Friday, May 30, 2008

Book Review: Family Driven Faith by Voddie Baucham, Jr.

This is from my 'Reaction' section of my Book Review.  If you would like to read my full 12-page review, you can leave a comment or E-mail me and I'll get it to you.

To be honest, I approached this book with guarded-optimism, curiosity, and skepticism. I began to realize that my presuppositions were not original and Dr. Baucham was upfront and open to addressing these criticisms and offer biblical and logical responses. There are many compelling points raised by the author that I had not thought of before, and others that I had experienced over-exaggerated responses to in the past. For instance, until recently I had viewed formal, planned, daily family worship as an obscure and out-dated Puritan practice. While my family and I do spend time praying and in the Word, we had not implemented a more formal time of worship into our schedule. After reading this book, I feel more confident that this practice would be appropriate for cultivating my family.

The first portion of the book, that was discussing the problem at hand, is not new to me or to most people who have been around youth ministry in the Church for any amount of time. Anyone who is honest can clearly understand the challenges of trying to cultivate spiritual appetites in students whose parents are disconnected from their spiritual development. The challenge of idolatry such as academics and sports is not foreign to my experience, and has served as an increasing frustration for myself and many of the youth workers that I know. However, Baucham did challenge me to realize that the answer to that problem is not just a prophetic confrontation of those issues, but moreover a need to point families back to the biblical mandate for parents to take responsibility for their child’s spiritual growth. This is a tough dynamic to think through, and I am still a bit flustered by the seeming impossibility in most churches to even acknowledge that there is an idolatry issue at play in some of our core families.

When the author transitioned to discuss how the family should honor God in their homes, I was challenged by my own tension in the public school, private school, or home school debate. Although he did not begin with this issue, I am aware of his stance, and I could tell at the onset of the chapters that were focused on the home that he was an advocate for this. Along with many others in the Southern Baptist Convention, I have concerns about the evangelistic consequences that would be experienced if there were a mass exodus of Christian children from public schools. However, I have also struggled with the idea of someone else taking full responsibility of educating my child. Baucham addresses this issue head-on when he makes the point that most Christian children, as supported by research statistics, are falling away from the faith at worst, or are succumbing to the culture surrounding them, which is of equal severity. He placed further emphasis on the role of education in the development of worldview, which has forced my wife in I in a position of submission to once again having hard conversations about these issues.

One area of critique is that I know that Baucham is a highly sought after itinerant preacher who does very well financially. He is able to limit his travel to eight to ten days a month, which places him at home for two-thirds of the time. While I, too, travel full-time and preach, and I am able to sustain my family and work at home, so that gives me the ability to understand where he is coming from. However, he does not address the challenges that a working father faces in leading his family in his home. The author does acknowledge the tension some, but arguing that the only solution is to work less, may not be a reality. Therefore, I think it would be interesting if Baucham could offer a follow-up work, perhaps as a compilation with working fathers, those with “real jobs” that could substantiate these assertions and testify to the fruit of their efforts. I believe that this will help the skeptics who dismiss his assertions based upon the flexibility of his vocation.

I must applaud Baucham in his biblical prowess as he walks slowly through the biblical mandates found in Deuteronomy 6, Proverb 31, and Ephesians 5. While I would expect nothing less than biblical astuteness from Baucham, I was refreshed to see that he did not lean on proof-texting verses out of context. He addressed these passages with great skill. While they were overly illustrated at times by seemingly repetitive anecdotal stories, the overall theological assessment was not only orthodox, but also accessible to the layman.  

His chapter entitled, “Enjoy The Gifts Without Forgetting The Giver” one of the only points of contention is that I feel was a bit of a self-justification was In this chapter I think he missed slightly on his application of prosperity found in the Old Covenant and ignored the appropriate interpretation in view of the New Covenant. Admitting that he and his wife have built two houses so far in their time together, and that he has admittedly done well financially, does not necessarily substantiate the litmus test of biblical prosperity.  

