Monday, May 28, 2007

More Than Your Average Miss Universe


What defines physical beauty? Is it a certain eye color, skin type or chin length? What factors cause one person to bear taunts from classmates while another is crowned Miss Universe? And why have human beings been created so differently? Philosophers, scientists, and a certain missionary have each asked a form of this question.
One proposed answer is the scientific theory of "Averageness," founded by Sir Francis Galton in 1883. At the time, it was thought there may be certain facial characteristics common for criminals. For instance, all criminals might share large noses or crooked grins, or squinty eyes and cleft chins. Sir Francis was determined to find out once and for all. His hypothesis had possibilities; if it were true, we could judge if a person engaged in illegal activities simply by looking at him. Although nowadays we may call this "stereotyping" and a scary thought, in 1883 it was considered plausible.

After piecing together the noses and eyes of many a male criminal into a composite photograph, the result was a face that was surprisingly...handsome. Though Sir Francis could never provide evidence for a specific criminal stereotype, he did spark an idea:

What if it is the most average men and women that are considered the most beautiful? What if people are considered "ugly" simply because they look different? Thus, the theory of averageness was born.

Further scientific study showed that although averageness isn't the only deciding factor of a person's physical attractiveness, it is important. More composite images, such as those of the Miss Universe 2005 contestants, reveal those considered physically cream of the crop often possess similar characteristics. With narrow noses, high cheekbones and wide smiles, some of the Miss Universe composite images look like identical twins. According to the theory of Averageness, "Beautiful people" look alike.

What is the moral of this story? If you wish to be beautiful, science says, be born average. Or, if you don't have that luxury, try your best to conform.

And yet, science's answer to "the beauty question" seems a bit too simplistic. It explains what humans find attractive, but is that necessarily the same thing as true beauty? Given an answer that is only skin deep, we are still left scratching our heads.

One night, my friend, Daria and I stumbled upon an important clue to the true nature of beauty. In a moment of desperate boredom, we had decided upon the oh-so-nerdy "game" of "philosophizing." The point of the game is to argue philosophically about a topic you know nothing about. And win.
I came up with the first question. “Okay, Dar. Here it is: ‘What is beauty?’”

She rolled her eyes. “Great. You pick a hard question and I’m supposed to answer it?”

“Basically…yes.”

“Okay...do you want me to define beauty in people or in things?”

“Define it in....” I struggled for a challenging subject. My eyes caught the pencil holder on Daria’s desk, which gave me an idea. “Define beauty in a pair of scissors.”

“Scissors aren’t beautiful!” she cried indignantly.

“How do you know? What makes a pair of scissors beautiful?”

Daria grabbed the pair of scissors on her desk. “They’re…uh…scissors are beautiful because of how well they function.”

After a moment I asked, “So...if they work the way their maker wanted them to work, then they’re beautiful?”

Although most arguments-for-the-sake-of-arguing are without substance, I think my friend and I discovered a key idea that extends much deeper than a pair of scissors. Beauty isn't about the eye of the beholder. It's about the eye of the Creator.

Scissors are "beautiful" when they accomplish the purpose of its maker. If they cut well, they've done their job. In the same way, God has designed us specifically to carry out a certain purpose. The Psalmist expressed this when he sang,
"For You formed my inward parts;
You wove me in my mother's womb.
I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well.”

It may be hard to believe at times, especially when we look in the mirror first thing in the morning, but our looks are not an accident. God created us with deliberate intricacy. He has not given everyone the body of a supermodel, because I doubt His purpose is for everyone to be a supermodel. However, every hair and freckle was given for a reason.

In her book, Let Me Be a Woman, Elisabeth Elliot tells of Gladys, a young woman who realized this truth:
“You have heard me tell of Gladys Aylward…she told how when she was a child she had two great sorrows. One, that while all of her friends had beautiful golden hair, hers was black. The other, that while her friends were still growing, she stopped. She was about four feet ten inches tall. But when at last she reached the country to which God had called her to be a missionary, she stood on the wharf in Shanghai and looked around at the people to whom He called her.
‘Every single one of them,’ she said, ‘had black hair. And every single one of them had stopped growing when I did. And I said, ‘Lord God, You know what You’re doing!’”
We may never have a moment like Gladys Aylward's, in which we see clearly the reason for our design. But we may safely say that God has given our bodies as tools to accomplish His purpose; and when His purpose is fulfilled in us...it's a beautiful thing.

