Tuesday, July 29, 2008

What If People Stopped Reading?

Writing in The New Yorker, Caleb Crain warns that literary reading is fast disappearing as Americans are shifting attention to amusements. In "The Twilight of the Books," Crain cites a number of research reports from both the United States and the Netherlands and argues that we are just not reading as previous generations had read. Book sales per person are falling, reading scores at many grade levels are falling, and this generation of parents is producing a generation of young people who do not read books—and generally feel no loss ...

The impact of all this is more significant than some might think. Only 13 percent of Americans are thought to be able to take two contrasting newspaper editorials and come to a reasoned comparison. Then again, many Americana are not reading newspapers in the first place. This has obvious implications for our national discourse and politics.

For Christians, the concern must reach even deeper levels of concern. Christians are a "people of the Book." Our knowledge of God, the Gospel, and all things essential to our faith is found within a book, the written text of the Bible. Beyond this, while Christian witness is often oral in transmission, the survival of the church depends upon the availability of the Bible as the church's living witness to Jesus Christ. Put simply, Christians who are not deeply involved in a growing understanding of the Bible will find their faith fed, fueled, and formed by something other than the Bible.

According to a July 2004 Newsweek article, "Waiting for the Movie," young
adults between 18 and 34—category once known as the most active readers—now read the least dropping 28 percent since 1982.

Publishers seem to do the opposite in spite of this trend. Two decades ago,
the number of new books published annually in the United States was around
60,000. That figure, according to R.R. Bowker, the U.S. ISBN agency, climbed to
more than 100,000 in the early 1990s. Last year saw a record 164,609 titles

So. . . if fewer people than ever are reading, why are more books than ever being published? Is there a connection to the growth of the blogosphere? More & more people feel that they have something to say, feed their egos, etc.

And so they blog.

Being a writer used to be seen as something for a professional - even a little bit exotic. And like a child who announced that she was going into acting, the response from parents was the same when the chosen career field was writing - it just wasn't practical. "How will you make a living?" was the inevitable response.

So many blogs - especially in the early days of the blogosphere - were nothing more than one's private diary, no longer private, but now shared with the world.
But once in a great while, a personal blog comes along that is more than a diary, but is just a personal. More than that, the author has something valuable to say.

Which brings me to one of the newest book titles out there - in fact, it's so new that it's not even available yet. The title is Just Enough Grace: Reflections on Ordinary Miracles by Heather Nations. It's the very first book that we at ACWI will be producing in our brand-new division, ACW Publications. When we first read some samples of Heather's writing on her blog, here’s what we said:

  • She has a unique, very readable, voice–one that is comfortable for most readers.
  • She has the common touch, yet communicates deeply profound insights.
  • She is not "religious"–yet it is clear that her faith underlies everything she thinks and does.

It’s this last point that really connected with me personally. It’s central to what we at ACWI are all about: training and discipling Christians to live out a Biblical worldview in all areas of our lives.

You can get a sneak preview of the book right here.

And because you'll LOVE what you read, you can pre-order copies by dropping us an email.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Brown Bag

According to the magazine “The Week”, the brown bag is returning. Well, I am not surprised. The brown bag makes its appearance when the economy dips and bottoms. To the common man and woman the brown bag is the mainstay of the working world and of the educational world. Kids in the past knew the brown bag and now others will become acquainted with this old helper as well.

R. Alan Cole, in his book “Exodus” made an interesting comment on the Ten Commandments, “These commandments were after all addressed to the ordinary Israelites, not to the religious elite of the day: they are expressed in strong simple terms, understandable to all, and deal with the temptations of common man not of the theologian.” Interesting to know that the “brown bag” and The Ten Commandments” are specific for the common man.

Have you ever really “gotten” into some one’s face? Getting into someone’s face is a very common saying, but not always a very common act for the common person. Some people talk a lot about their ventures into some persons face, but I think it is rather talk.

With God the concept of face is not just talk. In the First Commandment, Exodus 20:3, God says, "You shall have no other gods before me.” Literally, “You shall have no other God “to my face”. “To my face” seems more direct to me, because the whole holy concept of “to my face” calls for an exclusive personal relationship. God does not want any interference with His relationship with me or us.

For me the concept calls for my submission to His identity as God. Then there is my acknowledgement of trust in Him, that what God says He will do, He will. Lastly, that I am His possession and that He will attend to me.

Strong simple terms are express by this commandment. I think I only pay heed to these terms when provoked by the Spirit. It is like the brown bag, there when I need it, forgotten otherwise. Lord, I wish it was not this way, because the Commandments are the mainstay of conduct.

What was it that you treasured most being put in your brown bag?

The bag is open.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Faith and Cell Phones

Growing up in the church, there was many concepts that baffled my mind. One of them was the topic of, faith. When I was young, my pastor explained that faith was like someone jumping off a cliff and hoping that something will prevent the jumper from being spread out across the ground below. This analogy stuck with me for the longest time, but when I tried to have faith that was like leaper, nothing happened. Then I read in scripture that many people were commended for their example of faith in Hebrews, but their stories did not seem to match my life. I thought that they must have been given a special dose of faith that would hit me when I became an adult. Now as an adult, I have come to dismiss this analogy of faith. Why? I think that faith is one of the biggest struggles and most vital elements of in our relationship with the Lord of the universe. A search in our bibles find the word come up over four hundred times and we see that our salvation is found through faith alone in Jesus' work on the cross for our sins. However, due to the fact that our society is becoming increasingly bored with the simple and fast-pace has become the only way to live, we lose sight of faith on a daily basis and there is quite a large amount of danger when this happens.

