Ambassador of ReconciliationTweet
Posted 10/6/13 at 10:07 PM | Diane Castro
The Autobiography of Mark Twain, the first volume of which was published in 2010 on the hundredth anniversary of his death, is a collection of anecdotes, reminiscences, and essays about a vast range of topics from the fertile mind of one of America’s beloved authors. The recently published second volume reveals more about his life and thoughts, with his characteristic humor, inquisitiveness, and incisiveness.
In the entry for June 19, 1906 in Volume 2, the author gives his thoughts about the character of the God of the Bible. You can read the full text of his essay here. It quickly becomes apparent that Mark Twain has little use for this God:
In the old Testament His acts expose His vindictive, unjust, ungenerous, pitiless and vengeful nature constantly. He is always punishing—punishing trifling misdeeds with thousand-fold severity; punishing innocent children for the misdeeds of their parents; punishing unoffending populations for the misdeeds of their rulers; even descending to wreak bloody vengeance upon harmless calves and lambs and sheep and bullocks, as punishment for inconsequential trespasses committed by their proprietors (Autobiography of Mark Twain, Vol. 2). FULL POST
Posted 9/29/13 at 8:33 PM | Diane Castro
Several years ago a woman who is now in her thirties wrote this story about her childhood and sent it to me. It brought tears to my eyes.
The following is an example of an understatement: I am not a proponent for the teaching of brimstone and hellfire. My childhood was riddled with anxiety over my fears of hell. I had been told that if Jesus saves you, you are safe for all of eternity. This never quite quelled my fears. I was always terrified that Satan had been lurking in the shadows of my subconscious when I asked this Jesus into my heart, rendering my acceptance of him useless and blocking him from saving me. For this reason, I accepted Jesus into my heart frequently, praying that he would save me and praying that this time would work, even if on none of the previous times I had been sincere. I watched older kids who had once been like me, devout little Christian children falling away from this Lord and the church and imagined they had suffered the fate I was so scared of: Satan had blocked Jesus from getting into their hearts when they had asked. Due to this I was afraid of growing older, afraid that I, too was headed for this same fate. FULL POST
Posted 9/26/13 at 11:24 PM | Diane Castro
A year ago today, on the first anniversary of starting my blog, I posted a list of all the essays I had written over the course of the year as “Ambassador of Reconciliation,” a name suggested by my husband from 2 Corinthians 5. Many of the essays were about my favorite subject—the great work of reconciliation that God is accomplishing in the universe, to save the world and bring all things together under Christ. I also wrote about other themes, including unity, joy, faith, justice, heaven, creation, Christmas, Easter, peace, gratitude, wisdom, and love.
This past year I have continued to write on many of these same themes as well as posting on new subjects, such as the Boston Marathon bombing, a special memory from my daughter’s wedding, Thanksgiving, the Sandy Hook tragedy, heresy, godly and ungodly speech, and servant leadership. I have also posted book reviews (The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down and The Great Divorce) and a movie review (“Hellbound?”). Often my essays are prompted by something I have learned in Bible study; the first year I wrote articles inspired by Hebrews, Job, and James, and last year it was Paul’s prison epistles. We have just started Mark, which was the subject of my most recent post. FULL POST
Posted 9/17/13 at 12:55 PM | Diane Castro
Two Christian leaders were engaged in a heated conflict over a decision regarding their ministry. Years earlier, one of the men had been instrumental in helping the other gain acceptance in the Christian community, and they had been ministering together in the power of the Holy Spirit for some time, but now they were unable to come to agreement. They exchanged some sharp words, and finally one man said, “Fine¸ go ahead,” and the other said, “Fine, I will,” and they parted ways.
Maybe I’m being unfair to Paul and Barnabas, but this is the way I envision their conflict over whether or not John Mark should accompany them on their second missionary journey. John Mark had been their assistant on the first missionary journey (Acts 13:5) but had left them abruptly for an undisclosed reason and gone back to Jerusalem (Acts 13:13). When it came time to go out again, Paul had no desire to take someone who had quit on them before, while Barnabas saw potential in him and wanted to give him another chance (Acts 15:36-38). FULL POST
Posted 9/15/13 at 1:03 AM | Diane Castro
When my son was in college in South Carolina, he called me up one day and said, “Hey Mom, my roommates and I are having a competition to see whose mother is the best baker. Could you send some banana bread and poppy seed cake?” It was a thinly disguised request for a care package, but it worked. I have to confess that part of the reason why it worked was because of my own pride and competitiveness. Lurking at the back of my mind was the idea, “I bet I can bake better goodies than the other mothers can bake.”
The disciples had the very same problem. One day James and John and their mother came to Jesus and said, “Jesus, we want you to give us the best seats in your kingdom.” The other disciples were indignant, not because they were concerned that James and John had missed the point of Jesus’ teaching and example, but because they wanted the best seats for themselves. FULL POST
Posted 7/26/13 at 2:40 PM | Diane Castro
My last post was a review of the documentary film Hellbound?, which explores different views of hell, and the previous one was a comparison of views held by Christians about who goes to heaven and who goes to hell. It seemed good to follow up with a discussion of what it takes to get into heaven.
