Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Hard to Believe...

Well, it is hard to believe that our two weeks in the Pearl of Africa, Uganda, are finished.  Our team of seven learned so much, and I believe we were able to be used in the work of training leaders in a part of the world that is often in such need of training.  Our experiences were many...foods, relationships, cultural differences, seeing the Hand of God at work...and now, each of us is returning to our routines, schedules, and families in the United States. 
God was gracious to provide for our needs, our health and our travel safety.  As we sat in the cafeteria hall of Africa Renewal University on the night before we were to fly back home, we listened as students talked about how thankful they were that we had come.  They spoke of how much they had learned, and they blessed us with such strong words of encouragement.  Occasionally, a tear would come to my eye as I thought about how glorious the partnership had been...we shared training, they shared desire and zeal for the Lord.  Having been four times to Uganda to partner with this institution, I saw again the need, and the benefits of continued travel in order to teach.
What a blessing to go, to lead a great team, to work with great folks at ARU, and to serve an awesome God. 

Friday, May 23, 2014

Two weeks in Africa...

Hard to believe two weeks have flown, we fly today back to America.  This trip has been productive I hope and pray for the Kingdom.  My students are taking their final exam and then we will we say goodbye to each other.  What a joy to see the Kingdom expanding in this part of the world.  A few hightlights:

*the party the students threw for us last night and their words of thanks meant so much.
*Watching my students preach a final sermon yesterday and watching them sttick with a text in a culture that often rarely exposits a text.
*Seeing two particular students preach the text so faithfully, that tears came to my eyes as I saw the fruit of 2 weeks of training in Expository Preaching.
*Hearing about how the University here, Africa Renewal University is changing society one leader at a time.
*Praying with students, one who heard I was here at the school and traveled many miles just to say hello...he is still remembering our class when he was my student back in 2010.
*Giving counsel to a students as we talked about the death of his mother and the pressue to go to the cemetary to do rituals of witchcraft.

What an amazing two weeks.  Thanks to all of you who helped to finance me getting here.  I believe this has truly been a strategic trip...a trip that actually requires short term missions to accomplish a larger goal of the missionary on the ground.

Now, we prepare for 24+ hours of travel...3 airports, and lots of airplane food.  Family, and hot showers await us (yes, it has been 2 weeks of cold showers here) when we get back home.  We have been blessed, and our being here I believe has been fruitful to the church in Uganda...

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Need is Great...

The need is so great.  The Western church by many accounts is on the decline-Europe is spiritually dead, and so much American Christianity is wrestling with true Biblical Christianity.  And yet, droves of people are coming to Christ in the global south, and yet there is very little theological training.  The West, for now, has most of the theological resources.  Many missiologists envision that in the near future, the global south will be a major, if not the major force of Christianity in the world.  And now, right now, we in America have so many resources we could use.  Money.  Theological Training.  Ive got more solid commentaries, and study materials on my shelves that many Ugandan cities do put together.  How will we respond?

Yesterday, I sat with Robert, a Ugandan who teaches at the school where we are for these two weeks.  He was sharing his heart about the Ugandan church.  It is estimated that close to 89 percent of Uganda is considered Christian, and yet, as he says, you cant leave your posessions out without them being stolen, churches look nothing like the New Testament, leaders have no biblical depth, (most of these are his ideas vs. simply my observations).  Have we contented ourselves with the idea of reaching the unreached, but not staying long enough to teach and disciple them?  Robert would tell you missionaries should stay to teach...

Every year I come, I see the need, and I am thankful at how I see students being trained.  Students becoming critical of false teachers they hear all over Ugandan radio that promise material prosperity, or those that offer listeners the abilitty to buy special oil for a blessing.  Instead, they are being captured by a Christ-Centered view of the church, the gospel and the Word, and are making sacrifices, often times much more than most Americans, to share this knowledge.

