Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Christian Carnival CL (150)

Galatians 5:14 For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, "YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF." 15 But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another. 16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. 17 For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. 19 Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, 21 envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

Most followers of Christ are aware of the fruit of the Spirit listed in verse 22 and 23. Most of us do not particularly look at the spoiled fruit of the flesh in 19-21. We do well to gauge our individual walks in the Spirit by the positive fruit; and by checking ourselves against the spoiled ones as well.

So, let us carefully select our fruits for the:

The Holiday Fruit Basket Edition

Love vs. Enmity

  • Bryan and Mike presents "A New Right Wing Europe?" posted at THEOdyssey.

  • Diane at Crossroads says "Thank You! Young Fathers".
    It's gratifying to see so many Christian young fathers take such an interest in their young children at school and at church. And although it didn't start in the church, at least it's there now.
  • Bill at Rev Bill has found a site for "Advent Devotions: Love's Revelations"
    How has love been revealed to you? What did it taste like? Look like? Smell like? Did it come as a piece of chocolate left as a surprise for you, or from an unexpected word of kindness? Welcome to Goshen College's online devotionals for the 2006 Advent season! "Love’s Revelations" is this year’s theme.
  • While Joe at Evangelical Outpost did not submit this, I am going to "adopt it" as my submission; because we need to start "The Next Abolition Movement: Abolishing Slavery in the 21st Century"

  • Joy vs. Jealousy

  • Martin at Sun and Shield guesses that no one has ever posted "I'm thankful for the electromagnetic spectrum" as their Thanksgiving post, until now.

  • Annette at Fish and Cans expresses her joy in the promises of God expresses in "1 Peter 2 - part one"

  • Peace vs. Strife

  • Jack Yoest presents "Charmaine Speaks To The Pew Forum on Religion and Politics" posted at Reasoned Audacity.
    In the linked transcript involving Charmaine and Eric Sapp, there is a very good discussion about Christians and partisan politics - and it was kept largely strife-free
  • Mike at Faith at Work discusses "How to Have an Emotionally Healthy Church".
    Our challenge at New Life is how do we process our pain and the pain we have caused others in an emotionally mature manner?
  • Jordan at Acton Institute's Power Blog takes up "Hugh Hewitt and the Mormon Question":
    If the long knives are brought out by Christians to attack Romney on the basis of his religious commitments, it won't be long before secularists attack Christians on similar grounds.
  • Penitens, A Penitent Blogger, looks at "News of terror and words of peace" - A brief reflection on inner peace through Christ in a world of terrors.

  • Stuff guest-blogs at Ales Rarus on overcoming fear and her conversion to the "The Vocation of Marriage and Parenthood"
    . . . I was scared $#!%-less. I understand how women can be talked into abortions. I was in my 5th year of pharmacy school, freshly married, and dirt poor. And as the youngest of five children in a family that puts the FUN in dysfunctional, I wondered what God could possibly be thinking giving someone like me something so fragile and impressionable as a baby.

  • Patience vs. Dissention

  • Ruth presents "I Still Don't Get Church" posted at Journal of Ruth.
    I love my church and my pastor and the people there. But I find it hard to be part of them. I always feel like I’m outside, watching in. (But then again, I’ve always felt like that in all the churches I’ve been in.) This is the best church I’ve ever been a part of but … I don’t feel like I’m part of them, y’know? I’m attending the church, but I’m like an attendee, not family.
  • Barbara at Tidbits and Treasures sees that "With God, All Things are Possible" including drawing Muslims to Himself through the gospel.

  • Stephen from Practical Quandary discusses seeing Christianity as a worldview can give us "A New Set of Glasses" that allow us to see the world in a clear manner.

  • Henry at Participatory Bible Study continues his series on Isaiah 24-27, with "Isaiah 26: Praise and Lament in Trouble" and its meaning in the study of the end times.

  • Kindness vs. Anger

  • Amanda examines Bart Campolo's "The Limits to God's Grace" at Imago Dei.

  • Goodness vs. Impurity

  • David Ker presents Preaching peeve #1: Seed-pickers posted at Lingamish.

  • Richard at dokeo kago grapho soi kratistos theophilos discusses one of the interesting results of the last election connected to "Religious Value Voters".

  • Lillie submits a post by Father Chip Harper from All Saints Anglican Church: "Liturgy Lesson: Sunday Next Before Advent - Laying on of Hands" at Devotionals from Father Chip

  • Tia from Home Where They Belong - a homeschooling site - writes about "The Crime of Isolation" in Germany.
    Frauke R, who is pregnant, told newspapers while her husband was in jail, "We prepared the children for his arrest and they are OK. I miss him, but God will take care of him."
  • Jeremy Pierce presents "Explanations for Evil, Part I" posted at Parableman:
    This is the latest post in a series on the problem of evil, looking at responses to questions about some particular kinds of evil manifesting itself in particular ways.
  • Josh at Church Hopping examines the evidence of a "New Testiment: Extended Edition"

    • Faithfulness vs. Idolatry

    • Rodney Olsen: One of the most enduring Christian books over many decades has been "Who Moved the Stone" by Frank Morison.
      According to popular belief, Morison was a lawyer who was skeptical of the claims of Christians regarding Jesus Christ. The story goes that he set out to prove the Bible wrong. That story's almost true. The fact is that 'Frank Morison' never actually existed.
    • In "Is This Accurate?", Veracity at Veracity - The Way asks :
      why are we so reluctant to be Bereans and search out what Scripture actually says about a matter? Why do we accept carte-blanche what a ministry or pastor or leader tell us? We are going to get ourselves into serious trouble this way
    • nikola presents "Dostoevsky: Russian Prophet" posted at Victory or Death.
      I believe that there is nothing lovelier, deeper, more sympathetic, more rational, more manly and more perfect than the Savior;...If anyone could prove to me that Christ is outside the truth, and if the truth really did exclude Christ, I should prefer to stay with Christ and not the truth. -- Dostoevsky
    • Mike Pace presents "How cults recruit and keep their members" posted at THEOdyssey.

    • Vynette presents "The Curia Mail : Vol 3" posted at The Race is Run.

    • Mike at Discerning Discipleship is confused about the purpose of a new book about Australian religion, and would really like to know what "Spiritual Aerobics in Australian Emerging Churches" is.

    • Dana presents "Family as Idol" posted at Principled Discovery.

    • Gentleness vs. Dispute

    • [LOL: Didn't know where else to put this] John at Light Along the Journey shows what you get when a guy stares too long at his books and starts free associating pro wrestling? You get "Friday Night Theological Library Smackdown":
      So I was wondering…since Pixar Studios has taught us that toys come to life when we leave the room, what if books come to life too? . . . and I’m thinking who could take down who if they were went mano e mano like they are lying side by side in the shelf?

    • Self-control vs. Immorality

    • Mick at Romans 15:4 Project asks "Who will stand for our nations girls? Who will protect their innocence and purity?"; and asks us to "Stop Taxpayer Funding of Planned Parenthood!"
    • Read more!

