Monday, October 3, 2011

Farewell, for Now. . .

I'm done with blogging for a bit. I leave you with a few pics from a recent hiking trip in western VA. Enjoy God's earth from a mountain ridge. Grace & peace.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Re-Thinking My Thinking on Education

After a little more thought I've decided it may be good to make some acknowledgements relative to my most recent post. Here they are:

1. I don't think education is an altogether simple enterprise. There are genuine complexities to our lives which make education choices more demanding and difficult.

2. If you were to become convinced that public school is not what God wants for your children, it may take a year or so to make a change. For instance, if parents decided today to go in some other direction, the implemented change may not be manageable until next school year. There may be lots of logistics to work through.

3. Parents are responsible to God for their children's education. But that doesn't mean they have to do all the educating. I think to enlist tutors, for example, is a fine thing. And one could argue that the public school system is for them a set of tutors they have chosen to teach their children basic courses while they (the parents) teach godliness. My initial trouble with such an argument would be the influence that such a non-Christian system may have upon my children. And then there is the issue of proper learning. I don't believe the education approach of our public schools is particularly effective or fruitful. Nevertheless, I offer the acknowledgement.

4. Some of the social interaction and opportunities afforded within the public school system could be good for our children. It is true that home-schools and Christian schools cannot offer all of these things. My caution here is that while we may desire these things for our children, we weigh the worth of them biblically.

5. I do not believe it is in itself sinful for a Christian to work within the public school system. The problem for me would be the difficulty that comes with the expectation that employees of the system" put their light under a bowl" (Mt 5:14-16) and/or teach contrary to God's Word. That, in itself, would be sinful.

6. Because of God's common grace, and the image of God in all of His human creatures, Christians can and should learn from non-Christians. One implication of this is that the best math teacher, for example, may not be a Christian, if in using the term "best" we simply mean the person that understands the subject most thoroughly and is able to communicate how it works. Of course if you want your children to understand math's relationship to God, then this teacher can't help you.

Well, it's 2:01 AM and I suppose that's enough. I almost always struggle inwardly after posting something polemical (like the earlier post on education). I don't want to be a hard-ass in any wrong sense of the word. Nor do I want to be an idealist, again, in any wrong sense. My hope is to be occasionally helpful to God's people. So in that spirit, I offer the above.

Grace & Peace.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Loving Our Children by Loving Truth

First, let me point you to Education Choices Are Not Neutral

Second, let me add, that as a product of the public school system, and now a father of two children, it is difficult to imagine that I would put my daughter and son under the influences of that system. I won't take much time with this because of the article link above that I hope you will visit. But I do want to briefly say that what is wrong with the public school system is not that there are no Christian administrators, teachers, and students in it. I have Christian friends who fill these roles. However, what is wrong with the system is that within it, everything is disconnected from God, as if God, the Creator and Sustainer of all things, has nothing to do with anything; Nothing to do with math, science, language, government, history, physical education, etc. Or, to put it in the words of God Himself via the Apostle Paul, ". . .by Him (Jesus Christ) all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible. . .all things were created by him and for him" (Col 1:16). Or, "For from Him, and through Him, and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever" (Ro 11:36).

All of these things that the public school teachers want to disconnect from God the Son (the Christian teachers do this through silence) were actually created by Him and for Him to glorify Him. Of course Christian schools do this too when they assume a disconnect between the biology class and the Bible class. In that scenario, God has to do with the Bible, not science.

So my parenting friend, why do we want to put our children in a system of false teaching that is built on the lie that this is not so? Why do we want to put ourselves in the predicament of explaining to them over and over that what they were taught at school today is not altogether true and that the meanings that were conveyed to them are not the real meanings? Or worse, maybe we have them in the system and then don't do the loving work of distinguishing for them the truth from the lie.

I simply cannot make sense of putting my children under those sorts of influences for 8 hours per day, for 180 days, for 12 years. That's more than 17,000 hours of godless instruction, not to mention the influences from their classmates.

I am no one's judge. That is the work of God. But I am able to bear testimony that I have a great fear of standing before Him in judgment having chosen what presently appears to me to be the worst education option available -- the American public school system. I can hear the objections now -- that homeschooling is not an option (why?) and Christian schools are too expensive, etc. To which I will say -- These are our children! Figure it out. Ask the Lord for guidance and provision. Sell some stuff. Get another job. Do what it takes.

I can also imagine this, "Well, my children are good kids. They are in the system and they turned out just fine". Just fine compared to whom? "Just fine" is a nonsense statement because there is no other version of your child with which to compare the present version. There is no version that was raised learning that all things have to do with God and that He defines all things and gives them their meaning and purpose.

Another troubling issue is the whole segregation of life matter. Perhaps nothing has done more to fuel this than the public school system used by Christians. Out of this type of life division we come up with false ideas like "sacred" and "secular", which teach that some things have to do with God while others do not. Our children grow up learning that the classroom is for education and the church building is for God. That's simply not the case. "For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things" (Ro 11:36, again). The Bible has something to say about the education of our children.

Well, this post will anger someone, perhaps even some friends. I hope not. I mean every word. But I am not, as earlier stated, any person's judge. I'm simply trying to think through what it means to love my children in the arena of education. We should question everything. We must know what it is that God says is important for our children to learn, and what is not, no matter what the Department of Education says.

I hope you will check out the article above. It's much better than my thoughts.

Grace & Peace

Friday, September 9, 2011


I do not want to belittle any one's real pain. I have imagined what it might be like to lose a spouse or child the way so many were lost on 9/11 in New York City. It is a horrible thought. So again, I do not want to belittle or minimize the suffering. What I want to do is simply remind us that in this country more people are murdered in the womb each day than died in the Twin Towers on that day. Each day. And they are no less innocent than the 9/11 victims. Neither do they experience less terror.

