Book mentioned in Anderson's talk

Michael mentioned The Enemy Within by Kris Lungaard. It's a very readable and helpful treatment of John Owen's doctrine of sin. The chapters are short, the paragraphs are short, but the ideas are huge and the language is fresh. You could read the book on an hour bus trip from Oxford to London or over the course of a term (I know from experience). :)

Help for application

So, if you think at all like me, you might be wondering how to take this conversation about formula and relationship and apply it. That shouldn't be our first response, but it needs to happen at some point. So, here are some suggestions..

4. Read the Bible - "Oh great. This is going to be one of those kinds of lists." We all know that we're supposed to read the Bible, that it's the primary means that God uses to communicate with us. So, why do I bother to mention it? Well, it's really easy to get into the habit when you read the Bible of going straight to the "What does God want me to do?" question. And you need to get there eventually, but if you go straight to that question, you get stuck in formula. Try reading and asking "What is God doing? What is God revealing about himself? What does God love and value?" That's a small change that can make a big difference.

3. Pray - "Again. You've got to be kidding me." Rather than going straight to confession or supplication (prayers that are great, but tend to focus on us or on our immediate surroundings), try contemplative prayer or journaling.

2. Risk - When you step out in risk for the Lord, it can help you see him as living and active. I am so aware of Jesus' reality and presence whenever I share the gospel with a friend. One of the reasons our religious formulae hurt our relationship with God is that we learn to depend on them rather than on Him. When you're sticking your neck out, it's easier to see that you need a real, living God and not a real, heavy book of rules.

1. Communion - Jesus said to do this to remember him (1 Cor 11:24). It's easy for our performance of this sacrament to be as stale as the bread it includes, but there's a lot of potential here. View it as God inviting you to share a meal with him, to spend time with him, to remember him. Every time I make my Grandmother's arroz con pollo, I remember her. In those moments, she's not just a relative in my official geneology, she's my family. Experience the living God through Communion: he is the God of bread and wine, of life not of dead religion.

Formula vs. Relationship

Chris gave an excellent talk this past Sunday from John 3. If you missed it, you missed a great one. (For those of you who do not know him, Chris is a Junior this year and is coordinating our Large Group meetings for GCF this year)

As he was sharing, he made some excellent comments about a theme we have been touching on over and over again in GCF. So often in the Christian life, when we encounter God, we expect our primary interaction with him to involve him giving us a moral system. And Christianity does eventually provide you with a moral system; as one theologian said - Any religion that does not tell you what to do with your genitals and pots and pans cannot be interesting. But a moral system is not primarily what we receive from Jesus.

I use the word primarily here very intentionally, hoping to call up the many angles the word implies. A moral system is neither the first thing, nor the main thing that Jesus offers us. He offers us himself. He always offers us his very life, the depths and the riches of God. And this offering leads us away from the formulae of elder religiousity and into the life of God - Relationship. And what a difference this makes.

Doing the right things for the wrong reasons...

...eventually leads you to doing the wrong things.

This is what I feel that the Lord has been trying to remind me over the last week as I have been thinking about and attempting to apply Prof. Morels talk on the intersection between faith and politics. Id blog more about this, but my computer died and Im having to type on Amys laptop, which is missing the g, h, backspace, apostrophe and quotation marks keys (yes, all the gs and hs have been copied and pasted).

To see this idea played out, check out this article by my favorite Duke ethicist: Dr. Hauerwas talks about Abortion

The articles by Budziszewski

Last night, Lucas referred to a couple of articles by Prof. Budziszewski: "The Problem with Conservativism" and "The Problem with Liberalism". I would highly recommend them, although I am afraid that I need to read through them a few more times to really understand all that Budziszewski had to say.

Quotes from last night

Lucas presented an excellent talk last night on the intersection of faith and politics. Enjoy these quotes as you reflect on his talk:

The purpose of Christianity is not to provide useful rules for living or organizational schemes.  From the perspective of salvation, how the world is organized is not of major importance.  Of course it is fine for human beings to organize the world, but this is a fallen world and redemption is not tied to our organization of it.  Consequently God’s work, which is from the beginning the work of redemption, cannot in any detail be expressed by social, economic or other worldly organization.  We cannot extract any system from God’s revelation without twisting the texts and coming up with unwarranted conclusions because redemption is not a system.
Jacques Ellul, Money & Power

I am afraid that the more faithful we are to our identity in Christ, the less reliable they will find us even as occasional allies; and we must be honest with them.
J. Budziszewski “The Problem with Conservatism,”
First Things

To get you ready for tomorrow...

Tomorrow night, Professor Morel is going to be speaking about Christianity and Politics. He is so insightful and so humble. It's always amazing to hear him speak.

Here are some quotes to get you prepared for his talk...

"Jesus concerns himself hardly at all with the solution of worldly problems. When he is asked to do so His answer is remarkably evasive (Matt 22:15ff; Luke 12:13). Indeed He scarcely ever replies to men's questions directly, but answers rather from a quite different plane. His word is not an answer to human questions and problems; it is the answer of God to the question of God to man." - Dietrich Bonhoeffer from Ethics

"Who actually tells us that all worldly problems are to be and can be solved? Perhaps the unsolved state of these problems is of more importance to God than their solution, for it may serve to call attention to the fall of man and to the divine redemption." - Dietrich Bonhoeffer from Ethics

"Most of us are not really approaching the subject in order to find out what Christianity says: we are approaching it in the hope of finding support from Christianity for the views of our own party. We are looking for an ally where we are offered either a Master or a Judge." - C.S. Lewis from Mere Christianity

A little poetry

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there's some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

- "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" by Robert Frost

A FLOCK of sheep that leisurely pass by
One after one; the sound of rain, and bees
Murmuring; the fall of rivers, winds and seas,
Smooth fields, white sheets of water, and pure sky;—

I’ve thought of all by turns, and still I lie
Sleepless; and soon the small birds’ melodies
Must hear, first utter’d from my orchard trees,
And the first cuckoo’s melancholy cry.

