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

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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…

 

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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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 # 3: New Age – Nothing New Under the Sun

Plumbing was on the list of top priorities of things to do last night in the Toy home. I’m not handy by any stretch of the imagination, as evidenced by my sloppy and incomplete tool closet and many half-finished projects around the house. After an hour or two I finally plied the drain covering off the sink only to find out that a piece still needs to be unscrewed from the bottom. No problem. Well, we didn’t have the proper tools, but being a tightwad mixed with a little bit of determination to prove myself, I went about trying to unscrew the darn thing by my own means.

All the while, Sarabeth is telling me that I’m attempting to unscrew the right piece, but I’m seeing the whole apparatus wrong, therefore I can’t possibly get the proper grip in order to unscrew it successfully. I insisted that parts A and B were connected just below the sink. She insisted that part B was just a ring attached to part A. The way these parts were assembled made all the difference between dinner at 9 pm or dinner for breakfast. As I’m staring at the blasted sink between breaths, I finally see that Sarabeth was right the whole time. Part A was not inserted into part B. Part A was just a ring that screwed around Part B. I was seeing the whole thing wrong. But I could have sworn on everything that I was for once, in the right.

New Age is one of the hardest religions to define. It is a worldview whereas once people view the world through it, everything makes sense (or, if it doesn’t, that’s okay!). Very little amount of reasoning and debate will likely sway New Agers and persuade them of the truth. Like me and the sink, it’s very hard reason with New Age thinking. It is a worldview that offers a new way of thinking, yet it is explicitly based off of a lie that was birthed from the beginning of time. “If you eat this fruit, you will be like God…” Yes, the roots of New Age mysticism – as new and exciting as it looks – stretches all the way back to the Garden of Eden. It is indeed the Serpent’s old lie in an updated package. Like Pepsi’s slogan: “New look, same great taste.”

In New Age circles there is no formal structure or organization. Millions of New Age activists hope to transform society by bringing about a reawakening that will emphasize self-discovery, spiritualism, growth and enlightment.

New Age concepts find their roots in the Garden of Eden. It borrows from Hinduism, Buddhism, Babylonian mystery rituals (which are supposed to elevate humans to a godlike status) nature worship, occult practices and reincarnation. Like Hinduism, it teaches concepts like monism (all is one) and pantheism (all is god). It borrows form Taoism, a Chinese philosophy that teaches that all things are constantly changing (yin and yang), therefore nothing is absolute, all is relative, including morals and ethics.

New Age adapts esoteric knowledge from Gnoticism. It ignites a divine spark and power within, therefore negates the need for Christ’s atoning death. New Age thinking is a hybrid or blend of all of the above, plus several other ideas and phenomenon of modern origin: UFO’s, extraterrestrial intelligence and psychokinesis.

Some New Agers buy into one portion of New Age thinking while others accept other portions. New Agism has even caught many Christians in its web. I’ll never forget when a Christian I know was really excited to read Oprah’s book recommendation, The Secret, thinking that it contained great spiritual truths. Not everyone may like the story of Avatar, but it’s the concepts and monistic worldviews – not the nonexistent plot – that skyrocketed the expensive and disastrous film into Box Office history. Take a look at other ways New Age has been influenced by or has influenced modern pop culture:

The 60’s became a springboard for the generation gap, anti-establishment thinking and psychedic expression through LSD and other drugs. This is when the Beatles helped introduce transcendental meditation. The musical Hair introduced Eastern ideas – “Age of Aquarius,” the theme song of NAM with direct references to astrology (mentions moon being in the seventh house and Jupiter aligning with Mars, Peace guiding the planets and love steering the stars). Many celebrities, including Shirley MacLaine, champion New Age thinking, who ebulliently states, “You are unlimited, you just don’t realize it.”

And a side note for my eschatologist friends and political followers , the Age of Aquarius, according to New Agers, will usher in a new world order with three ideals in one world government, one world leader, and one world religion.

In New Age thinking, God is more of an “it” rather than a “He.” Creation is a myth because there is no Creator. All that is here was always here. How? That is no one’s concern (a good reason to skip out of Science class). Salvation is found within themselves. Instead of saving one’s soul from being fallen and sinful, you should achieve a new “awareness” of your divinity and oneness with all things. (I wish I could have been one with the sink last night so I could undo myself.) Christ is demoted from second Person of the trinity to one of many “cosmic Christs,” including Buddah, Moses, Elijah and Mohammed.

