Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Strictly for the Hard Core: "The Mosaic Law, Today"

An early Christmas present from H-n-T! This is my research paper which addresses the question: "What purpose does the Old Testament law have for today's church?"

To view the paper full screen, click the button on the far right of the Scribd window.

Monday, December 08, 2008

The Bible on Homosexuality

On my most recent Today's Christian Woman blog post, someone asked for a list of Bible verses that discuss homosexuality. I'm posting them here on H-n-T:

Old Testament
Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Genesis 19
(The people of these cities were involved in all kinds of sexual immorality, including rape, and sex with animals and children. This passage specifically mentions homosexuality.):

4Before Lot and his guests could go to bed, every man in Sodom, young and old, came and stood outside his house 5and started shouting, "Where are your visitors? Send them out, so we can have sex with them!"

Note that when God called for the destruction of cities in the Old Testament, it was because a city had become so reprehensible that God wouldn't put up with their sinfulness any longer. In records outside of the Bible, it has been shown that the Canaanites were highly promiscuous, would have sex with temple prostitutes as part of idol worship, would have sex with animals, and would rape and sacrifice children in the worship of idols. That's why God promised to give Canaan to the Israelites.

In the Law (Torah), Leviticus 18:22:
22It is disgusting for a man to have sex with another man.

Leviticus 20:13:
13It's disgusting for men to have sex with one another, and those who do will be put to death, just as they deserve.

New Testament
The apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 6:
9Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders 10nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Notice that other types of sexual immorality--and specifically adultery--are included in this list along with homosexuality.

Romans 1
(In this chapter, Paul is outlining how man has turned away from God since creation):

24So God let these people go their own way. They did what they wanted to do, and their filthy thoughts made them do shameful things with their bodies. 25They gave up the truth about God for a lie, and they worshiped God's creation instead of God, who will be praised forever. Amen. 26God let them follow their own evil desires. Women no longer wanted to have sex in a natural way, and they did things with each other that were not natural. 27Men behaved in the same way. They stopped wanting to have sex with women and had strong desires for sex with other men. They did shameful things with each other, and what has happened to them is punishment for their foolish deeds.

1 Timothy 1:
8We know that the Law is good, if it is used in the right way. 9We also understand that it wasn't given to control people who please God, but to control lawbreakers, criminals, godless people, and sinners. It is for wicked and evil people, and for murderers, who would even kill their own parents. 10The Law was written for people who are sexual perverts or who live as homosexuals or are kidnappers or liars or won't tell the truth in court. It is for anything else that opposes the correct teaching 11of the good news that the glorious and wonderful God has given me.

In Paul's letter to Timothy, he includes a list of people who do things in opposition to the Mosaic Law (Torah). This isn't meant to be a comprehensive list, but rather, is a summary of some ways in which the Law is broken.

Big point here is homosexuality (as well as pre-marital and extra-marital sex--and, of course, bestiality, rape, and sex with minors) is in opposition to God's model for sex.

While Jesus never directly discusses homosexuality, he does offer an example of the Genesis creation account in discussing divorce:

Matthew 19:
4"Haven't you read," he replied, "that at the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female,' 5and said, 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh'?

One post to this blog (from David) said, "At the same time, we ignore Matthew 19, where JESUS says one of the reasons men don't marry (women) is because God made them that way."

What Jesus says refers to eunuchs, men who are born with defects that make them unable to have sex:

11Jesus replied, "Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. 12For some are eunuchs because they were born that way; others were made that way by men; and others have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it."

David, if you are implying that Jesus is defending homosexuality here, that is a false characterization of this passage.

Always a good reminder: We need to be careful when we apply Scripture to our lives today to first consider the historical and cultural context in which it was given. And we need to not bend the meaning of words. This passage is about men who can't have sex: 1) due to birth defects, or 2) due to accidental or purposeful castration. It also discusses that some men won't marry (and will abstain from sex) because they have dedicated themselves to the work of ministry.

As a side note, the point Jesus is making in the Matthew 19 passage is that husbands and wives should stay married. Jewish law had been interpreted such that men could divorce their wives for any reason. I think this verse could be applied as a strong statement against no-fault divorce today.

Taking a Stand for Marriage

Holly's latest blog entry on Today's Christian Woman magazine's website is now up:

Taking a Stand for Marriage
My vote on Proposition 8 was obvious, yet painfully difficult.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Evidence for Jesus, Son of God: Response to Arah

Arah, thank you for explaining the Islamic view of Jesus.

Your comment—and my disagreement with how you've portrayed Jesus—serve as proof to the point that religions are not the same. What you've basically stated in your comment is this: "Holly, you and all Christians are wrong." To illustrate how different we are, consider Jesus' words from the Bible, John 14 (bold emphasis mine):

1"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. 2In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4You know the way to the place where I am going."

5Thomas said to him, "Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?"

6Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him."

8Philip said, "Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us."

9Jesus answered: "Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'? 10Don't you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. 11Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves. 12I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. 14You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.

Arah, if you truly believe as you say you do, you surely recognize that the passage I've quoted from the Bible contains blasphemous comments, from the perspective of a Muslim. Jesus is saying: 1) He's deity, 2) he's one with the Father (God), and 3) he's the only way we can reach God. How could Islam characterize a man who said these words as the second greatest prophet?

Christians often refer to the Trinity using the description of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit. I hope you will see that there are foundational disagreements between our two religions because Islam and Christianity are not the same thing. To be very blunt: One of us is wrong. If I'm wrong, I will incur God's wrath because I've deified someone who isn't a deity. If you're wrong, you will be eternally separated from God for not acknowledging Jesus as the Son of God.

Perhaps I will come to the end of my life and find that I'm wrong. I spent nearly a decade investigating various religions and spiritual practices, and found them all lacking until I began to really look at the life of Jesus Christ and who he claimed to be: the Son of God. I'm convinced he was telling the truth. And as I constantly find more evidence that Jesus is deity, I become more confident of my choice to follow his teachings.

You've suggested that there are man-made characterizations within Christianity (I assume you're referring to the words of the Bible). I'd ask you: Where is your proof of this, outside of the Quran, your own holy book? And what I mean is, how can you be certain that the Quran is truth, rather than the Bible, Tipitaka, Book of Mormon, Veda, Tao-te-ching, etc.?

Here is some of my evidence:

To view the paper full screen, click the button on the far right of the Scribd window.

Res research

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

No 'Secret': We Suffer for God’s Purposes

This is in response to further comments about The Secret:

There is a false and insidious concept floating around today’s church: that God wants to express his love for us by making us happy and comfortable.

Earthly happiness is not God’s goal for us. Quite the contrary: God wants us to become like Jesus. And what do we know of Jesus? His life was about suffering.

Jesus left paradise to come to earth. He left a place where all is good and right. He went to an earth that is filled with pain, sickness, and suffering. When Satan tempts Jesus in the desert, the offer is to alleviate that suffering. Jesus is hungry, as he hasn’t eaten in 40 days; Satan suggests that Jesus end that hunger (suffering) by allowing himself to have the comfort of food. But Jesus says no—God is his priority, not the ending of his suffering. Satan offers to give Jesus riches and power. Again, Jesus says no—God is his priority. He goes on to live a life of poverty, indeed homelessness. (Remember, the Son of Man doesn’t have a home or a place to lay his head.)

