Friday, October 27, 2006

Part 5: Conclusion

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

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

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

Christ's Death had a Definite Result

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

Commended for their Faith

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

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Part 4: Woodenness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here Is Love Vast As The Ocean

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

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

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

Patiently Wait for the Lord

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

Monday, October 23, 2006

Part 3: Coming Home

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

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

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

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

Wrath and Love at the Same Time

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

Love is the Fulfilling of the Law

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

Friday, October 20, 2006

Part 2: Leaving Home

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

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

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

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

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

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

God Hates Sinners

Fourteen times in the first fifty psalms alone, we are told that God hates the sinner, his wrath is on the liar, and so forth. In the Bible, the wrath of God rests both on the sin (Rom. 1:18ff.) and on the sinner (John 3:36).
[Carson, D. A., The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God (Crossway Books, 2000), pg. 69].

Change Your Mind

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For the same reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing.
Romans 13:1-6

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Part 1: For those who travel

Over the years I have noticed that when husbands and fathers leave home for extended periods of time (military personnel, truck drivers, long distance commuters, etc.) it puts quite a strain on the marriage and family. This is usually because of the loss the family suffers when someone is missing. However, the strain increases in intensity when the wife must jump in and fill his roles in the family. She must be the mother and the father while her husband is gone.

The stress mushrooms further when he suddenly returns. Bob is home, but Karen has been doing his jobs for a while and has gotten used to filling his shoes. Things have finally settled into a routine, and here comes Bob expecting to fit back into the home in just the same way as before he left. Sometimes she wants to give the duties back, but sometimes she does not. Moreover, most men do not know how to take back their role, and so often times they simply drop out of sight and never take back any of their roles, especially if they are simply going to be departing again soon.

When I was in the Navy, oh so many years ago, we had a ceremony called the changing of the guard (or watch). Usually, this changing of the guard involved simply telling the fellow who was relieving me, our depth, speed, direction, plans for the near future (coming to periscope depth at 0400) and regular events (taking soundings every hour, etc.). Nonetheless, this was not a totally informal operation. When I was getting off watch, I had to sign a logbook recording the fact that I had officially handed the watch over to my replacement. Then he had to sign the same logbook, acknowledging that he had formally taken over the watch. We did this every time a new person came on watch so that the new man knew and understood what he was getting into when he stood the watch.

You’re probably wondering what husbands going on trips and change of watches have to do with one another. There are a couple of relevant similarities: first, in both cases, someone is leaving and is leaving his responsibilities to another that may or may not know what is going on. Second, both should involve an official handing over of those responsibilities from the one leaving to the one staying. Imagine what would happen in a nuclear powered submarine if the fellow doing the navigation just wandered off when the new man came on watch. Yet, that is often what occurs the home when the husband goes on a trip. He just wanders off, under the assumption that his wife will pick up where he left off. He assumes this while giving her little or no instruction or information at all. A husband and wife should have a change of the guard ceremony when he departs on a trip and then upon his return home. This is how it ought to be done:

Wrath: A function of Holiness

Wrath, like love, includes emotion as a necessary component. Here again, if impassibility is defined in terms of the complete absence of all “passions,” not only will you fly in the face of the biblical evidence, but you will tumble into fresh errors that touch the very holiness of God. The reason is that in itself, wrath, unlike love, is not one of the intrinsic perfections of God. Rather, it is a function of God’s holiness against sin. Where there is no sin, there is no wrath—but there will always be love in God. Where God in his holiness confronts his image-bearers in their rebellion, there must be wrath, or God is not the jealous God he claims to be, and his holiness is impugned. The price of diluting God’s wrath is diminishing God’s holiness.
[Carson, D. A., The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God (Crossway Books, 2000), pg. 67].

Overcome Evil with Good

Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be conceited. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." To the contrary, "if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Romans 12:16-21

Monday, October 16, 2006

Here is Love

There are thus two critical points. First, God exercises this love in conjunction with all his other perfections, but his love is no less love for all that. Second, his love emanates from his own character; it is not dependent on the loveliness of the loved, external to himself…Because we have been transformed by the Gospel, our love is to be self-originating, not elicited by the loveliness of the loved. For that is the way it is with God…And this, brothers and sisters, we have learned from God as he has disclosed himself in his Son; for “we love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). Here is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and gave his Son to be the propitiation for our sins (1 John 4:10).
[Carson, D. A., The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God (Crossway Books, 2000), pg. 63, 64].

