Let me start off by saying that I don’t know too much about Catholic theology as it differs from other Christian denominations. Growing up, there were no Catholics where I lived (or at least, I never knew any until at least my teenage years, and there still is no Catholic Church within 20 miles of my childhood home); Baptists, Methodists and Presbyterians a-plenty, along with smaller segments of many various other denominations, but no Catholics. In school (private, Christian school), we mostly stuck to things that all Christians had in common, though in our history lessons of Western civilization, of course we had to get into religious wars and Catholic dominance of Western Europe, etc., so I had a good overview of Catholicism generally. Since growing up, I’ve learned more about Catholicism, even engaging in a couple of online forums (fora?) for a short while, but never delving very deeply into it; and most of what I learned was from an anti- or at least non-Catholic position (or from pop culture, like the christening scene in The Godfather, and the Christmas Day Mass in While You Were Sleeping).
However, now I have several Catholic friends on facebook, and am currently living in an area that is predominantly Catholic, so I don’t want to unnecessarily offend Catholics, even if I do think they’re wrong; and at one point I previously said something to a Catholic about “praying to saints”, and she said that they don’t “pray to saints” as if praying to God, but rather asking them to intercede, just as you might call up a friend and ask them to pray for you about something; therefore, in order to meet Catholics where they are, I can’t go based on what I have read from non-Catholic sources about what Catholics believe, because they tend to reject such language. Yes, the non-Catholics are right in that Catholics pray to dead people, but Catholics reject the unbiblical insinuations of it, and put a Biblical (or quasi-Biblical) twist to it, so that they can hold what seem to be two contrary opinions at once. [I say “quasi-Biblical”, because I do agree that it is Biblical to ask people to pray for you, but that it is unbiblical (perhaps even demonic or approaching witchcraft) to communicate with the dead, and that there is nothing in the Bible that indicates that living Christians should ask dead Christians to intercede for them.]
So, Catholics claim they don’t “pray to dead people” in a bad/unbiblical sense, and they also claim they “don’t worship Mary” (another common charge leveled against Catholics by non-Catholics). No matter how many non-Catholic resources I could quote confirming Mary worship, Catholics wouldn’t accept them as truly understanding Catholicism, and they would brush off any such statements as being inaccurate, so I decided to go to the source. Just about every movie that depicts Catholics or Catholicism at all includes one person with a rosary necklace and/or praying the rosary, but I never knew exactly what it was; at some point I learned that the necklace is used as a reminder of the form of the prayer, with every bead being a different thing to say or think about, so that once you go all the way around the necklace, touching each bead and saying the right prayer attached to each bead, you were done. But here is the rosary from a Catholic source.
It starts off good enough with the Apostles’ Creed and the Lord’s Prayer, but then comes three Hail Marys. So God gets one prayer, while Mary gets three. Okay…. The first part of “Hail Mary” is taken from the Bible in which the angel Gabriel visits Mary and tells her that she will become pregnant and give birth to Jesus, but then it devolves into asking a dead person to intercede on behalf of the living — again, perfectly acceptable to Catholics, but nowhere said or implied in the Bible. Continuing the rosary is again something that no Christians so far as I know would have a problem with, “Glory be to the Father”, followed by the first “mystery” (there are 4 different types of mysteries, with 5 mysteries in each type — more on that later), then “Our Father”, then while contemplating the “mystery”, the person is to say 10 Hail Marys followed by another “Glory be to the Father”, then repeat the cycle with the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th mysteries, saying each mystery followed by “Our Father”, 10 Hail Marys and “Glory be to the Father”. Does anybody else see the problem of the ratio of praying to and hailing and honoring Mary vs. praying to and honoring God?
Now a brief sidetrack into the discussion of the “mysteries”. Most of the things in the “mysteries” are taken directly from the Bible, and are basically just a recitation or repetition of stories in the Bible, although with some occasional non-Biblical/extra-Biblical things thrown in — but for the most part, are things that no Christian would disagree with until… the last two of the “Glorious Mysteries”, “The Assumption” and “The Coronation”. Having read that, I just have to say, “WOW!!” Whoo, boy!
The Fourth Glorious Mystery: THE ASSUMPTION
- After the apostles have dispersed, the Blessed Mother goes to live with John, the beloved disciple.
- Mary lives many years on earth after the death of Christ.
- She is a source of comfort, consolation and strength to the apostles.
- As she had nourished the infant Jesus, so she nourishes spiritually the infant Church.
- Mary dies, not of bodily infirmity, but is wholly overcome in a rapture of divine love.