Even thus last night, and two nights more I lay,
And could not win thee, Sleep! by any stealth:
So do not let me wear to-night away:

Without Thee what is all the morning’s wealth?
Come, bless├ęd barrier between day and day,
Dear mother of fresh thoughts and joyous health!

- "To Sleep" by William Wordsworth

Winner on sleep

I recently read a fantastic article by Lauren Winner on our topic for this week: Sleep. Check out these quotes...

The irony is that although many of us trade sleep for productivity, we would actually be more productive if we slept more. When we don't get enough sleep, we accumulate "sleep debt" which has to be paid back. (It's no coincidence that we describe this state with a metaphor drawn from banking, one William Wordsworth nicely turned on its head when he asked, in his poem "To Sleep," "Without Thee what is all the morning's wealth?")


The unarguable demands that our bodies make for sleep are a good reminder that we are mere creatures, not the Creator. For it is God and God alone who "neither slumbers nor sleeps." Of course, the Creator has slept, another startling reminder of the radical humility he embraced in becoming incarnate. He took on a body that, like ours, was finite and contingent and needed sleep. To push ourselves to go without sleep is, in some sense, to deny our embodiment, to deny our fragile incarnations—and perhaps to deny the magnanimous poverty and self-emptying that went into his Incarnation.


Please check out the rest of her article: Sleep Therapy. This article was publised in "Books & Culture" in the January/February 2006 edition (p. 7ff).

Mahaney on sleep

Here's a great talk on sleep by one of my favorite preachers:
A Biblical Understanding of Sleep

and, yes, a lot of this should sound familiar. Who am I that I would have an original thought?

Genre for Bible Study

If you're interested in a little more information about Biblical genre...
Check out the following:
How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth by Fee and Stuart
or
Genre article --- see p. 20ff

On the Authority of the Bible

Here are the notes from this past week's talk on the authority of the Bible...

I. What is authority?
A. Someone who knows their stuff (She's an authority on cheeses.)
B. Someone who can tell people what to do (She's an authority figure)
C. The right and responsibility to lead, rule, guide, direct, order, etc...

II. The Gospels as history
A. Internal claims --- Lk. 1:1-4; Jn. 21:24
---They're writing history, not poetry or fiction or fantasy.
---Remember to distinguish between ancient and modern history
B. External evidence
---From the church --- ancient Christians treated the Gospels as history
---From secular sources --- agreement in broad strokes between Gospels and secular writers (see Josephus or Tacitus)

III. Jesus as both claiming and evidencing authority
A. Through teaching (ex. Mt. 7:29)
B. Through miracles (ex. Mt. 21:23ff; Mk. 2:10; Lk. 20ff)
C. Through direct claims (ex. Mt. 28:16-20; Jn. 10:18)

IV. Jesus communicating his authority through the Bible
A. Jesus' treatment of the Old Testament
B. Jesus' commissioning of his apostles
C. The treatment of the apostles' writing

see also: http://www.str.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5125

Bart Ehrman's Lecture

Here's a terrific lecture by Dr. Bart Ehrman from UNC. He's a New Testament scholar and considers himself an agnostic. Although, I wouldn't agree with all of his points, I think the value of his lecture is that it can help raise questions we need to be asking and thinking about. Enjoy!

Ehrman Lecture

The Way of Grief











This summer I finally got around to reading
A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken. I've been hearing about the book since Michele Lanham recommended it when we were Freshmen (7 years ago?). The book is an adventure story and a love story, a conversion story and a meditation on grief. It's Vanauken's meditation on grief that I'd like to mention here.

Last April, our friends at Virginia Tech experienced a great tragedy. As the VT community mourned their loss, the nation and the world grieved with them. Five months has passed and we're still talking and praying for VT.

Today, VT will take on (and beat?) ECU in Lane Stadium as the Hokies kick off their football season. ESPN Gameday is in Blacksburg, hoping to avoid another lightning strike. CNN had a special report on the start of the VT football season. The media is focusing on VT, again.

And I'm feeling some grief. It's been five months and the Hokie football team doesn't look that bad. But this is the Way of Grief and this is where Vanauken has some insight that might be helpful.

As Vanauken grieved the death of his wife, Davy, he makes some very meaningful observations. The people we know and love are historical and multi-faceted and this influences how we grieve. Here are some of his thoughts:

"The loss of Davy, after the intense sharing and closeness of the years, the loss and grief was, quite simply, the most immense thing I had ever known (p. 187)."

"One of the greatest occurrences of my own grief was the strange thing that began to happen within a day or two of her death. It was the flooding back to me of all the other Davys I had known (p. 185)."

"One is seated in a dark room around the walls of which is a complex mural - the past - and in one's hand is a tiny, brilliant spotlight. As the spotlight touches the mural, one scene leaps into vivid colour and illumination. Foot by foot the spotlight creeps about the walls, down the vista of the years (p. 194)."

"Each memory calls forth warm living reality
once: it is followed by another little death and the tears (p. 195)."

What I take from Vanauken's observations - applied to my friends at Tech - is that events like today's football game will draw old memories to the surface, memories of friends that have yet to be grieved. "How she loved Coach Beamer!" "How he hated the game-day traffic!" And each of these memories - experienced for the first time - will draw forth fresh grief.

