Tag: Steve Lawson

Screen Time and Sound Waves: Utilizing Technology During Quarantine and ALL the Links You Could Ever Want

I’m almost embarrassed to say how little this “shelter-in-place” mandate has altered our lifestyle. Other than not going down the mountain every one or two weeks for church, music lessons, shopping and appointments, the only real change has been the increased screen time. Church, lessons and shopping are now all on-line. Plus we’ve been taking advantage of some of the great on-line learning resources that have now been made temporarily available for free.  We just started The Great American Story course through Hillsdale College. Next will be the World War II course taught by Victor Davis Hanson. How cool to have my own kids able to learn from one of the same instructors that I sat under while studying philosophy at Fresno State! Downside is that it’s more screen time.

Ditto for Ligonier Ministries who has just made all their on-line resources available for free through June, including their interactive group Bible studies! We’re talking about a monumental amount of sound Biblical teaching now just a click away. For example, you can take Elisabeth Elliot’s video course “Suffering Is Not for Nothing” with over 1000 other participants and invite a bunch of friends to be apart of your on-line study group. Downside is that its more screen time.

Not all of Ligonier’s resources require a screen. One of my favorite freebies is their internet radio app called RefNet.  We discovered this audio resource when Tom’s Mom was sick with cancer. We even added it to her Alexa so all she had to do was say “Alexa, play RefNet” and a 24/7 line up of her favorite teachers–Piper, MacArthur, Sproul, Nancy Guthrie, and dozens of others–would play at her command. The messages are interspersed with quality traditional Christian music, Bible readings, devotional readings, and even news breaks from a Christian perspective. At a time when our elderly are now even more isolated than ever, this could be a life changing gift for someone you know.  They even play the Lamplighter Theatre’s audio series in the evenings for the kiddos. My younger boys love these action packed stories and I love that they don’t need a screen to enjoy it. Last night we blasted “Escape From the Eagle’s Nest” from the front porch while they sledded and built a line of snowmen down the middle of the road (fewer than 10 and they were all at least 6 feet apart, of course).

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I’m a serious podcast junky and being home 24/7 has only fed that appetite. Growing up  in a house without TV meant the height of electronic entertainment was listening to Family Radio. The voices of J. Vernon McGee and Charles Swindoll were as familiar to me as the sound of the furnace clicking on in the morning or the crunch of the gravel as my Dad’s car pulled into the driveway every evening. I love it that my boys already know by name the voices of Steve Lawson, Doug Wilson, Paul Washer, James White, Alistair Begg, the Apologia guys, the Cultish guys, the G3 guys, the Just Thinking guys, and even the gals from Sheologians, What Have You, Relatable and my favorite Mama Bear apologist, Alisa Childers.

But even the voices of the best teachers can become a distraction and like Saul, we need some music to soothe the soul. I used to be a hymns and classical-only kind of gal so Bach was my go-to method of relaxation. The whole world of classical music is available for streaming on-line. Now I get the even greater privilege of hearing Joel practicing my favorite hymns on the piano, or Nathan doing the same on his violin or cello, or Titus rearranging some Bach for his mandolin. But Titus has also broadened my musical horizons with other genres and now I’m enjoying listening to him play things like “Take Me Home West Virginia” or “Recuerdos de la Alhambra” or even his original “A Blues 65” on his Youtube channel. If you all aren’t subscribed to it yet, you should be.

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The boys have also figured out other ways to utilize the airwaves during this time of social distancing. A while back I bought a cheapo 4-pack of walky-talkies which they managed to rig discarded radio antennae onto. From the top of our ridge they’ve been in communication with their good friends who live in another town about 30 miles away. These friends also own a weekend cabin up here so they’re sheltering in place less than 1/2 mile away but no one can get together. So out come the walky-talkies. They’ve even been playing games over them by drawing out each-others’ moves. Radio Jenga anyone?

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With all these sounds and lit-up screens around me, I’m left wondering what a pandemic would have looked like before the age of wifi.  For us that was just last summer.  Until then our only option up here was very costly satellite internet. We had to walk down the road to a friend’s house to catch a signal or to the camp office to plug in. Then Tom signed up to get his Mdiv through the distance learning program at Master’s Seminary. That’s when we realized just how much of a pain it was going to be to get all his work done at the office and just how impossibly expensive it would be to pay for satellite ourselves. So we prayed about it. We prayed that if seminary was really God’s will for Tom that He would provide the way to get it done. THE NEXT DAY Kingsburg Media Foundation was at the camp, scouting it out to see if we were a possible candidate for their reduced-cost internet services.  What a timely provision!  And even more so when I think of how difficult it would have been to shelter-in-place without being able to access our church service live-stream, shopping, classes, music lessons, and more on-line.

I guess there’s never really a good time for a pandemic but it amazes me how the advent internet has changed the face of this one.

