#haveyoueatentoday?

Author: Jenni Newbanks

This past Friday, the women’s group at Blacksmith Priory were studying Romans, Chapter 7 when an amazing topic began to be discussed. To give you a little background on the study, Paul was writing about his internal battle with sin. This lead to the telling of “the Tale of the Two Dogs.” The tale goes like this:

A wise man said he had two dogs inside of him. One of the dogs is evil and mean and the other dog is kind and good. The evil dog fights the good dog relentlessly and when someone asked the man which dog wins, after quiet reflection the man answered, “The dog I feed the most.”

This retelling of an ancient Native American tale brought about a discussion that just exploded into something amazing. I talked about my personal struggles with “feeding the good dog” daily and asked my sisters in Christ to hold me accountable.

One of our regular members, Kelli McClellan, brought such a wise thought to the table. She said, “When I wake up and eat breakfast, I end up eating lunch and dinner throughout the day. When I wake up and skip breakfast, I could go all day without eating, without realizing how hungry I am and by the end of the day I am starving and will be satisfied with anything that does not take much work to prepare.”

This is how our metabolisms work. If you eat breakfast, it jump starts your metabolism for the day. This can also be applied to our “spiritual metabolism.” If you wake up every morning with prayer and the Word, you reach out to God more throughout the day.

Now let’s take this a step further, when you are choosing a church, you go to get “fed,” right? Some may find this as a foreign concept but this is ultimately what we are looking for, a huge “Sunday meal” to feed our spirits and set us up for the week ahead. A big problem in the church today is that many believers think they only have to “eat” on Sundays. Think about how you would feel if you were to apply that in a physical sense. That would be crazy if we only ate on Sundays, right!? I cannot stress enough how important it is to feed yourself spiritually everyday. Think of your spirit as one that feeds solely on the Word of God.

Imagine how empty and frail your spirit would become by Tuesday or Wednesday. Do you think your spirit would have the strength to fight , as Paul describes, “another law waging war against law of my mind.” (Romans 7:23) If we took our spiritual health as serious as our physical health we would feed ourselves daily, would we not?

And let’s think about the food you will feed your spirit. Will you be satisfied with a daily devotional written by a man that makes you feel good every morning? I would call this a “simple carb” for your spiritual diet. Simple carbs burn up quickly leaving the body just as quickly as it entered. What I will tell you is the Word serves up MEAT– Something complex enough to get you through to your next meal.

So it is simple. As members of the body of Christ, we are to hold one another accountable even for our daily feeding. Remind one another by asking one simple question. “Have you eaten today?”

Well…have you?

Reaching the Lost… at 11 years old!

I think we can all agree that one of the weaker points of Evangelical Christianity these days is that many of our non-clergy believers are simply not engaging in any sort of evangelism throughout the week.  There are many reasons we can point to as to why this is, but one reason that seems most easily apparent is that a large number of believers have a difficulty with not only sharing the gospel, but even articulating what the gospel message even IS!

This is not meant as an attack on our church goers, but it is simply an observed situation when the subject is brought up in small group conversations.  Like many subjects that we expect the average believer to have at least a nominal grasp of, when questions are asked to prompt discussion, sometimes we get that glassed-over I-have-no-idea-what-planet-I’m-on look.

And so, a month or so ago, Blacksmith Priory hosted a very compact crash-course conference in order to answer the question, “What is the Gospel and How can I Share it?”  We had a modest turn out for that mid-week evening gathering, but among the attendees was a bright young man of 11 years old.  Throughout the two or so hours of discussion and instruction, he asked some very good questions and overall was one of the most engaged of those present.  I believe all who attended that evening gained a more solid understanding and confidence with how to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with people around them, but I had no idea what was going to be sparked that night.

That same 11 year old boy from the crash-course is a part of our Sunday Night Sparks youth group, and he shared with the others some of the things he learned during the conference.  As I saw the riveted looks on the faces of his peers as he explained what he had learned, I had no idea what God was doing in the hearts of those who heard.  A week went by before the NEXT Sparks gathering, and I could not believe what had transpired.  As we talked about prayer requests before getting started with the lesson for the night, one of the 11 year old girls who had heard the report of the Gospel conference asked for prayer for a brand new believer that she had led to Christ that week… ON THE SCHOOLBUS!  She had taken the relaying of the information about sharing the Gospel as a personal challenge and now she was excitedly reporting the power of God at work that she had personally experienced as she had been willing to open her mouth to speak the truth of Christ crucified and resurrected.

