Friday, February 29, 2008
When mormons publicly question church teachings, it is not uncommon for them to be summoned to a church disciplinary council. One former mormon, Lyndon Lamborn, recorded the disciplinary hearings that led to his excommunication. It is interesting to listen to, as he attempts to reason and testify to the mormon leaders who are sitting in judgement of him. The outcome is a foregone conclusion, but he handled it very humbly.
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Now here is a great idea! Tom Ascol at Founder's Ministries is announcing a pilot online course for middle-schoolers, "The Renaissance World" . I think this is a fantastic idea! What a great use of the internet, accessing the expertise of another, qualified, like-minded individual to broaden the education of our kids. I already fired off an email to get more information!
If there is an opportunity for the homeschool movement, it is this: one of the great strengths of the homeschool movement is it's tendency to fierce independence, but that is also a potential weakness. There are so many people with a broad range of talents, education and experience in the homeschool community, but they rarely interact. We tend to end up in like enclaves, but with the high speed internet access we currently enjoy there is no reason we shouldn't seek out ways to share the experiences and backgrounds that make us so unique. Thank you to Founders Ministries for at least trying something new!
Monday, February 25, 2008
Sunday, February 24, 2008
Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. And the LORD said to Satan, "The LORD rebuke you, O Satan! The LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?" Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments. And the angel said to those who were standing before him, "Remove the filthy garments from him." And to him he said, "Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments." And I said, "Let them put a clean turban on his head." So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the LORD was standing by. And the angel of the LORD solemnly assured Joshua, "Thus says the LORD of hosts: If you will walk in my ways and keep my charge, then you shall rule my house and have charge of my courts, and I will give you the right of access among those who are standing here. Hear now, O Joshua the high priest, you and your friends who sit before you, for they are men who are a sign: behold, I will bring my servant the Branch. For behold, on the stone that I have set before Joshua, on a single stone with seven eyes, I will engrave its inscription, declares the LORD of hosts, and I will remove the iniquity of this land in a single day. In that day, declares the LORD of hosts, every one of you will invite his neighbor to come under his vine and under his fig tree." (Zechariah 3: 1-10)The image we see here is of Satan, accusing one of God's people, the High Priest Joshua, pointing out the filthy garments he was wearing. But we also see God rebuking the enemy for attacking one whom God has chosen and saved from the flames. I came across this passage in an R.C. Sproul video series, Pleasing God, which I just finished leading a men's study through. Pretty good stuff all around, but this passage really stuck with me. Probably because of where I am. It is easy to despair, to look at ourselves and hear the enemy whisper: "Who are you fooling, who do you think that you are?" Satan knows our sins, he knows our weaknesses. Satan knows where to hit us where it hurts. But even as Satan accuses, it is God who justifies. The finished work of Christ on the cross, His shed blood covers our sins, His grace is greater than all our sins.
This is not to say that the sin and failing in our lives is OK, or that we should ignore it or that once saved we have no responsibility to follow God's commands. That would fall into the category of antinomianism. But it is an unfortunate reality that as Christians, we still sin on a daily basis. Many of us, me included, let that failure paralyze us into inaction. When we do that, Satan wins. Satan can't make a Christian become unsaved, but he can accuse a Christian into sitting on the sideline, and that accomplished his purpose as well. It is true that we are still sinners, but it is also true that we are justified. We are Simul justus et pecator, at the same time just and sinner. That is hard to wrap your mind around, but thank God it is true.
The other thing that struck me was that the image of brands being plucked from the fire really describes us all. We were all already in the fire when God plucked us out. A branch in a roaring fire does not get up and remove itself from the flames. In the same way, a sinner does not hear Jesus plaintively, “softly and tenderly” call them and get up and save themselves. It is the Lord God, and He alone, that chooses and pulls sinners from the fire they (and you and I) so richly deserve. It is not that they are intrinsically a better branch, or did something in their existence to warrant being saved but only by the merciful grace of Jesus Christ are they not in the fire.
Modern Christianity paints a picture where we are sitting around neutral in a pile of twigs and God capriciously tosses generally good people into hell on a whim. The Bible tells a different story, one that shows us that whether we are 8 or 80 we are already as good as in the fire, our natural destiny as children of wrath is hell. It is only through the undeserved, almost unexplainable mercy of God that any of us are saved. It ought not be on the Christian's mind to ask "Why aren't more saved", the question should be "Why are any saved?" We stand before our Maker dressed in filthy rags, the rags of of our own works and righteousness and God drapes the clean, white robes of Christ's righteousness on us, covering our sins and showing us justified.
