Friday, September 29, 2006

Working with a blog

Would one of you blog friendly people send me some information about how to get the blog to tell the reader to "Read More" only if there is more to read. I know how to make it go to where there is more to read, but I can't stop the code from happening when there isn't anything to read.


Quote of the Day

I have often wondered that persons who make the boast of professing the Christian religion—namely love, joy, peace, temperance, and charity to all men—should quarrel with such rancorous animosity and display daily towards one another such bitter hatred, that this, rather than the virtues which they profess, is the readiest criteria of their faith.

[Spinoza, Tractatus Theologica-Politicus, chap. 6 quoted in Moo, Douglas J., The Letter of James (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publighing Co., 2000), pg. 181]

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Quote of the Day

He says we are his friends because he has made known to us all that he learned from his father. An army colonel tells a GI to fetch the hummer. If the GI says he will do so only if the colonel tells him exactly why and gives him permission to use it as a runabout while the colonel spends his time at HQ, that GI is asking for about six months of KP duty. But suppose the colonel has been a friend of the GI’s family for years and has watched the young man grow up. He may say to the GI, “Jim, fetch the hummer, please. I need you to drive me to HQ. I’ll be there for about two hours. You can use the vehicle in that gap, provided you’re back to pick me up at 1600 hours.” In this case, of course the GI is required no less to obey the colonel. The difference, the difference of friendship, is that full information has been conveyed. It is an informational difference, a difference of revelation, not a difference of obedience. [Carson, D. A., The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God (Crossway Books, 2000), pg. 42].

Verse of the Day

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, "The righteous shall live by faith."
Romans 1:16-17

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

How to Become Infamous

"What shall I do in order to become famous?" said an ambitious youth to an ancient sophist. "Kill a man who is famous already, and then your name will be always mentioned along with his," was the sophist’s reply. On some such principle those men seem to act, who charge the Confession of Faith with intolerance, as if that were the ready way to procure renown. But the sophist neglected to draw the distinction between fame and infamy; and it may ultimately appear that those who seek celebrity by attempting to kill the reputation of the Westminster divines, have committed a similar mistake [from the introductory Essay by WM. M. Hetherington, in An Exposition Of The Westminster Confession Of Faith by Rogbert Shaw, found at:].

Here in Moscow we have at least one young man who seems to think that defaming another more qualified and famous man’s reputation will give him higher reputation, respect, and fame. What he doesn’t realize is that the best he can accomplish in doing this is to be infamous in the eyes of everyone around him and the worst is to be marginalized and thought a dunderhead.

Fame, in the Christian church, comes by living a godly life over a long period of time. A godly life shows itself by loving God and by submitting to his decrees. Among these decrees is the command to obey and submit yourself to those appointed over you, whether governing authorities or church authorities (Cf. Rom. 13:1ff.; Heb. 13:17). If a young man wants to be famous and well thought of, his first duty is to submit himself to God’s authority and then to his civil and church authorities. This does not include “bad mouthing” them, creating a blog to do so, or joining in the internet’s other fat heads in their pursuit of infamy.

There is another “rule of life” that emerges here that is worth keeping in mind for the young dunderhead who is also a father. “What goes around, comes around.” The example you are setting for your children today is the fruit you will reap in your children tomorrow. Whatever you are today, your children are becoming and will be tomorrow. If you don’t respect God’s authorities in your life today, your children will not respect your authority (for God has placed you over them).

An important thing to note in all of this is that historically the sons are usually far more than their parents. In other words if you are a godly man, your children are most likely to be far more godly than you are. If you are a dunderhead and are teaching your children to gain infamy by blaspheming those over you, your children will far exceed your example when they grow up.

So there are two warnings here: First, God commands you to submit to him. He is God and you are not. Second, God has made the world in such a way that whatever you teach your children, by example, is what they will become. If you are a disrespectful, immature punk today, your children will be disrespectful, immature punks on steroids tomorrow.

The Grace of God and Addiction

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.
Titus 2:11-14

In the event and action of salvation God has shown that he is characterized by grace, that aspect of God’s person which pours out goodness on undeserving people; people who, until they recognize his grace, are defiant and in rebellion against him. They do not recognize God as God nor do they submit to him as God, and their every act is sinful and mutinous. The grace of God, however, is poured out on mankind in such a way that it translates them from the kingdom of the world to the kingdom of his glorious Son, Jesus Christ.

This kingdom, because it is the kingdom of the crucified and risen son, is a kingdom of truth and freedom—truth, because it coincides with the way the world actually is, and freedom, because it is the world in which people were created to live in in the first place. Every other kingdom is a usurper and will eventually be thrown down, and as people come to realize that Christ’s kingdom is the only legitimate kingdom, they throw down their arms and submit to the true ruler of their souls.

However, rebels do not deserve to be ransomed, redeemed, or forgiven, but rather deserve is to be wiped from the face of the earth. Instead, because he is gracious, God sent his only son to die in the place of his people, a glorious and wonderful revelation and expression of God’s love and faithfulness to his people. It is the message behind the parable Jesus gave about the “pearl of great price,” where a man found a great pearl and went and sold everything he owned in order to buy it (Matt. 13:45-56). The value of the pearl was so much more valuable than anything he already owned, indeed even more than everything taken together did, that he sold it all in order to gain the pearl he had found.

