Saturday, April 29, 2006

She Who is Self-Indulgent is Dead

I'm scheduled to teach the adult Sunday School class next week for my first time at this church. My assigned topic is submissive wives--yes, the elders are sacrificing the new guy! Thankfully, there's not much danger with this topic in this church. I don't expect to be thought a Neanderthal by my class if I simply go over what the Bible clearly teaches.

The natural passages to cover are Ephesians 5 (or its twin in Col 3), Titus 2, and 1 Pet 3. But I'm struck by what I've found in 1 Tim 5. The context is whether a woman who has been widowed is worthy of the church's support, but it also contains an inspired test for all women. Consider the brief passage (vs 5-6),

She who is truly a widow, left all alone, has set her hope on God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day, but she who is self-indulgent is dead even while she lives.

Paul calls a women dead in this situation if her life is not characterized by hope in God evidenced by supplications to Him night and day.

Verses 10 and 13 present another dramatic contrast. A worthy woman is one who has brought up children and had a life characterized by selfless good works. An unworthy woman is one who has "learned to be an idler," and instead of service to others her life is characterized by gossip and meddling in the affairs of others.

Now wonder Paul is detested so violently by feminists of all stripes.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

A Voice in the Wilderness

As I learned from my pastor of a previous assignment, we are like Israel in the wilderness. We've been set free from Egypt (our bondage to sin), but are not yet in the Promised Land (the New Heavens and New Earth).

Will we learn from Israel's blunders? As they wandered through the wilderness their faith wavered, "Is the Lord among us or not?" In their scarcity, they failed to believe God's promises and presence. In our self-absorbed abundance, we do the same.

What I want to be for my wife, my children, my friends, is a voice in the wilderness that refreshes them with gospel promises daily. A gospel voice is crucial; as we go throughout our day a panoply of faith-killing voices all try to lull us to a nominal Christianity. We need to be reminded of what we can't see but must believe.

BTW, both of the above hyperlinked verses are from this morning's daily office.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

At Home in Bounty Land

A google search has put me in touch again with Chris, a friend from high school (in my hometown of Seneca, South Carolina). We also went to Auburn University together, but lost track of each other during that time. Like me, he has moved around the country since then, but is back in SC and even bumped into a couple of our other friends from long ago. Which brings me to a story...

Perhaps my most vivid memory from 5th grade was sitting behind Scott Glenn in homeroom when he spoke about Bounty Land Baptist, the church he attended. You could tell he actually liked it--which was a completely foreign concept to me. I believe he was the first evangelical kid I ever met. The dust on that memory was brushed off last week when Chris told me that Scott is now a pastor at Bounty Land Baptist!

Imagine becoming a pastor in the church you grew up in as a kid! Or to say it differently, I'm struck by the thought that Scott, now in his mid-30s, is serving the church he has loved since he was a boy! In our highly-mobile culture, how often does that happen?

Monday, April 24, 2006

Church in the City

When we drive through the bad part of town we spot people on the street corners we know. That's because sometimes they come to our church's worship service and we've even sat together during Sunday school.

Albuquerque, with its temperate weather, probably has more than its fair share of urban issues. So I was pleased to hear Philip Ryken, senior pastor at Tenth Presbyterian in center city Philadelphia, bring up the importance of a church's presence in the midst of the city during a 9 marks interview with Mark Dever, pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in D.C.

If you're in a church in the 'burbs and thinking about the needs of the inner city not too far away, I recommend giving the interview a listen. The church in the city topic starts about two-thirds of the way into the interview.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Lead On

"Make me know the way I should go. Let your good Spirit lead me on level ground!" (Psalm 143: 8b, 10b)

What a refreshing passage of Scripture! Many in our day have overemphasized the leading of the Spirit by expecting direct direction from Him for everything they do. As is my tendency, I over-react to others' errors and miss the comforting fact that God the Holy Spirit does guide his pilgrim's through this barren land.

The verse is worded in a way that teaches us to submit to the outworkings of God's sovereign will. David knows God will lead Him in the way he should go--that is not his request. His prayer is that he would continue to believe that -- despite the difficult circumstances -- and come to understand and agree with where God is taking him in this life. David also seeks relief from his persecutors, fleeing to God as his only true refuge.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Crawling Between Heaven and Earth

This post is a miscellany of notes.

As of this post, Faith is officially crawling. She's been doing the backward scoot for a while, but tonight she discovered the forward gear. Kristin: "We are in trouble now!"

In family worship news, we finished reading through the Psalms on Easter Sunday! We'll move onto Proverbs for our OT reading, but add Psalms 23 and 121 to the long-term memory list, which we review once a week.

