Friday, December 31, 2010

My Reading List: 2009

When my friend, Susan, and I heard that President Bush and Karl Rove had a friendly wager over who could read more books in 2008, and that they had both tipped the scales at somewhere above 160, we just knew we had to pick up the pace. Frankly, I'm pretty sure Susan already hovers around 100 books annually. But it was at least good motivation to start keeping a list of books I read. As the busy manager of a household of 12, I don't have the kind of time to read that the leader of the free world does. Nevertheless, here is my 2009 list (which shall, of course, be followed by my 2010 list in the next post). But you gotta start somewhere...I have kept this list comment-free. But I'd be happy to comment on any one of these if you're curious.

Pierced for Our Transgressions by Steve Jeffrey,
Thousand Year War by Richard Maybury
Whatever Happened to Justice? by Richard Maybury
Ancient Rome and How it Affects Us Today by Richard Maybury
Liberal, Conservative, or Confused by Richard Maybury
The Last Jihad by Joel Rosenberg
Prisoner of Zenda by Anthony Hope
One Hundred Cupboards by ND Wilson
El Dorado by Baroness Orczy
Keturah's Journey by Monica Holman
World War I and How it Affects Us Today by Richard Maybury
World War II and How it Affects Us Today by Richard Maybury
Deception by Randy Alcorn
Pro-Life Answers to Pro-Choice Arguments by Randy Alcorn
The Problem of Pain by CS Lewis
The Faithful Preacher by Thabiti Anyabwile
Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
The Courage to be Protestant by David Wells
A Tale of Two Sons by John MacArthur
If You Could Ask God One Question by Paul Williams
Cat Among Pigeons by Agatha Christie
Passion and Purity by Elisabeth Elliot
The Truth of the Cross by RC Sproul
The Iliad by Homer
The Odyssey by Homer
Caesar's Gallic War by Olivia Coolidge
Lessons from Blackberry Inn by Karen Andreola
Leepike Ridge by ND Wilson
Just Do Something by Kevin DeYoung
Don't Waste Your Life by John Piper
Ben Hur by Lew Wallace
Why We Love the Church by Kevin DeYoung
Surprised by Joy by CS Lewis
A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 by Phillip Keller
Lessons from a Sheepdog by Phillip Keller
The Lost Prince by Frances Hodgson Burnett
The Inimitable Jeeves by PG Wodehouse
The Inklings by Melanie Jeschke
Age of Accountability by Tedd Tripp
Future Men by Douglas Wilson
Dandelion Fire by ND Wilson
Expectations by Melanie Jeschke

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Justice, Mercy, and the Lockerbie Bomber

I hate bullies.

No, let me rephrase that. I hate, loathe, despise, and abominate bullies (to borrow a line from Meet Me in St. Louis). I was watching A Christmas Story the other night, and I tuned in for the part where Ralphie decks the neighborhood bully. It's a glorious scene of the triumph of right over might. As I sat there and cheered on Ralphie, my husband looked at me and rolled his eyes. "That's the spirit, dear. That's the love of Jesus." Last night, my girls were watching Anne of Green Gables, the sequel. When the terrorized, little student finally has enough of the spoiled, rich kid, she both shoves her face in the mud and shoves mud in her face. Another glorious scene. Another cheer from me. Another concerned look from my gentle husband.

We serve a God who is both just (to all) and merciful (to some). The amazing thing is that He also delegates the responsibility of performing justice and mercy to us here in His creation. Justice falls to the jurisdiction of the government; mercy is falls to the Church's jurisdiction. The corollary to that, of course, is that justice does not fall to the Church, and mercy does not fall to the government. (I have previously discussed the problems of mixed-up jurisdictions here.) So, when governments refuse to carry out justice, the people are left with no recourse. And a people with no recourse are a hopeless people.

On December 21, 1988, Pan Am flight 103 exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 270people, including 11 on the ground. Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi, now dubbed the Lockerbie Bomber, was tried and found guilty of complicity in this act of terrorism. Fast forward to August, 2009. Al-Megrahi, it was revealed, was dying in prison of cancer. And here's the absolutely unbelievable part: the British government released this murderer to Libya on "compassionate grounds."


So what if he's dying of cancer? A just government wouldn't have given him the opportunity to get cancer; it would have given him the chair. So what if he's in discomfort? I imagine 259 people having their bodies obliterated into a million tiny bits and scattered across air and sky was a bit uncomfortable, as well. So what if he would die in prison without his loved ones to gather around him? I'm sure the British government could have arranged for his loved ones to be at his execution.

All told, then, in the end, this mass murderer served 11 days for every life he took. ELEVEN DAYS!!! That, my friends, is a travesty of justice. The British government has failed the people of the world by failing to carry out the justice under its jurisdiction. And there is not one blessed thing we can do about it.

What about mercy? As a member of the Church, that falls to me. I must admit, and my family and friends will heartily concur, I am mercy-challenged. When I heard on Dec. 9, 2010, that the Lockerbie Bomber was in a coma, my first reaction was, "Good riddance." But the Holy Spirit has a way of pricking my conscience. His nudge reminds me that God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked. Neither, then, must I. So this girl, who relishes the part of the story where the bully bites it, started to pray for the Lockerbie Bomber. For his soul. For his eternity. I confess that my first attempt was through clenched teeth. ""

This has been a stretching, sanctifying experience for me. Yet again, God has dragged me to the Cross and shown me myself. Once again, what I see is not pretty. But when I think of Mr. al-Megrahi standing before the Judge and giving an account, it sobers me into a position of mercy. For just because a government has failed over its jurisdiction does not give me an excuse to fail over mine.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Mercy: The Ability to See

"Tell Graham to see."

During her last lucid moments, Graham's wife exhorts him with those words in the movie Signs. In the end, Graham does indeed see. He sees the reason for his son's asthma; he sees the reason for his wife's death; he sees the reason for his brother's athletic abilities and his daughter's preoccupation with water. Ultimately, this film by M. Night Shyamalan is about God's providence. God does not owe us a window into His providential workings. But every once in a while, He gives us one.

Mercy is a gift. And I think it is a gift because it is the ability to see. Only God's elect can possess true mercy because only God's elect know they have stood on the brink of judgment themselves. Only God's elect have smelled the smoke on their clothes, seen the flames in all their horrific clarity, and felt the heat reach up and try to take them. Only God's elect know, truly know, the depravity of their own souls and know that their just dessert is that Pit. Only God's elect know that God has reached down and given their punishment to His son, instead imputing His righteousness onto them.

There is a subset of God's elect who cannot help but remember what they have seen and smelled and felt. And their passion is to rescue others from the same brink. Their hearts break for the lost because they see what exists over the edge. So, in terms of eternity, these gentle mercy-givers have great compassion for lost souls. And temporally, they are a stop-gap for all the pain that exists between birth and death.

I think the best mercy-giver understands justice as well as a prophet does. They see what awaits us on the other side. They understand what it will take to satisfy the Father's wrath for every sin, and they dearly want everyone to escape that fate. But they also understand that justice requires that His wrath be satisfied, that each payment be made in full. They understand that mercy in no way replaces justice. Rather, it transfers the responsibility of payment to another. But, one way or another, the debt to our Creator will be paid. Mercy seeks a way for that transfer to take place.

