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Archive for the ‘Justice’ Category


Buy this book, you all.

Buy this book, you all.

I mentioned the Reformissionary’s Big 5 Books series before.  I thought I’d cover evangelism.  Steve McCoy limited it to evangelism- so I can’t put down any books on apologetics.  I’m in trouble.

This doesn’t count, but it does have evangelism in the title: Evangelism & the Sovereignty of God by J.I. Packer.  He defends Calvinism from the various charges that it stifles evangelism.  What stifles evangelism in the sinful hearts of those called to evangelism.  Also not counting because the author is considered to be fuzzy on justification, but it is a book I found helpful is The Call of Grace: How the Covenant Illuminates Salvation and Evangelism by Norman Shepherd.  Reminds me that as a Presbyterian, making disciples started with my children’s baptism (Mt. 28).

Books on My To Read List:

If you have any recommendations- put them down.  I obviously don’t know everything, which extends to every worthwhile book.

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Yesterday I was meeting with a group of pastors to talk about our sermon text, Nehemiah 1.  In the course of our discussion Tim Rice mentioned the ‘grid’ he uses: Christ’s work for us & Christ’s work in us.  The example he gave, since we were discussing prayer, was Jesus praying for us and the work of the Spirit in us so we pray with Jesus.

In light of where the text was taking me regarding Nehemiah’s name (YHWH has comforted or the comfort of YHWH), I saw Christ’s work through us.  He not only comforted Nehemiah, but comforted Jerusalem through Nehemiah (see 2 Corinthians 1).

I thought of this in the triperspectival grid this morning.

Christ’s work for us (normative) => Christ’s work in us (existential/subjective) => Christ’s work thru us (circumstantial/situational)

This is how I need to be thinking as I approach sermons.

Christ died in our place <= His Work for Us => Christ obeyed in our place

Mortification of sin <= His Work in Us (sanctification) => Vivification of godliness

Justice <= His Work thru Us (service) => Mercy

or

Discipleship (inward) <= His Work thru Us => Mission (outward)

This warrents some more thinking, but first I must return to Nehemiah 1!

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While many relief agencies have left the areas devastated by Katrina 3 years ago, there are some churches that continue to work toward the rebuilding of their communities.  Many of them survive through donations and streams of Christians volunteering their time and skills.  Please consider supporting them as you can.

One is Lagniappe Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Lagniappe, MS.  Some teens and adults from the church we worship in went there to volunteer in July/August.  You can also support them financially or materially too.  You can read the article written about their ministry to help restore creation in ByFaith Magazine.

The one my brothers-in-law helped is the Christian Life Center (Christian and Missionary Alliance) in Waveland, MS.  Like Lagniappe, you can volunteer or support them in various ways.

The process of rebuilding this area will take many years (CLC estimates 6-10 years).  Just because the “emergency” is over doesn’t mean people aren’t still suffering in those areas.  People still need help rebuilding their lives.  These are just 2 of the Christ-centered ministries helping that to happen.

Update: How could I forget Desire Street Ministries?  Founded by Mo Leverett it was involved in community transformation long before Katrina hit.  Since the life-changing event, Mo has left to receive a call to a PCA church in Tallahassee, FL (gee, I can’t understand why they chose him over me 🙂 ).  Desire Street continues from a new headquarters in Atlanta and a new quarterback in Danny Wuerffel (yes, the Gator QB).  They hope to replicate what they did in the Desire Street neighborhood around the country.  The academy has moved to Baton Rouge. They are still doing some light construction in New Orleans, and need volunteers.  They are also looking for people willing to move to New Orleans to take part in a new church plant there.  They need financial resources too, obviously.  A new ministry they started, to rebuild affordable housing in New Orleans is CDC 58:12 (taken from Isaiah 58:12).

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Joined at the Hip

Joined at the Hip

The last week seems to be a blur.  We are now back in hot, humid Florida.  The travel day was filled with way too much whining and crying.  Seems to put a damper on a good vacation.  Returning also means a return to my responsibilities- first of which is finding a way to support my family.  Yes, puts a damper on the whole thing.  But let’s ponder more interesting things!

Here are the “highlights”.

Monday night I learned that a church has begun checking references.  This is great news!  The result of the process is not certain, but the process has begun and maybe that will result in something really positive.

