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So far, I can safely say this was my least favorite chapter of Introverts in the Church.

Possibly most dangerous book in the chapter.

How introverts approach their faith will be different, generally speaking. These are not absolutes, hermetically sealed chambers we are considering. I’d say tendencies.

Introverts will tend to shun the public expressions of faith for the personal or private expressions of faith. They buy the worship music and listen to it alone for private worship. They are more likely to meditate upon Scripture. I like to play my guitar, listening to the words of the song in my head, expressing my heart to God. These are things extroverts do too, just differently.

But that isn’t where Adam McHugh took us. He took us to monasticism. Yes, I think introverts are more drawn to monasticism. I’m not convinced that is a healthy thing. But more disconcerting was he took us to mysticism.

I’m not one to go “that’s Catholic” to write off an ancient practice that may be helpful. But I’m leery of mysticism precisely because it bypasses the mind. Bypass the mind and there are not boundaries to protect yourself from false and destructive spiritual experiences.

I’m no “devil in every bush that rustles” guy, but I do believe there are unclean spirits willing to deceive people who separate Word and Spirit.

God spoke to us. He used words, precisely because He wanted to be understood and not simply experienced in some vague way. I agree with guys like John Calvin and John Owen that the Spirit works and speaks through the Word. And so we should be engaged with the Word, asking to Spirit to work, as we read it, meditate on it, sing it, pray it, listen to it etc..

McHugh, following Benedict, wants to eschew words. Yes, there may be times of silence but I’m thinking words. Silent prayer, meditation, singing, etc. But he says “Words, rather than issuing from a well of reverence and wisdom, often betray ignorance and immaturity.” “Often” is the caveat, but still. Jesus, the Word Incarnate, used words in His personal devotion to the Father. This we know.

Yes, there are dangers to technology and their effects on our brains. How we think, process and live. We are overstimulated. His critique here is warranted.

In discussing contemplative spirituality he contrasts apophatic spirituality from kataphatic spirituality. Those are two terms you don’t hear often. “Apophatic spirituality focuses on what cannot be grasped about God through rational thought, words or images. It emphasizes the hiddenness of God.” As such, it seeks to go beyond what God has revealed.

Calvin very much emphasized Deuteronomy 29:29 in his theology and practice.

29 “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.

The secret or hidden things belong to God, not us. What He has revealed belongs to us to ponder and enjoy. In other words, we should reject speculation in such matters. We recognize there is mystery, there are boundaries to our knowledge. But we respect that rather than trying to penetrate the veil. This is why “evangelical theology is grounded in revelation”. This is a good thing, not a bad thing like McHugh seemingly wants to make it. Yes, it can only take us to the borders of mystery. But that is only as far as we are supposed to go!

He encourages the examen, or spending the end of the day considering the day. This is helpful as we compare our decisions, actions and affections to God’s commands and ask for forgiveness. It is helpful as we see our weakness & ignorance and ask for strength and wisdom. It is processing your day, and this is generally a good thing. We should consider our desires and what lies beneath them more.

People tend to live on the top of the iceberg. We experience desires but rarely consider what drives those desires. Often there is a legitimate longing at work that we are seeking to fulfill illegitimately if legitimate avenues are blocked. This is about ourselves, not God. This is about self-understanding. For Calvin the knowledge of God and self are connected. If I know God better, I’ll understand my longings better and how my corrupt heart distorts legitimate longings.

I know I largely live within routines of rhythms of life. When I get outside of my pattern I’m uncomfortable, discombobulated. For instance I just had 3 “short” weeks. Labor Day made for a short work week. The next week I went to a ball game with another pastor on a Thursday, shortening my week. The 3rd week was Presbytery. I felt very much like I haven’t had time to do my work. Tasks have been left undone and that bugs me tremendously.I can agree that when my rhythm suffers, I suffer. I’m irritable and confused.

So he advocates an introverts’ rule to create such rhythms or routines. He doesn’t advocate one for all, but offers questions to help you sort out one that works for you so you are regularly engaging with God to equip you for life in His world.

