Jun 21, 2003

I hate to even mention this, but all this Harry Potter nonsense is crazy. Christians who (in my opinion) are being completely rediculous are making such a big stink about the fact that there's witchcraft and wizardry in it so we shouldn't let our young people read it because it will corrupt their minds and make them Satan-worshippers and on and on and on. Darren from The Living Room posted about it (but he's on the same side as me; not one of the rediculous ones!). You can read his post rather than me rehashing all the info. But I will say, on a similar note, that when all of us church kids of my generation were little we weren't allowed to watch The Smurfs because of witchcraft, yet The Gummie Bears with their magic bouncing gummy juice was perfectly fine because it wasn't stirred in a black cauldrin! (I'm probably slaughtering all these words that I've never had a reason to spell before! If I am, sorry!) But if my memory serves me right, it was a "natural" substance (i.e. herbal, i.e. so are drugs) so what are we saying, that you can do drugs but not cauldrins? In real life, witches don't go around riding on broomsticks and wearing tall, black, pointy hats, so why should we give the kids the impression that that's what they should beware of? If we're harming the kids in any way, I would be quicker to say that these arguments against HP are giving them the wrong impression of what "evil" looks like. Satan isn't red with a pitchfork and a pointy tail either! If you want to teach the kids anything, teach them that books like HP are FICTION and to be read only as entertainment, not something to pattern your life after. And for those who are ready to say "that's not the kind of entertainment our kids need," dare I ask you what movies you watch? I'm sure they're not oozing the gospel message either! Teach the kids the books are fiction, and move on to teaching them that the Bible is different because it is Truth and IS something we should pattern our lives after. If nothing else, redirect your energy from complaining to teaching.

I'm done ranting for now!
I long so very much to have a day to go out and enjoy some great part of God's creation. Between the fact that I'm currently in the uneventful westside of Jacksonville (versus the beautiful and ever-popular St. Augustine) and the fact that it's been quite rainy, I've not had much to gaze at in wonder as of late. [I've recently become fond of the phrase "as of late." Not typical for most Americans, but I've picked it up from an Aussie.] I recall with fondness the days while I was at school that I broke away from my studying and sat at the fort on the edge of the Intracoastal, watching the tiny waves splash against the coquina wall and the ever-changing clouds overhead. Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with the westside.... well, that could be argued.... but there's just not much great scenery here. Anyway, I suppose I should try to find some time just to be outside for a while this weekend. Maybe it won't rain after I'm off of work tomorrow. Speaking of which, I have to go in earlier than normal tomorrow, so I should get to bed. G'night.

Jun 20, 2003

Got one of those forwarded e-mails today. I don't usually care much for them, but this one was pretty cool. Rather than posting the whole thing, I'll just give the short version. It compared trying to figure out our lives on our own to trying to open a rosebud without tearing any of the petals. Just as God is the only one who can open a rose perfectly, He is also the One who can unfold the events of our lives perfectly. Let Him be in control and wait on His time. Good message.

Jun 19, 2003

A few posts ago when I talked about drinking, the blog that I made vague reference to was this one. (I might as well link to it if I'm gonna talk about it, even if my opinions differ from his in several areas. His post advocating drinking was on Thursday June 5.) I was re-reading his post last night to try to figure out if I agree or disagree with him. No matter what, I will say I am impressed by the appearant research he has done on what he writes. On this reading, I also read the TWENTY-FOUR comments that had been left (now 25 thanks to yours truely). Many interesting points were brought up. (I won't delve into which ones I agree with or disagree with.) In my quest for "answers" I realized, or rather God revealed to me, that far too often we focus on one particular aspect of life and make it seem like much more of a priority than it really should be. I think if we could keep our main focus on doing EVERYTHING to the glory of God life would be much better. However things like this have become issues in modern Christianity, and to some extent I guess we are forced to deal with them. There's a fine line to be drawn, I suppose, between the things we see as absolutes and the issues which should be left to personal conviction. Hmmm.... where I'm going with this I'm not sure. My main point I guess is to focus on God and not what other people are or are not doing. Don't make mountains of mole-hills. Don't judge people so harshly for believing slightly differently than you on little issues. Don't become like the Pharisees with their high-and-mighty list of DOs and DON'Ts. Most importantly (and slightly redundant) do what God calls you to do and also listen when He tells you "no."