Let's pray for our friends at Virginia Tech as they re-enter the school year, experience fresh grief, and experience fresh comfort from God and his people.

That mysterious-obscure image

So, some of you may remember this mysterious image from last year, but I'll take a minute to explain it because I find it really helpful for my Small-Group-thinking. Essentially, this image captures a bit of what a Small Group is and does.

I stole the image from the great Jimmy Long (but I think he still has the original).

Central to a Small Group - and at the center of the image as the 'G' - is God. A Small Group without God is a hollow and empty thing.

A Small Group is a community centered on God, hence the 'C'-ring. God is present in this community. How wonderful! How amazing!

God's presence in a Small Group community provokes different responses. Small Group communities dive deep into the Bible ('B'), rejoice in who God is and what God has done through Prayer and Worship ('P & W'), and move forward into the world though Evangelism and Witness ('E & W').

That God would continue to be present in our communities, calling out our response is astounding to me. Thank you, God!

Small Group Videos

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lASbgd1JeGc

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-yRgAgYv-F4

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q8VOaBFe6QM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FsuTmUfgDys

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V7cMaBZe_84

Hopes for next year?

What are you all hoping to see happen in your Small Groups next year?

For me, I'd really love to see a community develop. I'd love to see several guys grow in their faith and get involved in GCF. I'd also love to see a couple of guys become Christians.

Images of Small Groups





When you picture a
Small Group... what do you see?

Summer fun

Andrew Ackell and I will be posting SGL training materials here over the summer. Check it out to see what we're learning.

On Confession

“‘Confess your faults one to another’ (Jas. 5:16). He who is alone with his sin is utterly alone. It may be that Christians, notwithstanding corporate worship, common prayer, and all their fellowship in service, may still be left to their loneliness. The final break-through to fellowship does not occur, because, though they have fellowship with one another as believers and as devout people, they do not have fellowship as the undevout, as sinners. The pious fellowship permits no one to be a sinner. So everybody must conceal his sin from himself and from the fellowship. We dare not be sinners. Many Christians are unthinkably horrified when a real sinner is suddenly discovered among the righteous. So we remain alone with our sin, living in lies and hypocrisy. The fact is that we are sinners!”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together (from ch.5, “Confession and Communion”)

Some thoughts on the Trinity (from Systematic I)

. Who is the God that Christians worship?[1] Simply put, Christians worship the Father-Son-Spirit God. Christians have always worshipped this God because this is the God that Jesus claimed to both be and reveal (Mt. 11:27).[2] This is the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament.[3] Christians worship the Father-Son-Spirit God.
Fairly quickly, the fact that there was something unique about this God caused controversy in and around the church. In claiming to be and reveal God, Jesus pushed against the human definitions of God found in the Greek and Jewish religio-philosophical language of the time. After Jesus’ crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension, the church - filled with the Holy Spirit - sought adequate language to describe the truth revealed in Jesus about God.[4] Over the next several centuries, the church settled on the word Trinity to describe the Father-Son-Spirit God of their worship.

What it means that God is Triune.
. God is Triune. God is a Tri-unity, three-in-one, the Father-Son-Spirit God. The doctrine of the Trinity is the church’s best attempt to explain how there can be both unity and difference in God.[5] Thomas C. Oden explains: “The problem faced by the early Christian teaching was not whether Christ was God, but how, within the bounds of monotheistic faith, the unity of God could be maintained while holding equally to the deity of One who is distinct from God the Father” (The Living God, p. 216).
. The doctrine of the Trinity teaches God is one substance with three persons.[6] These words, ‘substance’ and ‘persons,’ lose some meaning when transported from Greek to English, so we need some explanation. What the early church communicated with the idea of ‘substance’ was that there is one God: the Son is God, the Father is God, and the Spirit is God (ie. The Father-Son-Spirit God). God is unified (they taught), but there is also real difference in the ‘persons’ of God. The Father is not the Son or the Spirit; the Son is not the Father or the Spirit; the Spirit is not the Father or the Son. In the Trinity, there is unity and difference, real relationship.
. The doctrine of the Trinity is unique and mysterious. Over the centuries, people have presented alternatives to this doctrine, but each alternative has led to error and has been labeled heresy by the church. Let’s examine these heresies and then, perhaps, it will become clearer why Christians believe this doctrine.


How the doctrine of the Trinity contrasts with ancient heresies.
. The doctrine of the Trinity holds that there is both unity and difference in the Godhead.[7] In the early church, people presented alternatives to this doctrine, either denying the unity of God or the difference within God. A few of these heresies were tri-theism, modalism, and subordinationism.[8]
. Tri-theism taught that Christians should worship three gods: that the Father was a god, the Son was another god, and the Spirit was a third god. This denies the essential unity of being (‘homoousion’) in the Godhead and introduces tension between the gods. If the three gods have three different beings, then none of them is free, for the other two check the god’s ability to act according to his character.[9] This also opens the door for a dualistic framework in which two gods – one good and the other evil – are locked in eternal combat.[10] Tri-theism was, therefore, considered inconsistent with Christian orthodoxy.
. Modalism taught that Christians should worship one God in three disguises, that difference and distinction in the Trinity was temporary, role-related, and mostly semantic. With a modalistic framework, one ends up with a God whose behavior is inconsistent (which disguise will God be wearing today - Angry Father or Loving Son?) and a God who lacked eternal relationship (meaning that God has improved or is improving as history progresses, making God both dependent on his Creation and less than perfect). Modalism was, therefore, considered inconsistent with Christian orthodoxy.
. Our third example of heresy is subordinationism, also known as Arianism. Subordinationism breaks with the unity of the Godhead in teaching that Jesus and/or the Spirit is not eternally God.[11] Jesus is considered either a created being adopted by God or something in-between God and humanity, neither fully God not fully human.[12] This view often stems from the belief that because the spiritual is good and matter is evil, God cannot interact with matter. Subordinationism was, therefore, considered inconsistent with Christian orthodoxy.

