spoon fed

Spoon Fed Pop Culture Theology Exposed

I have written about Spoon Fed Pop Culture Theology in the past. It is a term I use to describe things we naturally accept as Biblical before looking at the facts in The Bible. This week, I’m going to do some mythbusting! This list is only partial, it is definitely not exhaustive.

1. Adam and Eve ate an apple from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.

A quick read through Genesis 3 will tell you that what Adam and Eve ate was a piece of fruit. Nowhere does it specially say it was an apple.

2. Adam and Eve had 3 sons: Cain, Abel and Seth.

Genesis 1-4 tells us Adam had many sons and daughters.

3. Lucifer is Satan.

In the KJV, the name “Lucifer” is stated in Isaiah 14:12 and that is the only reference to it in The Bible. If we were to read it in full context of the chapter, and replace the name “Lucifer” to “Satan” we will quickly realize that it doesn’t make sense. Lucifer was far more likely to be an evil ruler.

4. Animals went 2 by 2 into Noah’s Ark.

We know from Genesis 7:2-3, there were 2 of every unclean animal, and there were 7 of every clean animal.

5. God changed Saul’s name to Paul on the Road to Damascus.

Saul was a Jewish Roman. His Jewish name was Saul and his Roman name was Paul. When he is working amongst the Jews as a Pharisee or a Christian he is referred to as Saul. When he takes the Gospel to the Romans/Gentiles, he is referred to as Paul. (Paul is still referred to as Saul after the Road to Damascus in the book of Acts.)

6. Mary Magdalene was a prostitute.

Nowhere is Mary Magdalene referred to as a prostitute in The Bible. Luke 8:1-3 only tells us that Mary Magdalene was possessed by evil spirits and then we don’t see her again until Jesus’ resurrection.

7. The Rapture is a concept that is taught in The Bible.

First, let’s define the word, “Rapture”. The Rapture is separate from the Second Coming of God (the Rapture is to occur at some point around or during the tribulation, whereas the Second Coming is later). It is also a ‘secret taking’, where those who are ‘left behind’ see a pile of clothes and will wonder where these people have vanished.   There are many popular verses people use to defend the Rapture; one of the most popular is I Thessalonians 4:17, “After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air…” However, if a person were to go back one verse, we would read, “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with a trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.” That doesn’t sound anything secret to me.   It actually sounds like a very loud proclamation that all will hear, so therefore, it’s safe to say, this is a description of the Second Coming. There are other passages like this, where Scripture is taken out of context, but if a person goes back a few verses, she/he will read of a loud announcement; so therefore, it cannot be the Rapture, but rather the Second Coming. Often, people like to use verses like I Thessalonians 5:10 to talk about the thief in the night. However, a careful reading of this will tell us that Christ will come UNEXPECTIDELY like a thief in the night, not that Christ will sneak in and quietly steal and no one will know who did it, like a thief in the night. If one were to read Matthew 24-25 in its entirety and make note of who’s taken and who’s left behind, he/she would quickly find out that the unrighteous are taken away to the place where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. The righteous are those who are left behind. Christians have been taking Scripture out of context for years to fit the concept of a Rapture that was actually formulated by John Nelson Darby in the early 1840s in Ireland. Most importantly, since the Rapture and the Second Coming of Christ are different events, then, wouldn’t the Rapture be the Second Coming of Christ and the Second Coming actually the Third Coming of Christ? Or perhaps the Rapture is the 1.5 Coming of Christ?   When The Bible is taken in context, nowhere is there any support or teaching of a Rapture or a ‘secret taking’ of God’s people.

8. Christian cliché: “God helps those who help themselves.”

Nowhere is this found in The Bible. This is actually from Greek Mythology. So I guess it’s actually Zeus helps those who help themselves. Good thing we don’t believe in Zeus!

