Tuesday, December 19, 2006


"When you serve as midwife to the Hebrew women and see them on the birthstool, if it is a son, you shall kill him, but if it is a daughter, she shall live."
Exodus 1:16

Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, "Every son that is born to the Hebrews you shall cast into the Nile, but you shall let every daughter live."
Exodus 1:22

Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men.
Matthew 2:16

Addiction: Progressive Sin

A more precise way to think about the progression of addiction is that it begins as the sin of the naïve and develops into the sin of one who is hardened and trapped. It starts as a sin with few consequences and develops into a sin with painful consequences. At first, the consequences might be a ing headache or a little less spending money. With practice, everything is spoiled: the body is sick, the soul is numb, and relationships are broken. Practiced, repeated sin results in slavery, a multitude of painful consequences, and God abandoning people to their own desires so they are left always wanting one more. Such a profile can only be described as a great tragedy.
[Welch, Edward T., Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave (Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 2001), pg. 38, 39]

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


Portia Nelson has written a piece titled: "Autobiography in Five Short Chapters." It reads:

Chapter I
I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost...I am helpless.
It isn't my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

Chapter II
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don't see it.
I fall in again.
I can't believe I am in the same place,
but it isn't my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

Chapter III
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in...it's a habit.
My eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.

Chapter IV
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

Chapter V
I walk down another street.

Sin and More

Heavy drinkers and other addicts genuinely feel out of control, but they are also making choices rooted in their own self-centeredness and pride. Since this is an apparent paradox, we tend to emphasize one or the other. Theology, however, keeps us balanced. Sometimes we will stress the in-control nature of our hearts, at other times we will emphasize the powerlessness and slavery of addictive behaviors. Yet good, practical theology keeps this larger spectrum of sin in mind. It also recognizes that sin is not the only biblical doctrine relevant to addictions.
[Welch, Edward T., Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave (Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 2001), pg. 36]

Even Denying the Master

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their , and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.
2 Peter 2:1-3

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Addiction: Slavery to Passions and Desires

With this biblical reframing of addictions, perhaps we should suggest a more precise definition. Addiction is to the rule of a substance, activity, or state of mind, which then becomes the center of life, defending itself from the truth so that even bad consequences don’t bring repentance, and leading to further estrangement from God. To locate it on the theological map, look under sin. More specifically, since sin is a broad category that includes both self-conscious disobedience and victimizing slavery, find addiction on the side that emphasizes slavery.
[Welch, Edward T., Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave (Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 2001), pg. 35]

A Lamp Shining In the Darkness

For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased," we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
2 Peter 1:16-21

Monday, December 11, 2006

Slavery to Sin Looks Like Disease

Sin is more than conscious choices. Like a cruel taskmaster, sin victimizes and controls us (John 8:34). It captures and overtakes (Gal. 6:1). In fact, there are times when we intend to do one thing but sin causes us to do things we don’t want to do. Even though we may really want to change, it can seem like an overwhelming or impossible task to actually do so. As the apostle Paul said, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do….As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me” (Rom. 7:15, 17). In other words, sin feels exactly like a disease. It feels as if something outside ourselves has taken over....
[Welch, Edward T., Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave (Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 2001), pg. 33]

Make Your Calling and Election Sure

For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.
2 Peter 1:5-10

Friday, December 08, 2006

Disease or Sin?

There is a dramatic difference between seeing drunkenness as a victimizing physical weakness versus an expression of a self-focused heart.
  • A physical weakness is not changed, only tolerated and controlled. A self-centered, idolatrous heart can be transformed by sanctifying grace through the Holy Spirit and can receive spiritual resources to fight a winning battle.
  • A physical weakness does not motivate us to engage in spiritual battle. Knowing that we have a self-centered heart should compel us to examine ourselves and repent.
  • A physical weakness limits Jesus Christ’s role to that of helper. The person convicted of a self-centered heart cries out to Christ the Lord, Redeemer, Shepherd, Conqueror, and King.
[Welch, Edward T., Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave (Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 2001), pg. 32]

Everything Pertaining to Life

May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.
2 Peter 1:2-4

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Stop Depriving One Another

Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: "It is good for a man not to have s e xual relations with a woman." But because of the temptation to s e xual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
1 Corinthians 7:1-5

Our Bodies Can't Make Us Sin

Biblical approaches to addictions do not deny that the physical body is part of the addictive process. We are, after all, embodied souls. Everything we do is physical. Where Scripture brings more precision into this discussion is in its teaching that the physical body can’t make us sin. It can make our lives miserable, it can leave us vulnerable to certain temptations, and sometimes it could be the focus of our attention, but it can’t irresistibly force us to violate God’s commands.
[Welch, Edward T., Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave (Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 2001), pg. 31]

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Church Authority

Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them."
Matthew 18:18-20

One Drink, One Drunk?

…With heavy drinking, this has been simplified to the motto, “One drink, one drunk.” That is, once you take the first drink, your craving for the second will be irresistible. This motto has been canonized as gospel in many quarters but it is not as simple as it seems. For example, every persons who struggles with heavy drinking will be able to remember times when he or she had just one drink. Even though it is wise advice to avoid the first drink, it is just plain wrong to say that the first drink will inevitably and irresistibly lead to the second. In fact, some have suggested that the motto has backfired, in that problem drinkers assume they will have to continue to drink if they drink just one. The reality is that in order to drink to intoxication, there must be time, resources, and a context where drinkers feel they have permission to continue. Drunkenness is not inevitable after one drink, nor is the craving for more always present after one drink.
[Welch, Edward T., Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave (Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 2001), pg. 30]

The Chief Cornerstone

Who can tell me the truth about the canon? The Bible tells me that the church is the pillar and foundation of truth. What is the church? I think Christians would say that only Jesus—who is the way, the truth and the life, really would have the authority to say. If Jesus is in fact God omniscient, this stands to reason: look around you; many different people have many different and contradictory opinions. Therefore all human “truth” is subjective, unless Christians are right, and only Jesus is “The Way, the Truth and The Life.” He would be capable of truth. So if the church was capable of choosing the canon, then Jesus would have to give the church the authority (i.e. “capability”) to do so.

So what (or where) is this church that bears God’s authority? When he established His church Jesus said, “Upon this Rock I will build my church.” If the church is the pillar and foundation of truth and it was established and built by Christ, then it, presumably, is the only body that can tell us authoritatively which books are in the canon of scripture.

When Jesus said He was establishing the pillar and foundation of truth (which alone can tell us what is in the Canon), what did He mean by “the Rock?” Was it Peter (as Catholics argue), was it Jesus Himself, was it Peter’s faith?” Presumably if we can find the “rock” we will know where Christ’s church is.

Mike, where or what is the Rock? Please give me your answer. But, perhaps more importantly (and sincere) respect, please give me reasons why I can believe that you know the true answer to this question.

Tom’s next questions are quite good and reasonable. What is the Church and how do we know?

I’ll start with the last question first. Why would anyone read further? I know what I’m saying is true because I see it in the Bible, the Word of God. If I’m wrong in my ordering or exegesis, I would be happy to change my mind. But the correction would need to be based on the Scripture and right understanding of Scripture. God’s word does not change, though I might misread it. But on the things I’ve said below, I don’t think so.

Tom is correct to notice that Christ is the rock, the final authority, the truth, etc. but what do we mean by all these terms and where do they come from?

Deuteronomy 32:4 tells us that God is the rock of our salvation. He is filled with justice, mercy and truth. He has given his people birth into a new life (cf. the context, esp. vss. 15, 18).

Isaiah 44:8 tells us that there is no other rock besides God. There are, of course, a lot of passages between Deuteronomy and Isaiah which tell us what kind of rock God is: that he is loving, kind, merciful, loves to give forgiveness, etc., but we are headed in a particular direction here.

What is the God of Israel’s name? Who is he as distinguished from the gods of the other countries surrounding Israel? YHWH is his name. We sometimes call him Yahweh, or Jehovah and most modern translations of the Bible translate his name as Lord (small caps) to distinguish it from Lord, who might be a human person. The point here is that it is not just any god who is the Rock, it is Yahweh who is the only Rock the foundation, the savior of God’s people.

Isaiah 40:3 says that a prophet will come telling the people to “prepare a way for the Lord (Yahweh), make straight a highway for our God (as opposed to the gods of other lands). Then the Apostle Matthew tells us that John the Baptist was the one “who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said, "The voice of one crying in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight'" (Mat. 3:3). Matthew’s point here is that the one John was announcing was God on earth. And when you go back to various passages in the Old Testament you can see that God had promised that he would indeed live on earth and save his people from their sins by dying on a cross. He would also prove it to be the case by rising from the dead three days later.

