Posted in Blog, In the Word

Polytheistic Worldview

The ancient Israelites were an anomaly among their pagan neighbours. Their LORD was a jealous god who wanted his people to love Him with all their hearts, all their minds and all their strength.

Scholars throughout the 18th and 19th Century held to an evolutionary model of religious development. As a culture develops, it would change from a polytheistic worldview to a henotheistic worldview (in which one god is supreme over the other gods) and then eventually develop a monotheistic worldview, which was considered to be more refined.

Yehezqel Kaufman vehemently disagreed. Any similarities between the rites and rituals, stories and legends of polytheistic Canaanites and monotheistic Hebrews were similarities in form only. The purposes, meaning and function behind them is radically different. Rather than a natural evolution from polytheism, Biblical monotheism was a revolutionary worldview, completely separate from polytheism.

He stated that a culture does not become “more like” monotheism as it reduces the number of its gods. The two systems are different at their core, not because of the number of gods.

At the core of the Judeo-Christian faith is a Being — eternal, unchanging, all-knowing, all-powerful. He is the Creator of all things, but He Himself was not Created. He transcends time entirely.

This is in stark contrast to the pagan systems, in which the gods are themselves created, temporal beings. They are not the source of all. They have a theogyny (an origin). They are made of some kind of elemental material (fire, wind, water, precious metals, etc.) within the Metadivine Realm. It is this Metadivine Realm which is their source.

There are good gods and evil gods, but the Metadivine Realm itself is morally neutral. Humans are caught up, pawns in the struggles between the competing gods.

Pagan gods are not overly concerned with humans. There may be gods whose role is to legislate some kind of justice over the human world, but this is more an occupation than an essential part of their being. Humans may coerce, manipulate or bribe gods to their side with their rituals.

The pagan cult, therefore, also involves magic and divination, because humans can use gnostic means to bypass the gods and go straight to the Metadivine Realm, manipulating substances (flesh, blood, etc.) that have some kind of connection to that realm, to which even the gods are subject.

In the Judeo-Christian worldview, God is subject to no manipulation. There is no MetaDivine Realm, no way to manipulate or coerce God. One can make a plea to Him, but cannot force His hand. Magic and divination are rebellion against His Will, and they are pointless, because He is subject to no elemental substances of any realm above Him.

He is intensely concerned with humans, because He is Good, as a part of His essential character. And the struggle between good and evil is not a battle between gods, but a battle within us. It is a result of the free will that he has given to us — good is His Will, and evil is our choice to do against His will.

I agree with Kaufman that monotheism is definitely not a natural development of polytheism. It is in the heart of man to make idols for himself, we would never “evolve” into monotheism. God had to intervene to reveal Himself to us. And even so, time after time, we put aside our monotheism to “devolve” into pagan worship.

Like the Hebrews and the golden calf, or the Israelites time and time again under the Judges, we prefer the pagan worldview. We want to recognize neither our own sinfulness, nor our own powerlessness. We prefer to turn to magic and divination, as it gives us a sense of control over the universe, and enables us to ignore our own sin.

Reading Kaufman’s description of pagan worldview, I was reminded of a book that came out a few years ago, called “The Secret.” It combined pop psychology with gnostic principles, promising a way of manipulating “the Universe” to obtain everything you ever wanted. “The Universe” is merely a rehashing of the ancient concept of the Metadivine Realm. How easily we can fall back into a state of pagan cultic practices. In our post-modern world, God is whatever you determine him to be, reality is whatever you want it to be, and the Universe is here to do your bidding.

More disturbing than this infiltration of paganism into our culture, is the infiltration of paganism into our very Church. Have you run into the prosperity gospel yet? Word-Faith? Name it and claim it? This system determines that because we have the Holy Spirit in us as Christians, we can manipulate the spiritual world by using our words(is the Word the new substance of the Metadivine Realm?) to make proclamations and decrees. We can garner wealth by manipulating the “spiritual principle” of sowing and reaping. Sow a seed of money to a prosperity preacher, and reap a harvest of wealth. There are certain spiritual principles by which the universe must work. Really? Is God Himself bound by these “spiritual principles”? Sounds like manipulation of the Metadivine Realm to me.

