Thursday, November 30, 2006

Some Results of Sin

Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has strife? Who has complaining? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? Those who tarry long over wine; those who go to try mixed wine. Do not look at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup and goes down smoothly. In the end it bites like a serpent and stings like an adder. Your eyes will see strange things, and your heart utter perverse things. You will be like one who lies down in the midst of the sea, like one who lies on the top of a mast. "They struck me," you will say, "but I was not hurt; they beat me, but I did not feel it. When shall I awake? I must have another drink." Proverbs 23:29-35

Alcoholism is Drunkenness is Idolatry

When you look at it closely, drunkenness is a lordship problem. Who is your master, God or your desires? Do you desire God above all else, or do you desire something in creation more than you desire the Creator? At root, drunkards are worshipping another god—alcohol. Drunkenness violates the command “You shall have no other gods before me.” Heavy drinkers love alcohol. They are controlled by it as if they were its subjects and it was their ruler-lover. This alcohol-worship, however, is actually a form of self-worship. We worship people and things to get what we want. Those who worship money do so in order to get what they want. Heavy drinkers think neither to glorify God nor to love their neighbor. They drink to indulge their own desires, whether those desires are pleasure, freedom from pain, alleviation of fear, forgetting, vengeance, or a host of others.
[Welch, Edward T., Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave (Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 2001), pg. 23,24]

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Canon of Scripture: How we got the Bible

The first thing we learn when we read the Book of God is that he is. The first thing we learn about him is that he created everything that is or ever will be. The second thing we learn is that he speaks. God speaks things into existence, he reveals himself as he speaks through his creation and through his people, Jesus is spoken one (the word of God). As one reads the Bible he sees that God is the primary communicator and he does it by means of the spoken word through is prophets and through his apostles and through his son the Lord Jesus. When we read carefully we see that men are communicators because they are like God who is the communicator. It is part of man having been created in the image of God.

We know that the Bible is the Word of God primarily because it says it is and assumes that it is. A simple examination of the various books of the Bible will show this to be true. But it is not the kind of revelation that we modern folks might expect. Is not full of tight syllogistic logic. Instead the bible is a set of books that talk about God and the things God expects of his people usually in the style of a story. So it is a collection of stories tied together saying the same thing, building on one another to reveal God, his character, and his redemptive purposes in history. This primary claim shows itself on virtually every page and in every situation. It says something like God is, man was created by God (along with everything else), man rebels, man is judged, man repents, God forgives, man is restored, man rejoices, God is glorified in all things.

There are a couple of places in the Biblical account where God anticipates the question, “How can we know if a man coming and saying he is bringing a message from the Lord is really a true prophet?” and he says that if the one claiming to be from God tries to lead the people of God after another god, he is a false prophet (Deut. 13:1-5). This is because if he is trying to lead the people after other gods, he cannot have been sent by the true God. God is a jealous God and will not share is glory with another. This false prophet is just that a false prophet and should be dealt with accordingly.

In another place when the issue of a false prophet comes up it is in the context of how can the people know if someone is claiming to be leading the people toward God, claiming to be a prophet, but is actually a false prophet speaking out of turn or in an immature way. God says in Deuteronomy 18:21 that if the one claiming to speak for God says something will happen that does not happen, or if he says something that is simply not true, he is a false prophet and should not be listened to. The context here is important because in it God is commanding the people to take great care to listen to and obey the commands of the prophets of God because they are speaking the words of God. This is why being able to distinguish true prophets from false prophets is so important and why the penalty for impersonating a prophet is such a serious breach.

In the Old Testament we have a record of God’s actions through the prophets, but God has also spoken to the world through the nation of Israel as God’s representatives in the world. In other words, it is not just the prophets who revealed God’s wisdom and Grace to the world, but also the life of the nation of Israel itself. This is why we take the historical books as canonical as well as the prophetic and wisdom books. God spoke through the prophets and through the nation and recorded it in the Book.

In the Old Testament, through the prophets and nation God revealed that he himself would one day be a man, a man who would die for his people in a sacrificial way and would rise from the dead. This person was Jesus of Nazareth. When Jesus was in his earthly ministry he chose 12 men to represent him in the earth after he ascended to the father. The men, apostles were to lead the church into all the world making them into disciples and teaching them everything Jesus had taught them about the Kingdom of God, based on what the Older testament had taught.

The New Testament is this apostolic teaching personified, again, in a book. The apostles taught went from Jerusalem, into Judea, and then into all the world teaching about Jesus and God’s salvation. They wrote preached, taught, wrote historic accounts, wrote letters and even prophet books. What we have in the New Testament is the teaching about Jesus after his coming whereas in the Old Testament we have the teaching about Jesus before his coming. Again, the book is full of the teachings of the people of God from the perspective of both apostles and church (whereas in the Old Testament it was prophets and Israel).