I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. (Isaiah 61:10)
Christian, He has clothed you with the garments of salvation, the robe of righteousness and it is His righteousness, the righteousness of His Son that covers you. He has extended that grace to you because of His grace, His mercy and His love. If you are worthwhile for God to condescend to pluck you from the fire, that means you are valuable in His eyes and that means that no matter how imperfect we are, He values us and that means everything!
...it was still a great time of fellowship. I attended the Northeast Michigan Reformation Society meeting on Saturday, and spent a few hours meeting fellow Reform minded folks and hearing some solid teaching. I normally view people on the sunrise side of the Lower Peninsula with suspicion, but these turned out to be good folk. It is encouraging any time you see that you aren't a lone Reformed ranger in the Northwoods! Found out that a number of the people are also going to T4G and the Toledo Reformed Theological Conference, so there will be some familiar faces down south. One certain Reformed pastor wimped out and called in sick, but Pastor Joe VonDoloski from Vanderbilt Community Church made it and gave a rousing sermon.
Thursday, February 21, 2008
Today is our sixteenth wedding anniversary! Sixteen years and eight kids, you can't say we haven't been productive...
Here is to sixty more anniversaries (but not 30 more kids!)
The fruits of a life without Christ
It seems that these sorts of stories pop up with disturbing regularity, and we gradually become desensitized to them. A young couple left their 5 month old child strapped in a car seat for eight days until the infant was found dead.
PEORIA, Ill. — A central Illinois couple faces first-degree murder charges in the death of their 5-month-old baby, who was found unresponsive in a car seat that had been placed in a crib.
Both Tracey Hermann, 21, and James Sargent, 23, appeared Wednesday in Peoria County Circuit Court in the death of Benjamin Sargent.
The charges state the parents' actions or lack thereof, were "brutal and heinous . . . indicative of wanton cruelty," factors that could mean they face up to 100 years in prison if convicted.
The 5-month-old was dropped off at his parents' house on Feb. 4, strapped into his car seat. Eight days later, he was found in the same position, said Peoria County State's Attorney Kevin Lyons during a bond hearing for the parents.
"He died from starvation due to neglect from these two defendants, his parents," Lyons said. "It's the worst case of child neglect we have seen since the turn of this century."
During the eight days the baby was strapped in the seat, both Hermann and Sargent were home, "playing video games, watching TV, feeding and caring for themselves," Lyons said.With the lead-in to this story reading that the parents left their child to die because they were playing video games , it can become easy to point the finger of blame at video games, and I guarantee that it will become a sermon illustration in more than one church. Whether video games, or Pokemon cards or Dungeons & Dragons, it is easy to use the symptoms as a windmill to tilt at and avoid the real topic. Far better to complain about "them" instead of addressing what is wrong with "us". It is comfortable to say those people are sinners, Halo is of the devil, that X-box controller is a key to the gates of hell itself. It is a lot harder to say that you people sitting out in the pews, and me up in the pulpit, and the ladies in the choir, and Billy Graham are all sinners heading for the same hell as those parents who abandoned their child without Christ.
This sort of behavior, that displays an utter disregard for human life, is not reserved for video game players, people who dress in Goth clothes etc. How many upper-class couples choose to abort an unwanted pregnancy? How many highly educated people think that euthanasia is great because who wants those creepy old people hanging around and taking up vital resources? How about Marcus Fiesel, the young foster child left duct taped in a closet and then burned to cover the crime? The killers were foster parents in a nice neighborhood in Cincinnati. And they killed a child. They weren't dressed in all black and played Assassin's Creed for weeks on end.
I play my share of video games. The best use of my time? Certainly not. Does playing video games make you a sinner? Nope. Being a human makes you a sinner. All of us, all y'all. Some people are horrible human beings by human standards, like these pieces of human refuse who left an infant to die in a car seat. Some people are just swell folks, like puppies and apple pies. From the worst to the best, the only difference when that day of judgement comes is the imputed righteousness of Christ, or lack thereof. That is the missing piece of the puzzle for most Christians. We get that "those people" are sinners, we get that "us people" are saved by grace but what we don't get is that it is because of grace, and only because of grace, that "us people" are not "those people". There is nothing inherently good or righteous or wise about Christians. It is Christ who is inherently good, righteous and wise. We don't like to hear that we are miserable sinners who deserve hell, but if the Bible teaches us anything about man, that is it.
