Thursday, March 10, 2016

New Website

I have a new website at All the posts from here have been transferred over to there.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Hard Questions: What is the Normal (Healthy) Christian Life?

This the first in a continuing series of hard questions that I have been asked by members of my congregation, other Christians, and in some cases non-Christians. 

What is the normal Christian life? Or better yet, what is a healthy Christian life? Why is that we know Christians who hold to correct practices and doctrine, yet they seem so unhealthy? They are bitter, angry, joyless, and judgmental. Often as time goes on, they leave the faith or their children leave the faith. Why is that we know Christians who hold to different practices or doctrines than we do and yet they seem healthy and solid. I believe in not sending your kids to public school. Yet I know parents who send their kids to public school who are more godly than some who don't. Why is that? Why can someone be right in doctrine and practice and yet look so little like Jesus and be so unhealthy?

The temptation here is to point to externals. That is good as far as it goes. There are central actions that a Christian will do. These would be worship, prayer, reading the Word, fellowship with the saints, reaching the lost, confession of sins, etc. These are core practices of the Christian faith. But we all know Christians and churches who do these things and yet...something is off.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

How to Listen to the Word

What attitude should we bring into to worship as we prepare to listen to God's Word preached? Pastor Danny Hyde gives us five attitudes we should bring to the preaching of God's Word. Everything below is a quote from his book From the Pen of Pastor Paul

Expectantly-Lord, I expect you to speak. 
This means we assemble not merely out of ritual or merely out of routine. God is no dead idol, but the living God...Therefore he still speaks. Because of this we must come before him in worship expectantly, clinging to his every Word as heard from the mouth of the minister...This also means that we need to prepare ourselves to hear him speak his Word through his minister.

Hungrily-Lord, I need you to speak. 
We have a hunger not just that God will speak in general, or that he will speak to someone else, but that he would speak to me...Why do I need God to speak to me through the words of a man, which are in reality the Word of God? It is because the Word of God, not merely written but as it is explained, exposited, and expounded is the food for our souls...The Word satisfies the longing soul of the hungry. Like our forefathers in the wilderness had to learn, "man does not live by bread alone," but most importantly, "but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord" (Deuteronomy 8:30). What kind of appetite do you bring to worship?

Attentively-Lord, I will listen to you speak.
Sermons seem to be a monologue. In reality, they are to be a dialogue. While the minister is preaching there is communication from God to us and from us to God in our hearts. We are to hear and affirm, hear and be challenged, and hear and grow. This means that every moment of every sermon we must be saying to ourselves in an attentive way, "These are not the words of my pastor, these are the words of God. These are not the words of men, but as they are in truth the Word of God." Since we recognize that God is in our midst speaking, we should be attentive. We should have our eyes open, looking up upon the minister but our ears perked up listening to the Lord.

Faithfully-Lord, I believe you when you speak. 
To hear the Word "faith-fully" is to hear it with a full faith, with a whole-hearted trust, with a giving of ourselves and laying ourselves before God...Because preaching is itself an act of faith and hearing it is also an act of faith, the devil is going to attack...We need to listen to what God says and focus our hearts on that, even though it comes through sinful and fallible men.

Obediently-Lord, I will obey you when you speak. 
John Calvin once described preaching like this, "The preaching of the Gospel has life when men are not merely told what is right, but are pricked by exhortation and summoned to the judgment seat of God, so that they may not sleep in their errors." The Word of God that pastors preach and that the people receive can never be fruitless; it must always abound in fruitfulness...Receive his Word, with the well-prepared soil of your heart that the seed of the Word that is planted may be watered by the Spirit that you may be fruitful. Hear his Word in an obedient way and follow through on what God says in it.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Trump is Our Problem

I am not a political pundit. I rely on friends for much of my political understanding. I read theology often and politics only occasionally. I have not watched any of the debates in their entirety. This post is therefore not a foray into deep political thought. It is more like the rambling thoughts a political novice. When Trump announced his candidacy I never thought he would get as far as he has. He was like a cheap firework; all flash, no substance. But somehow the inevitable did not happen. Now that he is the presumptive Republican nominee it is worth considering why.

