Remember Colby or Psalty?

All right, all of you who grew up in church listening to Psalty the Psalm Book or Colby the Computer – you might enjoy this. For those of you who don’t know, Psalty and Colby were famous characters that a lot of churches showcased to kids, kindergarten -6th grade. Keep in mind, this took place around the turn of the decade from the 80’s-90’s. I remember our church would have our music director play the part of the famed characters – painted face and costumes and all – and the middle-school kids would play the ensemble cast, singing and dancing out Bible lessons and putting on “the church even of the year” for the little kids. Christian book stores also sold a lot of merchandise featuring these two separate characters.

I asked Sarabeth the other day, “If they brought back Psalty or Colby, do you think they’d be just as popular today?”

Her response?

“No. But maybe if they made a Timothy the Tablet.” She’s right. Kids today couldn’t relate to a giant psalm book or a desktop computer. So then we started throwing out some other ideas just for laughs.

Like Nikki the Nook.

Or Kit the Kindle.

So we want to invite you guys in on the fun. What are some fun ideas that would be popular with kids today that would be relevant to today’s young culture? Also, if you happen to have some personal photos of your days with Psalty or Colby, show your age and send them to me to adoptingjames@aol.com and I’ll post them in about a month. Voters will vote on the best picture and that person will win a free advanced reader’s copy of my book THE MAN IN THE BOX (totally unrelated, but I just wanted a reason to give one out). Have fun!

If Only

John 4:10

Jesus answered her, “If [only] you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked Him and He would have given you living water.”

-Jesus to the woman at the well

If only we’d have known how faithful God is, would we have done things differently? Think about it: If we knew God in His truest essence from the day we were born, wouldn’t we be in a completely different place than we are now?

Would you have made the same decisions? These are provoking thoughts. The what-ifs tend to pile up and the if-onlys begin to take shape. “If only I had waited.” “If only I had done something.” “If only I could’ve known what would happen.”

Eleven disciples knew how to walk on the water, but only one actually did it. Ten disciples knew not to abandon Jesus during His final hours, but only one didn’t. Sure, we know how to live spiritual lives, we know how to keep from sinning – really, we do. James is even big on this point: “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that – and shudder” (James 2:19).

A very wise friend of mine once told me that if we really believed that Jesus died for us, and cut us loose from the chains of sin, we wouldn’t sin anymore. If we really believe that God is faithful to fulfill all of our needs, we would not have any problems with petty temptations. The truth is, Christians, we don’t always believe. We sin due to disbelief that God has something better for us! (In essence, we will continue to sin as long as we are in the flesh.)

God has provided the paved road, but we prefer the path with potholes.

Jesus has cut our chains, but we prefer to stay in the cellar.

All of this because of our disbelief.

A reason for our reoccurring disbelief in God is our pasts. We see how far we’ve fallen, and we talk ourselves into thinking that it’s going to happen again. Like the old saying goes, “It happened once, it’ll happen again.” And that becomes the standard that we live by.

Think about the instances that changed your life over time. Were they mediocre occurrences that happen every day, but one day just clicked? Or are they more extreme? What tips your mind to start getting you to think differently? What places your heart in the chambers of the divine? A lost child? a death? an illness? an early pregnancy? What does it for you?

For the woman at the well, it was a thirsty messiah. She saw that He was not the One in need – but rather, she was. The woman was in need of clarity, as well as compassion. But she was still a little uncertain, and perhaps a little frightened. “If only you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water” (emphasis added).

There it is: If only.

The terrible two.

This is not a phrase that contains enough space for hope like what if does. This is a phrase that can only reflect and regret. And what’s worse yet, Jesus is saying this! Why is Jesus using such a phrase with someone who is in such need of redemption? What’s going on here?

“If only” are no words I want to hear from Jesus – ever. But you know what? I think if only comes with a territory of being a Christian. The Bible is filled with if onlys.

If only Moses hadn’t talked back to God.

If only Jonah had obeyed God the first time.

If only David hadn’t lusted.

If only Paul didn’t murder.

If only the thief on His right could see.

But without those if onlys, we would be left with a very skinny Bible. We would be left with very few lessons to be learned, and very little examples of God’s love and patience for mankind.

I wonder if the woman at the well would have seen Jesus for who He was if she was a “righteous” woman.

If she had remained married to the same man for a number of years, would she have even met Jesus? Remember that it was her shame that forced her to fetch water during the heat of the day in the first place. And if not for her mistakes, she would have no shame, therefore she would not have met Jesus at that divine moment in time.

