Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Don't Cheapen The Thrill

Evangelicals thrill to the idea of God doing "a new thing." Novelty, they suppose, will draw the younger generation into our churches (along with their earning potential) and will keep existing church members excited. Not surprisingly, Isaiah 43:18-19 serves as their banner Scripture.

18 “Remember not the former things,
    nor consider the things of old.
19 Behold, I am doing a new thing;
    now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? (ESV)

Ask yourself, however, whether or not these verses appropriately apply to the deliberate implementation of popular church growth strategies. In your efforts to answer that question, bear in mind that these two verses belong to a larger prophecy. This larger prophecy pointed firstly to Israel's return from the Babylonian  Captivity and ultimately to Christ's Second Coming. The two preceding verses look back to God parting the Red Sea, establishing the idea  that verses 18-19 promises a deliverance so magnificent and astounding that Israel would "forget" all about the Red Sea miracle.

Notice that the "new thing" that God promised through Isaiah had nothing to do with actions He wanted the Jews to take. He didn't instruct them to abbreviate their sermons, write fun songs that neglected doctrinal content or hold services to appeal to their heathen neighbors. He would do the "new thing," apart from their effort or cooperation.

Isaiah 43:18-19 doesn't endorse changing a church around for the purpose of attracting more members, nor does it sanction change for the sake of change. Rather, it promises that, in His perfect time, God will deliver His people in such a miraculous way that even the parting of the Red Sea will fade from memory. I find that promise thrilling!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Wrong Division And Subtracting Truth From Church

Those of us who believe in adherence to sound Biblical doctrine frequently endure accusations of divisiveness. We dare not question women leading worship, church growth strategies, contemporary music that lacks theological content, contemplative prayer or replacing Bible Studies with small groups that focus on subjective impressions of how Scripture speaks to each member of the group. Standing for truth, in an increasing number of evangelical churches, means that we cause division.

Yet Paul, who wrote most of the New Testament epistles, saw division very differently than 21st Century evangelicals see it. Consider this quote:
Paul regards divisiveness as those who depart from sound doctrine. Doctrine is not the cause of disunity, departure is. ~Carl Trueman
Responsible reading (not to mention study) of Paul's epistles bear out Trueman's point. The apostle wrote several of his epistles with the purpose of clearing up doctrinal error and preserving correct teaching. He warned church members to reject anyone who deliberately and persistently deviated from the truth.
17 I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. 18 For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive. ~~Romans 16:17-18 (ESV)
Notice that the divisions Paul condemns thwart the doctrine that he and the other apostles taught. He never targeted Christians who stood for God's Word in opposition to attempts to dilute or distort it to suit their own agendas. As he saw it, the Body of Christ could only experience true unity by teaching and obeying the doctrines given by the Lord Jesus Christ and His apostles. Those who watered down those doctrines caused disruption in the church. I applaud Carl Trueman for pulling us into proper perspective.

Monday, April 28, 2014

My Future--His Honor

Many evangelicals assume that my eagerness for heaven stems from a desire to escape my disability. I understand their assumption. After all, Cerebral Palsy (especially such a severe case) imposes multiple restrictions on me, and those restrictions often carry a variety of subtexts. So of course one would conclude that the promise of a new body, free of the limitations currently thrust on me, holds a significant appeal for me.

In one sense, it does. But only when I view heaven in terms of how it will benefit me. And as I grow in understanding doctrine, I become increasingly convinced that most professing Christians hold an inverted view of heaven and its purposes.

Somewhere in my past, a friend posited the idea that heaven would be different for each of us, according to our interests, tastes and desires. Using her paradigm, heaven for me would be a giant art  museum filled with works by Leonardo, Michelangelo, Monet, Sargent and Rockwell. With cheesecake for meals. Her heaven would be stables of magnificent horses for her to ride and sturdy oak trees for her to climb.

