V GENUINE MOTIV TION MAR
YOUNG CHRISTIAN MAN
THE DANGER IN
H Y BRELATIONSHIPS RID IS ART EVIL? MERRY MONK
THE DREADED QUESTION
HOW’S YOUR WALK WITH GOD?
YOUNG CHRISTIAN MAN 04
Feature Article: St. Patrick Revealed: David Plotz The Man Behind the Green Beer and Myth
On The Couch: The Danger in Hybrid Relationships
Can You Relate: The Freedom of Forgiveness
May God Bless the Hell Out of You: Merry Monk Madness
Cornered by Grace: A Revelation of Faith
Press On: Is Artistic Expression Biblical?
The Tool Box: Keep it Clean Online
The Merry Monk ROB BEAMES WILL DOLE
a publication of On My Own now Ministries
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MARCH2011 Editor In Chief / Rob Beames Art + Creative Director / MIKE MURO & DANIELA BERMĂšDEZ
S T .
P AT R I C K
R E VE A LE D
THE MAN BEHIND THE GREEN BEER AND MYTH by
d av i d
p lot z
oday we raise a glass of warm, green beer to a fine fellow, the Irishman who didn’t rid the land of snakes, didn’t compare the Trinity to the shamrock and wasn’t even Irish. St. Patrick, who died 1,518, 1,550, or 1,551 years ago today— depending on which unreliable source you want to believe—has been adorned with centuries of Irish blarney. Innumerable folk tales recount how he faced down kings, negotiated with God, and tricked and slaughtered Ireland’s reptiles.
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The facts about St. Patrick are few. Most derive from the two documents he probably wrote, the autobiographical Confession and the indignant Letter to a slave-taking marauder named Coroticus. Patrick was born in Britain, probably in Wales, around 385 A.D. His father was a Roman official. When Patrick was 16, seafaring raiders captured him, carried him to Ireland, and sold him into slavery. The Christian Patrick spent six lonely years herding sheep and, according to him, praying 100 times a day. In a dream, God told him to escape. He returned home, where he had another vision in which the Irish people begged him to return and minister to them: “We ask thee, boy, come and walk among us once more,” he recalls in Confession. He studied for the priesthood in France, then made his way back to Ireland. He spent his last 30 years there, baptizing pagans, ordaining priests and founding churches and monasteries. His persuasive powers must have been astounding: Ireland fully converted to Christianity within 200 years and was the only country in Europe to Christianize peacefully. Patrick’s Christian conversion ended slavery, human sacrifice and most intertribal warfare in Ireland. (He did not banish the snakes: Ireland never had any. Scholars now consider snakes a metaphor for the serpent of paganism. Nor did he invent the Shamrock Trinity. That was an 18th-century fabrication.) According to Thomas Cahill, author of How the Irish Saved Civilization, Paddy’s influence extended far beyond his adopted land. Cahill’s book, which could just as well be titled How St. Patrick Saved Civilization, contends that Patrick’s conversion of Ireland allowed Western learning to survive the Dark Ages. Ireland pacified and churchified as the rest of Europe crumbled. Patrick’s monasteries copied and preserved classical texts. Later, Irish monks returned this knowledge to Europe by establishing monasteries in England, Germany, France, Switzerland and Italy. The Irish have celebrated their patron saint with a quiet religious holiday for centuries, perhaps more than 1,000 years. It took the United States to turn St. Patrick’s Day into a boozy spectacle. Irish immigrants first celebrated it in Boston in 1737 and first paraded in New York in 1762. By the late 19th century, the St. Patrick’s Day parade had become a way for Irish-Americans to flaunt their numerical and political might. It retains this role today. The scarcity of facts about St. Patrick’s life has made him a dress-up doll: Anyone can create his own St. Patrick. Ireland’s Catholics and Protestants, who have long feuded over him, each have built a St. Patrick in their own image. Catholics cherish Paddy as the father of Catholic Ireland.
