Think Local

Christians need to regroup and refocus on that part of the world in which God providentially placed them to have the most influence.

This was an open letter sent to the saints of Redeemer Church at the start of 2021.

Saints,

One of the things that I have been struck by, through the holiday season, is the source of strength and stability our church has been, when everything else has been turbulent and unpredictable. I am thankful for your faithfulness and fellowship throughout 2020. 

I think we can strengthen it, even as we harness its strengths to be a city on a hill. I want to highlight a theme that I think we should focus on in 2021; local. We should focus as locally as possible. Our own hearts, our own homes, our neighborhoods, our local church (redeemer and the broader church in the Puget Sound), local businesses and local politics. 

The national scene is distracting and overwhelming. Social media and MSM are diluting our local witness, by getting us focused on things well beyond our control and responsibility. 

How is your own heart? How is your spouse? How are the kids? How are your neighbors, next door and in the next pew? 

Get out the church directory. Plug some addresses into google maps. Which redeemer folks are nearest to you? Can you host them? For meals and fellowship, bible/book studies, movie nights, song sings and service projects? 

Who have you never had in your house before? Who hasn’t been there in a while, wherever they may live? 

Who in your neighborhood might be suffering unduly from the lockdowns? Who might be lonely? Even if you have to wear a mask, is there someone who could use a visit? Some prayer? 

Who is the police chief, utilities manager, mayor and local judge? Are you praying for them by name? Are there first responders in your neighborhood who could use some support and encouragement? 

Are there some homeschool moms who could use some help grading? A care package? Some midday babysitting so they can go shopping? A meal? Is there a couple who could use a date night? 


Put away the social media and put down the phones and the distractions and look around your pew, your street, your life. 

This year, I don’t want us to build a ghetto, but we need to strengthen the Christian community through mutually beneficial infrastructure like Christian educational organizations, businesses, church plants, inter-church fellowship, etc. 

Is there a Christian who owns a business you could spend money at? Are there Christians at work who you could meet with for prayer? Is there a neighbor who owns a business you could spend money at? 

Is there a local volunteer position or public office that you could run for? A foodbank, crisis pregnancy center or senior center? 

Now is the time to live like Noah. Noah? Yes. Noah built an ark in which he would save a community and yet was a preacher of righteousness (2 Peter 2:5). Noah knew judgement was coming, built a means to endure it and called people to it. 

Now is the time to be like the Israelites in Nehemiah 4:16–20 From that day on, half of my servants worked on construction, and half held the spears, shields, bows, and coats of mail. And the leaders stood behind the whole house of Judah, [17] who were building on the wall. Those who carried burdens were loaded in such a way that each labored on the work with one hand and held his weapon with the other. [18] And each of the builders had his sword strapped at his side while he built. The man who sounded the trumpet was beside me. [19] And I said to the nobles and to the officials and to the rest of the people, “The work is great and widely spread, and we are separated on the wall, far from one another. [20] In the place where you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there. Our God will fight for us.” 

Take up your sword and trowel. Fight for the truth, don’t hide or shy away from the overwhelming odds. Don’t fear men. Remember you were once “a slave in Egypt,” too and your world is full of “Egyptian slaves,” who need salvation. Spread the good news, even as you construct an Ark. Arm yourselves to defend the city, for which you labor. 

Study history, economics, poetry, theology and YOUR BIBLE.  

When the hordes came down from Central Europe to decimate Rome, it was in churches that the pagan people fled and where they were spared, because many of the barbarian Germans were actually Christians, who would not attack churches. This salvation was Augustine’s main argument for the City of God, in which he argued against the pagan accusers, who said that Rome was destroyed for abandoning its paganism.  The church was a place of refuge for many Romans, a refuge prepared by God, who worked through his people to save many. 

The Green Martyrs of Ireland, who lived at places like Glendalough, chose secluded places at the corners of the world to build thriving monastic cities devoted to God and neighbor, spending their days serving one another and copying books. When all Europe was destroyed by Vikings, Huns and Muslims, Western culture was preserved by little monks, who built and protected little Arks, in out of the way places. 

