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The subtitle to Bavinck on the Christian Life is Following Jesus in Faithful Service. In part 1 John Bolt laid the foundations of creation, law and union with Christ. In part 2 he framed it with imitation of Christ and worldview. In the third and final section of this book, The Practice of Christian Discipleship, Bolt gets to the areas where we follow Jesus in light of a Christian worldview.

For lack of a better term, I’ll use spheres. They could be called vocations, the places were are called. As Christians Bavinck stresses that our faith is not simply lived out in prayer closets and on Sunday mornings. We are to follow Jesus in our marriage, family, work, culture, education and civil service (politics).

In the historical context, Bavinck was often dealing with “the revolution.” It was a time of incredible instability in Europe. The impact of Rousseau and Marx were shaking the foundations of Europe. There were challenges and changes looming  in nearly every arena, sphere or vocation. As a result he was not writing in an Edenic setting or ivory tower. He was not only a theologian and churchman, but also a statesman. In many ways it is a situation that reflects our contemporary situation. Faith does not retreat from cultural challenges, but seeks to imitate Jesus by serving in the midst of such changes. But it always seeks to follow Jesus, not simply embracing change or preserving human tradition. For instance, women’s suffrage was a good thing, a good change reflecting their equal status as made in God’s image in civil society.

As Bavinck wrestled with these changes he doesn’t simply analyze the proposed solution, he brings them back to the real problem. For instance, “inequality” was looked at as the great cultural sin (sounds familiar, right?). He brings us to God’s providence to recognize that inequality is not intrinsically wrong. For instance, God has not distributed resources equally. Some geographic locations are rich in natural resources, and others lack. God has placed each of us in a particular place, to a particular family (with its own resources, or lack thereof).

But this is not the only, final word on inequality. We have to see it in light of the creation mandate as well. We are not to sit fatalistically with our lot in life. If we believe we are called to “subdue and rule” we will seek to maximize the resources and opportunities that do exist. (Either Bavinck or Bolt does not spell this out as clearly as I would have liked.)

Bavinck also brings inequality to sin. Some are motivated by self-love rather than love for God and neighbor. Therefore they oppress, exploit and steal. Some are lazy and refuse to maximize anything at their disposal but live for the present, not the future. There is no eschatalogical pull for them, no deferred gratification for something far greater.

Therefore, the pull toward socialism or the massive re-distribution of wealth doesn’t fix the problem. It fails to address sin (note the gross inequalities in every Communist country we’ve seen). Rather, ways must be found to eliminate oppression, exploitation, theft, laziness and entitlement not “inequality”. Inequality isn’t the problem.

Bolt applies Bavinck’s creational norm to the question of sexuality as well. Marriage is meant to be a reflection of the trinity- unity in diversity. One of the creational realities that must remain in marriage is procreation, unless providentially hindered. In other words, many of our supreme court justices, as well as citizens, don’t really understand the meaning of marriage. The gospel “restores” nature rather than overthrowing nature. It is sin which seeks to corrupt, destroy and overthrow nature.

Because our fundamental problem is sin, Bavinck focused not on social solutions to our problems, but brought us back to the gospel first (not only). People need to be restored to fellowship with God before they can see the real problems in society and apply God’s law to create an increasingly just society (as defined by God’s law which reflects His character). As a result, we must humbly accept the fact that there will be no perfectly just society until the return of Jesus because sin remains. Again, this does not mean fatalism but realistic expectations. It does mean we seek to address the real issues, not just the symptoms.

Bolt ends the book with Bavinck’s only printed sermon “The World Conquering Power of Faith”. This sermon ties a number of these things together. We cannot fix the world with the world’s means precisely because they are part of the world which is in rebellion against God. By faith we are able to “conquer” the world, but only because our faith is in the One who has overcome the world and is currently at work to make His enemies His footstool.

As a result, the Christian life of following Jesus in faithful service often looks foolish to the world. It often feels foolish. It seems so powerless, and the needs presented by the world seem so great: oppression, slavery (sexual & economic), mental illness, terrorism and violence, government corruption, sexual abuse, domestic violence …

People must be united to Christ by faith, seeking to walk in light of the law (justice) and the creation mandate (subdue & rule). This is how Bavinck views the Christian life.

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The last few weeks have been really busy for me; both in ministry and at home. In the midst of that I received a contract offer from a publisher. I had submitted that book a few years back.

