Thursday, November 29, 2007

Taking A Quick Break

We've been doing all the last-minute preparations for putting our house on the market this week, so time for the computer has been nil. During a quick break this afternoon, I found this test, and spent wasted a few minutes completing it. It was good to have at least one thing completed today. I wonder how I would have scored if they had seen me taking the test with paint in my hair, drywall dust up my nose and the same tie-dyed, paint-splattered t-shirt I've worn for three days?

Click to view my Personality Profile page




In any case, it was a fun few minutes, and I'm posting it here in case I need proof that I did finish something today.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Restoring The Early Church ~ Lesson 9

So, Thanksgiving is over here in the States, and life is ~fairly~ back to normal, so let's go on to Lesson 9, in which Mike & Sue discuss:



Life As A Pilgrimage

The Answered Prayer of The Righteous

The Home, The Basic Spiritual Building Block

Fellowship of Extended Spiritual Family


Here's the link for Lesson 9.


If profundity comes, please share in the comments. :)

Yeah, It Matters

I am making this a "Page" to go on the upper right sidebar, but I also wanted to post it here, in order to make sure everyone got a chance to read it. From here on, I'll be using this name, and I wanted you all to understand why. As soon as I can, I'll go back to edit all the old posts to reflect this as well.

I never knew it did before. Sure, I had read the Ten Commandments - even taught them to my kids - but I never studied them, never really interrogated the text. I had not even so much as questioned "The" commandments concerning whether they had been interpreted accurately... whether the words of the King of the Universe had been preserved carefully enough.

Studying prophecy and comparing it to current events is a common practice in our home. We read about world events and without hesitation compare what we see to Holy Scripture - all the time. Object lessons abound, and we can get "Current Events" credit while eating dinner. We do not wait for anything major or catastrophic. Ordinary, run-of-the-mill events give us plenty of fodder for discussion, then we move on to baths, laundry and dishes ~ other ordinary, run-of-the-mill events. But when I catch myself mentally rehashing recent happenings, when I think of them in the middle of the night and I just can't seem to let an issue go... I often sense the urging of the Holy Spirit to dig deeper, check things out, and see how all these things fit together.

My family knows I hate grey. Androgyny, ambiguity, politician-speak, circular logic, ecumenicalism, fence-sitting ... I hate them all. Say what you're saying, nail it down, pick a side, take a stand...choose... please. Concerning matters of normal life, the vagueness bothers me some... but when it comes to the things of eternal importance, the generalities anger me. So when I found that Pope Benedict prayed in a Muslim mosque to "the One God", and a Dutch bishop has suggested that Christians call their god "Allah" to keep from offending Muslims, I can promise that, as we say in the South, it stuck in my craw. This seemed to me to be more than just grey, it was wrong. So I went to the Word to check it out.

It appears that I am not the only one concerned about this "It's-all-the-same-god-let's-all-call-him-the-same-name" spiel- it is all over the "Christian" blogosphere. The problem is, that the rest of us "Christians" haven't been calling Him by the proper name, either. The King James Version incorrectly "translates" the third commandment, Exodus 20:7, "Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain." Taking in vain (Strong's #7723) means to desolate, make useless, or ruin. We usually think we are doing well if we don't curse... we wouldn't want to ruin the word "LORD" or "God", right? The problem is, that the command is not to take his *NAME* in vain, and neither LORD nor God is his name.

In the third commandment, and in at least 5,000 other places in the Scriptures, He tells us His name. I knew that a principle in studying scripture is that, the more times something is recorded, the more importance it should have. So when I compared this figure to second half of the commandment, I was frightened into doing more study. Realizing that I had never heard His name in church was enough to make me shudder. Remembering that the KJV - the one that eliminates His name - was the most widely used translation for hundreds of years made me cringe. The church as a whole has desolated His name. Gulp.

His name, in Hebrew, the language of Scripture, translates into the four English letters YHWH, usually pronounced Yahweh. It is also the name included in these verses: (As per the original Hebrew text, His name has been added back in.)
Micah 4:5 For all people will walk every one in the name of his god, and we will walk in the name of YHWH our God forever and ever.

Zephaniah 3:9 For then will I turn to the people a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of YHWH, to serve him with one consent.

Isaiah 42:8 I am YHWH: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images.

Jeremiah 16:21 Therefore, behold, I will this once cause them to know, I will cause them to know mine hand and my might; and they shall know that my name is YHWH.

Zechariah 13:9 And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, YHWH is my God.

Leviticus 24:16 And he that blasphemeth the name of YHWH, he shall surely be put to death, and all the congregation shall certainly stone him: as well the stranger, as he that is born in the land, when he blasphemeth the name of YHWH, shall be put to death.

Isaiah 47:4 As for our redeemer, YHWH of hosts is his name, the Holy One of Israel.