For example, if we look at the activities we engage in the course of a day, each activity involves faith. When we wake up in the morning, we have faith that our house will still be in one piece after the evening, our shower will pour out water, our food has not gone bad, our car will be able to provide transportation, we will still have a job, etc and etc. However, all of these examples of faith are examples of items we can encounter through our five senses and because of our faith in our perception, we believe these all to be trustworthy. My question is, are they? Equally valid is the question, have they always been trustworthy? Many of the inventions we trust on are from the hands and minds of our fellow man, which even though have increased the longevity and joy of our lives, they are pass away one day. It is difficult to imagine a life where we will not have internet capable phones, cars running on gasoline, but we should not keep our faith to the things that we are able to encounter. I'm not suggesting that we drive with our eyes closed our eat bread with mold on it, but I think if our faith is firmly rooted in the one who is not flawed and who is steadfast and true, faith in other items will come.

An example of this is a couple of days ago, I went on a road trip with some friends to Magic Mountain theme park in California. We had a great time riding the roller coasters, building friendships but for one moment I did not enjoy the trip. I had a couple of days earlier lost my cell phone and received a new one right before going on the trip. I was being very careful not to lose it until, one moment I reached to get my phone out and it was no longer there. My first reaction was to panic and search the areas that I was last in and search for my missing phone. After not finding the phone, I began to do something that should have been my first response, I prayed. I thanked the Lord for being faithful and that ultimately, He was the one who provided me a phone to use. I continued to pray and recall to my mind scriptures that were reminders of His faithfulness. The remainder of the day, I constantly reminded myself of these truths as I attempted to enjoy the remainder of the day and when I went to lost and found, I came back to my group of friends without my phone. We prayed again corporately and headed out to dinner. We sat down for dinner and one of my friends who called my phone hourly, received a phone call from my lost phone! Someone had found my phone and we made arrangements to pick up my lost phone.

Many times, this is how faith comes out in our lives, when we are deeply troubled and things seem to crash down before us, we pray to the Lord and remind ourselves of truth. I'm not saying that this is a wrong response, but I believe that this response should be ours in the seasons of life that are filled with joy, not just the ones filled with pain. It is difficult to have faith, but the more we remind ourselves of the Lord's continual faithfulness, the more we will be able to stand strong in the good seasons and the bad seasons of life. Look at the life of Abraham, he was praised for his faith, he left his hometown, he continued to trust God in the midst of trials and God was faithful. Not because of any of the works of Abraham, but because God's character is filled with steadfast love and faithfulness. If he wasn't steadfast or faithful, we would still have to work to obtain our salvation, but He was and we are able to trust Him because He ultimately gave us our greatest need in life, Jesus Christ. How much more can He assist us when we wonder how we will pay the bills next month, when we will find a spouse, what we'll do when we complete college.

It is difficult to trust someone or something we do not see, but let us take comfort in the following truth, "..in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him." (Hebrews 2:8) There is nothing outside of his rule, no elected official will surprise His sovereign rule, the fact that man rebelled against Him or that His son was used as a sacrifice for His people, nothing is outside of His jurisdiction or control.

Take comfort in this brothers and sisters, He was steadfast so that we didn't have to be and He will continue to be steadfast, even when we are faithless. Let us not look at faith as blindly jumping off a cliff, but let us trust the Lord through good times and bad ones we will encounter. Take greater comfort that there will come a day that we will be with Him forever in heaven and we will no longer need faith!

Monday, July 21, 2008

For Your Reading Pleasure. . .

WARNING: Shameless Plug Ahead.

Maybe you've heard. . . maybe you haven't. ACWI is expanding its reach. Although I have mentioned in previous posts to this blog about our desire to expand the Every Square Inch radio program to Tucson, that's not what I'm talking about.

No, it's not radio at all; it's books.

We designed ACWI with the intent to minister in "media" - in whatever forms the Lord might lead us. And now, we are rapidly moving forward with our first publishing endeavor, titled Just Enough Grace: Reflections on Ordinary Miracles. You can learn more at the website of our new publishing division, ACW Publications or at the author's blog, here.

Just Enough Grace is one woman's journey through parenting,
homeschooling, cancer, her husband’s job loss, the subsequent cross-country move
(in the midst of cancer treatments), and the on-going changes and challenges of
everyday life with four kids. Yet through it all, she sees God’s hand and hears
His still small voice. One of the biggest lessons she’s learned is that God
gives us just enough grace—just enough for the moment, for the specific
situation that we’re in right now.
Be listening to Every Square Inch in the coming weeks for an intervew with the author, Heather Nations. And be watching this blog for more information as we come closer to our release date of Octobber 1.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Old Lies

Matthew 4:1-4, Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, "If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread." But he answered, "It is written, "'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'"

In this Bible narrative the devil used his usual lies.

