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May 31, 2011

Desiring God Ministries has posted John Piper’s long-awaited interview with Rick Warren. This has brought to completion the invitation Piper extended to Warren to speak at the 2010 Desiring God National Conference. The interview was supposed to happen at that event, but in the end Warren was unable to travel to Minneapolis and the interview was postponed. The men got together on May 1, 2011 and this video is the result.

Today I want to offer up some thoughts on it. I do so because over the years I have come out as a bit of a critic of Rick Warren and his ministry. This is not something I am entirely comfortable with, but it was no surprise to me that when the interview was posted I began to receive questions; people wanted to know what I thought of it. And, frankly, I wanted to know what I thought of it. So what I intend to do in this article is simply let you into my mind as I wrestle through the interview and its implications.

Before I begin, let me say a word about critiquing Warren. Many people seem to imagine that there is some kind of a Calvinist conspiracy against Rick Warren. I will grant that there are many outrageous critics out there who seem to put Warren in the same league as Jezebel and Judas. Despite such people there are many others who have good, legitimate critiques of the man and his ministry. I think we need to be careful that we do not combine these 2 groups—that we do not ignore legitimate critiques because of the outrageous ones.

Having said that, let me tell you where my mind went as I watched and read the interview. I am very glad to hear from you whether my thinking has gone off-track or if I am just plain wrong. The comments are open and I will be reading them as I am able.

1. Awareness

I find myself aware of my youth. As I begin to think through this issue I immediately realize that both of these men are old enough to be my father and I want to be very careful that I do not play the role of the impulsive, self-assured, prideful young(er) man. The Bible commends age and maturity and this leaves me inclined to doubt my own interpretation when it conflicts with those who are older than I am. Both of these men have far more knowledge of Scripture than I do and both have much greater ministry experience. Both have obviously been used by the Lord in unique ways.

May 16, 2011

Last week I took a brief look at the first part of Genesis 3:16, a verse which describes the consequence of the woman’s role in the fall into sin. In the first part of God’s judgment on the woman he declared that bearing children would now be painful and traumatic. Her primary life function would be full of toil. Today I want to look at the second part of that judgment where God says “Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” Here God declares that the woman’s primary relationship—the relationship to her husband—would also be disrupted. The marriage relationship, the relationship that was to be central in family, in culture, in church—the very building-block relationship of human beings, would suffer the effects of the Fall. There are two things of importance here: first, what it means that a woman’s desire shall be for her husband, and second, what it means that he shall rule over her.

Her Desire

First let’s look at what it means that a woman’s desire shall be for her husband. “Your desire shall be for your husband.” What is this desire? Some have taught that this is a kind of sexual desire, that part of the consequence for a woman’s sin is that she would have a sexual desire for her husband or a kind of abnormal sexual desire for him. These people look to Song of Solomon where this word desire is used; there the woman says, “I am my beloved’s, and his desire is for me.” That does speak of a kind of longing, a kind of sexual desire. But this hardly sounds like a consequence for sin. Quite the opposite is true. A woman who feels sexual desire for her husband is blessed by God. This is a good desire, a desire a woman should long to have. So what else can it mean?

This is a case where we can follow one of those great principles of interpreting the Bible and simply let a more clear passage help us interpret a less clear passage. When Moses wrote Genesis he gave us a very helpful way to understand what is meant by the woman’s desire. We need only look to Genesis 4:6-7. Here Cain has had his offering rejected by God while his brother Abel has had his offering accepted by God. Cain is furious; his whole countenance has changed. Jealousy and murder are rising up in his heart. The Lord comes to Cain and gives him a rebuke, a kind warning. He says, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.” Here is that same word—desire.

In this verse sin is described in animal terms—like a lion or tiger hiding by a door. You open the door, and there it is, coiled and ready to pounce. Or maybe the author wants us to think about a snake here, a serpent like the devil. The moment that door is opened, Wham!, Sin pounces all over you. Sin wants to dominate and destroy you. It is out to get you by dominating you.

May 12, 2011

It is an interesting question to ask: What does Genesis 3:16 mean when it says that, as a consequence for her sin, the woman would now have pain in childbearing? (“I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”) On one level the answer is very clear, but I think we do well to see that there is more to it than what is most obvious.

After Adam and the woman sinned (she is not yet named Eve—that will come soon), God was forced to pass judgment on them—to provide oracles, judgments about the way the world would now be. God’s first word to the woman, the first consequence, looks back to her very creation. When God created human beings—when he created them as male and female—he blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.” His command to them was to bear children, to fill the earth with people, and in that way to exercise dominion over all of it. Adam and the woman were to have children and their children were to have children and soon enough the earth would be populated with more people, created in the image of God and doing the work of God. This is a critical and primary component of the Creation Mandate—God’s command to the creatures he formed in his own image.

