The Church–past, present, and future

As I look at the variety of books on church growth, church organizational patterns, church trends, and church management, I see an unsettling trend. Either the book is focused on maintaining the past–reliving the traditions and experiences of the past–or it is focused on continuing what is currently working–maintaining forever today’s models–or it is focused on pressing past everything that we have known to find an entirely new way of thinking. You may ask, “Well, doesn’t that cover all the bases? One of them should be right.” But my fear is that in the press of conversation about the church, we lose balance.

A church that is focused on the past cannot be a living church. Instead, it is a re-living church.

Just as a person with Alzheimer’s can waste away while reliving the experiences of the past, a church that focuses on reliving the past will die. This church may be living off of fat stores for the present, but it does nothing to ensure for itself a future. This church will die.

The church that is focused on the present is a selfish church. It is the narcissist church that insists upon forever maintaining itself as the star–not realizing that as the context changes, it must change to be effective. This church is forever keeping up with itself–never looking forward with dreams, never looking backward to correct mistakes. It is rudderless–directionless. This church will fail.

The church that is focused on the future is a pointless church. In its quest to be church of the future, its only definition is in rejecting past and present. This church dreams but does not accomplish, plans
but never executes. How can it, when the moment the future arrives it becomes nothing more than the present, and swiftly the past? This church is anchorless–having nothing to keep it from being blown about by every wind and wave.

What then should the church look like? How does a church avoid these pitfalls?

One of the most common injunctions throughout the Scriptures is to remember. Exodus 13:3 gives a stirring command to remember: “Remember this day in which you went out of Egypt, out of the house of bondage; for by strength of hand the Lord brought you out of this place.” In Exodus 20, the people were told to “remember
the Sabbath.” Throughout Deuteronomy, the injunction to remember brought with it both a warning and an encouragement. Remember God’s judgment and fear. Remember God’s mercy and obey. Remember what God has spoken. Remember God’s greatness. In the New Testament, we are told to remember Christ’s words. We are given the rite of Communion “in remembrance” of Christ. The church can not and must not disobey what is so obviously a part of the Christian life: Remembering the Past.

Paul’s life and letters clearly demonstrate the importance of the church being within the present. Paul’s epistles were not so much letters of remembrance or letters of vision casting than letters grounded in the current events of the church. Paul was busy dealing with the contemporary needs of the church–II Corinthians 8 refers to the physical needs of the church in Jerusalem and how the Corinthian church was going about meeting them. Galatians
addresses the immediate theological needs of the church of Galatia. The words of Christ also portray this present tense activity of the church. The teaching of Christ is not merely stories of the past nor prophecy of the future. Christ commanded concerning the present. “Love your neighbor as yourself.” “When you bring your gift to the altar…” “Strive to enter through the narrow gate.” These are not injunctions of the past, nor dreams for the future. This is a present day command. The church can not and must not stray from what is so obviously a part of the Christian life: Being relevant in the Present.

One cannot read the Bible without gaining an overwhelming sense of the future. The prophecies of Daniel and Revelation put shivers down spines, but even without getting into “end time theology”, the future is an integral part of Scripture. Jesus’ prayer in John 17 is directed not only at the current believers, but at those who would come. The Great Commission, while being a present command, conveys a heady promise of the future. “And Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Paul preached of the greatness of the inheritance that will be revealed. Romans 8:23-25 says, “Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for
it with perseverance.” The church can not and must not fail to possess what is so obviously a part of the Christian life: Hope for the Future.

As a church, we must press past a time frame or a verb tense. We must refrain from arguing opinion. We must lay aside the idea that progress comes by throwing out the old, or that continuing the old is progress. We must recognize the value of God’s progression of history–how the past shapes our present, which in turn shapes the future. We must recognize our role as facilitators of the narrative of God’s story. We are not the author of the story, we are merely participants in a chapter of the story. We cannot break out of the narrative to begin a new story. No, we must take the chapter we
have been given and continue the story on.

Hope in God

For the past few months I’ve been contemplating the concept of hope. Hope is such an elusive thing to my mind. When I try to define hope, more than often I come up short. Hope is expectation, anticipation. Yes. That’s true; but that’s not definitive. Hope is believing, knowing and acting in accordance with that belief. Yes. That too is true, but more apt in describing faith than hope. But what then is hope?

