Three more weeks to go...

Not enough

I was looking around the blogosphere today, and came across a little church that has deep connections to Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Capitol Hill Baptist Church. Sounds like my cup of tea, right? Wrong.

These guys are amazing. They’re my age, but are already preaching and teaching with authority. They are smarter than me, more knowledgeable than me, more mature than me. To top it all off, they clearly love God more than I do.

This has been harder for me to accept than I want to admit. In the past, I always thought I had an advantage on others… I had read a few more books, and understood history a little bit better. Older folk were always impressed by how much I knew at such a young age.

But in these circles, I’m behind. By a lot. I got over it, but in the back of my mind always hoped that my passion and love for God would distinguish me among my peers. I wanted to offer God something unique and special… something that couldn’t be found elsewhere. Sorry, Charlie- I’m behind there too.

More and more I’m learning to admit to myself how much of a failure I am. I am weak, and my sin is great. Too often I’m passionate for God in the moment, but forget him in the ensuing hour. I’ll fight for truth, but forget faithfulness. I’m not only less intelligent and less well-read than other guys my age, I’m also less passionate. I don’t have much to offer.

I got some nice compliments today from some pastors I met at an ordination council. It felt good for about 5 minutes. But then I realized that it was a bit of a “big fish in a small pond,” situation. I thought I was unique because I travel in circles of people to whom this theological stuff is complex and distant, or at least rare. However, it’s kinda like a Chinese man in Michigan thinking he’s a great cook because his restaurant does good business; you can’t really say that until you’ve gone up against people who care about the same thing you care about. It’s then that you find out you’re mediocre at best.

Sometimes I wish God had a policy of telling us what would happen ahead of time. On days like today, I’m already embarrassed of how sub-par whatever future I offer to God will probably be.

Oh well. Trust and obey. God knows what he’s doing, and that needs to be enough.


We're in!

Well, it happened! I've been accepted to Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Samantha and I will be moving down in January.

We're excited and sad at the same time. On the one hand, there's a lot we wish we could be here for; seeing how my family develops, spending time with Samantha's family, seeing Dave and Lindsay's baby, etc. I really do like my job, and we have grown to love our little church.

However, this is the direction God has called us to. We're just trying to be faithful. Of course, you could all see me again around June when I can't hack it in Greek! Hopefully, though, seminary will be a success. We love you all!



Building with many hands

Studying politics can be frustrating.

First, you spend all kinds of time learning what government is SUPPOSED to do. You learn about the needs of populations, including things like money, shelter, protection, and the like.

Next, you learn about the amazing things governors (in the general sense: those who govern) CAN do. You study documents like the Declaration of Independence and the Federalist Papers. Then you follow the exploits of Alexander the Great or Julius Caesar, paying special attention to the way they build their empires. You take in the philosophies of Plato, Machiavelli, and Sun Tzu.

Third, you start to study what ACTUALLY happens. It's here that things get ugly.

You quickly find out that voters are fickle and childish. Government officials are often corrupt and self seeking. Much of so-called "political discourse" is actually a giant whine-fest between large organizations consumed by their own self-centeredness. True statesmenship is extremely rare.

Finally, if you're really tough, you go and work for a political organization. It's here you find that most of the stuff in the FIRST two steps is basically gone, and the third step rules. You thought voters were, "fickle," but they're actually just selfish and not thoughtful (I would almost use the word stupid, but in fairness that only applies to maybe 60% of voters). You thought government officials were corrupt and self seeking, but you find that not only are they both of those, but they're pretty thick to boot. You think large groups are whiners who have unreasonable demands, but then you find out that they are whiners who KNOW their demands are unreasonable, and insist on them anyways.

What am I trying to say? Just this; it's enough to drive a smart person who wants good things to become dictator of their own little circle. I struggle not to have this happen to me. I have a hard time believing anyone is as competant as me, so I grab the power and do things my way.

However, CCF and UBC have really helped me change that policy. I was studying 1 Thessalonians today, and was impressed by Paul's perspective. He suggests that even though the church is very loving and faithful, they can do even MORE to honor God. How should they do it? By respecting their leaders, by encouraging and exhorting and admonishing and correcting each other, and by pushing each other toward holiness as much as possible.

My small group did that today. It means a lot to me to see them helping each other challenge the sin we all struggle with. If you are a Christian, you need to be SEEKING a church community that will place wise leaders over you, and that will encourage and admonish and push you in your faith. Everyone needs it; even the loving and faithful Thessalonians. What makes you think you're any different?

My prayer is that God would teach me to trust loving and honest interactive relationships within the church, rather than making myself dictator of my own personal domain. Only then will I be on the correct and God-ordained road to holiness.


A bit of nostalgia

I'm feeling a bit nostalgic tonight. Samantha and I watched one of those cheesy-but-sweet TV movies about a teacher who sets the bar high, overcomes the odds, and gets their kids to learn. It even had the dorky guy from "Friends" (I can never remember their names).

For whatever reason, the movie made me miss CCF days. We would run around like crazy, ignoring schoolwork for the sake of relationships. We had jobs, and friendships, and roles to play. We screwed up a lot. We tried to teach and learn. When one person cried, we tried to be there to cry with them. When one person celebrated, they were cheered for. When one person made a fool of themselves by singing Disney songs in the middle of the cafeteria... well, you get the idea.

I really miss that stuff. I miss feeling like I can be there when someone I love is hurting. I miss being able to solve problems. UBC is great, but people still tend to keep to themselves.

In CCF, we could pile 16 people into a dorm room to watch a movie on a 12 inch screen. We went to campus events together (in fact, it was basically impossible to do things without being in a group). We drove each other nuts, and fought like cats and dogs... or siblings, even!

I hope that wherever I go, I remember that time and try to recreate it. Not the SAME way, mind you... nothing can ever be quite the same. But it's important to me to understand HOW we came to love each other so much, and to try to show the people I come into contact with what a joy that type of life can be.

I also hope I never lose touch with the people whom I loved and was loved by. CCF changed me, and that goes deep. I hope, too, that the passion I felt for CCF will also be a passion for Christ's Body, the Church.

I'm afraid that I'm a woefully inadequate shepherd. I try, but as time goes on I see more and more clearly what an amazing failure I am in so many areas. But maybe, if I keep promoting the Kingdom of God as clearly as possible, He will continue to give me communities that forgive my hard-charging ways, that forgive my impatience and procrastination and lack of sympathy, and that forgive my weakness.

My prayer for you and I is that we will learn to care for each other with the desperate love that comes from knowing your own weakness, and being accepted anyways. May God bless our searching hearts.


First Shot...

