Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Spiritual Leadership in the Home

I just had a fantastic conversation with a brother about spiritual leadership in the home. Now, some of you may think my focus on spiritual leadership may be a bit over-zealous, or possibly even trite, but let me share with you why I think it is so important.

I started this Blog because I was a horrible husband. At least that’s how I saw it. The book Reforming Marriage teaches that the husband/father is the leader, whether he leads or not. His leadership is either marked by discipline or abdication, but it is impossible for the man to not be the leader. It would be like saying it was possible for the CEO to not be the CEO. He is the CEO even if he is out playing golf all day while the company sits in ruins. Our culture associates leadership with activities and not with an office. While there is clearly truth that many people who do not have the office of “leader” often display leadership characteristics, this does not remove the importance of the office of leader. As a husband, my office is that of leader. As Christ is the head (which means ‘responsible leader’) of the church so I am to be the head of my wife/family (Eph 5:23).

So anyway, I started this blog because my stupid, youthful, notion of ‘egalitarian leadership’ was falling apart around me. Turns out, my wife didn’t want me to throw decisions back in her lap, she didn’t want to live in a democracy, she wanted a husband! Well, duh. God providentially placed some men in my life who began showing me what scripture says about leadership in the home as well as some practical applications. They taught me that I was going to be held accountable before God for how I led my family.

Over the next few days I’ll go over various things I have learned, but here’s one to start us off.

You, husband, are responsible for the spiritual shepherding of your wife and family. Just as a pastor will be held accountable for how he taught and led his church, so the husband is required to pastor his family (see the connection between the pastor and the husband made here: 1 Tim 3:3-4). This does not mean you have to prepare a bible study for your family every night (which would not be bad), but you do have to be involved. Do you know if your wife is reading her bible? If so, do you know what part she is reading? What does she think about it? How is she being challenged to grow by it? Same goes for your kids. Do you follow up? If they aren’t reading, how are you going to get them to read?

Of course none of the above is worth anything if you aren’t leading by example. You can’t teach if you haven’t been taught. Your spiritual walk is the most important thing for your family. If you are drowning in sin, there is a good chance they will follow right behind you. It is more important than your workout. It is more important than your “guy-time.” Your example is the one your children will emulate.

If you are trying to help your family with their bible reading, consider a few tips. 1) Start small. All you have to do at first is to get them to read a bit. Go over a few verses at night and pray about them. It’s even better if they are the same verses you did for your quiet time that morning. You can share how God has used those verses in your day. 2) When it comes to your wife, just ask. She wants to talk about what she is thinking and reading. She loves it when you ask. Make sure you know where she is at. 3) stay consistent. It is way better to spend 7min each night reading and praying together than to spend 30min for a week and then stop because the time is too long or it is too difficult to prepare.

Spiritual leadership in the home isn’t important because it creates a “successful marriage and family.” It’s important because God said it’s important. This is not a levels-of-success discussion, this is an obedience discussion. We will all fail time and again, but it is important to continue to work towards obedience. Remember: Obedience is your part, growing spiritual fruit is God’s.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Hunger and the Christian Faith

The Gospels are full of references to food and hunger. Many times Christ is compared to food and drink, for instance, bread of life (John 6:48), living water (John 4:10), etc. The Samaritan lady at the well wanted the living water so she would never thirst again. After being fed by Jesus, the 5,000 followed him across the sea. They weren’t after him because of the miracle they had seen, rather they wanted another meal (John 6:26)! Jesus said that they were going through a lot of work for bread that wouldn’t satisfy when they should be striving for the bread of life (John 6:27). These trite examples show us that the Bible uses food and hunger to describe our relationship to God. So why use food?

  1. Hunger is universal. This is something every man, woman, and child understands. Not in the true hunger, like I haven’t eaten in a week kind of way, but we all have experienced times of feeling hungry.
  2. Food is incomplete. There is never a meal that will satisfy you forever. There was this greasy spoon breakfast joint called Diamond Jim’s in Bellingham, Wa. that would satisfy you for a day, maybe a day and a half if you didn’t get too sick, but in the end, you always need more.
  3. Food is what we work for. The primary function of working and earning a paycheck is to provide food for yourself and your family.

