Wednesday, May 30, 2007

I'm Back!

Those were some of the best days of my life. Seriously. I am in awe of God's grace shown to us on the cross, and feel so much better prepared to live out humble orthodoxy. Well...I need help with the humble part, but I feel like I've been helped in that too. Let me explain:

On Saturday morning, the first day of the conference, I was reading in Deuteronomy, and as I read Mark Dever's commentary, I came across this passage:
When you begin to grasp the great truth of this book--that God chooses his people--you begin to realize that our fundamental posture as Christians should never be anxiety or pride, but gratitude and hope. Anxiety may look more humble than pride, but it's really just pride with no make-up on. More than anything else, a confident knowledge of God and his Word will kill our pride and fuel our hope. It was true for God's people back in Moses' time, and it's true for God's people today. If you want to kill pride and fuel hope, study and learn God's Word. Grow in your confidence in him. (The Message of the Old Testament, p. 162)
As I read that, I realized that the area in which I really wanted to grow was in humility. I'm very good at knowing what I believe (orthodoxy), but I'm a very proud person who loves to share his own opinions instead of listening to others.

During one of the times of worship, the speakers all read meditations on the cross from different church fathers, and CJ read a quote from Charles Spurgeon that pierced me to the heart:

I received some years ago orders from my Master to stand at the foot of the cross until he came. He has not come yet, but I mean to stand there till he does. Here, then, I stand at the foot of the cross and tell out the old, old story, stale though it sound to itching ears, and worn threadbare as critics may deem it. It is of Christ I love to speak, of Christ who loved, and lived, and died, the substitute for sinners, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God.
That's what I need to do! I need to spend every day at the foot of the cross, because only there do I realize my own insignificance and unworthiness. In the shadow of the cross, what reason do I have for pride? As we continued to sing about the cross, I was moved to tears to think that Christ would come to die for me, an arrogant sinner shaking my fist in the face of my Creator.

Am I humble now? Nope. But hopefully I have been humbled just a little more, and a little bit more of my pride is gone. Because that's how sanctification works: slowly but surely, God is faithful to bring my life into conformity with his character. As long as I dwell in the shadow of the cross, I will be humbled.

So that was one of my key takeaway points from the weekend. But for a general recap: the sermons were amazing, all eight of them (and are available for free from Sovereign Grace), the fellowship was incredible, and I had a great time in my first "singles" event without supervision. It was so much fun, I can't even begin to describe it. However, over the next few days I plan to write up an account of my experiences over on my Xanga, so feel free to check it out. And if you want to read some other detailed accounts, there were liveblogs everywhere, including Tim Challies, The Rebelution, Boundless, Kevin, and of course New Attitude itself. (Did I mention that I met Tim, Alex, and Brett? That was pretty cool, let me tell you.) So have fun reading about it, and start making plans to come next year!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Endings...and Beginnings

Today I woke up and went to Bible class. Five hours later I walked out of my Latin final, and just like that, high school was over. Oh sure, I still have to graduate, but as of today I no longer have any assignments due for a high school class...ever again. Oh, it's a wonderful feeling, let me tell you. I've always enjoyed school, but the last week has been torture as I've suddenly been hit by a belated case of senioritis. And now that it's over, I'm free as a bird! Except for...

Ah yes, the day after school ends, I drive for 11 hours to join thousands of other singles in Louisville, KY, for four days of fun, fellowship, and growth in godliness. How cool is that? This is something I've been looking forward to all year, and it's finally happening. Things I'm most excited about:

  1. The most amazing line-up of speakers: Josh Harris, C.J. Mahaney, Al Mohler, Eric Simmons, John Piper, and Mark Dever
  2. The chance to fellowship with so many of my great friends from CovLife
  3. The chance to reconnect with many friends who live in other parts of the country (from places as diverse as California, Philadelphia, Ontario, and Oregon)
  4. The opportunity to meet many new people
  5. Most importantly, I am excited about how God is going to use this conference to strengthen me as a Christian
So please do me a favor: if you're not going, pray for those of us who are. There are so many opportunities for God to work mightily, please pray that he will. Pray for safety, and most importantly that God would be glorified.

I'm bringing my laptop, so I may be posting periodic updates...but we'll see. I'm thinking life will be pretty packed over the next five days.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Books I'm Reading

Well, Karyn has tagged me about what I'm reading, so here goes:

Just finished: A Brief History of the Western World. This textbook was pretty amazing in that it condensed all of Western civilization into 600 pages, and did it very well. I'll admit that I skimmed the last thirty years of history, which I'm already familiar with, although I did read the sections on philosophy and culture. I haven't actually finished a real book in quite a while.

