Friday, July 28, 2006

Critical Spirit

Dear Pastor Lawyer,

I’ve noticed a pattern in Reformed believers that I’ve also noticed in myself that I think is sinful. It is a critical spirit and a judgmental heart. I’m wondering how I might go about fixing it in myself. Can you help?

Bob Randal

Dear Mr. Randal,

The opposite of a critical spirit is humility. In Galatians 5:15, 16 says, “But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another. This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the of the flesh.” A critical spirit shows itself in people by biting and devouring one another. While we see this in many people around us, unfortunately we do often see it in our own Reformed circles. Paul tells us, however, that the antidote to biting and devouring one another (because of a critical spirit) is to walk in the spirit (live humbly with God).

If I am person with a critical spirit I assume that the others around me cannot do a thing as well as they ought, or, really, as well as I think they ought. It assumes a judgmental, arrogant attitude toward whoever the critical spirit is aimed at. From there it goes to making comments or conjectures, or backbiting, or other worse behaviors toward the person who “just can’t get it done right.”

But when we compare ourselves with the standard God sets (Love God with all our heart, all our mind, all our strength) we realize that we don't measure up at all. When this happens, we realize that we need grace from God, if we are to go on. When we actually get grace, we really needed it. When that happens we should step back and understand that since God has given us grace, when we didn't measure up, we can afford to give grace to those around us who don't appear to measure up.

This principle shows itself in a number of areas of our lives. For example in Matthew 18 we see a story of a man who was forgiven much, but was critical of his servant who owed him little and threw him into jail. The story is about forgiveness, but isn't this really the same thing? The one who won't forgive, wants the person who doesn't measure up to suffer for his sin, or short fall, so he won't forgive him (he has a judgmental, critical spirit). Suppose the thing the person did wasn't sin. Suppose it was a wife who didn't wash the dishes quite fast enough. But you react to her slowness with a comment. But God has just forgiven you for the sin of speeding down the freeway. You have sinned against the eternal and infinite God, but your wife has simply gone a little slower than you would have liked. You have actually sinned, and now you condemn your wife for something that isn't sin at all. In Jesus' story in Matthew 18 the one who wouldn't forgive, though he'd received infinite forgiveness, was thrown into prison. So, forgive, relent. Realize that you've been given great grace, who are you to be critical of those who offend you?

Another area of life where this applies is to realize that maturity comes to those who persevere for a long time in a certain direction. God gives grace because we aren't where we ought to be, or could have been had we not spent so much time doing our own thing. But everyone matures at different rates. Because we trust in a sovereign God who brings each of us along at his pace, we can't condemn our children for not being as mature as we are. If we can rejoice in the fact that God has matured us to the level he has (and we should), we can certainly rejoice in the fact that God has brought our children along as far as he has.

This application goes far beyond our own family. 7 years ago, I didn't believe in paedobaptism, now I do. God was patient with me and allowed me to change and grow as he brought me along in the faith. How, then, can I turn around and condemn a fellow believer who hasn't come to that same conclusion about baptism when he might simply not have come along at the same rate as me? I can't. I must be gracious to my brother who isn't as far along as I am in all the same areas and rejoice that God has him right where he wants him.

Another thing to think about here is that God may have brought that brother further along than me in some area that I'm not aware of. I might need to humble myself and learn something from that brother who knows more about another area of the Christian life than I do. God is building the kingdom one brick at a time and not all the bricks are exactly the same. But God is the builder, not you and not me.

This is what "Love covers a multitude of sins" means (1 Pet. 4:8). We must humble ourselves and let God be God in other people's lives as well as our own. And while doing it, we must love those who are not as "smart," or as "wonderful," or as "quick" as we are. Humility works hard to have an accurate view of ourselves before God and when we compare ourselves with Christ instead of our brother, we realize we really aren't that hot and don't have very good reasons to be critical in spirit.

In the end the root of a critical spirit is a proud and arrogant heart. The cure for a critical spirit is to look into the face of God, through Christ, by the Holy Spirit and realize that we aren't what we thought and that the things in life that we thought were important just aren’t. Knowing God, being a humble servant, striving after godliness, and sacrificially loving our families is important. There's nothing greater.I hope this helps.

Pastor Lawyer

Quote of the Day

An effective church should attract homosexuals! That is, because of the love of Christ, the church should pursue them. And through its exaltation of Christ in preaching, corporate prayer, and worship, the church should attract them. It should also minister the Word to homosexuals in its midst by flushing out the self-deceived, exposing the dishonest, confronting the rebel, offering forgiveness to the guilt-ridden, and giving hope.
[Welch, Edward T., Blame it on the Brain (Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1998), pg. 179]

Verse of the Day

And Isaac prayed to the LORD for his wife, because she was barren. And the LORD granted his prayer, and Rebekah his wife conceived. The children struggled together within her, and she said, "If it is thus, why is this happening to me?" So she went to inquire of the LORD. And the LORD said to her, "Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the older shall serve the younger." When her days to give birth were completed, behold, there were twins in her womb. The first came out red, all his body like a hairy cloak, so they called his name Esau. Afterward his brother came out with his hand holding Esau's heel, so his name was called Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when she bore them. When the boys grew up, Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field, while Jacob was a quiet man, dwelling in tents. Isaac loved Esau because he ate of his game, but Rebekah loved Jacob.
Genesis 25:21-28

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Teen Dating and Self Control

Dear Pastor Lawyer,

I’ve heard that you teach that teens should not date. I was wondering, if that is true, how you expect young people to learn about self-control, if they aren’t allowed to be in situations where they need it. Thanks,


Dear Simon,

Thank you for writing. Your understanding is correct about what I teach regarding dating and teens. This teaching is not only for teens, but for anyone who is not serious about marriage and commitment. Dating is fine if the two people involved are serious about one another and are committed to not hurting the other person. However, in general, it is not a safe or helpful practice.

Your question has to do with how we learn self-control. The Bible tells us that self-control is a result of having the Holy Spirit living within us. This is not to say that we don’t grow in the fruit of what the Spirit brings us; we do. As we apply what God has told us to do, the fruit of the Spirit grows in us. Non-Christians have what appears to be self-control, but the Bible says that they are ruled by their passions and desires and thus are incapable of displaying real self-control. So the first step in gaining self-control is to submit to the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ and turn away from sin. Without this, what I have to say below is simply “good advice”. It is inapplicable to the natural man.

