March 31, 2008

Handling God's Holy Word

Phil Johnson, one of my favorite bloggers, has once again posted something that hit me like a ton of bricks [Pyromaniacs: Some Certainties for These Uncertain Times]. This time it was one of his weekly snippets from C.H. Spurgeon and this quote dealt with the tremendous gravity of handling God's holy and inspired Word. We are not called to present our viewpoints or our formulas or our programs; we are called to present Jesus Christ and him crucified—the very essence of scripture, without additions or subtractions. Here's a quote to whet your appetite. Then go over to Pyromaniacs: Some Certainties for These Uncertain Times for the whole thing.
"Those are my views, but other people's views may be correct." We ought to preach the gospel, not as our views at all, but as the mind of God—the testimony of Jehovah concerning his own Son, and in reference to salvation for lost men. If we had been entrusted with the making of the gospel, we might have altered it to suit the taste of this modest century, but never having been employed to originate the good news, but merely to repeat it, we dare not stir beyond the record. What we have been taught of God we teach. If we do not do this, we are not fit for our position. If I have a servant in my house, and I send a message by her to the door, and she amends it, on her own authority, she may take away the very soul of the message by so doing, and she will be responsible for what she has done. She will not long remain in my employ, for I need a servant who will repeat what I say, as nearly as possible, word for word; and if she does so, I am responsible for the message, she is not. If any one should be angry with her on account of what she said, they would be very unjust; their quarrel lies with me, and not with the person whom I employ to act as mouth for me. He that hath God's Word, let him speak it faithfully, and he will have no need to answer gainsayers, except with a "Thus saith the Lord."

March 30, 2008

Literary escapism

From the beginning of the human race stories have been used—by priests, by bards, by medicine men—as magic instruments of healing, of teaching, as a means of helping people come to terms with the fact that they continually have to face insoluble problems and unbearable realities.
Joan Aiken

Blog Header - March 30, 2008

This week's header photo is of my son watching the small training aircraft activity at Lynchburg Regional Airport. This one could actually be included in my Why-I-Love-Lynchburg series. In any large city, you can't get anywhere near the airplanes. And if you look suspicious in any way, you're likely to get a quick trip to the security center for investigation and questioning.

But the Lynchburg airport allows you to stand on the grass outside the border fence, just feet away from one of the runways. And quite a few families are there on pleasant days, having picnics and watching the planes take off and land.

My son has always loved all forms of travel. He became particularly interested in flight a little more than a year ago and he knows quite a bit about aircraft now. His interest in this caught the attention of the folks who work at the airport and they now let him go right out onto the field in front of the hangar. He is able to set on a bench, just about 25 yards from the landing strip. He can hear the chatter between the tower and the pilots as they prepare to land. He gets to talk to some of the pilots once they have landed and parked their planes. One of the men took David into the lobby of the airport and showed him a cutaway of an airplane engine, explaining to him how each part of the engine worked. David ate it all up.

We love Lynchburg!

March 29, 2008

A man's grill

Ok - I see that the "Mommy" blogs get to post recipes and decorating tips and stuff like that. So if I'm writing a "Daddy" blog, do I get to do something similar? Maybe I could showcase my favorite wheel cleaning supplies or do a review of an XBox 360 game. But I want to deal with food-related things too. After all, I like to eat. So here it is—I'm going to tell you about my backyard grill.

I told my wife that I needed a new outdoor grill. I told her that I didn't want a gas grill—I wanted a manly grill, so that would have to involve real flames. So my wife headed out to the store and returned with the Big Daddy of all grills. It's a real wood, open flame grill. That's real wood, not charcoal—wood, like the kind you would put in your fireplace. It's awesome.

My son and I get to go pyro and stack up big chunks of wood, stuff leaves under the pieces of wood, and set fire to the pile. It makes a tremendous amount of smoke and fire and the flames last for a good long time, so you could cook a couple of meals on it if you happened to need to do two or more courses on the outdoor grill.

It also handles the special wood chips like mesquite better than any other grill I have ever used. Because of the serious amount of smoke this grill can produce, you can do a fantastic job smoking burgers and steaks and introducing flavors that just aren't possible on a gas grill, and aren't very easy to produce from charcoal grills. But on this grill its simple.

It may be a bit of overkill for the typical outdoor grilling adventure. But it sure is fun. And it also cooks a great steak! Really. It cooks better than any grill I've ever head. We cooked red snapper on it today—and that was incredible too.

So husbands, let your wives know that you need a MAN'S grill. Tell her it needs to take fireplace wood. Remind her that it's now springtime and you need this visceral connection with the land. Okay, that might be overdoing it. Maybe you should just head down to Lowes on your own and pick up one of these grills. Even if you're an accountant, you're going to look manly flipping burgers on this thing.

Wisdom from a fictional source

Anne Perry,
Buckingham Palace Gardens
“It is the last great mystery left in the world—the one place too big for us to crush and occupy with our smallness. Trying to impress our image on its people and convince them it is the likeness of God.”

My wife has been devouring her new Anne Perry book (Buckingham Palace Gardens). This morning she read some quotes from the book that struck her as addressing some of the recent conversations we have had. My wife and I believe that we Christians hurt the name of Christ when we present what I call "gospel-plus." It's a presentation of the true Gospel of Jesus Christ; that Christ came to earth, took on human flesh, died on the cross and rose from the grave three days later in order to pay the penalty that we could not pay for our sins and to secure a place in heaven for all the believing ones.

Anne Perry,
Buckingham Palace Gardens
“Play your string quartets, by all means, Mr. Narraway, but don’t silence the drums simply because you don’t understand them."

The plus is all the added requirements that we think make us more acceptable to God. These are such things as demanding total abstinence from aclohol when the scriptures demand moderation, demanding the use of a particular Bible version when there is nothing indicating that this should be done in scripture, demanding a particular standard of dress when these things are not presented in scripture, and demanding that Christians listen to a particular style of music when this is not addressed in scripture. Apparently, Christians think that God did a pretty good job overall, but had they been god—they would have done better. So they present the world with their list of addenda to the 10 Commandments—typically numbering in the hundreds of new commandments to follow to gain God's approval.

The greatest problem I see when we do this is that we misrepresent Christ to the world. This gives rise to a skewed view of who and what Christ is and stands for. The vision of Christ we present to the world is that of stereotypical Fundamentalist Bible-Thumpers. This turns people off so quickly that it inhibits our attempts at evangelism. The old saying is "you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar." We Christians seem to love to walk up to people, throw a bucket full of vinegar in their face and then say, "God loves you," and walk away.

Here's that stereotype as presented by one of the characters in Anne Perry's new book:

“I don’t want to see the last true passion tamed by railways and men with Bibles telling everyone to cover their bodies.”
—Anne Perry, Buckingham Palace Gardens, p. 196

March 28, 2008

The wounds of a friend

Proverbs 27:5-6
Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.

Mulch man

Mulch Man David

Some days are easier than others. After four days of outstanding behavior and lots of fun together as a family, my son decided to show he was in charge. Needless to say, he lost the gambit.

