Wednesday, December 23, 2009

How Did Jesus See the Old Testament?

Are we as Christians missing out on much of the meaning of the New Testament because we don't understand the Old? Alec Motyer speaks on Jesus' and his disciples' view of the OT Scriptures:
"It would not have surprised his disciples that our Lord affirmed the enduring validity of the Old Testament (Matthew 5:18). They would have taken it for granted that God's word is imperishable. It is we who must candidly face the Lord's estimate of the Bible as he knew it and, out of reverence for him, adjust our misunderstandings until we see the beautiful wholeness of the word of God, the Old and New Testaments as divine revelation" (The Story of the Old Testament, p. 10).

Friday, December 18, 2009

Feelings Follow Behavior

Wow. Here's a truth that needs to be promoted with all seriousness in our churches. Psychology has introduced us to a failed model of therapeutic "truth" that has even permeated the church. But David M. Tyler in his book God's Funeral argues that ungodliness (idolatry) leads to unrighteousness (wrong behavior) and thus is the cause of much of our mental sufferings:

"'Feelings follow behavior' is a principle found first in Genesis 3 and throughout the whole Bible.

"The Bible teaches that there is a relationship between behavior and feelings. Ungodliness leads to unrighteousness which leads to guilt, depression, anxiety, fear, shame, etc. After they had eaten of the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve fled from the presence of God because they were "afraid" (Genesis 3:10). When God rejected Cain's offering he became angry and depressed. God asked Cain, 'Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen?' God said to Cain, 'If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up?' (Genesis 4:6-7). If Cain would change his behavior his feelings would change. God's rhetorical question to Cain sets forth the important principle that behavior determines feelings."

I'm convinced that this principle holds true for kiddies as well as their mommas and daddies.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Cost of Discipleship

"And they said to him, 'The disciples of John fast often and offer prayers, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours eat and drink.' And Jesus said to them, 'Can you make wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days'" (Luke 5:33-35).

"When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed" (Acts 14:21-23).

"Jesus takes it for granted that his disciples will observe the pious custom of fasting. Strict exercise of self-control is an essential feature of the Christian's life. Such customs have only one purpose--to make the disciples more ready and cheerful to accomplish those things which God would have done" (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, quoted by John Piper in A Hunger for God).

Fasting is a lost discipline of Christ's church. May we recover it for his glory.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Some Thoughts on Cross-Shaped Worship

I was thinking this morning that our worship of God is Cross-shaped. The daily working out of our salvation is not only vertical, toward him, but horizontal, toward one another, as the gospels and epistles so consistently show. The Bible doesn't separate vertical from horizontal; worship isn't worship without both, just as a Cross is not a Cross without both. "So if you are offering your gift at the altar (vertical) and there remember that your brother has something against you (horizontal), leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift" (Matthew 5:23,24).

What other god is so uncompromisingly solicitous of the love of his followers for each other? But our God is always mindful of his children, his heritage, and we're called to imitate him in that mindfulness. We're never to forget each other in our worship of him, even in our corporate singing, because even there he tells us that we're speaking to one another, teaching and admonishing one another, in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs (Ephesians 5:19, Colossians 3:16).

I'm seeing more and more that this is the Cross-shaped life he's calling us to in his church.


Monday, November 2, 2009

A New Evangelical Consituency

"In the last two or three decades evangelicals have discovered culture. That actually sounds more flattering than I intend. I would welcome a serious discussion about culture. We should be exploring what it is and how it works, rather than just looking at polls to see what is hot. A serious engagement with culture, though, is not what most evangelicals are about.

"What they want to know about culture is simple and easy to unearth. They want to know what the trends and fashions are that are ruffling the surface of contemporary life. They have no interest at all in what lies beneath the trends, none on how our modernized culture in the West shapes personal horizons, produces appetites, and provides us ways of processing the meaning of life. All of that seems like pretty complex and useless stuff. Pragmatists to the last drop of blood, these evangelicals are now in the cultural waters, not to understand what is there, but to get some movement. They are there with their surfboards trying to get a little forward motion as each tiny ripple makes its way toward the shore. This quest for success, which passes under the language of 'relevance,' is what is partitioning the evangelical world into its three segments."

David Wells, The Courage to be Protestant: Truth-lovers, Marketers and Emergents in the Postmodern World, p.3


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Spurgeon: The Gospel Invitation Is To All (Even Dynamite-Men)

The gospel is that you believe in Christ Jesus; that you get right out of yourself, and depend alone in him. Do you say, 'I feel so guilty'? You are certainly guilty, whether you feel it or not; you are far more guilty than you have any idea of. Come to Christ because you are guilty, not because you have been prepared to come by looking at your guilt. Trust nothing of your own, not even your sense of need.

Sinners, let me address you with words of life; Jesus wants nothing from you, nothing whatsoever, nothing done, nothing felt; he gives both work and feeling. Ragged, penniless, just as you are, lost forsaken, desolate, with no good feelings and no good hopes, still Jesus comes to you, and in these words of pity he addresses you, 'Him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out.'

'Him that cometh to me:...' the man may have been guilty of an atrocious sin, too black for mention; but if he comes to Christ he shall not be cast out. He may have made himself as black as night- as black as hell... I cannot tell what kinds of persons may have come into this Hall tonight; but if burglars, murderers and dynamite-men were here, I would still bid them come to Christ, for he will not cast them out. No limit is set to the extent of sin: any "him" in all the world- any blaspheming, devilish "him" that comes to Christ shall be welcomed. I use strong words that I may open the gate of mercy. Any "him" that comes to Christ--though he come from slum or taproom, betting-ring or gambling-hell, prison or brothel--Jesus will in no wise cast out.

from Spurgeon V. Hyper-Calvinism by Iain H. Murray

Friday, October 9, 2009

He Himself Will Wipe Every Tear

Isaiah 25:8a--"He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord GOD will wipe away every tear from all faces."

"The exalted title of Sovereign Lord calls attention to the fact that in all the dignity of his divine Sovereignty, it is the Lord himself who will attend to our tears, moving from person to person until each eye has been dried." (Alec Motyer, The Prophecy of Isaiah)

Friday, October 2, 2009

Whatever My God Ordains is Right

Whatever my God ordains is right: His holy will abides;
I will be still whatever He does, and follow where He guides.

He is my God; though dark my road,
He holds me that I shall not fall;
Wherefore to Him I leave it all.

Whatever my God ordains is right: He never will deceive me.
He leads me by the proper path; I know He will not leave me.

I take, content, what He has sent;
His hand can turn my griefs away,
And patiently I wait His day.

Whatever my God ordains is right: His loving thought attends me;
No poison can be in the cup that my Physician sends me.

My God is true; each morning new
I’ll trust His grace unending,
My life to Him commending.

Whatever my God ordains is right: He is my Friend and Father;
He suffers naught to do me harm, though many storms may gather.

Now I may know both joy and woe,
Some day I shall see clearly
That He has loved me dearly.

Whatever my God ordains is right: though now this cup, in drinking,
May bitter seem to my faint heart, I take it, all unshrinking.

My God is true; each morning new
Sweet comfort yet shall fill my heart,
And pain and sorrow shall depart.

