Category Archives: Articles/Books/Quotes of Interest

Book Review: The Gospel-Filled Wallet by Jeff Weddle

“Being poor is not the issue; love is.”  This statement on page 22 should be the first sentence of the book.

Mention “stewardship” and many Christians get immediately defensive.  We will tolerate encroachment in many areas but the wallet is not usually one of them.  The nearer biblical counsel, preaching, exhortations and appeals get to our back pockets the more we “feel led” to a different church or ministry.  Though we rarely remember last Sunday’s sermon, we’re convinced the preacher is always preaching about money.  Does he expect us all to live in poverty, for God’s sake?

“Being poor is not the issue; love is.”

In some ways America’s rugged individualism has hijacked faithful Christianity and biblical community.  The “American Dream” may not always be heaven’s vision, however.  As Americans we are free to earn a living; but as Christians we do not live to earn.  And in a folksy way, Jeff Weddle attempts a helpful corrective for our love of money in The Gospel-Filled Wallet.

Book Summary

Weddle begins and ends his book autobiographically.  He was led to write this book because he was led to confess his own love of money.  I wonder if he may have been a bit hard on himself, but who is to stand in the way of confession?

He systematically surveys the New Testament’s teaching about money beginning with Jesus in the Gospels, then Paul’s letters and lastly the other writings.  He then highlights various biblical “celebrities” who either surrendered their wealth for God’s purposes or retained their wealth in a godly way.

So where does Scripture commend the spending of our money?  Weddle ends with practical and pastoral answers to that question.  In fact, I would suggest reading this chapter first in order to guard against any hasty conclusions and unfair presuppositions you might otherwise develop.

The postscript Q&A provides a helpful, humorous way to cushion the fall if you’ve been unusually provoked by the book.

Commendations

I commend Weddle’s courage to confront a volatile issue in American Christianity.  I must humbly appreciate any attempt to call me and/or the Church to faithful biblical stewardship.   We don’t want to be idolaters after all.  We need faithful exhortation to consider and organize our lives (including our money) around God’s word.  And Weddle provides just that.  Whether or not you agree with Weddle’s conclusions, you must wrestle with the biblical texts he addresses.  Although, any interpretation cannot stray very far from the plain reading of Scripture!

I commend Weddle’s understanding of Matthew 11.5 (pp15-16).  Of all the signs and wonders that would convince John the Baptist of Jesus’  Messiahship, one was that he preached the gospel to the poor.  Unlike the stream of Israel’s religious leaders who exploited the poor, Jesus brought grace to them.  Jesus turned the world right side-up again.  God’s kingdom would be populated by those considered least likely and least deserving of kingdom benefits.  In fact, as Weddle points out, a religious leader genuinely loving the outcast and poor is as radical as curing blindness and deafness.

Is the modern church much different that those first century Pharisees?  Are people a means to an end?  Do we serve those who can return the favor?  Do we find ourselves attracted to the same folks Jesus was?  Do we find ourselves attractive to the same folks Jesus was?  One look around a typical Sunday church gathering and it looks nothing like the gathering around Jesus.  “Talking to poor people shows that you aren’t selling something,” says Weddle (p16).  And they aren’t a consumer, product or project.  We do well to remember that.

I commend Weddle’s “rapid fire” treatment on where Christians’ money should be spent (pp56-62): on the poor, unbelieving friends (with some qualification), family, your church’s ministry, missions, hospitality, taxes and wise, tempered investments.  His tone softens in this chapter to steer us away from legalistic checklists toward hearts that love what Jesus loves and commends.

Recommendations

I hesitate to critique another man’s heart when it comes an honest pursuit of biblical understanding.  Therefore, I consider my recommendations of little value compared to the book as a whole.

1.  Weddle readily admits the King James Version is his favorite and “fun” (p2).  I’m not sure I’ve ever heard KJV and “fun” in the same sentence, but I did find the version cumbersome.  He admits that the KJV “employs words we no longer use” so why not provide a more readable translation for the general reader?  Where the KJV provides helpful insight then refer to it.  Otherwise the NASB or ESV would’ve been easier to digest.

