Yogi Durbin

There isn’t a single person on this earth who loved softball more than Yogi Durbin. He often joked, even from the pulpit that we shared at Hope Church, that if he had his choice, he wanted the Lord to take him right there on the softball field. Everybody always laughed, but I think that’s what he actually hoped for. He wanted to die doing what he loved, able-bodied and of sound mind. In a tragic way, he got his wish. Yogi had a massive heart attack after a softball game, and though he lived for another two weeks, from what I understand his last living memory was of being on the softball field, playing the beautiful game with people he loved. When he finally did pass from this life into the arms of Jesus, he was surrounded by his family, who loved and admired him deeply. May God be with the whole Durbin family.

Yogi loved people. He was a pastor in the truest sense of the word. Whether it was after service on Sundays, in his home during the week, or, most importantly to him, doing hospital visitations, Yogi loved the people that God brought to him. He was always looking for ways to help people, especially those who had fallen on hard times. But he wasn’t the kind of person to just cut a check and trust that money would solve someone’s problem; he was ready to jump into the lives of people who seemed to chronically find themselves in hard times. His instinct wasn’t to judge them, but to lead them out of their often self-inflicted troubles, if he could. That takes a lot of work. And commitment. Not many people have the patience to love people that way.

Yogi wanted everybody to meet Jesus. He loved Jesus, and knew that, no matter what else is going on in your life, if you’ve got Jesus you’re going to be alright. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, and Yogi was gripped by the reality that the only way to God the Father is through Jesus the Son. He didn’t want anybody to miss out on that because the consequences are eternal. What Jesus offers is better than anything that the world can offer, and he was deeply saddened by how many people choose the world over Jesus. That’s why he was in ministry – to preach the Gospel. And he did. He preached the Gospel and expounded the Scriptures faithfully, like a good servant of Jesus Christ. He did not preach as many do today, to be approved by fallen men and women who are captive to the world’s way of thinking. He taught as one approved by God, and who sought only God’s approval.

Yogi led Hope Church well. When we arrived there, the church was in a difficult place. But there were good people there, and we brought good people with us. Together, with the Lord’s help, the Spirit’s power, and Yogi leading the way, we made Hope Church work. That sort of thing isn’t supposed to happen. You’re not supposed to be able to take a church on the downswing, combine it with a church plant, and make it not just survive, but thrive. But that’s what happened. Hope wasn’t Yogi’s largest church or his most fruitful ministry, but it is a significant part of his legacy. While my time there did not end how or when I would have liked, it was an honor to serve with Yogi for those three years. He was not afraid to make hard decisions, and he always did what was best for the church. He left that church a lot better than he found it, and that is quite an accomplishment.

Finally, Yogi deeply loved his family. He was so proud of his kids and grandkids. He always spoke of them in glowing terms – especially the grandkids. He was the consummate Grandpa, a true Poppy, full of energy and life for those sweet little souls. We didn’t get to see the family together often, but I imagine the little ones swarming him at first sight, climbing all over him, and I can see his face beaming with pride and delight. My heart breaks especially for them, because in this life they have lost a good Poppy, a faithful protector, and a mutual source of joy and happiness. But I hope they know that his face toward them will never change, an eternal grin and sparkling eyes. Yogi’s body may have been taken from this world, but the love and delight he had for his family remains with them for the rest of their lives, until it is fulfilled in glory when they all meet again in the presence of Jesus Christ.

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
-Romans 8:35,37-39

Last Wednesday I spoke at the Ash Wednesday service of Heritage Christian Church. It was a bit of a “full circle” moment for me, as Heritage is where I started off in ministry after graduating from seminary. Our family has been attending there since I left the ministry last August, and it has been a good experience for all of us. You can watch the entire service here.

At the end of the sermon we stood and prayed this prayer of renunciation of appetite:

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, you alone satisfy and fill me. Your way leads to life. My way leads to death. Place me, now, in your way.
I renounce my appetite for food beyond what I need to sustain me for your service.
I renounce my appetite for money beyond what I need to live generously.
I renounce my appetite for sex beyond the bounds of marriage.
I renounce my appetite for power not used in service of others.
I renounce my appetite for attention that brings me glory instead of you.
I renounce the indulgence of every appetite that conflicts with your righteousness.
Rescue me, Jesus, by the power of your death and resurrection, from this life of slavery to my appetites. Fill me with the Holy Spirit, that I may walk in the ways of the Father all the days of my life. Amen.

