Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The God Who Gives

Belgic Confession: Article 1
We all believe in our hearts and confess with our mouths that there is a single and simple spiritual being, whom we call God -- eternal, incomprehensible, invisible, unchangeable, infinite, almighty; completely wise, just, and good, and the overflowing fountain of all good

How you approach Christmas and Thanksgiving says a lot about your view of God the Father. The kind of God you believe in will show up in what you do, how you do it, and why you do it. We see the world around us abuse these two holidays and we wonder how to react. Unfortunately, for many Christians they believe the proper way to put Christ back into Christmas is to become Scrooge. But when they do this they are lying about God. God gives. He has always given.

He gave us a garden where everything was a "yes" except one tree.
He gave Noah a new world.
He gave Abraham a promise of sons, families, and nations.
He gave Israel a land flowing with milk and honey.
He gave Israel a king in glory.
He gave the Word which brings life and rejoicing.
He gave us snow, rain, thunder, lightening, the sun, the stars, spiders, whales, llamas, toads, coal, trees as tall as skyscrapers, canyons as deep as skyscrapers, oceans miles deep, and hearts that beat.
He gave men who made cars, planes, movies, smartphones, computers, houses, guns, toys, books, pens, coffee, pancakes, and underwear.
He gave delight and pleasure and joy.
He gave so we might work again.
He gave so we might rejoice in our labor and the fruits of our labor.
He gave his only Begotten Son to deliver us from the wrath to come.
He gave his only Begotten Son to those who hate Him.
He gave his only Begotten Son so we might have abundant life. If you think this is about your heart only you missed the point.
He gave us his Spirit, poured out on us so we might be new creatures
He gave so we could be naked and not ashamed.
He gave so we could drink beer with a smile and with deep joy.
He gave so we could eat a second piece of pie without worry.
He gave so we could be free.
He gave so we might stop working.
He gave so our bodies might rise from the ground with tongues that taste, ears that hear, noses that smell, hands that touch, and feet that dance.
He gave so we might be glorified.
He gave so we might give.

He did not give with a pursed lip.
He did not give reminding us to not enjoy it too much. "Make sure you don't get too excited."
He did not just give to our spirits.
He did not give just enough. He gave abundantly. Imagine if He gave one star? One snowflake?
He did not give to make us feel guilty.
He did not give to get.

How then shall we live? In light of God's open hand how can we reflect his character?

Give thanks. This means prayers of thanks. It means giving thanks for all who came before us. But it means a lot more than that. Eat your turkey with glad hearts. Laugh. Tell jokes. Take a sip of beer and smile. Rest in the work of Christ by sleeping soundly in your recliner filled to the brim with turkey. Then get up and have some more. Delight in the world God has made by watching football or better yet playing football. If there is snow, sled, come in drink hot chocolate, and then sled again. What about Jesus you say? But when you ask that question that way you miss the point that for the Christian Jesus is in these things. Christ came to save us. But a saved man enjoys what he is given by Jesus. Yes, he gives thanks for Christ, the cross, His Word, worship, and all those good things. Because he gives thanks for Christ and the Cross he also enjoys his daily bread. All things can be received with thanksgiving (I Timothy 4:4-5) because God was manifested in the flesh (I Timothy 3:16). The man who frowns over the good gifts of God is no better than the man who abuses those gifts. You don't honor Jesus by pretending the gifts weren't given or by refusing to enjoy them.

Give stuff. Some can give more. Some can give less. But give. Give presents and stockings. Give candy, turkeys, hams, pies, toys, Legos, wine, and cigars. Oh and books, give lots of books. Give memories your children will look back on with joy. Give traditions your children with take with them. Give the gift of delight and pleasure. Give Christ, in word yes, but also in action. Give your children your time. Give your wife an evening in bed...with you having just showered. Sing and make merry.  Put on music and not just Handel's Messiah, though of course you should do that. Give lights strung up in your children's bedrooms and leave them on all night. Stay up late and watch Elf or Its a Wonderful Life or A Charlie Brown Christmas or whatever your family enjoys. Give a feast or go to a feast.  If you are not married, go to your family's Christmas party bearing gifts for parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, nieces, and nephews. Hold one of the little ones on Thanksgiving. Play in the yard with the young boys in your family. Give gifts to your friends and folks at church. Give of your time, your money, your energy and yourself. Give and then give some more.

