Welcome to Carnivorous Caribou

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Hospital Shepherding Advice

While I may be in a blogging slump, my mom evidently isn't. God has been very gracious to our family as my mother has recovered quite well. However, she also offered some advice here on how to visit patients.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Blog Slumps

Anyone familiar with blogs knows there is a period when you can't write enough...everything that happens around you presents topics, people connect well with what you are writing and you find the process enjoyable. However, there are also times when life seems a little mundane, things seem confusing no matter how you write them, and your hobby just becomes more laborious than you first expected. Add to that critiques/comments you receive from others, and sometimes you just don't feel like writing.

I'm in one of those phases.

Carnivorous Caribou isn't going anywhere, I'll get back to posting. But it may not be right away. In case you're keeping score here are some reasons for my blog abscense:

The holidays. We've been having a blast with our kids this season. By far, this has been the most enjoyable Christmas in my brief tenure as a father. There have been far too many memorable moments with family and friends to have my face buried in a laptop.

My Mother. We had a bit of a scare the week before Christmas as she underwent a serious procedure due to concerns about cancer. Praise God the surgery went very well, and the results were non-cancerous! (Of course, we'd praise God had the results been different too.)

Lots of Discouragment. There is just a lot in Christendom that has me down right now. Not here at Grace, but more general things, visible across our national landscape. Quite honestly, it's made me rather cynical/critical recently. I've posted before that I don't want to become "that guy," so I thought it best not to comment at all.

Shopping. I do have one cool post (in my humble opinion) coming that compares a recent shopping experience with the "corporate church worship experience." I still want to produce the post, but so far, it's not coming out right. Can you get writer's block if you're really not that good of a writer anyway?

Comments. Not here on the blog, but a couple of comments outside of the blog just discourage me. I'm weak, I'm frail, and I let people's opinions sway me far too often. But I plan to learn from those comments, adapt and hopefully do better than ever.

New Blog Coming. Blogger updated their system and claims to offer some pretty cool things. To be honest, I have no idea what they even mean by some of their functions, so I want to play around a little and see what I can do. In the meantime, I working on a new blog concept that I can't wait to develop. It's more driven by the Text, and I hope it will be edifying.

I John. It's not too early to be thinking about next fall's preaching series, and since we'll be in I/II/III John, I've been reading through it a lot. I have this vision that the children could be learning the same thing as mom and dad in the service, we'll see how that goes. But until then, I'm having a blast studying I John. (It's very hard to preach Joshua and not want to make many cross references to I John in the process. I have to save that for later!)

Pharisees. Believe it or not, I've been studying the pharisees lately. I'm nearly finished examining every passage in Scripture that refers to the pharisees or where Jesus interacts with them. I'm starting to compile the observations and finding many correlations to our culture. I've had less time to blog because this has taken up more time as well.

I still desire that the function of this blog be that it honor and glorify Christ. Like it's a good idea to regularly take inventory of our life, I'm running inventory of this blog.

Semper Reformanda!


Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Christmas Speculations

While we seek to learn from the Scriptures, we can't help but be influenced by other sources as well. Often, the accounts of Christ's arrival are merged together with Christmas cards, Christmas songs, and yes, even Charlie Brown Christmas specials. We end up assuming things that aren't in the text, or are even contrary to the text.

I have not conducted a scientific poll, but the following are some things that generally get tangled into the Christmas story.

