Thursday, May 29, 2008

Stephen Foster - Suwannee River

I love the Suwannee River. I grew up going there all the time with my Papa (Mom's Dad), he taught me how to drive a boat way before I could drive a car, taught me how to slice potatoes for french fries (and he knew when I cut the peels off too thick by the way they hit the trashcan), got me to eat corned beef has over rice. We went there as a family in the summer, fishing, cane poling, talking with the neighbors (Mr. Cassidy I remember specifically). We only had a radio then (no cell phones, computers, DVDs, CDs) - well, I guess there was a tape player. We listened to Don Williams, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, - ah, the good country. I learned how to scale a fish early on - with many pictures of me and my brother holding them up as trophies. Heading out Munden Creek early on a summer morning - lily pads, bugs (didn't like them then either), then turning that last corner, seeing the dew still sitting on top of the River - man, that is one beautiful site. Seeing the storms come in on the river from the Gulf usually - I love those days. Days were simpler and quieter. To go back to those days would be great - seriously. I think I would give up all technology for a summer just to sit down on the River. And in those days that was before I really appreciated my Savior as the wonderful Creator that He is. I didn't marvel at it then. But, in my mind's eye - I still see those days - so clear to me. He is a wonderful Creator - all things sing His praise!
So, anyway...this weekend - that's where I'm heading. It'll be my parents, me, and Alan and Tywonn. Only our second vacation all together in almost 6 years. Maybe our last for a while too as A/T head to Africa in February. But...for Mom's 60th...we rented a houseboat. We'll start off at the Gulf and head to Fanning Springs, swim, and then turn around. We won't get to do any fishing due to fishing license laws (I never had a fishing license before...) - but, we'll grill, chill, read, play cards, do nothing, watch the River, take pictures.
I can't wait. So, I've been singing this little song for a while now:
Way down upon de Swanee ribber,
Far, far away,
Dere's wha my heart is turning ebber,
Dere's wha de old folks stay.
All up and down de whole creation
Sadly I roam,
Still longing for de old plantation
And for de old folks at home.
All de world am sad and dreary,
Ebry where I roam,
Oh! darkies how my heart grows weary,
Far from de old folks at home.
2nd verse
All round de little farm I wandered
When I was young,
Den many happy days I squandered,
Many de songs I sung.
When I was playing wid my brudder
Happy was I
Oh! take me to my kind old mudder,
Dere let me live and die.
3rd verse
One little hut amond de bushes,
One dat I love,
Still sadly to my mem'ry rushes,
No matter where I rove
When will I see de bees a humming
All round de comb?
When will I hear de banjo tumming
Down in my good old home?

I'll post pictures when I return...

Monday, May 26, 2008

Summer Reading 2008

My friend Courtney Tarter offered the suggestion of a reading list this summer. I thought I would take her up on it. I wish I had done this more when I was in seminary, but I didn't. I love to read now - but I also think this is one of the reasons I'll never do a PhD - I like to read what I want to read. I also think it is good to read a variety of books/authors/subjects. I used to be very narrowminded in my reading - but even if you read books you don't necessarily agree with - you better are able to engage the world.
So here goes: (in no particular order)
A Breviary of Sin - Plantinga: This is a book Dr. David Nelson suggested for me to read when I asked him about the doctrine of original sin. This will probably be the most doctrinal book I read this summer (more academic).
A Tale of Two Cities - Charles Dickens: I haven't read a lot of classics in my life because I went to a Christian school and we just didn't have to. JD mentioned this one (and gave away the ending) in his sermon when I was recently in NC - so I thought I would pick it up and hear again a modified story of substitionary atonement.
The Mark of the Lion Series - Francine Rivers: This will be my fun reading for the summer. I love her writings and have heard great things about this series of 3 books.
God is the Gospel - John Piper: What is the good news: God! That is the question John answers in this book - helps us to see. This is part of my study of God personal time this summer (more on that later).
Night - Elie Wiesel: I am completely fascinated about WW2 - I know I'm weird. I love it from a history standpoint, the depravity of man standpoint, a culture standpoint, and want to read biographies of that period of history. This was on Oprah's Book club a few years back and I finally found it at a used bookstore.
The Welcoming Hearth - Elizabeth Skoglund: This is a book on hospitality and what it means to serve family and friends. This is one of the things I believe women are called to be for the glory of God. So, the more I can read and practice - the better.
One Holy Passion - R C Sproul: This is also for the personal times and study of God (mainly through the psalms). RC is a great writer who helps his readers know more about the God they love and serve.
Spiritual Depression - D Martin Lloyd-Jones: CJ mentioned this yesterday in his sermon at New Attitude. I've had this book for a while after I heard John Piper mention it, but finally am going to tackle it. It is 21 sermons that L-J had preached during his life on the spiritual nature of the Christian.
When People Are Big and God is Small - Ed Welch: This is probably going to be the most convicting book I read all summer - but oh, one that I definitely need to read. People pleasing - why is it such a part of what I do?
Reflections on the Psalms - C S Lewis: This is the final book of the personal times series, with some additional help from Bible Doctrines (Wayne Grudem). Since I am reading through the psalms this summer and working on obeying them - I thought I'd pick up this book.

