Thursday, May 31, 2007

Things that Agitate Me: Stupid Church Signs

I've decided to start a periodic feature here on Ecclesiophilist called Things that Agitate Me. Of course, these things will be related to ecclesiastical issues of theology, church practice, etc. I must admit that from time to time, I see things that just, well, agitate me. I want to share them with you.

Our first installment is about stupid church signs. Over the past week or so I have noticed while driving around town several church signs that agitated me. These signs were attempting to be cute or creative. They were placed in order to get attention no doubt. Yet, in my opinion, they trivialize the church, the gospel, or both. Here is a sampling of what I saw.

1) Church Doesn't Suck
2) This Sunday: Forgiveness - The Real "F" Word
3) This Sunday: Sponge Bob Squeeze Play

I think church signs are great tools. We have a nice digital one at our church. They enable you to put a message out in public that potentially thousands of people will see each day. They allow you to inform the community about important events. I have nothing against church signs.

However, church signs can also display messages that detract from the gospel and the church. The signs above certainly grab one's attention. Yet, one has to wonder what Sponge Bob has to do with the eternal realities of the gospel. Using language like "the real F word" tends to take one's mind in directions other than forgiveness. Common street slang doesn't really give the impression that the church is very dignified or serious in its communication with the community.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not against creativity. I'm not against playful language that draws an audience into a discussion. I'm just against trivial language. Church is not a game. The gospel is not a sound bite. Salvation is not a sit-com. We can be compelling without being silly. In fact, you cannot be one and the other at the same time.

How about putting some Scripture on your church sign? I still believe the Word of God is sharp and living and powerful to penetrate minds and hearts. Instead of some silly slogan that makes people think you've been watching cartoon network instead of preparing your sermon, or worse, you've been watching cartoon network for preparing your sermon, put something out to the public that will make them think about the gospel.

Secular society is already doing all it can to marginalize the gospel and the church. Let's not help them by being crass or silly in our communications - including our signs.

Another Reminder of Why Southern Baptists Should Be Thankful for the Conservative Resurgence

I cut my teeth on conservative Southern Baptist church life. I have always been in conservative churches with conservative pastors. My parents are very conservative Southern Baptists. I am a graduate of Criswell College for goodness sakes (for those who don't know, Criswell College was begun as a conservative theological training school for men who wanted an alternative to what was then a liberal drift among SBC institutions). I spent my formative years (theologically speaking) among men who have come to lead our SBC institutions (Patterson, Land, Akin, etc). I am an unapologetic inerrantist who believes in the priority of expository preaching.

Now, having said all that, I am not a "party line" Southern Baptist. I take serious issue with certain things that have come to be associated with being Southern Baptist. If you read Ecclesiophilist regularly, you know this to be the case. I think the SBC has an unhealthy love affair with numerical success. I think we are characterized by a rather shallow approach to the gospel and evangelism. I think we have a case of theological stenosis (narrowing of the theology). I think we have difficulty getting along with other evangelicals because we are so provincial in our approach to the kingdom. I could go on, but you get the point.

Though I may not agree completely with the direction in which our denomination has gone since the conservative resurgence, I still have a deep admiration for the men and women who had the spiritual acumen to sense the slippery slope we were on and sound the alarm. The conservative resurgence spared the SBC from sliding into the denominational graveyard with so many mainline denominations. Had we lost our grip on the priority of Scripture, we may have continued instutionally, but we would have dried up spiritually.

Today I came across an article that reminded me how grateful I am for the conservative resurgence among Southern Baptists. You can read about it here. First Baptist Church, Decatur, Georgia is preparing to call a female senior pastor. This is a church which chose to go the opposite direction during the conservative resurgence. They chose to align with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship which is moderate to liberal in its perspective. Now, we see the fruit of such an alignment.

Of course, only God knows the future of Southern Baptists. We have our problems. Some of them are self-inflicted. Yet, for all the difficulties our current struggles may represent, I don't think they are irreparable. By the grace of God, these issues can be resolved. However, a church or denomination that sells the birthright of biblical truth for a bowl of political or cultural correctness will soon find itself starving for lack of real nourishment. Thank God for the conservative resurgence among Southern Baptists which pulled us back from the edge of disaster.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Resolution on Integrity in Church Membership

Dr. Tom Ascol has submitted this resolution on church membership to the Southern Baptist Convention Resolutions Committee yet again this year. Let us pray that it gets a hearing by our convention.