If I were asked to describe my concept of hope as of right now, I would describe it in this way: In Luke 8:22-25, a great storm rises over the lake and the disciples wake a sleeping Jesus, saying, “Master, we are perishing.” Like men who had no hope, they panicked in the face of the storm. Jesus, on the other hand, personifies hope–as the storm passed, He was resting in the back of the boat, secure in the arms of Almighty God.

Hope is the faith that sits back and lets God do His work. It is the trust that rests in His arms when every earthly shelter fails. It is the faith that, rather than jumping to take on God’s tasks, stands back and lets Him complete it without our having to be in control. If faith is what enables us to step out when God says “Go” not knowing where our destination will be; then hope is what enables us to relax as we take the step, certain that whatever we may encounter on the journey, the end is beyond our wildest dreams.

Within the approximately 15 Greek and Hebrew words that are translated hope, three common threads can be discerned. The first element of hope is trust–the words betach, batach, bittachon, kesel, mibtach, chul, yachal, chasah, and elpis all carry this connotation. The second element of hope is anticipation–miqveh, seber, tocheleth, and tiqvah allude to this. The third element of hope is rest–displayed in the definitions of the words machseh and chasah (refuge), and in the definitions of seber, chul, yachal, sabar (meaning “to stay” or “to wait upon.”) These elements are never more clearly seen than in the Psalms, in which nearly a fifth contain hope and its corollaries as a major theme.

As I learn more about hope as God reveals it in His word, I pray that God would also teach me this hope–hope that trusts God completely, anticipating His goodness, resting in His mercy.

Only Free

He told me once that His grace was sufficient for me
I brushed Him off, said I wanted to be free
He told me again that He was all I’d ever need
I pushed Him away–“I just want to be me.”

On my own, free
Why am I dying?
On my own, just me
Why am I breaking?

Broken, incomplete
Needy, bound
when He
is all I need

Only complete
When I’m held in His hands
Only free
When I’m bound by His arms
Only found
When I’m lost in Him

Working out bugs

Thanks to my brother and his different browsers, hopefully you should be able to access this website via Mozilla at
least. Please let me know if you find more bugs that need to be ironed out–I want this to be as accessible as
possible. (And, if you’re on a Mac and can read this just fine–shoot me an email at b3master(at) It’d be
awesome to know if I’ve gotten my Mac problems worked out!) Thank you all for reading!

Onward Christian Soldiers

Reading a biography of Amy Carmichael today (entitled Amy Carmichael: Let the Little Children Come), I came across these words, written by Amy herself:

Onward Christian soldiers,
Sitting on the mats;
Nice and warm and cozy
Like little pussycats.
Onward Christian soldiers,
Oh, how brave are we,
Don’t we do our fighting
Very comfortably?

The words burn my soul. I am so often guilty of comfortable Christianity. I can offer my solutions to any problem, but lose sleep to seek God’s solution? Never. I can say I offer service to God unrewarded; but when man’s praise is not forthcoming, I complain. When my purse is overflowing with abundance, I most willingly
give it; but when I have little to offer, I offer nothing. When it is convenient, comfortable, easy for me to die to myself, I do. But as soon as dying means pain–I take the easier road.

But how can one be a soldier if he never enters training? How can he be a soldier if he does not participate in war? A soldier who throws off his colors at the first sight of war is not a soldier but a deserter–a man devoid of all honor and dignity.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer told the truth when he said, “When Christ calls a man, He calls him come and die.” The words of Christ are replete with calls to death. When Jesus sent out the twelve in Matthew 10, He gave them this warning: “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.” (Matt
10:37-39) He repeats Himself in Matthew 16: “If anyone desire to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” (Matthew 16:24-25) Mark 8 parallels this passage: “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.” (Mark 8:34-35) Again, Luke 9 repeats: “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.” (Luke 9:23-24) The same sentiment is repeated in Luke 14:33, “So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.” In John 12, this same thought is repeated with allusions to Christ’s death, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also.” (John 12:24-26) It is not an accident that this same injunction to follow Christ in dying to self is repeated in all four gospels. Death is integral to the Christian life. It is impossible to follow Christ without dying.