"Why do you go to Uganda Ryan when it is close to 90 percent Christian?"  Answer: statistics on a page never account for an extreme lack of true discipleship and teaching...discipleship and teaching in a place that could be the center of Christianity one to two generations from now...

Monday, May 19, 2014

Week 2 beginning-

We are beginning week 2 of our work here.  Yesterday, like the sunday before, we spent much time in different Uganda village churches preaching, engaging with pastors and people alike, and encouraging them to consider training at the University where we teach.  The food this year has been varied, always with a usual constant foundation of beans and rice.  Some higjlights:

*Preaching the gospel under a makeshift church buildng with very few walls.
*eating a whoe fish (fried right out of the water).
*Talking with a solid Uganda student and likely future pastor about eldership, expository preaching, ministry and more.
*We enjoyed a day of rest along the side of Lake Victoria at a nice place in Kampala.
*Hearing a Ugandan pastor's heart mourning the use of trickery in so much of radio ministry here in Uganda.
*Watchng students take a text and move into interpretation and then sermon outline whcih aligns to the meanng of the text.
*Ugandan rainfall.

God is at work here and I am thankful to get to see it.
more soon-

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Highlights so far in Uganda...

Highlights from the trip:

-Seeing the students now in 3 days of classes learning with eagerness about Preaching, starting with Biblical interpretation.
-Having a discussing with student agreement about how the "Prosperity Gospel" is no gospel.
-Watching students reading some of Bryan Chappell's book "Christ-Centered Preaching" and some of Piper on the Supremacy of God in Preaching.
-Interacting with the faculty and staff at African Renewal university, many of whom have becmoe friends.
-Great cappuccino last night at Cafe Java's in Kampala.
-Hearing the rain beat down in the wee hours of the morning on the metal roof above my head.
-Preaching in a village church frm Colossians 1:15-20
-Seeing volunteers work in the growing library, trim banana trees (which help to feed students on campus) and more.
-Preaching the gospel with boldness and seeing bold agreement...

more to come...

Journey to the Pearl

After much travel, lost baggage, lost sleep and wonderful team discussions, we have arrived in Uganda which has been called the Pearl of Africa.  What a beautiful land, and what a wonderful people.  I have been privileged to travel here four times with TLI, and seeing both new and familiar faces has been a blessing.  What a blessing when our luggage arrived a day later--it certainly was a reminder if how dependent dependent I can be on my own comforts.  However, the Lord brought to my mind verses of Scripture which allowed me to be baggage-less, a miniscule challenge compared to true suffering, and yet to realize the Lord provides daily bread.  

As I sat at lunch yessterday, I heard one of the Ugandan faculty members here at Africa Renewal University say as we discussed the teaching of preaching that "99 percent of the preaching he hears on the radio is unbiblical" here in Uganda.  What a continued reminder of why we journey...of why TLI is such a needed ministry--the world is need to training, and we have a small piece to offer.  

Early yesterday morning as I lay down trying to fall asleep, the rain was falling (it is currently rainy season here in Uganda) and it was a beautiful sound--may the rain of God's Word fall in abundance here in the Pearl of Africa...

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Sunday in the Pearl of Africa

Today, I assembled for worship in a village church outside of Kampala, Uganda.  I was given the opportunity to preach, and I chose Colossians 1:15-20.  Songs last for hours, and the service is usually from mid-morning to around 1pm.  The need here is great for solid theological teaching, and yet there is a passion in many ways that isn't seen as greatly in some parts of the West.

I am thankful for God's grace, and we are dealing with occasional light and monmentary afflictions, and yet God is brining to mind the Scripture as we do.  Missing my family, but thankful for be in Africa and seeing what God is doing...

more to come-

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Reflections on the Last Few Weeks...