While he makes a few good points, I find some of what he says here dangerous because any spirituality, introverted or extroverted or ambiverted, should not deviate from a biblical spirituality.

 

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So far I’ve really enjoyed Crossway’s series “On the Christian Life” having read the volumes on Newton, Bavink and Edwards. I’ve been working my way through the series on vacation/study leave. That all changed when I read Luther.

Oh, I’m kidding. Luther on the Christian Life: Cross and Freedom by Carl Trueman is a very good addition to the series. One of the things that Trueman appreciates about Luther was his humor, which is much better than my pathetic little joke there.

One of the strengths of this volume is that Trueman does not try to paint Luther as an “evangelical”. He notes our tendency to repaint our heroes in our own image. He resists this temptation and presents us with the Luther that we both love and don’t quite understand.

Luther’s understanding of the Christian life is very different from that found in “popular” evangelicalism and even in Reformed circles at times. Trueman isn’t here to criticize Luther, but is more to critique us in a round about way.

One of the struggles for a book like this is the sheer volume of material produced by Luther, as well as the development of his thought over time as a pioneer of sorts who came to a greater awareness of the implications, consequences and complications of this ideas over time. Yet, as Trueman notes, evangelicals tend to pull their quotes (sound bytes) from the early Luther.

Trueman begins with a brief biography of Luther so readers can get a lay of the land, so to speak. His life and theology were in near constant interaction. I noticed this tendency in studying some the major psychological theorists, and it is often true for theologians as well. Their theology is an attempt to work out their stuff with God. Unlike one author I read years ago, Luther’s goal was not sexual liberation but rather spiritual liberation.

Luther lived in a time when most people could not read. This greatly impacts his understanding of the Christian life. It is structured around daily worship services to hear the Word of God and to partake of the sacraments. While better literacy rates are a good thing, they have facilitated the individualistic view of the Christian life that actually robs us of maturity. We are meant to live in community, and not just for a few hours on Sunday.

We can’t turn back the clock (this includes rejecting the industrial revolution, modern travel etc. that shapes our lives/lifestyles). But perhaps we can made some different decisions in our own cultural context.

Luther has a strong emphasis on the Word, and Trueman spends time unpacking this. It is tied up on Luther’s understanding of the Word as both God’s revelation and God’s creative power. God’s Word is meant to shape how we think about life and reality. Luther was also concerned about how we approached the Word, and therefore God. We tend to be theologians of glory rather than theologians of the cross. The theologian of the cross sees God and comes to God thru Christ and Him crucified. The incarnation and sacrifice of the Son points to our weakness, sinfulness, neediness and how God is gracious, tender and merciful This shapes a very different life than one focused on God’s power and glory which tends to either drive us to despair (since we are sinners) or puffs us up (due to our pride and self-righteousness). This carries over to Luther’s law and gospel distinction. This is a much misunderstood concept, as if the OT is law and the NT is gospel. As Clapton sang, “It’s in the way that you use it.” The same texts can be used to expose sin, and reveal grace. First comes law to destroy our self-righteousness, and then comes grace.

So we encounter the Word in preaching, singing, meditating, prayer and if possible reading. Luther encourages us to be people of the Word so God will work in us to accomplish His good purposes.

The Christian life is not easy but we struggle with self-righteousness as well as sin. We also deal with anfechtungen, which is difficult to translate into English but could be considered similar to the dark night of the soul. We experience despair and frustration at the trials of life material and immaterial. We are not to look in, but to look out at Christ in the midst of all of this. Faith is looking to the Christ revealed in the Scriptures in dealing with our guilt, self-righteousness, and afflictions. Luther was not an introspective mystic, but one who calls us out of our introspection to look to Christ who is the only One who can help us.

One of the most important chapters is “Luther and Christian Righteousness.” It is written to address some misunderstandings of Luther regarding sanctification. These misunderstandings are found in the books and sermons by Tullian Tchavidjian and Trueman makes a few allusions to Tullian in the chapter. While the Reformation was going swimmingly in its early days, Luther discovered it was not necessarily bearing the fruit it should as he began to visit other areas. He saw that many people calling themselves Christians were ignorant of basic doctrines and lived like pigs.

