Hello Again


This blog has been silent for a year and a half. A lot has gone on in my life that pulled me away from posting here (both in time to produce content and motivation) and a lot has changed. 

For one thing, last December I accidentally colored by hair bright neon orange. It pretty much glowed in the dark, y’all. I had made a slight miscalculation with the blonde to red ratio for my strawberry blonde. After many tears and panicked moments of “WHAT DID I DO TO MY HAIR??!” and the loving support of my family and church family, I became reconciled to the color. So many people loved it–with even strangers remarking on how much it “suited” me–and within a month I loved it too. 

So I kept it. With each fresh color the bright orange softened to a true red. I have embraced the red-headed persona albeit with the ironic acknowledgement that it was a blonde mistake that landed me a redhead. 

In March, my family and I took an 11 day cruise to Panama, and in June, I traveled to London and Scotland as a nanny then drove a car-full of friends a week later to the Building Tomorrow’s Church (BTC) Conference in Flagstaff, Arizona. In July, I began cosmetology school at Legacy Beauty Academy in Tomball, TX. I am now a full-time student. (If you’re in the area, stop by and ask for Emily!) In August, I had my hair cut short for the first time and began teaching music theory again with a co-op in Spring on one day a week.

I have read painfully little in the last year and a half. This is not only because my schedule is busier but also, I must admit with some chagrin, because I lack the focus. It’s much harder for me to get into books now. I procrastinate starting and often take months to finish, losing my interest in the story along the way. And then, when I do finally finish, I struggle to bring my thoughts on the book to a level of coherence fit for a review. 

This is partly due to that lack of focus I mentioned but it is more because I struggle with finding resolution to my questions on a personal level than I used to. While my doctrinal convictions have grown deeper and more defined, my perception of life has grown more complicated due to the painful and unresolved things I have gone through in this past year+. Things don’t fit into neat boxes anymore. I ask questions far easier than than I give answers. My tastes and perspectives have changed even while my convictions have stayed the same. I now love the vampire stories I used to abhor, I de-stress with Viking Death Metal, and I shoot my whiskey straight. I wrote this post on an impulse tonight and published it just three hours later instead of sitting on it for months of revisions as has been my pattern. Oh yeah, and I’m a redhead now.

I have a low tolerance for stories that have a simplistic, Hallmark-style view of the world. “Christian” films like The Redemption of Henry Myers are no longer merely “annoying” to me but completely and utterly unpalatable. You won’t see any more reviews of films of that kind here because I won’t watch them. I would not even be able to sit through something of that kind anymore. 

I crave hope and redemptive answers in the midst of a real and broken and confusing world. I want a story that is honest and doesn’t make light of the suffering this world has to give and offer me cliche answers devoid of any real healing. Heck, I don’t even like my own upbeat, overly idealistic title-giving essay for this blog anymore. I’ve taken it down in hopes of eventually replacing it.

But I’ve not been completely unproductive on the writing front. I’ve got a new About Me page up. After two years of working on a new stoem, I have a first draft that I’m sending to my beta readers. Through my personal Instagram account I have kept a traveler’s journal for my trips and am now turning them into a series of blog posts to share here. I have also been heavily involved as a beta reader for my friend Abby Jones over at A Gentle and Quiet Spirit and I drafted a 14-page social media marketing plan for the IRBS Seminary fundraising campaign when I was reached out to for feedback by the fundraiser coordinator.

My favorite books right now are: Dracula, The Fiddler’s Gun and The Fiddler’s Green, The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia, Harry Potter, the Wingfeather Sagas, Anne of Green Gables, The Dun Cow, The Rise and Fall of Mt. Majestic, Hamlet, Much Ado About Nothing, and Abby’s WIP books.

My favorite tv shows are: BlueBloods, NCIS, Agent Carter, Sherlock, Band of Brothers, Firefly, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

My favorite films are: LOTR, Saving Mr. Banks, Bridge of Spies, Cinderella (2015), Forrest Gump, Secondhand Lions, Wonder Woman, The Monuments Men, The Village, A Beautiful Mind, The Dark Night trilogy, The Road to El Dorado, The Lion King, the Toy Story trilogy, and Inside Out.

My Favorite Podcasts are: Lore, Myths and Legends, and Mortification of Spin.