The first thing I would like to say is that our need for food is no more of an accident than that our basic family structure is a man and woman united in marriage. A marriage is representative of Christ’s relationship to the church (Eph 5:22-24). This means that our marriages are an image of Christ and the Church, not the other way around. Therefore our need for food is a shadow, a mere representation, of our ultimate need for God. So how does food help us understand our relationship to God in a deeper way?

  1. The living bread is really what you need. We don’t need another social program. We don’t need another piece of technology. We don’t even need that new car. What we really need is a reconciled relationship with the God of all provision. All other needs, wants and desires pale in comparison.
  2. When the Israelites were out wandering in the desert, God promised them a land “flowing with milk and honey.” The land was literally prosperous, but it doesn’t stop there. God was also promising them a loving and ultimately fulfilling relationship with Him. No longer do you have to look for a different well when yours runs dry. When we look to be ultimately fulfilled in things that aren’t God, we destroy whatever that thing is. If you look for your wife to fulfill you, you place her in the position that God is supposed to fill. This leads to deciding you have the wrong wife when you aren’t fulfilled. God ultimately fulfills.
  3. You need to work at your relationship with God. Jesus tells his disciples to abide in His word, and to keep his commandments (John 15). While the power and strength of our faith comes from the indwelling of Christ (Eph 3:16-17), we are called to act on that power. This is where our energy is to be spent, on the food that satisfies, on the work that matters.

When you sit down and eat dinner tonight, remember that our food is a pale and finite representation of God’s providence. Our hunger for food that spoils, food that fails to keep us from experiencing future hunger, is an example of the finitude of this world, and our hope is in the joy that that will follow.

Finally, consider fasting. Fasting is an outward expression of our true dependence on God to meet all of our needs. While fasting has fallen out of practice in most protestant circles, it is a spiritual practice that is prescribed in Scripture. It is not a way of “punishing” the body, as some have characterized it, rather we are acting out what is ultimately true: without God we have nothing.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

St. Peter’s In Rome

Phil Johnson over from TeamPyro is in Rome right now and took this picture of St. Peter’s with the sunrise behind it. Not too shabby for an iPhone pic.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

I know being "Missional" is all the rage...

...but I just think this might be a step backwards. Effective does not equal correct or proper.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Christian Bookstore or Why I Take Prozac

What do pewter "pocket trinkets," the ESV study bible, and lawn ornaments have in common? That's right! They can all be found at your local Christian Bookstore! Not only that, but you can also find a dizzying array of conflicting theology all on the same shelf (for those in the know, I saw Rob Bell, Kevin Deyoung, and Mark Driscoll all next to each other. My brilliant wife pointed out they were probably in alphabetical order. I thought Deyoung and Driscoll would kick Bell's tail if they had been present in bodily instead of book-ily form). What is up with commercial Christianity that such a place can exist?

My cynicism-ometer was rising. I started to unravel one of the decorative --"Painter-of-Light"-- rugs so I could go all John 2:15 on the owners but my wife saw what was up and pushed me into the bible aisle. Regaining a semblance of composure, my search for an economical ESV "giveaway" New Testament began. All was well until my darling decided to show me the T.D. Jakes aisle, someone who does not hold to the trinity... you know.... like Jehovah's Witnesses.

Disparate or heretical theology aside, what really disappointed me were the lawn ornaments. and the pewter pocket trinkets. the ones inscribed with Love or Jesus. Pocket rocks are cool and all, but these were advertised to promote "Good Thoughts." Since when were we trying to promote good thoughts?

Why are we so susceptible to trinkets and trash? My guess, we look for little physical manipulatives to feel religious because the gospel has lost its reality. Too few Christians really know what the Gospel is or how it relates to their everyday life.

As long as there is pathetic preaching from the pulpits, where the sheep are not shown the reality of the Gospel, we will continue to drown in commercial crap as we strive to fill the ever-growing hole in our souls.