In the photo here, he is showing he's in charge by doing the mulching that my wife had planned to do for the past few weeks. We finally got the mulch today when our friend Dan was mulching the church playground and offered to take my wife to the mulch place and carry the mulch to our house in his trailer. This happened just after my son "volunteered" to do this back-breaking task.

It's just so great when punishments get to come with the added benefit of less work for Mom or Dad.

March 27, 2008

A heritage from the Lord

Psalm 127:3
Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.

We saw a friend of ours at the playground yesterday. Our son adores this family's little girl and told her mother how cute she looked. I grabbed my camera and took a few photos.

Looking at the photos this morning brought to mind something Voddie Baucham has pointed to as an "infection" in our churches—the apparent dislike of children. And I think he's right about this. We often hear jokes told even among Christians that belittle the concept of having a "quiver full" of children. Voddie mentions such examples as the statements that are "jokingly" made to women who enter church with three or more kids in tow. "Haven't you figured out how that happens yet?" Ha ha ha. "You might want to try watching television instead." Ha ha ha. Even teachers and pastors will sometimes say something like, "we thought my wife was pregnant, but she went in for a pregnancy test last Thursday and (wiping his brow), praise God, she is not pregnant."

What a terrible way to look at God's blessing of children. My son has severe issues caused by the in-utero drug use of his birthmother. He is severly ADD, bipolar, has sensory integration disorder, and, according to those who have evaluated and tested him ad infinitum, "a grab bag of other emotional and psychological disorders." His medical needs alone are staggering with monthly medications presenting us with deductibles well above most people's monthly mortgage payments. My wife has had to quit her job in order to work full time to keep him from being discharged from school. We had to move our family 200 miles away from the city where we both were raised and found our living in order to be near him when he was hospitalized at a behavioral treatment center for 18 months. And on and on.

My son

And yet, in spite of it all (and sometimes even because of it all), we can't imagine life without him. He's a delightful child—full of life, bright, intelligent, talented. All-in-all, a wonderful kid. And truly, a blessing of God.

This quote perfectly describes my wonderful son:

The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars —Jack Kerouac

March 26, 2008

The Value of Adversity

It is good for us to have trials and troubles at times, for they often remind us that we are on probation and ought not to hope in any worldly thing. It is good for us sometimes to suffer contradiction, to be misjudged by men even though we do well and mean well. These things help us to be humble and shield us from vainglory. When to all outward appearances men give us no credit, when they do not think well of us, then we are more inclined to seek God Who sees our hearts. Therefore, a man ought to root himself so firmly in God that he will not need the consolations of men. When a man of good will is afflicted, tempted, and tormented by evil thoughts, he realizes clearly that his greatest need is God, without Whom he can do no good. Saddened by his miseries and sufferings, he laments and prays. He wearies of living longer and wishes for death that he might be dissolved and be with Christ. Then he understands fully that perfect security and complete peace cannot be found on earth.

—Thomas √† Kempis

Persisting in error

"To err is human, to persist in error is diabolical."

I have often seen a tendency in myself and in others I have observed to develop personal favorite activities and to eventually come to a point where we hate to give those activities up. The obvious example of this is something like drinking or smoking, which may develop into addictions that require intervention to break. The smoker or the alcoholic refuses to quit, even when he is told how very bad continued indulgence in this activity will be for him. In fact, even the good of exercising may lead to addiction and become a bad thing. The Apostle Paul directly addressed the fact that we need to keep even these good things under check by saying: "For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come" 1 Timothy 4:8.

Matthew Henry Those are marked for ruin who persist in sin, and are not ashamed of the abominations they have committed


Jeremiah 8:12Were they ashamed when they committed abomination? No, they were not at all ashamed; they did not know how to blush. Therefore they shall fall among the fallen; when I punish them, they shall be overthrown, says the Lord.

Many other activities we get involved in may have bad consequences as well, especially if we persist in them after we have been alerted to a problem. Consider the concept of propounding or defending a particular doctrine. Let's say we have been convinced of the truth of evolution. We are determined to convince folks that evolution and not creation is the force that brought our world into existence. We push and push and push that line of thinking.

And then one day we run into a well-educated and well-spoken Intelligent Design proponent. We present our argument to him, laying out each tile in the mosaic of our complete system, complete with our interpretation of the archaeological data backing our idea and statements from experts who agree with our position. But as we lay each tile, this Intelligent Design guru obliterates every one of our arguments with solid fact, science, and philosophy. In the end, we find that we have not been able to answer his positions in the way he has answered ours. He has won the debate, and done so clearly.

And yet, the next day, we accost the first person we see and present to them all the same things we said before because this new person probably doesn't know the things the Intelligent Design guy did and he will likely be persuaded by our presentation.

This is called "persisting in error." It happens when we have a "pet" doctrine that we like to proclaim, but then our arguments in support of that doctrine are shown to be wrong, say by scripture and by a demand on using proper terminology and historically accurate definitions. Nevertheless, we continue to push our defeated arguments on other unsuspecting victims.

I have recently been made aware of a group of bloggers who are promoting a non-biblical use of the word modesty. Although many people have pointed out the error in definition that is giving rise to a tremendously inaccurate interpretation of the scripture, these folks persist in their use of the inaccurate definition. No defense has been made along the line of why this inaccurate definition is being used. The simple fact is that the only reason someone who cannot defend their position will post that position again after it has been refuted is that they choose to "persist in error."

This scenario played out over the past couple of weeks on Mrs. Stacy McDonald's blog, Your Sacred Calling. She was made aware of the errors she had made in her application and interpretation of a scriptural passage. She made no defense of her position, and yet persists in her error.

This is the passage in question:

1 Peter 3:3-4 Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair, the wearing of gold, or the putting on of clothing— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious.

The blogs I have seen covering this passage are almost all making the same mistake—that of thinking that this verse is talking about women dressing in a way so as to entice men. That is quite clearly not what this passage is talking about. The blogs not making this mistake are discussing the passage to point out that the mistake has been made by others.

Because words may have multiple definitions, we sometimes clarify our speech with qualifying phrases using parallels, examples, antonyms and synonyms. These techniques help us to more clearly convey our thoughts and help keep people from misunderstanding what we were saying.

The inspired words of scripture here use such techniques to help keep us on track. Peter says, "Do not let your adorning be external." He then ensures the reader's understanding by giving some examples: "the braiding of hair, the wearing of gold, or the putting on of clothing." He then continues the clarification with an opposite parallel: "but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit." Quite clearly this passage is not encouraging women to be careful that they cover themselves appropriately with clothing. It is in fact saying that this should not be their primary focus. We can probably agree that proper covering will be an outworking of that gentle and quiet spirit, but it is certainly not being demanded by this scripture.

A similarly misused scripture is found in 1 Timothy 2:9-10, which says:

Likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works.