He made a distinction between alien righteousness and proper righteousness. The former is the righteousness of Christ imputed to us in justification. It is our positional holiness. The latter is righteousness imparted to us by Christ in sanctification. It is our personal holiness. They are distinct but related. The same Christ who justifies us also sanctifies us. First He justifies and then He sanctifies. This order is key to Reformation or Protestant Theology. Luther discovered there was little to no personal holiness, and put forth the need to preach not just alien righteousness but also personal righteousness. This emphasis is seen in The Visitation Articles as well as his catechisms. While Melanchthon is credited with originating the idea of the “third use of the Law” (showing us how to live as Christians) it is actually present in Luther’s writings as well. The Law directs us as justified persons, but it is always grace that empowers us.

Additionally there was the Antinomian Crisis involving Agricola’s deviant theology. Luther notes we are a battlefield between the flesh and Spirit. Preaching only alien righteousness leads to immorality and false assurance of salvation.  So we find the need for pastors to also preach the law for instruction in righteousness.

The Christian life is played out in our vocations of citizen, work and home. Luther rightfully sees the Christian engaged in those spheres. He does not see a secular-sacred divide like the Roman Catholicism of his day (being a priest, nun or monk was seen as a more holy vocation than a cobbler), and some forms of fundamentalism today.

This is one of the shorter volumes in the series, just over 200 pages. There is some theological background that has to go into explaining many of the concepts central to Luther and his theology. Trueman handles that well and in understandable form. In the discussion of sacraments, he doesn’t delve into Luther’s understanding of the Chalcedonian Definition/Formula with respect to how the human nature of Christ is present in a ubiquitous fashion. There also aren’t many Scripture references which is interesting since Scripture was so important to Luther.

It is a worthwhile addition to the series that seems to focus on Reformed pastors/theologians. The fact he isn’t an “evangelical” provides a good corrective to many of us. This book is well worth reading.

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Three centuries before Desiring God there was The Pleasantness of a Religious Life. Clearly the former has a better title, but Matthew Henry’s book is in some ways better than John Piper’s. While it is much shorter, it is tougher reading in that venerable Puritan style that is so different from our dumbed down prose. The sentences are longer and more complex. For those who stumble over such things this book is a worthy investment of time and energy.

J.I. Packer wrote a brief introduction to the book, in part, to explain the change in meaning of “pleasantness” over the centuries since Matthew Henry wrote this book. It had a much deeper, richer and more significant meaning that we typically give it today. We think of a pleasant day as one with nice weather, few distractions, some good conversation. They saw far more joy involved. We’d say a great day or an awesome day. The meaning of pleasant has weakened over the centuries. And of course there is the problem of “religious” in our day and age. It seems quite the dull prospect this book, but Packer wants to set us straight.

“Henry’s aim is to make us see that real Christianity is a journey into joy, always moving us from one joy to another and that this is one of many good and strong reasons for being excited and wholehearted in our discipleship.” J.I. Packer

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"Fix your eyes upon Jesus..."

The length of worship services has been an issue for as long as the church as existed.  Paul preached so long at one evening gathering that a guy fell asleep and dropped out the window.  Most of us are used to people falling asleep on us.

Some shared an article from our cousins over the pond about the length of worship services.  The basic point of a bishop was that more people will come more regularly if the service is shorter.  At one point the Anglican service was about 50 minutes.  Knowing they celebrate the Table each Sunday, I find this hard to believe.

But the Bishop of Lichfield thinks that servies have become too long and too complicated.  As a result, non-regular church goers are increasingly confused and unwilling to show up.  One survey indicates that Anglican clergy are preaching for as long as 42 minutes and services have crept up to 90 minutes.  But it isn’t just the sermon that is longer.  They are singing and praying longer (perish the thought- discipline these hacks!).

