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While the world generally sees extroverts as making the best leaders, truth is that introverts also have leadership skills. They can be leaders too, and often are. How they lead will differ from how extroverts lead. This is the question Adam McHugh addresses in the next chapter of Introverts in the Church.

He begins with Moses arguing with God, as many prophets did, about being called by Him. McHugh may be guilty of some eisegesis here since I don’t think he’s essentially saying, “Look, don’t you know I’m an introvert.” He does rightly point out the theme of hiding found in the early chapters of Exodus. He was hidden as an infant so the Egyptians wouldn’t kill him. Hidden in the reeds of the Nile until Pharaoh’s daughter came to bathe. Moses hid the body of the Egyptian he killed. Moses hid from Pharaoh in the mountains of Midian. Now Moses is trying to hide from God’s call.

Most sane people do, initially. Shepherding people is harder than shepherding sheep. Not many people choose this for themselves. I didn’t. I love it now, but resisted my sense of calling initially.

This is particularly true of introverts. The social demands of ministry are draining. So are the expectations others place on us, particularly in a smaller church where there are no additional staff to help. Being in ministry is about people and involves people.

“Just because we lose energy doing something does not necessarily indicate we are not a good fit for it. I am convinced that calling, not personality type, is the determinative factor in the formation and longevity of a leader.”

As a Christian, we should recognize that God doesn’t promise that leadership will be easy, or feel natural. It takes place within the context of a world of sinners, including yourself. There is also the reality that His strength is made perfect in weakness. God promises to be with us, and strengthen us. It is not intended to be pursued by the powerful and highly competent. Christian leadership is not about you so much as about Him.

Thriving in ministry requires a few things. The first he mentions is self-care. In caring for others we cannot forget our own needs. Because introverts tend to internalize everything, dealing with failure (real or perceived) and disappointment can be constantly draining. We can carry the burden for everything and end up crashing and burning.

Moses, McHugh notes, was frequently on the brink; exasperated with the Israelites complaining and rebellion. They were often complaining about him. He tried to judge Israel all on his own, a long line of issues to be resolved piling up outside the Tent of Meeting. It all culminated when he struck the rock he was supposed to speak to in a fit of anger. This was why he never entered the Promised Land (an earthly, not eternal, consequence).

People in caring professions, like pastoral ministry, can experience compassion fatigue. They can become either depressed with the unending needs of others, or become callous to those needs. Self-care has internal and external dimensions. Internally, we tend to our own spiritual and emotional health. We pursue Christ, resting in His promises. We make use of the spiritual disciplines to enjoy healthy and health-giving communion with Christ. Feeding on the promises fights our typical internal pull toward despair and catastrophic thinking. We need to regularly hear His voice (in the Word) to combat the pessimism of our own (as well as the world’s & the devil’s). Additionally, some pastors take periodic personal retreats.

There must also be an outward dimension. He must have a support system, other people who encourage and listen. They help us to normalize our experiences so we aren’t catastrophizing. McHugh goes so far as to think therapy or spiritual direction should be mandatory for introverted leaders (I suppose it should also be mandatory for extroverts who lack self-understanding). I’d say it can be helpful for many. A good wife and a few good friends fulfill that need for many people.

In addition to self-care, introverted leaders learn how to monitor their energy levels through scheduling. Make sure to schedule time in the office, alone. This helps to reduce the compassion fatigue. After particularly busy seasons, I may take comp days, which is really taking an afternoon for a movie or a hike. I also work out after work most days. It deals with the stress, keeps me healthy, and prepares me to be home with the pressing needs there.

He then moves to ways in which we direct people toward God. He begins with preaching. Many introverted pastors feel quite comfortable preaching. It is a controlled environment (in most churches) and you prepare for it all week. You know what you will say, approximately how long you’ll say it, and there will be no questions requiring you to think on your feet. He then notes a number of ways to let your introversion shine in your preaching. Use pauses to “add gravity and contemplativeness”. You don’t have to fill every second. Modulate your voice (wisely) to maintain interest and indicate the important material. Use stories to make the abstract accessible. Use sermons as an opportunity to share something of yourself with them, so they can know you better. It is a way of building your relationship with the people that often doesn’t happen in small talk opportunities for introverts.

