Wednesday, July 8, 2015


By Pastor Ray Pritchard
Keep Believing Ministries

“When the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” Psalm 11:3
We don’t know exactly when David wrote this psalm. Many writers connect it to the time when Saul chased David in the wilderness (1 Samuel 23:13-14), but we can't be sure. We know the psalm comes at a desperate moment when his enemies seemed to be closing in on him and his friends encouraged him to run away.
The psalm breaks naturally into two parts. The first three verses describe David’s predicament, and the last four verses reveal his deep faith in God despite his circumstances.
This psalm is best known for the question in verse 3:“When the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” Many preachers have taken this text and used it to show that when the foundations are destroyed, there is nothing the righteous can do. They are left in a hopeless situation.
But that is not what David says.
When the foundations are destroyed, there are many things the righteous can do, but above everything else, they must first get a right view of God. 
It happens that I am writing this sermon in light of the recent Supreme Court ruling that legalized gay marriage in all 50 states. It’s not that we didn’t see it coming. The larger culture has been trending that way for years. Perhaps the shock is the speed of the change. Many believers feel that this decision is a decisive attack on the very foundations of society itself.

I happen to agree with that assessment and believe that hard times are upon us. When a nation celebrates what God condemns, judgment from on high must eventually come. No one can say how or when or where that judgment will come. But as certainly as God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, as certainly as the great empires of history have fallen, even so no nation is promised exemption from judgment.
I. Our Commitment
As we look at the first three verses that describe David’s predicament, let’s consider the commitment we must make as we face an uncertain future.
We Will Not Flee
“I have taken refuge in the Lord. How can you say to me, ‘Escape to the mountain like a bird!’ (v. 1)
It is not wrong to flee persecution. Jesus told his disciples, “When they persecute you in one town, escape to another” (Matthew 10:23). The brave Christians in the Middle East who face beheading by ISIS are not wrong to flee. But sometimes you can’t escape, and sometimes the Lord calls you to stand and face whatever comes. God’s people are not required to prove their faith by staying in one place when they could save their lives by fleeing to the countryside. After all, David hid from Saul for years until the time came for him to become king.
But there are times when we must not flee. Sometimes you have to stand and fight. This is one of those moments. When David’s friends encouraged him to flee the country, he replied, “I have taken refuge in the Lord.” If God cannot protect him, then running to Egypt won’t keep him safe. I apply that same principle to the current moral crisis in America. I have no doubt that things will get worse in the near future. Open hostility toward Christians will increase. Some will lose their jobs because of their convictions. Others will find their careers stymied because of overt anti-Christian hatred. Some will face huge fines (like Aaron and Melissa Klein, the bakers in Oregon who refused to bake a cake for a lesbian wedding) for standing up for their convictions. Churches will face the loss of tax exemption. Increasingly believers will be marginalized and ridiculed. Christians who dare to speak out against the prevailing tide will be vilified on social media. Some will receive threatening phone calls. They will discover that other Christians don’t want to be around them.
We will no doubt be disappointed by evangelical leaders who cave to the gay marriage position. Suddenly they will discover biblical support for two men getting married that no Bible scholar had discovered in the previous 2000 years. Their itching ears will lead them away from the Bible into the depths of moral compromise. Professing themselves to be wise, they will become fools.
All of this was foretold in the New Testament. Truly the “perilous times” of 2 Timothy 3 are upon us.
How will we respond?
Will we run and hide?
Will we flee from the battle?
Elizabeth Rundle Charles put the matter this way:

“If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christianity.  Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved, and to be steady on all the battlefield besides is mere flight and disgrace to him, if he flinches at that one point.”

Sometimes you have to stand and fight.
You may lose the battle.
You may be wounded.
You may not survive.
We have to stand and fight for what we believe.
We leave the results in God’s hands.’
As they say in the Coast Guard, “You have to go out. You don’t have to come back.”
This is no time to flee, and there is no place to go anyway.
 We Will Not Fear 
“For look, the wicked string the bow; they put the arrow on the bowstring to shoot from the shadows at the upright in heart” (v. 2).
In this case David is being quite literal. At one point Saul tried to kill David with a spear. Later he sent his army after him. The arrows they were shooting were not metaphorical. When those arrows hit, they drew blood.
It’s always good to know what you are up against. That way you won’t be surprised when trouble comes.
We Will Not Fret
“When the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (v. 3)
The word translated “foundations” refers to the moral and spiritual underpinnings of any society. What can the righteous do when the foundations crumble beneath them?

Do they quit?
Do they despair?
Do they run away?
Do they become bitter?
Do they resort to violence?

For Christians in the Middle East, this is not a rhetorical question. What do you do when your community is destroyed by ISIS?
Christians in America now face that question in a completely different way.  The foundations are being destroyed before our eyes. When you see the White House lit up in rainbow colors, you know we are seeing Romans 1 come true in our day.
What will the righteous do?
What can we do?
What do you do when the foundations are destroyed? Answer: It all depends on how big your God is.

