An excellent read for church leaders to consider that evangelism and church leadership are not the exclusive domain of extroverts. It includes helpful ideas for how to structure the programs of our church to be more introvert friendly. It also helps extrovert-centric ministries to consider how much the body of Christ is enriched by the introverted personality. Parts of it will be a little off-putting to evangelicals because it suggests some of the more contemplative and liturgical worship practices (which we evangelicals tend to be suspicious of as mysticism). But maybe that’s the point. We tend to look at our worship experiences as being the only way to do it, and maybe that’s keeping the wallflowers on the other side of the wall–on the outside looking in.
Meacham is a gifted historian and not a bad lay theologian. Though not writing from an evangelical perspective, he is fair to evangelicals without pandering to them. Appendix A, a collection of source documents of (mostly) the Founders writing about religion, is helpful for deflating the myth that we are a Christian nation, while at the same time helping us see that many of the founding fathers were men of deep personal piety. I wish there were more chapters– that he would have dealt with issues rather than eras. That would have made it easier to go back and reference specific points of history. And if the hard copy (I read it on kindle) has an index, I will probably buy it for future reference.
Why it was really stupid of Satan to quote Psalm 91 to Jesus.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. 12 On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone. 13 You will tread on the lion and the adder; the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot.
Psalm 91:11-13 (ESV)
I’ve loved using Desiring God’s Fighter Verse app to grow in the discipline of Scripture memorization (If you want to know more about it, I love telling people about it!) For the past few weeks, I’ve been working my way through memorizing Psalm 91. And this week, we come to verses 11-13. Many Christians are already familiar with verses 11-12, because this is the Scripture the devil tried to tempt Jesus with in Luke 4:9-11.
But here’s the thing: Satan should have known better than to quote that verse out of context. He should have known that Jesus would know ALL of Psalm 91, especially verse 13:
You will tread on the lion and the adder; the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot.
And here’s the thing about the other thing: Psalm 91:13 isn’t the first or the last time God’s Word says something about trampling a serpent underfoot. The first time is all the way back in the Garden of Eden. The first sin has been committed. Adam and Eve have fallen. God is about to banish them from the Garden. But tucked in the middle of this narrative, in God’s curse of the Serpent, we see the first messianic prophecy–what theologians and all lovers of lots of syllables call the protoeuangellion:
15 I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
God, speaking to the serpent, says, “There will come a day when an offspring of this woman (other translations call Him “her seed”) will crush (“bruise”) your head. Where else besides in a virgin birth would one ever talk about the seed of the woman? This can only be talking about Jesus!
Can’t you imagine Jesus thinking of that prophecy every time he read Psalm 91:13? And don’t you imagine Jesus immediately thinking of Psalm 91:13 the minute Satan quoted Psalm 91:11-12 to Him? And don’t you think Jesus was already anticipating when the Holy Spirit would inspire Paul to write, in Romans 16:20:
20 The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.
Satan knows Scripture. But he doesn’t know the story. Let that not be true of us today!
Aunt Helen was never happy with this painting. But my mom wisely told her to leave the pear alone.
This past Saturday (June 4, 2016), I was with my mother, my brother, and one of my sisters in Parkersburg, West Virginia, to bury my aunt. Helen Hartshorn Youngblood: artist, wife, mother, deacon, sister, aunt, friend. My Aunt Helen had a profound influence on me. This is the first of what may be several blog posts I write as I think about what I learned from her.
There is a painting hanging in my mom’s kitchen that Aunt Helen painted. For years, every time Helen would visit my mom, she would want to take the painting back to Parkersburg with her and work on it some more. She was never happy with it. Specifically, she wanted to re-do the pear. But my mom wouldn’t let her. “This represents who you were when you painted it, not the painter you wound up being,” she told her. “I like it just the way it is.”
If you’ve lived at all, you have a few regrets. You have a few pears you wish you could paint over. Nobody paints it right the first time. And artists can look at paintings they did early in life and say, “But I’ve learned so much since then!” Poets cringe at the sappiness and naivete of their poems from high school. People who journal can look at entries from a certain day (or even a certain season of days) and be tempted to rip those pages out. In those times, we can all do well to remember my mom’s advice to her sister. The artist we were is not the same as the artist we become. Leave the pear alone, and don’t think twice about signing your name to the work.
