Saturday, July 21, 2007

Moving

I've been toying around with this for a while now, and I've finally decided to move this blog to wordpress instead of blogger. So, visit me here: http://anwoth.wordpress.com.

"Why?" you ask? Well, for starters, wordpress has some nifty features. In addition, it's just as easy (if not easier) to use. Not to mention, the look and layout are more eye-pleasing (in my opinion).

I'll still be leaving this one up, but I won't be posting new posts here. The new posts will be at the new site. Stop on by!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Thoughts on Church

One of these days I'd like to post a lengthy article with several thoughts on the Church that have arisen out of our experiences over the last couple of years. For now, though, I'd just like to tell you a little about the church we've been attending recently.

We have been enjoying our time over the last month or so at Westminster Reformed Presbyterian Church. Westminster is a PCA church. The PCA (Presbyterian Church in America) is a very theologically conservative Presbyterian denomination. Westminster is a fairly large church with a combined attendance around 900.

The first Sunday I went, Carrie couldn't go because she was sick. (See this post!) Before we were halfway into the service I wanted to drive home and get her. It was so refreshing. Here are some reasons:

Music
The music is very Christ-centered. The musicians are skilled and play together very well. In churches we have visited we have encountered two extremes. One extreme is the traditional piano/organ combo with a song leader who waves his hands around, despite the fact that most of the people in his congregation have no idea why. The music choices in these churches tend to be very traditional (do not read that as "inherently bad or boring"--traditional is not a judgment statement, but a descriptive statement). The other extreme we've noticed is the contemporary church with a "worship team" or "praise team" or "praise band." The music in these churches tends to be very loud and contemporary (again, "loud" and "contemporary" are descriptors, not necessarily terms of value).

My problem with the first extreme is that these traditional churches tend to ignore some of the wonderful Christ-centered, gospel-oriented music being written today. They also tend to neglect some of the most powerful aspects of music by refusing to use a variety of instruments. They also tend to be more critical of physical expressiveness in worship, such as raising hands, etc.

My problem with the second extreme is that these contemporary churches rob the church of the congregational singing that the Reformation restored to the people. I have stood beside Carrie in one or two churches and couldn't even hear her singing! The musicians on stage can have a tendency to drown out the glorious singing of the congregation. These churches also tend to neglect some theologically rich hymn texts.

At Westminster we found a glorious blend of traditional and contemporary. There are guitars, drums, a cello, a flute, a trumpet, a grand piano, and a variety of other instruments such as a harmonica, a shaker, etc. There is also a music director who waves his hands occasionally to bring in the congregation or help us cut off at points. The music is contemporary when appropriate and traditional when appropriate. I can hear everyone singing, and it is glorious! People stand still while they sing while others raise their hands while others may dance at their seats when appropriate. The songs range from Holy, Holy, Holy to In Christ Alone to a variety of other ancient and contemporary songs. There is a very talented choir that just got back from a two week mission trip to Austria. In fact, they were in Bob's hometown. All in all, the music is wonderful.

Preaching
Carrie and I have felt somewhat starved for quite a while with a serious lack of good, authoritative, biblical preaching. So when I heard Dr. Alphin preach the first Sunday I was at Westminster, my spirit was so filled that I didn't want him to stop! We have been for several weeks now and have thoroughly enjoyed hearing the Word preached. Dr. Alphin is a very well-trained pastor and knows the Word. What's more, he knows how to communicate the Word clearly and in a way that changes how I think and live.

Polity
Over the past couple of years (and especially the past 6 months) I have come to find a presbyterian form of government more in line with Scripture than a democratic congregationalism. Now, granted, I love Mark Dever and have a lot of sympathy with his very biblical version of congregationalism, so don't pigeon hole me too narrowly. That being said, I look forward to seeing how this form of government works in reality, not just in theory in my head.

