Jacob's Well turns four on Friday. This video rolled out last week sharing a bit of that story. Very thankful for all our friends and JWell family giving their lives in gospel work in New Jersey.
The random technotheolosophical blogging of Reid S. Monaghan
Note: Much credit to IX Marks, a ministry I love and respect, for the inspiration for this post. I agree with most of what they wrote...maybe they will agree also with me? I added #7 of my own accord.
Being an uncool pastor is not the power of God for salvation—the gospel is. If
we think that the success of our evangelistic efforts depends on the communication style we don't care about, we are missing it. We should just flow without any style so we can be sure the only thing that is attractive to anyone are Bible words. We should write them on vellum and keep them in our room. We want to show that our trust is in the power
of God’s Word working by God’s Spirit, so we want to be as awkward and uncool as we can be so to be sure about this.
Being disconnected to the culture is a double-edged sword. Though you can be sure you don't look cool, are not compelling, and be ignorant of what people care about, you might still be human enough to be in real relationships with sinners. Just don't be cool about it. Make them read the vellum if they want you to watch movies.
- Our desire to be uncool may reflect more pride than we’d like to admit.
Let’s say you want to be pure, unaffected by the culture and only have heaven oriented slang, dress and style. Is your desire to cultivate that image
driven by a desire to save the lost or a desire for people to like you? Or maybe to have God like you more than he like cool pastors.
Much pastoral ministry is profoundly cool.
Preaching the cross is the power of God to save people is really cool.
Moreover, faithfully pleading with others to repent of their sins and
be reconciled to God requires a pastor to be earnest and enthusiastic (aka cool) in
a way that is utterly at odds with the ironic detachment that being
uncool requires. If you define cool as ironic detachment that is not cool.
We must never despise “cool” brothers and sisters in Christ. The more we try to be uncool ourselves, the more we’ll be tempted to look down on Christians who are not like us. Like those who have lots of tattoos.
Being unlike the culture can make it hard for others to see the gospel. The
more we understand the world and its definition of “cool,” the less
attractive we should find it. In fact, in a society that is increasingly
morally and spiritually bankrupt, it may be our identification with people in culture that serves to highlight the gospel. Rather than trying to be
uncool, pastors should lead their churches to cultivate a living presence with people in their own culture (to borrow from God's example in the incarnation) that points to a
gospel that is genuinely different from what the world believes. It also will have the body of Christ walking among people in every day life. If we are unlike the culture they cannot hear us, see us or understand us...which makes it hard for them to see the gospel.
- We should be cool and uncool like Jesus and Paul - Jesus become one of us in this world, in culture, with people in culture, hanging out with cool and uncool, the outcast, the one's with tattoos and no tattoos, loving the lost and preaching the gospel of the Kingdom. We should also be cool and uncool like the apostle who for the sake of the gospel became all things to all people so that by all possible means he might save some. And he knew cool poems that the kids listened to also...which is kinda cool. He also preached the Christ crucified for sinners and the cross as the only grounds for justification by faith...which is really cool.
Stuart Scott, and Heath Lambert, eds., Counseling the Hard Cases, Digital Ed (Nashville: Broadman and Holman, 2012)
Review written for external studies coursework I am doing as a student at Southern Seminary in Louisville, KY.
Within evangelical circles one of the more divisive issues discussed is the role of secular psychology in counseling and the care of souls. There are various camps with claims and positions arrayed along a wide spectrum of belief and practice. Dr. Stuart Scott and Dr. Heath Lambert, two leaders in the modern biblical counseling movement, have put together a unique volume designed to demonstrate the sufficiency of their methods for cases typically seen as two difficult for those relying on Scripture and its resources. Their work, Counseling the Hard Cases, is a compilation of stories from actual practitioners and their experiences with cases deemed by many as beyond the resources of biblical counseling. In this review I will summarize the content of the book, offer some analysis of the work and the examples therein, and then close with some concluding thoughts about the helpfulness of this book to contemporary life and mission.
The purpose of the book is set forth in a very helpful introductory chapter by Dr. Heath Lambert. Lambert describes the purpose and ethos of the book is to demonstrate through stories that biblical counseling is indeed up to the task of the most difficult counseling cases. The introduction also orients the reader to the debates within the evangelical community. By “hard cases” the authors mean those which are typically referred out to “mental health professionals” and beyond the scope of gospel ministry. Lambert describes the purpose for the book in this way:
The reason for this book, however, is to avoid making that argument in the abstract. Anyone who teaches biblical counseling knows what it is like to be discussing the sufficiency of Scripture and to see a hand go up: “But what about the hard cases? What about schizophrenia, sexual abuse, eating disorders, bipolar? When you say that the Bible is sufficient, do you really mean that it’s sufficient for those problems? (Kindle, Loc 547, emphasis in original)
The answer of the authors in this compilation of essays is a resounding “Yes, it is sufficient for those as well!” The counselors presenting their cases in the volume all believe that helping people is a worldview laden enterprise and the gospel, showing forth the true view of humanity’s problems, is more than equal to the task. So this work is an apologetic of sorts for those who doubt that biblical approach can tackle the most difficult types of problems that counselors and therapists are faced with today. The stories in the book are to be a counter-argument to those who may look with scorn at the practical helpfulness of the gospel to those facing deep issues of the soul in our time.
After reading this work I found it to have mostly made a very strong case for the wise use of the means and methods of biblical counseling in the most difficult of cases. I found the book to contain some profound strengths as well as a few areas I found lacking. I will handle each of these in turn.
The main strength of the book is the wide variety of stories that are presented. A quick perusal through the table of contents will reveal sexual abuse, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), postpartum depression, paralyzing fear, anorexia nervosa, bipolar disorder, dissociative identity disorder, as well as various addictions and sexual sins. Having such a variety gives a strong perspective for how the tools of biblical counseling are applied in such diverse cases. Yet within this diversity there also emerged a consistent methodology. Each of the counselors followed a similar pattern and I found this to be a strength of the work. It was quite illustrative of what biblical counselors actually do. The methodology observed contained some if not all of the following in each of the cases. First, the counselor would patiently listen well, take notes, and hear the person’s story. This was response to the exhortation to listen well given to us in Proverbs 18:13. Second, an affirmation was given to the counselee that they were not alone in their struggle and that their temptation was “common to all” and that God could help them (1 Corinthians 10:13). Third, hope in the gospel was offered on the front end as encouragement to trust God to help as they moved forward. Fourth, together the counselor/counselee would look deeply into issues of the heart where desire and sin corrupt and twist us into various forms of depravity. James 1:14,15 was cited to locate temptation in our hearts that are indeed in need of transformation. This investigation into the soul was usually done with various types of homework given. Reading of books, reading and memorization of scripture as well as the keeping journals related to temptation and struggle. This was all done in order to locate the patterns of sin in the heart. Finally the practice of confession, repentance and perseverance with a progressive understanding of sanctification (life change, progressively over time) was present in nearly every case. This diversity of cases along with this unified methodology showed that the counselor was indeed relying on the gospel and the Word of God even as each case and its nuances were addressed. One further observed strength was the importance of the church community in helping one another. This was a beautiful addition to counseling which in the modern world has become so individualized. In chapter 4 on postpartum depression a beautiful vision of the church loving and serving one another was on display. Finally, the book showed a strong view of human persons as psychosomatic unities (bodies and souls). As such there was a robust emphasis on medical science and wisdom from doctors. A particularly helpful chapter highlighting this was from Dan Wickert who is a practicing MD as well as a biblical counselor. The chapters on fear, postpartum, and anorexia all gave wise attention to the effects of the body upon the soul and of the soul upon the body. With these strengths noticed I did see a few small drawbacks to the book.