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Earth Shakes Because We Are Broken

While sitting in my office on Tuesday, I experienced my first earthquake. And I will admit, it was frightening. A part of the fright is the great peculiarity of the event. I've been around now for 40 years. Never has the earth shook under my feet. The earth is one of the few things we really count on to remain stable. So when it moves, that's weird.

Two thoughts regarding it:
1 - God shakes the earth to show us that we are sinners. At the fall of Adam and Eve, God cursed the ground. The earth is broken. And it groans until it is redeemed (Rom 8:19-22).

My wife and children were in a Target store when the shaking began. So when we went back to that same store on Wednesday, my 3 year old daughter commented on the experience. She wondered if we went inside, would the shaking start again. She thought perhaps the quake was caused by a giant. So I took just a few seconds to try to communicate to her what the shaking is actually about. Shifting tectonic plates? Well, yes. But there's much more. There's the God of all grace who governs said plates in a way that calls us to turn from our sinfulness, and trust Him, so that we may escape the ultimate consequences of the curse -- His forever wrath. It is as J.I. Packer wrote in his book "Knowing God" - God is good to those who trust Him, and He is terrible to those who do not.

2 - Earthquakes are often associated with unseen spiritual activity. Both Old and New Testaments give repeated witness to this (i.e. 2 Sam 22; 1 Ki 19; Ps 18, 77; Is 24, 29; Mt 24, 27-28; Ac 4, 16; Re 6, 8, 11, 16). Earthquakes sometimes signify God's anger, which makes sense in the light of the paragraph above. Sometimes they indicate angelic visitation. Sometimes they are connected with prayer and God's work in responding to His people. And they sometimes communicate other realities. What earthquakes are not, however, are random occurrences without meaning. They are signs, pointing us  not only to our own sinfulness, but to God's righteous rule and activity. I wonder what was going on Tuesday, in the unseen world?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

. . . As to One Untimely Born . . .

I am borrowing this phrase from the Apostle Paul (1 Cor 15:8) to describe my feelings about living in 2011. Due to the continuous dilapidation  of my cell phone, I went into the Verizon Wireless store to purchase a new one. I was clear with the Verizon rep that I wanted a basic phone, not a "smart" one. She seemed surprised, and ventured to tell me that her "whole life" was in her phone, and that she "needed" the internet able device. How sad. After a few minutes of trying to get answers to my questions, I informed this particular rep that she had in fact answered none of them. She replied that she had answered all of them. I told her "No, you have been talking a lot, but you've yet to answer any one of my questions". Then I asked for someone else to help me.

Would it not be a good thing for people to look up from their smart phones long enough to learn to communicate with another person face to face? After this experience I concluded that like Paul, but in an entirely different context, I too am one untimely born. I went home from the Verizon store and told my wife that I would prefer to live in the 19th century when everyone carried a gun and no one carried a phone.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Means and Ends

It occurs to me that almost nothing is an end in itself, perhaps only worship. Worship does not exist to get us to something else. Worship stands on its own, in that sense. Nothing else does; at least nothing else is coming to mind.

Understanding this reality will have profound effects on our perspective and values. It will protect us from making a lifestyle out of what is meant to be an exercise, or making a meal out of what is given as a snack; And vice versa.

"Teach us to number our days that we may present 
to You a heart of wisdom."
Psalm 90:12

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A Baby Is Not A Virus

"For You formed my inward parts; You knitted me together in my mother's womb."
David in Psalm 139:13

I read in today's local newspaper that President Obama's health care overhaul includes "coverage of birth control as prevention, with no copays". The article goes on to say how birth control is "the most common drug prescribed to women". Then there's this quote from Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius -- "Not doing it (covering the costs) would be like not covering flu shots". What an imbecilic notion. I mean, really?! The government's not covering the cost of preventing pregnancy is like the government's not covering the cost of preventing a disease? A virus? 
How backward are you Kathleen Sebelius? In what kind of darkness do you live when preventing the conception of a child is likened to preventing a disease? But is this not the mindset of the Obama administration? Is this not the conviction of the pro-choice crowd? For them, a baby is very much like a virus -- inconvenient, tiresome, disruptive, meaningless, valueless, and expensive -- something to be prevented so that you can get on with the important matters of life like career and leisure. And if you fail to prevent conception, there's always abortion, when this little person, made in the image of the triune God, is burned alive with chemicals or torn apart by a high powered vacuum -- all while still in the womb which, for a baby, should be the safest place on earth. 

"You desire and do not have, so you murder" (James 4:2). Abortion happens because men and women, corrupt and wicked, desire lesser things over their unborn children. We value money, leisure, career interests, reputations, freedom, independence, and our plans more than that precious person God has made from our seed and egg. This is an abomination. We should repent.

Come Lord Jesus.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Someone Understands Me

I know almost nothing about Jonathan Rauch, except that he understands me. Well, not entirely of course; but more than some people who actually think they know me quite well. Hear him at Caring For Your Introvert

Friday, July 29, 2011

Made To Love Like Men

Betsy Hart has something to say to every man and woman, and their children. I urge you to read it. And to make it easy on you, here's the link -- Beware Romantic Pornography

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Loving Change

"The gospel is infinitely more than a ticket to heaven. It is a message that changes not only a person's destination in eternity but his heart and mind here and now. The gospel transforms more than a person's relationship to God; it also transforms a person's relationship to everything else."  --  Donald Whitney, from "Tabletalk" Magazine, July 2011 Edition, Page 58.

How can it be that Christians do not love change? Change is what the gospel brings, not only initially when we first believe so that we are no longer under the wrath of God (Jn 3:36), but daily as we continue to believe and become more and more like the Christ of the gospel (2 Cor 3:18, 4:16; Heb 6:3; 2 Pet 3:18).

Friday, July 22, 2011

Jesus Loves the World. But He Didn't Die for Them.

