Just before the Apostle Paul was executed he wrote one last letter to Timothy. This letter begins by reminding his "beloved son" of the spiritual influence and heritage of faith which Timothy had received from his mother and grandmother. “I am reminded of your sincere faith,” declared the Apostle, “which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also” (2 Tim 1:5 NIV).
One can read many church fathers who have noted the influence of their mother upon their own salvation and spiritual walk...
Charles Spurgeon wrote in his autobiography, "Never could it be possible for any man to estimate what he owes to a godly mother. Certainly I have not the powers of speech with which to set forth my valuation of the choice blessing which the Lord bestowed on me in making me the son of one who prayed for me, and prayed with me. How can I ever forget her tearful eye when she warned me to escape from the wrath to come? I thought her lips right eloquent; others might not think so, but they certainly were eloquent to me. How can I ever forget when she bowed her knee, and with her arms about my neck, prayed, "Oh, that my son might live before Thee!"
John Wesley said, “I learned more about Christianity from my mother than from all the theologians in England.”
Augustine wrote, "While I was yet walking in sin, often attempting to rise, and sinking still deeper, my dear mother, in vigorous hope, persisted in earnest prayer for me. I remember also, that she entreated a certain bishop to undertake to reason me out of my errors. ‘Your son,’ says he, ‘is too much elated at present, and carried away with the pleasing novelties of his opinion, to regard any argument. Let him alone, only continue praying to the Lord for him; in the course of his study he will discover his error.’ All this satisfied not my anxious parent; with floods of tears she still persisted in her request, till a little out of patience, with her importunity, he said, ‘Be gone, good woman, it is impossible that the child of such tears should perish." Augustine did repent and put his trust in Christ at the age of 32.
May God bless our homes and our churches with mothers who persist in prayer, serve in love and walk in faith! Only on that Great Day when we all stand before God will we fully realize the impact that women of faith have had for the Kingdom of God.
Lord willing, I will be leading a study group to Oxford this July. In anticipation of the trip I am reading Alister McGrath’s new biography of C. S. Lewis entitled C.S. Lewis—A Life: Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet. It’s an excellent work that demonstrates Lewis’s greatness without resorting to hagiography. Lewis died 50 years ago this coming Nov 22 (yes, he died the very same day that John F Kennedy was assassinated).
Why, after so many years, is Lewis still so very popular? In answering this question, McGrath reminds us that there were, in many ways, three versions of C. S. Lewis. Most people are familiar with Lewis the novelist. Multitudes have read The Chronicles of Narnia series, while even more have enjoyed the film versions. Second, many know Lewis the apologist. His Mere Christianity and The Case for Miracles are just two of the many works that Christians cite as being formative in the building of their faith. McGrath laments that the third Lewis is not remembered as much as he should be: Lewis the scholar. Because his works are so accessible and have such a warm, friendly tone, we tend to forget that Lewis was an Oxford Don and professor of Medieval literature. His preface to Milton’s Paradise Lost is considered a classic in of itself. Taken together—Lewis the novelist, Lewis the apologist, and Lewis the scholar—we meet a towering intellect who gave his mind to the service of the Lord Jesus Christ. Lewis certainly left his mark on the world.
I join McGrath in inviting you to get to know all three versions of C.S. Lewis. McGrath’s biography is a good place to start.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the foundation of our faith; the reason for everything we do. When the Father raised Jesus from the dead, He vindicated the Savior’s perfect and sinless life. The resurrection transformed Jesus’ death on the Cross from the greatest defeat into the greatest victory. Easter is the basis of our hope: because He has risen we know that one day we will be resurrected too. The resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth is the ultimate game changer.
Easter arrives early this year, March 31, and the following day begins the new month of April; serving as an appropriate metaphor for the Christian life. We live on “this side” of the Gospel. We are New Testament believers—recipients of the New Covenant. The fact that Jesus is alive colors our world, sets our priorities, orders our agenda, and determines our choices and decisions. In short, His life is our life. Every day and in every way, everything a Christian does is an expression of worship for the living Christ.
May those of us who know the living God, walk every day in the light of the resurrected Christ and with the hope and joy of Easter morning!
(A post by Penny)
Balance is a much undervalued word -- and yet, balance is fundamental to a life in harmony with God, with others and with our world. in fact, God seems to have created our world and everything in it to function best in balance. A few examples come to mind:
sun and rain - all sun and our gardens burn; all rain and they rot.
work and rest - all work and we burn out; all rest and we are simply lazy.
tradition and innovation - all tradition becomes a rut; all innovation lacks the wisdom of experience.