      Christian Carnival CXLIX (149) is up

      The introduction from Iohannes at Touring With Virgil:

      Welcome to the Thanksgiving (U.S.) edition of the Christian Carnival! Dinner is served:
      I am the host of the next Carnival. Read the guidelines below the fold, and send me a submission by 11:59 pm Eastern time on Nov 28th to ChristianCarnival [at] gmail [dot] com. I will not be having a submission of my own, so if you want me to consider cross-posting, and "guest submitting", one of your diaries from the last week (22nd or after) here let me know in the comments below.

      About Christian Carnival:
      Contributing a Post to the Christian Carnival

      The Christian Carnival is open to Christians of Protestant, Orthodox, and Roman Catholic convictions. One of the goals of this Carnival is to offer our readers to a broad range of Christian thought.

      Posts need not be of a theological topic. Posts about home life, politics, or current events, for example, written from a Christian worldview are welcome.

      Update: As the goal of this Carnival is to highlight Christian thought in the blogosphere, entries will be limited to blogs that share that goal. Blogs with content that is focused on a business, that has potentially offensive material Christians may not want to link to on their sites, or has no reference to distinctively Christian thought may not be included in this Carnival. There are other Carnivals that would be a more appropriate venue for that material. I realize that this will be a judgment call on the part of the Carnival administrator, and being human she may make mistakes. However, as the Christian Carnival is getting quite large, and it is sometimes questionable whether the entrants are seeking to promote Christian thought, I find this necessary.

      Update: We also expect a level of discourse that is suitable for a Christian showcase. Thus entries may be refused if they engage in name-calling, ad hominem attacks, offensive language, or for any similar reason as judged by the administrator.

      So, if you have a post in this framework - go here to find out more: Christian Carnival Participation Instructions.

      Read more!

      Sunday, November 19, 2006

      Spiritual Experiences and Observations

      [Crossposted with minor changes from Street Prophets]

      Starting with Simplicio's "Religions Don't Deserve Special Treatment"; continuing with my "Science, Reason, and Faith"; and then NoJoy's excellant question in "gedankenexperiment 0: religious experiences" - there has been some interesesting discussion about the line between faith and science

      NoJoy got my position slightly wrong in her diary:

      JCHFleetguy makes the case that because religious experiences are so pervasive, the burden of proof should fall to the areligious when it comes to the existence or nonexistence of God/gods/etc
      "Burden of proof" implies I think proof is possible - either for or against the existance of God - and I do not think such a silliness. Indeed, my reason for dissing on brothers Harris and Dawkins is that they are silly enough to think that such proof is possible. What I said is that the huge number of people who have had religious/spiritual experiences on the planet deserve respect for what they have experienced; and that earning respect from society doesnt't require me to prove scientifically the basis of what I have experienced.

      However, God proved Himself to me . . .

      This is a post for those who have experiences outside the "natural" - the supernatural, the spiritual, religious, etc. to post those anecdotes. This is to be a safe place. I am not going to answer the "Couldn't that be swamp gas?" kind of questions because the Holy Spirit has shown me that what it "could have been" is irrelevant - God touched my life in these areas. I am the first to admit that others could have had very similiar experiences from purely naturalistic causes. Again, irrelevant.

      So, this is a place for folks who wish to offer up those experiences that you "just know" are supernatural. You are not required to offer "proof"; nor should proof be asked of you. If you wish to do this at your own blog, please leave a link in the comments below.

      I will start with myself:
      • Anti-racism: This is one of my "orientations" that had nothing to do with choice; or apparently upbringing (as such). I was raised in SW Missouri in a segregated community with segregated schools. My mom was from Texas; and my sisters say everything they took from my mom and our upbringing was to be racist - I think my mom taught me not to be racist. I think God took a hand in how the same inputs that my sisters viewed one way struck me entirely differently. I have, from the earliest of ages, known racism was wrong. Thank God

      • Wife's first child: My wife had a horrendous PID as a teenager that fried her fallopian tubes. The doctor at the time said that with surgery she would have a 10% chance of having children. No surgery, and she got pregnant. Then, under pressure from her boyfriend who said he would not support the child, or her, if she gave birth - and her father who said he wouldn't either - she went to our local abortion clinic. After the initial interview, the intake worker sent her home because her head wasn't right. She gave birth, and the boyfriend picked up the baby and became the best father on the planet (thankfully, still not a great boyfriend or I might not be in this story). God wanted her to have this child against the physical odds, and touched the intake worker, her father (who entirely came around), and Les.

      • My first date with my wife: At one point in the movie I held her hand and we both felt electricity (aw, how romantic) - and we both believe God welded us together at that point. More about how that immediately changed us is here

      • The whole process of my finding God again. There were a series of people, places, and experiences that drew me back to Him. I will not try to re-outline that here - but you can read about it here

      • Our child: Remember those fried fallopian tubes - a pregnancy got stuck in one, it exploded, and my wife nearly died. Down to one tube. Folks around here know my wife has a mental disability and takes the plethora of medications that go with that. Some she was taking for a while made her think she was pregnant all the time; and we had a pregnancy test done like every two months (exaggeration probably). The irony was, as her doctors kept telling her, that the medications stopped her from ovulating. Anyway, she goes in for another pregancy test and:

        • after the urine test they did a blood test
        • Hey, while you're here we might as well do a cervical examine
        • Do you mind if we do an ultrasound, we thought we might check out the condition of your uterus
        • Hey, we have no idea how this happened, but you're pregnant

        The funny part: she tells her psychiatrist she is pregnant, gives him her doctor's name, phone number. Later, right after her 21st week ultrasound; she goes in for her psychiatric appointment and the doctor tells her that usually in a case like hers (someone with her medications and history thinking she was pregnant) they assume some kind of delusion is going on. He had never even contacted the baby doctor to check. She showed him the 21 week ultrasound picture in her purse. My wife, incidentally, caught me during our Bradley birthing class referring to our daughter's conception as a miracle - and knew for the first time that her continous prayers for me were beginning to work.

      • Lupus: my wife was diagnosed with Lupus - confirmed by three out of the four tests normally given to detect its effects. Pat contacted her prayer list, the church, etc. She went in to take the fourth test, the most expensive and most accurate, and it was negative. Hmmm. They re-took the first three: now all negative. The doctor had never seen this before - ever.
      There are more, but that is enough to get the postings going.

      So, what experiences and observations have you had that confirmed the existance of the supernatural to you? Again, if you wish to post this at your own blog leave a link in the comments.

      Read more!

      Friday, November 17, 2006

      Christian Carnivals 146, 147, and 148

      CXLIV1 (146)

      The introduction from admin at The Evangelical Ecologist:
      Happy All Saints Day to you all!

      With the obvious connection between All Saints Day and the beginning of the Reformation in Wittenberg, it seems appropriate to recognize our own Wittenberg Dory, the Carnival's patron saint. (No offense meant to our Catholic mates. ed) We appreciate all you do to keep the Carnival rolling along, Dory

      CXLVII (147)

      The introduction from Rev. Ed at Attention Span:
      This edition of the Christian Carnival is being published right after Election Day here in the United States. For many of you, that wouldn't make a whole lot of difference, but for your humble host it means that I'm mighty tired. I was at the local Board of Elections last night and was doing all manner of other things political all day long. That is part of the reason this post is going up a bit late.

