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.

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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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Aesop’s Fables

Being a fan of fairytales and folklore, I couldn’t justify passing up an opportunity to read the classic, Aesop’s Fables. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the whole book. Like Grimm’s Fairytales some of the stories were not as catchy as others, but I took the liberty to point out a few fun fables for you to chew on today.

The Cat and the Birds

A cat heard that the birds in an aviary were ailing. So he got himself up as a doctor, and, taking with him a set of the instruments proper to his profession, presented himself at the door, and inquired after the health of the birds. “We shall do very well,” they replied, without letting him in, “when we’ve seen the last of you.” A villain may disguise himself, but he will not deceive the wise.

The Moon and Her Mother

The moon once begged her mother to make her a gown. “How can I?” replied she. “There’s no fitting your figure. At one time you’re a new moon, and at another you’re a full moon; and between whiles you’re neither one nor the other.”

The Lion and the Mouse

A lion asleep in his lair was waked up by a mouse running over his face. Losing his temper he seized it with his paw and was about to kill it. The mouse, terrified, piteously entreated him to spare its life. “Please let me go,” it cried, “and one day I will repay you for your kindness.” The idea of so insignificant a creature ever being able to do anything for him amused the lion so much that he laughed aloud, and good-humoredly let it go. But the mouse’s chance came, after all. One day the lion got entangled in a net which had been spread for game by some hunters, and the mouse heard and recognized his roars of anger and ran to the spot. Without more ado it set to work to gnaw the ropes with its teeth, and succeeded before long in setting the lion free. “There!” said the mouse, “you laughed at me when I promised I would repay you. But now you see, even a mouse can help a lion.”

The North Wind and the Sun

A dispute arose between the north wind and the sun, each claiming that he was stronger than the other. At last they agreed to try their powers upon a traveler, to see which could soonest strip him of his cloak. The north wind had the first try; and, gathering up all his force for the attack, he came whirling furiously down upon the man, and caught up his cloak as though he would wrest it from him by one single effort. But the harder he blew, the more closely the man wrapped it round himself. Then came the turn of the sun. At first he beamed gently upon the traveler, who soon unclasped his cloak and walked on with it hanging loosely about his shoulders. Then he shone forth in his full strength, and the man, before he had gone many steps, was glad to throw his cloak right off and complete his journey more lightly clad. Persuasion is better than force.

The Gnat and the Bull

A gnat alighted on one of the horns of a bull, and remained sitting there for a considerable time. When it had rested sufficiently and was about to fly away, it said to the bull, “Do you mind if I go now?” The bull merely raised his eyes and remarked, without interest, “It’s all one to me. I didn’t notice when you came, and I shan’t know when you go away.” We may often be of more consequences in our own eyes than in the eyes of our neighbors. 

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Cult #1: Jehovah’s Witness

The official name for Jehovah’s Witness is, The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. They produce two magazines within their circuit: “Awake” and “The Watchtower.” Their Bible version: The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures (NWT).

Everyone who disagrees with Jehovah Witness’s – especially Christians – are not only wrong but are moral enemies and will be destroyed by Jehovah at Armageddon. Jehova’s Witnesses are tightly controlled by Watchtower headquarters and are constantly told they cannot interpret the Bible for themselves in any way; they must avoid individual thinking; they are never to question the counsel provided by the Watchtower.

Jehovah’s Witnesses are tightly controlled by Watchtower headquarters and are constantly told they cannot interpret the Bible for themselves in any way; they must avoid individual thinking; they are never to question the counsel provided by the Watchtower.

Here is a brief history:

Charles Taze Russell: How it all began

Charles Taze Russell (1852-1916) rejected many views in his church as a teen. Particularly Hell and the Trinity. Adventist teaching told him there was no eternal punishment, so his faith in Scripture was restored but he remained distrustful of churches. By age 18 he formed his own Bible study empathizing Christ’s coming (predicted in 1874). He and Adventists believed it happened in a “spiritual and invisible way.”

In 1879 he parted was with the Adventist and launched the magazine, The Watchtower. He predicted Armageddon in 1914, but WWI started. He died 2 years later.

Joseph F. Rutheford predicted the end would be in 1925. He adopted the name Jehovah’s Witness (from Isaiah 43:10), and invented door-to-door witnessing. He originally said 144,000 people would go to Heaven. But because of overpopulation Rutheford said that everyone who became a Jehovah’s Witness before 1935 would go to Heaven. If you became one after 1935 you can be among the “great crowd” living on earth in a new Paradise after Armageddon and the Millennium.

“New light” – A favorite Jehovah’s Witness term to explain its many changes in doctrine and teaching. Despite wrong predictions, Jehovah’s Witnesses insist they have never made any false prophesies.

Watchtower Bible and Tract Society still operates on the same foundation laid by Russell and say he was the founder but they distance themselves from his theology and writings (except denying the Trinity, Christ’s deity, and Hell as punishment).

Jehovah’s Witness…

1)    Deny the Trinity – “Who ran the universe when Jesus was dead in the grave?”

2)    Deny Christ’s deity – Jehovah is the Almighty God who created Jesus. Then Jesus, the mighty god, created everything else. Jesus was archangel Michael before coming to Earth. He is still archangel Michael.

