The Antipsalm vs. The Real Deal

David Powlison in a recent article gives his "Antipsalm."

Antipsalm 23

I'm on my own.
No one looks out for me or protects me.
I experience a continual sense of need. Nothing's quite right.
I'm always restless. I'm easily frustrated and often disappointed.
It's a jungle — I feel overwhelmed. It's a desert — I'm thirsty.
My soul feels broken, twisted, and stuck. I can't fix myself.
I stumble down some dark paths.
Still, I insist: I want to do what I want, when I want, how I want.
But life's confusing. Why don't things ever really work out?
I'm haunted by emptiness and futility — shadows of death.
I fear the big hurt and final loss.
Death is waiting for me at the end of every road,
but I'd rather not think about that.
I spend my life protecting myself. Bad things can happen.
I find no lasting comfort.
I'm alone ... facing everything that could hurt me.
Are my friends really friends?
Other people use me for their own ends.
I can't really trust anyone. No one has my back.
No one is really for me — except me.
And I'm so much all about ME, sometimes it's sickening.
I belong to no one except myself.
My cup is never quite full enough. I'm left empty.
Disappointment follows me all the days of my life.
Will I just be obliterated into nothingness?
Will I be alone forever, homeless, free-falling into void?
Sartre said, "Hell is other people."
I have to add, "Hell is also myself."
It's a living death, and then I die.

Here's the real deal.

Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside quiet waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me.
Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil.
My cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.


Abortion is About God

Watch John Piper powerfully explain why the issue of Abortion is really about God and His sovereignty.

Doing Things Right In Matters of the Heart 8

Chapter 8 of John Ensor's book Doing Things Right in Matters of the Heart is called "He Works...She Waits." The chapter deals with men and women going against the grain of culture in regards to the physical aspect of a relationship. In the chapter we see that a woman's modesty will go a long way in maturing a man for marriage. Enjoy the excerpts...

In matters of the heart, men are to work to win and women are to wait and be won.

“Sisters, this means reclaiming the power of modesty and chastity. Nothing will make a man work harder at wooing and preparing himself to wed than modesty and chastity. Men work when women wait.”

“How do women transform immature men into mature ones? Through the power of their modesty and chastity. Such women understand not only the moral clarity of, God’s Word, but they also see the wisdom in his commands to abstain. When women wait, the impatient male predator will go elsewhere, which protects them from the wrong man. The immature man, however, is forced to consider what changes in his life need to be made. He asks, ‘What are the terms and conditions under which I may turn your “Not now” and “Not yet” into “Let my beloved come to his garden and eat its choicest fruits!” (Song of Solomon 4:16) Then he gets to work and grows up in the process.”

“Sisters, there is power in waiting. If you give away this God-endowed power and simple act, as the apostle Paul said, ‘like the Gentiles who do not know God’ and satisfy his lusts, you undermine God’s work of maturing manhood. So part company with the crowd. Become a nonconformist.”

“Simple women end up sacrificing the best years of their fertile lives on men who will never make themselves ready for marriage. Why? Because such women only wish rather than require that the man in their lives will marry. They hope for marriage with their “partner” when instead, if they followed God’s will in this matter, they could be planning for it.”


Pray for Larry King

If you didn't get a chance to watch the interview a few weeks ago on Larry King Live with Steven Curtis Chapman and family, I would highly recommend it. It was a great testimony to the promise of the Gospel and the hope we as believers have through faith in Jesus Christ.

Below is Larry King's reflections on the interview. Pray that the "leap of faith" he cannot seem to make will be given to him by God--that his heart of stone would be replaced with a heart of flesh that repents of sin, and believes in the Gospel. Pray that God would shine the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ into his heart that he might see and believe! Pray that he will repent of his sin and turn in faith to the Savior.


Obama and Infanticide Revisited

Senator Barack Obama's voting record in regards to the "Born Alive Infant Protection Act" and motivations behind how he voted just don't seem to want to go away. A Baptist Press story on the most recent evidence to support the fact that Senator Obama did indeed vote against a bill in the Illinois State Senate that would have allowed doctors to provide medical care to infants who survived abortive procedures can be read here.

Below is also a video on Youtube that contains the testimony of Jill Stanek who is a nurse who has witnessed babies being left to die who survived abortive procedures. She testified before the Illinois State Senate in support of this bill that Barack Obama opposed three times.

A couple of caveats about the video. One, I don't support everything that the authors of this video support or believe--I don't even know all of what they support or believe. Two, the baby shown at the end was not a real situation, just depicting what happens in hospitals.