Whatever my God ordains is right: here shall my stand be taken;
Though sorrow, need, or death be mine, yet I am not forsaken.

My Father’s care is round me there;
He holds me that I shall not fall:
And so to Him I leave it all.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

No Rebuke for Our Believing Fears

Just a quick observation to add to yesterday's post. In yet another gospel account of disciples in a boat, crossing the sea, and becoming fearful, we'll see again that Jesus reproved his disciples not for their honest fears, but rather for their disbelief in his word.

This time (in Matthew 14:22-32) his disciples are on their way back across the sea at the end of a long day of ministry with Jesus. He has healed the sick and fed over five thousand people with only five loaves of bread and two fish. He has remained to pray; as the disciples are making their way back to the other side in the boat, night falls and they are now struggling against a contrary wind, beaten by the waves. Suddenly they see what they take to be an apparition... it is their Lord, coming to them, walking on the water! They cry out in fear, "It is a ghost!" But what does our Lord say? Does he reprove them for this fear--"O you of little faith?"

No, not for this; rather, he calls out to them with his cheerful encouragement, "Take heart, it is I. Do not be afraid!" There is no reproof. They are struggling; they need their Master. Peter, that importunate one, answers him, "Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water." The Lord says, "Come." We know what happened next; Peter obeyed well at first, but seeing the wind, he forgot Jesus' command to come, and began to sink. The Lord graciously answered his cry for help, took his hand, and then came the searching question: "O you of oligopistos, of little faith, why did you doubt?"

What I'm aiming at here is that, again, Jesus didn't rebuke the disciples for their weakness of fear. Peter only earned that reproof when he failed to believe that the Lord would do what he said; in his simple command to Peter, "Come!" were all the promises of heaven to enable Peter to come. Because he told Peter to come walk on the water, Peter certainly could, if he would only believe his Lord. As Augustine said, "O God, command what You will, and give what You command." Our faith is in the promises of this great God to enable us to do his will.

His will for us, the new covenant people born into a church in Acts 2, is revealed in the pages of the Bible. Our job now is to become familiar with this Bible so that we understand how to read it, how to rightly interpret it in all its different parts, how to love it so that it truly becomes a weapon in our hands, the sword of the Spirit, laying open what needs to be exposed, bringing grace and truth to bear on all that is false.

And our Lord will never rebuke us for our honest doubts and fears, so long as we are saying with the Psalmist, "When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me?" (Psalm 56:3-4).

Monday, September 28, 2009

Mustard Seed Faith

The nature of Christian faith, first given at salvation and put to work afterwards, can be a source of confusion for believers. A careful biblical study of what faith is and how it works in our lives can help to clear up misunderstandings we may have; let’s examine one Scripture passage together and hopefully find encouragement in our approach to God’s word.

In Matthew 17:20, Jesus told the disciples that if they only had the smallest amount of faith, like a mustard seed, they would be able to accomplish great things (to move a mountain was simply a Jewish metaphor for doing the seemingly impossible.) This promise can cause Christians today to wonder what’s wrong with them. They feel that their faith must not yet be what they take our Lord to be saying…the minimum amount, so to speak. As if he’s saying, ‘Look, can’t you even drum up this much faith…faith the size of a mustard seed? If you can just drum up that much, you can do some great things!” Feeling that we don’t have the faith to move a mountain (or overcome our worst habits), we accept that we are sadly lacking. We make a choice either to glaze over and “disconnect” from this teaching and go on, or stumble in our walk and suffer a rift in our close fellowship with the Lord.

But neither is necessary. A right understanding of these words of Jesus should bring both light and encouragement to those who struggle with the issue of faith.

It’s important to know that our Lord isn’t asking the disciples to drum up “at least” a mustard seed-sized faith. Rather, he’s giving them some good news…that it only takes that! Even if it is only that small, he’s telling them, the size of one of the tiniest seeds known, their faith will be enough to accomplish great things, and for this reason; it’s not their faith itself that everything depends on, but the One their faith is in. Their tiny faith must be in the greatness of the God who can uproot mountains and move them to another place.

Before Jesus’ resurrection, the disciples often failed to grasp and believe who Jesus was, so they often failed to understand and obey his words. He reproved them more than once for this…“O you of little faith.” The Greek for the phrase “little faith” is oligopistos; it doesn’t mean “no faith,” but rather “ineffective”, “defective”, or “deficient” faith, reflecting their muddled understanding of who Jesus was. They were reproved for their hard hearts in not understanding his teaching, and for their failure to believe and obey him.

This story from the gospels may help shed some light. Luke, in 8:22-25, gives the account this way:

“One day he got into a boat with his disciples, and he said to them, ‘Let us go across to the other side of the lake.’ So they set out, and as they sailed he fell asleep. And a windstorm came down on the lake, and they were filling with water and were in danger. And they went and woke him, saying, ‘Master, Master, we are perishing!’ And he awoke and rebuked the wind and the raging waves, and they ceased, and there was a calm. He said to them, ‘Where is your faith?’ And they were afraid, and they marveled, saying to one another, ‘Who then is this, that he commands even winds and water, and they obey him?’”

Notice that Jesus revealed his will for the disciples when he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side of the lake.” When the violent storm blew up, the disciples became afraid; Luke assures us that they were indeed in danger. When the frightened disciples went to him, saying that they were about to die, he woke up and rebuked the storm, and it ceased. Then he asked them, “Where is your faith?” Why did the Lord reprove them?

Not, I think, because they were afraid and woke him up; it was rather their disbelief that he could and would get them to the other side in spite of his expressed purpose to do just that. “We are perishing!” they cried. (Matthew adds that they asked, “Do you not care?”) Their unbelief in his words was rooted in their hard-hearted failure to understand who he was, as seen in the last verse of Luke’s account.

And we have this same problem today! Lacking a true grasp of the character and accomplishment of Christ, we fail to believe and act on his words (Matthew 7:24). We don’t understand that the faith he calls us to exercise is simply to believe him; it is a settled trust in who he is, in what he has accomplished, and in his word. The purpose of the gospel accounts, John tells us, is that we too may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing we may have life in his name.

Jesus does not ask us to drum up faith. Faith is a gift (Ephesians 2:8) as well as something we must exercise, and its object is God, the mover of mountains! What he has said he will do, he will do. We place our tiny trust in his great power and ability, described in the Bible for us so that we can believe. This is the nature of faith, and this is its purpose…to believe the promises of a great God, and believing them to act upon them, and so give glory to him both in this life and in eternity.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Futility of Regret

I came across this essay by A.W. Tozer on Paul Martin's blog, and posted it here for my own benefit and enjoyment. Hope it's of help to you too.

The human heart is heretical by nature. Popular religious beliefs should be checked carefully against the word of God, for they are almost certain to be wrong.

Legalism, for instance, is natural to the human heart. Grace in its true New Testament meaning is foreign to human reason, not because it is contrary to reason but because it lies beyond it. The doctrine of grace had to be revealed; it could not have been discovered.

The essence of legalism is self-atonement. The seeker tries to make himself acceptable to God by some act of restitution, or by self-punishment or the feeling of regret. The desire to be pleasing to God by self-effort is not, for it assumes that sin once done may be undone, an assumption wholly false.

