Friday, March 30, 2007

Are you sure, Private Pyle?!

Last installment, me thinks, with regard to the assurance of salvation. We're being exhaustive here because it's an important issue. Far from being irrelevant, assurance is a help to living for Christ.

But, it's also important because we don't want anyone thinking they have what they don't have, peace with God. Thus, we ask, are you sure?!

Some good insight from the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith. (1689)

Of Assurance of Grace and Salvation
(scripture proofs):

1. Although temporary believers, and other unregenerate men, may vainly deceive themselves with false hopes and carnal presumptions of being in the favour of God and state of salvation, which hope of theirs shall perish; yet such as truly believe in the Lord Jesus, and love him in sincerity, endeavouring to walk in all good conscience before him, may in this life be certainly assured that they are in the state of grace, and may rejoice in the hope of the glory of God, which hope shall never make them ashamed.

Temporary believers, stony ground hearers deceive themselves, but is it possible others have enabled that deception by affirming that which has not taken place merely because of some external feat performed (e.g., walking an aisle, raising a hand, praying a prayer, signing a card, etc.)?

We see here as well that while assurance is not automatic, it is possible to have.

2. This certainty is not a bare conjectural and probable persuasion grounded upon a fallible hope, but an infallible assurance of faith founded on the blood and righteousness of Christ revealed in the Gospel; and also upon the inward evidence of those graces of the Spirit unto which promises are made, and on the testimony of the Spirit of adoption, witnessing with our spirits that we are the children of God; and, as a fruit thereof, keeping the heart both humble and holy.

I'm not exactly sure how the assurance is infallible, since my perception of it can certainly be so, but I appreciate the foundation of that assurance, Christ's atonement.

3. This infallible assurance doth not so belong to the essence of faith, but that a true believer may wait long, and conflict with many difficulties before he be partaker of it; yet being enabled by the Spirit to know the things which are freely given him of God, he may, without extraordinary revelation, in the right use of means, attain thereunto: and therefore it is the duty of every one to give all diligence to make his calling and election sure, that thereby his heart may be enlarged in peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, in love and thankfulness to God, and in strength and cheerfulness in the duties of obedience, the proper fruits of this assurance; -so far is it from inclining men to looseness.

In other words, assurance does not lead to licentiousness. There is and should be no, "I'm forgiven so I can sin all I want up in this piece." Instead, it is a duty to pursue assurance because assurance aids in holiness in the Christian life.

Plus, assurance is not automatic, but there may be a delay from justification which yields sanctification and the assurance of that salvation.

4. True believers may have the assurance of their salvation divers ways shaken, diminished, and intermitted; as by negligence in preserving of it, by falling into some special sin which woundeth the conscience and grieveth the Spirit; by some sudden or vehement temptation, by God's withdrawing the light of his countenance, and suffering even such as fear him to walk in darkness and to have no light, yet are they never destitute of the seed of God and life of faith, that love of Christ and the brethren, that sincerity of heart and conscience of duty out of which, by the operation of the Spirit, this assurance may in due time be revived, and by the which, in the meantime, they are preserved from utter despair.

This seems to me to pointedly address the question of not whether or not God is faithful, but whether or not I am one to whom He has promised faithfulness.

God is faithful to His bride, but are you part of His bride (i.e., church) or are you instead one presuming the affections of a husband who is not your own?

How do you know? Are you sure?!
Beware, I pray thee, of presuming that thou art saved. If thy heart be renewed, if thou shalt hate the things that thou didst once love, and love the things that thou didst once hate; if thou hast really repented; if there be a thorough change of mind in thee; if thou be born again, then hast thou reason to rejoice: but if there be no vital change, no inward godliness; if there be no love to God, no prayer, no work of the Holy Spirit, then thy saying "I am saved" is but thine own assertion, and it may delude, but it will not deliver thee.
-Charles Spurgeon

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Thursday, March 29, 2007

I'm pretty sure that's not love.

In thinking a bit more about assurance of salvation and wondering about whether or not one truly believes. I thought of an analogy that works ... for me at least.

How do you know you believe?

Might that be as hard to answer as another similar question: How do you know you're in love? How do you know when it's "true" love?

Many try to help answer this for us. About.com tries to help teens with How to Know When It's Love.

Even Van Halen seeks to help:

How do I know when it's love?
I can't tell you but it lasts forever.
How does it feel when it's love?
It's just something you feel together.
-When It's Love

"I can't tell you, but it lasts forever."

I think that helps. If it doesn't last, it wasn't love. If one doesn't perservere, he or she didn't really love Jesus.

Is it not possible that a person, especially when younger can think he or she is in love, but later realize that wasn't it?

It happened to Brian Fantana ...
Brian: I think I was in love once.
Ron: Really, what was her name?
Brian: I don't remember.
Ron: That's not a good start, but keep going.
Brian: She was Brazilian. Or Chinese, or something weird. I met her in the bathroom of a K-mart, and we made out for hours. Then we parted ways, never to see each other again.
Ron: I'm pretty sure that's not love.
Just like one can think or feel what is being felt is love for another person and be mistaken, so I contend one can think or feel what is being felt is love for Christ or perceived as faith in Him.

Yet we say, love is a choice and not a feeling. But isn't conversion accompanied by a newfound and supernaturally originated love for Christ? Isn't conversion a change in the affections, loving what/Whom you used to hate and hating what you used to love?

How do you know you're in love ... with Jesus?

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Napoleon, like anyone can even know that.

Assurance of Salvation ...

Who should have it?
How do you get it?
Can you lose it (assurance)?

On what does one base it?
Walking an aisle? Praying a prayer?
Raising a hand? A burning in the bosom?

Assuming for the moment that you believe that a (genuine) believer will be saved, for salvation gained cannot be lost, how does one know and/or experience assurance of that salvation?

Many will say that you should retrace your steps to the point in time (preferably written in the front cover of your Bible) when you made a decision or a profession or prayed a prayer or walked an aisle, etc.

BUT ... all of things things can be done and yet still one may not be saved. Though a saved person may do all of those things, doing them saves nobody. Salvation is by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone.

Eternal life is knowing God and His Christ (John 17:3) and having a positive relationship with God through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, His person and work.

