I was very excited to hear the news that the great blog Rhetorical Response has returned to the Internet and has once again begun to inspire us through her work.

So, I’m back to blogging. I’m really excited, too, because I’ve missed the joy of thinking and writing about what is beautiful and important. Rhetorical Response is going to look different this time around. I’m about to graduate high school, and I have no British literature course to guide my writing. Also, I’m juggling travel (frequent trips to Tennessee to visit my employer), impending Advanced Placement and SAT II tests, and college applications. In July, I leave home for four months to pursue an internship as Teresa Moon’s personal assistant.

Being busy, though, is what motivates me to blog again. “Skimming the surface” is all too frightening a possibility, and I think, and hope, and pray Rhetorical Response will help me evade the trap.

Besides all that, God speaks to me when I write and when I read the thoughts of others. It’s so much fun to encourage and be encouraged by like minded writers and thinkers. Discussion in the blogosphere is a joy, and I can’t wait to take part in it again.

Here’s to the examined life.

I found the following thoughts from Karen very insightful and telling:

My busy schedule is making it challenging for me to find time for meditation and reflection. More and more often, I settle for merely thinking my thoughts, or for occasionally dialoguing with a friend or two, rather than analyzing and organizing my ideas into essays and blog posts. This tendency makes me nervous, for a couple of reasons.

First, I grow intellectually when I write. The discipline of transferring personal ideas into coherent written communication is very good for me, and unless I have an incentive (such as other people reading and commenting), this is a discipline I neglect. I need to be more proactive about my participation in “the great conversation.”

I could not have said it better myself. So many of my recent posts have not made it to this blog because they have stayed on my computer, on my notepad, or most-likely locked within my own mind. I have avoided growth through the sometimes painful discipline of writing down my thoughts, ideas, responses, and then responding to others thoughts, ideas, and responses. Sadly, as many have noticed, this discipline has been severely neglected unless something of global importance occurs. For the longest time I have loathed blogs that go through this phase, many times never returning. Yet the fear that if I force myself to post each day will bring out low-quality work is more of an excuse to not write anything at all. I hope that you will pray that I can avoid this temptation.

Karen continues:

Second, I live more fully when I evaluate my experiences through writing. When I force myself to think like a writer, every experience has the potential to provide me with insights, ideas, and thoughts. When I don’t function in this mindset, I let experiences pass by, rather than grappling with them until they reveal lessons. Writing lets me accost the events in my life. Carpe diem!

This is so true for both writers and speakers who are looking for insights into life, ideas for their material, and thoughts about the issues that come before us each and every day. It forces us to look at our world through a whole new perspective. God has blessed me by allowing me to continue doing these things even when I am not writing, but sometimes I feel that I must share something and I do not. I feel that you are not at a loss, but rather I am at a loss. I pray that I can continue through the easy times and the hard times. Perhaps we could call it growing pains on the blog — they are at times uncomfortable, hard, and sporadic. Yet in the end, the maturity that is gained through the growing process will be invaluable, and the pain will push both myself and hopefully any readers to grow in their faith as they learn to evaluate the culture in light of God’s word, to embrace the Truth, and to live like Christ.

We Cry With Hope

This week is going to be long, hard, and for so many, a very scary time. Through the past few days I have not been silent, but rather hard at work to provide articles elsewhere. You can find my response to the horrific attack at Virginia Tech on Monday here, and my article on the “Death of the Blogosphere,” a very interesting look at the blogosphere today with some quotes from some of the readers here and some thoughts from popular blogger Adrian Warnock.

Each day the world around us displays its utter depravity, sin, and its need for God. Without Him, we are nothing, our world is nothing, and our lives are meaningless and fruitless. There is no hope for those who do not believe that there is more to this life than the here and now. Without a belief in life after death, what meaning is there in living today, and without a belief in God, what basis do we have for morality or for right or wrong? As regenerated believers in Christ, we see purpose and meaning in our life, even amidst a sinful world. We see hope and joy amidst suffering, and we see forgiveness for our utter depravity and hopelessness next to the righteous God who is there…


(Picture source.)