Long after we have learned from the scriptures that we cannot by fasting, or the wearing of a hair shirt or the making of many prayers atone for the sins of the soul, we still tend by a kind of pernicious natural heresy to feel that we can please God, and purify our souls, by the penance of perpetual regret.

This latter is the Protestant's unacknowledged penance. Though he claims to believe in the doctrine of justification by faith, he still secretly feels that what he calls "godly sorrow" will make him dear to God. Though he may know better, he is caught in the web of a wrong religious feeling and betrayed.

There is indeed a godly sorrow that worketh repentance, and it must be acknowledged that among us Christians this feeling is often not present in sufficient strength to work real repentance; but the persistence of this sorrow till it becomes chronic regret is neither right nor good. Regret is a kind of frustrated repentance that has not been quite comsummated. Once the soul has turned from all sin and committed itself wholly to God there is no longer any legitimate place for regret. When moral innocence has been restored by the forgiving love of God the guilt may be remembered, but the sting is gone from the memory. The forgiven man knows that he has sinned, but he no longer feels it.

The effort to be forgiven by works is one that can never be completed because no one knows or can know how much is enough to cancel out the offence; so the seeker must go on year after year paying on his moral debt, here a little, there a little, knowing that he sometimes adds to his bill much more than he pays. The task of keeping books on such transaction can never end, and the seeker can only hope that when the last entry is made he may be ahead and the account fully paid. This is quite the popular belief, this forgiveness by self-effort but it is natural heresy and can at last only betray those who depend upon it.

It may be argued that the absence of regret indicates a low and inadequate view of sin, but the exact opposite is true. Sin is frightful, so destructive to the soul that no human thought or act can in any degree diminish its lethal effects. Only God can deal with it successfully; only the blood of Christ can cleanse it from the pores or the spirit. The heart that has been delivered from this dread enemy feels not regret but wondrous relief and unceasing gratitude.

The returned prodigal honors his father more by rejoicing than by repining. Had the young man in the story had less faith in his father he might have mourned in a corner instead of joining in the festivities. His confidence in the loving-kindness of his father gave him the courage to forget his checkered past.

Regret frets the soul as tension frets the nerves and anxiety the mind. I believe that the chronic unhappiness of most Christians may be attributed to a gnawing uneasiness lest God had not fully forgiven them, or the fear that He expects as the price of His forgiveness some sort of emotional penance which they have not yet furnished. As our confidence in the goodness of God mounts our anxieties will diminish and our moral happiness rise in inverse proportion.

Regret may be more a form of self-love. A man may have such a high regard for himself that any failure to live up to his own image of himself disappoints him deeply. He feels that he has betrayed his better self by his act of wrongdoing, and even if God is willing to forgive him he will not forgive himself. Sin brings to such a man a painful loss of face that is not soon forgotten. He becomes permanently angry with himself by going to God frequently with petulant self-accusations. This state of mind crystallizes finally into a feeling of chronic regret which appears to be proof of deep penitence, but is actually proof of deep self-love.

Regret for a sinful past will remain until we truly believe that for us in Christ that sinful past no longer exists. The man in Christ has only Christ's past, and that is perfect and acceptable to God. In Christ He died, in Christ he rose, and in Christ he is seated within the circle of God's favored ones. He is no longer angry with himself because he is no longer self-regarding, but Christ-regarding; hence there is no place for regret.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Lloyd-Jones on Preaching

"Now this is the very opposite of inviting people to a quest or to a search. That idea has always been popular; this notion that a Christian is someone who is seeking and searching; someone who sets out on a journey into this vast unexplored expanse of truth. What is a Christian? "Well," people say, "Christians are men and women who do not just spend their time eating and drinking and indulging their passions. They are intelligent people and they set out in the search for truth and oh, it is thrilling; it is wonderful! The uncharted ocean, the promised land, the unknown; and off you set, with this thrill and excitement on the quest for truth." This has always been very popular. People like the idea; it appeals to their spirit of adventure and there have been those who have not hesitated to say this. Their criticism of our evangelical gospel has always been that it is too certain and too dogmatic.

The poets like saying this sort of thing, do they not? They of all people, have generally fooled themselves better than others-- "to travel hopefully is better than to arrive!" says one of them.

But life is not a game; it is not a play; it is not just play-acting. Oh, life is serious and solemn; it is real and it is earnest. And that is the sort of life of the world that we find ourselves in today. So I thank God that as I look at this, I am not invited to some great experiment or to some great search or question or journey of exploration. In the midst of my failure in life, with my heart breaking and my soul bleeding, and as I am almost giving up in despair, I suddenly hear a bugle call or a trumpet sounding, and I say, What is that? And, thank God, I hear an authoritative proclamation; I hear a man saying, "Listen, I am a herald, I have a message from the Imperial Palace; I announce to you." "Preaching!"...

But let me translate that into simpler, more ordinary language. My task [as a preacher] is to tell you that the answer to all your questions is in this one book, the Bible. If I am a herald (and, thank God, unworthy though I am, that is what I am) I am not here to tell you my theories and my ideas about life, for they are no better than yours. No, I have been given a message from the Imperial Palace and here it is. And I am here to tell you with authority, with the authority of God, that all your questions have already been answered and all your problems have already been solved. You have but to listen to this preaching, this proclamation, and you will find peace and rest for your soul.

And if you should be asked to pass from time to eternity today, you will know where you are going; you will not be alone; you will be able to say with the Apostle Paul, "I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day" (2 Timothy 1:12). Thank God for preaching--proclamation, authoritative pronouncement!"

excerpts, The Kingdom of God by Martyn Lloyd-Jones, pgs. 12-14

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Reading the Bible with Opened Eyes recently interviewed John Piper:

BSM: There’s an old saying, “Familiarity breeds contempt.”
How do you keep your familiarity with the Bible from causing
you to grow indifferent to it?

PIPER: I pray Psalm 119:18 each time I go to the Bible: “Open my
eyes that I may behold wonders in your law.” I think the point of
that prayer is that there are wonders everywhere in “the law,” in
the Bible, the instruction of God. And the psalmist is aware that he
doesn’t often feel or see wonderful things as wonderful. So he asks
to see. I do as well. I’m asking specifically that I would have spiritual
eyes to see what is wonderful as wonderful. And don’t think that it
doesn’t matter that you read glorious things without seeing them as
glorious. It matters, and therefore we should plead with God to open
our eyes.

you can read the rest of the interview here

(HT: desiringgodblog)

Friday, August 7, 2009

On Cultural Engagement

Some thoughts from the blog article of Ray Van Neste, Director of the R.C. Ryan Center for Biblical Studies at Union University in Jackson, TN, titled "Ken Myers on Cultural Engagement:"

"In the recent issue of Touchstone Magazine Ken Myers' article “Waiting for Epimenides” draws from the letter to Titus lessons for cultural engagement. This is a good article both in its handling of Titus and in its observations of the current church scene. Here are some quotes:
“A passion for Christian maturity is easily obscured when church leaders become preoccupied with the church’s cultural relevance.” (9)
“Far from looking more like their neighbors in the interest of winsomeness, they are enjoined to live lives that put their neighbors to shame.” (11; commenting on Titus 2:1-10)

“St. Paul’s letter to Titus is a bracing rebuke to much of the vague talk about cultural engagement one hears in so many Christian settings. … It recognizes that cultural moods and styles can be enemies of faithfulness.” (11)
Noting that there are often secular voices pointing out the deadening effects of cultural trends, Myers goes on to say:
"But, all too often, these prophetic voices are ignored, as American churches have emulated the most popular trends of our time to attract people who want a spiritual supplement to the cultural status quo instead of a radical critique of the conventional wisdom. Christian leaders have assumed that ‘engaging the culture’ means finding out what the majority wants and figuring out how to exploit those desires in the name of Jesus." (11)

You can visit Ray Van Neste's blog here.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

To Get Us Thinking...