      But that's also the reason why this Christian Carnival has been dubbed "The Election Hangover Edition." So don't go looking for snappy banter or wise observations in this post -- go visit the contributor's blogs, as most of them got more sleep than I did last night!

      CXLVIII (148)

      The introduction from Diane at Crossroads: Where Faith and Inquiry Meet:
      Welcome to this week's Christian Carnival. And now....here it is.......

      About Christian Carnival:
      Contributing a Post to the Christian Carnival

      The Christian Carnival is open to Christians of Protestant, Orthodox, and Roman Catholic convictions. One of the goals of this Carnival is to offer our readers to a broad range of Christian thought.

      Posts need not be of a theological topic. Posts about home life, politics, or current events, for example, written from a Christian worldview are welcome.

      Update: As the goal of this Carnival is to highlight Christian thought in the blogosphere, entries will be limited to blogs that share that goal. Blogs with content that is focused on a business, that has potentially offensive material Christians may not want to link to on their sites, or has no reference to distinctively Christian thought may not be included in this Carnival. There are other Carnivals that would be a more appropriate venue for that material. I realize that this will be a judgment call on the part of the Carnival administrator, and being human she may make mistakes. However, as the Christian Carnival is getting quite large, and it is sometimes questionable whether the entrants are seeking to promote Christian thought, I find this necessary.

      Update: We also expect a level of discourse that is suitable for a Christian showcase. Thus entries may be refused if they engage in name-calling, ad hominem attacks, offensive language, or for any similar reason as judged by the administrator.

      So, if you have a post in this framework - go here to find out more: Christian Carnival Participation Instructions. BTW, if you really want progressive Christian thought to have wider presence . . .

      Deadline for next Carnival: 11/21 at 11:59pm EST.

      Read more!

      Tuesday, November 14, 2006

      A "Dee Dah Day": Part 2

      [I am continuing to journal the study questions from Chapter 4 ("A 'Dee Dah Day': The Practice of Celebration") of John Ortberg's The Life You've Always Wanted. For previous posts, and a "look ahead" at the chapter titles click the index link at the bottom.]

      Somebody thanked me for the questions. I cannot take credit - they were created by Kevin G. Harney.

      Additional Small-group Questions

      1. The author writes about people who have a unique ability to destroy joy.
        • Without using any names, how have people like this impacted your life?
        • What can we do to keep these people from robbing us of joy?

      2. Impatience kills both joy and time. How have you seen impatience kill time in your life?

      3. Read this quote from G. K. Chesterton:
        Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, "Do it again"; and the grown' up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown' up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, "Do it again" to the sun; and every evening, "Do it again" to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.
        • How does Chesterton's vision of a youthful and joy-filled God affirm or clash with your vision of God?
        • What kind of a picture of God were you given as a child growing up in your home or church? Go to this poll
        • What kind of a picture of God do you have today? Go to the poll below

      4. If you asked the members of your small group to describe your joy-quotient, what do you, think they would say about you in terms of joy or non-joy?

      5. The author says, "Joylessness may be the sin most readily tolerated by the church." Why do you think the church is so quick to accept and even encourage joylessness?

      6. What are some of the natural and joy-filled moments that occur in your week that you need to begin noticing and celebrating?

      7. The author says, "Often it is the people closest to suffering who have the most powerful joy." Tell about a person who has modeled this truth and what you have learned from his or her life.
      As an exercise in contrast [to the above quote], imagine for a moment how the opening sentences of the Bible might read if God were not a supremely joyful being. Imagine Genesis if God approached his work as we so often do:
      In the beginning, it was nine o'clock, so God had to go to work. He filled out a requisition to separate light from darkness. He considered making stars to beautify the night, and planets to fill the skies, but thought it sounded like too much work; and besides, thought God, "That's not my job." So he decided to knock off early and call it a day. And he looked at what he had done and he said, "It'll have to do."

      On the second day God separated the waters from the dry land. And he made all the dry land flat, plain, and functional, so that-behold-the whole earth looked like Idaho. He thought about making mountains and valleys and glaciers and jungles and forests, but he decided it wouldn't be worth the effort. And God looked at what he had done that day and said, "It'll have to do."

      And God made a pigeon to fly in the air, and a carp to swim in the waters, and a cat to creep upon dry ground. And God thought about making millions of other species of all sizes and shapes and colors, but he couldn't drum up any enthusiasm for any other animals - in fact, he wasn't too crazy about the cat. Besides, it was almost time for the Late Show. So God looked at all he had done, and God said, "It'll have to do."

      And at the end of the week, God was seriously burned out. So he breathed a big sigh of relief and said, "Thank Me, it's Friday."
      Next in series: "An Unhurried Life" Pt. 1
      Index to Series

      Read more!

      A "Dee Dah Day": Part 1

      [I am beginning to journal the study questions from Chapter 4 ("A 'Dee Dah Day': The Practice of Celebration") of John Ortberg's The Life You've Always Wanted. For previous posts and some "look ahead" at the book, check out the index at the linked at the bottom.]

      After the introductory first three chapters, John Ortberg begins to go through some spiritual disciplines he thinks are important.

      The first one: the practice of being joyful and celebratory . . .

      Small Group Discussion Questions
      1. The author tells this story:
        Sometime ago I was giving a bath to our three children. I had a custom of bathing them together, more to save time than anything else. I knew that eventually I would have to stop the group bathing, but for the time being it seemed efficient.

        Johnny was still in the tub, Laura was out and safely in her pajamas, and I was trying to get Mallory dried off. Mallory was out of the water, but was doing what has come to be known in our family as the Dee Dah Day dance. This consists of her running around and around in circles, singing over and over again, "Dee dah day, dee dah day." It is a relatively simple dance expressing great joy. When she is too happy to hold it in any longer, when words are inadequate to give voice to her euphoria, she has to dance to release her joy. So she does the Dee Dah Day.

        On this particular occasion, I was irritated. "Mallory, hurry!" I prodded. So she did-she began running in circles faster and faster and chanting "dee dah day" more rapidly. "No, Mallory, that's not what I mean! Stop with the dee dah day stuff, and get over here so I can dry you off. Hurry!"

        Then she asked a profound question: "Why?"

        I had no answer. I had nowhere to go, nothing to do, no meetings to attend, no sermons to write. I was just so used to hurrying, so preoccupied with my own little agenda, so trapped in this rut of moving from one task to another, that here was life, here was joy, here was an invitation to the dance right in front of me - and I was missing it.

        So I got up, and Mallory and I did the Dee Dah Day dance together. She said I was pretty good at it, too, for a man my age. -- John Ortberg
        • If you were having a Dee Dah Day, how would people know it?
        • What would be the outward signs that give you away?
        • Tell about your last "Dee Dah Day" moment. What brought you joy and caused you to really celebrate life?

      2. What are some of the ways we tend to squelch the spirit and enthusiasm of those around us who seem to have more than their fair share of "Dee Dah Day" moments?

