How does one classify a day?

How does one classify a day?

Was this a good day?

Was this a rough day?

It was definitely a challenging day. We are exhausted; at the end of our ropes, it would seem. I staggered into the room this morning discouraged and so very, very tired.

And the morning was a challenge.

Loud family conferences in Spanish across the curtain. The psychiatrist did a psych eval on our roommate, knowing that we were in the same room. It was loud.

And then the jackhammers. Yes, Really. Some sort of construction is going on that involves jackhammers.

it doesn’t seem very conducive to healing and i said as much…

And then the afternoon seemed to calm. I know all of the prayers going up and the Lord blessed us with a few hours of peace.

Her afternoon sessions went well, but she was exhausted. Anxiety, neurological damage, nausea and jackhammers don’t make the greatest mix.

I was eating dinner with my wife and said, “A rough day.”

She said, “Yes. But a different rough than yesterday…”

I prayed with them, and said goodnight. I sleep in an RV down the street. I gathered my things and put on my back-pack.

“Papa?” She said.

“Yes, my sweet one…” I said.

She got tears in her eyes. “I love you so, so, so much,”

Then I got tears.

I stretched out my hands. “This much?”

She said, “Much, much more…”

All in all, I think that makes it a pretty good day.

When the rope is at the end, God delights in giving you more. When you have no more strength, Jesus gives what you need.

When your soul is dry and dusty as a desert, the Holy Spirit refreshes with cool, clean water.

It has something to do with eagles, but that will wait until next time.

I think that makes it a pretty good day.

Thanks for the prayers, friends.

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On being human

Sometimes it is OK to laugh at ourselves.
I am Reformed, as most of you probably know.
When I say that, I don’t mean the pop-reformed, conference going, almost five points, know a little bit about beards and micro-brews and read John Piper once.
I mean actually Reformed – I hold to the historic reformed confessions. I belong to a real Reformed denomination and submit to the authority of fellow elders.

But sometimes we need to laugh a bit at ourselves. Sometimes I feel that a real weakness in our tribe is the struggle to be human beings. It is almost like those who belong to Reformed churches are actually cyborgs trying to access their “human interaction” programming modules.

You can tell whenever you try to engage them in normal human activity. There is a bit of a stare, almost eye to eye but not quite. The beard quivers a bit, and after a split second that is just slightly too long, they say something that is ALMOST appropriate – but not quite – to the situation.

This phenomenon is only observable with normal human behavior. If you start a conversation quoting Owens or Edwards or even RC Sproul, they can almost come across normal.

But anything outside of their programming, they can’t quite seem to click.
Sometimes the human interaction module malfunctions completely. Take these examples.

I visited a Reformed church when I was in my early 20s. I knew one person there. That person came up to me after the service with a group of his friends. They stared just past the top of my head and shuffled their feet awkwardly. I said, “Hi, I’m Sam.”
The leader of the gang said, “Are you Reformed?”
I said, ….”yessss……”
He said, “Do you believe that God ordains the reprobation of the wicked as well as the election of the righteous?”

See? They human interaction module malfunctioned. It is a common error message that flashes in unexpected places.

A few years later, a young man visited the church. He was poor, on his own, on the verge of being homeless. After the service, he asked a group of men where he could go to buy some food.
Conversation stopped. Awkward shuffling. Eyes slightly unfocused. Pending malfunction. Prepare for error message:
“Ummm. We don’t shop on Sundays. It’s the Lord’s day…” And there it is…

I think one of the best things we can do is just be human beings. Jesus became flesh and is not ashamed to call us brothers. He is the express image of God in the flesh and he came to redeem us in the flesh – to restore us as actual human beings with feelings, tastes, emotions, artistry, joy – and hungers.
We long for beauty, for significance, for respect, for intimacy. We long to simply connect.

Let us not be ashamed of just being human. Let’s listen to music. Let’s read CS Lewis and resist the urge to say “Actually, he was wrong on…” Just enjoy it.

We really don’t have to have a life and world view on the music of Dean Lewis or Passenger. Let’s just be human, enjoy it, praise God for the forgiveness of sins and join the human race.

I think this is what Solomon meant when he said,

(Ecc 9:7-10 KJV) 7 Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart; for God now accepteth thy works.
8 Let thy garments be always white; and let thy head lack no ointment.
9 Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest all the days of the life of thy vanity, which he hath given thee under the sun, all the days of thy vanity: for that is thy portion in this life, and in thy labour which thou takest under the sun.
10 Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.

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The Faith once delivered…

Today was tough. She is becoming more and more awake and alert, which means she is more and more aware of what has happened. That is tough.