If I had to locate any weakness in the volume it might have been in the tone that was demonstrated at times. As this was a work of apologetics, you could hear that the biblical counselors wanted to show clearly the strength of their view. My question was would Christian psychologists or integrationists be won over by the tone of the book. If I were coming from another evangelical counseling position, my question might be “is there any give/take with others” or is this just an exercise of made up minds showing us that their system works best. A second critique I might have for the work overall is that there was much emphasis on the Word of God (see strength above) but not as much discussion of the dynamic work of the Spirit in sanctification. “Apply the Word” seemed to be the center of most of the counseling cases whereas the dynamic, relational aspect of the Christian journey was not highlighted as much. I think this may be the reason why, unfairly I might add, the biblical counseling movement is accused of “prescribing bible verses.” A stronger emphasis on wisdom, the empowerment of the Holy Spirit and a bit more flexibility or honesty about the messiness of the process might be helpful if made clearer. A series of steps and biblical applications is helpful and very good to learn as one doing biblical counseling. Walking among the missteps of life trusting the Spirit’s power is a way disciples are made as well. The book was quite strong on the former and a little weaker on the latter.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed Counseling Hard Cases and will refer back to it in my own ministry. The clarity of method, mastery of Scripture, love for people and perseverance of the counselors was inspiring and inspired in me significant hope. Their care, patience, concern and biblical knowledge brought to bear within hard cases makes me desire to continue to grow in my capabilities as a counselor. Yet more than anything the book encouraged me to trust the Lord, his Word and his Spirit to lead us in the process of being made whole by the gospel. Those who make the time to read Counseling Hard Cases will be blessed by the wisdom found in these pages and perhaps a few Christian counselors and integrationists will be convinced that the tools found in Scripture are indeed profitable and sufficient for the treatment of souls.
There are many ways one might gain insight into the culture and way of life of a community. You might take a photo of an instance in time where people are living a story in a certain place. You might send that to friends by sharing it online, making some comments, clicking on like buttons and hearts. You might share a short video saying hello for a few seconds. Yet, long before Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, and texting people would write to one another. These letters would give insight into the people and their lives. In many ways letters and journals have served for thousands of years as great snapshots into the hearts and souls of people and their communities.
In the ancient city of Thessalonica the gospel of Jesus Christ had given birth to a new church; a community of Christians living out the gospel and the mission of God together. We have two letters in the New Testament written to this people by an early influential Christian leader. This summer we will look at first of these letters to see the heart of a people.
In our study we will feel the flow of this new Christian community and see how it instructs us as a young community of faith living in the 21st century. By seeing their concerns and the teaching they received, we will see how God might have us live together in our generation.
This essay will give us a brief overview of the background of the people and places involved in gospel mission in the first generation of Christians after the resurrection of Jesus. I will first lay out the ancient context of the City of Thessalonica. Second, we will look at the birth of the church in that city, the authors of the first Thessalonian letter as well as the timeframe and socio-rhetorical circumstances surrounding its composition. Finally, I will conclude with a discussion of the theological themes which will be before our hearts and minds as we travel through this book together.
Our story begins with God’s work to send a people to a place with good news. So we will now look to that ancient city where new life through Jesus Christ was birthed in Jew and Gentile alike.
The Ancient City of Thessalonica
The city of Thessalonica has a long and storied history so we will but skip along the top of the depths of the historical sea in that place. The city was strategically located along the Via Egnatia, the great eastern road of the ancient Roman and Byzantine Empires. Along this prominent trade route from west to east it was a prominent city in the ancient world. Furthermore, it was accessible by sea as it located at the northern end of the gulf of Therma. The city has a history that spans well over two thousand years founded in 316BC by the Macedonian military leader Cassander. The city was named after his wife Thessaly who was also the ½ sister of Alexander the Great. In 146 BC it became the capital of the new joint Roman province of Macedonia cementing its influential role in the Greco-Roman world which was the stage for the first coming of Jesus the Messiah. In 42 BC it sided with Octavian in the Roman civil war and as a result was given the status of a free city which governed its own affairs. According to Luke in Acts 17, the city was led by five politarchs or political leaders which were responsible for the city. As a city located on the sea and along an important trade route it would have had a cosmopolitan feel where the peoples of the world flowed together. Its Jewish population was large enough to justify a formal synagogue yet it was a center of gentile culture and trade. It was in this world that a church, a new community made of both Jew and Gentile, would become one new man in Jesus Christ. The influence of this area of the world has continued into the modern area with the city of Thessaloniki being the second most influential in Greece today. It was around the middle of the first century that the city received its first encounter with the gospel of Jesus Christ as the church expanded outward from its birthplace in Jerusalem.
The Birth of Churches in Maceonia
After Jesus was crucified, buried and raised from the dead by the mighty working of God he unleashed his church into the world on his mission to seek and to save lost people and love and serve the world in his name. The narrative of this expansion of Jesus’ work is found in the New Testament Book of Acts. A crucial aspect of the story was Jesus saving, forgiving and calling one of the church’s arch enemies to be a leader and preacher of the faith. This man, Saul of Tarus, was sent into the world as the messenger Paul, a man called to proclaim the good news to the non-Jewish world. The narrative of Acts takes a turn when the Spirit of God called Paul and his two friends Silas and Timothy to preach the gospel in the province of Macedonia (modern day Greece). At this point the Gospel made its first foray into the continent of Europe and begins to transform its people and culture.
The first city they visited was Philippi and the gospel took root there in profound way. God saved a prominent businesswoman, they started a church in her house, rescued a demon possessed slave girl, endured a quick riot, the men were beaten and imprisoned and the local corrections officer at the jail gets saved after God did some work. It was a great beginning for the friends of mission and they would depart Philippi to preach the gospel in Thessalonica.
Acts 17 records Paul beginning his work in the city by preaching in the synagogues on three successive Sabbaths. He explained from the Old Testament that the Christ (or Messiah) was to suffer and rise from the dead. He then taught them how Jesus is this divinely appointed Christ and some of the people believe and join up with the missionary band. The first Christians in the city were described as Jews, many God-fearers and some prominent women of the City. As was the case in much of Paul’s work the “God-fearers” or “Devout Greeks” were numerous among the first converts. These people were those who were monotheistic worshippers of YHWH, the one true God, but had not fully converted yet to Judaism. Probably because of the circumcision thing as many likely wanted to keep their man business intact. Leon Morris describes their social situation well:
These people were dissatisfied with the low standards of pagan morality and with the idol worship that fostered them. They were attracted by the monotheism and lofty morality of Judaism, but repelled by its narrow nationalism and ritual requirements. In Christianity they found a faith that satisfied.
What we see is that the church in Thessalonica from the beginning was made up of Jews and Gentiles, males and females and likely both poor and rich. Paul’s synagogue preaching lasted roughly a month but there is good reason to think his ministry among the gentiles took place over several months.
The success of the mission in the city brought strong opposition from some of the Jewish leaders and the Christians were also accused of denying loyalty to Caesar due to their allegiance to King Jesus. As a result Paul and Silas were slipped out of town to Berea but the mob followed them there as well. Paul was then smuggled off to Athens and called for Timothy and Silas to rendezvous with him there. As Paul had observed great fruit from the gospel coming forth in Thessalonica he was concerned for the baby Christian community in the town. Once they reconnected in Athens, Paul dispatched Timothy back to Thessalonica to see how everyone was doing. While waiting in Athens he preached the gospel there as well and had some powerful interactions with the intellectuals on Mars Hill. Paul then moved out to Corinth the next city on his missional journey.
Timothy brought a good report about the faith, hope and love of the Thessalonian church and their ministry to others in the province of Macedonia. Apparently he also brought some of the needs and questions that they had as new Christians to Paul for his reply. This good report and interaction which came from Timothy served as the impetus for Paul’s first letter to them in roughly AD 50-51.
Authorship of 1 Thessalonians
The authorship of 1 Thessalonians receives universal attribution to the pen of the Apostle Paul. The letter begins with a very clear attribution:
Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, to the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace.
As noted by Gordon Fee, the letter should be identified as having come from all three of the men involved in the first gospel mission to the City. It is a letter of profound friendship from men who were personally involved in the mission of God with the people. So it is proper for us to say that Paul, Silas and Timothy wrote the letter expressing their joint concern for the church planted in Thessalonica. It is also clear that Paul most likely dictated the letter himself and at times speaks in the first person singular in the text. Remarkably, Pauline authorship is not in question today by either believer or unbelieving New Testament scholarship. It is one of the New Testament letters whose authorship has a strong and almost unanimous scholarly opinion. Most also agree that the triple threat team of Paul/Silas/Timothy was in Corinth when writing the letter and the time frame may be isolated pretty well to around AD 50 when Paul first arrived in that city (see Acts 18).
