Friday, March 28, 2008

Dealing with Grief Biblically

Dear Mike: I got a call this morning from a friend who is attending meetings on grief conducted at her church. She is attending because of the loss of a grandchild. I asked my friend what Scriptures they were giving out. She said no scriptures were used, just stuff from various books. She told me she thought they should be using the Bible. I agreed wholeheartedly and mentioned Ps. 138 and 139 where God's sovereignty is very plain. That was all that came off the top of my head while we were chatting. She wrote that down and intends to give that info to the ladies. What sciptures would you recommend?

Thanks for your help.


Hi Marjorie,

One thing that might help is if your friend understands that God knows how she feels and hates death as much as she does. David wept over the death of his son, Absalom (2 Sam. 18:33). God wrote Psalm 88 which is about being overwhelmed by enemies and depending on the translation verse 18 says, "You have taken my companions and loved ones from me; the darkness is my closest friend." Psalm 46:1 tells us that God is an ever present help in times of trouble, the opportunity for grief is a time of trouble. Death is an enemy and while it is a part of this fallen world, we shouldn't think of it as it is something that is normal, like breathing (1 Cor. 15:26). In fact that whole chapter talks about God's remedy for the final destruction of death. God knows about death. He sent his son to die for us (Acts 2:23). Even though he knew the outcome (Heb. 12:2), Jesus did all he could do to avoid it (Luke 22:42).

The good news is that death will have an end. There will be a resurrection from the dead and everyone who is in Christ will be reunited with a joy filled party (1 Cor. 15).

But emotions attend us all when faced with death. Here are a few psalms where God's people have poured out their hearts to God: 13, 22, 38, 42, 55, 61, 73, 88 (this in addition to those you mentioned: 138, 139).

Another thing that helps is to know that God hears our weeping (Psalm 6:8, 34:15; 40:1; 55:22). In light of this fact we should run to him for comfort and uplifting (2 Cor. 1:3-4). Sometimes people run to bottles, tv, various groups, work, etc.) when they really need to run to the one who loves them and can give them real comfort.

Some temptations that often accompany grief: Doubt (what if God doesn't really care or exist?)--Matt. 14:25-33, Anger--Eph. 4:26--anger in the face of death is the right thing to feel, but direct it in the right direction. It should be focused on death and then taken to the cross where death was destroyed. God shouldn't be the one we are angry with. Envy is another temptation that often accompanies grief. Romans 13:13 tells us not to fall into envy. The temptation is to envy those who haven't been touched by death and wishing we had their life. But envy shows a dissatisfaction with what God has given us--a lack of gratitude and a self centeredness that will eventually rule our lives if not dealt with in a godly way. Another temptation that should be avoided is that of self-pity.

One aid to dealing with grief is to be with other people who are glorifying God by living their lives in joy and service. the Bible tells us to bear one another's burdens (Gal 6:2) and being with others and letting them bear your friends burdens will help draw her into the arms of the Savior who died for her.

Finally, as difficult as it is it is important for the grieving person to actively work to serve God in the simple ways: Praising God for all things (Isa 25:1; Phil. 4:8); giving thanks in all things (1 Thess. 5:18); keep participating in worship (Heb. 10:21-25), turn her eyes from her own pain to ministering to others (2 Cor. 1:3-4), and work hard to see God in every area of life (Rom. 1:19; Heb. 12:1-3.

I hope this helps.

The basic structure of this response came from Paul Tripp's booklet, Grief: Finding Hope Again.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Study Questions for Exodus 19

Exodus 19

What is the context?

A short word about God: 1 Tim. 1:17; 6:15-16; Heb 12:28-29. Of course the people are just learning all of this for the first time. They have had a pretty wild last couple of months.

Notice the relationship here between the law and grace. God has already saved the people, now he’s giving them the law. It does not come as a way to earn his pleasure of his blessing. They are already blessed and have his pleasure. They have already been freed from bondage and are free. Now they are learning what to do with the freedom in the light of living with the one who set them free and wants to joyfully spend eternity with them.

Notice throughout the relationship between the individual and the nation.

Vss. 1-6

V. 1—How long after Israel left Egypt did it take them to get to the wilderness of Sinai? 7 weeks.

v. 2—Where had the people been? What all happened when they were there?

What mountain did they camp before?

