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Spiritual tips

Renee Ellison's spiritual thoughts for the day.

Polygamy: Impossible for a godly man

Tuesday, 14. January 2014 by Renee Ellison

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Polygamy is a non sequitur.  If it is truly a wife (or even a collection of wives) a man seeks, he cannot attain it in this way. Polygamy shreds to ribbons what the state of having a wife is. Marrying multiple “wives” might be horse-play but it is not a marriage to a wife—any wife or a bevy of wives.  The minute there are two wives there is no real state of love, with either wife.  Here is why.

For there to be real love, there will be jealousy—an appropriate and righteous jealousy.  The Heavenly Father said of Himself, regarding Israel, His one bride, “I am a jealous God.”  It was the one attribute by which He described Himself in marriage.  By HIS demonstration of absolute love, we come to understand that a good man will have a continuing, steady state of an anxious hovering over the state of the affections of his bride, once he has laid down his entire life to win her and to keep her. 

Note that the appropriate jealousy will be from the lov-er to the lov-eeee, not the other way around.  Conversely, jealousies from the lov-eeee to the lov-ER (over what has happened to her husband’s heart), is what polygamy creates. 

A lov-ER is an initiator; a lov-eee a responder.  This is the undeniable psychological case of a true love affair, borne out even anatomically.  So, the one doing the loving all through the beginning, middle and final days of the lifelong love affair must do it totally and single-mindedly, in order to get the most responsive wife possible.  If a woman is constantly being compared to another wife, she will switch from being a responder to being an emotional survivor; she will switch to defensive/protection mode.  Her emotions will shut down, boarded up, closed.  And then the man has no wife.

A polygamist is deluded that he loves.  The very definition of love is total self-sacrifice. He can’t be in a state of love with his wife if he immediately throws her (whom he supposedly loves) into the severest jealousies she could possible experience, by taking on another wife.  And each night that any of his wives are overlooked in preference for a different wife is a night of rejection for any of those wives.  This cannot be love.

Whether it is a love triangle duked out between jealous Jr. Highers, an affair with another man or woman gossiped about on magazine covers, or the addition of another wife, the presence of a third spouse will bring strife into a home.  You can count on it.  A Christ-like lover would never do it.  Legalizing multiple wives, through polygamy, doesn’t bring peace to any home.

Filed Under: Spiritual tips

Keep perspective on your emotions during Christmas

Thursday, 12. December 2013 by Renee Ellison

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Some of you have decided to depart from Christmas after finding out that it has just too many pagan roots for your comfort level.  Others of you still participate in Christmas but try to keep Christ/Yeshua up front and central, while wading through the materialism, somehow, someway.  Regardless of where you are with respect to the holiday in general, it is not hard to observe that there are some emotional expectations during this season that sometimes become difficult to manage.  For starters: no one’s family can measure up to the ideal Christmas family advertised on the billboards and magazines.  Yet we are continually bombarded during an entire month to measure up to some imagined perfect family, lest we become downcast.

So this is just a reminder to wake you up to the fact that there ARE spirits of depression released at this time of year—so stabilize your spirit and your family’s against them.  This is not the time to evaluate your life, for example!  Just put one foot in front of the other and work harder at anything, improve something, sort, clean, organize, create—and think of little ways to give of yourself to others—as you just get through these two weeks.  Think deep thoughts later .  One experiences the same phenomenon when one is sick and gets depressed.  You can’t think straight or see straight when under a fever.  Just get those days behind you anyway you can.  So sometimes we just have to get through holidays—get them and their extended family complexities behind us.

In my immediate family, we always work harder at this time of year.  I always used to work my students harder this entire month in the classroom, too.  My students would skip down the hall with “accomplishment joy” because we did consuming additional projects and learned exciting new things while all the other students moped around and dragged their feet because their bodies were loaded with sugar and their minds with indulgent parties that didn’t change their real lives one iota.  They were, I think, sick of idleness and sick of themselves in such a sloppy daily condition.smile

So remember that the spirits of depression are legion right now over the next two weeks.  Bouts of depression are even reported in the newspapers.  It is part of the pagan satanic design for this time of year, to detract from the Incarnation (even though that probably happened during the Feast of Tabernacles when shepherds were not out in the snow watching their flocks).

The enemy’s modus operundus?  Always paint a perfect family—which no one ever has—and in comparison with which everyone will be depressed.  Conversely, Christ/Yeshua says “I’ll take you where you are, not checking any short week’s worth of naughty list, and will love you deeply and you’ll find all your satisfaction in ME, not in your family.”  Great saints throughout history have discovered this, even in a prison cell or solitary confinement.  Jesus/Yeshua says, in effect, “I can make you immeasurably happy with just MYSELF!”

