In the Castle Storeroom Long Enough to Get Hilariously Drunk

Thankful for a preacher (and father) that exemplifies the enthusiasm, joy, and wonder Capon describes here:

“There is a lesson in [the parable of the net] for preachers. So often, whether because of thickheadedness, lack of study, scant preparation, or just plain boredom, they unceremoniously heave the treasure of Scripture out of the pulpit as if they were flopping out so many dead fish. There is no fascination in their monologues, no intrigue, no sense whatsoever that the ministry they have been given is precisely that of being major-domo over a house to end all houses. The most they ever achieve is a kind of monomaniacal enthusiasm for the one or two items that happen to suit their own odd tastes: hellfire, perhaps; or their sawed-off, humanistic version of love; of their short-order recipe for siprituality; or the hopelessly moralistic lessons in good behavior that they long since decided were more palatable than the paradoxes of the Gospel. There is nothing that resonates with anything like the enthusiasm of, ‘Hey, look at this fantastic footstool I just discovered!’ or, ‘You’ve simply got to taste this incredible old Port!’ But alas, only that kind of enthusiasm is contagious and joy-producing. We should all pray for them. May God hasten the day on which they will stay in the castle storeroom long enough to get stark staring bonkers about the Word and hilariously drunk on Scripture.”

Robert Farrar Capon in Kingdom, Grace, Judgment: Paradox, Outrage, and Vindication in the Parables of Jesus (Eerdmans, 2002; volume 1 originally published 1985), p. 143

Shaken, not stirred

What comes out when you are shaken? Not literally, but figuratively. My wife likes to give the analogy of a water bottle. Shake it up, and what spills out? Water. Similarly, in a sermon we listened to last week while home with our new family of four, Doug Wilson used a similar analogy with a glass of milk. When shaken, orange juice doesn’t come out – milk does.

The analogy was within an excellent sermon on Ephesians 5, in which Paul exhorts the Ephesians to be filled with the Spirit. When we (the glass) are filled with the Spirit, when trying times come along (big or small), if we are truly Spirit filled Christians, orange juice shouldn’t be the result. Anger, frustration, and impatience shouldn’t come spilling out. Instead, the fruit of the Spirit should be evident even in hard times. Looking at Ephesians 5, there are three main things that characterize those who are filled with the Spirit (i.e. Christians). These are:

1. Overflowing with music and singing
2. Thanksgiving for everything, in everything
3. Mutual deference and submission

This plays out in our families, churches, friendships, vocations, and everywhere. Are our lives characterized by such things? If not, heed the Apostle’s admonition to be who you already are in Christ. As Wilson taught, it’s not a “got to” but a “get to.” That is, being a Spirit filled Christian and having music, thanksgiving, and deference isn’t a joyless drudgery or a bland to-do list, but is our joyful life’s privilege. Live like it!

Moralistic, therapeutic, narcissistic deism

“I have tried to articulate some of the contours and reasons for the dominance of ‘moralistic, therapeutic deism.’ We come to the Great Commission with our questions. As Paul reminded Timothy, the last days are marked by narcissism, greed, disloyalty, and selfishness. It follows that we gradually transform the Commission’s message into something about us rather than something about God and his saving purposes, work, and destiny for us in Jesus Christ. Consistent with this new message, we transform the Commission’s mission into a kingdom that we are building rather than receiving, and we exchange its methods of delivering Christ through preaching and sacrament for our own clever programs, techniques, and principles for effecting real transformation of ourselves and the world.

“However, the result has been not only an increasing failure to reach the lost but a growing tendency to lose the reached. We place our hope in laws, principles, programs: things that we do to ascend to pull God down to us, instead of a gospel that is brought to us by a herald as completely counterintuitive Good News.”

-Michael Horton in The Gospel Commission (2011), p. 298

Exporting what we don’t have?

You’ve probably heard the phrase that someone is “too heavenly minded to be any earthly good” or vice versa. But is it also true that it’s possible to be too overseas minded to be any local good? Doug Wilson thinks so, applying Matthew 23:15 to current “missional zeal” in his brief post titled “Here and There Both.”

What you practice at home is the show you take on the road. What you grow in your fields is what you load on the trucks. Compassing sea and land doesn’t generate a new message. The way you live when you get on the plane is going to be the single best indicator of how you live when you get off the plane. In short, don’t expect geographical location to fix anything. The principle is this: you export whatever it is you are manufacturing…Not only do you export what you have, you cannot export what you don’t have.”

Reading, PA, by J. Kourkounis, New York Times

Wilson is absolutely not against foreign missions. But his point is that there is a nuance; this is a both/and situation and not an either/or. If someone feels called to overseas missions, one of the signs church leadership can look for before confirming their call is to see what their local missions efforts look like. Or, if someone has been approved for foreign missions work, what are they doing in the meantime before they are sent?