This publisher had approached me just over a year ago. They were interested in it, but wanted me to pay for the publicist. That just wasn’t going to work for me financially.

A few weeks ago they made me a new offer in which they would cover the cost of the publicist. In the meantime another company looked at it. They liked it, overall, but believed it needed some major editing in places. I had asked someone to read the book and make some suggestions to help me identify those places that I needed to re-write to fix the problems.

Making a decision was not easy. I thought my process might be helpful for other people as they seek to make decisions.

Essentially, I used a triperspectival method as John Frame explains it in a number of his books. The 3 perspectives are the normative (what does the Bible say), the existential (who am I in this decision) and the situational (what are my circumstances in this decision).

Normative. The Scriptures note that of the writing of books there is no end. I think my book provides a different approach to the subject at hand. It could be a helpful addition to the many very good books on the subject matter.

(more…)

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With  CavWife and I out of town this past weekend the kids stayed with some friends.  I haven’t written too much about the kids lately.  Our friend’s updates were funny, so I thought I’d make them available.

Ch. 1: played on floor from 8-9:30.  LAID on floor while CavKids PLAYED on floor.

Ch. 2: SNACK–brought up by CavGirl (surprised?)  Townhouse crackers/bananas/grapes and a few Easter M&M’s from the bottom of Karl’s Easter basket.

Ch.3: SWAM from 10-11:30.  Neither went in farther than their knees (1st pool step).  But we had fun with Grey’s truck and sand bucket.  They poured water all over me!  When they were peeling off their suits I suggested they go potty in the grass since CavSon wasn’t keen on my toilet before we swam.  Both had success!

Ch. 4: LUNCH at………….McDonald’s!!  11:45 – 12:30.  They were completely clueless about the restaurant and the food.  I was almost embarassed!  I got them both Happy Meals thinking they would each get a toy—well….it was a CD of kids songs.  Except when we played it in the car on the way home it was RAP and HIP-HOP!  Sung BY kids but definitely not “Kid Music!”  CavGirl gobbled all SIX chicken nuggets and CavSon ate 3 of his 4 but ALL of his french fries!  He was completely fascinated with the Ronald McDonald statue outside on the bench, so after we ate we went out there.  CavGirl crawled right up into his lap but CavSon kept shaking his head “no!”  I bet next time you pass McD’s she will mention something about the trip.

Ch. 5: came home and played babies with Meg and Amber til nap.

Ch. 6: NAP at 1:15.  He went potty on the toilet, and he did use the stool a bit.  She was totally into going upstairs with all her JUNK to take her nap; so was CavSon til I actually left Karl’s room–then he cried, but not for long.  She asked for some books and as of 1:45, I don’t hear any crying or singing…..

Ch. 7: Post-Nap:  I think I filled you in on most of this.  The kids played with Amber and Meg on the tire swing while I fixed dinner.  We ate and I drove the girls to Lakeland.  Came home and took baths in the BIG bathtub.  They loved it.

Ch. 8:  8:15: BEDTIME!  We all read a book then CavSon went down, then I read 1 more to CavGirl and she went right down.  I woke up about 7:45 and was listening for “rumblings” but heard nothing–I couldn’t believe this was actually true.  When I went upstairs, meg had her on the bathroom sink and was looking at her chin.  Well…..apparently she fell out of bed in the middle of the night and hit the bottom of her chin on the little rocking chair next to the guest bed!  I didn’t hear a thing!!!  She said she didn’t cry–just crawled back into bed.  But her bumpy blanket looked like a CRIME SCENE this morning, as did her PJ’s.  (another load of wash…)  She has a small slit on the bottom of her chin.  A doctor might have called for a stitch, but…too late!  So Meg was cleaning it and putting a band-aid on it.  She wasn’t upset at all!!  Can you believe it??

Ch. 9:  HOT BREAKFAST of French Toast and yogurt.  MEG thoroughly enjoyed it.  She left at 9:00 for Sunday School and we didn’t!  Instead, we watched…..”Lady and the Tramp” which the kids LOVED.  This gave me time to get ready for church.  (A guy from Riverview preached…where is that?  He said near Brandon?  He mentioned that they adopted both their girls, and CavGirl made friends with Rachael in C.Church.).  He came out of the nursery after church with a Matchbox Service Station/garage which I was told was a birthday present from the nursery worker!  He was SO excited.  The C.C. lady told me the nursery worker (don’t know any names here!) tried to bring him to C.C. since he is 3 now (I totally forgot!) but he would have NOTHING to do with it!  So they took him back to the nursery.

