Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Sons are Mirrors

Our children are often mirrors of ourselves. Sometimes it manifests itself differently. For example, a kid grows up just like his father in the area of rebellion against authority, but instead of the kid rebelling against the government like the father does, the kid rebels against his father. Or a father runs to the bottle and the kid runs to drugs. But both are in the same boat paddling around in the same dark waters.

In Greyfriars Hall 'm teaching a course on how to love your kids and it comes back to me over and over again that the Bible has a lot to say about how to love our kids and how not to love our kids. There are often conditions placed on what is said. For example, Proverbs 19:18 says "Discipline your son, for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to his death." Of course this is not saying that unless you discipline your 2 year old he will die then. But I know that if a son is not disciplined in the right way when he is little there isn't a thing a father can do about his son's behavior when he grows up. If he doesn't learn to be obedient and respectful when he is little, he will not be obedient and respectful when he is 19. The world is a hard place for a son who never learned to be humble and to submit to proper authorities—particularly God. So, in a real way not disciplining your son could lead to his death in a temporal sense, and in an eternal sense.

But there's more, the father has not been obedient and respectful either. He didn't obey the word of God and discipline his son and teaching him how to respect authority. And so the problem is not simply that the son is cursed and has to go his own way (though that is certainly true), but the son also is copying his father in his rebellion.

Before I go too far let me assure you that I am not blaming you in the sense that you knew what to do and didn't do it. You're doing the best you can, I'm sure of that. But the fact remains that you didn't know what to do as a father and thus didn't do what the Bible requires you to have done with your son when he was little and now you are reaping the fruit of that planting and watering. What remains is how to “fix” it.

I suggest first, that you get your mind around your responsibility in your son’s rebellion. You are responsible for his actions because God put you over him. He belongs to you and reflects how you raised him apart from God. Once you do realize how important you were in the journey, you need to repent of your sin and confess it first to God and then to your son. Let your son know that his rebellion is your fault and that you are taking the blame for his sin. Third, let your son know that his rebellion is also his responsibility. He is the one choosing to go that way, to do those things, to be that way. You trained him, but he is also an independent being and can make right choices. He needs to repent and confess his sins and turn back to God. He needs to start again, as you do.

Fourth, depending on how it goes with your son, you might need to pour your heart out to God in prayer and fasting; asking God to grant forgiveness to your son. If your son realizes his place before God, rejoice with him at his coming home to Christ. Sing Psalms and Hymns and rejoice in the Lord. Have a feast, have a party; invite your friends.

I hope this helps.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

God Cannot Tempt Us...And Yet


Question: James 1:13 says that God does not tempt anyone. In Matthew 6:13, Jesus tells us to pray that the Father does not lead us into
temptation. If God does not tempt anyone, why did Jesus tell us to pray that the Father doesn't lead us into temptation?

Wow. Tough question.

I think the answer lies in the fact that the word actually means testing rather than tempting. Of course tempting is correct when we view the test as one that we were to fail would be indicated by our sinning. Still God does test his saints (e.g. Gen 22:1), the goal being successful completion of the test, though he does not tempt them (Jas. 1:13). The difference would be that God's desire is for the one being tested to come through with a completion of the test rather than to fail the test.

So, God could lead a person into testing, which we should accept with rejoicing (Jas. 1:2), because it produces godliness in us. At the same time we should pray that God not lead us into temptation because we are weak and don't want to fail the test. On another hand we know that when tempted God will always give us a way of escape so that we don't have to sin (1 Cor. 3:10:13).

It is similar to when Jesus tells his disciples to rejoice in being persecuted (Mt. 5:10-12) and at the same time he tells them to flee persecution (Mt. 10:23). We rejoice if it comes to us and is unavoidable, but we avoid it if we can.

It's all about relationship and covenant. God wants us to walk with him in every way, with every aspect of our lives devoted to him and his service. With respect to our being tested and proved, he constantly gives us opportunity to choose him over our own desires. Because he loves us, he never wants to see us fall, thus he never tempts us. But he does want to see us worship him by laying down our lives and choosing him over our own desires and those opportunities for service are called testing.

I hope this makes sense.


Wednesday, December 03, 2008

My Way or the Highway

As I was driving home after our discussion the other night I thought a lot about your situation. It is always interesting to me that the same kinds of situations come to our pastoral team in waves. There are many families in the same situation as yours in now and I thought it might be helpful to write something to address it.

You mentioned several times in our conversation something along the lines of "this is my house and folks need to do what I say or get out." Another way to put it is "its my way or the highway." And I've heard this same sentiment like this, "you either put up or shut up," from other gents. The attitude that this sort of statement makes is that "God has put me in the place of authority in my home and I'm taking it very seriously and don't get in my way or you will be squashed."

I know that you would never express this attitude as harshly as I've presented it here, but you did say something like, "this is my house and as long as you live in my house, you will do as I say." This isn't an exact quote, but I think it is close enough for discussion. Also, after we got home I asked my wife about it and she noticed the comment as well.

The problem with these sorts of comments is that it expresses an attitude is that it is right in one sense but totally wrong in another. God did put the husband in the home to lead it, to be the head of it, to be the authority in it. But he did not put the husband in the home to dominate it or to bully it. Men need to be the head as a servant, not a tyrant. Jesus was in charge, is in charge, but he never says anything close to "its my way or the highway." He says walk in me, spit on me, hit me, and I'll still love you and care for you and intercede for you and give my life for you.

The way this attitude shows itself in the kids is that they feel like they have to walk around the home on eggshells all the time. They never know when they are going to set the "master" off by doing something that is contrary to what he's deemed the "right" way. It frustrates them and makes them angry. This is the primary attitude that causes a father to break the commands to not frustrate or anger his children (Eph. 6:4; Col. 3:21). It may also be the reason your sons ran away rather than face the ruler of the home with something they "knew" would not be a topic for discussion. It also would explain why there is clearly something still wrong and none of the kids are talking.

I believe this attitude or ruling from the top down is a sinful attitude. It will drive your children from the home as soon as they are able to leave. They will not love what you love because you have been forcing it on them rather than living it out in front of them. You have been cramming it down their throats rather than offering it to them in an attitude of love and grace.

If, after you get up off the floor, you think I'm right in my assessment of what is happening and why, you'll need to confess this imperial attitude as sin. Confess it to the whole gang and get rid of it entirely from your mind and vocabulary. Never act like you are the boss again. It isn't your home it is Jesus Christ's home and you are simply the care taker. Jesus doesn't rule the home with an iron fist, even in his mind, He leads as a servant.

One more thing about this, if I'm right about the attitude in your home, and I think I am, it will probably carry over into whatever church you pastor. If it does, your church will never make it and if it is already up and running, it will explode in a short time. This attitude is a challenge to everyone to kick against the goads. It tempts people to raise their backs and fight this unauthorized authority in their lives. This is why it frustrates and angers the family as well.

With this repentance and confession of sin in mind I have some suggestions for how to love your family. I know you are already doing most of this, but it is good for me to write it down:

First, love your children physically. Touch them a lot. Throw the boys around, hug your daughter. If you've been hugging the boys keep it up and do it more. Make your home a physically touchy place. Don't forget your wife in all of this. She lives there too and is feeling the brunt of trying to keep the whole shebang together in spite of the situation you've created. So love her, hug her, play with her, flirt with her, take her on dates, sit and chat with her for hours and hours. Make them all crazy with your attention.

Second, respect your sons. Praise them for anything and everything they do. Get involved in their lives as much as you have time for. Boys need respect. They need to know that their father is proud of them. They need to know that they can make mistakes and things are okay at home. They can do stupid things and their father will still be their greatest fan. If you don't know what it means to respect someone, look it up in the dictionary and do a Bible study about it. Then do it until everyone is driven nuts by it.

Don't forget your wife and daughter in this. The Bible doesn't say to respect your wife, but how can you love her if you don't? Usually men don't need to know what it means to respect someone, they need to know how to love, but it wouldn't hurt to practice on your wife and daughter too.

Third, be very careful with the way you give commands in the home. In fact, with Bubba I would say hardly ever give him a command at all. He needs to learn to make decisions on his own, so take these next few years as a testing ground to help him learn to make them for himself. Talk to him about it and let him know what you're doing. Don't just drop him. Let him know that you want to give him the benefit of your years and wisdom, but in most cases you're going to let him make decisions about his own life.

With everyone else don't give commands like you are god. Make sure everyone knows that you're making decisions for their best interests, and that you have them in mind every time you make a decision. Even ask them for their input for most of the things you have to decide about for the family. Let them be involved in the things that the family needs to do. If you have to make a decision for Wilbur make it with his obvious input. In the process teach him how to make wise decisions. Of course everyone else will be in on this too.