I can only conclude that we as humans are idolatrous pagans, in utter rebellion toward God; left to our own devices, we can turn even His Word to fit what we want it to say. Look at the way Micah and his prophet perverted their worship of God in Judges 17.

Those anthropologists of the 18th Century, who were Western monotheists themselves, would have to eat their words. So much for “evolution” or “advancement.” Far from a natural advancement of a culture to a higher form of religion, culture devolves into cultic practices, self-worship, celebrity worship, and nature worship. It is all over our “advanced” culture. The human heart is wicked above all things, and without intervention, its natural state is rebellion against God.

Posted in In the Word, Little Boots

When do you give your Child their First Bible?

When do you give your child their first Bible?

This question was recently asked on a homeschool forum that I frequent. My answer?

As soon as they can read!

As soon as one of my children has passed the sounding-out stage and is legitimately reading, they are presented with their first Bible, complete with case. They are very proud to have their own Bible. They take them to church, they use them for reference in homeschool, and — joy of joys — they are free to highlight the verses they learn with a marker! A marker!!

As this illness started dragging me down in the last few years, I found it more and more difficult to drag myself out of bed as early as the children. And so I started to stall them. It’s time for breakfast? Well, did you brush your teeth? Are you washed? Did you dress?

My children soon became very independent in these tasks, and were finishing them too quickly. And so, I added another pre-breakfast task. Is your room clean?

Have you ever asked three or four young children to clean two bedrooms all by themselves? At first, it took forever. But they soon became more proficient at it, and I was forced to find another pre-breakfast task if I wanted to stay in bed past childrise. Did you read your Bible?

There! I was guaranteed an extra 15 or 30 minutes, and my children were developing a daily discipline and devotion to Bible reading.

At first, Encylopedia Boots read a chapter each morning to the others. When Safari Boots learned to read and was presented with his Bible, he was very proud to take his turn reading. And just last year, Shiny Boots learned to read and thus earned her own Bible, and started a new morning routine — she preferred to read her Bible by herself, not taking turns with the boys.

At first, I wondered if she would actually read it without her big brothers as accountability, but it soon became clear that she very much enjoyed her time in the Word — she actually sings her Bible chapter. It is so sweet to wake up to my little five-year-old daughter singing her Bible to her two baby sisters every morning.

We are told to give thanks in all things. Even illness. Without this illness, I would not have had my children doing independent daily devotions. What a sweet blessing it has been, and I pray that it will set the solid foundation on which they will build the rest of their lives. This is exactly how God turns suffering to joy. Amazing, isn’t it?

 

Posted in Blog, In the Word

Beauty from Ashes

For our 11-year anniversary, Farmer Boots and I went to hear Gianna Jessen, the brilliant, captivating, joyful woman who survived a late-term abortion 39 years ago.

“How could you not love me?” she asks winsomely, and the audience agrees. She wins us over easily with her soft voice and infectious laugh. She gives us pieces of her remarkable story: the story of a 2-and-a-half pound baby girl, who was supposed to be born dead, but confounded the abortionists by refusing to die; the story of the toddler who was never supposed to walk or hold up her head, but somehow grew up into a young woman who ran two marathons — marathons in which she finished last, bloody-footed but not beaten.

Gianna tasted the bitterness and rejection of death before she was ever born, and yet she refuses to let any of this define her. She stands strong in her identity as God’s girl. “Don’t mess with me,” she warns us, “My Father runs the world.”

tumblr_gianna-jessen-09-09-15If her story of survival against all odds is remarkable — which it is — it is secondary to the larger story she hints at — the narrative of redemption that we are all invited to be a part of. Just looking at the joy shining out of Gianna’s beautiful face as she tells us how much she loves life, we see how Jesus brings beauty from ashes.

I have seen YouTube clips of Gianna Jessen before. I was familiar with her story, and her engaging manner. I was prepared to laugh and cry, to come away strengthened in my prolife convictions, and inspired in my walk with the Lord.

But what I did not anticipate was the perspective that my chronic illness would give me.

“I have been blessed with the gift of cerebral palsy.” Gianna opened. She spoke of how she had to lean on Jesus for every step — quite literally — and how this literal dependence upon Him creates a closer relationship.