Christ came so a people could be formed into his image, a people filled with joy, and overflowing with gifts. As good children let us imitate our Father this holiday season.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Porn is Barren

One of the things that should be most obvious to a man about the women involved in pornography is that such images, however appealing a man may find them, are images that can present him with no children. They are barren. They flaunt their breasts, but they will never nurse the children of those who gawk with them. The men who pursue such women are men who want such barrenness; they find it a selling point. Another way of saying this is that they don't want to be fathers. They want the privileges of sexual release (after a fashion) but without the responsibilities that God's wisdom necessarily attached to these pleasures.  Douglas Wilson in Father Hunger.  

Friday, November 21, 2014

Song Notes: November 23rd, 2014

Brothers and Sisters, here are the songs we will be singing this coming Lord's Day. Just a reminder we sing four songs outside of our service music (Doxology, etc.) and the Lord's Supper.

I have included links to various people singing the hymns. Sorry about the icon on the first link.

Entrance Hymn: Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence, p. 241
The same event can call us to different responses. Christmas is one of those events. Christmas is about joy. There should be presents and trees and parties and gifts. There should many good things that we do at this time of year just to remind us that Christ came to save. There should be celebrations and joy that reflect the wonder and delight of the season.

But Christmas also provokes silence as we stand amazed at the mystery of a God who would descend to dwell with us. And not just dwell with us, but come to die and deliver us. Our entrance hymn this week provokes this second mood. It tells us to be silent and stand with fear. It also reminds us that Christ came to bless us. It is hard to imagine that just a few years ago I did not even know this song. Now it has become part of my Christmas memory.

There are so many great truths in this hymn, but my favorite line is "As the Light of light descendeth from the realms of endless day/that the powers of hell may vanish, As the darkness clears away." Christmas is not about defeat. Christmas is about victory.  Christ came to destroy death, sin, and the devil. Here is why celebration is not just a good thing to do at Christmas. It is absolutely necessary. Without joy and celebration Christmas has been emptied of its meaning. So despite its somber tone the hymn still leads us to rejoicing.

Hymn of Thanksgiving: O Sacred Head Now Wounded, p. 263
The song we sing after the confession of sin can go two directions. It can look forward to a Christian life that has been cleansed of sin focusing on joyful obedience. Or the song can look back to the sacrifice that Christ made on the cross so our sins could be taken away. This old, famous hymn does the second. The tone is somber, but fitting as we think about Christ's death. This hymn reminds us of the horrors of Christ's sacrifice. He was holy, yet God laid on him the iniquity of us all. That sacred head worn no crown of gold, but a crown of thorns as he was crucified.

The line that I enjoy the most is "Mine, mine was the transgression/but thine the deadly pain. Lo here I fall my Savior/Tis I deserve thy place."  There is a wonderful truth expressed in these lines. We deserved the cross, but Christ was our substitute.

This hymn ends where all our meditations on the cross should end; thanksgiving. "What language shall I borrow to thank Thee dearest Friend." The cross is not simply something to study. It is something to glory in and give thanks for. The song also reminds us that Christmas was just the beginning. Should we think about the cross during Christmas season? Yes, a hundred yeses.  The manger was just the one chapter in the story of our great salvation. A story that goes through the cross, but does not end there.

Worship Song #1: Be Thou My Vision, p. 342
Be Thou My Vision call us to wholehearted devotion to God. The author wants God to consume his vision, his thoughts. He wants the Lord to be everything to him. For this man the presence of God is valued above all else. Much like King David, he knows that God with us trumps everything else (Psalm 84:4, 10). The author also realizes that money can draw us away from the Lord. Riches can slowly sap our desire for God. So he prays that he will not give heed to riches. The praise of man can also cause us to abandon God. Our longing for flattery can replace our longing for the Lord. The author asks the Lord to keep him from giving heed to man's empty praises.

In the last verse there is a hint at what else can draw us away from God. The author says "whatever befall, still be my vision."  To paraphrase: No matter what happens good or bad, painful or comforting, pleasant or sad, help me to cling to you Lord. This world is filled with things, experiences, people, that would draw us away from our Lord. But the greatest danger lies within us. Our hearts are prone to wander. If God is our vision then the allure of the world and all its treasures will diminish.

This is a great hymn. But it is also a prayer. Perhaps here is the greatest truth of this hymn. If we want God to be our vision, our treasure, our Father, then we need to cry out to him for aid. Our own efforts, unless they are supported by His Spirit, will fail.