- Her body as well as her soul is taken up into heaven.
- After her burial the apostles go to the tomb and find only fragrant lilies.
- Jesus does not permit the sinless body of His Mother to decay in the grave.
- Corruption of the body is an effect of original sin from which Mary is totally exempted.
- The bodies of all mankind, at the last judgment, will be brought back and united again to the soul.
Spiritual Fruit: To Jesus through Mary
The Fifth Glorious Mystery: THE CORONATION
- As Mary enters heaven, the entire court of heaven greets with joy this masterpiece of God’s creation.
- Mary is crowned by her divine Son as Queen of heaven and earth.
- More than we can ever know the Hearts of Jesus and Mary overflow with joy at this reunion.
- Only in heaven will we know the great majesty of that coronation, and the joy it gave to the angels and saints.
- Even the angels, who by nature are greater than humans, hail Mary as their Queen.
- Mary shares so fully in the glory of Christ because she shared so fully in His suffering.
- Only in heaven will we see how central is the role of Mary in the divine plan of redemption.
- The angels and saints longed for the coming of her whose heel crushes the head of the serpent.
- Mary pleads our cause as a most powerful Queen and a most merciful and loving Mother.
- A great sign appeared in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.
Spiritual Fruit: Grace of Final Perseverance
Really? First, there is nothing in the Bible of this; it’s just Catholic additions. Secondly, if Mary were sinless (4th mystery, #8 & 9), why does she need a Savior and Redeemer? — Luke 1:47. Thirdly, the “spiritual fruit” that is supposed to come from this 4th mystery is “To Jesus through Mary”?? In a recent discussion with a Catholic friend of mine on facebook, I told her that one of the problems I had with Catholicism is that it puts the priests as a mediator between God and man, while the Bible says that there is One such Mediator, Jesus Christ (1 Tim. 2:5). She basically said that priests weren’t mediators in that sense, and affirmed that Jesus was the only Mediator. I still insist that Catholic priests are mediators in a way that the Bible forbids, and now after reading this, I must add in that Mary is another such mediator. If we have to go through anybody but Jesus to get to God, whether that is priests or as this says, “through Mary to Jesus”, then that is putting an unbiblical mediator between God and man. Now Catholics may say that it’s not putting a mediator between God and man, but it is. Fourthly, aside from the blatantly unbiblical nature of all this (except #10, which is a quote from the Bible and may or may not refer to Mary at all), #7 — “only in heaven will we see how central is the role of Mary in the divine plan of redemption”?? Oh, dear! And #8 is not just “extra-biblical” (meaning, outside of the Bible, like the existence of the Mayans and Incas) but absolutely **UN**Biblical. The Bible says that it is the heel of the Son, the offspring of the woman, that crushes the head of the serpent, *not* the woman’s heel!! — Gen. 3:15.
Okay, enough of the “mysteries”. Back to the rosary, which is technically finished, but after the end of the rosary, this is supposed to be said:
HAIL, HOLY QUEEN, Mother of Mercy, our life, our sweetness and our hope! To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve; to thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this vale of tears. Turn then, most gracious advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us, and after this our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus. O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary!
So now MARY is “our hope”??? We cry to Mary, and “send up our sighs, mourning and weeping”? Why not just straight to God? Why this other mediator between God and man? And MARY is our advocate? How unbiblical can it get!?
Finally, I also take issue with them saying that we are “poor banished children of Eve”. While technically true in that Eve is the mother of all living, it is through Adam that we have our federal headship, and we sinned in Adam, not in Eve. That is just one more twisting of the Bible by misplacing the emphasis that the Bible gives, putting it on something that is not emphasized.
I just read this post from Freedom’s Journal, and have mixed feelings about it. While appearing on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe”, evangelist Franklin Graham was asked whether he believed Barack Obama was a Christian; he responded, “I cannot answer that question for anybody.” Then he was called a liar and forced to apologize for that. This author calls him weak for his apology, saying, “Anyone with any insight can see Obama is not a Christian”, going on to reference many things, including his opposition to the Born Alive Infant Protection Act.
I think a different response would be better, and I propose two possibilities, that could be used separately or together, instead of refusing to answer or giving a mealy-mouthed response.
1) Ask the questioner why he’s asking the question. It’s possible that the questioner prefaces the question by referencing others who have called Obama not a Christian, but even then, it’s a valid question for Graham or others to ask: why is my opinion on this matter important? what the Bible says about it is more important. If I say yes or if I say no, will you believe me to be correct? or will you attack me if I say no and praise me if I say yes? Are you asking me only to make me look bad, or cause controversy if I don’t say yes? In short, put the attacker on the defensive, and show his bias and true colors.