In closing, if your pastor preaches the bible faithfully, week in and week out, I want you to thank him. Today. Right now. Send him an email, give him a call, or go all old-school and write a note. These men work hard so that we can see the Glory of God on display. Their sermons are not to be overlooked. They are not the stop-gap between the singing and the donuts. They are exhorting you from the word of God. Love these men. They love you.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Problem with Sin in the Social Gospel

If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person's religion is worthless. 27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. James 1:26-27

A friend and I discussed the different perspectives of sin this weekend. Is all sin against God or does sin come from the effects it has on those around us? The latter view, I pointed out, brings us closer to the social gospel, which is more concerned with social redemption and social justice than divine redemption and justice. This is not to say that God doesn't care what happens down here, but we need to keep our priorities straight. James shows us that our responsibility as Christians is three-fold:

  1. Taming the tongue = taming the heart. As Jesus had argued earlier, James shows us that the tongue just spews forth what is already in your heart (Jas 3:6-12). In order to tame the tongue we need to pursue righteousness. An illustration of this is any time I speak without thinking. Very rarely is this thoughtless speech edifying. My heart is wicked and what comes out of my mouth reflects this. My first thought was not to bless but to curse (both uses of the word fit!). James (and therefore the Holy Spirit that inspired him) is interested in your heart and how you express yourself. It really matters to God and therefore it should really matter to us.
  2. Love those that are afflicted. Widows and orphans didn't have any welfare support back then. They either starved to death or someone else took care of them. There were no safety nets to keep them in food and shelter. It was the call of the Christian to care for those that couldn't care for themselves. It was a living picture of the Gospel. We could not be reconciled to God, there was nothing we could do on our own. Therefore God decided to fulfill both parts of the bargain, he would reconcile us to himself. He would pay our price at the cost of his Son. Our response to the magnitude of this gift is to live lives marked by generosity.
  3. Unstained by the world. The word-picture James uses shows us that our lives are to be like a pure lamb, a perfect sacrifice. Exodus 12:5 says that the lamb for the sin offering was to be without spot or blemish. God required this because it was a reflection on his perfect holiness. This final responsibility wraps up the other two. I cannot be a perfect sacrifice if I have worldliness in my heart and it is expressed to all those around me through the poison of my tongue. I cannot be a perfect sacrifice if I am not loving as God has--by loving those that can't do anything to reciprocate. Our goal is to be unstained, not wrapped up in evil pursuits nor only loving those that can "get me something."

The social gospel, and the emergent spin-offs, define sin by not loving and taking care of the people around them. They miss the point because Scripture shows us that we need to define all of our actions according to our relationship to God. We don't love others because that is an end in itself, we love others because we were first loved by God. We don't need to tame the tongue because it might offend someone, we need to tame the tongue because we are to pursue holiness as our God is holy. Sin that rests on other people for definition takes an ultimately holy God out of the picture.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Jesus Grieved at Death Too

I've always found it interesting that Jesus, who was about to raise Lazarus from the dead, still wept at his death (John 11:33-38) and at the sight of his grieving sisters. The King of Kings who is the resurrection and the life wept at death.

Death is not natural. This goes against everything we see around us, but it really isn't natural. We were made to be in eternal relationship with God and each other. When sin entered into the world we lost one of our fundamental purposes. This is why something so "natural" as death hurts so badly.

When Jesus came to conquer death, he wasn't just providing us a way to live eternally. He was providing the reconciliation that allows us to live in a completely satisfying, completely glorious relationship with God primarily and with each other secondarily. This is the Joy that we have to look forward to. Not just life eternal, but life eternal in Glorious Relationship.

Wow. What is 'the Fear of the Lord'?

Ray Ortland shows himself to be a clear and incredibly insightful thinker in this short post. Check it out. It's totally worth your time.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Torch your Safety Net

How long will you trust God to be working on a tough spouse? How long will you pray for a lost friend until you give up and decide it is hopeless? Or maybe you are the tough case. What if you can only see growth in a troublesome area if you take it in 10yr increments? How long will you trust that God is working in your own life, even when you see little or no change?

We use our senses to verify what we believe to be true. We trust that God is working only as long as we can see him working. We move hesitantly, hoping there is a visible reaction for each of our actions. To us, God becomes not a divine mover, but rather a force like gravity that has to react to our actions.

