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Evangelist, Baptist, Husband, Father, Mid-30's.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Daddy Tax!

Today marked an Easter Egg Hunt which provided each of our children with about 2lbs of candy. As they started to tear open wrappers and sort chocolates from sweets from sours from gum I saw my chance. Not just my chance to have some candy, but my chance to instill a lifelong lesson on generosity and the source of all good things.

“Daddy Tax!” I declared as I picked out some of my favorites from the candy buckets. Only the littlest one looked at me with a scowl before it quickly melted into a smile. All of the rest know the routine.

I’ve been doing this for a while, but I’ve been consistent in it since early 2016 when we were providing care for a five year old girl. She asked for a snack and I happily gave her some gummies and Goldfish®, then, out of habit, I said, “Daddy Tax”, and helped myself to a few fish and gummies from her plate. Her wrath was quickly kindled, “Hey! That’s mine.” Words fail me to describe her meltdown that ensued. After gaining some semblance of calmness I asked, “Did you pay for these?” “No.” “Did you go to the store and bring them home?” “No.” “These aren’t yours, these are mine, and I’ve decided to give you some because I care about you.”

This is a vital lesson to teach your children, that everything they have, from their snacks and candy all the way to the air they breathe belongs to God. Not a single thing we have has come from a source other than God. He explained during the rebuilding of the temple that it wasn’t small or unassuming because God couldn’t afford a better temple, but because it’s what he intended, “The silver is mine, and the gold is mine (Haggai 2:8).” Elsewhere this is reiterated, “He is not served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything (Acts 17:25).”

You may come up with a better name than I have, I tried variations on “tithing” but they just didn’t stick for the kids. It is meant to be silly and fun in one sense, but it is also meant in another sense to turn their hearts to the realization that is God who gives them every good thing.

After Notre Dame burned earlier this week over $1B was pledged to the rebuilding. There was some very strange entitled backlash against those pledges. Some said, “The fact that billionaires have pledged…to fix it just really puts into perspective how easily rich people could help solve world issues if they cared (cited from the Public Domain).” I hope to be teaching my children that the problem with the world is not a lack of stuff or money or food, because God has lavished on us every thing we need, but the problem with the world is a matter of hearts that rebel in every way against Heaven and put their hope in everything but God.

My children’s problem (and yours and mine) is that our natural heart inclination is that we can be sufficient in and of our own selves, that if we only had more, owned more, knew more, lived more, were given more, held onto more...then we would be happy. "Daddy Tax" is one effort to teach that every good gift we have comes from above, and that God gives us much more than we can ask or imagine. If he gave us his Son will he not give us graciously all things?

For further reading, see 2 Corinthians 8 and 9!

You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way! ~ 2 Corinthians 9:11

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

The Importance of Routine


We have an evening routine that goes like this:

1. Read
2. Sing (Hymnal or Otherwise)
3. Pray
4. Sing (Bedtime)
5. Hugs and Kisses

Having a routine is a hard thing to do. I am tempted to say, “In today’s day and age” but I believe routine has always been hard to do, and I won’t give you or I the excuse that our smart-phones are to blame. If we’re not redeeming our time and planning our lives then we have ourselves to blame first.

I am far from perfect in this regard, but I see the value in it. I recently heard someone say that the first step in teaching a boy to resist the temptation of pornography starts years before when we teach them that bedtime means bedtime. I see the truth in this, it is training a child in the way he should go, so that when he is old he will not depart from it.

Your routine doesn’t have to look like our routine, as long as it looks like your routine.
We start our bedtime routine about forty-five minutes before bedtime. We begin by reading something, future articles will address some of the books we’ve especially enjoyed and some different Bible devotionals, but the important thing here is that you are reading to your kids. This teaches them to sit down, focus their attention, and that there is more to learn and hear than mom and/or dad can offer in the world. I would only recommend to start that you pick something you agree with, but within only a few months I believe it’s fine to read books that need to be discussed.

Then, we sing a song or two. If I’m especially prepared then I’ll have something prepared that matches the reading, but I’m not usually that prepared. For example, we recently read about the Bronze Serpent lifted up in the wilderness and then sang “Set Your Eyes” by Jonathan and Emily Martin. We have two hymnals, the Baptist Hymnal, and Hymns of Grace, and we employ both regularly. We also assign each child a hymn that we have chosen for them, and then they usually choose one for themselves also. Our oldest daughter for example was assigned “Before the Throne of God Above” but she chose “Joy to the World” as her personal hymn. We usually allow dancing during the singing, but we really encourage singing along. Sometimes we throw in a silly song like Baby Shark or 5 Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed (since that song is about our middlest daughter).

Then we pray about the events that happened that day and for the events coming up. The age of your kids and their discipline level will dictate how long your prayer is, as well as the other parts of your routine, but we usually keep ours less than two minutes as our kids are pretty young. Sometimes I encourage a child to pray, and if they leave some things unsaid then either Tina or I will pray. The routine of prayer is what is important, not necessarily what is prayed about.

Then we sing two songs, what is called the sleepy-time song and the doxology (Ironically the doxology was meant to start the day, but it works better as a bedtime song). In a future blogpost I’ll share the sleepy-time song which needs some revision, but the routine certainly tells the kids it is bedtime.

Finally, everyone is encouraged to love on each other and then we head for bed. All snacking/drinking/chores are expected to be accomplished before this routine so it should truly close out the day. I have experimented with visiting children in their bedrooms to review the day, and sometimes this is well received and other times it riles them up. Like I said, your routine should be your own.