The Failure of "Conservatives"
I am sure other people have noted this, but Trump's rise is a backlash against conservatives.  By conservatives, I do not mean true conservatives. That is why the word is in quotes. True conservatives, the hold to the Constitution, small government, less spending, low key foreign policy conservatives, are a very small minority. By conservative, I mean those who affiliate with the Republican party and generally oppose the Democrats. For most Republicans the last couple of decades have not been that great. Our last two conservative presidents were weak and left a trail of wreckage.  Both the nominees against Obama were weak and impotent. Conservative appointees to the Supreme Court have voted liberal over and over again. When conservatives were in power in Congress they too often compromised. Conservative politicians have repeatedly failed the ones who voted them into power. Trump is not Romney or McCain or Jeb Bush. He is not a conservative establishment candidate. Is it any surprise that he is getting the traction? Why vote in another GW or nominate another Romney?

This also why I am not sure all those Republicans opposing Trump are going to make a dent in his appeal. His appeal is that he is not like those guys. Their opposition makes him look more like an outsider, which is one of the reasons he appealing.

The Disdain of the Average American
Remember Duck Dynasty? For years it was one of the highest rated shows on cable television. It was mercilessly mocked not just by the secular media, but also by many Christians, especially the more sophisticated type. They just did not understand how something so low class could be watched by millions. For years the church and the country has despised the average American. The guy who works 50 hours a week in a low paying job, mows his lawn on Saturday, goes to church on Sunday, and watches football in the afternoon. The single mom who cares for her two kids after waiting tables all day. The elderly man barely surviving as a greeter at Wal-Mart. The housewife who greets her children when they get home from school.  Maybe I am wrong here, but these are the folks Trump is appealing to. All politicians talk like they care about this very large group of Americans. But most Americans believe politicians care more about the elite ruling class than the factory worker, the farmer, or the school teacher.

It is odd that a millionaire businessman would get the ear of the American people before Cruz or Rubio. But one reason is that he has convinced conservative Americans that he cares about them. This is what people mean when they say, "He says it like it is." Trump does not listen to the elite. He is not tied to the ruling class of Harvard and Yale grads who give $25,000 a plate dinners to raise support. He does not care what the media thinks of him. He doesn't care what anyone thinks of him. He doesn't care about polls. He is not posturing for his donors. I am not sure Trump does actually care more about the average worker, but America feels like he does. And given our current climate, that is enough. He parallels Obama's candidacy on this point. One reason people voted for Obama is they felt he cared for them.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Ten Quotes: The Mark of a Man by Elisabeth Elliot

