John Piper tweeted a link to an article I thought was interesting enough to re-post. The link went to a subscription page (which nobody enjoys), so I thought I would be nice and copy and paste the text of the article here to make it easy. So, here goes.
By the way, the article is short and to-the-point, so for a little background context, know that the following is a woman writing about the focus of a godly marriage being God, not the spouse. Not exactly the normal subject matter on my blog, but, again, I thought it was well-done.
A name change is God’s gift for the remains of the day | Andrée Seu Peterson
When nothing else was working my true love said to me, “Andrée, ultimately I’m not that important to you.” It was the last resort in a drawn out drama and it did the trick. Stunned like a wailing child by a well-placed swat, I straightened up and surveyed the new terrain.
The corollary was immediately apparent, of course—that I was not ultimately that important to him either. This partnership we were embarking on was for a little while. Steve Jobs gave death its grudging due at Stanford’s graduation day in 2005: “Because almost everything—all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure—these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. … You are already naked.”
Here is wisdom: “The appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing” (1 Corinthians 7:29-30).
David takes me by the hand and says that we can have a thing much better. Sick dependency is darkness that appears as light. Come into the truth with me, he says; the first step is the hardest one, but no one who has ventured into the land of light wants to return from whence he came. You will love me better when you love God more. Choose God over me and you will have us both; choose me over God and you’ll be left with neither.
That’s how David talks.
C.S. Lewis writes of the hours before his wife’s death: “How long, how tranquilly, how nourishingly, we talked together that last night! And yet, not quite together. There’s a limit to the ‘one flesh.’ You can’t really share someone else’s weakness, or fear or pain. … We were setting out on different roads. This cold truth, this terrible traffic regulation (‘You, Madam, to the right—you, Sir, to the left’)” (A Grief Observed).
Left, right. My love and I will each go to our own reward. Assigned seating, you know.
Perspective: I am not the mother of his children. I am not his springtime romance. I am not his summer fantasy. Lord willing, I will be the friend of his old age. We will close this earthly chapter side by side. He is counselor, lover, companion, and friend. But not Counselor, Lover, Companion, and Friend.
There will be two in a field; one will be taken and the other left. Two will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and the other left. In our case, both will be taken (Hooray!), whether separately or together, and that’s sweet. What a motley crew we will be then—David, Y, M, me, and others, all greeting one another like old pals. David said if he goes second he will say to God upon arrival, “Hey, where you got Andrée?”
Well, maybe not first thing upon arrival.
Our choir teacher in elementary school said that if you want to hit a high note, you must aim just a shade higher than the note. The Lord saw the secret desires of my heart, that all I ever wanted was a man to pull my faith upward, to stretch it just a little more. Call me Hagar: “She called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, ‘You are a God of seeing,’ for she said, ‘Truly here I have seen him who looks after me’” (Genesis 16:13).
So now I am changing my last name to Peterson for the remains of the day. And I consider myself the most blessed of women. There is a time and a season for all things, and this is my season to rejoice. We have our instructions about that: “Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise” (James 5:13).
Lewis ends his quite short book about his quite short marriage with the anecdote of Joy Davidman’s last words. He writes: “She said not to me but to the chaplain, ‘I am at peace with God.’ She smiled, but not at me.”
The original article can be found here.
I’ve been a pretty big fan of Dietrich Bonhoeffer for a while now. But, strangely, my entire familiarity with the man’s life was based on the writings of other people about him, or by fragmented quotations of his own writings. Reading Eric Metaxas’ biography on Bonhoeffer (book review here) was a great way to get acquainted with the man who epitomized what it looks like to live out one’s faith in Christ – even to the point of death.
So, needless to say, it was high time to quit beating around the bush and actually read one of Bonhoeffer’s books. I borrowed “Life Together” from my roommate’s collection. Here are my thoughts.
“Life Together” by Bonhoeffer is a brief, 120-page essay on Christian community – what it is, and what it is not. Every Christian needs a working knowledge of these things, since community is such a buzzword in current evangelicalism. Bonhoeffer wrote about community when community wasn’t cool.
Of particular interest to me were the passages in which the author talks about the balance and interaction between solitude and community. He explains that one must not seek community simply because he is running from himself, and one must not seek solitude simply because he is running from others. Bonhoeffer wrote with keen observation concerning both the Scriptures and his own personal experience, and there are many great things to be understood from this book.
“Life Together” is beautifully written, and I believe that any Christian would profit from reading it. There are parts that are more sophisticated than others, and Bonhoeffer, being a German through and through, loves to quote Martin Luther and even Martin Buber’s philosophical work “I and Thou”. (If you don’t have a clue about Buber, then great, neither do I. “I and Thou” was required reading in a philosophy class my freshman year of college and I retained zilch. So no worries when it comes to “Life Together”.)
