Through Thick And Thin

God has graciously given us who believe in Christ great and precious promises.  But it’s not enough to simply have them.  We must believe them.

O! He is a suitable Savior! He has power, authority, and compassion, to save to the uttermost. He has given His word of promise, to engage our confidence, and He is able and faithful to make good the expectations and desires He has raised in us. Put your trust in Him; believe (as we say) through thick and thin, in defiance of all objections from within and without. –John Newton

It’s easy to believe God’s promises when we’re prospering, when our children are doing well, when everything is going our way.  When Israel marched triumphantly out of a crippled Egypt after the destroying angel had killed Egypt’s firstborn, and Israel was laden down with the treasures their captors had given them, it was easy for them to believe God would fulfill his promises.

But shortly afterward, when they came to the Red Sea and Egyptian chariots were barrelling down upon them, everything around them screamed that God had abandoned them.  Reminds me of the song Stuck in the Middle with You by Stealers Wheel: “Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right, here I am, stuck in the middle with you.”  Israel was stuck with no where to go.

Everything within and without them screamed “God has abandoned us.”

The big question when we go through a trial is what are we going to believe – God’s promises or our circumstances?  God’s word or our emotions?  God’s promises or our interpretation of the circumstances?

How it would have glorified God if the Israelites had said, “Don’t worry, he’ll be here.  He’s brought us this far; he won’t abandon us now.”  How it would have pleased God, when they heard the thunder of chariot wheels, if they would have said, “Don’t worry, God will protect us.  He’ll make a way of escape.”

Trust him “through thick and thin, in defiance of all objections from within and without.”  And you will see the One who is able to save to the uttermost fulfill his promises.

Talk Like A Theologian

I’ve been taking a Hebrews class all week with about 90 other guys taught by D.A. Carson at the Sovereign Grace Ministries Pastors College.

Dr. Carson is warm, humble, engaging, and very, very smart.  On top of that, there are a lot of very smart guys in the class.  I know this because I was an art major in college.  I can recognize smart people when I see them.

So I’ve  been listening to everyone and taking notes not only on Hebrews but on how to talk like a scholar. I can’t teach you to walk like an Egyptian, but now I’m pleased to say I can teach you to talk like a theologian.  After reading this you will be able to stride into the halls of Oxford or Cambridge and converse with the C.S. Lewises and Tolkiens of today with confidence.  Talking like a theologian is as simple as sprinkling a few choice words into your conversations.

Start with the word “trajectory.” This is currently a very hip term among scholars.  Say this and you will not only impress theologians but rocket scientists as well.  Here’s how to use it: “I’m moving on an ever-increasing trajectory toward lunch,” or “If I continue on my current trajectory of coffee consumption, I’ll need to move to Sumatra.”

Next word you need to know is “nuance.” This refers to subtle distinctions.  If you say, “I love the nuanced flavors in this Big Mac,” a hush will come upon McDonald’s as everyone realizes they are in the presence of Sophistication incarnate.

Theologians don’t simply explain things, they “unpack” them, or they “tease things out.” For example, I may say to my wife Kristi, “Let me unpack for you why I bought this car without asking you.”  Or, “Let me tease out for you why I need another electric guitar.”  To which she will probably reply, “I’ll tease you out — right in the head!”

When scholars want to digress off topic, they say, “Let me make a brief ‘excursus.’” Now when I have a conflict with Kristi and she says, “You’re avoiding the issue,” I can say, “I’m not avoiding anything, I’m just taking a brief excursus.”  No comeback for that one.  Genius!

Finally, bright people add “-logical” to the ends of words that end in “-logy.” For example, methodology becomes “methodological,” and “ontology” becomes “ontological.”  My last name, Altrogge, becomes “Altrological.”

Alright, I’ve given you some tools.  Let’s put your new genius vocabulary to work.  Next time you’re with friends try this:

“Hey Mary, have you met Bill?  Let me tease out for you some of the nuances of the trajectory of our phenomenological commonalities despite our differentialities of confessionalism and variegated methodologies.  Are you up for an excursus?  Ok, Let’s unpack our lunch.”

Your friends will look at each other, shrug, and be amazed at your conceptualities.

(P.S.  I have heard all of these words this week.  Of course, I know what they all mean).

photo by woicik

Christianity Tomorrow – John Piper Runs Out of People To Dedicate Books To

Sometimes when I get bored I like to think about what the Christian headlines of the future will be. What will magazines like Christianity Today be saying in 25 years? Maybe something like this…

John Piper Runs Out of People to Dedicate Books To

MINNEAPOLIS: Sources within Desiring God Ministries have confirmed that John Piper has actually run out of people to dedicate books to.

In the last twenty years, Dr. Piper has dedicated books to his wife, children, grandchildren, all the current, past, and present employees of Desiring God Ministries, all the living relatives of Jonathan Edwards, those people who were collecting seashells in that Reader’s Digest article, and numerous others. Now it appears that Dr. Piper may have actually run out of people to dedicate books to.

After writing his most recent book over a lunch hour, Dr. Piper started working on the dedication, only to realize that he couldn’t think of another person to dedicate a book to. He took a short mental break by memorizing the book of Philippians, then came back to the book problem, only to be stumped again.

“This is a real conundrum,” said Dr. Piper. “You simply can’t savor this book in the white-hot manner required if there is no dedication at the front.”

Dr. Piper’s assistant, David Mathis said, “We are currently taking suggestions for possible dedication ideas. Right now John is considering dedicating the book to Calvinism or hyphenated words, although neither is set in stone.”

While this article was being written, Dr. Piper wrote four other books.

Note: John Piper is seriously one of my heroes. Dr. Piper, if you happen to read this, I hope that someday I can be half as godly as you and write one-tenth as many books.

Things My Dad Didn’t Do: Act Surprised At My Sin

Growing up, my dad expected me to be a sinner.

My dad knew that his kids, just like him, were weak, frail sinners who struggled with sin on a daily basis. He didn’t expect me to be perfect. He didn’t expect me to always make the wisest, most godly decisions. He expected that I would sin, against him and against God.

Because my dad expected me to sin, he didn’t act surprised or shocked when I sinned. He didn’t belittle me, or explode in anger, or say, “I can’t believe you would do such a thing!” He could believe that I could do such a thing because he himself did such things. Instead of acting surprised or shocked, he often communicated that he understood my struggle and that he himself had struggled with the same things I did.

I think my dad had the same attitude as Paul, who said:

The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. (1 Timothy 1:15)

My dad always tried to think of himself as the foremost of sinners, and that mindset carried over into his parenting.

This made a huge difference in my relationship with him. It freed me up to come to him and confess my sins and struggles. It was still hard and humbling for me to confess my sin, but dad’s humility and grace certainly made it easier.

Dad’s attitude toward sin has also shaped the way that I relate to others. When someone confesses a sin to me, I’m rarely surprised. I know that I’m a sinner and I expect others to be sinners as well. It doesn’t shock me when someone confesses a particularly serious sin. Sinners commit sins. To expect anything else is kind of silly.

So thanks dad. Your grace toward me has led me to extend grace to others. I’m really grateful for that.