2.  Weddle’s opening salvo had a superlative tone about it.  Based on what how he spends his money, he says he must inevitably hate God (p1).  I trust he’s speaking hyperbolically and provocatively.  Nevertheless, based on Mt 6.24 he writes, “If you love money, you hate God” (p3).  He then goes on to describe ways in which we may love money without ever realizing it.  However, given his scenarios we must all resign ourselves to the hatred of God, too, which is exactly where he concludes: “Thus, we hate God” (v5).

He concludes we’re “consumed with money” (p5) because most everything we need temporally requires money.  This is a large leap, in my estimation.  Just because I need oxygen to breathe doesn’t mean I idolize oxygen when I gasp for breath.  It means God has created me to need oxygen and he is to be thanked when it’s provided for me.  Likewise (and I think Weddle does eventually conclude this), because my two-year-old uses diapers does not mean I’m consumed with money because I must buy them.  And when I do I am to thank God for his undeserved favor.  We must be very careful of assuming the effects of how we spend money are necessarily to be imposed on others who may spend it with a different heart.

Does Jesus intend a “straight up dichotomy” (p3) in Matthew 6.24?  Or was he using rhetorical hyperbole to emphasize the nature of kingdom affections?  For example, in Luke 14.26, Jesus said his disciples must hate (Gk. miseo as in Mt 6.24) their fathers, mothers, wives, brothers, sisters and children.  Jesus did not establish a “straight up dichotomy” but depicted a rhetorical comparison.  Nothing and no one (not even the closest of kin) must come between our pursuit of Christ.  The same holds true for money.  I think Weddle eventually gets to this understanding, but the reader is not encouraged toward it until then.

3.  Weddle included Abraham in the catalogue of men who’d surrendered wealth and riches for God’s sake (Noah, Moses, Elijah, John the Baptist, etal.).  However, Abraham did not “give up his home and his stuff to follow God” (p41).  Genesis 13.2 clearly says “Abram was very rich in livestock, in silver and in gold.”  In v6, we learn that between Abram and Lot “the land could not sustain them while dwelling together, for their possessions were so great that they were not able to remain together.”  Although, on p51 Weddle did include Abram among those “who had wealth and still served God.”  Weddle should’ve instead included Abraham in with Joseph, David, Solomon and Job.

Review Summary

In The Gospel-Filled Wallet, Weddle doesn’t attempt an exhaustive exegesis of all things money and wealth.  He does provide witty, pastoral and provocative insights to get us thinking the right way.  You’ll find the book an easy read and one that will encourage more faithful stewardship.  In the end, I think he concludes with Paul that “those who use the world” are to do “as though they did not make full use of it” (1 Cor 7.31).

Touching on Touchstone

In the latest Touchstone Magazine Daniel Boerman wrote a sweet article entitled “When the Wood is Dry.”  The following excerpt was most edifying:

There is . . . a gospel for sufferers.  Jesus not only suffered in our place; he also suffered as an example for us to follow.  He warns us that obedience in a sinful and fallen world will not be easy.  The world does not appreciate or applaud faithful discipleship.  Living selflessly and loving as we serve God and others will sometimes expose us to serious pain.  And sometimes God may compel us to share in some of the forsakenness and bitterness that Jesus himself experienced.

[God’s silence] is a blessing because it enables me to share just a little of what it meant for Christ to be utterly abandoned by God and man when he was hanging on the cross.  I know something of the desperation and exasperation he felt when he uttered that despairing cry, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt 27:46).  I realize that my experience was only a tiny taste of the suffering of Christ, but it is nevertheless real.  I count it a privilege and and honor.

Our suffering is a means of God’s grace to remind us about the ineffable glory of the cross and the assurance of our sonship.  Affliction is not necessary for who we are or are not, but who we’re going to be.  After the glorious declaration of Jesus’ God-pleasing sonship at his baptism (Mt 3.17), Satan immediately questioned that sonship.  Jesus is led into the wilderness where Satan prefaced his tempations with, “If you are the Son of God then . . .” (Mt 4.3, 6). In other words, suffering is unbecoming of God’s Son with whom he is well pleased.  Is this the way God treats his beloved Son?

It is certainly the way God must treat sinners.  And if that Son is to become sin for us (2 Cor 5.21) then, yes, it’s the way he must treat his Son (cf. Heb 5.8).  If any son of Adam is to enjoy heaven then the Son of God must suffer hell.

