Wednesday, November 25, 2009

On Being (a Woman of) the River!

He who finds a wife finds a good thing
and obtains favor from the Lord.
-Proverbs 18:22

House and wealth are inherited from fathers,
but a prudent wife is from the Lord.
-Proverbs 19:14

Lately I have been thinking a lot about all of the energy that many people put into seeing that our flock is taken care of and that God’s Kingdom is being spread. The people that aid in making our Church what it is are numerous, and every person that participates in doing this performs tasks that are absolutely essential to fulfilling God’s purpose in the community. Every task that these people do is vital, as there is no such thing as an insignificant task. A lot of tasks are done “behind the scenes”, with many of us unaware of how much time and resources are freely given. Though a lot of the work may not be acknowledged or even given a thought by many in our congregation, this work is not being done in vain, as God is always the unseen audience who is always aware of our devotion to him. What people may be prone to not noticing, the watchful eye of God is upon those who serve him, as he delights in those who serve him out of a willing heart that aims that his glory may be made known so as to cover the earth.

Over the past few weeks I have been thinking about how affectionate my heart is for our congregation as a whole, and specifically, for our elders and their families. I cannot express how thankful I am for our elders and their guidance over the River. They are not perfect in any sense of the word and I don’t agree with everything they do (I don’t agree with everything anyone does, including myself). However, what humbles my heart and makes me eager to be guided by them is the disposition of their hearts. They are willing vessels, eager to see God move in our midst. For this I am thankful.

The more I thought about this, the more I came to see something much deeper in this. What I began to see is something that is a large part of what holds our church together and makes it what it is.

What serves as the backbone of our church, allowing the body to function, are the wives of the elders. Though it is easy to overlook this fact, it is in reality what helps make our church what it is. Just as Christ can’t complete his work apart from the Church, so too husbands cannot fulfill their callings apart from the help of their wives. The devotion and willingness of Allison, Betsy, and Sarah to Jesus Christ is something that warms and melts my heart whenever I think of it.

I know it is often not easy for them to be in the role they are in and to do the things that they do.

There are many times when I see Joey asking Allison if she is alright with him taking time away from their family in order that needed tasks can be done. When he asks, she gives him the “I’m seriously thinking about running you over with our van in order that I can break your legs so that you can’t you leave me at home by myself with three energetic boys stuck inside on a rainy day but I love you and I love Jesus and wish to see his kingdom spread, so yes, it will be alright” look.

I have seen Sarah spend months devoting nearly all of her time to helping Brian fulfill the calling God had put upon him at that time. Through the difficulty of dealing with the heavy load that was placed upon them, she was faithful to do what God had asked of her and helped willingly despite the hardships that they were having to carry at that time. In the past months I have seen Sarah have the look of, “Brian, I will willingly serve God beside you even though this is difficult and you better praise the Lord that I’m too exhausted to kill you right now”. Nevertheless, she continued to push forward in fulfilling God’s calling on her though it has been exhausting and painful to do so at times.

Betsy is someone I do not know extremely well, as I have not spent as much time with her and Justin as I have with the Yokeley’s or the Leimone’s. I am continually impressed by Betsy’s interactions with others and the character and integrity she and her whole family share. She is definitely a “1 Peter 3:3-4 woman”, a rare breed. She has always been respectful to me, and I am continually amazed by the level of concern and courtesy that she and Justin show to me. I don’t know if Betsy has a “look”, but I sometimes see Justin have the look of, “Betsy is going to kill me if I don’t keep my priorities right, but I have no problem doing so as I know that she will work beside me tirelessly.”

I pray that one day God gives me a wife like these three women. (If any of you three happen to have younger sisters my age that I don’t know about, please disclose this to me. Lol.)

I will have to admit if whoever she is not have a sense of humor like Allison, as her having a sense of humor like Allison’s will result in us going into a diabetic coma. Allison and I both like corny jokes so me marrying someone who also likes corny jokes would cause an overload, thus causing us to turn into starch, which in turn overloads our bodies with sugar, resulting in a diabetic coma.

Also, the girl I marry cannot dress like Sarah. There is nothing wrong with how Sarah dresses. It is just that in some ways Sarah and I dress so similarly that if the girl I marry dresses like Sarah we would constantly be mixing up clothes, as our clothes would look alike. Sarah and I have SEVERAL striped shirts that are the exact same colors and stripe-width. It’s eerie. If Sarah and I mysteriously woke up one day as a member of the opposite sex we would probably just call one another and exchange wardrobes. (I love you Sarah!).

I am very grateful for these three women, both for who they are and for what they do. I appreciate all that they do to support their husbands and our church as a whole. As a church body we are deeply indebted to these women, as we are to many other people as well.

The River Church is a wonderful group of oddball, grace-filled, Kingdom-driven, messed up, broken people who are slowly but surely extending the Kingdom of God in the midst of learning what it means to truly, though not perfectly, follow Jesus in today’s world.

Thursday, November 5, 2009


I wrote this entry a couple of nights ago at my house. I haven't posted in a good while, so I figured it was time to write for a bit. I do have a lot I wish to write about sometime soon, but know not how to put a lot of it into words. This should suffice for now.

I just sat down to write something for my blog and got a phone call; a phone call telling me of the death of my friend’s mother. Here I was preparing to write about a lot of deep, perplexing, mostly abstract ideas I have been thinking about lately, and the reality of life comes knocking at my door once again. There is nothing wrong with deep theological study in itself if a person’s motivation for doing so is correct. In fact, true theological study leads a person to humility over how little we as humans are and know, and how majestic God is. This is honorable in God’s eyes; indeed, it is an aspect of being a Christian that, although it sometimes gets misused, is something God asks of us. He desires that we really know him.

There is, however, a reality where real life hits you between the eyes, often unexpectedly. Whether it is the death of a loved one, the end of one stage/season of life, or the reality that sometimes God, in His providence, has chosen to let some type of difficulty come to and remain in our lives that may or may not be with us until it is time for our departure from this earth. It is the “stuff” of life that everyone who has or ever will live deals with. Adam and Eve enjoyed a short period of bliss in the history of humanity, but they too soon felt the weight of living in a messed up world. Even Jesus, the God-Man, was not exempted from the struggle of living life “under the sun”. The Gospels and Hebrews remind us that, though Jesus was not morally tainted as we are, he still dealt with the same exact things that we, and all humans, deal with day in and day out.

Unfortunately, many Christians often equate the results of the Curse as being synonymous with being “human”. “I’m only human. I make mistakes”, they say, as though it is our humanity that is the problem. We are finite creatures who will never have comprehensive knowledge, but this is not the reason for our difficulties. People often talk about leaving our “prison”, which they mean the human body. They talk as though we will one day be floating body-less in the clouds, not aware that we will be resurrected as humans—glorified humans, but human nonetheless—on a new heaven AND a new earth.

I feel as though one of the things that really brought my faith to a new level was when I understood that I am human. Being human is what God created me to be, and so that is what I am. It is not a bad thing to be human. What is bad is the curse that is on humanity. One day I will have a new body, and all of the other effects of sin will be gone from us as well, but the essence of what makes people what they are will not be removed. I will always have limited knowledge and be dependent upon God. Nothing will change. I don’t know if we will poop, brush our teeth, have sex, or will need deodorant in the new heaven and new earth. Maybe we will, maybe we won’t; I don’t know. But God made us spiritual, physical, emotional, rational, sexual beings, and none of these aspects should be considered “unclean” or bad in and of themselves. Everything God created is good, but is only bad when we use what we have for some purpose other than for the glory of God.

