Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas 2011

To those believers who celebrate Christmas, I hope you had a wonderful holiday. To those believers who don't celebrate Christmas, I still hope this season was good for you. I wish all believers a blessed New Year and pray that 2012 will see the Church repent of its sins, pray, and reclaim lost territory in the culture and the hearts of men. Amen.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

On Being Quiverful

This post was prompted by the news that Jim-Bob and Michelle Duggar, America's most famous big family parents, were expecting their 20th, yes 20th, child. Sadly, Duggar #20 didn't make it. During a doctor visit to discover the sex of their baby, Jim-Bob and Michelle learned that their little one had died in utero.

When I heard of the Duggars' miscarriage I had mixed feelings. On the one hand, I was sad for Jim-Bob and Michelle who so clearly view every child as a joyful blessing. But I also wondered that maybe this miscarriage was God's way of telling them it was time to stop having children. Not, understand me, God's way of stopping the Duggars' fertility but, rather, God's way of telling them to stop their marathon procreation. In short, telling them it's time to use birth control. And therein lies the problem.

The Duggars are followers of something known as the quiverful movement, which is popular among a small segment of ultraconservative Christians. The stated aim of the movement is not for Christians to have many children, but for Christians to trust God to decide the size of their families. Therefore, the movement is strongly anti-contraception, seeing it not only as anti-child but also as evidence of distrusting God. So, it's highly unlikely that Jim-Bob and Michelle Duggar will interpret their miscarriage as a divine message to stop reproducing.

I'm a Christian. I believe the Bible, and the Bible, especially the Old Testament, encourages fruitfulness and repeatedly describes children as a blessing and a reward. Because of that I think most Bible-believing Christians will and should have more children than unbelievers (and nominal Christians). However, I do NOT believe that means family planning has no place what so ever in the life of Christians. I've read no Biblical commandment to that affect, and I've read no commandment asserting that contraception denies children are a blessing and/or indicates a lack of trust in God.

Please don't misunderstand me. I'm not endorsing the anti-child/anti-family sentiment that prevails in our feminism-dominated culture, and I'm not denying that attitude's destructiveness and incompatibility with Biblical teaching. Christians who believe the Bible won't be anti-child or anti-family, and most of them will have more children than the feminist-controlled majority. However, having more children than the majority doesn't mean Bible-believing Christians must engage in uncontrolled, irresponsible reproduction.

There are legitimate reasons for limiting procreation, at least in certain situations. Financial difficulties, health issues, and pathologies like addiction and abuse are all legitimate reasons for delaying childbearing. Christians who use contraception in such circumstances are showing neither anti-child prejudice nor a lack of trust in God. On the contrary, they are using the common sense God gave them to make responsible decisions in trying situations. Such believers need support and understanding, not condemnation, from their brothers and sisters in Christ.

I believe the quiverful movement means well. I admire its commitment to following the Bible's standards rather than the world's. On that score, I think the movement can teach something to the larger Christian community which is plagued by worldliness. I also believe, however, that the quiverful movement has the potential to do more harm than good. Runaway reproduction can have serious consequences for families, consequences which are NOT God's will. If the quiverful movement can accept that fact then it can be a positive force in the Church. If it can't, the movement will undermine itself by judging Christians who use family planning in tough circumstances. That, not using birth control, is the real sin.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Custom Vs. Worship

Tomorrow is Valentine's Day* and it made me start thinking about something that I think needs to be clarified for some Christians.

Valentine's Day is, of course, the holiday on which we celebrate love. Believe it or not, there are some Christians who oppose celebrating Valentine's Day because they say it has pagan roots, the same reason these Christians give for not celebrating Christmas and Easter. These Christians oppose birthday celebrations for the same reason. While I understand their reasoning I believe they are quite mistaken to oppose birthday celebrations or holidays like Valentine's Day because of their pagan origins.

It's true that Scripture tells us that God doesn't want His people to worship Him with heathen practices. That's why I agree with those "anti-holiday" believers who have a problem with Christmas and Easter. Those holidays are about actually worshiping God with pagan "holy" days, and that's wrong. Scripture tells believers not to worship the one, true God the way pagans worship their false ones. I understand applying that principle to things like Christmas and Easter, but it's misguided, I feel, to apply it to things like birthday celebrations and "neutral" holidays like Valentine's Day.

Yes, birthday celebrations and holidays like Valentine's Day and New Year's Day are rooted in paganism, but they are not celebrated today as ways ofworshiping God. Rather, these things have come down to us as customs. And that's the key. Worship and custom are two very different things.

Worship is how we relate to God, how we honor and praise Him in certain sacred settings. Custom is how we live our lives. Of course, if we are God's people then we will live our lives differently from unbelievers in many ways, but that doesn't mean avoiding everything in life that has pagan roots. In fact, we can't avoid everything in life that has pagan roots because paganism permeates human civilization.

Take the days of the week, for instance. Five of them are named after pagan deities. In English, four of those deities are Germanic and one is Latin. Tuesday is Tiuw's day, Wednesday is Wotan's day, Thursday is Thor's day, Friday is Freya's day, and Saturday is Saturn's day. The other two days of the week, Sunday and Monday, are named after the sun and moon, which were worshiped as gods by pagans. It's the same with the months of the year. Six--January, February, March, April, May, and June--are named after pagan gods or goddesses. Two more--July and August--are named after Roman emperors worshiped as gods.

