12.18.2007

DAAAAAANG!!

OK, seriously, seriously, people. RUN, do not walk, over to Pulpit-Pimps.org right now. Melvin Jones, site-owner, former Word of Faith/Prosperity church member and, from what I can tell, all-around incisive theological black-belt, is mad as Hell and he is really, no for rilz, not gonna take it anymore. His excellent site is dedicated to exposing the heinous lies, distortions, and perversions of the Gospel that characterize the "ministries" of Word of Faith preachers. Get your heinies over there and read up. You'll learn, you'll mourn, you'll be amazed. Lord willing, you'll repent and be strengthened in the Gospel. You will definitely be motivated and equipped to kick some righteous tail (metaphorically speaking) the next time somebody suggests that Creflo Dollar and Benny Hinn are ok dudes.

Just a note: those with no sense of humor or appreciation for satire will probably find it offensive. But send the link to your TBN-watchin' friends anyway. ;)

Look, I gotta include an excerpt from a comments thread. Just imagine. If the comments are this salient, this on point, this compelling, what must the posts themselves be?

Christians in the Sudan are getting tortured and killed by Muslims in the 100s of thousands. Christians in China are forced to go underground because of the tyrannical government. Christian persecution is very alive and well in the world. My question is where is their dominion? Why does the Pastor in the underground Chinese Church only have tattered clothes and MAYBE a complete bible seeing that most are confiscated?

When the Sudanese Christian cries out to the Lord Jesus while his head is getting severed by a Muslim why doesn’t God give him a way out?

Why are Churches NOT speaking out against Homosexuality, abortion, murder, and drug use. Why are the Churches NOT teaching fear of the Lord, repentance of sin, crucifying the flesh, and giving to less fortunate Christians? How many Sudanese Christians could have been sponsored and allowed to come to America with the 10s of millions of dollars spent on the mega churches?

How many Bibles could have been made and sent to China for 10 million dollars instead of the purchase of a new plane? How many Christian mouths could have been fed with the Bentley Paula White purchased for TD Jakes? How many people in American churches may actually sincerely repent if they heard the word of God rather than a feel good whooping and hollering dance session.

When was the last time people left a Church and left with tears of conviction of their sins? When was the last time you felt the awe of such a righteous God in light of your sinful flesh? What are the young in Churches today doing on the weekends? Answer: Living just like the world.

When was the last time a preacher said NO! to sinful behavior and YES! to living a righteous life? When was the last time you taught God was God versus YOU are a little God (Blasphemy)? When was the last time a preacher said that worldly possessions are idols and that these idols of Big homes, cars, planes, and fine suits will one day vanish. When will a Preacher speak up against this vanity which will rot and decay just like our mortal bodies will some day. When?

Well, what are you waiting for? Get over there!!

12.12.2007

Daggonit!!

If you don't already know, Sojourn is dually affiliated with Acts 29, Mark Driscoll's outstanding church planting network, and the Kentucky (Southern) Baptist Convention. We've been extremely blessed in our cooperation with the KBC, who have supported us without reservation with finances and countless other intangible resources. Both Mike and Daniel, our longest-standing elders, have nothing but glowing praise to say about the support the KBC has given us. They've attached no strings to the Cooperative Program money we've received, despite the fact that we've done some pretty, um... let's say "unconventional" things over the years.

Our brethren in Missouri, as of today, can say quite the opposite.

Apparently, this week, the Missouri Baptist Convention's executive board passed the following motion:

MOTION:

Effective Jan 1, The Acts 29 Network is an organization which the MBC Exec Bd. Staff will not be working with, supporting, or endorsing in any manner at anytime.

Amendment:
While recognizing the autonomous nature of all areas of MBC life beyond that of the Executive Board Staff, the MBC Executive Board directs the Church Planting Department and other ministry departments to NOT provide CP dollars toward those affiliated with the Acts 29 Network.

Motion as amended passed by a vote of 28-10


Good grief, y'all. Seriously. What have we come to as believers when we shun the partnership in the Gospel that we have with careful, theologically-minded, passionate church planting organizations like Acts 29?

Honestly, I'm pretty fired up about this. For the love of God, are there not even pragmatists enough in the ranks of the Executive Board to see the folly of cutting off partnership with one of the most successful church planting groups in the nation? According to NAMB statistics, fewer than 70% of NAMB church plants are still around four years later. Compare that with A29's record: only one church of its hundreds of plants does not exist today, and only because it merged with another regional A29 plant.

There's been some suggestion that MBC churches who disagree with this resolution ought to pull their CP dollars and fund dually-aligned A29/MBC plants directly. I consider this the wisest course of action, since it kills two birds with one stone. Obviously, the primary concern is funding the preaching of the Gospel, which is certainly taking place in A29 churches! But the ripple effect of direct, inter-church support is that it sends a loud message to the MBC: we don't like what you're doing, and you didn't give us a chance to let our voices be heard, so we're voting with our wallets.

One blogger today prayed that the Lord wouldn't remove his hand from the MBC because of their refusal to partner with other believers in the work of the Gospel. I pray the same.

(HT: Timmy Brister, Tom Ascol)

12.11.2007

Yet Another Reason to Love Bob Kauflin

Most of us young reformed types are pretty familiar with Bob Kauflin, one of the worship leaders at Covenant Life Church, who now also heads up Worship Development for all the Sovereign Grace Churches. He's written a lot of helpful and insightful material over the years. Check out this snippet from a recent article on his website (ht:PureChurch), based on the command in Scripture to sing Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs to one another:

Practices that Hinder Horizontal Awareness in Worship

Over the years, most of us have developed a few practices that can hinder any benefit we might receive from addressing one another as we sing.

1. Singing songs that lack biblical substance or doctrinal depth. If the songs we’re singing are primarily subjective, and focused on how we feel, what we’re doing, or some other subjective element, we’re not going to have much to say to each other.

2. Thinking that “worship” means closing my eyes, raising my hands, and blocking out everyone else around me. I’ve had many profound moments like that, as I’ve focused in an undistracted way on the words I’m singing and the Savior I’m singing to. But being Spirit-filled should actually make us more aware of others, not less. Many of the songs we sing aren’t even directed towards God. Crown Him with Many Crowns, Before the Throne of God Above, and Amazing Grace, are a few that come to mind. So when I lead I probably have my eyes open more than half the time. I’m looking around, addressing others, celebrating the fact that we can glory in Jesus Christ together. I do that even when I’m not leading, sometimes turning to someone beside me to rejoice in God’s grace. I want to benefit from the fact that I’m with the people of God.

3. Singing alone. Obviously, there’s nothing wrong with praising God on my own. But in the age of iPods, earphones, and Internet downloads, it’s easy to lose our appreciation for singing with the church. The Spirit intends us to join our hearts to each other as well as to Christ when we sing.

After I preached the message this past Sunday, I wanted to apply the message in a memorable way. So I had everyone stand up and told them we were going to sing Amazing Grace a cappella. Only I didn’t want anyone closing their eyes. I wanted people to look around the room as they sang, rejoicing at God’s mercy in each other’s lives. It was a little awkward at first, but eventually we were singing with all our hearts, unashamedly “addressing one another” in song, reminding ourselves of how amazing God’s grace truly is, to save wretches like us.

12.10.2007

Why Why Why

...do I have the greatest friends in the universe?

Listen, let him who boasts boast in the Lord, and I'm fixin' to -- the Lord is so gracious, so generous, so merciful, to give me friends like my friends. I just don't deserve them. He provided everything I need in Christ! He wasn't obligated to provide me with a loving family. He reached down into darkness and saved me from the death I deserved for my sin. He didn't have to bless me beyond measure with people who love me despite my flaws.

Sometimes my heart just wants to explode. I was praying with one of my friends tonight and started to cry thinking about the joy we look forward to -- the joy of being in unbroken fellowship with our brothers and sisters, working together in the presence of God when our Savior returns to make all things new. Imagine! Relationships unmarred by sin! Love perfectly reflecting the Father's love for his bride! Oh Lord, speed that day!

12.05.2007

The Sum of Their Parts

Wow. Wow. This op-ed in The Australian is so insightful that it gave me chills (ht:Craig). Check it out:

Too many girls are trying to imitate half-starved celebrities and airbrushed models in a quest to be hot and sexy. We have allowed the objectification and sexualisation of girls in a culture that is becoming increasingly pornographic. The embedding of sexualised images of women in society has become so mainstream, it is hardly noticed. Everywhere a girl looks, she sees sexualised images of her gender. She's expected to be a walking billboard for the brands of the global sex industry.


