Music and Art Monday, August 6th, 2018: Culture and Christianity

How are Christians supposed to interact with culture? Are they supposed to ignore it? Avoid it? Yell at it?

A couple of things got me thinking about this topic over the weekend. One was a Facebook post complaining about Christians who watch Harry Potter or listen to Black Sabbath or appreciate other “things of darkness.” Another was an interview with Alistair Begg about the Beatles.

The first took the position that we are supposed to avoid all the “darkness” of the world. They quoted 2 Corinthians 6:14 “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?”

The second took the position that we ought to know the culture we live in. We ought to be intimate with it so we can engage it with truth. We should analyze culture to learn it’s theology and understanding of humanity.

Which do I agree with?

Well, I do agree with scripture that we should not be unequally yoked. We should not marry a non-believer, we should avoid serving two masters, we cannot follow both the world and God.

But I don’t think that means completely shutting out the culture around us. If the separator is going to be completely consistent he would need to avoid working for non-Christians or even working with them. He would need to be like the Pharisees and wash up every time he came in contact with a non-believer. The whole world is dark. We aren’t called to hide from the dark or completely avoid the dark, we couldn’t do it if we tried.

We are instead called to be light in the darkness. We are to shed light on the lies of Satan. And we can’t very well do that if we bury our head in the sand and have no clue what lies are going around.

In his interview, Begg quoted John Lennon as saying that the lyrics to “Help” were a subconscious cry from his heart. But no Christian of the day was reaching out to him with truth and light. No Christian responded with the Biblical definition of love when “All You Need Is Love” came out either. It was a great opportunity to show what real love is but it was missed.

It’s much the same today. We would rather chastise the unsaved than respond to them with truths. We would rather wear our spotless robes of piety and keep our distance from the world than risk getting muddy with those in it. It’s easier to yell at the darkness and deride it than it is to correct it.

Jesus went to the world. He spoke to the worldly and the pious both. He was not afraid of being soiled by the darkness, because He always had the light of truth with Him.

As Christians, we too should not fear the dark. We should instead shine a light into it. In order to do that we have to see the darkness and know it well.

And that may mean we have to get our hands dirty. It may mean that we read books with certain uncomfortable themes or listen to the lyrics of songs that may make us cringe. We have to take every opportunity to show the love of Christ to an ugly world, and that may mean looking that ugliness right in the face. We don’t have to yolk ourselves to it and hold it in high esteem. We don’t have to embrace the lies in it. But when there is a shred of truth we should grasp onto it and expound on it. We should commend truth and correct lies.

Christians need to be involved in the culture. We need to shine on it and spread the Gospel into it. We can’t very well do that from a bunker.

Daily Thoughts #31

Reading about the flakiness of the disciples or even of the Israelites gives me hope for myself and the Grace of God. They literally walked with Jesus (or under a pillar of smoke) and they still occasionally forgot Who they were trusting. But God forgave them and continued to bless them and them. How much more will He be compassionate on those of us who follow Him now!

Alone again for a few weeks…. Yep… Blah. I miss her already. Anyone around Alamogordo wanna hang out?

Plans plans plans. And tons of prayer.

Godly Men Want Godly Women, With Or Without Tattoos, Virginity, or Debt

I mentioned the other day how I learned God’s grace doesn’t cover sin when seeking a spouse, along with two other wonderful lessons of the week. Since this one got the most traction around the world I figured I would cover it first.

There is a blogger (The Transformed Wife) out there who wrote a post insisting that young men prefer young women who have no tattoos, no debt, and no sexual experiences. I don’t really want to give her traffic, but here is a link if you really care to read it. There are many many posts on there that are cringe worthy, so be careful.

Now, on the face of it I won’t disagree with her. Every young godly man would prefer a perfectly sinless, spotless, unblemished young woman. He would prefer a woman who has not, does not, and never will sin. Every young man and every young woman wants a perfect spouse. And yes, God’s ways are the best ways. Christ wants us to avoid debt and promiscuity. Christ wants us to live lives free from sin.

However, the author’s standards go a bit beyond God’s standards. Christ didn’t expect a perfect bride. Christ did not come to die for a perfect spotless bride. Christ came to live and die in order to create a perfect bride.