Genuine Love

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another.
Romans 12:9-16a

Friday, October 13, 2006

God does not Fall in Love

This approach to these matters accounts well for certain biblical truths of immense practical importance. God does not “fall in love” with the elect; he does not “fall in love” with us; he sets his affection on us. He does not predestine us out of some stern whimsy; rather, in love he predestines us to be adopted as his sons (Eph. 1:4-5). The texts themselves tie the love of God to other perfections in God [Carson, D. A., The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God (Crossway Books, 2000), pg. 61].

He Who Has Ears

Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, "Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?" And Jesus answered them, "Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me." As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: "What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who wear soft clothing are in kings' houses. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is he of whom it is written, "' Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before you.' Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John, and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.
Matthew 11:2-15

Thursday, October 12, 2006


The modern therapeutic God may be superficially attractive because he appeals to our emotions, but the cost will soon be high. Implicitly we start thinking of a finite God. God himself is gradually diminished and reduced from what he actually is. And that is idolatry [Carson, D. A., The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God (Crossway Books, 2000), pg. 60].

Do Not Harden Your Heart

Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness, where your fathers put me to the test and saw my works for forty years. Therefore I was provoked with that generation, and said, 'They always go astray in their heart; they have not known my ways.' As I swore in my wrath, 'They shall not enter my rest.'" Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called "today," that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.
Hebrews 3:7-14

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Compatiblism 3

A moment’s reflection discloses that any other account of what happened would destroy biblical Christianity. If we picture the crucifixion of Jesus Christ solely in terms of the conspiracy of the local political authorities at the time, and not in terms of God’s plan,…then the entailments is that the cross was an accident of history.…On the other hand, if someone were to stress God’s sovereignty in Jesus’ death, exulting that all the participants “did what [God’s] power and will had decided beforehand should happen” (4:28), while forgetting that it was a wicked conspiracy, then Herod and Pilate and Judas Iscariot and the rest are exonerated of evil. If God’s sovereignty means that all under it are immune from charges of transgression, then all are immune. In that case there is no sin for which atonement is necessary. So why the cross? Either way, the cross is destroyed.

In short, compatibilism is a necessary component to any mature and orthodox view of God and the world. [Carson, D. A., The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God (Crossway Books, 2000), pg. 53, 54].

Verse of the Day

But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one origin. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers,…
Hebrews 2:9-11

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Wives Respect Your Husbands

Dear Pastor Lawyer,

During a discussion with some of my friends, the comment was made that we are supposed to “respect” our husbands. Someone pointed out that the Bible told us that that was the way we are to be treating them. The problem is that none of us knows what the word ‘respect’ means. Could you help us here? Thanks,


Dear Cindy,

Your friend is right. The Bible does command women to respect their husbands (cf. Ephesians 5:33). Let me see if I can help to define the word in a way that will help you obey the command. First, let me point out that when the Bible gives a command, it is generally because the person or people receiving the command need to hear it. In other words, the command is given to us in areas where we don’t naturally comply. If we did, we wouldn’t need the command. This may be one reason why you are having trouble defining and then acting on the command to ‘respect' your husband.

Second, love and respect are two different things. Women are generally good at loving their husbands. He might be a lout and a terrible person, but she will love him; and even if he is beating her, the wife will often stay by his side. On the other hand, men are good at respecting, but not at loving. Hence the command to them is to love their wives.

When we look up the word ‘respect’ in a dictionary and/or thesaurus we find the following: “To feel or show deferential regard for; esteem approval and honor for the qualities of a person or thing, admiration, thoughtful concern about the importance of, show courtesy towards, compliment (not flattery); give attention, deference, reverence, honor, esteem, veneration, admiration; look up to, defer to; have a high opinion of, hold a high opinion of.” When you think about it, these are all things you would do with a head of state, or a boss, or anyone you “respected” or held in “high esteem”.

