerned about hurting his dad or I's feelings, that he should be able to speak freely. This was not said in the midst of some discussion we were having, but rather in more of a proclamation situation. I wryly commented that relationships always involve considering how what we say will affect the other person and that, for what it's worth, I think kindness is grossly under rated. To these great pearls, he responded by blowing me off - ha, having teens definitely keeps one humble! I have to remind myself that teens are in the midst of an onslaught of hormones. In fact I read an interesting article that explained about these hormones not only cause adolescents to reach a flash point more easily, but they also increase their desire for excitement and exciting activities.

So let's think about this for a moment; teens are going though a time when they are experiencing intense emotions, coupled with a strong desire for thrills and intense emotions, when they are also not fully competent in the judgment, delaying gratification, portions of their brain. Gee, it's no wonder I feel like I'm walking a tightrope as a parent of teen sons!

The bottom line is that I'm grateful I can always pray for my kids, and pray often.

How about you, do you have a teen son or daughter, does your relationship with him/her sometimes feel like you're walking a tightrope? Can you remember back when you were a teen, what was it like between you and your parents?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Scattered Thoughts on the State of the Union address

Last night my husband John and I, like most Americans, watched our President's State of the Union address. Like many others, I've been rethinking what I heard. I want to take some time to explore some of my thoughts.

I was surprised. I'd expected to watch and hear a change; instead President Obama seemed defensive.

Although he claimed he was "not interested in re-litigating the past" and repeatedly spoke about moving past partisan politics toward creating solutions together, he continued to blame Bush for everything .

But maybe I did hear some change, I was just surprised because it was not so much presented as change as what he'd been doing all along. I found myself questioning if I'd missed something during the past year. Because to me it has seemed as if our President has repeatedly throughout the past year promoted higher income, payroll, health-care, and inheritance taxes on “them,”. Then last night I heard President Obama suddenly declare that he believes that small business is the engine of growth, and will therefore get new tax cuts and credits. Either I misunderstood the past year, or he has made a turn about on this; and this is one change I can get behind.

I started to get so excited when
President Obama started speaking about fiscal sobriety and spending freezes; I thought, see he does get it! But then my hopes plummeted the next moment to hear him declare that these measures would begin in 2011. We've already piled up the two largest budget deficits in U.S. history, are we going to pile up yet another year of trillion-dollar-plus red ink before we do anything to remedy the situation?!

Our President's comments about how Americans are now working harder for less made me think that one of the good things that has come out of the recession and losing jobs is that it has caused us to re-evaluate what is important. I think Americans today are perhaps realizing that stuff, buildings, and machines are not where happiness lies; perhaps not being able to invest so much in these is making us focus more on people and relationships. I hope so.

I did appreciate what our President had to say about
expanding the number of high-quality charter schools, and rewarding teachers for excellent performance. I agree that more school choices for parents and students means more accountability and greater achievement. I agree that a child's educational opportunity should be determined by her intellect and work ethic, not by where the child lives.

The speech left me wondering what he meant by certain phrases. Such as his comments that he won't walk away from health care reform - but I didn't hear him offering anything new, or even discussing a plan to work toward real health care reform that the people can get behind. It sounded to me like he was sticking to his plan, that has been plainly rejected (A recent CNN poll shows that Americans either want Congress to start over entirely or drop the subject all together). He even stated something to the effect that
you should take another look at our plans, and let me know if you have better ideas. I do appreciate some of the ideas concerning health care reform that Bob McDonnell threw out in his Republican State of the Union response: letting families and businesses buy health insurance policies across state lines, ending frivolous lawsuits against doctors and hospitals that drive up the cost of our health care, ensure that the legislation to reform health care does not include shifting Medicaid costs to the state while cutting Medicare, and the ever pervasive ideological difference - do not turn our medical care system over to the federal government.

What were some of your thoughts and responses to our President's state of the Union Address last night?

Monday, January 25, 2010

A lesson from Daniel

I've mentioned before that I learn a lot from my kids. Recently my youngest son Daniel, who is 15, has taught me some things worth pondering.

