Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Our roles as woman in the faith part 2: Be discerning about mommy bloggers. For example, Glennon Melton is not a Christian

This is a three part series about women in the faith. In part 1 I showed from scripture that women have particular vulnerabilities to satan. We looked at what those are and how to avoid being used by satan to bring shame on the family and slander to the faith.

In this second part I'm looking at where the modern woman is doing her dark work against Jesus: it's not just inside the church anymore. Mommy bloggers and online amateur theologians have grown to be an enormous network outside the church and thus often operate outside their husband's watchful eye and usually outside their pastor's eye. Much mischief happens on mommy blogs and amateur online theologian platforms and satan uses these to filter back to the church, to our detriment. I myself am in the amateur online theologian category so definitely don't take what I write at face value but test it.

Third, I'll look at the most famous female false prophet, heretic, and worker of iniquity today: Joyce Meyer. Meyer is representative of the female false teacher doing very much harm to the women of the church. Under her umbrella are women like Beth Moore, Anne Voskamp, Kim Walker Smith, and other newcomers who are spiritual daughters of Meyer and Moore and are being used by satan in exploitation of the particular vulnerabilities I showed in part 1.

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As women, we are vulnerable to satan in specific ways. As I related in part 1, satan is crafty and he has a plan. He targets women. Satan doesn't only target women, but he targets women because we are the weaker vessel. (1 Peter 3:7). The serpent deceived the woman, Eve.

and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. (1 Timothy 2:14)

"But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent's cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ." (2 Corinthians 11:3)

In part 1 we looked at the specific times in the bible that women either individually or in groups were chastised by either one of the Apostles or by Jesus. In general, the men or groups of men in the bible who were rebuked were false believers. In contrast, the female groups or individual women who were chastised were believers.

The issues with the women were that they become loaded down with sins and are vulnerable to flattering false teachers who come near to them, or as widows either old or young they tend toward slander, gossip, and idleness. Much mischief can happen in these cases. In part 1 I provided a list of the scriptural remedies for resisting satan's deceit.

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Because women are vulnerable in specific ways to satan's deceits, women are not allowed to lead, rule, or prophesy during church services. This may seem harsh, or seem outdated, but it is scriptural. God knows what He is doing. Jesus is building His church, and He knows the proclivities of human nature. He knows satan. He set up the church so that women would be submissive to husbands, just as husbands are to be submissive to Jesus, who is Head over all. Children are to obey their parents.

Women do have roles to play. Phillip had four prophesying daughters. Priscilla taught along with her husband. Tabitha helped the widows. Lydia opened her home and supported the men of the church with means and encouragement.

But the proclivities I mentioned are in us, as God said to Eve after the Fall. He took what happened in the Garden and extended it to a semi-permanent condition (semi-permanent because once we're glorified we will be free from the Genesis 3 curse).

"Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you." (Genesis 3:16)

As Matthew Henry's Exposition states,

"If man had not sinned, he would always have ruled with wisdom and love; if the woman had not sinned, she would always have obeyed with humility and meekness. Adam laid the blame on his wife; but though it was her fault to persuade him to eat the forbidden fruit, it was his fault to hearken to her."

So there will be this constant chafing of the woman to rule over her husband, to enter into his domain, to strive against his headship. This does not happen in only man-woman marriages but also in THE marriage, the church.

And outside the church, too...as in blogs, other social media, books, and television. Women ponder, write, speak, interpret, prophesy, and do all sorts of theological things, mostly away from the eyes of their husbands, pastors, or other accountability. I'm not talking about good interpretation, solid ponderings, and appropriate use of scripture, but women who twist scripture and shape Jesus into a god of their own making. One who is comfortable, where sin is just a mistake and being gay is OK. Where experience is equal to or trumps scripture, and where everyone goes to heaven and no one goes to hell, because that would be just so mean.

I'm talking about women like mommy blogger Glennon Doyle Melton, a HUGELY influential blogger and someone who claims to be a Christian but is far from Jesus as the east is from the west. Her blog is called Momastery.com, and she receives over 70,000 views per day. It's important to remember that she dispenses both parenting advice and advice regarding the Christian faith, Jesus and the bible. She is a phenomenon, which occurred after one particular blog post went viral and the publishers lined up to make a book out of her blog, which has been called "classic Glennon: self-deprecating, sardonic, mildly insane, major-league wit." She is a recovering bulimic, alcoholic, has rage issues because of which she has earned a permanent police record, was pregnant and had to get married, and refuses to live quietly but believes instead that the "authentic life" is one "lived out loud."

To that end, Melton spills everything on her blog, despite the fact that "her parents and husband sometimes plead that she should take a few things to the grave, Melton rejects self-censorship. She believes that sharing everything — the ugliness, hole-iness and messiness of our lives — is the way to forge relationships dense with meaning." (source)

No. No, it's not. The bible calls women to live quietly (1 Thessalonians 4:11, 1 Peter 3:4)  Characteristics of a meek and quiet spirit as posted on the Revive Our Hearts blog and adapted from Matthew Henry, "Meekness is calm confidence, settled assurance, and rest of the soul. It is the tranquil stillness of a heart that is at rest in Christ. It is the place of peace. Meekness springs from a heart of humility, radiating the fragrance of Christ."

Yet Melton writes,

"Sex is really, really freaking confusing. No one talks about this, which is a shame. I’ve been married for eleven years and my husband and I are still trying to figure out how to make sex enjoyable for both of us."

This is not meekness. This is not humility. This is 'look at me, how authentic I can be, and so what if it freaks out my husband' (who Melton was secretly separated from before she confessed to her readers. Some authenticity.) And we are supposed to use her as a model of a good, Christian wife? Or even a good wife? No thanks. Or this statement from Melton,

"Marriage is still the best chance we have to become evolved, loving people."

And yet after her separation from her husband, she wrote that separating from him made her into a more well-rounded person. Which is it?