Sources:
  • Miss Universe composite images can be found here.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

You're Such a Doll


Barbie has been in the news for a long time, maintaining celebrity status for over fifty years. Yet in spite of her age, not a wrinkle has formed on her face. With her continual smile, glossy blond locks, sparkling blue eyes and size two waistline, it is no wonder she attracted such a boyfriend as Ken. The couple remained together for years; touring the United States in their various RV's, cruise ships, ponies and sports cars. (Of course, Barbie is also enormously wealthy.)

As the envy of many girls, Barbie has not only become a celebrity but an icon to which women have aspired. Saying a girl “looks like Barbie” is a compliment. However, a groundbreaking 1997 edition of Health magazine concluded that appeasing the Barbie image is impossible for most women. The magazine revealed the average woman as about 5'4" and weighing approximately 145 pounds. On the other hand, Barbie's thin figure consists of being a tall 6'0" and weighing in at only 101 pounds.

Above: Barbie vs. Average Woman (Click for larger image.)

It doesn't require a Ph.D to notice she is grossly underweight and possibly victim of an eating disorder. The same year Health published its article, Barbie experienced plastic surgery, resulting in a slightly expanded waist.

However noble the attempt to "reform" Barbie's body, a re-molding of the doll cannot change the way women think. It’s a fact: human beings are fools for beauty, especially women. We want the admiration that comes with being considered beautiful, no matter the cost. As mirrors look on tauntingly, some women have resorted to damaging their bodies with excessive diet pills, purging, and even starvation. Studies indicate that seven million American women have an eating disorder, and 95% of those who have eating disorders are between the ages of twelve and twenty-five. Half of girls between the ages of eleven and thirteen consider themselves overweight, and 80% of thirteen year olds have tried to lose weight. Beauty is serious business.

And yet despite its influence on women, beauty is not a solid thing. America’s obsession with skinny is only a recent addition to a standard of beauty which has evolved throughout the decades. For example, actresses of the 1940's and 50's sported neon red lipstick. It was classy. It was sophisticated. The fad was given a decent burial in the 1960's as a new idea of "beauty" was pursued.


Above: A vintage magazine (featuring 1930's and 40's movie star, Claudette Colbert) contrasts to the perception of beauty featured on a modern magazine cover.

Our perception of beauty fluctuates. As a result, we will not be cured by a new Barbie. Our view of beauty cannot merely be given a makeover. It must be revolutionized. In order to discover lastly, timeless beauty, we must cut down to its very definition.


Sources:

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Monday, April 23, 2007

Crowning Glory of the Creation of God

"Who am I? Secular humanism says I am the result of random processes. Christian theism says I am the crowning glory of the Creation of God. Christian theism says He knit me together in my mother's womb. Christian theism says I am no accident, I am no result of random processes. ...whether I am tall and beautiful or whether I am small and not-so-handsome, whether my body functions perfectly or I am deformed severely, I am the crowning glory of the Creation of God, and as a result I have inherent dignity, and inherent worth and inherent value. "
-Voddie Baucham

I am sure there were many pearls of wisdom at this past year's Desiring God conference, but the message titled The Supremacy of Christ and Truth in a Post-Modern World by Voddie Baucham hit home with me.

Don't let the title throw you; it's a very understandable yet profound message concerning the conflict between Christian and humanist worldviews. Click here to download the free mp3 graciously provided by Desiring God.

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Friday, April 20, 2007

Ignition

What turns a quirky fashion statement into a fad? And what transforms a fad into something timeless? What causes a book to reach the bestseller’s list, while other equally well-written books gather dust on library shelves? From feminism to yoga, activities and ideals once held only by fringe radicals have become the norm. We all would like to know: Why and how?

Malcolm Gladwell’s book, The Tipping Point, attempts to answer these questions. Gladwell writes of the Hush Puppies, once a little-known shoe brand that inexplicably gained worldwide recognition:

In the case of the Hush Puppies, the great mystery is how those shoes went from something worn by a few fashion-forward downtown Manhattan hipsters to being sold in malls across the country. What was the connection between the East Village and Middle America? The Law of the Few says the answer is that one of these exceptional people found out about the trend, and through social connections and energy and enthusiasm and personality spread the word about Hush Puppies.

