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Archive for June, 2013


With General Assembly over, I could have a relaxing morning getting packed up. Check out time was 11 am so I enjoyed a cup of tea and did some reading. One of the other pastors asked me if the Paul Tripp book I was reading was new. Indeed! With some time to spare I called old friend Dr. Chris Probst to see how life in St. Louis was going. And I refrained from abusing him since the Red Sox are in first place.

Leaving Flat Rock took longer than anticipated for CavWife. You know how goodbyes can go. So they showed up a little late at the hotel. It was nearly time for lunch after I squeezed the burdened bags (all the free stuff and my notebook for GA were heavy), so it was off to Chick-fil-a for some lunch. Sadly, there was no play area at this C-F-A. But I enjoyed a reasonably healthy salad after all those not very healthy meals during the week.

We then made our way to the home of a childhood friend of CavWife’s. We enjoyed their hospitality, including crashing on the hammock in the backyard. My friend Eddie and his family joined us for a rather large dinner. We eventually put the kids to sleep in the room we were staying in. Yes, all 6 of us were in the same room- on a bed, on a futon and on the floor. After more conversation, and a phone call to an elder back in AZ I was ready to go to bed later than expected. We had an early morning coming.

Thanks to the white noise we used to help the kids sleep, a rain storm, I kept waking up having to go to the bathroom. It was a restless night and 6 am came way too soon. By 6:30 we were dressed, packed up and ready to head back to Atlanta for our flight up to NJ. This time it was a largely uneventful ride into Atlanta … until the airport. I found the signage inadequate again. But we figured it all out and returned the van. We had to re-arrange some things and rebuild the boxes for the booster seats. It took awhile with 4 kids continually finding a way to be in the way.

There were a number of differences between the rental Town & Country and our Town & Country. I enjoyed the improved fuel economy (5-6 mpg more than ours!) and the video when you are in reverse. I was not wild about the new placement for power supplies and shifter. But it served us well. And so did the car seats we left behind. Yes, they were set to expire so I didn’t have to lug them around anymore. My knuckles were thankful. New seats awaited us in NJ.

Now we had to make the trek to the tram, then ticketing, then the tram and the gate. All went well, and soon we were on our way to Chicago. This time we had a good layover so there was no rushing around. I was able to make a few calls. And then we were off to Newark- the flower of New Jersey. Thankfully another uneventful trip.

Dan picked us up in Mike’s Denali. Apparently the new Denalis have less storage space and more leg room. That was not the equation I really wanted. While CavWife properly installed the car seats I played puzzle with the luggage. We all fit in for the ride to Newfoundland. After passing the infamous Hibernia Diner, we got to the Hric home in time for some dinner.

After putting the kids to sleep, Dan and I tried to watch the Bruins’ game. They have Apple TV so there was no live network TV. Soon we found the NBCSports App to download so we could watch the game on my iPad. Good game, lousy outcome.

I had a rough night’s sleep on the Tempurpedic due to the heat and humidity sans a/c. We went to worship in the church CavWife grew up in. Of course it is much bigger, and different. The worship has changed considerably since the last time we were there about 10 years ago. Gone was the organ trying to play more contemporary songs. They had a worship team, and had a low or free worship style (pick your term) and some of the songs were new to us. Good, but new to us (and easy to learn). The sermon was from a series on Galatians, so that is always good. It was not a very long service, and we also enjoyed seeing some old friends.

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Much has been said on the internet about the PCA GA, as usual. I have found misrepresentations, distortions and knee jerk reactions galore. I hope to avoid all that. I hope to be as objective as I can.

For me the General Assembly began around 5 pm on Tuesday afternoon. My friend Eddie and I attended the Ligonier Panel on Christology. The panel featured R.C. Sproul (obviously), Ligon Duncan, Robert Godfrey, Sinclair Ferguson and Richard Pratt. They each brought a different emphasis in how they viewed Christology under attack in the church and world. I was exhausted from not enough sleep the night before, so I can’t recall all that was said. Ferguson talked quite a bit about the influence of Schleiermacher on the church of Scotland. Many of the same things can be said about the church in the States. Pratt talked about issues of Christology on the mission field. People need to know who this Christ really is, and how He saves. Apart from solid Christology there really is no gospel message. It was good to see Sproul in public. He seemed sharp and on track. This was a moderated discussion. I’d recommend you watch it.

As I noted, I was exhausted. There were many good things about the opening worship service, but I thought the sermon went on too long. And there was a second, shorter sermon before the Lord’s Table. The focus for the 3 services would come from Revelation 21-22, all things new. The first message was about the new creation we will one day inhabit.

We then began business with the election of the Moderator. Two men were presented to us as nominees. Most of us knew neither of them. This is one of my great frustrations with General Assembly- being asked to vote for people I do not know. The choice of a Moderator is very important. A good moderator keeps the business flowing. A not so good one gets the assembly bogged down in procedural matters which actually interfere with the business. Let’s just say we didn’t choose wisely. I am sure he is a great guy, but this is an honor but not honorary. It is a great responsibility. Perhaps we need to do a better job preparing nominees for the task of leading General Assembly.