She started rehab evaluations today, so we saw the extent of the damage. We don’t know how much will be permanent. No one does. That is tough, seeing the damage, knowing the names of the damage.

And my thoughts fly everywhere. My emotions fly everywhere. I didn’t sleep. I feel weak and foolish. I feel angry and I don’t know who to be angry with. I don’t know if she will laugh like she used to or call me silly names like she used to or giggle hysterically at ridiculous puns like she used to.

I don’t know what will happen – and I cry out in words I can’t form. I scream in exhaustion and somewhere the words I learned as a child come into my mind and in the whirlwind I have a place to put my feet.

“I believe in God the Father Almighty,”

Will the doctors be skilled? Will they know the secrets of the mind and body that they need to know? Will her eyes work right? Will she remember how to read and what words and numbers and colors mean?

“Maker of heaven and earth.”

Why is she suffering? Does anyone care? Is there redemption for her? Is there a plan in all of this? What is the purpose? Who’s in charge that I can cry out to?

“And in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our lord…”

I don’t know how this will work out. I don’t know what her future will hold. I don’t know when our breaking point will be. I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know…

Is anyone walking with her, with me, with us?

“Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate…”

I wake at night with the words of Jacob in my head – “my days of the years of my life have been few and evil…” This cursed world seems brutal, short, ugly, harsh and I weary of life – and then, the words….the words…

“was crucified, dead and buried. He descended into hell.”

For us and for our salvation. His days were cut off brutally. He was abandoned by God so that she would never, ever be. He was forsaken so that she would never be alone in this cursed world, for he shepherds her and gathers her into his bosom….

And is there an end to this? Who will show us the way?

“The third day, he rose from the dead. He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God, the father almighty.

From thence, he shall come to judge the living and the dead.”

Life is often brutal, hard and short. Some suffer a little, some suffer tremendously. Some, like Lazarus, receive evil on this earth, while others receive good things.

But he is coming to judge the living and the dead. Every enemy will be destroyed. Every tongue stopped. Every virus destroyed, every twisted illness of Satan cast into the lake of fire.

And the last enemy to be destroyed is death.

And what until then? Will we see good in the land of the living? Will God’s presence go with us until the end?

“I believe in the Holy Spirit”

But I so often feel alone and frightened and like there is no one who understand, no one to lift this burden, no one to share this journey…

“The holy catholic church, the communion of saints”

And I see the light of God’s countenance shining through the saints around the world. I know your prayers and your gifts and your encouragements and I again lift my head up and know that God has not left us without a witness, but the unanimous voice of the true church in all the ages joins their tongue with ours crying out “Holy, Holy, Holy!”

“Yet I have reserved for myself 7,000 who have not bowed the knee to Baal.”

And these footsteps through this dark valley are not in vain, and even when I cry out in unbelief and fear, the shepherd does not let me go. He still cleanses; he still gathers. He still finds the lost lamb…

“The forgiveness of sins, the resurrection from the dead, and the life everlasting…”

Complete victory will be ours. We shall see him face to face. Even when we don’t feel like it. Even when he seems to have forgotten. Even when the blackness gets blacker. I remember the words.

And then she hugs me. And then she says, “Heyo, Papa.” And then she smiles.

And the light of Jesus shines again through the faith which was once delivered to the saints, and the smiles of his servants, and the voice of their witness crying out together in the furnace of affliction….”how long, Lord? How long?”

“Amen”

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My only comfort

For three weeks now, I have been sitting beside my daughter’s bedside in the hospital. I have documented the journey on my facebook page. But, long story short, she was finally diagnosed with herpes Simplex 1 encephalitis. It is rare, brutal, ugly, with a high fatality rate. You can find all of the details on wikipedia so I won’t give them here.

But I would like to document here some of my thoughts, now that I am getting them together.

Yesterday was an awesome day. She’s eating with a full appetite. Pizza, fries, mashed potatoes, ice cream…

This morning, she said, “heyo dad!” when I walked in. It is really fabulous.

But that is the limit of her words. The virus has caused damage in the part of the brain that processes speech – but she is young and the brain is remarkable. We are hopeful.

When you look death right in the face, when your loved ones go through trials like this one, you learn to say things like this:

What is thy only comfort in life and in death? That I, with body and soul, both in life and in death, am not my own but belong to my faithful savior Jesus Christ, who with his precious blood has fully satisfied for all my sin and redeemed me from all the power of the devil, and so preserves me that without the will of my father in heaven not a hair can fall from my head….(Heidelberg Catechism, Q1)

We have trivialized Christianity into a political movement, a culture war, a movement of power rather than a cry of helplessness.