Me Church & Me Worship

There is much truth in jest. Guard against the truth of this humor in the songs we sing as followers of Christ and in the churches we serve.

Why Not?

Churches of our time are languishing under the seeker sensitive sickness that was sold to pastors and church planters and church growth experts. Be sensitive to the seeker. Taylor your church and your ministries around the needs of the seeker. Teach them more about how to be successful in life rather than how to be right with God through repentance from sin and faith in Jesus Christ. Teach them how to be the "Best You" you can be instead of finding their identity in Christ. Teach them to increase their self-esteem, but the gospel says we must have a low self-esteem before we can ever come to be reconciled with God through faith in Christ. Focus on gimmicks and games rather than the glorious Gospel.

Now, churches are reaping what has been sown and sold. Those methods may have drawn a crowd, but they did little to build a church. They sound like the words of Hezekiah when told of the coming judgment that would ravish his people and even his family in 80 years: "Why not, if there will be peace and security in my days?" (2 Kings 20:19) It didn't seem to matter to Hezekiah about the consequences of his actions or the writing on the wall as long as things were fine in his day.

As we make decisions about how to grow a church, we must not just be content with what it will look like in our time or if it will mean a comfy existence for us or if it will bring in a crowd now. We must think about what these decisions will mean 20 years from now. What do we want the church to look like in 20 years and how does this decision we are about to make impact the church for the far future, not just the immediate future? Let's commit to building solid biblical churches which strive for lasting gospel growth which will impact the church and the home positively 20 years from now and not be content with a quick shot in the arm of superficial growth that does not stand up to the trials of life and cares of the world.

I'm OK With Being "Intellectually Shallow"

Holly and I watched the Presidential Civil Forum hosted by Rick Warren at Saddleback Church this past weekend. I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised at how well John McCain did in this format. He clearly was the winner for the night and the more presidential of the two. His answers were short, clear, and to the point. By the liberal media's reaction and attacks and crazy suggestions of him knowing the questions beforehand, it would seem they feel just as strongly about how well McCain did for himself and his presidential aspirations on Saturday evening.

One of those liberal media, Jack Cafferty, made this recent comment in light of the Civil Forum and his obvious disdain for both our current President and potential President to be.

It occurs to me that John McCain is as intellectually shallow as our current president. When asked what his Christian faith means to him, his answer was a one-liner. "It means I'm saved and forgiven." Great scholars have wrestled with the meaning of faith for centuries. McCain then retold a story we've all heard a hundred times about a guard in Vietnam drawing a cross in the sand.

Jack, in a nutshell, that is what it means to be a Christian. You are saved and forgiven through repentance from sin and faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Christ dies in the sinners place bearing the wrath of God against sin on the cross and now through faith in that perfect and sufficient sacrifice, all who will repent of their sin and cast their souls on Christ, are saved and forgiven.

I imagine Jack would think Paul was intellectually shallow when he said,

"Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved..." (Acts 16:31)

Peter, intellectually shallow:

"Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of the Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins..." (Acts 2:38)

The Word of God continues to show itself reliable:

Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to
us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:20-31)

Pray for Jack Cafferty the words of Paul:

"In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God...For God, who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." (2 Corinthians 4:4-6)

Doing Things Right In Matters of the Heart 7

Chapter Seven of John Ensor's book Doing Things Right In Matters of the Heart is entitled "He Leads...She Guides." In it he discusses leadership and decision making in the marriage in relation to the husband and wife's roles. Very counter-cultural, but biblical.

Commenting on 1 Peter 3:7—“I take this to mean we ought to lead with questions rather than conclusions. It means we ask about what she thinks is best, and we consider how she will be affected by the matter. Following this directive casts our whole leadership into the mold of tenderness and thoughtfulness.”

“Sisters if you repeatedly attempt to control the man in your life, and if you disrespect him and the decisions he makes, you will get nothing for it but neglect and emotional abandonment…But here is the thing: men naturally chafe and eventually flee from direct instruction from their wives. They do not change when you tell them to. And they never will. When you turn up the volume, you tune the man out.”

“Instead, try indirect instruction…This is the way of a woman with a man. She teaches him primarily by example. When needed, she may appeal to his thoughtfulness and ask for his consideration, but she will not go further. He will be far more apt to give consideration to her words when they are heard as an appeal or a suggestion rather than as a directive. Think of it as the difference between casting a flashlight down the path versus pointing it in his face. Direct light causes us to close our eyes. Indirect light, pointed away from our eyes, causes us to strain to see.”

