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Tim Challies

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May 2004

May 31, 2004

I am Canadian, and as such have no idea what the proper etiquette is for Memorial Day. To say “happy Memorial Day” seems a touch flippant. So, for all my American friends, enjoy your day away from the grind.

What do Americans do on Memorial Day, anyways? Is it just an “excuse” for a day off or do people actually find activities to do that honor the people the day is dedicated to?

May 31, 2004

Every now and then David Cloud, a hardcore fundamentalist baptist, publishes some of the emails he has received over the past weeks or months. It always makes for hilarious reading. While I agree with a whole lot of what Cloud has to say, there have been a few times I’ve gotten close to emailing him myself. His stand on women’s clothing is, in a word, ridiculous and he is also an anti-Calvinist. However, I do admire the fact that he takes a strong stand on many important issues.

Here are some snippets from his mailbox:

�You and your sickie so called �ministry� need to hurry up and die and go to hell. Elvis was kind and good and is with Jesus. When you die, hell will open up to welcome you. … Why don’t you do the world a favor and jump off a high bridge?�

�To know history is the death of Protestantism. Your critique is full of lies, rumors and misrepresentations. Jesus said �unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood you will have no life within you. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me and I in him.� As recorded in John, chapter 6, this is where Judas turned away because he could not accept it. Judas, the first protestant.�

�The bible is nothing but propaganda based on ignorance, superstition and fear of mortality. To any rational human being, its own words emphasize what a CROCK it all is.�

And so on. If you are exceptionally bored you can read more of it here.

May 30, 2004

Welcome to yet another edition of my now-patented Sunday Ramblings. It’s a time for me to throw disorganized thoughts together and call it blogging.

Today we start at The Journey Church which had its second preview service this morning. As with their first preview which was held last month, I was priveleged to be part of it as once again I ran the sound for them. It was a great little service and their numbers were up from last time. They had 13 college-aged kids who had formed a missions team and come to Toronto from Memphis, Tennessee to help out. I must say, they were one of the nicest groups of kids I’ve ever met. Most of them made an effort to come over and introduce themselves to me and thank me for taking the time to help out with the service. I wonder if everyone in Memphis is so polite…

It’s funny to see a church in the very early stages of development. The sermons are so very basic and geared towards “seekers,” trying to help people understand just what Christianity is all about. Though it is neat to see such a church begin, I am just as happy not to have to “start over” doctrinally again. I would find it difficult to have to go back to the beginnings after just being part of a new church. Growth is good!

I just noticed there is a new church in town (at least I think it’s a new church) that has an evening service - quite a rare commodity these days. The motto for their church is “teaching the Bible - book by book, chapter by chapter, verse by verse. The full cousel of God.” So that sounds neat. I may just go and visit some evening to see what they are all about. The lazy part of me often rejoices that my church has no evening service, but the spiritual part of me often regrets that we do not.

When you take music lessons as a Christian, when do you learn to play “altar call music?” You know that I mean, I’m sure. The slow, pensive music usually played on keyboard (though guitar can substitute) that is often played during the altar call or response time.

A few weeks ago I was in church and someone (whose name will go unmentioned) leaned over to me and whispered, “You know, we try to say that our music needs to be relevant to the culture, but this music isn’t any closer to what unchurched people listen to than hymns.” And you know, that person may have been right. Of all the tens of thousands of Christian songs that are published every year, only a select few make it into the churches. Are they the best ones? Not necessarily. Are they the ones with the best lyrics? Nope. So what makes people choose them? Probably the fact that they are easily singable. Some songs would be quite difficult for your average person to learn and even more difficult for groups to sing together. So really maybe what we do is just take the instruments that are popular in the culture around us and make songs on them that are perhaps vaguely similar to what they listen to. We then think we’re being culturally relevant. Strange, though, that we don’t sing any songs in church that sound like something we’d find on a Britney Spears album or on a U2 album…

That’s about it for today. I’m signing off until tomorrow. Enjoy the rest of your Lord’s Day.

May 29, 2004

A few days ago I posted a link to the story about the Duggar Family who is celebrating the arrival of their fifteenth child. Though it did not generate much buzz here, in other places across the Net the story became a hot topic as people debated the appropriateness of having fifteen children. The most common argument against having such a quantity of children is that parents could not possibly properly care for such a number. Of course there is any number of other arguments.