These routines are doing more than establishing that it is bedtime. I hope that they will be fostering discipline, displaying order, ensuring there is a time for reading and prayer in the day, and encouraging bonding.

These especially help when one of us cannot be at bedtime, such as for work or other commitment. The routine doesn’t take the place of the absent parent, but it establishes a precedent that just because something is different, the plan is the same. God’s plan is perfect, and while our circumstances and location may change, our relationship with God and our worship should continue in Christ. Even when we need to fly through this routine in a few minutes it still has the desired effect of establishing bedtime.

When Daniel was in exile and the law came down that no-one could worship anyone other than the king, he did not hesitate to pick up his routine of praying (Daniel 6:10), because it was what he had trained himself to do, and it had fostered a courage in God that could not be shaken. I pray that my children will forever read their Bibles, sing praises to the true King, pray, and love each other, no matter what else in their life changes.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Punishment Versus Correction

You should never punish your children. That is not a cunning statement, don’t read it any other way than it is written. You SHOULD NEVER punish your children.

We have a “Get Along Chair” sometimes called a “Work it Out Chair” where many a time you can find two or more of our children banished from their freedom in order to enjoy their sibling and talk in a reasoned and close conversation. Is that punishment? Heaven forbid they would equate spending time with one another and working through struggles as punishment!

If my children grow up to see that chair as punishment, then I will have failed. It is CORRECTION, DISCIPLINE, REPROOF, CHASTISEMENT, and it is meant to take an unacceptable behavior—such as disagreeing with your sibling and resorting to violence to get your way—and replace it with an acceptable behavior aimed at the heart—in this case talking through problems, recognizing that their relationship with their brother or sister is more important than a toy, and that reconciliation is better than strife. Likewise, your children should not see your discipline as punishment, and you ought not be punishing your children. The discipline of a parent should always be aimed at correcting behavior and emphasizing grace, mercy, and justice in the child’s life.

And what does God say about this? A lot, unsurprisingly.

First, punishment is not meant for correction, punishment is purely punitive and sums up the justice in the quip, “Justice is when we get what we deserve, mercy is when we don’t get what we deserve, and grace is when we get what we don’t deserve.” Every sinner deserves justice, and your children should know well the commands of Leviticus 20:9 and Deuteronomy 21:18-21 concerning the stoning of disobedient children. Justice demands punishment, but love covers a multitude of sins. Someone will or already has paid for your child’s sin, either your child will pay for it for eternity, or Jesus paid for it on Calvary. Note the way Jesus speaks of Hell, “and these will go away into eternal PUNISHMENT (Matt 25:46, emphasis mine).

Next, punishment is not your job. “Vengeance is mine: I will repay (Rom 12:19, et al)!” says God. Your job is to describe God’s law, his grace, and his wrath and to provide goading correction along the way. Even if it were your job to punish your child, your punishment is weak and unjust and ineffective and incomplete and imperfect, Jesus said, “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul, rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in Hell (Matt 10:28).

Thirdly, your job is to keep your children from punishment. "It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the Living God (Hebrews 10:31)!" It is your job to teach them God's law and his grace so that they will hear and respond to the call of Jesus Christ to come. It is your job to teach them that there are consequences for disobedience and that someday God will no longer strive with them and that the patience of God is a temporary salvation granting them opportunity to find lasting salvation in the cross of Christ.

Lastly, punishment is not loving, it is entirely devoid of love and is entirely wrath, thank God that for all of the responsibilities he has bestowed on us, this is not one of them. Remember, there is no fear in love, because perfect love casts out all fear, why? “Fear has to do with punishment (1 John 4:18).” Your job is to love your children, and punishment is devoid of love. Rather, listen to what Jesus said of some severe affliction he was placing on his church, “those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent (Rev 3:19)!

This is not a systematic theology on discipline and punishment, there are far more passages to study and consider (cf. Hebrews 12:5-11ff, Prov 13:24, Prov 23:13, etc, etc). However, beloved, this is an exhortation to consider how you are responding to your children. Do they consider it harsh punishment (there is a whole sermon there on how Cain received his reproof (Gen 4:13)) or do they consider it painful loving discipline?

Do they welcome correction or do their scorn it? One of your jobs is to teach your child to love correction and so that when he receives it from men he will be better for it, and when he receives it from God he will repent and rejoice that he has a heavenly father who cares for his eternal soul.

And please remember, you should never punish your children.

Reprove a wise man, and he will love you. ~ Proverbs 9:8

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Discipline Starts in the Parents

This is the first in a long line of parenting posts I have been considering. It will deal with where child raising begins, which is in the parents. I have been convicted and have been praying about changing the direction of my webpresence. Historically I have focused on theology and evangelism with a bit of application sprinkled in. I have decided to change the focus to an application driven blog laid on a foundation of theology.

One of the reasons this transition has been so long in coming is because in my own authority and wisdom I am not a perfect father, far from it. But in the grace of God, and by his authority, and through his Word, and the godly wisdom of great saints I have been endowed with the authority and wisdom to offer some advice and administer some commands to parents struggling with parenting or who recognize that they have room to grow.

This blog is inspired and titled by my dear pastor from Florida, Randy Kuhn. He told me on more than one occasion and it has stuck, “Discipline starts in the parents.” Let me tell you again, if you only get one thing out of this: Discipline starts in the parents!