The Church offers community, order, culture and stability in a time when the world goes mad and implodes. For me, Redeemer is such a place. An Ark. A refuge amidst invasions. A city devoted to God.  

A local place from which I can draw stegnth. A place to call others to. Let us strengthen one another and from this overflowing grace and provision, draw what we need to feed and water a dying world. 

Blessings and Happy New year, 

Mike

The Constitution is King

**Guest post from Deacon Jered Leslie.

Saints, we have failed to uphold Paul’s words in romans 13: verse 1. … yes you heard me correctly. 

Saints, we are guilty of failing to obey his command, but not in the way you may be thinking and certainly not in the way the world would have you believe. 

Paul writes to the church in Rome. 

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. – Romans 13:1

The great thing about his verse is that it is clear and simple in its original context. Paul is most likely writing to the Christians in Rome during the reign of Claudius Caesar.  And during the era of the Caesars, the supreme authority of Rome and of the Roman world was what they called the imperium; the law of the Caesar. Under this imperium, Roman governors and officials were vested with authority from Caesar and served at his pleasure. They were appointed by him to rule and govern as the hand of Caesar himself. Therefore, Paul is echoing the same thing that Christ taught to his disciples. Don’t fight Rome, do not fight against your Roman authorities. God has placed them over you as your governing authorities. Pretty clear. 

But we do not live in first century Rome and if we assume our present context is identical to theirs, then we commit eisegesis

So how are we failing to obey our governing authorities? 

We must be reminded of who, in fact, is our governing authority as American citizens. The authority, that according to romans 13:1, God has instituted over us. 

Do we have a Caesar? No. 

Is jay Inslee your governing authority? No, he is not. Was Trump or is Biden our governing authority? No.

Who then is our authority? It turns out that we have the same governing authority as they do, the authority that they are sworn to support and defend; the Constitution. 

And the Constitution is very clear that it is the supreme governing authority. 

Article 6 reads;

“This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.”

That last phrase means if a state law is contrary to, or violates, the federal Constitution, then that state law is not legitimate. Thus, the U.S. Constitution remains the supreme law of the land .

It continues…

“The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the individual States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution.”

Saints, we have forgotten what our real governing authority is, just like our representatives have forgotten what they are sworn to support. 

Now, If Paul is correct, then God has instituted our U.S. Constitution as our governing authority to which we are subject. 

So, how can we be subject to men who are subject to the same thing we are? They are subject to the same authority that we are. 

We have abdicated our true governing authority and let godless men control us as though they wielded power. And By doing this, we have violated Romans 13:1. We are not subject to our true governing authority. Rather we are subjecting ourselves to men who have no authority at all. 

The fact that this is not common knowledge is to our shame. So, saints if you are willing, let us kneel and confess our sins of failure to be subject to our true authority. 

Magistrates Must Be Well-Governed, To Govern Well

“Then Samuel told the people the rights and duties of the kingship, and he wrote them in a book and laid it up before the LORD. Then Samuel sent all the people away, each one to his home” (1 Samuel 10:25).

In keeping with the stipulations set forth in the books of Moses, Samuel the Levite, makes available to the new king a copy of the law.

“And when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, approved by the Levitical priests. And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them, that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right hand or to the left, so that he may continue long in his kingdom, he and his children, in Israel” (Deuteronomy 17:18–20). 

Israel’s king is not a king like the other nations, from the very beginning. Israel’s king is a vice-regent, under the law of Yahweh, Israel’s true King. Royal submission to God’s law should protect Israel from tyranny and abuse. The Law establishes the longevity of the throne. Saul is under a law, that governs the kingship, not to destroy his kingship but to allow it to function properly.

A constitutional Monarchy was the form of government in Israel from the beginning. This understanding of law and authority was expressed in a theological work called, Lex Rex – The Law is King – by theologian Samuel Rutherford, who helped shape the Christian conception of republican government as a protection against sinful men, who seek absolute authority over their fellow men. Men are sinners and must be governed well by law, to govern well. What kind of tyrant is a father or husband or pastor or boss or government official, if there is not some law to govern their actions?

