Tara’s Blog

The Gospel Coalition 2017 – Ligon Duncan: The Reformed Tradition Beyond Calvin

Live Blog Gospel Coalition 2017 – Ligon Duncan: The Reformed Tradition Beyond Calvin

The Gospel Coalition 2017 — D.A. Carson: The Gospel of Grace – How to Read the Bible (Galatians 4)

Live Blog Gospel Coalition 2017 – D.A. Carson on Galatians 4

The Gospel Coalition 2017 – John Piper: Paul’s Pilgrimage, Paul’s Plea (Galatians 1)

Live Blog Gospel Coalition 2017: John Piper on Galatians 1

The Gospel Coalition 2017 – Kevin DeYoung: On John Calvin

Live Blog The Gospel Coalition 2017 – Kevin DeYoung: On John Calvin

I’ve been coming to these women’s conferences for 56 years. And usually they are SO boring! But …

When I spoke at a recent event, an elderly woman approached me. (I found out later than she was 90 years old!)

Honestly? Not knowing her, but making an assumption based on most of the other times that elderly women have approached me when I’m speaking at their events, I assumed that either she had a question or prayer need (always an honor to serve in this way), or, she was going to express displeasure at my rate of speech. (I’m trying to say that nicely, but based on what has happened to me at previous events, I was really bracing to be yelled at.)

Sadly, getting yelled at happens a little more often that one would expect at, you know, peacemaking women’s retreats. But it’s easy to take on part of the blame myself because when I talk too quickly, I fail to serve these dear women well. I have definitely improved and slowed down my rate of speech, but it can still be a problem.

ANYWAY … this precious, lovely, pillar-of-the-church woman did not yell at me at all. Instead she said something to the effect of:

“I’ve been coming to these women’s conferences for 56 years. And usually they are SO boring! But today, I can tell that the women are REALLY listening to you. Now, I personally can only understand ONE OUT OF EVERY TEN WORDS YOU SAY.”

(I was SOOOO embarrassed! I tried to jump in to try to apologize.)

“No, no,” she said, “That’s OK, Tara. That’s OK. I’m just so glad that you are holding their attention and even though I can’t understand most of what you are saying I CAN PRAY. And so I do. I pray for you and for the ladies. I’m praying for you, Tara.’

And that was that.

Her love for the Lord and his people was so great that she joyfully bore with even my many weaknesses.
What grace in actions! Grace with skin on.
I want to be like her when I grow up.
I want to be like her today

May God be glorified and may our words be edifying and aptly spoken!

Sending my love and care,
Tara B.

O Mama! O Mama! You Dear Sweet Dear!

(An oldie but a goodie from way back when Sophie was all of six years old and little E was just a tiny babe. I hope you enjoy!)

I’ve been traveling a lot lately and it has taken a toll on our family. We all pray and work hard to serve well … but it can be hard (and lonely) to be apart. But tonight, any tears of sadness became tears of joy when Sophie created an hysterically fun, loving, and and sweet evening for us all. This is what happened …

When I was upstairs nursing Ella, Sophie decided to create and entire CONCERT for our listening pleasure. She found all sorts of tubs and containers (so that her pounding would have different tonalities). She created a sign for the concert hall (“no drenking, no food, no radeyo, make shur your sel fones are off”) and a table of contents for the performance:

Then I got to be the “spotlight girl” (with a flashlight) and we were blessed with a stellar performance that began with this song:

“Oh Mama! Oh Mama!
You dear sweet dear.

Oh Mama! Oh Mama!
You dear sweet dear.

You were not here …
But now you are here.

Oh Mama! Oh Mama!
You dear sweet dear.”

It’s much better with the singing, as I’m sure you might imagine. But oh! What a grace it was to my tempted-to-be-too-hard-on-myself little ol’ Momma heart.

(She then went on to the songs “lolly pop lolly pop oh lolly lolly pop / Lili pup Lili pup oh Lili Lili pup” and “The Little Bear Who Went Into the Woods”, which had a very intense middle section with the cymbals taking the lead “because the hunters were talking intensely about whether they should TAKE the little baby bear or LEAVE the little baby bear”. We had an intermission (listed as a “6 minit brake”) and closed out the concert with the world-famous “little duk in its tuc” and “10 litl monkes on the bed”.)

(The crowd went wild.)

And then, just for fun, we all crowded on our bed for a late-night game of “I Spy.”

Mmmmmmmmmmm … what a great night.

Hope yours was blessed too! And that your weekend is restful and enjoyable—

Tara B.

Just in case your curious, it takes 60 years to grow a tree and less than one afternoon for the city to come and take it completely away. My heart is broken and I miss our beautiful tree already.

We don’t know if we’ll actually GO to our Reformation Party next week because the seasonal flus and H1N1 are ravaging Billings (including our church). But if we do, we’re taking two mermaids with us …

Starting Points and Fundamental Assumptions for Five Types of Theology (and How they Relate to One Another)

I finished my most-recent RTS (Reformed Theological Seminary) course last month and celebrated by re-reading some of my notes from my previous classes.

This summary of What is Theology? from one of my first seminary classes was particularly encouraging for me to re-read and I thought that you might enjoy it, too.