God tells us, in the Bible, that we are to avoid sin like the plague. We are also to avoid temptation as if it were sin (it is the first step towards sin). Sometimes this means running away from the situation where we might fall into sin. Other times it may mean changing our entire lifestyle in order to avoid sinning. My point here is that nothing that we plan for in our lives should bring us to the place where we need God’s miraculous intervention. God does not normally intervene supernaturally. His normal means is to give us a command, fill us with his spirit (who gives us power and conviction), surround us with fellow Christians to give us support, and then he expects us to obey. Through obedience self-control grows.

Because of the serious nature of sin, it does not make any sense to place ourselves in situations where there will be constant and often overwhelming temptation to sin. Our goal is to walk with God and to enjoy his presence and pleasure. To purposely put ourselves into sinful situations with the hope of “growing” through them makes no sense at all. This kind of thinking shows that we don’t understand the joy that comes when we walk with God.

Let’s put what I’ve said above in the context of dating. By its nature, there is no more dangerously tempting situation for a person to be in. An alcoholic in a bar wouldn’t be in any more danger than a 16 year old boy out alone with a beautiful 16 year old . His hormones are going nuts, she is all dressed up and looking “fine”. We s have lost our minds if we think this is a good opportunity for children to learn self-control. If they haven’t learned self-control by this point, this is definitely not the place to be learning it.

One of my problems with dating is that we place our children in situations where it is virtually impossible to honor God and love one another as they love themselves. Recreational dating is by nature designed to break hearts and crush spirits. No one comes out of a dating relationship stronger (unless they get married). There is only hurt and pain. Relationships are destroyed, feelings are hurt, lives are changed forever. And then, when it is time to get married, we carry the scars of illicit relationships and broken hearts into our married lives.

Life gives us enough lessons and opportunities to learn self-control. We don’t need to go looking for them. We especially don’t need to set ourselves up for disaster by tearing out the hearts of our children by allowing them to participate in this unwise practice. I hope this helps,

Pastor Lawyer

Quote of the Day

As a description, ADD summarizes what a child does but not why he does it. The difference between the two is significant. For example, if I asked you about a care you just saw speeding by, a descriptive or “what” answer would be, “That was a green car and it was going too fast.” An explanatory or “why” answer, however, would review the basics of combustion engines, the mechanics of automatic transmission, and the motivation of the driver.
[Welch, Edward T., Blame it on the Brain (Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1998), pg. 112]

Verse of the Day

Abraham rose and bowed to the Hittites, the people of the land. And he said to them, "If you are willing that I should bury my dead out of my sight, hear me and entreat for me Ephron the son of Zohar, that he may give me the cave of Machpelah, which he owns; it is at the end of his field. For the full price let him give it to me in your presence as property for a burying place." Now Ephron was sitting among the Hittites, and Ephron the Hittite answered Abraham in the hearing of the Hittites, of all who went in at the gate of his city, "No, my lord, hear me: I give you the field, and I give you the cave that is in it. In the sight of the sons of my people I give it to you. Bury your dead." Then Abraham bowed down before the people of the land. And he said to Ephron in the hearing of the people of the land, "But if you will, hear me: I give the price of the field. Accept it from me, that I may bury my dead there." Ephron answered Abraham, "My lord, listen to me: a piece of land worth four hundred shekels of silver, what is that between you and me? Bury your dead." Abraham listened to Ephron, and Abraham weighed out for Ephron the silver that he had named in the hearing of the Hittites, four hundred shekels of silver, according to the weights current among the merchants. So the field of Ephron in Mach-pelah, which was to the east of Mamre, the field with the cave that was in it and all the trees that were in the field, throughout its whole area, was made over to Abraham as a possession in the presence of the Hittites, before all who went in at the gate of his city. After this, Abraham buried Sarah his wife in the cave of the field of Mach-pelah east of Mamre (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan. The field and the cave that is in it were made over to Abraham as property for a burying place by the Hittites.
Genesis 23:7-20

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Backslidden 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 saved? 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 his Sermon on the Mount, 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. If they don’t, they have no reason to believe that they are a Christian. The idea that a Christian is, after all, human and prone to sin, is no excuse at all. It is from the pit of Hell and will condemn more people than we can ever imagine.

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, nor is it honoring to God. While church discipline is very difficult, it is the obedient thing to do. It is also the Christian 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 cliches. 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 saved. 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

Quote of the Day

Knowing this [the heart always leaves its footprint on the brain], we are more prepared for research suggesting that the brain of the angry person is different from the brain of the pacifist, or that the brain of the homosexual is different from the brain of a heterosexual. Instead of denying or arguing with these observations, we would expect them: the Bible predicts that what goes on in the heart is represented physically. But the Bible would clarify that such differences do not prove that the brain caused the thoughts and actions. It may very well be the opposite. Brain changes may be caused by these behaviors.
[Welch, Edward T., Blame it on the Brain (Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1998), pg. 48]

Verse of the Day

But Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, laughing. So she said to Abraham, "Cast out this slave woman with her son, for the son of this slave woman shall not be heir with my son Isaac." And the thing was very displeasing to Abraham on account of his son. But God said to Abraham, "Be not displeased because of the boy and because of your slave woman. Whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for through Isaac shall your offspring be named. And I will make a nation of the son of the slave woman also, because he is your offspring." So Abraham rose early in the morning and took bread and a skin of water and gave it to Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, along with the child, and sent her away. And she departed and wandered in the wilderness of Beer-sheba.
Genesis 21:9-14

Monday, July 24, 2006


Isaiah 64:8 But now, O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.

O Lord, we are indeed the work of your hand and we are very grateful for it. We thank you for putting us in this land in which we live, work, and worship. You are a truly gracious God.

We pray for the leaders you have put over us: we pray for the President of the United States, and we pray for our state and local officials. We pray that you would give them great wisdom to rule and govern in such a way that peace and stability would continue in our land so that those who love you might continue to prosper and thrive.

We thank you for how you have been working in our town with regard to the recent distractions and civil disturbances. They have been and continue to be trying on your church, but things seem to be going well for your people up to now. We ask that this would continue. However, there still remains a few enemies and antichrists who persist in plotting and devising vain things against you and your church. For these we pray that you would do whatever you need to do to bring their plans to naught and to bring them to sweet fellowship with your son Jesus and with us.

Finally, father, we pray for those in our midst who are educating our children. We pray that you would give them great wisdom and sharp minds as they prepare for the upcoming year. We also pray for the students as they wind down a wonderful summer and prepare themselves to get back to the hard work of formally learning about your Kingdom and how it works itself out in their lives.

