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Four Lessons for our Thanksgiving Family Gatherings

Four Lessons for our Thanksgiving Family Gatherings

Let me provide a few practical lessons from Philippians as you all will soon gather with loved ones for Thanksgiving and have dominion over one of God’s greatest gifts to us, food.

First, beware of a contentious spirit. It has been said that the most contentious table in America is the Thanksgiving table. My expectation for myself and for you is that you treat others with dignity and disagree respectfully. I have said before that our example and our children’s example are the best and most convincing marks of our worldview. Whether we are dealing with fellow believers or unbelievers, we are both called to love them and know when the limit of a conversation has been reached. Paul says that as much as it is possible live in peace with all men. Do not become the one that everyone fears around the table; the one who will turn a question on the weather into a discussion on the teleological necessities of an epistemic self-conscious worldview. Learn to discuss something besides that which everyone knows is the only thing you talk about.

Secondly, keep your eyes open to those who are in need when you gather this coming week. There may have been much pain and sorrow that have transpired in the lives of family members in a space of twelve months. Paul says in chapter two of Philippians: “If there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort in love…” You may have the opportunity to be a good counselor to those grieving in your family or to a friend.

Third, practice lots of thanksgiving. Use your traveling this coming week with your family to remember the good things God has done for you. And if you happen to be in a difficult time in your life, give thanks for what God is going to do in your story. Your story is not a one chapter book. It is filled with drama and joy and glory. And if you think our Triune God is done writing your story, you need a bigger view of the God we worship.

Finally, rejoice in a way that would make pagans jealous. A pagan looks at a bottle of wine and says: “I drink for my own satisfaction.” A Christian looks at the same bottle and says: “I drink to the glory of God!” Set a good example of moderation and festiveness. Thanksgiving–not only because of its glorious Christian history in this country– but for many other reasons, is a distinctly Christian celebration. We have reason to rejoice and to give thanks. Let’s feast like Christians!

The Way of the Cross

The Way of the Cross

Doug Jones’ newest book Dismissing Jesus: How We Evade the Way of the Cross is filled with gems right from the start. Peter Leithart writes a wonderful foreword; not just one of praise, but one where he confronts some of the basic premises of the book. Peter relates his concerns:

I think the topography of maturation from Old to New is less smooth
than Doug maps it. Doug is not a pacifist, but he needs to explain why
not. I wonder if Doug has given weight to the way the patriarchal narratives,
the life of David, the career of Jesus, and the history of the church
progress from weakness to power. I would like to see Doug integrate Acts
more intimately into his reading of Luke.

This type of open engagement is befitting of the Framian tradition of book writing.

The book begins with some challenging shots at the heart of our westernized fascination with success. I am sure there will be plenty to disagree with in the book, but I am taking every line at a time and enjoying Jones’ penetrating observations. Among them is  this beautiful definition of the implications for the way of the cross:

The way of the cross fails if it is not lived in community. It is not
designed for loners. Jesus’s way assumes a community of love and commitment
and burden bearing. It requires great sacrifice and self-denial
out of love for others in the body. The way of the cross is deeply communal
because, in the end, it seeks to incarnate the love and loyalty of Father,
Son, and Spirit on earth. The way of the cross seeks to make Trinity here
and now. That is God’s mission for us.


The Strangeness of Persuasion

The Strangeness of Persuasion

Persuasion is a terribly strange thing. It has to overcome our personality
types, our histories, our ages, all our past friends and safe influences,
and our willingness to reconsider. We dismiss books and authors for
lacking the right feel or for not sounding like our friends. It’s an impossible
task. Persuasion is magic or more like an unbelievable accident. We
have to be standing at just the right intersection at the exact moment of
time, tilting our head in just one direction to see what we need to see.
It’s astounding we’re ever persuaded of anything new. I guess that’s why
most of us tend to stick forever with views we embraced in high school
or college.

-Doug Jones, Dismissing Jesus, xi

Expecting a New Season

Expecting a New Season

Last week I talked a little about what it means to go through this cycle called the Church Calendar. This week, which is the final Sunday of the Church Year, I’d like to prepare you for why it’s important to expect.

The Advent Season, which starts next Sunday, is the beginning of a season of expectation. What does Advent expect? Advent expects or anticipates the coming of Christ. The word “Advent” a refers to “coming or arrival.” And you may say, “Why are we expecting Jesus, when Jesus has already come for us?” One answer to that is that we are still living in light of that first coming. The consequences of Messiah’s coming had and still have repercussions for how we live, and move, and have our being. But also because Jesus does not cease to come. In fact, during the Advent Season we will stress the idea that Jesus comes for us again and again. He comes in our darkness, in our joy, in our repentance, in our confession, in our gathering, in bread and wine, he comes again and again.

As we enter into a season of expectation, we enter into a season of hope and desire to see the Son of Man minister to us by His Spirit and comfort us as we worship joyfully and truthfully.