Fourth, instead of making commands make requests. Instead of saying, "go out and mow the lawn." Say, "the lawn is kind of long, would you please go and take care of that?" Give the folks the opportunity to say "no," or "I'd rather not," or "sure, I'd love nothing better than to serve you with all my heart." By you getting off your high horse and becoming a servant in your home instead of the boss, you'll be allowing your family to serve you and one another, and not do it grudgingly, angrily or out of frustration.

Fifth, unless someone wants to make a decision that will affect the rest of their lives (metal things in their head, or tattoos, etc.) let them do what they want. If Bubba wants to wear baggy, faded jeans, let him. If he wants to listen to rock music, let him. What will it hurt? If he is doing it because he is rebelling against God, you've lost him anyway. Anything you do at this point will only drive him away from you. If you back off and let him do what he wants, at least, if he is rebelling, he will self destruct in your own home rather than off in a gutter somewhere. My view is that he was rebelling against your attitude rather than the Lord. If this is the case, he might wear those jeans, but if there isn't anything pushing back against him, he'll stop if after a short time.

Again, use the things he wants to do as an opportunity to teach him how to make decisions. If he makes bad ones, let him. He needs to learn by making bad decisions as well as by making good ones. In either case, respect him, lift him up, pray for him, pray with him. Live a godly life in front of him and let him live it in front of you because it is flowing out of his bones, not because you told him to.

Bubba isn't a bad kid. He isn't going to want to get a tattoo or date a strange woman. What is the worst thing that can happen if he gets to do stupid things? The worst thing right now is that you'll have to give up control. But that's the point. Control isn't yours, it is God's. God loves Bubba infinitely more than you do, so love him like God does.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Preaching with Notes

Hi Jim,

There is a huge spectrum of opinions on whether preachers should use notes, no notes, manuscripts, or whatever. You use manuscripts, I've read homiletics books on how to preach with no notes at all. I've heard good sermons where the preacher used a manuscript and I've heard bad sermons where the preacher used very few notes.

I teach homiletics here at Greyfriars' Hall and what I tell my students is to experiment with all the different ways of doing it. I tell them to do the experimenting in small group situations rather than in the sermon on Sunday, if at all possible. Of course in the pulpit is where the real rubber meets the road, but it is good to work on the changes in a safer environment before springing it on your congregation, if you can.

One thing I would suggest is to read books on how to formulate a sermon for preaching. John Broadus has a very elementary book on creating the sermon. John MacArthur’s introduction to preaching suggests several ways of doing it. Though it is important to point out that he has moved past what he says in his book and says so in the book.

The way I suggest for you to move from manuscript to outline is, since you listen to Doug's sermons, download the sermon notes from our web site and read them as Doug goes through the sermon. He uses the same notes in the pulpit that we have on line and you can see how he reads and interjects other stuff at the same time. You will see that his sermon notes are actually not an outline, but not really manuscript either. He has learned to do this very well and the style has served him well over the years so that he is able to turn his notes into books and if he wants to teach the same topic in the future there is enough information in the notes for him to use them again without having to restudy the whole issue.

The problem that most new preachers have is that when they go from manuscript to more of an outline they lose their place as soon as they look up to talk. Sometimes they say something at the front of the sermon they had planned to say at the end. Sometimes they completely forget to say things they wanted to say. But God is in charge and he rules the man and the sermon and when it is all over you have to give it all to God and ask him to bless your labors.

The problem with manuscripts is usually that they cause the sermon to be very wooden and tight. The congregation gets the sense that they don't really need to be there at all. The preacher is just talking to his notes and there is no personal interaction between him and his flock

Some pitfalls to watch out for would be: (1) First the temptation to chase rabbits all over the field. Sometimes you will say something that catches your imagination, but wasn't part of your original intention. You have to make the immediate decision as to whether this new topic is helpful to the situation or not helpful. The problem is that sometimes these are the kinds of things the Holy Spirit gives you in the middle of the sermon that need to be said, sometimes not. (2) The second thing to watch out for is that you don't want to illustrate illustrations. In Doug's style of notes the main point is in the notes. He often stops reading to elaborate on a point and sometimes this involves an illustration. But sometimes a guy can get caught up in the illustration and he will say something that is difficult and he thinks that point needs to be illustrated and so off he goes illustrating illustrations. (3) The advantage of less notes is that you can be personal with your people, that is a good thing, the down side, however, is that sometimes guys have a tendency to become flippant and too informal. We need to remember that we are representing God and speaking for the Lord Jesus. So there needs to be a measure of, what Lewis called, solempne in our bearing and presence in the pulpit. There needs to be a joyful seriousness; a solemn cheer; a simple but deep elegance.

I hope this helps,

Friday, November 07, 2008

Parable of the Sower

Dear Pastor Lawyer,

Before we were married (5 yrs. ago), my husband gave his life to Christ in his home by himself. That same week, he joined a bible believing church and was baptized within a month. He also became part of a bible study on the purpose driven life. I saw the change in my husband and got back together with him when he asked for my hand in marriage. (I broke off our relationship three months earlier because I became a Christian and he was not). Once we were engaged to be married, my husband slowly became indifferent to Jesus Christ, transferring the Love he had for Christ onto me. He always had a hard time showing love but now it was like my dream come true. He now goes through the motions of going to church and serving once in a while, but has NO interest in a personal relationship with Christ, growing spiritually, reading his bible, or Christian books. Instead, he's friends with the world, feeding himself on the Internet, T.V., secular movies, and books. I now feel like I've been deceived. Is it possible he's not saved?


Given what you've said here it is very possible that he is not saved. When you read the parable of the sower in Matthew 13 you see that the seed fell on 3 different kinds of soil.

In one kind of soil nothing happened at all. In the next 2 kinds something happened but faith did not ultimately "take." Only the last kind of soil produced fruit and thus was saved in the end. It is possible that your husband is one of the second or third kind of soils.

It is also possible that he doesn't know any manly Christian men and so he has just fallen to the side until he meets one. When men come into contact with the kind of Christianity that is lead by women or by men pretending to be women they often fall away from what they think is the faith. It could be that all your husband needs is a real man of God to lead him to the real God of the Bible, the one who raises nations and tears them down, who fights wars and destroys strongholds.

If I were you I would pray that God would bring a truly godly man into my husband's life and that God would open your husband's eyes to see the difference and want to be part of the real Kingdom of God.

I hope this helps,


Monday, September 15, 2008

In Memory of Nella Helm

The Scripture Reading
Timothy 1:8-14

The Message
We’re here this afternoon to commemorate and remember Nella Helm. Most of us only knew her for a couple of months, others knew her all of their lives. What all of us remember about her, and I hope will remember about Nella for the rest of our lives, is that she knew where she was going. Nella knew that one day she would be where she is right now—in the bosom of Abraham, rejoicing with the angels, singing praises non stop to the King of Glory.

I’m one of those folks who only knew Nella for a few months.

I knew her because she came to Bible studies at my house and participated with everyone else in talking about what a wonderful Savior we worship and Lord we serve. One of the things I believe I know about her—since we’re remembering her—is that she would be a disappointed if we were going to sit around this afternoon and remember her in a somber or morose way.

You see, Nella agreed with the Apostle Paul when he said that he didn’t know whether it would be better to be with the Phillipians or to go to be with the Lord. He knew that being with the Lord would be much better for him, but not better for the people who would miss him. So he chose to remain on this earth, in his body. But all of us come to a time when God says, “No, I need you here. You’re ready to enter into your reward. Come on Home.” And for the faithful Christian, those are the greatest words a person can hear. Being face to face with the Lord Jesus can’t be anything but wonderful. All the saints in the Bible longed to see God face to face. To sit at his feet. To gather with all the saints who have gone before and worship with every fiber of their beings.

Nella was no different. She knew that what she faced in the presence of God was going to be glorious—and she was right.

How do I know? How can I make such strong pronouncements? How could Nella be so secure and confident in her redeemer? Well, remember the passage I read earlier? It said, in part, “I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me.” Nella knew whom she believed in. She knew Jesus. She lived daily in His presence and in communication and communion with Him. She knew Him. She talked to Him. She saw Him at work in her life and in the life of those she prayed for. She saw Jesus and loved him and knew he loved her. And like the Apostle she could say He knew her (which when you think about it is much more important).