If you’ve got a small God, you’ve got a big problem.
If you’ve got a big God, you'll okay even when the bad guys seem to be winning.
II. Our Confidence
Notice what David doesn’tsay. He doesn’t call for the army to mount an offensive. He doesn’t say, “Let’s run for the hills.” He doesn’t raise money for a big political campaign. In modern terms, he doesn’t organize a social media campaign.
For David (and for us) it’s not about the what; it’s about thewhoTo be sure, tactics matter. There is certainly a time to go to war to protect your nation. And we’ve seen clearly that it matters greatly who occupies the White House. There can be no doubt that social media played a big part in the recent changes in American attitudes about gay marriage.
But in times like these, we need God first and foremost. When the foundations are being hacked away, we’ve got to go back to the First Principles. That’s what David does in verses 4-7.
God’s Presence
“The Lord is in His holy temple; the Lord’s throne is in heaven” (v. 4).
This is David’s way of saying God is everywhere. He’s on the earth (in his holy temple), but his throne is in heaven. I admit that it doesn’t always look that way. When you read the headlines, it can seem as if the whole world is spinning out of control. Lately we’ve been reminded that ISIS is planning attacks on America. With the rising spiral of violence in our world and our own slippery slide into the pit of moral corruption, it’s easy to conclude that God either is not on his throne or he doesn’t care what happens on the earth or perhaps there is no God at all.
But right at this point we see the fundamental difference between a believer and an unbeliever. We believe there is a God who sits on the throne of the universe, a God who is absolutely sovereign, a God whose ways are far above our ways, a God to whom the whole human race must someday give account.
Was God shocked by the murders in Charleston?
Was God caught by surprise by the crisis in Greece?
Was God unprepared for the Supreme Court decision?
The answer to all such questions is a resounding no. Our God is never surprised, never asleep, never startled by evil, never shocked by natural disasters, and never astonished by Supreme Court decisions.
I have been thinking lately of what one of my Greek teachers in seminary liked to say. Dr. S. Lewis Johnson remarked that the hardest verse in the Bible to believe is Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” “If you can believe that,” Dr. Johnson said, “you won’t have any trouble with the rest of the Bible.” For a long time the truth of that statement eluded me. I couldn’t get it because I had never really thought about Genesis 1:1 in its larger context. But it is hugely important that the Bible begins with a declaration, not an argument. The Bible simply declares that God is, and that he created all things. Twenty years ago E. V. Hill preached a powerful sermon at a Promise Keepers gathering in Chicago. In his own unforgettable style, he preached for 40 minutes on just two words: “God is.” He said it over and over again. He whispered it and he shouted it. He illustrated it, declared it, proclaimed it, and dared anyone to deny it. You wouldn’t think you could preach that long on just two words but he did, and when you think about it, you could preach a lot longer when your topic is as profound as “God is.” Once you get it settled in your heart that “God is,” a lot of other problems will be solved as well.
Perhaps we should keep Isaiah 6 in mind. That magnificent passage begins with the words “In the year that King Uzziah died.” That note is important because Uzziah was one of the best kings Judah ever had. When he died, the nation was plunged into turmoil. A golden age in Israel’s history was drawing to a close. Would the people continue to walk with God or would they return to idolatry? In that fateful moment, Isaiah came face to face with the living God. He says it this way: “I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple” (Isaiah 6:1).
Where is God? He’s not nervously pacing heaven wondering, “Who will I get to replace Uzziah?” Not at all. At that critical moment, God is where he has always been. Seated on his throne.
God’s Judgment
“His eyes watch; He examines everyone.The Lord examines the righteous and the wicked. He hates the lover of violence. He will rain burning coals and sulfur on the wicked; a scorching wind will be their portion”(vv. 4-6).
No one gets away with anything.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said it this way: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Though the wheels of God grind slowly, they grind exceeding small. Be sure your sin will find you out.
These words of David remind us that there is a solemn and eternal difference between the righteous and the wicked. That difference is sometimes easy to see in this life, sometimes not so easy. Suppose you go to a football game and look up in the stands. It’s easy to tell who is rooting for the Bears and who is rooting for the Packers. The fans let you know which side they are on. But spiritual allegiance isn’t always easy to determine. Suppose you go to a cemetery and walk around. In that quiet, peaceful setting, saints and sinners rest side by side, six feet under the green grass. You can’t tell the righteous from the wicked simply by reading the gravestones.
But God knows.
That’s the whole point of these verses.
God sees everything.
He reads every heart.
He knows every thought.
He hears the words whispered in the darkness.
He knows us better than we know ourselves.
A day of judgment is coming for those who mock God and reject his Word. In an image that reminds us of Sodom and Gomorrah, God promises to rain burning coals and sulfur on the wicked. The scorching wind of judgment will wipe the smile off their faces.
We dare not water down these solemn words.
On June 26, the day the Supreme Court handed down its verdict, Chuck Swindolltweeted these words:

Disobedience to God’s commands always results in serious consequences—eventually.

God’s Deliverance
“For the Lord is righteous; He loves righteous deeds. The upright will see His face” (v. 7).
The Lord stands up for those who stand up for him.
He takes the side of those who side with him.
David stands on the peak of faith and says, “Though the battle may be hot and we may be surrounded, God will win in the end.” This is the true position of those who believe God and his Word. I have told and retold the story of Richard John Neuhaus, founder of First Thingsmagazine, and a great defender of the moral and spiritual values of the Christian faith. At one point he was on his way to a speaking engagement. When he arrived at the airport, the man who picked him up was bemoaning the sorry state of affairs in American culture and how bad the times were. After listening for a while, Father Neuhaus finally replied:

“These may be bad times, but they are the only times we are given. And despair is a mortal sin.”

He’s right on all counts. These are bad times because our leaders are spiritually corrupt and morally blind. But why should we despair? If God is on the throne, then we should rejoice because these are our times. We don’t have to ask, “What will America be like in a hundred years?” The great good news is, I don’t have to stay alive for another hundred years because I serve a God who is eternal. He will still be on the job long after I go down to the grave.That’s David’s final answer to the many perplexing problems of this life. Those who know and love the Lord will see his face. We will behold the Lord in the most personal way possible.

Today we walk by faith.
Today we stumble along through this life.
Today we struggle.
But today is not the last day.There is a better day coming for the people of God when all will be made right. Between now and then we will have many days when the foundations seem to be crumbling around us and the wicked rise up and threaten us.
But the wicked will not have the last word. Those who scoff at the Lord and his Word will be consumed with the fire of God’s judgment. Between now and then we move forward by faith, believing that out trials are sent by God to improve us, not to destroy us.
Take the long view because we’re in this for the long haul.Let’s go back to that question in verse 3 for a moment:

“When the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?”