Over the past few weeks I have been having these moments where I am standing, or driving, somewhere out in public and God will speak to me making me aware of the fact that the majority of the people I pass throughout my day do not know God and will likely end up in hell. Most of them are experiencing hell on earth right now too, both through their consciences accusing them and through the effects of attempting to live apart from Christ. I felt as though an alarm was wailing throughout the whole earth, but that the majority of the people couldn’t hear the siren. I wanted to scream, “The house is on fire! Get out! Get out!”, all to no avail to my deaf hearers who went about their daily routine, all the while pieces of the flaming roof falling all about them. Though these moments have been intense and are having a profound effect on me I must admit that the majority of the team I think of the arrogant driver beside me in traffic more as a butt-wipe than a person duped by the devil whose selfishness takes a toll on their life and the lives of the people around them. Sometimes it is easier to give a person the finger telling them to go to a place they may likely be on their way to anyways than it is to be broken over how much they, and ourselves too, need Jesus.

America is now somewhat of a different place than it once was, though true Christianity has never been of any real substance in American life. What is different about America now is that people no longer have a basic biblical worldview, even a cultural one. Christianity is not as familiar to people in today’s world as it once was. In earlier times people had the “furniture” of the faith, that is, they believed in things like sin, moral absolutes, that they should be moral people, that God exists, that there is life after death, etc.

The world is not like that anymore. Unfortunately, the majority of the paradigms that American Christians still rely on were formulated to communicate the Gospel to a culture that actually had the “furniture” of Christianity, or theism in general. What we may mean in communicating the Gospel in these ways is well-intentioned but in reality is not effective, and often not truthful, in reaching people today who don’t have the “furniture” anymore.

In a day when almost all people believed that they should live a moral life and participate in the accepted norms of their culture, it made sense to tell people they needed a “personal Savior”, it made sense to tell them that they sinned against God’s Law. The people had some type of cultural formulation of Christianity so it made sense to make it personal to the person it was being presented to.

“Sir, you believe that all people are supposed to live a moral life and that all people are sinners, but I am here to tell you that YOU are a sinner. All of mankind has sinned, but you have to face God yourself. Your parents or church can’t save you. You know Jesus is the Savior of the world, but Jesus needs to be YOUR savior. You must repent and believe if you are to be saved.”

In today’s world people do not necessarily believe that our goal is to be moral people who contribute to society. People often believe that our goal is to be happy, that we can and should be able to do whatever will make us happy, just as long as we can do it in a way where “no one gets hurt” or is “offended”. Moral absolutes are viewed as strange and non-existent by most people of the day, thus even the concept of sin on any level will not be understood, and if understood likely not even entertained. I do believe in God’s sovereign, effectual call in bringing a person to faith, but I also know that in order for the Gospel to be received it must be understood at some basic level before a person can exercise repentance and faith.

As an aside, telling a person they need to have a “personal relationship with Jesus” or to “ask Jesus into their heart” will largely be misunderstood in today’s world by those who do not have some type of substantial association with a Bible-believing Church because they are interpreting what you are saying entirely different from how a Christian may mean it. People will likely view a “personal relationship with Jesus” as some type of life accessory like the yoga class that helps them to “get in touch with the universe”, or their therapy class that taught them to help themselves by becoming “their own best friend” or the “parents they never had”. People may even get to the point where they tell you that “Jesus lives in their heart”, but upon further discovery you learn that Jesus is sharing his space in their heart with their dead Great-Grandmother, the original members of Lynyrd Skynyrd, and a cartoon character that was meaningful to them as a child. People who don’t know a lot about biblical Christianity will totally miss the fact that they are IN a relationship with God: they are His enemy and He is their enemy apart from Christ. (To be sure, God does desire all people to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth BUT his common love and grace for humanity is also accompanied by hatred for what people apart from Christ are and do. God both loves AND hates at the same time. It is perplexing, but the Bible teaches both, so we must accept both.).

We need a new language and understanding of the Gospel that is uncompromisingly faithful to Scripture, while at the same time intelligible and understandable to people who live in today’s world. Tim Keller is one, of many, who are attempting to do this are and are successful in doing so. Even as a Christian who grew up in the church and the Bible-belt, I often find Keller’s preaching able to touch my heart and mind in deeper ways than other pastors are able to. Even coming from the background I grew up in, and despite how much I am out of touch with popular culture, the way I think and experiencing reality still reflects our culture to such a degree that I am profoundly moved the most by preaching that addresses people with today’s mindset. If this is true for me, how much more true will be it for the majority of other Americans!

As an aside, the only evangelical version of Christianity that will flourish in today’s world is the Reformed faith. Anything other than the Reformed faith is not theologically or intellectually strong enough to survive the attacks of today’s world. Only a Reformed apologetic will reach the people of today’s world. To be sure, in the book of Numbers God spoke through an ass and has been speaking through them ever since, but the best and preferable method will likely be the Reformed faith. Nothing else will have a substantial, lasting impact as the Reformed faith will. You can bank on that one. Although I have no problem stating that evangelicals who are not Reformed are Christians who can and will have an impact of eternal significance, I can no longer state that non-Reformed positions are Christian positions to hold. Again, Evangelicals who hold these positions can be Christians, but the views they endorse are not Christian. (Another version essentially saying the same type of thing is stating that Roman Catholics can be true Christians but that Roman Catholicalism is not, in itself, true Christianity.). The reasons I say this are numerous and too lengthy to discuss here, but I would be happy to share some of them with you should you desire to ask about it. Two of the main reasons are related to epistemology and to justification, issues which cannot be compromised without entirely compromising the faith.

God is calling His people out of rampant individualism and mindlessly being entertained into becoming a true community of faith that understands the Gospel well enough to help the people in the diverse settings around us gain an accurate understanding of the best news ever.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Only a New Creation Creates a New World

“The Church is largely wasting her time in talking politics, and in imagining that, if you give people the Christian ethic and urge them to practice it, the problems of the world will be solved. It cannot be done: regeneration is essential. God produces this final harmony again by regeneration, a new creation, new men in a new world—‘new heavens and a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness’. That is God’s method. It is only as we are all ‘in Christ” that we can be reconciled. We become members severally of his body. ‘Ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular’ and so the eye does not say to the foot ‘I have no need of thee’, nor does the hand speak thus to any other part. All the parts are essential (1 Corinthians 12:14-27). That is the picture. All one—not in Christ as teacher, but vitally, spiritually, mystically, members of His body and united in Him by the Holy Spirit.”

Martin Lloyd-Jones, ‘We…Ye also’ Sermon on Ephesians 1:11-14.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Psalm 130

Psalm 130 (ESV)

"Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord!

2 O Lord, hear my voice!

Let your ears be attentive

to the voice of my pleas for mercy!

3 If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,

O Lord, who could stand?

4 But with you there is forgiveness,

that you may be feared.

5 I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,

and in his word I hope;

6 my soul waits for the Lord

more than watchmen for the morning,

more than watchmen for the morning.

7 O Israel, hope in the Lord!

For with the Lord there is steadfast love,

and with him is plentiful redemption.

8 And he will redeem Israel

from all his iniquities."

I have not posted in a good while so I thought I should post something lest I be accused of being among the blog-slackers out there. lol.

There has been much that has happened since the last post. It is a lot to think about and even harder to articulate. Life is good; life is hard, but it is good. I don't think I could explain all of what all has happened in the past couple of months. I am still sorting out the whole "I'm not a kid but not really a responsible adult so what am I?" thing, with my birthday yesterday making it all the more odd.

I had a good birthday yesterday and spent a lot of time with friends. It was really good. I love my church family. A lot. I felt, and still feel, very profoundly moved by two events that happened yesterday.

One of them was when I got Jonah a donut after church. We were outside and he was wanting a chocolate donut. I had not brought them out yet so we walked into the building to grab the boxes to bring them outside. I handed him a donut and he proceeded to run back outside. About 15 seconds later he ran back inside to hug my leg and tell me Happy Birthday.