I've watched Daniel really struggle over the past couple of years with football. We live in a small town and football is a huge deal at the local high school. Daniel is on the team at the high school; but he doesn't do well. He works really hard; he even stays after practice and does extra running, working out and weight lifting to try to increase his ability. Because he tries so hard the coach does periodically give him chances, but he frequently messes up during those times. He's talked to me concerning this more than once. To make matters worse, his older brother who is just one grade ahead of him in school, is really good (of course this particular son happens to be 6'3" and 225lbs as a Jr in high school, so he's practically made to be a line man). All I've told Daniel is that I see such a spirit of faithfulness in him and that I think God honors that, and that I think this faithful, hardworking attitude will serve him well throughout his life. I never comment on the actual football part because I don't know much about football, he does seem to mess up, and the truth is that not everyone is good at every thing they try.

Daniel plays drums with the worship team in our small church. As part of a get-to-know-the-folks-up-here-on-the-stage-every-Sunday kind of thing, he was asked to give a testimony during church. What he shared both humbled and blessed me. It's also really had me thinking about those truths ever since he shared.

Daniel read the passage from Matthew 25:14-30 where Jesus told the parable of the talents. In a nutshell the parable is about a man who was going on a journey and gave 3 servants varying amounts of talents/money to watch while he was gone. When he returned he called the servants in to see how they had done with the money he left them. Two servants had invested and done well and they were rewarded, the servant who was given the least had done nothing with what he was given and he was punished. Daniel pointed out that not everyone was given the same amount of money to invest and that the man was most interested in what they did with what he gave them. Daniel shared about his struggles with football and then shared how the bottom line was that if God had wanted him to be the best at football he would have given him that talent but that obviously that was not God's plan for him. But that he believes God is very interested in how he uses whatever it is that he is given. He said he plays football because he thinks it's fun, and he's to the point where he chooses to do his best and just leave the rest up to God. Daniel talked about the fact that there most likely will always be people who are better at whatever it is that we each like to do, but that the talents other people have is not the really important issue. The really important issue is what we each do with what we are given.

Gee sometimes my 15yr old is smarter than me.

What Daniel shared has got me to think about, and look at, what I am doing with what God has given me. It's made me check to see if I'm using my meager talents in some areas as an excuse to not step out and serve others in these areas. There's one area in my community where there is a need and I was approached about serving in it a while back; but I turned the opportunity down because I had focused on my deficits. Recently I was approached again, but this time I'm stepping out in faith in that area simply because there is a need and I'm willing to serve. I'm choosing to rely on God's greatness instead of my giftedness.

What about you, do you ever let what you perceive to be your lack of talent keep you from serving? Do you ever refrain from participating in things that you think are fun just because you think you're not good enough at them?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

No one likes a serial whiner

Once again, I can't claim credit for this title; it's a line from an excellent article I read this morning by Victor Davis Hanson over at NRO. Hansen was specifically referring to our current president's continued rant about everything being our former president's fault - but it's been a year now. Isn't anything his to claim?

Former president Busch accumulated a $500 billion deficit - obviously not a good thing. A quick look over at the U.S National Debt Clock and you can find that
our current national debt comes in today at $12,338,087,324,148. The deficit for fiscal year 2009 (which ended September 30) came in at a record $1.42 trillion, more than triple the record set just last year, equal to 9.9% of the gross domestic product (GDP), and the highest since the end of WWII. It seems that the more the current administration borrows, prints, and spends, the higher our unemployment rises and the lower our economic activity plummets.

I guess the fact that Scott Brown claimed the Senate seat of the late and long-serving Senator Edward M. Kennedy says that I'm not the only one tired of the whining.

Of course there are those who say that Brown's win has nothing to do with Obama's whining. They say it's about national security. Eric Fehrnstrom, one of Brown's top strategists, said that "from our own internal polling, the more potent issue here in Massachusetts was terrorism and the treatment of enemy combatants.”

What do you think about Scott Brown claiming Kennedy's former senate seat? What do you think the impact will be for passage of the healthcare reform bill? Do you think it will have an effect on O'bama's re-election?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Feeding on His Faithfulness

Do you ever feel like your heart is hungry?