I’ve read more parent-help books than I’d care to admit, and very few have been without something helpful, but I’ve noticed the trend that they are all focused on the child’s heart, or the child’s behavior, or correction techniques, or tips & tricks, or presenting the Bible in just the right way. I am not against these things, but they are not the fix you’re looking for, and it’s why so many parents have “tried the techniques” and are still not seeing results in their children.

I recently came to an epiphany—if you can come to an epiphany—that teaching discipline is not a feat that can be accomplished by listening to one sermon, attending one Bible study, writing one dissertation, or talking with one family that has it right: it requires training of the heart that is made effective through practice (cf. Philemon 6, Deuteronomy 6:7, Proverbs 22:6). This applies to parents and to children, and requires constant practice, and Christian parents have a benefit that children rarely have, and that being the Holy Spirit (cf. Philippians 1:6). One of the wonders of Christianity is that God uses the personalities of men in conjunction with the working of his power, and those personalities are formed long before we walk with God. I am blessed to have a work ethic that was ingrained in me from a young age. I remember being four years old building a house with my father, and throughout my entire childhood working on all sorts of equipment with him, and as an adult working well into the night to finish a tile floor just days before I joined the Air Force. But get this, my father is not a believer (I am deeply appreciative of your prayers for him), and neither was I until my third year in the Air Force. But I still see that work ethic (honed in the gospel) find its way to the forefront of my life time and time again.

I am daily tempted to not hold my children to a high standard considering that they are little sinners enslaved in their sin who daily scorn the Saviour’s love. But, beloved, my temptation is not the truth! Throughout scripture we read of fathers training up children in the truth long before they met Christ. Time would fail a full list, but I will briefly name Jacob, Manasseh, and the prodigal Son who were well served by godly upbringings prior to their reconciliation with God. I chose to include Manasseh on that list, and would also put forward Samson, as examples who went far astray, but who returned to the God of their father’s before the end. I cannot promise you an easy upbringing of your children, but I can promise you the peace beyond all understanding that comes in knowing and resting in Christ and his work, and walking the path he laid out before time for you.

This discipline must be constant and predictable. I am in a slightly more elevated observation point than many in that we have six children. If you have one or two you might not notice the damage done by letting a child get away with an infraction because it probably doesn’t instantly cause other issues. But with six, if I let one disobedience slip I’ll see the instant ramifications in one of two ways, either the other five will start to act up, or one of the other five will complain about the unfairness of the injustice.

Loved ones, if you follow a Tedd Tripp book or an Elizabeth Krueger book or a Focus on the Family book or a Ken Ham book or a Ray Comfort book…or any other book…what I would ask you to do is stick with the principles in those book(s) that align with the Scriptures (namely Proverbs which spends much more time in childrearing than most parents realize). You’re not going to find a trick in any of those books (even Proverbs) that is going to give you a quick fix, and it is bordering on provoking your kids to anger to continually change tactics, requirements, and methods on them. Speak with godly counsel, read Proverbs, and make your plan, then stick with it. There is, of course, room for modification, but not a single discipline method can work if you don’t have the discipline to stick with it.

Discipline in the parents requires you to be disciplined in three areas: 1. Striving to grow closer to Christ yourself. 2. Training your children up in the fear and admonition of the Lord. 3. Providing correction when they sin.

In closing, I want to emphasize that this is not easy and there is no checklist, you must make this decision now to be disciplined in your parenting. Matt Chandler exhorted fathers once that it is a father’s job to be exhausted. Having that mindset has been freeing to work hard and press through tiredness; likewise it is your job to be disciplined and administer discipline. Don’t worry about what this does to your friendship with your children, you’re called to lead them to Christ, not to be their friend. You can be their friend when they are your brother or sister in the faith, but now you are called to embark on the exhausting, relentless, and rewarding journey of being a disciplined parent.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Love the Local Church

Introduction

I love the local church and I want you to as well. Over the past week the same theme keeps coming up and so I need to take a break from a very heavy project to write about something that is very near and dear to my heart. This topic is loving and suffering the local church for the glory of Christ and y’alls (plural of your) sanctification.

Loving the church is not just a personal preference, it is a mandate from Heaven and a blessing to your soul. Is the church perfect? No, absolutely not, far from it, and God has a special tool designed into it to make sure it is never perfect on this side of Heaven. That special tool is called “conversion” which makes sure that just when you get your church on the road to sanctification you meet a person who just met Jesus and has a thousand temptations to work through with no experience. Is your ideal church full of 5-point sola saints who have all of the right answers and orthopraxy that looks just like yours or is your ideal church full of single moms, fatherless children, ex-drug addicts, repentant homosexuals, former pagans, and enlightened scientists etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. who love Jesus in their own gifting, fall often, and need your help and the help of the church to follow Christ and publish his peace to their part of the world?

I intend to convince you to love the local church as well by showing you that it is vital that you are strengthening the weak, gathering together with Christ followers, growing with others, obeying the gospel, loving your congregation, sharing in the sufferings of Christ, and believing in total depravity and unconditional election.

Strengthen the Weak
The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them. ~ Ezekiel 34:4
God is not at all fond of the shepherd who fails to care for his sheep. I include this here because a few years ago when it was incredibly popular to claim that your church was online, on television, or in a para-church ministry I noticed that most of the people who were in this rebellion considered themselves to be super-spiritual and capable of shepherding the flock better than any pastor. Despite the fact that their ordination was self-imposed and not recognized by other men, it was apparent that pride was the driving force behind many leaving the local church. So, if you think in any degree that you are a shepherd, then I call you to the local church for this reason first: Not every sheep is healthy or wise or necessarily even in the fold. God designed it this way, both for a diversity in the local church, but so that the shepherds would have a continuing ministry and could be proved to the rest of the flock as true to be followed or a hireling to expel.