      3. Dee Dah People:
        • Who is one person in your life who models the "Dee Dah Day" spirit?
        • What have you learned about joy by watching this person?
        • (Remember, this person can be any age.)

      4. Read:
        Nehemiah 8:9 Then Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest {and} scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, "This day is holy to the LORD your God; do not mourn or weep." For all the people were weeping when they heard the words of the law. 10 Then he said to them, "Go, eat of the fat, drink of the sweet, and send portions to him who has nothing prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength." 11 So the Levites calmed all the people, saying, "Be still, for the day is holy; do not be grieved." 12 All the people went away to eat, to drink, to send portions and to celebrate a great festival, because they understood the words which had been made known to them.
      5. A joyful God:
        • What is one place in God's creation that gives you a profound sense that God is a joyful God and the happiest of all beings in the universe?
        • When you are in this place, how is his joy passed on to you?
        • How does living in the joy of the Lord bring strength to you?

      6. Describe a time when life circumstances brought you unexpected joy. What are some practical things we can do to seek joy on a more regular basis?

      7. Joy is strength. Its absence will create weakness. Or, in the words of Dallas Willard,
        failure to attain a deeply satisfying life always has the effect of making sinful actions seem good. Here lies the strength of temptation. . . . Normally, our success in over, coming temptation will be easier if we are basically happy in our lives. To cut off the joys and pleasures associated with our bodily lives and social existence as "unspiritual," then, can actually have the effect of weakening us in our efforts to do what is right.
        Here is a key task for spiritual vitality: We must arrange life so that sin no longer looks good to us. One gets the sense that when Mother Teresa drove in congested traffic, she didn't have a hard time keeping herself from making rude gestures or calling other drivers bad names. Why? Such actions no longer looked appealing to her. She found a better way to live. The joy of the Lord brought strength. -- John Ortberg
      8. Willard is making two points. First, when we are joy-filled, we are less likely to be drawn into temptation. Second, when we are joy-deprived, we are more likely to fall into temptation. How have you experienced these two principles in your life?

      9. Some people have a contagious joy that makes them "joy-carriers."
        • What characteristics mark the lives of these people?
        • What are some practical steps you can take to develop these characteristics in your life?

      10. Read this story about the bride and the lesson:
        It takes a certain kind of heroism to continue to celebrate what deserves to be celebrated even when all the details go disastrously wrong. A favorite story of mine expressing this kind of spirit is told by Robert Fulghum, about a wedding that was produced on an epic scale by an unhinged character known only as the Mother of the Bride (MOTB). The logistics-from an eighteen-piece brass-and-wind ensemble to gift registries spreading across most of the continental United States to twenty-four bridesmaids, groomsmen, flower-petal-throwers, and ringbearers - were of a scale usually seen only during the military invasion of a sizable country. But the plans were all working-until the climactic moment of the processional:
        Ah, the bride. She had been dressed for hours if not days. No adrenaline was left in her body. Left alone with her father in the reception hall of the church while the march of the maidens went on and on, she had walked along the tables laden with gourmet goodies and absentmindedly sampled first the little pink and yellow and green mints. Then she picked through the silver bowls of mixed nuts and ate the pecans. Followed by a cheeseball or two, some black olives, a handful of glazed almonds, a little sausage with a frilly toothpick stuck in it, a couple of shrimps blanketed in bacon, and a cracker piled with liver pate. To wash this down - a glass of pink champagne. Her father gave it to her. To calm her nerves.

        What you noticed as the bride stood in the doorway was not her dress, but her face. White. For what was coming down the aisle was a living grenade with the pin pulled out.

        The bride threw up.

        Just as she walked by her mother.

        And by "threw up," I don't mean a polite little ladylike urp into her handkerchief. She puked. There's just no nice word for it. I mean, she hosed the front of the chancel - hitting two bridesmaids, the groom, a ringbearer, and me. . . .

        Only two people were seen smiling. One was the mother of the groom. And the other was the father of the bride.
        Fulghum explains how they pulled themselves together for a much quieter, gentler ceremony in the reception hall. And how "everybody cried, as people are supposed to do at weddings, mostly because the groom held the bride in his arms through the whole ceremony. And no groom ever kissed a bride more tenderly than he."

        But the best part of the story is that, ten years later, everybody was invited back for another party to celebrate this disaster. They watched the whole thing on three TV sets-the MOTB had had three video cameras going at once during the wedding. And this party was thrown by the Mother of the Bride herself.

        How could all these people rejoice when everything had gone wrong? Because, in spite of all the mess, the bride still got the groom. At the end of the day, that was all that mattered. The bride got the groom. It was a Dee Dah Day. -- John Ortberg
        • What are some of the unchangeable and eternal joy-gifts God has given you that no one can ever take away?
        • How can these be a regular source of joy . . . even when times are tough?

      Next in series: "A 'Dee Dah Day'" Pt. 2
      Index to Series

      Read more!

      Monday, November 13, 2006

      Science, Reason, and Faith

      [Crossposted from Street Prophets]

      Simplicio's position that "Religions Don't Deserve Special Treatment" doesn't get much of a rise out of me: Christians are "privileged" in this country in that they are not threatened with death for being Christians, or a type of Christian, as we have for the vast majority of our history in a vast majority of the world. Perhaps if we lost some of that privilege we might rely on God more and ourselves less - and our faith would glorify and honor God (as it should do) more.

      Matthew Krell did a great job addressing the political and legal issues of maintaining the separation of church and state in a country peopled, in super-majority fashion, by followers of Christ - here and here. To simplify one of Matthew's argument: don't poke sticks into hornet's nests (sorry Matt, you are way too erudite to say that).

      Finally, my fellow SPer's of all faiths, particularly PastorDan did an admirable job of handling the arrogance of the "materialists are rational, the religious are not" arguments intrinsic in the Simplicio's diary. I will also question the reason of the "rationalists" (used in the same form as "Christianist") and pointed specifically at believers in Scientism (or here). Most of the atheists and agnostics, and most of us of faith, on the Street show Boreas' understanding of being worthy of respect.