Where have we seen this mountain before? Mt. Horeb 3:1; see 3:12.

v. 3—What happened when Moses when out to talk to God?

What did God tell Moses to do with the information he as about to give him?

v. 4—What did God tell the people?

What had they seen?

How had God treated the Israelites since they left Egypt?

What does the reference to eagles mean? Deut. 32:10-11 Eagles catch their falling babies mid air and take care of them.

Where did God bring the Israelites?

Three things in this verse God did for the people:

1. Wiped out Egypt 19:4—plagues and deliverance.

2. Carried them on eagles wings. Protection in the wilderness.

3. Brought them to himself. Spiritual component to salvation. Frees them from bondage to God. From something awful to something/someone wonderful.

v. 5—Why is the therefore there in verse 5?

What does God require of Israel?

What will he give them in return?

What is a covenant?

What is the difference between obeying and keeping the covenant? Obedience (agreement) is necessary for enjoyment of the covenant relationship.

Who is God/Moses speaking to? The nation as a whole or the individuals in the nation?

What will God give Israel if they obey God? Gen 12:1-3

What does it mean to be a treasured possession? Eccl. 2:8; 1 Chronicles 29:3 Deut 7:6; Psa 135:4; Tit. 2:14

What is the relationship between the treasured people and the whole earth belonging to God? God is interested in saving the whole world, but he will be doing it through the nation of Israel. The purpose of saving Israel was always to save the whole world through them. All the world will be blessed through your seed, God said to Abram.

v. 6—Is the ‘You’ a plural or a singular?

Who will be the kingdom of priests? Again world oriented. The nation is the priest and the nation has priests.

Is the kingdom going to be a priest or are the individuals going to be priests?

Who will they serve, or represent to God? John 4:22

What does it mean to be a priest, holy nation? Lev 19:2

What was Moses supposed to do with this information?

v. 7—Who did Moses call together to give this great information?

Why the elders and not everyone?

Where did the elders come from?

What did Moses tell the elders?

What does it mean to “set before them”? Deut 4:44; Deut 5:28-29 (did Israel make a rash decision to join with God in his covenant?)

v. 8—How did the people respond to this news?

v. 9—What else did God tell Moses?

How was God going to come to Moses?

Why do you suppose God decided to come to Moses in this way? Clouds often appeared when God appeared—Ps. 97:2; Matt 17:5. They suggest majesty and protection. They protect people from seeing God. If they saw him, they would die.

v. 10, 11— What was Moses to do with the people?

What does it mean to “consecrate” the people?

What were they supposed to do on the third day?

Be ready for what? Meet with God is no easy, simple, laid back affair.

What was God going to do for/to the people?

v. 12—What was Moses supposed to do for the people?

What is a limit?

Where and why was Moses supposed to set limits for the people?

What would happen if the people went past the limits? It was pretty serious stuff to wander, sashay, or meander into the presence of God.

v. 13—How was anyone who went past the barriers to be killed? Num. 15:30-31; Heb 10:26-31

Why shouldn’t/couldn’t they touch the trespasser?

When were they to come up to the mountain?

v. 14—What did Moses do as a response to what God told him on the mountain?

What did the people do?

What does washing their clothes have to do with preparation for God’s coming and for worship?

v. 15—What besides washing their clothes, were they to do in preparation?

Why were sexual relations one of the things that made people unclean? Lev. 15:16-18

v. 16—what happened on the third day?

Who blew the trumpet blast?

What happened when the loud and long trumpet blast sounded?

v. 17—Where did Moses bring the people?

Thick can also mean heavy and glorious.

v. 18—What happened to the mountain?

Why was it wrapped in smoke?

What was the mountain doing while the smoke was there? Isa 6:4, 5

v. 19—What happened as the people got closer to the mountain?

Why did the sound get louder and louder?

Moses spoke and God did what? Deut 4:12

v. 20—God came down and Moses went up?

How many times in the chapter did Moses go up?

What’s going on?

v. 21—What did God tell Moses to do next?

What is he to warn the people about? 2 Sam 6:7-8; Lev. 10:1-3

v. 22—What were the priests to do?

Who were the priests at this point?

How were they to consecrate themselves?

What would happen to them if they didn’t do it right?

What does it mean that the Lord would break out against them?

v. 23—What did Moses say to the Lord in response?

v. 24—What did God tell Moses to do, since the people couldn’t come up?