As someone who enjoys cooking and considers myself a bit of a "foodie", it comes to mind that God has given us food to nourish and enjoy - but to eat either excessively or negligently will harm ourselves. Bananas may be a nutritious fruit - but if one ONLY eats bananas, sickness will result. Our bodies function best on a balance of fruits, vegetables, protein and (dare I say it?) carbohydrates. (Unless, of course, you have a medical condition that requires otherwise.)
This week I read a devotion by Brennan Manning regarding Jesus' example of humble servant-hood. He said,
"When being is divorced from doing, pious thoughts become an adequate substitute
for washing [others] feet."
I completely agree. But as a girl who grew up in an "independent, fundamental, Bible believing (and often legalistic) Baptist church", I observed what it means to emphasize one biblical truth in excess to the detriment of the balancing side of that spiritual coin. So my first thought after reading that devotion was, "yes, but
When doing is divorced from being, our works become an adequate substitute for
sitting at the feet of Jesus."
My husband authored a book entitled "Salvation and Sovereignty". In it he discusses the importance of balancing the dual truths taught in Scripture - God's sovereignty and human free will. To emphasize one truth to the exclusion of the other is a recipe for spiritual error.
Is it just me, or does it appear that God created us to be at our most healthy in mind, body and spirit when we walk this life in balance?
(A post by Penny Keathley
For many years now Mrs. Cindy Bush, widow of L. Russ Bush, former Academic Dean of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, has taught a course in the Biblical Women's Institute program entitled "The Ministry of Hospitality". Anyone who knows Cindy even a little will confirm that her cup of gifts overflows with hospitality; and if they spend a little more time with her they will discover that she loves God and enjoys using her gift of hospitality to "love on" both the body of Christ and those who need to hear the gospel. I am thankful to know her and to call her friend; and to have learned a few things about the ministry of hospitality from watching her in action.
This semester Cindy is unable to teach the course due to her responsibilities in caring for her aging mother, and I have been granted the blessing of co-teaching this course with another lovely lady gifted in hospitality - Mrs. Charlotte Akin, wife of Dr. Danny Akin, president of SEBTS. Charlotte's strengths of joyful homemaking and comfortable hospitality are a daily blessing to our school, our students, faculty and staff. Any lady reading this post who might want to consider signing up for this course, click here
As one might expect, I have been doing my homework on hospitality and, though it is true that certain people are more gifted in this area, Scripture does not present hospitality as an option (1 Peter 4:9; Rom 12:13). Christine D. Pohl in her book Making Room: Recovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition
emphasizes that hospitality is imperative for those of us who want to walk as Jesus would have us walk.
"Hospitality is not optional for Christians, nor is it limited to those who are specially
gifted for it. It is a necessary practice in the community of faith...Jesus' gracious and
sacrificial hospitality - expressed in his life, ministry and death - undergirds the
hospitality of his followers. Jesus gave his life so that persons could be welcomed
into the Kingdom and in doing so linked hospitality, grace and sacrifice in the
deepest and most personal way imaginable....Hospitality is a concrete expression of
love - love for sisters and brothers, love extended outward to strangers, prisoners
and exiles, love that attends to physical and social needs."
In another helpful book on this subject, Practicing Hospitality: The Joy of Serving Others
by Pat Ennis and Lisa Tatlock, I came across a new word: hospitalitude
, coined by author Pat Ennis, "drawn from the word hospitality meaning to pursue the love
of strangers and the word beatitude--
signifying the character of true faith."