Scripture tells us if we ask anything in the name of Jesus--and it glorifies the Father--that he will surely do it for us. So we ask. And we wait. Our hesitancy increases. We do not move forward because we are still waiting for him to complete the last request. We expect him to move the way we envision it, and that is rarely the case.

Christian, torch your safety net. Destroy that hesitancy. The king of the universe wants you to call him "Father." How much more do you want?

Learn your Bible. Read what God promises to do and then trust him for it. He will change the life of your wife, your husband. He promises that he will complete every good work in the life of the believer. How great is our God!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

What's your Pursuit? 1: Swearing, R-rated movies, and "Fine Art"

[note 1: I am in no way arguing that it is always wrong to watch a movie with one rating and not another. I am talking about the lies we tell ourselves to get away from using Christian discernment]

[note 2: This is an area I have always struggled with, so that is why the rhetoric is so strong]

There is a common cry for much of the younger Christian generation "Where's the line?! How far is too far?" The problem with this question is that the assumption is 'I want to go as far as I possibly can.'

There are plenty of popular arguments for why it is ok for Christians to swear, watch any movie that doesn't bite them first, and enjoy all sorts of high-culture "fine art." The most popular argument is that we need to partake to become culturally "relevant." This reasoning works itself out that if you want to reach Mexico, you have to speak Spanish, if you want to reach the world, you have to speak exactly like they are speaking.

I think this reveals a couple things about us. First, our hearts are more interested in worldliness than in holiness. Second, we desire to talk more like hollywood than Jesus or Paul.

Our hearts were once very wicked (Eph 3:1-3) and our hearts and minds were totally taken up with the pleasures of the world. But while we were still totally dead, Christ brought us from death to life (Eph 2:4-6). But this change has not been perfected yet. This is why Paul encourages the church to not walk like they used to, in the emptiness of their mind (Eph 4:17). So a real change has been made, but we can still rebel against the good work God is doing within us.

I don't know about you guys, but when I am in the midst of temptation, my heart will grab onto any rationalization I can so that I am free to sin. My soul was once dead, and now it is alive, but it won't be perfectly submissive to God until I am in His presence.

Second, above and beyond our base desire to wallow in sin, we also don't like to be uncomfortable. Hollywood does not say things that are uncomfortable. They merely reflect the culture. When we speak like them, we lose the ability to redeem them. We lose our chance to present truth to them. Don't think so? Try using relativistic language while describing the passage "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, no man comes to the Father but by me." You can't. This is an objective statement that says there is only one right way and all other ways are wrong. When we learn our vocabulary from them we can't impart truth to them.

The more you talk like the world, the less you talk like Paul, like Jesus. In fact Jesus said "If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you" (John 15:18). He got the cultural elites so upset that they lied about him and got him put to death. Now, please come back to me and argue that we need to spend time watching the world's movies and talking like them in order to reach them.

Our pursuit of relevance just reveals how little power we believe the life-altering Gospel truly has. The Gospel does not rely on you being culturally relevant. The Gospel grows of its own accord (Matt 13:31-33). Our job is to be faithful to that gospel. You are going to sound different. You are going to offend people. You are going to tell them that they like to do wrong things (we call it 'sin'), and that they should stop that and do things to the Glory of God.

Don't let your pursuit of sin or cultural relevance distract you from your call to accurately represent Christ and His Gospel to a very lost world.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Thoughts that Unnerve you

Do you ever have thoughts that unnerve you? Thoughts that seem to jump out of nowhere and shake you to your core? Not necessarily thoughts that you struggle with or areas where you know you have issues, but thoughts that T-bone you like crossing the train track too late?

Are they thoughts about your spouse? Thoughts about your job? Your kid? Your new car? Your God?

I get those thoughts sometimes. Often my head will physically jerk to clear my mind. It's hard to keep from judging myself for them. I mean seriously, where did that come from?