So, lately, I am reminding myself to see.
See what I deserve.
See what I've been spared.
See the others who need to avoid that same fate.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

And Justice for All

I think I came out of the womb concerned about justice. When I was a little kid, my mom had me pegged as a mercy-giver. I would get so upset when a friend, or especially a sibling, was mistreated that I would cry. By the time I was a teenager, my 'mercy' had an edge to it, and my mom changed her assessment of my gifting to "weeping prophet." But as I analyze the focus behind my tears, which sometimes still come, I have to say they are more tears of anger than compassion.

Perhaps that is the difference between someone bent towards mercy versus someone bent towards justice. Both can be present at the same tragic episode and both shed tears over it. But our motivation is fundamentally different. While the one concerned with mercy weeps over the trauma to the victim, the one concerned with justice weeps over the audacity of the perpetrator. One feels compassion; the other feels anger. One is offering band-aids and kleenex; the other is organizing the man-hunt.

Mercy is a wonderful thing. Our God is a merciful God, and His mercies are new every morning. But mercy is predicated on justice. For if there were no justice, there would be no need for mercy. And our God is a just God, too, whose justice is foundational to the universe.

We can count on God to punish every sin. We can count on God to demand right behavior of all of His creatures. We can count on God to hate bribes and favoritism and nepotism. God's justice is consistent and in force over every square inch of His creation.

But the social justice crowd gets this concept called justice precisely wrong. As much as they decry favoritism, they play favorites with the "poor" or the "oppressed", even when the poor and oppressed commit crimes--as if being poor or oppressed is an excuse. Kevin DeYoung explains the view of the social justice movement in Why We're Not Emergent:
"When we need a good reading out of the text" (the 1,189 chapters of the Bible), "we should do so with a prejudice of love, reading with the poor, weak, and marginalized in mind."
But DeYoung goes on to explain the problem with prejudice:
"This sounds nice, but is it really workable as an interpretive key? Rollins ' " (an emergent) "hermeneutical grid is a moving target. For instance, do we read the text with the poor in rural Alabama in mind or the poor in Sudan, the weak in power or the weak in moral resolve, the marginalized in Rollins' Ireland or marginalized fundamentalists in a secular university?"
For if God was a capricious God, a prejudiced God requiring payment from some but overlooking payment from others, He would be a tyrant. God's sovereignty means He can be just. God's goodness means He will be just.

He will be just to all. That's the bad news.
But fear not, my mercy-giving friends. He will be merciful to some. And that's much better news.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh

Every year, we gather little ones around the tree and tell the amazing story of the Incarnation. And like I noted in an earlier post, we should be talking about this all year round and not hording this wonderful news for just 25 days each December, but it's healthy to give it special focus once in a while. I try to boil things down so the kids can keep a specific focus every year. This year, I've been telling them, "Christmas is the beginning of God keeping His promise to fix the problem."

I like to tell the story in parts, usually ending on a cliffhanger note. It drives the kids crazy, but they love it. Last night, we picked up around Jesus' second birthday, when the Magi show up at the door with their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. As we walked through the story, I was struck by the fate of those gifts. The gold I can figure out. Joseph, a carpenter and likely a part of the artisan middle class, a business owner, might have invested it or put it away for a rainy day.

But what about the frankincense and myrrh? Frankincense was used as incense in worship. Myrrh was used in burial. What went through Mary's mind as she saw those gifts? Surely, she knew their significance. Did the sword already begin to pierce her heart as she looked at them?
"Frankincense--because my son is God.
Myrrh--because my son will die for us all."
As a mother, I can tell you that it would have been a tortuous reminder of what was to come for my precious little boy.

What did Jesus think as He saw them? Did those bottles in His house serve to remind Him of who He was? Did the frankincense remind Him that He was a holy God separated from a people He loved? Did the myrrh remind Him that only He could bridge that separation? Did He, even then, begin to set His face like flint for the Cross?

Gold, frankincense, and myrrh--gifts for a toddler. I can't help but wonder why.

Christmas--Sacred? Secular? Sacrelar?

Christmas. It's the most wonderful time of the year. I love Christmas, and I always have. I love gifts. I love snow. I love old Christmas movies like Scrooge, Meet Me in St. Louis, It's a Wonderful Life, The Bishop's Wife, and White Christmas. I love Christmas music from nearly everyone from Elvis to Handel. (This morning, Brett and I were listening to REO Speedwagon do "Children Go Where I Send Thee", which was actually pretty rockin' good...cause we heard it from a friend who heard it from a friend who...never mind).

When I was a kid, my parents did Christmas BIG. In our house, Santa not only brought the gifts but the tree, too! And we knew Santa had arrived because we saw a light flash across our windows AND we heard him jingling and ho-ho-ho-ing across our roof. He always left a note by the half-eaten plate of cookies. It was a wonderful, magical time of year.

So add to the list of things I love about Christmas, Santa Claus.

But wait. Did I mention I was raised in a Christian home, where my family loved the Lord and lived the Gospel? It was news to me when I became an adult that Christmas is actually a holiday infused with contention. Surround yourself with serious believers, and you are soon to discover, sadly, that we're a pretty uptight bunch. And opinionated, too.

First, there are those who refuse to acknowledge anything sacred whatsoever about Christmas. These are believers who can be divided into two groups: one who doesn't celebrate it at all and one who celebrates Christmas only as a secular holiday. Both of these groups tell me, "Where the Bible is silent, we must be silent, too."

Then there is the group that refuses to acknowledge anything secular about Christmas. Santa is a lie from the Pit of Hell sent to distract us from the true meaning of Christmas. Frosty and Rudolph make it difficult for our children to tell the difference between fairy tales and the real supernatural world. (That argument is an Epic Fail--and I am the counterexample.) The Christmas tree is pagan at best, phallic at worst.

Really? Phallic?!?!

I think my mother-in-law had the best insight into this mess: Christmas is really the collision of two holidays all happening on one day. What wisdom from this great lady whom I love and respect. And our family observes both. We do Santa, and we do him big: milk and cookies, notes from Santa, stomping across the roof after midnight on Christmas Eve(well, not in a two-story)...because I wouldn't dream of depriving my children of the magic of childhood. But we observe the Incarnation, not as a formal holiday on one day but all year long...because I wouldn't dream of depriving my children of the Gospel.

This year, as I rock around the pagan symbol and wait for Santa Claus to come to town, I wish all my dear, beautiful friends a Merry Christmas...and hope your boxers aren't getting in a bunch in the process. No matter how we differ regarding December 25th, I love you all.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Books for Every Believer--My Top 5 List

I read a lot of books. I evaluate them in light of the Scripture, and, once in a while, I find a book that I would read again, reference frequently, and buy for friends. In other posts, I have listed books on specific topics. I still heartily recommend all of them. But for general Christian living, this is my all-time top five list:

THE most important book I have ever read outside of the Bible, so it tops the list:
1. How Long, O Lord? by DA Carson
Ostensibly about suffering, it is really a book about the nature of God. Know whom you worship.

These two I give as graduation gifts. Extremely important books:

2. Why We're Not Emergent (by Two Guys Who Should Be) by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck
Every generation of Christians is threatened from without. Emergents are wolves in sheep's clothing, and, in my opinion, they are one of the biggest threat to this generation of believing children who are beginning to launch out on their own. Read it for your kids and have your kids read it.

