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Archive for August, 2012


Photo by Christopher Evans

As many have noted, the Red Sox have hit the reset button on the team. The unthinkable happened as many people’s grandest dreams have been fulfilled; Beckett is gone and so is Crawford’s albatross of a contract.

I’ve been on record for not liking the Crawford deal, even before it happened. I hoped it would work out. It hasn’t. He is (was?) a very talented guy. But the burden of the contract, and Boston, worked against him. Even in a recent interview, he couldn’t avoid talking about being a $20 million/year man.

In Tampa, the expectations were not high. The team hadn’t left the basement of the AL East until 2008. So Carl only played on a winner for 2 years, and no one expected them to be any good. The Ravine will be more to his liking. People show up late and leave early. What they really care about is the Lakers. The Dodgers? Eh.

Beckett remarkably exhausted all of the good will from 2007 and what should have been in 2008. He was dominant last year until late August. And never recovered. Worse, he didn’t seem to accept any responsibility (unlike Lester), continued to do stupid things (unlike Lester) and continued to stink (unlike Lester). He probably has some injuries, but significantly he’s lost velocity on his fastball (not a good sign going forward). Dodger fans got a taste of our frustration as Beckett gave up a home run to the first batter he faced in Blue.

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I flirted with pacifism in the late 80’s. Maybe it had something to do with my disappointment with the Iran-Contra Affair at the end of Reagan’s presidency. But it was triggered by a conference in New England sponsored by an organization for which I’d later work.

Tony Campolo was there (and you thought it was Ligonier, didn’t you?). He was giving his argument for pacifism with a very emotional argument. “Can you see Jesus with his finger ready to drop bombs on people?” As a new, immature Christian I thought “no, I can’t”. Perhaps I hadn’t read to the end of Revelation yet. You know, that part where His robes are covered in blood as He’s been trampling His enemies? You know, Jesus is riding a warhorse? While Jesus now extends the offer of peace, don’t confuse Jesus with a pacifist.

There has been a resurgence of pacifism. Perhaps it is in response to the decade-long war on terror. I can understand, I’m weary of the whole thing. Perhaps it is all the shootings. I’ve seen plenty of people speak as if we should be pacifists in the midst of those gun control conversations. I was about 5-10 minutes away from Gabby when she was shot. Our community was rocked.

Gregory Boyd is another proponent of pacifism. And Shane Claiborne has popularized those views (I don’t give him a hard time for working with the poor, but for his horrible interpretations of the Bible). Recently someone was shocked that I, as a pastor, was defending gun ownership to protect people. Shouldn’t I be a pacifist? After all, didn’t Jesus say …

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There are books galore about the Christian life. Some of great, and some … well, aren’t so helpful. Some are heavy lifting, and not accessible to the average person i the pew. Some are so light, they are ultimately unhelpful.

Not only does Derek Thomas quote a fair amount from his friend and colleague Sinclair Ferguson, but How the Gospel Brings Us All the Way Home is very much like the best books Ferguson has written. It is deep, but not complicated. It is short, but not trite.

Thomas looks at the 8th chapter of Romans in this book. He uses this as a summary of the Christian life- how God brings us from justification to glorification through adoption and sanctification. Sounds complicated, but Thomas puts the cookies on the shelf where you can reach them.

“Even as mature Christians, we need to remind ourselves continually of the basis for our acceptance- it is entirely because of what Christ has done for us. Thus, faith in Christ is not a one-time event; we must live by faith each day.”

I read the chapters out of order because I used parts of it as I wrestled with my sermon texts near the end of Genesis. In addition to Ferguson, Thomas brings in quotations from John Calvin and a number of other luminaries as well as some great hymns. Sometimes someone else can say it better than we can.

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All of our heroes are flawed. Some more than others. David committed murder to cover up his adultery. Solomon was led astray by his many wives and their gods.

Sometimes we don’t give extra-biblical guys as much slack, aka grace, as God does. I noted this in my recent post on Theological Phariseeism. Sometimes we refuse to be honest about their flaws, as if it would undermine the good they do.

My friend, Chris Probst, did his Ph.D. dissertation in London on the subject of Luther and the Jews, and how that impacted Nazi Germany. It is more nuanced that you might expect. He’s a smart guy that Probst. Not to mention the fact that his dad is German and mom is Jewish.

He got to sit down with Steve Brown on Steve Brown Etc. to talk about the book and the reality that all our heroes (except Jesus) are flawed.

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WTS Bookstore has a 50% off sale on 3 great books on the subject of sanctification. No, you can’t buy your sanctification. But these books will help you as you seek to understand and apply the gospel in the process of sanctification.

From the past, there is Overcoming Sin and Temptation in which Kelly Kapic and Justin Taylor edited 3 classic works by John Owen: The Mortification of Sin in Believers, Of Temptation, and Indwelling Sin. If you haven’t read these, what is stopping you. Here are some blurbs:

“Get hold of this volume edited by Kapic and Taylor. See it as an essential matter to read and devour. But prepare yourself for pain, for Owen will take no prisoners. If you want to keep living the humdrum, half-hearted life of faith you currently do, then pass it by.”
– Derek Thomas, Read the full review at Reformation21.

