Tuesday, July 26, 2011

"Why Do You Call Me Lord, Lord and Not Do What I Say?"

We have already established here that the Bible is the infallible, inspired Word of God - His very speech. Let's now follow that truth to some logical conclusions.

If the Scriptures are infallible, what relevance does that have to our life?

It is the final authority. Non-negotiable, and not open to debate.

When we say that God is infallible, it literally means that He is incapable of erring or making mistakes. If we accept that all of the Scriptures are His inspired (“God-breathed-out”) Word, then by extension, the Bible is also “infallible” (from the Latin word “fallere”; to deceive). The infallibility of Scripture means that since it is the very Word of God, it cannot mislead or deceive us. Some passages of Scripture that attest to its own infallibility include Psalm 19:7-14 (speaks of the law of the Lord being “perfect” and the testimony of the Lord being “sure”); Hebrews 2:1-4; 2 Peter 1:16-21; 2 Tim. 3:15 and John 17:17.

Axiomatically, if we accept the infallibility of Scripture, it follows that it is the basis for authoritative counsel. Jay Adams writes, “The ministry of the Word in counseling…is totally unlike counseling in any other system because of its authoritative base. This authoritative character stems, of course, from the doctrine of inerrancy. If the Bible were shot through with human error, and were no more dependable than any other composition – if it were not a God-breathed revelation – this note of authority would give way to opinion. But, because the Bible is inerrant, there is authority.” (Jay Adams, “More Than Redemption”, p. 18.)

Where direct commands are given in Scripture, a Christian may give authoritative counsel in the form of a command or prohibition, appealing directly to what is stated in the Bible (i.e. pre-marital sex; insubordination to an employer; etc.) However, a believer will often have to deal with questions where the Bible does not give specific instruction (but does provide general, guiding principles.) In such cases, he must assess the situation and distinguish between his or her own opinion, based on knowledge of biblical principles, and the absolute authority of Scripture. In all cases, the counsel given both as absolute imperatives (“You may not commit adultery”) and advice given on the basis of Scriptural principles (“You might want to find a sport for your son to play that does not involve games on Sunday afternoons, since Exodus 20:8 tells God’s people to keep the Sabbath day holy”) must be rooted in the Bible, rather than any system of thought which does not claim divine authority.

Finally, Jesus’ example of absolute adherence to God’s Word in the wilderness should be used as an illustration of how, because Scripture is infallible, it is the final authority for how we are to make decisions and proceed. Luke 4:1-12 demonstrates how Jesus responded to every temptation and attempt at Scripture-twisting from the devil with “It is written…” His response and behavior, even at great personal cost, models the attitude we are to imitate when faced with temptation: what is “written?” Why does that matter? A biblical command or prohibition is metaphorically “written in stone” (is non-negotiable) because all Scripture proceeds from the mouth of God. As such, it is perfect (infallible) and is therefore the ultimate authority for issues both of orthodoxy and orthopraxy.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Interview with Stefan about Kid Ministry

Lately, especially since seeing the Family Integrated Church movement's "Divided", I've been involved in an online discussion regarding the pros and cons of Youth and Children's ministry versus the more controversial elements of the FIC agenda. I would not use the word "debate", because I honestly don't have super-strong convictions on this issue one way or the other -- I've seen the ugliness in the extremes of both positions.

We all know about the Peanut Butter Gross-Out games at Youth Group (my church's Youth Group actually does a Bible study, but there's no denying Youth Ministry at large is largely...foolishness). Likewise, it's no secret VBS and children's ministry, with the possible exception of AWANA programs, is watered down and overly-entertainment driven. These facts notwithstanding, my husband and I do not fully embrace a mandatory FIC model - we prefer to use basic biblical wisdom and common sense (which tells us that we, as the parents, have the primary responsibility to teach our children about God and the Gospel).

Pilgrim at Defending Contending has a convincing and well-researched post about VBS and the marketing-tactics that go into them. Now, my four children have grown up on VBS. My youngest two, 8 and 5, still go and love VBS. My oldest (14) is a music assistant. Since my 8-year-old son was walking through the office while I happened to be reading Pilgrim's article, I decided to do a little un-scientific survey and get my son's feedback on what he gets out of it.

Now, two caveats: Stefan is a bright kid. Not rocket-scientist, homeschooled-and-going-to-college-at-12, find-a-cure-for-cancer-at-15 smart, but a pretty sharp monkey all-around. He's grown up in a Christian home; been in Sunday school since he had teeth and knows all the stories. He's gifted at Scripture memorization and enjoys practicing it. He also genuinely loves God and feels a deep sorrow when he sins. Without getting into much detail, I do have reason to believe he's a child of God. I asked:

Me: "Hey Stefan, let me ask you some questions. Do you love God? I mean, really?"

Him: "Yes."

Me: "Do you enjoy learning about Him, and getting to know Him better?"

Him: (nods enthusiastically...he's been asking us for a "real" Bible since he could read).

