Victory Through Tragedy

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On this particularly difficult day in America, I’d like for us to take a moment and pray for those who were directly affected by the 9/11 terror attacks twelve years ago.

Pray for their hearts, wounded and salted by this anniversary.

Pray for their courage as they seek a nearly unreachable forgiveness.

Pray for their kids whose questions grow more difficult each day.

Pray for their parents who may have only known the love of one child.

Pray for their hands, that they allow others to reach for them in grace.

Pray for their souls, that they would be open to receiving the love of God in their lives.

Pray for their souls some more, that they would be able to discern the works of Jesus versus the works of man.

Pray for their souls yet some more, that they would hear the voice of God calling out to them in their pain.

Pray for their souls continually, that they will soon enter into a Place where their tears will be wiped away, and their pain will be felt no more.

And rejoice. When a soul is found by God through pain, who turns mourning into joy.

And that, my friends, is the ultimate victory through tragedy.

“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” – Genesis 50:20 (Joseph to his brothers who beat, and betrayed him)

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Tomorrow: Please be ready to welcome Kristy Mapp of Oh-mag.com as she weighs in on a previous post: “Here’s the Great Thing About Abortion.”

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Always Wreckin’ It

650px-Wreck-It_Ralph_(2012)_-_Theatrical_Trailer_for_Wreck-It_RalphPoor Ralph. He just wants to be one of the good guys for once. He’s tired of his big, clumsy fists, tired of always hurting people, tired of wrecking everything.

Peter would have liked Ralph. Peter’s problem didn’t lie in his fists, but in his mouth. Always spouting off an irrational answer, making promises he can’t possibly keep, cutting people’s ears off, spewing poison before the cock crows…

Always wrecking things.

In the Toy household, we have enough faith in Disney to forego the theater outing and just buy their movies when they come on video. From Meet the Robinsons to Bolt to  TangledI’m not sure we’ve ever been disappointed.

Now, to be sure, Sarabeth didn’t care too much about our newest addition, Wreck it Ralph, which came on video last Tuesday. The video game setting threw her off, and she couldn’t connect with it. Until she decided to watch the second half… she gradually got sucked in and said, “I’m sure I’ll like it more when we watch it again next week.”

Yeah. That’s what we do here. When we find a fun new movie, we latch onto it for weeks at a time and watch it till we’re tired of it. Kids would fit in perfectly in our home, don’t you think??

So the story goes, that Ralph, this video game character was programmed to be a bad guy, always destroying the Nicelanders’ beautiful retro-style buildings. That’s what he was made to do. That was his lot is in life.

Destroy the nice people’s buildings, then go home to your junk pile until the next day.

We’re no different than Ralph in one regard.

Since the Fall, we too were programed to mess up, screw up, act out, lash out, trip up, slip up, break this, wreck that…

Calvin asked Hobbs of the famed Waterson comic strip, “Are people born good with bad tendencies, or born bad with good tendencies?”

Since sin squatted down and defecated on the world and since we are descendants of the first sinners, the answer is that we are all programmed to sin from the start. We are all programmed to wreck it.

If we’re not wrecking someone else’s heart, we’re wrecking our own.

But our friend Ralph, just like our brother Peter, wasn’t happy with his lot in life. He wanted something more. He wanted to be respected as a hero, and liked as a friend.

He wanted to be good.

And don’t we all? I mean, even the worst of us, at some point in our lives want to be good. Even the most flamboyant liberal and most money-grabbing conservative wants to be good somewhere deep inside.

But we’re incapable of that.

“Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am!” Romans 7:21-24

Most of us know this verse well. Many of us can resonate with it. The turmoil of ceaseless temptations, the slave driver of constant sin, the oppression of ousting God’s Word from our hearts!

We know this feeling! Ralph may not have voiced it, Peter might not have articulated it, but Paul gave words to our innermost groaning and shoved a bullhorn up to our hearts and exclaimed, “What a wretched man I am!”

Wretched. Always wrecking.

So what now? Just walk away with our heads down low, leaving behind a trail of wrecked hearts and broken promises?

“Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Romans 7 cont.

While we may constantly wreck things, remember in whom you are to put your trust:

“Behold, I make all things new.”  Revelation 21:1

Maranatha, Lord Jesus. Come fix this mess we’ve made of Your world.

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If I Were Noah

noahs-ark-reconstructionYou know what the most fascinating thing about the true-life story of Noah’s ark is?

It’s not that all the animals were able to co-exist on one vessel for a long period of time.

It’s not that it took just a handful of people to build such a large ship all by themselves.

It’s not even that Hollywood was able to find a way to dumb down the story with Evan Almighty. 

