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Archive for May, 2010


One of the more neglected passages in Scripture is this:

27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

We hear alot about that last part, being undefiled from the world.  But we don’t hear much (if at all) about looking after orphans and widows.  The OT is filled with statements about God’s heart for the orphans and widows, those unable to take care of themselves.  They are the most vulnerable members of society.

If you’ve been here before, you probably know that we’ve adopted a son from China (CavWife’s trip is chronicled in January 2008).  We are pondering adopting again, and were recently approached about the possibility of adopting a mixed race child (you might want to join us in praying about that).  Adoption is the height of the gospel, as I’ve preached before.  It is the highest grace we receive upon justification.  Adopting orphans is a magnificent picture of the gospel.

Together for Adoption has announced their 2010 conference in Austin, TX this October.  I’d like to get over there, if possible.  They don’t limit the discussion to adoption, but calling to church to address the worldwide orphan crisis.  Caring for widows and orphans is one of the great legacies of the early church that we have neglected.  Together for Adoption wants to remind us of this high and holy calling.  For all you social justice types (I’m one of those, when rightly understood), this is, in part, a choice for social justice as well as compassion.

  • Dan Cruver: Keeping the Gospel at the Center of Orphan Ministry
  • Bryan Loritts: The Church as the Theater of Transracial Adoption
  • Darrin Patrick: The Trinity as the Model and Motive for Church-Based Orphan Care
  • Matt Carter: The Church as the Champion of Social Justice
  • Karyn Purvis: Counting the Cost- Preparing the Church for the Adoption Journey
  • Dave Gibbons: The Church as the Answer to the Foster Care Crisis

Looks to be some great stuff.  Maybe I’ll see you there.

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I’ve been reading Paul Tripp’s War of Words: Getting to the Heart of Your Communication Struggles.  [It is also available in a video series with workbook]   One of the issues he addresses is improper motives for following Jesus.  It is not a modern problem, but one that we see even in the ministry of Jesus.  Tripp takes us to John 6.  The people followed Jesus because they wanted to be fed, again.  They failed to look past the miracle (John uses the term sign) to the thing is signified.  They were unhappy when Jesus didn’t meet their expectations.

Tripp asks about your great “if only.”  “If only  … I would be happy.”  That would be your dream- the fountain from which all happiness would flow.  But now all that flows is a steady stream of disappointment and bitterness.  We think that Jesus has let us down, because he has not fulfilled our dream.

“Their pursuit of Christ was born instead out of a love for self and the hope that Christ would be the one who would meet their felt needs.  … What moves and motivates everything we do is not a submission to God’s will and a burning desire for is glory, but our own set of personal desires and dreams.”

Sign of the Bread of Life

Our dreams motivate us.  Often into self-destruction.  Witness all those misguided people who end up on the first 2 episodes of American Idol.  They had a dream for themselves that was out of step with reality (and no one loved them enough to say ‘you can’t sing’- I’m not sure why since no one has a problem telling ME I can’t sing).

What is God’s dream for us?  If you are a Christian that is simple: that Christ would be your life, and that you’d have a deeper, stronger, more mature faith (self-abandoning trust as Packer says) in Christ.  Tripp develops this from John 6 and 1 Peter 1.

Any material blessings we experience are merely signs- and those signs point us to Jesus who is Life.  When they become the whole enchilada we lapse into idolatry.  When we don’t have them, watch out!  We will be filled with anger, bitterness, depression and a host of other vile things.

“In my opinion, in the heart of every sinner is a desire that life would be a resort.”

Probably, Las Vegas.  All you can eat buffets.  Lots of attractions to keep you occupied.  Comp rooms if you gamble (a lot).  Lots of eye candy, which really isn’t helpful.  But no mess, no fuss and party all the time.

But life is not like that.  And we take it out on others.  They may be blocking our desires, or merely ‘innocent’ bystanders.  Either way we become one of the thousands slain by hardship (though hundreds of thousands have been slain by affluence).

“If we are living for earthly bread and see it as our source of life, we are going to be in for big trouble when we don’t have it.  But if we are living for spiritual bread, for a deeper communion with Jesus Christ, then our lives (with all of their problems) become wonderful places to know and grow in fellowship with the One who is life. … If he is what your heart craves, there are wonderful opportunities to grow in grace and knowledge in the midst of all kinds of difficulty.”

Is that how you face difficulty?  Or are you miserable, whiny and petulant?  At that moment you are not craving Jesus, but something or someone else.  Your response to trouble matters.  It is a sign to the condition of your heart.

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Being in the early chapters of Genesis, I’m covering the topic of marriage as instituted by God.  One of the things that stands out to me is that marriage is a means (so to speak) of mission.  As a metaphor of Christ’s relationship with His people, we see the reality of mission.  Jesus has a goal for his people- he redeems them and makes them holy.

