Wednesday, February 24, 2010

on leadership, parenting and mentoring

Found some good reading this week online. First two articles on NT church leadership:

"It is the view of the writers of the NT that Jew and Gentile united in Christ is the people of God, the royal priesthood, the chosen portion of God, and it is the job of all of us, all of us, to be a light to the nations, to be winsome so we might win some for Christ, to be priests offering this world and all that is in it back to God for as the psalmist says--- 'the earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof.' With the call to come to Christ comes a call to ministry, and it does not come to just some of us. It comes with the territory." From "Neither Clergy, Nor Laity" by Ben Witherington III.

"It is clear from Paul’s letter to Titus that the church was not to be a chaotic mass of people without guidance or leadership." Reid Monaghan on elders, deacons and members.

On parenting: "Why are kids leaving the church? The answer lies in parents", by Dudley Chancey, for The Christian Chronicle.

And, how would you respond if a potential son-in-law wrote, "I have now to ask, whether you can consent to part with your daughter early next spring, to see her no more in this world; whether you can consent to her departure, and her subjection to the hardships and sufferings of a missionary life..." (Adonirum Judson writing to the father of Anne, his future wife) from the Gospel Coalition blog.

Finally, on the topic of mentoring. Someone once observed from the life of the Apostle Paul that he had close relationships on three levels: Barnabas (someone older, who was a mentor & discipler), Silas (a peer and co-worker), and Timothy (someone younger, who was a disciple & protégé). So, we must ask ourselves, who is my Barnabas? my Silas? my Timothy? Howard Hendricks speaks about the necessity of mentoring relationships and gives a biblical perspective for mentors, in the video, "A Mandate for Mentoring" More audio and video on mentoring from DTS, for men and women here.

Also, Fred Smith (who passed away in 2007) was a successful businessman for many years and a speaker on leadership topics. I've always been impressed with his teaching and experiences. Many of his resources are available at Breakfast With Fred. It is worth taking the two and a half minutes necessary to listen to Fred share the difference between inheritance and legacy in the video "Fred's Legacy".

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

complementarianism



Michael Patton does a good job on explaining, and drawing logical conclusions, about the differences between egalitarianism and complementarianism in gender: "what complementarianism is really all about" ...

You see, when people are truly committed and consistent egalitarians, they have to defend their denial of essential differences. In doing so, they will advocate a education system in the home, church, and society which neutralizes any assumption of differences between the sexes. In doing so, men will not be trained to be “men” since there is really no such thing. Women will not be encouraged to be “women” since there is no such thing. The assumption of differences becomes a way to oppress society and marginalize, in their estimation, one sex for the benefit of the other. Once we neutralize these differences, we will have neutered society and the family due to a denial of God’s design in favor of some misguided attempt to promote a form of equality that is neither possible nor beneficial to either sex.

We will have troubled men and women groping to find their way and feeling pressured to repress their instincts and giftedness. We will no longer be
able to train up men and women in the “way” they should go since there is no “way” they should go. Women can act masculine and men can be feminine. Men can retreat in the face of responsibility because, in truth, they don’t have any “responsibility” other than the one that they choose.
Read the full article here.

Friday, February 19, 2010

on religious freedom

Here's an excellent point made by George Weigel in "The erosion of religious freedom"...

Religious freedom, rightly understood, cannot be reduced to freedom of worship. Religious freedom includes the right to preach and evangelize, to make religiously informed moral arguments in the public square, and to conduct the affairs of one's religious community without undue interference from the state. If religious freedom only involves the freedom to worship, then, as noted above, there is "religious freedom" in Saudi Arabia, where Bibles and evangelism are forbidden but expatriate Filipino laborers can attend Mass in the U.S. embassy compound in Riyadh.



Thursday, February 18, 2010

a method of reading + prayer


This has been helpful in my bible reading: Tim Keller writes about fellowship with God through Bible reading and meditation... what he calls a "middle" practice between reading and prayer...

Method in Prayer: Below we outline a simple way of 'fellowship with God'. Rather than simply studying our Bibles and praying in a merely cognitive way, our 4-fold outline included the discipline of a 'middle' practice ("meditation") between Bible reading and prayer as well as the expectation of a final practice ("contemplation") that is the fruit of all we do. The method:

Reading (Listening) - Slow, gentle reading of Scripture repeatedly, looking for things not seen, appreciated, or enjoyed before. Listening for God's voice and stopping to taste the truth as it goes by. Write down main things learned.

Meditation (Reflecting) - Take each and think out: "How can this lead me 1) to adore God? 2) to confess sin? 3) to petition for grace? And 4) how is Jesus the ultimate a) revelation of this attribute, b) solution for this sin, c) source of this grace?