What caused the Hush Puppy fad? According to Gladwell, it was surprisingly simple: a small number of people actively spread the word.

In the 1960’s and 70’s, a new wave of feminism swept over America. This wasn’t your grandmother’s “Votes for Women” campaign. This movement threw orthodoxy out the window. Men were labeled “oppressors” and feminism became known as the “women’s liberation movement.” The movement redefined womanhood and pushed Biblical perspective into the shadows. It was unconventional and extreme--and it transformed North America.

Yet, like the Hush Puppies’ rise to stardom, the feminist movement’s success was not due to political action or protest marches. Its success can be traced to a group of people who simply spread the word.

In 1968, film editor and feminist Kathie Sarachild brought a new strategy to light. The best way to promote feminism, she found, was to form “consciousness-raising groups.” Small groups women would gather together for annual meetings in which they would each share experiences of “oppression” and discuss common difficulties they faced. One scholar noted, “Feminists agreed that consciousness-raising, or ‘speaking bitterness,’ was the most potent, effective tool in the mobilization of the feminist movement.” (Mary Kassian, The Feminist Mistake)

This should be no surprise. In Proverbs 12:18, Solomon speaks of the tongue’s power: “Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Here, Solomon ranks words with an instrument of war. What more piercing weapon exists than the tongue? When it has taken thousands of soldiers to change cities into minefields, fewer words have changed the face of empires.

Yet there is one factor that pulls an ideology into popularity which researchers often miss; ultimately all is controlled to the One causes mouths to open and shut. He is the One who allows a movement (however temporarily) to ignite or fade into the footnotes of history.

While feminism may be a dominant philosophy of our time, in the end “…the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom He will.” (Daniel 4:32) Perhaps I may live to see this ideology discarded as a new “ism” claims the spotlight, but at the closing of the day, His Word will prevail.

What ignites a dream into a movement, and a movement into a revolution? Feminist researcher Margaret Mead once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.” I would add that all changes have occurred only because God allowed them---and He always has the last word.

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Why Glorify?

When contemplating the subject of God’s glory, I have sometimes wondered why God desires so much to be glorified. Conceit and pride are wrong in human beings; yet it seems odd that a righteous God who honors humility would so loudly proclaim His own glory.

John Piper addresses this question in his book, Desiring God. I think he provides some excellent food for thought, closely related to these previous posts:

“[A reason] people stumble over the teaching that God exalts His own glory and seeks to be praised by His people is that the Bible teaches us not to be like that. For example, the Bible says that "Love seeks not its own" ( 1 Corinthians 13:5). How can God be loving and yet be utterly devoted to "seeking His own" glory and praise and joy? How can God be for us if He is so utterly for Himself?

The answer I propose is this: Because God is unique as an all-glorious, totally self-sufficient Being, He must be for Himself if He is to be for us. The rules of humility that belong to a creature cannot apply in the same way to its Creator. If God should turn away from Himself as the Source of infinite joy, He would cease to be God. He would deny the infinite worth of His own glory. He would imply that there is something more valuable outside Himself. He would commit idolatry.

This would be no gain for us. For where can we go when our God has become unrighteous?....
No, we do not turn God's self-exaltation into love by demanding that God cease to be God. Instead we must come to see that God is love precisely because He relentlessly pursues the praises of His name in the hearts of His people.

Consider this question: In view of God's infinite power and wisdom and beauty, what would His love to a human being involve? Or to put it another way: What could God give us to enjoy that would prove Him most loving? There is only one possible answer: Himself! If He withholds Himself from our contemplation and companionship, no matter what else He gives us, He is not loving.

There is the solution! We praise what we enjoy because the delight is incomplete until it is expressed in praise. If we were not allowed to speak of what we value, and celebrate what we love, and praise what we admire, our joy would not be full. So if God loves us enough to make our joy full, He must not only give us Himself; He must also win from us the praise of our hearts-not because He needs to shore up some weakness in Himself or compensate for some deficiency, but because He loves us and seeks the fullness of our joy that can be found only in knowing and praising Him, the most magnificent of all Beings. If He is truly for us He must be for Himself!