2) Answer the question with a question: “Do *you* think he is, and why?” If the questioner cannot answer smoothly and quickly, with good evidence of Christian fruit and Christ-like behavior from Obama, then he has impaled himself on his own question, while the intended victim goes free. And if the questioner responds with things like, “He’s taking care of the poor, with things like expanded food stamps” (or whatever social programs he might come up with), Graham or whoever could respond that the true Christian response is to do these things yourself, not to take money from one group of citizens to give to the other. And to point out that there are many other things (like, the rest of the Bible that talks about moral issues that are conveniently forgotten by liberals) that are also hallmarks of being Christian, and these are not hallmarks of Barack Obama. Then maybe quote “by their fruit ye shall know them”, and say that I am not being a judge of the heart, because only God can do that, but Jesus said we *are* to judge/discern/know people based on their actions, so if Barack Obama wishes not to be questioned as to his Christianity, then he should be bearing more Christian fruit.
Another possible response by the questioner-turned-questioned, is that he might say something like, “I’m not a Christian, while you are, therefore I’m not qualified to judge”, or “I’m wanting to know your opinion, not mine”, or “you’re a leader, looked up to by fellow Christians, so people will follow you”, etc. While that wouldn’t be as satisfying as successfully being able to impale the impaler, being questioned probably will throw off the questioner, and cause some confusion; and Graham (or whoever the person is) can still point out the Biblical hallmarks of Christianity, and say, “I do not — cannot — judge his heart, but based on the fruit he evidences in his life, he is at best very weak, and at worst a false professor. Jesus said that there would be people who claimed to follow Him, and even believe to follow Him, but they would be disappointed to find out at the end of their lives, that Jesus would say, ‘I never knew you.’ I hope Barack Obama — and for that matter, I hope that I myself — will not find ourselves in that position; indeed the Bible tells each of us to ‘examine yourselves, to see whether you be in the faith or not.’ While Barack Obama’s positions on abortion and the sanctity of human life, as well as the God-given definition of marriage, trouble me, I am more concerned about myself, and examining myself to see whether I be in the faith, rather than examining others, to see if they are.”
I’m no great fan of Rick Perry. If he runs for President, I won’t vote for him in the primary (mostly because he way overstepped his bounds as TX governor, mandating that 11 & 12-year-old schoolgirls receive the Gardasil vaccine), but this post isn’t about him, except that his call for prayer has instigated this post: Five Scriptures You Won’t Hear at Rick Perry’s Prayer Event. Click over to read the verses and what he says about them, then come back here to read my opinion.
Before Jim Rigby even starts on the five verses, he sneers at those who ” take the Christian and Jewish scriptures seriously”, saying that doing so makes for an “unhealthy religion.” Really? A Christian minister says that taking the Bible “seriously” sets you up for being in an unhealthy religion. By what criteria does he judge this?! Does he mean that we should take the Bible flippantly, or carelessly, or ignore those parts we disagree with? Is that what his version of Christianity teaches?
1) “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray in public places to be seen by others… But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your heavenly parent, who is unseen.” (Matt. 6:5-6) [I don’t know what version or perversion of the Bible he uses, but the fact that he says “parent” instead of “Father” says a lot! I digress…] As the verse itself states, it is a warning against being hypocrites more than against public prayer. If the person praying in public prays only prays in public, he is being a hypocrite (literally, a “play actor”); if he is praying just to be seen, he is being a hypocrite. There is no injunction against praying in front of others — in fact, public and/or corporate prayer is mentioned with great frequency as a hallmark of the New Testament church and early Christians. This is probably the one that I least disagree with him on; he says this verse teaches, “Don’t make a show of prayer,” which is true enough; but it’s more in the idea of a false show of prayer, rather than an absolute injunction against praying in front of others at all.
2) “God doesn’t withhold rain because we’ve done something wrong,” he says, pointing to, “God causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matt. 5:45) as his proof text. However, he neglects (once again) the context, and also doesn’t point out the little thing like Elijah praying that God would not let it rain on the nation of Israel, under the rule of wicked Ahab, and it didn’t rain for 3 years, but when Elijah prayed for rain, God sent rain. I would ask Mr. Rigby if he believes that God can and does answer prayer. If no, why does he call himself a Christian?; if yes, why not pray — as Jesus commanded — for those things that you need? The true meaning of this verse is pointing out that God is good even to those who don’t deserve it, and He is merciful even to the wicked, unjust, and unrighteous, and that we should likewise be good. It teaches that when it rains, the rain is from God; it does not teach that God never withholds rain from the wicked.