In the same way, sacrifice of time, talents, honour, and rights is the call of the disciple. A would-be disciple offered brave words to Christ, “Teacher” said he, “I will follow You wherever You go.” Jesus’ response to him was stern with warning: “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man has nowhere to lay His
head.” (Matt 8:19-20) Translation? To follow Christ is to be in exile. Another disciple offered: “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” Jesus’ answer was blunt: “Follow me and let the dead bury their own dead.” (Matt 8:21-22) Translation? To follow Christ is to deny our earthly inheritance. When a rich ruler came to Christ
seeking eternal life, Jesus commanded him to sell all that he had and give it to the poor–then, Jesus said, this man would have treasure in heaven and would be welcome to follow Christ. (Matt 19:16-26) Jesus renounced the Pharisees for their pride in seeking the approval of men and commands His followers to seek His glory alone. (Matt 23 and elsewhere) Mark 10 admonishes: “No one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands,
for My sake and the gospel’s…shall not receive…eternal life.” (Mark 10:29-30) When Jesus observed the offering in the temple, he commended not those who gave much, but those who gave sacrificially: “Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury; for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood.” (Mark 12:43-44) And it is this kind of
service that the Lord demands of His disciples. “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62) Indeed the kingdom of God allows nothing less than the complete sacrifice of all former rights and privileges.

Not only does the Christian life require death to self and sacrifice of all rights–the call to discipleship also includes the call to lay down our pride and instead serve the lowest. Matthew 18:3-4 reads, “Assuredly I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore
whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” When a mother of two of the
disciples requested that her sons sit at Jesus side in His kingdom, Jesus responded: “You know that the rulers of the
Gentiles lord it over them…Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him
be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave.” (Matt 20:25-27) Giving the disciples
instructions, Jesus said: “do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ. But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Matt 23:10-12) When Jesus told a story of the judgment, He describes Himself as saying “Assuredly I say to you, inasmuch as you did to one of the least of these My brethren (the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick,
and the imprisoned), you did it to Me.” (Matthew 25:40) The call to be a disciple of Christ is a call to become a servant of all.

The last qualification for discipleship is not so much a command but a promise: You will be persecuted. Jesus promises His disciples: “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, therefore the world hates you…If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you.” (John 15:18-20) A little later (John 15:33) Jesus says, “In the world you will have
tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” When Jesus sent the twelve out into the world, He warned them: “Beware of men, for they will deliver you up in the councils and scourge you in their synagogues. You will be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles…Now brother will deliver up brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake.” (Matthew 10:17-22) This is the promise and test of discipleship. If you love Him and are His disciple, you will be hated and persecuted for Him.

What is Christ calling you to die to today? What right or privilege is He calling you to give up? What service does He wish you to offer? Is Christ calling you to lay down your pride and to forgive your brother? Is He calling you to lay aside your greed and offer your time or money for His mission? Is He calling you to offer your service, unasked for and unacknowledged, to the weak, the poor, the child, the helpless? When Christ calls His disciples today, will you be among
those who take the challenge to die, to sacrifice, to serve, and to be reviled? Or will you cast down your colors like the deserter, denying your captain in the day of testing?

Onward Christian soldiers,
Sitting on the mats;
Nice and warm and cozy
Like little pussycats.
Onward Christian soldiers,
Oh, how brave are we,
Don’t we do our fighting
Very comfortably?

On revival, renewal, and reformation

There was a day in the life of my church when we talked about revival, renewal, and reformation a lot. Now that day seems like only a memory. We ached for revival–the refilling of old wineskins, the refueling of empty lamps, the reenergizing of old and weary Christians. We longed for renewal–when new wine would be poured into new wineskins, when new bodies would be exchanged for old. We prayed for reformation–when the old would be put away with for good and we would be victorious forever. We saw that something was wrong with where we were and we desired that God would move us from where we were.

Somehow, though, we lost that yearning for a move of God. As church size dwindled, we started to look for church growth strategies. Lost in a mire of books and problems, we asked ourselves not “where is God?” but “Where are the people?” We forgot that where God is, He grows. And church size continued to decline. We were in maintenance mode and no one knew it. Maintaining the nursery, maintaining Sunday School, maintaining the youth group. We were maintaining much as a Nurse readjusts a barely living person in there hospital bed in a desperate, last ditch attempt against bed sores. But it hasn’t helped. The programs may still be holding on by a thread, but the church within is practically dead.