Wow - this is a big list. One that is doable though. If I use my time more wisely than I have been - I could read a lot more!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

NewAttitude 08: The Word

What a great day. Spent it with two other wonderful ladies here in L-ville, and we went to the Sovereign Grace Ministries New Attitude Conference. For those unfamiliar: NA is a conference for college, singles, and young marrieds. This year it was on the Word of God.
Over at the New Attitude site you can find more info, but I just want to share some things from today's sessions:
Mark Dever: pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in DC. He is also a graduate of Duke, Cambridge, Southern, and more. So, pretty much - he's really smart. He spoke on skeptics and the Bible, the authority of the Bible for believers, and shared some of his testimony of how God led him out of agnosticism. The tough challenge he gave us at the end was: what part of the Word are you not obeying (where it doesn't have authority in your life)? Wow - way too many to name. God, purify me of those areas - cleanse me with your grace and your Word. Help me to love it more and more and see more and more of you!
Al Mohler, President of Southern Seminary here in L-ville. One of the most brilliant people I have ever met. Today - he got to do the only Q/A session and people flew in droves to the mics, though we only got to about 6 questions in an hour. His main purpose behind the questions he wanted: whatever would help them share the gospel more with the people the come in contact with. A heart for the gospel and academia. Brilliant. God - thank you for Mohler's hear and mind.
CJ Mahaney, former pastor of Covenant Life in Gaithersburg, MD and founder of Sov Grace. I was excited to hear this one because he was speaking on God's Word and our feelings. He preached out of Ps 42 and how we need to talk to ourselves more than we need to listen to ourselves: this is also found in D Martin Lloyd Jones, Tripp, and Jerry Bridges. Fantastic of course. I wish more pastors in SBC churches preached with the same passionate heard as an "uneducated (no college, seminary)" man would - that they would preach from their souls out of a love for a Savior - yes, this would come across in delivery. What good stuff. Stuff I need to hear every day! He told us to call God out on his promises! He will do them - He said he would do them didn't he? Classic CJ sermon!
Music was good and cross centered - very Sov Grace style. So good to be in a building where people were free to shout, raise their hands, clap, jump up and down, - all while singing theological deep and cross centered songs. Go figure?
Anyway - glad I had that bit of Sov Grace today. The Word - so precious!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Legacy of Sovereign Joy - John Piper