Prayer (Speaking) - After meditation (or as soon as you become engaged) pray meditations: 1) adore God. 2) repent for sin. 3) thank for Christ. 4) ask for aid. Then 5) move on to 'kingdom prayer' for individual, church, and world needs.

Contemplation (Sensing) - Not as much a fourth 'stage' as the fruit of the rest. It is a spiritual sense on the heart of the reality of God. It can mingle with the other practices or come in strong and displace them. Essence-an adoring gaze at Him. It is at bottom a gift.

--From Keller's class, Preaching Christ in a Postmodern World.

Friday, February 12, 2010

the shepherd's rod

Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him,
on those who hope in his steadfast love,
that he may deliver their soul from death
and keep them alive in famine. (Psalm 33:18-19 ESV)
There's an unusual parallelism here: "those who fear him" are equated with "those who hope in his steadfast love." We don't normally associate fear with hope and love.

The context is deliverance from the fear of Israel's enemies, but the principle is the same: the fear of the Lord frees us from all other fears. For example, when we revere Christ as the resurrected Lord, the One who will also raise our bodies, then we will be delivered from the fear of death. In this way fear and hope are united.


It is our humble reverence toward the Lord that sets us free, and we must see the goodness of being submitted to God. We must see God's love behind all of his commandments. William Still calls this "the gracious domination of the fear of God":

"All our will and effort must be bent to this end of remaining under the gracious domination of the fear of God, but only those who see the grace which lies behind the law will outlast Satan's attempts at our downfall. ... It is the fear of the Lord which both restrains the presumption of fallen human beings and leads them into the paths or righteousness, true peace and prosperity; there they discover that such a fear is the shepherd's rod by which God would guide them into the knowledge of his love." (Through the Year with William Still, pp 30-31)


Thursday, February 11, 2010

on delays

When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron and said to him, "Up, make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him." So Aaron said to them, "Take off the rings of gold that are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me." So all the people took off the rings of gold that were in their ears and brought them to Aaron. And he received the gold from their hand and fashioned it with a graving tool and made a golden calf. And they said, "These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!" When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made proclamation and said, "Tomorrow shall be a feast to the LORD." (Exodus 32:1-5 ESV)



Many of us don't wait very well. I don't. Just this last week there were snow storms, cancellations, waiting for roads to get plowed, shoveling sidewalks, and postponing appointments. For others, there were flight delays and cancellations. Those are just weather-related delays. Sometimes we wait for people to respond, for business deals to close, or for circumstances to change. When I was a child, and was told to wait for something or someone, it was like a sure invitation for me to get into trouble. I always found something else to do with my time. I don't wait well.

When Moses went up on the mountain to meet God, the Israelites didn't wait well either: "When the people saw that Moses delayed... they said, 'Up, make us gods... As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.'" It didn't take much delay for things to get out of control.


But, delays and waiting are an important part of God's plan. Jesus made it clear that his return, though imminent (it could happen at any time) was not immediate (it will happen soon, according to our time). From the gospels:

But if that wicked servant says to himself, 'My master is delayed,' and begins to beat his fellow servants and eats and drinks with drunkards, the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know and will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 24:48-51)

As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. (Matthew 25:5)

Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. (Matthew 25:19)

As they heard these things, he proceeded to tell a parable, because he was near to Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately. He said therefore, "A nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and then return. Calling ten of his servants, he gave them ten minas, and said to them, 'Engage in business until I come.' But his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, 'We do not want this man to reign over us.' When he returned, having received the kingdom, he ordered these servants to whom he had given the money to be called to him, that he might know what they had gained by doing business. (Luke 19:11-15)

A long delay becomes a kind of testing, an opportunity to be faithful: Will we spend the extra time in idleness, unholy leisure, and idolatry? Will we find other things to take the place of God-- objects or passions which we find more worthy of our confidence, time, and pleasure?

Or will we do as Jesus asks, to watch (stay awake and alert-- spiritually and morally), wait patiently, and work faithfully? A delay reveals our heart's allegiance.