Make no mistake. The foundations are being destroyed right in front of our very eyes. Long-held moral values are being jettisoned in favor of a new morality that is really no morality at all.
What can the righteous do?
I have no political advice to offer even though I’m in favor of political action. Christians need to take their convictions with them into the voting booth. We ought to write letters, speak out, refuse to be intimidated, support good candidates and run for office ourselves. I’m not in the “roll over and play dead” category.
But I’m not going to end on that note because David doesn’t speak of  political solutions in Psalm 11. When the foundations are being destroyed, we need a fresh view of God and a long view of history. God who sees all things will judge the wicked and bring them down in the end, and the righteous will see God’s face.
How then should we live? As I ponder that question, I keep coming back to the same conclusion. I can summarize it in three words. We need .  . .
Tenacious winsome courage.
Tenacious means we don’t give up. 
Winsome means we face life with a smile, not a scowl.
Courage means we do what needs to be done.
Tenacious means we keep on keeping on.
Winsome means we don’t lose our temper and say something stupid.
Courage means we take our stand for the truth.
Tenacious means we keep on praying.
Winsome means we are cheerful when others attack us.
Courage means we do hard things without complaining.
Tenacious means we love people anyway.
Winsome means we display grace under pressure.
Courage means we speak up instead of wimping out.
We need all three qualities together to face what life throws at us. So let's wrap up this message with a good prayer for all of us: 
“Lord, grant me tenacious winsome courage as I go through this day. When I am tempted to give up, help me to keep going. Grant me a cheerful spirit when things don’t go my way. And give me courage to do whatever needs to be done. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Saturday, June 27, 2015