We have become a church of moral busybodies, so concerned about what others are doing and so afraid of everything…and we forget that there are real things to actually fear.

And when we forget the real curse that is on the world, we turn Christianity into a weird ethical system that is all about homeschooling, courtship, virginity, tattoos and earrings and power plays and making sure women “know their place” and we forget that it is about redemption.

Because bondage is real, death is real, the curse is real, my sins are real.

I don’t need to win a culture war. I need a savior.

I don’t need an ethical movement. I need a savior.

I don’t need moral busybodies. I need a savior.

When you forget that, then you are no longer a Christian in your thinking.

When you stare death in the face, that is when you remember the power of the resurrection. That is when you know what Paul meant when he said that he counts everything else as dung that he might know Christ and the power of his resurrection.

And thank you, Great Physician, that my little girl is eating and saying “Heyo, Dad!”

Thank you, Shepherd of Israel, that her face lights up when her friends visit.

And thank you, Father of Lights, for the light in her eyes.

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The goodness of God

17 Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls:
  18 Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation.
  19 The LORD God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds’ feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places (Hab 3:17-19).

God’s people were suffering under tremendous injustice. The kings were wicked. The princes were wicked. The judges were wicked. But God is still good.

God is about to punish the wickedness of the nation with the invasion of Chaldeans. It would be brutal, harsh, deadly. Most would not live. But God is still good.

Some times fig trees don’t blossom. But God is still good.

Some times the grapes don’t grow. But God is still good.

Sometimes the wheat fields fail. Sometimes the flocks die. Sometimes plague takes away the cattle. But God is still good.

God is sovereign over sickness, cattle, fig trees, olive trees. If they don’t blossom, it is by God’s decree. If they die in the field, it is by God’s decree. When children get sick, it is by God’s decree. A God who has no power over sickness and health is not a God to worship at all.

God is beyond easy answers, mindless platitudes, memes with pretty pictures, and viral sloganeering. He doesn’t fit into your boxes. But he is still good.

We only see part of the tapestry. He sees the “end from the beginning”. And he is still good.

We see only a little bit of the tapestry and we are inside of it. We are a part of created order, creatures of time and space and limits. But he is outside seeing the whole – and it fits into his perfect decree. Not one fallen hair out of place. And he is still good.

His goodness is seen in the beauty of the fig tree, the joy of the olives, the delights of good wine. In the perfectly cooked roast and the wondrously spicy curried lamb.

His goodness is in the children around the table like shoots of an olive tree. In full larders and green meadows and the sound of surf on a spring morning in Oregon.

But he is beyond easy answers. Because sometimes the fig tree fails. Sometimes the olives don’t blossom. And he is still good. He prepares a table for me, but I am still in the presence of enemies. God’s goodness is seen even in suffering, if we have the eyes to see.

I suppose that certain theological persuasions are trying to be helpful when they tell me that it is not God’s will for people to be sick. But it really isn’t helpful because it isn’t true, and lies are never comforting. Sometimes the truth is hard, but it is always better than a lie.

Who’s will is it, then, that there is sickness? Is there something outside of God’s decree? Is there something outside of God’s control? Is there someone or something that is in charge of illness that isn’t good? Of course not. There is only one God, only one Lord, only one Creator. Only one sovereign.

But the hard truth is this:

Crops fail, and God is still good.

Children suffer, and God is still good.

Death still happens, and God is still good.

He isn’t ignoring suffering. He isn’t delighting in the suffering of his people. But he isn’t out of control either.

Not one hair falls, not one sparrow falls, apart from God’s decree. But hairs and sparrows still fall.

And God is still good. And I can’t sort all of that out, but I can cry out to him. I can’t sort it out because I am in the tapestry of creation and I don’t see everything. But I know he does.

And here is what I know. He hears me when I cry to him. He loves me and receives me as his child in Christ. He has washed away my sin.

I will walk on high places and my feet will one day leap and dance like an antelope.

And until that day, even in suffering, I know I can trust him.

Because he is still good.

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Accusing an elder

In preparing for a study on gossip and slander, I was looking at 1 Timothy 5:19. I noticed a discrepancy in the translations.

KJV 1 Timothy 5:19 Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses.

NASB 1 Timothy 5:19 Do not receive an accusation against an elder except on the basis of two or three witnesses.

ESV 1 Timothy 5:19 Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses.

NKJV 1 Timothy 5:19 Do not receive an accusation against an elder except from two or three witnesses.

The translation of the old King James is that accusations against elders must be done in a lawful way, in front of the courts of the church. Two or three witnesses hearkens back to Deuteronomy 17:6.