I spent my vacation in 1984 reading a very absorbing and disturbing book on the subject of evil. It was M. Scott Peck’s, People of the Lie: the Hope for Healing Human Evil. It has been one of the most profound books I have ever read on evil. Peck was a psychiatrist and treated many different psychiatric conditions and he made moral judgments about some people with these psychiatric conditions calling these people “evil”

Peck “gives some identifying characteristics for evil persons. An evil person:

  • Projects his or her evils and sins onto others and tries to remove them from others
  • Maintains a high level of respectability and lies incessantly in order to do so
  • Is consistent in his or her sins. Evil persons are characterized not so much by the magnitude of their sins, but by their consistency
  • Is unable to think from other people's viewpoints.”

I add another characteristic from my non psychiatric experience, denial. Evil persons consistently deny their evil, to the community and themselves. Not only are there evil persons but there are evil groups. I believe that the evil characteristics are the same for the groups, however I think they intensify.

Matthew 4:5-7, Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, "'He will command his angels concerning you,' and "'On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.'" Jesus said to him, "Again it is written, 'You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.'"

Where would we find the operatives or people of the lie in our society?

In the market place there are hucksters that become the people of the lie; their lies go to our comfort:

§ Buy my washing machine service contract and you never have to worry about a repair.
§ Your fuel charges will decrease when we drill off shore.
§ The economy will improve with $1200 stimulus for couples.
§ Yes, we have decreased the packaged amount and are keeping the price the same as before for your convenience.

In the political arena, the lie continues with leaders protecting our well being:

§ Our military personnel are receiving the best in medical care on a consistent basis.
§ Yes, we vetoed the partial birth abortion ban because it preserves women’s rights.
§ Tell the public only what we think they should hear.
§ Same sex couple’s marriage is perfectly normal and is good for society.

In the church form, where there should not be a people of the lie, we are shocked by those who minister to us:

§ Clarity is over rated. Shock, obscurity, playfulness, and intrigue often stimulate more thought than clarity.
§ Protected child molesters.
§ Homosexuals should be on the same plain as any other believer; after all they are children of God.

I am too willing to ignore some of the lies that are affecting my life. However, it is wise to for me to take a good look at lies, to examine them fully, and to talk to others about the significance of the lies that haunt my every day existence. The above lies are only a token of the lies confronting the Christian.

Matthew 4:8-11, again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, "All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me." Then Jesus said to him, "Be gone, Satan! For it is written, "'You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.'" Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.

Let the conversation begin.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Spice it Up!

I love to cook, and I think I'm becoming increasingly better at it. As a matter of fact, I think my husband's and my unfortunate waistline expansion over this year is evidence that I might be a little too good at it. Anyway, I was making a dish the other day that just didn't seem right. I did what the recipe said, but the dish lacked a certain something. So, like any good Southern cook, I improvised- a little spice here, a little cheese there, serve it with some cornbread and Viola! Sheer Excellence! Being a part of a church body can be the same way.

We go to church and listen to sermons, participate in group study, and maybe even volunteer to teach Sunday School. Inevitably, a time will come when one church member or another doesn't feel like they are getting enough. "I need more meat" is what Christians love to say, of course referring to spiritual milk and meat which is referenced in Hebrews. This is a major reason (or excuse) for many Christians who leave a particular church, or group in that church. Of course, this action is sometimes necessary, especially if the church is not bible-believing, or honoring true and right theology. Even so, in instances where the church is bible-believing and theologically sound, is dropping out necessary if something isn't going exactly how you think it should? I think not.

Take my cooking story as an example: if something doesn't taste exactly the way you want, do always dump it out and start over? No! You add seasonings, change the heat, etc. You do everything you can do to make it edible. I think we should take that approach to church membership.

If the teaching of a certain group or class is not up to your standards, offer to help. Ask questions. Give input regarding subject matter and resources for study materials. Offer your opinions (at an appropriate time, of course). On a larger scale, if the church lacks in ministry opportunity, start a new ministry or work to expand an existing one. For a practical example, if you think the church doesn't meet the needs of the Special Needs population in the community, start a sign-language class. If you don't feel that the youth program is solid, help the leaders find better materials. Offer your time or some specific suggestions on how to better minister to teenagers. It's also important to include time as a factor when considering improvement in a church setting. Most of the time, your consistent support and grace will be much more beneficial to not only the church body, but to also to your spiritual growth. As one of my favorite quotes from some obscure devotional says "Grow where you are planted."

Monday, July 14, 2008

A Response to "The Ministry of Women"

NEW YORK — Non-Orthodox Jewish men are becoming alienated from their faith, a "crisis" that
foreshadows a rise in interfaith marriages and secular generations, according to a new study from Brandeis University

The findings, based on 300 interviews, report the rise of female leadership and participation in Reform, Reconstructionist and Conservative Judaism has prompted men to opt out of religious activities, in contrast to Orthodox Judaism, which still requires men for traditional worship
and family life.

"The past four decades have contradicted thousands of years where men were the primary (leaders) in terms of religious roles," said Lindsey Fieldman, spokeswoman for the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute, which released the study this week.