Just beginning: Well, not having just finished something besides textbooks, it's hard to say I've just begun anything either. I guess I have recently begun The Gift of Prophecy by Wayne Grudem, because I wanted to understand how prophecy as practiced in my church could be considered biblical. My Bible reading did not seem to support the view, but after getting about halfway through the book, I can see the solid biblical foundations for non-authoritative prophecy. My theology now lines up with my practice, which I'm very happy about.

In the middle of: The Divine Comedy by Dante. Well, I've been trying to get through it for quite a while, but have not had much time. I'm almost finished with Inferno, and I may just stop there, which would be a real shame, but I'd rather read a lot of books this summer than be stuck in one semi-interesting one. However, I am enjoying it quite a bit, I just find it hard to pick up.

Planning to read next: The Count of Monte Cristo. It became my favorite book a few years ago when I read it, and I just want to read it again to refresh myself.

Now I tag Peter, Brielle, and Liz, plus anyone else who wants to do it.

Monday, May 21, 2007

A busy week

Yes, I have been a very bad blogger. School's wrapping up, I had two AP tests last week (English Language and Economics) and a Latin final this week, plus preparing for New Attitude...basically I'm swamped. So I haven't posted all week, and don't expect anything profound until after graduation on June 2. While you're waiting, however, read Deuteronomy. That's where I've been parked in my devotions, and it has been cutting me straight to the heart. Here is one of the passagesthat has really stuck out to me, enjoy:

"For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations." Deut. 7:6-9

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Happy Mother's Day!

Dear Mom,

On this Mother's Day, I want to take the opportunity to honor you. You are a wonderful example of a Proverbs 31 woman. You love your family with your whole heart, and you love us sacrificially. You give all of your time, energy, and effort to raising us and training us in righteousness.

You are one of the greatest servants I know. Day in and day out you clean the house, do the dishes, drive us to classes, and I never hear a word of complaint. On the contrary, all I am aware of is your joy in serving.

I am so aware of your love for me. You feel my joy and my pain (often you feel it more than I do), and you're always there to walk me through trials, whether that is counseling me or just listening. You take me out for lunch at random times, and I can just talk to you about life and know that you actually care. I've observed the same actions with the other kids, and I know they feel your love too.

You have a passion to see all of your children walking with the Lord, and you disciple and discipline us with that end in mind. I catch a glimpse of your heart for us when we talk about prayer, and you tell me how much you've been praying for me and for the other kids. I appreciate that so much.

You are an amazing model of a woman who loves her husband and submits to him. I know that the biblical model of manhood and womanhood is the right one because I have seen it lived out at home. You are not the inferior half of the marriage, but you offer advice and counsel and then submit to whatever decision Dad makes. It's like the mom in My Big Fat Greek Wedding said: "The man is the head, but the woman is the neck, and she can turn the head however she wants." You are like that a lot of the time, in the best possible way.

I have inherited so much from you, from my love of history to my love of reading to many of my musical tastes, and we are able to have fun together in so many ways. I treasure our memories of late night movies, hikes in the woods, and reading next to you on the couch. Life's simple pleasures mean so much.

One day I will be married, and Mom, I can only hope that the woman I find is half the woman you are. Thank you for being my mom. I love you.

Saturday, May 12, 2007


I just was listening to the classic song "Imagine" by John Lennon, and I was struck by the lyrics. Here's what he says:

Imagine there's no Heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace

You may say that I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world

Now, obviously there are some pretty stark statements in that song. No heaven, no hell, no wars, no possessions, no religion, and everybody living for today. Sounds nice, doesn't it?

Honestly, no. That world, that "utopia according to John Lennon," strikes me as a terrible place. And really, it's not completely because I'm a Christian and know the value of religion (although that's part of my reason). No, the primary reason why this utopia sounds miserable is because it's a world with no purpose, no direction, nothing to live for, nothing to die for. I mean, what does "living for today" really mean? Not much besides instant gratification, which can turn into something terrible. If we're truly just focused on getting what we want when we want it, it's a very short step to widespread theft, rape, and murder.

"Imagine...nothing to live and die for"...who wants that? If you don't have anything worth living or dying for, what's the point? Existence becomes useless. We might as well be dead, because we have nothing that makes our lives important while we're alive. People can't function that way. We're hard-wired to find something that we care about. And that's not on accident; we were created that way. God created us to be passionate about things. Sin comes when we misdirect our passion to the wrong things, but that doesn't mean that we need to abolish passion. We just need to redirect it back to the only being worthy of all our passion: Jesus Christ.

