Thursday, June 29, 2006

Quote of the Day

Human love desires the other person, his company, his answering love, but it does not serve him. On the contrary, it continues to desire even when it seems to be serving. There are two marks both of which are one and the same thing, that manifest the difference between spiritual and human love: Human love cannot tolerate the dissolution of a fellowship that has become false for the sake of genuine fellowship, and human love cannot love an enemy, that is, one who seriously and stubbornly resists it. Both spring from the same source: human love is by its very nature desire—desire for human community. So long as it can satisfy this desire in some way, it will not give it up, even for the sake of truth, even for the sake of genuine love for others. But where it can no longer expect its desire to be fulfilled, there it stops short—namely, in the face of an enemy. There it turns into hatred, contempt, and calumny. [Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together (Harper & Roe Publishers, Inc. 1954), p. 34]

Verse of the Day

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits. Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.
James 1:2-12

Why we don't excommuncate non-members-- part 2

We do not withhold the Lord's Supper from covenant children. Our only requirement is that the child know the difference between the "meal" and a snack. We think they need to know that they are involved in part of a larger thing. Father's are encouraged to be consistently teaching their covenant children about what is going in in all aspects of the worship service and particularly the Lord's Supper.

We do not make membership in our church a factor in participating in the Lord's Supper. Our only criteria is that the person be baptized and not under any church discipline from any other churches.

Our church observes household membership, not individual membership (unless the person is single, but then we still call it household membership). I think this is in order to recognized that God has given different governments: civil, familial, and ecclesiastical. We are trying to keep the governments responsible for their spheres and not to encroach in one another's spheres.

We do not assume a child should be baptized because he is a Christian. He is a Christian because he is baptized. And therefore should not be held from the table.

With regard to excommunicating a Christian who is not a member of our church, we have been talking about doing that, if the person is not a member of any church. But we haven't gotten to the point where we can figure out how to enforce the decree. There is a sense in which a non-participating Christian has already excommunicated himself by not fellowshipping with the saints. Right now we would put that kind of Christian in the camp we put all Christians who are not living up to their baptisms--We would say that they are Christians, but not living faithfully to their calling in Christ. We would also add that they are in serious danger of damnation.

On the other hand we are also very aware that in our culture immaturity is a player in all this. A Christian who thinks they don't need to join a church because the Bible doesn't specifically spell it out that way, is in danger, but might be immature and not rebelious. We are happy to let a Christian grow up. So, we might have folks who visit regularly but who refuse to join. We don't do very much different with them than we would do with an actual member--but we would not excommunicate them from the Church of Christ, if they went off the deep end. We don't spank the neighbor's kids, but we do help the neighbor raise them in other ways.

We do temporarily withhold the Lord's Supper from saints who are in sin. We use it as a kind of shot across the bow to warn the brother that his behavior is very serious and that he needs to think about where his actions are taking him. One of the passages we use to justify this is 2 Thess. 3:6 were we are commanded to withdraw ourselves from a brother who is not walking with God.

This is a temporary event, not permanent like excommunication would be.

If you attended our church we would not consider you a member unless you took our membership vows. Essentially they are that you acknowledge that you know that you need salvation because of your sin, that you trust in Christ for your salvation and that you will work to pursue the peace and purity of the church. Our church subscribes to a book of constitutions (historic and protestant creeds and confessions), we have a baptismal agreement (paedo and credo), we are Postmillennial, Presbyterian, Evangelical and Reformed. But you do not have to hold to these to be a member. You simply have to take the vow. The church also vows to help you stand with Christ (which includes excommunication if it came to that). Vowing to uphold the peace and purity of the church means that a member who did not agree with some form of our polity, would disagree quietly or in the proper forum, but wouldn't work to split the church or cause any other undue ruckus.

We would not bar you from the table. We would however bar you from voting in church elections (we vote for elders). From what you say, we would assume you were immature, not in rebellious sin. You would receive the same benefits we would give any other non-member. There would be a limit to how we could help you financially, but we would not let you starve either, unless you refused to work. We might ask you to leave, if you went postal on us and began causing a disturbance in the church, but we would not excommunicate you.

Again, we have been talking about going further with people who regularly attend our church, but as yet nothing has been decided.

The Bible says that the church leaders have to give an account of those who have been given to them (Heb. 13:17). It also tells the leaders to shepherd the flock of God that is among you (1 Pet. 5:2). We believe that we have a responsibility to certain sheep in our field, not to every sheep in the field. We do not believe that God holds us responsible for those sheep that do not belong to our particular part of the flock. Church membership is our version of a way to tell who our sheep are. Sheep that refuse to be part of our flock are on their own. We will help them in passing, but are not responsible for them in the same way we are for our particular sheep.

The RC church way oversteps their bounds when they think all the sheep belong to them. If this were the case, they would be in serious trouble when the stand before the throne of God and try to given an accounting of how they did with their charge. We are not trying to avoid difficulties by requiring church membership, we are simply trying to know who our sheep are so that we can minister to them effectively and helpfully.

I hope this helps a little more.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Unity and Diversity

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Philippians 2:1-3

Suppose the saints of Christ were to take this passage seriously. What would a community and the church look like? If we take it all together we would see a bunch of Christian folks who were striving to lift one another up, to give them glory, in the Name of Christ. They would be working hard to support one another, to make the lives of their friends and neighbor as comfortable as possible. They would be looking out for one another. They would actively pursue thinking the same way about God and about his creation…to have one mind.

Because the goal of every Christian in the community would be to strengthen the Biblical ties that bind them to one another, the whole community would be transformed as the Christians love one another and care for one another. God would grant repentance to the non-Christian world as they see the winsome lives of Christians living what they claim to believe. The families would be strong because the members of the families would be working to help one another be the best they could be for the honor of Christ. Wives would make their husbands glorious. Husbands would be making their wives beautiful by loving them and laying down their lives for them. The politics of the community would change as well, and the civil realm would be transformed as people cared for the poor, the homeless, the infirm, and the outcasts.

Worship would be transformed as well. In the same way that in the Godhead there is diversity and unity, the church would take all the various worship forms of the people and work hard to blend them into one Biblical and godly expression of the Godhead itself. The Baptists from one neighborhood would bring their particular brand of preaching. The Black Pentecostals would bring their excitement for the things of God. The Presbyterians would bring their penchant for getting the theology right. And on and on it would go. But because everyone would be thinking the others are more important than themselves they would lay down what they thought were their rights and privileges and worship would slowly be transformed into something glorious and wonderful. With each person bringing something to share and to contribute to the glory of God.

Because in Christ all are one, all cultural differences would eventually be brought into conformity with the mind of Christ. This would include all cultural and racial differences. As people of different ethnic and racial backgrounds came together to worship the triune God the things that divide them would eventually be eradicated and they would come together in every way and in the end all would be one, in Christ. There would be no racial discrimination, no religious discrimination, no ethnic discrimination, no social or economic or cultural discrimination. All would be one in Christ.

I guess we have a long way to go. But the command is there: “complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.”

