A Pastor’s Plea for Starting This Year Well

This coming Sunday I am preaching out of Revelation 17 and I aim to show us the vastness of the work of Satan in establishing a religion and worldview that seamlessly was and is woven into the entire fabric of this world.  As Christians we are surrounded by it and, yet, we are woefully shortsighted in how it worms itself into our thoughts, actions, desires and plans.

It is a new year and with it comes another opportunity by God for us to set a new course in our life.  For some it is weight or exercise.  Others will be a better job or develop a new skill.  But I want to recommend we all commit to one thing above all else:  That we seek to not raise pagans in our homes, church, and relationships.  The following sermon is by Dr. Mohler of Southern Seminary in Louisville.  It is a must listen to message for each of you.  Yes, even the one who is right now thinking you don’t need to hear it!  You know who you are.

A Show Worth Watching

Last week, there was a special showing of Is Genesis History? in movie theaters.  I became aware of it rather late so my ability to encourage people to watch it was quite limited.  However, Kim and I did go and found it to be very well done in every way.  If I had one complaint it would be that they tried to cover too much in the two hours.  But, in reality, it also caused me to realize that there are several avenues of further study that I can now pursue.

All of this to say, the response was quite good for the movie and the producers are going to have two more presentations of it in early March.  I would like to strongly urge you to consider watching this movie.  It is rather vogue right now in the Church to dismiss the early chapters (1-11) as something less than historical or true and its effects is felt even in Missio Dei Fellowship.  Regardless of your position on these early chapters, it is worth your time and mind to go and watch it.  You can go to their site to find a theater near you.

One point to consider, they encourage only those twelve and older to watch the show.  I would say that unless your twelve year old is used to thinking and listening carefully on more technical issues that you raise that age to around fifteen or sixteen.  There is a lot of data given and a lot of points made so don’t think this is just entertainment.  It is a shot across the bow of the teachings that abound in our schools and, sadly, even in our churches.

The Proactive Parent

Two weeks ago, in one of my sermons in the series on parenting, I noted the need for a parent to be proactive.  My point was simple, yet not so simple; if you are going to be raising your children as a Christian you must “bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).  That means you must have a plan.

The command, “bring up,” is a present imperative.   It is not something you relegate to others, but rather; as the parent you take upon yourself.  It is your responsibility.  To shift that blame to others is simply to show that you had no real plan or goal in your parenting.

I came across an article a few weeks ago that I thought was helpful toward this need to be proactive.  It is a secular piece but it is a good one.  It speaks to how one couple began to examine their goal, which was to eat dinner with their children — something that was not actually happening despite good intentions.

To resolve this they began to ask “Five Whys” and the end result was consistent dinners!  They began by identifying the problem, not eating with the kids.  Then they began to ask why.  Here are the Five Whys:

  • Why that [the problem] was true.
  • Why are we getting home so late?
  • Why had we ignored all those tasks?
  • Why were we arriving at work right before our first meetings, rather than earlier in the day?
  • Why were we leaving the house later than we planned?

The key was the first question.  Then all they had to do was be honest and ask the next four questions.

Now to you, the parent.  What are the areas that you are seeing deficiencies in the training and disciplining your children?  Write each problem down and then, over coffee or whatever, start to ask the whys.  You will quickly begin to see where things need to be adjusted and just as quickly you will be able to develop a plan.  Try it!

You can read the whole article here.

Death, Life and Eternity

I was still a rookie cop, in fact I was still a very rookie, rookie cop when my Training Officer (TO) and I headed to the station house at the end of a 12 hour shift.  As we were on the way a hot shot call came over and we were the primary unit to handle it.  Something about a knife, a kid and a lot of screaming.  A few minutes later we were up a stairwell in an apartment complex with a sergeant and an open door which revealed a crazed man holding a knife to his wife’s throat and another hand around his young son’s neck.  It was the typical stuff he said, “Leave me alone.”  “Get out of here or I will kill them.”  Obviously that wasn’t going to happen.

Over the next 15 minutes I was able to get the boy away from him safely.  Then my TO and I conspired to distract the man and try to rescue the wife.  It worked perfectly and the man ran down the hallway and turned left and the last we heard was a slammed door.  The wife told us he had guns in the room he was in and that was that.  We started down this narrow hallway with weapons out and come to the end and there is a locked door.  Being the rookie it was my job to kick it down.