Only the God of the universe has such true persuasion over the soul.  That is how much spiritual power is wrapped up in HIM.  To make the soul utterly content in all situations is a feat, indeed.  To have a Savior who can deliver us from soulish discontent for all eternity is amazing.  He can lift the soul to ecstasy to the degree one meditates upon Him and His scriptures.  Conversely, Santa Claus makes a furtive dip to the earth on one day and abandons you the day after; he is the consummate master of abandonment.  His demons traumatize people with visions of perfection in everyone else’s lifestyle.  T’aint there.  It is all taunting and jeering.  Ignore it.  You are loved.  You are worth blood.  You are irreplaceable.  Don’t forget it in the midst of torn wrappings and wadded up tinsel, and others’ sometimes impossible expectations.  Operate in the opposite spirit and be a champion of love for “all seasons.”

Filed Under: Spiritual tips

Puzzled by non-answers to some prayers?

Wednesday, 25. September 2013 by Renee Ellison

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Our Heavenly Father has demonstrated that He is ABLE to answer all our prayers with a YES, immediately, abundantly, even overwhelmingly.  He showed us that clearly when He gave the Israelites too many quail to eat—too many to even digest—in response to their insistence upon having meat.  In that event He showed us that He can blast us with yes’es.  He can bury us with yes’es.  But SOMETIMES what He is TRYING to do is to train us to TRUST HIS RESTRAINTS.

He is (in some celestial way) hard at work, sweating, tinkering, engineering a very delicate story here, of which we know not all of the variables.  If we are ungrateful, we could be like bulls in His china closet.  We COULD be loudly stomping our foot, while He is in the very act of fine-tuning the radio dial for a frequency perfect for us.  We simply can’t now SEE all of the angels that strut before Him, amassed in His courtroom, that He is proving things to, for all time, VIA his dealings with His saints on earth (2 Chronicles 18:21, Job 4:15).  We can rest assured that He is ROUTINELY working with far more complexity than we are.

Psalm 106:15 hints that we COULD have our yes—every time—if we insist upon a lesser story.  “He sent the answer to their request, but sent LEANNESS to their soul.”  And He, in effect, asked several kings, “Why did you blow it?  I gave you everything and `if that were not enough I would have even given you MORE’” (2 Samuel 12:8).  The YES isn’t always the issue, and the story was over HERE, not over THERE where you thought it was.

So far from us being frustrated with God, He, at times, could be a bit frustrated with us, waiting for the hour when we, at last, acquire a posture of praise.  Remember that He is “sure benevolence” with every fiber of His being.  “He who did not spare His own son but freely gave him up for us all, how will He not ALSO freely give us all things” Romans 8:32.  If He gave the greater gift, it is implied that He gave ALL lesser gifts.  He is now permanently, always, in pre-set “Yes-mode.”  “All the promises of God are `Yes’ in Christ/Yeshua” (2 Corinthians 1:20).  Therefore, if something different is happening, we can be pretty sure that He is WILLINGLY muzzled “for the time being”—ON PURPOSE.  Make no mistake, we are in the hands of a divinity of all love and wisdom.  His restraints mean more riches.  Being able to trust HIM is the equivalent of soaring on eagles’ wings.

Filed Under: Spiritual tips

Grappling with seemingly unanswered prayer?

Wednesday, 28. August 2013 by Renee Ellison

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We’ve all had times when prayer seems to be to no avail.  Circumstances reverse, babies die, crops languish, etc.—in spite of prayer.  What might be going on at such times?  There may be something more at stake here than prayers that appear to be unanswered.  Two verses help us to see a bigger picture.

Habakkuk 3:17 (NIV):
Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord.”  Couple that with Job’s famous rejoinder, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him” (Job 13:15, KJV).

And Hebrews 11:13 (NIV):
“All these people were still living by faith when they died.  They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them [note: that implies the answers had to exist somewhere in the spirit realm] and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth.”

Some surmising…
We’re told in Scripture that the ancient saints’ faith was credited to them as righteousness (see Romans 4).  Credit means we will collect it at some point.  It is very possible that we’ll see some sort of compounded blessings in the Millennium for promises that we unwaveringly stood on here and now.  There is a difference between unbelief, a weak faith and a strong faith that includes a confidence that at times there is a Job-style glimpse of some dynamics beyond the prayer that necessitate it not being answered now.  Divine restraint is, no doubt, in the prayer mix somehow, for higher ends.

The big test for sure is “Do we believe in His character?”  Do we know deep inside that He desires these things for us—and do we believe it, come hell or high water?  Do we trust that it is in His nature to bless and bless when we are in covenant with Him?  When He loved us unto the point of shedding blood, we must infer that He has certainly given us everything lesser.  (“He who did not spare His own Son but freely gave Him up for us all, how will He not ALSO, along with Him, freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32, NIV).  He eventually gives us all things—but in a package somewhere downstream from shaping our character first.  We must believe that, in spite of the bad press the enemy insistently suggests to us and in defiance of our own questions/ our own small and paltry reasonings and “what gives” wanderings.  (As the old hymn goes, “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the One I love.”) 

‘Tis a big, big, test going on here.  No doubt, He examines us continually, to see what is in our hearts, as is indicated all over in the Psalms.  Stay the course.  We shall believe only and steadily that He is wonderful.  This is the gold of the universe—the stuff He is after in us.  “All of His promises are YES in Yeshua” (2 Corinthians 1:20).