The grace of God is such a great a gift that when the sinner realizes how great, he offers himself as a living sacrifice to the holy God who sent his son to die in his place, willingly and joyfully laying down his life at the feet of the one who ransomed his soul from guilt, sin, and Hell.

This is what Jesus meant when he said, “If anyone wants to follow me, he must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me” (Matt. 16:24). The Gospel of God makes demands that are inherent in the gift, the most obvious of which is that a rebel must lay down his arms, namely, the sins he is committing in his rebellion against the holy God, when he realizes the war is over. The rebel is not striking out at God, shooting rockets at him, but in reality is actually harming only himself and others around him. Then again, no one ever said rebellion made any sense.

Thus, the grace of God teaches, compels, chastises, and disciplines us to live lives that are consistent with the facts of the case. Jesus is Lord, not we, and therefore, we must cease from our sin and live godly lives, focused not on who we were in our profanation, but who we have become and who we will become in Christ.

Larry’s problem is that he does not have a high enough understanding of the grace of God. The Bible says that “he who has been forgiven much loves much” (Lk. 7:47), but because the grace of God has not risen in his soul in a way that causes him to respond in a gracious way towards them, Larry does not love his wife, his sons, and God. He does not love much because he has not realized how much he has been loved. He views salvation as a free ticket out of Hell instead of as a transfer from a kingdom of shame and guilt, where he is in charge and determined to destroy himself and everyone around him, into the kingdom where God rules in holiness and graciousness.

While the problem is a lack of Biblical understanding, the solution for Larry is that he needs to understand and realize that God loves him. This can come through a variety of means, but one of the primary means is that Larry needs to see his affinity with the characters of the Bible. He has failed just like David, but God lifted David and restored him to faithfulness and he can and wants to lift Larry up as well. Gideon didn’t trust God, but God patiently gave him sign after sign until he believed God and finally did what God required. Larry can be a kind of Gideon and God will give him grace after grace until Larry trusts him enough to obey him. Love waits and God is infinitely patient with those who desire to serve him. Larry needs to be taken to the place where he can see God in action (perhaps be surprised by it) and this is the pages of the Bible where God acts in many different ways to bring his kingdom to the hearts and minds of his people.

The Bible is clear that in faith men should put to death whatever belongs to their earthly natures” (Col. 3:5), control their bodies (1 Thess. 4:3), flee youthful lusts (2 Tim. 2:22), etc., but if Larry doesn’t do these things because he believes in the gracious God of the Bible, he will constantly fail. This is no Pollyannaish dream, for change is hard and takes time, and godly change comes by trusting God’s gracious provision and by obediently submitting to Jesus as Lord. As Larry identifies with the biblical characters and submits to the loving and longsuffering Christ, grace will teach him to stop doing the things that are destructive to his soul, and begin doing those things that restore his soul and rebuild broken relationships. Larry will do these things by faith in Christ, who empowers him as he trusts in his holy savior for that power.

Verse of the Day

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. 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.
John 15:13-15

Quote of the Day

Observe that Jesus makes a distinction between slaves…and friends. But the distinction initially surprises us. We are Jesus’ friends if we do what he commands. This sounds rather like a definition of a slave. Certainly such friendship is not reciprocal. I cannot turn around to Jesus and thank him for his friendship and tell him he is my friend, too, if he does everything I command him. Strange to tell, not once is Jesus or God ever described in the Bible as our friend. Abraham is God’s friend; the reverse is never stated…He says we are his friends because he has made known to us all that he learned from his Father. [Carson, D. A., The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God (Crossway Books, 2000), pg. 41, 42].

That Emotional Federal Vision Theology


If history can teach us anything – It's the fact that two non-glorified Christians that agree on absolutely everything can probably not be found (discounting leaders and their parrots). Be that as it may, I'm struggling to see what exactly the Federal Vision controversy is. When I read Pastor Wilson’s and Rich Lusk's writings, I find good strong biblical Reformed Christian writing. Disconcertingly to myself, I get the same thought line when I read Michael Horton or Brian Schwertley - "yeah, that's what the Bible teaches". Considering the emotions I've seen flare, there has got to be a difference I'm just not seeing. The reason I'm bringing my confusion to you, is because the emotionality seems mostly (though not all) on your opponents' side. Maybe I'm being as thick as a Dufflepud or as simple as Rumblebuffin, but what is being debated?

Grace and Peace from our Lord Jesus Christ be unto you, Christian

Hi Christian,

I believe there are many different reasons why folks are as emotional over this issue as they are. These are in no particular order, but we've seen them all at various times and suspect them also on other occasions. First, the Federal Vision is a very masculine understanding of the Bible. We live in an effeminate age with effeminate church leaders. When someone comes along teaching something with fangs and muscles, the soft tend to react in an emotional and negative way. Incidentally the Magisterial Reformers believed most (excepting paedocommunion) of the same things as the Federal Vision guys.

Second, for years Doug Wilson has been teaching that elders must qualify for their offices as elders according to 1 timothy and Titus. If they do not, they should step down until they do qualify. This has caused quite a stir among pastors who have children who are not walking with the Lord. The Federal Vision is not the same topic, but it is a scapegoat that has been raised that will allow some of these men to attack Doug and others without dealing with the real issue. This is why in many ways they appear to be saying the same thing, in other contexts (they are saying the same thing).