To have blessed assurance, how do you know you can say, "Jesus is mine"? Or, better yet, how do you know Jesus will say that you are His?

Doing stuff that appears godly is no certainty of salvation. Just recall those to whom Jesus will have tragic news, far worse than the words Donald Trump gives to those who are fired:
21"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' 23And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'
-Matthew 7:21-23 (Sermon on the Mount, ESV)
Certain promises are made in Scripture to the one who believes (just as certain promises are made to those who don't).

Or, to put it another way, Scripture promises the elect will be saved. But how do you know you are among the elect? How do you make your calling election sure? (2 Pet 1:10-11)

Assurance is never a question of whether or not God keeps those promises. Assurance is instead a question of whether or not those promises are made to you.

So, the question has to be asked, it seems to me, do you believe? Do you have a saving faith? There is a faith that does not save, according to James (2:14-26), and one that could even be regarded as orthodox.

The suggestions given above for obtaining assurance are appealing for good reason, they're objective. You either did those things or you didn't.

However, I contend that there is no objective means of assurance, apart from the objective sacrifice of Christ on behalf of His people. However, our means of knowing if we have an interest in the Savior's blood is subjective.

In my little mind, I can see three validations or indicators of the reality of faith, but they are all subjective. I think the difficulty comes into play when we want to try to make evaluation of one's spirituality an objective matter, but we cannot. God knows the heart. He do/can not.

1. Is there evidence of a changed life? New creatures will have new characteristics (2 Cor 5:17). The indwelling Holy Spirit is at work in a person both to will and to do according to His good pleasure (Phil 2:13), to complete the work He began (Phil 1:6). Just as an evil spirit motivated people to do evil things, so the Holy Spirit motivates people to do holy things, moving them in accordance with His decrees (Ezek 36:26-27). What will this look like to necessarily demonstrate conversion? The Fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23). Love for God and love for others (Matt 22:37-40). After all we are saved by grace through faith for good works, which He prepared in advance for us to do (Eph 2:8-10).

A human can no more see the faith of another any more than he or she can see the wind, but one can see the effects of both. A leaning tree is a good indication, a dramatic changed life is a good indication, particularly where longevity is concerned. For even the stony ground hearer showed some "results" for a short time, even though Jesus would not call it "fruit" (Matt 13:5-6, 20-21).


2. Is there the internal witness of the Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit testifies with our spirit that we are indeed children of God. (Rom 8:16)

This may be the "You know that you know that you know" type of thing, which seems spurious at times, but we can't overlook or belittle that which God gives us as a legitimate means of assurance in the Scriptures. But we can see how one could easily think he or she knows, but is mistaken.


3. Is there evidence of discipline from God? If God disciplines only those He loves and leaves the others in their sin, then lack of discipline is a bad sign, a sign of being an illegitimate child (Heb 12:5-8). (I won't give you the KJV expression for those without chastisement, since kids may be listening in).

But, how do you know if that which has just ruined your day is discipline from God or just the effects of living in a fallen world? If it's the latter, I guess we praise God that this is not our home, ask for His aid in overcoming, and trust Him who gives and who takes away as Job did (Job 1:21). But, if it's the former, if it's discipline from God, we should evaluate our bad selves to see what we need to see via this attention getter. We need to repent and be encouraged that He really loves us.

So, it seems relevant to me to discern the difference, but I'm open to some good suggestions on such differentiation. For me, the default is to check first to see if it's discipline. If unable to find anything that jumps out at me, I assume it's another reminder of how much better it will be in the fullness of the kingdom.


So, if we're to test ourselves to see if we're in the faith (2 Cor 13:5), I suggest these three questions on the exam.

If you score well, I'd say there's a good chance and you have reason to feel assured. However, if you do not do well in those areas, I would caution you greatly. While I think there is assurance to be had, the Bible offers no assurance to anyone living a life rebellious to the Lord Jesus Christ. Neither would I.

Can a person be saved and not know it? That seems a real possibility, for our faith is often prone to confusion and doubt. Can a person be lost and not know it, even thinking he or she is saved? That's the scary part. I find it hard to see any argument to the contrary.

Now, I'm not on board with undue introspection and questioning assurance every time one sins, for that can be quite counterproductive and stunt one's growth. But I'm also averse to giving a false assurance. I don't want to assume one has believed on the Lord Jesus Christ that he/she may be saved merely because he/she did what somebody said to do (e.g., raise a hand, walk an aisle, pray a prayer, etc.).

I'd rather that person be the origin of that assurance based on his or her subjective experience of having been a lover of the darkness (John 3:19-20), but now being a lover of the Light of the World (John 8:12).

The question, it seems to me, is ... is assurance a right or a privilege of a (professing) believer?

I would have to agree with my older brother in the faith, that not only is salvation a gift, but so is assurance, a gift for those who are following Christ.
In the end, assurance is a precious gift of God. Let us pray for each other that it will abound among us.
-John Piper, The Agonizing Problem of the Assurance of Salvation

There are subjective indicators that help with assurance, but really the basis for assurance is never how well I'm doing, but Christ, and the fact that I am "doing" in Him. I encourage you to rest in your subjective apprehension of the objective atonement in and through and because of Christ.

In speaking of your assurance of salvation, like Kip you may be thinking, like anyone can even know that. But unlike knowing whether or not this is pretty much the worst blog ever made, you can know assurance of an objective salvation, albeit subjectively.

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Sunday, March 25, 2007

Follow the yellow brick road.

A poem well known to many is one I memorized in high school and pondered then and have pondered many times thence. Sharing it on the anniversary of the author's birth (1874), I hope it will motivate you to ponder as well.








The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth.

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same.

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

In high school I had my life mapped out, including who I would marry, where I would go to college, and what my careers would be afterward.

I hope this doesn't come as a shock to you, but none of those things came true. Of course, we know that God ordains our steps. I would even say He has "line item" veto power and He's not afraid to use it, and it's in our best interest when He does.
The heart of man plans his way,
but the LORD establishes his steps.
-Proverbs 16:9 (ESV)
Yet, there are so many times in our lives where two roads diverge in a yellow wood. Like a "Choose Your Own Adventure" book, the path we take today will impact the path options the next day and so forth.