Hands down - these (the swans are not silent series) are my favorite Piper books. 4 books contained 3 biographies each of church father, pastors, authors, theologians, etc who have set the bar high for us doing in ministry in the 21st Century. This is the first one written, but it is the only one I hadn't read in the series. This one is about St. Augustine, Martin Luther, and John Calvin.
St. Augustine - Yes, I love the city - but this is about the church father who lived in the 400s.
"Loving God is being so satisfied in God and so delighted in all that He is for us that His commandments cease to be burdensome. We recover the root of all Christian living in the triumphant joy in God that dethrones the sovereignty of laziness and lust and greed." (58) One can see much of Piper's thoughts in this statement.
"The key to Christian living is a thirst and a hunger for God. And one of the main reasons people do not understand or experience the sovereignty of grace and the way it works through the awakening of sovereign joy is that their hunger and thirst for God is so small." (63) This reminds me of the Lewis quote that goes something like this: we settle for playing in the mud...
"We need to make plain that total depravity is not just badness, but blindness to beauty and deadness to joy." (73) We are sinful - and without the grace found in the cross and blood of Jesus - that God planned before time (Acts) - then we would never be able to see the beauty of God in a special revelation way - that leads to salvation.
"Or are we in bondage to the pleasures of this world so that for all our talk about the glory of God, we love television and food and sleep and sex and money and human praise just like everybody else? If so, let us repent and fix our faces like flint toward the Word of God." (74) - This is a daily thing for me. Continual sanctification.
Martin Luther - one of the leaders of the Reformation in the 1500s.
"A sense of mysterium tremendum, of the holiness of God, was to be characteristic of Luther throughout his life. It prevented pious routine from creeping into his relations with God and kept his Bible studies, prayers, or reading of the mass from declining into a mechanical matter of course: his ultimate concern in all these is the encounter with the living God." (85) Wow - this so isn't true of my life. So many times I come to Scripture because I have to read it - not living out that this WORD is the very Words of God - the breath of the Holy.
I asked a youth pastor one time what he liked to read - who were his favorite authors...he said, I don't really have any favorites because I like to read the Word - once I have read and studied that, I may turn to get more insight from somewhere else. This statement goes well with what Luther did: "to elevate the biblical text itself far above the teachings of commentators or church fathers." (93)
If you (or I) think we already read Scripture enough, here this: "In truth, you cannot read too much in Scripture, and what you read you cannot read too carefully, and what you read carefully you cannot understand too well, and what you understand well you cannot teach too well, and what you teach well you cannot live too well." (101)
John Calvin - whoever says they don't want to be "calvinist" - this man in this book is all about the Word of God - do we think we are above the infallible Word of God?
This is what I see happening in a lot of churches (even good ones) today: "I also saw that quite a lot of evangelical Christianity can easily slip, can become centered in me and my need of salvation, and not in the glory of God." (118)

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Doctrine of Original Sin

Ok - folks, I need some feedback.
In a fall I would like to teach a short segment to lay women about the doctrine of original sin. What are your thoughts? good books? questions?
Thanks in advance for any help!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Re:Think Conference 08 - Wrap-up

Well, I wasn't live blogging this event, but blogger supreme Alex Chediak was, so I'm not going to reinvent the wheel. He did a superb job. But, I do want to highlight some points that stood out to me. This conference was held this past Friday at Providence Baptist Church in Raleigh, NC. For those of you who couldn't make it, please contact Inquest and they have the podcasts of the sessions.
I hadn't personally heard any of the speakers that day - live that is. I have heard them on CD or read their writings, but this was a treat for me.
Daniel Renstrom band and the Shelley Moore Band led us in worship all day - that was great - Excellent worship, hymns, contemporary stuff, good!
Leon Tucker, one of the pastors at Providence, started us off on Friday morning. He is over all the education ministries at Providence. He spoke on Foundational Issues in Ministry. Toward the end he said something to the effect of the early church didn't have programs, ministries, etc. They had the Centrality of the Resurrected Christ. And look what happened. Spread of Christianity - everywhere, many saved! But, yet, we think we must have ministries and programs in our churches today to be effective. Those are not the telltale sign of a healthy church (or youth ministry).
David Horner, founding and still Senior Pastor of Providence, spoke next. His theology came through so strong in his talk. He talked about having the Fear of the Lord. We trivialize God so much in our every day language. Another point he made was that we must treasure the beauty of the Lord. Not just sing about him or "talk theology" but in every facet of life our walk should be pointing to the beauty of Jesus.
Dave O talked. He is college/missions pastor at Providence. What a dynamic speaker - very passionate. As he shared his testimony, he reminded me much of other college pastors I know who were saved a little later in life - and you can tell they are so passionate about Jesus, telling others about Him, and what they do. I think its because they remember what their lives were like before Christ. So often, I don't. But, they do. Oh, God, bring to mind that I was bound for hell before you. He gave us 4 things for ministry (and our lives) as we are passionate about bringing fame to God: saturated with the Bible, centered on the Gospel, devoted to the family, devoted to the local church. He made it a point to say the Word is glorious - not just a way to lead a moralistic therapeutic deist life.
Steve Wright, Student Minister at Providence and author of ReThink, spoke next. I had read a lot of what he said in his book. He did ask what the difference was between getting more people (in a youth group or other ministry) and glorifying God. He talked about family worship, parents discipling their own kids, and ministries based on the truths of the Word. The thing I liked most was meeting Steve and his wife, Tina. He was one of the most genuine and humble pastors I have met. He confessed where he went wrong and said he didn't do everything right. He was willing to say that not everything he did in youth ministry always worked. Not many youth pastors will willingly say that.
Dr. Randy Stinson ended the evening speaking on the church as a family. So many times in NT books we hear of the family in terms of our family and relationship in Christ. He shared examples of family discipleship within his own family. He told ideas of how churches could be families to people who had none or how ministries could work together to make them ministry-integrated.
What a great day. Excellent worship, Bible-centered ministry equipping, and seeing old friends, and meeting new - and being in Carolina! :)