Resolution on Integrity in Church Membership
Submitted by Thomas Ascol
May 1, 2007

Whereas the Baptist Faith and Message states that the Scriptures are "the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried" (Article 1);

and Whereas life in a local church should be characterized by loving discipline as the Bible teaches in passages like Matthew 18:15-18, 1 Corinthians 5 and Titus 3:10-11;

and Whereas the 2006 Southern Baptist Convention Annual Church Profiles indicate that there are 16,306,246 members in Southern Baptist churches;

and Whereas those same profiles indicate that only 6,138,776 of those members attend a primary worship service of their church in a typical week;

and Whereas the ideal of a regenerate church membership has long been and remains a cherished Baptist principle as described in Article VI of the Baptist Faith and Message;

now, therefore, be it RESOLVED that the messengers of the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in San Antonio, Texas, June 12-13, 2007, urge Southern Baptists to repent of our failure to maintain responsible church membership,

and be it further RESOLVED that we urge the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention to repent of the widespread failure among us to obey Jesus Christ in the practice of lovingly correcting wayward church members (Matthew 18:15-18),

and be it further RESOLVED that we plead with pastors and church leaders to lead their churches to study and implement our Lord's teachings on this essential church practice,

and be it further RESOLVED that we encourage denominational servants to support and encourage churches that seek to recover and implement our Savior's teachings on church discipline, especially when such efforts result in the reduction in the number of members that are reported in those churches,

and be it finally RESOLVED that we commit to pray for our churches as they seek to honor the Lord Jesus Christ through reestablishing integrity to church membership and to the reporting of statistics in the Annual Church Profile.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

What it Means to Be Christ-Centered

We are currently working our way through the first section of Ephesians on Sunday mornings. Verses 3-14 of the first chapter is one of the most theologically dense passages in the New Testament. One is struck by the sweeping scope of these verses which present the panorama of salvation in which we are eternally chosen by the Father, redeemed by the Son, and sealed by the Holy Spirit. A repeated concept in these verses is that all of these blessings ultimately related to Christ. We are chosen in Christ. We are redeemed in Christ. We are sealed in Christ.

In verses 9-10, we are confronted with the absolute preeminence of Christ in God's grand plan for the universe.

He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things in the earth.

If I understand Paul rightly, he is describing for us the ultimate purpose of God in summing up the universe in relation to Christ. In other words, history is moving toward the ultimate goal of all things being summed up in finality in relation to Jesus Christ. As Sam Storms puts it, either through redemption or conquest. I take this statement to be an expansion of what Paul says in Philippians 2:11 where we are told that one day "at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father." Of course, the statement in Ephesians goes beyond intelligent beings to inanimate creation itself - all things in heaven and on earth. When all the dust of time settles, everything will be ultimately defined by its relation to Jesus Christ.

The redemption of believers through the blood of Christ is one aspect of this ultimate summing up of all things in Christ. This reality has far-reaching consequences in terms of what it means to be Christ-centered. We often use the label "Christ-centered" to describe something. A book might be "Christ-centered." An educational curricculum might be "Christ-centered" as might a song, or a church, or a marriage, or a life. But what does that really mean? I think we can get some clear indications from what Paul says in Ephesians 1.

To be Christ-centered is to realize that all the blessings we enjoy in this life and in the next come to us through our relationship with Jesus Christ and never apart from Him. Election, redemption, adoption, sealing of the Spirit, along with every other blessing are ours only in Christ. Our possession of, experience of, and joy in these things is hinged upon our relationship with Jesus Christ.

To be Christ-centered is to realize that the most important Person in all of the universe is Jesus Christ. God has stated that His eternal purpose is to sum up all things in Christ. All of creation will find its ultimate definition in relation to Christ. Thus, it is incumbent upon us to make sure that we allow none to usurp His central position in our lives. Nothing and no one is more important than Him.

To be Christ-centered is to bring all of life under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. To be sure, Christ-centeredness is an attitude of heart and mind. Yet, it must reach the most practical areas of our lives. It is to bring our marriages under His Lordship. It is to bring our careers under His Lordship. It is to bring our liesure pursuits, money, sexuality, ministry, indeed every aspect of our lives under His Lordship.