Again the issue of truth and error raised it ugly head when the saints began to wonder which books and letters should rightly be included in the collection of books called the Word of God. In the Old Testament the tests were: Did the prophet try to lead the hearers after other Gods? Was their teaching in line with former teaching? And did everything the prophet said would happen come about when and how he said it would? In the New Testament the test of an apostle included everything taught in the Old Testament plus, did the one claiming to be an Apostle live with Jesus, see him after his resurrection and was he appointed by Christ to be an apostle (cf. Acts 1:15-26; 1 Tim. 2:7)?

Years later, after the last apostles had died, the church struggled with which books to include in the canon of Scripture. Fortunately, Jesus had given authority to the church to make decisions about things pertaining to the kingdom of God for she was the kingdom of God, one loaf with Christ, Christ’s body, collectively Christ on earth. What this means is that when the church speaks authoritatively on any subject, that is truth. So, in various church counsels discussed which books should be included in the Bible and over time recognized what we have today as the Bible. They based their decision on what the Jews had assumed to be Scripture before Christ’s birth (the Old Testament) and books that were written by Apostles or by people closely related to the Apostles (the New Testament).

There is a theological issue that needs to be mentioned here. First, the church did not create the Bible by choosing which books should be included and which ones should be excluded. They used their criteria for choosing, looked on their shelves and arranged those books which fit the criteria. They recognized the Word of God as the Word of God according to the standards set by the Word of God. In doing so they maintained the standards set from the very beginning for recognizing God’s word when it came to them. Did the text lead them after other gods? Did it reveal truth in line with what had already been revealed? Did what it said would happen happen? Was it brought be legitimate messengers? In every case the books in our Bible are books that answer ‘yes’ to those questions. And the church recognized them as such.

Second, the church did create the Bible when they met in council and decided which books to include and which ones to exclude. The books included can never be removed and those excluded can never be excluded because the church acting as she did, was representing Christ with all of is power and authority. Because Christ left the church in the world to represent him to the lost, she is responsible to make corporate decisions that stand because of who the church represents.

Finally, the councils that decided which books should be included in the Bible did not recognize the books we call the Apocrypha as scripture until after the Reformation had begun. They found these books to be helpful and good, but not the Word of God. Therefore, because the church proclaimed them to be non-Biblical the church today does not recognize these books as canonical.

Struggling with Lifestyle Sin

Dear Brother,

I need your advice. On Saturday my friend Mark (A Christian from a Pentecostal Church) told me that he is hmosexual (He thanks God he doesn't practice it.). But he needs help because he sees that hmosexuality is against God's Law.

Everything what I could offer him is our regular meetings (maybe with some other Christians) every 1-2 weeks in pubs, sports-games, DVD movies - to protect him in spending evenings alone. He lives in a Student House in 1-person room. I also asked him to come to our prayer meeting.

Do you know of any hmosexual Christians whom God saved from this particular sin?

What would you counsel in that situation? How would you help this kind of person? As I said he doesn't practice it and he wants to change. He loves God and His Word and I know it was hard for Mark to tell me about it.

In Him,


Hello Paul,

It sounds like what you’re already doing with your friend will help. I’d add the following:

The enslavement to our passions is the most terrible thing. Enslavement to a passion that seems so natural and so "right" is very hard to break out of. I've never met anyone who was converted from homosexuality, but I've heard of folks who have been successfully changed in heart and mind (especially in other areas of sinfulness).

The Bible treats hmosexuality just like other sins except that in Romans 1 it says that homosexuality is God's wrath being poured out on mankind for not acknowledging him as God and for not being grateful to him. But God loves to forgive sinners, so you should treat this kind of sin just like you would treat any other kind of sin. With this in mind, evangelism and discipleship should follow the same track it follows for all other sins. Folks need to turn away from their sin and follow Jesus.

If a guy is a Christian and is struggling with a sinful past he needs to commit himself to following Christ. He needs to forsake his sin, and its roots and its accompanying lifestyle. Doing this alone, however, won't do anything for his rampant desires or for the ways he's trained himself to think for the past 10 years (or however long). He needs, therefore, to change how he thinks about life now to think about life the way God thinks about it (which is really what repentance means).

In the area of hmosexuality, he will need to learn to think anew about men, women, marriage, , family, covenant, church, etc. in the same way that God teaches about it in the Bible. He will need to stop thinking the way he has been and be transformed by the Word of God into thinking the way God thinks about all these things. To do this he must offer himself to Christ to be molded by Christ to be who he ought to be.