When I showed the story to my wife her first reaction was “that’s just wrong!” She couldn’t believe that having fifteen children could ever be right and good. Now as someone who was raised in our society that is no great surprise. As we talked, though, we had a more difficult time accepting that it is necessarily wrong to have that many children. Here is my logic.

  1. Be fruitful and multiply - God created us and as one of our primary roles told us to “be fruitful and multiply.” He gave no conditions. He did not say “multiply up to and including eight children at which point you must stop.” At the same time He did not say “be fruitful and multiply until you have exceeded five children.” So there seem to be no hard and fast rules about how many children are appropriate in God’s eyes. Presumably, then, we are able to decide ourselves how many we would like to have. We can assume we should have at least one, but beyond that the Bible is silent. We hear hints that God approves of large families. For example, Psalm 127 says “Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, The fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one’s youth. Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them.” However, it is probably safe to assume that within the bounds of Christian freedom we are allowed to decide how many children we would like to have.
  2. Do not deny each other - God tells us not to withhold from having sex with our spouse. Paul says that we are able to do so for a short time if it becomes necessary, but as a rule, abstinence within marriage is wrong. Therefore, it is God’s plan that there is always the possibility that a woman may become pregnant as long as she is physically able to bear children.
  3. No God-given birth control - God has not given humans the innate ability to enjoy sexual relations while absolutely avoiding pregnancy. In other words, when a man and woman have sex there is always the possibility of a pregnancy unless they use some “artificial” method of birth control or one of them is infertile or beyond childbearing years.
  4. No command to use birth control - Nowhere in the Bible does God command that a couple must use birth control at any stage in their marriage. Though I do not believe using birth control is wrong, I do not find that the Bible ever commands it.
  5. God opens the womb - God is absolutely sovereign. He has foreordained every pregnancy that has ever happened and that will ever happen. Whether a woman has one children or fifteen, God has decreed the beginning and end of each pregnancy.
  6. God will provide - God tells us time and again throughout Scripture that He will provide for us. When we faithfully follow Him, He promises that He will provide for all our needs. We are to have confidence that no matter how impossible our needs may seem, He will provide.

Based on this logic, I do find that Christians can rationally say that having fifteen children is wrong. For us to say that it is inherently wrong to have a certain number of children we would also have to say that God commands us to use birth control at some point in our marriages. I simply do not find that is the case.

Now this is an argument that presents some difficulties. For example, what are we to do about women who have just given birth? We know that there may be serious health problems if a woman becomes pregnant immediately after having another child, especially if this happens repeatedly. It would seem to be a safe assumption that using birth control for the first months or years after a pregnancy is a wise decision. But is it wrong not to?

I would be interested in hearing some other people’s thoughts on this matter.

May 28, 2004

I found the following list on Shane’s Site and thought it was really well done. It is a list of questions the author recommends one asks when searching for a new church home. As I read it a lightbulb went on in my mind. Far too often I think we are a bit embarrassed to ask these sorts of questions. Certainly we would ask tougher questions than these if we were going to entrust our children to someone else’s care, yet when it comes to spiritual oversight we back down. Perhaps it is just that we think we will be labelled as potential troublemakers by the staff of the new church if we ask questions like these.

I would like to think that if I was a pastor I would be thrilled to have someone ask me these questions, knowing that the person was serious about finding a church home where he would fit theologically. It would show that he was committed to purity of doctrine.

I suspect that few people bring such a list of questions with them when they approach a new church. Perhaps one of the pastors who read this site can give some insight (Jollyblogger - I know you’re there)!

Looking For A Church Home? - Donald S. Whitney

If you are looking for a church home, the answers you receive to questions like these may help you determine whether a particular church is the one where God wants you.

Tips for using these questions:

Ask wisely. Talk to the pastor, if at all possible. If not, then ask another staff member of the church.

Ask personally. Visit or call him. Do not mail or fax these and ask for a written reply.

Ask courteously. Do not “grill” the pastor or ask aggressively.

Ask selectively. Do not ask all these questions at one time. The more serious you become about membership, the more appropriate it becomes to ask additional questions later.