Third, there is a turf/guild war going on here. If you are a member of the Ivory Tower crowd (professors, PhDs, etc.) it is okay to say things that go against the standard line, but you probably wouldn't. The Federal Vision crowd (except for Peter Leithart) are all guys without the degrees or standing to be making such bold and "new" pronouncements about the status quo. They are being attacked because they don't “qualify” to speak the way they do on the things they are talking about.

Fourth, many of the words and phrases being used by Federal Vision folks are being used in different ways than the theologians use them. So for instance when the Federal Vision guy uses the word ‘Christian’ he is defining it as “one who is a member of the body of Christ bases on faith and baptism.” The theologian and average Evangelical assumes 'Christian' means “someone who if they were to die right now would go to heaven.” When the Federal Vision guys then says, “A Christian can fall away from the faith and be cast out of the church and eventually, barring his repentance, go to Hell.” The theologian and average Evangelical thinks the Federal Vision guy is saying that people can lose their salvation. They also hear that a person is saved by being baptized.

Fifth, there are many in the opposition who are not reading the original sources. They are reading the disgruntled books and articles, and believing the lies and misrepresentations they contain. These folks are simply sheep being led around by the unscrupulous and pseudo scholars.

At this point in the discussion, the 4th and 5th reasons are clearly the largest groups. In the beginning the first few were more prevalent and quickly spread to the 4th and 5th especially combined with the 3rd.

I haven't come across anyone yet who is able to accurately represent the Federal Vision theology who was on the other side. There is an article on the web written by a fellow who is not an official FV guy and it is very good ( But I think he is not a FV guy yet because the consequences are high and he isn't ready to make the plunge yet. I know several people in this boat.

I hope this clears things up for you a little bit.


Pastor Lawyer

Tuesday, September 26, 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 .

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.

The angel of the LORD found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, the spring on the way to Shur. And he said, "Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?" She said, "I am fleeing from my Sarai." The angel of the LORD said to her, "Return to your and submit to her." 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."

So she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, "You are a God of seeing," for she said, "Truly here I have seen him who looks after me." Therefore the well was called Beer-lahai-roi; it lies between Kadesh and Bered. And Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abram called the name of his son, whom Hagar bore, Ishmael.

Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore Ishmael to Abram.

Genesis 16:1-16

Quote of the Day

Reflect on the parallelism. The perfection of Jesus’ obedience in the Godhead, which we have just been told is a mark of the Son’s love for his Father ([John] 14:31), is precisely what it means for the eternal Son to remain in the love the Father has for him. This is a relational matter (i.e., the Father and the Son are related to each other in this way), but it is also a constitutional matter (i.e., that is the way God Almighty is constituted). This pattern of love, both relational and constitutional, in the very being of God becomes, according to Jesus, the and incentive of our relation to Jesus. If we love him, we will obey him (14:15); here, if we obey him, we remain in his love. And thereby our relation to Jesus mirrors the relation of Jesus to his heavenly Father—which is of course a major theme in John 17 [Carson, D. A., The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God (Crossway Books, 2000), pg. 40, 41].

Metaphor and Worship

Dear Pastor Lawyer,

I like reading on your blog your answers to questions people ask, and I was wondering if you could answer one for me about images. The second commandment says that we're not supposed to use images of God, and the Westminster confession says we can't even have mental images of God, but the Bible has so many images of God that it's impossible for me to read it without getting pictures in my head! The one I struggle with most is the image of God as a father. I used to imagine all the time that God picked me up and hugged me and kissed me like a little daughter, but now every time I start to picture that I'm afraid I'm committing idolatry. And then I get really confused because when I block out that picture I feel like I'm blocking out God's love. It used to be easy for me to believe that God loved me, because I had that picture but now it's really, really hard to believe it. So my question is, is it wrong to have images of God that match what the Bible says about him? And if it is wrong then how else can I learn to feel like he loves me?

Thank you, Gloria

Hi Gloria,

"You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments. Exodus 20:4-6

The second command tells us not to carve for ourselves an image of God in order to worship it. The problem we humans have is that we want to be the ones who decide what or who we ought to worship. We don’t want anyone else telling us what to do, which is a sure sign that we are in trouble right from the get go. This blasphemy shows itself subtly at first; we make gods that represent the true God. And we tell ourselves that they are not gods, but reminders of the one true God. But then we forget ourselves and begin trusting in the thing we’ve created and end up worshipping the created thing instead of the creator. It is a delicate thing, but at the same time, a very blatant thing. It is very much an “in your face” kind of sin. It is all a lie, but we’re good at lying to ourselves when it comes to being in charge of our own lives. Sin knows no logic.

One the other hand, God tells us how to think about him and this is a totally justified and right basis on which to worship him. The Bible is full of metaphors and these are there in order to help us to worship God rightly. When he tells us he is our Father, to use your example, we are to think of him as a loving, personal, gift giving father. Our human fathers are supposed to reflect this aspect of the image of God so that we can understand God rightly according to his word. And so we see our fathers imitating their Father in heaven and we know a little bit more about and God and worship him based on the reflection we see in our human fathers.

A word of caution here: it is right and proper to honor our fathers for this and to worship the God who made him this way. But we want to be careful to not make our fathers into gods. Nor, in the case where our fathers do not represent God well, do we want to use that as an excuse to not worship God rightly. Our human fathers can never take the place of God in our lives. If we view our fathers in this way, they become an idol and we fall into the sin of breaking the second commandment.