Think of how many things in your life were determined for you. Your birthplace. Where you grew up. Where you went to high school. All of these will impact whether or not you go to college and, if so, where. That will impact your potential mate selection (should the Lord grants such, Prov 19:14). This will impact your offspring and theirs and so forth.

When I stop to think about it, I realize that the providential hand of God in keeping every detail together in conformity with the counsel of His will (Eph 1:11-12) is just amazing.

You're presented two options, both of which look good, so which do you take? Unlike Dorothy, we can't just follow the yellow brick road, because both roads diverge in the yellow wood.

So, how does one choose among legitimate options available to the Christian? For example, why should a Christian take one job over the other? Why should a Christian propose to one woman instead of the other? What college should you attend? (a decision with huge ramifications with regard to future spouse, job, and geographical location)

How do you make such choices?
Does God care? Will He tell you what to do? If so, how do you know?
What are the determining factors and what trumps what?

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

He's not a tame lion. No, but he's good.

So many times Christians try to smooth off some of God's rough edges, trying to minimize His actions that seem out of character, or at least not up to our expectations of a good and friendly deity.

Or, as R.C. Sproul has said, many try to "de-fang" God.

The following are some excerpts from the article entitled, "Playing with Knives: God the Dangerous" by Douglas Jones in Credenda Agenda (HT Ron). In the article he embraces the reality of who God is, described in C.S. Lewis' writing as a lion who is not tame, but who is good.

(Throughout, the emphasis is mine.)

In response to the command Abraham received in Gen 22
It's too easy to read the happy ending into the early part of Abraham's story. We now know the ending, so we domesticate the entire story, turning it into a rounded tale. We kill its horror. But actually to hear the original command would make most people suicidal. What hope is there if God Himself has become madness?

In our pietism, though, we tend to insist that God is primarily Nice. Period. God is Nice and Nicer and Nicest. The chief end of God is to be Nice. I believe in God the Nice. Maker of Niceness. In heaven, we'll all be Nice. Pilate wasn't Nice. He was mean, and "mean people suck." This whole modern Christian litany is so tedious and tiny. Of course, other people—equally foolish—think the solution is to be rude and mean. Yeah, God isn't nice; He's rude. But Yahweh is neither Nice or Rude: He is dangerous and unpredictable. He is Trinity. He is Fire, and fire is hard to contain. Sometimes all the advanced firefighting technology gets overcome in a canyon by a storm of flames. Sometimes people freeze next to a tiny flame. Fire's edges won't stand still; its borders aren't easily traced. "Our God is a consuming fire." God's command for Abraham to sacrifice Isaac came right from the center of flame. As H. A. Williams notes, "Whatever God wants in our relationship with Him, it certainly isn't respectability."


The God of Abraham does not pen Hallmark cards. He is not a corporate risk manager. He is not a cruise director aiming to make our trip as pleasant and comfortable as possible. He is here to overturn tables and create people who can run alongside Him.

---

Yahweh yearns for "godly seed," and for Him that means He wants people who are people like Him, people who are holy, merciful, unpredictable, and dangerous.

---

And yet, almost always, we see Abraham portrayed in the sacrifice episode as distraught, grief-stricken, and faithless. One commentator says that this was a "heart-rending trial" and another says that "the words `take now thy son, thy only son Isaac' gripped Abraham's heart." Another says that "Abraham anguished" over the loss of his son. I once watched an actor portray an account of Abraham in which the actor wept and wept over the command to kill his son.

Kierkegaard's reading also seems to miss the point in a large way. Even if you dig out of Kiekegaard's gross individualism, he still muzzles the personality of God in this passage. You can only leap into absurdity if God's character is a void.

But the text doesn't give any of these responses. Why do we accept them? We are little unitarian Jobs. Abraham was truly tested; the text says that. But we have no hint of anguish or weeping. Why couldn't Abraham's faith be pictured as victorious and bold? He might have gone whistling up the mountain without a hint of anguish, because He knew the character of God. The character of God overflows any void.

We get clearer commentary from the book of Hebrews. Abraham wasn't anguishing; he was confident. He told his servant he and his Isaac would return in a bit. Hebrews 11:17-19 says that "By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, `In Isaac your seed shall be called,' concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense."

Abraham inferred resurrection. Not an expected move. But he wasn't dealing with a pasty God. With a dangerous God, faith most often means thinking counterintuitively. "Let God be true, though every man a liar." Being a friend of God means assuming that surfaces aren't the whole story; it means assuming the truth is often the opposite of where everything appears to be heading. "You have put all things in subjection under his feet, but . . ." Abraham was trained in counterintuition. He already knew that Yahweh played with knives. Knew that God liked crooked things and eagles. He assumed that God was dangerous enough that He could have Abraham execute Isaac and then raise him from the dead. For Abraham, the command to sacrifice Isaac was only a horror story on the surface. He saw through it. He knew that God was holy, compassionate, and dangerous.

No wonder Abraham was a friend of God. He wasn't embarrassed by Him. He loved His dangerousness. That's how you become a friend of Jehovah.

That's an interesting comment, "He wasn't embarrassed by Him." Aren't most church-going folk really embarrassed by God? Isn't that why folks try to cover up for Him? Try to soften the blow that Scripture portrays?

As a preacher, I love the freedom to let God be God and present Him to any who will listen as He presents Himself in Scripture, without apology.

Jehovah, not tame, but always good.

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Monday, March 19, 2007

how can you hate "The Colonel"?

Canadian Tim Challies posted his Things I Hate About America and it got me thinking.

Would not an insider have even more to hate? Of course, I think we have a bit of a love/hate relationship with our* country. There are things we love about it, but because we love it there are things we hate, because it could be better. Perhaps it deserves better than it receives.

For me there are times when I have hate and love for the same aspect. For example, I love that we have free speech. I love it until someone blasphemes Christ does desecrates the cross and calls it art. I love freedom of religion, but I hate the implementation of that (a) puts all systems of belief on the same level of respectability and (b) becomes a bias against Christianity under the cloak of freedom from religion.

Also, I love that I have the freedom to have a blog, but I hate that some folks spare us to death with some of the slooge they write on their blogs.

I hate that our country is still so racially divided and preoccupied with race, either in an antagonistic way or in an undue obsession with it. This could be seen in one person seeing no problems with race at all and another injecting race into a situation where it is irrelevant.