Sometimes I do. Especially if things are tough, and I fail to do anything to set my mind upon the greater truth than what my eyes see in front of me. I'll start to feel depleted, and my hungry heart will begin to try to find ways to feed itself.

Lately I've had some challenging situations, so I decided that I need to spend time in the Bible, looking at and thinking about God's trustworthiness. I need to renew my mind to the truth that I do not need to worry or stress about things, because I can trust in God.

In Exodus 34:1-12 I read the account of when Moses had chiseled the tablets for the commandments and then God came down and declared His identity to Moses. What He said was recorded in verses 6-7:

"The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation."

As I look at this description that God gave of Himself, I'm struck by the emphasis on His faithfulness, that I can count on Him.

In John 1:14-18 I read about Jesus coming to this earth. Then in the 17th verse I read again about God's faithfulness:

For the law was given through Moses, but God’s unfailing love and faithfulness came through Jesus Christ.

I'm grateful that even when difficult situations come my way, God is faithful and I can trust Him that He will work in my life as I am obedient to Him.

What do you do when your heart is hungry?

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Families do need to be inspired

Did you hear about the 30-second ad that Focus on the Family plans to air on television both prior to, and during, the super bowl?

I just read about it recently at LifeNews and the Christian post.

Focus on the family has stated that they did not utilize any money from their general funds to finance this commercial but instead received donations specifically for this project. What caught my attention is that the young Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow will appear with his mother in this commercial.

As I've mentioned before, football was never my thing until I married an all out fan and now my two youngest sons play high school football. But Tim Tebow and his open love for Christ has captured the hearts of my entire family.

No one knows yet what exactly the ad will include but apparently it is a well known fact that Tebow’s mother refused to have an abortion while she was pregnant with him despite having suffered from amoebic dysentery. The drugs to treat that infection were thought by the treating doctors to have caused irreversible damage to her baby and the physicians advised her to have an abortion. Since Focus on the Family has long held a strong pro life stance, the assumption of many is that the ad will somehow contain a pro life statement.

Focus on the Family president and CEO, Jim Daily, said in a statement that the Tebow message comes at a good time because "Familes need to be inspired".

Friday, January 15, 2010

Gaining Perspective

Sometimes I get side tracked from what is really important.

I appreciate this thought from Teresa of Avila because it points out a great way to keep perspective:

"Remember that you have only one soul; that you have only one death to die; that you have only one life, which is short and has to be lived by you alone; and there is only one Glory, which is eternal. If you do thing, there will be many things about which you care nothing."

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Tragedy in Haiti

Today I find myself thinking about Haiti.

I read today that Haitian President Rene Preval told CNN that the death toll had already reached between 30,000 and 50,000 after his impoverished nation was struck by a 7.0-magnitude quake this past Tuesday. The country is continuing to experience the aftershocks and Minister Jean-Max Bellerive said the number of dead could eventually reach "well over 100,000".

The presidential palace, UN mission headquarters, the Hotel Montana (a luxury hotel that attracts tourists and business travelers), and numerous hospitals and schools are all collapsed. For up to date information regarding what is happening in this situation you can see what Carel Pedre, a local celebrity DJ and TV presenter, says on his twitter page or check Google Videos to find the most recent videos posted about what is happening in Haiti.

If you feel a tug at your heart to help out in some way, Samaritan's Purse
already started responding yesterday. You can check out what they are doing and how you can help.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Sex and Faith

A few days ago I read an excellent post and ensuing comments on Increasing Marriage Age and It's Implications by Michael Bell over at the Internet Monk. The post presented the fact that the average age to get married has increased dramatically over the past few decades and brought up the issue that this presents obvious difficulties for Christians who believe that sex is intended to be exclusive to the marriage relationship.

That post has really got me thinking.

I looked around for more data on when people are engaging in sexual intercourse for the first time. I looked in a few places; the the Kinsey Institute, public health reports, the Guttamacher Institute , and Web MD. I found that it is difficult to access data from within the last two years, but, that the data out there did not demonstrate a huge variation from any of these sources. "Premarital sex is normal behavior for the vast majority of Americans, and has been for decades," says researcher Lawrence Finer, director of domestic research at the Guttmacher Institute. The Guttmacher institutes data shows that by age 20, 75% of Americans have had premarital sex. Bell points out that "according to the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY), when we look at youth in society between the ages of 18 and 23 who are in a relationship but not married, 93% are sexually active. Among conservative protestant youth, that number is 80%."