Here Paul is telling Pastor Timothy that he should instruct women to be modest in their appearance. Again he uses communication techniques to qualify and focus his statements. He begins with: "Women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel." He then focuses that "respectable apparel" with the phrase: "with modesty and self-control." To make sure that Timothy understands what he means by "modesty and self-control" when regarding apparel, Paul then gives some negative examples: "not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire." He is obviously using the more common meaning of modest here: living in a simple way rather than in an ostentatious way, as in "he is a man of modest means." He is saying that the women should not be slaves to fashion, worrying incessantly about what they're going to wear. This parallels exactly the requirements in the previous passage that the women dress themselves in a "gentle and quiet spirit."

Paul then continues the clarification with a definitional phrase to make clear what he meant. He does this by way of a material example: "but [they should adorn themselves] with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works." Paul is saying that the woman's focus should not be on her manner of dress, but rather on the good works "which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them" Ephesians 2:10.

I know that we are all prone to this sort of idolatry of our "favorite" doctrines—holding them in higher regard than scripture at times. But the fact that we are all prone to this does not make this right. I urge all who see the name Stacy McDonald attached to a book, a blog, an article, a group, or a conference to beware. Don't fall for the veneer. Do some research. Find the truth and don’t allow yourself to be drawn into a well thought out philosophical system that is not biblically based.

March 25, 2008

Ronnie McDonald?

Another reason to love Lynchburg

As another installment in my ever-growing, but unintentional series on the reasons I love Lynchburg so much, you have to see my wife's Easter Sunday post Happy Easter. I think the photo there speaks for itself, as did my wife.

March 24, 2008

It's what you believe that matters

As happens each Easter, the mainstream media has been asking the question: Do you have to believe in the literal, bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ in order to call yourself a "Christian"? You hear a similar question at Christmas: Do you have to believe in the literal virgin birth...?"

Dr. Albert Mohler

This used to provide some mild amusement as the news anchors and invited guests showed that they had little knowledge of Christianity and its beliefs. But now it is frustrating as big name Evangelicals are paraded in front of the camera with such answers as, "I don't want to say that anyone MUST believe what I believe," and, "It's not up to me to decide whether or not you're a Christian." No one wants to actually come out and defend the Word of God.

Except for a small group of heroes, one of them being Dr. Al Mohler of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Whose column in Saturday's Washington Post included:

The literal, historical, bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is the vindication of Christ's saving work on the cross. The issue is simple—no resurrection, no Christianity. For this reason, belief in the resurrection of Christ is essential in order to be a Christian.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is the central miracle of the Christian faith. As the New Testament reveals, the resurrection represents the Father's complete satisfaction in the obedience of the Son—even unto death. Sin and death do not have the final word. Indeed, they are defeated through the saving work of Christ.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead separates Christianity from all mere religion—whatever its form. Christianity without the literal, physical resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is merely one religion among many.

Read the full text of Dr. Mohler's excellent article here.

March 23, 2008

Blog Header - March 23, 2008

Mark 16:6  –  Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen!

This week's blog header photo is from our backyard. I created these blog headers late last year except for a few that I added when we had a snow storm last month. I did not know which week Easter would fall on when I chose which header I would use for each week of the year. So as I prepared to change the blog header this week, I realized that I would likely need to create a new one for this week to address the fact that today is Resurrection Sunday.

But before I did so, I looked in my files to see what had originally been slated for this week. It was this photo, which I think perfectly suits this holiday—this celebration of Jesus Christ's victory over sin and death. "O Death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory?"

Praise the Lord! He is risen! Hallelujah!

March 22, 2008

OFRBC Easter Egg Hunt (and other stuff)

I'm obviously not in the hospital—praise God! The doctor said all pertinent signs said that my leg is improving. He told me to continue the directives I was given yesterday. And as a positive send-off, he had one of the nurses give me another posterior injection of antibiotics. I'm not sure why they had to stick me there, as that was not the part of my body that was in pain—at least not until they stuck me there for the second time in two days.

Anyway, I was told to elevate my leg and stay off of it for a few days while taking various antibiotic medications. So, as is my habit, I completely ignored the doctor's recommendations since the leg really did feel much better than yesterday. I went to our church's Easter egg hunt for the kiddies and I wandered around among the people photographing the event. The leg is now throbbing and I have a much better understanding of the reasons behind my doctor's directives. Better late than never, eh?

Mr. and Mrs. Wilt

But the Easter egg hunt was a lot of fun to watch. The kids had a good time looking for the eggs. Then they all gathered and certain numbers hidden in the plastic eggs were used to help the children follow the story of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Afterwards many of the people hung out at the church playground to have a picnic lunch. Mrs. Wilt and I pulled a nest out of one of the trees for potential future decorating use. Don't worry, this nest has been there since last fall. It's an abandoned house. No Tweeties will be left homeless. So don't sick PETA on me.

ADDENDUM: You can now see the nest over at The Sparrow's Nest, Mrs. Wilt's blog. She's pretty quick and very good at decorating. The nest looked good in the tree, but you've got to see it now in two forms: Before ("A Feathery Find"), and After ("Easter Tablescape").

And here it is coming out of the tree:

March 21, 2008

Nose to the grindstone

I have had trouble getting onto my blog for long enough to leave a post for a couple days. After a few weeks of intense work (68.5 work hours one week and 87 hours of work the other), I ended up at the doctor's office this morning. I don't think it was completely work related, but the long work hours probably did not help.

I go back tomorrow morning to find out whether or not they're going to put me in the hospital. So if you don't see any posts for a few days, you'll know that I'm enjoying really good jello and tasty food. But whether tomorrow or after a hospital stay, I'll try to get back to regular posts soon.

Darth Vader's a jerk!

I once worked with a guy who did this sort of thing. It's kind of fun to watch it happen to someone else. :-)

March 18, 2008

Childhood photography

I love photography. It is so great to see young people get excited about this artistic medium. My son is a very good photographer and has taken some beautiful photos (including the one shown to the left)—first with his mom's camera or mine, and more recently with the digital camera we gave him last year. He has a great eye and loves to experiment with shutter speeds, f/ stops, and zoom ranges to affect the depth of field, contrast, and other such things. It's fun to watch him grow in his understanding of light and photographic reproduction.

Along those lines, pop over to Antique Mommy - Fabulous Photo Contest to read the interview of the 10-year old girl who took the photo shown here. (She was just 9 at the time of the photo. Then take the time to offer your suggestion for the name of the photo. What a talented and bright young lady. And what an outstanding photo.

Holier than thou or holier than God?

Please take the time to go to my wife's blog and read The Forgotten Commandments. This is a topic that I think bubbles to the surface of conservative evangelicalism with increasing frequency and strength as the days go by.

You gotta love it!

HT: The Pineapple Pundit

March 17, 2008

What's the difference?

I found the following article at the ThatMom blog and thought I ought to share it with those who have been following the modesty discussion. This ties in with my wife's recent post on I Do Not Think That Means What You Think It Means.

