Monday, August 25, 2008


I thought would be able to do a little light blogging while attending the Bangor Worldwide Mission Convention. The time here has been phenomenal thus far, but I've only had spotty internet access. If one has to make a trade between internet access and sunny weather in N. Ireland, it does seem that the sunny weather we've had is by far the better deal. So, we'll likely continue to enjoy our time with newfound and very hospitable N. Ireland friends, and pick up blogging, Lord willing, when we're back home or have more stable internet access.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Two Es of Parenting

Last week, the Lord granted the opportunity to listen to two sermons on parenting: John Piper on "Fathers Who Give Hope" and C.J. Mahaney on 2 Tim. 3:14-15, “Gospel-Centered Parenting/Leading by Example.” Both sermons are included in the UA roundup.

Two Es focus our parenting in these sermons: Encourage and Example.

Encouraging Our Children
Piper’s sermon was a strong exhortation for fathers not to exasperate but to encourage their children.

It wasn’t so much the exposition or the application in this sermon that helped me, but as you might expect, the impact or impression made on my affections. That’s not to say there wasn’t good truth pulled from God’s word, just to say the overriding impression made on me was to examine whether or not my children are primarily encouraged by my parenting interactions with them or discouraged.

This is a sensitive and important topic for me because emotionally I tend toward intensity. I’ve spent years working on not being so intense both for my own soul’s benefit and for the benefit of others around me. For my own soul, I’m learning that delighting in the Lord has more range than just deep intensity. The best way I can explain this is that I spent most of my formative years in competitive sports, and I was always the “spiritual leader” of the team. I played aggressively and emotionally most every play. I also talked a lot of trash. Now combine that with some serious pride issues and you get a recipe for being demanding, intimidating, impatient, and a host of other sins. Add to that at 6’2” frame now at 250lb and holding, black skin, a deep voice… and lots of people fear you. Anyway, I’ve spent a lot of years learning to be “smaller” and more gentle so others are at ease. And internally, learning to express what I hope is a wider range of emotion, or if not a wider range then a wider set of expressions.

So how does this affect my parenting? I can be discouraging because I can be demanding. I have to control my face, which is too often just shy of a scowl—one eyebrow raised, jaws set, eyes boring. About three weeks ago, without intending to at all, my daughters left an interaction with me where they thought I was angry but I was simply intending to hurry them along to their mother who was waiting for them in the car. When they reached the car, one of my daughters said sheepishly, “We don’t like it when daddy gets that red look in his eyes.”

Ouch!! I’d simply (or so I thought) walked from sermon prep in my office to tell the girls to hurry outside and meet their mom. It was a routine thing in my mind, but the kids were intimidated. And intimidated is not what I want for any of my children.

I’ve never yelled at my children, but then I don’t have to. I can count on one hand the number of times, by God’s grace, that any of our children have needed correction with physical discipline, but perhaps they’re just fearful more often than I think. After all, I must be a giant to them.

Piper’s sermon was a needed exhortation to be encouraging. There’s a lot of applause for our children’s achievements in our home. There’s a lot of hugging, gentle kisses on foreheads, “I love you’s” and “you can do its,” laughing together and joking, and recently a lot more dancing since Titus has discovered a couple scenes from “Stomp the Yard.” Don’t get me wrong; we’re a happy family and we enjoy one another. But for my part, I’ve got to think more about encouraging my children and addressing ways that I may intimidate them unintentionally. And part of that is just simply spending more time with the children in an uninterrupted, unhurried way.

Application: Talk with the children about ways they may be afraid of daddy. Ask my wife for her observations of my interaction with the children.

Teaching Our Children by Example
C.J. chose 2 Tim. 3:14-15 as his text for this sermon.

The main premise of the sermon was “Parenting cannot be defined as biblical if it is not gospel-centered.” Put positively: “The gospel should never be ignored or assumed or simply alluded to in the context of parenting.”

Considering the text, C.J. suggested that gospel-centered parenting involves:
Authentic example…
and scriptural instruction…
for the purpose of salvation.

Most of the sermon was spent meditating on authentic example as reflected in the phrase “knowing from whom you learned it” in the text. Some nuggets from the sermon:

“Modeling precedes teaching. Teaching involves explaining to our children what they are already observing in our lives by example.”
“Any contradiction between our proclamation and our practice undermines our proclamation. All consistency between proclamation and practice confirms the authority of the gospel and indeed promotes the attractiveness of the gospel.”

Application Question:
“What are my children observing as they study me daily and in detail?”

C.J. asked: “If I interview your children and asked, ‘what difference does the gospel make to your dad,” how would they respond? How would your children respond if I asked them, ‘What are your father and mother most passionate about, or most deeply committed to?’”

Obviously these questions go together with the encouragement considerations above.

Other Questions for Reflection:
Are they observing inescapable, undeniable evidences of gospel grace in our lives? Are they observing affectionate and passionate songs and expressions of my love for the Savior? Are they observing a difference between who we are Sunday morning in corporate worship and Sunday evening at home? Do they see love for and devotion to God’s word as evidenced by love for, study of, and obedience to God’s word? Do they observe growth in godliness as evidenced by conviction of sin, progress in sanctification, passion for and involvement in your local church?

Concluding Thought:
“Think of the difference it will make to be able to say to your child because of your example, ‘Continue in the faith knowing from whom you learned it.’ Think of the difference it will make if you can not say this.”

I want to be able to say to our children, “Continue in the faith knowing from whom you learned it.” What a great goal for parenting.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

What A Husband Must Be

I'm continuing my study of the round-up of sermons on marriage and family posted by Colin. I've completed listening to Voddie Baucham in a sermon called "What He Must Be (Marriage by Design).

As the title suggests, Baucham is focused on the essential things a man must be in order to lead a wife in marriage. Voddie presents his points as though he were talking to his daughter. The audience is invited to listen in on what he shares with his own daughter.

The first half of the sermon lists five things that drive women to marry men who are not prepared to lead in marriage. I would agree with Baucham's assessment that these are five popular things that cloud a woman's judgement and leads to regrettable and disobedient marriage decisions. In descending order of frequency:

5. Lust--"I know he ain't what he ought to be, but he's just fine."

4 Desperation. As women grow older, the sense that it might not happen for them grows increasingly strong. Baucham reckons that age 14, young girls are looking for "the total package" and are unwilling to settle. By age 24, their list is widdled down to "a good godly man." And by age 34 they're happy if "the man knows where a church is."

3. Time Invested--"Young boys and girls 13-15 practice giving themselves away to one another. They enter exclusive intimate relationships when they are not ready. It's like shopping without money. You will either leave frustrated or with something not yours." Many people lunge into marriage because they've spent all this time investing in a relationship and they wouldn't want to "lose" what's invested.

2. Materialism--"He'll provide a good life for me."

1. Mysticism--"but I prayed about it and I have a peace about it." I'm with Baucham 100% on this one. If I had a dollar every time I've heard this one, I'd be a hundredaire. Voddie goes on to respond with characteristically Baucham directness and humor, "Let me get this straight. God states something clearly in His word. You disobey it. But it's okay because you and God worked out a deal." The Lord will not contradict His word by giving us a "peace" about things. That "peace" is generally nothing more than our rationalizations rehearsed to the point that we're numb to God's commands. And how often that supposed "peace" comes crashing down in serious marital difficulties and divorce.

The second half of the sermon takes up what a husband must be. Baucham focuses on Ephesians 5 and outlines four things: priest, prophet, provider and protector. For his part, Baucham is determined that he cannot give his daughter away to a man who can't play all of these roles. "My daughter is one of the few things in this world that can make me start a prison ministry immediately." Again, I'm with Voddie.

How are we to lead?

1. Must lead in love. Baucham defines "love" as "an act of the will (choice) accompanied by emotion (not lead or determined by) that leads to action on behalf of the object."

2. Must lead in the word. "Sanctify her by the water of the word." "Until you find a man who can disciple and lead you biblically, you haven't found a man you can marry."

3. Must lead in righteousness. "... making her holy and blameless...." "If you have a found a man constantly pressuring you to do thing that are unrighteous, you have not found a man ready to be your husband." A husband should pull you up to his level of righteousness.