This causes me to ask several questions; the main ones being:
Why do Christians believe sex belongs only in marriage? What can we do as a Christian community to help people keep sex within marriage? What is the outcome for people who do engage in sex outside of marriage?

I looked up the definition for the word fornication and it means to have sex without being married. The Bible has quite a bit to say about fornication; a simple search in the New Testament for the word fornication brings up 30 references. There's a few things I get out of reading those Bible references. Sex outside of marriage is not what God intended and it is sin. These Bible references make it clear that God takes this issue seriously. One of the things it took me years to realize is that God does not arbitrarily choose certain actions to be called "sin" just to see if we will be "good" and obey. He's a loving Father and warns us that some things are sin because those behaviors are not in our best interests. The concept of fornication indicates that sex belongs in marriage. Matthew 19:4-6 talks about the fact that in marriage two separate people become one flesh. I think that part of that becoming one comes about through sexual intimacy. Proverbs 5:17-19 refers to sexual satisfaction in marriage. The book of Song of Solomon is a beautiful and erotic love story which is also an allegory of Christ's great love for the church. God thinks so highly of the union between man and woman that He repeatedly compares this same union with His relationship with His followers.

Everyone desires sexual intimacy; for both physical and emotional reasons. While it was not such a big deal to refrain from sex outside of marriage when it was common to get married when in your late teens or early twenties, it is a much more difficult situation when the data shows us that the average marriage age for women in 2008 was around age 25 and for men it was in the between 27-29. Add to this the fact that there are many divorced individuals who have been through the devastation of divorce, are still people who live in a body that wants sexual intimacy, and now may have lots of negative thoughts, feelings, and fears regarding marriage. We are sexual beings, that is part of who we are created to be. I know that God put a perfect design into place and I know that He is clear in His Word that He created His followers to be in relationship, in community, because we need one another. So what can we do in the Christian community to help people keep sex within marriage? I'd really like to hear your comments on this question and then I'll share some of mine; I'd kind of like to talk about it.
God is righteous but He is also merciful. Believers are told in 1 John 1:5-10 that we sin. But that God is faithful and will forgive us our sin when we confess it to Him and choose to turn away from it. So the good news is that fornication, like all other sin, can be forgiven. The apostle Paul talked in Romans 8 about how the fact that just because we know forgiveness is ours, is not a license to go out and sin. Paul talked about God offering us a better way of life. I know that sex outside of marriage does not lead to good results. Besides all the valid conerns about disease and even pregnancy there is the issue of fracturing one's soul; if man and woman become one within the sexual union, then what happens when the two are no longer together?

This subject is one that is relevant in our world. I'd be really interested in dialoguing about your thoughts on what can we do in the Christian community to help people keep sex within marriage, as well as anything you'd care to say about why Christians believe sex outside of marriage is wrong or what is the outcome for people who engage in sex outside of marriage.

Terrific Tuesday with Jenny from Random Throughts

Today's Terrific Tuesday guest is Jenny who writes at Random Thoughts. Jenny is a twenty year old student who lives in the Philippines. For some reason I've always loved reading the journals of people from history. As I started reading blogs I found that I also enjoy reading the blog journals of current people as well. Jenny keeps her journal on line where she talks about what's happening in her daily life.

Have you ever had one of those wonderful days that stands crystal clear in your memory? Here's a treasured memory that Jenny has about such a day:

I had a date yesterday!

Hot, hot, and hot. That’s the best way to describe the climate in the Philippines as of the moment. Kring, Yang, Kim and I decided to go to school to make our Techno works. But since I have some agenda, we did not do anything. Sorry Yang. Anyway, so since Yang’s father went to Zamboanga, she decided to bring us some chocolates (Apollo) and some coffees that can only be bought there in the whole Philippines. Thanks for the chocolates and coffee!

