Archive for August, 2011

The Cessationist-Continuationist debate is not one I enter into often.  You can find far too many straw man arguments.  And personal attacks.  Cooler heads rarely prevail. It is not really a position you can “proof-text” and it polarizes people.

People often have a hard time distinguishing the ordinary from extraordinary.  This distinction is made in the Westminster Confession of Faith with regard to means God uses to bring someone to saving faith (XIV, 1).  For instance, should the ordinary means of hearing the gospel not be available, God may use extraordinary means to convert a person.  Those cases are rare, and are not to be expected by us.


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In my discussions with people who think the law has no place in the life of the Christian, one phrase often comes up- Christ is the end of the law.  I then try to put that phrase back into its proper context.  People would rather live with slogans than thinking about Scripture, and actually understanding the whole sentence.

3For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. 4For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. Romans 10

Notice what is going on here.  Some people were ignorant of the righteousness that comes from God.  They used the law to establish their own righteousness as the basis of justification.  This, according to Paul, is utter foolishness.  Christ is the end of the law….

The Greek word is “telos”.  It, like the English word “end” can refer to termination, the last of a sequence and the aim or purpose of something.  In this passage, it does refer to “termination”.  The Law no longer provides righteousness for those who believe.  Christ provides it!

It goes too far to claim that this means the moral law has no purpose in the life of the Christian.  That is not what this text is saying.  That makes a phrase determinative despite the rest of the sentence.  It is bad theologizing!


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Soon this will make sense

Sometimes stuff just happens.  You forget things.  For instance, one of the joys of re-hydrating at a late dinner each night is that you wake up 3 times in the middle of the night.  I felt like a guy with prostate problems.  I forgot to share that special joy with the world.

I forgot to share some other things- my final thoughts.  But before I get there, there was an update.

I went to get my oil changed today.  I should have gotten it done last week, but life goes on.  The guys at Midas pulled me out to the garage to show me that the new tires I bought in Yuma were the wrong size.  The front tires were 215s, but these were 185s.  Glad to discover this.  The dealer had a franchise nearby, so that was my next step.  The invoice had the correct size tires listed, so I paid for the right ones.  But the guy who installed them pulled the wrong tires.  So tomorrow I go back tomorrow and have the right ones put on.  Yeah, they didn’t have the right size.  So, that was a little fun.  Not as much fun as getting up to pee 3 times a night, but fun none the less.

I had a few take aways for our slide show presentation at the church.


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Thankfully Out of Print

James Montgomery Boice has written a number of solid and edifying books.  I think it is safe to say that The Last and Future World is not one of them.  This 1974 book was his entry into the eschatalogical frenzy of the early 1970’s by those who tried to “read the times” and had suspect exegetical methods.  At some point James Montgomery Boice was an historical premillennialist.  I read the book hoping to better understand this (currently) obscure position.  The book reads rather like a Hal Lindsey book, or Billy Graham’s Approaching Hoof Beats.  That could be because he often quotes from and refers to Hal Lindsey.  Frankly I was shocked.  This book advocated the dispensational premillennial position, not the historic premillennial position.  Yes, there is a difference.

The Last and Future World is mis-titled.  It is about the end of this world, and never mentions the future (re)new(ed) heavens and earth that will come about at the cosmic renewal at Jesus’ return.    It puts for the view of a 2 stage return of Jesus- first for the church at the Rapture, and then to set up an earthly millennial kingdom which will see yet another rebellious and great battle.  Boice, and dispensationalists, because of their literalistic & chronological understanding of Revelation don’t see the book as recapitulating the same events from a different angle.  So, you have 3 great battles instead of 3 accounts of 1 great battle.  You end up with 7 judgments (with Christians experiencing at least 2 times before the judgment seat) instead of 1 time in which all people are standing before Christ.  His hermeneutic is flawed, and he rarely if ever examines different view points.  He assumes many things like an earthly millennium (there are brief, inaccurate descriptions of other views of the millennium), a future plan for Israel (distinct from the Gentiles) which is based on one word in Romans which could refer the manner or time of fulfillment.  He says that Paul stressed this, but only wrote of it in Romans 11:26-33.  That’s not a whole lot of emphasis.


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Technology is a funny thing.  It was a great week without much information technology.  I didn’t bring my laptop.  The Motel Continental did have an (intermittent) WI-FI zone in the restaurant.  But I enjoyed not having the computer.  I did have some DT’s about mid-week, and my fingers didn’t know what to do with themselves.  I only watched about 10 minutes of TV a day.  I only used my cell phone for about 10 minutes a day.  It was really nice, truth be told.  It was probably really good for me.

