Friday, October 24, 2014

religious freedom

In recent years, "religious freedom" has taken on new meaning in the United States. People twist the phrase, even going so far as to form a group called "Freedom from Religion" whose unspoken yet evident purpose is to attack Christianity. There are even those who try to argue that our Founding Fathers were not intending to establish a Christian nation.

The thing is, no matter how people try to twist it, the Truth never changes.

The signers of the Declaration of Independence knew what it would take for a new nation to survive and thrive. As the authors of Under God stated, "In declaring their independence from earthly power and authority, out Founding Fathers declared their dependence upon the Almighty God: 'with firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence.'"

Samuel Adams said, "We have this day restored the Sovereign, to Whom alone men ought to be obedient. He reigns in heaven and... from the rising to the setting sun, may His Kingdom come."

Today, society has twisted things so much that it is starting to be okay to practice any religion--
      as long as it is not Christianity.
 
Private business owners are consistently attacked for standing up for their personal belief in the biblical definition of marriage.

Christians are depicted in mainstream media as being full of hatred.

Secular ideas have replaced Christian morals and values on screen, even when Hollywood has taken on accounts from the Bible such as Noah.

Most recently, the mayor of Houston has issued a subpoena demanding the sermons of a group of pastors who dared to make a stand.

Since the founding of our nation, the United States has historically been a place where followers of Christ were free to follow Christ. President Reagan once said, "Indeed, it is an indisputable fact that all the complex and horrendous questions confronting us at home and worldwide have their answer in [the Bible].

Those of us who live in the United States have been greatly blessed, and we have not faced the persecution that so many of our brothers and sisters around the world face on a daily basis.

Now, it would seem that is beginning to change.

I have a bracelet my husband had made for me, and on it is a quote from Doctor Who: "I am and always will be the optimist. The hoper of far-flung hopes and dreamer of improbable dreams."

In this, I am still an optimist. I still believe our country can get back on track, however far-flung that hope may seem. As God told Israel, "if My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and will heal their land." (2 Chronicles 7:14)

I've always been taught, though, to hope for the best but prepare for the worst. In that, my prayer is that we in the United States will learn from the persecuted Church, our brothers and sisters in chains.

May we have the strength of the children who are being told to deny Christ or die--and who are choosing death.

May we be able to stand firm in the face of imprisonment, as those in Iran, China, North Korea, and countless other countries do.

May we be able to keep the "peace which passes all understanding" if we face torture, like our Christian brother Kamal in South Sudan:
video

It is possible that our freedom to practice our faith in God will be taken from us in the not so distant future. It is possible that even here in the United States we will soon face the persecution that followers of Christ have faced since Jesus Himself was crucified.

We need to take a stand. We need to remember the words of Nehemiah 4:14b, "Don't be afraid of them. Remember the LORD, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes."

If--when--the day comes that we face persecution, my prayer mirrors the words shared by Dr. Inch once:
"And may you be able to say
that when all is gone but God,
He is enough."

 

Friday, October 10, 2014

what have we become?

We've lost ourselves.

Somehow, in all the chaos and the noise around us, we have lost sight of everything that is truly important, everything that once set us apart.

We have stopped taking a stand, and as a result we have let others walk all over us in the name of "progress."

We have become a country
~which would rather protect a chicken than a baby
~in which people barely bat an eye when a woman publishes a video of herself having an abortion
~in which a woman writes a selfish letter to the unborn child she is planning on killing (one she calls Thing), and gets praised for making a choice "for her"
~in which a boy was given detention for sharing his lunch with a classmate who had less
~with people so afraid of offending others that they hide their own beliefs
~where people are attacked for supporting the Biblical definition--God's definition--of marriage
~where it is accepted and expected for people to sleep together before they are married in order to find out if they are "compatible"
~where parents are not supposed to discipline their children
~where pets are more protected than kids
~in which a woman is praised for having the "strength" to choose to end her own life when her journey gets too hard
~that has decided that the government gets to call all the shots
~that no longer values personal responsibility and autonomy
~where an Eagle Scout got suspended for having a pocketknife locked in a survival kit in his vehicle at school
~in which Christmas decorations are no longer welcome in many public places because they might offend someone--nevermind the fact that they are usually just of Santa anyways
~where hard work is penalized instead of rewarded, and people expect to get something for nothing
picture by Sarah
~in which football players are called heroes and soldiers are abandoned
~where "patriot" has become a bad title
~in which kids are given trophies and medals for just showing up, because the "experts" think that it would harm kids to realize that they aren't always the best at everything they try
 


We have become a country weakened, beaten down, and nearly broken. We are on a downward spiral, and it breaks my heart.

We need to take a stand.
We need to speak up. 