This is my first shot at a "spiritual autobiography" for my seminary application. My wife (quite rightly) thinks it needs some changes. I'll work on those, but I thought I'd put this out there so people can get to know my story better. It's pretty long! Good luck.

My name is Benjamin Bartlett.

As a child, this was a source of amusement for my peers. “Ben Fart-lett!” they would shout, impressed by their own creativity. I never minded. My name brought pride and comfort. It was given to me by my parents, Mark and Carolyn Bartlett. My story and spiritual autobiography begins with them.

My father is a businessman, and quite influential. My mom was a simple farm girl from Canada. My dad was hard, sarcastic, and extremely smart, but he was patient and loving with his kids and an excellent teacher. My mom was a feeler, and could barely get through a book, but she had fire and passion for God oozing from every pore of her body.

As a young man, I once asked my mom why she married my dad when so many people perceived him as being hard to love and impossible to live with. Her reply was enlightening.
“Submission.” she said. “I knew that he was submitted to God, and as long as that was in place I knew I could trust him in marriage.”

That became their theme for children as well. My mom constantly battled to cause her children to submit their wills, not merely to her, but to godly principles. She had strong rules. She challenged me in everything. She forced me to attend church activities from the day I was born until the day I left for college. She rarely let us quit any sport or activity. She challenged our attitudes when we were victorious. She challenged our frustration when we lost. She attacked complaints, teasing, discontent, irreverence, and any other perceivable sin of the heart with almost reckless abandon. When a teacher or parent would yell or raise their voice, it never fazed me the way it did other kids, because it never compared to my mom’s unique version of loving us by screaming at the top of her lungs.

My dad was often the peacemaker. He was careful not to contradict my mom, but was thoughtful in helping us understand her loving and passionate heart. Though I thought her overreactions were horrible, he helped show that they came from the overflow of powerful emotions, not spite or dislike. He was also an excellent example in almost all areas; he spent plenty of time with all his kids, he was a leader in our church, he provided everything we ever needed and more, and he loved our family.

This environment shaped me as a child. In most ways, it was quite positive. I was trained to understand the Christian faith. I was excellent at Bible trivia, and had little problem understanding Bible study lessons or sermons. I was respectful toward adults, and never got into any major trouble. When my dad became an elder, I was no hindrance to the biblical standards. I was heavily involved in youth activities, including mission trips to Venezuela, Scotland, and New Mexico. I also worked and counseled for a Bible camp in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

Most importantly, the truth of the gospel was made clear and modeled well. God’s saving action in my heart came at the ripe old age of seven- and like so many church kids, this was followed by several recommitments to “make sure,” over the next few years. I was baptized, and at that point was allowed by my parents to take part in communion.

At the same time, my environment created some natural struggles. I was not as smart or disciplined as my dad, and spent much time attempting to impress him and be like him. However, I was also lazy, and experienced many disappointing failures (or close shaves!) as a result. I was also scared of my mom’s anger, and became a liar and deceiver to “protect” myself. Many times I would fail to do what I had been asked, and would have to scramble later to hide or make up for it. Other times I would develop airtight alibis or excuses for wrong actions, making it hard for my mom to justifiably punish me even when she was in the right. When she punished me wrongly, I was angry and resentful, never hesitating to express to friends how unfair she was to me.

When I entered college, my sin and self-centeredness came back to bite me. It began simply enough. I was lazy, and my grades suffered as a result. For some classes, I did not bother studying. For others, I barely attended. Generally, the only classes I worked hard in were on political theory.

Politics and church activities were the only things that interested me. My mind was that of a lawyer, able to deconstruct and pick apart arguments with ease. I loved politics and found that I was a natural leader in both church and secular activities. I planned to finish college and work my way up through the ranks of party politics or lobbyist circles.

In the meantime, I was admired in church circles. My Bible knowledge and speaking ability caused peers and leaders to trust me. I truly believed the truth of the Bible and wanted to do the right thing, but it was mostly intellectual. I looked for a fellowship group where I could quickly become a leader.

For some reason, God caused me to choose a small Intervarsity chapter called the Chinese Christian Fellowship. In my mind I was choosing it to help their weakness in the area of Bible knowledge. In retrospect, I can see God knew I desperately needed the molding intimacy of a small community. This group became my focus, where I tried to build friendships and teach the Bible with increasing effectiveness. I burned with anger toward sin and a desire to see the Truth upheld.

However, my emotionally bankrupt faith caught up with me. I was lonely and depressed. I fell into sin, looking to a non-Christian girl to fulfill me. Though the adultery of my heart was never fully consummated, it was evil in God’s eyes. My desire was to be happy, not to glorify my Redeemer.

Patiently, a good friend showed me my sin. His calm challenges, along with my recognition of how far I had fallen, caused me to change. I experienced a time of challenge and self-examination. I saw my life and hated it, and began the process of repenting and coming back to a place of obedience to God.

By my junior year, God had driven the deep sin from my life and brought me back to a healthy pursuit of Him. I had been humbled, but still lacked real knowledge of the Bible. I knew trivia, but needed to know theology if I was to become who God wanted me to be.

I went to Washington DC to complete a semester-long internship. I questioned God, because I had begun building truly intimate relationships with the other people in CCF, (most notably, my eventual best friend Jared and a young lady named Samantha) and did not see how this previously planned trip fit into his plans. When I arrived, I had no idea where I would go to church or what I would do.

As we know, though, God’s plans are always the right plans. My first night in DC was a Friday, and at an MSU alumni dinner I met a girl who was a Christian. She told me that her church was just a block or two away from where I lived. That Sunday, I attended church with her. I never saw her again, but God’s purpose for her in my life was clear. The church was Capitol Hill Baptist Church.

There, I met the leader of the college ministry. He introduced me to James Santos, an intern at CHBC. We set up a weekly mentoring/accountability meeting. All of this happened my first Sunday there!

It began a time period of learning and growth. In my time with James, we read and discussed John Piper’s, “The Pleasures of God,” and J.I. Packer’s, “Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God.” I was also learning from Dr. Dever’s thoughtful expository preaching, and from articles in dozens of helpful websites.

When I went home, I was quite different. My knowledge of the faith was no longer merely technical… it was a knowledge of the soul, coming from a heart that had been humbled and then guided in wiser paths. My faith went beyond a commitment to the truth, and became a commitment to the person of God as my King, my Savior, and my Guide. I did not just believe in God; I loved Him.

I believed that was the end of the surprises. I felt God would now help me develop as a Christian politician, one able to defend the faith and speak for the Truth. However, such was not to be.