So, I call you to love the local church, especially if you consider yourself spiritual, that you may seek out the weak sheep, the broken sheep, the wandering sheep, and help them along the way. It’s not just a nice thing to do, it is the difference between obedience and disobedience to God. If you read the rest of Ezekiel 34 (as well as Zechariah 11) you’ll see that these shepherds are not long for life or ministry.

Gather Together
So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd, and they became food for all the wild beasts. ~ Ezekiel 34:5
In order to know and minister to the weak you must spend time with them. This is ideally done in the local church setting. This is for their sake, but more importantly for you in this verse, it is for your sake.

Separating yourself from a shepherd and a flock makes you a target to every wolf, bear, eagle, and poacher who comes along. Do not console yourself thinking that just because you’ve left a local shepherd that the Good Shepherd may come looking for you (Luke 15:4), for that local shepherd may be God’s man who he has been calling to you through.

It is not a few of the “my ministry is my church” men whom I have observed run off into charismania or Sabellianism or Arianism…who knows which temptation Satan has crouched at your door waiting to devour you, but apart from the flock, you will be easy prey, no matter what your pride says otherwise.

Grow Together

My beloved pastor this morning spoke truth when he talked about those who are not running the race well and look the same today as they did twenty years ago. It was a tragic illustration but a true one. We have a vagrant who visits our church occasionally, he is proud that he has visited pretty much every church in our metropolitan area, but the man, though he has much Bible knowledge, has no sanctification and no fruit keeping with repentance. I did have a deep heart-to-heart with him the last time he visited, probably a year ago, and encouraged him to join a church and grow there. I hope he took my advice, because the local church is where you won’t necessarily learn more than you already know, but where you will be held accountable to bear fruit.

John Calvin agrees with me, “We have not come to the preaching merely to learn what we do not know, but to be incited to do our duty.”

In this we are obeying the gospel to be a repentance changed people who believe that God is working in and with broken people redeemed by Christ. How can we visit our brothers in the hospital if we don’t know anyone in the hospital? How can we meet one another’s needs if we don’t know each other’s needs? One of the places we grow most readily is when we suffer with our brothers and sisters and with our Saviour.

Share in the Sufferings of Christ
He marveled because of their unbelief. ~ Mark 6:6
If you want an example of someone who was let down by men and who marveled at their lack of understanding, you need look no farther than our Saviour. He did not abandon those whom failed and betrayed him so often, he did not leave them to go find other, less hard-hearted or stubborn people, he bore their burden and gave them his, and called them his friends.

Read the story of Moses, a man who originally did not want to lead Israel out of Egypt for their stubbornness, but whom by the end of his life was pleading for them, loving them, and guiding them to a land of promise that he himself could not enjoy. How did Moses go from practically despising the people of Israel to counting them his brothers? He suffered with them in the wilderness and rejoiced with them in the oasis.

How will you ever grow to love a congregation with whom you have not suffered with? More importantly, how will you endure the sufferings of Christ which bring forth a fruit of righteousness, fellowship, character, and hope, if you flee from every suffering?

Love Your Congregation

And if you have in your heart to flee, then from every church you will flee.

You would never be caught dead in the sexually deviant church at Corinth. (1 Corinthians 5:1)

You would never grace the doors of those lazy preterists (resurrection-deniers) in Thessaly. (2 Thessalonians 2:2, 3:10)

You would scoff at those legalists in Galatia. (Galatians 3:1)

You would wonder at the saints who could worship in Ephesus which was so overwrought with wolves. (Acts 20:29)

You would cringe at the comfort seekers in Dayton.

You would sigh for the postmodernists in Seattle.

You would cry over the charismania in Atlanta.

Etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc.

Believe in Total Depravity and Unconditional Election

What’s worse is that many of these church abandoners claim to be reformed in their understanding of mankind and grace. But at the first sign of depravity they are out the door. Beloved, do you believe that your heart is naturally inclined towards sin, can you sing that great hymn that says, “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it”, can’t you recognize that even saints need seeking and saving sometimes? Don’t you love the lost even when they are in a building with a steeple?

Has God sanctified you beyond the point where he needed to unconditionally elect you, and now you are in a place to judge the election of those you are called to have unity with? Is your denomination/community failing? I could point you to JC Ryle (Anglican), or Charles Spurgeon (Particular Baptist), or Al Mohler (Southern Baptist Convention) who nearly watched their traditions fall apart around them, but they stayed, and the church has been immensely blessed because of their faithfulness.

Stop pretending there can be a perfect church on earth or a church that is full of people who deserve to be called. If there were a perfect church it would quickly be contaminated because of the members inviting their unsaved and recently saved friends. But you won’t find it, and not only will you suffer the consequences of continually looking, but you’ll miss opportunities in which God has called you to bless his beautiful local church.

Conclusion

I love the local church even though the local church is going to hurt me, even though I’m going to hurt them, and together we’re going to grow together in love and holiness and compassion as we seek to serve Christ and spur one another towards good works.

Did I leave a church when I was younger when it was imploding? Yes. Do I regret it? Yes. That is a discussion for another day, this article is part of my repentance, and my life in the local church from here to eternity is my fruit. I love the local church, I’m committed to the local church, and I will defend, with my words and my life, the local church. Afterall, it is Christ’s body.