"...for the intention of man's heart is evil from his youth..."
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Sunday, February 17, 2008
Friday, February 15, 2008
CANTON, Ohio — A former police officer who tearfully told jurors he accidentally killed his pregnant lover was convicted Friday of murdering her and their unborn child.
Bobby Cutts Jr. could face the death penalty. He had claimed he accidentally killed Jessie Davis by putting an elbow to her throat, then panicked.
Here is a silly question. Why is it that this man is being convicted of aggravated murder for the killing of an unborn child, yet the mother of that child could walk into an abortion clinic and have that baby murdered and be protected by the law? What is the difference? Because in one case it is a guy killing the baby and in the other it is the mother? Don't get me wrong, I think he should be convicted of murder for killing that child, but does anyone else see the hypocrisy in a legal system where one parent can be convicted of murdering an unborn child and the other can have that child murdered by a stranger and have it be completely legal? It can't be both ways. An unborn child is either a person, legally protected under the law, or not. If it is murder to kill an unborn child under some circusmstances, it ought to be murder under any circumstances.
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
While the fight against segregation on public buses remains a civil rights symbol, a Brigham Young University historian shows how the struggles of black families vacationing by car contributed to the push for equal access to public accommodations.
In an upcoming book titled “Are We There Yet?” Professor Susan Rugh draws upon complaints written by a rising black middle class during the 1950s. These letter-writers documented discrimination on the part of hotels, restaurants, and gas stations around the country.
Rugh shows how their stories, submitted to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, became a bridge between elected officials and civil rights advocates.
Monday, February 11, 2008
Our journey out of mormonism: Saved by His sovereign grace
I have long felt compelled to put down my thoughts and our experiences as we found ourselves first investigators, and then members and finally apostates of the mormon religion, and how God’s gracious hand was ever-present along the way. At the time when we left mormonism, we initially felt lost and confused. How could everything we knew to be true suddenly be shown conclusively to be false, how could God have allowed us to be taken in by a lie all those years? But as the years have passed, more and more we have recognized the hand of God even as we were deepest in mormonism.
Neither my wife nor I grew up in what would generally be considered a “Christian home”. Our homes were good homes to grow up, for different reasons, but faith was not a priority. Eva was a “good” Catholic growing up, weekly going to Mass, completing catechism on Mondays, serving as an altar girl. In her teens she really began seeking the face of God, with a growing desire to know Him more, a desire I did everything I could to quash as a youth. A Baptist friend at work really tried to share the Gospel with Eva, and we still own that white King James Bible that she gave her. My home was agnostic at best, and in my youth I wore my atheism like a badge, assured that my own intelligence was adequate to explain anything. Religion for me was a means to control weaker minded people, rubes who needed a crutch to get through the day (to paraphrase that great philosopher Jesse “The Body” Ventura!). My first exposure to church came when Eva and I were married and we went through the pre-marriage classes mandated by the Roman Catholic church where we were wed. I am afraid that I came out of that experience with an even lower opinion of religion and religious people than I harbored before (which is saying quite a lot!)
In my college years, we had the first two of our eight children and that experience of holding a tiny child, a new life had a profound impact on my thinking. No longer did I assume, could I assume, that life was just a random act explainable away by science and reason. In my last few semesters at Bowling Green State University, I took two courses that gave me my first exposure to the Word of God, an English course “The Bible as Literature” and a history class on the New Testament. Both were completely secular classes and neither approached the Bible as the literal Word of God. In fact in my literature class the instructor was a more than slightly kooky former Roman priest, who needless to say didn’t have a high view of the Bible. In the months leading up to graduation, as I sought employment, I was offered a management position with a retailer in Cheyenne, Wyoming. As we prepared to move “Out West” after graduation, we got advice from quite a few people to find a church when we settled in to give us a sense of community. A few months after arriving in Cheyenne, my wife called me at work to let me know we had company coming over, a couple of missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Now, being relatively ignorant of all things religious I knew very little about the mormons. I knew that they were highly regarded as being industrious, faithful, family oriented, conservative folks. I knew about the prohibition on drinking and of course the ever present issue of polygamy, but that was about it. Like so many people who are ensnared by false teachings, I didn’t know what the truth was and so was unable to recognize a lie for what it was.