The next morning I went to 2 seminars. Okay, 1 and 1/2. I was a bit late for the seminar on repentance. Ed Eubanks was helping us think through how the Bible uses repentance in distinction to how we use the term. There was a fair amount of give and take in a constructive manner as some of his thoughts were challenged. I think the bottom line is that we need to have a fuller understanding of the various ways in which Scripture urges us to respond when we as Christians sin. Sometimes our theological and homoletical shorthand is neither sufficient nor clear.

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Last year CavWife set the wheels in motion. She was envious that I got to spend time with some of our best friends from Florida. With Greenville the site for this year’s GA, she believed she and the kids should travel with me and spend time with some of our friends.

We tried various permutations. But like Jerry to Babu, it was looking like the wheels were just spinning, not going anywhere. I was not excited about the prospect of driving across the country for General Assembly, heading north for vacation and then driving back to the AZ. Not restful at all, and I had a bad back experience in April. Thankfully we found a flight deal that was only slightly more expensive than if we just flew to the Northeast for vacation.

We would fly into Atlanta, rent a van to drive to Greenville and then return to Atlanta to fly into Newark and begin our vacation. Sounds great, right?

The kids couldn’t wait. They wanted to pack about a week ahead of time. We had to keep putting them off. That is always fun.

But the magic day arrived. I had much to do to prepare for that day: liturgy for the entirety of my time away, most of my sermon prep for the week I got back … and so on.

We had an afternoon flight out of town, so we had a good lunch at home before being driven to the airport by a friend. We had a short layover in Denver that concerned me. We had 30 minutes to get from one flight to another with 2 car seats and 4 kids. I was losing sleep over this.

And then our flight out was delayed. And delayed again. This wasn’t good. But we were assured that our flight would be held since it was the last flight out of Denver for Atlanta and 17 of us were making the connection. Okay.

Though we left late, the flight was essentially uneventful. Thankfully our departure gate was not far from our arrival gate in Denver. We even had time to go to the bathroom since that flight was delayed. Soon we were in the air for the relatively short flight to Atlanta.

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Our world is insane about many things. Sin will do that, produce a form of insanity. But when it comes to Sex & Money, our world is really crazy. Paul Tripp’s newest book is about these “pleasures that leave you empty and the grace that satisfies.”

He confesses that this was a very difficult book for him to write, precisely because of what it revealed about his own heart. Really, that is what most of this book is about: the heart. The manifestations of a heart gone astray he’s focused on are sex and money. This is not an easy book to read for the very same reasons- the waywardness of your own heart will be revealed.

“I am sad to think that when it comes to sex and money, we still buy into the legalism that says if we can organize people’s lives, give them the right set of rules, and attach them to efficient systems of accountability, we can deliver people from their sex-and-money insanity. … Few areas of the human struggle reveal more powerfully the sad sinfulness of sin than the sex-and-money evils that are done thousands of times every day.”

He begins the book with a series of scenarios that illustrate our insanity when it comes to sex and money.

  • A fifteen year-old self-appointed expert on oral sex.
  • An 8 year-old boy who is addicted to internet pornography.
  • A married man who masturbates daily.
  • Teachers having sex with under age students (nearly nightly on the news these days).
  • Unemployed high school students bombarded with offers for credit cards.
  • The average amount of consumer debt people carry creating an “anxiety-producing dance debt.”
  • Governments worldwide are deep in debt, near bankruptcy. And their citizens are rioting because they don’t get enough benefits.

And we could go on. You could go on. I know of pastors arrested in “massage parlors”. I know people arrested in the sting operations designed to get men trying to have sex with minors. And these are only what comes out in public. What of the sex and money sins that are still hidden?

“Both offer you an inner sense of well-being while having no capacity whatsoever to satisfy your heart.”

But there is a deeper theological orientation that Tripp wants us to consider: both creation and redemption. He made us sexual beings. He placed us in a world where sex and money issues are unavoidable and significant part of our ordinary experience. You should get the feeling that you are living in your own version of Deuteronomy 8: test, humbled and too often found wanting. Yet…

“The gospel graces us with everything we need to celebrate and participate in both areas of life in a way that honors God and fully enjoys the good things he’s given us to enjoy.”

Tripp moves into the dangerous dichotomy, expanding on the fact that God is Creator. One of the teachings that has done us much harm is that some of life is sacred and some is secular. The fact of creation shows, as Paul says in Colossians 1, that everything was made by God and for God. It is all intended to bring Him glory, and us good. it is all under His rule. A gospel-centered approach starts here because sex and money aren’t the real problem. We are.

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Let’s face it, men and women just don’t “get” each other. CavWife claims she keeps trying to understand how I think. I’ve told her to give up.

But to add to the mystery, there are times when we are really in synch. At other times it is like we are speaking different languages.

“Guys think of a woman as a swamp. You can’t see where you’re stepping and sooner or later you just know you’re going to get stuck in quicksand.”