3. Just Do Something by Kevin DeYoung
For Christians who agonize over decision making and watch for signs in the sky, this is a pointed, pithy discussion on how to make decisions that honor God.

4. The Deadliest Monster by Jeff Baldwin
Baldwin compares Shelley's Frankestein to Stevenson's Mr. Hyde and challenges us to answer the question, "Which monster are you?" In a world of social 'justice,' and fashionable victimization, this is an extremely important worldview book.

5. Why We Love the Church: In Praise of Institutions and Organized Religion by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck
It's cool to dis the Church as behind the times, uptight, fundamentalist, and shrill. Unfortunately, this is the Bride of Christ. DeYoung and Kluck confront this bad attitude with the correct idea that you can't love your best friend but hate his wife.


Sunday, November 21, 2010

Suffering to the Glory of God

Every true member of the Church has given themselves up at the Cross. For without a death, there can be no life. And to give oneself up truly and completely is to give up hopes and dreams and rights, essentially to "sign over a blank check to God," as my husband says. God expects that from us. Jesus said, "If any man would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me."(Mt. 16:24)

More and more, I am noticing people who give lip service to glorifying God--but they refuse do die. I am finding this meditation on the glory of God is inextricably linked to death. In fact, I now think that death to self is the necessary condition and glorifying God is the sufficient condition. To put that in logic terms, let me explain.

"If we have rain, then we have clouds." Clouds are a necessary condition for rain. No clouds? No rain. Clouds are the necessary condition. Rain is impossible without clouds. "If we glorify God, then we die to self." (see Mt. 16:24 above.) Dying to ourselves is a necessary condition for glorifying God. If we refuse to die, we choose not to glorify. It's that simple.

On the one hand, I see those who refuse to bend the knee, who refuse to die, but who delude themselves into thinking they can follow along on their own terms, much like Ignorance in John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress. On the other hand, though, there is a subset of the Church who are faithful rather than ignorant, who have been called to give much, sometimes to give all, and they are doing this to the glory of God.

In the excellent book How Long, O Lord?, author DA Carson says we must have a theology of suffering in place before we suffer. Don't give this book to someone in the middle of suffering, he warns. Read it before any suffering starts. Matt Chandler, pastor of The Village Church near Dallas, says his young congregation was ill-prepared for suffering. But the reality is that there are stories going on all around us of believers suffering. And the inspiring ones are the ones in which they suffer to the glory of God.

Tracie Klicka, mother of seven, lost her husband, Chris, last October to a 15-year battle with multiple sclerosis. Now a single mom, Tracie walks authentically before the Lord. She pours her heart and her struggles out in her journal, and I am blessed by her determined trust in a sovereign God, despite her adversity.

Matt Hammitt, lead singer of the Christian band Sanctus Real, and his wife Sarah are suffering as their infant son, Bowen, walks through the trials of hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS). Matt has been journaling through this journey, and in the midst of his suffering, he continues to build up the Church through exhortation and meditation on the goodness and sovereignty of God. Clearly, this is a couple who leans daily on the everlasting arms.

The Queen family just discovered this past summer that their son, Jeremiah, is now out of remission with leukemia, so back they go to the trials and heartaches of juvenile cancer. But as Sandi documents this trial, it is clear that her eyes are on the Father, rather than on the wind and the waves.

At last spring's Together for the Gospel conference, the most important message was on suffering. Matt Chandler tells his story far better than I can. This young preacher is finding that, in the end, all he has is Christ. I implore you to watch his 50 minute teaching:

Watch to the end. Watch John Piper's fiesty prayer of faith. Watch CJ Mahaney's wrap-up.

Compared to what these brothers and sisters have given up, my little sacrifices are so insignificant. In fact, I am more than edified. I am convicted. I am humbled. I examine my life and wonder if I could ever do what they are doing: suffering to the glory of God.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Whatever the Premises, Let God's Glory Be the Conclusion

What is the glory of God?
God is just. God is holy. God is righteous. God is sovereign. God is love. God is merciful. God is gracious. But God's glory is the sum, yea more than the sum, of these parts. God's glory is more than man can handle. God's glory radiates from His being with such intensity that no man may see His face and live. Moses had to veil his face after being in God's presence because the people couldn't even handle His glory second-hand.

God's glory changed Moses' complexion.

God's glory reduced Isaiah to a puddle of unclean lips.

God's glory silenced Job's self-righteous, albeit fairly accurate, justifications.

"For of Him, and through Him, and to Him are all things: to whom be glory forever." (Romans 11:36) Seventeenth century theologian Matthew Henry sums it up like this: "(He) is the first cause, the sovereign ruler, and the last end...Whatever are the premises, let God's glory be the conclusion."

We are commanded to do all things to the glory of God. We are commanded to do all things to the glory of this first cause, this sovereign ruler, this last end. I am amazed that I do not cover my mouth and fall to the ground with the patriarchs in abject fear. I miss God's glory on a daily, moment-by-moment basis. I miss His glory nearly every time I open my mouth, pick up my pen, interact with others, think something, think anything. How, then, does this sinner ever glorify God? God's glory is my passion. But how can my passion be something I so completely miss? It would be more intellectually honest to say that my passion is to want God's glory to be my passion.

My kingdom gets in the way.

It is in spite of this stark reality that I must do everything to the glory of God. As I learn to live, I must keep his glory in my sights at all times. As God begins to allow me to do some things that my heart has desired for years, I must not fail to recognize this truth: God is all about His own glory. Anytime He lets me do anything, it is not to glorify myself but to glorify Him.

There are desires of my heart that I lay at His feet years ago that He is only just now beginning to give me permission to use. I have waited for this day for a long time. But now that it is here, my knees knock together and my heart quails. I am nearly paralyzed by the fear of both failing Him and failing others. But even that misses the mark. I cannot be afraid of failing men. My focus must be upward. I must be all about God's glory, even as He is all about His glory. So where I thought I would dive right in, I find I am sitting on the edge, wondering why in the world He has brought me to this point and how He could possibly use me now.

Maybe that is precisely the response He wanted? Maybe He wanted to bring me to a place where I have lost confidence in myself and recognize my utter dependence on Him? Maybe only then can I do anything to the glory of God anyway? Maybe that was the point of dying to me and living to Him?

It is a lesson that sobers me. For unless I do all things to the glory of God, those things are not worth doing at all. Whatever the premises, let God's glory be the conclusion.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Dying to Live: A Severe Mercy

I've been thinking about the glory of God lately. And it seems that's exactly what God wants me to be thinking about, as I am seeing it everywhere. It is a welcome bend in the road, as for so many years He has been relentlessly pursuing me and teaching me Death-to-Self. For years, the overarching theme in my sanctification has been dying to myself.

Unless a seed fall into the ground and die, it cannot bear fruit. So I have died over and over again. Jesus may have set His face like flint and gone to the cross. But my dying has not been nearly so dignified. I have dug in my heels, clawed at the dirt, and been dragged to my death by a Heavenly Father who knows better than I. He initially carried this rebel to the foot of the Cross, and He continues to keep me there with a severe mercy.

Now as the sun moves across the sky, I sense a change of seasons in my life. I am learning to stay put and hide in the shadow of the Cross. Now that I have learned to die, I am learning to live. And to live for God is to live for His glory. I sense that I have permission to look ahead at what God wants me to do rather than look back at what He wants me to surrender. The focal point must be His glory.