Yes, Jesus does, like His Father, love the world of people (Jn 3:16; Mk 10:21; Mt 9:36). But He didn't die for them; He died for the church -- that elect community within the world. He gave Himself up for the church (Ga 2:20; Eph 5:2). It is only the church that is bought with a price (1 Cor 6:19-20; Heb 2) -- the price being His tortuous death and separation from His Father. Yes, Jesus loves the world of people; but not like He loves His bride -- the church. He loves her redemptively. Therefore, if we are not deeply in love with the church, we are not like Jesus. We should question ourselves in regard to our allegiance to that community for whom Jesus lived and died. What place does the church have in our affections. Are we, like Christ, making sacrifices for her well-being?

"For the Father of glory has put all things under Jesus' feet and has given Him as head over all things to the church. . . " (Ephesians 1:22)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Audacious Profanation

John Calvin, commenting on Genesis 24:50-51 writes, "As soon as the will of God is made known to us, not only let our tongues be silent, but let all our senses be still; because it is an audacious profanation to admit any thought which is opposed to that will"  -- Calvin's Commentary on Genesis, Volume 2, page 26.

By the way, you can get Calvin's entire set for $130. That's 22 volumes, covering most of the Bible books. If we want to learn God's Word we need the help of gifted teachers. To have the thoughts of Calvin for such a low price is a gift to us. To take a look at the set, go here.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

A Must-Read for Parents (Especially Mothers)

Actually, this is a must-read for everyone since it helps us think rightly about children, whether we have them or not.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Dogs are Afraid of Dinosaurs

My daughter Tess slept with her mom and me last night. I had been up for a while this morning and then went back into our bedroom to get something. I thought she was still sleeping until I heard her whisper, "Daddy", and turned to see those big beautiful dark eyes looking up at me. I leaned over to her to give her my attention. That's when she told me (her first words of the new day), "Daddy, dogs are afraid of dinosaurs". Awesome.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Meet J.C. Ryle (If you haven't already)

A zealous man in religion is pre-eminently a man of one thing. It is not enough to say that he is earnest, hearty, uncompromising, thorough-going, whole-hearted, fervent in spirit. He only sees one thing, he cares for one thing, he lives for one thing, he is swallowed up in one thing: and that one thing is to please God. Whether he lives, or whether he dies—whether he has health, or whether he has sickness—whether he is rich, or whether he is poor—whether he pleases man or whether he gives offence—whether is he thought wise, or whether he is thought foolish—whether he gets blame, or whether he gets praise—whether he gets honour, or whether he gets shame—for all this the zealous man cares nothing at all. He burns for one thing; and that one thing is to please God, and to advance God’s glory. If he is consumed in the very burning, he cares not for it—he is content. He feels that, like a lamp, he is made to burn; and if consumed in the burning, he has but done the work for which God appointed him. Such a one will always find a sphere for his zeal. If he cannot preach, work, and give money, he will cry, and sigh, and pray . . . . If he cannot fight in the valley with Joshua, he will do the work of Moses, Aaron, and Hur, on the hill (Exodus 17:9-13). If he is cut off from working himself, he will give the Lord no rest till help is raised up from another quarter, and the work is done. This is what I mean when I speak of “zeal” in religion.
J. C. Ryle, Practical Religion, 1959 ed. p. 130.
Cited on p. 173 of Knowing God, by J. I. Packer

John Charles Ryle (1816-1900)
First Anglican Bishop of Liverpool

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

God Has Said All He Meant to Say

"As David Wells has observed, many churches today profess the sufficiency of Scripture while their practice belies that profession. 'For evangelicals, this has taken the form of using polling, marketing, and business know-how to adapt Christian faith to generational niches. It has also involved recasting Christian faith in therapeutic terms for those who have left a moral world and inhabit a psychological world.' In these ways we may think we have made the Bible 'relevant', but we have only denied its sufficiency. In the desperate pursuit of the 'very latest thing,' the culture sets the agenda for the church and the principle of sola scriptura has morphed into sola cultura". Taken from "Modern Reformation" Magazine, Nov-Dec 2010 Edition, page 17

In other words, God by His word the Bible, and not the culture, determines what is relevant and what "works". Or, as the Modern Reformation article also says, "The gospel is not obliged to meet the world's cravings; it is designed to challenge them. The message of sin and salvation is irrelevant only to a church that has abandoned its calling in pursuit of worldliness. The church must draw a distinction between what the world considers relevant and what is truly relevant. The Bible fulfills needs in which the world is not interested."

Thursday, June 23, 2011

My Heavenly Father's Gift to Me on this Father's Day

Joah and Daddy

Take a look at if you have any interest in our Father's Day celebration. The post, by my wife, is called "For All His Heart -- A Father's Day Wish". Be sure to view the video at the bottom. Clearly my daughter thinks too highly of me. Nevertheless, it makes a dad feel good.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A Brief Reflection on My 40 Years "Under the Sun"

Then I looked again at vanity under the sun -- Ecclesiastes 4:7

Becoming good, not being right -- that's the theme of my next 40 years, or ever how many years (or days) I am given by God. I love doctrine. I've spent quite a bit of energy to learn it. It informs us concerning the nature and ways of God Himself. It's critical. However, I fear that I have thought better than I have lived. 

"This is the will of God -- your sanctification. . ." (1 Thessalonians 4:3). Yes, it's true, there are many texts that command us to think rightly about God, to grow in our knowledge of Him, and to guard the truth. The Apostle Paul calls the church "the pillar and buttress of the truth" (1 Ti 3:15). But he also says that as those who know and hold out the truth we should be "blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world" (Php 2:15).

My hope and prayer for any future I have under the sun is to become a better shiner by becoming a purer person. I won't stop learning doctrine. There's much more for me to know about God and His ways. For in sanctification, we are being made good as God is good, not good in some generic sense. Without growth in doctrinal understanding, there is no true improvement. So the focus must be on learning it to live it. I'm thinking of an application intensive maturing. Perhaps another term for this is simply Christian discipleship. Too many times I have studied Scripture in order to teach it, not do it, not taking the time to think through the implications of that particular Bible text for me and my family. I want to be more deliberate in the doing. This is God's will (Ja 1:19-27).