That whole way down the hallway I was really rethinking this cop thing.  I had a wife and children who wanted me home each day.  It was one of those gut wrenching moments that not everyone gets.  I must say I also felt more alive than ever before.  So there I was, preparing to kick in the door not sure what awaited me when I did.  All I knew was I was going to possibly be shot and I had to accept that potentiality.  Down went the door and the next thing I see is the suspect cut his own throat several times.  Again as the rookie I had to fight him and bring him into custody.  The cuts were not deep enough to kill him just enough to make the whole thing a very sticky, nasty event.

Once everything was over several hours later I finally went home and there I thought a lot about the fleeting nature of life.  Several other moments over the last 20 years has only shown how true it is what the Psalmist wrote a few thousand years ago,

As for man, his days are like grass; As a flower of the field, so he flourishes. When the wind has passed over it, it is no more, And its place acknowledges it no longer. (Psalm 103:15-16)

In America it is easy for us to push the reality of death to the side.  We have so many things was this can occur.  I will let the reader think about he or she pushes aside the brevity of life.  I have seen death enough to know that it never comes at the opportune time for the person.  Sometimes it lingers well beyond that person’s desire, but usually it strikes when they are not expecting it.

LORD, make me to know my end And what is the extent of my days; Let me know how transient I am. Behold, You have made my days as handbreadths, And my lifetime as nothing in Your sight; Surely every man at his best is a mere breath. (Psalm 39:4-5)

Here are the words of Augustine on this subject:

For no sooner do we begin to live in this dying body, than we begin to move ceaselessly toward death. For in the whole course of this life (if life we must call it) its mutability tends toward death. Certainly there is no one who is not nearer it this year than last year, and tomorrow than today, and today than yesterday, and a short while hence than now, and now than a short while ago. For whatever time we live is deducted from our whole term of life, and that which remains is daily becoming less and less; so that our whole life is nothing but a race toward death, in which no one is allowed to stand still for a little space, or to go somewhat more slowly, but all are driven forward with an impartial movement, and with equal rapidity. For he whose life is short spends a day no more swiftly than he whose life is longer. But while the equal moments are impartially snatched from both, the one has a nearer and the other a more remote goal to reach with this their equal speed. It is one thing to make a longer journey, and another to walk more slowly. He, therefore, who spends longer time on his way to death does not proceed at a more leisurely pace, but goes over more ground. Further, if every man begins to die, that is, is in death, as soon as death has begun to show itself in him (by taking away life, to wit; for when life is all taken away, the man will be then not in death, but after death), then he begins to die so soon as he begins to live. For what else is going on in all his days, hours, and moments, until this slow-working death is fully consummated? (City of God, 13.10)

As I write, seconds of my life, and yours, are ticking away to never be found again. I write that but it does not discourage me.  It is reality and frankly there is nothing that I can do about it.  So like many things I believe it is best to simply embrace the reality of it and then ask how we are to live in light of it.

Much of it is found to be time that is mundane.  But may it be that life of mundane that is glorifying the Lord? The simple life of seeking to honor the Lord in your situation before you.  Speaking truth to your friend or child.  Turning away from an opportunity to sin.  Resting in the glory that your life will end only when your loving Father will say so.  Laughing and sipping some coffee with friends.  Weeping quietly as you see the scourges of sin all around you.

Live like one who knows life is truly transient so live for what is eternal.  The things list above can be only transient points in your life or they can all be done in light of eternity.  I think of Solomon, at the end of it all, wrote in Ecclesiastes,

“The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14).

It is why you will find many of the writers in the New Testament speak of the need for us to be eagerly looking to the revelation of our Lord in His Second Coming.  For it is then that death and mutability ends for us and eternal victory is ours.  Until that time, look to that day and live with that in mind.

How Not to Love Jesus

Read to Your Children


How many books have you read to your children in the last month?  I hope the answer is at least 30, for that is only one a day.  I mean to your children who can’t read or are only beginning to read.  For you older children, how many times are you having them read to you?  Something so simple and yet so huge is too often missed by parents, especially fathers.

I have said it many times but it bears repeating.  Read to your children.  And read good books, fun books and exciting books.  As they learn to read give them books to read.  Turn them loose on the public library until they come home with a stack of books up to their chin.  You will not regret it.

I write this as an introduction to some really good books to own.  Books on the Christian faith for younger children.  A book for children who have come to profess faith in Christ.  An graphic novel type of bible to help even the stubbornest child read. And to introduce you to a great author who writes allegorical books that teens and old, old people will love.

Look over this list, then go buy at least one of them.  But also, if you have come across a really sound book for children post it in the comments.

i believe in jesusHere is a little book to read over and over to your little ones to speak to them of the gospel.




the biggest storyThis is a great book to read with your children.  It takes them from the first garden to the final, eternal garden, a motif often missed in the bible.  It is gospel-saturated and worth your time.