The best way to keep from doing this is to maintain a good relationship with the God of the Bible. We do this in several ways: First, by attending and participating in weekly corporate worship. Meeting with the saints, hearing the word preached, eating at the table of the Lord all combine to feed our souls and to keep us focused on the one true God. This helps us keep a balance in our worship and helps us avoid creating our own gods.
Second, we maintain a good relationship with the true God by reading our Bibles and noticing all the various metaphors God uses to reveal himself and to notice how those metaphors are being used. For example the names of God are always used in biblical situations where that name is being acted out in the lives of those who use those names (cf. Gen. 13).

Finally, be careful not to camp on any one metaphor for too long. The metaphors are meant to be taken together so that they represent a whole picture of God. Like the blind men and the elephant, any one idea of God taken by itself can lead to imbalance and thus idolatry.

The goal is to know God in every way that he reveals himself in the word. Let that knowledge of him color your relationship with him so that your worship will grow in depth and breadth and so that you will be a more effective servant of the living God.

I hope this helps,

Pastor Lawyer

Morning Prayer

Luke 11:3 Give us each day our daily bread.

O Lord! You are a gracious God, remembering your people for many generations and hearing the prayers of your people especially those in need.

We thank you for remembering us when we call on you for our daily bread. We live in a place where we are often tempted to forget that you are the one who provides more than we could ever wish or desire. You have placed us in a beautiful land, full of abundant resources and gifts. We are very grateful.

We come to you now, asking for even more because we know you delight to give good gifts to your children. Your word says, “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.” And so we ask that you would bless our nation by guiding and directing our supreme court to do your will. —even though they might not know they are doing it.

We also ask that you would do the same with our state and local authorities. Please bless them and direct their steps so that we might have cultural stability and peace.
Father, we thank you for how you have stymied our enemies at every turn. But Father none of them have been won to our side. We pray that you would change their hearts, make them friends, bless them with all the goodness that you are able to give to them. Most of them hate us because we love you and consequently they are working hard to destroy us. But we know that in hating us they really hate you, and so we ask that you would rise up and destroy your enemies; primarily by making them your children, and secondarily by whatever means you deem appropriate for people who refuse to submit to you.

While we wait for you to act, we pray that we would take advantage of the current situation to live such lives in front of our co-workers and neighbors that they would want to know the one who has made us into such winsome and holy people. We pray that you would open the eyes of those who don’t know you and turn them from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to your own wonderful kingdom. Yes Lord, we pray for revival in our community and that Reformation would also spread across your church. And we pray that it would begin with us, that we might bring glory and honor to your name.

Finally father, we ask that you would give patience, diligence, and your peace to the parents of our church as they work diligently to raise their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Our families desire to raise Godly offspring for your name’s sake and so we ask that you would give us grace to do it effectively.

In Jesus’ name we ask these things,


Friday, September 22, 2006

Transform Your Mind

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Romans 12:1-5

It is interesting that who we are to be comes through how and what we think. That is, what we think determines what we do and what we do demonstrates who we are. There are many who would say that what I have just said is in line with the secular psychological called cognitive-behaviorism. But the passage above (and many many more in the Bible) says that we are to change the way we think about ourselves and the world, and then in the light of our new thinking act in accord with that new thinking. I’m not sure what these critics want us to do instead, but it is important to know that what Paul is teaching here is very different than what the world teaches when it wants to apply cognitive-behavioral theory. The difference is faith.

Here’s how it works: first, the information contained in the Bible about God is only information to the unregenerate mind. When a non-Christian comes to their Christian buddy for marriage advice, for example, and they ask how they can have a marriage like the Christian, the Christian will take them to all the wonderful passages in the Bible related to marriage. But when the non-Christian hears the wisdom of God applied to marriage, all they are gleaning is information. They are getting nuts and bolts and nothing else. When the non-Christian hears the truths of God they might feel compelled to do what it says (because they see the results in their Christian neighbor’s life), but because there is no power, there can be no transformation. This is because to the non-Christian they are only hearing good information. One major reason it never becomes more than good advice is because what they want is the good fruit of a godly life, not the godly life itself. What they want is good advice, what they need is good news.

This become clearer when we remember that the command that summarizes the law is, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength (Lk. 10:27). A person who does not belong to God, who has not surrendered his life to God cannot really obey this command. And this is because he is his own god. He thinks he is the center of the universe. So when he hears the command to love his wife, in the context of a terrible marriage, he can try all he wants, but instead of desiring God’s glory what he really wants is relief from his situation.

For the non-Christian who wants to follow God’s commands, in order to have a marriage like his neighbor’s he can never really do it. His motives are all turned around. He wants to do what is right for his own ends, not God’s ends. This being the case, God does not give he any power, comfort, or even real desire to do the command. This is what cognitive-behavior psychology is all about. And while it obviously helps some people temporarily, it can never lead them to Christ or salvation, or even permanent personal change.

