Saturday, October 15, 2016

A Gospel-Driven Vote

American politics is strange stuff. It's powerful, narcotic,...and divisive.
I still love you, I even still like you if you vote for Trump.
But y'all need a stooge slap.
In love, of course.
Let's start with some good doctrine.

Q. What is your only comfort in life and death?
A. That I am not my own, that I belong--body and soul, life and death--to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with His precious blood and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil. He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven; in fact, all things must work together for my salvation. Because I belong to Him, Christ, by His Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for Him.

So goes the opening question of the Heidelberg Catechism. He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven.

Unless Hillary gets elected.
In which case all bets are off, God has fallen off His throne, and I'm screwed. Or, at least, that's the rationale of this demographic who simultaneously identify as Christians and Trump Supporters.

It's the economy, Stupid
....quipped Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign manager, James Carville, about the most important issue of the day. Naturally, Carville was wrong. It's Mena, Whitewater, and a trail of dead bodies and gullible women, Stupid. But Carville was right, too. Elections can be boiled down to one overarching issue. In following elections, it was character, Stupid. It was the Constitution, Stupid. It was legitimate government, Stupid.

But enough with the stupid. In this election, we're no longer talking about the general electorate, populated largely by fools. This election has hefty ramifications for The Church, whom I love. So let me redeem Carville.

It's the Gospel, sisters and brothers.
The issue at stake in 2016 is our Gospel witness.

When I say that I am a Gospel Christian, people are watching.
When I say that this Gospel codifies an absolute right and wrong, people are watching.
When I say that this Gospel promotes the sanctity of marriage, people are watching.
When I say that this Gospel promotes racial reconciliation, people are watching.
When I say that this Gospel promotes the sanctity of life, people are watching.
When I say that this Gospel promotes the high value of women, people are watching.

And if they get so much as a whiff that I think an elephant is more crucial to the life of this nation than the Cross, I'm toast. 
I should close my Bible, close my mouth, and go home.
My gospel witness is over. Finished. Done. Kaput.

I am the Church. I have one job: to proclaim the Gospel, to guard it against heresy, and to live it. My vote must be a Gospel-driven vote.

If we look at Trump by himself, it's very easy to see his wickedness. He is a serial fornicator. He's spoken disdainfully of races other than his own. He runs casinos and bullies people and buys political favors. He calls his sister, a pro-abortion judge, 'phenomenal.'

But for some reason, when we put him in a room next to Hillary Clinton, his wickedness loses its clarity. Friends, this is an optical illusion. Trump is the man he is, regardless of who is standing next to him. Wickedness can never be defined in relative terms.

We can not proclaim to the world that we love what God loves and hate what God hates...
and then vote for someone who loves what God hates and hates what God loves.


Stop. Stop taking comfort from and seeking refuge in the wicked. Don't be taken in by the horror of a Clinton Administration. That is not the worst thing that could happen. The worst thing that could happen is that God's Church in America is rendered impotent because, despite all of our talk, when it really counted (on Election Day), the Gospel meant...nothing.

What is the theme of this election?
It is the Gospel.

Let good and kindred go, this mortal life also.
The body they may kill.
God's Truth abideth still.
His kingdom is forever.


Saturday, September 24, 2016

Amazing Danger Zone

Out along the edge is always where I burn to be.
The further on the edge, the hotter the intensity.

A few days ago, Brett and I were returning from a day out in the country. As usual, he (Maverick) was driving, and I (Goose) had the GPS. And, as usual, the scene turned comically tense. You would think that after twenty-seven years of marriage, we would have this whole 'navigate-as-a-team' thing down, wouldn't you?

Great balls of fire. No.

After we passed the point of dispute, Brett said, "I have a new 'date' idea for the couple considering marriage. Drop them off in the middle of nowhere with just a car and a GPS, and see if they're still talking when they get home."

Smarty pants.

Last week, we married off one of our daughters. It was the culmination of two years of Alex and Josh getting to know each other, and us (more specifically Brett) getting to know Josh. There were questions and answers. There were long conversations. There were books.

As the wedding approached, I suggested that they depart the reception to Kenny Loggins' Danger Zone. People who didn't get it frowned. People who did (read: married people) snickered. Instead, they departed to the music of our laughter and cheering. It was all good.