By no means am I accusing Baucham of being a ‘health and wealth’ prosperity teacher, but I do think that he missed the covenantal implications of the Old and New Covenant. In lieu of going into a full theological diatribe I will make a few brief observations. First, the covenant rewards of the Old Covenant could be paraphrased as stuff and land, however, the covenant promise of the New Covenant is Christ Himself as the reward. Secondly, I am not advocating an abolishment of the Law, but I do believe Jesus when He claimed to have fulfilled the Law (see Matthew 5:17). Thirdly, I would lean on the Old Covenant as a foreshadowing of the promise to come, and the use of the Law to point out our sin and need for a Savior (See Romans 7:7 and Galatians 3:19-22). Therefore, in reading his chapter on prosperity, I sensed a bit of self-justification, which I am fairly confident that he would deny, as his common posture both in preaching and in writing is does not convey one of humility and “teachability”, but of stubborn (or confident depending on the listener/reader) and at times appearing prideful in his convictions. These observations do not in any way diminish the truth Baucham presents, nor does it lower my respect of the man, but I do challenge him to think through his own position in view of what he is teaching in this chapter.

Overall, this book has been extremely helpful in helping me to put to words some of the underlying frustrations that I have been experiencing with the Church and the break down in families. It also offers sound, biblical insights into how a family is to order themselves and pursue God as a covenantal unit. I am also grateful to Baucham for being willing to address such a controversial and unpopular view and argue from the Bible its veracity and necessity. This book has challenged me to slow down and think through these issues, to discuss the future of family integration with the other elders at the church, and to force my wife and I to have much to pray and talk about. Whether one agrees with Baucham or not, this book should be read by all who care about the Church, the family, and the youth who are abandoning the church in droves following graduation from High School.
I would recommend anyone who cares about their Family and the Church to read this book carefully, prayerfully, and have honest discussions.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Mission Lakehouse: Success!

My trusty ESV Bible

The above are books that I have been reading during my retreat. I have a tendency to remain in 'seminary mode' even after the semester is over, which means that I read a few chapters from each book and then move onto the next. However, it also means that it takes a bit longer to finish the books, but it helps produce a fine stew of productivity and inspiration for writing.

As far as writing goes, I have written a manuscript (which I don't normally do) for my sermon on the Life of Peter for this weekend at Crossbridge and have developed a few other sermon outlines for the summer from 1 Peter, 1 John, Romans, and the Gospel of John. I will be spending my time next week putting 'flesh' on those sermons and getting them ready for the summer camp season.

Steph, Braelyn, and I had a great time here together. It was restful and fruitful. We are excited to see how the Lord will use our little family this upcoming summer.

I'm sure Steph will be posting more pictures of our trip soon on her blog. I hope to be blogging more soon.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Study Retreat at the Lake

We arrived at our friend's lake house late Sunday night after church. After the first two days Steph and I have been blessed with time to rest, talk, swim, pray, read, and study.

I covet your prayers as I am preparing to preach at 7 weeks of youth events this summer. If you would like to partner in praying with us specifically you can stay up to date by viewing my calendar and let us know that you will be praying with us (I'd be happy to provide specific requests if you are interested). As we retreat, we are reminded how powerful prayer really is.

I'll post more later about the trip and what all God is teaching me. Thanks ahead of time for your prayers!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Long and Fruitful Week

I just completed my first I-Term ever, which was awesome and I should have been doing my entire seminary career. One week of class, a paper following, and then 3 hours of credit!

This week I took a class called 'Ministering to Parents of Teenagers' with Dr. Doug Wood.
It was a blast and I learned a lot. I also had the opportunity to broadcast my radio show live from the class. You can either listen online by clicking on the link below, or right click and 'Save As' or 'Download Linked File' (Mac Users) and enjoy on your own time.

Click here to Listen to Radio Show

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Praising Her in the Gates (or on a blog)

Words/Phrases that describe my dear wife:
  1. Beautiful
  2. Strong
  3. Capable
  4. Creative
  5. Laughter
  6. Mother
  7. Brave
  8. Thankless Job
  9. Joyful Servant
  10. Reader
  11. Blogger
  12. Innovative
  13. Thoughtful
  14. Supportive
  15. Hotttttt ;-)
  16. Godly
  17. Humble
  18. Friend
  19. Companion
  20. Witty
  21. Patient
  22. Hard-working
  23. Forgiving
  24. Generous
  25. Great Cook
  26. Fun
  27. Faithful
  28. Bargain-Hunter
  29. Inquisitive 
  30. Thinker
  31. Brilliant
Steph, I love you!  Happy Mother's Day!