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Loving Ourselves the Most as the Essence of Sin

This is the biblical indictment -- that it is our sinful nature to "exchange the truth of God for a lie, and worship and serve the creature, rather than the Creator, who is forever praised. Amen" (Ro 1:25). Or as Jesus put it, "We love darkness rather than light because our deeds are evil" (Jn 3:19). As someone who has recently read Moby Dick, I enjoyed and benefited from Jim Hamilton's analysis of the novel: what Herman Melville had to say about God, His sovereignty, and our place in His world; through the eyes of a man named Ishmael, about a rebel named Ahab, and his hatred of his smallness. You can read it here.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Relationship Between Being Forgiven and Getting Better

I commend to you Tullian Tchividjian's blog post which is a response to an earlier post by Kevin DeYoung (You can link to DeYoung's original post from Tullian's blog). Go here.

Then, to read DeYoung's response to Tullian's response, go here.

Actually, reading these blogs is a good example of the effort required to become more like Jesus. It doesn't just happen. There is a balance to believing and striving. The reading is included in the striving. We can't become holy if we are content with what we currently understand about God and our relationship to Him. Progress in godliness demands training (1 Ti 4:7) and an increasing knowledge (2 Pe 3:18). Thank God for helpful teachers like Tullian and Kevin.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Help for Fruitful Thinking & Faithful Living

We all live in the light, or darkness, of what we believe about God. Whether you're a Christian, atheist, Buddhist, agnostic, Muslim, whatever. All of our lives are lived out as a response to our conception of God. In other words, we believe certain things about Him (or we believe He doesn't exist), and so we live accordingly. We are made (by Him, for all the atheists) so that we have no options here. We are all worshipers. That's our nature. We worship the Creator or a creature (see Romans 1 & 2, Ecclesiastes 3, etc). We all adore something. We can't help ourselves.

So to help us worship well by better understanding the God who made us and is redeeming some of us, I offer this testimony: that no resource outside of Scripture itself has helped me think more accurately about God than Modern Reformation Magazine. What a gift it is! It has proven useful to God Himself in shaping my understanding of His character and ways, especially His ways called redemptive history. 

Jesus says knowing the truth sets us free. Truth, known, is transformational. Modern Reformation (MR) is a wonderful tool that helps me get to know God better by understanding His Word better. Most of what I read are tools for this purpose. They are not extras, added to the Bible's teaching. They are instruments for helping me know what God has said in the Bible. They serve my sanctification as my teachers. I thank God for them.

I hate that this is necessary, and perhaps it isn't. But in case it is, let me say to you that MR is not what might be called an "easy read". It's a theological magazine, though not a theological journal. It is written for the Christian in the pew. But it does not cater to our self-help tendencies. It is written in part to say to us that we can't help ourselves in the ways that matter most. It is written to help us know God better. So there's lots of pages in it about God, not us. After all, the Bible is about God, not us. I hope you'll give it a try, even if it means stopping current reads to make time for MR.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Whom is the Bible About?

For my 3 year old daughter's answer, visit my wife's blog ( where she captured the profound reply on video. And I suggest you read the accompanying article also.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Snapshots of Life

A special breakfast in bed -- Kit Kat candy
Tess fancies herself a doctor (both MD and veterinarian). She has bandaged the booties of these recently injured animals.
Joah is growing up -- 4 months old yesterday.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Only 20 Minutes Left

Six PM is almost here. I'm told by some that the end comes then. So I better type fast. My thought is, that if we could know the moment of the end, and I was not a believer in Jesus Christ for salvation from God's wrath, but I did believe in the wrath, I still would not be able to make myself believe in Jesus. Imagine it -- you are in the final minutes of your temporal existence and need saving from God's judgment in which you believe. Yet, you cannot believe in the Savior. This is because we believe according to evidence. We believe that which persuades us. And Scripture says without the persuading power of God the Holy Spirit, no one believes in Jesus, no matter the circumstances.

Jesus once said that even if our relatives, who had been in hell since their deaths, came back to tell us to believe in Him for salvation, we would not (Lk 16:31). Jesus says what we should listen to is "Moses and the Prophets". In other words, the Word of God recorded. For, "faith comes by hearing the Word of God" (Ro 10:17).

Now, I'm going out for a run. That's what I want to be doing when it all comes down.

"But concerning that day and hour no one knows. . ."  Jesus, Mt 24:36

Sunday, May 15, 2011

God is. . .

"The LORD is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in Him."  
The Prophet Nahum, 1:7

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Myth of Heaven and other Random Thoughts

It's been more than a month since I posted. My wife commented on this to me. I replied that I haven't had anything to say. That hasn't changed, nevertheless, I can't sleep tonight. As Keith Green once sang, "My mind is filled with many thoughts that trouble and confuse. . ." So I might as well put them in print.

Thought #1 - Since Rob Bell is becoming wealthy by selling a book in which he suggests that God's love is of a kind that reaches even into hell to redeem postmortem sinners, perhaps I could earn a few dollars by writing a book that pontificates on the myth of heaven -- on how the wrath of God is of a kind that reaches into paradise to undo its benefits to saints. That would make as much sense as Bell's premise, and might sell more books.

Thought #2 -- Usama bin Laden is dead, or so we're told. This occurrence reminds me that "Government is God's servant to you for good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, because it does not carry the sword for no reason. For government is God's servant, an avenger that brings wrath on the one who does wrong" (Ro 13:4). Sometimes the hand of God's justice moves slowly. But it always moves sure. This should serve as a warning to each of us, for we are all guilty sinners. And it occurs to me that perhaps those dancing in the streets over the death and eternal damnation of an enemy of America have failed to understand that while he was justly an enemy of this country, we are more justly the enemies of God; enemies who have earned an eternal destruction (Ro 1:18-32; Re 20:11-15; Mt 25:31-46).