4. Must lead in selflessness. "...nourishes and cherishes...." The husband should be the first one in the family to go without, sacrifice, or lay it down for the family. "If he's not, then he's shortsighted. He doesn't realize what you're building for the future."

I particularly appreciated Voddie connecting daily sacrifice for our wives with a longer-term sense of leaving a legacy and building a future. I'm far too prone to measure sacrifice in more mundane, self-seeking terms. I felt convicted about not having given enough consideration of the Anyabwiles that, Lord willing and Jesus tarries, will come after me. I need to understand sacrifice in light of a longer chain of relationships and events than just the immediate and often fleshly considerations of a given action.

5. Must lead in intimacy. Good practical exhortations here. Don't confuse sex with intimacy. Prioritize the marriage over the children. He makes two excellent observations regarding prioritizing the marriage over the children. (a) Prioritizing the marriage helps protect the marriage from divorce by ensuring there's a relationship there when the children leave. And (b) the security of our children depends upon the strength of the marriage. So, as we strengthen our marriages and prioritize them, our children know the stability and security necessary for spiritual growth.

Good stuff to meditate on. The first section was helpful not only for parenting my daughters but also for pastoral counseling. The second section was a good "gird up your loins" reminder of what the Lord calls us to as husbands. It's a glorious, joyful, and high calling.

Baucham didn't offer this as an application, but obviously I need to take thus "must be's" and the five musts and discuss that with the wife. First, some prayer and fasting :-)

Monday, August 18, 2008

Big Ups to Ma J'aican Friends

Much respect to the Jamaican Olympic sprinters for their performance at the Beijing Olympics. Bolt set a new record dashing at 9.69 seconds and the ladies--big ups--did something no country has ever done, taking gold, silver, and bronze in a single event.

Ma backayad friends got rude boy!

Read here of Jamaica's 30-year plan for sprinting success.

Bangor Worldwide Missions Conference

Tomorrow, the family and I have the privilege and blessing of heading off to Northern Ireland for Worldwide 2008. The theme this year is "One World, One Hope"--a play off the theme for this year's Olympics but focused on Christ our Hope. There will be a couple sessions focused on Islam and a host of speakers that should edify and encourage.

Hamilton Road Presbyterian Church in Bangor, Northern Ireland will host the conference. You can find the conference program here. I hope that if you're Northern Ireland you'll be able to attend the conference. Please pray for our time there, that the Lord would bear great fruit that remains to His glory and our joy.

David Powlison on the Application of Scripture

JT posts an interview between iMonk and David Powlison on the application of Scripture. It's well worth reading.

It is a marvelous blessing of the Lord that the teaching ministries of men like Powlison and so many, many others is extended by the medium of the internet and blogosphere. What rich blessing we all receive simply with a few clicks of the mouse (or for the savvy, one click on your feed reader!). How kind of the Lord to allow us to live in this age when so much is so available. I should say in this age and in the social settings that afford internet connections, computers and so on. So much of the world does not have this blessing. Oh, let us be thankful and fruitful and not complacent and wasteful.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

"What Difference Does the Gospel Make?" Audio

For the past couple years, June has been one of the sweetest months of the year for my family and me. The Lord has granted us the opportunity to attend the New Life Bible conference in Vernon Hills, IL (outside Chicago) and fellowship with the saints of New Life Fellowship Church. To call them "good people" would be an understatement. The Love family (that's really their sir name) is the first family we've ever met that as a family convicted us of our relative joylessness through their almost non-stop joking and laughter. They're a rare combination of deep, serious commitment to big truth and overflowing joy in life. You come home from the New Life conference and your face is tired because you've been laughing for 3 or 4 days straight!

Anyway... for those interested, Lou has gotten around to posting the conference audio. If you see Lou, don't mention CP time! :-)

Jesus Christ Is A Great Savior From Everything That Destroys Joy

Good stuff from JP:

But we are not without a Savior. Jesus Christ has come. And he is a great Savior. Every need we have, he supplies. And his death on the cross is the price that purchases every gift that leads to deep and lasting joy.

Is there wrath and curse hanging over us?
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law be becoming a curse for us--for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree." (Gal. 3:13)

Is there condemnation against us in the courtroom of heaven?
Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died. (Rom. 8:33-34)
Are there innumerable trespasses mounting up against us?
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace. (Eph. 1:7)
Is righteousness required that we cannot produce?
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21). By the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous. (Rom. 5:19)
Are we cut off from eternal life?
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
Are we trapped in the dominion of sin that ruins our lives?
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness (1 Peter 2:24). He died for all, that those live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. (2 Cor. 5:15)
Will all the follies and failures of our past drag us down with irrevocable, destructive consequences?
We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Rom. 8:28)
Have we lost all the good things God planned for his children?
He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (Rom. 8:32)
Is there any hope that sinners like us could spend an all-satisfying eternity with God? Can I ever come home to God?
Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God. (1 Peter 3:18)
Oh, what a great salvation Jesus Christ accomplished when he died and rose again! All that, and more, Christ purchased by his death. Therefore, Christ crucified is the foundation of all honest and everlasting joy. No self-deception is necessary to enjoy it. Indeed all deception must cease in order to enjoy it to the full.

From John Piper, When I Don't Desire God: How to Fight for Joy (Crossway, 2004), pp. 73-73.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Another (Unhealthy) Perspective on Dating and Marriage

This week I've been listening to a collection of sermons on being a husband and father. I hope to summarize some of them and post them as an encouragement for others to listen to those talks as well. It's been convicting and I pray fruitful thus far.

But in-between listening to sermons, I received what appears to be a circular email from a very popular word-of-faith, AME, prosperity "gospel" pastor in the States. He'll remain nameless to protect the guilty and since these things are sometimes hoaxes. But I post it, sorta the way the author of Hebrews gives stern warnings, so that we might persevere in the truth and in sound teaching. Like most bad teaching, there are some good things dabbled throughout... enough to make the bad things plausible to an unsuspecting audience. But even grape-flavored rat poison is still rat poison. See if you can spot the bits that kill....


I often warn women who are contemplating marriage to marry someone who can take care of them. When a woman marries, it ought to be to someone who is capable of taking her to the next level. If she comes from poverty, there is no reason for her to get married and still be impoverished. The role of the man is to take her to another place.

When she gets married, she ought to dress better, drive better, live better, and eat better, not constantly be in a struggle over where her next meal is coming from. My grandmother used to say, "I can do bad all by myself".

For a woman desiring a mate, the objective, of course, would be to find a Christian man, who's settled, has goals, accomplishments and a job. But a goal-oriented and focused man can't just be approached any kind of way. So the woman who seeks this type of stability must make sure that he stands out above the crowd:

1. Make sure your relationship with the Lord is strong and growing.

2. Make sure that you are presentable. Working from the inside out, your presentation should be representative of both who you are and whom you seek. Appearance is a reflection of how you see yourself.

3. Have the ability to hold an intelligent conversation.

4. And most importantly, allow the Holy Ghost to take control. You don't need to go after him. He's going to come after you, because after he sees and smells you and knows that you're in his presence, he's going to want to know who you are!

I know there's somebody reading this who has been chasing after the "man of your dreams," but God says, "Just sit still and allow patience to have her perfect work through Me."

Furthermore, it's never a good idea to be too forward and too aggressive. Attempting to win a man's affection by jumping into bed with him will only backfire and cause him to lose interest in ever developing a lasting relationship. It causes him to lose respect for you and question your character.

However, if he sees that you are dressed with quality, that you smell like you are somebody, that you look like you're doing fine without him, then that will attract the right attention from him. He'll have no choice but to give you his attention. Stop looking so needy, climbing into bed, trying in vain to capture a man's heart.

God woke me up in the middle of the night and said, "The same thing that Naomi told Ruth to do is the same thing that I want them to do for me." God is so sick of saints coming to Him trying to get a quickie and never romancing Him for Who he is - going to church screaming, shouting and hollering, but hadn't been intimate with God all week long! Stop trying to treat God like a sugar daddy and start romancing Him with worship and praise: "I'm yours Lord...everything I've got...everything I'm not!"

