Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Psalm 112

Praise the LORD!

Blessed is the man who fears the LORD,

who greatly delights in his commandments!

His offspring will be mighty in the land;

the generation of the upright will be blessed.

Wealth and riches are in his house,

and his righteousness endures forever.

Light dawns in the darkness for the upright;

he is gracious, merciful, and righteous.

It is well with the man who deals generously and lends;

who conducts his affairs with justice.

For the righteous will never be moved;

he will be remembered forever.

He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm,

trusting in the LORD.

His heart is steady; he will not be afraid,

until he looks in triumph on his adversaries.

He has distributed freely;

he has given to the poor;

his righteousness endures forever;

his horn is exalted in honor.

The wicked man sees it and is angry;

he gnashes his teeth and melts away;

the desire of the wicked will perish!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Time Spent With The Opposite Sex

Greetings from Spain,

I'm writing you because you could surely help me with a Christian question.

I'm most interested in knowing what is the sound biblical stance on three quite specific questions:

1. Should men touch women other than close relatives? I'm thinking in casual or friendly hugs and things like that, but not only.

2. Should men stay alone with women other than close relatives?

3. Should men be close friends with women other than close relatives?

Do you know some good books which deals with them?

Thank you very much for your time and attention and best wishes for you and your loved ones,


Hi Carlos,

I'd suggest reading some books on marriage, for example, Reforming Marriage (My Life for Yours would also be good) by Douglas Wilson is a good one. While you're reading notice all the things that husbands should do for their wives that promote good physical relationships. Also, read your Bible with a view to how God treats and thinks about Israel as his wife.

Then, with all this in mind ask yourself what God would think if you were to treat someone who is not your wife in the way you're thinking about treating the in front of you. Another way to think about it is to think about how you would like another man treating your wife in the way you're thinking of treating this in front of you.

Another tack is to think about how you would like other guys to treat your sister. This is a little more subjective than the others, in a way, but it is also more Biblical. The bible tells us to treat the young women like sisters in all purity (1 Tim. 5:2). So, would you kiss on your sister? You might hug her, but what kinds of thoughts would be sneaking through your mind as you did it? Do you hug the women at church with the same purity of mind that you have when you hug your sister?

In all of this don't fool yourself. I know many many men and women who think they can have a "platonic" relationship with a woman who is not their wife. They are fooling themselves and playing with fire in a way that will eventually hurt someone if it hasn't already.

So, to answer your questions:

1. In general it is not good for a man to touch women, who are not direct family members, in any way other than to shake their hands; and that is sometimes a problem. There might be cultural differences that make it okay in Spain, but here in the United States it is rare for a young man to be able to hug a young woman and not notice in a particular way that she is warm and soft and it goes on from their. So it is much safer to keep your hands to yourself.

2. You should not stay alone with someone who is not a close relative. If you wouldn't want your wife to stay alone with some other man, don't you do it with someone else's wife (or future wife). Also, if you want to spend time alone with your future wife (whether she knows it or not), you will destroy your relationship with her if you do anything that is not completely honorable and pure.

3. Men should not be close friends with women who are not in their immediate family. It just isn't a good thing and almost always leads to some heart-break or worse.

I hope this helps.

Pictures of Moscow, ID

Some of you might wonder what it looks like here in Moscow in the Fall. Here are a few pictures I took while I was out playing golf last month. Remember Moscow is a college/farming town, so what you are seeing is the University Golf course and the farms all around the edges. The scenes of Moscow show Moscow Mountain in the back ground (I know, it isn't really right to call it a mountain). You can see those pics here.

Church Discipline #9

A fellow over here asked me if I would participate in an online debate about church discipline a few weeks ago and I said I would. For the next few entries, I’ll be putting up his questions and my answers, just in case they might encourage you.

9) In the discussion on the issue of membership you had mentioned that the primary right of members was the election of elders and leaders. What would be the position of a CREC church towards a regularly attending non-member woman? Would she be allowed to attend perhaps for years without her husband?

First, you need to know that I am not an official spokesperson for the CREC. Any comments I make here should be considered representative of Christ Church of Moscow. The CREC churches are independent enough to have pretty varied ideas on some of the opinions that I've expressed here. In this area, however, I would venture to say that I am being pretty representative of CREC views.