    5. Mary rode a donkey to Bethlehem.
I have not seen the Nativity Story, but I have been told that it shows Mary riding a donkey to Bethlehem. This concept hardly originated with the movie, but did you realize nowhere in Scripture does it suggest that Mary rode a donkey? Is it possible that she did? It's possible, but given Mary and Joseph's insignificant status (in the world's eyes), it is unlikely that she rode anything. Mary and Joseph probably made the journey together on foot.
    4. Wisemen at the Manger.
It seems that lately many people are debunking this myth. Most of our nativity scenes have at least one magi there. Actually, we have no identification that it was three men, but we certainly know they did not arrive the night of His birth. Instead, they tell Herod they saw the star and then began to travel. Matthew 2:1 says this all took place after the birth of Christ. Certainly, Herod's response (Matthew 2:16) would lead us to believe Jesus was a toddler. This would also be consistent with Matthew saying the magi entered the house to see Mary and the Child.
    3. Deaf and Mute Zacharias.
Because Zacharias lacked faith, Gabriel struck him mute as a sign that his son John would be the forerunner to Christ. In Luke 1:22, it says that when he came out of the temple, he was unable to speak to the people around him. However, at the time for John to receive his name, there was a debate over what to call him. Elizabeth was set on the name John, and the people turn to Zacharias for clarity. The text says that the people motioned to Zacharias to see what he should be named (Luke 2:62). As if it is not frustrating enough to have your voice taken away for a period of time, Zacharias had to endure a game of charades when he was probably perfectly capable of hearing the entire conversation.
    2. All the hotels were full.
This is a case of reading western society into an eastern world, and possibly a case of loose translation. First, in an eastern society, the concept of a hotel would have been an insult to the residents. They prided themselves in hospitality, and a person who needed lodging to have to find a hotel would not have been a sign of a hospitable city. Second, they are in Bethlehem because Joseph's (and Mary's) ancestors are from this town. Therefore, they would have been able to find extended family who probably lived in the region. Third, the word "kataluma" is used two other times in Scripture (Mark 14:14, Luke 22:11), each time refering to the guest room where Jesus enjoyed the Passover with His disciples. More than likely, Mary and Joseph did not knock on the Bethlehem Red Roof Inn, but rather, approached a distant family member who had an overcrowded house already with all the people that had to come to Bethlehem.

(And to really blow your mind, it is possible that Jesus wasn't born in a stable, either. The text only identifies a manger, not a stable as well. It is very possible that all the beds in their host home were taken up, so after Jesus was born, a manger was brought into the house to be His crib. How's that for destroying your traditional image of Christmas?)
    1. Quiet Baby Jesus.
Silent Night is a beautiful song to sing, but everything about that song is much more tranquil than the events that took place. Did Mary make any noise? More than likely. Since she also was a sinner there is no reason to assume that she did not feel birthpains. Do you think a host of angels are loud? I doubt a heavenly host praises the Lord in silence. Would the city have been loud? More than likely, since Christ's birth went unrecognized by most. Would Jesus have lied their quietly? Unlikely. As a baby, He would have communicated being hungry, tired, wet in all the ways that a baby does.

To assume any of these things is probably not dangerous. However, we can often build explanations off of these assumptions. In time, these assumptions begin to become fact and we construct a view that may or may not be accurate. I think this happens especially frequently with Jesus. In recent months, I have heard all kinds of speculation about Jesus...

He was silent in the manger

Addressed above.

He was a good carpenter.

Does being the Messiah require that He made great furniture?
Could He have merely been adequate at "His trade"
since that wasn't even remotely His calling?

He was atheletic.

This is built of the assumption that He would have been in good shape,
for He had to use hand tools and didn't have many of the conveniences
of today that allow for less physical activity. This is certainly true.
However, wouldn't everyone have been in good shape back then?
Would He really have had a physical edge over other men? Probably not.
Certainly, He had strength unimaginable to endure the cross,
yet atheticism may be an inaccurate way to describe it.

Life of the party.

I heard this used one day since Jesus went to a party
(the wedding feast) and because people regularly invited
Him into their home. But He was usually invited into a home
because of His teaching, not His entertainment factor. Certainly,
Jesus may have had a lot of fun with people, we have no reason
to assume He didn't. However, we can make an equal error if we
impose "fun-loving" on others as if it is one of the fruit of the Spirit.

I hope this list causes us to read the Christmas story again, this time reading what the text presents to us, and trying to keep from interjecting our own speculation. Certainly, it is fun to speculate about what Jesus was like, but it is even more glorifying to see Him as the Word describes:
And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.

--John 1:14

Merry Christmas and Maranatha!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

So She Won't be Miss Arithmetic

Rachel returned from the grocery with mom (buy eggs) to inform me of her new information:

Dad: How many eggs are 12 eggs?

Rachel: A dozen. (so proud of her new term)

Dad: And how many eggs are in a dozen? (Follow up just to be sure.)

Rachel: EIGHT! (with as much confidence as her first answer).

But, they are learning other things.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

About Preaching...

The best message you can ever hear on preaching is:

Why Expositional Preaching is Particularly Glorifying to God (It'll cost you $2)

Another great message to listen to is:

Preaching and Teaching Jesus from Scripture (Pt 1)

Lately, I've been listening to Covenant Seminary's Prep and Del class. I'm learning a lot and hope it will sharpen my preaching. Yet Driscoll's series seems to be the nuts and bolts of preaching (like the Prep and Del) with the passion of Piper's message.

If you're a preacher, you should definitely check it out!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

My Mom


My mom is doing well. The surgery this afternoon to remove "pre-cancer" cells appeared successful. She should be in recovery for a few days. Thanks for praying!