Here are ten of my favorite quotes from a book I recently read. Who/what book do you think these quotes came from?
Masculinity and femininity, being elements of the original design, radiate glory. They shine.
If the original distinction is lost-the vital one between men and women-we end up recognizing no distinction in sexual conduct. It is the logical conclusion. If sex has no transcendent meaning, what different does it make who you go to bed with? You can be promiscuous, homosexual, incestuous, bestial, or otherwise perverted. The only lasting sanctions against such behavior are based on the divine man-woman order. 
Four extremely important events [in Genesis 1-2] illuminate where woman stands in relation to man: 1. She was made for man. 2. She was made from man. 3. She was brought to man. 4. She was named by man.  
Clearly such women [Gloria Steinem] are adrift. Yet other women follow them, blindly hoping that what they are offering is freedom and fulfillment. The awful truth is that what they offer is bondage and destruction; for they would strip us all-men and women alike-of all mystery and, indeed, of our very humanity.  
Masculinity means initiation. Femininity means response.
If a husband can look upon his gift of initiation as a privilege, instead of a right; and if the wife can look upon her gift of response in the same way, instead of as an obligation, both might be surprised to find that Jesus' promise actually comes true for them: The yoke proves to be easy, the burden light.
People come with standard equipment. Tongue, eyes, ears, hands, and hearts are usually provided for both men and women. But there is equipment which is radically differentiated: the reproductive system. Its functions are plain enough. Quite unarguably, they are designed for initiation and reception. Is it unreasonable to probe deeper than the temporal function and recognize that these, too, are signs? May we not infer from them, as well as from creation's order, the meaning of masculinity-initiation; and of femininity-response? 
The refusal to accept things which cannot or ought not be changed is neurotic. These matters of what men are and what women are have been beautifully thought out and put in place. The sooner and the more wholeheartedly we settle into the places assigned, the greater will be our peace and the more harmonious our world. Resentment about it leads to neurosis and bondage.
 It is at best a misguided chivalry and at worst irresponsibility that prefers to take a backseat and let women run things. 
The husband is the head of the wife. The Book doesn't say he ought to be or he must work at it and become. It says he is, in the same way that Christ is the Head of the Church. 
And One:
First [in what a man should look for in a woman to marry] she ought to be glad she's a woman....a real woman has accepted the given: her femininity. This is an act of faith. She accepts the place her femininity gives her in God's world. She knows she was made for man, from man, brought to man by God and named by him. She does not covet the not given...a real woman understands that man was created to be the initiator, and she operates on that premise. This is primarily a matter of attitude. I am convinced that the woman who understands and accepts with gladness the difference between masculine and feminine will be, without pretense or self-consciousness, womanly.
Quotes From Other Books
From the Pen of Pastor Paul by Daniel Hyde
Fool's Talk by Os Guinness
The New Pastor's Handbook by Jason Helopoulos
On Being a Pastor by Derek Prime and Alistair Begg
How to Exasperate Your Wife by Douglas Wilson
The Things of Earth by Joe Rigney
A Son for Glory by Toby Sumpter 
Escape from Reason by Francis Schaeffer
Crazy Busy by Kevin DeYoung
Making Gay Okay by Robert Reilly 
Christ Crucified by Donald Macleod
Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God by John Calvin

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Washed with the Most Impure

Calvin on the call of Matthew from Matthew 9:4-13. He explains what we should do if we find ourselves not wanting to associate with sinners in the Church.
He whom you detest appears to you to be unworthy of the grace of Christ.  Why then was Christ himself made a sacrifice and a curse, but that he might stretch out his hand to accursed sinners? Now, if we feel disgust at being associated by Baptism and the Lord's Supper with vile men, and regard our connection with them as a sort of stain upon us, we ought immediately to descend into ourselves, and to search without flattery our own evils.  Such an examination will make us willingly allow ourselves to be washed in the same fountain with the most impure, and will hinder us from rejecting the righteousness which he offers indiscriminately to all the ungodly, the life which he offers to the dead and the salvation which he offers to the lost." (Commentary on the Harmony of the Gospels, p. 402-403)

Leave Like Moses

It has been a long time since I was in public school. When I was in school I had many teachers who were Christians. But even in the early nineties their faith was kept under wraps. They could not pray for us or push us towards God. They could not reject a teaching because the Bible rejected it. And I went to public school in a conservative Southern state. It is hard to picture that has changed for the better in the last 20 years. Every story I hear is of schools becoming more and more liberal in their teachings on sexuality, politics, economics, etc. I know there might be exceptions, but my guess they are few and far between.

What would I say to a Christian who is teaching in the public schools? I would say:

Thanks for your work, labor, and love for the students. I know you see your job as a way of honoring God. Despite these things and all the good you have done, I would still encourage you to get out. You will make less money teaching at a private school. You might have to move to get a job. You will lose many of your benefits. Your financial security will be lost. Your reputation might be ruined. But given the current situation, it is the right thing to do.

Wouldn't it be great to work at a place where you can talk about Christ openly? Wouldn't it be great to tell your math students about the God who created this world with order so Algebra works? Wouldn't it be great to pray with your students before class or to show them how history demonstrates man's sinfulness and God's kindness?  Wouldn't it be great to pray with other teachers for a student who is struggling? There is little doubt that at this stage in history it would be a sacrifice to leave the public school system. But the New Testament is clear that those who sacrifice for Christ will have their reward (See Matthew 10:42, 19:27-30, and Colossians 3:24).