Somehow, in some way, we will see it.  1 John 2:28 says we shall not be ashamed at His coming—ashamed neither of the object of our faith, nor of its rewards.

[Poster courtesy of .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).]

Filed Under: Spiritual tips

Purifying our purity as married folks in the workplace

Thursday, 11. July 2013 by Renee Ellison

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Though you as a homeschool mom are most likely focused on your home setting, your husband’s work environment is most likely out in the world.  So, it is a matter of concern for both you and him to uphold high standards of moral conduct out there.  The foundational truth here is from Proverbs 2:11: “Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you” (NIV).  To purify our conduct in the workplace, we must begin with a core understanding, that the thing that is at the heart of all affairs is attentiveness.  When a person finds it pleasant to talk with someone of the opposite gender, looks forward to kibbitzing with them, finds it enjoyable to swing by their desk (whether it be once a day or many times a day), agrees to participate in an office lunch (when that extra-interesting office mate is in that crowd), picks their commercial aisles to go to in a place where they work, follows their routes home, chooses pews close to them at church, chooses to be outside at a time when they habitually walk by, thinks about their dilemmas, grows concerned for them, tries to problem-solve for them, attentively listens to them, and—after all that—locks eyes with them,  that person is engaged in defrauding his/her spouse, even if he/she has been doing so unthinkingly.

A good question to keep asking oneself privately in all of our conduct towards members of the opposite sex is “Would I talk this way or act this way if their spouse were in this room with us?”  Therefore, a good attitude is to always be mindful of that person’s spouse invisibly standing at that person’s side.  The more you attract his/her mate to you, the more comparisons are made in that person’s mind (they can’t be helped, they will happen), and the more their emotional bonds begin to subtly shift to you.  What we find is that our kind ways are actually (at their root) unkind.  They nick at the other person’s marriage.  A pattern of this behavior incrementally slows their marriage.  In the end, it may turn out to have been just a delusion that we “meant no harm.” 

Why is dating “out” and courtship now the “in-thing” amongst serious young believers?  It is because we have finally added up that the “picking a mate process” is all about treating the future spouse in holiness.  We came to see that dating defrauds that person’s future mate.  Would I hold hands with someone else’s pouse?  Or lock eyes with them?  No, I wouldn’t think of it!  Then, as a single person, I shouldn’t do it before they are married.  Taking liberties with someone else’s future mate is not loving behavior toward the future mate; it is selfish.  It is what I want, to satisfy me, now.  In 1 Thessalonians 4:6 the Apostle Paul warned about this: “See to it that you do not defraud one another.”  And in 1 Corinthians 7:1: “It is good for a man not to touch a woman.”  Many godly people in the older generation now understand that dating was massive defrauding, over and over.  So, too, the workplace has often become the scene of multiple defraudings in every direction.  It can fall into a kind of emotional adultery.

We must remember that attentiveness breeds responsiveness.  Attentiveness creates in the other person an eager “looking forward to” those increasing interchanges.  A social addiction takes place in the heart.  There may even be emotional butterflies.

Consider how the bar has now been raised among the young men who are serious believers.  (It always existed among the Brethren, Mennonite and Amish.)  Now, in some Messianic circles, young unmarried men will not even talk to young unmarried gals, so no responsiveness can grow.  This new behavior tends to make young gals mad!  They can’t get any attentiveness out of a holy guy!  So, guess what happens in their hearts?  They can’t grow any affection there.  They stay pure.  The ball of holiness is in the man’s court, in the way he conducts himself, before and after marriage.  What he finds is that it is the same dynamic: the control he learns before marriage, he will be called upon to exhibit time and again after marriage.  This is not unreasonable, or un-doable.  We are commanded in the scriptures to possess our vessels in holiness.  Holiness always takes effort.  It is the tougher route.  It shows deliberateness.

To avoid this tendency to create responsiveness in someone else’s spouse, we need to learn to become like a socially refined Texan. He/she has learned the art of swinging by you with the cheeriest of goodwill, tipping the hat, waving, and smiling brightly, but breezing right past you.  You never get beyond the hello.  Such a refined politician, sophisticated social butterfly, artful CEO climber, never asks a thing about your life, yet remains well-liked by everyone because he/she looks good (well put-together), acts confident, and is friendly.  Yet, there is no mistake in his/her deportment that he/she is aggravatingly unavailable.

As we are overly kind to people of the opposite gender in the workplace, in the church, or in the world, we may be guarding our hearts, but there is no guarantee that such a governor exists in the other person’s heart.  “Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves” (Matthew 10:16; all verses are NKJV).

Filed Under: Spiritual tips

How to relate with love to a controlling person

Wednesday, 26. June 2013 by Renee Ellison

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How do you relate lovingly toward a controlling person?  For a full discussion of this complex issue see our book (by the same title—available in Kindle, pdf e-book or print format).  In it, we have described a host of invaluable tools that will help you handle this problem while personally maintaining steady composure.