Tuesday we missed Tropical Storm Fay.  Our home got plenty of rain, but we did not experience the flooding many other communities in Florida and elsewhere did.  Better than that, CavWife and I stole away for a lunch alone.  A quiet lunch!  No crying, complaining etc.  We enjoyed each other’s company and talked about a few things- including my impressions of Job this time through (2nd time in a year).

CavWife's New Doo

CavWife

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Job shifts to a series of shorter speeches.  Not quite sound bites, but more succinct than the first cycle of speeches.

Eliphaz basically says ‘you’re wrong, and tradition is on our side’.  He continues to say that Job must be suffering because he has a sin issue, so stop blaming God.

Job continues to assert his innocence AND God’s great anger.  His former position of honor has been stripped from him and he is despised by all.  He is weary of his friends.

Bildad is weary of Job’s stubborn claims.  Ho-hum, only the wicked suffer.

“How long will you torment me and crush me with words?  Ten times now you have reproached me; shamelessly you attack me. (19:1-2)”

Job feels surrounded by God, under seige.  He has been abandoned by all his friends- particularly those who now accuse him.  Zophar continues the attack as Job grows weary.  Job adds to his complaint.  He says that the wicked often prosper, which often dismays God’s people.  Like today, many non-Christians live well and enjoy life.  In light of their rebellion against the fabric of the universe, this is disheartening at times for those who love and fear God.  Particularly when things are very difficult for us.

Finally Eliphaz lays out some concrete accusations:

“Is it for your piety that he rebukes you and brings charges against you?  Is not your wickedness great?  Are not your sins endless?  You demanded security from your brothers for no reason; you stripped men of their clothing, leaving them naked.  You gave no water to the weary and you withheld food from the hungry, …. And you send widows away empty-handed and broke the strength of the fatherless.  That is why snares are all around you …. (22:4-10)”

He accuses Job of being an oppressor.  Job must begin to submit to God to find peace and then prosperity will return.

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The hype on this movie was big.  And, quite frankly, The Dark Knight delivers.  Christopher Nolan, as writer, producer and director, has taken this series to a place no one ever dream Batman could go.  It exceeded my high expectations.

Think of the first go round.  In my opinion, the 1st and 3rd movies were the best ones.  Batman Returns was ruined by all the sexual talk of the Penguin.  It was just plain dark and dreary.  Val Kilmer was smart not to retun for the 4th installment which saw a retun of the campy feel of the TV show. 

Nolan restarted the series with the decidedly dark Batman Begins.  In The Dark Knight the story continues faster, louder and more dangerous.  In terms of continuity, most of the original cast returns.  There is a cameo by Scarecrow at the beginning, and Bruce Wayne still longs for childhood friend Rachel Dawes.  Batman and Lt. Gordon are close to shutting down the mob with the help of new DA Harvey Dent.  Bruce sees the day that he can retire the mask and Gotham can have a respectable hero in Dent.

This is when all Hades breaks lose in the person of the Joker.  He has been hired, he actually extorted them, to end the threat by putting an end to Batman.

The Joker is utterly diabolical; something of an anti-christ figure who unleashes chaos and destruction on Gotham.  Unlike the other villians, he has no origins we know about.  He appears mysteriously.  We never know who he really is, or why he is the way he is.  He even tells different stories about why he has the nasty smile-shaped scar on his face.  He does not have the usual motives- money or power.  He wants to destroy people, to test them and reveal that they can become evil if pushed to the edge.  He is the devil while Batman plays the role of Job in this theodicy without a God.

The Joker wants to corrupt Batman, and then Dent, not through seduction but through heartbreak.  He figures that if he pushes the right button they will reject their code of ethic.  He is downright scary.  Heath Ledger turns in a fantastic performance, somehow channeling both Caesar Romero and Jack Nicholson yet giving him a completely unique personality.  His bent personality is matched by his bent body.  His head often hangs.  His perspective is just as bent.

Batman is not a true vigilante.  He tries to bring criminals to justice, rather than mete out justic himself.  And he displays an unusual respect for the dignity of human life.  He does not shoot criminals, or apprehend them using guns.  The guns he uses are typically used against inanimate objects.  He uses strength, technology and craftiness to defeat his opponents.  Sorry, this all dawned on me this morning.

 This version has many more explosions and gun shots, in addition to the hand-to-hand (the real meaning of mano a mano) combat.  The Joker is a violent psychopath who murders plenty of people.  He has no respect for human life.  He sees it all as a game between himself and Batman (the unstoppable force meets the immovable object).  Nolan creates an exciting, thoughtful story filled with one memorable character in the Joker, and a very hideous character in Two Face- the ‘converted’ Harvey Dent who was driven mad by Joker’s insideous plan.  He gives in to the notion of chaos and chance ruling the universe.

