Good Theology From A Horrible Season of Tarheel Basketball

I am a die-hard Tarheel fan. I was raised a Tarheel from as long as a I can remember. I have enjoyed the thrill of victory in watching the Heels take down the Fab Five of Michigan, show that they were a better "team" than the Fighting Illini, and absolutely mop the floor with Michigan State led by Psycho-T.

I have also suffered through the agony of defeat. I remember attending a UNC/State basketball game at Reynolds Coliseum as a freshman at NC State [I know that doesn't make sense, but this was before God converted me ;) ] and UNC came into the game as the number one team in the country behind the talent of Vince Carter and Antwan Jamison. And we lost that game and as the entire student section poured out onto the court, I remember myself and a friend that was standing beside me, in our Carolina attire, being the only ones left standing in the seats. And I remember the dismal tenure of Matt Dougherty and the first time I remember us not making the NCAA tournament and not winning 20 games in a season along with a host of other records halted.

But this season has been the most difficult as a Tarheel fan because the badness of the team is just unexplainable and no one seems to have an answer for it. We're not going to make the tournament and probably shouldn't even be an NIT team. This is the first time I have ever seen a UNC team with no senior leadership and that has progressively gotten worse as the season crawled along. I don't even change my plans to watch the games anymore, because I just don't want to watch it.

I enjoy reading Adam Lucas of Goheels.com. He is a great writer and offers great insight following both victories and defeats. He has a great article this morning following a pathetic loss to Florida State last night. Lucas recounts his fatherly advice to him as a young boy suffering through a Carolina loss, "You have to sit through the bad ones to enjoy the good ones."

Lucas writes,

The truth is, we don't sit through many bad ones as Carolina basketball fans. No one feels sorry for us. You know that, right? They love this. They are downright gleeful that for three months out of our lives, we're experiencing what it's like to be everyone else. We're even having to talk about...next year...If you're a Tar Heel, in most years sitting through the bad ones means that maybe six or seven times a season, you're miserable. This year is different. This year, now that I'm a father and don't want to risk raising my son to be the same weirdo/person that I am, I'm having to come up with different ways to answer the question, "Daddy, did the Tar Heels win last night?" at the breakfast table each morning after a game.

Lucas then reminds us of the bad that Raymond Felton and Jawad Williams went through before winning a national championship,

Both left Carolina as national champions, which means when they return to Chapel Hill they are kings. They played through the bad ones to get to the good ones, and both would tell you even today that the ending was a little bit sweeter because of the way it all began.

What does all of this have to do with good theology? I think a strong case can be made from Romans 9:22-24 that God's purpose in the bad/sin/suffering in the world is to make the good that much better and that much more glorious for His people, those who trust in Christ as Savior-- "...in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy..."

This would also seem to be logically the case as well from our experience in life. Good health is that much better because of the reality and experience of bad health. Abundance is that much better because of the reality/experience of poverty. And the glory of God's grace and goodness is all the better and much more enjoyed because of the reality/experience of evil and suffering and sadness.

Therefore, as a follower of Christ, whatever suffering you are going through, one of the purposes of God in it is to make you appreciate the deliverance better and ultimately, in eternity, to enjoy the glory of God's grace better. And so as our family continues to endure this time of trial for us, it is good to be reminded that you have to sit through the bad ones to enjoy the good ones and also to know that God is sovereign over both the bad ones and the good ones.

Let me sum things up from a great line from The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name by Sally Lloyd-Jones. Towards the end of the book, speaking of the end of the Book of Revelation and the coming of the New Heavens and New Earth, she writes,

One day, John knew, Heaven would come down and mend God's broken world and make it our true, perfect home once again. And he knew, in some mysterious way, that would be hard to explain, that everything was going to be far more wonderful for once having been so sad. And he knew then that the ending of The Story was going to be so great, it would make all the sadness and tears and everything seem like just a shadow that is chased away by the morning sun.

As a Tarheel fan and much more importantly, as a follower of Christ, we have to sit through the bad ones to enjoy the good ones. And so we endure, knowing that next season is coming, another place of service will open up, and one day there will be a New Heavens and a New Earth and we will enjoy our King forever!


The Choice Before Southern Baptists

Just listened to the progress report of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force. Strongly agreed with 99% of what I heard. This quote from the report sums up the choice before us as Southern Baptists:

"We need to lay before this convention a compelling vision and give a prophetic warning that we have two choices: die a painful death, or live a painful change...What our convention chooses to do will determine what God does with this denomination...Wilderness wanderings or Canaan conquests."

Here's the report. It's worth the time to watch it.