Because she knew Jesus, Nella was confident that He was faithful. He never let her down. She read her Bible and learned about history and knew that God never lets His children down. He is always faithful. And because He is faithful, when He promises a thing, He will do it. Jesus said that He was going away to prepare a place for His brothers and sisters. He said where He was going, we would also be going. He promised that if we trusted Him, He would give us eternal and everlasting life. Because He was always faithful in the past, Christians like Nella could be convinced and extremely confident that when her breath faded away, when her heart stopped beating, and when her body began turning to dust, she would be ushered without hesitation into the very joy-filled presence of the God who loved her and continues to love her face to face even as I’m telling you about it now.

Nella didn’t want us to remember her with sadness. She is anything but sad right now. Of course we will miss her and grieve because she isn’t with us anymore. But when you think about it, this whole event is more like Nella moved out of town than anything else. And like David said about his son who died, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept, for I said, 'Who knows whether the LORD will be gracious to me, that the child may live?’ But now he is . Why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me." In a real sense, though Nella has moved away those of us who know Jesus will, when our time comes, go to her. Grieving is normal and shouldn’t in any way be made to sound unnecessary or somehow wrong. But remember, as much as we miss her, she is a lot better off where she is now than if she were here with us.

There are some here this afternoon who knew that everything I’m saying about Nella is true for Nella, but you do not share her faith in God. I want you to know that you can have the same confidence that Nella had. You can have her faith. You can know, like Nella did, that God keeps his promises. You grew up in Christian America. You heard the Gospel of Jesus when you were a little boy or when your mother took you to church every Sunday. And you know that all you have to do to have the same confidence in your future that Nella had, is to let go of trying to run your own life and submit yourself to the Lord Jesus Christ. As you remember Nella Helm, remember that she had great confidence that her destiny was secure because she served a faithful God; the God who loves her and embraces her right now. She isn’t just in a better place because she was sentimental and smarmy. If you knew her at all you knew these didn’t characterize Nella. Nella is in a better place because she put her trust in Christ the Lord and He is trustworthy. He can bring you to Himself as He has brought Nella to Himself.


Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Pretty vs. S exy

Dear Mike,

I think that, due to a mistake, I didn't thank you for your wonderful reply about men-women relationships. Now I would also ask you how a Christian woman should dress.

Thank you very much,


Hi Ben,

I'm not sure what you mean. I think brides should wear wedding gowns and police women ought to wear uniforms. Principially everyone should wear appropriate clothing for the thing they are doing.

Often women have a difficult time distinguishing between what looks pretty and what looks s exy. If they know the difference, they should choose to be pretty and not s exy, except in suitable situations (i.e. with their husband at home). If they don't know the difference their fathers and brothers should teach them the difference and then they can dress in a pretty way and not in a s exy way. Women might not know the difference, but men know. Let the men who know teach the women who don't.

Know this also, that the culture has no clue. Everything they do is for the shock and s exually deviant. Never copy the things of the world and think you are simply being pretty. The world is not into being pretty, it is into being as provocative as it can be for the destruction of cultures and civilization.

Otherwise, enjoy life, love God, do what you want.

I hope this helps,

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

What's Missing?

My name is Daniel, and I am writing to find out a little more about the Christian Faith. So before the questions, a little bit of background.

I have had an interest in Christianity for 6 or 7 years. During that time I have had many conversations with Christians, read a few books about Christianity, attended church on and off, and had some interesting email exchanges. For a period of about 5 months at the end of 2004 I considered myself to be a Christian, but since then have become increasingly skeptical. However, I believe that the answer to the question of who Jesus was has such enormous ramifications that it would be foolhardy for me to ever stop inquiring. I live in Australia, am 25 years old, middle class, and consider myself to be an open minded atheist (an oxymoron in some of your eyes no doubt!).

Enough about me, please find below a number of questions that I would love to hear some different opinions on. If you are too busy to answer all of them, no worries - I ask that you would either answer the first three, or forward this email to a regular at your church who may have a bit more time on their hands. If there are a few people at your church who would be interested in responding, that would be fine also.

I am writing purely for my own interest and education.

Kind Regards, Dan

Hi Dan,

I'll see if I can answer some of your questions:

1. Why should I dedicate my life to Jesus Christ?

Because Jesus is Lord, he offers life, joy, peace, and hope. And because he is Lord, the alternative to submission isn't good. It really isn't a choice on your part. Jesus is Lord. That means you either serve him with your whole life, or you don't. You do choose that. But life is not centered on you, it is centered on him. Everything revolves around him. Everything either serves him or it does not. But the fact that Jesus is Lord means that he gets it his way, no matter what we do.

On the up side, he is a benevolent God. He defines love, and goodness, and truth, and beauty. He gives true life. He laid down his life on our behalf because he loves us. He is Lord, but he isn't a stern Lord except to those who don't and won't submit themselves to him. Rebels don't believe that he is good, but those who serve him are blessed in everything they do--because he knows them and he cares for them.

So, don't ask this question like your dedication will be doing God a favor, he is Lord. The whole attitude is one of a great blessing to you, if you finally give up the struggle for your own autonomy and finally bow the knee to the only one who is worthy of you worship.

2. How do you know that Jesus was who you think he was?

Nothing in life makes any sense or fits or is consistent apart from the knowledge that Jesus is Lord and the Bible is true. If it is not, we have no hope in the world. But we do have hope and everything that happens in the world is described perfectly in the Bible. There is nothing in life that does not fit.

3. What are the top 5 books (excluding the Bible) concerning Christianity that you would suggest I read?

What's wrong with the Bible? You should read that too. Start with the Gospel of John and just keep reading.
Apart from the Bible, I suggest these five to get you started.

The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe by Lewis
Persuasions by Wilson
Mere Christianity by Lewis
The Pilgrim's Regress by Lewis
Defense of the Faith by Van Til

4. What do you believe about the power of prayer?
There is no power in prayer. The power is in the God who you are praying to. God love his people. We know this because he sent his son to die in our place. But we also know that one who loves will do whatever the loved one asks for, if it is for his ultimate good. So, I know that God loves me, he constantly pours out his blessings on me and my family, and he does what I ask for when it is in accord with what he wants to do in the larger scheme of things--things I don't know about.

5. What do you think the phrase "faith in Jesus Christ" means?

The word faith is a word we translate from a Greek word that also is translated as belief and trust. So when I say I have faith in Jesus Christ it means that I believe that he is Lord of lords and King of kings. It means that I have entrusted my eternal life to him because of who he is and because of who I'm not. I look at the past and see the pattern of God's hand on it and I believe that he has a grand plan and I give myself to him: lock, stock and barrel because he is trustworthy. I believe that he is Lord and I am not.

6. In what sense are The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit the same, and in what sense are they different?

They are one God and thus they share attributes and characteristics with one another. They differ in their role with regard to creation. The Father speaks, the Son creates, by the power of the Holy Spirit. This is a huge topic and this is only a very very rudimentary statement. If you want to read some more you might read The Doctrine of God by John Frame.

7. Do you believe that it takes as much faith to be an atheist as it does to be a Christian?
I don't believe that faith is something that you can measure. It isn't a substance. A person, Christian or not, trusts in something for his life. That trust is faith. I believe the difference between a Christian and a non-Christian is essentially who they will serve. It isn't about evidence or about truth, or knowledge or about anything other than who gets to be in charge. If it were really about any of these things, everyone would obviously be a Christian. There is nothing in science or creation that points to anything other than God's existence, but more than that, everything points to the God of Christianity. If folks could divorce the evidence from the obvious ramifications of the evidence, no one would deny the truth of Christianity. But the ramification is that if Christianity is true, we have to stop serving and loving ourselves and pour ourselves into the service of God Almighty. And we're back to where we started--who are you going to serve: the Lord Jesus Christ or yourself?

8. Do you think that a belief in evolution is irreconcilable with a faith in Christ?

Ultimately, yes. I think Christians, those who have faith in Christ, can be confused and wrong about evolution, but really, when you get right down to it Evolution is a competing world system with the God of the Bible. So as a person truly gives himself over to Jesus the Lord, he will distance himself from the silliness of evolution in favor of the God who is the Creator.

9. Is there anything else you would like to share concerning your religious beliefs?

When you go to the pool there are a couple of ways to get in: you can just jump in, or you can slide in really really slowly with the intent of getting used to the water as you slide. This is sort of like that. The problem is that the water is ice cold and sliding in is virtually impossible. The only way to get into really cold water is to just jump in. Sometimes events on the shore make jumping in, even into icy water, seem much more plausible. For instance, if you're in a forest that is on fire, jumping into ice water is a much easier choice.