“So let God, in his providence, bend the stiff neck of your husband, beat down his rebellion, soften his sharp edges, and fan into flame a vision for what it means to be a husband, father, and entrepreneur in the things of God. Until then, shut up about it in his presence. Turn it over to God, ‘casting all your anxieties on him, for he cares for you.”

“It is for me (men) to make the final decision when we are both uncertain or in disagreement about what is right. My wife will provider her best judgment and guidance: ‘Here is what I think…”or “We have to think about this factor or that.” Then when she’s done, she will add, ‘But you decide. God holds you accountable for it.’ Sounds a bit harsh, but it’s true.”


God's Word and "Afflictions"

I am reading through Psalm 119 right now in my "quiet time." Psalm 119:50 says, "This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life." Then he goes on to say in verse 71, "It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your precepts."

The Word of God gives comfort in all the "afflictions" we face. But in a strange and unique way it is in "afflictions" that we learn the Word of God. I take great comfort in the promise from God to believers, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." I take great comfort from "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine; or nakedness, or danger, or sword?...No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."

But it's only in the experience of affliction that I "learn" the preciousness of these promises and comforts and in a real way how they become such a comfort and so precious to me as a follower of Christ. The Word of God comforts us in affliction and the affliction is used by God to teach us the Word of God that brings us comfort in affliction. Beautiful!
Over at the New Attitude blog, Thabiti gives a great answer to the question, "What would you say to someone who sees where their local church is weak and needs to change and is frustrated that it's not changing fast enough?"

Ephesians 4:1-3 is critical. “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Whatever the person sees that may need to be changed, they should not forget their calling and the manner in which they should walk: humble, gentle, patient, forbearing, and eagerly maintaining unity.

If the church is preaching the gospel, then I think most other aspects of church growth and change should be viewed with both eyes toward grace and love--which means the speed of the change isn’t the main criteria for progress or joy in the church. There are no perfect churches, and becoming frustrated with the pace of change suggests at least one of three things: pride; ignorance about what it takes to change a church and Who actually changes it; and/or an approach to the church that views the church mechanically, almost like a model car project/hobby requiring a little glue and finesse to put all the pieces together.

The church is not a project to be “fixed,” but a people to be loved (Eph. 5:1-2). We need to keep that in view as we look out on our various imperfections. And we need to keep the evidence of God’s plentiful grace in view as well. The frustrated person might be helped to find a couple friends in the church who are doing well piritually, who seem to be pleased with the church, and sit with them listening to all the evidence of grace they see and are encouraged by. A little more perspective is
probably in order in most cases.

Directing Our Daughter's Hearts

Carolyn Mahaney gives some excellent advice to moms (and Dads) in regards to shepherding our daughter's hearts in the area of homemaking. Homemaking is not the only attribute and characteristic that we want to train up our daughters in, but we do want them to know that it is the most important calling they have from God and they must not let the world tell them otherwise. Go read the whole post, but enjoy the excerpts below.

How can we as mothers compete for the minds and hearts of our daughters with a world that shows (as one author put it) “a disdain of domesticity and a contempt for housewives”?

The answer: We must pay close attention to what captures our daughter’s heart. For, as it says in Proverbs 4:23, “from [the heart] flow the springs of life.”

We must ask “What is my daughter most excited about? What captures her imagination? What are her desires and dreams for her future? Is she more eager to be with friends than to be with family? Would she rather pursue activities outside of the home rather than endeavors in the home? Who does she admire more—faithful homemakers or worldly women?”

As moms it is our job to carefully monitor our daughters’ hearts. If we sense their enthusiasm for family and home waning, we must skillfully reorient their affections back toward family and home.

Doing Things Right In Matters of the Heart 6

I actually got ahead of myself last time and skipped a chapter. Let me back up and share an excerpt from what really is Chapter 5 of John Ensor's great book Doing Things Right In Matters of the Heart. Chapter 5 is entitled "Doing Things Right." This illustratio is worth the price of the book itself...

In the Winter Olympics, figure skating events are the hottest ticket in town. Pairs figure skating has occasionally been the highest-rated event among viewers. At its best, it displays the strength and beauty, the power and grace, of true unity. The gold medal is awarded to the couple who has most mastered the skills of male leadership and female support.

He leads her onto the ice and initiates each part of their routine. She receives that leadership and trusts in his strength. His raw physical strength is more on display than hers; he does all the lifting, twirling, and catching. She complements his strength with her own – a more diminutive and more attractive strength of beauty,
grace, speed, and balance. His focus as the head, or leader, is to magnifying her skills. Her focus is on following his lead and signaling her readiness to receive his next move. He takes responsibility for the two of them, and she trusts his leaderships and delights in it (p. 88).