The two missionaries who came over that night were great guys, Noah McDaniel and Henk Fisher. They were polite and patient. The first night they came we got a lesson in how not to deal with mormons and other cultists. The maintenance guy who lived in our apartment saw the missionaries coming in, got in their faces and threatened to call the police. Right away, we were given two contrasting images: the nice, clean-cut mormons and the angry, intolerant Christian. The two missionaries hit it off with us right away, they were a lot more relaxed than most missionaries we would meet in the years that followed. They were earnest but not self-righteous, and they presented the message of mormonism as well as anyone I have ever seen. We still have some of the hand drawn diagrams they used to illustrate their points. We were like sponges, and having virtually no knowledge of the Bible, we didn’t know where to question what we were being told. After completing the investigators lessons, we decided to get baptized as members of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. In November of 1995, around Thanksgiving, we were both baptized and began attending as regularly as my schedule working in retail permitted. Noah McDaniel and Henk Fisher eventually moved on to new assignments, but our fondness for missionaries would remain for the rest of our time in mormonism. We even named our fourth child Noah, after Noah McDaniel.
Life in mormonism was kind of a blur for the first year. We moved back home to Ohio shortly after converting, and then to Auburn Hills, Michigan. We never really got as connected as we should have. It took way longer than normal for me to receive Melchizedek priesthood as an adult male. Because we moved around so much, it was more than a year before we really got hooked in. In Ohio, we lived on the East side of Toledo and the ward was pretty far away in an affluent part of town and we never were really comfortable there. Just the opposite was true when we lived in Michigan, the church was pretty small in the area, so rather than a full ward we were part of the Pontiac branch. We met in a non-church owned building, and the group was pretty small. Pontiac is a pretty rough town, and again working in retail we didn’t make it very often to church. The one constant was that we had the missionaries over on a regular basis, and they formed the main connection with the church at that time. It wasn’t until we moved to New Hampshire that we really got comfortable in the church. In New Hampshire, I went from retail to working at Fidelity Investment, my first Monday through Friday job, and because Fidelity had relocated a number of employees from Salt Lake City I worked with and knew a lot of other mormons. We shared a corporate culture as well as a church culture, and I felt more involved in the goings on because our local Bishop was a mid-level manager at Fidelity. We still had the missionaries over for dinner all the time, and I began going out and accompanying them on home visits. We liked it a lot better in New Hampshire, when we joined in Wyoming most of the people were very intimidating. Keeping up with the Mormon Joneses was hard, and it seemed like we would never be able to live up to the standards of righteousness that was in our faces all the time. In New Hampshire it was different, we were friends with lots of other mormons, we really got into the new member classes (over a year after we were baptized). We made a few really good friends, people we and our kids hung out with even outside of church. It was after a few years in New Hampshire that we finally went to the temple. More on that later, as that whole experience deserves separate treatment. Life was good church-wise in New Hampshire, but it was so incredibly expensive to live in New England that we decided to move back to the Midwest, and I ended up with an ill-fated and short lived job in Wisconsin.
After a short stay in Wisconsin, we moved to Northern Kentucky and back to Fidelity Investments. Like every move, the first contact we made was with the local mormon church. They helped you move in, get acclimated to the area and get integrated into the local church. Moving is jarring, and by keeping in touch every step of the way, the mormon church ensures that people don’t stray or fall away when they change wards. In Northern Kentucky, we settled back into church. As usual, the missionaries were very important to us. We had them over at least once a week, often times several nights a week to feed them. I went out with them almost every week on visits and to drive them around, since they covered a pretty big geographical area and had limited mileage on their car. It was during this time that I was called as a membership clerk in the Bishopric. That is a pretty minor calling, but it gave me insight into the inner workings of the local church leadership as I attended most of the Bishopric meetings. It was a rude awakening how people were called into their church callings, the process being a lot more pragmatic than inspired. It was also disturbing how many people who were listed as members never attended and of those how many either wanted no contact with the church or were outright hostile towards it. Most mormons outside of the bishopric would be shocked to learn what a high percentage of “members” are openly hostile toward the church that claims them as members. It is true of many Christian churches that members on the rolls often are not attenders, but you don’t see the same level of hostility towards the institution.