Because we live in a fallen world, we will face controlling people.  Having a ready response to these ensnaring interchanges can greatly mitigate your own suffering in the midst of these unthoughtful interchanges.

To handle a manipulative/controlling person, you must learn to set boundaries.

What is setting personal boundaries all about?
Because you cannot change another person, all you can do is live your own good example and set boundaries.  That means that if the other person behaves in ways that are ungodly, rooted in sin, and selfishness, you tell them that when they propose to do a rash thing, you will be responding with your own better agenda (boundaries).  In other words, let’s suppose your spouse is bent on some ungodliness and says, “I’m going to drink until three in the morning!” Then you can reply, “Well, if you choose that, and it IS a choice, I will not be picking you up in the car in the middle of the night.  I will be sleeping.”

Or if a spouse says that he will be watching an R-rated movie, you respond with “Well, when you do, the children and I will be at the park.” If the other person grows upset with you for having established your personal boundary in the relationship, you will have now exposed self-centered behavior in them.  You have now validated it.

Setting boundaries formally acknowledges and exposes divisions in relationships that already exist (flying undercover—or hit and run dynamics) but that now must be managed.  The false guilt (foisted on you by the other person) will diminish as you continue to set boundaries.

How can I get started, setting boundaries in a relationship with a controlling person?
• Controlling behavior is whatever violates the righteous wishes and well-being of another person.  If you routinely comply with a controlling person’s demands (because he or she is making you feel falsely guilty; you are not experiencing guilt from God for any ungodliness on your part) this will become increasingly inconvenient, painful and costly to you.  Weakness on your part will not make the problem go away.
• God does not make you take responsibility for the ugly or angry feelings that the other person often exhibits because you have set boundaries.  Remind yourself that their feelings are their choice.  They could just as easily learn to accept your boundary, and grow compliant and respectful of your good desires and of your stated boundaries.
• Recognize even subtle controlling behavior.  For instance, a passive aggressive person will routinely dump their problem upon you to solve, attempting to shift the anxiety of their problem upon you, so that you end up carrying a burden for something that you did not initiate.

Conclusion:
Be servant-hearted, kind and loving in as many areas and incidents of life with everyone that you can.  But when someone is sinning, you simply must shift gears to respond to their poor choices with firmness and composure.  They will not mature and you will not mature if you don’t.  (See the full booklet for more strategies and insight).

Filed Under: Spiritual tips

Surprises on the other side of wifely submission

Friday, 12. April 2013 by Renee Ellison

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What if when we go to the New Jerusalem, we find out that the Almighty had additional packages of blessings waiting to give us, as wives, that we never received?  Suppose that these blessings were reserved for us—to be given to us only on the threshold of submission to our husbands!  Many puzzling verses in scripture have more mystery behind them than we know.  They hint at something, perhaps, but could contain great voltage that we simply don’t understand until we enter into obedience to them.  I am beginning to think this is so with reference to a wife’s submission.  It could be TNT—it just might be that hot!

A biblical understanding of a wife’s submission never involves responding to ungodly edicts, and it never involves taking abuses.  True biblical submission is characterized by a voluntary state of her heart that promotes peace in the home.  There are thousands of little daily choices where a woman can resist her husband’s every suggestion, nipping at his heels, like foxes in a vineyard, or where she can voluntarily submit to him in little matters and in big in order to secure greater harmony in the home.  We are talking about a wife who begins to have this as an appetite—an appetite that wants glory in her family’s relationships more than to always “be right” on issue after issue.

Here is what I’m learning personally about submission.  I shared a piece of it with a woman’s group at a recent conference.  Here it is: it is very possible that God works beyond the husband, even beyond his reason, to achieve some good for the woman, if she will submit to the process under His sovereign care.  The Heavenly Father may work some additional good for the woman, often in a non-related area (the connection is only discerned/discovered spiritually, afterwards), if she lovingly submits to her husband.  The more she cultivates submission as a habit, the greater becomes her own beauty.  It seems to progressively create softness in her character, and adds luster to her countenance.  This had to have been Sarah’s case because she was over 90 years old when Abimelech was attracted to her beauty (Genesis 20).

Learning a proper response to authority is a key to personal happiness, and a sure route to experiencing more peace in the home.  Think about it: it is possible to learn to not be agitated over anything.  We read in history that this is where all the great saints ended up, in their souls. The awareness of the beauties of putting themselves under is threaded throughout their writings. They found this to be the key to advanced spirituality.  How I yearn for this in my own spirit.  I’m getting there slowly, but still have a long ways to go.

For example, one time in an airport I was hostile to my husband because he was inordinately slow in getting into the security line and I though we might miss our flight. However, after I pitched my little fit the Heavenly Father told me, privately, in my spirit, that even if we did miss the flight, Todd would learn from that via someone else or some other experience (or from this one), and I might meet a delightful new friend on a different flight, or have a super yummy meal somewhere else, or be invited to see a beautiful piece of scenery that I would have missed otherwise.