GCR Progress Report from GCR on Vimeo.


God's People: Impatient With God's Word

Al Mohler has a great post on how little of the Word of God is actually heard in the average congregation and the danger it poses. Here's his conclusion:

How can so many of today's churches demonstrate what can only be described as an impatience with the Word of God? The biblical formula is clear -- the neglect of the Word can only lead to disaster, disobedience, and death. God rescues his church from error, preserves his church in truth, and propels his church in witness only by his Word -- not by congregational self-study.

In the end, an impatience with the Word of God can be explained only by an impatience with God. We -- both individually and congregationally -- neglect God's Word to our own ruin.

As Jesus himself declared, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear."

Guidance In Understanding God's Guidance

The issue of guidance has obviously been fairly pressing for our family over the pass eight months. I thought this was a particularly helpful summary of what God's guidances is. It's from J.I. Packer and Carolyn Nystrom's book Guard Us, Guide Us: Divine Leading In Life's Decisions.

First, God’s guidance is a covenanted aspect of his larger ministry of

graciously guarding us against sin’s folly and Satan’s malice

in order to bring us safe and sound to glory.

Second, our quest for guidance should be thought of as essentially a quest for the wisdom we need to cope with all the demands for decision that come to us in our waking lives, rather than with just a few big ones.

Third, the gift of God-centered peace of heart

as we contemplate and embrace

the best,

wisest, and

most God-honoring option to us

is God’s ordinary way of confirming to us that we have attained the wisdom that we sought by

observing circumstances,

praying for a clear head and discerning heart,

searching the Scriptures,

consulting experienced friends, and

thinking hard before the Lord.

This peace, be it said, is not any sort of informative nudge;

it is, rather, a sense that

the quest is ended,

the solution has been found, and

no more puzzling over the matter is necessary.

[HT: Justin Taylor]

God's Response to Atheism


Tiger's Apology: Woefully Short Of What It Must Be

Just finished watching Tiger's apology. I want to start out by commending him for a few things in his apology. It was nice to see him take responsibility for his actions and use the word "I" a lot. It was nice to actually hear him admit the wrongs he had done. It was nice to hear him ask for forgiveness to the people he actually hurt. I was also glad to see him, as a husband and father, stand up for is wife and children and seek to protect and defend them.

Those are all things in which we should praise the Lord for because His grace, in some form, is raining down on Tiger whether he realizes it or not. What you saw in Tiger's apology were a few biblical truths. First, there is such a thing as right and wrong, acceptable behavior and unacceptable behavior. Tiger admitted he knew that in his heart--the difference between right and wrong. What you also saw in Tiger was what plays itself out in each of our lives, maybe not in the form of adultery, but in one way or another. That is, that we intuitively know there is a right thing to do and a wrong thing to do and we willfully choose to do the wrong thing, thus setting ourselves up as gods and following after the idols of our hearts. This is not a condition that is unique to Tiger Woods. We all fall into this category more times than we care to admit. What we witnessed in Tiger's apology was God's common grace being poured out because He has given Tiger a conscience that knows that there is good and there is evil, there is right and there is wrong. What you saw in Tiger's apology was the common grace of the conviction of Tiger's conscience and even the ability to admit his wrongs, seek forgiveness/redemption, and the desire to change his ways.

But what was absent from Tiger's apology made all of the good that you saw in that apology all the more tragic and, in the end, pointless. What was glaringly absent from Tiger's apology was admitting the greatest reality of all--that Tiger had sinned against a holy God. If Tiger acknowledges that what he did was wrong and that he knew the right thing to do then there must be absolute right and absolute wrong. And if there is absolute right and absolute wrong, then there has to be Someone who is the authority who has determined that there is an absolute right and an absolute wrong. That authority is the Creator who has made us and who has made us in His own image and who has made us for His glory.

The foundation of the rightness and wrongness, which Tiger admits to being reality, is none other than the correlating holiness/righteousness of God in contrast to that which is evil, which is everything opposed to the holiness and righteousness of God. What Tiger failed to admit and to see is that his greatest problem is that he has fallen short of God's glory and that he has failed to honor God as he should and has replaced the worship of God with the worship of himself and the things God has made. (Romans 1)

And to add tragedy upon tragedy, Tiger is turning to himself to get him out of this mess. Tiger stated,

"People probably don't realize it, but I was raised a Buddhist, and I actively practiced my faith from childhood until I drifted away from it in recent years. Buddhism teaches that a craving for things outside ourselves causes an unhappy and pointless search for security. It teaches me to stop following every impulse and to learn restraint. Obviously, I lost track of what I was taught."