Tara B.


 Definitions of Theology

    1. The study of God
    2. The knowledge of God (Kuyper)
    3. The application by persons to all areas of human life (Frame)


  1. Starting Points / General Questions / Fundamental Assumptions for Five Types of Theology
    1. Exegetical Theology: the immediate focus and emphasis of a particular biblical text / What does this teach us about God, the world, ourselves? / The Bible is inspired by God and given by God to teach us.
    2. Biblical Theology: the historical progression of God’s self-revelation and redemptive plan / How did God’s self-revelation and redemptive plan unfold over the course of history? / God has progressively revealed himself and his plans over time.
    3. Systematic Theology: particular subject areas or questions of interest to us / What does the whole Bible teach about this subject? / The Bible is a coherent unity and relevant to all of life.
    4. Historical Theology: the historical development of Christian doctrine / What have Christians believed and taught about this subject? / We can learn from the wisdom and learning of Christians in the past. ** Odd one out because not authoritative per se **
    5. Practical Theology: the needs and activities of church ministry / How should we do church ministry in light of God’s Word? / The Bible is authoritative and sufficient for church ministry.


  1. How are the various types of theology related to one another?
    1. Exegetical must ultimately draw from other passages in its exegesis. Thus it will draw on systematic theology.
    2. It must also draw from where it is in God’s overall progressive story which employs biblical theology.
    3. Systematic must employ exegesis of its passages.
    4. Additionally systematic theology will lead into the doctrine of progressive revelation which is the key point in biblical theology.
    5. Biblical theology employs exegesis of texts and questions of a topical nature as in systematic theology. It has implications that draw from other texts too, which utilizes systematic theology.

Questions to Ask Re: Your Church

TakeYourVitmainZ posted a great set of questions from Timmy Brister that we should all ask re: our churches:

  1. If our church would cease to exist in our city, would it be noticed and missed?
  2. If all the pastors were tragically killed in a car accident, would the church’s ministry cease or fall apart?
  3. If the only possible means of connecting with unbelievers were through the missionary living of our church members, how much would we grow? (I ask this because the early church did not have signs, websites, ads, marketing, etc.)
  4. What are the subcultures within the church?  Do they attract or detract from the centrality of the gospel and mission of the church?
  5. Is our church known more for what we are not/against than what we are/for?
  6. What are we allowing to be our measuring stick of church health? (attendance vs. discipleship; seating capacity vs. sending capacity; gospel growth, training on mission, etc.)
  7. Are the priorities of our church in line with the priorities of Christ’s kingdom?
  8. If our members had 60 seconds to explain to an unbeliever what our church is like, what would you want them to say?  How many do you think are saying that?
  9. If the invisible kingdom of God became visible in our city, what would that look like?
  10. In what ways have we acted or planned in unbelief instead of faith?

(Please visit the Redeeming Church Conflicts site for even more helpful questions, articles, and encouragement re: your church.)

PCA Women’s Blog: enCourage – Gospel Love in Uganda


Super happy to share about Uganda on the PCA Women’s blog today! Thanks, Christina et al.

Sticking with People is Frustrating … You Will Suffer Pain if You are Committed to People

Hands in Prayer

What a contrast in articles!

The first is what I would charitably characterize as a, well, not very gracious, thoughtful, or helpful article on why every woman should “ditch the guilt” dropping her little baby off with the “professionals” because staying home with young children can “drive you bonkers,” “give you a back problem and a brain ache,” and women “just need more.”

(If you’re really interested, you can read it here, but I think there are far better articles “out there” that graciously and intelligently address this important wisdom issue. And I do think it is a wisdom issue—so discernment, humility, and love are required when we talk about this or any other parenting issue. Drawing harsh, judgmental, black and white lines in the sand is never encouraging, redemptive, or helpful—but boy people can sure do it.)

In contradistinction to that “I don’t like it; it’s not a good fit for me; I’m not using my gifts; I want—I DESERVE—more!” attitude, oh oh oh! If you only read one online article today … I urge you to read THIS ONE (!). It has “nothing” to do with parenting or motherhood, well, except the way that all good (biblical, Christ-exalting, focused on eternity, loving God & neighbor for the glory of God) theology always applies to all of life.

The author is a personal hero of mine—truly one of the greatest men I have ever met with in person in this life. Brilliant, yet humble. Extraordinarily gifted, yet laying down his life to take the least place and serve. A preacher who can (and does) hold the attention of thousands, yet is a quiet and gentle man when he talks face-to-face with you (a benefit I have personally been blessed to experience). A churchman. Laying down his life for his wife and children.

I really could go on and on, but a) I know he would hate that; and b) I know that he is not the reason why the insights in this article are so profound. Instead, it is because Christians through the ages (until recently, in certain geographical areas) have not only known these truths to be, in fact, true; they have lived these truths:

To Serve is to Suffer

Oh, friends! If we could only begin to grasp even just a sliver of how important suffering is in the life of the Christian … our families, churches, schools / homeschool co-ops / tutoring relationships (did I get everyone?), sports leagues, youth orchestras, workplaces, rescue missions, pregnancy care centers, mission organizations … would be changed. If Christians would learn to suffer well, the world would be changed.