As that report concluded, the boy who had attended the conference shared his story of how he had shared the Gospel with a boy at school while waiting on the bus to pick them up.  Both stories had the common thread that neither of them had been pushy, but simply shared the story of what had happened 2000 years ago, and what it means for us today, as well as what it means for them personally.  As they bounced back and forth, comparing notes, they both decided that they needed to continue to share with the kids on their buses, as that seemed to provide a relaxed social environment for conversation.  In the midst of this, the kids came to the conclusion they wished they had bibles to give out to those they talked to about Jesus.

Looking around the room as these stories unfolded, I saw some of the other kids starting to get excited about it as well, and they began chattering about where they thought they might be able to talk to someone about Jesus, and who they might talk to.  Some of them were clarifying various points of the Gospel story to make sure they understood it by asking each other questions.  I honestly have never seen such an enthusiasm for evangelism anywhere in the church before.

Before the night was over, several of the youth had concocted a plan to intentionally sit with someone different on the bus every day, with the deliberate plan to engage in spiritual conversation and to find out how they can pray for the kids they sit with, to invite them to the Sparks group, and to talk to them about Christ and pray with them if they can.  This plan evolved with very little input or help from adults that night.  They hatched the plan and took it as a mission completely on their own while I sat back and listened, simply amazed.

My wife and I stayed up quite a while that night after Sparks was over, and just praised God for these amazing children who are so clearly vessels of mercy, and for what God is doing through them.  After praying about it, we decided that this was most definitely something we needed to continue to foster and support.  And so it was agreed, that Blacksmith Priory’s School Bus Outreach was to be born out of this.

As a ministry, we have committed to empowering these kids who want to participate in the Great Commission to go and make disciples of all nations, by supplying them with miniature New Testaments to give to other children on the bus who they have shared the story of Jesus with.  We will also be producing simple printed material that will help with presenting the Gospel and also will serve as an invitation into Sparks youth group, and into the Kingdom of God as a whole.

In the last month since this began, two new believers have been added to the Kingdom, and many more have heard the message of Grace, out of the mouth of babes, as it were.

Please pray for this incredible movement of God in such a young and vibrant body of believers, passionate to see the message of salvation for those who trust in and profess Jesus Christ as Lord, carried into their own personal mission field.  May the Spirit of the Lord go with these young ones, as the Spark within them is kindled into a Flame that cannot be extinguished.

Arts & Crafts Fundraiser on Jan. 23rd @ 6pm to 9pm!

PRESS RELEASE:

Blacksmith Priory will be holding their very first quarterly fundraiser Arts & Crafts Fair on Friday, January 23rd from 6pm-9pm in Lexington, SC’s Old Mill on Main Street!  Come and discover all that Blacksmith Priory’s ministry is about, from marriage and crisis counseling to adult discipleship and life coaching, to a vibrant youth group where bright young lives are molded into lasting relationships with each other and with God.

The vision for Blacksmith Priory is to exist as a spiritual armory for the equipping of individuals and families in grace and in truth to fulfill the Great Commission of Jesus Christ that we make disciples of all nations.

To carry out this vision, Blacksmith Priory carries out weekly conversations in small-group settings for couples, for men, for women, and for youth, centered around applying scriptural knowledge and context as well as provide a support system for those who want to take their walk with Christ more seriously.  As a key component, Blacksmith Priory also makes available a counseling service for married couples to help guide people in coming together around a Christ-centered and Grace-filled family life, and how that family life is the hub and the foundation for their walk as individual believers within the body of Christ.

There will be plenty of handmade arts & crafts to browse and buy, and all proceeds will go to support the ongoing operation of the ministry work of Blacksmith Priory!  Please come out and support Blacksmith Priory in their mission to be of use to the community of believers in South Carolina and beyond.

Artist & Craftsmen donations are welcome and appreciated.  Email blacksmithpriory@gmail.com for more details on donating.  God Bless!