We pray all these things in the name of our glorious Lord and savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Quote of the Day

Without peace, learning is impossible. Education depends on order. That is one of the major reasons why in the recent past, and even up to the present, there has been such poor learning in our schools—peace, a chief factor in the learning situation, has been missing. Where there is no peace, there is no learning; where there is no discipline, there is no order; where there is no order there is no peace. Discipline is, at its heart and core, good order.
[Adams, Jay E., Handbook of Church Discipline (Zondervan, 1986), pg. 14]

Verse of the Day

But Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, laughing. So she said to Abraham, "Cast out this slave woman with her son, for the son of this slave woman shall not be heir with my son Isaac." And the thing was very displeasing to Abraham on account of his son. But God said to Abraham, "Be not displeased because of the boy and because of your slave woman. Whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for through Isaac shall your offspring be named.
Genesis 21:9-12

Friday, July 21, 2006

Loving Daughters

Dear Pastor Lawyer,

My daughters are coming to the age where they are starting to notice boys and I was wondering if there was any advice you might give me about how to protect them from what could be coming. Thanks,


Dear Martin,

This is a good question and one that more men need to think about if they have daughters. Here are several ideas. The first thing a father must do in order to protect his daughters is to love their mother in a Biblical way. This includes leading the family in a strong spiritual life: teaching them the word, leading them in family devotions, carefully explaining how life fits in with the Word of God and how everything is addressed in the Bible. It also includes maintaining a strong physical relationship with their mother. Let the hugs and kisses abound in front of the children. Love your wife and let it overflow to the whole family. Another way to love your wife is to respect her in public and in private. Never correct her in front of the children and never yell at her at all. The father who wants to protect his daughters from the ravages of the world needs to begin by loving their mother.

The second thing the father needs to do is to love his daughter— spend time with her, talk with her, play with her, get to know her and let her get to know you. Make sure this time is actually spent with her, while paying attention to her. Some men will give their daughters a ride to soccer and think they’ve spent time with her. This is not what I’m talking about. Daughters need their daddies to love them and to care for them and to care about what they care about.

Another important way to protect your daughters is to be very physically loving with them. Give them lots of hugs and kisses. Sit with them and hold them while you’re reading together or watching TV. When you go places with them, hold their hand, even if it isn’t a dangerous situation. In short, shower them with physical attention. Then, they will not need to seek such attention from elsewhere.

Protecting your daughters also includes teaching them about how boys think. Boys view things from a completely different perspective than s do. For example, teenage boys are goal oriented and want one thing from a teenage . The s are relationship and romance oriented and think the boys want to have a special relationship with them. Suppose the boy says, “I love you” to the . What he means is, “Let’s smooch, etc.” The , on the other hand hears, “I love you,” and she thinks he means, “You are the most important person in the world to me. Let’s be good close friends”. In order to protect your daughters, you need to tell them how and what boys are thinking and what they are after.

Finally, you need to teach your daughters how to treat the boys. The Bible tells the boys to treat the “younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.” It’s safe to infer from this that the s ought to treat the boys as brothers, with purity. What this means is that the s ought to avoid flirting with the boys. Sisters don’t flirt with their brothers, and s shouldn’t flirt with the boys. Second, they need to watch what they are wearing in front of the boys. s who live in our obsessed culture don’t understand that the fashions are virtually ographic. s who want to look fashionable need to understand that fashion is ual by nature. s who dress fashionably will cause the boys to after them. There is no way for a in our culture to dress fashionably and at the same time to dress modestly. Because s view things from a different perspective than boys do, you fathers need to help your daughters understand that they need to treat the boys like brothers and what that means. Teach them not to flirt and how to dress.

I hope this helps.

Pastor Lawyer

Quote of the Day

This [You can have joy in the midst of unrelenting pain] is the precedent for “consider it pure joy…when you face trials of many kinds” (James 1:3). The joy in this case is not a denial of pain. It is joy that something wonderful is taking place. The person in trials has a opportunity to observe faith being refined, perseverance developed, and maturity attained. These are a joy to behold, whether they are being nurtured in us or in others. [Welch, Edward T., Depression A Stubborn Darkness (Punch Press, 2004), pg. 265]

Verse of the Day

From there Abraham journeyed toward the territory of the Negeb and lived between Kadesh and Shur; and he sojourned in Gerar. And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, "She is my sister." And Abimelech king of Gerar sent and took Sarah. But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night and said to him, "Behold, you are a dead man because of the woman whom you have taken, for she is a man's wife." Now Abimelech had not approached her. So he said, "Lord, will you kill an innocent people? Did he not himself say to me, 'She is my sister'? And she herself said, 'He is my brother.' In the integrity of my heart and the innocence of my hands I have done this." Then God said to him in the dream, "Yes, I know that you have done this in the integrity of your heart, and it was I who kept you from sinning against me. Therefore I did not let you touch her. Now then, return the man's wife, for he is a prophet, so that he will pray for you, and you shall live. But if you do not return her, know that you shall surely die, you, and all who are yours." So Abimelech rose early in the morning and called all his servants and told them all these things. And the men were very much afraid. Then Abimelech called Abraham and said to him, "What have you done to us? And how have I sinned against you, that you have brought on me and my kingdom a great sin? You have done to me things that ought not to be done." And Abimelech said to Abraham, "What did you see, that you did this thing?" Abraham said, "I did it because I thought, There is no fear of God at all in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife. Besides, she is indeed my sister, the daughter of my father though not the daughter of my mother, and she became my wife. And when God caused me to wander from my father's house, I said to her, 'This is the kindness you must do me: at every place to which we come, say of me, He is my brother.'" Then Abimelech took sheep and oxen, and male servants and female servants, and gave them to Abraham, and returned Sarah his wife to him. And Abimelech said, "Behold, my land is before you; dwell where it pleases you." To Sarah he said, "Behold, I have given your brother a thousand pieces of silver. It is a sign of your innocence in the eyes of all who are with you, and before everyone you are vindicated." Then Abraham prayed to God, and God healed Abimelech, and also healed his wife and female slaves so that they bore children. For the LORD had closed all the wombs of the house of Abimelech because of Sarah, Abraham's wife.
Genesis 20:1-18

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Recovery after a church dies due to sin

Dear Pastor Lawyer,

The Pastor of our church recently was found to be participating in some very sinful behavior and as a result our church has lost most of its members. One of the reasons this terrible event took place was because the pastor was able to control everything in the church. Even when we found out about the things he was doing in secret, he was able for years, to maintain control of the situation. We were wondering if you had any ideas for my wife and me about how we might go about finding a church where this kind of thing can’t happen to us again. Thank you for your help.