The God we serve, which is the God of love, demands and requires of us foreplay before He gives us what we need. In the book of Ruth, the mother-in-law tells Ruth, "You have to wash." John 15:3 reminds us, Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. When you sit in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, you are taking a shower. When you hear the unadulterated Word of God, then the dirt and grime that you've accumulated all week long begins to wash off of you.

Ask God to "create in you a clean heart and renew a right spirit."

Stand in the word. Then wait upon the Lord to renew your strength. Pass this on to those who have found or are seeking Mr. Right. This message is not directed at the receiver, it is directed to women I know that touch other young women that can benefit from this information. We are to be Naomis of the world today. Our young women need to be informed of how to catch and keep a man that will respect them.


Brothers, let's teach our people a biblical understanding of courtship and dating. In God's kindness the resources for this are multiplying. And He has not left himself without a witness for what He desires. See Proverbs 31; Eph. 5:22-24; 1 Peter 3:1-6; and Titus 2 for God's idea of what women should be and do as wives. Consider Ephesians 5:25-32 for what kind of husband a wife should look for. Those are more edifying passages to read.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

More on Husbandry and Parenting

Pete Ing emailed me more complete notes (almost a transcript) of C.J.'s talk on being good husbands. t even includes some of the extended quotes C.J. referenced. The notes are pasted below (I couldn't figure out how to do the pdf thing). Enjoy.


A Husbands Responsibilities and How to Change
Ephesians 5:25-27

CJ began the message with a comment to wives saying that he respected them for their teachability and passion to pursue growth in godliness.

One word in this section characterizes a husband's responsibility and that word is love.

The scriptural teaching about headship bears to resemblance to male domination. If we understand anything about the culture to which Paul was writing, male domination was actually the norm. Whenever Paul is writing about authority, he is always aware of potential abuse. Wherever Paul affirms authority, he addresses the potential for abuse.

Actually, in a word if you want to define love, it would be the word sacrifice.

CJ paused for a moment to reflect on the Savior's sacrifice for us on the cross as he was particularly affected by the passage.

Sacrifice is the pattern and proof of a husband's love. The Bible is so effective in succinct definitions.

David defines sacrifice as follows: "I will not offer to the Lord that which costs me nothing." If it doesn't cost, it isn't sacrifice.

What are we doing each day for our wives, that involves sacrifice? What constitutes a sacrificial act for you? Will you take advantage of your wife's godliness or will you seek to emulate the one who laid down his life for you?

Your wife needs to determine what is a sacrifice in your relationship.

CJ talked about his relationship with Carolyn and the aspect of revealing details about the day.

"Sacrifice is working hard to review my day to recall details that I have long forgotten and I desire-- see, when the day is over I don't want to re-live it… So for me what I have to do is be more detailed to remember details to write notes to myself to keep notes that I can share with her. To encourage her to encourage questions to draw me out."

"What involves sacrifice for you? I try to ask myself this everyday. In the morning I have notes in my notebook with these verses and I try to say what can I do today for Carolyn that involves sacrifice. I need that reminder."

It's not enough to sacrifice, you have to sacrifice for a biblical purpose. Christ did not sacrifice in general, he sacrificed to achieve a divine purpose.

Christ sacrificed to make the church holy. As I understand it, that is to be the purpose of our sacrifice as well. We are to sacrifice so that an environment is created that is conducive to growth in godliness for our wives.

If you don't sacrifice for that purpose then you haven't loved your wife as Christ loved the church.

The primary purpose (there are secondary purposes) is so they might grow in godliness. How can we sacrifice to make sure that takes place.

1) You must be growing in godliness. CJ shared a challenge to men to have a passion for godliness and zeal for growth that has a similar to his wife.
2) We must discover where our wives need to grow. Help her prioritize and help identify what is hindering her from growing. Do you know where she needs to grow and is there a sacrificial act that you are performing consistently to ensure that she has a context to grow?

Paul's transition from verse 25 to 27 and then to verse 28 brings about a seemingly apparent contradiction. It is almost as if Paul empathizes with us and provides a practical illustration that we can immediately identify with.

Paul says 'I want to provide an illustration that you can relate to.' Without hesitation Paul wants to remind you that you love yourself. He is in no way promoting a concept of self-esteem. Scripture never encourages us to admire ourselves. Scripture does assume that we love ourselves. It is outrageous that there are some teachers who teach that we cannot love our neighbors until we love ourselves.

When I sacrifice for your wife, you are the beneficiary of that sacrifice.

In verse 29 the NIV says 'feeds' and 'cares' but the KJV uses 'nourishes' and 'cherishes'

This involves communication. There isn't anything that nourishes and cherishes more than communication. Secondly, encouragement nourishes and cherishes. There is so much to encourage in our wives. They should live daily in the sounds of their husbands pronouncing encouragement over them. In Proverbs 31 when the children rise up to bless their mother it is because they have a father who exemplifies this.

It is for the husband to come in and provide an eternal perspective on the fruit that is being cultivated and the effect of motherhood on the lives of those children. And that is nourishment and I believe that is an expression of sacrifice.

Cherish? Well, from what I can tell, that is synonymous with romance.

How does your wife define romance? What makes her feel special? A wife's challenge is to provide specific examples and receive her husband's attempt when he responds. Her challenge is to receive his expression as a sincere attempt. Communicate what makes you feel special.

How does your wife define romance? There should be consistent date nights. There should be surprises. There should be a sense that you are always up to something. When I think of cherish, that involves drawing your wife out about the sexual relationship. Find out what arouses her and what doesn't.

You are in an inescapable position of leadership. You are the head. You can't refuse to be the head. There are only two possible options for poor heads. Domination and abdication. My experience is that the most common is abdication. It's not that domination does not exist. Domination does exist. That is unacceptable. Scripture says that we are to honor our wives because they are the weaker.

Physically, positional, and emotional weakness should be considered. To take advantage of that weakness by domination is repulsive to God. Those in our culture who are admired are disgusting. If you are dominating your wife, I want you to feel the fear of God. For any man who is dominating his wife, God is going to kick your butt and discipline you until you repent. If you think it is somehow masculine to dominate you are deceived. In a light hearted moment, CJ drew laughter when he said "If you are angry at me right now, that's revealing. I want you to remember this: I'm probably faster than you are."

Abdication. Nice guys who don't lead. Nauseatingly nice guys. Clones of Adam. Passive, speechless, where was he when the interchange between Satan and Eve took place? At her side, doing nothing. God was not pleased. God rebuked Adam. Had he taken that apple and thrown it upside the head of that serpent, we wouldn't have even been here this morning because sin would not have entered the world.

"He did nothing. He was the original wimp-man. I want you to know we want you to distance ourselves as far as possible from that legacy. Because biblical masculinity involves taking initiative, being decisive, doing something."

You have no liberty to re-define what headship is about. Headship is about leadership. Adam didn't have the courage to lead. We are to lead confronted by the same challenge. Make up two lists as an exercise. The first where haven't you led? I want you to involve your wife in the process of determining the length of this list. When your wife asks you to make a decision, do you make a decision? Do you avoid conflict with your wife and children? There are a lot of nice-guy dads who don't know how to confront their children. Their children's behavior cries out against them. As a father, you must take action and not be passive. Do you resolve conflict? CJ referred to What's the Difference (page 24).

