Faith: March 2005 Archives

Torn curtain

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I suppose if one must wake up feeling utterly hopeless, it's helpful if one has already obligated oneself to lead the congregation in worship on Easter Sunday. Staying in bed and pulling the covers over one's head is not an option.

Not only my mood, but my voice was limping along as well -- Bb and up just weren't there -- but with a little help from my Friends and bit of hot coffee, the voice loosened up sufficiently.

The tonic for my mood was the service itself, which began with the congregation reciting the Nicene Creed. Here is the part that always chokes me up, whether I'm reciting it in English or singing it in Latin:

Who for us men, and for our salvation, descended from heaven.
Qui propter nos homines et propter nostram salutem descendit de coelis.

Jesus left the glory of heaven, and did so for us and for a purpose, a purpose He accomplished on the cross. As Ron Dunton, one of our founding elders, prepared to lead us in a time of prayer, he called our attention to the banner underneath the cross at the front of the church, his voice breaking as he did. The banner is partially split in the center, starting at the top, a reminder that as Jesus died, the veil of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. No longer are sacrifices and priests required to obtain access to God, but Christ as our great High Priest, offered Himself as a sacrifice once for all, so that we might enter into God's presence:

Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; and having an high priest over the house of God; let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.

We have bold and direct access -- not through a priest, not through a saint, not through any other human intermediary, but through the one mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus. And there does not need to be a weekly or daily sacrifice for our sins -- Christ's one sacrifice is sufficient for all the sins of all His people. (With all due respect to the followers of the Pope who are valiant allies in the fight for the sanctity of human life, I do not know how anyone who has read the Epistle to the Hebrews can buy into the Roman Church's teachings on the sacrifice of the mass.)

Pastor David O'Dowd's sermon was challenging and encouraging (as usual), and when it's online and I've heard it again, I'll write about it and provide a link to the audio.

I wish I could tell you that the afterglow of the service kept me in a good mood for the rest of the day, but it didn't. It took a CD of Charles Wesley hymns on the drive down to keep my mind off my troubles and on things above. That is the daily and hourly challenge.

Good Friday


This prayer seems especially apt today. It's from the Good Friday liturgy (from the 1978 Episcopal Book of Common Prayer): "for all who suffer and are afflicted in body or in mind." It should remind us to pray for Terri Schiavo, and for those around us who suffer from grave disabilities. What are we to pray for them?

That God in his mercy will comfort and relieve them, and grant them the knowledge of his love, and stir up in us the will and patience to minister to their needs.

At noon our time tomorrow, Terri Schiavo will have endured a full week without food or water. That's about the time many Christians will gather to remember the three hours of darkness that fell as Christ hung on the cross.

I encourage you to attend a Good Friday service, even if it isn't at your usual place of worship. Although we are free as Christians to observe special days or not, it is a good thing to set aside a special time to meditate on God's great love for us, that while we were His enemies, He sent His Son to die for us, to pay the penalty for our sins. It is a good thing to gather with believers all over the world to celebrate this day of victory -- the day our Redeemer accomplished our Redemption, and purchased for Himself people from every tribe and tongue and nation. If you cannot come to a church, the Good Friday liturgy linked above could be used for your own private devotions.

Few aspects of worship move me so much as those hymns which direct us to meditate on the Cross and Our Lord's wounds, which He suffered out of love for us.

Do you have trouble believing that God could love you? Look at the Cross!

See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down.
Did e'er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Crown Him the Lord of love!
Behold His hands and side!
Rich wounds, yet visible above,
In beauty glorified.
No angel in the sky
Can fully bear that sight,
But downward bends his burning eye
At mysteries so bright.

And can it be that I should gain
An interest in my Savior's blood?
Died He for me who caused His pain,
For me who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be
That Thou my God shouldst die for me?

’Tis mystery all: th’Immortal dies:
Who can explore His strange design?
In vain the firstborn seraph tries
To sound the depths of love divine.
’Tis mercy all! Let earth adore,
Let angel minds inquire no more.

