Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Call That Never Comes

Today is a day like no other. Correction, today is a day that is unique unto itself compared with the previous 364 days in the year, but last year on this day, it was relatively the same as it has become this year. Today, October 31st, is a day marked by significance. Today is Reformation day, true. Today is Halloween, also true. Today also marks the day that caused a minor reformation (at least in my own household) when at 8:45am on the maternity ward of Memorial Medical Center in Springfield, IL I came bursting forth into glorious day to let the world know that I have finally arrived. That was twenty-eight years ago today. Sixty-six years ago today an event of similar proportions occurred in a small town in Missouri when Kenneth Leroy Armstrong was born. I am Kenneth C, my father is Kenneth L and therein lies the problem.

It was always a special occasion in my young life knowing that there was one thing in this world that I shared with my father alone and no one else. Others could have the same hair or eye color, his physical build, and his sense of humor (dry wit as it may be – OK, I got that one too). Others could share in his activities, his hobbies and interests, his business, his time, his affections, and even his home, but no one else could share his birthday. That is where I became uniquely special all to myself. This was not uniqueness in the sense of selfishness, but simply a uniqueness that allowed him and me to have something that no else could completely understand.

My family has an odd unspoken tradition that has been around for as long as I can remember. Every year each member of the family will call the birthday celebrant and sing – yes sing – “Happy Birthday” to them. Even if we get an answering machine, we still sing and make merry for the other. My wife thinks this rather peculiar; I am actually quite fond of the custom. And so, each year would pass with the multiple phone calls and multiple birthday celebrations being sung to my tune. However, there was always one call that was different and somehow a little more special than all the rest. Not that the others were not unique and valuable, but this one call was set apart because not only was I sung to, I also had the opportunity to sing. My father would call (or I him – whoever won the race) and the originator would sing first followed by the recipient. He was the only one in the world that would sing to me and then I him for the very same reason – we simply shared the same birthday.

I received my last birthday call from him on my eighteenth birthday, October 31st, 1997. He died eighteen days later at the age of fifty-six. It was not until I celebrated my birthday in 1998 that I really realized how special this call was, for it was this year that the call did not come. And since that time my birthday has never been the same. I cannot think about it without thinking about him. I cannot remember birthdays past without replaying the various phone calls and the dual singing. And now I think of the call that never comes. My mother will call, my sister, my brother, all singing “Happy Birthday” in the best off-key that they can (since no one in the world really sings the tune correctly). Other friends will call with well wishes and I appreciate each greatly. But I desire earnestly the call that never comes. To have him know my wonderful wife and the joy that she brings me. To have him know his future grandchildren should the Lord choose to bring such blessings into our lives. To have him sing to me. This day is like the days that have passed over the last ten years. I continue to wait for the call that never comes.

However, (and this is good news!) there is a call that has come and will continue to come for all time. This was the call of Christ bidding me come to Him for salvation. It was the call of the One who gives the dead life. Not to the dying, but the dead. He sent forth His word to break down the door of my heart and He called me to His side for all eternity. I wait for a call that will never come, but I wait with hope because of a call that has come - and will one day come again, knowing that “the LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing” (Zeph 3:17). And that is all the “Happy Birthday” singing I need.

Read Complete Article...

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Steve Lawson on the Church's Vison of God

"Never has the need been greater for the truths of sovereign grace to be firmly established in the church. Her thinking about God desperately needs to be flowing in the right direction. As the church thinks, so she worships; and as the church worships, so she lives, serves, and evangelizes. The church's right view of God and the outworking of His grace gives shape to everything that is vital and important. The church must recapture her lofty vision of God and thereby, be anchored to the solid rock of His absolute supremacy in all things. Only then will the church have a God-centered orientation in all matters of ministry. This, I believe, is the desperate need of the hour."

--Steve Lawson, Foundations of Grace: A Long Line of Godly Men, Volume 1, (Lake Mary, FL: Reformation Trust Publishers, 2006), p. 23.

Amen and Amen.

Read Complete Article...

Monday, October 29, 2007

The Gospel According to Paul Washer

This is Paul Washer who is the founder of HeartCry Missionary Society. Until last week I was not acquainted with this fervent preacher of the true gospel of Jesus Christ. As the weeks press on and if the Lord should choose to tarry, I hope for this to change.

HT: Puritan Fellowship located in Manchester, England which has several other Paul Washer videos and sermon links.

Read Complete Article...

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Day She Said "Yes"

We met for the first time a few years ago. I only noticed her from afar and never thought that I would quite get near. I had a friend who knew her well and detailed many of the desirable qualities that she possessed, but still, I did not know her myself. And so, thus remained the state of our relationship and continued as such for a lengthy period of time. During this time, I would check in on her progress, the comings and goings, just so that I could somehow be involved with the details of her world. Alas, I could only observe from the edge. I could only peer in through the gate or over the fence into a world in which I knew nothing about. A world that I desired to be apart of, but was prohibited access. In fact, access is only permitted to a privileged few and the rest, like me, could only ponder the mystery of the undiscovered.