(Number 4) Mature masculinity does not have to initiate every action, but feels the responsibility to provide a general pattern of initiative. In a family the husband does not do all the thinking and planning. His leadership is to take responsibility in general to initiate and carry through the spiritual and moral planning for family life. I say "in general" because "in specifics" there will be many times and many areas of daily life where the wife will do all kinds of planning and initiating. But there is a general tone and pattern of initiative that should develop which is sustained by the husband. For example, the leadership pattern would be less than Biblical if the wife in general was having to take the initiative in prayer at mealtime, and get the family out of bed for worship on Sunday morning, and gather the family for devotions, and discuss what moral standards will be required of the children, and confer about financial priorities, and talk over some neighborhood ministry possibilities, etc. A wife may initiate the discussion and planning of any one of these, but if she becomes the one who senses the general responsibility for this pattern of initiative
while her husband is passive, something contrary to Biblical masculinity and femininity is in the offing.
Skipped quote from James Dobson

(Number 5) Mature masculinity accepts the burden of the final say in disagreements between husband and wife, but does not presume to use it in every instance. In a good marriage decision-making is focussed on the husband, but is not unilateral. He seeks input from his wife and often adopts her ideas. This is implied in the love that governs the relationship (Ephesians 5:25), in the equality of personhood implied in being created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), and in the status of being fellow-heirs of the grace of life (1 Peter 3:7). Unilateral decision-making is not usually a mark of good leadership. It generally comes from laziness or insecurity or inconsiderate disregard. On the other hand dependence on team input should not go to the point where the family perceives a weakness of indecision in the husband. And both husband and wife should agree on the principle that the husband's decision should rightly hold sway if it does not involve sin. However, this conviction does not mean that a husband will often use the prerogative of "veto" over the wishes of his wife or family. He may, in fact, very often surrender his own preference for his wife's where no moral issue is at stake. His awareness of his sin and imperfection will guard him from thinking that following Christ gives him the ability of Christ to know what's best in every detail. Nevertheless, in a well-ordered Biblical marriage both husband and wife acknowledge in principle that, if necessary in some disagreement, the husband will accept the burden of making the final choice.

The second list: where has your leadership been ignored. Don't compile these lists as an opportunity to become bitter. These two lists give you the opportunity to repent of abdication. Be wise in conferring with your wife and children if applicable. You need to correct a pattern of abdication.

A brief moment of discussion was encouraged before moving onto the last session.

If you want a title of this last session, it's simply this: how to change. Most of the popular books on marriage, I could not heartily endorse. There is an ignorance and absence of the doctrine of sanctification. And there is the presence of secular psychology. Particularly, there is a deficiency in identifying the issues of the heart. A biblical understanding of the root issues always involves sin and idolatry. Avoid anything that insists that you explore your painful past in detail and either implies or insists that you are incapable of growing unless you do that. That is unbiblical. This does not mean that the existence of pain is denied here. So much of the material legitimizes selfishness.

CJ referred to a review of the book Love is a Choice from the Minirth and Meier Clinic Series. If you don't understand sin, you will never appreciate the cross. You will never be able to accurately deal with the root issues that are hindering your marriage. CJ cited reviews (published from Intervarsity Press) of the books Recovery From Bitterness and Recovering from Codependency. In most of this material, forgiveness is the final goal. In the Bible, it's where we get started. It's not a goal where we try to emotionally work toward. Avoid materials that encourage you to look within or to the past for recovery.

Normally in these materials, you do not have a biblical models for relationships. They are helping you become aware of your unmet needs from your dysfunctional family. Hence you are a victim. It's attractive terminology because it releases one from personal responsibility and becomes an excuse for selfishness. Philippians 2:1-3 provides a biblical model for relationships. We are to be pre-occupied with the person and work of Jesus Christ. Verse 3 is an indictment of so much of the psycho babble today. Verse 6-7 is presented to us as the ultimate example of servanthood we are to emulate. This model is not rooted in my pain or past experience. It does not encourage me to focus on my needs and personal desires.

2 Peter 1:3-8. All of our effort is to be directed towards these things. Verse 9 provides the explanation for why these things aren't taking place more often. We change by obeying one day at a time, one opportunity at a time, by grace over a period of time. We change.

CJ closed with a quote by Jay Adams

Most marriages develop their characteristic pattern not by design but by drift. Courses of least resistance following one's own desires in the like in time develop into patterns. But you will never drift into God's pattern. It will come only by repentance, by prayerful understanding and by conscious decision to follow it. That decision must be backed by a continued daily awareness of what you are doing and a repetitive effort to realize God's design in all you do. You must choose between drift and decision. Decide now to reshape your marriage according to God's great plan set forth in the pattern of Christ for His church. If you do your marriage will be blessed more and more as it grows. Not drifts. Into the shape designed by God.

"I Kissed Dating Goodbye" Goes Liberal

C.J. Mahaney shares some reflections on a recent endorsement of I Kissed Dating Goodbye by a self-described liberal feminist professor at Boston University. The professor, writing in Christianity Today, observes among very liberal and immodest collegians a real hunger for resources on modesty. When they read Harris' book, they leave thinking positively about modesty and helped to see the crudeness of campus culture. What a thrilling thing to see the Lord use I Kissed Dating Goodbye in the lives of many young people in the university, the epicenter of cultural, sexual, and moral confusion.

A good brother here, Paul Thompson, has been grinding slowly through the book with about 20 twenty-somethings here in Cayman. In a sometimes decadent and sensuous "island paradise" culture, it's been praiseworthy to see the Lord use the book and Paul's love for the young people here to challenge long-standing, unexamined ideas here as well. I praise the Lord for moving Josh to write this and for making it fruitful in the lives of so many who need it.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Husbandry and Parenting

This week I'm listening to the round-up of sermons on husbandry and parenting posted by UA. Monday I listened to C.J.'s talk ("A Husband's Responsibilities and How to Change") given a few years back at a Covenant Life marriage retreat. It was classic C.J.--filled with the cross, insightful, and practically helpful.

Here are a few thoughts and quotes that were instructive for me. I'd encourage everyone to take a listen. If you can find the archives, apparently the address before this one was for wives, and judging from the sideline comments here and there, it must've been a good one.

Some thoughts:

Ephesians 5 was the main text. There C.J. defined a husband's love for his wife primarily as sacrifice. Sacrifice is the pattern of the husband's love and the proof of the husband's love.

The sermon also drew on 1 John 3, pointing to the Savior's sacrifice at Calvary as the model of sacrificial love. From there, C.J. offered this main application question:

"What am I doing each day to serve my wife that involves sacrifice, that costs me something?"

Personally, I was ashamed that for years my wife has nearly daily asked me, "How may I serve you today?" And I know that what she has in mind is helping me in a way that is only appropriate for a wife to help her husband. In what manner uniquely suited to her calling as my wife, my helpmeet, can she give herself in service to me, the family, and the calling the Lord has placed on our lives? And yet, until I heard this question from C.J., I don't think there has been one day where I've put the same question to her in terms of "sacrifice"? I've asked how I could help, etc., but I realized something of the greater depths of my selfishness once sacrifice as a daily inquiry was proposed.

And not to project my guilt and shame onto others, but it's all the more shameful in my case because I think that I observe selfishness as the primary male sin in marriage. A significant number of irritations, problems, fights, and despairing moments for wives are traced to their husband's selfishness. I see it all the time in conversations and counseling settings. And I see it more clearly in my own heart following this message.

C.J. goes on to point out that the sacrifice "must be for a biblical purpose" (Eph. 5:26). It must be "to make her holy". We are to "sacrifice so that an environment is created that is conducive for growth in godliness for our wives."

Three things are suggested for creating an environment conducive for our wives' growth in godliness.

1. I, the husband, must grow in godliness. "If a husband is not growing in godliness, there is no sacrifice he can make to ensure that his wife grows in godliness." Confessing some irritation at men who show no desire to grow in godliness and acknowledging some exceptions due to how long a wife or husband has been a Christian, C.J. argues, "The norm is to be a husband whose zeal is at least similar to, and, in my (C.J.'s) opinion, superior to his wife's."

I think I agree with C.J.'s assessment that too many men show remarkable passivity when it comes to growing spiritually and leading their wives in this area.

He makes this statement that's challenged my own pastoral vision for men at the church: "At Covenant Life, we do not want kids growing up thinking of passion for God as a female quality."

For most of my life, I thought of passion for the Savior as a largely feminine quality. Most of the men who showed any emotional response to Christ were, imo, "soft" and weak, and quite frankly were often effeminate. To talk of "love for Jesus" seemed seriously inappropriate. Yet what was inappropriate were my worldly categories for manhood, my failure to realize that Christ is in every way worthy of our highest affections, and that it is the duty and joy of the Christian to love God with all his mind, soul, heart, and strength.