Such self-indulgent imaginings of heaven bear more resemblance to the Muslim concept of endless pleasure as a reward for faithfulness than it does to John's description in Revelation. Although I can't go through all the verses in this one blog post, consider this one passage as representative of the essential Christian view:

22 And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. 23 And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. 24 By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, 25 and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. 26 They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. 27 But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb's book of life.
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever. ~~Revelation 21:22-22:5 (ESV)

Clearly the apostle John depicts heaven as an emanation of the Lord's glories. Earlier in chapter 21, he does describe some of heaven's beauties, but the pinnacle of his description is the Lord Himself. He emphasizes the Lord's preeminence rather than enumerating the various pleasures that most of us so eagerly anticipate.

The apostle John knew that heaven abolishes sickness, pain and sorrow for the Lord's glory. Our liberation from those maladies will allow us to serve Him with greater freedom and to worship Him without pollution. I may be content to remain disabled in heaven, gazing on the wonder of His glory, but He will  give me a body through which I can best serve Him. What an honor!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Heaven's Crowning Glory

During yesterday's Bible Study with our friend Dave, and again during today's sermon at church, people touched on the idea that heaven's focus will revolve exclusively on the Person and work of Jesus Christ.

Although you may (and certainly should) think I've just stated the obvious, consider the common remarks evangelicals make about heaven. We talk about the questions we'll ask Him, or wonder what age we'll  be. We eagerly anticipate reunions with loved ones and look forward to lengthy conversations with  Moses, Paul, Augustine, Calvin, Spurgeon and Francis Schaeffer.  We look forward to fully functional bodies that no longer require medications, doctors or wheelchairs (I've lost count of all the people who plan to dance with me).

All those fantasies of heaven miss the point. Heaven centers entirely and exclusively in Jesus, and we will finally worship Him without the hindrance of self-regard. We will bask in His glory, awed by Who He is and humbled by His inexplicable love for us. Mostly, we will crown Him as our King! And we'll understand that He makes heaven...well, heaven!

Friday, April 25, 2014

Motherhood's Dangerous Potential

Last night, as I scrolled through my Twitter feed, I happened on Wintery Knight's recent blog post about a Barna Research survey that shows 53% of Christian women value their families over their relationships with the Lord. I'd like to say the statistic shocked me. Sadly, it didn't.

Now, I well understand that, because I don't have children, I can't imagine what emotions a mother experiences toward her children. Additionally, I appreciate, admire and honor women who buck the tide of feminism and put the needs of their children before their career goals and/or their personal satisfaction. Indeed, Scripture affirms motherhood, and I wish that I could have served the Lord by raising children to know  Him. So I want to acknowledge my inability to fully empathize with mothers. Perhaps they genuinely believe they honor God by making motherhood their highest priority.

Having said these things, I well remember times when I subtly put ministry before my relationship with the Lord. Naturally, I'd rarely admit that fact. After all, wasn't it Christian ministry? Yet I'd neglect praying, reading the Word and  letting Him deal with my sin in favor of over-involvement in activities that  caused other Christians to praise my faithfulness.

Motherhood is a beautiful ministry, and most likely the most difficult and demanding ministry possible. But, like the various ministries I enjoyed, it has the dangerous potential of becoming an idol. When a woman treasures her children more than she cherishes the Lord Who purchased her with His blood, she does them the disservice of modeling idolatry. Dear sisters in Christ, please teach your  children, by example, the importance of loving Jesus more than anyone or anything else.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

A Guilt I Embrace

"If following Christ becomes illegal, will  there be enough evidence to convict you?" Several years ago, emails asking that question regularly found their way into my inbox. I'm surprised, and actually more than a bit saddened, that I don't see "photos" with that question scattered about my Facebook feed. Although the question (especially if asked soon after I've had an outburst of anger) makes me uncomfortable, I appreciate the challenge.

And it certainly does challenge me! Admittedly, if a jury examined the hard drive of my computer, read my blog and looked though my Facebook and Twitter accounts, they'd reach a guilty verdict without much  deliberation. My online activity makes my devotion to the Lord unquestionable.

But would the testimony of my family, friends and associates cast reasonable doubt? What about my neurologist, who asked me once again to consider a treatment that I've consistently refused for six  years? Or the train conductor who tried to board us on the Quiet Car? Would these people, who see my self-will and my use of anger be willing to identify me as a Christian?

