2009 Snow Retreat Audio

All six sessions from the 09SR are now online. Each link includes a downloadable mp3 and the very rough draft version of my notes, especially for those interested in the quotes by Augustine. My plan is to start blogging through the series soon.

Ordination Service

The elders of Grace Bible Church ordained me Sunday, January 18. I am grateful to all those who worked so hard to make the entire evening special, and humbled by the many testimonies of affirmation. I’m posting the slideshow, as well as the audio of the service, for those (like my mom, and some who were not able to attend) that may be interested.

The audio starts with a message about ordination by John Zimmer from 1 Timothy 5:22, followed by my brief testimony of salvation and call to ministry [starting at 15:51].

Next were numerous, gracious testimonies from friends, past and present ministry partners, and family [with the start time for each person in the brackets]:

And then the elders’ prayers followed: [1:32:48] John Williams, [1:33:25] Jim Martin, [1:34:01] Ward Brien, and [1:35:26] John Zimmer.

My 2009 Resolutions

I’ve been marinating much in 1 Timothy 4:11-16 since Eric Alexander took it as his text at the 2003 Shepherds’ Conference. My recent ordination also put the passage back on my mental front burner. Verse 16 strikes at the core of my responsibility: “pay close attention to yourself and to the teaching”; I do desire for my “progress to be evident to all” (verse 15).

My flock benefits most when I grow personally, and according to Paul, my salvation and the salvation of those who hear me depends on it. There may be few things as demoralizing, or as dangerous, as a stagnant spiritual leader. And I’ve found over the last few years that a year-end review and resolution-making helps keeps me in check and provides accountability for future progress.1

There are any number of things I would do well to examine this year. I need to continue thinking through how to best apply the sabbath principle. I want to keep praying more and more and more. I want to learn how to appreciate the “narrative.” Mo might add that I should make a commitment to be nice to my wife all the time.

But in light of ordination to the gospel ministry, and in light of being an image-bearer, here are my two 2009 resolutions.

Articulate something six days a week.

As an image-bearer of God, I am responsible to use the skills and desires He has given me. As a pastor, I am required to pay close attention to “the teaching.” Writing until I’m clear fulfills (at least parts of) both.

Of course, articulating something doesn’t require writing it out. Articulating simply means to express, to put in words, or to communicate. But I specifically have in mind writing out or annotating something all the work days of the week. Writing is a good discipline, beyond the physical, and more mental and possibly spiritual (cf. 1 Timothy 4:8) depending on the topic.

This is my most specific resolution ever.2 It is not a commitment to post to the Void six days a week. But whether I handwrite a sermon, post to the Void, dash off a rough draft, tweet a paragraph summary, or journal various thoughts, putting down more words on paper is my desire. It’s time to work and produce, even if it isn’t much. When I began running on the treadmill, I wasn’t stumbling over as many revolutions of the belt as I do now. I took it step by step. Now I’ll work sentence by sentence.

Initiate individual and interpersonal repentance.

As an image-bearer, I am made for relationship. Nothing disrupts community like sin, and the first step toward reconciliation is repentance. Likewise, in light of ordination, I must pay close attention to myself. I know it is easy for me, as a leader, to be defensive rather than humble when I’ve wronged someone else.

Repentance is the starting point of the Christian life, let alone a new year. While certainly not every problem under the sun comes from sin, most of them do. Sin is the dominant human problem, not personality flaws, not a genetic defects, not adolescent hormones, not difficult environments. Simply ignoring sin won’t make it go away. Rationalizing sin won’t overcome it. Medicating sin won’t pacify it. Repenting from it is the only proper course of treatment.

The fact that sin is our fundamental problem turns out to be good news in a way. If sin isn’t the problem then we are really stuck. There is no hope if the diagnosis is something other than spiritual. God doesn’t make any guarantees to get us out of a particular situation, to help us get organized, to increase our metabolism, to change our academic ability, or even to alter our emotional or mental make-up per se.