So what am I imagining? I'm imagining a day when every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. What a day that will be. That's when the world will be as one. And I'll die for that.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Odds and Ends X

  • Douglas Wilson responded to Christopher Hitchens' new book God Is Not Great with a very presuppositional post. Now they are engaged in an online debate hosted by Christianity Today that I have found very informative. Check them both out, and be further convinced in the effectiveness of presuppositionalism.
  • Tim Challies asks the question "Is error in doctrine always sin?"
  • William Saletan writes about the impact of ultrasound to the abortion debate.
  • Pulpit makes a brief but convincing argument for the Lord's Day Observance view of the Sabbath, which goes along with this discussion here at HoldFast from a few months ago.
  • Tim Challies also addresses the atheists who try to condemn themselves to Hell by blaspheming the Holy Spirit and contemplates the nature of the Unpardonable Sin (see key quote below).


  • This is for my fellow Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy fans: go to Google Calculator, type in "answer to life the universe and everything," and what do you get?
  • One of Joel Osteen's sermons gets a commentary track that is extremely revealing...this guy scares me.


  • People often ask me what "RSS" means. I tell them it's the best invention since the Internet. But if you actually want to know how it works, Challies gives a helpful overview. I use the built-in feeder in IE7, but Bloglines is also a great option.
  • I've been following this intriguing project from the Washington Post: onBeing, a series of interviews with all different sorts of people. This week's video was a boy with Down's Syndrome, and is well worth watching (it's short, only a few minutes long).
  • Pride and Prejudice condensed into ten minutes by two very talented NCFCA performers. John and I almost did one of these from The Hobbit, but had to drop out (remember my reference in my challenge to "having to back out of many other activities"? Yeah...).
  • This game is addicting. I've made it to 16.5 seconds.


"Admittedly there is some level of disagreement about what exactly constitutes [the unforgiveable sin]. But the vast consensus is this: that the blasphemy against the Spirit involves ascribing the work of the Holy Spirit, accomplished through Jesus Christ, to Satan. To commit this sin you must know that Jesus Christ is God and, despite that knowledge, ascribe the Spirit's work through Him to the devil.

"Reverend Richard Phillips, pastor at First Presbyterian Church Coral Springs, Margate, Florida, says 'There is no sin so great that the precious blood of the Son of God -- of infinite value before God -- is not sufficient to pay for it. The issue is that forgiveness comes only to those who believe on the Lord Jesus. And someone who knows who Jesus is -- who realizes that his work is by the Holy Spirit -- and yet so refuses to believe that he actually ascribes the Spirit's work to the devil, cannot possibly be saved. Why? Because that person is not just ignorant, but they willfully, knowingly, reject Jesus as Messiah, as proved by the Holy Spirit. So this passage describes not someone who in a fit of anger or temptation commits blasphemy, but someone who refuses to believe on Jesus as the Messiah, even when he recognizes the Holy Spirit at work.'

"So the great irony, based on what the Bible teaches, is that this sin cannot be committed by one who considers himself an atheist! This sin presupposes seeing and acknowledging the work of God, but then attributing it to Satan." --Tim Challies, "Challenging the Blasphemy Challenge"

Monday, May 07, 2007

Senior Challenge

This is the challenge I delivered last Saturday night. I passed out right after I talked about the ice storms. Apparently somebody got it on tape, and if they did I'll try and get it on YouTube and post it here.

I was saved at the beginning of middle school, and really got serious about God as I moved into high school. In the fall of my senior year I auditioned for Godspell. Little did I know what a major impact that show would have on my life. To start with, I didn’t get the role I had wanted and ended up as an understudy, which left me disappointed. I was having trouble relating to a lot of the people in the cast, even though I was good friends with many of them. It began to take over my schedule so much that I was forced to back out of other activities I had been interested in. It was difficult for me at first, but my parents kept bringing me back to Scripture and helping me see that God works everything out for my good, even when I can’t understand how.

Godspell progressed, and it seemed as if I had everything figured out and under control. But God had different plans for the show. Production week rolled around, and suddenly everything went wrong at once. We had rehearsals shortened or cancelled due to storms and ice. Members of the cast began getting sick left and right until we were forced to do the dress rehearsal with four understudies out of a main cast of 13. I was one of those understudies, and I ended up performing in the role of John the Baptist for most of the week, including opening night!