The second one was when Kathie decided to sing me every verse of a birthday hymn that people sing in the Moravian Church. I think the hymn was written by a Moravian but I am not certain. I cannot explain what exactly about the whole thing shook my soul. Perhaps it is that the hymn is a prayer of blessing over the person it is sung for; it is also that she was very thoughtful for doing it. It was gutsy.

Saturday at Life Group we looked over the "ask, seek, knock" from Matthew 7. While I was studying over the passage during the week I had to make an honest confession to God that I had no idea what to ask for and for him to show what I need to ask for.

Well, the Lord definitely answered my prayer. And it has been overwhelming.

This past year has been one of finding out that all that I need is in Christ and is provided by him, and by him alone.

My Watchword for the year is Ephesians 1:3, which is very interesting because I have been learning that Christ has blessed me with every spiritual blessing and that when I cling to Christ I am in need of nothing.

I am still very far from understanding my need to cling to Christ alone to satisfy me and guide me. I think I am more aware of how much I don't trust in Christ and how much idolatry is left in my heart. It has indeed been a heart-breaking experience.

It is not a totally negative experience though. I am also seeing how great God's mercy and grace is in the midst of knowing that I am made of dust and to dust I shall return.

Last night and today have been a time where I have been mourning my sins and asking God to cleanse my heart and to help me to grasp the Gospel at a real gut-level in all areas of life.

"I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,

and in his word I hope;

my soul waits for the Lord

more than watchmen for the morning,

more than watchmen for the morning."

Oh Christ how we need You!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

How He Loves Us

I have listened to this song a billion times today. This song has really touched my heart in some profound ways.

How He Loves Us
By Jesus Culture

He is jealous for me
Love's like a hurricane, I am a tree
Bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy
When all of a sudden, I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory
and I realize just how beautiful You are and how great your affections are for me.
Oh, how He loves us so
Oh, how He loves us
How He loves us so.

Yeah, He loves us
Woah, how He loves us
Woah, how He loves us
Woah, how He loves.

So we are His portion and He is our prize,
Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes
If grace is an ocean we're all sinking
So heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss and my heart turns violently inside of my chest
I don't have time to maintain these regrets when I think about the way

That he loves us,
Woah, how He loves us
Woah, how He loves us
Woah, how He loves

Friday, July 17, 2009

Life As It Appears to Me Now

There is much on my mind, so I will try to share what is on my heart as clearly as I can.

A couple of days ago I had a very soul-shaking conversation with one of the pastors I go to church with. It was one of those conversations where the lights just flashed on and you are left for a very long time waiting for your eyes to adjust; it's like coming out of a movie theater in the middle of a bright summer day after being in the dark for over 2 hours. This pastor is a rare breed. He has a large amount of discernment AND he is extremely tactful. Most pastors are either very tactful and as discerning as a blade of grass or they are very discerning but usually end up putting both feet in their mouth so you really don't hear what they said until weeks later. Fortunately this pastor is both insightful and tactful, as is most of the leadership at the church I go to, so this was a very productive conversation.

We talked a lot about what God's call on my life is and how to go about moving forward with that. I had to confess that I don't have a clue about a lot of things right now as far as life direction, which is at least a starting place of sorts. It felt very good to have my complaints and reservations about different things validated before being encouraged to think about what to do and how to go about doing it feeling the way that I do about certain things.

If this is somewhat vague, I apologize; it is something I want to share but can't fully talk about as I don't quite understand it all yet myself.

A big part of what has moved my soul from having this conversation is that this pastor really believes that God is real and can do incredible things. He is a guy who puts his money where his mouth is. Perfect? No. But he is someone who takes himself pretty lightly and Scripture very seriously, which is something I have a ton of respect for. If I had to be honest, most of the people I know who are professing evangelicals I would not say believe that Scripture alone is our only source of doctrine and practice. When people I meet do go to Scripture and they hold to certain things that a lot of subcultural Christianity doesn't hold to, I respect what they say and truly feel free to talk openly.

I kind of feel challenged to believe that God is very real and can, and will, do incredible things. There is a time to dissent from one's culture, but there is a time to shut up and actually be the change you wish to do. I am much more inclined to be lazy, point fingers, and complain than to actually do something so the tactful prodding I recieved was much needed.

The older that I am getting the more I realize that my parents, especially my Dad, is really not stupid afterall. Going through the teenage years I had this eerie feeling that my parents watched one too many episodes of "Leave it to Beaver" and "Law and Order" to have a balanced view of the world; the whole paradigm of life being very good but the world being a very scary place. My Dad is definitely a lot more Type A than I am, but I am seeing that he and I are much more alike than I would ever imagine. My mom and I are also a lot alike as well, so I would likely recommend that whoever dates me should look at my parents if they want to see what I will very likely be like when I am older. LOL. I am being serious though.

My parents have always been the blood-and-guts of Christianity in my life. They have lived with me, and everyone they cross paths with, in the blood-and-guts of the everyday life and the painful hard stuff that comes up in each others lives. I don't know that I have ever had too many deep conversations about faith with my Dad, but I do not think I have, or ever will, meet a man who is as much the hands and feet of Christ as he is.

Yesterday was an absolutely terrible day. I woke up feeling kind of frazzled, "on the wrong side of the bed", and the day slowly went downhill from there. Nothing seemed to be going as it needed to, which only made by already bad day much worse. I have a pretty burnt out feeling overall in life right now, so I am trying to fight against the sheer apathy that I could easily have right now. I did not plan to go to college when I graduated from high school, as I barely got out of high school. I agreed to try to go to college for a semester and if I hated it I would quit. I ended up continuing with college and graduating, but I honestly feel like it is huge smack in the face for me to actually have stepped out on a limb to try to do something and then end for my first seven months since graduating either not having a job at all or ending up working at a job that I don't need a degree to do and don't get any extra pay for having the degree.

On the whole, I have had a very rude awakening since graduating from college. I have definitely learned that I do not want to ever be in a business field of any kind for a career, lol. That's for sure.

In some ways I feel like I am acting like the older son in the (misnamed) parable of "The Prodigal Son". "I have been slaving for you all of these years and this is what I get!?" I am generally the type of person to not up and openly rebel against God; my sickness is that I try to put God in debt to me and feel like He owes me something. And when things don't go how I think they should, I get mad about it. It is hard to sort through how much of what I am thinking and feeling is justifiable and how much of it is me having a sinful attitude. Who knows.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Hanging in the Balance Part 2

Getting an Article Published

A few months ago I was invited to write an article for a theology journal/international dialogue for the denomination I grew up in. I had mixed feelings about being asked to do this, but I prayed about and decided to do it. I had forgotten about doing the article and recently received an email from the new editor of the journal asking about some things related to editing.

The editor and I have exchanged several emails, trying to work out the details of how to state what I am trying to say in an unambiguous way. This has been a very long and tedious process, but has been/is a good process. Editors have a hard job because they need to help to make the article as readable and understandable as it can be but do it in a such a way that they are faithful to the author's ideas and wording. The editor of the journal I am writing for has managed to do both, which I have been very pleased with. Everything is still in the process of getting worked out before it goes to press, but so far so good.

I have no idea when the article will be released, although I would guess that it will be in the Fall edition.

I also got approved to have writing privileges on a local seminary's blog a few weeks ago. I had made a response in the comment section of a blog post, a rather long response, and have gotten to talk to a lot of people at the seminary because of this. I have not thought too hard about writing an article for the blog, but it may be something I do in the future.

On Becoming My Parents

The older I get the more I realize that I am becoming more and more like my parents. And I am okay with becoming like them, at least in most ways.