In particular I would encourage Christians working in the public school system to meditate on Hebrews 11:23-27, the story of Moses.
By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible.   
Moses left Egypt because he would rather suffer with God's people than enjoy the passing pleasures of sin. He knew it would be painful, but he also knew that Christ was worth more than Egypt and would reward him. I believe this is where many Christian teachers in public schools are at. It would be a tremendous help to your fellow Christians if you left "Egypt" behind. I know you have done some good and I know you would like to do more good. I also know there are many Christian kids in these schools. And I know you love the students that come in each year. But at some point, as Jesus said, you have to let the dead buried the dead. The public schools are more and more hostile to the Christian faith. The constant hammering of the homosexual agenda, failure of a sexual ethic beyond consent, prominence of the evolutionary origins of man, rejection of truth in favor of feelings, revising of history, watering down of standards, lack of respect for authority, necessity of being politically correct, and the postmodern reading of literature all indicate that the public schools are not a place where a Christian teacher can consistently and publicly exercise their love for Christ their Savior and Lord. Therefore I would encourage you to get out and find a place where your faith in Christ, love for his Word, and understanding of His Lordship can be a central part of your teaching.

Friday, February 26, 2016


In their excellent book, Unchanging Witness, Professors Fortson and Grams spend a chapter recounting the capitulation of the numerous mainline denominations to the homosexual agenda, including the Episcopal Church and Evangelical Lutheran Church. But the account that caught my attention was the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (PCUSA).

I am not an expert on the history of the PCUSA, but I believe there were serious issues, such as rejection of the authority of Scripture, rejection of the supernatural, and ordination of women, which preceded their acceptance of homosexuality. If true, their capitulation to the homosexuals was not a surprise. A denomination that ordains women is going to have a hard time barring the doors against homosexuals. Here is the timeline how the PCUSA moved to accepting gays, gay ministers, and eventually same sex marriage (Fortson and Grams p. 157-158):

1978-United Presbyterian Church in the USA adopts a policy forbidding the ordination of homosexuals, but allowing gays and lesbians into church membership.

1979-The Presbyterian Church in the US adopts a similar policy.

1983-These two denominations join to create the PCUSA. The policy from 1978 remains in force.

1983-1993 There was constant debate in the denomination about ordaining homosexuals. So much debate that in 1993 a ban was instituted to prevent the issue from being voted on for three years.

1997-Conservatives passed an amendment to the PCUSA constitution requiring candidates for ordination "to live either in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and woman, or chastity in singleness."  Liberals presented a substitute amendment which said, "fidelity and integrity in marriage or singleness." The substitute amendment by the liberals was defeated.

1998-Liberals again pushed for their substitute amendment. Again it was defeated though the votes grew closer. This happened again in 1999 and 2001. Each time the votes for the liberals grew.

2006-A PCUSA task force recommended allowing exceptions to the "fidelity and chastity" clause. This allowed homosexuals to be ordained.

2009-Again the liberals pushed for a vote to change the constitution. Again it was defeated though by the smallest margin yet.

2011-The language from 1997 was finally gotten rid of and openly gay persons could now be ordained to the ministry.

2014-The PCUSA approved a policy allowing pastors to perform same-sex marriages in states where the practice is legal. In that same year an additional vote was made that changed the definition of marriage from one and one woman to two persons. That passed by a 71% majority.

What I find fascinating is how "unrelenting" to use the authors' word, the pro-gay lobby was. They never stopped bringing up the votes. They found ways around official policy, such as the 2006 task force. They kept pushing and kept fighting until they got what they wanted.  I am sure this began long before 1978, but even from 1978-2014 is a pretty long time. It reminds me of what Edwin Friedman said in his excellent book Failure of Nerve. Pathogens do not stop. They will not stop. They must be cut out. Long before sodomy ever became an issue someone within these denominations compromised on basic Christian teaching. It may have been the authority of Scripture. It may have been human sexuality. It may have been the denial of the resurrection of our Lord. But they compromised and here is the key no one disciplined them for it. Maybe they disciplined them the first time and second time and third time, but eventually they stopped, eventually the good guys gave up.