Me: "Ok. Now, would you say you learn a lot of new things about God at VBS? What do you learn?"

Him: "Well....the only time we really learn anything is in the songs."

Me: "The songs? You mean like "In Christ the Cross"?

Him: "Yeah. The songs are about God. So you learn things about God from the songs. And the stories.....well, they tell us stories, but actually we already knew the stories from before; so I guess we didn't really learn anything new. But I liked the jumpy thing."

Me: "Okay, so you didn't really learn anything at VBS, but it was fun. What about Junior Church - do you learn a lot about God there?"

Him: "Oh, yes. We learn stories and good lessons from the stories!"

Me: "But didn't you already know the stories from before?"

Him: "Some of them, yeah; but not all of them. Like the one about Elijah and Elisha. I'd forgotten about that one."

Me: "Okay, so in what order would you say you learn the most about God: from Junior Church, VBS, from me and Daddy at home - like when Daddy teaches you guys on Sunday afternoon from the Bible - or Pastor Eric when he preaches?"

Him: "I would say from you and Daddy at home, the most. After that...maybe Junior Church; then Pastor Eric - but I don't understand everything he's talking about - and then last, VBS."

No big surprises there....but given that an 8-year-old himself admits he learns more in the modest time we spend on spiritual matters at home than in the weekly, structured "children's church" etc, I think the FICers may have a point, after all. Which doesn't mean I'll be switching churches any time soon. It just means I feel convicted to spend more time and effort, under my husband's leadership, teaching the kids doctrinal truths and how to live these truths out in their lives (orthodoxy and orthopraxy). I had been toying with the idea of finding a Bible study to go through together, each morning before school next year, or maybe we'll just read from the Bible together and discuss it (as my husband does with us after church on Sunday). If anyone has any resources for family devotionals they'd like to share, I'd appreciate that!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Skinny White Bulgarians Performing "Lord, You Are Good"

I didn't really know what to name this post, but the images speak for themselves. You'll enjoy this.

I've recently discovered the Bulgarian praise team, "Ново Поколение" ("New Generation") and, at my request, my husband brought me back several of their CDs last week from Sofia. The kids and I like to get our praise on while tooling around, doing errands. This group really is terrific, and have done several live, sold-out concerts in Bulgaria. Many of their worship songs are original, rather than translations of English ones, but they also do a few well-known songs. One of those, apparently, is "Lord, You are Good" (by Israel Houghton and the New Breed).

My first impression, upon watching the clip below, was "That girl looks awfully white to be doing lead vocals on that song." (Nothing against my fellow melanin-challenged peeps...I'm just sayin.') In fact, I don't recall ever seeing so many skinny white people in one place...singing that song. See for yourself:

And now watch the original version:

It just isn't the same, is it?

Friday, July 15, 2011

An Amaryldian in Albania

Where I will be in 4 weeks:

Like the title of my post? "Amaryldian" is a word I just learned this morning - from Jay Adams, of course - which apparently means "Four-Point Calvinist". From Wiki: "Simply stated, Amyraldism holds that God has provided Christ's atonement for all alike, but seeing that none would believe on their own, he then elected those whom he will bring to faith in Christ, thereby preserving the Calvinist doctrine of unconditional election."

Works for me. That describes my church's position on Limited Atonement pretty well, and while it's certainly not a hill I'd want to die on, that is where I stand, as well.

However, that's not the point of this post. I chose the word for it's alliterative properties, so I could share my REAL news: four weeks from today, I'll be headed to Albania on a short-term missions trip with the British ministry, Albania Evangelical Mission. Whilst my original plan was to go with my "alma mater" Campus Crusade for Christ, who was severely short of teachers for one of their seven camps in Albania, due to a sequence of events causing CCC to change their camp dates I was unable to join them. It all worked out for the best: this British group runs Christian camps all summer in the same location (near Saranda, in southern Albania) and I could join them much less expensively.

Most of the 17-18 year olds who will be attending this Christian camp the week I am serving there have not made a profession of faith in Christ. However, they are attending the camp with interest and in the full knowledge that we will be presenting the Gospel to them, teaching the basics of Christianity, and using the Bible as a medium to help them improve their English skills as well. Besides all that, I anticipate a lot of fun camp-type activities in the afternoons, worship, and fellowship as well! I have never been camping before, so this will be a new experience for me in that regard. I have taught English (in Bulgaria) before, as well as having led Bible studies for many years, both in the US and in Bulgaria....but I have never slept in a tent, so we shall see. (Cold water showers, on the other hand, are nothing new to me - that was par for the course in Leningrad and Sofia during the summer.)

I have read camp reports and seen photos from years prior, and many new young Christians have been baptized right in the Ionian Sea right there at the camp. I am hoping and praying to be able to develop lasting and fruitful relationships with some of the kids (and staff) I will be serving. (Given the rustic situation, it's unlikely that I'll be able to blog from there, but afterwards perhaps.)