We Felt Like This

Saturday morning we were going to have breakfast an hour later than we had all week.  I woke up before CavNav’s phone alarm went off.  I worked on packing up a few things.  I didn’t want us to take half the morning getting ready.  The last thing I wanted was to sit in traffic crossing the border.  I was pretty much done when there was a knock on the door.  Apparently we were late for breakfast.  He set the alarm for the proper time, but apparently you have to set the day on his overly-smart phone.  No wake up call for us!

With my limited choices, for which I was endlessly ribbed at lunch today, I picked….. hot cakes.  We had a fairly subdued breakfast and started to disperse to put our bags in the van or car.  Though I was one of the last to eat, I ended up waiting on most of the team to load up. We handed in our keys and took off for the border.

The road to the crossing runs parallel to the road the hotel was on.  We caught up to the traffic and sat.  It is surreal.  You find vendors and beggars walking up and down the line. You can buy water, newspapers, food, porn and more.  Porn?  Really.  I grew up in a different generation where you didn’t sit in your car looking at porn.  We were in line for less than 30 minutes, I think.  Getting through the crossing was actually fairly simple.  All we bought were some t-shirts and stuff for my kids.  We weren’t chosen for a good inspection.


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“Do you like dahgs?” So the Piker asked Tommy when he went to buy a new mobile home for Turkish.

If you don’t like dogs, don’t go to Mexico.  They are everywhere.  It is difficult to tell if a dog is feral or not.  If they actually wear a collar, they probably belong to someone.  We saw one dog being walked on a leash.  Other than that the vast majority were wandering around loose.  Bob Barker needs to make a whole lot of public service announcements and pay for a wandering crew of veterinarians to fix all those dogs so they don’t make more dogs.  It has gotten to the point in America that it is rare to see and “intact” dog.  Looks nearly obscene though it was quite common when I was a kid.

For breakfast on our last day at work we had hot cakes.  We were all dragging.  I work behind a desk much of the time, so the physical work was exhausting (and the lack of sleep didn’t really help).  But all of us were feeling it.  We had to push through though.  We were in the 4th quarter and needed to finish strong.  Most of what we had to do was the dry wall near the ceiling.  Lots more measuring and cutting.

The BEAMM missionary we worked with was working on the budget.  We’d gone over on construction supplies, and our food budget.  But had saved lots of money on housing.  When he made the budget, it was based on the hotel they’d used in Mexicali.  It was $70/night.  The infamous Motel Continental was $45.  If we upgraded it would have been about $100.  Quite the difference.  So thanks to our time “living it up at the Motel Continental” we were actually under budget.  The question was what to do with the extra money.  We decided to buy them all they needed to install the ceiling, tape and mud the dry wall and do a few other necessary projects.  They don’t lack the will or the skill.  The problem has been lacking the resources.  It is a small church and the people don’t make much money.  One woman who worked at a tortilla factory made under $10/week.  They put their “widows’ mites” into the offering plate, but there is not enough to do projects like this. Hopefully this will help them grow spiritually and numerically so they will have more to help others in the future.


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I was exhausted when I woke up.  That was not really a surprise after tossing and turning half the night away.  In some ways the alarm on CavNav’s phone going off was a relief.  Our room was …. interesting.  I think I already mentioned the beds, and I’ll get to the TV later.  Due to the A/C it was always noisy which turns into a blessing when you have intestinal issues.  And everyone who travels to Mexico ends up with intestinal issues.  The carpet was a bright red, and littered with a plethora of stains whose origin I never want to know.  Sometimes it is just better no knowing, you know?  There was no meaningful dresser to put your clothes in- just one drawer on the unit that held our 19 inch, ancient TV.  So we lived out of suitcases.  My dirty clothes were piled behind my suitcase, longing for the day when CavWife would make them clean.

The sink area did not look exceptionally clean.  The sink itself had a big crack in it that had been sealed.  Down the street was a “store” called El Arabe, specializing in used goods.  I’m thinking the Motel Continental did lots of there shopping at El Arabe.  The hot water did not work.  The cold water was one of those abused faucets that didn’t really have an off.  You could keep turning it and it would go on again.  It was about getting the “right spot”.  The shower seriously needed to be redone.  I took no pleasure in showering in there.  At least it was big.  But knowing that the water itself was not particularly clean gave me no incentive to linger there.

I was so tired that breakfast was largely a blur.  At the work site we worked on putting up dry wall all morning.  I spent much of the time working with El Jefe Americano- our work foreman.  During my turn to pray, I was able to focus on some of my friends I know are in need of prayer.  I was eagerly anticipating our very special lunch.