Social and Rhetorical Context of these Writings
The content of the letter gives us some insight into the social setting and context of early Thessalonican Christianity. First, we see that Paul was apparently defending himself, his way of life and his ministry against some form of slander. During his long opening recount thanking God for the Thessalonians and his work among them, we see him talk about the sincerity and purity of his work (1 Thessalonians 2:2-12). Perhaps there were still voices questioning his motive among the church’s opponents in the city and Paul indirectly answers these criticisms to reassure the nascent church. Second, the church had to stand firm in its new Christian identity among an unbelieving world. They were dealing with persecution from both pagan and Jewish communities (1 Thessalonians 3:1-5, Acts 17:1-6). They were also learning to live differently in a culture of sexual perversion (1 Thessalonians 4:1-8) by seeing our bodies and interactions with one another through the lens of holiness not hotness. Much like our lives in New Jersey, they were called to be different from the world around them while living in that world on mission for Jesus. Paul offers them encouragement for that social context. Third, there were misunderstandings in the new church about the nature of the second coming of Jesus. No way!? Apparently they had their own Harold Campings around at that time preying on people’s ignorance about the end times. Paul does much to help them understand the true nature and purpose of the coming Kingdom for Christians living on mission. Finally, Paul addresses a young church family growing up in their faith and influence. Learning how to grow up as a new church is an important thing that Paul communicated in this letter. This community of Jew/Gentile, Men/Women, Rich/Poor had to find its way forward together in the calling of Jesus Christ. This is partially why we are studying this letter at Jacob’s Well today. We are growing and maturing as a congregation and there is much work the Father has for us to do. It was into this social context that Paul and his friends spoke deep personal and theological truths. We will close our essay here by looking at a few of those together.
Personal, Theological Themes
The emphasis on our time together in 1 Thessalonians will cover many subjects pertinent to our walks with God in our time. Though the following are not exhaustive, these are some of the main themes we will study in our journey.
Evangelism and Conversion
One cannot miss this theme in 1 Thessalonians because it is the first memory of this church for which Paul gives thanks in chapter one. People got saved in Thessalonica. They heard the gospel, repented of sins, turned from idols to the living God and were rescued from the coming wrath. Yet they also took up the same missional cause and put their faith, love and hope to work. They influenced others and the gospel sounded forth from them and they evangelized their region. To such Paul could only say “Boom!” or something like this. We too must be converted by the gospel in a powerful way so that we desire to extend its hope to others. Friends, let us not be stingy with the truth and take up our own work of faith and labor of love in our time.
The Theological Virtues
The great medieval theologian and philosopher Thomas Aquinas spoke of man possessing the capacity for virtue. He spoke of ethical and intellectual virtues following many other thinkers throughout history. Yet as a Christian he could say more. He could speak of virtues directly associated with God and revealed to us in the divine revelation of Scripture. He could speak of faith, hope and love and how we relate to God. Many are familiar with these from the wonderful treatment about love in the thirteenth chapter of the first letter to the Corinthians. That chapter ends: So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. Many have read that chapter or at least heard in overtly romanticized at a wedding. What many do not realize is that faith, hope and love are in full effect in Paul’s theology in 1 Thessalonians a few years before telling us all about love. Faith, hope and love drive our lives and relationship with Jesus. We will look at these during our jaunt through 1 Thessalonians.
Church and Ministry as Family
God’s calling of families together for his purposes is a great theme in the Bible. We have just taken a good look at this at Jacob’s Well. In chapter 2 of 1 Thessalonians Paul chooses family metaphors: father, mother, children, brothers and sisters to describe the church and gospel work and ministry. What a great privilege to see our life and work together. We are family and should fight, labor, reconcile and persevere together as such on the earth.
Eschatology, Eschatology Everywhere
It’s the end of the world as we know it…and I feel fine. So sang the great 1980s band REM on their album Document. How should we feel about the end of the world? Fine? Freaked out? Funny? It’s an interesting question that is taken up in the Thessalonian letters. The end of history is a subject that has entered the brains of people from various cultures throughout history; most recently famous were the Mayans. Jesus taught us something about a coming Kingdom of God that shapes the reality of our lives now. Far too often Christians get caught up in hysteria about end times, signs of the end, bar codes and bad Christian movies about such things. Is there any sane way to both expect his coming and live fully present in our mission today? Yes, a resounding Yes! I hope we will see that eschatology, they study of last things, is not merely about Armageddon but is profoundly about the time between Jesus first and second advents. Our lives should be informed by his coming and glory and this should be a source of holiness and hope…not hysteria.
New Testament professor G.K. Beale describes the biblical emphasis on eschatology quite well:
This means that the doctrine of eschatology in New Testament theology and systematic theology books should not merely be one among many doctrines nor addressed at the end as though it describes only the very end of the world as we know it. Rather, the doctrine of eschatology should be part of the title of such a textbook, since every doctrine breathed the air of a latter-day atmosphere... In light of what has been said, the overriding idea of New Testament theology can be stated as follows: Christ's life, death and resurrection through the Spirit launched the end-time new creational Kingdom for God's glory. The kingdom of the new creation is the controlling conception of eschatology, and all other eschatological ideas flow out of it.
In this light, eschatology is much more than who the anti-Christ is and what the mark of the beast is. In this light, the death, burial, resurrection and return of Jesus define us now so we live in light of his coming and glory. The judgment of God at the end also should flow into our now so that we are confident in the Day of Judgment. So we have sung often in our day: No guilt in life, no fear in death, this is the power of Christ in me. No fear friends. He is with us, he has called us by name, we belong to God (See Isaiah 43). This is our song, not freaking out about everything when some so called prophet of the end gets the church whipped up into end-times frenzy. Obviously we have much more to say about this and, by God’s grace, we will when we travel through this letter together.
Whole Life Holiness
Modern people love to compartmentalize life. This is my work-life, family-life, personal-life, sex-life, etc. The Scriptures call us to see our community as living all of life under the rule and reign of King Jesus. Furthermore, how we live and what we do will be judged by God. 1 Thessalonians has a strong calling to live together in light of the gospel in a manner worthy of God. It specifically called the Thessalonians to live different in relationship to God’s design for human sexuality. The world around them was freaky-deaky. We have something to learn about whole life holiness from the teaching given to this new church. God’s design and instruction on sex is a prophetic call to us in our own perverted day.
The Local Church
I have chosen to close with our final theme and simply state the obvious. 1 Thessalonian is teaching for local churches. It is written to people saved by Jesus, living out gospel mission in community among the peoples of the world. John Stott, the eminent 20th century pastor and theologian, sums this point up so well so I will let him exhort us before we close:
Secondly, these letters address a local church, and the life of the local church is increasing concern to many people today. When we affirm (as we should) that the church is central to the historical purpose of God, we are not referring only to its universal aspect, but also to its concrete, local, colourful manifestations. But what is to be our vision for the local church, and how is its life to be developed? Paul's letters to the Thessalonian church throw valuable light on such aspects as its continuous evangelism, pastoral care, ethical standards, reciprocal fellowship, public worship, obedience to apostolic teaching, and future hope. I cannot imagine how any church member or leader could fail to find both direction and inspiration in these letters for the life of their local church.
Yes! We love the local church and we want to learn and be inspired by this letter to shape the life of our community here in central New Jersey.
As we conclude I want to offer one simple reminder as we dive into the depths of the Thessalonian literature. The themes in this book are not simply abstract theological concepts but rather truth from God to be lived out by persons. Namely: us. They are personal. They are to be known in truth, felt deeply and lived courageously in every epoch of history until Kingdom come. Our time is now, our flow is gospel, let us rep his rule, reign and mission now in our generation.
For the Glory of God, the Good of the City by extending Hope through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Stott, John R. W. The Gospel & the End of Time : The Message of 1 & 2 Thessalonians : Includes Study Guide for Groups or Individuals The Bible Speaks Today Series. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1991.
 For a good sketch and overview see this wiki "Thessaloniki," Wikipedia (2013). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thessaloniki (accessed June 13, 2013).