Worship Song #2: Psalm 119 (Before Thee Let My Cry Come Near), p. 158
We love singing this Psalm. It is a delight to sing and hear the different parts. This Lord's Day we sing this just before I preach. It is a perfect hymn for this slot. As I am sure you know Psalm 119 is all about God's Word. The Holy Spirit decided that the longest chapter in Scripture would be devoted to the many glories of God's Word.  Singing this Psalm before we settle in to hear the Word is a perfect combination of three key elements in worship; singing, the Word, and prayer. We sing a prayer about God's Word. It is tough to beat that.

The Psalm uses several different words to describe the Scriptures. Here they are in the order they appear:Word, Promise, Statutes, Word, Commands, Precepts, Holy Law, Ordinances, and Commands.

A tone of joy over God's word pervades the Psalm. Since God teaches David his word, he sings God's praises (vs. 2). David goes on to make sure his tongue is singing the praises of God's word (vs. 2). He rejoices in God's holy law (vs. 3). When God's ordinances help him he praises the Lord (vs. 4). There is no more striking aspect of Psalm 119 than the delight David has in God's Word. We might study God's Word, talk about God's Word, debate about God's Word, but I think most of would be embarrassed by David's kid like joy in God's Word, including the Old Testament law.

Finally, the last two lines remind us that God's Word brings us back when we have strayed. I had a friend once who was having doubts about the Christian faith. He was reading philosophers, theologians, blogs, magazines, and sermons all trying to get a grasp on what was true. I told him, why not read the Bible.  A man who refuses to search the Scriptures to see his own sins is a man who is not truly interested in returning to God. Psalm 119 is personal. The personal pronoun "I" is used over 100 times in the Psalm. For David the Scriptures are for him. They encourage him, teach him, draw him to God, and rebuke him. Do you read for you? Or do you read for others?

Bonus Song: Psalm 98 (O Sing a New Song to the Lord). We are not singing this, but it is still wonderful to listen to.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Women's Ordination and the Rejection of the Created Order

Stephen B. Clark's last chapter in his great book Man and Woman in Christ  covers ordination, occupation and legislation. He makes three points about women's ordination that are worth quoting. All words in the quote blocks are him, except for brackets. First;
The study done here [his book] reveals that both Scripture and tradition teach very clearly that the positions of overall government in the Christian community are to be held by men. This is one of the clearest and most consistent principles concerning the structure and order of the Christian people from the time of Christ and the apostles until a very recent period of Christian history. If any authoritative statements about order among the Christian people are undisputed in scripture and tradition, this is surely one of them. To change it is not simply a matter of changing one rule: If this principle can be changed, the Christian people can change any feature of order, and they are not bound by scripture and tradition in shaping their life together. The judgment to ordain women, then, involve the judgment that modern society has reached the point where scripture and tradition cannot definitely guide the structuring of the common life of Christians.
His first point is that ordaining women is a complete rejection of the teaching of Scripture and the history of God's people. By the way, when he says, "Christian community" he does not mean just church.

Clark goes on to say
Second, the study done in this book indicates that the question of who should be the heads of the Christian people is actually a question of God's purposes for the human race and how the new humanity [Christians] should be formed. Government of the Christian people is not merely a secondary question of social roles that can be changed with little consequence. Rather, the question involves a broader vision of what human life should be like according to God's ideal. The ordering of governmental responsibilities is only an expression of that underlying vision. Deciding to have women acting as heads of the Christian people means deciding that the scriptural vision of the life of humans together is no longer applicable or appropriate. A decision about structure and order in this area is a decision about what a body of Christians is trying to be. 
Clark's second point, derived from his study of Genesis 1-3, is that traditional male/female roles are inherent in the created order and are necessary for the flourishing of the human race.  Christ came to restore the human race through making new creatures.  Becoming a new creature in Christ includes maintaining this distinction between men and women. The rejection of this distinction does not just change the church structure, but is an explicit rejection of God's goal for the human race. It is odd that many feminists and evangelicals believe that a true restoration of the human race would abolish all these differences.