Reprinted with permission of ThatMom

Slander, libel, and gossip, Oh my! Understanding the difference between Matthew 18:15 and Galatians 2

“encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it” Titus 1:9

In the past few weeks, I have repeatedly been reading online about gossip and slander. I would heartily agree that real slander, gossip, and libel against our neighbor is a violation of the 2nd great commandment. However, the implication has been that critiques, debates, and discussions are really acts of slander, libel, and gossip, particularly when addressing patriocentricity. (see the comments on my Amazon review of the Passionate Housewives book for a prime example of this.) Several times I have been personally (and have seen others as well) admonished to go to those with whom I disagree and begin a Matthew 18 process with them. I have been asked numerous times if I did that with any of those whom I have critiqued and if I have discussed my differences with them, seeking reconciliation.

This has been a strange suggestion to me, since what I have always understood that passage of Scripture to mean is that when another brother or sister in Christ has sinned against you, you are to go to them and tell them how they did so, hoping that they will confess that sin and make it right with you. I have been on both ends of that experience and always thought I understood it well. But, wanting to maintain a teachable spirit, and being really confused when I heard these admonitions, I went to my husband who shared a passage of Scripture with me and suggested I research this topic. The fruits of that research were so good that I wanted to share them with you. I know this is long for a blog entry, but I believe it is so important that it must be said.

I began by looking at Matthew 18: 15-17, which is the passage in reference. It says:

If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

If you read this passage and look at the end result for the one who is not repentant of the committed sin, it is damnation. So, you would need to be certain that the person you are confronting in a Matthew 18 process:

  1. is a believer
  2. is in a relationship with you
  3. has sinned against you in a personal way
  4. that you are willing to take the matter all the way through to the excommunication process, which also implies church courts, written documentation proving sin, etc. (the ramifications of this and the procedures themselves differ among various denominations).

This is a very serious matter and as such, the offense involved must also be serious as well. It must be named as an actual sin in Scripture and you must be able to open your Bible and show them a sin they have committed against you. Just because someone has offended you does not mean that that person has sinned against you, no matter how angry they have made you. It does not mean that you can read their hearts, their motives, or assign sin to them, allowing feelings about them as a person to override the truth of God’s Word. And the sin must be worthy of taking all the way to the end process if necessary.

So, after I confirmed what I had known about the Matthew 18 process, I listened as my husband read Galatians 2 to me and suddenly I understood the confusion and the problem. Here is what he read:

“Fourteen years later I went up again to Jerusalem, this time with Barnabas. I took Titus along also. I went in response to a revelation and set before them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles. But I did this privately to those who seemed to be leaders, for fear that I was running or had run my race in vain. Yet not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised, even though he was a Greek. This matter arose because some false brothers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves. We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might remain with you. As for those who seemed to be important–whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not judge by external appearance–those men added nothing to my message. On the contrary, they saw that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles, just as Peter had been to the Jews. For God, who was at work in the ministry of Peter as an apostle to the Jews, was also at work in my ministry as an apostle to the Gentiles. James, Peter and John, those reputed to be pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the Jews. All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.

When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong. Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray. When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs? “We who are Jews by birth and not ‘Gentile sinners’ know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified. “If, while we seek to be justified in Christ, it becomes evident that we ourselves are sinners, does that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not! If I rebuild what I destroyed, I prove that I am a lawbreaker. For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”

In this portion of Scripture, Paul approaches Peter and, in an act that would certainly be called slander and gossip and libel had he done so on a blog, opposed him in front of them all! And then, of course, he later told people all about it, in fact, the Holy Spirit continues to tell all believers everywhere that Paul did this, because it is written in the holy writ via a letter to the Galatians, God’s warning and an example to all of us!

You see, Peter was a public figure and one who had great influence. Paul knew that he had to make a public statement for three reasons: First, Peter, because of his influence, was leading many astray. Because Peter’s ministry was public, Paul’s rebuke also had to be public.

For further reading: Questions for Stacy McDonald Karen Campbell's review of Passionate Housewives Desperate for God, by Stacy McDonald

Secondly, Peter was teaching the gospel plus Jewish tradition. Rather than instructing the Jews that their personal system was of no value to them, Peter was teaching legalism, rendering the Gospel of grace ineffective.

Thirdly, Paul recognized that many people who desperately needed Jesus were seeing Peter’s hypocrisy. Peter was, in essence, saying “do as I say not as I do” and Paul called him on it. I think, on one level, Paul even had to have been terribly embarrassed for Peter.

And this brings us full circle to the reason why understanding the differences between applying Matthew 18 and Galatians 2 is so crucial within the homeschooling community. You see, those who are currently raising the subject of “online gossip and slander” of late are within the patriocentric camp. They know that they cannot win their debate in the arena of public discussion. They think if they can make a case for privately talking, one on one, where they can say anything they want, free from public accountability, they can continue to teach what they teach. Those of us who are challenging these teachings MUST keep the discussion within the sphere of public discourse, where each and every word can be seen and heard.

I believe this quote from Dr. Jay Adams, in his volume “Grist from Adams’s Mill”, addresses this illegitimate use of Matthew 18 in an attempt to censure public criticism:

“Any Christian who sets himself up as a teacher in the church of Christ and publicly teaches anything thereby opens himself up for criticism by others (cf. James 3:1). If they think what he is teaching is harmful to the church, they have an obligation to point it out just as widely as it was taught. Such public warning or debate on the topic should not be considered a personal attack at all. The teacher’s plea that a critic should first have come to him about his disagreement on the basis of Matthew 18:15 does not hold. This passage has to do with personal wrongs known only between the two, who should privately discuss the matter that separates them. What a critic of a public teaching does in pointing out his disagreement with that teaching has nothing to do with personal affronts or lack of reconciliation; he is simply disagreeing at the same public level as that on which the teaching was given in the first place” (pg. 69).

I would encourage you to continue to hold fast to the truth of the Gospel message in this day when patriocentricity is worming its way into the church of Jesus Christ. Be a Berean and do not grow weary of well doing!

Original posting at ThatMom

March 16, 2008

Blog Header - March 16, 2008

This week's photo is of our pastor's son. My wife is an award-winning preschool age portrait photographer. One of her favorite tricks is to blow bubbles to distract the young children from the bright lights and the somewhat uncomfortable experience of sitting in front of a stranger with no one nearby to hang onto.

My wife took some family portraits for our pastor's family and a few of those portraits were individual shots of their sons. When I saw this photo, I just had to adjust it for use with the worship lyric projection in our church. It just looks like this young man is praising God. I know he's just interacting with the bubbles, but I still loved the look of it. I widened the photo and painted the background over further to the left to create a place for the lyrics and then painted in extra bubbles for effect. Altogether a pretty cool photo. My wife is the best! And cute kids to photograph doesn't hurt the whole process either.

March 15, 2008

What does the Bible say about modesty?

Okay – time to dive into the topic. My thoughts on the topic of modesty begin with the fact that the word modesty no longer communicates what it meant a hundred years ago and earlier. There are shades of the original meaning still lingering, but for the most part the original meaning is lost in our current understanding of that word.

