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Archive for February, 2013


One of the things I don’t like about buying books on line is that you really can’t flip through it (Amazon is trying) and see if it is what you are looking for in the first place. The Walk by Stephen Smallman is one of the books I wish I’d been able to flip through. It was recommended in another book about discipleship. Since he’s in the same denomination in which I serve it, unlike the book I had read, would come from a more consistently covenantal perspective. This is not to say this is a bad book, because it isn’t. It just isn’t the book I had thought it would be. I was looking for a more theoretical book that had application. This is a book intended to actually be used to disciple new and renewed followers of Jesus. I guess I should have noticed that subtitle. But I do have a good resource to recommend to those, or use with those, who want or need to be discipled. One of the strengths is the progression that he uses from basics to discipleship thru the gospel on to mission. The goal is not information accumulation, but growth in grace, sanctification into greater obedience and maturity to disciple others and join Jesus in His mission (2 Cor. 5).

“If ‘going to heaven’ is the key objective of evangelism, perhaps that begins to tell us why discipleship is viewed as optional by so many ‘converts.'”

It is a 12 lesson course that could be used in SS, or throughout a year in a small group. He has a reading plan that goes with each lesson which he refers to often (largely Mark and Romans). He also has a reading plan in an appendix that can be used afterwards. We aren’t talking a verse to proof text. These are longer chunks that coincide with the material in the chapter. They build on one another to develop the context of the larger text. It gets people reading the Bible, since this is a large part of discipleship. (more…)

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How’s that for a title guaranteed to draw some interest? I’m working on a sermon about putting sexual sin to death. So, I’m going back through that portion of my library that deals with sex and sexual sin. Not all books about these issues are good books. I’ve read some bad ones, and I’ve read some helpful ones. I haven’t read every book available, but here are the ones I would recommend.

Undefiled: Redemption from Sexual Sin, Restoration for Broken Relationships by Harry Schaumburg. He does some very important things. He connects our sexual maturity to our spiritual maturity. They interact. We aren’t mature in one area without being mature in the other. The cross is central to forgiving those who have wronged us sexually, and even more important for dealing with our own violation of sexual boundaries. Jesus wants to change our hearts. Schaumburg also focuses on the context of relationship- how sexual sin destroys relationships and how relationships are important to our redemption from sexual sin.

“Lust always leaves victims because in sexual sin everyone gets hurt.” Harry Schaumburg

Sex and the Supremacy of Christ by John Piper and Justin Taylor. This is the book taken from the Desiring God conference on this subject. It covers a number of different topics about sex and views them under God’s sovereignty. There are some excellent chapters in this book.

“Jesus said, if you don’t fight lust, you won’t go to heaven. Not that saints always succeed. The issue is that we resolve to fight, not that we succeed flawlessly.” John Piper in Future Grace

The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy Keller w/Kathy Keller. There is a great chapter about sex and its role in commitment making. He builds a positive view of sex, in marriage which reveals the grave danger of sex outside marriage.

“In short, according to Paul, sex with a prostitute is wrong because every sex act is supposed to be a uniting act.” Tim Keller

A Celebration of Sex: A Guide to Enjoying God’s Gift of Sexual Intimacy by Doug Rosenau. He taught our class on sex and sexual dysfunction in counseling. So it holds a special place in my heart.

Sexual Addiction (aka Idolatry)

False Intimacy: Understanding the Struggle of Sexual Addiction by Harry Schaumburg. If you have any struggle with sexual addiction, or someone you love does, find a copy of this book. It is the best book I’ve read on the subject. He really gets to the heart of the problems. There is a great how spouses should deal with a sexually addicted spouse.

“Sadly, pursuing sexual behaviors as ends in themselves, as the source of deep fulfillment, ends only in nakedness and shame- before others and before God.” Harry Schaumburg

Addictions- A Banquet in the Grave: Finding Hope in the Power of the Gospel by Edward Welch. While more general, it says much about sexual addiction. His focus is on the hope we have in the gospel and how it begins to change us in the present.