But while redolent of truth about sin working itself out on our young women growing up in an over-sexualized culture, the article turns to the wrong place for its solution. The author suggests:

Positive body image programs in schools should be mandatory, teaching media literacy skills that help young people recognise damaging messages from popular culture.


Unfortunately, no school program could ever hope to address the underlying issue of sinful hearts. We live in a world so fallen that our very culture is an emissary of darkness, and our only hope of restoration comes on the whip-torn back of a bruised and bloody Savior, the God-Man who stood in our place, dying to purchase his bride and rising to conquer sin.

When our Warrior-King returns to set His world right, there will be no need for "body image programs" or campaigns against Botox and crash dieting. Come, Lord Jesus, and restore your perfect Bride!

EDIT: Here's a link to a video entitled "Evolution" that shows in a pretty fascinating way the deceptive nature of the "beauty industry."

12.04.2007

The End of a Good/Weird, Weird/Good Day

It's official. As of 9:04 pm, I am 26 years old.

Today was both good and strange. I went to work this morning, where we had a productive (if long) meeting, our monthly "strategic planning" time. The minutes we spent in prayer were especially sweet. It feels like we haven't been together as a staff for months -- and, indeed, we were missing someone today, John Dostal, whose pregnant wife just got out of the hospital where she had spent a few days being treated for pneumonia!! (Which reminds me of Dr. House: "I know we have a word for that... what is it? Moo-nonia? Noo-mania?")

Millie was decorating the office when we finished the meeting, so I busted out the Christmas Cocktails CD, which is the BEST for decorating. Peggy Lee! Dean Martin! Nat King Cole! That "Man With the Bag" song from that Macy's ad two years ago! How can you not feel festive when that stuff's playing? I helped Millie for two minutes but couldn't take too long a break... no complaints, though; I really enjoy it when the office is bustling, the phone is ringing, and I'm busy with projects.

Most everybody wished me happy birthday, which was super nice. It's also Mike and Sarah Cospers 8th (can you believe it? They're my age) anniversary today, and I also almost had an excitement-induced stroke thinking about little D's first Christmas. She's so precious... The folks who stuck around after 3:30 or so stood in the main office and sang to me. It was great.

At the end of the work-day, Jenn, my sweet sister-in-law whom I love SO much I can hardly stand it, called me up, and she and the kiddos sang happy birthday to me over the phone, with Jacob in his sweet little boy soprano in perfect pitch, and Jenn singing wildly off-key at the end to be silly... And then I had the most delightful little conversation with Jacob. He really is getting so big. I can't believe he's five and a half already! I'm so blessed to have such a wonderful family -- Lord, may I never take them for granted!

Anne and Angela took me out to dinner at Ramsi's, where we had good food and good wine and a really lovely chat. It's nice to spend time with the girls, just the three of us. The funniest part was picking up my phone after dinner and finding that I had five voicemails! Angela said I'm the most popular girl she knows. Eat that, Stacie Plank from elementary school! ;)

After we had spent a few minutes wandering around the fairly posh "Old Town Liquors" (on your old street, Sarah!!) looking for a nice gift for Angela's supervisor at Whole Foods, we came home, and I went over to Scott and Carrie's... now, let me tell you, that was a bad birthday present. They decided all of a sudden that they were going to move back to Arkansas at the friggin' end of the week. Well, Carrie and the kids are; Scott's staying behind to pack the place up. Pray for them. It's a time of transition in a BIG way. Plus, crazy Carrie got freaked out about some numbness in her neck and drove herself to the ER tonight... in the middle of House... while I was on the phone with my grandma... Weird.

And now I'm sitting in my pajamas, kinda watching Law and Order: SVU, reflecting on this good day. I'm grateful for God's faithfulness -- his amazing, inconceivable, stubborn faithfulness over the last year. He has blessed me beyond my ability to imagine, blessed me creatively and abundantly, with more than I could ever ask. Most of all, when I have been faithless -- and, God forgive me, those times have far outnumbered the obedient times -- when I have been rebellious, fleshly, bitter, fruitless, untrusting, and selfish, God has refused to violate his word to me through his Son, who has promised that no one will snatch me out of his hand. Praise God!


The love of Christ who died for me
is more than mind can know,
His mercy measureless and free
to meet the debt I owe.

He came my sinful cause to plead,
He laid His glories by,
for me a homeless life to lead,
a shameful death to die.

My sins I only see in part,
my self-regarding ways;
the secret places of my heart
lie bare before His gaze.

For me the price of sin He paid;
my sins beyond recall
are all alike on Jesus laid,
He died to bear them all.

O living Lord of life, for whom
the heavens held their breath,
to see, triumphant from the tomb,
a love that conquers death.

Possess my heart that it may be
Your kingdom without end,
O Christ who died for love of me
and lives to be my friend.

11.28.2007

OK, More Linkage

Pastor Lance, a black Reformed minister in West Philadelphia (born and raised!), has written an appropriately scathing critique of what he calls The Baal Network (TBN). Seriously, welding helmets and HazMat suits need to be in place before you read the full article. Just a taste:

And why did the Lord of glory endure such grievous pain and death? So that you could sow your seed offering, claim your blessing and have yet one more thing to put in your Public Storage locker.

Folks, enough is enough.
These people aren’t in error, misguided or confused. They’re deliberately prostituting scripture, the cross and Jesus Christ to engorge their own debauched greed.

Pour it on, brother, pour it on.

"...of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh."

Michael Jensen has written a pretty hilarious post on the "writing of many books" over on his blog... I feel his frustration. Check it out:
Further, this tendency [to write and publish capacious, encyclopedic commentaries] heightens the impression (long fostered by those in the field of biblical studies) that expert knowledge is utterly indispensible for any comprehension at all. It is just impossible for a non-specialist to get accross it all - you could give a life time just to reading commentaries on the book of Romans written since 1980! In addition, the experts are under pressure to come up with some new way of reading in order to make their name professionally and so get a nice job and some recognition.

[snip]

And to preachers: stop purchasing the things! They aren't helping your sermon preparation - and they certainly aren't helping your sermons. They are high-cost high redundancy items. Find the absolute classics in each book and stick with those. Buy some theology instead, or read a novel or two, or a biography, or philosophy. Make your Greek better and read the text for yourself! Spend more time in prayer even...
Go on over and read the entire article, why dontcha?

11.26.2007

The Rumblings of Reformation

I have been so encouraged by Thabiti Anyabwile's blog, and I'm looking forward to reading his new book, just released by IVP. Pastor Thabiti will be one of the speakers at next spring's Together for the Gospel conference.

11.20.2007

The Chief of Sinners

Dave Harvey, author of the acclaimed book, When Sinners Say "I DO," gives this beautiful perspective on the sinfulness of our hearts, in a July 2007 interview with Discerning Reader.

I actually borrowed [this phrase] from the apostle Paul in his words to Timothy (1 Timothy 1:15). But it applies to all of us. Yes, really.

Paul didn’t say ‘I was.’ He said ‘I am’—the ‘present-tense’ apostle Paul saw himself as the chief of sinners. [...] And I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that he knew he was capable—given the right circumstances—of the worst of sins and the vilest of motives. Paul was a realist. He wanted to see God and himself truly. No hiding behind a facade of pleasantness or religiosity for him. It’s almost as if Paul is saying, “Look, I know my sin. And what I’ve seen in my own heart is darker and more awful; it’s more proud, selfish, and self-exalting; and it’s more consistently and regularly in rebellion against You than anything I have glimpsed in the heart of anyone else. As far as I can see, the biggest sinner I know is me.”

But in the very next verse Paul says, “But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.”

With the passing of each day, two things grew larger for Paul: his sinfulness in light of the holiness of God, and God’s mercy in the face of it. Knowing both God and himself accurately was not at all discouraging or depressing. Rather, it deepened his gratitude for the vastness of God’s mercy in redeeming him, and the patience of Christ in continuing to love and identify with him in his daily struggle against sin.

Paul’s confession to Timothy presents us with a stunning example of moral honesty and theological maturity: Paul’s acute, even painful awareness of his own sinfulness caused him to magnify the glory of the Savior!

As I’ve studied Paul’s example, I’ve found it to be true in my own life as well.



(ht: Pure Church)

11.18.2007

...And Books

Why are the books from Westminster Bookstore so much cheaper than from Lifeway or Amazon? Whatever the reason, I plan on taking full advantage of their bargain prices to cross a few names off my Christmas list.