In Genesis 2 we see it was not good for the man to be alone.  Why?  It is not just about companionship.  He can’t fulfill God’s mission alone.  All the other biblical  reasons for marriage are tied together with mission.  Apart from mission, they become self-serving.

Apart from mission, companionship becomes idolatry.  It is ingrown.  And once you get bored … you look for a new companion.

Apart from mission, sex becomes self-centered, and idolatrous.  Once the sex stops, or gets boring (which is what happens when it is just about sex), you look for a new sexual partner.

Apart from mission, having children is selfish.  It is more about your need to have kids, and have them “succeed” than it is about raising kids to build the kingdom.

Apart from mission, financial stability also becomes idolatrous.  If someone can no longer provide for you, you look for another money maker.

Here are some very good books that I recommend about marriage.

  • When Sinners Say “I Do” by Dave Harvey.  This is one of my favorite books because it is so humbling.  Harvey keeps the gospel central in marriage.  This is important because every marriage includes 2 sinners.  Most of our problems in marriage are really rooted in our sinfulness.  Communication skills, while helpful, don’t get to the root of the problem.  I requires the application of the gospel.
  • Intimate Allies by Dan Allender and Tremper Longman.  There is so much to appreciate about this book.  I’m not wild about the discussion about “mutual submission”.  That seems to depart from the biblical emphasis in Ephesians 5.  But I love their emphasis on enhancing the other’s dignity and restraining their dignity.  THAT is a clearly biblical emphasis when looking at marriage. They broke this down into  the Intimate Marriage series available on DVD, workbooks and leader’s guide.
  • Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas.  The subtitle says it all, what if God wants to make us holy more than to make us happy.  He’s focusing on part of Paul’s discussion of marriage in Ephesians 5.
  • Redeeming Marriage by Douglas Wilson.  I read this when I appreciated Doug Wilson more than I do now.  But this is still a good book.  It is short and to the point.
  • What Did You Expect?  Redeeming the Realities of Marriage by Paul David Tripp.  I haven’t read or watched this, but I want to.  I find great benefit in nearly everything he writes.  The DVD was released first, and then it was released in book form.
  • Another book I have yet to read, but hope to is John Piper’s This Momentary Marriage: a Parable of Permanence.  I wish I had read it in preparation for my work on Genesis 2 & Ephesians 5.

I know there are some other good books.  But these are the ones the Cavman recommends.  They will help you develop a biblical understanding of  marriage.  May the Spirit work to make us an accurate picture of the relationship between Christ and the Church.

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It has been a strange season.  And it is less than 2 months old.

We have yet to see the 2010 Red Sox.  In the next few days we’ll see something close to the 2010 Red Sox.  If you were to remove 2 starting outfielders from any MLB team, they would struggle.  When they are players like Ellsbury and Cameron, you can understand why the Red Sox have struggled this year.

The players roaming LF and CF in their stead, while driving in some runs, have given up quite a few runs with abysmal defense.  The game against the Yankees earlier this week was marred by missed plays that Ellsbury and Cameron would have made.

Scutaro has done reasonably well as the leadoff man, but Ellsbury adds a whole different dimension.  With the threat of the stolen base, he messes with a pitcher’s head.  The loss of Ellsbury for most of this season has been tremendous.  You take Crawford and Upton out of the Rays’ line up for over and month and they are tanking it.  The only significant injury, if you want to call it that, the Rays have endured is to the bullpen.  Not quite the same as 2 everyday guys.

Their loss put a big strain on the pitching staff.  Here’s hoping that the pitchers not named Lester, Clay and Bard benefit from that increased defensive presence.

So, I think the Red Sox will look very different from this point on.  They will look far more like we expected them to look (except the offense has been better than some people thought it would be).  They are in the running for the Wild Card as the Yankees start to deal with multiple injuries as well.

While we can’t push the reset button, I think we’ll see a much improved team in the weeks and months ahead.  Maybe joy will return to some of the unrealistic fans of Fenway.

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In one of his letters to Daniel West, John Newton talks about trials.  His friend had been in the “furnace” recently, and Newton addresses that.

“I hope you have much to say of the grace, care, and skill of the great Refiner, who watched over you; and that you have lost nothing but dross.”

If you have been in a trial recently, you may have trouble hearing that.  My family’s recent trials were far from pleasant.  As we went through the furnace it was had to see all the grace, care and skill of the Refiner.  But I can see it more clearly in retrospect.  Pain, physical or emotional, has a way of blinding your eyes.

This afternoon I was listening to Daniel Amos Live at Cornerstone 2000.  Terry Taylor, the lead singer and song writer of the band, shared that it had been a hard year.  But that is when it gets back to the main thing- intimacy with Jesus.

“Let this experience be treasured up in your hearts for the use of future times.”