Check out the New Age admonition – “Create your own reality.” All New Agers agree on one central dogma: All truth is relative, there are no absolutes, and you find “God” within yourself.

New Age dabbles quite heavily in Occultism, channeling, paranormal experiences, spiritualism, and a host of other dangerous practices placing individuals in the midst of a very real and dangerous spiritual world unguarded by Christ. The Bible cannot be more clear on this. One verse sums it up: “If a person turns to mediums and necromancers, whoring after them, I will set my face against that person and will cut him off from among his people.” Leviticus 20:6.

I realize this doesn’t being to cover the tip of the ice burg on the topic of New Age mysticism, but I hope it give you an idea of the powerful influence it’s having on our nation and our world.

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“Stop Nagging Me, Dreams!”

I am sure many of you have seen the Disney movie The Rookie, starring Dennis Quaid. If not, stop reading this post, get on over to Netflix and order it. After you watch it, you really ought to read the book, because it tells the story of Jimmy Morris’s life preceding the events in the movie (read a post about the movie here). He wasn’t always as gentle as Quaid portrays him, though he does a great job reenacting his personality and easy-going demeanor. And it wasn’t as easy to get to play in the big leagues as only a two hour film can fit. The movie only hints at the fact that Jimmy Morris had wanted to play baseball since he was a kid – try three years old! It took him thirty-two years to accomplish his dream and pitch in the major leagues before thousands of people.

I’ve only heard of few stories where the dream achieved was an easy road. Are you on that road? Is it bumpier than you expected it to be? Has it taken many detours and wound more mountains that you thought existed? If so, you’re in good company – planet earth! The world is filled with dreamers and wannabe achievers. We’re all trying to accomplish goals in our lives. Some of us are just trying to make it through the next work week without getting fired (or giving up), and others are trying to pluck away at the childhood dream we’ve had since we were kids that just won’t let us alone no matter how hard we try to ignore it.

I’m one of those people. Ever since I was old enough to breathe on my own, I have wanted to tell stories. If I had any possible way of telling a story, I would. I used to sit in my room for hours and record myself on a cassette player narrating, voice-acting, and even humming the music to my stories. I must have filled up dozens of tapes with silly ramblings and disjointed plots that only a nine-year old could come up with. Then I decided I liked to draw, so I would constantly be making comic books for my friends to read, about forest animals getting into all sorts of adventures (one of them was up to 300 pages long). When my friends grew out of reading comics, I then started making movies, and including them in the fun. I’d spend days plotting out a new story for us to act out in front of the camera, and I’d revel in putting together premier nights at our church for people to gather and watch our newest movies.

After school I drifted from all of that, and decided that was all just a dream – wanting to be a movie director or a famous cartoonist… but as I wound my way through life, I found out that I couldn’t stop writing. I would write stories and plays and little devotionals (yes, I’ve even tried my hand out in poetry for a brief stint). At the heart of who I am, what I want to be, is a storyteller. So much so that it’s gotten me in trouble, as I have been prone to excessive lying or exaggerating, something that I’m still trying to overcome.

I’m constantly studying moving films and popular fiction to find out what makes those stories come to life. My poor wife patiently endures my ramblings after we watch a movie together as I dissect its contents, pondering aloud how and why I was so moved, or what made it come to life.

Jimmy Morris, the author of his autobiography, hardly ever thought about anything else but baseball, even when he tried not to think about it. What is your dream? What is that one thing that has followed you from childhood that just keeps nagging you, nagging you, nagging you? Maybe it’s nagging you for a reason. Maybe you should give it a shot, and go for it. Small steps to start off with, of course, you know, just get your toes wet and see what happens.

Three years ago I dipped my foot in the uncertain waters of dreams and I ended up writing my first novel. I didn’t even have a guarantee that it would be published. Yet, now it is going to be, and it should be released by the end of this year. Another dream of mine (and Sarabeth’s) is that we have wanted to adopt a child for quite a while. This is another place where we are just testing the waters, but know we need to jump in and trust God to watch over us (and our prospective kid). We’re hoping that some of the proceeds of my book will go toward our adoption. I’m writing my second novel right now, in case this one falls through. But hopefully it won’t.

If you like biographical dramas, read and watch The Rookie. It will inspire you to go after your dreams, as foolish as it may sound. If you like pulse-pounding, adrenaline-pumping adventure, follow my book, The Man in the Box, on facebook, and watch for updates. I’ve been posting segments online for those who might be interested in purchasing it when it comes out.

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