Ed in Seabeck

Dear Ed,

I wish your dilemma was unique and that I would never have to address it. Unfortunately some folks see the Christian ministry as a way to make money and to exercise power. There are a couple of things I would guard against in your thinking about finding a new fellowship. First, don’t buy into the temptation to think that if a church is a member of a denomination (or maybe a stricter denomination) that it will be safe. Some denominations are much more closely involved with their churches than others, but a man who is a controller can do it almost as easily in a tight knit denomination as he can in one that is not so “hands on." This is because most denominations have men in leadership who know one another pretty well, creating a sort of “good ol’ boy” situation. That is, sometimes the men at the denominational level know the pastors pretty well and are reluctant to take the word of a parishioner over their good old buddy, pastor Pete.

Second, don’t think that not going to church or not getting involved in another church is a way to avoid the possible hurt. Such avoidance may safeguard you from pain, but you will also be in sin by not getting involved in the lives of other saints in a corporate worship setting. The Bible is clear that there are no “Lone Ranger” Christians and that local church involvement is a must.

To avoid the problem in the future -- First, to be discerning, you need to be steeped in the Word of God, to take responsibility for your life and the life of your family, to meet with God regularly, and to spend vast amounts of time in the Word so that you will have your heart transformed and you will become more like Jesus. As you become more like him, you will think more like him. When this is the case and you visit a church that is slightly off, you will more easily notice problems and know what to do. If, on the other hand, the church is doing well, you will also know that pretty easily too.

In addition, do a lot of praying for wisdom. As a rule God does not talk directly to us. But he does give us brains, and as we immerse ourselves in his Word, he also gives us incredible wisdom. In addition to our own wisdom, we are directed to use the wisdom of friends and relatives. What are they saying about the church you are visiting? The Bible says there is success when there are many godly advisors.

Finally, when you visit a church, check out the leadership to make sure that it is Biblically qualified to lead. Do the Pastor and all of the elders fit the qualifications set out in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 and the command in 1 Peter 5? Note especially how their children behave and are treated. Are they the wildest kids in the church? Do they obey their parents? What do the parents do when the children disobey? Notice too how the Pastor and the elders treat their wives. Have your wife get to know their wives. Do they gossip about their husbands? Do they bad mouth them and complain about their marriage? Do the leaders strike you as being humble men? Are they trying to control the church as opposed to leading it? This is a hard distinction to make, but it makes all the difference in the world. If anything is unbiblical, you need to avoid that church. I hope this helps.

By the way, have you visited our church? You’re always welcome, and I’d like to meet you face to face.

Pastor Lawyer

Verse of the Day

So it was that, when God destroyed the cities of the valley, God remembered Abraham and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow when he overthrew the cities in which Lot had lived. Now Lot went up out of Zoar and lived in the hills with his two daughters, for he was afraid to live in Zoar. So he lived in a cave with his two daughters. And the firstborn said to the younger, "Our father is old, and there is not a man on earth to come in to us after the manner of all the earth. Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve offspring from our father." So they made their father drink wine that night. And the firstborn went in and lay with her father. He did not know when she lay down or when she arose. The next day, the firstborn said to the younger, "Behold, I lay last night with my father. Let us make him drink wine tonight also. Then you go in and lie with him, that we may preserve offspring from our father." So they made their father drink wine that night also. And the younger arose and lay with him, and he did not know when she lay down or when she arose. Thus both the daughters of Lot became pregnant by their father. The firstborn bore a son and called his name Moab. He is the father of the Moabites to this day. The younger also bore a son and called his name Ben-ammi. He is the father of the Ammonites to this day.
Genesis 19:29-38

Quote of the Day

Since ancient times, people have bowed down to idols in the appearance of humility and contrition. But their goal wasn’t to be mastered by the idol. People worship to get things. We choose idols in part because we believe that they will give us what we want. [Welch, Edward T., Depression A Stubborn Darkness (Punch Press, 2004,), pg. 127]

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Dealing with ual Temptation

Dear Pastor Lawyer,

Before I was a Christian I had a terrible time with a -filled thought life. Now that I’m a Christian, married, and have 3 children I’m having difficulty with the same kinds of things. Can you help?

Doug in Seabeck

Dear Doug,

Many Christians have this same problem. Here are some answers that might help. There are several passages in the Bible that tell us to get new minds after we come to Christ. In general, this is a process, but it is a process that can be speeded up by our desire to change. The first thing you need to do is to cultivate a closer walk with God. This begins with prayerful Bible study. You need to the TV off (if that is what is distracting you) and spend a lot more time communing with God in his word. You need to pray that as you read and study God would change the way you think to line up with the way he thinks as revealed in the text. Your goal should be to allow his Holy Spirit to transform your mind so that you think about everything with the same thoughts he has.

Second, you need to realize that sin almost always has two sides. When the Bible tells us to not do a thing it also tells us to do other things. Let’s take a look at your example: The Bible says that is ery. It tells us not to commit ery. It also tells us to love our wives as Christ loves his church. We are to lay down our lives for our wives by treating them with great love and devotion. We are to work hard to help our wives to be holy, beautiful in God’s sight, and to be women who are highly regarded by those around them. When we after another woman, then, we break not one command (Don’t commit ery), but two commands (Don’t commit ery and love your wife). Every sin I can think of works this way. We are both doing something wrong and not doing something we are supposed to do at the same time.

Third, this double whammy has a good side to it. In the same way that every sin is really two sins, the solution to the problem, or the means to avoid the sin is inherent in the sin itself. Back to our example: the way to stop committing ery is to love your wife. Every time you see a woman dressed in a scanty outfit it should cause you to remember your wife. It should cause you to remember that you need to be thinking about ways to love her better. If you do this, you won’t have time to after the inadequate dresser. As soon as you see her, you should immediately begin thinking of ways to make your wife a more beautiful woman.

This does not mean that if you want to love your wife better you should run out and fill your head with ographic images. The Bible also tells us to avoid putting ourselves in situations where we will be unduly tempted. We need to plan our lives better and to avoid situations where we will be put into tempting situations. Sometimes this will mean making some drastic changes in our lives. But if you are thinking the way God thinks this will not seem all that drastic.

Let me give you a couple of scriptures that can help: “Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” “God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.” “…the grace of God…teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.” “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you.” Notice that in each of these passages you are to turn (sometimes, run) away from one set of evil behaviors and turn to another set of godly things.

As you concentrate on your relationship with God, and as you obey him, he will transform the way you think and he will transform the way you live…All for his glory and honor. I hope that helps,

Pastor Lawyer

Quote of the Day

Emotions have a history. To put a complex process as simply as possible, their history consists of two parts: (1) events outside of us, which include physical problems, and (2) beliefs, spiritual allegiances, and interpretations within us. The interaction of these two, over time is what causes depression. [Welch, Edward T., Depression A Stubborn Darkness (Punch Press, 2004,), pg. 105]

Verse of the Day

Then the LORD rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the LORD out of heaven. And he overthrew those cities, and all the valley, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground. But Lot's wife, behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.
Genesis 19:24-26

Monday, July 17, 2006

Quote of the Day: Medication and Personality

This not a Christian book and it is not an idea I'm promoting. I just thought it was an interesting perspective on the use of drugs and psychology in our culture.