As I was busy doing some stuffs for my articles, the girls are playing with the cameras on their laptops—making funny faces and trying to look as if they have short hairs. And I could hear them laughing at how serious I was with what I’m doing. And I apologize for the lack of my time.

After I e-mailed my work to Ate Bam, we decided to go to the nearest mall in the town. The main agenda was to get something for Bruce. And it’s something that we all wanted to do since the establishment is much colder than in school’s lounges. After a little walk, we decided to grab something to drink but decided to eat dinner instead.

We went to a restaurant called Mandarin. It offers Chinese food with a little touché of some Filipino dish. Kim and I ordered Pork Humba, White Chicken for Kring and the usual Siomai Noodle Soup for Yang. Yum! Before eating, we saw the parents of Kai2. It made me think how we lost time for each other. We took pictures and had some laugh trips, making the experience more special.

After eating, we bought quenchers for our parched mouths. Chocolate with pearls was a real knockout. Then Kim decided to go home together with her family who were also there. Kring, Yang and I continued to search for the gift we wanted to buy.

After a few minutes of wandering, we came across a cute little t-shirt designed to be put in the car’s wind shield.” Since Bruce’s has a car, why not give him that to remind him of us?”, we thought. And so the gift was a cute shirt with his face.:-D

Thanks for the wonderful evening guys! Hugs and Kisses to you from me!:-D

Here are some of the photos from Yang's cam and Kring's laptop:

Monday, January 11, 2010

I read a really good fiction book this weekend

Sometimes I like to just relax and read a good fiction book.

Recently an acquaintance of mine mentioned an author with whom I was not familiar and a specific series. So I was able to get the first book in the series through our local library and read it this weekend. The author is Francine Rivers and the book is Unveiled. It's the first in the Lineage of Grace series. This series provides books about Tamar, Rehab, Ruth, Bathsheba and Mary - women in the lineage of Jesus Christ.

I don't know about you, but a lot of times when I read genealogies in the Bible, they don't mean a lot for me. Sometimes I'll have thoughts like how I'm so blessed that God made sure that the Bible, written in a male dominated culture, included women's names in the lineage. I'll even take some satisfaction in noting that the women in the line of Jesus weren't all upstanding citizens (this pleases me because I relate to sinners a lot better than saints). But, aside from a few passing thoughts, I don't think a whole lot about genealogies.

It's not just genealogies that I don't always have expanded thoughts concerning. Sometimes there will be a Bible account where a person is mentioned, a few things are said concerning that person, and then the account goes on. What Francine Rivers has done is taken those few things we do know about the person from the Bible, and then she's researched the culture of the time and come out with historical fiction novels that fill in the account with details that very well could have happened. These are of course not scripture and are fiction; but the one novel I've read so far, Unveiled, has helped increase my insight into lots of ramifications of the story of Tamar as well as Ruben.

The story itself is captivating. From the first page I read, I couldn't stop reading until I finished the book. I laughed and cried when reading the book. I both identified with Tamar as well as found her an inspiration that I want to emulate in some regards.

What about you, have you read any good books lately?

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Should women be ordained as ministers?

Recently I watched a movie entitled Welcome to Paradise with my 15 year old son Daniel. We enjoyed the movie. But the movie featured a female pastor; so Daniel asked me why there are not more ministers who are women. I explained that most Christian religious groups think that the role of pastor is reserved for men; so Daniel asks me, Where does it say that in the Bible?

Of course being the deeply spiritual and knowledgeable person that I am (NOT), I didn't remember.

I'm delighted that Daniel bases what is right or wrong on what the Bible says. I want to be honest with him and, when I don't have answers, search the Word to find them. So I spent some time looking up what the Bible has to say on the topic. I'll share here what scriptures I came up with during the time I had to spend on this today (obviously this is not an exhaustive list of what the Bible has to say on this topic).

I found that this study led me to ask myself a lot of questions. I'd be very interested in hearing your thoughts on these passages and this topic in general.

In the interest of post length, I've linked some of the longer scripture passage locations with the actual passage over on Bible gateway instead of writing out all of the Bible passages.