Jun 18, 2003

Danny spoke at Alpha and Omega, our college and career service, tonight. It was incredible. It just so happened that there was a scaffold in the Teachy Chapel from some new lights being installed or something, so earlier in the day Danny asked them to leave it there for tonight (he used it as an object lesson). His example was that God was up at the top of the scaffold and our goal is to get up there with God. (He made clear that no example is perfect, so if there's something "wrong" with this one, he already warned us that it would not be perfect.) His point was that we can't get up to the top without first going "to our knees," in other words, through prayer. It's not our strength that gets us up to God, but us letting God take control. So, yes, Danny climed up about 15 feet in the air to "where God was" and made the point that when we get on one of our "mountain tops" with God, we will automatically fall if we look "down" at all the other people, thinking to ourselves, "look how high I am compared to all of them," because we've taken our eyes off Christ (like Peter) and we get proud. So, yes, he jumped down to the ground, symbolizing his "fall away from God." The next part is the incredible part, though, that we often overlook. He said, "No matter how many times you fall, God's grace lets you climb back up." Think about that! When somebody fails us, we pitch a fit and vow never to trust them again, so-on and so-forth. Yet we ourselves are sinners who also fail. The sinless God of the universe, however, calls us back to Him every time we fall. He never says, "Okay, that's it. You've had plenty of chances. No more climbing back up for you." Instead, He cheers us on and encourages us. "Yes, the climb back up can be hard and tiring," Danny said. "You might even make a lot of racket and feel embarrassed when people look at you" (the scaffold was noisy, so the analogy fit perfectly). He talked about how non-Christians will often be the first to point the finger when a Christian fails, which can make it hard for us to want to get back up and try again, yet by faith in God's grace we can climb back up once again. That's about all for the object lesson, but that led into a bunch of other incredible stuff. Danny touched on the concept of being consumed by God. We're told to love God with all of our hearts, souls, minds, and our strength. Danny said, "God, how can I do that if I'm also supposed to love my wife and kids and the people around me?" He explained that when we are consumed with God all else falls into place. I instantly thought of "seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you." It means that if God is our first priority, He makes it possible for us to fulfill all the things He has in store for us. Oh, I never mentioned what scripture Danny spoke on. It was Genesis 39:1-3. It talks about how Joseph was taken into Egypt and bought by Potiphar (vs. 1), God was with Joseph (vs. 2), and Joseph's master (who basically had no idea about Jesus and the one true God) could see God in Joseph (vs. 3)! The scripture worked in with the object lesson in that when you're truely close to God ("on top of the scaffold") everyone can see that-- even the pagan world who has no prior concept of God. I'm not sure how he crammed so many topics into one night, but Danny also mentioned stepping out of your comfort zone. He said that when we're out of our comfort zone is when God can use us the most. He didn't say a whole lot about that, but it was something I definitely needed to hear. I get so comfortable in my daily routine, with my typical group of people, sitting in my usual spot at church, doing what I'm used to doing, etc. I think that's something God's been trying to show me lately, but it took tonight's message to make me realize it. Something I could not be reminded of enough is that the world does not revolve around me! God's plans and purposes are far more important than my own, so the right thing for me to do would be to surrender daily to that concept and let God have His way instead of me having mine. I'm gonna quit now, but I could go on forever. I'll probably think of more to say tomorrow on this same topic.
I've been pouring through websights today, just for the heck of it mostly. As I read many different opinions on many different subjects, I realized (actually remembered) that it seems as though I have sort of "reconsidered" my stance on several issues within the past year. I guess that's something that comes with going away to college; your eyes are opened to a whole new world, so to speak. But do not fear: I am not implying that I am in any way turning my back on my Christian upbringing. It's just that some things which I had a firm opinion on for no particular reason now seem more negotiable to me. Not the basics, just the details. The foundational principles of my faith are still the same, yet I am becoming more leniant on some of the "detail" items, which quite honestly may challange the opinion of the majority of the people (at least older people) in my church and even denomination. Okay, before you think I've completely gone off the deep-end, I'll explain what I'm talking about. Two particular issues come to mind: tattoos and drinking, neither of which do I participate in. About a year ago I probably would have told you that I absolutely positively think both are wrong. For that matter, on any given day in the present, I would probably come close to saying the same thing. Yet within the past year my convictions on those two issues have come into question.