It could be that there might be great consequences behind a wife’s submission that escape even the husband’s understanding.  For example: a woman could be upset with her husband because he won’t let her board a ship to England, when she is standing there on the pier ready to do so, and he all of a sudden has decided to become unreasonable (in her mind), telling her she can’t board, after all. Only to hear later, that the ship went down—as in, it sank!

Or, a woman could be told by her husband which way she should drive home, after dropping him off somewhere.  She could rationally think his suggestion unreasonable because it takes longer.  But, suppose she obeys him anyway?  She would no doubt be surprised to find that by going her husband’s route home she missed a severe car accident up ahead that would have involved her at that exact same minute!  Her husband obviously knew nothing of what was behind his strong recommendation.  Because God authorizes headship as a way to get His work done optimally in the earth, He may supernaturally infuse it with validations that escape the rational mind.  He could possibly create urges in the husband to fulfill the Almighty’s own purposes, in His vastly larger story in the universe.

In other words, sometimes the person who is our headship doesn’t know why they lead as they do, but because everyone is in the proper biblical line of authority it later works to everyone’s good, even beyond what the husband, himself, understood at the time.  When God gives a married man authority, the new husband initially has no idea the levels of validation of his authority that God may also give with it, in the celestial court.

I think if women were told this on their wedding day it would make a huge difference in her willingness to defer to her man.  If a wife understood that she isn’t submitting only to her husband, she is submitting to the Heavenly Father behind her husband, it could give her great joy.

This isn’t the last word on this subject.  All truths have paradoxes which we sandwich ourselves between.  There is often spiritual tension from both ends of a concept, that we navigate by the Holy Spirit’s moment by moment promptings of how to apply the principle in each new and ever shifting scenario.  Submitting like this doesn’t preclude a wife’s giving her man all the added perceptions and loving input she wants to give him, but there comes a point when she goes with what he ultimately decides.  Submission is about outcomes, not input.  Nevertheless, most of us miss the joy of experiencing extra benevolences that may be specifically given to us as women (or children) if we believe the text by faith and begin to function in it gladly, sure of these loving outcomes smile.

See our book Growing Marriage for a fuller discussion of all of the aspects of a godly submission.  It’s a treasure trove of more such wifely mysteries.

Filed Under: Spiritual tips

Birthdays under the magnifying glass of the Word

Monday, 28. January 2013 by Renee Ellison

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Are you feeling that birthday celebration expectations among your children’s friends could get out of hand?  Do you find that you are spending more and more of your life on birthday party pay-backs and reciprocities?  Does your schedule get eaten up by unexpected additional parties you hadn’t counted on; are you flattered but exhausted?  Are you bothered by the increasing over-the-top materialism, the plastic restaurants that will do it all for you?  You like it, but don’t like it?  Feel trapped?

Are the origins of birthday parties even biblical?  What were its specific pagan practices and for what reasons were they done?  Do we still do those today?  Why?  I remember the day when it struck me as a young mother that playing musical chairs was an AWFUL game.  What kind of values does wanting to hog a chair while pushing another child away, teach?  Wouldn’t I rather like to teach my child to give UP his chair out of deference for another?  There are many things like this that we grew up with in our culture that were simply handed down to us that have not been examined biblically.  Teaching the story of Little Red Riding Hood is another.  What kind of values are in that wretched story of fear and anxiety and unreality?  I can’t name a single person who has ever had to face having a wolf for a grandmother, so why put all that trash in a child’s head?  Whatever FOR?  To what end?!

If you love birthday parties, this blog won’t be for you. But if you have a nagging feeling that something might be off in relation to them, or that you feel more and more uneasy about them, or feel like you are on a roller coaster of expectation from all your friends that you can’t get off from, there might be some liberating thoughts for you from the Bible.  Scripture says to “Love one another”; it never mentions doing that more (or better) on one day over another!  If you were ever to take a fork in the road regarding birthdays, initially, your friends might be outraged that you won’t come to their exhausting parties, but you can be sure that they will cock their heads when you show them more love and thoughtful kindness on an ordinary day, more than they are used to from others.  All our messages about who we are, or who we are becoming, don’t have to get said on a single day!  So here is some food for thought.

The following verse really struck me this morning in a forceful new way:

“They imitated the nations around them, although the Lord had ordered them, `Do not do as they do’ and they did the things the Lord had forbidden them to do” (2 Kings 17:15, NIV).  Apparently it is not enough that we obey the decrees and statutes of Scriptures.  Do we see that we also must NOT do what the heathen do—actions that are typical of heathen behavior?  Should we be putting heathen parts of Christmas and birthdays away, etc., under the ban?  Many of us are still attempting to accommodate both—and this is syncretism.  Are we obeying one and still doing the other?