From Desiring God blog today: a helpful article on "Questions to Ask When Preparing for Marriage."

Photo Mircea Tudorache

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Question of Inerrancy

I was surprised and bemused a little over a year ago to run into a young Baptist youth leader at children's camp who believed the Bible contained error in what it taught. This surfaced in a conversation we had during breakfast one morning that began with my asking him what sort of books he liked to read. This young man was actually the main speaker for this camp. He became quite agitated over the topic, telling me that he used to believe the way I did about the inerrancy of Scripture, but no longer did.

Not long ago I was listening to a talk by Don Carson in which he communicated that though the battle for the inerrancy of Scripture has been fought valiantly in past decades, it has not been won. Here Don Carson speaks about 4 minutes on the topic (the video cuts off, wish it could have run a little longer!) but it's enough to get a taste for where the issues lie.
I bow down toward your holy temple
and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness,
for you have exalted above all things
your name and your word (Psalm 138:2)

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Augustine and Pelagius For Us Ladies

"O God, command what You will, and give what You command," prayed Augustine, the 5th century bishop of Hippo, Africa, and so answered the growing heresy of the day taught by, among others, a British monk named Pelagius. Pelagius answered Augustine's thought with his own: God would never command something that is not in the ability of man to do.

This was not the first serious doctrinal conflict that had arisen in the church, but it is one of the first that provided theological labels still in use. Although Pelagius' views were condemned as unbiblical at the Council of Carthage in 418, they remained popular with many and have persisted in one form or another to this very day. Most of us in the church are unaware of these historical events and unfamiliar with the terms Pelagianism and semi-Pelagianism, yet the views of Pelagius and others like him still deeply affect our understanding.

This conflict of understanding is one reason we have trouble growing and changing into the image of Christ, which is God's will for us. The New Testament words of Jesus and the apostles concerning how we are to live, and what sort of people we are to be, can seem so hopelessly beyond us that our eyes (and hearts) glaze over. We just can't apply such high standards to our own lives! Or, we determine to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and get with the program of obeying God's commands. We make resolutions and "decisions" for Christ that harden eventually into a rigid lifestyle of rules. We really want to be holy, but feel it must come by our own efforts.

Either way we fall short of God's requirements. He does demand that His people be holy, set apart and conformed to the image of His Son, but He is not glorified by our own attempts at righteous living resulting in rigidity and self-righteousness. They are doomed to fail.

This is the dilemma that has led multitudes from Isaiah, to Paul, to Augustine and Luther to fall on their faces before the righteous demands of God and cry out, "God, you are holy and I am not! Command what you will--I have no say-so or argument anymore with Your holy and just law. Only, give what I need to obey Your commands!"

This is the prayer from the heart that God is waiting to hear. We have to come to the end of ourselves, and see very plainly that we will never fulfill God's righteousness by our own efforts.

This stuff really matters (thus a world-wide council convened in 418 A.D. in order to get it settled, or so they'd hoped.) And to bring it all down to our world, it matters greatly to us women; the stakes are so high that Paul says if we let the ball drop, and don't become doers of the word and not just hearers, we will actually aid the enemies of God and bring reproach to His gospel (Titus 2:5). What will we do about commands like this, which we cannot obey in our own strength and we dare not simply glaze over?

"Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct.

Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious.

For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening" (1 Peter 3:1-6).

We'll fly to Jesus for help.

Lord, command what You will, and give what You command.

(learn more about Augustine and Pelagius here)

Photo by janusz l

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Piper on Mental Health

"While I was a student at Wheaton College, a very wise and deep and happy teacher of literature, Clyde Kilby, showed us and taught us this path to health. Once he said, 'I shall not demean my own uniqueness by envy of others. I shall stop boring into myself to discover what psychological or social categories I might belong to. Mostly I shall simply forget about myself and do my work.'

"He had learned the deep significance of this outward-oriented self-forgetfulness from C.S. Lewis and drew our attention to it often. Mental health is, in great measure, the gift of self-forgetfulness. The reason is that introspection destroys what matters most to us--the authentic experience of great things outside ourselves."

from "The Clouds Ye So Much Dread Are Big With Mercy--Insanity and Spiritual Songs in the Life of William Cowper", The Hidden Smile of God by John Piper, pg. 112

Photo by Nelson~Blue

Monday, July 13, 2009

Tolkien on Choosing Books for Children

Ray Van Neste (whose blog, The Children's Hour, I highly recommend to parents of young readers) quotes J.R.R. Tolkien: “A good vocabulary is not acquired by reading books written according to some notion of the vocabulary of one’s age-group. It comes from reading books above one.”

In other words, don't be afraid to read the more difficult books with and to your children. Help them develop a taste for and skill with vocabulary.

J.R.R. Tolkien

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Tension in Good Teaching

I'm reading an excellent little book, "Teaching to Change Lives" by Dr. Howard Hendricks. This stuff is good; if you teach in any capacity, as a parent (and all parents teach), Sunday School teacher, public school teacher; or if you have any desire to learn more about teaching, get a copy of this book. It's easy to read, engaging and filled with rich, quotable nuggets of wisdom. Chapter Two of the book, "The Law of Education," deals with the tension a teacher must create in order to stir up learning. In explaining why tension is a necessary component of good teaching, Dr. Hendricks begins with psychologist Abraham Maslow's four levels of learning:

1) Unconscious incompetence--the learner's beginning point, the basic level where everyone starts... where you're ignorant and you don't know it.

2) Conscious incompetence--now you know you don't know. How do you find out? Usually somebody tells you but occasionally you discover it for yourself.

3) Conscious competence--you've learned something, as when you first get the hang of driving a car, and you're consciously aware of it as you do it.

4) Unconscious competence--you're so competent you don't even think about it anymore.

Hendricks goes on to explain that the art of teaching--and the difficulty of learning--is getting people to place themselves at the beginning of that cycle, to plunge to the bottom, so they can begin the learning process. There is no growth, no development, no true learning, apart from the tension that must come as people are made aware that they don't know. Tension is absolutely indispensable to the process.

I see this as so very true in the Church in our day, in the area of Christian discipleship. I lived many years not knowing that I didn't know. Only the bittersweet providences of God awakened me to my true condition. I'm so thankful to Him for creating the tension that I needed in my life to show me that I needed to become a true learner. And I am convinced that in many ways I am still at the first level, where I don't yet know that I don't know.