I have had a sort of rude awakening into the "real world" since graduation and have come to understand my Dad in new ways. I guess a lot of it is just maturing in general, but I do see and understand their concerns about a lot of life issues in much larger ways.

Both of my parents are by no means perfect or without character faults, as no one is either of these things, but I do see them in new ways.

Church and the State

I have been thinking a lot about the nature of the State lately. I don't feel as though I have much clarity on the matter as to any of the specifics, other than that there is a very distinct role of the State that differs greatly from the Church. In saying this, I must clarify this and state that the State is also God's servant, and God has not given the State the sword in vain. Maintaining this balance is tough, and it is easy to fall into many ideological traps that are thrown at us even though what we are told is the "biblical" way to be in relation to the State.

Enough for now...

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Hanging in the Balance Part 1

I have been meaning to write for a long time but have been prevented by various causes, some of which has been laziness, most of which has been that I haven't had the time.

A lot of what is written in this post are random thoughts that came together. I wrote far more than I intended to and did not get to any of the topics I really wanted to write about. My mind is heavy, and has been for the past two weeks.

There is more to come, but for now, enjoy some ramblings...

I have had to deal with another death recently, the death of a friend from church. It was a very unexpected death, a car accident. The man always seemed to be thankful for everything in life. He didn't pretend that life was always rainbows and butterfly's, but He did have a sense of real joy and appreciation for all of life. My heart feels grief in a very deep way. My Black Dog has been following rather closely these past two weeks because of this. A lot of other things I have been stressing about lately probably haven't helped this either, but overall my Black Dog seems to not be following me around as much as it used to. Grief and anger are definitely appropriate emotions to stressors in life, something I am finally getting used to understanding.

Since I recieved the Lord I have noticed that I have become much more broken and much more healed as a person the longer that I walk with Him. It's funny because although I am often convinced that I know what is what in life, I am getting to a place more and more where I know that I really don't have a clue about anything other than that I need God. It is kind of strange that, while coming to faith in Christ is something we must do by crying out to Him, we are so hard-bent to attribute our being saved to our own free will and ability. I do believe in Reformed Theology in regards to salvation, but even a biblical Arminian knows that apart from a miraculous gift of God opening our hearts to come to Him, even if it is just to the possibility of being able to come to Him, we have NO HOPE. I think when we attribute our salvation to anything except for God's grace, we rob Him of glory. When we say that we, as DEAD people, can lift ourselves out of our graves without any help and come to God, we just show that we know NOTHING of what it means to be saved. This does not mean that we are not saved when we do this, but it does show that we do not at all understand how hopeless we were (and are) and how amazing and gracious God's gift of salvation truly is.

Even the Roman Catholic Church proclaimed that a person cannot come to Christ without the assistance of grace. Isn't it, then, strange that the people who proclaim to be justified by faith alone apart from works will often deny this?

It has often been stated that while the Church had long ago decided that man does, in fact, need God to give Him grace to Him, that the Reformation was largely about the extent of man's need for grace.

How all of the reformers before Calvin were "Calvinists" before the man was born, is an interesting thing. The same thing goes for how there were "Arminians" in the Church before Jacobus Arminius ever stated His doctrine in 5 Points.

Oddly enough still, "those silly Calvinists who put all of their doctrine into a 5-Point System" only did so in response to a 5-Point System made by a person in the Church who had strayed from what the Church already traditionally taught without the make-up of "the 5 Points of Calvinism". Sadly, most people don't know this, nor do they care.

I have had a lot of stress over a friend of mine who has been suffering (for years) with mental health issues. He is a brilliant person in many ways; He has a true gem of a mind and intellect. However, he is often raved by the "madness" I have known in times past and does not realize how desperately he needs help. There isn't much good in trying to help someone who doesn't want to be helped or know that they need it. It breaks my heart to see them continuing to struggle, but there is little that I can do but pray and cry. This situation has broken my heart in many ways.

Even in getting help for mental health issues, it is hard to define what "help" is and how it is given. I definitely know that medication is necessary for some people, as is therapy, but, in my opinion, the whole field of psychology and psychiatry is largely all a matter of grey areas, with very little that we actually know. I had a psychology teacher in my Human Services degree program that taught us how to examine scientific evidence in a way that we could actually see and note what the evidence itself stated as opposed to what people have interpretted the evidence to mean. There lies a big difference between what we actually know and what we assume we know from science. Science is not a bad thing in itself, but when scientists answer the wrong question with the data they gather, nothing they do is of any real value.

I take a medication for mental health and neurological reasons that helps very much. The older type of this type of medication can cause people to have tardive dyskinesia if the medicine is used for a prolonged period of time. The newer type of medication is supposed to decrease the risk of having tardive dyskinesia, as is advertised, but the truth is that no one has lived long on these medications to actually find out, as the drugs haven't been out long enough to tell. The drug is supposed to do better at not having this to occur, but truthfully no one knows. It may not. The new drugs certainly have other benefits that the older versions lack, but I could very well end up dealing with the same side effects that people who took the older versions sometimes have.

My point is not whether or not I will have to deal with drastic side effects, or whether or not it bothers (I haven't really thought about, to be honest), but that getting help in the mental health world, regardless of from whom, is, for the most part, a walk in the dark. If you are just hopeless enough to stumble through the dark with a doctor for long enough, eventually you might get helped. I am very grateful for the help I have recieved, but I can't pretend that any part of this process is easy in any sense at all. What do you tell someone who is asking you what getting treated for mental health reasons is like? There is a vast difference of opinion of "brain treatment" from those who deal with "brain issues" as a real part of their everyday life and those who work in this field professionally. A person can't "clock out" from their brain or take a vacation if they need to: it's always there with you. I do not say this for the purpose of disparaging those who work in these fields who have never had any real-life experience in dealing with these issues themselves, but I am stating that a person who suffers from these issues has a very different picture of what "getting helped" means.

I graduated from college with a degree in the helping profession but I am still sorting out a lot of the things I learned. Quite frankly, I don't know what "helping" someone means, what it looks like, or what the overall goal is. I know I need the Gospel; I also know I need medication. Where does "helping" someone end and giving them more tools to run from God begin? How does a Christian interact as a genuine Bible-Believer with a field built largely upon secular humanism? I don't really have any answers in all of this in any sense. I will say that people who are not spiritually discerning and analytical people will find that most secular education is severely damaging, if not damning, to the souls of those who are truly seeking to know God. That is not to say that a person will lose their salvation in college, it may just mean that they will arrive in heaven having lived their life with some very confused beliefs thrown in with the Gospel.

Thank God for Grace and for His Providence. I know nothing, except the following:

"The terrors of Law and of God
with me can have nothing to do.
For My Savior's obedience and blood
Hide all my transgressions from view."
-Augustus Toplady

More to come...

Why post this? Simply because I

This short clip is one of many reasons why I strongly dislike liberal politics. Why post this, you ask?

The clip speaks for itself.

Friday, June 19, 2009

America's debt to John Calvin by John Piper

(This article was originally posted in WORLD magazine, July 4, 2009.)

In this year of John Calvin’s 500th birthday, I don’t know of a better place to read about his impact on America than Abraham Kuyper’s Lectures on Calvinism given at Princeton Seminary in October 1898. Kuyper was a pastor, a journalist, the founder of the Free University of Amsterdam, and Prime Minister of the Netherlands.

John Calvin and Martin Luther were the twin pillars of the Protestant Reformation. Why do fewer people speak of Luther’s culture-shaping impact on America, but for centuries Calvin has been seen in this light? Kuyper argues,

"Luther’s starting-point was the . . . principle of justifying faith; while Calvin’s . . . lay in the general cosmological principle of the sovereignty of God. . . . [Hence] Lutheranism restricted itself to an exclusively ecclesiastical and theological character, while Calvinism put its impress in and outside the Church upon every department of human life."

