The protest at Mark Driscoll's church, originally scheduled for tomorrow, has been canceled. Good news for the families of Mars Hill, but I almost wish it had gone off as planned... But I guess it was childish of me to want to see pictures of protesters waving signs, spittle a-flying, in front of a building where people were worshiping -- it would have been fun to bask in the irony.

Still, please check out Driscoll's blog for his godly and gracious reactions.

How to be Christlike in the Face of Criticism 101:

Tomorrow, a group of protesters will gather at Mars Hill Church to speak out against Mark Driscoll. He has spent the last few weeks trying to stem the tide of outrage without backing down from his convictions, though he has been publicly castigated by an incredible range of Christians, non-Christians, and anti-Christians. Many families in his church, apparently, have decided not to attend tomorrow so they can keep their children safe. What on earth could have caused all this hoopla, you ask?

This short paragraph on Driscoll's blog, occasioned by the now-infamous Ted Haggard scandal, quickly became the shot heard 'round the blog-world:
Most pastors I know do not have satisfying, free, sexual conversations and liberties with their wives. At the risk of being even more widely despised than I currently am, I will lean over the plate and take one for the team on this. It is not uncommon to meet pastors’ wives who really let themselves go; they sometimes feel that because their husband is a pastor, he is therefore trapped into fidelity, which gives them cause for laziness. A wife who lets herself go and is not sexually available to her husband in the ways that the Song of Songs is so frank about is not responsible for her husband’s sin, but she may not be helping him either (emphasis added).

What's so controversial about that, I may never understand. Apparently, some folks thought he was saying that Gayle Haggard (Ted's wife) was fat, ugly, and prudish, so the protest, for them, is just a big "So's your mama!"

Others seemed to think Driscoll was unfairly burdening wives, when Scripture clearly says that husbands are to give of themselves just as generously as wives are. True enough, but Driscoll's blog was aimed at pastors (I.e., men), and the sins they face in particular, not at men and women indiscriminately.

But despite the unfairness of the criticism Driscoll received, he continued to act in a gracious manner by posting two clarifying articles, remaining humble, seeking to learn and grow, and even meeting with his most vocal opponents!

If you want to learn how to be Christlike when faced with a frustrating, unfair situation, do yourself a HUGE favor, and read Driscoll's two most recent articles: "Count it all Joy" and "Thank You, Critics."

And remember tomorrow to be in prayer for Mark Driscoll and the church he leads.


Prepare for the Firestorm

Oh, brother, has Boundless put their foot in it this time!

It seems that, whenever anyone wants to hold believers to a biblical standard, and suggest that they live their lives in a godly way, accountable to their local churches, a whole bunch of folks get their knickers in a twist in a big hurry. But, undaunted by this potential criticism, Boundless has started a series of articles on Biblical Dating, calling into question the whole system of dating that the church has just latched onto unquestioningly.

Check out the article, and see if you can imagine the kinds of emails they're going to get from cranky readers trying to defend their late-night one-on-one time with their significant others, or their "serial dating" habits.

Good times.


If I do this 35 more times...

... my blog will look like Craig's.

Attention Tassie:

Who is still using Internet Explorer? Stop it immediately!


"A bit scary" and "opinionated."

-- Mike's description of me.




(or, "oh, brother, i really am a lefty.")

in honor of my church's name, which is all in lower case, i'm posting with no capitals today.

yesterday, my ethics professor asked how many of us were, in general, in favor of the death penalty. most of the class raised their hands. then he asked how many of us generally opposed the death penalty. nick nye and i, the sojourn contingent in the room, raised our hands. and maybe one other person. it was at that point that i realized i'm probably not in the mainstream of southern seminary students. oh well. c'est la vie.

this last week was sojourn's final sunday meeting at highland christian fellowship, the building where we've had our gatherings for a few years. next sunday will be our inaugural gathering at 930 mary street, our first very own building. i was there monday night, and let me tell you, it does not look ready to receive guests. there's still a lot of work to be done before our "grand opening" on december 3. but God (jeepers, i have to capitalize that!) is faithful, and has kept all the workers and volunteers safe throughout the process.

i'm going to miss hcf -- silly, isn't it? the building we've been meeting in, to me, represents comfort, hospitality, simplicity. but that's not what the church is all about (well, except for maybe hospitality). this building project has been tough -- we've cancelled normal community groups to encourage folks to come work at 930, encountered numerous setbacks in the schedule, hired new staff members, come to a standstill with funds, etc. but we're pressing ahead, believing that this building represents incarnational ministry, ministry that goes where people are, and meets their need for the transformative power of the gospel authentically. 930 mary street is where the Lord wants us to be.

so pray for us as we make this important transition. pray that we would not succumb to complacency, thinking that we're done with God's work now that we've moved into germantown. pray for the details of the work, which will take several more months to complete (the building is absolutely enormous). pray for erin (especially!) and dominic and john, who are bearing much of the stress of this transition, and for michael and mickie and laura beth who are sorting out the details of the galleries and shows. pray that the Lord will provide financial resources through the generosity of his people -- that other churches will help us to shoulder the burden. pray that the Holy Spirit will continue to stir up our passion for the lost. pray for the preaching of the word. pray that God will continue to draw people to himself through our ministry.


Fellas, what would you think if...

... a girl referred to you as a "sweet guy"? Would you take offense?


Who is Purchase, NY?

Quote of the Day

Church people, by and large, are more than willing to avoid major changes regardless of how many people are dying and going to hell around them. We have confused church culture with church calling, believing that the way we “do church” is what Jesus died to save.

---Marty Duren



At least say hi, visitors, even if you don't comment on the topic! I now have StatCounter!

Also, the show at Sunergos tonight was great: Jamie Barnes, Nick Nye, Brooks Ritter (isn't that a cool name?) and... oh, dear. Someone else, but I didn't know him. Sojourn artists represent!


Statements of Faith: Part One

Hillsong's Statement of Faith:

We believe that the Bible is God's Word. It is accurate, authoritative and applicable to our every day lives.

We believe in one eternal God who is the Creator of all things. He exists in three Persons: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. He is totally loving and completely holy.

We believe that sin has separated each of us from God and His purpose for our lives.

We believe that the Lord Jesus Christ as both God and man is the only One who can reconcile us to God. He lived a sinless and exemplary life, died on the cross in our place, and rose again to prove His victory and empower us for life.

We believe that in order to receive forgiveness and the 'new birth' we must repent of our sins, believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and submit to His will for our lives.

We believe that in order to live the holy and fruitful lives that God intends for us, we need to be baptised in water and be filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit enables us to use spiritual gifts, including speaking in tongues.

We believe that God has individually equipped us so that we can successfully achieve His purpose for our lives which is to worship God, fulfil our role in the Church and serve the community in which we live.

We believe that God wants to heal and transform us so that we can live healthy and prosperous lives in order to help others more effectively.

We believe that our eternal destination of either Heaven or hell is determined by our response to the Lord Jesus Christ.

We believe that the Lord Jesus Christ is coming back again as He promised.

First off, I don't find anything necessarily heretical in this statement of faith. I do, however, see quite a few gaps and places where people could, with good conscience, join themselves to this body while holding to heretical or unorthodox beliefs. The problems:

1. It promulgates, intentionally or not, the dangerous Word-Faith/Prosperity "gospel" with its use of terms associated with that movement: "successful," "prosperous," "achieve," "empower," etc.

2. It over-emphasizes the actions, needs, goals, and choices of humanity, over against the sovereignty and purposes of God.

3. There is no effort to define terms. For instance, what does "God's word" mean? Or "loving" or "holy" or "new birth"? A statement of faith shouldn't have to be encyclopedic, but it should try to ensure that the majority of readers will understand the terms in the way that the authors understood them. This is why I don't think a single creed is sufficient as a body's statement of faith.