...And Bread

I love making bread. I had the baking itch Friday night and decided to start my favorite bread, a really rustic, grainy, kind of gnarly looking bread called a Cocodrillo. I modified it from a recipe in Williams-Sonoma's Essentials of Baking, which is a gorgeous book full of big, full-color photos, and to which I jokingly refer as my "Food Porn." Seriously, the pictures, of brownies and cakes on deliberately messy, shabby-chic, flour-covered counters, or of someone's arms elbow-deep in a pillow of yeasty dough, are Pavlovian-reaction-inducing. Anyway, the recipe is a bit drawn out, but simple (it's really only 30 or 40 minutes of hands-on work spread out over an evening and a morning), and turns out two absolutely beautiful loaves of artisanal bread with so much flavor and the most amazing crust. I've passed it on to two first-time bakers and they had just as much success as I've had with it. You could sneak these onto the shelf at Whole Foods between the Ancient Grains Sourdough and the French Levain, and nobody would suspect that they didn't belong; they'd just ask the bakery dude to slice 'em. For real.

Side note: if you love baking or are just giving it a go for the first time, I'd strongly encourage you to pick up Essentials of Baking. My cake-loving roommate Angela has made a couple of the cakes with great results (I'm not much of a cake person, but Angela has a serious knack for them, ahem, single guys? Anybody? Anybody?), and I can also vouch for the deliciousness of the cookies and pies found therein. Really, it's a miracle I don't weigh 400 pounds.

I'm also in charge of the rolls for Thanksgiving, and was searching around for something unique. Well, I found it: a potato-dough bread that you can keep in the fridge for up to five days before you bake the rolls!! ACK! Amazing! So the dough's in my refrigerator right now, but I stole enough to make 8 little rolls just to test them, I swear.

My baking technique, while I'm on a roll here (HA!), is symptomatic of my fickleness. I told my friend Leesa that I have a disease called, "I can never, ever make a recipe as it's written or make anything the same way twice, even if it worked perfectly the first time." The old saying, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it," clearly means nothing to me. I prefer to characterize that as a quest for excellence, but let's be real, people. It's totally just fickleness.

11.14.2007

Batter my heart, three person’d God; for you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise, and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend
Your force, to break, blow, burn and make me new.
I, like an usurped town, to another due,
Labor to admit you, but Oh, to no end,
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captived, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain,
But am betrothed unto your enemy:
Divorce me, untie or break that knot again;
Take me to you, imprison me, for I
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste except you ravish me.

John Donne, 17th Century

11.13.2007

The REAL Reason Christian Scientists are Heretics

There is no life, truth, intelligence, nor substance in matter. All is infinite Mind and its infinite manifestation, for God is All-in-all. Spirit is immortal Truth; matter is mortal error. Spirit is the real and eternal; matter is the unreal and temporal. Spirit is God, and man is His image and likeness. Therefore man is not material; he is spiritual.

--Mary Baker Eddy

11.09.2007

Solitude (Or, "Wow, I'm really being honest to the point of over-sharing today.")

I read a beautiful article on the art of solitude yesterday, and was reminded of the sweet hours I once spent sitting on the porch of the conference center of the camp I attended, tea steaming, swallows dancing on the dawn-gray air, Bible open on my lap. Mornings in a cabin full of girls were not peaceful, nor conducive to my patience or joy as their cabin leader, so I would rise in the dark, get ready quietly, and wake the most responsible girl in the cabin before I headed out the door and over the hill. The woods were just waking up as I walked to the conference center, the light changing to pink as I sipped my tea and looked out over the field and the pond and the distant mountains.

The mornings are cold in the Rockies, even in midsummer. Many days, I could see my breath coming in short puffs as I hiked up the steep hill from Cabin 5, the crunch of my shoes on the gravel road the only sound to be heard. The dew that fell occasionally when the temperature dropped into the 40s encouraged the mule deer out into the thickets of tall grass and brambles that marked the edge of the hill down to the pond. Early summer meant fawns, still spotted and tenuous, staying close to their serene, unhurried mothers; the adults were used to seeing us, and only ran if we hurried close to them.

Those mornings, I practiced solitude out of necessity, and loved each quiet moment with the Lord in the chill morning air. Now, too often, I fear it. I fear the silence of my room. I fear my upcoming 26th birthday -- an acute reminder of just how many evenings I have spent alone, and how many more I fear will be spent alone. I have failed to differentiate between solitude and loneliness. Pray for me, friends, as I work out what it means to be still in the presence of God, to think His thoughts after Him in the quiet of the end of the day.

11.05.2007

Ouch AGAIN!

OK, OK, Lord! Geez, let it go, will ya? I get it!

Those of us who have very young children know how difficult waiting can be. We live through their annual anguish of waiting for birthday parties. Each day of the week—or, in some cases, the month—before their birthdays roll around, they wake up with the question, “is it my birthday yet?” Finally, the great day arrives, and you immediately have to convince them that 6:30 a.m. is not the ideal time of day for a party. By 6:45 a.m. they are thoroughly convinced that you don’t love them, and that all this talk of a party is nothing but a cruel hoax. At this point, you know it’s going to be a long day!

Don’t we often act toward God like little children? We kick and fuss and scream because we want what God has promised, and we want it now. Never mind that preparations need to be made and that other people need to be invited. But, like a patient and long-suffering parent, God bides his time, neither delaying nor hurrying, until everything is in place. Then—and not a moment sooner—he gives us the good things he has promised.

11.03.2007

Theme: Crybaby / A Rantgent

There's a theme developing here: I am more sentimental than I would care to admit. Or, as I like to phrase it to make myself sound better, "tender-hearted." Anyway, semantics aside, I was flipping through the Baptist Hymnal. Wait.

Tangent/rant: who put that puppy together? There are some flat-out theologically bankrupt songs in the Baptist Hymnal. "Let Jesus Come Into Your Heart"? If there's a tempest your voice cannot still... Yeah, because salvation's really mostly about taking care of the issues you can't handle on your own. And that's not the only stinker, even in that section. God bless Ralph Carmichael, but "The Savior is Waiting"? Receive him, and all of your darkness shall end... blech. I want to know when this fixation on "receiving Jesus" and "asking Jesus into your heart" started. Mom or dad, any ideas why folks started using that particular phrasing and it stuck? And you know how people criticize "modern" worship music as being too me-focused? Or trite? How about "Here am I" or "I want to be a Christian" or "I want Jesus to Walk With Me" or, get this, a hymn called "Thanks-living"?

Anyway, rant/tangent (rantgent?) over. I was flipping through the Hymnal and plunking around on my keyboard when I came across these lyrics which brought tears to my eyes (the songs can't be all bad, statistically):

Unless Your grace had called me
And taught my opening mind,
The world would have enthralled me,
To heavenly glories blind.
My heart knows none above You;
For Your rich grace I thirst!
I know that, if I love You,
You must have loved me first.

11.02.2007

Letter of Truth: Part "Community"

Oh m'gosh, y'all.

I seriously have the greatest community group in the history of the universe. I'm just sayin'. I can't name a person in the group that doesn't rock, and some of 'em rock extra. Like Sarah Beth Plummer, who is a total hoot and way smarter than the average four year old. I swear, some of the things that she says -- like: "Witches do not accomplish God's plan." Who says that? Chandi Plummer, that's who, and that explains why Sarah Beth says it too. Or... the time when Rob was putting Sarah Beth to bed just as we were all getting ready to do prayer time, and SB leaned down the stair (in Rob's arms) to sing "So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodnight..." to us. Priceless.

And who else has a community group where all the ladies stand around the living room and sing snippets of show tunes and laugh at each other? Or a group where people regularly say, "Can we pray for you about that right now?" Or one so full of servant-hearted folks that nobody can express a need without someone immediately asking how they can help?

This is the family of God, y'all. Meals. Help packing a rented truck to move. Cleaning. Babysitting. Coming early to set up and leaving late to help clean up. Simple things that, done out of love, reinforce the truth of the Gospel lived out in community -- they remind us that we do not walk this road alone, nor are we blazing new trails. We tread a well-worn path, surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses.

11.01.2007

Caution: Have a Hanky at the Ready

OK, tender-hearted Christians, check out this article on Tim Challies' blog, and read knowing that sorrow -- even the most soul-crushing -- lasts through the night, but joy comes with the morning.

10.30.2007

HAPPY REFORMATION DAY!

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!
Oh...

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!"
Oh...

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!"
Oh...

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!
Oh...

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!
Oh...

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!