But the rest of the English translations listed show something else entirely. It teaches that you cannot even HEAR an accusation against an elder unless there are 2 or 3 witnesses to back it up.

What that effectively does is make it impossible to ever accuse an elder of much of anything.

The scandal of child sexual abuse among both Roman Catholic and Protestant clergy would be impossible to prosecute, for rarely does a predator prey in the presence of witnesses.

Abusers don’t abuse in front of eye-witnesses.

Is this really what this verse says? Which one is correct?

The preposition in question is Ἐπὶ with the genitive case. Prepositions are tricky things and take some care in translating. One has to know how language works. If it is to be interpreted “on the evidence of”, which three of the translations above have it, then it is the ONLY place in all of scripture where it has this meaning.

However, in Acts 25:10, Paul answers and says, “I am standing before Caesar’s tribunal…” using Ἐπὶ and the genitive case. It seems impossible in this legal context that he would mean “on the evidence of Caesar’s tribunal”.

“Before” – meaning, to be judged and found either guilty or innocent by Caesar seems to make perfect sense.

I would suggest that it has the same meaning in 1 Timothy 5:19.

Do not receive an accusation except in front of two or three witnesses that can do something about it.

My denomination has a book of church order, as do many others. (If your church does not, I would suggest finding another church). The form of complaint or charge against an elder or pastor is spelled out.

“Here is what he did. Here is what the scripture says. Here is how you go about it.”

Or, to put it in Paul’s terms in his day, “before two or three witnesses”. Get it before the proper council. And then (verse 20) if they are in sin rebuke them before all.

There are two deadly viruses that destroy a congregation of believers. First, when the leadership is made up of wolves preying upon the sheep. When the leadership devours and destroys, abuses their congregants, using the weaker ones to satisfy their own lusts. Ezekiel 34 and Jeremiah 23 both warn of this, as well as many, many other places.

And the other virus is when a wolf is a member of the congregation who spreads malicious slander against the leadership through twisting words, making up allegations, and whispering in the dark corners.

Paul, using the language of the Old Testament law, gives practical counsel for a real situation. Suppose that you – Walter Q. Churchmember – are having tea with Mr. and Mrs. Churchpeople. Mrs. Churchpeople starts to tell you about horrible things that one of the elders or the pastor has done.

The accusation could be something like “I heard Mrs. Jones say that her cousin had heard from a reliable source that Mrs. Wilson saw Pastor having lunch with a young woman…”

Or it could be more serious. “My daughter says he hurt her.”

There are many different things you could do.

The worst thing to do is simply talk about it, rejoice secretly in the “hidden knowledge” and go tell the next person, in confidence, of course – adding your own juicy tidbits to make it sound just a little better.

THAT is what Paul is forbidding. Don’t hear it, don’t receive it at all – unless it is for the purpose of lawfully dealing with it, exposing it and bringing redemption or justice.

So instead, do this:

If it is a crime, report it to the ones who have the tools to investigate it and the sword to prosecute it (This would be the proper authorities in the civil government).

If it is not a crime but a violation of a vow – teaching that which is contrary to the creeds, for example – encourage the one telling you about it to bring a charge or complaint to the proper church judicatory.

If it is not a crime, but a falling into sin of some sort – adultery, drunkenness, etc – encourage the one speaking to bring a charge or complaint to the proper church judicatory.

What this will do is give them hope and a direction to take if their intentions are honorable, and encourage them to quit spreading juicy rumors if their intentions are not. This is what Paul is speaking of.

Of course, you cannot deal with every single possible scenario with one Bible verse. That isn’t what the Bible is for. We have a letter from an apostle to a real pastor struggling with real issues. You can’t take one verse and try to make it fit every situation. Paul is dealing with one kind of scenario – very common in the church – where one or two people delight in whispering secrets in the dark. Don’t have any part of that.

 

In this day where we have tolerated false churches, wolves in sheep’s clothing, and abusive church courts far too long, there may also be a good reason for someone to flee the church that they are in.

If, for example, there is a history of protecting wolves and running out sheep. Or the theology is wrong. Or the sacraments are not being administered properly – perhaps Christians are being excommunicated while abusive and reviling men and women are tolerated.

Paul has lots of other counsel in those situations, and I might write on it in another post. Fleeing a false church filled with those who refuse to follow Jesus is a good option. But my point here is this:

If you are an elder or a pastor, or represent an elder or pastor on a church judicatory, do not refuse to give aid to the widow or the fatherless (that is, those without power) because they lack two or three eyewitnesses. That isn’t what this verse is about.

