Category Archives: 9 things

9 things (catching up and thinking about followership)

I am very thankful to God for warm and rich fellowship with many sisters in Christ. I have no biological sisters, but many warm friendships online, and in real life.

The Oregon Coast is beautiful and I’m glad that we were able to spend some time away. I got pretty sick two days into my trip, so I didn’t get to recreate as much as I wanted to – but I got a lot of reading in.

I have heard my whole life that the reason God called Deborah to lead was that the men had all failed to step up. This is found nowhere in the text. But if we assume that it is true, the practical outcome was identical: If the men listened to her, they would live. If they rebelled against her they would die. Whatever God’s motive was for raising her up makes no difference in the outcome. What was important was not her gender, but whether she spoke God’s word.

The highlight of my trip was when a young child pointed at me and said, “Hey, look at the old man!” It must have been my hat…

While breakfasting in Medford, I glanced through the “Frankfurt declaration”. I decided to pen my own Medford Declaration: “I the undersigned will continue to be unaffected by the opinions of cult leaders and heterodox celebrity preachers”.

And back to Deborah – CS Lewis has a marvelous segment in “Prince Caspian.” Lucy, the youngest of the four children, sees Aslan who tells her to follow him and tell the others. The others can’t see him, but he tells her to follow anyway. They reluctantly follow her, and eventually they can see Aslan leading her. It seems to me that neither age nor gender are nearly as important as whom one is following.

One blessing in illness is the time to read. “The Call to Follow; Hearing Jesus in a Culture obsessed with Leadership” by Richard Langer and Joanne J. Jung is worth every penny and every minute. I’ll post a review on Amazon shortly.

August is bittersweet for me. The memories come up on my social media. It was in August that my wife had a surgery that left her in severe pain for years to follow. It was an incredibly difficult time. It was also in August that my youngest daughter spent weeks in the hospital hovering between life and death. The scars remain with both. August leaves scars that only Jesus can heal.

Next week, I will again be sitting in the hospital with my daughter and she goes through more tests. There is nowhere that is a better training ground for patience than at the bedside of a loved one. You wait regardless. You can do it patiently; or you can do it impatiently. But you will wait. Sometimes for years.

Come quickly, Lord Jesus.

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9 things on grieving

Some grief you carry in community. The worst grief you carry alone.

You grieve the relationship that should have been. The missing people in your life that you can’t talk about. The loved ones that were taken away because of great evil. The loved ones taken away by death, illness or broken relationship.

You grieve the loss of community and the things that you know that no one would believe even if you told them. You grieve the fear and the terror and the unfulfilled longing to be known and the terror of rejection and pain if you are known.

You grieve not being able to tell anyone of what is really going on because you still are grieving from the fallout of the last time you spoke.

You grieve the damage that unimaginable evil can do that you can’t speak out loud because you would sound like a paranoid nut job if you did. You grieve the appearance of evil that sunk into your soul and took away your safe place to stand that you can’t tell anyone because the fear of rejection is greater than your desire to be known. So you carry it alone. There is a heaviness attached to seeing the worst side of humanity.

You grieve the innocence that you lost; the child you never were. You grieve lost health, lost opportunities, lost youth, lost children, lost friendships, lost gardens, lost fellowship.

You grieve the loss of the place where you thought you stood, when the ground finally shakes and everything falls and nothing is left except Christ and His Cross.

And you grieve for that little boy that you once were, the one that you hate, the one that fills you with disgust and shame –  and the hardest thing to do is to grieve for him and to realize that maybe he was just trying to do the best he knew how and maybe you should give him a break because no one else would …

And you grieve the life that you thought you would have but the curse on the world got in the way, and you realize that “godliness with contentment is great gain” is the hardest concept to embrace when your soul is screaming – and then, you bow your head and worship. “Yet not my will, but thine be done.” I know. I truly know that the day will come when all of these tears will be washed away. How I long for that day.

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9 things (August 1)

Today is my youngest daughter’s 24th birthday. A few years back, we almost lost her, so today there is much to celebrate. We had a great day.