Let me pull just a few excerpts from this profound article by Ajith Fernando to hopefully tempt you to click through and read it all:

“I write this shortly after returning from a week of teaching pastors in the deep south of Sri Lanka. These pastors’ experience shows that when people pioneer in unreached areas, they usually wait 10 to 15 years before seeing significant fruit and reduced hostility. In the early years, they are assaulted and accused falsely; stones are thrown onto their roofs; their children are given a hard time in school; and they see few genuine conversions. Many pioneers give up after a few years. But those who persevere bear much eternal fruit. I am humbled and ashamed of the way I complain about problems that are minute compared to theirs.

When I return from ministry in the West, my feelings are very different. I have been able to “use my gifts” and spend most of my time doing things I like. But when I resume being a leader in Sri Lanka’s less-efficient culture, frustration hits me. The transition from being a speaker in the West to being a leader in Sri Lanka is difficult. As a leader, I am the bond-servant (doulos) of the people I lead (2 Cor. 4:5). This means that my schedule is shaped more by their needs than by mine.

… “Young Christian workers who come back to Sri Lanka after studying in the West struggle with this. They are highly qualified, but our poor nation cannot afford to give them the recognition they think their qualifications deserve. They cannot use their gifts to the fullest; they struggle with frustration; some start their own organizations so as to fulfill their “vision.” … I try to tell these students that their frustration could be the means to developing penetrating insight. I explain that people like John Calvin and Martin Luther had a dizzying variety of responsibilities, so that they could only use their gifts in the fog of fatigue …”

“We call our churches and Christian organizations “families,” but families are very inefficient organizations. In a healthy family, everything stops when a member has big needs. We are often not willing to extend this commitment to Christian body life.”

…”When people leave a church because they do not fit the program, it communicates a deadly message: that our commitment is to the work and not to the person, that our unity is primarily in the work and not in Christ and the gospel. The sad result is that Christians do not have the security of a community that will stay by them no matter what happens. They become shallow individuals, never having true fellowship and moving from group to group. Churches committed to programs can grow numerically, but they don’t nurture biblical Christians who understand the implications of belonging to the body of Christ.”

“Sticking with people is frustrating. Taking hours to listen to an angry or hurt person seems inefficient. Why should we waste time on that when professionals could do it? So people have counselors to do what friends should be doing.”

“Ideally, counselors help diagnose and treat difficult cases, and friends give the time that is needed to bring healing through acceptance, comfort, and friendship … Several people have sympathized with me, saying it must be hard and frustrating to serve in a country wracked by war and hostile to evangelism. Indeed, we have suffered. A few months ago, one of our staff workers was brutally assaulted and killed. But I think the biggest pain I have experienced is the pain I have received from Youth for Christ, the organization for which I have worked for 34 years. I can also say that next to Jesus and my family, Youth for Christ has been the greatest source of joy in my life.”

“Whether you live in the East or the West, you will suffer pain if you are committed to people. This is suffering that can be avoided. We can avoid pain by stopping the relationship or moving on to something more “fulfilling.” But what do we lose?

Some years ago I was preparing a message on commitment while traveling in the West. Within the space of a few days, three people told me how they or someone close to them had left a group or a person because of problems. One had left an unhappy marriage; another, a church; another, an organization. Each person described his leaving as a merciful release from suffering. But I could not help asking myself whether, in each of these cases, the Christian thing to do would have been to stay and suffer …”

There are still two more pages of nuggets and his conclusion (“The Glory of the Gospel”)—well—I just want you to read it for yourself.

Because it’s not about working “outside” of the home or “inside” of the home; it’s not about whether you CAN get a divorce (“biblically” and “without guilt”); it’s not about whether you will be happier, feel safer and more accepted, use your gifts more strategically, be rewarded, be affirmed …

Life is all about Him. God. And life is a just a blink—a flash. Then it is over and our Real Life begins.

This little season? These 40, 50, 80, 100 years? This is our one opportunity to share in the sufferings of Christ; to bear up under the pain of even unjust suffering because we are conscious of God (1 Peter 2:19). Once this life is over? No more suffering for those who are in Christ Jesus.

I pray that wherever our duties take us today—to the boardroom, courtroom, or surgery center; out on the ranch, in the corn fields of Iowa, or into the blazing sun for a day of hard, manual labor; stuffing bulletins in our church office, volunteering at a local ministry … or, yes, sitting on the floor stacking blocks over and over again while your friend’s one year old delights in knocking them down, after having spent 90 minutes cuddling and reading with your five year old (and then 30 minutes talking, disciplining, and praying with your seven and thirteen year olds … hypothetically, for, you know, a woman we’ll call Lara) …

I pray that we will use our gifts in the fog of fatigue; pick up our cross; count it all joy; and suffer well as we live lives that are committed to sticking with people. Pain is the price of love! And love is worth it.

Grateful for you—

Your friend,
Tara B.

When I was checking the links for Ajith’s article, I found this Gospel Coalition post that includes links to Ajith’s book on this subject and links to videos of him teaching on this subject. Enjoy!

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