I am not suggesting a two-stage conversion like some suggest in which we "accept Christ as Savior" and then later "make Him Lord." This is a false view of conversion. Christ is Lord. To be saved is to relinquish ourselves to His Lordship. What I am suggesting here is that Christ-centered people are constantly seeking to honor His Lordship in all they do. Christ-centered people struggle against sin rather than capitulating to it. Christ-centered people ask forgiveness when they hurt others rather than nursing resentment. Christ-centered people consider Christ and His kingdom in their decisions instead of their own personal desires and agendas.

To be Christ-centered is to seek the glory of Christ above all things. Paul reminds us that the aim of our election, redemption, and sealing in the Spirit are to the praise of His glory. Christ-centered people are not seeking glory for themselves. They desire the glory of Christ. Christ-centered churches are not looking for accolades or spotlights. They want all they do to point people to Christ's glory. Like John the Baptist, they say "He must increase, I must decrease."

God is teaching me through His Word what it means to be Christ-centered. The Spirit of God is shining the light of truth into the recesses of my life where I have stashed away monuments to my own glory. It can be a painful process ripping your heart away from long established idols so that Christ can reign everywhere in your life. Yet, on the other side of that pain is an unspeakable joy and fullness. May God teach us more and more how to center our lives on His Beloved Son in Whom the whole universe will one day be summed up.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Thanks, Pastor Don

Last Friday I said "goodbye" to a long-time staff member and close personal friend. Don Herren served as Pastor of Student Ministries in our church for nine years. During that time, I came to love and appreciate Don as a colleague, a friend, and a man. He served with faithfulness and excellence. He loves his wife and kids. He loves the Word of God. He loves the church. Above all, he loves Christ. It was a bittersweet experience to load his moving truck and wave goodbye. Don will make a great Senior Pastor in his new congregation.

One of the results of good friendships and minstry relationships is that you learn things from working with others that make you a better person. That was certainly the case with Don. I learned a great deal from working closely with him over the last several years. Many were the times that I was challenged by his words and example. He helped sharpen my thinking on important issues. He modeled dedication and commitment to Christ. He modeled service for the sake of Jesus and others. His fire sometimes fueled mine. Don loves theology and biblical conversation about important doctrinal matters. It was great to sit over lunch and discuss things of eternal significance. I will miss all those things.

I am grateful for the common path which the Sovereign Lord arranged for me and Don for nine years. I'm sure we will keep in touch and continue our friendship in a different way now. He is, after all, still around. Yet, the difference in proximity will change the dynamic of the friendship in some ways. That's OK.

It is good to surround oneself with others whose hearts are aflame with Christ and for Christ. I am now praying for another pastor to join our staff who has this quality. Of course, he will be different than Don. Yet, I'm certain God will use the new ministry relationship to continue to process of sharpening my life through others.

Stop and think about all the people God has intertwined in your life to shape you and influence you. Some of them are living. Some dead. Some were dead when you met them through their writings (great men influence us through books also). Some are still nearby. Others have moved on to other places. How thankful we should be for God's providence in placing us in close proximity to people who make us better by their example and friendship!

Some lyrics from a Wayne Watson song capture well the blessing of such friendships:

I guess God alone deciphers
When people need each other most
Who will be the blessed receiver
And who will be the gracious host
And all a servant here can do
Is unto the Lord avail
Content at times to be the wind
And at times to be the sail

Sometimes I think about you
Some old memories make me cry
Remembering the good times makes me laugh
But all in all I’m richer
For the happy and the sad
And I'm thankful for a season in your path

Monday, May 14, 2007

Christless Christianity

I received my latest edition of Modern Reformation magazine today. In it, Michael Horton writes a penetrating article entitled, Christless Christianity: Getting in Christ's Way. Horton confronts the tendency of today's churches to marginalize Christ and the gospel. This marginalization takes place by denying the essential biblical truths regarding Christ's person and work, or by distractions which usurp the centrality of Christ and put other things front and center.

Whether it is Protestant liberalism, post-modern emerging churches, or consumeristic evangelicalism, Horton suggests that many Christians and churches today are reverting to a moralistic, therapeutic message which is more about what we do than what Christ has done. The centrality of the good news of Jesus' perfect life, atoning death, resurrection, and return have been exchanged for a message of inner religious experience and personal piety.