Community
Westminster is organized around a variety of covenant (community) groups. The classes that are offered for these groups include the following:

  • An Evaluation of Worldviews
  • Family Worship
  • A Study through John Piper's Future Grace
  • A New Believers' Class
  • A study through 1 John
  • A leadership training class
  • A study through the book of Judges
  • A study of the life of Deitrich Bonhoeffer
For a more detailed description, check out this PDF.

Conclusion
We have so far enjoyed our time at Westminster. We are purposely making very slow decisions right now, so we don't anticipate joining right away. We are also still trying to work through some of the details of a classic covenant theology position. We have had our Baptist stereotypes of what Presbyterianism is blown away...thankfully.

Praise God for Westminster Reformed Presbyterian Church. Please pray with us as we decide what our role should be in the community of believers.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Bob's Blog

For those of you who don't know yet, my friend, Bob, has a blog called "Huperekperissou." That's different from a haiku, and it has nothing to do with hieroglyphics. It is, in fact, a wonderful blog of biblical study and reflection and interaction.

Bob is doing a study on preaching from the OT right now. It is very insightful. Check it out!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Friday, June 22, 2007

In case you haven't heard, Piper's cheap!

Yeah, that's right, Piper's cheap. Five dollars to be exact. Next Wednesday and Thursday only, June 27-28, all the books in the online bookstore at Desiring God will be $5.00!!!! Are they crazy or what? Here's the link to Piper's blog.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Master at Last

Finally! After 5 long, but profitable, years, I graduated last Sunday with my M.Div.

William's Graduation

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

New Chapter, Same Author

This week we closed one chapter in our lives and began a new one. This past Sunday, April 29, was our last day at Grace Bible Church. The journey there has been a long, rewarding and challenging one, especially in recent months. But we are confident that God is still the sovereign Author of our lives, guiding and directing for our joy and his glory!

Carrie and I took a much needed vacation day on Monday and took Daniel to the beach. He loved everything about it: the waves, the sand, the sand castle, the sea gulls...everything! We didn't take any pictures because this was a vacation for us. We wanted it to be as relaxing as possible, and it was.

Today I started job hunting. Please pray that God will provide exactly the job he wants for me. We know that he will meet our needs faithfully as he always has. We are so excited about the future. It's great to think that anything can happen! Isn't God good!

Monday, April 02, 2007

Amazon Wishlist

So I've been having this terrible problem. With graduation coming up in a month now, my family keeps asking, "What do you want for a graduation gift?" I have no idea what to tell them. I could just say I want an amazon.com gift card, but how boring is that. So...problem solved! Here is a link to my Amazon.com wishlist:

My Amazon.com Wish List

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Back...at last!

It's been a long time since I posted. A lot's been going on....

Anyway, I thought I would come back with an encouraging thought from my buddy, Samuel Rutherford. First a little story:

Last summer I was in a friend's wedding. Nathan and I have been friends since high school, and I really enjoy our friendship, so of course I was excited when he asked me to be in his wedding. The last you think about at a time like that is, "Oh, I wonder what my groom's gift will be." Nevertheless, at the rehearsal dinner, Nathan gave all his groomsmen their gifts. For some reason when he came to give me mine, lots of people gathered around with big smiles on their faces and cameras poised and waiting. Obviously they knew something I did not!

The moment had come. I closed my eyes and ripped off the paper. It was a book. I knew that before I opened it. But what book? That was my question. I finally turned and looked, and I was in shock. The title was Quaint Sermons of Samuel Rutherford. That was not the shock. The book didn't look like this one:
It looked much different. (I'll put a pic up soon.) It was not the fancy little reprint from recent days. It was an original 1885 copy! Now, granted that's still 200 years after Rutherford himself, but this book is a rare jewel! Needless to say I was flabergasted!