I hate that the churches in this country are so segregated and that church growth methodology actually encourages such with the effectiveness of the homogeneity principle.

I hate the polarization and false dichotomy in this country on just about every issue. For example, you're either with the president or with the terrorists. While I tend to be a supporter of the president, I realize that one could be a dissenter without aiding and abetting criminals, though some do go too far.

You are either against people having guns or you are in favor of school shootings. No, maybe some of us believe in the Second Amendment, but think evildoers shouldn't kill innocent people with them.

You either want any and all people to come to this country illegally so they can get the benefits of citizenship without any of the costs involved (e.g., paying taxes) or you hate foreigners, forgetting in your self-centeredness that all our ancestors (sans descendents of Native Americans) were at one time immigrants.

Every issue has to be a litmus test issue with two, and only two, distinct binary options available. This is often true in the Christian world as well. You either do/think/feel/believe this way (i.e., like I do), or you don't love Jesus.

I hate that helpful and/or friendly customer service is nigh unto extinct in this country. I tend to see the glass as half-empty, admittedly, but I'm shocked anymore when I get a friendly human on the phone or a helpful earthling in a store. Fast food tends to be the worst, but I guess there you get what you pay for. I really hate when they waffle the order, particularly at the drive through.

Though I don't hate the Colonel with his beady little eyes, I do hate the commercialism of the US and what appears to be prominent product placement in movies. (Remember the mockery of this in Wayne's World? It's only got worse.)

I hate that the emphasis on the individual oozes into the church to the point of consumerism and an emphasis on "personal" Christianity to the detriment of the community.

Having lived elsewhere and traveled to other continents I also have something with which to compare the US. I have also had the opportunity to see Americans and how they operate outside of their natural habitat. It's not pretty. The "ugly American" is not fabrication and there were many times I found myself hating the arrogance and ignorance of Americans overseas. For example, on a mission trip to Germany, I wanted to crawl under the table when a lady on the trip threw a bit of a fit at dinner and couldn't believe they wouldn't have the menu in English.

That being said, I hate America's ignorance and apathy with regard to the rest of the world and the limited existence this country has had on the historical scene. I remember as a teenager eating dinner in someone's house in England, a house that was twice as old my my country of origin. That helped put things in perspective for me.

I hate this country's obsession with sexuality and its contribution to the objectification of women. What does a woman in a bikini have to do with the quality of the beverage or the effectiveness of the razor? Why does every sitcom have to resort to the tired sexual innuendo to get cheap laughs? Why does a movie have to be tainted by a flash or two of nudity, adding nothing to the storyline but a few cheap thrills for the immature in the audience?

There's more that could be said, but I'll leave it at that. If I say anymore the terrorists have already won. There is much I love as well, don't get me wrong. And I might echo the sentiments of thousands, consequently millions, that though it has faults, it's still the best country in the world in which to live (next to Texas, of course).

What about you? What do you love about the USofA? What do you hate?


*For the sake of the reader's sanity I won't get into the assertion that my country is really Texas, for there's nothing about the Lone Star State that one could hate. That would be too one-sided of a discussion.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

but don't ever take sides with anyone against the family again ... ever.

Today I was reading some comments by Al Mohler, president of SBTS, with regard to family activities eclipsing church life. They got me to put "pen to paper" some thoughts I've had for a while now.

In his post entitled, "The New Family Trump Card" -- Family Time vs. Church Time, Dr. Mohler speaks to families prioritizing extracurricular activities (e.g., sports) over church activities.
At the same time, when Christian parents take their kids to Little League games rather than worship on the Lord's Day, these parents teach their children that team sports are more important than the worship of God.

Every kid has a "thing" going on virtually all the time. That is the condition of life today, it seems. But when that "thing" keeps the child -- or the whole family -- away from church, we need to name that thing what it is . . . at best a snare, at worst an idol.
Dr. Mohler speaks of the activity becoming an idol, but I'm concerned it goes deeper.

He references an article in Leadership, "Shifting Family Values," wherein we read:
The increased emphasis on "family time," even at the expense of meaningful involvement in church life, is a sign of the times. It's one way Generations X and Y are making up for the hands-off, latch-key childrearing styles that characterized their Boomer parents: heavy investment in the kids, and everything else takes a back seat—including church.
I think that's it in a nutshell. In a reaction to what came before (a perceived minimization of the family), they really have an overreaction that prioritizes the physical family above the spiritual.

Jesus does the opposite, for spiritual ties should trump physical ties:
31And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. 32And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, "Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you." 33And he answered them, "Who are my mother and my brothers?" 34And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers! 35Whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother."
-Mark 3:31-35 (ESV)
This may sound counter-intuitive, but we learn in Matthew's account of the same interaction that the same day Jesus started telling the people parables.
50For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother." 1That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea.
-Matthew 12:50--13:1 (ESV)
In other words, He appears to have blown off His physical family to go do ministry and there's no indication in any of the accounts that Jesus stopped what He was doing to have a family conference.

I'm not saying people in general, nor clergy in particular, ought to blow off their families. They are to be good stewards of those with whom they have been entrusted. My point is that you will search high and low to find Jesus preaching the good news of the family instead of the good news of the kingdom. In other words, the family exists for the advancement of the kingdom (the church, the bride of Christ in the world). The church does not exist for the family.

While Mohler primarily speaks to church families not attending church services due to preoccupation with other activities , I think that is merely symptomatic. What concerns me is what I consider to be idolatry of the family. To put it another way, the individual family unit becomes the most important community for the average American professing Christian.

Hillary wrote that it takes a village to raise a child. Others have noted that it takes a church. Most American parents thinks the church is an ancillary supplemental component, not the crucial mechanism whereby sanctification occurs.

This is a disturbing trend, but just seems an extension of the American bastardization of the notion of priesthood of the believer. Instead of "just me and my Bible; I don't need anybody else" it becomes "Just our family and our Bible devotions; we don't need anybody else." While they might attend church, church is more of an elective than a core course in the Christian curriculum.

I intentionally try to minimize Providence Church programs to not be "enabling" parents where kids are concerned. I don't want families preoccupied with busyness to the point of not having healthy family relationships. I realize many churches are prone to go to extremes, having something multiple nights during the week whereby they expect full participation.