Cerebral palsy was something that I had previously seen as an add-on to Gianna’s main story, an unfortunate fact that she happens to live with. But now, as a person with an invisible disability, I saw her illness as an intrinsic part of who she was, a piece of herself. It shapes her every move, every decision, every day. Very deep down, it is a part of her, not just her body, but her mind and her spirit.

She made the choice to stand here in front of us, unassisted by a mobility device. My previously-healthy self would have been oblivious to the independence represented by this choice.

She may lose her balance a little, but she laughs it off. My newly-disabled self can appreciate the courage that takes.

She flew into town and will fly out again in the space of a day or two, and she is very likely extending her energy to its limit by speaking at this event. That pace, madcap for a person with a chronic illness, takes a determination that I could not have understood before.

After her speech, she excuses herself to sit at a table and greet people from a seated position. This is her way of taking care of herself, and I can see the prudence and respect for herself that she has learned from long experience with a disability.

Our conditions are different, but there are certain commonalities to all disabilities. They place limits on our lives, shrinking our lives down in scope and size. A certain choice may be made, a certain event may be attended, but many other choices and events are thereby eliminated.

For myself, I find myself bound more and more to the home. As the mother of five busy young children, prioritizing their care and education does not leave much energy for outings. This exception for our anniversary was carefully planned for, and it was by no means a certainty that we were going to make it through the whole thing.

But it is not just outings that shrink in frequency and length. Everything shrinks. Our new house has a wonderful big wooded backyard which I will probably never be able to explore with my children. I can’t even make it as far as my husband’s garden without the riding lawn mower. I cannot participate in my family’s life in nearly as full a manner as I want to.

“This is not how I pictured my life to be, exhausted and worn out just from making meals. My dreams and visions and plans for motherhood are all slipping away,” I cried to Brian in a moment of self-pity just the night before. “My life is slipping away!”

But here, sitting in this auditorium listening to Gianna describe her condition as a gift that Jesus gave her in order to help her to depend more fully upon Him, I realize how my condition, too, is a call to rely more fully upon Him.

“How can you, healthy person, tell me what the quality of my life is?” she asks. She speaks about the extreme arrogance of the ableist notion of quality of life. “My life is not slipping away.”

And it is at these words that my eyes, already filled with tears, suddenly overflow.  Were these not the very words I whined to my husband just the night before?  I sob silently as I realize how incredibly whiny I am, and how Jesus loves and comforts me anyway.

“My life is not slipping away.” My very words were echoed back at me — minus the petulance and self-pity, charged instead with the power and determination of one who is living for the glory of God. And I felt His love for me. I knew that He had put those words in Gianna Jessen’s mouth for me this night.

And isn’t that just like Him? To come and meet me right where I am, in the midst of my peevish discontent, and to offer me no reproach at all, but only love and inspiration, reminding me that I have a purpose, a life and a hope.

“This is what you have,” Gianna said. “Now how are you going to use it?”

At the end of her speech, Gianna outlined an area in her own life which is causing her to feel impatience. And she told us God’s response to her. “Are you willing to give me your whole life, Gianna?”

Again, I felt convicted, and called to give my whole life to the Lord. As much as I congratulate myself for accepting this disability without a lot of kicking and screaming, there are still many areas in which I am fighting Him, trying to hold on to my own visions and dreams for my life.

Am I willing to give him my whole life? Am I, like Gianna, willing to accept this illness as the gift of Ehlers Danlos? Am I willing to see it as a blessing and an opportunity to lean on Him more fully?

Gianna Jessen is enchanting. She is a courageous advocate for the unborn, valiantly speaking unpopular, politically incorrect words to remind us of those we would rather forget. She speaks for the most vulnerable among us, lending her sweet voice to unborn children who cannot speak for themselves. But last night, it was Jesus’ voice that I heard, speaking right to my spirit.

Oh, and by the way, in case you are wondering, yes, I did go up to meet Gianna after the event. I sat in front of her on my walker-seat, because of course I could not have stood up, and I tried to tell her what her words had meant to me. I told her that the very words I had used in self-pity to my husband the day before, Jesus had used to convict and uplift me in her speech tonight.

“What were the words?” she asked.