Quote of the Day

There is such a thing as human absorption. It appears in the form of conversion wherever the superior power of one person is consciously or unconsciously misused to influence profoundly and draw into his spell another individual or a whole community. There one soul operates directly upon another soul. The weak have been overcome by the strong, the resistance of the weak has broken down under the influence of another person. He has been overpowered, but not won over by the thing itself. This becomes evident as soon as the demand is made that he throw himself into the cause itself, independently of the person to whom he is bound, or possibly in opposition to this person. Here is where the humanly converted person breaks down and thus makes it evident that his conversion was effected, not by the Holy Spirit, but by a man, and therefore has no stability. [Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together (Harper & Roe Publishers, Inc. 1954), p. 33]

Verse of the Day

And the king of Sodom said to Abram, "Give me the persons, but take the goods for yourself." But Abram said to the king of Sodom, "I have lifted my hand to the LORD, God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth, that I would not take a thread or a sandal strap or anything that is yours, lest you should say, 'I have made Abram rich.' I will take nothing but what the young men have eaten, and the share of the men who went with me. Let Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre take their share."
Genesis 14:21-24

Monday, June 26, 2006

Why we don't excommuncate non-members

We do not excommunicate the Christian who is not a member of our church for the same reason we don’t discipline children who do not belong to us.

There is a sense in which the Christian who will not join the local church has already excommunicated himself. Biblically speaking there is no such thing as a Christian who is not attached to a local body. And Christians who will not join a local church are very similar to believers who will not be baptized. They are disobedient to the law of God. Consequently they are left on their own with no protection or real fellowship in the body of Christ at all.

They might attend a local church and think they are members of the larger “body of Christ” because they believe in Christ and have been baptized. But by not affixing themselves to a local church they are in effect saying, “you (the local church I’m attending) don’t have any jurisdiction over me. I am my own man, doing my own thing. I’m happy to give money to you, sing in your choir, and such, but I’m not joining because I’m reserving my right to do what I want when I want in the way I want.

Not joining a church is an immature understanding of the Biblical principles of fellowship and accountability. This holds true for those churches that do not have membership at all. They don’t think they can “lock down” someone to their particular fellowship. But the Bible does not have that “feel.” The Bible says that we belong to the saints of a church and must be in the kind of fellowship where we can be held accountable for what we do. If a man who is not a member sins, there is no recourse that can take effect. The non-member simply says, you can’t excommunicate me, I’m not a member of your church anyway. I’m a floater. I float from church to church and you have no power over me. But a member can’t say that. He might visit other churches on occasion, but the church he is a member of has a particular kind of accountability over him. And a certain kind of responsibility toward him to care for his soul.

So, if a visitor sins, we can bar him from the table and we can warn him of his impending danger, but we cannot excommunicate him from the body of Christ. We can admonish him to repent and to believe in Christ. We can tell him that while he may be a Christian in the sense that he was baptized, there is nothing in his current lifestyle that makes us think he is saved. But we cannot remove him from the body of Christ because he isn’t actually a member of the body of Christ biblically speaking.

One stone on another

Luke 19:41-45 says, “And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, 42 saying, "Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43 For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side 44 and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation." 45 And he entered the temple…

Several things about this passage make it difficult to exegete it. First, is Jesus talking about the city or the temple when he says in verse 44 “they will not leave one stone upon another in you”? Verse 41 one says he is looking at the city when he weeps, but in verse 45 it says he entered the temple. One looks like he is standing outside the city, the other looks like he is standing outside the temple.

The parallel passage in Matthew 24 makes it clear that Jesus is referring to the Temple.

It could be that Matthew and Luke aren’t recording the same incident and that Jesus made the same sort of statement about both the temple and the city independently of one another.

Another possibility is that Jesus was talking in hyperbolic and eschatological terms when he says “not one stone will be on another.” It could have been similar to a general who says, “I’m going to raze your city.” It means I’m going to conquer you. It does not necessarily say anything about how flat the city will be or to what smallness the gravel will be when they are finished with it.

One problem with taking the passage in a futuristic manner is that we don’t build buildings out of stones any more. If we are waiting for an army to conquer Jerusalem now days they would have to totally rebuild the city with first century products. Cities nowadays are made out of cement and rebar and steel and other modern technologies.

I suppose you might take the building properties hyperbolically or some other accommodating way and say that Jesus really meant that whatever you happen to be building the buildings out of whenever the destruction comes, that will be flattened out to 1/8” materials with no bumps over 4 inches high. But if you’re going to make stuff up, you might as well go with the more reasonable eschatological rendering above.

We prefer to take it as simply as we can: The parallel passage makes it clear he is talking about the temple being destroyed completely (it was in 70 a.d.); the city will not be rebuilt using first century technology so that it can fulfill the Scripture (that already happened); and the preteristic understanding fits the history and overall context better than the futuristic .

Quote of the Day

Just as the Christian should not be constantly feeling his spiritual pulse, so, too, the Christian community has not been given to us by God for us to be constantly taking its temperature. The more thankfully we daily receive what is given to us, the more surely and steadily will fellowship increase and grow from day to day as God pleases. [Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together (Harper & Roe Publishers, Inc. 1954), p. 30]

Verse of the Day

Now the men of Sodom were wicked, great sinners against the LORD. The LORD said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him, "Lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward, for all the land that you see I will give to you and to your offspring forever. I will make your offspring as the dust of the earth, so that if one can count the dust of the earth, your offspring also can be counted. Arise, walk through the length and the breadth of the land, for I will give it to you." So Abram moved his tent and came and settled by the oaks of Mamre, which are at Hebron, and there he built an altar to the LORD.
Genesis 13:13-18

Friday, June 23, 2006

Quote of the Day

Every human wish dream that is injected into that Christian community is a hindrance to genuine community and must be banished if genuine community is to survive. He who loves his dream of a community more than that Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though this personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial. [Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together (Harper & Roe Publishers, Inc. 1954), p. 27]

Verse of the Day

Now Abram was very rich in livestock, in silver, and in gold. And he journeyed on from the Negeb as far as Bethel to the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Ai, to the place where he had made an altar at the first. And there Abram called upon the name of the LORD. And Lot, who went with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents, so that the land could not support both of them dwelling together; for their possessions were so great that they could not dwell together, and there was strife between the herdsmen of Abram's livestock and the herdsmen of Lot's livestock. At that time the Canaanites and the Perizzites were dwelling in the land. Then Abram said to Lot, "Let there be no strife between you and me, and between your herdsmen and my herdsmen, for we are kinsmen. Is not the whole land before you? Separate yourself from me. If you take the left hand, then I will go to the right, or if you take the right hand, then I will go to the left." And Lot lifted up his eyes and saw that the Jordan Valley was well watered everywhere like the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt, in the direction of Zoar. (This was before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.) So Lot chose for himself all the Jordan Valley, and Lot journeyed east. Thus they separated from each other. Abram settled in the land of Canaan, while Lot settled among the cities of the valley and moved his tent as far as Sodom.
Genesis 13:2-12

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Quote of the Day

It is not simply to be taken for granted that the Christian has the privilege of living among other Christians. Jesus Christ lived in the midst of his enemies. At the end all his disciples deserted him. On the Cross he was utterly alone, surrounded by evildoers and mockers. For this cause he had come, to bring peace to the enemies of God. So the Christian, too, belongs not in the seclusion of a cloistered life but in the thick of foes. [Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together (Harper & Roe Publishers, Inc. 1954), p. 17]