Had lunch again today with Mark, the Mormon co-worker. I brought my Greek NT and read probably a dozen passages from the English; he seemed somewhat shaken by the warnings in 2 Cor 11 about "another Jesus," "another gospel," and false apostles. Could it be a softening? Please pray so. We meet again later this week.

It's been 3 years on the blog as of last week. I blog mainly as a outlet to flesh out random thoughts while I crawl between heaven and earth. I welcome feedback (via e-mail or a comment) and hopefully edify those that read. With a growing list of folks I know in the real world now blogging (see links under "People We Know"), this is also a helpful way to stay in touch with friends.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Weekend Photos

What a weekend! Good Friday service, neighborhood Easter Egg hunt on Saturday, Easter service this morning and a family hike in the Manzano Mts this afternoon. Here are a few pix.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

A Challenge to Women

Good, stout words from John Piper for women seeking godliness.

While I'm on the subject, Kristin recently finished reading a book I gave her, Faithful Women and Their Extraordinary God, by Noel Piper. Biographies can be very helpful, but there are really too few about godly women of the past. This book profiles five ordinary women—Sarah Edwards, Lilias Trotter, Gladys Aylward, Esther Ahn Kim, and Helen Roseveare—who trusted in their extraordinary God as he led them to do great things for his kingdom. Kristin recommends it!

Friday, April 14, 2006

A Gospel-Leavened World

Many of us in the Department of Defense were released from work early today. Why? Because it's Easter weekend of course. But you'll never hear that officially stated. Instead the real reason will have a cover story or, like today, there will be no reason given, just "go home!"

This reveals the leavening effect of the gospel. It has worked through the whole dough of our culture and despite attempts to cover it up, there are areas in our cultural life where it will always poke through.

Another example of this is the silliness of replacing B.C. with B.C.E. The incarnation is too world-transformative to be hidden with such a thin veneer.

Thursday, April 13, 2006


You will hear everlastingly that the rich man cannot be bribed. The fact is, of course, that the rich man is bribed; he has been bribed already. That is why he is a rich man. The whole case for Christianity is that a man who is dependent upon the luxuries of this life is a corrupt man, spiritually corrupt, politically corrupt, financially corrupt." G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

I've read recently that 16,000 pastors leave the ministry every year. The pastor that discipled me as a new Christian is now out of the pastorate; he's working for a parachurch group and has a title of "church planting coach." I know enough about the finances of church planting to know he's probably not going to get rich in this position.

But he made that decision a long time ago. He left a good-paying job in corporate America, and with 4 children at home became a church-planting pastor for the PCA. Over the course of the last 15 years that church grew but apparently has shrunk back to meeting in a hotel lobby, his first grandchild was born severely handicapped, and his wife died a slow, painful death.

Other pastors I've known have also dared to give up wealth in exchange for a hard life in the ministry. Compared to them, I'm taking the bribe. The main reason why I plan to stay in my current good-paying job is because it's a guaranteed paycheck and in several years I can retire and draw lifetime benefits. Yet, I get praised by strangers for "serving my country" while pastors quietly serve a flock who gives more scorn than thanks.

Chesterton's judgment is just; I am corrupt and in need of courage to reject the bribe.

Monday, April 10, 2006


These have been joyless days. Dawn to dusk spent correcting children stuck in a cycle of behavior that is either mean or foolish. Ending the day exhausted and guilt-ridden knowing I exasperated my oldest son again. Haunted by the law, I will reap in him what I sow. Nights with a fussy baby. Ambiguous expectations at work. My cup runs over with frustration, and it spills all over my wife.

The grass looks greener everywhere else. Maybe a life of ease really is the good life? But I am reminded--the will of God is to sanctify me, and seldom is that done through times of ease. I am to focus on God's mercy and not the afflictions.

Full-bodied forgiveness. Faith falling asleep in my arms. A sermon last Sunday so Christ-full, it brought tears. 3-on-1 wrestling matches on the carpet with my children. A selfless wife. This is the good life. Simple, free, purposeful.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

O Happy, Happy Day--the Vernal Equinox Approaches!

The government schools around here have next Friday off. The school sign gives the reason for the day-off, but it doesn't say "Good Friday." And it seems that naming "Easter" has become too risky these days. (Of course Resurrection Day is plainly out). No, the school signs along the road announce that this day off is to celebrate "Vernal Holiday." Again I suffer the consequences of a sheltered childhood, I ashamedly admit my ignorance of such an important holiday.

