Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Reconciling Child

(A 25th Christmas gift to the Fellowship in the Pass Church)

Oh, Hark! The herald angels sing
“Give Glory to the newborn King!
The Father’s own begotten Son
The reconciling had begun

For by the work of this dear child
We sinners lost were reconciled
Though helpless and ungodly be
The enemies of God were we

And yet in grace and proving love
He laid aside His rights above
To enter into time and space
And demonstrate redeeming grace

God to a virgin timely born
Humanity for Him was worn
She swaddled Him in cloths so fresh
His deity was wrapped in flesh

When shepherds on a hillside heard
The joyful news, the glorious word
For all the world good news received
The shepherds listened and believed

And came to see Messiah come
Who pitched His tent and made a home
With men on earth as man He dwelt
God’s condescending love was felt

He came so unobtrusively
An act of pure humility
Not as the world expected Him
The night was dark, the light was dim

Immersed in darkness was the earth
But light had come with this one birth
For those who would to Him submit
Eternal light in Him was lit

Then from the stable He would go
To Nazareth where He would grow
Into a man with favor found
In wisdom and in stature sound

A man who went round doing good
And though by most misunderstood
They thought He was an earthly king
Vindictive conq’ring He would bring

But this was not why He came down
For fleeting fame or man’s renown
Not even carnal infamy
Nor treasure’s temporality

He came to die—simplicity
Revealed in His humility
Obedient death was His to claim
That led to His exalted name

And so this reconciling child
Though born so pure and undefiled
By sin’s impurities innate
With man’s own weakness He’d relate

Becoming sin for us He could
Impart His righteousness that would
Make us acceptable to God
And far remove His wrathful rod

No other Name, no other One
Can give us life than God’s dear Son
Who on the cross in suff’ring so…
Determined love for us did show

The Father’s grace in Him replete
Where reconciling love did meet
And in His death salvation sweet
Redemption wrought—full and complete

Thus once again th’indwelling Word
Will tabernacle now as Lord
With men and women who receive
And penitentially believe

Oh would that all the nations could
With joyful hearts proclaim the good
Of God’s eternal saving Son
Eternal God, incarnate One

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Lethal Weapon

Sadly, I have become aware of a person in our church who is gossiping and slandering both the church and one member in particular. What a horrible, devastating testimony that is to the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. In thinking about this grievous situation, what prompted me to blog is the rather sobering thought that followed: What if I stood and announced this week that we had learned of this situation and all the pastors and I were going to visit the person involved on the next day...without naming the person. (Here’s the sobering part) I wonder how many of the folks in church would spend a sleepless night of worry.

Isn’t that sad? Sad that a pastor would even harbor such a thought. Sad that the state of affairs in so many churches today would make that be a possibility. Sad that we do not recognize the horribly destructive power of the tongue. James and the writer of Proverbs warn us:

“Prov. 18:21 Death and life are in the power of the tongue,
And those who love it will eat its fruit.
James 3:8 But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison.”

Gossip and slander are dreaded destroyers of the sweetness of the fellowship we have in the Lord Jesus Christ. The Scripture constantly reminds us of the serious nature of these sins:

“Prov. 20:19 He who goes about as a slanderer reveals secrets,
Therefore do not associate with a gossip.
Eph. 4:31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.
2Tim. 3:3 unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good,
Titus 2:3 Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good,”

Those who have been given over to a depraved mind are said to be gossips and slanderers in Romans 1:28-30.

So much harm is done by that little thing called the tongue. Yet it only reveals what is on the inside of the person. Jesus said:

“Matt. 12:34 “You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart.
Matt. 15:18 “But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man.”

Contrast this with the beautiful 15th Psalm which tells us that true worshippers of God do not slander with their tongues (v.3). Oh, how desperately we all need to hear the governing voice of the Spirit when we are tempted to gossip and slander. Let us all hear the solemn admonition of the apostle Paul: “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.” (Ephesians 4:29)

Monday, December 22, 2008

A Blog Already!!!

Children are a blessing from the Lord. They are wonderful gifts from God for which we are deeply thankful. Okay, I got that out of the way. Sometimes they are N-A-G-S!!!!!
My kids won’t leave me alone about blogging. “Dad, you need to blog.” “Dad, I’m tired of seeing the same blog.” And on and on and on.

Then today one of them had the nerve to send me an article by Abraham Piper, entitled "6 Reasons Pastors Should Blog." Aaaaarrrrrrrggggghhhhh!!!!!

Alright, already! I agree with everything Abraham says. My problem is I just don’t think I have that much to say. One of my commitments when I got into blogging was avoiding the audacious arrogance of the notion that anyone cared what I had to say. Therefore, I wanted to stay firmly entrenched in the idea that I would only blog when I felt strongly about something or believed there was a need. And, as I have often said, the main purpose of my blogging is to encourage and build up the flock for which I am accountable.

