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Archive for March, 2014


Many Boston Red Sox fans, self included, are still on a World Series championship high. It was an off-season that had a bit of drama as Jacoby Ellsbury left to don pinstripes, Jerrod Saltalamacchia went home to the Marlins, and Stephen Drew entered the nether world after turning down the Red Sox’ qualifying offer. They retained Mike Napoli, took a flyer on Grady Sizemore and signed some more arms for the bullpen.

Spring Training itself was relatively quiet. Ryan Dempster, for whom they overpaid in the previous off season, decided to sit out the season with a variety of injuries and a desire to spend more time with family. It was a bit of a shock that solved one of the Red Sox’ “problems” since they had 6 pro level starters. We should have seen the Big Papi drama coming. He craves security, as well as the spotlight. They ended up signing him to an extension that should result in Ortiz retiring as a member of the Red Sox. I have no problem with the deal since he is still one of the best hitters in the big leagues. The option years have benchmarks that should mean they don’t end up in a Yankee’s like situation of paying a nearly useless player lots of money. The other storyline of importance (Peavy’s injury wasn’t much of a distraction when it was all said and done) was about who would play centerfield: Bradley or Sizemore. This was prompted by Sizemore’s amazing return to health and a level of play reminiscent of his days as an All-Star for the Indians. Bradley’s offensive struggles didn’t help his cause. Proving that he can play 4 days in a row, at a high level, sealed the deal and Sizemore has been named the opening day centerfielder.

The Outfield As a nameless GM said, the Red Sox should ride the Sizemore horse as long as they can. This means that as long as he plays they experience little to no drop off in play after losing Jacoby. He is an experienced lead off man (though he won’t play that role immediately,Nava will play that role) who is probably a better defender than Jacoby (whose speed covered a multitude of sins on his initial reads) and has more power than Jacoby. He won’t steal anywhere near the number of bases as Jacoby, but he can steal a few bags. He has thus far proven more healthy than Jacoby. If he does get hurt, Bradley can more than fill his shoes defensively and hopefully he’ll sort out the offensive issues he had this spring. Victorino can do spot starts in center, but he will mostly patrol right field, assuming he’s healthy. Last year he provided the best right field defense of any Sox player since Dwight Evans. That is saying something. Nava and Gomes will likely platoon in left giving the Red Sox an outfield with 2 excellent, 1 good and 1 mediocre defender but all hitters who help the team. Should the bodies start dropping, in addition to Bradley, they have the revived Brentz to play right field. He displayed the power that could make him a middle of the line up guy at some point. (more…)

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Publishing is an odd thing. Some topics are flooded with titles and other topics are almost impossible to find. When a book like Antinomianism: Reformed Theology’s Unwelcome Guest? is published you have to take notice because books on this subject are exceedingly rare in this day and age. Think perhaps for any other title on this subject published in the last 50 years? You can think of plenty on the subject of legalism, but its mirror image antinomianism is quite rare.

Mark Jones doesn’t quite lay out the book as some people might hope. That can breed some minor frustration. For instance, he really doesn’t try to define antinomianism, or better the types of antinomianism until the end of the book.

“Antinomianism must not be confused with the etymological meaning of antinomian (i.e., “against the law”). There is some overlap, of course, but the historical debates focused on more specific areas of the Christian life.”

This is not a systematic theology, but a volume on  historical theology. The primary focus on his research is the antinomian movements in Puritan England and in 1640’s New England. The reason is two-fold. First, these were disputes among people laying claim to the Reformed heritage. Second, there is a revived dispute among those laying claim to the Reformed heritage in our day. Most people I would consider to have an antinomian theology deny having such a view, usually based on the etymological meaning of the term. But when you look at the strains of antinomianism you can begin to see more clearly that some who claim they aren’t really are.

Jones works through a variety of topics in which historically antinomians have departed from mainline Reformed thinking and formulations. Jones’ main point though is not that antinomians’ error comes primarily with regard to the law but their Christology. This is similar to how Sinclair Ferguson addressed these twin errors of legalism & antinomianism in lecturing on the Marrow Controversy. The answer to both errors is the gospel in its fulness.

“Discussions and writings on holiness often lack a strong Christological basis and center.”

Part of me is tempted to expand more fully on some of the topics that Jones works through. I may “think” through a few here. But for now I will be content to lay them out very briefly.