4. While brief and pithy, it lacks precision. Does God exist eternally in trinity? It doesn't say. Does our response move God, or does God move our response? Do we salvifically need to be baptized, or only as an expression and symbol of salvation? Must a believer speak in tongues or have a post-conversion experience of the Holy Spirit in order to be truly saved? It dances around these issues, but in the end, doesn't say.

5. It fails to support its assertions with Scripture. 'nuff said.

6. It omits numerous major theological points. Where is the discussion of the sufficiency of Scripture? Sure, it's "applicable," but is it enough? What about the character of God? Or the effects of the Fall on creation? Or the virgin birth, for pete's sake? Or the ascension? Or the authority of Christ? Or the role of the Holy Spirit? Or the nature of salvation?

7. In connection with #4, it leaves room for serious theological error. One could assent to the entire statement of faith and still hold to open theism, for instance, or reject the virgin birth or the bodily resurrection of man (or of Christ, for that matter, since it doesn't say "bodily" or even "from the dead").

I'll continue to look at good and not-so-good statements of faith over the next few days, and try to post something more next week. Tuesday is Liberation day for me, since I have three papers due that day and then nothing else until finals. Hooray!


Taking an old joke maybe just a little too far in the direction of obscurity...


Prosperity Heresy

I've always thought that the passage about the rich young man who came to Jesus asking how he could have eternal life was the death-knell for prosperity "gospel" preaching, so I was interested to see a preacher on some TBN-like channel shouting at his congregation about it today. I watched for a few minutes to see how he would deal with the words in verses 23-25 about how hard it is for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

First, I thought he did a good job explaining the concept of the "Kingdom of Heaven" to his congregation: that it's God's way of doing things, and that it involves seed (God's incorruptible word), soil (human hearts), a farmer (Christ), and harvesters (believers). All right! I thought. Maybe this guy isn't so bad! That's a pretty good definition, and consistent with the testimony of the Gospels! I guess I can also say that he carefully (well, maybe not SO carefully) worked through the passage, which is always a good technique, however ill-applied in this circumstances. From there, however...

He grossly misinterpreted the rest of the passage, starting with verse 26. The disciples are amazed, he said, because "they ain't broke." Apparently, if they were broke, they would have been excited that it was tough for rich people to inherit the Kingdom! (This to a chorus of "Amens" from the audience.) The real reason they were astonished is that Jesus, in saying that it's hard for rich people to enter the kingdom, was ringing the changes: the Jewish people themselves were caught up hopelessly in the idea that wealth proved God's blessing and poverty proved God's curse. Look at the ministry of Jesus, the classic iconoclast, throughout the Gospels. He continually called into question the accepted ideas of the day about who possessed God's favor -- not necessarily the Pharisees (the religious elite, or as my pastor calls them, "the religious right"), or the wealthy, or the prominent, because they trusted in their wealth or position, but rather the childlike, the poor, and the humble, because they saw their desperate need for God.

Then, he claimed that verse 27 proved that "with man (it) is impossible" for rich people to be saved, "but with God, all things are possible," so everybody should have confidence that God wants them to be rich, since he likes to do things that are impossible for men. Whoa, whoa! What did Jesus just finish telling the rich man? "Go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then, come follow me." To assert that God wants us to be rich based on a verse just millimeters away from Jesus' radical command for a person obsessed with wealth to break free from wealth is not only foolish, it's misleading and irresponsible. Let John Gill explain it:

(God) can so influence and dispose (a man's) mind, as to distribute his riches cheerfully among the poor, and largely, and liberally supply their wants, and even part with all, when necessity requires it: he can change his heart, and cause the desires of his soul to be after true riches of grace and glory; and bring him to see his own spiritual poverty, his need of Christ, and salvation by him; and to deny himself, take up the cross, and follow him, by submitting to his most despised ordinances, and by suffering the loss of all things for his sake; and he can carry him through a thousand snares safe to his kingdom and glory

Then this guy, who as I'm watching the program seems increasingly nutty, goes on to verses 29 and 30, which is where he really gets riled up. Everyone who gives up houses and brother and all that will receive it back a hundredfold in this life, he says, and Praise The Lord!! With persecutions? I'm already being persecuted, and so are you, he says, so tell the Lord to bring on the persecutions, because people are talking about you behind your back anyway, and wouldn't you rather have a hundredfold of money and houses and lands (That you never gave up in the first place because you're so obsessed with them, I thought) in addition to the persecution you're already receiving? I'd rather have money than persecution any day! At this point I got so disgusted that I dove across the couch for the remote and changed the channel.

Oh, man... I hardly know where to start, this is so wrong. *Wading into the fray*

1. The passage says nothing, I repeat, nothing about money. Extrapolating from verses 29-30 that God wants you to have a hundredfold of money you never gave up shows that you may, in fact, be illiterate.

2. Jesus never promises his disciples, or us, worldly prosperity. Ever. Gill interprets this as a sweetening of our enjoyment of the temporal things that we do have, and a metaphor for the "house" of God -- the mother and father and siblings we inherit in Christ. For crying out loud, do a word study of "house" and "land" in the whole of Scripture. They do not refer to a building with four walls, or a tract of geographical territory, but rather to the offspring of Christ (the chosen people), and the Kingdom of God in almost every instance! Duh!

3. Having people gossip about you is absolutely, incontrovertibly not persecution. Read about the violent deaths of believers under Nero and other brutal Roman emperors, and then you'll have a taste of what persecution really means. Or study Darfur, Iran, or China. Or read the biography of Jim Eliot, or learn about the thousands currently in prison for their faith. But to say that you're being persecuted when people talk bad about you is to spit on the testimonies of the millions who have suffered and died for the sake of the name of Christ.

4. The verses in this passage drive the reader inexorably toward the final phrase: "and in the age to come, eternal life." Houses and lands and money will turn to dust, but the believer's true inheritance is eternal life in the age to come!

All this craziness is just a glimpse of the problems with the prosperity "gospel." Don't be suckered into believing this nonsense, nor into believing that it's a true likeness of the Gospel of Christ.


Random Thoughts, Again (Now With Links!)

1. Mike is really tall. And handy to have around when one needs to put a picture into one's profile. And jealous of my laptop.
2. I can sing right in Chris Thile's range when I have a cold.
3. This and the above are declarative sentences.
4. This one isn't, right?
5. No two snowflakes are alike, except in a book of snowflake stamps.
6. I have linked Mike on my blog, but he hasn't reciprocated. What the?
7. Nikki's old blog is still as funny as ever.
8. Afton is a cool name for a girl. Can you tell I'm listening to Nickel Creek?
9. Apparently, some folks from Tassie are confused when first visiting my blog when they discover that it's not all about prayer. Whoops. It USED to be...
10. I'm incredibly glad that the ratted elections are over so the TV can get back to normal and stop showing ads every commercial break with politicians trying to shout each other down. Seriously.
11. I've traveled "heaps," apparently: 30 states and Mexico, Hong Kong, Thailand, China, Germany, Belgium, England and Ireland.
12. Hold on, is there someone in Koln, Germany who has looked at my blog? Crazy! I've been there! Don't lurk, worldwide visitors! Comment!


"I'm blogging obsessively," she said.

Link here for Mark Driscoll's excellent advice, on the occasion of Ted Haggard's public sin, that every pastor (and every congregation member, frankly) should read!

Ode to ClustrMaps

Leslie's got folks in Japan and Johannesburg
I haven't got quite so many, I fear.
One who's in London and someone in Louisville --
Where is Phil's Oz hit? My brother's? Oh dear!

Someday quite soon I shall have dots aplenty, friends.
Someday I hope to show red orbs galore!
But till that day I'll have no notoriety.
Please, ClustrMap, I want hits! Give me more!


Not Sure How I Feel About...

The impassibility of God.

It's a classical doctrine that basically says that God the Father is unaffected by passion* (in the old-fashioned way, i.e., suffering), because passion indicates a lack of something -- the church fathers called this a privation. That's just dandy, since Scripture gives us no indication that God needs or lacks anything.

