that thou, enjoying this comfort,
mayest live and die happily?
the first, how great my sins and miseries are;
the second, how I may be delivered from all my sins and miseries;
the third, how I shall express my gratitude to God for such deliverance.
Hahahahahahahahahahahaha.... *wipes tears* No, seriously, have you seen a star in the East?
2. When was the last time you flew in a plane?
On my way home from Christmas.
3. What did the last text message you sent say?
That is actually confidential.
4. What features do you find most attractive in the opposite sex?
You really expect me to answer that? My parents read this blog!
5. What is a goal you would like to accomplish in the near future?
Near? Answering all these questions. Set the bar low, that's my motto.
6. Shoe size?
7. Been to Mexico?
Juarez, in high school, for a mission trip where we built a house for a family in a barrio who were basically living in a glorified cardboard box with a dirt floor, and one of the girls on the trip started going out with the oldest son of the family we built the house for. Like the third day we were there. That boy was a flirt! He poured on the charming eyes every time a girl from our group came around, and he had some of them in quite a tizzy. Play on, playa! Anyways, Romeo and Juliet kept sneaking off to another street in the barrio to... have deep conversations or something? -- she didn't speak a word of Spanish and he didn't speak a word of English. But the leaders only caught them snogging once... weird. I haven't thought about that in kind of a while. Next!
8. When is the last time you had a massage?
Hmmm... it's been awhile. I'm not really a fan. This question was kind of a downer compared to the last one. I don't have any good massage stories.
9. What was the last TV show you watched?
Oh, America's Test Kitchen, just like I do every Saturday morning.
10. What are your plans for the weekend?
Finishing up my dadgum laundry. It's a disease. I can get it washed, dried, and folded, but I'll be darned if I can get it put away.
11. If your significant other asked you to marry them TODAY what would you say?
"Yes. Hang on, who are you?"
12. What is in the back seat of your car right now?
Never you mind.
13. What were you doing at 8 am this morning?
Cracka please. I was sleeping.
14. If you could marry any celebrity today who would it be?
15. Have you ever been to a strip club?
That is the most awesomely random question ever. How many men really do these things, especially strip-club-aged men? Seriously, I'll bet 99% of these waste of time surveys are filled out by people aged 12-17, and women. Which... strip club? Come on.
16. What is the best ice cream flavor?
I'm a pretty big fan of Chunky Monkey, but Graeter's pumpkin spice I was pretty obsessed with over the holidays -- Carrie Yager could give me a witness. Good gravy, that stuff was awesome. Oh, and Haagen-Dazs mango sorbet.
17. What is the last sporting event you watched?
Went to a Denver Nuggets game when I was home for Christmas. It was AWESOME.
18. Ever go camping?
What? No way. I'm pretty addicted to running water and, like, electricity and stuff.
19. Last phone call?
From Kelsey, returning my call, all distracted because she was fixin' to go pick up her husband. He had been out of town for 3 1/2 days, and it was the longest they'd ever been apart in five years of marriage. She was so excited!!
20. Are you allergic to anything?
21. What is one thing you have learned about life recently?
That God is completely faithful. That His word comes alive when I realize have nothing else to cling to. That His purposes will prevail. That He is committed to my sanctification. That my identity in Christ is who I really am.
22. What do you do at work?
23. What is your mom's name?
Debbie. Isn't that so cute? She totally matches her name. I have the cutest mom.
24. Ever cried for no reason?
Depends on how you define "no reason." I always feel like there's a reason. But I'm definitely a crier. I'm such a crier, I'm like John Cryer.
25. Can you do the Crank Dat dance?
I have no blessed idea what you are talking about.
26. What is your favorite color to wear?
Turquoise. Something in the cool bluish family. Or black. I'm, like, so emo.
27. What is the longest plane ride you have ever been on?
San Fransisco to Hong Kong. 15 and 1/2 hours. Holy crap, you guys.
28. What is the longest road trip you have ever taken?
I drove from Louisville to Sterling in two days, by myself. But we used to drive from Sterling to Indianapolis once or twice a year when I was a kid, so...