With women currently outnumbering men in weekly non-Orthodox worship services, adult education classes, volunteer leadership positions and cultural events, the study concludes that non-Orthodox groups should create programs aimed specifically at engaging boys. The earlier the better, the study reports, because alienated Jewish men are more likely to marry
non-Jewish women, taking them and their children farther away from the synagogue.

The Reform movement has struggled with its growing gender gap for years, stunned by a two-to-one ratio of women to men entering the rabbinical class in its Hebrew Union College in 2005. Last year, the movement launched a three-year campaign to address the problem, called "Where Have all the Young Men Gone?"

[According to] Jonathan Sarna, American Jewish history professor at Brandeis University, "I don't think we need a fancy Jewish explanation for what's going on. Non-Orthodox Judaism is becoming more like American religion as a whole, which has been largely female."

As a result, Sarna believes, Americans will begin seeing a marked increase in all-male activities sponsored by churches and synagogues, pausing or reversing efforts to raise the status of women in congregations.

Hmmm. . . The Hadassah-Brandeis spokeswoman said, "The past four decades have contradicted thousands of years where men were the primary (leaders) in terms of religious roles."

And some people wonder why we now have a variety of popular books such as:

Why Men Hate Going to Church. The publisher's description says, "Arguing that many churches create a man-hostile environment, Murrow offers detailed explanations of resulting male/female imbalances."

How Women Help Men Find God. The publisher's description says, "Do guys in your life seem allergic to Christianity? Explore the deep spiritual needs of men and why the local church often fails to engage them."

Of course, one question that Eutychus didn't address was "How do we define 'leadership?'" Also, do the Scriptures point toward an "egalitarian" or "complementarian" position? [The complementarian view is summed up as: "men and women are equal in the image of God, but maintain complementary differences in role and function."]

For further food for thought, see

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Ministry of Women

Imagine, a women President of the United States of America. It will happen, as it has in the corporate world with women CEO’s and in the professional arena with chief officers. While in the military I served under a Chief Nurse that was the most decorated woman soldier in the Army.

What has happened in the church and denominational forum concerning women in leadership? I wonder! Who are the women leaders in the churches today? Is there a record of the past and who might have happen in leadership?

Look at the early church:
Romans 16:1-2, “ I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church at Cenchreae, that you may welcome her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints, and help her in whatever she may need from you, for she has been a patron of many and of myself as well.” and Romans 16:7 “Greet Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.” Of Junia, an early church father John Chrysostom said, “How great is the devotion of this woman that she should be counted worthy of the name of an apostle!” Homily on Romans.

Consider the leadership of Priscilla with her husband Aquila in Acts.
Acts 18:24-27 “Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him and explained to him the way of God more accurately. And when he wished to cross to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.”

I may recite the great ministry of these grand ladies, but there is reluctance to allow women into leadership ministry today. Currently the parameters of women’s ministry stand in question in the church and denominational arenas. Today there are two schools of Biblical thought on the subject of “the ministry of women”. The more accepted position can be found in Wayne Grudem’s, excellent book Systematic Theology and the less accepted in A.J. Gordon’s article, The Ministry of Women.

A.J. Gordon made an observation in 1894, “…that the plain reading of the New Testament makes a different impression on the mind. That may be so on two grounds; first, on that of traditional bias; and second, on that of unfair translation. Concerning the latter point, it would seem as though the translators of our common version wrought (continue to point out), at every point where this question (women’s ministry) occurs, under the shadow of Paul’s imperative, “Let your women keep silence in the churches”.” It seems to me the bias is not by the Scriptures but by the translations and the mindsets behind the translations. With the gender religious social issues today, especially today, where does this relegate the women’s ministry issue? Where does this relegate women?

As a solution, I would propose the starting point offered by A.J. Gordon:
The Scriptures just mentioned are from the prophet Joel, and are realized at Pentecost and noted as the Magna Charta of the Christian Church.

Let the conversation continue.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Summer Books

There are many activities associated with the summer. Longer days, weather becoming increasingly hot, going vacations to visit family and friends, eating watermelon, watching fireworks, but I think there is one missing. Reading books. Since learning how to read at a young age, I have loved reading. Of course, there are topics that I enjoy reading over others. For instance, as a child I loved reading the World Almanac series and sports statistics books, but now as an a college student I've enjoyed a different series of books. One of my problems with attending college is that you can never find enough time to read the books you want to read. Well it can be done, but I don't like running around on limited sleep. So, I've collected some of the books I've been meaning to read and decided to read all of them before I go back to school in August.

Here's my list:

Dale Carnegie's Lifetime Plan For Success: (How To Win Friends and Influence People & How To Stop Worrying and Start Living)

These books have always been in my shelf but I have never finished each of them. A couple of weeks ago, I found both books in a single volume on sale for 8 dollars, so I am going to knock two birds out with one stone.

Letters of Charles Haddon Spuregon
I've re-discoverd my love for Spuregon this year and I enjoy reading books that show the humanity side of heroes of mine.

God is the Gospel, John Piper
I have not finished this wonderful book since I bought it during the five dollar sale DG had last year. What a great guide into understanding the implications of the gospel message!

Martin Luther: A Guided Tour Through His Life and Thought, Stephen J.Nichols
Luther has always been someone I have admired, but I sadly have not known that much information about him. This book has proved to be a great insight into one of my top five theologians.