Isaiah 56:5-7 Even unto them will I give in mine house and within my walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters: I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off. Also the sons of the stranger, that join themselves to YHWH, to serve him, and to love the name of YHWH, to be his servants, every one that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and taketh hold of my covenant; Even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar; for mine house shall be called a house of prayer for all people.

Jeremiah 50:34 Their Redeemer is strong; YHWH of hosts is his name: he shall throughly plead their cause, that he may give rest to the land, and disquiet the inhabitants of Babylon.

Jeremiah 51:19 The portion of Jacob is not like them; for he is the former of all things: and Israel is the rod of his inheritance: YHWH of hosts is his name.

Joel 2:32 And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of YHWH shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as YHWH hath said, and in the remnant whom YHWH shall call.

Amos 4:13 For, lo, he that formeth the mountains, and createth the wind, and declareth unto man what is his thought, that maketh the morning darkness, and treadeth upon the high places of the earth, YHWH, The God of hosts, is his name.

Amos 5:8 Seek him that maketh the seven stars and Orion, and turneth the shadow of death into the morning, and maketh the day dark with night: that calleth for the waters of the sea, and poureth them out upon the face of the earth: YHWH is his name:

Amos 9:6 It is he that buildeth his stories in the heaven, and hath founded his troop in the earth; he that calleth for the waters of the sea, and poureth them out upon the face of the earth: YHWH is his name.

Because I hate ecumenicalism and feel compelled to take a stand, I use the name of YHWH with no apologies. I desire to distance myself from all those that believe we "all worship the same god" because I worship the Holy One of Israel exclusively. I believe there is no difference in calling Him 'Allah' and calling Him 'God'. 'Allah' is just the Arabic word for 'God', and worse yet, 'Allah' in Hebrew, the language of scripture, means 'curse'. I can no longer call him by a title that in His language means curse (Allah), is the name of a false god mentioned in scripture (God), or is a name that actually goes back to Baal (the LORD). I just can't. In the same way that I want Phil to call me "Julie", and not "Wife"... I want to call Him by His name. My intimacy with Him makes me desire to call upon His name. Sure, calling on His name is more than proper pronunciation... it speaks to His character... who He is. But I can't think of a better way to distinguish which god with which character than to call on the personal name He has revealed to us.

"But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him" John 4:23. I am led to believe that part (by no means all) of worshipping in truth is calling Him by His real name, not some general title, used loosey-goosey by every Tom, Dick or Harry who considers themselves (or wishes to portray themselves as) "spiritual".

All this is to say that it matters. It matters to YHWH (hence the 5,000 times it is recorded in His Word), and it matters to me (hence this post). Whether it matters to you or not, is your call.
Joshua 24:15 And if it seem evil unto you to serve YHWH, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve YHWH.

Please, don't take my word... do your own homework on this. Edited:  Look up the Strong's Concordance word #3068, count and consider for yourself. After thinking about it more, I really don't think the Strong's is that great of a help. If you're interested in this, I recommend searching Google - maybe search YHWH- and may He bless your search.

YHWH bless thee, and keep thee:
YHWH make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee:
YHWH lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.
And they shall put my name upon the children of Israel; and I will bless them.

~Numbers 6:24-27

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Full Disclosure

Was it the crushing of my laptop last week?

Maybe it was the first bout of sickness that hit my house?

Perhaps it was the switching of the seasonal clothes for seven children, the stocking up on homemade tinctures and salves, our speaking at another church this past week, my listing of 350 items from my house for sale, or the fact that my Grandmother is making bean soup. I list the last option as proof that if one is looking for an excuse, any one will do. You always find what you're looking for, after all.

The fact is, bean soup or not, I've been swamped, which partially explains why I haven't posted another lesson in the study. The word "partially" indicates that further explaining is in order. While I do not feel the need to explain, I do feel the desire, so permit me to make an attempt.

Mr. Visionary and I were tremendously blessed by all that we were led to study on our own through the instigation of these lessons. When we considered beginning the study, it was for one reason: we wanted others to experience blessing as well. I had mentioned the study in a post before, but realized that the length of the study would be too daunting for most folks. I have this reaction as well... when I see something very long, I automatically sigh and dismiss it, unless...

Unless it sounds like something I have been looking for.

We believed we could not be the only ones searching for a better way, searching to see Father's face more clearly, seeking to discard all that we had inherited from the world, in order to live on nothing but the Word. We felt led to begin the study for the other ones who were searching, too. We did not know who these would be, but felt sure that our Father would.

Throughout the beginning of this study, I have been overwhelmed with all that it has required of me. We were sure we were supposed to start it, but the walking it out has been more challenging than I had imagined. As I have gone through the study this second time, it has been just as profoundly affecting me as the first. I have needed time to digest and ponder... time to understand things more clearly... time to pray and know that I am hearing His voice.