The fact of the matter is that it is the glory of God that slays me. No man can see His face and live. It is the Cross alone that shields me. Unless I learn to live for His glory, and His glory alone, I will never learn to live at all.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

She's Got the Cutest Shoes--Courtship Part 3

I threw myself across my bed in a wave of depression and jammed my fists in my eyes to stop the flow of my tears. My mom was digging in her heals on this one. She was not convinced that my suitor was the one. And I was absolutely convinced he was the one. Hadn't I prayed for this man almost my whole life? Hadn't I dismissed most of my male friends as unqualified, choosing to be one of the guys instead of one of their significant others? Hadn't I waited with a high standard for my Prince Charming to come sweep me off my feet?

And here was my own mother, telling me she just wasn't sure she could bless this. It was a devastating moment. My mom is one of my best friends. She is wise beyond description, and we have always been close. I couldn't believe this was happening to me. But, as the storm in my heart began to subside, I made God one promise: "I will not marry this man without my parents' blessing. I know he is the one, and I will wait as long as it takes, but I will not step outside their protective covering."

We were engaged less than three weeks later.

Parental blessing is, I believe, one of the most significant factors in choosing a mate. It is so significant, in fact, that I don't know of any marriage that started out without the blessing and didn't end disastrously.

Courtship is the sure-fire way for the prospective couple to guarantee the parental blessing of their union. Why? The key to courtship is that it involves the parents in this very important decision from the beginning. Voddie Bauchum, Jr., says in his book "What He Must Be If He Wants to Marry My Daughter" that for a man to be meeting his sweetheart's father after he has already been seeing her for a while is too late. For a man to ask her father's permission to marry her after an emotional connection has already been made is too late. Those introductions should have been made before the couple spent much time together at all.

We are just now entering the season as a family when courtship and marriage could be real possibilities. So I cannot say here how it is going to happen. But I can recommend a few of the resources that are shaping our approach.

"Just Do Something" by Kevin DeYoung
I heartily recommend this (and any) book by this ardent young theologian. In it, DeYoung makes the case that there doesn't have to be "The One" but rather that any number of possibilities could work. He gooses young men who are reticent to settle down with this warning (paraphrased by me): While you, young men, are wasting time living for yourself and putting off settling down, the ladies are waiting, too. While they are waiting, they are most likely getting educated. After they are educated, possibly at great cost, they feel the need not to 'waste' it all, so they go to work and begin a career. Then you finally get off your duff and pop the question. But now they don't want to quit their newfound career to manage a home and raise children. Nice going. Just do something!

"What He Must Be (if he wants to marry my daughter)" by Voddie Bauchum, Jr.
Bauchum does a terrific job in reminding parents what kind of standard they should set in looking for mates for their children. The standards are high, but they are attainable. And we can allow for a lot of sanctification along the way. But his focus are non-negotiables that must be in place before any parental blessing can be given. This is an excellent read for fathers and sons, mothers and daughters.

"Boy Meets Girl" by Joshua Harris
My son read this book first, and we've had some great discussions. This book has a slightly different take as it documents the story of Harris and his then-fiance, who were both living far away from their parents. It won't be conservative enough for some. But the eight "dates" at the end of the book are well worth the read. There Harris lists eight "must-have" conversations for the prospective couple. It's a great way to begin to get a feel for the differences that might turn into points of contention later.

"Her Hand in Marriage" by Douglas Wilson
This was one of my favorites. Wilson approaches this, as he does everything, with a killer wit and great succinctness. It took one evening to read. I am thankful for his high view of the female gender. It is possible to be a complementarian and to see the woman as more than just a uterus with a broom. Wilson's most important contention is that, as our children search for mates, one thing they must do is find their intellectual equal. It isn't enough that "she's got the cutest shoes, and (he) likes the way she moves" (needtobreathe). They must be able to think together. I'm really thankful that Wilson acknowledges in this book that women have an important organ above their shoulders, too. A wise young man will be attracted to her brain as well as

May we raise wise children who seek our blessing and keep their covenants. That's marriage to the glory of God.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Blind as I Could Be--Courtship Part 2

"I was blind as I could be
Thinking love was not for me
'Til the night I met the girl named Tennessee." needtobreathe

Let's face it. Love comes upon most of us unawares. It's not as if we have meeting Mrs. Right marked on our calendar among going to the cleaners and finishing the term paper. And that's probably the biggest danger. We don't see it coming so we aren't prepared to respond correctly when it does come. We get swept off our feet in a tidal wave of sweaty palms, thumping hearts, and twitterpation, only to find later that Princess Beautiful is really Miss Dragonbreath.

The current dating scene does not help matters. Aptly described by Voddie Bauchum, Jr. as a series of mini-marriages, each failed dating relationship just sets us up for divorce. Dates are relationships without the foundation of a covenant, and we enter and exit at will. It is a dangerous pattern to bring into the covenant called marriage.

Courtship, however, is a way to find a life partner by making the search purposeful rather than social. There are many opinions on what courtship should look like. And, unfortunately, the mere word conjures up images of Sweetie Pie and Bubba sipping lemonade on the front porch while Ma and Pa look on.

But there are a few things that all courtships, properly done, seek to incorporate:

1. Parents: Both fathers, who are entrusted by God with the stewardship of their children, will be involved, but the father of the female in the relationship will have the loudest say. He is, after all, accountable for delivering his precious daughter to another man's home, his headship, and his bed. It is the job of that father, not to choose a suitor, but to vet him when he does come along.

2. Purpose: It may sound a bit crass, but courtship is a bit like a job interview. It is during this period that parents will look for friendship between the two people, for complementary strengths (and weaknesses), and for sheer attraction. And, above all, look for submission to the Lordship of Jesus.

3. Purity: Courtship picks up the ball that dating drops. Jonathan Lindvoll says, "Sex is like a car built without brakes." The kiss is supposed to lead to touch. Touch is supposed to lead to arousal. Arousal is supposed to lead to consummation. It is both unreasonable and cruel to put our children in a position where they are allowed physical contact, but are expected to be good kids and draw some arbitrary line. Do NOT let them get in that car. And when the wedding day comes, fill up the tank and send them off with God's blessings.

More to come...

Sunday, October 31, 2010

What Did You Expect? Courtship, Part 1

As the wedding day drew nearer, my dad gave me two pieces of advice:
1. Marriage is the union of two selfish people who must learn to put one another ahead of themselves.
2. Marriage is not a 50-50 proposition; it's 100-100 proposition. Don't meet him halfway. Give him everything.

I love my dad. He's awesome. And his wise counsel has come back to me time and again as I have attempted to be a covenant keeper. He took his job seriously as protector and priest of his home. And I get to live the legacy of that. But one thing is for sure. Judging by the state of marriage among those who call themselves the Church, not every dad is having this conversation with his daughter or his son.

The requirements of marriage are fairly straightforward. They are propositional but not the way some claim them to be. Let's unpack those:
"Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the Church." Propositional? Yes and no.
Biblical Proposition: IF you are a follower of Christ, THEN you will love your wife as Christ loved the Church.
Unbiblical Proposition:IF your wife refrains from being a shrew, THEN you love her as Christ loved the Church.

"Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord." Propositional? Yes and no:
Biblical Proposition: IF you are a follower of Christ, THEN you will submit to your husband as to the Lord.
Unbiblical Proposition: IF your husband refrains from being a pinhead, THEN you will submit to your husband as to the Lord.