Still, I don't think we take marriage seriously enough as a culture, and by that, I mean the church culture. We lump it in with the other commodities of adulthood: job, house, car, spouse. And we treat it just about as reverently. Actually, when we factor in career counselors, home inspectors, and lemon-busters, we take marriage less reverently. Sorry, peeps, those are the hard facts.

But marriage is dangerous business. And all the book studies in the world will prepare us for marriage about as adequately as birth classes prepare us for childbirth. (ha.ha.ha.) It is good to prepare, but until it is finally upon us, it is all theory.

Then we say, "I do."
Welcome to the lab, kids. This is the part where you are going to blow something up. Trust me on this. All of us can remember when we blew something up. More likely, we probably remember more than one occasion where we blew something up. But here's the deal. Resolve to have a Thomas Edison approach to marriage. Edison, according to legend, said about inventing the light bulb, "I didn't fail two thousand times. I found two thousand ways not to make a light bulb."

When you blow something up, and the dust settles, you'll be tempted to wonder, "Did I make the right decision? My marriage has failed."
No. It has not failed. You just found another way not to make a good marriage. Add that one to your stockpile of wisdom...and get right back in the lab.

And get back in there with the right lab equipment.

Seek clarification.
"When you said (that thing that really hurt/angered me), what did you mean, because I know how I heard it." Two people who have spent their first two decades living for themselves coming together as one flesh can be a communication disaster waiting to happen. But it doesn't have to be. You'd be surprised at how quickly a disagreement can be diffused by first clarifying.

Keep short accounts.
Be slow to get offended, but when you do, be quick to talk about it. Be quick to repent. Be quick to forgive.

Go there.
"There" is that place that we don't want to talk about. "There" is that place your spouse is never allowed to address. "There" is that place guarded like Fort Knox. You need to go "there" for precisely these reasons, or it will become an infection site in  your marriage.

Sometimes, your "there" will sneak up on you. I didn't even know I had a "there"--until Brett pushed on it. Neither of us saw it coming. But it is a deep "there", and we've had to re-visit it several times. Sometimes, "there" will flare up again. Or it will be Truth-resistant. Sometimes your "there" will take vigilant, repeated detoxifying. Wash it with the water of the Word, and submit it to your spouse's inspection. That is what it means to walk covenantally. And your marriage will be healthier for it.

Do apologies correctly.
'I'm sorry' is appropriately used when something bad happens to someone you love, and you are extending compassion.
I'm sorry you lost your job.
I'm sorry your friend abandoned you.
I'm sorry your mom died.
But 'I'm sorry' makes an insipid apology. Woman up. If you did something to wrong your spouse, say so:
"I was wrong for throwing out your One Bad Pig cd. Will you please forgive me?"
There's something humbling that comes when our lips have to say, 'I was wrong.' And more humbling still with, 'Will you please forgive me?' More than that, though, you acknowledge to your spouse in very specific terms that you sinned against him and that you take that very seriously.
And when the situation is reversed and your spouse apologizes, don't say, 'It's all right.'
No. It was not all right; it was a legitimate offense. If it was all right, you would not be standing there having that conversation. Say, 'I forgive you.'

Then end with a great big smooch. And maybe a pat on the butt.

Christian marriages should not be dangerous places. They shouldn't be, but in the Now and the Not Yet, they are. That's why they also need to be places that positively overflow with grace. Your spouse will give you reasons to extend unmerited favor. And you will give him reasons, too. Extend it.

Gonna take it right into the Danger Zone.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Choose Life

My children are not a distraction from my ministry demographic.
Neither are my children a tool to help me reach my ministry demographic.
My children, as long as they are children, are my ministry demographic.
I remember that day with clarity. We were discussing Milton, and my English Lit professor referred to Adam eating the fruit as the Blessed Fall. What Dr. Greer, my prof and the chair of the English Department, meant was that The Fall was blessed because if Adam had not partaken of the fruit, mankind would have remained ignorant. He...we...would not know.

My jaw dropped.

Homeschooling today has come a long way since the early days when the first home educators were taking big risks to keep their kids home. Because there is such an age difference among my children, I straddle the gap between two vastly different types of homeschooling. I thank those who preceded me in this endeavor because they broke ground for me, sometimes at great cost. I fear for those behind me, many of whom have no concept of the history of the movement. Today, homeschooling, as a demographic, has more opportunities than ever before. Sadly, we are less impressive than we have ever been.