Second, thinking Biblically is not cognitive-behaviorism because the words of God are not simply information to one of his children. The word of God is information, in a sense, but more importantly it is food. Jesus said, Man does not live on bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Mt. 4:4). What he is saying is that there is a kind of food that is good for the body, but there is also a kind of food that feeds the soul of man. This food is the word of God. When a Christian, who loves God and desires to serve him reads his Bible, he is not simply packing his brains with facts and religious information, he is eating. He is feasting at the table of God. In the same way that hamburgers nourish the body, the Word of God nourishes the man of God. The eyes see the words, the mind changes and the body reflects those changes. On one level it appears to be the information that does the changing, but information alone can never change the heart of man. Only God can change the heart of man and he does it by means of our interacting with the Bible (eating) as we read it and as it transforms our minds. Biblical information that goes into our heads and transforms our minds, then comes out our fingertips and we live the life we’ve studied.

The essential difference between cognitive-behavioral theory and God’s way is that one is done by works, the other by faith. One seeks to grind it out, the other relaxes and lets God do the actual transforming. One struggles and grunts, the other rests and trusts. The commands of God are not burdensome to the man of faith (1 Jn. 5:3), but they are impossible for the man who desires to do them on his own.

So here’s the deal: go back and read that beginning text again. Better, get your Bible out and read it there instead. Keep reading. Read in faith. Apply it in faith. As you read trust that God will be using the words to nourish your soul by changing your mind and then your behavior as well.

Quote of the Day

If this were all the Bible discloses about God, we would read in its pages of a holy God of impeccable justice. But what of love? The love of Allah is providential, which, as we saw in the first chapter, is one of the ways the Bible speaks of God. But here there is more: in eternity past, the Father loved the Son, and the Son loved the Father. There has always been an other-orientation to the love of God. All the manifestations of the love of God emerge out of this deeper, more fundamental reality: love is bound up in the very nature of God. God is love. [Carson, D. A., The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God (Crossway Books, 2000), pg. 39]

Verse of the Day

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For we all stumble in many ways, and if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.
James 3:1-12

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Quote of the Day

What we have, then, is a picture of God whose love, even in eternity past, even before the creation of anything is other oriented. This cannot be said (for instance) of Allah. Yet because the God of the Bible is one, this plurality-in-unity does not destroy his entirely appropriate self focus as God. As we shall see in the last chapter, because he is God, he is therefore rightly jealous. To concede he is something other than the center of all, and rightly to be worshiped and adored, would debase his very Godhood. He is the God who, entirely rightly, does not give his glory to another (Isa. 42:8). [Carson, D. A., The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God (Crossway Books, 2000), pg. 39]

Against Christianity

A very good exhortation to a very good book (Against Christianity) can be found here:

Verse of the Day

Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Matthew 5:1-12

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Some thoughts about Hippies

I used to think hippies were very cool. I grew up in the 60’s and though I was really too young to have been much of a hippie I thought their goals and lifestyle were very groovy, in general.

I liked the fact that they stood for less government intervention in people’s lives, never trusting anyone over 30, free drugs and sex, youth ruled, etc. I liked the way they lived, talked (“far out man”), carried themselves. The fact that a bunch of them could close down a whole college or town was somehow appealing. I did always wonder how a wild gang of students and young people could tell a bunch of grown up college administrators and police how to live. I wondered why the schools didn’t just flunk them and throw them out.

Now that I’m grown up I live around a bunch of folks who clearly used to be hippies. Actually, they never stopped being hippies, at least in appearance. They still wear tie died t-shirts and have long hair and straggly beards (I’m talking about the men). But there’s a difference. Now they are the government (John Kerry is a good example of this on the national stage). Instead of trying to get the government out of our lives, they are trying to get the government into every facet and aspect of life. I never hear about not trusting anyone over 30 anymore. What’s that about?

The thing I’ve realized in all of this is that the hippies never really cared about government at all. What they’ve always cared about is getting what they want, when they want it, because they are the center of their lives and want to be the center of everyone else’s life. You never hear about peace, love, marijuana anymore. Alright you do hear about marijuana, but it’s a function of government control not freedom from government like it was back in the day.

The Bible says that men are worshippers. It says we worship whatever rules us and we bow down to whatever our passions will allow. Hippies, like everyone as it turns out, have a certain agenda—they want to be in the place of God. And while in the old days it appeared that they cared about world peace, it was really just about their not going to Viet Nam, not for any reason other than that they didn’t want to get shot at themselves (which if that were all there was, isn’t a really a bad reason).

Ultimately it was never about being cool or smart or protective or wanting to be free of government. It has always been about who gets to be in charge? God, or others, or me? And because we are self centered, it is about me. I want what I want when I want it. And no one is going to stand in my way.

The hippies lied to us, to themselves and to the rest of the world. They were never really interested in the country, or the world, or peace, or the draft (or bras). What they have always been interested in is being in charge of their own lives and everyone around them. They are not givers, they are takers. They are not gracious because they have not received grace. They are just like the “establishment” they overthrew back in the 60’s. Instead of flat top haircuts, they are balding with long pony tails running down their backs, but otherwise nothing has changed. The hippies and hippy wannabes are now the establishment, man, and they need to be overthrown by another generation. But let’s not forget that there is a kingdom whose reign is glorious, does give, really does love, and does fill its citizens with joy. It is the kingdom of God whose ruler is Jesus Christ. Amen.

Think like Christ

See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. Colossians 2:8-10

It is interesting how tempting it is to take this passage and spend a lot of time thinking about what the phrases “philosophy” and “empty deceit” mean. Many of us spent many fruitful hours studying different philosophies in college and after. And most of us have known and been duped by the deceit of human traditions, but we don’t need to be rocket scientists to understand that the basic point of this passage is that thinking the way the world around us thinks will lock us up in a sort of prison. The world’s way of thinking will capture us and enslave us and drive us into Hell with its empty promises of life, joy, and happiness.

