Gladdest Noel

I’ve been posting the best unheard of Christmas songs. But this one deserves to have a post all its own. If for some reason, you’re unable to listen to this lyrical song by Evelyn Brush featured on the Christmas CD “Ring the Bells” I have taken it upon myself to write the lyrics out for you below the video.

In a lowly, lonely corner of a dark and dismal earth

What man once lost was found again – hope was given birth.

Calamitous our condition under judgment from the fall

‘Til the gladdest brightest Miracle came down to save us all.

He heard us crying in the night, dying in our sins

So in unblemished love, God slipped into our common skin.

And the Word became flesh and the greatest became least

And swaddling clothes were wrapped around Heaven’s highest Priest.

In teeny, tiny fingers, and teeny, tiny toes

Baby soft and sweet to kiss lay Sharon’s tender Rose.

Desire of all nations, spreading His rich perfume

As morning sheds her glory across the shimmering dew.

Oh, holy night! God of virgin born, prophecy fulfilled! Fathomless… alone.

But the serpent of Eden hissed heinously and groaned!

For the Savior had returned to claim back His rightful own.

The snake, he slid and slithered in reviling rant and rave

For men’s life was not his purpose… he was hellbent on their grave.

So, besniveling from the manger in green-eyed insanity, he crawled off to hew a rugged Cross

From just the perfect tree in search surpassing sinister, yet sovereignly allowed.

He also plucked the perfect thorns  for Rose of Sharon’s brow.

And in these things he had his way but only ’til the stain

Of Jesus’ blood had washed away our sins ’til none remained.

And the wrath of God was violent, and the terror cruel and raw

Not at all the thing we want to see while looking in the straw

At an Infant pure and innocent.

But we must reconcile with this Truth:

The price to set men free was held within this child,

The Lion of Judah, who died for us our death.

Whose throne can be our very hearts whose breath can be our breath

Whose Life can be our life for all eternity.

If we will but accept the gift He sent for you and me

Jesus is His name

Noel!

Noel!

Messiah, Deliverer, Emmanuel, Holy One of Israel!

The Prince of Peace!

Almighty Counselor!

Our sinless high Priest!

God of all gods!

Light of all light!

Joy in our sorrow, rest in our nights.

Blessed Redeemer.

Bright Morningstar!

Wonder of wonders,

What a wonder you are!

Comforter, Helper, faithful friend,

Promise keeper of Bethlehem.

King of all kings!

Lord of all lords!

Ancient of days!

Forevermore!

Immortal, invisible, merciful One.

Forgiver of every vile thing we have done!

Righteous, victorious, our all in all.

And yet… His eye sees when a wee sparrow falls

And when are weak,

He is Strong.

And when we are wandering, His arms are long.

And when pain runs deep

His love’s deeper still.

If we will but ask Him, He’ll save us, He will.

Beautiful Savior!

Bethlehem’s bloom

Hope for the tiniest forms within the wombs!

Loving, kind rescuer of helpless man,

No one can steal us out of Your hands!

Noel

Noel

Gladdest Noel

Jesus is born

All is well!

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Family Friendly “Halloween” Movies

We don’t celebrate Halloween in the traditional sense in our home. But I still like the flavor of the season, without celebrating death and all its accompaniments. (I’ll post soon how we celebrate October 31st.) I don’t think it’s wrong to seek out thrills for entertainment. After all, isn’t that what we see most movies for? So I’ve put together “safe” movies for families with older kids to enjoy this time of year. I’m sure you’ve seen many of them, if not all. So take a walk down memory lane and let the haunts of movies past delight you…

E.T.

This is a classic that I think every kid should still see. Some Christians might have a fit with me recommending this sci-fi fantasy because we shouldn’t promote the possibility of an alien life-force floating around out there in our universe somewhere. Well, a lot of kids have seen The Lion King, and I’ve never heard of an incident where a child tried to jump out of a safari ride to talk with a lion. With the exception of the foul playground language, E.T. is perfectly acceptable for kids who don’t scare easily, and it’s great imagination booster. I drew off of this movie all the time as a kid when developing stories and creating imaginary characters. Plus, I hear it’s coming out on Blu-Ray soon… Brief, strong language, scary moments.

Snow White

You might be asking how Snow White made it to the list of Halloween movies. If you watch it, even today as an adult, you’ll see that it’s a pretty freaky movie, even for being the first animated film ever made. It’s seamless in its storytelling, and perfectly pure in its artistic form, and it contains probably some of the greatest Disney music ever. The whole queen transforming into the witch scene… you’ll feel like it’s Halloween, alright. I watch this every year around the end of October. A great benefit to it is that you can talk to your kids about the beauty of redemption and the great resurrection of souls when God destroys all the evil in this world forever. Scary moments.