People were to multiply by childbearing. But now, after the woman listened to the serpent and led her husband into sin, something else, something far more sinister, would multiply alongside those children. Here in Genesis 3:16 God says to the woman, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children.” This is not an arbitrary consequence. Rather, there is a kind of poetic justice here, what theologians may refer to as a talionic justice. God looks back to his original plan for humans and shows that the punishment will fit the crime, so to speak. Where God meant to multiply what was good, sin would now multiply what was evil. “In pain you shall bring forth children…”

April 25, 2011

C.J. Mahaney tells a story about a man that I think we can all identify with—a man who went out into the world with a cringe-worthy problem. I am quite sure the story is not an original Mahaney (I do not have his book in front of me at the moment so cannot check for a citation). Nevertheless, here is how it goes:

As I sat with my family at a local breakfast establishment, I noticed a finely dressed man at an adjacent table. His Armani suit and stiffly pressed shirt coordinated perfectly with a power tie.  His wing-tip shoes sparkled from a recent shine, every hair was in place, including his perfectly groomed moustache.

The man sat alone eating a bagel as he prrepared for a meeting.  As he reviewed the papers before him, he appeared nervous, glancing frequently at his Rolex watch.  It was obvious he had an important meeting ahead.

The man stood up and I watched as he straightened his tie and prepared to leave.

Immediately I noticed a blob of cream cheese attached to his finely groomed moustache.  He was about to go into the world, dressed in his finest, with cream cheese on his face.

I thought of the business meeting he was about to attend. Who would tell him? Should I? What if no one did?

You may not have an Armani suit and a finely groomed moustache, but something like this has happened to each of us at one time or another. Maybe you left the bathroom with a piece of toilet paper stuck to your shoe or maybe you went to church without noticing that your baby had spit up down your back. We’ve all done it. We’ve all gone out into the world completely oblivious to something that is utterly obvious to everyone else.

Mahaney uses this illustration to go far beyond fashion. He uses it to speak of the importance of having people who will keep watch on our lives and who will tell us about those sins or character flaws that are hidden to us and so obvious to everyone else. “As you and I walk through life, no matter how closely we watch ourselves, we are acquiring fresh blobs of cream cheese on our faces. We all have ‘cream cheese’ moments.” Do you have someone in your life who will point out the cream cheese smeared on your face?

Over the past couple of weeks Carl Trueman has been writing a series of blog posts about the big Christian conferences—American Christian conferences. The reaction has been interesting to see. While I wouldn’t say the reaction has been one of outrage, it certainly does not seem that American Christians are eager to hear Trueman’s critiques. His posts have been rather informal, most of them speaking to a particular kind of reaction or feedback. Here they are if you’d like to give them a read:

April 12, 2011

Gospel CoalitionBy the time you read this, I will be on my way to the Gospel Coalition Conference in Chicago, Illinois. I am sure it is going to be a great conference and I am looking forward to taking it in. I am there on a mix of business and pleasure—I’ll be attending some of the sessions and also attending various meetings, doing interviews, and a few other things that are set as reminders on my calendar (without which I’d have no hope of remembering them).

If you are a reader of this blog and are going to be attending, I’d love to meet you in person. You may well find me wandering around looking dazed and tired. But failing that, I will participate in a panel discussion at Band of Bloggers on Tuesday evening. And on Wednesday I will be in the bookstore signing copies of The Next Story. If you buy a copy of the book (or get one for free at Band of Bloggers) please drop by the bookstore Wednesday at 10:30 AM to get it signed. There’s nothing more pathetic than a book signing with no books to sign.

I hope to shoot a bit of video, as I did at last year’s Together for the Gospel Conference. If I’m able to do that, I’ll upload it to YouTube and link to the videos on my blog.

Of course the official videos of each of the plenary sessions will be streaming live at Desiring God.

April 07, 2011

StatisticsI pay little attention to the statistics software that runs in the background on this site. Every time someone visits, every time someone looks at a page, that software makes a little notation and at the end of the day I can look and see how many people browsed the blog. I don’t look all that often because, frankly, I’m just not all that interested. I guess if I was a better blogger I’d be monitoring it closely, looking for patterns, looking for the kinds of articles that draw in the readers.

But the other day I took a look and saw that in the course of the day somewhere around 70,000 people had visited the site and read one of my articles. That’s a lot of people. It’s an atypical number of people, but at least for that day it was true. I found myself in a small moment of pride, remembering the days when 7 people visited the site (at least 6 of whom were relatives). But quickly I caught myself and began to ponder the implications of that pride. I began to ponder the implications of the number 70,000.