In his third point he addressing churches, which do not want to ordain women:
These churches are trying to maintain this position without attempting to provide a corresponding social structure to support it. For instance, they do not any longer normally teach very clearly about a difference in the roles of men and women. Yet, unless they do, their position on ordination will become more and more difficult for their people to understand and accept. When rules of order do not structure social life in a helpful way, such rules are often experienced as both restrictive and senseless. Of course these churches could claim a basis other than social structure for holding that women should not be ordained.  That is, they can, for example insist that ordination is a sacramental matter which operates by an entirely different set of rules than the rest of life, and which should have no consequences for social structure...In short, if the churches that presently maintain the prohibition of women's ordination do not (1) back up their position with clear instruction on family structure, and (2) provide their people with adequate social support to live a way of life different from the technological society around them (one which includes the role difference between men and women) these churches will fail to resolve the current controversy in this area.  Either the issue of women's ordination will remain a sore point, or it will contribute to an even greater separation between "sacramental" matters and the daily life of the Christian people. 
This final quote is perceptive by Clark. His point is that a refusal to ordain women cannot be properly maintained without being placed in an overarching paradigm of male and female roles that derives from Genesis 1-3, is meant to apply to all humans, and is taught that way to Christian people. Here is how Clark says it in another section of his book:
Christians cannot obey the few clear scriptural directives about order in personal relationships and live in every other respect according to the functional relationships of the modern world and still expect to experience the scriptural directives as an unqualified blessing. 
He lists only two options when the paradigm does not hold: continued contention or sharp dualism. But there is a third option: compromise. Many Christians long before they promoted women elders rejected the traditional reading of male and female roles outlined in Genesis 1-3 as a normative goal for all societies at all times and therefore one that is to be lived by all Christians. For a while the line holds because there is chapter and verse that says, "No women elders." However, once the traditional reading is rejected, eventually someone says, "I Timothy 2:11-12 and Ephesians 5, as traditionally taught, do not fit our new paradigm." Those texts, along with others that teach the traditional reading, are eventually reinterpreted to fit the previous reinterpretation of Genesis 1-3. Unless Ephesians 5, I Timothy 2 and texts like these are just a normal extension of God's purposes for creating the human race then they become "senseless" and arbitrary.

Monday, November 17, 2014

How We Got Here or 5 Principles of Modern Thought: Freedom

This is the second post in a series on Stephen Clark's list of guiding principles of for modern thought. Here is the list with a link to the first post.

The Principle of Equality
The Principle of Freedom
The Principle of Developing Full Potential 
The Principle of Authenticity
The Principle of Being a "Full-Person"

Here is Clark's second principle that guides modern thought.
The Principle of Freedom-"Each individual should guide his or her own life and make his or her own decisions independent of the thoughts or interference of others. This principle considers all forms of social control other than state-authorized bureaucratic or educational forms as morally wrong, and it regards them as forms of oppression or domination. Personal subordination is evil and degrading. Underlying this Liberal principle of freedom is an individualistic notion that the highest good resides in the greatest degree of personal autonomy and freedom of movement.
Scripture also teaches a principle of liberty, but is the liberty to be sons and daughters of God and freedom from that opposes this status-especially the world, the flesh, the devil, and sin. The type of freedom scripture describes is compatible with a strong commitment to a body of people and with the acceptance of personal subordination. In fact, scripture sees corporate commitment and personal subordination as aids to freedom." 
A couple notes on this principle:

First, state control seems at odd with this principle, but Clark understood that state control would not be seen as restricting freedom. Clark wrote this 35 years ago. The state would set itself up as the guarantor of freedom. Isn't it strange that we all cry for freedom and person autonomy, yet we send our children to state run schools that have a state approved curriculum administered by state approved teachers? Even those of us who do not do that must usually be "state approved" in some way. How odd that a people who value personal autonomy allow their sons and daughters to be shaped for years by the state? Clark understood that we all serve someone.

Second, here is why many forms of libertarianism are modern through and through . Supreme value is placed on personal autonomy.

Third, here is one of the roots of post modern relativism. Who are you to restrict my freedom, especially in moral areas? Who are you to tell to me what I can and cannot do? This flows easily from the first principle of equality. If all men are to be treated equally then they should have freedom to do as they please. Restriction, for the modern, equals inferiority. So if you take away my personal freedoms you are not treating me as a equal.

Fourth, freedom for the Christian is always freedom from sin, never freedom to be whoever we want to be. A Christian teacher who says the Christ came to set you free must carefully explain what he means. The modern mind naturally drifts towards freedom meaning "no restrictions on my life."

Fifth, in the Christian life subordination is part of our freedom in Christ. A Christian wife is not enslaved to her marriage or her husband. She is free. The modern mind has a hard time grasping this. But Ephesians 5 is particularly strong in this area. Freedom means freedom to obey. Slaves are free to obey. Wives are free to submit. Children are free to obey. Freedom does not mean I escape from obligations and responsibilities to God's Word.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Impediments to Marriage in Calvin's Geneva

I am continuing to work through Kingdon and Witte's book on marriage in Geneva. Here are all the posts I have done so far.