It’s as though God says to his suffering child, “This really hurts, doesn’t it?  Could you suffer it forever?  Could you suffer it million times worse? Could you suffer it a million times worse for the sake of your enemies?  How would you feel toward someone who suffered such pain on your behalf?  That’s what I did for you, child, so suffer well knowing it’s as close to hell you will ever get.”  Paul expressed it this way:  “For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die.  But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5.7-8).

Within hours of his passion Jesus prayed, “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, be with me where I am, so that they may see my glory which you have given me, for you loved me before the foundation of the world” (Jn 17.24).  Jesus prayed that if he did all the suffering then his enemies-turned-brothers should share in all his pre-existent glory and Trinitarian love.  And Jesus always gets what he prays for.

Keep Farming!

“Failures in particular circumstances don’t mean the failure of the kingdom.  Our Lord is faithfully warning us from the beginning that we are going to meet with a variety of failure and that that is always going to pain us.  One thing we must never do and that is to turn every failure onto ourselves and say, if only we as a church had been a more loving, and a more holy and a more evangelistic congregation then there’d have been no failures.  The minister too must resist personalising [sic] the loss of every one who turns back, and blaming himself: ‘If only I were a more powerful preacher and a more hardworking pastor then tehre would be no falling away.’  Of course, let’s all seek to be more holy and loving and evangelistic, and let’s be steadfast and unmoveable and always abounding in the work of the Lord, but don’t get crushed down into sinful lethargy because some you know and love have given up the faith.  Keep going, keep sowing, keep farming!  We carry the weight of such disappointments for the rest of our lives, and we go over all the circumstances too much so, but they must drive us to God not to despair.  There is a work to be done and a harvest to be reaped” (Geoff Thomas in a sermon on Mark 4.1-20).

How did my mail get to Aberystwyth?

Hurts so Good

We have enough Bibles for every household in America a couple of times over.  We have churches galore; religious organizations; educational institutions; religious presses that never stop pouring forth books, Sunday school materials, and religious curricula; and unparalleled financial resources.  What don’t we have?  All too often we don’t have what the Old Testament people didn’t have.  A due and weighty sense of the greatness and holiness of God, a sense that will reach into our lives, wrench them around, life our vision, fill our hearts, make us courageous for what is right, and over time leave behind its beautiful residue of Christlike character.

. . . Let us not mince words.  If we could see more clearly God in the full blaze of his burning purity, we would not be on easy terms with all the sins that now infect our souls and breed easy compromises with the spirit of the postmodern age.  This is what leads to the casual wasy in which we live our livces with their blatantly wrong priorities.  If we could see this more clearly, the church would be filled with much more repentance and, in consequence, much more joy, and much more authenticity  (David Wells, The Courage to Be Protestant, 132-33).

Dang.

Digging Wells

Does not the gospel call into fellowship those whom a society divides? There, side by side, should we not see the rich and the poor, men and women, powerful and marginalized, boomer and nonboomer all united in the same Christ by whom they have all been bought? (David Wells, The Courage to be Protestant, p57).

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise (Gal 3.28-29).

The church is the glorious display of Christ’s power to do what no other person can do.  Jesus unites folks in the church who otherwise have little to do with each other in the world.  The world organizes us into categories.  Middle class and low class.  Blue collar, white collar, and no collar.  Those on the fast track and those from the other side of the tracks.  The well-to-do and the ne’er-do-wells.  Homeschoolers and public schoolers.  Democrat and Republican.  Tell it your name the world has a category for you and how your category is to relate to the others.

In the church, though, the gospel so transforms how we understand (or love) each other that the dividing lines are erased.  The PhD is comfortable singing God’s praises next to the GED student.  The stay-at-home mom is as joyful to share the cup with the widow who had to go back to work.  The burger-flipping, floppy-haired teenager feels right at home with the local bank president.  The former Black Panther shares the same loaf with the former Skinhead.   The homeschooling mom prays just as fervently for  the single, working mom.  Children enjoy the same Word as their parents (Eph 6.1-4; Col 3.18-21).  Slaves stand shoulder-to-shoulder with their masters (Eph 6.5-9; Col 3.22-4.1).

