Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Who is this guy "Norm"?

Our young friend is about the same age as our older married daughter. She is a single adult Christian woman pursuing a graduate level degree with the end of entering upon a career. And she is doing so with a sense of God's calling and purpose for her life. No desire to marry. Not even looking for a guy. No Christian singles retreats. No Christian internet dating services or chat rooms for her.

Though she has not gone into detail, our young friend has alluded to the kinds of things that are said to her at her home church where she is still a member. You know the comments... "Any young man in your life these days?" "Why don't you go to the Christian singles retreat at blah blah blah..." "God has someone special for you..." And implied in all of that, "Why are you pursuing a career instead of a husband and children?"

A few years ago I had a conversation with one of the pastors at her home church regarding the issue of singles in the church. His comment was to the effect that in the Bible it is the norm for young adult women to marry and if possible, bear children. The context of the conversation and the implication of the statement was to apply that "norm" to specific situations in his pastoral counseling, especially to young single adult Christian women.

Do you see the fallacy in that statement and application? We are not talking about the world's norm for sinful behavior such as drunkenness, cussing, or other obvious sinful behavior patterns. The Bible no where makes the issue of marriage or non-marriage in and of itself a matter of sin. But this pastor is going to take an observable norm for a general population as a whole, and make it law and gospel in a specific situation for specific young people.

Pray tell dear pastor, who anointed you with such a gift of "prophecy", that you know for certain that just because something is a general norm, you can bind the conscience of young Christian single adults as the "norm" for them specifically, and in this case specifically, young single adult Christian women? Since when did any Protestant Christian church elect this guy "Norm" as pope?

This pastors comment is a reflection of a cultural scholasticism that has afflicted his particular church and the particular movement his church is a part of. The expectations in that setting for young single Christian women in particular have more to do with that scholasticism then with honest wrestling with all the Bible has to say about Christian singleness. Yes, the family is an important part of the church, but families are not all there is to the church, and the Bible makes clear that all members of the church, married and unmarried are equally important.

That last statement sums up what Wendy Widder is saying in her recent books, Living Whole Without a Better Half and A Match Made in Heaven: How Singles and the Church Can Live Happily Ever After. Wendy is an adult single Christian woman who was blessed to run into Christian friends who affirmed her in her singleness as opposed to treating it as a temporary aberration to be quickly fled at the first opportunity. But Wendy's books are not just for young adult Christian singles like our young friend. She writes with a vision of the whole body of Christ, married and un-married, and with a reverence for the Scripture as God's authoritative Word.

We gave a copy of A Match Made in Heaven to our young friend, and I would encourage you also to read what Wendy has to say on the whole matter of being Christian and single.

~ The Billy Goat ~

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Focusing on Grace

“When you focus on grace in the fullness of it’s meaning, you will keep the law, liberty, and love in their proper relationship to one another. But if you focus on any one of them instead of grace, you will invariably end up in the swamp of legalism or license.” (Transforming Grace by Jerry Bridges)

Both legalism and antinomianism (license) share the same basic fundamental flaw. Both are the result of an insufficient view of what the Gospel is, and what the grace of God in the Gospel does. It is a focus on the grace of God in the Gospel that will keep us in the way that leads to life, which will keep our life in Biblical balance, which is the basis of all true Biblical spirituality, and is the essence of what it means for Christians to grasp grace.

~ The Billy Goat ~

Monday, September 13, 2004

Summer's Passing

We are now up to the last week of Summer. My calendar tells me Autumn begins next Wednesday. Once again the year is flying by. My friends who are into that sort of thing are talking about hunting. The football season is in full swing, and I don't mean soccer. The Detroit Lions even won a game on the road, proof that wonders never cease.

The start of school and the coming of Fall also means activities and programs at church are swinging into full gear now that Summer is passing.

Yesterday the choir began a new season of ministry. The piece that we sang had a part where the choir and the congregation together sing "Holy, Holy, Holy". I was doing all right holding down my part in the bass section of the choir, but confess that when the congregation joined in with us, I had to suck it up to keep from losing it emotionally. (The spirit of the prophets is controlled by the prophets.) It was just so awesome... A taste of that worship we will engage in around the throne (Revelation 4-5).

The men's Bible study starts this week. From week to week different men will be leading the study. Lord willing, I will be leading the study on the topic "Men at Church Grasp Grace". It's been a good lesson to prepare for. Jerry Bridges' book Transforming Grace has been an excellent supplement to the study book we are using.

Bridges says a number of things I have thought and come to believe regarding the pre-eminence of grace not only in our initial salvation, but also in our on-going sanctification. Let me end this post by paraphrasing and building on one thought from Transforming Grace.

Both legalism on the one hand, and antinomianism on the other, share a common foundational flaw. Both legalism and antinomianism have a deficient view of what the Gospel is, and what Gospel grace does. More on that some other time...

In His joy,

~ The Billy Goat ~

Sunday, September 05, 2004

A Dramatic Reading of Revelation 4 - 5
(English Standerd Version)

A narrative passage of Scripture lends itself to dramatic reading. Such a dramatic reading can be a useful teaching tool in engaging the class with the passage. Here is an example of how a dramatic reading of a narraitve portion of Scripture can be structured. I used this example in an actual adult Sunday school class.
~ The Billy Goat ~

The Promise: “Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.” (Revelation 1:3)

[Chapter 4]

[Narrator] After this I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said,

[First Voice] "Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this."

[Narrator] At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne. And he who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald. Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones were twenty-four elders, clothed in white garments, with golden crowns on their heads. From the throne came flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder, and before the throne were burning seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God, 6and before the throne there was as it were a sea of glass, like crystal. And around the throne, on each side of the throne, are four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind: 7the first living creature like a lion, the second living creature like an ox, the third living creature with the face of a man, and the fourth living creature like an eagle in flight. And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say,

[Four Creatures] "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!"

[Narrator] And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying,

[24 Elders] "Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created."

[Chapter 5]

[Narrator] Then I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals. And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice,

[First Voice] "Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?"

[Narrator] And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. And one of the elders said to me,

[Elder] "Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals."

[Narrator] And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying,

[Four Creatures & 24 Elders] "Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, 10and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth."

[Narrator] Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice,

[All] "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!"

[Narrator] And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying,

[All] "To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!"

[Narrator] And the four living creatures said,

[Four Creatures] "Amen!"

[Narrator] And the elders fell down and worshiped.

“And I saw when the Lamb broke one of the seven seals…” (Revelation 6:1a)