But is God emotionless? People who hold firmly to this doctrine say that when Scripture talks about God as having extremes of emotion -- regret, sorrow, vengefulness, etc. -- it does so metaphorically. But we can't really get around God's wrath at sinners, can we? Or His hatred of evil? So why would we want to get around His sorrow?

I may write more about this as I read farther (or is it further, Dave?) in the book I'm slowly working through -- too slowly, alas, since I have to finish it and 4 or 5 other books by the end of the semester. Argh.

Any thoughts or brilliant insights?

*obviously, when Christ was on earth, He suffered. Duh. But we're talking about the Father, here. Which makes me think of another question: if the Holy Spirit "intercedes for us with groans," does that mean that He suffers or feels sorrow with us? Scripture also speaks of the Holy Spirit as being "grieved" by our sins. Huh. More thought required on this topic, evidently.


Late-night Poetry Jam

We talked about you tonight,

Sat around a crowded table and sorted you out

Put together our few years of experience

And fewer of wisdom with our very small sense

And devised a sure course of action for you

Then wiped the slate and assured each other

That no true rule existed. That we mustn’t box you in

Or make your plans for you, that every circumstance

Is quite different, really, so there’s just

No way of knowing. And we said

Just what our mothers said, that we would

Just Know

When it happened. Wisely we nodded,

Concurring that no two people are just alike

And no two courtships should be, either.

We chafed under our wisdom, though, and we wanted

Nothing more than for you to be the man

At the next table with the very straight nose

And very blue eyes. But that wasn’t you.

Probably that was a good thing, since we spent

The next hour talking about you some more.


Haiku for today

Hangs a matchstick blind

with harsh lines that split the sky --

Pixilated view

(I don't like the word "hangs." Suggestions?)



The Reformation Polka

by Robert Gebel

[Sung to the tune of "Supercalifragilistic-expialidocious"]

When I was just ein junger Mann I studied canon law
While Erfurt was a challenge, it was just to please my Pa.
Then came the storm, the lightning struck, I called upon Saint Anne,
I shaved my head, I took my vows, an Augustinian!

Papal bulls, indulgences, and transubstantiation
Speak your mind against them and face excommunication!
Nail your theses to the door, let's start a Reformation!
Papal bulls, indulgences, and transubstantiation!

When Tetzel came near Wittenberg, St. Peter's profits soared,
I wrote a little notice for the All Saints' Bull'tin board:
"You cannot purchase merits, for we're justified by grace!
Here's 95 more reasons, Brother Tetzel, in your face!"

Papal bulls, indulgences, and transubstantiation
Speak your mind against them and face excommunication!
Nail your theses to the door, let's start a Reformation!
Papal bulls, indulgences, and transubstantiation!

They loved my tracts, adored my wit, all were exempleror;
The Pope, however, hauled me up before the Emperor.
"Are these your books? Do you recant?" King Charles did demand,
"I will not change my Diet, Sir, God help me here I stand!"

Papal bulls, indulgences, and transubstantiation
Speak your mind against them and face excommunication!
Nail your theses to the door, let's start a Reformation!
Papal bulls, indulgences, and transubstantiation!

Duke Frederick took the Wise approach, responding to my words,
By knighting "George" as hostage in the Kingdom of the Birds.
Use Brother Martin's model if the languages you seek,
Stay locked inside a castle with your Hebrew and your Greek!

Papal bulls, indulgences, and transubstantiation
Speak your mind against them and face excommunication!
Nail your theses to the door, let's start a Reformation!
Papal bulls, indulgences, and transubstantiation!

Let's raise our steins and Concord Books while gathered in this place,
And spread the word that 'catholic' is spelled with lower case;
The Word remains unfettered when the Spirit gets his chance,
So come on, Katy, drop your lute, and join us in our dance!

Papal bulls, indulgences, and transubstantiation
Speak your mind against them and face excommunication!
Nail your theses to the door, let's start a Reformation!
Papal bulls, indulgences, and transubstantiation!

(Thanks to Nigel at EtIncarnatusEst for this COMPLETELY HILARIOUS MOMENT in my day. Good times... *wipes tears*)


Don't go see Marie Antoinette...

...if you're looking for a documentary-style history of pre-revolutionary France.

...if you hate movies that don't take historical characters "seriously" enough.

...if you are offended by the portrayal of adultery when it really did happen.

...if you need lots of special effects to keep you interested.

...if you are sickened by the sight of a sea of flower-print gowns.

However, DO go see Marie Antoinette...

...if you like Kirsten Dunst.

...if you are interested in character development more than a fast-moving plot.

...if you like cool, indie music.

...if watching harpies make digs at people cracks you up.

...if you want a different perspective on the key players at the end of the French monarchy.

...if you like Sofia Coppola.

...if you think slightly bawdy old grandfather-types are hilarious.

...and finally, if you're not boring.


C.J. Mahaney, People!

C.J. Mahaney has been one of my heroes ever since I saw the interviews on the Together for the Gospel website, oh, probably a year or so ago. There he was in all his glory, sitting with Dr. Mohler, Mark Dever, and Lig Duncan, and I felt like the song, "One of these things is not like the other" should have been playing in the background. Lig Duncan and Al Mohler were in dark suits and conservative ties. But not C.J. He's a bloke, a mensch -- he's just folks, as we would say in the South, totally without theologian airs. I've seen him in a suit twice this week, which is highly unusual, evidenced by the fact that he called suits "an effect of the Fall." On the videos, he was in a button-down with the collar open and a pair of very comfy-looking cargo khakis.

And understand that the T4G videos were somewhat promotional in purpose; in other words, people were supposed to get excited about coming to T4G after watching these impressive leaders of the faith preview the topics they were going to teach on at the conference. But C.J. is so genuinely joyful that he couldn't help falling into gales of laughter at even the most benign comment by one of the other participants. The man laughed so hard that he literally bounced in his formal queen Anne chair. (Oh! Good news! The videos are still available!)

This week, I've had the total joy of getting to hear C.J. teach three times (well, four if you count the audio message on the Song of Solomon that I listened to online), and the privilege of speaking with him in person three times (all too briefly) as well. He is truly a man of humility and a man of the Cross. I've been challenged both by his excellent treatment of Scripture and by his obvious love for the church and for the Lord. The moment that brought tears to my eyes was watching him worship in chapel -- since he was up on the stage during worship, we all got to glimpse his time in God's presence. Even at a stodgy Southern Baptist gathering, he raised his hands, and tipped his head back, and sang with gusto, periodically wiping tears.

I respect his teachings, but admire him as a man of God even more now than before. He laughs quickly and often, cries easily, confesses readily, and eagerly passes the credit for his incredibly successful ministry to his team of elders and ultimately to the Lord. Praise God for this man.

If you've never heard him teach, you are seriously missing out. Check out Southern's website for audio versions of his messages this week, or go to the Sovereign Grace website to download outlines and order CDs, or head to the CBMW website to listen to his (fantastic) messages on sexual intimacy in marriage, and on submission in marriage.


Random Thoughts

Why is the fat guy Lost from getting fatter and not thinner?

Groundhog Day is a great movie! Lines:

Phil: Do you want to throw up here, or you wanna throw up in the car?
Drunk Guy: I think (ulp), both.

Phil (to groundhog): Don't drive angry! Don't drive angry!

Rita: I like to see a man of advancing years throwing caution to the wind. It's inspiring, in a way.
Phil: My years are not advancing as fast as you might think.

Drunk Guy 2: Hey Phil, if we wanted to hit mailboxes we woulda let Ralph drive.