We may run in different circles in the world but we all bow at the same cross in the church.  We may have nothing in common while having Everything in common.  We may look and live differently outwardly, but we all suffer the same guilt, earn the same wage for our sin and all desperately need the same grace to overcome it.

Paul had no category of a cowboy church, GenX church, children’s church, purpose-driven church, ancient-future church, or emergent church anymore than he did a Jewish church or Gentile church.  In fact, it was precisely such distinctions he died to obliterate.  There is one body (Eph 4.4).  It is our responsibility to fit into that one body, not demand it fit into us.

Jim Elliff on the Local Church

Don’t miss this great article by Jim Eliff on the absolute necessity of the local church in the Christian life.  “Church” is not what we do or where we go, it’s who we are.

The Prodigal God, Tim Keller

You’ll read Tim Keller’s The Prodigal God in one sitting and here’s an excerpt from p38  to get you started:

Why is [the elder brother in Jesus’s parable in Lk 15.11-32] so angry with the father?  He feels he has the right to tell the father how the robes, rings, and livestock of the family should be deployed.  In the same way, religious people commonly live very moral lives, but their goal is to get leverage over God, to control him, to put him in a position where they think he owes them.  Therefore, despite all their ethical fastidiousness and piety, they are actually rebelling against his authority.  If, like the elder brother, you believe that God ought to bless you and help you because you have worked so hard to obey him and be a good person, then Jesus may be your helper, your example, even your inspiration, but he is not your Savior.  You are serving as your own Savior.

What does God owe you that he’s not already given to you freely?  Paul asked, “He who did not spare his own Son, but delivered him over for us all, how will he not also with him freely give us all things?” (Rom 8.32).   I’m the elder brother who spends his time trying earn in futility what has already been given to me in Christ.  We do not earn God’s favor.  We enjoy it.

The Incredible Shrinking Church

Mark Galli wrote a provocative article at Christianity Today entitled “How to Shrink a Church.”  As one who has been part of “growing” two churches to half their original sizes, I was especially intrigued.  I could not agree more with Galli’s “dilemma” (pg 2).  We’re (sinfully) conditioned to assume bigger is better and more equals health.  Consumerism has hijacked the church so that we evaluate ministry like we would a nation’s GDP.  God has a different economy, however.

It’s terribly difficult to “sell” the notion that smaller might very well be better. It’s hard to rejoice over empty pews and even emptier coffers.  It’s hard to convince folks that we did the right thing by doing the hard thing.  Yet God’s pleasure is most often toward and his power most often displayed in the faithful few rather than the mighty many.

Therefore I could not be more encouraged by Galli’s exhortation:

The more strictly you adhere to the teachings of Jesus, the smaller the church will “grow.” One of the most crucial skills of a military commander is, in the face of defeat, to lead a retreat that doesn’t turn into panic or a massacre. And one of the most crucial skills for pastors and church lay leaders is to manage church decline when people are leaving because they see, finally, what Jesus is asking of them. This is not a job for the faint of heart, and will require great wisdom to manage resources, personnel, and morale in such a time.

It will take great wisdom, indeed.

“But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy” (Jas 3.17).

Horatius Bonar, The Everlasting Righteousness

I love godly widows who have read rich theological books and pass them on to their ignorant and immature pastors.  I often wonder who exactly is pastoring whom!

A latest offering is Horatius Bonar’s The Everlasting Righteousness, from which we enjoy this:

Man has always treated sin as a misfortune, not a crime; as disease, not guilt; as a case for the physician, not for the judge.  Herein lies the essential faultiness of all mere human religions or theologies.  They fail to acknowledge the judicial aspect of the question, as that on which the real answer must hinge; and to recognise [sic] the guilt or criminality of the evil-doer as that which must first be dealt with before any real answer, or approximation to an answer, can be given.