A good teacher will imitate the Master Teacher by helping someone get to the place of seeing that they need to learn. It's an exciting and humbling prospect, that we are given the privilege of participating in changing hearts and minds, in changing lives. May we desire to do that to the very best of our ability, to the glory of God. This little book by Howard Hendricks will be a great help in that direction.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Giving Us Words to Express Experience

God's word, among all the other benefits it gives us, gives us this one: a language to talk in, a framework to give voice to our experience as Christians. Work in biblical counseling has helped me understand this even more.

Truly the Bible is sufficient. It provides every description of the way of God we need to know, interacting and intersecting with our own desperate human condition. I was trying to articulate what my former neglect in pursuing holiness has to do with my resoluteness now to declare His truth to all generations. 1 Timothy 1:16-17 gave me the language to say it in this morning: "But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost (of sinners) Jesus Christ might display His perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in Him for eternal life. To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen."

Thursday, June 25, 2009

When God Says "I'm Going To Do It"...We Pray For Him To Do It

God told Elijah that He was going to send rain and so...Elijah prayed for rain.

"This is the wonder of prayer...that instead of God's saying "I'm going to do it" making prayer redundant, actually, God's saying "I'm going to do it" is meant to inspire us to pray, and direct our praying that so that our praying is in line with what God has said.

"Prayer is built on what God has promised He will do. Prayer starts in God, prayer starts with God initiating, telling us what He's after. It's not us thinking, "What shall I pray for?" No, it's much more responding to His initiatives--what He wants to do--and we come and ask Him in the light of that."

From a talk by Terry Virgo; all commas, quotes, dashes and such made up by me as I listened. You can listen to the whole thing here.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Don't Waste Your Life Tour Coming to Birmingham

The Don't Waste Your Life Tour is coming to Birmingham June 27th, at the downtown Jefferson Complex! Featuring Lecrae, Trip Lee, and others. Please do not miss this if you are in the area--please bring friends who need to hear and experience this.

Your Money, Your Singleness, Marriage, Talents, Your Time,
They belong to you to show the world that Christ is divine.
That's why its Christ in my rhyme, That's why its Christ all the time,
See my whole world is built around Him, He's the life in my line.
- from the song Don't Waste Your Life

Tickets are $10 at the door, groups of 20+ can call ahead. Doors open at 6 pm and concert starts at 7 pm. Call 205-215-6793 for more info. Visit the Reach Records website for tour dates.

Monday, June 1, 2009


The Bible is all of a piece, and there are no shortcuts. From first to last, it is the fear of the Lord (or the lack thereof) that is shown to be the determining factor behind whether we will live in light of eternity, or live in carelessness.

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Proverbs 1:7).

This should be our life verse, the cornerstone of our faith; this should be understood as the missing piece of the puzzle behind all the mystifying worldliness we see in professing Christians (i.e. ourselves!) Only He can grant to us this reverential fear of Him; it is His work.

“Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name” (Psalm 86:11).

“Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways. Confirm to your servant your promise, that you may be feared” (Psalm 119:37, 38).

The fear of the Lord comes from reading, studying, abiding in, and loving His word:

"All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be," declares the Lord. "But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word" (Isaiah 66:2).

"Great peace have those who love Your law; nothing can make them stumble" (Psalm 119:165).

Friday, May 29, 2009

No Lightning Bolts

From Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands by Paul David Tripp:

"...Growth in grace doesn't come by lightning bolts and magical encounters but by humble, honest, obedient, and practical application of God's Word to the specifics of everyday experience. In sanctification God calls his children to follow, stand fast, forsake, trust, put off and put on, run, obey, put to death, study, flee, and resist."

Photo by Spodzone

Monday, May 25, 2009

Death is Not Dying

"On March 4, 2009, Rachel Barkey had an opportunity to share about her hope in the midst of terminal cancer. What began as a small talk to her church women’s group became an event attended by over 600 women and was an experience that left many with a desire to discover more about Rachel’s journey and faith."

I kept hearing about this, but I just didn't believe it 'til I watched it today. You find 55 minutes and watch it, too. Death is Not Dying

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Build a House

As parents, do we sometimes think of the devotions we have with our children as the window dressings of a house? The reading and study of God's word coupled with prayer are, instead, the very timbers that hold the structure up, that hold it together. Don't think of daily devotions together as mainly the use of something you've bought at the Christian bookstore; it's the solid, daily diet of the Scriptures themselves, along with fervent and earnest payer that God's Spirit will apply its truths to our hearts, that will grow us and our children into ones who bear much fruit for His kingdom.

Photo David H-W (Extrajection)

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

We Have Our Assignment

This morning in Matthew:

"But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake..." (Matthew 13:32-35b, italics mine)

(Photo the|G|™)

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Wordle-ing Proverbs

I've had more than one conversation with another mom in which one or both of us have taken comfort from the familiar Proverb, "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it" (Proverbs 22:6). Only possible problem we may have in claiming that promise is, what do we think that kind of training looks like?

It may look quite different, require more of us, cost us more than we want to think.

Proverbs chapters 1-8
(Click for larger view)


Thursday, April 30, 2009

To Break Thy Schemes of Earthly Joy...

As my daughter Jennie would say, I fail at blogging! I've had a stubborn case of "nothing to say," at least not in a public way. I've had plenty of thoughts clanking around in this brain but they haven't seemed very worthy of setting down in permanent form. I have learned something, though, during this dry spell, and it's something more of grace, and something more about myself. If I'm not writing something somewhere, I'm usually struggling around with something somehow. So I suppose that a new blog post is a good sign!

There are some things that go on with me that I cannot (as of yet, anyway) communicate very coherently... often wrapped up, one way or another, with the journey I'm on since the death of my son. Grief seems to take one through cycles of apparent strength, only to plunge one back into weakness; this has continued to surprise me. I think I have not known myself. I don't think God calls us to know ourselves in any narcissistic way, but I do believe His word reveals that we need to know and understand ourselves in a true way... to see ourselves as He sees us, as His word describes us, and what I'm learning is that His word describes us as being very weak indeed. Weak, that is, in our own resources, our own native strength and ability. Oh, how we keep trying to give the lie to this assessment of ourselves from Him! We acknowledge it with lip service, then plunge ahead in reliance on a strength and ability we do not really possess. It is His kindness to allow us to trip up, to fail and to grow frustrated and even despairing if we must, if that's what it takes to see things as they really are. It seems to take this, over and over, for me! (I think I am a slow and perhaps stubborn learner.)

But what sweetness to be laid low enough to see it once again. What freedom, to put off a mask (of cheerful competency) and put on the sheer grace of God once again. I think--I hope--I trust that I'll be taught by these cycles to remember better who and what I am, to look to who and what He is, for longer stretches of time. I believe that for all of us these times of forgetting how weak and unable we are apart from His grace and truth, which lead inevitably to painful places, will not be wasted, but will serve in comforting others with the same comfort with which we've been comforted.

I Asked the Lord

I asked the Lord that I might grow in faith and love and every grace,

Might more of His salvation know and seek more earnestly His face.