Life was pretty well set, laid out in front of us for the rest of our days. Raise our children up, send them to BYU and on their missions, retire and perhaps become retiree missionaries for the church. Our kids would marry other mormons, and raise good mormon kids. We were in a very comfortable groove, temple worthy mormons fulfilling our callings and generally doing what good mormons were supposed to do. We had it all figured out.
But that was not what God had planned for us…
As I look back, the beginning of the real questions came when we finally went to the temple. After a few false starts in New Hampshire, including a whole cancellation of a trip (it was a big deal, this was before the Boston temple, so the nearest temple was in Washington, D.C. a trip of some 450 miles), we finally completed the temple preparation classes and made the journey to the D.C. temple in February of 2000 with our four oldest children. The trip itself was exhausting, driving through the night, stopping to sleep for a few hours in Delaware. I still remember the stench of the garbage barges in New Jersey! We stayed with my sister who lives in the area, and went in early with some people from church who were also co-workers of mine at Fidelity. The day is kind of a blur, but some things stand out for us. As we sat in a brief meeting, a greeting from the temple president, I remember looking out in the hallway and seeing guys in all white walking by with funny hats on. We thought they were chefs, because no one told us what to expect. The whole lead-up is pretty mysterious, you know very little of what is to go one in the temple before you go (and for good reason, as the whole thing is pretty freaky!) As we went through the ceremonies, including the “take of your clothes and put on this sheet so an old guy can dab oil on you” part, it became increasingly weird. This was the high point of mormonism? This is what we had looked forward to for all of that time? The only thing that redeemed the trio at all was as we were entering the room to watch the video and take out our endowments, we walked past a young couple. I thought he looked familiar and sure enough it was Noah McDaniel, one of the missionaries who had baptized us and that we hadn’t talked to since. We were able to catch up with him later and introduce to the little blonde boy who we named after him. If we had not met up with Noah and his wife, I am not sure what we would have done afterward as we were more than a little freaked out. We got our new temple names, Heber for me and Lydia for Eva (sharing those names is a big deal, as that is highly secretive. Eva never knew my temple name until some time after we left mormonism. I knew hers of course so I could call her through the veil and she wouldn’t get left outside of the celestial kingdom. But I digress…) We learned the secret handshakes, watched the cheesy video, spoke the sacred oaths and acted out calling our wives through the veil and entered the celestial room. That was hardly the pinnacle of spirituality on earth, we were mostly just tired and feeling anything BUT close to God. Finally we went to the sealing room, with it’s altar and double mirrors to give the image of eternity. By that time we were exhausted, and for me the sealing ceremony where we were joined as a family for time and eternity was just annoying. Noah wouldn’t behave (a sign of things to come!), and it was for me a pretty non-spiritual event, in fact anticlimactic might be the best way to describe it. It is hard to take things seriously wearing a goofy get-up like that. We drove away with our packet of stuff, including the obligatory temple certificate and picture of the temple and I remember looking at each other, sworn not to speak of the events of the temple but with a clear question in each of our eyes: “What the heck was that!”. Mormons are encouraged to go back early and often to the temple, I believe to lessen the strangeness of it all through familiarity. But although we carried our temple recommends until the day I mailed them back to our local Bishop and we always spoke highly of the temple, we never went into a temple again. The temple to me was hardly this little slice of heaven on earth. They are beautiful on the outside but what goes on inside is not the work of Christ, but the work of the Devil. It brings to mind what Christ said about the scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 23:27: “"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people's bones and all uncleanness.”. Beautiful and clean on the outside, but full of spiritual death on the inside is an apt description of the mormon temple.
In the summer of 2001, our oldest daughter was turning eight, the age when most mormon children are baptized into the church. We had it all planned out, she had been in to meet with the Bishop to make sure she understood what was going on and was “worthy”, we had special dispensation to baptize her in Northern Michigan. Things were proceeding as they were supposed to. I remember distinctly that at that time I was reading that old mormon faith affirming standby, The Work and the Glory series. It was designed to reaffirm your faith, while giving you a sanitized history of the church that was also faith affirming, but it didn’t have that impact on me. The more I read, the more I started to realize how poorly the Book of Mormon was written, and that when I was the same age as Joseph Smith, I could have crafted a similar tale. One afternoon, after reading I knelt down to pray. I never imagined what would happen after my knees hit the ground.
