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Archive for September, 2010

“It’s Time to Rethink Masculinity”? Why Close Doesn’t Cut It

September 30, 2010 3 comments

In the September 27, 2010 edition of Newsweek, Andrew Romano and Tony Dokoupil advocate a rethinking of masculinity, what they call the “New Macho.” They write:

On the surface, the New Macho is a paradox, a path to masculinity paved with girly jobs and dirty diapers. Dig a little deeper, however, and it begins to make a lot of sense–not just for men but for everyone. If men embraced parental leave, women would be spared the stigma of the “mommy track”–and the professional penalties (like lower pay) that come along with it. If men were involved fathers, more kids might stay in school, steer clear of crime, and avoid poverty as adults. And if the country achieved gender parity in the workplace–an optimal balance of fully employed men and women–the GDP would grow by as much as 9 percent, according to a recent study by the World Economic Forum.

Ultimately, the New Macho boils down to a simple principle: in a changing world, men should do whatever it takes to contribute their fair share at home and at work, and schools, policy-makers, and employers should do whatever they can to help them. After all, what’s more masculine: being a strong, silent, unemployed absentee father, or actually fulfilling your half of the bargain as a breadwinner and a dad?

Newsweek makes some good points in its “Men’s Lib” article, which I quoted above, but its good points are nullified by its erroneous definitions and assumptions. Yes, men should be “involved fathers,” but men’s embrace of parental leave will not remove “the stigma of the ‘mommy track.'” Yes, “men should do whatever it takes to contribute their fair share at home and at work,” but the husband’s “fair share” is not to be the half-breadwinner, contrary to this article’s implication. Newsweek comes close to a biblical definition of husbandry and fatherhood, but close doesn’t cut it.

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The Majesty of Marriage

September 25, 2010 Leave a comment

Marriage is by design majestic. As we will see in the next installment, marriage is majestic foremost because marriage is a picture of Christ and His Church. But marriage is first majestic by God’s design from the sixth day of the creation week. I begin my sub-series Marriage by the Book here in Genesis because marriage is the first institution and is the first institution ordained by God. Before God ordained work, before He ordained the home, even: He ordained marriage. And from its inception in the Garden of Eden, marriage is majestic.

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

So God created man in his own image,
     in the image of God he created him;
     male and female he created them.

And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1:26-28)

The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” Now out of the ground the LORD God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said,

“This at last is bone of my bones
     and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called Woman,
     because she was taken out of Man.” (Genesis 2:15-23)

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The Count of Monte Cristo: A Case Study in Vengeance and Forgiveness

September 19, 2010 Leave a comment

This is my first book review of a fiction novel, but The Count of Monte Cristo is certainly deserving of this place of honor. I recently finished reading this book for my twelfth grade literature class, and the whole (abridged) story—but particularly the ending—impressed me and helped to “set my mind on things that are above, not on things that are on the earth.”

For those of you familiar with The Count of Monte Cristo, the plot revolves around the tribulation and vengeance of a certain Edmond Dantes who, upon his escape from prison, assumes the identity of the Count of Monte Cristo. He uses his newfound wealth to infiltrate his betrayers’ high-class Parisian society and wreak havoc among them. Through it all, Edmond Dantes believes his vengeful mission to be ordained by God; he believes himself to be the very hand of Providence sent to deal justice to those who had wronged him so many years prior.

Dantes’ questionable justification of vengeance aside, this book is excellent in terms of promoting biblical virtues of grace, love, and even forgiveness. Long into the book, Edmond has the chance to deal a death blow not only to Albert (his ex-fiancee’s son with her current husband) but also to Valentine (the daughter of the man who had knowingly imprisoned Dantes on false charges). Rather than doing this, however, he shows them mercy; he relents. At the end of the novel, Edmond actually enables these young lovers to marry happily, that which he was unable to do with his fiance Mercedes.

The Count of Monte Cristo, Edmond Dantes, leaves his young friends without a good-bye, but he does write them a note, at the end of which he bids them to “wait and hope!”

These words are indeed, as Valentine refers to them, sweet and comforting words. And these words are the words that we Christians have: “wait and hope!” Acts 1:7-11 records:

So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

We as Christians aren’t to “wait” doing nothing until the Lord’s return; rather, we are to live for him until his return. But we are certainly to expect and hope for this return. Peter writes under inspiration of the Holy Spirit in 2 Peter 3:11-13,

Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

Our waiting as Christians is not passive but active. We should follow the Lord wholeheartedly as we realize with great hope and expectation that one day God will create a “new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.”

As Valentine said to Albert concerning the Count of Monte Cristo’s improbable return, so I say to you concerning our Lord’s inevitable return: “Wait and hope!”

Marriage Under Fire (Introduction to “Marriage by the Book” Sub-Series)

September 14, 2010 1 comment

I admit that my blog series, Refocus on the Family, gets its name from the organization known as Focus on the Family. But we Christians really should Refocus on the family. I do not mean to belittle Focus on the Family’s work (on the contrary, I applaud their devotion to God’s teachings about marriage, gender roles, and the family and am weekly blessed by their ministry at Boundless); rather, by my title I mean to express the idea that we Christians have not focused on the family as we should have but have rather neglected the family to the point where in most houses, it no longer functions according to God’s design. In short, we need to refocus on the family by refocusing on the Bible’s teaching about family.