This coming one, as it turned out, was Jesus of Nazareth, Immanuel, God with us. YHWH in human form, walking around, eating and drinking.

But the Bible takes the image of a stone and uses it to talk about a building, made up of the people of God. In Isaiah 28:16 God says that he will set a tested stone to be the cornerstone in the Kingdom of God. And previously Psalm 118:22 had said that the Jews would reject the stone, but that it would become a precious cornerstone. Jesus understood that he was that stone, tested and precious, when he said to the Jews, “"Have you never read in the Scriptures: "' The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes'? Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits” (Mat. 21:42-43). Contextually he is saying that the Jews would reject him and that God would take the Kingdom of Heaven from them and give it to those who would believe.

Further, the Apostles understood that Jesus was not only YHWH, but that he was the Stone as well, rejected by his people and having become the cornerstone of the Christian Church, the Kingdom of God, made up of all who believe and are baptized. We see this specifically in 1 Peter 2:6-9 when Peter says that these same verses and more refer to Jesus the Christ. Jesus is not only God on earth, but he is also the Stone of offense, the Stone the builders rejected, and the stone that has become the cornerstone of the whole building.

A building does not only consist of a cornerstone, however, it also includes a foundation and an actual building. The New Testament writers said that Jesus is the cornerstone of the building, the church, with the apostles and prophets as its foundation (cf. Eph. 2:20-22). The building that rests on this foundation is made up of the church itself, you and me and all those who down through history have believed and been baptized (1 Pet. 2:1-10). So the picture is that the building is made up of bricks, a foundation, and a cornerstone. It makes up the Church itself.

To get back to Tom’s questions, then, Jesus is the Stone that holds the whole thing together. The Apostles, including Peter, are the foundation of the building. And the saints down through history are the bricks that make up the building.

There are several metaphors the Bible uses that are helpful here. One of them is that of a body. The Church is the body of Christ and Christ is the head of the body. What Christ wants to do his body follows him in doing. As the building grows, the kingdom grows and so the body grows. But bodies grow in several ways at the same time. It grows out and up, and it also changes its look. So too the body of Christ. As the Gospel spreads through the world the body grows (e.g. the Mustard seed for example). And because sin is in the world, the body has various ailments, sprains, breaks, pimples, cancers, etc. But because the body of Christ is Christ’s body, it can never be killed. It has already been killed and is risen. Christ has also promised to make his bride beautiful over time (to mix the metaphors) and so we know that because Jesus is Lord, the body will be changing over time.

In history, the church has held various councils and meetings to establish certain key truths about Christianity. God has not left us without a Word, he has given us teachers, preachers, parents, and the Holy Spirit to help us understand his will for us in the world. It is important to remember that the whole thing is organic. There is no human structure like the empire state building, which will eventually fall over. Christ’s building is eternal because it is made up of baptized believers, who are loving, serving, worshiping, and living in Christ.

We do not worship the Bible, we worship the God of the Bible. But we do read and diligently study the Bible. It is the repository of what God thinks and desires. It is our source of specific knowledge of God and how he wants us to live as we wait for him. In addition to studying the word itself, we study what others through history have learned and gleaned from it. They are not authoritative in the same way the Bible is, but because these saints have gone before us in the power of the Spirit of God it would be folly for us to ignore their discoveries. The Church of Christ is the presence of Christ in the world and what the Church has believed through the years is what we believe and teach. This is because this is what the cornerstone of the Church believes.

Monday, December 04, 2006

I Trust Him Because He Loves Me

Again, Tom writes:

Similarly, if one of the tests of the canon of scripture is whether or not it leads you to another God besides the one found in the Bible, and if your reason for believing that the God of the Bible is the word of the true God primarily because the Bible says so, how do you know that a writing that leads you to another God is not, in fact, leading you to the true God (who may not be the God of the Bible at all)? Perhaps this other God also has his or her own scriptures that say that he or she is the true God (and that all others are wrong).

It seems to me that in the case of the policeman, you need an authority to tell you that this is truly a policeman. A badge is helpful, and your gut feelings about whether this fellow really could be a policeman or not are helpful, but a government that backs up the man’s claim to be a policeman is the best proof. There you have something solid.

Hi Tom,

Beyond what I wrote in my last post, Douglas Wilson wrote a little piece as part of his “What I Learned in Narnia” series. You can find it here: http://www.dougwils.com/index.asp?Action=Anchor&CategoryID=1&BlogID=3203.

To this I would add that I know the Bible is the word of God because I know him. He is my savior, my redeemer, my God, my Lord, and my friend. I know that my redeemer lives and he has not left me or his people without a word. The bible is that word. I have been a Christian my entire life and nothing has shown itself to be in opposition to what I find in the Scriptures.

Occasionally I have questions, but because I know God I’m happy to wait for him to reveal the answers either in this life or the next (or never at all). Because God loves me and I know it full well, I am content to wait on him. I trust him.

Influenced vs. Determined

Most researchers are quick to point out that the biologically oriented studies suggest that genetics can influence people, and with this scripture has no dispute. People can be physiologically predisposed to enjoying a particular drug, food, activity, or physical experience, but there is a categorical difference between being influenced by genetics and being determined by it. Possible physiological tendencies do not mean that self-control is impossible or that personal responsibility is diminished. They simply mean that some people must be more vigilant in situations where that sin can be easily provoked.
[Welch, Edward T., Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave (Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 2001), pg. 27,28]

Self Glorification Maintains Unbelief

How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?
John 5:44

Word of God

This is a short list of sources for how we got our Bible.

Holy Scripture, by William Bloesch, p. 149ff.
The Canon of Scripture, by F.F. Bruce, p. 255ff.
Systematic Theology, by Wayne Grudem, p. 54ff.
Systematic Theology, by Louis Berkhof, p. 144ff.
Foundations of the Christian Faith, by Boice, p. 37ff.

Pretty much any book that talks about the Bible also talks about how we got the Bible in the form we have it today.

Happy reading.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Word of God and Circular Reasoning

Tom made some great comments and asked some good questions. I’ll answer them as I get time, over the next few days.

You wrote: "We know that the Bible is the Word of God primarily because it says it is and assumes that it is.” I find this reasoning unsatisfying. It is, I believe, what is known as "circular reasoning," like someone telling you he is a policeman and that you have to believe it because he is a policeman. Later on you might find out that he lied, or was confused and only thought he was a policeman. So why would I believe that the Bible is the word of God primarily because it says so?


First let me say that I appreciate your tone and your curiosity. You are asking good questions in a good way. I appreciate that.

The first answer is that all arguments are, when you get down to the nitty-gritty, circular. They all eventually get to the point of asking, who says? Or by what standard? The problem, then, isn’t that the argument is circular, which I’m happy to admit it is, but who or what is the authority for the facts or presuppositions of the argument? In many cases we are happy to admit the authority of the speaker or source as a valid authority (experts, authors, athletes, etc.). In this case we are saying that the one who defines everything is our authority. God tells us what everything is. The sky is blue, for example, because he says it is. 2+2=4 because that is the way God defined that particular math problem. We are so used to the way life is that we forget that it is this way for purposeful reasons, and those reasons abide in the mind of God.

So, the first answer to your question is we believe the Bible to be God’s word because God says it is and he is a suitable authority to make circular statements about himself. How could he do anything else? There can be no higher authority to appeal to.

If a fellow claiming to be a policeman comes up to you and tells you to get out of the car, you can only tell if he isn’t a policeman by appealing to something above him. Policeman must wear badges, for example. A higher court decreed it. Does he have a badge on? Then according to that higher decree there is a good chance that he is indeed a cop. But let’s say that you found out later that he wasn’t a policeman after all. How would you determine this unless you appealed to some higher power or authority? In the case of God and his word, there is no higher authority to appeal to. So you have to take his tests and apply them to people who claim to speak on his behalf. Which leads to the second point.

The Tests of a Prophet
Second, the Koran claims to be the word of God. The Book of Mormon claims to be the word of God. We could go on for a long time listing books that claim to be sacred scripture. All of these books and texts assume or teach that the Old Testament is accurate as far as it goes. For example, the Koran agrees with the Old Testament as far as Ishmael. The Book of Mormon declares itself to be another testament, claiming to be in complete agreement with what is already found in the Old and New Testaments.