"The operational definition of wellness must be in relation to the demands and goals of our society, here and now. Once we have seen the joy of patients’ faces, we can only be grateful for the availability of more powerful and specific medication. But the awareness that what we are altering is a personal style that might have succeeded in a different, and not especially distant, culture may make us wonder whether we are using medication in a service of conformity to societal values. Indeed, experience with medication may make us aware of how exigent our culture is in its behavior demands." [Kramer, Peter D., Listening to Prozac (Penguin Books, 1993, 1997), pg. 41]

Verse of the Day

The two angels came to Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them and bowed himself with his face to the earth and said, "My lords, please turn aside to your servant's house and spend the night and wash your feet. Then you may rise up early and go on your way." They said, "No; we will spend the night in the town square." But he pressed them strongly; so they turned aside to him and entered his house. And he made them a feast and baked unleavened bread, and they ate. But before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man, surrounded the house. And they called to Lot, "Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, that we may know them." Lot went out to the men at the entrance, shut the door after him, and said, "I beg you, my brothers, do not act so wickedly. Behold, I have two daughters who have not known any man. Let me bring them out to you, and do to them as you please. Only do nothing to these men, for they have come under the shelter of my roof." But they said, "Stand back!" And they said, "This fellow came to sojourn, and he has become the judge! Now we will deal worse with you than with them." Then they pressed hard against the man Lot, and drew near to break the door down. But the men reached out their hands and brought Lot into the house with them and shut the door. And they struck with blindness the men who were at the entrance of the house, both small and great, so that they wore themselves out groping for the door. Then the men said to Lot, "Have you anyone else here? Sons-in-law, sons, daughters, or anyone you have in the city, bring them out of the place. For we are about to destroy this place, because the outcry against its people has become great before the LORD, and the LORD has sent us to destroy it." So Lot went out and said to his sons-in-law, who were to marry his daughters, "Up! Get out of this place, for the LORD is about to destroy the city." But he seemed to his sons-in-law to be jesting. As morning dawned, the angels urged Lot, saying, "Up! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, lest you be swept away in the punishment of the city." But he lingered. So the men seized him and his wife and his two daughters by the hand, the LORD being merciful to him, and they brought him out and set him outside the city.
Genesis 19:1-16

Thursday, July 13, 2006

The Tithe

Dear Pastor Lawyer,

What do you think about the Christian and tithing? Should Christians tithe? If so, how much?

Thanks, Bob

Dear Bob,

The questions about tithing abound. Whether to give, how much, whether it is mandated in the Bible for Christians are questions many Christians have.

Let’s begin with what the Old Testament has to say about the tithe. In Leviticus 27 it says that the tithe (the first and best tenth) of all the crops and everything produced belongs to the Lord and should be brought and given to Him as an offering. Later, in Numbers 18, it says that the tithe that the people bring to the Lord is given to the Levites as their inheritance because they didn’t get any land of their own when the Israelites went into the Promised Land (the Levites ran the religious system in Israel). Of this tithe the Levites were to also take a tenth and give it to God as their offering to him. In this way God was worshiped and given glory through everyone’s income and prosperity. As long as the people worshipped God with thanksgiving and gratitude as shown in their joyfully giving their tithes, God blessed them with immense prosperity. When they stopped giving from a glad heart, they were cursed and eventually lost not only their land, but also their covenant.

Thus enters the New Testament (‘Covenant’ and ‘Testament’ mean the same thing). As long as the Temple still existed, those Christians who were Jewish in the beginning continued to pay their tithe to the Lord. But when the Temple was destroyed, as a sign that the new Covenant had come in its completeness, the Christians stopped participating in the Jewish worship customs. This was primarily because Jesus had fulfilled and completed those customs and there was no longer any need to participate in them (this is not exactly correct, but we’d get too far off the track if I explained it more clearly).

In the New Testament Church then, there is no need to pay the Jewish tithe. On the other hand, Christians are commanded to love their neighbors and to support their leaders financially. Because of this, giving has always been a large part of Christian worship. In Acts 2, for example, in order that they might help those less fortunate than themselves, the saints gave money they had received from the sale of property. This was probably far more than one tenth of their total income. In 2 Corinthians 9 the Apostle Paul tells the Corinthians that he is going to take a collection for the poor and that they should give to the need for the glory of God and the pleasure of serving him (this even though they were already poor).

Further, the leaders of the Christian church have always been provided for by the people of the churches. In 1 Timothy 5 it says that the elders who do a good job are worthy of double honor (this is not saying that pastors should be made rich, but that the attitude of the people should be one of giving). It also says that the flock should care for those who serve the church. This is because Christians love one another and because one of the first places where you can see their love is by how they treat their leaders. There are many other passages that talk about how the church's people are to financially treat their church leaders, but suffice it to say that God is pleased when his people love one another.

So then, the New Testament does not command that Christians give a tithe. What it does command is that the people in the church financially support and maintain those who prayerfully and Biblically support and maintain their souls — their pastors. I don’t want to say that people ought to sell their property or that they shouldn’t buy more and more toys, because Scripture doesn’t say that. However, I do want to point out that the people in the Bible, because of the joy of serving God, did what was necessary to bless God by taking care of their God-given responsibilities. I hope this helps.

Pastor Lawyer

Verse of the Day

Then the LORD said, "Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is very grave, I will go down to see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me. And if not, I will know." So the men turned from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the LORD. Then Abraham drew near and said, "Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city. Will you then sweep away the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous who are in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?" And the LORD said, "If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will spare the whole place for their sake." Abraham answered and said, "Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes. Suppose five of the fifty righteous are lacking. Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five?" And he said, "I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there." Again he spoke to him and said, "Suppose forty are found there." He answered, "For the sake of forty I will not do it." Then he said, "Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak. Suppose thirty are found there." He answered, "I will not do it, if I find thirty there." He said, "Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord. Suppose twenty are found there." He answered, "For the sake of twenty I will not destroy it." Then he said, "Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak again but this once. Suppose ten are found there." He answered, "For the sake of ten I will not destroy it." And the LORD went his way, when he had finished speaking to Abraham, and Abraham returned to his place.
Genesis 18:20-33

Quote of the Day

In this case the pride is evident in the way we want more for ourselves. We want to be great in something. We want recognition, reputation—some kind of personal glory—and we aren’t getting it. We want it more than we want God. We want to be a god rather than trust the true God.