Win an iPod: Regenerate Our Culture Contest

I cannot tell you how excited I am about Regenerate Our Culture’s essay contest — don’t worry, I’m not writing anything for it (although I wish I could!) and neither are any of our amazing writers. But it’s your chance to not only get your name and work out there, but also win an extremely helpful tool — an iPod nano. When I won mine a few months back it turned into an extremely helpful peice of electronics — it’s great! So, why don’t you start writing?

In Regenerate Our Culture’s mission statement, it says we are trying to “regenerat[e] our nation’s worldview away from the post-modernism holding it and back to the Christian worldview it was first built on. It can’t be denied that many in our nation have turned away from God in politics, religion, and their everyday lives. Our vision is to help bring about a positive change in these three important areas…”

What does this mean in real life? How can you live a regenerating life that will impact our culture for Christ?

We are accepting essays from teens 12-18 from now until May 10, 2007 (closing on 10:00 pm EST). For more details, click here.

The Scandal of the Cross

This entire week I have been contemplating on what to write. Yet each time I began to write, especially about things concerning Easter, Good Friday, and Passion Week, my mind came back to my previous post on my testimony. That is what this week is all about, is it not? It is about Christ crucified; sinners justified; death mortified; and God glorified. It all surrounds a cross, a stumbling block, a scandal, to Jews and Gentiles alike. When we look upon the cross we see death that is to be our life. We see wounds that are to heal. We see wrath laid upon Christ, yet we receive grace. I see grace greater than all our sin.

J.C. Ryle spoke about the cross saying:

Would I know the length and breadth of God the Father’s love towards a sinful world? Where shall I see it most displayed? Shall I look at His glorious sun, shining down daily on the unthankful and evil? Shall I look at the seed time and harvest, returning in regular yearly succession? Oh, no! I can find a stronger proof of love than anything of this sort. I look at the cross of Christ: I see in it not the cause of the Father’s love, but the effect. There I see that God so loved this wicked world, that He gave His only begotten Son,-gave Him to suffer and die-that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. I know that the Father loves us, because He did not withhold from us His Son, His only Son.

Not only does it show the great love, it shows the utter sinfulness of sin — something we daily fail to grasp. Once more, J.C. Ryle helps us understand.

Ah, if I listened to the wretched talk of proud men I might sometimes fancy sin was not so very sinful; but I cannot think little of sin when I look at Calvary. Would I know the fullness and completeness of the salvation God has provided for sinners? Where shall I see it most distinctly? Shall I go to the general declarations in the Bible about God’s mercy? Shall I rest in the general truth that God is a God of love? Oh, no! I will look at the crucifixion at Calvary. I find no evidence like that: I find no balm for a sore conscience and a troubled heart like the sight of Jesus dying for me on the accursed tree. There I see that a full payment has been made for all my enormous debts. The curse of that law which I have broken, has come down on One who there suffered in my stead; the demands of that law are all satisfied: payment has been made for me even to the uttermost farthing. It will not be required twice over. (Source)

Another great quote comes from Stephen Charnock:

When we shall see judgment in the world, what comfort can we take without a knowledge and sense of a crucified Christ? What a horror is it for a condemned man to see the preparation of the gibbets, halters and executioners? But when he shall see a propitiation made for him, the anger of the Prince atoned, the Law some other way satisfied, and his condemnation changed into remission; all his former terrors vanish, and a sweet and pleasing calm possesses him… When we tremble under a sense of our sins, the terrors of the Judge and the curses of the Law, let us look upon a crucified Christ, the remedy to all our miseries. His Cross has procured a crown. His passion [death] has expiated our transgressions. His death has disarmed the Law. His blood has washed a believers soul. This death is the destruction of our enemies, the spring of our happiness, the eternal testimony of divine love. We have good reason, as well as the apostle Paul, to determine with ourselves to know nothing but Jesus Christ, and especially him crucified. (Source.)

May we all determine with ourselves to know nothing but Jesus Christ, and especially him crucified.

Testimony Tuesday

It’s testimony Tuesday, thanks to our good friend Tim Challies. I encourage you to post your as well, and send your link in. It’s a great opportunity to all be encouraged as we see how God has worked in the lives of so many.

As Christians, one of the greatest and easiest ways to share Christ is to tell the story of how we were saved. In this article, I hope to relay to you my journey in becoming a Christian. But before I begin, I must tell you this: even though my identity as a home-schooler is important to me, what is truly important above all else is my identity in Christ. That’s my mission for today.