God is the one Being in all the universe for whom seeking His own praise is the ultimately loving act. For him, self-exaltation is the highest virtue. When He does all things "for the praise of His glory," He preserves for us and offers to us the only thing in all the world which can satisfy our longings. God is for us! And the foundation of this love is that God has been, is now, and always will be, for Himself.”

Read Desiring God online, buy the book, or visit John Piper’s website.

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Thursday, March 08, 2007

Selling Out


One day, Paris Reidhead (1919-1992), the late missionary to the Sudan-Ethiopia border, preached arguably one of the most influential sermons of this century. His topic? Ten shekels and a shirt.

In the book of Judges, a man sells his priestly assistance to a man named Micah for the price of ten shekels and a shirt. In a sense, the man became Micah's personal priest. What was formerly service to God became a service of man.

Reidhead makes the case that most professing American Christians are like this priest: serving themselves while pretending to serve God. He also addresses Humanism (the belief that the purpose of life is man-centered) and its invasion of Western Christianity. Today, his words still serve as a striking reminder of the only way a culture can be changed: through the acceptance of Truth.

In 1850, the church divided into two groups. The one group was the liberals, who accepted the philosophy of the humanism and tried to find some relevance by saying something like this to their generation:

"...We don't know there's a heaven. We don't know there's a hell. But we do know this--that you've got to live for 70 years! We know there's a great deal of benefit from poetry, from high thoughts and noble aspirations. Therefore it's important for you to come to church on Sunday, so…we can give you some little adages and axioms and rules to live by. We can't say anything about what's going to happen when you die, but we'll tell you this, if you'll come every week and pay and help and stay with us…we'll make you happier while you're alive.

And so this became the essence of liberalism. It has simply nothing more than to try and put a little sugar in the bitter coffee of their journey and sweeten it up for a time….

There's another group of people that have taken humbridge with the liberals, this group are my people, the fundamentalists….. The fundamentalists, along the same line, are now tuning in along this same wavelength of humanism, until we find something like this:

"Accept Jesus so you can go to heaven! You don't want to go to that old, filthy, nasty, burning hell when there is a beautiful heaven up there! Now come to Jesus so you can go to heaven!"

Humanism is, I believe, the most deadly and disastrous of all the philosophical stenches that's crept up through the grating over the pit of Hell. It has penetrated so much of our religion and it is an utter and total contrast with Christianity….I'm afraid that it's become so subtle that it goes everywhere. What is it? In essence it's this: That this philosophical postulate that the end of all being (1) is the happiness of man, has been sort of covered over with evangelical terms and Biblical doctrine until God reigns in heaven for the happiness of man, Jesus Christ was incarnate for the happiness of man, all the angels exist…Everything is for the happiness of man!

And I submit to you that this is unchristian. Didn't God intend to make man happy? Yes. But as a by-product and not a prime-product.

If you'll ask me why I went to Africa, I'll tell you I went primarily to improve on the justice of God. I didn't think it was right for anybody to go to Hell without a chance to be saved, so I went to give poor sinners a chance to go to heaven. Now I haven't put it in so many words, but if you'll analyze what I just told you, do you know what it is? Humanism. That I was simply using the provisions of Jesus Christ as a means to improve upon human conditions of suffering and misery.

And when I went to Africa, I discovered that they weren't “poor, ignorant, little heathen running around in the woods” looking for someone to tell them how to go to heaven. That they were monsters of iniquity. They were living in utter and total defiance of far more knowledge of God than I ever dreamed they had! They deserved Hell because they utterly refused to walk in the light of their conscious and the light of the Law written upon their heart, and the testimony of nature, and the truth they knew.

...But it was there in Africa that God began to tear through the overlay of this humanism. And it was that day in my bedroom with the door locked that I wrestled with God. For here was I, coming to grips with the fact that the people I thought were ignorant and wanted to know how to go to heaven and were saying "Someone come and teach us,” actually didn't want to take time to talk with me or anybody else. They had no interest in the Bible and no interest in Christ, and they loved their sin and wanted to continue in it. And I was to that place at that time where I felt the whole thing was a sham and a mockery, and I had been sold a bill of goods! And I wanted to come home.