He left His Father’s throne above
So free, so infinite His grace—
Emptied Himself of all but love,
And bled for Adam’s helpless race:
’Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For O my God, it found out me!

Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray—
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.

Still the small inward voice I hear,
That whispers all my sins forgiven;
Still the atoning blood is near,
That quenched the wrath of hostile Heaven.
I feel the life His wounds impart;
I feel the Savior in my heart.

No condemnation now I dread:
Jesus and all in Him is mine.
Alive in Him, my living head,
And clothed in righteousness divine.
Bold I approach the immortal throne
And claim the crown through Christ mine own.

For your morning amusement, a funny (but a bit sad) piece by a Church of England vicar on the bizarre vows and readings people want to use for their weddings these days, in place of the poetry of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer.

He, with the David Beckham haircut and clothing hanging about him in like manner, wanted to stand at the chancel steps and begin his lifelong vows with the immortal words,
Ever since we met last year in the disco…
This is the sort of degraded demotic that ought to qualify this bloke for a place on the Liturgical Commission. We didn't get as far as her reply. They took kindly enough to my advice -
Sorry dears, this is the Church of England. Have you tried Blind Date?

- and shoved off.

Read the whole thing.

The Boar's Head Tavern


I have just started exploring this Christian group blog, which introduces itself with the following words:

On February 7th, 2002, a diverse group of Christians started a wide-ranging weblog conversation. Today, that conversation continues and you're invited to pull up a chair. Welcome to the Boar's Head Tavern.

It's an interesting mix of topics. As the name suggests, it's not a particularly solemn place. Worth noting in the sidebar is a good collection of online devotional resources.

Go check it out.

A Psalm and antiphon for Lent


From Sunday's choral evensong

Psalm 103

The Lord knows whereof we are made.
He remembers that we are but dust.

Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and all that is within me, bless his holy Name.
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits.

The Lord knows whereof we are made.
He remembers that we are but dust.

He forgives all your sins
and heals all your infirmities;
He redeems your life from the grave
and crowns you with mercy and loving-kindness;
He satisfies you with good things,
and your youth is renewed like an eagle's.

The Lord knows whereof we are made.
He remembers that we are but dust.

The Lord executes righteousness
and judgment for all who are oppressed.
He made his ways known to Moses
and his acts to the children of Israel.
The Lord is full of compassion and mercy,
slow to anger, and of great kindness.

The Lord knows whereof we are made.
He remembers that we are but dust.

He will not always accuse us,
nor will he keep his anger for ever.
He hath not dealt with us according to our sins,
nor rewarded us according to our wickedness.
For as the heavens are high above the earth,
so is his mercy great upon those who fear him.
As far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our sins from us.

The Lord knows whereof we are made.
He remembers that we are but dust.

Like as a father cares for his children,
so does the Lord care for those who fear him.
For he himself knows whereof we are made;
he remembers that we are but dust.
Our days are like the grass;
we flourish like a flower of the field;
When the wind goes over it, it is gone;
and its place shall know it no more.

The Lord knows whereof we are made.
He remembers that we are but dust.

But the merciful goodness of the Lord endures for ever
on those who fear him,
and his righteousness on children's children;
On those who keep his covenant,
and remember his commandments and do them.
The Lord has set his throne in heaven;
and his kingship has dominion over all.

The Lord knows whereof we are made.
He remembers that we are but dust.

Bless the Lord, you angels of his,
you mighty ones who do his bidding,
and hearken to the voice of his word.
Bless the Lord, all you his hosts,
you ministers of his who do his will.
Bless the Lord, all you works of his,
in all places of his dominion;
bless the Lord, O my soul.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost:
as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

The Lord knows whereof we are made.
He remembers that we are but dust.

Is singleness a sin?

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Last August, Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, gave a speech ("The Mystery of Marriage") to a singles conference in which he suggested that there is something sinful about young Christians delaying marriage. He lays much of the blame at the feet of Christian men who seem to prefer an extended adolescence to shouldering the burdens of adulthood. The speech drew praise, criticism, and ridicule. (Mohler wrote two columns about the speech -- part 1 and part 2. You can find audio of the speech itsef here.)