Verse of the Day

Now there was a famine in the land. So Abram went down to Egypt to sojourn there, for the famine was severe in the land. When he was about to enter Egypt, he said to Sarai his wife, "I know that you are a woman beautiful in appearance, and when the Egyptians see you, they will say, 'This is his wife.' Then they will kill me, but they will let you live. Say you are my sister, that it may go well with me because of you, and that my life may be spared for your sake." When Abram entered Egypt, the Egyptians saw that the woman was very beautiful. And when the princes of Pharaoh saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh. And the woman was taken into Pharaoh's house. And for her sake he dealt well with Abram; and he had sheep, oxen, male donkeys, male servants, female servants, female donkeys, and camels. But the LORD afflicted Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram's wife. So Pharaoh called Abram and said, "What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she was your wife? Why did you say, 'She is my sister,' so that I took her for my wife? Now then, here is your wife; take her, and go." And Pharaoh gave men orders concerning him, and they sent him away with his wife and all that he had.
Genesis 12:10-20

Verse of the Day

Now there was a famine in the land. So Abram went down to Egypt to sojourn there, for the famine was severe in the land. When he was about to enter Egypt, he said to Sarai his wife, "I know that you are a woman beautiful in appearance, and when the Egyptians see you, they will say, 'This is his wife.' Then they will kill me, but they will let you live. Say you are my sister, that it may go well with me because of you, and that my life may be spared for your sake." When Abram entered Egypt, the Egyptians saw that the woman was very beautiful. And when the princes of Pharaoh saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh. And the woman was taken into Pharaoh's house. And for her sake he dealt well with Abram; and he had sheep, oxen, male donkeys, male servants, female servants, female donkeys, and camels. But the LORD afflicted Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram's wife. So Pharaoh called Abram and said, "What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she was your wife? Why did you say, 'She is my sister,' so that I took her for my wife? Now then, here is your wife; take her, and go." And Pharaoh gave men orders concerning him, and they sent him away with his wife and all that he had.
Genesis 12:10-20

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Quote of the Day

No matter how right we are in what we believe about God, no matter how accurately we phrase our belief or how magnificently and persuasively we preach or write or declare it, if love does not shape the way we speak and act, we falsify the creed, we confess a lie. Believing without loving is what gives religion a bad name. Believing without loving destroys lives. Believing without loving turns the best of creeds into a weapon of oppression. A community that believes but does not love or marginalizes love, regardless of its belief system or doctrinal orthodoxy or “vision statement,” soon, very soon, becomes a “synagogue of Satan” (Rev. 2:9). Eugene H. Peterson, Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2005), p. 261

Verse of the Day

Now the LORD said to Abram, "Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed."
Genesis 12:1-3

Monday, June 19, 2006

Differing Religions

Dear Pastor Lawyer,

Before my husband and I were married, I told him that we should stop seeing one another since he held to one religious conviction and I held to another. He told me that there is only one God and that He was the God of both of our different faiths. Now, after 25 years of marriage, he not only did not come to my religious convictions, but he no longer participates in his own. Do you have any suggestions as to what can be done to “fix” our situation?

Looking in Silverdale

Dear Looking,

I say this first part not for you, but for those readers who are contemplating marrying someone with whom they are in love, but who do not share the same faith in God. Marriage between two differing religious faiths, though common, is rarely as smooth and easy as one might think it could be. The Bible explicitly requires that Christians not marry people who are not Christian. The reason is that the Christian and the non-Christian differ in every area of their lives (except the chemistry that we call love). This difference is noticeable in areas ranging from what they think of life and death to what they think about child raising and education. Because the Christian and the non-Christian have different priorities and worldviews, their marriage will be one of constant battles or of constant compromise. Both are sin for the Christian.

It is important to realize that being a Christian is not simply about partaking in a certain kind of philosophy of life. It is primarily about having a relationship with the living God through the life, death, and resurrection of his Son Jesus Christ. I say this because many are under the mistaken notion that being a Christian is like being a Buddhist or a Moslem — simply a matter of which philosophy or way of thinking you happen to like. A Communist might get along perfectly well in marriage with a Capitalist because down inside they hold to the same basic philosophy (me first, me biggest, me best). They learn how to get along and what subjects to avoid or to at least take with a touch of humor. The Christian can’t really do this because he is living in a relationship with God and God won’t share his love with another. He demands that his servants serve him and not themselves. This causes all sorts of problems, as you can imagine, when a Christian (a Christ-centered person) marries a self-centered person.

Now, finally, to what you can do in your situation: The first thing to do is to realize that being a Christian means having a relationship with God (it isn’t about “doing”, or “not doing” things). Then, once you get your mind in gear, you need to do all that you can do to strengthen that relationship. You need to confess your sin, turn away from your sin, spend a great amount of time with God by studying the Bible and praying that God would reveal himself to you and transform you in to the image of Christ as you read. You need to get so saturated with God, and his person that his presence causes you to think of serving and loving only him above all else. As part of doing this, if it is possible, you need to faithfully attend a godly church, one that faithfully preaches the word of God, one that regularly celebrates at the Table of the Lord, and one that emphasizes covenantal fellowship (this should all be in one church, not several). Once your relationship with God is where it should be, you need to follow the Bible’s directions about how to live with a non-Christian spouse. Among some other passages, this is primarily found in 1 Peter 3. It says that if a woman is married to a man who is not in fellowship with God (either a non-Christian or a Christian who is out of fellowship), she is to trust in God to care for her, not say a word, and serve her husband as if he is God himself (excluding sin). Notice that I mentioned that “not say a word” thing. This includes making snide comments and giving dirty looks. This includes doing things to “get back at him," such as not talking to him at all. The Bible means you are to love him, serve him, respect him, pray for him — in short, "kill him with kindness." The Bible indicates that, by faith, this will put your husband in a place where he will be able to come to God on his own and will also put him in the position of being able to lead your home when he does come to repentance. I hope this helps,

Pastor Lawyer

Quote of the Day

We are not in John’s storytelling company long before we realize that he is not nearly as interested in telling us anything new about Jesus (although he also does plenty of that along the way) as he is in drawing us into an increasingly intimate relationship with Jesus. “Believe” and “love” are the characteristic verbs; neither can be accomplished in a hurry. Eugene H. Peterson, Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2005), p. 91

Verse of the Day

Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. And they said to one another, "Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly." And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth." And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. And the LORD said, "Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another's speech." So the LORD dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth. And from there the LORD dispersed them over the face of all the earth.
Genesis 11:1-9

Friday, June 16, 2006

Removing the Bitter Root

Removing the Bitter Root

In our last post, we discussed the issue of bitterness. We talked about how you can tell if you are bitter and how you can tell that someone in your church is bitter. In this issue I would like to talk about how to “fix” the sin of bitterness in ourselves and in those around us.

If you find that you are bitter, go alone to God and ask him to reveal to you the extent of your bitterness. You need to understand that you are in sin and in need of Grace and forgiveness.

Next, confess the sin to God (confess means to say the same thing about it that God thinks about it). Ask God to forgive you for your bitterness and in humility ask that God would clean you up from the inside out.

Third, study your Bible, asking God to reveal to you the way he thinks about other people and asking him to change your heart to match his heart. You need to saturate your thinking with the thoughts of God so that when others wrong you, you will react the way God reacts to you when you sin against him (with forgiveness and compassion). This change from the way you’ve been thinking to the way God thinks, is called ‘repentance”. You need to repent and to make his thoughts your thoughts — in every area of life.

