Sunday, September 26, 2010

the conjugal view

I appreciate this argument by Shrif Girgis, Robert George, and Ryan Anderson (PDF) supporting the conjugal view of marriage. They begin by defining two views:

Conjugal View: Marriage is the union of a man and a woman who make a permanent and exclusive commitment to each other of the type that is naturally (inherently) fulfilled by bearing and rearing children together. The spouses seal (consummate) and renew their union by conjugal acts—acts that constitute the behavioral part of the process of reproduction, thus uniting them as a reproductive unit. Marriage is valuable in itself, but its inherent orientation to the bearing and rearing of children contributes to its distinctive structure, including norms of monogamy and fidelity. This link to the welfare of children also helps explain why marriage is important to the common good and why the state should recognize and regulate it.

Revisionist View: Marriage is the union of two people (whether of the same sex or of opposite sexes) who commit to romantically loving and caring for each other and to sharing the burdens and benefits of domestic life. It is essentially a union of hearts and minds, enhanced by whatever forms of sexual intimacy both partners find agreeable. The state should recognize and regulate marriage because it has an interest in stable romantic partnerships and in the concrete needs of spouses and any children they may choose to rear.

Read the rest.


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spiritual dehydration

C.J. Mahaney asks some direct questions in his post, The Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment of Spiritual Dehydration.
  • Do you sense that your affections for the Savior have diminished recently?
  • Has your appetite for Scripture weakened?
  • Does your soul seem dry?
  • Does God seem distant from you?
And then answers how we should respond based on Jude 1.20-21.

To begin with, "keeping ourselves in the love of God." is a command. As Mahaney points out, it is our "responsibility and it requires effort ..." Jude provides guidance to accomplish this. I'm not suggesting this list is comprehensive but it is a good start.

1. Remind yourself of the gospel (“building yourselves up in your most holy faith”). The “most holy faith” is the gospel. And the first way we keep ourselves in the love of God is to grow in our understanding of the gospel and to remind ourselves of the gospel each day. There is no more effective way to keep yourself in the love of God each day than to remind yourself of the gospel.

2. Pray in the Holy Spirit (“praying in the Holy Spirit”). An awareness of God’s love cannot be sustained without prayer. Nor can a relationship with God be maintained or cultivated apart from prayer. So Jude commands us to pray. In dependence upon the Spirit, we pray to God the Father, through the Mediator he has provided in Jesus Christ.

3. Await Christ’s return (“waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life”). As Christians we wait. But we await the mercy of our Savior that brings eternal life. Think about that! We do not wait for God’s judgment or condemnation. We do no wait for God’s wrath that our sins deserve! No, we are anticipating mercy. We anticipate mercy because Jesus Christ suffered as our substitute, receiving upon himself the wrath we deserve so that we receive mercy—mercy we don’t deserve. That is what we are waiting for.

As we anticipate the future our perspective of present circumstances will be transformed. It will keep us aware of God’s love. On the other hand, "Those who take their eyes off their future hope will find that their love for God is slowly evaporating.” [Tom Schreiner, 1, 2 Peter, Jude (NAC), p. 484.]

Mahaney then offers this encouragement regarding the preservation of the saints.

To be honest my grip upon God is sometimes weak. I don’t flawlessly keep myself in the love of God daily. I don’t. My love for Him fluctuates. But while my love for him is uncertain, His love for me is fixed. We keep ourselves in the love of God because God is keeping us in his grasp.

Both at the beginning of this short letter (Jude 1) and near the end (Jude 24), Jude reminds us that our safety is in the Father’s hold upon us and his preserving grace. As Puritan Richard Sibbes once wrote, “As we say of the mother and the child, both hold, but the safety of the child is at that the mother holds him.”

His grip never weakens.

When I neglect the means that He has given me to keep myself in the love of God, when my grip upon him weakens and my love fluctuates, His grip upon me does not weaken and never changes.

God promises to “keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy” (v. 24). This promise is an enormous assurance for our souls, and especially for those who feel as if their love for God has diminished. Receive this assurance provided from Jude: Our hearts may shift and change but God’s love for you is unchanging. May we keep ourselves aware of God’s unchanging love toward us in the gospel.