  1. Adventus, Latin; arrival  (back)
Watch Out for the Dogmatic Dogs, Ladies!

Watch Out for the Dogmatic Dogs, Ladies!

Paul addresses his famous three “Lookouts” or “Bewares” in Philippians 3. The reference is likely to Judaizers; those who pollute the law of Yahweh and make the commandments of God unbearable and burdensome. But something else came to my attention as I thought about this text in light of my experiences in Reformedom. And that is that we have built a haven for dogmatic dogs. These dogs are well within the pale of orthodoxy. Their creedal credentials are not at stake. What is at stake is what they add to their creedal credentials.

Let me be honest. I love a good dose of postmillennial, paedo-life, psalmic, and predestinarian theology for breakfast…and lunch, and supper. So I am not discouraging the pursuit and passionate embrace of these doctrines. At the same time, there are some who wear these as fervently as St. Nick’s commitment to the deity of Christ witnessed by many when he slapped a heretic over it. These dogmatic dogs would receive the same rebuke from Paul today. In those days, they would have been wearing their Apollos t-shirts to the marketplace. And here is where things get messy: they truly believe they have a high calling to be apologists for the kingdom of God–that really small faction that intends to take over the world one blog post at a time.

Ladies, watch out!

I love the idea and the application of courtships in my congregation and elsewhere. But what needs to be included in this courtship process is not just whether a young man loves Jesus or contemplates deeply the mysteries of God, but whether this young man contemplates unity as the foundation for loving Jesus and understanding the mysteries of God.

Dogmatic Dogs don’t want unity. They perpetuate the myth that unity is for ecumenical liberals. Their strong and rhetorical vision for a united Christendom involves dogs that bark just like them. Ladies, look out! These are the types of men who will go from job to job, and if they are pursuing pastoral ministry they will go from church to church.

If you are a young lady contemplating sacred marriage and a young man has asked your father permission to court you and get to know you, here are some questions to ponder:

First, what is his on-line track record? Is he known as a contentious dog barking everywhere only to get the world to see his point of view?

Second, is he so dogmatic that his parents–who happen to be on opposite ends theologically–cannot bear to hear the words “theology” or “God” for fear of the conversation that will ensue?

Third, does he have friends from different theological traditions? If not, press him on why not?

Fourth, does he only read 16th century authors? Does he think contemporary theological writing is corrupt?

Fifth, is he able to teach you the Bible without making you feel like a theological infant?

Sixth, has he ever read a story? Tolkien, Lewis, McDonald, Rowling? Or are Systematic Theologies his favorite past time?

Seventh, can he engage in any other type of conversation outside theology? I know, I know, all of life is theological, but you get my point.

Eighth, does he consider human emotions a sign of weakness?

Ninth, does he honor and submit to his pastor when he receives counsel? Or does he always think he has a better way?

Finally, how does he worship? Does he treasure gathering with the saints? Does he treasure singing, feasting, loving, submitting, serving, and sacrificing for the saints?

Ladies, watch out for the dogmatic dogs! There is always the possibility they will see the errors of their own ways and change when they get married, but don’t count on it. Pray that they are able to show you a gentle dogmatism that translates to love, patience, and mercy to fellow brothers and sisters before marriage. Pray that they will repent of their vicious dogmatism and re-orient their words and actions to benefit the body and the unity of the saints. If we treasure our Christian faith, we may have at times failed to answer these questions rightly at one time or another, but the real question is whether we have learned to make our dogma attractive, rather than repulsive.


How to Help in the Typhoon Haiyan Aftermath

How to Help in the Typhoon Haiyan Aftermath

The devastation is severe. Here is how you can help:

Tax deductible contributions can be sent payable to The Christian Training and Missionary Fellowship, designated for “Typhoon Relief Fund.” Address: P.O. Box 1128, Madisonville, KY 42431.

My former theology professor, Daniel Ebert,  is an officer of this mission, and his brother, Bill, would make sure 100% goes to the people in need.

Vision Forum Closes Its Doors

Vision Forum Closes Its Doors

The most well-known producer and distributor of home-school material has closed its doors. Here is the official statement from the Vision Forum Board:

In light of the serious sins which have resulted in Doug Phillips’s resignation from Vision Forum Ministries, the Board of Directors has determined that it is in the best interests of all involved to discontinue operations. We have stopped receiving donations, and are working through the logistical matters associated with the closing of the ministry. While we believe as strongly as ever in the message of the ministry to the Christian family, we are grieved to find it necessary to make this decision. We believe this to be the best option for the healing of all involved and the only course of action under the circumstances.

Many of us have friends who have worked for VF and now will soon be without a job. We pray that they will quickly find a place to minister and use their gifts. We grieve for the sins that have affected that ministry, and while many may take the opportunity to offer a rhetorical blow against Phillips and the VF worldview, I grieve. My prayer is once again for fidelity to the Scriptures in this process, for Phillips’ elders as they guide him to continual repentance, also for continual repentance as Phillips seeks restoration with his family, and also the unknown woman a and her family whom he has also sinned against.