As part of the process he must cultivate a hatred for sin in general and the sin of his passions specifically. The Bible says he must "Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: ual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry (Col. 3:5). Putting your various parts to death in this way is a violent action and should be thought of in this way. Putting sin away, tearing down idols, breaking with habits we've loved for a long time, is a violent and vicious undertaking. But if a man is to walk with God he has to realize that Satan is not playing a games, he is deadly serious and would have our souls locked in Hell. Sin must be thought of this way if it is to be overthrown.

Sometimes God just takes our sin away with no struggle, but many more times whole life sins (or lifestyle sins) can have the kind of grip on us that take a whole lot more drastic measures to really deal with them. Jesus said that we had to take up our cross daily and follow him. Again, the language is strongly violent and active. Sin must be dealt with aggressively in a warlike (or execution) way if it is to be overcome.

All of this assumes the empowerment of God's spirit. A guy can struggle with sin until he dies and goes to Hell, but he will never overcome it unless he is empowered by the Spirit of God. But God's spirit works in us as we set our hearts and minds on him to obey him and then obey. This is what walking in faith means.

So, to make a long letter a little longer, I'd ask your friend to read his Bible regularly: looking for the character and nature of God. As he reads he should ask God to give him a new heart and a new mind. He should pray that God would translate him from a citizen of this world into a citizen of God's world. If he has time it would be good for him to read Doug's family books (esp. Reforming Marriage, Federal Husband, Future Men, and Fidelity). He should also be reading other books like Mother Kirk, stuff by CS Lewis, things that will help him realize that the world of Christ is different than the world he has lived in. And you should meet with him regularly to help him in his struggles with s.

Also, he will need to know about confession of sin, repentance, and keeping short accounts, so when he falls he can confess the sin, receive forgiveness, and start again.

I hope this helps,

He Still Worships the Alcohol Idol

How would this apply to Jim? In his situation, speaking the truth in love to him would not mean confronting his alcohol use per se. After all, Jim had been sober for a year. Instead it would mean confronting his false religion, which exalted his own comfort and desires. Jim fits the AA description of the dry drunk, who is no longer drinking but hasn’t really changed. Jim’s actual use of alcohol had changed but all the beliefs that motivated his drinking persisted. True change was going to have to go deeper than sobriety.
[Welch, Edward T., Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave (Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 2001), pg. 8,9]

Things Done in Secret

Ezekiel 8:12 Then he said to me, "Son of man, have you seen what the elders of the house of Israel are doing in the dark, each in his room of pictures? For they say, 'The LORD does not see us, the LORD has forsaken the land.'"

Ezekiel 9:9 Then he said to me, "The guilt of the house of Israel and Judah is exceedingly great. The land is full of blood, and the city full of injustice. For they say, 'The LORD has forsaken the land, and the LORD does not see.'

Ezekiel 11:5 And the Spirit of the LORD fell upon me, and he said to me, "Say, Thus says the LORD: So you think, O house of Israel. For I know the things that come into your mind.

The Glory

Proverbs 17:6 Grandchildren are the crown of the aged, and the glory of children is their fathers.

Proverbs 20:29 The glory of young men is their strength, but the splendor of old men is their gray hair.

Proverbs 25:2 It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out.

1 Corinthians 11:7 For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man.

1 Corinthians 10:31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

A Prayer for Blessing

Father of lights, Lord of glory,

I found out yesterday that an old friend (I guess a new enemy) wrote about me on his blog. Ordinarily his personal attacks have been leveled against my friends and church, but yesterday the frustration, bitterness, hurt, and pain were leveled at me.

When I first met this young man, I was very impressed by his ability to handle the English language, both in print and verbally. He is a very intelligent and bright young fellow. I had very high hopes for his life and for where he might be able to ascend in the church and in the world. But for the past year or so, he has taken a turn in his life that has alienated him from all but his family and others who share his bitterness and angst.

I peruse his blog every few months, just to see how he is doing, and while he is still an intelligent young man, he has drifted into nothing but vile and vitriolic ramblings. If somehow he were required to remove all the and mean spirited posts from his blog it would have very few postings at all. He is clearly not living the kind of life his gifts and abilities projected for him.

With this in mind I would like to ask that you would grant my old friend complete and total repentance. I pray that you would open his eyes to see the evil trap he has fallen into and free him from the servitude to the sin he is so caught up in.

I pray that in freeing him from his idolatry, you would free him to fulfill all the potential that the gifts you have given him would clearly grant him. I pray that you would give him everything he has ever wanted in regards to educational goals, career goals, public recognition, and generational longevity.

Above all I pray that you would open his heart to you. I pray that his life would be characterized by the love, joy, peace, and fellowship that epitomizes people who know you and who live with you in your presence. The Bible says we become like our teachers and I pray that my friend’s teacher would be the Lord Jesus so that Jesus might shine out through everything he does or says.

