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.