My first hands-on exposure to Bonhoeffer was a positive one, and I am looking forward to reading his famous “Cost of Discipleship” down the road. I’ll leave you with an excerpt from “Life Together”:
“Brotherly care is distinguished from preaching by the fact that, added to the task of speaking the Word, there is the obligation of listening. There is a kind of listening with half an ear that presumes already to know what the other person has to say. It is an impatient, inattentive listening, that despises the brother and is only waiting for the chance to speak and thus get rid of the other person. This is no fulfillment of our obligation, and it is certain that here too our attitude toward our brother only reflects our relationship to God. It is little wonder that we are no longer capable of the greatest service of listening that God has committed to us, that of hearing our brother’s confession, if we refuse to give ear to our brother on lesser subjects…Christians have forgotten that the ministry of listening has been committed to them by him who is himself the great listener and whose work they should share. We should listen with the ears of God that we may speak the Word of God.”
Postmodernism is not an easily contained idea, and there is no sufficient single definition for it (postmodernists would approve of that). But we have to start somewhere. I’ll do my best to describe a postmodern worldview in the next two paragraphs. And just a heads up, our culture is saturated by what I’m about to describe – even in the Bible belt.
Postmodernism’s central belief is that there is no absolute truth – that is, there are no everlasting, abiding facts that are true for all people at all times. A postmodernist doesn’t care about what is actually true, because there is no truth to be discovered; there is only “truth” to be created. Life is more about what you think it means than what it actually means. It’s all about an individual’s interpretation of an object, event, or text. An object, event, or text (or whatever) carries no significance except what a person gives it by interpretation. It doesn’t matter what life means, it’s more about what the individual thinks it means. It doesn’t matter what a text says, it’s more about what the individual thinks it says. There is no independent, trustworthy and truthful meaning to anything - the meaning is relative to whoever is doing the interpreting or experiencing. There is no universal truth; each individual makes up their own “truth” and constructs their own reality. Everything is relative. What your own personal “truth” is depends on what your circumstances are and what you decide upon. (If this sounds similar to the existentialism of the 60s, you’re right on. There is nothing new under the sun, only endless re-packagings.)
In this line of thinking, even morality is considered to be relative – a cultural development that is different for everyone, having evolved over time. A postmodern view of morality is that there is no such thing as universal, absolute right and wrong – just things that are considered to be right and wrong by our evolved moral conscience. Therefore, each individual culture (and even each individual person) constructs their own morality according to their preferences. What is right and wrong simply depends on what you want. It’s all relative, and it’s all about the individual (…To say that I’m opposed to this worldview is like saying Michael Jordan has held a basketball once before).
Therefore to a postmodernist, for anyone to claim that there is such a thing as absolute right and wrong is viewed as trying to govern someone else’s life. Trying to stop diversity. Trying to elevate your worldview over everyone else’s. Trying to make everyone like you, and hating anyone who isn’t. Saying your way is better.
That is why postmodernism (and a postmodern worldview is the default worldview, I assure you) hates Christianity. Christianity claims that there is absolute truth – established by God himself. There is absolute right and wrong, written on the hearts of all people and evidenced in their general behavior (Romans 2:15). Jesus did not say that he is a truth; he said that he is the truth (John 14:6). Claims to supremacy like the ones Jesus made drive a postmodernist insane. They cannot fathom that there is a Name above all other names. You see, with the postmodern relativist movement, tolerance has moved from believing that all people are created equal to believing that all ideas are created equal. Thinking your ideas, religious beliefs, sexual preferences, etc. are correct and others’ are not is considered bigotry. As postmodernists would have it, it is necessary not only to believe that all people are created equal, but you must also believe others’ ideas to be equal to your own (never mind that they are often mutually exclusive). To say that you have correct knowledge is to, in effect, say that people who disagree with you do not, which is unallowable in this way of thinking. Claiming that the Bible contains absolute truth and authority over all people is unthinkable. In a postmodern worldview, tolerance/diversity is God. In a Christian worldview, God is God.
All that being said, let’s be clear. Tolerance and diversity are blessings directly from God. They should be celebrated! The fact that we are different from one another in skin color, language, and many other ways displays the creativity of God. While the paragraphs above are pretty severe toward postmodern thinking, they are meant only to equip Western-hemisphere Christians to spot the slippery subject that they are swimming in daily (postmodernism, of course). None of this knowledge should spark arrogance. God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6). Christians are directed to love non-Christians just as God himself does – with equal intensity for all.
So why go on offense against postmodernism in the first place? Ah, here’s that distinction again – there is a difference between people and ideas. I don’t love postmodernISM, in fact I hate it. I think that it is deceitful and a humanistic, arrogant ideal. But postmodernISTS, on the other hand, I do love because they are people who are loved by God. An ‘ism’ is an idea which one can either ally himself with or set himself against; an ‘ist’ is a person, a priceless creation of God for whom he sent his Son to die (John 3:16).