Isn't the Holy Spirit in us really the best and only chance we have to become evolved loving people? And what about the never-married or the widowed? They can never evolve? Or do you have to be married then separated then reconcile to be well-rounded. Advice from a non-Christian person, no matter how funny and witty and 'been through it all' attitude they have, will never make sense. No thanks, I'll take my advice from someone who is really a Christian and even better, from the bible.

Do you think that Apostle Paul would have commended Melton as Paul commended Timothy's mother Eunice and grandmother Lois for being Christian women of great faith, raising Timothy so well that Paul reminded Timothy of where he learned it? Or have commended her like he did Lydia, who, despite being a busy businesswoman of means, independent and intelligent, worshipped God, and was baptized after God opened her heart. She hosted Paul in her home and was always hospitable, even after Paul and Silas were released from prison. Can we picture gracious and hospitable, faith filled and dignified yet independent Lydia loudly spilling her guts to the world about her sex life? Never let it be so!

The problem is, her followers see Melton as a Christian, they believe she speaks for Christians and they avidly follow her (they even dub themselves her 'monkees.') I was not aware of Melton until a reader alerted me to her. In reading one of her posts, I saw the following and began to mourn the misplaced faith and perverted view she has of Jesus. And yet most who follow her see her as a true Christian. How warped. Read this. It is from Melton, in composing a hypothetical open letter to a hypothetical son who is hypothetically homosexual. What would we say to him if he came out to us, she wondered. Here is what she wrote.

"We've worried that since we are Christians, and since we love The Bible so much, that there might come a day when you feel unclear about our feelings about this. Because there are a few parts in The Bible that discuss homosexuality as a sin. So let us be clear about how we feel, because we have spent years of research and prayer and discussion deciding. Chase, we don't believe that homosexuality is a sin. Your parents are Christians who believe that the Bible is inspired by God, just like people are. And since the Bible is a living thing, it is in its very nature to evolve toward becoming more loving."

Significantly, you notice that Melton said they read the scriptures and decided. Not submitted. What they "decided" was to reject the word of God to suit their own personal tastes. And that is why she is not a Christian.

One does not have to read one moment more to understand that Glennon Doyle Melton's version of Christianity is nowhere near the faith delivered once for all to the saints. It is clear that she HATES the bible. A careful read of that paragraph will tell you that she said that God said homosexuality is a sin, but she decided that it's not. That she knows better because she can decide which parts to choose to obey and which parts not to. Because the bible is evolving, being alive and all, which obviously means that God is changing too, in order to keep up with the times and desires of Glennon Doyle Melton.

Anyone with an ounce of discernment knows that God never changes. His Holy Spirit inspired the word, and He never changes either. That God IS love and that He doesn't evolve to become more loving (which would mean He was less loving before. In fact, God is immutable). A discerning person would know that humans have no right to decide what is sin and what is not, especially since the bible lists them plainly. How wrong it is to compare people to the Holy Spirit. Glennon Doyle Melton in no way is Christian. Avoid her, sisters! The chuckles she evokes in you are not worth the blasphemies and the insinuation of satan's false doctrines into your heart!

She wrote that in the Huffington Post, to parents on a blog about bullying. You see how satan is using the woman to insinuate his blasphemy into the minds of the gullible via non-church avenues. Even 25 years ago, if a woman had said such a thing in church or in a bible study setting, she would have been corrected by a deacon, pastor, or elder woman. And there were no other outlets in which to speak blasphemies and perversions, unless she had a ditto machine and handed out pamphlets on the street corner.

But because social media is so prevalent and permeates everywhere now, and anyone can blog, and the men either don't or won't oversee what women write on them, women are saying these and other blasphemous things. Younger women are eating it up! And because Melton is witty, her false words go a long way. Because she resonates with mothers, she has an entry. And because she appeals to the rebellious side that is in all women who want to usurp male authority, (Genesis 3:16 again) the combination is too tempting not to absorb. A reviewer wrote on Melton's Amazon review page, “She easily expresses what so many of us think but would not dare say aloud.” There is good reason not to say some things aloud. Biblical reasons.

But the monkees spread Melton's seed of false doctrine and liberal post-modernism and a different Jesus of their own making everywhere they go. Just as Beth Moore's groupies do and Meyer's admirers do and so on as Revelation 2:23 shows, where there is a Jezebel there will be children of Jezebel. Melton is a problem of unparalleled proportions. You have no idea how popular Melton is. Unsupervised women spouting false Christianity are a problem, and undiscerning women lapping it up is even more of a problem. These are the times in which we live.

Godlessness in the Last Days : But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. (2 Timothy 3:1-7)

This has become long, and I don't want to prevail upon your patience for much longer. There are grave problems with women like Sarah Young of Jesus Calling, Rachel Held Evans whose 'Christianity' is similar to Melton's, of Joyce Meyer and other women who spout false doctrine. However, false teachers have always existed. But there's graver problems with the way so many choose to follow these women. Women more often gravitate to a female teacher who has overcome addiction or abuse or having been through some sort of trauma such as grief. Women tend to choose bible teachers based on an emotional quality of being able to identify with them through their personality or a shared trauma, rather than the doctrine the women are saying.

And secondly, often as they come to appreciate the qualities of the female teacher in their shared identification (Glennon Doyle Melton is 'authentic', Beth Moore is 'funny', Joyce Meyer is 'down to earth') discernment of WHAT they are saying passes away and they focus solely on HOW these teachers are saying it. When I wrote about Beth Moore's wild histrionics on stage and charged her with being undignified, I received more criticism for that than I did for my exploration of her illegitimate bible exposition. And that's sad.

Women have become so undiscerning, and the fault is not all theirs. Their men have abdicated their responsibility to share in the bible teaching of their wives, and to monitor who their wives are listening to (or reading, or writing).

Women, Sisters, choose a person to admire and learn from who speaks truth, not because you were both bulimic at one time. Your bulimia (or rage or alcohol addiction or nymphomania or molestation) will be wiped from your memory in heaven, but the truth never will be. Any shared feeling you think you have with these women is ephemeral, while the shared reality of a solidly built sisterhood in truth with Jesus will remain for all eternity. Choose wisely. Remember, satan wants to make merchandise out of you.

source
So who IS good to read or listen to?