Let’s strengthen it, mend it, add to it, and live—as much as is possible—in unity in it.

I remain committed to you and the local church,
Canyon

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

My Worth is Not in What I Own

I remember in disbelief reading part of the recantation biography of Jim Bakker called, I Was Wrong. In it he talks about watching on television his home in Tega Cay, South Carolina, burn to the ground from a prison cafeteria. The lavish $1M (in 1989 money) home represented much of what was wrong with his first ministry, and his response to much of what is wrong with his latter ministry. In his biography he agonizes over the loss of the home and what it represented in his life and family. His statement is telling, "Sitting in that prison TV room watching my former home crumble in flames was one of the most traumatic times of my life."

I read the entire worthless attempt at repentance with a judgmental eye, but I was especially exacerbated by the chapter idolizing his home. How someone could lose his ministry to the consequences of sin, his wife to an unfaithful friend, and his son to the secular culture and yet claim that the losing of his home (that didn't even belong to him at the time) was amongst the most traumatic events of his life was clearly a sin that had not been repented of.

But then Hurricane Michael happened. And I realized I had a log in my eye at least as big as Jim Bakker's.

Hurricane Michael slammed into Panama City last week. I called Panama City home for four and a half years, I met my wife there, my twins were born there. I purchased an old run down home near the Air Force base for half of what it was worth, and over four years spent countless hours and quite a bit of money repairing things that previous owners had neglected, and improving other things. I carried my wife across the threshold, my middlest daughter and both twins learned to walk there, we taught Bible Study almost every Monday for years, we transformed the office into the girl's room. I discipled young men in the living room, two dear friends helped renovate the garage and make it a useable space. I came to love the home there, which, albeit small, is jam packed with memories.

But then Hurricane Michael hit, and though we already sold the home and moved far north, it was still a crushing feeling to know that a house right on the bay would not survive the hurricane unscathed. And then a dear friend sent this picture:

It shows the garage decimated, a water pipe burst that has flooded the driveway, the roof damage almost guarantees that everything we did in the kitchen is destroyed. Even though we no longer own the home, it still uncovered a level of affection I have for this world that I did not even know I was still holding onto.

For my entire time in Panama City I was blessed to be a member of Carlisle Baptist Church in Callaway. I married my wife there, I was blessed to fill the pulpit several times, I watched young men and women transformed by the gospel, and I baptized one of my best friends there. But the roof couldn't handle a Cat 4/5 hurricane, and the church structure we enjoyed and loved is gone forever.

But a dear friend from that church said it best, "The church is the people, not the building." And that is true, the church building will perish sooner or later, but the living church will endure forever.

So why am I so downcast over the destruction of two buildings? While I would not say, like Bakker, that it is amongst the most traumatic events of my life, I will say that it is quite traumatic. And I'm not even there, or have a monetary stake in it, and as far as has been reported, all of our brothers and sisters have survived the storm.

My hope is not in what I own, and thankfully so, because in my life I've seen things that I have built or maintained (F-15E S/N 304 that I worked on a few years before it crashed in Libya) that I thought would last forever, but have quickly fallen apart. As a young man it was merely the words of Jesus that I was trusting when he said, "Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal (Matt 6:20)." As I've gotten older I've now experienced that verse and I trust it both because Jesus said it, and because I've experienced it at a far greater pace than I ever imagined.

The late Adrian Rogers defined human life in three epochs of temptation, the first being the temptation of the body (lust, laziness, violence, drugs/alcohol), the second being the temptation of possessions and position, and last being the temptation of fear and doubt.

I suppose I have officially transitioned into the middle epoch, and having identified it I must lift my eyes to Heaven to seek the kingdom that is to come. We seek a city to come, for here we have no lasting city.  My mind is a jumble in writing and recalling so many facts, but I remember that when prorating a house the insurance companies generally assume a house is a usable structure for 55-70 years. That is quite a short time span for a kingdom which we invest so much of our lives building. Let us then build up, with living stones, a kingdom that will endure for eternity, and will not be shaken.

Let us pray with Keith and Kristyn Getty, "When I cling to what I have, please wrest it quickly from my grasp. I'd rather lose all the things of earth to gain the things of heaven (Simple Living, 2011)." But at the same time, let us seek what will truly last:

Rescue the perishing
care for the dying
Jesus is merciful
Jesus will save
Church, open your eyes once more
and see what Christ died for
Jesus is merciful
Jesus will save. ~ Billy Foote, Rescue the Perishing, 2003

Sunday, June 3, 2018

All is Discovered! Flee Now!


Consider for a moment that you just received a text from an unknown number, 
All is Discovered! Flee Now!
How would you react?

In the late 19th century, and popularized by Arthur Conan Doyle (Sherlock Holmes), a tragically humorous anecdote was told of a person sending six telegrams to six upstanding Christian gentlemen (or pastors) stating only, “All is Discovered: Flee at Once!” The following day (or Sunday) not a single one of the men could be found, having left town in a hurry.

Tell this story at any gathering and you are sure to hear some nervous laughter. The joke is not that these six were accidentally discovered, for the author of the telegram had no knowledge or inkling of any secret sin, but that every man has a deep dark secret of which he would flee if it were found out, convicted by their own conscience.