There alone in my bedroom as I faced God honestly with what my heart felt, it seemed to me I heard Him say, "Yes, will not the Judge of all the earth do right? The heathen are lost. And they're going to go to Hell, not because they haven't heard the gospel. They're going to go to Hell because they are sinners who love their sin. And because they deserve Hell. But, I didn't send you out there for them. I didn't send you out there for their sakes."

And I heard as clearly as I've ever heard, though it wasn't with physical voice but it was the echo of truth of the ages finding its' way into an open heart. I heard God say to my heart that day something like this: "I didn't send you to Africa for the sake of the heathen. I sent you to Africa for My sake. They deserved Hell. But I love them! And I endured the agonies of Hell for them. I didn’t send you out there for them! I sent you out there for Me! Do I not deserve the reward of my suffering? Don’t I deserve those for whom I died?”

And it reversed it all and changed it all…and I wasn't any longer working for Micah and tens shekels and a shirt. (2) But I was serving a living God! I was there not for the sake of the heathen. I was there for the Savior that endured the agonies of Hell for me, who didn't deserve it! But He deserved them. Because He died for them.

Do you see? ….Christianity says, "The end of all being is the glory of God." Humanism says, "The end of all being is the happiness of man."

….What about you? Why did you repent? I'd like to see some people repent on Biblical terms again.… This is the difference between twentieth century preaching and the preaching of John Wesley.

Wesley was a preacher of righteousness that exalted the holiness of God. When he would stand there with the two to three hour sermons that he was accustomed to deliver in the open air and he would exalt the holiness of God, and the law of God, and the righteousness of God…and the justice of His wrath and His anger. Then he would turn to sinners and tell them of the enormity of their crimes and their open rebellion and their treason…and the power of God would so descend upon the company, that on one occasion it is reliably reported that when the people dispersed there were 1,800 people lying on the ground, utterly unconscious because they had a revelation of the holiness of God. And in the light of that they'd seen the enormity of their sins, God had so penetrated their minds and hearts that they had fallen to the ground.

It wasn't only in Wesley's day. It was also in America. New Haven, Connecticut. Yale. A man by the name of John Wesley Redfield had continuous ministry for three years in and around New Haven…The policemen were accustomed during those days, if they saw someone lying on the ground, to go up and smell his breath, because if he had alcohol on his breath they'd lock him up. But if he didn't he had “Redfield's disease.”

And all you needed to do if anyone had Redfield's disease was just take him into a quiet place and leave him until he came to, because if they were drunkards, they'd stop drinking, and if they were cruel, they'd stop being cruel, and if they were immoral, they gave up their immorality. If they were thieves, they returned what they had. For as they had seen the holiness of God, and seen the enormity of their sin, the Spirit of God had driven them down into unconsciousness because of the weight of their guilt! And somehow in the overspreading of the power of God, sinners repented of their sin and came savingly to Christ. But there was a difference [with this kind of philosophy]! It wasn't trying to convince a “good man” that he was in trouble with a “bad God!” But that it was to convince bad men that they had deserved the wrath and anger of a good God….

[There was] an island in the West Indies where an atheist British owner had 2,000 to 3,000 slaves. And the owner had said, "No preacher, no clergyman, will ever stay on this island. If he's ship wrecked we'll keep him in a separate house until he has to leave, but he's never going to talk to any of us about God. I'm through with all that nonsense." Three thousand slaves from the jungles of Africa brought to an island in the Atlantic and there to live and die without hearing of Christ.

Two young Moravians heard about it. They sold themselves to the British planter and used the money they received from their sale (for he paid no more than he would for any slave) to pay their passage out to his island….[They were] in their early twenties. Never to return again--for this wasn't a four year term. They sold themselves into life time slavery. Simply that as slaves, they could be Christians where these others [slaves] were.

The families were there weeping, for they knew they would never see them again. And they wondered why they were going and questioned the wisdom of it. As the gap widened and the housings had been cast off and were being curled up there on the pier, and the young boys saw the widening gap, one lad with his arm linked through the arm of his fellow, raised his hand and shouted across the gap the last words that were heard from them. They were these: "May the Lamb that was slain receive the reward of His suffering!" This became the call of Moravian missions. And this is the only reason for being: That the Lamb that was slain may receive the reward of His suffering.

--An excerpt from “Ten Shekels and a Shirt,” a sermon given by Paris Reidhead


(1) "End of all being,” meaning the “purpose of man’s creation”

(2) A reference to Judges 17

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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

How Important?