by John MacArthur
For us, as Christians in the United States, it’s easy to get
caught up in all the political fervor. It can even be tempting to
think that legislation is the key to solving the moral problems
that plague American society. But is that a right perspective?
John MacArthur addresses this important issue and
underscores a biblical response.
There was a time (in the days of our Puritan forefathers),
when almost every soul in America acknowledged the Ten
Commandments as the cornerstone of ethics and morality.
Today most Americans can’t even name three of the Ten.
There was also a time (not so long ago) when Americans
universally disapproved of homosexuality, adultery, and
divorce; they believed sexual promiscuity is absolutely
wrong; they regarded obscene language as inappropriate;
they saw abortion as unthinkable; and they held public
officials to high moral and ethical standards. Nowadays,
most of the behavior society once deemed immoral is
defended as an inalienable civil right.
How times and the culture have changed! The strong
Christian influence and scriptural standards that shaped
Western culture and American society through the end of
the nineteenth century have given way to practical atheism
and moral relativism. The few vestiges of Christianity in
our culture are at best weak and compromising, and to an
increasingly pagan society they are cultic and bizarre.
In less than fifty years’ time, our nation’s political leaders,
legislative bodies, and courts have adopted a distinctly anti-
Christian attitude and agenda. The country has swept away
the Christian worldview and its principles in the name of
equal rights, political correctness, tolerance, and strict
separation of church and state. Gross immorality—including
homosexuality, abortion, pornography, and other evils—has
been sanctioned not only by society in general but in effect
by the government as well. A portion of our tax dollars are
now used to fund programs and government agencies that
actively engage in blatant advocacy of various immoral
What are Christians to do about it?
Many think this is a political problem that will not be solved
without a political strategy. During the past twenty-five
years, well-meaning Christians have founded a number of
evangelical activist organizations and sunk millions of
dollars into them in an effort to use the apparatus of
politics—lobbying, legislation, demonstration, and boycott—
to counteract the moral decline of American culture. They
pour their energy and other resources into efforts to drum
up a “Christian” political movement that will fight back
against the prevailing anti-Christian culture.
But is that a proper perspective? I believe not. America’s
moral decline is a spiritual problem, not a political one, and
its solution is the gospel, not partisan politics.
This is a lesson evangelicals ought to know from church
history. Whenever the church has focused on evangelism
and preaching the gospel, her influence has increased.
When she has sought power by political, cultural, or
military activism, she has damaged or spoiled her
The Crusades during the Middle Ages were waged for the
purpose of regaining Christian control of the Holy Lands.
Few believers today would argue that those efforts were
fruitful. Even when the crusaders enjoyed military success,
the church grew spiritually weaker and more worldly. Other
religious wars and campaigns tinged with political
motivation (such as the Thirty Years’ War in Europe,
Cromwell’s revolution in England, and other skirmishes
during the Reformation era) are all viewed with disapproval,
or at best curiosity, by Christians today. And rightly so.
The military and political ambitions of some of the
Reformers turned out to be a weakness, and ultimately an
impediment to the Reformation. On the other hand, the
strength of the Reformation, and its enduring legacy, was
derived from the fact that Reformation theology shone a
bright spotlight on the way of salvation and brought clarity
to the gospel.
Throughout Protestant history, those segments of the
visible church that have turned their attention to social and
political issues have also compromised sound doctrine and
quickly declined in influence. Early modernists, for
example, explicitly argued that social work and moral
reform were more important than doctrinal precision, and
their movement soon abandoned any semblance of
Christianity whatsoever.
Today’s evangelical political activists seem to be unaware
of how much their methodology parallels that of liberal
Christians at the start of the twentieth century. Like those
misguided idealists, contemporary evangelicals have
become enamored with temporal issues at the expense of
eternal values. Evangelical activists in essence are simply
preaching a politically conservative version of the old social
gospel, emphasizing social and cultural concerns above
spiritual ones.
That kind of thinking fosters the view that government is
either our ally (if it supports our special agenda) or our
enemy (if it remains opposed or unresponsive to our voice).
The political strategy becomes the focus of everything, as
if the spiritual fortunes of God’s people rise or fall
depending on who is in office. But the truth is that no
human government can ultimately do anything either to
advance or to thwart God’s kingdom. And the worst, most
despotic worldly government in the end cannot halt the
power of the Holy Spirit or the spread of God’s Word.
To gain a thoroughly biblical and Christian perspective on
political involvement, we should take to heart the words of
the British theologian Robert L. Ottley, delivered at Oxford
University more than one hundred years ago:
The Old Testament may be studied. . .as an instructor in
social righteousness. It exhibits the moral government of
God as attested in his dealings with nations rather than
with individuals; and it was their consciousness of the
action and presence of God in history that made the
prophets preachers, not merely to their countrymen, but
to the world at large. . . .There is indeed significance in
the fact that in spite of their ardent zeal for social reform
they did not as a rule take part in political life or demand
political reforms. They desired. . .not better institutions
but better men. (Aspects of the Old Testament. The
Bampton Lectures, 1897 [London: Longmans, 1898],
My point is not that Christians should remain totally
uninvolved in politics or civic activities and causes. They
ought to express their political beliefs in the voting booth,
and it is appropriate to support legitimate measures
designed to correct a glaring social or political wrong.
Complete noninvolvement would be contrary to what God’s
Word says about doing good in society: “Therefore, as we
have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those
who are of the household of faith” (Gal. 6:10; cf. Titus
3:1-2). It would also display a lack of gratitude for whatever
amount of religious freedom the government allows us to
enjoy. Furthermore, such pious apathy toward government
and politics would reveal a lack of appreciation for the
many appropriate legal remedies believers in democracies
have for maintaining or improving the civil order. A certain
amount of healthy and balanced concern with current
trends in government and the community is acceptable, as
long as we realize that that interest is not vital to our
spiritual growth, our righteous testimony, or the
advancement of the kingdom of Christ. Above all, the
believer’s political involvement should never displace the
priority of preaching and teaching the gospel.
There is certainly no prohibition on believers being directly
involved in government as civil servants, as some notable
examples in the Old and New Testaments illustrate. Joseph
in Egypt and Daniel in Babylon are two excellent models of
servants God used in top governmental positions to further
His kingdom. The centurion’s servant (Matt. 8:5-13),
Zaccheus the tax collector (Luke 19:1-10), and Cornelius
the centurion (Acts 10) all continued in public service even
after they experienced the healing or saving power of
Christ. (As far as we know, the Roman proconsul Sergius
Paulus also remained in office after he was converted [Acts
The issue again is one of priority. The greatest temporal
good we can accomplish through political involvement
cannot compare to what the Lord can accomplish through
us in the eternal work of His kingdom. Just as God called
ancient Israel (Ex. 19:6), He has called the church to be a
kingdom of priests, not a kingdom of political activists. The
apostle Peter instructs us, “But you are a chosen
generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own
special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him
who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1
Pet. 2:9).
Jesus, as we would expect, perfectly maintained His
Father’s perspective on these matters even though He
lived in a society that was every bit as pagan and corrupt
as today’s culture. In many ways it was much worse than
any of us in Western nations has ever faced. Cruel tyrants
and dictators ruled throughout the region, the institution of
slavery was firmly entrenched—everything was the
antithesis of democracy. King Herod, the Idumean vassal
of Rome who ruled Samaria and Judea, epitomized the
godless kind of autocratic rule: “Then Herod, when he saw
that he was deceived by the wise men [concerning the
whereabouts of the baby Jesus], was exceedingly angry;
and he sent forth and put to death all the male children
who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two
years old and under” (Matt. 2:16).
Few of us have experienced the sort of economic and legal
oppression that the Romans applied to the Jews of Jesus’
day. Tax rates were exorbitant and additional government-
sanctioned abuses by the tax collectors exacerbated the
financial burden on the people. The Jews in Palestine were
afforded almost no civil rights and were treated as an
underprivileged minority that could not make an appeal
against legal injustices. As a result, some Jews were in
constant outward rebellion against Rome.
Fanatical nationalists, known as Zealots, ignored their tax
obligations and violently opposed the government. They
believed that even recognizing a Gentile ruler was wrong
(see Deuteronomy 17:15, “You may not set a foreigner over
you, who is not your brother”). Many Zealots became
assassins, performing acts of terrorism and violence
against both the Romans and other Jews whom they
viewed as traitors.
It is also true that the Roman social system was built on
slavery. The reality of serious abuses of slaves is part of
the historical record. Yet neither Jesus nor any of the
apostles attempted to abolish slavery. Instead, they
commanded slaves to be obedient and used slavery as a
metaphor for believers who were to submit to their Lord
and Master.
Jesus’ earthly ministry took place right in the midst of that
difficult social and political atmosphere. Many of His
followers, including the Twelve, to varying degrees
expected Him to free them from Rome’s oppressive rule.
But our Lord did not come as a political deliverer or social
reformer. He never issued a call for such changes, even by
peaceful means. Unlike many late twentieth-century
evangelicals, Jesus did not rally supporters to some
grandiose attempt to “capture the culture” for biblical
morality or greater political and religious freedoms.
Christ, however, was not devoid of care and concern for
the daily pain and hardships people endured in their
personal lives. The Gospels record His great empathy and
compassion for sinners. He applied those attitudes in a
tangible, practical way by healing thousands of people of
every kind of disease and affliction, often at great personal
sacrifice to Himself.
Still, as beneficial and appreciated as His ministry to
others’ physical needs was, it was not Jesus’ first priority.
His divine calling was to speak to the hearts and souls of
individual men and women. He proclaimed the good news
of redemption that could reconcile them to the Father and
grant them eternal life. That message far surpasses any
agenda for political, social, or economic reform that can
preoccupy us. Christ did not come to promote some new
social agenda or establish a new moral order. He did come
to establish a new spiritual order, the body of believers
from throughout the ages that constitutes His church. He
did not come to earth to make the old creation moral
through social and governmental reform, but to make new
creatures holy through the saving power of the gospel and
the transforming work of the Holy Spirit. And our Lord and
Savior has commanded us to continue His ministry, with
His supreme priorities in view, with the goal that we might
advance His kingdom: “All authority has been given to Me in
heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all
the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and
of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe
all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with
you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:18-20).
In the truest sense, the moral, social, and political state of
a people is irrelevant to the advance of the gospel. Jesus
said that His kingdom was not of this world (John 18:36).
We can’t protect or expand the cause of Christ by human
political and social activism, no matter how great or
sincere the efforts. Ours is a spiritual battle waged against
worldly ideologies and dogmas arrayed against God, and we
achieve victory over them only with the weapon of
Scripture. The apostle Paul writes: “For though we walk in
the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the
weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God
for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and
every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of
God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience
of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:3-5).
We must reject all that is ungodly and false and never
compromise God’s standards of righteousness. We can do
that in part by desiring the improvement of society’s moral
standards and by approving of measures that would
conform government more toward righteousness. We do
grieve over the rampant indecency, vulgarity, lack of
courtesy and respect for others, deceitfulness, self-
indulgent materialism, and violence that is corroding
society. But in our efforts to support what is good and
wholesome, reject what is evil and corrupt, and make a
profoundly positive impact on our culture, we must use
God’s methods and maintain scriptural priorities.
God is not calling us to wage a culture war that would seek
to transform our countries into “Christian nations.” To
devote all, or even most, of our time, energy, money, and
strategy to putting a façade of morality on the world or
over our governmental and political institutions is to badly
misunderstand our roles as Christians in a spiritually lost
God has above all else called the church to bring sinful
people to salvation through Jesus Christ. Even as the
apostle Paul described his mission to unbelievers, so it is
the primary task of all Christians to reach out to the lost
“to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to
light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may
receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those
who are sanctified by faith in Me [Christ]” (Acts 26:18; cf.
Ex. 19:6; 1 Pet. 2:5, 9). If we do not evangelize the lost and
make disciples of new converts, nothing else we do for
people—no matter how beneficial it seems—is of any
eternal consequence. Whether a person is an atheist or a
theist, a criminal or a model citizen, sexually promiscuous
and perverse or strictly moral and virtuous, a greedy
materialist or a gracious philanthropist—if he does not have
a saving relationship to Christ, he is going to hell. It makes
no difference if an unsaved person is for or against
abortion, a political liberal or a conservative, a prostitute or
a police officer, he will spend eternity apart from God
unless he repents and believes the gospel.
When the church takes a stance that emphasizes political
activism and social moralizing, it always diverts energy and
resources away from evangelization. Such an antagonistic
position toward the established secular culture invariably
leads believers to feel hostile not only to unsaved
government leaders with whom they disagree, but also
antagonistic toward the unsaved residents of that culture—
neighbors and fellow citizens they ought to love, pray for,
and share the gospel with. To me it is unthinkable that we
become enemies of the very people we seek to win to
Christ, our potential brothers and sisters in the Lord.
Author John Seel pens words that apply in principle to
Christians everywhere and summarize well the believer’s
perspective on political involvement:
A politicized faith not only blurs our priorities, but
weakens our loyalties. Our primary citizenship is not on
earth but in heaven. … Though few evangelicals would
deny this truth in theory, the language of our spiritual
citizenship frequently gets wrapped in the red, white and
blue. Rather than acting as resident aliens of a heavenly
kingdom, too often we sound [and act] like resident
apologists for a Christian America. … Unless we reject the
false reliance on the illusion of Christian America,
evangelicalism will continue to distort the gospel and
thwart a genuine biblical identity…..
American evangelicalism is now covered by layers and
layers of historically shaped attitudes that obscure our
original biblical core. (The Evangelical Pulpit [Grand
Rapids: Baker, 1993], 106-7)
By means of faithful preaching and godly living, believers
are to be the conscience of whatever nation they reside in.
You can confront the culture not with the political and
social activism of man’s wisdom, but with the spiritual
power of God’s Word. Using temporal methods to promote
legislative and judicial change, and resorting to external
efforts of lobbying and intimidation to achieve some sort of
“Christian morality” in society is not our calling—and has no
eternal value. Only the gospel rescues sinners from sin,
death, and hell.

