Categories
Lord's Day Liturgy

Self-Esteem Propaganda

There are (at least) two ways to feel superior to other people: know that you know more/better than others, or, not actually know better but be self-satisfied in your imagined higher estate. In other words, pride comes from a certain kind of knowledge, and pride comes from a certain kind of ignorance.

God says that knowledge puffs up. The wise man measures his wisdom and seeks to gain more of it, but his sin tempts him to measure against the attainments of others. Rather than compare our knowledge to God’s, and give thanks for His grace that brought us to knowledge, we sit in judgment on our brothers.

Ignorance is not better, and it certainly does not guarantee of humility. An ignorant man who has enough knowledge to know he is ignorant is one thing, but a fully ignorant man is ignorant of his own state. All he needs is a good imagination and to drink at the fount of self-esteem propaganda all around him.

In my observation, men are more likely to fall into the latter category, women into the first, they even have the moniker: “Church Ladies.” (Preachers are a third category of unhelpful.) Men should stop acting like know-it-alls, and women should stop believing that they are better because they talk demurely about their righteousness. It is not always those who argue loudly that have a pride problem, it can also be those who whisper, taking delight in someone else’s failure.

This is another reason why worship, informed and driven by the Word, is so important. Worship in ignorance does not exalt God, and worship in true knowledge of God does not exalt us. We are humbled before Him and learn how to treat others just as He treats us.

Categories
A Shot of Encouragement

How to Order

“The Lord knows how to order things better than I. The Lord sees further than I do; I only see things at present but the Lord sees a great while from now. And how do I know but that had it not been for this affliction, I should have been undone.”

—Jeremiah Burroughs, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, 36
Categories
Enjoying the Process

Twenty

“A silent lover is one who doesn’t know his job.”

—Robert Capon, The Supper of the Lamb

Today is our twentieth wedding anniversary! Praise the Lord, and amen!

I love my wife, though I have not always been good at knowing what love is or what love does. By grace, she has been patient and I am on the learning/loving path.

From the beginning I knew that she would not be satisfied with the status quo in our Christian walks, in our relationship at spouses, in our work as parents, or in our service to Christ’s Body; her high expectations were part of what attracted me to her. In order to be helpfully provocative (rather than a nag, or as the boss) she had to be a committed disciple of Jesus, a lover of the Bible and theology, and a student of people. She has been that since I met her, and has only matured more than I could have imagined in all of those things over the last two decades.

There is no one that I’ve sinned against more than her, and there is no one that has shown me what forgiveness looks like in the flesh as much as her.

She is a model of endurance through chronic and sometimes debilitating pain.

She cares about our kids, seeing them for who they are and encouraging each one in their particular interested and giftedness.

She is the financial nerd (in Dave Ramsey terminology), but how necessary that has been to keep us from never-ending debt of the free-spender.

She loves loud music, the kind that shakes the outer panels of our minivan and causes the back seat to bounce with the subwoofer underneath.

She consumes and processes more conversations in a month (personal and via podcasts) than I can imagine doing ever.

She is always curious, always learning, quick to say she was wrong, laughing (the good ways) the whole time.

She respects me far more than I deserve, to my face, to our kids, and to others in our church.

And I still love to watch her gait, even though it’s changed a lot under the burdens of pain and responsibilities.

I love you, Mo! Happy anniversary!

This isn’t a wedding photo, but it’s at least closer to when we tied the knot!

Categories
Lord's Day Liturgy

The Father’s Generosity

When Paul affirmed the truth of the knowledge about God to the Corinthians he summarized: “for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist” (1 Corinthians 8:6).

Of course this affirms God’s sovereignty. God is the source and the end of all things, and Jesus mediates God’s wisdom and strength in the creating and sustaining of all things. But is the point of the truth God’s power and authority?

It is not less than that, but it is also an affirmation of God’s generosity. Of all the things that belong with God as Father, it is His love that gives. All things originate in Him, but the point even to the Corinthians is not that we look through thick glass walls that separate us from all that He has. There is no wall. We look at all that He has given.

Included in that generosity is His own Son. God loved the world and gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but receive eternal life. And if the Father gave us Christ, how will He with Him not give us all things?

On Father’s Day we are learning what fathers are like, even as we eat and drink around the table of His generosity. We learn His nature and we are strengthened to imitate Him.