‘Twas He who taught me thus to pray and He, I trust, has answered prayer,

But it has been in such a way as almost drove me to despair.

I hoped that in some favored hour at once He’d answer my request

And by His love’s constraining power subdue my sins and give me rest.

Instead of this He made me feel the hidden evils of my heart,

And let the angry powers of Hell assault my soul in every part.

Yea more with His own hand He seemed intent to aggravate my woe;

Crossed all the fair designs I schemed, cast out my feelings, laid me low.

“Lord, why is this,” I trembling cried. “Wilt Thou pursue thy worm to death?”

“Tis in this way,” The Lord replied, “I answer prayer for grace and faith.”

“These inward trials I employ, from self and pride to set thee free,

And break thy schemes of earthly joy, that thou mayest seek thy all in me.”

~ John Newton 1779

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Book Review--Just Do Something

Just Do Something, a new book by Kevin DeYoung, is subtitled "A Liberating Approach to Finding God's Will OR How to Make a Decision without Dreams, Visions, Fleeces, Impressions, Open Doors, Random Bible Verses, Casting Lots, Liver Shivers, Writing in the Sky, Etc." As you might guess, the author makes use of an enjoyable sense of humor in writing this book! That does not at all take away from the seriousness of the subject matter or the care and skill with which he treats it.

My interest in the topic of how Christians are to go about discovering God's will for the decisions they must make has been growing as of late. I came up as a believer taught that we were to seek God's mind on all decisions, big and small, and that we could and should expect to receive clear guidance from Him. If we didn't, it was our fault; we just weren't spiritual enough to hear Him! Discovering a different, biblical and therefore infinitely better way of understanding these things has indeed been liberating to me (how true our Lord's words, "You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free") and this view is more glorifying to God, for it employs a much higher understanding of His sovereignty! I so long to see other friends set free from the often agonizing process by which we often feel we must pray through decisions. You can check here for my review of another resource I recently turned to on this topic. The dvd reviewed there is a good one, but this book treats the subject with more depth, and therefore more helpfully.

Just Do Something begins with this from Josh Harris' foreword: "It is God's will for you to read this book. Yes, I'm talking to you. What are the odds that you would "just happen" to pick up this book and flip open to this page and start reading? Obviously it's a sign. Of all the millions of books in the world, you found this one. Wow. I have chills. Do not pass up this divinely orchestrated moment. If you miss this moment there's a good chance you will completely miss God's will for the rest of your life and spend your days in misery and regret."

If you caught on pretty quickly that Josh is gently spoofing many of our attitudes in discerning God's guidance and direction, you get a cookie. It almost seems mean (as well as humorous), but the tone of this book is anything but mean-spirited. Rather, DeYoung leads an informative and highly engaging tour of how we in the church in America have have come to think about "finding" God's will (i.e. His guidance in our everyday affairs) for our lives. Just the names of the short and very readable chapters are intriguing. "The Will of God in Christianese," "Our Magic 8-Ball God" ("God is not a magic eight ball we shake up and peer into whenever we have a decision to make. He is a good God who gives us brains, shows us the way of obedience, and invites us to take risks for him"), "A Better Way," and "Work, Wedlock and God's Will" walk us through insightful and entirely biblical teaching to a better understanding of what the Scriptures teach about God's will. Much of this will be new and surprising to many believers, but truth is, it's our present-day thinking on this topic that's new. This is beautifully illustrated in sections from interviews the author did with his two grandfathers, and especially in the last chapter, "The End of the Matter." I was moved to tears and worship for the greatness of God in His purposes as I read the moving story of DeYoung's aged grandfather, and was also made greatly nostalgic for a time I've really never known, when faith in God's providential guidance was more widely understood and valued.

In contrast, the first chapter of the book, "The Long Road to Nowhere," paints an accurate and devastating portrait of the current generation of young American evangelicals as "tinkerers" (as opposed to the "builders" and "boomers" that came before), paralyzed by passivity and empty on follow-through. "Our search for the will of God has become an accomplice in the postponement of growing up, a convenient out for the young (or old) Christian floating through life without direction or purpose. Too many of us have passed off our instability, inconsistency and endless self-exploration as "looking for God's will," as if not making up our minds and meandering through life were marks of spiritual sensitivity." I confess to being just as guilty of this as people younger than me, for poor theology affects those of any and every age group!

There is so much in this book to recommend, though it's not without a couple of minor weaknesses. DeYoung's section dealing with godly counsel in Chapter 8 could have been stronger, and I actually woke up in the wee hours of the morning after I'd read the book realizing that questions may arise about God's providential guidance in cases of sinful failures, either morally or doctrinally, that bring about disastrous or tragic consequences. That there is biblical truth dealing with that very issue, doctrine which gives deeply satisfying, though not necessarily easy, answers should be comforting. Perhaps that's fodder for a later book review!

I highly recommend this's timeliness and importance can't be overstressed, for it's not just the pragmatic need we have of knowing how to make good decisions that is addressed, but our whole view of God. When we retain well-intentioned but erroneous views of how God works in the life of the believer, how He guides, how He speaks to us... well, we are retaining erroneous views of God Himself. He is not glorified when His people are bound by unbiblical constraints, and the church is held back from the joyous effectiveness she could and should have to the world around us. So order it, read it and pass it around--you'll be doing yourself and perhaps some friends a great favor by doing so.

Order it here.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Tools of the Trade

"The wisest of women builds her house,
but folly with her own hands tears it down" (Proverbs 14:1).

I don't think Solomon is talking about hammers and nails, or chainsaws and bulldozers, here. We wives and mothers wake up every morning to a new day in which we will, by our actions and words, sow either seeds of blessing and edification (building up), or destruction. The bad seeds, the negative ones, are often the most satisfying to us at the time, but later they will yield bitter fruit. The building blocks of faith and hope in God, kindness and truth-saturated love will make a strong house that will stand the test of time and storms.

"She opens her mouth with wisdom,
and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue" (Proverbs 31:26).

"For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham,calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening" (1 Peter 3:5,6).

Photo by jeremypullen

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Phillipians Two 1 thru eleven

Oh, the utter astoundingness of it; that pitiful created beings would continue doing things in our homes, churches and lives "from rivalry and conceit" when we serve a Savior who, "though He was in the form of God, did not consider equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men."

The spectacle of my own strutting pride in view of the humility of our Savior makes me want to go crawl under a rock. But He won't allow it--I'm instead to turn my gaze steadfastly to His example, and then go and act like Him.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Decisions, Decisions

I watched the DVD "Decisions, Decisions" tonight and enjoyed it. Todd Friel of Wretched Radio (formerly Way of the Master Radio) is his usual fast-paced and amusing self in the first part of the DVD, showing us why Christians in the West have become so lousy at making decisions (we've become mystical and don't understand the Bible's teaching on wisdom and the providence of God). Friel promises that by the end of the hour with him we will know how to discern God's will on who to marry, what career to pursue, and what house to buy. He says this in a tongue-in-cheek way but he actually really means it, because the way we discern God's will in those things is by reading the Bible! Friel explains that in the Bible, God has revealed his moral will to us, and we are free to make decisions based on the knowledge of that will and our own good sense. We don't have to worry about "missing God's will" because God has promised to get us all where he wants us to go. This is really good news for the Christian.