I think this can be generally applied to those of us who aren’t explicitly called to missions, too. Are we praying, thinking, loving, giving, and acting locally as well as globally? Are we concerned for the Amish in Lancaster or the white middle class family down the street to hear the gospel, and burdened for those in the country’s poorest city (Reading, PA) in addition to the lost in Eastern Europe and the starving and orphaned in Africa? Wilson writes:

“This is why reformation and revival in our churches here is a necessary precondition for effective evangelism there. Say that someone says he has a real burden ‘for the lost’ in Wango Bango. Say that the person at church he is speaking to suggests they spend that afternoon going door-to-door at student housing for the local university. There are lost people here too. Suppose further that the evangelistic ardor of the prospective missionary suddenly wanes. This is a bad sign, and it is a bad sign of what I am talking about.”

I want to be careful because there is definitely nuance. I know that the church, the body of Christ, is a complex, diverse organism and not everyone can be the hands of giving or the feet of going or the mouth of preaching – and not everyone can be all of them at once. So I agree, to a point, with Wilson that “The first step in foreign missions is domestic mission. The first step toward Africa is right across the street.” I’d also recommend the related book When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor…and Yourself, by Corbett and Fikkert (Moody, 2009). Is Wilson right? Does his position need to be nuanced more? Is he way off?

Leading a host of captives

Today is Ascension Day on the church calendar, celebrated 40 days after Resurrection Sunday. It is one of the most important and rich church celebrations, yet it is also one of the most overlooked. For an explanation of some of the richness of Ascension Day, Doug Wilson’s Ascension Day sermon is worth reading, after a brief snippet:

Our union with Christ, effected through the instrument of living faith alone, is a union well represented by our prefix co. Greek has a similar prefix representing the same reality, which for them is sun. As Paul put it, we were co-quickened in Christ (Eph. 2:5), and co-raised with Him (Eph. 2:6). We were also co-seated with Him in the heavenly places (Eph.2:6), and this means that today we are celebrating the exaltation of the new mankind in Christ—for it was on this day that we co-ascended in and with Him into the throne room of the Ancient of Days.

This is not esoteric theology; this is why our prayers are heard. This is why we are able to pray in Jesus’ name. This is why our souls have a heavenly security, beyond the reach of anything that stings or harms.

Other Ascension Day resources for your reading pleasure (and singing pleasure, for the psalms) include Psalm 2, Psalm 68, Psalm 110, Acts 1, and Ephesians 4.

Random musings

Some thoughts and ideas that I’ve been chewing on lately:

-Salt, in the Mark 9:50 sense, isn’t only a flavor-er, but an anti-decayer and preserver as well. How am I living in light of this fact? (Modern Reformation, Mar/Apr, 2011)

-The confusion of law and gospel has been a perpetual thorn in the church’s side, and today is no different. The “new monasticism” of missional and emergent types as well as calls to “live the gospel” and live radically are just repackaged ways of burdening believers with guilt and fear instead of freeing them to enjoy the glories of resting in Christ’s finished work. (Modern Reformation, Mar/Apr, 2011)

-The most dangerous, most common, most troublesome sin in marriage is our tendency toward self-worship. (Rev. Arrick sermon, 3/13/11)

-Depravity is on full display in the book of Judges. The sin of Israel gets progressively worse as they “do what is right in their own eyes,” the consummation of which is Judges 19, when Israel goes further than Sodom and Gomorrah. Interestingly, Carl Trueman recently preached a sermon on just this passage.

-It’s easy for me to criticize Job’s philosopher friends who simply believe in a souped up version of the prosperity gospel and karma. Your life is hard, they say? Repent, be righteous, and God will bless you. Enjoying prosperity? You must be living righteously. Easy to disagree with, right? But how often do I default to this way of living? Things are going well? God must be pleased with how I’m doing. Things are tough? Then what sin do I need to repent of so that I can start enjoying God’s blessings again? But we’re not prosperity gospelers or cosmic karma-its. Thankfully, God doesn’t treat me as I deserve, but lavishes his grace upon me in Christ, disciplines me, and gives good, undeserving gifts to his children. Job didn’t believe in karma, and he certainly wouldn’t have been a Joel Osteen fan.

Information Overload

Church: Uncool people need Jesus too. “As I’ve looked at some amazing plans from church planters, I’ve started to notice a trend. They all sound the same.” Ironic that the post comes from the homogeneous hipster Acts29 network. Kevin DeYoung has a good reaction post to this as well: They need good pastors and good churches everywhere.

Church: Make sure it’s liturgy, not liturgay. Doug Wilson at his best, writing about worldview: “A worldview is not just thoughts in your head, even if they are orthodox thoughts. A worldview consists of four major components — catechesis, narrative, symbols, and lifestyle.”

Preaching: 10 important things to ask a potential pastor. R.C. Sproul, Jr. lists these 10 questions, and then answers them for himself. He lists Nathan Clark George and Troy Polamalu in his lengthy list of heroes.

Books: A new book is coming out March 15 that I’m excited about: Welcome to a Reformed Church: A Guide for Pilgrims, by Danny Hyde. A great interview with Hyde about the book is also available here. You can buy it here.

Photography: 10 deadly post-processing sins. Humorous and helpful. Included are vignettes, processing fads, and oversaturation.

News: Couple let baby starve to death while raising virtual baby online. How sad is this? How sad is it that I’m not surprised that a story like this finally broke?