Horton states,

The church exists in order to change the subject from us and our deeds to God and his deeds of salvation, from our various "missions" to save the world to Christ's mission that has already accomplished redemption. If the message that the church proclaims makes sense without conversion; if it does not offend even lifelong believers from time to time, so that they too need to die more to themselves and live more to Christ, then it is not the gospel.

Horton offers a poignant warning to evangelicals with these words:

For all their theoretical differences, liberals and evangelicals end up sounding a lot like each other. Evangelicals who say that they believe in Christ end up reducing Christ to a moral example just as thoroughly as liberals, not by outright denial but by distraction.

According to Horton, one of the greatest distractions we face is getting into a "pharasaic" mode which confuses law and gospel.

Even where Christ is regarded as the answer to God's just wrath, this emphasis is regarded as a point that can be left behind in the Christian life. The idea is that people "get saved" and then "become disciples." The gospel for sinners is Christ's death and resurrection; the gospel for disciples, however, is, "Get busy!" But this assumes that disciples are not sinners, too.

These insights are important reminders for us to take care to make sure that Christ and His gospel are not lost in a maze of religious moralism and activism. The gospel is not Jesus' plan to make your life better. It is not a how-to guide for people who want to be better persons. It is not a manual on how to build a Christian nation. As Horton puts it, "It is good news, not good advice." In other words, the gospel is the authoritative message that Jesus died on the cross and rose again to save sinners from God's just wrath.

Of course the gospel has implications for every facet of life. The gospel is all about discipleship and growing to be more like Christ in the totality of my life. Yet, apart from the perfect life of Jesus, His atoning death, and His resurrection, I could not become like Christ at all. May God help us to declare the good news and keep Christ as the central focus in the church.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Young Evangelicals and the Democratic Party

A friend sent me a link to an article in the San Francisco Chronicle in which Howard Dean encourages the Democrats to reach out to young evangelicals. Here is a segment from the article:

Dean credited the jump in numbers to the party's recent aggressive outreach. "We went out and advertised on Christian broadcast networks ... because in the evangelical movement, young people are changing America -- and they're changing the evangelical movement.''

"People don't want to go to church anymore ... and come out feeling bad because they happen to know somebody who's gay,'' he said. "People want to go to church because they know what they can do about poverty, about Darfur, about the environment.''
Dean specifically cited the positive impacts of Christian leaders such as Rick Warren -- author of the best-selling "The Purpose-Driven Life,'' and pastor of the Orange County-based Saddleback Church -- and of young pastor Joel Osteen, the televangelist sensation who has welcomed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to his Houston-based Lakewood Church.

"Those people don't beat up on other people to make their point and raise a lot of money,'' he said. "And we need to reach out to those folks, and work with them, and not be afraid. There is common cause with folks that we never thought we had common cause with.

Let me preface my comments by clearly stating that God is not affiliated with any political party. He is neither Republican or Democrat. Political parties are man-made organizations. They have no biblical mandate. So, I do not want my comments to be understood as indicating that any party can monopolize the favor of God or claim some divine cultural mandate.

Having said that, this article is disturbing to me. Though God does not endorse political parties, there may be things those parties endorse or fail to endorse which God does speak clearly about. Democrats have a clear history of treating certain issues in ways which run counter to an evangelical understanding of divine revelation. Two issues immediately come to mind - abortion on demand and minority status for homosexuals.

Evangelicals have long believed that human life begins at conception and should be protected in the womb. This is a moral issue. The fetus is not a lump of tissue, it is a person with a right to life. To kill that life in the womb is morally repugnant and condemned in Scripture. Evangelicals have also historically believed that homosexuality is not simply an alternative lifestyle on the same moral ground as heterosexuality. Rather, homosexual behavior is viewed by most evangelicals as a sinful lifestyle condemned by the Bible.

The fact that Howard Dean and the Democratic National Committee believe that young evangelicals care more about poverty, Darfur, and the environment than they do about abortion and homosexuality demonstrates a shift among evangelicalism. I am not suggesting that poverty, Darfur, and the environment are not valid moral concerns. They certainly are. I do believe that some evangelicals (myself included) have cared far less about these issues than we should. Consistent evangelical faith would certainly address these issues. A brief look back to the results of the first Greak Awakening in the 18th century would demonstrate evangelical concern for such issues as poverty, fatherless children, and slavery. Evangelicals are open to the charge that we have not consistently applied our ethics on these kinds of issues.