We have ceased to be a peculiar people.
We have followed in Adam's footsteps.
We would rather our children 'know' than 'live.'
We may not have said that; but our choices for our children have made that abundantly clear, nonetheless.

Today, parents try very hard to duplicate the high school experience we had--which is curious to me, since the whole impetus behind the movement was to not give our children the high school experience that we had...on purpose. Don't get your back up. I'm an old homeschooling dog now. I've moved in lots of homeschooling circles. I've been in lots of homeschooling activities. I know lots of homeschooling grads. I can now confidently make this assessment: Today's home educators regularly choose Enlightenment over Reformation. And it shows.

As a demographic, we now find more joy in rocking the SAT than in raising godly seed. We grieve less over poor moral choices than college rejection letters. It is more important to us that our children 'know' than 'live.' Blessed Fall.

And in our own burning desire to know and to have our children know, we relinquish the privilege of discipleship to others. Stay with me here. Discipleship implies two things: conversation and relationship. Therefore, if you want to know who is discipling your child, look to the person/people having the most conversation with her.

Sending my kid away from me (in my zeal for enlightenment) to the once-a-week--which, let's be honest, often turns into the twice/thrice-a-week--academy raises the risk of someone else discipling my kid. I am NOT talking about settings where parents decide on the curriculum and pace and do the teaching.  I am talking about the times we punt and give ground to the 'experts.'

I sent my oldest three to one of these academies for precisely ONE class. And I went with them. If you are considering sending your kid to one of these, I strongly appeal to you to accompany them. What you witness there with your own eyes would be...instructive.

Today, in any setting where home schoolers gather, this mama is watchful, wary, and making mental notes. There is no exception, no safe place where I am not watchful and wary. And that is not because my own children are such paragons of virtue; it is because they are children.

The amount of pure enlightenment in these circles is impressive and obvious; the amount of reformation is...neither.

Salvation is a supernatural transaction; homeschooling could never achieve that. But discipleship is a natural transaction, and discipleship was the original concern of homeschooling. Yet many (most?) home schooled students today are now being discipled by their peers, making homeschooling an institution that mirrors the government institution we rejected!

Providentially, God has given us a powerful antitoxin for peer discipleship: parent discipleship. But hold on. There is a catch. Parental relationship and conversations in healthy doses must necessarily limit peer relationship and conversation in order to be achieved. You can't relate to and converse with your child when your child is seldom around.

Practically speaking, that means that at the beginning of every school year, we need to look at every class, every extra-curricular, every opportunity for socialization and ask ourselves if these things help or hinder parent discipleship. Make no mistake. Each of these activities will have an impact, for good or for ill.

When it comes to conversation, no subject should be taboo. Talk about everything your child wants to talk about. Talk about everything you want to talk about. And talk about their friends. We regularly address friendships with our kids. But the key is to let them do the assessment.

Ask, What is Janie like when you are alone?
How does Janie relate to her parents, especially when her parents aren't watching?
Does Janie encourage you to be a more serious or a less serious Christian?
Is this a relationship worth keeping?

You and your child are going to quickly find the answer to two important questions.
Who's being discipled by their peers, and who's being discipled by their parents?
Who's on the road to Reformation and who's on the road to Enlightenment?
It's a good exercise for you both.

What I'm going to say next is going to be a zinger. I don't like getting zinged, so I'm simultaneously biting my fingernails and typing. I don't say this to zing. I say this as an observation and a warning because if someone saw trouble coming and warned me, I'd be very grateful. It is this: My children can, in general, detect big differences among their peers who are academied and their peers who are educated by their parents. Without me saying a word, they can see a difference. They don't have a name for it; they can't put their finger on it. But their spidey senses are tingling. Their academied friends are, in general, more worldly-wise and more conformist. Less...peculiar. And you'd be amazed at how young an age they can sense this.

[Let me pause a moment: Moms, you and I have logged many hours over coffee sharing the joys and tears of motherhood. Please know that I have never uncovered your child to my child. I have never betrayed a confidence. What is said at Starbucks stays at Starbucks. This is not a gossip-fest. This is me training my kids to spot good/bad company and examining their own appetites regarding friendship.]

My children are my ministry demographic. If God gives me eleven children, then He expects me, equips me, and empowers me to raise eleven children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Education is a sub-heading of discipleship, NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND. Nurture and admonition imply Reformation, not merely Enlightenment. For their sake, I purpose to not be distracted by opportunities. For their sake, I choose a laser sharp focus on reformation, not graduation.