“With each indulgence, we paradoxically feel less and less satisfied, yet we are persuaded that the object of our desire is the only thing that can fill us.” Ed Welch

Breaking Free: Understanding Sexual Addiction & the Healing Power of Jesus by Russell Willingham. He takes a Christ-centered approach that also addresses the emotional needs that arise from sexual abuse. He also has a helpful appendix for the spouses of those who are sexually broken.

“The fear and spiritual pride of addicted people are awesome. They desperately want to believe they are in control, and they try to convince others that they are.” Russ Willingham

Dealing w/Sexual Abuse

The Wounded Heart by Dan Allender. This is one of the best books on the subject. I compared and contrasted with the another book that shall remain nameless, and it was far superior in its gospel orientation. It does offer help for people to move on and beyond the sins committed against them, and how they have sinfully responded.

That is my short list. All of us have an agenda for our sexuality. It is God’s too? These books help people understand God’s agenda and begin the process of sexual sanctification by grace in Christ.

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When you know you’re going to be up late the next day because you are going to an NBA game and driving 90+ minutes to get home, the last thing you want to do is not sleep well. Guess, what I did? Yes, I was up around 3 am with my mind fully engaged considering the next couple of sermons.

So I spent the wee hours blogging, reading and preparing breakfast before we all headed north to Phoenix. By the time we left, I had had 2 mugs of tea and been up about 7 hours, and was wiped out. I was not looking forward to a day at Ikea and then a basketball game.

But first, CavWife had a last minute doctor’s appointment in Phoenix. We both sort of but not completely remembered how to get there. Of course neither of us slept well. That doesn’t make for the best combination. Thankfully, we only made 2 wrong turns. This was good, because the tea, well, … you know.

While she met with the doctor, I read to the kids. First was a Powderpuff Girls story for Micah. Then the same Scooby Doo story I read Eli every time we go to this doctor. The doctor’s wife, who was in the office, really appreciated my character voices. The PP Girls book was missing 4 pages, and had some bad grammar (using adjectives when an adverb should have been used). So there were comedic side remarks throughout both stories.

Finally we were off to Ikea. Once again, there was a wrong turn. Since it was after noon, we started with lunch (thankfully we didn’t have the meatballs) . It wasn’t too busy, to the kids actually got to sit at a kids’ table leaving us to actually be able to have a conversation. Then we went to drop off the kids in the play area. But they were full and short staffed. So, we entered the Ikea maze with 4 kids, uncertain of what we were looking for in addition to new shelves. I forgot our stash of breadcrumbs. I was a zombie trying not to run over people who stopped inexplicably while on their cell phones. I think one woman was a serial offender. While getting out of someone’s way, I backed into a some merchandise nearly tripping over it. This was not fun.

One the way out we noticed a hammock. If we get our porch extended, I want one (if CavWife reads this, it is a hint for Father’s Day). I tried to get a nap, but at no point did I have few than one child on top of me. CavWife missed some really good photo opps, but it is okay, she was tired too.

We made the short trip to Dunkin Donuts to grab some caffeine and a snack. I, of course, missed the turn into the parking lot. After they headed back to Tucson, I stayed in the parking lot in a shady spot to take a nap. My snoring kept waking me up. Around 4 I decided to sit in one of the chairs outside the DD’s. It was nice in the sun. Still in a daze, I made a quick turn and impaled my Vanilla Chai on a chair. My stimulant poured out on the pavement. This wasn’t going well.

Around 4:30 I headed toward the arena to meet a friend. I didn’t notice any event parking set up yet, so I settle for the parking garage next to Chase Field. It exited on Jefferson, the road that would take me back to I-10 and home. I got a great spot so I could pull straight out and onto the exit ramp. There was a small amount of functionality left. I waited for my friend there since I was driving him back to Tucson and he had stuff to put in the car. Thankfully I caught a 2nd wind.

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In my sermon series on Colossians, Christ: Supreme & Sufficient, I am getting to the section on sanctification which includes some “vice lists”. What is a pastor to do?

First, Paul is addressing not only sins among the Colossians in general, but among the Colossian Christians. They had to put them to death, and put them off precisely because they were committing them. The sin lists are appropriate for most Christian communities regardless of their context: people struggle with sex, anger & hatred, their speech, covetousness and bias/prejudice/hatred based on ethnic background and culture.