The answer to your first question here is that she would be treated in the same way as any other regularly attending non-member. We would love her and minister to her in any way we could.

The answer to the second part would depend on the situation. I can imagine situations when a woman could attend for years without her husband attending too.

The only time we would force any person to stop attending our church is if she/he were in open rebellion against God. And this might include her rebelling against her husband and not attending church with him.

Psalm 111

Praise the LORD!

I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart,

in the company of the upright,

in the congregation.

Great are the works of the LORD,

studied by all who delight in them.

Full of splendor and majesty is his work,

and his righteousness endures forever.

He has caused his wondrous works to be remembered;

the LORD is gracious and merciful.

He provides food for those who fear him;

he remembers his covenant forever.

He has shown his people the power of his works,

in giving them the inheritance of the nations.

The works of his hands are faithful and just;

all his precepts are trustworthy;

they are established forever and ever,

to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness.

He sent redemption to his people;

he has commanded his covenant forever.

Holy and awesome is his name!

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom;

all those who practice it have a good understanding.

His praise endures forever!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Church Discipline Debate #8

A fellow over here asked me if I would participate in an online debate about church discipline a few weeks ago and I said I would. For the next few entries, I’ll be putting up his questions and my answers, just in case they might encourage you.

8) Most believe that in the bible both Jesus and Paul placed an obligation to follow God above the obligation to home for both men and woman. Do you agree with that assessment? For example in looking at the lives of many of the female saints, they disobeyed husbands, fathers and secular rulers in their desire to carry out what they saw as God's plans. [These two sentences split off in first response] Do you agree that woman can be called in this way? And if so how is that compatible with the view of membership as presented?

I would agree with the first part. Jesus said, "If anyone comes to me and does not his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters-- yes, even his own life-- he cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:26). So if the question is do I obey God or man, the answer is always, as for me and my house we will serve the Lord.

The problem in the second part comes when you ask, what is God's will for my life or for the life of the wife in a family. The clear things of God are the ground for, and the lens through which we look at the unclear and subjective things claiming to be the will of God. The Scriptures are clear that the wife should submit to her husband (1 Pet. 3:1-6). The Bible says nothing about a man's wife going off to a convent or to start a TV ministry. Those might be nice things to do, but they are not as clear or obvious as how wife is to relate to her husband. If the husband is not trying to get his wife to sin, what he says fits under the authority of the specific passages on how a wife lives with her husband. So if Mr. Smith tells his wife that he wants her to stay at home and teach their children how to love God and serve him forever but she wants to go and be a muckety muck at the local hardware store, she will be in sin if she leaves the home to muck about; even if she claims that it is God's will. It is not God's will to go against what God has clearly laid out in his word. It is God's will to do what God specifically says, which in this case is to do what her husband has said.

[See note above]Do you agree that woman can be called in this way? And if so how is that compatible with the view of membership as presented?

I've lost you here too. Called in what way? To do what? And what does this have to do with membership?

These two sentences were part of the above. So the question is can a woman be called to server god in a way that would necessitate her disobedience to a husband a father or a secular leader? What it has to do with membership is that membership in the church is contingent on female obedience. So if you were agreeing that a woman could be called in this way, the membership rules could end up excommunicating a woman for obeying God's calls. Conversely if you had stated that a woman cannot be called in this way then the question asked what about the female saints who did disobey were they really not saints?

God's gifts never give a woman a reason to sin by not being respectful or submissive to her husband or the leaders in the church that God has placed over them. There have been, and currently are, many women who are living in sin because they have stepped into the holes in their lives left by husbands and male leaders who have abdicated their God given roles. But while the men's lack of leadership is sin, this is not a valid reason for women to jump onto the band wagon and join in the sinning.

When men lead in a godly, loving, and consistent way the women don't see any need to take up the reins and lead. So the answer to women leading isn't yelling at the women, it is yelling at the men. Men need to suck it up and gird up their loins and be godly, biblical men.

There are at least two problems with women filling the void left by their abdicating men: First, they are in sin when they usurp the leadership roles of their men (as I've mentioned above) and second, their jumping into the void almost certainly seals the fate of their men ever taking up the mantle of leadership. Once women get into leadership, men will not lead anymore (if they ever did in the first place). They may not be man enough to lead in the ways God has commanded, but they are man enough not to let their women lead. So, when they abdicate and the women jump in, the men back off and never come back.

