Friday, March 31, 2006

Quote of the Day

In following other gods, the Israelites also wanted to avoid God. This suited them more than trusting him. The people of Israel had never before seen a display of holiness like they saw at Sinai. Such holiness left them feeling vulnerable and exposed. They became aware of their own shame. To deal with this holy terror, their rebellious hearts searched for a god that was tame. And the golden calf was certainly that. [Edward T. Welch, When People Are Big (Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing, 1999), p. 46]

Counseling: Trapped In Authority

“You never tell me you love me.”
“You’re the husband and father, why don’t you ever lead us in family devotions?”
“You don’t give me the respect I deserve.”

Has anyone said these things to you? Do you say these kinds of things to others? These statements may be true. He never tells her he loves her. He doesn’t lead the family in spiritual things. The leaders don’t appreciate the hard working person in their service the way they ought. But does telling those in positions of authority help the situation?

One night when they were looking at some stars down by the lake Joan told her husband that he didn’t tell her he loved her anymore. Paul may have dropped off in his telling Joan that he loved her, but her comment virtually guaranteed that he wasn’t going to be telling her any time soon. Let’s see why: If he immediately said, “you’re right. I love you” they would both know he was only saying it because she told him to. He may have wanted to say it but her telling him to sucks all the “love” out of it. So he says nothing at all. The point is that Paul has been trapped. If he says, “I love you” in submission to his wife’s suggestion, he will be less of a man, because he is letting his wife tell him what to feel, say, and do. But if he waits, she might think he doesn’t love her. He is trapped.

Or what kind of man lets his wife tell him to lead? How is he leading, if he does it because his wife tells him to? He isn’t. If a wife tells her husband to lead, she is not submitting to him. She can’t have it both ways. If a wife tells her husband to lead, he cannot lead. He is trapped.

It is the same thing when a young man requires that others honor and respect him. How can he know if they are respecting him because he is demanding it or if it is because he is truly worthy of respect? He can’t! And if he’s gotten the respect by some less than respectful means (gossip, lying, going public, etc.), he will know in his bones that he does not deserve it. When a young man goes public with the fact that his leaders aren’t respecting him the way he thinks he deserves, he traps those leaders in a situation where they cannot do anything that will look like respect for him. If they give in, they will be lying. The really sad thing is that the young man might have deserved some kind of recognition for something, in the past. But his demand destroys any respect they might otherwise have had for him. He has trapped them.

Verse of the Day

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.
Though the cords of the wicked ensnare me, I do not forget your law.
At midnight I rise to praise you, because of your righteous rules.
I am a companion of all who fear you, of those who keep your precepts.
The earth, O LORD, is full of your steadfast love; teach me your statutes!
Psalm 119:57-64

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Quote of the Day

Self Esteem and the Fear of Man

"Is self-esteem a critical concern for you? This, at least in the United States, is the most popular way that the fear of other people is expressed. If self-esteem is a recurring theme for you, chances are that your life revolves around what others think. You reverence or fear their opinions. You need them to buttress your sense of well-being and identity. You need them to fill you up." [Edward T. Welch, When People Are Big (Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing, 1999), p. 15]

Verse of the Day

Remember your word to your servant, in which you have made me hope.
This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life.
The insolent utterly deride me, but I do not turn away from your law.
When I think of your rules from of old, I take comfort, O LORD.
Hot indignation seizes me because of the wicked, who forsake your law.
Your statutes have been my songs in the house of my sojourning.
I remember your name in the night, O LORD, and keep your law.
This blessing has fallen to me, that I have kept your precepts.
Psalm 119:49-56

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Baptism: Household

Dear Pastor Lawyer,
I was wondering about the Jewish Christians. Did they need to be baptized? I have come across a source that said they did not need to be baptized, their circumcision remained their sign of the Covenant, but that some of them would be baptized to seperate them from the circumcised yet unfruitful Jews. What of the children of the Christian Jews as well?
Thanks, KT

Dear KT,

Jews who came to believe in Jesus as the Messiah were baptized (e.g. Acts 9:18). The reason their children were not mentioned is because Christianity was/is and encompasses a covenantal relationship with God. This assumes a sort of group relationship under the leadership and headship of the father. If the father did a thing, the whole household was involved in the action. If it was good the whole household was blessed. If it was evil, the whole household was cursed. Thus when the father was baptized, the whole household was baptized.

This is the way it was throughout the Old Testament. If a man became a Jew, all the men in his household had to be circumcised. After Christ came everyone was baptized when the head of the household believed. If this had not been the case (assumed in the New Testament), there would have been a much greater, or different, change from the Old Covenant to the New. But there wasn’t. The Jews followed John, then were passed on to Jesus. When they believed in the Messiah, they were baptized into him.

This is the same picture Paul gives of Israel in the exodus when they passed through the cloud and sea (1 Co. 10). They were members of Moses and thus were baptized whether they had faith or not. As a result, because of individual unbelief, many of them died in the desert because of their unbelief—despite their baptisms.

If the Apostles had stopped baptizing children when their father’s believed, it would have been a change that would have made a huge stink in the early church. And if they had implemented credobaptism for Gentiles but not for Jews, it would have also created a huge stink. The fact that there wasn’t a over this issue shows that the shift from Old to New Covenants didn’t affect the covenantal aspect of the people’s relationship with God.

I hope this helps,

Prayer of Entreaty

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God,' and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

Oh Lord, like the Philippians, we live in a world full of temptations to lose faith and to become anxious. World events are flashed before our eyes daily even hourly. But we live in a situation where, for the most part, all we can do is watch and pray that your sovereign will will be carried out in history, bringing your kingdom to earth as it is in heaven. And so we come to you now asking that you would indeed continue to be faithful to work in our world so that your name will be praised among the nations.

We lift up to you the Congress of the United States. We ask that you would grant them individual and corporate wisdom to lead your people in a way that will continue to allow us to spread your Good news to every comer of our nation and to every other nation on the face of the earth.

We pray for our state and local officials; that you would do a work in them that will amaze even them as you work in them to grant peace and stability to your church. We pray that New Saint Andrews College would be granted their conditional use permit in the up coming hearing and that they would be allowed to continue to teach and educate their students to your glory and majesty.

We call upon you so that you would use our recent and local events to cause your people to draw closer to you. We pray that through this more intimate contact, we would become more and more like Christ, as you lavishly pour your transforming Grace out on us.

We also ask that you would use the events and characters in this grand drama to be the means by which you open the eyes of the blind, and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to yourself so that they might receive forgiveness of sins and a place in the company of the saints. We pray for souls to be saved and lives to be changed.

Oh Lord God, we beg you to not remain silent. You are the God we praise, the God of our praise. We are surrounded by enemies: without and within. They attack us with lying tongues and false lips. They return evil for good, slander for godly guidance. They invent lies hoping to entrap us with their smears and their deceit. They desire to tear us down while they somehow hope to gain respect and admiration for themselves. But seeking to destroy the Lord's anointed only ends in calamity for those who do the betraying. With this in mind we ask that you would give them the results they are working so diligently to accomplish in us. We pray that you would give them what they deserve: that you would squash them like bugs before your mighty throne.