General Overview of the Book
An Overview of Marriage Prior to Calvin
Calvin's Attack on Marriage as a Sacrament
Consent to Marriage in Geneva
The Desire for Reconciliation Instead of Divorce
The Power of the Consistory in Geneva
Courtship in Geneva
Coercion to and Conditions of Marriage in Geneva
Parental Consent to Marriage in Geneva

There is some repetition in the posts, but working through them will give you some idea of how a leading city during the Reformation and her most famous citizen approached the events leading up to marriage and marriage itself.

A new concept to me in this book was that of impediments to marriage. It means exactly what it sounds like: reasons that prevent someone from getting married or can be used to annul an engagement or marriage. Chapters 6-9 cover various impediments to marriage. Here they are in my own words:

1. Children who have not reached puberty could not marry.
2. The insane or mentally impaired could not marry.
3. Someone engaged to one person could not marry another.  This was polygamy.
4. Lack of presumed virginity could prevent a marriage.
5. Contagious & incurable disease that would be passed on to the spouse and children could prevent marriage.
6. Men or women incapable of having sex could not marry.
7. Wide disparity in age could also prevent marriage.
8. People too closely related (incest) could not marry.

I am not going to work through all of the material in the book, but I wanted to bring up a few points from the reading.

First, impediments to marriage were taken very seriously.  Our criteria for who can marry who is lazily thought out. All you need is love. Whatever that is. But for Calvin marriage required certain things. Without those you could not get married. In our age, what, other than lack of consent, is an impediment to marriage?

Second, a physical, sexual relationship that was expected to produce children was necessary to contract marriage. #1, #5, and #6 are all grounded in this idea. #2 and #7 could sometimes be grounded on this same idea. Children could not marry because they could not have sex and produce children. There was no such thing as a marriage of the heart where sex and the possibility of children were not included. Sexual dysfunction was a serious issue. If it was discovered after marriage that the person (usually the man) lied about their ability to have sex, the marriage could be annulled. However, if the reason for the dysfunction occurred after marriage, such as a man being castrated in battle while married, then the marriage could not be annulled. What is meant here, by the way, is the ability to have sex, not the guarantee of producing children. If a couple could have sex, but ended up not being able to have children there was nothing to be done about that.

Third, lying about your virginity or losing your virginity while engaged was a serious issue. People married non-virgins all the time. This was important, but not a huge deal. However, claiming to be a virgin and not actually being one, was considered a breach of contract. Losing your virginity to someone other than who you were engaged to while engaged was adultery and could result in death. A marriage could be annulled if a spouse found out after marriage that their partner had claimed to be a virgin and was not. However, an engaged couple losing their virginity to each other was fornication, not adultery. Geneva was not a huge town by today's standards. Gossip got around, even from neighboring states and communities. If a man had slept with a woman prior to marriage it was best for him to tell his potential wife than have it come up after they were married.

Fourth, the disease impediment is interesting. A disease that was contagious and incurable prevented a person from marrying. However, if the disease was contracted after marriage the marriage could not be annulled. If there was a serious and repulsive physical problem contracted during engagement, but not contagious the couple could still marry. However, the engagement could also be broken. Often, this involved men coming back from war greatly disfigured or men who were seriously injured in an accident. Simply being hurt, even severely, such as blindness, did not guarantee that an engagement could be annulled. The Consistory and Geneva's courts had to approve it. Despite the detailed laws governing this, it was rarely an issue in Geneva.

Fifth, disparity of age was a hotly contested impediment. Understand that by disparity of age we are talking about at least ten years difference and in many cases, much more. For example, Farel, a fellow pastor of Calvin's, married someone forty years younger. Calvin felt for various reasons that those much older should not be allowed to marry those much younger. Younger men would often marry an older widow with money. Calvin felt this situation would keep the young man from leading his household. An older man marrying a young woman, Calvin felt, was driven by lust instead of by what was good for the young lady. However, Geneva did not entirely agree with Calvin on this. Age disparity alone was usually not enough to call off an engagement for the Consistory, though it would have been enough for Calvin. Another problem, usually involving money, had to be raised before the marriage was called off.

Sixth, notice that the period of engagement was essentially like marriage. An engaged person who tried to get engaged to a second person was accused of polygamy. If a person did end up marrying someone else while engaged to another party this was adultery and could end in death. Sleeping with someone other than the one you were engaged to was not fornication, but adultery. Here is why engagements were limited to six weeks in Geneva. Beyond that period the couple was called in to account for the delay.

