Archives For gospel

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Last week I wrote a piece on the reflection of Christ and the Church on dating relationships. To my surprise within 24 hours it was one of the most viewed posts in Sayable’s history. It seems the Church—and not just singles—is desperate for clear reminders of what marriage is at its core.

The more I thought about the core of marriage, especially in light of the recent legislative decisions, the more my heart began to break for my friends and family who are desperate to enter into marriage with their same-sex partners. I love these people and it pierces my heart when I hear them say earnestly, “Why would you want to legislate who I can love?”

Now, first things first, I am not interested in legislating love. I am, however, in favor of a more holistic and Christ/Gospel-centric love. I want to see past the “Do unto others…” surface love, and delve into the root of love, namely God’s love and all its implications.

Our love will always be dim until we behold Him face to face—and there is no chance of that on this side of the Kingdom. So yes, love who you will, but let us check ourselves for the quality of the love we experience.

Love, however, is a tricky emotion, so qualifying it is nearly impossible for any one of us, straight or gay. If I were in love, how could I explain how bright the stars look when he is around? or how brilliant the colors are? or how my heart jumps into my throat? I cannot. Goodness gracious, gladly I cannot.

So there must be something deeper than our definition of love on the table here, but what is it?

Throughout all of scripture God deals with His chosen people as a bride awaiting her bridegroom. Woven through the entire Old Testament and carried to near fullness in the New, God endears Himself to His people in various ways.

He helps her to see her helplessness without Him.
He helps her to see her beauty in His eyes.
He woos her when she plays the harlot.
He comes to earth in the form of a man, a Groom, and lays His life down for her, the ultimate sacrifice.
He promises to come soon to take her home with Him.

God, in beautiful ways, makes it clear to His people that He and they are wholly different from one another. Though man was created in God’s image—a likeness in part, a reflection—intrinsically they are not the same. This is not a simple love story, though, here is the most sacrificial love possible: this is two entities, completely distinct, absolutely different, and intrinsically separate—brought together to form an eternal union.

A homosexual union cannot be, by its nature, a reflection of Christ and the Church because Christ and the Church are intrinsically and holistically different from one another. For the Christian, the bride of Christ, a homosexual marriage cannot reflect that which marriage is intended to display: their union with Christ.

It is not about biology or parts fitting together, or feelings of love, or a fullness of emotion, or unalterable attraction—it is the definition of a love story, legislated by God, for the good of all men. It is the greatest love ever known. Earthly marriage between a man and woman is meant to be a profound mystery, but it is meant to be a mere illustration of what happens when two holistically different entities are joined together.

The kingdom is made complete.

A Profound Mystery

July 5, 2013

“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. Ephesians 5:31-33

You don’t reach the ripe old age of 32 without having worn sixteen bridesmaid dresses to sixteen weddings. (Actually, seventeen, I wore the black one in two weddings.) Standing beside seventeen women as they vowed to love, honor, and cherish the guy facing them, as well as walking through countless relationships with nearly all of my friends, you learn a thing or two.

This morning, as yet another friend and I were talking about how to handle a situation with a guy she recently started dating, it occurred me to that there would be much more clarity in dating relationships if we really took the “profound mystery of Christ & the Church” seriously. That illustration is about marriage, yet, but shouldn’t that be the aim of dating?

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Christ pursues us from the foundation of the earth. He doesn’t wait until it is less risky or for us to show interest in Him. Because of this, the Church knows Christ’s love for us is true and will not be depleted when the going gets rough.

Men, do not wait for a riskless situation, pursue anyway.
Women, don’t make it difficult for him to pursue you.

Christ never wavered in His sacrificial offering. He wept in the garden, but did what His Father asked Him to do. Because of this, the Church trusts that Christ’s word is true and trustworthy. There is no question or doubt about His intentions.

Men, state your intentions, simple though they may be, right up front.
Women, trust a man who does this and believe him without second guessing.

Christ spreads wide the arms of love. He doesn’t withhold until we are lovable, understandable, or beautiful. Because of this, we can take our unloveliness to Christ with confidence. He sees past our blemishes and we are lovely because He loves us. We love Him because He first loved us.

Men, look past culture’s demands for a perfect wife, love what the world calls unlovely.
Women, you become lovely because you are loved first by Christ—rest in that loveliness.

Christ intercedes on our behalf. He does not stop going to the Father in our defense and for our petitions. Because of this, we know Christ will fight for us. He will not allow anything to break us beyond His capable sight, so we trust Him.

Men, don’t give up on a woman because she is difficult to understand; seek the Holy Spirit for understanding.
Women, be clear about what you need or how you feel, without making it difficult for him to meet your needs—trust him and the Lord’s work in him.