Why Christian teaching says “God is Triune.”
. Christian teaching stands in contrast to these other ideas and frameworks. Each of these heresies is an attempt to import a human philosophical system into the theological conversation. Christian faith, however, is called to be informed and reformed by the truth of God revealed in Christ by the Holy Spirit through the Sacred Scriptures. This is why Christian teaching says God is Triune: for relationship, from the Scripture, and following our calling.
. The doctrine of the Trinity proclaims loudly that in our relationship with Jesus we have a real relationship with God.[13] If Jesus were not God, his atonement would have no power to save;[14] we also would know nothing of God.[15] Christian faith, trusting in God, would not be possible if God had not intervened himself in Jesus Christ and revealed himself to us in him.[16]
Christians also hold to the doctrine of the Trinity because it is the best way to make sense of Scripture.[17] There are hundreds of instances throughout both the Old and New Testaments that point to the truth that there is a unity and a difference in God.[18] Jesus claimed to be united with the Father and yet different in a real way. Nowhere in Scripture will you find a clear teaching (in context) of tri-theism, dualism, polytheism, modalism, subordinationism, adoptionism, or Arianism.
. Lastly, Christians hold to the doctrine of the Trinity because we are called by God to worship him intimately and reverently. When Athanasius critiqued Arius’ theology, his critique was primarily that it was irreverent.[19] Each of the heresies undermines our ability to worship God. If we don’t know God, we can’t worship him. If we haven’t been freed from our bondage to sin, then we can’t worship him. If we can’t have faith that he will prove faithful, then we can’t worship him.
. Christians will always wrestle with the doctrine of the Trinity. It stands beyond our full comprehension, transcendent because it refers to the transcendent God. But we can understand enough of it to know God, experience freedom in Christ, and worship in Spirit and truth because this transcendent God has become immanent to us in history, especially in the work of Christ.

[1] Oden, The Living God
[2] See the Trinitarian structure of the Apostles’ Creed
[3] Contra Marcion
[4] Torrance, T., The Trinitarian Faith
[5] See the Quicunque Vult (5th Century)
[6] One ousia and three hypostases: Torrance, T., The Trinitarian Faith
[7] One could also make the case that there is unity, equality and difference in the Godhead, but the word ‘equality’ has become loaded with the idea of interchangeability. I will attempt to avoid its use because of the ease with which it is misunderstood and because I believe that the idea of unity can capture the essence of the equality of God.
[8] These three heresies touch the ideas of unity, difference, and equality. There are many other errors that crept into the early Church, but time does not allow a full treatment.
[9] Hughes, The True Image
[10] Marcion and Zoroaster’s theologies: Hughes, The True Image
[11] Torrance, T., The Trinitarian Faith
[12] A tertium quid – GodJesusHumanity
[13] Barth, “The Humanity of God”
[14] Torrance, T., The Trinitarian Faith
[15] Ibid.
[16] Barth, Dogmatics in Outline
[17] Oden, The Living God
[18] Ibid.
[19] Torrance, T., The Trinitarian Faith

Ancient Church Father's quote on the Incarnation

This is from Irenaeus's Against Heresy:

For it was for this end that the Word of God was made man,
and He who was the Son of God became the Son of man,
that man, having been taken into the Word, and receiving the adoption,
might become the son of God.
For by no other means could we have attained to
incorruptibility and immortality,
unless we had been united to
incorruptibility and immortality.
But how could we be joined to
incorruptibility and immortality,
unless, first,
incorruptibility and immortality
had become that which we also are,
so that the corruptible might be swallowed up by incorruptibility,
and the mortal by immortality,
that we might receive the adoption of sons?
(Book 3, Chapter 19)

VT Updates

InterVarsity is posting updates on our chapter at VT on this site:
http://www.intervarsity.org/studentsoul/item/virginia-tech

Please pray for the folks there.

Sermons

I'm too emotional to write right now, but I wanted to put something up to help folks as they process the VT shootings. I've found CJ's sermons to be pretty helpful. Check them out if you're interested.

http://www.covlife.org/tools/sermonarchive.php

Confronting sin

Here's a classic article from our friends over at the Navigators. Amy's grandfather gives us a subscription to Discipleship Journal (the Nav's magazine) every year. There's always great stuff in there.

http://www.navpress.com/EPubs/DisplayArticle/1/1.44.10.html

Here's a brief outline:
I. Confrontation as restoration
II. Why is restoration necessary?
A. For others
B. For the church
C. For God
III. What to expect
A. Satan
B. Fear
C. Surprise
IV. Steps to restoration
A. Mt 18:15-17
B. Gal 6:1

Lyrics from "God be Merficul to Me"

We've sung "God be Merciful to Me" by Jars of Clay several times this term. It could be interesting to take some time to think about the words, so I'm posting them.