It was very sudden. I knelt down as a mormon, and when I stood up I no longer was. It wasn’t because I was offended by someone in the church. It wasn’t because I had an un-confessed sin in my life. It wasn’t because I had fallen under the influence of apostates or read anti-mormon material. I can only attribute it to God breaking my heart, breaking the pride that made me think that I could be saved through my own righteousness, that by obedience and works I could become like God Himself, either dragging Him down to me or lifting myself to His level. Semantics in mormonism suggest that we never become the equal of our Heavenly Father, but the reality is that mormonism teaches that God was once a human, no different than us, and that He became a god and by following the tenets of mormonism we could do the same and become like Him. I was not looking to get out, I was not seeking Him. He came seeking me. The Great Shepherd who searches for one lost sheep found one, kneeling down next to his bed in Kentucky, worshipping the image of a false god. If there was ever a more unlikely candidate to be saved than me, I can’t imagine who that person might be. Maybe Saul. Like Saul I sought to persecute Him by spreading lies about Him and seeking to lead people away from Him, and like Saul I thought I was doing His work because I was so earnest about it. I see no similarities between myself and Paul, post-Damascus Road conversion but I see a lot of similarities between myself and Saul the persecutor of the church. In that moment I knew a few things. I knew that no matter how hard I had tried to convince myself, the Book of Mormon was not Scripture, that it was not the Word of God. Joseph Smith was a shyster and a liar, and had made up the whole thing. And I knew that I would never again worship a false god in a mormon church.
I walked into the living room and told Eva I didn’t want to baptize Caitlin. At first she assumed that I meant that I didn’t want to do it myself, but then she came to realize that I meant not that I didn’t want to baptize Caitlin but instead that I didn’t want Caitlin to be baptized as a mormon at all. Things started happening pretty quickly. The missionaries came over, and I had a curt but cordial conversation with them. We got an anonymous letter in the mail that I kept, along with a book warning us about staying clear of those evil anti-mormons like Sandra Tanner and that apostate mormons are one of the few categories of people who go to hell in mormon theology (murderers are the other group). The local Bishop called Eva when he knew I would be at work, and I recall leaving him a fairly ugly message telling him to not call my house anymore. It was about that point that I started to read “anti” mormon material, and what I read was stunning and confirmed what I had come to believe about mormonism. The changes and inconsistencies in the story of the “First Vision” and the Book of Mormon, the fact that Joseph Smith was hoodwinked into buying Egyptian documents and then “translating” them into what is now known as the Book of Abraham which contains much of what makes up distinctive mormon theology. That “translation” has now been shown categorical to be false, and laughably so. As I read the Bible without looking at it through the lens of mormonism, I began to see how deviant mormonism is from Biblical Christianity. Rather than regretting my decision to leave, I began to praise God for saving me from a lie and from myself.
One momentous (for me) occasion still sticks out in my mind right after we left. A young woman I worked with had a boyfriend who was a lapsed mormon, and she knew that we were mormons so when I told her we left mormonism, she challenged me to get a cup of coffee and then wanted to watch me drink it! It was a liberating moment for me, that first cup of coffee and I have been making up for lost (coffee) time ever since. Another time that I remember was a business trip back to Massachusetts. I had lunch with a couple of buddies from my old job, one a mormon and one a Catholic who knew I had left. My Catholic friend asked how things are going since we left mormonism, and the look of horror on my mormon friend’s face was telling. He later emailed me and said something pretty typical, in talking to some other mormons who knew me the assumption was that someone had offended us. It had to be something like that, right? For mormons it is, because the alternative that someone had earnestly come to the conclusion that mormonism is false topples the whole house of cards. I rarely heard from him after that and finally not at all.
It was a hard time in our marriage. When I stood up from my knees that day, I was done. I was utterly convinced that mormonism was a lie, and I walked and never looked back. It was much harder on my wife. Eva went with me at first because of her loyalty to me, but for years afterwards still clung to many of the positives of mormonism. As her husband, the one called to be the spiritual head of the family I had let her down and let us be led astray (not the first and certainly not the last time that I failed in my role as husband). Those who were out friends stopped speaking to us, shunning us in fact as apostates. A particular event stands out in my mind shortly after we left mormonism. One of our favorite missionaries, David Card, came over after we left, along with two other missionaries. We had a nice dinner and then they started looking at my Book of Mormon and all the pages I had tabbed with various inconsistencies and heresies. Rather than confidently refuting what we had come to believe as they planned, they retreated back into the “I have a testimony” defense. I could see in their eyes as they were backed into corners that they were shutting down, and eventually they completely shut me out. I always took offense at mormonism being called a cult, but when we left the actions of other mormons, and especially those missionaries that night, showed me pretty clearly that so much of the way mormons structure their church is designed to work like cults do: shunning apostates, quashing dissent, discouraging investigating, reliance on a modern prophetic voice.