Ephesians 1

My wife, Breena, is in a Bible study at church on the book of Ephesians. The study material is written by a famous Calvinist, and Ephesians 1 is one of the key passages that Calvinists use to develop their doctrine of predestination/election. Neither of us are Calvinists, and so we interpret Ephesians 1 significantly differently from our brothers and sisters who believe that God has chosen before time began those who would be saved. Last week, I published a post in which I explained how I interpret Ephesians 1, but I got caught up in technical language, and didn’t produce an article that would be beneficial to most people. So I hope that this post will be something a bit more accessible.

Jesus and Abraham

Breena and I had a long conversation about Ephesians 1, and she found a couple of things very helpful. First of all, when New Testament authors talk about Christians being “chosen,” they aren’t inventing a new concept. The Jewish people were God’s chosen people. Christianity came out of Judaism, and almost all of the first Christians were Jewish. So when someone like Paul talked about being God’s chosen people, or how Christians are chosen in Christ, he was building on a long standing Jewish idea, using terms that were very familiar to him.

The Jews were God’s chosen people because they were the descendants of Abraham, the man that God uniquely chose to form a new nation that would bless all the nations of the earth. They weren’t chosen in the sense that God picked a bunch of individuals out of a crowd of humanity; rather, they inherited Abraham’s chosen-ness like a birthright. They were born into being chosen.

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Election in Ephesians 1

Ed. note: This post was originally intended to be much more accessible than it turned out to be. My hope was to write something that accurately reflected a good conversation that I had with my wife about Ephesians 1, but I indulged myself a bit too much, and it became more than I expected. I felt it was still worth publishing, and hopefully it will be fruitful for those who decide to read it. I will try, with my wife’s help, to write something a bit more down-to-earth on this subject in the near future.

Biblical election is a much-studied and oft-debated topic. Does God choose certain individuals for salvation? And if so, does that imply that he chooses the rest to be condemned? There are a few key Scriptures that deal with the issue of election, and one of the most important is Ephesians 1. Verses 4 and 5 are central to this discussion, and in them Paul writes: “For he [God the Father] chose us in him [Jesus Christ] before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will.” (NIV) On the surface, this seems pretty straightforward: God chose believers before they were even born, predestining them for salvation.

Biblical election is headship election not individual election, it is rooted in Abraham, fulfilled in Jesus, and is the culmination of God’s redemptive purposes for humanity.

I contend, however, that there are many factors in play that cause the apparently plain reading of the text to be false, and that this false interpretation has led to doctrines which teach falsehoods about God, particularly regarding both his character and nature. God does not arbitrarily choose some individuals for salvation, while leaving the rest to eternal condemnation with no opportunity of escape. This is, frankly, contrary to both the character and nature of God as revealed in Scripture, and more importantly, in his Son Jesus, whom Paul describes elsewhere as “the exact representation of [God’s] being.” But it’s not simply a contradiction of God’s revealed character that leads me to interpret Ephesians 1 in the way I will describe below. I am convinced that we haven’t dug deep enough into this text, choosing instead to rely upon the assumption that we understand perfectly well what Paul means when he uses words like choose and predestine. But if we question our assumptions and look more carefully at the text, we will see that biblical election is headship election not individual election, that it is rooted in Abraham, fulfilled in Jesus, and that it is the culmination of God’s redemptive purposes for humanity.

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What Why Liberalism Failed Is About

The title is provocative for those who are politically inclined. How could anyone think that liberalism has failed? But Patrick Deneen isn’t talking about liberalism in the sense that we most often use it – as political and cultural progressivism. No, in Why Liberalism Failed, Deneen has set his sites on the entire political theory of liberalism, which is the very foundation of the American political system. This sort of liberalism is a political theory based on the premises that individuals should have the liberty to make autonomous choices about their lives, and that human beings must conquer nature in order to thrive.

The first premise, what Deneen calls “anthropological individualism and the voluntarist conception of choice,” is a radical redefinition of the word liberty. In classical thought – including Christian teaching – liberty was the power to rule oneself, to demonstrate the virtues over against the baser appetites. These lower desires, particularly those for food, drink, and sex, were understood to be tyrannical, and a man could not be free unless he was able to exercise self-control, or what the classical philosophers called temperance. Temperance was understood to be the true liberator, and a society could only be free insofar as its leaders exercised self-control.

Temperance was understood to be the true liberator, and a society could only be free insofar as its leaders exercised self-control.

Liberal theory turns this on its head, and posits that liberty is experienced only to the extent that individuals are free to make the choices they desire to make. “Liberal philosophy rejected [the] requirement of human self-limitation. …Liberalism instead understands liberty as the condition in which one can act freely within the sphere unconstrained by positive law.” (35-38) The only laws that liberalism allows are those which prevent us from directly harming other people. All else is permissible.

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