Now let’s look at it in relation to the command of God to wives. The wife who obeys the command will think and act toward her husband with the above definitions in mind. Most women treat their husbands with respect when they are first married. It is only as time passes and his warts began to show that she slowly loses respect for him and begins to treat him in a less than honorable manner. But this shows that the respect had more to do with her opinion of him than it did with God or God’s commands.

If your respect for your husband has waned, you need to know that the commands of God are not to respect your husband because of anything in your husband that is necessarily respectable, but because God who is worthy of respect and adoration commands it. In other words, wives should respect their husbands in the way that God prescribes because God has prescribed it. It is out of respect for God that wives are to respect their husbands. This works wonderfully if your husband is respectable or if he responds well to being respected (which he will), but even if your husband is a bum, your respect for God requires that you respect your husband. And because God is a God of grace and peace, even if your husband is not respectable, it will work wonderfully in the end.

In closing, let me give you a short list of things you can do to show respect for your husband. Always build him up and compliment him for the things he does well, both in private and in public. Never cut him down, in public or in private. Never argue with him (especially in front of the children). Never correct him in a condescending manner (you can bring the subject up later and ask him about it, but don’t tell him he’s wrong or stupid). Never do or say anything that would bring shame to his heart (cf. Prov. 12.4). Let your words be light and full of honor, deference, and courtesy. Treat your husband as the head of the home (where God has placed him) and let him lead (If he is abdicating his leadership, do not fill the void.). Submit to him and defer to him. Look up to him. Instead of putting love notes in his lunch, write him an occasional respect letter and include all the things you appreciate about him.

I hope this helps,

Pastor Lawyer

Compatiblism 2

Perhaps the most striking instance of compatibilism occurs in Acts 4:23-29. The church has suffered its first whiff of persecution. Peter and john report what has happened. The church prays to God in the language of Psalm 2. Their prayer continues (4:27-28): “Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. They did what your power and will had decided beforehand would happen.” Note carefully: On the one hand, there was a terrible conspiracy that swept along Herod, Pilate, Gentile authorities, and Jewish leaders. It was a conspiracy, and they should be held accountable. On the other hand, they did what God’s power and will had decided beforehand would happen [Carson, D. A., The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God (Crossway Books, 2000), pg. 53].

Verse of the Day

Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?
Hebrews 2:1-3a

Monday, October 09, 2006

Inheriting the Kingdom of God

Dear Pastor Lawyer,

As I was reading my Bible the other day, I came across this passage: "Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor erers, nor effeminate, nor homo-sexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God." (1 Corinthians 6:9, 10) I know some people who come to our church who fit into some of these categories and I can't believe that the loving God that I serve would keep them out of the Kingdom because they live in ways that he created them to be. What do you think?


Dear Unconvinced,

Many people join you in your response to this passage. To begin with let me ask you this: Are you upset that all of the categories are on the list, or are you just upset that one or two are on it? Most people think some of the characteristics on the list ought to be on it, but that the ones they are participating in, or those that close friends are experiencing, should be kept off the list. This is because most of us think we are in some sense special and should be allowed to do what we want to do. At the same time we understand why other people's deviant behaviors should be denied. People tend to think their own sin is too important for God to think badly of, but other people's sin is too terrible to enter the Kingdom of God.

The problem, however, isn't with the list. It's with our understanding of our place in creation. We think we are the center of the universe and God ought to cow down to us or hit the road. We aren't upset when he lets us have our way, but as soon as he stands for righteousness, or justice, or holiness, or purity - look out! "Who does he think he is, anyway?" we ask. Well, he thinks he's God and he thinks we're not.

When you break the list down, you see that each one of the behaviors on the list is exactly opposite of some fundamental aspect of our humanity. Several of these things affect our human uality (fornication, ery, effeminateness, and homosexuality), created by God to operate in a particular manner both for our health and wellbeing and for our correct relationship to and with God. Many of the others affect how we trust in God for our sustenance and love him with our whole hearts and minds and strength (idolatry, covetousness, drunkenness, swindling, reviling, and stealing).