God be merciful to me
On Thy grace, I rest my plea
Plenteous in compassion Thou
Blot out my transgressions now
Wash me, make me pure within
Cleanse, oh, cleanse me from my sin

My transgressions I confess
Grief and guilt my soul oppress
I have sinned against Thy grace
And provoked Thee to Thy face
I confess Thy judgment just
Speechless, I, Thy mercy trust

I am evil born in sin
Thou desirest truth within
Thou alone my Savior art
Teach Thy wisdom to my heart
Make me pure, Thy grace bestow
Wash me whiter than the snow

Gracious God, my heart renew
Make my spirit right and true
Thy salvation's joy impart
Steadfast make my willing heart
Steadfast make my willing heart

Broken, humbled to the dust
By Thy wrath and judgment just
Let my contrite heart rejoice
And in gladness hear Thy voice
From my sins, oh, hide Thy face
Blot them out in boundless grace

Failure and humility

Kevin Haas is a former IV Staffer and is currently the pastor of By Grace Community Church. He used to rock the blob at Rockbridge and rock the campus at CNU with his powerful preaching and evangelism. When Kevin speaks, I pay attention.

One time, I heard him say that he spent an entire year studying and meditating on the connection between boasting and the cross. I was floored. A whole year? How much could there be, man? But this was Haas speaking and I could see that he was powerfully impacted by his study of boasting and the cross.

You see, at the cross, all our boasting is stripped away. All our successes look like failures when we see the impact of our lives, the God-Man is dying on that cross in our place. Who can boast before the cross?

But when we see our sins stripped from us, placed on another, and nailed to the cross, a funny thing happens. Interesting funny, not "haha" funny. While we watch and experience this, we become humble. Our boasting in ourselves is cut off and replaced with something else, a new kind of boasting, a new assessment of ourselves. We no longer boast because we are worthy, but because - though we are unworthy - we are loved.

Now, we inevitably try to smuggle our good works into God's gift of grace, we inevitably turn from the cross and forget the source of our humility. I know that. But in those moments, in those moments when we stand at the foot of the cross and are reminded of grace, in those moments, we are humble. As John Stott wrote: "It is there, at the foot of the cross, that we shrink to our true size."

The cross protects us from being both puffed up and cast down. To take the idea from Chaplain Park, you can't think that you're somebody or nobody if you're part of His Body.

Please, remember the cross. Meditate on what the Savior has done for us. Remember who you were and what it cost to make you who you are. Remember who you are in Christ and the value that you now have to God. Our moral failures put him on the cross, but on the cross he has broken our failures and rescued us to be united to him. How wonderful, the cross!

Thou

We'll be singing some old words in our time of musical worship on Sunday. I thought it'd be interesting to think a little bit about what they mean and why we use them.

Definition of 'thou:' second person singular pronoun, archaic (replaced by 'you'), sounds formal when used today

Did you know that, centuries ago, people used 'thou' as familiar and 'you' as formal? It's kinda like tu/usted in Spanish for the hispanohablantes out there. You would say 'thou' to close friends and family, reserving 'you' for formal situations.

When Tyndale translated the Bible into English, he used 'thou' to refer to God intentionally to show the intimacy in the relationship. When King James authorized the King James Version a century or so later, it lifted over 80% of Tyndale's language word for word, including his use of the word 'thou.'

Over time, French influence on the English language and the growing popularity of formal addresses pushed 'thou' out of usage in common speech. It's usage was preserved, however, in religious settings, due to it's inclusion in the King James Version of the Bible.

Because these religious settings were more formal than people's everyday context, 'thou' began to take on a more formal feel and usage. And that's what's been passed down to us.

We use it today mainly because of it's sound. It can help rhyme schemes and has a smoother sound than 'you,' so it's commonly found in hymns and music (which is where you'll hear it tomorrow).

God doesn't require us to use 'Thou' when we address him, but some Christians still use it in prayer. Some Christians use it in order to be more reverent and respectful. Some also use 'thou' because it fits their tradition and the way they were raised. Some use it because they want to sound more smart and holy than they actually are. Thou canst usually tell the difference (Thou wilt not fool us with thy fancy-sounding prayers, Fancy-sounding Pray-er. We're onto thee).

Worth failing at

"I think this is something worth failing at"

Have you heard me use this phrase before? It's not a phrase I created, but it's one I find helpful.

As we follow Jesus, we frequently find ourselves facing the possibility of failure.

Por ejemplo, we struggle against sin in our lives, but we know that somewhere out there - a day, a week, a month or an hour from now - failure may find us. We will do what we don't want to do. But struggling against sin is something worth failing at.

We try to change the world, to be salt and light for Jesus, or even just to renew the campus, but we know that somewhere out there - a day, a week, a month or an hour from now - what we're building might collapse.

It's scary.

Many of us in and around the W&L community have what personality psychologists call "high achievement motivation." There's not space to really get into it here, but there's some fascinating research that's been done on folks like us. People with high achievement motivation tend to set "moderately difficult but potentially achievable goals." We tend to be highly independent and tend to shy away from risks when we feel the outcomes are beyond our control (see McClelland's research for more information).

But in the following of Jesus, we are constantly thrown into situations where we are not in control and where we have to depend on others: God, our friends, our families, etc. I mean, let's face it: our mission as Christians does not fit into the "moderately difficult" category. What we're called to is impossible without miracles. Love your enemies? Love your neighbor? Love God? Impossible. And here's a danger for us: when asked to try the impossible, we may give up. We may play it too safe.

How can I face a future filled with failure after failure? My identity and sense of self-worth are so tightly tied to my successes. This makes following God seem unsafe. In fact, it might be the most unsafe thing we can do.

But we don't serve and love a safe God or a God who played it safe. In Jesus, we see both radical dependence and an emptying of control (Phil. 2). In the beautiful mystery of the Trinity, the Son - filled with the Spirit - submits to the Father. In the beautiful mystery of the Incarnation, though God is still God, God also becomes man and - as man - becomes dependent. And somehow, though he is mysteriously dependent and out of control (don't read too much into that), his identity is not contingent on his performance. He is the Beloved Son - with whom the Father is well pleased - long before he conquered sin and death and the devil.

