Monthly Archives: June 2021

Perspective

I wonder…

Some days are rougher than other days. Some days I don’t know if I can handle one more thing. I then God gives me one more thing. And another.

I asked my wife if maybe we live on an old nuclear testing site, or a sacred burial ground. If I listed every health issue that my family and I have gone through, you probably wouldn’t believe me. Most people don’t. Most of what I do in Emergency Rooms is try to convince the doctor that, yes, we really do have these rare disorders. It was much, much harder to do before everything was computerized. Now if we can only get them to look at charts….but I digress.

And I wonder. Why yet another thing? Why do I spend hours at the doctor’s? It seems to me that there is  so much more I could be doing. I have people to visit, books to read, sermons to prepare, writing to do, communities to be involved in…

But I am sitting in another doctor’s office.

As a disclaimer, I don’t at all begrudge my family for this. I love sitting with my wife and daughter when yet another thing strikes. I wouldn’t be anywhere else. I know that if I am not there to advocate for them, they would be ignored or not believed.

A broken arm or a nail in the head is believable. You can see it. Doctors are good at things like that. We, my family,  never get those. Our are the diseases that they tell you about in medical school. One doctor said that he spent 6 hours in a seminar on it, and then they said, “But you won’t ever find anyone with that, so don’t worry about it.” But I digress.

My father used to tell me that my business is always with God. And that is where I wonder. I have questions and I want answers and I wonder.

I don’t resent my family. They suffer more that I do, and my heart goes right out to them and I want to just take all of this away. But I can’t. I see other people running and swimming, camping and biking. I see other people traveling and golfing and hiking. And I think those days are over for us. (This isn’t about fitness and essential oils, by the way…)

But why does God continue to inflict? Why is it one massive thing right after another?

So I cry out to him. I beg him for mercy. I want answers. But it seems as if he is so silent.

And then I remember that he isn’t silent. He answers the curse that is on the world with the cross of Jesus. God became flesh and took all of this on Himself. He laid it on his only-begotten son (these two sentences do not contradict. They resolve in the mystery of the Trinity. “The word was with God and the word was God”).

There is a curse on the world. By man, death entered and reigned over all. But by Man came the resurrection from the dead. United with Christ in resurrection doesn’t come without union with his sufferings. We are only just tasting that in our family.

Why? I don’t know. I know that we all are one aneurism away from the grave.

We are one virus away from death. One aortic rupture. One spontaneous colon rupture (which I’ve had, by the way – but God spared my life).

And then I remember that this world isn’t our home. This world is “under the sun”, what our forefather called “the valley of tears.”

So I stop. I look up. I remember.

(My daughter lost her ability to smell. She said, “That’s OK, Daddy. I’ll smell things in heaven…”).

I try to remember that but my heart hurts for her.

I try to remember that we will run and hike and stand and walk and sing in the new heaven and the new earth; I try to remember that I will run hand in hand with my wife through the hills in the new earth when our bodies are made new, and that gives me peace for another day.

And I try to remember that God’s grace is not promised to be sufficient today for everything he will bring on me tomorrow, but it is promised to be sufficient for whatever trial he brings me at the time.

My father told me once that worrying is useless. He said that everything he ever worried about never came about. I agree that worrying is useless. But it is a bit different for me. Everything I have ever worried about actually did happen, and worse. But worrying is useless because of the sufficiency of God’s grace and the fact that I am a creature, and do not hold the world in the palm of my hand.

I am still anxious though. I still fear. I still wonder. I still want answers.

And He responds as he always has, “My grace is sufficient for you.” And it is.

I used to think that this meant that he won’t give me more than I can handle. But that isn’t true at all. I have had more than I can handle over and over and over again.

And when I get another blow that I can’t handle, I want an answer. I cry out. I have no idea how to take a step or what step I should take or if this is the right way to go, or if I should just stay, or if I go the the ER again knowing that they most likely won’t be able to help or if I should not go and perhaps watch a loved one decline until it is too late and I could have fixed it but I trusted the wrong guy and what do I do now and I just don’t know………..

And then I stop. Breathe. I try to understand that it is actually too much. My life is not held in my hands. My wife’s life is not held in my hands. My daughter’s life is not held in my hands.

We are all one aneurism away from death, and that won’t change by any decision I make or fail to make. All I can do is the best that I can, which usually isn’t all that great.

There is so much I don’t know. And far more weeping ahead. I know that ahead there will be more suffering and more death and more pain and many, many more questions.