Ephesians 1:4-13 - This passage talks about Believers being one body in Christ and that He has given us gifts to use in relationship with one another for the purpose of building one another up in Him and training for service. Both pastors and teachers are listed, and in this specific passage there's no gender indication.

1 Corinthians 11:3-16 The key verse here as it relates to this discussion, is verse 3: "Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God." But when I read this passage I find myself asking why do churches typically consider the whole bit about women covering their heads from the 5th verse to be a cultural, but believe the hierarchy to be relevant today? Coffman Commentaries had some interesting thoughts as to why the head covering was cultural, but I felt somewhat confused because his comments on verse 3 were related to the Ephesians 5:22-33 relationship for marriage; that men should be the head. Throughout this Ephesians passage there is the comparison to Christ, who is the head of the church, and the husband who is the head of his wife. I recognize that the church, the body of Christ, refers to all Believers. The local church is part of "the church"; so it's obvious that Christ is head of the local church. But since husbands are compared to Christ's relationship to the church, and Christ is head of the church, does it follow that men should be the authority in the local church?

1 Timothy 2 - Verses 11-13 are the strongest point for why many Christian churches believe women can not be pastors: A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. This passage indicates that a woman can not teach or have authority over men. The pastor in most, if not all, Christian churches both teaches and has some degree of spiritual authority over the congregants.

It would seem that the whole issue is one of order and authority.

There are definitely Bible passages that show women in positions of ministering to people:

The first 24 verses of Acts 2 show the account of when the Holy Spirit was poured out on the day of Pentecost. In this passage we see that prophesy regarding this day was fulfilled, and that part of this prophecy was that it says in verse 17 that:
In the last days, God says,

I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your young men will see visions,
your old men will dream dreams.
So women are shown in this passage to have God's spirit and prophesy.

In Acts 18:18-26 I can see a husband and wife team working together to share the gospel. In the second half of the 26th verse I see:
When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately.

In Romans 16:1 I see Paul saying:
I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church in Cenchrea. So obviously Phoebe is ministering in some capacity in the local church.

Churches that do ordain women as ministers often refer to Galatians 3:28 that states:
There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. When I read this particular passage I see it as referring to our access to God through Jesus instead of roles we fulfill. But I can see the point being made that since we all have access to God through Jesus Christ, why can't we all function in all gifts of His Spirit in the local body. I just don't know how to get around the 1 Timothy 2:11-13 passage.

What about you, do you think women should be ordained to be pastors in local churches?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Can we have it both ways?

I decided today that being a spy chief must be one of the most stressful jobs.

These thoughts were prompted as I read an AFP article highlighting the fact that president Obama has complained about a disastrous intelligence "screw-up" regarding the failed bombing of a Northwest jet on Christmas by a young Nigerian man named Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. James Jones, Obama's national security adviser, commented regarding this incident, that Americans would feel a "certain shock" when they read about systemic failures in intelligence operations designed to keep them safe. The article I read said that a confidential source had revealed that in a private meeting with the spy chiefs in the White House Situation Room, President Obama told the chiefs that: "this was a screw-up that could have been disastrous".

Even if it is found that the intelligence community did not do as good of a job as they could have, I can't help but sympathize with them. I can't help but think about all the complaints I read and hear about the intelligence community being too zealous about obtaining information, and too quick to ignore human rights. There's been the ongoing controversy since 9/11 about warrantless surveillance and debate over if the U.S. should have a system of non-criminal military detention for enemy terrorists who for many reasons are difficult to convict by trial (i.e. the whole argument about what to do with the Guantanamo Bay detainees) .

It would seem as if these folks are in a situation where they are looked at poorly every which way they turn. Whenever I'm in those sorts of situations I have to remind myself that I just have to do what I believe is right, to the best I can figure that out by the grace of God, and then live with whatever results come my way.

One thing I did find of interest in the criticism levied against the intelligence comminity regarding the failed bombing of a Northwest jet on Christmas, was the tie in between Abdulmutallab and the the Fort Hood bomber Nidal Malik Hasan. The tie in comes in the form of a radical Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki; both men had connections with this cleric. I found this interesting because of all the talk when the Fort Hood situation occurred about how wrong it was for anyone to try to connect him with any kind of terrorist group "just because" he was Muslim.