The whole event solidifies for me the sovereign grace of God. I was not seeking Him, in fact I was quite sure that I was already in His church and doing His will. I suspect that is true of virtually everyone who comes to Christ. In our natural state, we are not seeking Him. Ask the average unbeliever, at least those who are not militant atheists, and chances are that they are in another faith tradition and believe they are following God or are relying on good works (I am living well, I am generally a good person, etc.) for their salvation. We want to have a hand in our salvation. Mormonism takes that to another level: not only can you help to save yourself by your works, if you work diligently and faithfully enough you can become a god too! But in spite of my arrogance and blasphemy of assuming that God was merely a partner in my salvation and that I would one day climb to godhood myself, God worked that miracle that only He can do, quickening my dead sinners heart through the power of the Holy Spirit. If He had not worked in my heart, I would likely have stayed in mormonism and be as lost as the most vitriolic atheist. Therefore all the praise and glory for my salvation belongs with Him, and Him alone, and that is the way it should be.
UPDATE: I have started recording my thoughts about mormonism on a different blog, The Fo-Mo Chronicles. I encourage interested readers to check it out.
Saturday, February 09, 2008
"Then you shall bring the bull before the tent of meeting. Aaron and his sons shall lay their hands on the head of the bull. Then you shall kill the bull before the LORD at the entrance of the tent of meeting, and shall take part of the blood of the bull and put it on the horns of the altar with your finger, and the rest of the blood you shall pour out at the base of the altar. And you shall take all the fat that covers the entrails, and the long lobe of the liver, and the two kidneys with the fat that is on them, and burn them on the altar. But the flesh of the bull and its skin and its dung you shall burn with fire outside the camp; it is a sin offering. "Then you shall take one of the rams, and Aaron and his sons shall lay their hands on the head of the ram, and you shall kill the ram and shall take its blood and throw it against the sides of the altar. Then you shall cut the ram into pieces, and wash its entrails and its legs, and put them with its pieces and its head, and burn the whole ram on the altar. It is a burnt offering to the LORD. It is a pleasing aroma, a food offering to the LORD. "You shall take the other ram, and Aaron and his sons shall lay their hands on the head of the ram, and you shall kill the ram and take part of its blood and put it on the tip of the right ear of Aaron and on the tips of the right ears of his sons, and on the thumbs of their right hands and on the great toes of their right feet, and throw the rest of the blood against the sides of the altar. Then you shall take part of the blood that is on the altar, and of the anointing oil, and sprinkle it on Aaron and his garments, and on his sons and his sons' garments with him. He and his garments shall be holy, and his sons and his sons' garments with him. (Exodus 29: 10-21 ESV)
Thursday, February 07, 2008
In a somewhat surprising move, at least this quickly, Mitt Romney has dropped out of the race to be the Republican nominee. It was a pretty classy exit statement:
Mitt Romney suspended his presidential campaign Thursday, telling a stunned conservative group that continuing his uphill battle against John McCain would hurt the Republican Party and make it more likely that the Democratic candidate would win the general election in November.
“If I fight on in my campaign, all the way to the convention … I’d forestall the launch of a national campaign and frankly I’d be making make it easier for Senator Clinton or Obama to win,” Romney told the Conservative Political Action Conference. “Frankly, in this time of war, I simply cannot let my campaign, be a part of aiding a surrender to terror.”
As early as yesterday, the Romney campaign was drafting a road map to winning the nomination, despite trailing McCain badly in the race for delegates. But according to a campaign spokesman, Romney decided to drop out as he was writing the CPAC speech late Wednesday.
“This isn’t an easy decision. I hate to lose,” Romney said Thursday, as many in the crowd booed the decision. “If this were only about me, I’d go on, but it’s never been only about me. I entered this race because I love America, and because I love America in this time of war, I feel I have to now stand aside, for our party and for our country.”