And this:

Sin is too great an evil for man to meddle with.  His attempts to remove it do but increase it, and his endeavours to approach God in spite of it aggravate his guilt.  Only God can deal with sin, either as a disease or a crime; as a dishonour to Himself, or as a hinderer of man’s approach to Himself.  He deals with it not in some arbitrary or summary way, by a mere exercise of will or power, but by bringing it for adjudication into His own courts of law.  As judge, seated on His tribunal, He settles the case, and settles it in favour of the sinner, of any sinner on the earth that will consent to the basis which He proposes.  Into this court each one may freely come, on the footing of a sinner needing the adjustment of the great question between him and God.  That adjustment is no matter of uncertainty or difficulty; it will at once be granted to each applicant; and the guilty man with his case, however bad, thus legally settled, retires from court with his burden removed and his fears dispelled, assured that he can never again be summoned to answer for his guilt.  It is righteousness that has reconciled God to him, and him to God.

Burchett Article

I commend to you Steve Burchett’s recent exhortation to and about families with special needs children.  Although, as Steve masterfully points out, our disability and need extend far beyond what doctors and therapists can remedy.  Thank you, brother, for this gift to Christ’s church.  Mephibosheth dances.

Foster/Adoption a Better Strategy than Pro-Life Lobbying

Then the king will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I . . . was a stranger, and you invited me in” (Mt 25.34, 35c).

A recent Tennessee Baptist & Reflector article provoked me to consider whether or not the church takes Jesus seriously. It seems the 118-year-old Tennessee Baptist Children’s Homes (TCBH) was forced to cut ministry staff (14 positions) due to a budget shortfall of $700,000. I make no concessions about the particulars of this decision or those making them. It’s one being made by hundreds of social ministries nationwide.

My argument is as follows. (1) There is a systemic problem that would lead to such a decision at all. I’ll assume Tennessee Southern Baptists represent at least a national Southern Baptist trend. (2) This systemic problem cripples the church’s pro-life efforts. And (3) churches should facilitate fostering/adoption as a far better pro-life strategy than political lobbying.

First, there is a systemic problem or spiritual blind spot that would lead Tennessee Baptist churches to cut ministry to estranged children. Tennessee Baptist churches undoubtedly and collectively spent billions of dollars on new facilities, technology and equipment in 2008. Yet, they cannot seem to find a (comparatively) mere $700,000 to take care of orphans. Jesus never commanded his people to manage property but did command the care of widows and orphans (cf. Jas 1.27).

Ironically, dozens of churches spent tens of thousands of dollars on unnecessary flat-screens, playground sets, summer camps, children’s wings, and classroom amenities all in the name of “children’s ministry.” Yet, they neglect responsibility to the “least of these” in the name of the Cooperative Program, which is supposed to care of “those” people.

Jesus regularly passed by all the pretty people to get to the ugly people. He is not impressed with our Vatican-like compounds, despite how much of God’s “glory” we attach to them. He welcomes those who share their lives with hungry, thirsty, strange, naked, sick, imprisoned people (Mt 25.31-46). Jesus doesn’t suggest “social” ministry is necessarily gospel ministry. Jesus does suggest Kingdom people are not proud, nose-thumbing, money-tossing people but are humble, merciful, compassionate people who feel more at home with the homeless. In fact, he goes so far as to say the difference between them equals that between heaven and hell.

I’m afraid Jesus might very well pass by most of our churches to embrace the very folks our churches keep at arm’s length. I’m sure he’d pass by our children’s “ministry” complexes to find the children we don’t want.

Second, this systemic cancer hinders the church’s pro-life effort. Jesus and the world have something in common. Neither takes kindly to hypocrisy.

We parade around with our well-funded powerful pro-life agenda. We publish our videos, pamphlets and voter’s guides. We hassle our congressmen and boast that we’re “doing our part” to save the unborn. Then we cut funding and attention from the very sort of children we’re attempting to save!

Why would an abortion-minded mother bring her child into a world when the church who convinced her to do so will just turn its back on them? How can we boast of “saving” otherwise aborted children if we’re going to later restrain our support of them? It’s far easier to throw a few dollars at and spend a little time on a cause than to commit 18 years to a child. It’s easier being pro-life as long it doesn’t infringe on my life.

This leads me to the third argument.

Jesus does not prepare heaven for those who contributed money to organizations who feed, clothe, house, heal and care. He reserves heaven for those who – in his name – fed, clothed, housed, healed and cared themselves. You fed me. You gave me a drink. You invited me in. You clothed me. You visisted me. You came to me. He does not commend those who lobbied government toward better services. He commends those who assumed those services to themselves as expressions of the God of all grace and mercy. The church doesn’t farm mercy ministry out. It is the world’s mercy ministry!