So, we are to run the tests given in the Bible to see if their prophets are true prophets and their texts truly the Word of God. Do they seek to have us follow gods other than the God of the Bible? Even if you go way back to the beginning you can see that the god of the Koran is not the same God as the God of the first 17 chapters of the Bible. The first verse of the Bible, for example says that God created everything. God made the world in such a way that we understand that created object reflects the character and nature of the one who created. Thus whatever God creates will reflect who he is to anyone looking at the created object. This means that we can look around us, at any level, and make observations about the person of the being that created what we find. What we see is great diversity and great similarity at the same time. We see complexity and simplicity. We see singularity and plurality. Then, when we look from the creation to the Bible we find that same God revealed on those pages. We find a single God with plurality personality—a Trinity. That is the kind of God we find in the Bible. But is it the same God we find in the Koran? No. The God of Islam is a monadic, singular God. Mohamed was not a very good Bible scholar. He got the one god part of Judaism right, but not the triune God of the Bible as a whole. This is because the man who claimed to speak for God in the 7th century did not know the true God and consequently was not sent by him. (Mormonism fails this test as well btw.)

What do we find when we examine Mormonism? The second test is that the things the prophet says will happen do. If you examine the claims of Joseph Smith you will find that he gave all sorts of prophetic decrees and exhortations that had foretelling aspects to them. Some of them appeared to come true, but many many did not. If you’d like to see more on this you can visit a web site like this: http://www.utlm.org/. The Bible says that if God is speaking through a man, what he says will happen does. In the Bible we see this kind of prophecy happening over and over again with no flaws or misses. Thus we know that the Bible is true and Mormonism is a false religion. (Islam fails this test too.)

What about the third test? What the newer prophet says must fit with previous scripture. This means that if somehow the prophet either didn’t make any predictive announcements or if they somehow came true and if the god seemed to be the same God of the Bible, you would need to watch for a little longer to see if what they were saying lined up with what we already had. If you hold either Mormonism or Islam up to the Bible, they fail this test as well. Islam is a religion of vengeance and warfare. Mormonism is a polytheistic religion in which the God of the Bible is not the highest God in the universe, simply one of many.

Lest the reader think I am picking on these two other “religions” let me say that we can do this with any religious group in the world. Is what they are representing to us as God’s word, actually God’s word? Does it agree with what we see around us? Does what they teach about God and the world fit with how life actually is and what we understand about God in his word? Does it try to lead us away from the God revealed in the bible? Does it tell us of a god that doesn’t do what he says he will do? Does it tell us of a God who changes his mind and character to suit the “prophet”? Does the god represented look amazingly like the man who claims to represent him?

You might say that Jesus looked a lot like God, to which I would say yes, but that is because he was God. Abraham didn’t look anything like the God he represented. Neither did Moses or any other prophet in the Bible. They were all very human and very sinful human beings. The claim in the Bible, however about Jesus, is that he was God incarnate. And this is key to the difference between Christianity and the other religions. They claim that Jesus was a prophet, but the Bible claims that he was God.

My point here is that when you subject the prophecies of the other religions through the basic tests of prophecy, you find that only Christianity passes them all.

Redemptive History
There is a third proof that the Bible is the word of God. This is tied to the major theme of the book—redemptive history. The bible is a book about God and his dealings with man. But the primary relationship between God and man involves redemption. Man sinned and is in rebellion against God. The story of the Bible is primarily about how God is working in history to save his people from their sins and to restore them to the covenantal relationship they were originally created to share with him. The key question to ask here is, Is it true? Does the explanation of God fit with what we see around us? Yes it does. The God taught about in the Bible is the only way we can accurately explain everything we see around us.

Second, does what the text say will happen happen in actual history? Yes. Everything the prophets said would happen happened. Not only did it happen exactly like how it was described, but it also happened when they said it would happen.

Third, what does the Bible point to? It points to and culminates in Jesus of Nazareth. It not only culminates in Jesus the man, but it is fulfilled in his death for humanity on a cross. But even more spectacularly, the promise is that he would rise from the dead. If he did not rise, none of anything else in the Bible is true and the whole thing should be chucked into a deep hole somewhere. But it did happen. Jesus did rise from the dead. The Bible says that Jesus was justified as the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead (Rom. 1:3). And when Jesus was vindicated, the Bible was also validated as being the Word of God.

I hope this helps.

Addictions: Purposeful Decisions

But the disease doesn’t fit as well as we might think. The cravings and desires at the core of the addictive experience are not quite the same as an invading virus. If you catch a virus, you have no choice. You don’t want it, and you would be glad to be rid of it. Heaving drinking, however, doesn’t just happen to us. Instead, the drinker feels there are pay off—however temporary—to drunkenness. (There are for any sin.) In other words, addicts make choices to pursue their addiction…Even with the associated misery, people drink because on some level drinking does something for them. Their drinking is purposeful.
[Welch, Edward T., Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave (Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 2001), pg. 26]

Preparation for Victory

Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles, lest the LORD see it and be displeased, and turn away his anger from him.

Fret not yourself because of evildoers, and be not envious of the wicked, for the evil man has no future; the lamp of the wicked will be put out.
Proverbs 24:17-20

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Some Results of Sin

Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has strife? Who has complaining? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? Those who tarry long over wine; those who go to try mixed wine. Do not look at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup and goes down smoothly. In the end it bites like a serpent and stings like an adder. Your eyes will see strange things, and your heart utter perverse things. You will be like one who lies down in the midst of the sea, like one who lies on the top of a mast. "They struck me," you will say, "but I was not hurt; they beat me, but I did not feel it. When shall I awake? I must have another drink." Proverbs 23:29-35

Alcoholism is Drunkenness is Idolatry

When you look at it closely, drunkenness is a lordship problem. Who is your master, God or your desires? Do you desire God above all else, or do you desire something in creation more than you desire the Creator? At root, drunkards are worshipping another god—alcohol. Drunkenness violates the command “You shall have no other gods before me.” Heavy drinkers love alcohol. They are controlled by it as if they were its subjects and it was their ruler-lover. This alcohol-worship, however, is actually a form of self-worship. We worship people and things to get what we want. Those who worship money do so in order to get what they want. Heavy drinkers think neither to glorify God nor to love their neighbor. They drink to indulge their own desires, whether those desires are pleasure, freedom from pain, alleviation of fear, forgetting, vengeance, or a host of others.
[Welch, Edward T., Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave (Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 2001), pg. 23,24]

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Canon of Scripture: How we got the Bible

The first thing we learn when we read the Book of God is that he is. The first thing we learn about him is that he created everything that is or ever will be. The second thing we learn is that he speaks. God speaks things into existence, he reveals himself as he speaks through his creation and through his people, Jesus is spoken one (the word of God). As one reads the Bible he sees that God is the primary communicator and he does it by means of the spoken word through is prophets and through his apostles and through his son the Lord Jesus. When we read carefully we see that men are communicators because they are like God who is the communicator. It is part of man having been created in the image of God.

We know that the Bible is the Word of God primarily because it says it is and assumes that it is. A simple examination of the various books of the Bible will show this to be true. But it is not the kind of revelation that we modern folks might expect. Is not full of tight syllogistic logic. Instead the bible is a set of books that talk about God and the things God expects of his people usually in the style of a story. So it is a collection of stories tied together saying the same thing, building on one another to reveal God, his character, and his redemptive purposes in history. This primary claim shows itself on virtually every page and in every situation. It says something like God is, man was created by God (along with everything else), man rebels, man is judged, man repents, God forgives, man is restored, man rejoices, God is glorified in all things.

There are a couple of places in the Biblical account where God anticipates the question, “How can we know if a man coming and saying he is bringing a message from the Lord is really a true prophet?” and he says that if the one claiming to be from God tries to lead the people of God after another god, he is a false prophet (Deut. 13:1-5). This is because if he is trying to lead the people after other gods, he cannot have been sent by the true God. God is a jealous God and will not share is glory with another. This false prophet is just that a false prophet and should be dealt with accordingly.

In another place when the issue of a false prophet comes up it is in the context of how can the people know if someone is claiming to be leading the people toward God, claiming to be a prophet, but is actually a false prophet speaking out of turn or in an immature way. God says in Deuteronomy 18:21 that if the one claiming to speak for God says something will happen that does not happen, or if he says something that is simply not true, he is a false prophet and should not be listened to. The context here is important because in it God is commanding the people to take great care to listen to and obey the commands of the prophets of God because they are speaking the words of God. This is why being able to distinguish true prophets from false prophets is so important and why the penalty for impersonating a prophet is such a serious breach.

In the Old Testament we have a record of God’s actions through the prophets, but God has also spoken to the world through the nation of Israel as God’s representatives in the world. In other words, it is not just the prophets who revealed God’s wisdom and Grace to the world, but also the life of the nation of Israel itself. This is why we take the historical books as canonical as well as the prophetic and wisdom books. God spoke through the prophets and through the nation and recorded it in the Book.