We also share our lives, investing in others. Let people into your home instead of treating it like the fortress of solitude. As a young Christian, the most important relationships with older men were forged by hanging out at their homes helping them with projects. Sadly, for them, I wasn’t much help. But we talked while working on roofs, replacing toilets and that kind of thing.

Lead by writing. Think out loud, so to speak, by blogging. Let people see or hear what you are thinking. I blog on a number of things particularly for the people I lead. The rest of you are welcome to eves drop.

We lead by spiritual direction, helping people to grasp what God may be up to in the patterns and rhythms of life. Much of that is listening and assessing. I wish more people came to me for this. But since many of them are introverts, they are already thinking about their lives. They are probably more self-reflective and don’t need me to help them reflect. At least this is what I tell myself as I ponder it.

He then shifts to what introverted leadership looks like. We will tend to impact fewer people, but often more deeply. This is like Jesus with the three. Introverts tend to invest in a few. I do this, in part because I can’t invest in everyone. Trouble is matching up those I want to invest in with those who want me to invest in them. Some people want more attention. Attention, not really investment.

Introverted leaders are more likely to equip others to do the work of ministry instead of trying to do the work of ministry themselves. Yeah, we can struggle with control too. I found in my previous pastorate that I was reluctant to let the worship team plan the music. Part of it was the friendship- I enjoyed those meetings as we often laughed together. But I had to trust them to do well to free myself up to do other things. In this pastorate I quickly realized they knew what they were doing and after a year let them doing on their own. Perhaps I need to pop in periodically to invest in those relationships, but they do a good job.

Introverted leaders are more likely to build leadership teams, not simply a group of ‘yes’ men. I want to collaborate even as I want to be in control. That joyful battle between the Spirit and the flesh. Perhaps it is hiding behind them, but I want us to do things together. We share responsibility for better or worse. Things move slower than I’d like at times (okay, most of the time) but that probably saves the church from my impulsiveness. I’ve seen too many pastors with dictator powers continually shifting the direction of the church instead of slowly moving in the same direction. One of the important lessons is that you need to make decisions as if you’ll have to living with them the rest of your life (instead of leaving them for the next guy because you’ve moved on to ‘greener’ pastures).

Finding y0ur place can be tough. I’m 7 years into this pastorate and still trying to find my place in Presbytery. I was thrust into my place when I was in FL. People saw gifts in me and put me in places of responsibility. Here? Not so much. Then there is the internal battle between being a faithful steward of the grace I’ve received and selfish ambition. In FL I didn’t seek those positions. I don’t want to seek them now. Maybe I should, but I am leery of my prideful heart. McHugh notes that many introverts actually thrive in larger churches. This is because people don’t expect pastors to be accessible. I want our church to be larger for a number of reasons. One is the gospel impact; I want more people to hear (and then share) the gospel in our area. One is being able to limit my responsibilities because there are other staff to do other things. I recently preached at a much larger church. It was great not having to lead liturgy and play guitar. All I had to do was preach and offer the benediction. It was refreshing. It would be great to invest in young men in ministry. In the past I’ve mentored younger men working at other churches in the same town. I miss that. I wish we were big enough to have interns, associate pastors etc. People who are there all day so we can talk and learn together.

McHugh then talks about leading different types of people. Leading extroverts is difficult because “they can view this internalizing tendency with suspicion.” I’ve seen that! Since we are processing things internally, instead of acting, they can perceive us as apathetic or indecisive. We will need to communicate more with the extroverts. There are certain people I clue in on what I’m thinking so they know their concerns and dreams aren’t being ignored even though nothing dramatic is happening. They can learn that progress is happening behind the scenes. You also make time to listen to their input.

This means I “over-communicate” for our introverts. Too many emails they think. But we need to repeat things, use body language, for our extroverted friends.

In leading introverts we need to give them space to speak. You have to wait them out in small groups, Session meetings etc. The extroverts will speak quickly, but the introverts will wait. If you move too quickly, you won’t hear from them. When I’m in a class, not teaching, I’ll often wait to see if someone else says something. But might wait too long for that teacher who moves on. Give people time to process their thoughts and gather the courage to express them.

Many of the things in this chapter were things I learned the hard way. Perhaps this chapter will help others to learn them the easy way.