Paul tells us, in his letter to the Philippians, that he is confident of this very thing: that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6). Consistently in Scripture, we are reminded to forget what lies behind, and to press on to what is ahead (Philippians 3:13-14). That what we will be has not yet been revealed (1 John 3:2). And if there is a sermon you would have preached differently, or a poem you would have written differently, or a pear you would have painted differently, or a day you would have lived differently, then let them all stand as a testimony to where God has led you.
Jesus’ last words on the cross, according to John’s gospel, were “It is finished” (John 19:30). In the Greek, the word is τελέω. It carries the meaning of an action being fulfilled or accomplished according to a command. It’s the last act that completes a process. Significantly, τελέω is also the root of the word for “perfect” that is used in Philippians 1:6.
There will come a day when our work is accomplished, because there has already been a day when Jesus’ work was accomplished. When we will be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. My Aunt Helen had her work completed this weekend, and she heard her Savior say, “Well done, good and faithful servant, come and share in the joy of your Master” (Matthew 25:23).
Until that day, we keep painting, composing, singing, dancing, building, sculpting, and journaling. We are artists, every one of us; contributing our stanzas and quatrains and couplets; our still lifes and studies and portraits and landscapes to God’s great masterpiece. The artists we were are not the artists we will become. But if we are gentle with ourselves, and if we leave the pear alone, we can see how far our God has brought us.
There is a scene in Gladiatorin which Maximus, the general-turned slave-turned Gladiator throws his sword into the stands and screams “Are you not entertained?” to the crowd that has just witnessed him fight another gladiator to the death.
Apparently, some Baptists are not entertained. Several weeks ago, a parody of Run-DMC’s song “It’s Tricky,” with lyrics rewritten to support North Carolina pastor/SBC Presidential-hopeful JD Greaar went viral (well, by Baptist standards, anyway. 14000 views). The video, written, produced, and performed by Ashley Unzicker (who is a member of Greaar’s church and whose husband serves as that church’s missions pastor) features several prominent Southern Baptists, including Danny Akin, Russell Moore, and David Platt, all uttering the phrase “It’s Tricky.”
In the April 15 issue of The Florida Baptist Witness, an article was published with the headline, “JD Greaar YouTube Video Raises Concern.” The Alabama Baptist version of the same article, published in the April 28 print version, reads, “Concerns Raised over endorsements of 2016 nominees” was published. The byline for both versions lists the story as
a joint project by the Association of State Baptist publications. Contributing to the report were Will Hall, editor of the Louisiana Baptist Message, Lonnie Wilkey, editor of the Baptist and Reflector in Tennessee; and Neisha Roberts, editorial production coordinator for The Alabama Baptist. The story was compiled by Jennifer Davis Rash, executive editor of The Alabama Baptist.”
You would think with all those editors, someone would have remembered the first basic question of journalism: Who?
You see, the article never says who is raising concerns. This is like someone coming up to their pastor and saying “I don’t have a problem with this, but people are saying…” Come on. If someone feels like Greaar shouldn’t have made a YouTube video, then they should own it. Or should I just conclude that those who are concerned are the editors of various state Baptist papers who are mentioned in the byline?
Second, the headline (of the Alabama Baptist version) says “nominees.”But the article only mentions one nominee. Again, just be honest. If it bothers someone that a member of JD Greaar’s church made a YouTube parody video, then say so. This whole line of, “Some people are bothered by the actions of some nominees” just sounds like middle school.
Finally, the article implies that Greaar himself made.the video. David Platt says that “while I was overseas in the Middle East, J.D. asked me ” to shoot a video of himself saying “It’s tricky.”
However, the video begins with a disclaimer saying it does not reflect the views of Greaar, Summit Church, or any entity of the SBC,” and is meant for entertainment purposes only. And Ashley Unzicker, the creator of the video, says that it was her husband, the missions pastor at Summit, who made the calls to the various people in the video, not Greaar himself. This is according to North Carolina’s “Baptist Recorder,” which, incidentally, was NOT part of the “joint project.”