Ch. 10: LUNCH–grilled cheese and tomato soup and fruit.  CavGirl did not care for her soup and she told me so, but quickly added that she could still have a snack, right?!!  :  )  They watched the last 15 minutes of the movie and down for nap.  This time I remembered his diaper!

Ch. 11:  NAP–I slept great….don’t know about CavGirl as she was up and singing at 4:00 when I went up.  He had just woken up and was crying a bit.  CavGirl wanted to swim again, so as she was going potty b-4 putting her suit on, he tried to jump up on the toilet as well.  He had just peed in his diaper so I couldn’t imagine why he would want to try again, but I made him wait til she was done.  POOP!!!  This would have been a dandy time to be able to talk…but I’m glad he did it w/o being asked.  We were out in the pool when Cavnan called, but Karl gave me the message.  CavSon was not as thrilled about going in this time—it was all I could do to get him to stand on the first step.  Oh well.

Ch. 12:  PIZZA for dinner:  I just ordered Dominos.  CavGirl suggested that we go somewhere “special” for supper like we did for lunch yesterday so we compromised on pizza.  She asked it if was the kind that the MAN brings!!

There you have it … a few days in the life of the kids.

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There is a new book out, Get Outta My Face: How to Reach Angry, Unmovtivated Teens with Biblical Counsel by Rick Horne, that offers assistance to families, ministers and counselors.  WTS Books has this book for 65% off , an introductory price of $4.88, until January 24, 2009 at noon.  Then it will be the customary 30% off, not a bad deal either.  [ WTS Books sold out, but received 500 more copies of the book.  When they are gone, so is the special price!]

Here is what some other authors have said about this book:

“Rick Horne has invested in teens his whole life. He has learned that he is more like them than unlike them. From years of first hand experience, he knows how to talk with them and his is not afraid of the tough ones. What you will read here is the wisdom of a man who has experienced the courage and hope that transforming grace can give to you and that hard teenager God has chosen for you to be near. This book is a call to action with biblical perspectives and practical steps that God can use to change the teenager and you as well.”  Paul David Tripp, author of Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands, co-author of How People Change among other books highly recommended by Cavman.

“Rick Horne knows teens the kind that won’t talk and those that won’t stop talking. If you have a teenager, you need this book. In fact, don’t wait for the teen years! Arm yourself now with the timeless truths from this book that counsels moms and dads with gospel-hope for teenage trials.”  Dave Harvey author of When Sinners Say “I Do”.  (Highly recommended by Cavman)

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I’m struggling with my sermon for Sunday.  I’m struggling because I know the sinful, legalistic tendencies of our hearts.  I’m struggling with communicating the truth in such a way as to reveal our idols/substitutes in a more concrete way without establishing “man-made” rules which we use to attack others or exalt ourselves.

In Nehemiah 13, Nehemiah returns from Susa to discover that Israel has broken all the promises and oaths they had made to God.  They were once again becoming like the nations, being assimilated, instead of honoring God with their money, time and relationships.  They were not providing tithes & offerings for the worship of God, they were breaking the Sabbath, and they were taking foreign wives.  They had lost their saltiness.

And so have we.  The Church in America struggles with assimilation- being squeezed into the world’s box, conformed to their values rather than conformed to Christ and His values.  We start to worship self and success.  Here’s a chart I put together to summarize it:

 

Love God

Love of Self

Money

Joy in Christ => simplicity + generosity

Covetousness => status symbols + luxuries

Time

Boundaries + balance

Excess to fulfill my agenda

Marriage/Family

Kingdom building + character

Focus on beauty or economic advantage

Church Leadership

Biblical (gospel) principles

Business models (control)

We have a tendency to want to make this clearer so we can better know (we think) if we are being obedient.  This way we can establish our righteousness over our less obedient brothers and sisters.  This permits us to criticize them.  Sometimes they need to be confronted by their own worldliness- but I can’t be the standard by which they are measured.