You mentioned that God created us this way. In a way, you're right. God did create us sinners. We sin because we are like our head, Adam. But God also commanded us not to participate in the behaviors on this list (and a few others, by the way). He said that if we do, we will suffer his wrath and will be cursed with eternal Hell. On the other hand, he says that if we want help with our stealing problem (or whatever) we can call out to him and he will help us. It will be on his terms of course, he is still God, but he will come to us if we seek him with all our heart. So, we are created sinners, but we've been commanded not to sin. We are held responsible for our sin and accountable. We are guilty of sin, even though we are all born that way. But there is a solution to the dilemma. We can cry out to God from the depths of our misery and ask him for relief and forgiveness. He will hear and he will heal. But we must remember that he is God and we are not.

I hope that helps,

Pastor Lawyer

Compatibilism 1

In the realm of philosophical theology, this position is sometimes called compatibilism. It simply means that God’s unconditioned sovereignty and the responsibility of human beings are mutually compatible…A moment’s reflection discloses that any other account of what happened would destroy biblical Christianity…In short, compatibilism is a necessary component to any mature and orthodox view of god and the world [Carson, D. A., The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God (Crossway Books, 2000), pg. 52, 53, 54].

Verse of the Day

You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.
Hebrews 1:9

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Giving in the New Testament

Dear Pastor Lawyer,

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


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, and they did it cheerfully. I hope this helps.

Pastor Lawyer

Verse of the Day

For thus saith the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel; In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength: and ye would not.
Isaiah 30:15

Verse of the Day

God is utterly sovereign (he is both omnipotent and omniscient), and he is transcendent (in himself he exists above time and space, i.e., above the created order with its intrinsic limitations). God is omnipotent; i.e., he is able to do anything he wishes to do. Nothing is too hard for him (Jer. 32:17); he is the Almighty (2Cor. 6:18; Rev. 1:8). Jesus insists that with God all things are possible (Matt. 19:26). His sovereignty extends over the mighty movements of the stars in their courses, over the fall of a sparrow, over the exact count of the hairs of my head. If you throw a pair of dice, what numbers come up lies in the determination of God (Prov. 16:3). [Carson, D. A., The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God (Crossway Books, 2000), pg. 49].

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Counseling on Counseling

Dear Pastor Lawyer,

Mr. and Mrs. X have been married a long time, but are only just now learning the mechanics of reconciliation: honest confession, restitution, forgiveness and peace. Before their conflict management style was avoidance until things cooled down, and pretending the conflict or sin never happened, without ever confessing it and seeking forgiveness. They are making progress, but undergo times of serious, major, derailment.

Mr. X has been a colossal abdicator for decades, but is seriously repenting over the past two months. Mrs. X is prone to fantastic Vesuvian displays of anger—where any attempt on Mr. X’s part to talk it through, confess sin, deal gently is met with only greater anger. During these times—sometimes as long as a week at a crack—Mrs. X threatens to leave, calls Mr. X untold hurtful names, and is impossible to be near. Mrs. X, almost in a Dr. Jekyl/Mr. Hyde sense, does untold damage when she is angry. Also, any attempt on Mr. X’s part to confront on sin usually is met with defensiveness, and the potential of another Vesuvius.

Inevitably, after a while she cools down, and sincerely asks for forgiveness—and it is readily granted. However, there are a lot of (metaphorically speaking) broken dishes, furniture, and other damage. Besides asking for forgiveness, what are some of the means that Mrs. X can make restitution to heal and fix what she has broken? I am thinking she needs to see the damage she is wreaking around her—but besides confession and forgiveness, how do you make restitution in this circumstance? What can she do to make it right?

Thanks in advance, Pastor Smith

Hi Smithy,

I have a few suggestions that might help your situation. It sounds like Mrs. X is really interested in “fixing” the situation with her husband. However, she might be afraid of what trusting her husband would mean for their relationship and for her as a person. She is probably used to things the way they are and is afraid to let things change. It is difficult not knowing how things on the other side of change will look after the dust settles. Change is hard. What she needs is to know God and how he has fulfilled his promises to his people for millennium. She needs to know that because she is a child of God, God will uphold her as well. Faith is trust in a faithful God and so Mrs. X needs to see God’s faithfulness to his people over time. I suggest taking her to (could be homework) many passages where she can see God acting in other people’s similar situations and let her identify with those folks (that cloud of witnesses thing).

