5+1 = …4?

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Well, tomorrow night our family will be growing. Not in the way that you might think. We’re still waiting on background checks from all the states we’ve lived in in the past five years (California, Florida, Washington State…). The state of Kentucky, like any state, won’t approve anyone to foster-to-adopt until they have proof of a clean criminal record. The process can take up to six months.

That’s frustrating for law-abiding citizens to hear, when all we want to to do is foster children and give them a warm and loving house to live in.

You’d think by this time they’d be able to just pull up your information, see if there’s any red lines, and either clear you or deny you. Simple as that. But I guess the government just isn’t as progressive as they’ve like us to think.

So, for the time being, I finally caved and agreed to get Sarabeth another puppy, and we’re picking her up tomorrow night. We will now be having not two, not three, but four dachshunds living in the Toy house.

But we’re not as crazy as it seems. We’ll actually be losing two of them in a few weeks. One of them, Pixie, is ours. We got her as a wee 10 week old. Sydney and Roxy have just been staying with us for the last two years and their parents – Sarabeth’s sister and brother-in-law, are returning from their overseas mission in just a couple of weeks and they’ll be taking Rox and Syd back.

We’ve been anticipating this reunion for quite some time, and honestly, I had been looking forward to shrinking back down to just one dog again. But I love my wife too much to deny her another puppy – really, she doesn’t ask for much.

Anyway, I guess I’ve been growing excited to pick up the little prim. I’ll post some pictures of her on Wednesday. But I’ve been thinking: Just how crazy is it that this little puppy we’ve picked out has absolutely no idea who we are, or what she’s about to get into, or what sort of nice home she’s about to live in? It’s sad, in a way, that her entire 8-week life is about to change and her whole world will cease to exist.

Tomorrow night, nothing will be the same for her.

But, it’s like us. God watches us, and I’m sure He’s anticipating the day He preordained for us to come home to Him. (Though, since He’s omnipresent, He can experience that day anytime He’d like, but you get the idea.) And I’m sure He’s saying to Himself, “You have no idea what’s in store for you here, and you’re going to love  it!”

We’re to have faith like a child, and maybe sometimes it’s okay to be as naive and curious as a puppy.

A Letter to Christians

Dear Christian,

I came across many of your kind in my life. Many of you were kind and gentle, you offered words of encouragement and inspiration. You lifted me up when I felt down. You were the nicest people I worked with, but the dorkiest people to hang around. But still, somehow you seemed happier than I felt. I guess I just assumed you were pretending just like I was.

But still, some of you were jerks. You were bigoted, and forceful and condescending. You lied like the rest of us, you sometimes cursed, and you treated your spouses rudely. I’m sure you know by now that you were wrong, and judging by your life-pattern, I’m sure you are sorry. But I was just as much at fault for expecting you to be perfect. One of you said to me once, “We’re not perfect, we just follow a perfect Leader.” I thought that was so cheesy.

I didn’t know it, but I was following a perfect leader too. He was perfect in his cunningness, never missing an opportunity to darken my blindfold, or trip me up. He was perfect at lying to me, at tempting me into trouble, and accusing me for the crimes he presented to me to commit. And I was perfect at following him every step of the way.

I was great at winning arguments with you guys. I would bring up scientific facts to stump you (though I see those were just lies too… you didn’t know it, but science was your biggest ally), or cause you to trip over you tongue when I asked meaningless questions like “Can your God create a rock so big…?” I can see now that that was my way of sneaking out of the debate. And every time I used a lie as my backdoor exit. Every. Single. Time.

And your Perfect Leader – your God – let me. Because He is perfect. He is perfectly just and perfectly fair and perfectly willing to grant me freedom whenever I want it. I know you would hate for me to victimize you, but really, you were caught in the middle. You were commanded by your God to tell me the truth. But you also didn’t want to offend me – another stupid barrier we put up against you. And I don’t know about anyone else, and I wouldn’t have admitted it, but I kind of wanted you to offend me – after all, who’s not up for a hearty debate?