“The greatest Christian writers are those who most powerfully project to spiritual readers the knowledge of God, of ourselves, and of the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Among these are Augustine, Calvin, Edwards, and the Puritan John Owen, who ought to be better known than he is. The editors of this volume have worked hard to make Owen’s unrivalled insight into the Christian’s inner war with sin accessible to all, and the result is truly a godsend. Filled with classic devotional theology which, like Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, needs to be read again and again to be properly grasped, we have in the three treatises presented here a companion for life.”
– J. I. Packer, Professor of Theology, Regent College

“Dr. Lovelace, in his Basic Dynamics course at Gordon-Conwell, made us read On Temptation and On Mortification. And that’s where I discovered John Owen in 1972… I wouldn’t be in the ministry—my life would be a shipwreck—if I hadn’t read that book.”
– Tim Keller, Pastor, Redeemer Presbyterian Church, New York, NY.

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I’ve lost track of the avalanche of men’s books over the years. That’s because I wasn’t too impressed with what I was seeing. Neither was Rick Phillips. In particular, he was not happy with some of what John Eldredge says in his book Wild At Heart, and how he runs his wilderness retreats. So he ended up writing The Masculine Mandate: God’s Calling to Men.

But, while you might expect a reactionary book this really isn’t. He only mentions Eldredge in the first chapter. His point is that what John says concerning Adam and the Garden  is not really defensible. Eldredge argues that man finds his identity outside the garden, that men are not domesticated. If you mean “feminized”, then Phillips agrees with you. But he notes:

“The garden is the place where God relates covenantally to his creature man and where God brings the man into covenantal relationships and obligations. … God put the man in the garden. … If God intends men to be wild at heart, how strange that he placed man in the garden, where his life would be shaped not by self-centered identity quests but by covenantal bonds and blessings.”

Phillips’ thesis is that man’s calling is to live responsibly within those bonds and enjoying those blessings. The call of man is found in the creation mandate “to work and keep” which is lived out in work, marriage, parenting and church.

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If you follow my other blog, you know CavWife and I have adopted 2 children from Africa. In a recent post there, I mentioned that we expect to experience various forms of racism.

Racism has many sources. Okay, ultimately one source- the sinful heart of a man or woman. Why they sin in this way can have many different causes. Some people have grown up among racists, and “caught” it. They heard various lies all their lives, and take them as true.

Sometimes racism has found a place in our hearts because of mistreatment at the hands of people from that race. We’ve been robbed, beaten or worse. We wrongly project our fears upon all of those from that race. As I have been (slowly) reading about the Great African War in Dancing in the Glory of Monsters, one thing that stuck out to me as the tales of ethnic hatred (racism) was that people recall the atrocities committed against their tribe, but not those committed by their tribe. I notice the same thing in America. Each ethnic group is quick to point out how they have been wronged, but can’t seem to remember how they have wronged the other groups.

Another reason I can think about is fear. Often new ethnic groups threatened to take away job from the working poor. That fear often drives racism. Where I grew up, we saw prejudice against French Canadians and Puerto Ricans. The French Canadians often came south for jobs in construction.

I’m sure you may be able to come up with other reasons for racism. I really want to focus on the cure of racism.

I’m sure education has its place. But it really is insufficient. In his book Union With Christ, Billings brings us to union with Christ. As a Christian, individuals have to realize they are not only united to Jesus by the Spirit, but also with all those who are united to Jesus. This means you are united to people of the ethnic group you despise or look down upon. Ponder that. The Reformed Church in South Africa began to ponder that, Billings notes. Separate communion is part of what justified apartheid. Restoring communion between people of different races is part of what dissolved apartheid, or more correctly the racism that drove it.

This is a theological reality that we need to grow into as we are sanctified. We come into a greater understanding and experience of our union with Christ, and one another. This union is not merely an intellectual thing. But as a spiritual union, is done by the power of the Spirit. It is by that union that we receive the power of the Spirit by which God raised Christ from the dead. The Spirit gives us the power to love- both God and neighbor. We begin to ask God to give us, by virtue of this union and the power of the Spirit, love for those for whom we currently have no love.

I am a big movie goer. Or I should say watcher since I rarely go to the movies anymore. But if you watch the movies that deal with racism, like Remember the Titans, American History X and The Hurricane, you find a commonality. Racists change, not because of education, but because of relationship. There was a relationship they had which slowly eroded the lies, fear and bitterness. Soon the hatred was replaced by love.

Too often we want God to just reach in to our miserable, sin-ridden hearts and pluck out the racism and bigotry. He refuses to do this. What He tells us to do is love them, or get into a relationship with some of the people you hate. As you relate to people and get to know them better, the lies and fears will rise to the surface. Now is when the real sanctification takes place. We put those sinful desires to death. We confront those lies with truth. We overcome those fears with courage. We bring the gospel of Jesus Christ to bear on these sinful responses, and begin to love these people we have refused to love in the past.

Racism is a sin against both creation and redemption. It fails to recognize our common ancestry, and (at least for Christians) our common redemption. Racist have a gospel problem, and need the gospel cure. That cure is more severe than forgiveness. The gospel calls us to, and empowers us to, put these particular sins to death. The gospel enables us to put on love. Being gospel work doesn’t mean it is easy. It is painful to face the racism that exists in our hearts. It is shameful to have those thoughts about another’s supposed inferiority based on the color of their skin, ethnic background or other reason not connected to their character. Faith and repentance are painful to the sinful nature. But they are something that must happen if we are to move beyond racism, one person at a time.

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