The fact remains: it is of the utmost importance that the church set itself against empty ideas/false teachings (2 Peter 2:1). But never should it ever set itself against people. The church is not anti-gay, anti-postmodernist, anti-alcoholic, anti-drug addict, or anything of the sort. The church of Jesus Christ is not anti-anybody. It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick, after all (Matthew 9:12).
If you are a Christian, love people who have a different worldview than you, even as you seek to portray that Christ is the absolute truth of the universe. Oppose ideas without opposing people. Speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). Disagree without being disagreeable, and hold to building on a firm foundation (Matthew 7:25). If you are a postmodernist (and maybe you didn’t realize you were), then without the slightest hint of condescension I tell you that I hope you see the emptiness and self-centeredness of trying to create or interpret your own personal reality. Deep down, there is a longing for truth – real, concrete truth. The good news is that it exists in a person – King Jesus, who loves you and is patient with both you and I. And when we know him, we will know the truth…
…and the truth shall set us free (John 8:32).
Sometimes you just know God is talking right to ya. Here’s an excerpt from Chuck Swindoll’s famous title, “The Grace Awakening“:
This chapter is dedicated to all who are in ministry…I want to ask crucial questions. Is what you’re doing the work of your own flesh energized by your own strength? Are you relying on your charisma to pull it off? Do you often have a hidden agenda? How about your motive? Is the enhancement of your image of major importance to you, or can you honestly say that your work is directed and empowered by the Spirit of God? Is yours a grace-awakening ministry?…
‘This is the word of the Lord saying, “Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,” says the Lord of hosts.’ (Zechariah 4:6)
“Might” and “power” intrigue me. They are words that describe human effort, another way of saying the energy of the flesh. They ring a familiar bell in the minds of all ministers, for every one of us has been guilty of doing the work of God in the energy of the flesh. Yet human wisdom and fleshly energy alone will fail. God’s best work is not going to be done by human might or by fleshly power…The work of the flesh will amount to zilch in light of eternity. The glory will belong to the person who made it happen, and the rewards stop there too…
A ministry built by the energy of the flesh looks just like a ministry built by the energy of the Spirit. Externally, I warn you, it looks the same. But internally, spiritually, down deep in the level of motive, you know in your heart God didn’t do it; you did it!
Let me put it to you straight. Restrain yourself from might and power if you are a minister. Deliberately give the Spirit time and room. Consciously hold yourself back from clever ingenuity and reliance on your own charisma. If you don’t, you will live to regret it…
My warning stands: Anything that does not result in God’s getting the glory ought to be enough to restrain our own might and power so his Spirit can do the job…
What a great word from a great man. Useful council for a person convinced that success in ministry is reached by any other means than the outpouring of God’s grace.
Not sure if you’ve heard or not, but over the last few months and years the word “Calvinism” has been thrown around like dinner rolls in a food fight. There has been an absolute firestorm over the name “John Calvin”, and not all of it helpful, to say the least. Unfortunately most of the people doing the loudest talking don’t have a clue who John Calvin really was, what his contributions really were, or what he really believed because…oh yeah, they’ve never read a single word that the man actually wrote. I’ve seriously never heard (or, regrettably, been a part) of such pointless bickering. People claim Calvinism (or a differing theological school of thought, like Arminianism) and then go to arguing like grade school children in a playground taunt.
Typically people who hold these views hold them very fiercely. “Young, restless, and Reformed” has become something of a uniting banner among young Christians who identify with Calvinist theology (Reformed or Reformation theology is just a general synonym for Calvinist theology these days). And of course, the pastor everyone knows – John Piper – was famously Calvinist when Calvinism wasn’t cool.
With all this chatter, a little clarity will go a long way. I’m no expert, believe me, but I’d like to offer a starting point for Christians to understand a little more about John Calvin and what he taught. If there were a more widespread, accurate knowledge of the man and his bible exposition (teaching), I think there would be less unfruitful division and more biblical unity in the body of Christ. No, I know that.
So let’s jump right into it.
First things first. You’ve probably have heard of “five-point Calvinism”, and the elephant in the room is a little acronym called T.U.L.I.P. It stands for: total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace, and perseverance of the saints. If you hear people arguing about Calvinism, they are probably up in arms over these points (or the topic of predestination, which is quite interwoven). But here’s a fun fact - John Calvin never came up with the acronym TULIP. He never preached “five points.” Ever. If you had come across John Calvin in the streets of Geneva one afternoon and walked up and said, “Mr. Calvin, what do I need to know about God?”, he would not have said, “Here are five points.” He did, of course, believe that the concepts that the acronym TULIP seeks to portray are true when rightly understood. But those ideas were not so organized and made into an acronym until after his death. That is an important distinction. (Side note: there are monumental debates and misunderstandings among Christians about each of the five points, what they mean, and whether they are biblical theological concepts or not. For the sake of brevity, I’ll leave these alone for now. Maybe the future holds a five-part blog series, you never know. For now, just know that the acronym exists, and that you should be very picky about who you let explain these things to you.)
Regardless, here is a hugely important fact – Read the rest of this entry »