9. Christian cliché: “The Bible says it so I believe it!”

I Timothy 2:15 says, “But women will be saved through childbearing…” The Bible says it, but do I believe it? Leviticus 11:7-8 says, “And the pig, though it has a split hoof completely divided, does not chew the cud; it is unclean for you. You must not eat their meat or touch their carcasses; they are unclean for you.” The Bible says it, but do I believe it? This cliché is usually only used to shut down an argument because someone wants to have the last word and be right. It is a far cry from the truth.

10.   The nuclear family is Biblical.

Families come in all shapes and sizes and with all kinds of dysfunctions in The Bible. Truthfully, we do start out with a nuclear family in the Garden of Eden, but in all fairness, it’s not like Adam and Eve had extended families. In the Old Testament we read about polygamy that is never condemned by God. We read about Hagar and how she slept with Abraham.   This is condemned because Abraham and Sarah lacked trust in God, not because an un-nuclear family is unholy.   The 12 tribes of Israel actually came from 5 different women and yet play an extremely vital part in The Bible. We have Ruth and Naomi who were mother-in-law and daughter-in-law, who stuck together which made an untraditional family. Esther was raised by her cousin, Mordecai. When we get to the New Testament, insulas are the traditional way of living, where many generations and families lived as one. Jesus refers to this type of family arrangement in John 14:1-4. The Bible talks about many different types of families, however, only one type of family is Biblical… “Yet to all who received Him (Jesus), to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born or God.”   In Matthew 12:46-48, where Jesus is teaching a crowd and they tell Him that His mother and His brothers were there, Jesus points to His disciples and says, “For whoever does the will of my Father in Heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” In I John 3:1 we read, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called the children of God! And that is what we are!” We also see in the New Testament, where it is taught that we are to care for `widows and orphans. The only Biblical Family is the Family of God.

What are some other examples of Spoon Fed Pop Culture Theologies that you can add to this list? What kind of myths can you bust?

IMG_0989[1]

Proverbs 31: Woman of valor

I have always been a person who didn’t understand tattoos. Not that I would say anyone is going to hell if they get one or that someone is destroying his/her temple, but rather, I just didn’t understand them… And then this happened…

IMG_0989[1]

I may have convinced Ruth that it would be fun to get matching tattoos—although, her tattoo is in Hebrew….

IMG_0990[1]

So, why’d I do it?

After being introduced to egalitarianism (in a more in-depth look at it at least), a friend of mine suggested I read Rachel Held Evans book, “A Year of Biblical Wamanhood”. A few weeks before Christmas, and 308 pages later, I felt like I had found myself.

I lived my first 18 years of life in a town of about 4,000 where most people were “C’s” (as in Caucasian, Conservative, and Christian).  Two boys and a girl were born before me, and then I was, as my father endearingly called me, the “pleasant surprise of our family”. I grew up with a learning disability (LD) which wasn’t diagnosed until I was 30. In other words, I was told to “try harder” and “you can do it” repeatedly and yet, I never could do it no matter how hard I tried. Frustration overwhelmed me constantly!  (It didn’t help that I grew up in an emotionally and verbally abusive household either.)  I never looked at beautiful women in a magazine and thought, “I wish I looked like her.” However, there were countless times I looked at someone like Albert Einstein in a book and thought, “I wish I was smart like him.” Protecting my intelligence became my top priority (which is common for kids with LDs). I identify with Elsa from “Frozen” with the philosophy, “Be the good girl you always have to be, conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them know, make one small move and everyone will know.” So, that one was of the two big reasons I was the quiet kid (the other being I am an introvert). I never raised my hand. I never volunteered. I never wanted to be noticed by teachers or other authoritative people in my life.

I remember as a kid, lining my dolls and stuffed animals up in pew-like fashion, and I’d pretend to preach, only to have it explained to me that God doesn’t want woman to preach. As a teenager, I recall one of our youth leaders guiding me to I Timothy 2:12. However, they couldn’t answer my question on why a woman could teach from the front of the church, just not from the pulpit. Since, the question couldn’t be answered; I decided not to believe it. Not that I had a sturdy theology as to why I didn’t believe it. Nevertheless, I followed where I felt God leading me which was to be a pastor in another church that ordained women.