The church has not been immune from secret sin, but beloved, there should be no unconfessed sin in your life that, if found out, would result in the end of your ministry, family, or life. This has been exacerbated in recent days by the findings of a major SBC investigation into Paige Patterson. The investigation began not because of secret sin, but because of public statements which were made in very poor judgment. Dr. Patterson had little to deny or even be ashamed of in his defense, other than a lack of clarity and of being out of line with the culture, but rather should have clarified and preached. But the investigation did not stop with public and defendable statements.

What was found that was utterly shocking and repugnant in Dr. Patterson’s investigation was that which was known by only a few people, that he had purposefully covered up rape allegations to either protect his seminary, or to protect the rapist. Either is abhorrent and a secret, which, when found out, led to his firing from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. I had supported Paige Patterson up until I learned why he was fired, as the board revealed, this was truly “new information” and was a sin worthy of firing.

Paul writes to Timothy on these matters, speaking about being slow to associate with just any man who shows interest in ministry, because you may be found taking part in his sin. Paige Patterson is a hero in the Southern Baptist Convention and by almost all accounts seems to bear fruit keeping with repentance. I truly hope that his cover-up was a serious stumble, and not the exposure of much deeper spiritual issues.

Paul continued his thought, “The sins of some people are conspicuous, going before them to judgment, but the sins of others appear later (1 Timothy 5:24).” I’ve always felt this was a direct allusion to Moses regarding whether the tribes of Reuben and Gad would provide warriors to conquer what would become Israel, “Be sure your sin will find you out (Numbers 32:23).” Some men are obviously sinners and few are surprised when they fall, such were Jim Bakker, Ted Haggard, Paul Crouch, Mark Driscoll, etc, etc, ad nauseum, but the sins of others are hidden, such as those of Josh Duggar, Paige Patterson, and Paul Pressler, and many are surprised when they are brought to light. I believe that the Apostle Paul was making the point that some sins are exposed before judgment, and others won’t appear until after judgment.

The tragedy of many is that they will never get a wake up call, “All is Discovered! Flee Now!” but their sins will only be made manifest on the great and terrible day of judgment when their faith is shown to be a fraud and their sin finds them out. For, dear reader, you may hide your sin from many people, but you will never hide your sin from God, for his Word is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. No creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account (Hebrews 4:12-13). God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus (Romans 2:16).

Our associate pastor recently recommended a wonderful book to us on teaching children to keep their body’s safe, it is called God Made All of Me by Justin Holcomb. It makes many great points (the main failing is that it does not address the gospel, but dear parent, that is ultimately your job), but the most important for me was where it talks about how secrets make people feel confused, hurt, scared, sad, etc and how secrets have no place in the kingdom of Heaven. Christ came as light into the world and the darkness fled from him, lest their deeds be exposed. There is no place for secrets in the household of faith. We could argue minutia such as not revealing the identity of a rape victim, but we will not argue whether the rape should be reported, investigated, and punished. A secret has no place in Christian's life if we have truly come to the light.

Dear reader, make this decision now, that no secret will exist in your life that, if revealed, would ruin your career, your family, your life, or your eternity. Let no sin go unconfessed to God and man, and unrepented of. The blood of Christ cleanses from all unrighteousness.

There are some whom I know whose sin is evident to all but themselves; there are others whose sin is undeniably there, but which sin is unclear; there are others whom I pray would receive a wakeup call on par with, “All is Discovered, Flee Now!” Beloved, where do you stand on this scale, if a telegraph appeared at your door tomorrow would you have enough time to pack your bags, or would you know that all of your sin is already laid at the foot of a bloodstained cross and has no power over you?

And if all truly were discovered, to whom would you flee? At the end of the age many will flee to caves in mountains and under rocks but will have no reprieve from him who is seated on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb. John the Baptist asked a wicked and perverse generation whose sin was more than conspicuous, “Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come (Matthew 3:7)!?”

Beloved, there is one Saviour, one name given under Heaven by which we must be saved, to whom we must flee: Jesus, raised from the dead, who delivers us from the wrath to come. Flee to him yourself, and call others to flee, instead of a telegram as a joke, implore men with all seriousness and love, “All is Discovered! Flee now to Christ Jesus who died for you while you were yet a sinner, defeated death, and is able to save completely all who draw near to him in faith!” For how will they call on him who is able to save and how will you declare it?
Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages, but now has been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith—to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen. ~ Romans 16:25-27

Thursday, March 29, 2018

The World Without Easter

Behold: my people have acted foolishly,
            and shall be cast down.
The nations are without a witness,
            the Kings speak boastful and unrestrained words.
            The Word of God which we have not heard is forgotten and lost.
We are despised and rejected by men;
            men of sorrows and forever acquainted with grief.
Surely we will bear our griefs, even to Hell;
            our sorrow is our faithful companion all the days of our lives.
We are stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.
            We are cursed for our transgressions;
            We are crushed for our iniquities;
            We are without peace and without hope in the World.
            Our sores are gangrenous and licked by the wild dogs; without remedy.
We like sheep have gone astray,
            and no shepherd leaves the flock to search for us.
Our iniquities fester and multiply.
We are oppressed, afflicted,
            we cry out in agony, torn asunder like lost lambs amongst the wolves.
By injustice and oppression we find no reprieve in the lawless courts of men;
            my generation is lost, stricken for my transgression and theirs.
Our graves are hewn for the wicked;
            rich and poor alike; we shall perish and shall see corruption in them.
Our violence has taken us away,
            and our deceit has sealed our fate.
And it was the will of the Lord to punish us,
            He has put us to grief,
            There is no guilt offering, no substitute;
            We and our children are lost forever.
Of the anguish of our soul! We shall never be free;
            I could not save myself, I can neither save others;
            I cannot bear even the weight of mine own iniquities.
My portion is lost, my spoil is wasted on those who will fall after me;
            My lifeblood is splattered on the ground,
            amongst the blood of a multitude of transgressors.
            Each bearing the immeasurable weight of his sins.
            There is no intercession for the transgressors.