But a lot of you refused to. A lot of you kept silent. A lot of you knew you had to tell me about your God, but you refused. You would have rather talked about TV shows, or the latest movies, or argue politics. And honestly, I appreciated that. But now I hate you for that. That was the biggest, most unforgiving offense of all – keeping silent.

I’m not saying I would have accepted your God as my God – I’m not. I’m just saying, at least you would have been loving me the way you were supposed to. And at least I would have had more to ponder on those many nights I laid awake tossing and turning in bed, wondering if putting all my stock in multiple gods and flawed prophets is the wisest choice.

But here I am – you know where. You can tell, because of how old and charred and illegible this paper is. I’ve been here for decades, and I’ll be here for trillions of centuries and more. Every now and then I take a peak upward and see miniscule shafts of light pouring in from your World and I cry out to your God to save me – SAVE ME! – but He has trapped His echo in this furnace with me for all eternity: “You had your chance. I did My part. I offered My gift, but you refused it every single time.”

To those of you who spoke of your God to me: Thank you. To those of you who didn’t: Shape up and open your mouths, and ask your God to prevent more cages from filling up down here.

- Eternally Lost

Need an editor? Click here.

[Image Credit]

For Whom the “Bell” Tolls: My Thoughts on Velvet Elvis – Part 2

For the first part of this review, click here.

“Is the Bible the best God can do?” asks Bell. Apparently not, because he doesn’t seem to be sure God even wrote the Bible to begin with. He wonders if Corinthians, for example, is written by Paul or God or God through Paul or Paul through God. I wonder, as he’s standing at the pulpit on Sunday mornings preaching through 1 Timothy what he does with chapter 3 verse 16 (“All Scripture is inspired by God…”), but there’s really no reason for him to preach out of the Bible anyway, according to him. 

“The Bible is open-ended,” he says. “We cannot simply do what it says,” because it first must be interpreted. Meaning, “Someone has to decide what it means.” Yes, he’s saying that the Bible can be interpreted in any way we’d like. “When someone tells you what the Bible means, it’s not true.” It’s just their interpretation. Yes, this man is the pastor of a mega church. If you’re not yet wondering about the devastating effects of the gut-wrenching statements here, take the time to read some reviews on this book online. People really think this is deep, sound, theological teaching and many say it has changed their lives. I have no doubt their lives have been changed because Rob Bell the “superpastor” is releasing people from the obligation of obeying the Words of God. No one ever said a changed life is a holy life. 

To take this hellish theology further, he gives the example of a leader in his church who had a question about a section found in the Bible and after asking many learned people and consulting many references to no avail, she in the end, decided to just go right back to the Bible to see what it had to say about this topic. Bell’s response? That’s “toxic.” And if that’s not far enough, he says that Jesus Himself gives His followers permission to make new interpretations of the Bible (somehow he gets this idea from Matthew 16:9 and 18:18).

Earlier in his book he admitted that Jesus came to fulfill the Word of God by giving it flesh and bones. Now he’s telling his readers to do what they think Jesus is saying, not what He is saying. After all, it wasn’t until the 300’s the sixty-six books were agreed upon, according to Bell. “This is part of the problem with continually insisting that one of the absolutes of the Christian faith must be a belief that ‘Scripture alone’ is our guide. It sounds nice, but it is not true.” 

If you want to irk Bell, tell him that you attend a church that teaches the Bible. According to him a church that’s growing has an easy yoke. Do you want to know why that church has “easy yoke”? Because it’s not holding its congregation to the standards of the Bible. The church may present an easier yoke on Sunday, but what are the attendee’s lives like the rest of the week, being starved for the Word of God, and having it withheld time after time?

Many yokes seem easy, which is what people will likely flock to. People want the easiest dieting books, the simplest instructions, the lighter load, the church that has very few standards and does not convict with the two-edged sword of the Holy Word of God. Many churches like this will grow. And why shouldn’t they? They’re giving out milk and honey! But over time that trampoline will get overcrowded and the few springs holding everyone up will give way and the party will end when the whole thing comes crashing down. Did I mention that not once, if my memory serves correctly, does Bell make any reference to Satan and the unseen world? 