Monday, September 29, 2014

I've been quiet lately...

It's been a while since I wrote here. To be honest, it's been a while since I did any kind of writing. I would like to say that's just because I've been so busy with school, with all the articles I'm reading and everything I'm writing for my education classes. I would like to say that, but it wouldn't be the truth.

I haven't written because I don't want to write what I feel like I should write.

I've been feeling lost lately, in so many different ways. I've started a different career path again with the change over to education and physics. I've ripped out page ofter page in multiple notebooks, with nothing I write coming out the way I want it to. I've started over on at least 3 different stories, but none of them have worked. I've cried out in my prayers, begging to hear from God, but He's seemed silent. My heart and soul feel like they're tied up in knots, and no matter what I try to do I can't seem to undo the knots.

The thing is, I'm pretty sure it's because I'm not doing the one thing I'm supposed to be doing right now.

There has been a common theme to just about every blog or book or article I've read this year (or at least to all of the ones that have prodded at me): Tell your story. It was even the theme of one of my own posts early in the year, one in which I said I had started working on my story.

Over and over again, the words jump out at me. Tell your story. The world needs your story, even the messy parts.

I've done my best to ignore them. The problem is, I'm pretty sure that it's been God's message to me that I've been ignoring. So every time I've called out to Him and begged for Him to speak, to let me feel Him, I've gotten the same response. Silence.

Silence, because He's already told me what to do. He's already made His point, and He's made it abundantly clear. Tell your story. Over and over again, He's used the 2x4 to make it sink in.

But I don't want to.
There--I said it, plain and simple.

I don't want to tell my story, because it hurts. It's messy and uncomfortable and private, and I. just. don't. want. to.

That came out for the first time the other day when I was on the phone with my mom. I blurted out that I knew I was supposed to tell my story, but I didn't want to. Honestly, speaking the words out loud was the first time I even let the idea get fully formed in my mind. I didn't want to admit it, not even to myself.

I've begged and prayed for God to tell me what He wants from me. I've spent years searching for direction, for the next step. For a long time, I had no idea what was next. In many regards, I still don't know what's next. I don't know what will happen once I finish my degree. I don't know where our family will move to next, or where Nathan and I will work. I honestly know very little about God's plan for my life.

But here I am, fighting against the one thing I know I've been told to do next. I'm scared--terrified, truthfully. I don't want to start down this path. I don't want to pull out old memories and uncover old wounds. It feels like I'm being asked to cut open old scars, ones that haven't ever really even healed properly. It hurts my heart to even think about it.

So, I'm asking for prayers. Begging for them, really.

I can't do this.
I can't.
I'm too weak, too fragile, too broken.
Too determined to be strong on my own.

But this whole blog got started because I felt God calling me to be faithful, to step out of the boat despite the storms, to trust Him to guide each step. I want to be faithful. I want to be obedient.

I don't want to write my story, but I'm more afraid of staying in the silence than I am of finding out what other people have to say when they see my mess.

Please, pray.
I need it.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Liar, Lunatic, or Lord?

I told Pop one time that my favorite sermon of his was, "Liar, Lunatic, or Lord?" and was a bit surprised by his response. "Thanks," he said, "but I can't take credit for that. If I remember right, I borrowed that from C.S. Lewis."

Not a bad guy to borrow a sermon topic from, if you ask me.

I was trying to decide what to write on here a while back and Nathan told me I should write about that sermon. He hadn't heard it and I can't remember anything more than the main points, so I put it off. For one thing, I haven't been real anxious to tackle a topic C.S. Lewis wrote about--or one Pop spoke about. Both sets of those shoes are pretty big to try to fill, to be honest.

The other day, though, I gave in. I decided I would look into it and make an attempt to write something. I looked up the sermon and found something interesting:
         It looks like C.S. Lewis borrowed the idea, too. From what I can tell, the "trilemma" can be traced back to the mid 1800s and a couple of men named Mark Hopkins and John Duncan.

Who knew--even C.S. Lewis borrowed ideas from time to time!

So, I guess I said all that to say this: I am absolutely scared to death to dive into this subject. I hope, though, that I can do so without muddying up the waters for you too much... and I guess I should stop procrastinating and get on with things :)

*****

Liar, Lunatic, or Lord?
It seems like an odd question, doesn't it? Those labels don't really go together, and you wouldn't think there would ever be a situation where you would be asked to make a choice between the three.

The thing is, I think that question is one everyone needs to ask themselves. To me, you can't truly be confident in your faith until you understand just what it is that you believe--and why you believe it. Contrary to what some people have been taught, that means asking the hard questions and working through the answers. Here's one of those hard questions: Who was Jesus?