My dad was right. Marriage is the union of two selfish people. And it makes us think that we can barter before we behave. "I'll honor him IF he loves me. But there's no reason for me to submit to him if he's a rotten husband." Yes there is. You honor him because you covenanted with him, pinhead or not. "I'll love her when she becomes loveable." No. You love her because you told God you would, even (yea, especially) on those days when she's a shrew.

And he will be a pinhead.
And she will be a shrew.
More than you like.
And that's not a reason to be a covenant breaker.

In the words of Paul David Tripp in his book of the same name, what did you expect??? You are married to a sinner saved by grace whose default setting is "sinner."

Did you really think he'd always make wise decisions? always remember your birthday? always affirm your fears? never say unkind things to you? never hurt your feelings? never think of himself first?
Did you really think she'd always be your best cheerleader? always think you were brilliant? always affirm your ego? never laugh at you? never have a headache? never think of herself first?


This kind of self-absorbed thinking has got to stop in the Church. We have a trail of broken covenants scattered behind us. We have distorted, unbiblical expectations regarding this covenant called marriage. But we have a responsibility to the children in our stewardship to help set their expectations correctly.

It is a covenant, not a contract.
Your spouse will let you down.
You will let your spouse down.
When you say, "I do," you forfeit the right to say, "I quit."

And one of the first ways we can steer our children in the right direction is by encouraging and teaching courtship in our homes.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Adversity--A Lesson in Logic

I am reminded today of the charge I gave my daughter at her high school graduation this past May.

IF Lamentations 3:22-23 is true
Because of the Lord's great love, we are not consumed,
For His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
Great is Thy faithfulness.

AND Lamentations 3:38 is true
Is it not from the mouth of the Most High
that both calamities and good things come?

THEN this must be true:
For the bringer of calamities' compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
Great is Thy faithfulness.

I agree with David today. I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread. God is sovereign and good.

Today, I am thankful for a humble husband who surrounds himself with wise friends whom he seeks for godly counsel. I am thankful for wise friends who love us and join us in our desire to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. I can't think of a better chief end of man.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

I am on the Rock

I am reminded today of a vision I had some months ago during another recessionary period. Brett and I had been praying, and he started out with his usual, "Lord, thank you for today and all the pressures it brings."

Suddenly, in my mind's eye, I was transported. I could see angry black clouds swirling above. I could see my family, all twelve of us, huddled together with the wind whipping and my hair blowing across my face. I could see huge whitecaps rolling around us. I looked at the picture and said, "Yes, Lord, that's our life right now. Great picture. But where are YOU in this picture?!"

He said, "I am the rock you are standing on." It was as if the camera panned back, and I could see that though there was a mighty storm gusting about us, we were all on this huge rock keeping our feet dry, firm, and out of the water.

One good thing about adversity: it shows us Who God really is.
"Praise ye the Lord. His mercy endures for ever and ever."

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

10-26-10 Adversity

I'm learning things through adversity, just like I knew I would:

1. God doesn't always go for the obvious. I have never had a problem with money, budgeting, coveting, greed, keeping up with the Joneses. It boggles me that He continues to use this issue to get at things in me. If I were God...well, I'll stop right there. That's just a signifier that something stupid is going to come next out of my mouth.

2. It's ignorant to get my nose out of joint when someone well-intentioned offers advice for my situation. If we are believers, we are going to have adversity. And, though they may not have MY adversity, they've had their own pain. We're in this together. I need to shut up and listen.

3. My adversity is nothing compared to that of so many I love:
I've never lost a child.
I've never had a less than robustly healthy baby.
I've never had breast cancer and lost my hair and thrown up for weeks and had my body parts lopped off.
I've never been abandoned by my husband.
I've never had an abortion and been left with empty arms.
I've never been in a major car crash.
I've never been unloved.

May I glorify God through my adversity. His goodness and justice are beyond human comprehension.

Last night--Live and Uncut

(Note: this post is raw. Cleansing to write but not spit-shined like this writer would prefer for every post on this blog. But I am hoping that documenting this trial in real time will be beneficial to me and glorifying to God.)

I don't think I have ever awakened before with a racing heart. It was unsettling but not without cause. We are in a crisis, and I am finding it hard to rest. After laying there with my eyes open and my heart pounding in my head for about an hour, I finally went downstairs to pace and pray.

Do not be anxious for anything but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

This is not a completely new place for us, but it just seems bleaker right now.

I paced the living room last night to try to still my racing heart. Go back to what I know:
I know that my Redeemer lives.
I know that God is in control.
I know that all things work for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose.
I know God is the author of calamity.
I know that nothing can separate us from the love of God.
I know that I am being conformed to His image.
I know God's faithfulness is great.
I know that His mercies are new every morning.

I am comforted by parents who love us and counsel us.
I am offended by those who have had relatively little adversity weighing in on areas beyond both their expertise and their experience.
I am mindful that I must keep my eyes on the Lord, not on the wind and the waves.
I am even thankful for adversity that creates the pressure that changes me.

As I began to thank God for this place He has brought us to, my heart began to still. There is no new news this morning. My job is to glorify God. I declare this morning that He is good. More later.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

No More Sleepless Nights

Growing up, I spent agonizing sleepless nights wondering if I was really saved, wondering if I had finally done something to make God turn his back on me and walk away. Essentially, what I believed was a false gospel. And it came from not knowing what the Bible says about salvation. Probably, it came from the way my parents were raised. When a religion teaches that you must add your own merit to Christ's merit, it leaves one believing you can enter God's kingdom by your virtue and exit God's kingdom by your vice. That kind of thinking is not without consequences. It was not uncommon to hear phrases like, "He has fallen away" or "She's no longer walking with the Lord" or "He's a backslidden Christian." But all that did was to strike terror into my young heart. How, after all, does one fall away? And how close was I to that state of non-grace at any given time?

I remember having a discussion later with a Presbyterian friend in high school about losing one's salvation. When I said that's what I believed, she was scandalized. Standing on the basketball court behind the school, she tossed the ball away in disgust. "You can't lose your salvation, Noel. God throws your sins as far as the east is from the west. Where does the east meet the west?"

Could I dare to hope?

As an adult, I began to eschew the emotional, unverifiable approach to God. I've always been pretty consistent with my prayer and Bible reading times. But I had wasted countless hours of my life waiting for God to speak to me, then wondering if that was really Him. What a relief the day I realized that the Bible was God speaking to me! Thus began my love of theology, the study of God. Through this pursuit, God has had much compassion on me. And I began to discover that God preserves the saints. There it was, right there in the Bible!

God is the author and finisher of my faith. (Hebrews 12:2)
He who began a good work in me will bring it to the day of completion. (Philippians 1:6)
Nothing can separate us from the love of God. (Romans 8:35-39)

Why had I never seen this preservation and perseverance of the saints before? This was the comfort I had been looking for. This was the assurance a child of God so badly wants from her Father! My pillow ceased to be a place of terror and began to be a place of rest.

I've been on this theology adventure for ten years now. The more I know about God, the more I know God, and the more I am amazed and humbled by who He is in spite of who I am. Now, whenever someone makes a claim about Him, I simply get it in writing.
God's writing.
The Bible.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

All Creation Groans :)

I got ready for bed and came into the bedroom to find Brett snuggled in bed with a good book...and a pair of reading glasses. Stopping dead in my tracks, I stared at him. "WHAT are you wearing?" I asked. He gave me some crazy line about needing to see the words on the page. I cracked up.