Tiger's problem, like each of us, is a craving inside of us that can never be satisfied with all the "stuff" we try to fulfill it. The reality is that the craving is something missing in our life. The craving points us to the fact that no matter what we try to feed the craving with, we are never satisfied. C.S. Lewis said,

"If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world."

We, like Tiger Woods, were not originally made for this world that has fallen into sin. We were made for a life of enjoying a holy God and being satisfied with Him forever. Tiger fails to realize what Al Mohler states as,

"Most Americans believe that their major problem is something that has happened to them, and that their solution is to be found within. In other words, they believe they have an alien problem that is to be resolved with an inner solution. What the gospel says, however, is that we have an inner problem that demands an alien solution--a righteousness that is not our own."

Tiger is beginning a journey in which he is going to try and find security and happiness from within and he fails to understand that it is the "within" that is the problem. His heart is the problem. His sin against a holy God is the problem. And the only solution is not to try and learn restraint and stop following every impulse but rather to place his faith in the One who never followed a sinful impulse and who always restrained Himself in every way. His only hope for redemption and forgiveness against the One he has truly offended, not to mention his only hope of reformation and change, is to put his trust in the One who died in the place of sinners who, just like Tiger, followed sinful impulses and lived without restraint.

Tiger's only hope, like each of us, is in Jesus Christ, the Son of God who lived a perfect sinless life, but who died as a substitute for sinners and who rose from the dead. Tiger's only hope for forgiveness is in the righteousness of Jesus Christ applied to him through faith in His death and resurrection for sinners. Tiger's only hope for change is in the new life lived in the power of the Holy Spirit that flows from faith in this Good News of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

"For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes...for in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, as it is written, 'The righteous shall live by faith.'" (Romans 1:16-17)
It was evident from today's apology that Tiger is still blind to his greatest need and our response as followers of Christ must be to keep praying to the Lord to remove the blinders and to shine the light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ into his heart that he might see and believe.

That is Tiger's only hope just like it is our only hope.


Does the Bible Have a Little or A Lot To Say About Parenting?

For parenting to be such an important aspect of our lives as a followers of Christ, does it not seem strange that there is seemingly so few passages in the Bible that address parenting? There are a total of two passages in the New Testament that deal with parenting and they say essentially the same thing. In the Old Testament the focus of parenting is mentioned in only two chapters of Deuteronomy and a few passages in the Book of Proverbs.

Why so few passages that deal directly with parenting?

The scarcity of parenting texts is deliberate, premeditated, and precise. God knows there are only two in the New Testament: this is no mistake. Why so few? The answer is so simple and probably so obvious that it is easy to miss. There are so few Scriptures because the gospel is the classroom that teaches us everything we need to know to become effective Christian parents. If we really understand the gospel, and how to apply it to our marriages and parenting, we have all the tools we need to pass the baton to our children.

Farley then lists seven ways in which the Gospel affects parents,

1. The gospel teaches Christian parents to fear God.
2. The gospel motivates parents to lead by example.
3. The gospel centers families in their male servant leaders.
4. The gospel teaches and motivates parents to discipline their children.
5. The gospel motivates parents to teach their children.
6. The gospel motivates parents to lavish their children with love and affection.
7. The gospel is the solution for inadequate parents.
I'll try to share how Farley fleshes each of those out through the rest of the book in the coming weeks.

5 Assumptions Parents Must Make

I just started reading William P. Farley's Gospel-Powered Parenting: How the Gospel Shapes and Transforms Parenting. In Chapter 1 he mentions five assumptions that parents need to make.

Effective Christian parents:

1. Assume that parenting will not be easy, but that the rewards will ultimately make it all worthwhile.

  • Effective parents don't expect a cakewalk. They assume it will be difficult but that the end result--delightful Christ-centered adult children who are married to mates you actually like--will make it all worth the effort.

2. Are willing to hold God's sovereignty and their responsibility in tension.

  • Yes, God is sovereign. But there is a parallel truth: God uses means. God gives children parents to draw them to himself. He can use other means, but he prefers parents. The point of this book is that God normally exercises his sovereignty through parents who faithfully practice biblical parenting.

3. Assume an offensive mindset; They pursue their children's hearts.

  • Effective parents equip their children to overcome the world--not by changing and controlling their environment, but by going after their children's hearts. We change their hearts by teaching the gospel, modeling the gospel, and centering our homes on the gospel. The gospel, rightly understood and modeled, makes Christianity attractive. Effective parents make the gospel so attractive that the world cannot get a foothold in their children's hearts.
4. Are shrewd about the new birth.