Yesterday’s trials are meant to assist us in tomorrow’s trials.  “Remember” is a frequently used word in Deuteronomy 8.  Israel needed to remember their time in the wilderness, and God’s steadfast love there.  We can’t just move on, but take lessons with us.  We have to call His past faithfulness to mind when we begin to enter the furnace again.

Many of those trials have to do with our “weak spots”.  God is purifying us of habitual sin (which he first forgave in Christ).

“You know your weak side; endeavor to set a double guard of prayer there.”

(more…)

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I’m currently working my way through Genesis 2 for Sunday.  In his Epistles, Paul bases male headship in marriage & the church (aka complementarianism) in creation.  But there is more going on than that.

For those who aren’t familiar with the term, complementarianism teaches that men and women are equal in dignity but different in role or function in the home and the church.  This, sadly, is a relatively unpopular position.  But this shouldn’t surprise us since much of what the Bible teaches us offends the flesh.

Genesis 1 is the starting point with regard to our equal dignity.  “God created man (humanity) in his image; male and female he created them.”  Men and women are both made in God’s image, sharing in dignity.  Most people can accept the equal part (aside from those rejecting the notion we are made in God’s image).  The equality is not an issue.  This fundamental equality is also in view in Galatians with regard to salvation- “in Christ there is neither male nor female.”  He lists some other statuses that separate people.  The idea is that neither is more worthy of salvation than the other.  Neither has an advantage when it comes to Christ.  It does not mean that all distinctions disappear such that they cease to be men and women.

In Genesis 2-3 we see the following things which point us toward there being a complementary difference between men and women which includes male headship.

Adam Eve NT Parallel Text(s)
Created first X 1 Corinthians 11:8; 1 Timothy 2:13
Given the initial command X
Created for the other X 1 Corinthians 11:9
Sinned first X 1 Timothy 2:14
Whose sin condemned humanity? X Romans 5:12ff
Addressed 1st by God after sinning X
Cursed for “obeying/listening to” the other X

We see that though they are equal, God held Adam accountable for obeying Eve.  He addressed Adam first because Adam was humanity’s representative.  Paul uses this to explain how all of humanity fell into sin, and how people are saved through the 2nd Adam, Jesus.

We see that Adam needed help to fulfill the Creation Mandate (Gen. 1).  He gave Adam a wife instead of a pet.  He gave Adam an equal to complement him, to do the things he could not do alone.  While both men and women share the Creation Mandate (to fill, subdue and rule the earth) they emphasize different roles.

Both are needed to fill, but women (generally speaking) are more nurturing.  Moms stay home far more often than men because they are physically and emotional better suited for it.  Yes, they subdue and rule at home and outside the home.  Men are better suited physically and emotionally for subduing and ruling than filling.  Yes, men have parental responsibilities too.  But staying at home with children would drive me crazy far quicker than it does CavWife.  Struggling at work takes are greater toll on a man than struggling at relationships.  The opposite is true for women.  This is part of how we balance each other out.

One key passage is from Ephesians 5.  There we find that marriage is a picture of the relationship between Christ and the Church.  Marriage mirrors the gospel.  Husbands reflect Christ and wives reflect the Church.  Husbands lead- sacrificially!  Wives submit to their own husbands (not men in general) as the Church submits to Christ.  There is no role reversal.

This is a mystery, Paul says.  That means it is only something that we know because it has been revealed to us.  Marriage, including covenant headship, is was originally designed to be a picture of the gospel.  It was not societal construct for Paul, and certainly not oppressive.  It was a picture of the liberating, restorative gospel.

Covenant headship is not some out-moded way of thinking.  It is a biblical way of thinking, and a gospel-centered way of thinking.  Christian feminism and egalitarianism undermine the gospel by taking away God-given boundaries and roles.  In 1 Timothy 1:8-11 reveals the relationship between sound doctrine and sound living.  Sound (healthy) doctrine conforms to the gospel and produces healthy living.  Unsound doctrine departs from or distorts the gospel and leads to unsound living (sin).  When our marriages and churches no longer portray part of the gospel through male headship, the gospel is distorted and unsound living is the inevitable result.

As a result, complementarianism is not a non-essential doctrine.  It is a gospel-doctrine.  It should be believed and defended as rooted in creation and redemption that we might better understand the relationship between Christ and the Church which the gospel creates.

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I got some mail from One Story Ministries about their new children’s SS curriculum.  My interest was piqued by the flyer.  Why?

  • It is Christ-centered, helping the kids to see how all of Scripture points to Christ.
  • It covers the whole Bible over the course of 7 years.
  • It teaches kids to study the Scriptures for themselves.  Each lesson discusses the text and applies it.
  • They also have weekly take home lessons.

It was developed by a PCA DCE who is an adjuct prof at RTS Jackson in CE.
In the short run it is more expensive, but the leader’s guides are made to be re-used.  Handouts are pdfs that can be copied.

Here is a brief video about the material.

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