Why do you home school?
What do you hope to see at the end of that road?
Are you educating in such a way that your kids will know stuff?
Or are you educating in such a way that they will love the Lord their God with all their heart and all their mind and all their soul?

It matters.
And it's your call.

I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore, choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying His voice, and holding fast to Him, for He is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them. Deuteronomy 30:19-20

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Purging and Preserving: Twist, Twist, Twist--Part Two

A few weeks ago, I was talking with a doctor friend of mine who does medical missions. He was telling me about one mission trip when, on day three, a third of the team left the mission. Why? Because they were offended that the medical mission was doing too much 'mission' and not enough 'medical.'

"Ah," I said, "Christus Victor."
"Exactly," he replied. "But why would we spend more time doing things that will give these people only temporary relief and less time doing the thing that will benefit them eternally?"
And what is it that makes a team, a medical missions team at that, uncomfortable with the gospel?
I'm guessing these people have an insufficient understanding of the gospel.

What is the gospel? It's the good news, so we should get it right. The gospel is really quite simple. It is this: God saves sinners.*
God: the triune God--Father, Son, Holy Spirit--whose three persons work in unison and perfect agreement of both intent and action
Saves: delivers completely from certain destruction
Sinners: those who are at enmity with God, who love what He hates, and hate what He loves.

Tweak any part of that definition, and you are in trouble.
Tweak any part of that definition--and broadcast it--and you are a heretic.

I'm not really concerned with how other religions get this wrong. (They all do.) I'm concerned with the Inside Jobs.
If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes true, concerning which he spoke to you, saying, 'Let us go after other gods' (whom you have not known) and let us serve them, you shall not listen to that prophet or that dreamer of dreams; for the Lord your God is testing you to find out if you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.  You shall follow the Lord your God and fear Him; and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him. But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has counseled rebellion against the Lord you God who bough you from the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of slavery, to seduce you from the way in which the Lord your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from among you. If your brother, your mother's son, or you son or daughter, or the wife you cherish, or your friend who is as your own soul, entice you secretly, saying, 'Let us go and serve other gods' (whom neither you nor your fathers have known, of the gods of the peoples who are around you, near you or far from you, from one end of the earth to the other end), you shall not yield to him or listen to him; and your eye shall not pity him, nor shall you spare or conceal him. Deuteronomy 13:1-8
The greatest threat to the people of God does not come from people like Karl Marx or Peter Singer or Richard Dawkins. I mean, sheep are dumb. But we're not THAT dumb.

Among you...
The greatest threat to the people of God comes from other people who claim to be people of God but are, in fact, not people of God. They mix enough truth with their lies to make us stand back and wonder... Ehhhh, could s/he be right? Could I, could my pastor, could my Bible be getting this wrong?

Let me put it this way.
You can rescue a woman from sex trafficking, get her medical help, counseling, and job training. But if you don't present the Gospel--in words--to her, then you have not addressed her greatest problem. Her greatest problem is not her scars from the sex industry. Her greatest problem is that she is under the wrath of God, because she has fallen short of the glory of God. Without a Savior to stand in her stead, she will die and go to hell.

You can dig wells to provide fresh drinking water to poverty-stricken people in Africa. But if you don't present the Gospel in words, those poor will die and go to hell. Their greatest need is not clean drinking water. They have fallen short of the glory of God; their greatest need is a Savior.

You can provide a safe haven to the gay man who has been brutalized by hate. But if you don't present the Gospel to him in words, he will die and go to hell. His greatest need is not safety; it is salvation.

I hate to burst the socially just bubble. But any old goat can rescue sex victims, dig wells, and build shelters. And they do. (See Matthew 25.) (And then see Bill Gates. Or Oprah.) Any old goat can feed the poor, clothe the naked, visit the prisoner...
and support 'fair trade'
and protest 'microaggession'
and speak out against militarism and patriarchy and ecocide. (Yes. Ecocide. It's a thing. Not even kidding. Feel free to roll your eyes.)

Behold Christus Victor, the gospel of the goats.
Man's problem, according to Christus Victor, is that he was held captive to evil, (evil, I suppose, just being a general yucky thing) and Jesus died to pay ransom. Ransom to whom, exactly? No offended party. Just kind of evil in general and mankind was just kind of miserable in general. Feeling the squishiness yet? So Christ died. His death fixed all that by...well...I'm not really sure how Jesus dying on a cross is supposed to fix evil in a general sense. That rather smacks of some kind of cosmic child abuse.