After about two weeks of the nightly ritual of me walking into the bedroom, him sitting in bed with the glasses perched at the end of his nose, me bursting into peals of laughter, and him glaring at me over the rim of said glasses, he finally turned to me and asked, "Will there be a night when you aren't laughing at my glasses?" I chewed my lip thoughtfully for a moment. Stifling a giggle, I replied, "Um, probably not." I smiled; he did not.

The next morning, he handed me a book and his glasses. "Just try this," he said. I rolled my eyes and, donning his spectacles, opened the book. "Wow!" I said. He smiled smugly. "This is amazing," I continued. "Yep," he nodded.

A few years ago, Brett threw me a surprise party for my 40th birthday. Some people get depressed when they turn 40. Not me. I was so excited to be finally turning a mature age. Being in my 40's rocks. I love it. But that's not to say that age doesn't have a price. I've now got graying hair. And gray hair is odd. It doesn't lay flat. It's wiry, like a poodle. It doesn't sprinkle evenly about the head. For me, it comes in stripes and reminds me of that annoying little Looney Tunes skunk, Pepe LePew. Alex and her friend Margaret remind me that gray hair is wisdom. Fine. Can't wisdom just lay flat and behave?

I was at a church retreat a few weeks ago, and there was a rope swing over the lake. One of the girls came up the hill and announced to me, "Eliza says her mom would go off this if she were here. And now you're here." Not one to back down from a challenge, I headed on down to the lake. (For some reason that mystifies me, my kids and their friends think I'm daring. Maybe it was the downhill sledding at six months pregnant?) Anyhow, I mounted the stairs to the swing and looked down.

It was way down.

It was way, way down.

And I said, "I don't think so."

The kids were all standing there, chanting, "Jump! Jump! Jump!..." And all I could think was, "There is no way that swing is going to hold me." "Aw, sure it is," all the kids reassured me. "It's perfectly safe." But, in the end, I chose to jump off the dock. I jumped again and again and again and had a blast with all the kids. But I had to admit that my age is starting to make me cautious.

Brett has been seeing a naturopath for various health issues. It seems that when he gets one licked, another one pops up. And it hit me. All creation groans, the Apostle Paul writes. Ain't that the truth? Our bodies age, slow down, become inefficient, and eventually just stop working. The truth is that we can eat organic, exercise, take a gazillion supplements, and drink only water from Parisian springs, but sin has still corrupted our bodies, and we will never be fully free from the effects of sin this side of heaven. No doctor in the world can beat sin. So we groan for our Redeemer, and we groan for Heaven. We're sick--homesick.

A month ago, Brett brought me a gift. It was three pairs of reading glasses, just for me, in various animal prints. I love them. They've become my constant accessory. When the time comes for me to groan with the rest of creation, at least I'll be doing it in style. :)

"For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved." Romans 8: 23-24

Thursday, October 7, 2010

I'd Rather Be Libertarian

What is the role of government? It's not there to regulate what you eat, drink, smoke, chew, ingest, or sniff. It's not there to feed the poor, take care of the sick and the elderly, pay for college tuition or retirement, insure your mortgage, or regulate air traffic. It's not there to provide jobs, monitor the weather, issue marriage licenses or driver' licenses, manipulate interest rates, take care of "national" parks, or educate our children.

Frankly, the problem we are having now is about jurisdiction. The family, the church, and the government each have different jurisdictions, and every time we get jurisdiction mixed up, we end up with a mess: social security, welfare, medicaid, the Fed, public education, and drug wars, to name a few.

So, Biblically speaking, what are the jurisdictions of each? The family is charged with child-rearing, provision for its own poor, elderly, and infirm, wealth-building, and dominion-taking. (Gen. 1:28, Deut 8:18, Eph 6:1-3, I Tim 5:8) The church is charged with spreading the Gospel, preaching the Word, administering the sacraments, administering church discipline, and feeding the poor. (Matt 28:16-20, Matt. 18, I Cor. 5, I Tim. 4:13-15) The government is charged with bearing the sword and punishing evil-doers. (Romans 13) When these entities cross their jurisdictions, we get trouble.

What trips up most of us believers is that we think it is the government's job to legislate morality. It is not; that is the church's job and then just among its members. It is not for the government to tell me how to treat my temple. That is for the church (the true church, of course, which is founded on the written Word of God). When we cross the line from harming ourselves to harming other people, then it becomes the jurisdiction of the government.

Jesus tells us in Matthew 18 (and Paul follows it up in I Cor. 5) how to handle one of our own who is morally failing. So, if a sheep is an addict, we don't want the police to show up and haul him off to jail. Instead, we begin the process of restoration/reconciliation. At every step, the goal is to reign in the wayward brother and bring him to a state of repentance over his sin of addiction. Note, however, that the final step is handled by the church government, not by individuals. Again, we must work with Biblical jurisdictions. But if a brother murders someone, that is the time for the government to come in and bear the sword. Even if the brother repents, he must pay for his crime. And a just government will make sure that he does.

So why am I a fan of the Libertarian Party? The Republican Party has become too much like the Democratic Party. Once upon a time, the GOP was the party of small government and fiscal responsibility. But their Patriot Act demonstrates their willingness to become as intrusive as the Democrats would like; and their spending at the end of the Bush administration demonstrates they are as fiscally irresponsible as the Dems. Runaway inflation, anyone? As for the Constitution Party, I have a problem with the theonomic views of many in that party.

The Libertarian Party is the only one that understands jurisdiction. But I'll settle for a Ron Paul Republican.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Raising Kids in a Post-Modern World--Part 3

Some resources we recommend for helping us succeed in raising kids who keep the faith:

1. If you can't find a church in your area whose preaching is expository, you can still get one on the internet:
John Piper
Mark Dever
Tim Keller
Ligon Duncan
John MacArthur
many, many more...
2. For teaching doctrine, we use:
Starting Points by David Quine: We use this as each child enters 8th grade. It takes one school year to cover seven basic worldview questions. We find we keep coming back to those questions time and again.
Thinkwells by Jeff Baldwin is a flip chart to teach sound bites for sound thinking.
3. For teaching systematic theology, we use:
Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem. It is very readable, and we get each kid a copy when they start their freshman year of high school. We do one chapter about every other week and meet to discuss what we're all learning. It takes about 5 years to get through it that way.
Louis Berkhof also writes a popular Systematic Theology. We own it but haven't used it much.
In addition, catechisms are a great way to teach doctrine even to the very young. We have used the Westminster Shorter Catechism, but the Heidelberg Catechism is also good. You can get these free on the internet or get them in book version. Training Hearts, Teaching Minds is one source that teaches the entire shorter catechism in two years.
Also, we use The Big Book of Questions about Jesus by Sinclair Ferguson for our younger ones.
The ONLY children's bible we recommend is the Big Picture Story Bible. I've never seen a kid's Bible like this one. From the very start, it makes a bee-line for the Cross, and it never stops. An excellent resource for showing your children the overarching theme of the Bible!!! You can get it at Westminster Books.
4. Worldview Academy Leadership Camp. We do this even when we don't know how to pay for groceries. :) It costs $650, (sometimes discounted for various reasons) and takes your teen through a week of intense classroom time, teaching them how to find the worldview of movies, books, and art; how to talk to an atheist or a post-modern; how to share the Gospel. EXCELLENT. We send the kids twice; if they want to go again, they have to fund it. They always want to go again.
Worldview Radio is a podcast hosted by Bill Jack and Jeff Baldwin. It's both funny and engaging, and it's a daily dose of thinking well.
5. Herman Who? AHermeneutics Primer by Todd Friel: This is a great way to learn how to interpret OT versus NT, descriptive versus prescriptive, what applies today, how to bridge the cultures. It is fantastic.
6. Grandparents!!! If you are blessed enough to have parents who walk with God, give your kids lots of exposure to the grandparents. All four of my kids' grandparents are very charismatic. They think our church is boring; we think their church is bouncy. We think they're crazy charismatics; they think we're crazy Calvinists. Remember those loud, lively dinner discussions? They are still happening. :) But the rich legacy that is created when the kids talk to the grandparents about their faith is priceless. My kids talk to my folks about worship, tongues, prayer, Kingdom issues. It's good for the kids to see serious faith across several generations.

