Friday, February 17, 2012

online meanderings - bedroom imaginings, helping the grieving, homeschooling and other stuff

My top picks for the week were

An intrusion into the Christian bedroom - "Christian bedrooms, I suspect, are doing less well than we think. Friskiness, when it exists, too often relies on illicit imaginations. Our consciences can be sexually reckless. So we aim for a sanctified sexual imagination." Ed Welch.

When good lives are bad news - "I tell people who are rejecting Jesus as Lord to repent, find joy in Christ and change their ways. I tell people who are rejecting Jesus as Saviour to do --- nothing. Stop. Listen. ‘It is finished.’ There is nothing left to do." Tim Chester.

I was encouraged by

Once more, with any feeling - "It’s clearly not sinful to feel nervous or scared while obeying God; it’s probably not even unusual!" Well that's a relief, the way I've been feeling. Great stuff from Rachel, on her way to Mongolia.

Don't give up - Why am I so tired? "In embracing the gospel we find ourselves...drafted into a war...And wars are exhausting — especially long ones. That’s why you are often tired." Jon Bloom

20 ways Satan may seek to destroy you this week - Straight from the Bible. Here's one that often affects me: "He may try to cripple your effectiveness through confusion, discouragement, and despair" (2 Cor 4:8-9).

Introverted - So you're introverted? So what?! Challies says some good stuf about what to do with personality categories like "introverted".

What to do when someone you know dies - A helpful post on how to respond to someone who's just lost someone. Rebecca.

CS Lewis on the danger of love - "The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell." CS Lewis quoted by Jonathon Parnell.

I enjoyed

Because sin is everywhere - "Sometimes God intervenes in postpartum depression with a miracle, and then other times, you just look at the options, piece together a plan, and muddle through to the other side- simply thankful to have made it there."

"Writers do well to engage one of two things: great content or a willingness to bleed a little bit in public. The best have both; the worst have neither." Amy

The down side of school at home - Good on you, Rachael! A balanced and helpful post on homeschooling. I'm glad I don't have to do it, but I would if our kids needed me to, and I admire those who do.

Interview with Don Carson on the TGC Women's Conference - "I would love to see far more churches utilizing the gifts and training of women, whether in paid staff positions or not — positions that are shaped by complementarian confessionalism and simultaneously encouraging, liberating, gospel-focused. Our churches could do with a lot more women in the heritage of Priscilla, Phoebe, Euodia, and Syntyche." Amen to that!

Fitting in what really matters - A helpful reminder from Jenny about the importance of the God-stuff when filling your child or teen's week.

Valentine the brave - "A godly husband, then is not one who four times a year takes up the aggravating task of trying to be relational, in order to keep his wife from getting grumpy." RC Sproul HT Challies.

Study the word for more than words - Another helpful post in the "How to stay a Christian at seminary" series.

and I was puzzled by

Love: a new commandment - I think Carolyn McCulley is wonderful. But the tendency to listen for God's voice in the silence disturbs me (as does the emphasis on fasting, but that's another issue). Something I've noticed among some Gospel Coalition folk.

Oh, and you've got to check these out.

Two Ways to Live app - I'm getting it for my daughter's iPod!

An update from John Piper (and an offer too good to refuse) - "We are putting all of our books and resources on sale for $5 or less."


Valori said...

Hey Jean! I'm interested in your thoughts that you mentioned about the Love: a new commandment post. :)

Jean said...

Ah, yes, the infamous comment on listening to God...I suspect that this is a difference between Australian reformed evangelicals and some (not all) GC folk. Not something that I can tackle in full on a Saturday morning!

The issue is, I think, not how God can speak, but what we can and should expect from God as he speaks to us. We all agree that the Bible is his authoritative word, the foundation of our faith, and that's how God speaks to us. We all agree that God can speak to us any way he likes: through donkies, Umin and Thumin (sp?), or a word in our minds.

The difference, I think, is how we expect God to speak. I don't think the Bible ever promises that God will speak to us directly through a word or impression or picture in our mind/heart/spirit. Nor is this something that's talked about much in the New Testament letters: in other words, it's not a normal, expected part of the Christian life like loving, or encouraging, or praying, or singing. Yet it has become normal piety for many modern Christians.

When I set aside time to pray, either alone or in a group, in silence so that I/we can receive God's direct word, then I am both assuming that God will regularly speak in this way, and I am making it, along with the Bible, experientially foundational to the way God speaks to me. I think there's a danger in doing this. Yes, at its best (and the GC folk would do this), every 'word' will be thoroughly tested by God's word. But it's easy, practically speaking (I've seen it happen), for these immediate 'words' to start to nudge out God's word in authority, at least at an experiential level, and, at its worst, at a theological level.