Fourth, go to all those you’ve sinned against and make your relationship with them right (as well as you can). Confess your bitterness, nastiness, bad attitude, gossip and slanderous behavior toward them and ask them to forgive you. If you have caused friends to break up, or others to sin, confess that sin and ask those folks to forgive you too.

Finally, after making all of these changes, rejoice in the Lord for forgiving you and for removing your guilt. God will forgive you, if you truly come to him in humility of heart. If you ask him, he will not cast you out. You can trust him. He will save you.

If you have discovered that there is an element of bitterness in your church, you need to figure out who the bitter person is. If you don’t, the bitter root will grow into a mighty oak, destroy your fellowship, and will eventually destroy the church itself. It is therefore very important that you deal with the problem and that you take it very seriously. Having said this let me hasten to point out that, as serious as the problem is, your main goal is to win the person back to fellowship, not to destroy her. This means that you must make sure that when you go to help her, you must make sure that you are in very good fellowship with God. You must be “confessed up” and you must be very careful that you don’t share in the sin of the person you are approaching.

The Bible tells us (Matthew 18.15–35; Galatians 6.1) how we are to approach a person who is in sin: First, go to her alone with the goal of winning her back to faith. Gently point out what you think her error is, and without allowing “wiggle room,” gently ask her to confess and repent from it. If she agrees with you about her sin, you have won your sister.

If she won’t listen to you, you are to take several others with you, and again with the same gentle attitude and hopeful motive, point out the sin. If she repents, you all rejoice together.

If she still won’t listen, you are to take her to the whole congregation. If she confesses her sin and repents after this, you are to bring her back into fellowship, forgive her, and go on rejoicing.

If there is still no repentance, the Bible says to treat her as a pagan and as a tax gatherer, meaning that you are to treat her as an outsider, as someone who does not belong in your group, that you are to proclaim her to be non-Christian and to ask her to leave the building and to not come back until she repents from her sins. There is to be no pretended fellowship; she is not a Christian.

I hope this helps.

Pastor Lawyer

Verse of the Day

Noah began to be a man of the soil, and he planted a vineyard. He drank of the wine and became drunk and lay uncovered in his tent. And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the ness of his father and told his two brothers outside. Then Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on both their shoulders, and walked backward and covered the ness of their father. Their faces were turned backward, and they did not see their father's ness. When Noah awoke from his wine and knew what his youngest son had done to him, he said, "Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be to his brothers." He also said, "Blessed be the LORD, the God of Shem; and let Canaan be his servant. May God enlarge Japheth, and let him dwell in the tents of Shem, and let Canaan be his servant." Genesis 9:20-27

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Root of Bitterness

Dear Pastor Lawyer,

I was reading in my Bible the other day and came across Hebrews 12:15 that says to keep from letting a bitter root spring up because it will defile many people. I was wondering how you could tell if a person is bitter and what the defilement would look like. Thanks,


Dear John,

This is a really good question. It not an easy one to answer however. First let me describe the picture being painted in Hebrews. Sometimes, when a sidewalk is poured near a tree, even though there were no roots near the sidewalk initially, over the years the roots of the tree will come up under the sidewalk and cause it to buckle and fall apart. This is the image the writer is trying to convey. In the case of the tree, however, the tree is healthy and just doing what it was created to do. With bitterness, the bitter person has been infected with a spiritual cancer and needs to be dealt with in a very similar manner to any other kind of cancer.

Bitterness is present primarily because of unconfessed sin and a lack of forgiveness (for real or imagined offences). Consequently, it will sit under the surface just like roots under a sidewalk until the person is jostled and out will pour bitterness and anger. If the bitter person is skilled in hiding his bitterness, you may never know that he is bitter by his outward actions and reactions. He has trained himself to only use innuendo and subterfuge to spread the disease amongst the flock of God.

If you want to know if you are bitter, here are a few things to look for: First, do you find yourself getting defensive when someone approaches you about something either you or someone close to you has done? Do you find yourself getting angry over the memory of things others have done to you in the past? Do you remember the details of past altercations? Is it easy for you to think that others are causing you harm? Do you find that your friends are drifting off or that you really have no friends at all? Do you have one or two friends who are on your side? When you are at church, do you find that if you want to have a conversation with people, you have to go to them to start it? Do a person’s past sins spring into your mind when you have a disagreement with him now?

If you can answer yes to these questions, you are probably a bitter person. One of the problems with bitterness is that since the bitter person views himself as the victim in virtually every situation, he usually has a great deal of difficulty recognizing himself in a list like this. If this is the case for you, you may need to ask some honest friends to evaluate your condition.

You asked about the defilement that bitterness causes. Here are a few things you may notice by way of sidewalks splitting that indicate a bitter presence: The group where the bitter person resides will find itself splitting into camps over seemingly small and normally insignificant issues. When there is a decision to be made, instead of the folks saying what will God think of this, they tend to say what will that group or person think of this. This will be done in a defensive way (someone will say, “What do we care what so and so thinks?”). Another sign of bitterness in the camp will be the presence of Gossip. The bitter person will visit his friend with the intent of sharing his concern for what another is doing to him, and it will end up being a pity party for the bitter person. Moreover, now the friend has been defiled and often has the tendency to “share” with others and on and on until the church is split and many are defiled.

I hope this helps.

Pastor Lawyer

Quote of the Day

Jesus prevents us from thinking that life is a matter of ideas to ponder or concepts to discuss. Jesus saves us from wasting our lives in the pursuit of cheap thrills and trivializing diversions. Jesus enables us to take seriously who we are and where we are without being seduced by the intimidating lies and illusions that fill the air, so that we needn’t be someone else or somewhere else. Jesus keeps our feet on the ground, attentive to children, in conversation with ordinary people, sharing meals with friends and strangers, listening to the wind, observing the wildflowers, touching the sick and wounded, praying simply and unselfconsciously. Jesus insists that we deal with God right here and now, in the place we find ourselves and with the people we are with. Jesus is God here and now. Eugene H. Peterson, Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2005), p. 33-34

Verse of the Day

Then the LORD said, "My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years." The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown. The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the LORD said, "I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them." But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD.
Genesis 6:3-8

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Baptism ofthe Holy Spirit pt. 2

Dear Pastor Lawyer,

I recently read your recent post "Baptism of The Holy Spirit" on your blog. Interesting story.

I find some errors in your response to Bob however. It appears you didn't pray in tongues and ask for revelation knowledge of the scriptures before you wrote your response.

Well to be honest with you I don't have the gift of interpretation and Paul says in 1 Corinthians 14:2 that because the person speaking in another language is speaking to God, "no one understands him" and after a rather lengthy discourse on the unintelligibility of tongues, he says that unless there is an interpreter, our minds are unfruitful (1 Cor. 14:6-17). Based on this, your assessment of my not praying in tongues for direction would be correct. I cannot pray for a thing, if I don't know if I'm praying for a thing. I hope this makes sense.

On the other hand, I pray often that God would fill me with "the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding" (Col 1:9). I also pray according to Phillipians 1:9-11 that my "love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ-- to the glory and praise of God." I think God is doing a wonderful job in me and I really can't figure out why anyone would want to be blessed in any other way.

But thank you for pointing this out to me.

(2 Timothy 3:16 KJV) ALL scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: Therefore none should carry any heavier weight than another.