Our church only expects one night a week, but you'd be surprised how few make that. I realize many have many things going on, but most families make a much greater effort to get to the soccer game (on time) than to church (on time).

Yet, churches need to be family-friendly, as Mohler noted:
When "church time" is seen as a competitor to "family time," something is wrong at church. When family members hardly see each other at church activities, the congregation needs to take a quick inventory of its concept of ministry.
It's important to have family activities and fun things that build community. If church activities are too age-segregated, I can see how some would see church as non-conducive to family time. My response to that would be for the parents to get involved in the ministries in which their kids participate.

Just as I'd suggest a public school parent become a room parent, I'd suggest involvement in ministry. It demonstrates to the child the priority the parent puts on church by not only being there, but serving and investing his/her time.

I said all that to say this. The family is important, but God ordained the church as the primary entity for spreading His glory through the justification and sanctification of people. The human, physical family plays a role in that, not the other way around.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Well, which is it young feller? You want I should freeze or get down on the ground?

WARNING ... Some "Good ol' days" Syndrome in progress ...

This, I found interesting, and it resonated with my soul. Perhaps it will do same for you, depending on your birthday. (HT Broken_Wolf)


CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL THE KIDS WHO WERE BORN IN THE 1930s 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s!!

First, we survived being born to mothers who smoked and/or drank while they carried us.

They took aspirin, ate blue cheese dressing and tuna from a can, and didn't get tested for diabetes.

Then after that trauma, our baby cribs were covered with bright-colored lead-based paints.

We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, doors or cabinets and when we rode our bikes, we had no helmets, not to mention the risks we took hitchhiking.

As children, we would ride in cars with no seat belts or air bags.

We drank water from the garden hose and NOT from a bottle.

We shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle, and NO ONE actually died from this.

We ate cakes, white bread and real butter and drank pop with sugar in it, but we weren't overweight because ...

WE WERE ALWAYS OUTSIDE PLAYING!

We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the streetlights came on. No one was able to reach us all day. And we were O.K.

We would spend hours building our go-carts out of scraps and then ride down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes. After running into the bushes a few times, we learned to solve the problem.

We did not have Playstations, Nintendo's, X-boxes, no video games at all, no 99 channels on cable, no video tape movies, no surround sound, no cellphones, no personal computers, no Internet or Internet chat rooms..........WE HAD FRIENDS and we went outside and found them!

We fell out of trees, got cut, broke bones and teeth and there were no lawsuits from these accidents.

We ate worms and mud pies made from dirt, and the worms did not live in us forever.

We made up games with sticks and tennis balls and although we were told it would happen, we did not put out very many eyes.

We rode bikes or walked to a friend's house and knocked on the door or rang the bell, or just yelled for them!

Football teams had trials and not everyone made the team. Those who didn't had to learn to deal with disappointment. Imagine that!!

The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke the law was unheard of.*They actually sided with the law!*

This generation has produced some of the best risk-takers, problem solvers and inventors ever!

The past 50 years have been an explosion of innovation and new ideas.

We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned HOW TO DEAL WITH IT ALL!

And YOU are one of them! CONGRATULATIONS!

You might want to share this with others who have had the privilege to grow up as kids, before the lawyers and the government regulated our lives for our own good. And while you are at it, pass this along to your kids so they will know how brave their parents were.

Kind of makes you want to run through the house with scissors, doesn't it?!

You know, I guess I'm showing my age because that resonates with me and I find myself identifying a great deal with a "Grumpy Old Man"

I'm oooooold! And I'm not happy! And I don't like things now compared to the way they used to be. All this progress -- phooey! In my day, we didn't have these cash machines that would give you money when you needed it. There was only one bank in each state -- it was open only one hour a year. And you'd get in line, seventeen miles long, and the line became an angry mob of people -- fornicators and thieves, mutant children and circus freaks -- and you waited for years and by the time you got to the teller, you were senile and arthritic and you couldn't remember your own name. You were born, got in line, and ya died! And that's the way it was and we liked it!

Life was simpler then. There wasn't all this concern about hy-giene! It my days, we didn't have Kleenex. When you turned seventeen, you were given the family handkerchief. ... It hadn't been washed in generations and it stood on its own ... filled with diseases and swarmin' with flies. ... If you tried to blow your nose, you'd get an infection and your head would swell up and turn green and children would burst into tears at the sight o' ya! And that's the way it was and we liked it!

Life was a carnival! We entertained ourselves! We didn't need moooovin' pitchurrrres. In my day, there was only one show in town -- it was called "Stare at the sun!" ... That's right! You'd sit in the middle of an open field and stare up at the sun till your eyeballs burst into flames! And you thought, "Oh, no! Maybe I shouldn't've stared directly into the burning sun with my eyes wide open." But it was too late! Your head was on fire and people were roastin' chickens over it. ... And that's the way it was and we liked it!

Progress?! Flobble-de-flee! In my day, when we were angry and frustrated, we just said, "Flobble-de-flee!" 'cause we were idiots and we didn't know what else to say! Just a bunch o' illiterate Cro-Magnons, blowin' on crusty handkerchiefs, waitin' in lines for our head to burst into flame and that's the way it was and we liked it!

Ah, the youth and their silliness; they can't even hold up a bank properly.

Well, which is it young feller? You want I should freeze or get down on the ground? Mean to say, if'n I freeze, I can't rightly drop. And if'n I drop, I'ma gonna be in motion. You see...

Monday, March 12, 2007

Five players on the floor functioning as one single unit: team, team, team - no one more important that the other.

If you would have told me a year ago that the Aggies would make the Sweet 16, I would have thought that would be a successful season.

However, losing to Memphis last night in the Alamodome in San Antonio left me severely disappointed. I don't think I would be alone in saying expectations were higher, and not just among the Aggie faithful.

But, hey, thanks to Coach Gillispie for raising the bar so that "just" making the Sweet 16 is a disappointment.

Round 1: Aggies 68, Pennsylvania Quakers 52
Round 2: Aggies 72, Louisville Cardinals 69
Round 3: Mephis 65, Aggies 64

Historically, I have had only a passing interest in college basketball and the phenomenon known as March Madness. If my apathy would wane, I would pick as many out of Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, and North Carolina as I could to make the Final Four.