So here is what I’ll try to do.

  • I’ll try not to get involved in disputes that aren’t mine. I have too much already, and God hasn’t promised me grace to get involved in other people’s disputes.
  • I’ll try to remember that today has its own worries. The amount of emotional energy I have been given is limited. It is enough for my day today, my circle today, my family today, my congregation today. God will replenish that for tomorrow, for his grace is sufficient for me.
  • I’ll try to remember that “I will smell things in heaven.”
  • I’ll try to remember that there is not one person who cried out to God for mercy who did not receive mercy.
  • I’ll try to remember that God still sends rainbows.
  • I’ll try to remember that I’m human, and when it is all too much for me, that is OK. I wasn’t made to be a god. I was made to rest in the arms of another.
  • I will try to remember that the day will come when I will again say goodbye to someone I love and it will wrench my heart again.

And then I will breathe. I will eat some pie – but sugar free, my body still won’t cooperate with what I want to eat. But I will have great pie in heaven.

I will listen to some music and maybe find something new.

And I will continue to cry out, and continue to wonder, and continue to want answers.

But I will try to remember that God hasn’t promised me to answer all my questions. He has promised much tribulation, but after that we inherit the kingdom.

Until then,

Of making many books there is no end, and much study is wearisome to the flesh.
  13 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, For this is man’s all.
  (Eccl. 12:12-13)

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Filed under Gospel, Grief, Hope

That we might know God

Update: Redemption Church removed the heretical statement concerning the parts of God. I am glad for their willingness to receive correction.

Once upon a time, a man’s house was on fire. Every room was burning. The roof was about to cave in. The inferno raged all around. The fire department showed up.

“Oh. I see the problem. Your bookcase is on fire”.

“Well”, he answered. “It certainly is on fire. But that isn’t exactly the problem.”

“Let’s just put that fire out and then we can talk about the rest of it”.

“I guess…”

So they put the bookcase out. Part of the roof caved in. The fire caught the trees outside.

The firefighter said, “Oh. Look at that. Your dresser is on fire!”

The propane tank outside exploded. The firefighters put the dresser out.

This silly example describes the state of our church. The Southern Baptists have been discussing social issues this week. Justice is a crucial calling of the church. But the conservatives were fighting hard to make sure that any hint of injustice stay buried.

The moderates fought hard to bring social justice to the front. Meanwhile, the whole house is burning down.

We are all very aware of where Ed Litton stands on every cultural issue. But he doesn’t understand who God is, and that didn’t even blip on anyone’s radar.

While the church across the country is fighting for whatever social cause comes up, or whatever cultural war they deem important, we have missed the whole point of it all, and the house is in embers.

Jesus said that eternal life is “that we might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.”

The reason that Jesus came into the world was to restore fellowship between God and man, that we might turn from our idols and know that only true God as he has revealed himself in his word.

But that has not become the supreme goal of the modern church. A faithful minister might preach faithfully about who God is and who Jesus is and still arouse the anger of his church if he is on the perceived “wrong side” of the culture wars.

It is as if Jesus came, not to reconcile us to God, but to support our political causes.

Take, for example, this statement from Redeemer Church in Mobile, Alabama. Their pastor was just elected president of the SBC.

“God is One, the Creator and Ruler of the universe. He has eternally existed in three persons: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. These three are co-equal parts of one God”

There are only two scenarios. One is that whoever wrote this knows nothing about theology, or who God is. Or two, they just don’t care, and have a “good enough” view when it comes to doctrine.

God has no parts. If God had parts, then someone or something outside of God would have had to have put him together. In which case God is not God. This is the doctrine known as “the simplicity of God.” God is not composed. IT MATTERS.

This is theology 101. It matters. It is eternal life.

This definition of God is NOT Christianity. It is a denial of the Trinity.

We spend so much time on our social pet peeves, that we have forgotten the point of it all. That we might know God.

When you are searching for a church, if “part” is used anywhere to describe God, keep searching. Either they are outright heretics, or have decided that it doesn’t matter.

Here is my point. This statement of faith made it past the review committee, it was most likely written by a pastor. And no one cried foul and changed it. The house burned down while we were debating the fire on the bookshelves and the dressers.

Would these statements have made the final cut?

We believe that a woman has the right to choose.

We believe that nothing makes God happier than when two people – ANY two people – fall in love.

We believe that the police should be defunded.