You chose a great passage to begin with. The problem is that your conclusion does not follow from your passage. In other words, because all Scripture is inspired and profitable... does not mean that therefore all Scripture is useful in the same ways. Nor does it mean that you should read and understand all Scripture in the same way. For example, I read Ephesians 2:8-9 in an exactly literal way (according to its context) and I read Psalm 17:8 with a poetic understanding (according to its context). My point is that God clearly does not have an eye, nor does he have wings. He is spirit. When we read passages that talk about his wings, we automatically read them with an understanding that the author is using hyperbole, or metaphor to tell us something about God.

Another point I would like to make about the Psalm passage is that if you were to take the part about the wings literally in the same way you would about our salvation being by Grace through faith, as in the Ephesians passage, you would find yourself slipping into heresy. God does not have wings and you would be in error to say that he does (in a literal sense).

To get back to your point. All Scripture is inspired, but not all Scripture should read the same as all other Scripture. My point in the article is that didactic passages (like Ephesians 2:8,9) should be given more weight than narrative passages (such as the first part of Acts 2). This is not to say that Acts 2 is not part of Scripture or that it wasn't spoken by God -- it is and it was. I'm just saying that different contexts need to be read differently than one another.

2. Remember that these books and verses were originally just a letter, no chapters and verses. Therefore one needs to look back into Acts 1 for what Jesus told His disciples to do prior to the account of it in Acts 2 that you quoted. In your own words read in context.

Amen! I'm not sure what your point is here though. In 1:7-8, Jesus told the disciples that they would receive power when the Holy Spirit came upon them. The point I was trying to make in my article wasn't that the Holy Spirit didn't come upon them, or that they didn't receive power. My point was that they weren't saved in the NT understanding of salvation until the Holy Spirit came upon them and they received power, etc.

3. The Bible clearly shows a baptism of the Holy Spirit after the new birth or baptism into Christ: (Acts 19:2 KJV) He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost.

In the original draft of the my article I had used this passage, but because of space had to take it out. This passage does not say that the disciples were Christians. In fact it says that they were baptized into John (v. 3). They were John's disciples, it isn't even clear that they had heard about Jesus. They were prepared by John and so when they heard about the one whom John was preparing them for, they believed and were baptized (in water) into Jesus. At the same time (when Paul touched them), the Holy Spirit came upon them (v. 6).

The text does not say that they were Christians before they received the Holy Spirit. It says they were disciples of John until they heard about Jesus, and then when Paul touched them, they received the Holy Spirit. Thus, if we take Titus 3:5 as our base for understanding what was happening, we see that they became Christians when Paul touched them and they were "saved through the washing [another word for baptized] of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit".

4. While I agree with Titus 3:5, I think you should take a good look at John 3:3 and then Romans 10:9-10 also.

I agree with you. I didn't have time to use all the passages the Bible uses to describe the process of becoming a Christian. I'm sorry.

However, your passages don't do anything to change my central point. The Baptism of the Spirit is what saves us. It is what Jesus meant by "born again (or, born from above)". The person can't be born again unless the Spirit does it to and in him. There is no sense in which a person can cause himself to be born, the first time or the second. That is just silly. But you already knew that.

As for the Romans 10 passage, I have no problem with that either. A person cannot say that Jesus is Lord except by the Spirit of God (1 Cor. 12:3). So, a person cannot be a saved person unless he has the Spirit of God. Romans 3 tells us that no one seeks after God (v. 11), Ephesians 2:1 tells us that before we were saved (by the Holy Spirit), we were dead in our sins. We cannot come to God unless he draws us (John 6:44). Romans 1-4 also tells us that no non-Christian wants to come to God because we are all actively rebelling against him. He is our enemy and we are his.

Thank you for bringing up these passages, though. They helped me to re-think the wonderful, glorious salvation our Lord has provided for us.

5. Then we have (Mark 16:15-18 KJV) And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.

Notice that it is only those who believe that will do these things and included is speaking in tongues. Also notice that He did NOT limit it to His disciples or pastors or priests, but to ALL who believe!! Of course you have to believe.

My point as explained above is that a man cannot believe unless God does something in him first and that something is the Baptism of the Holy Spirit and that something is the first stages of the event of salvation.

One must not allow the doctrines of men taught in theological cemetaries to cloud what the Word of God clearly says.

(2 Peter 2:1-2 KJV) But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of.

Paul himself warned us: (Galatians 1:8-9 KJV) But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.

Oh and remember; Teacher, Pastors, and the like shall receive the greater judgement. Be sure of what you teach.

These are good warnings. Thank you very much for reminding me. Thank you again for responding to my article. It’s often when God's children rub against each other that they grow in their understanding of who he is and how great his grace is to us who believe.

I hope this helps,

Pastor Lawyer

Quote of the Day

… life is not only the gift of creation. We are also plunged into history in which sin and death play a major part: suffering and pain, disappointment and loss, catastrophe and evil. In an age of burgeoning knowledge and dazzling technological proficiency it is easy to assume that a little more knowledge and technology will turn the tide and we will soon be getting better. But we haven’t. And we won’t. Historians have provided thorough and irrefutable documentation that he century just lived through (the twentieth) has been the most murderous on record. We need help. Eugene H. Peterson, Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2005), p. 9

Verse of the Day

Lamech said to his wives: "Adah and Zillah, hear my voice; you wives of Lamech, listen to what I say: I have killed a man for wounding me, a young man for striking me. If Cain's revenge is sevenfold, then Lamech's is seventy-sevenfold." And Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son and called his name Seth, for she said, "God has appointed for me another offspring instead of Abel, for Cain killed him." To Seth also a son was born, and he called his name Enosh. At that time people began to call upon the name of the LORD.
Genesis 4:23-26

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Baptism of the Holy Spirit

Dear Pastor Lawyer,

I met a fellow this morning who said something about having become a Christian when he was 8 years old and then being “Baptized in the Holy Spirit” when he was 23. I was wondering what this is all about. Can you help? Thanks,


Dear Bob,

Many Christians believe that a person is saved at one point in their lives and then later they receive what is called the Baptism of/in/by the Holy Spirit. This event usually comes with the infusing of power to serve God and to relate to him in a way that was formerly lacking in the life of the believer (sometimes the “sign gifts” accompany). Space limits me from going into greater detail about these events, but suffice it to say that I believe this understanding is based on two different but similar errors in basic Bible study procedures (hermeneutics).

The first error is that those who believe in a second experience with God subsequent to salvation tend to read passages without regarding context. For example, when passages in the Bible specifically teaching something about God and his salvation are read, they should usually be viewed as having more clarity than passages simply telling a story. When Paul teaches, “We were baptized by one Spirit into one body” (1 Cor. 12:13), he is telling us that all Christians were made part of the body of Christ by means of an event, orchestrated and operated, by the Holy Spirit; in other words what made us a part of the body of Christ was our baptism by the Holy Spirit. In their context, teaching passages are more difficult to disagree with and they should be read with that kind of weight. On the other hand, passages that contain stories should be read as that—stories. This does not mean that there is no valuable meaning in stories; it's just that you need to be careful to make sure you do not attribute truth or doctrine to stories that is not clearly there. For example, when the disciples were praying in the upper room and the Holy Spirit came upon them and they all spoke in the languages of those who were visiting Jerusalem for the feast of Pentecost (Acts 2), the story does not tell us that this was a second event subsequent to their salvation. It simply says that the event happened. If the text does not say it, we must be very careful when we say, “this is an example of that”. This is especially true when other teaching passages clearly direct us to a different result.