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I have a love/hate relationship with pre-marital counseling. I enjoy doing it, and it is important to do. I have yet to find the best material for me to use. I’ve tried a variety of options. I want a balance between structure and freedom (this is generally true of me). I want to be faithful and cover the basics. But I want the freedom to follow what I discover. We aren’t just dealing with topics, but with people who have real histories that need to be uncovered because their relationship is unlike any other.

I feel like I’ve ping-ponged over the abyss as I’ve tried (in my own perfectionistic baggage) to find the perfect balance. I apologize to the many “guinea pigs” I’ve worked with over the years.

With a couple preparing for marriage I’ve waded into these murky waters again. Last time I adapted some of the materials in my “soon-to-be-published” book. I’m sure of of that will hang on, but I wanted to cover some of the standard topics better.

As a result, I purchased two books. One of them was Tying the Knot by Rob Green. This is an attempt to have Christ-centered pre-marital counseling. “Jesus” and “Center” are part of each chapter title. He covers your life, love, problem solving, roles and expectations, communication, finances, community and intimacy. His desire is to see all of these things in light of the object of your faith: Jesus. Each chapter has homework to process the information and apply it in your relationship. It is intended for use with a pastor or mentor in preparation.

A pastor or mentor is important precisely because we need to be pushed. There are things we would rather not talk about. This is the way we are. We want to duck the hard questions. People “in love” don’t want the boat rocked. They think they have arrived, they have found their soul mate. The search is over, but hard questions can question that conclusion. A good mentor will be able to tell a couple there are serious concerns. Struggles are okay- they deepen love or reveal we’re really into self-interest not actual love. So don’t deny struggles, or make too much of them. What matters is what you do with them.

He does start with each person’s relationship with Christ. He wants to encourage them to have Christ as of utmost importance to each future spouse. Too often people cling to a cultural form of Christianity. We treat Jesus as an optional add-on to life as opposed to the most important person in our lives. Jesus is a king, and Christians are part of His kingdom and are to keep that kingdom central. When we don’t, we become more like neighboring nations that continually fight for control. Our kingdoms begin to matter too much and the person who threatens our kingdom must be conquered or eliminated.

Green then distinguishes between a worldly understanding of love and a biblical one. Real love isn’t about epic dates and woozy feelings. It is about sticking together in the midst of adversity, short-term and long-term. God doesn’t bail on us. He enables us to not bail on each other whether it is the flu, job loss, cancer etc. He expounds 1 Corinthians 13, and reveals how we have been loved by Christ.

Problem solving is a problem for many of us because we are “hurt hoarders”: we do keep a record of wrongs which creates long-term problems in a relationship. He focused on recording their wrongs and the growth of bitterness. We can also record our wrongs and withdraw out of a sense of guilt, shame and failure. Both make solving problems increasingly difficult. He covers some of the lies we can believe about problems that create more problems. He then lays out some basic principles to keep in mind. He brings the freedom we should experience due to the doctrine of justification to confess our sin, and to forgive theirs. For couples or individuals who really struggle with this I’d recommend When Sinners Say “I Do”.

With roles and expectations Green briefly delves into the reality of roles as God-given, and the differing expectations we have. I think he does a good job of distinguishing between roles and expectations. Too often they are confused. Expectations are person-relative. Roles are God-established. An overly progressive or liberal view makes roles all person-relative because men and women are interchangeable. Some conservatives try to cram expectations into roles. There are no divine dictates about who cooks, does dishes or takes out the trash. Each couple works through those things in light of the gifts, interests, competing time demands and responsibilities etc. Each person comes from a different family culture and the couple needs to form a new family culture that is faithful in that to which God speaks and loving & wise in that to which He doesn’t.

In communication he focuses on words as the overflow of the heart. We all need renewed hearts. Only Jesus can renew our hearts. Too often we speak in ways that diminish, wound and degrade our spouses. When your kingdom is on the line you will not care about collateral damage. And this is the problem.

In discussing finances, Green wants us to see ourselves as stewards. This means that how we spend our money is tied to our relationship with Christ. His kingdom, not our own, should determine where our money goes. Too many people give little thought to Jesus when they think about cars, homes, vacations, snack food etc. We’ve been trained to think about the environment, or “fair trade”. But most haven’t been trained to think about stewardship. That’s important too! More important actually.