I assume Huckabee will follow shortly, and the party can begin to rally around McCain. Time for the Rush Limbaugh/Ann Coulter cabal to swallow their pride, keep McCain honest from a conservative standpoint but quit bellyaching and threatening to support Hillary or stay home. Romney was very gracious in defeat and bowing out, his supporters should take their cue from his actions and support the nominee. Not everyone is being gracious about it though:
Evangelical leader Pat Robertson told FOX News Radio Thursday morning that he and other evangelicals would not support McCain, citing his temper.
Robertson referenced a Wall Street Journal article describing him as a “capped live volcano,” adding: “You never know when he’s going to explode … If you’ve got a guy who’s the commander in chief with his hand on the red button, I just don’t know, I wouldn’t like to be in WWIII, and I just have a feeling he wants to show how macho he is and we might just get ourselves in something we don’t want.”
Uh, someone who called for the assassination of the leader of a foreign nation and has prophesied untold destruction on America is being critical of someone else for being intemperate and unstable? McCain may be a hothead, but he served this nation in war and spent years being tortured by the North Vietnamese. He knows far better than the vast majority of Americans, including Pat Robertson, what war is really like.
I hate to break it to you Pat, but you ceased to be relevant to Christians as a whole many, many years ago. I don't know of any Christian under the age of 60 who gives a rip what Pat Robertson says or thinks. He has become like the crazy old great uncle at family events that people tolerate because they are trying to be polite. He has no business and no right declaring who evangelicals will or will not support.
Wednesday, February 06, 2008
Online encyclopedia Wikipedia has again stirred up controversy — this time over a biographical entry on the prophet Muhammad.
Nearly 100,000 people worldwide have signed a Web-based petition asking Wikipedia to remove all depictions of the Prophet from its English-language entry, viewable here.
"I request all brothers and sisters to sign this petitions so we can tell Wikipedia to respect the religion and remove the illustrations," the creator of the petition at The Petition Site asks.
Monday, February 04, 2008
Hillary, on the eve of a big day on Super Tuesday, broke out her New Hampshire secret weapon and cried on stage today....
For the second time just before a big election, Clinton choked up before the cameras, this time being triggered by a former law professor at Yale University who introduced at an event in New Haven, Conn.
“I said I would not tear up,” she told a boisterous crowd. “Already we’re not exactly on that path. ”This isn't a gender issue (ever seen Margaret Thatcher cry?). It is an issue of someone who shamelessly uses emotional displays to get votes. I don't much care for Obama, but at least he isn't sobbing at his campaign stops. How can even die-hard liberals stomach her? If you want to really see something that should make you cry, Hillary revealed a feature of her swell health insurance plan....
WASHINGTON — Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton said Sunday she might be willing to garnish the wages of workers who refuse to buy health insurance to achieve coverage for all Americans.
The New York senator has criticized presidential rival Barack Obama for pushing a health plan that would not require universal coverage. Clinton has not always specified the enforcement measures she would embrace, but when pressed on ABC’s “This Week,” she said: “I think there are a number of mechanisms” that are possible, including “going after people’s wages, automatic enrollment.”
Clinton said such measures would apply only to workers who can afford health coverage but refuse to buy it, which puts undue pressure on hospitals and emergency rooms. With her proposals for subsidies, she said, “it will be affordable for everyone.”
That is Hillary-care, a huge government program that can lead to your wages being garnished if you choose not to enroll in a socialized "insurance" program. Perhaps they will send the police after you and drag you to the doctor, for your own good. That is the key to Hillary-care, and everything her administration would stand for: we know better than you what is good for you, so shut up and do as I say, or else. Go to the doctor now, because if Hillary gets in the White House you will be standing in line to see a doctor before you know it. At least you know Ann Coulter will be in line with you since she is such a big fan of Hillary all of a sudden.
Sunday, February 03, 2008
I don't care one way or the other about the Giants
I don't like Eli Manning, I think he is an overrated punk
I like Tom Brady, him being a Michigan man and all
I despise New England, the people, their sports, their smarmy attitudes, their whiny inferiority complex towards New York. So how sweet is it that the Pats lose to the underdog Giants on a late Eli Manning TD?
VERY VERY VERY SWEET!
Stick that in your chow-da, you funny talking punks!
Time for fantasy baseball!