I would simply ask for our state papers to be a little more honest in your reporting. If the editors don’t like the video, they should say they don’t like the video. As it is, it comes across as sounding more like they don’t like JD Greaar.
Challies Challenge Category: Novel by a Christian Author
This is the second book I’ve read (well-listened–they are available in audiobook form)in Lynn Austin’s Chronicles of the Kings series. She is very skilled at taking the details we know from Scripture (which usually aren’t many) and creating a compelling story from them that still rings true to the context of the Bible. I’ve enjoyed her work, and look forward to listening to the other books in the series. For Challies challenge, this was my entry for “novel by a Christian author.”
Challies Challenge Category: Book less than 100 pages
This book was recommended by both Tim Challies and John Piper. I’m in a group right now that’s trying to memorize Romans, so it was well worth the 99 cents to download this one. The title is well-said: this is “an” approach. Not “the” approach. And as such, it’s pretty good.
Fantastic! The audiobook of this is the free book this month in christianaudio.com, (April, 2016) but after listening to about half of it I ordered a hard copy from Amazon. There really needs to be a small group study on this. The SCAN acronym– the Bible is sufficient, clear, authoritative, and necessary– is worth the price of the whole book. In addition, there is an an annotated bibliography of books at the end– grouped by category and graded on degree of difficulty, that makes me glad I don’t just have it on audio.
I appreciated Voddie’s commitment to keep the ultimate goal of an apologetic conversation in mind–to share the gospel. He reminds the reader that according to Romans 1:18-20, people don’t have a knowledge problem. They have a righteousness problem.
I’m also challenged to spend more time learning the creeds, confessions, and catechisms that have been used to teach the faith for hundreds of years. As a Baptist I’ve never studied them much, apart from memorizing the Apostles Creed. But now, and especially as a Christian educator, I appreciate their value for helping us teach and learn how to “give an answer for the hope that is within us”
(1 Pet. 3:15)
My only complaint with the book is that I wished he had used a different example of an apologetic sermon in the appendix. He had already summarized the sermon in same sex marriage and the divisions of the levitical law earlier in the book; so the appendix felt redundant.
Challies Challenge: Book by or about Martin Luther
The main part of this book is the 95 Theses, followed by various letters Luther wrote to defend the theses. Also included is his Shorter Catechism, and a handful of his sermons. It was very enlightening to me, primarily to realize that the Theses weren’t initially intended to start the Reformation, but to reform a specific practice in the Catholic Church. As with a lot of books that start off for me with the audio version, I found it very helpful to download a Kindle version as well.
Challies Challenge Category: Book more than a hundred years old
So, Chesterton himself called this a “chaotic volume,” and I don’t disagree. For the first three-quarters of the book, I couldn’t figure out why it was called “Orthodoxy.” It was hard to follow any organizing principle, and if he was arguing to make a point, he argued more like a poet than a lawyer.
It didn’t help that I was listening to the audiobook. Even though it was narrated by the amazing Simon Vance (whose narrations of Ken Follett’s The Pillars of the Earth and World Without End are some of the best audiobooks I’ve ever heard) I don’t recommend the format for Chesterton. This book is meant to be chewed slowly, like a really good steak. You need to be able to roll the words around in your mind, and unless you’ve got your finger constantly on the pause and rewind buttons (not recommended while you are driving), you can’t do that.
So, I bought a hard copy, and now I feel like I have to read it again.
I’d had this in my Christian Audio library for awhile, and when I saw that yesterday was the anniversary of the premiere of Messiah, I started listening. Great read. The two best takeaways are George Bernard Shaw’s criticism of mass choirs performing Messiah, and the theological question of “why doesn’t ‘Messiah’ end with the ‘Hallelujah Chorus’?”