3) “God doesn’t have favorites” — this is the one that makes me call him a heretic. First, the verse: “Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism.” (Acts 10:34) Now what Rigby says it means: “When the Bible says that God is not a ‘respecter of persons’ it means that God doesn’t have a favorite country or religion.” This couldn’t be further from the truth! God may not have “a favorite country” (although I would argue that God has favored the United States, as our Constitution and early foundation was on His principles), but to say that God doesn’t have “a favorite religion”!! The context (that pesky context again, that Rigby never considers!) is that Peter has just preached to the first person who was not Jewish by birth or by conversion. Up to this point, the gospel of Jesus Christ had been preached to Jews only, and it seems that the Jewish Christians still believed that Christianity was to be limited to Jews only. In a vision, God tells Peter to eat “unclean” animals, to show him that the division between clean and unclean animals was done away with in Christ, just as the division between Jew and Gentile was done away with in Christ. In preaching to Cornelius, and his subsequent conversion and being blessed with the gift of speaking in foreign languages, Peter realizes that God has elect among more than just Jews. If God doesn’t have “a favorite religion” — and Rigby sneers at the possibility that Christianity might be considered God’s “favorite religion”, thus implying here and elsewhere throughout his article, that all religions are equal before God — why did He send His Son to die on the cross and say that there was salvation only through Jesus Christ? If Christianity is the same as any other religion before God, why did Paul and the other early apostles and Christians risk their lives and many die a martyr’s death, if it didn’t really matter whether the Gentiles worshipped the God of the Bible or their heathen idols?
4) “Worship by those who neglect the poor is offensive to God” — “I hate, I despise your religious festivals; your assemblies are a stench to me… Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps. But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!” (Amos 5:21-24) It is true that God hates pretence and hypocrites; but Rigby trumpets so-called “social justice” and decries what he believes to be mistreatment of the poor as being offensive to God. True mistreatment of the poor is indeed offensive to God, as are laws that give favor to the rich because they are rich, while punishing the poor simply for being poor; however, the things he enumerates are not “mistreatment” or “neglect” as God sees it. He decries the fact that Texas has the largest gap between rich and poor, and that they have the largest number of uninsured citizens, among other things. What is his solution for that? He doesn’t say explicitly, but it seems that he thinks that it is the job of the state to “even things out” and to provide health insurance to those who don’t have it. There were plenty of very rich and very poor people in Bible times, and those who could not afford doctors. However, the Bible does not mandate nationwide, statewide, or other governmental handouts; rather, it tells individuals to be privately charitable. Going back to the Sermon on the Mount, which Rigby joyfully quoted from for points 1 & 2, Jesus told His followers — not to march on the Capitol and demand that the government take from the rich and give to the poor — but to give of their own money, and not only of their own money (rather than other people’s money), but so privately that, in a figure of speech, the left hand would not know what the right hand is doing!
5) Using the parable of the Good Samaritan (which he wrongly says was directed towards a “rich, young zealot,” [probably meaning “the rich young ruler” who was told to sell all and give to the poor; something modern “social justice” types conveniently ignore] when in fact it was directed at a self-righteous lawyer — i.e., one well-versed in the Law of Moses, not a modern litigator — who was identified neither as rich nor young), he somehow twists it into a slam on the American Family Association. He says, “the heart of Christian ethics is being a good neighbor,” which I don’t totally agree with, but don’t strongly disagree with it either. First, we are to love God, and secondly, we are to love our neighbors. The story of the Good Samaritan was told because the lawyer wanted to justify himself by limiting those who were his “neighbors”, and Jesus was showing that everyone is our neighbor; but how do we love God? According to the Bible, by keeping His commandments. Among those commandments is to obey Jesus Christ and bow to Him, but that would mean that Christianity would be God’s “favorite religion”, which Mr. Rigby sneers at. So-called Christians have to do so many mental contortions and back-flips that it’s no wonder they sound schizophrenic, picking out only those passages of the Bible they like, while conveniently ignoring others.
But back to the AFA – Rigby says that because one liberal organization considers the AFA a “hate group”, that this proves that the AFA doesn’t have “Christian ethics”, since they so obviously “hate” their neighbors. The AFA is a strong defender of Christian morals as outlined in the Bible, so since when does standing for truth = hating your neighbors? Um, yeah. How does the Bible define loving your neighbors? Wouldn’t that be a better place to start, than taking as truth the opinion of some liberal think-tank?