Further along this line of thinking is to take them both to passages that show how great God's forgiveness of their sin has been. They need to see that "he who has been forgiven much loves much." And they need to know the story in Matthew 18, about the servant who is thrown into jail for not forgiving his brother, in their bones. They also need to see and understand passages that talk about the ramifications of sin. How does sin affect those we love who live around us? They also need to understand God's grace and what Grace means. They might do some homework thinking about Titus 2:11, 12 and how grace teaches us to say no to ungodliness and to live upright and holy lives.

Another tack you might think about is to observe Mr. and Mrs. X interact together about a specific problem. It might be that Mr. X isn’t being all that sensitive when he confronts his wife and is actually pushing all Mrs. X’s fear buttons. You might need to coach them in how to talk about sin, to confess, and what repentance means.

Third, and this one could come at any time, ask them both what they are trying to accomplish by their behavior. Ask them if it is working. Show them that it obviously isn’t and give them ideas about how they can change their behavior in faith that God will work in their relationship to change them into Christ’s likeness.

You might give them homework that involves them describing (journaling) an event of outbursts, ask them to tell what they wanted to accomplish by their behavior at every step in event and why, ask them what the actual outcome was, and help them think through ways they might act differently in the future to produce a Biblical outcome.

Finally, it sounds like Mr. X is not in the position to be a strong arm quit yet. It is important that he stop abdicating his responsibilities in the family, but he probably should not start with being the spiritual Gestapo. That is the easiest and most obvious responsibility he has abdicated, but it is also one that needs tenderness and compassion, both attributes he probably needs some practice in in other venues of their marriage. He does need to love his wife, but he needs to do it in ways that build her confidence in his love for her. She probably needs to know that he isn’t going to leave her (check to see what her fears are about) or that he is going to be the man of God he is trying to be. He needs to pour on the romance, and servant hood in a bunch of other ways before he begins to play the heavy when she is upset. He might need to stand up to her, but he might also need to wait for a while on that front until she trusts him to be gentle with her.

One last thing, I guess that last one wasn’t final after all. It might be helpful for the X’s to examine why they react and interact the way they do. Sometimes it helps folks to know that instead of being Biblical they are imitating their parents, or friends, or someone else. It could also be that their reactions, which imitate others, is clashing with their expectations of one another and these expectations might also be based on things in their past. For example sometimes men expect to act as husbands like their father acted. And the wife is expecting her husband to act like her father. So when the husband acts like his father and not like her father, things get sideways. Sometimes it helps in the whole process to know that they both have to leave the past and the world in order to follow Christ and to act like him. And it is important to remember that change is hard and scary and takes a lot of patience and forgiveness.

I hope this helps,

Pastor Lawyer

Quote of the Day

The high point in the demonstration of God’s love is his sending of his Son as the “atoning sacrifice” for our sins. “Dear friends,” John concludes, “since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (4:11). Do you see the point? Whatever the distinctive elements in the love of God, the same word is used for God’s love and the Christian’s love, and God’s love is both the and the incentive of our love. Doubtless God’s love is immeasurably richer than ours, in ways still to be explored, but they belong to the same genus, or the parallelisms could not be drawn. [Carson, D. A., The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God (Crossway Books, 2000), pg. 48].

Verse of the Day

This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you—If anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. For an overseer, as God's steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.
Titus 1:5-9

Monday, October 02, 2006

Quote of the Day

God’s people are no longer slaves. At this point in redemptive history, the fullness of God’s revelation has come to us in the Son who was perfectly obedient and thereby perfectly disclosed God. We are no longer slaves (a redemptive-historical marker), but friends. And what has brought this change about is that in the fullness of time God sent his Son into the world, and the Son obeyed; that the Father in love for the Son determined that all should honor the Son even as they honor the Father; and Father and Son, in perfect harmony of plan and vision, at the time God ordained, played out their roles—the Father sending, commissioning, “showing,” and the Son coming, revealing, disclosing what had been “shown” him, and in obedience going to the cross. And we the heirs of the new covenant are unfathomably privileged to be let in on this stupendous plan. We are the friends of God. [Carson, D. A., The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God (Crossway Books, 2000), pg. 42].

Verse of the Day

And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, "You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die"… Then the LORD God said, "Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever-" therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken.

Genesis 2:16-17, 22-23