I enjoy the following women bloggers. I also enjoy blogs from John MacArthur, Phil Johnson, Carl Trueman, Al Mohler, and Tim Challies. Please don't make a decision to read or not read a person based on their gender, but instead focus on the truth of their doctrine.

Aimee Byrd, Housewife Theologian

Nancy Guthrie

Challies interview of Nancy Guthrie

Erin Benziger, Do Not Be Surprised

The Christian Pundit, a husband and wife team who write alternatingly. Rebecca VanDoodewaard (RVD) is the wife and William VanDoodewaard (WVD) is the husband.


Monday, April 21, 2014

Our roles as woman in the faith: We are vulnerable to satan in specific ways. Part 1

This is a three part series about women in the faith. In this part I'll show from scripture that women have particular vulnerabilities to satan. We will look at what those are and how to avoid being used by satan to bring shame on the family and slander to the faith.

In the second part I'll look at where the modern woman is doing her dark work against Jesus: it's not just inside the church anymore. Mommy bloggers and online amateur theologians have grown to be an enormous network outside the church and thus often operate outside their husband's watchful eye and usually outside their pastor's eye. Much mischief happens on mommy blogs and amateur online theologian platforms and satan uses these to filter back to the church, to our detriment. I myself am in the amateur online theologian category so definitely don't take what I write at face value but test it.

Third, I'll look at the most famous female false prophet, heretic, and worker of iniquity today: Joyce Meyer. Meyer is representative of the female false teacher doing very much harm to the women of the church. Under her umbrella are women like Beth Moore, Anne Voskamp, Kim Walker Smith, and other newcomers who are spiritual daughters of Meyer and Moore and are being used by satan in exploitation of the particular vulnerabilities I will show in part 1.

Would they target a Christian book to men titled
"Eat the hot dog, buy the tie"? I think not
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In the bible there are groups of men listed and also individual men listed by name who were causing dissension or harm to the faith. Of the groups, Paul rebuked the Circumcision group (Galatians 2:11-14) and Jesus rebuked the Nicolaitans. (Revelation 2:6). Paul also names individual men who he rebuked or wrote about in a negative light,
  • Demas who left the faith, an apostate (2 Timothy 4:10).
  • Phygelus and Hermogenes who deserted Paul, apostates both. (2 Timothy 1:15).
  • Alexander the metalworker, he did Paul harm and opposed the message of Christ. (2 Timothy 4:14).
  • Hymenaeus and Philetus, irreverent babblers, leading people into ungodliness (2 Timothy 2:17, 1 Timothy 1:20).
  • Alexander made a shipwreck of his faith and handed over with Hymenaeus to satan to be taught not to blaspheme (1 Timothy 1:20). Unsure if this is the same Alexander as above or a different Alexander (a very common name then, as was Mary).
  • Diotrephes, rebuked by John, a man who "who likes to put himself first," "speaks wicked nonsense" and "does not recognize our authority" (3 John 1:10).
Not to be outdone, women are named too. Jesus names a group in Revelation 2:20, a false prophetess named 'Jezebel' and her followers. She is a false teacher whom Jesus said He will throw into a permanent sickbed in hell if she did not repent.

In 2 John 1:4-11, John gently corrects a specific but unnamed woman who needs to watch herself, to walk in love, and to refuse to receive false teachers into her house.

Albert Edelfelt (1854–1905) Women of Ruokolahti outside the Church
Another general group receiving a warning are Gossiping widows. They are a group named in a negative light. GotQuestions explains,
"Another group who were (and still are today) known for indulging in gossip is widows. Paul cautions widows against entertaining the habit of gossip and of being idle. These women are described as “gossips and busybodies, saying things they ought not to” (1 Timothy 5:12-13). Because women tend to spend a lot of time in each other's homes and work closely with other women, they hear and observe situations which can become distorted, especially when repeated over and over. Paul states that widows get into the habit of going from home to home, looking for something to occupy their idleness.
Younger widows also were mentioned in a mild rebuke because of their potential to give the adversary an occasion for slander. These women are loaded with passions and "some have already strayed after Satan." (1 Corinthians 7:9; 1 Timothy 5:14-15)

Women in general were told to remain silent in the churches, especially regarding tongues, interpretation of tongues, and prophesying. This is the section where Paul was rebuking the Corinthians for having disorderly services, and women were a large part of the reason the services had become chaotic. (1 Corinthians 14:34-35)

Women who were specifically named were Euodia and Syntyche (Philippians 4:2-3). These women were causing disunity due to their disagreement with each other. Paul asked his loyal yokefellow to help these woman agree in the Lord.

You notice that there is a general difference between the men listed and the women. The men were mostly false believers. They tended not to be in the body of Christ. You notice stern warnings of the men, who were all obvious heretics and shunned or told to be put out. (One exception is that Paul rebuked Peter and of course Peter was a true believer. Alternately Paul rebuked a demon possessed slave girl and of course who was a false professor of the faith).

The women who are mentioned, however, were mostly believers in the church. Their spiritual crime caused disruption, division, and chaos in church circles. Gossip, idleness, and easily being drawn into false teaching were the issues at play here.

"Galicnik Wedding by Marjan Lazarevski" A Macedonian bride. CC

Women are the weaker vessel. (1 Peter 3:7). Some women are weaker than others. (2 Timothy 3:6). Satan attacked the woman, Eve, first, didn't he? Genesis 3:1 says that satan was the craftiest creature in the garden. That means he didn't just come up with a spur of the moment plot and threw spaghetti at the wall to see what would happen as he chatted with Eve. Crafty means "clever at achieving one's aims by indirect or deceitful methods." Crafty means that Satan had a method in place, he thought about it for a while, watched Adam and Eve, and came up with a plan. Point number one on his plan was "Approach the woman."