I fear many will say when Jesus confronts them about their care for “these brothers of mine” (Mt 25.40), “Jesus, as soon as I saw that unwanted child I went straight to my computer and wrote a letter to my senator. Then I ordered an armband to prove my solidarity with the cause. And, I didn’t stop there, Jesus. I even passed out flyers for the pro-life candidate.”

Churches will say collectively, “Oh Jesus, when we heard about the TBCH’s need we immediately budgeted an extra $5,000 for better games in our children’s annex. We knew you ‘called’ us to do our part for needy kids so we stepped up to the plate.”

And I fear Jesus will say, “Depart from Me, accursed ones” (v41).

I submit the church’s dollars and attention are not well spent on political lobbying. It’s better spent on equipping its members for foster care and adoption. We may moderately impress the world with our protests and pamphlets. But we will get the world’s attention when we commit to fostering/adopting otherwise aborted, abandoned and/or estranged children.

We’ll prove how committed we are to the pro-life worldview when we go beyond platitudes and protests to the proactive long-term care for the children we strive to save at birth. We just don’t want children to be born, but to thrive and grow in the knowledge of the Life-giving God. What’s the point of saving their life if we’re not committed to helping them live?

If Tennessee Baptist churches don’t want to fund the TCBH then then Tennessee Baptists should show up at their doorstep ready to take one of the children home. You invite them in. Don’t expect someone else to do it. Don’t boast of your pro-life position when caring for that life long-term is an imposition. Otherwise, don’t complain about “kids these days.”

So rather than spending untold millions of dollars on pseudo-children’s ministry and pious political lobbying, churches’ dollars are better spent investing in parents seeking to foster and adopt. Hassle your pastors, not your congressmen. Lobby parents, not senators. Don’t budget any more money for goofy gadgets and powerless paraphernalia. Put your money where your mouth is and bring children home. Show the world that the church doesn’t have an abstract, lifeless agenda to push but a life-giving Jesus to share.

Jesus put his life on the line for the children God gave him (Heb 2.10-15). How can we not do the same?

Forde Days of Purpose

I can’t put this down.  Gerhard Forde’s interaction with Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation is now one of my must-reads for preparing men for eldership.  Read Calvin’s Institutes first and then this.  Most modern church “leadership” books seek to empower men for ministry.  Luther (and Forde) seek to kill them for it.  Dead men make better gospel preachers.

Thesis 22 of the Disputation reads, “That wisdom which perceives the invisible things of God by thinking in terms of works completely puffs up, blinds, and hardens.”

Forde comments on pp92-93:

Religiously we like to look on ourselves as potential spiritual athletes desperately trying to make God’s team, having perhaps just a little problem or two with the training rules.  We have a thirst for glory.  We feel a certain uneasiness of conscience or even resentment within when the categorical totality of the action of God begins to dawn on us.  We are always tempted to return to the safety and assurance of doing something anyway.  Generally, it is to be suspected, that is all we planned to do, a little something.  But to surrender the “wisdom” of law and works, or better, to have it taken away, is the first indication of what it means to be crucified with Christ.

Though beyond Forde’s scope in the book, the “little something” in Baptist life often takes the form of altar calls, sinners’ prayers, church membership and (strangely!) baptism.  The gospel’s demand for repentance and faith is nothing less than the demand for death and resurrection.  Bonhoeffer (another sturdy Lutheran!) wrote famously, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die” (The Cost of Discipleship).  And we don’t like leaving people to die.

We want them to come down here.  Pray this. Do that.  Do something, anything (but not too much) so that we have something to show for the effort.  Yet, Jesus left Nicodemus in his “night” (Jn 3.1-15).  He watched the young ruler walk away sad with his bulging pockets (Mt 19.21).  They must be left to die if they are to live.

Forde concludes (p102):

The theologian of glory finally is “frightened to death,” if one may so speak.  The terror is in the fact that the end of sin has come and the Old Adam and Eve can no longer survive.  Then one is a candidate for being born anew.  That is the gateway to being saved by the creative righteousness of God.