These next few are by R C Sproul and all are worthy of your attention.  A couple of them I have had played in church as Dr. Sproul read his own book.

poison cupindexthe king without a shadowthe lightlingsa donkey and a king










action bibleHere is a great bible to have in your home.  It is a graphic novel and yet it is done well and faithful to the Scripture.  We have it in the church’s resource center if you want to check it out.




I cannot tell a lie.  I am a huge fan of N D Wilson.  This guy can write.  The problem I have is that when the next book comes out I buy it, read it in a night and then wait impatiently for him to crank out another one.  This first link is to Amazon.com where all his books are listed.


But, there are two series that any teen to old person would enjoy that I particularly recommend. They are very subtle allegories like the Narnia tales.  But even more subtle.






Here are two books that every dad with small children should own.  Cuddle up with your little one and let them hear your voice tell them wonderful stories.  They need it.

fathers and daugthersfathers and sons





indexHere is a book that both parent and child will enjoy.  Much doctrine written in such a helpful manner.


A Case Study in Authority

This post is prompted by a Facebook post from a friend of mine who is finishing up his dissertation on how the methods used to interpret the Scripture regarding the subject of homosexuality.  He pointed to a quote that was, frankly, sad and yet all too common within the Church.

His post caused me to reflect on my recent trip to Serbia to teach theology.  One of the main subjects I taught was the doctrine of the Bible and a key portion of that teaching was on its inherent authority in the life of all who claim to follow Christ.  Bottom-line, it is not optional, but the reality is that it is in the minds of far too many. Here is the quote:

“The authority of Scripture and of the church’s tradition is scarcely trivial. A real challenge confronts those of us who perceive God at work among all persons and in all covenanted and life-enhancing forms of sexual love. That challenge is to take our tradition and the Scripture with at least as much seriousness as those who use the Bible as a buttress for rejecting forms of sexual love they fear or cannot understand.”

The task demands intellectual honesty. I have little patience with efforts to make Scripture say something other than what it says, through appeals to linguistic or cultural subtleties. The exegetical situation is straightforward: we know what the text says. But what are we to do with what the text says? We must state our grounds for standing in tension with the clear commands of Scripture, and include in those grounds some basis in Scripture itself. . . .

I think it important to state clearly that we do, in fact, reject the straightforward commands of Scripture, and appeal instead to another authority when we declare that same-sex unions can be holy and good. And what exactly is that authority? We appeal explicitly to the weight of our own experience and the experience thousands of others have witnessed to, which tells us that to claim our own sexual orientation is in fact to accept the way in which God has created us. By so doing, we explicitly reject as well the premises of the scriptural statements condemning homosexuality—namely, that it is a vice freely chosen, a symptom of human corruption, and disobedience to God’s created order.”

This situation, like any other issue, is seldom a textual problem where the bible is somehow unclear.  It is an issue of whether the bible is held to be truly authoritative in the life of one claiming Christ as Lord.  Here is a theologian who blatantly admits the biblical text is clear on the issue of homosexuality, he just doesn’t care.  Until the Church is willing to begin to cleanse itself from within this sickness will continue to pervade its every nook and cranny.

1 Corinthians 5 is still true today as it reflects the grace shown toward those outside of Christ (something we frankly stink at more than we like to admit) and the relentless demands of true holiness within the Church (something we frankly stink even more at).  And we scratch our heads and wonder how all of this happened.

“I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. ‘Purge the evil person from among you.'” (1 Corinthians 5:9-13)

What To Do When Your Heart Grows Cold to God

Beloved, I write this with the thought of being away from you for the few Sundays.  I find myself uncomfortable in these times for I do truly love Missio and the dear people with whom God has blessed me and Kim.  It is my sincere prayer that God will be pleased to bring us back to you safely and with great joy soon.

The title of this post is clear and I want to offer some sound counsel to each of you who read this.  As a pastor you may think that my heart is constantly close to God; that there is sweet fellowship between myself and my Lord.  But this is not true.  It is a battle for me as well.  I am but a man.  But I have learned much over the years and what follows is how I battle a cold heart toward my Lord.

First, consider the object of your faith.  What is the basis of your hope of salvation?  Is it anything but Jesus Christ and His work on the Cross?  Then the trouble is that you have not truly trusted in Christ unto salvation.  Perhaps you have trusted in the blessings of God or the goodness of God or the hope that He will fix your problems, but you have never come to God as a sinner and simply received Christ by faith for the forgiveness of sins.  Trust Him now and receive that promised forgiveness.