Thankfully, the Lord Himself knows that I hate my rebellious behavior that  contradicts His commands. And He knows that I depend on His shed blood, rather than my performance, to make me presentable to the Father. Furthermore, though I slip much too often into sin, His Holy Spirit gives me both a hatred for my  sin (because it dishonors Him) and the ability to resist temptation in favor of holiness.

So yes, if Christianity becomes illegal, the evidence would convict me. And I praise  God for making me that faithful to Him.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Defending Duplicate Bandwagons

People love jumping on bandwagons, and apparently I follow the "discernment ministry" crowd in our own bandwagons that warn against the various evangelical fads that lead professing Christians away from sound Biblical doctrine. Yes, Reformed  Christians drive our own  bandwagons to protest the proliferating number of unbiblical bandwagons that attract undiscerning evangelicals.

Often, I come to this blog agitated by other bloggers' critiques of various assaults on the sufficiency of Scripture. I want to add my voice to theirs. My love for God's Word and my ability to write lead me to believe that I  can, and should, add to the conversation.

So I must determine whether I am, in fact, adding, or merely duplicating. And, if I'm merely duplicating, I need to ask whether or not that duplication really violates any Christian code of ethics.

The writer in me insists that I should strive for some degree of originality, rather than simply echoing the concerns of other bloggers. But such a perspective, when I seriously think about it, becomes more about asserting my supposed intellectual prowess than about contending for the faith. So what if I echo men and women who stand firmly on Biblical principles? As long as I examine their points and make sure that they really do line up with Scripture, why shouldn't I link arms with those whom I recognize as more knowledgeable than I?

I have readers that may not look at the blogs that inspire me. Some of my readers believe the poor teachings that waft through evangelical circles, seeing no contradiction between these teachings and Scripture read in context. Although I frequently post things to Twitter and Facebook that more erudite people write, I strongly suspect that my friends and followers are more apt to read my blog than the blogs I recommend.

Consequently, I'll jump on bandwagons by reputable bloggers who handle Scripture properly, risking accusations that I do little more than duplicate their points. Rather than build my reputation as an original writer, I want to glorify the Lord by standing with other Christians who honor His Word by repudiating false doctrine. The Lord's glory means more to me than opinions about my writing.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Can Over-Priced Popcorn Validate Heaven?

First of all, no Christian should need any details about heaven outside of those the Lord offers through Jesus, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Paul and John.

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.~~2 Peter 1:3-4 (ESV)

Yet millions of evangelicals bought the book, Heaven Is For Real by Todd Burpo, detailing a visit his 4-year-old son Colton made to heaven. Two years ago, Tim Challies ran a review of the book in his  blog, which I hope you'll read by clicking here before you proceed with my post. I'd also ask you to click here and read Phil Johnson's critique.

On April  16, the movie  version of  Heaven Is For Real appeared in theaters, causing many evangelical hearts to flutter in anticipation of gleaning new details about Christ's dwelling place. Christian websites (including Bible Study websites that really should know better) advertize it, and I'm certain many churches advocated it from their pulpits yesterday. 

Friends, this kind of  drivel really amounts to the same Gnostic heresy that so many of the New Testament epistles sought to correct. Rather than supporting movies and books that promise "deeper knowledge" than the Bible provides, I pray that Christians will  bravely reject these self-focused accounts of spiritual experience.

18 Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, 19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God. ~~Colossians 2:18-19 (ESV)

Sunday, April 20, 2014

My Favorite Holiday...An Explanation

I love Easter! I love wearing a new dress and hat, both with pastel colors that herald  springtime's very welcome arrival. I love the unbridled joy as people enter church, and the trumpet-shaped Easter lilies placed artfully around the pulpit. I love seeing little girls in their frilly  dresses.

Most of all, I love celebrating the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ! I love His authority over the power of sin, and His assurance that God accepted His sacrifice on the Cross. I love knowing that His resurrection can be easily verified, therefore validating everything He taught. I love the demonstration of His deity, and the amazing promise that He will one day raise me up to live with Him!