The night of my farewell to seminary, my dad pulled me aside and said, “I just want you to know, I always prayed that one of you kids would become a pastor, but I never would have dreamt it would be you.” I wasn’t sure how to take this comment so I asked for clarification, in which he repeated what he said. Later, when I told my mom about this, she affirmed my thoughts. “He’s always prayed one of his sons would become a pastor.”

God has one amazing sense of humor!

During my early 20s, I had a well-meaning friend of mine, highly recommend, “Captivating” by John and Stasi Eldredge. Although, it was an excellently written book that made a lot of sense, it left me out. I must marry; I must have kids, in order to be complete. The problem was I’ve never been too interested in marriage. The way I see it, if I get married I get married, if I stayed single I stayed single.   After babysitting in my teen years, you couldn’t pay me money to have children!   I love being an aunt and I love other people’s children, but I didn’t care to personally own any myself.

So, fast forward a decade or so, and I pick up “A Year of Biblical Womanhood” and I was captivated from the introduction! The basis of the book is Evans takes one year to practice Biblical Womanhood literally, and then she writes about her experience. It was an absolutely fascinating read and I highly recommend it for men and women alike. I was amazed how much sexism exists in our culture and how it has leaked into the church, and we are totally unaware of it. Most people (including myself at the time) if asked if he/she is sexist or complementarian, he/she will say no, yet live out those exact things in life. I feel it’s a lack of education.

I’m not much of a crier, but there were a couple parts of the book that moved me to tears. One part was where Evans recognized how the church has overemphasized marriage in The Church and how we need to go back to appreciating singles. I didn’t just cry over that section, I wept. I had to put the book down, and have a good, long cry. Later in the book, Evans introduced me to what fair trade and sexual trafficking are and the importance of a woman’s voice in fighting for change for millions all over the world. I had never realized how important a woman’s voice is and how much it can change the world around her. Again, I had to put the book down and have a good, long cry. It was nice to know that as a woman, I have importance, value and that I’m needed for what I uniquely bring to the table.

The book was very powerful as well. Evans explained how Proverbs 31 is often misinterpreted. In the Evangelical Church, we have taken this Scripture out of context as we make it into a list of what a Godly woman should be. We treat it like a list of tasks that lead to the ultimate goal of being the kind of woman every man dreams of having by his side. However, in the Jewish culture, this is actually a chapter that is for the men. Hebrew men, commit Proverbs 31 to memorization and then sing it to their wives once a week, as a way to say, “This is a woman of valor! Look at all the amazing things she does! She is to be celebrated!” Proverbs 31 is meant to be an ode to women, not a check list. Whatever a woman does in the Name of God, she is to do it with valor—with bravery, with courage, with boldness. This brought a whole new concept to me of what it meant to be a woman of God. I can be bold? Wait! What? I can be brave? I can have courage? Really? That’s amazing to know!

A few years back, after reading Andrew Murray’s book, “Humility: A Journey Towards Holiness” I chucked the check list Christianity. I had been raised to follow a bunch of rules. Rules that told me what I couldn’t do, and they were rules that were to condemn those who didn’t follow them. That type of Christianity was tiring and had wiped me out. While reading Murray’s book I acknowledged, yes, there are rules, but they aren’t my focus. My focus is on loving God and loving others and doing my best to live a life of humility. Life became so much easier and purposeful! It made a whole lot more sense too. Previously, what I knew to be true was that no matter what rule I followed, I was wrong. Now, I just live with love and humility, the best I know how, and I live successfully, no matter what.

I share this to say, I could easily align a woman of valor next to my conviction of love and humility. They easily connected. They easily made sense. They easily worked.

Recently, I have been learning a lot about agape love, and the biggest eye opener is how much agape love is a decision. I have known this for years, but I guess, it’s just now making its way from my head to my heart. God has decided to love me. That’s profound, because emotions come and go, but a decision is a decision. God doesn’t wake up one more and just say, “Eh, I’ve fallen out of love with you.” Nope, He loves unconditionally and eternally!