I do think Abraham Piper makes a good point when he says that pastors need to write because it helps them think. That’s a given. But nowhere is it written, or even hinted, that we ought necessarily to publish everything we write.

Take it from me. You really shouldn’t care too much what I say. You should take everything I say as my opinion only. And where possible, you should weigh anything I say in light of God’s Word. That is the standard by which we must be measured in the truth of our words.

So, there!!! A blog already!!!! Now LEAVE ME ALONE!!!!!

(Of course, you know I love it when they ask me to blog. How great can God’s grace be to give me children who want to read what I have to say. I truly am blessed among men.)

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Can A Christian Be Pro-Abortion, or Even Neutral?

No...not if that Christian believes in the biblical doctrine of the incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ. And since one cannot ignore the incarnation of God in the person of the Man Jesus and be a Christian, it is therefore impossible for a true believer in the Lord Jesus Christ to be pro-abortion or even neutral on the subject of abortion.
Let me explain. First, let’s clarify the terms. One who holds to a pro-abortion position is one who believes it is perfectly acceptable to stop the life of an unborn child at some point between conception and birth. One who is neutral on abortion is one who is unwilling to say it is wrong to take the life of an unborn child.
Now, let’s address the obvious question. If any woman ever had reason to have an abortion in the modern rationale in favor of abortion Mary, the mother of Jesus, would have qualified. She was unmarried and pregnant in a time and culture where that was looked upon with scorn, unlike today when it is most often celebrated. So, by today’s legal standards and secular thought, Mary would have been a prime candidate to have a legal abortion.
Would it have been admissible for Mary to have aborted the child in her womb? If the one in her womb was not really a child yet, not really God incarnate yet, then some would make the argument that it would have been perfectly acceptable for her to choose to abort it. However, it defies the imagination to think that anyone, short of a full-blown atheist, would suggest that abortion of the unborn Jesus would have been a proper choice.
The key question is: When did Jesus become God incarnate? Was He God incarnate only at birth or was He God incarnate at the moment He was conceived in the womb of Mary by God the Holy Spirit? The historical orthodox Christian position has always been that He was incarnate, in flesh, from the point of His conception. To suggest that Christians believe anything else would be an absurdity. One must conclude that the truly biblical Christian position is that the unborn Jesus was God incarnate and under no circumstances would it have been acceptable to abort Him.
So, the biblical Christian position must be that abortion is wrong. It is not acceptable in the mind of true believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. And arguing from the specific to the general then would say that, since that one unborn child was fully human from the point of conception, then all babies are. Therefore, taking the life of an unborn child is taking the life of a human being.

Friday, October 31, 2008

The Troubling Issue of Self-Forgiveness

On more than one occasion recently I have heard from sincere believers that they are struggling with forgiving themselves over some issue of sin in their lives. In seeking to express the angst they are feeling the wording comes out virtually the same in each instance, “I know God has forgiven me but I just can’t seem to forgive myself.” Is this a valid concern? Is it a real apprehension? Do we need to forgive ourselves? Let me try to think biblically about this with you as my sounding board.
First, the biblical examples of forgiveness are always from the one who has been sinned against. On that basis one might be able to build a mild case for some type of self-forgiveness as in, for example, 1 Corinthians 6:18 where immorality is shown to be a sin against one’s own body. Honestly though, it is a bit too mind-boggling, if not downright silly, to picture one’s body forgiving one’s self for the sin of immorality.
Factually, nowhere in Scripture are believers exhorted to forgive themselves. So we would do well to question the notion of self-forgiveness as a real need. But it is a sincere felt need and to dismiss the concern as coming from Christians who are caught up in the self-love, self-help unbiblical religious psycho-babble of our day (as some sadly do) is to ignore the real need behind the feelings expressed. We must be sensitive to bring the light of Scripture to bear upon the real need behind the felt need.
For help I turn to two comments by David in Psalm 51. The first is, “my sin is ever before me” (Psalm 51:3). Folks caught up in ego-centric spirituality would suggest that David had a case of the “can’t forgive myself-itis.” But is that the case? And was it bad for David to have his sin ever before him? I would suggest that v. 17 of that same Psalm encourages us to keep a long remembrance of our sin for it would foster a continual broken spirit and contrite heart, which God will not despise (cf. Isaiah 66:2).
The other comment of David is found in v. 12 where he pleads with the Lord to “restore to me the joy of Thy salvation.” Perhaps this is the crux of what sincere, struggling folks are experiencing. Rather than a need to forgive self, they are in need of a restoration of the joy of God’s salvation in their lives.
And how does one find that new joy? I am unable and unwilling to suggest any easy one-two-three step process. But I do believe the answer begins with a deep and abiding comprehension of grace. I am a sinner. The sin I committed is very real and against the very holiness of God. I should confess that sin to him according to 1 John 1:9. And I should begin to remind myself of the wonderful truth that God has imparted to me the very righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ. I should rehearse the glorious promise of Romans 8:1 that there is “no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
For the weakness of our flesh that still wants to cry, “But isn’t there something I have to do?” remember that Christ has taken that sin, with all our others, and borne them “in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.” (1 Peter 2:24)
So what is the cure for feeling not quite totally forgiven? True confession and true abandonment to the marvelous doctrine of the substitutionary atonement of Jesus.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Before You Vote