Satan also tells Jesus that he’s powerful, so surely he can throw himself off the cliff and he’ll be OK. I believe this is the same temptation posed by The Secret today. The law of attraction asserts that we are powerful. We instead need to continually proclaim truth: God is powerful. We are weak creatures who long for comfort so much that we make it an idol that becomes more important to us than God.

Jesus is pursued by his enemies, constantly threatened with death, and insulted at every turn. He is betrayed by his closest friends. And we all know what happens at the end of his life.

Additionally, we don’t have to guess about what it looks like to be a follower of Christ: We see what happens to his followers in the early church. Paul is repeatedly beaten, thrown in prison, and his life is threatened everywhere he goes. He is beheaded by Nero in Rome. Matthew is killed by the sword in Ethiopia. Mark is dragged by horses through the streets of Alexandria. Luke is hanged in Greece. Peter is crucified upside down. Christians worldwide continue to suffer and die for their faith today.

Throughout the New Testament, we’re told that the Christian life requires suffering. We should not desire to escape from it, because God uses suffering for his higher purposes. Here are some (I’m quoting Dr. John Hutchison, chair of the Bible exposition department at Talbot School of Theology, as he summarizes this beautifully):

1) To show genuine faith and glorify God (1 Peter 1:6-7)
2) To discipline for personal sin, producing a life of righteousness and harmony with God and others (Heb. 12:7, 11)
3) To develop perseverance, character, and maturity (Rom. 5:3-5, James 1:2-4)
4) To prepare us to comfort others who go through suffering (2 Cor. 1:3-4)
5) To provide opportunities for the advance of the Gospel (Phil. 1:12)
6) To follow Christ’s example and show his glory to others (1 Peter 4:12-14)

In 2 Cor. 12, Paul speaks of having a “thorn in the flesh.” Dr. Kevin Huggins, a therapist, pastor, and educator, explains what Paul means:

“A ‘thorn in the flesh’ is any kind of suffering or affliction that attacks or weakens our capacity to live independently of God (2 Cor. 12:8-9). According to Paul, thorns in the flesh come in at least five varieties (12:10): ‘weaknesses’ (physical infirmities), ‘insults’ (relational difficulties), ‘hardships’ (natural disasters and economic difficulties), ‘persecution’ (physical violence), and ‘difficulties’ (emotional distress).”

While we’re not called to pursue suffering (to intentionally have it inflicted on us or to physically abuse ourselves), we’re not supposed to be purposely avoiding it, either. If you aren’t experiencing any suffering in your life, you need to ask yourself, “Why not?” Why are you making great efforts to avoid the thing God specifically says he’s going to use to shape you and make you more like Jesus?

Monday, November 24, 2008

More Questions on 'The Secret'

A reader sent some questions about The Secret. This has been the most discussed topic on H-n-T, so I've summarized his thoughts and responded here:

1) He suggests I don’t fully understand the concept of the law of attraction because I haven’t read The Secret; I’ve only watched the DVD.

While the book might have extended content, the DVD contains the core concepts of the law of attraction. Let me offer an illustration: The vast majority of people don't read the vehicle code in order to get a license. Instead, they read the DMV driver's handbook. The vehicle code offers extensive detail, but one doesn't need this background to understand the laws. The summary in the driver's handbook tells us the core, necessary ideas.

I was already familiar with the concept of the law of attraction, and watching the DVD confirmed that The Secret is holding up the idea that people have the power to attract good or bad things in their lives through their thinking. Some of these core ideas are in direct opposition to biblical teaching, as I outline in my blog post, “The Secret” Versus the Bible.

(Some have asserted that I don't really understand what's being said in The Secret. I'd challenge anyone to show how ideas such as "Your life will be what you create it as, and no one will stand in judgment of it, now or ever" and "You are eternal life. You are source energy. You are God manifested in human form" could possible line up with the Bible. These are quotes from the DVD.)

Many people put their faith into the law of attraction after watching The Secret DVD. I stand firm in stating that Christians need to put their faith in God, not in a misguided theory that suggests we trust in our own personal power.

2) He suggests I should look at the points of agreement between the law of attraction and Christianity. He says, “What about the ecumenism?”

Most religions have some points of agreement with Christianity. Many world religions (Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, to name a few) acknowledge Jesus Christ. This acknowledgment could be viewed as a point of agreement. However, the foundational differences between the views are much stronger than the sameness: Some view Jesus as merely an important prophet or a great teacher, but certainly not as the Son of God or the source of salvation. These views of Jesus aren't the same, and the distinctions far outweigh any small agreement.

“Ecumenism” means the promotion of unity between different Christian churches. The Secret is not a Christian concept; it has nothing to do with ecumenism. Perhaps you are referring to universalism, or some belief that all religions are equally valid. World religions are not the same. Some hold there are many gods, others say there is one God. These are contradictory statements; both can't be correct. Some hold that this one God is distant because he is above and beyond us in greatness; others hold that we can have a close, personal relationship with God. Both can't be correct.

Jesus said, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6). Christians hold that the only way to have a relationship with God is through Jesus. The idea that all religions are the same is untrue, and illogical.

3) He suggests that God is the one acting on behalf of the person who employs the law of attraction: We ask God for something, and he gives it to us.

God often does chose to give things to Christians when they ask him. However, this isn’t the law of attraction: The Secret says human beings personally have the power to obtain good things, and avoid bad things. God doesn't factor into The Secret equation.

Much of New Age thought focuses on the avoidance of suffering, either by not “drawing” it to oneself, or by mentally rejecting the concept (convincing oneself that pain doesn't really exist). The law of attraction is more of this teaching; it discusses how to focus on getting good stuff and to not attract bad stuff. But here’s what the Bible says about suffering:

James 1:2: "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance."

Note that this says whenever you face trials (as opposed to if you face trials). We will face hardship and suffering. And this is a good thing:

Romans 5:3-4: “… we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”

Suffering builds character. God uses suffering to sanctify us (to make us more like Jesus).

If we solely focus on only having good things in our lives, and we are striving to ever avoid pain, we are missing out on opportunities to build character and become more spiritually mature. Jesus suffered. If we want to become more Christ-like, we have to experience suffering, too.

In summary, if you believe every good and perfect gift comes from God, and that you can ask God for good things, you are making a request that is based on biblical truth.

However, if you believe those things, you aren’t practicing the law of attraction. The former says: “I’m thankful for the blessings God chooses to give me: I know God is good and strong. I'm grateful for what he does for me.” The law of attraction says: “I have control of these blessings; I can get them for myself.” They simply aren’t the same ideas.

Thank you for offering these questions and your thoughts, Hiram. I can't argue with your experience of seeing good things in your life come about due to your study of the law of attraction. But I would ask you: As a Christian, do you think studying the law of attraction will bring you closer to God? Is getting good stuff really the ultimate goal you want to seek?

You have the best instruction in the world in the Bible. Through God's True Word, we learn about God's character and his plan for our lives.

Who’s Got an Important Job?