Modesty: 1531, "freedom from exaggeration, self-control," from M.Fr. modestie, from L. modestia "moderation," from modestus "moderate, keeping measure, sober," from modus "measure, manner." Meaning "having a moderate opinion of oneself" is from 1553. Modest (adj.) is first recorded 1565.

Modern Language Association: Online Etymology Dictionary. Douglas Harper, Historian. 14 Mar. 2008.

When the topic of modesty comes up in a youth group or a women’s bible study or a picnic table conversation, everyone’s thoughts immediately turn to clothing. This is somewhat odd since we still understand the statement, “they live modestly.” This statement means, of course, “they live simply” or “they are not ostentatious. The opposite would be someone who lives in a flashy way, drawing attention to themselves, living in the spotlight.

In the blog post I referenced yesterday (Walking Billboards), Mrs. McDonald used the King James Version’s translation of 1 Peter 1:14 to address the topic of modesty, which to modern society’s ears means clothing. In the King James, 1 Peter 1:14 says, “As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance.” It’s an interesting choice of verses to use, especially in the KJV.

Another word that carries a different meaning today than it did more than a hundred years ago is the word “fashion.” Fashion magazines are about … clothing. The fashion column in the local newspaper is about … clothing. A person of “high fashion” is a person who wears designer … clothing. So using the King James version of 1 Peter 1:14 was evidently an attempt to make the reader think that 1 Peter 1:14 has something to say about … clothing. In a distant, indirectly connected way, it may. The phrase “not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts” is translated in a more modern version (one in our language) as “do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance” (ESV). The Greek word ( / suschematizo) that was translated “fashion” in the KJV and “conform” in the ESV is the same Greek word used in Romans 12:2 when we are admonished: “Do not be conformed to this world,” and I have never heard anyone make the argument that Romans 12:2 is speaking of clothing.

These verses do touch indirectly on our manner of dress, as we are told in these verses that our dress, along with all other areas of our lives, should not be patterned after, molded after, fashioned after those who make up the secular, non-believing world. That doesn’t mean that we are to reject everything the world does, as the Amish have done in their rejection of automobiles and incandescent lights, but that we should not be striving to live like the world. In other words, blending in with the world should not be our focus. But rather, our focus is to be on living lives worthy of our calling as children of God. So then, these verses are teaching us not what we should wear, but they are teaching us the proper target of our mind’s focus.

But now on to the topic of clothing and its related fashion accouterments. The bible does directly address these things. Here is one of the verses that deals with dress:

1 Peter 3:3-4 (ESV)  Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair, the wearing of gold, or the putting on of clothing— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious.

In this verse, examples are offered of the word “adorning” in order to establish a definition. The examples are: “the braiding of hair, the wearing of gold, or the putting on of clothing.” And then to further the definition an antonym is given in the phrase: “but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit.” And to show how very important this is we are told that this type of adornment “in God’s sight is very precious.”

If we take this verse on its face without using our ability to discern, it seems that this verse is telling us that we should not ever wear clothing (Do not let your adorning be external, … the putting on of clothing). But that’s not the point of the verse. What it is, in fact, saying is that we should not be consumed with interest in such things as fashion, manner or style of dress, and personal presentation, but rather with being a Godly person.

So then, Mrs. McDonald’s blog, which reveals that she writes often of matters related to clothing and dress and has even written books and magazine articles on the topic, is in direct violation of this verse. We are not to concern ourselves with this sort of focus.

Purchase your WWMMD buttons here!
(not really)

Does this topic come up elsewhere in the bible? 1 Timothy 2:8-10 says:"I desire then that in every place the ... women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works.

Once again, the parallel is given. Women are admonished to adorn themselves in “respectable apparel,” which is then defined as “good works.” In other words, Paul is saying that women’s focus should not be on how pretty they are, but on good works. These verses actually head in the opposite direction of essentially every discussion of modesty that I have ever heard. The typical conversation about modesty focusing the minds of the young ladies directly on their clothing and then encouraging them to be as plain and unappealing as they can possibly be. And I think the reason is because we misunderstand the meaning of the word modesty. Or perhaps because we know that if we redefine the word modesty, we can use the redefined term to force other people (say that teenage girl we happen to see walking with her mother through the store) to wear what we personally prefer to wear.

So what did modesty mean to people who used the word a hundred or more years ago? Perhaps we can get an idea by looking at something written back then:

June 4

Laden boughs hang low. The nettle mounts above its fellow weeds, but the violet lies shrouded under its leaves and is only found out by its own scent.

Walking one day by a stream, we were conscious of a delicious perfume, and only then did we perceive the little blue eyes which were looking up to us so meekly from the ground on which we stood. Virtue is always modest, and modesty is itself a virtue. He who is discovered by his real excellence, and not by his egotistical advertisements of his own perfections, is a man worth knowing. Spurgeon’s Daily Help

What made the violet modest in Spurgeon’s perspective? What made it modest was the fact that, although the violet had incredible beauty, it did not call attention to itself. It wasn’t modest because it had shunned the blue petals in favor of long, loose-fitting earth-toned petals that were thick enough to cover any bumps that might have lain beneath them. It was modest because its beauty was not being thrust upon the watching world.

This is what modesty means in the Bible. We are to be concerned with our inner man, with our spiritual condition, with our sanctification, with becoming more Christlike. Outward adornment, clothing, hair and other matters of fashion are still to be considered, but they are secondary to our primary interest of focusing our attention and the attention of others on Jesus Christ.

But as a side issue, I think it is unscriptural to develop ministries and careers based around advising young ladies about what clothing they should wear—as long as the only thing we’re telling them is don't wear this and don't wear that. The appropriate ministry, if one feels so called, would be to teach young ladies that their spiritual life is of utmost importance and undue focus on external fashion is of secondary importance (not unimportant, but secondary).

March 14, 2008

Modesty - Misuse of Scripture - Pontification, etc.

I'd like to point you to a blog post: Walking Billboards. From the blog Your Sacred Calling, in this post blog author Stacy McDonald deals with the issue of "modesty."

In my estimation, Mrs. Stacy McDonald is way off-base in her thoughts about dress. If you follow the comments at her blog post, you will come across further comments that make me think that she is also incredibly off-base regarding how we should teach our children about sex. And if you factor in her consistent misuse of scripture, you end up with some pretty serious problems that actually become the perfect example of the I'm-better-than-you blogs I mentioned in my recent post, "I'm better than you are..."

What Would Mrs. McDonald Do?

Further discussion of this topic (modesty and Christians' use of scripture) has followed, both through various blogs and in personal conversations with fellow church members and friends. And this has made me think that I should address this topic here on my blog. That way folks may interact with me directly if they would like to agree or disagree and, perhaps, we can further the discussion.

As time allows, I will make a few posts regarding the individual topics and my thoughts on them. I will try to make my comments biblical. If you disagree, please comment and show me how I have misinterpreted scripture. I promise not to delete your comment whether you agree or disagree. But I do ask that you refrain from using profanity. I will try to write my posts on these topics as soon as possible, but wanted to post this right now to open up a line of communication for those who would like to discuss this issue.