As time wore on, eventually I had my first official encounter with her. We met, we spoke, we even exchanged our information. I already had her essentials, but now she had mine!! My hope was elevated, my expectation awakened, and my heart imagined the possibilities of our future together. Not just my future or her future – our future. This was exciting, but my excitement quickly diminished as my phone did not ring, my mailbox did not ding, and I assuredly had not been crowned king. I contemplated the possibility of pursuing another but the muse did not amuse and I found myself wanting the original all the more. Thus, I lingered at her door for what seemed to be eons until I finally decided to make contact. This would be my chance. My one opportunity to make the best impression I could, for in this business, the impression really does matter.

Before I could take my plunge of contact, I decided that I would choreograph this waltz in order to dance in concert with her rhythm. Timing being essential, I delayed as long as I was able. This may not seem to be the most orthodox of all tactics, but since this was my one shot, I decided I better make it count. I rehearsed. I wrote letters and I wrote more letters. I even had friends write letters and detail all of the best facets of this diamond we call me for it was matter of dire straits that she saw the best side glimmering in all its glory. (And since there is not much glory to glimmer, we had to set the polish just right!) I ordered my affairs, dressed in my best suit (of two) and marched past her gates into the very bowels of her being. I wanted her to know me and I her, so we sat face to face for the first time. Before we were mere amalgams of information; now we were personal, sharing information about ourselves that is reserved for those of the “in” crowd. And since this was a close encounter of the first kind, I pulled out all of the stops. Without further delay, I popped the question. "So soon?" you ask. Maybe for some, but not the case with me. All this observing from afar had proved beneficial and my studies had been confirmed. She was the real deal and I could not let this opportunity pass. “What next?” you say. Silence. Deafening Silence. Silence so thick no sound could pierce its being. Silence of the black hole variety. Silence that has a sound all too itself that can not be described because you can not hear it, only feel it.

And more silence.
And more silence.
And more silence. (Do you get that it was silent?)

I did not hear from her.
No phone calls.
No e-mails.
No fax.
No smoke signals.
Silence. Mystifying, doubting, silence.

And then yesterday, twenty-six days after I first dropped the question that would forever change the future course of my life (and possibly our life) the silence broke…. She said “Yes.”

No, I’m not getting married to another woman – my wife and I secured that everlasting knot June 4, 2005. No, I do not have a secret family, nor am I a covert operator for the CIA. The “she” referenced is more like an “it” or a “they” at least. This “She/It/They” is Beeson Divinity School, the graduate seminary of Samford University. I have been extended an invitation to begin graduate studies with her/it/them in the spring following my degree completion in December. It is quite an exciting time around the Armstrong household and we have much to be thankful for by means of God's sovereign grace. He has opened "to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ" (Col 4:3) and this calling includes the educational preparation needed to rightly handle the word of truth (2 Tim 2:15). More updates to come...

In the meanwhile, if you would like to help support Beeson in their vision to see a fully-funded student body, click here.

Read Complete Article...

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Willow Creek Repents

This article Willow Creek Repents is something that we truly do not see often. It is not common that one of the most influential churches in the country (for better or worse – you decide) stands up and says “we made a mistake.” But this is exactly what has happened with Willow Creek Community Church.

From the article:

”We made a mistake. What we should have done when people crossed the line of faith and become Christians, we should have started telling people and teaching people that they have to take responsibility to become ‘self feeders.’ We should have gotten people, taught people, how to read their bible between service, how to do the spiritual practices much more aggressively on their own.”
Wow. This never happens. May Willow Creek be found faithful to the gospel and to the Church's growth, not simply church growth.

HT:Between Two Worlds

Read Complete Article...

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Most Important Thing About You...

In his book,The Knowledge of the Holy (New York: HarperCollins, 1961) AW Tozer asserts that “what comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us” (1). Everything about our worldview flows from who (or what) we think God (god or gods) is (or was – for those who think that he/she/it is dead). I have used this quote in many a writing jaunt over the years because it speaks so much truth. Well, somehow I am still amazed at the ability for others to conjure up the god of their making. Let me suffice it say, the God of the Revelation can beat up the god of your imagination.

The text reads:
Maybe you’re uncomfortable with the idea of God – or at least someone else’s idea of God. Yet maybe you yearn for a loving, spiritual community where you can be inspired and encouraged as you search for your own truth and meaning. This is a church, you ask? Welcome to Unitarian Universalism.

HT:Pyromaniacs which is simply an excellent blog if I've ever seen one!

Read Complete Article...

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Dr. Moore - To the Point

Two articles that I read today are well worth your time. Both are encouraging and honest. Both attempt to address the reality of lives lived out in relationships. Both point us towards the cross of Jesus Christ, where real relationships begin. It was there that Christ made “peace by the blood of His cross” for those “who once were alienated, hostile in mind and doing evil deeds, He has now reconciled in is body of flesh by His death in order to present [us] holy and blameless and above reproach before Him.” (Col 1:20-21). One is written by a great theologian to whom the church stands in great debt. The other is written about him.