I have arbitrarily broken Refocus on the Family into four sub-series, the first of which is Marriage by the Book. In this first subseries, I will deal exclusively with what the Bible teaches about marriage. After today’s introductory post, I will have ten subsequent posts that take us through the Bible and examine various Scriptural texts to give us a biblical view of marriage. I start with marriage first because that is where God starts in Genesis 1. He doesn’t start with gender roles (in the church) or parenthood; He starts with marriage, and so do I. In this introductory post, I lay out my case that marriage is under fire in the United States, and I examine Ezra 9-10 for a pattern of what we as Christians should do to rectify our less-than-biblical esteem of marriage.

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A New Season of Ministry

September 7, 2010 Leave a comment

On August 29, I preached a trial sermon at Calvary Baptist Church. This was an atypical trial sermon (they had already heard me preach multiple times before), but it gave me the opportunity to preach about the biblical definition of ministry. This was especially good since they would vote right after my sermon on whether to call me on as youth ministry intern. I preached on Ephesians 4:11-19. You can listen to that sermon here.

After I preached, and after the invitation, Bro. Blake sent me outside the auditorium for the congregational vote. I prayed that God’s will would be done (though I very much wanted to be called on), and I shortly heard Bro. Blake’s footsteps coming toward me. I turned around, and he told me that the congregation had voted unanimously to call me on as Calvary Baptist’s new youth ministry intern. This news, of course, overjoyed me. A unanimous affirmation was more than I had even hoped for … and the opportunity to serve as a minister of youth intern was certainly above and beyond the expectations I had entertained concerning my years prior to seminary.

In fact, when I walked back into the worship auditorium (as “Victory in Jesus” is being sung, no less), a phrase in Ephesians 3:20 kept popping into my head: “him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think.” As Bro. Blake prayed after “Victory in Jesus” ended, that phrase in Ephesians 3:20 brought tears of joy to my eyes. Yes, I had prayed for this door of opportunity to open, but never in my life have I thought that I would be a minister (of youth intern) before exiting high school. God certainly is “able to do far more abundantly than all that we can ask or think.” My experience now confirms the truth I had believed.

Of course, after Bro. Blake prayed, the congregation welcomed me to Calvary Baptist Church. One member said, “Welcome to our church family, because we are a family.” And they are indeed a church family. Such unity and soundness in the faith are rare—in fact, Calvary is one of perhaps a handful of churches I know that genuinely possesses these two qualities—and the heartfelt welcome of a congregation whose every member affirmed my call to be their youth ministry intern gave the whole welcoming an almost dreamlike quality. I kept thinking, “Wake up,” and kept reminding myself, “This isn’t a dream. God has done far more abundantly than all that you can ask or think.”

I stayed behind at Calvary that morning (actually it was past noon by then) for quite a few minutes to talk with Bros. Blake and Kerry. By the time I left for home, the parking lot in front of the church building was empty. I walked with my head bowed to my vehicle and continued to hear in my mind that phrase from Ephesians 3:20: “him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we can ask or think.” I thanked God because he had affirmed through Calvary’s unanimous vote and preceding events that this turn of events pleased him.

Why Youth Ministry? Why Now?

Some people may wonder why I am a youth ministry intern now, especially when I am still in high school. That is a valid question, but I counted the cost for weeks before accepting this ministerial call two Sundays ago. The youth committee assured me that they would work with me and that I would not be going at this alone. They realize that while this is a self-giving ministry, it is also a learning experience for me, as well as for the youth I will serve at Calvary. I would not have pursued and accepted this ministerial call had I not been confident in God’s faithfulness to enable (and even to cause) my own faithfulness and good stewardship of this humbling task. I also would not have pursued this and accepted it had this opportunity somehow been in conflict with my long-term goals. My greatest long-term goal is to be a full-time preaching pastor. Since the best way to learn about pastoral ministry is to engage in it and to intern (or disciple, if you prefer that term) under trusted senior pastors, this youth ministry internship at Calvary Baptist Church is truly a godsend to me. As I prepare to begin ministry at Calvary, I pray that this internship would also be a godsend to the Christians there, as well.

Ultimately, though, I am a youth ministry intern because God himself has entrusted this to me. Only God gives a 17-year-old high school senior regular involvement in youth ministry. Only God gives a church the unity to hire such a one unanimously. I praise God for opening this door of opportunity to serve the youth and others at Calvary Baptist Church, and I ask that you would join me in praising him in this. For those of you who may have further questions about why I so desired to enter youth ministry at this season in my life, I highly encourage you to listen to the trial sermon I preached at Calvary on the last Sunday in August.

What This Means for the Blog and Podcast

My position as youth ministry intern at Calvary Baptist Church means that blogs will likely become a weekly (or possibly twice-weekly) occurrence. (I will post most likely either on Thursday or Saturday in the fall months. Any additional, spontaneous posts would be posted during the week.) I also plan to continue to upload any sermons I preach to mypodcast.com.

Entering a New Season of Ministry

God works all things to his glory, and I include this internship with “all things.” But God “works all things to his glory” using means. And one of those means is his people’s prayer (Philippians 1:19). I ask that you all would pray for me, that God would be glorified in me as I serve at Calvary. I certainly appreciate those of you who already are praying for me, “for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance” (Philippians 1:19). I also thank the people and pastors of Eastside Baptist Church. Ya’ll have established me in the faith and affirmed my call to pastoral ministry. Ya’ll have blessed me incalculably over these past seventeen years, and I thank you for your love, nurture, and support. Know that through me you now minister to yet more others outside your own congregation, praise be to God!

To everyone whom God has placed in my life, thank you. You have all played your part in preparing me for this new season of ministry. God has used you as he will continue to use others to ensure my faithfulness to him in this ministry. God has hitherto done to me far more abundantly than all that I have asked or thought; may he do to you far more abundantly than all that you can ask or think, also.

Until next time or our Lord comes again, “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on the earth.”

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