Also, while it is true that a perfect spouse would not have debt or a promiscuous past (tattoos? Maybe, maybe not), these are not the only standards by which we should live by.

A debt free, tattoo-less virgin may still be a backbiting, slanderous gossip. She may have an unrighteous temper. She may abuse alcohol or drugs, She might not be a Christian at all. She could easily be a pagan, a Hindu, or a Muslim. To claim that a lack of three very specific things makes her the ideal is seriously blind to the reality of the fallen world in which we live in.

A tattooed, debt-ridden, (formerly) sexually active woman may be the most godly woman you ever meet. She may have had a rough past which left her with a few marks and scars, but now she is on fire for the Gospel. She may have committed egregious sins in the past, but now since God has saved her and changed her heart, she is able to fully grasp what grace is and is able to give it abundantly to her (potential) husband.

Sure, everyone would like a spouse without baggage. The ideal spouse would not have a past. He or she would not have the same struggles as a person with a rough history. But honestly, how many of those people are really out there? It is rare to find anyone without at least a few things in their past they aren’t proud of.

And when you do find that rare individual, are they really ideal? First off, are they really being honest that there is nothing they are ashamed of? That should throw up a red flag right there. Second, does a perfect history really create the kind of character that is able to withstand the hardships of a marriage? Can a person who has never done anything wrong truly understand grace enough to give it to an imperfect spouse?

Personally, I want a woman who has endured some hardship and has come out of it stronger. I want a woman who understands forgiveness and is able to both accept and give it. I don’t care if she has tattoos, debt, or a “pure” body, as long as her desire is to worship and follow Christ with all her heart, soul, spirit, mind, and body, I am quite happy to be with her.

Normally, I would pick a post like this apart bit by bit but this one is almost so ridiculous that I don’t know where to begin. This woman is a Pharisee. She takes the laws of God and adds her own laws. She insists that only those who follow her laws are Godly.

“Your posts sound crazy to anyone who does not believe the Bible is true.” Well, I and about a million others who believe the Bible is true still think your posts sound crazy. No. Not crazy. Just laden with your own man-made laws and standards. We think your insistence on cookie-cutter Christianity is pretty disgusting and probably not pleasing at all to the Lord.

Christ didn’t come for a perfect bride, Christ didn’t come to save “good” people. Christ saves a variety of souls from a variety of backgrounds, geographic locations, family situations, ethnicities, cultures, and dare I say denominations.

Marriage is a mirror of the Gospel. If Christ doesn’t have a preference for debt-free, tattoo-less, virgins, neither should we.

Stabbing Anxiety In the Face With a Soldering Iron, Part 2

Last week I discussed some of the things I do to conquer the physical aspects of anxiety. But what about the thoughts?

In order to kill bad thoughts it helps to understand the motives behind one’s thoughts. Most of my anxious thoughts stem from my severe need to be in control of all things. I am a control freak. When things are out of my control I panic. I begin to think the worst. I lose all faith and go into the selfish cocoon of anxiety.

Knowing what motivates my wrong thoughts helps in creating a strategy to defeat them.

So what do I do?

Well, I take control of the things I actually have control of. Despite my negativity, there are things I actually have some power over. Like my time, my children, and my personal space.

I make a schedule and try to stick with it, understanding that sometimes things happen that make that schedule obsolete for the moment. At the very least I follow a routine and make habits.

I work on establishing healthy boundaries with my children. Kids can be chaos incarnate, but usually only because we don’t put a foot down and make it clear what is allowed and not allowed. Discipline goes a long way towards helping calm that storm. Boundaries are important to all relationships, if there are other relationships in your life that create stress and anxiety it is likely that you need to establish some basic rules regarding it.

By personal space, I mean my house. I have control over the cleanliness and clutter of my home. Part of a good schedule and routine is taking time to organize and clean up. Visual clutter and messes are huge triggers for anxious thoughts. It took me years to figure this out, but it has made a huge difference since.

As for the things I can’t control… (which are far fewer in number than my mind will let me believe) those things get put into my prayers. Only God can control those things.