 Gene L. Green, The Letters to the Thessalonians, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, Mich. Leicester, England: W.B. Eerdmans Pub; Apollos, 2002), 2.
 John R. W. Stott, The Gospel & the End of Time : The Message of 1 & 2 Thessalonians : Includes Study Guide for Groups or Individuals, The Bible Speaks Today Series (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1991), 17.
 Gordon D. Fee, The First and Second Letters to the Thessalonians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 2009), 5.
 Leon Morris, 1 and 2 Thessalonians : An Introduction and Commentary, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Nottingham, England. Downers Grove, Ill.: Inter-Varsity Press; Intervarsity Press, 2009), 18.
 Stott, 18.This was unlinke Philippi, an inland city in Macedonia where a small community gathered only informally for prayer. See Acts 16.
 See the wonderful phrase “one new man” in Ephesians 2. God’s purpose was to unite Jew and Gentile in one family of faith and this indeed took place when the gospel came to ancient Thessalonica.
 G. K. Beale, 1-2 Thessalonians, The Ivp New Testament Commentary Series (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 15.
 Morris, 19.
 Fee, 6.
 Ibid., 4.
 Morris, 21. We know Paul was brought before a man named Gallio who was proconsul in Greek province Achaia. He was leading in the area around AD 52-53. A we know Paul served in Corinth for 18 months we can estimate he arrived into that City in the first part of AD 50. He would have written 1 Thessalonians just after this time.
 Ibid., 25, 26.
 Some of you may remember Harold Camping proclaiming to the world that all would end on May 21st 2011. If you must, see the brief wiki at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harold_Camping and please move along quickly.
 REM, Its the End of the World as We Know It (and I Feel Fine).
 The word eschatology is derived from the Greek words for last (eschaton) and word or study (the word logos). Taken together we use the word eschatology for the study of last things.
 Beale, 22, 23.
 Stuart Townend Keith Getty, In Christ Alone (Kingsway Music).
 Stott, 9, 10.Emphasis added. Stott’s colorful spelling of colourful indicates his use of the Queen’s English.
I just read a good and short
article in Popular Mechanics on raising tech-savvy kids. Obviously, you and your family will make decisions in terms of what, when, how long etc. you will utilize various technologies, but there is some
good advice going out here. Here's the link: How to Raise a Tech-Savvy Kid
Also, here is a little of our narrative as to how we are rolling with tech in our own family:
- we have one family computer in an open area of our house with no
doors. We filter the internet at the router level with something called
OpenDNS. Works great and free for this sort of use.
- Devices - we have iPad and iPod touch at home. The girls typically share the touch and Tommy (6) rules the iPad.
They use it mainly for audiobooks, some games, some video watching, bible apps,
history apps, science aps, art/drawing apps. They have to ask permission to watch any
movies, etc. We lock down both with parental controls so there is no
internet/safari access, no YouTube, no installing apps, no in app
purchases, and any iTunes store purchase require authentication.
- we gave our older her own email when she was beginning the fifth grade and we have
the following parameters. 1) I get every email she gets, automatically
forwards to me - it is in my domain and I control the admin 2) She is not to chat, email, etc at night after bed time
- we do check. 3) She has to ask to add a new person to her contacts.
She emails classmates, friends and family. We found that 11 was a good
age for her.
- Cell Phone - they won't get one until they need one.
Driving, out on the road without us etc. Many of Kayla's friends
(5th/6th grade) from her soccer team have iPhones etc. We are holding
off on this for some time. The iPod touch is enough.
- we keep all passwords and parental codes. We spend a small bit extra
to have two netflix accounts (the cheapest) so one is all kids and one
Kasey and I use. We don't want them being able to click something that a
six year old should not watch but is appropriate for adults. They
always have to ask permission to watch anything, they never can just
roll up on the TV
- Other accounts - we have done online stuff
like Moshi Monsters and WebKinz - we keep tabs on this and usually
don't pay for anything after free trials expire. We don't want to spend
on that. Our oldest has a Khan academy account for self-directed learning. There is iOS app with the videos as well.
- we allow a few online, simple games - super hero squad, hobbit, etc -
usually Flash games, and they need permission and are limited in time.
We do no social gaming, console gaming is its not part of our family
flow. If we did, there would need to be parameters on that.
We constantly discuss what is appropriate and not for various ages and why.
We also value books, reading etc. They don't get to do media unless
homework is done and they have read something as well. We do this for the sake of their brains. Thankfully, all
the kids like to read now - sometimes too much. Put down that book I'm trying to talk to you! Our youngest, the boy, was more work
on the reading front but he progressing well now. ;-)
Hope this is helpful. Love to dialog on this and hear what you guys do and answer any questions for each other. More than anything we want to build wisdom and discernment with our kids as they walk with the eternal God in an evolving culture.
Family. It is a word that brings a sense of peace and calm to the soul or a sense of dread. It is a word that can cause us to wince or to wink with a deep sense of God’s grace and blessing. It can be argued that nothing shapes us more as human beings than the homes we grow up in. Nothing. We live in an age where there is much fluctuation and confusion regarding the home and the family. Some worship the nuclear family as if a return to Leave it to Beaver land would solve all of our world’s problems. Others disregard biblical teaching on the family as if home life had no divine design or intention. We tell ourselves a family is whatever you make of it and we have reaped a whirlwind. We tell ourselves that any configuration of humans is just as good as any other while the ache of the soul in fracture and isolation sings its dirge.
God has been infinitely kind to set the solitude in families. He has a purpose for singleness, marriage and children with all being part of one larger family of faith. Each of us had the opportunity to shape one another’s lives and impart grace and truth to the next generation. At Jacob’s Well we are rooting for the home team: singles, husbands, wives, moms and dads as well as all the little shorties in between.
This essay will serve us in an introductory fashion and also provide footnotes and resources for further study in our community. Here I will lay out what we mean by the term Home Team and then describe briefly why we should root for it. Yet before getting to this I want to offer a few disclaimers.
Before we begin, I think it is necessary to offer a few disclaimers of what my heart is as we go about discussing a topic as sensitive as marriage and family. Consider these a heads up before we begin to keep in mind as we travel along.
For the Singles
For several years I was the pastor of a young adult congregation at a large church in the Nashville, TN metro area. I worked with hundreds of singles and walked with them through all manner of life issues and struggles. I still remember as I started this job fighting tooth and nail not to call our ministry “the singles group.” First, it brought up the far too common vision of a Christian mingle meat market in the south. Second, I don’t think God defines us by our current marital status as our identity is in Jesus not whether or not a ring is on the finger.
Furthermore, I know that discussing sex, marriage and family with people not yet married can be a sensitive subject. Some deeply desire to be married, yesterday, some are unfortunately completely uninterested in the subject “until later on in life” while still others are worshipping “getting married” to the point that it grows obnoxious for all their friends. Let me just talk straight for a moment. Not all will be called to marriage; statistically most will marry at some time in life. Not all want to be married, buy many deeply desire this. I guess I want to call my non married friends to a few things. The first is hope. Your hope need be in the gospel and if you hope to be married someday that is not a bad thing. Keep hope alive! The second is helpfulness. You can be helpful to many people and their families all around you. No I’m not saying that you just get the title of designated baby sitter but you can be a person who helps make disciples of people young and old. Give your life to things of God and don’t make your story simply about waiting for what is next. Life is now, live it under the rule and reign of Jesus for God’s glory and the good of others. Third, I want you to learn. Even if you learn about marriage and family and you never marry you will learn something about God, his grace, his love for us and his purposes for the world.
Finally, I need all of us to know something very important. The deep longing we have for love, intimacy, friendship, being understood fully, etc. will not simply come from “getting married” – Just ask a married person. This desire to be fully completed by someone else will not be realized even in marriage as this comes from a relationship with God first and foremost.
Marriage and family is a mixed reality for many people today. Many of you, like me, come from families that were busted up by divorce. Some of you may look at marriage with deep suspicions and questions as it is only a painful memory for you. Others who are reading may be going through deep marital crisis or standing on the backside of a chaotic divorce. Issues surrounding marriage may be some of the most hurtful and devastating memories you have. This is reality. Life and relationships with other human beings is just hard and sin seems to ooze out of people who live most closely together. My hope for you is one big exhale and a desire to believe in something different and perhaps learn to breathe again in your view of marriage. I’m not saying you will be able to fix what was broken or that you should even enter into marriage again. I am saying that when we see marriage in the light of the Scriptures we can at least rejoice in God and his purposes. You might also know how to pray for and encourage married friends.