One Sunday during my senior year, I was home from college for Christmas break. A pastor from another church taught the Sunday school, and he talked about his passion for God’s people, for God’s truth, and for the Church. As he was sharing, I broke down in tears. For no apparent reason, I sobbed with a mixture of fear, relief, and joy. I knew; knew, that I was being called to the ministry. Later, my pastor and church would agree.

Since that day at the end of 2003, I have been preparing to fulfill this call. I have involved myself heavily in my local church, serving as a Sunday school teacher, deacon, and occasional preacher. I married Samantha Quan in the summer of 2005, and began experiencing all the pains and joys of being in love. I have been reading and studying constantly. I have involved myself in several mentoring and accountability relationships. I have tried to focus on glorifying God both in my efforts now and in preparing for whatever He has for me down the road.

On December 20, 2005, my mom died from cancer. She was 44. Her death brought the opportunity to look back over what God has done in my life. Though she was as imperfect as the rest of us, I have been able to better appreciate the passion she had for God. I have also come to appreciate my father’s loving and faithful leadership even more than before, without comparing myself or feeling inferior.

The process of working through the grief and discontent that followed my mom’s death has made me even more certain of God’s call. He has wonderfully prepared me with excellent parents, a solid education, a good mind, a godly wife, humbling experiences, and a burning passion to see His kingdom established in the world. I am still a weak and sinful person. However, my hope and prayer is that God will use seminary to continue molding me into a person able to express the glory of the gospel to a needy world, and able to help bring the church to a place of complete worship and obedience to Him.


College students back in town!

So, the college students are back! How exciting. Next thing you know, footballs will be flying, the leaves will be turning, and... that's right... Sunday School class starts again!

Hm. Maybe that's not that exciting. I'm excited, though; that counts for something, right?

Anyways, since the college folks are back in town and some of them check blogs once per day (maybe that will motivate me to post more often), I'll let you know the schedule.

Starting this Sunday (April 27) and not counting Labor Day Sunday, I'll be teaching a 5 week class on Membership, Governance, and the Purpose of the Church. The first week we'll talk about why God created the church, and in the following weeks we'll talk about how the church is organized and run. My hope is that everyone will both be more understanding of an more committed to their local church. Don't forget, class starts at 9:30!

On September 17, I'll be preaching. Don't know what the topic will be yet! Oh well. We'll see what God brings to mind. Anyways, thought I'd give you a heads up on that too.

Finally, after the 5 week session, new sessions will be starting up. My good friend Dave Cheng will be teaching on worship, a topic he is an expert on. In the meantime, I'll be teaching a class on the Principles of Personal Hermeneutics, or more simply, "Bible Intake." My purpose here will be to talk about some of the most important presuppositions we should have when we approach a passage of Scripture.

Also, it looks as though Dave will be starting a small groups at his house, especially for UBC college students! I'm certainly planning on going to that, though Dave will be teaching.

There are also a couple other small groups going on at UBC right now, and we'd love to have people join up.

That's all for now, but I'm looking forward to seeing everyone!


A Personal Hermeneutic

A Personal Hermeneutic

Like anyone else, I make a series of decisions when I approach the Bible. Some decisions begin before I open it. What version will I use? In what atmosphere will I read? Am I studying or merely looking for encouragement? What is my motivation for reading the Bible?

Others surface when I open the book. Where will I read? How much should I read? Am I willing to let it teach and affect me?

One of the most important questions, though, is this; how will I interpret what I read? The Bible’s size and diversity discourage well-meaning seekers and Christians alike. Many times they find themselves uncomfortable and affronted by the bold or seemingly cruel perspectives expressed in the Bible. How do we deal with those questions?

Of course, we must first acknowledge that many will turn away, and there is nothing we can do about it. God does not draw every person’s heart, and we should never water down the truth for the sake of wider acceptance. That said, we can certainly explain and teach how God’s Word may be understood, so that His glory may be more fully displayed and the greatness of His Word more readily grasped.

To that end, I want to share my personal approach to hermeneutics. I am certain this is neither perfect in its theological nuance nor comprehensive in its scope. However, it is a good expression of how my mind thinks about the Bible as I study it and try to extract and apply its meaning. These are the six presuppositions I use when trying to understand the purpose and place of the teachings in the Bible.

Think of this hermeneutic as a pyramid. Each piece is essential, and each piece is built on the others. Together, they form a way of thinking about Scripture that is designed to accurately extract God’s intended meaning from each Biblical passage.

1. The Bible is Inerrant
The first thing we must presuppose is that the Bible is inerrant. This means it is without error, and carries no deficiencies or weaknesses. If a Christian does not understand and agree with this concept, their entire faith is questionable.

Scripture is inerrant because God is sovereign. In essence, his eternal power and control protect the integrity of the Bible. If God desires to express or reveal Himself to us, and is all powerful, why would He allow His Word to be corrupted?

It should be noted that this does not prevent all controversy. Of course there will be differences in interpretation, which require thoughtfulness and faithfulness to work through carefully. There are also areas in which God has chosen not to express a particular preference, or has allowed room for differences of opinion. However, those areas are non-essential to the teachings of the Bible.

It should also be noted that mistakes can be made in translating or transcribing Scripture. Again, these errors are usually non-essential and easily fixed. In cases where the translators have been unfaithful or biased in their translation, the fault lies not with Scripture, but with the translators, and they should be held accountable.

Every piece of the Bible contributes to His expression of Himself to mankind. As such, every piece is also an accurate communication from God to us. When all these pieces work together, they form the full expression of the heart of God- His very Word.

2. The Bible is Self-Interpreting and Self-Moderating
At times, the Bible can seem extreme. Why is God willing to wipe out women and children? Why did Christ say that his mission was to the Jews, and not Gentiles? How can the Bible extol Jacob when he did so many sneaky and self-serving things?

Recognizing Biblical inerrancy is important to answering these questions. All Scripture can be compared with the rest, so a passage is incomplete without understanding how it relates to the rest of the Bible. For instance, it may be true that God exhibits seemingly “extreme” justice, but this is easily understood when one also understands His holiness, His hatred of sin, man’s responsibility for sin, and the amazing grace of God’s mercy.

True Bible study will then realize that the Bible is self-interpreting and self-moderating.
It is self-interpreting because only the Bible can explain itself. The number of books and words is necessarily limited, and it would be easy for a single passage -written from one perspective to a particular audience- to be misinterpreted. However, the Bible speaks about God from many perspectives and in a perfectly consistent manner, and as a result passages can be compared to each other to reach consensus about doctrine.