Finally, father, we pray that you would grant wisdom, patience, compassion, steadfastness, and courage to our parents as we continue to strive to bring up our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Our desire, like yours, is to have godly children and we know that this desired goal can only be met if you are in us working your good pleasure through us to our children. So we come to you and ask that you would give us more of yourself, so that our children might grow up to stand on our shoulders and take the next steps in bringing the world under the authority of Christ.

We bring all these prayers to you in the Name of the one who died and gave himself for us: Jesus the righteous one. Amen.

The Lord's Supper

We are gathered here this morning to remember our Lord Jesus Christ who died and rose on high. He died to redeem us from eternal death and the power of the devil, so that we might live a new life in him. He died that we might die and he rose that we might live.

We are gathered here not only to remember the great gift of life, but also to proclaim to all the world that Jesus’ death and resurrection are true. And we agree that God is God and we are not.

We are gathered here to remember his death, to proclaim his life, and also to feast on him. Some of you here today are hungry because you haven’t eaten since breakfast. Others are hungry with a hunger that you don’t understand. You hunger for life and the kind of life that you heard proclaimed here this morning through the message of God’s word.

This table and all that it represents is the source of life for you. Come and eat with us. Recognize that Jesus died on your behalf. Come and drink with us. Recognize that Jesus was raised to life for you. He can give you new life as you partake of him in this most holy meal.

Before you do, however, know this, that your participation in this meal is not some sort of magical event. Christ is truly here with us. We are in his presence in the Holy of Holies, worshipping with the saints who have gone before us and with all the saints on earth who are currently gathered in this heavenly place. Your participation with us, in this meal is an admission by you that you are submitting yourself to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. And you are doing this because it is true and right, wonderful and beautiful, glorious and majestic.

Christ has fed us through the spoken word just given. He also feeds us in this meal; not because it is bread and wine, but because it is truth and life. We are eating the one who is the way the truth and the life. Come, let us proclaim the death of Jesus until he comes and as we do, let us remember the words of the account given on that night so long ago: “And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me.”

Monday, March 27, 2006

Verse of the Day

Let your steadfast love come to me, O LORD, your salvation according to your promise;
then shall I have an answer for him who taunts me, for I trust in your word.
And take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth, for my hope is in your rules.
I will keep your law continually, forever and ever,
and I shall walk in a wide place, for I have sought your precepts.
I will also speak of your testimonies before kings and shall not be put to shame,
for I find my delight in your commandments, which I love.
I will lift up my hands toward your commandments, which I love, and I will meditate on your statutes.

Psalm 119:41-48

Friday, March 24, 2006

Verse of the Day

Teach me, O LORD, the way of your statutes; and I will keep it to the end.
Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart.
Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it.
Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain!
Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways.
Confirm to your servant your promise, that you may be feared.
Turn away the reproach that I dread, for your rules are good.
Behold, I long for your precepts; in your righteousness give me life!

Psalm 119:33-40

Prayer of Confession

Glorious father in Heaven, we come to you on bended knee, acknowledging to you our shame. We have forgotten who you are and who we are. We have forgotten that we live because of your good pleasure. We’ve lived our lives assuming that we would be here tomorrow, when it is really in your mighty hands. We have forgotten to be grateful and to acknowledge you in everything. We’ve been distracted by the cares of what we see around us and have slacked off in our desires to imitate you so that we might bring you glory. For this we beg your forgiveness. Please forgive us we pray and fill us again with your Holy Spirit so that we might go out from here and proclaim your good news to those around us. Please fill us again with the joy of our salvation and restore an upright spirit in us. And Amen.

Thursday, March 23, 2006


We are sojourners on the earth, here only for a short time. Someone has pointed out that most of our great, great grand children will have no knowledge of us at all. And as the Bible says, we are like a mere a wisp of smoke, or like a flower, here today, and tomorrow gone, never to be thought of again. The Existentialists were right when they realized that there is no meaning in existence. We exist, but for no purpose. We just are. The Bible also says, all is vanity, nothing but meaninglessness. We live, we die, we plant, we harvest, we work, we love, we get sick, we die. Poof.

But the Bible also says that this is a description of man without God. We were put here because of God’s good pleasure. We live, love, laugh, and are happy because it pleases God. So what if our great, great grand children won’t know who we are? God knows us and God give us life. God is pleased with his children and this is what we are—God’s children. Oh what love he has poured out on us by making and calling us children of God.

This is important to remember because it is true, without God life is indeed meaningless. But with him, with him pouring his life into us, giving us grace at every turn, pouring out his love on us lavishly, we live. Not only live, but we live. We love him, we love one another. Life has meaning, deep meaning because he gives it to us along with everything else.

When we meditate on these marvels it occurs to us that unless God gives himself to us we would be lost. And so we strive with every fiber of our beings to desire to know God, to be filled by God, to be overwhelmed with and by God. We are consumed with longing to know him and to be like him, for his glory and honor, because he is God.

Counseling: Courting 2

Mr. Saunders,

Trying to do things in a Christian way when you live in a non-Christian world can be difficult at times. And men do get lonely and pretty s do help while away the time, even if the guy keeps his hands to himself. But let’s go back to a few basics here.

What’s the point? Does the young man want to get married, or is he just lonely and wants companionship? If he sees a pretty and wants another conquest, wants to be bolstered by the fact that he has a pretty friend, wants to experience the thrill of seeing how far he can go, wants to simply hang with a softer human being who sees things from a different perspective than he, whatever, that’s all cool, but do it with someone else’s daughter.

The world is a messy place. While I know that everyone says a guy and a can be friends, but I’ve yet to see it when both people are normal. One way of testing this is to ask a guy if once he were married would he like his wife to have the same kind of relationship with another man that he wants to have with your daughter. A guy can’t spend time with a woman (especially a pretty woman) without one of them falling in love. Then they either get married or they break up and break a heart (that’s why they call it breaking up). If the man is in it for the thrill, it is the woman’s heart that breaks. Not my daughter, not if I can help it. And not for my son either.

The pattern of dating until you find something wrong with the other person is not a good example of what the Bible calls “loving your neighbor.” As one fellow said, dating is preparation for divorce, not preparation for marriage.

Okay so let’s go back to your phone call. Bob asks Suzy out for dinner. She says, “call my dad.” Bob calls you. He says, “I think Suzy is cute, can I take her out for dinner?” You say, “what are your intentions? What is your goal? Why do you want to spend money on my daughter?”

If he’s just met her in a class and has no intentions past dinner you’re tempted to say, so what’s the big deal. They’re just having dinner. But how much gets done over dinner? Let’s suppose he’s a really nice non-Christian fellow. He opens Suzy’s door’s, eats with his mouth closed, knows which fork to use, is totally polite and upstanding. What’s going on in Suzy’s heart? After 2 or 3 hours of being treated like a queen, who cares that he doesn’t love God? He loves Suzy, or at least he’s made good love to Suzy. He didn’t even try to touch her. But all that did was raise him up a zillion notches on her heart chart. And you are almost sunk. How can you tell her that she can’t see him anymore because he’s not a Christian?

It is much safer for you and Suzy to find all this out before you let her go with him to dinner. And cut it off before it gets to be an emotional issue.