Second, consider the love of the Father.  The bible says that God’s love has been shown in various ways.  John 3:16 says that it is seen in the sending of His only Son into the world.  Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”  Our Lord reached down in love to those who were His enemies and loved them in the fullest sense of the word, placing our sin upon His beloved Son for our salvation.  But this is not all.  God did not merely forgive us in Christ and then forget us.  Rather, He took slaves and rebels and adopted them into His household as His children.   Truly we ought to wonder like John did when he wrote, “See how great a love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God; and such we are” (1 John 3:1).

Third, learn to talk to counsel yourself.  All believers understand one common truth: they battle with the presence of sin and at times that battle seems to go poorly.  But here is where each of you can rise up and enter the battle with the correct weapons.  Dr. Lloyd-Jones writes in his book, Spiritual Depression, “Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself? . . . The main art in the matter of spiritual living is to know how to handle yourself.  You have to talk yourself in hand, you have to . . . preach to yourself. . . . You must turn on yourself . . . exhort yourself, and say to yourself: ‘Hope thou in God’—instead of muttering in this depressed, unhappy way, and then you must go on to remind yourself of God, Who God is, and . . . . what God has done, and what God has pledged Himself to do.’” (pp 20-21).

A common passage that I take people to in my counseling is 2 Corinthians 10:3-5, “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (emphasis added).  Notice that we are to take control of those nasty little thoughts that seem to spring to our mind unbidden.  God doesn’t say that you just shrug your shoulders and give in to them.  Instead He commands us to FIGHT!  We are to grab hold of all our thoughts and consider them against the purity of the bible.  Learn to ask yourself, “Does this thought fit the commands of my Lord?”  And if the answer is, “No,” then you must reject it.  You must say to yourself, “This is not acceptable, I shall not tolerate this thought.”  Then you must begin to remind yourself what the bible says regarding the situation.  And you must do so until the biblical thought has overwhelmed the unbiblical one.

This may result in you looking silly at times, wandering around the house or hallways of work muttering to yourself.  But it is sound advice.  Beloved, there are many promises that are given to us by our Lord and we must learn to believe them and preach them, especially to ourselves.  May this new year be one of hearts being rekindled toward our glorious heavenly Father who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 1:3).

The Fight Against the Flesh

The Fight Against
The Flesh

By: Martin Luther (Edited by: Matthew Henry)

Abstain from fleshly lusts,
which war against the soul.
1 Peter 2:11

I will not determine here whether Peter speaks of outward impurity, or like Paul does, of all that is called fleshly — that is, whatever man does without faith, while he is in the body and in a fleshly life. I hold however that Peter had a different mode of expression, yet I do not think he uses the word soul, as Paul does, for spirit; but Peter has held more to the common Greek word than Paul. Yet much stress is not to be laid upon this; let it be understood of all kinds of lust, or all kinds of fleshly desire or impurity. But this at least he would teach us, that no saint on earth can be fully perfect and pure.Too many have trodden this passage under their feet, and they do not understand it; they think it is said only of sinners, as though the saints had no wicked lust remaining in them. But whoever will study carefully the Scriptures must note a distinction. The prophets sometimes speak of the saints in a manner, as though they were indeed perfectly holy in every respect; while on the other hand they speak also of them as having evil lusts and being troubled with sins. In regard to these two distinctions those persons cannot judge. Therefore understand it thus: that Christians are divided into two parts; into an inward nature which is faith, and an outward nature which is the flesh. If we look upon a Christian as respects faith, then he is pure and entirely holy; for the Word of God has nothing impure in it, and wherever it enters the heart that depends upon it, it will make that also pure; because, in respect to faith all things are perfect. But since faith exists in the flesh, and we still live on the earth, we feel at times evil tendencies, such as impatience and fear of death. These are all the fault of the sin nature, for faith is not yet mature and has not attained full control over the flesh.

Therefore I say, when you read in the Scriptures of the saints, that they were perfect, understand that as to faith they were entirely pure and without sin, but the flesh still remained and that could not have been entirely holy. Therefore Christians desire and pray that the body or the flesh be mortified, that they may be entirely pure. Therefore Peter says here, as ye would be pure and have complete sanctification, continue to contend with your evil lusts. So also Christ says in the gospel of John 13:10: “Whoever is washed, must also wash his feet.” It is not enough that his head and hands be clean; therefore, he would yet have them wash their feet.

But what does Peter mean in that he says, abstain from the lusts that war against the soul? This is what he would say: You are not to imagine that you can succeed by entertainment and sleep. Sin is indeed taken away by faith, but you have still the flesh which is impulsive and inconsiderate; therefore take good care, that ye overcome it. By strong effort it must be done; you are to restrain and subdue lust, and the greater your faith is, the greater will the conflict be. Therefore you should be prepared and armed, and you should incessantly contend with it. For it will assault you in mass and would take you captive.