I had my spinal alignment checked today at the women's health fair on campus, and, while I was relieved to discover that I do in fact have a spine, not just a bundle of incredibly tight muscles, I found out that there's a reason my neck has hurt for the last couple of days. Turns out the right side of my neck is 1000% tighter than the left side. Whoops. I also got a little short massage from a really nice massage therapist, and made an appointment for a free (FREE!) consultation, including x-rays, if necessary. They'll also do all the work with my insurance company, even if I need a referral from a "real" doctor in order to get chiropractic work done. OK, so I'm not sure if I buy into all the holistic stuff that goes along with chiropraxis (chiropracty? chiropractice?), but the woman who did my spinal analysis said that the nerves in your upper shoulders and neck are linked to the sinuses, which is probably why I've been congested and sneezy for the last couple days.

I do really love school, but I think sitting at my computer and reading is contributing to my neck tension. Hmmm... you think I could send the bill for my chiropractic work to Dr. Mohler?


What Do You Think?

Some of you may know that I've been considering veganism, mostly for health reasons, but also because I've become more aware of the ickiness (is that a word?) of factory farming. Before anybody starts calling me a hippie or a tree-hugger or something, remember that we've been given the responsibility of caring for God's creation, and that driving our 2.3 kids through the McDonald's drive-through in a gas-guzzling SUV doesn't actually resemble the Biblical picture of filling the Earth and subduing it. ;)

I'm getting closer to a decision about this (pretty major) lifestyle change, but I'd like some input from anyone still patient enough to check this blog. Whether you're against it, in favor of it, think it's unwise, or are uncertain, tell me why. If you're brave, argue the counterpoint as well -- i.e., if you're in favor of veganism or vegetarianism, list a few reasons why, and then a few reasons why a person might be opposed to veganism. No straw men, please! In other words, if you argue against veganism, don't put "because they're idiots and tree-hugging hippies" as your pro-vegan argument! Obviously! (Now, Mike, please put the above phrase in quotations in your comment to show just how clever you are.)

Oh, and if you're vegan or vegetarian, maybe include some advice!

Thanks in advance for your thoughtful opinions.


Tell me, blog friends...

... does it count as schadenfreude, or something else, to thank God that I'm single when a friend goes through a really bad breakup?

The Richness of the Whole Counsel of God

I'm in Old Testament I this semester -- what a fantastic blessing, since I've often struggled with understanding how to apply the OT to my life, or even how to read it faithfully. So how do you do this? Spurgeon said it in regards to preaching, but I think it applies to reading scripture as well. Place it properly in the big picture, and then "make a beeline to the cross."

I've found the following questions helpful (examples from my morning reading [Leviticus 10-18] in parentheses):

1. How does this section of Scripture fit into God's plan to redeem for Himself a people? (Israel is out of Egypt! Now God is shaping them into a people who will stand out from those around them. He is concerned with every detail of their lives -- what they eat, what they wear, their sex lives, their friendships, etc. -- and provides guidance for each step. He also gives them a system to deal with sin.)

2. How does this section of Scripture point to Christ? (Emphasizes the need for Christ! The blood of an animal cannot fully atone for the sins of people. Also emphasizes God's grace in dealing with His people despite their sinfulness, and His forbearance in forgiving them until the time for the Messiah is fulfilled. There are also pictures of Christ: the sacrificial lamb, the intercession of the High Priest, etc., as well as reminders of the life of Christ: Mary and Joseph followed these very guidelines when they brought Jesus to the temple.)

3. What does this section of Scripture say about the Character of God? (He cares for His people in the direst of circumstances, and no detail is too small for His personal direction and care. He is a God of truth and clarity! He will not go back on His word -- He will carry out His promises to His people, and will keep the terms of the covenant even when His people fail.)

4. What element of this section of Scripture can I cherish today as I meditate on God's word? (God's faithfulness! I have been incorporated into God's promises, because I am part of God's people! Christ kept the law for me, since I could not, so my salvation does not depend on holding to these ceremonial laws.)

These questions have been so helpful as I read the "boring" parts of the OT. As Christians, we read all of Scripture in light of its climactic event: the incarnation of Christ.


In Which I Discover Just How Juvenile I Truly Am.

Disturbing moment this afternoon. Turns out that I am completely obsessed with Hugh Laurie, who plays the eponymous main character of my favorite TV program, House.

In case you don't know already (and what on EARTH is the matter with you if you don’t? It’s only been hailed as the best show on television!), House is a medical drama primarily involving a crabby antisocial doctor who bears more than passing resemblance to Sherlock Holmes, both in his brilliance and his drug addiction. Every Tuesday night, Greg House manages to comment on his boss's rack, hit someone with his cane, alienate his only friend (that adorable kid from Dead Poet's Society, all grown up), insult his partners, irreversibly offend his patients, play his Gameboy obsessively, and, somewhere in there, to diagnose and cure a mysterious (and sometimes heretofore unknown) illness that had the rest of the hospital staff totally stymied.

I suspected the obsession during last night's episode, which probably was not but definitely should have been titled (á la Friends) "The One Where House Has To Decide Whether Or Not To Make Out With Sexy Blonde Jailbait." If you'll indulge me, I'll give you insight into my entire thought process during said episode:

On Screen: (House blustering around, comparing autistic child to monkey, making sheep’s-eyes at Jailbait, commenting on Dr. Cuddy's low-cut top, etc., etc.)

Me: Wow. That Dr. House is pretty. Love him. Lots. Wonder if I could get a walk-on role on the show and hide myself in his trailer. He's only 8 years younger than my mother. Huh. But has two sons. Interesting possibility. Would he be more or less attractive with English accent? Stoppit. Must pay attention to show. (10 minutes pass without another thought.) Wow. That Dr. House is pretty. Love him. Lots. (Etc.)

So, you see, this has become a problem. I have a full month to attempt to conquer my addiction, since evidently baseball playoffs will be taking the place of Fox's primetime lineup until the end of October. Augh!


I think I might barf if...

I hear one more person say, "You have to feel complete in yourself before you can be in a relationship with someone else." Or, the "Christianese" version: "You have to be content in this season of singleness before God will give you a relationship."

Sorry for the break from Total Truth. It just struck me today what an absurd sentiment this really is. I may elaborate more later, if my brain ever recovers from 89 kids at VBS today -- and that includes 29 preschoolers!!


What is Total Truth?

(From a conversation recorded in Nancy Pearcey's book, Total Truth.)
"Your earlier book says Christians are called to redeem entire cultures, not just individuals," a schoolteacher commented, joining me for lunch at a conference where I had just spoken. Then he added thoughtfully, "I'd never heard that before."

The teacher was talking about How Now Shall We Live? and at his words I looked up from my plate in surprise. Was he really saying he'd never even heard the idea of being a redemptive force in every area of culture? He shook his head: "No, I've always thought of salvation strictly in terms of individual souls."
God has given me the grace of attending a church that views its task as transforming culture with the Gospel, so this concept was not foreign to me. But several years ago, it certainly would have been. And even had someone suggested to me that the job of the Church was to transform and redeem culture with the Gospel, I, like many (or dare I say most!) evangelicals today would likely have located that transformative power in political activism. How do we transform American culture? Well, by going to Washington and getting a bill passed, of course!

But have we gotten it backwards? A member of congress once told Pearcey, "I got involved in politics... because I thought that was the fastest way to moral reform. Well, we've won some legislative victories, but we've lost the culture."

If I haven't lost all of you by my long absence, discuss!



world·view (wûrldvy)
n. In both senses also called Weltanschauung.
  1. The overall perspective from which one sees and interprets the world.
  2. A collection of beliefs about life and the universe held by an individual or a group.
[Translation of German Weltanschauung.]