Saturday, April 19, 2014

New Church and Easter's Promise

Tomorrow, John and I plan to visit First Baptist Church in Weymouth  to celebrate  Easter, and we hope to discern whether or that will be our new church home. From all we've learned about it so far, we believe it may well be! We're extremely excited!

But the excitement over First Baptist pales in comparison to our joy over Christ's glorious resurrection, knowing that one day He will also raise us up with Him. In that day, we will look into His wonderful Face as we worship with a perfected Church. How exciting!

Friday, April 18, 2014

The On-Purpose Omission

Have you ever noticed that not one of the four gospels offer a  detailed description of Jesus' physical suffering during His actual crucifixion? While they give graphic narrations of the brutal beatings He endured during His illegal trials before The Sanhedrin, Herod and Pilate, they present the physical crucifixion quite simply and matter-of-factly. Even Luke, a physician who found the healings  Jesus performed utterly fascinating and therefore worthy of careful attention, omitted any explanation of the physiological effects Jesus endured as He hung on the cross.

32 Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. 33 And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. 34 And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments. 35 And the people stood by, watching, but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!” 36 The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine 37 and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” 38 There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”

39 One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”  

44 It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, 45 while the sun's light failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46 Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last. 47 Now when the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God, saying, “Certainly this man was innocent!” 48 And all the crowds that had assembled for this spectacle, when they saw what had taken place, returned home beating their breasts. 49 And all his acquaintances and the women who had followed him from Galilee stood at a distance watching these things. ~~Luke 23:32-49 (ESV)

I recently read an article that proffered the idea that, because crucifixions commonly occurred in the First Century, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John saw no reason to explain its mechanics to their immediate readers. This idea may be true in part, but it ignores the Holy Spirit's role in inspiring Scripture. Since, as God, the Holy Spirit is all-knowing, He obviously knew that most people who would read the New Testament in subsequent centuries wouldn't ordinarily understand what death by crucifixion entailed. So, if educating people on the various physical tortures Jesus went through on the  Cross had been necessary, He surely would have inspired  at least Luke to include a description.

The four gospel writers, however, concentrate primarily on  Jesus' spiritual agony, and in particular His anguish of being separated from His Father as He bore His Father's wrathful judgment of our sins. For example, consider the narrative of Mark (who usually favored describing Jesus' actions over contemplating His emotions):

33 And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. 34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 35 And some of the bystanders hearing it said, “Behold, he is calling Elijah.” 36 And someone ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.” 37 And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. 38 And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. 39 And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”~~Mark 15:33-39  (ESV)

The Holy Spirit,  in inspiring the four evangelists to recount the crucifixion, emphasized the spiritual suffering of  Jesus.  He wanted us to see that Jesus separation from His Father results in our admission into God's presence! That emphasis turns Jesus' worst day into our Good Friday.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

I Certianly WILL Take It Personally

As  we approach tomorrow's Good Friday observance, perhaps we ought to  take it personally. Yes, Jesus died for His Church collectively, but He also died for each individual member of His Church. I certainly praise Him for shedding His precious blood on my behalf.

When I stand before the Lord's Judgment Throne, I won't rely on  my local church affiliations, my history of ministry work, or even my study of Scripture for my justification. In dying for me, Jesus provided both the only defense I need and the only defense His Father can rightly accept. And what could be more personal?

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Why Of Our "Who Cares?"

Jesus died for our sins.

We say it almost by rote, and usually (if I can be honest) with a sense of emotional detachment. We may be intellectually convinced that Jesus hung on the Cross to ensure that we would enjoy God's forgiveness, and we may even occasionally experience emotions of gratitude for His sacrifice. But for the most part, His crucifixion has  very little impact on how we conduct our day-to-day lives. We file it away as essential doctrine, and go merrily along with our various activities resting in the security that we know our basic catechism.

