Saturday, February 28, 2015

"You're Lucky. Your Dad Loves You."

When I was a kid, my grandmother happened to live right next to us. She had a large room on the side of her house that she turned into an apartment to rent out.

I’ll never forget this man who once lived there with his two young sons. Even though I was young, I knew something wasn’t right, and it turned out that he physically abused them. Or so I’m pretty sure. My brother once said that he, through the window, saw the father throw one of the boys across the room, and when they came outside to play they were often garnished with fresh bruises.

One day my dad came home from work and playfully wrestled with me and my siblings in the yard. These two young boys were outside with us when he did this, and once he went inside they said to us:

“You guys are lucky.”

“Why?” we asked.

“Because your dad loves you.”

Remembering the event causes my eyes to well up with tears. What would motivate a grown man to assault two powerless little boys? The entire scene makes me thankful for my dad, but at the same time, brokenhearted for so many who grow up in a fatherless home. And when I say “fatherless,” I mean both physically absent fathers and physically present fathers who give the title a bad name.

I read Donald Miller’s latest book, Scary Close, yesterday, and discovered something interesting about fathers. Miller worked on a government task force studying fatherhood and healthy families, and learned that one of the main causes of the breakdown of the American family is the absence of fathers. He traces this absence back to the Industrial Revolution (IR), when men left their homes and farms to work on assembly lines.

While the IR served the world in terrific ways, it also devastated the home. Prior to the IR, fathers used to connect their sense of worth to the well-being of their wives and children, but after the IR they began to associate it with efficiency and productivity in manufacturing. By doing this fathers undermined the foundation of the world they so eagerly sought to serve.

Miller calls this a “mild tragedy” (I would call it a “major” one) and asserts that “intimacy in family relationships” dissolved within just a “few generations” (189).

So what does this have to do with my old neighbor? Well, the way I see it, both incidents portray an abusive father, albeit one is physical and the other is emotional, (and perhaps even spiritual). In both cases the family suffers.

The Bible teaches us that children are “like arrows in the hand of a warrior” (Ps 127:4). To be clear, the Psalmist means that the man with the children is the one who has the arrows, but fathers often treat their children like they are arrows in the hand of the enemy, an enemy who is aiming these arrows straight at the heart of the man’s worth and value that he would otherwise have in worldly success. The barbarous truth is that many men (and woman) think children cramp their style, and keep them from achieving true success, and thus devalues their lives.

Don Miller writes,
God doesn’t give us crying, pooping children because he wants to advance our careers. He gives them to us for the same reason he confused language at the Tower of Babel, to create chaos and deter us from investing too much energy in the gluttonous idols of self-absorption (90).
To be perfectly honest, I sometimes find myself trying to find self worth in what I can achieve outside the home rather than in it. But when I come home at night and see my daughter looking up at me with her gorgeous big eyes, waving at me with her backwards wave (it’s the cutest thing, seriously), my priorities are quickly realigned.

If I find my self worth in writing a New York Times Bestseller, and my own children disdain me, then I’ve sacrificed my arrows for shiny, inferior armor. But if I find my honor in raising a loving family, then suddenly, I’m Legolas. And that’s pretty cool.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Let marriage be held in honor

Last Sunday night, 30 couples gathered in our church fellowship hall for a Valentine’s Banquet. It is an annual tradition at Antioch, and every year we laugh, eat, dance and hear encouragement from a few of the couples about love and marriage. The theme this year was “Lasting Love,” and we celebrated the longest marriage among us — 47 years — the two most recent marriages — just 15 months old — and everyone in between. If we added all of the years of marriage together, from their anniversaries coming up this year, there was 655 years of experience in the room that night. That’s a long time to love together, and several thoughts come to my mind about that.

First, every one of those marriages is on solid ground because of their relationships with God. They all have their struggles, but they are all growing in love for Him and for one another. We played a game where we had to match up the 30 couples with their wedding date and their honeymoon location. The ones who just visited the mountains for a few days are as happily married as those who traveled to distant and exotic lands. One couple, married 45 years in 2015, said they honeymooned at their little house. Another, married 37 years, said they spent their honeymoon driving straight through from Florida to Utah, along with a new puppy, and the groom’s brother. OK! One traveled in three states, visiting artists and art museums. Some were sick on their honeymoons the whole time, others had traveling difficulties and at least one of us was just kicking a 10-year nicotine habit. Cindy told me about 30 days before we were married in June of 1982, “I need for you to choose between cigarettes and me.” I chose wisely, to quote from “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,” and went cold turkey in May. However, there were some tense moments on our honeymoon, as I recall. Once we were walking from our hotel in Charleston, S.C. to see some sights or go to dinner and had an argument. She turned around to go back to the hotel and I kept going. Foolish boy. But love prevailed and we survived my selfishness.