On The Edge of The Dark Sea of Darkness, Andrew Peterson
Andrew Peterson is a great singer-songwriter, he has now decided to write a children's novel. Made up words, wit, and great story-telling is waiting to be read!

Relationships: A Mess Worth Making, Tim Lane and Paul Tripp
I have set up one of my goals for this year to grow in loving and serving people. Not just those whom I am comfortable with, but all people. This book was recommended to me by someone who lives an example in my life as one who loves and serves people genuinely.

The Middle Mind: Why Americans Don't Think For Themselves, Curtis White
I was fascinated by this book's title, so I purchased it. It was in the one dollar section of the grocery store. I always feel bad for authors whose works have found their home in this untimely section of society.

Bring Your Vision To Life, Ralph McCall
My sister brought me this book from Swizerland and she claimed it was very helpful. I want to grow in becoming a man of vision and this seems to be a tool that will help me grow in this area.

Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith, Anne Lamott
Once again, this is one of my sister's books. It looked like a fun read, anytime anyone is looking at religon from the outside, it is a fun adventure.

God's Politics, Jim Wallis
It's election year, I'm no longer a Republican nor have I become a Democrat. However, I think this book advocates some thoughts that have been swirling around in my head for awhile. Plus, this book supposedly served as a a launching point for many of the ideas Derek Webb put down for the Mockingbird/Ringing Bell albums.

The Spiritual Gift of Discernment, Tim Challies
A blogger from Canada writing about discernment, I have enjoyed reading his blog for some time now and I have read many good reviews of this book. Plus, I desire to grow in discernment.

Dedication and Leadership, Douglas Hyde
This book was given to me at TeenPact many moons ago. "A former communist leader becomes a Christian and tells how to become a better leader." --what they told me. Cynicism aside, I am wanting to grow in leading, so this might provide insight.

John Newton: From Disgrace To Amazing Grace, Jonathan Atiken
I remember hearing an episode of the radio show, Adventures in Odyssey about the man who wrote the hymn, Amazing Grace and how God miraculously worked in his life.

Hunger for God: Desiring God Through Fasting and Prayer, John Piper
I have always been mystified by the whole concept of fasting, it is my hope that this books sheds light into it..

That's my list, what are you reading?

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

So what's your story?

The Presbyterian Church (USA) lost more than 57,000 members last year, the
denomination's largest decline since 1981, church leaders announced at a
churchwide General Assembly in San Jose, Calif.

The 2.5% drop brings active membership in the Presbyterian Church (USA)
to 2.2 million, but it remains the nation's largest Presbyterian denomination. . .

Like many mainline Protestant churches, the church has experienced a
decades-long drop in membership, with church rolls declining every year since
the denomination was formed in 1983, according to church researchers.

Twelve congregations joined other denominations in 2007, and 71
churches were dissolved, according to the Presbyterian Church (USA).

About 130 churches in total have threatened to leave or have left the
denomination because of disagreements about homosexuality and the Bible.

How many of us are now members of a Biblical church after some time in a more theologically liberal (read: non-Biblical, or to be more charitable, less Biblical) church? Are you a part of this move away from declining liberal churches - maybe not the PCUSA specifically, but some branch of Christainity that has turned its nose up at Biblical authority?

If so, what led to the change?
I'd like to know.

As for myself, my childhood was officially in the United Presbyterian Church (now the PCUSA). My early teen years were spent in the wilderness until Christ called me by name at age 16. College years were spent wandering though various denominations trying to figure out which one(s) were true. My seminary education was with the Reformed Church in America; it wasn't until after I had my M.Div. degree that I came to really understand what Biblical authority was about. I realized that we can't pick & choose, cut and paste, and "cherry-pick" just those Bible verses that we like and claim that the rest
  • aren't relevant to our culture today
  • aren't true
  • aren't really God's Word

and so ignore them - just because we don't like them (they don't make us feel good).

It was a long, slow process, but God finally got it through my thick head. I tell folks that it was after seminary that I finally grew a brain.

So what's your story?

Monday, July 7, 2008

Without Welching


“Any written document must be interpreted if it is to be understood. The United States of America has nine highly skilled individuals whose daily task is to interpret the Constitution. They comprise the Supreme Court of the land. To interpret the Bible is a far more solemn task than to interpret the U.S. Constitution. It requires great care and diligence.

The Bible itself is its own Supreme Court. The chief rule of biblical interpretation is "sacred Scripture is its own interpreter." This principle means that the Bible is to be interpreted by the Bible. What is obscure in one part of Scripture may be made clear in another. To interpret Scripture by Scripture means that we must not set one passage of Scripture against another passage. Each text must be understood not only in light of its immediate context but also in light of the context of the whole of Scripture.

In addition, properly understood, the only legitimate and valid method of interpreting the Bible is the method of literal interpretation. Yet there is much confusion about the idea of literal interpretation. Literal interpretation, strictly speaking, means that we are to interpret the Bible as it is written. A noun is treated as a noun and a verb as a verb. It means that all the forms that are used in the writing of the Bible are to be interpreted according to the normal rules governing those forms. Poetry is to be treated as poetry. Historical accounts are to be treated as history, Parables as parables, hyperbole as hyperbole, and so on.

