Tag Archives: Love

The Fakes We Make

Anyone that has read my blog in the past knows I love me some Breaking Benjamin.  What can I say?  Ben can scream with the best of them, and they’re simply my favorite band, as such I listen to them a lot, and as I’ve blogged in the past, Ben wrestles with a lot of issues in his songs, as in his life, so you can get a lot of fodder for contemplation from their lyrics (no, they aren’t a Christian band, listen at thy own risk).  On their latest album, Ember, there is a song (my favorite of the album) called “Psycho” which contains:

In the cold eternal light
I am the ember fading
Every scar we try to hide
I am the fake you made me

When I heard this I was instantly reminded of conversations that I had with a good friend of mine about the Church, about Christians, and how we treat one another and the expectations we hold.  Have you noticed people in our society abandoning the gathering together of believers, even abandoning the faith?  Perhaps that’s you (I hope you stick around til the end of this article and leave me a comment, BTW.)  Recently there have been some pretty recognizable names in Christian circles that have either renounced the faith, or even committed suicide.  Kids aren’t staying in the congregations they were raised in… why?

I think Ben’s lyrics touch upon something for me, and others I know, that partially explains it… the Church has been making fakes for a long time. (Disclaimer: this is not Ben’s meaning or interpretation, it’s all mine as he doesn’t like explaining the meaning he had in his head when writing/singing any particular song so who knows what he would think of all this.)  Now, the thing is here, I’m not blaming the fake, I’m “blaming” the environment and other people responsible for creating the fakes.  What has made our churches into fake factories?

One explanation comes in the song in the line just prior; “Every scar we try to hide.”  Scars are there from battles we’ve fought; grief and loss, addiction, betrayal, idolatry, greed, gluttony, dishonesty, sin of all shapes and sizes that are either a current fight, or one in the past, sins we’ve committed or sins committed against us.  Scars can also be from hard times in life; when there’s not enough money, when we fall flat on our faces, when we get sick or hurt.  What has happened is that the feeling many people have is they are not allowed to have scars, and if they do have them, they are supposed to hide them, act as though nothing has or is happening, OR that they’ve been handled in a perfectly cherry pie way.  We certainly can’t have the truth coming out, the doubts, the fears, the struggles… Lord help the parishioner who has real questions.

There is now an almost palpable feeling of fakeness in many sermons and songs, a weird kind of whistling past the graveyard.  So, everyone must march in a quiet lockstep and put on the fake face or else others get uncomfortable really quick.  If you sing the right songs with the right kind of lyrics, if you smile and nod at all the right places, you’re assured of salvation, right?  If you say the right things and follow along and don’t ask questions, everything in your life will be peachy keen, right?  No, it just produces fakes, but they’ve had to fake it to make it, right?  Well, that works as long as everything is chugging away, but what happens when a wrench gets thrown in to the works?  What happens when the husband leaves, the baby dies, another war starts, you lose your job, the doctor says “you’ve got cancer?”  Yes, if the faith was real and true and strong in you in a real way, and you are surrounded by real, true, strong believers, God does indeed become a fortress and a safe place… but what happens to all those faking it in order to appease the crowd?  They rightfully break and when they break… they are abandoned.

Please understand, I’m not talking about every church congregation, I’ve been part of a church where I truly believe those people would’ve died for me, warts and all, and I’d like to think I’d have died for them.  However, I am talking about something going on in our churches at large, and in general.  I used to think stronger apologetics would stop the problem, and I still think it would help, but now I understand; it’s not just the words that are lacking, it’s the actions that are missing.  We can defend the faith in word all day long, but if we don’t defend it in deed, we are going to keep losing people.  We are going to keep producing fakes.

A church under physical persecution doesn’t produce fakes.  Why?  Because your conversion and sharing the faith is a matter of literal life and death.  We don’t have that here in the West.  If we don’t have that, do we show forth the faith in deed in other actions in our lives, or do we live and talk just like everyone else, and then for an hour or two on Sunday slap on the fakeness?  In some respects I think it’s harder to be genuine when you are a part of a congregation.  What do you guys think?  I’ve been a part of a fantastic congregation, I’ve been a part of some not so fantastic congregations, and I’ve been outside of a congregation, which is where I’m at now.  I think that is one reason we see people disavowing Christian affiliation more and more; at least when you label yourself a “none” you don’t have to fake it in a sea of people every Sunday.  It would be hilarious, if it weren’t true.  It’s kinda sad that I feel I can be more Christian in word and deed outside of a congregation than in one.  What’s happened to us?

