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Archive for October, 2010

interview with Greg Lucas

I have written several times before of Greg Lucas and his blog Wrestling with an Angel, which traces God’s grace through the trials of disability. Tim Challies hosted Greg Lucas on his Connected Kingdom podcast and it is well worth the 15 or 20 minutes to listen. Either link will lead you to the proper webpage.

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character

Character is not just what you believe. Character is what you become as you come through the lessons of life and the experiences of life. It is what responding righteously to life produces in your heart. And so when you are looking for the marks of greatness in a man or woman in history, you have to look at this dynamic of the character. Romans 5 tells us that suffering produces character and character produces hope. (Romans 5.3-4) … And if we believe that great and famous people don’t suffer, then we are deceived. And by believing they don’t suffer and not recognizing the theme of suffering in Scripture, we are often surprised by our own sufferings, when in fact suffering is often the way God brings us into our destiny.”

Stephen Mansfield, during a lecture about Teddy Roosevelt

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wisdom’s muscular son

Since sin entered the world believers have wrestled with the tension of being in the world but not of the world. As people are wont to do, Christians tend toward one extreme or the other. The fundamentalism I grew up in wanted to avoid ‘every form of evil‘ and to remain ‘unstained from the world‘ by categorizing large chunks of culture as wrong, worldly, and sinful. Rather than identifying specific examples of sinfulness, entire categories of music or entertainment were placed into the sin-bucket. On the other extreme, many Christians exhibit an ‘all things are acceptable, it doesn’t affect my relationship with God’ mentality. Both extremes are unwise.

It is far more wise, but also much more difficult, to follow the path of properly understanding what Scripture says to learn what is right or wrong for everyone and then thoughtfully and prayerfully applying it to your own life by asking “what is wise or unwise for me?”

When it comes to your exposure to the world and sin, and especially exposing your children to these things, things become much more difficult. Russell Moore gives an excellent example of wisdom in this answer to the question “Is my music warping my child?

There are some forms of music (country, blues, hip-hop) which, by definition, deal with life as it is lived, with all the pain and sin and grittiness that’s part of the world east of Eden.

What you’re concerned about, as you should be, is the moral imagination of your child. You don’t want divorce or adultery or drunkenness to be “normalized” for him, in song, much less celebrated. That’s why, I think, the indiscriminate use of any kind of media for young children is to be avoided. You are in control (or should be) of what your children read, watch, and hear. That means you should be strategic about what your child hears, and the context you give to it.

There is some music (of any genre) that just shouldn’t be listened to at all. There’s not much of Toby Keith or Hank Williams Jr. that my boys have heard, and they’ll never hear David Allen Coe in my house. But there are many artists that raise issues that make you squirm that still ought to be heard.

But this prudence doesn’t mean sheltering your child from the dark side of life and from the consequences of sin, even in lyrical form. Quite the contrary.

The traditional fundamentalist bunker mentality is unrealistic. The libertine Christian is foolish. Both arrive at and perpetuate their positions through thoughtlessness. But on purely a pragmatic level, thoughtless Christianity doesn’t work. Rejecting the world without understanding why doesn’t offer any help against sensual temptation. Embracing the world is just capitulating no matter how often you attend church or pray.

I don’t want my children to fall into either ditch.  I want to teach my children wisdom and wisdom’s muscular son, discernment. The process of teaching this will require careful exposure to some evil in order to inoculate. Discernment requires regular exercise (Heb 5.11-14). We desperately need a generation of Christians who will “think critically, reason clearly, and communicate effectively the inerrant and authoritative Word of God as it applies in all areas of life.” I want my children, and yours, to be that generation.

 

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This is a must listen interview that Mark Dever had with Mez McConnell, now pastoring a Scottish inner city church. His story of God tracking him down is an incredible display of grace and sovereignty.

 

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our inscrutable God

I have blogged about the Casting Crowns song, Praise You in This Storm. You can read my initial comments about it here and here is the story behind the writing of the song. I cannot get its message out of my mind. At one and the same time, I want to run from it and toward it. I both fear it and embrace it.

I was reminded of Praise You while reading “In the Shadow of Mt. Hood,” where Frank James writes of his continuing struggle coming to terms with God after the death of his brother.