"Christianity is not a series of truths in the plural, but rather truth spelled with a capital "T." Truth about total reality, not just about religious things. Biblical Christianity is Truth concerning total reality -- and the intellectual holding of that truth and then living in light of that Truth."
-- Francis Schaeffer

cul·ture (klchr)

The totality of socially transmitted behavior patterns, arts, beliefs, institutions, and all other products of human work and thought.
    1. These patterns, traits, and products considered as the expression of a particular period, class, community, or population: Edwardian culture; Japanese culture; the culture of poverty.
    2. These patterns, traits, and products considered with respect to a particular category, such as a field, subject, or mode of expression: religious culture in the Middle Ages; musical culture; oral culture.
    3. The predominating attitudes and behavior that characterize the functioning of a group or organization.

re·deem (r-dm)
tr.v. re·deemed, re·deem·ing, re·deems
  1. To recover ownership of by paying a specified sum.
  2. To pay off (a promissory note, for example).
  3. To turn in (coupons, for example) and receive something in exchange.
  4. To fulfill (a pledge, for example).
  5. To convert into cash: redeem stocks.
  6. To set free; rescue or ransom.
  7. To save from a state of sinfulness and its consequences.
  8. To make up for: The low price of the clothes dryer redeems its lack of special features.
  9. To restore the honor, worth, or reputation of: You botched the last job but can redeem yourself on this one.


Coming Soon...

A post about Nancy Pearcey's book Total Truth. I know I'm probably the last person to read it, but in case I'm not, I encourage you to go out and buy it.

There's so much great stuff in it that the problem will be narrowing down what to write about!

Meanwhile, sorry for the long absence from the land of blogs. I've missed you!


A Writer's Challenge

I'm inspired by Bobby's latest post to give all you writers a challenge.

For the next month, write something, anything, EVERY DAY. Write two lines of dialogue you overheard in the grocery store. Write a question and its answer. Write two or ten haikus, one after another. Anything at all. Feel uninspired? Write about how uninspired you are. Some of my most satisfying poems have been about how I don't feel like writing poems. Overwhelmed by impending tests or papers or a deadline? Dash off a few quick lines about how your hands shake when you feel frantic and overwhelmed. ANYTHING.

Why? Here's why:

"To think how to express some passion properly is the only way to be possessed by it, for unformed feelings lack impact, just as unfelt ideas lose weight. So walk around unrewritten, if you like. Live on broken phrases and syllable gristle, telegraphese and film reviews. No one will suspect…until you speak, and your soul falls out of your mouth like a can of corn from the shelf."
-- William Gass

"Make my life a prayer to you
I want to do what you want me to
No empty words and no white lies
No token prayers, no compromise."
--Keith Green

"Whatever you do, do it all for the Glory of God. Do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus. Work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord."
--Paul, 1 Corinthians 10:31, Colossians 3:17, and Colossians 3:23


Nearing the end of Cultivate Beauty Month - Random thoughts in haiku form

clean, clean apartment
at least the bookshelf is clean
books lined up neatly

the Doppler effect
goose honks change pitch past window
high, lower, lower

dust on the keyboard
is it really true that it's
made up of my skin?

I have in my drawer
one-hundred and forty-three
real Hong Kong dollars

in case you wondered,
that much amounts to not quite
twenty of our own

can I help it if
on a prom-queen May evening
I cannot study?

can't write a haiku
about Mere Christiani-
ty, for I'll run out

looking at bookshelves
I guess I once loved pulp, dime-
store, sad, trite novels

I'm very thirsty
I guess that means this is the
penultimate one

dearest friends, near, far --
patient, indulgent of my
poetic whims -- thanks.


Summer Reading List

I've got loads of books on my shelf, and not just school books, but fiction and anthologies from my college days as well as ones I've picked up since. I love books. I love everything about them. I love the smell of new books, and how the spines crackle when they're opened for the first time, and the rustle of thin pages. I've got a friend who will actually have time to read this summer, and I've made her a list of books to borrow, read, and enjoy. So, for the curious, and in honor of Cultivate Beauty month as it draws to a close, I will, Oprah-like, give you my recommended summer reading list, in no particular order:

Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier
Beloved by Toni Morrison
How the Irish Saved Civilization (nonfiction) by Thomas Cahill
Proof (a play) by David Auburn
Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje
The Professor and the Madman (historical fiction, based on real events) by Simon Winchester
The Devil in the White City (another historical fiction) by Erik Larson
Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende
The Awakening by Kate Chopin
House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus III
Chocolat by Joanne Harris
Wit (a play) by Margaret Edson
The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

Had anybody read any of these? What are your favorite books, or some that you've lately read that you loved?


Spurgeon on Missionaries Teaching Christ to the Natives

Hey, all. I took this from Wade Burleson's blog (with permission, bien sur) because I think it reminds us to focus on what's important. This month, I want to remember that nothing is more beautiful or worthy of cultivating than the Gospel. Our focus must be on the Gospel and its power to bring lost, spiritually dead, doomed people to a saving relationship with the Messiah. I hope you all are keeping up with Wade's blog and with Marty Duren as well, and that you are praying that God's peace will reign in the hearts of every believer caught up in the dispute, and that the Enemy's schemes for division would be utterly thwarted in the face of a renewed commitment to the Gospel. That, brothers and sisters, would be a beautiful thing.

Let Spurgeon teach us from across the years:

I do not know whether all our missionaries have caught the idea of Christ “Go ye and teach all nations,” but many of them have, and these have been honored with many conversions.

The more fully they have been simple teachers, not philosophers of the Western philosophy, not eager disputants concerning some English dogma, I say the more plainly they have gone forth as teachers sent from God to teach the world, the more successful have they been.

“Go ye, therefore, and teach.” Some may think, perhaps, there is less difficulty in teaching the learned than in teaching the uncivilized and barbarous. There is the same duty to the one as to the other: “Go and teach.”

“But they brandish the tomahawk.” Teach them, and lie down and sleep in their hut, and they shall marvel at your fearlessness and spare your life.

“But they feed on the blood of their fellows, they make a bloody feast about the cauldron in which a man’s body is the horrible viand.” Teach them and they shall empty their war-kettle, and they shall bury their swords, and bow before you, and acknowledge King Jesus.

“But they are brutalised, they have scarce a language — a few clicking sounds make up all that they can say.” Teach them, and they shall speak the language of Canaan, and sing the songs of heaven.

The fact has been proved, brethren, that there are no nations incapable of being taught, nay, that there are no nations incapable afterwards of teaching others. The Negro slave has perished under the lash, rather than dishonor his Master.

The Esquimaux has climbed his barren steeps, and borne his toil, while he has recollected the burden which Jesus bore. The Hindoo has patiently submitted to the loss of all things, because he loved Christ better than all. Feeble Malagasay women have been prepared to suffer and to die, and have taken joyfully suffering for Christ’s sake. There has been heroism in every land for Christ; men of every color and of every race have died for him; upon his altar has been found the blood of all kindreds that be upon the face of the earth.

Oh! tell me not they cannot be taught. Sirs, they can be taught to die for Christ; and this is more than some of you have learned. They can rehearse the very highest lesson of the Christian religion — that self sacrifice which knows not itself but gives up all for him.

At this day there are Karen missionaries preaching among the Karens with as fervid an eloquence as ever was known by Whitfield, there are Chinese teaching in Borneo, Sumatra, and Australia, with as much earnestness as Morison or Milne first taught in China. There are Hindoo evangelists who are not ashamed to have given up the Brahminical thread, and to eat with the Pariah, and to preach with him the riches of Christ. There have been men found of every class and kind, not only able to be taught, but able to become teachers themselves, and the most mighty teachers too, of the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Well was that command warranted by future facts, when Christ said, “Go ye, teach all nations.”

Excerpt from "NO. 383
APRIL 21ST, 1861,

A sermon preached by Charles Haddon Spurgeon 145 years ago today.


From "Long Ago In Oregon"

by Claudia Lewis

The Nelsons


In the early mornings
Mr. Nelson passed our house
on his walk,
in his neat dark suit
and coat, open and
flying a bit;
white hair,
stepping along
swinging umbrella for a cane.
When Mr. Nelson walked,
he walked,
enjoying the air
and the morning

Everyone knew
his big store
was the best in town
Always at Christmas
a Santa there
had gifts for children

When I was very small
we lived close by
Mrs. Nelson, plump and cozy
like a grandma,
would invite us in on days
when she made marshmallows.
Marshmallows! Not like
the puffs we bought in boxes
but trembling, glistening white,
arranged in fragile pieces
on a tray.