Here's to Truth in a world that's dying to know.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Raising Kids in a Post-Modern World--Part 2

When my college sophomore transferred this past fall to a Christian college, I was concerned about the cost and the course load, but mostly, I was concerned that it was a Christian college. I went to Christian schools, lots of them. The label "Christian" really only means that it's not illegal to mention Jesus there. It does not guarantee there are real believers, either on staff or among the student body. So before he left, I reminded him to be vigilant. "I don't care what they say; watch what they do. Apply judgment."

How do we make our kids shrewd as serpents but innocent as doves? How do we prepare them for a post-modern world of tolerance, relativism, and emergents? Although it's disconcerting that 80% of kids raised in Christian homes walk away from their parents' faith, we think we have found some ways to give our kids a leg-up in a world that spells truth with a small "t."

1. Expose them often to good expository preaching. While there isn't anything wrong with topical preaching, it tends to focus more on the wisdom of the preacher than on the wisdom of God's Word. Our kids need the whole counsel of God, and a church that offers expository preaching is making sure its people are getting all the nutrients out of the Word. A good expositional preacher will demonstrate that all portions of scripture point to Jesus Christ and the work of the Cross.

2. Along those same lines, limit their involvement in children's church and youth group. The former tends to be gospel-lite, and our kids are capable of grasping so much more than we give them credit for. The latter tends to generate kids discussing "truth" with their peers and being led by a youth pastor who is often barely out of childhood himself and prefers to read "The Message." Better for the kids to be among diverse levels of spiritual maturity.

3. Teach them doctrine. I cannot emphasize this enough. They should be able to answer the following questions no later than eighth grade:
What is the nature of God?
What is the nature of man?
Where do evil and suffering come from?
And good doctrine also applies to worship music. Watch what you're singing in church. Do the words back up the truth of scripture, or are they a little off?

4. Teach them theology--systematic theology. Biblical theology is studying a verse at a time; systematic theology is studying what all of scripture has to say about a particular topic. And while you're doing that, teach them good hermeneutics. We watched a video that was less than one hour on how to rightly interpret scripture, and it has been priceless in helping us to accurately apply the Word.

5. Talk, eat together, watch movies, listen to music together, talk about the president, the news, their friends, the church. Talk, talk, talk. Growing up, we had a lively dinner table and often loud discussions. But it made me think critically. It was a gift from my parents to me.

6. Above all, PRAY. Pray with them. Pray for them. Teach them how to pray on their own.

It is quite possible to arm our kids with the Truth so they can combat the attacks of the disingenuous and answer the questions of the honest seekers. It is hard work, but my kids are worth it.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Raising Kids in a Post-Modern World

She burst through the door, jubilant. "Mom, you'll never guess what happened in my photography class!" My oldest daughter was taking a summer class with a sweet friend of mine last year. We've told the kids for years that once they got to college, they were going to meet with all kinds of ridiculum--but we certainly didn't expect it in a photography class.

The prof had been going through submissions from the students and critiquing each one. Our friend's photo came up, and it had a scripture written across it as its caption. "This photo is great, but the caption should be something different. It would be better if it looked like this." And his version was the same beautiful little girl but with the inane "Are we having fun yet?" imprinted across it.

Up goes my daughter's hand. "Excuse me, but if the author of the photograph wants a scripture on it, what is wrong with that?"

Prof: "The problem is that it offers a solution. We shouldn't do that. We should be asking questions."

Undaunted, my daughter's hand goes up again. "Excuse me, but do you really think people are lying in bed at night thinking, 'Gee, I wish I had more questions,'?"

Bingo. The problem of the post-modern world is its refusal to offer answers. And my then 16 year old daughter nailed it--in class. Raising children in a post-modern world means preparing them to offer the answer when others are only asking questions. It means training them to understand that they have the Truth, that the Truth is absolute, that not believing the Truth absolves no one from guilt in the eyes of the Creator.

Statistics say that 80% of kids raised in the church will lose their faith when they leave home. (Okay, I know "lose their faith" is doctrinally problematic, but the perseverance of the saints is another blogpost. Work with me, people.) What kinds of things are our children encountering out there that are snagging them?

You've seen the bumper sticker. It sends my 15 year old into orbit every time. Why? Probably because kids are amazingly adept at spotting inconsistencies. (Why we lose the ability to think critically when we reach adulthood is beyond me.) The main idea behind this thought is: There are many ways to God. And God answers to many names. Pick the name and the way that works for you.

The problem with this line of thinking is a logic problem. Each religion claims to be the right way. But they can't all be the right way, then, can they? The Law of Non-Contradiction says that a proposition cannot be both true and false at the same time. So, it is not possible that a religion that claims "Jesus is the only way to God" and a religion that claims "Jesus is not the only way to God" can both be valid. In formal logic, we would plot those two statements on the Square of Opposition. One is a universal affirmative; the other is a universal negative. They have a relationship called Contrariety, which is just a fancy way of saying that they can both be false, BUT they cannot both be true.

If life were a pantry, emergents would be the fruit loops. Like most post-moderns, they are hard to nail down on what they do believe, but they sure know what they don't believe.
1. Original sin: We inherited our nature from Adam. Man is totally depraved and dead in his sin. There is no way to please God...
...unless you are emergent. In which case, you believe Jesus loves you because you are interesting. But God says our righteousness is like filthy rags; the Apostle Paul says he is the Chief of Sinners. I'm fairly sure that God is repulsed by our sin and most definitely does NOT find us interesting. He finds us in need of mercy...
...which brings us to the next doctrine:
2. Substitutionary Atonement: Because man is dead in his sin and is unable to help himself, and God cannot live in the presence of sin, He had to send a substitution to die for us, to pay the penalty of our crimes...
...unless you are emergent. In which case, you believe that the Cross is 'cosmic child abuse.' Of course, if I think Jesus finds me interesting, then the Cross does appear to be a rather brutal, bloody, over-the-top, attention-grabbing stunt. At least they are consistent. Unfortunately, the whole movement un-Scriptural. I wonder if emergents find that interesting. (Are you listening, Rob Bell, Brian McLaren, and Donald Miller?)

What do we do to ensure our children are as shrewd as serpents and as innocent as doves?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Seven Year Old Faith

"God is sovereign. And He is good--sometimes." That was my seven-year old's response to the question, "What is the basic nature of God?"