Why Aaron?

Why did God speak in 3rd person here?

v. 25—What did Moses do next? Heb 12:21

Sovereignty and Human Responsability Part 3

Hi Pastor Lawyer,

I battle with my sinful nature every day. I want to make right choices but often I do not. It "feels" like I have a free will. What is the battle against our flesh? What is the basis of my choices if not from my will??


Hello Milly,

Christians battle with remaining sin, but they are not ruled by sin. 1 John 3:6 tells us that no one who abides in him keeps on sinning. Then in verse 9 it tells us that “no one born of God makes a practice of sinning… And in verse 10 we see that “whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God.”

What this means is exactly what it says, but it needs to be heard in the context of rulers and bondage. The non-Christian’s whole life is characterized by sin. The Christians whole life is characterized by holiness. This does not mean, however, that the Christian cannot sin. It means that he is not supposed to live in sin. He can sin, but he may not sin. The non-Christian cannot not sin.

In practical terms the Christian is tempted to sin and can fight the sinful impulse and by the power of the Holy Spirit can overcome the temptation and not sin. He can also fall to the temptation and sin. And when he does he has an advocate with the Father who intercedes on our behalf (1 Jn. 2:1). I like to view it like this: the non-Christian lives in sin and the Christian pogo sticks through sin.

In the non-Christian’s life, God is working to bring himself glory; either in his conversion or in his condemnation. In the Christian’s life, God is working to make him into the image of Christ. And just like in Joseph’s life God is working and Joseph is working and instead of seeing God’s hand before an event, Joseph takes God’s presence as a fact by faith and then looks back over his life and clearly sees God’s hand in his life.

This is a huge topic and it bends and twists all over the place. But suffice it to say that God predestines everything and men are responsible before God to serve and worship God with our whole hearts, minds, souls, and strength. Both at the same time.

I hope this helps. If you have more questions feel free to write and ask.

Sovereignty and Human Responsability Part 2

Hi Again,

In chapter 1 of Romans, it says that men are without excuse - God can be seen in nature. Aren't we all WITH excuse if He is the one Who chooses to reveal Himself to whomever He desires?


Hi Milly,

Here again, we can go to Romans 9 (see vs. 19). But God’s sovereignty does not compete with man’s responsibility to turn to him. Somehow, and I don’t now how this works, God calls—or not—and we are responsible to come to him, even though we can’t come unless he draws us (John 6:44).

But that is how it is everywhere in the Bible: God causes and men choose. In Genesis 50:44 we see that Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers who meant it for evil (because they hated Joseph), but God sold him into slavery for good (to protect and preserve Israel through famine). We see the king of Assyria being used by God to destroy sinful Israel, but the Assyrians undoubtedly thought they were unbeatable, for which later they were destroyed (see Isaiah 10:5; 12). Then in the New Testament the Jews killed Christ, but it was in accord with the plan of God (Acts 4:27-28). This same kind of thing is shown to be the norm all through the Scriptures, these are just some of the more obvious cases.

So, in the end, God predestines and men are held responsible for all of their choices.

A couple of good books on this topic would be The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination (read the whole book) by Lorraine Boetner and The Sovereignty of God and Human Responsibility by D.A. Carson.

I hope this helps,

Sovereignty and Human Responsability Part 1

Pastor Lawyer,

I don't know how to understand Paul's words when he says that he does what he doesn't want to do; and doesn't do what he knows he should. How does this fit in with God's control? This verse leads me to believe Paul has the freedom to obey or not obey.

Thanks, Milly

Hi Milly,

There are a couple of ways that we talk about bondage and freedom, predestination and free will, sovereignty and responsibility. In the passage in Romans, to which you are referring, we believe that Paul is talking about himself as a non-Christian. He is saying that he has no control over his actions because the sin in which he dwells is in control.

This would be an example of the non-Christian’s plight before God enters the picture and changes his heart. Because of Adam’s sin all men are subject to sin. This means that they can do nothing that isn’t sinful because it is done in the context of a rebellious life. So, even if a non-Christian were to do something a Christian did, say give a million dollars to an orphanage, the non-Christian’s gift would be sinful and the Christian’s righteous.

It is an illustration of your overall question: does God condemn some to hell and bring others to heaven? Romans 9 tells us that God does call some people to heaven and he does create some for destruction—all for his glory.