My favorite part of the Evan’s book was when it mentioned Deborah, the Biblical person I was named after. For most of my life, I have hated my name! Why? Well, besides the obnoxious “Little Debbie” jokes, I hated it because it meant “Industrious Bee”. I hated that meaning… I’m a bee… Not a princess like Sarah or joy like Noami. Nope. I’m a busy, black and white striped insect. While reading Evans book, I was surprised to learn the name of the book of Judges is poorly translated. A better translation is “Warriors”. I remember thinking it was great to know a woman was a warrior! Especially, since Deborah, woman and warrior, lead Barak, a man, into battle. Awesome! When I went to Israel in March with a group of fellow pastors, it was affirmed, Judges is better translated as warriors.   Now, how does this work being I’m a pacifist and all? Easy. I’m a warrior of love. I’m a warrior of peace.   I’m a warrior of justice. I’m a warrior of truth. I’m a warrior of humility. I’m a warrior.

My life has been spent feeling inferior to men, weak, fearful and unintelligent. The book helped me grasp what it means to be a woman of God. It’s not about check lists of right rules. It’s not about being the most intelligent. It’s not about being strong or weak. It’s about, whatever my calling in life is; I’m to do it with valor. I am to be a pastor of valor. I am to be a single of valor. I am to be an artist of valor. I am to be an advocate for the Deaf and for sex trafficking with valor. I am to be myself, with valor.

I wanted to get it tattooed, because it will permanently identify who I am in Christ. On those days I screw up, I can read, “Woman of valor” and remember God loves me with agape love. On those days I do great, “Woman of valor”. Those moments, I persevere to the very end, “Woman of valor”. Those days I find myself upset and crying, “Woman of valor.” Those days, I’m trying to do the right thing by loving and living the best I can in humility, “Woman of valor.” Those days when a friend of mine is hurting I can say to her that she is a, “Woman of valor.”

Valor means brave.

Valor means courage.

Valor means bold.

I am a warrior.

I am a woman of valor.

success

8 Things That Do Not Define A Successful Life

When people find out I’m moving, they often have an interesting reaction. I’ve been threatened with kidnapping (we’re going to lock you up so they can’t take you); I’ve been asked for a reason why (sure, there’s a very good and thorough explanation as to why they chose to move me, but I have no idea); and I’ve been interrogated about the next appointment (I’m not there yet, I don’t know). But the reaction that always surprises me is the person who exclaims “Congratulations!” I don’t understand. I’m telling you I’m leaving you and your first reaction is how wonderful it is? Hmm, maybe we weren’t as close as I thought. Naturally, people are taken aback with the news and they just say the first thing that pops into their heads. At least it’s an encouraging sentiment. But it always makes me stop and wonder, what makes them think my move is something to congratulate me on? I didn’t choose it, and my new assignment is not necessarily more prestigious than my current one. A move doesn’t mean I’m more successful.

Everyone wants to assume that if I’m moving it must be a sign of success. Success is something we crave in life. But what if I’m not moving? If I were to stay here a little longer, would that be a sign of failure? No. Moving is not a measure of my success in life. In fact, here are 8 common successes that do not define a successful life.

 