I am so thankful for the leadership of our director, Cathy Mays. Every time something went wrong, her first response was always, “God is in control, and he knows what he’s doing. Praise the Lord!” She kept the entire cast focused on God during a time when our natural reaction would have been anxiety and panic. And the amazing thing was, as we focused on God and trusted that he was in control, he always managed to work things out for the best.

Godspell is over now, and I’m moving into a new season of life, but I feel that this past year, and my experiences in Godspell specifically, have prepared me well by teaching me that God is always good, no matter what. A life of ease doesn’t help me to grow, but trials and sufferings do. God gives me trials and sufferings to sanctify me and to make me more like Jesus. So whatever happens to me in college and further on in life, I can trust that God is working it all out for my good, for as Romans 8:28 says, “in all things God works for the good of those who love him.”

I’m not the only one who has or will encounter trials. Every one of you will face trials, and many of them will be much, much more severe than what I’ve just described here. If you don’t truly believe that God is good, worry and anxiety will take over your life. Instead of standing strong and glorifying God in the trial, you will not be able to stand. I once read an article by a pastor named Dan Phillips, and he said something very helpful: Christian friend, if you are going to believe what you say you believe, then there are only two kinds of situations: situations in which you will see God's goodness immediately, or situations in which you will see God's goodness eventually.

And that is why I, Sam Branchaw, challenge you, the youth of Covenant Life Church, to trust God with all your heart, because he works all things out for the good of those who love him.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

How to Pass Out In Front of 800 People

So that everybody knows, last night I almost passed out during our youth meeting. Here's what happened:

I was giving my senior challenge at our church's youth meeting (a short speech that a bunch of the seniors give at the end of the year to the underclassmen to pass on what they've learned throughout high school and exhort them to grow in some way). Mine was about trusting God even when things don't go the way you expect. I was the last person to give mine, and spent the time coming up to it crouching on the stage. When I finally stood up to give it, I started feeling nauseous, like I had stage fright. I don't normally get stage fright, but I kept on reading anyways.

As I read, I began to feel really, really sick, and suddenly I got really dizzy. I stopped (some people thought at first I was going to cry), and then stepped out from behind the podium and asked for a drink of water. As I asked, the blood rushed to my head and I staggered backwards as the world around me almost went black. My youth pastor told everyone to take a five minute break (which they were going to do after I finished anyway). A doctor rushed out of the audience, told me to put my head between my knees, but then I began feeling like I was going to throw up and they rushed me backstage to the bathroom. By the time I sat down, I was starting to feel fine, but I had at least six different doctors, three pastors, and my parents all peering in at me to make sure I was all right.

One of the doctor's called it fazo vagel or something like that, and said it happens when you stand up too fast. I think it was that combined with not enough water during the day. After resting for a little while, I was able to get up and finish my senior challenge, and I'll admit I was very happy with myself because when I got up there, I cracked a joke, and it was actually funny. I just said, "First of all, I'd like to thank the eight different doctors who came back to help me backstage. Your help was very much appreciated." It helped relieve the tension, and then I was able to finish the challenge. (I'm not normally able to be funny on the spot, so it felt good to do that.)

I found it very ironic that I would pass out during my challenge about trusting God even when things don't go as you expect. God is good, though, because I think it will stick in people's minds more than it otherwise would have. I'll post my actual challenge here in a few days. Until then, thanks to everyone who was there for your concern, and for everyone else: God is always good.

Saturday, May 05, 2007


Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound! (2 Timothy 2:8-9)

As Paul is writing this letter, he is sitting in Rome. Within a few years he will be beheaded by the Emperor Nero for his faith. Being bound with chains means that he can no longer minister to the church in the way he loves, and must instead content himself with writing pastoral letters. But he is not depressed or dejected, moping in his cell as if it's the end of the world. On the contrary, he is joyful and energetic. Why? Because he knows the gospel is not about him and his work! He is an agent for the gospel, but the gospel does not rely on him. It continues to spread without him!

The word of God is not bound. The NIV puts it "God's word is not chained." Jesus once told this parable: "The kingdom of heaven [i.e. the gospel] is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough." What does this all mean? God's word is pervasive and unstoppable. All the kingdoms of the earth will try to stop it, to jail the leaders, to persecute the followers, but it will never work, because God desires his word to go forth to all the world. Observe China: it is one of the most heavily persecuted countries for Christians, and thousands of people are becoming Christians every day there. Why would people become Christians when they know they are going to be persecuted for it? Because God's word is unstoppable.

Isn't that amazing? It doesn't matter what people do, God is still in control, and his plan will not be thwarted. What a comforting thought!