Christ reminds us of our sufficiency in Him. He doesn’t make us wonder if we are enough or too much. Because of this, the Church can trust that every difficult and beautiful thing will be used for the fruition of His kingdom—nothing is wasted, nothing is too much, nothing is not enough.

Men, find your sufficiency in Christ, not your girl’s approval, respect, or admiration of you.
Women, trust your “not enoughness” and “too muchness” to the finished work of the Cross, and know that in your weaknesses He is made great.

It is a profound mystery, I think, Christ and the Church, marriage, all of it. But I think it could be a little more profound here on earth if we really took Paul’s illustration to heart.

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I don’t know when I first began to understand the bible was not a blueprint for life, that David was not a model of how to slay giants in my life and Balaam’s donkey wasn’t my cue to listen for God’s voice in odd places. It seems foreign to me now, to think of the Bible that way.

Here was the whole story of God and I spent my whole life trying to make it the story of me.

The Jesus Storybook Bibleby Sally Lloyd-Jones, takes a holistic and simple approach to the gospel, from Genesis to Revelation and is appropriate for the youngest of children—though I don’t know many adults who can read it without choking up themselves.

Sometimes I find the intricacies of the gospel seem so complex, the questions mount, and before I know it, I doubt God’s goodness and faithfulness and love for me. One of the opening lines in the book is, “They were lovely because God loved them. Because He made them.”

They were lovely because God loved them.

I recommend you buy this book right now, go! Buy it even if you don’t have children, but most certainly if you do.

For You!

I’m giving away the four DVD set of animated Jesus Storybook Bible. The illustrations are by Jago, the same illustrator from the book, and it is narrated by British actor David Suchet. I think its value is far greater than money alone, so even if you don’t win, I recommend purchasing them. The DVDs were given to me by Zondervan for review, so in return I’m gifting them to one amazing family!

To Enter

Winning is easy, really easy, and I hope fun.

I know a lot of you read Sayable and you feel like you know me, but I don’t know you! If you’d like to enter to win the four DVDs, tweet me a photo of your family or leave a comment on this post on Facebook attaching a photo in the comment. If you don’t feel comfortable showing your faces in public, no problem, email it to me here. If you’re single, upload a photo of people who are like family to you.

I’ll pick a winner Saturday at noon and contact you through whatever medium you shared your image with me. Cannot wait to “meet” your families!

This contest is now closed. The winner was Jonathan Wilson and family from Conway, AR. Thanks all! Seeing your family photos was one of the highlights of my blog-writing days!

 

A few months ago I wrote an article that caused a bit of a firestorm among some of my writing compadres. Perhaps I gave it a provocative title, but I maintain its truth: Mark Driscoll is Not My Pastor.

Amongst the backlash of that article there was also a curious phenomenon on the twitter chat: the affirmation of the virtual church.

What was being espoused by person after person was the reality that they considered their online friends their church. “Twitter is my church” and “You guys are my church and my pastors” were among some of the statements I read. The definition of virtual is “Existing or resulting in essence or effect though not in actual fact, form, or name.”

Hear me out, one of the ministries to which God has called me is of the online variety. This blog and other publications I write for take a good amount of mental and spiritual energy. You are my ministry. But you are not my local church.

More and more I read articles lumping authors into clear and present camps. You have the Jesus feminists, the red letter Christians, the social justice-cause driven, the reformed, the story-tellers, the orthodox. There are these hard and fast lines boxing authors to a particular movement or theological framework, and once they have been flagged as such, they are blacklisted or embraced. There is little room for grace in this world because if I confess I agree with Rob Bell in this one area, that is a blight on my character to those who disagree with him. If I confess I agree with John Piper in this area, well, count me out of an entire sector of the blogosphere.

If we are in an age of the virtual church, then we are also in an age of virtual shunning.

You won’t ever hear me disavow the importance of the global Church. That I can consider someone who lives thousands of miles from me one of my closest friends—that is the power of the bond we have in Christ.

But love for the global Church does not negate the biblical importance of the local church. Too often I hear great passion in my brothers and sisters for the health of the Church, without seeing evidence that they value it at its most local level. I see bloggers calling men and women to task, and shunning those who associate with them, without seeing any accountability to authority in their own lives. I see much concern for orthodoxy and discipleship and brotherly love, without seeing evidence of those things in their lives.

I am not saying those things are not happening, what I am saying is that I don’t see it.

I don’t see it because they are not my local church and I do not know them in the way I know the people alongside whom I walk. I don’t see it because I am not privy to the conversations they have with their pastors (if they have pastors) or elders. I don’t see it because I don’t see them taking meals to new moms or visiting the sick or weeping with those who weep. Seeing those things is reserved for those who are not virtual, but real life, flesh and blood.