Last year, my interest peaked because the Fightin' Texas Aggie Basketball team make the NCAA Tournament. By the way, did you know we had a basketball team. I didn't until last year.

Last year they were *THIS* close to beating LSU, who won with a miraculous three-pointer at the buzzer. What can you do?

This year, many see the Ags as a lock for the Elite 8 and even some as probable for the Final Four.

What are your Final Four?

Me? I'm glad you asked. It won't be easy for the Ags to get past Ohio State (30-3), but that Acie Law IV is quite the clutch player for the Ags, so I'm in.

SOUTH - (3)Texas A&M (over Ohio State)
EAST - (1)North Carolina (Georgetown)
WEST - (1)Kanas (over UCLA)
MIDWEST - (2)Wisconsin (upset over Florida)

Sadly, I think the Ags fall to NC who meets a Kansas team who beats Wisconsin.

I got NC over KS in the Final. Who's with me?

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Friday, March 09, 2007

That's what we lawyers, I'm a lawyer ... we call that a counter offer.

James had commented on this situation previously, but in short Dr. Sheri Klouda was hired by Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary to teach Hebrew, but she later received word that she would not be eligible for tenure because the seminary was not on board with women teaching men in theological courses. (my paraphrase of the situation)

She actually was not fired or dismissed, but left to take a position elsewhere. She is now suing SWBTS for "breach of contract, fraud, and defamation." (HT Horhay)

A couple of questions:
1. Does a woman teaching Hebrew in a seminary (to potential pastors) violate 1 Timothy 2:12?

2. Even if wronged by the school, which remains very much in question, should a she sue fellow Christians?


1. Does a woman teaching Hebrew in a seminary (to potential pastors) violate 1 Timothy 2:12?

This is a tough one, for the defense would be that Paul is talking in the context of a church only. Some would even say that he's actually only speaking about authoritative teaching (i.e., serving as an elder (1 Tim 3:1-7)). Some would even say it's okay for a women even to preach to a church service on a Sunday morning, provided she was doing so under the authority of the elders.

Perhaps I'm not seeing all the special nuances, nor have I ever, for it seems to me that it's a pretty emphatic statement Paul gives in 1 Tim 2:12: "I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet."

Questions abound: What constitutes a man? What constitutes teaching? Can she teach him geometry? Can she teach men in a secular school? What about teaching him public speaking (e.g., preaching)?

It's not my call to make in this regard, but I can certainly understand "playing it safe" in light of Paul's prohibition by not having female professors teaching a seminary class, whereby she would be clearly teaching and having authority over men.

(READ how the other five SBC seminaries deal with issues related to teaching and gender.)


2. Even if wronged by the school, which remains very much in question, should she sue fellow Christians?

I certainly don't know all there is to know, but I can't see how one could justify suing fellow believers. Note well, she's not just suing the school, but an individual, Dr. Paige Patterson.
1When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? 2Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? 3Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! 4So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church? 5I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers, 6but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers? 7To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? 8But you yourselves wrong and defraud--even your own brothers!
-1 Corinthians 6:1-8
Some might say that there is no arbitrator sufficient in this matter, so I would say the Christian thing to do would be to take the hit and drive on, even if one feels wronged. Instead, Christians are airing their dirty laundry before the world, which I'm sure they're loving.

So, in the interest of money, we get bad publicity for SWBTS, for SBCers, and ultimately for the body of Christ. Either way, the court of popular opinion will weigh in on this and deem some Christian as wrong.

Regardless of who wins, the reputation of Christ loses.

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Thursday, March 08, 2007

A man's got to know his limitations.

So, I'm reading the Heidelberg Catechism, minding my own business, when I got hit between the eyes with this:

Q. What is your only comfort in life and death?

A. That I am not my own,[1] but belong with body and soul, both in life and in death,[2] to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ.[3] He has fully paid for all my sins with His precious blood, and has set me free from all the power of the devil.[5] He also preserves me in such a way[6] that without the will of my heavenly Father not a hair can fall from my head;[7] indeed, all things must work together for my salvation.[8] Therefore, by His Holy Spirit He also assures me of eternal life[9] and makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live for Him.[10]

I found myself thinking, "Self, where do you derive comfort? Do you fall prey to the folly of thinking there can be true comfort outside of Christ and my relationship to/with Him?"

I got bogged down there and couldn't read any further. I was convicted and comforted here and have to let this sink in a bit before driving on my with my bad self. Not altogether pleasant thoughts, but a man's got to know his limitations.
[1] I Cor. 6:19, 20 [2] Rom. 14:7-9. [3] I Cor. 3:23; Tit. 2:14. [4] I Pet. 1:18, 19; I John 1:7; 2:2. [5] John 8:34-36; Heb. 2:14, 15; I John 3:8. [6] John 6:39, 40; 10:27-30; II Thess. 3:3; I Pet. 1:5. [7] Matt. 10:29-31; Luke 21:16-18. [8] Rom. 8:28. [9] Rom. 8:15, 16; II Cor. 1:21, 22; 5:5; Eph. 1:13, 14. [10] Rom. 8:14.

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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Some folks call it a sling blade; I call it a Kaiser blade.

My amigo, James, who is prone to throw Calvin under the bus, is trying to tarnish the lovliest flower in the Lord's garden ... the TULIP.

I say that in jest, of course, but after a brief commentary on the acrostic T.U.L.I.P., which is often used as mnemonic device to remember what are referred to as the "5 Points of Calvinism," he notes his dissatisfaction with the acrostic.

He's not alone. Although it's right in my theological wheelhouse, the terminology is lacking. In fact, "Calvinism" itself is a term less preferred by many, self included. These things attributed to Calvin were not novel with him, but perhaps most clearly articulated by him.

Spurgeon, in A Defense of Calvinism, would say that Calvinism is merely a nickname for the Gospel:
I have my own private opinion that there is no such thing as preaching Christ and Him crucified, unless we preach what nowadays is called Calvinism. It is a nickname to call it Calvinism; Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else.
While it's a helpful way to remember certain aspects of God's gracious plan of redemption, the simplicity of the TULIP is also it's downfall.

