Category Archives: Just for Fun

From Lisa Robinson: On Loving the Body…even when we think it doesn’t look right

I am re-pressing this WordPress post by Lisa Robinson: On Loving the Body…even when we think it doesn’t look right.

At the end of 6 1/2 years of seminary in Dallas, I can tell you that I look a bit different than when I started.  I put on quite a bit of weight, more than I am comfortable with. There are certain parts that just flat out embarrass me, which is why I try to take pictures from certain angles. These are the parts that have really been impacted by the weight gain, like my middle section. I hate what it looks like and long to be back to a certain weight. I want my body to look a certain way, at a certain size and it just doesn’t.

megachurch_2Well, if you are a Christian and reading this I think you know where I’m going with this analogy. If you are committed to a particular church model/structure/paradigm, we might find that there are those practices that are out of step with Scriptural faithfulness. When I consider my very eclectic doctrinal journey through varying church paradigms, I confess to having a two-fold reaction. On one hand, I cringe at some of the stuff I’ve been exposed to and foundation for abusive tendencies. On the other hand, through that journey, I’ve been privileged with the example of so many who sincerely love the Lord and want the best for His church, even if I thought the methods were not supported by Scripture.

I came across this post a while back, What if a Presbyterian minister gave a good, old-fashioned altar call? Now that I am in a Presbyterian church, I can’t imagine this ever happening. Just mentioning altar calls (and other forms of experientially oriented “worship” tactics) reminds me of the many years of emotional manipulation I observed. But I was sobered by the balance of the article;

Therefore Reformed friends, take it easy on our Christian brothers who call people to Christ after their prefered traditional manner. Cut them some slack and quit throwing the “Regulative Principle” in their face. Joshua called people to “choose this day whom they would serve.” Jeremiah called people to “circumcise themselves.” John the Baptist called people out into the wilderness to be baptized afresh. And Jesus commanded people to publicly and boldly proclaim their faith before men. Sure, any religious rite, ritual or traditional can become emotionally based, man-centered, and manipulative, but this does not necessary mean all are wrong in their practice because some are wrong. God has done some very good work through altar calls andinvitations given by his ministers in his evangelical church.

And now a word to my Non-Reformed friends. Come on, take it easy on your Christian brothers who call people to Christ after their traditional manner. I am fairly sure Jeremiah did not have a wooden pulpit and an altar/platform with steps. I am fairly sure he did not ask individuals to raise their hands or throw a stick in the fire. And I am absolutely sure they did not sing, “All to Jesus I Surrender” fourteen times. Jeremiah was not influenced by Charles Finney, and therefore he was comfortable calling people to repent according to his own cultural manner. So my fundamentalist and broadly evangelical friends, please do not consider your Christian brothers to be worldly compromisers who care not about calling people to Christ simply because they issue forth God’s call in a different manner than you and your tradition prefer.

What a unifying message! Not because he’s saying that church practice and liturgy does not matter, but because he recognizes the core message is turning to Christ. Even if the altar call can be manipulative, it still serves a purpose for those who genuinely experience regeneration and truly repent. Sure it might produce some false conversions, but more importantly, for those who genuinely experience regeneration, their steps to the altar reinforce this conversion.

I confess, I’m quite quick to get on my soapbox about the benefits and faithfulness of Presbyterian worship as I wrote about in Refreshment for the Soul. It is mainly born out of a desire for Christians to experience worship that I believe truly invokes rest in Christ and provokes love of God and neighbor. But I also realize I am not alone in my commitment to what I think is faithful ecclesiology born out of convictions from the study of Scripture and church history.

church stage_emptyBut at the same time, given the increasing number of Christians who have been so worn out from bad church experiences that they want nothing to do with it, that there is some kind of commitment to corporate worship should be applauded and encouraged even if it promotes a model we don’t agree with. Sure they may be participating in a paradigm that we don’t think is the most faithful to Scripture, but given the reality of increasing abandonment of any type of church structure, I fear that too much “bashing” will just reinforce the disinterest and work against the church that Christ said he is building.

I also grieve at the insistence that those who adhere to a particular paradigm must ALL be like X, as if faithful, pastoral types are exclusive only to their own model. I particularly find this true with those who reject any kind of institutionalism or hierarchy citing abuse and manipulation in the structure. So any leader from that model must be the same and people are not really getting shepherded. On the flip side, you have adherents of higher church models dismissing home church gatherings as those who aren’t serious about Christ or his church. While we may maintain that our own model is faithful to Scripture, where do we get to judge that those who participate in other models must not be taking their shepherding role serious? We don’t and we shouldn’t.

The bottom line is that Jesus said HE will build the church. If our eyes are on him we may be able to relax them when they land on others.

 

Montgomery County Board of Education B-Ballin With Holy Days

images

 

 

 

 

Christmas and Easter have been stricken from next year’s school calendar in Montgomery County. So have Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah.

Montgomery’s Board of Education voted 7 to 1 Tuesday to eliminate references to all religious holidays on the published calendar for 2015-2016, a decision that followed a request from Muslim community leaders to give equal billing to the Muslim holy day of Eid al-Adha.