Thursday, April 2, 2015


by Dan Phillips

Note: Recently, I linked to this nearly four-year-old post in the body of another. Many had not seen it first time 'round, though it kicked off some waves in other bloggy locations at the time. The subject remains current, and I need to dip into the well once and maybe twice this week here. So here 'tis once again, lightly edited.

[This is yet another one of my occasional serieses. In this, I write for our readers who are yoots, for their own benefit; or for parents, to share with their yoots. It'll also work for pastors, especially yoot pastors. Previous examples include A word to Christian yoots, and Why God gave you parents, etc.]

Coarse but pointed joke-that-you've-all-heard-anyway alert in 3... 2... 1....
So this iconic guy's talking with an iconic girl, and asks whether she'd be willing to engage in carnal acts for $1 million.

She considers, shrugs, says, "For a million dollars? I guess."

"Would you do it for $5?" he follows up.

She is shocked, and deeply offended. "What do you think I am?" she rages.

His classic retort: "Oh, we've already established what you are. Now we're just haggling over price."
And now, a moment's pause while Pyro readers wonder where this could possibly be going. Play the overture from Handel's Messiah in your head. Daaaa.... da-daaaa....

Now, why is that joke funny to most folks? It's funny because of the surprising clash. In the punch-line, the woman is deeply offended, because she wants to say that her virtue is precious, and he's cheapening it with his $5 suggestion. But the man counters that he already knows her virtue not to be beyond price to her. She can be bought. What she says now is one thing; what she has already said, another.

So you, unmarried Christian reader, start dating an unbeliever. What are you saying?

"What?!" you splutter. "We haven't had sex!"

This isn't about sex. I'm asking what you're saying, what message your choice is communicating.

To whatever degree you're concerned at all about this person's soul, you're trying to tell her/him about Christ, right? You're trying to tell this person that Christ is the One in whom all things hold together (Colossians 1:17), the source and reason for all the universe (Colossians 1:16), the most important celebrity anywhere, ever (Philippians 2:9-11). You want to persuade him that Christ is Lord of all. And you want him/her to believe that Jesus is all these things, and that He is all these things to you.

But you've already told him that Christ isn't all that. You're just haggling over price.

(Or am I assuming too much? Are there some who are not even concerned whether the people they date are or are not saved? In such cases, the kindest I can say is that such are clueless, loveless, and faithless, and they really need to reconsider the big question, for themselves.)

Let me approach the issue another way.

Would you date a child molestor? Oh, of course not. Instant deal-breaker. Thief, murderer? No and no. Rapist? Never. Those are really bad things.

But not as bad as being an enemy of God (Proverbs 15:9; Ephesians 2:3)? I think we have some seriously skewed priorities.