And, true to form, I could not remember the words! Ha! My God does have a sense of humour! After an hour of sitting upright with a less-than-optimum amount of blood getting to my brain, my aphasia was in full gear. For such a very wordy girl, glorying in verbosity, occasionally bordering on the fustian, (or hadn’t you noticed?), my once-impeccable memory for words has become sadly deficient.

But never mind, I remember them now.

And perhaps the gift of Ehlers Danlos, with a liberal helping of aphasia, is just His way of blessing me with the all-new opportunity to learn to listen more than I speak.

And, listening closely, this is what I hear:

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
    and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
     and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
    instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    a planting of the Lord
    for the display of his splendor.

They will rebuild the ancient ruins
    and restore the places long devastated;
they will renew the ruined cities
    that have been devastated for generations…

 Instead of your shame
    you will receive a double portion,
and instead of disgrace
    you will rejoice in your inheritance.
And so you will inherit a double portion in your land,
    and everlasting joy will be yours.

(Isaiah 61)

 

photo credit: The Empty Quarter, Arabian Desert, UAE via photopin (license)

Posted in Blog, In the Word, Little Boots

What Shiny Boots Learned at Sunday School

As I sewed a badge on her Awana vest, Shiny Boots proudly showed me the work she had done at Awana last night — a maze leading to Jesus. “You can only go to Jesus if you’re happy, right, Mama?”
“Mmm…” I responded absently. And then I nearly pricked my finger as the meaning of her words filtered through my brain fog. “What?”image

She held up the maze. She had traced a line of smiley faces to Jesus, avoiding the obstacle of the sad faces. “You can only go to Jesus if you’re happy. Not if you’re sad.”

Of course I corrected her, and we had a conversation about God’s unconditional love for us. And how we can go to Him at any time, with all of our sorrows.

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30

So where did my daughter learn this erroneous bit of doctrine?

At Awana, basically a weekday Sunday School type of program for children.

We don’t put our children in Sunday School, because we believe that the main service is for everyone. A period of listening to Bible stories and colouring bible pictures is no substitute for being within the body of believers on Sunday morning, worshiping and learning alongside their parents and community.

As parents, it is our awesome responsibility to teach our children to know and love God. For this task, children’s bibles and colouring pages are very appropriate. But they are never a substitute for church.

So why, then, do we send our children to Awana? Not for the Bible teaching, which they get at home. We send them because they enjoy it. We send them to make friends and have fellowship with other Christian children. It is not necessary, but fun.

We specifically chose Awana because it largely stays away from doctrinal teaching,  which we prefer to provide for our children ourselves. It focuses on Scripture memorization, in a fun and lively environment. And it provides a gym program where they can run around and have fun with other kids in a Christian environment. We send them not for the teaching, but for the fun.

And of course, there will be times when the message they’ve gleaned is blatantly false, and we will have to do some debriefing. Certainly Shiny Boots’ intelligent and orthodox Awana leader did not explicitly teach the message that Jesus doesn’t want anything to do with the sad or downtrodden. She is a lovely Christian woman who would never have imagined that one of her little charges took away this message.

That said, she does have 8 or 9 other children to tend to, and she can’t be responsible for every heresy that each one soaks into their receptive little mind. She is not ultimately responsible for what my child learns. I am.

When we teach our children at home, we are able to focus on them one on one.  The impediment of shyness does not prevent the child from asking for clarification. Most importantly, the parent knows the child as no teacher could.

The takeaway? If your child is in Sunday School or a similar program, do go over with them what they have learned after each session. You may be surprised at the ideas they have picked up!

Posted in Blog, In the Word

Bucket Fillers

Originally written March 2010

When the boys and I arrived at our weekly playgroup, the facilitator was wearing huge oversize novelty sunglasses. She told us that they were magic glasses that allowed her to see everybody’s invisible bucket.
Each person carries a bucket, she told us. When your bucket is full, you are happy, but when the bucket is empty, you are sad. We can help to fill someone’s bucket by being nice to them, and in this way, we fill our own bucket, too.

But we must never fill our own bucket by dipping into someone else’s to take their good feelings away (bullying or being mean). That is called being a bucket dipper, and it leaves everyone’s bucket empty.