They say that Patrick was consecrated as a bishop and that the pope himself sent him to convert the heathen Irish. (Evidence is sketchy about both the bishop and pope claims.) One of the most popular Irish Catholic stories holds that Patrick bargained with God and got the Big Fella to promise that Ireland would remain Catholic and free. Ireland’s Protestant minority, by contrast, denies that Patrick was a bishop or that he was sent by Rome. They depict him as anti-Roman Catholic and credit him with inventing a distinctly Celtic church, with its own homegrown symbols and practices. He is an Irish hero, not a Catholic one. Outside Ireland, too, Patrick has been freely reinterpreted. Evangelical Protestants claim him as one of their own. After all, he read his Bible, and his faith came to him in visions. Biblical inspiration and personal revelation are Protestant hallmarks. Utah newspapers emphasize that Patrick was a missionary sent overseas to convert the ungodly, an image that resonates in Mormon country. New Age Christians revere Patrick as a virtual patron saint. Patrick co-opted Druid symbols in order to undermine the rival religion, fusing nature and magic with Christian practice. The Irish placed a sun at the center of their cross. “St. Patrick’s Breastplate,” Patrick’s famous prayer (which he certainly did not write), invokes the power of the sun, moon, rocks and wind, as well as God. (This is what is called “Erin go hoo-ha.”) Patrick has even been enlisted in the gay rights cause. For a decade, gay and lesbian Irish-Americans have sought permission to march in New York’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade, and for a decade they have lost in court. Cahill, among others, has allied Patrick with gays and lesbians. Cahill’s Patrick is a muscular progressive. He was a protofeminist who valued women in an age when the church ignored them. He always sided with the downtrodden and the excluded, whether they were slaves or the pagan Irish. If Patrick were around today, Cahill says, he would join the gay marchers. Now television has invented yet another Patrick. Last night, Fox Family Channel aired its made-for-TV movie St. Patrick. Fox’s Patrick is mostly drawn from the historical record, but the producers added one new storyline. The English parent church demands that Patrick collect its church taxes in Ireland. Patrick rebels and risks excommunication by the British bishop. The fearless colonist leads a tax revolt against the villainous English. We Americans, like everyone else, think St. Patrick is one of us.
David Plotz is the editor of Slate, an online news magazine. He is the author of Good Book: The Bizarre, Hilarious, Disturbing, Marvelous, and Inspiring Things I Learned When I Read Every Single Word of the Bible. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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on the couch
THE DANGER IN HYBRID RELATIONSHIPS by Randy Kosloski
“…IN THE IMAGE OF GOD HE CREATED THEM; MALE AND FEMALE HE CREATED THEM”
How is it possible that some of the nicest people are not Christians? The first book of the Bible answers this question, “…in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). So, we are all made in the image of God, and whether it is a Christ-follower, who embraces that image every day, or it is someone who never even considers God, we are all capable of reflecting His goodness. Yet some attribute that goodness to themselves, while others rightfully attribute it to the work of God within them. That distinction has big implications in many areas of life, including what kind of partner a person might be. We honor God when we do good deeds in His name. But when we draw from our own flawed ability to do good deeds, we are limited by our finite, human capacity. Only by seeking goodness through God can we unconditionally love and ultimately do good things. Only through God can we find the capacity, freedom, strength and courage to love and to be kind when it makes no logical sense to do so. A friend of mine named Maurice needed to understand this concept. When he first visited me, he was urgently seeking a wife. He had just ended a relationship with a young woman that he once believed he would be with forever. In the wake of this break-up, he felt lost, alone and desperate to meet someone new. He never said what had convinced him to break up with his girlfriend, but given his current state of despair, I knew he must have felt he had no other choice, or else he simply would have endured the relationship. This dire condition led Maurice into a whole slew of problems, one of which was a hatred for the same woman that he once loved. He blamed her for wasting so much of his life. But if Maurice could have been honest with himself, he might have realized that it was his choice to spend so much of his life in a relationship with her. Since he took so much time to realize the way he was unduly suffering, he should have been mad at himself. And in many ways he was. Maurice’s desperation was causing him to become attracted to many women he would not have previously considered. Maurice was a Christian but he began looking at non-Christians as potential mates. He was afraid that if he limited his choices to Christians only, he might miss out on “Miss Right.” He defended his choices, saying, “But they are good people, even though they are not Christians.” When Joseph was sold into slavery by his own brothers, he was made to suffer. God lifted him out of his suffering and blessed him with wealth, responsibility and wisdom, in part because Joseph remained faithful, loving and kind throughout that suffering. Eventually