However, it seems to me that young evangelicals who would join a party to fight poverty and environmental issues, while that party fights to allow open season on the unborn, are committing a terrible inconsistency. On the hierarchy of ethical issues, it seems to me that the protection of unborn children is a watershed issue. How trustworthy is a politician who says he wants me to earn a fair wage and live above the poverty level but he would not fight to protect my right to be born? Indeed, he would fight to allow my mother the choice to terminate my life for her own convenience.

Dean states (with surprise I think) that the Democrats have a common cause with people they never thought they would have a common cause with - evangelicals. There, at least, is one thing that Howard Dean and I have in common.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

President of ETS Returns to Roman Catholicism

Last week Francis J. Beckwith, the President of the Evangelical Theological Society, returned to Roman Catholic Church. He resigned his post as President of ETS and later, his membership in that same organization. This news has been discussed at length here.

This news is somewhat disconcerting to me as an evangelical pastor. I am not very familiar with Dr. Beckwith or his work. I have heard of him but never read him extensively. Yet, the fact that the president of the professional guild of evangelical theologians could turn to Rome does strike me as problematic. Even after his return to Roman Catholicism, Beckwith said he could, in good consicence, agree to the doctrinal statement of ETS. It makes one wonder how "evangelical" the ETS statement of faith is when Roman Catholics can so happily sign it. Not that the statement is not evangelical as far as it goes. It just doesn't seem to go far enough to define what evangelical theology really is.

In addressing this problem of the doctrinal statement of ETS, Ray Van Neste wrote,

In the wardrobe of doctrinal statements the ETS statement is a bikini. The claim is that it covers only the essentials but I must say I think some important parts remain uncovered. We do not simply need a new swatch of material to cover this or that issue. There are simply too many areas where we are indecently exposed. If we add only one patch we will be annually adding more patches as different embarrassing gaps are revealed. No, the time has come to exchange our bikini for a full garment.

Perhaps a more robust doctrinal statement on the part of ETS would help keep the "E" in ETS. This seems to be a trend among churches and parachurch organizations today. We want to say as little as possible about who we are so as not to exclude anyone. Of course, one could go to the other extreme and expect lock-step agreement on every little issue. This would be equally destructive. However, it ought to mean something to be called evangelical. We should not be frightened to define ourselves by the historic doctrines that have characterized evangelical theology.

One can only hope that the ETS will not take the same approach that Evangelicals and Catholics Together took in the 1990s. In my opinion, such an approach only serves to obscure the gospel and sap the doctrinal life out of evangelicalism. Though we share some common theological ground with Roman Catholics, there are significant differences on significant issues which define the heart of the gospel (justification by faith alone being the most prominent). Let us hope that Dr. Beckwith's predecessor will be thoroughly evangelical.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Reeling in a Fat Cat

One of my hobbies is fishing. Here is a photo of a fat catfish I caught over the weekend. It is always enjoyable to take my kids and go to the lake. There are so many sights and sounds that soothe and refresh. However, the one sound that makes my heart pump faster is the sound of line spooling off my reel when a big boy like this one takes the bait.

Where did I catch him? Somewhere in Kansas. That's all I'm saying.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

How to Listen to a Sermon

I have spent hours upon hours thinking about how to prepare and deliver a sermon. It is a calling and a craft I continue to pursue, praying that I will grow as a preacher for the glory of God. I want my sermons to be biblically sound, passionate, and compelling. I want them to be attended by the power of the Spirit so that real transformation may result from the preaching of the Word.

In pondering preaching, it occurs to me that how we listen to a sermon greatly influences how much we benefit from it. Active, engaged listeners stand to gain much more than passive listeners who tune in and out. Now it goes without saying that there are some sermons that do not merit our attention. Sermons which have no biblical basis or do not in some way seek to declare what God has said in Scripture are not worth our time. Scriptureless sermons are all foam and no root beer. That said, I am assuming in this post that the preacher is actually making an attempt to proclaim the truth of Scripture.