Thought #3 -- I am a great sinner. The amount and kind of unjustified hostility, bitterness, and arrogance that occupy my heart bring me to the edge of a complete resignation concerning any effort at holiness. Sometimes the mountain simply appears much too steep to climb, even for a Christian fueled by faith and enabled by God Himself. I notice my sinfulness most often by what comes out of my mouth (Mt 12:33-37).

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Plain Speech

Several days back I watched a television interview of Roger Clemens. If you don't know, Roger is a former Major League Baseball pitcher who is about to be tried for perjury. He has a reputation for being a "tough guy". He pitched and carried himself that way. But in this interview those asking the questions could not get one straight answer out of him. He is not willing to verbally own up to his choices, of which he always seemed so proud. The tough guy is hiding behind long answers that communicate nothing. He reminded me of politicians, who NEVER say "yes" or "no" to a "yes or no" question. I want to strive to not be that way. I don't want to give my answers with public opinion in mind. But I will, except for the grace of God that convinces me of His love for me that liberates me to be honest while I rest in Him.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Sunday Post for Shepherds -- Church Growth

Rejoice in the reality that God has not called you to be a guru, or strategist, or church growth expert, but to feed His lambs (Jn 21). If that results in the extension of His kingdom, celebrate. But if it does not, don't give in to the demands of ignorant people who claim that it's up to you to "grow the church". That's not in the Bible.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Why I Am A Calvinist

In a letter to my congregation regarding our possible re-plant as a Reformed Baptist Church, I included 4 reasons why I am Reformed. Perhaps they may prove helpful to you.

1. The Clarity of Scripture
-Frankly, I cannot read texts like Dt 29:1-4; Je 31:31-34; Ez 37; Mt 11:20-30; Jn 1; Ac 2 & 4; Ro 9-11; Ep 1 & 2; He 12:1-3; Ja 1:18; 1 Pe 1:1-5, etc, and come to any other conclusion. Salvation is of the LORD, from beginning to end. A study of the lives of the saints of Scripture illustrates this teaching.
2. The Nature of Sin
-Scripture explains the depths of our depravity as so great that we cannot help ourselves in any way. Scripture goes so far as to say, in regard to our spiritual abilities, we are in fact dead (Ep 2:1-10, to name only one text). That is as bad as it could be. The Ephesians text repeatedly describes unbelievers as dead in sin, that is, dead to God (v1 & 5; cf Ge 2:15-17 and Chapter 3). This is what makes Ephesians 2:4 & 8-10 so startling. After laboring to show us as dead in sin and by nature children of wrath and living in the lusts of our flesh, (all Paul’s words), he pens this, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us. . .made us alive together with Christ (for by grace you have been saved).” Paul repeats this last thought in v8, and then explains how salvation happens.
-In 2 Corinthians 4 Paul likens God’s call of an unbeliever to faith to God’s calling light out of the darkness that covered the earth, as we read in Genesis 1. In other words, to be saved, it is not simply a nudge in the right direction that we need, or a persuasive argument, or anything less than to be reborn in the inner person (this is what Jesus means by being “born again” in John 3). In John 3, Jesus credits this work of rebirth to the Holy Spirit and tells us that He is like the wind, moving as He wills. Jesus clearly understood salvation to be wholly and only a Trinitarian work – the Father calls sinners (Jn 6:44; Ac 2:39); the Son pays their penalty (Jn 10:11; Mk 10:45); the Holy Spirit regenerates (Jn 3:5-8; Tit 3:5).
3. The Nature of Faith
-The nature of faith, or belief, is that we find ourselves believing. We do not cause or make ourselves believe. We believe according to evidence. We know this is true from experience. No one decides they want to believe something and then by their will are able to get themselves to believe it. That is not the nature of belief. So Scripture gives us the source of belief – the Word of God (Ro 10:17; 1 Pe 1:23-25). And Scripture gives us the cause of our belief – God the Holy Spirit (texts given in previous paragraph). Why is it that a hundred people can hear the gospel and only one of them believe? Why is it that you believe, but not your spouse, your sister, your children, etc? Do you see why prayer is so important to preaching, evangelism, and missions?
-The “problem”, if I may call it that, of unbelief is compounded by the gospel’s call to bank everything on an invisible reality, namely God Himself. God has certainly not left Himself without witness. He has given us creation (Ps 19; Ro 1), conscience (Ro 2), Christ (He 1), and Scripture (Ps 19:7-11; Jn 20:30-31, 21:24-25; 1 Pe 1:10-12; 2 Pe 1:19-21). And while the evidence is ample, it nevertheless calls us to a Being we have never seen. And it calls us to put all of our hope and confidence in Him alone for our salvation (He 11:1-6). Only the invisible God who calls unbelievers could produce such a faith, so that Peter may write to us, “and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory” (1 Pe 1:8).
4. The Nature of Glory
-Scripture teaches that God saves people in a way that secures for Him all glory. He does this by excluding all human boasting (Ro 3:21-4:8; 1 Co 1:18-31; Ga 6:14; Ep 2:8-9). Simply put, I cannot come up with any other understanding of Scripture, other than the Reformed understanding, that ensures the glory of God in salvation. People do not work their way into God’s favor, or reason themselves into faith, or persuade themselves into belief by some other means. In the Bible, faith is said to be a gift; and the Giver gets the glory. So, if I am able to contribute to the saving work, even if it is only by my right choice, then I have grounds for boasting. This cannot be.
-God is not in the business of holding a person down and forcing him/her to say yes to Him, as a bully might do on a school playground. God is in the business of making unbelieving people genuinely want Him. He does this by a deep work in the nature of the person (regeneration, as discussed earlier). He acts upon us to turn our natural hostility to His rule into a loving embrace of His presence. He gives us repentance and faith (Ep 2:8-9; 2 Ti 2:25). And again, the Giver gets the glory. And the Christian rejoices in this (Mt 11:20-26; Ro 11:33-36; 1 Pe 1:6-9). We really like when God is magnified. It makes us glad. It is only the sinfully proud that do not delight in the exaltation of God at the expense of their own exaltation.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Give These a Look