29. What are your turn-offs?
Dishonesty. Taking yourself too seriously. That hipster ironic detachment crap so many people in my generation seem to think is, like, SO painfully cool. Manipulation. Smugness.
30. What was your last alcoholic beverage?
An Avery 13. Don't mess with the beer snob.
31. What are you craving right now?
Should I be real spiritual and say the return of Christ? That's actually pretty true.
Let me run again, or help me fly, or somehow make it right.
But Lord, please don't leave me here.
--Rebecca Dennison, Crippled Soul
O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer;
give ear, O God of Jacob!
Behold our shield, O God;
look on the face of your anointed
For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere.
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than dwell in the tents of wickedness.
For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
the Lord bestows favor and honor.
No good thing does he withhold
from those who walk uprightly.
O Lord of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in you!
-- Psalm 84:8-12
You have kept count of my tossings;
put my tears in your bottle.
Are they not in your book?
1. God is the only god:
"The Lord he is God; there is none else besides him." "He is God in heaven above, and upon the earth beneath: there is none else" (Deut. 4:35, 39). "Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God is one Lord" (Deut. 6:4). "See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god with me" (Deut. 32:39). "Thou art the God, even thou alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth" (2 Kings 19:15).
2. God created all things:
"By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth" (Ps. 33:6), "For he spoke, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast" (33:9).
3. Because God created all things out of nothing, he rules over them:
"The earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof" (Ps. 24:1).
4. God's rule is accomplished by what's called "antecedent (or prior) decree" -- he said x would happen, and x happens:
"Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand" (Isa. 14:24) "My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure" (Isa. 26:10).
5. No purpose of God's can be turned aside (this is the "negative" way to state #4):
"For the Lord of hosts hath purposed, and who shall disannul it? and his hand is stretched out, and who shall turn it back?" (Isa. 14:27). "He makes the devices of the people of none effect" (Ps. 33:10). "He does according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?" (Dan. 4:35).
6. God is omnipresent (present everywhere at the same time):
"Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me" (Ps. 139:7-10).
7. God's power extends to every aspect of earthly existence:
Natural phenomena: "He covers the sky with clouds; he supplies the earth with rain and makes grass grow on the hills" (Ps. 147:8).
Governments and leaders, even evil ones: "This is what the Lord says -- the Holy One of Israel, and its Maker: Concerning things to come, do you question me about my children, or give me orders about the work of my hands? It is I who made the earth and created mankind upon it. My own hands stretched out the heavens; I marshaled their starry hosts. I will raise up Cyrus in my righteousness: I will make all his ways straight. He will rebuild my city and set my exiles free, but not for a price or reward, says the Lord Almighty" (Is. 45:11-13).
Even evil falls under his control: "What, shall we receive good at the hand of God and shall we not receive evil?" (Job 2:10).
8. God's purposes are mysterious and often hidden from our understanding:
"Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!" (Rom. 11:33)
9. God uses means (human actions, cause and effect, the laws of physics, human prayers, human emotions) to accomplish his purposes:
"For Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?" (Rom 10:13-14) "Work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure" (Phil 2:12-13).
It seems to me, in my experience with these kinds of discussions, that people's misunderstandings about church discipline fall into a few categories:
1. They don't understand the nature of the Church.
2. They don't understand the nature of church membership.
3. They don't understand the seriousness of sin.
4. They don't understand the nature of church discipline.
Let's start with the first one. People who get their knickers in a twist about church discipline often seem to view "church" as an activity for people who call themselves Christians -- something they do on Sundays and Wednesday nights, a group they're a part of by choice, but nonetheless and organization that doesn't necessarily have the right to make any claims on their lives -- maybe slightly more that their book club or union or Facebook group, but not much more. They come to Sunday services to get blessed or "be fed" spiritually.