In the previous chapter Fortson and Grams discuss all the denominations that remain faithful to the Scripture's teaching on homosexuality, such as the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC), and Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS). I look at those denominations and my own, the Communion of Reformed Evangelicals (CREC), and I pray. I pray that we can hold fast. I pray that we have the stamina and backbone to fight. I pray that we have the courage of our brothers in Africa who stood up to the Anglican bishops who compromised. I pray that we are not afraid of being hated, cast out, and maligned. I pray that we can preach faithfully what the Word says. I pray we have the strength to excommunicate when necessary. I pray that our seminaries fire those who compromise. For we can be assured of this; the homosexuals will not stop. Their goal is not live and let live. Their goal is that churches everywhere accept them as true Christians no matter their sexual practices. For the sake of Christ, his sheep, and the lost we must be as unrelenting as they are. If not we will end up just like the PCUSA and the proverb will be fulfilled:
Like a muddied spring or a polluted fountain is a righteous man who gives way before the wicked. (Proverbs 25:26)

Did the Early Church Approve of Homosexuality?

Revising history has been one of the common ploys in the gay Christian movement. In particular John Boswell and former Jesuit priest John McNeill have written books that revise the history of the church to be more friendly to gays. These books have been used by gay Christians as proof that Christianity from it's earliest times was welcoming of homosexuals. Boswell even argues that same-sex unions were approved by Anselm. Their scholarship, if it can be called that, has been called into serious question time and time. Yet they are cited by gay Christians as proof that sodomy really has not been that big a deal in church history.

To combat this error Donald Fortson and Rollin Grams have written Unchanging Witness: The Consistent Christian Teaching on Homosexuality in Scripture and Tradition.  These authors carefully cite numerous primary sources from the early church into the modern era that show without a doubt that sodomy in all its forms has been condemned by the church. Michael Kruger has a review of the book here. He states:
After reading Fortson’s and Rollin’s book, they may not agree with what Christians have always believed.  But, they would have to admit that Christians have always believed it.
I have only gotten through the chapters on the early church and the Middle ages, but both are valuable and clear. Several points stand out.

First, the church has always taught that the sin of Sodom was homosexuality. Hospitality is sometimes mentioned alongside of homosexuality, but homosexuality is always mentioned. I read nothing that indicated that the primary problem was homosexual rape either. 

Second, sodomy was often grouped with murder and bestiality as the gravest of sins.

Third, the celibate priesthood was a breeding ground for sodomy. Sodomite priests were common enough that specific punishments were put into law for priests who were homosexuals. Despite these laws sodomy continued to be a problem in monasteries.

Fourth, marriage between a man and a woman was always considered the only proper outlet for sexual expression. Sodomy, masturbation, prostitution, bestiality, lesbianism, mistresses, concubines, etc. were all sins of varying degrees with sodomy being at the top of the list.

Finally, there were distinctions made between different types of homosexual behavior, including sex with boys, the dominant male, and the submissive male. But all of these were considered a gross violation of nature. One does not get the impression reading the primary sources that the main concern was sex with boys. The problem was sodomy not the sexual abuse of boys.