When they have come to you for justice, give them justice. Follow your rules of order. It is what they came to you for. When they came to you, they followed Paul’s command to bring the accusation before two or three witnesses.

Paul is forbidding empty gossip and spreading stories without taking any measures at all to bring peace.

But if it is true, lawfully shout it from the housetops. Don’t let evil fester in the dark. Bring a charge, bring a complaint, report to the police, help a child get the help they need.

But please, do not hide behind this verse to keep predators in places where they can get at the sheep.

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As if…

I have a recurring dream. I don’t remember if I told you about it or not. But we always need reminders.

In my dream, I committed adultery.

No, it wasn’t a steamy “sex dream”. No, it wasn’t with anyone that I know. The “other party” wasn’t the point of the dream. In my dream there is no face, no name, no memory of the act itself.

For my dream doesn’t begin with the sin. It begins with my wife finding out. I have to see the look on her face. I see the face that I know only as loving and warm and inviting turn into  a face of hurt and hatred and coldness. It is a nightmare of the worst kind. It is knowing that things will never be the same. That I have forfeited the most precious love. That I have lost a treasure that I will never get back.

It spreads to my kids. It spreads to my church. I lose everything. I am fired from my job, my family won’t speak to me, my kids only look at me with disgust…I say in my dream – O, that this were only a dream! O that I could wake up! And I am overwhelmed with despair, because in my dream I am convinced that it is real.

And then I wake up. It takes me a moment to get my bearings, and then I hear her breathing as she sleeps next to me. I cannot describe the relief and the joy when I realize that I am awake. It was all a dream.

CS Lewis once described an island where dreams come true. The sailors, as they sailed the “Dawn Treader” to the island, were excited about it – until they understood. This isn’t a place where your wishes come true, or your day dreams come true. It is where your dreams come true. Terrifying indeed.

In a very real sense, my recurring dream is a true one. We used to know God as a friend. We used to see his face shining on us. And then, in the Garden and in our actual lives, we committed adultery against him. We raged against him in hatred. We refused to acknowledge how good he was to us. We treated him like an enemy. We made for ourselves idols – the pornography of the spiritual realm. And we inherited it all from Adam. God poured out every good thing on us in abundance (he still does, in fact). And we despised him, looked on his gifts with contempt and hatred and pride.

And God is perfectly just. He will by no means clear the guilty.

Is it possible to wake up from this nightmare? Is it possible to be loved again, to live with God as if we had never committed adultery against him? In our living nightmare, we can’t erase it.

If my dream was real, even if my wife would be able to eventually forgive me, there would always be that hurt and anger and hatred that I CAUSED. It would never be the same again. I don’t think she could ever have that same look in her eye again – that look of trust and safety and peace. I think there would always be a memory of what I did.

(I don’t know why anyone ever commits adultery, by the way. How can anyone wish to go through this nightmare! – but that is the power of sin…)

How much greater is our adultery against God! How can we wake up from this nightmare?

Psalm 126 sees the shadow of such a time – when the bondage was over and God’s people awoke from their living nightmare:

1 When the LORD brought back the captivity of Zion, We were like those who dream.
  2 Then our mouth was filled with laughter, And our tongue with singing. Then they said among the nations, “The LORD has done great things for them.”
  3 The LORD has done great things for us, And we are glad.
  4 Bring back our captivity, O LORD, As the streams in the South.
  5 Those who sow in tears Shall reap in joy.
  6 He who continually goes forth weeping, Bearing seed for sowing, Shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, Bringing his sheaves with him.
  (Ps. 126:1-6)

How can that be? As if…

God sent his only begotten son into the world. He is the well-beloved son, whom God loved perfectly because in the flesh he obeyed in all things. He (as our mediator) never committed adultery. He always loved God perfectly, even when he felt the full weight of God’s wrath on the cross. He always obeyed. Always loved. Always was faithful. And he didn’t do it for himself.

In eternity, he was always with the Father, and was always true, eternal, sovereign God. He did not obey in order to earn God’s favor for himself. He became flesh, born under the law, and obeyed so that you and I might stand before God as if we had never had nor committed any sin. As if…

He took God’s wrath against our sin and gave us his righteousness and now when God sees us, he sees us as we are in Christ. As if…

As if we had never sinned.

As if we had obeyed God perfectly from the womb.

As if we had never fallen in Adam

As if we had never said those hateful things, or thought those ugly thoughts.

As if we had always loved as we ought to have loved.