Finally, the laws governing who could marry were remarkably unromantic. Love, that is a warm feeling for someone else, was not enough to get married.  In our day, if you love someone, anyone, (several someones?) then marriage is a right. In Geneva, it was not because there were Biblical and natural laws which fenced in marriage. You could not get through the gate without certain boxes being checked. For example, if you were physically attracted to a man and got engage, but he went off to war and his face was disfigured you could call off the engagement. To us this sounds mean.  However, Geneva's laws seem to face reality with less of flinch than we do. Geneva knew that without physical attraction the marriage would be difficult to hold together. Romantic notions of love conquering all were not part of Geneva's decision making process. They did think love was necessary. But so were many other things, such as normal sex and physical attraction.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

How We Got Here or Principles of Modern Thought: Equality

Stephen Clark lists five guiding principles of modern thought. The list is interesting since it was written 35 years ago. But looking back one can see that it is spot on. How did we get to a place where sodomite marriage is fine, abortion is fine, women go into combat, and the rejection of one's God given status as a man or a woman is fine ? This list gives you the blocks that build the modern mind.

The Principle of Equality
The Principle of Freedom
The Principle of Developing Full Potential 
The Principle of Authenticity
The Principle of Being a "Full-Person"

Just to be clear on what Clark thinks of these five principles he closes the section saying this:
These five ethical principles exert a powerful influence over Christian discussions of men's and women's roles. Yet none of them are intrinsically Christian principles and none of them derive from a Christian ethical system.
I am going to address these in five posts. Here is what Clark says about the first principle:
The Principle of Equality-"This principle states that all individuals should be treated identically, except for differences in ability or interest...Sometimes the principle of equality is phrased as an attack on anything that would make one person be regarded as 'inferior' to another. This principle militates against social roles ascribed according to age and sex and also against personal subordination. 
Scripture also teaches a principle of equality, but it is a principle of equal care for all members of the body. The scriptural principle is compatible with social roles and personal authority. It is not based on the individualizing of people for a functional society, but is instead based upon a communal life and personal relationships."
There are several things to note about this principle:

First, equality as defined by moderns naturally leads to sodomy, transgenders, and the rejection of male/female roles, among other things. All "roles" become choices we make based on what we enjoy and like, not based on any inherent, built in standard. So a person might be fine with my wife being a homemaker, but they would not be fine with me saying, "Homemaking is the normal, God-ordained, path for women." A person might be fine with men leading my church, but they would be upset with me saying, "Men must lead the church." Each person is equal and what they end up doing is based in the individual's choice, not in any divine law. It also means we can move in and out of "roles." On one level, egalitarians should have a live and let live mentality. But see the next point.

Second, modern equality means you forcefully eradicate anything that makes one person "inferior" to another. The goal is to destroy all positions of authority or empty them of their power.  Egalitarianism is militant.  It is not ultimately content to let others believe in hierarchy. For a while, it pretended to get along, but the goal has always been to drive out by force anything that smacks of inequality. We cannot all just get along. Egalitarians know this better than many conservative Christians.

Third, a plain reading of Scripture beginning in Genesis 1 shows how unbiblical modern equality is. A plain reading of nature shows how unnatural it is.

Fourth, there is an equality in Scripture, but that equality does not eradicate power, authority, hierarchy, male/female roles, etc.  Just because all men are saved the same way, by faith in Jesus Christ, does not make all Christians androgynous, equal in wealth, power, authority, background, knowledge, age, and experience.

Updated at 12 pm on November 13th. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Power of Twitter to Help You Parent

John Piper in one of his books (I looked, but could not find the quote) states that often the greatest changes in the Christian life come from thinking about one single sentence. One sentence that is pondered, carefully parsed, and thoughtfully applied can have more impact than a thousand pages. Think about our walk with Christ. Often there are short verses, such as Ephesians 2:8-9, that can completely turn our world upside when they are allowed to take root in our souls. Herein lies the value of Twitter, especially for those of us who love Jesus. Twitter can of course, be a banal waste of time. But it can also deliver a quick, powerful punch that spurs you on to Christian growth.

Here is a good example. Last Friday and Saturday (November 7-8) Pastor Toby Sumpter's church gave a free parenting conference. During the conference Pastor Sumpter tweeted numerous statements from the speakers. I found several of these very convicting in my own parenting. Below are all the tweets that he sent out. The only change I made was to organize the tweets by speaker. I have bolded one quote from each speaker and followed it with a thought from me in italics. Pastor Sumpter can be found on Twitter @TJSumpter. Of course, one danger with short quotes is that they can be taken out of context to mean something the speaker did not intend. So I would encourage you to listen to all the talks along with several Q&As here.