I’m writing this because too often the assumption is made that the virtual groups with whom I am associated are somehow the people to whom I am submitted. The assumption is we ascribe to the same set of theological ideals, we have discussions behind closed doors, spit-shake on how we’ll handle certain situations, administer church discipline and the sacraments together. And it’s simply not the truth.

I have pastors and a local church. I write for publications, enjoy friendships, but they are not my local church or my elders. Simply because a publication for which I write or a group of online acquaintances embrace a certain stance or ideal, does not mean I agree with them.

A year ago I had a conversation with one of my pastors. I met with him to discuss an opportunity put before me to participate in a publication where I would share the platform with some diametrically opposing authors. Should I do it? was my question. Yes, was his answer. Why? Because every opportunity we have to proclaim the gospel is good and we should prayerfully consider taking it. Some of the places I write, I write because I do disagree with their stance on certain issues. I write because it is my prayer that the gospel would go forth. My name doesn’t matter, but Christ’s does.

We proclaim Christ best by loving what He loves. What Christ loves best is the glory of His Father, and the Father is glorified when we are his disciples, when we love one another—at the most difficult, personal, beautiful level: right here, locally.

Love the Church, friends, but start by loving the church.

A Life Full of Sabbaths

June 10, 2013

It’s Wendell Berry all this month. I drink in his essays, turning words over and over in my mouth. I read him aloud, even when no one is listening. Last night as she spreads cornmeal on wooden boards, I read her three paragraphs to give context to the quote written on the chalkboard: Though they have no Sundays, their days are full of Sabbaths.

He speaks of the cedar waxwings eating grapes in November. But he penned the poem The Peace of the Wild Things nearby then and poetry is meant to speak of the mysterious in the mundane and so he speaks of us, or the hoped-for us.

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This morning I read in Mark of Jesus healing on the Sabbath, the pharisees outrage, and the calm response of the Lord of the Sabbath: “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”

How we have forgotten that. How have we forgotten that?

She is leaving to get bread flour to bake round loaves in the brick-oven. Do you want to come with, she asks, dropping her prepositional phrase and picking up her purse. I am drinking coffee on the side porch and nothing could bid me leave the wild rushing of the river in front of me and the song of the orioles above me. This is my sabbath and I am made for it, I think.

The last time I was home was a year ago, in May, and I have waited a year for these few days. They are not exactly as I imagined in my mind, other duties and events capped its full breadth, but it is a few days at least of quiet and still. I was made for this week, I think. The coals burned hot in the brick-oven the other night and faces gathered around the tables, children everywhere, laughter lingering. A phone call from Malaysia from a globe-trotting brother: you always sound so happy when you’re home, he said, and it is true, except when it hasn’t been.

I have lived this year holding my breath, it seems, waiting for the mornings when I could sleep past 4:30 or when I at least didn’t have to hit the ground running, literally, as soon as I woke. I have lived this year waiting for Sabbath, guarding it with a fervor I didn’t know I had. If anyone came near it, I would square my jaw and shake my head: it’s mine!

I preened myself for my Sabbaths.

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Whenever I rest and really rest, empty my head of expectations (yours and mine), listen, really listen, I remember there is nothing of my doing in salvation; that salvation is one long rest in the same direction. There is work too, obedience and sanctification, moments of weakness and moments of strength. But at its core and its very marrow, the work of salvation is rest, Sabbath. It is to say, again and again and again, I rest in You, Lord of Rest. I find my Sabbath in you, Lord of the Sabbath.

The work of salvation is to live a life full to Sabbaths, even when there is no margin and little space, when there is demand from every outside element and every inside emotion. This is to trust that a God who rested when His work was not done—even when it was good—to set an example for His people: You are not done, children, no, but it is still good. And so rest. You are not made for Sabbath, the Sabbath was made for you.

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It’s been a few months of feeling discouraged and one of the effects of that is I simply don’t want to write for you. I don’t want to write at all, but I especially don’t want to write for you. I don’t want to be found out, so to speak. I don’t want the world to know my first love feels likes seconds and my *gospel wakefulness feels tired. I don’t want you to know I’ve been struggling with condemnation, fear, insecurity, uncertainty, and weariness. I am ashamed of those feelings—especially because I know they are anti-gospel and they are born in me as a result of not reveling in Godward affections.

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Tonight I was remembering some of the things that set my soul free a few years ago. Not the sermons or books specifically, but the realizations:

1. I am the younger brother AND the older brother. I hate restrictions and I love approval, I hate poverty and love lavish attention.

2. God is not more or less interested in me because of my legalism or licentiousness: His provision is the same for both.