But suppose there was no forest fire and you only thought the water was icy. There are plenty of folks already in the water who are saying, "Come on in, the water's fine." But you are convinced the water is really cold and they are all just trying to joke with you. They will all laugh when you hit the water and your hearts stops for a second and you turn into a bright blue smerf. But what if they aren't? What if the water is really a nice warm 87 degrees? What if it is so clear that you can see forever and the sights down there are wonderful and beautiful?

Becoming a Christian is a lot like that. The Bible says come to Jesus. Lay down your life and take up his. Your burdens are heavy and his is light. Let him take yours and you take his. He'll lift you up and take you to the throne room of God where you will join inumerable saints worshiping the God who loves you.

Normally God has to cause events and situations in a non-believer's life to be so bad that not being a Christian is impossible to maintain (the forest fire). When you life is so awful that giving yourself over the Christ is the only way to turn, then you will come. The issue is really, down deep in your soul: who will be Lord? You are Jesus? That is the core issue. Is Jesus Lord? Then serve him. If you are lord, then keep on making things up to try to justify the terrible things going on in and around your life. You aren't God and you can't run the universe--even your own universe. So I urge you, before your life gets so bad there isn't anywhere else to turn, while there is still opportunity to turn, turn to Christ the author, creator and keeper of your soul.

I hope this helps,

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Standard Setter

"I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, "who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty."
Revelation 1:8

Who Sets the Standard?

…just raising the question as to whether God “measures up” to our standard of goodness is to assume that we set the standard for goodness, not God.
Dan G. McCartney, Why Does It Have to Hurt?, p. 20.

The God Who Can

Why is his [Rabbi Kushner’s When Bad Things Happen to Good People] book so popular? I think it is because it provides a kind of solution to the problem that everyone who believes in God in some way feels. God can be a friend without being in any way responsible for our suffering, either by action or by inaction. Kushner’s God is accessible, lovable, friendly—a god to whom we can relate as someone who shares our predicament of suffering and powerlessness. In his system, prayer does not change things; it only changes us. Religion makes us sensitive to other people’s pain and gives us the strength to get through the suffering by affirming our self-worth…What good is a God who cannot do anything but wring his hands and sympathize?...The biblical writers prayed to a sovereign who can remedy the situation. Even Jesus in his agony prayed to God, knowing that the issue was not one of God’s power, but of his will: “Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
Dan G. McCartney, Why Does It Have to Hurt?, p. 19.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Suffering as Discipline

It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.
Hebrews 12:7-13

Something Wrong

Suffering tells us that something is wrong. If there were no suffering, how many of us would be concerned either with God or with the welfare of others? The overwhelming immensity of suffering, the fact that there is so much of it, ought to give us some indication of the magnitude of the wrongness in the world and the enormity of humanity’s sinfulness.
Dan G. McCartney, Why Does It Have to Hurt?, p. 14.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Everyone Suffers, Everyone Dies

There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish."
Luke 13:1-5

God Controls Evil

Here is where we must start. God’s sovereignty is the most important ground work for any biblical dealing with suffering. If God does not have control over evil, then evil is only senseless and meaningless, and it is silly to ask, “Why is there suffering?”…in answer to the general question, “Why is there suffering?”, the answer is that suffering is always a consequence of the curse. It is therefore indirectly the consequence of our sinfulness.
Dan G. McCartney, Why Does It Have to Hurt?, p. 13

Friday, August 15, 2008

Suffering: Becoming Like Him

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his , that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the .
Philippians 3:7-11

Suffering is Part of the Solution to Suffering

So the general answer to why there is suffering is, oddly, because God cares about the relationship he has with his image bearers. He does not shrug off our rebellion. Suffering is part of the curse that results from sin, but suffering is also part of the solution.
Dan G. McCartney, Why Does It Have to Hurt?, p. 12.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

How We Suffer Matters

Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.
Philippians 1:27-30

Suffering: A Gift From our Loving God

The main point of Genesis 3 is this: God has ordained suffering! It is a result of his curse. Suffering is not something outside of his dominion or beyond his control. But also note here that suffering is not merely punitive. It is also redemptive. Suffering is not God’s vindictive bashing of humanity for its disobedience; it is God’s means of restoring rightness to his creation and rescuing us from the evil situation we produced for ourselves.
Dan G. McCartney, Why Does It Have to Hurt?, p. 10.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Suffering: A Great Temptress

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.
1 Corinthians 10:13-14

The God of Peace Is At War

This story [Gen. 3:14-15] is not about how the snake developed its means of locomotion; it is about the humiliation and curse of Satan, the great enemy of God and humanity. God was not about to allow humanity to be Satan’s tame pet. So God first dealt with the perpetrator of this evil by setting up a war. God is a God of peace, but he does not make peace with Satan. In fact it is because God is a God of peace that he is at war, and sets us at war, with Satan.
Dan G. McCartney, Why Does It Have to Hurt?, p. 8.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Trust In A Faithful God

The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.
Deuteronomy 29:29

When Questions Arise

It is when you experience affliction and oppression, when pain runs amok, when pain is seemingly futile, and when evil is so clearly present, that questions are raised, Then is when you begin to question all you know of God—his wisdom, his justice, his goodness, his sovereignty, even is being.
Dan G. McCartney, Why Does It Have to Hurt?, p. 7

Friday, August 08, 2008

The Answer to Suffering

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands.
Psalm 63:1-4

Simply Part of Life

But for most of the world's history, pain has been regarded simply as part of life.
Dan G. McCartney, Why Does It Have to Hurt?, p. 6

Thursday, August 07, 2008

For Those Who Suffer

In fact, we could say that the Bible is the book about suffering. From suffering’s origins in the Fall of humanity in Genesis 3 to its final defeat in Revelation 21, over and over the biblical writers raise the questions of why God’s chosen people are suffering and what their response should be. Israel’s bondage in Egypt, Israel’s suffering in the wilderness, their experience of oppression from their neighbors, their constant warfare, their droughts, and their exile are all problems for the biblical writers. Indeed, it was the question of suffering that gave rise to most of the Bible.
Dan G. McCartney, Why Does It Have to Hurt?, p. 3

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Things Seen are Transient

For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:17-18


Cornelius Van Til spent over 40 years of his life working to create and teach a philosophy of apologetics that was distinctively Reformed and thus Biblical. He called his approach Presuppositional apologetics or Transcendental apologetics. He anchored his approach in Covenantal thinking which was tied directly to the relationship of God in the Trinity. Van Til was followed by such philosophers as John Frame and Greg Bahnsen, who massaged and popularized Dr. Van Til’s approach.

Presuppositional apologetics is contrasted with what has been called Evidentialist or Classical apologetics. “Classical” apologetics assumed that people could put aside their preconceived philosophies and religions and meet for discussion in a neutral arena. According to this view facts are facts and there can be no debate about this. Either a thing happened or it didn’t. So, the Evidentialist apologist seeks to pile up historical evidence before the non-Christian so that over time the non-Christian will have to admit that the truths presented are true indeed. So, men like John Warwick Montgomery, Josh McDowell, and Norman Giesler write books that teach and model this approach to apologetics and thus evangelism.

The problem with this method of apologetics, according to Van Til and others, is that the whole system is flawed by the central fact that the approach is not found in the Bible. No one in the Bible sought to reason with non-believers; no one assumed that there was anywhere that men could go that would be neutral; and no one piled up “facts” to try to convince others that the truths of Scripture were or are true. Dr. Van Til, therefore, sought to come up with a thoroughly Biblical approach to apologetics that was grounded in the word of God and was also consistent with the Calvinist theology he understood to be the only consistently Biblical theology.

Friday, August 01, 2008

A Cry to God For Help

Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
See if there be any grievous way in me,
lead me in the way everlasting!
Psalm 139:23-24

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Suffering Causes Loneliness

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest. Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel. In you our fathers trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them. To you they cried and were rescued; in you they trusted and were not put to shame. But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by mankind and despised by the people. All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads; "He trusts in the LORD; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!"

Psalm 22:1-8

Imagination Practice

Dear Pastor Lawyer,

One thing that I have been wondering about, just as a general counseling question, is that often in counseling discussions I have run into people’s own failure of imagination being a stumbling block to their piety. I say, “God says that he wants your life to be full, and if you turn to him and trust and obey him, your life will overflow with living.” And they say. “It is hard to trust and obey because I just can’t imagine what a life full of living would be like.” And I say, “huh, I don’t know how to give you that imagination, you have to trust and obey to get it.” I have started “imagination practice” with my kids, so that their imagination will press them towards life, but how do you inspire dulled imaginations towards the liveliness of holiness? Perhaps I am thinking about counseling wrong (I am new at this), but sometimes it seems more like trying to crack walnuts with a sledgehammer without crushing the nut. I am not sure if there is an answer, perhaps you know of a book?