For those who accuse evangelical Christians of being "one issue" voters, this is about as good a response as can be given by Justin Taylor. Read and watch with care, compassion and confession.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A Mighty Man

I lost a friend today...Joe Taylor. A tragic accident. Earthly life instantly snuffed out. Lost is a relative term. I know exactly where he is. He is in the presence of the Lord. But he is lost from earth. Thus through tears of grief and joy I write.

To say that Joe is one of the best friends I have ever had is a gross understatement. By the grace of God, Joe entered my life (more accurately, I entered his life) in the Fall of 1981. Janet and I had gone to Eastman, Georgia, along with our baby girl Merea to preach, as they say, “in view of a call” to be the pastor of the First Baptist Church.

It’s strange that I can still remember Joe from that morning, sitting in the section to my right on the second or third row, in what I would come to know as his usual seat. I still remember, 27 years later, his walking up to me after the service and, with the passionate look in his eye that would become all too familiar to me, telling me that I simply must come and be their pastor. Something about him struck a chord with me. It wouldn’t take me long to find out why.

When I think of Joe, I think of David’s “mighty men,” who stood with him in very difficult times—men who were absolutely dependable through thick and thin. That’s what he was to me...a mighty man, a friend who stuck closer than a brother. In the midst of some of the most difficult times of my life, Joe Taylor stood with me, bearing much of the burden, often holding me up, even at great personal cost to himself. Countless times I made the trek to his office at the bank knowing I would come away a stronger man than when I went. I wouldn’t have made it through those years without Joe Taylor.

One of the greatest joys of my life as a pastor was baptizing Joe’s son Vince. I’ll never forget Vince, who was wise way beyond his years, but who was afraid to be baptized, coming to the conclusion that, if Jesus could die on the cross for him, he could take a chance on being baptized. What courage and joy he showed in that simple act. A whole church was blessed by that young life.

Then, joy turned to painful sorrow, as we walked through the valley of the shadow of death together. Vince, who almost died as a very young child from a brain tumor, had the tumor return with a vengeance. He was rushed to the hospital on a Friday morning and on Sunday, while we prayed for him in church, he went to be with the Lord. Losing a child simply has to be the greatest pain a parent can suffer. I watched this man wrestle with God and come out of that valley a stronger man. Yes, his heart was broken, but how true it is that “a broken and contrite heart, God will not despise.”

Through the years, though separated by many miles and many years, the friendship never diminished, though the contacts did. How well I remember the closing words of every conversation, every phone call: "If you need anything, call me." He really meant it. He was that kind of friend. Well, Joe, God knew what I needed. I needed a friend like Joe Taylor. Words cannot adequately express my gratitude to God for His gift of this friend to me.

Monday, October 6, 2008


Personal paraphrase of Habakkuk 3:17-19:

17: Though my investments should not bear interest, And there be no funds in my IRA,
Though the yield of the market should fail, And the mutuals produce no funds,
Though my job should be laid off from work, And there be no gas in the car,
18 Yet I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.
19 The Lord God is my strength, He is my security, He is my success.

I think God is up to something. Could it be much the same as he said to Habakkuk:

“Look among the nations! Observe!
Be astonished! Wonder!
Because I am doing something in your days—
You would not believe if you were told.” (1:5)

This past week as I sat reading God’s Word, praying, thinking about the things of the Lord and the troubled economic times we are in, I was filled with a compelling urge to preach Sunday on Habakkuk (I hesitate to say “God told me” because of the trite way so many use that phrase. I believe God led me in my thinking). Though I have been teaching through the book of Acts on Sundays for a while now, I was unable to put aside the idea of speaking a word from the Word to the folks that would help us get our heads on straight about life, especially in tough times. God is in control and we should cling to Him even though all else might fail.