But Paul wants something better for us. We are to diligently study Christ because in him is all the fullness of deity and we have been filled with him. There is a passage in the Gospels where Jesus says the student becomes like his teacher (Lk. 6:40) and this is Paul’s desire for us. Study Christ in order to become like Christ. We have been filled with him, why do we constantly want to be like the world around us? Be like Christ.

Notice that in this passage, at least, this growth, this maturity begins in the way we think. Philosophy, deceit, traditions, elemental spirits of the world are all areas where people think. It is a battle carried on primarily in our minds. Consequently we are commanded to take our minds back and submit them to the mind of Christ. We are to study Christ so that we will learn to think like him and to so live out the life that has been poured into us. But we can’t do this unless we think like he does.

So the next time you see a flashy guys standing on the street corner wanting to sell you a fancy new watch, just walk on by. And when the guy is much more subtle, train yourself to recognize the subtle sin and avoid it. Don’t let the world around you, with its flash and glitter, capture you and make you its slave. It starts in your mind. Train yourself to think like Christ by spending time with him in his Word. Don’t let the world squeeze you into its mold. You have been filled by the one who is all the fullness of deity discipline yourself to think and thus live that way.

Quote of the Day

Because of the love of the Father for the Son, the Father has determined that all should honor the Son even as they honor the Father (John 5:23). Indeed, this love of the Father for the Son is what makes sense of John 3:16. True, “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son” – there the object of God’s love is the world. But the standard that tells us just how great that love is has already been set. What is its measure? God so loved the world that he gave his Son. Paul’s reasoning is similar: If God did not spare his Son, how shall he not also with him freely give us all things (Rom. 8:32)? The argument is cogent only because the relationship between the Father and the Son is the standard for all other love relationships. [Carson, D. A., The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God (Crossway Books, 2000), pg. 35]

Verse of the Day

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me- practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
Philippians 4:8-9

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Every Thought Captive

For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete. 2 Corinthians 10:3-6

We find this text in the midst of a discussion of Paul’s authority as an Apostle of Jesus Christ to tell the Corinthian church what to do with respect to godliness and Christian decorum. He is doing two things: first he is defending his right as an Apostle to act as an Apostle and second, he is begging the Corinthians to “get their act together” so that when he comes to them, they might have a nice gentle visit instead of Paul’s needing to jump down their throats because of their continued sinful behavior.

Paul has been accused of “walking according to the flesh” (v. 2). These enemies are saying that he wielding his authority as an Apostle in a way that is heavy handed and authoritarian. The claim is that Paul is behaving in the same way that a non-Christian might behave if he had the same power. But while Paul does live in the flesh, that is, he has a body made out of the same material that their bodies are made of, he does not wage war in the same way that they wage war. All the “natural” man can see is flesh. He cannot see that the universe does not operate according to the “laws” of the flesh, but according to the hand and delight of the sovereign God. And so when Paul’s enemies see powerful results coming from the ministry of Paul, they assume that he is working his “magic” in the same way they would be if they were to produce those same results.

But Paul is not waging war according to the flesh. His weapons have nothing to do with the power of man, they have everything to do with the power of eternal God. Guns and bombs cannot destroy arguments or lofty opinions. Only the Grace of God by the power of the Gospel through the preaching of the word can destroy the things that have aligned themselves against the kingdom of God. This happens as each person has their thoughts and ideas released from the power of the flesh and brought into conformity with the mind of God—when every thought is made captive to Christ.

Paul is not only explaining how the Kingdom of God goes forth, but he is also teaching that because the Corinthians are citizens of God’s kingdom they need to submit their thoughts and consequently their behaviors to the authority of God. They need to make their thoughts captive to Christ so that they will act toward one another in a way that brings glory to God. And we are like them.

Do you have thoughts that seem to run off in sinful directions? Do you after every woman prancing down the street of across your TV screen? Are you drawn to men who make you laugh, or who lavish praise on you, or who naturally make you feel more secure than your husband does? Do you have trouble concentrating on the things of God when temptations abound? Do you worry about tomorrow? Do you stress over the simple things of life? Do perverse thoughts pop into your mind when you least expect them?

If this describes you, your thoughts are not “all held captive to obey Christ.” But what is to be done? Paul tells the Corinthians that thoughts become captive when the weapons of God are brought to bear against the fleshly weapons of the world. God’s weapons are the Gospel and faith. The Gospel is the news that God has overcome the world in Christ. The knowledge of the Gospel tells us of the wonderful acts of God on our behalf in history. But the news is not just information, as we believe the Gospel, God works in our hearts to transform us and make us more and more like Jesus—and we all know that Jesus had every thought captive to serve the Father.

The problem for most of us is that we don’t understand what ‘faith’ and ‘believe’ mean. They both translate the same Greek word--pistos. We can throw the word ‘trust’ in there as well. What we are saying when we say, “believe the Gospel” is “trust in the Gospel” or “put your faith in the Gospel.” They use the same Greek word and we simply translate it ‘faith,’ ‘trust,’ or ‘believe’ depending on the context.