Joseph’s brothers came to him begging for salvation from famine. It might have been a natural response for Joseph to think that it was his time for revenge—what goes around comes around. Instead Joseph chose to respond in selflessness with God’s love. If we attribute our goodness to ourselves then we can only go so far. If we attribute our goodness to God then we can give love that is without limits because that love comes from God, who is limitless. While in a relationship where both partners are seeking Christ, when one feels limited in their ability to love, the other may be able to compensate by continuing to love unconditionally. This give-and-take builds infinitely stronger relationships. Giving love to a non-Christian may be a concern, but receiving love should be as well. If we look to receive love that love will ultimately fulfill us, we are mistaken. In his book Cries of the Heart, Ravi Zacharias devotes a chapter to relationships called “The Cry of a Lonely Heart,” in which he explores an idea illuminated by many authors, such as D.H. Lawrence and C.S. Lewis, which says that there are depths to every person that love cannot reach. He explains that the human soul is so deep that its outer regions can only be touched by God. If we expect to be filled by the love of our mate, we will be disappointed. This, in turn, can cause us to become angry and bitter. In worse case scenarios, when we continue to pursue love to meet the spiritual needs of the soul, we may become addicted to drugs, sex or who knows what else. Maurice did not believe that something like this could happen to him. Hopefully, Maurice realized that things don’t have to reach that extreme to hinder our Christlike transformation.
“THE HUMAN SOUL IS SO DEEP THAT ITS OUTER REGIONS CAN ONLY BE TOUCHED BY GOD. IF WE EXPECT TO BE FILLED BY THE LOVE OF OUR MATE, WE WILL BE DISAPPOINTED.” Everyone fails as a partner at some time, whether we are Christ-followers or not. Christians, however, are called to become more loving and to increasingly do good works. The person who attributes their love and goodness to themselves can never freely receive love and never freely give love. True freedom to love is found in God alone.
GM : 07
OF FORGIVENESS Forgiveness may be both the most necessary of responses to the grace that God has bestowed upon us and the most misunderstood. Consequently, it is the most neglected. Yet, it is when we spend ourselves in this very activity that we most resemble our Father in heaven as well as find ourselves being groomed for full and unfettered fellowship with Him.
CAN YOU RELATE BY THOM MOLLOHAN The following passages exemplify God’s heart for us regarding forgiveness: “Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times’” (Matthew 18:21-22). “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:14-15). Frankly, Jesus Himself is the embodiment of forgiveness— literally! He not only lived forgiveness in the daily wear and tear of life, He demonstrated it perfectly in interceding for His haters and persecutors while dying at their hands. As it says in 1 Peter 2:23, “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.” Even facing injustice, Jesus trusted God the Father.
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And if He, sinless and guileless, could pray while dying, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing,” (Luke 23:34), then we can be expected to, and are enabled to, employ that same attitude towards others. So we find that forgiveness is something that we give, even when it has not been requested by others. Note that Jesus sought forgiveness for those who had not sought such forgiveness. Forgiving others who may not care if we forgive them is not about taking on an air of spiritual superiority, but rather is a matter of quietly releasing them from any indebtedness to us while entrusting their behaviors, attitudes and actions to the Lord. We do, after all, belong to Him once we have placed our faith in Christ Jesus as Savior and Lord. We are therefore intended to partake of His nature by submitting to the lordship of His Holy Spirit and allowing Him to transform our character as well as our hearts. We are consequently expected to forgive. His love and power give us the ability to forgive others, but it is helpful to clarify what we mean by forgiveness. Forgiveness in the Scriptures had a strong connotation associated with financial dealings between people. If someone borrowed money from another, then that person owed the other a debt. If that person could not repay the debt, the one who made the loan could “forgive” that debt, canceling it so that recompense would not be pursued and the debt would not be held over that individual’s head. If the debt was not forgiven, failure to repay could result in imprisonment, slavery or forfeiture of something very dear to one’s heart or survival—like livestock, land or even children. Forgiveness in the relational sense works pretty much the same way. When we’ve been hurt or “sinned against”, then the one who has injured us has incurred a debt to us. This is why we often struggle with the temptation to get even or settle the score when someone hurts us physically, emotionally or materially. It is also important that when someone has hurt us that we do not dismiss it or rationalize it, but acknowledge it to the Lord, so that we can then forgive that person. Some argue that when we are injured, we should pretend that nothing ever happened, but that’s not forgiveness in the biblical sense. Our Lord never dismissed sin as a trivial matter but in extending forgiveness to others, exhorted them to stop sinning and live transformed lives, (see John 8:11 as an example). If we have been hurt by another, we are not called upon to willfully hand that person the means to do so again when it is likely he will do so. Nor, is it expected that if someone has fallen morally that we, in forgiving her, continue to tempt her in her weakness. It would be a bad idea, for