      Regretfully, there are extremes on both ends that do not. One of those extremes is that of Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins who have decided that they too are going to derive meaning about the universe - from science's recording of observations and its theories to explain those observations. Of course, real scientists do not dip into "meaning" - and Harris/Dawkins and some ID scientists have crossed out of being scientists and become religious in their view: they are attempting to find the meaning behind the facts of the universe. I do too, but I do not use science to do that; and they think only science can do that:
      . . .very roughly, two views have been held. First, there is what is called the materialist view. People who take that view think that matter and space just happen to exist, and always have existed, nobody knows why; and that the matter, behaving in certain fixed ways, has just happened, by a sort of fluke, to produce creatures like ourselves who are able to think . . . The other view is the religious view. According to it, what is behind the universe is more like a mind than it is like anything else we know . . . You cannot find out which view is the right one by science in the ordinary sense . . . Every scientific statement in the long run, however complicated it looks, really means something like, 'I pointed the telescope to such and such a part of the sky at 2:20 a.m. on January 15th and saw so and-so,' or, 'I put some of this stuff in a pot and heated it to such -and such a temperature and it did so-and-so.' . . . But why anything comes to be there at all, and whether there is anything behind the things science observes--something of a different kind-this is not a scientific question. If there is 'Something Behind,' then either it will have to remain altogether unknown to men or else make itself known in some different way. The statement that there is any such thing, and the statement that there is no such thing, are neither of them statements that science can make. And real scientists do not usually make them. It is usually the journalists and popular novelists who have picked up a few odds and ends of half-baked science from textbooks who go in for them. After all, it is really a matter of common sense. Supposing science ever became complete so that it knew every single thing in the whole universe. Is it not plain that the questions, 'Why is there a universe?' 'Why does it go on as it does?' 'Has it any meaning?' would remain just as they were? . . . Since that power, if it exists, would be not one of the observed facts but a reality which makes them, no mere observation of the facts can find it . . . If there was a controlling power outside the universe, it could not show itself to us as one of the facts inside the universe--no more than the architect of a house could actually be a wall or staircase or fireplace in that house. -- C.S. Lewis, "What Lies Behind the Law", Mere Christianity [this is, of course, part of his argument about one of those ways God shows himself by other means than scientific]
      Simplicio's diary is, in part, an apologetic for the evangelical atheism, and scientism, of Harris and Dawkins; and he is shocked that we do not understand that science has indeed defined the "meaning" in the universe and there is none - just our "selfish genes".

      More importantly, as Simplicio said here, Harris thinks they can force the faithful back into their holes and cover them up by use of "conversational intolerance" - what a lovely term. Certainly, you can see this intolerance anytime you read Dawkins or Harris on people of faith; and their attempt to push people out of the conversation by their insults and demagoguery. Most attempts I have seen at achieving the "conversational intolerance" of people of faith amounts to attacks on person rather than a reasoned argument; but people of any faith should be prepared to have a reasoned argument.

      Before leaving science's ability to prove or disprove things, I want to say that some of what Simplicio posted as scientific fact isn't even accepted by the scientific community as fact - or even really as an adequate theory that explains the facts. For instance, no one really knows the chemical conditions of the "primordial ooze" that abiogenesis supposedly took place in - it is becoming clearer that the earth had far more oxygen and far less nitrogen than was originally thought (that is not good for abiogenesis). No one can explain (and there are multiple theories equally called science) about how amino acids formed, then chained up to produce useful proteins, and especially how those huge (and essential for evolution) molecules like DNA and RNA formed; and then developed cellular structure - all within about 170 million years (even scientists agree that is not a lot of time for this process). Certainly no known evolutionary process or mechanism can explain how this occurred. He, however, religiously cited this as fact. Further, while random mutation and natural selection can be clearly seen driving variation within a species - no one has really shown either from the fossil record, or in an existing species, how a new, biologically distinct (unable to mate back to the precursor) species has arisen (especially in higher level animals), or by what process: right now science isn't even sure what the precursor of homo sapiens is, much less been able to track us back to the primordial ooze. They have a few planks to remove from their eyes before they worry about anyone else's splinters; because the statements like "we do not know now but we will" are faith statements. They may never know; and in fact, for events that are singular and not processes (like abiogenesis and new species formation) they will never know because they will never have the ability to observe these events as they already unfolded.

      Finally, the closest I can come to proving the existence of God is by the statements of His Son; and then Jesus' proof of those statements by the resurrection - walking around on the earth for 40 days after being killed and buried is a bit unusual. All empirical data - 500+ eyewitnesses, inability of the Romans and Jews to produce a body, the secondary literary proofs - all support the resurrection account. However, adherants of scientism attempt to ignore the empirical evidence by methods that are feeble at best - certainly not capable of achieving "conversational intolerance" with anyone with any support for their beliefs at all.


      Now, it is clear to at least 85% of the world's population that science cannot prove, or disprove, the existence of God - and never will. However, other than saying we must prove God exists empirically (which is impossible and always will be), we were also said to be irrational - lacking reason. Unless you believe in scientism, you also realize that reason and science are also two different things. So, despite my admitted understanding that I believe in something that cannot be proven empirically, are there reasonable and rational arguments for the existence of God? Sure there are:

      Experience and Observation:

      I was an near-atheist, certainly the hardest of agnostics, and then came back to Christ. Some insight into that can be seen in my testimony; but the point here is that I experienced God. Period. I was not argued into being a Christian; and I cannot be argued out - because I know because I experienced Him. Rationalists will say that anecdote is not data, but that is nonsense really. Enough anecdotes is indeed exactly data; and what scientists do is observe as many anecdotes of a process as they can in order to generalize from the specific (the anecdote) and arrive at a general explanation of the phenomena they have observed. So, the experience of 85% of the people on the planet that "something" underlies physical reality that is supernatural is indeed data - and worthy of respect. Scientism tries to isolate us as individuals of faith and convince us our personal experiences are unreliable and unprovable. That is, BTW, fully opposed to the scientific method.

      There is a reason that 85% of the US, and an equally vast majority of the world, believe in some form of God or spirituality. Paul said:
      Romans 1:19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. 21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. [Paul would have to add "Science" to the list of idols today]
      Observationally, God is evident both within us and in His creation; and 85% of the planet who are not "fools professing to be wise" feel that and see that.

      However, that too is really an attack against person - it is not nice to tell a blind man that he just doesn't get it because he can not see what is visually clear to everyone else. Perhaps, there is some metaphysical sense organ that allows the 85% to "see" more of reality than the poor 15% who cannot. You would hope the 15% who are blind would not be so arrogant as to challenge the 85% to prove that vision existed - but Harris, Dawkins, and Co. are exactly that arrogant; and we should be able to deal with their "reasonable" arguments against the existence of God - since they have only their intellect, and spiritual blindness, to operate with.

      Philosophical Plausibility:
      I can certainly provide rational arguments for God's existence -- whether they are convincing on an individual level is another matter. I've come to realize that the problem lies not with the arguments but with the nature of belief itself. Belief in God, like almost all beliefs, can be rationally avoided. Skeptics can always find reasons, however implausible they might be, for refusing to concede that God exists.

      Are we to conclude that theological arguments are therefore useless? Certainly not. For while they will not convince those whose passions rule their reason and prevent them from facing the truth, such arguments can be useful for shoring up a culture's plausibility structures.

      Everything that we believe is filtered through our plausibility structures: belief-forming apparatus that acts as a gatekeeper, letting in evidence that is matched against what we already consider to be possible. For example, if I were to find a box of cookies in my kitchen cabinet I would assume that my wife had bought them at the store and placed them there herself. If someone were to argue that tree-dwelling elves baked the cookies, packaged them for their corporate employer, and stashed them in my pantry, I would have a difficult time believing their claim; the existence of unionized tree-dwelling elves is simply not a part of my plausibility structure.