But here’s the really unusual part. A dear pastor friend in Kentucky also preached on Habakkuk yesterday. I also attended a wedding yesterday. One of my good friends who had driven from Fresno to Southern Cal for the wedding stopped in Bakersfield to visit the church of another friend. This pastor friend told of being compelled to interrupt his sermon series and preach from (you guessed it) Habakkuk yesterday morning. The friend at the wedding also told of hearing from his son-in-law who visited a church in Sudan on Sunday. With no previous warning he was asked to stand and preach as a guest. As he moved to the front he felt led to preach from Habakkuk, and so he did.

Four seemingly isolated places. All on the same Sunday being filled with the desire to preach from Habakkuk. I have no way of doing a wider survey, but I’m really curious if this was a phenomenon repeated in many other places.

The message of Habakkuk is very simple. God is going to use a wicked nation to punish Judah because of the deep sinfulness of the people of Judah. Habakkuk (whose name means “cling”) gets the message and waits for the impending doom. While he waits he reiterates his resolve that though all the normal worldly evidences of security and prosperity should fail, he will still cling to God.

Why? Because God is his strength. God is his security (“feet like hinds’ feet). Watch the deer as it runs through the forest with feet that never falter and never stumble. Every step is secure. And God is his success (“walk on my high places”). A victorious military leader climbs to a high place and parades before his troops as they cheer his successful victory.

The simple message is: take the long look, the eternal perspective.

“For the earth will be filled
With the knowledge of the glory of the LORD,
As the waters cover the sea.” (2:14)

It hasn’t happened yet, but it will. You have God’s Word on it.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Victim & Victimizer

"The father heart of God passionately searches the earth for those who would be voluntary lovers of His Son. God's heart is ravished by my love. And life is all about Jesus prying open the locked heart of a wounded girl (his bride) so she might have intimacy with Him forever." (David Keesling)

Someone shared this quote with me recently and, as so often happens, it spawned a reaction. I will be accused of not being very sentimental when, in reality, I’m a real softie and very much a sentimentalist in some things.

The view of ourselves as “a wounded girl” who needs to have her heart pried open by the love of God is certainly a compassionate thought. And I think that one can perhaps claim that from God’s perspective He realizes our sin has wounded us in a way that cannot be healed apart from His medicinal grace. He offers this love to us in overwhelmingly unconditional grace.

However, to view ourselves as nothing more than helpless wounded victims is to flirt with a rather unbiblical view of how we came to be victims in the first place. From this perspective we discredit the reality of our own wicked, deceitful, rebellious hearts. In claiming our status as wounded victims of sin we must never forget that the assailant who has viciously victimized us is none other than ourselves. We are both victim and victimizer.

We have sinned against a holy God and in the process wounded ourselves fatally. However, God has demonstrated His infinite love in that while we were yet “victimizing ourselves in sin” Christ bore the fatal result in Himself on the cross.

“Oh, to grace how great a debtor daily I’m constrained to be.”

Saturday, September 13, 2008

God Cannot Be Not God

In a recent response to one of my blogs, a commentor said, “But don’t you think God could manifest Himself as an African-American woman if He wanted to?” My response was, “But He wouldn’t want to, because He has already manifested Himself in visible form to us in the Person of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, once and for all.”

While pondering this idea further I wandered in my mind to Hebrews 6:18, which says, “it is impossible for God to lie.” The obvious question is “why?” If God truly is omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, etc., then is there truly anything that He cannot do? To put it in the words of my commentor, “Couldn’t God lie if He wanted to?” Or, to say it another way, “Couldn’t God sin if He wanted to?”

The answer to both questions is “no” — but why? Why can’t God lie and why can’t God sin? The answer is so patently obvious that we, including myself, are tempted to miss it in its glorious simplicity.

The reason God cannot lie is because God IS Truth! He is not only truthful, He is Truth itself. Everything God says is truth. Anything contrary to what God says is a lie. In very simple terms two plus two equals four because God said so, i.e., He created it that way. (All you higher, quantum types can insert your realities, if they really are true, here also.) So, when God speaks, whatever comes from Him is truth.

Correspondingly and consistently, the reason God cannot sin is because God IS perfect righteousness. Whatever He does is righteous, by definition, because He is the One doing it. If God regenerates a lost sinner, it is a righteous act. If God creates a life in a womb, it is a righteous act. If God punishes sin in any way, it is a righteous act. If God disciplines those He loves, it is a righteous act. Why? Because He is righteous.

So we see that for God to lie or sin, He would have to cease being God, and that is something He cannot do for He is the eternally Self-existent One — The I Am. All God’s attributes and characteristics are wrapped up in the reality of Who He is.

It really is “that simple.”