Over the weekend, I attended a get-together with some high school friends. I hadn’t seen these folks in 17 years, so I’d wondered whether we’d be able to carry on a conversation—and, if so, what on earth would we talk about?

As we began sharing about the second half of our lives, several of my old schoolmates told of their paper-pushing, report-filing, 9-to-5 jobs. I asked for more detail, and one replied, “You know, it’s just a normal job.” Thing is, I haven’t recently experienced what a “normal” job is like, since I haven’t had one since 2004. And I miss it. One classmate mentioned the free beverages in his office, which took me right back to my last full-time job, where I was thrilled that I could make mint cocoa every day because my office had both cocoa packets and peppermint tea bags. I miss the daily interactions with co-workers, going out to lunch, and the shared joy of finishing a project.

Don’t get me wrong: I love the writing that I do. I just have a different experience—of getting up, drinking a glass of water (no coffee cart to grab from), walking from my kitchen into our home office, and often wishing I had a co-worker with whom to bounce around ideas. Instead, I email my stories to my editors in Chicago, hoping they don’t hate them, and wait for their emailed reply. And sometimes I “phone a friend,” asking their opinion on my work. “Normal” simply isn’t my normal.

I thought my friends’ jobs were a lot more fascinating than the tone in their voices suggested. They are doing work that is deeply meaningful to individuals, the country, and the world. Their work helps others receive medical care, make financial decisions, and access entertainment. Some of them figure out solutions to problems so others don’t have to worry about that stuff.

Some years ago, a friend who worked as an office assistant told me she felt her job was unimportant. “I’m just a secretary,” she’d said. And I replied, “Isn’t every working person a secretary?” In essence, everyone is working for someone else: Some people work for a supervisor, some for clients, some for shareholders. This might sound like I’m saying, “All jobs are relatively unimportant”—but my meaning is the furthest from this. Rather, I mean that all jobs are equally structurally important. If any part of the structure is missing, regardless of what type of part it is, the structure is incomplete.

This is the concept of the body of Christ. There are days that I feel like the pinky toe in the body. I’ve heard that a person could lose their toe and still be able to walk and function just fine. But function isn’t the point. The body was designed a particular way, which includes 10 toes. If one toe is gone—even if one toenail is missing—the body isn’t complete.

I once accidentally dropped something heavy on my foot, which caused bruising under the nail. I remember how I’d worried that my toenail might fall off. I didn’t want to be missing a nail on one toe, because I recognized this would cause me to feel incomplete. (Well, I’d feel it was ugly-looking to be toenail-less!) My mind recognized that even the smallest piece is needed for completeness. I love these verses from 1 Corinthians 12: “… there should be no division in the body … its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it” (v. 25-26).

On those days when I feel like I’m the pinky toenail, I hope I’ll also remember that I’m a valuable part of the body's structure. I hope I’ll learn to always regard every person as necessary for the body of Christ to be complete.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Is Prop. 8 About Rights?

Is this an issue of rights?

Since 1999, same-sex couples have been able to register for a domestic partnership under California law. Though rights were limited in scope back then, these have been expanded over the years so that today, a domestic partnership offers the same rights and responsibilities as a marriage within California.

From the California family code (current California law) regarding domestic partnerships:

297.5. (a) Registered domestic partners shall have the same rights, protections, and benefits, and shall be subject to the same responsibilities, obligations, and duties under law, whether they derive from statutes, administrative regulations, court rules, government policies, common law, or any other provisions or sources of law, as are granted to and imposed upon spouses.

(f) Registered domestic partners shall have the same rights regarding nondiscrimination as those provided to spouses.

(These are two portions of the law that offer summary statements; click the link above to read the full text of the law.)

If Proposition 8 becomes law, it would not affect California law on domestic partnership—same-sex couples could continue registering and receiving the same rights in California as married opposite-sex couples.

Do “marriage” and “domestic partnerships” confer the same rights?

Within California, both confer the same rights. However, these rights are not “portable” because states create their own state’s laws, not federal ones. Thus, same-sex couples can’t register for a domestic partnership in California and retain those rights and responsibilities if they move to another state, unless that other state passes legislation to acknowledge these unions.

The same is true for same-sex marriages. Individual states decide whether they will recognize same-sex marriages. So as far as portability goes, it doesn’t matter what designation a same-sex couple receives (marriage or domestic partnership)—other states may or may not recognize the union. Same-sex marriages are currently recognized in Connecticut, Massachusetts, California and New York; New Hampshire and New Jersey recognize these as civil unions.

The U.S. federal government and its agencies do not recognize same-sex marriages, per the Defense of Marriage Act (enacted 1996).

If rights aren’t at stake, then what’s this issue about?

This is a primarily a dispute over the right to use the word “marriage.” From a publication of the Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) website: “Civil unions are unfamiliar; people don’t understand them or know how to treat them … . Marriage is the ultimate expression of love and commitment; people understand and respect it.”

Why is any compromise needed? Why not just designate both as “married”?

For a variety of reasons, many Americans, including Californians, think the word “marriage” should be only defined as between a man and a woman.

In 2000, Proposition 22 was adopted in California, with 61 percent of voters supporting it. The following was added to the California Family Code (308.5):

Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.

A series of legal challenges and counter-challenges has taken place over the past four years. In May 2008, the California Supreme Court struck down Proposition 22, effectively allowing same-sex couples to marry. In June 2008, Proposition 8, titled “Eliminates Right of Same-Sex Couples to Marry,” qualified for the November ballot, receiving close to twice the amount of petition signatures required for a measure to qualify.

Same-sex couples have been able—and are still able— to register for domestic partnerships. If Proposition 8 becomes law, it would not affect California law on domestic partnership—same-sex couples could continue registering and receiving the same rights in California as married opposite-sex couples.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Prop. 8: Thoughts from Joe and Response from Holly

Thoughts from my friend Joe:

Dear Holly,

I admire the honesty of your post; I agree that the only real argument against gay marriage is faith-based. No phony data about the unsustainability of families anchored by gay couples or such makes this a refreshingly honest view.

However, your musings generally undermine the strength of your argument... you say you must vote to make your state better recognize the authority of God, but point out cases where just such a position would be not only a cause of "sadness" but in fact, extensive state-sponsored bloodshed. Yes the Bible does actually proscribe death for adultery. Are you in favor of a proposition banning all promiscuity? Wouldn't that be superior? It would be the proposition to end 'em all... and most people, too.

And no, we don't have to wonder how many people would go missing from the pews if that sentence were enforced... good social science data puts the rate of pre-marital sex (between to-be-marrieds) at about 96%- this has been normative behavior for over 40 years. So, if we conservatively estimate the 4% of abstainers to ALL be churchgoers, and about 30% of folks visit church regularly, then about 85% of those pews would still go empty- more, if you more-reasonably assume churchgoers behave about like everybody else.

If you're going to enforce God's law selectively, then the only reason to target gays (~4% of the population, ironically the same # of folks who abstain til the wedding day) is because they are a convenient target, or because it doesn't affect you. You may feel "sad" about your vote, but I bet you feel better that you did what God said. But that was too easy. How about making the 10 Commandments law? Close all stores on the Sabbath, fine people who are attracted to people other than their own spouse (remember- it's not just the activity- even 'coveting' is banned)... I could go on forever. Strict interpretation of the Bible is no way to run a democracy, especially one that establishes no State religion and is in fact, highly pluralistic.