I am not arguing that we should not rescue sex trafficking victims or dig wells or rebuke hate. I am saying that these things are not enough. Christus Victor is not enough. Jesus did not die just to take away all of our hurt. One day, God will wipe away the last tear. But that is not the whole gospel because that is not the whole problem.

An ounce of sin can harm us more than a ton of suffering, says Tim Keller. But Christus Victor turns that on its head. Christus Victor wants us to believe that our suffering, not our sin, is our greatest problem. Christus Victor is a false gospel.

JI Packer says in In My Place Condemned He Stood, "A half-truth presented as a whole truth becomes a complete untruth."
 A HALF-truth presented as a WHOLE truth becomes a complete UN-truth.
To present Christus Victor as the complete gospel is to tell a lie.

And if your eyes and ears are open, you'll see that Christus Victor is everywhere. Two weeks ago, I heard a notable American say that loving your neighbor as yourself is the greatest commandment. There it was again! The half-truth! Loving the Lord my God with all of my heart, mind, and soul is the greatest commandment. Loving my neighbor is like it. But loving my neighbor is defined by loving God. In fact, if I do not love God with all my heart, mind, and soul, I will not love my neighbor as myself because I won't know what that looks like.

Loving my neighbor without loving God with all of my heart, mind, and soul is merely philanthropy.
Loving my neighbor because I love God with all my heart, mind, and soul is worship.

Sheep, though. Sheep understand the real Gospel, the one in the Bible.
Christus Vicarious.
God saves sinners.
God imputed my sin onto Jesus and imputed Jesus' righteousness onto me.
Now THAT's good, good news!!!

So here's my point. When people who are not God's people pose as God's people and preach a gospel that is not God's gospel, what are God's people to do? Take it with a grain of salt because they say a lot of other things that are good? No. No, no, no.
We do NOT pity him.
We do NOT spare him.
We do NOT conceal him.

We PURGE the evil from among us, Moses told the Israelites.
We excommunicate him, said Paul to the early church. I have already passed judgment.

And then a funny thing happens. When the goats are purged, the sheep are preserved!
Moses says it this way: And then all Israel will hear and be afraid and never again do such a wicked thing among you. (Deut. 13:11)
Paul says it this way: For there must also be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized. (I Cor. 11:19)

We need to get comfortable with this fact: God's people are a purging people.
Sheep, if they are obedient sheep, purge goats.

Sheep do grace. And grace recognizes that favor is unmerited. It says, 'Come as you are, and be changed by the power of God.' Sheep preach Christus Vicarious because they recognize man's greatest problem.
Goats do tolerance. Tolerance claims that favor is merited. 'Stay as you are. We're just here to apply Christus Victor band-aids.'

The gospel of the sheep is eternal life.
The gospel of the goats?
Nope. No. No ma'am. Not on my watch.

*In My Place Condemned He Stood (Packer and Dever, 2008) was a helpful resource.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Every Square Inch

Last weekend, the day after Luke graduated from college, I was standing in his kitchen washing the breakfast dishes. My father-in-law quietly walked over to me and said, "You know, I forgot to mention it to you yesterday, but that was your celebration, too. You got him here." I managed to get out a 'thank you' and starting scrubbing harder because a lump was forming in my throat, and I was on the verge of losing all composure.

Brett and I take a covenantal view of raising our children. That is, we assume that their default condition is 'will be saved' unless the evidence proves to us otherwise. I'm not saying that our children are born believing. Everyone is dead in their sins until their conversion. I am saying that we set them apart, raise them, treat them like co-members of God's covenant. I am saying that children born into covenant homes have a distinct advantage over children not born into covenant homes.

We spent a week with Luke and his wife and daughter in their home. It was wonderful to watch him 'walk' at graduation. But it was more wonderful to watch him walk as a husband and a father. Seeing your kids established in their own homes is where you really get to see them in action. Watching him love his wife and love his daughter...Watching him work the stuff of young marriage or the challenges of a budding, busy toddler...Watching him take his family to church...