Anyway, today I read part of one of the sermons in there. Rutherford speaks on the text, "Fear not, thou worm, Jacob," from Isaiah 41. The whole text is as follows:

Isaiah 41:14-16 14 Fear not, thou worm Jacob, and ye men of Israel; I will help thee, saith the LORD, and thy redeemer, the Holy One of Israel. 15 Behold, I will make thee a new sharp threshing instrument having teeth: thou shalt thresh the mountains, and beat them small, and shalt make the hills as chaff. 16 Thou shalt fan them, and the wind shall carry them away, and the whirlwind shall scatter them: and thou shalt rejoice in the LORD, and shalt glory in the Holy One of Israel.

It was an encouragement to hear Rutherford remind me, in typical Puritan meditative style, that even worm Jacob need not fear when his redeemer promises, "I will help thee." What an amazing thought! I need not fear. My Redeemer has promised to be my help. And he has promised that the result will be that I will rejoice in the Lord and will glory in the Holy One of Israel! All troubles and difficulties are put into perspective when I am reminded that God sees the end of the wicked; he sees their schemes and laughs at them, for he knows the end of their deeds.

Thank you, Rutherford, for reminding me of that!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Piper on Prosperity Preaching

I've posted several times on Joel Osteen and his false teaching. John Piper explains why this teaching is so devious. I would stronlgy encourage you to read this brief article to understand why I despise the preaching of Osteen and those like him. Read it here.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Reviving Rutherford

It's been a while since I posted on Samuel Rutherford, so let me take the time right now to commend to you again The Letters of Samuel Rutherford.

Charles Spurgeon said of them, "When we are dead and gone let the world know that Spurgeon held Rutherford’s Letters to be the nearest thing to inspiration which can be found in all the writings of mere men."
Richard Baxter also said that apart from the Bible, "such a book as Mr. Rutherford’s Letters the world never saw the like."

On November 22, 1636, writing from his exile in Aberdeen, Rutherford declares, "[Men] talk of Christ by the book and the tongue and no more; but to come nigh Christ and [clasp] him and embrace him is another thing." Rutherford knew what it meant to come near to Christ and to embrace him, and his letters show that reality.

Rutherford was radically out of step with 21st century American Christianity when he said, "I would fain learn not to idolize comfort, sense, joy, and sweet felt presence. All these are but creatures and nothing but the kingly robe, the gold ring, and the bracelets of the Bridegroom. The Bridegroom himself is better than all the ornaments that are about him."

Oh that we might learn from Samuel Rutherford to embrace the Bridegroom himself and not settle for the mere bracelets of comfort! For anyone who wants an intimate communion with "sweet, lovely Christ" I wholeheartedly commend to you The Letters of Samuel Rutherford.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Gospel Tracts

I have always been concerned about the nature of gospel tracts. I find it very disgusting to see cartoons present a weak or "scary" gospel instead of the Christ-centered good news that the New Testament presents. In addition, most tracts that I've come across have several things in common (please remember these are generalities and do not necessarily apply to all tracts):


1. Weak theology (as already mentioned) -- Salvation is presented as something less glorious than the accomplishment of the redemption of God's people at an infinite cost. Mankind is made out to be the "diamond in the rough" that God just couldn't do without instead of the biblical concept that man is born in sin and deserves nothing from God.

2. Deceptive hooks -- Many tracts use deceptive hooks to get people to read. Some are meant to be left at a restaurant and say, "Your tip is inside" (or something like that). Others say something such as, "Free gift inside." The sad thing is that people often leave these tracts on the table after their meal at a restaurant...without a decent tip!

3. Pray this prayer -- This is one of my pet peaves. Tracts almost always include a "pray this prayer section." Why is that such a big deal to me? It's not in the Bible! Sola fide, not sola prayer! My hope for eternity does not rest in a prayer I prayed. In fact, we are never even told in Scripture that we must "pray a prayer" in order to become right with God. Yet nearly every tract I've ever seen includes a "pray this prayer" section at the end.