Someone on an old post said something about there not being any verses in the Bible that specifically say the earth/universe is young — “young” meaning on the order of 10,000 years or less — much less than the Big Bang or the chance arising of life from nonliving materials would allow. [Leaving aside the history of Genesis with a pretty strict chronology that allows one to add up dates of each man being X years old when he fathered a particular son, working your way back to Adam who was created on day 6 of the existence of the universe, I guess.] There isn’t a verse which says, “And in the 4th year of the reign of David, king of Israel, the earth turned 2035 years old,” or anything like it. But I contend it’s not necessary, given the history — much like one could say, “In the year 1776, the American colonies declared their independence from Britain,” without reiterating 230 years later that the country is 230 years old. Past history suffices. He also said that “not all thinking Christians/Jews from time immemorial have subscribed to the young earth-young universe model.”
So I asked him, but have not yet received an answer (he may just be ignoring me, although he may ultimately answer), “What Biblical evidence do you have that the universe is old? Which Christian or Jew prior to, say, the 1800s believed that the earth/universe was old?”
Yes, I know there are verses that talk about the earth being old, but it depends on perspective. Compared to humans which live about 70 years, 1000 years would definitely qualify as “old.” But, I’m just curious if there are any verses which teach that the universe is hundreds of thousands or even millions or billions of years old. I’m not talking about fitting things in sideways, or twisting passages — like the “gap theory” which says there’s a gap of several millions of years between Gen. 1:1 & Gen. 1:2 — I’m talking about verses which teach it, not those that might possibly could maybe somehow be construed to allow for millions of years.
Also, if anybody knows any Bible-believing Christian or Jew prior to the 1800s (the century when long-age philosophy first became popular in modern times) who believed in an old universe/earth, please tell me his name or link somewhere to it.
Just curious. And here is a list of articles that are available that demonstrate my position.
There are some religious people who claim to believe the Bible (or at least the Old Testament), and say that abortion is not wrong, is not murder, is justifiable, is not prohibited by the Bible, etc. They will usually “argue from silence” and note that abortion as such is never mentioned, much less prohibited. Or they’ll take the passage in the Law of Moses that talks about if a pregnant woman is struck and “her fruit pass from her”, that it is not a murder charge — there is no taking of the striker’s life for causing the fetal demise — they assume that “her fruit pass from her” is a miscarriage, and the “evil” that may happen afterward is maternal injury. Others will note that this passage could easily (and, they say, more properly) mean that this is talking about a preterm birth in which the baby lives, and the “evil” that happens afterwards could be either maternal or neonatal injury. Obviously, in those days, there was precious little that could be done to save preterm babies, so it could easily mean that if the baby was big and old enough to survive, then the person that struck the woman and caused the premature birth would only receive a mild sentence for endangering the pregnant woman and by extension her fetus/neonate; but if the baby could not survive and/or the mother was injured or killed, then the person would pay with his life, if a life was taken, or he would pay some sort of restitution for the injury.
That’s about the sum total of so-called “Biblical support” for abortion that I’ve seen. If there are others that I’ve missed that you’ve heard of, feel free to add them.
Most Christians that try to answer this question or argument basically give the explanation I outlined in the first paragraph, in response to the “her fruit” passage; and say things like, “Of course abortion as such isn’t mentioned — it’s obviously murder, so wouldn’t need to be specially mentioned, any more than a specific type of rape or child molestation would need to be mentioned, other than a general prohibition against any sort of sexual conduct outside of marriage.”
While I agree with this, it doesn’t go far enough, because all the opponent has to say is, “The fetus is not a person and therefore cannot be murdered. It is not obviously murder.” Then the two people just end up in a stalemate.
The line of reasoning I’m about to put forth will only work for people who believe the Bible. The others will find some carnal excuse to continue to support abortion.
In the creation story, God created Adam and Eve in His image, and also the animals, and said that they each would reproduce “after their kind.” [Kinds are not necessarily “species” as we define them, but probably could be a “family” or “genus” as we classify them. All dog types, including domestic dogs of all breeds, wolves, foxes, dingos, etc. would have been originally one “kind,” which speciated after the flood.] But, using species that are familiar to us, it’s obvious that dogs produce other dogs — they don’t give birth to cats; cats give birth to cats; mice give birth to other mice; cows don’t give birth to horses; humans give birth to humans, etc.
Later on in Genesis (perhaps even a few different times, plus other times in Exodus), capital punishment for murder is not just allowed but even required. Gen. 9:6 is one such passage. But more than just being a law given, this verse also contains the reasoning for the law: namely, “for in the image of God created He man.”