3. The gospel doesn’t only carry the power to save me, but also sanctify and sustain me.

4. I cannot put God in my debt by being good, holy, or faithful enough.

5. All my righteous acts are like filthy rags.

6. God is not beholden to my view of Him. My concept of good is not His definition of good. My ideal of His faithfulness is not His attribute of faithfulness.

7. Man’s approval is impossible to attain. God’s approval is completely wrapped up in His Son.

8. God is not surprised by my lack of faith or my abundance of faith, by my questions or my fears, by my pride or my sin. On the threshold of His kingdom He will not deny access to me because I didn’t understand an aspect of theology or walk in complete faith in certain areas.

9. The Holy Spirit is not tapping His toe waiting for my faith to be big enough or my ear to be tuned. He dwells in me, empowering me to accomplish everything God has ordained for me to accomplish with every gift He formed me to have before the foundation of the world.

10. God is for my joy. He is most glorified when I am most satisfied in Him. My complete confidence and joy in the Holy Spirit, through the finished work of the Son, to the honor of the Father, brings the triune God glory.

It was encouraging for me to simply write these things out, and so I thought I’d share them with you. Perhaps you’re struggling too, or perhaps you’ve never experienced gospel wakefulness, and these points will help you along that way. Either way, I hope you’re encouraged. Also, I suggest you take a few minutes to write out what the gospel means to you, or has shown you. Even just to remind truths or clarify errors in your thinking.

*Gospel Wakefulness is not my term, but Jared Wilson’s . Jared wrote a book by the same title, but he has also written extensively on it on his blog Gospel Driven Church. Jared is one of the most Godward gazing people I know. His blog has been a constant source of encouragement in the past few years and I recommend every one of his books with full assurance you will be encouraged. Seriously, buy his books. All of ‘em.

Resurrection

March 31, 2013

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O God of my Exodus,

Great was the joy of Israel’s sons,
when Egypt died upon the shore,
Far greater the joy
when the Redeemer’s foe lay crushed
in the dust.

Jesus strides forth as the victor,
conqueror of death, hell, and all opposing might;
He bursts the bands of death,
tramples the powers of darkness down,
and lives forever.

He, my gracious surety,
apprehended for payment of my debt,
comes forth from the prison house of the grave
free, and triumphant over sin, Satan, and death.

Show me herein the proof that his vicarious offering is accepted,
that the claims of justice are satisfied,
that the devil’s sceptre is shivered,
that his wrongful throne is levelled.

Give me the assurance that in Christ I died,
in him I rose,
in his life I live,
in his victory I triumph,
in his ascension I shall be glorified.

Adorable Redeemer,
Thou who was lifted up upon a cross
art ascended to the highest heaven.
Thou, who as Man of sorrows
wast crowned with thorns,
art now as Lord of life wreathed with glory.

Once, no shame more deep than thine,
no agony more bitter,
no death more cruel.
Now, no exaltation more high,
no life more glorious,
no advocate more effective.

Thou art in the triumph car leading captive
thine enemies behind thee.

What more could be done than Thou hast done!
Thy death is my life,
Thy resurrection my peace,
Thy ascension my hope,
Thy prayers my comfort.

Valley of Vision

 

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Before a polygraph can be performed, the test-giver asks a series of questions to which he knows the answers to ascertain a baseline. Therefore, when a lie is given, it’s clear because the needle spikes amidst the truth. Everyone has a different baseline, and some people can BS the lie detector, but it’s a rare one who can.

The reason I’m giving you a brief lesson in polygraphy is because what I see across the board in the blogosphere is a lot of people citing spikes as norms (on every side in every issue)—and it’s not helpful.

I think if we were to more often consider a holistic picture of any movement (political, spiritual, etc.) we would not only find a more holistic argument for their views—founded or not—and, which is more, we would find people. We would find individuals who care deeply about their issues and often times have deeply personal reasons for caring about them. I’m not arguing that every position should be considered viable, but every person ought to be considered, particularly by Christians, whose ministry is one of reconciliation—namely the reconciliation of man to God.

Recently I’ve been cited as being part of the Young Restless Reformed corner of the Church. True or not is beside the point (if you have a problem with that, reread the former paragraph). One common pushback on the YRR is that they only listen to like-minded individuals and only call out in public those who disagree. However, if you, like the polygraph giver, would observe the baseline truths of what God is doing there, you’d find they’re actively involved in calling out their own brothers and sisters where error occurs. I know my email inbox has been filled with an equal amount of caution and encouragement—and I’m fully prepared for more public responses as my readership grows.

A perfect example of good discourse on this currently is the current amiable conversation between Thabiti Anyabwile and Doug Wilson—on a very polarizing issue—on their blogs. It’s been a pleasure to watch a disagreement play out between brothers with good-will and gospel focus.