So where does this leave believers if we are to avoid all things pagan? Are we not to say the names of the days of the week or the months of the year? Are we guilty of worshiping false gods if we do say those names? What about eating the main meal of the day at noon, a practice that I've heard has pagan roots? Should believers who live where that's the custom eat their main meal in the morning or the evening instead? How far is avoiding all things pagan supposed to go?

I think everyone can see that paganism touches all aspects of life and that avoiding it all together is just impossible. And that shouldn't be believers' goal. Rather, we should be discerning, as befitting followers of Christ, and make rational distinctions between acts of worship and mere custom. We should understand that we can celebrate a birthday, or Valentine's Day, or eat our main meal at 12 pm without accepting whatever pagan religious beliefs undergird those things. We must not use pagan religious practices to worship God. But participating in pagan-derived customs which do not involve worship is perfectly ok. So go ahead and attend that birthday party, send that Valentine's Day card, and eat your dinner at noon. God won't strike you down with lightning bolts if you do. He's saving those for the real sinners.

*I started this post on February 13.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Does God Really Hate "Fags"?

On Wednesday March 2 the Supreme Court ruled that the Westboro Baptist Church could picket outside the funerals of soldiers killed in action in Iraq or Afghanistan. The father of one such soldier had sued the Church for infliction of mental anguish when Church members picketed his son's funeral.

In case you don't know, the Westboro Baptist Church--and I use the word "church" loosely here--is that group infamous for its website God Hates Fags. The "church" protests outside the funerals of fallen soldiers, hailing their deaths as a sign of God's judgment on America for tolerating homosexuality. The "church", as it website's name suggests, believes that God hates "fags". But is the Westboro Baptist sect right? Does God hate "fags"? In a word, no.

Do not misunderstand. The Bible does condemn homosexual behavior as sin. Any church that says otherwise is, to put it bluntly, lying. But God doesn't hate "fags", or homosexuals, which is the correct, non-pejorative term. There are many things in this world that displease God, and He is angered by continuous, unrepentant indulgence in them. The Lord will punish such willful sin, eventually. This punishment often takes the form of national calamity such as economic collapse or defeat in war. God punishes sin, but that doesn't mean He hates the people who commit the sin. If the sinners repent and turn to His ways, God will forgive even the most wicked of them and save their souls.

The Gospel of John says, famously, that "...God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." That "whosoever" includes gay people; it even includes the hate filled heretics of Westboro Baptist. To be sure, once we have believed in Christ we are obligated to submit our lives to His will, living as He commands and not as we wish. This includes our sexual lives. However difficult it may be for homosexually inclined people, they must live out their sexual lives as God commands. If they sometimes fail and do what God forbids, forgiveness and a second chance are available to them just like everyone else. Nowhere in Scripture is their sin considered so heinous as to put them beyond redemption. Telling people they're beyond salvation when they're not is a far worse sin than finding intimacy with someone of the same sex.

So, to reiterate, the Westboro Baptist cultists are wrong. God does not hate "fags". He doesn't hate any human being. He does hate sin, though, and if the Westboro Baptist fanatics keep on slandering God's name with their outrageous distortion of His character and Word, they will discover that there's a special place in hell just for them. And the "fags" in heaven will laugh.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

A New Year Of Mindful Living

Today is the first day of 2011, and it's the beginning of a new year of mindful living for me.

What's "mindful living"? For me, it simply means being mindful of God. It means being aware of His ways, His commandments, His character, His presence, His people and being aware of how my life reflects on Him and my fellow Christians. In short, "mindful living" means seeking first the kingdom of God, as the Bible puts it. Mind you, I have little practice in seeking God's kingdom first. Growing up, that wasn't even talked about, let alone practiced, in my nominally Christian family. So, I have little idea of what "seeking God's kingdom first" or "mindful living" looks like, but I'm going to try to practice it.

How do I begin to do something that's almost totally foreign to me? Where do I begin? Do I read Scripture every day? Do I go to church, even if I don't feel like I belong? Must I constantly watch what I say and do lest, through unChristlike words or deeds, I dishonor God? I think "mindful living" entails all of the above, and then some. I think it's practicing a whole new way of life that you are led into by God's spirit. For me, I think coming into that life will be gradual. As I've said before, I never had one of those sweeping conversion experiences where habits are changed instantly, so I know I'm not on the fast track to a Godly transformation. A gradual approach may actually be better since it will give me time to process the change, truly learn from my experiences and so make "mindful living" second nature.

Seek first God's kingdom then everything you need will be supplied to you. Meditate on God and His Law when you get up and when you lie down. That's what Scripture says (paraphrased, of course). Being aware of God is the beginning of mindful living. As the new year unfolds, I will try to be aware of God in my daily life, especially remembering to thank Him for His strength and answered prayers. I know I will forget to do that more often than I not. "Mindful living" hasn't been part of my life and old habits will die hard. Still, I'm going to start on this path and will trust that God will be faithful and just to forgive me when I fail. So, I'm on my way to a new way of life. I'm seeking firs the kingdom of God. Mindful living, here I come.