Categories
Enjoying the Process

It’s Good to Be Dad

Dad’s don’t get a lot of respect in pop culture. They get a national holiday like mothers, but most of the advertised gifts suggest that it’s better to placate dad’s playful side than to honor his sacrificial side. That could be because a lot of men with children don’t actually work for their family, but at least they sometimes play (barbecue, boat, throw the ball, etc.) in a way that lets the kids come along.

Our culture has daddy issues, father hunger, vengeance toward the patriarchy. I’m less interested (today, at least) in chastising those errors and more interested in publicly stating my thanks to God for getting to be a dad.

I had only superficial ideas about fatherhood when I was growing up. Getting married and having kids and needing to do something with those kids seemed like the natural progression of life. What I came to realize later, well into parental practice, is that fatherhood is the glory of a man’s fruitfulness. I didn’t know that dad’s had such a divine purpose or how enjoyable the fruit would be.

We have four kids, going on 16, 13, 10, and 8 later this year. We have three girls and one boy. They are all different, they are all great. I love watching them sing, swim, shoot hoops, write papers, draw, dance, perform, plan, and read. Their mother knows them well and helps me to know them better as well. Being their father is exhausting and exhilarating. But even when one of the kids is second-level fussy or in full-on disobedience, I’m glad to be their dad.

The Ministry of Fatherhood is a gracious and great calling. It’s worth celebrating as a father, not just waiting to be appreciated as one.

Categories
Enjoying the Process

Kuyperian Plumbing with Thanks

It’s becoming more and more popular to criticize and give warnings about technology. I’ve read 1984, Brave New World, and have owned an iPhone since the summer of 2008 when they first came out. There are certainly problems that exist. Our smartphones can distract us, they can become idols, as can almost every other good thing that God has given. This post isn’t an argument that such tools are only good, but rather an opportunity to express thankfulness.

We had another hot water leak under our house this past week. A similar leak happened last summer and we needed to call a plumber to fix it. This time around I was able to find the leak and, with the researching and know-how abilities of my wife, was able to make the repair.

But it wouldn’t have been possible, or at least not nearly as convenient, without my iPhone.

Could I have done it without it? Of course. Or at least, maybe. As my family and friends know, I stink at repairs. I do demolition. In this situation, though, I was better able to crawl under and over pipes in the crawl space and lay in the puddles with rat poo than other members of my family, and cheaper than hiring a plumber again. To get help and do the work I used my phone’s flashlight, camera, video camera, FaceTime app, and Safari browser to actually watch a YouTube video on how to make the repair. (Okay, I could have watched the video on a regular computer, but I did watch it on my iPhone anyway, which is sort of amazing if you think about it).

All that to say, as a Kuyperian Calvinist I am thankful to God for His common grace in the metallurgy and electronics and WiFi and engineers and Steve Jobs and code jockeys and delivery drivers and a whole bunch more.

Categories
A Shot of Encouragement

The Art of a Calm Heart

My Bible class started to read through The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment the last Quarter of the year. We didn’t quite make it halfway, but I wanted to start rereading it again for myself this summer anyway. Though a repetitive Puritan (is that redundant?), Burroughs convicted me many days in class. If I can keep up the reading I’m sure I’ll have more quotes to share.

The following one made me think about a few things: social media and Matthew 15:10-20 and emotional control. It’s easy to blame our negativity and fear and irritation on external things, when in fact the problem is in our own hearts. We can, and should, learn the art of a calm heart even when the outside is neither smooth or still. (Also, we can unfollow as necessary.)

“A great man will permit common people to stand outside his doors, but he will not let them come in and make noise in his closet or bedroom while he deliberately retires from all worldly business. So a well-tempered spirit may enquire after things outside in the world, and suffer some ordinary cares and fears to break into the suburbs of the soul, so as to touch lightly upon the thoughts. Yet it will not on any account allow an intrusion into the private room, which should be wholly reserved for Jesus Christ as his inward temple.” (23)

Categories
Enjoying the Process

Today on the Treadmill

About five years ago I started reading Kindle books on my iPad while running on my treadmill. I know some people think that sounds like hell, or at least vanity for hamsters, but I really enjoy it.