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Lately there has been no shortage of books about the “radical” Christian lifestyle.  Often those books try to make the gospel into law or focus on very subjective things.  Biblical sanity needed a booster shot.  The release of an updated version of Randy Alcorn’s The Treasure Principle: Unlocking the Secret of Joyful Giving is just such a booster shot.

Randy’s book is radical.  He argues for radical generosity, and does so on (largely) biblical grounds (the tithe as a starting point).  He offers 7 treasure principles which are not like 7 steps.  But these are applications of the teaching of Scripture.  For instance: “God owns everything.  I’m His money manager.”


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A funny thing happens when someone denies the reality of depravity.  Sin becomes something “out there” rather than in my heart.

Case in point.  I was reading part of Richard Foster’s Money, Sex & Power.  I bought this some time ago.  Today I was leafing through the book since my sermon is on the immoral and righteous use of wealth from James 5.  Foster’s theological roots include the denial of total depravity.  Jesus makes some difficult statements about the wealthy.  Foster takes these to mean that money is not morally neutral.  Instead is had a dark power.  For him all money is unrighteous though we may use it for righteous purposes.

You’d think he was basing his theology on Trivial Pursuit.  They erroneously answer that money is the root of all evil.  Sorry, the Bible says the love of money is.  The problem is not out there- money.  The problem is in my heart which seeks life from money instead of from Jesus.  My heart is a factory of idols- and it is prone to make money an idol.  Money does not make me worship it- it is an inanimate object.  The problem is my adulterous heart.

As long as we continue to objectify sin we will be on crusades against all manner of things: alcohol, TV, books etc.  When we do that we never put the earthly, sinful desires of our hearts to death in the power of the Spirit.  We fight the wrong war and wonder why we don’t make any progress.  Where you think sin is makes a world of difference.

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Entering Mexico was sort of like entering a worm hole or something.  What a difference a few hundred yards makes.  This is revealed in so many ways. I mentioned the crazy drivers, right?  Since the speed limit was very low, on some roads 35 kmph you could often be passed by someone on the left or right in the invisible lanes.  There are no such things as parking spaces.  You’ll find cars parked at all kinds of angles as not one seems to care about anyone but themselves.  It’s like Lord of the Flies or something.  The main roads are paved, but often with huge ruts in them.  Side streets might be paved, and might not.

I’m not sure why we worried about safety.  It’s a police state.  You have the city police everywhere.  The federal police are also on the streets.  And the state police come through the area.  We saw a few impromptu checkpoints on the way to the church.  They said they were looking for drunk drivers, but at really strange times.  Either way, it is disconcerting to see police with automatic weapons asking you to stop.


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I alluded to the fact that I didn’t sleep well that night.  I don’t know when I woke up because there was no clock.  But I tossed and turned on my marble slab of a bed for a long unknown amount of time.  I can’t even remember what I was thinking about.  Probably something about the adoption.  But come time for breakfast I was one tired dude.

This morning we had huevos rancheros.  I don’t do huevos.  These were not disguised and I could not trick myself into eating any of them.  So I became Trader Cav.  They had hash browns similar to those at McDonalds or Burger King.  I was able to pick up a side of maple syrup-soaked sausages.  Thankfully they asked if we wanted toast.  I needed to soak up the grease I ate.  It wouldn’t quite work as my stomach rebelled later in the day.  But I needed to eat something as I looked ahead to a busy day.

I didn’t want to deal with the insulation.  I had washed out my shirt the day before.  I wasn’t itch-free until about 5 pm despite my shower.  And then there was the issue of the “gato muerte”.  The day before we discovered a decomposing cat in one of the piles of insulation.  Let’s just say the smell lingered.

A couple of the guys finished up the insulation.  I swept up the work site.  Usually my father-in-law handles that task, but he was many thousands of miles away.  Good thing- otherwise he’d keep going on about how it wasn’t an OSHA-approved work site.  But this was where God had brought us to work.

We installed the doors and then the dry wall arrived.  100 sheets of dry wall, that is.  This is not what I was looking forward to.  We had to get all of the dry wall to the 2nd floor somehow, some way & some time.  Thankfully we stored most of it in the yard for the time being and only brought up about 10 sheets.  But in leaning over to grab one they hoisted up from the truck, I aggravated my back.  Not too bad.  And my foot, which has been bothering me intermittently for months started to hurt.  I wasn’t doing so well.


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As a movement, the “Young, Restless & Reformed” crowd has some issues.  They are, after all, young.  They are on the road to maturity.  Technically I’m a tad too old, I think, for the moniker but I appreciate what most of them are trying to do.