Please pray for my mom. She has surgery this Thursday afternoon.


Sunday, December 10, 2006

Adoption Opportunity

Yana Kotsova from the Ukraine will be at our church Monday night (December 11, 2006, 7pm) to speak about adopting children from the Ukraine.

Yana attends Grace Church in Sumy. She also works with the Ukrainian government to assist international adoptions. Some of her connections allow her to relieve the financial burdens on adoptive families.

Anyone is welcome to join us! Email me if you need directions.

Friday, December 08, 2006

The Gift of Christmas Past

The other night, I did something I tell my congregation to never do, I watched "Christian" television. However, like a blind squirrel finds an acorn every once in a while, I actually saw a program that was pretty good. (Way Of The Master's Television program qualifies as an "acorn program" too.)

Drive Thru History with David Stotts is accurate, entertaining and high quality (the trifecta often missing from Christian media). On different episodes he travels through areas of the middle east, not just covering Biblical history, but Christian history as well. (His episode on Cappadocia, and the early underground Christian church was really good.)

I'm trying to talk my wife into buying the entire series as a Christmas gift, it's educational right? (We don't homeschool, but if we did, I can't imagine this wouldn't be a good resource to have.) Until then, you can check it out Saturdays, 11:00pm on TBN.

Almost Paradise

Todd Friel offered this most recent praise chorus on his show:
I'm all out of love,
I'm so lost without you.
I know you were right,
believing for so long
I'm all out of love,
what am I without you?
It can't be too late
to say I was so wrong.
At first glance, this looks pretty good. It uses words like "lost," "believing," and "I was wrong" (repentance even!). Though none of us want to admit it, we recognize this song from somewhere...Air Supply.

I admit, I once thought it would be cool to have "Every Breath You Take" sung during a church service (even though the song is originally intended to be about a stalker). I've since had a change of heart.

Do secular songs spun in a direction to be praise choruses really connect with people? Does it make us seem desperate to be relevant? Does it speak to the vague nature of many of our praise choruses?

Does my change of heart just mean I'm getting old and cold? (Or is it my theological attempt to protect from singing "Every Woman in the World" in heaven?)

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Just Lulling Around

At Pyromaniacs, Phil introduced me to the Lollards. (Granted, a professor in college may have shared about them, but I didn't pay attention then.)

According to Anabaptistnetwork, here is some information about the Lollards convictions:
    1. Personal responsibility to Biblical Authority
The Lollards denied that a believer should depend on the understanding of their Priest and encouraged personal Bible study.
    2. Rejection of superstition
Specifically, they believed the Bible should be read in the language of the people (instead of Latin, which wasn't even the original form), and they rejected concepts of transubstantiation, purgatory and praying for the dead.
    3. Priesthood of All Believers.
Not only was the Body responsible for personal study, they were also called to do ministry within the church. Interestingly, they also believed a member of the Body was justified to with hold giving to a church with apostate teaching.
    4. The Sacraments.
Quoting from the site: "Lollards stressed a common sense approach to faith and applied this to issues such as communion, where it seemed obvious that the bread remained bread, whatever the metaphysical explanations behind the traditional dogmas...In some areas, infant baptism was held to be as acceptable in a ditch as in a font, or rejected altogether, on the grounds that infants were redeemed by Christ in any case and did not need to be sprinkled with supposedly holy water."
    5. Ethical Perspectives.
They called for repentance, discipleship, simplicity of life and concern for the poor.
    6. Mission.
Lollard preachers were a mission band that contrasted sharply with the maintenance orientation of the parish priests and the monks. Unlike the settled leadership of parish priests, Lollard leaders moved from place to place in order to spread the message and establish new groups.

Brothers I didn't even know I had!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Quick Hits