Somewhere, in the midst of our trials, we forgot to hope in God. We forgot that the one who began a work in us has promised to be faithful to complete it. We got busy trying to do God’s job. And we failed miserably. Instead of joining God in what He’s doing, we decided to think something up and ask God to join us. Instead
of asking for direction, we started looking behind us, asking Him to clear up our mistakes. We lost the sense of God, and we stagnated. We shunned the Holy Spirit, and we are dying. We tried to save on our own and have found nothing but bondage.

What has happened to the God who does miracles? What has happened to the God who speaks to His people? What has happened to the God who changes lives? Nothing has happened to God. It is only that the church has failed to reflect Him.

I was a young teen during those days of longing for revival, renewal, reformation. I was overwhelmed by the story of Moses on the mountaintop, who after seeing the glory of God, came away with a shining face. His face was so bright that they had to stick a veil over it so that it did not hurt the eyes of the Israelites. I wanted so badly to have an encounter with God that would leave me blinding. I wanted an encounter that would make everyone around me know that I had met God. I still think that kind of encounter would be cool, but I gave up hoping that it would happen. II Corinthians 3:18 reminds us of this encounter and points us forward, “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” As we look at God, we are changed into His likeness. We are transformed to be more like Him. And our faces are not veiled–we are a shining example of Christ’s likeness. Why is it then that when I walk into church, no one has a glowing face? Why do not more lives show the transforming power of Christ?

Perhaps it is because we fail to behold the glory of the Lord. To walk into our churches, could anyone tell that a powerful, living God dwells therein? The cares and worries that overwhelm the church clutter the power of God. The multitude of our words clamour above the still small voice that speaks a Living Word. Our prayers are not accessing an all powerful God. Instead they exhort a weak man. But what are our words, what are our cares, what are our prayers if God is not our Life? We are pointless, dead, dying, irrelevant.

Lord, awaken in Your church a hunger for Your face. Teach us to desire Your presence, to long for Your voice. Help us to seek Your presence, and the transformation that only You can bring. Let us grow tired of man’s answers, and instead let us thirst for Your voice. We don’t need a new program. We don’t need a new solution. We don’t need more people. We need You. Teach us to desire You with all our hearts.


I came perilously close to losing my scholarships this semester. Gradewise, there was no way I wasn’t supposed to get a C- in Physiology, requiring me to take it again and putting my GPA at something like 3.4978. I was bracing myself for the worst, expecting to lose my scholarship–have to work my way through school, reevaluate how to handle things. I was kicking myself for being so cocky at the beginning of the semester–“Sure it’s going to be tough taking Chemistry, Anatomy, and Physiology all in the same semester. But I can handle it.” Just barely.

So when I looked at my grades and discovered that I’d gotten a C in Physiology instead of a C-, I felt like the world had been handed me on a platter. I hadn’t lost my scholarships. I would have a chance
to redeem myself. That vein of thought continued for a while–I started to contemplate the concept of redemption.

I don’t think I’ve really valued redemption in my life as much as I should. I’ve known Christ since I was four years old. I’ve been a generally good kid. I’ve never done anything illegal or committed any
of those uncomfortably visible moral errors. I’ve always had good grades, despite having substandard study habits. I’ve always had a nice little life–why should I need redemption?

Of course, this thought is incorrect. I do need redemption–desperately. But I saw that in a new way when I saw that I had received a C in that class. The first words out of my mouth were, “Awesome, now I have a chance to redeem myself.” You see, I didn’t deserve a C in that class–by my own cockiness and lack of devotion to studying, I deserved to lose my scholarship. But, by the grace of God, I didn’t get what I deserved. I received better. Now, I have a chance to redeem myself–to prove that I have a right to the scholarship I received.