In this regard, the Bible is to be interpreted according to the rules that govern the interpretation of any book. In some ways the Bible is unlike any other book ever written. However, in terms of its interpretation, it is to be treated as any other book.

The Bible is not to be interpreted according to our own desires and prejudices. We must seek to understand what it actually says and guard against forcing our own views upon it. It is the sport of heretics to seek support from Scripture for false doctrines that have no basis in the text. Satan himself quoted Scripture in an illegitimate way in an effort to seduce Christ to sin (Matthew 4:1-11).

The basic messages of the Bible are simple enough and clear enough for a child to understand. Yet the meat of Scripture requires careful attention and study to understand it properly. Some matters treated by the Bible are so complex and profound that they keep the finest scholars perennially engaged in an effort to sort them out.

There are a few principles of interpretation that are basic for all sound study of the Bible. They include the following:
(1) Narratives should be interpreted in light of "teaching" passages. For example, the story of Abraham offering Isaac on Mount Moriah might suggest that God didn't know that Abraham had true faith. But the didactic portions of Scripture make it clear that God is omniscient.
(2) The implicit must always be interpreted in light of the explicit; never the other way around. That is, if a particular text seems to imply something, we should not accept the implication as correct if it goes against something explicitly stated elsewhere in Scripture.
(3) The laws of logic govern biblical interpretation. If, for example, we know that all cats have tails, we cannot then deduce that some cats do not have tails. If it is true that some cats do not have tails, then it cannot also be true that all cats have tails. This is not a matter merely of technical laws of inference; it is a matter of common sense. Yet the vast majority of erroneous interpretations of the Bible are caused by illegitimate deductions from the Scripture.

1. The Bible is its own interpreter.

2. We must interpret the Bible literally-as it is written.

3. The Bible is to be interpreted like any other book.

4. Obscure parts of the Bible are to be interpreted by the clearer parts.

5. The implicit is to be interpreted in light of the explicit.

6. The rules of logic govern what can reasonably be drawn or deduced from Scripture.”

R.C. Sproul, Essential Truths of the Christian Faith

I found comfort in the truth of this article. The comfort comes at a time when my position on Scripture (stated above) is offensive and now I am a “blasphemer”. My ego does not need the comfort, my friendship does, what has been left. I refused to blink and I refused to pick up the glove.

“We are called upon by the Lord to contend earnestly for the faith (Jude 3). That does not necessarily involve being contentious; but it involves avoiding compromise, standing forth for what we believe, stand­ing forth for the truth of God—without welching at any particular moment.”
Roger Nicole

Let the conversation continue.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

It's All About Supporting One Another!

As you probably know, this blog is part of Arizona Christian Worldview Institute (ACWI), a discipleship and training ministry whose primary means of ministry is through the media, mainly radio & publishing (more about the new publishing venture in future posts!).

Saturday mornings at 7:00 AM, we broadcast Every Square Inch - The Arizona Christian Worldview Hour, where we discuss what it means to live all of our lives - every square inch - before the face of God. We help listeners discover a biblical worldview and integrate that view into every square inch of their lives. You can listen at KPXQ 1360 AM - or online. Listen live on Saturday mornings at kpxq1360.com, or listen to the archives at kpxq1360.net.

Like most radio programs, we have advertisers, but to be honest, our advertisers only provide 28% of our broadcast expenses. The rest of our support comes from the listeners and friends of the ministry. I'd encourage you to become one of our supporters - just click here with a GENEROUS gift! And yes, we are a 501(c)(3) non-profit, so your donation is tax-free!
Many thanks!

Friday, July 4, 2008

Just Words?

I apologize for posting out of turn - I wrote this Wednesday but have not been online to get it posted...

“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America. And to the republic for which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

I want to take a few minutes today to discuss these simple sentences, and more over the words contained in them. No doubt most American readers have repeated this pledge at one point or another. In fact I expect that most of you have memorized these sentences. There may be some of our younger readers that have not memorized the pledge ore worse yet, there may be some that have never heard it. That said, the more common deficiency in today’s culture is the lack of respect, understanding, and gravity with which this pledge is often offered. I want to take a few minutes here and break this pledge into its component parts – its words. I hope that the reader will take a minute to think carefully about what is being said here, and to consider this a serious oath the next time they have an opportunity to repeat the words.

  • “I” – Yep – this is personal. YOU are making a pledge.
  • “Pledge” – To promise, to avow, to commit.
  • “Allegiance” – To be an ally of, to show loyalty, perhaps service, protection towards that person or thing.

Let’s pause here for a second – the first three words are critical here. “I pledge allegiance” means something. They mean that the person speaking is making a promise to be loyal, to serve, to protect, that thing or person. This is not a trivial thing. But do we say it casually?

  • “(to the) Flag (of the)” – A banner that is the symbol or standard of our nation
    “United States of America” – the nation in which we live
  • “(and to the) Republic (for which it stands)” – a republic is a particular form of government in which the people elect representatives to lead in their best interest. The United States of America is a democratic republic. While a republic is certainly a democratic form of government, it is important to distinguish it from a pure “majority rule” type of democracy. The masses elect (hopefully) wise leaders who then govern – some time making decisions that are not fully supported by the majority of the populous.
  • “one nation” – While the United States of America is made up of fifty states, we are indeed one nation.