I just hope you'll think about why you want to enforce this 'one' of God's many banned activities, and not others.

-J. Spagna


And my response:

Hi Joe,

Thanks for the thought-out response. Makes me think they actually taught us a thing or two about being thinking people at CMC.

First, I need to call you out on your correlation of random statistics, i.e. the one between gays as approximately 4 percent of the population and those who abstain until marriage being about 4 percent. I'm curious: Why'd you pair these up? Why even mention them together?

I’m not disputing your estimates, just the way you used them. If about 4 percent of the population eats tofu cheese, you can’t necessarily cross-reference or correlate that 4 percent with the 4 percent who are gay.

I can only guess why you mentioned this ironic (as you called it) correlation, but I’m sure there are some folks who say to themselves, “Hmm, about 4 percent of truly ‘moral’ folks are judging the 4 percent who make up the gay community as ‘immoral’” … and the wacky, irrelevant comparisons go from there. But my point here is that the gay marriage discussion isn’t—or at least, shouldn’t be—about the church weighing its own “morality” against that of others.

From a biblical perspective, churchgoers themselves don’t have a moral leg to stand on. To use some well-known church language, Christians commit sins just like those who aren’t Christians do. So church folk aren’t the standard; a completely holy God should be the standard. My mention of the death penalty, as prescribed in the Torah, was to further emphasize and illustrate that Christians cannot use their own personal authority in discussing morality.

On legislating biblical morality: This would never be something I’d seek because the United States isn’t a theocracy. The Old Testament shows the history of how the Israelites made a covenant (binding contract) with God: They agreed to obey God’s laws in exchange for God’s blessings. Christians commit to follow the biblical morality of the New Covenant (essentially, the teachings of Jesus Christ)—they enter into an agreement. (This is not to say that Christians hold up their end of the deal, but, as I’ve said, the morality of Christians isn’t the point.) So all of biblical “law” applies only to those who enter into these contracts.

Now, you might ask, if biblical law applies only to those who enter into these contracts, why does the Christian care about voting to eliminate same-sex marriage? For starters, I’ll go back to the idea that every law is the imposition of someone’s value. At present in America, the majority seems to value defining marriage as between a man and a woman. (We’ll see if that’s true in California in a few days.) The minority, in my estimation, is holding up the value of the rights of the individual. That’s a good value, but I don’t think it’s the best one.

Still, if Prop. 8 fails, I’ll be bound to accept the outcome because I’ve also entered into a contract, so to speak, as an American citizen. I get to express my opinion and vote, and in exchange, I agree to abide by America’s laws that are created by the opinion of the majority. In this democracy, my Bible-influenced opinion is equally valid and equally weighted with the opinions of others who’ve been influenced by other things.

You wrote, “I just hope you'll think about why you want to enforce this 'one' of God's many banned activities, and not others.” Yes, of course, I have. There are reasons the Christians church is so vocal about homosexuality and abortion in particular. One major reason: Biblical history shows that God destroys nations when they become too disgusting for him to stand anymore. There’s a reason God offered the Israelites the land of Canaan as their “Promised Land.” Sources outside of the Bible show that the Canaanites were highly promiscuous, incorporating orgies as part of the worship of their gods. There were male and female temple prostitutes—everybody was having sex with everybody. Rape was common, as was sex with children and animals. Children—babies and toddlers up to age 4—were sacrificed as part of idol worship. You could say that Canaan was a very pluralistic society.

You’ve probably heard the argument about the “domino effect” of legalizing gay marriage. I’d note that after Canada made gay marriage legal, they began researching another issue: Should polygamy be legalized?

And then what’s next?

America isn’t Canaan yet. My vote is about trying to not infuriate God for as long as possible because I love my country, too.

I’ve presented an essentially biblical/spiritual argument here, which I recognize will sound absolutely foolish to folks who don’t believe in God. (If one doesn’t believe in God, it’s extremely difficult to accept the idea of a higher morality that goes beyond human morality. Thus, their argument becomes, “Christians think they are morally superior.”) It also won’t resonate with some who do believe in God; they will come to other conclusions. I'd love to hear how folks have reached their own position.

Joe, I do hope you can see I’ve taken considerable time to think this through, as any responsible CMCer should when it comes to their vote.


Friday, October 31, 2008

Holly's Thoughts on Proposition 8 (THIS POST TEMPORARILY NOT AVAILABLE)

Portions of this blog post will be published on the website of Today's Christian Woman magazine. Per my contract with them, I've temporarily removed this post. I will post the link to the TCW piece here in three weeks.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Conversation or Confrontation? Thoughts on Bill Maher's "Religulous"

Holly's latest blog entry on Today's Christian Woman magazine's website is now up:

To ponder:
1) When you discuss your faith, is it more often a conversation or a confrontation?

2) Do you think confrontation is an effective way of sharing your faith?

3) Consider the expertise of your Christian friends. How could specific friends educate you on topics relating to faith and the church?

4) Have you ever referred a spiritual seeker to a Christian friend when you couldn't answer the seeker's question? Make a list of your Christian friends who might serve as good resources (e.g. professional counselors, apologists, scientists, pastors, those who've experienced suffering such as illness or loss, folks who are able to articulate their faith well, folks who are willing to share their testimonies).

Thursday, October 16, 2008

10 Commandments of Blogging

A reader recently called one of my blog posts "narcissistic." Which I'll interpret as "Holly, you're doing a great job at conveying your thoughts!" per the definition of "blog": an online diary; a personal chronological log of thoughts published on a Web page.

But one never wants to become too cocky, so perhaps a few blogging guidelines would be good for me. The following "Ten Blogging Commandments" are from Evangelical Alliance website. (Thanks, Brooke, for telling me about them!)

Ten Blogging Commandments
1. You shall not put your blog before your integrity.

2. You shall not make an idol of your blog.

3. You shall not misuse your screen name by using your anonymity to sin.

4. Remember the Sabbath day by taking one day off a week from your blog.

5. Honour your fellow-bloggers above yourselves and do not give undue significance to their mistakes.

6. You shall not murder someone else’s honour, reputation or feelings.

7. You shall not use the web to commit or permit adultery in your mind.

8. You shall not steal another person’s content.

9. You shall not give false testimony against your fellow-blogger.

10. You shall not covet your neighbour's blog ranking. Be content with your own content.
Source: http://www.eauk.org/articles/blogging-ten.cfm

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Picking the President

Holly's latest blog entry on Today's Christian Woman magazine's website is now up:

My opinion on this one isn't worth fighting over.

To ponder:
1) Which ideas do you feel are worth fighting over?

2) Which ideas, in your opinion, aren't worth fighting over?

3) Which of your ideas do you invest the most time in? Does most of
your time/effort/energy go to opinions, beliefs, or convictions?

4) Do you think people should discuss their convictions often? Can someone be passionate about their convictions without discussing them with others?

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Thoughts for a Teen on Taking Grace for Granted

Some thoughts I sent to a student from my church's youth group:

I was thinking about the question you asked: Can you ask God to forgive you before you do something wrong?