But what is the Church, really? Two things: 1) the Church is true followers of Christ everywhere, at all times throughout history, and 2) the Church is the local gathering of Christians in particular times and places. Paul's letters, for example, are written to both groups -- the church at Rome in the 1st Century A.D. and by extension to all believers everywhere at all times. Let me emphasize what I think is an extremely important point: if you are a Christian -- a genuine follower of Christ, not just a "Christian" by default -- you are, by necessity, a member of the first group. All believers at all times in all places are members of the first group. But the first and second categories were never meant to be thought of separately. Read Paul's letters and see if you think that the pioneer of the early church had any category in his mind for a person who was a Christian but not a part of any local church. (I'll give you a tip to save you a little time: he didn't.) It's not optional for a follower of Christ to be consistently out of fellowship with a local body. In fact (brace yourself, people, this is pretty serious), I would go so far as to say that if you steadfastly refuse to join yourself with a local congregation of believers, you are in serious danger of revealing that you are not a follower of Christ at all. And now I'm just going to back away... slowly... slowly...
That leads to the second misunderstanding. There is a whole group of folks in the church, as I mentioned in my previous post, who glance through their Bibles, don't see the word "membership," and conclude that any formal affiliation with a church is unnecessary at best and unbiblical at worst. First, I have bad news for those people -- the word "trinity" isn't in the Bible, either. Ruh-roh, Raggy.
Second, there is substantial evidence throughout the New Testament that the pastors of the early churches kept very precise, formal records of the believers they had charge of. I would basically defy anyone to do a careful study of the Jerusalem church in the book of Acts, the job description of an Elder in the pastoral epistles (1 and 2 Timothy and Titus), and Hebrews 13 and come away with the idea that it's cool for a believer to sorta hang out on the fringes of a church and never commit to it.
Side note: one of our teaching pastors, Daniel, tells a pretty great little story at the beginning of our membership classes about a guy who falls in love with this amazing, beautiful girl, spends all his time with her, can't shut up about her... and then three years later, they're still dating, but not married or even engaged. Of course she's frustrated, all his friends are saying, "What are you waiting for, dude?" but he keeps telling her, "We don't need to get married to prove I love you, right, baby?" Well, obviously the story is about us and the church. Of course we don't "need" to join a church to prove we love it, but we also can't reap the benefits of commitment unless we're actually committed!
Well, what are the benefits of commitment to a church, i.e. formal membership? First off, when a church admits you to membership, they're saying, "We testify to your salvation. We believe and acknowledge that you are a Christian." (Incidentally, this is one of the reasons why walk-the-aisle, sign-the-card "Baptist" membership is so pernicious -- if your pastors don't examine you and make sure you're actually saved, how on Earth can they be accountable before God for your soul?) What a precious testimony this has been in seasons of doubt! I have often countered the lies of the enemy and of my sinful heart about my salvation by saying, "No! 417 other people, including my pastors, daily witness to my salvation! They see fruit in my life! They believe I am a Christian!" Second, formal membership provides a structure of accountability in a way that mere attendance cannot. You are consciously, intentionally placing yourself under the authority of your pastors, and humbly opening yourself up to be held accountable to a life worthy of the gospel. You're also taking on the responsibility of bearing the burdens of your brothers and sisters in the church and being willing to call them out when they sin as well.
Speaking of sin... Sin. I'm always surprised to read the "Dear Boundless" letters that deal with couples having sex or living together outside marriage -- the writers almost always characterize their behavior as "mistakes" or "slip-ups" or "crossing the line" or some other such convenient phrases; rarely does anyone write in and say, My boyfriend and I have been violating the standards of a holy God every Friday night for three months. We've also been dragging the name of Jesus through the mud by our behavior, and we'd like some advice on how to stop being an offense to the Gospel...
But that's just what sin is -- defiance against the rightful Ruler of the universe. Listen, I don't know if you know this, but God, as the Creator of all things, has the right to rule the universe as he wishes. You don't go to Iran, dance around on a picture of Muhammad in a town square in a bikini, and then think you're going to get away with it by calling it a "slip-up" when somebody throws your butt in jail. Sin is a serious, serious matter -- why would we look at our brothers and sisters in the church falling into persistent sin and look the other way? We should feel shame at the thought of standing idly by while those who bear the name of Christ deny him with their actions when we could do something about it!