So...remembering his example and experiencing his presence and power, let's do the things that God calls us to do, things that are worth doing even if we risk failure.

"Amazing Grace" Lyrics

I've had some folks ask for the lyrics to the version of "Amazing Grace" we sang at Large Group this week. It's a great new arrangement by Chris Tomlin and is available on iTunes.

"Amazing grace how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now I'm found
Was blind, but now I see

'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear
And grace my fears relieved
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed

My chains are gone
I've been set free
My God, my Savior has ransomed me
And like a flood His mercy reigns
Unending love, Amazing grace

The Lord has promised good to me
His word my hope secures
He will my shield and portion be
As long as life endures

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow
The sun forbear to shine
But God, Who called me here below
Will be forever mine
Will be forever mine
You are forever mine"

A key passage on why Christians meet together

If you want to do some further study on why Christians meet together, I'd recommend checking out this beauty from Hebrews 10:

"Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching."

Questions about failure

Here's something to think and talk about this weekend:

Was Jesus a failure? Why might you say 'Yes'? Why might you say 'No'?

I find it helpful for my own following of Jesus to toss these questions into my time with Him every once in a while.

I consistently find two things. Firstly, some of the reasons I might say "Yes, Jesus was a failure" are the same reasons I say "I am a failure." Secondly, the reasons I'd say "No, Jesus was not a failure" are reasons I refuse to use to measure myself and my performance. I think it's pretty interesting.

Maybe I'll post more on this later, but I'll be North Carolina tonight and tomorrow. Think about it, okay?

Failure as faltering

I've been thinking and praying a lot about failure over the last couple of weeks. We've been working through a series on failure and I'm going to be speaking in a couple of weeks.

The Bible actually has a lot to say about failure.

But something's been catching my attention as I've been reading. When the Bible refers to failure, it's often referring to faltering. Here're some examples of what I mean:

"Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail." Lam. 3:22

"My heart pounds, my strength fails me; even the light has gone from my eyes." Ps. 38:10

"My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever." Ps. 73:26

These images of failing contrast beautifully with the picture of God as one who never fails - who steadys us, supports us, holds us, and upholds us. This seems so meaningful and beautiful to me.

When I fail and sin, I ask God for forgiveness and joyfully receive the forgiveness that He gives me in Christ. But then, when I turn my attention to my struggles against sin, I often struggle on as if I'm struggling alone. And I usually continue failing.

But into this pattern of self-dependent failure the Bible whispers "Your flesh and your heart may fail, but God is the strength of your heart and your portion forever."

So, please continue to struggle against failure and sin, but take courage in this truth: "Though your flesh and your heart may fail, God is the strength of your heart and your portion forever." Struggle and ask for help. Struggle with a grateful heart. Struggle and rejoice in your Help and your Savior - who loves you and is actively and wonderfully and lovingly conforming you to the image of the One we love.

Sexual failure and God's mission

As we've been talking about failure, one thing that I realize is that moral failure is very common on a college campus. Here're some great thoughts from John Piper about how moral failures (particularly sexual failures) can influence our participation in God's mission:

"The great tragedy is not mainly masturbation or fornication or acting like a peeping Tom (or curious Cathy) on the internet. The tragedy is that Satan uses the guilt of these failures to strip you of every radical dream you ever had, or might have, and in its place give you a happy, safe, secure, American life of superficial pleasures until you die in your lakeside rocking chair, wrinkled and useless, leaving a big fat inheritance to your middle-aged children to confirm them in their worldliness. That’s the main tragedy."

"O my brothers and sisters, when you learn to deal with the guilt of sexual failure with this kind brokenhearted boldness, this kind of theology, this kind of justification by faith, this kind substitutionary atonement, this kind of gutsy guilt, this kind of unshakable position that you have in the crucified, risen, invincible king Jesus Christ—when you learn to deal with the guilt of sexual failure this way, you will fall less often. Because Christ will become increasingly precious to you."

For the full transcript of this sermon, check out:
www.desiringgod.org and Search: "guilt" and "sexual failure"

John Pearson's sermons on Jonah

We've talked a lot about Jonah this year in GCF. It's my favorite book of the Bible.

I recently ran across some sermons by John Pearson, the RUF campus minister here at W&L. He's an excellent teacher and has some very perceptive things to say about Jonah and how the story of Jonah connects to the story God's writing through our lives at W&L. I've been listening to these sermons while I work this morning and thought some of you might like to check them out.

http://www.wlu.ruf.org/GenericPage/DisplayPage.aspx?guid=43DD67DE-AAAC-49E0-932A-60B8F6ECDC89

Some more thoughts on praying before eating...

Scott Dittman sent this over this morning. He always has great thoughts and great quotes.

"Although we ought always to raise our minds upwards towards God, and
pray without ceasing,
yet such is our weakness, which requires to be supported,
such our torpor, which requires to be stimulated,
that it is requisite for us to appoint special hours for this exercise, hours which are not to pass away without prayer, and during which the whole affections of our minds are to be completely occupied; namely,
when we rise in the morning,
before we commence our daily work,
when we sit down to food,
when by the blessing of God we have taken it, and
when we retire to rest.
This, however, must not be a superstitious observance of hours, by which, as it were, performing a task to God, we think we are discharged as to other hours. It should rather be considered a discipline by which our weakness is exercised and stimulated."
... John Calvin, The Institutes of the Christian Religion

Do I have to say grace before I eat?