The questions and e-mail that have multiplied by ten have been all that I can keep up with. My dear friend has encouraged me to begin a Yahoo group to help with further discussion (and all the questions), but that as well would be consuming, and too much for this mother of seven to manage. (I'm organized, but I'm not that organized.) I desire to help and to answer questions, but with only so much time, I struggle to determine what this would look like. Please bear with me as I figure it all out.

Also, I have been feeling pressured by my perceived need to post something profound (or at least attempt it) for each lesson. But, as Mr. Visionary reminded me, perception is not reality, and anyway, profundity doesn't always come. Sometimes I am just as much in a digestion stage as everyone else, and cannot come up with anything coherent to share. If I post the lessons alone, I hope to be able to free up more time to enter into the discussion with everyone else. All of this is to say that I will be just posting the lessons from here on out, and sharing my own experience through the comments.

Whew... I feel relieved already!

Restoring The Early Church ~ Lesson 8

Here's the link for Lesson 8.

If you have anything you'd like to share, please leave it in the comments section below! :)

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Restoring The Early Church ~ Lesson 7

"Oh, thank you...I appreciate your mentioning that. But, no Ma'am, we won't be needing it."

"Yes sir, they told us that you have a _____ (Children's ministry/Sunday school/Nursery). Thank you for mentioning it again...if we need it, we'll let you know."

There have been times, when visiting churches, that literally four or five people in a row (of steadily increasing "rank") have bullied pressured strongly encouraged us to utilize the programs that are available at their church when it became apparent that we were intending to ~ gasp ~ keep our children with us during the worship service. The pressure to parcel out our children was unrelenting, the stares of disbelief when we didn't were blatant and the overall disdainful atmosphere was thick as molasses.

For a girl who struggles with Fear of Man, each of these instances could have been a temptation to give in to the pressure, and go against my convictions and, in the words of my Firm-As-A-Rock-And-A-Little-Saucy husband, roll over and wet on myself. Had it not been for our (unknowingly) instituting the practice of halakah as described in this lesson, I surely would have caved.

We had already been taught Yahweh's plan for families by one of those few passages we had studied from the Older Testament. We had embraced a Deuteronomy 6 lifestyle which affected every area of our marriage and parenting. After determining through the written Word (logos) that we were to live this way, we had to determine exactly what that would look like walked out in our family. This is where the Word (rhema) came in. We so needed Yahweh to show us what He wanted this to look like for us.

Homeschooling? Check. That was logos.

What curriculum to use?
Would we use any public school programs?
What subjects to study?
What would our days look like?
Would we incorporate any other teachers into our children's education?
These questions were all rhema...not specifically stated in Scripture, but still things we needed to know.

Worshiping together as a family unit? Check. That was logos.

Would we be in fellowship that did not agree with this practice?
What if they made a stink about it and asked us to step out of the service?
What if they begrudgingly accepted it?
What about Sunday School, youth group, AWANAS, etc.?
These too, were rhema.

Because we had already walked through many of the big issues in our life, and were firmly grounded in the "Thus saith the Lord" of them for our family, we knew what we would do in each varied situation. There was no question at the time. Just as having a budget eliminates having to make so many financial decisions, having halakahs set up, prayed (and sometimes fasted) over, and ingrained in our walk, it eliminates a lot of temptation and stress. Whew.

On a side note, let me just discuss for a moment what we found rhema is not. It is not looking at the clearly stated Word (logos) and deciding that XYZ clear instruction doesn't apply to us. There are some things that are without question. "Do not murder" means do not murder...whether the victim is an unborn child or an elderly or handicapped person. "Be fruitful and multiply" means that married people don't have the option to "choose" to not have any children because it doesn't suit their career plans or "calling" in ministry. "Honor the Sabbath" means in the way and on the day He has stated...not in the way and on the day it is convenient to us.

This is also the reason why we have found it so crucial to decide based on the logos and rhema alone before trying to figure out how we will walk it out. When we determined that Yahweh desired for us to keep the Sabbath, there was no way, "on paper" that it was going to work out. We were so busy as it was, and had no time to complete all we needed...we had to just act on faith.

I am here to tell you that Yahweh is faithful to extend grace to those who walk with Him in obedient trust! We have experienced manifold blessings from this one simple act of obedience...just doing what He told us, without questions, and letting the pieces fall where they may. I will go as far as saying that it has changed our life. His grace to help us obey is unending.

Mike and Sue reiterate this here:
Grace is the power and desire to uphold God's truth in your life no matter what it costs you. (snip) God's grace will enable you to keep your new conviction because of your desire to lovingly obey Him. Continue to pray for grace. And repent of your failure for not having known these new truths or lived by them before this time.