As if we had never played the whore with other gods, with our affections, with our worship…

And because he loves us as if Christ’s legal record is ours, he sends us his Spirit to dwell in us in love, so that one day our “as if” becomes our reality, when complete victory is ours and we stand before him free from sin and death and misery at last.

And we are delivered from our captivity as if we had awakened from a dream. Can you imagine the laughter and the singing and the joy, when the dawn comes?

Lift up your eyes! Already the light of dawn is breaking through. Already God sees you in Christ and you are greatly loved.

And the devil hates it. He has many “teachers” who will try to convince you that Jesus’ righteousness isn’t enough. That you still need to do something. That your adultery will never be clean and washed away. They will always have one more thing that you need to do. They may speak of the gospel in passing, but they will always turn back at the last minute, like Columbo on the old show, and say, “Oh, Just one more thing. You have to…”

And there it is. Add one more thing. Do one more ritual. Follow one more precept. Keep one more statute.

They will try to rob you of the joy of belonging to Christ.

As if…

Hold onto that joy. In this vale of tears, we stumble in many things. We say sinful things. We lash out.  We offend in many things.

And we ask forgiveness of our loved ones. We weep over sin. We beg again for the gift of the Spirit. And our hope is this:

Even then, it is as if we had never committed nor had any sin. We are washed clean. It is different than God saying, “I pardon you”.  When a judge pardons, he is releasing the penalty that is due the crime. But with a pardon, the crime was committed, even if the penalty is released.

But that isn’t really the gospel. Yes, there is a pardon. Yes, there is forgiveness. But it goes deeper. It goes to the wakening of the dream. We wake up. It is “as if”. Yes, we did it. But in the wisdom of God, he has provided a way for us to be truly clean – as if we had never sinned. He has provided a savior.

Jump! Shout! Rejoice! Lay aside the burdens. Walk out of the false churches that continue to tell you how much better you need to be and crawl to where the gospel is proclaimed. There you will learn the true measure of Christ’s gift.

Wake up, you who sleep – and Christ will give you light!

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Everyone calm down

Amazon recently pulled books about “conversion therapy” from their stores.

Conversion therapy is a behavioral modification scheme designed to “cure” homosexuality.

Denny Burk, over at dennyburk.com has warned us all that persecution of Christianity is in full swing. Soon the lions will be brought out and Christians of every stripe will be thrown into the fiery furnace.

I don’t know why we have such a persecution complex. Don’t we know that we will inherit the earth?

But that is beside the point.

Here is what we need to understand: Conversion therapy is to Christianity what iced coffee is to mole rats. Hard to find a connection? Precisely.

Conversion therapy is a dangerous practice of using behavioral modification to change someone’s sexual orientation.

Christianity is faith in our Lord Jesus, who died for our sins and gave us his righteousness so that we can stand before God as if we have never had nor ever committed any sin. From there flows sanctification, where the Holy Spirit conforms us to the image of God’s dear son, redeeming each part of us, even our sexuality.

Conversion therapy is similar to Pelagianism, and the theology of Charles Finney, but instead of the excitement of revival producing righteousness, righteousness is produced on the therapists couch.

To say that Christians are in danger because conversion therapy won’t be marketed and sold by Amazon is similar to saying that Christianity is in danger because I can’t get a Big Mac at Home Depot.

Jesus has never promised to remove every speck of sin from his children on this earth. In fact, the bible teaches in Romans 1 that we will ALWAYS struggle with this body of death until we enter into his presence.

Christianity means that there is now no more condemnation. Christianity means that we are now united to Christ and are taught by the Holy Spirit to offer the members of our bodies as members of righteousness. But we will always struggle with our lusts and our desires.

Christ has never promised to convert same-sex attracted people to hetero-attracted people. And hetero is no guarantee of purity. Hugh Hefner is not something we strive for. Christ calls us to aim higher.

So, to sum up: Conversion therapy teaches that homosexuality can be cured through behavioral modification.

Christianity teaches that we are dead in trespasses and sins unless God makes us alive.

It seems to me that Paul banned the same sort of thinking in the book of Galatians. The flesh – the bondage of the law – will always produce the same thing.

But one can’t ever pass a law against the fruit of the Spirit. “Throw those people out! They are talking about love and joy and peace!”

As a side note, Amazon is banning a dangerous and fraudulent form of therapy based on behavioral modification. They are NOT banning someone being made alive in Christ.

Christ did not die to make us heterosexual. He died to make us alive. Being alive, of course, means that we fight against sin in this life until victory is ours after this life.

As Christians, we should be against conversion therapy and support that ban. Why would we want our kids to be subjected to a false gospel and forced to submit to those whom God tells us to not submit to even for an hour? (Galatians 2:5).