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

reTHiNK: Steve Wright

I figured I would read this book (look to the left) now that I'm heading to the conference tomorrow. I've ordered tons of these and heard much about it since mid-fall here in L-ville. Steve Wright, student pastor at Providence Baptist Church in Raleigh, NC, has written a fantastic book on the church, youth, and family - how they can all work together. This book is not a typical youth program "how do build a bigger youth group" book. It is about how churches can strengthen and train parents in discipling their kids - and how the youth ministry can come alongside and equip them to do just that (as parents are the main disciplers of their children). This book is saturated with Scripture, insights from a person who has been in ministry a long time in different size churches and states, statistics on why current ways of doing youth ministry are just not successful, quotes from leading youth ministry experts, ideas from parents and students on what they have done to apply these ideas, etc. The only thing I would have done differently: put the regroup questions that were toward the end of the book (especially one about disengaged parents) at the front of the book. That is the one question I had during the whole read. What about those parents who aren't believers or who are "absent"? Anyway - here are some thoughts...
This is more of a personal intake thought, "When we do God's work God's way, then our lives should be marked with a badge of distinction - names soul rest, soul satisfaction, and soul sufficiency." (p 26)
"The solution isn't to kick the traditional student ministry model up a notch, the solution is to reexamine how the Bible should guide our framework to develop students and encourage the parents and adults who influence them." (p 31) This is why I really like Steve's book: it is biblical. It is not about programs or fun stuff or games or skits - it is about the Bible.
This is what I feel some churches (if not most) are doing: being relevant and cool. "Don't misunderstand, relevance is needed, and we want to be relevant to this generation, but have we placed a greater value on being culturally trendy than on faithfully presenting the Word." (p 61)
Here's the biblical mandate: "Dt 4.6-9" "All this repetition is more than coincidence, it makes it clear that the Shema is one of the most important passages in the OT, as it instructs parents with their God-given assignment to disciple their children." Now, I'm sure some will say, well, we don't live under the law, we live in the NT, under the cross. The Bible is a complete book - the OT is the very Truth out of God's mouth as well - All Scripture is God-breathed!
This is where churches come in: "We must equip parents with the tools and understanding to disciple their teens." (p 86)
I love this quote Steve uses from John Mac: "It is absolutely essential for the church to see itself as the institution established for the glory of God. The church has been reduced from an organism that emphasizes knowing and glorifying God to an organization that focuses on man's needs." (p 95)
This is a whole church process - not just the job of the youth pastor. It is also not just for churches the size of Providence - every church should and can be doing this. Steve offers suggestion for how he is doing things at Providence, and these simple ideas can be implemented at every church. Or, take the idea, listen to your parents and student helpers, and plan something just as great and incredible that will help your parents be the main disciplers of their teens.
Thank you Steve. Looking forward to Friday's conference in Raleigh.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Signs of a Biblical Husband/Father