Knowing this, satan sends false teachers who have the appearance of godliness but denying its power, to seduce women with their false doctrines.

He also uses women in their vulnerability (the younger ones with passion and the elder ones with gossip and slander) to spread discord and gangrenous doctrines.

He targets the women and he uses the women. So, how can women avoid being used by satan who wants to exploit our vulnerability?

First, recognize ourselves as weaker. (1 Peter 3:7).

Labeled for reuse
Second, submit to authority. If married, submit to husbands. Raise your children. If having a question, ask the husband outside of church services. Wives should adorn their husbands as a jewel, busy herself with the home, and remain quiet. (1 Timothy 5:14, Ephesians 5:22, Titus 2:5, 1 Corinthians 14:34). Doing these things will not give satan as much of an opportunity to exploit your vulnerability.

In the same vein, elder widows with children or grandchildren should "show godliness to their own household and to make some return to their parents, for this is pleasing in the sight of God." (1 Timothy 5:4)

Elder widows without family should "set her hope on God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day," (1 Timothy 5:5). Anna did this and was revered for it. (Luke 2:37-38).

Third, be busy. Elder widows should be "having a reputation for good works: if she has brought up children, has shown hospitality, has washed the feet of the saints, has cared for the afflicted, and has devoted herself to every good work." (1 Timothy 5:10). 1 Timothy 5:13 speaks ill of idle women, so keeping one's self spiritually busy in true service will also stave off satanic attacks and keep us thriving on the narrow path.

A silly woman at Mard Gras, by acedout. CC
Fourth, rein in passions. Younger widows tend to be passionate and flighty. They set their minds on marriage again so Paul said they should marry. (1 Timothy 5:11).

Self-indulgence in women is severely rebuked. Paul said "she who is self-indulgent is dead even while she lives" (1 Timothy 5:6). Idleness is rebuked because it tends toward disruptiveness (1 Thessalonians 5:14; 2 Thessalonians 3:11).

Women loaded with passions have a huge target on their back. Paul wrote, "For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions," (2 Timothy 3:6). So obviously one way to remain spiritually fit and stave off satan's wiles is to repent frequently when we do sin and resist sin when it presents itself.

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I hope these words help you, whether you're a young wife or an elder widow. Women are women, and we all have the same vulnerability in our weakness to satan and his attacks. These attacks don't hurt merely the family, they disrupt the church, as we saw with Euodia and Syntyche, the disorderly prophesiers, and the idle widows. Pettiness, idleness, gossip, slander, division seem to be the unique set of negative characteristics we possess in our sinful state that Jesus revealed to us women. He gracefully shows us through scripture how to combat this. In so doing, we can receive high commendations from our Father, our Lord, our Comforter!

In Proverbs 31:30-31 it says, "Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates."

Proverbs 3:15-18 "She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her; those who hold her fast are called blessed."

Judge Mary Margaret Bartelme,
a most dignified woman. WikiCC

Widow Anna was commended. Mary was called favored by God. (Luke 1:28). Eunice and Lois were commended by Paul as having great faith and raising Timothy well. (2 Timothy 1:5, 2 Timothy 3:14). Dorcas was lauded for all her good works and charities. When Dorcas died, "All the widows stood beside him weeping and showing tunics and other garments that Dorcas made while she was with them." (Acts 9:39b). "All" the widows! Dorcas was loved, and when she died, many pleaded with Paul to raise her to life. If you were to die, would all the women in your circle cry and beg for you to be returned to life? Or would they be relieved to see you go? In Dorcas' busy-ness I am sure that satan had little opportunity to worm his way in and cause her to bring shame to the church.

Please ponder these things. Check the scriptures and test all that I've said. We have an important role to play, that much is obvious. Satan wants to use us in disrupting the church and be a carrier of false doctrine in our silliness and rebellion. That can easily become our role if we do not pay attention. Our role should be an important work for Jesus in unifying the church when we repent of our sins, and stay on our God-given path. Let us please Him as His precious women of faith, working and striving and contending and being a helpmeet to the men in our lives, whether they are fathers, husbands, or pastors.

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Further reading

What does it mean that women are the weaker vessel

Bible Gateway: All the Women of the Bible

Essay: Widows in the church, part 1

Should you leave a church if it has a woman pastor? 

The Proverbs 31 Woman 

Shallow vs deep bible study: do you want to really see?

Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Jeremiah, what do you see? And I said, I see a branch of an almond tree. Then said the LORD unto me, You have seen well: for I am ready to perform My word.” (Jeremiah 1:11, 12.)

Charles Spurgeon said in sermon #2678, "Lesson of the Almond Tree",
OBSERVE, first, dear Friends, that before Jeremiah becomes a speaker for God, he must be a seer . The name for a Prophet, in the olden time, was a “seer”—a man who could see—one who could see with his mind’s eye, one who could also see with spiritual insight, so as vividly to realize the Truth of God which he had to deliver in the name of the Lord.

Learn that simple lesson well, O you who try to speak for God! You must be seers before you can be speakers. The question with which God usually begins His conversation with each of His true servants is the one He addressed to Jeremiah, “What do you see?” I am afraid that there are so me ministers, nowadays, who do not see much. Judging by what they preach, their vision must be all in cloudland, where all they see is smoke, mist and fog. I often meet with persons who have attended the same ministry for years—and when I have asked them even very simple questions about the things of God, I have found that they do not know anything.

It was not because they were not able to comprehend quickly when the Truth was set forth plainly before them, but I fear that it was, in most cases, because there was nothing that they could learn from the minister to whom they had been accustomed to listen. The preacher had seen nothing and, therefore, when he described what he saw, of course it all amounted to nothing.