One way to define sin is: Anything that puts distance between us and God. In other words, sin messes up our relationship with God. This is how it happens: We feel ashamed for something we've done or thought, and we want to hide it from God. Plus, we afraid he'll be angry—that's another reason we try to hide from him. The problem is, when we "hide," only we see it as hiding. We're not actually hidden—God already knows what we've done. When we're trying to hide, we're not talking to God. (Like how you might avoid your mom if you've done something wrong.) That lack of communication puts distance between us and God.

If you ask God to forgive you before you do something wrong, that shows you really don't want to mess up your relationship with God. It means that you love God, and you're concerned about your relationship with him. Still, if you go ahead and disobey God, your actions aren't matching up with what's in your heart.

Here's an example: Imagine that your mom tells you to do your homework before watching TV. You want to obey your mom because you love her. But there's also a TV show on that you really want to watch, and your homework isn't done yet. If you go ahead and watch TV before doing your homework, does that mean you don't love your mom? Of course not. Still, it's disrespectful to break her rule. And, even though you do love her, you didn't show it when you had the choice of obeying or disobeying.

Your actions (watching TV before doing your homework) aren't matching up with what's in your heart (you love your mom and want to obey her).

This is something most—if not all—Christians struggle with. I do. I love God, and I don't want to do things that are disobedient and disrespectful. But sometimes, I do them anyway.

Here's a prayer that might be helpful to you: "Dear God, you know what's in my heart. You know that I really want to obey you, because I do love you and respect you. Help me to match my actions with what's in my heart. When I want to do something that's disrespectful to you, please remind me how much you love me. Remind me of all the great things you've done for me. I don't ever want to put distance between us—I want us to stay close and connected, and I know that means talking with you. Thanks for always listening to me."

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Praying for Terrorists: My Jonah Moment

Holly's latest blog entry on Today's Christian Woman magazine's website is now up:

Praying for Terrorists
Do American Christians have a right to be angry for 9/11?

To ponder:
1) What are some examples of how anger might lead to other behaviors that are sinful?

2) Do you think people can be angry without sinning?

3) Consider the definition of forgive. Do you think it's possible to forgive someone without condoning their actions?

4) Do you think it's possible to forgive someone without restoring or creating a relationship with them?

5) Why, in your opinion, is it difficult to forgive?

Friday, August 29, 2008

"Be" Like Jesus? How Do I "Do" That?

Ever feel overwhelmed by the goals you're supposed to attain? By the projects you're supposed to finish? By the length of your to-do list, which seems to only be getting longer?

Today, I'm overwhelmed. I started classes on Wednesday and just received my three syllabi for the semester. Hubby and I were on vacation last week, so on this frightful day I unpacked, began to tackle the laundry (which was already overflowing before our vacation), and updated my to-do list (bills need paying, refrigerator is empty, my car needs a smog check immediately). Meanwhile, I'm stressfully thinking about the freelance project I should be working on, which is due next week, as well as my homework for school, which I should be doing, too.
Once I figure out a plan for all this work, I know it won't be impossible. Everything will get done, and it doesn't all need to happen today. But stress still hovers over me, with that gnawing desire to just be finished. And things, as you well know, are never finished.

In my spiritual life, I perpetually feel unfinished. And I resent it. Every time God brings about some big change in me, I want to relax and say, "OK, God, we're done, right?" I wish I could be completely transformed by God, and just done with it. I dread the emotional work and the pain of change that goes along with transformation.

I even try to make to-do lists as a Christian. I look at Jesus and, seeing my benchmark, I think, That's how I'm supposed to live. How can I reach that goal? What do I have to do to get to that point?

Why do I feel compelled to be completely sanctified in this life? It simply isn't possible--so why do I categorize this as yet another goal to be attained, as if there's some spiritual to-do list I can complete?

My pastor says I get wrapped up in "do-ing." This is true: I want to do stuff to grow spiritually, like serving, reading the "right" books, evangelizing, whatever. Just give me the tasks and I'll do them. Instead, my pastor says, I should just "be." This frustrates me to no end. What does it mean to "be"? And, I wonder, what do I have to do in order to be?

I suppose we desire to do stuff because that's what we see in our lives: Everything from our daily tasks to our long-term goals and dreams are measured by how much progress we've made. How many to-do's did we cross off our lists today? Did we do enough work to get a promotion, a good grade, or kudos? Am I a good wife because I got the laundry done and put a hot meal on the table? Am I a good daughter because I called my mom and made plans to get together? Am I a good worshipper because I listened to a sermon on tape, read three chapters of my Bible, and prayed for a sick friend?

As much as I hate endless work, I've realized I'd rather have a to-do list because at least I'm clear on what needs to be done. But to just be? How am I supposed to measure how effective I am at be-ing?

If I could buy into this idea of be-ing, it would be such a relief. Do-ing is an exhausting, unending cycle. After my classes are completed this semester, there will be more classes. After my freelance assignment is turned in, there will be more things to write. And, of course, the laundry will get dirty again.

Like do-ing, be-ing is ongoing, but there seems to be rest in it. It's present tense, in the moment, and without expectation. If I could learn to give God this present moment, to surrender continuously, I wouldn't have to worry about what has been or what will be.

Wouldn't it be wonderful to be content with your present situation, your character, and your life? Wouldn't it be wonderful to say, "Here am I, God. I'm tired of doing. I'm just going to be who you made me to be, and I'll let you be God and change me as you see fit."

I'm not there yet. But I want to be, without trying to figure out how to do this. Right now, a "yoke that's easy" and a "burden that's light" seem like contradictions. My to-do lists aren't easy or light. I hope I can let God show me what he means.

To ponder:
1) Do you measure your relationships with friends and family on how much you do for each other?

2) What do you think it means to "be" a good friend?

In your spiritual life, do you feel like you're mostly do-ing, or mostly be-ing?

What do you think it means to "just be" with God?

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

It's No "Secret": We Don't Always Know What We Want

An H-n-T reader writes:
"I'm a strong Christian, but I tend to struggle with believing in the law of attraction. For instance, I have skydived before, and one day, I thought it would be cool to go again. By the end of that day, I was skydiving. Now, I had the idea and thought more and more about it. Did I get to skydive because I thought about it and I attracted it? Or how was it that God gave this opportunity to me? I want to live for God, but some of The Secret has to be somewhat true, or is it of the devil?"

Holly sez:
Thanks for sharing this example of something you wanted and got. I completely relate, as when I was a New Ager, I deeply believed I could obtain whatever I wanted just by thinking about it. And for a long time, I was amazed when I did get those things. For example, I wanted to be interviewed by my college's alumni magazine, and about a year after I graduated, they published a two-page article on me.

I don't chalk that up to coincidence or good fortune; I know I appeared in the magazine because I wanted to be in it. But I now recognize I wasn't mentally manipulating others to do my will. Getting what I wanted had to do with establishing relationships and subtly expressing my desires. I knew the magazine editor well and was freelancing for him at the time. I'd had many personal conversations with him, and told him how much I loved my full-time job as a reporter for a community newspaper. He happened to appreciate community newspapers and had wanted to feature someone in the alumni magazine who worked in publishing. So even though I never directly said, "Hey, profile me in the magazine!" I got what I wanted because I was seeking out that opportunity.