I found out today that it is illegal to name your child “Robocop” in Mexico. I don’t have any opinion about that. I am going to practice not having opinions about more things. I find the lack of opinions refreshing sometimes.

A few years back, there were a lot of on-line voices stridently pushing me to get worked up over net-neutrality. I forget if I was to be for it or against it, but I apologized profusely and begged off at the time, stating that I had my plate full with things to get worked up over but as soon as I clear some of those things up, I would throw a right fit – for or against. I don’t remember which. At any rate, I have some time now, but I forgot what I’m supposed to do. So I threw some water on a stray cat.

I will, however, always get worked up over those false shepherds who continually seek to add human merit to our salvation. Jesus is the Author and Finisher of our faith. It is impossible to be united to Christ without bringing fruits of thanksgiving, but that adds nothing to our standing before God.

I will also always get worked up by those who continually stir up discord in the church over their opinions. Reviling, threats, contemptuous speech and pride are as hateful to God as any “sin” you might be railing against.

My grandson is in my Sunday School class. he can’t remember the name “Esau”, but he remembers that his name (and his nickname) means “Red Hair”. So he calls him Red Hair. It’s fabulous. I ask, “How did Jacob steal the blessing?” And he says, “He pretended to be Red Hair”. That makes me quite happy.

Solomon judged between two harlots. One of them would rather destroy the baby than admit she was wrong. Solomon saw through her. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we had the same wisdom. There are those who would destroy souls, churches, and even countries rather than admit that they might be wrong.

When you keep company with those who mock, scoff, and scornfully use those who are “not approved,” you will find yourself caught up in wickedness and eventually unable to extricate yourself. Remember Psalm 1. There is a difference between life and chaff.

Jesus told us that his disciples would be known by their love. No matter how much you try to twist the meaning of “love” to mean “telling people what is wrong with them”, they are not the same concepts. One is of the Holy Spirit. The other is the spirit of the Accuser. The Accuser of the Brethren has been cast out of heaven. Do not be keen to take his place.

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9 things (July 20)

There has been a lot going on in the last month. Illness, traveling, illness…sometimes the desire to sit and rest is overwhelming.

I’ve been thinking about Jesus’ words “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you…” We don’t think about this nearly enough. Which authoritarian husband would genuinely want to be treated the way he treats his wife and family?

My brother Jim helped me record and mix some hymns that I played on the piano. They are now available on most services. I don’t know what I think about that. Mostly anxious, I guess. But I hope that people like them.

“Do unto others…” Maybe think about it next time you revile your server at the restaurant; or talk to your co-worker with contempt and scorn; or dismiss fellow believers as idiots and not worth your time…

I don’t know of any adults that would learn how to be a better human by way of a good beating. I sometimes wonder why we think our kids will learn how to be better humans by way of a good beating…

Diane Langberg once said that the greatest mission field for the church is the traumatized humans in every community. She is correct. The word in the Bible for traumatized (oppressed – anaw) is usually translated “meek”, or “poor” or “humble”. Those are the ones that Jesus came to preach the good news to, according to Isaiah 61:1.

Unfortunately, the traumatized are the ones we most frequently ignore, or even revile, since they generally do not fit our world and life view. Their behavior makes us uncomfortable and their existence threatens our comfort levels.

When I think about “do unto others”, I can’t help but think about how Micah describes the kingdom of God, as “everyone sitting under their own vine and their own fig tree.” It is marked by contentment and peace. There are no busybodies, no one telling you everything you are doing wrong, no enemies, no fear. I want to invite you to sit with me under my vine and under my fig tree in the kingdom and visit you under yours. Isn’t that what the gospel is all about?

Jesus puts to death our sinful inclinations, our fleshly lusts and gives us a clean heart, filling us with his spirit, so that we will finally learn to just sit and rest, praising him forever, resting in his creative work, and saying with him, “Behold! It is very good!” This is the Sabbath of God, and we will rejoice in it.

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9 things (June 11, 2022)

Marriage is a covenant, which means that it can be broken. Vows were taken. We vowed to love, cherish, cleave to, forsake all others, honor…when those vows are continually broken without repentance, divorce might be in order. The innocent party is free to make her (his) own decision without further control and abuse from outside parties.

