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Congratulations to our youngest daughter, Courtney, who graduated this month from Bethlehem College and Seminary with a History of Ideas major.  Congratulations to this bright, lovely, introspective, and witty daughter who displays the right mix of sense and sensibility.

 

My dear Courtney, you have worked through many challenges to accomplish this goal and have overcome the very demanding rigors of your major.  You have read thousands and thousands of pages and written hundreds and hundreds of pages.  You have grown both in your knowledge of western thought and philosophy as well as in understanding of how God has been at work throughout time and through eternity. You show great wisdom in applying revealed truth to everyday life. During these years, you have been witness to Jehovah Jirah, our Provider God, working on your behalf again and again through God’s people (tuition help, full-time employment for your earning year, generous housing provided, even oil changes and serpentine belts replaced at no cost).  This is your God; He who walks with you now into your future!

 

We look forward to seeing how God will use all the gifts He’s poured into you as you remain yielded to him.

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Bible Reading by Becky Porter

I’ve read the familiar words in the Decalogue many times (Exodus 20:8-11) and I’ve heard, maybe, a couple of sermons on it, maybe a couple of radio teachers speak on it. I’ve developed a comfortable picture of what it looks like in my own life which causes me to look a little different from the unbelieving world… a little.

To be sure, I usually delight to gather with the church on Sunday mornings, particularly having found a fellowship of saints who seek a worshipful submission to the Word of God in whatever form that might take – missions and outreach, prayer, hospitality,worship, study, service, self-sacrifice. All are sinners, it is true, but I have much to learn from these dear saints and look forward each Sunday to sharpening my iron on the iron of their lives.

How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD of hosts! My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God… I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness (Psalm 84:1,2,10).

As blessed as I am by this weekly gathering, this has really been the extent of my Sabbath-keeping – gathering with the church in the morning; that, and trying to maintain the long-gone blue laws of my childhood of no shopping on Sundays. That is, unless there’s a really important reason or major convenience to be gained by disregarding them. Eating out is not a part of that code, of course, nor is antiquing or using the library or a number of other activities which cause others to work through the Sabbath even if they wanted to keep it.

When I consider amping up my Sabbath-keeping, I fear the legalist in me may rise and I might get so carried away someday that I, too, would balk if a lame man were to be healed on the Lord’s Day. Of course, when I’m objective about myself, I realize that I am in no real danger of overemphasizing the day and I wonder why my foolish heart wants always to run to rules and law-keeping in these days of grace.

Years ago I read Karen Mains’ book Making Sunday Special which sparked high hopes in me for my burgeoning family. If I would have ears to hear, I sense that the Lord would teach me anew about God-given rest as I begin my first week of summer vacation.

Because of an internship for my son-in-law, he and my daughter and our grandson have recently moved and now attend a fellowship that strives to keep the Lord’s day (which I use interchangeably, here, as a New Testament form of Sabbath-keeping), not so much as a list of can’t do’s, but an embracing of get’s and get-to-do’s. I look forward to hearing how this plays out in the lives of the church there. Along these lines, the Lord, faithful God that He is, has brought a couple messages my way on the subject which challenge me to a more mature, less child-like, keeping of the Sabbath.

The first was a sort of theology of rest. It comes from a Bethlehem College and Seminary (BCS) chapel message that instructor Joe Rigney gave a while back called, “The God Who Loves Us by Giving Us Rest.” I have revived his message which is dealt with in Part II. The other message came from a High Calling blog, part of a series of invitational posts on Sabbath-keeping. To add to my growing convictions on the subject, on the second day of my summer vacation, our dear Pastor Greg brought us to and through Psalm 130, emphasizing the eager anticipation expressed in the word wait: I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his Word I hope: my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning (vv. 5-6). I’m beginning to see that a sustainable, joy-filled Sabbath-keeping has more to do with an eager anticipation of discovering the LORD than in a careful tithing of my mint, dill, and cumin (Mttw. 23:23).