Below is my revised version from Pat's "Hospitalitudes". They remind me of a poem my pastor Dad used to quote regularly to our congregation: "Others Lord, yes others, let this my motto be. Help me to live for others, that I might live like thee."HOSPITALITUDES
- Happy are those who practice biblical hospitality - because in so doing they are demonstrating their love for God. (1 John 3:17-18)
- Happy are those in church leadership who practice hospitality - for they allow others to observe them in their homes where their character, way of life and beliefs are most revealed. (1 Tim 3:1-2, 4:12; Heb 13:7)
- Happy are those who love the "strangers" - for they are choosing to obey their heavenly Father's command and modeling his character. (Lev 19:34)
- Happy are those who intentionally extend hospitality to "the others" - singles, widows, the grieving, the hospitalized, etc - for they are choosing to live out biblical compassion (James 2:14-16)
- Happy are those who include people of all cultures on their guest lists - for in this manner they are demonstrating the expansive love of their heavenly Father. (John 3:16)
- Happy are those who are willing to make the sacrifice to practice hospitality - for they understand it is by sacrifice that we begin to learn what it means to walk in love. (I Cor 13)
- Happy are those whose homes are both a place of refuge and a center for evangelism - for their honorable actions will bring glory to God (1 Pet 2:12) and they are fulfilling our Lord's instructions to "do the work of an evangelist". (2 Tim 4:5)
- Happy are those who have consecrated their kitchen and their coffee cups to the Lord's service - for they have the opportunity of helping others to "taste and see that the Lord is good". (Ps 34:8)
- Happy are those who acknowledge that they are unable to practice true biblical hospitality in their own strength - for they know that the Lord's power overcomes their weaknesses and allows them to become vessels useful for his honor and glory (2 Cor 12:9-10; Phil 4:13; John 15:5)
Evangelicals in general, and Baptists in particular, need to develop a
theology of recreation and leisure. We really don't know how to enjoy sports in
a way that doesn't afflict our conscience. For the most part, American
Christians approach sporting events--such as the Super Bowl this Sunday--the way
many Augustinians approach the physical aspects of the marital relationship.
Augustine considered sex (i.e. sex within marriage) to be a necessary evil
9.3); the physical relationship within marriage is
necessary for the propagation of the human race, and the typical Christian does
not have sufficient restraint anyway. Similarly, we suspect that our
preoccupation with sports is probably wrong. But, hey, we live in a fallen world
and watching the game is such a guilty pleasure.
Then we read the statements of Jesus ("We must do the works of Him who sent
Me while it is day. Night is coming when no one can work." John 9:4) or we read
about the exploits of Paul ("In labor and hardship, many sleepless nights,
hunger and thirst, often without food, cold, and lacking clothing." See 2 Cor
11:22-33). We start feeling guilty.
I'm reminded of an incident in the life of the remarkable missionary, C. T.
Studd. Studd believed it a sin to take a day off, so he worked 18 hours a day, 7
days a week, 52 weeks a year. His daughter and son-in-law worked for the same
mission, and one day they dared to take a day of rest. Studd fired them. (Doreen
Moore recounts this incident in Good Christians, Good Husbands?
I highly recommend). In a similar vein, evangelist D. L. Moody used to rail
against the sin of reading a newspaper on Sunday. I could go on, but suffice it
to say that Christians have always struggled to balance our commitment and
fervor for serving the kingdom with our body's and spirit's need for rest and
Actually, I believe there is a place for leisure in the Christian life.
Jesus--our example for life and how it is to be lived--made time for sleep,
rest, weddings and good food (Mark 6:31). Somewhere between the extremes of
aceticism ("everything is wrong") and antinomianism ("anything goes") is the
healthly Christian life that enjoys all things in moderation before God. We need
to think Christianly about sports and develop a good theology of rest and
recreation. We still have some work to do (no pun intended) in developing our
thinking about these matters. There is a right way to enjoy sports, games, and
fun to the glory of God--even the Super Bowl.
This post is cross-posted at www.betweenthetimes.com
In 1986, Michael Denton published Evolution: A Theory in Crisis.
Many attribute this book with starting the Intelligent Design movement. Denton provides an elegant description of the living cell that I want simply to quote at length:
"To grasp the reality of life as it has been revealed by molecular biology, we must magnify a cell a thousand million times until it is twenty kilometers in diameter and resembles a giant airship large enough to cover a great city like
London or New York. What we would then see would be an object of unparalleled complexity and adaptive design. On the surface of the cell we would see millions of openings, like the port holes of a vast space ship, opening and closing to allow a continual stream of materials to flow in and out. If we were to enter one of these openings we would find ourselves in a world of supreme technology and bewildering complexity. We would see endless highly organized corridors and conduits branching in every direction away from the perimeter of the cell, some leading to the central memory bank in the nucleus and others to assembly plants and processing units….A huge range of products and raw materials would shuttle
along all the manifold conduits in a highly ordered fashion to and from all the various assembly plants in the outer regions of the cell.We would wonder at the level of control implicit in the movement of so many objects down so many seemingly endless conduits, all in perfect unison. We would see all around us, in every direction we looked, all sorts of robot-like machines….