You need to meet with him before you let him take Suzy out. If he is a non-Christian, you know there can be no future for him and Suzy. If he is a different brand of Christian, without a lot of work, there isn’t a future for him and Suzy. If you don’t like him right off the bat, there’s no future between him and Suzy. If you meet with him and he says, "Mr. Saunders, I am a Christian, and am not opposed to marriage, but if you're asking me today if I'm ready to marry your daughter, I'd need to honestly tell you I don't know if she's the one yet, but I would like to find out. I also know I have another year of college ahead of me. I only know at this point that I think your daughter is attractive and very sweet. I'd like an opportunity to get to know her better, since we don't have much in the one class we take at school together. I'm just asking if I can get to know her better such as you are doing with me” here’s what you do:

You say, “Bob you need to go where Suzy goes and be where she is in a group setting. If you love Christ and want to treat the younger women in purity, you’ll go out of your way to avoid causing her emotional pain. You may not “single her out” or pay undue attention to her as opposed to all the other college students. The best way to do this would be for you to change churches and attend my church. You should get involved with things at our church in the same way you are currently involved where you are now.”

While doing this Bob could get to know Suzy in an informal and none threatening way. He wouldn’t have to tell anyone that that is why he changed churches; he could just change, and hang with the college group at your church. While doing this he could get to know Suzy from a distance, and she and you could get to know him from that same distance (though you’d know what is going on). If he finds after six months or a year that Suzy is not the woman for him, he could just as quietly go back to his old church, or stay and tell you he isn’t interested in Suzy anymore. Or you could tell him that you aren’t interested in him any more. Remember you’re in contact with Suzy all this time too. You can ask her what she thinks of that Bob fellow you’ve seen around. If she isn’t interested in getting to know him better or in that way, you can tell Bob (don’t mention Suzy) and that would be that.

If after a year or so (times vary based on wisdom: yours, not Bob’s) Bob decides he’d like to pursue Suzy in a more specific and concentrated way (i.e. he’d like to court her), then you can invite him for dinner and move on from there into the courting proper.

Remember the goal is to give glory to God by loving the saints. In this scenario Bob is respected, Suzy is protected, and the church is strengthed.

I hope this helps,

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Counseling: Courting 1

Dear Pastor Lawyer,

I have an 18 year old daughter who wants to get married. She and I are both in favor of the courtship , but I don’t know what kinds of things to ask and do to establish the courtship process.

I don’t want to chase guys away or to come off like a Spanish inquisitor, but I do want to protect my daughter from being hurt or from becoming involved with a wacko.

Can you help?

Ken Smith

Dear Mr. Smith,

First, let me say that it a very good thing that you have raised your daughter in such a way that she trusts you and will allow you to help her in the marriage process. We don’t find that sort of thing every day.

Second, let me point out that your daughter is young and you are therefore not in a great hurry to figure all this out. Also, courtship isn’t a wooden operation. You’re dealing with people, not machines or nuts and bolts. Also, there are no sure fire ways to avoid pain and suffering. There is nothing that will guarantee that the man you “pick” for your daughter will be the perfect man (who of us would have ever been able to marry?).

The Call
You asked about questions to ask a young man who wants to court your daughter. In answering this let me give you a situation and work our way through it. Please feel free to ask any questions as we go through:

Suppose you answer the phone and there is a young man on the other end who wants to talk to you about Suzy (your daughter). I would suggest taking his name and number and telling him you’ll call him back in a few days.

After the Call
Further, I suggest that you use this scenario whether you’ve known Bob for a long time or a short time, whether you know his family or not. Don’t assume anything.

Tell Suzy you received a phone call from Bob and ask her about him. If Suzy doesn’t know Bob at all and was just using you as the instrument to say ‘no’ (which is a good thing), you simply need to call him back and tell him you appreciate his guts, but that you aren’t interested in letting him see your daughter. This is one place where your graciousness comes in. You should be kind to Bob, but firm.

If Suzy does know him and likes him, but isn’t interested in him as a possible husband, you give him a call and tell him “no” just like you did in the first instance.

If Suzy knows him, knows his spiritual state, likes (respects) him, and wants to pursue things further, you should call Bob and ask him to have lunch (just the two of you).

From now on you should pay attention to Suzy’s feelings, thoughts, desires, etc. but you are responsible in terms of information gathering.

Here are some general kinds of things you should talk to Bob about when you first meet him:

  • Tell me about your intentions with regard to Suzy?
  • Tell me about yourself, back ground, spiritual life, relationship with parents.
  • Tell me about what you think the role of a husband ought to be.
  • Tell me about what you think the role of a wife should be.
  • Tell me about what you think about Christian liberty issues (alcohol, tobacco, , etc.).
  • Have you seen any pictures you shouldn't have in the past 3 months?
  • What do you think about ‘R’ rated movies?
  • Tell me about your past love life.
  • Tell me about your plans for the future: career, family, location, kids, etc.
  • Ask him for contact information for 10 people (including church leaders) who have known him for 10 years and then ask them all these same questions about Bob.
If you don’t have time to go over all these things in the first visit, schedule another visit.

You asked about scaring him away or him thinking you’re the grand inquisitor. This is your job. You are supposed to protect your daughter and being a bogey man is part of that. Just remember to be sweet, gracious, and respectable through it all. If you can scare him away, he’s not man enough for your daughter. You don’t want her to marry a boy or a wimp. And none of these questions are really that hard, they are just probing and to a certain kind of mind a bit nosey.

You are trying to gain information, but what you are really trying to do is to get to know Bob. You want to know what kind of man he is. What is his character? Will he cut and run as soon as things get tough? Or will he hang in there and support and love your daughter no matter what the situation? With this in mind you learn not only the facts, you also watch how he discusses the issues (character). You should watch his body language. How confident is he? Is he lying to you? Is he trying to snow you? Is he genuinely interested in Suzy as a wife or does he see her as a goal or a means to some other goal? Is he just a boy who is playing, or is he a genuine man (you might ask how he thinks of himself)?

When he talks about his spiritual life, pay special attention to his theology, his leadership abilities, his openness to learning. You want a man for Suzy who stands for what he believes, but is also interested in learning and growing. He should be a man you respect and one who respects you. Does he agree with you theologically? It is important that he agree with you on some major things. For example it is important for me that the man who marries my daughter be Reformed, Covenantal, Postmillennial, etc. Of course if he doesn’t agree with those things now, is he interested in changing? Not thinking in those ways now might not be a deal breaker, but they might become deal breakers if he is not interested in learning more about theological things.

In those areas where you like him, but he needs to do some maturing or changing before they marry, I’m not sure I’d tell him about those things in that way. If you do, you run the risk of setting up hoops for Bob to jump through and his changes may not be truly from the heart. I’ve known a lot of men who “changed” until after the wedding and then just fell back into their old lives after the wedding. You don’t want that.

One way to avoid this is that as part of the courtship process you’ll want to give both Bob and Suzy a ton of books to read. Included in this list should be books on marriage and books on theology. Marriage is very difficult if both husband and wife aren’t on the same page in these two areas. Making sure they agree before marriage is helpful after marriage.