A quick wikipedia serach reveals this is not the purely secular term that I suppose the school board was hoping for. According to the ancient Persian (remember our friend Iran?) mythology this holiday recalls the myth of creation and the ancient cosmology of Iranian and Persian people.

Also, the vernal equinox is the most significant day in the pagan calendar, and some pagans spend the day praying to the goddess of cats, Bast. Not to be left out, the Wiccan Sabbat of Ostara (or Eostar) is also celebrated on this day.

So remember that when you see children out of school this Friday that it's not because their families are thinking of Christ's death and resurrection, but (wink, wink), it's Happy Vernal Day!

Thursday, April 06, 2006

You, too, could be God

I had another lunch with my Mormon co-worker, Mark; we only have a little more than a month before he is reassigned to a different base, so I'm glad to have these opportunities to speak with him.

There is humor in our situation. Both Mark and I believe that only the Holy Spirit can cause the other fellow to change sides, neither of us seem willing to abandon hope for a conversion, and we're both trying to be good ambassadors for our respective God. But so far there is no indication of a defection either way. Instead we each present arguments for our position that we expect to clinch the dispute, only to find the other side nonplussed.

Mark thinks that I should find it very appealing that I too could be fully God someday, and that even now I could be part of a "primitive" church with prophets and Apostles receiving direct revelation from a God who still has things to say to His people.

I, on the other hand, think Mark should lose sleep over his low view of God, his insulting assertion that the Holy Spirit didn't speaking clearly enough for the Bible to be reliable, and the strong possibility that Joseph Smith and his followers have been deceived by Satan's masquerades as an angel of light.

Surprisingly our discussions are irenic, and I still pray to be faithful at planting gospel seeds in his life. We meet again next week to discuss the process Mormons use to canonize "continued revelation".

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

The Christian Talmud

I'd like to know more about the oral tradition of the Jewish faith, with its innumerable regulations of do's and don't's, and how it came to be the rule for faith and practice. I'm told the Talmud has some rather interesting things to say about salvation, such as "he who recites Psalm 145 three times a day will have eternal life." (Pesahim 113a)

Now here's the question I want to get to...have we built our own "Christian Talmud", full of non-revelatory opinions that define who really is a Christian? You would think we have when you listen to the interviews that White Horse Inn conducted during the Christian Bookseller's Association.

It seems that Americans know better than Paul; down deep in our heart-of-hearts we're really good, God knows this and loves us for it. And a Christian is not so much characterized by continuing repentance and faith in Christ, but by a constantly changing list of "Christian fads" and religious-jargon.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

The Importance of Insignificance

Most men search for significance, in their career, sports, possessions or even church. There's a popular Christian book by that title that has sold over 2,000,000 copies. This can be an unhealthy quest, by definition very few will ever find significance in any area.

I occasionally find strange things to be thankful for. Baldness is good because it probably helps me stay maritally faithful. Likewise, insignificance chokes pride. If I were to gain renown in some area my problems with pride would undoubtedly only worsen.

So if insignificance can be a good thing, how do we resist the temptation to make a name for ourselves? The search for insignificance ends in the presence of God. Calvin says, "men are never duly touched and impressed with a conviction of their insignificance until they have contrasted themselves with the majesty of God."

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Ear Gate Update

If you like edifying and enjoyable MP-3 type audio programs, I'll briefly recommend a couple I've started listening to recently.

Al Mohler's podcast, despite having theme music that reminds one of Bob the Builder, is my new favorite podcast. He provides up-to-date cultural news and analysis from an uncompromising, biblical worldview. To get a good flavor of this show, listen to this one

Ordinary Means has put out three episodes so far and is helping me better understand and articulate to others why the Word, the Sacraments, and prayer are all we need to grow in the Christian life.
Elapsed Time and Real Growth

We welcomed two families from our Ohio assignment and church to Albuquerque this week. They're moving in just down the street from us!

The last year has brought about substantial changes in our families--more children, less hair--very obvious stuff like that. Is our growth in Christ over the last year as obvious? Elapsed time should be a good measure of real growth.

After dinner we spent some sweet time in worship together; the children making prayer requests for babies-in-tummies, the adults sweetening spring-time air with some psalm-singing in harmony.

I've been thinking lately about whether I understand sanctification properly and was edified by what my friend had to say about it. I asked for a recommendation on the "definitive" book on this topic; he recommends J.C. Ryle's Holiness.

Since there are so many books that folks say are "must reads," I've learned to usually wait until three people recommend the same book to me before I make time for it. A couple other folks have mentioned this book from time to time; if any of my readers have thoughts on Ryle's, or other books on sanctification, I'll appreciate reading them.