See, if you are in a dating relationship with someone who doesn't love Christ, you've already said the Christ-issue isn't the issue to you. Her looks, his job, the way she treats you, his sense of humor — whatever; these things matter more to you than Christ does.

You want this person to believe that he is a sinner, under God's wrath, and deserving His judgment. You want him to know that his righteous deeds are as filthy rags, that everything he can produce is not enough for God.

But you've already communicated, by your choice, that what he has is enough for you. That you and he share enough values, goals, aspirations, and affections to create (or even consider) an exclusive and intimate relationship.

See? You've already dealt a death-blow to your own credibility. You really might as well stop talking. Your priorities, your choices, have drowned out your words (cf. the principle of Titus 1:16).

I would think this would be clear-cut to any Biblically-instructed Christian, and am constantly surprised to find that it apparently isn't. But let's extend it a bit.

If someone can credibly check the "Christian"-box, are you all-done? All that remains is attractiveness and basic compatibility, then go buy the dress and rent the tux, chapel, preacherguy?

Well, yes and no. As far as a moral issue, yes. Since the Bible doesn't teach a third "will" of God, by which we (for instance) must discern mystically and ookily what one girl/guy in all the world is The Chosen One for us, basically we may morally marry any (A) available and (B) willing (C) Christian (D) of the opposite sex (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:39). (Sad I have to add all those qualifiers, but here we are.)

But what of wisdom? I heard somewhere it was the principle thing (Proverbs 4:7, CSB).

Here is where churches often depress me. I know of a ladies' group that considered studying The Excellent Wife, by Martha Peace. The idea was rejected, because they didn't want single women to "feel excluded."

My wife and I both thought, "Huh? They're exactly who should be studying this!" The single man/woman is exactly the person who should be looking long and hard at all that marriage entails, before making that next-to-unconditional commitment.

Consider this illustration:

What would you think of a man who spends his free time going from car dealer to car dealer, checking out luxury cars that he will never buy?

He takes them out on a long "test" drive. He floors the accelerator, he jams down the brakes. He swerves around sharp turns, cranks the stereo, kicks the tires, slams the doors, asks question after question about the engine, the wiring, the electronics. He talks to the mechanic. He makes the salesman invest much of his day, and then goes through the whole process of credit checks and dickering about price and bargaining...

...then airily says "Wow, that was fun! Thanks!"

And leaves.

Next day: rinse, and repeat. Another dealer, another car. Another hapless sales staff.

What would you think of a guy like that? Selfish lout, right? Cruel? Jerk? Immature, thoughtless, loveless, graceless, without compassion? World revolves around him? Other people are his toys?

I totally agree.

So what of the person who's dating someone (s)he knows (s)he has no business considering as a spouse?

Brother, you know Ephesians 5:25-33, 1 Peter 3:7, all that? You know that God will call you to love, cherish, serve, protect, and lead your wife. You know you will need to provide for her, honor her exclusively from your heart, and with your body. You will be obliged to lead her in holiness, guard her, lay down your very life for her. You know that a bad choice will have very rough consequences (Proverbs 12:4b; 21:9; 25:24; 27:15-16).

But what if the girl you're dating is vastly more mature than you, or vastly less? What if she is disrespectful, rebellious, and sees no need of a leader? What if she particularly does not respect you, is constantly correcting and bossing you? What if you absolutely dread the very thought of having to cross her will, to any degree? What if disagreements invariably become arguments, and go on and on? How could you put on her a yoke she so obviously is not ready to take? How could you subject your future children to such a household?

What, you never thought of that? Then what have you been thinking about?

Sister, stop nodding for a second. What of you? You know Ephesians 5:22-24, 1 Peter 3:1-7, and all that? You know, do you, that God calls you to respect your husband from your very heart, in the way you think and act? You know that, under God, your husband will be the human authority in your life? That you will be obliged before God to love him, respect him, subordinate yourself to him? That you will be his helper, called to aid him in fulfilling what God has called him to?

So what if the man you're dating does not have what it takes to lead you? What if you find yourself constantly telling him what to do? What if he knows God less well than you, because he knows the Bible less than you? What if he is not prepared to lead you on, because he hasn't even caught up with you yet? What if your spirit is independent, and the thought of subordinating yourself to this man is either unthinkable (because he is so unready), or barely tolerable (because he is so passive and pliable)?

In either case, how can you be so cruel as to lead this woman or man on, letting him or her give this portion of his life to you in exclusion to others, when you know you have no business considering a future with him or her?

Is that loving (Matthew 7:12)?

"But he's started reading his Bible now!" "She's started going to Bible Study!" Great. But know this: what is most telling about another person is what he or she is before taking any interest in you. That indicates her or his heart.

If deathbed conversions are "iffy," dating conversions are doubly so.

This long post could be even longer, but I'll (almost) close with a few summary questions.

Would you consider marrying someone who never, ever washed his body? Yuck! No way, right? What if (s)he never, ever had his heart and conscience washed (Hebrews 9:14; 10:22)? Evidently yes? Hmm.

Would you consider marrying someone who never listened to a word you said? No way. What if (s)he never listened to a word God said (Proverbs 28:4, 9; Romans 10:17)? Evidently yes? Hmm.

Would you let someone drive who didn't care much for traffic laws or signs? Not likely. But you'd consider marrying a man who has no Christian walk, or had none before he got interested in you? Or a woman who hasn't yet taken to heart what God says about her and her role? Evidently yes? Hmm.

And in neither case, if you'd not consider marrying, why date? Just a harmless test-drive?

REAL-LIVE FINAL THOUGHT: I know exactly what some readers will think. They will think, "Well, my (friend/relative) married an unbeliever, and later the Lord saved him, and that worked out great! So I'm just trusting God to save/mature/sanctify my unsaved/immature/rebellious little dew-drop!"

To that, two responses:

First, so if someone sins or does something stupid, and it works out all right, you should do the same? Dude. Seriously. Grow up.