Back to Romans 7—the non-Christian can not do anything but sin because he was born in sin and therefore his life is characterized by sin. Then in chapter 8, Paul as a non-Christian, meets God and is transformed. Now, the Christian is able to not sin.

As a non-Christian he could not choose righteousness, then, as a Christian he could choose to do right.

We can talk about this some more, if you’d like.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Drunkeness and Alcoholism

The bible gives us everything we need for life and godliness (2 Pet. 1). This means that if it has to do with living, we can find something about it in the Bible. Obviously there are times when wisdom comes by finding and applying principles rather than direct quotes, but the point is that we don’t need Freud to tell us how to live in the world. With that in mind the Bible does not treat drunkenness as a disease and neither should we. The problem with alcoholism is not alcohol. It is how a person thinks about and thus treats alcohol. The problem with AA and most other treatment programs is that they focus on alcohol as if it were a disease, but treat it like it is a moral problem and everyone is confused. Thus they do two things: first they cut alcohol off like the right hand that causes us to sin (Mt. 5:30) and second they turn not drinking into a god in the same way that drinking had been a god. So, instead of turning someone who drinks too much to God in repentance, they turn them into dry drunks.

The Biblical answer is to think correctly about alcohol, not to totally stop drinking altogether. Alcohol is not the problem; sin and idolatry are the problem. Help a person overcome their idolatry and they can join in the communion celebration, and ultimately they can even have a drink of wine with dinner on occasion. One thing to keep in mind is that there were certainly people in Jesus’ day who had been drunks before they came to Christ. Without the teaching that they will never get over it, they never thought of that and presumably drank wine responsibly after their conversion.

For those who believe the line that AA and the medical model puts out—those weaker brothers—who would stumble by drinking of wine in communion, we offer them grape juice instead of wine. And we don’t push them to grow into Spiritual maturity in this area; instead we strive to bring everyone to maturity in all areas as we all grow in grace together.

The Millenium Matters

It is important to mention that at the center of ministry is the eschatological base of the church and her members. A premillennial or amillennial view will not and can not get the job done. These positions are too pessimistic at their core. They can’t see past the idea of an imminent coming or the view that things will get worse and worse until the Lord comes to rescue us. Because we are postmillennial we have a robust and almost militaristic (in a good sense) view of the eschaton. We believe that when Jesus told us to pray that God’s kingdom would come on earth as it is in Heaven he meant it—and so that’s how we pray and how we act. We fully expect him to use us, through our worship, to change the world.

The Center Begins with Worship

The historic Protestant Church is the Historic Church as exemplified in the creeds and confessions of the church through history and continues on in the five solas of the Reformation. The “who gets to decide” part is defined by those who, in and by faith, assume the center of the church community; preaching and worshiping God in Christ and doing what he said to do with all of their might and strength. Here in Moscow, we’ve just assumed that what God said is true and we preach it and strive to live it. In the process are gradually taking the lead in community in many areas to God’s glory.

The goal is not institutional consensus among the other Christians and churches, but rather spiritual agreement that, “yes, those guys are doing what ought to be done in terms of worship and the living out of their theology in the world.” We don’t care whether other Christians come to our church as much as we care whether we see them in glory when we meet on Sundays in the presence of God. In fact, we already have enough problems with space, so it would be better if they just caught on fire and do what we’re doing where they are.

How Parishes Work

We have divided our town in to geographic sections there is a Parish Elder in each parish. I am an elder in the parish called the Baxter Parish. We meet together every month to discuss the issues of the church and to pray for one another. We also meet at least once a month for fellowship and feasting. In addition we have a weekly Bible study that the members of the parish are encouraged to attend. When we have these various get-togethers we often invite our neighbors and other local friends whether they are Christians attending another local church or not. The goal is to get to the place geographically where we can get to know all the neighbors in our parish in such a way that we care for one another and take care of one another—praying for one another and leading one another to an initial walk with God and then on to a deeper walk with God.

To be honest ours is probably the most active parish in the community and we have a long way to go to get our neighbors involved in the community (even church members are not as active at the parish level as we would like). But the goal is to assume the center of the community in every way and to bring our neighborhoods to Christ (both Christians and non-Christians) through fellowship and friendship.

