Drawn and Quartered Again [Surprised by Joe]

I’m growing more fond of the characterization of the Christian life as akin to being drawn and quartered. Previously, I’ve talked about this in terms of theology (the sovereignty of God vs. the responsibility of man). However, the metaphor has applicability beyond simply Christian beliefs.

For example, recently a friend of mine wrote a well-crafted call for the church to be the church for Christians who struggle with same-sex desire. In it, he wrote poignantly of the loneliness that accompanies the life of faithful Christian celibacy in the face of same sex attraction, as well as the need for communities of supportive Christians who can walk with someone in the fight of faith. In reading it, I was awakened afresh to the desire to be a part of a church where sinners are welcome.

But the need for the church to embrace Christians who struggle against same sex desire is not the only need. There is also the need for faithful witness to the sinfulness of homosexual behavior in the face of rising politically correct sentiment. In some countries, it is illegal to preach on the sin of homosexuality. Therefore, the church must be winsome and bold as we continue to plead with sinners to flee from the wrath to come.

So then, we’re pulled in two directions. We must love those who are struggling while simultaneously resisting calls to approve homosexual behavior. In other words, we must be drawn and quartered.

For an excellent example of the kind of thing I’m talking about, read this interview of David Powlison. He describes perfectly the balance of seeking to live at both extremes.

Thank You Jen [Surprised by Joe]

One of my consistent drumbeats on this blog (and I hope I can keep up the rhythm) is to call myself and others to the biblical exhortation to “give thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20). What this means (among other things) is that we should constantly be searching our lives for things to be thankful for. Thankfully (!), I have a big one for today.

When my wife and I were first married in the fall of 2005, she and I immediately made the long trek north from Texas to Minneapolis. My ever-gracious wife was willing to put up with a honeymoon “on the road” in Texarkana and Graceland (don’t worry; we did spend a few days in Chicago on the Magnificent Mile and went to a Broadway show). Nevertheless, she left home and family in order to come north with me to make a new home and family. And though the past three years have been better than wonderful, there was something missing.

You see, we moved to Minneapolis so that I could go to school at The Bethlehem Institute. Consequently, my wife graciously agreed to work in order to help pay the bills. Her first job here was at a small company. As the new employee, she was given all the jobs that no one else wanted, which basically meant that she was charged with organizing an unheated shed in Minnesota in November and taking the trash through the snow to the dumpster across the parking lot. It was a terrible job. And yet she did it.

Eventually, we decided that it would be better for her not to work than to endure that. So she came home for a season, which meant she was all alone in a poorly-lighted basement apartment in Minnesota in the winter (you know, when the sun is out for, like, 4 hours per day). Needless to say, this was not an ideal situation.

But God soon provided a much better living situation (still underground, but with wonderful windows and fine landlords). What’s more, he provided her with a new job at Desiring God. And for the past 2 and a half years, she’s faithfully worked in a variety of capacities at Desiring God.

She’s been the administrative assistant for almost all of the directors at DG at one time or another. She worked for Bill Walsh when the International Outreach department launched. For a while, she split time between three bosses, diligently seeking to serve them however she could. She then transitioned to the Events department, where she served through multiple conferences, manning the info desk, coordinating volunteers, and serving conference-goers in countless ways.

From what her co-workers say, she’s excelled in her various positions, showing herself to be a competent and capable assistant. What’s more, as those who know her can attest, my wife has the amazing ability to brighten a room with her sheer presence and personality. Her sense of humor is hilarious and her laughter and joy are infectious. I’m tempted to think that the only reason I have friends up here is because everyone likes to be around her so much that they’re willing to put up with me.

So what was missing? Through all of this service she was not doing what she felt she was called to do deep in her heart. My wife loves the home and feels called to it. Vocational ministry and service is wonderful, but her heart has always called her homeward.

Make no mistake; even in the midst of her 9 to 5 job, she still found time to feed me, transform my wardrobe (she almost completely de-plaidified me, though there are still some stubborn hold-outs), and made our humble abode a welcoming and delightful place to be.

But because of her day job, she was unable to devote her full attention to the home. Like many working women, she was torn between work and home. All so I could study and prepare for the ministry. Her service outside of the home was not just a service to DG; it was fundamentally a service to me and to God.

So this is why I’m grateful: because finally, at long last, it is my great pleasure for her to officially “retire” and devote herself fully to our home and family. Today is my wife’s last day of work at Desiring God.

And so, I want to publicly say thank you to God for giving me such a wife. I don’t deserve her and never have. And yet here she is, serving, loving, honoring, and supporting me every day. Remarkable.

And Jenny, thank you for your glad willingness to serve me in this way for the past three years. I know you sacrificed so that I could chase the call of God on my life. I’m thrilled that you will now be able to chase your call. I’m thrilled that you can now use all your creativity and gifts to minister and bless me and others out of our home. I’m thrilled that you will be devoting yourself to raising our son. As Mike Tong said, Lord willing, you now know God’s call on your life for the next 20 years: Raise up a son to hope in God (and aid the Lord in the difficult task of sanctifying your husband).