It is the personal pervasiveness of God’s sovereignty that makes all the difference. This means that “the whole of a man’s life is to be lived as in the Divine Presence.” This “fundamental thought of Calvinism” shaped all of life. “It is from this mother-thought that the all-embracing life system of Calvinism sprang.”

For example, Calvin’s doctrine of “vocation” follows from the fact that every person, great and small, lives “in the Divine Presence.” God’s sovereign purposes govern the simplest occupation. He attends to everyone’s work. This yielded the Protestant work ethic. Huge benefits flow from a cultural shift in which all work is done earnestly and honestly with an eye to God.

Or consider how Calvinism breathed an impulse of freedom into modern history. The decisive principle

"was the sovereignty of the Triune God over the whole Cosmos, in all its spheres and kingdoms, visible and invisible. A primordial Sovereignty which eradicates in mankind . . . a threefold . . . supremacy, viz., (1) the sovereignty of the State; (2) the sovereignty in Society; and (3) the sovereignty in the Church."

God’s sovereign claim on every person and every sphere of society relativized all other claims. It began with the churches.

"The sovereignty of Christ remains absolutely monarchical, but the government of the Church on earth becomes democratic to its bones and marrow. . . No church may exercise any dominion over another, but . . . all local churches are of equal rank."

This impulse of freedom spread to the political sphere. Calvin and his heirs had a strong predilection for republican government—and an aversion to monarchy. A benevolent dictatorship would be ideal in a sinless world. But in a sinful world, it brings the horrors of tyranny. “Call to mind . . . that Calvinism has captured and guaranteed to us our constitutional civil rights.”

We ask: Why then did Calvin endorse the death of Servetus for heresy? How was this part of his liberating impulse? Kuyper’s answer is helpful.

"I not only deplore that . . . I unconditionally disapprove of it; yet not as if it were the expression of a special characteristic of Calvinism, but on the contrary as the fatal after-effect of a system, grey with age, which Calvinism found in existence, under which it had grown up, and from which it had not yet been able entirely to liberate itself."

A thousand years of abuses are not thrown off overnight. But the impulses of liberty, flowing from the decisive principle of the all-embracing sovereignty of God, proved to be unstoppable. “Calvinism has liberated Switzerland, the Netherlands, and England, and in the Pilgrim Fathers has provided the impulse to the prosperity of the United States.”

Kuyper closed his lectures with a claim that for many today sounds preposterous. Do not write him off. Get the book Lectures on Calvinism, and test these words, spoken to Americans in 1898.

"In the rise of your university education . . .; in the decentralized . . . character of your local governments; . . . in your championship of free speech, and in your unlimited regard for freedom of conscience; in all this . . . it is demonstrable that you owe this to Calvinism and to Calvinism alone."

Life is Short

Earlier this morning I found out that a friend from church died in a car accident. Normally it takes me a long time to process things through, but for some reason upon hearing the news it hit me immediately like a ton of bricks. I could say something like "The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away", all of which is true, but isn't what I need at the moment. He is gone and I find myself rudely awakened by the brevity of life that I am all too often unaware of, both of my own inevitable death and the death of every single person until Christ so chooses to return. As Christians we do not grieve as those who have no hope; there is a redemption that will soon be fully realized and those who have gone before us will be resurrected. We do not grieve as those who have no hope, but we still grieve.

I find comfort in the fact that even Jesus wept; we too are okay to let ourselves feel the weight of our sorrow or anger if we need to do so. God has promised that He will never leave us or forsake, which is good news for messed-up people living in a messed-up world. I cannot make it without the blessing of Christ following me and keeping me.

My sorrow feels heavy right now so I am going to not write much more, but I wanted to share with you all a song called "Life Means So Much". It is a powerful song; one that reminds that life is short and the life truly does mean so much.

Every day is a journal page
Every man holds a quill and ink
And there's plenty of room for writing in
All we do is believe and think
So will you compose a curse
Or will today bring the blessing
Fill the page with rhyming verse
Or some random sketching

Teach us to count the days
Teach us to make the days count
Lead us in better ways
Cause somehow our souls forgot
Life means so much
Life means so much
Life means so much

Every day is a bank account
And time is our currency
So nobody's rich, nobody's poor
We get 24 hours each
So how are you gonna spend
Will you invest, or squander
Try to get ahead
Or help someone who's under

Teach us to count the days
Teach us to make the days count
Lead us in better ways
Cause somehow our souls forgot
Life means so much
Life means so much
Life means so much

Has anybody ever lived who knew the value of a life
And don't you think giving is all
What proves the worth of yours and mine

Teach us to count the days
Teach us to make the days count
Lead us in better ways
Cause somehow our souls forgot
Life means so much

Every day is a gift you've been given
Make the most of the time every minute you're living

-Chris Rice

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Quote of the Year on Pop Christianity

As many of you know, I passionately despise the book "The Shack" for many, many reasons. I was reading an article earlier today that had a quote that very much so summed up my sentiments about the book and why I try to persuade people NOT to read it.

"The thing that bothers me the most about the Shack is that it wraps destructive ideas up in an appealing package and feeds it to people who have neither the discernment nor the desire to carefully separate truth from error."
-Mary Kassian

Blown Away

On a very rare occasion I will venture to a certain skateboarding website to see what new things have been posted. I watched the video below and was BLOWN AWAY by how good this guy is on a skateboard. The video may not seem super-spectacular to people who have never ridden a skateboard, but for anyone who has ever skated this video will leave you with your mouth open.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Thoughts as of late

Sola Scriptura
Recently I have become very much disenfranchised by what is commonly classified as evangelicalism; I more or less mean pop-culture Christianity than actual evangelicalism, but the blur between the two often makes it hard to see. A lot of my negative feelings have a lot to do with me feeling like I have been lied to about a number of things, although I have no doubt that the intentions of the people who told me these things were good.

A VERY large part of the Protestant Reformation was the idea of Scripture alone being our sole source of doctrine and practice; that is, the only way we can have ANY true knowledge of what we know about God or how we are to function as His creatures has to be validated by Scripture and by nothing else. There have been, and still are, many debates about what is and is not reading too much into Scripture itself (The Bible wasn't written in a bubble). Even taking this into consideration, nearly all of the teachings taught by people who have strongly believed in Sola Scriptura have been identical. The Bible inteprets the Bible, making it very understandable when the whole of Scripture is taken into consideration.

I fear that the idea of Scripture alone being our only source of how we can know about God is largely being left behind by many who profess the Bible to be God's Word. I point the finger outward towards others AND I point the finger at myself for not taking God's Word seriously enough. I do not mean that people have to be dogmatic about minor points, but I do mean that it is not wise for us to assume that something is true simply because it sounds good or right. We must go to Scripture, all of Scripture to look to see what it says.There is no area of life that God has not spoken over in some way for us to know what He has said about any given topic. It is sometimes hard to put this knowledge together in our minds so that we can apply it to complex life situations, but He has spoken to us. We are not in the dark. Of that I am certain.

"We affirm together with the Scripture, that we are redeemed by the life, death and resurrection of Christ alone. That all blessings (including faith, love and strength to persevere) find their source in the grace of God in Jesus Christ (Eph 1:3). And that the natural man (a person without the Holy Spirit) is wholly helpless in his sin, but God, by His great love and mercy, saves His people by a free, unconditional, invincible grace, not only justifying us in Christ when we come to faith, but also raising us from the death and bondage of sin by His life-giving Spirit in order to bring us to faith. Knowing that we come empty handed and spiritually bankrupt, we repent of both our good and bad works so as to trust in Christ alone for our salvation. For the Scripture says, "no one can say 'Jesus is Lord' apart from the Holy Spirit" (1 Cor. 12:3). Indeed, it is only because the Spirit first unites us to Christ that we can cry out "Abba, Father"(Rom. 8:15; Gal 4:6). For Jesus said, "no one can come to Me unless God grants it"(John 6:65). Scripture is our only authority for all our affirmations or denials and presuppositions related to the truth of the gospel, which is our only hope. May the Lord richly bless His word as we cast the seed of the gospel to those God has placed in the paths of each of our various callings."