Stephen Baskerville in Touchstone Magazine

In the Jan/Feb 2009 issue of Touchstone Magazine Stephen Baskerville wrote a penetrating article entitled “Divorced from Reality.”  In it Dr. Baskerville connects dots between no-fault divorce, child abuse, the child support industy and the welfare state.  They all ultimate derive from a government-sponsored assault on the family. Having interacted somewhat with the state foster care system I’m afraid he may be right.

I entice you with his closing excerpt:

While many factors have contributed to this truly diabolical, bureaucratic onslaught against the family, we might begin by looking within. The churches’ failure or refusal to intervene in the marriages they consecrated and to exert moral pressure on misbehaving spouses (perhaps out of fear of appearing “judgmental”) left a vacuum that has been filled by the state. Clergy, parishioners, and extended families have been replaced by lawyers, judges, forensic psychotherapists, social workers, and plainclothes police.

Family integrity will be restored only when families are de-politicized and protected from government invasion. This will demand morally vigorous congregations that are willing to take marriage out of the hands of the state by intervening in the marriages they are called upon to witness and consecrate and by resisting the power of the state to move in.

No greater challenge confronts the churches—nor any greater opportunity to reverse the mass exodus—than to defend their own marriage ordinance against this attack from the government. Churches readily and rightly mobilize politically against moral evils like abortion and same-sex “marriage,” in which they are not required to participate. Even more are they primary stakeholders in involuntary divorce, which allows the state to desecrate and nullify their own ministry.

As an Anglican, I am acutely aware of how far modernity was ushered in not only through divorce, but through divorce processes that served the all-encompassing claims of the emerging state leviathan. Politically, this might be seen as the “original sin” of modern man. We all need to atone.

Grip the horns and plead for mercy.

Kairos Journal on IVF

Kairos Journal has a helpful article on Christians and in vitro fertilization.  The science and procedure are front-page news these days, which means they are front-pew issues.  Like many technological advances Christians are often swept up in the current before realizing there was one.

IVF is by no means an easy issue, especially for those struggling through infertility.  Those born via in vitro fertilization would undoubtedly have a strong opinion!  The science is a 21st century marvel but the fundamental issue is as old as time:  what is life and at what cost?

T. David Gordon in Latest Touchstone Mag

T. David Gordon wrote a powerful article in the latest Touchstone Magazine entitled “Sermon Pointers” (pp14-16).  It’s aimed at the obsession of “relevance” in contemporary preaching.  “You gotta meet them where they are” is the tired mantra of the modern pulpit.  I couldn’t resist a few excerpts to embolden my preaching and encourage your subscription to this great publication.

To borrow language from the Lutheran tradition, the preacher declares both law and gospel.  “Where they are” is this:  Our hearers are law-breaking rebels who have revolted against the majesty of God (both in Adam and in themselves), and who therefore justly have fallen under his judgment and curse.  This judgment and curse are not merely the source of the other “where they are” circumstances; they are those circumstances.

People may indeed be lonely, because of Genesis 3; they may be depressed; they may be dysfunctional; they may  be neurotic, or anxious, or a host of other things.  But none of these things constitutes “where they are.”  Where they are is under God’s judgment and curse: “And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account (Heb. 4:13).  Our universal circumstance is this: We must give an account to God.  Outside of Christ, we, like Adam and Eve, are “naked and exposed” to God’s all-perceiving sight; only in Christ are we clothed with a redemptive covering.

Apostolic preaching did not discern “where they are”; apostolic preaching declared “where they are.”  Further, “where they are” was not individually considered, but corporately considered.  The apostles did not attempt to discern the particular “where they are” of each individual, but the general or corporate “where they are” of the entire race.

People do not ultimately need to be delivered from their dysfunctional families, their media-saturated culture, their Oedipal urges, their neuroses, or their various alienations; they need to be delivered from God’s judgment and curse.  And their perception that all of these other matters are more important or relevant than God’s judgment and curse are merely evidence that they are under his judgment and curse, and that they need to repent of these very misperceptions.

I confess the temptation to compete with Dr. Philism for the attention of my congregation.  But zingers, one-liners and platitudes are not the power of God unto salvation for all who believe.  The gospel is.  God help us.