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Archive for the ‘Theology’ Category

Yesterday I bought Sadie Bratz sneakers.

I told myself long ago I would not pay money for any Bratz products. Sadie has known since she was conscious that I didn’t like Bratz dolls. We’ve had many a discussion about why this is: they are too grown up, they wear too much make-up, and they look like they WANT to get into trouble. This has made Sadie all the more curious about them, and she has asked for them often. She’ll say “I like Bratz,” then she’ll look up at me sideways to see my reaction.

This past summer, a neighbor girl gave Sadie two Bratz dolls she didn’t play with anymore. Since Sadie wasn’t interested in playing Barbies at the time, I didn’t think much of it and just downplayed it. Well, as I mentioned in my last post, she is now FULL FORCE into Barbies. And that includes those two Bratz dolls. We’ve been playing that the Barbies are including the Bratz and are teaching them manners, how to be sweet, and how to not get into trouble. We’ve imagined that they came from an orphanage and have had a hard life so far.

Then, yesterday, Sadie’s Cinderella Princess sneakers ripped, and she begged for Bratz sneakers. This posed quite a conundrum for me, since the Bratz shoes were literally the only ones that fit her in all of WalMart. Was it ‘giving in’? Not standing on my principles? Would I be endorsing something that I shouldn’t be allowing my daughter to have? I paced up and down the shoe aisle wondering what to do.

I started thinking about my evangelical Christian upbringing–about the rules: what NOT to do or wear; who NOT to hang out with, what NOT to watch or listen to. And now as a ‘Christian Mom’ what NOT to buy my daughter. It dawned on me that if I bought these shoes for Sadie, people might judge me in the exact same way I have been guilty of judging other moms whose kids are allowed to wear, eat, watch, etc. things I don’t approve of. My own hypocrisy stared me in the face.

We’ve been trying to teach Sadie that God looks on the inside first–that hearts matter more than what someone looks like. We’ve been telling her that Jesus invites everyone, and that He loves us all the same even though we all look different. I’ve been trying to get there in my own life too–where it isn’t Us vs. Them–the ‘saved’ and the ‘unsaved’–the sinners and the saints. God has been working on me to look at every person I see as someone dearly loved by Him no matter what they look like, how they act, or even whether or not they believe in Him. I’ve been praying for eyes to see my own sin–that I am just as black as someone who commits murder or molests children. How we are all the same, and so, so loved by God.

So I got the shoes, and a lesson too. I want Sadie to be inclusive and full of love and respect for everyone–the way I believe Jesus was. I think Jesus would have hung out with Bratz.

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I found a quote in Reader’s Digest (one of the many that I filched from the free table at the library…) that I loved so much I ripped it out of the book:

“I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer.”

What makes it so poignant to me is who said it: Jim Carrey.

I erroneously think that something outside myself, some accomplishment or accolade or new house or a trip to Europe (etc.) will make me feel fulfilled. I get antsy at the life and means that God has given me–as if I’ve received the short end of the stick, or He’s looked at me, sniffed, then decided to give the cool stuff to more interesting people.

How is that Jim Carrey, who may or may not have a relationship with the Living God, knows this, while I, who have known God lo these many years, still paddle around in the quagmire of discontent and comparison?

I used to tell  people that by accepting Jesus as Savior, that hole in their heart would finally be filled.  You know, the God-shaped vacuum and all that. But here I am, a Believer, and I see in my own life that Jesus hasn’t done what I said he was supposed to do. My hole is still there. And He hasn’t magically come in and filled the space. It’s rather disappointing, actually.

But here is what I think I’ve been missing: the fact that God has given us the gift of choosing Him. Not just once for salvation, and then it is over and done with. But a daily choosing. An every-moment kind of choosing. A decision that I can make to a) compare myself to the rest of the world, and believe the lie that this or that will make me happy; or b) decide to trust in the Big Plan of God and see everything that I have or that I am or that I have experienced is exactly right, because the God of the Universe knows me intimately and loves me and wants the very best for me.

I still believe that Jesus is the answer. But the means in which He works that fulfilment into me is more like the process of making bread (all the kneading and rising and time and waiting and then punching it down and kneading some more…)–and way less like putting a quarter into a gumball machine and out pops instant happiness.

I’m just so thankful for the patience of God–who hears my ungrateful complaining, sees my childish behavior, and yet still, quietly, leads me back to His bigger truth. He reminds me again of His grace, and shows me His love.