In short, I pray that you, Lord, would bless my old friend with every spiritual blessing found in Christ Jesus. And I pray this in the name of Jesus our Lord and our Savior. Amen.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Others Used To Help Us See Our Bondage

The good news, however, if we are willing to receive it, is that God uses other people to help us see. As we have undoubtedly witnessed in others or ourselves, we might be blind to our own hearts, but other people can often see our problems very clearly. Other people can sometimes spot our self deceptions and real beliefs better than we can ourselves. This is true for everyone, but it tends to be especially obvious with drug or alcohol addiction. The addict’s enslavement may be painfully clear, but the addict has an alternative system that preaches, “I can stop any time I want”; “I am in control”; “They are wrong, I am right.” This is one reason why it is so critical for each one of us to be accountable to others, and to have people in our lives who are willing to say hard things to us. We need people who know us and speak the truth to us in love, like the prophet Nathan did to King David (2 Sam. 12:1-14).
[Welch, Edward T., Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave (Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 2001), pg. 7]

Sin Is An Enemy To Be Hated

For at the window of my house I have looked out through my lattice, and I have seen among the simple, I have perceived among the youths, a young man lacking sense, passing along the street near her corner, taking the road to her house in the twilight, in the evening, at the time of night and darkness. And behold, the woman meets him, dressed as a , wily of heart. She is loud and wayward; her feet do not stay at home; now in the street, now in the market, and at every corner she lies in wait. She seizes him and kisses him, and with bold face she says to him, "I had to offer sacrifices, and today I have paid my vows; so now I have come out to meet you, to seek you eagerly, and I have found you. I have spread my couch with coverings, colored linens from Egyptian linen; I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon. Come, let us take our fill of love till morning; let us delight ourselves with love. For my husband is not at home; he has gone on a long journey; he took a bag of money with him; at full moon he will come home." With much seductive speech she persuades him; with her smooth talk she compels him. All at once he follows her, as an ox goes to the slaughter, or as a stag is caught fast till an arrow pierces its liver; as a bird rushes into a snare; he does not know that it will cost him his life.
Proverbs 7:6-23

Part 5: Conclusion

The parish system makes the Christian community a more intimate and personal experience. Relationships can be built that will last a lifetime and will be with people who live in close proximity to one another. Children can grow up with friends that will last a lifetime. Parents will rejoice with one another, weep with one another, pray with one another, and work with one another.

Additionally, Jesus said that the world would know his disciples because they will see the love they have for one another (Jn. 13:35). The parish system makes living in front of the non-Christian world much easier and more alive because it is not only Christians living in community, but it is neighbors living in community. One day, everyone living in the various parishes will be active members of congregations of the church in Moscow and therefore active participants in their neighborhood parish. God is good.

Monday, November 27, 2006

We Don't Beleive What We Believe

When our desires conflict with Scripture, human beings do not always live according to what we say we believe. We can say we believe one thing, but our lives betray other allegiances. A husband can say that he loves his wife, but his actions reveal that he loves his pornographic habits or flirtatious work relationships. A single woman may be an avowed follower of Jesus, but when she feels alone, she pursues sexual relationships to satisfy her sense of emptiness. Her life reveals that, at the core, she is a follower of her desires. Jim may sing “Jesus shall reign,” but his drinking indicates that he wants Jesus to reign only when his desires and God’s commands do not conflict.
[Welch, Edward T., Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave (Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 2001), pg. 7]

Bind Them On Your Fingers

My son, keep my words and treasure up my commandments with you; keep my commandments and live; keep my teaching as the apple of your eye; bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart. Say to wisdom, "You are my sister," and call insight your intimate friend, to keep you from the woman, from the eress with her smooth words.
Proverbs 7:1-5

Douglas Wilson and the Federal Vision


What are Doug Wilson's succinct positions on baptismal regeneration, justification by faith alone, and Christ's active versus passive obedience? Given the furor over the Federal Vision, maybe there is an FAQ that you can point me to read first! :)

Thanks again for the initial response.


Hi Marcus,

It’s always nice to get a short easy question. Thanks for writing. I'm just kidding. We get questions like yours all the time.

Instead of trying to answer your questions myself, I'm going to give you a bunch of links so that you can read what Doug thinks in his own words.

With regard to the New Perspective on Paul the best place to go is to a special edition of Credenda/Agenda that addressed that very question. You can find it here:

The Confederation of Reformed Evangelical Churches (the denomination we belong to) examined Doug and his Reformed orthodoxy regarding the issue of “The Federal Vision” here:

Doug has a whole section on his blog dedicated to NT Wright you can find it here: These are comments on many of NT Wrights books so you might have to dig a little to find exactly what you are looking for.