  1. Though her name is not known and though she is guilty for engaging Phillips in a romantic relationship, she and her family also need prayer through this time. As someone pointed out to me recently, sometimes the unknown figure never receives any prayer from the world becoming another unknown figure in the trail of pain and guilt  (back)
On Domestic Abuse: Resources

On Domestic Abuse: Resources

My interest in studying the topic of domestic abuse began a few months ago. It has only increased over time. The lack of information and the unpreparedness of pastors to handle such issues are great. For those interested in studying the issue in greater depth, let me recommend the following works and audio series:

A Cry for Justice: How the Evil of Domestic Abuse Hides in Your Church, by Jeff Crippen and Anna
Wood (Calvary Press Publications, 2012).

The Emotionally Destructive Marriage, by Leslie Vernick (WaterBrook Press, 2013).

Not Under Bondage: Biblical Divorce for Abuse, Adultery, and Desertion, by Barbara Roberts (Maschil Press, 2008)

Also, for a lengthy and detailed series of audio sermons on domestic abuse by Pastor Jeff Crippen, see here.

Doug Phillips’ Resignation and Questions to Ask Ourselves

Doug Phillips’ Resignation and Questions to Ask Ourselves

Doug Phillips has resigned from Vision Forum. He has cancelled his public speaking engagements as well. Doug has been one of the most influential voices in the home-schooling movement, and what some refer to as the patriarchy movement. One can hardly find a home-schooling family that doesn’t have one or a thousand items produced from Vision Forum. At this stage, the Christian Church has an opportunity to grieve over his sin, and trust that Doug’s elders are taking proper steps to restore the brokenness caused by Phillips’ sin. But we have also to accept his repentance as a genuine expression of a man who is deeply committed to his Lord.

I should add that unlike the half-hearted letters of public apologies we have become accustomed to in this politically-correct age, Phillips’ letter puts those to shame. May God bring daily repentance and restoration to Doug Phillips and special comfort to those whom he has deeply offended and grieved–his wife and children.

I believe that every public sin is reason for self-examination. Here are some questions for us to ponder as men:

How committed are we to our wives? What are we doing to foster a greater relationship with our wives?

How do we relate to other women?

How quickly do we deal with our sins? How often do we repent?

What do we do when we are found out? Self-pity? Self-justification?

What are we doing to prevent a similar situation from happening? What kind of accountability do we have? Do we think we are too strong, and therefore not in need of accountability?

What are we doing to protect ourselves from pornography and other images that defile our minds?

Doug Phillips’ Letter of Resignation:

With thanksgiving to God for His mercy and love, I have stepped down from the office of president at Vision Forum Ministries and have discontinued my speaking responsibilities. There has been serious sin in my life for which God has graciously brought me to repentance. I have confessed my sin to my wife and family, my local church, and the board of Vision Forum Ministries.  I engaged in a lengthy, inappropriate relationship with a woman. While we did not “know” each other in a Biblical sense, it was nevertheless inappropriately romantic and affectionate.

There are no words to describe the magnitude of shame I feel, or grief from the injury I caused my beloved bride and children, both of whom have responded to my repentance with what seems a supernatural love and forgiveness. I thought too highly of myself and behaved without proper accountability. I have acted grievously before the Lord, in a destructive manner hypocritical of life messages I hold dear, inappropriate for a leader, abusive of the trust that I was given, and hurtful to family and friends. My church leadership came alongside me with love and admonition, providing counsel, strong direction and accountability. Where I have directly wronged others, I confessed and repented. I am still in the process of trying to seek reconciliation privately with people I have injured, and to be aware of ways in which my own selfishness has hurt family and friends. I am most sensitive to the fact that my actions have dishonored the living God and been shameful to the name of Jesus Christ, my only hope and Savior.

This is a time when my repentance needs to be proven, and I need to lead a quiet life focusing on my family and serving as a foot soldier, not a ministry leader. Though I am broken over my failures, I am grateful to be able to spend more time with my family, nurturing my wife and children and preparing my older sons and daughters for life. So, for these reasons I want to let my friends know that I have stepped down as a board member and as president of Vision Forum Ministries. The Board will be making provision for the management of the ministry during this time. To the friends of this ministry, I ask for your forgiveness, and hope that you will pray for the Phillips family at this time, and for the men who will be responsible for shepherding the work of Vision Forum Ministries in the future. Doug Phillips

All Saints’ Day Prayer

All Saints’ Day Prayer

Almighty God, you have knit together your elect in one communion and fellowship in the mystical body of your Son Christ our Lord: Give us grace so to follow your blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to those ineffable joys that you have prepared for those who truly love you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.