The second thing I saw last Sunday is that every one of those marriages is blessed with growing wisdom. One young couple has been married for 12 years and he was a submariner in the Navy for most of that time. All together, he missed two years of their marriage. They learned to not be as sentimental about birthdays and anniversaries, because he missed a lot of them, and even missed the birth of a child. They practiced celebrating the time they did have together, not resenting the time they had to be apart.

The third thing I noticed was that every one of those marriages is filled with joy. There is no one in that group, as far as I know, who is simply enduring a life together. One couple that has been married for nearly 35 years met at Liberty University. He told us last Sunday that he was wearing a green leisure suit and white patent leather shoes when they met. She laughed then and they are still laughing today. She confessed that he is her best friend and she would rather be with him than anyone.

Try as it might, the world can’t improve on God’s plan. He said, “Let marriage be held in honor among all.” I know at least 30 couples that would say amen to that.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Politically Incorrect Truth ISIS Teaches Us About Islam

In a recent contribution in The Atlantic, Graeme Wood published a piece entitled, “What ISIS Really Wants.” It’s an enriching read, offering a crystalline examination of ISIS. Personally, it wasn’t until I read this particular piece that I truly understood the difference between ISIS and other Islamic terroristic organizations, like Al-Qaeda or Hamas. Before today I lumped such groups into the same radicalistic category, but Wood helped me see that this is like comparing poisonous apples to explosive-laced oranges.

Both are dangerous, but one is objectively more terrible.

(It’s the oranges)

Groups like Al-Qaeda and Hamas are certainly terroristic, but they are, startlingly as it sounds, alleviated versions of Islam, while ISIS is its unsullied counterpart. According to Wood, ISIS is the unblemished embodiment of Islam. When we see a line of black-hooded men beheading twenty-one Egyptian Christians, we ought to think, “This is perfectly Islam.”

“The reality is that the Islamic State [ISIS] is Islamic. Very Islamic.” -Graeme Wood

Wood stresses that ISIS is, at its most fundamental level, a religious organization. Like Roman Catholicism, ISIS has a supreme leader to lead their faith. They call him their “caliph.” His name is Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and he is the “first caliph in generations.” Some say the first since 1924, when the Ottoman Caliphate ended. The caliph and his Islamic State “requires territory to remain legitimate, and a top-down structure to rule it.” And in this territory and under this rule this State revives its “medieval religious nature,” which includes “slavery, crucifixion, and beheadings.” Bernard Haykel, the foremost secular authority on the Islamic State’s ideology, writes that ISIS is “smack in the middle of the medieval tradition and [is] bringing it wholesale into the present day.” True Muslims are expected to immigrate to wherever this territory is (in this case Mosul, Iraq) and serve the caliph. Any Muslim that fails to do this is an apostate and is marked for death.

Therefore, to answer Wood’s opening question, which is, “What is the Islamic State?” the answer is, “It’s the epitome of the religion of Islam,” and this is a politically incorrect, yet boldly authentic declaration. Haykel says that Muslims who call the Islamic state “un-Islamic are typically embarrassed and politically correct, with a cotton-candy view of their own religion that neglects what their religion has historically and legally required.” “[Haykel] regards the claim that the Islamic State has distorted the texts of Islam as preposterous, sustainable only through willful ignorance.” “People,” Haykel says, “want to absolve Islam … [with the] ‘Islam is a religion of peace’ mantra.'”

ISIS insists that “they will not–cannot–waver from governing precepts that were embedded in Islam by the Prophet Muhammad and his earliest followers.” “Virtually every major decision and law promulgated by the Islamic State adheres to what it calls ‘the Prophetic methodology,’ which means following the prophecy and example of Muhammad, in punctilious detail.” Alongside Muhammad, ISIS has its own version of the Christian Church’s “church fathers,” called Salafism, which means “the pious forefathers.” “These forefathers are the Prophet himself and his earliest adherents.” ISIS “honors and emulates” these individuals “as the models for all behavior, including warfare, couture, family life, even dentistry.”