No, my Brother, before you can make an impression upon another person’s heart , you must have an impression made upon your own soul. You must be able to say, concerning the Truth of God, “I see it,” before you can speak it so that your hearers shall also see it. It must be clear to your own mind, by the spiritual perception which accompanies true faith, or else you will not be able to say with the Psalmist, “I believed, therefore have I spoken.” Let me say again that sentence which I uttered a minute ago—the speaker for God must first be a seer in the Light of God.
I often cry out to the Lord that I want to see. I want to plumb the depths of His word and learn more about Him all the time. I want to go deeper, see more, understand Him. I know I see through a glass darkly now, and it will only be later that I fully know, but still, can I know You more today than yesterday, please? (1 Corinthians 13:12).

It's a double edged sword though. Knowing Him better through His word means I get to know myself better, also. In reading Who He is, we get to know ourselves better to, positionally. I get convicted, repentant, and sorrowful over my own sin and the sin of the world.

This is the analogy.

If you know the size of RI, the ocean is never very far, since RI is so small. Moreover, my grandparents had a house on the bayfront, and we kids and all the cousins would visit constantly. Weekly, just about daily in summer. And we always had a boat.

Lubec Harbor, ME. Murky Atlantic waters hide rocks & great hazards.
EPrata photo
In the book The Wind in the Willows, Water Rat is extolling the virtues of being on the water to Mole, who has never been in a boat. Mole wants to know if it's nice.
"Nice? It's the only thing," said the Water Rat solemnly as he leant forward for his stroke. "Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing—absolute nothing—half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats."
The bay or the ocean has many charms, and all of them are interesting to a child. We splashed on the water, swam, messed around on the boat, played at the water's edge. We collected shells and we dove off the dock and we raced to the mooring buoy and we lazed on the grass. We loved the water.

Snorkeling is the practice of swimming on or through a body of water while equipped with a diving mask, a shaped tube called a snorkel, and usually fins. Use of this equipment allows the snorkeler to observe underwater attractions for extended periods of time with relatively little effort.

As we grew older, we became fascinated with what was under the water. We'd fight for the masks and snorkel gear and paddle along, looking in fascination below the surface at the pretty pebbles the small waves were rolling along the sand. Or a hermit crab curling into his house shell as we swam over him, darkening his shallow water sky. Sometimes we'd forget we were in such shallow water and scrape our knees as we kicked along the beach's edge, heeding our grandmother's warning to stay close to shore.

As we grew even older, we wanted to see what was under the surface, really deep. Could we see horseshoe crabs? Fish? The anchor of the boat as it bobbed in the calm waves under a sunny sky? What was under there!? It was frustrating, the waters were not clear and even with a mask and flippers, we couldn't get down far enough to see the bottom. Under the surface was still a mystery to us.

Then I sailed in The Bahamas. The waters are clear there. It was both fascinating and disconcerting to say the least! Suddenly I could see all the way down, but what the clear water revealed was another world, and one fraught with dangers, toils, and snares. Our keel passing over a coral head, we didn't know if the coral was inches below the surface and ready to open the underside of our boat like a sardine can, or was in fact as deep below as the charts said. Predator barracudas were everywhere. And actually seeing the bottom was sometimes not a blessing, because it gave us an aquatic vertigo, always unsteady in thinking the boat as about to run aground in what looked like mere inches of water but was in fact fathoms.

In this photo, it was so clear that we could see our own anchor,
in 30 feet of water. In the moonlight. EPrata photo
Being able to see the depths under the surface of the waters revealed another world. It was as if the surface of the ocean was simply a thin veil, covering a vast and mysterious and beautiful world, hidden until now. It was a world that existed with ours, was immediately adjacent, and in this bit of Bahamian clarity, was in equal parts scary, dangerous, and destabilizing.

Do you want to go deeper? Do you want to see? Really see, as Spurgeon described? I hope you do. As we grow in sanctification we do not stay in the shallow water for long. We should desire to peer into the depths of the ocean of truth and see what the Lord will reveal.

"Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation..." (1 Peter 2:2)

The milk here is the spiritual food good for building up. When we're born-again as babes we begin feeding on the pure spiritual milk. We crave it with intensity like a baby cries for his bottle! We need it every few hours! When we have capacity to understand more, we still thirst, and we go deeper into the Living Waters.

But we must be ready to withstand its glories. We remember who we are and in taking in all truth, we see our depravity compared to His holiness. We cry out, as Isaiah did,

"And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” (Isaiah 6:5)

Reading the bible deeply, coming so close to His glory as revealed in the bible, some days I might as well say something similar, "Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a woman of unclean lips, and unholy heart, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have read the words of the King that the Spirit has delivered to us and revealed in His word!"

And yet we desire more, deeper, to see. Or we should.

"The word is to be desired with appetite as the cause of life, to be swallowed in the hearing, to be chewed as cud is by rumination with the understanding, and to be digested by faith" [Tertullian].

Or...stay in the shallow end. It's up to you.





Sunday, April 20, 2014

The Almond Tree: the promise and the beauty, a symbol of resurrection

Most of us aren't farmers. Many of us don't garden. Having lost our connection to the land, sometimes the biblical symbolism of certain agricultural meanings are lost to us. Let's look at the almond tree.

Flowering almond trees, Wiki CC, by Daniel Sancho
The almond tree is mentioned in scripture several times and always in interesting contexts. Almond tree twigs are mentioned as early as Genesis 30:37 and Genesis 43:11. In Exodus 25:33, God is describing how the Golden Lampstand in the Tabernacle should look.

Source

Sweet almond tree branch with blossoms. Wiki CC

three cups made like almond blossoms, each with calyx and flower, on one branch, and three cups made like almond blossoms, each with calyx and flower, on the other branch—so for the six branches going out of the lampstand.