When we deal with the issue of those unnerving thoughts we must remember a few things. First, tiredness, stress, and sickness will make you more susceptible. Second, these thoughts should be viewed like a temptation. Temptation itself is not a sin, all men are tempted (1 Cor 10:13), but what you do with that thought matters. Do you dwell on it? Maybe roll it around in your mind for a while? Third, it shows you the true wickedness of your heart. Ecclesiastes 9:3b says Also, the hearts of the children of man are full of evil and madness is in their hearts while they live... This passage is not differentiating you from the bad people, it's putting you both in the same category. That thought is real. Unnerving thoughts are little snapshots of what you are truly capable of.

When you judge others for their actions, remember that it is by the grace of God you are not there yourself. Remember that the ground is level at the foot of the cross. We are are equally condemned, and those of us that are saved are equally so. How great is our God that he saves us from ourselves!

Monday, March 15, 2010

4 Weeks since we lost him

Well, it's been four weeks now. It's weird, I can hardly remember yesterday, and yet I can remember Valentine's day and early Monday morning so well. I mean, Monday makes sense, but the day before? There was no emotion hooked into that day... not really.

I remember one of our friends from Church tipping his newborn towards my wife's belly and in a high-pitched voice saying "Come out! I need a friend!" shaking his child with each syllable. I remember Leanne wearing the necklace I got her. I remember going to our coffee shop and buying more baby stuff online ("I think we're finally done!" Leanne excitedly told me). I remember working on my small group lesson, getting frustrated because the words would not come to me. Most of all, I remember the joy of knowing that I was going to be a dad.

It's still hard not to get excited whenever I think about the end of March--his due date getting closer and closer. Thinking about a crying infant and excited grandmas.

But in the end God had a different plan. My emotions already feel less exposed, less raw. Healing is happening. Thank you all for your prayers and support.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Story Arch of Grief

There is a blessed assurance when we grieve. All but one Psalm of Lament ends with an uplifting note. God takes our struggles, our pains, our grief and turns them into laughter and joy. This is how the theme of biblical grief arches.

Some of this joy will be realized and some won't. David lost his child and then was given Solomon. David was hunted down like an animal and then was given a kingdom and a promise by God. David saw his kingdom, but did not see the Savior.

Job lost all of his children, his buildings, his flock and he was given more children, more beautiful than the last, more buildings, more flocks. Job's joy was realized. Now there is more to this story arch though. Job had demanded a response from God. Job truly was righteous before God, not in a sinless sort of way, but Scripture gives us no reason to believe God was punishing him for some secret sin. In fact the opposite is true. But job never got his answer. God never told Job why he lost his family, why all earthly respect was taken from him, why his riches were destroyed. God ends it with a reminder of his power, his pre-existence, his plan that has been running the cosmos since before time began. That's how it ended as far as that's concerned.

When I suffer with grief I cling earnestly to the promise that my sorrow will be turned to joy. I don't know how or when, but God will turn sorrow into joy. But what I think I yearn for even more than joy, at least sometimes, is to know why. Why was this grief given to me? That is where my faith needs to remember that even though Job didn't know during his lifetime, he found out eventually. This life isn't going to answer all of our questions, but our unanswered questions do not take away from God's goodness.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

I Like to Fight

I like to fight. When I can't fight I get restless. Now, I don't typically walk around starting fist-fights but some form of competition or battle -- no matter how abstract -- is necessary to keep me interested in what I am doing.

My job was difficult. I was struggling to get acclimated to my new position. Nothing was going the way I thought it should. I tried and tried to turn things around and I couldn't. Leanne and I were struggling to make friends. We just lost our church and now we were hunting for a new one. I was starting to struggle with some depression which makes it all the more difficult to turn things around. Leanne was starting to get worried and I was starting to withdraw. All of these things suck. This was the last half of 2008.

I went to breakfast with an elder from my church. I explained all the reasons my life sucked and he sat and listened patiently. After I was done describing my woes he looked at me and asked a very simple question: Where do you get joy? He said, "If your job was better, or money wasn't as tight, if you were 'winning' at work and at home, would you be happier?"

"Well of course." says I.

"How long is all that going to last? How long before a great job turns into an ordinary job? Before this or that success isn't that exciting anymore? What is the only thing that lasts?"

Part of me wanted to tell him I'd be willing to find out how long that great job lasts but I gave him the Sunday School answer, "My faith is the only thing that lasts."