For some a delay means time to be idle and make idols. For others it means a time to watch and work. We do well to contemplate the Apostle Peter's words, towards the end of his life in the first century:

...knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, "Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation." ... But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. (2 Peter 3:3, 8-10)





Wednesday, February 10, 2010

on glory

I finished a group study with some friends on Jonathan Edwards' treatise, "Concerning The End For Which God Created The World." This is a treatise on the glory of God -- why and how his glory is the ultimate (and final) purpose for our creation. You can read it online here. Page references below are to the Yale edition. Some quotes to ponder:

And 'tis farther to be considered that the thing which God aimed at in the creation of the world, as the end which he had ultimately in view, was that communication of himself, which he intended throughout all eternity. And if we attend to the nature and circumstances of this eternal emanation of divine good, it will more clearly show how in making this his end, God testifies a supreme respect to himself, and makes himself his end. There are many reasons to think that what God has in view, in an increasing communication of himself throughout eternity, is an increasing knowledge of God, love to him, and joy in him. And 'tis to be considered that the more those divine communications increase in the creature, the more it becomes one with God: for so much the more is it united to God in love, the heart is drawn nearer and nearer to God, and the union with him becomes more firm and close: and at the same time the creature becomes more and more conformed to God. The image is more and more perfect, and so the good that is in the creature comes forever nearer and nearer to an identity with that which is in God. In the view therefore of God, who has a comprehensive prospect of the increasing union and conformity through eternity, it must be an infinitely strict and perfect nearness, conformity, and oneness. For it will forever come nearer and nearer to that strictness and perfection of union which there is between the Father and the Son: so that in the eyes of God, who perfectly sees the whole of it, in its infinite progress and increase, it must come to an eminent fulfillment of Christ's request, in John 17:21, 23: "That they all may be one, as thou Father art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us, I in them and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one." In this view, those elect creatures which must be looked upon as the end of all the rest of the creation, considered with respect to the whole of their eternal duration, and as such made God's end, must be viewed as being, as it were, one with God. They were respected as brought home to him, united with him, centering most perfectly in him, and as it were swallowed up in him: so that his respect to them finally coincides and becomes one and the same with respect to himself. (p. 443)

God's glory is God himself. And he desires to communicate (JE uses "emanation" in a different way than the Neoplatonists) himself and his goodness to his children forever. This would be like standing under a waterfall that is always fresh and never runs out. Our eternal condition will not be static, but will involve progressive growth in the love, knowledge, and happiness of God. More: he comes very close to Eastern Orthodoxy's doctrine of view of theosis. As Irenaeus said, "The Word of God, Jesus Christ, out of his boundless love, became what we are, that he might make us what he is."

One major application of understanding that our final outcome is glorification in God, is that this is the same glory that I should begin experiencing now. Glory begins in this life, whereby we begin to know God truly, love him dearly, and drink from the joy of the Lord:

God communicates himself to the understanding of the creature, in giving him the knowledge of his glory; and to the will of the creature, in giving him holiness, consisting primarily in the love of God: and in giving the creature happiness, chiefly consisting in joy in God. These are the sum of that emanation of divine fullness called in Scripture, "the glory of God." The first part of this glory is called "truth," the latter, "grace." John 1:14, "We beheld his glory, the glory of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth." (pp 529-30)

This is where John Piper gets the truth that "we glorify God best when we enjoy him most". That is, the one goal of God's glory includes both its internal reality within God (knowledge, holiness, joy) and its external emanation (being communicated) to the creature's good. Thus the two: the glory of God, and the good of God's people are one goal: the display of the glory of God:

The emanation or communication of the divine fullness, consisting in the knowledge of God, love to God, and joy in God, has relation indeed both to God and the creature: but it has relation to God as its fountain, as it is an emanation from God; and as the communication itself, or thing communicated, is something divine, something of God, something of his internal fullness; as the water in the stream is something of the fountain; and as the beams are of the sun. And again, they have relation to God as they have respect to him as their object: for the knowledge communicated is the knowledge of God; and so God is the object of the knowledge: and the love communicated, is the love of God; so God is the object of that love: and the happiness communicated, is joy in God; and so he is the object of the joy communicated. In the creature's knowing, esteeming, loving, rejoicing in, and praising God, the glory of God is both exhibited and acknowledged; his fullness is received and returned. Here is both an emanation and remanation. The refulgence shines upon and into the creature, and is reflected back to the luminary. The beams of glory come from God, and are something of God, and are refunded back again to their original. So that the whole is of God, and in God, and to God; and God is the beginning, middle and end in this affair. (p. 531)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

what made Judas tick?

Then one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, "What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?" And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him. (Matthew 26:14-16 ESV)

Judas is an enigma, and many have sought to understand why a disciple so close to Jesus would so decisively betray him. (Peter denied knowing Jesus, but Judas actively betrayed him.)

What motivated him? We see it in this one phrase, "what will you give me...?" John noted (John 12:6) that Judas was in charge of, and would skim from, the disciples treasury.

It seems so crass, so low, that for money -- 30 pieces of silver to be exact -- someone who had followed Jesus intensively for three years would just chuck it all and sell a friend to the authorities. He just cashed out his investment of time and relationship with the Lord, turned it into cold cash, and became a turncoat.