If you find yourself citing spikes and rushing to share the latest drama from any particular corner of the internet, a word of caution: establish a baseline first; find every reason to think the very best of individuals you’re planning on slandering or sharing information about, and then press near to the Holy Spirit for He ushers us into all truth (Jn. 14:26)

(This actually wasn’t written in response to the accusations leveled at me from the former post, just thoughts that have been rolling around in my noggin for a while.)

Did y’all know there are whole websites devoted to uncovering the supposed-salacious details of Christian bloggers and pastors? I didn’t until today when my inbox received a google alert that my name, lo and behold, was attached to some very salacious details of its own. Who knew?

I didn’t read far—my constitution is affected enough by truths about my own soul to bother with what strangers make up about it. Suffice it to say the underbelly is alive and well, folks, alive and well.

All this has me thinking about the ever shrinking neutral ground and whether it exists at all, or ever has. It seems nothing is out from under the watchful eye of bloggers and critics these days. Mostly because everyone has a platform these days and if not, they build one from crates, soapboxes, and grudges til they get one. I’m a peace-making sort, but even I feel the pull to build a Babel—even to just protect my own name and sense of peace.

What most of these watchdog sites and bulldog bloggers are doing, though, is attempting to make their -ism (whatever -ism and -ian or -ist they are) seem more appealing than the others’. And if they can’t do that, or have already failed to do so, they’ll do their darnedest to pull all the -isms down with ‘em.

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One of my favorite passages in the book of Acts is when those seven silly sons of Sceva tried to cast out demons in the names of Paul and Jesus without any faith of their own. The evil spirits replied, “I know Jesus and I’ve heard of Paul, but who are you?” and I-love-that.

I know Jesus and I’ve heard of Paul.

But who are you?

 

 

 

 

 

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So tonight, this small writer, writing from a dark bedroom in a small, dark house in Texas, my roommate asleep next to me, her mom asleep in her bed, a friend asleep on the couch, and the rest of my girls snug in bed, I think about how small our lives are. How very, very small they are.

Who are we?

Precious few of us are Pauls; most of us are probably Peters, running at the mouth and sinking after three steps. Or Thomas, that beautiful faithless skeptic. Maybe we’re Mary, the whore with the hair at Jesus feet, giving much. Perhaps some of us are just shepherds on a cold night, to whom an angel appears with great news. Maybe we’re Joseph, asked to do hard things. But at the end of all things, we are very small people living very small lives. I think that with every new twitter follower, every facebook like, every email that comes into my inbox, every new invitation to speak or write: who are you, Lore? Who the heck are you?

Because at the end of all things, the world won’t care about my -ism or my name. They won’t remember anything when faced with the all-encompassing God of the universe. They will Know Jesus. Every one of us will bow and confess Him alone as Lord.

And until that day, I want to simply do my best to preach the gospel in His name. That’s all I am. And I hope, I hope that’s all you are too.

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I’m sorry.

You were sold the story, hook, line, and sinker. Do this, don’t do that, build it, tear it down, cover it up, write it over—do it all and then this…

This will happen for you. Or this bad thing, that won’t happen for you. Obey, honor, submit, then shut your mouth, don’t ask questions, don’t dare defy. Do all that and it will go well for you.

And then it didn’t. It didn’t go well and it went really bad. Really, really bad. On the other side you stood there with nothing. No morals, no laurels, no crowns of glory, all your delight in shambles and your hope in rags. They said it would go well for you and then it didn’t.

This is a letter to you, you women who grew up asking how short was too short, how obedient was obedient enough, how submission looked on you, and if every single thing you did was right enough, good enough, pure enough.

This is letter to you, you girls who grew up with mothers barefoot in the kitchen, with fathers stern and unappreciative, with every boy a threat, and every girl a comparison.

This is a letter to you, liberated woman. You came out in college roaring. You threw off the shackles of fundamentalism, of second guessing, of moralism, of theology that bound instead of freed.

This is a letter to you, freed women, ones who are looking for the voices of your sisters, the ones who know it as acutely as you do. Who know the shackles, the questions, the fears, and the injustice of growing up always looking over your shoulder.

I’m sorry.

I am so, so sorry.

I am sorry that something beautiful was perverted by an enemy who steals, kills, and destroys. I am deeply sorry that you felt damaged, a cowering bird in a coyote’s world. I am so sorry that you spent your life in front of a fun-house mirror, a distortion of who you truly are. I am not your parent or your pastor, but I am you, and I am sorry.