I’ve been listening to Time for Three lately. A truly wonderful group. “Joy” makes my heart happy.

If a covenant by definition cannot be broken, then Adam would not have died and the death of Jesus would not have been necessary. The broken covenant is the tapestry on which the story of redemption is painted.

In 1 Peter 3:1, the apostle is giving practical advice to husbands and wives in the context of the spread of the gospel to Jews and Greeks alike. When you have thousands of converts a day, questions like “Do I get a divorce from my pagan husband?” abound. To apply that counsel to abusive or harsh husbands in the 21st century is like going to a chiropractor for a brain tumor. We need wisdom, people.

Life with fibromyalgia: “Oh! That one is new! I wonder if I have contracted a deadly disease or if it is just a fibro-flare?”

Those of you on Twitter who make it a practice to revile and mock women – you will someday stand before God with all of your Tweets open and you will have to explain to the Lion of Judah why you did not fear to speak about His co-heirs like you have.

If the salt has lost its saltiness, what will you salt it with? When the church sounds just like Fox News, is it distinguishable as the Bride of Christ anymore?

The sad part to me is that we as the church have forgotten how to think. We’ve become soundbites and caricatures of ourselves. Anyone who forces us to think through our positions is considered an enemy to be destroyed.

When the great commission is framed as a “culture war”, then it must be won by the weapons of the flesh by any means necessary. Disagreements cannot be tolerated. Enemies must be destroyed. Lying, harshness, reviling and slander are all necessary for the greater good. This has nothing to do with Christ.

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9 things (May 23)

1. Jesus said, “You shall know them by their fruits.” And yet, so many organizations that go by the name “church” continually ignore, cover up, and deny the fruits, embracing the wolf. I think it is time to name these organizations for what they are. If “the least of these” are not safe inside your walls, you are not a church, no matter how your PR firm spins it.

2. When one is cast out of a wolf-embracing organization, or has fled for their own safety, they have not left the church. They simply saw the fruits and realized that what they were in was not a church.

3. The SBC hasn’t been a church for a long, long time. Ever, really. An organization founded for the purpose of keeping slaves under control might say some good things from time to time, but so does the devil. You can’t tell a church by what is plastered on their website or printed in their bulletins. You will know them by their fruits.

4. I pray that the people of God who are still in bondage in the SBC will be able to flee and find safety.

5. I also pray that we all would see the warning signs before the candlestick is removed. If our “ministry” is more concerned about culture than the gospel; if our “ministry” is more concerned about keeping women in their place; if our “ministry” is based on money, power, numbers, and privilege; NOW is the time to repent and return to our former love.

6. Is anyone else extremely disturbed that so-called Christian leaders are denouncing winsomeness and kindness because of the “hostility” of the culture?? There are so many problems with this I don’t even know what to say. The outright exchange of the ethics taught by Jesus (and all of scripture) for the ethics of Fox News should shake us to the core. But it does expose the god that so many serve.

7. Placing one’s trust in strength or riches will always lead to oppression and robbery (Psalm 62). You will know them by their fruits. If there is oppression or robbery, there is no Biblical faith.

8. We are all sinners. If a church is doing its job, we will be made uncomfortable by our sins and urged to find cleansing and healing in Christ. But if your person, your dignity, your body, your worth and your voice are not safeguarded and protected, then you are not in a church.

9. Everyone is continually being catechized. It is the nature of being human. If you are being catechized by porn, you will not have a healthy view of relationships and sexuality. If you are being catechized by the media (whether right or left wing) you will make decisions based on fear. If you are being catechized by right wing nationalism, you will not understand Christianity and will find yourself worshiping another god. We become like the idols we serve (Psalm 115).

Read the Psalms.

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9 things (May 13)

Lots of celebrity pastors express concern (condemnation) for so many ex-evangelicals who are “deconstructing.” Pause. New subject. Josh Duggar’s pastor, a leading evangelical voice for a leading evangelical family, is begging the judge to allow Josh to return to his children. Let that sink in a little. There might be a connection.