I know it was Mother's Day yesterday, but this post is about husbands/fathers. Not that I am not thankful for godly mothers I am. (Mom, Phyllis, Lindsay W, Kim R, Elizabeth B, Danna S, Clarissa B, Angela S, Merriem F, Kasey F, Moriah T - all have shown me what it means to be a godly wife and mother and I am so thankful for them and their modeling).
But, I have been thinking about this topic for a while now - and saw such a great model for it this morning. I saw a friend of mine lead his family in a decision that had to be made, take steps to provide for his family no matter what God told him to do in order to do that, and to protect them by being obedient to God's moving. I was so excited to see that. Even though it wasn't easy - and it took diligence in praying and in seeking the face of God over matters that concern his family. I was excited to see that there are godly husbands and fathers out there willing to be a model not only for their family - but also for single men who need role models of what godly husbandry looks like. Thank you!
A friend and I were talking a few years ago - saying that men have it more tough then women when they get married. All the weight of providing for a family - both spiritually and financially - is on their shoulders. That would be so burdensome at times. But, there is strength and power in the Name of the Lord as it says so many times in Isaiah and the Psalms as well as other places in Scripture.
The Mothers that I named above - all of them have husbands like this. I know they are grateful - and so I am - that I have godly couples to look at as models of godly families.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

A Divine and Supernatural Light - Jonathan Edwards

This sermon was preached in New England in 1734. It was applicable then, it was informative to strike at heresies in the early church, and it is still applicable today re: the doctrine of regeneration and anonymous Christianity.
(On Jesus' statement to Peter, Matt 16.17)
"Thou art an happy man, that thou art not ignorant of this, that I am Christ, the Son of the Living God. Thou art distinguishingly happy." This thought - that we are able to know that Jesus is Who He says He is, only because of the grace of God, should make us happy. We have hope in this!
"But in the renewing and sanctifying work of the Holy Ghost, those things are wrought in the soul that are above nature, and of which there is nothing of the like kind in the soul by nature, and they are caused to exist in the soul habitually, and according to such a stated constitution or law, that lays such a foundation for exercises in a continued course, as is called a principle of nature." Or in other words: these revelations about Christ are not innate in us (special revelation, not general revelation) - they are given to the ones He has chosen to give them to through the Holy Spirit.
"But this spiritual light that I am speaking of, it reveals no new doctrine, it suggests no new proposition to the mind, it teaches no new thing of God, or Christ, or another world, not taught in the Bible, but only gives a due apprehension of those things that are taught in the Word of God." So, if anyone comes to you saying they have a "word from the Lord" and groundings for that truth cannot be found within the inerrant Word of God - you can dismiss it - because the Spirit will not work contrary to the Truth found in Scripture.
"He doesn't merely rationally believe that God is glorious, but he has a sense of the gloriousness of God in his heart." There is a difference between saying "I believe in Jesus" and having salvation. Satan believes there is a man named Jesus, he believes there is God - no way Satan is going to Heaven. Some evangelists will say "some people go to hell by the length of a ruler" - meaning a lot of people "know" Jesus, but not all those who know KNOW.
Ps 119.18 and 25.14 are good examples of this Edwardian thought. Romans 1 too.
So what...
"This doctrine may lead us to reflect on the goodness of God, that has so ordered it, that a saving evidence of the truth of the gospel is such, as is attainable by persons of mean capacities, and advantages, as well as those that are of the greatest parts and learning." This would help defeat gnosticism in the early church era. And I'm glad that I don't have to comprehend everything Jonathan Edwards ever wrote in order to go to heaven. God saved me not due to anything I could comprehend, but for His glory alone.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Stop Dating the Church - Harris