[Image Credit]

For Whom the “Bell” Tolls – My Thoughts on Velvet Elvis Part 3

For Part 1, click here.

For Part 2, click here.

This post will conclude my review of Rob Bell’s Velvet Elvis.

…And what does he say about those pastors who do teach the Bible? Luke 11:46 says, “Jesus replied, ‘And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.’” He uses this against pastors who challenge their congregation to read the Bible more and pray more. Understand this! He’s attributing reading the Bible and praying to burdens of the world! Think about the implications of what he’s saying! He says that when pastors tell him to do those things, it makes him want to do them less. I only have one painfully obvious response to this: It’s called laziness, Superpastor!

Bell continues: “A little while later he [Jesus] calls them ‘sons of hell’ …religious leaders actually get in the way of entering into the life of God.” I think this is the closest to the truth he’s gotten so far!

So is the Bible the best God can do? Besides the fact that this question is completely irrelevant it stands that whatever God offers is the best because it’s from God. God is the best. That’s what He is, and anything that comes from God, including His very Word spoken through the Bible is the best no matter how much or how little He gives to us. No matter how you slice a block of cheese, it’s still cheese. [I recommend the John Piper’s book, GOD’S PASSION FOR HIS GLORY for more on this topic.]

I can spend lots and lots of time pointing out stark contradictions in this book. It would be laughable if so many people weren’t buying into these lies. A book that people are still buying off the bookshelf at the local Christian store provides sentences like this:

“To grab a few lines of Jesus and drop them down on someone 2,000 years later without first entering into the world in which they first appeared is lethal to the life and vitality of TRUTH and the Bible” (emphasis not mine).

Anything that is factual and insightful in this book is completely stolen from Ray Vander Laan’s That the World May Know DVD series, whom Bell gives very little credit to, found only in the endnotes. Bits and pieces of Vander Laan’s teachings were evident throughout the first part of the book, and then toward the end, an entire chapter was taken from a portion of his DVD series. And Rob Bell gets paid for this book. 

“Hell is full of forgiven people,” is a statement Bell makes that is arguable at best. (How can people be forgiven if they haven’t accepted it?) But, “Jesus measures their eternal standings in terms of not what they said or believed but how they lived specifically in regard to hell around them,” is a statement that is not at all in line with Scripture. It is clear in Romans that you must believe that Jesus is Lord in order to gain salvation through Him. Bell disregards this part of the transaction and preaches a works-based faith, failing to balance the practices of belief and works stemmed through convictions of the Holy Spirit. 

“The most powerful things happen,” says Bell, “When the church surrenders its desire to convert people and convince them to join.” So let me ask if this desire is from the flesh or from the Holy Spirit? Granted there are people who “save” people to make them look Super Christian. But do we just assume that of everyone who is reaching out to the world? I think not, because Christ Himself clearly states that we are to be fishers of men. We are to serve others and reach out to non-believers out of love just as Jesus did. Bell eliminates the latter command from any realm of importance to the Christian faith. Spreading the Gospel and serving go hand in hand. There can be no separating them. 

Finally Bell says that the “church must stop thinking of people as saved or unsaved… it’s offensive to others. Do not treat people differently based on what they believe.”

This is another lesson I have learned for myself while reading this book. I couldn’t quite understand the fierce and seemingly bias protection the church has over us, the members. Reading this book taught me why it’s so important that the church does so. We are the Body of Christ, and we are to protect ourselves and each other from lies and anything that might harm us spiritually so that we may not stumble. It is crucial that we guard the doctrine that we know and believe with the same intensity of a citadel guarding a fortress (or a wall for that matter). This kind of thinking that is taught through Velvet Elvis has more potential to damage and weaken and question the faith of a believer in Christ than it does to uplift, encourage, and liberate said believer from the bondages of this world. At least, in the end, Rob Bell did get one thing right: “Something can be labeled Christian and not be ‘true’ or ‘good.’” 

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2 

[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…

 

Cast Your Vote Here!

As many of you know, my book, The Man in the Box, is getting ready to go to print with Blackwyrm Publishing. My good friend and founder of Enrich Design designed a couple of cover options for the book. And now, I would like for you to vote on your favorite cover to be used for publication. Feel free to leave comments bellow, and my publisher will be making the choice based off your votes. Click here for a description of the book. Click the link bellow for the covers. You can vote for either “Box in Jungle” or “Dinosaur Tail.”

MIBCoverIdeas

First Review

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.

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…

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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…

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