The question of whether or not Jesus was a real person have finally started to quiet. There is too much historical evidence of the man named Jesus, born in Bethlehem to Mary and her husband Joseph, who then spent His childhood in Nazareth and went on to become a great teacher. The Jewish historian Josephus mentioned Jesus, and the Roman historian Tacitus wrote of His execution by Pilate. So if we don't need to question whether or not the man Jesus lived, the only question left is who is He?

Here you have a man who claims time and time again to be the Son of God. In Matthew 16 He asks Peter, "Who do you say I am?" Verses 16 and 17 go on,

"Simon Peter answered, 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.'
Jesus replied, 'Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah,
for this was not revealed to you by man, but by My Father in heaven."

When He was being questioned by the high priest Caiaphas, here was the exchange:
"The high priest said to Him, 'I charge you under oath by the living God:
Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.'
'Yes, it is as you say,' Jesus replied."
Matthew 26: 63-64 (partial verses)

Jesus told the people to follow Him. He told His disciples that they would be persecuted for doing so. He talked about being raised from the dead and about feasting with His disciples in heaven. He said many would come in His name, claiming to be the Messiah, the Christ.

Listening to everything He said, we have three options:
1. He was a Liar
-The first option is pretty simple: Jesus could have been a liar. He could have known full well that all He was saying was false, and He could have been saying all that crazy stuff solely to deceive people. If so, nothing He ever said should be taken as good. If He was a liar, He shouldn't be held up by other religions as being a prophet, a moral leader, or a great teacher. If He was simply lying, He was nothing more than evil.

If He was simply lying, though, He would have to be one of the most devious, conniving men to have ever lived. He would have had to work out elaborate plans to be able to fake healings like those experienced by the ten lepers (Luke 17:11-19), the bleeding woman (Matthew 9:20-22, Luke 8: 43-48), the blind man (Mark 10: 46-52), and the soldier whose ear was cut off (Luke 22: 49-51). He would have had to figure out a way to get a herd of pigs to drown themselves in the lake (Mark 5: 1-20). He would have had to convince multiple people that their kids had died and been restored to life (Matthew 9: 18-26 and Luke 7: 11-16).

Sounds like a lot of work to me, especially when the end reward was a Roman execution.

2. He was a Lunatic
-Here's the next option. Maybe Jesus really wasn't who He claimed to be, but maybe He fully believed it Himself. Perhaps He was simply crazy. That could explain a lot of the stuff He was saying, like talking about being the Son of God. We've seen people follow crazy people before, right? Hitler and Mussolini come to mind for starters, along with quite a few cult leaders who have convinced people to do crazy things. As was the case if He was a liar, though, if Jesus was a lunatic we shouldn't pay any attention to His teachings. He shouldn't be seen as a good man or a wonderful example of morality we should try to emulate. If He was crazy, we should steer clear of Him and His claims to be the Son of God, the Messiah Israel had been waiting for since the birth of the nation and the time of Abraham.

3. He was--and is--Lord
-So, if Jesus wasn't a liar and He wasn't a lunatic, we are only left with one option.
He was who He said He was, the Son of God sent to earth to be the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. He was a moral leader, sure, but He was and is so much more than that.
He is the bridge that spans the chasm between imperfect man and a perfect God.
He is the sacrificial Lamb, His life laid down to justify us--people who could never justify ourselves.
He is the Rock upon which we can build the only foundation that will stand the test of time.
He is the Word used to speak all of creation into existence and then sent to us as a love letter from a merciful Father in heaven.


So, there are the options. Who do you say Jesus is?

Thursday, September 4, 2014

a letter from a preacher's kid

I'm a bit overwhelmed by the number of letters I've seen lately, letters full of pain and bitterness aimed at "preacher dads." They are letters from PKs who write about never seeing the love of Christ in their home while listening to their dad preach it from the pulpit. They are letters of legalism, punishment, and neglect. The words pour out of wounded hearts, and the damage done to such tender spirits is evident.

Yes, sometimes being a preacher's kid is hard. For all those who were wounded, though, there are others of us who were blessed. Our hearts haven't been hurt, though, so as is often the case you don't hear from us. I don't write to take away from one side, but to perhaps lend my voice to the other. So here's my letter, from one preacher's kid to her father...

***
Dear Pop,
I know it worried you at times, the question of how your job affected your kids. I'm sure that's common to a lot of dads, but it somehow seems different for a pastor. After all, most dads don't take their kids to work with them on a regular basis. Well, I can't speak for Michael or Sarah, but I can tell you how it's affected me.

It was a strange thing sometimes, being in the spotlight when I hadn't auditioned for a role. There were times when I felt a bit overwhelmed, when it seemed like expectations were being heaped up on shoulders too small to carry such a heavy burden. It seemed like I ws supposed to have it all together, to know how to dress, speak, and act the part of the "perfect Christian." The thing was, I was just a kid still trying to figure out all of that stuff myself.