Calyx is the collective name for sepals of a flower. Easton's Bible Dictionary explains,
"A native of Syria and Palestine. In form, blossoms, and fruit it resembles the peach tree. Its blossoms are of a very pale pink colour, and appear before its leaves. Its Hebrew name, shaked, signifying "wakeful, hastening," is given to it on account of its putting forth its blossoms so early, generally in February, and sometimes even in January"
The International Standard Bible encyclopedia says,
"The masses of almond trees in full bloom in some parts of Palestine make a very beautiful and striking sight. The bloom of some varieties is almost pure white, from a little distance, in other parts the delicate pink, always present at the inner part of the petals, is diffused enough to give a pink blush to the whole blossom."
Did you know that there are sweet almonds and bitter almonds. Bitter almonds are toxic. It becomes cyanide when crushed and mixed with other enzymes inside the almond.
"Gabriel Garcia Marquez once wrote poetically about the scent of bitter almonds and the fate of unrequited love as a lead-in to murder by cyanide poisoning. And in bitter almond oil as in a tragic romance, the sweet and the toxic are inextricably entangled.
Benzaldehyde is made by the decomposition of amygdalin (named for Prunus amygdalus, and in turn responsible for the bitterness that gives bitter almonds their common name). The other decomposition products are glucose (sweet) and hydrogen cyanide (toxic). ... The utility of amygdalin to the plant is for defense, specifically as a deterrent to grazers from eating the valuable seed as well as the dispensable fruit. Inside the cells of the almond kernel, amygdalin is sequestered from the enzyme that breaks it down: amygdalin hydrolase. Crushing, as happens when the plant is grazed upon, brings the enzyme and amygdalin together, and cyanide is produced as a result–as much as 4-9mg per almond."
Aaron's rod famously budded almond leaves, blossoms, and fully ripe fruit. The LORD did this to prove that Aaron was His designated spokesman, with Moses.

On the next day Moses went into the tent of the testimony, and behold, the staff of Aaron for the house of Levi had sprouted and put forth buds and produced blossoms, and it bore ripe almonds. (Numbers 17:8)

As with Aaron's rod, Jeremiah 1:11 use of the almond as a symbol. Jeremiah 1:11-12:

"And the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Jeremiah, what do you see?” And I said, “I see an almond branch.” Then the Lord said to me, “You have seen well, for I am watching over my word to perform it.

Pulpit Commentary says of Verse 12. - I will hasten my word; literally, I am wakeful over my word; alluding to the meaning of the Hebrew word for almond. The LORD will hasten to perform His judgments of Jerusalem which He proclaimed in His word to Jeremiah.

It was inevitable: the scent of bitter almonds always reminded him of the fate of unrequited love.”
Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 'Love in the Time of Cholera”.

In Genesis 43:11 one of the 'best gifts' of the land that Joseph's father Jacob urged his sons to bring to Egypt (unknowingly, to Joseph) were almonds.

In Plants of the Bible, it says, "The almond, Amygdalus communis, is a medium sized tree with narrow, light green leaves. Unlike the fig and olive, the almond does not live to a great age. The almond is a well-known symbol of resurrection because it is the first tree to flower. The white, five-parted flowers are up to two inches across and come in the late winter before the leaves of the tree develop. Because they may flower as early as late January or early February, it is sometimes possible to find almond flowers with snow."

Charles Spurgeon preached on the lessons of the Almond Tree. He says here,
"While I have felt compelled to speak of these solemn Truths, I am glad to turn to the other part of the subject which is this—that God is quick in performing His promises. They are like the almond tree—they blossom and bear fruit very quickly. “What sort of promises,” you ask, “are thus speedily fulfilled?” Well, first, the promise to give salvation to all these who believe in the Lo rd Jesus Christ. Listen— “The moment a sinner believes, And trusts in his crucified God, His pardon at once he receives, Redemption in full thro’ His blood.” I see “a branch of an almond tree” here. The Psalmist says, “His word runs very swiftly,” and I am a witness that it does. Many years ago, I, a poor sinner, went into a place of worship to hear the Gospel preached. The preacher repeated the Lord’s command, “Look unto Me, and be you saved.” I looked to Christ and I was saved that very instant. It takes no longer to tell the story than it did to work the miracle of mercy. Swift as a lightning flash I looked to Christ, and the great deed was done! I was a pardoned and justified soul—in a word, I was saved! Why should not the same thing happen to you who are here? It will happen to everyone who shall now be led to believe in Jesus Christ."

On this most joyous of days, you who wonder at our joy, it is because we looked to Christ as our all in all, forgiver of sins, Lamb of God. You, also, look to Christ - and be saved. The almond tree blooms, quick with promises. The most wondrous promise of all is the resurrection of the Son of God.
Aaron's rod budded, sprouted, and offered fully formed fruit, all at the same time. "According to the law of nature, all living things have a beginning and an end. However, this was not the case with Aaron’s rod, for God gave it a new lease of life. This miracle hinted at the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Even though death came to the world because of the actions of the first man, Adam, resurrection would come about on account of Jesus Christ (1 Cor 15:17–22). Hence, when Jesus was about to raise Lazarus from the dead, He told Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live” (Jn 11:25). ... the flowering rod served to quell Korah’s rebellion and re-affirmed Aaron’s position as high priest. Furthermore, this wondrous sign hinted at the future Messiah and His status as the firstfruits of resurrection (1 Cor 15:20)." (source)

He is risen!

-------------------------
Further Reading

The Sign of the Almond Tree

The Lesson of the Almond Tree

Daily Bible Study: Almonds


Resurrection Sunday



The Resurrection

Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.” So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”

~Matthew 28:1-10

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 
John 11:25

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Food prices rising dramatically, food scarcity affecting many

Revelation 6:8 in the KJV says that one of the judgments God will hurl at the earth is death by hunger. Just above that verse is one where it is seen that a purchase of enough wheat for the day costs a day's wage. (Revelation 6:6). Food will be an issue in the Tribulation.

It takes time for famine to set up. It begins with drought.