If he makes a mistake, she pays the larger physical price while he pays the larger emotional price. She falls, but he fails! So he has to learn to initiate and risk. She has to help him understand her moves and to endure his learning curve.

They do not fight for equality on the ice; they possess it as a given. Each has a role to play and they are not jostling or fighting about fairness. They are after something far more rewarding. No one yells, ‘Oppressor!’ as he leads her around the arena, lifting her up and catapulting her into a triple spin. No one thinks she is belittled as she takes her lead from him, skating backward to his forward. No one calls to her for them to be egalitarian: ‘She should get to throw him into a triple lutz half the time!’ They complement each other in their complementarian approach to becoming one majestic and powerful whole. No one, least of all he, minds that the roses and teddy bears, thrown onto the ice when they have collapsed into each others arms at the end, are for her. It is his joy.


I Ask Great Things of a Great God

One of the prayers in the Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions is entitled, "The Great God." A few lines follow.

O Fountain of All Good,
Destroy in me every lofty thought,
Break pride to pieces and scatter it to the winds,
Annihilate each clinging shred of self-righteousness,
Implant in me true lowliness of spirit,
Abase me to self-loathing and self-abhorrence,
Open in me a fount of penitential tears,
Break me, then bind me up;
Thus will my heart be a prepared dwelling for my God...

Let angels sing for sinners repenting, prodigals restored,
backsliders reclaimed, Satan's captives released,
blind eyes opened, broken hearts bound up,
the despondent cheered, the self-righteous stripped,
the formalist driven from a refuge of lies,
the ignorant enlightened,
and saints built up in their holy faith.

I ask great things of a great God.

Lord, let it be so.

Doing Things Right In Matters of the Heart 5

Chapter Six of John Ensor's book Doing Things Right In Matters of the Heart is entitled "He Initiates...She Responds." I am sure I will possibly get labeled a male chauvinist pig in response to these excerpts, but men and women who follow this advice and practice it in their marriages, will find much more joy than those who do not. If agreement with the advice below makes me a male chauvinist pig in the eyes of the world, oh well. "Oink!"

Brothers, it falls to us to be the initial risk takers in matters of the heart. Headship means being the one to go ahead and ask. It is ours as men to suffer the embarrassment of rejection if need be. It is our role to initiate. It is hers to respond with a signal of reception or rejection. Get to it merrily. We are the hunters . They are the quarry. It is for men to strike out into the forest and look. It is for women to crack the twigs, and stir the leaves so we know where to find them.

Sisters, all the advice from Vogue, Glamour, and Cosmopolitan that talks about going after and getting your man, all the blather about how in this day and age it is just as acceptable for you to initiate as for him—is just that—blather. The proof is that it feels wrong. Be confident and trust your feelings on this matter. Be confident that if he is the man you hope and wish him to be, he will play the man. You crackle the leaves a bit when he is in the area and let him know you are there. Then wait for him to initiate, or not. In the long run, you will be well served either way.


Watching a Train Wreck

Michael McKinley over at the IX Marks blog recently posted a great reveiw of Sunday morning TV preachers. I have to agree that I in a weird way "enjoy" watchining these as well!

I love to watch the guys and gals early on Sunday morning, doing their thing... it's like a car wreck that you can't look away from. I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

You can read the entire review here.

Rod Parsley

Wow, this guy has one message -- Jesus is going to make you and everyone you know rich. I'm really amazed at the brazenness. Is anything more obviously untrue? Seriously, the people in the audience do not seem to be able to afford an orthodontist, let alone a BMW. As Dr. Phil would say... how's this working for you?

BTW -- 8/8/08 is the day that now becomes infinity (8 is the sideways symbol for infinity, of course). Mr. Parsley also informs us that 8/8/08 is "D-Day for the Devil". I trust Mr. Parsley isn't saying that thousands of Christians are going to die at Normandy on Friday.

If you sow a seed of $88.08 by Friday, God will cure your cancer and make you rich.
Did you know they sell DVD's of these "teaching series"? As if you might have missed something! I've been watching for 15 minutes and he's only said one thing, "Send me money!".

Homiletics lesson #3 -- If you lack the authority that comes with the truth, garner authority by screaming and then staring into the camera like a serial killer.


This old nun is just saying "Haily Mary" after "Hail Mary". Seriously, for like 10 minutes. I have to admit, after Rod Parsley, this is kind of refreshing.

I do not get the appeal of this religion. It's like none of the fun of the Prosperity Gospel and none of the truth of the real gospel.

And finally, Ed Young TV

After all the prosperity gospel stuff, Ed Young, Jr. seems like Charles Spurgeon.