So the way it works is this: you hear the Good News about Christ and what he’s done for you in history; you learn about the love God has lavished on you, you begin to understand the depth of your depravity and the glory of God’s forgiveness poured out on your behalf; and as God works the truth of all of this on your heart and mind, you put your trust in him, you believe on him, you put your faith in him. All of these words imply that you don’t simply acknowledge that God’s acts in history are true. By the nature of what the Gospel announces, not doing something or becoming something is not really an option. God requires certain behaviors of those who belong to him and faith produces those behaviors. Sitting in a chair requires faith. If you say I really need to sit down and I trust that that chair over there will hold me, but you continue to stand, you show that you really don’t believe that that chair will hold you up. There are certain kinds of situations where believing a thing requires action in accord with that stated faith. Just so, if you trust in God, you will do what he says. This is how obedience works with faith (cf. Jas. 2:14-26).

People often think that God is concerned with what you do as opposed to what we think. But as you come to know God more and more you begin to realize that he is in charge of your thought life as well as your life in the world. Everyone knows that you don’t get to flirt with guys who smile at you, but you also don’t get to flirt with them in your mind either. You don’t get to steal your neighbor’s car and you don’t get to envy them or covet their car in your mind either. What goes on in your mind is just as important to God as what you do with your body. You are not God in your mind any more than you are God in the world.

Taking thoughts captive is the Apostle’s goal. He accomplishes his goal by preaching the Gospel in all its Biblical glory. Your response to that Good News is to believe it and lay your thought life at the feet of God. This is done by faith. You are trusting that God knows what he is doing when he commands you to stop thinking the way you have been thinking for the past 20 years and start thinking in new ways. This has nothing to do with emptying your mind (if that were really possible). It has everything to do with making God’s thoughts your thoughts (Psa. 139:17). You study the Bible to find out what God things about everything in his creation and then you imitate him and think the same way about those same things. In the same way you make your body a captive of Christ, so too make your every thought captive of Christ for the glory of God the Father.

Quote of the Day

The next verse (5:20) tells us why it is that the Son does everything the Father does. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does, we are told (5:19b), for (gar, 5:20) the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Here the preindustrial m odel of the agrarian village or the craftsman’s shop is presupposed, with a father carefully showing his son all that he does so that the family tradition is preserved…because he loves [the son]…Jesus is so uniquely and unqualifiedly the Son of God that the Father shows him all he does, out of sheer love for him, and the Son, however dependent on his Father, does everything the father does. [Carson, D. A., The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God (Crossway Books, 2000), pg. 34]

Verse of the Day

But you, O GOD my Lord, deal on my behalf for your name's sake; because your steadfast love is good, deliver me! For I am poor and needy, and my heart is stricken within me. I am gone like a shadow at evening; I am shaken off like a locust. My knees are weak through fasting; my body has become gaunt, with no fat. I am an object of scorn to my accusers; when they see me, they wag their heads. Help me, O LORD my God! Save me according to your steadfast love! Let them know that this is your hand; you, O LORD, have done it! Let them curse, but you will bless! They arise and are put to shame, but your servant will be glad! May my accusers be clothed with dishonor; may they be wrapped in their own shame as in a cloak! With my mouth I will give great thanks to the LORD; I will praise him in the midst of the throng. For he stands at the right hand of the needy, to save him from those who condemn his soul to death.
Psalm 109:21-31

Monday, September 18, 2006

Verse of the Day

Be not silent, O God of my praise! For wicked and deceitful mouths are opened against me, speaking against me with lying tongues. They encircle me with words of hate, and attack me without cause. In return for my love they accuse me, but I give myself to prayer. So they reward me evil for good, and hatred for my love. Appoint a wicked man against him; let an accuser stand at his right hand. When he is tried, let him come forth guilty; let his prayer be counted as sin! May his days be few; may another take his office! May his children be fatherless and his wife a widow! May his children wander about and beg, seeking food far from the ruins they inhabit! May the creditor seize all that he has; may strangers plunder the fruits of his toil! Let there be none to extend kindness to him, nor any to pity his fatherless children! May his posterity be cut off; may his name be blotted out in the second generation! May the iniquity of his fathers be remembered before the LORD, and let not the sin of his mother be blotted out! Let them be before the LORD continually, that he may cut off the memory of them from the earth! For he did not remember to show kindness, but pursued the poor and needy and the brokenhearted, to put them to death. He loved to curse; let curses come upon him! He did not delight in blessing; may it be far from him! He clothed himself with cursing as his coat; may it soak into his body like water, like oil into his bones! May it be like a garment that he wraps around him, like a belt that he puts on every day! May this be the reward of my accusers from the LORD, of those who speak evil against my life!
Psalm 109:1-20

Quote of the Day

Jesus denies that he is setting himself over against God as an alternative to God. Far from it: he is entirely dependent on the Father and subordinate to him—yet it turns out to be an astonishing subordination. On the one hand: “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can only do what he sees his Father doing” (5:19). Thus he never threatens the Father with competition as a divine alternative. On the other hand, he can do only what he sees his Father doing, “because whatever the Father does the Son also does” (5:19b). Here is a claim to deity slipped through the back door. [Carson, D. A., The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God (Crossway Books, 2000), pg. 33]

Friday, September 08, 2006

Verse of the Day

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For we all stumble in many ways, and if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
James 3:1-8