He includes a rarity in pre-marital counseling material- a chapter on church. He talks about community and one of those communities is the faith community. It is one of the ways we keep Jesus in the center, and a manifestation of Jesus being in the center. He loves the Church! It is His Bride. How can we love Jesus and not love His Bride. Oh, unlike Him she is far from perfect. She’s like us, and therefore hard to love at times. Loving the Church is part of how we learn to love like Jesus.

He wraps up with intimacy, or sex. We tend to keep Jesus out of our sex lives. I am reminded of Only the Lonely when he brings her home for dinner together. Mom has gone out and this is going to be the big night when they finally fornicate. In the bedroom there is a statue of Jesus, so he puts a hat over the statue thinking then God won’t see. We fail to see Jesus as the Creator of our bodies and therefore of sex. He has authority over our sex lives and does regulate them. Sex is intended to strengthen the one flesh union as an expression of love, not self-interest. That shapes how we talk and do sex in marriage.

Tying the Knot covers almost all of the essential topics. It is a very readable book and is not verbose. He gets to the point, sometimes a little too quickly.

He could have spent a little more time developing Christ as the Creator and Lord of marriage and His supremacy and sufficiency in all things related to life and marriage. But better a book this size than the size of mine. He was able to stay focused and that is helpful for young couples on the road to marriage.

I’m surprise that child bearing and rearing is not really covered. I say this since “be fruitful and multiply” is part of the creation mandate (and Noahic covenant and Abrahamic promise), and forms one of the purposes of marriage. We live in a culture where marriage and children are increasingly separated as evidenced by more children being born outside of marriage, and more couples choosing to be childless (a national magazine had this as its cover story a few years ago). It is one of the topics I encourage friends to discuss before they are engaged. If you can’t get on the same page regarding children and how they will be raised there will be many conflicts surrounding those topics. I found this to be a glaring omission.

But all together, I thought this was a very good book. I plan to use this book and not the other with the young couple coming for pre-marital counseling this summer. It doesn’t say everything, but what it says it does say well.

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Earlier in his book Love into Light, Peter Hubbard talked about change. There he talked about unrealistic expectations for change. Change is an internal thing.

Discussion of change for a homosexual (as well as for any sexually immoral person, like addicts) eventually gets to the issues of celibacy and marriage. How you understand yourself if important to this discussion. If you view yourself as the world labels you (“homosexual”, “pervert” “misfit” or “dirty”) you will live out that reality. If you view yourself as God views you if you are in Christ (beloved, holy, son) you will begin to live out of this new reality. No, not perfectly. It is a progress. But God’s labels for those in Christ provide something of the goal.

He notes that we struggle with this notion of an “assigned” life or label. Deep down most of us suspect that God doesn’t have our best in mind. Deep down we think that we know the path to a fulfilling life better than God does. We forget that this is what got us in the deep hole we were in in the first place.

Additionally, Matthew Vines, he notes, talks about how homosexuals often feel left out as their friends marry and have kids. This is not something particular to homosexuals. I didn’t get married until I was 36, and a father until 39. I saw so many friends get married and have kids. I felt left out, forgotten and as if it would never happen to me. That’s the funny thing about sin, it deceives us into thinking we are the only one who feels this way. We don’t realize that others who don’t share our reasons also feel the same kinds of things. Marrying late wasn’t really MY choice. I wanted to get married, but experienced that frustrating reality that the people I wanted to marry didn’t want to marry me. And the people who wanted to marry me were not ones I wanted to marry.

I, like many in my state, wondered “what if God is calling me to be single, forever?” It seemed a fate worse than death at times. I wasn’t struggling with SSA. This is a human problem, not merely a SSA problem. My wife and I have many older friends who have never been married.

There are a number of people in the Bible who were never married or were widowed and remained single and alone with no outlet for their sexual desire. Jesus is pretty prominent there. As fully (hu)man, He would have experienced sexual desire. He would have found particular people attractive. But he never acted upon such desire. He mission trumped all those internal feelings and desires, such that His food was to do the will of His Father.

We also see Paul (probably widowed since he was a Pharisee of Pharisees). Paul was a sinner, like the rest of us. Paul lived in a culture with few if any sexual boundaries. There was temptation without and within. Surely there was loneliness and frustration. As the head of her household, Lydia was single or widowed as well. As that head of household, there would have been slaves or servants she could use to satisfy her sexual desires, as was common. But every indication is that she lived a faithful, obedient life that flowed out of her faith and love for Christ.