Thank you for all of the prayers,


Hi Jason,

The only thing I know to do for that imagination thing is to model it for people. That's part of what the Bible means when it calls for vision. The pastor needs to know what he is looking for and leading toward. The people are looking down at the dirt in front of them, but the pastor has to have his face looking forward to Jesus and spurring the people on to imitating him in this.

This is also the drawback in evangelism, Christians have a difficult time convincing others that there is more in Christ, if they don't see the more in Christ themselves. Spurgeon preached a sermon that touched on what we are talking about (http://www.spurgeon.org/sermons/2405.htm). The name of it is "Joy, A Duty." It seems kind of funny to think about joy and rejoicing as a duty, something to be obeyed, gritted out, and brought kicking and screaming to. But there it is. Christians don't know what we are missing, because we've never seen it and don't realize that we don't have it—until their pastor gets a hold of it and models it for them. You need to give them something, someone, to imitate.

This is one of the great things about getting a new pastor. You're young, full of life, haven't been hardened or dragged down by the silliness of sin that people get themselves mired in. You charge along and bring the rest with you, don't let their complacency or watered-downness get you down. Your congregation, by and large, isn't like this, but you still need to constantly go to the well of life yourself and make sure that everyone doesn't slowly "calm" down into dreariness.

Here are some ideas of ways to be in front of your people: Let the love of God fill you up so that it falls out all over them. Constantly take them to where God is and ask, "Where is God in this?" of "How is God thinking about this?" Do that imagining thing with everyone. Ask them to imagine what it would be like if God really did fulfill his promises. What would it be like if God really did exist? What would it be like if we did what God said and he responded in the way he says he will? What would happen if God visited with us on Sunday mornings? What if all of this stuff we're talking about is true? Really true?

Get it in your bones first. Then let it rip with your people. I don't mean being obnoxious, but close. Be bold, be courageous, be like Christ.

I don't know of any books on this topic. I know of a lot of books that have inspired me along these lines at times. But I have to say, as schmaltzy as it sounds, the Bible gets me fired up more than any other book I know of. I can't even read it before I go to bed at night because I get all sorts of ideas and things to think about and can't go to sleep.

I can't remember if I've given the Smiths the bitterness booklet, but I can't imagine that I haven't. I do know that most people don't recognize bitterness in themselves, no matter how strongly you tell them. You've got to lead them by allowing them to evaluate themselves in the light of the word in each situation. Then when a pattern forms, they can see that they sin in particular ways at particular times.

Here are a list of things to ask to help someone see how their responses are sinful and how they are sinful.

1. Explain what happened: the general details.
2. What were you thinking or feeling during this event?
3. What did you do, or what was your response to this event?
4. Why did you respond this way? What were you seeking to accomplish?
5. What was the result? Did it accomplish what you were trying to do? Are you satisfied with how things turned out?
6. Where was God in this? Was your action, thought, response a godly response?
7. What could you have done differently? And how will you prepare your heart to respond that way the next time the same situation, or one like it occurs?

I hope this helps,

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

When I Kept Silent

Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit. For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the LORD," and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah
Psalm 32:1-5

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

More on the CCEF Conference

I don't know how to do that link thing on my blog so you'll have to go here to see what they're talking about.

CCEF Conference on Addiction

Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation (CCEF) Announces
2008 Annual Conference - The Addict in Us All

Addiction sounds ominous, and it is. Addictions to drugs, alcohol, and gambling tear families apart and ruin lives. But this conference is about more than the junkie scoring dope or the alcoholic hiding vodka around the house. Even the average person gets stuck in negative behavior patterns. Overeating, shopping, sexual temptation, people’s approval, even love…everyone struggles with something. And everyone faces moments of despair and thinking that change is not possible.

Is it possible to change longstanding behavior patterns? The faculty and counselors at CCEF believe that God can change the despairing and the stuck—no matter what they are struggling with. CCEF’s 2008 Annual Conference “The Addict in Us All” slated for November 14-16, 2008 at the Valley Forge Convention Center and November 13 Pre-Conference hopes to accurately represent what God says to stuck people and those who want to help them.

Keynote CCEF speakers and noted authors Drs. Ed Welch, David Powlison, and Tim Lane, along with
Mars Hill Church Senior Pastor/ best selling author Mark Driscoll will lead the weekend to explore how God pursues those who have given up all hope for change. A team of experienced biblical counselors, including CCEF faculty, Dr. Mike Emlet and Winston Smith, will lead general sessions and special sessions on topics that include Addicted to “Yes”: The Approval Junkie; Addicted to Love; Teens and Addiction; and This Is Your Brain on Drugs.

We are delighted to have Keith and Kristyn Getty returning again this year to lead worship. The Gettys continue to tour the world promoting their album, In Christ Alone. www.gettymusic.com.

Since 1968, CCEF has set the pace in biblical counseling teaching people how to explore the wisdom and depth of the Bible and apply its grace-centered message to the problem of daily living.

For registration details visit www.ccef.org and click on “Annual Conference” or call 1-800-318-2186

Friday, July 25, 2008

Who Leads the Courtship?

Dear Pastor Lawyer,

As Christ speaks to the disciples in John 14:1-4, we get the sense of the Jewish marriage tradition inferred throughout the "marriage parables" of the gospels—predominantly the unknown hour of the bridegroom's return. Your definition of courtship was that the father of the young lady was actively and authoritatively engaged in the process. In fact, one could say the father of the bride really holds the majority vote.

Yet, in John 14:1-4, and building on the inferred Jewish tradition, such as Edersheim describes in Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, it is not the father of the bride, but the father of the groom who directs the major movements. He is the one who determines the house his son is completing is satisfactory for the son to go retrieve his bride—thus the "only the Father knows the hour..." passage (Matthew 24:36) found in the Olivet Discourse.

In many places in the Bible we see Christ speaking of the Father as directing the Son to get His bride, but in courtship nowadays we confer controlling authority to the father of the bride, do we have some of the authority apportionment in courtship misplaced?

Thanks, Bill

This is a good question Bill.

We see the patriarchal organization of the process of marriage all over the Bible just like you do. And thus we think there is nothing wrong with that system in a social context where that system is in place. So we see it as not being sinful to do it that way. But we do not see it as normative.

What we do see as normative is that "a man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife" (Gen. 2:24; Mt. 19:5). We also see that the father is the head of his household as normative and this would include his daughter because she lives in his house and has his name. Since the father is the head of his household he has the responsibility for making sure his daughter marries a godly and good man.

We also don't necessarily see these two positions as in conflict with each other. Genesis 24 recounts the story of how Isaac got his wife. Abram sent his servant to his home town and told him to get Isaac a wife. This fits with the pattern you are asking about from the patriarchal view. When the servant got to Haran he went through Rebeckah's father to have Rebeckah go with him to marry Isaac. This fits what we see as the normative view.

There were lots of other ways people got hooked up in the Bible, but the woman is always her father's daughter and the man is always the man. We don't have any problem imagining that in a godly family the son would pay very careful attention to what his father says about marriage generally and specifically (e.g. setting up house, preparing a career, childraising, etc.), but when the Bible specifically says a man shall leave his father and mother and cling to his wife, that means that a father should probably be raising his son in such a way that he will be prepared to leave when he wants to get married. In a godly context I can't imagine a wise son ignoring or not asking for his father's input, but the view that the son needs to go through his father in the same way that a son needs to go through the woman's father is not normative—simply allowed.

In a nutshell I would say that the father of the young man should be training his son to be a good husband and be a part of his choice of a wife, as wisdom will allow, and he should train the young man to be a man and prepare him to leave home when he is ready to find a wife. The young woman's father should be training his daughter to be a good wife some day and should be intimately involved in the process of picking a husband for her. His activity in her marriage should be, in a Biblically normative way, something that she expects and loves. The two positions are not necessarily exclusive of one another and should work very well together.

I hope this helps.

Friday, July 11, 2008

A Commencement Speech

Someone sent me a link to this speech. I though it was great. Because it makes so much sense to me, I always wonder how anyone could believe the goofiness of the liberals. I would be interested to chat with someone who was a liberal and who had answers for the points this fellow is making.

Hatred Directed Upwards

"Egalitarianism, the prevailing and acceptable religion of our generation, teaches not a love of equals but a hatred of superiors" (Steve Schlissel, Christian Culture in a Multicultural Age, p. 146).

I borrowed this quote from Doug Wilson’s blog.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Pre-Wedding Jitters?