  • New birth is known by its fruits, not by a decision. The most important fruit is hunger for God himself. Effective parents assume this, and patiently wait for sustained fruit before they render a verdict.
5. Labor to focus their families on God, not their children.
  • In a God-centered family, everyone serves God by submitting to the authority over them. The husband focuses on pleasing God, not his wife. The wife focuses on pleasing God by submitting to her husband's authority rather than pleasing her children. The children please God by honoring and obeying their parents.


Troubled By Twilight

When we were in Tennessee, I had the opportunity of mentoring a first grade boy at a local elementary school. One of the things that saddened me the most as I talked with him and he shared about his life and home situation, was the infatuation he had with the Twilight series. It was an infatuation that he caught from his mother, who loved the books/movie as well.

Now, it was troubling to see this unbelieving little boy and his unbelieving family wrapped up in the deception of this book, but what is even more troubling is the rate at which believers, those in the church, have caught this same fever for this series.

Why is it troubling? Here's Doug Wilson's explanation:

Ask Doug - What is Wrong With Twilight? from Daniel Foucachon on Vimeo.

The "Two Texts" of Ministry

Maybe the most helpful excerpt from CrossTalk: Where Life & Scripture Meet:

In ministry we are reading "two texts" simultaneously, the story of Scripture and the story of the person we serve. In ministry we must always have one eye on the biblical text and one eye on the individual. Or better, our gaze constantly shifts between the two. Reading the Bible without reading the person is a recipe for irrelevance in ministry. Reading the person without reading the Bible is a recipe for ministry lacking the life-changing power of the the Spirit working through His Word.

When we read Scripture, we notice details that reveal the pastoral intentions of a text for its original audience ("original context"). We also expect to see how the themes of the passage relate to the rest of the Bible and, most particularly, to the climax of redemption in Christ ("expanded context"). When we read people, we are attentive to the details of their lives. We discover how these details fit into their experience as saints, sufferers, and sinners. This helps us understand the God-centered or self-centered story lines by which they live.

Our ultimate goal is application, the place where these two readings come together to bear good fruit--greater love for God and for others. Application happens when people "inhabit" the worldview of the text in such a way that they gain gospel-centered clarity and direction for their situation--and act on it. This is what connecting Scripture and life is all about! The goal of reading Scripture is not merely to produce an accurate, detailed outline of the passage. Nor is it simply to gain an understanding of how a text might have impacted its original audience. Nor is it a whiz-band, jaw-dropping, creative connection of the passage to the person and work of Christ. Nor is it to generate a list of action steps to take. Similarly, the goal of reading people does not stop with understanding the particulars of their lives as saints, sufferers, and sinners. Those insights alone will not bring change. Rather, the goal of reading Scripture and reading people together is so that we can help others increasingly reflect the character and kingdom priorities of Jesus Christ. The goal of connecting Scripture with life is nothing less than changed lives, a changed community, and a changed world, as people listen to the God who speaks truth and love. This is CrossTalk in action!


Husbands: Keep Chasing

Kevin DeYoung has a great post today, in light of V-Day approaching, for husbands and our need to continue to pursue our wife. Read the post here.

This is an especially great quote from the post and one that, if you are like me, as a husband you need to keep working on:

Even after years of marriage keep using words like “Come” and “Let’s.” Be a man. Be a leader. Try to impress her. You managed to do it once, but chances are much of your impressiveness has worn off under the rough edges of career, laziness, and time. Men shouldn’t get married so they can stop pursuing women. We get married so we can perfect the pursuit with the same woman over a lifetime. Don’t give up the chase gentlemen.

Believe me, brothers, I write as one who needs to learn.

Parents: Keep Throwing the Rocks & Wait for the Sun

If you are are like Holly and myself, you can feel quite frustrated over your attempts to teach your children biblical truth. Regardless of how much they may memorize a catechism question or recite a Bible verse or passage, you always are tempted to frustration because you know that they are just repeating something to you and they do not fully understand what they are saying or the story you just read to them or what it means that "God made you and everything for His own glory," regardless of your attempts to explain it.

I found this post helpful today and hope you do as well. Here's a piece of it:

I once heard (sorry, I don’t remember where) that evangelism to children is like throwing rocks upon a frozen pond. Everyday you throw one rock after another, as they begin to pile on top of the ice. Nothing seems to penetrate the frozen surface. Until one day the sun comes out, the frozen surface melts, and all your rocks that you have thrown over the years sink to the floor of the pond.