Challies Challenge: Book written in the 20th century
This was the second time I’ve read this. I picked it up again after watching the “Everest” movie. I don’t think the previous edition I read had the postscript about the ongoing fight between Krakauer and the author of another book about the same events, which is critical of Krakauer’s criticisms of one of the guides. It is an interesting read on its own, dealt with issues of journalistic integrity and fact checking.
Date Started: April 16 Date Finished: April 21
I really enjoyed this book. Robison writes with clarity and humor (whether or not it is intentional humor is hard to say, given that he is writing as an Aspergian). There are times when he comes across like a real life Forrest Gump–a social misfit who winds up in the right place at the right time to make an impact on the world that a so-called “normal” person could never make. The main difference is that instead of meeting Presidents like Forrest Gump, Robison met rock stars.
The book is also genuinely moving as it gets into the time Robison spends with his own son.
I would recommend this book to anyone that has someone on the autistic spectrum in their life, as well as anyone that just enjoys a well-written, if quirky and oddball–memoir.
Date Started: April 20 Date Finished: April 28 Challies Challenge Category: Novel set in a country other than your own
This book was a feast. Moving, deeply Christian, informative, poetic, redemptive, beautiful. The characters are richly drawn, multidimensional, and fully realized. The prose is gorgeous. The message and the issues are timeless, as relevant to Ferguson, Missouri as they were to Soweto, Johannesburg. I will go back to this one again. And for what its worth, the 1995 film version starring James Earl Jones and Richard Harris, is on Netflix. While it isn’t a perfect movie, it is perfectly cast.
Who did Job think he was, telling God he would “cling to his righteousness and never let it go”?
One of the most rewarding parts of my work week happens on Monday nights from 8:30-10:00, when a group of men gather together for a deep dive into the book of Romans. Some of us are trying to memorize the entire book. Others are memorizing the two or three verses that go along with each session. But all of us are benefiting from the intense, focused study on the book that launched the Reformation and is the foundation for arguably the most well-known gospel presentation, the Romans Road.
The dominant theme of the first three chapters of Romans is that none of us are righteous. Not one of us–no, not one–can stand before God with any shred of righteousness that comes from ourselves.
Which makes the book of Job such an enigma. You know the story. God and the devil make a wager over the life of Job. God gives Satan permission to mess with Job, taking away everything from Job except his life. Job’s friends come to console him, and wind up arguing with him for about 25 chapters. Basically, they all tell him that he is being punished because of some unconfessed sin. But Job’s not buying it. Which leads us to Job 27:3-6:
3 as long as my breath is still in me and the breath from God remains in my nostrils, 4 my lips will not speak unjustly, and my tongue will not utter deceit. 5 I will never affirm that you are right. I will maintain my integrity until I die. 6 I will cling to my righteousness and never let it go. My conscience will not accuse me as long as I live! [Job 27:3-6 HCSB]
Does anyone else look at this and think that Job sounds really full of himself? Humility is a Christian virtue. All of us have to admit we are sinners before we can trust Christ for our salvation, right?
So where does Job get off saying things like, “I will maintain my righteousness and never let go of it?” Is this arrogance? Does it fly in the face of Paul’s teaching that “there is none righteous, no, not one?” (Romans 3:10) I don’t think so.
Job’s confidence is not in himself, but in the trustworthiness of God. Job believed in a God whose will and ways could be known. Other gods from other religions were fickle and capricious. You never knew what you might have done to displease the god of the rain when there was drought, so you danced and sacrificed and cut yourself until the blood flowed in an effort to get his attention (remember the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18?) A king wouldn’t know how to gain the favor of the gods so his army would prevail in battle, so he might sacrifice one of his own sons to Molech by throwing him in the flames (Jeremiah 32:35). Or think about the Greek gods we studied in high school. Mortals were constantly subject to the whims and jealousies of the gods. When Zeus and Hades were angry at each other, humans paid the price.
But Yahweh is different. He can be known. He has given us His laws and decrees. We know what pleases Him and what doesn’t. And this is the confidence Job was clinging to. No matter how many times his so-called friends argued, “well, you must have done something wrong to be suffering in this way,” Job stubbornly and steadfastly held on to the idea that he knew what it took to walk with God, and that he had done it. When Job says things like “I will maintain my righteousness and never let go of it; my conscience will not reproach me as long as I live,” he was not expressing confidence in his own goodness, but in God’s justice.