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

OOPS! Sorry

One of our faithful web ministry guys just informed me that I had an incorrect link to the FITP sermons. It's correct now. Sorry.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Allyson's Wedding

Last night, August 1st, I had the honor and privilege of uniting Shawn and Allyson Wilhite in marriage. Allyson is my daughter. She is the first of my children to be married. I'd like to share with you what I said to them in the wedding ceremony.


10. It will give you a greater appreciation for all God’s creation.
Ps. 8:1 O Lord, our Lord, How majestic is Thy name in all the earth, Who hast displayed Thy splendor above the heavens!
Ps. 19:1 The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.
Ps. 57:5 Be exalted above the heavens, O God; Let Thy glory be above all the earth.

You will never be able to look at a sunset, hear a baby laugh, watch a bird fly, feel the wind on your face and a mega-billion other things without thinking of God.

9. It will strengthen your prayer life.
John 14:13 And whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.

If answering prayer brings God glory we surely ought to pray more.

8. It will keep you focused on the desperate need others have to hear about Jesus.
Rom. 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
Matt 5:16 Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

7. It will protect you from fearing death.
Ph 1:21 For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

Jim Elliott said: "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose."

6. It will help you fulfill all the 10 Commandments, especially number 5.
Ex 20:12 Honor your father and your mother...."

Tod, Kelly, Janet and I do not know what life holds for you from this moment forward. But we will be most honored if you are passionate lovers of God. Even if you should pay the ultimate sacrifice of your lives in some distant place telling others of God's love for them, we would be deeply honored.

5. It will give you the greatest joy in raising a godly family.
Psa. 78:4 But tell to the generation to come the praises of the LORD,
And His strength and His wondrous works that He has done.
Psa. 78:6 That the generation to come might know, even the children yet to be born,

Ah! Grandchildren. I just had to work this one in.

4. It will give you a greater love for each other.
Eph. 5:22 Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord.
Eph. 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her,

Truly seeking God’s glory above all else will force you to deny self and love one another as He has loved you.

3. It will give you a greater love for Jesus.
John 1:14 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John 17:1 These things Jesus spoke; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, "Father, the hour has come; glorify Thy Son, that the Son may glorify Thee,
Heb 1:3 He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature....

Jesus, the eternal Son of God, is God. The glory of God is revealed most in Him.

2. Because God said to.
1 Cor. 10:31 Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
1 Cor. 6:20 For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.

I think you both know by now that is reason enough.

1. It will make you happiest.
Ps 16:8 I have set the Lord continually before me;
Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
Ps 16:9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices....
Ps 16:11 ...In Thy presence is fulness of joy;
In Thy right hand there are pleasures forever.

What is the chief end of man? What is the chief end of a husband and wife? To glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.
Seek your own happiness and joy. But I pray that you will not seek it from God. Rather that you will seek it in God Himself.

Jude 1:24-25 Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Fellowship of Suffering

As suffering goes this doesn’t rank very high on the scale. But at the moment it occurred, it was a real crisis. This past Sunday was the Grand Opening of our new Worship Center at our church. What a glorious and exciting day we had. The joy of our people was evident in every way. We were packed in our morning worship services and the spirit of involvement that had marked the building of the building displayed itself in pure excitement.

As a part of the celebration we planned a Dedication Concert for 5:00 p.m. where our choir and orchestra premiered a new CD entitled “Make His Praise Glorious – Psalm 66:2.” We also honored those who had been involved in the construction of the building. Once again, as in the morning, an hour before the program, folks began to arrive.

Then it happened! About 4:15 one of the young men in the orchestra found me on the new platform and said, “Pastor, we have a leak in the baptistry.” I walked back to the hallway behind the platform and saw water spreading across the hall, under the wall, into the Choir Room. Also, it was creeping under the wall onto the stage under the choir loft. When I went into the area to look under the baptistry, in my amazement, I discovered the pipe fitting below the drain had burst and 750 gallons of water were beginning to pour out in a stream that looked like a fire hose.

What happened next was a great example of the Body Life of the church at work. In amazingly short time there were probably 50 people or more scurrying about like ants to fix the problem. One of our young single adult guys jumped into the baptistry fully clothed, put a bucket over the drain and stood with his foot in the bucket until we found a rock in our new landscaping and brought it in to put in the bucket. Another young married adult squatted down under the baptistry and held the pipe in place during the entire "rescue" operation. His legs began to cramp but he held on.

Speaking of buckets, we formed an old fashioned bucket brigade up out of the baptistry, down the baptistry steps and down the hall all the way outside. Dip and pass, dip and pass. In just a few minutes 3 or 4 wet vacs appeared and folks began to vacuum up the flooded water. Towels, packing blankets, anything that could be used was used.