Note to self: Think and pray more about what it would mean and look like to cultivate in a local church an environment where children see passion for the Savior as a male quality because they see men showing passion in manly ways.

2. Discover where your wife needs to grow. "Can I provide her with perspective so she is not overwhelmed with areas needing growth? Can I help her prioritize?"

"Do I know where she needs to grow and am I sacrificing consistently so she can grow?"

"Your wife is exhausted on a daily basis because of caring for the children. Help her."

3. Communicate. Here C.J. meditates on the "cherishing" and "nourish" aspects of Ephesians 5. A beautiful line: "Our wives should daily live with the sounds of their husband pronouncing encouragements over them."

"How does your wife define 'romance'? What makes her feel special?"

"Cherish also involves drawing your wife out sexually. What might have brought a buzz five years ago may not be working today."

C.J. concluded the talk thinking about male headship. He points out that there are only two options for poor heads: domination and abdication.

After some strong words opposing male domination, C.J. focuses on abdication as a much more pervasive problem. He describes men who abdicate as "Nice guys who don't lead." But then he points out that they are not really "nice" because "abdication is sin." He gives the men two homework assignments. The assignments are not given so that we may have reason to grow bitter toward our wives. Rather, they are two questions leading to two lists for repentance of our abdication.

A. List where I have not led my wife. Where has my leadership been needed and/or desired but I have not provided it? Involve your wives in answering this question.

B. Where has my leadership been ignored? What is taking place that is contrary to my desire? I am responsible for this area as well.

The address ended with some general statements about how to change. I wish there had been more time given to this area and more application.

Okay... sermon 1 completed. Off to have some important and humbling conversation with my wife. Praying you will as well.

Monday, August 11, 2008


UA has what looks like an excellent round-up of talks on husbands and fathers leading at home. I think this will be my listening agenda for the week. I'm in need.

What Do You Know About Sports?

Stephen Altrogee is running a pretty interesting contest. Stephen is the author of a forthcoming book with Crossway, Game Day for the Glory of God. I had the privilege of reading the book in manuscript. It's a great blessing to the body of Christ, especially those of us who are sports fans or married to sports fans or the parents of sports fans!

Here are the contest details from Stephen:

Calling all sports fans! This is your time to shine. To celebrate the release of my book, Game Day for the Glory of God, I'm hosting a "Greatest Moments in Sports History" contest.
Here's how it works:
You, the avid blog reader and passionate sports fan select your favorite sports moment of all time and find a clip of that moment on YouTube.

You then email me the URL of the YouTube clip. Please place the words "Greatest Sports Moment" in the subject line. Entries must be received by Friday, August 22nd, and only one entry per person please.

I will then sift through the many magical moments that I receive and select what I believe are the ten greatest sports moments of all time. These clips will be gathered together into one glorious sports extravaganza and posted to this blog on Monday, August 25th.

If I select your video you will receive a free copy of my book when it's released on September 30th.

Sounds like a fun contest for all of us sports buffs. But whether you win the contest or not, let me assure you that the book will be worth the read and worth putting into practice.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Audio for the Soul

The folks at SovGrace have just announced the C.J. Mahaney sermon archive. You can listen to audio or watch video in their entirety or excerpts. Should be excellent stuff! (Sorry, C.J. It was either go with the suit or find a photo with hair. The suit was easier to find, my friend!)

Also, folks might want to check out the Carl F. H. Henry Center's Scripture and Ministry lectures archive. (HT: Unashamed Workman). Here's the description of the interview, sermon and lecture resources available:

The Henry Center sponsors the Scripture & Ministry lectures, which feature distinguished Christian speakers addressing issues of crucial importance for relating Scripture and ministry. This series brings together Trinity Evangelical Divinity School faculty members, pastors and community members for a time of learning and fellowship. The relationship between theologians and practitioners calls for earnest efforts to bridge the gap that all too often divides them and to encourage mutually enriching collaboration in the gospel
Good stuff to benefit the soul.

Two Years Invested in Eternity... What Next?

I really can't believe that two years have slipped into eternity past since we first arrived in Grand Cayman to join the family of saints at FBC. It seems we've hardly blinked and eternity future is two years closer!

I don't know if this will become an annual exercise (perhaps it should be monthly or weekly!), but I wanted to reflect a little bit on those two years of the Lord's grace to me, and I pray the church. Pretty much all the things mentioned in yesterday's post continue to be true. And in no particular order, here are some things for which I am grateful to the Lord.

1. I think it was Mark Dever that I heard say, "Young pastors often think they're being patient when they enter a new church. But in time, they come to see the church has been patient with them." Boy! How true that is in my own life and ministry! The saints have been tremendously patient with me in my two years here.

2. One way they've been patient with me is by sitting under my preaching as I continue to try and figure out (a) how to preach and (b) how to preach to the people here. By far, FBC is my favorite place to preach. There is a growing love, familiarity, and joy that comes from being with God's family week in and week out. And yet, with people from about 30 nationalities with no real clear super majorities (unless you count "Caribbean" as a general bloc), it's a joyful challenge to not fall back on my own cultural assumptions, to not reach for easy illustrations from my experience, to not assume too much in terms of language and idiom, etc. It's been a joyful challenge to try and rely more and more on the word itself to be the great lingua franca for our gathered life. And the saints have been patient and prayerful through it all.

3. And the Lord has blessed His word, just as He promised. Last night we had dinner with a young lady from the church who recounted the ways she has seen folks in the congregation growing from the ministry of the word in the pulpit, Sunday school, Wednesday nights, and small groups. I'm thankful for the partnership in the gospel that is being strengthened by God's grace as more gifted teachers invest in the teaching ministry of the church.

4. Stephen Ryan joined the church staff almost a year ago now. He was a promising young accountant with a bright future in that field should he desire it. But he opted to invest his life in the ministry of the church, directing some of our missions and youth efforts. His addition to the staff is a gift from the Lord.

5. On August 18th, Lord willing, a young man whom the church supported through Bible college, Bentley Robinson, will join the pastoral staff of the church. Bentley loves the people here. He is eager to serve, encourage, and disciple. And he is a gifted and passionate preacher of the word. In God's kindness, we'll be moving from strength to strength with Bentley joining staff.

6. Adding Bentley and Stephen to the staff is direct fruit from the generous and sacrificial and joyful giving of the church. Two years ago, the church was still recovering from the devastation Hurricane Ivan wrought in the island. The main part of the church building was pretty much gutted and rebuilding required taking on debt at a time where most people were out of work and probably a third of the island's population had to relocate to other countries. The saints agreed to contribute to a campaign we called "Treasures for Heaven." Above their regular giving, in just a little over a year, the congregation chipped a C.I. $1.1 million (US$ 1.3+) debt downed to under $300,000 today. The grace of God evident in faithful and sacrificial giving has been a great encouragement. And going forward, when completely freed from that debt, we look forward to the various ways we can invest approximately C.I. $340k per year into missions, church planting, and a host of other gospel ministries.

7. Conversions. How tremendously kind of the Lord to show us a season of converting power here in the congregation and on the island. I think of the housewife brought to her knees in a pool of tears, convicted over her sins of pride and rebellion against her husband, repentant, meeting him at the door confessing those sins, and trusting the Lord for her rescue from the coming wrath. She is perhaps the most joyous, loving and fruitful evangelist among us now. Or the young woman who first came to us as an atheist. She attended a volleyball fellowship at the invitation of a co-worker. Later she came to the Christmas concert to hear him sing. Soon she started attending the morning service and Wednesday night Bible study. We began an email conversation addressing some of her concerns and questions. Soon she began reasoning from inside the faith. And one Sunday, in God's matchless kindness, she was we trust transferred from death to life. There is the former marine biologist, committed evolutionist, who sat Sunday after Sunday weeping at the preaching of the gospel. A year later, he still weeps when He thinks of the Savior who invaded his life and overturned his worldview through the foolishness of preaching. There is the popular musical artist who had only known a peevish and sour "Christianity" who attended a children's program and heard the gospel with fresh ears. The Lord used the steady, joyful, freedom-embracing witness of a young couple to enflesh the effects of the gospel in a compelling and drawing way.