10.26.2007

I like analogies...

And this one is smart. And for the guys.

...since when did "trusting God" mean "do nothing?" We're all rather attached to eating, right? But do we sit at home waiting for meals to come to us? No, we work to purchase food. Similarly, if you want the job, you apply for the job. If you want to get involved in your church, you show up at the small group. And if you want to get married, you take initiative with members of the opposite sex by building healthy relationships with them and... pursuing.

...if you want to get married and the Lord has clearly (or possibly) put a godly woman in your life, do something about it.

10.25.2007

Random Thoughts on a Random Day

Well, folks, I've got nothing big enough to make an actual post, but I haven't done a "random" post for a while, so here goes...

Man, people get their knickers in a twist about worship music styles. The way folks got fired up about it on my blog last time, and the way they're going at it on IMonk's blog, you'd think somebody was insulting their mama! Maybe we ought to add "our tendency to be easily offended and self-righteous" to our list of confessions straight across Christendom for, oh say the next hundred years or so.

Speaking of people getting their knickers in a twist... Craig stirred up a bit of controversy over on his blog when he spoke out in critique of a woman preaching at the upcoming Anglican "Summer School" (remember, their seasons are opposite of ours). Well, really he didn't stir up controversy; he provoked a good discussion among a few of us, with some very rude anonymous commenters slinging mud and insults with both hands.

It's a small world. I just got a phone call from someone who saw my Staff Profile in the last Travelogue, and wondered if I knew his long-time friend who hails from my hometown of Sterling, Colorado. I do. (Dad, it's Arden Fennell -- I think that's spelled wrong, but I can't remember how to spell it.)

Timmy Brister is a smart dude. And this is turning into a Blog Roundup. Moving on... his series on "Blue-Collar Theology" should really be read by every small-town pastor or basically any pastor who desires to "raise the bottom shelf" for his congregation. But what really got me going this week was his explanation of Finney's "New Measures" as interpreted by modern "revivalists" (those are ironic quotes) and "evangelists" (also, ironic quotes). Boy, did it bring up some unpleasant memories! (Oh, and Wikipedia article on Finney if you're unfamiliar.)

I love my church. We had Derek Webb and Sandra McCracken at the 930 last night for a show, the first stop on their Ringing Bell Tour. Three things about the show. 1. Derek Webb has a strong prophetic voice, and it really showed last night: he's passionately critical of the American church's tendency to say that Christian=Evangelical=Conservative=Patriot=Republican . A few lines from one of his songs as an example:

Here are two great lies that I’ve heard:
“The day you eat of the fruit of that tree, you will not surely die,”
and that Jesus Christ was a white, middle-class Republican,
and if you wanna be saved you have to learn to be like Him.
My first allegiance is not to a flag, a country, or a man;
my first allegiance is not to democracy or blood;
it's to a King & a Kingdom.

2. I don't think I ever saw a couple who were sweeter with each other on stage. That was refreshing. At one point, Derek said, "The best thing I get to do is to play in her band." 3. Sandra McCracken's contribution to modern hymn-singing = fantastic. She sang "Thy Mercy, My God," one of my favorite hymn arrangements in history, ever. Great Father of mercy, thy goodness I own, and the covenant love of thy crucified Son...

I'm baking two carrot cakes for the cakewalk on Saturday at our massive Fall Festival. For those of you who didn't grow up in the US, a cakewalk is a game (a bit like musical chairs) played at carnivals where contestants walk or dance around a numbered circle, accompanied by music, until the music stops. The number they're standing on corresponds to the cake they win! Anyway, my fridge is currently full of butter, carrots, and cream cheese. I'm pretty pumped to make the cakes... but I still need to get powdered sugar for the frosting and walnuts.

Funny story about walnuts. My dad is allergic to them (not deathly allergic, just enough to make his throat itch really badly and drive him crazy), so I grew up never eating them, except for the occasional black walnut from the tree in our front yard. It was such a habit for me to make quick-breads, cookies, etc., with only pecans even through college, and it wasn't until I moved into my first apartment when I came to Louisville that I started realizing -- hey, I'm not allergic to walnuts! I can actually eat them! And I like them! So walnuts became a much more common addition to my cooking.

Let's see... other random news. I'm getting my hair cut today, thanks in no small part to Mr. Jordan Buckley who graciously agreed to cover the phones (and work on sending out CD orders and press/blog releases) for me while I'm out. I'm thinking about this look. Or maybe this one? No, seriously, though, I'm actually thinking about getting it cut kinda like this.

Well, carry on, people. That's enough randomness for awhile.

10.22.2007

That's Exactly What I've Been Trying To Say!

Yet again, Craig has pointed me in the right direction with another link to a great article, this time on the Sydney (Australia) Anglicans website. The article is about how people get "immunized" against the Gospel when they're given half-truths. Check it out:

This kind of problem can occur when we give people a tiny taste of the gospel without a full exposure to the implications or fruit of the message. If we are not careful, we can lead people to end up hardened against Jesus, not softened to his promises.

The writer to the Hebrews made reference to this very kind of problem when he said that “It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance…” (Hebrews 6:4-6a).

10.20.2007

Farewell (For Now)

I said farewell to Nickel Creek tonight. It was a bittersweet moment when, at the very end, they killed the mikes, unplugged their instruments, stepped downstage, and played "Why Should the Fire Die?" with just their voices. We all listened more carefully than before; I closed my eyes; the acoustics were so perfect that each note was crystal clear.

Surely the music of heaven will sound dull by comparison.

10.13.2007

Buying up Judgment

From the comments section of a recent Pyro post (caution: don't read too many of these in one day; can be hazardous to your joy). Comment by CenturiOn:

I was listening to somebody preaching yesterday while I was driving all over NW Arkansas for work, and he said that it's a shame that so many people go into Christian bookstores these days and keep buying up more judgment against themselves.


Dadgum.

The post is about Christians who don't get anything out of sermons because they don't know how to listen to preaching. Unfortunately (or fortunately!), as Spider Man's uncle said, "with great power comes great responsibility." In other words, with every portion of the word your faithful pastor rightly divides, you have fewer and fewer excuses for sin, and more and more truth for which you are accountable before God.

Read that quote again:

...it's a shame that so many people go into Christian bookstores these days and keep buying up more judgment against themselves.


That convicts the heck out of me, folks. How often have I read a jewel of Christian writing, or listened to an excellent sermon, and gone right on with my tragic, sinful plans? Times without number, I confess. I take too much delight in the reading of many books and not enough delight in applying the truth contained therein.

My prayer is that I would recognize what a great responsibility it is to learn the ways of the Lord, and that He would enable me to live what I learn.

10.08.2007

Gold and Dross

My previous post on Vision Forum Ministries' Biblical Patriarchy document highlighted its sloppy logic and fundie tendencies, but I wanted to be clear that VFM makes certain assertions in that statement with which I wholeheartedly agree. Baptists (and Christians in general) have an unnerving tendency to throw the baby out with the bathwater (see any comments thread on Wade Burleson's blog, for example), and I don't want to fall prey to the temptation to write off this group just because I think they are on dangerous ground with some of their claims.

I mentioned in my previous post my admiration for the carefully-crafted section on the authority of fathers in their homes, and wanted to give ye few but faithful the chance to take a look. I may draw some ire for "coming out" as a proponent of patriarchy, but I'm with Russ Moore on this one: there is no option other than patriarchy. The choice we face is whether to promote and embrace "good" patriarchy, informed by Scripture and redeemed at the cross, or "bad" patriarchy -- the abdication or abuse of power by men.

So here are what I consider the best bits of the whole statement:

A husband and father is the head of his household, a family leader, provider, and protector, with the authority and mandate to direct his household in paths of obedience to God.

A man’s authority in the home should be exercised with gentleness, grace, and love as a servant-leader, following the example of Jesus Christ. Leadership is a stewardship from God.

The authority of fathers is limited by the law of God and the lawful authority of church and state. Christian fathers cannot escape the jurisdiction of church and state and must be subject to both.


Woot! I don't know about you, ladies, but that's the kind of husband I'm praying for. Provider. Protector. Servant-leader. Sounds good to me.

10.04.2007

An Ode to My Thompson Chain Reference Bible


I love my Thompson Bible. I really do. There are few possessions that I value or cherish more than this gigantic, leather-bound, gilt-edged horse-choker. Seriously. I could rhapsodize at length about how using it has helped revitalize my quiet times, encourage my Bible-nerdiness, answer questions about Scripture, challenge my thinking. But let me just tell you a little bit about Frank Thompson, the man who dedicated his life to making a study Bible for the layman.