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Saturday, September 18, 2010

two lessons

“There are but two lessons for Christians to learn: the one is, to enjoy God in everything; the other is, to enjoy everything in God.”

- Charles Simeon, quoted by John Piper in The Roots of Endurance (Wheaton, Ill.; Crossway Books, 2002), 113.


Friday, September 17, 2010

who's to blame for the economy

I follow a fellow on facebook named Philp Snyder. When someone posted that the economic "hole" was due to a "wholesale assault" by President Bush, Snyder commented that this was more a result of an "assault on the foundations of our economy ... since LBJ, the government has been promising too much to too many people and not dealing with the inintended consequences of its social engineering decisions." Brilliant! I wholeheartedly agree. But of course the liberal mind couldn't stop itself from blaming the conservative so the response was to disagree and point out that in 2000 the budget surplus was $230b.

To that, Snyder gave this wonderful response:

... individual surplusses do not mean that we haven't been assulting the foundations of our economy. When we started rewarding bad behavior with money, we started getting more bad behavior. When we started encouraging women to have children outside of marriage, we started to get a generation raised without fathers and we saw and explosion, a few years later, of crime. The foundations of our economy are not fiscal nor are they monetary. They are MORAL foundations! The old unspoken contract of a man's word being his bond has died and the new "controlling legal authority" is if it is legal, then it must be ethical and moral.

We live in a society where what is considered inconvient is considered disposable. The unwritten rules of behavior have been done away with. The idea that a man's word is his bond no longer holds water. The idea that corporate directors had anything to be responsible for except the next quarter's results or that business had a responsiblity to act ethically no longer exist.

These things all take their toll on our economy in that they increase the transaction costs of doing business. No one takes responsibility for himself anymore - let alone for anyone else. Everything is "it's not my fault" or "it's not fair."

Our politicians no longer are interested in solutions, only in power. That has been true since at least the Johnson administration but it has become more and more true since the time of Reagan.

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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

blinded minds

More insight by Kevin DeYoung regarding the rejecting of the church by those outside of it - and how we should think about it.

2 Corinthians 4.4 is still true: "The god of this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers." I'm not surprised that defending bilbical marriage looks antigay to nonChristians. Im not shocked that outsiders think Christians are antiscience because they believe in a Creator God. Of course, we sometimes add to our own problmes with too much bluster and too few facts, but we must remember that there will always be aspects of our faith that are unpopular. As Elton Trueblood said years ago:

"People naturally resist the conception of an objective moral order, finding it far more comfortable to suppose that all moral laws have only subjective reference and can therefore be neglected with impunity. We are missing the point terribly if we do not see that a faith which is as definite as the Gospel of Christ is now and always will be a stone of stumbling and an occasion of offense. Because the sharp line is never popular, we are foolish to expect it to be so. Those who try to follow the narrow way must expect to be part of the minority all of their lives."

Monday, September 13, 2010

outsider perceptions

In addressing negative perceptions of the church by those outside of her, while acknowledging that not all is perfect in the Church, Kevin DeYoung, in Why We Love the Church, rightly notes:

... we're kidding ourselves if we think most nonChristians (or Christians for that matter) have any idea who Jesus really was and the claims He made. Karen Ward, an emergent church leader in Seattle, claims that 95 percent of the nonchurched in her area have a favorable view or Jesus, "so Jesus is not the problem. It is the church they dislike, because they do not readily see the church living out his teahcings [from Gibbs and Bolger in Emerging Churches page 48]." But the Jesus they like is almost certainly not the Jesus who calls sinners to repentance, claimed to be the unique Son of God, and died for our sins.He is almost certainly a nice guy, open-minded, spiritually ambiguous, and a good example. He is guru Jesus who resembles Bono in a bathrobe. If the church is the problem, it is likely because the church gives shape and form to an otherwise malleable and hollow Christ.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

the wilderness

Over a year ago, Frank Viola posted some great and timeless thoughts regarding our wilderness experiences.

His key learnings:
  • God will always take care of His people in the wilderness
  • If you remain in the wilderness, you will eventually die
  • The wilderness has but one goal: to sift us, to reduce us, and to strip us down to Christ alone
  • The wilderness is a symbol of new beginnings
  • Leaving the wilderness always involves a cost
Viola begins by looking at a well known Old Testament picture:

After the children of Israel exited the treasured city of Egypt, they quickly traveled to Mount Horeb. They then wandered in the desert for forty long years. Why? Because of their unbelief (Heb. 3:15-19; 4:1-11).