And her grown-up boys
and girls would play with us,
swing and toss us
in the yard
all around the snowball tree.

Far in the back of my mind
as time passed
I remembered once in a while--
almost not at all--
that the Nelsons were Catholics.
Mother had told us
any church in town
was all right for us--
except the Catholic.
"Why not the Catholic?"
"...Well, in that church
they worship images."

What did this have to do
with the snowball tree
with cozy marshmallow grandma,
and the jaunty man--
the gentleman--
who walked in the morning?

I never even tried
to fit these pieces together.

One day I realized
I hadn't seen him lately,
passing by.
"Mother, where is Mr. Nelson?"

"Oh, I meant to tell you.
We won't see him anymore--
He was old, very old,
...He has died..."

(Meant to tell me?
I don't think you did.)

I glimpse a great darkness
in spite of angels.

I've heard snatches
of sad talk.
Now I know--

is Mr. Nelson
striding along
in the morning
toward something black and far
in the night.


Cultivate Beauty

In honor of Kill Your TV / Cultivate Beauty / National Poetry Month, I'll be posting some original poems (eek!) and some by my favorite poets throughout the month. To start things off right, settle into a metaphysical mindset (or mind/bodyset) and enjoy this delectable offering from one of my favorite poets, Li-Young Lee, an Indonesian-born Chinese-American poet. His writing is so gorgeous that it hurts my brain. Enjoy.

A Story

Sad is the man who is asked for a story
and can't come up with one.

His five-year-old son waits in his lap.
Not the same story, Baba. A new one.
The man rubs his chin, scratches his ear.

In a room full of books in a world
of stories, he can recall
not one, and soon, he thinks, the boy
will give up on his father.

Already the man lives far ahead, he sees
the day this boy will go. Don't go!
Hear the alligator story! The angel story once more!
You love the spider story. You laugh at the spider.
Let me tell it!

But the boy is packing his shirts,
he is looking for his keys. Are you a god,
the man screams, that I sit mute before you?
Am I a god that I should never disappoint?

But the boy is here. Please, Baba, a story?
It is an emotional rather than logical equation,
an earthly rather than heavenly one,
which posits that a boy's supplications
and a father's love add up to silence.

-- Li-Young Lee


March Madness, Indeed!

My friend Miss Swartz (huh, that's a character from Vanity Fair, too) and I have been planning on a March Madness party since the beginning of February, so I took a planned hiatus from the hiatus tonight while a bunch of us gathered at her casa to hang out and eat chips and lament the sad state of offensive rebounding in the NCAA and yell at that idiot Texas player who went for five 3-pointers (easy, kids, I'm talkin' basketball, not theology) in overtime even though he hadn't hit a single one in the whole stinking game.

And did you see that commercial they kept playing over and over? It looks like a beer commercial to begin with because it's a scantily dressed woman gyrating in a club, but then it turns out to be for Old Spice!?!? What!? It wasn't just that commercial, it was EVERY commercial. Going without TV for a few weeks makes every sexually-driven ad all that much more scandalous to me! I know I already live in a Bible Bubble, going to seminary and hanging outHere's what shocked me. Did y'all see that stupid Old Spice deodorant commercial they kept with my friends from church and stuff, but living in virtual media starvation even amps up the isolation. And I don't mean that in a bad way -- I mean, why do we (I, I mean) feel like we (I) need to be desensitized to this whole sex-sells, consumer-driven, godless culture? I know I never batted an eye about trashy commercials or skimpy outfits before I started doing this... I guess one more reason to thank God for Lent, right?

It reminds me of something a homeschooling proponent said: "People always ask me about socialization. And I say, look at our society! Do you really want your kids to be socialized into THAT?"

On a lighter (though not on the caloric side) note, I went for the first time into the (new) Homemade Ice Cream and Pie Kitchen today, a place with a cumbersome name and a heavenly purpose: to provide absolute, childlike joy and bliss to customers of all ages, in the form of toothsome sweets of every possible variety. As Lindie said tonight, "I tried to die." A 20-foot-long case full of creative homemade ice cream flavors and no less than 25 kinds of pie, plus county-fair-blue-ribbon-prize-deserving cake, and positively enormous cookies. Good heavens. I was grinning so much that I thought my teeth were going to fall out of my head, and that was BEFORE I sunk said teeth into a slice of coconut cream pie. Divine. The prices are reasonable, too. I fear that I may have to resign myself to a career in a sideshow now that I've found the place -- come one, come all, see the fat lady who'll eat any kind of pie you put in front of her! I do love pie. And they have sweet potato, and banana cream, and pecan, and 4 kinds of apple, and, and, and... oh, heaven.

Do you think there'll be pie in the resurrection?


Why I'm Such a Cry-Baby

Many of my friends, and anyone in my family, can attest to the fact that I am a cry-baby. I prefer to say that my heart is easily touched, because it sounds better, but the truth is, it's not hard to make me cry. In fact, all you really have to do to make me cry is talk about "the Nations," and I'm a goner. So the reading I've been doing for school has been pretty rough on me the last week or so. First, I've been reading a book for Missiology called Perspectives on the World Christian Movement. It sounds pretty dry, and some of the readings are, but others are so full of passion and tenderness for the lost people of the world that I can't help being moved. Second, I just finished a Faithful Witness: the Life and Mission of William Carey. Carey is the father of Baptist Missions, and the story of his struggle and success in India should be known to every believer. Third, I'm in the middle of reading Let the Nations Be Glad! by John Piper, which every believer really must read. The section on suffering... it was crushing. Let me give you an example of one true story that broke my heart.

An African man named Joseph heard the Gospel on a dusty road one day, and was so filled with joy and excitement that he couldn't wait to share his newfound Savior with his own village. When he did, he was shocked to discover that they did not share his excitement; in fact, the men of the village held him down while the women beat him with barbed wire, then dragged him out into the bush to die. Somehow he survived, and days later came back to the village and pleaded with his kinsmen to come to the crucified and risen Christ. Again they beat him, and left him for dead. By a miracle of God, he survived this beating too, and after lying unconscious for several days, came again to the village to share this message of Christ's forgiveness. The women beat him a third time, but, as he was losing consciousness, he saw the women beginning to weep. The next time he awoke, the same women were around his own bed, tending his terrible wounds and nursing him back to health. The entire village had come to Christ.

This is just one story in a series from the chapter on suffering. How small my own faith is! How little is my own trust in the sovereignty of God! How unwillingly I give up even the smallest convenience for the sake of the Gospel! How fearfully I approach evangelism, even when I know that my life and health are safe no matter how bold I might be!

I spent a lot of time crying as I read through that chapter, as I cried out to God for a faith so bold that pain would be a joy when compared to silence. And if that means I'm a cry-baby, I guess I'll take the title!


Isaiah 58: 6-12

Since I've been thinking about Lent, which has historically been a time of fasting, I thought it was interesting that God worked it out so this passage would be part of my Scripture reading time this morning.

Is this not the fast which I choose, to loosen the bonds of wickedness, to undo the bands of the yoke, and to let the oppressed go free, and break every yoke? Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into the house; when you see the naked, to cover him? ... Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, Here I am. If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail. And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to dwell in.


Stepping out of the loop

My television gets two channels. I thought I was doing pretty well to cancel my expensive subscription to Dish Network and put giant rabbit ears (or as 7-year-old Ben calls them, "antenners") on top of my tv. But I still have DVDs numbering in the dozens, some of which, I'm a bit embarrassed to say, I've seen 20 times. This is a stewardship issue.