Just like I received my scholarships on the basis of merit that I didn’t necessarily have–unless being born “smart” counts as merit–any life that I have received is granted to me apart from my own merit. God
granted me life, not because I deserved it in any way. He just chose to give it to me. But I did not treat that life with respect. I used it for sin and sold my life in slavery to sin; just like I came within an
inch of losing my scholarship because of my own lack of dedication to my studies.

The difference between my scholarships and my life overall rests in this–I have received grace so that I might redeem myself in regard to my studies; I have received grace despite having no ability to redeem myself in regard to slavery to sin. I can learn to study and devote more time to studying to improve my grades–I can’t
do anything to solve my sin problem.

But the amazing thing about God is that what I was powerless to do, Christ did. “For when we were still without strength, in due time, Christ died for the ungodly.” (Romans 5:6) I was completely powerless to redeem myself from sin–but Christ in His mercy took on flesh to become my kinsman redeemer. “But when the fullness of the
time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.” (Galatians 4:4-5)

Week in the Word was incredible. The time we spent in Ruth only served to confirm this concept of redemption. The story of Ruth models redemption in so many ways–outlining for us the role of a kinsman-redeemer. Perhaps the first qualification for a kinsman-redeemer is that the person be a kinsman. Boaz was Ruth’s kinsman
through his familial relationship with Elimelech (Ruth’s father in law). Christ became our kinsman by taking on human flesh. As Boaz agreed to redeem Ruth when she requested that he spread the corner of his garment over her, Christ chooses to redeem us when we come to Him for redemption. Just as the redemption of Ruth was part of the grand story of God’s agenda to bring glory to Himself by redeeming a people, our redemption is also part of the grander story. We are redeemed to bear fruit–“You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain.” (John 15:16)

Redemption is a grand story that shows the lovingkindness of our Saviour. We were incapable of redeeming ourselves from the slavery into which we sold ourselves. So, Christ in His mercy took on flesh to become our kinsman. As our kinsman, He redeemed us. Now as our husband, He bears fruit in us–fruit that ultimately leads back to the glorification of God and the advancement of His program to redeem for Himself people from every nation.

On Stewardship

“Then he who had received the one talent came and said, ‘Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed. And I was afraid, and
went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours.’ But his lord answered and said to him, ‘You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed. So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest. Therefore take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents.” (Matthew 25:24-28)

“And at midnight a cry was heard: ‘Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!’ Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your
oil for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, “No, lest there should not be enough for us and you; but rather go to those who sell, and buy for yourselves.’ And while they went to buy,
the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut.” (Matthew 25:6-10)

Different stewards–one was the keeper of a talent,the others keepers of the lamp. Two different scenarios–one out of fear mishandled his talent, the others out of laziness mishandled their oil. But the result is the same. When the master returned to take his due–in the case of talents, the interest; in the case of the virgins, his bride–When the master returned, the foolish stewards were left without. They had been poor stewards of what they were given and they would bear the punishment.

I don’t think I really recognized what stewardship meant until it bit me in the face a couple of days ago. Stewardship means that what I have been given, I have been given in trust. I have a responsibility to use it in the way for which it was given me. When I am given a scholarship to go to school, I have a responsibility to use that money to pay for school. When I am given charge over a ministry, I have a responsibility to lead that ministry in the best way possible. When I am elected to a position, I have a responsibility to fulfill the promises I made. Every privilege is a trust. And all too often, I have broken that trust.

I am ashamed, I am overwhelmed. I have broken my promises, misused the gifts I have received, taken advantage of privileges. I have said that I was rich–I am intelligent, I have enough money, I can do it on my own. So proud of myself, so consumed by my own self worth, I sat back and did nothing. And I did not see that I am “wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked.” (Revelation 3:17)

But there is hope for me, however pitiful I may be. Revelation 3 continues: “I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see.” I must come to see myself
as worthless, pitiful, broken, and blind. And instead of clinging to self for my worth, I must cling to Christ–recognizing that He is the only one who can clothe my nakedness, open my eyes, give me anything worth having.

And while the virgins of Matthew 25 were shut out, Revelation 3 offers another fate: “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. Behold I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” By His grace and that alone, I am welcomed to the wedding feast. And unlike the steward of Matthew 25 who was cast into the lake of everlasting fire,
Christ offers another eternity: “To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My father on His throne.”