We believe that every Christian ought to vote Republican.

We believe that every Christian ought to vote democratic.

If you now wish to debate me on any of those statements, then you are proving my point. We have become very good at putting out the fire on the bookcases and the dressers when the whole house is collapsing around us.

Everyone who has paid attention at all knows what is wrong or what is right with all of these statements. The “Church” has made their thinking on it quite clear.

Meanwhile, the house is burning down. To divide God into parts is to take his great name in vain. It is to deny God, to blaspheme his holy name and to become pagan in your thinking.

The church used to profess this: “No sin is greater or more provoking to God than the taking of his name in vain.” (Heidelberg Catechism 100).

According to this truth and this Word of God, we believe in one only God, who is the one single essence,  in which are three Persons, really, truly, and eternally distinct according to their incommunicable properties; namely, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

The Father is the cause, origin, and beginning of all things visible and invisible;

the Son is the word, wisdom, and the image of the Father;

the Holy Spirit is the eternal power and might, proceeding from the Father and the Son.

Nevertheless, God is not by this distinction divided into three, since the Holy Scriptures teach us that the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit have each His personality, distinguished by Their properties; but in such wise that these three Persons are but one only God.

Hence, then, it is evident that the Father is not the Son, nor the Son the Father, and likewise the Holy Spirit is neither the Father nor the Son.

Nevertheless, these Persons thus distinguished are not divided, nor intermixed; for the Father has not assumed the flesh, nor has the Holy Spirit, but the Son only.

The Father has never been without His Son, or without His Holy Spirit. For They are all three co-eternal and co-essential. There is neither first nor last; for They are all three one, in truth, in power, in goodness, and in mercy. (Belgic Confession, Article 8)

But today, who God is doesn’t matter. What words you use for him don’t matter. As long as you get behind my social cause; vote the right way. After all, theology is all speculation. What is really important is winning the culture war.

It has destroyed churches, it has torn the house down.

The house is on fire. Wake up, people.

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Filed under theology

Whoever loves their life…

Whether you have been a believer your whole life, or whether you are a new convert, there will come a time when the Bible will cut you to the heart.

God still says, “Adam, where are you?” and invites you to come out of hiding and stand before Him.

The Bible has a way of confronting your deepest identity, your deepest held convictions, your deepest secrets and hurts.

It puts the finger right on who you are and who you think you are, because who you are is a child in the image of Adam. And who you are called to be is a child of God in Christ. That means that Adam must go, so that who you were made to be might live.

You can’t get there if you never put to death the old man. That guy has to die.

And that is painful. It cuts to the heart. The scripture reveals your secrets and says, “Nail this to the cross.” It isn’t just those things that you do; it is the things that you are. Sanctification is only finished when we die. Only our death can finally put to death this body of death. But the little deaths, the taking up our crosses, must be daily. Jesus said that.

So the confrontation will come.

It will come in a sermon. It will come in your reading. It will come in your memories.

But it will come. The Holy Spirit will see to that.

What you do when it comes will be a matter of life or death. Unfortunately, mostpeople attack the messenger. Mostpeople won’t go there. Mostpeople will conclude that the “preacher is wicked. The bible has errors. That guy’s a jerk. That isn’t the Jesus I know…”

The alternative is just too hard. I like that old guy. He comforts me if I ignore the voice of all those that I have trampled in my push to be a god.

But if you go through the painful process of taking up the cross and hearing the thundering voice of the Word of God confronting everything you thought was right and normal and good, you will find your life.

If you want to hold on to “your life” – your life, your values, your identity, everything that you believe you are – the only possible result is death. You will think that you gained everything, but in the process you ironically lose yourself.

You must be born again to even see the kingdom of God. And that means that the old man must die.

Not gonna lie. That hurts like hell. Because it is hell, and it has to go. Your pride cannot take you into the kingdom of God.

(Luke 9:23-25)  23 And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.
  24 “For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.
  25 “For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself?

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Filed under Gospel, growth, sanctification

Instead of “purity culture”

For decades now, Youth Group generally involves some 2o something dude, who may or may not be a little bit creepy, telling kids about staying “pure” until marriage, avoiding the world’s music and movies, what swimsuits girls should wear, and that boys should “bounce” their eyes so as not to ensnared by the inevitable lust.

We lived in terror of our children becoming worldly, so we amped up the pressure, laid down the law, covered everything up and valiantly warred against the flesh.