In the Old Testament, through the prophets and nation God revealed that he himself would one day be a man, a man who would die for his people in a sacrificial way and would rise from the dead. This person was Jesus of Nazareth. When Jesus was in his earthly ministry he chose 12 men to represent him in the earth after he ascended to the father. The men, apostles were to lead the church into all the world making them into disciples and teaching them everything Jesus had taught them about the Kingdom of God, based on what the Older testament had taught.

The New Testament is this apostolic teaching personified, again, in a book. The apostles taught went from Jerusalem, into Judea, and then into all the world teaching about Jesus and God’s salvation. They wrote preached, taught, wrote historic accounts, wrote letters and even prophet books. What we have in the New Testament is the teaching about Jesus after his coming whereas in the Old Testament we have the teaching about Jesus before his coming. Again, the book is full of the teachings of the people of God from the perspective of both apostles and church (whereas in the Old Testament it was prophets and Israel).

Again the issue of truth and error raised it ugly head when the saints began to wonder which books and letters should rightly be included in the collection of books called the Word of God. In the Old Testament the tests were: Did the prophet try to lead the hearers after other Gods? Was their teaching in line with former teaching? And did everything the prophet said would happen come about when and how he said it would? In the New Testament the test of an apostle included everything taught in the Old Testament plus, did the one claiming to be an Apostle live with Jesus, see him after his resurrection and was he appointed by Christ to be an apostle (cf. Acts 1:15-26; 1 Tim. 2:7)?

Years later, after the last apostles had died, the church struggled with which books to include in the canon of Scripture. Fortunately, Jesus had given authority to the church to make decisions about things pertaining to the kingdom of God for she was the kingdom of God, one loaf with Christ, Christ’s body, collectively Christ on earth. What this means is that when the church speaks authoritatively on any subject, that is truth. So, in various church counsels discussed which books should be included in the Bible and over time recognized what we have today as the Bible. They based their decision on what the Jews had assumed to be Scripture before Christ’s birth (the Old Testament) and books that were written by Apostles or by people closely related to the Apostles (the New Testament).

There is a theological issue that needs to be mentioned here. First, the church did not create the Bible by choosing which books should be included and which ones should be excluded. They used their criteria for choosing, looked on their shelves and arranged those books which fit the criteria. They recognized the Word of God as the Word of God according to the standards set by the Word of God. In doing so they maintained the standards set from the very beginning for recognizing God’s word when it came to them. Did the text lead them after other gods? Did it reveal truth in line with what had already been revealed? Did what it said would happen happen? Was it brought be legitimate messengers? In every case the books in our Bible are books that answer ‘yes’ to those questions. And the church recognized them as such.

Second, the church did create the Bible when they met in council and decided which books to include and which ones to exclude. The books included can never be removed and those excluded can never be excluded because the church acting as she did, was representing Christ with all of is power and authority. Because Christ left the church in the world to represent him to the lost, she is responsible to make corporate decisions that stand because of who the church represents.

Finally, the councils that decided which books should be included in the Bible did not recognize the books we call the Apocrypha as scripture until after the Reformation had begun. They found these books to be helpful and good, but not the Word of God. Therefore, because the church proclaimed them to be non-Biblical the church today does not recognize these books as canonical.

Struggling with Lifestyle Sin

Dear Brother,

I need your advice. On Saturday my friend Mark (A Christian from a Pentecostal Church) told me that he is hmosexual (He thanks God he doesn't practice it.). But he needs help because he sees that hmosexuality is against God's Law.

Everything what I could offer him is our regular meetings (maybe with some other Christians) every 1-2 weeks in pubs, sports-games, DVD movies - to protect him in spending evenings alone. He lives in a Student House in 1-person room. I also asked him to come to our prayer meeting.

Do you know of any hmosexual Christians whom God saved from this particular sin?

What would you counsel in that situation? How would you help this kind of person? As I said he doesn't practice it and he wants to change. He loves God and His Word and I know it was hard for Mark to tell me about it.

In Him,


Hello Paul,

It sounds like what you’re already doing with your friend will help. I’d add the following:

The enslavement to our passions is the most terrible thing. Enslavement to a passion that seems so natural and so "right" is very hard to break out of. I've never met anyone who was converted from homosexuality, but I've heard of folks who have been successfully changed in heart and mind (especially in other areas of sinfulness).

The Bible treats hmosexuality just like other sins except that in Romans 1 it says that homosexuality is God's wrath being poured out on mankind for not acknowledging him as God and for not being grateful to him. But God loves to forgive sinners, so you should treat this kind of sin just like you would treat any other kind of sin. With this in mind, evangelism and discipleship should follow the same track it follows for all other sins. Folks need to turn away from their sin and follow Jesus.

If a guy is a Christian and is struggling with a sinful past he needs to commit himself to following Christ. He needs to forsake his sin, and its roots and its accompanying lifestyle. Doing this alone, however, won't do anything for his rampant desires or for the ways he's trained himself to think for the past 10 years (or however long). He needs, therefore, to change how he thinks about life now to think about life the way God thinks about it (which is really what repentance means).

In the area of hmosexuality, he will need to learn to think anew about men, women, marriage, , family, covenant, church, etc. in the same way that God teaches about it in the Bible. He will need to stop thinking the way he has been and be transformed by the Word of God into thinking the way God thinks about all these things. To do this he must offer himself to Christ to be molded by Christ to be who he ought to be.

As part of the process he must cultivate a hatred for sin in general and the sin of his passions specifically. The Bible says he must "Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: ual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry (Col. 3:5). Putting your various parts to death in this way is a violent action and should be thought of in this way. Putting sin away, tearing down idols, breaking with habits we've loved for a long time, is a violent and vicious undertaking. But if a man is to walk with God he has to realize that Satan is not playing a games, he is deadly serious and would have our souls locked in Hell. Sin must be thought of this way if it is to be overthrown.

Sometimes God just takes our sin away with no struggle, but many more times whole life sins (or lifestyle sins) can have the kind of grip on us that take a whole lot more drastic measures to really deal with them. Jesus said that we had to take up our cross daily and follow him. Again, the language is strongly violent and active. Sin must be dealt with aggressively in a warlike (or execution) way if it is to be overcome.

All of this assumes the empowerment of God's spirit. A guy can struggle with sin until he dies and goes to Hell, but he will never overcome it unless he is empowered by the Spirit of God. But God's spirit works in us as we set our hearts and minds on him to obey him and then obey. This is what walking in faith means.

So, to make a long letter a little longer, I'd ask your friend to read his Bible regularly: looking for the character and nature of God. As he reads he should ask God to give him a new heart and a new mind. He should pray that God would translate him from a citizen of this world into a citizen of God's world. If he has time it would be good for him to read Doug's family books (esp. Reforming Marriage, Federal Husband, Future Men, and Fidelity). He should also be reading other books like Mother Kirk, stuff by CS Lewis, things that will help him realize that the world of Christ is different than the world he has lived in. And you should meet with him regularly to help him in his struggles with s.

Also, he will need to know about confession of sin, repentance, and keeping short accounts, so when he falls he can confess the sin, receive forgiveness, and start again.

I hope this helps,

He Still Worships the Alcohol Idol

How would this apply to Jim? In his situation, speaking the truth in love to him would not mean confronting his alcohol use per se. After all, Jim had been sober for a year. Instead it would mean confronting his false religion, which exalted his own comfort and desires. Jim fits the AA description of the dry drunk, who is no longer drinking but hasn’t really changed. Jim’s actual use of alcohol had changed but all the beliefs that motivated his drinking persisted. True change was going to have to go deeper than sobriety.
[Welch, Edward T., Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave (Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 2001), pg. 8,9]

Things Done in Secret

Ezekiel 8:12 Then he said to me, "Son of man, have you seen what the elders of the house of Israel are doing in the dark, each in his room of pictures? For they say, 'The LORD does not see us, the LORD has forsaken the land.'"

Ezekiel 9:9 Then he said to me, "The guilt of the house of Israel and Judah is exceedingly great. The land is full of blood, and the city full of injustice. For they say, 'The LORD has forsaken the land, and the LORD does not see.'

Ezekiel 11:5 And the Spirit of the LORD fell upon me, and he said to me, "Say, Thus says the LORD: So you think, O house of Israel. For I know the things that come into your mind.

The Glory

Proverbs 17:6 Grandchildren are the crown of the aged, and the glory of children is their fathers.

Proverbs 20:29 The glory of young men is their strength, but the splendor of old men is their gray hair.

Proverbs 25:2 It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out.

1 Corinthians 11:7 For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man.

1 Corinthians 10:31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

A Prayer for Blessing

Father of lights, Lord of glory,

I found out yesterday that an old friend (I guess a new enemy) wrote about me on his blog. Ordinarily his personal attacks have been leveled against my friends and church, but yesterday the frustration, bitterness, hurt, and pain were leveled at me.