This lack of personal connection with the Cross doesn't necessarily indicate that we fail to understand the extent of the Lord's sufferings. Mel Gibson's 2004 movie, The Passion of the Christ, made sure most evangelicals witnessed as many gory details of crucifixion as Mel could possibly film. And before that A Physician Analyzes The Crucifixion by Dr. C. Truman Davis spelled out all the physical agonies Christ endured, beginning with His sweating blood at Gethsemane. Therefore, we can't blame our indifference to the Cross on ignorance.

The callousness ultimately results from our unwillingness to recognize the excruciating reality of our sin. Yeah, we know we've "fallen short of the glory of God." We may even admit, when pushed, that we've broken a few of His commandments. But how many of us really see ourselves as despicable sinners who deserve nothing but God's wrath?

Our pride causes our inability to truly comprehend Christ's accomplishment on the Cross. Until the Holy Spirit opens our understanding to the depths of our depravity, we possess no power to appreciate the way our sinless Lord endured the torments of hell that rightfully belong to us. We might give a vague acknowledgment that Jesus died for our sins, but we need to truthfully confront the horrible depth and power of the sin that permeates our lives.

Once we own our sin, understanding that it nailed the innocent Prince of glory to the Cross, we can truly rejoice in His amazing grace. We will praise Him for shedding His blood to atone for our sin, recognizing  His unexplainable love for creatures as vile as  we. And then, filled with a sense of awe and wonder at His goodness, we will marvel as we comprehend the truth that Jesus died for us!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

An Unbroken Boston

A year ago today, crowds swelled the Copley Square section of Boylston Street in Boston's Back Bay, remarking on the picture-perfect weather as they watched Marathon runners triumphantly cross the finish line. Could there possibly be a more glorious day?

Suddenly, two explosions shattered the celebration, leaving about 264 people seriously injured and three people dead. "Devastated" seems like a trite description for our city's emotional condition that afternoon and evening as we witnessed such a  cruel example of human depravity, but  no other word speaks with more accuracy. We all felt sorrow. We all felt shock. We all felt outrage.

And we all felt a new strength that we call Boston Strong.

Two young Muslim boys from Russia thought they could break Boston through their act of jihad, only to unite the city. The makeshift memorial that grew in Copley Square during the ensuing days testified to our determination to let the tragedy strengthen us.

Yesterday, John  and I wheeled through Copley Square, noticing the media presence and police security in preparation for today's memorial ceremonies. From there, we went to the Boston Public Library to see the exhibit, "'Dear Boston: Messages from the Marathon Memorial." Although I sobbed from the memories of destruction and suffering that should never have happened, I also felt proud of my adopted city.

I've made a video from the photos John took yesterday as a tribute to the Boston Strong spirit:


Sunday, April 13, 2014

Palm Branches, Cloaks And Donkey Colts For His Coronation

Luke's account of Jesus' Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem, though perhaps understated in some respects, makes it clear that Jesus accepted public acknowledgement that He was Israel's long-awaited King.

28 And when he had said these things, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. 29 When he drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount that is called Olivet, he sent two of the disciples, 30 saying, “Go into the village in front of you, where on entering you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever yet sat. Untie it and bring it here. 31 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ you shall say this: ‘The Lord has need of it.’” 32 So those who were sent went away and found it just as he had told them. 33 And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying the colt?” 34 And they said, “The Lord has need of it.” 35 And they brought it to Jesus, and throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. 36 And as he rode along, they spread their cloaks on the road. 37 As he was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, 38 saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” 39 And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” 40 He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” ~~Luke 19:28-40 (ESV)

Notice in Luke 19:36 that the disciples carpeted the road with their cloaks. Matthew 21:8 adds that the crowd also spread both their cloaks and tree branches on the road to form a royal carpet. And John 12:13 specifies that the branches came from palm trees. Further, the people hailed Jesus as the King Who came as the Lord's anointed Ruler. Many of the Jews obviously recognized His actions that day as a fulfillment of  Messianic prophecy:

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
    Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you;
    righteous and having salvation is he,
humble and mounted on a donkey,
    on a colt, the foal of a donkey. ~~Zechariah 9:9 (ESV)
In celebration of Palm Sunday, I've chosen Chris Tomlin's updated version of  Crown Him With Many Crowns as today's song of praise. As you listen, may you joyfully anticipate His victorious return, when He comes to establish His Kingdom!