Bruce Evans
If you teach your kids self discipline when they are young you open the world up to them to explore & enjoy. If you don't, you rob them. 

One of the reasons our boys are immature is because we don't give them enough responsibility early enough. Send them on adventures. 

Temptation for communities that value large families: If you want your quiver full, you need to be prepared to finish what you start. [I have nine children. I want to finish well. I need to pray daily for perseverance. The road is long, but Jesus has promised me grace to reach the end.]

Your family culture is far more significant than your community's culture. Don't assume your kids are fine because of the stream. 

A flourishing Christian community is a blessing because the stream is flowing in a good direction & because of that it's a temptation. 

Daniel didn't suddenly become wise when he arrived in Babylon. He was loved & trained & taught to prepare him for the king's court.

Your kids don't belong to you; they belong to Christ. They are not here primarily to make you happy but to serve Jesus. 

Christ Schlect
Modern specialization & suburbia has given many Christians a tragically anemic view of the home & of what we're training daughters for. 

If you do for your kids what they can do for themselves, you rob them of their future. Maturity comes from constant practice. [I do too much for my children. I need to give them more freedom to practice, fail, and then practice again.]

Proverbs 7 gives us a picture of parenting where the father isn't covering his son's eyes but pointing the harlot  out to him.

Send your children into the world as the body of Christ. Send them into the world to confront sin, forgive sin & die for others. 

One of the greatest parenting passages in the Bible is Jn 3:16. God the greatest parent sent His Son into a dark world to save it. 

Our task as Christian parents is to call our kids out of the world & send them into the world at the same time. 

Joshua Appel
Discipline begins the day a child arrives because discipline is planting. Waiting for weeds to grow is like waiting for harvest to plant.

Discipline expresses our delight in our children because it is for their good. We correct them so they will share in God's glory with us.

Discipline communicates our attentiveness & care of our children. It shows them that they are important to us; they matter to us. [This and the one about sloth below hit hard. By overlooking sins and refusing to discipline and train I am telling my children I do not care about you. Hebrews 12:5-11.]

Discipline communicates belonging. Not only is it loving; it insists that children belong to us & are part of our family. 

It's easy to think that love & discipline are opposites, but the Bible says that discipline is an intense expression of your love.

Psychologizing with your children when they are in sin is self-centered parenting.

Russian Roulette Parenting is parenting by manipulation and moodiness.

Sloth is not primarily laziness; it is inattentiveness. And in parenting it breeds wrath which is followed by despair. 

Christians don't discipline as a means of image control; they discipline for the good of their children. 

Discipline is for the purpose of internalizing self-discipline not a means of tyrannical control. 

When we discipline, we are not primarily trying to get our children to not do something, we are trying to give them glory. 

Friday, November 7, 2014

One Flesh Points to Reproduction

Stephen B. Clark commenting on Genesis 2:14.
"While it would be a mistake to regard one flesh solely in terms of sexual intercourse, it would be an even greater mistake to miss the reference to family and reproduction and concentrate instead on the modern idea of companionship. One reason that animals will not do as a partner for man is their inadequacy for reproductive purposes. The man needs someone with whom he can live and establish a household. Implicit in this, especially for the first man, is the need for sexual relations and reproduction."
Once we make reproduction an option in marriage instead of a normal requirement and expectation we remove one of the impediments to gay marriage. If siring and birthing children is a central part of the marriage relationship then gay marriage makes no sense. Sodomites and lesbians cannot do this. But if the marriage relationship is based primarily or solely on companionship, love, mutual affection for and interest in one another then why can two men or two women or three men with five women or a man and dog not get married? Once again we are reminded that how we interpret Genesis 1-3 will often set  a trajectory for how we view the rest of the Scriptures, the world, man, and fundamental institutions, such as marriage.

There are many reasons gay marriage has become normal in our society. But the failure of Christians to see bearing children as an essential part of marriage has been a contributing factor.

By the way, I am not saying a couple who cannot bear children has a deficient marriage. Note my phrase "normal requirement and expectation." There are exceptions, but the norm for a married couple should be reproduction.

The Danger of Virtue

Pastors understand that overt sins, such as drunkenness, anger, sexual immorality, are the easy ones to diagnosis and work on. Overt sins are easier to see and often the one committing the sin is aware of what they are doing.  But the temptations that come with doing righteousness are not so easy to diagnosis.  They are harder to see and the person committing them does not understand that he is sinning. Because he is doing something righteous on one level he does not see the sin he is committing on a different level.