8. The congregations love growing to show equal concern for every member (1 Cor. 12:25). We're not there yet. Is any church ever "there" on this? But we're growing in our love for each other. Membership in the church is becoming more meaningful, as our union in Christ and His call for us to love one another becomes more explicit in our thinking and tangible in expression. We've had another case where our love was measured in the form of corrective discipline. We've shown love to people listed as members but who, in some cases, have not been active in the life of the church in 10 years. We've reached out to them over several months, and in love have removed many from membership. Already many who are actively involved have experienced deeper love for the body, greater concern for the spiritual well-being of other members, and a clearer sense of family encouragement and accountability. It's not as though those things weren't there before, but it's been encouraging to hear from even some newly re-connected members how "right" it feels to them that the body should be more closely knit and mutual love expressed in these ways.

9. Then there are the many new members who have joined over the last year. What a wonderfully diverse and joyful group of people! Each has become a part of the family and jumped in to serve.

10. We have experienced the Lord's grace to us in the appointing of new elders to help shepherd the sheep. Garnet Harrison, our former deacon of finance, and Shane Foster, a Barnabas of a man who returns to the eldership after a year's break, have already made tremendous contributions along with William, Duncan, and Dave who continue to serve. What a sweet year it's been, honoring men who served as elders but have come to the end of their terms... Hedley Robinson being the most recent.

11. Our missions work continues to meet with God's grace and blessing. We're adjusting some priorities and looking forward to more growth in this area. Many of the Filipino brothers and sisters have operated an evangelistic radio outreach and Bible studies to reach the Filipino community. God has given them reach and fruit in their efforts!

12. There are marriages back on track. And there are couples still fighting the fight of faith against serious attacks, failures, and sin. The Lord's grace is in it all.

13. Our partnership in the gospel has grown to include a few more speaking engagements and another book, What Is A Healthy Church Member? So much of that book is so evident in the lives of many, many people at FBC.

14. I see God's grace in Mrs. Heather's constant care for Ray. They've just celebrated their anniversary. Ray has fought significant limitations due to a stroke for almost two years now. And I think their love for one another is stronger than ever. So much teaching has gone on through their love for one another. And I praise God for it.

15. It would be improper for me to finish this short reflection--this is by no means all there is to consider--without honoring my wife and family. A man could not pray for or receive a more gracious, generous, kind, faithful, joyful, loving, involved, helpful, and zealous wife. She is better than I deserve, and her marks on my life and ministry are too many to count. The children take after their mother--and boy what a relief that is! The girls are thriving and they don't show any strain or resentment for being PKs. In fact, I think they delight in it, in no small measure because the congregation encourages and loves them so well, avoiding unfair expectations of them or putting them under a microscope. And Titus, now about 19 months, actually called me "pastor" the other night! With a big ol' smile he looked at me from his car seat and said, "Daddy... pastor."

I praise the Lord for the year that's past, and I look to His coming grace and omnipotent hand for the year ahead. May He richly bless FBC and all His churches with mercy upon mercy, grace upon grace.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Time Really Does Fly When You're Having Fun

In two blinks it's been two years since the family landed in Grand Cayman for what we hope will be a lifetime of ministry to and with the people here. Where did the two years go! And, no, they didn't wash away on the beach :-) Though in retrospect, perhaps a day or two more would have done some good.

I've been reflecting on the two years a little bit, trying to note God's grace in it all. And it's been grace filled. So, I thought I'd do a couple of posts. First two re-posts of some things that encouraged me three mongths and one year into our time here. And, Lord willing, tomorrow a post on encouragements since that time. I pray you're encouraged just as the Lord has encouraged me.


October 5, 2006--Things That Encourage Me As a Pastor

My beloved brother in Christ, friend, and mentor C.J. Mahaney frequently encourages Christians to look for "evidences of grace" in other Christians and the congregation. It's a good exhortation, especially for those of us who are more likely to see flaws in a 4-karat diamond than the brilliance it reflects. So, I've been thinking about CJ's instruction and my first six weeks at FBC, and here is a list of 39 (and counting!) evidences of God's grace in the life of the congregation that encourages me as a pastor and Christian.

The elders. I've joined a group of six men that have led this congregation for the past three years in some very difficult periods and who have forged strong affections for each other and for the congregation.

Hedley Robinson, an elder with deep humility, a godly tendency to err on the side of grace, and a sweet love for the Lord and His people.

Shane Foster, an elder who displays tenacity at doing the work of an elder, excellent leadership skills coupled with that humility that thinks more highly of others than himself, and a John Bunyan-like knack for seeing Scripture and understanding situations in clear pictures and parables. If you've read Pilgrim's Progress, you have a sense of what I'm saying here.

William MacTaggert is an elder full of the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, patience, etc. He is gentle and yet passionate for the people of God here at FBC. He demonstrates that rare kind of wisdom: slow to speak, eager to listen and filled with God's Word from above.

Dave Jorge, an elder and pastor of worship, whose love for the people of FBC and Grand Cayman is tangible and unsurpassed, who passionately desires to see the people grow in their love for God.

Philip Pedley, an elder who has devoted himself to the counseling work of an elder, applying God's Word to most every question that comes before us as a group, and modeling deliberateness in the finest sense.

Duncan Nicol, my Scottish brother, an elder who speaks with a Scottish accent mingled with a Caribbean lilt, and who expresses a wide compassion for all of the people of FBC.

I'm encouraged by the prayer ministries of the church, the faithful band of folks who gather on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings to bathe the church and the leadership in prayer, who call down heaven on this island and her people, and who encourage us all to enjoy this sweet communion with our Savior.

I'm encouraged with the sweet fellowship in the Word at our Wednesday night Bible study. What a fun time thinking together about Galatians, asking and answering questions, being formed together by God's Spirit through His Word.

I'm encouraged by the energy and zeal for the young people of the church displayed by the youth group volunteers who are pouring themselves into the teens. Similarly, there are the 'tweener volunteers who have recently started a new program for the 11-13 year olds and are laboring under the weight of early success, needing more volunteers, but rejoicing in the midst of God's goodness.

Then there is the choir. A bumpin' choir with great musical and singing talent that leads the congregation well in rejoicing in the Lord.

Deaconess Dorothy Scott, who is probably fainting with embarrassment at being mentioned in a public way like this, labors quietly, almost invisibly, until you see the fruit in people's lives from her benevolence ministry. I'm encouraged at the godly way she models service to others without seeking any applause or recognition.

I'm encouraged at the congregation's attitude of forgiveness. Though many were wounded from some unfortunate, sinful events a year ago, the prevailing response is a godly desire for reconciliation and forgiveness.

The elders' wives freely and cheerfully give up their husbands and some family time for the sake of the ministry and love for the church. That's tremendously generous and encouraging.

I'm encouraged by the marriages of the church, especially those who are fighting through difficulty and fighting for their marriages against assaults from the evil one.

Though the congregation is facing a challenging budget situation because of our debt, their response is a steadfast faith in the face of the challenge. The great majority are not flinching... but trusting in the Lord to provide.

The work of missions is very encouraging. The Lord has worked in the congregation to move individuals and the body to send and support the work of spreading His gospel around the globe. The fruit and joy of their labors is amazing.

There is Jennifer West, a young, talented single sister, who has forsaken the allurements of "island paradise" to labor with young people and young refugees in Costa Rica. Her faith is encouraging.

There is Jim and Karla, Wycliffe literacy staff, who have labored for ten years now among predominantly Muslim peoples in Asia.

There is Paul and Martha Buford who have cheerfully left large homes, family, business and friends to strengthen and establish churches in Honduras.

Also, the church's support of seminarians is tremendous given our size and financial situation. God has been gracious to us over the last several years. Bentley and Maureen Robinson are studying at Moorlands in the UK. Bentley is a humble lamb in person and a roaring lion in the pulpit. Maureen is a helper suitable to him with great faith in god and the singing voice of a bird.