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So I’m thinking about graduate school. Thinking about it A LOT. My big worry is that I’ll look back and say ‘yeah, I got that degree, but I missed years of Sadie’s life.’ Because I’m not that good multi-tasking. I can be somewhat (ahem…) all or nothing. Balance is hard for me to come by NOW–and I only have a 10 hour a week job. What if I were enrolled in a graduate program? Would I disappear altogether?

And then there are my motives. (Must I always examine those pesky things??) Do I want a degree because I’ll feel like a more valid person? Do I believe it will be the answer to the proverbial What Am I Here For, Anyway question? Like Oh, NOW I know what I want to be when I grow up. Having an advanced degree, much like the idea of publishing a book, should, I believe, fill the vacuous hole inside me that begs for affirmation, and, well, worship. There I said it. I will be worshipped if 1), I publish a book; Or 2), obtain an advanced degree.

Somehow wanting to be worshipped seems wrong to me. Didn’t someone get booted out of heaven for that?

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Well, I finally came to the end the other night. I’ve been there before, and I don’t know why it always takes so long for me to get there.

I’ve been inside my head for a few weeks, hearing the lying, evil thoughts that say I’m hopeless, that I will never change, that I’ll never be organized, that my relationship with God will always be lacking, that I’m not a loving person, that I whore out my mental energy to everyone else but my family, that I have the flabbiest body ever–and on and on about what I’m not doing right, and how I’ll never get it right. I’ve tried to rectify these things by working on a plan to get organized, buying a planner, going to the gym, trying to stay home more and keep up with the laundry, but I was still feeling like I was treading water; running uphill with rocks tied to my feet; sinking slowly down into the Swamp of Self-Loathing. I was working so hard to get it together–and coming up short every time. It was just so loud in my head.

I went Sunday night to a ‘Reformation Sunday’ service at First Presbyterian here in town. It was the EXACT thing I needed. It pulled me up and out of my head, and reminded me of the absolute soverignty of God. It was like I was coming up from underwater, and I was looking around, and focusing for the first time in a long time.

OF COURSE I can’t do this life thing without help. I’ve been working and working and trying to get myself together, but I forgot about just ‘being.’ And resting. After the service, I found a place at a small park nearby where I sat at a picnic table and wept and wept. I whispered this verse over and over again:

“Come to me all of you who are weary and heavy burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart. And you will find rest for your souls, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

And it was there at the end of myself that I felt like I could begin again. I found peace by letting go–giving up–finally. It was so good to realize that I am not perfect, nor do I have to be. That I am loved ‘as is’, and anything good I can do will be coming from God anyway. I found this quote from a study I did last year by Andrew Murray:

“…entire surrender to Jesus is the secret to perfect rest. Giving up one’s whole life to Him, for Him alone to rule and order it, taking up His yoke and submitting to be led and taught, to learn of Him, abiding in Him, and to be and to do only what He wills–these are the conditions of discipleship without which there can be no thought of maintaining the rest…”

This is where I want to be in my life with God’s help.

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Essentials of Evangelical Theology
04/19/07

Olson 15 Letter

Dear Toni and Denise~

I was a little intense in high school, wasn’t I? Do you remember the night I invited you guys over to watch that ‘end times’ movie A Thief in the Night? I want you to know that I only wanted to introduce you to Jesus, but I think I ended up scaring the daylights out of you instead. I want to apologize for any fear such a hyper-sensationalized movie may have caused you.

At the time, I truly believed that the events surrounding the end of the world were going to happen in that specific way. I was sincere in my hope that if you knew what was coming, you would choose Christ and be saved from the pain and suffering of the tribulation.

Although I still pray that you have met Jesus and have experienced the joy of knowing him, I realize now that I was using evangelical scare tactics by showing you that movie. The truth is, I don’t exactly know how it is all going to go down in the end. One of the major church fathers, Augustine, believed that many of those events were already happening in this current age (Olson, 339). Other liberal branches of Christianity believe that the apocalyptic literature of the Bible is the stuff of myth (Olson, 340). I was surprised to learn in my Theology class that ‘the rapture’ “is not a part of the great consensus of Christian belief (Olson, 345).”

One thing I do know: Jesus is coming back. And when he does, “every corruption of creation will be healed and God will be all in all or everything to everyone (Olson, 356).” Instead of focusing on the terrifying events that movie predicted, I want to instead believe in the “promise of peace and reconciliation, love and justice, abundant life and fulfillment (356).” If you know Christ, the future will hold wonderful things for you. We will all dwell with him “in a new heaven and a new earth for eternity (356).”