Jones begins with the imitation of Christ. Peter notes that Christ, in addition to being our Savior, is an example to us. Much of what is written in the gospels is there for our imitation. Jesus models for us how to live by faith as fully human. Jesus lived in the power of the Spirit as an example to us as well (here Jones is similar to Sinclair Ferguson in his series Who is the Holy Spirit?). The way of holiness, Jones notes, is that is pursued by faith and in the power of the Spirit. Many of the antinomians, as Jones and Packer in his brief but excellent forward assert, limited our activity in sanctification. They essentially make sanctification monergistic like justification is. As a result they talk about Christ not only obeying for us, but in us. They sound like some hyper-Calvinists I’ve talked with who limit the use of our will. Both groups don’t have much room for Philippians 2:12-13 in their theology. There we see God works so I will will and work resulting in obedience. Both God and I will and work: synergism! In other words, Christ does not act immediately but mediately. Jones is careful to guard the difference between Christ’s impretration (redemption accomplished) and impartation (redemption applied). We see here, and elsewhere that antinomians tend to conflate justification and sanctification.

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I’m reading a book on sermons by Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones on John 4 in preparation for my sermons on that chapter coming up. The book is only 750ish pages. I have plenty of work ahead of me. But some of the sermons are well worth it, like one entitled Spiritual Dullness and Evasive Tactics preached in October, 1966. Think about that for a moment, 1966. Amazing to me how much of what he says fits our contemporary situation.

He begins with noting the essence of Christianity: “we have within us a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” The Christian life is a spiritual life under the power and direction of the Spirit. This great salvation “is to enable us to live in the world and to look forward to the glory that is to come.” This positive beginning shifts as the Dr. begins to lay the smack down. He gets quickly to exposing the sins of his time in England that mirror those of ours here in America.

“We face national prejudices, class prejudices, race prejudices, and so on. There is almost no end to them. What harm they have done in the life of the individual Christian, and what harm they have done in the life of the church throughout the centuries- the things we cling to so tenaciously simply because we have been born like that!”

He was addressing the Jewish-Samaritan prejudice. Later in the sermon he brings us to the problems of Apartheid and the Civil Rights struggle in the U.S. The people in England were denouncing the white South Africans and Americans. He admits, obviously, the sinfulness of racism, but takes this as evasiveness. The woman at the well used this prejudice to evade Jesus, and the Dr.’s contemporaries were using those prejudices in other nations to evade the truth about themselves.

“You see, in denouncing somebody else, you are shielding yourself. While you are denouncing these people or friends in America or somewhere else over this racial problem, you are full of self-righteous indignation. That is very clever, but you are just evading the problem of your own life, the running sore of your soul.”

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Recently CavWife was driving my car when she was involved in an accident. Someone driving along the shoulder to avoid the stopped traffic hit her. My car was ruled totaled by the insurance company. This placed me in a personal odyssey that has caused no small amount of thought, lost sleep and lost hours looking at cars and talking on the phone.

We’ve been praying that the Father would grant us wisdom as we approach this whole process, and especially the choice of a car.

We had a car fund, once. A long time ago. During the great transition of 2007-10 we used it to pay bills. This was the year we were going to use our tax refund to replenish the car fund so we can prepare for the day when the minivan gives up the ghost. When you are under-employed for nearly 3 years it takes time to replace all that the “locusts” ate up. We are getting there, and thankful that the locusts didn’t leave us with debt.

Most pastors are in my shoes. Those who aren’t are few, and sometimes it is because of God’s kindness to them. Sometimes it is because … well, you know. So most pastors will go through a similar thought process to arrive at a wise choice. Here are the things I’ve been putting into my internal algorithm.

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Life sure can be strange. The media fawns over athletes who come out of the closet. This is a supposed controversy, as if there haven’t been homosexual athletes in the locker room.

One of the comments that often arises by media people is that Christians in the locker room won’t welcome a homosexual teammate. They usually use the term “religious” when they do this. Let’s think about this for a moment.

Christians in every workplace are surrounded by sinners, including themselves. The issue is more serious sins which are public. Outside of a church or parachurch context, and I’ve worked in those, you will work side by side with people who “sin big,” those whom Paul says will not inherit the kingdom of God. Christians work with drunkards, adulterers, fornicators and more. Christians recognize these as sin, and serious sin. We would not be pleased if our spouse was an adulterer, or our kids. We don’t want our kids to be drunks and fornicators.

We may, at times, mention that such activities are sinful. But we still work side by side. There is no charge made of hating drunks, adulterers or fornicators. In these cases people are able to separate the activity from the person. There sin is not perceived as being who that person is at their core. This neglects the Christian teaching that outside of Christ all people are sinners at their core. They may just sin differently.

A Christian can, and should, work side by side with a homosexual. You don’t have to approve of your co-workers’ lifestyle choices (and drunkards, adulterers and fornicators are making lifestyle choices) in order to work with them.

While we recognize that all people sin, we also recognize the reality of common grace. All people are still made in the image of God and He has given them various gifts to contribute to the common good of society. As a result, we value and treasure our co-workers regardless of their particular sins. We should not shun, exclude or attack people we work with on the basis of their particular sins unless, perhaps, they sin against you. If they do you should work toward reconciliation. Since they may not want to admit they have sinned against you or in a way that adversely affected the workplace then you may put up an emotional barrier. For instance, if Joe keeps missing work because he was out too late drinking resent within the rest of the work unit will grow until management acts. He may miss important meetings or not get projects done in time which may leave you hanging. Talk about that and work towards resolution.