We would see that nearly every feature of our own advanced machines had its analogue in the cell: artificial languages and their decoding systems, memory banks for information storage and retrieval, elegant control systems regulating the automated assembly of parts and components, error fail-safe and proof-reading devices utilized for quality control, assembly processes involving the principle of prefabrication and modular construction….
What we would be witnessing would be an object resembling an immense automated factory, a factory larger than a city and carrying out almost as many unique functions as all the manufacturing activities of man on earth. However, it would be a factory which would have one capacity not equaled in any of our own most advanced machines, for it would be capable of replicating its entire structure within a matter of a few hours. To witness such an act at a magnification of one thousand million times would be an awe-inspiring spectacle.
" (pp. 328-29).
Awe-inspiring indeed. "I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well." (Psalms 139:14)
Cross-posted at www.betweenthetimes.com
On Christmas Eve William Spengler set fire to his house. When firemen responded to the call, he ambushed them; killing two and wounding two others. That was the third time this month (December, '12) that someone has gone on a horrific killing spree in America.
Spengler committed suicide; which is what Adam Lanza did after he killed 26 in Newtown on Dec 14. On Dec 12 in an Oregon mall, Jacob Tyler Roberts killed two and then took his own life. Back in 1999, the Columbine killers, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, also killed themselves. Thinking about this, I began to wonder how many “killing spree” killers ended their rampage in a similar manner. I was surprised at what I found.A Wikipedia article
provides a lists of what it calls “rampage killers”—those who have committed mass murder at schools, work, and other various places. Of those who perpetrate school massacres, the article gives a list of 15 murderers (a link to a longer list is available there). It turns out that of those 15, 13 committed suicide (one was killed by police). Only one out of the 15 allowed himself to be taken alive.
I admit that trying to be an armchair psychiatrist is a risky endeavor. I don’t pretend to have a clue about the motivations of such persons. I really can’t relate to them. No doubt each one committed suicide for a number of reasons; maybe some were mentally ill or even insane. Perhaps others killed themselves as a last demonstration of hatred towards everyone and everything, including themselves. But I want to argue that their respective decisions to kill themselves were not made in a theological vacuum. In fact, they seem to be making a very strong collective statement about a shared belief system. They
were avoiding accountability. They didn’t expect to face God.
They believed that by killing themselves they would not have to answer for their crimes. None of them thought that there was any type of judgment to come after death. They were theological nihilists. To put it in biblical terms, none of them feared God.
Or as the Apostle Paul puts it in Romans 3:15-18:
“Their feet are swift to shed blood;
Destruction and misery are in their ways;
And the way of peace they have not known.
There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
The portrayal of God as Judge and the theme of a coming Judgment Day run literally throughout the Bible. And Christians of earlier generations spoke regularly of an eventual divine reckoning. But today the notion has evaporated—and not just from the culture at large but from within the church. Think about it. When was the last time you heard a sermon devoted to the topic of divine judgment?
Yes, there are Islamic jihadists, suicide bombers, who kill people because they believe they are doing Allah a favor. But that fact goes to my point that one’s beliefs about ultimate truth really do guide one’s behavior. And there seems to be a common theological thread among killing spree killers. They’re not worried about God, judgment, or a place called hell.
Spengler, who also served 18 years for murdering his grandmother in 1980 with a hammer, left a suicide note. He made it clear why he set his house on fire: “I still have to get ready to see how much of the neighborhood I can burn down, and do what I like doing best, killing people.” Whatever pathologies are going on in the heads of people like Spengler, I can’t begin to imagine. But the theological underpinnings of their madness seem clear enough. There is no fear of God in their eyes.
This post is crossposted at www.betweenthetimes.com
Like most everyone else, I have watched the news coming out of Connecticut in
sickened disbelief. It just so happens that this week I have been studying and
writing about the Fall. Without the biblical teaching of the Fall provided in
Genesis 3, how could we begin to understand what has happened? The Bible teaches
that we are not merely animals trapped in a bad world. Evil is real, as the
tragic events this week at the Sandy Hook Elementary School demonstrate. We are
horrified by such acts--and our horror evidences that we know things are not the
way they ought to be, and that we know we are not simply amoral animals.
In his little but important book, Did Adam and Eve Really Exist?, John Collins provides an extended quote from G. K. Chesterton that I think hits the mark. Chesterton explains that the doctrine of the Fall is actually a very hopeful teaching.