What’s the alternative? We confess what’s going on and turn to the God whose glory and holiness leave us in awe, and whose humility leaves us with a different model of true humanness. [Welch, Edward T., Self Injury: When Pain Feels (Good P& R Publishing, 2004), pg. 22, 23]

Wednesday, July 12, 2006


Dear Pastor Lawyer,

I’ve been going to church all of my life, but some of the things you’ve been saying have me wondering if I’ve ever become a Christian at all. How can I tell if I’ve become a Christian? Thanks,


Dear Eileen,

Thanks for writing. It’s refreshing to hear someone actually question whether God is active in her life. In my experience, most people assume their salvation even though they don’t have much real reason for their confidence.

It is important to remember that being a Christian means not only that you are saved from your sins (and therefore condemnation), but also that you have now been brought into a new and living relationship with God the Father. The Bible says that the person who is not led by the Spirit thinks the things of God are foolishness and he cannot understand things that are truly spiritual. After he believes, God causes His word to come alive. Not only can the new Christian understand it; he will also fall in love with it. The questions I have for you are — Do you love the Word of God? Do you find yourself sneaking away from people and events in order to read and study and meditate on it? Do you agree with the Psalmist when he says that he delights in the Law of God? If Bible study is a joy to you; if it brings you great excitement to read about what God has done in history on behalf of his people; if your strongest desire has become to know the God of the Bible as you read and study His word, then I’d say there’s a good chance that you have become a Christian. On the other hand, if none of the above is true for you, I’d say there’s a good chance you probably aren’t a Christian.

Another change that will occur, if you are a true Christian, is that your friends will begin to find reasons to avoid being with you. Your new spirit will irritate them and you will notice that they aren’t all that much fun anymore either. You will find yourself trying to tell them about your new relationship with Jesus, and the things you used to have in common will not seem all that important to you. If you have noticed this happening in your life, you are probably a Christian. If however, your friends see no change in your life, there probably hasn’t been one.

Third, when people are not Christians, they usually think Christians are a bit strange. Often, if they think of them at all, they feel sorry for Christians and may even pity them for being such suckers. Sometimes they even hate Christians. Christians can be irritatingly loving and sometimes their squeaky clean lifestyles can be a bit irritating. I don’t know what you thought of Christians before you became one, but if you’ve become a Christian, this view should have changed. The Bible says that people who know God love Christians. When people know God and want to be with him, they also want to be with other Christians. If you don’t like Christians much, you probably aren’t one yet.

Finally, people who hang with God begin thinking like God. They change the way they used to think to the way God thinks. They change their behavior to reflect the One who has bought them and loves them. Christians live lives of godliness and holiness. They begin to hate sin — their own as well as the sin of others. If a person is a Christian, his life will begin to show that he loves God and is striving to be like him. If your life hasn’t changed in the direction of godliness, if you aren’t more sensitive to sin, if your desire isn’t to be more like your Savior, you are probably still in your sins. I hope this helps.

Pastor Lawyer

Quote of the Day

Consider the well-meant evangelical exhortation to "invite Jesus into your heart." I assume this imagery comes from Revelation 3:20 ("I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me"). But why, on the basis of one verse, has an entire theology and language of "personal acceptance’’ of Jesus swamped the far more pervasive apostolic call to confess "Jesus is Lord"? The reason, I submit, is that it fits more comfortably with our American sensibilities. So long as I invite Jesus into my heart, I’m still in control of things and my personal freedom is in no way threatened.
...Donald W. McCullough in The Trivialization of God

Verse of the Day

And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God." And God said to Abraham, "As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations. This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised. You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your s, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you. He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised. Every male throughout your generations, whether born in your house or bought with your money from any foreigner who is not of your offspring, both he who is born in your house and he who is bought with your money, shall surely be circumcised. So shall my covenant be in your flesh an everlasting covenant. Any uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his shall be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant."
Genesis 17:7-14

Quote of the Day

This seems like a harsh way to explain the possible inner workings of self-injury [nail biting, anorexia, cutters, self-punchers, etc], but if we really believe that self-injurers share a bond with those who don't purposely injure themselves, we would expect self-injurers to have a lot of “self” motivating their behavior. We all do! Scripture consistently reminds us that our greatest prob­lem, even more than Satan himself, is our selfish desires (James 4:1-3). Pride and self-interest tend to rule our hearts. Contrary to what we may think, self-love is never a biblical command. The command is that we love others to the degree that we love ourselves (Matt. 19:18). [Welch, Edward T., Self Injury: When Pain Feels (Good P& R Publishing, 2004), pg. 11]

Tuesday, July 11, 2006


Dear Pastor Lawyer,

In May, our church began having two services on Sunday mornings. The first service is geared to Christians and the second service is more oriented to non-Christians. We were wondering what you think about the best way for a church to “do evangelism”. Thanks for the help.

John & Constance

Dear J&C,

I should probably point out that in Christian circles "evangelism" is one of the most feared words there is. One of the reasons evangelism holds such a fearful place is that we don’t really know what we’re doing. This is because Christians think they need to “do” evangelism rather than to follow the Biblical of bringing people to Jesus. If you had a friend visiting from out of town, you wouldn’t have trouble introducing him to your neighbors or telling the folks at work about him. Evangelism is just like sharing the joy of a special friendship with other friends. Who Jesus is is what makes the task a bit different, but essentially what you’re doing is telling your family, friends, co-workers and neighbors about the most important person in your life and why He holds that position.

With this in mind, let’s look at the best way a church can go about “doing evangelism”. First, everyone ought to prepare (write out) the story about how he came to know God. This story should include 3 parts: (1) an element of one's former life, including mention of one's to sin, guilt for sin, and need for a Savior from sin; (2) what God did in Christ for him. He sent Jesus to die on the cross to pay the price for sin. This death and His subsequent resurrection took God’s wrath away and set him free from sin and death. This is the Gospel, which is the power of God for salvation and must be present for a person to come to Christ; and (3) last, there needs to be an explanation of the response a person made when he believed the information about Jesus’ death, how when he believed, he turned to God with a great sorrow in his heart for the past years of rebellion, how he hated his sin and turned from it to follow God, and how he begged Him to forgive him and to allow him back into fellowship with Him. He should also include how when He forgave and freed him from his past life, he praised Him with every fiber of his being. You need to make sure that the non-Christian you’re talking with understands that becoming a Christian is easy, but the life of a Christian will not be. There is incredible joy, which comes from knowing God, but the Bible also says that anyone who wants to walk with God will experience suffering because of that friendship.