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Although it has only been just over 5 months since CavWife brought CavBoy home from China, we just had our 6 month post-placement appointment with the social worker. It was a good time to remember how far he has come, and how far we have come as a family.
The first month was incredibly difficult on the whole family as he adjusted to everything and we adjusted to him. As I type, the kids are playing “going to the wedding”, a result of going to “Uncle” Morgan’s wedding last weekend. They packed their bags for the hotel room. The 2 of them usually play very well together as CavGirl revels in being the ring leader, I mean older sister. She has all the makings of a Red Leader 1.
Last night on the short ride home from a friend’s they were serenading us from the back seat. It was mostly nonsense. Last weekend, CavGirl was shouting song lyrics like “your love is better than life” (Newsboys) and “I am a friend of God” (from a worship CD CavWife plays often). CavBoy can’t quite do that yet, so it is interesting to hear them ‘sing’ together like some childish opera in a strange tongue.
CavBoy has grown 2 1/2 inches and gained 4 pounds in his 5+ months with us. This despite his liquid diet post-surgery. This is still a fistula in his palate which the surgeon thinks isn’t a major problem, but the speech therapist thinks is. They can duke it out … the surgeon is one of the most respected surgeons for this in Orlando so what do I know.
Speech therapy is going slowly. But this morning he was doing more of the noises in Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You?. That is good news. He’s starting to try, which is a start. It takes him time to start trying something- climbing into his car seat, into his booster seat for meals, etc. I realized the other day that I tended to pull him out of his car seat. I thought, “Dude, the kid can climb out on his own!” and now he does. Now, if he can just start using those expulsive consonants…
That is the main area of improvement- trying things. He still seems overwhelmed with new experiences (he was utterly traumatized by the merry go round at Cypress Gardens) and places. But he’s beginning to try more things like climbing up a playset and going down the slide last night.
Another area of improvement is handling his anger. He had horrible tantrums at first. But his trantrums are now pretty sedate for a 2 year-old. We are so thankful since those tantrums made meal time in particular quite difficult. Now meal time is stressful because it takes forever for him to eat as he plays and procrastinates. At least he isn’t eating us out of house and home anymore (that’s now CavGirl’s job).
We have some concerns about his hearing. He tested with some minor hearing loss, but that might have been related to the fluid in his ear. The ear, throat & nose specialist wants to put in larger tubes. These tubes would not fall out, but would have to be removed. However, they should aid in relieving pressure on his ear drum and preserve his hearing (but probably not his singing).
When I think of all the doctor’s appointments and bills I can become overwhelmed at times. But I wouldn’t trade the time and money back. He’s our son and an important part of our family. The boy stays!

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Our family worship is a “work in progress”.  We are seeking to raise our kids in “the fear and admonition of the Lord.” 

We’ve been praying with our daughter at meals and bedtime for quite some time.  That time has also included some songs she knows from Bible Study Fellowship, as well as a few simple songs from church like the Doxology.  Now our son joins us for those times.

The kids like it when I play my guitar, but since I can’t sing I don’t lead us in songs.

It has only been in the last couple of months that she has wanted us to read from her Bible before going to bed.  Sometimes she wants me to read from it other times during the day.  We really like the Jesus Storybook Bible.  All the stories connect to Jesus in some way, shape or form.  I’m not too keen on teaching her morality, but encouraging her to love and serve King Jesus our Great High Priest.  We’ve begun to give it as a gift to some of her friends.  You can see some sample pages.  CavSon has begun to sit still for those stories as well, which is progress.

I feel like slacker dad, but we have finally begun to catechize her.  She actually brings the booklet to me sometimes, asking me to read the questions to her.  Here’s what she knows so far.

Who made you?  God.

Of what were you made?  Dust.

What does that teach you?  To be humble (and mindful of death, but we haven’t really stressed that part).

Why were you made?  To serve God (I add to enjoy/love Him)  She often answers “because he made me” but we are getting there.

Next is- Why should you serve God?  Because He made us, saved us, and keeps us.

I will probably pick up a different children’s catechism.  I’m not wild about how this one is set up.  The number begins again with each section.

 

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