If, for instance, a person were to see a verse that says, “God is love,” they might rightly conclude that God is the source of all love, and is more loving than any other entity. However, they might also wrongly conclude that he would never challenge, never hurt, never discipline, and never punish. By studying the Bible as a whole, they would understand that a correct interpretation of “love” would recognize that love takes the form of justice and of discipline just as often as comfort and reward.

Systematic theologies, then, which explain key doctrines of the faith, are entirely dependent on Scripture’s self-interpretation. They form a consensus from all the Scripture passages written on a topic, and then explain how they work together to form a consistent whole.

The Bible is also self-moderating. It is easy for critics to read a single passage and create an extreme picture of God and the Christians who follow Him. However, expressing the fullness of an entity, especially one as vast and complex as God, requires more than one passage. Therefore, if we desire to know God we MUST accept that the Bible moderates itself. The various passages on a topic make clear the fact that the “extreme” passages seek to make a theological point, but do not by themselves sum up the character of God.

This is also true of doctrines. For instance, it IS true that God can become quite angry, enacting severe punishment on those who displease him. This might cause some to live in a state of spiritual paralysis, afraid of what God might do to them if they fail. However, by reading the rest of Scripture, they would find that even God’s anger is completely right and justified, and that in the end he works all things for good.

As a side note, this concept has led to the dialectical method of Bible teaching. This approach to studying and teaching the Bible is focused on finding the ways in which the Bible teaches the poles, or furthest extremes, of a concept. By doing so, the teacher or student maintains the balanced tension inherent in a particular doctrine and is prevented from going too far to one side or the other.

3. The Bible has a Redemptive-Historical Structure

One of the problems in accepting Scripture’s teachings is that God and His desires for His people seem to change. In some areas of scripture, He seems to suggest that adherence to the law will result in national blessing and prosperity. In others, Christ clearly teaches that the blessed ones are those who are beaten, persecuted, and killed. At some points in scripture, people are considered unclean for eating non-kosher foods. In others, God says His followers are free to eat whatever they choose. If the Bible is entirely consistent, what is to be done with these teachings?

The fact is that God chooses to reveal Himself to the world over time. Through a series of covenants and stages, God allows mankind to see more and more of Himself. This self-revelation was most fully expressed in the person of Jesus Christ, who was and is the fullness of God in human form. The self-revelation will be fully completed in the last day, when Satan is defeated and creation is restored to the perfection it had before sin entered the world.
We must therefore acknowledge that the Bible has a redemptive-historical structure.

When we understand this redemptive-historical structure, we can study the Bible in a healthier way. Instead of feeling the Bible contradicts itself, we can see that in context, God is entirely consistent. Man can only respond in faith and trust, because to do anything else is to deny God’s Lordship and Kingship over our lives.

Therefore, when we approach a passage, we must ask where in the timeline of God’s self-revelation the passage occurs. That done, we can extract the principles God is teaching, and more accurately apply them in our lives. For instance, when God tells the Israelite exiles to Babylon that He will “prosper and not harm” them, giving them “a hope and a future,” it would be folly for us to assume this means we too will be physically prospered. However, the passage does display for us God’s absolute sovereignty and involvement in our lives. We may not know God’s purposes for our next steps, but we do know that those purposes will undoubtedly be accomplished.

The redemptive-historical model is important, but should not cause people to think the Bible is not unified. The whole structure is built around one central idea, one central truth. That truth is the truth of the gospel.

4. The Bible is Viewed through the Lens of the Gospel
The most important factor in understanding the redemptive-historical model and in moderating and interpreting Scripture is knowing the Bible should be viewed through the lens of the gospel.
This means whenever we approach a passage, it can only be understood as it relates to the saving work of Jesus Christ on the cross, exercising simultaneous justice and mercy. In one action, God completely affirms His holiness and justice, but also expresses the depth of His mercy and grace. This balance is key to understanding the biblical message.

So often, churches take things taught in Scripture to extremes. Because they are taught not to sin, they begin to hate and reject sinners. Others are so in love with mercy that they lose sight of truth and water down the gospel. Both of these (and many other) extremes are incorrect.
Truly honoring God requires that people allow themselves to be taught by Scripture as it relates to the gospel. When we receive teaching about the dangers of sin, we must of course recognize how truly deep and awful our sin is. At the same time, though, we must learn to show mercy and grace and love to the struggling sinner.

When we view those who suffer and hurt, we must know what it is to show them mercy and kindness, providing help where we can. However, we must also make clear the wrongness of sin, and the absolute need for God’s forgiveness. The Bible clearly teaches both things, and so we must display both things.

If we do not maintain the tension inherent in the gospel, we will quickly lose much of its power, and thereby become weak tools in the Master’s hands.

5. The Bible is Christ-Centered
At the heart of the gospel lies Jesus. There is nothing more important to God’s work in the world than Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. Without His sacrifice, we would still be desperately trying to cover our sins with the blood of lambs and bulls. Ultimately, we would have little hope in the world.

However, Christ brings hope. He was the hope of the Old Testament, and prophets and godly people looked forward with longing to the arrival of the Messiah. Their salvation came from trusting in this Savior who would come, a Savior who would free all from sin, their greatest oppressor.

He is also the hope of all who follow Him. Christians look back to Christ, recognizing that He is the only Way, Truth, and Life. Nothing else can save us from complete separation from God. Only His work on the Cross, His act of receiving full punishment for sins He did not commit, can be offered in our place. Only His salvation is enough.

For this reason, Scripture is centered on Christ. It looks to Him, cries out for Him, prophesies about Him, spreads the news about Him, and rejoices in Him. When we study the Bible, we must see this centeredness, and study with His work in view. Only then will we truly understand the place God desires to bring us to, a place of grateful obedience under the headship of our Savior and Only Hope.

6. The Bible Glorifies God
Ultimately, all things are for God’s glory. Every piece of the Bible, from creation to consummation, is an expression of God’s greatness. As time moves along, God reveals His glory piece by piece.

His power to create, to guide, and to design glorifies Him. His choice of Israel, a choice they did not deserve, glorifies Him. His saving acts glorify Him. His work on the cross glorifies Him. His movement in establishing His kingdom in the world glorifies Him. His return and cleansing of the world will glorify Him.

If we are to correctly interpret the Bible, we must appreciate that the story is not about us- it is about glorifying God. Our good is not the final goal of all things- God’s glory is. Now, it is true that the greatest joy and blessing comes to the Christian when they are most focused on God. However, we are not needed. Our involvement in God’s glory is a completely free gift He has given for no reason other than that He loves us and chooses to do so.