Many of us also have questions about being parents. Some are struggling to have children and meeting deep disappointment for various reasons. I can only say I understand this as it was our story for many years dealing with deep, recurring, disappointment. We are not promised kids but at times we wonder why this gift is not being given to us. For those who are walking in such seasons keep moving forward in hope and look at all ethical options before your family. God’s grace is sufficient for every season. You have our prayers.
Others have deep concerns about becoming a parent someday as you feel so wounded by your own upbringing. Parenting is hard work and a huge responsibility. Parents make mistakes and many times kids are wounded by Mom and Dad. Here is what I want to say to those who have pain in relationship to Mom and Dad and perhaps standing with a little trepidation about repeating the same sort of things with your own kids: You will not be perfect and a gospel context can make even our sins shape our families in a positive way. All people are going to fall short at times. How will you and your family deal with this? Will you posture, spin, cover up, lie, fake it, BS, hit people back or hide? Or can we respond in repentance and faith in Jesus? Jesus is great at forgiving people and putting back together the broken. The gospel in our homes will make a difference in healing past wounds and shaping a different future. We can trust this as we have faith in Him.
Ideals, Hopes and Reality
Any idealists out there? Anyone only see the world as it should be and not as it is? This can be a real struggle and there are two temptations I want to address as my last disclaimers. As a community we will struggle between radical optimistic idealism and a give up, don’t try fatalism when it comes to the home and family. Both are really problematic. The idealist can punish and reject the flawed people and world around him. The fatalist gives up her hope for a future where goodness and kindness can flourish in our homes. It is difficult to put forth the ideals of Scripture and not polarize as people. Here is my prayer for us. I want us to have hopes, dreams and prayers. I want us to look the reality of sin and selfishness in the face and see them as enemies to healthy friendships, relationships, marriages and families. Yet I want no despair. I want us to look at the beautiful and lofty truths of God about marriage and family and not see them as expectations of perfections but a calling to follow in faith allowing God’s work in our midst. If you don’t mind I would like apply GK Chesterton’s words about optimism and pessimism a bit here as we conclude these disclaimers:
I know this feeling fills our epoch, and I think it freezes our epoch. For our titanic purposes of faith and revolution, what we need is not the cold acceptance of the world as a compromise, but some way in which we can heartily hate and heartily love it. We do not want joy and anger to neutralize each other and produce a surly contentment; we want a fiercer delight and a fiercer discontent. We have to feel the universe at once as an ogre’s castle, to be stormed, and yet as our own cottage, to which we can return at evening. No one doubts that an ordinary man can get on with this world: but we demand not strength enough to get on with it, but strength enough to get it on. Can he hate it enough to change it, and yet love it enough to think it worth changing?
I want us to storm the castles of selfishness, hurtfulness and crappy home team realities all the while knowing that we need God’s grace, truth and lots of time to return to our own homes at evening. Will you root with me for the home team? Singles? Those coming through of painful situations? Idealists? Pessimists? Can we cheer for God to work in our lives, our marriages, our families and our church family? Yes, yes we can. Let’s root, root, root for the home team…if they don’t win it’s a shame. So as we begin such cheering let us look together biblically at what a home team is anyway. Here’s a quick high five…now let’s get on our way.
What is the home team?
To answer this question we must begin at our beginning as people were always meant to be on a team. The very way God created human beings indicates our purpose is found together in relationship. The Bible reads this way in Genesis 1:26-31.
26 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.”
27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
28 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.” 29 And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. 30 And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. 31 And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
This passage clearly teaches us that God created humanity, male and female, in the image and after likeness of God. Dr. Wayne Grudem writes that this phrasing tells us simply “that man is like God and represents God.”As such human beings are unique in all creation and imbued the highest dignity, value and responsibility. Furthermore, the image of God includes male and female together. Much theological discussion has been given to what it means to be “in the image of God” but here we will touch on three.
First, some have said that human beings are like God in that they possess emotions, intellect, volition or other such built in capacity. This has been the predominant view in historical discussions. This has been known as the ontological or substantive view in that it bases the image in “something” in the nature of God that is shared by human beings. Second, others have said the key to understanding the phrase is functional in that it is describing God’s creating man to be his vice regents, or co-rulers on the earth. The giving of dominion in the passage above gets right at the heart of the matter. Finally others, particularly the writings of the Swiss theologian Karl Barth, have said that image of God means being in relationship. This seems a given by the description of man being created male and female. Barth describes his view in the following manner:
Men are simply male and female. Whatever else they may be it is only in this differentiation and relationship ... Man can and will always be man before God and among his fellows only as he is man in relationship to woman and woman in relationship to man.
I find value in each of the views and have taken them together to give a comprehensive definition. Human beings are created the way we are (ontologically), to serve as God’s responsible rulers on the earth (functionally) in community with him and one another (relationally). God is seen, known and experienced in relationships: people with God, God with his people and people with one another. This creative act of God and his plan for humanity was said to be very good. Yet there wasn’t just a random huddle of human beings created on the earth to steward, cultivate and care for the creation as God’s servants. God has something far more intimate in mind hinted at in Genesis 1. They are to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. The mandate to have dominion over the earth would go far beyond male and female for something would come forth from their own bodies. They would join in marriage and that marriage would serve God’s purposes for propagating humanity throughout the earth.
Genesis chapter two dials into more detail about the creation of human beings and it describes the complementary nature of men and women. We pick it up in verse 18:
18Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” 19 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. 20 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. 21 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. 22 And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 23 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.”
24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. 25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.
Here we hear God saying something is “not good” following the creation of a human being. As many people can attest throughout history, and certainly any visitor to a frat house room can tell you, leave a guy by himself for too long and it is not going to be pretty. A single man was not God’s ideal for the human race. 2 +2 = 4. A man by himself = not good. The ladies all know this. GK Chesterton reflected on something similar in the following manner:
It is true that all sensible women think all studious men mad. It is true, for the matter of that, all women of any kind think all men of any kind mad. But they do not put it in telegrams any more than they wire to you that grass is green or God all-merciful. These things are truisms and often private ones at that.
The man certainly needs help, so God creates a woman from the man that is fit for or suitable for him. We see from the context precisely what is meant here. Out of all the living creatures in the world nothing was designed to complement the man and so he was left alone, no friend to hang close with, no partner in the gift of life, nothing but himself. Alone…and God says, “not good!” This is the context where we find the genesis of marriage.
Marriage is God’s idea not a human one. God is the one who fashions and creates the female to complement and be a helper to the man. We may ask the question: Help with what!?! I can say with confidence this partnership was not simply to be about paying rent or cleaning up around the house but a much higher joint-endeavor is in view here. Remember, created male and female, with the calling to rule and reign on the earth as image of God together. It is because of this design and calling that Genesis 2:24 begins with the word “Therefore.” This is what God has done…therefore men and women shall get married.
The marriage text at the close of Genesis chapter 2 clearly sets forth what a marriage involves. It involves leaving one’s father and mother, holding fast to one’s wife and becoming one flesh together. This leaving, cleaving and weaving comprise a covenant promise before God made together without shame. We will cover each briefly in turn.
Marriage as Leaving
There comes a time when a man should leave his parents’ house. A man should get educated and get to work. If this be the case he is prepared to assume the responsibility to love and serve a wife. The leaving part is when a new family is formed in the union between a husband and wife. This union involves making a covenant promise before God and leaving Mom and Dad to assume responsibility.
Marriage as Cleaving
Leaving and then “holding fast” to one’s spouse is the precise language of covenant which is used about God and his people. For instance, later in the Pentateuch, we read God’s calling for people to “hold fast” to him and his promises (Deuteronomy 4:4, 10:20). Furthermore, marriage is called a covenant clearly in the writings of the prophet Malachi. God’s had shown displeasure with his people and their offerings and we read part of the reason why in Malachi 2:
14 …But you say, “Why does he not?” Because the Lord was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. 15 Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth. 16 “For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her, says the Lord, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the Lord of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.”