Once the story is written and remembered (‘memorize’ seems like such a rigid word), the church members need to pray for God to bring opportunities to share their story with the people they meet and chat with throughout the week. They should also be praying for boldness so that they won’t shrink away in fear and let the chance to talk about God slip by. They should pray for wisdom so that the story will fit the situation and the person they are talking with. Remember, we are bringing people out of their suffering into a glorious new relationship with the living God. It is a wonderful ministry we’ve been given. Praise the Lord!

Finally, the church itself should make the Sunday worship service the most wonderful time of celebration and worship it can (for God's blessing). The people should be prepared ahead of time to participate in the service and everything should be done decently and in order. It should be a serious and sacred assembly. It should be characterized by a realization that it is the Creator of the universe they are meeting with. Flippancy and familiarity should be left at home. This is a serious, but joyful time (Lewis called it solempne). This is the optimal setting for bringing a non-Christian to church. When a non-Christian comes to church, he wants to see Christians doing what Christians do. If God is working in his heart, drawing him to Himself, the non-Christian needs to see Christ when he looks as Christ’s body. He needs to hear the preaching of the Word; he needs to hear the singing of the Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs; he needs to see the fruit of the Spirit as it emanates from the hearts of the saints in worship of their God. This is the Gospel witness that non-Christians need to see and to experience.

I hope this helps,

Pastor Lawyer

Quote of the Day

The embarrassing truth about clinical work with antidepressants was that it was all art and no science. Various combinations of symptoms were said to be more serotonin- or norepinephrine-related, and various strategies were advanced for trying medications in logical order for particular sorts of patients. But these strategies varied from year to year, and even from one part of the country to another. It was true that a given patient might respond to one antidepressant after having failed to respond to another, but the doctor would have to manufacture a reason to explain why. [Kramer, Peter D., Listening to Prozac (Penguin Books, 1997), p. 59]

Quote of the Day

The embarrassing truth about clinical work with antidepressants was that it was all art and no science. Various combinations of symptoms were said to be more serotonin- or norepinephrine-related, and various strategies were advanced for trying medications in logical order for particular sorts of patients. But these strategies varied from year to year, and even from one part of the country to another. It was true that a given patient might respond to one antidepressant after having failed to respond to another, but the doctor would have to manufacture a reason to explain why. [Kramer, Peter D., Listening to Prozac (Penguin Books, 1997), p. 59]

Verse of the Day

The angel of the LORD also said to her, "I will surely multiply your offspring so that they cannot be numbered for multitude." And the angel of the LORD said to her, "Behold, you are pregnant and shall bear a son. You shall call his name Ishmael, because the LORD has listened to your affliction. He shall be a wild donkey of a man, his hand against everyone and everyone's hand against him, and he shall dwell over against all his kinsmen."
Genesis 16:10-12

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Verse of the Day

And Sarai said to Abram, "May the wrong done to me be on you! I gave my servant to your embrace, and when she saw that she had conceived, she looked on me with contempt. May the LORD judge between you and me!" But Abram said to Sarai, "Behold, your servant is in your power; do to her as you please." Then Sarai dealt harshly with her, and she fled from her.
Genesis 16:5-6

Interesting Questions

Three years after the accident, except for his appearance and his knowledge of his former profession, Alan is not the man he was before his accident. Everything else about him has been relearned or changed. This raises the question about what makes a person the person they are? If you cut off a person’s finger, the person who is left is still the same one who had lost a finger. But how much can you cut off and still have the original person? Can we cut out a person’s brain and still have that person (assuming the brain is still functioning)? And if you put that brain into someone else’s body, who would they be?

What are we looking at to define what makes a person that person? Is it his genetic make-up? Is it his chipper personality? Is it the way he looks? Is it the hobbies that he participated in? Was it his wife or family? These questions are important because they bring up important theological concerns. For example, are you married to the person who is made up of a lump of flesh and genes, or does who they are mean something in the process?

If the woman you marry gets into an accident and because of traumatic brain injury (TBI) they become someone completely different, are you still married to them? Or did they die and you have someone different sitting there in front of you?

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Verse of the Day

Now Sarai, Abram's wife, had borne him no children. She had a female Egyptian servant whose name was Hagar. And Sarai said to Abram, "Behold now, the LORD has prevented me from bearing children. Go in to my servant; it may be that I shall obtain children by her." And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai. So, after Abram had lived ten years in the land of Canaan, Sarai, Abram's wife, took Hagar the Egyptian, her servant, and gave her to Abram her husband as a wife. And he went in to Hagar, and she conceived. And when she saw that she had conceived, she looked with contempt on her mistress.
Genesis 16:1-4

Dealing with Selfishness

Your question has to do with selfishness. How do you get rid of it?

It is important to put selfishness into the proper category. It is sin. It is idolatry. It is usurping God’s place in your life in order to be the center of your life yourself. It’s not a good thing. I know you know this already, but I thought I might need to reiterate it here just so we don’t get off to the wrong start.

The Bible says there are lots of things that accompany selfishness that sometimes hides or masks selfishness. For example Galatians 5:19ff lists several sins that, when you think about what they actually are, are all selfishness in different areas of life: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. These are all sins that say, “I want what I want and I’m not waiting until God gives what is best to me. I want it my way, right now.”

What to do, if you recognize yourself in this list? You need to confess your sin to God and to anyone you’ve sinned against. Confess means to “say the same thing.” So, to confess sin means to say the same thing about the sin that God says about the sin. If you lust after something that has not been given to you, you confess to God that you’ve desired something (name the specific thing) that God has not given to you. You should also confess the sin of lack of trust. In lusting after something that is not yours (coveted), you have not trusted that God will give it to you when it your time to have it, or you have not trusted God to give you what you need when you need it. Not trusting God is sin because it is not of faith.

Confession needs to be specific. If you got angry about something, confess it and all the accompanying sins (bitterness, envy, idolatry, anger, evil thoughts, words, kicks, etc.). If there are a long list of sins since the last time you confessed, just sit down somewhere and list them out until you can’t remember any more. Remember this is about relationship with God, not some sort of mechanical exercise. When you have confessed all your sin, God will let you know. Remember he wants to be in fellowship with you a whole lot more than you do with him (he sent his son to die so that you could have fellowship with him).

Once you have confessed all your sin you are “right with God.” This means that your relationship with God has been restored (cf. Is. 59:1, 2; 1 Jn. 1:9). You are holy and justified, and righteous before God and man. The fruit of the spirit should be present in your life and you should react with great rejoicing. If you don’t feel it, do it anyway.