Here's the passage:
"The Fall is a view of life. It is not only the only enlightening, but the only encouraging view of life. It holds, as against the only real alternative philosophies, those of the Buddhist or the Pessimist or the Promethean, that we have misused a good world, and not merely been entrapped into a bad one. It refers evil back to the wrong use of the will, and thus declares that it can eventually be righted by the right use of the will. Every other creed except that one is some form of surrender to fate. A man who holds this view of life will find it giving light on a thousand things; on which mere evolutionary ethics have not a word to say. For instance, on the colossal contrast between the completeness of man’s machines and the continued corruption of his motives; on the fact that no social progress really seems to leave self behind; . . . . on that proverb that says 'the price of liberty is eternal vigilance,' which is only what the theologians say of every other virtue, and is itself only a way of stating the truth of original sin; on those extremes of good and evil by which man exceeds all the animals by the measure of heaven and hell; on that sublime sense of loss that is in the very sound of all great poetry, and nowhere more than in the poetry of pagans and sceptics: 'We look before and after, and pine for what is not'; which cries against all prigs and progressives out of the very depths and abysses of the broken heart of man, that happiness is not only a hope, but also in some strange manner a memory; and that we are all kings in exile."
Chesterton had a way with words, didn't he?
We weep with those who weep. Let's pray for those in Newton who are experiencing an
unimaginable grief. May God give them comfort as only He can. One day, maybe some day soon, all things will be made right and new. Even so, Lord Jesus, come quickly.
I dare you to read Andrew Snelling's Earth’s Catastrophic Past and Davis Young's The Bible, Rocks and Time side by side. Both men are professional geologists, and both books exhibit the proficiency and expertise of their respective authors. Snelling's two volume set argues for young-earth creationism and that Noah's flood created the preponderance of the geological record. Young and his co-author, Ralph Stearley, present the case for an ancient earth and that Noah's flood was a local phenomena. Snelling's book is intended to be a successor to Whitcomb and Morris' seminal work The Genesis Flood. Young and Stearley's book is a revision of Davis' earlier Christianity and the Age of the Earth (1982). The two works together total over 1500 pages. I just finished both and I'm suffering from cognitive whiplash.
Snelling is thorough in his presentation. He realizes that he is arguing against the consensus view of the geological community and therefore must meticulously make his case. Davis and Stearley's give more attention to the historical development of the debate about the age of the earth, but they also give methodical attention to the evidences for their position. Geological laymen (like me) will probably find the books to be a difficult slog. Both books attempt to make their respective cases via cumulative arguments—piling up one example after another. Again speaking as a non-geologist, for me reading them was like being pummeled to death with ping pong balls.
Snelling and Young often present the same geological data—the geological column of the Grand Canyon, the mid-Atlantic ridge, coral reefs, etc. But they almost always arrive at diametrically opposite conclusions.
What's going on here? There are at least four possible explanations: (1) The postmodernists and deconstructionists are right--all meaning and truth is subjective and created by the reader. In this case the text is the geological column and the readers are the geologists. (2) At least one side is engaged in deliberate deceit. (3) Spiritual forces are at work. One side is blinded by the evil one while the other's mind is divinely illuminated. Or (4) at least one side has an almost pathological inability to see the truth. These blind spots render them unable to see what should be obvious.
I don't like any of the four above possibilities. I am open to another explanation. The postmodernist answer (1), is self-referentially contradictory. Deconstructionism may work as a descriptor but fails as a philosophy. As for explanation (2), there is nothing about Snelling or Davis that indicates either would be willing to deceive or be deliberately dishonest. As for (3), Christians have no doubt about spiritual warfare, and that spiritual battles occur in every avenue of human endeavor, and this includes the scientific realm. However, both Davis and Snelling (and the respective Christian communities they represent) affirm the Lordship of Jesus Christ over their vocations as geologists. Both are servants of Christ. I am in no position to make a spiritual determination about either one. Of the four possible explanations, the phenomena of blind spots (4) is the most likely.
Explanation (4) is also the most optimistic, even if one or both sides seems to be intransigent. Here the community of faith can play a crucial role. If Davis and Snelling, and others who hold to their respective views, will meet, talk, and pray together; if they will allow other godly, concerned, and informed brethren to speak truth into their lives; if they will be humble enough to acknowledge their respective blind spots, then it will be possible for progress to be made and for some type of consensus to be achieved.
As it stands now, the dissonance between the two geologists and their respective books is so great that one has to wonder if they are looking at the same planet.