As for tattoos, I would have sited Leviticus 19:28 as my reasoning for thinking that they were wrong. As I began truthfully thinking about the issue, however, I began to think about the fact that there are many other Levitical laws that we completely disregard in our modern lives, such as not eating pork. I studied Leviticus 19 on my own for a short while and concluded that even though there were things in it that could not apply to our lives today, such as laws for sacrifice, the majority of it could easily apply. More importantly, however, I came away with the belief that God simply wants us to be different from the lost world -- devoted to Him and seperated from the world's system of beliefs. I am no longer sure of my opinion of the wrong-ness of tattoos, but I do know that that is not the issue. The issue is whether or not we are devoted to God to the point that we would do whatever He asks of us, and furthermore would NOT do whatever He asks us not to do. Although it is weird not having a firm opinion, I'm actually glad I don't because it's helped me become less judgemental. Whether you do or don't have tattoos, I no longer care. (Not that I particularly cared in the first place. I wouldn't have hated you for it or anything.) Moving on...

As for drinking, I realized today how much I have shifted on this issue when I read a guy's site that more or less condoned it and backed it up with scripture, and I didn't throw a fit about how ungodly he is to use scripture in that way. For me not to make a big deal out of a "Christian" condoning drinking is a new thing. What he said kinda made sense, I'd have to say. Before, I would have said that to drink at all is wrong. I am beginning to think, however, that it is not so much the "drinking" but rather the being "drunk" that is wrong. The problem is most people can't do the former without eventually getting to the latter. In our society of "do what feels good" few people would stop after one or two drinks. And most people drink more to "fit in" than because they have a taste for the drink. That I do believe is wrong. A glass of fine wine with a formal dinner, I am beginning to think, is a decent thing. A beer at a ballgame, however, I think I still would not approve of. Dare I mention that I'm contemplating having a champaign toast at my own wedding (in the distant future!!)! Actually, that may not happen. I would rather not have it than offend people who would be there. Besides, seeing as how I've never drank ANYTHING, I don't know if I would like it. At any rate, I still would rather steer clear of drinking for the most part for many reasons. First, I know for me it would go against what my parents would want. Also, you never know what other people would think of it. If it would make me look like a "bad Christian" to someone, even if I thought they were wrong, I would rather not drink. Some people would suggest, in that case, only drinking in the privacy of your own home. But truthfully and honestly, how many issues really stay inside homes?? Eventually someone finds out, and then it looks like you're trying to hide something, which can make you look worse than if you just did whatever it was out in the open. Okay, this is getting long!

In conclusion... I'm not sure why I decided to post about this. Probably more for me than for anyone who may read this. I will say one last thing that my opinion has NOT changed on... actually two. Sex and abortion. I believe sex is exclusively for marriage. There's not much else I could say about that one. As for abortion, I do believe it is murder. I read somewhere today that supporters of abortion have called it "reproductive freedom". REPRODUCTIVE FREEDOM???!!! Reproductive freedom is choosing whether or not to have sex in the first place!! HELLO!! No sex = no "unwanted" pregnancies. Seeing as how the majority of abortions are with unmarried girls, I think I covered my opinion of that in the first part of this paragraph. Anyway, it's too late for much of a rant on this topic tonight. Comments?