Peace, my friends.
Love, Shelley

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The Baptism in the Holy Spirit

“I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful “than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” (Matt. 3:11 NIV)

Dotted across the hillside, sitting on blankets, all forty thousand of us listened to Marilyn Hickey speak as the sun was setting over the Jesus festival. I listened to her talk about the Holy Spirit, and how you must experience his Baptism to receive more of God. I was twelve, and couldn’t understand why I was weeping. “If you want more of God, if you want to be baptized in his Holy Spirit, then come down to the front,” she said. My pastor came over to me, and with a loving arm around my shoulders, urged me to go to the front. “Do you want all God has for you?” he asked me. I nodded, unable to do much more than cry. I truly did want more of God, I wanted him so much to fill my life. I wanted to serve him and witness for him in my school and love him with all that was in me. But I was afraid of what was going on. People around me were raising their hands and speaking in tongues, swaying and kneeling and shouting. Thousands were making their way to the front. I knew I needed to go forward too, even if I didn’t know what I was in for. So I went.

“Raise your hand if you want to be baptized in the Holy Spirit. When you are filled, you may begin to speak in other tongues. Oh, let the Spirit have control,” Ms. Hickey said and then began to speak in tongues herself. “Be filled!” she shouted, and I felt an electric sensation run through my upraised arm. I opened my mouth and started saying something that I couldn’t recognize and felt the Spirit hovering over me like an umbrella. Later that night, in my tent, I hugged God like a teddy bear, close to my chest. He felt near, and good, and warm. Something had changed in our relationship.

Later, after years of leading my friends to the baptism, laying hands on them and hearing them speak in tongues, I married my husband who said he had never had this second experience. He said he had no need, since he was filled instantly with the Spirit at his conversion. I couldn’t argue with him—I was seeing fruit in his life in his ministry to his floor as an RA. This was a spiritual earthquake to me. It went against all my beliefs about Holy Spirit baptism. How could he be using the gifts of the Spirit with out the baptism?

Today, I am not sure I really know what the baptism in the Holy Spirit is all about. I know I experienced something at the Jesus festival, and I know that many Christians do not believe they need a ‘second experience’ after salvation to minister fully to others. And then, many Christians have experienced an ongoing filling of the Spirit. In this paper, I want to investigate what the Bible has to say about this phenomena, as well as what has been said about it historically and theologically. I hope to come to an understanding of my own experience within the broader context of Christianity.

In Acts 1:4, Jesus commands his disciples to stay in Jerusalem and wait for the gift his father promised: “For John baptized with water, but in a few days, you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” He repeats it again in verse eight when he says, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you…” This event happens in Acts 2 when the disciples were “all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” (Acts 2: 1-4 NIV) This ‘second experience’ also happens to new believers in Samaria when Peter and John laid hands on them and prayed for them to receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:14-17 NIV), as well as to Cornelius’ family while Peter is speaking to them (Acts 10:44-47 NIV). Paul find some disciples in Ephesus who had never heard of this baptism, only the baptism of John. “When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied (Acts 19:1-6 NIV).” The Spirit is manifested in many ways in the book of acts, including giving power, bringing others into the faith, and enabling disciples to do signs and wonders.

Many Christians since the early church have claimed a distinctive experiential baptism in the Holy Spirit as well. The Pentecostal Movement in the United States is one example of a group of people that believed in this ‘second experience,’ though “there is some disagreement among Pentecostal scholars as to where, when and under whose leadership the…Movement began (Nichol, 1966, 18).” Some say it began in 1896 with a revival in Cherokee County, North Carolina led by layperson William F. Bryant. There, according to Charles W. Conn “’Worshipers were so enraptured with the one to whom they prayed, that they were curiously exercised by the Holy Spirit’ speaking in languages unknown to those who heard the ecstatic utterances (Nichol, 1966, 18).” Usually, though, most connect the beginning to the Azusa Street Mission, “where for three years without interruption, prayer meetings took place with speaking in tongues, singing in tongues and prophesy (Hollenweger, 1972, 22)” One near legendary story of the 1906 Azusa Street Revival is told like this: “They shouted three days and three nights. It was the Easter Season. The people came from everywhere. By the next morning there was no way of getting near the house. As the people came in, they would fall under God’s Power; and the whole city was stirred. They shouted there until the foundation of the house gave way, but no one was hurt. (Hollenweger, 1977 ,23.)” From the turn of the 19th century to today, “every Pentecostal believes in the reality of a present-day experience for believers such as was received by the early disciples on the Day of Pentecost (Nichol, 1966, 8).”