But…Jesus… (Isaiah 52:13-53:12)


Monday, July 31, 2017

Build the House

With the proliferation of House-Flipper and Home-Renovation shows it has become very popular to improve the quality of a physical structure. This has become so popular that various experts in the real-estate market see an impending fall coming: another real-estate bubble. We saw this as we purchased a home recently, and several of the houses we looked at were what I called, “Flips Gone Bad” in which case it was clear that the flipper ran out of money before the house was ready to be sold, and the flipper would be fortunate to break even on their venture. House flipping and renovation are costly ventures and usually they cost much more than they are worth.

Let me take you to post-exilic Israel where another housing boom was in full swing. The year is 520BC (Haggai 1:1). After Ezra and others had led a multitude of Jews back to Judah and Jerusalem they had rebuilt their homes but had been stopped by the reigning government from rebuilding the House of God (Ezra 4:23-24). For eighteen years the Jews rebuilt their great houses, no detail was overlooked, and the neighborhoods were beautiful, with the exception of a big burned out husk of a temple at the top of Mount Moriah. If they had reality TV, I imagine everyone would have had their own show, and the view of a destroyed temple would be a turn-off for potential investors.


But,

Then the word of the LORD came by the hand of Haggai the prophet, “Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins? Now, therefore, thus says the LORD of hosts: Consider your ways. You have sown much, and harvested little. You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes.”
Thus says the LORD of hosts: “Consider your ways. Go up to the hills and bring wood and build the house, that I may take pleasure in it and that I may be glorified, says the LORD. You looked for much, and behold, it came to little. And when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why?” declares the LORD of hosts. “Because of my house that lies in ruins, while each of you busies himself with his own house. Therefore the heavens above you have withheld the dew, and the earth has withheld its produce. And I have called for a drought on the land and the hills, on the grain, the new wine, the oil, on what the ground brings forth, on man and beast, and on all their labors.” – Haggai 1:3-11
The Israelites heard and responded, they rebuilt the temple. Everyone who had seen Solomon’s temple wept, but those who had not seen it rejoiced. And God promised that the glory of this temple would be greater than the glory of Solomon’s temple. For it was all pointing towards a better temple: Jesus said,
Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up...” He was speaking about the temple of his body. – John 2:19,21
Now, the application. It’s going to hurt. Brace yourself. The world says you ought to be working on your own house, on knocking down walls, on replacing cabinets, on improving the value of your earthly dwelling. But God asks if it is not time for you to be working on his house, on his dwelling? God is not looking for a home on Moriah, for he said,
The hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father…but the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth. – John 4:21-24
The dwelling place of God is with man. You, Christian, are the house of God, your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God (1 Corinthians 6:19). God does not dwell in houses made of stone, or brick, or wood, or gypsum, or granite, or marble; he dwells in the human heart.

Which house have you been building? A worldly house for yourself? Focusing on the necessities of this world? Or building the house of God, which is yourself?


One of these houses is stored up for fire, or a housing bubble collapse, or both. The other is stored up for glory, for usefulness in this life and in the life to come. There are no lack of Bible verses that speak to this topic, not least of all concerns storing your treasure in heaven, not on earth, where earthquake, flood, fire, wood rot, changing fads, etc consume. Repent of building an earthly kingdom, of focusing on things more than souls, check your motivation, build up the spiritual house of the Lord.


Beloved, I encourage you to read Psalm 132 today, and heed its exhortation. You may have a very nice place to rest your head tonight, but does God have a place in you? Pray with King David,

I will not enter my house
or get into my bed,
I will not give sleep to my eyes
or slumber to my eyelids,
until I find a place for the LORD,
a dwelling place for the Mighty One of Jacob. – Psalm 132:3-5
And never give up the renovation of his house while you still inhabit it,
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. – Romans 12:1-2
for,
I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. - Philippians 1:6 

Monday, June 5, 2017

7 Things You Need to Know About the Newest Planet or Solar System JUST Discovered by NASA

Introduction

With the plethora of new telescopes that are capable of reaching out to the stars in the Milky Way there are no lack of astronomers making statements that sound certain about their uncertain discoveries. The study of the stars and their satellites is definitely an interesting pursuit, one that has valuable benefits for mankind, but also one that can be used to waste a whole lot of money, and even the lives of those who devote themselves to it.

When you hear of the newest planet or solar system or star, it is important to remember these 7 things:

1. God Created It

The primary purpose of the stars, exoplanets, and moons is to “declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech, night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world (Psalm 19:1-4).” Skeptic Dr. Michael Shermer paraphrases Psalm 19:1 magnificently when he says, “A Hubble Space Telescope photograph of the universe evokes far more awe for creation than light streaming through a stained glass window in a cathedral.”

God created the stars, in their vast expanse and impossible number, with a Word (Genesis 1:14-19) on the fourth day. It is estimated that in the known Universe (Latin - single phrase) that there are enough stars for every person on earth to personally own 11 trillion of them. There are no lack of stars/planets/satellites in the universe for astronomers to discover and research, each tells a story of God’s creative power. Carl Sagan got it right when he said, “There are far more galaxies than people.”