A few primary comments to lay the foundation for the discussion. Because I am disagreeing with folks who I believe are presenting the topic of dress inappropriately, I may seem to be encouraging immodesty or even public nudity. I am not encouraging that at all. I am encouraging Christians to follow scriptural teaching on this and every other topic and not to think that we must help God because he just didn't get it quite right.

March 13, 2008

Robert E. Lee on Slavery

I'm a Southerner (that would be Southron, using Confederate orthology, but I don't want to confuse any blog readers who reside north of the Mason-Dixon line). I'm a Southerner, not because of my geographic location, but because of the cause for which the Confederate States of America fought—the right of the individual states to govern themselves according to the various rights granted them in the United States Constitution.

"To the victor go the spoils," is the phase that describes the truth that those who win the wars afterwards write the history books. So all those who learned their history from history books have trouble wrapping their minds around the absolute fact that by the time the War began, the South had overwhelmingly rejected the institution of slavery. All of the Confederate States had already placed into law the end of the slave trade in their state. All but one of them had put a date on the total abolition of slavery within their state, most with grandfather clauses and other measures intended to ease the transition to non-slave economy.

"Brought to Tears" by M. Kuntzler
depicts Robert E. Lee and
"Stonewall" Jackson at
First Baptist Church,
Federicksburg, Virginia

The War Between the States was not fought over slavery. Slavery was the final issue over which the North attempted to thwart the provisions of the U.S. constitution by forcing their will upon the states to the south—a particularly egregious attack on the Constitution because some of the northern states still approved of slavery and the slave trade within their own borders.

But don't take my opinion as fact—or the opinion of the history books that were written by those who fought an illegal war against their own nation. Take primary documents—documents written at the time that have not had the benefit of rewriting in an attempt to make palatable the sins of the victor.

The following quote was written by Confederate General Robert E. Lee in a letter to his wife, sent on December 27, 1856—a full five years before the outbreak of the War.

Slavery as an institution is a moral and political evil in any country.... I think, however, a greater evil to the white than to the black race.

The doctrines and miracles of our Saviour have required nearly two thousand years to convert but a small part of the human race, and even among the Christian nations what gross errors still exist!

The Story of Robert E. Lee, as told in his own words and those of his contemporaries (Washington, D.C.: Colortone Press, 1964), Ralston B. Lattimore, ed., pp. 22-23; The Rewriting of America's History (Camp Hill, PA: Horizon House Publishers, 1991), p. 184

March 12, 2008

I'm better than you are...

Blogs are interesting things. My wife has noticed a common thread among blogs that she has visited—the tendency for the people who write the blogs to present themselves in an impossibly positive light. My wife has begun calling these the I'm-Better-Than-You-Are blogs.

Pride is spiritual cancer; it eats the very possibility of love or contentment, or even common sense.
   — C. S. Lewis (1898–1963)

Another common theme among these blogs is that they are written by those who profess Christianity. This is of particular concern because, as Christians, we should possess a spirit of humility, recognizing the old adage, "There, but for the grace of God, go I." And recognizing that we were saved, not because of any good in us, but because of the goodness of God who saved us in spite of our sinfulness and inability.

I recently read the following admonition from Charles Haddon Spurgeon in his book Your Available Power:

The Holy Spirit will not bless us in order to sustain our pride. Is it not possible that we may be wishing for a great blessing that we may be thought great men? This will hinder our success; the string of the bow is out of place, and the arrow will veer aside. What does God do with men that are proud? Does He exalt them? I think not.

Herod made an eloquent oration, and he put on a dazzling, silver robe that glistened in the sun. When the people saw his garments and listened to his charming voice, they cried, "It is the voice of a god, and not of a man" (Acts 12:22); but the Lord smote him, and he was eaten by worms.

Worms have a prescriptive right to proud flesh; when we get very mighty and very big, the worms expect to make a meal of us. "Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall" (Prov. 16:18). Keep humble if you want the Spirit of God with you. The Holy Spirit takes no pleasure in the inflated oratory of the proud; how can He? Would you have Him sanction bombast? "Walk humbly with thy God" (Mic. 6:8), for you cannot walk with Him in any other way; and if you do not walk with Him, your walking will be vain.

Blogs may become a curse, if we allow our pride to spill over onto the pages. May God protect us from ourselves.

Further reading:
My father has posted A Proud Church in a Proud Society - Rev. 3:14-22 on his Navigators blog.

March 11, 2008

Being a good church

Church Matters, the blog from 9 Marks Ministries, has an interesting post titled Things to ask a church when considering a pastorate. Since 9 Marks Minsitries' demographic target is pastors, this article is written to them. It answers the question, "What things should I check out to determine whether or not I should accept the call to pastor a church?"

Success in marriage is more than finding the right person: it is being the right person.
– Robert Browning (1812–1889)

Since I am not a pastor, this article doesn't have direct impact on me, but I think we can all benefit from this article by considering what it means to those of us who make up the membership of our local church. The quote from Robert Browning is just as true for a church as it is for a bride or groom. It's not just about finding the right church—it's about being the right church.

If we want our pastors to enjoy their pastorate, if we want to be winsome (easy for our pastor to love us), we need to be concerned about being the right church. Hebrews 13:17 tells us to " Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you [emphasis mine]. I think a careful consideration of the items laid out in the 9 Marks blog post would be very beneficial to those of us in the congregation. If we consider how to be a good church, we will be contributing to our pastors' ability to "keep watch over [our] souls ... with joy and not with groaning."

And imagine how great it would be if God called your pastor to a new church and you had to begin the pastoral search. What if one of the potential candidates followed the advice in the 9 Marks post and contacted the previous pastor to hear what he had to say about the church. Imagine if your previous pastor was able to say, "This is the most loving and God-honoring group of people I have ever had the privilege of serving." Imagine him saying, "I don't think you could make a better choice than to pursue this invitation." Or, better yet, imagine: "Be careful to watch over these people as a good shepherd. They are truly the household of faith. I will miss them."

March 10, 2008

Divisiveness revisited

I found an interesting quote today that addresses the topic of divisiveness that I mentioned a few weeks ago when I asked "Why be divisive?" I think the whole issue involves a balance and we must determine where the fulcrum will be placed to maintain a proper balance of getting along with those we disagree with and standing in opposition to untruths and poor character.

Prime Minister Winston Churchill

Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense.
    – Winston Churchill

Many "virtues" have arisen over time—things that society has advanced, promoted, and eventually recognized as virtues—but these virtues are not virtues according to scripture. The get-along-at-any-cost virtue takes its seat next to the diversity-is-best virtue and the greed-is-good virtue. These are seen as virtues by our society, but I do not see scripture promoting these concepts.

While we are told to live peacably with all men in as much as it is possible to do so, we are not told to live peacably by turning our backs on our convictions and by keeping our thoughts to ourselves. As with all of life, we must live in a delicate balance, speaking our opposition to things that are wrong, but doing so in a gentle and respectful manner so that we may maintain unity in Christ.