How God works his sovereign goodness over my children’s salvation with my responsibility to faithfully teach them, I don’t know. His wisdom is unsearchable and his paths untraceable. Yet, may we, as parents, be faithful in giving our children categories to know God and understand his Gospel, so that when the warmth of God’s light shines upon their hearts, they will believe and rejoice with great joy!

Pastor: Preacher or Leader?

Here is a great quote from a recent post from Jeff Purswell of Sovereign Grace Ministries that answers this question very well:

We deviate from Scriptural precept and historical example, however, when a pastor’s role as “leader” displaces his primary role as a teacher—a shepherd who feeds God’s people with the truth of his Word. The relentless call to pastors in the New Testament is to the ministry of the Word, from the apostles’ retirement from mercy ministry (Acts 6:1–4) to Paul’s dying words to Timothy (2 Timothy 4:2).

I doubt anyone reading this would reject the content of the previous paragraph. My concern is rather with a false dichotomy that I fear is all too common: a dichotomy in the pastor’s mind between “teaching” and “leadership.” In the pulpit or behind the podium, we’re “teaching;” anywhere else, we’re “leading.” My modest goal in this post is to destroy this dichotomy. There is no more powerful or fundamental expression of a pastor’s leadership than the preaching of the Word. At its core, that’s what biblical leadership is: setting forth for our people a biblical vision of God and his purposes, and then calling them to give their lives to it and live in light of it (and outside the pulpit, modeling for them what it looks like). Every time we preach, we’re making room for God to lead his people, allowing his Word to set direction, to impart encouragement, to provide comfort, and to instill faith. Much more is happening on a Sunday morning than the mere transfer of information. This is our key leadership moment.


Pastors: Are You a Pipe or a Reservoir?

From Michael Emlet's CrossTalk: Where Life & Scripture Meet :

A temptation in ministry is to think that just because we prepare for a Bible study, a sermon, or a discipleship appointment (or wrote a book like this!), we are deeply engaging with the God of the universe. But that's not necessarily true. It's easy in ministry to live more as a "pipe" than a "reservoir." That is, it's easy to live merely as a conduit to others of the transforming truths of God's Word, rather than as a changed and transformed reservoir who overflows with lived-out gospel truth. You wouldn't imagine cooking meal after meal for your family without sitting down to enjoy that nourishment yourself, would you? To paraphrase James 1:22, let's not merely be hearers or speakers or counselors of the Word but doers, first and foremost!

8 Questions To Identify Your Idol

I'm halfway Michael Emlet's book CrossTalk: Where Life and Scripture Meet. In Chapter 7, he writes,

Our lives are controlled or directed by what we value. We functionally worship what we believe will bring us joy, happiness, peace, contentment, and the like. It's easy to say that we worship God in an ultimate sense, but our daily lives reveal the 'functional' gods we serve in the moment.

He then lists eight questions that help us identify what the idols of our lives are:

1. What do you want or desire?
2 What do you fear? (i.e., what do you not want?)
3. What really matters to you right now?
4. What are you feeling right now?
5. Where (or in what) are you banking your hopes? (What are you hoping will happen?)
6. Complete this sentence, "If only , then . (This ? gets at your ideal reality)
7. What do you think you need? Why?
8. What can't you live without? (What do you worry about losing?)

The Big Red Tractor

Great parable by Francis Chan:

The Big Red Tractor from Jacob Lewis on Vimeo.


If You Think Your First Time Preaching Was Awkward...

From Al Mohler's He Is Not Silent: Preaching In A Postmodern Age:

Within a matter, Spurgeon would preach his first sermon, tricked into doing so by an older friend who asked him to go to a Teversham cottage the next Sunday evening, for a young man was to preach there for the first time and would be glad to have the company. "That was a cunningly devised sentence," Spurgeon later wrote, for "a request to go and preach would have met with a decided negative, but merely to act as company to a good brother who did not like to be lonely, and perhaps might ask us to give out a hymn or to pray, was not at all a difficult matter, and the request, understood in that fashion, was cheerfully compiled with."

Here's Spurgeon's recollection of the story:

Our Sunday-school work was over, and tea had been taken, and we set off through Barnwell, and away along the Newmarket-road, with a gentleman some few years our senior. We talked of good things, and at last we expressed our hope that he would feel the presence of God while preaching. He seemed to start, and assured us that he had never preached in his life, and could not attempt such a thing: he was looking to his young friend, Mr. Spurgeon, for that. This was a new view of the situation, and I could only reply that I was no minister, and that even if I had been I was quite unprepared. My companion only repeated that HE, even in a more emphatic sense, was not a preacher, that he would help ME in any other part of the service, but that there would be no sermon unless I gave them one.