And we are now reaping the results. Not so good.

What we were actually doing, according to the scripture, was catering to the flesh, believing that righteousness would come by the law. And we are reaping the results of sowing. It is a pretty ugly crop, and exactly what God said it would be:

(Galatians 6:7-8)  Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.
For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.

Everyone has the deep desire, the idolatry to seek to purify themselves. We insist that we can fix our own problems if we just apply the right technique. The Bible calls this “the flesh”, and nowhere was that more evident than in the “purity culture” of the past decades.

All we have accomplished is increased guilt and shame, fueling greater and greater lusts seeking to overcome guilt and shame, which in turn increases guilt and shame even more. We have given our children no tools whatsoever in the battle against the prince of the power of the air, and we have reaped the whirlwind. Despair and death reign, for we made a covenant with death and turned our back on the Lord of life.

Look at your own experience. If you went to youth group, did you hear more about the evils of Harry Potter, exposed collar bones, swimsuits that exposed the tummy and the dangers of lust?

Or did you hear about the Lord of glory, dying for your sin? How he took upon himself our shame and guilt? How he is softly and tenderly calling you into his arms?

Did you learn all about your wrong choices? Or did you learn about the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, who has broken the bands of death so that we might live forever before him?

So here are some things that I think are far better things for our youth to learn. Let’s start teaching these things instead of “purity culture.”

  • Boys and girls are created by God. They have dignity and worth as image-bearers of God.
  • Minds and souls and personalities and gifts are wonderful things and ought to be celebrated and honored.
  • But mankind is fallen. We have corrupted ourselves because we wanted to be gods and serve only ourselves. So now we are lonely, miserable, isolated, shamed, guilty, because we were not made to serve ourselves. We were made to reflect another.
  • But God loves his creation and doesn’t want anyone to perish. So he sent his only begotten Son into the world to redeem us from the bondage of lusts and shame and guilt and misery.
  • His goal in sending his Son was not that you might continue to live in shame, but that you might be free and clean and holy and dressed in his righteousness alone, worthy and acceptable in his sight.
  • And now God is calling us all to lay down our weapons. Lay down our demands to serve ourselves, and come home.
  • Whatever we have done, and whatever others have done to us, in Jesus’ sight, you are not filthy, unclean, dirty, unwanted, unloved.
  • You can stand before him exactly as you are. You don’t have to pretend anymore. You don’t have to hide. He already knows. He knows what you have done. He knows what was done to you. He knows your hurts. He knows the dark, secret places; he knows where the cancer is and he desires to take it on himself and nail it to his cross.
  • And he desires that you simply come to him. He wants you to take that guilt and shame that you have been carrying around, and leave it with him. He looks right at you and says, “Do you want to be healed?”
  • And he wants you to receive what only he can give you – a clean conscience. Purity. Worthiness. Dignity.
  • You are worth it. He fights for justice for you and will make every crooked path straight. You can leave that with him.
  • You are worth it, for he died and rose for you.
  • You are worth it, for you are not a ruined flower, you are not a dirty person, you are not whatever wicked men have said you were. You are in Christ. A dearly loved son or daughter. Accepted in the beloved.
  • You are not your own, but belong to your faithful savior Jesus Christ, who with his precious blood has fully satisfied for all your sins and redeemed you from all the power of the devil, and so preserves you that without the will of your Father in heaven, not a hair can fall from your head. In fact, all things must work together for your salvation. Therefore by his Holy Spirit, he also assures you of eternal life and makes you heartily willing and ready from now on to live unto him.
  • Wow. I am loved. Valuable. With dignity. With honor – because I am not my own, but belong to my Savior.

Can you imagine how different our lives would be and the lives of our children would be if we (and they) understood and believed these things?

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Filed under modesty, sanctification, Sin and Grace

Imperfections and things that are intolerable

We live in an imperfect world. Since this is so, everything from mites to sea horses, larks to katydids, cabbages to kings, will have imperfections.

We know that this is the case because of the fall of mankind. But it also serves a good purpose. We make choices and we are always forced to choose between imperfections. In those choices, our values surface. And when our values surface, we can see what kind of people we are.

It is not possible to choose any endeavor or any organism or any possession without tolerating some imperfection.

Where no oxen are, the crib is clean: but much increase is by the strength of the ox. (Prov. 14:4)

You can have a clean crib, or you can have an ox. But you cannot have both.