I am so thankful that our God is predictable. He is not capricious, punishing humans on a whim or a lark (I admit, some would argue that’s the whole storyline of Job. I encourage you to watch this excellent animated walk-through of the book of Job from the fine folks at the Bible Project, and then let’s talk.). Don’t get me wrong. There is still none righteous. But Job teaches me that we can trust in God’s unchanging character. In every situation. In every place. For all time. Praise Him!
Recently, I was leading a large group of adults in a study of 1 Corinthians 3, in which Paul bemoans the lack of spiritual maturity in the church. So I asked the group three questions:
What are the marks of spiritual maturity?
How long does it take?
Do you consider yourself spiritually mature?
I wrote their responses in one column on a whiteboard. The answers to the first question were along the lines of developing the Fruit of the Spirit, developing hunger for God’s word, practicing spiritual disciplines of prayer and Bible study and so forth. When I asked about how long it takes, responses were all variations on the theme of “Well, it’s an ongoing process.” Similarly, very few adults were willing to say, “Yes, I am spiritually mature.”
It was a very humble group.
Then I changed the question. I said, “So, what if instead of a group of Christians, we were a group of biologists, trying to decide when an animal was biologically mature? What would be on the list?”
This time, the list was pretty short:
No longer depends on mother’s milk
Capable of reproducing
Which has got me thinking: are we overthinking spiritual maturity? Granted, everything on the list we compiled are good things. But are they the main things?
Are believers in your small group studying God’s Word for themselves, or are they wholly dependent on a teacher breaking it down for them?
Are they reproducing?
If so, they are mature. If not, they aren’t.
Could it really be that simple? I know no one wants to put themselves out on a limb and say, “Yes, I’m mature.” As one precious senior adult in our group put it, “Well, even the Apostle Paul said he had not already obtained the goal or was already perfect (see Philippians 3:12-14), so how could I say I’m spiritually mature?”
I appreciate the heart behind that statement. At the same time, it would be easy to allow false modesty to keep us from fulfilling the reasonable expectations of spiritual adulthood (maybe the conversation would change if we put it in those terms—not “Are you spiritually mature?” but “Are you a spiritual adult?”
Let me give you two examples from the animal kingdom. When I Googled the phrase “fastest animal to maturity,” I learned about the African Annual Fish. These little guys spend their entire lives in a rain puddle left behind after the rainy season in East Africa. They hatch from eggs that have been dormant in the mud since last season. Within seventeen days, they are capable of laying and fertilizing eggs of their own. And when the puddle dries up, they are gone.
On the other end of the spectrum is the Olm salamander, which is found in the secure, isolated caves of Eastern Europe. They can live for as long as 100 years, but don’t begin reproducing until around 16 years of age.
The lesson? When time is short, we get busy. When we feel like we have all the time in the world, we take our time.
The problem in the church is that we would like our churches to be more like caves—secure, protected, cool, comfortable, and separated from the rest of the world. However, the Bible describes the world and our place in it much more like a rain puddle. Consider these verses:
“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. (Eph. 5:15)
“Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity” (Col. 4:5)
“Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom (Ps. 90:12)
“You are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” (James 4:13)
I wonder if it’s time for us to own up to the responsibilities that come with being grown-ups? The writer of Hebrews seemed to think so:
Although by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the basic principles of God’s revelation again. You need milk, not solid food. Now everyone who lives on milk is inexperienced with the message about righteousness, because he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature —for those whose senses have been trained to distinguish between good and evil. (Hebrews 5:11-14)
Keep that in mind as you prepare to lead this week!
Even music that’s on my iPhone, which I burned from a physical cd myself!!! is not safe from the digital monkeyers. Recently I was out on a run and was jamming to U2’s Mysterious Ways. I was singing along to the lyric “She’s the wave/She turns the tide/She sees the man inside the child, yeah.” Only now,. it doesn’t. Now it’s “And no one thinks to wonder why” or something like that. Well, I wonder why! Apparently, iTunes gives itself permission to replace even songs you’ve burned from your own library with improved versions.