To kill a man is to kill God in effigy, which is why the murderer is required to lose his own life. He has, one might argue, made the ultimate insult to God. This is also, I would argue, why Satan loves murder so much. He would love to kill and/or dethrone God; but since he can’t, he will do as much as he can — and this includes killing men himself (perhaps by subtly encouraging them to do self-destructive things, including suicide, promiscuous behavior [becoming infected with lethal diseases such as AIDS], addictions to drugs and alcohol, etc.), and inciting them to kill each other — on a large scale like the Holocaust, or on a small scale like drive-by shootings. Also by abortion.
Because, as I said before, man produces after his kind. This has been proven by genetics — at conception, the male and female gametes come together, and their genes mix to produce a genetically new human. If that “conceptus” is taken and analyzed, it would show that it was definitely human, even though it was only a one-celled creature. It is also most certainly alive, biologically speaking, so to kill this life would be to kill a genetically unique human. To kill a man, a human, one of the human kind, one of the creatures made “in the image of God,” is to commit murder.
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John Trent was the 5th and final speaker at the Focus on the Family “Focus on Marriage” teleconference, and his topic was “Small Changes, Big Results.” He’s written a book called The Two-Degree Difference, with the word-picture of the minor changes a person makes to the steering wheel while driving, to maintain the proper course of the car on the road in the correct lane. He asked the rhetorical question, “What would happen when you drove your car, if you only made 10-degree changes or larger while steering?” Of course, you’d probably be pulled over with the assumption of driving under the influence. Using that analogy, he pointed out that often when you make these large changes, you may over-correct, and instead of driving into one ditch, you merely end up in the other ditch, so you’re really not that much better off.
The word “righteousness” literally means, “to stay between the lines”
Often big problems have small solutions:
- Naaman had leprosy, and his cure was to dip himself seven times in the Jordan River. When told of the little thing he had to do for the cure, he became offended and went away in a rage.
- Luke 19 says that those who are faithful in very little will become faithful over much
- Mark 9, in answer to the question, “Who is the greatest?” Jesus says that the greatest was the one who made himself least; and that receiving a little child in His name receives Jesus
- C.S. Lewis said, “Good and evil increase with compound interest” — so little things become exponential
The 5th example was the story of Rudy Giuliani, taken from the book he wrote about his experiences as the mayor of New York. I’d not heard a lot of what Dr. Trent said before, so this was fascinating to me, simply from a historical and practical perspective, so I’m going to include the details, even if they don’t particularly relate to marriage.
The year before Giuliani became mayor, the homicide rate of NYC was somewhere around 2400 murders per year (I didn’t write down the exact figure) — and this was just in NYC proper, not counting the outlying areas; by the time he left office 8 years later, the number was somewhere between 600-700 murders. To effect this great change, one might think there were great measures taken, but the changes were actually quite small. Called “The Broken Window Theory” — that when one window pane is already broken, it becomes that much easier to break another pane and then another, and finally to break into the house itself and steal — Giuliani focused on fixing the little things. [I thought Dr. Trent said that Giuliani called for enforcing laws already on the books about keeping windows in good repair; my husband thought it was just a hypothetical/theoretical situation, and this little change was not one of the things Giuliani actually enforced. I’m not sure who is right.] Anyway, other things he did was to make sure all graffiti in the subways was covered and painted over every morning before the first train left; arrested turnstile jumpers (ended up catching a lot of wanted felons this way), and arrested squeegee men. I didn’t realize that the problem with squeegee men is that they were practically extorting money from drivers — if the drivers didn’t give them money for cleaning their windshields, then the squeegee men would damage the car (break windshield wipers, etc.). Legally, the cops couldn’t arrest them for squeegeeing, nor for extortion, but they could arrest them for jaywalking, which is what they did. As soon as the squeegee men stepped off of the crosswalk to approach a car, the cops would arrest them. Before instituting this program, the NYC cops estimated that there were 2000 squeegee men in the city; only 167 men were actually arrested. [I see two possibilities here — one is that they vastly overestimated the number because the squeegee men were so visible and caused such a problem; or that as word got out about the arrests, the squeegee men stopped of their own accord — or some combination of the two.] They vastly reduced crime, including homicide, by focusing on little things.
Using a helium balloon on a long string as a prop, he talked about taking the “up there” principles and bringing them “down here” — to put them into action.
He mentioned MarriageMentors.com — to help churches train people to help and encoruage people in poor relationships; as well as the two-degree difference radio program on his website, and a commitment sheet.