To be concluded…

 

First Review

adoptingjames:

Here is the first review for my debut novel, The Man in the Box. Check out the rest of this person’s blog for other book recommendations.

Originally posted on Ariesgrl Book Reviews:

By: Andrew Toy. Format: eBook. Read: September 2012.

     Robbie Lake was counting down the days until his island vacation with his family. Everything was going as planned, until the unexpected happened. While dealing with the unfortunate consequences of being laid-off, Robbie stumbles upon a box that sends him to a whole other world. In Reveloin, people fear for their lives and they are excited to return Robbie to his throne. Only one problem, Robbie has no memory of this world or why the people are treating him like they have been waiting for his return. As his reality is turned upside down and as his dreams become reality, Robbie Lake must decide what is more important, his family or a whole civilization?

     Andrew Toy has created a unique and interesting story that spans several genres from mystery and adventure to fantasy. Robbie Lake is a modern-day adult Peter…

View original 194 more words

For Whom the “Bell” Tolls: My Thoughts on Velvet Elvis – Part 1

I wrote this a while back after reading Velvet Elvis by Robb Bell. I knew the book had stirred up a whirlwind of controversy in Christian circles, and before arguing one way or the other I decided to give the guy a chance (I liked his Nooma videos) and see what he had to say before choosing a “side.”

I wrote this back in 2009. Because of the length, I have broken it up into a few different posts. I’d love to hear from you all your thoughts:

It should go without saying that when you see the subtitle of a Christian book labeled, “Repainting the Christian Faith,” you should proceed with caution, should you decide to proceed at all. 
In this disjointed book, Rob Bell seems to want the theme to be about rethinking Christianity and the Bible as, according to him, Jesus did (that’s right, you’re going to hear a lot about a second-guessing Savior). One of his main points is that we are to reform Christianity. Or, as he puts it, we are to be “reforming theology. He uses the example of Martin Luther who exposed the sins of the church leaders to make the church about God and the people and not about business and stale religion. That’s a fine example to use, if Bell is speaking to an audience of money changers. But he’s speaking to you and me, Christians striving to live according to the Word of God because we love Him

And that’s just the introduction. He then begins his first chapter by explaining how everything, at some point had to be named. At some point God’s Spirit had to be named by us, and even the Trinity was once nameless until we came along. And then he subtly suggests that the Spirit of God is not eternal. That at some point, “God became the Spirit so He could be everywhere.” This also implies God was not (and cannot be on His own) omnipresent

Concerning the doctrine found in the Bible, [Bell] points his readers to the example of a trampoline. He seems to be unclear as to whether the net itself is God or if it’s Christianity or what, but the springs are what he focuses on. They are the doctrine that holds everything together. You can remove the springs (doctrine), stretch them, pull them, examine them. If you take one or two springs off of the trampoline, it will not fail, it won’t collapse. This is where the famous controversy comes in: that the virgin birth was not necessary to fulfill Scripture.

In his defense he claims to believe in the virgin birth. But what I find to be more startling than his example of the virgin birth is that he claims that ultimately you can take any prophecy or truth out of the Bible and Christianity still remains unfaltering, somehow leaving you with a sturdy foundation to stand upon. He contrasts this analogy of a trampoline to that of a brick wall where it’s assumed if you take out one unchanging, solid brick, the whole wall will crumble. Plus, Bell says that a wall is meant to be guarded by keeping people out as opposed to enjoying the amusement of a trampoline and inviting others to join you. It’s because you love jumping on the trampoline that you’re going to invite people to join you, he continues, just like if you really love God, you’ll invite people to experience Him. “You rarely defend things you love,” he says. I’d sure hate to have him as the leader of my family [when a burglar breaks in].