When I sit down to study a passage, I force myself to think through these things. When exposition of a Biblical passage is built on these presuppositions, the teaching that results will honor God by having these characteristics;

1. It will be trustworthy, because the Bible is inerrant.

2. It will be correctly nuanced and entirely consistent, because the Bible is self-interpreting and self-moderating.

3. It will be understood in correct context, because the Bible has a redemptive-historical structure.

4. It will maintain the correct tension of justice and mercy, because the Bible is viewed through the lens of the gospel.

5. It will speak of the amazing work of Christ, because the Bible is Christ-centered.

6. It will glorify God, because all things in the Bible are for His glory.

My hope and prayer is that hermeneutics of this kind and the preaching and teaching that results will be obediently faithful to God’s desires for our lives. Soli Deo Gloria.


Missing My Mommy

I really miss my mom tonight.

One of the harder parts about grief is the unexpectedness. I can walk past pictures of my mom, tell stories about her, miss certain aspects of my relationship with her... all without incident.

Then, for whatever reason, something small hits home.

When it does, you sorta see a "highlight reel" of things you remember. You think about certain images, or the way hugging your mom was different from hugging everyone else. You remember little chats or jokes.

Strangely enough, you also continue to struggle with the things you always struggled with.

One of the things that I could never get over with my mom was the fact that she could never relax (I have no idea why this is making me cry so much, even as I write this). She was always angry or frustrated or speeding along to the next thing. Oh, of course there were times when she laughed and talked with everyone, but she always felt a little uptight. I wish I understood that part of her better.

I can still remember trying, time and time again, to get her to calm down a bit. "Mom, just RELAX." It happened over and over. She never did.

To this day, I'm not sure I ever entirely understood her point of view. I suppose I may have to wait to have kids of my own, or to see what Samantha is like when she has kids. I hope so. I think it will be easier to feel like I made my mom proud when I can identify with her perspective.

This may all sound like rambling to you, but you'll understand at some point. In some ways, it's really hard to understand the way you feel about a person for whom you have a fierce love but whom you never fully understood. I wish my mom were here so I could keep trying.


On Being Mission Minded

Louisville was terrific. The SBTS campus is beautiful, the professors are incredibly nice, the classes are challenging without being out of reach, and the students are focused and generous. I really feel this is God's place for Samantha and I to prepare for ministry. Now we'll just have to see whether I can get in there!

In the meantime, I've been thinking a lot lately about what it is to be mission-minded. I'm starting to work my way through Acts as I finish up 1 Peter, and I'm impressed in both by how important the call to spread the good news is. Quite simply, God has called us to reach out to the surrounding culture. Why don't we respond more obediently?

I imagine that a big part of it is fear of hardship or uncertainty. I struggle in trying to connect with non-Christians, because I feel like I speak a different language. I also tend to get too uptight about the lifestyles of people who don't know any better.

If I want to be a true minister, though, I ought to be a leader in formulating ways of stretching out to draw people toward Christ. Our call is to preach the good news to all people, baptising them and teaching them to obey God... and then doing it again. I find that I tend to lose site of this concept and instead focus my time on teaching people who are already Christians. That's a good thing, which I intend to continue, but I also should be recognizing that the call to minister to the unsaved is a continual call, not one that ended when we established a financially stable church community.

My hope is that studying Acts will teach me things about how the early church built itself without losing site of its mission. I want to be a servant of Christ committed to obedience in all areas, not just areas of training and discipleship. If my desire is to truly see the kingdom of God established by the growth of His authority in the hearts of people, I should be more committed to bringing those who have not heard to a knowledge of Him.


Off to Louisville!

Well, I'm off to Louisville. I'll be previewing what I hope is the seminary I'll be attending in a year or so, seeing an old friend, and attending the "Together for the Gospel" conference. All in a week and a half! Please pray for me. I've been struggling with worry about the future, and it's just not the right attitude.

Also, pray for my darling wife! I'm so excited for her... she'll be graduating in just a couple weeks! That will be a relief, but now we need to know what she should be doing next.

Finally, all you UBC people out there should be praying for the development of small groups in our church. It'll be interesting to see what happens this summer.



On Mirrors and Messangers

The other day, Samantha was hanging out with some school friends when one made a comment that the Bible is just a fictional story anyways. Well, she couldn’t just let that pass, could she? So, she challenged the comment, and it started a spirited debate about the validity and truth of Christianity, as well as the idea of relativism vs. absolutism (not in so many words, of course- it was more of one girl suggesting that Christianity can be true for one person but not for another, which of course is completely illogical).

I was really proud of Samantha for standing up for her beliefs, but she expressed frustration at the same time. When you come away from a discussion like that, you almost inevitably feel a sense of frustration and loss, as though you have lost a fight and aren’t sure why.

This was my experience growing up as well. In high school and early college, I thought that I would be able to debate people into realizing that Christianity is at least intellectually viable. Each time I got involved in an argument, though, I found that I came away feeling bad. This would push me to know apologetics even better. Eventually, I became good enough that most people would acknowledge that I tended to “win” the debates I fought in. However, I still felt awful for some reason.

This is a big problem in day-to-day evangelism. We all have a natural tendency to be “strategic” in our relationships. We focus on saying the right things and acting the right way so that over time, we will build friendships where people feel comfortable because they are never challenged. This natural tendency causes us to feel a lot of discomfort and embarrassment when we evangelize. We just need to get over this tendency, right?

Well… perhaps. I AM proud of Samantha, and I do think there is a good time (and way) to stand up for your faith and clearly state your beliefs. She did the right thing. At the same time, neither she nor I should think that is all there is to evangelism. In fact, I’d even say arguing about philosophy or the Bible is at best a very small part of evangelism. So then, what IS our evangelistic calling?

Well, I think it is two things:

-First, we are called to be MIRRORS of God. He made us in his image, and in many ways we destroy that image through sin. As Christians, we should be seeking holiness, trying to become more and more like Christ each day. This process of sanctification causes us to reflect God and His attributes to the world. He shines on us, and we in turn mirror that image toward the world. Through our lives, they should see God’s love, grace, mercy, compassion, justice, wrath against sin, and faithfulness. The people around us should clearly see that we are different in how we live our lives and in what we value… can you say that your friends see you all that differently?

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. -2 Corinthians 3:18

-Second, we are called to be MESSANGERS of God. He has given us His glorious Gospel. This message of good news is the only thing that can save the world from its sins. As Christians, it HAS saved us from our sins. Out of gratitude to God, out of love for our friends and neighbors, and out of fear for the eternal state of our peers, how can we not spread this message? If we want to do the best service we can to those we meet, we must present the gospel in all its fullness, as clearly and accurately as possible. Only then are we being the true faithful messengers that God has called us to be. Only then can we be sure that those we care about have truly heard the Word of the Lord. We must not create some false gospel of our own- we must be faithful messengers.

Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. -2 Timothy 1:8-10

Let this be our standard; to love God, to reflect his image, and to carry his message. When this is our definition of success, how radically will it change our lives?

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart."
Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. -1 Corinthians 1:18-21


Ben's Type of Sermon, Tozer's Type of Preacher

Hm... well, my sermon didn't turn out EXACTLY like my outline. It was close enough, I suppose. The most common comment I recieved afterward from people was, "Well, you don't pull any punches!" This is scary for a preacher, because you know it's likely that you've hurt some feelings. I don't want to be cruel or a jerk or anything.

However, when I felt God's call to the ministry, I promised that I would be passionate about trying to become the RIGHT kind of preacher. I hope and pray that Sunday's sermon was in that vein. There's a link at the end of this post so that you can listen to it! Also, I've included an article by A.W. Tozer that describes the kind of pastor and preacher I hope I am becoming in God's strength and God's time (and hopefully God's wisdom, as well!).

Pastoral Ministry: A New Type of Preacher

But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. --Acts 20:24

If Christianity is to receive a rejuvenation, it must be by other means than any now being used. If the Church in the second half of this century is to recover from the injuries she suffered in the first half, there must appear a new type of preacher. The proper, ruler-of-the-synagogue type will never do. Neither will the priestly type of man who carries out his duties, takes his pay and asks no questions, nor the smooth-talking pastoral type who knows how to make the Christian religion acceptable to everyone. All these have been tried and found wanting.

Another kind of religious leader must arise among us. He must be of the old prophet type, a man who has seen visions of God and has heard a voice from the Throne. When he comes (and I pray God there will be not one but many), he will stand in flat contradiction to everything our smirking, smooth civilization holds dear. He will contradict, denounce and protest in the name of God and will earn the hatred and opposition of a large segment of Christendom. Such a man is likely to be lean, rugged, blunt-spoken and a little bit angry with the world. He will love Christ and the souls of men to the point of willingness to die for the glory of the One and the salvation of the other. But he will fear nothing that breathes with mortal breath.

"Lord, in the first half of this current century this need is even greater. Send to Your church today many who have 'seen visions of God and...heard a voice from the Throne.' Amen."

-A.W. Tozer



Sermon text

Here's my sermon for Sunday, March 19.

"Who is John Galt?"

That question is both the opening line and in a sense the theme of a book entitled Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand. Her purpose was to share her personal philosophical outlook, which she called objectivism. In the book, Ms. Rand describes a world where the most productive people in the world decide to go on strike. They simply quit. All the strong leaders, the greatest inventors, industrialists, businesspeople, philosophers, music composers… they decide that they are sick of carrying the world on their shoulders like the mythological Atlas… and so they simply shrug the responsibility straight off. They decide that the only thing in the world that is important to them is their own lives, their own accomplishment, and their own desires.
This concept is brought to a head when the infamous John Galt shows the heroine a building that contains a brilliant invention he has made, but refuses to share with the world. In a sense, the building represents the anti-church… there is no God, there are no people, and there is no community, but instead it is a shrine to human achievement and ingenuity.
Let me read you how Rand describes this building:

"The door of the structure was a straight, smooth sheet of stainless steel, softly lustrous and bluish in the sun. Above it, cut in the granite, as the only feature of the building's rectangular austerity, there stood an inscription.
I swear by my life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine."

At first, we might merely call this philosophical perspective distasteful… but are we truly all that different? What percentage of our lives do we actually give to others? To God? Isn't it true that we feel a strong sense of entitlement to the wealth or life that we build and create?

Ayn Rand's philosophy of objectivism may not have garnered popular acclaim, but we see its results all around us. Our country has become increasingly self-centered. Advertising is focused on getting you to buy things that you want for yourself. Work is not seen as a way of helping the world, but as a way of getting money, and sometimes power, for yourself. The legal system is no longer focused on protecting people, but instead is used to give people the right to anything they want get, be it abortion or homosexual marriage or divorce on demand… for themselves. Everything about our culture is self-centered.

Really, though, this isn't even the most fearsome thing. What's really horrific is the fact that the church has bought into this kind of thinking. Rather than calling Christians to a life of self-sacrifice, some megachurches are designing entertaining programs to speak to people's "felt needs," but are failing to preach the full gospel. Some emergent churches are suggesting that all you need is a vague sense of spirituality, and that the truth is somewhat relative. Some easy believism churches are suggesting that all you need to do is think in your head that you want Jesus to come into your heart, and it doesn't matter what your life looks like after that. My friends, the church is infested with just as much self-centeredness as the world!

Now, in our heads, we know this can't be right. Today, I'd like for us to consider what the Apostle Paul says our lives should look like when God calls us out from the destructive self-centeredness of the world. Let's begin with prayer.

-Lord, you are our King. Your glory is the reason we exist.
-But God, we forsake your service. We try to go our own way, to create lives that give us what we want, without realizing that you know our needs better than we ever could.
-Forgive us, Father. Help us to understand the things you show us in Scripture, and help us to respond correctly to your teaching. We are weak, Lord, but we do want to honor you. Help us to do it rightly.
In Jesus name, amen.

The situation in Rome was a somewhat uncertain one. In the early days of the church, missionaries would travel to one city at a time. At each city, they would first preach the gospel message. When they had a group of committed believers, they would choose a few of them to be elders. These elders became the leaders and foundation of a new church. That church would use their knowledge of the gospel message and the Old Testament Scriptures to guide their understanding of God. In some areas, though, they would get out of hand, and the apostle who established the church would write letters to them to correct them. Those letters were copied and circulated to the surrounding churches, and they became the New Testament.
Rome, though, was unique. As they used to say, "All roads lead to Rome." The church in Rome was composed of believers who came from various parts of the Roman Empire, and had been saved in different contexts. Some may have been in Israel when the Holy Spirit came upon the apostles at Pentecost. Some may have received the gospel through missionaries in other lands, or through Christians in the Roman military. The church would have been mostly Gentile, but would have had a strong Jewish Christian component as well.
Because of these circumstances, there was probably a lot of uncertainty in the church. They may have had conflicting understandings of the gospel message, and they may have been arguing about the right way to live. The Jews were claiming that they had a better understanding of God than Gentiles because of their rich spiritual history, while the Gentiles felt that God had turned away from the Jews because of their unbelief.
Paul, then, is thinking about all these things when he writes his letter. In the context of trying to balance the questions and arguments going on in the church of Rome, he seeks to answer three main questions.
1.) What is the gospel?
2.) What is the place of ethnic Israel in light of the gospel?
3.) Once we have the gospel, how should we then live?
Paul's purpose in Romans is to answer these questions.