With this framework in mind, I would like to suggest several helps for listenting to a sermon. These may be obvious to most. Yet, it is good to point them out even if only as a reminder of things we already know.
  • Listen with your Bible open to the text. If your preacher preaches expositionally, this shouldn't be a problem because he will keep pointing you to the text. You need to look at it frequently as the sermon unfolds.
  • Listen expectantly. God speaks through the Scriptures. He has something to say to you. Listen to the sermon expecting God to speak to you in His Word.
  • Take notes. We all know that writing something down while hearing it greatly enhances comprehension and retention. This will also give you the chance to review important insights ask important questions at a later time.
  • Listen reverently. God is speaking through His Word. Listen to the sermon with an attitude like that of the young Samuel, "speak Lord, I'm listening." Listen with the attitude of the prophet Isaiah, "Here I am Lord, send me."
  • Listen attentively. Fight off the distractions both internal (what time do the Chiefs kick off) and external (the kid who is fidgeting in your pew).
  • Listen critically. I don't mean try to find everything wrong with the sermon you possibly can. I mean listen with your mind engaged. Think contextually. Interact in your mind with the points the sermon is making.

Next Sunday as you drive to church, don't just ask yourself, "I wonder if the pastor is ready to preach today?" Ask yourself, "Am I ready to listen today?" Taking the time to be a prepared and engaged listener will pay big dividends in your life. It is an important way of demonstrating how much you value God's Word and how willing you are to submit to it.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

My Partner in Life and Ministry

The women of our church have set aside this week to honor the wives of our pastors. I am grateful for this expression of love and support for them. Being a pastor's wife has a unique set of challenges and blessings. This week of honor and encouragement will no doubt be a singular blessing for them. I am glad our ladies chose to recognize their important role in congregational life.

I have been serving Christ's church as a pastor for 20 years. I have been married to Jamie during this entire time (plus a few years before becoming a pastor). I can testify to the critical place she has occupied in my ministry life. She has been a steadfast partner and encourager to me. She has brought her own unique gifts to the ministries of the churches we have served. She has nurtured our family through the hectic schedule and pressures of a ministry life. She has made our home a safe haven during times of great struggle and pain. She has been a source of wisdom and discernment to me.

There are so many things I love about my wife. But, since this post is about her role as the wife of a pastor, I will confine my list to things pertinent to this role. These are just a sampling of the beautiful qualities she possesses as the wife of a pastor.
  • She loves Jesus Christ. A woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. She fears the Lord and loves Him with all her heart.
  • She loves the church. If she were not a pastor's wife, she would be one of the most dedicated church members to be found. Why? Because the church is not part of her life because she's married to me. It is part of her life because she loves the church.
  • She loves her family. She sacrifices daily and works hard to care for me and our four children.
  • She loves Scripture and theology. It's great to come home fired up about something I've studied or read and find her ready to engage on a deep level about the things of God.
  • She loves people. Whether it is her ministry to people at church or her volunteer work at the Pregnancy Crisis Center, she loves people and desires to show Christ to them.
  • She loves music. As one who enjoys music, it is wonderful that she fills our home with music. I often hear the sound of Jamie at the piano playing songs, hymns, and spiritual songs.
  • She loves "the ministry." She doesn't tolerate being a pastor's wife. She enjoys it.

In a previous church, the people told us that the former pastor's wife used to pray that her husband would leave the ministry. When I heard that, I grieved for that pastor. The enemy launches enough missiles at a pastor without having to battle at home with his wife at the same time. I grieved for the church. Imagine having a pastor whose wife is dragging her feet every step of the way. I grieved for that wife as well. How sad to view a life of ministry as an albatross around your neck.

Each time I think of that situation, I thank God for Jamie. Beside my salvation, she is the greatest gift God has given me. Don't get me wrong, I realize that all of these qualities are evidences of God's grace in her life. I know her imperfections as she knows mine. But she is a woman of grace and quality who seeks to honor Christ in her many roles and responsibilities.

George Whitefield described a stay in the home of Jonathan and Sarah Edwards during one of his preaching tours in 1740. Observing the marriage between Jonathan and Sarah, Whitefield commented,

A sweeter Couple I have not yet seen … She … talked feelingly and solidly of the Things of God, and seemed to be such a Help meet for her Husband that she caused me to … [pray] God, that he would be pleased to send me a Daughter of Abraham to be my wife.

I think Whitefield would have been impressed with the quality of my wife as well. She is a special woman. Many daughters have done nobly, but you excel them all (Proverbs 31:29).