We are created for life, not death. Kelly had a shameless zest for living life to the fullest. When death strikes suddenly from the shadows or claws at us until the last breath, those left behind experience numbness and disorientation. Somehow we know in our hearts that it is not supposed to be this way.

One question haunts me: Where was God when Kelly was freezing to death on Mount Hood? For me, it is not whether I should ask such a question, but how I ask it. One can ask the question in a fit of rage, shaking one’s fist at God. Many of us, if we are candid, have done that. But once the primal anger settles to a low boil, we can—and, I would submit, should—ask the question. …

There is disappointment, sadness, and confusion, but oddly, there is no retreat from God. Instead, I find myself drawn to God. To be sure, he is more enigmatic than I thought, but I still can’t shake loose from him. There seems to be a kind of gravitational pull toward God. …

Over the centuries, and amid enough tears to fill an ocean, many of us have had to bury our loved ones. But we bury them with a promise: “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. … For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive” (1 Cor. 15:20, 22).

This magnificent promise does not indemnify us against the grief of losing a beloved brother or even against disappointment with God. It does, however, take my faith to depths I never fathomed, where hope begins to poke through the heartache. Like a sunbeam piercing through a cloudy sky, faith portends that better weather is on the way.

By God’s grace, I have not had to face much of this sort, and I pray that I will never have to again. But I know it will come at some point, and when it comes I pray that I will receive the grace to praise Him in that storm.

 

 

 

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prioritizing

The past fifteen months has been a needed reordering of life, particularly a reconnecting with Jill and the kiddos. Jill and I have been married 8 years. Our first year we were experienced enough teachers to be able to focus well on one another in the evenings and weekends. The second year, due to a budget shortfall at my school, I was working 3rd shift and was barely conscious let alone coherent during that time. The next five years I was a school administrator. I found that the schedule combined with the continual distraction of having administrative details on my mind severely impacted my attentiveness as husband and father. Some men can handle the myriad of issues and seem to be gifted with 30 hours in a day. More power to those guys; I realized that I am just not one of them.

While the past year has had its share of challenges, I have reveled in reconnecting with Jill and our children. ‘Schedule detox’  has done wonders for me, at least, in my family roles. John Piper made a couple interesting comments about his sabbatical:

Q: Do you recommend a similar extended leave for other pastors?

A: After 30 years, maybe. Not for eight months your second year in. I’m really struggling with whether I should accept my salary for this time because it feels really over the top. All my colleagues need it as much as I do, and I have the right to pull this kind of weight. I can go to them and say, “I think I need this,” and they say, “Ok, go ahead.” So it’s huge for a pastor to have some time away, especially eight months. So in principle, yes. In principle what it will say to families is you take commitment real seriously. Most of us should have worked on these things better than we did earlier.

Q: Will your ministry change at all when you come back?

A: I’m sure it will; that’s what the next couple of months are intended to figure out. Mainly the way I see it is we’ve been focused on marriage and sons and grandchildren. There are three parts to this: soul check, marriage and family check, and recalibration of life. I suspect the pace will look different and the focus will look different.

Anne, a homeschool mom of 9(!) blogged two excellent articles about refreshing marriages. Here is an excerpt from her second essay.

Our family lives on 110 acres of beautiful southern Indiana farmland. We are not farmers, though, and, to Tim’s frustration, his time and attention must go elsewhere most of the time. Over time, as fields are ignored (i.e. not bush hogged and fertilized), weeds grow up, especially around the edges. Slowly, but inevitably, scrub brush moves in, finally, after many decades, turning useful pastures back into forests. Neglect is all that is required for productive farmland to become an ugly eyesore. (Fortunately, we do have help from others to keep our tillable acreage and hay fields in decent shape.) With our marriages also, neglect will transform what is beautiful and fruitful into a wasteland.

She goes on to give 5 great reminders about keeping your marriage fresh. While written toward women, the essays are easily transferable to men. The familiar lessons are well stated.

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“This life therefore is not righteousness, but growth in righteousness, not health, but healing, not being but becoming, not rest but exercise. We are not yet what we shall be, but we are growing toward it, the process is not yet finished, but it is going on, this is not the end, but it is the road. All does not yet gleam in glory, but all is being purified.”
— Martin Luther

I am not what I ought to be. I am not what I want to be. I am not what I hope to be. But still, I am not what I used to be. And by the grace of God, I am what I am.”

– John Newton

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