Why Ideological Terror Attacks Will Continue to Rise

By now, you have likely had your fill of commentary on the attack on French satirists that have sparked outrage and mourning across the globe.  Chalk it up as one more ideological act of violence.  One worldview lashing out in savage violence that both appalls and enrages any civilized person.  “How does this happen?  We live in the 21st century!  This simply cannot go on!  It must stop!  What has happened to the world we live in?!”  All of these and more are repeated in response to every occurrence of violence around the world–each one seemingly more savage than the last.  The worst news of it all is this:  Not only will this pattern of violence continue, but the continuation of these violent terror-tantrums are actually the only rational outcome of a situation that was created more than a century ago with the rise of relativism and subjective reasoning.

The consensus among child-psychologists today is that temper tantrums in children begin when a child experiences frustration over not getting what they want, and then not being able to communicate properly about the matter.  As I am sure you can imagine, if every 14 month old could communicate to his or her guardian that they simply did not require a nap today due to the fact that they slept in late that morning and planned on turning in early that night, there would be no need to violently protest the matter in what we commonly know as a temper tantrum.  A responsible parent, when confronted with a temper tantrum, should use the opportunity to help the child communicate without hurling objects and screaming at the top of its lungs.  The opportunity and ability to communicate effectively tends to cease these temper tantrums and results in what we know as “growing out of it.”  I tell you that it is the same effect being witnessed here in the world today.  Terror attacks are a result of the built up anger and frustration with the inability to discuss topics of important or deeply emotional impact to the group or individual committing these acts of violence.  And I squarely blame proponents of Postmodern philosophy for setting the stage and then fanning the flame for this increasing trend of violence by these ideological groups.

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The Missing Virtue: Humility

I ran across this article yesterday, and the truth of it has been weighing on my spirit, both for myself personally, but for our ministry, and for the Church as a whole.  It is indeed a fine line between arrogance and excellence, when it comes to Christian scholarship.  Here is the scoop:

Christian Scholarship and the Distinguishing Virtue of Humility

I never had the chance to meet him in person, but I have become an ardent admirer of Carl F. H. Henry. And while I have come to appreciate his brilliance as a Christian thinker, I am always struck by his humility. Don’t get me wrong, Henry was not reluctant to call a spade a spade or to dismantle erroneous arguments, heterodoxy, or injustice. But he did so with a marked humility that is also evident from the countless anecdotes I have heard from his former friends, students, and colleagues.

D. A. Carson tells of a conversation near the end of Henry’s life, when he asked the aging theologian how he had sought to remain humble. Coming from a giant of evangelical theology, Henry’s response is noteworthy. “How can anyone be arrogant when he stands beside the cross?” I want to be more like that. But I find the rip tide of self-promotion to be a powerful one, pulling me out to an eventual and certain ruin.

Christian scholarship must be, by its very essence, characterized by a love for, and earnest desire to seek, the truth. This means it will by necessity involve conviction, critical thought, and the best tools of research and inquiry.

Humility Must Distinguish the Christian Scholar

But I would argue that the mark of Christian scholarship that might be in shortest supply these days is humility. And its deficiency is evident in ways we might not expect. Perhaps it is because we have forgotten, even within contemporary evangelicalism, the nature of these ancient truths, which demand humility in the scholar for three primary reasons:

1. Humility presses against the professionalization of Christian scholarship. I suspect some part of our evangelical confusion regarding the scholarly virtue of humility has to do with our simultaneous theological amnesia. We have largely forgotten a historic and distinctly Christian understanding of vocation, one that Christians have understood more clearly at better times, one that reminds us that our own work as scholars is a gift, a grace, a calling.

Christian scholarship is more than a career. It’s a vocation. Of course, historic Protestantism has trumpeted this point—sometimes better than others—for half a millenium. But far too often, Christian scholarship has succumbed to the zeitgeist of professionalization. In an age that has turned education and learning into another commodity, we understand the call to learn to be grounded in the created order, part of God’s design for his image bearers, and central to the continued call to “fill the earth and subdue it” (Gen. 1:28).

Those called to teach, research, and write, to create new knowledge and transmit ancient wisdom, are fundamentally a called people. Thus we must carry out that vocation in all its aspects with a humble spirit, mindful that it has been entrusted to us by divine grace, no matter how credentialed or accomplished we may appear to be.

2. Humility presses against the values of the world and of American culture. To say we live in a narcissistic age is hardly news. But while our age may be particularly at ease with some of the most obnoxious and flagrant expressions of this form of arrogance, Christians realize this has been the spirit of the age since Genesis 3.