It is a good thing, too. After a few recent events, it appears we have some more halakahs to make, and that grace will be put into use once again.

Here's the link to Lesson 7.

(Please note that this was a post in a series from a study we are working through on Restoring The Early Church. You are welcome to join us at any time! Please start at Lesson One, which is HERE.)

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Restoring The Early Church ~ Lesson 6

I'm sure it had to have begun much earlier, but this was certainly a defining moment in my spiritual journey. I know I heard him correctly, for the way this large man bellowed, no one could have missed it. His frankness in asserting that this was his "fifth time getting saved" left me dumbstruck.

His hair still dripping from his recent baptism, he confided that he "liked to do it every once in a while to keep things right with the Big Man". That same feeling I get when someone drinks a diet soda with a Quarter Pounder and fries, or follows a Vitamin C tablet with a drag on their cigarette...that same, "That. Just. Isn't...enough..." feeling smothered me. A choking desire to scream and sob all at once left me speechless. Judging from the others around me all smiling, hugging and slapping the back of this poor fellow, I must have been the only one with misgivings about what I had just witnessed.

I knew I was not completely alone, though. Mr. Visionary and I had just the previous week been discussing his first experience officially going "soul winning". On a Saturday, he was paired up with an "experienced soul winner" and spent the first half of the day walking around an apartment complex trying to find folks with whom they could witness. The tally at the end of the day for this pair was one soul "won". After Mr. Visionary explained that the woman to whom they spoke was stone-cold drunk, and barely able to repeat the "sinners' prayer", I could not help but wonder...what about all the other thirty souls "won" that day? The soul winners who announced their totals the next day in the worship service all seemed proud enough, and the music and applause afterward were certainly booming. Yet, the nagging whisper did not go away. If the numbers of folks who had been "saved" through this congregation's efforts were so vast, where were the folks? Or better yet, assuming they could have gone somewhere else to church...the numbers cited were approximately ten percent of our large city's population...why hadn't the face of our entire city been changed? What was wrong with this picture?

Our background coming into this lesson was certainly one of believing that something was missing in the church, that there had to be something more to salvation than what we had always been told (and believed ourselves). It was a frequent occurrence that I would walk someone through the Roman Road, sweetly assuring them that all they had to do was believe. I would calm their fears, and settle their minds. When they asked, "Isn't there more to it? Don't I have to *do* something?". I would always say, "No, that's the beauty of His grace...all we have to do is believe." When later, the same person was living like hell again, with no recognizable difference in their life, I would be sad and frustrated and think, "I know I said all they had to do was believe...but...but..."

A major truth that Mr. Visionary and I had to accept was that no true doctrine can lose anything by closer inspection. Inside, outside, upside down...the truth is the truth is the truth...and our tearing it apart to make sure it is true could only lead to two outcomes. Either we would discover that it was wholly or partially false, or we would be that much more firmly grounded in why it is true. "...Be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear" 1Peter 3:15b. There are no other options, and we could not lose.

We can fully relate to Kirk Cameron's testimony. He tells that he first got saved with the Jesus-loves-you-and-has-a-wonderful-plan-for-your-life spiel. It wasn't until much later that he heard the bad news that he had transgressed the holy standard of a holy God, and experienced true repentance. Since this was our story as well, we have for several years only preached the good news with the bad, to our children and those we come into contact with. But even with the Bad-News-First plan (Here's the law...see, you broke it...but here's what God has done to fix it), there was still something missing. We were determined to dig until we found it. Even if it meant that our neatly boxed paradigms were shattered once and for all. We were willing to take that chance to find the truth. Having already worked through the Demolishing Strongholds materials, and both of us having prayed earnestly that Father would remove from us any spirit of deceit...that we would see only His truth...and nothing else...we were ready to begin.

This lesson was pivotal in our journey to understanding the true gospel. What in the world did the Old Testament have to do with the gospel? What exactly was this gospel that the Early Church preached? I'm sure we had no idea...but we were going to find out. I was fully and forcefully convicted, however, that I could not keep saying that I believed the Bible was God's Word, that it was infallible, and utterly sufficient for all of life if I was to continue treating the Old Testament the way I had. The truth is, it had been good for stories for the children, for debunking the theory of Evolution, for pulling out a few gems for parenting, and for my self-righteous Reading-Through-In-A-Year plan, but I mostly ignored it as irrelevant. I had to repent, and in the changing of my ways, my Father has once again showed unending mercy toward me, by teaching me what it was I had been missing.

My prayer is that this would be your testimony as well.

Here is the link for Lesson Six.

(Please note that this was a post in a series from a study we are working through on Restoring The Early Church. You are welcome to join us at any time! Please start at Lesson One, which is HERE.)