Dana and I, long ago (before we were married), threw our trust onto the Lord to sustain us and meet our needs even if we were to give away 10% or more of our money. He has proven himself a faithful Father and provider in this. Why, then, does it seem so difficult to trust the Lord to meet our productivity needs if we would give away 14% of our week in exchange for delight in the Lord? When I was praying about this last night, I realized my fear is the horrors of cramming seven days of work into six. I already put in long days; what would it mean for me to add those activities I usually leave for Sundays, like bookkeeping (and what if I sort of like a few hours of this anyway?), laundry (does it matter that this doesn’t take a lot of extra time?), and school prep (well, I admit, I’m not usually energized by this one) to the other, already full, six days? I guess embracing the unseen based on God’s say-so alone, is the very definition of faith (Heb. 11:1), isn’t it? Perhaps he would have me test him in this.

What follows is Katie Kump’s short May 23rd post on Sabbath-keeping.  In it, she identifies three profound lessons she has learned as one who once embraced, then forsook, then re-claimed Sabbath keeping in her life (for her, Saturdays).

“Sabbath-Keeping” by Katie Kump

In the middle of my college career I first found Sabbath rest to be a relief rather than a rule. The message of God’s power and sovereignty pressed deeply as I navigated the over-achieving culture at Georgia Tech. We were doing, having, and achieving it all. As a first-born, perfectionist, people-pleaser, my soul needed to know who God really was.

For the first time in my life I considered how Sabbath rest was meant to rightly swell my view of God, giving life, relieving stress, and demolishing worry. I found how expanding my heart with the glory of God was key to expanding my lungs with the very breath of grace. God of the heavens breathed life into my lungs and said, Trust Me. I gave Him my Saturdays, and Sabbath became the exhale of dependence. I could rest because He never needs to.

Keeping Sabbath means all my abilities and success are found in Christ.
When I graduated from college without a full-time job, I began babysitting to support myself while I figured out what in the world I would do with my life. I needed to make $400 each week in order to pay for my rent, insurance, gas, and meals. When each hour of childcare represented one portion of my sustenance, turning down jobs seemed out of the question. My boundaries evaporated, and before I knew it, Sabbath rest had vanished.

It wasn’t until I was exhausted, exasperated, and frustrated that I realized I was working seven days most weeks of the month. As soon as my time represented a dollar amount my bank account seemed to sorely need, God’s sovereignty over all my time was forgotten. It took all thoughtfulness and self-control, but I began to decline jobs so as to keep one day each week for resting. Sabbath was soul care. My generous God poured into me all the love and affection I was paid to pour out into little hearts the other six days. I never went without.

Keeping Sabbath means He loves to provide for my every need.
In this current season of life, where full-time work and marriage and ministry vie for all my time and energy, Sabbath takes deeper meaning still. Sabbath reminds me I am in no way able to be all things to all people. My life is limited. But the limitations birth sweet reliance on my Maker; He is able to do exceedingly more than all I can ask or imagine.

My identity is freed by Sabbath rest from all its striving to be the perfect wife, very best friend, and brilliant homemaker. Sabbath reminds me my life is hidden with Christ in God. Sabbath, both the hard work and the harder rest, are the outworking of my trust in His promises: He who calls me is faithful; He will surely do it.

Keeping Sabbath means I am defined not by my performance, but by the sufficient, saving work of Jesus on my behalf.
In all these seasons Sabbath has been an idol-slayer. Where success, material needs, and performance could consume my heart with anxiety, Jesus, whose blood frees me from slavery to sin, has invited me to rest. Keeping Sabbath is not an added demand on my time or conscience.

Keeping Sabbath renders to God His own glory as I rest in the One who neither slumbers nor sleeps. And keeping Sabbath is a means of grace, an invitation to live in the freedom and love Jesus died to provide, humble King washing my feet and calling me His own, week in and week out.