      Plausibility structures can prevent us from forming beliefs that are inconsistent with experience and evidence. But they can also have a negative impact, preventing us from forming true beliefs about reality. This appears to be the case within a broad segment of modern science. By accepting a plausibility structure that is limited to purely naturalistic explanations, many in the scientific community have imposed self-limiting and irrational criteria for explaining reality. The same is true for the small segment of atheists who truly believe that it is implausible that God exists.

      . . .

      It is this implausibility that needs to be continuously pointed out and brought into the open. Theological arguments aid in this effort by pointing out that belief in the existence of God is more probable, more plausible, more reasonable, and more rational than its denial. While we should be respectful of individuals who adhere to skepticism or atheism [no creation of "conversational intolerance" allowed to me], when these beliefs are brought to the public square their mystical and improbably assumption should receive the utmost scrutiny.

      The use of these arguments does not require that Christians become full-time apologists. All that is required is a basic knowledge of their structure and an understanding of their strengths and weaknesses. Whether they are directly useful in leading unbelievers to Christ, they can be indirectly useful in reshaping the plausibility structures of our culture.

      As I add posts to this series I'll include them under the following categories:
      • Cosmological Arguments -- A general pattern of argumentation that makes an inference from certain alleged facts about the world (cosmos) to the existence of a unique being, generally referred to as God.

      • Ontological Arguments -- Ontological arguments are arguments, for the conclusion that God exists, from premises which are supposed to derive from some source other than observation of the world ? e.g., from reason alone. [Alvin Plantinga is a Catholic philosopher, and one of the best around. You can check out a bunch of his stuff at the Virtual Library of Christian Philosophy here; his Wiki article; and his home page at Notre Dame

      • Teleological Arguments -- theistic arguments which share a focus on plan, purpose, intention and design. [The closest to a scientific argument for the existence of God is here: fine-tuning]

      • Moral Arguments -- theistic arguments that include or rely on a moral component. [This is where C.S. Lewis's argument from the first five chapters of Mere Christianity would fall]
      Joe Carter: "Dismantling Implausibility Structures: The Uses of Theistic Arguments"

      Anti-Intellectualism and Christianity

      Up to now I really haven't been focusing on Christianity - but faith and belief in God and the supernatural in general. Now I am going to say something about followers of Christ and faith. As I quoted my ex-pastor in "Loving God with All Your Mind":
      We live in a culture that is very opposed to critical thinking. By critical thinking, Carl means carefully examining something to see if it is true or not. We are so bombarded with lies that (since we have lived in a culture where we are told we determine what is true) now people no longer know how to think very well. That should not be true of followers of Jesus Christ. We should be leading the way in the right use of the mind.

      Some Christians in America have also become anti-intellectual. They will say things like:
      • "Do not try to understand this with your mind - just believe"; or
      • "Faith is not really a reasonable thing"; or
      • "Faith is not intended to be logical"; or
      • "Faith is a leap in the dark".
      • "God's thoughts are above our thoughts".
      What do all these mean? Does that mean God is not logical? That His logic is different from ours? That He would say 2+2=15; but we cannot understand that so we just have to believe? If you hear something like that you should hear a large warning horn going off somewhere - these things are not true.

      The message of God - the Bible, the Cross, the blood of Christ, salvation - is logical. It is reasonable. It is coherent. It is consistent. It is sound. It is true. It is not true because someone says it is; or because you believe it - it is true because it is real. There is such a thing as an absolute objective reality. God has said He wants you to know; and He has given you a mind with which to understand the truth. Our faith is not based upon a leap in the dark - it is based on eyewitness testimony. Our faith is a reasonable, logical, coherent, consistent system of truth that is understandable.
      You can certainly see how the list above would play into the hands of those like Harris and Dawkins. If you wish to be bashed about by the "conversational intolerance" of these blind men you are certainly welcome - I am not up for that. However, we are told in scripture to:
      1 Peter 3:15 but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope [elpiß -- "joyful and confident expectation of eternal salvation"] that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence
      Not much room there to allow yourself to be isolated by "conversational intolerance"

      Read more!

      Tuesday, November 07, 2006

      A Sex Addict's View of Haggard's Fall

      If Ted Haggard was in my FMO group and he had given this statement to us to explain why he committed adultery with a male prostitute - what would be my reaction? How do I view his statement as a sexual addict?

      First, he would have to be in our group. Some polls have shown that up to 64% of Christian men, pastors included, "struggle with sexual addiction or sexual compulsion including, but not limited to use of pornography, compulsive masturbation, or other secret sexual activity". He would perhaps have taken the test; found out he wasn't doing well; and contacted a group in Colorado Springs; or wherever he was in the US.

      Next, we have group guidelines I have to follow (and which are right anyway) which are going to limit how I, and the group, will react [Hopefully :-)].

      • Self-Focus: We are here to work on ourselves, not on others. We share our own experience, insights and feelings.
      • Respect of Others: We do not advise, analyze or try to "fix" others. Each of us is free to find our own answers.
      • Listen: We avoid cross-talk and give each person who shares our undivided attention without offering unsolicited advice.
      • Let God Work: We do not preach at members of this group.
      So, brother Ted gets busted and comes to us and says:
      I am so sorry. I am sorry for the disappointment, the betrayal, and the hurt. I am sorry for the horrible example I have set for you.

      I have an overwhelming, all-consuming sadness in my heart for the pain that you and I and my family have experienced over the past few days. I am so sorry for the circumstances that have caused shame and embarrassment to all of you.

      I asked that this note be read to you this morning so I could clarify my heart's condition to you. The last four days have been so difficult for me, my family and all of you, and I have further confused the situation with some of the things I've said during interviews with reporters who would catch me coming or going from my home. But I alone am responsible for the confusion caused by my inconsistent statements. The fact is, I am guilty of sexual immorality, and I take responsibility for the entire problem.

      Whew, finally. (Sorry brother Ted - what are those guidelines above?) Shame and guilt are a horrible, horrible cycle that leads us to medicate ourselves - usually with same actions we feel shame and guilt over. That is why addictive cycles are cycles and addictive. Feeling sorry is certainly one of the first emotions, but one of the least productive. Now, we get to his taking responsibility; even though he has made excuses for his deceptions and half-truths as the four days progressed. That is understandable though, his entire life has just come apart.
      I am a deceiver and a liar. There is a part of my life that is so repulsive and dark . . .
      Sigh. The problem with being repulsed by the darkness inside us is that we stay away from it instead of shining a light on it and examining it. We all have darkness inside of us; all have parts of us that repulse us; and we gain healing, in part, by holding those parts out in God's light and not allowing them to stay in some dark place and fester.
      . . . that I've been warring against it all of my adult life For extended periods of time, I would enjoy victory and rejoice in freedom . . .
      I destroyed my first marriage by adultery with prostitutes - although I "gained victory" over this, and stopped the behavior, about 6 months before the behavior was discovered by my wife because of some leftover evidence.

      I continued my seeking after sexual gratification separate from intimacy between leaving my first wife and meeting my second. God did a wonderful miracle in my life on the meeting of my wife; and for 14 years I did not struggle with finding other women attractive, a desire for topless bars or erotic massage, or indeed for other women at all. No pornography. A "victory" given me, in an instant, by God's grace alone.