In the second part of the DVD, Todd turns to the final thing he promised we can know by the end of the video-- whether we are going to Heaven or to hell when we die. I have to admit, I wondered how he was going to turn so quickly to such a serious matter after his entertaining presentation on decision-making. Moments later, I was surprised and impressed with the turn in tone and substance of his presentation. This part of the DVD took place at a youth conference, apparently. Friel helped his audience discern whether their faith is genuine, or if they may have experienced a false conversion to Christ at some point in their lives, through the skillful handling of sections of 1 John. In the process, he shredded some of the bogus misconceptions that sometimes get imbedded in the heads of churched young people. He made a very clear and effective presentation of the gospel and call to Christ.

I initially bought this DVD in hopes it would be a good resource for a ladies' group study on decision making, but I'm not disappointed that it turned out to be a presentation more appealing to teens and young adults. I think the first part of the DVD is quite useful for helping young adults understand that there really is a Biblical way to think and make choices. It is valuable and immensely practical instruction, and the Church desperately needs it. I do think that a follow-up, in-depth discussion of these principles will be beneficial, so parents or leaders will want to study the Biblical doctrine of guidance and God's will. The last part of the DVD stands on its own as far as being a complete, thorough and sound presentation of our own sinfulness and hopeless condition, and the greatness of God's mercy in sending his Son to save us. It goes a little long, perhaps, when Friel gets into the demands of the Law (the Ten Commandments) and our inability to please a holy God, but as a Way of the Master guy, he is doing what they do.

All in all, I think this is a resource well worth owning and viewing in homes and youth groups. I believe the teaching here on decision-making is the correct and Biblical one, and is sorely needed in our day; for, as Todd says, "once you understand God's providential will, you will never be in the dark again." And the presentation of the gospel at the end is strong, as Friel proclaims the revealed will of God: that all people everywhere are commanded to repent and place their trust in Jesus Christ. Good stuff.

Buy it here.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Remember, and Don't Forget

I'm struck once again, as I read through Deuteronomy, at the urgency Moses conveys to the people of Israel to remember, and not forget, all the mighty deeds of the Lord in bringing them out of Egypt; and that they not fail to tell their children, and teach their children to tell their children, of His greatness and power. "Tell your children the stories! Don't forget! Remember!!"

We do a lot of labor-intensive, complicated things in the name of children's ministry in church. We think we know what the goal is, but too often I think we're missing it. The goal today is the same goal as it was for Israel as they prepared to cross over Jordan into the promised land: to tell their children of the mighty deeds of God. To teach them to remember, and not forget. "Bind these words on your hearts, fathers; instruct your children as you walk along the way."

If the church budgets were reduced to zero, we are still more than equipped by our Bibles to carry out every command of God, including the command to instruct our children in His ways. A budget reduced to zero might be a great blessing, if it forced us to look at how God has said it can be accomplished. Not with splashy programs; definitely not apart from the faithfulness of moms and dads obeying the command to teach their own children to remember, and not forget, the mighty deeds of God.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

February 28

Joseph Emmanuel Pollard
February 28, 1981-October 2, 2004
"Upside Down!"

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

James 3:13-18

My longing was to know the Lord, so I began the study of
His ways and all the things He loves,
His precepts and His truth.
I dug in deep and learned to love the context of each verse and book,
And as I read my knowledge grew, with understanding, too.

And how my heart did soar in this, though others seemed content with less;
And over time, this seemed to hold me back
From what could be.
"Why aren't the others getting this?" I grumbled if the tether strained
Preventing my ascending to the heights that I could see.

And so the love that I'd first felt when I began to know the Lord
Began to fade into a sort of
Bitterness that galled.
The eager joy to know the Lord had twisted to ambition
And a tendency to jealousy quite foreign to His call.

And so, I sought to know the Lord... began again the study of
His ways, and all the things He loves,
His precepts and His truths.
And this time saw the thing I'd missed, the caveat that all of this
Depended on, and it was love,
And wisdom from above.

As wisdom knows, theology is not a thing to puff us up
By gaining knowledge all alone
Apart from God's own heart.
True knowledge of Him ends our pride and causes us to cry to Him
For grace to be a Doer of
The things His word imparts.

Let doctrine reign, and sound reproof, and all that His true word enjoins,
But don't forget His Law of Love, the other side of that same coin!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Way To God

A helpful website for seekers is called Way to God. Here is an example of what they have to offer: "The Most Important Thing." (Everyone wants to know what that is, right?)

Thursday, January 29, 2009

What God Enjoys

From Dr. Erwin Lutzer, senior pastor of Moody Church in Chicago:

"God enjoys being believed."

Let the ramifications of that truth slowly seep down and spread through every recess of your heart, becoming a fruitful bough in all you say and do for the rest of your life.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

In Honor of Virgil Ware

We're pretty proud of our dad, retired Capt. E. Dan Jordan, proud dad and granddad that he is. Along with his being a loving father and grandfather, and being there for us all these years (even through all our crazy shenanigans), he has also lived an interesting life which includes an illustrious career as a law enforcement officer. That career is highlighted by the decade of the 1960's, the civil rights era, during which my dad and his department, the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department, shone brightly at moments through some pretty dark days. The events my dad saw firsthand, and were involved in, are part of civil rights history. The infamous day of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing, in which four little girls died and which sparked a day of violence and sorrow here in Birmingham, was one day during those days he will never forget.

My dad was just beginning to enjoy his day off when the bomb blasted through the basement of the downtown church building that Sunday morning at 10:22 a.m., September 15th, 1963. He wanted to go immediately to the site but was ordered by Sheriff Mel Bailey, along with every other available deputy and officer, into patrol cars. Rioting and violence were looming threats; reports were beginning to come in of rocks thrown, anger erupting. The day was spent patrolling the city, trying to be a presence in hopes of quelling violence before it broke out. Detective Jordan was frustrated at not being able to be on the scene of the tragedy downtown, but knew he was doing what was needed and following orders.

That evening, though, the dispatcher's voice came over the squad car radio with the request that my dad find a phone and immediately call in. A phone was found, and when Detective Jordan made the call, he was told that there had been one last, tragic death that day--a 13-year-old black male had been shot and killed while riding down Sandusky Road on the handlebars of his older brother's bike. The boy's name was Virgil Ware.

My dad was told to get to the scene and begin the investigation, and he did. The story of what happened to Virgil Ware and his brother James that sad day, and the subsequent search for the killers and the attempt to see justice done, is the story we went to hear my dad tell to a crowd of about 100 people at the downtown Birmingham Public Library yesterday. Virgil died in 1963, and retired Captain E. Dan Jordan is 80 years old now, but we were spell-bound as he told us about Virgil and James; the details of their tragedy are part of a much larger story that, as my dad said, brings hope as we witness the inauguration of the first African-American President of the United States. This helps us see, my dad said, that the deaths of those little girls that Sunday morning, and of young Virgil, were not in vain.