David and Lori Nigh are studying at Southwestern preparing for the mission field. But they're not simply chillin' in a college student's schedule. They're faithfully serving at their local church and doing the work of evangelists among Hispanic people there in Texas.

The congregation's generosity in supporting these missionaries and seminarians is encouraging. Since we are not a part of a mechanism like the cooperative program, we're taking up the lion's share of support for most of these people. We're not the only support by any means, but the level of support is hugely generous and encouraging.

Moreover, I'm encouraged at the current proposal to raise the percentage of the budget dedicated to missions from 6% to 10% this budget year. It's a reflection of our growing desire to spread the gospel among all nations.

The volunteers who serve in children's ministry (especially extended session) are champions! The faithful who show up for their shift and for the shift of others' sometimes are people you can build a ministry on. There are folks who serve in the ministry to their own spiritual detriment--two of the coordinators (Kim and Pam) have essentially missed nearly every morning gathering of the church for two years. Ladies, that's tremendous service, but we're going to fix that!

I can't mention Meg Bodden enough. She is Ms. Encouragement. When's the last time your administrative assistant on her own accord listened to or read most everything available on the 9Marks website?

There is Carolyn Harrison, volunteer extraordinaire who is investing much of her available free time to helping out administratively around the church. She and her husband, Garnet, are some of the most hospitable and kind persons I know, often taking in newcomers and helping them adjust to the church and the island.

Speaking of Garnet, he's our deacon of finance. And he approaches the task with spiritual-mindedness and faith. He has a difficult job but he does it with class, which is to say he does it humbly, patiently, steadily, joyfully, and without complaint.

I'm greatly encouraged and grateful for the way the congregation loves my wife and children, caring for them, teaching them to swim and snorkel, inviting them to lunch, sending flowers on our anniversary, checking in on us during storms or power outages and so many others ways too numerous to list.

It's encouraging to serve people who seem to appreciate the preaching of the gospel. I don't notice any weariness at hearing the Good News of Jesus Christ.

I am encouraged that they called me to be their pastor. It's a joy and a privilege to be called "pastor" by this congregation.

The way they understand and protect time for me to study and prepare adequately is quite encouraging and helpful.

The congregation's generosity in allowing me an outside ministry to other saints and churches is encouraging.

The body's desire to submit to and follow the leadership of the elders makes serving them a rewarding joy.

The congregation's desire to reach out to the broader community is a strength and an encouragement.

Their desire to be better evangelists and to reap a harvest for God's glory encourages me as a pastor.

The Filipino members of the church are a model for reaching out to others in the community without neglecting the overall unity of the body, maintaining our corporate identity as a church without abandoning a soul-seeking concern for other Filipinos who do not know the Lord.

I'm encouraged with the fellowship that goes on between many in the congregation... group lunches after church, cookouts at people's homes, and meeting up one-on-one during lunch breaks. That's a good foundation on which to expand and build a culture of mutual care and discipleship.

And I'm encouraged with the prayers the congregation offers for me. One lady encouraged the church to devote the month of September to pray for our pastors. Another sister emailed to let me know how she was praying for me as we approached the ordination service. And yesterday, I received this email from a saint letting me know how she was praying:

Thank you Pastor Thabiti for your email and prayers,I pray for you also, that you will receive numerous blessings and that your time here in Cayman will be a lengthy and fruitful one, bringing forth new believers in Christ. I pray that you will have a positive impact on our church - FBC and the community, that you will be recognized as a true disciple of Christ and that others will want to follow in your leadership. I also pray for FBC, that it will continue to grow in Christ, that each of us there will feel the need to serve God and each other.

Yep, I'm encouraged... and with many reasons to be so.


August 1, 2007--One Year Ago Today...

My family and I landed at Owen Roberts Int'l Airport in Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands. August 1, 2006 began a radically new and joyous life for us. And the past year has easily been one of the most exciting and rewarding I've ever lived.

Reflecting on the year, I thought I'd list a number of things (ten this time) that have been especially encouraging for me.

1. I have never seen my daughters more outgoing and comfortable than the year we've had in Grand Cayman. Naturally shy (like their dad), they've really blossomed here.

2. I've never seen my girls receive so much love and care from so many people young and old. The way the saints at FBC have loved my children has been tremendously encouraging as we've settled here.

3. There is simply no way to place a value on my wife's constant encouragement, support, and words of wisdom. She has been a phenomenal helpmeet in life and ministry.

4. We've seen the birth of our first son, Titus. What a blessing he has been. And like the girls, the folks here have just loved on him to no end.

5. Someone said to me before we left for Cayman, "Don't be surprised at the friends you'll make... some you expect and many you don't." How true that's been. The Lord has blessed us with new and dear friendships that we're enjoying all the time.

6. I'm heartened by the way many people in the congregation have been growing in response to God's word. The ways are too numerous to list really. But many are fighting sin like Christians, others are soaking up as much of the word as possible, some are trusting the Lord in difficult situations when they had once given up, the Lord is making visible many men with strong teaching gifts, and lots of people are shaping their families and life decisions by the word. I'm sure this was going on before my arrival; I'm not taking credit for any of it. But it's been a rewarding privilege to see the Lord working this fruit.

7. There is a sweet unity in the church.

8. I'm settling down as a preacher and getting to know the body better. That's been fun. Though I enjoy the privilege of laboring in other places from time to time, by far, my favorite place to preach is FBC.

9. The word of God is becoming more and more central in the life of the congregation in terms of how we understand our responsibility to one another and how we care for one another. The most brilliant example of that is the church's recent decision to remove an unrepentant brother from membership. It would not have been my choice to deal with something like this in the first year of service, but with meekness the congregation received the word (James 1:21), submitted to the very loving and able leadership of the elders (Heb. 13:17), and loved our brother the way Jesus would have us love him (Matt. 18:15-17). In my mind, this was a defining moment in the life of the body made possible by the congregation's love for and submission to the word of God as sufficient and authoritative.

10. I feel the significant partnership I have with the congregation in ministry here and outside the church. When I'm away, I know the saints are praying for me. Many pray for and encourage me in writing projects. And sending me off to serve in other places is an investment both in my own development, growth, and refreshment, and we trust an investment in the lives of other congregations and saints. I can't imagine a better congregation with whom to share and labor together in ministry.

There's much more I could list or describe. But suffice it to say that the first year at FBC has been a tremendous joy and the evidence of God's grace appears everywhere. I am thankful to the Lord, my family, and the saints at FBC for the privilege of laboring as a pastor here.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Is Obama the End of Black Politics?

That's the question the NY Times Magazine is asking in this article. Well, his may be the candidacy that signals most decisively the end of old-style African American political thought and practice, but the cracks in the dam started with a host of African Americans, some famous and some infamous and others anyonymous (Watts, Ford, Nutter, Steele, etc.), who have courageously resisted the hegemony that is black political thought. I don't know if Obama is the end, but I'm glad to see the discussion take on national prominence.

An Interview with Wendy Horger Alsup on Practical Theology for Women

As I mentioned in another post, one book I'm greatly excited about is Wendy Horger Alsup's Practical Theology for Women: How Knowing God Makes a Difference in Our Daily Lives (Crossway, 2008). It's part of a series of short, practical books called Re:Lit from the saints at Mars Hill Church in Seattle, WA.

Practical Theology for Women is available at:
Crossway Books (
Amazon (
It was a privilege to pose a few questions to Wendy and get her responses below.

1) Most theology texts are written by men and are aimed at an academic audience. Practical Theology for Women breaks that mold. How did the idea for the book originate? Who do you think will benefit most from it?

I recount this story in the book, but several years ago, I heard a sermon at church that raised some questions about a particular doctrinal issue. I met a friend from another good church that afternoon and brought up the issue with her, curious to get her thoughts on it. She stopped me and said she only studies the Bible for practical application and avoids getting involved in discussions of doctrine and theology.

Around the same time, I visited a church on vacation that advertised a Practical Theology for Women class. Though I never attended the class, the title alone along with my conversation with my friend started me thinking—isn’t theology supposed to be practical? Is there really a divide between doctrine, theology, and the practical things of life? And what’s the point of doctrine and theology if it doesn’t matter in real life?