Of course, no one needs to be so subtle to get what they want. I once asked an employer why I hadn't gotten a promotion, and he told me, "Holly, I didn't know you wanted one." After that, I got promoted into the positions I wanted because: 1) I worked hard and wanted to do well in the company, and 2) my boss knew my goals.

Much of the time, the things we want are available to us if we're willing to work for them and are seeking opportunities. I'd say you got to skydive a second time because you really wanted to do this. You enjoyed your first experience, so you were alert to the opportunity of skydiving again and you made the desire known in some way.

Now for the spiritual perspective: James 1:17 reads, "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows." This doesn't say, "You'll get everything you want," but it also doesn't say God withholds good things. One thing's for sure: God isn't interested in giving us the bad things we may want.

Before I became a Christian, the things I wanted often weren't good for me. I wanted random guys to notice me or for someone to give me free alcohol. I constantly wanted people to tell me that I was talented, attractive, and cool. Back then, I believed the law of attraction worked because I got those things that I wanted. I got noticed and praised, and for awhile, everything was fun. But soon, I was left feeling painfully empty—the things I wanted were unsatisfying. Worse, I didn't know what I wanted anymore. I felt incompetent, unable to choose good things for myself. When I saw my own lack, I began to believe there had to be a God who was smarter and more competent than me. I wanted that God to give me direction and purpose. It took me nearly 10 years to become humble enough to have a relationship with God; I had to un-learn the habit of trying to control everything and everyone around me.

My friend Kevin says he doesn't believe God says "no" to the good things we want for ourselves. Rather, God says, "Yes—and I have something better for you." In other words, God always gives us the "good and perfect" blessing. The things we want might be good, but they might not be as perfect as what God wants to give us.

My friend Becky had been dating a guy, and that relationship was negatively affecting her relationship with God. When Becky prayed about her desire to have a good relationship with both a boyfriend and with God, God's response was, "Yes, Becky—and I have something better for you." Becky then did a scary thing by letting go of what she thought she'd wanted. She broke up with her boyfriend. She trusted that God would eventually give her a good and perfect relationship with a man. She didn't have to wait long; soon after the breakup, Becky met Trevor, a wonderful Christian man. I had the privilege of attending their wedding.

As for the question: How did God give you that skydiving trip? I'm sure you'll agree that skydiving was a good and perfect gift for you. (Not so much for me—planes, high places, and the feeling of weightlessness all freak me out!) At the moment you had the opportunity to go, you had the resources: perhaps money and time to go, and a body that was healthy enough for the activity. About a year ago, I was able to start dance lessons, and I immediately recognized this was a gift from God. God's given my husband a great job, so there's enough money in our budget for me to dance. Since God's given me the opportunity to work at home, I set my own schedule; thus, I can make time for my dance classes. And God's given me a healthy body, with two legs that are strong enough to jump around.

We need to be willing to talk to God about our desires, and to let go of what we think we want so God can give us something better. I now feel very comfortable praying, "God, these are the things I want with all my heart. You already know what I feel passionate about. And you know what's best for me. Please bless me with the good and perfect gifts that only you can give."

We should have personal goals and desires, and it's OK to make our wishes known to other people. But first, the Christ-follower should talk to God about the things we want. Then he will move us toward the true desires of our hearts and give us something even better than we'd imagined.

To ponder:
1) What do you really want? If you don't know, ask God to help clarify what is good and perfect for you.

2) Gratitude keeps us from becoming entitled and selfish. Make a list of five things for which you're thankful. Next to each, write how you are specifically grateful to God and others.

For example: "I'm thankful for my blogs. Thank you, God, for giving me the opportunity to write them. Thank you for the many people who give me great ideas to write about. I'm especially thankful for my friends Angela and LaTonya, who are always willing to read and edit my posts. Thank you for honest friends who give me truthful feedback. Thank you for providing time for me to write, and for the ability to pull my thoughts together into sentences. Thank you for providing teachers and editors who taught me about grammar and structure, and resources like this computer and the Blogger website that make it possible for me to write. (Wow, I'm so thankful that there are folks who have the ability to design and make stuff like computers and websites!) Thank you, God, for providing me the means to receive so much joy."

"The Secret" Versus The Bible

Is the Real "Secret" that Some People Are Better Than Others?

Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Meme Challenge, Day Two: Being a Representative of Christ

(For more on the Meme challenge, see: "Tag, I'm 'It'")

Day 2
On representing Jesus

I sometimes get a little scared when people ask me, “What do you do for a living?” I gauge their reaction, watching their body language as I say, “I’m in seminary right now, and I write for several Christian magazines.” Some people shuffle around uncomfortably, or they look away from me. Some light up with big smiles across their faces. And some nod matter-of-factly, as if I’d said, “I’m a file clerk at the library.”

I get scared because the moment I say it, I know some people will classify me. Some will think I’m judging them because “Christians think they’re perfect” (I’ve been told as much). Others will express enthusiasm that I’m a member of “the club” (I’ve been told something along these lines, too—ew!). I wonder if some Christians will dismiss me because I don't meet their high, holy expectations. And among those who aren't believers, I worry that my words and actions will define Christianity for them; perhaps they won't want to look any further after they've met me!

This scares me because I’m a Christ-follower—I’m not Jesus Christ. I’m one of the king’s messengers, not the king. I’m troubled when I’m told to “be Jesus,” or that I’m the “only Jesus some will ever see.” This too often is a call to act perfect, happy, and complete; we become like the Pharisee in this parable Jesus told:

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.'

"But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.'

"I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." (
Mark 18:9-14)

I want people to see my flaws and shortcomings, so they will understand my need for Jesus—and hopefully, theirs, too. And I really want to become comfortable just being myself, as God created me to be.

To ponder:
1) Why is it difficult to let others see our flaws, shortcomings, needs, and dependence?

2) Consider 2 Corinthians 12:9-10. According to the Apostle Paul, why is weakness important?

3) Why do you need Jesus? How would you explain this to someone?

Is the Perfect Christian Coalition My Biggest Critic?

Atheists Get Vocal When Christians Get Arrogant

Generation Exodus: Why do so many young people leave the church?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Meme Challenge, Day One: Why Does God Allow Suffering?

(For more on the Meme challenge, see: "Tag, I'm 'It'")

Day 1
On My Biggest Faith Struggle

I wonder why God allows suffering.

There are plenty of good reasons for suffering offered in Scripture: to discipline or to prevent sin (Hebrews 12:7, 11; 2 Corinthians 12:7); to develop perseverance, character and spiritual maturity (Romans 5:3-5; James 1:2-4); to prepare us to comfort others (2 Corinthians 1:3-4); to provide opportunities to share our faith and spread the news about Jesus (Philippians 1:12); to follow Jesus’ example and thus bring honor to him (1 Peter 4:12-14); and to show genuine faith and thus bring honor to God (1 Peter 1:6-7).