John MacArthur is not so appreciative.  As part of the generation before mine, he’s been quite critical of them in a series of posts.  Some of them have made the circuit.  I’ve stayed out of it.  I don’t want to contribute to a blog war- see, I’m getting older and maybe even maturing.  (comments have been closed, so I can’t respond there.)

I am not writing to defend the YR&R movement.  I’m not even going to point out the inconsistencies of John’s argument (a blogger friend who was unjustly singled out has done a good job of these things).  What I want to do is address his selective use of Scripture.  JM, in writing this critique of the movement, is also acting like a role model of sorts.  How he handles the Scriptures is VERY important.  He deeply cares about the Scriptures and expositional preaching has been a hallmark of his lengthy ministry.  But here he does not handle the Scriptures well, and we need to help see why.

Taking Texts Out of Context

Contrary to the current mythology, abstinence is no sin—least of all for someone devoted to ministry (Leviticus 10:9; Proverbs 31:4; Luke 1:15). It is, of course, a sin to give one’s mind over to the influence of alcohol or to bedeck one’s reputation with deliberate symbols of debauchery. As a matter of fact, drunkenness and debauchery are the very antithesis of Spirit-filled sanctification (Ephesians 5:18)—and men who indulge in them are not qualified to be spiritual leaders.

JM rightly notes that abstinence is not a sin.  At times it may be wise, but that doesn’t mean it is always wise.  His claims go beyond the text however.

 8And the LORD spoke to Aaron, saying, 9 “Drink no wine or strong drink, you or your sons with you, when you go into the tent of meeting, lest you die. It shall be a statute forever throughout your generations. Leviticus 10

It was not an absolute prohibition.  They were just not to drink on the job.  In light of the recent death of Aaron’s 2 sons, you have to wonder if abusing alcohol was one reason they offered up “strange fire”.  But JM speaks of abstinence.  They were not required to abstain for drinking wine, except while serving.

4 It is not for kings, O Lemuel,  it is not for kings to drink wine, or for rulers to take strong drink, 5lest they drink and forget what has been decreed and pervert the rights of all the afflicted. Proverbs 31

Once again the encouragement is not absolute.  But when the king is working, making decrees or deciding cases, he should not be under the influence of alcohol.  JM overstates his case.  Oddly enough, see what the next verses say:

6Give strong drink to the one who is perishing,  and wine to those in bitter distress; 7 let them drink and forget their poverty and remember their misery no more. Proverbs 31


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Ascending to an Annex of Hades

Before I left CavWife gave me extra ear plugs for the poor soul unlucky enough to share a room with me.  What she didn’t realize is that CavNav, who shared said rundown heap with me, brought a large container of ear plugs with him.  He’d need them.  This despite the fact that the A/C unit ran 24/7.  The wall unit had to be as old or older than the 20+ year old TV.  Like the TV, it was missing buttons and knobs.  But eventually it cooled down the room.  Soon we were actually cold at night.

Additionally, he brought a small fan.  That added more white noise.  Despite all this, he could hear my distinctive “rattle” of a snore.  CavWife has since noted that at least he wasn’t next to me in bed like she is (without a loud A/C or fan to cover the non-melodious sound of my snoring).

Breakfast would be at 6:45 during our 5 work days.  It seemed to come early, but I was eager to share the Red Sox victory the night before.  I was even more eager to share what I’d read in Ephesians 2 after I woke up.

10For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

It was a good reminder that we were not in San Luis Rio by accident.  We were there by the sovereign will of God.  He’s planned this trip long before creation.  Our task, by faith, is to walk in it and bring Him glory.


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One of the things I told CavNav on the way down to Mexico was that I didn’t need to bring my travel clock since hotels have alarm clocks.  Wasn’t I surprised to discover that they did not have alarm clocks at the Motel Continental.  It was quite a surprise, but far from the last one I would have during our stay.

I can’t remember when we woke up, but that was when I got a few more surprises.  As I prepared to take a shower in the large but suspect shower,  I discovered that they did not provide any shampoo.  Really, was anyone surprised?  Thankfully I have a habit that annoys my wife.  I take the shampoo from hotels.  I had a bottle in my travel bag.  Problem solved.  I also had a big bar of Ivory soap just in case I had to do some laundry.  The sink was a bit small and lacked hot water, but at least I had plenty of soap for showers.

There were 2 towels.  2.  One looked like a bath mat.  Okay, it was a bath mat.  I suppose they could have expected us to share a towel, but I was not going there.  Instead I dried off with the bath mat that barely went around my waist.  We were told that they did not provide wash cloths.  Someone joked that they did, it was towels they didn’t provide.