So, it has been awhile since I've blogged, and some of that is due to being busy.  However, a few thoughts on the last few weeks:

*My daughter Magdalene was born March 7.  What a precious joy.  Thinking through her birth, I am grateful for:
-right timing of delivery
-a beautiful face, that was unique and yet looked like "another Davidson baby"
-a retiring nurse whose very last shift was to care for Magdalene
-Holding my little, precious cuddle bug. 
-Being reminded again and again how frail life is, and how little control I have.  God owns and arranges every molecule.

*Getting used to four kids:
-The looks of some (predominately baby-boomers it seems) who wonder...why did they have so many!
-The looks of others (predominately Senior Citizens) who are both oo-ing and ah-ing over the baby and the large family, and at the same time realizing how fast their own lives have flown by.
-Figuring out which parent is going to get which kids when we're out running errands.
-The stressors of 6 in the house.
-Stomach flu the week we bring the baby home...
-The amazing generosity of our church family and multiple weeks of meals.

*Some extra time with my children
-A little time off, and then some intentional time with the kids has caused me to see again, how grateful I am for this bunch of little ones. 
-The amazing and fearful realization again that I am the Pastor to these little ones (all dads are by the way)
-The occasional reminders of my own mortality and the longing to see these children through to adulthood.
-Little things...spilt milk, Mickey-D's nuggets, made up games before bed, family worship

*Reminder of how blessed I am in my wife
-For so many reasons, big and small, these past few weeks join with our previous 8 years together and remind me Christie that " surpass them all."

Monday, March 3, 2014

Ever Feel Like A Parenting Failure?

So, if I'm honest, there is a part of me that occasionally wonders how I'm doing... how we're doing, my wife and I, at parenting.  We're part of the young, Reformed, influenced by the Piper, Dever, Puritan crowd who believe in "Shepherding a Child's Heart".  However, there are so many little encounters where I can find myself dumbfounded...saying inwardly, "uh...what do I do here?"..."who do I discipline here?"..."do I give a gospel lesson here, a time-out or a spanking here, or what?".  Perhaps you don't have that've got Christian parenting with a shepherding view in place, there is enormous fruit in your family's life, and all is well.  There are days for me like that, however, sometimes my wife and I comment that parenting is oh so hard.  A few thoughts that we are working through (and there are so many bloggers, writers, pastors to read on this who are better at this, so read them first):

1).  We want our home to be a training ground for the Kingdom--We want to wrestle through God's sovereign calling of our children to Himself, and yet call our children to Christ ourselves.  We don't want our kids to only live the American dream, with happiness as the goal...we want them to see the utter supremacy and beauty of Christ.  Some days, we think we see glimmers of this, often however, at just the time in the family devotion when I expect to see 'revival' of a Whitefield magnitude, one of my kids moves us into a discussion of burping, or toy soldiers, or something slightly less spiritual.  Perhaps a God-centered view of burping?  God, we need your grace to do this...

2).  We want discipline to point to law-breaking and Jesus' righteousness--Simply put, we desire, and so often fail at using moments to point our kids to their innate sinfulness and their inability to please God but not stop at a moral lesson, but push through to Jesus being our only hope.  Often however, if I'm honest, I wonder at how to balance this.  Some how, the age old pre-spanking "this hurts me more than it hurts you" (while potentially true for this tearful daddy) isn't enough.
God, we need your grace to do this...

3).  We want kids who feel safe in the fact that daddy & mommy love them and that daddy and mommy love each other--So many children grow up in this world wondering if daddy and mommy love them.  Sometimes, they may feel safe in that, but they wonder if daddy and mommy love each other.  Children need this God-given safety in the family.  I love to hug my wife, to give her a kiss...but I think in some way, it is good for my kids...particularly for my sons to see how a husband loves his wife.  However, what about those moments when there is a brief impatient word exchanged between us...what about when one of us is down and less affectionate. I feel like this one is an easier one for us and yet, God, we need your grace to do this...