Men must be governed well to govern well.  

The belief that the magistrate, the person, is the law, is not an uncommon belief throughout history and is the common political view of many evangelicals.  But it is false. Law establishes the authority of men and acts as a final appeal. This is the biblical understanding of government. A man’s government of his home is not above God’s law or state law. Neither is a pastor’s, president’s, governor’s, County Sherriff, etc. The Law of God and the Law of the land establish authority. Like the scriptures amongst Christians, the law is the final arbiter. 

Twice the disciples, under the pagan roman rule and Israelite religious leadership, demonstrated that the laws were above men, no matter the office of the man. Passages like Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2 exist within a context in which no authority is absolute. 

“And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:27–29).

The apostles owed obedience to God over men, when the magistrate’s orders were contrary to God’s law.

Furthermore, Paul appealed to the Roman Law as a Citizen of Rome. “But when they had stretched him out for the whips, Paul said to the centurion who was standing by, “Is it lawful for you to flog a man who is a Roman citizen and uncondemned?” (Acts 22:25). The centurion’s authority was not absolute. It was subject to Roman law. Paul had a right to due process. No roman magistrate was above the Corpus Juris Civilis, or the twelve tables.  Paul did not say, “well you’re the magistrate so have at my back with that whip.” He appealed beyond the man to the law of the land. 

Texts like Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2 cannot be isolated from the rest of the Old and New Testament, which teach that no human institution is absolute. Everyone is governed by Law, Christian or Pagan. Israel was a kingdom of laws, not men. The reason for this, is that magistrates must be well-governed to govern well.  

All Authority Descends From Above

Derived Authority

Why are so many Christians making such a big deal out of having to wear masks? Why are so many Christians talking about defying the government’s orders to not gather indoors for worship? 

They argue that, “Jesus told us to love our neighbor and obey the government, rendering unto Caesar his due.”

These are reasonable questions by well-meaning Christians. Does the government have the authority to limit worship? Does the word of God give unlimited authority to the civil government in every area of or lives? 

Matthew 28:18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Romans 13:1 “…For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God…”

Jesus was shaping the New Covenant mission of God’s people and taught his disciples that Jesus was the highest authority in heaven and earth, so that the Apostles would be equipped to address the lesser authorities in their evangelism and conflict with pagan cultures. 

Paul understood this, and therefore encouraged the embattled Roman Church in their proper responsibility to authority, even pagan civil authority is derived by God. Authority is always derived and is therefore limited.  

Anyone in a position of authority receives that authority from God. It is similar to Jesus’ instruction about receiving the one whom He sends; by receiving the one Jesus sent, you receive Jesus. If you reject the one Jesus sent, you reject Jesus. 

The same principle applies to authority. Positions of authority are not autonomous, and neither are they to be ignored and scoffed at. God rules a world with hierarchies, therefore, to live faithfully in God’s world, we must avoid both being scofflaws or treating authorities as if they are absolute. 

All authority in heaven and earth is the Lord’s, who appoints people to positions of authority by His sovereign and wise will, who are therefore required to obey His rule.

Some would argue that Romans 13:1-5 makes no qualification to our obedience to authorities and that authority is autonomous and absolute. And that is true, there is no explicit qualification, but an implicit qualification.  We see, by good and necessary consequence, that there is a qualification given in v. 3 “rulers are not a terror to good conduct.” So, what happens if they are a terror to good conduct? Has God left us with no recourse? 

No, our defense for such a wickedness is found in sphere sovereignty; authority is given to different leaders that overlap and correct corruptions, protecting us from one another’s wickedness. Such as fathers and policemen, Congress and the President or State Governors and County Sheriffs. A biblical example of the protection provided by Sphere sovereignty is found in the coup committed by the High Priest Jehoiada in 2 Kings 11. Jehoiada led a violent overthrow of the evil Queen and the installment of the true King of Israel. 