Quote of the Day

[Referring to John 5:17] “Sonship” is very often a functional category in the Bible. Because the overwhelming majority of sons ended up vocationally doing what their fathers did, “like father, like son” was the cultural assumption. Jesus assumes as much in the Beatitudes: “Blessed are th peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God” (Matt. 5:9). The idea is that God is the supreme Peacemaker, and so every peacemaker is in that respect like God, and to that extent God’s “son.” …So when Jesus claims that his “father” is “always at his work to this very day,” he is implicitly claiming to be God’s Son, with the right to follow the pattern of work that God himself sets in this regard.
[Carson, D. A., The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God (Crossway Books, 2000), pg. 31, 32]

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Verse of the Day

I will extol the LORD at all times; his praise will always be on my lips. My soul will boast in the LORD; let the afflicted hear and rejoice. Glorify the LORD with me; let us exalt his name together. I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.
Psalm 34:1-4

The Goal of the Worship Service

Dear Pastor Lawyer,

I’ve been reading your BLOG for several months now and I can’t figure out why anyone would want to come to your church. Do you have any suggestions?

Concerned Friend

Dear Concerned,

I would say people come to our church because we view the worship service on Sundays as a time when the body of Christ gathers together and worships God. We don’t have a snazzy band that plays loud and “relevant” music or work to entertain people. Our goal is to please God. This means we sing Psalms and hymns (old hymns) appropriate to being in the presence of the most high. Besides this, we have these really long times during our services where people praise God by reading scripture and prayer. Nothing is done “off the cuff”. We believe God is a God of order and he hates chaos. Most people, who are looking to be entertained, would be bored out of their minds in our services. On the other hand, we love God and we stand in his presence on Sunday morning.

We don’t have a peppy youth group where the kids can play paint ball and have dances and go to swell “missionary trips”. We do have youth, but they enjoy learning about God and how to grow up to be strong, godly s. We also don’t have a hip youth pastor with an earring and wild hair (so he can relate to the kids). The parents in our church lead their children in their spiritual lives. In addition, we put a premium on leading the kids by our hands on approach to leading by example. This means that during our worship service the kids sit with their families. The kids who visit sit with someone they know and their family.

You may think that I am pretty proud of what we’re building here, but you’d be wrong. I’m simply trying with all of my might to do what is pleasing to God. At Christ Church we believe that we need to do what God desires rather than what people want. We aren’t concerned with church growth of the kind where we have thousands of mindless audience members, we want to grow as Christians and non-Christians begin to realize that we are not here to be blessed by God but instead to bless God.

In short, the worship service, in fact all of life, is about God, who he is, what he desires from us, his glory, majesty, and fame. He is God and we are not.

I hope this helps,

Pastor Lawyer

Quote of the Day

If the love of God is exclusively portrayed as an inviting, yearning, sinner-seeking, rather lovesick passion, we may strengthen the hands of the Arminians, semi-Pelagians, Pelagians, and those more interested in God’s inner emotional life than in his justice and glory, but the cost will be massive. There is some truth in this picture of God, as we shall see, some glorious truth. Made absolute, however, it not only treats complementary texts as if they were not there, but it teals God’s sovereignty from him and sour security from us. It espouses a theology of grace rather different from Paul’s theology of grace, and at its worst ends up with a God so insipid he can neither intervene to save us nor deploy his chastening rod against us. His love is too “unconditional” for that. This is a world far removed from the pages of Scripture.

[Carson, D. A., The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God (Crossway Books, 2000), pg. 22

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Verse of the Day

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.
Titus 2:11-14

Procrastination and Time Management

Hi Mr. Lawyer,

I came across your blog and was wondering if I could ask you a pastoral question. I am struggling with time management, procrastination, etc.

My question for you is if you know of any aid (i.e., planning software) that might help me to live a more disciplined and goal-oriented life. I would like to know how to plan my days, and weeks with biblical goals in mind etc. Do you know of anything practical that would help me do this (i.e., Covey planning software).

Many blessings in Christ,
Bob Smith

Hi Bob,

Procrastination and time management can be pretty frustrating, especially if it is leading you to sin. I do a number of different things to arrange my days. Over the years I've noticed that the busier I am the more I get done. Coinciding with this is that sometimes I can't get things done unless there is a certain level of pressure or stress involved. With this in mind I try to be as busy as I can be. I make a lot of lists and try to arrange them so that I do the least desired one first. This way the pressure is high, because of the huge pile of stuff I have to do, and I get the ugly task finished early in the day.

Another thing I do with my lists is to put the most enjoyable tasks to the end of the work day. I've found over the years that the last thing I do before I go home often taints or colors how the whole day appears to have gone. If I have a nasty counseling appointment at the end of the day, my evening is not as nice as when I have a cheerful counseling appointment. This order helps me look forward to the upcoming events.

It is good, in all of this, to remember that God is sovereign and he has you where he wants you for a reason. He has also commanded you to love him and serve him with all your mind, which means that you must work hard, and be diligent with the time he's given you to work and study and to live before him.

I don't know of any Christian time management software. I use the organizing stuff in Microsoft Outlook to organize my schedule. I use a program called Stickies ( to make lists of things to do and people to pray for (It's free and very helpful).

One thing I've done that has helped me be more busy is to go back to school. It is a subject that will help me in my job, so I can do it at work as I work (DMin at Westminster Theological Seminary).

I hope this helps,

Pastor Lawyer