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I suspect it goes without saying that most of us have not been loved well by those in our lives. Our parents often did their best, but they had the same problem we have. So do our friends.

When you have not been loved well, you don’t love well. On the surface, it appears to be a vicious cycle from which there is no escape. But it is not a closed system. If it was, this would be true. But there is someone outside the system that can enter it, love us well and enable us to love others well.

10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 1 John 4

This is the premise of Loving Well (even if you haven’t been) by William Smith. The idea is that we only love well if we’ve been loved well. This is a biblical concept, as expressed in 1 John 4. In the gospel, we see that God brings us into His community of love and love us well. As we are loved, we learn to love.

Smith develops this in a very practical way. The 15 chapters of the book cover 15 aspects of love. He shows us how God has loved us in this way, and provides some practical ways we can express this love to others. As a result, this is a very gospel-centered book instead of a moralistic book. It is about what Christ has done, not a bunch of steps or principles to follow.

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The world is filled with books on marriage. Many of them are not worth reading. But there has been a bunch of excellent books on marriage that have been released in the last few years. Add The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God by Tim Keller (with his wife Kathy).

Tim is one of the best people for writing a book on marriage, from a biblical perspective, that non-Christians may actually read. He touches upon some of the more contemporary controversies here, clearly but without condemnation. I know some guys in our denomination love to hate on Keller as some great compromiser. I don’t see him that way. I just see him in a light similar to John Newton: clear as to what he believes but not using that to stick his finger in people’s eyes. He’d much rather win them to his position- that whole winsome thing. Not everyone is supposed to be Elijah, engaging in clear confrontations to expose the folly of false gods (though Keller did write a book on that).

Keller spends more time on cohabitation, bringing up studies which reveal how destructive it actually is to marriage.  He shows how the typical arguments used to justify the practice have no basis in facts. So he shows the foolishness of that particular sin in a variety of ways. Homosexual marriage is not tackled head on, but he consistently affirms the biblical view of man and woman. Contrary to what I’ve heard from some of the haters, there is a clear affirmation of complementarianism. But they distinguish the biblical doctrine from how some people practice it.  And that is good. We have to recognize that if will look different in different marriages and in different cultures.

The book is not perfect. There are, I think, so factual errors. Tim writes that Paul was never married. We don’t know that. He, as a Pharisee, was probably married at some point. But at the time of his work as an Apostle, he was single- probably widowed. But that is a small thing.

My only other complaint was the length of the chapters. They were quite long, about 25 pages each on average. I like to finish a chapter in a sitting, and due to my schedule that was a little more difficult with this book.

The book derived from sermons on marriage the Tim preached in 1991. The bulk of the book is drawn from Ephesians 5, but the Kellers draw on a number of resources to understand and apply the biblical teaching on marriage. They cover issues of love (romantic love, mature love and the acceptance of one another’s faults), how to look for a spouse and what to look for in one, gender differences and roles in marriage, sex and more. They walk thru some of the landmines, the idols of both traditional and progressive culture.

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Every so often I follow a link, read a blog or an excerpt of a book (or a whole one) which argues against the complementarian view of Scripture and therefore marriage. What I so often find are straw man arguments. They either don’t understand or don’t want to understand the view. They present distortions of the view as the view. That would be like saying Benny Hinn is a mainstream charismatic. He’s not, and to present him as such is unfair. As one writer noted recently on his blog (Kevin DeYoung, I think) you must present your opponent’s view as one they would recognize. Egalitarians, in my experience, have not done this.

While re-reading Desiring God, I was struck by how well Piper presented the standard complementarian position (though I have a few quibbles). Piper sets this within the context of Christian Hedonism. What does marriage look like with people are pursuing their delight in Christ instead of pursuing their own agenda of manufactured, demanding, substandard delights.

It may be helpful to consider dancing for a moment. A traditional dance, with a partner, is coordinated. One person leads, and the other follows. Joy is found in this as they work together for mutual joy. Much of today’s dancing is uncoordinated. You don’t even need a partner. It is chaotic and pleases only the dancer. Unless there is some bump and grind, but one the dance floor that is a vulgar mess, not a picture of marital bliss.