When he talks about his family, pay attention to how he thinks of his mother and respects his father. How does he treat his sisters and brothers? Does he like Dogs? Does he have a sense of humor? Is he mature? Is he supporting himself?

When he talks about his past, keep in mind that God forgives. If he has repented and has been walking with God for a long time (he might define this differently than you do, but your opinion is the one that matters here), you need to take that into account when you think about whether he is suitable for Suzy. God takes us from where we are, not from where we ought to be. But if he was addicted to anything yesterday, he’s clearly not ready to court anyone, let alone Suzy.

When this/these meeting(s) is/are over tell Bob you’ll be thinking and praying about his proposition. Explain to him that the endeavor that he’s asked you all to enter into is too important for snap decisions and that you’ll get back to him in a week or so.

Again, stay in close contact with Suzy. If she sees him regularly at class or something, he might say things to her about your interview. Pay attention to what he says and to his attitude in it. Also, pay attention to how Suzy perceives what his reaction is. If she likes him even more, take that into strong account.

Next, go through the information you’ve gathered, both factual and character (this includes what your guts are telling you). Do you like him? Do you respect him? Would you like to have dinner with him for the next 30 Thanksgivings? You might not know that much on the first visit, but you’ll know if the answer is ‘no’ to these questions. If he gave great answers, but you can’t stand the guy, that says something; something important.

If you really think Bob would not be suited for Suzy, you need to organize yourself and let them know. It could be that there are already strong emotions between them. If so, you should be extra careful to explain why you think they should trust in the Lord for other people.

If at any point in this whole process Suzy says, “You know what? I’m not all that excited about Bob,” you should pull the plug on the whole thing. Chat with her about how important it all is, but don’t let her feel any pressure to marry Bob, if she doesn’t want to (even to the day of the wedding, even if you’ve already shelled out the $20,000 for the wedding). Only you know if she is just emotional and will change her mind back tomorrow or in an hour, but she shouldn’t feel real pressure to marry someone she doesn’t want to marry.

If after the interview you can’t find anything wrong with Bob, and Suzy still things he’s hunky, give him a call and invite him to supper. Let him spend the evening with your family. You don’t need to grill him anymore for facts, but keep an eye on him. Notice how he lives out what he told you he believes. See how he relates to the rest of the family. He will probably be nervous, keep that in mind, but notice how he acts when he’s nervous. After dinner ask everyone in the family for their opinion of him.

If all is still good, ask to get together with Bob and see if he is still interested. If so, explain to him what you think a courtship should look like. Ask him if he’s happy with that and discuss any ideas he might have. Remember, if he will one day be a member of your family you both need to respect one another right from the beginning. You are also still protecting your daughter and he should be starting to protect her too (and this includes her heart).

After you hammer out what you both agree is the way it should go, you should invite Suzy to chat with the two of you. Explain how it will work and why. If at any point one or both of you sees a good reason for breaking it all off, make sure they and you know it should be broken off.

Again, remember through all of this that you are dealing with people not machines. None of this is wooden. People are sinful. But God gives grace and forgives. Take your time, enjoy yourself. Love your daughter and Bob. Pray for wisdom.

Again, if you have further questions, feel free to ask.

I hope this helps.

Verse of the Day

My soul clings to the dust; give me life according to your word!
When I told of my ways, you answered me; teach me your statutes!
Make me understand the way of your precepts, and I will meditate on your wondrous works.
My soul melts away for sorrow; strengthen me according to your word!
Put false ways far from me and graciously teach me your law!
I have chosen the way of faithfulness; I set your rules before me.
I cling to your testimonies, O LORD; let me not be put to shame!
I will run in the way of your commandments when you enlarge my heart!
Psalm 119:25-32

Quote of the Day

Bound as I was, not with another man's irons, but by my own iron will. My will the enemy held, and thence had made a chain for me, and bound me. For of a froward will, was lust made; and a lust served, became custom, and custom not registered became necessity. By which links, as it were, joined together (whence I called it a chain) a hard bondage held me enthralled."
Augustine, Confessions, Book 8
Quoted in Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave by Edward Welch

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Verse of the Day

Deal bountifully with your servant, that I may live and keep your word.
Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.
I am a sojourner on the earth; hide not your commandments from me!
My soul is consumed with longing for your rules at all times.
You rebuke the insolent, accursed ones, who wander from your commandments.
Take away from me scorn and contempt, for I have kept your testimonies.
Even though princes sit plotting against me, your servant will meditate on your statutes.
Your testimonies are my delight; they are my counselors.
Psalm 119:17-24

Counseling: Helping a husband walk with God

Dear Mike,

My husband is not the man I thought I was marrying. He does not lead the family in spiritual things because he has a very low self esteem and no matter what I do I can't seem to help him. I read in 1 Peter 3 that I'm supposed to treat him as a lord, but isn't that the same word the Bible uses to talk about Jesus? How does that work?

A concerned wife

Dear CW,

Your's a is a common question, which is why I'm putting it here on my blog.

The word for lord there (1 Peter 3) is the same as the word for lord when talking about Jesus. The difference is that Jesus is a different kind of Lord. He is Lord of lords.

This does, however, mean that most women need to have a much higher view of their husbands than they often do. They forget that the text (1 Peter 3) says that if the husband is in sin. It is not a low self image, it is sin. But often women help create and reinforce this sin by picking at their husbands and not being able to find anything good in their husbands to cheer them on about.

Peter tells wives to let their worship and obedience to God shine out through their worship and obedience of their husbands. This is tough on many women because they think it is something in their husbands that deserve the praise. But it has nothing to do with the husband, it has everything to do with God. It is not really the husband who is being praised, it is God who is praised when the wife submits to her sinful husband. And this is great because all of us husbands are sinners and none of us deserve praise.

This means that if a wife is waiting until her husband is praise worthy to do what the Bible requires, she will never be submissive to God and this is a problem.

Another problem wives have is that they think they need to “fix” their husband. But notice the text says he will be won without a word. It isn’t the wife that changes the husband, it is God working through love, through Grace, through means. If the wife says anything about his sin, does anything (pouting, burning food, cold shoulder, etc.) at all, she will be getting in the way of God’s work in her husband. God says, “be quiet and let me work in your husband.”

This is a great thing because it frees the wife to live in front of God without trying to lead her husband (which is often a great player in the problem in the first place). The text says that the wife will not need to fear. This is because the responsibility for the spiritual state of the family is not the wife’s to bear, it is God’s.

So, do what God tells you to do. Dress nicely, wear make-up, put on a happy face, look for things in your husband that you can legitimately praise and then praise up a storm. Do not correct him, pick at him, tell him what to do, nag him, yell at him, demean him, talk about him with others, etc.

If you find yourself in fights with your husband and don’t know how you got there, begin keeping a journal. Write answers to these questions:

  1. What is my context? What was going on before the “event” occurred?
    Was I stressed (why?)?
    What factors played into creating the “event”?
  2. How did I respond, act, or react in the “event”?
  3. Why did I respond, act, react the way I did? What needs, desires, longings was I trying to maintain, protect, take hold of? Wy did I do what I did? Was I afraid (of what might or might not happen), angry, joyful?
  4. What were the consequences/results of my reactions?
  5. How would 1 Corinthians 10:13 and Hebrews 4:16 have helped me?
  6. What should I have done differently? What will I do differently next time?
  7. How should I now respond to the situation in order to honor God?
  8. What are the results I have been getting? What would I like to see in the future?