Here is the conclusion to their chapter on the church fathers:
This brief survey of the early Christian centuries underscores several assertions that can be made with confidence about Christian attitudes towards homosexual practice. Given the ethnic diversity of Christians and their geographic dispersion throughout the Mediterranean world in the earliest centuries after Christ, the evident consensus on this issue is remarkable...The church fathers were aware of homosexual practices in their culture and consistently condemned such behavior...The Fathers believed homosexual practice was perverse and would lead one down the path to destruction. Same-sex activity was considered a grievous sin against the Creator who designed men and women for each other. In addition to violating divine design, homosexual activity-according to early Christian writers-was an instance of humans abusing and polluting one another. 
Here are some conclusions from their chapter on the Middle Ages:
The cumulative evidence from centuries of medieval sources points to the church's unequivocal condemnation of all forms of homosexual practice. As in the patristic era, despite the geographical separation and diverse cultures of early medieval Christians, they shared a commitment to biblically defined sexual extant source includes an example of medieval Christians expressing toleration of homosexual behavior. There was no medieval deviation from patristic teaching concerning the accepted code of Christian sexual morality...all varieties of homosexual practice were condemned by the medieval the late medieval era, when massive collections of earlier Christian writings  emerged, the compilers of canon law provided a comprehensive picture of the church's views of homosexual practice. What one observes is a consistent pattern of both denunciation and pastoral care for persons guilty of homosexuality.  
Here is the final paragraph in the chapter on the Middle Ages:
The medieval material indicates a distinction among persons who engaged in same-sex acts. Younger boys experimenting with homosexual sex were treated far more leniently than adults, adults who habitually engaged in homosexual acts were treated more severely than occasional offenders. The texts reveal a medieval awareness that some people felt sexual desire for persons of the same gender, but this did not legitimate acts against nature. Rather extreme measures were taken to help persons with same-sex attraction avoid eternal damnation, from penance to strict requirements concerning their living arrangements. Homosexuality was not viewed as a psychological disorder: it was sin. While homosexuality may have been characteristic of some persons-an orientation-ethics was not reduced to a psychology of inclinations or orientations; it dealt with actions that proceeded from the wickedness of fallen humanity, a humanity that could be transformed through the work of Christ. 
The authors have done the church a great service by doing the research and writing this book. It will be a great resource for the body of Christ as she ministers to those coming out of the gay culture to Jesus and as she stems the tide of the gay Christian movement which attempts to turn the Bible's teaching on its head and to throw out 2,000 of the church's teaching on sexuality in general and sodomy specifically.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

What if Public Schools Were Christian?

Yesterday I posted on how Christian parents are required to give their kids a Christian education. I was addressing the current situation where God has been jettisoned from public education.

But what would happen if government schools were Christian? What if we lived in a community where the curriculum was based on Scripture, the teachers were Christian, subjects were connected to God, and holiness in conduct was as important as a test score? What if there were chapel services and every class began with prayer? Would this change things? The answer is yes, but it still would not justify government schools as they are now. There are a couple of points to remember.

Christian parents have the right to delegate the education of their children, assuming that education is Christian. Christian parents do not have to teach everything. Even those of us who home school do not teach everything. We use videos, co-ops, online classes, etc. Christian parents are overseers of the education of their children. That is why I am not opposed to Christian schools. If the local community school was godly then a Christian parent could send their child there and not violate Scripture. They would be giving their child a Christian education.

But the government does not have the right to force the parents in their community to send their child to the school or to tax parents to support that local school. Why? God did not give the government oversight of a child's education. The parents in Scripture are given primary oversight of a child's education. You can have a community school but support of the school and participation by the parent must be free, not coerced. Parents should be able to opt-out without a penalty.

This is also an extension of Christian freedom and charity. Imagine a community is mostly Christian and the schools are run by Christians, but there are Muslims in the community. Should the Muslims be forced to attend or pay for the local Christian school? The answer is no. As a Christian, if you lived in a Muslim community would you want to be forced to attend their schools or to pay for their schools?

If the community was mainly Christian and they wanted a community school that was also Christian citizens could voluntarily put their money towards that endeavor. In this way, it is in one sense governmental because it is the local, community school and is viewed as such by the citizens. But in another sense it is private because funding comes not from taxes and the citizens are not forced to participate. In essence you have a private school that is voluntarily supported by the majority of the citizens.

Of course, the chances of this occurring in our present situation are non-existent. Therefore the best options for Christians are homeschooling or private Christian schools.

The two key points are: the government should not force participation in its schools nor tax its citizens to support those schools and parents have oversight of a child's education, not the government.
Let the saints be joyful in glory, let them sing aloud on their beds, let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a two edged sword in their hand, to execute vengeance on the nations, and punishments on the peoples; to bind the kings with chains and their nobles with fetters of iron. Psalm 149:5-8