With regard to your other questions Doug has written a book called Reformed is Not Enough published by Canon Press. He's addressed most of your other questions in that book. If you'd rather read some things on the web he has a section on his blog called Auburn Avenue Stuff. You can find it here:

There are a couple of web sites that have things that Doug has written. This first one doesn't like Doug much, but at least they have a number of links to things he's said that are actually things he's said. You can find it here:

Here is a link to a fellow who does not espouse Federal Vision theology, but who did a very good job of representing us. He was careful to make sure that he checked with us all along the way as he was writing and he did a very good job:

Normally the folks who don't like the Federal Vision can't actually describe what we believe. They get it all wrong and shoot down what they've misunderstood or simply missed. Usually, we would be just as strong in our objections as they are, if we actually believed what they say we believe.

A good example of this is the link above that is page 2, is a page where the folks are trying to be even handed. But if you read page 2 before you read page 1 you will easily see that the folks in page 1 are not reading page 2 before they are making up their minds. At least they aren't actually reading what's being said on page 2.

I hope this helps,

Pastor Lawyer

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Part 4: Fellowship

One significant advantage the parish system provides is that it helps the saints in the various reformed congregations to stay in a closer relationship with one another than might be the case if they were totally distinct from one another. For example, if someone in the Brown parish is sick and needs meals, everyone in the parish chips in and helps supply the need regardless of the particular congregation he is a part of. This intercongregational connectedness helps the saints in the various congregations to realize that being in Christ is not a “church” thing, but a Christian thing. Each individual is a part of the body of Christ, and the parish system helps to remind us of that.

In some parts of the country in the 1950’s, neighborhood parties were popular. Everyone on the block would bring whatever they wanted, and a big pot-luck would ensue. Now society has become very individualistic, and folks tend not to know their neighbors very well. The parish system goes beyond this and allows the parish members to have parties that are essentially neighborhood parties. These parish parties encourage the members of the church to get to know one another and to become a part of one another’s lives. These relationships bind everyone together in closer friendships and as these relationships grow the saints are knit together in ever growing communion.

In another vein, this kind of Christian life is the kind of life that does the best job of evangelism. Parish members’ inviting their non-Christian neighbors is a very natural and effective evangelistic tool.

The parish system makes having group Bible study a joy because the group is not so large that the individuals cannot be personally involved. The smaller size of parish study allows individuals to see each other more regularly and to interact in one another’s lives in a way that they cannot in the larger church setting.

Fellowship means much more than just “hanging out” and chatting after church. The Apostle Paul said that the Philippian church had fellowshipped with him when they sent him aid while he was in prison (Phil. 1:5ff). The parish system helps members support one another in a way that the whole church, as large as it is, may not be able to do as effectively or with as much personal compassion.

Where My Help Comes From

I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come?
My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.
The LORD will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life.
The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.
Psalm 121

Friday, November 24, 2006

God's Word, Sweeter Than Honey

How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!
Through your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way.
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
I have sworn an oath and confirmed it, to keep your righteous rules.
I am severely afflicted; give me life, O LORD, according to your word!
Accept my freewill offerings of praise, O LORD, and teach me your rules.
I hold my life in my hand continually, but I do not forget your law.
Psalm 119:103-109

A Life of Principled Obedience

Dear Reader, if Jesus had not lived a life of principled obedience, we would have no Savior. If Jesus had not been committed to obeying the will of his Father, no matter the cost, he would not have gone to Calvary and died for the sins of his people. But he did obey his Father. He did go to Calvary. And he died to have a people committed to a life of principled obedience. He didn’t die to have a people who turn aside from doing his will at every whim and impulse of their feelings, a people who are ruled by their moods. He didn’t die to have husbands love their wives only when they feel good, or wives submit to their husbands only when the mood hits them, or children obey their parents only when they want to, or people pray and come to the house of God only when they feel like it. No, Jesus died to have a people conformed to his own moral image of a life of principled obedience.
[Martin, Albert N., A Life of Principled Obedience (Banner of Truth Trust, 1992), pg. 21, 22]

Part 3: Pastoral/accountability

Because of the way things work in large churches, the larger the church grows, the less able the elder is to minister effectively to the individual families in the church. In large churches, people tend to sit in the same place from week to week and this often leads to the sensations (and reality) of loneliness and disconnectedness. The people in larger churches often feel left out and/or ignored by the leadership of the church. Parishes create smaller groups of individuals and families, allowing for much easier and more efficient care and ministry. Elders know every one in their parish and can know them on a much more intimate level. No one is left behind or ignored. All are ministered to as they have needs.