I get anxious when my apartment is quiet. Partly it's a coping mechanism, because having a fan running or music playing blocks out, at least in part, the madness that is my downstairs neighbor's stereo. But partly I've trained myself to have ADHD. I struggle to sit still long enough to finish 5 or 6 chapters of my daily Bible reading. I listen to music and watch tv and cook supper and clean my apartment all at the same time, bouncing from one half-finished project to the next. This is a discipline issue.

I check my email obsessively, and have a list of blogs I visit daily. I read news, opinion, and gossip on MSN, Slate, MSNBC, and a host of other sites. I surf for all sorts of information, ranging from airline ticket prices to financial advice to the current situation in India. I play Spider Solitaire every day. This is both a stewardship and a discipline issue.

I'm behind on my school work. I haven't kept up with the reading assignments for a single class, though I've begun them all. Luckily enough for me, the class in which I have to turn in reading reports required a book that sold out in the bookstore, so I got a temporary reprieve from my professor. This is also both a stewardship and a discipline issue.

I overspend every month. My parents have been very kind to me, recognizing that there's only so much a person can do with ten dollars left over after I pay my rent, but I struggle to say no to little purchases: five dollars here, three dollars there, a movie rental, a new candle, gourmet something or other. I plan my finances poorly. Now that I've gotten a new job (Praise God!), I should actually have enough money to make ends meet every month, but only just. My new budget does not include little splurges that I justify, since they're only a few dollars. This is also a stewardship and a discipline issue.

So why have I confessed all this on my blog, publishing my sins in the areas of stewardship and discipline for all to see?

Well, it's because I want you all to know that, in keeping with the tradition of Christians for centuries, I'm taking Lent, which begins on March 1st this year, as an opportunity to step out of the loop. I'm replacing entertainment and aimlessness with edification and focus. So, to accomplish that, tv is out. So are movies. So are internet and computer, with the exception of things related to school and family, and an accountability update on this blog. They'll be replaced with books, first Scripture, then textbooks, and then literature. Good stewardship and discipline will be the goal, with God's help.

I have to admit that the idea of giving up tv and movies sends a little wave of terror through me, but it's that very chill of fear that makes this venture all the more necessary.

So here we go, kids. Beginning Wednesday I'll post an update regularly.

Join me, or pray for me, or both.

Forty days of being out of the loop. What do you think might happen?


Gerard Manley Hopkins

God's Grandeur

THE WORLD is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.



Over my computer is a poster, a map of the world with certain countries highlighted to indicate "Hostile Areas" and "Restricted Nations." It's only a map, a piece of paper with some photos and outlines and letters on it, but it represents hundreds of thousands of believers whose daily lives involve facing torture, imprisonment, and death because they bear the name of Christ.



Chiapas, Mexico






Mindanao, Philippines

North Korea




Sri Lanka
Saudi Arabia


United Arab Emirates




The Blood of the Martyrs is the Seed...

"The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church." -- Tertullian

I will write more on this topic later, but for now, pray. I was shaken and sickened as I read through the latest issue of "Voice of the Martyrs" magazine, which came today. Well, I'm sure you know how I feel if you've ever taken the time to find out the situations of believers around the world . . . beaten, tortured, raped, jailed, kidnapped, killed.

Pray. Pray for me as I wait for God's next instruction. Pray for yourself that you might be driven to as strong a sense of urgency about spreading the priceless treasure of the Gospel as our persecuted brothers and sisters. Pray for God's church in the West, that it might be shaken out of its sleep and selfish complacency. And most of all, pray that the blood of the martyrs will not have been spilled in vain, that the Gospel will go out with even more power than ever before as the Enemy tries to rein it in with terror and anguish.

". . . and you are holding on to My name and did not deny your faith in Me. . ."


Ramblings on Marriage

Two things happened in the last couple of weeks that motivated this post. First, I was awakened at 9:35 last Sunday morning by my cell phone playing the little salsa tune that means Nikki is calling me (personalized rings -- where would my life be without them?). She recently got married, so of course just before we got off the phone, she (being in the throes of newlywed bliss) made an adorable comment about her "hot pastor husband." Aww... It's so great to listen to her talk about him.

The second thing wasn't nearly as delightful. I went to the grocery store the same morning (my church meets at night, people!) to pick up a few things, and as I was standing in the aisle comparing B-complex vitamin prices, I overheard something that made me want to cry and pull my hair out at the same time. In fact, if I pulled my hair out, I'm sure I would cry. Moving on.

A middle aged couple couple was standing in the pharmacy section of Kroger. I probably wouldn't even have noticed them had the woman not begun lecturing her husband loudly and angrily, even going so far as to shake her finger at him! Her eyes were narrowed, her voice pinched and full of disgust, and her body language screamed her distaste for this man. To his credit, he answered her quietly, offering his help. But I could hear the sorrow and fear in his voice. I can only imagine his thoughts -- then again, maybe I don't really want to! Was he thinking back on the woman he fell in love with, wondering where she had gone? Was he calculating how many days it would be before she spoke kindly to him again?

Now, lest you think I'm too quick to judge, let me say that it was probably nothing. For all I know, she just got fired from her job, and suffers from insomnia, and is taking a new medication that makes her irritable. For all I know, this was the first time they've ever fought like that, and she went home and tearfully apologized to her husband, promising never to treat him so abominably again.

But all I could think was, what a contrast! Talking to Nikki, whose genuine respect and admiration for her husband is so apparent, was a testament to the grace of God. I have been so fortunate to be able to listen to her talk about him and hear how deeply she wants to serve, support, and honor him. In every pre-marital disagreement (and they were few and minor), Nikki always expressed her desire to submit to JD and to follow his godly leadership. I can only imagine her horror at the idea of scolding and chastising her husband like a child -- much less in public! Such a thought goes against every godly impulse of a covenant wife, and flies in the face of God's plan for marriage.

And yet so many single Christians are setting themselves up for a relationship just like the grocery store couple's! Single Christian men refuse to become true men of godly boldness and pure character that will let them fulfill their God-given responsibility to someday be the head of a home. Rather than cultivating maturity and leadership, they settle for being "modern men," surrounding themselves with girl friends and believing that being modern means giving her the lead -- nice, supportive, benign boys who will wonder someday why they never made a difference for the Kingdom. Or they live for self, misleading young women with their flirtatiousness, and seeking to satisfy their own pleasures -- boys whose god is their appetite for skin, which must be satisfied.

And single Christian women -- this is a demographic I'm pretty familiar with -- reject the freedom in the path God has made for us and believe the lie of the world that says we have to take the lead, do all the work, make up for the "stupidity" of men! We become the pursuers, lapping up magazine articles that tell us how to perfect the techniques of seduction and manipulation to ensnare men. We buy into the world's pattern for marriage: smart, cute woman marries big dumb animal of a man (who is probably also lazy, clueless, sex-obsessed, and generally a total caveman), henpecks and browbeats him into silent submission, and he whines slightly, making monosyllabic excuses for his idiotic behavior, as he hands over his credit card to the goddess of the house. (See "King of Queens," "According to Jim," "Everybody Loves Raymond," etc., for examples of this pattern.) The only difference in the minds of many Christian girls is that they'll also go to church on Sundays, by golly, even if she has to drag his sorry behind out of bed every week!

I don't want to be the woman who scolds her husband in the aisle of Kroger. I don't want to marry a man who refuses to take the lead. I want to become the kind of woman who someday will admire her husband's godly character, respect his God-given position of leadership, and work hard to support and honor him in everything. And I want to encourage my single brothers in Christ to become the kind of men that God wants them to be, so that someday they can lead their wives and families with boldness and fervor.

So there you have it. I've jumped on the bandwagon and put in my two cents about that blissful state into which Paul encouraged single folks not to venture. And that's all I have to say.


Praying for Revival

Right now what is on my heart is revival.