4).  Although happiness is not the goal, it is not the enemy either--Sometimes amid all the good God-centered, heart shepherding speak, I wonder if we as parents in the Reformed culture don't allow our kids just to enjoy being kids.  Don't get me wrong--I tremble at the thought that "stuff" will become my kid's god...I tremble thinking that the American Dream of radical money and radical independence will take over their hearts...I tremble at the fear that my kids will learn the mantra "more" vs. the mantra "Thine".  However, sometimes I wonder if I do a good enough job at letting my kids just "be" in the moment, free from "another instruction"...just being happy.  I am learning to do this more and let my eldest son rejoice in Star Wars stuff, to let my girl enjoy a princess or let my youngest boy wrestle with what food he likes and dislikes without turning the moment into a "there a starving kids in Africa..." 
God, we need your grace to do this...

5).  What if God is using parenting to grow my kids, but to sanctify me more?--We got into parenting, at least I did, with visions of Puritan worship, behaved children, a nursery for the kingdom, etc...and while I believe this is happening in small doses in our home, I think the Lord has been impressing on me that He has allowed me to be a Father, precisely because He wants me to see how much I need my Heavenly Father.  I love when our kids "get" something about the Bible, the gospel, or the world...I don't think we're failing, but I need to be reminded often that one of the chief means God is using to sanctify me right now could be my role as a parent.
God, we need your grace to do this...

So, yes, sometimes I feel like I'm missing it as a parent...and then I begin to think about the passage that we usually only equate to missions, and I hear it ring true in my mission field as a parent: "...make disciples, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you, and I will be with you to the end..."  Yes, oh yes, it is worth it parents for us to parent well, with intentionality, with a view toward shepherding and one of the lessons we learn in it all is:  God, we need your grace to do this...

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

A Confession...

I have a confession.  While I have been a Christian since an early age--claiming Christ as early as age five--I have had seasons where a propensity towards doubt and amnesia have been my pattern.  I have needed to be constantly reminded of the gospel, and in recent years, I have come to find the grace of greater solace in preaching the gospel to myself--in reflecting on it theologically and meditatively.  I have also found it helpful to confess the gospel to others and to myself through the weekly corporate worship times.  Recently at my church, we have used not only a prayer of confession, but a Scriptural assurance of pardon, and in the last few weeks, we've also begun to make confession our faith together through the use of ancient catechism.  For example, just a few weeks ago, together we proclaimed this from the 1563 Heidelberg Catechism:

Question 1. What is thy only comfort in life and death?
Answer: That I with body and soul, both in life and death,  am not my own,  but belong unto my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ; who, with his precious blood, has fully satisfied for all my sins,  and delivered me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head;  yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation, and therefore, by his Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life,  and makes me sincerely willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto him. 

With tears, I have voiced these words with my brothers and sisters.  Tears because I am appreciative of the opportunity for our liturgy to include such ancient statements of robust theology in an age where so often "new" is best.  However, there is also the fact that in a room of other believers, these words are a balm to my soul...because, I confess...I often forget...I often doubt...and so my confession is to confess...confess the gospel with others...

Saturday, February 1, 2014

"Christians Get Depressed Too"- A Review

I would encourage you to pick up a copy of Christians Get Depressed Too by David Murray.  It is practical, not too thick for the average reader, and can be a helpful overview of depression and Christians for both the person struggling with depression, but also those who are seeking to be caregivers.  Briefly, I'd like to provide a few particular comments regarding the book:

Strengths (and personal "likes")

* I appreciated first of all how courteous Dr. Murray was in writing the book.  If you are not aware, "Christian Counseling" is a broad field with many different paradigms (biblical counseling, integration, Christian psychology, pastoral counseling, etc.) and there is quite a bit of divergence among Christian pastors, counselors and other mental health professionals as to how to approach counseling from a Christian perspective.  (In fact in these last few days, Dr Murray & Dr. Kelleman have been having a friendly back and forth regarding CBT-Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy HERE)  In his book, Dr. Murray was complimentary of everyone, including those with whom he has disagreements. He modeled graciousness so very well.