The Conversion

The story begins in a classroom of six and seven-year-olds studying the Bible—more specifically the minor prophets (you know, the section of your Bible that’s still in mint condition). Our class read books such as Obadiah, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and a bunch of other “iahs” that at the time I wasn’t so thrilled to read. In fact, usually I dreaded the time during the week when I had to read the genealogies and “boring” stories found in those dreaded books.

But I remember the very last night of that Bible study. The class all sat around in a circle listening to our leader sum up the past 32 weeks of study. As she did this, my mind began to remember story after story, seemingly all the same when it came to their basic building blocks.

  • God has laws for Israel
  • A prophet comes to warn them of God’s judgment
  • They choose judgment or salvation
  • Our teacher then told us how these stories were similar to the Christian’s story:

  • God had given me His law
  • I had broken the law by lying, stealing, dishonoring my parents, and even murdering (murder of the heart.)
  • And there I was, just like the Israelites, condemned before God. I knew that I deserved one thing: death. Being a good kid didn’t help me get to heaven. Reading my Bible didn’t get me to heaven. I was condemned, unable to pay my fine, unable to be perfect.
  • The story didn’t stop there. Our leader continued and told us about Jesus Christ.

    It was as if I was standing before a just judge, heading off to prison with a fine that was unpayable. I was guilty, and heading off to prison. Yet a complete stranger walked in the back and paid the fine for me. Justice was served, and I was free to go. All I needed to do at that point was to take the payment.

    Jesus had done that for me on the cross, taking my punishment and paying my fine.

    That night after the Bible study, God was working on my heart. Through my pastor’s sermons, studying the Bible in school, and through my leader’s words, I knew what I needed to do. I prayed that night in my bed, repenting of all my sin, and told God I was done with me and wanted to live for Him. I accepted His payment—Jesus Christ’s death on the cross. I wanted to be born again—and that night I was.

    The New Version

    In John 15:8, Jesus says “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” One way that I’ve been able to see fruit in my life began early on. It was a burden for those who were not heading to heaven. Charles Spurgeon once asked: “have you no wish for others to be saved? Then you are not saved yourself. Be sure of that.”

    That statement hits you like a 90 mile-per-hour fastball. With my knowledge of God as a righteous judge, I knew I could go nowhere without wanting to share what I knew. In reality, I should not be able to sleep knowing that thousands of people around the world, even friends, relatives, and neighbors, are all dying without Christ and heading to hell. It’s a heavy thought—and it made me understand that every believer should be witnessing every day, without fail and without shame. It’s hard to do, but we must do it.

    The one thing that I have always prayed for is boldness. I struggle many times with getting the courage just to start witnessing. It’s as though I’m an old car that just can’t get started. But when I finally do, the Holy Spirit is leading full-speed ahead, and the fear is removed. That first step is so hard to overcome, but we must do it. Pray, pray, pray!

    We cannot let the Devil trick us into believing that someone else will witness to a person. We must do it ourselves, without fear, and do it biblically. The best way to do that is to show them their sin by using the law of God, and when they are convicted of that, give them grace: the message of Jesus Christ.

    Before I end this section of the article, please hear this: if you have been convicted of not sharing your faith, do not let it stop at “Oh boy, I should be sharing my faith.” Get equipped and get out there and share the Gospel.

    The Hard Version

    When I became a Christian, I also knew that I needed to grow more like Christ. Our world has such low standards, especially for teens, and I knew I had to rise above those expectations placed on me. A Christian’s standards should always be higher than those of the world. As Alex and Brett Harris have so eloquently put it, we must “do hard things” each and every day, challenging ourselves to rise above mediocre. Settling with mediocre or lower is not going to cut it. As God tells us in Revelation, He spits out the lukewarm.

    Each and every day as I grow closer to the Lord, I realize that I am called to a higher standard. There is nothing I can do by myself, and I must rely wholly on my Savior who must get all the credit for everything I do. I can’t allow pride to come into my life, but must grow more like Christ in humility and grace. I must go out with boldness to share my story and warn those who are not in Christ of the grave danger which they are in.

    Copyright © 2007 Regenerated Magazine and Regenerate Our Culture.