We also do this so we can play the martyr.  I think of this primarily financially.  We can point to our simplicity- “see what a junky car I drive because I love Jesus”- to show how much more we love Jesus than our brothers.  We aren’t content to say “don’t covet, be generous and keep your treasure in heaven.”  We want to know what that looks like, and we start this Pharisaical process to gain credit instead of relying on Jesus, His work for us, and to work in and thru us.  Or am I the only one whose heart is so twisted by indwelling sin?

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My, he's a squirmy one!

My, he is a squirmy one!

It was long overdue.  This is what happens when you don’t have a call and you are a Presbyterian.  My membership is with my Presbytery, not a local church.  This complicated & delayed the process of baptizing CavSon.  [I have a few posts on the Reformed position on baptizing infants- not all views on infant baptism are the same.  I forgot to put a post up about mode of baptism.  This week, Lord willing.]

Amie has now joined the local PCA church in which we worship.  Yesterday morning we had him baptized.  Our friend Danny, who is the Associate Pastor, handled the explanation and vows.  I handled the squirming son, and the actual baptism.  It took quite some time as Danny kept losing his place due to the side show going on around him.  CavSon kept wanting to play with the ear piece from the wireless system I had on since I was preaching.

May blessings break upon his head.

May blessings break upon his head.

He did much better when I actually poured water on his head.  He seemed to like that.  Of course, he had been working up a sweat.  Afterward he wanted to play with the rest of the water, which was not a surprise to either of us.  It was great for CavDaughter to watch this.  She was up there with us initially, but she was quite antsy too, so we had her sit with friends.  She’s on the video.  We talked with her a little bit about it the previous day or two.  She knows she has been baptized, and we should show her that video.  She’s fascinated by pictures of herself when she was a baby.

We received word while we were in Jacksonville that his new birth certificates had arrived at the lawyer’s office.  I picked them up this morning.  Now we can work toward his U.S. citizenship.  But he is now part of the visible church, which is great news in my book.  May his adoption into our family eventually result in his being adopted into God’s family.

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It was a different week.  My brothers-in-law were away on a missions trip to Mississippi.  Not as much male interaction.  ESPN and ESPN 2 have not been available on the cable the last 5-6 days, so I’m suffering from the DTs.  I was also slowed down by a summer cold that started with sniffles => sore throat => running nose => cough.  A real pleasure.

I Need a Dentist

I Need a Dentist

On Wednesday and Friday we went to the Word of Life Ranch to visit the petting zoo.  The kids loved it.  They had goats, sheep, llamas (in desperate need of dental work), chickens, cows, horses, pigs, rabbits, guinea pigs and ferrets.  CavGirl’s priceless comment- “They’re stinky.  They need a bath.”  We were also able to spend time in the fort playground.  I pushed the kids on the tire swing, and they enjoyed the slides.  On Wednesday’s trip we had lunch at the WoL campground with some friends of CavWife who still work at Word of Life.  Both trips ended with rain shortening the stay.

Radio station options way up here are limited.  So for both rides to Schroon Lake, we ‘enjoyed’ the worst of the 80’s.  Lots of bad flashbacks, so I’m surprised we didn’t crash the SUV.  I hadn’t heard “Total Eclipse of the Heart” for many years, and heard it 2 times this past week.  Sigh.

CavParents arrived Thursday and stayed until Saturday.  They skipped the petting zoo.  Don’t blame them- smelly animals and poop-covered shoes.  It got pretty noisy around here though with up to 11 cousins running around.  Sometimes they played well together, and other times …. not quite.  The rainy week didn’t help matters.  CavBoy and his youngest cousin here are getting along famously.  Just like Frick & Frack now that she is feeling better.  This is good since CavGirl is able to enjoy her older cousins.  He doesn’t feel as left out now.

Friday night we all got together for dinner at Aunt Jane’s place at the bottom of the hill.  Mom’s lasaugna with meatballs & sausage, and Bernie’s eggplant parmesian (I passed on the eggplant) followed by ice cream.

Saturday I helped my sister-in-law work on their new home near the bottom of the hill.  I spackled over the screws in the drywall, helped move in some furniture, and helped with some staining of the trim.

On Sunday I preached at Calvary Bible Church in Wevertown.  I ended up choosing a shortened version of my sermon on adoption from Ephesians.  It went well.

I’m antsy … I want to become a productive member of society again.  Still no progress on any fronts.  It can eat at you if you have too much time on your hands, which, by definition, you do.

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