(Click on the image to see a larger version.)

Transcript:
"You know you're from the West when...
  • Your theology comes from music and T-shirts.
  • You pray the 'Sinner's Prayer' then live like nothing happened.
  • Attending church raises your self esteem.
'Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance.'
-C.S. Lewis.

Apathy is not an option."

What do you think? Agree? Disagree? Share your opinion!

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Friday, February 23, 2007

Taking Off Your Colored Goggles

The sky was a dusky, queer shade of blue. I looked around me. So was the grass, the trees, and my swimming instructor’s face. In fact, everything around me was tainted with the blue color. And yet, strangely enough, I didn’t even notice this incredible phenomenon; from my perspective, everything appeared to be perfectly normal. Then, suddenly, everything changed. I squinted my eyes, and a grin split my face. Dazzling colors were all around me! The sun was a glowing orange, the grass was breathtakingly green, and the sky was a light, pure blue—scattered with fluffy white clouds. I looked down at the goggles I clutched in my fist, and smiled. How could I forget, so quickly, what the world looked like without my goggles on?

Although you may shake your head and smile, my story is not so unique. Every day, each one of us is presented with the opportunity to don a pair of tainted “goggles” through which you will view the world. The goggles are comfortable, and it feels natural when you slip them on. Most of the time, we don’t even realize that we’re wearing them. And yet, they will drastically affect the way that you perceive everything around you, including yourself.

If you’re beautiful—if your skin is flawless and your figure perfect—you have worth. If you’re successful and popular, you have value. If you do not…your life has no meaning.

Such is the world’s message to us. Is it any wonder that most girls struggle with feelings of inferiority? Statistics show that teen suicide rates have literally tripled since 1970. And in the United States alone, conservative estimates suggest that five to ten million girls and women are currently struggling with some kind of eating disorder. As Christians, we are not exempt from these attacks of the enemy. Although many of us may never go to these extremes, if we are honest, we’ll admit that we are susceptible to the exact same kind of thinking that leads to these problems. In a sense, we’re looking through the distorted lenses of colored goggles.

Why? Why is this such an issue in our culture? The answer is strikingly simple. We have bought into the lie of the world—that our worth comes from ourselves. And so, even in Christian circles, we tend to try to combat these problems with bigger boosts of self-esteem. However, this is not the solution. Isaiah 64:6 reads, "But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away." Apart from God, we have absolutely no merit. None.

And yet, the situation is not hopeless! While we were in our sinful, helpless state, God's love for us was so great that He sent His precious son, Jesus, to die a brutal death in our place. Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we sere still sinners, Christ died for us.”

We must look at ourselves the way that God does. What does He see when He looks at you? Romans 8:39 triumphantly proclaims: "Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord"! God values you so much that He sent his Son to die in your stead-- and He promises that nothing will ever be able to separate you from His love. Such is God's heart towards you! The estimation of our worth must come from God alone. It is only His perception of us that matters, and no other.

Let us take of the colored goggles of our ungodly culture, and strive to see ourselves the way God does.

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Monday, November 20, 2006

Of Fish and Men

Flash. A glimmer of pure, vivid gold waves steadily, in constant languid motion. A pair of bulbous eyes stare blankly as though in perpetual shock. Gills move hypnotically. In and out. In and out. In and...

Such is the life of a goldfish. Born in water, he will most likely spend his life doing the same exciting activities as always: eating, breathing, and of course, swimming. Believe it or not, this little fish with his pea-sized brain and infamous three-second memory span, has a lesson to teach.

Can the goldfish know he is wet, if he has never known what it means to be dry?

Pause. Take a close look at your surroundings. What do you see? You are immersed in a culture: a society that is the product of the lives, ideas, and beliefs of the men and women around you. You are bombarded with the culture through the media---music, books, newspapers, television, and the internet.

Whether or not you are conscious of it, every single form of media is sending you a message. Do you know what messages you are being sent? Do you know what messages you are unconsciously accepting?