Imagine a Pastor who wants to dictate exactly what his parishioners can and cannot watch on TV or how they must brush their teeth. Both of these are things outside his authority and the elders of the church, and the fathers within the community, should protect those parishioners from that overreach. Imagine a wife whose husband demands his wife wear only red, or dictates who she can and cannot be friends with or he gives her a bedtime – all appealing to his authority as her husband. The elders of their church should intervene and protect her from her husband’s tyranny. These varying authorities are not autonomous or absolute. The overlapping authorities protect us from one another’s wickedness and tyranny.

Currently, civil governments in the United States are violating the Fist Amendment of the Constitution by restricting whether the church can gather for worship or not, whether they can sing or take communion in that service, or not. But the worship of the church is regulated by God’s word and God alone. The authority to determine when, where and how the church worships is delegated to the authority of the Church, not the civil Government. As American citizens, we do not obey men, we obey the Constitution and the elected officials enforcing the constitution. Once those authorities are violating the constitution, then they have become tyrannical. 

As Pastor Trewhella wrote “America’s founders understood that the civil government’s authority was delegated, and therefore, limited. They state in the Declaration of Independence that all men are “endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” They understood that rights did not originate from the State, but rather were given to men by God, and it is the Government’s respnsiblity to protect those God-given rights. 

Authority is derived from God. God has appointed different kinds of authority to different governing bodies. Therefore, those authorities must recognize the objective and absolute authority of God and operate submissive to the law of the Land and the Law of God. No authority is absolute or autonomous. 

The Church needs to consider the different spheres of authority and exactly what is within each of their purviews to do and not do. We are commanded by God’s word to respect, pray for, honor and obey all rightful authority. This requires us to know the difference between properly exercised authority and tyranny. 

All authority is derived from God and is therefore not absolute. 

Fattening Calves for the Slaughter

Christ sat on the temple mount teaching and there were those who did not receive his words, for they relied completely on themselves. They were wealthy; two car wealthy. Some had a house they owned, some they rented, they ate meat every day, had an income. They even owned more than two coats and two pairs of shoes. 

They could get medical service when they needed it. Dental too. They could choose between 5 grocery store chains. Two kinds of Thai, hell, even two kinds of decent fried chicken. Even their burgers came from cows healthier than the average kid born in the southern hemisphere. 

They had never known hunger. The cops came when they called for them, aid cars too. They could play any song, from any era, whenever they wanted, as many times as they wanted. They could vote.

They could buy guns. They could turn the heat up or down. Sit in the shade or not. Plant gardens of whatever suited them. They could even water those gardens as often as they wanted. They could pay neighbor kids to mow their lawn. 

They were wealthy and self-sufficient and therefore, they were hard of hearing. 

One of them in the front row didn’t have a bible, didn’t need to verify what the Messenger said, he was just there to listen. The messenger was probably right, maybe not, whatever. The rich man’s mind wandered. He thought of all those fools at home, going about their day, lost in darkness out in the world, missing out on the Lord’s service. He was grateful he was chosen, special, different.

The Messenger mentioned liberals and it was always funny. Always spot on. Those progressives, they don’t know their ear from a hole in the wall. What morons. “Thank God I’m not an idiot,” thought the rich man.

Jesus got up to pray. Our wealthy friend heard him ask God to give them courage and the rich man chuckled to himself. He had never feared anything. Nothing. God loved him so much and took such good care of him. Not like the loser on the side of the road of the offramp; that addict under God’s judgement, probably a registered sex offender too, just like that filth living under the Aurora Bridge. 

The man’s heart was full of gratitude for being who and what he was. He had a full tithe check in his pocket ready to slide into the box. He was an honest hard-working man who wanted for nothing. He was a faithful husband too – it was all just so overwhelming.  

Further back was another well-to-do rich man. But he lingered just inside the door, clutching his bible, listening from afar. Unable to draw any closer, too ashamed to even lift his head. He knew that all the wealth and worldly blessing were just whitewash. He knew inside, he was as corrupt as a corpse three years in the grave. 

“Mercy,” was his half audible prayer. “Mercy.” 

Only one of these men went home Justified. 