We, as a family, have grappled with this caving into syncretism in several areas.  Although the pagan practices found in holidays were fairly easy to jettison and replace with Biblical ones, we’ve had a whale of a time jettisoning birthdays completely.  We, personally, as a family still struggle with birthdays.  Although we ended the external parties and invitations long ago, making others focus upon us, which after all IS what happens (and many young mothers have come under the tyranny of ever more lavish birthday parties from ever more friends—coming under a subtle tyranny of giving far more time and money to it than they would really RATHER give), we still privately give gifts to each other, or do dinner, i.e. there is SOME attention drawn to it.  But I’m newly alarmed via this verse about what we perhaps lose of His presence, of His favor, of spiritual heart rest, when we engage in this apparently mild idolatry for a few hours.  Does a mincing degree of it have some death in it for our spirits?  I wonder.

There is nowhere in Scripture where we are told to do birthdays. Accounts of ancient birthdays give us some light on the topic, perhaps.  Pharaoh’s birthday celebration led to the restoration of his cupbearer and the death of his baker, as recorded in Genesis 40:20-22; good for one but not so good for the other?  These ancient birthdays were often occasions of rash behaviors.  John got his head chopped off at Herod’s birthday party (Matthew 14:8).  Job’s sons were apparently doing birthdays, having parties on “their days” and it was apparently not a blessing; their father went out and sacrificed to cover any sins they may have committed, cursing God in their hearts (Job 1:5).

Many birthday practices have heathen origins, not godly ones.  Heathens initiated the custom of making round cakes (in worship of the sun god) on that day; spanking the birthday person to expel wicked spirits; gathering friends, family and loved ones around so as to fend off the attacks of the demons on that day.  Candles were for the sun god.  Wishes were wishes made to demons.

The Messiah Himself never instructed us to celebrate birthdays—not even His own.  He shifted the focus elsewhere to remembering his DEATH, instead: “Do THIS in remembrance of me” (1 Corinthians 11:24), drinking the cup at Passover.  There is no Biblical mention of giving gifts to each other as a means of celebrating His birth.  The few examples of birthdays that are in Scripture are devastating.

Perhaps the root of birthdays may be a bit of self-worship?  It may be what makes us so uncomfortable when everyone at a restaurant sings happy birthday to us.  It might be that a mere mortal was never designed to be able to deal with “worship”—only God was made to be able to stand it without making Him squirm or having it go to His head.  It may be that the only reason He requires any worship for Himself is that it looks good on us—that it was designed for our benefit—much like we as parents, insist that our children say thank you.  We don’t need the thank you, the child needs to say it to put his own spirit in a grateful posture for his own well-being—to take his spirit out of agitation and death over little issues and big.  It may be that worship of the Almighty is the survival adrenalin from heaven that keeps the mortal life “centered” in the most life-giving place.

If you find yourself wondering about all of this, carefully observe the emotional dynamics among people at birthdays, and see what you conclude.  Consecration could be not only about doing but also about not doing.  Just like with healthy diets; it is not only what one puts into one’s mouth, but what one doesn’t eat, that brings about optimal health.  Thinking biblically about every single detail of our lives may take us in some surprising directions with some surprising benefits.  The important thing is to THINK—and to pay attention to our misgivings.

For further reading on this topic, see our booklets/eBooks:
+ Party Themes and Activities
+ How to Keep Your Kids from Slipping into Materialism
+ No Stress Holidays for Moms

Soft on suicide

Tuesday, 01. January 2013 by Renee Ellison

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Suicides are on the increase in our nation.  As much as we find this topic uncomfortable, it is becoming evident that to protect the adolescents in our homes from this potential tragedy, we as parents need to be out ahead of this alarming trend.  We need to prepare our family’s THINKING on this topic now.  Something is happening to the MENTALITY in our culture that precedes these acts.  THAT is where the battle is won or lost.  We need to fortify our homes against the onslaught of cultural propaganda that all but proclaims that suicide is a viable option for handling our problems.  While having compassion for those who have gone this route, we dare not allow our families to slip into a soft view of suicide.

In all declining empires, consensus views on nearly everything grow more and more twisted toward the end of that culture.  These subtle, gradually accelerating deviant views, in fact, CAUSE the collapse.  A falling nation will grow destructive views on nearly all matters ranging from how to conduct a nation’s finances (to navigate by debt, greed and fraud), to what constitutes a marriage (homosexuality has been prominent in all dying cultures), to what real beauty is (tattooing and carving/cutting on one’s own skin), to that nation’s view of death.  A culture’s view even of suicide is very telling.

Currently suicide in our nation is increasingly presented as a dominant way to solve problems in a growing number of thriller novels, movies, and rock music.  Add to that the addiction of an adolescent (or an aimless grown man) to endless hours of virtual killing via video games, his compulsive thumb-stomping on the button to do it again and again, and you’ve got a real persuasion going on about the non-value of life.  Our culture is saturated with this message.

Let’s analyze the three things that choosing suicide really says, and make a point of discussing these with our family. The person contemplating suicide is THINKING:
One:

God is not sufficient for me in this matter.  My suffering is worse than anyone else’s, either currently or perhaps in all of history, as far as I can see.”

Two:

“I have the RIGHT to end my life.”