Thus, the warmongering caliphs in Islam’s history are to ISIS what the peacemaking Jesus, Paul, and Augustine are to the Christian Church.

“Leaders of the Islamic State have taken emulation of Muhammad as strict duty, and have revived traditions that have been dormant for hundreds of years.” -Wood

This is a striking thought, especially when one considers President Obama’s statements at the 2015 National Prayer Breakfast, where he suggested that the terrible acts of ISIS are based on a “twisted and distorted” view of Islam. According to Wood and Haykel, however, they aren’t. It’s not that ISIS has gotten Islam wrong. It’s that they have achieved it perfectly. ISIS is Islam, at it finest.

Politically correct? Resoundingly not. Historically and religiously accurate? Unapologetically yes.

The stubborn reality is that ISIS believes that, with their new caliph, their kingdom has come. In some ways, the caliph’s return is to ISIS (and therefore Islam) what Jesus’ return is to the Christian (and therefore Christianity). In the way a Christian would want to journey to Jerusalem if Jesus had returned and was physically reigning there is how ISIS feels about their caliph. Baghdadi is no mere leader. He’s number eight of twelve total caliphs that will lead Islam to world domination, via barbaric murders of apostate infidels. And to be clear, everyone who disagrees with ISIS’ Islam, from the Al-Qaeda Muslim to the American Christian, is marked for death. ISIS has released the beast of the Holocaust, but in this case the Jews are but one kind of infidel. You and I are another.

This is the politically incorrect truth that ISIS teaches us about Islam.

To be clear, this is radically different from other religions, particularly Christianity. President Obama, for whatever reason, feels the need to argue that ISIS’ actions are “not unique” to Islam, citing the Crusades as a parallel example for how Christians terrorized innocent people. But there is a big difference. ISIS is the realization of Islam, while murdering innocent people in the name of Christ is, without question, not the realization of Christianity.

Timothy Keller, in The Reason for God, offers sound thoughts on the divisive effects religion can have on the world, but also clarifies the unique peace of Christ and his followers:

“Religion can certainly be one of the major threats to world peace … [but] at the very heart of [the Christian] view of reality [is] a man who died for his enemies … We cannot skip lightly over the fact that there have been injustices done by the church in the name of Christ, yet who can deny that the force of Christians’ most fundamental beliefs can be a powerful impetus for peace-marking in our troubled world?”

Summarized, Keller is saying that Christianity is not the same as ISIS, or any religion for that matter. I think this is proven with ISIS’ most recent beheading video, (as if it hadn’t already been by the others.)

Are there Islamic Muslims who disagree with ISIS’ interpretation of the religion? Of course. Both Wood and Haykel acknowledge this. But it’s imperative that we understand that any non-ISIS Islam is, in the least, a manipulated version of true Islam, (like what Mormonism is to Christianity), but more likely a mitigated version of it. This means that many Islamic Muslims are apostates to true Islam, (but this is a good thing, in some cases better than others, although all cases are unfortunate).

ISIS believes that they play a crucial role in the finality of all things. “The Islamic State … believes that it is written into God’s script as a central character.” ISIS has special interest in the Syrian city of Dabiq, believing that the armies of Rome” (many ISIS sources interpret this as America) will set up camp there. Here ISIS will prevail (which is why they continue to entice us into war), even receiving help from Jesus, who will return to earth and lead the Muslims to victory.

In my biblically expositional estimation, however, the Islamic State (or at least anyone operating in accordance with it) will be astonishingly surprised by Jesus, like Mace Windu was when Anakin chose Palpatine over him and was subsequently Sith Lightning-ed to death. When Jesus comes back he will not defend the Islamic State. He will establish his kingdom, and he will reign as the King of kings and the Lord of lords.

“And the beast was seized, and with him the false prophet who performed the signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image; these two were thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone. And the rest were killed with the sword which came from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse, and all the birds were filled with their flesh” (Rev 19:20-21).

“And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS” (Rev 19:16).

Picture Credit

Quotes taken from Graeme Wood’s “What ISIS Really Wants.”

Monday, February 16, 2015

This is Leadership 101

A highly paid consultant in a management seminar was listing the qualifications that should be found in a leader. One listener turned to Paul’s description of church leaders in the scriptures and pointed out to the consultant that they were paying an awful lot of money to hear from him what they could have gotten for nothing from the Bible. Here are a few highlights from that list.