Bible Reading, original oil by Becky Porter, ©
(used by permission)

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Joe Rigney, Assistant Professor of Theology and Christian Worldview at Bethlehem College and Seminary, distributed the following letter of analysis, charge, and encouragement in the wake of our recent national election.  I am so grateful for his thoughts and clarity.

________________________

“Last week Americans went to the polls to participate in our biennial electoral ritual. Evangelicals were rightly disappointed in the election of President Barack Obama. During the campaign the president vocally, clearly, and persistently advocated for same-sex marriage and abortion on demand, and a majority of the American people rewarded him for it. For many of us, it was a stark reminder that there are millions of our fellow citizens who embrace the culture of death (or who at least are not sufficiently provoked by it to vote against politicians who endorse it).

“As I watched the election returns come in and it became clear that the American people had embraced a larger, more intrusive federal government that tramples on religious liberty, that celebrates what God hates, and that refuses to protect the weakest among us, I wrote down a number of thoughts and questions that I’d like to share with you. These reflect my own views only and not necessarily those of BCS as a whole.

  • We seem to be witnessing the triumph of envy, resentment, and blame-shifting in American culture. The President ran ads saying that Romney is “not one of us.” He stirred up crowds with “voting is the best revenge.” For his entire first term, he blamed America’s woes on George W. Bush, House Republicans, the Japanese Tsunami, and so on. And 51% of the American people rewarded him for it. Class warfare worked. Demonizing success worked. And perhaps it worked because many of us are full of envy and resentment ourselves, and because we hate to take responsibility for our actions. If the culture is eight months pregnant with a particular sin, then the church is five months pregnant and starting to show.
  • This looks to me like a “father hunger” election. A fatherless generation is looking for a Father in Washington. The President won single women by 38%. The President, as a man abandoned by his own father, is in a unique position to appeal to the needs, desires, and fears of the fatherless (there’s a deep connection between father hunger, sexual “freedom,” and envy). He put out a famous ad about the life of Julia, a single woman who has most of her needs provided for her by the federal government, from high school through old age. In the liberal vision, the State replaces the father as the direct provider for the family. I predict that the State will make a lousy dad.
  • This election is a further flowering of the 1960’s sexual revolution (and associated movements). The media, government schools, universities, and culture-makers are overwhelmingly progressive and hostile to the gospel and the Scriptures. As someone said, you can’t fight a culture war if you don’t have a culture. It seems to me that figuring out what a godly culture is and cultivating it within our churches and communities is one of the chief challenges for Christians.
  • Some day President Obama and all those who support the murder of unborn children will stand before the God who gives life. That’s a terrifying consolation.
  • A hermeneutical question for Bible-believing Christians: Does God still judge nations today for specific sins, and do we have the ability to recognize his intentions in historical events? Natural disasters, willful blindness of leaders, societal disintegration: are these God’s judgment for specific sins and how can we know? It seems to me that recovering our prophetic voice means learning to stand in God’s council and then to interpret the present time in light of God’s authoritative word.
  • A practical question for Bible-believing Christians: Will we continue to hold the line on the Bible’s teaching on sexuality and gender in the face of increasing hostility, opposition, and marginalization? Will we continue to be the 7,000 who don’t bow the knee to Baal?

“Here’s what I’m preaching and praying for myself in light of the downward trajectory of this country:

  • Love your wife. May she never desire to look to the State for provision and protection.
  • Love your [children]. May they never pray in their hearts, “Our Father which art in Washington.”
  • Teach your students. May they think and feel and live like Christians all the way down.
  • Pray for the mercy and justice of God. May His kingdom come and His will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
  • Remember that there are only two ways to live and two ways to die. And in God’s world, faithful death always leads to resurrection.
  • Cultivate a genuine counter-culture where God has planted you. Generational love and faithfulness; honor to godly authorities; wise husbands and fathers who provide for their households; strong wives and mothers who don’t fear what is frightening; care for widows, orphans, and the unborn and their mothers; and a readiness to give gospel love when the Lie comes undone.
  • Hope in God and laugh at the time to come.

Gladly trusting in the Lord of history.”

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