By the way, whenever you hear that California has banned Christianity, or that Amazon has banned Christianity, or such like – this is usually what they mean. That the state has banned a dangerous and unbiblical practice that aims to convert our children to another gospel – one which Paul calls anathema.

That false gospel is that Christianity and outward appearance are the same, that one can be converted by the right sort of laws, and that sin is a matter of free will.

We should support that ban and calm down.

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Filed under homosexuality, sexuality

Let my people go

And afterward Moses and Aaron came and said to Pharaoh, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘Let My people go that they may celebrate a feast to Me in the wilderness.'”
2 But Pharaoh said, “Who is the LORD that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I do not know the LORD, and besides, I will not let Israel go.” (Exod. 5:1-2)

The account of the plagues that came on Egypt is one that has occupied my mind and my imagination since childhood. Imagine how many frogs there were! And the swarms and the lice!

And you also marvel and the hardness of Pharaoh’s heart. How stupid can a guy get? Ten times he hardens his heart and refuses to let God’s people go. And even then, at the end, he changes his mind and chases after them – right into the Red Sea where he and all of his armies drown!

What kind of madness drives a man to this point, where reason and prudence go out the window? What kind of madness drives a man into his grave like this, where he would rather lose everything than concede defeat?

 

This morning, it struck me. In Pharaoh’s mind, HE was god. He was the absolute ruler, placed on the throne by the gods themselves. He made the law. He did not let Jehovah’s people go, because to do that would be to acknowledge that there is a greater god than he, a God who commands obedience, who doesn’t negotiate the terms, who doesn’t compromise. A God who simply commands and must be obeyed.

When Jehovah says, “Let my people go”, there is only one proper response.

But to Pharaoh, this was unthinkable. No one commands Pharaoh. The Israelites were Pharaoh’s people, not Jehovah’s. “I can treat them as I please, for they are mine, not yours. I have the right given to me by the gods to do as I please with what is mine.”

For Pharaoh to submit, Pharaoh would have to give up everything he believed about himself, about Egypt, about men and women, and about God.

And God didn’t negotiate it with Pharaoh. The nerve! Pharaoh tried again and again to modify the terms. “I’ll let you go a little ways. I’ll let just the men go. I’ll let you go, but the livestock stays here”.

Pharaoh was willing to treat Jehovah as an equal and compromise and come to an agreement. He was willing to use diplomacy.

But Jehovah doesn’t negotiate. The command was simple, unchangeable, and there was only one proper response. “Let my people go.”

 

As I was pondering this over my coffee this morning, I also thought of this passage:

9 “Or do you have an arm like God, And can you thunder with a voice like His?

10 “Adorn yourself with eminence and dignity; And clothe yourself with honor and majesty.

11 “Pour out the overflowings of your anger; And look on everyone who is proud, and make him low.

12 “Look on everyone who is proud, and humble him; And tread down the wicked where they stand.

13 “Hide them in the dust together; Bind them in the hidden place.

14 “Then I will also confess to you, That your own right hand can save you. (Job 40:9-14)

God is teaching Job the distinction between the creator and the creature. A creature doesn’t command all of nature (chapters 37-39) and a creature also has no ability to humble a proud heart. Pride is a monster that no man can tame.

Pharaoh would not submit to the simple command of Jehovah for only one reason. To submit to that command would be to admit he is a mere creature who cannot do as he pleases; who is created for obedience and righteousness. He is a creature created to reflect God. And he will never be an original. He will always be a copy.

For Pharaoh to set the people free, Pharaoh would have to acknowledge that he is not a god. He has no right to oppress, control, command, possess or abuse any human being, much less the people of God.

For Pharaoh to let the people go, he would have to bend the knee, recognize that the people of God are the people of God, not the people of Pharaoh and God will hold him accountable for how he behaves and how he thinks and how he acts. That he is not sovereign, independent, and has no right to do as he pleases.

And this he will not do. It is impossible for a proud man to be humble. Only God can change a heart. Job can’t do it. and neither can I.

God gave the command and he didn’t negotiate it. Obey it, or die. He repeated that command over a dozen times. he gave Pharaoh chance after chance. But he didn’t change his mind. Obey it, or die. Those are the options. And Pharaoh chose to die with his whole army rather than bend the knee.

But one time, in all of history, God gave different terms:

18 “Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the LORD, “Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They will be like wool. (Isa. 1:18)

Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved, you and your household.” (Acts 16:31)

He has offered us his only begotten Son. He still does not negotiate with the creature. He is still holy. He still commands. He still says, “The soul that sins shall die.”