So what is the answer? If the men won't lead, the women need to follow 1 Peter 3:1-6 and let the lights go out, the garbage pile up, the water run, etc. Don't take up his slack. Don't fulfill those things in the home that are his responsibility. Go on doing what God has called you to do and make sure that you pay special attention that part in 1 Peter 3 where it says "without a word." This means not a sign of discontent, not a word, not a glare, not a folded arms "hmmph", not a rolled eye, not a burnt toast. Without a word means let your glowing, godly life shine on your disobedient husband or church leader. Continue to look for ways to respect them and be their greatest , even if the house is sitting in darkness because he forgot to pay the electric bill. Let the Holy Spirit of God work on him. And you are not the Holy Spirit of God.

If you try to fix the situation or the man, you will fail at every turn and you will be going directly against the command of God and that is sin.

Someone will point to churches that women pastors and make mention that there are men on their boards, but I have never seen or heard of a church where women are pastors where the men were worth much as men. They might argue with me about that in front of their women leaders, but they wouldn't in private. A man who is being led by his wife has really checked out of the family; he's off watching TV, or off playing with the boys, or out hunting, or into some sort of vial sin. Its just the way God made men and women.

To answer your last question, a woman in leadership over men is not necessarily reprobate. She might be, but she might also simply be a confused and sinful believer.

I hope this helps.

Church Discipline Debate #7

A fellow over here asked me if I would participate in an online debate about church discipline a few weeks ago and I said I would. For the next few entries, I’ll be putting up his questions and my answers, just in case they might encourage you.

7) What about the issues of spiritual gifts? Do you believe that woman will never be better gifted to lead the home or in spite of them being more gifted the man should anyway?

I don't know what this question is asking. Could you ask it again?

The question is regarding spiritual gifts. Say for example the gift of prophecy or teaching or healing. The question was whether you believed that a woman will never have say the gift of being a talented preacher or that in spite of her being more gifted the man should lead a church anyone. Similarly with prophecy.

Again, I'm not sure of the question, but if you're asking if a woman who is a gifted teacher or preacher should submit her gifts to the clear teaching of Scripture, then yes I think she should. The clear teaching of Scripture is that a woman may not teach or exercise authority over a man (1 Timothy 2:12ff).

The gifts are given to us, but must be used in accordance with the rest of Scripture. This means, among other things, that a person does not get to use her gifts in a way that countermand other clear teachings of scripture.

This does not mean that a skilled and gifted woman cannot exercise those gifts at all. She simply needs to exercise them in areas of church life where she is not sinning in other ways. For example a woman gifted in teaching should teach her children at home. This is clearly a Scriptural principle (1 Timothy 5:4, 10, 14). Also, I believe it is a good thing for women to teach women. This too is a Biblical principle (1 Timothy 2:4-5).

This really has nothing to do with gifts at all. It has to do with godly roles in the family and in the church. God created roles that make the world work in certain ways when we abide by his decrees and when we try to do away with his commands in order to make ourselves "somebody" we stray from his way and have fallen into sin.

Monday, October 15, 2007

I Will Remember Their Sins No More

For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying, "This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds," then he adds, "I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more." Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin. Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.

Hebrews 10:14-22

Church Discipline Debate #6

A fellow over here asked me if I would participate in an online debate about church discipline a few weeks ago and I said I would. For the next few entries, I’ll be putting up his questions and my answers, just in case they might encourage you.

6) Finally on issues on discipline do all CREC churches have to respect each other's discipline absolutely or do they have appellate rights?

They can discuss what is going on and either respect the other's discipline or reject it. There is nothing written anywhere that decrees how we work together in these situations. We would be very careful before overturning another church's discipline. But this would be with any other church, not just CREC churches.

Church Discipline Debate #5

A fellow over here asked me if I would participate in an online debate about church discipline a few weeks ago and I said I would. For the next few entries, I’ll be putting up his questions and my answers, just in case they might encourage you.

5) Sarah asserted that "They just think that is the more biblical way of doing things."
However she couldn't identify where Wilson saw the doctrine that the bible does talk about the church as a collection of families rather than a collection of believers?

There doesn't appear to be a question here.