So Jenny, for all this and more, thank you.

Ambushing Satan with Song [Surprised by Joe]

Over at Jen’s blog, she just posted on one of the oft-used weapons in the Rigney family spiritual arsenal: song.

Such a view of the role of singing is eminently biblical.

And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5:18-21)

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. (Colossians 3:15-16)

Common elements in both verses: singing in your heart, with other people, with thankfulness.

Back in 1985, a much younger-sounding Pastor John preached a sermon from 2 Chronicles 20 entitled “Ambushing Satan with Song.” In the story, Judah’s armies are preparing to go to war with the Moabites and Ammonites. Before going out, the people worship God in prayer and singing. Then, when they go to battle, the choir is the tip of the spear, leading the people to victory over their enemies.

From this story I would draw out the following exhortation: Spiritual worship and spiritual warfare should be carried out with singing. In verse 19 when all the people fell down to worship, the choir stood up to sing. And in verse 21 when the people went out to meet the enemy, the choir went before them with songs of victory.

And even more than that, I think that the writer wants us to learn from verse 22 that the enemies of God are thrown into confusion by the songs of God’s people. Or to put it another way, God has appointed the use of spiritual songs as an effective weapon against his archenemy Satan.

Take a look at the sermon, then head over to Jen’s blog and let her know what songs you use to fight the good fight.

Seeing the Boy [Surprised by Joe]

Jen and I had an ultrasound appointment this week. The boy is growing nicely, and, as this is the one time in his life when he can kick and punch his mother with impunity, he is taking full advantage.

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We did have a little scare on the ultrasound: a calcium buildup on his heart. But the testing of our faith produces perseverance, and God was gracious to us in multiple ways, not least of them the prayers of many. And, as best as the doctors can ascertain, everything is fine with the boy. Getting bigger and cuter every day.

You can read the details of the week over at my wife’s blog.

Like Being Drawn and Quartered [Surprised by Joe]

The history of Christianity is full of controversy. Athanasius vs. the Arians. Chalcedon vs. the Monophysites and Nestorians. Augustine vs. Pelagius. Luther vs. Erasmus. Calvinists vs. Arminians.

Most of these controversies deal with the tension between seemingly contradictory doctrines. Is God one or three? Is Christ God or man? Is God sovereign or is man responsible? Is the will enslaved or free?

Likewise, the Christian life is filled with these paradoxes. Does God choose us or do we choose him? Does God preserve us or must we persevere? Can we fall away or are we eternally secure? Do I just need to trust God or must I obey him also?

When dealing with such controversies, most people try to place their position in the middle. “You have this bad extreme on the one hand, and you have that bad extreme on the other. Then you have my position, perfectly in between, properly balanced, just like Paul.”

In itself, I think this is the right approach. But there are two ways to wind up in the middle. One is through compromise, smoothing out the rough edges until both sides have a group hug in the middle. Such an approach is attractive to a certain type of person.

I myself view the practice of staying in the middle a bit differently. To me, the Christian life is more like being drawn and quartered. Rather than camping out in the mushy middle in a kind of lowest-common-denominator approach, I prefer to run to both extremes at once. I take the rope of God’s absolute sovereignty and hold it in one hand. I take the rope of man’s complete responsibility and hold it in the other. Then I say “Giddy-up!”

I tie the rope of God’s one-ness around the left leg and the rope of God’s three-ness around the right leg. I hitch God’s preserving grace to one side and my need to persevere to the other. Christ’s humanity pulls in one direction while his deity pulls in the other.

The goal is simple: Don’t let go of either rope. If I do, I wind up as a hyper-Calvinist or an Arminian, a legalist or an antinomian, a Muslim or a polytheist.

The stretching is painful, and sometimes I wonder if I can hold it together. But fidelity to God and His Word means that letting go is not an option. After all, He’s not letting go of me.

A Note on Commenting [Surprised by Joe]

It has come to my attention (through my very trustworthy spies) that certain readers of this blog are, shall we say, somewhat reluctant to comment on any post for fear of sounding silly in front of the other readers. I happen to know that the persons in question are incredibly thoughtful and perceptive, and would put the commenters at other blogs to shame.

In a sense, I understand the fear of commenting (no one likes to misspell the word “teh” over and over). And a certain amount of reticence to speak is certainly praised in the Bible: “Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding. Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent” (Proverbs 17:27-28).

That said, I hope that fear is not keeping any of the highly intelligent readers of this blog from commenting. If you have a thought or opinion about a certain matter, throw it out there. If you think I’m full of silly string in what I post, I’d very much like to hear about it (I hear they have medical procedures to deal with that sort of thing nowadays). If I’m unclear or fuzzy in something I write, I’d really like to hear about it. And, of course, always remember that there are no stupid questions, only stupid people (just kidding; see, you were planning to comment and I had to go and say something like that!).