After you’ve written in your journal a few times (a few “events”) go back over them and see if there are any patterns. Are you an angry, fearful, power crazy, proud, despondent person? How does the word of God tell you to live, if you have these particular susceptibilities? How should faith (trust) affect this area of your life?

I hope this helps,


Monday, March 20, 2006

Verse of the Day

I will keep your statutes; do not utterly forsake me!
How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word.
With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments!
I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.
Blessed are you, O LORD; teach me your statutes!
With my lips I declare all the rules of your mouth.
In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches.
I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways.
I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word.
Psalm 119:8-16

Quote of the Day

The heart must be kept tender and pliable; otherwise agnosticism converts to skepticism. In such a case, the value of apologetics is voided, for apologetics is aimed at persuading doubters, not at refuting the defiant. He who demands a kind of proof that the nature of the case renders impossible, is determined that no possible evidence shall convince him.
... Edward John Carnell

It becomes Protestants to consider that Romish work-righteousness is at least preferable to that doctrine-righteousness to which Protestants are prone: work-righteousness, usually at least, advantages somebody, while doctrine-righteousness produces no fruit but loveless pride.
Warfield citing Bavinck

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Quote of the Day

This is the "American Paradox." The paradox, says David Myers, is that we "are better paid, better fed, better housed, better educated, and healthier than ever before, and with more human rights, faster communications, and more convenient transportation than we have ever known." Alongside all of this largesse, however, are the signs of life in pain and travail. Since 1960, the divorce rate has doubled, teen has tripled, violent crime quadrupled, the number in prison has quintupled, illegitimate children tupled, and the number of those cohabiting has increased sevenfold. David G. Myers, The American Paradox: Spiritual Hunger in an Age of Plenty, quoted in the footnote on p. 179 in Above All Earthly Pow'rs by David F. Wells.

Verse of the Day

Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the LORD! Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart, who also do no wrong, but walk in his ways! You have commanded your precepts to be kept diligently. Oh that my ways may be steadfast in keeping your statutes! Then I shall not be put to shame, having my eyes fixed on all your commandments. I will praise you with an upright heart, when I learn your righteous rules (Psalm 119:1-7)

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Counsel: Gossip


Here’s a quick definition of Gossip I took from the internet:

Quick definitions (Gossip)

· noun: a report (often malicious) about the behavior of other people (Eg: "The divorce caused much gossip")
· noun: a person given to gossiping and divulging personal information about others
· noun: light informal conversation for social occasions
· verb: talk socially without exchanging too much information
· verb: wag one's tongue; speak about others and reveal secrets or intimacies

Gossip doesn’t have to be false, it just has to be irrelevant to the people involved. The fact that your sister-in-law talked about her relationship with anyone other than you and it caused damage to your reputation is, by definition, gossip—even if it is true, or partially so (which is probably the really damaging thing).

And truth spun to a particular person’s side is always damaging to the other side, because it is seldom the real truth. This why the Bible tells us to hear both sides of an issue before we make a judgment (Prov. 18:13, 17).

What would that someone think if I mentioned that the last time I visited you in Riverdale, you were sober? They would think that you weren't normally sober. The truth can be told in a way that implies that a lie is true. In this case the fact is that I only visited you once, and that you are normally sober doesn't enter in. But telling the truth, in this way, is actually telling a lie because it says a whole lot more (and a lot less) than was actually said.

So telling the Johnsons the truth caused something to become a fact in their minds that wouldn’t have been there if the actual, complete truth had been told. Again, it’s like the woman who wears far too little clothing and then complains that the men are paying undue attention to her. “I didn’t say anything to them, why are they coming on to me like this?” Well, a woman doesn’t have to be talking to be speaking.

There are lots of passages of Scripture that talk about gossip, but they assume we know what the word means. I can send you a list if you want.

I hope this helps,

Verse of the Day

The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem. "Vanity of vanities," says the Preacher; "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity." What profit has a man from all his labor In which he toils under the sun? One generation passes away, and another generation comes; But the earth abides forever. The sun also rises, and the sun goes down, And hastens to the place where it arose. The wind goes toward the south, And turns around to the north; The wind whirls about continually, And comes again on its circuit. All the rivers run into the sea, Yet the sea is not full; To the place from which the rivers come, There they return again. All things are full of labor; Man cannot express it. The eye is not satisfied with seeing, Nor the ear filled with hearing. That which has been is what will be, That which is done is what will be done, And there is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:1-9).

Quote of the Day

For the Christians are distinguished from other men neither by country, nor language, nor the customs which they observe. For they neither inhabit cities of their own, nor employ a peculiar form of speech, nor lead a life which is marked out by any singularity. The course of conduct which they follow has not been devised by any speculation or deliberation of inquisitive men; nor do they, like some, proclaim themselves the advocates of any merely human doctrines. But, inhabiting Greek as well as barbarian cities, according as the lot of each of them has determined, and following the customs of the natives in respect to clothing, food, and the rest of their ordinary conduct, they display to us their wonderful and confessedly striking method of life. They dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners. As citizens, they share in all things with others, and yet endure all things as if foreigners. Every foreign land is to them as their native country, and every land of their birth as a land of strangers. They marry, as do all [others]; they beget children; but they do not destroy their offspring. They have a common table, but not a common bed. They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh. They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven. They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same time surpass the laws by their lives. They love all men, and are persecuted by all. They are unknown and condemned; they are put to death, and restored to life. They are poor, yet make many rich; they are in lack of all things, and yet abound in all; they are dishonored, and yet in their very dishonor are glorified. They are evil spoken of, and yet are justified; they are reviled, and bless; they are insulted, and repay the insult with honor; they do good, yet are punished as evil-doers. When punished, they rejoice as if quickened into life; they are assailed by the Jews as foreigners, and are persecuted by the Greeks; yet those who hate them are unable to assign any reason for their hatred.
From The Epistle of Mathetes to Diognetus c. 100-150 a.d.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Quote of the Day

That is, we rarely hear very well when someone talks to us without any real interest, love, or compassion. But when godly love is wrapped around words, people listen. Isn't it true that two people can say the exact same thing, yet the words of one may be empty, and the other beautiful? The difference, of course it that one person is a short-term, unaffected consultant, while the other loves the depressed person like a member of the family.
From Loving Those Who Are Depressed, by Ed Welch, in The Journal of Biblical Counseling, Vol. 18, Number 2, Winter 2000.

Verse of the Day

Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God (James 4:1-4).