In practical terms, Montgomery schools will still be closed for the Christian and Jewish holidays, as in previous years, and students will still get the same days off, as planned.

Board members said Tuesday that the new calendar will reflect days the state requires the system to be closed and that it will close on other days that have shown a high level of student and staff absenteeism. Though those days happen to coincide with major Christian and Jewish holidays, board members made clear that the days off are not meant to observe those religious holidays, which they say is not legally permitted. (Donna St. George, “Holidays’ Names Stricken from Next Year’s Montgomery Schools Calendar,” The Washington Post, November 11.)

The move by the Montgomery County (MD) Board of Education to cease recognizing religious holidays seems to concern budgets. The school system retains traditional Jewish and Christian religious holidays on their academic calendar due to the scores of children who will miss school by choice on these days. They do not recognize the days because they are religious days. Instead, they recognize them because opening schools on these days would not be the best use of resources. Seemingly, therefore, the issue for the board is economics, not religion. So the request for recognition of a Muslim holy day is rebuffed; it is not (yet) economically necessary.

I would love to explore the religious beliefs of the members of the Montgomery County Board of Education. I am wondering if this was a vote by a body predominantly non-religious in individual practice, or a group of whom several would hold to a false fact/value dichotomy with respect to religious ideas. But board members don’t post their religious beliefs with their biographies. Certainly that portion of their personal lives now will be kept from public consumption.

What then is the message we should take from a State action such as this? Here are some options:

  1. If you can gather a significantly sizable student pool, you can create your own holiday on whatever academic calendar day you wish. You simply need enough members of your group to be absent the same day or days every year in order to force the hands of the Board of Education.
  2. Christians and Jews would be wise to stand up in the Public Square for the religious concerns of Muslims. The issues of not adding and not recognizing religious holidays are not issues of Religious Freedom. Muslim families can practice their beliefs associated with their holidays, including pulling their children from school on such days if desired or needful. Then they can write notes to the schools to cover the absences of their children. An issue of the wisdom of the State toward religious groups will remain. Thus, no major religious group should sit on the sidelines and watch another get pummeled. With kindness, it would be wise to clear the bench on such issues, or soon there will not be a need for this bench within your school system.
  3. Churches in our community should begin to think seriously about speaking with local politicians about the value our religious holidays hold. Remember too, however, that days off are not necessary for us to maintain the faith and practice of the holidays. The death of Christ for sin, his resurrection from the dead, and his offer of eternal life to all who believe on him are things Christians can celebrate privately, daily, publicly, and corporately at least once a week, uniquely on Christmas and Easter, and on all of the other special days we have created in our churches. These celebrations do not require days off, except for a day to maintain the New Testament appropriation of the Sabbath regulations.

Either way, based on the Montgomery County Board of Education’s deliberations and decisions, I want to see if I can get another day off school for my children in our county. I would need it to be a non-religious holiday that will create a large enough absentee base to force a school board to see that it would be wise to codify a full day off. Also, I do not want to risk another crashing of our pluralistic car into the Wall of Separation. So I need all of the NBA fans near me to boycott school the day of the third game of the NBA finals each year so we can force the creation of B-Ballinday. It will be a few years before the WNBA and MLS fan bases will be devout enough to give the school board members any further concerns.

(If you have not yet read D. A. Carson’s, The Intolerance of Tolerance, I would suggest that you should hurry to get a copy and read it over this weekend or the coming week.) (Kindle version)

Yes: Facebook, SCOTUS, Evacuation Slide Opens Mid-Flight

imagesYes, Facebook conducted an experiment without asking permission. Yes, some of you feel violated. Yes, people should ask your permission when including you in an experiment. However, you have not closed your Facebook account as of yet. I guess you’re exercising your freedom, but hoping Facebook will not do the same?

Yes, SCTOUS made a narrow ruling in favor of small, family-owned, for-profit businesses; only some contraceptives are at issue. Yes, some of you think this allows employers to be bigoted toward women. (By this you actually mean that businesses [some of which surely will be run by women, have women on their boards, and have women customers] will be able to limit women’s freedom to have the cost of their contraceptive choices covered by the company’s health insurance.) However, you do not consider, alternatively, that the contraceptive choices of some could be forcing a business owner to pay for something for which he or she does not want to pay. Is this limiting the owner’s freedom of choice?

Yes, a flight was diverted after an evacuation slide opened mid-flight. Apparently no one on the flight screamed, “Wait! Don’t divert the flight! I have the right to fly to my destination on-time with the slide open! I paid to arrive on time! You are violating my freedom and the freedoms of all future air passengers!”

 

Related Resource: The Intolerance of Tolerance

 

Crossway’s Book Reviews – Beyond the Page

gtb_banner_ad_homeToday Crossway launched, Beyond the Page, their new book review program. Go check it out and get yourself some ebook titles from Crossway!

Holy Scandal

131408_0113

“‘And you shall not commit adultery.” (Dt. 5:20)

The Lord’s Day 41 (Week 41) lesson in the Heidelberg Catechism states,

Q. What does the seventh commandment teach us?

A. That God condemns all unchastity,

and that therefore we should thoroughly detest it

and live decent and chaste lives,

within or outside of the holy state of marriage.