A.W. Tozer said, "What we believe about God is the most important thing about us."Who or what you worship defines how you live. Fun-worshipers (believe me, they exist) live in pursuit of new thrills. Ambition-driven individuals live in pursuit of their ambition. On a more specific level, New Age devotees live to ascend by conforming to the "cosmic purpose." Buddhists live for the extermination of all desires. Even secular humanists, who claim to worship no one, live for the potential of mankind, or in other words, themselves.

What dictates the lifestyle of a Christian? As recently the Church of England announced that killing disabled babies is ethical and the American Episcopalian Church has installed its first presiding female bishop, it is unsurprising that only 9% of born again believers and only 50% of American pastors have a Biblical worldview.

As the goldfish swims back and forth in total ignorance that he is wet, even a Christian can live without knowing how much his worldview is influenced by the world and not God. "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect." (Romans 12:2)

Lord willing, by digging into the depths of God's Word, these goldfish eyes will be opened a little wider.

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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Infanticide: The Cost of Apathy

"The Church of England has broken with tradition dogma by calling for doctors to be allowed to let sick newborn babies die.
Christians have long argued that life should preserved at all costs - but a bishop representing the national church has now sparked controversy by arguing that there are occasions when it is compassionate to leave a severely disabled child to die."
(The full article can be read here.)

This so-called Church "dogma" is a core principle of the Bible. Sanctity of life is not merely a teaching endorsed by the Church; it is a teaching established by God. As God's own precious Son spilled His life-blood for the sake of the eternal life of human beings, He declared that we were valuable to Him. These church members could not have missed this very clear teaching.

Too often pious, culture-smart, and sometimes very sincere church members give into apathy. Instead of vigorously defending Scripture, culture is allowed to dictate their decisions. Leonard Ravenhill said, "One of these days some simple soul will pick up the Book of God, read it, and believe it. Then the rest of us will be embarrassed."

We hope to discuss apathy and the importance of a Biblical worldview in future posts. We would love to hear your thoughts on this issue. What do you think about the Church of England's decision? What do you think about the importance of a Biblical worldview in general?

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Friday, May 26, 2006

Don't Believe in Yourself

A re-post from November 28, 2005.

It is not uncommon for people to struggle with insecurity and knowing who they are. A popular "cure" to this insecurity is to, "Believe in yourself,"and "Believe that you can do it." But is this advice something Christians should follow?

It is evident that some Christians are following it. A question was sent to Christian psychologist, Dr. James Dobson, asking, "How can parents prepare their younger children for the assault on self-esteem that is almost certain to come in adolescence? That was a tough time for me, and I want it to be easier for my kids."

Dr. Dobson, a psychologist who is lauded in some circles for his superb "Christian psychological advice" answered with this:

"Well, one important approach is to teach boys and girls valuable skills with which they can compensate in years to come. They can benefit from learning something that will serve as the centerpiece of their self-concept during the difficult years.This would include learning about basketball, tennis, electronics, art, music, or even raising rabbits for fun and profit. It's not so much what you teach your child. The key is that he or she learns something with which to feel good when the whole world seems to be saying, 'Who are you and what is your significance as a human being?'The teenager who has no answer to those questions is left unprotected at a very vulnerable time of life. Developing and honing skills with which to compensate may be one of the most valuable contributions parents can make during the elementary school years. It may even be worth requiring your carefree kid to take lessons, practice, compete and learn something he or she will not fully appreciate for a few more years."

By saying that teens should derive their self esteem from their own talents, knowledge, and abilities, Dr. Dobson seems to be echoing the "Believe in yourself" philosophy. But is this thinking biblical or does it come from secular philosophy?

Secular Humanism, according to the Greek philosopher Protagoras, is a belief that basically states that "man is the measure of all things." Man is considered completely autonomous and self sufficient. Reason, truth, and morality are all dependent on what man decides it to be, for he is "the measure of truth." Following that line of thinking, if a man believes that he can accomplish something (i.e. "Believes in himself") then he can, for man himself decides what is truth. This is directly contrary to the Bible, which not only shows man governed by God, but also reveals man's worthlessness apart from Him.

Abraham revealed the state of all men when he plainly stated, "I am nothing but dust and ashes..." (Gen. 18:27) Likewise, David said, "Man is like a breath; his days are like a fleeting shadow." (Psalm 144:4) The Preacher of Ecclesiastes says that man's persuits are futile and without value. "I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind." (Ecclessiastes 1:14) With these verses in mind, saying that men should search for their value within is merely the indulgence of pride and folly, for, according to the Bible, man's own merit in and of himself equals zero.