Dr. Frank Charles Thompson was a young preacher in the late 1800s when he became disappointed with the reference Bibles being sold to preachers. Dr. Thompson believed the Bible should be presented in a simple, but scholarly way. He saw the need for a well-organized reference Bible that would be of practical use to the layman as well as a minister.

In 1890, Dr. Thompson began the work he would continue for the rest of his life. He completed the "thought suggestions" opposite the verses throughout the Bible. These are what became the "chain-links" that are the heart of the Thompson system. Some of the men in Dr. Thompson's church saw his Bible and told him this would be a great help to them in their Bible study too. They encouraged Dr. Thompson to have his Bible, with marginal references, published so that everyone could enjoy the blessing of this helpful study tool.

The Thompson contains over 100,000 references, over 8000 chain topics, outlines of each Bible book, an Archeology segment, and over seventy other kinds of study helps. It has been invaluable to my personal study. It's the classic layman's study Bible, but I relied heavily on it during my Seminary studies.

I have other Bibles, including a good parallel (the Essential Evangelical Parallel Bible), a girly pink slimline ESV, a plain slimline NLT, and a Greek new testament. But the one I use for daily study is my Thompson. I highly recommend it.

9.28.2007

"Biblical" Patriarchy

I was actually quite looking forward to reading this statement after I saw an ad for a "Family-Integrated Churches" conference coming up in Wake Forest. I was pretty on board with the first few sections about the pattern of creation, the roles of men and women, and the nature of paternal authority in the home (which was especially outstanding), but then... things took a turn for the fundier. Check it out:

While unmarried women may have more flexibility in applying the principle that women were created for a domestic calling, it is not the ordinary and fitting role of women to work alongside men as their functional equals in public spheres of dominion (industry, commerce, civil government, the military, etc.). The exceptional circumstance (singleness) ought not redefine the ordinary, God-ordained social roles of men and women as created.


Dude. What? I understand there is a difference between "functional" equality (i.e. equality of role or function) and "essential" equality (i.e. equality of personhood or essence), but are we seriously going to say that it's not OK for a woman -- not even a single woman -- to be a partner in a law firm or the head of a hospital department? And am I as a single woman to be granted only an "exceptional" calling? Insulting and condescending, not to mention burdensome.

Or how about this:

God’s command to “be fruitful and multiply” still applies to married couples, and He “seeks godly offspring.” He is sovereign over the opening and closing of the womb. Children are a gift of God and it is a blessing to have many of them, if He so ordains. Christian parents are bound to look to Scripture as their authoritative guide concerning issues of procreation. They should welcome with thanksgiving the children God gives them. The failure of believers to reject the anti-life mindset of the age has resulted in the murder of possibly millions of unborn babies through the use of abortifacient birth control.


This one makes me want to cuss, people. I'm tracking right with them -- yes, fruitful, good. OK, godly offspring (tiny quibble here, but moving along). Yes, sovereign over procreation. Absolutely, children are gifts. Yes, Scripture is the authority. And then -- SCREEEEECH! Rapid application of mental brakes. Let's break down the logical fallacies here. Appeal to emotion: "murder... of unborn babies." Straw man: "anti-life mindset of the age." Appeal to probability and argument from ignorance: "possibly millions." False premise, oversimplification: "Failure of believers to reject... has resulted." Special pleading, undistributed middle: "abortifacient birth control."

Christians, as people who at least claim to be informed by a Biblical worldview need to think long and hard about how birth control fits in with our family lives. Have we simply absorbed the societal view of birth control willy-nilly, allowing secular culture to tell us what to think about children? Do we view children as inconveniences to be postponed as long as possible so we can accomplish our goals, or do we view them as Scripture tells us to: as blessings from the Lord to be received with open arms? These are issues we must wrestle with! The fact that we are even discussing this -- and the fact that many of my recently married friends have elected not to use birth control -- shows that we are addressing the issues. But to imply that (1) believers have embraced an "anti-life mindset," that (2) this mindset has "resulted" in "murder" -- which, seriously, look up the word murder; it necessarily implies intentionality, and that (3) a vague, undefined "abortifacient birth control" is to blame for the deaths of millions is patently absurd and illogical.

Furthermore, this sort of statement practically defines legalism: making a conviction binding where Scripture does not speak. I am NOT saying that Scripture doesn't speak to issues of fertility. I am NOT saying that we cannot draw personal conclusions or derive personal convictions from Biblical principles. But I AM saying that we must not prescribe beliefs or actions that bind others' consciences apart from a specific command or principle in Scripture.

And finally, before I run out of steam:

Education is not a neutral enterprise. Christian parents must provide their children with a thoroughly Christian education, one that teaches the Bible and a biblical view of God and the world. Christians should not send their children to public schools since education is not a God-ordained function of civil government and since these schools are sub-Christian at best and anti-Christian at worst.


Aaaaaaarrrrrgh!

OK, first, I am usually very pro-homeschooling. Parents know their kids' needs better than anyone else (ideally), and those who are equipped to teach well and feel compelled to educate their children at home should do so. My sister-in-law is doing a fantastic job of homeschooling my nephew, who is very bright but also sometimes slightly unfocused, and so would probably not thrive in a traditional classroom as much as he is in a one-on-one setting. If the Lord grants me a husband and children, I will consider homeschooling and would probably not send them to public school.

All that being said, however... more logical fallacies are popping up here. The implication seems to be that you either give your children comprehensive Christian worldview training or you send them to public school. That's a false dichotomy. It's not impossible to train your children in life and godliness while also sending them to public school. This is an issue to be decided by parents after much prayer and consideration. Simple geography also plays a role: the public school in my hometown was just fine for my brother and me, full of Christian teachers and administrators, and careful not to restrict the rights of Christian students.

Moreover, see the above argument about binding people's consciences! You can't say (or imply) that it's un-Christian to send your kids to public school. You can argue that it's unwise in certain, or even many or all, cases (and I have). You can lay out the facts about the quality and content of public education. You can form an argument from Scripture about the duty of parents to educate their children and not abdicate or "outsource" that responsibility to school or church. But you simply cannot point to Scripture and say, "this says Christians shouldn't send their children to public school."

Overall I'm pretty disappointed with the inflammatory, "no true Scotsman"-type rhetoric and (il)logic that colors this whole document.

Any other thoughts?

9.26.2007

Another Book

A couple years ago I picked up The Devil in the White City in an airport bookshop, and loved it -- it's the true (if ever so slightly sensationalized) story of Chicago during the World's Fair, focusing on the men who designed the Fair's buildings and a serial killer who preyed on the young women who came to work at the Fair. It basically combines my two favorite kinds of literature: historical nonfiction and murder mystery.

The same author has recently released another cracking book called Thunderstruck. It tells of how Marconi invented the telegraph (fascinating, really; I had no idea what a big deal it was) and how it helped lead to the capture of a murderer fleeing the police on a transatlantic cruise.

Some reviewers have given the author, Erik Larson, a hard time about the two books, accusing him of taking two random events and mashing them together into one incoherent storyline. But at the outset Larson claims to be giving a perspective on a certain period of history from the viewpoints of the two main groups of characters. He does sometimes try to make too-tenuous connections between, in this case, Marconi and the murderer, but I chalk that up to his slightly tabloid, eyebrows-raised, ominous-violins-in-background style of writing. Which is a compliment.

Anyway, it's a ripper. I plowed through 150 pages of it on the plane last night and it was good enough to distract me both from the fact that I was 35,000 feet in the air and from the incredibly annoying teenage Jehovah's Witness who sat behind me and talked, I'm not even remotely kidding, non-stop from takeoff to landing. Mostly about how excited she was to see heaven, no, really, so excited! At which point I had to pause and pray that the Lord would wait at least until we were safely on the ground to address that issue. Tangent over. Read the book.

9.25.2007

Oh, This is Good.

This is a fantastic follow-up to my previous article (which, ahem, was recently published in my hometown newspaper). What CAN I do? Well, this is a pretty good start. Check it out (from Five Aspects of Woman by Barbara Mouser via Boundless):

Mistress of the Domain (Genesis 1) — Woman, like man, is created in God's image and has authority from God to rule, subdue and be productive. Because of sin, however, she both "abuses and abandons" her call to stewardship (characterized by manipulation, pride and domination, biblical example: Jezebel). As she is sanctified, she reclaims, with the help of the Holy Spirit, the areas of responsibility God has given her (her home, her studies, her work, her marriage, her children, etc.) to God's glory (characterized by humility, hope and productivity, biblical example: the Shunammite woman).