Friendship with BLM is Enmity with God

James, the Lord’s brother, led the first church in Jerusalem and wrote the epistle known as James. He wrote it to the scattered church, intending for it to be a circular sermon read at each house meeting, addressing issues common to all Christians. The content of the letter is a summary of both OT wisdom literature and the Sermon on the Mount, rendered in a uniquely concise and poetic form. James’ overall message is that orthodoxy (right doctrine) must be expressed in orthopraxy (right living). 

An important aspect of that right doctrine and right living is loyalty within the body of the Lord, to the Lord. Wisdom and the tongue are the two things James addresses in 3:1-4:12, which were causing dissension within the body of Christ. More specifically, worldliness expressed in a lack of wisdom and a misuse of the tongue is causing dissension within the body. Worldliness is an extreme form of disloyalty to the Lord and was causing enmity, or warfare, within the body of the Lord. 

If Christians are disloyal to the Lord himself, then they will not have peace with the Lord’s body. James 4:4 says that our unfaithfulness to Jesus his friendship with the world and friendship with the world is enmity with God. Enmity means being at war, the opposite of friendship. It means ill-will, hatred, unfriendly dispositions, malevolence. 

This is an echo of the protoevangelium of Genesis 3:15, where the sons of God were at enmity with the sons of Satan which is a poetic description of Man’s fall and subsequent brokenness and estrangement from God. James is essentially saying that loyalty to the world is an act of war on God and His people. 

Some might say that friendship with the world is necessary for evangelism, because relationship is the best means to live out the great commission and the command to love our neighbors. Especially since Jesus ate with prostitutes and drunks and immoral people, compassionately befriending them in the circumstance in which he found them. But Paul is going beyond mere affection or affinity that constitutes casual, neighborly relationships. 

The word that Paul uses is the Greek word for love; Philia – to have love for someone or something, based on sincere appreciation and high regard – a state of being inclined to help or support someone or something. The Greek word for world is Kosmos – the world system; the people constituting the world whose values, beliefs and morals are in distinction and rebellion to God. We are not called to love the world but hate it. John 15:19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Christ has called our hearts, affections, minds and desires out of this world and calls us to focus them on Him, even as our physical bodies remain in this world. We are to be in the world, not of it. The warfare between the kingdom of darkness against the Kingdom of Christ is real and though we fight that war like Christ, we are to seek to save those in the world, without promoting the world’s values and beliefs and morals. 

It’s like neutrality in warfare. A nation cannot say that it is neutral toward both parties of an armed conflict and then sell supplies to one party, aiding them in the conflict. Friendship between nations means lending mutual support. Promoting the welfare and ability of one nation in battle means that you are not neutral, but are friendly – promoting their success, upholding their values, beliefs and morals. Logically, you are not neutral but at war with the third country. 

John Calvin comments that, He calls it the friendship of the world, when men surrender themselves to the corruptions of the world, and become slaves to them. For such and so great is the disagreement between the world and God, that as much as any one inclines to the world, so much he alienates himself from God. Hence the Scripture bids us often to renounce the world, if we wish to serve God.”

Contemporary applications abound. But one prevalent one is the BLM movement. Now, no one can argue with the fact that black lives matter. It is a true statement that ought to be defended. 

However, the organization of the same name is antithetical to Christian values and friendship with God. The BLM creed is social marxism. Marxism is an economic-political theory that the “haves” are oppressing the “have-nots”. The bourgeoise must be toppled and the workers must be ennobled and empowered. 

The BLM form of Marxism is racial rather than financial. Certain races and sexual orientations have all the money, opportunity, power, privilege etc. and they must be toppled, and the oppressed races must be ennobled and empowered. 

It’s a framework for understanding both history and current socio-economic disparities. This social Marxism implores us to see that race is everything, all disparities come down ethnicity.  The social ills of our day are caused by the new bourgeoise – white people. This is the epicenter of the commie revolution in America that is hijacking the real and justified outrage over the death of George Floyd.

The injustice in the world must be remedied. But the heightened outrage is being channeled into support for an organization that is revolutionary and opposed to basic Christian morality. 