These questions are not necessarily listed in the order of significance. Some of them may not be important to you. You may want to add others.

Realize that you may not be able to find a church near you which can answer all your questions satisfactorily. However, the Lord does want you to find a church home where you can be involved.

  • How is a person made right with God?
  • What is your position on the inerrancy of Scripture?
  • Do you believe Genesis 1-11 is factual or symbolic?
  • Do you believe that Jesus Christ is the only way to Heaven?
  • What is your position on the Lordship Salvation issue, i.e., can a person take Jesus as Savior without taking him as Lord?
  • Do you believe that Jesus Christ was born of a virgin?
  • Do you believe in the bodily return of Jesus Christ?
  • Do you believe in a literal Hell?
  • What is your position on the ordination of women for positions of church leadership?
  • How do you deal with a young child who says he or she wants to be saved?
  • How do you combat easy-believism?
  • What are your views regarding divorce and remarriage?
  • What is your position on the charismatic movement?
  • How would you/the church handle a case of scandal or immorality by a church member?
  • What is your position on church debt and is the church in debt?
  • Have there been any splits in the church and have any pastors been asked to leave?
  • What have been the high points (or the “best thing”) in this church in the last five years? In the last six months?
  • What are the greatest strengths of this church? Weaknesses?
  • How do you foster the spiritual growth of individuals in your church?
  • What are your goals for the church?
  • Would you mind telling me about your devotional life?
  • Who are your favorite authors?
  • What is the doctrinal statement of the church, and may I have a copy? (Note: Be cautious if the church has no doctrinal statement or cannot find a copy.)
  • Does the church follow it’s constitution and by-laws, and may I have a copy?
  • Does a large percentage of the church differ with your position on any of these issues?
  • You may also want to know if there is any antagonism by the pastor or the church toward any ministries that are important to you.
May 27, 2004

So far so good in regards to the move to the new commenting system. I had a bit of a problem with my archives but managed to fix it. The only real annoyances now are:

  • Old comments will not appear in the new commenting system. So although you’ll be able to see older comments on the actual blog pages, they won’t show up in the forums. Any new topics will be fine, of course, but it would have been neat to see the entire Purpose Driven Life discussion moved to the forum, for example.
  • Archives topics will only have an entry created in the forum the first time someone clicks on them. That means there will be strange topics popping up from time-to-time on the forums…unless I take the time to go through day-by-day and click on each one. Maybe that’s a project for tomorrow!

Other than those small annoyances I’m quite happy with the forums. I am hoping a bunch of people sign up and begin to use them so we can get some good discussions happening. I am excited at the prospect of having people be able to begin their own topics in the forum so those readers who do not have their own blogs have an opportunity to speak out!

May 27, 2004

I made some pretty big changes to the site today. All new topics will now direct you to the forums to do commenting. I think this system will work better in the end. I am a bit worried it will lead to more spamming (just when I had started to get it under control) but I think there are more reasons to do it than not to do it.

If you want to reserve a user name in the forums, you should probably go over there and register yourself. That assures you that no one else will be able to post using your name. If you wish to remain anonymous you are free to do so, but be aware that if you do not register and post under the name “Fred,” anyone else will also be able to post under that name until it is registered. Just some food for thought…

There is an area in the forum for you to post your own topics, so let’s make this a great, interactive forum!

May 27, 2004

I came across a good little article by R.C. Sproul that speaks about the church growth movement. Here are some quotes:

The church growth movement has done an outstanding job in capturing the right words. Everybody opposed to churches growing raise your hands. Anybody out there not want to attract unbelievers to the church of Christ? Is anybody seeking ways to grow the church impractically? The way the theory is couched just about guarantees its being accepted. The problem is the theory doesn’t match the words.

The only seekers we tend to draw with seeker sensitive services are believers seeking a different church. By presenting a God who wants us to look at ourselves, who doesn’t judge and command, who has a wonderful set of insights on how to have a happy, healthy marriage we put God’s imprimatur on narcisism. There’s nothing evangelicals like more than to be told that God loves them just the way they are.

You can read the full article here. The site has a great selection of articles by some great, Reformed writers. The full list is here.