Helper-Completer (Genesis 2) — "Woman, from the man and for the man, completes him in his person and his work. As helper, she provides partnership in work, fellowship in body and spirit and membership in marriage." In our spirituality, at the foot of the cross, man and woman are alike. Both are in need of a savior, both able to accept salvation and find fullness in Christ. But in our humanity, male and female are different. Under the curse of sin, we are competitors. Once redeemed, we are complementary: a man, by God's design, needs help. A woman needs to give help. We fit together like pieces of a puzzle.

Lifegiver (Genesis 3) — God created women uniquely to literally bring forth new life. The ability to bear children is the obvious mark of His design. Women are also designed to nurture (this includes married and single women). Marred by sin, women despise, neglect or smother their children. The extreme example being abortion. The redeemed woman "does all she can to alleviate the suffering of others ... and eagerly seeks to have children, both physically and spiritually."

Lady of Wisdom (Proverbs 1-9, 31) — "Wisdom is the body of God's creation principles." In the book of Proverbs "she is personified as a woman." As created by God, she is the "inviter and hostess, reprover and teacher, counselor, protectress, patron and friend." In our fallen state, women model not wisdom, but folly. They deny Truth and do what feels right, rather than what is right (biblical examples: Eve, Delilah, Potiphar's wife and the Proverbs woman of folly). Once redeemed, women can become wise by mastering skills and studying to develop their minds. Skillful and intellectual women are in a position to influence their world for God's kingdom (biblical examples: Proverbs 31 wife; Ruth; Esther and the wise woman of Abel).

Glory of Man (1 Corinthians 11, Ephesians 5) — As created, woman "glorifies her husband and her heavenly King with submission, adornment, purity and love. She emulates the Church's membership, as her husband emulates Christ's headship." In her fallen state, woman makes her beauty an end in itself, leading ultimately to ugliness (shame, lust, pride and sexual perversion, for examples; see Isaiah 3 and Ezekiel 16). Once redeemed, a woman is free to use her beauty for the benefit of her heavenly father and when married, for her husband.

9.18.2007

What CAN I Do, Then?

Much as we claim to hate them, there's something kind of appealing about the simplicity of rules, isn't there? Do Not Feed The Lions. 45 MPH. Keep Off The Grass. Simple. There are people whose careers have been dedicated to figuring out rules for other peoples lives: advice columnists abound. There's even a book called The Rules. Heck, there's an entire genre!

Here's the quandary: as believers, our lives are no longer defined by our adherence to the law. God's word makes it perfectly clear that we cannot live up to the standards God has set, but that Christ came in flesh and obeyed God's law to the letter in our stead.

But I like rules. I would love it if someone would just tell me exactly how I'm supposed to behave.

So, rather than striving for Christlikeness, for actions defined and bounded by grace and characterized by love, I make myself a little rulebook. Don't look at x. Don't say x. Don't think about x. Don't do x. This much of x is all right, but this much is too much. No flirting. No romance novels. No ice cream.

With all that running through my mind, is it any wonder that I stopped today and wondered, "Well, what CAN I do, then?" It's a seriously frustrating issue to me, especially in the context of a particular circumstance right now. You might be surprised how difficult it is to figure out how to act when all you have to go on are injunctions. It's like a professor who gives a writing assignment, and when you ask for help he tells you, "It shouldn't be written in Swahili and it can't be about the 17th century Spanish monarchy." Not helpful.

In my daily interactions, I've discovered that the Law of Christ is harder. Far from being an easier way to live, Christian freedom is much more complicated and mentally taxing than legalism. It requires that I search God's word. It requires prayer. It requires discernment, and accountability, and community. It results in mistakes, sometimes mistakes I don't even realize until later. But it also produces humility, maturity, wisdom, deep friendships, equanimity, contentment, and joy. It causes me to trust the Lord, because there's not always crystal-clear dictation in Scripture for the minutiae of life (by which I mean, there's no 3 Corinthians 8:14 that says, "And to my single sisters I say, not I but the Lord, that thou shalt behave thusly toward cute boys..." Although, wouldn't that be kinda awesome? Anyway).

"This side of heaven," as my dad says, I'll never have it all figured out. I'll continue to fail in how I strive to be like Christ. But I praise God that he is already at work, never sleeping, always faithful, until I am conformed to the image of his Son.

9.16.2007

Psalm 119: A love letter to God's word

I talked with a couple of people (namely Jordan and my mom) about my latest devotional project: praying/journaling through Psalm 119. It's been really rich just to meditate on the Psalmist's words as he meditates on God's word.

My last semester of seminary I took Old Testament 1 with Dr. Peter J. Gentry, (noted Septuagint and Hexapla scholar) who, in his inimitable style (i.e., giant beard and Canadian accent) spoke briefly about using Psalm 119 as a "controller" for the study of the entire Old Testament. What a beautiful thought: to use a love letter to God's word as a tool for the study of God's word!

I thought as I was thumbing through the psalm today, "I want this to be what my heart says about God's word." The Psalmist takes such delight in God's word that he thirsts after it, longs for it, desires it. And God's word is effective! It accomplishes what God desires (Isaiah 55:11). Let's take verses 73-80 as an example:

73 - God's word teaches us that God is our creator. It gives us understanding.
74 - It causes other believers to rejoice when they see our obedience to it.
75 - It gives us a proper understanding of God's righteousness and faithfulness.
76 - It comforts us as we recognize God's fulfillment of his promises to us.
77 - It gives us delight.
78 - It is a comfort when we are being slandered.
79 - It is a cause of unity among believers.
80 - It lays out the aim of our lives - to be blameless before the Lord.


Almost every verse can be meditated upon in two or three ways:

1. As a prayer for our hearts: "Lord, cause me to love your word in this way..."
2. As a record of the effectiveness of God's word: "Lord, thank you that your word effects this change in me..."
3. As a reflection of God's character as a God who reveals himself to his people: "Lord, thank you for revealing yourself in your word as a God who is..."

(Here are some other pointers from a previous post.)

One of the things I want to characterize me is a passion for God's word. I want to come home at the end of the day and want nothing more than to hear from my Father. I want my children and grandchildren to glean wisdom from the things the Lord reveals to me as I earnestly seek him in his word. I want my Bible's pages to be marked with "P" for "precious" and "T&P" for "tried and proven," like the woman in Spurgeon's classic story. I highly recommend doing this exercise as training in the love of God's precious word!

9.15.2007

Dr. David Sills is the Funniest Professor in the History of Professors

Seriously, if Dr. Sills weren't such an amazing missiology prof and Communicator of the Vision for Missions, I would strongly suggest that he take his show on the road. There's a facebook group dedicated to "Dr. Sills-isms," which I just discovered and which reminded me of how funny he is -- a fast talker with a deep-South accent who sometimes forgets how to speak English and starts lecturing in Spanish before he catches himself and says, "Como se dice..."

A sampling of the quotes:

"You're a missionary--go mish."

"Smoke 'em if you got 'em."

". . .the coolest thing since night baseball"

"Does God speak to us through email? Rarely."

"I'm so low on the food chain that I have to watch out for Nemo."

"As they say in Mississippi, that's a lot of sugar for a nickel."

"Journeything..."

"You just need to rock on."

"A little more to the right and you're a fundy fundy fundamentalist."

"There's more than one way to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich."

"That's the long way around the barn to say..."

"The reason that smells like smoke is because of where it comes from..."

"Billy the Graham"

"16 million Baptists and you can't find half with a search warrant."

"Where they spit the grass never grows again"

"They will steal your socks without even taking your shoes off…that’s just the way they are."

"It’s like communism, it only works on paper."

"Mouth-breathing redneck from Cutoff, Louisiana."

"That's the Reader's Digest Condensed version."

"I have an overdeveloped sense of mercy. I was even pulling for O.J."

9.14.2007

"Upon my word," said her Ladyship,

"You give your opinion very decidedly for so young a person."

Check out Christine's post about women's fears and motivations before marriage, and her gracious tempering of her position a few days (and sixty-six comments) later. CAUTION: the type of frank and honest language Christine uses means that men (and single gals) might not find this helpful.

9.09.2007

Wise Words

My friend Justin, who never fails to bless me when I talk to him (and who also has a super hot, funny, awesome wife and a crazy cute daughter -- holla, Zoe Buttercup!), had these wise words for someone wondering about holiness:
What always lights me up ... is 2 Cor 5:21, "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."