instance, to have someone convicted of embezzlement handle money without very close supervision. It would not be wise to allow a narcotic addict to have access to painkillers. Forgiveness does not mean that we pursue abusive relationships that endanger our lives or the lives of our loved ones. Forgiveness is simply the releasing of another from their indebtedness to us. It is taking the position that the offending party is not going to be made to account for his or her actions—not by us at any rate—and that we offer to them the same kind of love that Jesus has shown us. Forgiveness happens when we stop trying to make others pay for their misdeeds or hurtful words. Instead, we just let it go. Forgiveness is, obviously, a key arena in which we employ faith in God. Forgiveness both frees us from bondage to anger and hate and also helps get us out of the way of God’s redemptive work in the lives of others. Forgiveness even allows us to be entrusted by God with the ministry of intercession —praying on the behalf of others—and might, perhaps, be the very means by which the seeds of God’s grace can enter the life of someone else who needs God’s help as much as we did before God forgave our sin. We do well to remember the admonishment from Paul,
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity” COLOSSIANS 3:12-14.
This doesn’t mean that forgiveness is easy, or comes naturally. In fact it’s not something we can do on our own. When one has been deeply hurt, or hurt repeatedly over time, it requires more than an effort of our own will to disentangle ourselves from the complex web of emotions that are spun from our anger, grief and fear. We can only truly forgive by the Spirit of Christ, and there will likely be occasions when we will especially need the help of God’s Holy Spirit to be successful in forgiving others—even though we try with all our might to do so. When in such straits, we can cry out to the Lord to deliver us from the terrible bondage of an unforgiving heart, and trust that He will give us the same heart for others that Jesus has for us.
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merry monk MILK
“Don’t make such a spectacle of yourself.” “Tone it down.” “You should be on the radio so I can turn you off.” I’ve been hearing these kinds of statements all my life. They usually just serve to egg me on. Even so, there are times when I look back on things I’ve blurted out or done in some exuberant display of passion and I deeply wish that I had the sense of decorum that seems to come so easily to most. Lying alone in bed in silent reflection late at night or early in the morning can be a shameful experience for me. I may regret some of the stunts I pull or things I say on the radio, or stuff I write, but I’m going to keep on doing my thing anyway. The shame of the spectacle be damned! Why? Because there’s a method to my Merry Monk madness. Have you ever thought about the Old Testament prophets and the exhibitions they put on? Isaiah walked around preaching naked for three years. Ezekiel built a miniature of Jerusalem, attacked it and then lay on his left side for 390 days and then on his right for 40 more. He also ate a scroll. Hosea went and got himself a hooker and married her! Can you imagine a modern-day pastor announcing to his congregation that he just married a prostitute? “Get to know my new wife, ladies, and make her feel welcome at the women’s social.” Ha! What about a rabbi showing up to synagogue butt naked each week for three years? What would you think if your pastor stood up to deliver his sermon, didn’t say a word and started eating his Bible instead? Were these Old Testament prophets nuts? Maybe. But there was a method to their madness. These guys put on these insane displays to make a point…to get attention and drive a message home. It’s the same with me.
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MAY GOD BLESS THE HELL OUT OF YOU BY THE MERRY MONK
For example, on February 14, my friend Ben and I each attempted to drink a gallon of whole milk in an hour without puking. We recorded the entire disgusting event and posted it at TheMerryMonk.com for all to see. I called it Merry Monk Milk-Money Madness! Why? Three reasons. One, I’m a sucker for alliteration. Two, in 2011, I’m raising money for the work Wakanyeja Pawicayapi is doing among Lakota Indians on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. People pledged “a-buck-a-cup,” $1 per cup of milk we drank in an hour. That’s $16 per gallon or $32 from each donor if we could get the gallons down in time. I’m told that the human stomach only holds a half-gallon and that it’s near impossible to finish a gallon of milk in an hour. You’ll have to visit TheMerryMonk.com to see if we puked before we could bring in the full amount to help the Lakota youth. Now that I think of it, we could have called the event Let Loose the Lactose…Loot for the Lakota! Finally, the third reason for this sickening spectacle, the method to the madness: It’s the essence of the American culture on display. It’s a picture of the selfish way we live our lives and a call to change.