You have probably known the gospel for many years and shared it with many people. You have probably studied the Scriptures in depth to know what you believe. You care about what happens to people after they die, and you want to make sure you present the truth clearly and accurately so they can make informed and wise choices in response to it.
So you are in a good position to try this mental exercise: Suppose you want to distill the essence of the gospel into its simplest form. You want to help people understand what it is they must do or believe in order to get into heaven and stay out of hell. (Obviously you don’t want to stop with the minimum requirements just to squeak into heaven, but let’s start at the beginning.) The box x represents what a person must do and/or believe in order to be saved; that is, if you do not do x, you will not be saved. Therefore, you have to put the same thing in both x boxes below: FULL POST
Posted 7/3/13 at 3:55 PM | Diane Castro
Whatever you believe about hell, your views are probably represented in this documentary. Director Kevin Miller (who also co-wrote Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed) has tried to present a wide range of beliefs by interviewing people across a broad spectrum,* including some who make no claims to be Christians. The result is a thought-provoking overview of the many concepts that exist about the notion of hell.
Exploring doctrines of hell might seem to be a rather useless pursuit compared to studying other branches of theology, but in reality, our concept of hell is inextricably intertwined with our concept of God Himself. What we believe about hell both reflects our view of God and affects our view of God. In other words, our beliefs about God’s character and purposes affect our beliefs about what will be the final end of mankind, and conversely, our notions of hell have a bearing on what we perceive as the nature of God, which in turn affects the way we present Him to the world. We need to make very sure we are representing God faithfully, so we must take a careful look at what we believe and what we communicate about hell.
This film helps us to examine different views of hell and to evaluate the fruits that spring from those beliefs. No matter where you are on the spectrum, it is important to take an honest, objective look at what you stand for and how you represent Christ. This movie may challenge your convictions or it may strengthen them; either way, it can help you be more faithful in your witness. FULL POST
Posted 6/12/13 at 9:23 PM | Diane Castro
As I have read about heaven and hell and interacted with people here on Christianpost and elsewhere regarding this topic, I have taken note of the different positions that Christians hold regarding eternal destinies. It is quite curious that we can all read the same Bible and come away with such disparate ideas, but that is the reality. The chart below presents some of the major views about who ends up where. There is some overlap among the positions (for example, Calvinists are probably Exclusivists, Arminians can believe in the Narrow Gate or Wider Mercy, Universalists can be either Exclusivists or Inclusivists, etc.), but this overview gives a simplified picture of the various views.
I'd be interested in knowing what CP readers believe. I invite you to leave a comment telling which categories most accurately describe your beliefs. (Mention all that apply.) You may not like being labeled with a name, and certainly such a condensed overview cannot give details and nuances for each position, but try to indicate which descriptions are closest to what you believe. And feel free to offer corrections or additions.
Posted 5/25/13 at 11:54 PM | Diane Castro
In the early 1980s, the Lee family—husband Nao Kao, wife Foua, and their six surviving children—escaped from the Communist regime in Laos and made their way to California’s Central Valley, where many other Hmong refugees had resettled. In 1982, their daughter Lia was born. Unlike her parents and her twelve brothers and sisters before her, who were delivered into their mother’s hands as she squatted alone and silently over a dirt floor, Lia was born in a modern public hospital, where her mother lay on her back on a steel table and gave birth to her baby into the hands of a doctor.
At the age of three months, Lia started having severe epileptic seizures. Her parents would take her to the hospital to get help, but they did not speak English and they did not trust the doctors or understand the complicated treatment she received. Anne Fadiman’s book The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures chronicles the Lees’ confusing and often terrifying odyssey through the American medical system. FULL POST
Posted 5/19/13 at 5:05 PM | Diane Castro
Time and again the Lord gives us special gifts of providence that remind us of His ceaseless care over us. These are not the spectacular miracles that He also does from time to time, but rather His providential workings through the ordinary circumstances of life, whispering of His constant presence and His gracious kindness. We experienced one of these delightful conjunctions of events on the occasion of my daughter’s recent wedding. The tale of the veil is a story that will go down in the lore of this wedding.
Having hit horrendous traffic going into the city Friday night for the rehearsal, we left in plenty of time Saturday afternoon for the 3:00 wedding. We did have a scare Saturday morning when we got word that our 7-year-old granddaughter Emmy had thrown up everywhere. She had also had to go to the hospital the day before for a little surgery to cut a piece of pencil lead out of her leg—the result of an accidental stabbing with a pencil while playing at school! We were particularly nervous because her mom was an attendant in the wedding, but by early afternoon Emmy was doing better and they were also on their way. She had a bucket in hand but never needed to use it. It seemed that everything was on track. FULL POST