If you stopped by, I’d appreciate a comment below. I’d love to hear who all still has an interest in this blog of mine!

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The Soul You Loved

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“I know a man in Hell now.” That’s what the Preacher should have said if he were honest. But no one wanted an honest preacher today. Instead he talked of the good parts of the man’s life, how generous, and kind and caring he was, and what a shame it was he died young–all the things everyone wanted to hear. Old women daubed their eyes and a young lady softly whimpered.

The funeral home was unbearably warm, the small room packed. The preacher loosened his neck tie for the third time and talked of heaven and angels, hoping no one noticed the abrupt transition. He didn’t say the man was there, exactly, but he didn’t say he wasn’t there either. Best to let people think he might be.

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The Guardians of Reputation

This is the fourth post in a five-part series on Aesop’s Fables. You can read this post independently from the others or you can read the introduction here for more background on the history and use of Aesop’s Fables and catch up on the other two fables I examined here and here.

GENIUS, VIRTUE AND REPUTATION

Man-Sitting-Alone-Under-Tree-Painting

Genius, Virtue, and Reputation, three great friends, agreed to travel over the island of Great Britain, to see whatever might be worthy of observation. But as some misfortune, said they, may happen to separate us, let us consider, before we set out, by what means we may find each other again. “Should it be my ill fate,” said Genius, “to be severed from my friends—heaven forbid!—you may find me kneeling in devotion before the tomb of Shakespeare; or rapt in some grove where Milton talked with angels; or musing in the grottos where Pope caught inspiration.” Virtue, with a sigh, acknowledged, that her friends were not very numerous; “but were I to lose you,” she cried, “with whom I at present so happily united, I should choose to take sanctuary in the temples or religion, in the palaces of royalty, or in the stately domes of ministers of state; but as it may be my ill fortune to be there denied admittance, inquire for some cottage where contentment has a bower, and there you will certainly find me.” “Ah, my dear friends,” said Reputation very earnestly, “you, I perceive, when missing may recovered; but take care I entreat you, always to keep sight of me, for if I am once lost, I am never to be retrieved.”

There are few things that can be so irreparably lost as reputation

I have no need to recite to you specific examples of great leaders who have irreparably lost their reputations. Regardless of your social circles, you can supply names just fine on your own. But take note here what the parable quoted above states is the surest–indeed, the only–safeguard against a loss of reputation.

It’s three-fold:

(1) genius which we could also call “wisdom”
(2) virtue
(3) and (implicitly) community

The loss of these three naturally leads to a loss of reputation. Virtue and Wisdom–companions of Reputation–must keep careful watch over him because isolation from them will prove his ruin.

When we understand the true nature of fallen man we will come to understand that isolation is one of the greatest dangers a man can face. Isolation can be physical, authoritative, emotional, theological or spiritual. The dangers of an unaccountable government are ingrained in the minds of my fellow Americans due to our history with fighting against a despotic monarch whose power was unrestrained but do we also see the dangers of theological or spiritual isolation where a man decides for himself–arbitrarily and independent of scripture or any church body or tradition–what is right and wrong, what is sound teaching and what is not?

THE INFALLIBILITY OF THE WORD OF GOD

The Bible describes itself as the very words of God. In 2 Timothy 3:16 the apostle Paul writes that “All Scripture is inspired [or “breathed-out”] by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.”

Keith Mathison writes “…a claim to greater authority than that of Scripture is a claim to greater authority than that of God. Such a claim is nothing short of blasphemy.” (pg. 47) [1]

Man is not free to create his own moral code and do “whatever is right in his own eyes.” He is subject to the transcendent, eternal, law of God–a reflection of God’s unchanging character.

For further reading on the infallibility of Scripture I recommend:
Why We Believe the Bible by John Piper

But if the Word of God is our final authority, our only sure, certain and infallible guide, why do we need anything or anyone else to help us discern truth? If we all just read our Bibles and our Bibles alone, wouldn’t we naturally come to the same conclusions? And yet, as many Bible scholars have pointed out, that already begs the question, “which Bible?” “with or without the apocrypha?”. Many resort to: “Well we should just love Jesus.” –but which “Jesus”? The Mormon “Jesus”? The Jehovah’s Witness “Jesus”? They all read the same Bible as we do yet come to vastly different conclusions about the person and work of Jesus Christ.