"The cause of droughts is easily understood, but hard to prevent. Depending on the location, crop failures, famine, high food prices, and deaths can occur. One of the scariest parts of a drought is the onset time. Unlike other forms of severe weather or natural disasters, droughts often develop slowly. Droughts are caused by a depletion of precipitation over time. Unlike a dry spell, prolonged lack of rain will cause regions around the world to slowly dry out. Because of the slow onset of droughts, their cost is often only estimated." (Source)

Drought in the Wheatlands, W. Australia, 2010,
Phillip Capper picture, CC
In the article below, a dramatic rise in beef prices is attributed to drought. How is beef tied in with water, one may wonder? The complex systems involved in food production are many, and they are delicately intertwined. For example, weather (atmospheric conditions), ground conditions, (soil, fertilizer, seed quality), breeding stock if raising animals, transportation systems, and consumer demand are just a very few. Oftentimes, one string of the intertwining system involved in food production isn't particularly visible but is being dramatically affected somewhere along the line, only to surface all of a sudden. But the set-up was years in the making. This article is from last week:

Beef prices hit all-time high in U.S.
Come grilling season, expect your sirloin steak to come with a hearty side of sticker shock. Beef prices have reached all-time highs in the U.S. and aren't expected to come down any time soon. Extreme weather has thinned the nation's beef cattle herds to levels last seen in 1951, when there were about half as many mouths to feed in America. ... Soaring beef prices are being blamed on years of drought throughout the western and southern U.S. The dry weather has driven up the price of feed such as corn and hay to record highs, forcing many ranchers to sell off their cattle. That briefly created a glut of beef cows for slaughter that has now run dry.

It's not only beef that is being affected. Pork is undergoing a dramatic rise in price at the consumer end, too. This Michigan farmer lost 5000 pigs.

Bacon, Pork Prices Rise As Deadly Diarrhea Virus Wipes Out Michigan Pigs
A virus that kills piglets at an alarming rate has been found on 93 farms in Michigan, according to the state agriculture department. Sam Hines, executive vice president of the Michigan Pork Producers Association, said porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED) is not a human health concern, but is deadly to newborn pigs. “This is not a food safety issue,” Hines told WWJ’s Marie Osborne. “Most hogs do acquire the virus but bigger animals can recover from it. Pigs that are less than a month old will have such a severe diarrhea that they dehydrate. There’s nearly 100 percent mortality with pigs less than three-weeks of age.

Beef and pork are two sources of protein for the American consumer, as well as many others. I have a friend who runs a BBQ place. She has had to raise prices this week and revise the menus. They hate to do it but the rise in prices for the meat has to at least be partially passed on at some point. The problem is not just "out there," and the problem is not just facing you individually at the grocery store. It affects business owners too.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports this month that "in March, retail food prices rose 0.4% from the preceding month, matching February’s increase. These marked the largest monthly gains in food prices since September 2011..." This is from an article titled 'The 10 Fastest Rising Food Prices'. As mentioned above, bacon and beef were the #1 and #2 fastest rising food price (no more inexpensive BLTs or hamburgers from the diner!). The rest are:

3. oranges
4. coffee
5. peanut butter
6. margarine
7. wine
8. turkey
9. chicken
10. grapefruit

You notice that 5 out of the 10 items listed ad having dramatic price increases are proteins (beef, bacon, turkey, chicken, peanut butter). As for the citrus, here is an article explaining the citrus crop failure. Sometimes it's not drought that causes it, but disease.

Wikimedia commons photo

US Orange production hit by disease, prices soar
"New York (AFP) - A citrus disease spread by a tiny insect has devastated Florida's orange crop, which is expected to be the worst in nearly 30 years, and sent juice prices soaring on New York markets. The culprit? The gnat-sized Asian citrus psyllid, which is infecting citrus trees across the Sunshine State with huanglongbing, or citrus greening disease, which causes fruit to taste bitter and fall from trees too soon. ...Citrus greening disease has become such a problem this year that the US government has lowered its forecast for the upcoming harvest four times."

Citrus isn't the only produce item whose prices are leaving families in the dust. This Wall Street Journal article reports rising prices in many other produce areas too. In this case, the culprit is drought, After three years, the soil fatigue and lack of precipitation is finally taking its toll.

The cost of fresh produce is poised to jump in the coming months as a three-year drought in California shows few signs of abating, according to an Arizona State University study set to be released Wednesday. The study found a head of lettuce could increase in price as much as 62 cents to $2.44; avocado prices could rise 35 cents to $1.60 each; and tomatoes could cost 45 cents more at $2.84 per pound. (The run-up in produce prices is in line with other projections showing that overall food cost gains are expected to accelerate this year.)

And finally, it's not only beef, pork, citrus and other produce that are showing rising prices at the retail end, but seafood as well.

Wikimedia Commons, author Ramiroja
Prices for shrimp have jumped to a 14-year high in recent months, spurred by a disease that’s ravaging the crustacean’s population. At Noodles & Co., a chain with locations across the country, it costs 29 percent more to add the shellfish to pastas this year, and shrimp-heavy dishes at places like the Cheesecake Factory Inc. are going up as well...

Goodness, pretty soon we won't be able to afford anything except crackers! And probably not even that either! Friends have started keeping chickens (for the eggs). Some are taking up hunting. Others who never planted gardens before are doing so now. Most people I know have cut back on going to restaurants and are cooking at home. Prairie mother blogs are booming, and food co-ops are bustling.

I am a vegetarian so I am not affected by any loss of meat or seafood in my diet, but I do rely on eggs, peanut butter and tofu, all of which have increased in price. I also use a lot of quinoa, a super-grain that is a complete protein. I bought a can of salmon (the first one in half a year, and ouch, the price has gone up so much! And it wasn't the fancy kind but the kind that takes a long time to clean because it is full of skin and fish bones). Anyway, I made salmon-quinoa patties today, they are great.

EPrata photo
Quinoa is good for hot cereal in the morning with apples and raisins, and it is a very filling salad accompaniment at lunch with a sandwich.

Another complete protein is hummus and pita bread, and amazingly my local mom and pop grocery store has started carrying hummus, and blessedly at a reasonable price, too. They also carry tofu,  something of a miracle in my redneck, pig-hunting, BBQ eating county. Tofu is an always-difficult food item to work with but it's a must for vegetarians looking for protein and at a good price. Beans and rice are another complete protein as well.