Gregory the Great wrote the first great pastoral care manual. It was the standard work in this field for centuries. It is filled with pastoral wisdom.  Part One is about what men ought to come to rule as pastors. Part Two is about how the pastor ought to live. Both these sections are filled with gracious, but hard words for ministers of the Gospel. They would reward repeat readings throughout a pastor's life. Part Three is about how the minister should counsel his flock. This section is gold. Gregory has a grasp of the human condition and how to apply the Scriptures to that condition. What is interesting is that Gregory does not just counsel the overt sins. He sets up opposites and advises on how to counsel these opposites. For example, he tells the minister how admonish the rich and the poor, slaves and masters, the healthy and the sick. These make sense to us. They are different stations and therefore require different attitudes and present different dangers.

But he also tells the pastor how to admonish the impatient and the patient, the joyful and the sad, the taciturn [those who are quiet] and the talkative. Why would the patient need to be admonished? Isn't patience a virtue? Why would the joyful need to be admonished? Isn't joy a virtue?  Admonish does not mean encouraging those folks to keep doing the same. Gregory does not tell the joyful to just keep going. He warns them. He recognizes that virtue brings its own temptations. Here is one quote, where he admonishes the generous. We might assume that because generosity is a virtue someone who practices it does not need to be admonished, but Gregory knew better. Here is what he says:
Wherefore it is necessary for them to take careful thought not to distribute unworthily what is entrusted to them: not to give to those who ought not to be given anything or fail to give to those who should receive, or again, give much to whom little should be given, or little when they should give much; not to be in haste or bestow unprofitably, nor by being dilatory [slow to act], torment or harm those who ask. The expectation of receiving thanks must not creep into their action, for the desire of transitory praise will extinguish the light of their giving, nor should accompanying moroseness [sadness] invest the bestowal of the gift, should the mind rejoice more than is befitting, and when they performed their duty aright, they should not give any credit to themselves and so lose all they accomplish.
Gregory warns the generous to be careful in how they give, to watch their motivations for giving, and to guard their hearts after they give.  Being generous is not an automatic good. If fact, one can "lose all they accomplish" if they seek praise for their generosity. He does the same thing with fasting when he says:
Because the flesh is worn by abstinence [fasting primarily] more than is necessary, humility is displayed outwardly, but inwardly there is grievous pride on account of that very humility. And unless the mind were sometimes puffed up by abstinence, the arrogant Pharisee would not have carefully enumerated among his great merits saying: I fast twice a week.
The  humble act of fasting can be a source of pride. Andrew Purves in his excellent book Pastoral Theology in the Classical Tradition puts it this way, "Thus a pastor must be able to discern virtue from vice, and to suspect that a virtue openly displayed may hide a corresponding vice." Satan does not stop working when we decide to do a good deed. In fact, he works harder. But the work will be under the surface. Therefore often the hardest sins to confront and work on are those that piggyback on righteous living.

What are your virtues? We all have good deeds we do that we parade before our minds. It might be reading your Bible, submitting to your husband, disciplining your children, working hard in the office, not looking at porn, keeping your house clean, not worrying about being too holy, giving, saving, fasting, not being too legalistic about food, being peaceful, knowing your Bible, memorizing Scripture, being patient, watching your speech, preaching a sermon, going to church, praying, etc. None of these are sins. But they open the door to subtle, hidden, sins that we ignore. Overt sins are like a cut artery. We can all see the blood and the person cut knows there is a problem. Sins that come with virtue are like cancer. They eat at us, hidden, slowly growing without our knowledge until they destroy us.

Do you understand that every good deed, every growth in sanctification comes with new temptations? Do you assume that if you doing righteous works then all is well with your heart? Are you blind to the temptations that come with holiness? Do you believe that because you are not a drunkard or sexually immoral or angry or lazy that somehow you heart is free from the sins of pride, thanklessness, bitterness, anxiety, or lack of love?  Do you believe that if all looks well in your life then all is well? If this is you then I must warn you. Just because your garden is bearing fruit does not mean there are no snakes. To stare at the fruit and ignore the snakes is perilous to your soul.
Let the saints be joyful in glory, let them sing aloud on their beds, let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a two edged sword in their hand, to execute vengeance on the nations, and punishments on the peoples; to bind the kings with chains and their nobles with fetters of iron. Psalm 149:5-8