Here's a cool article from StudentSoul to follow-up tonight's (WWD)^2

http://www.intervarsity.org/studentsoul/item/say-grace

And here are some reasons I've noticed for praying before eating (there are more, for sure, but here're a few):

Thanksgiving --- God, you provide for us - salvation, love, community - even food!

Worship --- Let our eating be considered worship of you, Jesus, not anyone else!

Protection --- God, sovereign over the universe, protect us from our food!

Health --- God, work a miracle and make this Pop Tart healthy!

Tradition/Solidarity --- Father, we join with our global, historical family in Christ and pray before eating.

Whywedowhatwedo

From our new Short-Talk series...

Why do Christians say 'Amen'? Have you ever wondered that?

'Amen' means literally "it is true" or "so be it." It can also be used as "well said" or "I agree." Lots of Christians treat it like it means "the end." It's kinda quirky, right?

For more information on the origin of the word, check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amen

So, why say 'Amen'? Here're 5 reasons.

5) It connects us to our history and our ancient roots
4) In corporate settings, it cuts down on the audience/performer tendency
3) In prayer, it reminds us that talking to God is a special privilege
2) It sounds cool...c'mon that's why we say a lot of what we say
1) Jesus said it (Matthew 6:13)

On a side note, as someone who speaks and preaches a lot, I love having people say 'Amen' when I say something true, powerful, or relevant. As someone who often leads groups in prayer, I love having people say 'Amen' as we finish praying. So, with GCF, don't not say 'Amen' because you don't want to annoy me (double negatives? oh no).

Greek Conference

This weekend, I'm at InterVarsity's Greek Conference in Charlotte, NC. Check out the GC blog if you're interested - greekconference.blogspot.com.
Dave Shepley updates way more regularly that I ever will. ;)

Third, how should we respond to invalid understandings of Scripture?

After quite a bit of time away from the blog, I'm just going to toss out a couple of ideas on this topic, as promised...

First, before we can respond, we need to be made aware of these invalid understandings (in ourselves as wel as in others). This is why it's so important to read Scripture in community - in community with our brothers and sisters in Christ from around the world and throughout history as well as, most importantly, in community with the Holy Spirit who dwells within us.

Second, check out this article on perspective and preference:
http://www.bethinking.org/resource.php?ID=10&TopicID=4&CategoryID=6

Third, be humble and gentle. Nine times out of ten the invalid things our friends believe are not core issues, not worth quarreling about, and not as clear as we think.

Lastly, I've found it helpful when I get frustrated by talking about these ideas and feel that truth is escaping me to know that:
"Biblical truth, the truth in which the people of God are called to live...is concrete, historcal truth. It does not exist in a world of pure ideas but rather is closely bound with bread and wine, with justice and peace, with a coming Reign of God-a Reign not over pure ideas or over disembodied souls but over a new society and a renewed history" (Gonzalez, Manana, p. 50).

How do perspectives shape evaluations of truth-claims?

For centuries, people used Scripture to condone the practice of slavery. Paul's letters, the mark God placed on Cain, God's cursing of Ham - these all spoke more loudly than the big pictures of Image and Likeness and "proving neighbor."

Have any of you been in a conversation recently with a follower of Jesus who sincerely believed that the Bible was pro-slavery? To be honest, I haven't. I've had people accuse me of believing in a holy book that supports and justifies evil (like slavery). But I've never had someone try to convince me that the Bible supports slavery and that slavery is a good thing.

Now, the Biblical material as it relates to slavery is tricky. It's worth thinking through and thinking through well.

But isn't it interesting that we give little time to thinking about slavery? We rarely talk about it. It's rarely discussed in our churches or around our dinner tables. We're pretty confident in what we believe about this subject, even though we haven't worked through all of the difficulties associated with the aforementioned Biblical materials.

Now, is our certainty on this issue related to some progress we've had in the field of hermeneutics? Sure, somewhat. But certainly not in its entirely. Some of our certainty has to do with our perspective.

Our cultural perspective tells us that slavery is wrong. And I think this is a great thing because it really lines up with the Bible's teaching on this topic, especially when the Bible's read rigorously.

What we have to come to terms with, and this is really difficult, is the possibility that our flawed perspectives are constantly making truth-claims, constantly telling us how to interpret Scripture. Sometimes, it works out wonderfully. Sometimes, it doesn't.

So what about when perspectives contradict the Biblical witness? How do we know when this has happened and what can we do about it? This is the core question I'd guess the person who dropped it into the box was wondering. It's what I'll post on soon. ;)

Is there such a thing as an incorrect perspective of Scripture?

In the Perspective talk, I outlined the "perspective as landscape" idea mentioned in Santa Biblia by Justo Gonzalez. I won't review it all here, but one of his points bears repeating. Although we each have different perspectives on the landscape, we're looking at the same landscape. Do you remember that?

When I'm talking about perspective, I'm talking about how who we are influences our understanding of Scripture. Because every human is unique, every human has a unique perspective if and when they approach Scripture, right? Although readers of Scripture have different perspectives, we know that they read the same Scripture. So, one might imagine that they come to the same basic conclusions when they read it? Well, do these different readers always agree as to the meaning of Scripture? Not hardly. In fact, people often disagree on what they are reading or understanding. In fact, sometimes they disagree in ways that really seem irreconcilable.

So, where does this leave us with our question?

Well...I think this question circles back to a deeper, more fundamental question: are people flawed? If people are flawed, corrupted in some deep and meaningful ways, then it would make sense that their perspectives on Scripture are, at times, flawed. Remember, perspective is about how who we are influences our ability to see things. If who we are is 'flawed,' then our ability to see things will be 'flawed' as well.