And I know we live in a tainted, broken world. Humanity and the entire world is imperfect because, by failing to give proper respect to God, we’ve distanced ourselves from the perfection that is God. Yet the all-powerful God who made us doesn’t force us into obedience. God wants real love and respect—these aren’t real if they’re not given freely (if you had to pay people to be nice to you, could you really call them your friends?). So suffering reminds us that we aren’t self-sufficient, and it can cause us to consider God.

Still, it’s hard to get my head around suffering because of the simple question, “If God is good (if his nature and character is absolutely good) and he loves us, then why does he allow bad things to happen to us?” Parents allow their children to make mistakes, and they punish their kids when they misbehave. But would a good parent punish their good child? Does God allow bad things to happen to people who love him in order to keep things fair, or balanced, so humans won’t automatically obey God out of fear (“If I obey God, nothing bad will ever happen to me.”)? Does suffering keep our love genuine? The questions go on and on.

I’m actually glad I have questions and faith struggles. If I understood everything about an all-knowing, all-powerful deity, I’d either be a deity myself (and I’m quite certain I’m not) or I’d be lying to myself about my ability to comprehend God. To me, doubt is an essential part of faith.

To ponder:
1) What questions do you have about God and suffering?

2) What is your biggest faith struggle?

Questioning God: Is It OK to Wonder Why He Allows Suffering?

Room for Doubt: The Faith Crises of Bill Lobdell, Mother Teresa, and Holly

More Thoughts on Faith (Or Lack Thereof)

Tag, I'm "It"

LaTonya of GospelGal.com tagged me with a meme. A “meme,” apparently, is an idea that’s spread from blog to blog. Which means: I still don’t know what it means.

I will, however, play along, as LaTonya is a good buddy and it seems I’m “it” at the moment. Besides, it's cool to be the it-girl for once.

Here are the rules of this meme:
1) Link to your tagger and post these rules on your blog.
2) Share 7 facts about yourself on your blog, some random, some weird.
3) Tag 7 people at the end of your post by leaving their names as well as links to their blogs.
4) Let them know they are tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

Since I tend to prattle on and on, I’m gonna talk about seven concepts I think about a lot, and I’ll do this over seven days in seven posts. Here are the topics I’ll discuss this week:

-On my biggest faith struggle
-On representing Jesus
-On dancing
-On homosexuality
-On being pro-life
-On community
-On spiritual gifts

Please send me an email if you’d like your blog to get tagged and play this goofy little game. Or you can nominate somebody’s blog that you like (or, perhaps more appropriately, someone you don’t like). I will tag seven people at the end of the week.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Wearing Faith on Our Sleeves

Holly's latest blog entry on Today's Christian Woman magazine's website is now up:

Secondhand Witnessing
We can’t expect T-shirts, jewelry, and bumper stickers to do all the work.

To ponder:
1) Think about your actions (the way you live) and your friendships (particularly, the way you listen). How do these factor into the way you witness?

2) In The Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20), Jesus instructs us to "make disciples." What are some attributes of disciples--what does it take to be a disciple? What does it take to make a disciple?

3) Think about someone with whom you'd like to share your faith. How much do you know about them personally? How much time do you spend with them socially? How much do you know about their spiritual background? (For example, how do they view God? How do they view organized religion? If they went to church and/or believed in God in the past, why did they stop?)

4) Some people perceive Christians as snobby perfectionists who look down on others. Sometimes, the most effective way to witness is to reveal where you've struggled and failed, and how God has helped you through rough times. How well do others know you? Think about specific stories that illustrate your struggles/failure so you'll be prepared if you get the opportunity to share these.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Is It Wrong for Abused Spouses to Divorce?

From Holly's "Walk With Me" blog:

Barbara writes: My marriage ended after 22 years of physical abuse. I took my vows seriously and hung in there, even learned Tae Quan Do to stop the abuse. It still hurts to read about divorce in the Bible and sometimes I wish I had stayed, but I felt my life was in danger by the time I filed. Not easy to do. Marriage is so wonderful when done right and such hell when not.

Holly says: Barbara, thank you for sharing your personal story. It brings up a very important point: God doesn't expect us to stay in physically abusive relationships. While there are passages that instruct Christians to "turn the other cheek," this is about insult, not injury. There's nothing in the Bible that indicates God expects a spouse to continue to be injured.

Instead, the Bible instructs that men should love their wives as Christ loves the church. The passage in Ephesians 5 is often read starting at verse 22, which states that wives should submit to their husbands. But we should also consider verse 21, which says all believers—women and men alike—should "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ" (emphasis mine).

Further, 1 Corinthians 13 tells us what love isn't: It's not self-seeking or easily angered, and it doesn't delight in evil.

Love is kind. It always protects.

The Law in the Old Testament instructed the Jewish people to treat each other well. For example, the Law provides very specific instruction on how slaves were to be treated fairly and with kindness. If a man married his slave, he was obligated to always provide her with food, clothing, and sexual relations. If he denied her these things, she was legally able to leave him as a free woman—an example of a woman being free to divorce.

Another example of divorce is found in 1 Corinthians 7:15: If an unbelieving spouse leaves a believer, "let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances." In this passage, the apostle Paul instructs the believer to stay in the marriage unless their unbelieving spouse wants to call it quits. I think it's important for us to recognize we can't expect unbelievers to follow the same moral standards that are set for Christians in the Bible; unbelievers haven't made a commitment to obey God.

In marriage, we publicly make vows to each other before God. Couples make a covenant with each other and with God. If a partner becomes abusive, they've broken the covenant with both their spouse and with God. And if the abusive partner is unwilling to change their behavior, I believe God recognizes the marriage covenant as broken—the abused person is released from their obligation.

Barbara, I hope you will find continued peace and healing.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Thoughts on Same-Sex Marriage & Homosexuality

Holly's latest blog entry on Today's Christian Woman magazine's website is now up:

Redefining Marriage
“For better or worse” is taking a turn for the worse.

Additionally, I'm posting a paper on homosexuality that I wrote for my ethics class. Here's the assignment I wrote on:

You are counseling a person who is new to your ministry about their struggles with their sexual orientation. They want to know what you think the Bible teaches about the subject. How would you approach them pastorally as well as morally? Since it is unclear where they are spiritually, you sense the need to also frame the position with reasons that are independent of Biblical teaching. How would you do that?

In summary, how would you defend your understanding of a Biblical position on this issue to someone who shares at least a cursory respect for the authority of Scripture. Then how might you begin to articulate this position for the non-religious person?

To view the paper full screen, click the button on the top far right of the Scribd window.

Read this document on Scribd: homosexuality PDF

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Authentic (I think) Chile Verde

"We're Mexican this week," I told my husband. This is a true statement for me: I'm part Mexican, on my paternal grandmother's side. It's not true for my husband, but he knew what I meant. I sometimes plan ethnically themed menus for the week, especially when I hit a specialty grocery store. So some weeks we are Italian (which would be true for hubby, but not me) and some weeks we are Greek (which isn't true for either of us). And a slew of other ethnicities. I used to be a food writer, and I think I can cook just about anything if I have the right recipe.