The question I spent half the night (and many other hours spread over the past few months, and years) pondering is how much about my personal life (past and present) should I share in the context of preaching about these sins.

First, I don’t want to give the impression I have arrived, or never sinned. I know, some people live in a make believe land where their pastor never sinned big. If he sinned, it was forgetting to cover his mouth when he burped or some other peccadillo. I was not converted until I was 20. I have plenty of baggage from my family of origin, and plenty of sins (big and small) from which God has delivered and is delivering me. As Paul Tripp frequently notes, we are all “in the middle of our sanctification.” That means there are sins I used to commit and no longer do. That means there are sins I am still in the process of putting away. That means there are sins that God hasn’t even revealed to me yet because I’m nearly overwhelmed by the ones I know about.

Second, I want to be honest about my past and present struggles so people don’t think they are alone. I’m not going to talk about the sins of someone else in the congregation (“Of course we all realize Tom has a problem with …”). I can’ share stories of church leaders of the past. But they need to know that I need grace, AND find Christ sufficient. I know, it should be obvious to them I sin, but since they don’t live with me they may not see how sin operates in my life. Even then, there is the unseen world of my thoughts that is unknown to all but my closest friends. While they can’t, and shouldn’t, know it all they should know some of it.

But it isn’t that easy. There are a few counter-balances I must weigh in considering what I do and do not share about my past and present.

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There are times when an author or screenwriter says more than they intend to say. I wonder if Flight is one of those times. I don’t know the screenwriter (John Gatins) and his worldview. But it closely approximates a biblical worldview, and there are a number of characters who are Christians.

Flight is not an enjoyable movie to watch, unless you enjoy watching a man destroy his life. Flight is mostly about the destructive power of sin, though there is a strong theme of common grace and, at the end, a taste of redemption. As a result, it is not as depressing and nihilistic as Leaving Las Vegas. While it depicts lots of sin, it is not trying to justify or glorify it. It shows the hell of it.

The first few minutes of the movie are tough to watch if you have a sensitive conscience. Our introduction to the main character, Captain “Whip” Whitaker (Denzel Washington) is in a hotel room after a night of excess that included sex, booze and drugs. While his partner for the night wanders around the room naked (eventually, and mercifully, she gets dressed) he argues on the phone with his ex-wife and then prepares for work by snorting some coke. What we see is not a “nice” guy.

But Whip is an excellent pilot. When the flight from Orlando to Atlanta goes terribly wrong he is able to pull the plane out of an uncontrolled dive (in a very harrowing scene), and land it in a large field. He awakens in a hospital to discover that 4 passengers and 2 crew (including the woman with whom he was partying) have died. We later learn that in the simulator, no one could land the plan safely. This incredibly flawed man does something heroic.

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Reading a book on theology by a woman for women? Cavman, are you getting in touch with your feminine side? Well, the last time I tried that, it slapped me.

More seriously, our women’s ministry is considering The Gospel Centered Woman: Understanding Biblical Womanhood through the Lens of the Gospel by Wendy Alsup for the summer and asked me to take a look at it. Wanting the women to get a healthy diet, I read the book. (It looks like this was self-published, but you can find her book Practical Theology for Woman: How Knowing God Makes a Difference in Our Daily Lives at WTS Books).

I’ve generally found that books written by women, particularly theology books, have a very different feel than those written by men. That is not good or bad, just different. I guess if you are a woman reading it, it is good. That is to say that I’m trying to evaluate it on its own merit, recognizing she won’t write like Sinclair Ferguson (for instance).

The subtitle is important here. She is writing about biblical womanhood, and is a complementarian. Some people miss the main point about complementarianism- it is not about who cooks, cleans or mows the lawn. It is not about who is smarter or wiser.

This is not a defense of complementarianism. It is rather assumed. He goal, the subtitle again, it to view this through the lens of the gospel. She wants women to understand who they are on account of the gospel, and how that fleshes itself out in daily life.

“It is the gospel alone that equips us to bridge the gap between God’s good plan for His daughters and the fallen reality in which we all live.”

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