Just some quick thoughts from the last few days:
    1. See What started It All
The blog entry that inspired "the funniest blog on the internet" has been reposted. Check it out.
    2. See You Later, Gator
The USC loss really changed things around. I was surprised we're not facing that other team again, but it will be fun to show the world that Chris Leak doesn't belong on the same field as Troy Smith. (Now, Teebow is a different story.) The Rose Bowl isn't a bad consolation prize, Matt andMatt.
    3. Practice What Was Preached
Jason preached on Matthew 26 (I received more than a few comments that my job may be in jeopardy now!). It was the introduction of a month long devotional he wrote called "Awe and Intimacy." You can follow along here.
    4. A Great Negative Thursday
Thursday night, my fantasy football team scored -0.75 points. Why did I enjoy it anyway? A) My team has a bye this week, B) I actually got to see the Baltimore/Cincinnati game in person, and C) My Steelers are still defending Super Bowl Champions! Lots of rain...but a total blast.
    5. Bring Your Bible to the Picket?
Fortunately, the protest has been cancelled. (Yes, professing believers were planning to join with non-believers to picket a church, ugh.) Views on Mark Driscoll are varied, but I think he has responded to a difficult situation properly.
    6. Keep Bad-mouthing Kobe, Phil!
Kobe Bryant is on my fantasy basketball team (character is not a category we record). Last week, Phil Jackson said, "Kobe will probably never get back to 100%" (he had knee surgery). Kobe responded with 52 points!

Friday, December 01, 2006

Egalitarians Covered by Culture?

As I have stated previously (and here), there are certainly passages where we must defer some of the application to the cultural setting. This does not diminish God's Word, if done properly it reinforces the sufficiency of God's Word. But it also does not give us a license to claim cultural refuge from application in any passage. We seek to understand God's Word within the culture it was written, and when we do that, we often see the application actually transcends all cultures.

As before, there a couple of non-primary issues I'd like to lay out:

Paul's writing cannot be regarded as chauvinistic by a believer.--This does not mean you find it easy to swallow. (Much of Paul greatly convicts both genders.) But it does mean, if you hold to an orthodox perspective of inspiration, that the Holy Spirit would not allow a sinful attitude toward women to be inflicted upon Scripture. Therefore, if Paul's words must not be chauvinistic, they must be understood in a different light. (And if Paul's words are the only way we have to evaluate his character--and his words are not chauvinistic--we really have no ground to call Paul a chauvinist, as I've heard some do.)

Go elsewhere.--There are a lot of better and more comprehensive examinations of the egalitarian/complimentarian debate. I don't wish to exhaust the topic, but my goal is simply to show the nature of 1 Timothy 2 is quite different than the nature of 1 Corinthians 11. If you'd like to read more about complimentarianism, read Women's Ministry in the Local Church, reviewed by MercifulGrace.

Why I am Confident that 1 Timothy 2 Cannot Be Dismissed as Cultural

1. Well Taught!--There really is not mystery surrounding "didasko." Paul uses the word 5 times in the Pastoral Epistles alone, each time clearly speaking of doctrine (The one time in Titus he uses it as a negative, of those who teach bad doctrine). This is not an overarching statement that women are not able to teach anything ever in the prescence of men, but instead is speaking of doctrine. (And yes, I believe application is included in doctrine.)

2. Poorly Taught.--The biggest defense for egalitarianism is the presupposition that women were not educated, so that is why Paul didn't want them to teach. Quite honestly, this perspective is a fabrication. First of all, Paul gives a different reason altogether for his instruction (we'll get there in a couple of points). Second, Paul actually appeals for women to be educated! In verse 11, Paul wants women to receive instruction. Women may have been disadvantaged toward education, but Paul does not desire the church to be this way. He says he wants women to be alloted the same learning privileges as men. However, he does not appeal that once they receive some instruction they should teach. In fact, he does the opposite. Paul says educate the women, but they should not educate the men.

3. Trouble with Authority.--"Authenteo" is also a hapax legomenon, which I stated before, can make things tricky. What really does Paul mean by the word since he only uses it once. I think the text gives us a couple of clues. First, Paul calls women to submisiveness (hupotage) in the preceding verse. Secondly, I Timothy 5:17 seems to be a direct parallel. The elders who rule well are considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching (emphasis mine). What does Paul say a woman shouldn't do? Exercise authority or teach. What does Paul say elders do? Exercise authority and teach. We should be able to get a pretty good understanding of "authenteo."

4. Every Culture Shares Eve.--To a proper exegete, the "gar" (for) in verse 13 is a flashing light. Why does Paul not permit a woman to teach? This small word is an indicator that Paul is about to tell us. Adam was created first. Whether they deny it or not (evolutionists), every culture shares the same ancestory. Women are not to teach or exercise authority over men because Adam was created first. How does Adam being created first make men better teachers? you may ask. It doesn't. This is not an appeal to pragmatism (It works better with men, so we do it that way). It is an appeal to the created order. Man is to be the spiritual head and the authority because God orchestrated it that way. To suggest God establishing a system of authority must be based on ability or worth is to wreak havoc on the Trinity. (Is Christ really less of God when He submits to the Father?) God wants the picture of authority present in male/female relationships, that's why Adam was created first. It's simply not about culture.