      During that 14 years I became a Christian, and I strived to be a good husband and eventually a good father. Four years ago, we got the internet in our home and I casually decided to see what kind of sexual stuff was available - a month later I, with the help of God, turned away from it. I too thought I had experienced "victory" - again.

      Then, my wife left me two years ago for reasons not connected to my sexual sin - although my "outing" myself a year after the fact about the internet pornography was a significant part of her pain; and my seeking help a major part of her demands. During the period she was gone, sexual sin exploded in my life: I wallowed in internet pornography; and ran up huge cable bills watching porno on TV. Again, I gained "victory" and got this "under control" with God's help. I joined FMO to appease my wife and prove I "was working on my problems" so we could restore our marriage. I really thought it was "much ado about nothing" - I had, after all, had "victory" through God's strength. Victory (temporary), but not healing [see James passage below]

      I now view this as a monster living in a closet in my attic; and that my victories amount to stuffing him back in that closet and getting the door closed again. I have never killed it or cleaned that closet out - and as long as it lives it will gain strength. Ted had the same problem:

      Then, from time to time, the dirt that I thought was gone would resurface and I would find myself thinking thoughts and experiencing desires that were contrary to everything I believe and teach.
      This is normal. Certainly, as a Pastor in an evangelical, bible-teaching church he understands the depravity of the flesh - so well described by Paul
      For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.
      How often did Ted preach on this passage in his life?
      Through the years, I've sought assistance in a variety of ways, with none of them proving to be effective in me.
      This I have heard a lot. Some people struggle in this area and never get victory. Paul talked about "his thorn" and God's refusal to remove it from him in order to keep him from spiritual pride:
      2 Corinthians 12:5 . . .on my own behalf I will not boast, except in regard to my weaknesses. 6 For if I do wish to boast I will not be foolish, for I will be speaking the truth; but I refrain from this, so that no one will credit me with more than he sees in me or hears from me. 7 Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me--to keep me from exalting myself! 8 Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. 9 And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10 Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.
      Apparently, the point of this passage was missed by Ted as well - leading to the problem Paul cites:
      Then, because of pride, I began deceiving those I love the most because I didn't want to hurt or disappoint them. The public person I was wasn't a lie; it was just incomplete. When I stopped communicating about my problems, the darkness increased and finally dominated me. As a result, I did things that were contrary to everything I believe.
      Now, of course, my little scenario falls apart. Ted isn't in my group - he is one of those men who fell away to deal with their "darkness" on their own.

      Anyone in any addiction program understands this. He did not have success in the programs, which caused more shame, so he attempted to "fight it on his own"; or perhaps he thought "I'm Ok really" and could handle it himself. I think he misses another point here - this is something in which he needed on-going accountability; and that could not be his wife - because we all desire to not hurt our spouses and cause them pain (that is a good thing BTW - our wives do not need "all the details" but we need to confess them to someone). Sexual sin is extremely humiliating and painful to our wives; and only by working on it for years can we get to the point that our honesty about our sexual sin will not be painful to them. In the meantime, you must have other men who know how you feel and suffer through what you suffer through to talk to and hold you accountable. Why? God is willing to forgive if we ask:

      1 John 1:8 If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.
      but healing comes by a different process:
      James 5:16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.
      And, of course, the darkness will increase and dominate you if you do not continue to act:
      With sexual impurity, many times there are no visible consequences for years. However, we cannot escape the fact that we will reap what we sow. Inappropriate sexual behavior that is stimulating or pleasurable now [even just in your thought life], may cause you a great deal of pain later.

      What are the consequences if you continue your behavior?

      • Loss of self-respect - feelings of shame and the need to conceal your behavior
      • Lack of relational intimacy - until you start living with integrity you may not know how differently your relationships and attitudes can look
      • Lack of satisfaction in your current relationships
      • You may lose your wife, fiancée or girlfriend
      • A destructive legacy for your children
      If you progress you could:
      • Lose your job
      • Get arrested
      • Lose your reputation
      Most of this probably happened to Ted as he spiraled down to the final train wreck..
      The accusations that have been leveled against me are not all true, but enough of them are true that I have been appropriately and lovingly removed from ministry. Our church's overseers have required me to submit to the oversight of Dr. James Dobson, Pastor Jack Hayford, and Pastor Tommy Barnett. Those men will perform a thorough analysis of my mental, spiritual, emotional, and physical life. They will guide me through a program with the goal of healing and restoration for my life, my marriage, and my family.
      Just a bit more denial there, but that will be going away as well. The program Ted needs is weekly, if not daily, accountability with men who have experienced the same issues. I do not know Dobson's, Hayford's (although he wrote the introduction to Pure Desire - the book my FMO group is working through now), or Barnett's history. I also know such a "thorough analysis" is an on-going, lifetime process that is not going to be handed to Ted on a plate by anybody.
      I created this entire situation. The things that I did opened the door for additional allegations . But I am responsible; I alone need to be disciplined and corrected. An example must be set.
      This bothers me - a lot. This is his shame and guilt desiring to be punished. No, brother Ted: I desire your healing and the restoration of a loving, unlimited relationship with Gayle that can glorify God - assuming she can reach into God's power and give you his grace and mercy and forgive you. If she divorces you, which you deserve, I hope to help you heal and re-build a life based on an honest examination of your self. I do not need to see you "punished" because that may make you think the problem has reached closure.

      Also, he didnt "create the whole situation" - it is far more complicated than that; and he is striving here to again pretend he is in control
      It is important that you know how much I love and appreciate my wife, Gayle. What I did should never reflect in a negative way on her relationship with me. She has been and continues to be incredible. The problem is not with her, my children or any of you. It was created 100 percent by me.

      I have been permanently removed from the office of Senior Pastor of New Life Church. Until a new senior pastor is chosen, our Associate Senior Pastor Ross Parsley will assume all of the the responsibilities of the office. On the day he accepted this new role, he and his wife, Aimee, had a new baby boy. A new life in the midst of this circumstance - I consider the confluence of events to be prophetic. Please commit to join with Pastor Ross and the others in church leadership to make their service to you easy and without burden. They are fine leaders. You are blessed.

      I appreciate your loving and forgiving nature, and I humbly ask you to do a few things.

      1. Please stay faithful to God through service and giving.

      2. Please forgive me. I am so embarrassed and ashamed. I caused this and I have no excuse. I am a sinner. I have fallen. I desperately need to be forgiven and healed.

      3. Please forgive my accuser. He is revealing the deception and sensuality that was in my life. Those sins, and others, need to be dealt with harshly. So, forgive him and, actually, thank God for him. I am trusting that his action will make me, my wife and family, and ultimately all of you, stronger. He didn't violate you; I did.

      4. Please stay faithful to each other. Perform your functions well. Encourage each other and rejoice in God's faithfulness. Our church body is a beautiful body, and like every family, our strength is tested and proven in the midst of adversity. Because of the negative publicity I've created with my foolishness, we can now demonstrate to the world how our sick and wounded can be healed, and how even disappointed and betrayed church bodies can prosper and rejoice.