Made great by each other

I’m a woman. I love stories of strong women, of brave women, of women who made a difference, of women who achieved some level of fame. Occasionally, the question enters my head–Would any of
these women have reached the status they have if it weren’t for their husbands? Maybe they just married into fame. Their marriage made the difference.

Now, before you get scared that my espoused feminism has gone down the drain, let me describe a few truths that I have come to when thinking about this question.

After God made Eve from Adam’s rib in the Garden of Eden, Adam woke up. Just as he had named every other living creature, he now named Eve–“She shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” (Genesis 2:23) There is no doubt in my mind about the implications of this Scripture. No woman can claim that she does not need man. No, in the beginning, we were named by a man–called
Woman, because we came from man. We cannot forget our origins. In the same way, man can never claim that he does not need woman. He must remember our origins. “And the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.'” (Genesis 2:18) God saw that man was incomplete, lacking a helper. And so God made a helper–not the same as him but comparable to him, his partner but not his head.

A woman I have admired for years, studying her life and yearning for her influence, is the Proverbs 31 woman. But listen to what the Bible says about her and her husband. “The heart of her husband safely trusts her; so he will have no lack of gain. She does him good and not evil all the days of her life.” (Proverbs 31:11-12) And again: “Her husband is known in the gates, when he sits among the elders of the land.” (Proverbs 31:23) This woman is not great because of her husband–not to say that her husband isn’t great. Instead, these verses seem to say that her husband is great, at least in part, because she is trustworthy and she does good. “They” say that behind every good man is a great woman–and I have little doubt. The Proverbs 31 woman by her actions and words has made her husband great and respected. I find it almost ironic to read the last few verses: “Her children rise up and call her blessed; Her husband also and he praises her: ‘Many daughters have done
well, but you excel them all.’ Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her own works praise her
in the gates.
” (Proverbs 31:28-31) This woman who by her deeds has paved the way for her husband to have a place in the city gates, now is praised in the city gates by her husband. “Let her own
works praise her in the gates.

Great men and great women, they go together hand in hand. Which one creates the other I cannot say. But I must say that the greatness of a great woman brings her husband honor, and the greatness of a great man gives his wife praise. That’s the way God made it.

The beauty of the church

I know, I know. I didn’t actually post this on the 20th. But I wrote it then with the intention of posting it. That’s got to count for something.

Walking through campus today, I saw two young boys following their dad, looking about with amazement at the wonders of a college campus. I was struck by the amazing way God put this world together.

A college campus is a fun place to be. Students walking about, milling, talking. Parties and concerts and benefit bashes. Gatherings, projects, classes. But the college campus isn’t complete. It’s too homogeneous to be so.

The majority of college students are single, childless people in their late teens or early twenties. There is very little variation. It’s understandable that a college campus should be so; but if
college is the extent of your relationships and involvement, you are missing out.

I think the same thing when I visit nursing homes. There’s something missing here. It’s too homogeneous. Yes, there are younger workers in addition to the older residents, but just like professors and students on a university campus, they are separated. They belong to different classes, different positions, and very few meaningful relationships are formed across these barriers.

This is one of the reasons that I so love the church. Church is a family affair. It encompasses a wide variety of ages and roles. Everyone has their “position” but this does not limit their relationships.
Elders hang out with those who clean the church building, teachers with pray-ers. Young children relate to retired members and young adults to 40 somethings.

Go onto any college campus and observe the modes of teaching and learning–lectures, projects, papers, reading, discussion. But the teaching method most universities lack is relationship. Life on life.
Discipleship. This is a great strength of the church. Walk into any nursing home and you will see a variety of ways the nurses and service staff help their patients. But the serving method many nursing homes lack is relationship. Life on life. Iron sharpens iron. Listening and encouraging. Serving out of relationship. This is a great strength of the church.

You see, friendships within the college campus are good. There’s nothing wrong with having relationships with people who are the same as you–going through the same life experiences. But if your only relationships are with a group of people homogeneous with yourself, you miss something powerful.

If you aren’t already connected with a local church, I encourage you to do so. And don’t just get involved with their college groups–get to know the families: children and parents; introduce yourself to the young couples; become friends with those who are “older and wiser.” Take the opportunity to experience the power of the church through relationship.