Books recently published by my friend Adam Murrell (a member of our congregation). They're available through

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Sunday Post for Shepherds -- God's Presence

The LORD is with me like a dread champion. . .
the Prophet Jeremiah, chapter 20 verse 11

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

R.C. Sproul Jr. on Private Property and Neighbor Love

"The principle of private ownership of property is woven throughout the Scriptures. Two events took place during the exodus from Egypt that illustrate the biblical notion of personal property. The first occurred at Mount Sinai with the formulation of the Ten Commandments. The eighth commandment reads, 'You shall not steal.' Though a relatively simple commandment, it is deemed important enough by God to be elevated to the top ten precepts that establish the foundation of Israel's society. . .What is unusual--indeed, extraordinary--about Israel's Decalogue is the content of the tenth commandment, 'You shall not covet.. . .' How many architects of constitutional law would incorporate into their ten most axiomatic precepts a prohibition of inner lust for another person's property? . . . Coveting and love are incompatible. -- Pages 20-21

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Sunday Post for Shepherds -- Proclamation

Get yourself up on a high mountain,O Zion, 
bearer of good news; Lift up your voice mightily,O Jerusalem, bearer of good news; Lift it up, do not fear. 
Say to the cities of Judah, "Here is your God!"
Isaiah 40:9

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Church and State with Martin Luther (1483-1546)

We should wash the fur of the magistrate and clean out his mouth whether he laughs or rages. Christ has instructed us preachers not to withhold the truth from the lords but to exhort and chide them in their injustice. Christ did not say to Pilate, "You have no power over me." He said that Pilate did have power, but he said, "You do not have this power from yourself. It is given to you from God." Therefore he upbraided Pilate. We do the same. We recognize the authority, but we must rebuke our Pilates in their crime and self-confidence. Then they say to us, "You are reviling the majesty of God, " to which we answer, "We will suffer what you do to us, but to keep still and let ii appear that you do right when you do wrong, that we cannot and will not do." We must confess the truth and rebuke the evil. There is a big difference between suffering injustice and keeping still. We should suffer. We should not keep still. The Christian must bear testimony for the truth and die for the truth. But how can he die for the truth if he has not first confessed the truth? Thus Christ showed that Pilate did exercise authority from God and at the same time rebuked him for doing wrong.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

A Few More Remarks on Our Government

1. A chief reason entitlement money is missing is because over the past 40 years we have aborted (murdered) one in three of the people who would today be paying into the system (social security, medicare, etc).
2. I am not for this "system" because I don't understand Scripture to be for it. I understand Scripture to teach that the family takes care of the family. Where there is no able family, then the church steps in, as in the care of widows who have no children (1 Ti 5:3-10). And when I say the family takes care of the family, I mean that fathers are responsible to God for the provision, education, and spiritual progress of those under their care, including their aged parents.
3. The public education system, and our dependence on it, is the abdication of parental duty concerning education. I went through the public school system and I would not put my children in it. The education philosophy of the system is not conducive to actual learning and understanding, but a regurgitation of information, much of which is not even true. In addition, the public education system is dominated by women who expect young boys and men to behave as young girls and women. Within the system, in which a student will spend an average of 35 hours per week, the males have almost no model. Their models are mostly women who think like women, reason like women, feel like women, work like women, behave like women, etc, because they are women and consequently do not have the natural understanding of how young boys and men learn. The boys and men, therefore, are expected to be girl-like, and when they are not they are punished.
4. I place no saving hope in any political party or elected official. That would be idolatry no matter the party or official. But when the officials are too desperate and weak to answer a "yes" or "no" question with a "yes" or "no", well then to put any hope in them would simply be foolish. God give us men and women that say what they mean and do what they say. This is called integrity.
5. I am no one's judge, not in the sense that I know their hearts or can say whether someone is a Christian or not. What I am allowed to do, and must do, is make deductions rooted in their words and deeds. I am not permitted to state their motives with any full certainty unless they have expressed them. What I am permitted to do is examine the fruit of their choices -- what does this person produce? What is the outcome of their ways? These are the questions with which we must wrestle.
6. During a campaign interview with pastor Rick Warren, Mr Obama was asked questions in regard to faith and practice. But the one question that would have given us the most insight into his heart and life and ways and loves, was not asked. Pastor Rick did not ask Mr Obama, or Mr McCain, what role the Bible plays in their lives. This is the question. Far too many people who say they are Christians couldn't explain John 3:16 if you gave them 6 months and a Bible dictionary. They simply live in ignorance, and with apathy, toward the Word of God. So for our president to say he is a Christian really means close to nothing, unless he defines Christian according to the actual Christian documents. Christianity according to its own founding documents is the only kind of real Christianity there is.
7. I'm against the ongoing war in Iraq and Afghanistan, not because I don't believe in just war but because we, as a nation, cannot afford it, just or not. If you have to borrow money to wage war, you probably shouldn't wage it. The idea of America as the world police should be re-examined.
8. Related to #7, who are we to assume that every nation should be a democratic nation? Democracy is not how God established Israel. Nor did He move them toward it. When Israel rejected God as their good and rightful king and cried for a human one, God gave them a human one -- a monarchy, not a democracy. The issue of government is not primarily one of form, but substance. What is central is that whomever governs does so in righteousness. So in a democracy, if the elected officials are godly, then national life goes well for the people. But this is equally true in a monarchy, or dictatorship, or oligarchy. As long as the rulers are pursuing righteousness, the nation is blessed. We as Americans do not know this. We have basically equated democracy with righteousness. Arrogant.
9. Brent, what do you think governments should be busy with? Well, in my opinion, very very little; things like establishing an efficient and useful military, maintaining a just court system, printing money for which it has valuables to make what it prints valuable, collect just taxes. I currently can't think of anything else. What the government should not do is create thousands of programs and projects that are burdens to their people. It is not the work of government to educate people, to created jobs for people, to save money for people (social security), to provide medical care (medicare, medicaid), to regulate the economy, or a thousand other duties we're happy to depend upon them for. The more we allow them to do for us, the more dependent upon them we become. The more responsibility we forfeit to government, the more power they have over us. It seems to me this is precisely what our government wants.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Not SKIN, but SIN, is the Issue.