When I first met this young man, I was very impressed by his ability to handle the English language, both in print and verbally. He is a very intelligent and bright young fellow. I had very high hopes for his life and for where he might be able to ascend in the church and in the world. But for the past year or so, he has taken a turn in his life that has alienated him from all but his family and others who share his bitterness and angst.

I peruse his blog every few months, just to see how he is doing, and while he is still an intelligent young man, he has drifted into nothing but vile and vitriolic ramblings. If somehow he were required to remove all the and mean spirited posts from his blog it would have very few postings at all. He is clearly not living the kind of life his gifts and abilities projected for him.

With this in mind I would like to ask that you would grant my old friend complete and total repentance. I pray that you would open his eyes to see the evil trap he has fallen into and free him from the servitude to the sin he is so caught up in.

I pray that in freeing him from his idolatry, you would free him to fulfill all the potential that the gifts you have given him would clearly grant him. I pray that you would give him everything he has ever wanted in regards to educational goals, career goals, public recognition, and generational longevity.

Above all I pray that you would open his heart to you. I pray that his life would be characterized by the love, joy, peace, and fellowship that epitomizes people who know you and who live with you in your presence. The Bible says we become like our teachers and I pray that my friend’s teacher would be the Lord Jesus so that Jesus might shine out through everything he does or says.

In short, I pray that you, Lord, would bless my old friend with every spiritual blessing found in Christ Jesus. And I pray this in the name of Jesus our Lord and our Savior. Amen.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Others Used To Help Us See Our Bondage

The good news, however, if we are willing to receive it, is that God uses other people to help us see. As we have undoubtedly witnessed in others or ourselves, we might be blind to our own hearts, but other people can often see our problems very clearly. Other people can sometimes spot our self deceptions and real beliefs better than we can ourselves. This is true for everyone, but it tends to be especially obvious with drug or alcohol addiction. The addict’s enslavement may be painfully clear, but the addict has an alternative system that preaches, “I can stop any time I want”; “I am in control”; “They are wrong, I am right.” This is one reason why it is so critical for each one of us to be accountable to others, and to have people in our lives who are willing to say hard things to us. We need people who know us and speak the truth to us in love, like the prophet Nathan did to King David (2 Sam. 12:1-14).
[Welch, Edward T., Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave (Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 2001), pg. 7]

Sin Is An Enemy To Be Hated

For at the window of my house I have looked out through my lattice, and I have seen among the simple, I have perceived among the youths, a young man lacking sense, passing along the street near her corner, taking the road to her house in the twilight, in the evening, at the time of night and darkness. And behold, the woman meets him, dressed as a , wily of heart. She is loud and wayward; her feet do not stay at home; now in the street, now in the market, and at every corner she lies in wait. She seizes him and kisses him, and with bold face she says to him, "I had to offer sacrifices, and today I have paid my vows; so now I have come out to meet you, to seek you eagerly, and I have found you. I have spread my couch with coverings, colored linens from Egyptian linen; I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon. Come, let us take our fill of love till morning; let us delight ourselves with love. For my husband is not at home; he has gone on a long journey; he took a bag of money with him; at full moon he will come home." With much seductive speech she persuades him; with her smooth talk she compels him. All at once he follows her, as an ox goes to the slaughter, or as a stag is caught fast till an arrow pierces its liver; as a bird rushes into a snare; he does not know that it will cost him his life.
Proverbs 7:6-23

Part 5: Conclusion

The parish system makes the Christian community a more intimate and personal experience. Relationships can be built that will last a lifetime and will be with people who live in close proximity to one another. Children can grow up with friends that will last a lifetime. Parents will rejoice with one another, weep with one another, pray with one another, and work with one another.

Additionally, Jesus said that the world would know his disciples because they will see the love they have for one another (Jn. 13:35). The parish system makes living in front of the non-Christian world much easier and more alive because it is not only Christians living in community, but it is neighbors living in community. One day, everyone living in the various parishes will be active members of congregations of the church in Moscow and therefore active participants in their neighborhood parish. God is good.

Monday, November 27, 2006

We Don't Beleive What We Believe

When our desires conflict with Scripture, human beings do not always live according to what we say we believe. We can say we believe one thing, but our lives betray other allegiances. A husband can say that he loves his wife, but his actions reveal that he loves his pornographic habits or flirtatious work relationships. A single woman may be an avowed follower of Jesus, but when she feels alone, she pursues sexual relationships to satisfy her sense of emptiness. Her life reveals that, at the core, she is a follower of her desires. Jim may sing “Jesus shall reign,” but his drinking indicates that he wants Jesus to reign only when his desires and God’s commands do not conflict.
[Welch, Edward T., Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave (Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 2001), pg. 7]

Bind Them On Your Fingers

My son, keep my words and treasure up my commandments with you; keep my commandments and live; keep my teaching as the apple of your eye; bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart. Say to wisdom, "You are my sister," and call insight your intimate friend, to keep you from the woman, from the eress with her smooth words.
Proverbs 7:1-5

Douglas Wilson and the Federal Vision


What are Doug Wilson's succinct positions on baptismal regeneration, justification by faith alone, and Christ's active versus passive obedience? Given the furor over the Federal Vision, maybe there is an FAQ that you can point me to read first! :)

Thanks again for the initial response.


Hi Marcus,

It’s always nice to get a short easy question. Thanks for writing. I'm just kidding. We get questions like yours all the time.

Instead of trying to answer your questions myself, I'm going to give you a bunch of links so that you can read what Doug thinks in his own words.

With regard to the New Perspective on Paul the best place to go is to a special edition of Credenda/Agenda that addressed that very question. You can find it here: http://www.credenda.org/issues/15-5.php.

The Confederation of Reformed Evangelical Churches (the denomination we belong to) examined Doug and his Reformed orthodoxy regarding the issue of “The Federal Vision” here: http://www.crechurches.org/html/downloads.html.

Doug has a whole section on his blog dedicated to NT Wright you can find it here: http://www.dougwils.com/index.asp?Action=ArchivesByTopic&TopicID=33. These are comments on many of NT Wrights books so you might have to dig a little to find exactly what you are looking for.

With regard to your other questions Doug has written a book called Reformed is Not Enough published by Canon Press. He's addressed most of your other questions in that book. If you'd rather read some things on the web he has a section on his blog called Auburn Avenue Stuff. You can find it here: http://www.dougwils.com/index.asp?Action=ArchivesByTopic&TopicID=14.

There are a couple of web sites that have things that Doug has written. This first one doesn't like Doug much, but at least they have a number of links to things he's said that are actually things he's said. You can find it here: http://www.paulperspective.com/page2.html.

Here is a link to a fellow who does not espouse Federal Vision theology, but who did a very good job of representing us. He was careful to make sure that he checked with us all along the way as he was writing and he did a very good job: http://www.biblelighthouse.com/covenants/within_the_bounds_of_orthodoxy.htm.

Normally the folks who don't like the Federal Vision can't actually describe what we believe. They get it all wrong and shoot down what they've misunderstood or simply missed. Usually, we would be just as strong in our objections as they are, if we actually believed what they say we believe.

A good example of this is the link above that is page 2, is a page where the folks are trying to be even handed. But if you read page 2 before you read page 1 you will easily see that the folks in page 1 are not reading page 2 before they are making up their minds. At least they aren't actually reading what's being said on page 2.

I hope this helps,

Pastor Lawyer

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Part 4: Fellowship

One significant advantage the parish system provides is that it helps the saints in the various reformed congregations to stay in a closer relationship with one another than might be the case if they were totally distinct from one another. For example, if someone in the Brown parish is sick and needs meals, everyone in the parish chips in and helps supply the need regardless of the particular congregation he is a part of. This intercongregational connectedness helps the saints in the various congregations to realize that being in Christ is not a “church” thing, but a Christian thing. Each individual is a part of the body of Christ, and the parish system helps to remind us of that.

In some parts of the country in the 1950’s, neighborhood parties were popular. Everyone on the block would bring whatever they wanted, and a big pot-luck would ensue. Now society has become very individualistic, and folks tend not to know their neighbors very well. The parish system goes beyond this and allows the parish members to have parties that are essentially neighborhood parties. These parish parties encourage the members of the church to get to know one another and to become a part of one another’s lives. These relationships bind everyone together in closer friendships and as these relationships grow the saints are knit together in ever growing communion.

In another vein, this kind of Christian life is the kind of life that does the best job of evangelism. Parish members’ inviting their non-Christian neighbors is a very natural and effective evangelistic tool.