Several members of the Ware family were there yesterday, and a beautiful family they are. That's my dad, second from the left, and James Ware to the right of him. The little guy in the background, looking just over James's shoulder, is Virgil.

I am so very impressed at the graciousness, and the grace that's at work, in this precious family. You can read more about the Ware's story in this 2003 Time magazine article.

Monday, January 12, 2009

On Christian Charity

I don't have anything this busy day that could top what Laurie has to say at her blog about the topic of Christian charity, i.e., love. She offers some great, brief thoughts on C.S. Lewis's writing on this subject, and I highly recommend taking a minute or two to check out her post.

" 'The rule for all of us is perfectly simple. Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ you neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him.' This comes as very hopeful news to one like me, who was told once by a friend, very matter-of-factly and without cruel intent, 'You’re not exactly the warmest person on the planet” – and that was after I was saved and had become a thousand times warmer than I once was!' "

Laurie on Lewis and Charity

Friday, January 9, 2009

God Knows What He's About

When God wants to drill a man,
And thrill a man, and skill a man,
When God wants to mold a man
To play the noblest part;
When He yearns with all His heart
To create so great and bold a man
That all the world might be amazed,
Watch His methods; watch His ways.

How He ruthlessly perfects
Whom He royally elects!
How He hammers him and hurts him
And with mighty blows converts him
Into trial shapes of clay
That only God understands,
While his tortured heart is crying,
And he lifts beseeching hands!
How He bends but never breaks
When his good He undertakes.
How He uses whom He chooses,
And with every purpose fuses him;
By every act induces him
To try His splendor out—
God knows what He's about!

Author Unknown

(HT: CCW Blog)

Proverbs 22:7

Debtor's prison seems an antiquated, Charles Dickensian concept in our modern, free-spending society, but maybe it still exists. We just don't do the time inside granite walls and dank-smelling dungeons.

"The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender" (Proverbs 22:7).

I'm asking the Lord for mercy and deliverance from the entrapment of debt.

(Photo by ahknight)

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

My Walmart List

So I'm at Walmart (otherwise known as "Missy's Favorite Place") when the three-ring circus begins. I've tried to think of the best way to relate the adventure; to keep from writing an over-long post, I decided to list the pertinent events, hoping you'll get the flavor and feel the drama as you read.


1 need to get in and out of Walmart for a few quick items, then on to an appointment.

1 immediate encounter with friend from church.

1 episode (while talking with talkative friend from church) of cell phone ringing, ignored, ringing, ignored, ringing, ignored, ringing (same number, which I couldn't identify and that's why I ignored it), answered, to find husband on the other end asking me to look in the kitchen for his cell phone (I can't, I'm at Walmart, I have an appointment.)

1 encounter with another friend from church.

1 episode of phone calls back and forth to daughter at home to ask her to look for her dad's cell phone and then call her dad back at the number he called me from, which I can't remember each time I call my daughter, and don't have a pen to jot down.

1 sensation of uncomfortable heat beginning to emanate from my body.

1 encounter with another friend from church. I know she thinks I'm odd.

1 trip to the pen section.

1 trip to the dressing room to change out of the now-impossibly-hot, (due to my slightly worked-up state), foil-lined pullover I know better than to wear but keep wearing, and into a lighter, Walmart pull-over I need to cover the raggedy t-shirt I'm wearing and intend to pay for later when I check out.

trip to the nearby jewelry department, escorted by the lady from the dressing-room, to pay immediately for the lighter, Walmart pull-over.

1 5-minute wait (I have that appointment, remember? And I've only bought two things on my list so far) while the elderly lady ahead of me at the jewelry counter writes a check. It is a laborious process for her and I'm sympathetic, but...)

1 quick investigation of the other, regular check-out lines, which tells me there's no hope there.

1 return to the jewelry check-out lady, only to hear her say to her customer, who has finally finished writing her check, "Oh no, look dear, you skipped a check. Here, let me see your checkbook and we'll start all over..."

1 determined retreat to the grocery section, light Walmart pullover unpaid for (will I be tackled by Walmart security? I know a person who was, once...)

1 encounter with some other friends, from my former church.

3 steps toward the grocery section.

1 announcement over Walmart intercom: "Will the customer who needed a scan please return to the jewelry department?" The voice, I'm pretty sure, is that of the dressing room lady. She's found me out.

1 trip back to the jewelry department. I have three things from my list in the basket. I think steam from my ears is what's fogging up my glasses. I hope I get there before Security gets the go-ahead to tackle me.

1 question: "Was that intercom announcement for me?" 1 answer: "No." 1 more question: "Since I'm here with no other customers in front of me, can I go ahead and pay for my lighter, Walmart pullover?" 1 answer: "No."

1 trip back to the grocery section, and I'm appalled at my *ahem* dare I say murderous mindset this morning, here at Walmart. Why am I such an angry person? I am an angry person. A flood of revelation breaks through: I am an angry person, and I'm helpless to change myself. I need God's help. I need to change, for his glory, and I'm powerless to change myself.

One last episode, in the bread aisle. My list is almost done. I pass two elderly ladies; one of them, the younger one, tells the older one, "I don't know if you know this, but I just lost my husband. I sure do miss him." I toss a loaf of bread into my buggy and glance back, just to see who owns the faces that are speaking. The older elderly lady is answering her grieving friend; the wrinkled face is beaming, she reaches a gnarled hand out to touch her friend, and I hear her say, "This is what he lived for... this is what he was saved for. He's finally in heaven with Jesus."

My throat is tight even now as I remember it. I might not ever forget that lady's ancient, worn face and stooped figure, and the thrill of love in her weak voice. It's what she has lived for, it's what she was saved for. And likely, it won't be long 'til she finally wakes to see the lovely face of her Savior and King, of Jesus, in heaven. At last.

I lost the anger, though I see that I become sinfully angry and need God's help to change. It was a divine appointment, long planned. I entered the bread aisle with one outlook, and exited it at the other end with another. God planned my trip to Walmart today with a view to opening my eyes a little. I'm thankful he did.


1 appointment--the one I was fuming about because it was my agenda and my time and my plan--kept, with plenty of time to spare.

1 foil-lined pullover into the Goodwill bag!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

A Simple Tool

Now reading Mark Shaw's excellent book "The Heart of Addiction (A Biblical Perspective)." Don't think being a teetotaler makes a book like this irrelevant to your life... we are all latent pleasure-abusers, because all of us have the same sin problem. This book is about the heart of addiction... the temptation we face daily to be "lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God" (2 Timothy 3:4).

Mark says, "Here is a simple tool to use the next time you desire to do something sinful but struggle as to whether you really should do it or not. Before you commit the action, bow down on your knees, close your eyes, and pray to God saying these words: 'Lord, I am planning to do ________ right now to your glory. I am going to do this unto You, Father God, because I know it will please You.' If what you are about to do will not fit properly in the blank line above because that action cannot be done to glorify God, then you must not commit the action. Do something in place of that action that does glorify God!"

Great advice for all of us. Applied honestly to the places we plan to go, the t.v. shows we plan to watch, and the things we plan to say, we'll find ourselves making much headway in godliness. I'm working to make it a habit to remember to use this.

(Photo by Pirate Johnny)