-In chapters 1-8, Paul explains the gospel message in all its fullness. This should be an example to us… Christ and his gift of salvation is the BEGINNING of all theology! All our understanding of the Bible is incomplete without Christ's saving act on the cross. If we want to protect ourselves from false doctrines and be growing in spiritual maturity, we MUST begin with a clear and excellent understanding of the gospel.

Well, what is this message? The message is this.
-God created a world where everything, especially mankind, is designed to worship him.
-However, each of us has chosen to make ourselves the center of our lives rather than him. We have engaged in all sorts of destructive behaviors for the sake of our self indulgence. These sins complete separate us from the joy and beauty of being in God's presence.
-Once we sinned, there was no hope for us because we could not attain righteousness. However, Jesus Christ, who is God, came to earth and lived a perfect life. He was punished and killed as if he WAS a sinner, and yet he rose to life again three days later, showing that he is, in fact, God! Because of this sacrifice on his part, he has the right to forgive us and make us righteous again in God's sight despite our sin.
-If we want to regain a right relationship with God, we must turn away from our sins, accept Christ's offer of salvation, and commit ourselves to serving and glorifying God with our lives.
-This is the gospel message, and it is the core of all that we are and all that we do as Christians.

Well, Paul goes on to answer the second question in chapters 9-11. The Jews were feeling slighted, because it seemed as though the Christians were preaching that God had forgotten them and their long, rich history of being his chosen people.

-Paul made it clear to them that God is free to choose whomever he will to be saved. He also reminded them that salvation only comes through faith, not through works. However, he does acknowledge that God has always had a special relationship with Israel, and that he has a unique plan for them.

And so we come to chapter 12, where Paul is beginning to answer the question of how we should live once we have received the gospel. Verses 1-8 are a transitional passage, in that Paul is preparing us for the rest of his teachings by telling us how we should see ourselves and our job here on earth in relation to God. The passage is key because it should shape the way we view our mission and our lives.

Let's first look at the key verses, verses 1 and 2.
The first thing that Paul tells us to do is to not conform to the world. Recognize the dangers it holds and shy away from that type of thinking. Be honest about the things in your life that are designed for your pleasure rather than God's glory. So often we rationalize the fact that we are very much like the world by saying "Oh, the Bible doesn't say it's wrong, so it's ok for us. There's nothing wrong with it." The problem, though, is that the Bible DOES speak against sins of OMISSION just as much as it does against sins of COMMISSION. In other words, it is not enough for us to just avoid major sins. We must also pursue the things God desires for us to do.

To that end, Paul tells us secondly, think differently. In fact, we should not just think differently, but should completely renew the way that we understand the world. The old way of self-indulgence and self-centeredness needs to be thrown out. Because God has changed your life, you must change the way you think about it.

A renewed mind is one that has God's message of salvation at its center. It trusts God's sovereignty completely. It recognizes that his guidance and commands in Scripture are true and good for us. Above all, a renewed mind trusts and worships God in all things. Only that level of trust will allow us to truly know God's perfect will.

Once we truly have this worshipful mindset, the only right action that we can take is to offer ourselves as living sacrifices. What is a sacrifice? A sacrifice is an offering. You don't get an obvious return on investment. Think of the Old Testament sacrifices. The animal was just… given, and nothing obvious was given back. This needs to be our attitude- to be joyful in giving to God without any obvious repayment, because the sacrifices of our lives can NEVER compare to His sacrifice, and they can NEVER measure up to the mercy and grace Christ showed us at the cross. We ought to be PASSIONATE about sacrificing ourselves for His cause!

So then, how shall we live once we understand this gospel?

We should first flee the self-centered practices of the world. We should change and even completely renew the way that we think by placing Christ and his work on the cross at the center of the way we consider ourselves. We must then become people who are willing to sacrifice every aspect our lives for the glory of God. That is the calling and the mission of everyone who would call themselves Christians.

But what should we do in PRACTICE to fulfill that calling?
Romans 12:3-8
First, we see that we should not think of ourselves more highly than we ought. The wording here is talking about the way we understand ourselves and the direction of our lives. Paul tells us that we need to realize that God has given us faith in Him so that we can serve him and know that it is for a good purpose. We should not think that we are above service or that our desires are more important than the needs of the church.

Next, we MUST use the blessings that God has given us in service to the church! That is the kind of sacrifice that He asks of us… a living sacrifice of service. As Paul shows us, this living sacrifice of service should be given to Christ's Body, which is the church. We are called to take our money, our time, and our talents, and to USE them. We are members of ONE body, and we are members of one another. We all have different functions, but we must all share in the mission and the burden and the joy of service in Christ's body. Only then are we truly honoring Him, and only then are we truly reflecting God's glory.

So, let me ask you. Would it be easy for an outsider to describe your life as a living sacrifice to God? The world has no trouble recognizing sacrifice. "Whoah, look at that guy sacrifice his body!" they might say, while watching a football game. Or think of Pat Tillman, the football player who gave up millions of dollars a year to serve his country, and was killed as a result. The world recognizes sacrifice… do they see it in you?

Let's get specific. If you are not a Christian today, we welcome you to our church. We do want to share with you the joy of being a Christian. But we also want you to realize what a challenge it truly is… to be a Christian is to be someone who is wholly committed to serving God with their life. Is he calling you? Consider carefully, because you are playing with eternal matters. Will you commit yourself to God? Will you become a living sacrifice?

For those of you who are not members of the church- why aren't you? Do you realize that it is dishonoring to God when you refuse to commit to and serve your local church? Do you realize that you are sinning by withholding the gifts God has given you? When will you truly commit yourselves to God's service? When will you be a true living sacrifice?

College students- Are you using your energy and flexibility to honor God? Are you learning the disciplines that will help you grow in spiritual maturity for the rest of your life? Are you preparing yourself for a life of service to Him? Are you a living sacrifice?

Ladies- Are you supporting and encouraging other members of the body in their acts of worship and areas of ministry, rather than protecting your own? Are you responding to Scriptural teaching with obedience, rather than letting your Christian walk be dominated by emotional moralism and relationships? Are you a living sacrifice?

Men- Are you helping to lead the congregation in a godly direction, or are you sitting back and passively waiting for others to take charge? Are you studying the Scriptures carefully to protect the church from false teachings? Are you spending your strength in defense of the weak? Are you a living sacrifice?

Friends, the world is screaming at us that the individual is all that matters. Pursue health, wealth, and self gratification! Enjoy yourself! You are different… nobody can tell you what to do!