One of the ways the parishes are used in the pastoral ministry of the church is in the Heads of Households meetings. Originally, the HOH meetings were held monthly as one large meeting. When the attendance grew to over one hundred Heads meeting together in one place, discussion became almost impossible. This precipitated dividing the single HOH meeting into many parish HOH meetings, still meeting monthly. Except for once a quarter, the HOH meetings occur at the parish level at the homes of elders or deacons. (There are a couple of parishes that do not have elders, and these parishes join up with parishes that do and meet with their elder.) These smaller HOH meetings allow the elders and deacons to hear from more individuals and to discuss the issues in a more in depth way.

At these meetings, the HOH’s are able to give their input regarding the things of the church, and the pastor and elders are able, in this more informal setting, to lay out to the HOHs their vision and direction for the church. Before there are any new additions to the worship service, for example, they are discussed at the HOH meetings for several months in advance.

In addition to the conveyance of information, the parish HOH meetings allow the elders to more effectively minister to the individuals of the congregation. While the Heads might not want to share intimate details in front of the whole church, they are encouraged, to at least, let the elder of their parish know they need prayer for a particular situation. The elder can then have lunch with them or invite them for dinner and discuss the concern or problem in a more intimate setting. Ministry and care can be given in the parish setting in a more efficient and gentler manner than it can at the larger church level.

Friday, November 17, 2006


Dear Pastor Lawyer,

In one of your postings, you told us how your worship service differed from many others in the community, but you didn’t give us much information about the differences in what you think about God, man and Salvation. Could you enlighten us a bit more on some of these things? Thanks,


Dear Barny,

Thank you for continuing to read “Fat Souls.” Hang in there with me as I try to explain what we believe and why. There is not space in this venue to answer all of your questions right now, but perhaps I can give you a glimmer of our distinctives.

Let’s start with who God is: First, he is the creator of all that is. He created all those things you see around you. Men create things from other things, but God created the mechanism, the ability to copy, and the people themselves. Not only did God create everything we see around us, he keeps everything going. It is he that keeps the atoms from flying apart and the solar system from careening out into space. God controls the weather, the rising up and the falling down of nations.

God knows everything, not just because he is really smart (he knows the possibilities), but because nothing happens outside of his creating it. Everything that has ever happened, is happening, or will happen happens because he speaks it into existence. It starts in his mind and happens as he speaks it. It is not that he sees history unfolding because he is outside it (though he is indeed outside of history); it happens because he causes it to happen. He is not an observer of things the way we are.

Because God is God, everything that happens ultimately happens for his glory and honor. This means that all the love we experience and all the pain we go through in our lives, in the end, will bring honor to him.

I know what you’re thinking about now, “What about all the evil in the world? Does that bring God honor and glory?” The Bible’s answer is that it does. Do I understand it? Not entirely, but I do know that when we realize that he is indeed God, we are acknowledging that we aren’t going to understand everything about him. We also realize that because we are not God, only his created “friends”, we aren’t entitled to know anything (let alone the deep things of God). Because he is infinitely above us in every imaginable category, we can only marvel that he includes us in his life at all.

But I digress… We also understand that God is love. He is love in that not only does he love or act in a loving manner, but his character is love. This means that God does everything with the highest good of the object of his love in mind. When he tells his people that he loves them, he is declaring that all his actions are for their highest good.

God is also holy. Everything God does is done with absolute purity and moral perfection. When he creates, it is done perfectly and completely with no flaws or mistakes.

God is righteous. In everything and in every way God expects and will stand for nothing less than absolute perfection in his creation, for which he himself conditionally provides the power. He is the judge of every person and all actions. Nothing is left beyond his scope of righteousness.

When you get to thinking about it, unless God intervenes, mankind is in a desperate spot. We cannot live without being in front of God. We cannot function without God’s favor. We could not even breathe, if God were to turn against us for some reason. We are not perfect; we are not holy; we are not righteous; we are in deep trouble. With all of this in mind, we understand that apart from the grace of God, we would be “toast.” It is only because God intervened in history and in our lives that we are able to stand before him justified and clean. I hope this helps.

Pastor Lawyer

Part 2: Logistics

The parish boundaries are arranged in a purely geographic way, with no real rhyme or reason, other than that they seek to have similar numbers of people in each. What this means logistically is that if a family lives in a particular place, the families are automatically members of the parish that covers that geographic area. However, this arrangement is not so wooden that people can not belong to another parish if they want. If a particular family has an affinity with folks who live in another parish, the HOH may ask the elders and can participate in the other parish even though they don’t live in the geographic area of that parish.

For ease of reference, the Parishes are named after famous dead Reformed Christians. Currently there are eleven parishes: Wishart (the north side of town), Baxter (the east side of town), Tyndale (the west side of town), Wycliffe (the north east side of town), Ridley (the east side out of town), Brown (south out of town), Cranmer (Central North in Town), Latimer (Central South in Town), Cargill (Viola area), Goudimel (Potlatch area), and Hooper (Pullman area).