5. Want an Example?--In verse 14, Paul gives us an example. Eve fell into deception. The question is, where was Adam? Adam was not taking his responsibility seriously to serve as the authority in the relationship, and Eve responded outside of that design. If you need a reminder of the outcome, read Genesis 3. It wasn't pretty.

6. You Think the Debate is Hot, Just Wait.--Verse 15 is certainly a difficult verse to understand. However, it is more troubling from the egalitarian perspective. If 1 Timothy 2 is simply cultural, was God saying He preserved first century Ephesian women by their having babies? What in the world would that mean? (And don't give me this, "Paul was speaking about Mary, the one who carried Jesus" argument. If he was, what do you do with the word "they" in the second half? Was there more than one Mary?) However, if verse 15 is not cultural, then Paul is instructing women everywhere that their greatest gift to the church is their nurturing and discipleship of the children in the home. Paul is stating a woman's most sacred task is not a job, a career, or even influence in the church...it is the influence she has on her home. (And with that sentence, I kissed any expanded readership goodbye!) It really is beautiful if we obey it. (I see the most marvelous example of it daily in my own home with my beautiful bride!)

7. But there's culture there!--First, McDuda is right. (I get the feeling he never expected to see that sentance on my blog.) Culture cannot be avoided. The Word of God was not written in a vacuum. So the argument that there is heavy doses of culture found in verse 9 does nothing against the text. Second, let's examine closely just how culture is used in the passage. Women in Ephesus in that day were using braided hair, gold (often woven into the hair), pearls and costly clothing to bring attention to themselves. Paul was not happy with this process. Is Paul condemning braided hair, gold, pearls and nice clothing for everyone? Not really. Paul's concern was that women dress modestly and discreetly. Braided hair, gold, pearls and expensive clothing are just examples he gave of this violation. If you say the whole thing is cultural, then you would have to say that God doesn't care if women dress modestly or not in our era (A thesis I think many actually believe, based on some things you see today!). Of course that's not what Paul was saying. The over arching principle is modesty and discretion.

(Incidentally--and this is just a rabbit trail rant--but most preachers I've encountered (either in person or over media) that wear flashy clothes and expensive jewelry while preaching and teaching are egalitarian. I've had many conversations with nonbelievers that even they realize the preacher should not be directing attention to himself/herself by their apparel. Maybe they really do throw the whole thing out as cultural. But if so, why do so many of them encourage men to raise their hands (verse 8)? Wouldn't that be cultural too?)

8. Hardly Alone--Whereas 1 Corinthians 11 is the only place regarding head coverings, 1 Timothy 2 has support throughout the Canon. In the Old Testament, only men were priests and Levites. (Yes, we see Deborah and prophetesses, but those are the exception, hardly the rule.) The 12 disciples were all men. (A decision Jesus easily could have thwarted had he wanted.) Only men were installed as elders in the New Testament. (This is not to say women did not have a significant role, the most certainly did, but not as elders.) Paul's instuctions about elders are targeted toward men (1 Timothy 3:2). Paul also tells the Corinthian church that women should remain silent (1 Corinthians 14:34).

9. A House Divided--Sometimes we get so focussed on the institution of the church, we forget to notice the original institution formed. God did not nullify the home when He established His church. To allow for women elders either Ephesians 5 must ignored, and the husband is not to lead his home, or our ecclesiology is distorted. We're either forced to believe Ephesians 5 is cultural (but Christ being the head of the church is universal), or we must define church as only a specific time period within a specific building on a specific day. How does a woman elder preach and exercise authority over her husband and yet honor what the Scriptures say about marriage? Certainly, God would not endorse a system that distorts the institution of marriage (especially His gospel presented in it).

I understand this passage is counter-cultural, but isn't the gospel as well? I understand the application can be difficult. Genesis 3 says that women are going to struggle with the authority structure God has established. Women are sinners, therefore obeying God's order is going to be difficult. Not helping them any is that men are sinners! Now the very people they are to submit to are sinfilled creatures. Add to that a society that has for millennia has tried to usurp this order, and it becomes difficult for us to apply.

However, we must be careful that we do not release ourselves from obedience simply because the call is difficult. I believe that much of our gospel light has been diminished because we have been unwilling to obey that which the Lord clearly called us to. Possibly, head coverings would fit into this category too (for it is also a picture of submission)?

1 Timothy 2 is difficult to apply. 1 Corinthians 11 is difficult to understand. That difference should not be confused.