Christian scholars increasingly find themselves situated within a culture that prioritizes celebrity, that tells us of the necessity of “establishing our platform” and “building our brand.” Humility is essential for civility, and the deficit of both is reaching epidemic levels within American life, including in the academy. If you think the scholarly guild is immune from this toxicity, think again. Sure, we might dress it up in more genteel clothing (read a C.V. sometime to see what I mean), but it is there nonetheless: an aspiration to set ourselves above and apart from those within our own community.

In an age that has commodified all things, including education and the life of the mind, the pressure toward self-promotion, caustic polemicism, and visceral reactionism is everywhere. Christian scholarship framed by humility will be swimming upstream against these tides.

3. Humility increasingly presses against evangelicalism’s pernicious fetish with self-promotion. The expansion of digital technologies, social media, and the democratization of mass communication all hold incredible promise, with potential to serve the common good and deepen human flourishing. This is especially true within evangelicalism, where the rapid exchange of ideas accelerates global evangelization, dialogue, discipleship, and education.

However, this proliferation comes with built-in risks. If you aim to cultivate the virtue of humility as a Christian scholar, you will increasingly find not just the world but also the pressures of evangelical subculture telling you that self-promotion is just part of the game. We might like to think that it’s part of being “strategic” or “expanding our relational network.” But the siren song of narcissism in the digital age carries an especially seductive tune.

Neither the quality nor effectiveness of Christian scholarship is gauged by how many Twitter followers you have. It is not measured by whether or not you are on the bestseller list or by where you get invited to speak. It has little to do with how quickly you can concoct a half-developed or reactionary response to the cable news cycle.

Humble scholarship should make us leery of the siren song of self-promotion and cautious when we feel the tug to recklessly dispense our judgments and opinions in a half-cocked fashion simply to make sure we provoke the most readers, retweets, or media calls.

Nature of Humility as Scholarly Virtue

So how does humility shape the life and work of a Christian scholar?

First, humility means that the Christian scholar remains always a student. We are never finished learning. As Christians, we are being transformed according to the renewing of our minds (Rom. 12:2). And no matter how distinguished we may become as teachers, we never cease to be students and learners. There are always more questions to be asked, more answers to be found, more truths to be learned. A Christian understanding of revelation and truth serves to bolster this vocation with sincere hope—these questions are worth asking, and the answers are out there, available to those who would seek them thanks to a sovereign God who created all things to tell the story of his infinite greatness.

Second, humility means that we submit to authority. For the Christian scholar, that ultimate authority must be the Bible. Whereas our disciplines are marked by competing authorities and multiple theories, we understand the Scriptures to be unique. The Bible is the singular inspired and therefore inerrant authority for the people of God. This is a place of rest for the Christian scholar. We can fully and truly trust what God says to us in his Word. We do not sit in judgment over it; instead it judges us (Heb. 4:12).

Third, humility compels the Christian scholar to recognize and be honest about his or her own limitations. It’s counterintuitive, but one of the most freeing things one can say as a Christian scholar is, “I don’t know.” But it’s not only liberating, it’s also stimulating. Being humble enough to admit our own limitations helps spark inquiry. If we’re honest about what we don’t know, we give an opening for intellectual curiosity to break through.

Richard Mouw describes this posture well in his most recent book, Called to the Life of the Mind: Some Advice for Christian Scholars (Eerdmans, 2014). Mouw, a distinguished philosopher and longtime seminary president, points out: “It is precisely because we are finite beings—and if that were not bad enough, fallen ones as well—that we must take a humbly modest approach to human knowing. God alone knows all things.”

A little bit of eschatology might also do us well. We have it on good authority that there will be work in the new heavens and new earth. Of course, this work will be liberated from the toil and burden of the curse. But those of us called to scholarship and the pursuit of knowledge have a mystery awaiting us. While our capacity to know God and delight in him will expand throughout the infinite ages to come (a glorious thought if ever there was one), we will no longer suffer ignorance. Perhaps we can understand a bit of what the apostle Paul meant when he reflected, “Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known” (1 Cor. 13:12). Being known fully now, even when we know only in part. Anticipating a coming fullness of knowledge, centered on God himself. What could be more wonderful, and humbling, than that?

Matthew J. Hall (PhD, University of Kentucky) serves as vice president for academic services at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. You can follow him on Twitter.

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