The Bible clearly talks about 3 areas of government (church, family, civil). It also talks about individuals. It is our contention that when the Bible talks about individuals that it always assumes that they are in some sort of relationship to other people. And when those other people are related in one of the particular governmental relationships they are to treat one another in particular ways related to those governments. And these are always loving and submissive.

Here are a few passages that talk about households. Notice how important they are to the functioning of the churches around them: Jn. 4:53; Acts 16:31, 34; 18:8; Rom. 16:10; 1 Co. 1:11, 16; 16:15; 2 Tim. 1:16; 3:6; 4:19; Tit. 1:11; Heb. 11:7. And this doesn't even begin to point out how central the family is to the Old Testament or to the teaching on how to live in the family. To say that the family has nothing to do with the church is sort of funny. It seems to me, I could be wrong, that everywhere the Bible tells us how to live as individuals it also, somewhere close by, tells us how to live as families. And we do it all as members of Christ's body the church.

Notice that I have no problem with talking about individuals, here I am simply pointing out that the household, because we live in covenant with our family members, is central to our lives as Christians and this is done in the church.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Church Discipline Debate #4

A fellow over here asked me if I would participate in an online debate about church discipline a few weeks ago and I said I would. For the next few entries, I’ll be putting up his questions and my answers, just in case they might encourage you.

4) Sarah [reference to "Sarah" here is to Sarah Hodges, a participant in the prior discussion who knows Pastor Wilson to whom the questions were originally directed] was fairly sure they would not forbid membership in all cases, "And I am pretty darn sure that it is a case by case basis. I bet you a sum of money that if a woman came to CREC wanting to join alone, and her husband was a member of the local Catholic church, she would not be told to go worship with her husband... she'd be welcomed with wide open arms. "

I don't know who Sarah is, but again, it depends. We wouldn't automatically let a woman in this situation join our church. We might very well send her back to worship with her husband in the Catholic church. We would strongly advise her not to sin while doing so, but to do it in a very unobtrusive way. Don't cause a scene, don't cause a ruckus. The goal being to win her husband through quiet and chaste behavior (1 Peter 3).

4con) I then gave some scenarios:

a) The local Mormon church
b) The local Lutheran Church (liberal)
c) The local Lutheran Church (conservative)
d) Local PCUSA church
e) Local OPC church
f) Local CREC church which the woman absolutely refuses to attend and the husband does not have the session's permission to abandon (recently married)

It would be the same in all of these situations. I don't understand (f). Each one of these would differ a little bit from the others. For example, the Mormon church is not, in any sense, a Christian church. So, how long the woman stayed there to worship (2 Kings 5:18) would vary from situation to situation. The best thing would be that she would win her husband to Christ or to a higher calling in Christ by how she lives in front of him.

But there might be situations where we would let her join immediately.

Church Discipline Debate #3

A fellow over here asked me if I would participate in an online debate about church discipline a few weeks ago and I said I would. For the next few entries, I’ll be putting up his questions and my answers, just in case they might encourage you.

3) When you have representatives the representatives are supposed to have advantages: more knowledge, more time to dedicate, more experience.... What is the husband bring here to church matters? Moreover, does picking middle age men as the primary voting population not create severe bias.

I'm not sure what your question is here.

Being the husband or father does not imply any of the advantages you list. In fact, my wife thinks it is an advantage to not have to be the one who votes and who attends these boring meetings. Being the head of my house does not imply any advantage at all it implies that I am under authority. I am responsible to lead my family under the authority of God almighty.

I said earlier that the family has a hierarchy, and while the world sees any hierarchy as one of who gets to be in charge, the Bible says the hierarchy is who get to serve whom? The Lord Jesus came as a servant, the fathers serve their families, the husbands serve their wives, the mothers serve their children, the children serve and honor their parents. Whenever you hear that someone is supposed to submit themselves to you, your immediate response should be fear and trembling and a diligent search to see who you should be submitting to.

It is not at all uncommon for a wife to be more educated, more biblically savvy, more wise, more intelligent, etc. But the man is still the head of the home. It is still his responsibility to lead his family to the throne of grace. It has nothing to do with skills, smarts, gifts, abilities. It has to do with the Word of God and what God says about how things are.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

If We Died With Him...