This brings us to a second problem that many people run into, namely, a tendency to consider difficult passages (e.g. stories that are not all that clear) as having greater authority than passages which are clear. The common sense rule is that difficult sections should be read in the light of the clear sections. For example, Titus 3:5 clearly tells us that “God saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit”. Read in its context, this passage clearly teaches that the event that saved us was the Baptism of the Spirit. So, since we know that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is what saves, any story or text seeming to be saying something different, must be studied further until it fits with the clear teaching.

Returning to your original question— The Bible is clear that the Baptism of the Holy Spirit is the event that saves us. It is not an event separate from belief. People respond to and believe the Gospel because the Holy Spirit has begun a work in them by granting that they might believe the Gospel of God and be saved. This belief is part of the event we call the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. What, you may ask, is it that some folks are experiencing when they think they are being baptized by the Holy Spirit subsequent to salvation? I believe they are either becoming Christians for the first time (in which case their assessment that they have been baptized by the Holy Spirit would be correct), or they are being cleaned up after having confessed their sins as Christians who have not been walking with God. I hope this helps.

Pastor Lawyer

Quote of the Day

God’s divine intention is not, as we so often declare, to save people from their sins. At least it’s not the ultimate intention. God’s purpose in election is that we’ll become like Christ. And not just you or me, but all of us, so that Christ might be the firstborn within a large family. The purpose of election is to have a whole family of the human family look like our big brother (who looks like our heavenly Father). God’s intention from the beginning of time was that every human would look, in character, like Jesus.

This being the case, the divine intention for our churches is to be a community of conformity, transforming all people into the image of Christ. Tod E. Bolsinger, It Takes a Church to Raise a Christian (Brazos Press, 2004), p. 45

Quote of the Day

…as wisdom has been replaced with technique, there has been less demonstrable lasting spiritual growth in Christians and little measurable cultural impact. The seekers of the world report that the church addresses their substantial spiritual needs with superficial theology, superficial programs, and superficial believers. They come hungering for a spiritual feast, and we offer them salad bars. Tod E. Bolsinger, It Takes a Church to Raise a Christian (Brazos Press, 2004), p. 33

Verse of the Day

The LORD said to Cain, "Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it." Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him. Then the LORD said to Cain, "Where is Abel your brother?" He said, "I do not know; am I my brother's keeper?" And the LORD said, "What have you done? The voice of your brother's blood is crying to me from the ground. And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother's blood from your hand. When you work the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength. You shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth." Cain said to the LORD, "My punishment is greater than I can bear.
Genesis 4:6-13

Monday, June 12, 2006

Making the Decisions

Dear Pastor Lawyer,

My wife thinks we should avoid forcing our standards on our children. So instead of forcing them to go to church with us, we are going to allow them to choose which church they want to attend. Is letting our children choose their own way in this way a good idea? Thanks,

Soft Hearted

Dear Soft,

This is a very popular way to think in our age of relativism. I have a few thoughts regarding this matter that I think should be factored into your decision. First, when you mention "forcing our standards", do you mean "make decisions for them"? If that is the case, we force our standards on our children all the time. Life cannot be any other way. The younger our children are, the fewer decisions they get to make for themselves. We don’t let toddlers decide not to wear their diaper, for example. Or, you don’t allow your children to be rude to you, do you? Do you allow your children to go to bed whenever they want to, or get up when they want? If you don’t, why would you assume you should let your children make up their minds about spiritual things? Whenever you make a decision for your child, you are "forcing your standards on them". That’s what you’re supposed to do. That’s part of what it means to be a parent.

To take a slightly different tack, let’s assume you have children who are in their early teens. This age child is not usually capable of making even minor decisions well. Let’s say, for example, that you were to allow your young daughter to choose what school she was going to attend next year. What would her criteria be? Would she factor in the abilities of the teachers or the environment of the student body (related to good study)? Or would she go where there were hunky boys or cool s? Children usually can’t make good decisions because they don’t have the background and training to think wisely. To go a step further, they shouldn’t be allowed to make life long decisions when they are not capable of making them. Children should be taught to make wise decisions by letting them practice on short-range problems. Then, when (or if) they goof up, you can teach them how to make a better decision the next time.

Finally, the Bible tells us that we are to bring up our children in the "nurture and admonition of the Lord". This means that we are to bring them up in the world that God created, relating everything in the world to God and his purposes for us. From the time they are little, we are shaping the way our children think, whether we like it or not. If we avoid church, they will avoid church. If we act as though our hobbies are more important than spiritual concerns, they will think the same way. On the other hand, if we live in such a way that our children are assured that God is as important to us as we tell them he is, they too will grow up with that conviction and live godly and joyful lives. The Bible assumes this fact and tells us that we are to teach our children with purpose and conviction about God’s wonderful world and how we are to relate to him. We are not allowed to let our children make decisions about spiritual matters; we are to tell them and teach them and discipline them to understand that we are living in God’s world.

With this in mind as we focus our attention to your original question, we realize that while it is a popular question in our day, it is really wrong headed. We impose our standards on our children all the time, children not capable of making those kinds of decisions, and we are not allowed to let them have free rein. We are obligated to raise our children in the realm of Christ’s rule. This means, with relation to church attendance, they will come with us. I hope this helps.

Pastor Lawyer

Quote of the Day

The problem [that people are saved to go to heaven], of course, is in the assumption. Because the purpose of humanity is not to escape hell, and the reason Jesus came to earth was not simply to save us for eternity after we die. Jesus didn’t go to the cross as fire insurance. The purpose of God’s plan from the very beginning of time was not that you’d make it to heaven; it was that you’d be like Christ. God’s divine intention for humanity is transforming us into the likeness of Christ, who was the triune God in human flesh. In the words of Romans 8:20: “For those who he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son…” Tod E. Bolsinger, It Takes a Church to Raise a Christian (Brazos Press, 2004), p. 26

Verse of the Day

Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, "I have gotten a man with the help of the LORD." And again, she bore his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a worker of the ground. In the course of time Cain brought to the LORD an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell.
Genesis 4:1-5

Friday, June 09, 2006

Principles and Methods

Dear Pastor Lawyer,

I have a roommate whose mother has been living in an care facility for several years. He visits her a couple of times a week, but all he does is hug her and tell her he loves her. He never brings her any treats or takes her out for visits. When I bring his sin up to him, he tells me that he’s doing enough and that his way is not my way and I should leave him alone. What do you think?


Dear Concerned,

I’m glad to hear of your concern for this elderly woman. That kind of care seems to be getting more and more uncommon in our society. This said I think I need to point out to you a couple of common errors in your thinking. First, you are confused as to what sin is. All of us grew up thinking that the way we grew up was normal. So, when someone comes along doing things differently from the way we do them, we automatically think they are doing it wrongly, or in the case of many Christians it is therefore sin. We tend to confuse what we think is normal with what God thinks is normative. What we think is sin is really sin only if God thinks it is sin. In your instance, the Bible says to honor your father and mother (Ephesians 6:2). It doesn’t say how to honor your parents; it only says that we should. It sounds like your roommate isn’t disobeying God; he is just not obeying God in the way that you would like him to obey God. If he were ignoring his mother, or beating her we would say that he was disobeying God’s decree, but since your roommate’s care for his mother is simply different from the way you would do it if she were your mother, we can’t say that he is sinning. Sin is sin only when God says it is sin.