March 09, 2008

Blog Header - March 9, 2008

I guess I will, once again, comment on another one of the things that makes me love Lynchburg.

This week's photo is of an abandoned factory building in downtown Lynchburg. A few decades ago, this was a booming and active shoe factory that employed many of the people of Lynchburg. It now sits empty, with weeds growing through the parking lot pavement, paint peeling from the walls, and windows missing many of their panes.

On one of our first explorative visits to downtown Lynchburg, my wife and I passed this building. We were both struck immediately with its forlorn beauty. I turned the car around and we spent the next hour or so walking around this building taking pictures from various angles.

Many of you probably do not understand our fascination with an abandoned factory building. By way of explanation—we were both raised in the suburbs of Washinton, D.C. Nothing is ever left abandoned in Washington. When a building is vacated it is either leased to new tenants as soon as the previous ones vacate or it is destroyed and a new building is built in the same spot.

It's fun for Northern people to watch folks experience their first snow storm. It is much the same for my wife and me when it comes to seeing an abandoned building. We have not seen abandoned buildings very often, except in photos. And I doubt that either of us have ever seen a building that has been abandoned for an entire generation. It's much the same as visiting ancient Greece to see the ruins—just not quite as old.

March 08, 2008

Another reason to love Lynchburg

Construction Man David

I didn't really intend to run a complete series of blog posts on why I love Lynchburg so much, but things keep popping up. And today brought another reason to love Lynchburg into view.

My wife took our family to Little Dickens—a delightful bookstore that sells new and used books as well as educational toys, teaching supplies, and other things. As if this all was not good enough, there's a very good coffee shop called The Drowsy Poet in the back of the bookstore. They have very good coffee, a good selection of sandwiches, wraps, and other foods. And to top it all off, they have free internet access.

The Sermon On the Mount,
by James Montgomery Boice

My father has always loved used bookstores because he manages to find real treasures in them—treasures that apparently no one else has noticed yet. Today Kim discovered a James Montgomery Boice commentary on Matthew 5-7. The Sermon on the Mount is one in a series of expositional commentaries. The series includes expositional commentaries of the Minor Prophets, the Psalms, the Gospel of Matthew, the Gospel of John, Acts, Romans, and Ephesians. Until his recent death, Dr. Boice was the pastor of the historic Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Every book I've ever read by Dr. Boice has been outstanding. I'm really looking forward to reading this book.

After returning from the bookstore, David wanted to go down to the parking lot near our house where he saw a parked backhoe. Thus the photo at the top of this post.

The Little Dickens Bookstore has hard cover books for less than $3.00 and has an amazing collection. If you're in Lynchburg, check them out.

March 07, 2008

The boundless adventure

Love is not a state, it is a movement. Personal contact is not a state, but a fleeting movement that must be ceaselessly rediscovered. Marriage is not a state, but a movement—a boundless adventure.
Paul Tournier (1898–1986)

March 06, 2008

A good marriage

A good marriage is not one where perfection reigns: it is a relationship where a healthy perspective overlooks a multitude of “unresolvables.”
James C. Dobson

Acknowledge Him in all your ways

Proverbs 3:6   In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

In Exodus we find the story of Israel's war with Amalek. As the battle is progressing we find the following:

Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed, and whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed. But Moses' hands grew weary, so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it, while Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side. So his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. And Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the sword.

As I read this passage this morning, I was struck with the need for each of us to be focused on God in all we do ("lifting holy hands," so to speak). We should probably even find and take extreme measures to help us stay focused on "lifting our hands" in prayer.

Quite often I remember to focus on God when I'm at church, or when I'm preparing for a big test, or when I'm in deep trouble. But I don't tend to focus on God when I'm filling my car with gas, or when I'm choosing which soda to purchase at the 7-Eleven, or when I'm getting angry about some perceived injustice. I guess that would be especially when I'm getting angry.

May God grant each of us the grace to keep our minds fixed on him at all times.

March 05, 2008

Give me grandchildren!

Those of you who attended the wedding will recognize the title of this post as a quote from Abigail's father when he announced the traditional tossing of the bridal bouquet. He also said that we do this in part to anger the feminists. I couldn't agree more!

I know some muddle-headed Christians have talked as if Christianity thought that sex, or the body, or pleasure, were bad in themselves. But they were wrong. Christianity is almost the only one of the great religions which thoroughly approves of the body—which believes that matter is good, that God himself once took on a human body, that some kind of body is going to be given to us even in heaven and is going to be an essential part of our happiness, our beauty, and our energy. Christianity has glorified marriage more than any other religion; and nearly all the greatest love poetry in the world has been produced by Christians.
C. S. Lewis (1898–1963)

The joy was heard far away

Nehemiah 12:43 And they offered great sacrifices that day and rejoiced, for God had made them rejoice with great joy; the women and children also rejoiced. And the joy of Jerusalem was heard far away.

Whatever your hand finds to do...

There are photographers ... and then there are Luke and David Edmonson—absolutely the best!

I sense that I may have worn out my welcome with so many posts about a single event, but Joe and Abigail's wedding set a new standard for what a Christian wedding should be—in every way. And I love to highlight excellence.

When I said "in every way," I meant "including the photographers." My wife and I have been involved in portrait, event, and wedding photography for more than 20 years. My wife was named Lifetouch Studios' National Photographer of the Year in 2007 for her portrait work in the infants to five-year-old age range. In fact, my wife has a wall completely covered with her photography awards. I know I'm a bit biased in favor of her work, but I'm not the only one who thinks my wife's photography is really great.

Because we are photographers, we tend to look at photography with a critical eye. We love to see the resultant photos of weddings we attend but that we have not been contracted to do the photography for. Overall, we consider our work to be well above the level of the wedding (and portrait) photography that we have seen.

But Luke and David Edmonson, the wedding photographers who covered Joe and Abigail's wedding, are the best we have ever seen. They were consummate professionals—putting everyone at ease as they performed their required work with uncommon professionalism. They directed the wedding party and the attendees when needed and just seemed to always be in the right place at the right time to catch those spontaneous special moments that happen so often at weddings and wedding receptions.

I've enjoyed sharing the photos I took at Joe and Abigail's wedding, but now you need to go to to see work by photographers who are completely out of our league. When you reach their site, click the link to "Weddings." Then hover over "Portfolio" and then choose "Featured Wedding." This may not be the "Featured Wedding" for long, so you'll need to do this soon. These pictures will blow you away.

These two photographers are a father and son team and they work together in an almost uncanny way. I was able to observe the son as he covered the ceremony from the front of the church. His instincts are unbelievable. He seems to have a sixth sense for anticipating any emotional interactions or responses to the ongoing events. After the ceremony I watched the two of them make their way among the crowd of attendees, taking informal portraits and journalistic shots of the Joe and Abigail's friends. They were pleasant, responsive, upbeat—simply the best photographers I have ever seen.