The parish system serves three main functions in the Christian community:
1) It helps the leaders of the flock to lead the sheep.
2) It helps the flock to interact with one another for fellowship and edification.
3) It serves as the vehicle through which the government of the church is worked out.

Broken Feelings

There is nothing in the account of David’s confession about David waiting until he felt like doing what was right—not a word about his feeling. David acted on the basis of principle. Dear reader, you are never going to run the Christian race with any strength and consistency until the chains of your feelings are broken. Are you waiting for a wave of lovely emotion to break upon your shore so that you can go riding in behind that wave of beautiful feelings? Are you like the surfer out there waiting, waiting, waiting for the perfect wave? If you are, you will never live a life of principled obedience to God’s Word.
[Martin, Albert N., A Life of Principled Obedience (Banner of Truth Trust, 1992), pg. 18]

May My Heart be Blameless

May my heart be blameless in your statutes, that I may not be put to shame!
My soul longs for your salvation; I hope in your word.
My eyes long for your promise; I ask, "When will you comfort me?"
For I have become like a wineskin in the smoke, yet I have not forgotten your statutes.
Psalm 119:80-83

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Part 1: Introduction

The Bible says that the Kingdom of Heaven is like leaven which a woman hides in a large lump of dough (Mt. 13:33). Eventually, that leaven will work its way through the whole lump. Jesus was saying that in the world as a whole, the Kingdom of Heaven was a very small part of humanity, but through the preaching and living out of the Gospel the Kingdom would eventually spread, ultimately filling the whole earth. Admittedly, the Kingdom is in its early phases; nonetheless, it has been a wonderful blessing to watch God fulfilling this metaphor in our community. Our small town has a very large Christian presence because the Gospel is growing and flourishing in our lives, families, and the various Christian congregations.

Years ago, the elders of Christ Church realized that as the Kingdom of Heaven grows and spreads in Moscow, so would the shepherding responsibilities. As a result, the elders decided that instead of expecting the pastor to minister to all the people by himself, they would share the “joy” by dividing the town into smaller areas called parishes. The people in the parishes would then be ministered to first by the elder(s) living in the parishes and then, for the more difficult cases, by the pastor.

Choose to be Obedient

Notice that the psalmist said that he did it; he turned his feet into the way of conformity to God’s Word. He didn’t say that he thought on his ways and then prayed, ‘Oh Lord, turn my feet.’ He said, ‘I turned my feet.’ In other places in Psalm 119, he prayed that God would turn him. And in our text he has told us that he entreated God’s favor with his whole heart. He was a praying man. He lived in the climate of dependence on God’s power; but he didn’t expect the grace of God to bypass the conscious action of his own will.
[Martin, Albert N., A Life of Principled Obedience (Banner of Truth Trust, 1992), pg. 15]

I Turn My Feet

The LORD is my portion; I promise to keep your words.
I entreat your favor with all my heart; be gracious to me according to your promise.
When I think on my ways, I turn my feet to your testimonies;
I hasten and do not delay to keep your commandments.
Psalm 119:57-60

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Biblical Conversion

Christ asserted, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life; no man comes to the Father except by me.’ The new creature in Christ responds, ‘I choose your way, your truth, your life and repudiate every false way; you are my only portion in this world and in the world to come.’ This is the very essence of true biblical conversion—to choose Jehovah according to the terms of the revelation which he has made of himself in his Word and in his Son, to embrace him as our portion, as our life.
[Martin, Albert N., A Life of Principled Obedience (Banner of Truth Trust, 1992), pg. 8, 9]

Portrait of a Christian

"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 5:3-12

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Power to be Imitators of Christ

For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit…
1 Thessalonians 1:4-6

Choose to be Obedient

When your soul is battered by the storm of remaining sin, or your mind is under satanic assault, or your body is weary, do you throw obedience to the wind and live like a pagan? Do you turn from the path of obedience because you don’t feel like obeying today? If so, if I have described you, I want by every means possible to turn you away from that mentality. I pray that God will drive that attitude out of your heart and replace it with a spirit of principled obedience that is determined to do the will of God no matter what the cost.
[Martin, Albert N., A Life of Principled Obedience (Banner of Truth Trust, 1992), pg. 7]

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Let Heaven and Earth Praise Him

I will praise the name of God with a song;
I will magnify him with thanksgiving.

This will please the LORD more than an ox or a bull with horns and hoofs.

When the humble see it they will be glad;
you who seek God, let your hearts revive.

For the LORD hears the needy and does not despise his own people who are prisoners.