So the above were some suggestions for alternatives to the ever-expensive meat. You can always raise chickens or rabbits for meat and learn to pluck and cook them. The time of squeamishness and picky eating appears to be at an end. Hunger will do that to a person.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention the biggest blessing to me that has come along in decades. It is a produce co-op called Bountiful Baskets. For a low price of $21.50 you will receive a basket of fruit and a basket of vegetables. The charge is broken down in the following manner:

$15.00 for the food, and $6.50 for the fee; 1.50 is processing and administration and the other $5 is for fuel for the truck. If you order with a friend you can split the $6.50. You can order up to three baskets in one order and so three friends split it, bringing my cost down to $17.20.

Bountiful Baskets is described this way: "BBFC is a group of people who work together for mutual benefit. This is a grassroots, all volunteer, no contracts, no catch co-operative. Since there are no employees at Bountiful Baskets, we as a group pay rock bottom prices on your food."

I know what you're thinking, but there really is no catch, and the produce is the best I've ever seen. I have been a life-long vegetarian and this basket of produce I get every two weeks is the pot of gold at the end of my vegetarian rainbow. The amount received exceeds what I'd be able to duplicate at the store in cost and in quality. It is healthy, lasts a long time, and is of excellent quality. You do not have to sign a contract and you're not committed in any way. Here is a photo of some recent Baskets. The only catch is that you get what you get, you can't order what you want. But it's always so good that it takes a small adjustment in attitude toward food preparation and you're set. We are all undergoing attitude adjustments to our approach to food these days anyway, so please keep an open mind.


Facebook Danielsville Co-op (Bountiful Basket chapter)
Go to the BB link above and click on locations to see if a local co-op exists in your area. If it doesn't, it is very easy to join and set one up for your town. If you google Bountiful Baskets you will find a plethora of articles exclaiming over its popularity and explosive growth. The only problem is that as the program catches on in each area, and there is a limit of 95 baskets for each co-op chapter, the competition to get a basket grows. When the pay-window for that week's basket opens, some sites sell out in minutes, unfortunately.

We are all being pinched by food inflation. In my county, a Federal program grants money for a summer lunch program. Our School Nutrition Program workers were hoping to feed at least 5000 children last summer, they fed 12,000. Blessedly, we received the grant again and the summer 'feed the children' summer lunch program will continue.

I've written about food several times over the years. In the past, when I've written about it or mentioned it, some have scoffed, not seeing a difference in their local area. By 2014, most people see great changes, and are experiencing adjustments in either minor or major ways. The pain at the grocery check out is no longer spotty or local or "elsewhere". It's everywhere.

Man-made global warming is a crock but the climate IS changing. Extreme weather is a fact, and this affects food production on all fronts (farming, animals, and fishing). In 2012, this article from the UK Guardian said that food scarcity is a timebomb waiting to go off. In my opinion, recent events have shown that the fuse is very short.

This situation is not going to go away,” says Lester Brown, an environmental analyst and president of the Earth Policy Institute in Washington. In a new book, Full Planet, Empty Plates, he predicts ever increasing food prices, leading to political instability, spreading hunger and, unless governments act, a catastrophic breakdown in food. “Food is the new oil and land is the new gold,” he says. We saw early signs of the food system unravelling in 2008 following an abrupt doubling of world grain prices. As they climbed, exporting countries [such as Russia] began restricting exports to keep their domestic prices down. In response, importing countries panicked and turned to buying or leasing land in other countries to produce food for themselves. The result is that a new geopolitics of food has emerged, where the competition for land and water is intensifying and each country is fending for itself.

What do you think is going to happen after the rapture, when the restraining ministry of the Holy Spirit ceases, food becomes scarce-to-non-existent as the verses from Revelation show us, and sin is rampant? I shudder to even think! I believe it is clear that the LORD's work in setting up the coming Tribulation famine is well underway. The iceberg has finally poked through the surface of the water and the existence of a mountain of conditions for massive food failure is here.

Meanwhile we Christians continue to adjust our pocketbooks and attitudes, keep lowering our expectations for the meal time, keep sharing what we have, and keep looking up. Only God knows how tight He will draw the tension we will experience before we fly up to Him in the rapture, but it is to His glory that until the moment we do, we always glorify Him in every circumstance. So whether it's dandelion weeds on our plate or Kobe steak, we say, thank you Jesus for Your provision and may your glory be ever bright in our hearts and praise continually on our lips.


Friday, April 18, 2014

Good Friday to Resurrection Sunday, the world's most important days

Can you imagine the pit of despair the Disciples felt on Good Friday? To them it was a hellish and confusing Friday. Jesus' separation from the Father while on the cross (Matthew 27:46) is the loneliest and most poignant moment any person ever felt in the history of the universe, bar none.

But the disciples' sudden and unexpected separation on Friday from their spiritual Father they'd been following so hopefully for three years came upon them cruelly and brutally, throwing them all into states of panic, despair, and spiritual depression. Even though Jesus had told them ahead of time, and even though they had studied the scriptures, they didn't understand. To them, it wasn't Good Friday. It was just bad Friday and the seeming end of the long trail of hopes and highs they'd been experiencing for three years with Jesus in discipleship to Him. They did not know as we do, Friday's here, but Sunday's coming!


We worship Jesus every day. We worship and praise Jesus collectively in services on Sunday. We exalt Him once a year on Resurrection Sunday. We know Him as Resurrected King triumphant over sin and death!

His ultimate moment will be His return, when every knee shall bow and every tongue will confess (Romans 14:11, Philippians 2:10, Isaiah 45:23).

"The LORD will be king over the whole earth. On that day there will be one LORD, and his name the only name." (Zechariah 14:9)

Everyone will know that Jesus is MESSIAH! Not their spouse, not their work, not their own self. They will finally know the Resurrected Jesus is the only name. He is all names. He is the beginning and the end!

And it started with the cross on Friday.