A call went out to one of our men who owns a carpet cleaning business. He rushed to get his emergency truck with the long suction hose and came with his kids to help. All of this happening on a very hot and unusually muggy (for Southern California) day. We were all drenched with perspiration. In about 30 minutes all the water was out of the baptistry and the floors were vacuumed of excess water with carpet fans blowing to begin the drying process.

At our house we call that “making a memory.” (LOL) And what a memory it is. But the thing that stands out in my mind is what great fellowship everyone was having in the midst of the crisis. God’s church in action. Sure it was only water, but the church responds in the same way to much greater crises. As a pastor I’m so blessed to be surrounded by such gracious and involved saints. That’s a memory I’ll keep with me for a long time. It goes along with the verse that became my focus for all the celebration activities: “They shall eagerly utter the memory of Your abundant goodness And will shout joyfully of Your righteousness.” Psalm 145:7

Saturday, June 7, 2008

The Shack

This post is intended primarily for the folks in my church as a part of my responsibility to them as their Pastor/Teacher and as an Elder to “guard the flock of God” (Acts 20:28). If others pop in, I hope that you will be warned also.

From time to time a book comes into the public consciousness that is something of a literary sensation while at the same time presenting very dangerous ideas. Of course, there are a veritable plethora of dangerous books out there but not all of them gain as much notoriety and acclaim as others. In the past I have dealt with two of these literary phenomena, The Da Vinci Code and The Secret, publicly at our church. Now we must add another—The Shack. Frankly, I am amazed that supposedly solid Christians are being swept into the whirlpool of interest in this book. Even a cursory reading shows the blatant heresy put forth. Here is an introductory synopsis:

“As the story begins, Mack, who has been living in the shadow of his Great Sadness, receives a note from God (known in this story as Papa). Papa invites Mack to return to this shack for a time together. Though uncertain of what to expect, Mack visits the scene of the crime and there experiences a weekend-long encounter with God, or, more properly, with the Godhead.
Each of the members of the Trinity is present and each appears in bodily form. Papa, whose actual name is Elousia (which is Greek for tenderness) appears in the form of a large, matronly African-American woman (though near the book’s end, because Mack requires a father figure, she turns into a pony-tailed, grey-haired man). Jesus is a young to middle-aged man of Middle-Eastern descent while the Holy Spirit is played by Sarayu (Sanskrit for air or wind), a small, delicate and eclectic woman of Asian descent. Mack also meets for a time with Sophia, who, like Lady Wisdom in Proverbs, is the personification of God’s wisdom.”
(from a review by Tim Challies)

Most right-thinking Christians would hear the idea of God the Father being portrayed by an African-American woman and God the Holy Spirit by an Asian woman and would laugh, at best. How absurd. How heretical. Be forewarned. This is a book that plays with the reader’s emotions and causes the less discerning to be pulled away from sound doctrine.

For you ladies, my friend Nancy Leigh DeMoss is the first who alerted me to this book and warned of its growing popularity. She has devoted at least one of her radio programs to the book.

For those who would like to consider a sound, thoughtful review of the book, I would suggest Tim Challies’ work .

Folks, please be careful what you let influence your thinking. Paul warned Timothy of these types of issues when he said: “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires; and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths.” (2 Timothy 4:3-4)

Saturday, May 3, 2008

A Good Sport

The Bible says, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” It’s called the Golden Rule and is a really good starting place for teaching ethics in any situation.

By now most of the civilized world (emphasis on civilized) has at least heard the story of the softball game between Central Washington U. and Western Oregon U. this week. The incredible act of sportsmanship by two girls from CWU in carrying an opponent around the bases after she was injured should be required reading to every young person involved in sports in the world.

But is anyone surprised that there has been something of an outcry from the dark side? Though most of us applaud the action, many say it was wrong because “sports is about winning.” One local baseball coach, sadly, was quoted as saying, “I can assure you that nobody from our team would have done that.” A litany of criticisms appeared on which comes as no surprise from a TV network where much of the dialogue intentionally takes on the verbiage and tone of a coach/umpire argument in baseball, presumably for the “entertainment” value.

Lest you think I rank myself on the level of these outstanding young women, let me be clear. Honestly, I think I would have been like the Western Oregon coach who said as the scene unfolded, “I was in shock. I never even thought of it.” I probably wouldn’t have had such a wonderful idea either.

For all those out there who think that sports is only about winning, take a deep breath, count to ten, and ask yourself, "What does being a good sport mean?" The term has always symbolized one who demonstrates good sportsmanship, not one who wins the contest.