Jun 17, 2003

I was looking at a sight today called Brick Testament that has scenes from Bible stories depicted in LEGGOS! It's actually quite incredible! Not only are the guy's Leggo models very good, also -- if you know anything about photography -- the pictures are really good. He must have a LOT of time on his hands! I heard rumor that the guy is possibly an atheist. If that is true, he sure has devoted a huge portion of his life to depicting Biblical things.

I'm also trying to update my links on the left. I'm going to add some blogs that I've come across that I find interesting.
Take a moment to stop what you're doing and just think about how good God is. Sing a song to Him. Talk with Him. Lift up your hands in praise. Do a little dance, if you feel so inclined! [What? You feel silly praising God in your own house? Then where in the world will you ever feel comfortable?] Remember this: church on Sunday is not the only place and time where we meet with God, nor is it the only place and time where God deserves our praise. He is worthy always. When we fail to acknowledge Him in our day to day lives it's like saying that our agendas are more important than the holy God that we say we worship and serve. So take second to praise Him.

Jun 16, 2003

What a good day! Nothing particularly special about it, just good. I guess I cleared my mind of several things this weekend, so despite my battle with a sinus headache all day and the drizzley rain outside, I still had a great day. Still nothing especially exciting to post about... but I KNOW everyone's favorite store is Old Navy of Orange Park and I know everyone wants to come see me while I'm working this week (Thursday evening or Saturday daytime). If you happen to be at the mall, come say hi. Anyway, that was really random and useless! I'm gonna quit now before I bore you completely!

Jun 15, 2003

This morning in choir we finally got to sing a song we've been practicing for a while that I absolutely love. It's called "Total Praise" and it's by the Brooklyn Tabernacle people. It says...

Lord, I will lift my eyes to the hills
knowing my help is coming from You.
Your peace You give me
in time of the storm.
You are the source of my strength.
You are the strength of my life.
I lift my hands in total praise to You.

It's such an incredible song with a powerful picture of true worship. I'm really glad we got to sing it today.

In my quiet time lately I've been reading in Galatians. Paul is writing to the Galatian people and explaining to them that they have been set free from the law because Christ provides salvation through His grace. Here are a few "application" type things I wrote down.
"We should not begin to think that our good works make us any better than someone else. If we feel that way, Christ's death is in vain." (2:15-21)
"Christ's blood not only saves us, but also is the only way by which we can be perfected. It is Christ, not ourselves." (3:1-9)
"Funny how we try to come up with our own way of doing things even after God has told us the way He wants it done!" (3:17-22)
"Although we are corrupt, God loves us enough to ADOPT us and clean us up and make us royalty! How incredible! We are now princes and princesses!" (4:1-7)
"Don't leave behind your excitement for Christ when circumstances aren't perfect. Remain zealous!" (4:8-18)
"The promises of God are always stronger than our ability to keep the law. In salvation through faith when we fall God's grace catches us. There's nothing to catch you under the law, yet you WILL fall!" (4:19-26)
"God has set us free so we should live like it. At the same time, we are to honor, not abuse, the grace He's given us." (4:27-5:1)
The Galatians had been saved, yet they still tried to keep the law as if that was what would "keep" them saved. Paul tried to get them to understand that God isn't concerned with how good you are because He saves us just as we are. I remembered this morning that our good or bad deeds do not make us more or less saved, and also do not make it easier or harder for Christ to save us! He had to die for our sins regardless of whether we only told one little lie or were murderers. This is not to say that Christ does not want us to pursue good works after our salvation; we simply should not act as though our good works are what saves us or as if they will give us more favor in the eyes of God. God sees us all the same: we're either His children or we're not. There's only two possibilities. Good works are simply what we should be compelled to do in response to what Christ has done for us. I hope this all made sense. Feel free to leave comments or questions if I've confused you on any point! Later.