"Zack," he said, "your joy has to come in the finished work of Christ. The Gospel message is that you were totally lost from God, separated through hatred (our hatred towards God) and it was his joy to crush his son for us so that we could be reconciled to him (Isa 53)."

So, he was telling me that I was supposed to find joy in the gospel. I understood that I should be relieved to be saved, but how do I find joy in that?

I don't have all the answers now, in fact practicing Joy-in-the-Gospel is something I only recently started being able to do, and that very imperfectly, but it comes from doing a few things:

  1. Knowing your purpose through the bible - If you are trapped by your situation and you believe that there is no point to it, then you are almost guaranteed to struggle with some sort of depression or angst. All situations the Lord has promised to work for good. In order for us to get joy from this we need to know where God is going. We begin this by regularly reading the bible. The bible is actually God's self-revelation. He is speaking to us - His Church. You have to know the bible, know God, and know what God has said about you.
  2. Commune with God through prayer - Prayer is not just where you ask God to do things for you like a divine vending machine, it is where you open yourself up to him and he changes your heart. So often I have gone to God asking for one thing and left having my heart totally turned around, realizing that is not what I needed.
  3. Live like you are in a battle - You are. The battle you are in is actually very binary with no gray spots. You are either moving towards God or you are moving away from him. That's it. Nowhere in Scripture do we read where there was neutral ground (cf., John 3:18, John 8:12,34-36). Every day you need to re-commit yourself to--in all your actions--Glorify God. There is no coasting in this life. Only when you relentlessly pursue the holy (set-apart-for-God) life you were bought for will you begin to find the joy that doesn't fade after the wrapper has been taken off.
My desires were misplaced. I thought I would find happiness in the exaltation of winning at work or socially. I was lucky that the "fight" at work was so unsuccessful. I know a lot of guys who are making 6-figure incomes that are still tilting at windmills. Just a little more. A little more money. A little more success. Joy isn't there. It is in the only "success" that matters: The once and for all success of your reconciliation to God.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Man with the Hourglass Eyes

When I was in Jr. High, I read a fantasy series where one of the main characters was cursed by the gods with pupils that looked like hourglasses. When he looked upon anything all he could see was how it would rot and decay. All beauty was lost to him. Majestic forests looked like scorched earth and attractive women like rotting corpses. The only beauty he saw was in the faces of eternal beings. They never aged or decayed so the curse could not affect what he saw.

I am reminded of this character when I read James 5:1-6. It starts with weep and howl which is James showing us he is going to be speaking in line with the prophets of old. He tells the rich that they are to weep at their state. You see, their riches have rotted and their garments are moth eaten. Your gold and silver have rusted... they will eat your flesh like fire. Notice that James is not warning them of what will happen, he is showing them what has happened. It turns out that the rich people have been screwing their workers out of pay which is hard for us to understand in some ways. These guys were paid daily so that they could buy food for that day. When you don't pay a man his daily wage you are telling him his family must starve. Other writings from the same time period equate not paying a man on time is akin to murder. These guys were starving out families so they could live on the earth in luxury. They have stored up treasure in the last days.

When James looked at the situation he didn't see people he was envious of. He didn't see people eating good food and living nice, easy lives. He saw these guys as they truly were: in the midst of the flames, watching their skin be eaten off by the rust of their riches. James had an eternal perspective, which is good, because it wasn't too much later before he was thrown off a large city wall and killed. James was not confused by the seeming luxury of this world. He knew it was all going to pass away.

The gods of success, fame and riches call to us all. We tell ourselves "if I only had ___, then I would be content." Or maybe you are a little more greedy and you consider it ok to withhold good from someone else to get what you want? If this is what we chase after, then we need look no further to see what our future looks like.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Tough Question: Infant Salvation

John Piper takes a quick stab at it. The comments can be a bit rough if you are in a situation to personally care about the answer. Basically it comes down to how you understand original sin. There are plenty of Scripture references that would make you believe all infants that die (different than all infants) are elect and God saves them through grace, not because they are sinless but because he's good and just. But as the comments below will show you, there are plenty of other passages that make you think that it is not quite as sure as Piper would argue.