In all seriousness, I am personally acquainted with most of the you who pass through these parts. I like you. Heck, I’m flattered that you keep coming back. So if you’re one of the ones who’s been lurking around, pick a post and dive in. You (and I!) will be glad you did.

“Tomorrow, Tomorrow”: A New New Deal For Valentine’s Day [Surprised by Joe]

So Jen and I went to see theĀ  Annie: The Broadway Musical last night. Having never seen theĀ  movie, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Of course, it was Kid’s Night at the Orpheum, and the little boy sitting next to us was almost as entertaining as the show itself.

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The actress playing Annie did a great job and the show had some fun little laughs. But perhaps the funniest part of the show was when Annie goes to the White House with her soon-to-be adoptive father, financial heavyweight Oliver Warbucks, and inspires FDR to conceive of the New Deal. Everyone in the Oval Office is all doom and gloom until Annie comes in, sings “Tomorrow” on Roosevelt’s desk, and awakens the innovative juices of the President’s Men.

FDR’s Brain Trust decides to create a bunch of government jobs filling potholes and building dams in order to get people off of welfare and back to work, so that they can “start paying taxes again” (an actual line in the play). Why it’s a good idea to have the government pay people so that people can turn around and pay the government right back is never addressed, nor do they say where the money will come from in the first place. But boy, was the little red-head cute!

In any event, Annie saves the day, is adopted by Daddy Warbucks, the titan of big business, who then joins forces with FDR’s big government to sing the show’s finale, “A New Deal For Christmas,” complete with a list of government programs that will “fill every stocking with laughter,” just as soon as the government waves the printing wand and the magic money appears. I think it would make a great Obama campaign ad.

I kid you not. I mean the show has Republican business leaders getting in bed with a Democratic government in the middle of an economic crisis in the vain hope that massive borrowing and spending will deliver the Hooverville-ites (actual characters in the play) from their slum under the bridge. Reads just like today’s newspaper.

All in all it was a great night with my wonderful wife, and just goes to prove a point that I make every chance I get: you can’t make lousy economics better simply by getting a cute kid to sing about it.

Welcome Twenty-Two Wordies! [Surprised by Joe]

Welcome, Twenty-Two Wordies! Though I do not always have Abraham’s gift of brevity, I hope you’ll have a look around.

Many of you are that special breed of blog-readers known as “commenters.” Feel free to exercise your unique and very prized gifts wherever you see fit.

You can find an explanation of “Remanations” in the top right corner, a list of categories on the right side of the blog, and top (recent) posts on the left. If you like what you see, you can read by RSS or email.

Thanks for visiting.

What Might Have Been… [Surprised by Joe]

(Shout out to Roger Scharf)

I noted yesterday that Jenny and I were surprised when we discovered that we were having a boy. For a variety of reasons, we had been expecting to have a girl. In fact, we had already settled on a girl’s name, one that we both loved. (We haven’t settled on the boy’s name yet, and when we do, we’re planning to keep it as a secret until our son is born).

Some of you have been asking what our choice for a girl’s name was, so I thought I’d give you the opportunity to guess. It’s a rare biblical name that also carries contemporary relevance.

It can be found in Genesis 36. First one to guess it in the comments gets a gold star.

UPDATE: And the gold star goes to…

TJ!!

Oh, and we weren’t really going to name our daughter that. Are you crazy?

We’re Having A Little Riglet [Surprised by Joe]

As I’m sure most readers of this blog are aware, my wife and I discovered this morning that we will be having a baby boy. Both of us were fairly surprised at this, as those around us had repeatedly insisted that we were having a girl. I, being the trusting type and neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet, had begun to believe such prognostications. That’ll teach me. You can read my wife’s summary of the trip (with pictures) over at her blog.

In any event, our doctor’s appointment went very well and we are happy to report that our baby has all body parts present and accounted for (as far as they are able to tell at this stage) and therefore, we want to offer up a mighty round of thanksgiving to the Creator and Sustainer of life. We have no claim on our son’s life and we are happy to entrust him to the everlasting arms of our Heavenly Father.

In other news, the DG Pastor’s Conference ended this week. I thought it was fantastic. I particularly enjoyed Chandler’s talk and Dever’s third talk. I love hearing stories of gospel triumph. The conference did leave some questions unanswered for me so I hope to wrestle with some of those in the coming days.

Again, thank all of you who have been praying for our little Riglet (Pastor John coined that one). We ask that you continue to pray so that God’s answer to the prayers of many may result in praise and honor to him in the coming weeks and months.

Movie Recommendation: Defiance [Surprised by Joe]

Today Jenny and I went to see the movie “Defiance”, starring Daniel Craig and Liev Schreiber. It is the story of Russian Jews who escape to the woods during the Nazi invasion of Belorussia. While many of their friends and families are murdered by the Nazis, the survivors seek to rebuild their lives under the protection of three brothers. The acting was very good and the battle scenes were great (there’s even some romance for all the ladies in the house).

Both Jenny and I really enjoyed it.

The trailer can be found here.