Friday, April 11, 2014

After Making Our Decision

Our decision to leave our church has become public. I had to let the missionaries the church supports know that I'd no longer be able to serve as their email contact person (we'd been using my personal email address for that purpose).

As yet, we haven't found a church in our area that teaches Scripture from a Reformed perspective. Of course, our disabilities and John's health challenges further  complicate matters, adding to the potential frustration. In all this, I scratch my head as I wonder how a state founded by Calvinists could have possibly strayed so far from Reformed theology. The Greater Boston area certainly has its share of curiosities--including its spiritual climate!

This morning, the Lord encouraged me through Psalm 69. Even though the trouble that motivated King David to compose this psalm differed from the situation that John and I face, his  feelings of being overwhelmed and helpless struck a chord with me. But so did his confidence in God's faithfulness! David trusted the Lord to provide for Him.

Near the end of the psalm, David wrote a splendid affirmation that the Lord would meet his needs, and I hope I can properly apply it as a promise concerning our search for a new church.

30 I will praise the name of God with a song;
    I will magnify him with thanksgiving.
31 This will please the Lord more than an ox
    or a bull with horns and hoofs.
32 When the humble see it they will be glad;
    you who seek God, let your hearts revive.
33 For the Lord hears the needy
    and does not despise his own people who are prisoners. ~~Psalm 69:30-33 (ESV)

Verses 32-33, in particular, offered me reassurance that the Lord hears my prayers for a Reformed church in, or near, our town. He understands our complete dependence on Him, and won't despise our desire to sit under expositional preaching. Although we presently don't have a clue how He intends to bring us into fellowship, we'll keep knocking on doors and trusting Him to provide for us.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Musty Old Hymns

Not all contemporary Christian music distresses me, and a few hymns bother me greatly. Since coming to the Lord in 1971, I've been part of churches which primarily did contemporary music, and I generally preferred the newer music to "musty old hymns." In fact, just 15 years ago, I adamantly argued in favor of eliminating hymns almost completely from church.

Understand that I enjoyed singing the newer stuff, mostly because it's more fun. Additionally, I took pride in having a progressive taste in music which I believed put me on display as being more "spiritual" than "nominal Christians" who were bogged down in "empty traditionalism." The newer music, as I saw it then, moved beyond "dry doctrine" to emphasize personal relationship with Jesus.

And, as the Lord used a talking donkey to bring Balaam to repentance, so during the mid-90s He used my love of singing contemporary praise songs to keep me from walking into deliberate sin. I remember trying to sing in church, only to be overwhelmed by my hypocrisy to the point of being unable to sing about  being devoted to the Lord.

Yet, as I've grown to appreciate the vital importance of sound doctrine, I now understand that most (most, not all) of contemporary praise songs focus on our feelings about the Lord. In contrast, most (most, not all) hymns extol Him by using music to help us memorize the marvelous doctrines of Who He is and what He's done. Now, the newer songs seem empty to me, as the hymns that I once saw as "musty" cause me to marvel at how wonderful the Lord is!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Makes Ya Wonder, Doesn't It?

Spring's slow but apparent  arrival, coupled with necessary distractions such as routine doctor visits (that I'd rather not make--but must) presents me with less time to blog. And so, it amuses me to think that this past winter, which seemed as it would last forever, actually spoiled me in terms of giving me time to make almost daily posts. As much as I delight in getting out of the apartment (with the obvious exception of the doctor visits), I feel a sense of frustration that I have less time for writing. Oh, the irony!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Any Rich Uncles Out There?

Spring has yet to arrive in Boston, but temperatures have at least moderated enough to allow me and John to resume our infamous Adventures. So yesterday, despite only 56 degrees and clouds, we made our way to Boston Commons, unsure where we would go  from there.

From the Commons, I spotted a view of "my house." A few years ago, I'd first noticed the brownstone because of its green shingles and the trees on the roof. Since then, John and I have referred to it as my house, particularly  when the Fox25 camera from the Beacon Hill studio includes it in weather shots during their morning show. I insisted that John take yet another photo of it, just as I do almost every time we're in the Commons.