But He does have extraordinary news if the problem is sin. There is a Substitute Sacrifice who takes the guilt of our sin. There is a Spirit who frees us from slavery to sin. There are promises revealed in His Book about the impotence of sin for those united with Christ, along with detailed instructions on how to kill remaining sin. We can make all the resolutions we want, but unless those resolutions tackle our sin problem we are going to be fighting at the wrong front.

Nothing stunts personal spiritual growth like sin. Nothing cripple’s a leader’s influence like sin. I want to grow. I want to influence. So I want to be a person and a pastor whose default response is to consider my own sin, not another’s.3 When we sin for what it is and repent, we increase our influence rather than loose it. That certainly was the case for Augustine. Reading his Confessions, as well as his biography by Peter Brown, has been a great example to me of changing the world by confessing, not covering, sin.

I should have plenty of opportunities to put this particular resolution into practice since plenty of sin remains for me to mortify. Building this commitment to initiate repentance into my response paradigm is hopefully a good start.

  1. I did share my resolutions with our ministry at the beginning of the year, even though it’s taken until now to post them here.
  2. One young man in our student ministry made a similar resolution to write daily.
  3. When was the last time you argued with someone that your sin was the cause of the problem?

Repentance Clips and Quotes

Ian Lugg created the following video for our snow retreat on Repentance last week. It moves my affections every time I watch it, and since many people have asked for the quotes, I’ve included those below for prolonged marination.


In order:

Repentance stands, then, in opposition to all our former prejudices against the divine character; and in opposition to that sin-extenuating, self-justifying, law-hating, God-blaming disposition which reigns in every impenitent soul. ~ Joseph Bellamy

Though it deserves to be hated with perfect hatred, and though there be every reason why we should be horrified on account of it and abase ourselves before God, mourning it in bitterness of heart, fearing it, watching against it as the greatest of all evils, yet we shall never do so until we see sin in its real hideousness. Thus a deep sense of the infinite evil of sin is plainly essential to repentance, yea, it is from this that repentance immediately springs. ~ A.W. Pink

You may today go home and pretend to pray, you may today be serious, tomorrow honest, and the next day you may pretend to be devout; but yet, if you return—as Scripture has it, like the dog to its vomit and like the sow to its wallowing in the mire—your repentance shall but sink you deeper into hell, instead of being a proof of divine grace in your heart. ~ Charles Spurgeon

If a soul is truly converted, there will be a battle, and an awful chasm that will never be filled up but with the love of God; and therefore when we say, Repent and be converted, it is no more than saying, Repent and be happy. Indeed we shall never be completely happy till we get to heaven. O that every man could see the good of every thing of a sublunary nature drop off like leaves in autumn: God grant this may be known by every one of you. ~ George Whitefield

Audio Clips

In order:

  • Myself (Right, I don’t belong in this list, but it was our retreat, after all.)
  • Steve Lawson
  • Paul Washer
  • John MacArthur

Advance by Retreat

I intended to have my new year’s resolution post up by now (yes, I’m aware that it is January 25th). It obviously hasn’t happened, nor will it happen for at least another week, the reason being, we leave tomorrow for our annual snow retreat. I’m teaching this year on Repentance: Seeing Sin for What It Is, so I’ve been preparing sermons for the last month and trying to coordinate the details of taking 125 people away for five days. All that to say, the Void will be void for at least another week. We did create a snow retreat Twitter if that suits your information fancy, and we certainly would appreciate any prayers you might remember to say on our behalf.

Image-Bearing Resolutions

The making of New Year’s resolutions can be a complete waste of time. Some goals are cheap or petty, while goals that are worthwhile may be ruined by selfish motives. It seems like many don’t follow through on their commitments much past the first few weeks of January, if they make it that far.

Nevertheless, I make resolutions. At the end of 2006, I wrote:

While the making and breaking of New Year’s Resolutions can be the epitome of vanity and meaninglessness, and even though most resolutions are typically temporal and banal, I think there is something constructive for Christians in considering the progress of their faith and then making commitments to pursue Christ in specific ways.