Friday, March 10, 2006

The Lord's Supper

Jeff Evans is pastor of Christ Church of Linvingston County. You can meet him here:

Grace at the Table
J. C. Evans
As our Lord was fond of pointing out, His Father's wisdom can be seen in quotidian of creation. Birds frolicking through the heavens and lilies humbly showing forth their splendor confute unbelieving worldly wisdom. The cold heart of unbelief reads Psalm 23 and is not stirred to find a patch of lush Kentucky bluegrass to roll in and feel God's soothing, cool comfort. Likewise, parents, pastors, and presbyters read "Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven" and find unbelieving ways to deny God's creational wisdom in the everyday lives of their covenant children. Shame on us, I say: For not coveting the believing heart of a child; for not rejoicing in the wisdom of the mundane; for not incarnationally pondering the poetic like a boy loves bugs.
Our daughter, now approaching three, has been a constant source of godly wisdom. Of course, this is not to subtract from the sinful foolishness bound up in her heart. When she sins, she immediately demands to pray to the Father for forgiveness in Jesus, who died for her. The separation sin brings from her family body and from God ruins the short pleasures of childish disobedience. But whether tearfully repenting of sin or delighting in the Lord with her God-given faith, she--rightly named Grace---has been a treasure house of believing, saintly wisdom for her parents. As each day runs its course, sunrises and sunsets find her heart bursting forth in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs--either in family worship or while alone upon her bed. Sudden, unfettered joy in the daytime is reason to dance more earnestly than David in all his might before the ark. And the Sabbath, that chief day of every happy day, stands pre-eminently at the beginning of her week. It is the day that defines every other day: It is the constant reoccurring appointment on her simple calendar; as she sees it, it is the day all of God's people join together as one body to worship the King.

But who is this King? In Grace's mind, He is the One who rules over every exotic creature in her books, destroys the wicked and upholds the righteous in every Bible story (one of her favorites being David cutting Goliath's head off), and makes every blade of grass bow in our front yard with His breath. He does all His holy will and sees all things, though we see Him not. He is also the One who made her, baptized her into His Church, hates all sin, and gave Himself to purchase and cleanse His Church. Through baptism and because of what God said in her baptism, she believes and knows she belongs to God's people. As we gather around our dinner table during the week (and especially on the Sabbath), we give special treats to our daughter: a small amount of wine, a candy, ice cream, etc. We try to teach her that these treats are given in the name of the King, for His rule is sweet and a delight. She, because it is so special, often saves her treat following dinner, if possible. Hours later, we find a small hand stained by the color of the candy and a big contemplative smile as she finally enjoys her treat. Her King's treats are special and she has perfected the art of savoring, say, one jelly bean for hours. But what would you expect from someone who cannot walk two steps outside without pondering the Lord's handiwork in a flower or stick on the ground.

A few months after her first birthday, Grace began noticing the Lord's Supper being passed before her in church each week. Her first reaction, like any sinner, was to greedily grab for the bread and wine without reference to the Word. After roughly a month of instruction, however, she began to refrain from grabbing the bread and wine. In the weeks following she began to announce the meaning of the Supper to us and often those within earshot: "Jesus died on the Cross for me. His body was broken for me. His blood was spilled for me." Not empty words, she experientially knew what it meant to be bruised, scraped, cut and to bleed. She knew what it means to sin. But more troubling than her prior greedy grabbing, Grace now began to ask why she was not receiving the bread and wine if it belonged to God's people. She would look up at us, with her pretty eyes of faith and plead, "For me, for Grade?" Our hearts sank and we nearly burst into tears each week as we answered "Yes, sweetheart, forj0u" and hurriedly and hypocritically passed the tray without letting her partake. She was more discerning of the body and more full of faith than we. As Grace approached the age of two, we began letting her hold her mother's bread and wine. Never attempting to put the bread in her mouth or sip from the cup, she seemed more content though the questions continued: "For me? Please, daddy?" Every week we repented as we took the Supper; every week our heart broke for the unbelief we were silently teaching her.

Finally, at the age of two and a half, she began coming to the Table. Prior to this time, we had technically been members of a denomination that did not practice paedo-communion (though we were attending a local, practicing paedo-communion church), and thus we could not allow our daughter to partake in the Supper. Now, however, rejoicing in the ability to commune our daughter, we looked anxiously to Grace's first visit to the Lord's Table. As the bread was passed I smiled at how excited she had been during the week as we told her that she was going to partake of the Supper on Sunday. In hand for her, the precious bread was coddled and admired by Grace. With the phrase "for you" spoken by the pastor, I ate the bread and motioned for Grace to do the same. Grace remained motionless. "Grace," I whispered, "it's for you. Eat the bread, sweetheart." Still no response. After a bit more coaxing and explaining, she ate the bread with a big smile. The wine, now being passed, she took and drank at the appropriate time without any prompting.

My wife knew exactly what our daughter had been doing, though I had been slow to catch on. Grace had been treasuring this tiny piece of bread like she had treasured other treats given in the King’s name. She was so delighting in the fact of it being for her that she would have held on to it for hours if I had not reminded her of what she already knew: The Lord's Supper is to be enjoyed by all of God's people as one body. A gracious lesson, I say, for Grace and her father to be reminded of, and a tremendous blessing for her parents to see how their daughter's everyday delight in her heavenly Father affects her coming to the Table. Likewise, since coming to the Table, Grace has delighted even more in the quotidian of Her Father's creation: More songs, more smiles, more thankfulness from an already joyous heart, a more earnest confession that Christ has died to forgive her sins, and a constant excitement for the Sabbath and all its delights.
'l thank thee, 0 Father, Lord of heaven and earth,
because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent,
and hast revealed them unto babes. " --Matthew 11:25

Quote of the Day

Addiction is a symptom of not growing up. I know people think it's a disease... If you have a brain tumor, if you have cancer, that's a disease. To say that an addiction is a disease is not fair to the real diseases of the world. - C. C. DeVille (1962)

Talking with a man is like trying to saddle a cow. You work like hell, but what's the point? -- Gladys Upham

Faith is not a refuge from reality. It is a demand that we face reality, with all its difficulties, opportunities, and implications. The true subject matter of religion is not our own little souls, but the Eternal God and His whole mysterious purpose, and our solemn responsibility to Him.... Evelyn Underhill (1875-1941), The School of Charity [1934]

I'm getting these quotes from unless otherwise noted.

Baptism: Promise and Assumption

Technically, babies are already in the covenant before they are baptized. We see this clearly in the Old Covenant when the babies who are not circumcised on the right day are to be cut off from his people because they have broken the covenant (Gen. 17:14). You can only break the covenant if you are in it. Also, we see this in 1 Cor. 7 when Paul tells us that the children of believers are holy (1 Cor. 7:14.

We baptize them in faith, trusting that the promises of God to us and to our children will be fulfilled and that our children will walk with God and will bring their children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. We do not presume on God’s promises. God works through means to accomplish his goals. He wants godly offspring (Mal. 2:15) and that is what we want too. So we raise our children in faith and trust in a faithful God.

The Covenant of God is not one we look back on as much as one we live in. Christianity is about living Coram Deo—in front of the face of God. We look back to gain examples of others who have gone before us and we look forward to hope for what God has in store for us, and we live in the present in the light of those two other vantage points.

This covenant is the same covenant that God made with Adam, Noah, Abraham, David, etc. It is just fulfilled in Christ. They aren’t new covenants each time, they are the same covenant renewed. Even the New Covenant is not a different covenant, it is the Old Covenant, died and resurrected. It was always to be the way it is now. It is Eden restored in a sense (that sin thing gets in there and makes it harder to see).