God’s creation is far grander than anything mankind can produce. Astronomy is merely seeing God's creation after he created it.

2. Mankind Discovered Something About It

What mankind has discovered about exoplanets and solar systems heretofore has been entirely confined to the Milky Way Galaxy, a galaxy of nearly 100 billion stars. There are an estimated 100 billion more galaxies to explore, though Hubble’s Ultra Deep Field estimates that as a severe underestimation, if technology and theology allow.

So far the exoplanets discovered by astronomers all tell an interesting story, not a single one has been boring. Some are gas giants, others as small as earth, some are superheated past the temperature of lesser stars, others are supercooled, some rotate, others are tidally locked, some orbit on their star’s equator, others orbit around their star’s poles, some may have been stars once, others may be collapsed gas giants, some have stars as sister satellites, others are so far from their star that if you were standing on the exoplanet you couldn’t discern your star from the starry backdrop, etc.

But what mankind has discovered is currently, drastically, limited by technology. Mankind does not know the molecular makeup of most of the discovered exoplanets, nor even what they look like, and many of the details, such as temperature, atmosphere, and physical attributes are nothing but hypotheses presented by the astronomer or reporter as fact. Anytime you see a picture of a supposed planet that looks like Earth, it is because an artist drew up a picture of an earthlike planet and slapped a name on it of a dim spot on a star trillions of miles away. If technology allows us to see the true pictures of these planets I have no doubt we will be less bored than ever, and enjoy pictures of alien landscapes beyond our imaginations. But they won’t look like Earth, that’d be boring.

3. God is Demonstrating His Creativity Through It

In a universe where no snowflake, no human, no star is exactly the same, God demonstrates his vast creativity. In a universe where a gas giant can orbit its star in 36 hours and exist at 7,800 degrees farenheit (Planet KELT-9b) and another will have its first birthday in about 154,000 Earth years (GU Piscium b has a 160,000 year lap around its star), we see the vast creativity of our Creator. Each of our ~200 billion galaxies has a uniqueness and detail that should make us see the awesome mind of our God.

Not only is its topography, location, temperature, composition, speed, and appearance different, but it even has its own name. “God determines the number of the heavenly bodies; he gives to all of them their names (Psalm 147:4).”

4. God is Sustaining It

KELT-9b, mentioned above as a 7800 degree gas giant, should not exist. The temperatures, radiation, and gravity of its host star should have put an end to it long ago. But what is impossible with stars is possible with God. Likewise, Earth, even in her supposed “Goldilocks Zone” wouldn’t exist for a moment if she were not constantly and totally tweaked by the Sustainer of the Universe.

“He upholds the Universe by the word of his power (Hebrews 1:3).”

5. It is Not in the Goldilocks Zone

Gliese 581d is a planet the right distance from its star for the temperature to sustain water…but if there is water it needs a greenhouse type atmosphere, and it is 8 times the mass of Earth, and its star 1/3 the brightness as the sun, and it has 0% the rotation axis of Earth…in other words, it is tidally locked. Earth exists in what many astronomers call the “Goldilock’s Zone” where conditions are “just right” to sustain life. When you hear of a planet being a Goldilocks planet, look at what they mean, usually they mean that one of a million conditions has been met. Hardly a sustainable planet. In other words, don’t buy a one-way ticket to Gliese 581d.

For another example, Earth has a magnetic field that is likely caused by a molten core, where-as Mars lacks this magnetic field and will never be habitable. Neither will any other planet ever meet the necessary life sustaining aspects of Earth, whether this is by design or by consequence it is true.

6. It has been Fatally Affected by Sin

While history has allowed many people to watch stars die, no observable planet has yet met its demise observed by human eyes. That may soon not be the case. Astronomers believe WASP-18b has crossed the event horizon which will end in it being consumed by its host star, as it spirals in a theoretically unsustainable diminishing orbit into the star WASP-18.

All of the exoplanets previously observed and to be observed, and even those that will never be observed by human eyes have an expiration date. Whether they are being consumed by their host, or blasted into smithereens, or will face the purifying fire of the end of the age, they will not exist forever.

So why do stars/planets/humans die? Death is a result of the broken Universe, a universe which has been ravaged by futility, not willingly, but because death entered into the cosmos through sin, the sin of one man Adam, and perpetuated by every human to come after him. Death and decay is the consequence of sin, which ravages everything, and desperately calls for relief, even in the stars groaning (Romans 8:19-22).

7. Redemption is Needed and Coming

But the Creator has not subjected his creation to futility for naught. A New Heaven is hoped for, a recreation of the fallen Universe. Through the cursed death of Jesus Christ and the power of his resurrection God is “reconciling to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross (Colossians 1:20).”

The cosmos currently exists in a state of bondage to the law of sin and death. But a time is coming when all things will be placed under subjection to the reigning king, Jesus Christ, at which time all who hope in the Son of God will be set free from their bondage to corruption.

Conclusion

The planets in this solar system were called of old, “Wandering Stars”, because if you plotted your course and placed your hope in them, they would lead you astray. Their paths are unpredictable without computer processing, and the traveler who hoped to navigate his path by them would meet with a difficult journey and may arrive in a place he did not intend or hope to go.

But Jesus Christ is fixed forever on the Throne of Grace, set your eyes upon him, and spend your time studying him and his word. The exoplanets and other heavenly bodies have their purpose in showing you the glory of God, but they are not the end goal of your existence or your salvation. There is one name given under the stars by which we must be saved, there is salvation in no one else. Look to Jesus, and be saved.