Let me give you just a little glimpse into my life. I feel strange even writing about this—prideful even. But I suppose that’s what this blog is, at least in part—me wrestling through the implications of living this life. Here are questions I have been thinking about lately. Who am I? Who tells me who I am? Who tells me what I do well, what I’m succeeding at, what I’m failing at? Who tells me my strengths and weaknesses? What is the relationship between me at home, me in my church, me on my blog, me before an audience at a conference? How do I weigh and measure all of these things? How do I evaluate them?

April 05, 2011

The Next StoryThe day is here at last. Today is the day that The Next Story officially releases. This book has been a near-daily companion for almost 2 years now—a book I was thinking about, living, researching and writing. And finally it’s a book on my bookcase. And on my Kindle.

Now release dates are a tricky things. Books are available in so many formats and in so many places that they tend to release with more of a fizzle than a bang. But today is as official a day as we’re going to have.

On this day I’d like to express my gratitude to you, the person who visits this blog because without you there would be no book. Here is what I say in the acknowledgements: “Thanks to all the people who have made my blog a part of their lives. It is truly humbling that you’ve chosen to do so, and it is my prayer that I’ll find ways of serving you well through that rather unexpected ministry. I appreciate your prayers, support, love and page views.” It’s not much, I admit, but it’s an attempt to express some of my gratitude.

It is a strangely humbling thing to see a book with my name on it. This is my third book but the feeling is no less strange. It feels like a relief that the book is done, that it is printed, that it is out. I find myself praying today that the Lord would see fit to use the book for his glory. This isn’t a theological tome and it’s not the kind of book that will ever be regarded as a classic of the faith. And yet I believe that it’s a book for now, a book that can help each of us as we seek to live our lives in this world at this time. Most of us know struggles with living in a digital world. It’s my hope that in this book I can assist a little bit in drawing out those struggles and perhaps even helping you resolve them. That’s true whether you are a technophobe or a technophile, whether you are young or old, whether you have every high-tech device or relatively few high-tech devices.

If you have pre-ordered the ebook, you should receive it on your device today. You will be charged just $5.99. Likewise, if you order it before April 11, you will pay just $5.99. As of April 11 the price will rise to $9.99. It is available on Kindle, iBooks and Nook or through CBD.

If you would rather purchase a physical copy, it is available right now at Westminster Books. Amazon is projecting another few days before they have it available to ship. The same is true of CBD. It should find its way into other book stores (both online and brick-and-mortar) over the next couple of weeks.

If you buy it and read it, please do let me know what you think of it. I’ll be grateful for your feedback.

Not sure yet? You can learn a lot more about the book right here.

March 31, 2011

Yesterday a reader of this site sent me a link to an interesting series of blog posts—posts written by Pastor Akira Sato, who is the pastor for the Fukushima First Baptist Church, near the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. The email included this poignant paragraph:”Yesterday (Friday, March 18) one member who has been with us since the disaster had received an order from his company and left for work in the nuclear plant. (He is a leader of the plumbing job). As the family of God, knowing the departing pains of his loved ones, in tears we dispatched the brother with prayers. He left here with the Lord. Beside him, there are others, our precious members, who have been working hard at the plant. O, Lord, please protect them with your almighty hand! I beg you, please! ‘Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed, ….that thine hand might be with me, and that wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me.’ (1 Chronicles 4:10)”

Here are several other excerpts from the pastor’s blogs:

[March 13] This has been triple disasters. Because of the quake, some member’s house was partially destroyed. I still haven’t been able to get in touch with the families who live near the beach. JR Tomioka station has been washed away by the tsunami. The city was utterly destroyed. You have already heard of the accident of Fukushima first nuclear power plant. All the residents were forced to evacuate, and my church members had to get on a bus without any belongings and sent to schools and gyms separately. It’s been hard to find out how they are doing. I heard that there were not enough blankets for everyone, and some couldn’t sleep all night because it was cold in the shelter. In some shelters, no water or food were distributed all day. I’m very concerned for Bro. Suenaga, 95-year-old, who was in a hospital due to pneumonia was forced to leave the hospital to evacuate. There are also people who have broken bones, in need of dialysis, with little children or children with disabilities.

[March 14] We have contacted 150 church members and they are safe. Hallelujah! One sister told me that waves approached her but she was able to swim to safety. My eyes fill with tears as I call members from a pay phone - fifty or sixty still need to be contacted.

[March 16] About a third of our 60 church members live close to the Fukushima power plant. They had to go through radiation checks, so we all gathered in the afternoon for a time of worship. I could hear people sobbing and saw that they had been through hardship. In the evening I went to a nearby hot spring. What a relief to have a soak after five days! People are so glad to find each other, which again led me to tears. Our nomad life has started. When I asked people whether they had any laundry, their reply was that there were no clothes to wash. All they have is what they are wearing.