He then goes on to describe a leader that is much desired and sought after. One who has more questions than answers. He uses Jesus as an example in that He answered a lot of questions with questions. So in response to the questions people have, Bell boasts in a “Doubt Night” he holds at a church where people are invited to write their questions down on a slip of paper and have them read publicly. (“Why do babies die?”, “Why do bad guys have all the fun?” etc.) In my mind, this can only accomplish one purpose: create more doubt in already [wavering] minds, and without these questions being backed up by answers, I can only imagine how hazardous this kind of thinking is to a young Christian who is already plagued with uncertainties.

Bell says people don’t want a leader with all the answers [I'm assuming political jokes would not be welcome here], but someone who has questions themselves. So while Rob and his pals are doing somersaults and throwing pity parties on his springless trampoline, I think I’ll choose to invest my faith and efforts in those who are laying their lives and reputations on the line by defending the wall as if it’s their very home. They take the Word of God very seriously because they recognize that there are eternal consequences in regard to what we choose to put our faith in. 

To be Continued…

The Strength of Mercy

For those of you familiar with All God’s Children International, here is a book that documents its humble origins, written by Jan Beazely, one of the main instruments in getting this mission off the ground.

It’s hard to step out in faith sometimes, but we’re left with no excuse after watching the Beazely family make one faith-filled decision after another, following God’s guidance like stepping stones. The Strength of Mercy is the story of how a girl named Heather took a curious path for her life which lead to the adoption of her sister, and ultimately hundreds of children throughout the world. Here is an excerpt from the book:

“As I look back on what has unfolded during the past several years, I am awed by what god has accomplished. I’ve rediscovered – on an almost daily basis – that when we yield in trusting surrender, we are ushered into the very center of His will, further than we dreamed possible.

God’s divine direction and the strength of His mercy were first experienced intimately in our home. Our greatest hopes and fondest desires as parents culminated in this amazing journey that our daughter – and our entire family – was called to take. Not only did we hope for the fulfillment of the promise God had given me so many years earlier, but it was also an incredible privilege to watch our oldest daughter walk and talk with the Lord on such intimate terms. To watch her strain to hear His voice and then obediently move forward, even when He didn’t explain Himself, was pure delight. It was the most precious gift a parent could ever hope for. Our once-rebellious teenager was transformed into a woman of courage and grace before our very eyes. In the transition, God used her to rescue a needy child – her sister, our new daughter. 

Then God invited us as a family to share this same mercy with the world. When I first received God’s promise back in October 1985, I could never have dreamed that we would bring more than 300 children out of Eastern Europe to new homes and a new life … Neither could I have foreseen working in the countries of Bulgaria, China, Russia, Hungary, Macedonia, and Honduras…

For a truly redemptive story on the power of grace and the beauty and divine possibility of adoption, I recommend this book wholeheartedly. It would do some of us a lot of good to be reminded that even today, outside the pages of the Bible, it is still possible to follow God in faith even if the world is hostile against our decisions. Does anyone else have a good adoption-themed book to recommend to us?

Theo: Adopted into God’s Family

For those of you with little kids looking for quality entertainment less intense than Disney but deeper than Veggietales, look no further than this new Christian children’s series, Theo. Created by Mike Joens, the storyboard artist and animation producer/director for McGee and Me! and Adventures in Odyssey, this traditionally animated (2-d) cartoon series is centered around a friendly English gentleman who is a student of God’s Word and lives in a large house with two witty British mice. The series is faithful to guide viewers into the basics of systematic theology.

I want to point out an episode I had the opportunity to preview recently. It’s about adoption. The ten minute video does a very good job teaching on adoption’s basic foundational truths and the idea that people very different from us can indeed be adopted into our families and called brother or sister or son or daughter.

For families with kids looking into adoption, you might want to take special care to watch this video with your young ones. It can serve as a very good tool to help aid a discussion about what your family is preparing to do. It will help your kids not see adoption as just taking some outsider into the family, but how that is so significant of a move to the adopted one, and it ties in how we also, if given our lives to Christ, have been adopted into God’s family and how that is significant to us.

Check out the website here. You’ll find other videos you can order that deal with a few other doctrines of faith. McGee and Me! and Adventures in Odyssey lovers especially will find this series endearing and even a bit nostalgic.

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