A lot of humility is required to confess sin to God and to men. This is especially true if the sin is pride. You have to realize that you are not “all that” and admit that you’ve jerked God’s authority out of his hands and taken it upon yourself and you are not all that good at it and want to give it back. You have to acknowledge that God is God and you are not and that you were sinful to pretend that you were god. This acknowledgement is what the Bible means by “poor in spirit” (Mt. 5:3). If you want to serve God, bless God, be loved by God, be comforted, you need to humble yourself and place your trust for these things in his hands.

This emptying of yourself puts you in a position where God can lift you up. And he wants to lift you up. But it will be his doing, not yours.

Now that that is over you need to know that you are righteous and holy (by grace) and are now in a position to do what God wants you to do (in the power of the Spirit). So, now comes the other side of discipline: the first side is the side that tells you that you are not walking with God and are in danger of Hell-fire. This lack of joy is what God uses to bring his wayward children back in line (one of the ways he spanks his children). The side of discipline you’re on now is the side where you are taken from where you are to where you might be. Discipline trains you to walk with God consistently. It is walking with God consistently.

Life in Christ is about Christ. There is no room for thinking you are hot stuff. Jesus is hot stuff. There is no room for boasting in yourself or what you can do or think (Eph 2:9). But there is boasting (Jas. 1:9) it is just in the Lord, not in ourselves (1Cor. 1:31; 2 Cor. 10:17ff).

So, the goal here is to get yourself out of the way and let Christ assume the center instead. And this takes discipline. Paul says, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).

What he is talking about is leading others to the Lord, but the way he does it is by being what he is preaching—Christ crucified, and risen (cf. Phil. 3:13-17). The Gospel lived out is our goal. It is what makes a Christian a successful Christian. Walking with God, in fellowship, is the goal and so Paul worked hard at it.

The way this works out practically is a matter of Holy Spirit led and empowered obedience, self control, and discipline. “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (Colossians 3:5). “So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions” (Romans 6:11-12). “And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Gal. 5:24). “But that is not the way you learned Christ! assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:20-24).

This is not simply an act of the will. Sometimes you will need to change things you do. For example Paul tells Timoth to flee the lusts of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace (2 Tim. 2:22). This means that sometimes you will need to run the other way, hiding, not going there (wherever “there” is). If a guy has trouble with alcohol, he should avoid going in to bars. And he might need to change his whole life in order to walk with God. If all his friends hang out in bars, but he can’t avoid drinking when he goes into a bar, he needs to change who he hangs out with.

It not only means running away from sin, but you should also run to God and the things of God and the people of God. Christians who want to walk with God have to make some serious and hard decisions. Life requires that paradigms need to change. Everything needs to change. This is why Jesus said “he who does not take up his cross and follow me, is not worthy of me” (Mt. 10:38) and “if anyone would come after me, he must deny himself, pick up his cross and follow me (Mt. 16:24). It is a life and death thing. It is something that requires a total change in thinking, feeling, and living.

And it is not just a one time thing. It is something that the follower of Christ needs to decide to do every day, every hour, every minute.

You need to keep in mind too, that people are sinners by nature. This means that though we are right with God, we have the seeds of sin in us that constantly seek to drag us back into our former lives. That’s why the Bible calls it discipline and all the commands regarding our fight with sin are in the active voice: keep on denying, keep on crucifying, keep on reckoning, etc.

One final thing: James tells us to consider it all joy when we face various trials (testings, temptations). He goes on to tell his readers that the testing of our faith produces steadfastness and that steadfastness, when steadfastness has done its thing we will be perfect and complete, not a lacking anything (Jas 1:2-5). This means that we are to regard our temptations as tests that when we handle them properly will produce godliness in us. The tests are temptations that tempt us to leave the God who saved us. When we handle temptation correctly (cf. Jesus and his temptations in the desert), God works godliness into us—we become like Christ. Because of the results of walking with God we are to see our temptations as opportunities to serve the living God and because of this we are to look forward to them with great (all) joy.

I hope this helps,

Monday, July 03, 2006

Verse of the Day

Then the LORD said to Abram, "Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. As for yourself, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age. And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete." When the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, "To your offspring I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates, the land of the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites and the Jebusites."
Genesis 15:13-21

Confession of Sin

Sally sits in the fourth row next to her fourteen-year-old daughter, Cindy. Sally is very aware of how the world has magnetized the attention of her daughter in the past year or so and is very concerned. She and Cindy have talked a hundred times about true identity, true character, and true beauty. But the battle is far from over. Cindy doesn’t seem to be “getting it.” What can Sally do?

Bill is a long standing member with very important responsibilities in the church he serves. He is increasingly aware that he simply isn’t attracted to his wife anymore. He wonders why he ever married her and what would happen if friends in the church knew. He hasn’t told a soul. Where can he turn?

Jim had planned to serve the Lord in some way since he was a little boy, but now that he’s a teenager, his parents drive him crazy. He spends much of his time at home, isolated and angry. Who will help him?

Karen (26 years old) has just sung “Great Is Thy Faithfulness,” but she wonders where God was when she was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis. The weekly prayers for “the sick in our midst,” even when she is mentioned by name, seem far away and general—even cliché. What if God doesn’t heal her and the Arthritis slowly kills her? What about her eroding trust that God is good?

There may be many in our midst who are struggling with the trials, testings, and temptations the sinful world we live in daily throws at us. What are we to do? We wonder if God has left us alone in a scary lonely world. But God has promised that he will never leave us, nor will he forsake us. He is bigger than our largest problem and because he loves us he will be with us through the greatest and the smallest. This reminds us to confess our sins.

Prayer of Praise

Father you bless those who do not walk in the way of the wicked and so we avoid that way.

You bless those who don’t stand with those who revel in sinfulness, and so we strive to be careful about our companions.

You bless those who don’t sit in the seat of those who scoff at the things of God, and so we boast in your righteousness.

We delight in your law our Lord, and we meditate on your commandments day and night.

Therefore you have made us like trees planted by streams of water. You have made us like fruit trees that yield fruit when it is the proper season to do so. And because we trust in you, you make us like trees that do not wither or fade. You make us prosper in all that we do because we love you and pour ourselves out to you and for your glory.

The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
They are wicked and they do not prosper. Like the wheat chaff the wind drives away the wicked will not stand at your judgment. And sinners will not continue in your congregation.

For you, O Lord, know those who are yours and you observe our comings and our goings. You bless us because our way is according to your holiness. But the lives of the wicked will perish according to what they desire.

We thank you for all of this and bring our praises to you in the Name of our glorious Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And Amen.