All that to say, I have good news! Erik just posted this week over at Irish Calvinist several good free tracts. You can download the front (picture) and back (text) and have them printed at your local FedEx Kinko's (shameless plug for my employer!).

Be sure to check out these theologically sound gospel tracts. They present the gospel in terms of the crucified and risen Christ. It's not a "I'm scared of hell, so I'll pray this prayer" kind of tract. It's a "I've offended a holy God and Jesus is my only hope for a restored relationship with him" kind of tract. Christ is exalted, and faith--not merely a prayer--is the goal. These are good!

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Songs with Meaning

These two songs have become very special to me recently:

Be Still My Soul

Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change, He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heavenly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
To guide the future, as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know
His voice Who ruled them while He dwelt below.

Day by Day

Day by day, and with each passing moment,
Strength I find, to meet my trials here;
Trusting in my Father’s wise bestowment,
I’ve no cause for worry or for fear.
He Whose heart is kind beyond all measure
Gives unto each day what He deems best—
Lovingly, its part of pain and pleasure,
Mingling toil with peace and rest.

Every day, the Lord Himself is near me
With a special mercy for each hour;
All my cares He fain would bear, and cheer me,
He Whose Name is Counselor and Power;
The protection of His child and treasure
Is a charge that on Himself He laid;
“As thy days, thy strength shall be in measure,”
This the pledge to me He made.

Help me then in every tribulation
So to trust Thy promises, O Lord,
That I lose not faith’s sweet consolation
Offered me within Thy holy Word.
Help me, Lord, when toil and trouble meeting,
Ever to take, as from a father’s hand,
One by one, the days, the moments fleeting,
Till I reach the promised land.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Asahel Nettleton on Divine Election

I came across this at the Reformation Theolgoy blog. It's so good I wanted to post the whole thing right here. But I think I'll just link to it instead. It's short--check it out. You'll be glad you did!

Practical Calvinism

Dr. D. Clair Davis gives some humorous yet insightful answers to the question, "What's so good about being a Calvinist?" Here's part of his answer as to just how practical these "lofty" doctrines of grace really are:

"Think through the basics. Jesus died for you personally (Personal Atonement). He loves you, not what he can get out of you (Unconditional Election). He pours out his love on every bit of you, not just on what you think is your sweeter and nicer side (Total Depravity). His love is stronger than all your doubt and foolishness and fear put together (Irresistible Grace). He keeps on loving you, all the way through to the end (Perseverance of the Saints). That’s the Five Points of your Father’s love!"

Be sure to read the entire thing.

Reading

Al Mohler sums up his post about books this way:

"Do our own young people read books? Do they know the pleasures of the solitary reading of a life-changing page? Have they ever lost themselves in a story, framed by their own imaginations rather than by digital images? Have they ever marked up a page, urgently engaged in a debate with the author? Can they even think of a book that has changed the way they see the world . . . or the Christian faith? If not, why not?"

Good questions!

Sunday, January 21, 2007

My Theology...sort of

You scored as Karl Barth. The daddy of 20th Century
theology. You perceive liberal theology to be
a disaster and so you insist that the
revelation of Christ, not human experience,
should be the starting point for all theology.

Karl Barth

87%

Anselm

87%

Martin Luther

73%

Jonathan Edwards

73%

John Calvin

67%

Friedrich Schleiermacher

60%

Charles Finney

33%

J├╝rgen Moltmann

20%

Augustine

20%

Paul Tillich

7%

Which theologian are you?
created with QuizFarm.com

Friday, January 19, 2007

Keller on Repentance

Justin Buzzard posted this amazing quote on the Buzzard Blog today:

"In Christian repentance we do not 'take our sins' to Mt. Sinai, but to Mt. Calvary. Sinai represents only the law of God, and makes us fear God will reject us. But Calvary represents both the law of God and his commitment to save us no matter what--even if his Son has to fulfill and pay our debt to the law. 'Going to Sinai' with our sins means we use the painful fear of rejection to motivate us to change. 'Going to Calvary' with our sins means we use gratitude for his love to motivate us to change. The free love of Christ means that in disobedience, you have not just broken the rules, but spurned the One who lost his Father rather than lose you." --Tim Keller

Thursday, January 18, 2007

What's an RSS Feed?

