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.


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?


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.


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)


...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.


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


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


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.



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.


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.


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.


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.