However, it’s just not necessary anymore, guys. The gatekeepers have lost their power to the Internet. The culture has shifted. And most importantly, the good news never required such a lack of recklessness! We can now go back to doing it Jesus’ way and offend the uptight in the name of communicating the most powerful message ever entrusted to men. Because of Jesus, God’s not pissed and we’re free to walk in the Spirit without the stifling, life-sucking demands of religion. Martin Luther put it this way, “There are some who have no understanding to hear the truth of freedom and insist upon their goodness as means for salvation. These people you must resist, do the very opposite, and offend them boldly lest by their impious views they drag many with them into error. For the sake of liberty of the faith do other things which they regarded as the greatest of sins…use your freedom constantly and consistently in the sight of and despite the tyrants and stubborn so that they may learn that they are impious, that their law and works are of no avail for righteousness, and that they had no right to set them up.” Nobody will ever believe our message if we don’t convey it this way and we show that we don’t believe it by
SOMEONE ELSE The Native Americans call white people “Wasichu.” The folk etymology of this word is “one who takes the fat” or “greedy person.” Aaron Huey has something called “TED talk,” which describes exactly what they mean. The bottom line is well said by Dorian “Doc” Paskowitz, “If we take more than we need, we’re stealing from someone else.” This is literally true when we look at our standard of living in contrast with that of the original inhabitants of this continent. This was at the heart of Merry Monk Milk Money Madness. Sure it’s ridiculous. It’s like turning the movie “Jackass” into a charitable fundraiser, but it’s more. It’s us in the mirror. It says, “You want to take the fat, the whole milk? You want to unnecessarily gorge yourself at the expense of others? Have at it, wasichu, but you will pay the price.” The disgusting display of our way of life is physically unsustainable. When people become blind to how their way of life is destroying themselves and the lives of those around them, it takes a spectacle to shock them out of complacency. We need more Christians who are willing to throw caution and reputation to the wind in the service of the upside-down Kingdom of God. Freedom in Christ allows it and the gospel demands it. But too often our tools of communication have been blunted by the self-absorbed obsession with being inoffensive or “right.”
walking on eggshells while trying to communicate it. So, loosen up. If I’m a fool for the sake of freedom, so be it. Communicating God’s love to the least, the lost, the lonely and the Lakota is worth it. The fact that I exist as the Merry Monk of Love is an expression of the gospel. Albert Camus said, “The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.” So, at the risk of spoon-feeding everyone my merry ways, there it is. Do I think I’m some kind of prophet? No, I’m just a guilt-ridden disc jockey trying to use the tools at his disposal to do a little good. Am I embarrassed at times? Yup. Should I tone it down? Sorry, it ain’t gonna happen. I gotta be me, and the work I’m doing is worth it. But here’s the real question, are you going to turn me off? Are you going to see the spectacle, look away in disgust and label it foolishness? Or will you see yourself and be moved to freedom and compassion? Will you join me in being a living spectacle of God’s grace and love? Signed, The Weeping Wasichu (a.k.a. The Merry Monk)
GM : 11
A REVELATION OF FAITH CORNERED BY GRACE
by Rob Beames
Have you ever been asked this dreaded question: “How’s your relationship with God?” Maybe it came from a pastor, a godly friend, or grandparent who isn’t about to let you slide by with an evasive response. Maybe, in all honesty, the best you could say was something to the effect of, “I wish I knew.” Naturally, we feel better if we can point to tangible areas of improvement, some measureable goal reached. Maybe you can report some gigantic leaps you’ve made in your spiritual walk: you’ve started reading His word more, praying more, sharing His truth with others more, or even loving those around you more. Maybe it’s all true; maybe it’s a bit of an exaggeration. We like these reportable milestones, but this is not what God asks of us. He asks us to walk by faith. Sometimes we feel like God is distant for a day, a month, or even decades. But no matter how long we feel clueless about what God is doing in our lives, we can rest assured that He is actively and intimately engaged. Not only does His word tell us this, but the word of God is indeed at work in all of us who believe (1 Thess. 2:13). Sometimes, this is easier read than believed. We might not always see His fingerprints on the decisions we make. We may not recognize His artwork in our present circumstances. It’s at these times, when all direct evidence of God’s presence is lacking, we are forced to trust that He is working in our lives.