Their creed states that are “self-reflexive and do the work required to dismantle cisgender privilege.” Cisgendered means a sense of personal identity and gender corresponds with their birth sex. But there are only two genders and those genders depend on one’s sex at birth; “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them (Genesis 1:27).” 

The BLM creed states further that they, “disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure.” God gave man the cultural mandate at the beginning of creation and the Word of God places the nuclear family at the heart of society; “from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate (Mark 10:5–9).” “Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth” (Malachi 2:15). 

The BLM creed closes with this statement, “We foster a queer‐affirming network. When we gather, we do so with the intention of freeing ourselves from the tight grip of heteronormative thinking, or rather, the belief that all in the world are heterosexual (unless s/he or they disclose otherwise).” This is opposed to biblical morality as we see in 1 Corinthians 6:9; “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality.” 

BLM is at war with God and His Holiness. Their ethos is summed up in Psalm 2:2–3; “The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying, “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.”

Promoting the values, beliefs and morals of the BLM movement isn’t neutral. It’s an act of war on God’s holiness. Friendship with BLM is enmity with God. Walking in step with BLM is not right living and promoting their ideology is not right thinking. 

As we seek to right injustices and teach the nations to be disciples of Christ, we cannot compromise with the world and remain neutral to organizations that promote warfare with and hatred of the living God. 

I Don’t Need to Repent of That

A middle schooler sits in PNW history reading, for the first time, about the internment of Japanese Americans during world war II.  He is horrified to learn that 120,000 innocent people were rounded up and imprisoned because some of them might be spies. He thought to himself, “how could the US fight to liberate Europe while simultaneously committing atrocious war crimes against its own people?” 

One of his best friends is a second generation Japanese American. One day after school, at the friend’s house, this young man apologizes to his friend and his whole family, including his grandma, for what Americans had done to their people. 

The family just looks at him in awkward and stunned silence. “but,” his grandmother says, “you didn’t do that…your parents weren’t even alive. And our family was still in Japan, enemies of the United States. But I heard you and my grandson talking about how you were treating your classmate poorly; tomorrow, apologize to him for what you actually did do.” The boys go out to play basketball. 

When we say the United States sinned, what does that mean? The United States isn’t a person. So, who did the sinning? 

When we say that non-Japanese Americans sinned against Japanese Americans who did the sinning? Every non-Japanese american? Against every Japanese American alive then and now? In the case of the Japanese prisoners, US politicians, military officials, local government officials and normal citizens who claimed the businesses and homes of those interred Japanese Americans all participated in particular sins against particular individuals. Specific crimes against Specific people. Who is responsible for those sins? Those war crimes? 

We live in the information age in which we know a great deal about what happened 300 years ago and what is happening 3000 miles away. Meanwhile, we hardly know what is going on 3 houses down our street. When we hear of atrocities, crimes, sins, injustices and wrongs what is our responsibility? 

We are not responsible for the sins of every American or everyone who shares our ethnicity, our language, our creed, etc. 

During the first Crusade, the Christian soldiers marched into the Middle East and promptly slaughtered 30,000 infidels. The problem was, well there are lots of problems with that, but one of them is that they weren’t infidels, they were all Christians who dressed and talked differently than the Germanic soldiers. The first massacre of the first crusade were Christians slaughtering Christians because they looked and talked different. So, you are Christians. Are you responsible for that? 

Does the bible have anything to say about this? Covenantal theology is necessary at this point. A husband is responsible for His wife, a free agent who commits sins. His responsibility does not mean his wife will not answer for her sins, it means he will answer for his sins and her sins. Add children. Add greater and greater spheres of authority and responsibility. 

Hebrews 13:17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you. 

Your pastors will give an account for their own sins and yours. This is federal headship, covenantal headship. FDR will give an account for His own Sins and the sins of his administration for Interring Japanese Americans. Mayors, presidents, generals, husbands, mothers, pastors – anyone who has authority and responsibility will give an account for the sins of those in their care. 