I know you are looking for strong female voices, women who will lead the charge toward full freedom, birds who have found their flight above the heads of squabbling coyotes. I know you are looking for women who will say that yes, that was wrong, what happened to you. That, yes, the reflection you’ve been shown is not a true woman, a woman who fears the Lord and loves His word. That, yes, the subservient cloistered crouching woman is nothing like what a daughter of the King ought to look like.

I know you are looking for her.

And so I’m sorry, I’m sorry that I haven’t spoken up. I’m sorry that in the face of one perversion, I’ve let another extreme pass me by without saying anything.

The enemy’s favorite tactic is to pervert what is good, and there is none good, no not one. Except Him. And the wholeness of Him cannot be perverted.

Here is my promise to you, my sister, my friend: I promise you I will fight on your behalf. I promise I will fight for truth, for the culmination of all things in the Only One Who Is Good. I promise I will wrestle with theology and that I will not let go of God. That I will not let go until He has changed the names of each of us. Until we do not find our identity in a name or label, but that we find it in the fullness of Christlikeness. I cannot promise we will not walk with a limp, each one of us, but I think our limp will be our mark, our Ebenezer, our fist in the face of the enemy.

I promise to wrestle with the One who promises to lead us through to the other side.

After much prayer, counsel, and time, I’ve accepted an offer to join the teams of writers over at the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. Many of you are encouraged to have my voice there and I know many of you are disappointed in me. My promise to both of you is that my fight is not for equality or distinction, biblical womanhood or feminism, my fight is against the powers of darkness and my delight is to walk in the light.

I believe that CBMW recognizes the lack of a strong young female voices in the Church today and they care about the practical implications of a complementarian view. I am a complementarian, that hasn’t changed, but I believe the answers many egalitarians have been pressing for have not been handled well. Unanswered questions, coupled with the distortion of truth many of us grew up with in evangelicalism, only breeds room for more distortions. I do not aim to answer questions, so much as I am to fight for purity of the Gospel. With the Lord’s help, I will aim for clarity and consistency, that’s my promise to you.

Drinking Often

March 13, 2013 — Leave a comment

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I am thinking of the first communion these days, more part of the Easter story than the Christmas, but how can we love the birth if we do not love the death? I am thinking of that cup of wine, the sign of the new covenant, the blasphemous words of a man at a table with 12 friends: drink this new way of doing things, this new kindness of God. Drink it in remembrance of me.

“As often as you do it…” That’s what he said. It’s odd that a man who was saying, “I’m doing away with your rituals and sacrifices, your habits and your rules,” was also saying, “do this often.” But this is what I think about last night falling asleep: He has set for us pleasant perimeters. He says do it often, but remember it’s not your religion anymore.

He knows us so well to use a word like often.

We need this, with our hearts so prone to attempting and trying, to sacrificing the modern lambs of our time, our tithe and our truant hearts.

We need this, we who do not understand that the kindness of God draws us to repentance and anything less is a marauder of faith and a shortcut to legalism.

I drink the cup this past Sunday with no resolve in my heart to do better next time or try harder tomorrow, no attempts to force a change of heart or fall into an apathy of my soul. I drink it with the freedom to drink it often, as often as I need a reminder of the new covenant, as often as I need the kindness of God drawing out my repentance. I drink it in gratefulness.

Someone said to me a few months ago: I’m only grateful for the Old Testament because it shows me where I’d be without the New Testament. I think about this often. That’s really what Jesus was saying, drink this small cup, this sip of wine, do it to remember where you were and where you are now.

Doesn’t that taste good?

(Published originally this past year on Grace for Sinners)

A blog-reader (and near friend) wrote me an email the other day containing these words:

l love the peace-speaking, life-giving nature of your blogs. You seem seized by your faith that the Lord can work out the differences in His Body—or at least help us live in peace despite them.

And then I read yet another diatribe about yet another divisive issue in the Church. And a biting tweet from someone who ministers effectively from an office about someone who ministers effectively from a garden. And then I heard someone snort behind me when a certain demographic was discussed.

Seized by my faith. Yes. But seized by my faith in a sovereign God. Yes.

Perhaps I’m simplistic, but I know how my brain works and the miles it runs every day, the questions it asks and the solutions it tries to find. I know how quickly I can survey the ground in front of me and how fast I can estimate the work to be done and the best way to do the work. So I don’t think it’s simplistic thinking that drives me to breathe deep at the factions, lift my eyes up and say, “But God.

We’re all so concerned with defending truth, or at least our best white-knuckled version of the truth, that sometimes we forget that God guards His truth and He will not be mocked.

He will not be mocked (Gal. 6:7).

Westboro Baptist Church may seem to make a mockery of Him, but then Fred Phelps grand-daughter comes out and extols His name.