All in all, good discussion. Gotta tell you, this was a really tough question to ask on Feb 15th. I knew all of the arguments for and against. At that point in time, to keep from going crazy, I asked a couple guys I would trust my life to. Actually I couldn't ask, I couldn't bring myself to ask because I didn't want to know what they thought... but I did want to know. They both agreed with Piper although I haven't heard this argument before.

As my Pastor said, there will come a day when all crooked lines will be made straight. God is all Good and all Just. Can you leave it at that?

Edited to add: For those of you that may be a bit concerned to read the comments, just don't worry about it. The main question is if we are all born totally sinful (which we are, it has nothing to do with our actions, we are born in a state of sin) then how can an infant be saved? Well, our theology is not complete, but it is sufficient. Rom 1 states that we are held accountable to what we have seen, so if an infant hasn't seen anything can it be held accountable? Also you have the passage when David loses his son (Samuel 12:16-23) and says that he (David) will go to him (his son). Now, some would argue that this just means the grave, but there seems to be some expectation of a future reunion, which would force you to move past believing David is just saying that some day he too will die. If David believed that death was the end then he would have no cause to stop grieving, but he believed he would see his son again so he got up and ate.

What I do know is that all who are saved, are saved through grace, by the righteousness of Christ. And that really is where I'll have to leave it.

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Finitude of Pain

My wife and I are currently going through a time of grief, that much you all know. What we are learning is that grief is a funny thing and what is even funnier is what value or meaning we associate with our feelings of grief.

I think we (we as people, not just Leanne and I) associate the vibrancy of our feelings to the value we place on something. This is why I felt unnerved back when we were dating. If I had a rough day, or was tired, I would obviously not feel exceedingly "lovey-dovey" when we went out that night. This bothered me, because I had a history of being finicky. The last thing I wanted to do was string this nice girl along. Over time I realized that my feelings-that-exact-moment were not typically a good measure of my love or commitment to Leanne. *NOTE* Please don't read this and think I never felt that way, it just wasn't all the time.*

So fast forward a few years and you come to grief and healing. We are now just a little over 3 weeks past Athan's passing. Some things have gotten easier, some haven't. I still teared up the other day while washing dishes because it is the kind of task that allows your mind to easily wander. All-in-all though, we are already feeling some of God's grace in healing. Our emotions are less raw. We can begin to talk about trying again some time in the future. While this is good, it can make me nuts when my first assumption is that if I'm not crying it's because I must not have really cared. Or I start to think that the amount of tears or general saddness is a measure of how much I miss him. If I don't hurt why should I not think that it's because I don't miss him?

This is where we need to apply our Christian worldview. It is fair to say that I will always miss Athan. I will always wonder at what could have been. I will always want to give him his first pocket-knife when he turns eight (and maybe his first Cricket Rifle when he turns five.... we'll see), but I won't always hurt. I won't always cry. I won't because I am a finite creature. Just as I am not capable of experiencing ever-increasing levels of pleasure (as in, there is a bodily limit to what kind of a "high" I am able to experience), so my finite body will not grieve forever. And it is right here where the world gets it all wrong.

The world (wrongly) defines love as a feeling. That is why people can "fall out of love" and then get divorced. This is why I could struggle with my relationship with Leanne when we were dating. This is why I can be foolish enough to question my love for my son based on my feelings. Love is not a feeling. Love is way beyond that. Love is a descision we make, informed by the sacrifice of Jesus (John 15:12-13). His love for us shows us what love is and our response is to love people we might not even like.

I got off topic a little bit there, but I want to exhort you all: Don't let your feelings toss you about like a wave on the sea (James 1:6). You are a finite human, your feelings go up and down, left and right, ebb and flow. That's ok. What's not ok is to equate your feelings with your committments.

A handy Prayer Journal

I think I've referenced the book I'm reading quite a few times--Concentric Circles of Concern. Very good book.

This book and the man that bought it for me have caused me to rethink how I pray. It challenges me to pray precisely. Instead of the general "Lord bless so-and-so," I should pray specifically, "tear down the stronghold of pride in so-and-so's life."