Making Vows

My name is Bill, I am a student at local college. A member of your congregation and I have been discussing a theological topic. Concerning oaths made to the Lord. Say a young college student prays to God and says "Lord if you give me a 4.0 this semester I vow to attend medical school instead of pursuing a degree in psychology. And Lord, please make it obvious that this is Your will by making that 4.0 nearly impossible to attain." Say that the man looses all of his notes before the finals, breaks his writing hand, and still gets all A's and obtains his sought after 4.0 (aka sign from God). Is the oath/vow/promise (whatever) binding? Did God work such a wonder, or is it superstition to think so? I know that the man did not follow the proper form of taking an oath or vow, but none the less, should he now pursue medicine instead of psychology (even if he does not want to)? I know this question may seem trivial, my friend is always teasing me about how superstitous Catholics are (it's often too true). None the less, I would greatly appreciate a response-thanks-Bill

Hi Bill,

You raised some good questions.

First is the question of vows. The Bible requires that we keep we vows we make to the Lord it (Deut. 23:21). So in your illustration, if the young man makes a vow to go to medical school if he gets a 4.0, and he gets a 4.0, he should do what he said he would do and go to medical school.

Things get a little more complicated if the vow is a dumb, or ignorant vow. (Please understand I’m not saying that vowing to go to medical school is a bad vow, but it might be a little bit immature. You also might be testing God in a way that isn’t very healthy.) In this case, if God brings the condition to pass, the young man should keep the vow anyway. He should learn something about making these kinds of vows—and not make this kind of vow anymore—but he should keep it nonetheless.

Then things are further complicated if the young man vows to sin if such and such happens. A man may not sin therefore he may not make vows in which he says he will sin if thus and thus happens. If he should make such a vow to sin and the condition is met by God, he should repent of making a foolish vow and not sin.

Another issue in your letter is whether God will do the thing needed to cause the fulfillment of the vow. The basic question is: Does God do things? The Bible says that our God is a living God and thus, of course God does things. It also says he answers prayer and so, yes he does do things that will bring joy to our hearts. In Numbers 21:2-3 we have an example of God doing his part (it says God obeyed the people) and left the people to fulfill their vow.

You asked if God does things or if it superstitious to think so. As I just said, God is living and active and thus he does things in our lives and in our world. He is also sovereign, choosing whatever happens and causing them at the same time. So nothing that happens that cannot be attributed to God's holy and righteous hand. What you do with his actions in this life is another question, but that God does things is indisputable.

I hope this helps.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Placebos and Faith

The Placebo effect, when it is from a pill, is increasing at a rate of about seven percent each decade. In other words, if 30 percent of a group of depressed people responded to placebos in 1970, 50 percent of that group would respond to them today. Such use of placebos suggests that as a culture we are putting more and more hope in our pills. The placebo effect is a measure of our confidence—the trust we place in a particular object. Those who put their trust in witch doctors might die from his voodoo threats because they believe in witch doctors. Those who trust in pills might report some healing from placebos because they believe in medication. As long as psychiatric medications are perceived as the deepest treatment for depression, the placebo effect will flourish.

Ed Welch in a research Review in The Journal of Biblical Counseling, Fall 2002, pg. 77.

Placebos and Medications

The St. John’s Wort study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) examines the effectiveness of placebos to relieve depressive symptoms as compared with two other treatments for depression. In this carefully designed study, 340 depressed men and women were divided into three groups. One hundred and thirteen were given St. John’s Wort, 116 given placebos, and 111 given Zoloft, a well-known anti-depressant. After eight weeks of treatment, all three groups improved, with no statistical difference among them, as measured by the Hamilton Depression Scale.

Ed Welch in a research Review in The Journal of Biblical Counseling, Fall 2002, pg. 77.

The Heart Test

I’ve found that one acid test of my heart is how I handle being misunderstood, caricatured, reviled, dissed—not how I handle being accurately known and loved! It’s when someone doesn’t speak my “love language” that I find out what I’m made of, and by God’s grace begin to change what I live for.

David Powlison, “Love Speaks Many Languages Fluently,” in The Journal of Biblical Counseling, Fall 2002, pg. 7.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Freedom from Bondage

One of the biggest problems in the church is that people are still bound in sins of various kinds. If you would like to listen to my take on this, you can go here and listen to a recent sermon on the topic of “Freedom from Bondage.”