Thus, there are necessarily three Divinely instituted guardians of the Truth:

(1) THE CHURCH

“Protestant evangelicals have often made it clear, when discussing the doctrine of sola fide, that justification is by faith alone, but not by a faith that is alone. We are justified by faith alone, but a faith that does not produce spiritual fruit is a dead faith that cannot save. Similarly, our final authority is Scripture alone, but not a Scripture that is alone…Scripture is certainly sufficient, but it is only sufficient for certain things. It cannot read itself. It cannot preach itself. It cannot interpret itself. That is the duty and responsibility of the church.” (Keith Mathison, pg. 43) [1]

“…authority has been given to the church in order that she may preserve the unity of the faith and reject the errors of heretics….Any person who has been a Christian for more than a few days is aware that there are numerous competing interpretations of Scripture. There are disagreements and debates on virtually every major issue. How are these disputes to be resolved? If we adopt the individualistic doctrine of [“no authority but the Bible”], it is not possible to settle any debate because the final authority is each individual. Each individual decides for himself and by himself which arguments are stronger. If the next person judges differently, who determines which of them is correct? …this…has led to endless division in the church.” (Keith Mathison, pg. 50-51) [1]

In our highly individualistic, post-modern times, we are urged to “be Bereans” but what exactly does it mean to “be a Berean”? Yes, “they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (Acts 17:11) but where and how did they examine the Scriptures? Your layman church member did not have private access to the Scriptures. They had to go to the synagogues to read the Old Testament scrolls and this would have been a topic of public and communal discussion. It is for this that they are called, “more noble than those in Thessalonica” who in contrast, rejected the public exposition of the Word of God (Acts 17:2). [3]

1 Timothy 3:15 tells us that the church is “the pillar and ground of the truth,” NOT individuals. Covenanting with a local church body and submitting to its teaching and leadership protects individual believers from the dangers of their own isolated, private interpretation (1 Peter 1:20), supplying the communal companionship of wisdom and virtue.

For further reading I recommend:
Keith Mathison’s essay Sola Scriptura

(2) CHURCH ASSOCIATIONS

But it is not a single, local church, that is entrusted with guarding and interpreting the truth revealed in the Bible. “Just as no man is an island, so also no church is an island.” Dr. Renihan writes in his contributive essay in “Denominations or Associations?” (pg. 94).

“Imagine…a church that has ‘no creed but the Bible,’ where the minister one week is convinced that baptism should be restricted only to professing believers and the next week changes his mind and thinks babies can be baptized too. Can he be held to account? There would seem to be no way of doing this; in practice, whatever he thinks is the truth on any given matter at any given moment–that is the position of his church. This is surely a recipe for chaos in that it places the congregation completely at the mercy of whatever the current opinion of the pastor might be. He has, in theory, unlimited power, and the Bible would seem to mean whatever he decides that it means.” –Carl Truman, pg. 162-163 [2]

Whole churches, as well as individuals, have distorted truth and promoted error throughout two-thousand years of church history.

In Chapter 2 of “Denominations or Associations?”, Mr. Earl Blackburn walks through numerous passages of scripture that demonstrate communication and cooperation between churches, such as when the epistles were being circulated, that presupposed an existing and organized relationship between the autonomous churches–how else could these things be accomplished?

This network of churches is what we Baptists call an association of churches.

The Apostle Paul repeatedly wrote to churches to warn them of false prophets and teachers (many of them “pastors”) or of other groups of believers that were pressuring them to surrender “the faith once for all delivered to the saints” as Jude put it. There are rogue churches just as there are rogue members and just as the church is a gatekeeper trusted to mark heretical and unorthodox individuals, so associations are trusted to mark heretical and unorthodox churches. New Testament churches warned other churches, supported other churches, and held other churches accountable.

For further reading I recommend:
Denominations or Associations?
I have written a summary outline of it here
and a review here

(3) TRADITION AND CONFESSIONALISM

But certainly, an entire group of churches can and have erred, what then is the handrail to grasp hold of to prevent a theological tumble off a cliff? It is at this point we need to step back even further and observe that it is not the association of churches in each respective generation that determines and defines the central teachings of the Word of God but the church throughout all the ages, spanning from now back to its first conception. The means of the church for preserving the truth is confessionalism or the summary teaching of the principle truths of scripture as tested, refined, and prioritized throughout church history.