Hence Paul also says: “I delight in the law of God after the inward man; but I see a different law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity” (Rom 7:22, 23), so that I do what I would not. As though he had said, I fight indeed against it, but it will not finally yield. Therefore I would gladly be free, but in spite of my good will it cannot come to pass. What then am I to do? “Wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me out of the body of this death?” (Rom 7:24). In this same manner all the saints cry out. But people without faith the devil leads in such a way that he permits them only to enter on a sinful course, and he follows them, but does not destroy them entirely by sin. But as to the others, he thinks, I have already taken them captive by unbelief. I will permit them to go so far only, as to do no great sin and have no great assault, and be kept from swearing and evil schemes. But believers have always opposition enough; they must ever stand in the attitude of struggle. Those who are without faith and have not the Spirit, do not feel this nor do they have such an experience. They break away and follow their wicked lusts. But as soon as the Spirit and faith enter our hearts, we become so weak that we think we cannot beat down the least imaginations and sparks of temptation, and we see nothing but sin in ourselves from the crown of the head even to the foot. For before we believed, we walked according to our own lusts, but now the Spirit has come and would purify us, and a conflict arises when the devil, the flesh, and the world oppose faith.

Therefore Peter now means that the strife does not take place in sinners, but in believers, and he gives us the consolation that we may check evil lusts thus, namely, by warring against them. If you then have wicked thoughts, you should not on this account despair; only be on your guard, that you are not taken prisoner by them. Understand, if you are a Christian, that you must experience all kinds of opposition and wicked tendencies in the flesh. For wherever faith exists, there come a hundred evil thoughts, a hundred struggles more than before. Only see to it that you act like a man and not allow yourself to be taken captive. Continue to resist and say, I will not, I will not! (Lord Christ you have said: “Ask and ye shall receive.” Help, dear Lord, against all temptations.)

That may still be called a truly Christian life which is never at perfect rest, and has not advanced so far that we feel not sin, but that we indeed feel sin, only we do not allow it control. Thus we are to fast, pray, and labor to weaken and suppress lust. Since flesh and blood continue as long as sin remains; therefore we are to constantly war against it. Whoever has not learned this by his own experience must not boast that he is a Christian.  It is a lasting conflict, in which you are to do all you can to strike down the devil by the Word of God. We must therefore ever offer resistance, and call on God for help, and not trust in any of human powers.

Reprinted from Luther’s Commentary of Peter and Jude

A Prayer: Psalm 14

Three weeks ago, I was the one who was to bring the Scripture and prayer to the church.  I chose Psalm 14, which you can read on your own.  Below is the prayer I wrote out and later prayed on behalf of Missio Dei Fellowship.  I present this to help you all consider how you allow Scripture to inform you on how you pray:

Psalm 14

Father in heaven we come today as those who must utter an amen to the declarations we just heard and read. Your word is true and it is painful.

            We were the rebels turning aside.

            We were the ones who walked in corruptness.

            Though thinking we did good,

                        we did not for all our thoughts and actions flowed out of sin and rejection.

            When you gazed upon us you did not see men and women seeking after You.

And yet . . .

            Your Word tells us that even before then,

                        before You saw us in that condition,

                        before time existed,

            that You graciously chose us to be found safe in Your Son, Jesus Christ.

            You set us on the path that leads to eternal, perfect adoption as your children.

            You, in the fullness of times, sent forth Your Son into this world to take upon Himself:

                        Our rebellion.

                        Our corruptness.

                        Our evil.

                        Our ignorance.

            Jesus Christ, our perfect Substitute and Savior.

            So we give you thanks for the salvation that came out of Zion,

                        born in a manger;

                        born in lowliness but raised in glory and power;

                        born to die but also to reign in holiness and eternal life;

                        born under the curse of the Law but fulfilling the Law in perfection and glory.

He is our redeemer and Lord.

We thank You for causing the Holy Spirit to take our dead hearts and make us alive with Christ.

            How He drew us to Your Son.

            How He brought us to saving faith.

            How, through Him, we were brought into the Body of Jesus Christ, the Church.

            How, in Him, we are sealed and kept safe until that final day.

So today we stand to sing songs of joy and songs of triumph.

We lift our voices in holy rebellion against the spiritual forces who are defeated by our Lord.

We sing and we listen and we learn so that in this church we would make known the hope and the glory that is found in Jesus our Lord.