My last post was on The Good, The True, and The Beautiful, and I do think some of the answer is there, but those things have to include not hiding scars, not trying to fake it til you make it, not just living like the world while preaching something totally different.  We have to actually love everyone… somehow we’ve failed in that.  We don’t have to love like the world tells us to love, we have to love dangerously… we have to love in truth and in deed, but we can’t do that if we only accept someone when they are faking it.  And, we have to take responsibility for making fakes in the first place.  I don’t have all the answers, I don’t think any one person does.  What are your thoughts?  I’d especially love to hear stories from those who have indeed left either the faith, or the church.  Have you been “the ember fading?”  Did something happen to quench that ember? What hurt?  How about stories from people who have felt like an ember fading, but you were renewed? What helped?

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Filed under Apologetics, Atheism, Christianity, Conversion, Musings, Theology

Book Review; Kisses From Katie

I mentioned in a recent post that I would be review this book soon, and here it is!  The full title is Kisses from Kate: A Story of Relentless Love and Redemption by Katie J. Davis, and Beth Clark.  The story is written from Katie’s perspective and Katie is a very interesting sister in Christ.  Katie traveled to Uganda on a short-term mission trip that changed her, and her family’s lives forever.  That short-term trip turned into what is shaping up to be a lifelong adventure.

Falling in love with the people there, and seeing the poverty, disease, and suffering first hand, Katie felt called to return to Uganda… and now she has 13 adopted Ugandan daughters, and is the founder of a really neat charity; Amazima Ministries.  Obviously the book is an account of how all of this went down with the focus being on Jesus and His call on our lives, whatever that call may be.

First, let me say that I loved the book, loved the story, and it is very readable.  I would highly suggest this book to Christian high school students.  All believers would enjoy this account, but I single out students of that age because I feel it would open their hearts to possibilities.  Having said that, this is also the book that prompted me to post an article I titled “Two Left Feet.”  The danger is that those that read Kisses from Katie will either take away legalism, and/or the idea that we all have to go to Uganda and adopt orphans.  Katie is very clear in her book that isn’t the case, but it is not stated in as clear of a manner as I embrace, hence my article.

I admit, the story amazes me, esp. because of Katie’s age (starts at 17/18) and this is from a person who believes that children and adolescents are capable of moving mountains under certain circumstances, and that hard work should not be denied them.  The only thing about this book that may bother certain readers is the sometimes heart-wrenchingly accurate descriptions of the aforesaid poverty, disease, and suffering.  This is definitely a book that helps redefine priorities and does so in a manner that is so refreshingly straightforward with good storytelling and very little “preaching.”  I give it the Scribbler honor of being one of those books I plan to read again.

Get it, read it, give it to a teen, you won’t regret it.

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Marriage.

Marriage has become a hot-button topic in our day and age mainly because of the same-sex marriage debate.  But, lets set that subject aside.  As easy as that, let’s focus on the real point.  Biblically, in the New Testament, marriage is indeed to be between one man and one woman.  Marriage is a sacred institution, and the tragedy is that somewhere along the way the church adapted marriage to the world.

Confessing Christians get divorced at rates that cannot be pleasing to God.  God hates divorce, while at the same time allowing for it.  I have the feeling that Christians don’t respect the idea of vows and marriage like they should. Duh.  So, what is some of the problem?  One major factor is the idea of love.

In our modern time, love has been redefined as a mix of lust and fluffy nebulous feeling.  That, esp. lust, has nothing to do with Biblical love between a man and a woman in marriage that is spiritually equal to a legal, binding contract.  We tend to forget that at one point in time divorce was pretty much illegal unless you could show hard evidence of something like ongoing adultery.   By tying marriage into lust, we cheapen it, and make it extraordinarily easy to make excuses to get a divorce from someone we don’t “love” any more.

But you have to love your spouse right?  No.  Not in the way the world defines love.  Look at arranged marriages, just for an example.  In the beginning of an arranged marriage, the two people don’t even know each other, instead they have trusted either their parents or an intermediary to pick a spouse that meets certain criteria.  I believe that we should be able to pick out our spouse; however, I also believe we have lost some of the common sense aspects of arranging a marriage that is going to last.