I agonize over this: God who has no sin is ultimately righteous and has no fault in him whatsoever (1 John 1:5). Christ Jesus has that same holiness and purity (Col 1:19).

I am a sinner, filled with faults, imperfections and impurities, thus ultimately and eternally disqualifying me for fellowship with perfection. More than that, my willing, continual rejection of his reality entitles me to an eternity of eternal punishment.

But GOD (Eph 2:4), allowed Jesus to be sin for me, so that in him I might become the actual righteousness of God? How does one measure the righteousness of God? He chose to perfect imperfection. He chose Justin Mullins. He saw me as a dead man and said to his son, "I want that one; will you die in his place?" And his son said, "Yes, indeed." Now I share eternal fellowship with perfection forever and nothing will be able to affect that, nothing. This is a done deal, but not yet fully realized until I'm with him (it's already-but-not-yet).

Yeah, I dig the holiness of God. It's ultimate expression is that he gave his holiness to his son who gave it to me because in Christ I become the righteousness of God. I always have to go back to this, this is where I begin: God is Holy, I am not. Christ is Sufficient. I believe that, turn from my sin and turn to him. This is where I end. This is the gospel. I love it.

I pursue holiness because Holiness pursues me.


9.08.2007

Real Quick

If you haven't heard of Vandaveer, check them out immediately. Mark and his "good sister Rose" and their sweet, funny guest drummer were a dose of black-daisy delight last night at the 930. I adore them completely. They may be my new favorite band. I even bought a t-shirt.

If you need a point of reference for their sound, I would call it the Goth-Dylan Partridge Family.

8.30.2007

A Fascinating Perspective on the Bible

I found this through a link to the "Confessing Evangelical" blog, in a comment on Craig's blog (AGAIN. GEEZ.) and found it really thought-provoking and insightful. I think we too often seek answers to our questions and concerns about faith within our own traditions (in my case, reformed baptist -- not exactly a shallow pool, but limited by definition) rather than gleaning wisdom from believers in other traditions. Bo Giertz (1905-1998), whose quotes you'll read below, was a Swedish Confessional Lutheran Bishop. Let's just say his writings are not on the syllabus of most classes at Southern Seminary. I mean, a Lutheran? Those weirdos with their whole law-gospel business and their infant baptism and their sometimes uncomfortably vague definitions of Christian doctrine?


Caveat: I don't necessarily endorse every jot and tittle of the doctrine espoused in the quoted passages (nor, I would imagine, the book as a whole), but I thought it interesting.

“The Bible is exactly as God wanted it to be”

John H

Saturday 2nd June, AD 2007

My holiday reading last week included Bo Giertz’s book The Hammer of God [note: this book is a novel] (which I’ve read, and posted on, before), and I was struck by the following passage in which Pastor Bengtsson (an orthodox Lutheran) tells his more liberal colleague Pastor Torvik that what matters is not whether one has a “historical” view of the Bible (”historical” being code for “liberal”), but instead:

Everything depends on whether we have a religious view of the Bible.

When Torvik asks what this means, Bengtsson explains as follows:

That is faith in the Bible as the voice of God, so that if you read it to hear what God would say to you, you actually hear God speak. For my part, I have the simple belief that the Bible is exactly as God wanted it to be. That does not mean, perhaps, that every detail is set forth systematically for science, as in an academic treatise. But it does mean that every little detail has been given such a form that a human being who seeks salvation will be helped to find the truth.

The highlighted words express my own conviction on this issue as well. I’ve never felt comfortable with the term “inerrant”, largely because it carries connotations of the Bible conforming to a standard that we have set for it ourselves. But, equally, I find it intolerable to suggest that the Bible contains errors (even if some might see that as a necessary consequence of rejecting inerrancy).

Better to follow Pastor Bengtsson and affirm simply that “the Bible is exactly as God wanted it to be”; that it meets the standard that God has set for his written Word, regardless of how it measures up to whatever standard we might wish to apply.

There is then still plenty of work to do in understanding what that affirmation means and in resolving (or learning to live with) apparent contradictions or difficulties within the Bible. However, we are freed to carry out this work positively and from a position of confidence, rather than constantly having to do battle against the purported “errors” that, left unchecked, might undermine our faith in the “inerrancy” of Scripture.

Pastor Bengtsson also reminds us that the Bible was not written to satisfy our curiosity. Rather, “every little detail has been given such a form that a human being who seeks salvation will be helped to find the truth“. Many of our anxieties concerning apparent “errors” or “contradictions” in Scripture - for example, the differences between accounts of the same events in the four gospels - evaporate when we understand the purpose for which God provided the Scriptures.

As Pr Landgraf’s comment as quoted in my previous post reminds us, the gospels are not there to satisfy our curiosity as to what exactly Jesus said or did on any given occasion - in other words, they are not “fly on the wall” documentaries - but to provide four different perspectives on the more fundamental questions: why is Jesus considered a Saviour, and what is the “good news” concerning him? Much the same applies to the rest of the Bible.

8.17.2007

Sorry, sorry...

It's been such a long time since I posted anything of substance. I could cite work-busyness, dad being in town this week, community group and gospel classes starting back up but it's really all an excuse.

I have been pondering the (infant vs. believer's) baptism issue for a week or so, ever since several of us (including the thoughtful and brilliant Jamie Barnes, my favorite musician of all time) debated it this past Sunday, but I don't know if I'll write anything about it NOW. NOW it'll just look like I'm trying to ride Craig's coattails, dagnabbit!

While I make up my mind, head over to Mike's blog and pray for people to be generous in their support of his ministry. Or better yet, send him some money!

8.05.2007

A Little (very little) Theology Nerd Humor

I linked to this increasingly funny Pyromaniacs thread from Craig's blog (hm, do I get anything on my own or just from Craig?) and laughed until I was ashamed of my Theology Nerdiness. A few of you will take pride in not getting these (looking at you, Rochester), but Christine and a couple others might enjoy my contributions to "Book Titles for Which I'm Still Waiting" (and a few belonging to other folks that I just couldn't resist including):

Mine:

Dr. StrangeTongues: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Glossolalia by John MacArthur

All Things Properly and In Order by Paul and Jan Crouch

The Christ of Scripture: The Christ of History by John Dominic Crossan

Good Morning, Disembodied Entity Who Claims To Be the Holy Spirit! by Benny Hinn

I Thank God That I Speak In Tongues More than All of You by John MacArthur

The Left Foot of Disfellowship: Why Anyone Who Isn't Like Me Is Dangerous (and Probably Unregenerate, Too) by the Southern Baptist Convention

Unwashed Savages: Talking Down to the Global South (Because We're Smarter Than They Are) by Katharine Jefferts Schori and Rowan Williams

White Man's Burden: Talking Down to the Global South, Again (Because We're More Enlightened Than They Are) by Katharine Jefferts Schori and Rowan Williams

No Other Name: Why Christianity and Islam are Fundamentally Incompatible by Rev. Ann Holmes Redding

We Really DO Worship Mary by Pope Benedict XVI

Hell? YES! by Clark Pinnock

By some other clever folks:

Go Away, Holy Spirit! by Benny Hinn

The Vow of Jephthah: How to Unlock God's Blessing with Familial Sacrifice by Bruce Wilkinson

I Dream of Denim Dresses Contemporary Essays by Homeschool Moms

Amilleniallism - The real message of Revelation by Tim Lahaye

Dead in Sin - Lectures on Depravity by Robert Schueller

Modesty, Humility, and Submission--Modeling Christ For Today's Woman by Juanita Bynum and Joyce Meyers

Scriptural Arguments for Intentionally Small Congregations
by Joel Osteen

The Centrality of the Gospel by Joel Osteen

Jonathan Edwards: an 'Okay' Theologian, I Guess, If You Like That Sort of Thing by John Piper

Systematic, Exegetical Theology by Joyce Meyers

The Feminine Divine in Ancient Mediterranean Culture by Mark Driscoll

If He Wants Them, He Can Get Them by William Carey and Hudson Taylor

101 Snappy Topical Sermons by Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Suffering Well - the normal Christian life by Joel Osteen

The Church, 'Israel of God' by John Hagee

Books I Have Never Read by Al Mohler

The Warmth and Fuzziness of God - R C Sproul

6 Days, 40 Billion Years....Who Cares! by Hugh Ross and Ken Ham

OK People in the Hands of An Understanding God - Jonathan Edwards

Man of Miracles, Son of God, and Risen Lord: The Good News of Jesus Christ by Bishop John Shelby Spong

8.04.2007

What Lasts?