Q. Does God, in this commandment,
forbid only such scandalous sins as adultery?

A. We are temples of the Holy Spirit, body and soul,

and God wants both to be kept clean and holy.

That is why God forbids

all unchaste actions, looks, talk, thoughts, or desires,

and whatever may incite someone to them.

While sitting with my children to discuss the commandment and the catechism yesterday, I noted these words from Starr Meade:

“The catechism reminds us that God forbids adultery. A husband commits adultery when he treats a woman who isn’t his wife in the special way he should treat only his wife. A wife commits adultery when she treats a man who isn’t her husband in the special was she should only treat her husband. The catechism calls adultery ‘scandalous.’ The catechism was written hundreds of years ago. Back then, adultery was scandalous. When a married person left the marriage or turned to a new lover, everyone in the community was shocked. They all thought it was a terribly bad thing to do. Sadly, in our time, adultery is accepted. People stay married to one person for only as long as they enjoy being with that person. Then they move on to someone else, or they go back to being single.

To the people of God, adultery should still be scandalous. The people of God should still think of adultery as terribly wrong, because that’s how God thinks of it.”

Starr Meade, Comforting Hearts, Teaching Minds: Family Devotions Based on the Heidelberg Catechism [Phillipsburgh, MJ: P&R Publishing, 2013]: 208.  (See also, Kevin DeYoung “Swords for the Fight Against Lust,” The Good News We Almost Forgot: Rediscovering the Gospel in a 16th Century Catechism [Chicago: Moody, 2010]: 193-197.)

We have lost the scandalous nature of scandals.

 

 

Incredibly Sweetalicious Cupcakes

picstitchAt a recent graduation celebration, I was introduced to a Sugar Cookie cupcake from Cupcakes by Lauren, a start-up cupcake company in Washington, DC. My expectations and taste buds were blown away! This is no small feat, as my family and friends will tell you, for I am a connoisseur when it comes to desserts and aficionado when it comes to cupcakes (and doughnuts)! Yet Cupcakes by Lauren has put a sweet spin on cupcakes that leaves other cupcake companies’ works tasting like boxed cake products. Only the buttercream icing from Sweet Carolina Cupcakes in Hilton Head, SC rivals the tastes of this new outfit!

The Sugar Cookie cupcake tasted like a sugar cookie with sprinkled sugar, buttercream icing, and a cookie-like texture on the top of the muffin. The rest was a moist, cookie-flavored cake! Similarly, the chocolate cupcake is a chocolate ganache-filled, double chocolate cake, with milk chocolate icing and shavings topping the cupcake.

I lifted a products listing from Cupcakes by Lauren. Below are pictures of a handful of the products. Sugar Cookie and the quintuple chocolate (“Urk’s Ridiculously Chocolate Cupcake”) are my favorities! My wife loved the Toasted Coconut and Snicker Doodle cupcakes. My children found the Red Velvet cupcakes to be out of this world!

Cupcakes by Lauren is local to the DC-No. Va.-Balt.-Annapolis region. Call for pricing and catering information. Contact Cupcakes by Lauren via lmgilliam01@yahoo.com or 202-627-0038.

photo 5-2

photo 1-5photo 3-4 photo 4-3

photo 4-2 photo 1-4photo 1-3photo 2-2 photo 3-3

John Piper: When Words Are Wind

Earlier this month, the Solid Joys app posted a devotional from Desiring God dating back to thoughts from John Piper from 1983. They are just as good in 2013 as they were thirty years ago. “When Words are Wind:”

Job 6:26

Do you think that you can reprove words,
when the speech of a despairing man is wind?

In grief and pain and despair people often say things they otherwise would not say. They paint reality with darker strokes than they will paint it tomorrow when the sun comes up. They sing in minor keys and talk as though that is the only music. They see clouds only and speak as if there were no sky.

They say, “Where is God?” Or: “There is no use to go on.” Or: “Nothing makes any sense.” Or: There’s no hope for me.” Or: “If God were good this couldn’t have happened.”

What shall we do with these words?

Job says that we do not need to reprove them. These words are wind, or literally “for the wind.” They will be quickly blown away. There will come a turn in circumstances and the despairing person will waken from the dark night and regret hasty words.

Therefore, the point is, let us not spend our time and energy reproving such words. They will be blown away of themselves on the wind. One need not clip the leaves in autumn. It is a wasted effort. They will soon blow off of themselves.

O how quickly we are given to defending God, or sometimes the truth, from words that are only for the wind. If we had discernment we could tell the difference between the words with roots and the words blowing in the wind.

There are words with roots in deep error and deep evil. But not all grey words get their color from a black heart. Some are colored mainly by the pain, the despair. What you hear is not the deepest thing within. There is something real within where they come from. But it is temporary—like a passing infection—real, painful, but not the true person.

Let us learn to discern whether the words spoken against us or against God or against the truth are merely for the wind—spoken not from the soul, but from the sore. If they are for the wind, let us wait in silence and not reprove. Restoring the soul not reproving the sore is the aim of our love.

Learning to listen to the soul,

Pastor John