I don’t really care how good looking a person is if they can’t work.  I don’t really care about anything else if they don’t believe in the same God I do.  Whether I find the person sexually attractive becomes moot really quick unless they have the same expectation when it comes to kids; do they want them?  Can they provide for them?  How many?  How are they to be raised?  Is the mom going to stay at home or not?  What about education?

The family budget, and what money is ultimately for.  Where are you going to live?  Do they have a good relationship with their parents, and on and on.   Also, when we get married it is like starting a family that is as permanent as our former family, meaning that my genetic brother is still my brother no matter what happens.  I can hate him, or not talk to him for five years, but he’s still my brother.  My husband is the exact same. That is the important bit we seem to be forgetting.  Two become one flesh.

Annnddd, here’s something a lot people probably don’t want to hear; you need to decide who is in charge.  Not in a command way, but someone, at some point, is going to have to lead.  If everything is functioning properly, it should be the husband.  Women, marry someone with that in mind.  I truly believe the husband needs to be at least as smart as the wife.  I believe that women can be leaders in the church (such as deacons), and that when God used the term helpmeet, He did so deliberately, and that people miss the part where He uses the same word for Himself.

A weaker thing cannot help a stronger thing.  Just sayin’.  Men and women are meant to be complimentary, so that life is enhanced by their joining.  Ok, so you’ve picked a suitable mate; what kind of love needs to be there in the marriage over time?  Many know that there are different words for “love” in the Greek language used in the Bible, and these show us the type of love that should be there (keep in mind this isn’t a pick-one, leave the rest list, this is inclusive).

1) Agape love – This love is an unselfish love and is the key to all the rest.  This is the same type of love that God has for us, that unconditional love that forgives.  This is the love He had toward us that while we where yet sinners Christ died for the ungodly.  We are called to love our spouses in the same way.  If you start with selfish love, your mate is rightly going to feel manipulated and judged.

2) Epithumia love – Interestingly this type can, and is, both positive and negative depending on form.  The negative side is lust.  The positive side is desire within marriage.  This is the physical desire that results in fulfilling sex within marriage.  Guess what?  Sex is good if done in a Godly setting, sex was devised to bring release and intimacy for BOTH partners. This can also be abused if it turns lustful, esp. outside of marriage (or sadly even within).  When someone cannot temper this they will hurt their mate if they are demanding, obsessed, and insensitive.

3) Eros love – This is the romantic love often skewed by the media.  Romance in Christian marriage is all about pursuing your beloved… it is the chase within marriage.  It is seeking out your loved one and showing them how much you cherish them.  We have already covered the physical side, so this love includes more than that.  This is the compliments, the verbal praises, the together time, the day dreaming, the hugs, hand-holding, the planning, etc…

4) Storge love – This is the comfort type of love.  At home with our family we are to feel safe, and secure in love.  We should feel that we “fit” together.  You know those older pair of jeans that are so comfortable and are just “you?” Well, that’s storge-type love.

5) Phileo love – Friendship love is sharing time and interests together.  It’s that feeling of camaraderie and “liking” as well as loving the person you are with.  It’s ok to have our own interests, but we should also cultivate interests in common and pursue those as well as our own hobbies.

Again, all 5 types of love are what we should have in our marriages.  The key is to find our strengths and weaknesses, and to consciously change the weak areas and work on them, practice fulfilling them.  Another key thing to remember is that agape love calls for us to have all 5 types regardless of our mate… that’s the point of “unconditional” love.  Be friendly even if you mate isn’t (and don’t be attack-friendly to try to show how wonderful you are).  Of course all that assumes that you are not being harmed by an abuser.  God does not look kindly on an abusive mate.

If you find your marriage is on rocky ground, seek Christian counseling through a Christian psychologist or counselor, read some good book on marriage, pray and seek God’s help and grace.  All marriages hit rough patches, and they can only be smoothed out by understanding how God sees marriage, and what our roles are to be.

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The fruit of the Spirit, pt. 1; Love

We are told in Galatians 5:22 a list of the fruit of the Spirit, starting with love.  In the first part of this series it becomes important to talk about why God chose the analogy of “fruit.”  Note that the fruit being produced is not the fruit of ourselves, it is not something that we do, but rather the Spirit Himself produces it through us.

So many times people revert to legalism in their walk with Christ, but Paul tells us that the just shall live by faith; and faith is trusting.  In the case of the fruit of the Spirit, we trust that the Spirit will bring forth these things in our lives in their own time.  No vine, or tree can cause fruit to grow with any type of effort of will.  You can squeeze your eyes shut and try as hard as you can to produce fruit, but that is not how it works.