The first is an article titled Commentaries and Character written by Dr. Russ Moore, Dean of the School of Theology and Senior Vice President for Academic Administration at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary addressing the exemplary character of William Lane. Lane has written extensively and not the least of which is his two volume commentary on Hebrews from the Word Biblical Commentary Series published by Nelson. Dr. Moore references the work for its scholarly form and repute but of Lane he says "Still, it is a rare providence to read a commentary by a man his own disciples still revere, because he washed their feet, gave his time and energy away to them, and pointed them to Christ." Dr. Moore continues on to speak well of his Southern colleague and next-door-neighbor, Dr. Thomas Schreiner, who in Moore’s words, "His peace, joy, love, kindness, gentleness, and self-control might not cause him to conjugate Greek verbs any quicker. But these virtues point to a reflection on the Scripture that will lead to a body of work that is more than wood, hay, and stubble. They also remind me, as I read, that I believe in more than just total depravity. I believe in the Holy Spirit."

The first article is written by Dr. Moore. The second article is written about him. Written by Robert E. Sagers, who serves as special assistant to Dr. Russell D. Moore, Happy Birthday, RDM is a tribute from a Timothy to a Paul for the latter’s investment in the former. Sagers has had the privilege of developing a relationship with Dr. Moore over the last three years as they have lived life together. From Sagers’ ode:

"But in all these times the power and conviction with which he preaches the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ never ceases to amaze me. Perhaps when you are as immersed and saturated in the revelation of God recorded for us in Scripture as Dr. Moore is, the Holy Spirit of Christ cannot but be present and active in such proclamation."

"I have felt the pressure of sensing Dr. Moore's presence in the back of the room as I preach, even when he thinks he has hidden his face so well, because he cannot help but look up and smile. I have been on the receiving end of a stinging rebuke when Dr. Moore thought I was being foolish, and I have been on the receiving end of warm encouragement when he thought that I was feeling defeated…In other words, Dr. Moore has chosen to live life with me, a living of life that sometimes works itself out in 4 a.m. trips to the seminary…"
And my personal favorite of all, Sagers concludes,
"In all these things, Dr. Moore has shown me Jesus. His leadership is exemplified in his daily taking up of the basin and the towel. In fact, if I could characterize Dr. Moore's life and ministry in only two sentences, I would again borrow from Paul: "Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me" (Col 1:28-29).""
First read the article by Dr. Moore which will then help you appreciate the article about Dr. Moore.

I am thankful for Dr. Moore, his work at Southern Seminary, and the men like him around the world who are committed to adopting a “true child in the faith” (1 Tim 1:2; cf. 2 Tim 1:2; Tit 1:4). Happy birthday, Dr. Moore.

Read Complete Article...

Monday, October 08, 2007

Athanasius on Looking Past Life

“Christ alone, using common speech and through the agency of men not clever with their tongues, has convinced whole assemblies of people all the world over to despise death, and to take heed to the things that do not die, to look past the things of time and gaze on things eternal, to think nothing of earthly glory and to aspire to immortality.”

--Athanasius, On the Incarnation, translated and edited by A Religious of C.S.M.V. (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1996), p. 85. (Probably first written around 318ad.)

Read Complete Article...

Bookstore Manager Gives His Life for The Gospel

A fellow brother in the Lord, Rami Ayyad, gave his life on account of the gospel this weekend. This twenty-six year old manager of the only Christian book store in Gaza, The Teacher’s Bookshop, was found dead Sunday, October 7th.

From the Christianity Today article:

"At 6:25 a.m. Sunday October 7, Ayyad's body was found near the bookshop. "Signs of bullets and knife stabs could be clearly seen on his body," the Bible Society release said. Unconfirmed reports added that his head had been severely injured.

Ayyad leaves behind two young children and his pregnant wife, Pauline. Ayyad helped lead Gaza Baptist Church's Awana club and directed the church's summer children's camp."
AsiaNews reports that "He went missing Saturday October 6th in the afternoon and his body was found yesterday in a city street, tortured and with two bullet wounds to the head. Authorities from Shifa hospital confirmed that his body carried diverse knife wounds."

I also found this quote from a non-Protestant encouraging:
"David Maria Jaeger, an Israel Franciscan in the Holy Land said: 'Ayyad was an intrepid Christian, a glory for the entire community of believers in Christ who live in His homeland. The fact that he belonged to the Protestant community underlines that what unites us outstrips what divides us. And its not the first time in the Region that the protestant evangelicals enlighten us and teach us to have faith in Christ, free from conditioning, free from fear and a presumptuous “prudence”, which all too often burden so many of us Christians'."
I am a BookStore manager in Birmingham, AL and I doubt seriously that I will ever be threatened with my life because of the work that I do. There is another world out there that we – I - do not see.

Read Complete Article...

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Life of David Brainerd - FREE Audio Book

Free Audiobook of the Month America's greatest Theologian, Jonathan Edwards, had a heart for missions. And Edwards deeply respected David Brainerd, who gave his life for missions to Native Americans. The Life of David Brainerd is an inspiring tale of one of the most notable missionaries in American history.

Use the coupon code OCT2007 to receive the Download Format of The Life of David Brainerd for free in the month of October.

Our Price: $0.00
List Price: $25.98

Click the picture or click here

Read Complete Article...