If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
if we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he also will deny us;
if we are faithless, he remains faithful- for he cannot deny himself.
2 Timothy 2:11-13

Church Discipline debate #2

A fellow over here asked me if I would participate in an online debate about church discipline a few weeks ago and I said I would. For the next few entries, I’ll be putting up his questions and my answers, just in case they might encourage you.

2a) If he is a representative then how far the headship of the husband extend? Is there a formal hierarchy involving family members?

Lets take a father A and his 18 year old living at home son B.
Does A's moral status effect B's salvation / election?
Does A's moral status effect B's effectiveness of prayer?

There is definitely a hierarchy involving family members. The Father is the head of the wife. The children honor the parents. The parents are to bring up the children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

A's moral status does not effect B's election. That is something only God knows about. But A's moral status does affect B's salvation because the sins of the fathers run down hill to the sons. B may be elect, but A's lifestyle may have taught him to follow in his path and thus influence his eventual salvation. B might grow up and need to run into someone from Campus Crusade in college to be saved as opposed to being raised in a godly home with a godly father who has taught him from the womb.

A's moral status effects B's effectiveness in prayer as well. His influence and ing teach B how to pray and when to pray and whom to pray to. So B's prayer is definitely affected by A's lifestyle.

If you mean does A's moral status cause B's relationship with God to be negated simply because of A's existence, then I'd say no to both questions. A does not cause B to lose or gain his relationship with God simply by his immoral existence.

2b) I'm assuming the answer to both of these no. If so:

Does A's moral status effect B's membership?
Assuming A is a member can A cause B to be disciplined?
Assume A can, can A prevent B from being disciplined?

If A is a member of a covenantal church, then B will be a member of the church. This is an effect.

If B is disciplined by the church it will be because of B's sin, not A's sin. A might be involved in the process. He might be the first contact, confronting B with his sin (see below), or he might be the one the sin is against and he may be the one who brought to the elders in the first place. In this sense he would be causing B's discipline.

A can prevent B from being disciplined by helping to bring B to repentance before church discipline become a reality. For example suppose A finds out B is sleeping with the neighbor's daughter. A can gently bring B to repentance and thus avert any further discipline by the church. He might be the first step in the Matthew 18 process.

Discipline is not for the censure of the one being disciplined, it is for the restoration of the one being disciplined. It is never to be seen as a punitive action, it is always a cleansing and purifying action. It is meant to protect and purify the church and to bring the sinner to his senses and back to Christ.

2c) Assume that A isn't a member.

It seems that B can independently be a member of the CREC church? What if A objects?
What if A is a member and B wants independent membership?
If in both cases B's wishes are respected in what sense is their a hierarchy?

B could become an independent member if A is not. If his father, who is not a member objects, it would depend. We don't have a rule for this. We would take it on a case by case basis.

If A were a member and B wanted independent membership, our loose rule is that B can't do that, but it would depend on the situation. I could see allowing B to have his own household membership in the right situation.

The main point here would be that B would have to be his own household. For example if, for some reason, B were to get married at 18 he would be his own household, or if he were in town as a soldier stationed here for some reason, we might let him join as his own household. And life is funny, I'm sure there would be other situations where it would make sense to recognize B as his own household.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Share in Suffering

Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began… 2 Timothy 1:8-9

Church Discipline debate #1

A fellow over here asked me if I would participate in an online debate about church discipline a few weeks ago and I said I would. For the next few entries, I’ll be putting up his questions and my answers, just in case they might encourage you.

1) What is the reason behind household voting rather than individual voting? Is it an idea of Federal Representation (the father represents his family to the church) as per Abshire Federal Representation, or something else?

Mr. Abshire represented why we have household voting very well in his article. Our households are represented by the husbands and fathers of the homes. In cases where there is no father or no husband the mother or single woman acts as the head of her household and votes on behalf of the family.

I wouldn't sigh off on every little jot and tittle that Mr. Abshire said in his article, but over all it was very good. We wouldn't dissuade a woman from getting a graduate degree, for example. We would discourage going to debt to get it, but we do that with the men as well. A woman can be a great asset to her husband, children, church and community no matter how highly educated she is. We have women in our church who have law degrees, who are doctors, and who have other advanced degrees. They serve the Lord Jesus very effectively because of their degrees and training. They also reach people for Christ that they could not if they weren't so highly educated.