And that's just what church discipline is, people. Church discipline, at heart, is the Body of Christ refusing to allow the beloved children of God continue in sin unchecked. It is a reminder to those who have ignored the Spirit's whispers that danger lies ahead.
99% of the time, church discipline does not involve "excommunication." Usually, the preaching of the Word, worship, the sacraments, and community life are the means the Lord uses to discipline his people. Occasionally, a brother or sister will have to call you out for a particular sin. Less often, someone will have to be confronted in love by the pastors if they continue to live in unrepentant sin. Usually, that person will repent in the course of one of those events. If not -- if that person continues to refuse reconciliation and ignore the pleas of his brothers and sisters, acting like he is not a believer -- then the church is to treat him in the way he is acting! The problem is, people see Paul's command to the Corinthian church to treat the adulterous man in their midst "as an unbeliever" and think that means they kicked him out. But doesn't your church welcome unbelievers? Don't you pray that unbelievers will show up? Don't you invite unbelievers to your services?
Church discipline is a beautiful ministry of the local body; I for one am blessed to be a part of a congregation that has the structures for church discipline in place -- it reminds me of both the grace and the judgment of God. I pray that I never have to be placed under formal discipline by my church, but I know that my fellowship with them is part of what ensures that I never will!
Ever felt frustrated by the folks in your church who claim they can't see the need, biblically or otherwise, to be joined to the local body? Pastor T advises:
At bottom mutual belonging in a family (or, local church membership if you will) rests on three things:1. Recognition of a person's new humanity (being a part of the universal church[...]) by a credible testimony of faith and conversion;2. Recognition by the family (the local church) of a desire, responsibility, and commitment to care for an individual as one of its own in a continuing relationship; and3. Recognition by the individual of a desire, responsibility, and commitment to care for and participate in the life of the entire family (the local church).
When these things are present, we can say the "switch" of mutual belonging has been flipped.
He goes on:
The critical thing is how explicit the [membership] process is in aiding the three recognitions we mentioned earlier: credible profession of faith; commitment of the church to the individual; and commitment of the individual to the church.Being unclear at any of those points will have weakening effects on the local church and perhaps the individual. This is why claimants who say "we can do these same things with our friends down the street and not join the church" almost always drift toward spiritual decay rather than spiritual vibrancy.
But being careful and clear, helps each member of the family to grow in its relationships with the other members and with Christ Jesus.
I can hardly express what a helpful, insightful blog Pastor Thabiti's is. Please, do yourself a favor and bookmark it for your ongoing edification!! And allow your reading to build your anticipation of hearing his heart in person at the upcoming Together for the Gospel conference.
Anyway, I'm going to do a sorta cop-out and link to someone else's blog, but it's a good link, you two, I swear! I don't know why I'm trying to be funny. I feel a little like Rodney Dangerfield pulling at my tie, hoping a few more people will walk into the club and listen to the bad jokes for awhile. Have another G&T, willya? I get no respect.
So, back to the link, Mike (maybe later this week since he's at Aborigine camp-whatsit) and... let's see, who else will read this? Oh, dad. Hi, dad! How are ya? Did church go all right today?
I'm really focusing now, I swear. Tom Ascol's stuff over at Founders Blog consistently exemplifies both strength of conviction and grace; where other bloggers feel they have the "right" to express their opinions with sarcasm or mean-spiritedness, Tom has never stooped to name-calling or caricatures. Take a look at this, his introduction to an extended quote from John Newton:
Too often zeal for truth is used as a license to be harsh, condescending or downright mean. [...] Anyone who uses commitment to his Lord's doctrines as an excuse to violate his Lord's commandments reveals that he holds neither gospel nor law as fervently as he thinks.
The same Master who teaches us the [doctrines of grace] also commands us to love the brethren ("A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another," John 13:34) and even our enemies ("But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you," Matthew 5:44). And Paul explains that love is "patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude ... it is not irritable or resentful" (1 Corinthians 13:4-6).
What kind of devotion is it that excuses sin in the name of truth? Uninformed and immature at best and blind and deluded at worst.
You see what I mean? Head over to the Founders Blog, if for no other reason than to absorb a lesson in gentleness without weakness.