The trip should have only lasted eleven days (Deut. 1:2).

The wilderness is temporary, unless you choose to build a home there. God will eventually make a way out of the wilderness. But when that day comes, your faith will be tried. Leaving the wilderness may come at an obscenely high price. It is for this reason that many do not leave it.

I strongly believe that God’s living quarters cannot be built in the wilderness. All that happens in the wilderness is temporary. God’s goal is the Land of Promise. (I am speaking spiritually … Egypt, Babylon, the Wilderness, and Canaan are all shadows that point to spiritual realities for the Christian.)

Granted, the tabernacle of Moses was built in the wilderness. But it was a movable tent. It was highly temporal, and it was headed toward Canaan to find permanent rest.

Read the rest of Viola's post to unpack the key learnings above.

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Saturday, September 11, 2010

the cross

“The cross was an act simultaneously of punishment and amnesty, severity and grace, justice and mercy.”

- John Stott, The Cross of Christ (Downers Grove, Ill.; InterVarsity Press, 1986), 159.


102 minutes that changed the world

I was at London Heathrow waiting for a flight back to Frankfurt on September 11, 2001.

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Friday, September 10, 2010

10 mistakes made by group leaders

Randall Neighbour writes on the Top Ten Mistakes Small Group Leaders Make. Here are the toplines ... read his explanation of each. If not absolutely right, certainly thought provoking.
  • I operated passively without goals.
  • I released an untrained apprentice.
  • I was leading as if I was the senior pastor.
  • I pastored the wrong people.
  • I made community the highest goal of my group.
  • I took shortcuts with equipping, discipleship and accountability
  • My sole focus was the weekly small group meetings.
  • I appointed myself as the Holy Man (or Holy Woman).
  • I operated out of a vocational paradigm.
  • I had no prayer life.
Any to add?

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that's my king

"What you are watching happened ... at the Bay of the Holy Spirit Revival on August 27, 2010. Many of us here in Mobile, AL have known Bishop Levy Knox and his wife Delia for many years. Delia was injured in a car accident on Christmas Day, 1987, and was paralyzed from the waist down. She has had absolutely no feeling in her legs for 23 years. Until now. If you have never seen Jesus make the lame to walk… get ready."

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campolo party

Here Tony Campolo tells a touching story of how he threw a birthday party for a prostitute. I agree with his point that too often we stay within the walls (literal and figurative) of our "country club churches" and fail to go to those in need of the Gospel. Unfortunately, in this clip, he miscommunicates the real need of the lost.

He states, "If all you've got to offer is a of bowl soup and some clothes, it's not enough. Jesus came and said that I have come that my joy might be in you and that your joy might be full. And we've got to do more than give them just bread and clothes. We've got to bring love and joy into their lives."

Well ... sort of ... we come lovingly and joyfully but this only how we come and by the power of the Holy Spirit, this is how we hope to leave them. But the message we bring is that of the Gospel which is about Jesus. The Kingdom of God is at hand and we all must all repent of our sins and our submission to the powers of the world. We must receive His forgiveness, the price of which He paid through His death, and we must submit to His leadership in all areas of our life, turning from evil and living for Him.

I don't know where Campolo is at but I know some hearing him already disdain the church and heard this as reinforcing their condemnation of the bride of Christ. I know others who have rejected the holiness of God and have reinvented Him into their own notion of love and with that think that our message to the world is that we just show up loving them (and blaming others for their "mistakes" and "brokenness") - failing to show them that they are rebel sinners in need of the saviour they are rebelling against.

Again, that's not what Campolo said but in what he did not say, some will choose to hear what they want. Let's take this story as one that encourages us to see with Kingdom eyes. To have compassion on the lost and not be repulsed by certain forms of sins over others. To get outside of our "four walls". But let's not take this story as the message of the Kingdom. It is not, as presented here, the full picture.

In the end, if all you have to offer is a birthday party with love and joy, it's no better than soup and clothes offered with love and joy.

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Tuesday, September 07, 2010