* The book provides some practical helps in the journey of depression.  For example, as a pastor and a Licensed Mental Health Professional, I have used Psalm 77 often in my counseling work.  Murray provides a great chart using that same passage, walking through that text and using it as a cognitive self-tool.  There are many other helpful examples.  He gives a great list of 10 Cognitive Distortions (as CBT therapists call it), and provides not only examples, but seeks to connect each of these to a biblical character.  While we cannot know exactly what each biblical character might have been thinking, Murray does a good job connecting the reader to helpful examples.  As a counselor who often talks about how cognition affect emotions and mood, this chart alone is worth the recommendation.

*(And perhaps I could have said this first as it appears to be Murray's main focus)-Murray helps the depressed person in this book in practical ways, but in mainly by decreasing some of the "normalizing" the experience of depression and Christians.  The title alone is a helpful focus. 

*Murray's style allows for an easy read and he provides a holistic summary of areas related to depression given that we are indeed both body and soul. 

A Question & Minor Suggestions

*While Murray was kind to his biblical counseling movement brothers and sisters, he does differ from them somewhat, not in their aim, but in their viewpoint.  Murray mentions points of difference from other persons such as Jay Adams and Ed Welch. I was aided in thinking again, even as a counselor with quite a few years of counseling persons journeying with depression, and I am not sure I'd disagree with much that Murray processes.  I do wonder if the "modern biblical counseling" movement most popularized by CCEF is as closed to medicine as perhaps Dr. Murray thinks.  Undoubtedly Murray has researched the topic, so I am only wondering aloud.  I do think he is right in his picture of the early work of Jay Adams, but I wonder if CCEF is moving further towards an increased holistic view.  For example, here is an article that gives further information from Ed Welch (in fairness, written 2 years after Murray's book) CLICK HERE   Murray's view is balanced.  If I had any suggestions, I think in rightly trying to advocate for the use of anti-depressants in some cases, he might have spent another paragraph or two talking about cases where anti-depressants were prescribed unnecessarily.

So all in all, a helpful book--glad our church has it in the library.  If you want a good background on the issue of depression alongside his book, do what Murray encourages his readers to do, and read multiple other books that he suggests...   

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Did Jesus Just Call Her a Dog?!?

It can be quite a surprise if you are reading along in the Bible and you see what appears to be a great insult.  In fact, you may not be ready for it when you see Jesus calling a woman a "little dog".  Ouch!  This isn't the Jesus we think about often...the one we think is cuddly at Christmas...the one we love because He first loved us.  And what's worse,  it appears that this title was because she was a, I ask myself, am I a dog too?  However, there it is...right there in the text:

And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” And he answered, “It is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table.” Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly. - Matthew 15:21-28

If we examine the text more closely, and we think about the unfolding revelation of God's plan of redemption, we'll remember that Jesus came to the Jews first..."the lost sheep of the house of Israel".  However, all throughout the Bible, from Genesis on, there has been an overarching understanding that God always had a plan for people from every nation (even His covenant w/ Abraham reveals this).  And by the book of Acts, it's clear that the gospel was predominately moving forward among the gentiles.  Even in Jesus' predominately Jewish encounters, gentiles are often mentioned (Matthew 4 as one example).  But here in Matthew 15, Jesus mentions his plan as unfolding in Israel first-and then a woman has persistent faith.  Jesus uses a term (but softens it in the Greek) that the Jews often used of Gentiles; dogs...then He blesses her based on her faith.  Jesus is pressing this woman to see if she will persist...and she does.  The point is not the insult, the point from Jesus' interaction is simply, "you know you are a gentile and are you willing, to come to me, to trust me, to keep pursuing me?" And she persists based on who she knows Jesus to be.  That is what our persistance should be like as well.  We come to Jesus because of His promise...because of Who we understand Him to be and we persist.   We trust Him when He promises good to any that come to Him.