I just read this on another blog. Think about it:

For a Christian, all misery is temporary. For a non-Christian, all pleasure is temporary.

8.02.2007

May this be our rallying cry...

Only the formal principle of biblical authority — sola scriptura — can bring reformation to bureaucratic ecclesial structures swollen fat, evangelistically lethargic, and drunk on their own traditions. Only an exclusive commitment to Christ — solo Christo — can unite the Body of Christ together in common surrender to the Lordship of God’s Only Begotten Son. Only the doctrine of justification by faith alone — sola fide — can anchor diverse methods of gospel proclamation to the truth without which men will surely perish. Only God’s redeeming grace — sola gratia — can restore purpose and fruitfulness to a convention whose evangelical arrogance and triumphalism have robbed her of authentic holiness, sweet revival fervor, and blessed spiritual unity in truths commonly held by all who follow the Crucified One. Finally, only God’s glory — soli Deo gloria — is a sufficient rationale to invest one’s life in pursuit of denominational reform. All who seek the vainglorious satisfactions of ambitious men will suffer their inescapable fates in due time. The Triune God will share his glory with no other, and that includes the Southern Baptist Convention.

--Ben Cole, SBCOutpost.com

7.26.2007

That's a Good Question!

Christine received this outstanding, insightful question on her blog. She and Mike are fielding questions about their first month of marriage (can you believe it's nearly been that long!?):

Just wondering... but as another self-described "independent woman," I find myself wanting to know which parts of the engaged/married experience (so far) have been the most trying for a woman who had been used to making her own decisions in every area without having to submit to another human being in each of them. I think it will be very difficult for me to adjust to that, given that I've been living on my own since 1999. Have you experienced frustration or fear or similar feelings along the way? Has it been harder or easier than you expected to live in Biblical "coupledom"? Or is it, frankly, too soon to tell?

Hey, Anon. As a single gal myself, I've been hashing out this issue in my own life for quite some time. The Lord has brought about two major changes in the last year: my living situation, and my job situation, both of which have helped me address the complex tangle of how to practice being a godly woman while being single. The situations don't really matter except as they revealed sin in my own heart, so don't read this as though I'm telling you to move and get a new job!

About 9 or 10 months ago, my community group leader's extremely wise wife advised me to start looking for a situation where I wasn't living on my own. She asked me to consider it not just as a way to assuage my loneliness, but also as a way to learn to live in community with other believers -- as I will someday do with my husband! I had become ingrown and selfish. I resisted strongly at first -- I loved my little apartment, having privacy at the end of the day, being able to decide when and if I wanted to see my friends. Mostly I loved having something that was mine! But my friend encouraged me to pray about it, and almost as soon as I started praying, the Lord changed my heart and provided me with a place to live. I moved in January into a beautiful old house in a quiet neighborhood with two lovely Christian girls.

During this same time, the Lord in his grace started revealing the sin in my heart regarding dissatisfaction with my singleness. I struggled with (and lost against, more often than not) bitterness and resentment toward my Creator for putting me in such a horrible situation -- pretty good attitude, right? Two of my good friends reminded me that discontentment is not a function of our circumstances, but of our satisfaction in Christ. The Lord was giving me an opportunity to deal with my sin of discontentment (which is really just a euphemism for distrust) now, while my life is simple and independent. Otherwise, my sisters reminded me, I was going to end up likely married and still struggling with bitterness -- just with a different set of circumstances!

This Spring, while I was unemployed and fast running out of money, I started coming in to volunteer at the church, answering phones and making copies, just a few hours a week at first, but quickly building up to nearly full-time. It was an agonizing time. I was frantic about my finances, and pretty resentful of the pastors, who I (wrongly) felt were taking advantage of me. I knew they were probably going to hire someone to do the job, and I was almost certain it wouldn't be me. I had a terrible attitude toward my pastors and took many opportunities to roll my eyes and sigh heavily when they would give me yet another task. I began looking for other jobs, and even had a very promising interview, but the Lord seemed to be closing door after door. Finally, at my most frantic, in the midst of my distrust of the Lord's good purposes, our counseling pastor called me into his office and offered me the job. I cried, and laughed, and cried some more, and was deeply convicted. I had failed to trust the Lord and he still provided for me. It was truly the Lord's kindness that led me to repentance!

Since that time, the Lord has been taking me to the woodshed -- lovingly applying discipline in lots of circumstances with my housemates and my job. I'm learning a lot of lessons about what it means to be faithful in this time of singleness.

I'm starting to "get" the fact that being single doesn't mean I'm a junior-varsity Christian. My marital status doesn't determine my eligibility for ministry or service, my contribution to the body of Christ, my maturity in the faith (or my personal maturity), my sanctification, or anything else. Marriage isn't a higher calling than singleness (although let's not get into that whole "called to be single" shenanigans right now). I don't think anyone would say, "Y'know, if only Paul had been married, then he really could have dug into some deep theology in Romans. He would have been way more qualified to preach to people if he'd just had a wife!"

I have a precious opportunity to learn how to rely on and submit to Christ now, while I am still single, when I can recognize my need in a more acute way, rather than trying to learn that lesson once married, when I will doubtless be tempted to substitute a relationship with my husband for my utter dependence on my Savior.

I am learning what it means to wait on the Lord and lay all my hopes and desires before him, trusting that he will lead me in the best path, for his own glory.

I have time to serve and love my community, especially those who are in a season of stress and busyness, like new moms or ladies with several small children.

I am discovering the joy of community and the delight of having close friendships with older, wiser women who will correct and rebuke me in love. Submitting to their correction deepens my trust in the Lord's desire for my sanctification!

I am really beginning to understand that God's purpose for my life is that I become like Christ, who perfectly submitted to the Father in all things, not that I get married or have children -- those things might be a part of God making me like his Son, but those things, no matter how good they are, are not the ultimate goal. Christlikeness is.

I can practice submitting to my leaders as the Lord has commanded -- not just because it's good practice for marriage, but because it's obedient to God. This has been a tough practical step for me as an opinionated woman. Sometimes this bunch of men make decisions I think are insane, but I must respect and submit to their authority! Hebrews 13:17 even says I must obey them! It's an intelligent, deliberate obedience, but my desires, will, and choices go to support those men in my church who teach God's word.

Wow. That turned out to be a long, long discussion. But I hope my journey can help you see how many opportunities we single ladies have to learn how to be godly women. Christian singleness and Christian marriage have something in common -- they're all about the Gospel. The Gospel motivates and enables our obedience to God, our submission to earthly leaders, and (Lord willing) our submission to our husbands!

7.20.2007

Let's Play a Game

Name a Christian book that addresses each of the issues below (excerpted from THIS brilliant article that Craig linked to):

  • I want to feel loved for who I am, to be pitied for what I’ve gone through, to feel intimately understood, to be accepted unconditionally;

  • I want to experience a sense of personal significance and meaningfulness, to be successful in my career, to know my life matters, to have an impact;

  • I want to gain self-esteem, to affirm that I am okay, to be able to assert my opinions and desires;

  • I want to be entertained, to feel pleasure in the endless stream of performances that delight my eyes and tickle my ears;

  • I want a sense of adventure, excitement, action, and passion so that I experience life as thrilling and moving.
Edit: another excerpt from that article. What are our real needs?

  • I need mercy above all else: "Lord, have mercy upon me"; "For Your name’s sake, pardon my iniquity for it is very great";
  • I want to learn wisdom, and unlearn willful self-preoccupation: "Nothing you desire compares with her";
  • I need to learn to love both God and neighbor: "The goal of our instruction is love that comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith";
  • I long for God’s name to be honored, for his kingdom to come, for his will to be done on earth;
  • I want Christ’s glory, lovingkindness, and goodness to be seen on earth, to fill the earth as obviously as water fills the ocean;
  • I need God to change me from who I am by instinct, choice, and practice;
  • I want him to deliver me from my obsessive self-righteousness, to slay my lust for self-vindication, so that I feel my need for the mercies of Christ, so that I learn to treat others gently;
  • I need God’s mighty and intimate help in order to will and to do those things that last unto eternal life, rather than squandering my life on vanities;
  • I want to learn how to endure hardship and suffering in hope, having my faith simplified, deepened, and purified;
  • I need to learn to worship, to delight, to trust, to give thanks, to cry out, to take refuge, to hope;
  • I want the resurrection to eternal life: "We groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body";
  • I need God himself: "Show me Your glory"; "Maranatha. Come, Lord Jesus."