"Total" depravity implies to many that we're as bad as we could be, which is not the case.

"Unconditional" election is not all that bad, but it may imply that God is arbitrary, as though there's no reason He elects (i.e., chooses) some and not others for salvation. But, that's not so; He chooses based on His good pleasure and purpose. In other words, we know it's not conditioned by the creature, including foreseen works (see Rom 9:6-13), but He has His unrevealed purposes in doing what He does.

"Limited" atonement implies to some that God's efforts on the cross were less than they could have been. In actuality, it's those who hold to a universal atonement who really limit that which is an efficacious atonement. Christ does exactly what He set out to do; He pays for the sins of His sheep. He doesn't merely make salvation possible, but ensure it for none.

"Irresistible" grace seems untenable, because whenever a person does not believe, God's grace is seen as resisted. Whenever a believer sins, he or she has effectively resisted the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit.

Perseverance of the "Saints" implies to many that the saints keep themselves saved. Having been saved by grace through faith, they stay saved because of their efforts. The reality is that He began a work and He will finish it (Phil 1:6), for He is the author and finisher of our faith (Heb 12:2). Yet, we're not merely talking "eternal security," in the sense that one makes a profession and then is saved (i.e., justified) regardless of sanctification. The God who justifies, sanctifies (Phil 2:12-13), unto glorification. Those who have been born again, who are new creatures in Christ (2 Cor 5:17), will live differently because they no longer are who they used to be.

These so-called "Five Points" are a summary of the Synod of Dordt, which was a response to what has become known as (the five points of) Arminianism, a theology seen to minimize God's sovereignty (particularly in matters of salvation) and human depravity as well as to glorify human credit in the salvation process, to the detriment of God's glorious grace (Eph 1:11-12).

I said all that to say this ... I came across another acrostic years ago, and I wish I could recall the source, but I thought I'd share it ... G.R.A.C.E.

God's Sovereign Election - God makes the ultimate choice with regard to salvation, which brings about the steps in the redemptive process necessarily.

Radical Depravity - Humans are spiritually unable to come to Christ (John 6:44), primarily because they have not been born again to have a heart that would ever want to embrace the Light of the World (John 3:19-20).

Accomplished Atonement - Jesus Christ accomplished in the atonement what He set out to do, the propitiation (Rom 3:21-26) of His sheep, for whom He laid down His life (John 10:11, 14-15).

Called Effectually - God brings people to Himself through faith in Christ by regenerating them, making them alive in Christ (Eph 2:1-5). The same people He chose in election, He will call (effectually) to faith in Christ (Rom 8:29-30).

Endurance of the Saints - The saints will endure unto salvation. Because of the transforming power of God's Spirit working in them, those born again will, though they stumble, never finally fall away. God will discipline His children (Heb 12:5-8) to bring about holiness. Though they are not saved by works, they are saved unto works (Eph 2:10). Because He works in them, they will (and are required to) work out their sanctification (Phil 2:12-13), to be holy because He is holy (Lev 19:2; 1 Pet 1:13-16).

A rose by any other name would smell just as sweet. A Kaiser blade would cut just as well if you called it a sling blade. But, would Calvinism be just as effectively taught if the TULIP was changed to GRACE?

What say ye to that?

P.S. Though Calvinism is apparently on the rise, there is still much misunderstanding related to it. For those less initiated, I am planning to post some comments on the abberation known as Hyper-Calvinism, since it is (a) what is not believed or practiced by those who may espouse Calvinism, and (b) it is the caricature that is described and given the label "Calvinism" by those opposed to these doctrinal positions (and often deceptively and maliciously so).

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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

I would rather have had one breath of her hair, one kiss from her mouth, one touch of her hand, than eternity without it. One.

We got some very bad news today, a young lady who is a friend of our family passed away after a lengthy bout with Leukemia. Lydia was almost 8 years old.

Lydia was good friends with our oldest, Sarah, having been in her class in kindergarten. I got to know from going with the class on field trips, her going to VBS at our church, and spending the night and other times visiting. We also knew her through Upward! cheer leading.

I've admired her family's faith in God through this ordeal, even when it was first learned that her cancer had come back, having been in remission for years.

I can't imagine the hurt they are feeling, but I know we were all blessed to have spent some time with this sweet girl. She had an infectious smile.

She will be sorely missed, but I'm grateful for the time we had her. Our family prayers each night will shift from asking God to heal her of her cancer to asking God to help her family to deal with her passing. My prayer is that they would find their comfort in Christ and grow in greater reliance up Him.

Her family will never be the same, but they were blessed so much to have had even the short time with her. In spite of all the hospital visits, hospital bills, and anguish, they would prefer to have all that with her than to have never been blessed by God who gave her to them.

Naturally, such an event makes me realize how much each and every minute I have with my kids is a blessing from God.

None of us are guaranteed tomorrow. If you have been blessed, enjoy your kids today, while you have them, and praise the name of the God who gives, but sometimes takes away as well (cf. Job 1:21).

There will come a day when we who believe in Christ will dwell where there is no sorrow and there are no more tears. But, until that time we find in Christ our stability in the midst of an unstable world.

Monday, March 05, 2007

I have many leather-bound books and my apartment smells of rich mahogany.

Stephanie has "tagged" me to share six things about me that would put me in the category of weird. After months of deliberation a panel of experts on the subject have compose such a list, which is provided for your enjoyment and educational purposes only.

(No animals were injured in the creation of this list.)

1. Topping the charts would have to be the peculiar lingo I've developed over the years, most notably "slooge" and "cag."

It's always easier to make things up than to remember, so I've taken many liberties with the English language. This might particularly be weird for one "allegedly" pursuing a PhD in Rhetoric.


2. I wear bow ties. In fact, I have only worn a "slooge tie" (i.e., non-bow tie) twice since 1995, for seminary graduation and a wedding (still tender here, Oilcan).

That's not, as they say, how I roll.

I have been, am now, and forever will be, Semper Bow Tie, the way God intended it.

C'mon! Join ... the few ... the proud ... the bow tie guys.


3. This one may be the most weird of the list, but it's time to come clean. I have an extreme aversion to green vegetables. I'm talking borderline phobic. There, I said it; it's out.