Spiritual transformation and progress is essential–not optional–for Christ-followers. It is not only beneficial to consider our failures, weaknesses, and sin and address them, it is NEEDFUL! And it is needful not only on a yearly basis, but on a weekly basis, a daily basis, and even sometimes on a moment-by-moment basis. Examining our lives once a year is like examining our course from 30,000 feet–we get a good view but we’re too far away to change much. Of course, from the five foot view we can deal with a lot of things, but we can’t always recognize past patterns and potential pitfalls.

So I connect resolution-making with that 30,000 foot course evaluation, viewing a new year as another opportunity to consider personal growth in Christlikeness.1 As we prepared for the ’07 Snow Retreat, titled “Looking Only to Christ,” I listed four identifiers of Christlike resolutions. Then, while we were nearing the end of our study of Ecclesiastes in 2008, I suggested three ways to make Solomonic resolutions. I created these lists primarily to help shape my own pursuit of spiritual progress, and perhaps they’ve also been beneficial for helping some of the students and staff in our ministry.

This year we’ve started at the beginning of Genesis. In light of the massive implications of answering What is man? in Genesis 1:26-28, I’d like to propose two objectives of image-bearing resolutions.

1. Image-bearers make resolutions to maximize their calling.

God commanded men to subdue the earth and have dominion over the animals, thereby establishing divine cause to explore and to study the earth, and then to use that knowledge to develop it. In other words, God commissioned men to change the world.

To our shame, we have largely ignored our human calling to “to order, develop, and embellish God’s splendid creation, to realize the multifarious potentialities which were embedded within it.” (David Hageman, Ploughing in Hope, 29). Christian young people are often the worst culprits of laziness and low aspirations. I find that more pagan young people seem to have vision for achieving their goals, even though their motivation may be nothing but pride. Christians–in the OT, God-fearers–should be the most eager, motivated, and well-educated workers. We recognize that changing the world isn’t a burden; it’s a privilege. We should train and be the best teachers, the best scientists, the best artists, the best widget-makers because we have the proper perspective on what it means to be human.

The Cultural Mandate involves making and shaping everything on earth as God’s image-bearers.2 To that end, God has given each one of us different desires and talents to be used; He has given each person a “calling.” No matter what our skill or skill level, we are to reflect God as we go, invent, build, and organize. Sometimes it is said that the only thing we can do on earth that we can’t do in heaven is evangelize. Not true. Man was given a purpose on the planet before the need to evangelize even existed.

Image-bearers recognize their calling and make resolutions to change their community, their culture, and their world.3

2. Image-bearers make resolutions to strengthen their relationships.

Our God was (and still is) a personal God before He created; the three Persons enjoy eternal relationships with each other. Each Person is different, yet the Three are One. The relationships among the Godhead are the foundation of, and pattern for, human relationships. “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” Men and women bear the image of a relational God.

The first thing in creation that God identifies as “not good” is man’s solitary condition, and teaches man that it isn’t good for him to be alone (Genesis 2:18). Loners are incomplete. Loners may work and produce like nobody’s business. Adam may have named a few hundred, or even thousand, animals in Genesis 2:19-20. After God created Eve, Adam didn’t celebrate that he had a co-worker, he celebrated because he had a companion. Life is more than doing stuff, it is doing stuff with someone(s). Resolutions made by image-bearers must be about more than tasks and projects, they should revolve around people.

The biggest problem with maximizing our calling, as well as strengthening our relationships, is sin. Sin makes us lazy, not responsible. Sin makes us selfish and self-centered, not relational. Adam wasn’t enslaved to sin in chapter two. But we live in a Genesis three world. We need help outside ourselves to fulfill our image-bearing responsibilities. Thanks to the gospel, God’s Son, God’s Spirit, and God’s Word, we can be restored to reflect God through our resolutions better this year than last.