 

Bewitched (2005) 

Yes, this movie makes light of witchcraft. And so does Harry Potter, and – dare I say it? – Narnia. Making light isn’t just making fun, it’s downplaying. Even our best efforts of demonizing witchcraft fall short of capturing its vile existence. This movie is actually pretty clean, considering it’s Will Ferrell. Good time for laughs, but a good opportunity to talk with your kids afterwards about how Hollywood distorts the truth in exchange for entertainment. This one’s PG-13. Check out Pluggedin.com to determine if this movie is safe for your family. 

 

 

 

Signs

M. Night Shyamalan. You either love him (because of Sixth Sense) or you hate him (post-Sixth Sense). Or you’ve heard of him, but don’t exactly know why. Shyamalan is mostly known for doing “safe” horror movies. In other words, people like me who don’t tolerate useless blood-and-guts and slasher/killer movies, can appreciate this writer/director’s movies because he tampers more with suspense and fantasy. No sex, very minimal blood, and, especially in Signs, he tends to handle topics of faith and hope quite well. The lead character in this one (Mel Gibson), is an ex-priest who has given up on God. Even in fantasy movies, “God” works in mysterious ways to draw His children back to Him. Good form. PG-13 for frightening moments, mild language, and intensity. 

There are some others we watch for Halloween, but now it’s your turn. What are some clean movies you and your family watch this time of year? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

 

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.

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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 

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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…

 

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?

Cult #2: Mormonism

Mormonism is the fastest growing and most successful cult. Their church is called The Church of Jesus Christ and Latter Day Saints, or LDS for short. They claim to be Christians, that they believe in the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. But they employ semantics to nearly every Christian term.

A history:

Joseph Smith Jr.: How it all began:

At the age of 14, Joseph had a vision that Father and Son appeared before him. He asked what Christian denomination he should join. They said, “None,” because they were all wrong and corrupt.

In 1823, Smith, 17, saw the angel Moroni and told him of a book written on golden plates by former inhabitant of the continent that would contain “the fullness of the everlasting gospel.” He dug them up 4 years later. Mormons deny this but Smith used occult practices to find information (scrying).

By 1830 Smith published the Book of Mormon and founded the Mormon Church. It grew rapidly from 1831-1844 establishing strongholds in Ohio, Missouri and Illinois. Mormons drew hostility and persecution. Missouri militia slaughtered, raped and pillaged Mormon believers, obeying an “extermination” order issued by the governor.

Smith continued to receive revelations that guided him where to go and what to do next and established different doctrines.

Polygamy was issued in 1843, Smith said he would destroy his first wife if she resisted.

Smith was killed while in jail and Mormons claim their founder died as a “Christian martyr.” But in truth he went down fighting, using a six-shooter, that was smuggled to him, killing at least 2 of his assailants.

Bringham Young led LDS to settle in the valley of the Great Salt Lake in 1847. Polygamy became a formal practice.

Polygamy was often practiced until 1890 and was a chief reason Utah had been denied statehood at least 6 times.

LDS Church claims the biblical canon never closed and revelation continued with Joseph Smith as well as other presidents/prophets of the church right up to present day.

Mormons believe that God is “progressive,” having attained His exalted state by advancing along a path that His children (Mormons) are permitted to follow. According to Mormonism, He is an exalted man. One of a species called gods: These gods existed before God. When God was created then fully matured and was sent to another planet. He learned all He could, grew up, died, then was resurrected. Having attained godhood, He returned to a heavenly abode with a body of flesh and bones, where He joined with His goddess wife (Mother God) to have millions of spirit children to populate planet Earth. This is called “the preexistence.” Was not created ex nihilo. God was created by a god out of who resided and one point in eternal matter. God is not eternal, but matter is.

According to Mormons, Jesus is God’s firstborn “creation.” Lucifer was God’s next-born. Everyone else was created to populate the earth. God chose Jesus over Lucifer to be man’s savior. This caused Satan to rebel and fought a war against Heaven (led by Michael archangel). He was cast down to earth to live as a spirit without a human body. Meanwhile God instructed Jesus to create earth and everything in it and Adam and Eve with the help of the spirit children using external matter. Among the descendants were spirit children who fought halfheartedly against Satan in the Great War. They were sentence to be born mortals with black stain as part of their lineage of Cain. God had sex with Mary to conceive Jesus. Orson Pratt taught that Jesus married and had children by those women. After His death Jesus “gained fullness,” which He attained through a resurrected body. He reigns in Heaven with the Father-God. Smith says Jesus will eventually take the Father-God’s place as Father-God moves on to even higher realms of glory exalting a progression.

Trinity– Mormons believe that the trinity is not consisted of one God whose essence is found in three persons, but three Gods – three distinct bodies (Holy Ghost is only a spirit body and cannot become a man.)

We, as Christians part ways on just about every point of Mormonism. Do not let them convince you that they are Christians, because our belief systems are as different as night and day. We believe there is just one God, existing in three persons, and Jesus is His only begotten Son who paid the atonement for our sins (including fornication, multiple lovers/wives, idolatry, following false belief-systems). We are to have one one spouse and be faithful to that spouse until death does us part, and when we die, we either go to Heaven where we worship God for eternity or go to Hell and be punished for not believing in the One who offered salvation.

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