Hi Tony,

Fighting, in your situation, is not always a bad thing. If you are fighting because you are treating your fiance like you are already her head, but you are not, it makes sense that fighting might occur. I've seen it before, and in these cases, the wedding vows to submit make all the difference. Before the wedding you fight because you think you'res the head (but you aren't, yet) she doesn't submit because she doesn't need to (which she doesn't). But after the wedding they get along fine because the proper covenantal relationship is in place and both people are living according to the Bible.

Another option is that you are on different theological pages. She is a modern egalitarian woman who thinks she knows her mind and isn't about to submit herself to your or anyone else's authority. You are living in the Biblical world where God has placed you in a relationship that mirrors Christ and his church. You are the head of your family and you love your wife and want to do everything for her.

If this is the case, you need to do some serious thinking in a big hurry. If this latter situation is the case, you will never have peace in your home unless you become the milquetoast submissive one in your family. And if you do, neither of you will ever be happy. You will be frustrated because God made you to be the man in your home and she will be frustrated because you won't lead.

There might be a third option. It might be that if you wined her and dined her to win her and have stopped doing those kinds of things because of the other things going on she is feeling abandoned. This is not necessarily an intellectual thing, but emotional. And this is something that you need to remember for the rest of you life. Continue to date your wife. Don't stop dating and flirting with and buying flowers for, and holding her hand, and kissing her, and hugging her. Never stop treating her like you did in the first place, not for a day, an hour, or a minute. Continue to make love to your wife and pour yourself out to her. You need to fulfill your wedding vows and make her the most beautiful woman in the world. Chase her around, love her, nurture her, encourage her, tell her she's the most beautiful woman around. Complement her at every turn. Enjoy her presence, cherish her ideas, listen to her expressions of how she is feeling. And commit yourself to doing this forever.

When you have children, never let them come between you and your wife. You are married to her, not to them. Always make her the number one priority in your life.

I am working on a DMin at Westminster Theological Seminary. I have finished all the coursework and tests and have only the final project to complete the degree. It is in Biblical Counseling. I don't know if you need to take a whole course on counseling to learn how to live with God and others. I would suggest reading books by Powlison, Welch, and Tripp. These guys are really good at caring for the people they minister to. In Powlison's book Seeing With New Eyes, for example, David has a chapter called X-Ray Questions. In this chapter he lists a gazillion kinds of questions a person might ask in order to find out what really makes another person tick. In Depression: A Stubborn Darkness, Ed Welch feels like he is inside the demon of depression as he writes about how to help people who are living with malady. The book is really good for how to deal with depression, but I thought it was even better for how to be empathic with people who hurt and how to care for people in a way that brings God honor. Everything I've read by Welch and Powlison have been really good. Paul Tripp's book Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands is very helpful for a basic starting point in counseling others and for thinking about what you can do to examine yourself.

Above it all, however, you need to maintain a constant walk with God. This means reading your Bible every day and doing it in such a way that the things you read come out to you over and over all day long. You'll be saying things like, "Oh, that reminds me of something I read this morning." Or things that happen that will constantly remind you that you need to be praying for whatever you are involved in. God will be next to you, with you, you will be constantly aware of his presence with you in all that you do. This is how a person is transformed from the inside out.

I hope this helps,

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Loving Your Wife

Hi Wilbur,

Again, I'm very sorry for your situation. I have a few suggestions. As you know I don't really know you and what I do know at all is from what you've told me. And from what I know about other men who are in similar situations to yours.

It sounds like you are a very cerebral fellow. It sounds like you think more than feel. You work with computers, play with machines, and do a lot of theological thinking and studying. There's nothing necessarily wrong with this-- unless your wife is a woman. I don't mean anything that follows to come across in a demeaning way. I'm simply telling you that women and men are different and you are going to need to relate to her differently than you do to men. Most women do a lot more feeling than we men do. This means that if you want to relate to them you need to do it in a much more touchy feely way. You can talk about thoughts, but often you'll get along much further if you talk about feelings--and often these come out the same way, really. So instead of a fellow saying something like, "This is the way it is and that's final!" Rather he should say something like, "Let's talk about this topic for a few minutes (and then actually discuss it, being careful to listen to her point of view)" he'll get much further along in life. Even if the results are the same in the end. Also, discussing what he'feels like doing with his wife really gets a lot from the relationship. Did I mention that it is a relationship? That means you need to find out about how she is feeling as well as sharing your thoughts on the various things. But knowing this, in your case, will only help in the future.

Let me ask you this: when was the last time you apologized to God for the state of your family? Further, when was the last time you apologized to your wife for the state of your family? The Bible tells us that since we men are the heads of our families, that when things go sideways, we are responsible before God for that sideways movement. If your wife sins, she will stand before God for her sin, but so will you because her sin is your sin as the leader of your family. You can read more about this in Pastor Wilson's Federal Husband. When was the last time you confessed any sin to your wife? If you haven't confessed your sin to her, that's where you need to begin. Do not lay her sin in front of her, only yours. It may be something like, "Please forgive me for not being a better example of a godly Christian man, I've been sinful in this for a long long time and I'm begging you to forgive me." You might continue by letting her know that from now on you are going to work very diligently, by the strength of God, to live in a way that is pleasing to God and this will begin by doing a better job of loving your wife.

Here's the next step: What sorts of things did you do to get your wife to marry you in the first place? Did you wine her and dine her? Did you flirt with her, smiling coyly and sending her little notes? Did you ask her to dinner and to the museum? Did you pray for her to be filled with Joy? What kinds of things did you do back in the day?

I would suggest that after you confess your sin to your wife, as a second step, begin loving her again. Bring her a flower every day. Write her a note or letter explaining to her the things you love about her and value in her. Make it as mushy as you can. If you aren't a mushy guy, become one. Get some poetry books and fill your mind with sloppy, lovey, emotional goo and then let it ooze out on your wife. If she rebuffs you, go more slowly, but let the love of God transform you into a romantic fool. Take her on dates (planned and spontaneous), hold her hand, lean on her in lines, go shopping with her, sit and watch TV with her, or sit and read your Bible while she watches TV.

In all of this let the joy of God pervade every fiber of your being. Become a joyful Christian man in every area of your life. Do a study on the demeanor a Christian ought to have and then adopt it. Don't let the circumstances of life rob you of your joy in any way. Become like Christ with regard to joy.

Then, do all of the above with your daughter--even the dates. I take my daughter on a date every week and have since she was born. I want to make any young man who wants to marry her work really really hard to take her love and respect away from me. And I want the same for my wife. I work very hard to keep the love and the flame alive in both of them.

I'm not saying I have sexual relations with my daughter, but I do touch her a lot in affectionate ways. The three of us sit together on the couch to watch TV and it gets hot and sweaty and we love one another. Holding hands, giving foot rubs and back scratches and enjoying one another. We play games, go for walks, bike rides, go for ice cream, even wander the isles in the hardware store wondering what all these cool doo-dads are for.

If your wife and daughter don't respond to anything you do, do it for the Lord. God says love your wife, nurture her, cherish her, husband her with every fiber of your being. It doesn't say anything about doing it if she responds favorably (though that is much more fun), it just says obey God and do it joyfully. If your wife is acting this way because you have led her to be this way, your change will also affect her. If there is something else, your affection will reveal this too.

If I was right about the kind of man you are in the beginning of this letter, you need to do a lot of changing of your mind and behavior. You may need to watch some James Bond movies to learn how to be a romantic man. You might need to read some Louis L'Amour to learn how to be a manly man. You may need to read some Jane Austin to learn how women think and feel. If you do, do it. It won't hurt you and it will make you a better husband and father. One other thing that might really help, go visit a Charismatic church and let the emotions get to you. Feel Jesus. Feel his embrace. Feel his love, his joy, his peace. Don't pay attention to the goofy theology, just get the feeling--love Jesus. Get fired up for Christ. Do whatever it takes to love your wife and daughter.

I hope this helps,

Christopher & Karyn Miltenberger

A Wedding Homily
In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we are gathered here this afternoon to unite this man and this woman in the bonds of Godly and Christian marriage. Before we do however, I need to take a few minutes to say a word of exhortation and commissioning: first, to the bride and groom as part of their preparation for their life together. Second, to those of you who are still in the preparation stage of marriage. And also to the rest of you who need a kind reminder of the vows your took and the journey you are currently on.

When God created Adam in the garden and presented him with Eve he did it with adventure in mind. Think about some of the things that spring to mind when you hear the word adventure: Thrills, wars, battles, terrors, fear, courage, heights, depths, dangers, defeats, victories, enemies, friends, and all sorts of other things. Think about the stories you’ve read over the years that were written in imitation of the way God created the world: the Lord of the Rings, Chronicles of Narnia, A Tail of Two Cities, even books like Pride and Prejudice, and on and on we could go. God created Adam for adventure and he created Eve to help on the adventure.