I think that this is a good place for another pause. We have established that in the first three word the speaker (you… or me…) is pledging their allegiance. Now the object of that pledge comes into focus. I think that it is somewhat unfortunate that the object in the first position in this pledge is the flag – because I believe that the second object is the true focus of our allegiance. We are pledging allegiance to the flag as a symbolic reference to our allegiance to our nation, our republic. We are promising to be loyal to our nation, to serve it, to protect it, to act in its best interest. Additionally, we are calling out that no mater what state we are from we are part of one nation.

Now – Here is the kicker…

  • “under God” – We are asserting here our recognition that we are a nation that is founded operates under the will of God.
  • “with liberty and justice for all.” – we are asserting the assumption that as a nation founded “under God” we are committed to the idea that we must assure liberty and justice – that these are core principles of our national identity.

How many times have you given this pledge? The last time you said these words did you think about the true meaning – or did you just say them with the crowd? Were you challenged by the reality of the condition of our nation? Did you ask yourself how a nation founded under God, with a system of laws based almost completely on Judeo-Christian values could operate in a manner so radically inconsistent with these values? If did not grapple with these things I would suggest that you should have. If you DID think about them – did you also think about the fact that you were making a pledge? Did seriously commit to your allegiance to your nation or were these “just words” to you? If you did not make that commitment I’d challenge you to considering forgoing the pledge next time you are in a group that is giving it – or better yet, to commit yourself to honoring the pledge. If you truly make this commitment, and you are a Christian, here is one more incentive to ensure that all you do, in all facets of your life, is consciously aligned to God’s word and will.

Happy Independence Day!

Celebrating Faithfulness Over Independence

I squinted at the clock, it was only 8 am but it felt much earlier due to the lack of sleep I had received the night before. My roommate and I were driving to church and it seemed like the Sunday was like the Sundays that preceded this one. However, we were listening to Christian radio which we have not done before. As someone who was born and raised in the church, I have grown to dislike the Christian culture that is in America. But that's for another topic for another time. My roommate on the other hand, had not been raised in a Christian home and God regenerated his heart two years ago. It's been encouraging to see that he not become cynical or jaded towards the Christian movement like I have. The radio show we were listening to was conducting an interview with an author of a book who was claiming that America was going down in flames and it could be prevented by people falling on their knees and pleading with the Lord for America but also repenting for their sins.

As much as I tried to forget about this author's passionate plea, I think he raised some valid points but overall, I believe he is wrong. And today of all days, illustrates why I believe this author has missed the point. Today, we are going to be celebrating the two hundred and thirty-fourth celebration of America's independence from Great Britain. it is a day filled with watermelon, fireworks but more importantly, expressing our gratefulness to our Creator for allowing us to be free. I think that this last point can be missed in the joy of the holiday. There are many gifts that God has given to our country that we take for granted on a daily basis, we must remember that it is God who has given them to us. However, our country is constantly changing, with this change comes new struggles. I don't think they are new for humanity but I think they are struggles that have always been prevalent in society, the problem is that all men, women and children have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

If we were to look back in history, we can see that history tends to repeat itself. Almost like a record player that is broken and is repeating a section of a song over and over again. Man continues to sin could be this song, but I think there's more to it. Man continues to sin but God is faithful and continues to open the hearts of sinful man. Ultimately, we will never create a depravity void society, because we are all decedents of Adam. We cannot change God's mind or will, because we are not God! One of my favorite quotes by C.S. Lewis is the following, "I don't pray because it changes God, I pray because it changes me." God is not one who is distant or far off, He is active and continues to work in the lives of people across our world, not just in America. I am sad that this author was met with resounding approval from the talk show hosts, because I think this author as well intention he might be, is preaching the wrong message to people following Christ. It was Christ himself who told His first followers, "In this world you will have trials, but take heart, I have overcome the world." Jesus has met our greatest need in this life which wasn't solving world peace, establishing the definition of marriage, stopping unborn children from being murdered, all of these are noble things but He came to save sinners.

It is difficult to recall the faithfulness of God in our daily lives, because we can lose our gaze from off our perfect Savior and onto our sinful selves. I know, because I struggle with it too. However, I think one of the greatest examples of God's faithfulness is a tree. God who created the tree, knows that in order for a tree to be sustained and continued on with life, the tree must have sunlight and rain. In Arizona, we do not have the rain but we have the sunlight. The sun will continue to shine, until God allows the sun to burn no more. Another way is that in the winter months (to us Arizonans, when it's less than seventy degrees outside) the trees must die in order to live. God is the one who knows this and allows it to happen according to His will.

So when we join our friends and family today, let us gather together and instead of filling up our chests with pride of a love for America, let us recount the faithfulness of our Lord. He is the one who worked on the hearts and minds of our forefathers, giving them the ideals for our country, He is the one who protected us from two world wars. But more importantly, He continues to call men and women to repent from their sins and trust Jesus Christ.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Here's the Plan...