We must repent of our worldly thinking. The false belief that the bible has nothing to say about the most difficult questions that face us right now. God’s word is sufficient for the problems of our age, if we have the courage and humility to study it and apply it no matter how unwelcome in the public sphere, we are people of the word. 

Here is an example. Deuteronomy 21:1–3 “If in the land that the LORD your God is giving you to possess someone is found slain, lying in the open country, and it is not known who killed him, then your elders and your judges shall come out, and they shall measure the distance to the surrounding cities. And the elders of the city that is nearest to the slain man shall take a heifer that has never been worked and that has not pulled in a yoke.

Did the whole town repent? No, the elders and judges of the nearest town repented. How were they responsible? They were covenantally responsible, sice the unsolved murder happened in their jurisdiction. Do we want more justice in our community? Then the mayor and judges of Lynnwood ought to repent, on behalf of the city, for every unsolved murder and cold case on record right now. That is biblical justice. And this is just one example. Let us shape our cries for justice with a biblical standard rather than the standard of academics, sociologists, race-baiting social Darwinists. We have a great deal to learn about how to process the injustices we learn about. Whether through history books or the nightly news. 

The struggle is real though, because our culture does not recognize God, his law or the responsibility leaders owe for the sins of their administration. We are tempted to make justice solely an issue of this age. We want vindication now, but we are not promised vindication now. We ought to cry out against injustice, but all injustice will not be reconciled in this age. We can be neither complacent nor without hope. 

In the age to come all injustices will be dealt with by Christ. If that isn’t our ministry than we have a gospel problem. And if that isn’t enough, then we have a gospel problem. We see here an opportunity to pray for our leaders, but prayer doesn’t seem like enough. It seems futile. We want to grasp the levers of power and reshape this world. 

Being a just person is harder than bewailing the injustice we so readily see in others. There is a great temptation in national or ethical repentance. C.S. Lewis sums it up in his essay on national repentance.

 “When we speak of England’s actions we mean the actions of the British Government. The young man who is called upon to repent of England’s foreign policy is really being called upon to repent the acts of his neighbour; for a Foreign Secretary … is certainly a neighbour. And repentance presupposes condemnation. The first and fatal charm of national repentance is, therefore, the encouragement it gives us to turn from the bitter task of repenting our own sins to the congenial one of bewailing—but, first, of denouncing—the conduct of others.

National repentance can rob us of the crucial virtue of charity. There is a great deal everyone needs to take responsibility for. But does that include you and I repenting for the trail of tears or wounded knee or the Tuskegee Experiment? Those are all hard and important lessons from history. Those kinds of injustices are happening today and there are covenanted authorities responsible for them. 

How about the Chief of the Minneapolis Police department repenting publicly for the negligent homicide of George Floyd? The Obama Administration repenting for the fast and furious program? Every government official who has supported the murder mills of Planned parenthood? 

Want to address injustice? Pray that those who are in authority would count the cost of their authority and responsibility for which they will give an account? That they would be converted and seek to obey God’s law in their office?  

Pray that we all would stop being distracted by things three thousand miles away and things that happened three hundred tears ago and start concerning ourselves a lot more about what’s going on three doors down the street. 

What are the sins of millennials? Gen X-ers? Baby boomers? Things they actually participated in?  

What are the national idols and what is the spirit of the age with which you and I are actively whoring ourselves with right now? We can’t let injustice across the country distract us from the most important injustices that involve each one of us – those injustices we ourselves commit. Those sins of omission and commission affecting our spouse, children, friend, family, neighbors and our larger communities.

A Death Sentence

Why does God allow suffering and difficulty in our lives if He loves us?

2 Corinthians 1:9-11 Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.

The circumstances of Paul’s life felt like a death sentence. Why would God allow one of His loving servants to suffer in this way? What was the point? 

Calvin wrote, “we are not brought to real submission until we have been laid low by the crushing hand of God.” 

Truly, we often need a bout of helplessness, to reduce our self-reliance and strip us of all false confidence, so that we might learn humility and open ourselves to the deep realities of God’s power. 

A severe threat of death led Paul to a deeper trust in God. 