But that pressure didn't come from you.

From you, I learned that it's not bad to fall under a heavy burden because when you fall the easiest place to get to is your knees. You taught me that what someone says on Sunday isn't nearly as important as how you live the rest of the week. You showed me the importance of looking at everything and everyone through eyes unclouded by judgement or preconceived notions. You also taught me to have the courage to ask the hard questions and the strength to accept the hard answers.

From you I learned that your witness isn't a bunch of words strung together. Instead, it's the way you live your life. I've learned the value of integrity, compassion, and humility.

Being a preacher's kid may have been an unusual childhood, but it was a good one. It was a childhood I wouldn't have traded. It was one in which I never doubted how much I was loved by both my earthly father and my heavenly Father.

So, from one preacher's kid, thank you for following God's call on your life. Thank you for showing me how to live the life of the called, even when it's hard. I love you.

Love,
Me

Thursday, August 28, 2014

a story of evil and protection

I don't post twice in one day. Pretty sure I've never done it before, and there's a pretty good chance I'll never do it again.

Today, though, I had to make an exception.

There is evil in this world. Most of the time here in the U.S. we see it from a distance, a faceless terror affecting the lives of other people. It seldom affects us, so though we know it is there we don't feel it's effects.

This morning, evil reached out and touched my family.

I sent Nathan off to school this morning, because he's going to be spending the next year dividing his weekdays between the college campus and a high school campus while he works towards a Master's in education. After fixing breakfast for the kids at around 7 a.m., I saw multiple missed calls from Nathan. When I got him on the phone, he told me that a wheel had come off of the Bronco as he drove into Toledo. A little while later, after being towed to a service station, he told me that the mechanics were emphatic: the Bronco had been sabotaged.

That's not a word I use lightly, but it is all that fits in this case. I have only spoken to him through text messages so far because his phone battery was too low to be able to call, but Nathan told me that apparently all the lug nuts had been loosened on all the tires. The tires had also been cut somehow, though I'm still not entirely clear on the details. They didn't appear flat when Nathan left, so I'm not sure how they were cut. Once the truck is drivable again, he's on his way to the police station to make a report and figure out where we go from here.

Honestly, I'm terrified. I have no idea what it takes for someone to want to do that, and I have no idea why anyone would want to do that to us. Our safety has been put in jeopardy, and I'm desperate to regain some sense of control over the situation.

At the same time, I am infuriated. Someone set out to hurt my family. MY family. That is not something I am able to just accept, and it will probably take me a little while to forgive--and then definitely not through my own strength.

I know, though, that the evil my husband and I were introduced to this morning does not even begin to compare to the evil attacking others on a daily basis, all around the world. For those people, my heart aches and my soul cries out in prayers of protection and strength.

Though this morning has given me a small taste of the evil in this world, it has also reminded me of something great:

~God is good.
~God takes care of His children.
~He and He alone protected my husband as he drove the 30 miles into the city this morning on four loosened, cut tires.
~God has a plan for us, and Evil is powerless before Him.

"But the LORD is faithful,
and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one."
~2 Thessalonians 3: 3

faith & trust

There's a story about a man who went in view of the call at a church. He gave a sermon that everyone thought was amazing, and they all voted to have him as their new pastor. Much to their surprise, he preached the same sermon his first Sunday there. When he stood up the next week and did the same thing again, the church leaders confronted him about it.

The new pastor listened calmly to their complaints then smiled. "Don't worry," he said, "I'll move on to the next sermon when you figure out how to start living out this one."

***

Have you ever been there?

I know I have. There are times when I feel like God is harping on one topic with me, grounding the same lesson into my head over and over again. It's as if He's preaching the same sermon
day after day,
week after week--
sometimes even year after year.

Most of the time, the words are the same. If you look back through the posts in this blog, you'll see a common theme in what I've been told: "You claim to have faith in Me, so trust Me."

faith: belief without proof; confidence; reliance; loyalty; fidelity

trust: reliance on the integrity, veracit, etc. of a person; confident expectation
 (definitions from The New American Webster Handy College Dictionary, 3rd ed.)

I claim faith, but I have a hard time relying on the One in whom I have placed my faith.

Trust is hard for me-- I would much rather rely on myself than trust other people. I don't know if it's because of my stubbornly independent streak or something else.

I do know, though, that if I claim to have faith in God I have to trust Him.

Maybe one of these days I'll be ready for Him to move on to the next sermon.

"Now faith is being sure of what we hope for
and certain of what we do not see."
~Hebrews 11:1