GM : 12
Six hundred years before the birth of Christ, the nation of Israel was facing imminent annihilation from an egotistical Babylonian king. The faithful prophet Habakkuk cried out to the Lord for answers. He wanted a revelation. The Lord replied, “...the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and it will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay. See, he is puffed up; his desires are not upright—but the righteous will live by his faith” (Habakkuk 2:3, 4).
I sing along with Third Day that I “need a revelation,” and that “I got nothing without you, Lord,” I still find myself “broken, and trying to find the way back home.”
When would God answer and come to the rescue of Israel? God told His people to “wait for it.” In contrast to an unbelieving king with wrong desires and “puffed up” with pride, God says the righteous will live by faith.
So, when does it all end? When do we finally get the answers we want? Actually, they may never come in this life. God doesn’t promise us that they will. However, He did make a sacred covenant with us to be our God and to make us His people in return. We are saved by faith and our principal identity comes directly from His love for us. He owes us nothing more. He gives us nothing less.
About 700 years later, the Apostle Paul applied the prophet’s words to all of those who are sons of Abraham by faith. Carried along by the Spirit of God, Paul states that the righteousness by which we are to live is one “that is by faith from first to last” (Romans 1:17). Later in the 16th century, God revealed this truth to the leaders of the Reformation to counterbalance a church which was increasingly putting its faith in works, and, like that Babylonian king, was increasingly becoming puffed up in desires which weren’t upright. His faithful were still required to wait on God to work, although the situation seemed bleak and hopeless. Over the past couple decades, I’ve seen God move in my life at times and clearly heard His voice on other occasions. But, I’ve had to live all the other days by faith. At my conversion, God heard my persistent plea to reveal His truth to me, and at the right time, He cut through my confusion with the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ. There were other times He directed my paths and I followed in faith, but few of those trails turned out as I had hoped. I recall major decisions made out of fear because I lacked the faith to follow Him. I’m left wondering what could have been. Only recently, after several weeks of desperate prayer, God seemed to speak powerfully to me through a song, telling me clearly that He is indeed “big enough” to work in the way I implored. Although His power was undeniably confirmed to me then, I still didn’t get what I wanted. Sometimes, it doesn’t seem to matter how often
Although it’s only a parable, the prodigal son had a type of revelation with his face in a pig’s trough. His thoughts were finally cleared by the pig slop he was eating and he knew what he needed to do. There are many days when I would gladly take that kind of revelation. And yet I know I’ve never actually left home.
Sometimes He reveals His plans to us. Sometimes He takes us to the place we want to go. He often comes to our rescue, even after saving us from spiritual death. Occasionally, we are allowed to see what He’s doing in our lives and how He’s crafting us into the image of His Son. But during all the other times, we are left to walk by faith. So, no matter how many faithless decisions we have made, or how much of our life has been wasted on our self-absorbed endeavors, God cannot love us any more than He already does (John 15:13). During every single one of our failures, He responds to us saying, “My Son has changed your worthlessness into great value!” That causes us to love Him more, and inspires the faith within us to trust Him more (if only to a slight degree that’s hardly worth trying to articulate to Grandma!). This is a revelation of faith. No, we don’t always see how He’s working in our lives, but in faith we trust His word which tells us He is. We don’t always sense His presence, but by faith we know His promise never to leave us is true. We don’t always feel like He regards us at all, but through faith we believe His words of love for us are genuine. We continue to read them, sing them, and repeat them over and over again, as we keep walking through this life in faith. (I believe He wanted me to remind you of this!)