A good tree produces good fruit, and there is none good but God Himself; hence our need for the Holy Spirit to produce this fruit through us.  We don’t put the effort into it, we yield to Him.  So, lets take a look at this fruit one aspect at a time.

The Greek word for love here is “agape.”  Agape love is the type of love that is stable, profound, and enduring.  When John, in 1 John 4:8 remarks that God is love, it is agape love that is used.  (There are different words for different types of love in Greek, but that is a different article…)  It is a benevolent, caring type of love.  Since God is Agape, and the Holy Spirit is God, that is what fruit is produced through us.

Love like this can change the world… and what is more, this kind of love even works on the human heart.  Sometimes this type of love is uncomfortable to feel toward others and we actually fight against it.  We have this odd idea in our culture sometimes that love and caring is weak; far from it!  This type of love wants what is best for others without regard for self.  When Jesus commanded us in John 13:34  to “love one another,” as He loved us, this is the type of love He was speaking of.

In this world, as never before, we need this type of love that is guided by God, and flows from the Spirit to those around us who crave it so badly.  Next, we’ll look at joy

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Book Review; Rob Bell’s “Love Wins”

Ooookkaayy… this should be interesting.  So, my philosophy is not to comment on something either glowingly or negatively unless I’ve read or watched it myself, especially if it is of a controversial nature.  It seemed like everywhere I turned in Christendom people were discussing this book, or warning others not to discuss the book…so I knew I had to read it and review it.  I have to be clear; this is my introduction to Bell.  I have no former gripe or praise for him, no angle to work for or against him.

Hopefully, I’m going to do something a little bit different in this review, as other reviews have already rightly attacked the factual flaws in Bell’s work.  If you want that style of review,  you can get one here: God is Still Holy and What you Learned in Sunday School is Still True: A Review of  “Love Wins.” I don’t agree with everything in the review, but it gives a good overview of many of Bell’s problems.

No, I want to approach this a bit differently and talk about implications.  First, let me say…I can’t believe this book, Love Wins, was actually published…I mean, I get why.  It’s going to make a ton of money, but it’s content is illogical, and its style is unpolished.  I’m really struggling with this review because I can’t believe that people would change their view on God, Heaven, or Hell based on this book.  The “gotcha” questions Bell proposes in the first bit of the book are easily answered by anyone versed in Apologetics, not just well-versed, just versed.  They are “milk” type questions…and are eerily reminiscent of the list of “questions” found on fundamentalist atheist websites.

For example, Bell asks, “What saves someone?”  I answer, and the Bible answers; Grace through Faith.  Bell asks, “Well, isn’t faith an action, and hence a work.”  I answer; No, something can be an action without being a work.  The Israelites were not allowed to work on Sabbath, were they allowed to think?  Sure.  Were they allowed to love?  Sure.  Where they allowed to trust (that’s faith)? Sure.  So, the big answer to all Bell’s rhetorical style questions is; we make it in by grace through faith, and faith is not a work.  QED.

So, moving on, what do I mean that I want to approach this review by implications?  I mean, what are the implications IF Bell’s thesis is right?  The implication of Bell’s thesis is that God is a monster…in fact He’d be the very monster Bell decries.  Bell clearly says that love can’t be forced, but the logical implication (reading Bell) is that it can be.  In the end, says Bell, everyone will succumb to God’s love and turn to God willingly.  That is a logical contradiction.  To be free will there must be true choice, but in this case, just by looking at Bell’s title; Love Wins, one can see there isn’t.

“Love wins.”  I didn’t know love was in a competition.  I didn’t know it was out to beat me.  But, I guess I was wrong.  Bell feels that God will so smufficate a person with love, they WILL respond and turn to Him either in this life in the next.  I resent the implication.  I resent his maligning of God’s character and God’s love.  God is not a rapist, nor is He a brainwasher.  Bell’s thesis is creepy in the extreme.  If you want to debate Hell, fine.  Annihilation vs. punishment, fine. Universalism, fine.  I even love to discuss the possibility CS Lewis raises that Hell is locked on the inside. But by claiming that God “wears you down” over long periods of time til you cave…why would anyone think that is acceptable from a Holy Loving God?