I stared at her. "What do you mean, sometimes?"

"Well," she answered, "there are times when bad things happen. I don't think He is good then."

I was speechless. How had this child of mine lived this long in my house and so misunderstood such a basic thing about God? Where had I gone wrong? She sounded like, well, like the world. Yikes. That night found us at Starbucks, hunkered down over a couple of frappucinos, discussing the nature of God and the nature of man.

God is sovereign over all creation, and He is good. If He were sovereign only, He'd be a despot. If He were good only, He'd be a weakling. Man is totally depraved in his own sin inherited from Adam. That complete immersion in sin renders him incapable of even asking for help without the prompting of the Holy Spirit. That's what the Bible teaches. So that's what we teach at home. Is it any wonder I stared at my daughter, aghast that she somehow thought she was less sinful than Nebuchudnezzar?

"Do you mean to tell me that you think you're good without God?" I asked her.
She confidently replied, "Well, I'm better than Nebuchudnezzar."


"No, dear, you're not better than Nebuchudnezzar. Neither am I. We are all hopeless without God regenerating us."
"Well, God sent him off to the wilderness to live like a wild man because of what he did," she batted back.
"Yes," I said, "and if you read to the end of the account, you'll see that he finally acknowledged that God was God, and he was not. And when God got his attention, he saw the truth. And you wouldn't see the truth without God revealing it to you, either."


We had a good conversation that night. We talked about original sin, depravity, election. We talked about God's sovereignty and why he allows bad things to happen. We talked about the goodness of God and the sinfulness of sin. But, in the end, my seven-year-old had a seven-year-old's faith.

She turned 8 this past week. And she is growing in her understanding of the Creator/Redeemer, just as surely as she is growing physically. She's growing an eight-year-old faith. That's right where she should be.

The tragedy is when an adult has a seven-year-old faith, when adults stomp their feet because life isn't turning out the way they thought it should, because life is hard, or because life hurts. The tragedy is when adults think God lets bad things happen to good people, though the real puzzler is why good things happen to bad people. The tragedy is when adults think they can be even a little bit good, even do a little bit to please God, even ask God for a little bit of redemption by themselves without the Holy Spirit.

Life's not fair. That's one of the first hard lessons every child learns. And attempting to impugn God's character by saying it's not fair that He predestines most for hell is wrong and immature. It is completely fair to separate sinful man from a Holy God. It is unfair that any of us get to go to Heaven at all. It's not unfair that the Atonement is limited; it's unfair that there is an Atonement at all.

It's okay, even good, for a seven-year-old to have a seven-year-old faith. But for an adult, it's tragic.

Hebrews 5:12-14

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Confessions of a Recovering Charismatic

I am not likely to forget the conversation for a long time. We had been traveling out west and visiting some friends we hadn't seen since our east-coast days. She was spilling over with enthusiasm after visiting a religious service north of the border. For me, it was the final nail in a coffin I had been assembling for some time. It took all of my will-power to not look sideways at my husband while she told us that the Holy Spirit had filled the place, and people were barking like dogs and clucking like chickens. Strange fire, anyone?

Here are the other nails:

Leg-lengthening: I won't even dignify this one with an explanation. Where in the Bible???

Shiver-quivers: Charismatics will tell you this is the Holy Spirit. I think the air conditioning is set too low. Where in the Bible???

Prophecy: The problem with prophecy today is that it so often is a 'new' word that can't be verified by Scripture. If we're willing to allow prophecy, we must be equally willing to test the message and discipline the messenger. To misspeak on God's behalf is not an experiment; it is blasphemy.

Slain in the Spirit: Let's be honest. The only Biblical account of being slain in the Spirit is Ananias and Sapphira. When people fell down in the presence of the Lord in the Bible, it was out of fear. God was not 'ministering' to them. And they certainly weren't hoping “to get me some more of that next week.” Where in the Bible???

“I just want to go where the Spirit is.” For years, I thought I had the Holy Spirit, and the rest of the Body only had access to two persons of the Trinity. I am so ashamed of my arrogance.

I am not a cessationist. I believe the gifts are for today. And I believe there is something very natural about them. I believe in prophecy IF it can be verified by the Word. I believe in miracles and healing. I believe in tongues, words of wisdom and knowledge, and discerning of spirits.

The problem is not the gifts. I think the Word is clear on that point. The problem is the packaging: the mystical, hyper-emotional, often hysterical and chaotic atmosphere that many charismatic churches allow. Do these things in any way reflect our Redeemer?

As believers, we must be willing to reform and conform to the Bible. I threw the baby out with the bathwater for years. But I'm finding the baby again. Thanks to men like CJ Mahaney and ministries like Sovereign Grace, I know there's a baby there.

Let's drain the tub--before the baby drowns.

Saturday, September 11, 2010


This is one of the most beautiful poems I have ever read...

The Sleep
Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806–61)

OF all the thoughts of God that are
Borne inward into souls afar,
Along the Psalmist’s music deep,
Now tell me if that any is
For gift or grace surpassing this—
“He giveth His beloved, sleep”?

What would we give to our beloved?
The hero’s heart to be unmoved,
The poet’s star-tun’d harp to sweep,
The patriot’s voice to teach and rouse,
The monarch’s crown to light the brows?—
He giveth His beloved, sleep.

What do we give to our beloved?
A little faith all undisproved,
A little dust to overweep,
nd bitter memories to make
The whole earth blasted for our sake:
He giveth His beloved, sleep.

“Sleep soft, beloved!” we sometimes say
Who have no tune to charm away
Sad dreams that through the eyelids creep:
But never doleful dream again
Shall break the happy slumber when
He giveth His beloved, sleep.

O earth, so full of dreary noises!
O men, with wailing in your voices!
O delved gold, the wailers heap!
O strife, O curse, that o’er it fall!
God strikes a silence through you all,
And giveth His beloved, sleep.

He dews drop mutely on the hill,
His cloud above it saileth still,
Though on its slope men sow and reap:
More softly than the dew is shed,
Or cloud is floated overhead,
He giveth His beloved, sleep.

Ay, men may wonder while they scan

A living, thinking, feeling man
Confirm’d in such a rest to keep;
But angels say, and through the word
I think their happy smile is heard—
“He giveth His beloved, sleep.”

For me, my heart that erst did go

Most like a tired child at a show,
That sees through tears the mummers leap,
Would now its wearied vision close,
Would childlike on His love repose
Who giveth His beloved, sleep.

And friends, dear friends, when it shall be

That this low breath is gone from me,
And round my bier ye come to weep,
Let One, most loving of you all,
Say, “Not a tear must o’er her fall!
He giveth His beloved, sleep.”

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Showdown at Mt. Carmel

Mt. Carmel

My all-time favorite Biblical account and the zenith of the ministry of my all-time favorite Bible character, Elijah.

God vs. Idol
Truth vs. Lie
Sheep vs. Goat
Crops vs. Tares

And the all consuming fire of the all-powerful God licking up even the water...
And the humbling of the rebellious...
And the affirming of the righteous...

What a great reminder that there is Absolute Truth, one truth that is true for everyone all the time, that tolerance kills and truth saves, that God does not brook with syncretism, and that He is not mocked.

"And when all of the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, 'The Lord, He is God; The Lord, He is God." I Kings 18:39