But he has given us his Son and has commanded us to lay down our weapons and believe on the one who offers his perfect righteousness for us. It is the only terms of peace with God that we will ever receive.

But in order to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, you must be born again. Otherwise you will act just like Pharaoh.

“Who is the LORD? Why does he think he has the right to tell me what to do? Why should I serve him? What did he ever do for me?”

And only the LORD can soften the proud heart. Let’s face it, we humans like to think of ourselves as the Moses or Aaron of the story. But humans are far more like Pharaoh. We also, if God does not soften the heart, would drive right into the sea and drown rather than submit ourselves to the hand of God. We mock Pharaoh’s foolishness while we do the same things. (Here I am speaking of the unregenerate heart. The mark of a believer is that his heart has been softened by the Holy Spirit. If you have believed on the Lord Jesus, it is because you are no longer like Pharaoh by the grace of God).

Look around. We see how men and women destroy themselves and their families every day. They know that they are doing it, but they also know that the only other alternative is to submit to the hand of God. And that, they will not do. They would rather die.

God has offered us life, instead of death. May he grant us the grace of humbled hearts that we might learn to bend the knee and place our neck under the yoke of Christ, for “his yoke is easy, and his burden is light.”

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Filed under Sin and Grace, Warfare

Things I’ve been told

They tell me that I scold men too much.

They tell me that they feel sorry for my congregation because I lead them astray by teaching women that they are image-bearers of God with dignity and honor.

They tell me that I rob men of their masculinity by teaching them that imitating Christ means to take the lowest place and become the servant of all, including their wives. Christ did, however, give himself for his bride, the church.

They tell me that I cause divorces and wreck marriages by teaching men how to love their wives instead how to rule over them.

They tell me that I am unbalanced, and am soft on the sin of women because I teach that lust comes from the heart of man, not from the outfit of the woman.

They tell me that I am a feminist because I believe that the Bible teaches that every believing woman is also a prophet, priest and king along with every believing man.

They spit the word “egalitarian” at me like a curse because I believe women have a voice, should be treated as co-heirs of eternal life, and have a right to make decisions and use their gifts for the glory of God, just like every believing man.

And they tell me to stop. They command me to be silent. I make people uncomfortable.

And I worry sometimes.

 

And then I hear of judges who tell rape victims not to report their rape because they will ruin a good man’s life.

And then I hear of husbands punching their wives in the same room that they lead “family worship”.

And then I hear of pastors beating and molesting the children under their care. And I hear of other pastors who knew about it and gave them “a good talking to” but didn’t want to ruin their ministries.

And then I hear of youth pastors raping the children under their care, and calling it “an inappropriate relationship”.

And then I hear of women crying out to their church leaders that their husbands watch porn every night and are asked if they are satisfying them in bed.

And then I hear again of women who are beaten over and over again year after year and when they finally divorce they are excommunicated for being bitter.

And then I hear of wives who cover the altar of the Lord with tears and are told to “submit more”, “suffer a little while like Jesus suffered,” “God hates divorce”.

And then these same wives are shot by the husbands they tried to get protection from.

And then I hear of husbands threatening the wives with weapons, fists, words of hatred, vile contempt and the wives are blamed for not submitting enough, making them mad, provoking them, wanting it…

And then I hear that these are not rare occurrences. These are not unusual. These are the hidden corners, the long dark corridors, the valley of the shadow of death that are walked through by so, so many men, women and children.

I know that salvation is not the same as activism. I am not an abuse advocate. I am a minister of the word, a pastor, a preacher of good tidings of great joy. I will not get sucked into the abyss of darkness and pain nor is it my desire to draw you into it.

But as a minister, I do need to shine a light, expose evil, untwist the scripture that is continually twisted to keep the weak in bondage to the strong.

When the church of Jesus Christ becomes an institution of worldly power and money, the powerful always oppress the weak, crushing them underfoot, and they will use whatever means they can to do it.

And I love the church of Jesus Christ far, far too much to keep silent. For this reason, I will not keep silent about the horrors that so many of our brothers and sisters suffer. Nor will I allow the light of Jesus Christ to grow dim or fade, but will continue to lift the banner, proclaim liberty to the captives, and bind the wounds of the broken-hearted as much as I can.

Even though I know it will infuriate a lot of people who like being in power.

There can only, ever be one head of the church, and he will never give that honor to another.

The church shall never perish!
Her dear Lord, to defend,
to guide, sustain, and cherish,
is with her to the end;
tho’ there be those that hate her
and false sons in her pale,
against the foe or traitor
she ever shall prevail. (Samuel John Stone)

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Filed under Abuse, Gospel