From there I began to develop a class at church that eventually became the foundation for the book. My desire has been to reach women who, first, think that theology is not for them and who, second, think theology is for them but who are put off by the technical jargon used by a lot of theologians. It’s frustrating that theologians often use language that is much more complicated than the actual concepts they are trying to communicate.

2) Why is your book specific to women? Doesn’t everyone need theology?

Certainly everyone needs theology—I just think women are underrepresented as target audiences of theological texts and the theological community in general. There are very few women’s books that emphasize theology. Most of the classes I’ve taught had a mainly female audience. Therefore that is where my particular burden is.

3) What is the difference in knowing God and knowing about God?

Well, I know about George Bush. I could list facts of his life. But I don’t know him. I don’t feel free to call him on the phone and bring my personal issues to him. And while I know facts about him, I don’t know him personally as a man like his wife and family do. I have been taught facts about God most of my life, but I had to understand the personal aspect of what Christ has purchased for me on the cross. The Bible says that now I can boldly enter God’s presence and bring my needs to him personally. God has invited me into something with Himself that transcends mere factual knowledge, but instead it’s a personal knowledge that changes me as I interact with him.

4) Some people are put off by the word theology. How would you define that term? What things tend to get in the way of people’s understanding of theology? How does Practical Theology for Women help to overcome these obstacles?

I use the term theology at its most basic level--simply the study of God. Biology is the study of life, zoology the study of animals, anthropology the study of man, and theology the study of God. Proverbs 9:10 says that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding, so understanding the character of our God is essential to any hope for wise practical daily living. As I said before, I think one of the main things that get in the way of our understanding of theology is when authors use language that is essentially more complicated than the concepts we are attempting to communicate. I try in this book to teach the deep things of the Word in ways that are understandable and accessible to a breadth of educational backgrounds. If I do have to use a theological term (like sanctification or kenosis), I try to define the term clearly. So I try to do 2 things: communicate theology clearly and understandably, and then show why these theological issues matter to our daily lives as women.

5) You write, “Truly, there is nothing like a good grasp of accurate knowledge about God to enable you to meet the practical demands of your life—the practical demands of being a daughter, mother, wife, sister, or friend.” Can you explain this to our audience a bit? How does knowing God make a difference in our daily lives?

Well, regularly, I have to stop myself in the midst of whatever daily trauma I find myself and review what I know about God. And it ALWAYS makes a difference in how I view and respond to whatever big or small issue with which I’m dealing. We’ve had a couple of situations in the last few years that defy my ability to sort through and figure out on my own. I get stressed trying to control things that are fully out of my control. I have to stop my emotional roller coaster and think through God’s character. I know God is sovereign—He is in control. I know God is compassionate—He cares for His children with a love that defies our ability to explain. And I know God is wise—He knows what He’s doing. These attributes make all the difference when I am trying to make sense of circumstances out of my control. They don’t change my circumstances, but they change my perspective, which makes all the difference in the world.

6) You’ve been actively involved in women’s ministry for some time. What should the goal of a healthy women’s ministry be? Do you have concerns about the way that most evangelical churches practice women’s ministry?

Well, I think the goal of a healthy women’s ministry should be the same goal for every ministry at every stage of life—knowing God and understanding how that affects our daily life. Some women’s ministries and events attempt to deal with real women’s issues, which is great, but ignore the foundation of theology that equips us in each of those issues, which is very bad. You can’t understand what the Bible says about wives if you don’t understand Christ and his church. You can’t understand what the Bible says about parenting if you don’t get your adoption into God’s family and the inheritance you have as a co-heir of Jesus Christ. You can’t deal with infertility if you don’t understand the specifics of the trustworthy character of your God with an issue that tests women at the core of their being. So my burden is that we do both—deal with real issues but from the foundation of the character of God the Father, Son, and Spirit.

7) What thoughts and suggestions would you offer church leaders interested in strengthening the theological education of the women in their churches?

It would be disingenuous of me if I didn’t say I hope my book will be a stepping-stone for this very purpose. Beyond that, I suggest looking for women leaders who first and foremost understand grace. You can throw out spiritual terms all you want but still miss the foundation of the gospel, which is grace. From there, I suggest focusing on more Word driven rather than topic driven women’s studies. I love to see women’s classes or study groups going through Scripture itself rather than going through the latest fad in women’s books. That probably sounds odd from an author of a women’s book. But although I’ve written a book that I hope women will study, I know any power in my book isn’t from my words but from the Scripture presented there. Scripture digs so much more deeply more quickly into the heart of women’s issues than any women’s author could ever hope to do.

Ephesians is a great book for a women’s study. Going through Ephesians line-by-line is intensely valuable for a variety of things women face. Paul details our theology in chapters 1 through 3 and then shows in chapters 4 through 6 how that theology affects every aspect of our daily lives (as wives, moms, coworkers, in Christian community). The gospel of Luke is another great study for women. Getting Jesus’ example through out the book is core to understanding what it means to be conformed to His image. I Peter and Ruth are other good studies. I’d love to see women studying Scripture, asking themselves constantly, “What does this reveal to me about God?” Then, from there, I suggest following through by focusing on how that attribute of God makes a difference in how we should think about the circumstances affecting us right now.

I hope to write a study on Ephesians geared toward women for this very purpose.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Mike McKinley Is Watching TBN...

so you don't have to! Mike is the senior pastor of Guilford Baptist Church. And he gets my vote for funniest living pastor and blogger. Hands down. Check out his synopsis of one Sunday's viewing of good and not so good televangelism.

Talking Healthy Member...

The Lord granted me the wonderful privilege of talking about Healthy Member with Pastor Kevin Boling on Knowing the Truth radio. Kevin was a gracious and insightful host. You can find the interview here.

Check out the archives for Knowing the Truth here. You'll find interviews with Kay Arthur, Ravi Zacharias, J.I. Packer, Bob Bevington, and others. Good stuff.

Audio from Worship God '08

You can find all the plenary talks at the Sovereign Grace page.

Knowing God with the Psalmist(Craig Cabaniss)

Expressing Emotion with the Psalmist(Thabiti Anyabwile)

Glorifying Christ with the Psalmist(Mark Dever)

Enduring Hardship with the Psalmist(David Powlison)

Praising God with the Psalmist(Bob Kauflin)

Living Life with the Psalmist(Bob Kauflin)

Monday, August 04, 2008

Around the Blog in 80 Seconds

Worship God '08
What a wonderful time with the saints up at Sovereign Grace this past week! If you know the saints of Sovereign Grace then you know that the Lord has marked them with a wonderfully gracious, eager to serve, and hospitable spirit. And this past week was no exception.

I've made a resolution following this conference. I need to attend a "worship" conference at least once every other year, maybe once a year. I'm accustomed to conferences aimed at pastors, and they tend to take on a particular kind of focus and tone. I benefit tremendously from pastors' conferences for their focus on preaching, piety, church related issues of various sorts. But this conference was (to use a cliche) a breath of fresh air. There was plenty of word, and I loved that. But the combination of thinking about the word and public gathering was completely refreshing. A great deal was not only taught but also modeled throughout the conference. Being the music novice that I am, this was a very worthwhile investment of time.

Not to mention some of the new and recent music projects available at the conference:
The new Psalms cd was available. Excellent stuff.

Also available was Upward: The Bob Kauflin Hymns Project. Nicely done. Will have you looking up to the Savior!

I also picked up a copy of volume 3 of The Worship Songbook.

What I'm probably most excited about is Voice's new cd, Not Guilty: The Process of Pardon. It's hot. Biblical theology that's faithful, engaging, and set to head-bobbing beats. Any time you can put Lig' Duncan and Wayne Grudem on tracks discussing covenant theology and the ordo salutis, you know creative genius is at work!

Many, many thanks to Bob and the Sovereign Grace family for investing in the body of Christ in this way. You all are an honor to the Lord.

Speaking of Singing...
Finally a song worthy of deacons!

Thanks to Dan Phillips and Phil Johnson for reminding us of some things a pastor isn't.
Lord Vador