I did not vote for Barack Obama. I voted for John McCain, not because he's white, or godly, but because I understood him to be the best candidate for the unborn. I'm a one issue voter. Men and women who are OK with murdering the unborn, or the partially born, will NEVER get my vote, no matter what else they bring to the table. The person who will murder a child for the sake of convenience will do any wicked thing. So I would not have voted for Barack no matter what his color. And considering I have two children of the black race, surely no one will take my comments as racist. The great hope of the African-American community is not an African-American president, but a Jewish Christ.

By the way, we whites did abuse and oppress an entire race of people for many decades. We do owe them justice to the best of our ability. Therefore, I am for a program like Affirmative Action. If a government legally oppresses a race of people, locking them out of vocational progress and educational progress (just to name two), when it becomes illegal for that same government to any longer oppress the race, it should do what it can to make restitution. This is simply one step on the path of justice. For the government to expect the formerly oppressed to compete on a level playing field with the always free is ludicrous. When God delivered His people from Egyptian slavery, He sent them out with the plunder of their oppressors. He did not give them everything they could have earned during their 400 years of captivity. But He did give them something on which to build. I notice too that they did not get this from God by demanding it of the Egyptians, or of God. They received it as God chose to provide it for them through the Egyptians. Perhaps this approach of crying out in faith to our Deliverer will in our day prove more productive than demanding our supposed "rights", whether these are the "rights" of a particular physical race or of the "new race" called the Christian Church (Ep 2:15-17; 1 Pe 2:9). Now, to change the subject a bit. . .

I believe the greed of Americans put our current president in office. We worship money (the economy). Clearly the assumed potential of Mr Obama to make a positive impact upon said economy paved the way for his election. We here in America normally choose prosperity over holiness. That's because we're wicked, and our elected officials simply reflect back to us what we are at heart. Mr Obama had no experience or proven performance that commended him to us. He simply sold himself to the public. That's what politicians do. This is not to say that he was pretending to be something he's not. It's simply to say he did a remarkable job of convincing Americans that what he is is what we need. Again, that's what politicians do. But it is not what Christians do. And it is not what Christian pastors do.

I write such things, and preach such things, because I am a Christian, and, at least for now, a Christian pastor. It has always been a part of the prophetic role of God's messengers to speak to those, and of those, invested with civil authority [authority God Himself gives them for the national pursuit of righteousness (Ro 13)]. Whether we are speaking of Samuel with King Saul, or John the Baptizer with King Herod, or any other of God's spokesmen in between, a part of leading God's people is to speak to this issue, to hold God's people accountable for our relationship to government, and greed. 

"Give us a king", the people of Israel shouted (1 Ki 8). According to God's Word, this demand for a human king was evidence of their REJECTION of God as king. When God is our recognized king, we won't clamor for a social savior to lead us into an earthly utopia. When God is our recognized king, we love His ways and our minds are set on things above (Col 3). In other words, when God is our recognized king, we're not banking on any civil official for any form of salvation. Our hopes for people are not wrapped up in a politician. And the institution we see to be the best hope for people is not the government but the church. The church alone carries God's saving, and society transforming, gospel message.

Yesterday, our president called for the Justice Department to cease any contention in the courts in the defense of man-woman marriage. He has put forth a budget that continues to provide billions (should I day trillions?) in hand-outs (our government calls them "entitlements"). So just recently we have watched him support marriage other than Scripture defines it (Ge 1-2), and support profit without work, which Scripture condemns (2 Th 3:7-13). Why? Well, temporally speaking, I think it's because he believes government is the answer for America's ills, and believing that, he assumes the authority to re-define sacred things like family and labor.God put man and woman (marriage) in the garden to work (Ge 1-2). Again, these are sacred things, given by God as blessing. God, looking at them, declared them "very good". So if man-woman marriage and diligent labor are "very good", what should we make of same-sex marriage and profit without work programs? 

Since this post is getting a bit long already, and since I've barely begun to speak to this matter, and since I could rant on for many pages, here's my abbreviated conclusion: Our nation, I believe, is under God's judgment. But it's not because of the ways of unbelievers. For judgment begins with the household of God (1 Pe 4). It's God's people, through our persistent refusal to trust God with a glad submission to His Word, that brings upon our nation God's wrath. When I look at our country (which began with a proud rebellion against Ro 13 kind of commands disguised as a quest for God-given "inalienable rights"), I see a people in the midst of the kind of judgment we read of in the Scriptures for the same kinds of sins we read of from God's people. We're greedy, having exalted financial profit to the top of our values list. We're so greedy for this kind of gain, that we have legalized the killing of our own children, even those who are literally seconds away from exiting the birth canal. And we're trying to legalize the murder of our aged parents, parents whom God says to honor (Ex 20) and provide for and protect (Mt 15). We elect officials based upon appearance, rhetoric, and the promise of more financial gain. Generally, character means nothing to voting Americans within the church. We are hostile to objective truth claims, having been convinced by the devil that it is humble to be reticent where God has been clear and plain. We have disassociated our choice of civil governors from Christian living. The church is filled with people that see no connection between God's commands and whom we elect. We trust our own judgment and ways, and have adopted our own means of societal salvation. And we're so blindly committed to this enterprise, that we run it on a budget that requires us to borrow trillions of dollars from the atheist Chinese government. Our elected officials do not run their homes and businesses that way, but they seem quite content to run a country that way (perhaps because it's not their money).