But Batman stands in contrast as the man who doesn’t forsake his ideals in the midst of terror.  Though tempted, he refuses to destroy even Joker.  But in the process, he becomes a scapegoat.  He bears the sins of Two Face to preserve Harvey Dent’s reputation lest the Joker win and the people lose hope.  Batman becomes something of a messianic figure to the Joker’s devil.

All this in one action-packed adventure story.  Chris Nolan has outdone himself- making more than a great super-hero movie, but a great movie, period.  This tale of good and evil is worth watching repeatedly.  Just not for kids.

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Finished up Pierced for Our Transgressions: Rediscovering the Glory of Penal Substitution by Jeffery, Ovey & Sach today.  Between being sick and adopting, I went slowly.

I covered the first main section of the book in a previous post.  The rest of the book focused on the objections that are being raised to penal substitution (Jesus suffered God’s wrath in our place).  It spelled them out, including various variations on a theme, and then responded to them.  Some were very easy to respond to- all you do is essentially point to the biblical data in an earlier chapter to show they objection has no merit in fact.  Some show gross misunderstandings or they are only concerned with setting up strawmen.  Some were much more difficult.  Here is some of the main objections, and answers.

Penal Substition is not the only model of the atonement.  I can’t ever remember reading a book that said it was.  The atonement is far more rich, and has many aspects (like a diamond in A.A. Hodges’ words).  But penal substitution is essential to any biblical and meaningful explanation of the atonement.

 Penal substitution diminishes the significane of Jesus’ life and resurrection.  Jesus entire life was part of his atoning work.  His perfect obedience was essential to his saving work.  His resurrection is also essential to his saving work, not just an add on.  It declares that he is the Son of God, and we were raised up in union with him.  He now enjoys the power of everlasting life so he lives forever to intercede for us.  Apart from his substitionary death, he could not rise as the firstfruit of the recreation.

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We figured this day would come, and it has.  Today Eli may have figured out he is not going back to the orphanage and his nanny.  It was a very long afternoon as he spent most of it crying.  First he was sad, and then it was an angry cry.  CavWife would appreciate prayer that the travel day would not be filled with crying- that would make a monstrously long day even longer.

There have been lots of storms north of them (one family’s flight took off just before the airport closed), and it has been unseasonably cold.  She did not prepare for this when packing clothes for him.  So they haven’t been going to all the local sights or shopping trips.  Tomorrow they don’t have to actually go to the consulate, just be available if there are questions.  The guides will bring the paperwork.  At least they won’t have to sit in an office forever.

Update:  It was a pretty quiet day on the home front.  I took a big nap while the Celtics lost on national TV.  No KG, and the Magic barely beat them.  I can take that.  The little girl got out the hair cutting kit and told me Mema had to cut my hair.  I told her to wait until her mom came home.  Then she wanted hers cut.  I told her I had a feeling that she’d be going to get it cut soon.

She has a mild peanut allergy (hives) and we aren’t sure about other nuts.  So after I realized she had almond bread, I was not sure what to think.  I went off to Family Group, teaching on 1 Peter 2:1-3.  When I got home she was still up.  Her lower lip was bigger than usual.  My in-laws couldn’t find the Benedryl (surely CavWife didn’t bring it all to China.  Yes, she had).  They weren’t sure if she accidently got hit by one of the neighborhood kids, but I couldn’t see any teeth marks on the inside of the lip.  But she seemed fine and we got her off to bed.  Meanwhile, my fever hit with a vengeance and I could feel the sinus pressure under one eye and my teeth hurt on that side.  So I lay on the couch under the covers and watched SuperBowl 38 (Patriots-Panthers).  Why did they put the World Broadcast on there????  Surely most of the fans will be Americans and not be able to calculate from kilograms to pounds on the fly.  That and all the annoying little explanations of the game.  I guess that may help when the CavKids watch it when they are younger. 

Then I finished up the Vince Flynn novel.  Great read … but I found it tapped into that part of me that wants vengeance here and now instead of remember that it is the Lord’s to repay- and He will in due time (Rom. 12).  Of course, Mitch Rapp is the “sword” of the government in the story, so … (obviously he has personal motives in addition to executing justice on the part of the government).  What I do like is how justice is not lost in politics and legal rules, in the end.  I’d better stop here, it is a discussion for a different forum.