Though man is worth nothing by himself, he has become of unmeasurable value because he is unmeasurably precious to God. God loved man, in spite of man's sinfulness. He sent His Son to take the punishment for sin in our stead, so that we might live. (John 3:16, Romans 6:23) When a person can rest secure in God's value of them, they will no longer need a high esteem of their own talents and knowledge.

Belief in one's own abilities should be called by its rightful name: pride. The encouragement of the belief in one's own abilities is the encouragement of pride, which is sin and leads to destruction.

With all of that said, this whole post could be quickly summed up in the following words: Do not believe in yourself. Believe in God.

Posted by Hannah Beth

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Monday, April 10, 2006

Redeeming the Time

Ten seconds are left in the fourth quarter of the game. You are tied with the other team. There is going to only be one opportunity to score and break the tie. You are your team's last and only hope. The coach shouts at you, "Don't waste the shot!"

We are all each that player, but we play on a more challenging playing field. We are on the playing field of life. We have only one shot at life--and we should not waste it. Yet so often we become caught up in our own responsibilities, ambitions, and the general busy-ness of life that we waste our precious time. It is easy to forget that life has an end, and might finish sooner than we expect.

David reflects on this in Psalms 144:4, "Man is like a breath; his days are like a fleeting shadow."
He continues on the same theme in Psalm 62:9, "Lowborn men are but a breath, the highborn are but a lie; if weighed on a balance, they are nothing; together they are only a breath."

Life is short, and time is precious. How are you going to spend it? What goals are you going to pursue? Perhaps the better question would be, what goals are worth pursuing?

Priorities: Take a lesson from the dead.
Elizabeth the Great, one of England's most famous rulers, spent her life amassing wealth and power. On her deathbed she stated sadly, "All of my possessions for one moment of time." She realized only too late the truth of Matthew 6:19-21,
"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
Likewise, Henry, Prince of Wales' last words were, "Tie a rope around my body, pull me out of bed, and lay me in ashes, that I may die with repentant prayers to an offended God. O! I in vain wish for that time I lost with you and others in vain recreations." As is evident from his sorrowful exclamation, Prince Henry discovered that his life spent for pleasure brought him no gain in this life or would in the next.

Napoleon stated soon before his death, "I marvel that where the ambitious dreams of myself and of Alexander and Caesar should have vanished into thin air, a Judean peasant, Jesus, should be able to stretch out His hands across the centuries, and control the destinies of men and nations." Napoleon was arguably one of the greatest military minds in history, though his lust for power caused his downfall. At the end of his life, he was baffled that, for all of his battle plans and military achievements, a "Judean peasant, Jesus," had more power than he had. With regret, it seems that he realized that his life was misspent.

All these people were successful by the World's standards. Elizabeth was wealthy, Henry had fun, and Napoleon chased his dreams. Yet it is apparent that on their deathbeds, each of these people were dissatisfied with how they had spent their lives.
All of these people have since met their Maker, and I wonder if He was as impressed by their "successes" as the World was. In truth, God will ultimately be the One to Judge us (Hebrews 10:30.) He will judge our actions and declare whether or not the time that He gave us was well spent. What does God consider a well spent life? For what purpose does He want us to live?

In 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 it says, "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body."
Honoring God involves everything we do. 1 Corinthians 10:31 says, "So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God."

It is of no matter how many bestselling books you write, how many hits your blog recieves, how many people know your name, or if you graduate from college with honors. Those things, as important as they may seem today, are all going to eventually fade. The only things we do that will ever matter in eternity are the things we do with the motivation of pleasing God.

Only One Life,
Twill Soon Be Past
Only What's Done
For Christ Will Last
-Anonymous

Sources:
Quotes taken from The Evidence Bible, by Ray Comfort

Related Reading:
Matthew 25
One Heartbeat Away, by Mark Cahill
Don't Waste Your Life, by John Piper


(Feel like you have read this before? No, you're not going crazy. ;-) This is a re-post from my former blog, Sold Out, which is no longer being updated.)

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Contributors:

Kristin, Hannah & Lindsey

A blog by three young ladies who have a desire to serve the Lord and encourage other young women around them.

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