Remember the quote from Ayn Rand's book? "I swear by my life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine."

My friend, this self-indulgent, self-glorifying attitude is completely contrary to the truth. It is a lie, intended to suck you into a meaningless existence, where only self and its desires matter. It is a whirlpool, draining a person's life of any earthly good or heavenly value.

As Christians, that is not our calling. Instead, we are called to humbly sit at the foot of God's throne. We are called to be obedient servants. We are called to love and teach and admonish each other. We are called to be members of the body. We are called to be living sacrifices. THAT is our spiritual act of worship to the God who has saved us. May God help us in pursuit of that goal. Let's pray.

Prayer: "God, how desperately we need your help. We love to serve ourselves. We love to pay attention to our TVs and our sports teams and our gossip and our news… and yet we ignore the very real needs here at our church, which is your body. Father, help us to see our own self-indulgence. Help us to renew our minds, so that we can discern your will and honor your name. Help us to be living sacrifices. In Jesus name, amen."



Hey folks,

Please pray for me! My sermon for Sunday is coming together, but as always I'm dealing with a thousand thoughts and worries at once. Pray that the message would be clear and completely true to Scripture. Pray that God's voice would be audible, making Him the focus and not me. And pray that I don't say anything dumb! :-)

The sermon is on Romans 12:1-8, in case you want to prepare beforehand.


Side notes

Here's one of those fun games:


It's interesting to see what my friends think of me... some answers were expected, but some really surpised me (in a good way).

In other news, I've begun reading Ayn Rand's book, Atlas Shrugged. VERY powerful book, and I'm only on chapter 3. I think she is what I would have become if God hadn't changed my life. Now there's a scary hypothetical, huh?


A Blessing for Church Members

Consider the grace God has shown in your life. Blessings abound, and each new challenge brings depth and understanding to your relationship with God.

That has certainly been my experience. What I have found, though, is that there has been no greater area of blessing on my life than that of the Church. I've especially been meditating on this of late because a friend encouraged me to write out my prayers for the church as a starting point for a project we're doing. I hope this blessing will benefit you in your reflections and meditations on your own experience with the church.

A Blessing for Church Members

Dear friend, my prayers for you are these;

I pray that you enter a church for the first time with fear and trembling, wanting to be loved but afraid of being unwanted. May you find big smiles, warm handshakes, and maybe even an invitation to lunch.

I pray that you experience relationships, that the process of opening yourself up would be continual. May each new face be a new opportunity to be vulnerable, be known, and be loved.

I pray that people recommend books to you, especially of the old variety. A few will be cheesy, but that's ok. You'll learn from all of them.

I pray that you will be led well in the beginning, and will lead others down the road. Nothing will grow you like good leadership, and nothing will mature you like leading.

I pray that you will be teachable. Everyone has something to offer, and it's your job to listen. May you realize, too, that each conversation you have is also an opportunity for you to teach others.

I pray that you will get hurt or put out financially by your service to the church. I especially pray that nobody will know about it, or at least that praise won't be your motivation. May you look at the walls of your old church and remember problems and conflict in a personal way. Love that requires nothing of the giver is no love at all.

I pray that you will experience chastisement, maybe even discipline. It will show you that the church is doing its job in helping you fulfill your commitment to Christ.

I pray that you will spend hours on a committee arguing about seemingly minor things. It's not real service until you've taken bureaucratic tedium in stride.

I pray that delight will brighten your heart when another member shares their joys, and I pray that your stomach will drop with a sickening thud when you hear of their pains. I pray for the reverse as well… you will have the hard times and need sympathy, and you will want others to be excited when you share your triumphs.

I pray that would grow to love the sacraments. The beauty of remembering Christ's death and resurrection and the joy of regeneration symbolized are as wonderful as they are meaningful.

I pray that you would participate in making your church a light in the town and in the world. Anything else would be small, and would disregard obvious commands. May the entire community bless God because of His obvious work in you.

I pray that you would give. Money is a fleeting thing and you'll be embarrassed by every penny you fail to put to good use. May God's ministry of meeting real needs be shown clearly in your life.

I pray that hours would be spent in tears, distressed by the sheer ugliness of your sins. I pray, too, for the joy that comes when you remember God's amazing grace.

I pray for prayer, bible study, worship, service, relationships, evangelism, and all the other things that go with being a true servant of the King.

I pray that you would see souls repent of their sins, turn away from themselves toward God, and be radically changed by his offer of salvation. It is the miracle of all miracles, and it should never lose its freshness.

In fact, I pray that the gospel would continually refresh you as well, that its power would be reinforced in your mind. May you be aware that this is a gift that cannot grow old.

I pray that God would be glorified. I pray you realize that your commitment to His Bride is the vehicle He prescribed to accomplish that purpose. I pray that you will forever be a part of the body, and never a part of nothing but yourself. I pray that God would be honored by your life, and I praise God because He has promised that it shall be.


Contend for the Faith

I hope I'm doing what's right. Sometimes I struggle with uncertainty over the seemingly minor things I find myself contending for. Do I really need to witness to her, when she's a part of the Pentecostal church? Is it really necessary to rewrite the statement of faith? Is the Emergent Church really swaying toward heresy?

I enjoy the role God's given me, but I'm afraid I struggle with the responsibility. I would never want to lead my friends astray. So, I put hours and hours of thought and study into understanding my faith, hoping that I can account for as many things as possible. I want to be sure that I'm not saying something that will hurt their understanding of how to serve God.

As my blog quotes, though, what is required of a steward is that he be found faithful. In my time at MSU and now UBC, I have tried to be faithful. It has been imperfect, certainly, but I have tried. There can be no other standard. As long as I feel God's Truth is at stake or being challanged, I have no choice but to speak clearly in its defense. Of course, the Word doesn't NEED my defense, but that doesn't remove my responsibility to contend for it just the same.

I hope and pray that it has been to God's glory, and not mine. God help me.


A True Mentor

Well, I've been a little lax in my postings recently. Hopefully I'll improve, but we'll have to wait and see.

Have you ever had a true mentor? This person would be someone who knows you well, and can give thoughtful sympathy and advice. They can anticipate your weaknesses and inner struggles, and help you see the right way out.

Most of us would say no, because we rarely have the opportunity to let someone with more wisdom than we have get that close to us. Today, though, I'm especially thankful for my books, because they provide that same wisdom. Great authors pour out their hearts and minds, and I get to listen and consider and be changed by their wisdom.

Are you open to what books can teach you? Or do you really believe that you don’t need help from anyone in seeking wisdom?