Another way to look at it is that God created Adam and Eve to start his kingdom on earth. They sinned and caused a mess. Jesus came, cleaned up the mess, and restored the coming of the Kingdom of God on the earth. So, we are not waiting for the kingdom to come, we are part of the Kingdom coming. We are not waiting for it to start, we are waiting for it to be completed. We are part of the Kingdom of God, the people of God, a kingdom of priests, a holy nation, a resurrected man, the church, the body of Christ, etc.

Faith and Works

No one, to my knowledge, equates obedience with faith.

On the other hand everyone connects them. God says faith without works is (Jas. 2:14-26), for example.

It is similar to love and works--the Bible says that we will know that we love God if we keep his commandments (1 John 5:3). No one that I know would say that obedience automatically means that we love God. A guy could be doing it totally on his own power for his own glory. But the text means that loving God means that we will do what he tells us to do. In this sense love means obedience.

Just so, a person can say he has faith and not have it affect his life at all. But James says this kind of faith is meaningless--dead. But if a man has faith, he will trust God for every aspect of his life and this will produce works. These works reflect/show his faith. And faith without these works does not exist. So while faith and works are not exactly synonymous they are so closely connected that we can say faith will never be without works.

Another way to put it is to acknowledge (happily) that salvation is totally based on faith. God grants us faith, we believe, and based on that faith God justifies us and thus saves us. But how do we know we have faith? Or how do we know we don't have the faith? This knowledge comes when we apply what we believe. Our faith will always produce something. If it is faith in God, it will produce fruit in keeping with salvation. If it is faith in ourselves, it will produce fruit in keeping with our damnation.

Is faith equal to works? NO. But works are the other side of faith, they are produced by faith. So that if a man has no works, we can legitimately say he does not have faith (or at least that he is in sin).

Quote of the Day

LORD, my heart is not haughty, Nor my eyes lofty.
Neither do I concern myself with great matters,
Nor with things too profound for me.
Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul,
Like a weaned child with his mother;
Like a weaned child is my soul within me.
O Israel, hope in the LORD From this time forth and forever.
Psalm 131:1-3

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Verse of the Day

Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law (Galatians 5:19-23).

Monday, March 06, 2006

Quote of the Day

Please help me; I am suffering from attention deficit dis.... — John Callahan

This is a feminist bookstore. There is no humor section. — John Callahan

Baptism: Spirit & Water

Now on to Baptism of the Spirit

But what about the baptism of the spirit? Years ago I did a study on the Baptism of the Holy Spirit and this is what I came up with. You can think about it and see if it fits. The Baptism of the Holy Spirit is the event that actually saves a person. In Reformed circles it is described by several things: regeneration, justification, Sanctification (not in the progressive sense), etc. It is the event that causes us to go from being unbelievers to being believers. It is the action of the spirit on our hearts’ that changes us from being our own god to being a servant of the real and true God. It is the action of God wherein we are actually adopted into his family to be children of God.

The Baptism of the Holy Spirit is not a secondary event to salvation, as the Charismatics teach, it is salvation. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is the event that transforms us from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light. It is the event that makes us truly Christian and truly members of the New Covenant community. It is the event that makes us Christians. And it is an event that works in our hearts.

And that last part is the rub. Fortunately God anticipated it. The Bible tells us that we know the man of the Spirit by the fruit that the Spirit of God produces in his life. We also know that no one can say Jesus is Lord unless the power of God is upon him (1 Co. 12:3). But what do we do with the person who claims Christ, but only sporadically shows fruit, or who sins all the time? We can’t look into a person’s heart and see if it has been changed. All we have to go on are things that we can see on the outside. I have no problems with saying, “we can’t tell if a person is going to go to Heaven or not, if he is living in sin.” But is he a Christian who is in sin, or is he a non-Christian altogether? Do we do evangelism with him, or do we rebuke him as a brother?

The Bible does not leave us ignorant. They had this same problem in the Old Covenant and Paul shows it when in Romans 9 he tells us that not everyone descended from Israel is Israel (Rom. 9:6). The problem was that salvation doesn’t have to do with who your father is, it has to do with the promise and this promise is obtained by faith. So, everyone in Israel was circumcised, and therefore all members of the People of God, but not all were circumcised in heart (the true mark of a member of the people of God). So it is with Christians.

I said above that water baptism is what makes a person a Christian, but then below I said that baptism of the Spirit is what makes a person a Christian. This is because just like in the Old Covenant, not all Israel is Israel, so too in the church not all Christians are Christians. Water baptism brings a person into the covenant community, but the Spirit is the one, working in their heart who makes them truly Christians.

Water baptism, then, is the sign that points to the Spirit’s work in a person’s heart. This sign can come before the event of salvation as it might in the case of children who are baptized as infants or as in the case of the folks in Acts 8. Or the sign can come after the change of heart as it did in John (Lk. 1:41) or as it did at Pentecost when the people repented and then were baptized. And sometimes it happens at the same time as it is talked about in Colossians 2:

In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross (Colossians 2:11-14).

(Incidentally, if you need a passage that joins circumcision to baptism, this is it.) The point is that a sign points at something else, it is not the thing in itself. In this case the baptism that the Holy Spirit puts us through is the thing itself. Water baptism is the sign of that thing.

The way it all works out practically is that we treat everyone who has been baptized into Christ as Christians. For this is what they are. We can’t look into their heart we can only see what God has given us and he says that water baptism puts us into the body of Christ and as members of Christ we are Christians and cannot, may not, say that someone for whom Christ died is not a Christian. If a person sins in an unrepentant and flagrant manner we are given direction that we are to remove such a one from our fellowship and after the proper and Biblical steps, we are to proclaim them to not be Christians at all. From then on, they may attend church, but they may not eat at the table of the Lord, until they repent. But without proper proceedings all baptized members much be treated as Christians.

The warnings in John 14, Romans 11, all through Hebrews are talking to Christians. In fact look at what Paul said of the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 6:11: “But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” Buy then 3 chapters later he was warning them against falling away from faith. These two can only go together in the same letter if we understand that not all Christians are Christians and that all who are baptized in the name of Jesus are Christians.

Batism: Water Baptism

A sign is something that points to something else. The rainbow points to the covenant that God has made with his people. The cross is a sign that God has put our sins on Jesus and thus we are saved. The miracles in the Old and New Testaments were signs pointing to the fact that God was working in the one displaying the miracles. I would assert that baptism is also a sign.

Matthew 3:11 says that John the Baptist baptized “for (or unto) repentance.” What this means is that when people repented and believed John about their sins and the coming messiah, they were baptized by him. The Baptism was a sign that they were associating themselves with John and the message he was preaching. This is why later, the Apostles could say something like, “Into what were you baptized?” and the answer was “John’s baptism” (Acts 17:3).

This becomes a little more obvious when we look at what baptism means. The dictionary says: “1. A religious sacrament marked by the symbolic use of water and resulting in admission of the recipient into the community of Christians. 2. A ceremony, trial, or experience by which one is initiated, purified, or given a name.” We already knew the first one, but the second is the one I think we need to focus on for a bit. We see this use when every once in a while we hear of old WWII veterans getting together for reunions. I remember er crews getting together and reminiscing about the events that made them men and bound them together as a unit. They were baptized under fire (the fire of war) and they were inseparably bound together because of that baptism under fire.