For 40 years now, since the “moral majority” became a thing, the leading voices in evangelicalism have united for “traditional family values”. The result is that Anna Duggar does not believe that she has biblical grounds for divorce and that her children need a father like Josh. This makes me brutally sad. Perhaps Christians should unite over good exegesis, mercy for the oppressed, and being a voice for the voiceless.

Every time I think about writing something, I wonder if there is even a point. Then I remember that the battle isn’t against flesh and blood, but against demonic spirits in high places. So I breathe. Look to Christ. And say what has to be said, even if no one listens.

The most influential religion in America is no longer “moral therapeutic deism”, in my opinion. It has given way to Trumpism and “Christian” nationalism. These are the ugly stepchildren of Dominionism, the moral majority, and revivalism. This false religion, incidentally, grows from the same soil that bred Josh Duggar, just as the Bible said it would. But it has nothing to do with Christianity.

To Anna Duggar: You can do better.

The Bible says that we are “complete in Christ” (Col. 2:10). If this is the inerrant word of God, then it is true. If it is true, then your salvation does not depend upon your emotions, your mood, your works, your doubts, your fears, your anxieties, your questions. Flee to Christ. In Him, you have everything that you need for life and salvation.

Really. Everything. Please turn off the celebrity preachers telling you otherwise (Yes, I’m looking at John Piper). You have everything. This is the root of all joy, all love, all peace – and when you have love and joy and peace, everything else follows from there. In other words, you have life from Christ, for he paid it all.

We should normalize marking ourselves safe from celebrity preachers. There is money to be made and power to be wielded by convincing people that Christ is not enough. When Jesus is known, the religious experts of every age lose their power. This is the heart of persecution.

Go and listen to the preachers that say, “He must increase. I must decrease”. There are a few of them out there. They generally have tiny churches and wear clothes from Target and Penney’s, but they are at peace. They would also love to show you how to have peace with God.

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9 things (May 6)

1. Does anyone remember Beetle Bailey (the comic strip). I’m thinking specifically about the drawing of Beetle after Sarge gets done with him, crumpled into a heap on the floor. Anyway, some days that is exactly what fibromyalgia feels like. Today, for example.

2. When I was younger, memorization was never a problem. When I was about 8, I was playing a piece by Beethoven for a recital and I had the music out and ready. I was so nervous I forgot to take the music off the top of the piano, but I didn’t realize it until I was finished. Memory was so easy for me that my sight reading ability suffered tremendously. But now I’m old. Memory is harder now.

3. But I’m still doing it! I started plowing my way through Mendelssohn’s “Songs without Words” and loving every minute of it. It just takes me longer than it used to. The puzzles of great music are endlessly fascinating and bring peace and calm.

4. I wonder if we are thinking about holiness all wrong. We always think of it as basically synonymous with righteousness. But what if holiness is more related to being clean, clothed, beautiful, accepted, and welcomed in God’s presence? What if the Song of Songs was a book about holiness and its beauty? Of course, that involves righteousness, but it is so much grander, isn’t it?

5. The question I dread whenever I leave the house is this one: “So, what are you up to today? Any plans for the weekend?” When did they start doing this? Why should I tell a stranger my plans? Are they just a government or church spy making sure I’m complying with acceptable social mores? When did they add all of this pressure to every shopping trip?

6. Here’s a fact of dubious interest. If there is a movie that is considered “iconic” or “culture defining”, chances are quite high that I haven’t seen it.

7. Yesterday, the couple behind me at the line at the grocery store were looking at the gigantic display of M&M candies. I overheard the woman say, “No. No. I don’t do outside the box with M&Ms.” I felt that deeply. The same with potato chips, oreos, and Ice Cream. OK. Food. All food. Why does everything have to be extreme?

8. Related to number 7, the best coffee is the one that can be ordered with the fewest syllables. “I’ll have a coffee, please.” Few things were more satisfying than sitting at a Denny’s in the 90s with coffee and a cigarette.

9. One can be concerned about the consequences of overturning Roe v. Wade and believe that abortion is murder at the same time. Perhaps we should talk to each other instead of hurling anathemas.