NO, WE DON’T ALWAYS SEE HOW HE’S WORKING IN OUR LIVES, BUT IN FAITH WE TRUST HIS WORD WHICH TELLS US HE IS. WE DON’T ALWAYS SENSE HIS PRESENCE, BUT BY FAITH WE KNOW HIS PROMISE NEVER TO LEAVE US IS TRUE. WE DON’T ALWAYS FEEL LIKE HE REGARDS US AT ALL, BUT THROUGH FAITH WE BELIEVE HIS WORDS OF LOVE FOR US ARE GENUINE. WE CONTINUE TO READ THEM, SING THEM, AND REPEAT THEM OVER AND OVER AGAIN, AS WE KEEP WALKING THROUGH THIS LIFE IN FAITH. GM : 13
by will dole
IS ARTISTIC EXPRESSION BIBLICAL? GM : 14
God does not call us to a stiff religion. He calls us into a loving relationship where we use the gifts He has given us for the edification of our brothers and sisters in Christ, and most importantly, for glorifying Him who created us.
I am becoming increasingly embittered towards evangelical Christianity. I admit, this is, in part, because it is easier to blame others for my problems than to “man up” and deal with them myself. However, I do have some major questions regarding how “evangelical Christians”— particularly in the United States—arrive at some of our beliefs. How often do we assume things are Biblical without taking the time to question whether what we are doing, saying or thinking really is sound? How often have we honestly examined our lives and beliefs in front of an open Bible, praying that God would reveal and remove thinking and actions that dishonor Him? Many of us have never even thought of doing this, let alone attempted it. How would our Christianity change if we closely imitated the Berean Jews of Acts chapter 17? One area of current Christian thinking that might be impacted by a thorough review of Scripture is how we view art. Be it in the form of poetry, music, painting, drawing, sculpting or many other forms of expression, art is something rarely discussed in “conservative” circles. And from the scant references to art from the pulpit, one might conclude that anything relating to artistic expression is worldly, and therefore, evil. This avoidance led me to a somewhat jaded perception of artistic expression, squelching the desire for any artistic expression of my own or any appreciation of the works of others. It seemed to me that if so many Bible teachers I listened to had nothing to say about it, it must not be important. Being a creative person, this has always bothered me. How could the God of the universe, the Creator of art, Creator of the artist, and truly the most magnificent Artist of all, have nothing to say about art? Worse yet, how could He be opposed to artistic expression? I did not understand how tragically wrong I was until a couple years ago. It was then that God started to grab my attention in many areas, but one that seemed to slip in the back door was this idea of godly artistic expression. Over time, God has taught me more about art. Art originates from the Artist Himself. As stated previously, God is the Creator of art. In his book The God Who Smokes, Timothy Stoner puts it this way, “When God sets out to paint a picture, He flings billions of stars into the deep blue canopy of space. When God sets out to write, He inspires and collects sixty-six manuscripts into a cohesive narrative of story, poetry, history and instruction. When God decides to sculpt, He brings man out of the dust. When God sets out to direct a movie, He takes man and woman, fills the earth with His image bearers, allows
them the freedom to disobey Him and wreck the planet, and then sends His Son as a perfect, obedient man to give His life away to save those who will submit their lives to Him.” That is a magnificent artist. God is the one who paints the sunset, forms the mountains and fashions these impossibly intricate bodies that we inhabit. His art is truly divine. All too often, we assume that because a medium is used by the world, it is therefore evil. One example of this is rap music. Prior to my teen years, I honestly cannot recall hearing one positive word about this genre of music from any self-declared Christian. But one day, I heard some music by Lecrae and Trip Lee—for rap fans, I highly recommend them. I discovered two men passionately pursuing Jesus and seeking to communicate the Gospel through rap music. This left me flabbergasted. How could this supposedly sinful genre of music be used to the praise and glory of Christ? A partial answer to this is the fact that God intends for us to use virtually any medium to communicate His truth. The fact that Jesus quite often used the parable—a culturally relevant form of teaching in His day—to communicate the truth of His message is an example of this. God is not bound by our preconceived notion of how the message ought to be packaged. God works outside of the box! We should be careful to note that art is not intended to be an expression of only ourselves. Industries of expression are largely self-centered and ego driven. This is perhaps where certain Christians recoil from creative artists. Of course, the message we express should be glorifying to God. In Psalm 19:1-4, David tells us what message God Himself has expressed through His creation, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words, no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.” God’s ultimate goal for our lives is that we delight in Him and express that delight and satisfaction in whatever way He has gifted us, including artistic expression. God does not call us to a stiff religion. He calls us into a loving relationship where we use the gifts He has given us for the edification of our brothers and sisters in Christ, and most importantly, for glorifying Him who created us. Praise be His name!