Second, as long as we're trading stories, I've heard stories about people who've pointed real, live, actual, loaded guns straight at other people and pulled the trigger, and the gun jammed. Neat, huh? So if God wants someone to live, he can jam a gun, right?

And if you loaded a pistol and went out to see who God wants to live, and who He wants to die... would that be a good thing?

Or stupid, bad, reckless, insane, and sinful?

Kid, life's not a game. Hasty decisions cast long shadows.

For every reason in this world and the next, wise up.


Written by   

Last night I was speaking to a Christian Union meeting at our local university about dating and marriage. One of the perennial problems that many young people fall into is getting into relationships with non-Christians. I was exhorting these students to realise that going out with a non-Christian is not an option for the believer. Because dating is a stepping stone to marriage, what the Bible says about whom we may marry applies to whom we may date as well. 1 Corinthians 7.39: A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord. But even if someone refuses to accept that this command applies to pre-marriage relationships, at best it is incredibly foolish and unloving for a Christian to date a non-Christian. Here are a few points to reinforce this…

1. Dating a non-Christian is incredibly short-sighted. What happens if he doesn’t become a Christian? Even if you can persuade yourself that it is somehow OK to date an unbeliever, you can’t kid yourself that’s it’s OK to marry him/her unless you rip 1 Corinthians 7.39 out of the Bible. So at what point will you pull the plug on the relationship if the boyfriend or girlfriend doesn’t become a Christian? After a month? After a year? When he proposes but still hasn’t become a Christian? You’re only storing up hurt for both of you. It’s an incredibly unloving, unkind thing to. What if he says, ‘OK then, I’ll become a Christian.’ How do you know he means it? How does he know he means it? It’s really tantamount to emotional blackmail, because what you’re saying at the end of the day is, ‘If you don’t become a Christian, this relationship will have to end.’

2. Many young people fool themselves into thinking they will be a good witness to the one they’re dating, but if you are truly serious about seeing that person come to Christ, then going out with them is probably about the worst thing you can possibly do. For one thing, you’re teaching them that obeying God’s word carefully and comprehensively isn’t all that important if it gets in the way of something you want to do. But inevitably it is going to confuse their motives—it’s going to be hard for them to separate their interest in the gospel from their interest in you. In most cases this is just a pious-sounding excuse Christians use to ease their conscience as they do what they want to do. God may graciously bring that unbeliever to himself, but it will be in spite of your presumption rather than because of it.

3. Almost invariably what happens in practice is that the Christian is led astray by the relationship. Their zeal and enthusiasm evaporate. It’s hard enough for our young people to keep themselves sexually pure while going out with another Christian who is committed to honouring God with their body before marriage; with a non-Christian this is going to be much more difficult.

4. Beginning a relationship with a non-Christian betrays a failure to realise how utterly different a Christian is from a non-Christian. When two people decide to start a relationship, it’s normally because they share the same values and worldview. But you can’t get two more profoundly different people than a believer and an unbeliever (2 Corinthians 6.14-7.1). All the things you have in common are purely superficial and can’t possibly compensate for the huge gulf between you spiritually. Think about it like this. Could you go out with someone who really doesn’t like your family? (This illustration assumes that you like your family!). They might be very polite about it—it’s not that they go around cursing your family up and down, they just don’t want anything to do with them. They don’t ever want to meet them or spend time with them. They don’t really like you seeing them. They don’t want you to talk about them (‘Look, if you want to like your family that’s OK for you, but don’t try to shove them down my throat!’). Could you ever realistically consider marrying someone who thought like that? Why would you even start a relationship with someone who thought like that—who despises these people who are so precious and important to you? Would all the other things you have in common with this person outweigh the fact that they hate your family? Well, if you wouldn’t consider dating someone who didn’t like your earthly family, how much less should you think of dating someone who despises your heavenly Father who matters far more to you even than your family here?

Thursday, March 19, 2015


 Posted by Pastor J.D. on March 17, 2015. Original post is here

Every Christian I know has had the experience of coming up against the same sin—again—and wondering, “Will this struggle ever end? Why doesn’t God just remove this?” (If you haven’t had that experience, just give it time.) This seems to be a frustration common to all believers, and not just with sin, either. When we experience any prolonged suffering or pain or discomfort, we have to ask, Why?

This isn’t the question of a skeptic trying to prove that God doesn’t exist—the famous apologetic “problem of evil.” No, this is the personal question of a believer trying to discern what in the world God is doing with the continued struggles in his life. It is the question of someone who reads, “For those who love God, all things work together for good,” and trying to reconcile that theological truth with her present circumstances.

One of the most surprising insights into this question comes from Judges 3. Tucked in between the stories of Othniel and Ehud is a statement that most Christians skip right over. But if we took this truth to heart, we’d have a renewed courage to face our struggles: “Now these are the nations that the LORD left, to test Israel by them, that is, all in Israel who had not experienced all the wars in Canaan. It was in order that the generations of the people of Israel might know war, to teach war to those who had not known it before.” (Judges 3:1-2)

Why did God leave struggles for his people, Israel? Israel’s struggle was tangible and obvious: it came in the form of enemy nations and their armies. So why didn’t God drive them out?
In one sense, as the book of Judges pounds into our heads over and over, the enemy nations are there because Israel didn’t believe God enough to drive them out. But that’s not what Judges 3 says. No, here we see that God left them there to test Israel so that they might learn to fight wars.

God wanted to give Israel the land of Canaan. But apparently, he wanted to do it through struggle. So he continued to test them, to see if they would believe him, to teach them to trust him in their fight. He does the same with us, though (as Paul reminds us) our battle isn’t against flesh and blood, but against spiritual powers. Why doesn’t God remove our struggles when we become Christians? Because he wants us to keep relying on his grace, not on our flesh. As Paul said, some of the weaknesses and trials in our lives are there—by design—to keep us humble.

What this means is that sometimes God allows us to struggle with a lesser sin to keep us from a greater one—pride. Because if you or I were immediately cured from certain sins, we’d become insufferably proud. I know that God has done that with me, specifically in my marriage. The first couple years of my marriage were a struggle for both my wife and me. We had a lot of junk that needed to be exposed. But when I look back, I’m thankful for that time, because it keeps me from becoming self-righteous when I look at problems other people have in their marriages. Struggle is a constant way of driving the proverb, “There, but for the grace of God, go I,” into our hearts.