If you know someone who is engaged to be married, pass along this information to the bride- and groom-to-be. These are the photographers they are looking for.

Simply outstanding!

By the way, the photos in this post are mine—not theirs. You simply have to go to their web site and see how fantastic they are. I know mine pale by comparison. But you just have to see these photos.

As I was taking my own pictures of the wedding, I captured these photographers in action. The remaining photos are the few photos that I got that included these artists.

Here you can see the son directing the pose
while the father takes the shot.

You can see the son in the background
taking a picture from the opposite angle.

March 04, 2008

O Happy Day!

Here is one verse of Scripture that, as a young believer, I used to repeat often, for it was very dear to me. It is this: “Bind the sacrifice with cords, even unto the horns of the altar” (Psalm 118:27). I did feel then that I was wholly Christ's. In the marriage covenant of which the Lord speaks, when the Husband put the ring upon His bride's finger, He said to her, “You have become Mine.” I remember when I felt upon my finger the ring of infinite, everlasting, covenant love that Christ put there. Oh, it was a joyful day, a blessed day! Happy day, happy day, when His choice was known to me, and He fixed my choice on Him! That blessed rest of soul that comes from a sure possession of Christ is not to be imitated, but it is greatly to be desired.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon, My Conversion

Focused on Christ—not on self

Successful marriage is always a triangle: a man, a woman, and God.
Cecil Myers

Abigail and Joe's wedding brought many surprises. Throughout the ceremony I had my camera prepared to capture the next expected phase of the wedding and most often that expectation did not happen. I quickly began to see a pattern whenever these unexpected turns showed up. Each time something departed from the traditional marriage, the focus of those in attendance was being redirected toward Jesus Christ.

Pastor Mike presents the gospel

The first of these unexpected moments came when the peliminary music came to a stop. I expected the groom and groomsmen to appear from one of the side doors. What happened was that our pastor, Mike O'Brien, walked to the platform, explained that Joe and Abigail wanted a clear presentation of the gospel of Jesus Christ to be made to those in attendance. Pastor Mike gave an outstanding message dealing with the biblical nature of marriage (established by God for one woman to be married to one man), the responsibilities of the bride and groom (the bride's responsibility to submit and the groom's responsibility to love as Christ loves the Church), and the need for everyone to come to Christ who died to save from their sins all who would turn to him for salvation.

Our salvation day eclipses your marriage day, for union to Christ will bring you greater joy than the happiest of marriage bonds. If you have ever received the honors of the State, gained distinction in learning, attained a position in society, or arrived at a larger wealth, all these are but dim, cloudy, foggy days compared with this “morning without clouds” (2 Sam. 23:4). On that day, your sun rose, never to go down again. The die was cast. Your destiny for glory was openly declared.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Power In the Blood

The message was clear and simple, as the gospel is. Pastor Mike did not back off of things that fly in the face of our politically correct culture. And he appealed to all who did not have a personal relationship with Christ to seek out one of the pastors in attendance (there were many) and to remedy the situation that day. He said that Joe and Abigail would consider it a great privilege to know that someone had come to Christ as a result of their wedding.

Eric Graves prays
for the couple's life together

Later in the ceremony, the preacher (Joe's father), asked Eric Graves, Abigail's brother-in-law, to come up to the altar to pray for the couple's life together and to ask God for his blessing on this marriage. The prayer was motivating and moving. This prayer focused our attention on the fact that God is the foundation of marriage and reminded us that "unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain" (Psalms 127:1). This departure from tradition speaks volumes about the strength that this marriage will have.

Singing "In Christ Alone"

Another wonderful departure from tradition came at the moment that I expected the preacher to declare Joe and Abigail "man and wife." I raised my camera eyepiece to my eye to prepare for the upcoming kiss. But instead of the pronouncement and the traditional kiss, the preacher told us that Joe and Abigail had requested that at this moment all of us in attendance sing the Keith Getty hymn, "In Christ Alone." Here are the words to this wonderful hymn:

In Christ alone my hope is found;
He is my light, my strength, my song;
This cornerstone, this solid ground,
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My comforter, my all in all—
Here in the love of Christ I stand.

In Christ alone, Who took on flesh,
Fullness of God in helpless babe!
This gift of love and righteousness,
Scorned by the ones He came to save.
Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied;
For ev'ry sin on Him was laid—
Here in the death of Christ I live.

There in the ground His body lay,
Light of the world by darkness slain;
Then bursting forth in glorious day,
Up from the grave He rose again!
And as He stands in victory,
Sin's curse has lost its grip on me;
For I am His and He is mine—
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.

No guilt in life, no fear in death—
This is the pow'r of Christ in me;
From life's first cry to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny.
No pow'r of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home—
Here in the pow'r of Christ I'll stand.

March 03, 2008


It is the same with us today. We are waiting for the day when we will put on our proper garments and be manifested as the children of God. You are young princes, and you have not yet been crowned. You are young brides, and the marriage day has not yet come. And because of the love your fiancé shows you, you long and sigh for the marriage day. Your very happiness makes you groan; your joy, like a swollen spring, longs to leap up like some Iceland geyser, climbing to the skies. Your joy heaves and groans deep within your spirit because it does not have enough room to express itself to others.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Power In the Blood

Symbol of the bride of Christ

Ephesians 5:22 – Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.

All brides have a lot to deal with as they head into the final stretch prior to their wedding day. Some brides lose control and become known as "bridezilla." Some brides handle the entire thing with aplomb, but everyone still knows that they have tremendous stress going into the home stretch.

Abigail–Eyes for her groom only

But the cultural/social phenomenon that a wedding has become is caused by stress factors of our own making. When we look at the biblical reasons for a wedding and at the symbolism that is built into the ceremony, we realize that brides have good reason to be stressed.

In a Christian wedding (a bit of a repetitive statement since technically ALL weddings spring from the God of Christianity), the bride is a symbol of the bride of Christ who is to be presented "holy and blameless" and "without spot or wrinkle." Imagine the pressure on the bride who understands this need to be without blemish. Christian brides have traditionally worn pure white to focus on that symbolism. As Christians, we are "clothed" in righteousness that has been placed there by Christ's death on the cross—not by our own good works, which would never reach the level of perfection that is demanded (absolute perfection).

Ephesians 5:25-27 –  Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

Bride and groom together

Joe and Abigail obviously understood completely the symbolism of the Christian wedding and the gravity and importance of this symbolism. Abigail's dress was drop-dead gorgeous, as was she herself. As her father escorted her up the aisle, Abigail's eyes never left Joe's face. The bride of Christ is to be fully focused on her groom—Jesus Christ.

The fact that Abigail showed a full understanding of the symbolic nature of a Christian bride indicates that Joe understands his role as well. Joe is representing Jesus Christ, who gave his very life for his bride. Joe must love Abigail with unconditional love. He is called to be willing to go so far as to lay his life down for his bride. And knowing Joe, I know that he is absolutely prepared to do just this for Abigail should that need arise.