 

 

 

 

On Worship

After Tom had a week away at seminary for Winterim with Keith Essex and Steve Lawson, I got to take a once in a lifetime trip to Atlanta for the G3 Conference.  It was the first time I had traveled alone in over 20 years.  When you’re used to crossing the Pacific every summer with 5 kids in tow, you’d think this would be a piece of cake but I was pretty much lost and pathetic the whole time.  But I did more than survive the adventure.  I came home with a ton of sound teaching, glorious worship, and edifying conversations ringing in my ears (and more free books in my carryon!).

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Going to a G3 Conference is like attending a family reunion.  Only it’s the kind of family where everyone gets along and is really excited to see each other.  And it’s the kind of family that has an inordinate number of extremely gifted Bible expositors, prolific authors, powerful preachers, qualified shepherds, dedicated missionaries, and a host of general doers of the Word.  I can’t even begin to describe the caliber of teaching, heights of worship, and warmth of fellowship I experienced there.

After hearing some of Tom’s take-away from his Essex class on Ezra and Nehemiah the week before, I couldn’t help but feel like I was experiencing at the conference some of what is played out in those two books.  Ezra 7:10 tells us that “Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach His statutes and rules in Israel.”  The fruit of this determination blooms gloriously in Nehemiah 8 and 9 when

“all the people gathered as one man into the square before the Water Gate.  And they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses that the Lord had commanded Israel.  So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could understand what they heard… And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people for he was above all the people, and as he opened it all the people stood. And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people answered, ‘Amen, Amen,’ lifting up their hands.  And they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground… They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.”

One of the points John MacArthur made at G3 was that “The guy with the guitar is not the worship leader.  The pastor is.”  Which is why according to Paul Washer, “The problems with our worship go back to the preaching.”  This makes sense in light of Washer’s definition of worship as “the outward expression of the inward estimation of God.”  If people are not taught who God is directly from the source of His own revelation concerning Himself–His own Word–how can they worship Him in truth?  As Steve Lawson pointed out, “Our worship will rise no higher than our theology.”  At the same time our worship needs to be as truth-full as our teaching.  Costi Hinn remarked that “Accepting false lyrics but demanding true teaching is hypocrisy.”

The people of Ezra’s day heard the Word of God, they understood His character through its exposition, and they worshiped Him through their ‘Amen’ to the truth.

Popular worship today seems to fall so short of ‘Amen.’  There is too little of God’s holy, triune nature being proclaimed in preaching or in song to demand such a response.

There was a lot of talk at the conference about making the expository preaching of the Word of God the central tenant of our worship and bringing back doctrinally robust hymnody (and Psalmody!) as a means of singing out our ‘Amen’ to the Word preached.

This was a huge encouragement to me.  I grew up singing hymns and spent 7 years in a church dedicated to exclusive Psalmody.  I’ve also been a part of churches that were devoid of both.  While living in Hawaii we attended a traditional service in which we were the only young family.   I had the incredible privilege of singing in a choir made up of older saints.  It was the highlight of my week to gather with them to sing the great hymns of the faith, all through the months of expecting our fifth son, and then with him in my arms, and then with him being passed around the choir, and then with him crawling all over and under the pews.  And then the announcement came that in an effort to “breathe life into a dead service” and attract a younger crowd we would no longer be singing hymns.

It was devastating. Both to the older folks and to our young family.  I wrote the following letter to the pastor expressing our sorrow.

Thus says the Lord:“Stand by the roads, and look, ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is;and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.” But they said, “We will not walk in it.” Jeremiah 6:16

I’m just a mom with a bunch of little kids.I can’t write out big tithe checks or traverse the globe on mission trips. I’m not what you would call a “mover and shaker” in the church. Most of the time you wouldn’t even know I’m there and if it weren’t for my toddler running up and down the aisles I wouldn’t get noticed at all. But I’m there almost every Sunday, not at the contemporary family service, but at the traditional one. The one with all the old people in it. The one that’s been described as “dead” or “on it’s way out.” The one with “not much going on.” Most of the time my kids are the only ones in that service and it’s true that most of the time it IS pretty quiet.

But one thing I’ve learned from spending a bit of time with older folks is that one should never mistake “quiet” for “dead.” In an age of sensationalism we tend to forget the God of the Whisper. The God who commands us to be still. The God of Order. The God who finds great worth in “a gentle and quiet spirit.” I am perfectly aware how hardly anyone looking at all those white heads sitting silently in the pews would ever describe that service as “Spirit filled.” But that’s not quite fair, either to these gloried saints or the Spirit that indwells them. In fact, I would venture to guess that the hunched over ninety year old who seems to be dozing in the pew knows quite a bit more of the Holy Spirit than your average thirty-something worship leader does. You see, the Holy Spirit’s been her constant companion for nearly a century and since her husband died twenty years ago, He’s been her only companion. And she’s learned a lot from Him. For one thing, she’s learned to listen. To be still. And God in His amazing wisdom has equipped the elderly body to do that better than anyone else.