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Blessing From the Lord

The earth is the LORD's and the fullness thereof,

the world and those who dwell therein,

for he has founded it upon the seas

and established it upon the rivers.

Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD?

And who shall stand in his holy place?

He who has clean hands and a pure heart,

who does not lift up his soul to what is false

and does not swear deceitfully.

He will receive blessing from the LORD

and righteousness from the God of his salvation.

Such is the generation of those who seek him,

who seek the face of the God of Jacob.

Psalm 24:1-6

Sons and Women

Dear Pastor Lawyer,

I live in a beach community where the amount of clothing on many women (and men) is minimal. I have 3 boys who haven't quite reached the age where this is a problem yet, but I don’t want it to become a problem either. How can I raise my boys to live in this environment, but not stumble and fall to the temptations that surround them? Thank you for your time.

A concerned father

Hi father,

Here's what I think about teaching boys about women. First, you have to have a right attitude about women. Your sons will think about women in the same way you think about them—even if you never say a word to them. Just like everything else in their lives, they will catch it from you rather than be taught it by you. They will learn a whole lot of stuff from you over the years that you are trying to teach them, but they will learn a whole host of things, especially about women, by just being with you and catching your vibes. For some reason sex is an especially catching thing from fathers to sons.

So, what should your attitude toward women be? In the 4th chapter of the Song of Solomon the writer calls his wife, or betrothed, "my sister my bride." And in 1 Timothy 5 it tells men to treat the young women as sisters. So I would say that the first thing to do is to think of women like they are sisters. What this primarily means is that you should think of women as people, not things. It also means that men should treat women like a special breed of person. You protect your sister from those other guys, you don't exploit them. You love your sister in a way that men who think of women as two dimensional objects don't. You care for sisters, you look out for them, you look up to them, you respect them, you exalt them. So teach your sons to think of women as sisters.

This is a little bit difficult (okay very difficult) when you live in a culture where women present themselves as objects to be lusted after. But a godly man will either run away from temptation (1 Tim. 2:22) or they will think differently about women. One way to think of these women, as I've mentioned is as sisters. Another way to think of them is as someone else's wife. How would they want men to think about their wife after they are married? If they want men to think of their wives like ladies, or sisters, then they need to train themselves to think about women who aren't their wives that way now. Further, they should think in the same way that they think of a beautiful sunset, flower, or work of art. The difference is that women are God's work of art and instead of glorifying the women the young man will be reminded of the God who created this fascinating creature and will rejoice in God's handiwork (no one praises the flower for being so beautiful). It is difficult to lust after a woman if you are praising God for her. The difficulty here is that the heart is extremely sneaky and a guy can very subtly shift from praising God for his creation to praising God for this gift—which wasn’t actually given to him at all.

Another way to train your kids is to help them understand that God hates coveting. Looking at a woman in order to desire having her for yourself is coveting. You want her, you've got to have her, even if it is only in your mind. Coveting someone else's wife is spoken against in the Ten Commandments and a bunch of other places. Teaching your kids to be mindful of the commands of God will go a long way in protecting them from the Proverbs 7 women they will run in to. Of course you can add the commands against lust, wanting what God hasn't given, not being content with what he has given, etc. to the list of ways a young man needs to walk with God.

Another tack to take is to warn them about women who are ungodly and about what happens when they let their guards down and go and do things they ought not do—even so called neutral things. Take them to Proverbs 7 and Genesis 39 and show them how some women work and how this kind of thing can destroy their souls. Warnings are there for a reason and to ignore them is as much folly as not giving the boys something positive to do. Notice in 2 Samuel 11, for example, that one of the reasons David was on that roof was because he was bored. He was supposed to be out with his troops, but instead he was sitting at home alone with nothing to do—and there was trouble taking a bath. The Bible doesn’t say that Bathsheba did anything wrong, but she was there when David’s guard was down. So warn your sons about wanton women and about letting their guards come down.

Finally, help your sons to remember that they are Christians. They aren't boys who act like Christians, they are Christians. What this means is that they don't try to walk with God, they walk with God because that's who they are. It the difference between wanting to be something, or acting like you are something, and actually being that something. You are a lawyer, you don't act like a lawyer. They are Christians, they don't act like Christians. God is with them all the time. They are conscious of his presence in their lives. This means that he knows all they are doing and all they are thinking. If they think badly about the women they see parading themselves around like wanton women, God knows, and they know, and God will discipline them for it.