That may seem like a cop out answer, but I assure you that faith is harder than any scheduling, disciplining, or cleaning. Having faith requires catching my thoughts and correcting them. Taking every thought captive requires constantly telling myself truths to correct the lies that my mind wants to tell me. In order to do this I have to know truths, I have to study and think about truths, and I have to believe truths.

Anxiety is ultimately the antithesis of faith. Faith is ultimately the solution to anxiety.

MAM: July 2, 2018: A Waterfall is Within

I don’t know exactly when I wrote this or the circumstances, but it seems pretty descriptive of so many points in my life. Enjoy!

A waterfall is within,
But drying up before my eyes, I weep dry tears, I fear I am falling out of faith, I fear I am falling out of grace, I fear grace was never here.

Beating my head against a brick wall of my own sin, breaking through every barrier I have put in my way, endlessly tripping down the same path, when will it end?

I fear I may never be able to win this war, I lose battle after battle, I fight with no ally, I fight alone, I fight within, I fight myself to sleep and grieve with every broken promise made to myself and the ones I love.

Is there an end, a way to win, is there a battle I may be victorious in? Never alone will I win, never alone can I conquer myself, I am too frail, too deep in my own flood of desires and passions. I am consumed.

I am faltered, I am weak, I am weary, I have fallen. I can’t get up from this pit, I am endlessly lost in this grave, underground but still walking, dead but still breathing, I need help, I need life.

I need forgiveness, I need strength, I need a Hand to lift me up, I need to turn around, to make my way back to joy. I cannot win my battles alone, I cannot fight my struggles inside, I must bring the war into the open.

Lead me on, Spirit. Be my shield and my sword, be my horse that carries me through the sea of deadly temptations, wielding their bloody axes, hacking into those without You, killing those who mock You, not knowing of Your might.

Lift me up, turn me away, send me running far out into the open, far away from the death that is within me.

Forgive me, cleanse me, heal me, cause my heart to be apologetic, cause my life to reflect You, cause my mind to dwell on You, cause my body to desire You.

I have thirsted, I have drowned, I have hungered and been gluttonous with that which is deadly, I have been arrogant and I have been smashed to bits.

But my life is faith, my walk is delicate, my desires are few, for I am fulfilled by my salvation, I am lifted up and guided through hard times by the Spirit who is greater than I.

I am nothing. God is Everything.

Daily Thought #1

Today I am going to start a little record of my daily thoughts. It may be daily, it may not. We shall see.

There is a current “debate” raging in Reformed circles that goes like this:

Side A:”Christ became a wiggling baby so He could get close to us.”

Side B: “No He didn’t! He took on flesh for the Glory of God the Father!”

To which I answer:

“Why not both?”

Christ did come as close to us as possible to us by becoming one of us. He took on all the infirmities of humanity, He was hungry, He wept, I’m sure He got sick on occasion. There is no debate that He became a wiggling baby.

Perhaps we should hone in on the definition of “us”. Properly understood, Christ is close to Christians, we are the “us” that He came to be close to.

Was all of this taking on flesh just to be close to Christians? Of course not. All things Christ did was to glorify the Father.

Can we get back to more important things as Christians? Like reaching the lost?

All You Need is Love

“Love…is a many splendored thing.

Love… Lifts us up where we belong.

All you need is love…”

While Moulin Rouge might have been more of a lust story than a love story it at least gave us some memorable medleys about love (and was a darn good movie).

What is love? (Baby don’t hurt me)… Love, biblically is: patient, kind, not arrogant or boastful, selfless, forgiving, truthful, strong, trusting, hopeful, enduring, and everlasting… All the things that we as sinners seem to have such a hard time being.

Why is marriage so difficult? Because we aren’t loving. As soon as we lose our patience, or distrust our spouse, or hold onto a grudge about something s/he did, we are no longer loving. As soon as we decide we would rather selfishly sit on the couch then get in the kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, garage, home office, or nursery and lend a hand we are no longer a loving spouse.