Jaroslav Pelikan wrote, “Tradition is the living faith of the dead, traditionalism is the dead faith of the living.”

Words are central to the Christian faith. God spoke the world into existence (Gen. 1:3), He spoke to His people through the prophets (Heb. 1:1), He called His Son “the Word made flesh” (Jn. 1:14), and He speaks to us today through the Written Word (Heb. 4:12) and the Written Word confessed and explained through preachers (2 Tim. 3:16, 2 Tim. 4:2, Rom. 10:14, etc. etc.).

Christ founded His Church on a confession (Matt. 16:17-18) and the church has been confessing Christ ever since.

The Words of God, by Divine command and Apostolic example, are to be openly confessed, repeated, summarized, and explained. Paul urged Timothy and Titus to uphold “trustworthy” and “sound doctrine” (Titus 1:9; 2:1) and to refute what was contrary to sound doctrine (1 Tim. 1:3-11). With this as our foundation, we must understand Paul’s qualification for Elders to be “able to teach” (1 Tim. 3:2b) as describing not only skill but content and the stipulation “above reproach” as requiring not only moral excellence but doctrinal excellence. [3]

Because, to return to our fable, there is more than one way a man can forfeit his reputation.

Identifying with historic confessions of the faith is the greatest way we can identify with the church–and thus, with Christ. It is our surest safeguard against heresy and heretics both, for order and precision are the terror of agents of chaos whose chief weapon is to distort, dilute, and deny.

To ask “what have the saints confessed, upheld, and defended for two-thousand years?” is to link arms with Virtue and Wisdom.

May you never be parted from them.


confessingchrist(paper_2)
For further reading I recommend:
The Credal Imperative by Carl R. Trueman

Footnotes:
[1] After Darkness Light, a collection of essays; Sola Scriptura by Keith A. Mathison
[2] The Credal Imperative by Carl R. Trueman
[3] I don’t have a proper citation for this observation, but it and many others in this essay are properly credited to my daddy who has studied, sought council from other pastors, and preached on these topics. In keeping with the spirit of this essay, I have sought out the wisdom and virtue of my pastor (who happens to also be my daddy), have listened eagerly to the men of my church’s association teach on these topics, and pulled down from my daddy’s library shelves the careful words of saints gone before me. Nothing in this essay is “new” though it may be new to you, as it has been to me as well over the last couple years. I hope it to be a fair and accurate summary of the writings of those before me that encourages you to deeper study, utilizing the four means God has given.


Read the rest of the series here:

An Introduction to Aesop’s Fables

The Man and the Lion – Revisionism and Reductionism

The Snail and the Statue – The Injudicious Eye

The Redbreast and the Sparrow – To Imitate the Strains I Love

Gratitude and Ann Voskamp

With the holidays rolling around again, especially Thanksgiving, the topic of gratitude is a hot topic. My Facebook feed is already flooded by posts and book recommendations on gratitude. One book in particular took the market by storm three years ago and its author has continued to hold a steady and devout following ever since. That book is “One Thousand Gifts” by Ann Voskamp. I published a review of it here before my blog went public and I thought it would be an appropriate time to repost it.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0310321913/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0310321913&linkCode=as2&tag=livinheassha-20

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Book Completed on Goodreads: Paradise Lost

My Review from Goodreads:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/048644287X/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=048644287X&linkCode=as2&tag=livinheassha-20&linkId=F5ECKR6C4B7ELYXL

rating: 5 of 5 stars
bookshelves: read
status: Read from June 16 to 19, 2014
format: audiobook

review: There were some “little” changes here and there to the biblical account (such as Adam and Eve being parted at the moment of temptation) that become significant changes because of their implications (now Adam eats the forbidden fruit because he can’t bear to be parted from Eve) but in other details it is precise and insightful (the headship of Adam, substitutionary atonement, the spiritual significance of God’s clothing Adam and Eve, etc and etc).

What makes this an enduring classic and a book deserving to be on every Christians’ shelf is its portrayal of the gospel as a story–as the epic poem that it truly is. It will take your breath away.