      Gayle and I need to be gone for a while. We will never return to a leadership role at New Life Church. In our hearts, we will always be members of this body. We love you as our family. I know this situation will put you to the test. I'm sorry I've created the test, but please rise to this challenge and demonstate the incredible grace that is available to all of us.

      There is not much I can say here. He needs to get beyond the shame he expresses in #2 - again, guilt and shame are useless and destructive emotions. Other than that, I hope he finds God's healing and peace.

      Read more!

      I Decided to Start With Marriage

      I decided to start with marriage: mainly because the overriding theme of Ted Haggard's "fall" - or perhaps his rise - is his adultery; and not who he was adulterous with. A complicating factor is the question of whether he married against his basic nature as a homosexual and therefore his vows were dishonest and void. Or, if they were not void - they were doomed to failure because he was in denial and self-loathing.

      This is about marriage between followers of Christ - well, at least mostly. There are variations cited in scripture even for Christians married to non-Christians; and everything assumed the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

      There are some passages of scripture that are "fundamental" to my understanding of marriage; and that the Holy Spirit has confirmed again and again in my life as true. Let's start with:

      Genesis 2:23 The man said, "This is now bone of my bones, And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man." 24 For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. 25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.
      While I may not personally agree, for the sake of this discussion I have no problem
      • with those who want to believe that the gender definitions in all of this are fluid.
      • if you want to include same-sex marriage in God's definition of one-flesh relationships.
      However, I have a problem if you are not willing to "pay the price" the next pieces of scripture imply.

      I have direct experience with my wife and I being "one flesh" - this is not about sex (although I believe the sex act creates a marriage - and not the church or society). My wife is "bone of my bones; and flesh of my flesh". We are one entity with two personalities - like Christ and God; and in our unity with God through the Holy Spirit that indwells us both - we form a type of the Trinity that represents the nature of God to the world. Marriage is God's institution for displaying His nature to the world. Of course, we humans succeed in blurring the image we are to present quite nicely and almost always.

      Jesus and Paul both branched off the Genesis verse. First, of course,

      Mark reports (probably from Peter):
      Mark 10:4 They said, "Moses permitted a man TO WRITE A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE AND SEND her AWAY." 5 But Jesus said to them, "Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. 6 "But from the beginning of creation, God MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE. 7 "FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER, 8 AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH; so they are no longer two, but one flesh. 9 "What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate." 10 In the house the disciples began questioning Him about this again. 11 And He said to them, "Whoever divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her; 12 and if she herself divorces her husband and marries another man, she is committing adultery."
      and Matthew gives "the rest of the story":
      Matthew 19:10 The disciples said to Him, "If the relationship of the man with his wife is like this, it is better not to marry." 11 But He said to them, "Not all men can accept this statement, but only those to whom it has been given. 12 "For there are eunuchs who were born that way from their mother's womb; and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men; and there are also eunuchs who made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to accept this, let him accept it."
      What does this say for Ted Haggard's choices? Or mine? Or yours if you are married? By using the word eunuch, isn't Christ saying that if you are not willing to be married, and married "for life", that you should avoid sex period?

      Jesus talked about adultery earlier during the Sermon on the Mount; and made it clear, as usual, that it is our heart - and not our actions - that matter:
      Matthew 5:27 "You have heard that it was said, `YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY'; 28 but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 "If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 "If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell. 31 "It was said, `WHOEVER SENDS HIS WIFE AWAY, LET HIM GIVE HER A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE'; 32 but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
      and immediately goes to the heart of what an oath must be:
      33 "Again, you have heard that the ancients were told, `YOU SHALL NOT MAKE FALSE VOWS, BUT SHALL FULFILL YOUR VOWS TO THE LORD.' 34 "But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is THE CITY OF THE GREAT KING. 36 "Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 "But let your statement be, `Yes, yes' or `No, no'; anything beyond these is of evil.


      Paul cranks "one flesh" up another notch or two - but of course he was writing after the Pentecost so that makes sense. Does our intent matter when we enter marriage - a "one flesh" relationship? Paul was obviously dealing with a Corinthian church in crisis on a lot of levels; including sexually. In his letters to the Corinthians, he corrects them about prostitution and marriage; and points out a deep spiritual reason to "flee immorality":
      1 Corinthians 6:13 . . . Yet the body is not for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord is for the body. 14 Now God has not only raised the Lord, but will also raise us up through His power. 15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take away the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? May it never be! 16 Or do you not know that the one who joins himself to a prostitute is one body with her? For He says, "THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH." 17 But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him. 18 Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? 20 For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.
      Imagine God, Christ, and/or the Holy Spirit as a direct participant in your every sexual acts once you have been indwelt - that should give you some pause; and imagine marriage as initiated by the sex act itself - even with a prostitute. [For those interested in what became of the Corinthians after these two letters - see Clement of Rome's letter to the Corinthians. This, incidentally, was close to acceptance into the Canon]

      One last point, which is derived from this one flesh relationship:
      1 Corinthians 7:1 Now concerning the things about which you wrote, it is good for a man not to touch a woman. 2 But because of immoralities, each man is to have his own wife, and each woman is to have her own husband. 3 The husband must fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband. 4 The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. 5 Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. 6 But this I say by way of concession, not of command. 7 Yet I wish that all men were even as I myself am. However, each man has his own gift from God, one in this manner, and another in that. 8 But I say to the unmarried and to widows that it is good for them if they remain even as I. 9 But if they do not have self-control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn with passion. 10 But to the married I give instructions, not I, but the Lord, that the wife should not leave her husband 11 (but if she does leave, she must remain unmarried, or else be reconciled to her husband), and that the husband should not divorce his wife.
      The idea that our sexual life is under the authority of our spouse, whether we are the husband or the wife, is of course a radical concept - which has never been practiced by all believers and may never be. As much as folks want to separate Paul's teaching from Christ's, the theme of Paul's presentation here is clearly present in and derived from the teachings of Christ.

      Of course, that is all really hard teaching which humans care to ignore - because it's hard: "Moses" still allows us to divorce because our "heart is hard". There is some teaching on what I, as a husband, need to do in order to make this work. Maybe that will help:
      Ephesians 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, 26 so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. 28 So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; 29 for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, 30 because we are members of His body. 31 FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND SHALL BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH. 32 This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself [see also: "The Submission of the Christian Husband"]
      Nope, no out there for myself or Ted.


      Regardless of Ted Haggard's "orientation", and his honesty about that with his wife, when he got married, he was "in for the duration" and obligated to take "every thought captive" for Christ. There is no excuse for adultery; and if he is divorced he should be celibate for life unless he is reconciled to his wife: he should become a eunuch for the Kingdom of God.

      I am as hypocritical compared to this standard as Ted Haggard is: I am teaching this is true while not living up to it - even today. If we are all honest, we all would be hypocritical to this standard (as Christ loved us?) unless we delete part of the standard to save our hypocrisy. Luckily, while we are called to strive for holiness (and are responsible for "every thought and deed" in that), we can rest in the love and mercy of Christ when we fall short. Which, of course, we all will.

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