Why is parenting such a hardship? Because it is hard to be patient with three year old tantrums or a nine year old’s backtalk. It is hard to be kind when you have been working your fingers to the bone and your six year old demands some attention. It’s very tough as a finite creature to give endless amounts of discipline and instruction to little people.

Love is tough, it does not come naturally to most of us. Movies make it seem so easy. All you have to do is kiss and say some sweet nothings and your life will blossom with joy. Not so with reality.

In reality love is holding your pregnant wife’s hair while she loses her breakfast for the third time that day (for the record my gag reflex was too much. My wife was gracious enough to let me out of this halfway through her second pregnancy). Love is sitting down and helping your nine year old figure out her feelings or giving your six year old a much needed piggy back ride. Love is making your spouse lunch every day. Love is getting up and going to work every day (or staying at home to take care of things there) so your spouse can live out their gifts and talents (at home or in a workplace).

Love is ugly sometimes. It forces us to confront our own narcissism. It makes us crush ourselves so others may rise to greatness. Love frequently leaves us feeling spent and used. There is not always an immediate or even short term return on our investments.

But in the end (the love you take is equal to the love you make), love is worth every struggle and hardship. Every pain will be counted and rewarded.

God rewards our good deeds, and those done in love all the more.

Theonomy and Hobbes

It occurred to me while reading Hobbes that a Commonwealth could never form under Theonomic law. That is, natural man will never assent to be governed under God’s law. Natural man will always be at enmity with God and therefore always at enmity with the State claiming God as Sovereign. Natural man in a Theonomic Commonwealth would be in constant fear of legal execution, as he can always be considered treasonous towards the government of the territory he inhabits.

The Theonomic Commonwealth would be a nation of coercion and force. It would be a nation in constant civil war. The only men who can covenant with God are those who are in Christ. All other men are unable to make such a covenant and therefore would be enemies of God and the Theonomic Commonwealth. Such a State would result in innumerable false conversions and revolt against the Gospel itself.

Hobbes describes three types of Commonwealth: the Monarchy, the Democracy, and the Aristocracy. None of these are suitable for Theonomy.

In a monarchy one man is given all the authority of the people by those who covenant together to grant him authority. In Theonomy, God grants power to governments. Government is not created by man to keep peace, it is instead created by God to bear the sword and enact justice.

I have had Theonomists argue with me that government can take any form as long as it obeys the civil laws of the Old Testament. But in the case of a representative monarchy, who is the sovereign and who is the subject? In a Commonwealth, the sovereign is the representation of the people who covenanted together to be ruled by him. They are “the author of his actions”. Surely man is not the author of God’s actions. How would a king be chosen? If the king represented God and His law, would he not be unlike the Pope?

“God’s law would be the law of the land, much like the Constitution.” Again, natural man is opposed to God’s law. We would not of our own volition subject ourselves to it, nor would we elect representatives who would subject themselves to it. Democracies and aristocracies therefore wouldn’t fit the mold either, unless we suppose the entire nation to be saved.

From what I have read about both subjects, I don’t see how a Theonomy could operate as anything other than a theocratic dictatorship, with either a Pope-like “King” enforcing God’s law as he interprets it, or a counsel doing the same. Either way it ends up a violent police state and completely negates the reason man comes together to form governments in the first place.

Pre-Menstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) and Birth Control, A Dangerous Combination

From “Taking Charge of Your Fertility” by Toni Weschler

From my previous posts you have learned that I don’t oppose all forms of birth control, but that I urge caution about hormonal birth control.

I have two reasons for this: the first is the fact that hormonal birth control can be an abortificant. The second is much more personal, hormonal birth control can really create havoc on your body and mind.

Shortly before we were married, my wife went to her gynecologist for a routine check and pre-wedding screening (not like she needed it but whatever). While there, the doctor told her she should start taking birth control a couple of months before the wedding. “You don’t want to be inconvenienced by a baby.” she told her. Being young and naive my soon to be wife acquiesced and started taking what the doctor prescribed.

The side effects began her first week on the pill. At first it was a near constant nausea which kept her in bed most of the time. Next, a nearly insatiable libido disappeared. Then came the depression and anxiety. She reported these to the doctor and was assured they weren’t side-effects, she was probably just nervous about the wedding.