To use another sports cliche, for "one shining moment" these girls picked us all up and lifted us a bit higher than the commonplace of competition to something much better. Thank you, Mallory Holtman and Liz Wallace for “lifting” us all up a notch in the category of being a good sport.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Prodigal—Not the Parent

Still reflecting on the Parable of the Prodigal Son from Luke 15. How often present day parents of prodigals read this passage and project their feelings and emotions onto the father. The tendency to relate to the father is overwhelming because of the pain of a wandering child. As a pastor I always want to comfort these parents and, where possible, offer as much hope as I can.

However, we must be careful not to miss the point of the parable. This is not a parable about hurting moms and dads. No this trilogy of parables, including the lost sheep and lost coin, is a mural of salvation. If we are to project ourselves into this parable it can never be as the loving, persevering parent who longs for the child to come home. Rather, we are all the prodigal, everyone of us. Until we see ourselves in that light we will never begin to grasp just how ginormous grace is.

We are the lost sheep, the lost coin, the lost son. As we come to the end of ourselves, repent and return to our loving Father we experience His grace, His mercy, His pardon, His eternal life, His certain salvation.

“Oh, to grace how great a debtor,
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.”

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Selfishness Kills Joy

Today in my Bible reading I was in the 15th chapter of Luke, the story of the Prodigal Son. On this occasion I noticed something I had never seen before.

Luke 15:12 “The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the estate that falls to me.’ So he divided his wealth between them.”

“So he divided his wealth between them.” That means the older brother got his inheritance at the same time as the younger. Somehow, I’ve missed that. I’ve always had a bit of understanding of the older brother’s plight, since he was at home diligently helping, waiting for his share.

So I speculate:

If the dad truly divided his estate between them; and, if the older had his share already; and, if the younger wasted away all of his share; and, if the dad gave the younger, upon his return, a robe and a ring and sandals and a fatted calf…then where did all those things come from? Did they come from the older brothers share?

Could it be that his selfishness over HIS stuff robbed him of the joy of his brother’s return and his father’s grace?

Recently, a close friend of mine was given an opportunity that I had wanted. I was really bummed. I let my selfishness over what I thought was going to be mine rob me of joy for my friend and the joy that should have been mine over the whole occasion in question. Once again, I’m reminded of how much of the “older brother” I have in me.

Phil. 2:3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves;
Phil. 2:4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Sometimes Death Comes As a Friend…Today Is Not One of Those Days

Reflections at the funeral of Casey Wood.
[Casey was a 20-yr-old college student who was killed in a car wreck last Sunday night. His brother David, 17, died unexpectedly 6 years ago.]

There are many times when we come to this moment with a sense of relief and gratitude, even a profound joy. I have often stood on this platform in this auditorium where the church known as the Fellowship in the Pass meets with a deep sense of praise to God for the “precious death” of one of His saints, because sometimes Death comes as a friend.

To say that Death comes as a friend is not to say that there is not always sadness, for Death always means a separation from the one we have known and loved in this life. Separation involves sadness. As a husband and father, who sometimes is called upon to travel away from home for a few days or weeks, I know how I miss my family, even on those short trips. For those whom we truly love, the old saying is true…absence does make the heart grow fonder.

But one might ask, “how is it possible to view Death as a friend?” How can our enemy be our friend? Recently in a brief span of time from the first of November to mid-January, I had twelve funerals. Some of those funerals were for elderly folks who had lived long lives and their bodies had simply worn out and the time had come to depart and be with Jesus. One of those was my own Mother. At times like that Death is a welcome friend.

Several of those who left us in that span of time were people who had cancer. The pain and suffering were horrendous. Often we stood at the bedsides and prayed that God in His grace would end their suffering and take them home. When Death comes as the end of suffering and the doorway into the presence of the Lord, it comes as a welcome friend.

Yes, sometimes Death comes as a friend…today is not one of those days. Forgive me for stating the obvious. For we all, from Casey’s parents, siblings, and family to his friends and their friends, gather in this moment with exactly the same thoughts on our minds, how does one even cope with the sudden tragic death of one child? And then, to have it happen again, like a lightning bolt on a clear and cloudless night…How can we face this? How can we go on? Is there any hope? Can we make it through?

Are there any answers? Yes, there are answers. But there are no explanations. When I was young I tended to shout my answers. Now, more often, I whisper them. Not because they are any less true. In fact, just the opposite. Now they have been engrained upon my heart from a lifetime of God’s gracious guidance into His truth. Prayerfully and with a profound sense of weakness I would like to suggest to you, no, I’d like to proclaim to you, not with a loud voice, but with a gentle reminder what I believe God has shown me over these last four days. This is how God has comforted me and I share it with you.