Anwar al-Awlaki is said to have advised Fort Hood suspect Maj Nidal Malik Hasan by e-mail. Although there is general agreement that Anwar al-Awlaki influenced the attempted jet bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, there is much disagreement as to when/where. Some point to when Abdulmutallab studied at University College London (UCL) from September 2005 to June 2008 and was president of its Islamic society in 2006-07; but UCL says his recruitment occurred in Yemen in the months before the attack.

Anwar al-Awlaki was born in Mexico in 1971 and moved to Yemen in 2004 to live in ancestral home village. He is a U.S. citizen. Anwar al-Awlaki served as an Iman in Colorado, California, and later in the Washington, D.C. area where he headed the Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center and was also the Muslim Chaplain at George Washington University. He has Endorsed violence as religious duty. While serving in San Deigo, 2 of the 9/11 hijackers had attended sermons by him. He was Jailed in Yemen in 2006 for alleged plot to kidnap US military attache.

As I read about all this in the news today I found myself thinking that there is constant criticism levied against the intelligence community for disregarding the freedom of individuals when obtaining information, for jumping too quickly to conclusions when apprehending suspects, and in how they follow up with suspects. There is truth to all of these criticisms; yet we are still faced with the reality of the need to protect the American people from terrorist acts.

I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on where you think the most positive contributions to protecting the American people from terrorism are coming from?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Not about me

Here's a favorite prayer of mine from Thomas A Kempis' The Imitation of Christ. May this prayer encourage your heart as it does mine:

Lord, You know what is best; let this be done or that be done as You please. Give what You will, as much as You will, when You will. Do with me as You know best, as will most please You, and will be for Your greater honor. Place me where You will and deal with me freely in all things. I am in Your hand; turn me about whichever way You will. Behold, I am Your servant, ready to obey in all things. Not for myself do I desire to live, but for You - would that I could do this worthily and perfectly!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Terrific Tuesday with Michelle from Finding Michelle

Today's Terrific Tuesday guest is Michelle who writes at Finding Michelle. Michelle is a wife, mother, and stay at home mom. I've often commented on how I appreciate that I meet people via the internet that I'd never have the opportunity to meet otherwise; Michelle is certainly one of those people. While I do not always find myself agreeing with everything she says, I do always find her posts stimulating my thoughts.

Here's what Michelle has to say today:

And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful, who knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.
Romans 1:28-32

It seems human depravity is not mentioned much in the sermons we hear today. It seems the messages are about hope and love. We’re taught we are to put our hope in Christ and God is love. But we’re not really taught why we need to put our hope in Christ or why God is love. We are taught about having our best lives now. The vision is taken off of Christ in eternity and placed on making it easier here tomorrow.

When you read the above passages do you see yourself? Can you find that others around you relate more to the passage than you do?

It was not until later in my walk with God that I began to see my own depravity. I began to see that even though I had faith, I was still a despicable person. I began to see the motives in my actions and the thoughts in my head. I realized that even our greatest deeds are sins if not done for the glory of God. I could feed the hungry, but if it was not done for Christ then it is sin. And then I began to look around me and began to speak with other Christians. I saw other Christians who did not seem to be fazed by the sin in their own lives. And then I realized we have become a culture desensitized to sin.

We have explained our fallen nature from birth as the “terrible twos” or the “trying threes.” We have neglected as a culture to see that a child lies, hits, and steals because it is his very nature to do such things. I think it is said best when it is said, “You are not a sinner because you sin, you sin because you are a sinner.”

We are sinners that deserve the wrath of God. You… reading this right now deserve hell. Your mother deserves hell, your child deserves hell, and I deserve hell. But by the grace of God, Christ took our place.

Something I meditated on not too long ago was exactly what happened when Christ was on that cross. What happened when Christ stated, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?” I can’t say what happened at that moment or the moments before or after. But during this meditation, I came to believe that at that moment Christ received the wrath that I deserved. I am not speaking of the pain He endured on the cross although it was great; I am speaking of being separated from God to endure the wrath that we deserve. Christ faced the wrath of God in our place! We can never understand what that truly means because we can’t begin to wrap our minds around what the wrath of God really is.