This leads me to a second important point. There is a difference between principles and methods. Principles are those commands and decrees that God has given to us in order to serve him and another in the most honoring and glorifying manner possible. Methods are the ways in which we obey those commands. Not following God’s principles is by definition sin. Differences in method come from a variety of areas: differences in gifts, abilities, background, training, education, station in life, maturity, wisdom. Some methods might not be as good as others because of greater wisdom, for example, but they are not sin. In your case, it sounds like you are measuring what you would do as an act of honoring your roommate’s mother in a different way than your roommate is. But what is there to say that you are right? The Bible says honor, it doesn’t say how to honor. It gives principles, but not always methods. It gives motives and attitudes in which we are to come up with methods, but the methods in themselves are not sinful. They are just different.

I hope this helps,

Pastor Lawyer

Quote of the Day

…real godly change—real sanctification—requires a people to live together in covenantal relationships, and we’re less inclined to that than any generation in human history.

More than any before us, an American today believes “I must write the script of my own life.” The thought that such a script must be subordinated to the grand narrative of the Bible is a foreign one. Still more alarming is the idea that this surrender of our personal story to God’s story must be mediated by a community of fallen people we frankly don’t want getting in our way and meddling with our own hopes and dreams.

And in a culture that tells us to march on with ever greater self-reliance and self-expression, the Bible tells us that that the story of our life is not our own, and our journey is not our own. God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and his people come along with us (or, to put it a little more accurately, we go along with them). And along that journey, a God who is inherently community changes our human community into his image. [Tod E. Bolsinger, It Takes a Church to Raise a Christian (Brazos Press, 2004), p. 22-23]

Verse of the Day

And to Adam he said, "Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, 'You shall not eat of it,' cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return."
Genesis 3:17-19

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Quote of the Day

The church is God’s incarnation today. The church is Jesus’ body on earth. The church is the temple of the Spirit [1 Co. 3:16]. The church is not a helpful thing for my individual spiritual journey. The church is the journey. The church is not a collection of “soul-winners” all seeking to tell unbelievers “the Way” to God. The church is the way. To be part of the church is to be part of God—to be part of God’s communion and to be part of God’s ministry. To belong to the people of God is to enjoy relationship with God and love out the purposes of God. The church is God’s present-day word and witness to an unbelieving world. And, most importantly, the church is the only true means to be transformed to [sic] into the likeness of God. [Tod E. Bolsinger, It Takes a Church to Raise a Christian (Brazos Press, 2004), p. 17]

Verse of the Day

To the woman he said, "I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you."
Genesis 3:16

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Prayer for the Dead

Dear Pastor Lawyer,

Should people pray for the dead?

Thanks, Hal

Dear Hal,

This has been a topic of debate in the church for a long time. In the first chapter of Philippians, Paul talked about whether he was going to continue to minister to the Philippians or if he was going to die. In his talk about this issue he mentioned that if he were to die, he would be with the Lord (1:23). This passage, coupled with passages like the one where Jesus told the thief on the cross, "Today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43), lead us to understand that since Christ’s death, resurrection, ascension, and exaltation, people go right to be with him in Heaven. Those He knows (Mt. 7:21-23), are ushered into the places he’s prepared for them (John 14:1-3). And conversely, people whom he doesn’t know, are sent straight to Hell. There is no mention of some sort of Purgatory or any court of appeals. After death comes judgment.

The author to the Hebrews used this fact when he wrote in Hebrews 9:27, “Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment….” The context here is telling us that Jesus died once for all sin. There never needs to be another sacrifice. His death was perfect for all the sin that it was meant to cover. But verse 27 is telling us that the efficacy of Jesus' death for all sin is as certain as man's death and judgment. He is assuming that we all understand the judgment to be the next step after death.

One other major thing needs to be mentioned in response to your question. God's judgment of a person is for that person only. There is nothing anyone, except Jesus Christ, can do for someone else. A mother can’t love enough to cause the sin of her son to be erased from God’s memory. The only sacrifice for sin that is of high enough value to do away with God’s wrath is Jesus’ death. That’s what the book of Hebrews is about.

So, to answer your question, I would say a couple of things. First, where a person goes after death is totally dependent on whether he knew Jesus the Lord during his life on the earth. If he realized that he was living in rebellion against the Lord of Glory, but repented and turned to submit to Jesus as Lord of all, he will be in good standing with Jesus when they meet. If, on the other hand, a man spends his whole life living for “number one”, he will be given the opportunity to continue doing the same, throughout all eternity, in Hell. Essentially, the person who dies goes to wherever he spent his life preparing to go: whether to live with Jesus or to live in Hell.

Second, our rebellion is so severe (because it is against a holy God) that nothing short of God’s death could pay for it. So, Jesus came to earth as the perfect sacrifice to pay for our sin. He interceded for us because he is the only one qualified to do so. Nothing I say to God for another person will amount to anything in the eternal scheme of things. Only what we do with Jesus’ gift will make a difference to God in the area of eternal judgment.

Finally, taking all these things together, we can see that praying for a dead person would be futile at best and may indicate a lack of trust in God at worst. There is no need to pray for a person who has spent his whole life preparing for where he ends up. God already knows everything about our loved one. There is nothing we can add. His heavenly court case will not last long enough for our voice to be heard, and even if it were heard, our evidence would not be of the sort that could make any difference. When a man dies, he goes to the judgment. If he knows Jesus, he goes to Heaven. If he doesn’t know Jesus, he goes to Hell. No amount of praying after the fact will change any of this. Pray now while they are still alive. Pray now while God may still answer the prayer. Pray now while there is still hope. I hope this helps.

Pastor Lawyer

Verse of the Day

The LORD God said to the serpent, "Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel."
Genesis 3:14-15

Quote of the Day

“There is a deep and very old voice in [us] that whispers that God can’t be trusted with anything so important as [our] life. That fear is the root of sin. It moves [us] to believe that life is only what [we] make it. Gripped by that anxiety, [we] fear that [we] will not get the respect[we] want or the accomplishments and possessions [we] think [we] deserve unless [we] grab as much as [we] can and feverishly protect it.” [Leslie Vernick, How to Act Right When Your Spouse Acts Wrong (WaterBrook Press, 2001), p. 90. This is a quote from David L. Miller, “I Am Enough for You,” Lutheran Woman Today 12, no.8 (October 1999): 7]

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Verse of the Day

In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all. Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
Colossians 3:7-14

Verse of the Day

In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all. Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
Colossians 3:7-14

Monday, June 05, 2006

Is There Such A Thing As A Lukewarm Christian?

Dear Pastor Lawyer,

Over the last 2 or 3 years I have been very troubled with what is a true Christian. My brother sat under some of the best Bible teachers and graduated from Bible School. However, over the last 15 years, I have seen little change in his life. He has been involved in ministries in the church and has helped others. But, he has also had numerous marital affairs, been abusive to his children, and is very unforgiving. Is my brother a Christian? Is there such thing as a lukewarm Christian or a backslidden Christian? How long are you backslidden before you are no longer considered a Christian? Help!