Chic-Fila may have walked into a hornet’s nest, but then president Dan Cathy meets with GLBT spokesperson and puts flesh on the Gospel.

Mark Driscoll may tick a lot of people off, but Mars Hill Seattle is filled with hundreds of pastors who are on the ground, doing the work of the gospel and people are being saved.

But that’s not all:

I have pounded my fists in the air and cursed God’s name, and He still wants me.

He wants me?

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

God will not be mocked and He will use arms, legs, hands, and feet shod with truth to take the Gospel to doubters and dwellers, skeptics and seekers, askers and atheists, pharisees and philosophers. He uses you and me—and all of us fools.

So the next time we’re tempted to write a blog post denouncing yet another brother or sister in Christ, or type 140 characters about how we know so much more about another person’s life or ministry calling, let’s take a second and a second look at the miry pit from which we came.

He drew me up from the pit of destruction,
out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
making my steps secure.
Psalm 40.2

He wants you. And He might have used a fool or two along the way to get to you.

Because, don’t worry, He knows His sheep and they know Him. And His name is safe.

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The Young, Restless, & Reformed Complementarian crowd is often caricatured by a flannel shirt wearing bearded young man who gulps craft beers and talks theology from scribbled notes off his moleskin notebook. He quotes Piper and Packer and Paul. He opens doors for his sisters and uses the word “damn” with frequency, except when his simple fundamentalist Baptist mother is around. He never feels completely capable of leading anyone because he feels like he’s playing catch-up for all his years of not. He drinks his coffee black.

Because the movement has historically been so stalwartly male, made of all things growly and gruff, there just hasn’t been a similar caricature for the female side of YRRC. Though if you were going to attempt a one, she’s probably an avid Pinner, crafting the perfect home for her bearded [future] husband, reading Proverbs 31 and feeling like she falls short of everything except being a wife of noble character (and only because the YRR guy wouldn’t choose anything less than nobility of character for his wife). She probably shops at Whole Foods, or for the more frugal, Trader Joes. She writes Bible verses on index cards and tacks them to kitchen cabinets.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

One of the enemy’s favorite tactics is to take what God has not called ultimate and make it so. If he can confuse the Christians, get them to devour one another, well, he can call it a day. No need for the Crusades part deux, Jesus came to bring a sword, and by golly, the first people we’re gonna use it on is one another.

One particular area of glee the enemy is basking in these days is the division he’s bringing to the Church concerning gender roles. And he does it by making caricatures rampant.

Humanity is important, which means individuals are important, which means men and women are important, which means what men and women do is important, and if the enemy can make what we do (or have done) more important than what God has done, he will seem to have won this particular battle.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

A concern of mine I see as I stand on the sidelines, and am being invited into the midst, is that we are taking caricatures of men and women and making them ultimate. For the YRR complementarian man, he thinks a principal way of Being A Man is fighting for his sisters: he wants them to be protected and flourishing—only he’s a little clumsy at it sometimes and it can come off like he’s being a chauvinist. For the complementarian woman, it’s to find a husband as quickly as possible—not because she’s half a person without him, but because how can she prove she’s a distinct helper if she’s not helping anyone? For the egalitarian man, he wants to serve his sisters by fighting to give them a voice where traditionally the most a woman can do in the Church is change diapers and hand out bulletins (Note: both tasks are valuable, I’m not knocking them, just how they limit the abundantly distinct gifts of women.). For the egalitarian woman, she has distinct powerful words burgeoning up inside of her and wants desperately to share them with the world; she wants to help, even if she ends up just sounding shrill.

Theologically we’re not at all alike, but practically I think we are.

I don’t think we all are. But I think we are sort of kind of maybe are.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Hear me out.

If the enemy’s favorite tactic is to distract us by what is not best, so we would miss what is, wouldn’t you say he thinks he’s succeeding in some respects (Gen. 3.1-5)?

We have brothers who are fighting on behalf of their sisters, wanting to see their strengths utilized and maximized within the bounds of scripture, and we have sisters who want to do what they were created to do: help bring wisdom, counsel, a distinct voice, a feminine voice.

We’re not so different after all.

But if we continue to get distracted by terminology, practicality, and sustainability, we’re going to lose sight of the beautiful simplicity of the Gospel. I am not saying a theology of gender roles is unimportant here—I’m saying the world and its constructs are dead to us, we boast in the cross alone (Gal. 6.14).

Piper said, “We’re not here to make men and women, we’re here to make disciples.” And my heart leaps inside of me when I hear that. Practice is important, but our practice should be to make disciples in the shadow of the cross, not to make mini-mes. “Come and die” is our mantra, “it’s gonna hurt” should be our caveat.