Holding fast to one another in marriage, faithfulness to the marriage covenant is a spiritual reflection of our ultimate commitment to our covenant making and covenant keeping God. This is a motif taken up by the prophets of the Old Testament. Israel is seen as an unfaithful bride to YHWH, one who is constantly turning on her faithful husband and whoring around with foreign deities, giving herself to other lovers. The entire writing of the prophet Hosea takes up this theme and the covenant imagery of marriage. In that case, however, God marries the whore!
We understand the categories of covenant clearly because of the gift to humanity of marriage. God is faithful yet our unfaithfulness to covenant (sin) is akin to committing spiritual adultery. God’s grace is to patiently call his bride away from illicit lovers and hold fast to his people. His people are the ones who hear his voice, draw near to God and cleave to him.
Marriage as Weaving
One of the most beautiful realities in creation is human sexuality. Our very bodies were designed to become one. The oneness of the marriage covenant is sealed by the oneness of the man and woman’s bodies coming together as one flesh. Leave, cleave and then weave: sexual union is the sign of the marriage covenant! I have written on sex and the glory of God in other places so I will refer you to that for more. What must be said here is that sex has many purposes in God’s design. First, it is for procreation, for bringing forth and raising children (Genesis 1, Malachi 2). Second, it is for unification, sealing a two people in devoted, faithful, intimate, unashamed relationship (Genesis 2). Third, it is for recreation, for the wonderful enjoyment of husband and wife together (see Song of Solomon). Finally, it is for glorification, sex is designed to teach us about the glory of God and his intense, wonderful love for his people (Ephesians 5).
Marriage – Covenant before God, No Shame
In our world of sexual brokenness, defilement, abuse, harassment and obsession and worship of naked bodies I deeply love the final words of Genesis 2. The two were naked and without shame. Here we find the man and woman without sin, without covering, without hiding and fully before God and unashamed. This is the design of God for the marriage relationship. Forming a new family, based in the covenant promises of marriage with the union sealed in our very bodies. This is the basic building block of human civilization and our understanding as our lives flowing from families.
Yet as we well know, sin entered the lives of human beings separating them from God and putting enmity between one another. As sinful people we know relationships are hard because we are self-centered. Tim and Kathy Keller say it this way:
Any two people who enter into marriage are spiritually broken by sin, which among other things means to be self-centered—living life incurvatus in se [Latin for turned inward on oneself]. As the author Denis Rougement said, “Why should neurotic, selfish, immature people suddenly become angels when they fall in love…?”
Sin and selfishness seem to reign everywhere under the sun. Yet God’s purposes for humanity have not been revoked. He is redeeming people through good news and restoring us to the high calling we have as people to image God on the earth. Doing so requires us to steward and fulfill his purpose for our lives together. This involves marriage, the multiplication of children and through his work among us seeing the goodness and redemption of God in real time.
This only happens as Christ works in the lives of sinful people, turning us godward rather than inward towards our selves. The Home Team needs less selfishness and more God honoring sacrifice for all. This is the essence of love to lay down ourselves for others.
The Home Team exists by God and for God so there are good reasons that we root for it. For in cheering for our Home Teams we will seek to reflect the glory of God. By cheering for the family we will also be about the good of other people. The family can also be a strong witness to the hope we have in the gospel of Jesus Christ together. To these issues we now turn.
Why do we root for it?
On the whole, I am rather less interested in what people do than why they do it.
- GK Chesterton
Why do we care to cheer for marriage and the family? The simplest reason we should cheer for marriages and families today is that our own happiness rests in this. This, however, would be far too simple a view and far too disposable on the days in our families that don’t feel so happy. Yet our good and our joy is one of the reasons we should root for the Home Team. It is indeed a blessing to have God’s grace alive in your marriage and family. We want to begin somewhere a little more stable however. We root for the home team because our families exist for the glory of God.
The Glory of God in the Home Team
Every designer, artist and engineer shares a little DNA from their creator. The desire to make something and design things is ingrained in us as part of the image of God. Think for a moment that you designed a new smartphone. It was elegant, fast and beautiful and designed to make modern communications and entertainment really sing. Picture now you put a button on it that turns the device on. Pretty simple right? Now imagine your friend decides that he wants the on button to shoot laser beams every time he touches. He tries to use his laser button and gets frustrated, declares the phone to suck and throws it away. Sounds silly right? What if we are not seeing marriage correctly for how God made it? We might want to give up on the institution, malign it, pervert it and even throw it away. When marriage operates for the design and purposes of God the beauty and glory of the designer is clearly seen.
I’ll never forget encountering a family seeking to live out the gospel together. As a college student I was blown away to see a man try to serve and guide his family. I was intrigued by Moms and Dads who apologized to their kids, repented of sin and asked forgiveness. I was blown away by people who thought themselves so flawed but sought to humble themselves to stay married, work through problems and be about others and not simply themselves. In fact, I saw glory there. God’s grace shining through a marriage and a family can be a very beautiful thing.
I root for the Home Team because I hope to see God’s beauty and grace in husbands loving wives and wives honoring their husbands. I root for the family because I see God’s truth when people serve one another in their homes, when kids obey their parents and parents lovingly discipline, build up and train up their kids.
Paul the great apostle of the early church gives some wonderful commands to husbands and wives in Ephesians chapter 5. Husbands are exhorted to humble, self-giving, sacrificial love for their wives. Men are called to literally lay down their lives, their agendas, their selfishness to be about the growth and spiritual well-being of their wives. Wives are called to respect their husbands, submit to his leadership out of love for God, to be on his team and be the partner in the gracious gift of life that God calls her to be. The key to the passage comes through at the end.
31“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
Paul quotes Genesis to tell us that our marriage is about Jesus and the church! The way we love and respect one another is designed to display something. Marriage is far from simply a romantic dance between two people but has the capacity to carry with it a glimpse into the glory of Jesus Christ. I think this is worth rooting for and learning how to work marriage in the way God designed it by his grace.
The Good of the City in the Home Team
Is marriage more like heaven or hell on earth? It probably depends upon who you ask and when you ask them. I will just say marriage is very earthy, very every day. Marriages and families have the potential to go in all sorts of directions. If people are humble, others centered, work at it and trust God together family can be one of the deepest blessings we can experience. If we are selfish, in it just for our personal happiness, to try to create a ME-world that you try force your spouse and kids to conform to…well, it might be a bit of a brutal place.
Marriage as God designed it is good for people (Proverbs 18:22). A loving and supportive family is a true gift of God’s common grace to all people. In fact, the sociological data bears this out. The National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia clearly shows that children incur more physical, sexual and emotional abuse in homes not led by a married couple consisting of both parents. In the abstract reporting on the state of the American family, Wilcox summarizes his report as follows:
In a striking turn of events, the divorce rate for married couples with children has returned almost to the levels we saw before the divorce revolution kicked in during the 1970s. Nevertheless, family instability is on the rise for American children as a whole. This is mainly because more couples are having children in cohabiting unions, which are very unstable. This report also indicates that children in cohabiting households are more likely to suffer from a range of emotional and social problems—drug use, depression, and dropping out of high school—compared to children in intact, married families.
Please remember the above disclaimers I shared as we begin. God is able to redeem and shed light into any and all circumstances; his grace is sufficient for us all. However if you are setting out on the journey of forming a new home team we must not ignore the good that a family can bring to the next generation. We should root for and fight for the family. Just last week I read an article in USA Today stating how simply having dinner together as a family adds to the emotional well-being of adolescents across the board.
Speaking of the family unit, GK Chesterton poignantly stated the following: This triangle of truisms, of father, mother and child, cannot be destroyed; it can only destroy those civilisations which disregard it. The Home Team is for the good of the city and society rises and falls upon its flourishing. God’s grace and goodness flows to us through our families when we realize that its purpose is NOT ABOUT ME, my happiness, my fulfillment, or my kingdom come, my will be done! We are blessed when we all realize that the Home Team is about us, them and God himself. When Jesus taught us about what it meant to follow him, he described it as a losing our lives to find it for his sake (Matthew 16:24-26). The secret to home life is no different; it flows from self-sacrificial, self-denying love. It is in such self-giving that you find the most joy in the family. Choose to serve and ask God to see your “self” crucified with Christ. Then love your family; it will change things for everyone involved. There is a blessing to be had here for the good of all.