  1. Income. As children, the importance of a good paying job is drilled into our minds. Why do we have to go to school all day? To get an education so you can get a job. Why do we have to do our homework? Why do we have to listen to our boring teachers? Why do we have to study our books that get less and less pictures as we get older? To get a good job. And it continues on into our adult lives. Why should I work hard at this job? To get a promotion so you can get a pay raise. Why should I take on a second job? To make more money. Why should I work late nights and extra shifts? To get overtime pay. The more money you make, the better your life is. Or is it?
  2. Family Status. As soon as you get a spouse and two children, you have arrived. You can fit in with all the other couples in your social circles. You can join all the other moms posting pictures of their toddlers on Facebook. Every. Freaking. Day. You can sympathize with the friends who need to “vent” about their spouses. You can condescendingly comment to nonparents “You’ll understand someday when you have children of your own.” I don’t want to minimize the importance of family. If you’ve found someone to marry, that’s wonderful. If you have beautiful children, I’m happy for you. What concerns me is this romanticizing of the family status. If you feel like you’re a failure because you don’t have the “right” family yet, you’re wrong. The strength of your marriage, the number of your children not yet in jail, the cuteness level of your family portrait—none of these define a successful life.
  3. Career milestone. Closely tied to income, the level you reach in your career does not define your success at life. This is an especially dangerous trap in my job. My income is based solely on my family status (still single, ha!) and years of service. So it’s easy to start thinking my position can make me more or less successful. When I transitioned from associate officer with a couple to associate officer with another single, you would have thought I won the career jackpot with the way people congratulated me. Therefore, my next aspiration must be to be the one in charge. If you only knew. Being at an appointment by myself is not my top priority. I used to feel inadequate because I wasn’t in charge. Now I feel self-conscious because I don’t want to be in charge. There’s so much pressure to make that my priority in life. But it’s not. Because that’s not what defines a successful life.
  4. Education. Perhaps you don’t aspire to a successful career or a six figure income, but you know the importance of a good education. There’s pressure in academics to continue pursuing the next degree in your field. If you’ve graduated high school, then you must attend college. If you finish your bachelor’s degree, then you must start working toward your masters. Education is a wonderful thing and I highly recommend furthering your education, but don’t make a particular degree or a certain GPA the definition of your success.
  5. Good citizenship. When I asked a few friends what they thought defined a successful life, they mentioned all the usual things: family, friends, money, but they also threw in one I hadn’t thought of yet: “I stayed out of jail, which makes me successful.” Well, I suppose that is one kind of success in life. But does that mean that someone who has been in jail or even prison is now a failure in life? Not at all. Fulfilling the role of good citizen does not define a successful life.
  6. Free of alcohol or drug addictions. Allowing any addiction to take over your life will keep you in bondage, damage your life, and hurt the people who love you. Though talking about sexual immorality, Paul’s words can apply to any addiction “’I have the right to do anything,’ you say—but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’—but I will not be mastered by anything” (1 Corinthians 6:12). Is a sober and clean life the measure of success?
  7. Self-sufficient. Congratulations. You’re an adult. You now have to provide for yourself. You have to take care of your own food, shelter, clothing, social life, and bills. If you can take care of all this and not rely on government agencies or non-profits for help, then you have arrived. But does that mean that a family with an unexpected loss or a sudden illness who loses their home a failure? Self-sufficiency is a good thing, but it is not the definition of success.
  8. Good health. Being able to take care of yourself is a good thing. Staying out of hospitals and keeping yourself injury free is wonderful. But is that what makes your life successful?

The problem with choosing a measure to define a successful life is that you also have to define what makes a failure. And who are we, as mere mortals to say if someone’s life has been a failure? Yet, if there’s no such thing as a failure, then are we all automatically successful at life regardless of what we do with it?

Personally, I don’t think life is something that can be quantified with a level of success or failure. Life is not a pass/fail class at community college that only requires attendance. Life is a journey we are all on. There will be successes and failures along the way and the quality of that life depends on what you do with those successes or failures, but life itself isn’t a success or failure.

1 Corinthians 10:31 instructs us “whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. The Westminster catechism asks “What is the chief end of man? Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” In the end it’s not about whether your life stacked up to be a success. It’s about how you glorified God with the life that you had.

 

“You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” Psalm 16:11

sexism skirts spirituality

Sexism, Skirts, and Spirituality: Part Two

“Who Told You That You Were Naked?”

Last week, Deb talked about the social implications of clothing in the church. This week I am addressing what the Bible says about clothing.

From the moment we are born, our clothing is limited by gender. Baby girls wear pink and baby boys wear blue. Switching these colors is taboo in our culture. Clothing expectations are also limited by age, social status, ethnicity, and of course, religion. But does the Bible say baby boys must not be swaddled in pink blankets? Does the Bible say women must wear skirts? Does the Bible say a man must wear a tie around his neck before preaching? What exactly does the Bible tell us about clothing?