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Chapter 2 of Piper’s The Future of Justification is on The Relationship Between Covenant and Law-Court Imagery for Justification.  Here Piper begins to address Wright’s definition of justification and his use of law-court imagery.  In the process we find places where N.T. Wright is right, and places where he is not so right.

N.T. Wright says that “‘belonging to the covenant’ means, among other things, ‘forgiven sinner.'” (from Paul in Fresh Perspective)  He rightly connects justification with the doctrine of election.  But here he makes an unusual definition of justification- “declared by God to be His people” (also from Paul in Fresh Perspective).

Piper does not go there, but Wright is conflating justification and adoption.  See, sometimes those systematic categories are helpful.  Justification and adoption are connected- you cannot have one without the other (like justification and sanctification) but they must be distinguished or you lapse into similar errors.  This leads Wright to at the least neglect, if not reject, our imputed righteousness in his understanding of justification.

In Piper’s footnote #7 on page 40, he quotes a letter from Andrew Cowan who rightly states that “Covenant membership was never a guarantee that one would participate in the covenent’s blessings.  ‘In the covenant’ as a salvific category is inadequate.”  This is something that I think those who hold to believer’s baptism don’t understand when they criticize the Reformed view of infant baptism.  Scripture consistently reminds us that there are covenant breakers- beginning with Ishmael, then Esau and more.  Those who are truly saved are part of the covenant community, but being in the covenant community (church membership) does not mean one is truly saved.  So, defining justification as “covenant membership” is at best superficial and at worst misleading and disasterous.

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Considering Crime


I’ve been reading The Great Train Robbery by Michael Crichton.  In the Introduction, he mentions that serious academic inquiry about crime began in the 1870’s.  What he found the experts to say bears repeating, since we often hear contrary statements made.

“First, crime is not a consequence of poverty.  In the words of Barnes and Teeters (1949), “Most offenses are committed through greed, not need.”

“Second, criminals are not limited in intelligence, and it is probable that the reverse is true.  Studies of prison populations show that inmates equal the general public in intelligence tests- and yet prisoners represent that fraction of lawbreakers who are caught.

“Third, the vast majority of criminal activity goes unpunished.  This is inherently a speculative question, but some authorities argue that only 3 to 5 percent of all crimes are reported; and of reported crimes, only 15 to 20 percent are ever ‘solved’ in the usual sense of the word.  This is true of even the most serious offenses, such as murder.  Most police pathologists laugh at the idea that ‘murder will out.’

“Similarly, criminologists dispute the traditional view that ‘crime does not pay.’  As early as 1877, an American prison investigator, Richard Dugdale, concluded that “we must dispossess ourselves of the idea that crime does not pay.  In reality, it does.”  Ten years later, the Italian criminologist Colajanni went a step further, arguing that on the whole crime pays better than honest labor.  By 1949, Barnes and Teeters stated flatly, “It is primarily the moralist who still believes that crime does not pay.”‘

Lies make us feel better- as if we just have to educate people better- and have led to many a failed social program as a result.  These lies also rob criminals of personal responsibility, and they pretty much like blaming other people.

Pretty interesting intro to the story of one of the ‘great’ crimes of all time.

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While at the Reform and Resurge Conference in 2006, Tim Keller also gave a sermon on Doing Justice.  He talked about the definition that Bruce Waltke gave for the righteous man in his commentary on Proverbs.

The righteous man is one who disadvantages himself for the benefit of others.

The wicked man is one whose selfish desires disadvantages others (that’s as best as I can remember it).

Unlike in our culture, righteousness and wickedness are viewed within the web of relationships.  What I do affects other people.  There are still pockets of America who understand this.  You see it in small towns and tight knit neighborhoods.  But, by and large, individualism rules the day.  Combine that with consumerism and you have a combination lethal to the soul.

Here’s the deal- there is BOTH structural evil (powers & principalities) AND personal evil (children of wrath).  So, there is BOTH corporate responsibility AND personal responsibility.  Liberals focus on the corporate aspect, and nearly deny the personal aspects.  Conservatives focus on the personal, and nearly deny the corporate.

Viewed within this corporate and personal framework, the righteous man gives to all what he owes them.  He also seeks to right wrongs in society (notice, I said righteous man, not righteous government).  We are personally responsible to do good to others when it is within our means to do so, even though it may disadvantage us.

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