The parish system makes having group Bible study a joy because the group is not so large that the individuals cannot be personally involved. The smaller size of parish study allows individuals to see each other more regularly and to interact in one another’s lives in a way that they cannot in the larger church setting.

Fellowship means much more than just “hanging out” and chatting after church. The Apostle Paul said that the Philippian church had fellowshipped with him when they sent him aid while he was in prison (Phil. 1:5ff). The parish system helps members support one another in a way that the whole church, as large as it is, may not be able to do as effectively or with as much personal compassion.

Where My Help Comes From

I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come?
My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.
The LORD will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life.
The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.
Psalm 121

Friday, November 24, 2006

God's Word, Sweeter Than Honey

How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!
Through your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way.
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
I have sworn an oath and confirmed it, to keep your righteous rules.
I am severely afflicted; give me life, O LORD, according to your word!
Accept my freewill offerings of praise, O LORD, and teach me your rules.
I hold my life in my hand continually, but I do not forget your law.
Psalm 119:103-109

A Life of Principled Obedience

Dear Reader, if Jesus had not lived a life of principled obedience, we would have no Savior. If Jesus had not been committed to obeying the will of his Father, no matter the cost, he would not have gone to Calvary and died for the sins of his people. But he did obey his Father. He did go to Calvary. And he died to have a people committed to a life of principled obedience. He didn’t die to have a people who turn aside from doing his will at every whim and impulse of their feelings, a people who are ruled by their moods. He didn’t die to have husbands love their wives only when they feel good, or wives submit to their husbands only when the mood hits them, or children obey their parents only when they want to, or people pray and come to the house of God only when they feel like it. No, Jesus died to have a people conformed to his own moral image of a life of principled obedience.
[Martin, Albert N., A Life of Principled Obedience (Banner of Truth Trust, 1992), pg. 21, 22]

Part 3: Pastoral/accountability

Because of the way things work in large churches, the larger the church grows, the less able the elder is to minister effectively to the individual families in the church. In large churches, people tend to sit in the same place from week to week and this often leads to the sensations (and reality) of loneliness and disconnectedness. The people in larger churches often feel left out and/or ignored by the leadership of the church. Parishes create smaller groups of individuals and families, allowing for much easier and more efficient care and ministry. Elders know every one in their parish and can know them on a much more intimate level. No one is left behind or ignored. All are ministered to as they have needs.

One of the ways the parishes are used in the pastoral ministry of the church is in the Heads of Households meetings. Originally, the HOH meetings were held monthly as one large meeting. When the attendance grew to over one hundred Heads meeting together in one place, discussion became almost impossible. This precipitated dividing the single HOH meeting into many parish HOH meetings, still meeting monthly. Except for once a quarter, the HOH meetings occur at the parish level at the homes of elders or deacons. (There are a couple of parishes that do not have elders, and these parishes join up with parishes that do and meet with their elder.) These smaller HOH meetings allow the elders and deacons to hear from more individuals and to discuss the issues in a more in depth way.

At these meetings, the HOH’s are able to give their input regarding the things of the church, and the pastor and elders are able, in this more informal setting, to lay out to the HOHs their vision and direction for the church. Before there are any new additions to the worship service, for example, they are discussed at the HOH meetings for several months in advance.

In addition to the conveyance of information, the parish HOH meetings allow the elders to more effectively minister to the individuals of the congregation. While the Heads might not want to share intimate details in front of the whole church, they are encouraged, to at least, let the elder of their parish know they need prayer for a particular situation. The elder can then have lunch with them or invite them for dinner and discuss the concern or problem in a more intimate setting. Ministry and care can be given in the parish setting in a more efficient and gentler manner than it can at the larger church level.

Friday, November 17, 2006


Dear Pastor Lawyer,

In one of your postings, you told us how your worship service differed from many others in the community, but you didn’t give us much information about the differences in what you think about God, man and Salvation. Could you enlighten us a bit more on some of these things? Thanks,


Dear Barny,

Thank you for continuing to read “Fat Souls.” Hang in there with me as I try to explain what we believe and why. There is not space in this venue to answer all of your questions right now, but perhaps I can give you a glimmer of our distinctives.

Let’s start with who God is: First, he is the creator of all that is. He created all those things you see around you. Men create things from other things, but God created the mechanism, the ability to copy, and the people themselves. Not only did God create everything we see around us, he keeps everything going. It is he that keeps the atoms from flying apart and the solar system from careening out into space. God controls the weather, the rising up and the falling down of nations.

God knows everything, not just because he is really smart (he knows the possibilities), but because nothing happens outside of his creating it. Everything that has ever happened, is happening, or will happen happens because he speaks it into existence. It starts in his mind and happens as he speaks it. It is not that he sees history unfolding because he is outside it (though he is indeed outside of history); it happens because he causes it to happen. He is not an observer of things the way we are.

Because God is God, everything that happens ultimately happens for his glory and honor. This means that all the love we experience and all the pain we go through in our lives, in the end, will bring honor to him.

I know what you’re thinking about now, “What about all the evil in the world? Does that bring God honor and glory?” The Bible’s answer is that it does. Do I understand it? Not entirely, but I do know that when we realize that he is indeed God, we are acknowledging that we aren’t going to understand everything about him. We also realize that because we are not God, only his created “friends”, we aren’t entitled to know anything (let alone the deep things of God). Because he is infinitely above us in every imaginable category, we can only marvel that he includes us in his life at all.

But I digress… We also understand that God is love. He is love in that not only does he love or act in a loving manner, but his character is love. This means that God does everything with the highest good of the object of his love in mind. When he tells his people that he loves them, he is declaring that all his actions are for their highest good.

God is also holy. Everything God does is done with absolute purity and moral perfection. When he creates, it is done perfectly and completely with no flaws or mistakes.

God is righteous. In everything and in every way God expects and will stand for nothing less than absolute perfection in his creation, for which he himself conditionally provides the power. He is the judge of every person and all actions. Nothing is left beyond his scope of righteousness.

When you get to thinking about it, unless God intervenes, mankind is in a desperate spot. We cannot live without being in front of God. We cannot function without God’s favor. We could not even breathe, if God were to turn against us for some reason. We are not perfect; we are not holy; we are not righteous; we are in deep trouble. With all of this in mind, we understand that apart from the grace of God, we would be “toast.” It is only because God intervened in history and in our lives that we are able to stand before him justified and clean. I hope this helps.

Pastor Lawyer

Part 2: Logistics

The parish boundaries are arranged in a purely geographic way, with no real rhyme or reason, other than that they seek to have similar numbers of people in each. What this means logistically is that if a family lives in a particular place, the families are automatically members of the parish that covers that geographic area. However, this arrangement is not so wooden that people can not belong to another parish if they want. If a particular family has an affinity with folks who live in another parish, the HOH may ask the elders and can participate in the other parish even though they don’t live in the geographic area of that parish.

For ease of reference, the Parishes are named after famous dead Reformed Christians. Currently there are eleven parishes: Wishart (the north side of town), Baxter (the east side of town), Tyndale (the west side of town), Wycliffe (the north east side of town), Ridley (the east side out of town), Brown (south out of town), Cranmer (Central North in Town), Latimer (Central South in Town), Cargill (Viola area), Goudimel (Potlatch area), and Hooper (Pullman area).

The parish system serves three main functions in the Christian community:
1) It helps the leaders of the flock to lead the sheep.
2) It helps the flock to interact with one another for fellowship and edification.
3) It serves as the vehicle through which the government of the church is worked out.

Broken Feelings

There is nothing in the account of David’s confession about David waiting until he felt like doing what was right—not a word about his feeling. David acted on the basis of principle. Dear reader, you are never going to run the Christian race with any strength and consistency until the chains of your feelings are broken. Are you waiting for a wave of lovely emotion to break upon your shore so that you can go riding in behind that wave of beautiful feelings? Are you like the surfer out there waiting, waiting, waiting for the perfect wave? If you are, you will never live a life of principled obedience to God’s Word.
[Martin, Albert N., A Life of Principled Obedience (Banner of Truth Trust, 1992), pg. 18]

May My Heart be Blameless

May my heart be blameless in your statutes, that I may not be put to shame!
My soul longs for your salvation; I hope in your word.
My eyes long for your promise; I ask, "When will you comfort me?"
For I have become like a wineskin in the smoke, yet I have not forgotten your statutes.
Psalm 119:80-83

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Part 1: Introduction

The Bible says that the Kingdom of Heaven is like leaven which a woman hides in a large lump of dough (Mt. 13:33). Eventually, that leaven will work its way through the whole lump. Jesus was saying that in the world as a whole, the Kingdom of Heaven was a very small part of humanity, but through the preaching and living out of the Gospel the Kingdom would eventually spread, ultimately filling the whole earth. Admittedly, the Kingdom is in its early phases; nonetheless, it has been a wonderful blessing to watch God fulfilling this metaphor in our community. Our small town has a very large Christian presence because the Gospel is growing and flourishing in our lives, families, and the various Christian congregations.