(From Monergism)

I have healed a lot from getting my heart broken in the situation with a girl I used to date. I am still somewhat skeptical of things surrounding dating and girl/guy relationships, but my pessimism has very slowly been lifted (and still is being lifted) into a more realistic view of myself and the limitations of other people. I can say these things quite easily now, I just hope that when I do get involved with someone that my brain doesn't get so flooded with dopamine that I forget all of this and be as stupid as I have been known to be in the past. I doubt this will be the case, but it would not surprise me if it did happen.

I am really glad that I'm not getting married anytime soon and that I don't have to rush into anything. To be sure, "it is better to marry than to burn", but marriage and sex aren't the same thing and getting married in an attempt to avoid dealing with the difficluties of being sexual creatures in a fallen world may create more problems than it will actually solve.

Living as humans packed with all sorts of types of energys is an issue all people struggle with, whether the need be sexual, emotional or any other kind of need we may have.

But getting back to females...

I spent a large part of my teenage years dealing with thyroid problems, depression, and sleep apnea. This pretty much meant I did not take too much notice in girls, as my libido was very low. Flash forward to today with all of my health issues dealt with, and I have woken up to what it is like to be a 20-something year old guy.

I have begun to wonder if God packed guys with such strong testosterone to drive us outwards.

It's kind of like we are driven outwards to go and do, to mark our spot in the world, so to speak. For ancient people it may have been that they were driven outwards to go hunt to provide food for other people and earn the respect of the other men. It is still the same way today, although the ways in which we do the same behaviors has changed.

I think the whole God driving us outwards is how guys get together with girls too. It is not necessarily anything perverted that drives us out of ourselves but it is that something attracts us to go talk to certain girls. I don't know that if guys didn't have such strong drives outwards that we would ever stay interested in girls.

I say this not because girls are boring, but primarily because I think that if guys didn't feel drawn outwards towards girls we would not talk as often because we couldn't deal with the confusion. Given, not all girls are confusing. But generally speaking, men and women communicate and see the world very differently.

I often wonder what aspects of God or ourselves God has put into the dimensions of being male and female created equally in His image.

I don't know how it is for girls to understand guys, but I definitely believe that no matter how much time guys are around girls there will always be this mysterious, confusing, and wonderful aspect of girls simply being girls that guys will never understand.

I think God knew how different girls and guys are and made us so that we would only have to get to know one other person intimately through marriage. Having to figure out every girl or guy would probably be too much for us. lol.

I have been increasingly blessed by the River Church over these past several months. There is actually a real sense of community. It's messy, but it's good. I don't, in any sense, feel as though I need to be any certain way around the people there other than how I am in any other situation. That may seem like an odd statement, but I definitely think that people put up more defenses when they are at Church or any other large group or organization; I don't think it's a conscious thing most of the time when people do it, but we still do it.

Being able to have a lot of frank discussions with people about life, the Bible, and other things has been a real relief for me. Sometimes these conversations happen at something church related but often times I find them happening more and more out in the community. I talked with some friends from church at Sheetz gas station for a long time in the parking lot last night. We ran into each other randomly and just hung out for a bit. A few days before that I saw another friend from church with their two kids at my work. They stopped by to pick up some food and we got to talk for a little bit.

It is really cool to see how the way Joey is preaching is changing the church too. A lot of people make comments that they are finally "getting it" and are now able to see how the text applies to their life. I have overheard a lot of comments and questions from people drawing out some of the implications from the text and sermon, which means that people are probably thinking about the Gospel in ways they may not have thought about before.

There is much more to say but for now my ranting is done.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Thinking Back Part 3

For the past couple of weeks I have been rummaging through old memories, looking back at the road I have traveled these past couple of years. There were great immensities of both joy and pain during this time, often times intermingled with one another. I praise God for how He changed my heart during these times, using family and friends and life circumstances to do a mighty work in my life. The support I received from family and friends at this time was a true blessing and I know that God used these people to get me through the tough times.

One of the greatest challenges I have ever been through was dealing with a complexity of mental health and neurological problems, which, as many of you know, took aim at destroying my life in a multiplicity of ways. It has taken years to get these health issues sorted out, which complicated the doctors from knowing what all was going on at that time.

There was a period of time during this where I was recovering from some brain trauma I had experienced and had to take some time to recuperate. I had to stop going to school because I was unable to comprehend anything involving reading, which was a very devastating thing for someone like me to deal with. (If this tells you anything, I have two bookshelves in my room and I only keep books I know I will refer back to.)

Being unable to read or do a lot of other things, I began to paint during the day to express myself and to give me something to do during this time. The pictures below are the result of this time, and I hope they are a blessing to you.

Thinking Back Part 2

For the past couple of weeks I have been rummaging through old memories, looking back at the road I have traveled these past couple of years. There were great immensities of both joy and pain during this time, often times intermingled with one another. I praise God for how He changed my heart during these times, using family and friends and life circumstances to do a mighty work in my life. The support I received from family and friends at this time was a true blessing and I know that God used these people to get me through the tough times.

One of the greatest challenges I have ever been through was dealing with a complexity of mental health and neurological problems, which, as many of you know, took aim at destroying my life in a multiplicity of ways. It has taken years to get these health issues sorted out, which complicated the doctors from knowing what all was going on at that time.

There was a period of time during this where I was recovering from some brain trauma I had experienced and had to take some time to recuperate. I had to stop going to school because I was unable to comprehend anything involving reading, which was a very devastating thing for someone like me to deal with. (If this tells you anything, I have two bookshelves in my room and I only keep books I know I will refer back to.)

Being unable to read or do a lot of other things, I began to paint during the day to express myself and to give me something to do during this time. The pictures below are the result of this time, and I hope they are a blessing to you.

Thinking Back

For the past couple of weeks I have been rummaging through old memories, looking back at the road I have traveled these past couple of years. There were great immensities of both joy and pain during this time, often times intermingled with one another. I praise God for how He changed my heart during these times, using family and friends and life circumstances to do a mighty work in my life. The support I received from family and friends at this time was a true blessing and I know that God used these people to get me through the tough times.

One of the greatest challenges I have ever been through was dealing with a complexity of mental health and neurological problems, which, as many of you know, took aim at destroying my life in a multiplicity of ways. It has taken years to get these health issues sorted out, which complicated the doctors from knowing what all was going on at that time.

There was a period of time during this where I was recovering from some brain trauma I had experienced and had to take some time to recuperate. I had to stop going to school because I was unable to comprehend anything involving reading, which was a very devastating thing for someone like me to deal with. (If this tells you anything, I have two bookshelves in my room and I only keep books I know I will refer back to.)

Being unable to read or do a lot of other things, I began to paint during the day to express myself and to give me something to do during this time. The pictures below are the result of this time, and I hope they are a blessing to you.

Scripture that has been speaking to me lately

These are some of Scripture passages/verses that have kept coming up recently. I am thankful that we are justified before God through faith alone apart from works; and that even faith itself is a gracious gift given to God's children so that they believe on Christ.

"For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified."
(Romans 8:29-30)

"For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God."
(1 Corinthians 1:18)

"So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy."
(Romans 9:16)

"But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus."
(Romans 3:21-26)

"Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation."
(Romans 5:1-11)

"Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help
and rely on horses,
who trust in chariots because they are many
and in horsemen because they are very strong,
but do not look to the Holy One of Israel
or consult the Lord!"
(Isaiah 31:1)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A Wife I Want

I want a wife like Sarah Edwards, the wife of theologian Jonathan Edwards.