Fascinating as those things are.

But the thing that catches my attention the most is that Noah didn’t argue.

There is no recorded mumbling or groaning or complaining by Noah, his wife, his kids, nor his kids’ wives.

Let’s put this in perspective, and you’ll see why I find it so fascinating.

Take my lead and put yourself in Noah’s sandals and feel the heaviness of the moment weighing down on you as you hear God speaking to you:

Then God said to Andrew, “The end of all flesh has come before Me; for the earth is filled with violence because of them; and behold, I am about to destroy them with the earth.” 

So at this point I’m thinking, “Sounds fair. It’s what I’ve been thinking should happen all along what with the 50 Shades and Twilight phenomenons.” 

But then after thinking about it, I realize my earth is going to end. My world. Keep in mind that I’m only 29, and Noah was around 600 years old. His memories, his childhood homes, his whole world was about to be destroyed. Family friends, relatives, cousins he’d grown up playing sticks and stones with. All were going to be destroyed. Six hundred years worth of friends, memorable places, favorite restaurants and other comforts.

The trees he once climbed, the meadows he once flew in, the bridge he shared his first kiss on, the alter where he made his vows. All of it destroyed.

Then God continues, “Make for yourself an ark of gopher wood; you shall make the ark with rooms, and shall cover it inside and out with pitch. This is how you shall make it…”

Noah either had a great memory at 600, or he was smart enough to jot these divine instructions down. I would smile and nod as I usually do, but somewhere in the back of my head I’d be thinking, “This is a lot of work. I barely have time to clip and sell enough wool to sell in the market to make ends meet, and now you’re expecting me to take on a whole new vocation as a carpenter?”

Maybe Noah already had blessed hands and worked well with wood, so it’s hard for me to fathom being handed such a task. Just yesterday I couldn’t even drill a hole correctly to hang the curtain rods up without screwing it up (pun).

It’s overwhelming.

So between the Doomsday prophecy and the extra work load, I’m fascinated that Noah didn’t complain.

But maybe that’s why God chose him.

But then again… Moses talked back, and he was only told to pass a simple message along to the Pharaoh.

… Jonah ran away and he was only asked to evangelize in God’s name.

… the young rich man was only asked to throw a yard sale and give to the poor.

… I’m only asked to pray faithfully for my wife and future kids.

What is God asking of you?

It’s not likely that He’s telling you to quit your job to build a bomb-shelter for the upcoming nuclear fallout and wave adios to your friends and family for forever.

Heck, it’s probably not even likely that He’s asking you to lay down your life for the sake of the Gospel.

Though that day may be coming.

Noah was ready to do all that God had asked him, and he didn’t complain. He was ready. True, he had 600 years to prepare, but he also had 600 years to mess around.

I heard on the News this morning that life expectancy is supposed to go up to 111 years in our generation. If you’re my age, that means you roughly have around 82 years to get ready for what God might be preparing to ask of you. But probably a lot less time that that, because realistically most of us will be lucky to live past 82, so we can now recalculate that we will only have 53 years left to live.

Genesis 6:9. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his time; Noah walked with God.

Could that be said of you now? Could it be said of me? Because if we’re righteous and blameless now, not taking part in the corruption of the world that’s daily laid out before us on a silver plater, it may just be that we might not have a reason to complain when God asks us of things.

Just have your tools ready for when He does. And no complaining.

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URGENT: Bring the Howells Back Together for Christmas

HFP11_0008Our friend Adam Howell went to Africa a week ago to pick up their newly adopted one year old boy, Judah. Everything is in place as far as adoption paperwork is concerned (Judah is theirs!). Right now, they’re just waiting for their exit visa so they can come home and be with their family by Christmas. Adam, to be with his wife and kids and Judah to be with his new mommy, brother and sisters.

Adam and Liz just had their third child a month ago. So Liz would love to have Adam and their new son home by Christmas so they won’t have to spend the holiday on opposite sides of the globe. Below is a snippet of an email Adam sent out. Please pray that Adam and Judah can make it home to be with their family for Christmas. What a wonderful gift that would be! Share this on your facebook or blogs to raise as much prayer as possible.

Hey everyone.

First of all, thanks for all your prayers and support. It means more to me than you know. This is a very dark place in many aspects, and Iam more than ready to come home. The US has said we can come home… wehave Judah’s visa. However, the Congolese government hasn’t yet issued the exit letter to say that we can leave … [We’re not] going anywhere until the Congo says we can. It’s crazy.

So, part of the update is to ask you guys to pray. We need the exit letter by Saturday at the latest in order for me to come home on Monday as scheduled.

See you soon,
Adam and Judah<><

Visit their blog here.

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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