We're talking sex today on Ed Young TV. At one point he said, "When you make love to your spouse, you are like the Trinity. You can't tell where one ends and another begins." Those, gentle reader, are the two least sexy sentences ever uttered.

If When I become the old guy dressing twenty years younger than I am, please tell me. I don't blame Ed Young for dressing like he's a 25 year old with a perma-tan. I blame the people around him who enable it. It's not OK. Ed, I say this as a friend... it's time to rock the distinguished professor look.


A Great Song About BBQ

Being from NC, there really is only one correct kind of barbeque--vinegar based. Everything else is just pork or beef with some sauce on it. Here is a great song about BBQ. Enjoy!

Church Growth Musings

Church growth seems to be constantly a topic to which pastors return and upon which church members concentrate. Just a few thoughts that have been running through this pastor's head:

People Who Can vs. People Who Are Called

In every church, it seems like there is always a lack of needed volunteers to do the ministry of the church and so you have a small handful of volunteers who serve in many different capacities in many different areas of ministry. There is a temptation to just "fill the need" with anyone who is willing to do it. I just don't know if that is the most productive course of action or if that should be our expectation as pastors or churches. More times than not, there are always "people who can." But I think as pastors and churches we really should have as our expectation not just "people who can" but rather "people who are called."

When ministry is done only by "people who can" who are not also called to that ministry, I don't believe it is fair to the one serving or the one being served. How many parents would rather have someone teaching their child in school who is fully educated to do the job, but who really doesn't want to be there doing it as opposed to someone who feels called to that profession, thus has equipped themselves to be successful in that profession, and is enthusiastic and passionate about doing it? Obviously the latter. Why then do we tend to settle for less than that in our churches with issues that are of much greater importance than math, english, and science?

"People who can" equals programs. "People who are called" equals ministry. Ministry is our focus and so "people who are called" should be our expectation.

Filling the Church vs. Building the Church

There are a lot of ways pastors can fill a church building. Personalities will fill a church. Glitz, gimmicks, and glamour will fill a church. But, there seems to be only one way in Scripture to build a church, the body of Christ. That is Jesus Christ building it through the faithful preaching of His Word, particularly the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As pastors we need to focus on Christ building His Church through His Word in His time and not us filling the church in our time and way. That does not mean that we neglect things like evangelism and outreach, though there may be some forms of evangelism and outreach that are probably not the best use of our time, resources, nor our conviction about the power of the Word of God. As pastors, we will have to do what is sometimes very hard: trust the power of God's Word and sovereignty of God.

James Grant speaks of the cultural sins which pastors and churches must lean against in worship and I would say as well in the growth of the church:

    • Individualism-we are known as rugged individualists, and we must make decisions in our worship that lean against that individualism. What should we do? Emphasize corporate worship and congregational singing. Frequent communion will also help to guard against individualism in our churches.
    • Pragmatism-the main philosophical tradition of our country is pragmatism; whatever works is best. How to we lean against this? Perhaps we should remind each other that worship is not always what is popular, but sometimes what is different and hard. Entertainment-television, movies, and multi-media are being adopted by churches without critical evaluation. Is it urgent, in a situation like we face in our culture with technology, that we highlight the preaching of the word? I think so. God revealed himself through the written word, and we are called to study and teach that word.
    • Urgency-we can get almost anything we want right now. If we need something to eat, we can pull into a fast food restaurant and eat, or we can throw something in a microwave. In many cases, we have lost a sense of patience. Perhaps we should slow our worship down and be more reflective and meditative at times, and by doing that we will be leaning against the tyranny of the moment.

What People Look For Is What They Come For

This is a thought that is more really in regards to church members and their spiritual growth and contentment with where they are in their spiritual life and in association with that their contentment with the church they are attending. What a person looks for in a church is what they will come for. If they do not find what they are looking for, they will stop coming. If they are looking to be entertained or to feel better about themselves or if they are looking for a dynamic personality in a preacher, then that's what they will come to see and "feel." If they don't find what they are looking for, they will stop coming.

If they are looking for a body of believers to join with and worship with and serve the community and the world together in through the Gospel, while growing in the likeness of Jesus Christ through the faithful preaching/teaching of the Word of God, then they will stay at the church where they find that. They will come when they find what they are looking for. Pastors and churches: as we serve and minister to see the lost come to faith in Christ through the Gospel, let's make sure that the kind of church we are building is a place where they will find the latter and not the former. When people stop coming, a lot of times its an indicaton of what they were looking for in the first place and therefore why they stopped coming. You cannot control what people are looking for or why they are coming, only what they will find and see and hear when they get there.