“… husbands should devote the same energy and time and creativity in  making their wives happy that they devote naturally to making themselves happy.”

Part of this can be summed up as finding your delight in the joy of your spouse instead of at the expense of your spouse. You delight in giving them joy (long-term, God-oriented joy).  But Piper then delves deeper into Ephesians 5, the crux of the issue.

17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. 22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.  25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

Let’s start by remembering that Paul is taking about the Spirit-filled life. The ESV, unlike the NIV, reflects Paul’s grammar in showing submission as part of the Spirit-filled life. Gospel-driven submission is not produced by the flesh, but by the influence of the Spirit. This “one another” is taken by some to argue for “mutual submission”. I think it is better to view what follows as 3 particular relationships in which people are to submit to others: wives to husbands, children to parents, and slaves to masters (applied today as employees to employers). There is a relationship of legitimate authority that Paul recognizes in each of these. If we are to argue for mutual submission in marriage, then we should argue for mutual submission in the parent-child and work relationships. This runs completely contrary to the marriage relationship that Paul brings into focus to illustrate: Christ and the church.

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I’m tired from studying Canaanite religion and pondering the church schedule for the next 6 months.  No real connection there.  Since I was looking at some options for materials for us in groups and SS, I decided to see what books are going to be released in the next few months.  Here is what grabbed my attention:

The Works of John Newton.  It was probably re-released in December.  In the last few years I’ve grown to appreciate John Newton.  I’ve been pondering getting his works.  Good timing?

The Church of God as an Essential Element of the Gospel by Stuart Robinson.  This is another reprint.  The title alone intrigues me.

Reclaiming Adoption: Missional Living through the Rediscovery of Abba Father.  It is a book based on the Together for Adoption Conference (in 2009?).  It includes chapters by John Piper and Scotty Smith (both of whom pastor churches cultivating a culture of adoption).

The Intolerance of Tolerance by D.A. Carson.  Yes, published in October 2009, but oddly on the coming soon section of WTS Books.  Go figure.

Genesis 25-50 by John Currid.  I used his commentaries on Exodus when preaching through the book earlier in my ministry.  I found them helpful, and suspect this would be as well.  If I continue beyond the life of Abraham, I’ll have to pick this up.

The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way by Michael Horton.  This is a risky pick for me.  I used to be a big Horton fan, but I see his books as more diagnosis than cure these days.  I also hesitate with regard to his understanding/application of the 2 kingdoms doctrine.  But you never know.

Standing Forth: The Collected Writings of Roger Nicole.  Not new, but one I should get.  My late professor was a brilliant and godly man.

Speaking the Truth in Love: Life and Legacy of Roger Nicole.  You need to read biographies of men greatly used by God.  You learn, often, how they were greatly broken.  I’d like to learn more about my late professor.

When the Word Leads Your Pastoral Search: Biblical Principles and Practices to Guide Your Search by Chris Brauns.  I saw this and swore to myself.  This is the book I’ve been meaning to write.  I may still write it, though with particular reference to the Presbyterian circles in which I live and work.

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Being in the early chapters of Genesis, I’m covering the topic of marriage as instituted by God.  One of the things that stands out to me is that marriage is a means (so to speak) of mission.  As a metaphor of Christ’s relationship with His people, we see the reality of mission.  Jesus has a goal for his people- he redeems them and makes them holy.

In Genesis 2 we see it was not good for the man to be alone.  Why?  It is not just about companionship.  He can’t fulfill God’s mission alone.  All the other biblical  reasons for marriage are tied together with mission.  Apart from mission, they become self-serving.

Apart from mission, companionship becomes idolatry.  It is ingrown.  And once you get bored … you look for a new companion.

Apart from mission, sex becomes self-centered, and idolatrous.  Once the sex stops, or gets boring (which is what happens when it is just about sex), you look for a new sexual partner.

Apart from mission, having children is selfish.  It is more about your need to have kids, and have them “succeed” than it is about raising kids to build the kingdom.

Apart from mission, financial stability also becomes idolatrous.  If someone can no longer provide for you, you look for another money maker.

Here are some very good books that I recommend about marriage.