I have implemented this by keeping a prayer journal. It's a very thin Moleskine that I keep in my hip pocket. On the left page I write out what I am praying for and the right page directly across from that request I leave it blank until God answers or something happens.

So far I have found this to be a very exciting and fun experience. It helps me remember who to pray for and most importantly, it offers me a place where I can record how God has responded.

All-in-all, this has been a useful addition to the discipline of prayer.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Muslim Preacher Converts to Orthodoxy (UK)

Very interesting article. Kind of an insider's look at the 'growth' of the Islamic faith in the UK. Not quite what the press is saying.

Remember: The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, that by itself grows to become a great tree. The Gospel has its own power.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Totally Awesome

Thanks to DSull for pointing this out to me.

Holy Holy Holy

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning our song shall rise to Thee;
Holy, holy, holy, merciful and mighty!
God in three Persons, blessed Trinity!

Holy, holy, holy! All the saints adore Thee,
Casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea;
Cherubim and seraphim falling down before Thee,
Who was, and is, and evermore shall be.

Holy, holy, holy! Though the darkness hide Thee,
Though the eye of sinful man Thy glory may not see;
Only Thou art holy; there is none beside Thee,
Perfect in pow’r, in love, and purity.

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
All Thy works shall praise Thy Name, in earth, and sky, and sea;
Holy, holy, holy; merciful and mighty!
God in three Persons, blessed Trinity!
This is the song we sang this morning at our monthly Men's Breakfast. The lyrics are beautiful in their own right, but more so when you truly see the hugeness of our God. He was eternal before creation. Imagine that. If my brain were a computer I would get a giant error message right now. Yet he has revealed himself. He does not remain eternally distant but has actually told us who he is, in a way that only he can.

It is in His eternality, his incomparable holiness and righteousness that we find the fear of God. How can such finite creatures as us come before a being so different. But it is in His revelation to us that we learn who he is and how he brings us to him.

Thank you God for the Scriptures. Thank you God for brothers to sing and learn with. Thank you God for this day. May we bring all Glory and Honor to you!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Control is what I lack.

Control is what I lack. I sit at a table and stare blankly at a wall. All of a sudden I see myself pick up a sledgehammer and rage against the wall. Over and over again. I hate the wall. If that wall were dead I would feel some release from the rage inside me. I want it to hurt me when I kill the wall. I want to be in a fight and overcome with some cost to myself. I have already paid so much. Just a little more and maybe everything could be made right. The hero emerges bloodied and bruised but always victorious. I am bloodied and bruised but not victorious. But I was a slave to sin and now I am a slave to Christ. It isn't about me and what I think is right. God help me get through this, because my rage takes my eyes off of you. I cannot imagine what you went through when you gave up your son. Thank you.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

A Thought on the Family and the Church

I've been reading Oscar Thompson's book Concentric Circles of Concern where he says that the family is like God's school to teach you how to love people and how to meet needs. The book is really good, although it could stand to be a bit more to-the-point, but all in all, reading it is like hanging out with that really cool prof that just wants to teach you.

It got me thinking about the family and the church. You see, I'm supposed to love my wife like Christ loves the church (Eph 5:25). It's not that Christ is supposed to love the church like I love my wife, but the other way around. The ultimate version is Christ and the Church, not husband and wife.

When I got my first bike, it had training wheels on it. So my first bike had a total of four wheels and it needed all of them in order for me to ride effectively. As I got older and more coordinated I took my training wheels off so I cold ride on two.

The biological family is the training ground where we learn how to love each other and put our selves out for each other. The church family is the next step up. The church is the real deal, the place where you are supposed to put all of that education into practice. We should not be amazed when a church acts like its members are family because that is precisely the intent of how God set up the family and the church.

As all illustrations eventually do, mine falls apart because at no time am I to slough off my family in lieu of the church. Part of the expectations of being an elder is that they continue to lead their families well, so it is not an either/or situation. But what I think this teaches us is that the church was intended (actually IS) more than a social function you do once a week like the Elks club or skeet shooting. The church is the broader community that your family is supposed be worked out in.

Over the last few weeks I have seen a church family love two of its members. They have loved my wife and I so blatantly and selflessly that the love of Christ is plainly on display. I thank them all very very much.