No one's really sure from whence this phobia originated, though I "allegedly" ate green beans as a baby. That's hard for America to believe, since green beans top the most hated list. I don't like them on my plate or even on the table, truth be told.

I don't want green food anywhere near the proper food, lest it become contaminated. This means no pickle on my White Castles and no lettuce on my tacos.

I realize it's likely an unsubstantiated fear, since I've never, to my knowledge, tasted of many of the fares in this genre of food. But, since when did fear have to be rational? In order to avoid the accusations that I was a picky eater at the homes of others growing up, I actually concocted the excuse that I was allergic to the chlorophyll in green plants (HT high school biology).

Due to desensitization training, I can actually eat lettuce (iceberg), in a salad (covered in bacon pieces and ranch dressing, of course). So, if you make me some funky weird dish that entails greenage, don't be tender if I find my appetite gone.


4. I love to relive movies by quoting from them and I only use quotes from movies as the titles for posts on my blog. Using and rehashing movie quotes is not unique to me and I've seen others ripping off my material by using movie quotes in this way as well.

However, that's all I use. Shortly after I began my blog I submitted to this constraint, which means at times it takes me longer to find a suitable title than it does to actually write up the post.

My original hope was that folks would recognize the titles and perhaps even give the movie its props in the comments section, but that has been rare. Nonetheless, I have included each movie sited in a list in my ethos.


5. I am a huge Marilyn Monroe fan, and have been since living in England as a teenager. I'm not sure I can explain this one, but I've always enjoy(ed) her movies and singing. She was/is a larger than life personality and one I would have been interested in meeting.

I've read biographies and find her a bit of a tragic hero(ine) as well. Born June 1, 1926, she would be 80 years old, if not for her tragic death at age 36. Like many, I have still yet to forgive the Kennedys for their role in her death.


6. I'm embarrassed to admit it, but I enjoy watching "professional" wrestling. It all started when I was a kid watching it with my Grandpa Collins in St. Louis ("Wrestling at The Chase"). I enjoyed me some Iceman King Parsons and fell in love with the Von Erichs. Who could forget Kerry Von Erich, the Modern Day Warrior strutting to the ring to the tune of Rush's Tom Sawyer?! Who could forget the epic battles of the Von Erich's versus the Freebirds (i.e., Michael Hayes, Buddy Roberts, and Terry Gordy)?

I was out of the loop for about 15 years, but the with advent of the greatness of TiVo, I'm able to check in periodically and follow that which may very well be described as a soap opera for men. I know it's silly and merely theatre, but it's quite entertaining in a very neanderthal sort of way.


See ... I told you I was weird and you didn't even get to hear about the many leather-bound books in my mahogany smelling office.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

There's more to life than watching other people live it.

Previously, I mentioned America's fascination with Hitler, publishing and buying books even dealing with the love life of this mass muderer.

This may be a bit of an American phenomenon, peculiar interest in the lives of famous people. I couldn't get out of the grocery store yesterday without having to pass "literature" bringing me up to speed on the love lives of Brit, Brad, et al. Was Anna Nicole's death related to a love gone bad? Who knows? Is that really his baby? Enquiring minds want to know ... but not so much mine.

We're such a voyeuristic culture (see myriad of "reality" shows), aren't we?

I don't intend to denigrate these celebrities, for they may be very nice people with lots to offer, but isn't our fascination with the details of their lives strikingly unhealthy?

Are people that dissatisfied in their own lives that they have to live vicariously through others? Are they lacking joy? Are they wasting their lives, seeing their own as insignificant? God gave it to you, to be used for His glory, so don't waste your life.

Being distracted from one's one lack of scene control by focusing on the ups and downs of others doesn't help our own, though it make take our minds off our own troubles. But, just like with drugs, while they may help take the edge off, our problems don't improve, but tend to get worse due to neglect.

Folks need to handle up on their business, lest their business handle up on them.

Is life passing them by as they watch others live theirs? There's more to life than watching other peole live it.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Because I can't sing or dance.

Brent has sparked my interst with a post entitled, But I don't sing. It's worth a read and got me thinking about the state of affairs with regard to churches and worship and singing.

It's tough. We've been conditioned to see two groups of people in this regard, the entertainers and the entertained, and never the twain shall meet. Churches often appoint/hire a worship team, who may at time worship at the congregation or worship for them. After all, they're the ones who do it well.

Because some can't (i.e., don't) sing well, they are happy to defer to the professionals. But, God saved that person to be a worshipper and he/she will have a lifetime of worship in the hereafter. Why not get some experience in now? Consider this life choir practice for when we get on the big stage in glory.

But, honestly, some people don't sing well. Why? I think this is partly an effect of our culture, even the church. For example, people aren't taught to read music much anymore. Fewer play instruments, but prefer the radio.

What about singing lessons? Is that so outlandish?

I train preachers to preach. Would it be odd to teach worshippers to worship? Not merely by example, but by teaching them about musical slooge (whatever that might be)?

There's a fine line between "make a joyful noise" no matter how noisy and pandering mediocrity. But, is there not a way to have everyone sing, but enable and encourage everyone to sing better?

What I mean is, what if we actually tried to improve in this area? Think about it.

I'm so pleased that at Providence Church we have folks (e.g., Stephanie) who are taking the time on Sunday nights to teach our kiddos about music theory and performance. We're training them to be worshippers, who worship in spirit and truth with the voice God gave them, tuned to greater performance.

It's often said, "God doesn't care what you sound like" to encourage folks to sing and sing loudly. But, is that true? Should I say to our pianist, "God doesn't care what you play like?" Should I say to the preaching student, "God doesn't care what you preach like?"

Some would say, "Absolutely!" I don't know about that. I'd love to have any verse to back that up, but it seems to me that if we're doing it for God and His glory, we should strive to do it as well as we can.

I'm not a fan of the false dichotomy of professional/performance level excellence or not at all. I'm thinking you take what you got and invest the time and energy (and potentially money) in developing it.

Folks would practice a speech for a class for a grade, but some would not think to prepare to worship (even some praise bands, so as to not "stifle the Spirit").

Just because you can't sing or dance doesn't mean you have to become a fighter or that you can only be worshipped at. It means you should do the best to cultivate what you have to best use it for His honor and glory in worship.

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