  • When Sinners Say “I Do” by Dave Harvey.  This is one of my favorite books because it is so humbling.  Harvey keeps the gospel central in marriage.  This is important because every marriage includes 2 sinners.  Most of our problems in marriage are really rooted in our sinfulness.  Communication skills, while helpful, don’t get to the root of the problem.  I requires the application of the gospel.
  • Intimate Allies by Dan Allender and Tremper Longman.  There is so much to appreciate about this book.  I’m not wild about the discussion about “mutual submission”.  That seems to depart from the biblical emphasis in Ephesians 5.  But I love their emphasis on enhancing the other’s dignity and restraining their dignity.  THAT is a clearly biblical emphasis when looking at marriage. They broke this down into  the Intimate Marriage series available on DVD, workbooks and leader’s guide.
  • Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas.  The subtitle says it all, what if God wants to make us holy more than to make us happy.  He’s focusing on part of Paul’s discussion of marriage in Ephesians 5.
  • Redeeming Marriage by Douglas Wilson.  I read this when I appreciated Doug Wilson more than I do now.  But this is still a good book.  It is short and to the point.
  • What Did You Expect?  Redeeming the Realities of Marriage by Paul David Tripp.  I haven’t read or watched this, but I want to.  I find great benefit in nearly everything he writes.  The DVD was released first, and then it was released in book form.
  • Another book I have yet to read, but hope to is John Piper’s This Momentary Marriage: a Parable of Permanence.  I wish I had read it in preparation for my work on Genesis 2 & Ephesians 5.

I know there are some other good books.  But these are the ones the Cavman recommends.  They will help you develop a biblical understanding of  marriage.  May the Spirit work to make us an accurate picture of the relationship between Christ and the Church.

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I’m currently working my way through Genesis 2 for Sunday.  In his Epistles, Paul bases male headship in marriage & the church (aka complementarianism) in creation.  But there is more going on than that.

For those who aren’t familiar with the term, complementarianism teaches that men and women are equal in dignity but different in role or function in the home and the church.  This, sadly, is a relatively unpopular position.  But this shouldn’t surprise us since much of what the Bible teaches us offends the flesh.

Genesis 1 is the starting point with regard to our equal dignity.  “God created man (humanity) in his image; male and female he created them.”  Men and women are both made in God’s image, sharing in dignity.  Most people can accept the equal part (aside from those rejecting the notion we are made in God’s image).  The equality is not an issue.  This fundamental equality is also in view in Galatians with regard to salvation- “in Christ there is neither male nor female.”  He lists some other statuses that separate people.  The idea is that neither is more worthy of salvation than the other.  Neither has an advantage when it comes to Christ.  It does not mean that all distinctions disappear such that they cease to be men and women.

In Genesis 2-3 we see the following things which point us toward there being a complementary difference between men and women which includes male headship.

Adam Eve NT Parallel Text(s)
Created first X 1 Corinthians 11:8; 1 Timothy 2:13
Given the initial command X
Created for the other X 1 Corinthians 11:9
Sinned first X 1 Timothy 2:14
Whose sin condemned humanity? X Romans 5:12ff
Addressed 1st by God after sinning X
Cursed for “obeying/listening to” the other X

We see that though they are equal, God held Adam accountable for obeying Eve.  He addressed Adam first because Adam was humanity’s representative.  Paul uses this to explain how all of humanity fell into sin, and how people are saved through the 2nd Adam, Jesus.

We see that Adam needed help to fulfill the Creation Mandate (Gen. 1).  He gave Adam a wife instead of a pet.  He gave Adam an equal to complement him, to do the things he could not do alone.  While both men and women share the Creation Mandate (to fill, subdue and rule the earth) they emphasize different roles.

Both are needed to fill, but women (generally speaking) are more nurturing.  Moms stay home far more often than men because they are physically and emotional better suited for it.  Yes, they subdue and rule at home and outside the home.  Men are better suited physically and emotionally for subduing and ruling than filling.  Yes, men have parental responsibilities too.  But staying at home with children would drive me crazy far quicker than it does CavWife.  Struggling at work takes are greater toll on a man than struggling at relationships.  The opposite is true for women.  This is part of how we balance each other out.

One key passage is from Ephesians 5.  There we find that marriage is a picture of the relationship between Christ and the Church.  Marriage mirrors the gospel.  Husbands reflect Christ and wives reflect the Church.  Husbands lead- sacrificially!  Wives submit to their own husbands (not men in general) as the Church submits to Christ.  There is no role reversal.