Bless your spouse:
- hold hands (meaningful touch)
- spoken message
- attach high values (bless, “add weight”) to your spouse
- picture a special future for that person
- genuine commitment
Mixed throughout the teleconference was singer Jeremy Camp; and during his performance he told a little story about his young daughter. He came up to her one time when she was eating a cup of ice cream and, throwing his arms open as wide as he could, said, “I love you THIS much!” Since she couldn’t hold onto her ice cream with just one hand, she couldn’t reciprocate, so she held her cup of ice cream between her hand and her chest, and threw out her free arm and said, “I love you this much, Daddy!” He commented that this is the way we are a lot of the times — unwilling to give up our worldly “ice cream” in order to love God with abandon.
The 4th speaker in the Focus on the Family Marriage Teleconference was Gary Smalley. His topic was “The Value of Connecting to the Father.”
The world’s belief is that you should focus on and love yourself most, and others less; that if you have money or thrills, then you will have a quality life; that happiness and satisfaction comes from getting, having and doing, and focusing on yourself.
There are two very powerful beliefs — the first one destroys and weakens relationships, keeps you in the darkness, keeps you from God; but the second is loving God and others first, and self second or last. Loving God squashes slef-love until it is very small — that Christ is my life — “out of the heart of man flows thoughts and actions” — a belief system. Stop trying to make others change, and just work on yourself.
Often many people (particularly married) have the thought, “If you change, I will be happier”; which actually is saying that God is not sufficient.
He admitted that this was how he lived most of his marriage. The particular example he gave was the following: he loved to exercise; his wife didn’t (he pointed out that often couples are like this — complete opposites in certain areas, like night owls [almost] always marry morning people). He thought that if she would just exercise with him, he’d be happier, and their marriage would be better. He said this was him trying to do the job of the Holy Spirit, which was bad in two particulars — 1st, he was not the Holy Spirit, so he was ineffectual in his own endeavors; and secondly, he was getting in the way of the Holy Spirit, preventing Him from working in his wife’s life.
What makes a great marriage? one that is full of love — you can’t manufacture God’s love (1 Cor. 13); if you have some false belief system in your life, you may be hindered. How do you get God’s love flowing all day? — Jesus is the Vine, we are the branches, both men and women, husband and wife — helpless without the Vine. We’re twigs, and can do nothing without Him. We need to pray to God for help, because we’re helpless — blind, dumb, with broken arms and broken legs — humble and helpless.
Gary Smalley had several props on the stage, and during this past paragraph, he made use of some of them. He brought out a grapevine with some bare branches that were not attached to the vine (with a pink ribbon on one of them, to denote the wife — I thought that was pretty cute). Because the branches were cut off from the vine, there were no leaves and no fruit. He took the branches and started beating one of the branches with the other one, imitating how husbands and wives often fight and nag — “Why don’t you just…?” And particularly saying things like, “Why don’t you grow leaves? Why don’t you produce fruit?” Pointing out that it is impossible for a cut-off branch to grow leaves or produce fruit; and likewise impossible for one branch to “beat the other one over the head” to force the other one to grow leaves or produce fruit. [I can’t give the proper “visual” of this, but it was hilarious!] The only way for that to happen is for the branches to be grafted into the vine, so that they can receive the sap and nourishment from the vine in order that they can live and produce leaves and fruit. Going back to the previous exercise example — he said that after 40-some years of marriage, he finally stopped getting on his wife about exercising, and about 4 years later she took up exercising on her own with zeal. He stopped “trying to be the Holy Spirit in her life” and just focused on his own deficiencies, and let God take care of her.
Another prop he used was a big sign, such as a street beggar might have — he held this up when he talked about us being helpless. He said that for the past several years he has made a deliberate and conscious decision to start the morning off by saying what he had on the sign. I forget the exact language, but basically it was, “I’m helpless. Lord, I need your help to do anything today.” He said that in the past few years his life has transformed in many ways. He admitted that even at the age of 65 he still would turn his head and look (lust) at a pretty woman who walked by. When he was younger, he thought, “That’s just the way God made men, and we can’t help it”; but by the time old age set in, he thought he should be done with that, but he wasn’t. Then he realized that he had been wrong this whole time, and that it was indeed a sin, and that he was powerless to stop… but that God was powerful. Within just the past few years, he no longer looks, after it being the habit of his lifetime. Another example was in his driving. Like many men, he was an aggressive driver (giving several examples which were all too familiar), but that through prayer (“I am helpless”) God was able to give him a new attitude. Rather than getting angry at the old people who were driving so slow in front of him, instead what comes out of his mouth (“out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks”) is rather thanks to them for visiting his city (Branson, MO) and keeping the economy going. He said, “That’s not ME! I’m not like that! But somehow God has put that in my heart!”