Mohler's speech has generated a lot of discussion about Christians, churches, and singleness. It also seems to have brought to the surface a lot of frustration among Christian singles, both men and women, as you'll see if you'll follow the "Continue reading" link below.

Michael Spencer has written a lengthy and thoughtful post, partly in response to Mohler, but looking at the bigger picture:

This debate is a small part of what I see as a major evolution within evangelicalism; an evolution toward overemphasizing marriage at the expense of much that is Biblical, good, healthy, balanced and normal in human and Christian experience. From the best of motives, some bad fruit is appearing.

Spencer presents six ways that churches can overemphasize marriage, elaborating on each point:

I've added yet another blogroll to my sidebar. I'm now a participant in the League of Reformed Bloggers. That doesn't mean I'm going to stop blogging and take up a more wholesome hobby. I'm as addicted as ever to putting my thoughts up for everyone to see.

"Reformed" in this context means committed to the doctrines of the Protestant Reformation, as expressed by the five "Solas":

  • Sola scriptura: The scriptures alone our rule of faith and practice
  • Solus Christus: Christ the one mediator between God and man
  • Sola gratia: Salvation by grace alone
  • Sola fide: Salvation through faith alone
  • Soli Deo gloria: To God alone be the glory

The Cambridge Declaration, adopted in 1996 by the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, explains each of the solas and how they speak to the practices and beliefs of modern-day evangelicalism.

Another entrance requirement for the League is adherence to one or more of the historic Reformed confessions, at least to the system of doctrine taught, if not to every particular. For me that's the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith, even though I am a member of a Presbyterian Church in America congregation.

David Wayne, the Jollyblogger, and Tim Challies, of, are moderators and managers of the League. There's an aggregator of League posts here.

To learn more about the League of Reformed Bloggers, and how to join if you are interested in so doing, read this entry on Jollyblogger.

Sciolist of the Rough Woodsman reports that NBC's Dateline tonight (6 p.m. Central Time) is a two-hour report on televangelist Benny Hinn. The good news is that Michael Horton of the White Horse Inn -- a radio program on theology and apologetics from a Reformation perspective -- was interviewed for the show, and that means there will be some solid Biblically-based perspective on Hinn's practices.

Michael Horton has written some excellent books on Reformation theology and on modern Christian culture examined through a Reformation lens. Unlike many theological works, Horton's books are clearly written and accessible to any intelligent reader. A couple of his books that I've read and enjoyed: Putting Amazing Back into Grace -- the Bible's God-centered view of salvation and the Christian life, and how that differs from the Catholic view and the understanding held by many evangelical believers -- and The Agony of Deceit, an anthology of essays about the heretical roots of many of the teachings of televangelists.

Here is a link to the White Horse Inn's page of resources on televangelism. I can't speak highly enough of the White Horse Inn and Modern Reformation magazine -- lively, high-quality efforts to apply the insights of the Reformation to the situation of modern culture and today's church.

This is a slight revision of an entry that appeared a year ago. It will stay at the top of the home page through Saturday night -- scroll down for more new entries.

Please read this, read the earlier articles linked below, and please pray for the Litle family and the families of the other victims through this season of remembrance. And pray for real, lasting peace in Israel.

Saturday is the second anniversary of a suicide bombing of a city bus in Haifa, Israel, which took the life of 16 innocent people, including Abigail Litle, the 14-year-old daughter of Philip and Heidi Litle, college friends of mine. In memory of her, I invite you to read an article I wrote shortly after the bombing, and an article by her dad, written a month after the attack, about Abigail's triumphant faith in Jesus.