Years ago, the elders of Christ Church realized that as the Kingdom of Heaven grows and spreads in Moscow, so would the shepherding responsibilities. As a result, the elders decided that instead of expecting the pastor to minister to all the people by himself, they would share the “joy” by dividing the town into smaller areas called parishes. The people in the parishes would then be ministered to first by the elder(s) living in the parishes and then, for the more difficult cases, by the pastor.

Choose to be Obedient

Notice that the psalmist said that he did it; he turned his feet into the way of conformity to God’s Word. He didn’t say that he thought on his ways and then prayed, ‘Oh Lord, turn my feet.’ He said, ‘I turned my feet.’ In other places in Psalm 119, he prayed that God would turn him. And in our text he has told us that he entreated God’s favor with his whole heart. He was a praying man. He lived in the climate of dependence on God’s power; but he didn’t expect the grace of God to bypass the conscious action of his own will.
[Martin, Albert N., A Life of Principled Obedience (Banner of Truth Trust, 1992), pg. 15]

I Turn My Feet

The LORD is my portion; I promise to keep your words.
I entreat your favor with all my heart; be gracious to me according to your promise.
When I think on my ways, I turn my feet to your testimonies;
I hasten and do not delay to keep your commandments.
Psalm 119:57-60

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Biblical Conversion

Christ asserted, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life; no man comes to the Father except by me.’ The new creature in Christ responds, ‘I choose your way, your truth, your life and repudiate every false way; you are my only portion in this world and in the world to come.’ This is the very essence of true biblical conversion—to choose Jehovah according to the terms of the revelation which he has made of himself in his Word and in his Son, to embrace him as our portion, as our life.
[Martin, Albert N., A Life of Principled Obedience (Banner of Truth Trust, 1992), pg. 8, 9]

Portrait of a Christian

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
"Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
"Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
"Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
"Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Matthew 5:3-12

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Power to be Imitators of Christ

For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit…
1 Thessalonians 1:4-6

Choose to be Obedient

When your soul is battered by the storm of remaining sin, or your mind is under satanic assault, or your body is weary, do you throw obedience to the wind and live like a pagan? Do you turn from the path of obedience because you don’t feel like obeying today? If so, if I have described you, I want by every means possible to turn you away from that mentality. I pray that God will drive that attitude out of your heart and replace it with a spirit of principled obedience that is determined to do the will of God no matter what the cost.
[Martin, Albert N., A Life of Principled Obedience (Banner of Truth Trust, 1992), pg. 7]

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Let Heaven and Earth Praise Him

I will praise the name of God with a song;
I will magnify him with thanksgiving.

This will please the LORD more than an ox or a bull with horns and hoofs.

When the humble see it they will be glad;
you who seek God, let your hearts revive.

For the LORD hears the needy and does not despise his own people who are prisoners.

Let heaven and earth praise him,
the seas and everything that moves in them.

For God will save Zion and build up the cities of Judah,
and people shall dwell there and possess it;

the offspring of his servants shall inherit it,
and those who love his name shall dwell in it.
Psalm 69:30-36

Not Excused from Holiness

If our remaining sin resists us in the path of obedience, we are not excused from our obligation to obey God. And until we embrace this perspective with all of our soul, we will go limping and halting all of our days. Unless we vigorously battle unprincipled emotions and remaining sin, we will know very little of a real life of obedience to God.
[Martin, Albert N., A Life of Principled Obedience (Banner of Truth Trust, 1992), pg. 7]

Save Me, O God

Save me, O God! For the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in deep mire, where there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me. I am weary with my crying out; my throat is parched. My eyes grow dim with waiting for my God. More in number than the hairs of my head are those who hate me without cause; mighty are those who would destroy me, those who attack me with lies. What I did not steal must I now restore? O God, you know my folly; the wrongs I have done are not hidden from you. Let not those who hope in you be put to shame through me, O Lord GOD of hosts; let not those who seek you be brought to dishonor through me, O God of Israel. For it is for your sake that I have borne reproach, that dishonor has covered my face. Psalm 69:1-7

Repentance Commanded

Peter said, "Repent and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ..." (Acts 2:38)

Again Peter said, "Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out..." (Acts 3:19)

And again, "Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you" (Acts 8:22).

Paul chimes in, "The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent," (Acts 17:30).

Paul again said, "I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance" (Acts 26:19-20).

Finally, Jesus said, "Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent" (Rev. 2:5).

And, "Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth" Rev. 2:16).

One more, "I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her ual immorality. Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit ery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works, and I will strike her children dead. And all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you as your works deserve" (Rev. 2:21-23).

You'll notice that in every one of these passage repentance is something commanded. Repent means change your mind. It means stop thinking one way and begin thinking another way. If I’m on my way to the office and decide to turn left on a street and go a different way, I’ve repented. If I have decided to vote for a certain candidate but on the way to the pole decide to vote for the other guy, I’ve repented. It isn't magic. It is just a change of mind. In the case of spiritual things it means I change my mind from wanting to serve myself to wanting to serve God. More importantly it obedience to a command, an active movement in your mind from your own idolatry to serving the living God. God commands it, we obey it. It involves our whole life, not compartments of our lives. It involves every fiber of our being, not just what we want to "get better."

It also involves humility, we don't care what others will think or do to us, we want Jesus. Nothing in this life will be better for us than Jesus. We give ourselves over to him lock, stock and barrel. It isn't about jumping through hoops or filling in lists. It is about apologizing for thumbing your nose at Christ and abandoning all the gods we've set up in our lives and joining God's forces in Jesus' name.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Saved Unto Obedience

The Bible clearly teaches that by an act of deliberate obedience to the will of his Father, the Lord Jesus poured out his blood on the cross in order to secure the salvation of a host which no man can number. Obedience lies at the very heart of redemption accomplished by the ‘doing and dying’ of Jesus Christ. The Bible, however, does not stop here. The Scriptures also assert that the salvation which Jesus purchased in the course of his obedience, he now confers only in a way that makes all of its recipients obedient subjects of the living God. And thus in I Peter 1:2, the Bible speaks of people of God as those who are foreknown of God ‘unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.’ The blood of Christ is never sprinkled on any man without Christ’s saving work bringing that man into a path of obedience to God. This is why the writer of the Letter to the Hebrews can write as he does: ‘Though he [i.e. Jesus] was a Son, yet he learned obedience by the things which suffered; and having been made perfect, he became unto all them that obey him the author of eternal salvation’ (Hebrews 5:8-9). When the salvation which Jesus purchased is applied with divine power, it produces in all of its recipients a course of principled obedience to the will of God that is reflective of the course which the Savior walked in securing that salvation.
[Martin, Albert N., A Life of Principled Obedience (Banner of Truth Trust, 1992), pg. 3]

Praise Him, O Praise Him

"Blessed are you, O LORD, the God of Israel our father, forever and ever. Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and you are exalted as head above all. Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. And now we thank you, our God, and praise your glorious name. "But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able thus to offer willingly? For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you. For we are strangers before you and sojourners, as all our fathers were. Our days on the earth are like a shadow, and there is no abiding. O LORD our God, all this abundance that we have provided for building you a house for your holy name comes from your hand and is all your own. I know, my God, that you test the heart and have pleasure in uprightness. In the uprightness of my heart I have freely offered all these things, and now I have seen your people, who are present here, offering freely and joyously to you. O LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, our fathers, keep forever such purposes and thoughts in the hearts of your people, and direct their hearts toward you.
1 Chronicles 29:10-18

Friday, October 27, 2006

Part 5: Conclusion

The children (if they exist) should be included in the whole process as necessary. They need to be part of the changing of the guard ceremony so that they know and understand what is happening between the father and mother. They need to know what their new responsibilities will be, if any. They need to know that while Dad is gone, Mom is in charge. They need to know and understand any arranged plans for the elders or deacons to be involved in the life of the family (if any).

Feel free to adjust anything you see here so that it will help your family to serve God and one another. The duration of the trip should affect the preparation. A shorter trip (for example, a weekend) will involve less preparation for handling responsibilities than a longer trip (several months). If this is the case, feel free to modify what happens during the ceremony. No matter how short the trip is, there should be some acknowledgement that the husband is going away and then another when he returns. The entire family should officially acknowledge this.

This changing of the guard ceremony idea will not solve all the problems frequent and/or lengthy separations can cause in a family. However, official relinquishing of duties and an official reacquisition of those responsibilities should go a long way in making sure communication between the husband and wife is maintained. It helps keep the Navy running smoothly, and it should help the family run smoothly as well.