Then it was time for breakfast in the motel’s restaurant- El Sarape.  Today we could choose what we wanted from the menu.  Monday – Friday we would all get the same meal.  I don’t do eggs, so I went with the hot cakes and bacon.  I tried some of the tortilla chips and salsa.  The chips tasted like corn flakes.  By the next day I would rethink the idea of eating salsa with breakfast.

Then it was off to the church for the morning worship service.  When Pastor Cesar and I talked the night before he asked if I would pray or read during the evening service.  He didn’t say anything about the morning service.  But there I was, offering the benediction.  We always said about mission trips: be flexible!  Since it was heating up we sat on the side of the sanctuary with the swamp coolers (I inadvertently sat right in front of one).  The other side had the cushions.  Choose your pleasure!  And pain.

The service was a little different than I was used to.  The main elements of worship were there.  CavNav says that the piano, played by Cesar, was 1 1/2 step flat but in tune with itself.  Instead of a sermon, we broke for Sunday School. Noah (pronounced No-A) taught the lesson from Genesis, the story of Abraham & Abimelech.  He focused on walking blamelessly before God, and how God keeps His promises even when we don’t.  Then it was time to get back together and share from our lessons.  Then the worship team led us in a few songs.  In America we nearly worship professionalism.  What they lacked in expertise they more than made up for in earnestness and sincerity.  Later, while playing around with the electric guitar I discovered only 1 of the 3 pick ups worked.  This is one of the themes in their church life: make due.  They just don’t have the resources to fix everything or buy new things.


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It wasn’t quite the best time to head to Mexico for a mission trip.  For one, I just got home from a lengthy vacation.  For another, we are at an important point in the adoption process.  And it is the hottest time of the year in that border city, often above 100 degrees.  It’s hotter than Tucson there.  But we are not in control of our times, and the time had come to head south of the border.

This is not the best time to head down south.  Cartel violence has made many a headline.   But there are a few things to consider.  For one, God is in control.  For another, not all of Mexico is dangerous.  A church member works with homeland security, and did some research on the area.  It is not a contested area, so it is pretty peaceful.  As we would learn, you bump into a police car every few hundred feet.

It was time to kiss the family goodbye and meet the rest of the team at the church facility.  As we were loading up we decided not to bring the ladder.  This meant that we could fit everything, and everybody, in the van and one car.  The other guy who bought insurance to drive his car in Mexico was willing to not drive.  It might have been because he hadn’t slept, since he was cleaning his car well into the night.  He also put new tires on it recently.  But I like to drive, and my car is not a valuable as his. I got a decent night’s sleep.   So…. we took mine.  He became CavNav(igator) for the trip.  So off we went, next stop Gila Bend.

The first part of the trip was uneventful.  Lots of jokes, nearly missing the exit to I-8 due to construction and that’s pretty much it.  At Gila Bend, we grabbed a quick snack and made use of the facilities.  After about 2 hours in the car, our legs needed to be stretched.  Since I was tired, I decided to put some music in.  I chose the 77’s Sticks and Stones.  A great album, but it may have not been the best choice because Don’t This Way was running thru my brain much of the week, including those times I lay awake in the middle of the night.  The other song that ran thru my mind was You Walked in the Room– “lousy jokes, and out and out lying…”.

This explains a few things.

While the 77’s were playing I began to notice a vibration.  I thought it might be the increasingly rough road.  CavNav chose the next CD- All That You Can’t Leave Behind.  Sort of appropriate when you think of it.  The vibration grew worse.  Problem was, we were heading up a mountain.  I didn’t want the van we were traveling with to have to start back up with that grade incline.  So, when we started our descent, I found a place with room on the side of the road with good visibility.  The driver’s side front tire was good.  The passenger’s side, not so much.  I could see that the tire was not flat, anymore.  the surface was warped.  And then there was the tread separation.  No small problem that.

I wasn’t too excited about the prospect of changing a tire on such a steep downgrade.  We slowly made our way to the next exit.  As it turns out, we should have gone the extra 2 miles thump-a-thump-thumping to the next exit.

We pulled off the highway and found a parking lot.  I missed the sign that would have provided some good shade for the tire change.  The ladies decided to shop while the men got busy.  It really was a group effort.  Being on a mission trip has some advantages when changing a tire in 100+ degree heat in Yuma, AZ.  Okay, except for the fact that we had to empty the trunk to get to the spare.  We had work gloves so we didn’t burn our hands as we worked.  And when the spare was empty, we had a compressor to fill it.  Sweet!


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