Recently, the course of my life has taken several very unexpected turns. These past few weeks, I have been reminded of prominent figures such as Joseph, Job, Peter, and Paul as I've watched God shift and form aspects of my life in ways that I had not expected, understood, or desired. I am continually amazed at how little my planning ever seems to actually come to fruition. God has always been more than faithful to me but I cannot remember a single instance when I got what I wanted exactly the way I wanted.
I am officially out of work, and just like every other college student in America, I am financially s-t-r-a-i-n-e-d. My husband and I are both broke students who are way over-committed and now job-hunting and schedule shifting have been added to our list. Things in our home are not exactly calm right now. Even at this crazy, scary, chaotic time in our lives, God has plopped a life-changing, plan-shattering calling into our laps. I never really was quite sure if I wanted to be a mother; as a matter of fact, I was never sure if I wanted to get married, but now my husband and I are in the process of becoming foster parents. In our conversations about employment, budgeting, school, life-plans, and ministry, my husband and I went over option after option and plan after plan for what we're supposed to be doing at this point in our lives. I'm ashamed to admit that neither of us were really listening for what God had to say. Even so, just before I left my job, we had this total "God moment" and just knew that foster care was right. We've prayed about it and talked with some people. Now we're swimming in legal paper work and loving every minute of it. All this is just to say that God's providence and sovereignty are truly amazing. I think we (Christians) get so used to our theological jargon that we forget how amazing it is that God truly embodies those words and so many more. He is totally in control and the craziest part is that He actually uses small creatures such as us to glorify himself. Even when my life isn't going how I want or expect(which is pretty much every day), I know that my life is being used to make God look beautiful, and isn't that the plan?
Just for fun, here is a list of events in my life that I either did not plan, or were the exact opposite of what I had planned:

  • getting married
  • getting married to a Minister
  • moving to AZ
  • not going to a Christian college
  • Being a Special Education teacher (actually, becoming ANY kind of teacher)
  • being Reformed
  • working with children/youth
  • reconciling with my family
  • not being over 5 ft tall
  • owning my own home
  • foster parenting (or any parenting)

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Setting Foundation Stones

. . . many software products make it all the way through the development cycle with little thought to the users’ experience, and when executives, sales people, or QA testers finally get their hands on the functioning product and start sounding the alarm bells, interaction designers are brought in to clean up the mess. With increasing demand for design “swat teams” to rescue fully developed but flawed software that is scheduled to ship within months or even weeks, the critical question becomes: how can you avoid getting caught up in the chaos that frequently permeates “crisis-mode” engagements?. . .

Following a tried-and-true process is one of the best ways to ensure that you can stay focused on your design effort (rather than getting bogged down with project management tasks) and deliver a consistent level of quality regardless of the length or urgency of the project. . .

When time is tight, there’s a strong temptation to roll up your sleeves and jump straight into detailed design. Don’t. Diving into detailed design without doing the necessary foundation-setting work is every bit as perilous as diving into development without a clear design. http://www.cooper.com/journal/2008/07/bringing_sanity.html
The same is true not just about software development, but many (most?) other physical/tangible products, as well as many (most) non-physical things as well. I'm thinking about families, churches, ministries. . .

Families need solid foundations from the very beginning Too many couples get married without doing the hard work of "foundation-setting." Do they know more about each other beyond "Wow! He/She is really HOT!"? Have they discussed all the topics that a good pastor inquires about during pre-marriage counseling, like finances and children (when, how many, adopted or biological, and most importantly, if)? These are just two of the foundational building blocks that are required for a strong marriage and family. (Having these discussions doesn't guarantee a divorce-proof marriage, of course, but not having them almost guarantees trouble in the future.)

Churches and ministries are much the same. We wouldn't encourage people to "dive into detailed [ministry] without doing the necessary foundation-setting work," would we? For instance, should someone become a pastor without first understanding what exactly he believed? Can he explain the gospel to others? Is his theology well-developed? Does he know why he believes what he believes? Does he know enough about himself to know if he's well-suited for the task of shepherding a flock? Does he know his spiritual gifts?

It's clear that a solid foundation is needed before someone dives into ministry.

And yet. . .

How many youth groups are traveling this summer on a "mission trip" somewhere? Are they prepared and trained?
Do they see it as a mission?
1. The act of sending, or the state of being sent; a being sent or delegated by authority, with certain powers for transacting business; commission.
2. That with which a messenger or agent is charged; an errand; business or duty on which one is sent; a commission.
Do they know why they're going, or is it promoted to them as just a fun, cool adventure?

And now, much like the "crisis mode" of some software development, we are in a "time is tight" situation. Our society seems to be crumbling around us, fraught with relativism, secularism, individualism, and a dozen other -isms. The economy, the war, education, and other issues our politicians claim to have answer for. Abortion, gay marriage, religious rights, and other social issues of concern to conservative Christians.

The temptation is to dive in and "DO SOMETHING!"

But I fear that without the proper "foundation-setting work", the proper preparation, we may make things worse instead of better.

That's why Arizona Christian Worldview Institute exists. To help with the hard work of setting those foundation stones. To help people understand why they believe what they believe. To partner with the churches in the task of disciple-making.

More to follow in a later blog.

Let the conversation continue.