This is a mystery, Paul says.  That means it is only something that we know because it has been revealed to us.  Marriage, including covenant headship, is was originally designed to be a picture of the gospel.  It was not societal construct for Paul, and certainly not oppressive.  It was a picture of the liberating, restorative gospel.

Covenant headship is not some out-moded way of thinking.  It is a biblical way of thinking, and a gospel-centered way of thinking.  Christian feminism and egalitarianism undermine the gospel by taking away God-given boundaries and roles.  In 1 Timothy 1:8-11 reveals the relationship between sound doctrine and sound living.  Sound (healthy) doctrine conforms to the gospel and produces healthy living.  Unsound doctrine departs from or distorts the gospel and leads to unsound living (sin).  When our marriages and churches no longer portray part of the gospel through male headship, the gospel is distorted and unsound living is the inevitable result.

As a result, complementarianism is not a non-essential doctrine.  It is a gospel-doctrine.  It should be believed and defended as rooted in creation and redemption that we might better understand the relationship between Christ and the Church which the gospel creates.

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I got back to my reading of The Path to True Happiness by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones this afternoon.  He was talking about when Jesus cleansed the Temple in John 2.  He used this to address the church’s relationship to the state.  When this becomes confused, the church loses its real power and the whole nation suffers.

“The church is not here to tell statesmen what to do.  She has a much bigger, a much deeper, calling …  Nor is it the preacher’s task to appeal to world leaders to make peace and banish war.”

Interesting words as much of America, including our President, celebrated the visit of the Pope.  Popes seem to know how to do little else but speak to world leaders.  Sorry, but hugging a sexual abuse victim when the Church of Rome has allowed this sin to fester unhindered for decades is ample evidence of what church’s should not do.  The point: churches lose their moral authority to speak to society if they are not addressing the sin in their own communities first and foremost.

Lloyd-Jones had watched the church in England forfeit its voice for decades.  He was frustrated with a holy frustration.

For it is the tragedy of the hour that the church is telling the world what to do when the question is: Is the church in a fit condition to do so?  I suggest that it is not surprising that the world does not listen.

In tracing this idea through biblical history the Doctor notes:

But the moment there was a declension in the temple worship, deterioration invariably followed in the life of the people: like priests, like people. … Take another verse: ‘Righteousness exalts a nation (Proverbs 14:34).  Not possessions, not wealth, not material power, but ‘righteousness.’ … When things go wrong in the Temple they will go wrong everywhere.  The key to everything is our relationship to God.

The Doctor is not blaming “those damned heathens” for the moral ills of his society, and neither should we.  He blamed the church because she had not lived up to her calling which opens the door to rebellion based on hypocrisy.  A vibrant church, which is pursuing righteousness, will change the shape of a nation far more than preaching against the ills of that nation.

Well so often in Israel the first thing that went wrong when they lost the living Spirit was that they turned the temple worship into something formal and external.  … The formalizing and externalizing of religion is a great curse.

We know some of this here in America.  Our churches have been infiltrated by materialism and consumerism (the whore of Babylon).  We pursue success and access, not righteousness.  We condemn non-Christians instead of applying the gospel to our own wicked hearts.  Often our churches are used by the political parties to further their agenda (this happens on both sides of the aisle, folks).  The problem is not the political parties, but the pastors and denominational leaders that bow down to them and fail to protect the flock.

The need is not for something to happen in the state, but for something to happen in the church.  Why are the statesmen ignoring the church?  Because the church has no power (he means spiritual power). … if you and I are genuinely concerned about the world and its state, our first duty is to pray for revival in the church.  It is not to say things to the world, but to seek this power which will enable us to speak to the world in such a manner that it will tremble as it listens to us.

The business of the church is to bring men and women to God and to keep them in communion with him.  The church should be filled with such power from God that everybody, in a sense, will be forced to listen. … The first prayer is to plead with him to come into his Temple, to manifest his glory, to show us something of the might of his power and to fill us with that power.

May King Jesus do just that, manifesting His glory in a people being transformed by grace.  As His church becomes healthier and exhibits spiritual power more will be converted and transformed, thus changing the character of cities, counties, states, regions and a nation.

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