(Jonathan Edwards wrote of Sarah), “They say there is a young lady in (New Haven) who is loved of that Great Being, who made and rules the world, and that there are certain seasons in which this Great Being, in some way or other invisible, comes to her and fills her mind with exceeding sweet delight; and she hardly cares for anything, except to meditate on him… she has a strange sweetness in her mind, and singular purity in their affection… you could not persuade her to do anything wrong or sinful…. She is of a wonderful sweetness, calmness and universal benevolence of mind…. She will sometimes go about from place to place, singing sweetly; and seems to be always full of joy and pleasure; and no one knows for what. She loves to be alone, walking in the fields and groves, and seems to have someone invisible always conversing with her.”

Edna Gerstner. Jonathan and Sarah: An Uncommon Union, Soli Deo Gloria, p. 153- 154.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Feelings on a Thursday Afternoon

Ignore the video but listen to the song.

Stranger than your sympathy
This is my apology
I take myself from the inside out
And all my fears have pushed you out

I wish for things that I don't need
All I wanted
And what I chase won't set me free
All I wanted
And I get scared but I'm not crawling on my knees

Oh yeah everything's all wrong yeah
Everything's all wrong yeah
Where the hell did I think I was?

Stranger than your sympathy
I take these things so I don't feel
I take myself from the inside out
Now my head's been filled with doubt

It's hard to lead the life you choose
All I wanted
When all your luck's run out on you
All I wanted
You can't see when all your dreams are coming true

Oh yeah it's easy to forget yeah
You choke on the regrets yeah
Who the hell did I think I was

Stranger than your sympathy
All these thoughts you stole from me
I'm not sure where I belong
Nowhere's home and I'm all wrong

And I wasn't all the things
I tried to make believe I was
And I wouldn't be the one to kneel
Before the dreams I wanted
And all the talk and all the lies
Were all the empty things disguised as me
Yeah stranger than your sympathy stranger than your sympathy

My mind is reeling over many things today, but not really making much progress in any direction.

I hear a soft, gentle Voice speaking words of truth into my soul regarding a lot of different situations going on in my life; yet I find a large part of me stuck in a sort of emptiness not able to move forward from where I am. There is a flood of emotions covering me right now, some of them ranging from sadness and frustration to embarrassment and feeling foolish. I don't feel an emptiness in the sense that I am dealing with clinical depression, an all too common experience for me, but it is like I am being hollowed out to be able to receive something from the Lord.

All too often my hands are too full to receive what it is God desires to bring into my life. It usually takes me getting to a place where I am "stuck" before God will move in my heart and life. I am a stubborn person in many ways, not too keen on change unless I am the one doing the changing.

Last night was one of crazy dreams, dreams so powerful that you wake up and don't quite know if what you dreamed really happened or if it was just a dream after all. The inevitable conclusion of it being a dream occurs after a few minutes of becoming acquainted with the real world again, where I shake my head at how disoriented I was just a few minutes before in thinking that something that is more like science fiction than real life could actually have happened. Although, sometimes life IS strange; there is a very good reason for the saying that truth is stranger than fiction.

I sometimes wonder if most of my life has been a dream, and one day I will wake up to reality. What is funny is this is how life is, but not in the sense that we often think of it. We are born into the world in a very deep sleep, totally blinded by sin, unaware of what reality truly is. If God is gracious to us, He regenerates us and gives us eyes of faith to begin to see things as they are. Because we spent so much time in "the deep sleep", in many senses we who are born of God are waking up; we are becoming more and more aware of spiritual reality and our previous ways of thinking and living seem more like science fiction than real life. What is odd is that those who have woken up are the ones who often feel out of place in this world. Abraham considered himself an alien and a stranger in the world, as Genesis, Acts and Hebrews attests to, despite how much we want to attach a piece of land in the Middle East to what Abraham was actually promised.

In the past few weeks I have come to a place where I am now able, from time-to-time, to think of JP and be happy for her and where she is at in life. I am actually very glad to have not married her and to have that door now permanently shut. I am actually able to genuinely pray for her and her husband, whoever he is, and their marriage. For the longest time I could not pray about anything regarding her; I had to pray for months asking God to even help me to pray at all for that situation. There was a true dead spot in my heart that is now able to move forward.

I think I am beginning to see how desperately I am in need of God's mercy and forgiveness for how I treated her in our relationship. It is easy for me think that she was the one who betrayed me, which I still do feel pain from feeling betrayed and lied to, but there is blood on my hands too. Looking back I know that if it were not for her and Jim I would not have made it through the year or so of hell on earth that I went through.

I just hope that I can move forward and not feel totally afraid of getting involved with anyone of the opposite sex.

I recently met one of the most amazing people I have met in a long time (and yes, it's a girl), which is somewhat of an odd situation for me. I am not planning on getting into anything too quickly, maybe not anything at all, but the possibility of something happening between her and I has produced an interesting response in me. In some ways I am frustrated because I enjoy being single and don't want to be interrupted in what I think is best for me. Even the possibility of having someone of the opposite sex around my age in general come into my life is something I am not fond of. Rebecca is an exception to this; she and I are more like brother and sister, cousins, or maybe even an old married couple. The last analogy I mean only in the sense that she and I are almost always able to anticipate what the other will do in any given situation and be fairly on target.

At the same time, I have never met anyone whom I respect as much as this girl. There are many women I respect, but there are few that are single around my age that I can say that I truly admire for their character and heart. She is a young believer, but she has a truly beautiful heart and is seeking after the Lord. The first time she and I hung out I cried when I got home. I was so amazed to see that God is truly able to save people. His saving power is efficacious. I knew that on a head level, but the depth of it never hit me until the other night.

I have this sense in my heart that I want to protect her from false teachings and to point her to Christ. I want to see her grow and experience His healing power in deeper ways. With the human heart as fickle as it because of sin, I can state clearly that I want to see Christ formed more fully in her; saying anything beyond that would be too much. These are the things I do know. I am a sinful man, a master craftsman of idols as Calvin calls it. She is also a sinful person, one whom is indebted to God's grace like the rest of us. Neither of us can be there for each other, or ever will be there for each other, in the main way that we truly need another person. By this I mean that we can only point each other to Christ who is our true need, and will never be able to satisfy each other's souls in the way that Christ can.

In many ways this is such a freeing revelation, that no person, save Christ, can satisfy a person's soul. People can be used by God to point us towards Him, but that is all that they can do. I pray that the depth of this sinks into my soul in deeper ways, and that the church catches ahold of this vision as well.

It is sad when you go to a Christian bookstore and find that the majority of the books on marriage say nothing about the condition of the heart. If forgiveness is what established the relationship between Christ and His Bride, certainly the need for forgiveness will be a large part of human marriages where both partners are prone to needing forgiveness. Christ has no need of being forgiven. All humans have a deep need for forgiveness.

I talked to Tessie last night. She and Tim are moving to the Czech Republic in August. I don't think she has been back since the trip we took with the Moravian Church, but I may be wrong. Tim has finished Ph.D exams, and is waiting for approval for his dissertation topic. He is the only person I know of to have ever worked on a Ph.D in Slavic languages and literature. He will be working on his dissertation over in the CZ, which will be a much better place for him than in America to find the things he needs for his work. I have always had an affection for Tessie in my heart, and was very unsure about Tim until I met him. They came to my house a couple of months ago on their way back from Texas. I deeply love Tim as well and feel that meeting him was a very beneficial thing. There are a couple of schools in the general area in NC where I live where Tim could work after his dissertation is complete and he is given his doctorate. They will likely have to go where ever he gets a job, as a degree in Slavic Languages and Literature is not very common, but they hope to be in Texas or in North Carolina. I don't think Princeton has been a favorite place for either of them as far as wanting to have permanent residence there. They asked me about coming over to the CZ to see them, which is something I would very much like to do albeit I don't know how realistic that will be with job stuff and finances.