John Newton, the author of “Amazing Grace,” understood this from experience as well. He grew frustrated by the continued sin in his life, until it dawned on him that any remaining sin kept him in desperate need of grace: “The riches of his mercy,” he said, “are more illustrated by the multiplied pardons he bestows upon me, than if I needed no forgiveness at all.”

The persistence of pain in our lives—especially the pain of battling against sin—shouldn’t make us complacent. God didn’t leave the Canaanites so that Israel would eventually get comfortable with them being around. It was just the opposite: he left the Canaanites so that Israel would learn to fight.

So when you are tempted to despair because you continue to struggle, remember what God is doing through your circumstances. Look to Christ, whose resurrection guarantees victory. Look to Christ, who fought for you when you were his enemy. Look to Christ, the only Savior who can give you the strength to stand, and who will pick you up every time you fall. Look to Christ, and fight.

For more on this, be sure to listen to the entire message here.

Monday, February 16, 2015

16 Ways to Find a Wife According to the Bible

As a pastor, over the years I had my fair share of people approach me to find out if we were a "courtship" church or a "dating" church. The people invariably would tell me that their approach was "the biblical way." I eventually become leery of such claims given that the Bible does not say much about how to find a wife, or does it? Perhaps you've seen this list floating around the world-wide-web, but it's worth reviewing because it makes a very important point. So here it is, 16 ways to find a wife according to the Bible:
1) Find an attractive prisoner of war, bring her home, shave her head, trim her nails, and give her new clothes. Then she’s yours. (Deut. 21:11-13)
2) “Lay hold on” a virgin who is not betrothed to another man, and "know" her, but afterwards pay her father a sum of money. Then she’s yours. (Deut. 22:28-29)
3) Find a prostitute and marry her. (Hosea 1:1-3)
4) Find a man with seven daughters, and impress him by watering his flock.--Moses (Ex. 2:16-21)
5) Purchase a piece of property, and get a woman as part of the deal.--Boaz (Ruth 4:5-10)
6) Go to a party and hide. When the women come out to dance, grab one and carry her off to be your wife.--Benjaminites (Judges 21:19-25)
7) Have God create a wife for you while you sleep. Note: this will cost you a rib.--Adam (Gen. 2:19-24)
8) Agree to work seven years in exchange for a woman’s hand in marriage. Get tricked into marrying the wrong woman. Then work another seven years for the woman you wanted to marry in the first place. That’s right. Fourteen years of toil for a wife.--Jacob (Gen. 29:15-30)
9) Cut 200 foreskins off of your future father-in-law’s enemies and get his daughter for a wife.--David (1 Sam. 18:27)
10) Even if no one is out there, just wander around a bit and you’ll definitely find someone.--Cain (Gen. 4:16-17)
11) Become the emperor of a huge nation and hold a beauty contest.--Xerxes or Ahasuerus (Esther 2:3-4)
12) When you see someone you like, go home and tell your parents, “I have seen a woman; now get her for me.” If your parents question your decision, simply say, “Get her for me. She’s the one for me.”--Samson (Judges 14:1-3)
13) Kill any husband and take HIS wife. (Prepare to lose four sons though.)--David (2 Sam. 11)
14) Wait for your brother to die. Take his widow. (It’s not just a good idea, it’s the law!)--Onan and Boaz (Deut. or Lev., example in Ruth)
15) Don’t be so picky. Make up for quality with quantity.--Solomon (1 Kings 11:1-3)
16) A wife?--Paul (1st Corinthians, chapter 7)
Obviously, this list was written with humor in mind, and some of these "ways," are not prescriptive but descriptive of the sinful ways that God's people have conducted themselves in the past--they are in no way exemplary. But this does demonstrate an important point--people often want the Bible to say certain things, such as how to find a spouse and marry, but they ignore portions of Scripture that don't fit their paradigm. The Bible has more to say about arranged marriages, for example, than it does "courtship" or dating. So then, how do we proceed?
We have to realize that the Bible does not speak to every issue we will face in life. Just ask Solomon, who had to use wisdom when the two prostitutes came to him claiming to both be the mother of one child. We must follow those things that God has given us. In all of our relationships we have the obligation to exercise the fruit of the Spirit and not mistreat anyone, that is especially true for a prospective spouse. We also have the clear biblical command that a Christian is free to marry whomever he or she chooses, so long as the prospective mate is "in the Lord" (1 Cor. 7.39). But in the end, choosing a spouse calls for wisdom.
The Bible does not give us a specific means by which we can find spouses. Some might be introduced by family or friends. Some might cultivate a letter-writing relationship (or as we might more commonly find it, e-mail, or some form of social media). In some cultures the thought of dating or courting is out of the question. I once walked in on one of my office mates in grad school--he was a Christian training for the ministry in Japan. He was intently reading a file; it looked like a personnel file. Out of curiousity I asked him what he was reading. He told me it was a file on a young woman that his father had sent him. His family, sight unseen (except for a few photos in the file) was arranging his marriage. I was stunned, but nevetheless made aware that godly Christians don't all do things the same way. I.e., just because it's American and Christians do it doesn't mean its biblical or the only way.
The greater doctrinal point here is that in the pursuit of finding a spouse, we must be mindful two things: (1) that we are mindful of God's revealed will in the moral law--we should not violate it in word, thought, or deed; and (2) Christian liberty--where God has spoken, we are bound, but where he has not spoken we are free. We are not bound by the commandments of men. This means that godly Christians may differ in how they live their lives, but it doesn't mean that one is holier than another because she dates and doesn't court.
We should also note that in its collective history, the church has never addressed the issue in its creeds or confessions about how to find a spouse. Perhaps this should tell us that it is a matter of Christian liberty and that in the end, we should rely on God's grace, wisdom, prayer, and godly counsel rather than make claims that the Bible has never made.

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