But back to why we need this sacrifice. Do we recognize our sins? Jesus says in Luke 7:47, “Therefore, I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But whom little is forgiven, the same ones loves little.” Christ was not saying the woman had sinned more than the others. He was saying her recognition of her sin was reflected in her love for Him. She realized her need for Him. I believe this a good example of the Christian society. We rate our sins and see that we are better than the child abuser, the sexual predator, and the murderer. We become self-righteous when we don’t see that it is only the hand of God that keeps us from being the child abuser, the sexual predator, or the murderer. We become self-righteous when we forget or fail to recognize just how unrighteous we are. What would it be like if the person next to us could see our every thought? Wouldn’t we be ashamed? Would we be much different than the man who commits the most heinous crimes?

As Paul said in Romans, “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God- through Jesus Christ our Lord!” We are delivered through Christ. But let us never neglect the war that wages between the flesh and the Spirit. Our belief will be made strong in remembrance of why we need Him.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Religion is a Headache

As much as I'd love to claim this title as my own, I can't. It's a chapter heading from a provocative book I'm reading entitled The Naked Gospel.

As soon as I read that title my mind went to a favorite scripture found in Matthew 11:28-30 where Jesus asks:

"Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly."

Just before Jesus made this statement He had been teaching and preaching to the people in the villages. He'd commented on how many of them were like spoiled children who are never happy with any situation, and He'd rebuked some for their indifference. Then He prayed and began to speak to those people who were sincerely looking for God and He uttered those words above.

When I read these words of Jesus I find myself asking these questions: What is it about religion that is bad? What about religion would cause burn out? How is getting away with Jesus different than religion?

I'll tell you my thoughts on these questions and then I'd be interested to hear yours.

The common usage of the word religion implies rules. Rules to which we must scrupulously conform, a set of standards of what we should and should not do. It's about how we're going to get to, or be right with, God.

Jesus claimed in John 14:6 that He was the only way to get to God. Then we see in Romans 8:1-23 that the law from the Old Testament shows us the perfect requirements, standards, rules that we are not able to keep but that Jesus was able to do what the law could not - Jesus is able to bring us into relationship with God. Ephesians 2:4-10 shows us that God will reach out to us in grace and give us the ability to have faith in Jesus so that we can come into relationship with Himself. So what Jesus is offering us, is different than following rules or standards; He's offering us to be in relationship with Himself and empower us to live a better way of life by living through us.

I know that trying to measure up, to be good enough, is exhausting. It's like being a hamster on an exercise wheel because I can never get anywhere; my best, and everyone else's, is always imperfect. But to come into a relationship with Jesus who loves me just as I am, who allows me to be myself, who asks me in John 15:3-5 to spend time with Him and He will produce good things through my life - this is an entirely different experience.

Has religion ever been a headache for you? Have you ever experienced being burned out from trying to live up to religious standards? How has getting away with Jesus been different for you than religion?

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Being sensible

Since it's the beginning of a new year, things like goals and resolutions are on my mind.

I've been reading about the resolutions made by Jonathan Edwards. He had a list of 70. He wrote these during the period of time from 1722 to 1723; which means they were completed when he was around 20 years old. He set it up so that he read through all of these resolutions once each week. My assumption is that he did this to stay focused. The resolutions themselves are inspiring, even if a bit daunting or overwhelming for someone like myself. I've decided to undertake the list a few at a time each day so that they will be more meaningful as I read through them.

But what really caught my attention is his sort of prologue to the resolutions:

"Being sensible that I am unable to do any thing without God’s help, I do humbly entreat him, by his grace, to enable me to keep these Resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to his will, for Christ’s sake."

I adore the way he says that since he is sensible he recognizes that he can do nothing without God. I think it all boils down to this truth, apart of God I am nothing. But through Christ I can do all things that He wants for me.

What are some things God's been teaching you about your need for Him? What are some things God's been showing you that you can do through Him that have surprised you?
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