  [Though this is in direct defiance of one of the Ten Commandments that says, “Thou shall NOT murder.”  Note: the moral condition of a person who commits suicide is no different from that of someone who dies in the middle of stealing or committing adultery; in each case, the person is directly disobeying one of the eternal moral laws of God.]

Three:

“My body belongs only to me.”

  [This thought defies the Scripture in 1 Corinthians 3:17 which reads, “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?  If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple.”]

Committing suicide really says, “God’s word is not to be feared, and I am now God over me.”  Thus suicide, at its root, under the cloak of self-pity, is on some level a final act of rebellion.

There are many people in the world and throughout history who would have GLADLY chosen suicide, but out of sheer obedience to God they didn’t.  People suffering protracted, long severe illnesses are often tempted by the thought of it, but remain restrained out of deep reverence for God and the thought of meeting Him on the other side.  And think of the countless saints who have been mercilessly tortured in concentration camps, who would have loved a way out, but resisted taking their own life, even when they were given the chance.  Some lived through such tortures to the glory of God, for when they were released they went on to preach all over the world, declaring that they found that “There was no pit so deep that God wasn’t deeper still” (Corrie Ten Boom).

The core issue that we need to teach our families is that God has retained the sovereign right over when life begins and when it ENDS for all of His creation, else He would not be Lord.  God alone creates a mortal human being from its first throbbing cell, and then proceeds to sustain it henceforth with every heartbeat.  He retains the sole right to end what He alone began.  To see that this is so, recall that a man has nothing to do with the hour of his conception.  Try as he might, he could not BEGIN his own life.  It follows then, that God alone will choose the hour of his death.  But all this TRUTH is hardly mentioned from our pulpits amidst 100 sermons over a lifetime, and no doubt is thoroughly absent from the rock music songs—because God Himself is absent from the pop hits.  Thus, among the songs of youth any accountability TO God is missing, as well.

Sometimes in Scripture we read that God, as the benevolent parent over all creation, tells us things very firmly.  He has said: “Thou shalt NOT EAT of the tree of good and evil.”  Later in history He said: “Thou shalt NOT TOUCH the ark.”  The man died who touched it, even though he was trying to keep it from falling.”  Strange as it may seem to the modern permissive mind, there are some things God forbids.  When God says “Do not” and we directly defy that mandate, history shows there may be irreversible consequences.  We are not dealing with a moody psychiatrist here or a goofy mad scientist; we are dealing with the eternal God of the universe.  And in Hebrews 12:29 it says of Him that at times He is a “consuming fire” (also in Deuteronomy 4:24 and elsewhere).  What we must teach our families is that suiciders will wake UP from their suicides.  Who and what they meet with will be infinitely more to deal with than what they were dealing with here.

Instead of discussing these things with seriousness, we as a post Christian-culture have descended into a secular view of all life, ALLOWING it to grow in the songs and media that we buy—even to joke about it.  We’ve marketed suicide.  We’ve become soft on suicide.  Secularism always leads to a death wish, be it Hitler’s and Stalin’s camps, or our own nation’s 55 million abortions, the vast majority of which were done for personal convenience.  Suicide, euthanasia, and short-circuiting the job of procreation through a burgeoning homosexuality, quickly follow.  As a result of our secularism, the empire will die—just as it wished for, and argued for, an infinite number of smaller deaths on scores of other topics.

Let us, instead, resolutely choose LIFE by jealously and carefully watching over the messages our children are receiving through the media—because what you are so earnestly teaching in the living room can be stolen in a child’s bedroom through rock music and other media.  Close off the avenues to the bad press.  Have a talk with your children about this deviant message so prevalent among their peers.  Do not be soft on suicide.  The church and family must hold the line on this one.  Speak sternly to your children that this is not an option for solving problems.  Let them hear firmly and clearly that there is a morning after.

Cremation vs. burial for a Bible-believer

Saturday, 29. December 2012 by Renee Ellison

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As we face the beginning of a new year, are your family papers in order?  Specifically, do you have a current will?  Here are some thoughts for consideration, regarding a controversial subject that you will have to give personal written instructions for within those papers.

Although cremation is becoming the dominant way of burying American’s dead, is this practice a good idea for a believer?  What does the Bible say about this?  Regardless of how we or our loved ones have responded to this decision in the past, let’s look at what we may want to do in future when we are called upon to make this decision.  Let’s take a serious look at the roots of cremation.  When its origins are considered closely, one can trace the practice of cremation straight to the pagan fires of such countries as India, South America, and China.  The South Sea Islands, for example, had a practice, in the not so distant past, of throwing the living wife on top of the fire of her dead husband (i.e., both were cremated).

Because something is “done” in a culture, doesn’t mean it ought to be done.  As believers, Scripture alone is our rule for all of life and conduct.  If it is not, the culture becomes our rule.  We then are in danger of arriving at a place where ALL issues descend into cases of “anything goes” via current (and ever-descending, in moral terms) public consensus.