As a change from our usual routine of going through the Public Garden, we got to the corner of Charles and Beacon, crossed Beacon and turned right toward the State House. I wanted to find "my house."

Beacon Street has a charming brick sidewalk with sporadic dips that make it either challenging or interesting to negotiate in power wheelchairs, depending on one's attitude. Since we passed so many fascinating and historic houses, interesting would better describe my state of mind as I conquered its idiosyncratic terrain.

At last we located "my house," appropriately standing on the corner of Beacon and Joy.

Looking to my left, I saw a small sign leading to a downstairs entrance that identified the building as The Tudor (which I later searched for on my computer)--luxury apartments and  condominiums.

Once we crossed Joy Street, we could turn back and take a picture of The Tudor in its majesty, even capturing a glimpse of the penthouse garden.

Since yesterday,  my love for The Tudor has grown, and I find myself wishing I had a rich uncle to put me and John up in one of its units. But knowing that real people (and lots of them) actually live there, I suddenly feel a bit shy about calling it "my house." That said, I know that I'll continue to look for it whenever I  go to the Boston Commons, and that it will still enchant me.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

The Relief Of The Cross

I pray that I'll never forget the terror my 17-year-old heart felt as I turned the pages of my Bible and discovered that I deserved eternity in hell. That gruesome discovery prepared me to receive the Good News that, by His death on the Cross, Jesus Christ paid my debt so that I can enjoy everlasting life with Him in heaven.

Can anyone appreciate the wonder of the Cross apart from truly confronting his or her absolute depravity? No. As long as someone continues in the delusion that he or she can contribute anything to his or her salvation, the Cross loses its significance...and its beauty. But when a person fully understands Christ's amazing love in suffering the wrath of God that rightly belonged to him or her (that rightly belonged to me!), the Cross symbolizes  glorious freedom. And that freedom from sin and guilt indeed makes me happy.


Saturday, April 5, 2014

Jumping Off Bridges And Drinking Kool-Aid

"But Mom," I'd plead with a slight whine, "everybody's doing it!" Each time I attempted to use that line of reason, I felt confident that she would see my  logic and agree to whatever request I presented at the time.

Instead, being a good mother, she'd counter with the same question (which I hated): "If everybody jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge, would you do that too?"

Several years later, she and I watched TV news reports in horror. A pastor named Jim Jones had moved his communal church, The People's Temple, from the San Francisco Bay Area to a settlement in Guyana. In 1978, Congressman Leo Ryan visited "Jonestown," and learned that members were being held at the compound against their will. When Ryan attempted to take those people back to the United States, he was shot and killed.

Knowing that Ryan's homicide would result in more U.S. government officials investigating Jonestown, Jim Jones persuaded his congregation to drink Kool-Aid spiked with Valium and cyanide, telling them that mass-suicide was the only escape from those who would kill their babies. Okay, he made no sense. But he made sure that group pressure would minimize resistance. Except for a few who managed to escape into the jungle, everybody drank the Kool-Aid. (Source)

The fact that "everybody's doing it" no longer persuades me to follow a course of action. My first responsibility is to return to God's Word to see whether or not current church trends line up with sound doctrine. Although I may suffer consequences for refusing to follow the  crowd,  drinking the Kool-Aid of popular trends must never be an option. Mom taught me well!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Comfortable, Fun And Entertaining

Today, I'll let R.C. Spoul and John MacArthur do some heavy lifting for me as I continue to explore the Church Growth Movement.

As these men so eloquently show, the Seeker Sensitive model that serves as a foundation for the Church Growth Movement depends on deliberately ignoring the Scriptural doctrine of human depravity and helplessness. It assumes that, with just the right marketing techniques, we can convince non-Christians that they really want the God that we offer. Very subtly, we convey the idea that they have sought God, and therefore He awards salvation to them because they sought Him.