Most wonderful of all was the walk he and I took, just the two of us, through a cemetery across the street from his house. It was a crisp day, and we ambled up and down hills under beautiful, tall trees. We talked of life, of marriage, and of babies. We talked of academia and faith and God. I told him the things I see in him. There were serious moments, and there was laughter. And we ended back in his driveway with a big hug.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch...
Eight of the kids were holding down the fort under Zach's care. We were gone over a Sunday, so they took themselves to church. During the Lord's Supper, a friend snapped a picture and sent it to us. There were the rest of my kids, grouped together around the elements. And there was Zach, leading his brothers and sisters through communion. There was my firstborn, this little guy with the fat feet and the weird obsession with F-150's and ant piles, all grown up and standing in proxy for Brett, passing around the elements. I look at this picture and know the struggles of each of these precious people the Lord has blessed us with. I can tell you where they are now and how much they've grown and how far they've got to go. So there I sat, in Luke's home in Michigan, seeing my other kids standing together back home in Texas, sharing the Lord's Supper, and my heart smiled. It smiled big.

Here's what twenty-five years of parenting in a covenant home has taught me. Some conversions are like a knife through warmed butter. Seamless. Easy. The kid just steps into God's kingdom and never looks back. Some conversions are hard. Every square inch is hard-fought, hard won. Satan snarls over every square inch, refusing, absolutely refusing, to give ground. Kuyper notwithstanding, every square inch comes with grit and sweat and warfare.

Both types of conversion are cause for vigilance and cause for worship. The angels rejoice over both types of conversions. And I'm learning that moms can rejoice over both types of conversions, too.

Too, parents are parents for every square inch. When the kids are young, we make choices for them. As they grow, we 'help' them make choices. Then one day they become adults, and we take a step back to watch them make their own choices. But we're still parents.

We still find things coming out of our mouths like, "What were you thinking?" when they do something foolish or "ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR MIND?" when they're considering doing something foolish. We don't weigh in like this because we don't love them. We weigh in like this because we do.

Bilbo Baggins, do not take me for some conjurer of cheap tricks! I'm not trying to hurt you; I'm trying to help you!

The effectual love of a parent abounds in knowledge and depth of insight. We need to pray for our adult children that their love will abound this way, also. What does love look like when it abounds in knowledge and depth of insight? DA Carson, in his book, Praying With Paul: A Call to Spiritual Reformation, says it this way:
Without constraints of knowledge and insight, love very easily degenerates into mawkish sentimentality or into the kind of mushy pluralism the world often confuses for love. Christian love will be accompanied by knowledge--that is, in Paul's use, the mature grasp of the meaning of the gospel that is the fruit of sound instruction and full experience. Christian love is also accompanied by "all insight": the 'all' here signifies not total insight or 'depth' of insight (NIV) (sic) but rather breadth of insight, that is moral perception across the entire gamut of life's experiences. (106)
If Paul is correct, loving cannot operate outside of thinking. Unthinking love is not love; it is only 'mushy' and 'mawkish.' True love must be constrained by the knowledge of and mature grasp of the gospel.

And why is that? Carson continues, "The point is that Christians must abound more and more in this quality of love if they are to test and approve what is best. So what is best must be delicate or subtle or difficult to spot for those whose love is not abounding in this way." (emphasis added) In other words, if our love is not a thinking love, we will not be able to spot what is best. And if their love is not a constrained love, they won't, either. Yikes.

I've started praying this prayer over my children since I read this a couple months ago. I'm praying that we and they may walk every square inch with the kind of love that abounds more and more in knowledge and depth of insight.

Yet--and here's the kicker--at the same time, sleep. The farther I walk down this path of parenting, the more I'm realizing that I don't need to get rattled by the crossroads of Foolishness and Wisdom. That's not to say that my kids don't throw things at me that aren't worth getting rattled over. Oh sister, they have, they do, and they will. But time and again, I get my chain yanked, and then I see God come through. And I wonder why I ever doubt.

Because it's not over 'til it's over.
And it's not over until God says it's over.

There may be warfare over every square inch. But Jesus is Lord over every square inch, too.
He's Lord when they're young and high-maintenance.
He's Lord when they hit puberty, and you wonder who this alien child is.
He's Lord when they burst into adulthood.
He's Lord when they wonder; He's Lord when they wander.

My father-in-law was kind to affirm our parenting. But we both know Who gets our kids where they need to be. We both know that only Jesus can fill them with the fruit of righteousness.

I've only recently been able to articulate a recipe for rattle-free parenting:
Bring your kids to the cross.
Preach the gospel to them.
Pray Philippians 1:9 without ceasing.
And sleep.