Remembering Abigail, a victim of hate

Remembering Abigail, a victor in faith

In a letter to friends and family just before the first anniversary, Phil told us how Abigail's school planned to remember her and a classmate who died in the attack:

The Christ Presbyterian Church Missions Conference concludes tomorrow. Two of our missionaries will be speaking to the combined adult Sunday School classes. Bob Mulloy is with Tulsa-based Literacy and Evangelism International, assigned to Mindanao in the Philippines. Bob's next assignment is to develop a written language for an ethnic group that is known for piracy and which follows a blend of Islam and animism. This group has about a dozen Christians in a population of over 100,000. The other missionary speaker, Doug Shepherd Jr., will be headed back to Ukraine later this year with his Ukrainian bride Masha and their first child (once first child arrives). The Shepherds will be planting Presbyterian churches for Mission to the World. Doug will also be preaching during morning worship. (For what it's worth, I'll be filling in as worship leader.)

Bob, Doug, and Masha spoke at Friday night's missions banquet. The content was very interesting -- I hope to write about what Doug and Masha said about the gap between the program-oriented approach American mission organizations take to ministry and the things that really had an effect on the lives of Ukrainians.

For now, I'll just mention the food. A good missions conference should introduce you to some unfamiliar customs, words, and sounds, and, if possible, strange food. Friday night's buffet line featured styrofoam cups of hot purplish-red stuff with a dollop of something white and creamy. Hot cherry jello with whipped cream? was the question in the mind of the man who once, in a cafe in Wales, put a spoonful of mushy peas in his mouth expecting to taste guacamole.

It was borscht, of course, and it was good, but then I like beets. The whole meal was Ukrainian. The main course was chicken pilaf, which we were told was really an Uzbek dish that has been adopted by Ukrainians.

Dessert was a cake of many colors, textures, and flavors -- green icing and white cream and chocolate cake and some light brown crumbly stuff (nuts?) and red cherry filling in layers. Apparently you can't get a cake like this in Tulsa, so someone brought it from the Kiev Bakery in Brooklyn, New York. The cake box had a checkmark next to the word крещатик, and I'm told the cake is also known as Kiev torte. I don't know if our cake had a fancy design on the outside -- it was already cut when I got some -- but that page about Kiev torte is a great description of the texture and flavor. I suspect this is the same kind of cake I tasted (and later blogged enthusiastically about) at an event in New York last August.

You hear about homesick folks who have favorite foods from home shipped to where they are -- wings from Buffalo, deep-dish pizza from Chicago, ribs from Texas. I was impressed that someone would think to have this cake shipped in, not to satisfy his or her own yearning for familiar flavors, but to go beyond sight and sound to use another of the senses to connect our congregation with Ukraine, a nation where we've been investing our prayers, our finances, and our people for over the last 10 years.

Dan Paden, on the badly misnamed No Blog of Significance, has posted notes from the latest lesson from the Sunday School class he teaches at Sheridan Road Baptist Church here in Tulsa: "Can God Fix This?" The lesson focuses on Hosea 14 and is a follow-up to last week's lesson, "Does God Want Me Back?"

Having plenty of blown opportunities and damaged relationships to my credit (or debit, I should say), this lesson piqued my interest. From the introduction:

Maybe you've broken things in your life that don't seem so easy to fix. Maybe you've broken hearts; maybe you've wrecked your financial future; maybe you've wrecked your health, or maybe destroyed your witness. Maybe you've broken things that can't be fixed with a little rubber hose. Is there any hope at all that your mess can be cleaned up?

You'll have to read the whole thing to find the answer.

Dan also has a post about Calvinists and Arminians, asking if anyone really takes credit for his own salvation. He discovers that J. I. Packer made the same point in his book Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, a book I recently re-read. In the same post, he mentions that he has discovered a used bookshop with "a remarkable number of theological books," a shop he does not name. Dan (as if I didn't already have enough books, but anyway), I charge you to tell us where to find this treasure trove!

UPDATE: In the comments, Dan says it's the bookstore next to the dollar theater in the Fontana Shopping Center. That's Quicksilver Books, at the northwest corner of Fontana Shopping Center, off of 49th Street west of Memorial Drive.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Faith category from March 2005.

Faith: February 2005 is the previous archive.

Faith: April 2005 is the next archive.

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