Dear Sad,

It is interesting that you should ask that question at this time. In our Sunday morning worship services, we are studying Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. In that sermon, Jesus tells us what kingdom dwellers are like. He said that people who are citizens of his kingdom are people whose righteousness exceeds the religious leaders of the day. He goes on to say that that righteousness is not something that a man can create in himself. It comes from the inside, where the Holy Spirit (who is a gift from God) resides. He goes on to say that some will come to him on the Last Day calling him "Lord, Lord" and listing all the wonderful religious things they did, though they lived their lives for themselves with only the name 'Christian' to cling to.

The Bible does not allow for, nor does it condone what we have come to call "lukewarm" or "backslidden" Christians. A Christian who is in sin does not lose his salvation, but as long as he is in sin, he has no reason to believe that he is truly saved. A Christian, who is in sin and is confronted by someone about that sin, will repent and stop doing the sin. The teaching that a Christian is human, after all, and expected to sin; or that somehow sin is normal for the child of God, is not Biblical. It comes from the pit of Hell and many will be condemned on the final day because of it.

The church your brother attends should apply Matthew 18 to him and should go through the prescribed stages so that he will come back into fellowship. Allowing him to continue in his sin is not a loving thing to do, nor is it honoring to God. While church discipline is very difficult, it is what the church is called to. It is also the godly thing to do. If the church does not obey God, she is also in sin and needs to repent (Cf. Revelation 2:12–3:6).

One of the things our modern church seems to have forgotten is that Christianity is not primarily about believing certain propositions about God (though that is certainly important). It is not about walking down an aisle or feeling sorry for ourselves, or thinking we need help to live and be good people. Christianity is about having a relationship with the living God, based on the life, death and resurrection of his Son Jesus Christ. It doesn’t matter that we went to Bible College, have a brilliant mind, or use all the best Christian clichés. If we don’t know God, we are to be pitied rather than exalted. Living with God is the standard and goal of the true Christian. Sin has no place in that scheme. To say that a Christian may sin or that Christians are supposed to sin is to be spiritually schizophrenic.

Given what you say about your brother, I have no reason to believe that he is born-again. He may have walked the aisle, gone to Bible school and sang in the choir, but his life shows that he really doesn’t have a relationship with God. He is only going through the motions. My advice is to tell him the truth, and love him into the Kingdom...for the first time. I hope that helps.

Pastor Lawyer

Verse of the Day

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: ual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming.
Colossians 3:1-6

Friday, June 02, 2006

True Belief

There is one thing you need to keep in mind as you work through these things and that is that you need to work very hard to go from acting like you believe these things to actually believing them and living in the light of your beliefs. You need to go from acting like a Christian to being a Christian. This is what walking in faith, or by faith means. Being one who loves God, who knows Christ, who trusts in the Spirit to lead and guide. Lots of people are wanna-bees with regard to Christianity. Your calling is to be a Christian—a Christ-ian. There is a sense in which, because your faith is growing, that you should act like everything you are asserting is true. But you need to know that that is only the beginning of walking in faith. Faith means trusting, and that means that you must actually let go of your pride, your idols, your fears, and your desires and trust that God is God. Not just act like you believe it.

Communion Meditation

On this Ascension Sunday we are honoring and remembering the ascension, and coronation of Christ the king. When Christ ascended into Heaven he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high and was given rule and authority over all of creation. The Bible says he fills all of creation. This means that he has authority over everything that exists—including and especially us.

The bible also says that Jesus called us friends. In John 15:15 Jesus said, “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” We are his friends.

The bible goes further and tells us that he has called each of us to be members if his church which is his body. We are one body, his body. The Church is Christ on earth.

In still another place the bible says that the church is the bride of Christ and he is working, by his efficacious love to make us beautiful, without spot or wrinkle.

Finally, the bible says that there will be one hum dinger of a wedding feast on that last day when he comes to claim his bride, his body, his church, his friends. And this meal that we are about to join with him in is just a foretaste of that meal.
If you are a believer in Jesus, if you have realized that you are a sinner in need of redemption, if you have been baptized according to the requirements of the scriptures, we invite you to partake of the meal with us.

This is not a meal of sadness because Christ died. It is a meal of rejoicing because Christ rose from the dead and ascended into the heavenlies to be our intercessor, our Lord, our Messiah, our savior, our God, our friend. Come eat, come drink, observe the body, look around at your fellow Christians. Rejoice the Lord is king and he rules over everything.

Let us pray:
Father of lights, god of glory we come to you now with humble and joyous hearts, thanking you for all the wonderful gifts you give to us and especially thanking you for the incredible gift of your son Jesus.

Verse of the Day

Behold, upon the mountains, the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace! Keep your feasts, O Judah; fulfill your vows, for never again shall the worthless pass through you; he is utterly cut off.
Nahum 1:15

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Verse of the Day

I was glad when they said to me, "Let us go to the house of the LORD!" Our feet have been standing within your gates, O Jerusalem! Jerusalem- built as a city that is bound firmly together, to which the tribes go up, the tribes of the LORD, as was decreed for Israel, to give thanks to the name of the LORD. There thrones for judgment were set, the thrones of the house of David. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem! "May they be secure who love you! Peace be within your walls and security within your towers!" For my brothers and companions' sake I will say, "Peace be within you!" For the sake of the house of the LORD our God, I will seek your good.
Psalm 122

Why I Homeschool

This post was written a year or two before moving to Moscow where Logos School is located.

Dear Pastor Lawyer,

I have a small son who is close to the age where we need to send him off to school. I have heard that you are homeschooling your daughter and was wondering if you could give me some of your reasons for not sending her to the public school.

Thank you,

In the Planning Stage


My wife and I thought about what to do with our daughter's education for a long time. Since we are Christians, we decided to study the Bible to see if it had anything to say about educating our children. Here’s some of what we found. First, the Bible teaches that it is the parents’ responsibility to make sure their children are educated properly. Being responsible means that they can do what they want with regard to where their children are educated. They are free to send the kids to school or they can homeschool. The point is that the parents are responsible before God for how their children grow up.

Beyond this, however, the Bible also gives us some guidelines about what kind of education is good education. The Bible teaches that the content of what our children learn is to be in the context of how everything fits into Gods creative plans. This is why, in Deuteronomy, God told the Israelites to teach their children about how everything they see relates to God’s commands and dictates. Everything in their lives related in some way to God and what he was doing in the earth. This means that for Christian children to be properly educated, everything in their world needs to be related to God and his purposes in the earth.

Third, besides relating everything to Gods creative acts and purposes, education will lead them into more mature and effective worship. When they look at a flower as a second grader, they should be moved to worship God for the simple beauty of the flower. As a High School student, they should be looking into the flower at the cellular level and they should revel at the fact that God created even this wonder. Biblical education will teach the student to take information and worship God more efficiently in the light of new facts. To properly educate our children we need not only to relate everything to God’s presence, but should also move on to the next step of worshipping him for that creation.

Finally, reading and writing, math and logic, grammar and syntax are not what education is about. They are important, but they are tools to be used in order to be properly educated. While it is true that the more efficiently the students handle the tools the more educated they have the ability to become, we must not forget that real education will lead them to live in front of God more completely and more correctly.

We are homeschooling our daughter because we believe the Bible requires us to bring her up in the training and admonition of the Lord (C.f. Ephesians 6:4). The public school system is incapable of teaching her about God and about how things in the universe fit into his plan. Most private Christian schools, though the teachers and staff tend to be Christian, don’t usually educate in any different way than do the public schools. With this in mind, we have decided to homeschool for now.

I hope this helps,

Pastor Lawyer