How do we know it was an adventure? Look at the first command God gave Adam and Eve: Be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it (Gen. 1:28). If that isn’t an adventure I don’t know what an adventure would look like.

When God sent Adam on his adventure he gave him strict guidelines to follow: He said, you can do anything you want to achieve your goal, but don’t eat from that tree over there. Essentially God was telling Adam do what you want, only trust me as you go. Follow me, do what I do, walk in my footsteps, let me lead, let me tell you what you need to know when you need to know it, let me be God and you be my Adam—my people.

But Adam didn’t follow the directions and he was removed from the garden. He lost his relationship with God, his ability to follow, his exalted status—but he was still on the same adventure. Now it had gotten much more difficult because Sin was a new wrinkle, a huge wrinkle in the equation. Before, the difficulties were manageable, now they were terrible. Before Adam only had to wait on the Lord, now things were actually out to get him. Sin made the adventure much more dangerous.

You, Christopher and Karyn, live in the world Adam caused to be cursed. And you are also about to enter into the great adventure that Adam muffed up. But you need to know that the holy one came, died on the cross and rose from the dead, and thus has assured us that you can be victorious in your pursuit of the adventure because God is the author of this story and he loves you and he wants you to succeed with all wonder and amazement and glory and honor. But let me tell you a few things in preparation for this adventure.

First, you have been created for this adventure. This means that everything you are and everything you will ever be is made for adventure. Your souls long for it, you yearn for it, you’ll do anything to have it and to enter into it. Mankind has always sought for adventure in small ways and in large. Whether it be flying to the moon, or going to the bottom of the sea, or looking into the smallest particle of God’s good creation. Men and women are always asking questions like: What if I were to do it this way? What if I tried this? I wonder if it would work better, be stronger, fly higher, be more efficient if…God made people to be adventurous. This is because he is adventurous; we love adventure because he loves adventure. So, never squash the yearning for adventure. Always look for ways to enjoy the things that God has given you to enjoy. Be eternally grateful and learn to rejoice in every aspect of life that God sets before you as part of the adventure of the life that he has given you.

Second, know that every adventure has its down sides. Adventures are never all calm waters and flat seas. You will always have a demon, or an enemy or something that temps you to leave the God who loves you. There will always be something that will tempt you to take matters into your own hands and do it your way instead of God’s way. Avoid those temptations, cling to Christ, fight mightily with every weapon at your disposal to walk with God—at times run with God. Suffering, for the Christian is normal in this life. Study this, learn about it, embrace it and know that it is part of the adventure that God has called you to.

Finally, let me give you a few practical words before I lead you in your vows:
Right now, you are in the process of leaving your parents and cleaving to your spouse. You Christopher have left your father and mother and are taking a bride, a new wife, and creating a new family. That should, in one sense terrify you. But it should also fill you with great joy. Aren’t adventures grand?

And Karyn, did you notice that your father is giving you away? You used to be his, now you’re not and in a few minutes you will belong to this character standing here? Your father has poured his life into raising you in a way that would qualify you to stand where you are right now. That knowledge should terrify you and fill you with great joy at the same time. Aren’t adventures grand?

But get this, the two of you are no longer members of your previous families, you are a new family, a new unit, a new entity on the grand adventure commissioned to fill the earth and subdue it. Here’s where some possible problems will arise:

Christopher, where did you learn to be a husband? And Karyn where did you learn what to expect of a husband? Karyn where did you learn how to be a mother and a wife? And Christopher where did you learn about what to expect of a wife and mother? What happens when some catastrophe comes up? Can you see where a possible problem might arise when you do what your father would have done instead of doing it the way her father would have done it? Or if you do something the way your mother would have done it instead of how his mother would have done it?

Aren’t adventures grand?

The way to solve this problem is to know that it exists and to work together to both anticipate with love what will come and to understand that these differences are part of the grand adventure itself. Rejoice that she is just like her mother in this. Rejoice that he is just like his father in this. Work together to come up with your own ways of doing things, independent of what your family you left did them.

This brings me to the second (and final) application: in a minute you are going to vow that you will forsake all others in your allegiance to one another. What this means is that you are becoming a unit, a team, you two are becoming one. You need to realize that your mother and your father are no longer your authorities. Christopher your wife is your number one priority in life. The bible commands you to love your wife by laying down your life for her. There is no more important person in your life than your wife. This means that you may not put anything between you and her: no parents, no siblings, no hobbies, no children, no other women or men, no job or career move, nothing shall come between you and your wife. You must fight to the death, anything that tries to pry you apart.

And Karyn, your mother is still your mother and your father is still your father, but if there comes a time when your daddy says one thing and your husband says another, you must remember that you have forsaken all others and you must cling to your husband with every fiber of your being. And if one day your little boy falls and skins his knee and your husband treats him in a way that seems to you to be mean, you will suck it up and submit to your husband. You will not let your children come between you and your husband. Neither will you let anything in life come between the two of you.

The two of you are a team, a unit, one man: it is you against the world. You are on a glorious adventure for the glory of God in the strength of the Spirit of God, in Jesus’ Name, charging out to multiply, fill, and subdue the world.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Teens and Facebook

Hello Mike,

I hesitate to write, thinking my question may sound trite or just downright foolish in some way. Or I fear the fact that I am just turning into grumpy old lady! But here it goes. What are your thoughts about teenagers engaging in the social activity of FACEBOOK? Is there anything I could read on the subject that would help in making decisions on the matter. I would also like to know how you and Eileen feel personally on the subject.

I am thinking along the lines of 'Ideas Have Consequences' but unfortunately Richard Weaver does not address this in his book.

Blessings, and hope you are having a wonderful summer!


Hi Sally,

I don't have a problem with teens doing Facebook as long as they know what they are doing. They should know that the whole world is watching what they are doing, that they represent Jesus Christ in everything they do, that they can be just as stupid online as anywhere else, and that Facebook is a public forum. I would make sure that the parents have all the necessary passwords and regularly look at and even participate in the event. It should be an extension of normal life in the family, no secrets, no sneakiness, no deception, no flirting, oh yeah I almost forgot—have fun.

It would probably good for the elders to visit the kids in the church's blogs, Facebook and whatever else is out there. In many ways people write, do and say much more on line than they ever would in public and in person because they have this illusion that they are being private or bold or some other goofy thing that really isn't true.

Teach them to love the Lord and let them go nuts, that's what I say.

If you let them have a Facebook and they abuse it, clamp down hard and give them the freedom back slowly. But let them know that you will be participating in it and will be looking in on it from time to time--and then do what you say.

I hope this helps,

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

What's the Beef?

Howdy Willamina,

All of what you say is true, at least as far as I can remember. But nothing is happening and something needs to happen for anything to happen. So, when I talk to your husband, I'll be saying, “get back together with your wife.” And when I talk to you, I'll say, “do something to get back together with your husband.”

My suggestion is a way for you to make sure that what you're thinking is correct. It may also give us something we can grab in our hands and do something with. Right now, we are hearing one thing from you and another from Samuel. From our perspective it sounds like two proud people not getting along. No one wants to bend; no one wants to give an inch. If we were dealing with two small children we would tell them to hug and stop being this way. But with adults, we can't do that—exactly.

From another perspective, the Bible says to love your enemies and thus pour burning coals on their heads (Rom. 12). If you move in with Samuel, even if he hasn't forgiven you, you will still be in a position to love him and, through your loving kindness to him, make him feel terrible for treating you badly. Right now, there is nothing to make him even start to rethink what is going on.

Let me say this again, he thinks your reason for not moving in—because you have a dog and a cat—is just an excuse to choose something over him, again. If you really wanted to live with him as his wife, you would do whatever you needed to do to make it happen. I don't think this is totally right thinking, but it does make me wonder.

Of course my wife and I are in a very different situation than you guys, but I would bet you money that if I came home one day and announced that we were selling our house and moving down town to the Moscow Hotel, Eileen would be packing the next day and working to get rid of things so that we would fit in the new place. She might ask a few questions, but none of them would be challenges to my place as the leader of the family. You could ask her yourself, but this is what I would bet would be the case.

The essential difference is that Eileen trusts me, but more than that, I would hope, is that she trusts God to take care of her and us. I would not be asking her to sin, just move. God says to submit to him and in this situation that means submit to her husband.