Christ's Death had a Definite Result

But the issue is not merely one of logic dependent on election. Those who defend definite atonement cite texts. Jesus will save his people from their sins (Matt. 1:21)—not everyone. Christ gave himself “for us,” i.e., for us the people of the new covenant (Tit. 2:14), “to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.” Moreover, in his death Christ did not merely make adequate provision for the elect, but he actually achieved the desired result (Rom. 5:6-10; Eph. 2:15-16). The Son of Man came to give his life a ransom “for many” (Matt. 20:28; Mark 10:45; cr. Isa. 53:10-12). Christ “loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Eph. 5:25).
[Carson, D. A., The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God (Crossway Books, 2000), pg. 74, 75]

Commended for their Faith

Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated—of whom the world was not worthy- wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect. Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.
Hebrews 11:36 - 12:3

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Part 4: Woodenness

These words of guidance seem very mechanical, cut and dry. But the issue of a family split up, even if it is not because of a fight, is not mechanical. It can devastate a family and destroy the lives of children. Husband, you need to know that this whole area of your lives is very emotional for your wives. For you it is just part of the job, but for your wife, it is the ripping apart of her life. You need to do far more than what you think adequate for your wife to get through these difficult times. When you prepare to leave, you need to be especially tender and loving to her and to your children. You need to take more time than normal to be with your family separately and collectively. Pour on the love and the hugs and smooches. Tell them you love them and then love them.

While you are gone, you need to do whatever it takes to keep in constant communication with your family — call, e-mail, telegram, whatever it takes. Spend time on the phone catching up with the kids’ lives, tell your wife you miss her and appreciate all she’s going through for you and the family.

When you get home, take a lot of time to get to know your children and your wife again. Do not just go through the motions, really care for them. Spend time with them together as a family, but also individually. You cannot know how much your absence has affected your family, but you must understand that your departure, absence, and return are drastic and possibly devastating event in the life of your family to have you go away (no matter how often or how many times). You need to lavish your love and attention on your wife. Let her know how much you appreciate how much she undertook for the sake of the family. Don’t let your tiredness overcome your duty to love your wife. Let this be one more area or way that you lay down your life for your wife.

You need to know that whatever state your home is in when you get home is your responsibility. If there are things that have fallen apart and were never fixed, you may not get angry with your wife. It fell apart in your home and you are responsible for it, not her. So, love your wife and commend her for working as hard as she did while you were gone.

Finally, anticipate emotional outpourings even weeks after your return. Your leaving is an emotional event for your wife and family. In our day, where everything is supposed to be a certain way, emotions are often assumed not to exist. So, when you get home and have your changing of the guard ceremony and everything seems to be going well, just assume that in a week or two things will unravel and the emotion of it all will just gush out all over you. Respond to this tenderly and love your wife.

Wife, you need to know that your husband is doing his best to provide for your family. He may think he is being a mighty hunter and is out being like every other mighty hunter in the history of the earth, and he would be right. You need to let him do what he can to take care of you. Be careful not to nag him or to assume things about him or his thoughts. If he seems distant, let him be distant; he will come back. If he is tired, let him be tired and clean his gun when he comes home, all beat up from fighting those windmills out there. Serve your husband and lift him up. Your husband is trying to serve God and you by taking care of you financially. Don’t assume he is a “big dumb dog.” Let God work in and through your husband and bless him.

Both of you need to know that if you have been going through this departure and absence routine for a long time, you have probably learned to “cope” on your own. When you hear sermons on the godly Christian family, yours probably does not look much like the picture the pastor paints. Yet, you see yourself getting along okay, and you may, but you can be doing better. You may need to confess some sin and get things straightened out in your marriage. It may take some time, but God is good and He takes us from where we are, not from where we ought to be. Begin today and see what God can do for you.

If you are just starting out with this temporary separation thing, you’ll need to start afresh with the right foot forward. Start having loving, changing of the guard ceremonies right from the start. See if you can minimize the difficulties of leaving your family. Don’t let the stress of having your family temporarily split apart tempt you to sin.

Here Is Love Vast As The Ocean

Here is love, vast as the ocean,
Lovingkindness as a flood,
When the Prince of life, our ransom,
Shed for us His precious blood.
Who His love will not remember?
Who can cease to sing His praise?
He can never be forgotten
Throughout heaven’s eternal days.

On the Mount of Crucifixion
Fountains opened deep and wide;
Through the floodgates of God’s mercy
Flowed a vast and gracious tide.
Grace and love, like mighty rivers,
Poured incessant from above,
And heaven’s peace and perfect justice
Kissed a guilty world in love.

[By William Rees in Carson, D. A., The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God (Crossway Books, 2000), pg. 71]

Patiently Wait for the Lord

I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD.
Psalm 40:1-3

Monday, October 23, 2006

Part 3: Coming Home

The husband is coming home soon, and the wife needs to make preparation for his return. She needs to do an inventory of the duties and responsibilities given to her when her husband left. She should take note of any changes in the way she does them from the way her husband did them before he left. She should also note any problems she has had in doing them. If the hot water heater broke while he was gone and she has just lived with cold water for a week, he’ll need to know that soon after coming home.

Then in the same way they transitioned when he left, the husband and wife now need to transition back again. Upon coming home, the husband should initiate another “changing of the guard” ceremony. They should do the same praying, singing, Bible study and reading. They should bring out the same list they used when the husband left and go over everything on the list again. As they discuss the items, the husband should take back the responsibilities he had previously given to his wife. If they find that the wife is better at some particular job than her husband and enjoys doing it, they can happily allow her to keep that particular responsibility.

Then, over the next few days and weeks, he should find out from his wife how things have been going. He should fix that water heater. He should see what the mower is doing that drives her nuts. He should see how she has improved the financial picture. He should see what things she was unable to do while he was gone and fix them.

When the ceremony is complete, the whole family needs to know who is doing which responsibilities and the husband needs to be the head of the home.

Wrath and Love at the Same Time

But this is not the way it is with God. God’s wrath is not an implacable, blind rage. However emotional it may be, it is an entirely reasonable and willed response to offenses against his holiness. But his love, as we saw in the last chapter, wells up amidst his perfections and is not generated by the loveliness of the loved. Thus there is nothing intrinsically impossible about wrath and love being directed toward the same individual or people at the same time. God in his perfections must be wrathful against his rebel image-bearers, for they have offended him; God in his perfections must be loving, toward his rebel image-bearers, for he is that kind of God.
[Carson, D. A., The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God (Crossway Books, 2000), pg. 69]

Love is the Fulfilling of the Law

Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For the same reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, "You shall not commit ery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet," and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
Romans 13:5-10

Friday, October 20, 2006

Part 2: Leaving Home

Whenever the husband learns that a change of his sort is going to occur, he needs to take stock of his situation. He needs to notice what sorts of things he does in and around the home so that when the time comes, he can pass these over to his wife to care for. If he needs to involve the elders or deacons of the church (maybe to help in child discipline, or to check on how things are going), he needs to think about how best to go about making those arrangements. Since the husband is the head of the home, he is responsible for how it runs, even when he is gone. This means that it is also part of his responsibility to prepare his wife for his departure and for his return.

Several months (if possible) before his departure date, the husband and wife should make a list of all the family related things for which he is responsible. Things should con-tinue to be added to the list as they come to mind to make as comprehensive a list as possible.

Then he and his wife need to make time to sit down and be sure she knows how he does those jobs around the house. If, for example, one of his responsibilities is to pay the household bills, he should take some time, well in advance of his departure, to familiarize his wife with his bill paying techniques and patterns. In that way, she will be able to step in and pay the bills in his absence. He must do so enough in advance that if his wife is uncomfortable with how he does it, he will have time to work with her to come up with a way in which she can do the job and feel like she will be able to accomplish the task. If it is his responsibility to mow the lawn, he will need to take some time and show her how to operate the mower and all the accompanying tools and gizmos he uses. He should also think about finding a few responsible college students who can come over and mow the lawn, chop the wood, and even help with the kids while he is gone.

Then, as far as it is possible, he ought to make sure everything she needs to use will be running until he returns home. He should take the car in for a check-up, make sure the mower will work for however long he will be gone, make sure the light bulbs in those high places are recently replaced, etc.

The point is that while he is gone, every responsibility he performs and undertakes in the home will need to be covered. And his wife needs to know that her husband is taking care of her as much as possible, even in his absence.

Then, in an official ceremony a day or two before he leaves, the husband needs to gather the family and have an official changing of the guard ceremony. He should go over the list of things he and his wife have come up with over the past several months and officially give them to his wife to do and take care of while he is gone.