There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free,
male nor female, for you are all one in Jesus Christ.
Galatians 3:28

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Are you trying to fit yourself into a caricature of what your church or your theology deems you to be? Can I plead with you to not? You are doing a disservice to your theology, your brothers and sisters, and most of all the Gospel, if you make your position or personality ultimate.

Brothers, help your sisters. Fight for them when they are being marginalized. Fight for them not because you want them to lead you, or because you think it will make you more capable of leading them, but because the more you fight for your sisters, the more they will fight for you, and the more you will contend for the Gospel together as one.

Sisters, fight for your brothers. Help them see things in different distinct ways, help them with gentler tones and aspects of humanity that have been characterized as feminine. There is a deep need in the Church today for strong gentleness, ferocious lovingkindness, and articulate passion, and you are absolutely built to bring it to the table. But bring it for the sake of the Gospel, not your voice.

“Jesus is tough and tender, absolutely will get in the face of wicked, self-righteous leaders, and then hug a child. So when we come to Christ, men get appropriately tougher and appropriately more tender, and the same thing happens with women. It’s like the last chapter, the end of a movie. There’s a sense that my life makes sense, my experiences make sense. I am a female, but it’s a bigger deal than that, I am a part of a greater story, I have a sense that I’m bringing to the table not just my femininity, but my spiritual gifts. I am not just a man, but I’m here to give my life away for the body of Christ. And that only happens when we come to Christ.” —Darrin Patrick

For the sake of the gospel, friends, be like Christ. Tough and tender, both for both, all at once, all one in Jesus Christ.

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As always, comments are closed on Sayable, but also as always, you’re invited to join the conversation over on Facebook or on Twitter.

But I’m Not a Brother!?

February 24, 2013

When the good folks at B&H Books asked me to read and review the updated and expanded version of Brothers, We Are Not Professional: A Plea to Pastors for Radical Ministry, first I said, “But I’m not a brother.” Then I said, “Also, I’m not a pastor.” Doesn’t matter, came the reply, both read your blog. And so this is how it came to be that I added BWANP to one of the twelve coveted open spots for 100 in 2013.

I’m glad too, because this is less a book to brothers only or pastors only, but to all followers of Christ. Never have I read a more succinct, helpful, scripturally soaked treatise than this. Every page abounds with references to the Word and reminders of the gospel. Every suggestion is bolstered by scripture and every challenge is backed up firmly. I closed each chapter knowing with more certainty the call of Christ is one of coming and dying. It helps that the author is such an accomplished writer as well. Many can say these words, but saying them with eloquence is another matter altogether.

Much has been written on the original book already, so I’m not going to spend much time there. Instead, I’d like to just highlight a few things from some of the added chapters.

Brothers, God Does Make Much of Us: I am deeply grateful for this chapter specifically because often “Making Much of God” can shove aside the fact that we are deeply, deeply loved by God. With five points given to how God loves us and seven points given to how He makes much of us, it would be difficult for a reader to walk away feeling that they are only a puppet in a Master’s play.

Brothers, God is the Gospel: Gospel has become a bit of a buzzword in recent years, and though I don’t think that means we ought to find a replacement, I do think it’s a great opportunity for us to relearn, or recalibrate on what is the gospel. In God is the Gospel, there are laid out very clearly the components of a correct understanding of what the gospel is. In some measure we will only see in part until we see face to face, but in the meantime we ought to clearly grasp and communicate what it is the Gospel is until that day.

Brothers, Pursue the Tone of the Text: Recently someone described a certain conversation in my church circles as “tone-deaf” and it happened to be at the same time that I read this chapter. This chapter was somehow written tonefully, to coin a word; it sounded like music and I don’t think that was an accident. The message of the Gospel is hope, yet so often our pulpits are filled with cheap substitutes or pounding diatribes. Here the author reminds us that hope is full of joy, but sometimes the joy is eventual—so we ought to be mindful of our tone. Sorrow can lead to joy, but only if we sorrow according to those who have hope.

Brothers, Act the Miracle: The author confesses his most besetting sins and does not offer a four step program to defeat them, but instead illuminates the power of the cross over them. He reminds Christians that our sins have been canceled, and so therefore they may be conquered, while too often we do the latter in an attempt for God to do the former. This was my favorite chapter as this is one of my besetting sins.

There is much to be gleaned from this book and I highly, highly recommend it to anyone, pastors or new believers, mothers or children. It’s a book about being a disciple who makes disciples and this is the call on us all. It would be appropriate to go through with a small group. I even think it could be tailored to be appropriate to go through in family devotions. The chapters are short enough and structured in such a way that discussion points could be simplified and filtered for differing audiences.

You can purchase a copy here: Brothers, We Are Not Professional: A Plea to Pastors for Radical Ministry by John Piper

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