While no one can argue that the term ‘Baptism of the Holy Spirit’ is in the Scriptures, many Christians disagree with the Pentecostal interpretation of Acts chapter 2. John Stott says in his book “The Baptism and Fullness of the Holy Spirit” that “what is described in scripture as having happened to others is not necessarily intended for us (pg 9). He believes that “a doctrine of the Holy Spirit must not be constructed from descriptive passages in the Acts. It would be impossible to build a consistent doctrine from them because there is no consistency about them (pg 18).” Sinclair B. Ferguson agrees. He says “several elements of Pentecost clearly belong to its significance as a once-for-all event. The waiting of the disciples belongs to this category, as do the physical manifestations of the sound of the rushing wind and the tongues of fire. These are not repeated even within the book of Acts itself. (Ferguson, 1996, 88.)” Regarding the Baptism as a second experience, Stott believes that the instances of those receiving the Holy Spirit in two separate stages are rare, but the instances of people receiving Jesus and the Spirit simultaneously are numerous. (Stott, 1964,17).

To sum up these two views, “most evangelical Christians today think of baptism in the Holy Spirit in one of two ways: either Christians receiving the spirit at conversion (the typical Reformed position) or Christians receiving a special empowerment after conversion (the usual Holiness or Pentecostal position) (Keener, 1996, 20).” Keener goes on to say that the New Testament teaches both views—for the simple reason that different texts employ the phrase “baptism in the Holy Spirit” in different ways.(pg 20­) He feels that since most Christians agree that we can be filled at conversion AND need the Spirit’s filling for our daily lives, the debate may be purely semantic. From my research, I agree with Keener. It seems that there must be a both/and in this issue, since the Scriptures talk about receiving the Holy Spirit as a one time event, (Acts 2) and also about being filled with him on a regular basis (Eph. 5:18).

Recently, I was driving in the car by myself and was caught up in the beauty of the fresh green trees. Like a bubble coming up to the top of a stream was the joy that filled my heart. Without even realizing it, I began to praise God, whispering in a language I didn’t know. I’ve wanted to forget about my charismatic experience and upbringing for many years. I’ve been confused about things of the Spirit. But I can’t decide what God can and cannot do. I believe that I was filled with the Holy Spirit in a real way that night at the festival, and that I also need the Holy Spirit to fill me every minute of my Christian life. I could not follow Jesus without His filling. Instead of blocking those years out of my memory, I want to look at my experiences and cherish them as an acts of grace—even if I’m not laying my hands on people to received the baptism of the Holy Spirit any more. I want to ask anew what it means to live a ‘Spirit-filled’ life, and to receive all that God has–our generous, broad God who gives us everything we need to serve him and love him.

Works Cited
Ferguson, Sinclair B. The Holy Spirit. Downers Grove, Ill: Inter-varsity Press, 1996
Hollenweger, Walter J. The Pentecostals. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1972
Keener, Craig S. 3 Crucial Questions about the Holy Spirit. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1996
Nichol, John Thomas. Pentecostalism. New York: Harper and Row, 1966.
Stott, John R. W. The Baptism & Fullness of the Holy Spirit. Downers Grove, Ill: Inter-Varsity Press, 1964

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I have a 7 page research paper due for my class today. Although I’ve had nothing but enthusiasm for the class, this task seemed daunting to me. Two days ago, I decided that I just wasn’t going to do it. I tried to start it and ended up crying with the hugeness of it all. I haven’t written a REAL paper for 14 years, and I was overwhelmed. It was a relief to decide not to do it. Like someone was taking a soaking wet wool army blanket off of my head. I even did a little dance around my living room. My plan was to call my professor (who is also a friend of mine) and tell him that I seriously was having a mental breakdown about the paper, and that I would take the zero. In fact, I think I might skip all the rest of the work and just show up for class.

My husband (wise and wonderful, much like the Wizard of Oz) was supportive and said he would love me no matter what I decided, but maybe I should rethink the not doing the paper and the calling my professor with tales of a mental breakdown. He said that maybe I would regret these actions, and that since the end of the semester is near–I just need to go a little bit farther. Well this messed with my laziness resolve and I cried and cried against his shirt. “I just can’t do it,” I said. “It’s too much.” Well, this is nothing new for me. These patterns of jumping in with enthusiasm and then quitting when it gets hard goes back to third grade math.

He said he believed in me, and that he knew I was totally capable, but that it was my decision, and he would respect whatever I did. So I went to bed, and lo and behold, when I woke up yesterday morning, I was writing the paper in my head. Somehow the blockage was taken away, and I started typing. I did it! I finished the paper! And it wasn’t torture–quite the contrary, I finished it in three in a half hours.

Yay me! I’m handing it in today at 9:00am.

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