First, let me say that the knowledge that others have experienced this same kind of loss is of some help but not a great deal. One dominant recurring thought for me over these days has been of those families who have had sons at war who have received that dreaded knock on the front door, not once but twice. Most of us have seen the movie “Saving Private Ryan” and we know the sometimes extraordinary lengths to which the government will go to avoid that happening. Or we know of other accidents where whole families have been instantly taken, or the pages of Scripture where Job lost seven sons and three daughters and all his possessions in one day. This knowledge is some help, but it does not in any way reduce our pain.

So what are the answers? It is uniquely revealing to me that when I stood in this same place with this same family and sought to give hope in the midst of tragedy just a few short years ago, my thoughts had been led by the Lord to exactly the same places they are today. I went back and looked at what I said at David’s funeral and the message is the same. For me that brings a large measure of comfort. God spoke to me through His Word with the same comfort and hope then as He does now. How good it is to know that God truly is the same yesterday, today and forever.

I mentioned Job. In exactly the same type of situation we have here, Job held fast to His faith in God. If you are looking for answers today this is the first and greatest answer:

“Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head, and he fell to the ground and worshiped. He said, ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked I shall return there. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD.’… Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.” (Job 1:20-21; 2:10)
“Though He slay me, I will hope in him….” (Job 13:15)

How was it possible for Job to respond like that? The answer can only be found in the words of God Himself to the Apostle Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness.” God gave Job the grace and the peace that passes all understanding to hold fast to His faith in the most difficult of times.

Can we hear these words from one who has walked through this valley of the shadow of death before us and accept them as truth? Can we say through tears that never seem to stop and lips that quiver even as we form the words, “Blessed be the name of the Lord?” Oh, God, please give us the grace to worship you.

The second answer, I pray will come to you even if nothing more than a sliver of light into your darkness, that one day will emerge as the brightness of the sun.

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. …. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it. In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. …. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? …. But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:18-39)

I leave you with the Word of God. It is enough.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Take a Monkey to Lunch Day

Take a Monkey to Lunch Day

Do you know whose birthday today, February 12th, is? I had no idea until a phone call with a friend. If you say Abraham Lincoln you would be absolutely correct. But there was another historically significant individual who was born on the same day in the exact same year as ole Honest Abe. And who was that illustrious persona? (A little drum roll please) Ta da!!! — Charles Darwin. That’s right, today is Darwin Day! (hereafter known as Duh Day — emphasis on Day) C.D. would have been 199 today, if only he had been stronger in his evolution and not been naturally selected to die.

Yessiree, Mr. Natural Selection who, when he wrote his magnum opus entitled On the Origin of the Species, naturally selected not to mention one word about how all this actually originated. My, my! Slight oversight there, Chuck.

Soooo, wanting to give credit where credit is due, I wandered over to Interesting website. One of the links on the home page takes you to a page that instructs you on how you can participate in Duh Day. The first suggestion is “Sponsor and produce a [sic] annual Darwin Day event.” (The particular Darwinian who wrote this has not yet evolved into high school grammar.) As I pondered what would be the best event to commemorate Duh Day, several ideas came to mind. But before I share my ideas here is the official Duh Day Challenge for both my readers: What event can you think of to properly pay homage to ole Chuck-E (for evolution)-Cheesy D?

Here are a few suggested events for Duh Day:
1. As per the title, take a monkey to lunch or work or school. Since you are only an ape in designer jeans (not with Designer genes), what a fitting way to celebrate.
2. Take someone weaker than you to the gas chamber. Oh, sorry, the Nazi’s already did that one. But if you are truly Darwinian, you in your superiority get to choose who the weaker ones are.
3. A little commercial here: The very best way to celebrate Duh Day will be to make plans now to take a friend to see the new movie Expelled when it comes out this spring.

Charles Colson has an interesting commentary on Duh Day at his website recognizing PETA as the perfect example of Darwinism carried to its logical convulsion, er conclusion. Here is a brief quote:

“Here’s where PETA comes in. PETA was celebrating Darwin Day long before there was an official Darwin Day. You can see it in everything it does—from its ads comparing the slaughter of animals to the Holocaust, to PETA founder Ingrid Newkirk’s famous statement that “When it comes to pain, love, joy, loneliness, and fear, a rat is a pig is a dog is a boy.”

What does that have to do with Darwinism? Everything. To a Darwinist, you see, there is no distinction between human beings and animals. We all came about by chance; we are made of the same “stuff,” and we all end up as nothing more than dust. Instead of recognizing humans as bearers of God’s image, Darwinism sees us as nothing more than competitively successful bipeds with opposable thumbs. Forget any talk of human dignity.” (

OK, answer the challenge. What creative way can you think of to celebrate Duh Day? Post it here.