So, what would it hurt for you to ask if Samuel's invitation still stands and then if it is, move in with him? What would it hurt for you to clean up after him and cook for him and care for him when he's sick? What would it hurt for you to get all slinky and lovey-dovey with him and get all dolled up and make the place all foofy and smelly? What would it hurt to make his house like a castle of which he is the king? What would it hurt for you to bow down and call him lord (1 Peter 3:1-6)? What would it hurt for you to do this for the rest of your life?

Of course it would be difficult if he didn't respond in a loving way, but if God is responding in a loving way, and he is, what's the beef? The thing is, this is what the Bible says for a wife to do when her husband is being a pill, and your husband is being a pill. The only thing you can do is to be the best wife to him that any man ever had, and to do it consistently and constantly until "death do you part."

I hope this helps.

In Him,

Americans are Pro-Slavery

I saw this and wondered why anyone can’t see the truth of it. What is it about people that they can’t understand that taking money from one person and giving it to another person hurts both people? When you forcibly take money from hard working Billy and give it to lazy Bobby you hurt Billy by stealing his hard earned money from him and tempting him to quit and become lazy. And you hurt Billy by reinforcing his laziness. Why work if you get money from the government for not working? And while Billy might not be making as much as if he actually earned his own money, he is content to live off the spoils of what other people make. It is just amazing that people can’t see this. It is even more amazing that it seems that those who can’t see it seem to be a majority in our country, including rich people from whom the most money is being stolen.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

It's Snowing

Snow at my house and all over the Palouse.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Identity in Christ

Ours has become a culture of victimization. Being the victim of a crime or some kind of sin is an awful thing. No one disputes this. But in our culture being a victim has taken on a life far beyond what the crime or sin itself warrants. Being sinned against does change your life and it changes it forever, but our culture has made a sort of cult out of being a victim. People who have become victims often change the way they view themselves so that the crime or sin against them becomes the focus of their entire life. The awful event becomes central in their lives. Their basic identity is tied to the sin-filled event in a fundamental way. They often come to the place where they think of themselves as a survivor of X, or someone who has had X happen to them, or someone who is X. Consequently, they form clubs, groups, and organizations with other people of X. Many see this as normal and even a way to cope with or overcome the terrible emotional scarring that this sort of event creates in someone’s soul.

But is this a good thing for someone to whom X has happened? Are they condemned to spend the rest of their lives tied to this despicable event that happened to them? Is there any remedy? Will they always be an X victim?

The Bible tells us that when someone sins against us we are to forgive their sins. Forgiveness means to let it go, to let them go, to not hold the sin against them, and to not remember that sin or event again. "But you don't understand how terrible the sin was. You don't know the pain, the agony, the constant hurt. The event happened years ago, but the pain is ever present. Thoughts of X constantly fill my mind. Let it go? You're out of your mind. X is such an ever present force in my life, it literally defines who I am. To let X go would be like becoming another person entirely."

And that's exactly what the Bible says about coming to Christ. Jesus said "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." He says, “Deny yourself, pick up your cross and follow me." He says the way you get a new life is to be reborn, to become someone new, to start over. In all these things the person who is characterized by X needs to give X up so they can become Christ’s. They need to forgive those who have sinned against them. They need to cling to Christ. They need to trust God to take care of the situation. They need to let it go. Let Christ give them His identity. Stop being an X person - become a Christian. And this reminds us to confess our sins.

Prayer of Praise

Great God of glory, we praise Your name from the mountains to the ocean. From the canyons to the plains. We adore Your majesty from one end of the earth to the other, our praise has not limits because your presence has no end.

You order all things for Your glory, and we desire to participate in that glory by praising you with right praises; delighting in your person and presence in the same way You do. Father, Your zeal for Your name is great, and in our praises we seek to imitate that zeal. Empower us by the Holy Spirit, now, so that we may enter into your presence and adequately express some of that zeal.

Cause us to lose ourselves in your presence and so to keep from exalting ourselves. Keep us from taking any pride in the fact that you have favored us, but cause us to remember that it is for your sake you have chosen us and nothing in us at all.

Take us up, lift us up out of petty concerns, so that we might praise Your name without any self centered distractions.

We praise Your holy name


Monday, June 02, 2008

The Right Thing & The Best Thing

Some parents came to me this past weekend with a fairly common question common to a lot of parents: their high school daughter had done some things to some sinful things against some other g irls when she was in junior high school. Since then, she had matured and repented of her sin, gone to the other g irls and asked for forgiveness. In return the other g irls had said that they forgave her, but they couldn’t be her friend. By itself there' s nothing really wrong with this answer, but in addition, from then on, the g irls been consistently rude and mean spirited towards her ever since. This rude treatment of their daughter was causing the understandable stress in her life and she wanted to change schools and churches (the g irls all go to the same church). The parents wanted to know what I thought they ought to do for their daughter.

Here is my 2 cents: First, it sounds like the daughter, we’ll call her Susie, did the right thing when she realized her sin toward her friends. She should have gone to them, confessed her sin, and humbly asked for their forgiveness. Second, if her perception of what has taken place since then is correct, she is right to feel like she has been sinned against by the other s in their treatment of her. Third, Susie has every right to do everything she can to get away from these s, if they are treating her badly. She is free to do what she wants in this regard. Romans 12:18 says that “if possible, as far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” So, I would say that as a minimum, or in terms of the least possible to do, leaving the school and the church is a permissible choice.

However, there is a deeper, more godly way to proceed; a way that instead of allowing things to remain the same, will work to build up the kingdom of God. When others hurt our feelings and hearts they are doing us a very grievous disservice, but leaving doesn’t change anything. Instead it leaves the possibility for a root of bitterness to take hold and grow into something that destroy Susie’s personality and life in the future. Leaving will train her to hide and run away whenever things get tough and this isn’t a good thing in many situations (marriage for instance).

I believe there are at least two things that Susie ought to do try to make this terrible situation right: First, she needs to make sure that she has forgiven these other s. She needs to do what she wanted them to do for her. Forgiveness means, among other things, to not hold the offense against them and to not remember the offense at all. Someone will say that forgiveness cannot be given or extended unless the one sinning asks for it. Officially that is true. Susie must let the offense go, however, or it will eat her alive. She will always remember the offenses and they will grow in her mind like the last fish I caught grows in my memory. And if the memory brings back the pain and anger it will also bring bitterness and this is a grievous sin that Susie is not committing. The only antidote is for Susie to let it go; forget it; don’t remember it; don’t keep bringing it up in her mind; when it pops in, chase it away and pelt it with big rocks. Susie needs to remember that in same way we want God to forgive us, we need to forgive those who have sinned against us. And God in Christ has forgiven us for far more than whatever those mean s did to Susie. She can afford to stop blaming them and acting like she is a victim. In fact, since she wants to be a godly , she cannot afford not to forgive them.

The second thing Susie needs to do in this situation is to take the next step after forgiveness and that is to actively love those s. In Romans 12 it says:

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. 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 12:14-21

Once Susie has let the way those s acted toward her go and has given the whole situation over to God to take care of, she needs to turn her attention to loving those s. The text says to bless those who persecute you. Did those s persecute Susie? Yes they did. Are they still doing it? Presumably. Will they continue if Susie does something loving on their behalf? Probably. Should she stop looking for ways to love them and bless them? Not at all. The text says that God will take care of those who do evil toward Susie. She just needs to keep loving them and trusting that God will vindicate her love some day. He loves her and he loves those other s. Susie cannot be overcome by evil; instead she needs to overcome evil by pouring herself into loving those s.

Here are some suggestions for ways that Susie can be loving toward those s and so heap burning coals on their heads. She can go out of her way to say hello and good morning to them, with a chipper smile and cheerful countenance. She can do things for them when she sees that they need some help; she can hold their books while they put on their coats, hold doors for them, give them kind comments on things they obviously care about (their new hairdo, dress, etc.). She can invite them to parties, invite them over for study sessions, she can be nice to other s in the class that are also being snubbed by these s, and she can be winsome and cheerful in spite of the way she has been treated.

Susie needs to know that forgiving these s is not an option. If she does not forgive them, neither will her Father in Heaven forgive her her sins (Mt. 6:15). Continued hurt feelings, anger, the desire for vengeance, and bitterness are the reasons why people refuse to forgive. These are all sins and manifestations of Susie’s own rebellion against God. They must not be allowed to continue, whatever else happens.

Susie has the right to leave the school and even the church, it would not be sin, but the godly approach, the one Jesus ed for us would be to stay in both the school and the church and love those s who treated her so shamefully. She will stay and pour it on and do it because of the fear of God and love for her Savior who stayed and loved her even though she was his enemy.