Friday, May 09, 2008

Tasty Girl Food

These are very good...  I don't care if it is girl food...

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Be a Kinder Calvinist - From

Be a Kinder Calvinist
By: Abraham Piper

My wife and I were fighting—the kind where after 30 seconds you forget what you're fighting about and you just end up being mean. It doesn't take long in an argument like this to feel hopeless.

I wanted to call someone to come over and mediate. Actually, I didn't want to, but I knew I needed to do something. Our close friends who live near by and our small group leaders were all out of town, so I called a pastor who lives in the neighborhood and asked him to come over right then. I think he could tell by the tone of my voice and the unusual request that we really did need help immediately. He cancelled his Saturday plans and came over.

Sitting at our kitchen table, he helped us figure each other out. Soon we were getting to the heart of the matter. Molly turned to me and said, "You never treat me like you appreciate me."

I looked at her. I looked at our pastor. And then I listed three ways that I'd shown appreciation for her that morning. As far as I was concerned, things were taken care of. She thought I didn't act appreciatively, but I just showed her (definitively, I might add) that I did.

As you can imagine, things were not taken care of. As a matter of fact, my list, for all its accuracy, was completely irrelevant to Molly. This was when our pastor pointed something out to me that has forever changed the way I interact with my wife, and with everybody, for that matter.

He told me that, sure, it may be wrong to say that I never show appreciation, but clearly she feels that way, and right now that's what needs to be dealt with. And not just dealt with but acknowledged, understood, respected. Her words may have included a factual error, but what she was saying was completely true.

There is a letter on Scot McKnight's blog from a pastor who is very frustrated with certain Calvinists in his church. It would be easy enough to disregard it, pointing out that not all Calvinists are like that or that his use of the word "hyper-Calvinist" doesn't match correct theological jargon. But that would be missing the point. And, ironically, that reaction would only lend credence to the frustration that motivated the letter in the first place.

So how should we read this letter in a way that acknowledges, understands, and respects the discouragement of its author?

First, we should note that it is simply indisputable that some people are exactly the way he describes. When you see mean extremists in another circle, it reminds you why you don't run with that crowd. But when you see mean extremists in your own circle, it's just plain embarrassing. Unfortunately, until we are perfected there will always be mean people of every theological strain. But fortunately, we are a part of the church not merely for the company, but for Christ.

The second way to understand the letter is to see it (along with the numerous comments that follow) as abundant evidence that, to many, Calvinists come across as self-righteous, condescending, arrogant, unfriendly, argumentative, and even stingy. The fact that we're not all that way is irrelevant in the same way that it didn't matter to Molly that I had done three things to show I appreciate her—she still felt unappreciated. Her frustration was true because, whether or not I was grateful to my wife, I was perceived as an ingrate. Similarly, the frustration in the letter is true because, whether or not the Calvinists in the letter-writer's church are good folks, they come off as proud and divisive jerks. Those Calvinists, as church members, and I, as a husband, should change based on this information, regardless of how "inaccurately" the frustration may be worded.

In my marriage, it doesn't matter whether I'm thankful if I don't seem like it. And in the church, it doesn't matter whether we have the fruits of the Spirit if no one can tell.

It won't be easy to change the pejorative stereotype that clings to Calvinism, but we can start by admitting that it is accurate far too often. Then we can make sure we are manifestly not self-righteous, condescending, arrogant, unfriendly, or argumentative. Also, you can count on us to buy dinner or coffee sometimes.

Paying attention to those who disagree with us and taking them seriously, even if we're pretty sure we'll still disagree, is part of what it means to be in the body of Christ. It's humbling; it sanctifies. It will make us better husbands and wives. It will make us better Christians, and maybe even better Calvinists.