3)    Deny Jesus’ bodily resurrection – Christ rose as a s spirit that looked like a body. Jehovah does not resurrect bodies, he “re-creates” them. Because body and soul (which are one) have been annihilated at death, God must re-create the “life pattern” of a person and he can easily do this be retrieving that life pattern from his memory.

4)    Deny the Holy Spirit is God – It is an “invisible act or force” that God uses to inspire His servants to do His will. It’s like electricity.

5)    Deny Christ’s full Atonement – They give Christ credit for giving them the opportunity to work for and obey Jehovah – by doing what the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society teaches.

To be a Jehovah’s Witness means constantly trying to affirm your salvation.

Jehovah’s Witnesses are constantly working for a place in an earthly paradise where they will have everlasting life, but not in the presence of a loving Jehovah God. Instead, they will be ruled by Christ and the 144,000 anointed ones who remain in Heaven throughout eternity to enjoy immortality, as they serve as joint heirs and co-rulers of Jehovah’s glorious theocracy.

The Last Days:

Armageddon will bring about the destruction of 99.9% of mankind. After Armageddon, according to Jehovah’s Witnesses, there will be a time when earth will be repopulated by faithful Jehovah’s Witnesses (who survive Armageddon) and billions of people who are resurrected (re-created from Jehovah’s memory bank). They will be taught truth. In the end, Satan and his demons will tempt people. If people fail they will be cast into the lake of fire and wiped forever from existence.

Jehovah’s Witnesses meet five times a week at Kingdom Hall, a term for church. They do not believe in immortal souls. At death their “life force” goes out of them and they no longer exist.

When confronting a Jehovah’s Witness, do so out of love and kindness, bearing in mind that all of their false information has been mercilessly shoved down their throats, but it sounds good to them because they are already “in.” Approach them with the bold truth and let the Spirit of God do the work that is saved for Him to do in that person’s life.

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The Devil in the White City

History and fiction buffs unite! Though this book is purely historical, it is written like a novel. Who would have known that reading about the architecture of the extinct Chicago World Fair would be such a page-turner? Larson does a magnificent job at connecting many pieces of history to this one brief moment in time, when America awakened to its grandest potential.

There’s something about America’s past that makes me well up inside. When I see movies like The Majestic where all the townspeople are lined up outside the brightly-lit movie theater, or in The Music Man when the locals all gather at the center of town to dance the night away with their sweethearts, twirling, spinning, and twirling underneath multi-colored hanging lanterns, and fireworks exploding up above in the night sky, something in me cries out for the return of America’s glory days. The Devil in the White CIty does a marvelous job at recreating America’s prime, and the author never bores when describing the pure-white city as bright as Heaven itself, and so majestic that the Court of Honor alone brought grown men to tears upon seeing it.

True, part of this book is about a serial killer, but Larson, does not go into any gory detail, and handles the grim topic with care and tact. There are two murder scenes, but they are intended to convey fact rather than fear, and they pass by quickly enough. The murderer is not in contact with his victims, which may ease the tension for some readers. Aside from that, there is a brief mention of Jack the Ripper toward the beginning of the book that is a bit unsettling. I give these disclaimers because I know there are sensitive readers who may prefer to stay away from certain topics. I really wish books came with ratings and disclaimers like the movies.

Here is an excerpt from the book:

One of the delights of the fair was never knowing who might turn up beside you at the chocolate Venus de Milo or at the hearse exhibit or under the barrel of Krupp’s monster, or who might sit at the table next to yours at the Big Tree Restaurant or the Philadelphia Cafe or the Great White Horse Inn, a reproduction of the public house described by Dickens in The Pickwick Papers; or who might suddenly clutch your arm aboard the Ferris Wheel as your car began its ascent. Archduke Francis roamed the grounds incognito – but much preferred the vice districts of Chicago. Indians who had once used hatchets to bare the skulls of white men drifted over from Buffalo Bill’s compound, as did Annie Oakley and assorted Cossacks, Husars, Lancers, and the members of the U.S. Sixth Cavalry on temporary furlough to become actors in Colonel Cody’s [Buffalo Bill’s] show. Chief Standing Bear rode the Ferris Wheel in full ceremonial headdress, his two hundred feathers unruffled. Other Indians rode the enameled wooden horses of the Midway carousel. 

There were Paderewski, Houdini, Tesla, Edison, Joplin, Darrow, a Princeton professor named Woodrow Wilson, and a sweet old lady in black summer silk flowered with forget-me-not-blue named Susan B. Anthony. Burnham [the central architect] met Teddy Roosevelt for lunch. For years after the fair Burnham used the exclamation, “Bully!” Diamond Jim Brady dined with Lillian Russell and indulged his passion for sweet corn.

No one saw Twain. He came to Chicago to see the fair but got sick and spent eleven days in his hotel room, then left without ever seeing the White City. 

Of all people. 

Suspense seekers and history buffs, you all ought to check this book out. It’s a lot of fun and very fascinating. And you will walk away with a deeper appreciation of the roots of America’s greatness, and why we are still the greatest country in the world 120 years later.

Also, how has this not been made into a movie? I hope Peter Jackson or Ron Howard are just waiting for the screenplay.