Shamefully enough, this part-Mexican gal had never made Chile Verde before. I had a good idea of what the recipe should look like, but somehow, finding the right recipe took a lot longer than cooking the chile. I'd love to give credit to the website where I found this; unfortunately, I didn't copy the link and now I can't find it again. Anyhow, thank you to Someone who provided a most excellent recipe. Those who are schooled in Mexican fare can let me know whether this sounds authentic enough.

Chile Verde
Serves 4

3/4 pounds tomatillos, halved
3 garlic cloves, not peeled
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
1 jalapeno, seeds and ribs removed, chopped
1 Anaheim or Poblano chili (optional)
1/2 bunch cilantro leaves, cleaned and chopped
2 pounds pork shoulder (also called pork butt), trimmed, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 onion
1 T of chopped fresh oregano or 1 T dried
1 1/4 cups chicken stock
Pinch of ground cloves

Roast tomatillos along with 3 unpeeled garlic cloves, under a broiler 5 to 7 minutes to lightly blacken the skin. Remove from oven, let cool enough to handle. Roast fresh chilies (except jalapenos) over a gas flame or under the broiler until blackened all around.

Puree tomatillos, roasted garlic and chilies, jalapeno, and cilantro in blender.

Season the pork cubes generously with salt and pepper. Brown pork chunks well on all sides. Remove from pan, pour off excess fat.

Cook onion and 2 cloves garlic in the same skillet until limp. Add pork back to the pan (or transfer to a stock pot). Add oregano, chile verde sauce, pinch of cloves, and enough chicken stock to cover the meat.

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a low simmer. Cook for 2-3 hours uncovered or until the pork is fork tender. Adjust the seasoning to taste with salt and pepper.

  • We ate the chile with fresh tortillas from a local Mexican restaurant (since I haven't yet attempted to make homemade tortillas), topped off with Crema Salvadorena from a Mexican grocery store, which is a type of sour cream. It's probably sacrilege to put crema on chile, but we had it on hand and Hubby likes it.

  • The chile can be served with rice.

  • I regrettably used chicken bouillon instead of broth. Was a bit too salty for my taste, but Hubby seemed to like it that way.

  • Recipe was originally for eight servings; halving it worked fine, so if you double the above ingredients, you're right back at the original.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Strictly for the Hard Core: "Radical Obedience"

I found a way to post my academic papers online! Thus, H-n-T is getting a new special feature: "Strictly for the Hard Core." I'll put these online perhaps once a month or every other month.

This paper was written for my "Survey of the New Testament" class. It is an examination of Matthew 5:17-20, where Jesus speaks about the Law in the Sermon on the Mount. Please feel free to use this for small groups or Bible studies--there are questions at the end to aid in discussion.

To view the paper full screen, click the button on the far right of the Scribd window.

Read this doc on Scribd: NT Research

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Questioning God

Holly's latest blog entry on Today's Christian Woman magazine's website is now up:

Questioning God
Is it OK to wonder why he allows suffering?

To ponder:
1) What are some questions you have for God?

2) Which ones have you asked? Which ones are you hesitant to ask?

3) Do you agree or disagree that it's OK to be completely honest with God?

4) Consider the last sentence of the blog post: "To get to real faith, I need to start with real doubt." Do you agree or disagree? How do you back up your answer?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Mystery Grab Bag

I've been in a happy-dappy celebration mood for the past week. Last Tuesday, I took my last exam of my first semester of seminary.

Didn't think I'd make it. School is significantly more challenging (read: more work) than I thought it would be. When my professor said to me on my second day of classes, "How are you?" I looked at him with glazed, dazed eyes and replied, "I don't know why I'm here."

And I meant it. I'm not sure how I landed in seminary, and my emotions have fluctuated from unworthiness to awed gratitude. Mostly the latter. So last Tuesday, I handed in my exam and waltzed out of class. I pumped my fists in the air and squiggled around a bit. (I would have danced, but unfortunately my school frowns on that practice unless it's choreographed. And my happy dance would have been entirely ad lib.)

Suddenly, I felt very wiggly, and realized this wasn't the happy dance--it was the potty dance. Apparently, exams have that effect on me.

I popped into the ladies room and immediately was drawn not to the potty, but to a basket full of polka-dotted goody bags. Above them was a sign that said "take one," and explained these were from the women's activities coordinator. Exuberant, I grabbed one.

As soon as I had the bag in my hand, I noticed there was one open bag. Hmm, I thought, looks like someone's been choosing which goodies they wanted in their bag. I was tremendously tempted to peek inside, but decided I liked the idea of this surprise gift. So I completed my bathroom tasks and went on my way, my goody bag in tow.

I'm not so great with surprises, so as soon as I was out of the bathroom door, I ripped into my goody bag. Inside was a pack of cheddar crackers, snack-size Snickers and Butterfinger candy bars, and a full-size bag of Skittles. Jackpot! I'd already crammed three crackers into my mouth when the thought hit me: What was in those other goody bags? Were there things I would have perhaps enjoyed even more?

I shook my head at the silly thought. This bag was a gift. I didn't do anything to earn it, really--I just showed up in the gals' bathroom at the right time. And when I'd ripped it open, I'd been thrilled. It was crummy that the thought of "what did other people get" was ruining my goody bag experience.

Then I took a hard look at the bag. The bag itself was beautifully cheerful; it even included my favorite colors. The crackers were incredibly satisfying; after taking that long test, I'd been ravenous. And Snickers is my favorite candy bar. Everything in the bag had been good, and some things were particularly delightful to me.

Having just taken my last seminary exam, I naturally made a quick spiritual application: My fabulous goody bag was like the gifts God gives me. They include stuff I like and stuff that helps me. In many ways, I can see how God's gifts to me are perfect. But sometimes, I wonder about those other "goody bags." What did God give to others? Would I have enjoyed their goody bags more than my own?

Then I thought back on my first semester of seminary. I was immediately filled with that familiar awed gratitude. The goodies God gave me--my talents, my personality, my appearance, my God-given blessings--are perfect for me. They are treats, and they are also gifts; I wasn't entitled to any of the goodies. I'm gonna work on being happy with my own bag. And I'm gonna work on being happy that everyone else has treats, too, without begrudging that theirs are just as good as mine.

To ponder:
1) Do you ever feel dissatisfied with the life God's given you? Do these feelings ruin your enjoyment of stuff you know is good in your life?

2) Why do you think it's so hard for people to be content?

3) What are some things that remind you life is good?

4) Make a list of 10 things for which you're grateful. Try to include a mix of internal (stuff you like about yourself) and external (stuff you like about your circumstances) blessings.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Vatican Welcomes ET Into the Fold

Father Gabriel Funes, director of the Vatican Observatory, says it's possible intelligent beings exist in outer space.

Funes' article, "Aliens Are My Brother," was recently published in the official Vatican newspaper. Funes says belief in aliens doesn't contradict belief in God, since aliens would be part of God's creation.

Some years ago, my husband and I were watching a documentary about UFOs on the SciFi channel. I'd never given any thought to whether aliens exist, but my ears perked up when a Christian theologian said that if aliens were discovered in outer space, their planets would be a new place where Christians should take the gospel. The words popped out of my mouth, "Honey, I could be an alien missionary!"

So if we ever do make first contact, I guess I've got my calling.

Full Story:
Vatican Says Aliens Could Exist