Hope through the Gospel together
The final reason we root for the Home Team is that “family” is actually a metaphor for God’s work in the gospel itself. Think for a moment about how the Scriptures talk about our relationship to our creator. Jesus taught us that God is our “Father in Heaven” and that men and women in the church are brothers and sisters. When the Bible describes how Jesus saves sinners it takes up the language of “adoption” whereby a gracious God intends to save his kids and bring them into his family (Ephesians 1). As stated earlier Jesus’ relationship to us is seen in the mystery of marriage (Ephesians 5) where Jesus is the bridegroom and the church is his adorned bride. The very commencement of the Kingdom of Heaven will be marked by a wedding feast where we celebrate the work of Jesus and his bringing us through together as his church (Revelation 19:1-10). Even the work of making disciples in the church is described as a family affair. Listen to the following words from Paul the apostle to the young church in Thessalonica:
7 But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. 8 So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us. 9 For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. 10 You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers. 11 For you know how, like a father with his children, 12 we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.
1 Thessalonians 2:7-12
The family is a conduit for gospel-hope my friends. It flows first to our own children as we teach them the faith and bring them up in the discipline and instruction of God (Deuteronomy 6, Ephesians 6). The primary way in which God saves people and adds them to the kingdom is through our families. It is also the primary place of social development, physical growth, spiritual formation and discovering our callings. This is no accident. Secondarily, our marriages and families take their place in the cosmic mission of God as we display and proclaim the saving work of Jesus to the world…together.
The home team is a family unit, beginning with marriage between a man and
a woman. God then designs this unit to be the context in which children are
born, cherished as gifts and brought up in the community. God has made us to be
in families, to come up in families and to go to therapy because of our
families. Just kidding about the last part, but talking to someone does sometimes
help to work through how our families have formed us. :-)
God designed the family to speak to us, show us who He is and what it means to forgive, love, hurt, hope, get saved and be blessed together. At Jacob’s Well it is not simply our intention to defend “tradition.” Our lives and our teaching about the Home team are so that we might live for Jesus Christ and his purposes together. The Home Team teaches us to put our hope in God not in the selfish pathway of the ME-world that is pimped to us every day. It is the lifelong pursuit of God that helps us to trust and follow his design for life. It is not dead tradition but a dynamic ride of relationships where the truth sets us free.
Will you root, root, root for our Home Teams with me?
© 2013 Reid S. Monaghan, Jacob’s Well, www.JacobsWellNJ.org
 "Although marriage rates have dropped among young adults, it is important to note that most young adults will go on to marry later in life. The probability of an adult getting married at some point during their lifetime is still nearly 90 percent." Diana Lavery Mark Mather, "In U.S., Proportion Married at Lowest Recorded Levels," (2010). http://www.prb.org/Articles/2010/usmarriagedecline.aspx (accessed April 12, 2013).
 GK Chesterton, Orthodoxy (New York: NY: Image books, 1959), 71.
 W. A. Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House., 2004), 442.
 Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, 2nd ed ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1998), 520.
 Anthony A. Hoekema, Created in God's Image (Grand Rapids, MI, Exeter, UK: Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 1986), 14.
 Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, trans., O. Bussey J.W. Edwards, Harold Knight, vol. Vol. 3: 1 (Edinburgh: T&TClark, 1958), 184.
 G. K. Chesterton and Alvaro De Silva, Brave New Family : G.K. Chesterton on Men and Women, Children, Sex, Divorce, Marriage & the Family (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1990), 93.
 Kostenberger summarizes this as teh woman being his partner in ruling the earth for God.Andreas J. Köstenberger and David W. Jones, God, Marriage & Family : Rebuilding the Biblical Foundation (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 2004), 36.
 Reid S. Monaghan, "Dream and New Dream About Sex - Sexuality and the Glory of God," (North Brunswick: NJ: Jacob's Well, 2008). http://www.jacobswellnj.org/theology-booklets.
 Timothy and Kathy Keller make note of the work of pulitzer prize winning author Ernest Becker. Keller highlights Becker says that “we look to sex and romance to get what we used to get from faith in God.” Discussed in Timothy J. Keller and Kathy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage : Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God (New York: Dutton, 2011), 41.
 Ibid., 40.
 Chesterton and De Silva, Brave New Family : G.K. Chesterton on Men and Women, Children, Sex, Divorce, Marriage & the Family, 63.
 Bradley Wilcox, "Why Marriage Matters: Thirty Conclusions from the Social Sciences," (2011).
 Sharon Jayson, "Each Family Dinner Adds up to Benefits for Adolescents," USA Today (2013). http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/03/24/family-dinner-adolescent-benefits/2010731/ (accessed April 12, 2013).
 From "The Superstition of Divorce" in Chesterton and De Silva, Brave New Family : G.K. Chesterton on Men and Women, Children, Sex, Divorce, Marriage & the Family, 223.The spelling of "civilisations" is in the original and reflects common spelling in the UK
 Jesus also used a parable of a wedding feast to describe his coming and the work of God through Messiah. Matthew 22:1-14,
 See "Marriage and Family in Puritan Thought" for an excellent treatment on the family's role in forming us. The particular emphasis on balancing public and domestic callings is excellent J. I. Packer, A Quest for Godliness : The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life, 1st U.S. ed. (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 1990), 259-273.
Jayson, Sharon. "Each Family Dinner Adds up to Benefits for Adolescents." USA Today (2013). http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/03/24/family-dinner-adolescent-benefits/2010731/ [accessed April 12, 2013].
He died to save us
With undying trust
He has risen again
To forgive us our sin
Three days it took
Until they looked,
And the stone was rolled away
The angel there,
In no despair,
Cried out to them
For they were grim
"He lies not within
For your king is risen."
They were glad,
And no longer sad,
For the stone was rolled away
They went away,
Yet one stayed,
She was not certain
And she searched for him
There was nothing there
For the tomb was bear
She then went out
And looked about
She heard his voice,
And soon rejoiced...
For it was Jesus, the messiah.
33 And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. 34 AndJesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments. (Luke 23:33-34, ESV)
Here we see grace on the face of the one they tried to erase…from history’s rolls, the skull took its toll.
They tore off his cloths, left him naked to die all alone.
They removed him…and they thought they were bold.
39 One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:39-43, ESV)
The punks, cowards and thugs showed no love that day, but one came with truth and knew his own soul.
They were led there as criminals, yet he brought his own cross…trekked up the hill to die at great cost.
Yet again we see grace…on the face…of the one they tried to erase.
25 but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” 27 Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home. (John 19:25-27, ESV)
But love and new family came from that face, the face that gives grace, to say to all of our sins…erased.
There is a slow flurrying of snow outside the office today giving the air a feeling that is both light and playful but also gray and heavy. Perhaps it is just the state of my soul this morning that the joy and levity of life along with its brokenness and heaviness is before me. Either way, the truth of the gospel is the bright shining ray amidst a world that is always quite mingled with the joy and dreariness of life under the sun. God has not forsaken us, he has not left us alone, he reminds us each day of his renewing work through sacrifice and atonement.
Meditating on the great themes of the books of Exodus and Leviticus has really brought a steady joy to my life amidst some of the craziest days for my family and ministry. God has been the constant through every change. His Word and his way stand firm. He calls us to follow and be used by him in every age. Will we follow? Being a learner and follower of Jesus is an every day affair. Life is always on and flowing. Yet there are special seasons and special days in the life of God’s people.
Old Testament the establishment of the yearly Day of Atonement was one
of them. Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement…a special day, pointing to
special realities that hold deep and crucial meaning for the follower of
Jesus. This week and next at Jacob's Well we will walk into the super bowl of
sacrifices. In doing so we will expand our view of Jesus as we head
through the season of Lent, even Leventicus, to the party of all parties
on Easter Sunday. So thankful today.