This weekend was spent in the Word, staying at home, asking some questions. This morning, Monday, God used a book to answer one of them. I have had this book for quite a while. JD mentioned it a long time ago when it first came out to really make college students think about plugging into a local church during their college years. I had it this book for a while, but never read it; until today. Even before I got out of the first chapter - I was convicted. God used it to answer a question I've had for 8 months now.
"Through the local church, we take part in His eternal plan to rescue men and women from their sin, and totally transform their lives. This is the mission of the church. Its our duty, our calling, and our privilege." (p 21) There must be a way for churches to be doctrinal and missional. This is what I like about Mark Driscoll - although I may not go as far as he does - he doesn't let up on core doctrine when trying to reach the people of his community (who look very different than other communities).
"The strongest argument I know for why you and I should love and care about the Church is that Jesus does. The greatest motivation we could ever find for being passionately committed to the Church is that Jesus is passionately committed to the Church." (p 31) If you want to read some other blogs of "church" - go to my friend's blog here - she has some interesting views on the church and how we can be a part of it, or go to 9 Marks. As a paraphrase of Ed Stetzer (SBC guru) - you can't love Jesus and hate his bride.
"We really do need the ministry of others, especially pastors, to encourage us, to help us apply God's word to our lives and to help us see our sins." (p 51) I am so thankful for the pastors in my life who have invested in me from Wayne Gibbs, Tommy Warnock, Bobby Crum, David Sims, Danny-Chris-Brad-JD, James and Jeremy, and am looking forward to serving with new ones now here in L-ville. These men love Jesus, showed me the gospel, and instilled leadership qualities in me, pointed me to Jesus in everything, and showed me what it means to be godly men who love their wives, families, and ministries. I hope you have a relationship with your pastor. Not that you have to be best friends with the pastors - but always be thankful for them (not just in pastor appreciation month which is in October).
"Consumer to communer" (p 59) I always thought I wasn't a "consumer" when it came to churches - but I think it is such a part of our society that if we don't guard against it - we will become consumers - as I did.
"The clear message of gospel should never be altered to make it more marketable." (p 89) See quote one up there...
My heart in ministry is to strengthen the church - discipleship, missions, strengthening the inner workings of a church. Seeing the local body of believers go throughout the world. Church and missions ought to go hand in hand. So, now I finally get to pour into one here. And am very excited about that. So, here goes...

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Respectable Sins - Jerry Bridges

I have been wanting to read this new book by Jerry Bridges since it came out - and it did not disappoint. I have used it this week to prepare me for this weekend...reading the first chapters before today - then reading the specific "sin" chapters in a time of confession and journaling today before the Lord.
I compare this book (sorta) with The Mortification of Sin by Puritan pastor/theologian John Owen. That book is a chore to read and digest. This one is much easier to read (maybe because it was written in 2007 and not the 1600s) and is also I think more focused on grace. Bridges concentrates on the fact that even though we have these sins - we are covered by the blood of Christ who bought our righteous standing before God the Father. We used to bear the wrath of God - now we are covered in Jesus' blood. But, as Paul says, we should not go on abounding in sin - therefore, we have this book.
Much of my thought today as been good. I come to the chapter title and say "well, here we go, ugh, not this one, yup - I struggle with that". Sometimes I struggle with the issue more than others. But, thanks be to the Spirit - I have been able to say that is all grace, help me in my weakness. In one chapter I said "yeah, I don't struggle with this because I do this to help me not struggle with it. Oh, but most of my motives for doing that aren't good - they are rooted in pride." See what I mean.
Bridges says the core of all sin is ungodliness. "Living one's everyday life with little or no thought of God, or of God's will, or of God's glory, or of one's dependence on God." (p 54) Some of the sins I struggle with more than others were: envy, evil speech (Eph 4.29 is the negation of ALL speech that does not bring grace to the hearer), pride, judgmentalism (oh how so often I do this), selfishness.
The other day I got an email asking to describe the person who sent it to me in one word. I did; she described me back. Her use of her word to describe me provoked two things in me: gratefulness for the body of Christ (as a sister in Christ she affirms this in me), and ugliness in me because I know all the areas in my heart that negate the word she chose to use. This is the idea behind respectable sins.
I would highly recommend this book to anyone - as well as any other Jerry Bridges book.
"Remember that our progressive sanctification - that is, our putting off sin and putting on Christlikeness - rests on two foundation stones: the righteousness of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit." (p. 181)