That’s all for today. Carry on. Let this moment pass and don’t let worry cloud your hearts and minds.

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9 Things (April 28)

1. Sometimes grieving death isn’t the worst kind of grief. We grieve broken friendships, we grieve alienated children, we grieve a loss of health and vitality. We grieve the broken things of the past that we can’t fix. We grieve not having those things that others take for granted. We grieve poisonous relationships that force distance. Some of the hardest grief is the grief that one mourns alone.

2. One of my greatest griefs is watching the Church that I love being hijacked by domineering, unbelieving, cruel, racist, women-hating bullies. They pretend to be fighting the “reformed downgrade” and “feminism” but in reality they are fighting against the image of God in their neighbor and baptizing their pathologies.

3. The husband is not the savior of the wife in any way. Ephesians 5 says that he is to love his wife as Christ loves the church – and then the REST of it is about Jesus. If you want to know how to love your wife, learn about Jesus and how he loves his church. Read the Song of Songs and Philippians 2 for a start.

4. My wife was diagnosed with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome about 10 years ago. It was a blow and a relief. A blow because we partly knew that she would never be the same again and her mobility would decline. A relief because we finally had some answers. There were members of our church at the time, including an elder, who were offended that I asked for prayer for her “too much”. I still don’t know how to process that.

5.  I love Reformed theology as it is summarized in the Three Forms of Unity. This, to me, is what it means to be Reformed. However, there is a disconnect between the theology and the practice of the Reformed world. There is something in the culture of the Reformed world that breeds a very, very ugly spirit. Social media takes that spirit and makes it public.

6.  I read this week that 55 percent of Americans believe that the US Constitution is inspired by God. Either they have no idea what inspiration means, or they have a serious problem with idolatry. Either way, we have a huge problem.

7. Nationalism and Christianity are not compatible. They are competing religions. One seeks salvation in power and control. The other is proclaimed through weakness and the foolishness of the message preached. You cannot serve God and Mammon.

8. I long for the day when seminaries training pastors will not only teach languages and theology, but will also provide the guidance and space to begin their healing from past traumas. Until a man deals with his trauma honestly, he cannot be an effective pastor. Until he understands himself, he will invariably feed himself rather than the sheep.

9.  When one believes that God will only bless a nation based upon their national obedience, then one can easily justify the oppression and hatred of the sinner who won’t get on board. It is a scary place to be. Blessings for national obedience is not Christianity.

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9 things (April 6)

  • If the welfare of society, marriage, family, culture, and country are all dependent upon men being manly, here are two questions that must be asked: Who gets to define what being manly is? And this one: What do you do with those who don’t get on board?
  • My shoulder hurts. I put some cream on it. Its got arnica, hemp, menthol – some other stuff. So I’ve spend the whole afternoon saying to myself, “What is that smell? Oh, yeah.”
  • Last week, I was out of town withdrawing from the world. I deleted all of my social media apps from my phone. It was wonderful. I left them off of my phone and now am far more productive.
  • Yesterday, my pants rejected me. I was putting them on, and my foot got tangled up and down I went. I think I heard them whisper, “Not today, fat boy.” My pants hate me.
  • My wife thinks I’m curvy and spectacular, though. So there’s that.
  • If women were only given leadership roles because men failed to lead, then how do you explain Huldah? Josiah was king. Jeremiah and Zephaniah were the prophets. and Hilkiah the high priest. All of them were godly and faithful leaders.
  • People have all sorts of experiences and backgrounds. People come from all sorts of different cultures and have different ways of thinking. Christians must not base fellowship on political viewpoints, but on the unity of true faith. The unity of true faith is not the same as a political viewpoint.
  • Last week a man attended our church for the first time. He decided that he could not fellowship with us because of how we responded to COVID in 2020. It was his test of fellowship, so he asked. How did we let this happen?
  • While I was out of town, I went shopping for odds and ends, just for fun. I didn’t take my phone. It felt weird, but totally liberating.

Hold to Christ. He will hold you fast. Patiently await the day when all wrongs will be made right.

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