I'm exhausted with the politics, and controversy, and maneuvering, and compromise, and fear of change, and factionalism, and apathy, and misdirected zeal that all seem at one time or another to characterize the American church. For pretty good examples of some of these things, check out Wade Burleson's blog or Marty Duren's website for the rundown on the tragically divisive and ungodly controversy swirling in the IMB.

It all makes me wonder.

What if -- what if every Christian leader -- hey, I'd settle for every leader in the SBC -- would stop lobbying for public opinion, stop seeking political gain, stop trying to toe the line of typical Christian (or Southern Baptist) ideology, and started focusing on Scripture and training believers and preaching the Gospel? What would happen if the Holy Spirit moved in a new and unexpected way and pastors all over the nation began to get serious about confronting people with the cross of Christ and all that His bloody death entails for those He bought? What if churches got smaller and more plentiful, and we re-examined every way we "do church," rejecting everything that gets in the way of the Gospel, without the fear that usually accompanies doing things differently?

How would our communities of faith look different if we quit thinking that every minister of the Gospel has to be a married, teetotaling, suit-wearing, clean-shaven, good-ol'-boy, cessationist, five-point, thirty-plus, Christian-lingo-using, glad-handing denominational yes-man? If we stopped leaving Gospel tracts instead of tips and started telling our neighbors about Christ? If we retired our "God hates fags" signs and our "Baby killers" banners and made the truth of Scripture be our only weapon and our first defense against sin? If we stopped letting truth and freedom be shut down in fear in our denominations, churches, and seminaries? If we got so focused on the fame of Christ that we forgot what it was like to let our petty, sinful squabbles escalate into huge rifts and walk-outs?

I think I'm going to go spend some time praying. I'm going to ask God for revival in the SBC, among Baptist churches, and in the American church. Please, I would ask you to do the same.


Loved Until Threadbare

Just for fun, here are a few pictures of my favorite stuffed animal from my childhood, including a couple of attempted self portraits (she's not a very good photographer), and a couple that I was trying to take of myself that she just kept jumping into. She got a major time out for that one. She is 21 years old (legal! Whoop, whoop!) and her name is Snuggles D. Bear. She's a little threadbare from going everywhere with me clear through junior high. That stylin' sweater she is sporting is from Noah's Ark in Estes Park, Colorado, which is actually an Ark, and is full of teddy bears and accessories. Some family friends bought it for Snuggles when we stayed with them one weekend while mom and dad were at a conference. She's been a part of my life forever! As such, of course, she has some pretty cool experiences under her little teddy bear belt.

For instance, at the Denver Zoo, there is a cool underwater viewing area for the polar bear habitat, so you go down underneath the walkways and can watch the polar bears swim around and play. Once when I was a kid, my family took a trip to the zoo, and of course I brought Snuggles along. I thought she would enjoy the polar bears, since she's related to them, and so we went to take a look. I stood up on the cement frame of the window and put Snuggles's nose up against the glass. Well, wouldn't you know it, a HUGE male polar bear saw her and got curious, and came over to look. He pressed his nose right on the other side of the glass from hers, and wouldn't break contact. I moved her to the right, and he followed, treading water with his enormous, furry paws. I moved her around in circles, traced designs with her nose, ran from side to side, and he kept right up, with his nose on the glass the entire time. By this point a crowd had begun to gather. My parents decided it was time to move along, so they nudged me toward the ramp. I reluctantly pulled Snuggles away from the glass, and the polar bear... well, he was Not Pleased. At first, he didn't move, but when I put Snuggles behind my back and began to walk away, he reared back, swimming 5 or 6 feet from the glass, and then flew towards me, slamming full-force into the pane with his black claws, mouth open wide in an underwater roar. Needless to say, I ran the rest of the way out.


What Makes A Christian? Part 3

Well, everyone, I'm finally back from the Thanksgiving- finals- packing- travel- home- Christmas- shopping- New Years- travel- wedding- travel insanity that has been my last few weeks. Yowza! The wedding part was amazing... my dear friend Nikki got married Saturday, and the wedding was so wonderful, undoubtedly the best I've ever attended, much less been a part of. The whole atmosphere was so worshipful and Christ-focused, but celebratory as well -- Nikki was actually bouncing with excitement for part of the ceremony. And it really got me thinking about the church. Why, you ask? Lemme 'splain. No. There is too much. Lemme sum up:

Last Fall, a speaker here on campus said something that really stuck with me. He said that it's impossible to love Christ truly but hate His body -- in other words, there's reason to question the commitment of folks who call themselves Christians and say that they love the Lord but refuse to incorporate themselves into the Church. After all, Christ's purpose was to redeem a people for Himself, not to sell fire insurance to a bunch of tunnel-visioned isolationists!

Ephesians 5:22-32 (The first scripture read at Nikki and JD's wedding) says,
"Wives, submit to your own husbands as to the Lord, for the husband is head of the wife as also Christ is head of the church. He is the Savior of the body. Now as the church submits to Christ, so wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as also Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her, to make her holy, cleansing her in the washing of water by the word. He did this to present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but holy and blameless. In the same way, husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hates his own flesh, but provides and cares for it, just as Christ does for the church, since we are members of His body. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This mystery is profound, but I am talking about Christ and the Church."

See what I mean? Paul is writing to instruct the believers in Ephesus about relationships between husbands and wives, and he finishes by saying that he is talking about Christ and the Church! As Dr. Russell Moore has said, Paul wasn't searching for a metaphor for marriage: "Hmm, let's see. The relationship between a husband and his wife is like... The sun and the moon? No... The Earth and the sky? No... I've got it! Christ and the Church!" What this passage tells us is that God created marriage itself to display the relationship between Christ and the Church!

Now the implications for marriage are heavy-duty enough to merit another post (hm, percolating that one), but what about the implications for those of us who call ourselves by Christ's name? When God accomplished the work of salvation in my heart, I became incorporated into Christ; I became a member of His body, the Church -- His bride! Christ is my husband -- but not just mine, as if Christianity were an individual, private thing. Christ is my husband because I am a part of His Church!

Let's look at it like this: my friend Nikki got married on Saturday. She fell in love, and that love blossomed into a desire to know JD more, and then to make a commitment -- soberly and advisedly, but with joy and fervor as well. When she made her vows, she promised to be subject to her husband, and to devote herself entirely to him. To show that she is now under her husband's authority, she gave up her maiden name and took his name as her own. See any parallels to how our lives as a Church are meant to be? Our love for our Savior should motivate us to commit deeply to Him, seeking to know Him more, and to strive for more commitment to Him, both soberly and joyfully. We should devote ourselves as a Body to Christ, and be subject to His leading. We should give up the authority (the "name") of our sinful nature, and take on the authority (the "name") of our Anointed King.

So to tie this all together, both with the subject of the post and the subject of the blog, I'd like to ask you all a question: when was the last time you had a conversation with your Husband about submitting to His authority and joyfully serving Him? When did you last seek direction from your Groom about how to deepen your intimacy and commitment?

I'll close with a couple of verses from a great hymn, one that we sang at Nikki and JD's wedding, The Church's One Foundation:

The Church's one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord
She is His new creation by Spirit and the Word
From Heaven He came and sought her to be His holy Bride
With His own blood He bought her and for her life He died

Elect from every nation, yet one over all the Earth
Her charter of salvation: One Lord, one faith, one birth
One holy Name she blesses, partakes one holy food
And to one hope she presses with every grace endued

Though with a scornful wonder we see her sore oppressed,
By schisms rent asunder, by heresies distressed,
Yet saints their watch are keeping; their cry goes up, "How long?"
And soon the night of weeping shall be the morn of song.

Amid toil and tribulation and tumult of her war
She waits the consummation of peace forevermore
Till with the vision glorious her longing eyes are blest
And the great Church victorious shall be the church at rest

Yet she on earth hath union with God the Three in One,
And mystic sweet communion with those whose rest is won.
O happy ones and holy! Lord, give us grace that we
Like them, the meek and lowly, on high may dwell with thee.