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THE TOOL BOX KEEP IT CLEAN ONLINE
Technology is such a powerful tool—and it can be used for good or bad. And in the battle for personal purity, technology can be a friend, like providing access to resources such as these, or a foe. Activities like sex chat and looking at pornography are too easy to get away with from the privacy of your PC. No one will ever know, right? But the consequences of those choices affect not only us, but our walk with God, as well as our relationships with those around us. That’s why it is so important to take all the necessary steps to win this battle. Here are some tools to help us win that fight. Even if you are not currently tempted by porn on the Web, take proactive measures to make sure it doesn’t catch you off guard, since so many ads and searches contain pornographic images, and plant a seed that in time becomes a thicket. There are several accountability/filtering software packages that are quite popular: • Safe Eyes is a fairly comprehensive package. $50/ year subscription. • Covenant Eyes has an accountability and filtering program that can be purchased separately. The accountability aspect tracks all the websites visited, sending a report to an accountability partner. The filtering aspect allows us to set up time constraints, block protocols, create a custom block/allow list and change sensitivity settings for multiple users. Prices start at $4.99 for filtering, $8.99 for accountability, or $10.49 for both. Adding another user is fairly cheap. • K9 Web Protection is free for home use. It isn’t an accountability tool, but provides very good filtering capabilities for a very reasonable price: Free! :) • x3watch is also has a free version, but it doesn’t filter any content. It just sends an accountability report to someone of our choosing. Although it can be turned off, our trusted friend, or friends, will know, so we won’t get away with it. The pro version for $7/month also includes filtering, and real-time text message alerts to accountability partners to keep us from going very far down the wrong path. Beyond those listed above, there are so many other options out there—too many to document here. For a better idea, let me describe my own setup. I wanted something cheap and free, so I went with x3watch to provide basic accountability. Aside from that, since I use Firefox as my main web browser, I chose Foxfilter to filter content. It also allows to me to create a custom
@ BY JEFFREY BRIDGMAN
list of keywords or websites, so I can target particular trouble areas for me. For the password, I chose something ridiculously long to enter, like every 6th letter from a Bible verse about purity. Another good option is to have a trusted friend set the password. I also have AdBlock Plus installed. This only blocks advertising in general, but it helps keep the clutter down and has the added advantage of blocking any advertisements that might trigger sinful thoughts and desires.
Time management is where the battle can be lost or won. If we are busy doing something positive, we’re a lot safer than if we are isolated, just wasting time on the Internet. Here are some cool programs to help us stay on task and keep our hands from becoming idle online.
• Freedom is an app that turns off the Internet for a certain amount of time. Once the timer is set we have to wait to get our Internet back. Here’s a scenario where it might be useful. Imagine you have an essay you need to write and have to stay up late working on it alone. By setting the timer for a specific amount of time, it’ll keep you away from everything ranging from pornography to distracting YouTube videos, so you can focus on getting that paper done. Or, if you have a certain troublesome time of day, like lunch time or the evenings, use these tools to block your Internet access and pre-empt temptation. Get a free trial or purchase for only $10. A similar application for Macs called Anti-Social blocks just the social networking part of the Internet. Another Mac application called Self-Control has a timer that can’t even be reset by rebooting the computer! • pomodoro is a Mac app that follows the Pomodoro Technique™ for time management. The basic idea is 25 minutes of work, then a five-minute break. This can help us stay focused on tasks that need to be done, rather than aimlessly wasting time. And if we do get off track, the alarm at the end of the 25-minute period can remind us of what we should be doing. Tools aren’t useful unless we are ready to fight. We should have a battle plan in place and make decisions to avoid areas which might be tempting, because it is far too easy to give in. Here are a few good passages to fill up our minds, so there won’t be much room for filth: Galatians 5:13, I Thessalonians 4:3-8, II Timothy 2:22. With this biblical foundation, using applications such as those above can help us stand our ground in the fight for purity.
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