And this is one reason why perspective is so important. By utilizing the various perspectives available in the church, we can, in part, work around our flawed individual perspectives and receive correction when our flaws lead us hermeneutically astray.

The slavery example from the original question illustrates this nicely. But that will have to wait for another post.

True perspective

"In keeping with your 'perspectives' talk, if you do run into an incorrect perspective of scripture (ie. slavery is condoned) - what rock of certainty or absolute truth do you turn to - what TRUE perspective do you use to determine whether it's valid or not?" - AM Question

What a terrific question!

I really wanted to get into this in my talk, but had to leave it on the cutting room floor. I'm really glad someone followed me up on this.

I'm going to break this question up into three different, smaller questions, so you can read the chunk that interests you most.

First, is there such a thing as an incorrect perspective of Scripture?
Second, how do perspectives shape evaluations of truth-claims?
Third, how should we respond to invalid understandings of Scripture?

Equality without difference

I made a random comment during the Apologetic Moment last night that got some confused looks. I think I said something like "You can't have equality without difference."

What I meant was this:

There's a temptation, when talking about equality and pushing for equality, to settle for sameness. "If you want to be equal to me, you have to be more like me." This line of reason is especially difficult in gender relations and theology.

In gender relations, if equality requires absolute sameness, then the push has to be toward some sort of gender-neutrality, which tends to emasculate masculinity and defeminize femininity.

In theology, you lose the mystery of the Trinity and the uniqueness of our faith.

It is this fact that we are equal even with our differences, united by God's grace, that Paul finds so amazing in Ephesians. He can't talk much about God's grace toward us without talking about our unity in Him. And these ideas of equality and unity make no sense unless God Himself has created, approved of, and is glorified by some of our differences and diversity.

Equality without difference is mere sameness. God is glorified in that He experiences and creates equality with difference, unity with diversity.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day

For some interesting reading on MLK Jr Day...

Check out this section from his Letter from the Birmingham Jail

"But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus an extremist for love: "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." Was not Amos an extremist for justice: "Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream." Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: "I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus." Was not Martin Luther an extremist: "Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God." And John Bunyan: "I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience." And Abraham Lincoln: "This nation cannot survive half slave and half free." And Thomas Jefferson: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that an men are created equal ..." So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we viii be. We we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremist for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary's hill three men were crucified. We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime---the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. The other, Jeans Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. Perhaps the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists."

For the whole letter, see...
http://www.nobelprizes.com/nobel/peace/MLK-jail.html

Why trust the Bible?

Our last Apologetic Moment was focused on this question: Why trust the Bible? Unfortunately, I was focused on Ryan's talk: whether I'd encouraged him enough, given him enough direction, prayed for him enough, or annoyed him. So, my attempt at an answer was jumbled and confusing. My apologies.

Why trust the Bible?

There's a 3 second answer, a 3 minute answer and a 3 hour answer.

Christians trust the Bible because it speaks truthfully about Jesus. That's the 3 second answer.

But this answer, I've found, is so unusual that it tends to frustrate people. The approach to this question that most of us are familiar with is an outside-in approach. We take on the posture of doubt, apply scientific textual-historical criticism to various holy books, examine the Bible more closely if and only if it stands out above the rest, and trust it only after all our questions about it have been answered. This approach moves from understanding to faith.

And it works for some people, this 'understanding seeking faith' approach. Read the works of FF Bruce or Josh McDowell or Lee Stobel and you'll see a way to come to trust in the Bible.

But this isn't the way the church has always approached the Bible, or even the best way. As an example, let's look at the history of the compilation of the book. The Bible is a book that was compiled, did you know that? It didn't descend from the sky and it wasn't buried in the ground waiting to be uncovered. It was compiled because the community of people who followed Jesus needed to pass down Jesus' friends' (the apostles and their companions) teaching about Jesus after they died (or were martyred). The ancient community of Jesus-followers trusted the Bible because it spoke truthfully about the one they followed.

This approach, from faith to understanding, is eminently unscientific. I know that. It doesn't open the door to our sexiest scientific proofs. It isn't impressive. It isn't forceful. It's gentle and humble. It follows a very straight and narrow path to the question of the identity of Jesus. So let me warn you: "Be careful where you plant this answer, for it quickly grows so much that 'the birds of the air can perch in its shade.'"

Let me show you what I mean.

I trust the Bible because it speaks truthfully about Jesus...
- What leads you to think it speaks untruthfully about Jesus? Who do you say that he is? Why?
- Do the Qu'ran, Book of Mormon, Jesus Seminar, etc... agree with the Bible and speak truthfully about Jesus? If not, why not?
- Why don't we settle the question of Jesus before we move on to other questions of facticity and interpretation (for ex. mustard seed=smallest, Gen 1 vs Gen 2)?

Let's not pretend to be disinterested, objective observers. I mean, will anyone really buy that? It's falling out of favor in the academy and it definately doesn't jive with the biblical description of humanity, which always presents us on one side or the other, never in some objective middle.

Let's not pretend that faith and trust flow from perfect understanding and comprehensive research. As limited beings, we will always wrestle with unknowns, clinging to what and who we know in the mysterious darkness, even as we learn and expand our knowledge.

Let us not pretend that we stand over the Bible, as if it is waiting for our endorsement and permission before it can challenge, comfort, and change us. We know better. We need the biblical truth of Jesus like we need air, not like we need dessert.

Let us trust the Bible. It speaks truthfully about the One who loves us and has taught us what love is, who is loved by God and given to us out of God's great love, who is the truth that sets us free.

I'm sorry if I confused anybody with this AM or this post. As always, please feel free to ask me to expand on what I've said or written.