I can’t foresee how one’s homosexuality should affect the workplace with the exception of sexual harassment.

No co-worker should feel they have to embrace the lifestyle, religious or political views of others in the workplace. There can be disagreement on those issues and people can effectively work together. This is not the place for a Christian to “make a stand.” This does not mean that you can’t talk about the gospel in appropriate situations. What I am saying is that you don’t have to badger anyone about their sexual orientation or lifestyle. It does not compromise your faith to work with a homosexual any more than it does to work with a gossip, glutton, thief, fornicator or drug addict. The only thing that would compromise your faith is if you joined your co-workers in their sin. In that case, you shouldn’t blame them but take responsibility for your own actions.

So, the Christian does not need to be militant about their faith with regard to particular sins. Neither should they be compelled to lie about how they view particular sins. If a Christian is genuinely and generally warm toward the variety of sinners with whom they work, there shouldn’t be any real problems. But if a Christian singles out particular sins and therefore particular sinners for verbal lashings, shunning or other behavior reserved for our enemies there will be problems. More importantly you would be failing to love your “enemies” and compromising your faith in a way you don’t be actually being friendly with the sinners around you.

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In 2004, the church of which I was the pastor decided to relocate. We knew we could not build on the land we had and our building was hard to find (we often said we were invisible). We sold our property and  leased an empty building to build it out. I think I learned some lessons from that. One mistake we made was not consulting a sound specialist before we finalized the plans. The building ended up having carpet and a suspension ceiling- 2 sound suppressors. We had a dead room sound-wise. We left a live room with too many hot spots. But you could really hear the singing of the congregation. In our new place we couldn’t hear the congregation sing.

I also learned to expect the unexpected to happen. That fall 3 hurricanes rolled through down delaying our construction. I can’t remember how late we finished, but we didn’t begin to worship there until the first Sunday in January 2005.

Here in the desert we’ve been growing and have begun to max out our facilities. This is a good problem to have, except we are small enough to still have a money problem.

A while back we knew this day was coming and we engaged an architect to develop a master site plan. As we continued to dialogue with him it became clear that we needed a transitional plan because the final buildings would be over a $1 million each. We need to grow to be able to afford a new sanctuary and all the other stuff.

Our building committee did some initial leg work and we came up with a workable plan to present to the congregation to begin the process for prayer and giving. We had very good “buy in.” We got some estimates that were preliminary.

Here are some things I’ve learned so far, though I’m sure there will be more.

1. Never underestimate the ability of the local government to really mess you up! We discovered that they changed the setbacks. Our current building is set as far back as it can go on a pie shaped piece of land. The change is set backs and easements has meant that we cannot expand this building.

2. Never underestimate the ability of the local government to make you spend money. We can’t actually maximize the space under our roof, unfortunately. A few years ago our fire district went to the “international standards with modifications.” This means that any new building needs sprinklers. The problem for us at this point was more our renovation. If we “put too many people” in there in terms of sanctuary square feet, and narthex square feet (different sq. ft/person ratios) we have to retro fit the building with sprinklers. So we have had to be careful in how we divide the building in the renovation.

I’m really not sure about the purpose of sprinklers in a church sanctuary. They are triggered by heat, not smoke. By the time they go off, the people in the building would most likely be dead. Sprinklers stop the spread of a fire. They are great for multi-story buildings, or really large buildings with multiple rooms. That wouldn’t be our sanctuary. Even our Education building wouldn’t really benefit from sprinklers in terms of getting people out. They would, possibly, keep the fire from spreading to the desert before the fire department gets there.

3. Never underestimate the ability of the estimate to double in size. Our estimate for the modular was too low. Not sure why the estimate was too low. The sales person really didn’t seem to have a good grasp of things. We have moved on to another company that has gone much better so far. For about the same money we’ll get a new modular, not a 25 year-old one.

4. Run estimates with venders in parallel. Our mistake with regard to the modular is that we started with one company and got all the way to a pre-contract estimate before checking out another company. It cost us time that we might regret losing. Had we done the work with them at the same time things would have gone faster. We also would have seen how much better the staff of the new company really is in terms of understanding the product and installation. The people we are talking to are not just salesmen but have been involved in every aspect of the process.

5. Never underestimate how long it will take to get to the point of renovation and expansion. This has taken much longer than I wanted. I had hoped to see some work beginning by now. The men on the committee have lives and jobs. You aren’t a company’s only client either. So, as we used to say on mission trips to Mexico, be flexible.

We’ll see how the next steps go. I still hope all of this gets done by the beginning of the new ministry year in August (please, Jesus, please).

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