At its very best, this expectation is closely tied to the word. Paul Miller, in "The Praying Life", calls it "the personalisation of the word to our lives by the Spirit" (I think I've got that right) and that's a really helpful way of putting it. If I'm thoroughly soaked in Scripture, it will inform my heart and thoughts, and God's Spirit will use it to convict me of sin and of the truths of the faith. There's a kind of immediacy to this experience which is beautiful! But it's closely tied to the word of God. When Paul Miller then excourages us to wait in the silence for God to speak, I get uncomfortable. For him, this might be closely tied to God's word. But it's too easy for it to become untied, set adrift. If he means "silent meditation on what I know from God's word as it applies to my life", I think it's great. If he means "waiting for a word or impression in the silence", I become a bit uncomfortable....

Jean said...

...That is a very, very brief explanation! To be more thorough, I'd have to deal with all kinds of issues like the relationship between the Word and God's Spirit (the "breath" that brings us the Word of God), what to do with passages in Acts about prophecy, and what to do with the "gifts" of prophecy. It's also tied up with "expectatant continuationism" (we should expect God to continue his miraculous gifts) vs "non-expectant continuationism" - not sure there is such a term! (God can do what he likes, but the main 'clusters' of the miraculous occur with great events like the coming of Christ and the apostles) vs "cessationalism" (there are no miraculous gifts any more - there's a helpful John Woodhouse interview on the distinctions somewhere). But whatever New Testament "prophecy" looks like - and this is never explained in the Bible - I'm not sure it loooks like our modern waiting in silence for God to speak. My conviction is that God can easily make himself heard. In the meantime, I will seek his voice where I know it can be found: in his Word.

Sorry, Valori, for this long and rambly explanation! I know there are differences of all kinds between reformed evangelicals. I would very, very happily work alongside a Grudem or a Miller or a McCulley. We have huge amounts to learn from each other: American evangelicals, for example, could teach us Aussies HEAPS about godly emotion. If you're interested, the books that have influenced me include Philip Jensen's "Guidance and the Voice of God", Don Carson's "Showing the Spirit", and Michael Raiter's "Stirrings of the Soul".

God's blessings, Valori.

Jean said...

One final thought (see, you just can't shut me up!):

I don't think that the idea of "waiting on God in the silence" is a biblical idea. So where does it come from? You can see this language in the Psalms and (I think) the prophets, but it's in the context of waiting to see God's deliverance (e.g. "be still and know that I am God"). I'm not sure, historically, where it comes from. I doubt very much it's in the Reformers or the Puritans, though I should check. Probably it comes from medieval mysticism, from the more "enthusiastic" movements on the fringes of Puritanism, and from the Quakers, and was translated into modern evangelicalism by writers like Richard Foster, a widely-read Quaker (I think) who published "Celebration of discipline" in 1978, and whose thoughts made their way into mainstream piety and then into reformed evangelicalism via other, more theologically reliable writers like Donald Whitney. It's now customary, in book like Whitney's "Spiritual Disciplines", to include chapters on practices like "silence" and "journaling" (nothing wrong with either, but I wouldn't list them as spiritual disciplines alongside prayer and Bible reading). Far more reliable (it's a wonderful book!) is Jerry Bridges' "The Discipline of Grace".

And I'd better shut up now, my friend!

Jean said...

A Sunday morning thought...

I should add, Valori, that so much more unites me with McCulley and co than divides us. In Australia people with this practice of prayer are almost always Arminian and egalitarian. It's very different in America, where I can agree with nearly all of what someone says and still differ on this point.

Carolyn says, "And we waited on God, silently listening for His voice as He searched our hearts to inspire confession and to prompt intercession." I'd hope that, for McCulley and co, this is closely tied to the word of God pressed on our hearts by his Spirit. I guess I see the stranger edge of the practice of "waiting" and "listening" for a "voice" here in Australia, and where they can lead; and I'm uncomfortable with using this language in this way. Yet I'm sure that God honours the faithful prayers of his people.

Valori said...

Hey Jean! I just checked back here and read your thoughts. Thanks for sharing such a thoughtful response. I would like to think about them more and respond. Maybe I will send you an email :).

Jean said...

Go for it, Valorie, I'd love to hear from you! I'm sure you're far more familiar with the practices of these godly people than I am.