Reincarnation is at the root of the idea of cremation.  Pagans HAVE to burn the body because they believe the person comes BACK to earth as a monkey, or cow—so any evidence of the previous life must be eradicated.  On the other hand, at the core of Christian beliefs is that all is REDEEMED, made new, including the OLD body, which is re-gathered.  Consider the dry bones of Ezekiel.  If there were no bones, then “what” would have been re-gathered?  Christians believe that they will see each other in the flesh in the next life.  Hindus do not.

Nowhere in Scripture do we see cremation condoned.  In fact, we see just the opposite.  Consider 2 Chronicles 34:5.  Note that cremation was done to the wicked, as a sign of judgment.  Fire is a sign of judgment, not of life.  All evil practices have an ORIGIN, and the origin tracks with the expression of that practice through all time.  If we don’t agree with what the practice was declaring at its inception, it makes no sense to buy into the practice later.  We, as a people, have not stopped to consider what comes WITH such practices, in the spirit realm.

Believers in the Messiah, instead, want to HONOR the body because it shows our conviction that the person is eternal.  Joseph, looking forward to the next life as he was dying in Egypt, said, “Take my BONES with you to Canaan”.  There is a connected dignity to this life AND the next life for the believer.  It would not be at all surprising to find that some Hebrews will awake upon the exact spot of their future inheritance plot, where they will live on in the coming Millennium.  They believed in an afterlife, as Job said: “Though worms destroy this body, in my flesh shall I see God.”  Throughout Genesis the patriarchs were ALL buried.  The ongoing practice of burial from Adam and Eve to the present day actually is one more evidence today of the Israelites’ deed claims to the very land of Israel.  When ownership of land is being contested via the legalities of provenance (who was originally there, or who was there first), it is hard to argue with the LOCATION of grave sites and burial stones.

Our Lord’s own example as the pioneer in ALL things in our faith, our forerunner, was to sovereignly allow Himself to be buried.  Joseph of Arimathea chose this as a way of restoring dignity to the Lord.  Joseph saw to it that he was careful in all of the details of giving the Lord a proper burial.  If the Lord had been cremated, a major piece of the afterward story couldn’t have happened or been told for all time.  It would have been impossible to show the truth of resurrection without the body.  The same is true of Lazarus’ body.  What happened to his body was a major testimony to a multitude of people about eternal life, as all funerals and memorial services are meant to be, even down to the present age.  All the resurrections that happened simultaneously with the Lord’s own, when the tombs were opened in Jerusalem, would not have been possible, without bodies.  The hope of the resurrected body is one of the believer’s most cherished immortal treasures.  And God personally chose this way of burying Moses himself.  It seems paramount that God wants us to get the message by burying, symbolically copied in our baptisms, by the way, that the body is SOWN corruptible and then is raised incorruptible.

Let’s look finally at two practical aspects.  In order to accomplish cremation, one has to look squarely at the fact that ovens are used in this process.  Flesh burns speedily, but bones do not.  The raging high levels of heat (sometimes 1,700 degrees) necessary in these crematorium ovens, to get the job COMPLETELY done, is atrocious.  They often have to grind the bones, in addition.  (God was upset with the Moabites for burning bones.) It is almost as if the Lord made the body to REFUSE to be stamped out, even after it is dead.  It is difficult to accomplish this with bones.  Because Americans don’t SEE the practice, and are not forced to WATCH the entire process, they remain untroubled.  We cling to the idea that what is hidden is NOT, in our culture.  And why would one want for one’s loved ones the same practice that was used to try to annihilate the Jewish race…Hitler’s ovens?  There is an OVEN involved in this process.  In the Scriptures, fire is a sign of God’s wrath, not of honor.  And it is fire that will destroy the earth, finally.

And what of the ashes?  Rationally, who wants ashes (not a person) in a decorated urn in their living rooms for the rest of THEIR lives?  Whatever do we keep them around FOR?  Another material possession?  We have accepted what is unthinkable—even against our reason, OR our emotions?  Do we really WANT to endlessly hammer on our emotions each time we dust, when the Lord has graciously provided another way to show respect, and to emotionally cope with the finality of death, and hold on to PLEASANT memories of a living person?

Many think they are choosing cremation because it is cheaper.  But for centuries the dead have been buried on the day they die—eliminating all the need for expensive cosmetic afterlife procedures—often in a simple pine box.  Even today the simplest of coffins can be procured at low costs.  Earlier, people of faith (Jewish and Christian) wrapped the body in linen and put it directly into the ground.  Inexpensive grave sites can be found in less populated areas.  We don’t HAVE to straddle ourselves with the huge price tag of a luxurious formal mortuary, by choosing what is Biblically right.  Much of life is about choices.  In the last analysis, we WILL MAKE happen what we WANT to happen, or are convicted should happen.  Let us ask of ourselves if each of our choices is governed by Scripture or by the culture.  Which will we be proud of, or ashamed of, in the next life?  If one hunts for the Lord’s WISHES in Scripture, they CAN be found, in all matters governing our life and death.

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