"Yes" she said. "But even I can come to your table for crumbs..." was her belief.  Then we see that Jesus doesn't give her crumbs...he responds in answering her request. 

We don't get crumbs either...(Rev. 19) we get a seat at the table...

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

I May Have Given Beer to an Alcoholic...

"Sir, may I have money for the bus?"  "Sir, do you have any change I can use...I need to get some food?"  "Hey, buddy, spare some change so I can get some gas?"--There are so many other examples I of requests I have gotten over the last few years.  These quick occurrences are common interchanges among my days.  Gas stations, sidewalks, entering establishments, they happen.  I've heard many Christian people say a variety of things about how to respond.  There are even some great books out there for those who like to think deeply about how Christians should respond in mercy, such as: "When Helping Hurts", "Ministries of Mercy" & "Toxic Charity").  However, how does the individual Christian respond to the plea for spare change in the moment?

So often, many will deny aid thinking things like, "They need to get a job" or "They're just going to buy booze with this", or perhaps even more brazen: "I can't believe the level they would stoop to rip off people for money, it's shameless!"   In actuality, all of these things are true to a degree in various encounters.  It is not helping an addict to have more money if they are going to use it for a substance.  It is not helping an unemployed person find a job by giving them one excuse after another to not find meaningful work.  It is not helping the conman to further convince him that he is good at trickery.  However, what if in every instance, the person is telling the truth?  What if in every occurence, a true need is met with gospel charity?  We might say, "well that's possible, but you don't know which are genuine, and which are fake!"  I'd agree, and in past seasons of my life my conclusion would be that since I didn't know, I'd turn down the request.  Now, however, I am the opposite.  Since I don't know what needs are legitimate, and since I could be meeting a true need, and since I can part with loose change very easily, I give it.  However, there is another reason--

So often, what our hearts would reveal if our feelings and thoughts were articulated audibly is that we, a people of grace, who didn't deserve a helping hand, who were under the wrath of God, and were dead in sin....beggars in spirit if you will, often forget that God could have abandoned us in our needs and He would have been just to say things like: (although He wouldn't given His character), "Help yourself"..."earn your own way"..."you're just going to use my grace to sin more"...however, He didn't.  What if my encounter with the person just this morning asking for change was an opportunity for me to rejoice at how God has provided for me, not primarily materially, although He has abundantly, but spiritually in His grace?  I'm growing in my desire to give "in case" the need is real, vs. denying "in case" it's fake.  A helpful biblical text for me is Luke 6:30, "Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back."  Now this isn't to be taken as a rule in every case, for obviously there are other texts that speak to the importance of work (2 Thess 3:10), however I think we too infrequently honor the spirit of Jesus' teaching by assuming we know a person's need enough to say no.

Don't get me wrong, I believe we need to be wise, discerning and strategic in giving.  If I'm walking down the street, and I pass a bar or pub and a person outside that place asks for money, I may offer to cross the street with him and buy him a meal.  Or, if an inebriated person approaches and asks for money, I may need to say no, or perhaps more sacrificially, offer to buy him cab fare to a local Christian mission.  Perhaps if asked for gas money, instead of giving cash, I offer to put some gas in the car.  Perhaps if I pass by the same location multiple times, and the same person is there asking for money, the appropriate response would be not to give again.  And what if as often as I can, I try to give some gospel material, a contact card for church, or the like? 

It is possible that many of my quarters, nickels, dimes and pennies have made their way to the purchasing counter of an alcoholic distributor.  But, it's possible they've helped a single parent, with a legitimate need to get to the store by bus to buy formula for a mal-nourished child.  I don't know, and that's the point I'm learning.  I'll just seek to be wise, and yet with gospel-laced charity, give.  I was the beggar on the street, and He came and put my name on His checking account...

So, without meaning to, and not seeing every disguise, I may have unintentionally given an alcoholic beer.  Or....or, I may have given a beggar bread...

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Confession of a Small Disciple...