  1. Again, the new year is is one possible time for this kind of examination, but certainly not the only time. This post, for example, comes more than a week into 2009, which I’m going say, only adds to my point.
  2. In her book, Total Truth, Nancy Pearcey puts it this way.
    In Genesis, God gives what we might call the first job description: “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it.” The first phrase, “be fruitful and multiply” means to develop the social world: build families, churches, schools, cities, governments, laws. The second phrase, “subdue the earth,” means to harness the natural world: plant crops, build bridges, design computers, compose music. This passage is sometimes called the Cultural Mandate because it tells us that our original purpose was to create cultures, build civilizations-nothing less.
  3. Of course, success in “changing the world” depends entirely on God’s grace. Men are responsible to work with all their might, but God’s plan always stands. Even if things don’t work out exactly as we intended, we can still find enjoyment in our toil.

In Praise of a Quite Gratuitous Ornament

*In my preparatory reading for our upcoming snow retreat, I came across this celebration of beards by Augustine in The City of God.

There are some things, too, which have such a place in the body, that they obviously serve no useful purpose, but are solely for beauty, as e.g….the beard on [a man’s] face; for that this is for ornament, and not for protection, is proved by the bare faces of women, who ought rather, as the weaker sex, to enjoy such a defense. (XXII, 24)

One of Augustine’s biographers, Peter Brown, summarized the same section as follows:

Think of the intimate wonders of the human body, even, the quite gratuitous ornament of a male beard! (Augustine of Hippo, p. 329)

Many of my favorite people have, or have had, beards, such as my dad, the former intern, and one of the hairiest men I know. For good measure, I’ll thrown this one in, too. What’s more alarming than any of the linked images, is that this is not the first post I’ve written about beards.

The Day YouTube Turned Off the Water

I received the following email Sunday afternoon.

Dear seankhiggins,

Video Disabled

A copyright owner has claimed it owns some or all of the audio content in your video Water. The audio content identified in your video is Water by Kristy Starling. We regret to inform you that your video has been blocked from playback due to a music rights issue.

What can I say? The quality of our production must have started to pilfer the profits. After garnering a few thousand views and international acclaim, I’m not really surprised the lawyers would want to shut down the site.

My original explanation and link to the video are here. Near the end of that post is a Quicktime version. Download and drink the Water while you still can.

My 2008 Resolutions in Review

Having reached 2009 (Happy New Year!), I need to lay down my 2008 resolutions so I can build new ones on top.

My first resolution for last year was to build more structure into my supplication struggle. (You can read here to see why I’m calling prayer a struggle). I desired to be more devoted to scheduled, private prayer times and more diligent during those hours. I also made a renewed commitment to corporate prayer (whether in one28 or with family or with the Thursday Friday morning guys).

Part of my plan was to pray for a class of students per day. Starting with the seniors on Monday and finishing with the freshmen on Saturday, I committed to pray for each student by name every week this year. The only thing greater than my excitement to embrace this supplication system was my shame at not being busy with it already. I stuck with this exercise program for the most part and intend to continue it in the new year.

My second resolution was to cultivate three life adjectives: flexible, fun, and fanatical. It was a three pronged mental paradigm aimed to increase my joy, eating my own dog food by Enjoying the Process. Admittedly, some days were better than others; substantial happy-heartedness really is elusive in world of emptiness and sin. But this kind of personal culture is always worth pursuing, both for sake of God-fearing gladness and also for the influencing aroma it leaves on others. For that reason, I’ll keep striving by His Spirit to do even less apart from Him in 2009.

the Night Before Christmas

I’m only familiar with the first few lines of the poem, A Visit from St. Nicholas. While we were watching a movie tonight, a loud snap in the garage brought the first few lines to mind.

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house Not a creature was stirring, not even a [RAT].

Apparently with all the snow at our house, everybody wants to come inside, including the rats. I say “rats” plural because when I went back out the garage to take the above picture, another one scampered across the floor. Perhaps we’ll have another “gift” to open Christmas morning.

UPDATE [10:29AM December 25]: Indeed, rodent #2 was caught overnight. Here’s Mr. & Mrs. Rat.