Many books have been written to help one sex understand the other sex. Of course, if men and women were the same this wouldn’t be so difficult. Guys generally understand guys. And women generally understand women. I think.

In some ways For Men Only by Shaunti and Jeff Feldhahn is one half of Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus. But they did quantifiable research first (they include a section about their methodology). They also used focus groups. You get the idea that Shaunti did the heavy lifting and Jeff wrote this version of the book. He tries hard to be funny. Sometimes he succeeds. And sometimes …. maybe it was because I typically read this book before going to bed. But they try to keep it light even as they talk about some serious material.

They are trying to remove the mystery enough to help people improve their relationships with their spouse. They offer 7 revelations they have uncovered through their research. They are Christians, but there is very little here that has to do with Christianity. That is unfortunate. The book could have been far more than a communication book. Because it treats these issues as communication issues, you can get the impression that if you just do the right thing life will be so much better. Who needs Jesus for that? But if we bring Jesus into the relationship, we bring the gospel into contact with these deep seated needs instead of acting like one another’s functional savior.

And that is part of the point they make. Women are generally insecure when it comes to this significant relationship. As much as men are thinking about sex, women seem to be thinking about “the relationship.” I think Jesus might have something to say about that just as much as he does with men’s obsession with sex.

“If she doesn’t feel loved, it’s the same for her as if she isn’t loved.”

The first revelation is essentially counter-productive. When she feel insecure in the relationship, she will tend to do things that are confusing or upsetting until you (amazingly) reassure her. Did you catch that? Instead of directly saying “I feel insecure” she’ll push you away or otherwise clamor for attention until you reassure her. But since you probably just figured she’s mad or crazy, the last thing you think of doing is actually reassuring her. Yeah, counter-productive.

The second revelation is that women multi-task relationally. In other words, they are pretty much always contemplating a relationship even though they might be making dinner, doing laundry AND helping the kids with homework. It is almost like anti-virus software that is always at work while you are running 4 other programs with 15 tabs or windows open.

I think you get the idea, and I don’t want to give too much away. In addition to giving you the results of surveys, they also provide comments made during their focus groups, and stories of people they know that illustrate the point they are trying to make.

The book is interesting and easy to read. The question is … is it helpful? Some men may find it helpful. For the reasons I mentioned above, I did not find it incredibly helpful. And the fact that CavWife is an outlier. Or at least she claims to be.

[I received a complimentary copy of this book for the purposes of review.]

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As I previously mentioned, I would be going through John Frame’s The Doctrine of the Christian Life in accordance with the sections of the book. The second section of the book is an examination of Non-Christian Ethics. This section of the book is extremely helpful for understanding politics, not just ethics, since politics is often a large scale expression of ethics.

As one should expect, Frame utilizes both his understanding of Lordship attributes and triperspectivalism to analyze the numerous ways that non-Christians have done ethics. He starts with the biblical tension between transcendence and immanence. The biblical concept of transcendence includes God’s control and authority. Immanence focuses on God’s presence. Since God is Lord, he is present, in control and has full authority.

Non-Christians (and some poor theologians), obviously, in rejecting the testimony of Scripture separate them and emphasize one over the other. Or completely ignore one. Deism, for instance, rejects the immanence of God. He is not present in creation but set it in motion. Rabbi Kushner embraces God’s presence but rejects his control and authority. Shirley McClaine is even more radical in stressing God’s immanence by thinking she is part of God.

Politically, an unbiblical transcendence makes the State god who determines right and wrong as well as dispensing rights (as well as taking them away according to who is in power). An unbiblical immanence places all the power in the self and gives rise to forms of libertarianism that reject external authority, like Ayn Rand.

Frame does the same thing with irrationalism and rationalism. We are rational beings, being made in the image of God. Yet, being finite, our knowing is not autonomous. We admit that there are things we cannot understand as a result of our finitude and our sinfulness. We see our irrationalism as a function of the Creator-Creature distinction.

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I am approximately 50% of the way through John Frame’s mammoth The Doctrine of the Christian Life as part of his Theology of Lordship series. I thought I ought to handle this book in light the larger sections John Frame creates in the book.

Thus far this is an excellent, challenging book. It is challenging intellectually, and it is challenging spiritually. It is a book I would heartily recommend because there is so much to wrestle with here beyond just “do this” and “don’t do that.”

“The Christian life is not only a matter of following rules of morality, but a dynamic experience: living in the fallen world, in fellowship with the living God.”

The first part, Introductory Considerations, is a mere 3 chapters and 40 pages. This section is mostly orienting people to how he does theology just in case they have arrived to the series mid-stream.

He begins with the question of why we should study ethics. He admits that he has been put off by many non-Christian approaches to ethics. But since the Bible deals with ethics from beginning to end, as a Christian we should think about ethics. But we have to think about them biblically.  We have to walk between the (anti-gospel) extremes of legalism and license.

“The liberal tendency to find loopholes in the moral law, to justify apparent sin, has given casuistry a bad name. The conservative tendency toward harshness and austerity has given moralism a bad name.”

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