By the way, to balance the budget (or even save some money), and to pay down the national debt, will require radical restructuring that will cost many thousands of government jobs, and the doing away with entitlements. There is simply no way for our government to bring us into a healthy financial condition without wiping out entire government departments and national programs. That will be the cost of financial fidelity, so it will never be done, not by politicians who make their decisions with the next vote in mind.

God give us real men and real women of a variety of colors and unusual courage who live not for the voter's approval, but for Yours. Even so, come Lord Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Sunday Post for Shepherds: Look at the Birds.

Your God has not forgotten you, or, Jesus is a liar. Which do we believe?

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows. . . 
Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds!
Jesus, Lk 12

Friday, February 18, 2011

A Question

When loving Jesus becomes a crime in the U.S., 
which is more probable?: 
that I will be an outlaw, or a patriot?

"The cross waves higher than the flag" 
Steve Camp

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

My TWO Children, and Baybae

While praying yesterday, I began to ask God for favor upon my family. I call them "my girls" (Marian and Tess). But wait, now there's a "dude" also. It was funny, correcting myself to God. I've taken "my girls" to Him for so long, it became a habit, but one I am happy to break to include Joah.

To your right: Baybae enjoying Joah's vibrating seat. Can that sort of movement be good for him?

Joah in Joah's vibrating seat. Still concerned about the shaking.
Tess in my lap this morning, wanting to include Rhino in our pic. I almost always say "yes" to her.

You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth.You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments -- The Lord God, Exodus 20:4-6

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Despondency: Not an Excuse for Idolatry

Mark Driscoll (lead pastor for Mars Hill Church in Seattle, WA) has it wrong, kind of. Who am I to dispute the truth according to Driscoll (whom I like, by the way)? Well, no one; just a Christian that reads his Bible and tries to think hard about what he reads. In an otherwise wonderfully helpful message on the Christian and idolatry -- (watch it here Driscoll asserts (this is not a quote) that to turn to anyone or anything other than God the Holy Spirit in an effort to be comforted is idolatrous. As I consider the idea I'm not entirely sure what turning only to the Holy Spirit would look like. I imagine it means serious Bible reading and prayer. Of course then you are looking to other sources than the Holy Spirit -- the aforementioned Bible and prayer. 

Now I realize the Bible is the Word of the Holy Spirit (2 Ti 3:16), and that the Holy Spirit helps us in our praying (Ro 8:26). Still, these are not the Holy Spirit, but two of His manifold means. Indeed, I imagine they are the chief two, with the fellowship of the church thrown in somewhere terribly close to and among them (2 Co 1; He 3, 10). But that they are means and not God is significant. What this means, in part, is that the Holy Spirit, who is God, is not limited to these means. What I have been posting of late is a list of helps in the fight with depression or despondency. I get this list from the Scriptures. They too are the Holy Spirit's means. We have been given all things to enjoy freely (1 Ti 6:17; Ro 8:32).

My point is simply that embracing sleep, or music, or beer, or sex, or exercise, or nature, or books, or food as a good means of refreshment is right, as long as it is done with faith in God as the ultimate source of such things, and as long as the things are not abused or substituted for a hearty seeking of the Lord. This is not an either/or matter. Leaning upon the Holy Spirit is not contradictory to a good night's rest or exhausting exercise. What I suggest is an hour or two in the Word and prayer while sipping a Sam Adam's Winter Lager and listening to Todd Agnew's Christmas album play quietly in the background, for example.

Turn to God the Holy Spirit always? Yes! But the ways we do that are not limited to even the chief spiritual disciplines. God is a generous Father, giving many gifts to His children. And He is a creative Being, making each of us distinct. So then, the gifts are manifold to meet the manifold needs of the many diverse human creatures. I really like the woods. Woods for me are amazingly peaceful. So is a hard rain with thunder and lightning. So is Booker's bourbon. So is a long run. But I don't assume those are the gifts that work a measure of refreshment in all people. So seek God with tenacity by His Word and by prayer. But do not neglect the smaller gifts that He has given for our comfort and joy, the ones He has designed to both comfort and draw us to Himself.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

A Last Thought on Fighting Despondency

A few more suggestions:
1. Music -- I don't think anyone would argue that music can affect mood. This was certainly true of King Saul (1 Sa 16:23), where David's music is said to have "refreshed the king". And it's why we enjoy various styles of music and associate them with various functions. There are dirges for the sad and rock when we want to jam and classical when we want to relax and the happy birthday song when we want to celebrate, etc. Christmas music, in particular, improves my disposition.

2. Food -- This also affects mood and emotion. So while distressed, I would argue that we should eat particularly healthy (a low carbohydrate diet to avoid the physical lows brought on my fluctuating blood sugar levels). But we may also enjoy some favorite high starch/sugar selections in moderation.
3. Exercise -- This one continues to be a life saver for me. The Apostle Paul did write to Timothy that "physical exercise is of some value" (1 Ti 4:8). I realize that verse in its entirety is used most often to promote godliness, and that is a main point. But nevertheless, it also affirms the smaller but no less real value of "bodily training". I can't quote him at this moment, but C.H. Spurgeon once wrote something like this: that next to the good done to our demeanor by God the Holy Spirit is the good done to it by a brisk breeze in the face. His point was the value done by an invigorating walk through a stiff wind. Both the walk and the wind are God's gifts. 

I began running more than 20 years ago. I have stuck with it mainly because of the good it does my mind, not my body, though the two are not unrelated. Also, lifting weights has proven quite beneficial. There are many options, such as swimming (a great one), hiking, biking, various classes (aerobics, body pump, spin, etc), in-home workouts (P90X, Bowflex, etc). Ideally we can all find a routine we like, or at least are willing to do, for the mental benefits that come out of the physical ones.