But at least God’s Word is safe from revision, right?
Not so much. I was preparing for an upcoming Sunday School lesson on Acts 6–the selection of the first deacons. Here’s how verses 1-3 read in my 2003 Holman Christian Standard Bible (a hard copy, pulled off my shelf, with pages and everything)
6 In those days, as the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint by the Hellenistic Jewsagainst the Hebraic Jewsthat their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution. 2 Then the Twelve summoned the whole company of the disciples and said, “It would not be right for us to give up preaching about God to wait on tables. 3 Therefore, brothers, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and wisdom, whom we can appoint to this duty. 4 But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the preaching ministry.”
However, the most recent revision of the HCSB (and the only one available online at Bible Gateway, the Blue Letter Bible, and the YouVersion App) makes a change to verse 2:
2 Then the Twelve summoned the whole company of the disciples and said, “It would not be right for us to give up preaching about God to handle financial matters.
So, how did we get from “waiting on tables” to “handle financial matters”?
Not by a literal translation from the Greek. The Greek phrase is διακονεῖν τραπέζαις. Tranliterated, that’s diakonein trapezais. Diakoneō is the present active infinitive of “serve,” from whence we get our word deacon. And τράπεζαtrápeza, according to the Blue Letter Bible, is
trap’-ed-zah; probably contracted from G5064 and G3979; a table or stool (as being four-legged), usually for food (figuratively, a meal); also a counter for money (figuratively, a broker’s office for loans at interest):—bank, meat, table.
So, the door is cracked for an alternative translation of “to serve as money counters.” Interestingly enough, the one place in the New Testament one might expect this figurative meaning would be in Matthew 9:9-10, when Jesus called Matthew, the tax collector, while Matthew was sitting at the tax office. However, the Greek word there is τελώνιον, and it is used only here and in the parallel accounts (Mk 2:14, Lk 5:27).
2. We also didn’t get there by an attempt to line up the HCSB with other English translations. A quick survey of available translations shows that the HCSB stands alone in translating this as anything other than “waiting on tables.”
This wouldn’t be the first time the Holman translation team filed a minority report. What time of day did the Samaritan woman come to the well in John 4:6? Every other English translation either uses the traditional “about the sixth hour” or noon. This assumes the numbering of hours begins with sunrise–6 am-ish. Yet the Holman, alone among English translations, says “Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, worn out from His journey, sat down at the well. It was about six in the evening.”
Not only does this put the Holman at odds with every other translation, but it ruins every sermon you’ve ever heard (or preached) about how the Samaritan woman came to the well during the hottest part of the day so she could avoid being around the other women of the town.
But in fairness to the Holman, at least this has been the translation from the beginning. My 2004 Holman is the same as my 2010 Holman. And, it’s consistent. Agree or disagree with their system, its the same in the crucifixion accounts, the time of night Jesus walked on the water, and, as far as I can tell, everywhere else an hour is named in the New Testament.
But with Acts 6:2, the Holman has changed from its first printing to its most recent. And I’m at a loss to see how this is a change for the better. Especially when it could be used to prooftext a faulty interpretation of what deacons are supposed to do. Pastors, have you ever dealt with a deacon board that acted as the financial managers of the church? Have you wished they would see themselves more as servants and not as the holders of the purse strings? Well, if you would rather they didn’t see themselves in that way, it’s probably best to keep them away from the HCSB.
At this writing, I’ve emailed my questions to the translation team at LifeWay, and I hope to update this post with their response and rationale. But in the meantime, let me just say:
Han shot first.
The agents in ET had rifles.
Sebastian Shaw is the ghost of Anakin Skywalker.
And deacons waited on tables. They didn’t handle financial matters.
UPDATE:This morning (April 18), I received this email from Jeremy Howard, part of the HCSB translation team:
Hey, James. Thanks for the note. When our text is revised next year, it will read: “It would not be right for us to give up preaching the word of God to wait on tables.”