There are some stories which are simply neglected in the history of America and the story of the Grimké family is certainly one of them. What began with a southern, white family of Charleston aristocrats flowered into a group of people dedicated to the abolition of slavery and civil rights in America. The Christian gospel shapes the story at many of its twists and turns. The story of the Grimkés is far beyond the scope of this paper but in honor of Black History month we will look at the life and teaching of Francis, one of the most famous sons of the family.
In doing so we will lay out an ever so brief look at the Grimké family and how two sisters boldly broke with their southern slaveholding traditions to become leading abolitionists. Furthermore we will look at how one of their relatives became a highly educated and influential pastor and civil rights leader in the early twentieth century. Finally, we will look to this man for a few things we might learn as followers of Jesus for our lives today in the 21st century.
The Grimké Story
The Grimké family was of German origin but chose and adopted a French spelling for their name in order to have a better chance of success in the new world. The first Grimké in America, John Paul, was an influential silversmith who became a leader in Charleston SC in the 1700s and became a leading citizen and patriot in the revolutionary era. His grandson, John Faucheraud Grimké, would have two daughters that would make a firm break with South Carolina’s slave holding past. John was an Oxford graduate, lawyer, judge, revolutionary and constitutionalist who was a man of immense political influence and leadership in post-war Charleston. Two of his daughters, Sarah and Angelina would go on to shape the 19th century abolitionist movement as well as the early part of the move for women’s rights in our country. They also would be involved in educating their nephews, Archibald and Francis, who their brother Henry fathered with a slave named Nancy Weston. Francis would become an imminent scholar pastor and shaper of the struggle for civil rights in the early twentieth century.
Born in October of 1850 and passed away in October of 1937, Francis Grimké lived through truly tumultuous times. His family was a unique intersection of black and white, slave and free in the American experience. He lived in pre-Civil War south, served in the confederacy, went north to be educated after emancipation and served as a pastor for some six decades in Washington DC.
Francis moved north to Massachusetts when his sisters learned about him and his siblings being fathered by their brother. His sisters made every effort to fund their education and make sure they were given opportunities to become leading men of their time. Francis graduated in 1870 as Valedictorian of Lincoln University, the first degree granting historically black university. His focus of his early studies was on the subject of medicine. This interest soon gave way to law which he spent two years studying at Howard University. His final shift in study came in 1874 when he went to study theology at Princeton Theological Seminary during the days of the erudite evangelical scholar Charles Hodge.
The influence of various flavors of Christian faith was a constant in the lives of the Grimké family and their work for abolition and equality flowed from biblical convictions. Francis followed in this and became a Presbyterian minister after completing his seminary studies in 1878. He became pastor of 15th Presbyterian Church in Washington DC and was the pastor there for almost six decades. Even though he is rightly remembered today as a civil rights activist he was first and always a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ. He was married to the forty-one year old Charlotte Forten, a woman thirteen years his senior. The two had one daughter who died as a baby. Francis was involved in public work for the uplifting of African American people but we must never forget that he consciously did so as a Christian pastor and his first work was always in and through the church.
There are several things we can learn from Grimké’s life and witness today and the following are but a few highlights that were an encouragement to me and which I feel are of value to our community.
Gospel and Cultural Engagement
Many times leaders can be about the gospel but not really address social issues and concerns of the day. There are other times when people can be about social concerns and use the church or the title “Reverend” as a mere position to pursue social activism. Grimke was a man who heartily embraced gospel ministry and through this conviction was active for issues of justice in the world. Two things demonstrated this to me. First, he was not just a pastor in name but his work was gospel work. His sermons illustrate this clearly. He was a gospel preaching man. His sermon “Christ’s Program for Saving the Word” is illustrative:
“1. To call attention specifically to Christ’s program for saving the world, for bringing about changes for the better in individuals and in communities –in the whole structure of society, in all human relationships.
a. It is by preaching the gospel—the gospel of the grace of God in Christ Jesus
b. It is by teaching—teaching not philosophy or science or any special department of human knowledge, but teaching what is written in the Scriptures, the Word of god, given by holy men as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. It is making known the contents of the Bible that Jesus here links up with the work of saving the world, of bringing about changes for the better in all human relations and conditions.”
His devotion to the transformation of society was never a gospel-less or gospel-light endeavor but rather grounded quite firmly in gospel convictions. Yet he did indeed give himself, although at his own time and pace, to the affairs of the world. Two things stand out in his legacy. First, his commitment to education and training is reflective in his service as a trustee for the prestigious Howard University. He worked hard to secure the right leadership for the institution that would avoid the parochialism, condescension and outright racism of prior administrations. Second, he was part of the community, along with his brother Archibald, who helped found and give early shape the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). The organization was a light of hope for unity and influence during times where there was much infighting between national black leaders.
Ministry was not for Promoting Self
In our day where celebrities and obsessing with famous people is an American past time, this sort of mentality can sadly slip into pastoral ministry. Grimké was ever aware of the temptation for men to use the influence of church leadership for self-promotion. He would have nothing of it:
He never preached what he did not earnestly try to practice. For the hypocrite he had the greatest contempt. He had not use for the minister who selfishly advanced himself at the expense of the church, or who used the pulpit to advertise himself before the world.
Furthermore, he had a steadiness of life and ministry that his routine was to go before the Lord and go over his sermon each day of the week. This practice was maintained even as he was brought into the spotlight and center of civil rights movement. He remained focused to prepare to teach and lead his people in the work of God.
Elevation of Oppressed People and the Multiethnic Church
As a man of mixed racial background and a proponent of black equality he had strong convictions about how to elevate Americans of African descent. He was convinced that the gospel needed to shape the virtue and character of individuals, families and communities as well as work for institutional justice. The way up included being a godly people shaping godly families. In addition to his exhortation of people in the African American community he also had no tolerance for the twisted racism of many white church people. Yes, he exhorted his people in virtue, but he also called out white Christians who twisted their biblical confession with racial hatred and hypocrisy. His discouragement was in how little the gospel seemed to affect white “Christians” own racial prejudice saying:
Race prejudice is not the monopoly of the infidel, of the atheist, of the man of the world. It is shared by so-called professing Christians
He fought against Presbyterian unification of northern churches with the racist Presbyterians of the south and assumed that the gospel ought to allow black and white to be together as the church in a community where they shared a common language. His idea of equality and commonality in the gospel is a legacy we rejoice in at Jacob’s Well. The truth that God brings together people of various backgrounds together in the gospel is a great blessing to each of our lives. (Ephesians 2:14-16, Revelation 7:9-12)
Primary Mission of the Church
In closing, I learned greatly from Francis Grimké that we must never forget the primary mission of the church. In all our serving, loving our communities, working for justice, showing mercy we must never neglect, leave out or cease preaching the cross of Jesus Christ, the salvation of sinners and the truth of the Word of God. Grimké was so clear on this matter that I will give him our last word. This comes forth from a journal entry he wrote as a seminary student training for a life of ministry ahead:
I accept, and accept without reservation, the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as God’s Word, sent to Adam’s sinful race and pointing out the only way by which it can be saved. Without the Holy Scriptures and what they reveal, there is no hope for humanity. To build on anything else is to build on the sand.
Amen, preach brother, preach!
Mark Perry, Lift up Thy Voice : The Grimké Family's Journey from Slaveholders to Civil Rights Leaders (New York: Viking, 2001), 17.
 More on John Grimké ibid., 17-20.
 Thabiti M. Anyabwile, The Faithful Preacher : Recapturing the Vision of Three Pioneering African-American Pastors (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 2007), 113.
 Ibid., 114. Hodge is still discussed today in areas of systematic theology and theological method as his approach has been described as a science of induction with the revelation of God in Scripture as the main source of data. This has drawn both fans and ire over the years. His theology is available for free online and remains well-read today – check it out and enjoy http://www.ccel.org/ccel/hodge/theology1.toc.html
 Ibid., 115.
 Ibid., 135-182. Three of Grimke’s sermons are reprinted for us in Anyabwile’s work.
 Ibid., 178.
 His role in the controversies between black leaders/camps led by W.E.B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington is highlighted in Perry, 322-325.
 Ibid., 325.
 Ibid., 332-336.
 Anyabwile, 117.
 Perry, 340.
 Anyabwile, 119.
 Ibid., 120.
 Perry, 324.
 Anyabwile, 120.