You may have seen this symbol somewhere on the web. Then again, maybe not. So what is it, and why does it matter?

I never had much use for RSS feeds until I started using the Netvibes homepage (see post below). RSS stands for "Really Simple Syndication" and is a way of syndicating material like news stories or blog posts.

Here's the kicker: I don't understand the nitty-gritty details of RSS or the difference between RSS and XML. I've done some reading on how it works and how it came to be, but I still don't get it. The good news is that it doesn't matte! I use RSS feeds like crazy and have found them immensely helpful. That's why I'm writing this post. I think if you're online much at all or if you visit news sites and blogs, then you will find RSS feeds very useful.

So what do you need to do to start benefitting from RSS feeds? On a news site like foxnews.com or cnn.com or on a blogs site like this one you can look for either the orange symbol you see in this post or the words "RSS Feed" or "Atom Feed" or something like that. For example, if you scroll to the bottom of this blog page, you'll see "Subscribe to: Posts (Atom)." That's what you would click on to subscribe to the Anwoth feed. Now, if you're using the Firefox browser you'll see the little orange symbol in the address bar like this:

If you're using Microsoft's Internet Explorer 7, you'll see the orange symbol on the little toolbar at the top right like this:

In either case, click the symbol and see what happens. For me it's been helpful for seeing what's going on at numerous blogs all at once. At a glance I can see whether there are any posts I want to read.

Okay, so I hope that helps some of you. If you have more questions on how it works, let me know and I'll see if I can help. If you don't want to use it after all, so be it. Either way, keep reading the blog posts here and at other good blogs (see my list).

Netvibes--the Coolest Homepage Ever!

I ran across a link to Netvibes at challies.com. I checked it out and found the best free homepage ever! And best of all...it's free. You can put as many tabs (different pages) as you want, and you can customize those pages. For example, I have a page that contains RSS feeds from all my favorite blogs. On my homepage I have RSS feeds from Fox news, I get a daily Garfield comic, I get unread messages from my gmail account and a local weather forecast. What more could you ask for? Here's a picture of my homepage:

On the left-hand side is the bar that lets me add content. That bar can be closed to give me even more room on my page.

At the top of the page is a search box to search my Netvibes pages (it also includes a nifty filtering option for my searches). Below that you can see my two current tabs: "General" and "Blogs." Under that you see my RSS feed of National News from Fox News. I move my mouse over a headline and the first part of the story pops up.

Give it a shot. You'll love it!

Saturday, January 13, 2007

My Last Semester!

Yes, that's right this will be my LAST SEMESTER, Lord willing! I didn't think I would be this excited about graduating, but as it turns out, it's one of the most exciting things I've ever had to look forward to. Here's my schedule this semester:

Wednesdays, 7:25-8:55 -- NT Greek Exegesis (The Synoptic Gospels)
Thursdays, 7:25-8:55 -- Chapel
Thursdays, 9:00-12:05 -- Apologetics
Thursdays, 12:10-1:40 -- MDiv Seminar
Fridays, 7:25-8:55 -- NT Greek Exegesis (The Synoptic Gospels)
Fridays, 12:10-1:40 -- MDiv Seminar

It looks like a lot, but it's actually only 3 classes. I'm also taking a correspondence course from RTS. Please pray for me and my other friends who are also graduating this semester.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Two Sermons

I recently had the privilege of speaking to our church family from 1 Corinthians 1. Here are the two messages I preached:

1. Becoming a Gospel-Oriented Church (1 Cor 1:1-17).

2. Understanding the Gospel (1 Cor 1:17-31).