By itself this would mean nothing, but the Bible uses it this way too. In 1 Corinthians 10 the Apostle warns the Corinthians that if they fall from faith, they will be in danger of falling from Grace. He says, with regard to baptism: “I want you to know, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did” (1 Corinthians 10:1-6).

You’ll notice that the first definition of baptism (above) doesn’t fit here. The people didn’t touch the water or the cloud. They didn’t get wet or fluffy. But the Apostle says they were baptized in the cloud and in the sea. Baptism is being used here in the second sense (above). The Baptism they underwent was the trial or experience of the sea and the trial or experience of following the cloud. This experience put them into the camp or under the leadership of Moses the leader of the people during the baptism. So, the people were baptized in the sea and in the cloud into Moses.

When we go back to John we see that while the baptism was in water, it still functioned in the second way above. The people were baptized in water into John’s baptism, or into John’s leadership. They were saying, I repent and want to follow God in the way John is preaching.

Then, when Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (Jn 1:29) came along John said, I must decrease and he must increase (Jn 3:30) and from then on Jesus was baptizing more people than John (they were really being baptized into Jesus), but the message Jesus was preaching was no longer that the Lord of the Kingdom of God was coming (Mt. 3:3) it was now, the Kingdom of God is at hand, or present because the Lord of the Kingdom was in their midst (Phil. 2:11).

This fits also with the Great Commission: Go into all the world making the nations his disciples, baptizing them in the Name… (Mt. 28:19). In every case this baptism was a trial, experience, or event that brings people into one group under a particular leader. In this case it brings them into the Christian church under Jesus as Lord. It should be noted here that most of the time, baptism in water, into Christ, is a very perilous act. In most of history, in most places in the world you were making a rather public and vocal statement when you identified with the crucified and risen Lord. So, baptism is a trial and an extreme experience most of the time, not to be taken lightly.

At the first Pentecost Peter told the people who were cut to the heart because of their sin, that they should repent and get baptized (Acts 2:38). This is because their baptism was a sign that they had indeed repented (just as it had been for John) and were now following Jesus as the Christ. It was the beginning of the Church and that day 3,000 were added to their number (Acts 2:31). But the thing that they could point to that said, “I’ve repented and am following the Christ” was their baptism. It was a sign of their salvation and a sign of their membership in the body of Christ.

Consequently, when Paul said in Romans 6 that “all of us who were baptized into his Jesus were also baptized into his ,” he was not saying anything about Spirit baptism, he was talking about their baptism into Christ, which took place in water. His point was that because we have been baptized into Jesus, we have an obligation to live like he lived, as a man come back to life. The chapter is a practical chapter, not a spiritual chapter. It is the nuts and bolts of Christian living, not the theology or spiritual story of life (You can read more about this topic at You can also follow Dr. Leithart’s subsequent articles on this topic at

In conclusion, while the Bible doesn’t specifically say, “Baptism in water is the event that brings people into the Christian Church and into the body of Christ where salvation is found,” it screams it in every other way.

Verse of the Day

Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles — when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries. In regard to these, they think it strange that you do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation, speaking evil of you. They will give an account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For this reason the gospel was preached also to those who are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit. But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers. And above all things have fervent love for one another, for "love will cover a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:1-8).

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Verse of the Day

If a person sins and commits a trespass against the LORD by lying to his neighbor about what was delivered to him for safekeeping, or about a pledge, or about a robbery, or if he has extorted from his neighbor, or if he has found what was lost and lies concerning it, and swears falsely -- in any one of these things that a man may do in which he sins: then it shall be, because he has sinned and is guilty, that he shall restore what he has stolen, or the thing which he has extorted, or what was delivered to him for safekeeping, or the lost thing which he found, or all that about which he has sworn falsely. He shall restore its full value, add one-fifth more to it, and give it to whomever it belongs, on the day of his trespass offering (Leviticus 6:2-5).

Friday, March 03, 2006

Definitions: Christian

There are three views of what defines a Christian:

First is a general definition that says anyone living in a “Christian” country is a Christian. A Christian country would be defined as a country where Christianity has historically been the de jure or state religion. Thus anyone living in a Christian country would by definition be a Christian. This is the kind of Christian the Muslims were attacking when they destroyed the World Trade Center in 2001. It is mostly related to where a person lives and the kind of air, in general, they breathe.

The second is that a Christian is someone who believes in the sacrificial of Jesus Christ and who, when they die, will go to heaven. The emphasis is on personal and individual salvation, based on his profession of faith in Christ. There is usually an assumption of a changed life as the Spirit of God lives in the Christian, but not this is not always the case. This definition of Christian has its source in what the believer does with respect to what God has done in history.

The third is that a Christian is someone who professes faith in the sacrificial of Jesus and who has been baptized into the Name of Jesus (including their baptized household). In this definition of Christian there is no particular claim to individual salvation other than that being a Christian means being a member of the covenant community which is Christ’s body, the church. Because the church is Christ’s body, however, individual salvation is assumed because of membership and a life of faith rather than because of a “commitment” or a declaration of faith as in version two above. This definition of Christian has it's roots in what God has done for the believer in history and in the life of the believer directly.

Verse of the Day

If a person sins, and commits any of these things which are forbidden to be done by the commandments of the LORD, though he does not know it, yet he is guilty and shall bear his iniquity. And he shall bring to the priest a ram without blemish from the flock, with your valuation, as a trespass offering. So the priest shall make atonement for him regarding his ignorance in which he erred and did not know it, and it shall be forgiven him. It is a trespass offering; he has certainly trespassed against the LORD (Leviticus 5:17-19)

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Verse of the Day

And Hannah prayed and said: "My heart rejoices in the LORD; My horn is exalted in the LORD. I smile at my enemies, Because I rejoice in Your salvation. "No one is holy like the LORD, For there is none besides You, Nor is there any rock like our God (1 Samuel 2:1-2).

You meet him who rejoices and does righteousness, Who remembers You in Your ways. You are indeed angry, for we have sinned -- In these ways we continue; And we need to be saved. But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; We all fade as a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, Have taken us away. And there is no one who calls on Your name, Who stirs himself up to take hold of You; For You have hidden Your face from us, And have consumed us because of our iniquities (Isaiah 64:5-7).

The fear of man brings a snare, But whoever trusts in the LORD shall be safe (Proverbs 29:25).

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Verse of the Day

I will love You, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised; So shall I be saved from my enemies. The pangs of death surrounded me, And the floods of ungodliness made me afraid. The sorrows of Sheol surrounded me; The snares of death confronted me. In my distress I called upon the LORD, And cried out to my God; He heard my voice from His temple, And my cry came before Him, even to His ears. Then the earth shook and trembled; The foundations of the hills also quaked and were shaken, Because He was angry. Smoke went up from His nostrils, And devouring fire from His mouth; Coals were kindled by it. He bowed the heavens also, and came down With darkness under His feet. And He rode upon a cherub, and flew; He flew upon the wings of the wind (Psalm 18:1-10).