It was also around that time that I began hearing about “plodding,” which is a kind of discipline with little bundles of minutes sustained over numerous days. Plodding is not natural to me. I don’t prefer it. But I have been practicing it and learning to appreciate the slight edge.

Sometimes I plod by reading while running. The earlier days of the week I read whatever commentaries are appropriate for the next passage I’m teaching. When that reading is done I move on to whatever is next, which may be a book for Omnibus or a book that I’m reading with another group.

I just finished an hour on the treadmill today reading six books for ten minutes each. Here’s my annotated list.

  1. Antifragile. This is my second time through the book, now reading it with the elders at our church. Interestingly enough, the section I read today talks about how boring people who surround themselves with books may become.
  2. On Writing. Most of the lists of “favorite books on writing” I’ve read include this one. I’m not sure what I was expecting, apparently something else. But today I read King recount news of his first book getting a paperback contract. My whole face was a smile.
  3. Moby Dick. We started this in Omnibus earlier in the year. I couldn’t keep up with the pace then, so I’m on my own. I finished chapter 99 of 135 today.
  4. Citizen Soldiers. This is another Omnibus leftover. I have really enjoyed this account of the WWII European Theater, and really want to finish it before we visit Normandy beach on a Europe trip later this summer.
  5. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. I mentioned that our school board agreed to read this together over the next seven months. I started with The Lion again today, and was encouraged by this line in the dedication: “some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.” Yes!
  6. 12 Rules for Life. Since watching this video a few months ago, Peterson’s name has come up more and more in our circles/house. Mo has even started listening to his podcast, and, since I prefer reading to listening, I thought this would be interesting. And of course it will be instructive to compare a pagan’s thoughts on handling chaos to a puritan’s

There is nothing special about ten minutes per book, and I don’t always follow that breakdown. But it was a thought-provoking variety today for sure.

Categories
Lord's Day Liturgy

Not by Self-Promotion

In a fallen world it is possible to mess just about anything up, including the good things. That said, there are some things that can help us mess up less.

The weekly celebration of the Lord’s Supper could get messed up. It could become stale ritual, a heartless motion-going. Worse, it could become a source of self-righteousness and superiority over others who don’t do it as often or who use grape juice or tiny, dry cracker bits.

But you really have to work to not think about what we’re doing here to get to that point. It doesn’t take much remembrance to promote humility and relationship.

The reason for the bread and the wine is because of our sin. Jesus gave His body and His blood because we rebelled against God and God requires atonement. We remember what we deserved, and we remember that salvation came from outside of us and by grace to us. That is humbling.

The goal of salvation, though, is not that we be humbled, but that we be exalted by Him rather than exalted by self-attempt and self-promotion. The Lord’s Supper is a time for our communion with the Father through the Son by the Spirit. That is relationship with the Trinity, and relationship with others in the Body in reflection of the Trinity.

More than facts, more than truth, we know God’s love, and that feeds our love for Him and each other.

Categories
Lord's Day Liturgy

Truth-Tubes

Ignorance of God makes idolators or weak worshippers. Knowledge of God, like knowledge of one’s spouse, increases and intensifies love and praise for God.

But it is easy to seek knowledge as an end, or maybe more accurately to seek knowledge for the praise of our knowledge. This is a subject that I’ve spoken about repeatedly, a subject that I believe is relevant for our flock, and a subject that regularly requires repentance.

I’ve referred to seeking Bible knowledge as an end as trying to fill one’s “truth-tube” and those who do so as “truth-tubers.” This is not a criticism of truth, but rather an image intended to provoke our thoughts about what truth is for.

Imagine organized rows of clear and clean glass test tubes, all filled to various heights with fantastic colored liquid. What good are those tubes doing for each other, including the ones that are filled to capacity? They are close, but they are not connected.

The illustration of truth-tube came as I attempted to come up with the opposite of a great illustration used by John Bunyan in his book, Christian Behavior.

“Christians are like the several flowers in a garden, that have upon each of them the dew of heaven, which, being shaken with the wind, they let fall their dew at each other’s roots, whereby they are jointly nourished, and become nourishers of each other.”

The “dew of heaven” is grace and truth. We are “nourished” in order to “become nourishers of each other.” This is why we speak truth in love for sake of being joined as a body and growing as a body built up in love.