The first time we come across clothing in the Bible is Genesis 3. Adam and Eve were created innocent and placed in a beautiful garden. God gave them one command and they chose to disobey. When this happened, “the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.” Genesis 3:7

The first article of clothing in the Bible was designed to cover the shame of nakedness. When God entered the garden Adam and Eve have to tell him about their sin. God dismissed them from the garden and explained the effects of the curse that sin has now brought on the earth. Then in verse 21 “The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.”

Clothing was given as a covering for their shame, a shadow of the covering that God would one day make for sin. As he sacrificed an animal to bring them clothing, he would one day sacrifice his own Son to clothe all of us in righteousness.

But what else do we know about clothing in the culture of the Bible? We know that is was a precious commodity. Think about it. Where did the people in ancient cultures get their clothes? They couldn’t run to Walmart for a new outfit. All clothing was handmade. They cultivated their own thread—wool from their own sheep or goats—wove their own fabric, and sewed their own garments. One robe represented a tremendous amount of work. You think parents are fussy about their children getting dirty now? Imagine what a first century mom said to her child after a dusty, sweaty day in the fields.

When Naaman, the commander of the Aramean army, got leprosy, a servant girl told him of a prophet in Israel who could heal diseases. Naaman asked the king for permission to seek out this prophet. His king agreed and sent him to the king of Israel with a letter, ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten sets of clothing. His complete story, including the unusual healing, is found in 2 Kings 5. Don’t miss the fact that clothing is so precious it is included as a gift from one king to another.

Since clothing is worth so much, due to the work needed to make it, tearing your clothing was considered an act of deep grief. Jacob tore his clothes when he heard that Joseph was dead. Jephthah tore his clothes when he realized he had to sacrifice his own daughter as a result of his rash vow. David tore his clothes when he heard of the death of Saul, the Lord’s anointed. Mordecai tore his clothes when he heard the royal edict announcing the planned annihilation of all Jews. The high priest tore his clothes when he heard Jesus call himself God.

Clothing, in every culture, is a personal expression. The color of your shirt or the name on your label say something about who you are or who you want to be. In the ancient near east, a person’s clothing was considered an extension of the person. A woman in a crowd reached out to touch Jesus in desperation and only caught the hem of his robe. But that was enough, because touching the clothing of Jesus was the same as touching Jesus. She was healed. In 1 Samuel 18:4 Jonathan gave his robe to his friend David, but it was more than a simple act of friendship. It was an acknowledgement that David would one day be king. Jonathan, as son of the king and heir to the throne, willingly handed over his identity to David.

So, in the Bible, clothing is used as a covering for shame, is revered as a precious commodity, and is seen as an extension of the owner. But what does the Bible tell us about our clothing? Does it tell us what to wear? How long our hems should be or how high our necklines should be?

There are very few commands in the Bible regarding clothing. Two laws in Deuteronomy 22 warn against cross-dressing and mixing fabrics. Since Jesus has come to fulfill the law, Christians are no longer expected to obey all the laws in the Old Testament. Besides, both laws apply more to idol worship than to modern clothing choices. There are additional clothing regulations for priests found in Ezekiel 44. But should these regulations be adhered to in our culture? Well, if you kill goats and sheep as a way of atoning for sin, then maybe. Then again, if you’re killing animals for sin, you probably have bigger issues to take care of.

Most of the instructions about clothing are about our actions. Paul instructs the church to “put off” the old man and “put on” the new. He tells the Colossian Christians to “clothe yourself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience” (Col. 3:12). Peter instructs women to be careful that they don’t rely on clothing for their beauty, but instead it should come from the “unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit” (1 Peter 3:4).

Paul instructs the early Christians to clothe themselves with Christ. Just as clothing covers shame, Christ covers our shame and removes the curse of sin from our lives. Just as clothing is a precious commodity, Christ is precious to all believers. And just as clothing embodies the owner, we receive Christ’s life when we clothe ourselves with him. As long as you are clothed in Christ, the Bible is not concerned with what you use to cover your body from day to day.