Help them to learn to guard their hearts. Teach them that the Joy of the Lord is their strength (Neh. 8:10) and it is in staying close to the Lord, who shares his joy, that we strength to live in ways that give him more joy. Teach them to keep short accounts with God, not to stray or drift away from what they know and who they love. This applies to every area of their lives, not just to the areas of women and sex. We aren't made up of compartments where we can be good in one area, but sinful in another. God takes us as a whole unit and sanctifies us altogether at one time. we come as complete packages, so raise your sons in the nurture and admonition of the Lord in every area of their lives.

Finally, as you think about these things remember your sons' frames. Don't give them more than they are ready to hear about. Don't tell them all about sex when what they are asking about it something really simple. Be wise and bring them along at the pace they need. Remember over it all that they are learning from you all the time whether you know you are teaching them or not. Therefore, love their mother, hug her, squeeze her, hold her hand, say nice things to her, serve her, love her, talk about her in ways that lift her up (to her and to everyone else), make her famous and beautiful by your attention to her. Your sons will catch that and they will treat women the same when they grow up.

I hope this helps. As always, feel free to write or call anytime.

Making Things Worse

Dear Pastor Lawyer,

I have a friend who has been living in another country for while. My friend is single, and has struggled with being single for as long as I've known him and would very much like to be married. He's a great guy but a little odd. He loves the Lord and would like to be raising godly offspring, but he has never been very good with members of the opposite sex. Sadly he has struggled with lust and pornography and such like for a long time.

In the country where he is living he has not been able to find a good church to go to and the lack of solid Christian fellowship has not helped him in his struggle with sin. I've been telling him for a long time that he needs to come home to the states and join a good church.

Last week I heard from him again and he confessed to me that he just found out he got a girl pregnant. She is a Christian girl that he had been dating for a while, but he broke up with her because she was not a strong Christian and he did not believe that she would make a good wife. However, before he broke things off he "went a little too far" one night and now there's a baby on the way.

Do you have any words or ideas that I can pass along to him?

Thanks, a concerned friend.

Hi friend,

The last thing your friend ought to do is marry the girl. He should make sure she is taken care of financially and that the baby/child is cared for until he/she is 18 or so, but marriage would only compound an already ugly situation.

If you need to know why, here you go: The Bible tells wives to respect their husband. If they were to get married respect would be the last thing she would naturally have for your friend. If he confessed his sin of leading her into sexual immorality and she were a very godly woman and could genuinely forgive him, they might make a go of it. However, you say he says she isn't "a strong Christian," and he obviously isn't a strong Christian either; and because we go with what we've got, not with what we might some day get, marriage wouldn't be a good thing. Given the situation, she would not respect him, they would have a train wreck of a marriage, and the young offspring wouldn't be any better off than whatever the alternatives are.

Because your friend hasn't gotten a hold on his passions, he is in no state to be married. He is lonely, but he is doing everything to ensure that he is not qualified to be married. Pornography, lust, masturbation (it’s almost always present with pornography), and fornication are not the kind of behaviors that endear a woman to a man. And they aren't the kinds of behaviors that show a soft heart toward God. They do, however, show that he needs to repent in dust and ashes and give himself entirely to God.

As your friend gives himself to God, he needs to lose of the idea of getting married until he has lived consistently in favor with God for quite a while (probably several years). He should focus instead on walking with God and pleasing him in every area of his life.

Your advice for him to join a church and get involved is a very good piece of advice. Whether he does that where he is right now or here in the states, it is imperative that he get his individual life together with God, but also that he get involved in other people's lives with a servant's heart rather than a "what can I get out of this" sort of heart. From the way he's been behaving it sounds like he is the center of his life and he's not much of a giver. He needs to become a giver from his toes up before he even thinks about trying to get married. A wife needs a man who loves and serves her, not a grown boy who needs a mommy.

The key in all of this is that he needs to be broken before God. If he has a shred of "I'm a cool dude" left in him, he is just toast. He will simply go from easy thing to easy thing and will never be happy and more than that he will never receive the blessing of God. I'll be praying for you and for your friend. For you because you'll have to translate what I've said her into words that he will hear; and him because he'll need to humble himself in order to hear them and to put them into practice.

I hope this helps,