When he realized what he did, he took his life. (Like Peter, couldn't he have come and asked for forgiveness? Why didn't he trust that Jesus could, and would, make it right?)

Here's the core of his belief, and it is closer to us than we might imagine: "what will you give me..."? For Judas, being a disciple and following Jesus meant personal benefit primarily. Money seems to have been his "personal benefit of choice." It could be fame, pleasure, security, family stability, power, health, or whatever.

We all have some self-interest in following Jesus, but if that does not diminish over time and be overtaken by a love for Jesus for his own sake, then we are in danger of becoming judas-like.

I've seen this so often in ministry, and in myself: If God doesn't give me __________ , then I'm out of here. Most of us will flex a bit, or flex a lot, when God gives us contrary things. But all of us, I'm afraid, have some areas that if God severely disappoints us, we are really tempted to cash out and take our chips elsewhere.

"If my kids don't turn out right... if I don't have enough wealth or health... if I am deeply humbled... if I lose a loved one... if I don't get what I want out of it all... then I want out!"

"What will you give me?" is the question of those who serve Jesus primarily for the sake of personal benefit, and not for the sake of him who, in himself, is infinitely good, glorious, beautiful, and wise.

He deserves to be loved, not betrayed.

Friday, February 5, 2010

propped

Then Amalek came and fought with Israel at Rephidim. So Moses said to Joshua, "Choose for us men, and go out and fight with Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand." So Joshua did as Moses told him, and fought with Amalek, while Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed, and whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed. But Moses' hands grew weary, so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it, while Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side. So his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. And Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the sword. (Exodus 17:8-13 ESV)
It was not long after Israel's miraculous deliverance from slavery in Egypt, that another opponent swoops down on them. The Amalekites are determined to exterminate the vulnerable Isrealites before they can go anywhere. During the battle it is seen that as Moses holds aloft the staff of God, the Israelites prevail. When his arms droop, the enemy prevails. Two key figures assist Moses: Aaron (the high priest) and Hur (whose name means "whiteness"). They come alongside Moses and literally prop up him and his arms throughout the long day of warfare.

At one level the message might be that we need people to help hold up our weary arms in times of weakness, and that is true. At a deeper level the message is that we need, and God provides, divine help to support us in the battle against the enemy of our souls. It is not that we don't want victory -- we do, and we seem to do well early on -- but as the fight drags on, we grow weary and cease to make use of God's resources in the battle. We get tired and give up. We lose the will to win.

God has given us two divinely-powerful Helpers (or, intercessor, supporter, advocate) to lean upon: the High Priest Jesus (Romans 8:34) and the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:26-27):

"For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words... Christ Jesus is the one who died--more than that, who was raised--who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us." (Romans 3:26, 34)
Being a Christian means facing spiritual conflict. This may be demonic, or worldly (social opposition, peer pressure), or from inside of us, from our own sinful flesh. Weariness is a danger in our warfare, and God graciously provides support for us. We need to keep our arms lifted up to victory, and prop ourselves on God's faithful Helpers.

Are you leaning on God's divine support for you? People may help, but God is the source of true strength for failing arms. Are you prevailing and seeing a supernatural ability to keep on keeping-on? That comes from the Lord. Give thanks to God for his unfailing support for you in the day of battle.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

with staff in hand

In my daily Bible reading I was struck with the way the first Passover was observed, and what became the pattern to be followed:

"In this manner you shall eat it: with your belt fastened, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. And you shall eat it in haste. It is the LORD's Passover." (Exodus 12:11 ESV)

Normally, it's not a good thing to eat in haste (we always tell our kids). We expect our dinner guests to remove coats and hats. Not here. Here there is an urgency, a crisis, a need to leave one dominion and hasten quickly to another. I came across this statement by Lloyd-Jones on his sermon series from the book of Acts, where he is describing the early church...

Christians have the same hope set before them. They say, "We are but strangers and pilgrims in this world. We used to think we had settled down in it, and we tried our best to do so, and we thought of nothing but this life and this world." No longer. Christians are people who always know they strangers, soujourners, travelers. They are on the road to eternity, to reality, to life that is life indeed, to glory everlasting! They have their eyes fixed on that, and all who are looking in the same direction inevitably come together-- they are traveling together. (Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Authentic Christianity, p. 100)

The Passover pattern (of redemption + movement + community) is obviously not just for the OT. Here's a NT cross-reference:

These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. (Hebrews 11:13-16 ESV)
This is the great story line behind Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress. Where's my allegiance, my citizenship? Am I on the exodus path, or am I looking for an easy route? Am I making progress, or am I stuck? Am I ready for action, or am I sleeping in? Am I traveling lightly, or am I settling down? Am I facing conflict, or avoiding it?