When we rely on our own strength, righteousness and wisdom, we are unable to depend entirely on God, dooming ourselves to frustration, fear and moral failure. Romans 10:3 For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.

Don’t Kill Your Wife With Curriculum

I want to tell you homeschool husbands a secret. Something you don’t know that, if you did know, would bring more joy and contentment to your home. I worked for two years at a Classical Christian School. I was in the staff meetings and homework planning sessions. The secret is: NO TEACHER, TEACHES THE ENTIRE CURRICULUM IN EVERY SUBJECT, IN ANY GIVEN YEAR.

You know why? Because the curriculum is a guide, its an estimation –  its an ideal. You teach to the student’s ability and understanding, not a strict, objective standard. For teachers there are things that arise like difficulties in some concept that requires a great deal more time and effort. There are illnesses and snow days. There are distractions. Every teacher gets in the final weeks of a school year and has to decide what is the most important concept or concepts to cover. Because there is always next year.

The ditches for homeschool families are either – viewing the curriculum as a mere suggestion and not covering most of it, or,  for most homeschoolers, the ditch hubby drives mom into where she MUST do all the curriculum in a given year. ALL OF IT.  This is the fear of being left behind, or undereducated. The ditch that looks at the money spent and and the professional looking syllabuses and wants to keep up with the standard.

But curriculum isn’t that kind of standard. Any given curriculum is going to outline more work than can be done in a year.

The thing with homeschooling is that depending on the number of kids, the amount of resources and the gifting of mom, you are making an exchange.

We have six kids. Five boys. We did the day school thing. But we exchanged all that rigor and professionalism and TIME because I would rather my kids get slightly less “professional” instruction, if it means they can get it done in 1/3 of the time and then go outside and build a tree fort. We exchanged seven  subjects for four because, its not the quantity but quality that matters. If my kids spend years and years reading their bibles but don’t do a science lab till they are sixteen, then amen.

Reading covers a multitude of sins.

Husbands, your wife doesn’t have to cover the whole curriculum. Its summer time. Its time for your kids to learn other things. How to mow the yard or build a birdhouse. How to change the oil in your car and power wash a sidewalk. Its time to perfect their sidewalk chalk art and lemonade mixing skills. Its time to learn that trampoline backflip and how to make a campfire.

Be like the good teachers. Look at what’s left, decide what’s the most important, teach it, then put it away and open a bottle of wine and let the kids read comic books.

Relax. Its not about getting it all done. Its about growing up to be Godly, competent learners. And the yard is calling, full of lessons that only come in this beautifully unique time of year.

Escaping the Christian Ghetto of the “church”

Individuals are saved into a community. St. Paul refers to this community as a temple of the Lord. This temple is unfinished. It’s a work in progress.

It’s an ever-expanding renovation project, acquiring new people, new tribes, new lands and new areas of human culture – sanded, refitted, resurfaced, polished and repurposed – without end – from the rivers to the end of the earth.

It’s messy but this building is being shaped into something beautiful that houses the Triune God.

But like all renovation projects, in which you are still trying to live in it – it strains patience, strains belief, strains our ability to envision the final product – it requires a lot of faith and hope.

We all know that.

People sin. Circumstances of life are difficult. People move away. People in church are not perfect. Resources are strained.

The people being repurposed into this building, the church, are delicate and difficult, they require specialized tools. And those tools are you and me.

I don’t know if you know this – but you – with all your attributes, life experiences, frailties and character traits – complete me. Without you I am a foot without a leg, an ear without a head.

You were born to have a significant role in my life. To play the part of sandpaper and duct tape. Pry bar and finishing hammer. Veneer and scrub brush. Congratulations. But I also complete you. This community is not the elders. This community is not a select clique.

You need everyone in this community. Not just the folks whose company you enjoy most – who are the most compatible, likeable, lovable and the least work.

I instill a lot of patience in people, by nature, because it takes a lot of patience to be close to me. Ask my wife. There is a fruit of the spirit that you are most adequately equipped to encourage in me. Trust me. Continue reading “Escaping the Christian Ghetto of the “church””