The thing is, I know just how much these quiet folks are filled with the Spirit because I’ve been the constant beneficiary of the gentle overflow. Every smile, every pat on the back, every shaky squeeze of the hand, every time they stop to interact with my children, every word of encouragement they offer is a Spirit-led act that in a faster-paced, noisier setting might go completely unnoticed. But for an hour each Sunday, there’s this pause in my crazy, hectic life. And wrapped in the warmth of tradition and the richness of the well-ordered-Word I look up to see an older saint nod an affirming “Good job, mom” and it’s just the encouragement I need to make it through another week.

Please, in your quest to fill the church with young people, don’t neglect our older saints. They have more to offer than you might think. 

And so does their music. Music which I’ve heard disregarded as “archaic, boring, and irrelevant.” Because apparently to be acceptable to God, church-music must be modern, entertaining and germane. Maybe it’s time to rethink the standards by which we regard church-music and repent of the flippancy with which we’ve thrown generations of rich, meaningful, God-honoring, Gospel-centered, deeply instructive worship material out the door simply because it didn’t have the right beat. Maybe it’s time to return to those ancient paths that Jeremiah 6:16 encourages God’s people to seek out and walk in.Paths for which our older saints make the very best kind of guides. 

“Stand up in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God.  I am the Lord.”  Leviticus 19:32

After a hard fought battle the church decided to allow the hymn singing to continue until that generation had passed on.  They didn’t have to wait long.  I wrote the following poem in honor of that triumphant day.

We are the church who killed the hymn –hurrah!
Who shook off our fetters, went out on a limb –hurrah!                                                        Who took what was sacred and dear to the heart
Of the elders among us whom we’d like to depart
And take all their creeds and their stained glass art,                                                                Their potlucks and organs and dreary old songs,
And be Gone! Gone! Gone!

We’ve adopted a tune heard in any saloon
And added a beat picked up right from the street.
In the name of progress and the modern age
We’ve looked to the seeker and made them our gauge.                                                           We’ll no longer be bound like a bird in a cage
To traditions or standards or words on a page!
Yes, we are the church who killed the hymn!
Hurrah! And Hurrah! And Hurrah!

To see how one member of our family is working hard to keep hymns alive in his generation click on this link.

Tolle Lege: A Bible Story

img_5778The tiny Bible pictured above is the second of its kind I owned.  The first, which my husband gifted to me on the occasion of the birth of our first child, proved the perfect size to hold in one hand and read aloud to a nursing infant.  Alas, it’s greatest strength proved it’s fatal flaw.  That Bible accidentally ended up in the laundry immediately following the birth of our fourth child, the unfortunate victim (I mean the Bible, not the baby) of its own diminutive size versus the mountains of laundry a family with 4 boys under the age of 6 is bound to produce.  The birth of our 5th son warranted the purchase of a nearly exact duplicate which I found equal to the task of being easy to hold with one hand while reading aloud to a nursing infant.  Precious hours of nourishment for mommy and baby both.

In 2016 I marked the New Year with a new Bible and a new resolve to read through it again.  This time I wasn’t bound to a baby in a rocking chair and opted for one of those new fangled clunky ESV Journaling Bibles that Crossway was becoming famous for.  Finally, I had plenty of space in which to sloppily scrawl my notes, making my Journaling Bible the least Instagram worthy in all of Bible Journaling history.  With that kind of reckless abandon you can only read through your Bible a couple times before it just becomes an illegible mess, such as is highlighted in the picture below.img_5771

So in 2019 I was thrilled to start the year with a complete set of Crossway’s ESV Scripture Journals.  Now I could study a single book and mark it up to my heart’s content and not ruin a whole Bible in the process.  Because each book of the Bible is bound individually it’s so convenient to carry whichever one your studying from or memorizing with you wherever you go.  They also make great gifts.  We gave away a number Gospel of Johns to folks we were evangelizing and who were shy of tackling the whole Bible.  To just be able to hand the book of Philippians to a sister who is in the pit of discouragement and say “hey, read this little book” made it so easy to get the Word of God into other people’s hands.  The downside to these Scripture Journals (pictured below) is that being individually bound you’re not likely to be carrying around the whole Bible with you in that format.

Enter 2020.  And a whole new chapter in my Bible story.  Yesterday I received in the mail the brand new ESV Journaling New Testament, Inductive Edition.  A mouthful to be sure but title aside it has all the space for notes as the Scripture Journals, only in a completely different format, but it’s bound in a single volume.  At least half of it is.  Apparently they’ve only published the New Testament so far and I’m dying to get my hands on a companion OT.  Hurry up Crossway!  I really, really like that the space for taking notes is in between each line instead of just in the margins like the Journaling Bible or on the opposite page like the Scripture Journals.  Take a look below at all those clean, luxurious blank spaces for me to mess up with my embarrassing sloppy scrawling.  Or maybe I should take a cue from Steve Lawson and take up writing everything neatly with a fountain pen.  After all it is a new decade.  No better time to start strange new habits than the present.