Think back over the many ways God has been faithful to your children, and smile.
Smile big.
Jesus is Lord over every square inch.

And this is my prayer, that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless in the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ--to the glory and praise of God. Philippians 1:9-11

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Serpent in the Tree Goes Twist, Twist, Twist All Through the Church

A few days ago, I got an email from an old friend. "Did you see this on facebook?" she asked, and she pasted this:
"One thing I said was that it was high time that Christians open wide their arms, wide their churches, wide their tables, wide their homes to the LGBT community. So great has our condemnation and exclusion been that gay Christian teens are seven times more likely to commit suicide. Nope. No. No ma'am. Not on my watch. No more. This is so far outside the gospel of Jesus that I don't even recognize its reflection. I can't. I won't. I refuse. So whatever the cost and loss, this is where I am. Gay teens? Gay adults? Mommies and daddies of precious gaybees? Friends and beloved neighbors of very dear LGBT folk? Here are my arms open wide. So very wide that every last one of you can jump inside. You are so dear, so beloved, so precious and important. You matter so desperately, and your life is worthy and beautiful. There is nothing "wrong with you" or in any case, nothing more wrong or right than with any of us, which is to say we are all hopelessly screwed up, but Jesus still loves us beyond all reason and lives to make us all new, restored, whole. Yay for Jesus! Thank God He loves us. He is not embarrassed of any of us. I am not a scandal. You are not a scandal. We are not 'bringing down his band.' Anyway, my message to you today is simple, LGBT gang and all those who love you: You are loved and special and wanted and needed. The end." (Jen Hatmaker, Facebook, 4/24/16)
I assure you I'm not spending a moment of my time following Mrs. Hatmaker. But when something outlandish like this comes across my desk, I feel compelled to check it out. Anyway...
My first reaction: Well, duh.
My second reaction: Grace, grace, grace. Do some investigating. Maybe it's out of context. Maybe she'll clarify. Maybe it isn't as really, awfully, horribly bad as it sounds.
Investigating done, my third reaction: It's as really, awfully, horribly bad as it sounds.

I am not a scandal. You are not a scandal.
Whoopsie. Seems we've been dawdling at the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil again, haven't we? Here. Let me wipe that juice off your chin:
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of God. I Corinthians 6:9-11.
I am a scandal, you are a scandal, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.

Of course, there's the kernel of truth in there, too. Yes, all people matter. Yes, all people are important. Yes, all people have unquantifiable worth. But kernels of truth do not wise people make. Satan spoke kernels of truth, too.

Now, let's say she meant, Come as you are. Yes. Absolutely. Our churches are full of sanctifying ex-sinners, who enjoyed our sin and rebellion until God washed us. That's our testimony: what we were and what we now are and the difference between the two wrought by the saving power of Jesus Christ.

But she didn't mean that. She meant, Stay as you are. He's not embarrassed of any of us. True dat. God's not embarrassed;  He's offended. And God certainly doesn't mean for us to stay that way. And such were some of you, says Paul. WERE.

There's a world of difference between Come-as-you-are and Stay-as-you-are, a chasm of outer darkness, weeping, gnashing of teeth. Come as you are; that is grace. Bathe in it. Give thanks for it. Stay as you are; that's hell. Run.

Opening wide their arms, wide their churches, wide their tables...
That would be Corinth. Hatmaker's just updating their playbook.
Paul's response? Knock it off.

Corinth was one sad mess of a church. They couldn't agree on the best teachers, they couldn't agree on how to come to the Lord's Table. But they appeared to agree on a wide open church to people who at the same time called themselves practising saints and practising sinners. It's important to note that Corinth wasn't rebuked for not being inclusive enough; they were rebuked for not being exclusive enough.

Jen Hatmaker is not flying under the radar. This is not a lost little lamb who just needs someone to come along and mentor her. She's not sitting on my couch pondering this deep, wide thing called grace, processing aloud, wrestling with issues of mercy and justice. Lots of us are. Lots of us are feeling the tension of how to show God's love and stand with Him on His Word. That tension is right and good. Truth and souls are at stake here.

Hatmaker is experiencing none of this tension. Worse, she is a nationally known speaker and author, charismatic, gifted...and very, very influential.  This is someone who has an incredible amount of draw among female believers, and she purposefully puts herself and her message out there. I can deduce but two things.
she is Biblically ignorant, in which case she should not be speaking or writing; she should be sitting under the preaching of God's Word in a solid church until she gets her spiritual feet under her
she is Biblically insolent, in which case she should not be speaking or writing; she should be repenting.
Either way, she should not be speaking or writing.