Let heaven and earth praise him,
the seas and everything that moves in them.

For God will save Zion and build up the cities of Judah,
and people shall dwell there and possess it;

the offspring of his servants shall inherit it,
and those who love his name shall dwell in it.
Psalm 69:30-36

Not Excused from Holiness

If our remaining sin resists us in the path of obedience, we are not excused from our obligation to obey God. And until we embrace this perspective with all of our soul, we will go limping and halting all of our days. Unless we vigorously battle unprincipled emotions and remaining sin, we will know very little of a real life of obedience to God.
[Martin, Albert N., A Life of Principled Obedience (Banner of Truth Trust, 1992), pg. 7]

Save Me, O God

Save me, O God! For the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in deep mire, where there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me. I am weary with my crying out; my throat is parched. My eyes grow dim with waiting for my God. More in number than the hairs of my head are those who hate me without cause; mighty are those who would destroy me, those who attack me with lies. What I did not steal must I now restore? O God, you know my folly; the wrongs I have done are not hidden from you. Let not those who hope in you be put to shame through me, O Lord GOD of hosts; let not those who seek you be brought to dishonor through me, O God of Israel. For it is for your sake that I have borne reproach, that dishonor has covered my face. Psalm 69:1-7

Repentance Commanded

Peter said, "Repent and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ..." (Acts 2:38)

Again Peter said, "Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out..." (Acts 3:19)

And again, "Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you" (Acts 8:22).

Paul chimes in, "The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent," (Acts 17:30).

Paul again said, "I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance" (Acts 26:19-20).

Finally, Jesus said, "Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent" (Rev. 2:5).

And, "Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth" Rev. 2:16).

One more, "I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her ual immorality. Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit ery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works, and I will strike her children dead. And all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you as your works deserve" (Rev. 2:21-23).

You'll notice that in every one of these passage repentance is something commanded. Repent means change your mind. It means stop thinking one way and begin thinking another way. If I’m on my way to the office and decide to turn left on a street and go a different way, I’ve repented. If I have decided to vote for a certain candidate but on the way to the pole decide to vote for the other guy, I’ve repented. It isn't magic. It is just a change of mind. In the case of spiritual things it means I change my mind from wanting to serve myself to wanting to serve God. More importantly it obedience to a command, an active movement in your mind from your own idolatry to serving the living God. God commands it, we obey it. It involves our whole life, not compartments of our lives. It involves every fiber of our being, not just what we want to "get better."

It also involves humility, we don't care what others will think or do to us, we want Jesus. Nothing in this life will be better for us than Jesus. We give ourselves over to him lock, stock and barrel. It isn't about jumping through hoops or filling in lists. It is about apologizing for thumbing your nose at Christ and abandoning all the gods we've set up in our lives and joining God's forces in Jesus' name.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Saved Unto Obedience

The Bible clearly teaches that by an act of deliberate obedience to the will of his Father, the Lord Jesus poured out his blood on the cross in order to secure the salvation of a host which no man can number. Obedience lies at the very heart of redemption accomplished by the ‘doing and dying’ of Jesus Christ. The Bible, however, does not stop here. The Scriptures also assert that the salvation which Jesus purchased in the course of his obedience, he now confers only in a way that makes all of its recipients obedient subjects of the living God. And thus in I Peter 1:2, the Bible speaks of people of God as those who are foreknown of God ‘unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.’ The blood of Christ is never sprinkled on any man without Christ’s saving work bringing that man into a path of obedience to God. This is why the writer of the Letter to the Hebrews can write as he does: ‘Though he [i.e. Jesus] was a Son, yet he learned obedience by the things which suffered; and having been made perfect, he became unto all them that obey him the author of eternal salvation’ (Hebrews 5:8-9). When the salvation which Jesus purchased is applied with divine power, it produces in all of its recipients a course of principled obedience to the will of God that is reflective of the course which the Savior walked in securing that salvation.
[Martin, Albert N., A Life of Principled Obedience (Banner of Truth Trust, 1992), pg. 3]

Praise Him, O Praise Him

"Blessed are you, O LORD, the God of Israel our father, forever and ever. Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and you are exalted as head above all. Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. And now we thank you, our God, and praise your glorious name. "But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able thus to offer willingly? For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you. For we are strangers before you and sojourners, as all our fathers were. Our days on the earth are like a shadow, and there is no abiding. O LORD our God, all this abundance that we have provided for building you a house for your holy name comes from your hand and is all your own. I know, my God, that you test the heart and have pleasure in uprightness. In the uprightness of my heart I have freely offered all these things, and now I have seen your people, who are present here, offering freely and joyously to you. O LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, our fathers, keep forever such purposes and thoughts in the hearts of your people, and direct their hearts toward you.
1 Chronicles 29:10-18