1 John 4:7-8 — “Beloved, let us love one another” — He grafts us into the Vine; like the sap of a vine or tree, it produces leaves (sign of life) and fruit. We need the love of Christ, the Holy Spirit (the sap of the Vine), in order to love each other, so we need to pray for the other and ourselves
All your stress is from the expectation of the world.
Things you can do to help you grow:
- pray together — that the worldly beliefs shrink, and God’s truth grows in our hearts.
- Bible-reading together
- Study together
- Attending church together
- memorizing and meditating upon Scriptures — think of the meaning, not just the bare words
- listen to Christian radio (rather than worldly garbage)
- listen to Christian worship and praise music
- watch Christ-centered movies
- and more –as a couple, so you grow together.
Del Tackett was the third speaker of the teleconference, and he began by saying he preferred calling himself a “teacher” rather than just a speaker, and had a “chalkboard” (not slate, and he didn’t use chalk, but I’m not sure what to technically call it) that he used later.
In Creation, there was one thing that was declared “not good,” and that was “for man to be alone.” Why?
What God has made reveals His glory — “The heavens declare the glory of God…”; Rom. 1 — what may be known of God is plain to man because God has made it plain to them… which is why men are without excuse. We see tremendous diversity, yet unity — it is not chaotic, but there is a system (within cells, organs, systems, the body; as well as the sub-cellular particles that exist in a system). The whole creation is filled with relationships — everything is in a relationship: neutrons, protons electrons; blood clotting; photosynthesis; husband and wife; extended families; etc. At the Fall, relationships were damaged — God and man (Adam hid from God); Adam vs Eve (the blame game); Cain vs. Abel (murder).
The “Divine Pause” — “it is not good for man to be alone” — it was the only time in the Creation week that something was labeled as “not good” although it was possible for God to have said that it was not good for there to be plants with no sun, or waters with no fish; but God took the time to point out this one thing in the week of creation that was “not good.” Marriage is as concrete a creation of God as is the sun, the grass, etc.
The Trinity has been in perfect order and relation since eternity past — “one God” could be thought of as “the Oneness of God” — “I and My Father are One.”
At this point, he used the chalkboard and drew a large circle and wrote the words “Father,” “Son” and “Holy Spirit” and connected them with lines (a quasi-triangle). Then he drew a similar circle (slightly overlapping with the first circle), and wrote in a similar fashion “Husband,” “Wife” and “Children.”
The husband and the wife are to be “one flesh.”
The Son submits to the Father; the wife is to submit to the husband — submission is not negative, not a “dirty word,” but existed before the Fall of man, a Divine attribute, delightful in the eyes of God.
The Triune God and the triune family bears the mark of God.
God has given blueprints for our social systems — He doesn’t give us blueprints for photosynthesis or atomic structure because they don’t disobey God, but we have a tendency to defy God.
1 Pet — “Husbands…treat your wives as weaker vessels, with honor, as joint-heirs, that your prayers be not hindered.”
Eph. 5 — “Husbands, love your wives; wives, respect your husbands” — don’ t mother them.
Here he told a short story about his own wife — she made soup and as she gave him his bowl, she said, “You’ll need a spoon, they’re over in the drawer” (as if he were a small child); to us he said (showing his thought processes) with gritted teeth — “I know I need a spoon, and I know they’re in that drawer — what am I, an idiot?!?” What he did at the time was say nothing, but plopped his bowl at the table and clammed up. Then he admonished us wives that if their husbands just clam up, it would be wise for them to rewind their minds and see if there was something like this that they did recently — treating husbands like children is disrespectful to them, and ultimately, to God.
There was another “Divine Hesitation” in a garden — the Garden of Gethsemane — “Father, let this cup pass from Me” — why? the physical pain? No — but for the first time the unity that existed in the Godhead, the unity between Father and Son (“I and My Father are One”) would be borken, to suffer the penalty of sin, separation of God. God hates divorce — it is the tearing asunder of that which was one, defying God.
The world is full of the pernicious lie that “it’s all about you!” No, this world is not about you — it’s all about God! The former attitude destroys intimacy and relationships; the consequences are huge. “Choose this day blessings” (of following God’s script and plan) “rather than curses” (of following the world’s philosophy and ideology.