I know that the Christian community is divided on her, even among my own circle of friends. I figured clarification would eventually come, one way or the other. God has a way of removing middle ground, sooner or later. It now appears that that has just happened.

I've got five daughters, one daughter-in-law (with hopefully many more to come), and one granddaughter (so far). So this grizzly mama is passionately concerned about women like Hatmaker. To that end, I offer the only wisdom I can offer to all the women I love: RUN. Run fast. In the other direction.

Is Jen Hatmaker a real believer?
The gospel is simple. So I am willing to say that it is possible that she is a poorly catechized believer. But the gospel is also precise. So I am unwilling to say that it is probable. That's as much grace as I can muster without selling out.

One thing is for sure. Jen Hatmaker is preaching the wrong gospel because she's solving the wrong problem.

More to come...

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

More Than Hopeful

And He personally brought you out of Egypt by His great power. Deuteronomy 4:37

"Jesus is not 'anxious,' 'worried,' or 'hopeful,' " said Matt Chandler at Together for the Gospel last week, finger-quoting each of the adjectives as he spoke. It was the second time in as many weeks that I had heard a reliable source disdain the portrayal of Jesus as 'hopeful', the pacing God, wringing His hands over the possibility that some He had died for might not take Him up on His offer.

The week before, I had read this in J.I. Packer's book, In My Place Condemned He Stood: The Gospel will not countenance the degrading presentation of Christ as the baffled Savior, balked in what He hoped to do by unbelief. 

It's a good word. It's an important word. But let us not use 'hopeful' in the wrong application.

There are traits reserved for God. God is jealous, wrathful, and perfect. We are not. And there are traits reserved for us: sinful, fickle,...and hopeful.

In recent days, I am more and more convinced that hopeful is not a term we should EVER use to describe God. 'Hopeful' implies something that we yearn for but that is beyond our control. There is nothing that God yearns for that He does not get. There is nothing outside of His control.

Jesus did not offer us salvation.
He saved us.
Jesus did make salvation available.
He saved us.
Jesus does not 'hope' that we get saved.
He saved us.

And He personally brought you out of Egypt by His great power. He didn't ask or cajole. He is not like the modern daddy who gets down on eye level and pleads with his son, asking, "Would you like to come with Daddy?" No. A thousand times no. Rather, He takes his son's hand and declares, "You are coming with Me."

Some people don't like that. If Jesus secured salvation, then how does that explain those who do not receive salvation? Does it mean that Jesus did not secure salvation for some?
That is precisely what it means.

And that is precisely what it means to say that it is by grace we are saved, and that not of ourselves.
It is by unmerited favor that we are saved.

Everyone's special, Dash.
Which is another way of saying no one is.
If everyone is favored--then no one is. Favor implies disfavor. There can't be favor if there is not also disfavor. They exist side by side, or they do not exist at all. So if there is no disfavor, there is no favor. And if there is no favor, then there is no grace. And if there is no grace, friends, then we are not saved.

Aw, she's still in the cage stage.
No. I'm not. Or rather, yes. I am.
If cage stage means that I rejoice in a God who secured my salvation...
If cage stage means I am overwhelmed by God and His saving grace...
If cage stage means God is biggER, bettER, kindER, MORE merciful, MORE gracious, MORE glorious to me in the last eighteen years or so than He ever was in my first thirty years...
then I'll never be out of the cage stage.

Growing up, God was portrayed to me as hopeful.
It was almost the good news.
It was almost finished.
I could almost sleep at night.

Packer is right; it is degrading to present God as merely hopeful. And he's right again: Can we seriously think that this most precious blood would be spent with the possibility of an empty class of people called 'the saved'?!?!
As if He is not powerful enough or sovereign enough to save.
As if He is not entitled to grant favor.
As if...He was a mere man.
As if.

And because we have a God who is not merely hopeful, we are not merely hopeful, either. We do not yearn for something that may or may not happen. Our hope is certain and sure because God is certain and sure, and His plan is certain and sure. This same Jesus who personally brought His people out of Egypt by His great power has personally saved us by His great power.

This is Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of God. (Hebrews 12:2)

That's not hopeful.
That's a wrap.