BC0911-BUCKETI didn’t really like this idea. It just seemed silly to me. Why make up an imaginary concept like a bucket to explain morality to children? Of course, in public schools, they can’t teach a Christ-centred morality, or even the Ten Commandments, but do they really have to make up an imaginary bucket system? Teaching young children that they must be bucket fillers, not bucket dippers as the basis of their moral education seems to me to be frivolous and empty at best.

Morality must be based on something more substantial than buckets full of stars and streamers. Even atheists, who are not teaching their children a God-based morality, should be wary of this fairytale morality.

The more I thought about the buckets, the more harmful it seemed to me. What is the bucket supposed to represent? The heart? The soul? Do we now imagine that we can fill our own souls? That we do not need God in our lives to fill us? We need only our own good feelings about ourselves and others?

And if we break down the bucket philosophy, it is no more than John Stuart Mill’s philosophy of utilitarianism, disguised in a childish wrapping. Mill stated that morality could be gauged by its utility in bringing the greatest happiness to the greatest number of people. Hardly compatible with Christianity, is it? In fact, it is completely incompatible with any belief system that is based upon an absolute truth, or an absolute sense of right and wrong.

This bucket-filling mentality would have us believe that anything that makes others happy is the moral right. If your actions displease the morality, then you are morally in the wrong.

Of course we shouldn’t bully or be mean to others. And of course we feel good when we make others feel good. But our sense of morality must be based on more than just what makes us and others feel good. The right thing to do is not always what makes us and others feel good. We have been given our feelings as a guide to help us determine a right action, but they are not the final end in determining the rightness or wrongness of our actions.

The culture of the moment must not define our morality.

If we do not carefully teach our children about what is universally right and wrong, based upon God’s perspective, then they will easily fall victim to this indoctrination based on feeling good and making others feel good.

This is what happens when we take God out of our public schools. The lack of biblical teaching leaves a big empty hole. We have to teach morality somehow, and we end up replacing God’s Word with this empty, meaningless, and ultimately harmful drivel.

The truth hurts. It’s uncomfortable. But I want to raise children who will speak up for truth, undeterred by what the majority opinion wants to believe, and unafraid of being labelled a bucket-dipper.

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. (Luke 6:31)

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself. (Luke 10:27)

Below is a link to the bucket-filler site, but you can do your own google-search on “bucket filling” or “fill your bucket” and you’ll find all kinds of references to it.

http://www.bucketfillers101.com/presentations.php

Posted in Blog, In the Word, Little Boots, Testimony

Safari Boots: A New Five-Year-Old

Last year, my children and I worked through Leading Little Ones to God.  On a couple of occasions, as we worked through the book (particularly after his big brother was saved), I would ask Safari Boots whether he wanted to follow Jesus.  His answer was always, “Maybe later.”

So when two bleary-eyed boys emerged from their bedroom last night, stating that Safari Boots wants to be a Christian, I didn’t take it overly seriously — especially since it was not Safari who was making this assertion for himself, but his big brother making it for him. At the same time, I certainly didn’t want to discourage him in a profession of faith. So I hushed Encyclopedia Boots, took Safari on my knee, and asked him some questions, ensuring that this was something he wanted to do for himself, and that he understood what it meant.

I felt the Lord in my heart, whispering that perhaps I was taking over my husband’s position as spiritual leader here. Farmer Boots wasn’t at home in the moment when Encyclopedia made this decision, and so I had the enormous privilege of leading him in a prayer of salvation, but maybe this was his turn. So I turned Safari over to his Daddy. He asked Safari who he wanted to lead him. “You, Dada,” was Safari’s sweet reply. And I watched joyfully as my amazing husband, the leader and protector of this home, led our little son to the Lord Jesus Christ.

Thank you, Lord, for the blessings you have given this family. It is truly amazing when I look back, at the transformation you have effected in all of us in such a short time. Safari was born to an atheist father and a lapsed Catholic mother. He was just five months old when I finally embraced Christ. Since then, nothing has been the same. You have saved my husband, then our eldest son. And now, Safari too, belongs to you in a whole new way. Thank you for bringing this child to yourself, and please keep him — and all of us — always drawing nearer to you.

I wrote this post in September 2014, and just found it in my drafts folder. I post it now, so that I have this record.