Reluctantly, the doctor switched her pills for the patch. Her nausea abated slightly, but the rest of the symptoms remained in full force.

By the time the wedding came, she had very little interest in sex. There were a few nights on the honeymoon where she cried for hours because she couldn’t understand what was happening to her. She didn’t want me anymore. What sort of switch happened that would cause her to suddenly stop her interest in me?

Upon our return, my new wife reported these problems to the doctor only to be told that she was probably just regretting her decision to get married so young. “Depression is not a side effect of birth control.” Nonetheless, her doctor agreed to change the medication again, this time to the Nuva Ring.

While the ring was better for nausea, the depression worsened dramatically. There were nights I would wake up next to a sweating, rocking, tearful woman. Sex was nearly impossible. She contemplated suicide.

All the while, the doctor insisted it was in her head.

I don’t remember exactly what clicked in my mind, but one morning I told her to quit the birth control. While the side-effects weren’t spelled out on the packaging, it was too suspicious to me that they would coincide with her first dosages. She quit taking them, much to her doctor’s chagrin.

Within a month her mood was vastly better. Her nausea disappeared. There were still incredible mental and emotional scars that made sex difficult, but her appetite for it returned in force. Two months after quitting (three months after the wedding), she was pregnant.

After our first daughter was born we ignorantly decided to try the BC again. Breastfeeding was a hellish nightmare (thanks to a lack of lactation consultants) and parenting did not seem like something we wanted to do more of at that point.

Side effects came right back full force. She was told “oh, those aren’t side effects” yet again.

Funny how they disappeared shortly after she stopped taking the pill for the second time.

The labels did vaguely mention that you could have suicidal thoughts as a side-effect. But it was listed as an almost unheard of side effect. Our only guess is that women who do not suffer from Pre-Menstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) rarely have those side effects. Or that doctors simply don’t care.

She was never screened for PMDD, we didn’t know she had it until almost ten years later. But the diagnosis made everything make sense. Any fluctuation in hormones brings about emotional and mental changes in her. Birth control, pregnancy, and breastfeeding each had their own effects, whether nausea or severe depression or decreased libido. Like clockwork she gets severe depression about ten days before her period and starts feeling better immediately upon menstruation. Then she is healthy for a week or so after, before plunging back down again.

Most doctors don’t even know what PMDD is, it’s just not on their radar. They are convinced that BC simply doesn’t have any emotional side effects. They barely listened to her about the nausea.

It’s almost like they have an agenda to push. Hence the “you don’t want to be inconvenienced by a baby” comment.

Needless to say, hormonal birth control is definitely not for us. Since this happened to us we have talked to dozens of women who had similar experiences, even ones without PMDD.

If you decide to use it and you experience similar side effects, don’t let the doctor tell you that you are crazy or that you should just switch until you find one that works. Get your hormones checked and talk to a doctor about the possibility of PMDD. It took a general practitioner about ten minutes to make the diagnosis and prescribe medication and other therapies. Now she is healthier emotionally than she has ever been.

It’s not worth living in misery when there are other ways to go about preventing pregnancy.

A Few Explanations

Lest I be accused of misrepresentation, I do want to clarify a few things about Onanism.

Onanists do understand that Onan was deliberately disobeying God. They do not simply conclude that the spilling itself was the whole of Onan’s transgressions.

The implications of what they believe are quite staggering. While most don’t believe there are any reasons to prevent pregnancy, there are some who will allow it. However, because of their interpretation of these verses, they often assert the only moral way to prevent pregnancy is complete abstinence, even in marriage. I know a man who has gone twelve years without intercourse because he refused his wife’s request to have a vasectomy. He considers it his cross to bear. It’s almost like a badge of honor to him. I think it’s a shame. I think it is atrocious that he has allowed his wife to withhold from him (sin) for this long without approaching her as a brother in Christ or as a Godly husband concerned with his wife’s soul.

They also don’t go officially by the name “Onanist”, I just coined the term to describe those who hold to this particular application of the Onan story. So don’t go pointing a finger and yelling “Onanist!” at them. They probably wouldn’t understand anyway.

Don’t be this guy…