Jason, my youth pastor growing up, has been continuing to disciple people since his departure from our former church a couple of years ago. Last night was wonderful hearing him teach. He and his wife have poured their lives into those kids and are continuing to do even with him being the sole bread-winner for their family. Renee takes care of their two girls, which I am sure is a full-time job as well. They are by no means "Super-Christians" as I may have once thought, but they are both amazing and ordinary people ushering in the kingdom of God in unique ways in the Winston Salem area. Jason and Renee have poured a lot of love and truth into my life and the lives of these kids, a blessing that we have not likely to have yet realized how profound of a gift they both are.

These kids are hearing and seeing the things of God in ways that very few people get to hear or understand until they are older, often too old for it to make such a drastic impact as it can on people as young as the people we are meeting with. I am sure it is hard for he and his wife to do all that they do, and they continue to make huge sacrifices to see God work in their lives. Please pray for the Clubb family and the work that God is doing through them.

I have written a lot, perhaps more than I intended to, but I have desperately needed to write these thoughts out. Blessings to you all!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

If you are wondering...

I cannot think of much to write on that fits with the context of a public blog these days. I saw a blog I follow have a post where the person asked people to send him questions to write on. So...

Being a copycat of a good idea, I am asking YOU to send me a question or two you would like me to answer or comment on.

It can be totally random, serious, about something in the Bible, about me, anything really; just so long as it is appropriate for a blog and not inappropriate in general. When you comment to write your question, please put your name and email address.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Recent Thoughts on Life Part 2

More thoughts on life as of late.

There has been a restlessness that has settled in my heart and mind over the past few weeks. It feels like a sort of wandering spirit settling in, the kind you get when you feel discontent with your life and what is going on; the kind of feelings I have known best in my life as depression or as grief.

Dealing with three deaths that all happened in a span of less than two weeks probably has a lot to do with it. Being confused about being out of school has some to do with it too; in this regard it is mostly with the job situation and not knowing what direction the Lord is leading me. It also has to do with the pain I am in because of my hand. Taking 800 mg of ibubrofen every 4 to 6 hours, as well as taking antibiotics, have done a number on my mind and emotions as well; I do not do well taking new medicines. The pain and the blur in my mind because of the medicine have made it hard to think about things, and to be honest, I have no idea where to start or how to sort out grieving for three people all at once.

I have ALWAYS been a sensitive person in just about every way, and have also always had a tendency towards a melancholic disposition in general as well. A lot of the things I have been taught along the way through therapy, my own formal education at college, and through personal study have really started to become ingrained into my mind, which allows me to be able to deal with my emotions in healthy ways and to be able to identify how I am thinking about things that come up in life.

Some of the time I am able to see how ridiculous I am being or am able to see why I am feeling or interpretting an event the way I am. Sometimes I am faced with the fact that I "know" how I am thinking is out of step with the Word, but I don't know the reality of what He has promised in a real way; in other words, I see that it is my unbelief that is caused me distress. A lot of the time when that happens I ask the Lord to reveal what He needs me to know and to give me open hands to recieve it.

For God's Sake, Let Grace be Grace!

"If the Lord of hosts
had not left us a few survivors,
we should have been like Sodom,
and become like Gomorrah."
-Isaiah 1:9

The video below speaks enough in itself as to what I am thinking and feeling lately, particularly in regards to salvation.

The Gospel is robbed when presented as a person's being regenerated depends upon them. When that happens, God doesn't save anybody; He only gives the possibility of them being saved. But the Gospel teaches us that God actually saves people; His saving is efficaceous.

As Christians, we are often okay with admitting that we need some help from God in our lives, but overall we are really all okay. We deserve God's favor.

Only when we see that we are undeserving, that we are guilty, that at this very moment we deserve to die and suffer for an eternity because of our sin, only then can we know what it means for God's grace to come to us.

I have been reading through the Old Testament, in no particular amount of time, and recently finished Isaiah. I have been perplexed by many passages in Isaiah, as well as by many passages in other places in the Bible, in regards to things future for the world.

I do not at all think of the future of the world in a doom and gloom scenario anymore, but I can't quite tell what Scripture actually is trying to tell us about what lies ahead for us. There seems to be a larger number of texts that actually speak of things getting better, texts which cannot reasonably interpreted in any other. There are, of course, other passages that, even when excluding the grossly misinterpreted pieces and putting them into the right perspective, attest to an increase in godlessness in "the last days".

I often wonder if we can know anything about what the biblical prophecy regarding the future is actually talking about, as it is easy to interpret whatever is happening at the present moment as the "beginning of the end". This has been the case for most, if not all, of history for those who have concerned themselves with taking the Bible seriously. In recent times, it has moved from black people and communism to hispanic or middle eastern people and "the possible rise of socialism turning into a one-world system of government, which will pave the way for the AntiChrist to reign in case it is not Obama, which he probably is so we need not worry. (In any case, separate yourself from the world, wait for God to take you up in the clouds, and watch the rest of the world become obliterated by God's wrath. Follow this three-step plan and you will be fine.)". Seriously?

Not to press the point, but even how narrow our scope of vision is is not an entirely perspicuous matter. The restoration of Israel as a nation, which is supposed to be fulfilling prophecy that tells us that the end is very close, has happened 5 or 6 times since those prophecies were written. God is true to His word, but God is true to how He means what He promises and not how we interpret (or misinterpret) what has been said.

I do not know what to make of a lot of things in the eschatological area, but I am not distraught over not knowing. I am, however, becoming aware of how much what we believe about what God will be doing in the future shapes how we live and think about the world and our objective as Christians as a whole. People say that eschatology is an "unimportant" aspect of the faith, which it is a secondary issue, but people live out of what they believe in this area, even is they are doing it unaware of how much their thoughts on this area underlie a lot of other areas.

The River Church
Yesterday was an awesome time of worship at the River. You could really hear the people there pouring their hearts out to the Lord in song. The music had such a deep reflection of the Scripture, which made it easy for me to feel comfortable singing and becoming absorbed in God's presence. I can't quite say what it was about our gathering yesterday; something was different and I can really sense that God is at work, but that is about all that I can tell.

Joey's preaching has seemed to shift from being imperative to becoming a lot more centered on indicatives; in other words, a shift from "What would Jesus do?" to "What has Jesus done?" Both indicatives and imperatives are important aspects of preaching, and finding that balance is definitely hard to do, as I have found out from teaching at a Bible study.

It is kind of funny, because all of the pastors at the River have a gift for preaching through narrative passages of Scripture. These types of passages are harder to preach through for a lot of people, myself included, but God has definitely given them all the gift of teaching these sections of Scripture in amazing ways.

Apart from some of really well-known pastors/teachers, Joey does the best job of teaching through narrative passages of anyone I have heard. I think some people have that gift, and he is definitely one of those people who has it. He has the ability to really exposit the text itself and sticking very closely to it, while at the same time making the text come alive so that it is understood and its relevancy is seen.

There is much going on at the River Church and at Confluence, and am glad to be a part of it. I have said this before, but I will say it again. Our church has some really awesome leadership. I am really glad to have their guidance and feel them to be people whom I can willingly serve under their spiritual authority. The way a lot of the structure at the River is really helps it to function as well as we do. This dimension of the church is something that many churches fail in, which inevitably leads to A LOT of other problems.

I have more thoughts, but that's enough for now.