When you purchase a car, you can have luxury, power, comfort, reliability, looks, and affordability, but you cannot have them all. What you choose will show, in part, what kind of a person you are.

You cannot find a perfect human. There will always be flaws. All have sinned and come short of the glory of God. This truth can turn us into angry misanthropes or proud Pharisees, but both options are hard ways to live.

The fact is this: we live in a fallen world, and the effects of the fall echo in every state, every church, every organization, every gathering, every human. You won’t find perfection here. This is true whether you are seeking a spouse, a friend, an employer, an employee, a pastor, a counselor. You won’t find one that is perfect.

The deeper question is “what is intolerable?” and how you answer that question shows what kind of a person YOU are.

On the one hand, you cannot tolerate everything without destroying yourself. On the other hand, you cannot be intolerant of everything without locking yourself in a tiny box, alone against the world. If you pull up all the tares, you will have nothing else.

Soon you are left with yourself and will eventually find yourself saying, along with Bob Dylan, “God,  I’m glad I’m not me.”

Which brings us to the point of this post:

Why do so many leaders tolerate Trinitarian heresy, Christological heresy, heterodoxy on justification, Federal Vision (condemned by EVERY NAPARC Fellowship), rejection of the orthodox creeds, while also tolerating unrepentant drunkards, child abusers, spousal abusers, fornicators, pornographers, embezzlers, and thieves? For everyone who says I am being too harsh, I can give you the list of all of the above that are still in good standing, some even in office, who have done all of the above.

When at the same time women writing books, growing in knowledge, studying theology, correcting errors, protecting themselves, and separating from evil are considered intolerable?

To test this theory, ask yourself a question. There are two churches that you might attend. One has a woman leading a Bible study. The other has man in a three piece suit teaching that one must be covenantally faithful in order to be justified. Which do you choose?

One has a woman leading a conference. The other teaches that the Son is eternally subordinate to the Father. Which do you attend?

Which one do you find intolerable?

At the beginning of 2020, I saw a tweet that claimed that 90 percent of church-goes would tolerate theological heresy over political heresy. I said to myself, “That can’t possibly be true.”

And as we pick up the pieces of our congregations, we realize that it was indeed true.

This blog has been marinating a while. I have written and re-written it. But it needs to be said: what you find intolerable says more about who you are as a person than anything else.

23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.
24 “Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel! (Matt. 23:23-24)

When I see what is invading the Reformed and conservative evangelical world, I mourn the state of the church. We tolerate racism, abuse, pedophilia, pornography, hatred and violence.

And even worse than all of those: we tolerate using God’s name in vain for the purpose of winning elections, which God hates. We tolerate blasphemy in the pulpits. We tolerate gross errors concerning justification, including federal vision, final salvation by faith AND works, calling Jesus the wife of the Trinity, denial of the personhood of the Holy Spirit, and on it goes.

Don’t get me wrong. Not everyone would actually say they HOLD to those things. They would say, “Yeah. There are some problems there. But he is really good calling out sin. He is really good fighting the culture wars. He is really good on marriage and child-raising…” We carefully strain out the intolerable gnats and swallow the camels whole.

But what we find intolerable, the gnats in our soup,  is women writing books; calling out sexual assault; critiquing celebrity preachers; anything that smacks of being “woke”; crying out for justice; demanding orthodoxy in the pulpit and in our books.

I’ve seen preachers swallow the camel of subordinationism and preach valiantly against skinny jeans and long hair. I’ve seen preachers embrace Oneness Pentecostalism and denounce Harry Potter. I’ve seen preachers say “no creed but Christ” and lead the pledge of allegiance from the pulpit. I’ve seen churches embrace the Ku Klux Klan and condemn women wearing pants to hell.

What is desperately needed are preachers who preach the gospel.

2:20 Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations–
21 “Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,”
22 which all concern things which perish with the using– according to the commandments and doctrines of men?
23 These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.

3:1 If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. (Col. 2:20-3:1)

We have made our home too much in this world. What God desires of us is for us to learn to love what he loves and hate what he hates. We ought to strive to conform our thoughts to HIS thoughts. Our flesh seeks to twist God’s thoughts to conform to our opinions and biases. We search the scriptures for justifications of our pet ideas, when we really ought to be learning to conform our thoughts to his.

When we call our Savior the wife of the Trinity and denounce skinny jeans and long hair as effeminate, we might have problems with discernment.

It makes me wonder what we really worship.

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Filed under Wisdom