One of the things that I need most in my life is a constant reminder of the gospel.  In fact, sometimes I believe I am particularly susceptible to gospel amnesia as some have called it.  As I reflect on my moment by moment failures, sins of the past that come to mind, or my seeming constant need of gospel assurance, I realize that the only remedy is a focused sermon to myself about the gospel.  I long to be a person who has a bold assurance of the gospel, and a death defying desire to proclaim it, but too often, I feel as though I have a weak assurance of the gospel, and a lackadaisical impetus to proclaim it.  As one who needs a bold preaching of the gospel to the soul, I have found one book particularly meaningful.  A book that puts sanctification, justification, election and doubt/assurance in view in a biblical and honest way.  One such book is Puritan Walter Marshall's The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification:
Image 1

This book has changed my life.  I needed and still need someone to preach things like this to me:
"How horrid and heinous soever our sins and corruptions have been, we should learn to account them a small matter in comparison to the grace of Christ, who is God as well as man, and offered up Himself by the eternal Spirit as a sacrifice of infinite value for our salvation, and can create us anew as easily as He created the world by a word speaking." (Marshall, Chapter 11)

Often times, when in the car, I'll have my e-reader just read and reread certain chapters to me as I drive.  Need a dose of the gospel to complement your Bible reading this year?  Take up and read.  It's about 400 years old, and still bearing fruit...

Monday, January 6, 2014

Personal to Me: "The Calvinist"

A few weeks before this past Thanksgiving, I came across the video recitation of John Piper's new poem "The Calvinist".  It had a personal effect on me, and just not because I am a calvinist theologically, or because John Piper has been like a "mentor from afar" for me, or because it was narrated by so many brothers that I have followed and learned from immensely over the years (who could not be moved by hearing Sinclair Ferguson read a line or two of poetry about God's creation being a sign of His great love in that fatherly Scottish voice?).  It was also not mainly moving to me because I am somehow a "cage-stage" calvinist (CLICK HERE), because I'm not.

I am in my 30's and reformed, but I was so before the new "Young, Restless, Reformed" movement had really started to roll (CLICK HERE).  I am Calvinistic in my soteriology (the theological doctrine of salvation emphasizing God's monergistic and sovereign work in salvation and redemption).  However, the video was powerfully moving for me because I think it emphasizes who I want to be, and how I want a particular doctrine (in this case reformed/calvinistic soteriology) to impact my life.  Several lines read, along with the accompanying video brought tears streaming down my face, because I desire to be more humble, trusting of God, and to live life with more "Hallowed Be Thy Name." 

I watched the video many times, not because I want the world to see Calvinism, but because I want to be more and more like the man in that video in regards to:

The Word: "Heaping on the pyre, Heed until the Fire"
My Thoughts: "Better thought preferred, Deep from in the Word"
My Outlook: "Driven by the fame of His Father's name"
My Trust in God:"Men will have His skills, if the Father wills"
My Humility: "Watch the helpless reap, but not credit take, just as when awake"
My Love for my Wife: "See him with his wife, parable for life.  In this sacred scene, she is heaven's queen"
My View of Death: "Through the ebbing pain: Final whisper, Gain!"

I cannot speak for John Piper.  I think his intent, or one of his intents behind this poem was to continue to expose Calvinism's greatest aim: the joyful enjoyment of a sovereign God.  When I watched this video, I was not filled with the pride of a theologically "right" person out to prove that Calvinism is the Biblical teaching.  On the contrary, I was filled with a new brokenness of sorts; a desire for more of a humble awe that is fleshed out in every arena of my life.  Some areas in which I am currently doing well, and others where my life denies the Reformed theology I claim to love.  Sometimes, I listen to, or read a few of the lines of the poem to remind me of how my theology should overwhelmingly be proved in my life...even in the littlest of moments.

Thanks Piper.  Once again you have called me, perhaps like Jonathan Edwards did for you, to see that what we cling to in our minds about God should move our actions and the core of our being...