Bell’s implication is that God is neither Holy nor really Loving in any true sense, nor Just; He’s just interested in making sure every human being can be put on some Heavenly tally sheet.  Bell’s implication is also that evangelism is pointless, and so is suffering in this life.  What I mean by that is that everything winds up the same for everyone given enough time in the life to come.  A rapist that rejects love and God in this life gets an infinite series of chances to accept God’s gift of salvation, and in fact, will indeed come to accept it because nothing can stand up to God’s love.  We call that brainwashing.  A brainwashed individual is not acting under free will.  Jesus suffered when He observed that He had tried and tried to get through to the Jewish people, but “they would not.”  Why so upset if they were all going to be A-OK through all eternity?

Now, I completely understand someone being frustrated by evangelists trying to scare the crap out of someone to get them to believe in a loving God.  Fortunately I wasn’t raised that way.  For me, it has ALWAYS been about love and choice; true love and true freedom in choice.  I trust God to be just while still believing that Hell is real.  If we want to talk about Him giving every human an equal and fair chance at Heaven, I’m there.  If you want to point out that God doesn’t send anyone to Hell, that they choose it, I’m there.  If you want to point out the Devil is not in charge in Hell, and that it may not be all physical torture and pitchforks, I’m there.  But I draw the line at clearly maligning God, Our Father’s, character.

Briefly; other problems.  Horrible hermeneutics, flawed logic, sloppy writing, and whoever set up the actual book format…well, they shouldn’t win any prizes.  Plus, Bell dances around any reference to eternal contempt for some alongside eternal life for others, and ignores bulk passages that clearly indicate that faith in Christ is required to enter Heaven, that we die and then the judgment happens, etc… Not to mention he tries to describe Heaven, and it’s implications…he should’ve left that to Alcorn’s book “Heaven.”

I love books that make readers consider things from a new angle…this wasn’t one of them.  I’ve read another book recently that I guess I should’ve reviewed instead; “If Grace is True: Why God will save every person” by Gulley and Mulholland.  I didn’t agree with them either, esp. since they deny Christ’s sacrifice was necessary; however, their book was set up logically enough to review in a succinct way.  I feel Bell is theologically and intellectually dishonest, either unconsciously or on purpose.  He seems to be the type trying to “out moral” God…it just won’t work, and this isn’t the reference I’d turn to if I were to try.

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Filed under Apologetics, Christianity, Ministries, Reviews, Theology, Uncategorized

Post-Thanksgiving Ramblings…

The day after Thanksgiving, or “Black Friday” for the shopping hordes has arrived.  For those of us who don’t enjoy the crowded Wal-Marts, Targets, and Malls, it is a good day to wind down, finish digesting all the food eaten, and perhaps to reflect a bit on what’s ahead.  Christmas.  Yes, Christmas will be upon us before we can blink twice.

It is easy at this point in time to start obsessing about Christmas gifts and Christmas plans.  It might even be time for those who have a grind against Christmas to gear up for protests. Christians protesting that it’s pagan, pagan’s protesting that it’s Christian…funny how that works, isn’t it?  What I would like to challenge my fellow believers to remember (even if you don’t celebrate Christmas) during this time is that it is the people that really matter.

Finding the right gift for someone is often a rush, you find something “just right” that you know they’ll love and it’s a good feeling.  The point I’m trying to make  amidst my rambling is to always focus on the person themselves, and not just the gift or the season.  We all need to take the time to appreciate the people in our lives, because we won’t have them on the Earth with us forever, and even though when death separates believers, we have hope to see then again, it is still hard to lose someone here on earth.

If there’s someone you want to see or talk to, don’t wait for a holiday gathering; see them now.  Send a card now, for no other reason than to say “hi” or to ask “how have you been?”  Holidays are great times to get together, but don’t take the opportunity that we have every day for granted.  During this time, we should be remembering one of the greatest facts of our faith; The Son of God became human, He came and dwelt amongst us.  The God of the universe came and made a real connection with mankind; He was a Son, and a Brother, a Friend, a Teacher…He ate with “us” and cried with us, and walked many roads with us, and celebrated Holidays with us.

We have daily chances to connect with family, friends, and loved ones.  Let’s not wait for a specific day, but rather view every day as a chance to interact with the people that mean something to us!  As we remember how Christ interacted with humanity, let’s use everyday to remember God’s grace and love and turn everyday that we can into Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc… We only have a limited number of days here on this earth, let’s not waste ’em!

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Friends…

Friends, listening ears, and open hearts…everyone needs ’em, and praise the Lord for them!

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Filed under Humor, Musings