Nothing could be further from the truth, but the Church Growth Movement can't survive by simply proclaiming the Gospel and trusting God with the results. The idea that we can sell them on Jesus by making church comfortable, fun and entertaining leads us to accommodate them when we should devote our attention to honoring the Lord.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Questions Of A Musical Variety

He looked at me quizzically, asking, "Would non-Christians come if we  did hymns?"

So today I asked a Jewish friend what sort of music she would expect if she visited a church. Her answer that she'd expect hymns didn't surprise me, but her following comment did. She told me (although I didn't ask) that she'd be less likely to pay a second visit to a church that had contemporary music, and more likely to return if a church had hymns.

I tried to survey my non-evangelical friends on Facebook about this question. So far, no one has responded. I hope they will, as I seriously want to know whether or not exchanging hymns for contemporary praise music really does attract people to church.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Tides And Obedience

Women, in general, experience a drive to make everyone comfortable and happy. My mom probably leans on this principle when she says that war would be abolished if women ruled the world (an assertion that I highly doubt). As a woman, I find it emotionally uncomfortable when I take stands with the knowledge that I will ruffle feathers. My discomfort makes me wonder why the Lord has given me such a passion to write about doctrinal integrity and to take stands that many of my friends will neither understand nor like.

Yet my first responsibility is to the Lord, not to people. Not even to a local church. He has ultimate claims on my life, even when He calls me to go against the tide. To put it more accurately, He calls me to stand firm when the tide goes against His Word.

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. ~~Galatians 1:10 (ESV)

Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows that I struggle to sustain a stand on controversial issues. I'll write a few bold posts, and then I'll want to smooth things by writing something a little more neutral. Although variety is important, I admit to hiding behind some of my lighter posts in order to appease reconstruct my image so people will think of me in favorable terms. And, when my lighter posts arise from such selfish motives, I must acknowledge my unfaithfulness to the Lord.

Lately, I've been learning more about the Church Growth Movement, as well as seeing first-hand some of the ways this movement erodes biblical preaching and worship. For months (especially this past month), this topic has weighed heavily on my mind, but a prudent assessment of my circumstances directed me to hold back. In fact, it still appears necessary to use caution as I broach this topic. But make no  mistake: I will address it in coming posts, and it won't be comfortable. Please pray that the Lord will give me courage to go against the tide.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Forgiven April Fool's Lie

April 1, 1977 fell on a Friday, and I felt particularly mischievous. A senior in college, I compromised Christian principles a lot anyway, so I convinced myself that outright lying for the sake of April Fools fun wasn't really lying. (Perhaps my current practice of manipulating the truth for April Fool jokes also constitutes lying, but I don't want to get into that discussion today.) Clearly, the various pressures of preparing for my Comprehensive Exam and applying to graduate schools (which didn't end up accepting  me) gave me a need to let off steam, and April Fool's Day provided the perfect opportunity!

So, when my friend Nanci waltzed into Bertrand Common (where a number of us Dominican students habitually congregated when we didn't attend classes), I greeted her with a wide grin and announced, "Nan! I got accepted to grad school at U.C. Berkley!" When I saw the look of excitement and pride overtake her face, the realization that I'd successfully convinced her of my bald-face lie pulled me into convulsive laughter.

Instead of arousing her suspicions, however,  my laughter reinforced my story--our nearly four years of friendship had taught Nanci that I often laugh in reaction to excitement. So, please don't judge her as gullible; understand instead how I capitalized on my natural tendencies to lend credibility to my prank.

When she began broadcasting my supposed good news to others, however, I knew I must end the ruse. Cerebral Palsy can add difficulty to regaining composure after I've been laughing hard, so I struggled as Nan  continued to boast about my "accomplishment." Finally, I managed to confess that it was an April Fool's joke.

Over the years, we've kidded each other about that incident, with Nan pretending that she's never forgiven me. I shouldn't have done something so mean, and I definitely, most definitely, sinned by telling such an unmitigated lie, so I appreciate her graciousness to laugh about it. But, even more, I marvel at her faith in me. How touching that she believed U.C. Berkley, which only accepted 50 first-year grad students per semester into its journalism program, would actually accept me. I praise God for such a loyal friend.


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