Self-controlled. We start working on this one when our children are a year old, don’t we? Erma Bombeck said once, “When my children are wild and unruly, I use a safe, sturdy playpen. Then when they calm down, I climb out.” That’s funny, but the sad truth is many of the problems we face when our children grow up into teenagers could have been prevented had we settled for nothing less than training them to be self-controlled as toddlers. Read through the book of Titus and see how often it is mentioned in the church as necessary not just for leaders but for everyone. Also, we must be careful of this: if the only time we have self-control is when we have things just the way we want them, that’s not self-control. That’s being controlled by self.

Upright. This has to do with how a person lives and acts and does business with other people. He always seeks to do the right thing, whether it is expedient or comfortable or not. One executive of a Fortune 1,000 company was known for asking his managers when they faced a critical decision, “What is the right thing to do?” Whether it cost the company more money or not, that was his compass point.

Holy. This word almost has a negative connotation today, even in the church. That’s because some would equate being holy with being “holier than thou.” No, this word should describe our relationship with God inasmuch as upright should describe our relationships with one another. To be holy is to be like God. In Charles Spurgeon’s “Lectures to My Students,” he writes of pastors, “To us, self-denial, self-forgetfulness, patience, perseverance, long-suffering must be everyday virtues and who is sufficient for these things? We had need live very near to God if we would approve ourselves in our vocation.”

Disciplined. We understand discipline in the athletic arena, but it must apply to every area of a leader’s life if he is to be faithful. Paul wrote, “I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” How easy it is for church leaders to disqualify themselves from their ministry because they lack discipline. A disciplined person lives a purposeful life, not one dictated by his passions or whims. Discipline means we watch what we consume when we sit down to eat or drink or watch something on TV. It has to do with exercise. Discipline also means you watch your time and use it wisely. It means you keep your appointments and when you tell someone you will be somewhere, you’re there. It means you discipline your spending so that you can save, and so that you can give. And of course it means that you delight in the Word and in prayer, even when it is not a delight, but just plain hard work. Perhaps this quality is mentioned last because it serves as an anchor for all the rest. No great work is ever accomplished without discipline.

Leadership 101 involves getting out of the playpen and into the pursuit of godly character.

Monday, February 9, 2015

She gave more than all the rest

--> -->It was Sunday morning, and the ushers passed the offering plates through the congregation.
My great-grandmother, Jessie Hauser, reached for the pocketbook beside her to get her offering envelope. She couldn’t find it. Looking up and seeing the men with the plates getting closer to her pew, Grandma began to get “flustrated,” as she would say. She rifled through the purse and finally began to dump its contents onto her lap while muttering, “Where is that offering? I know I brought it.”

Meanwhile, the lady sitting next to her began to tap her on the arm and whisper, “Jessie! Jessie!” Grandma Hauser paid her a great no mind and continued to search for her offering, finally whispering loudly, “If I live long enough to get home, I am going to clean this out!” That’s when the elderly lady finally broke through Grandma’s concentration and said, “Jessie, that’s my pocketbook.”

I remember that story whenever I read through the scene that presents itself in Luke 21. The setting is the temple. Jesus is sitting opposite the treasury, meaning that he is in the court of the women, where the brass receptacles were placed to receive the offerings of the worshipers.

Some give modest amounts, and their coins make an audible sound as they are dropped into the brass, trumpet-shaped bowls. The rich make a splash with their offerings, and the cascade of coins has its desired effect: All within earshot turn, raising their eyebrows in admiration or envy.

Then a poor widow approaches the treasury, reaching into her pouch for her offering. “Plink, plink.” The sound of her two coins, called lepta (worth about one-fourth of one cent), can barely be heard. She turns to walk away, and Jesus excitedly calls his disciples to himself.

“Hey, guys, come here. See that little woman walking away from the treasury? She just gave more than that rich man who is headed out, the guy stopping to glad-hand and back-slap with all who admire his ponderous gift as they bow and scrape to him.”

The disciples were stunned. “She gave more than the rich man? How much did this woman give and where did it come from?”

“She gave two lepta.”

“Uh, Lord, you got us on this one. I mean, two lepta is a joke. It’s nothing. She gave two lepta, and that is more than the rich?”

“Yes. They gave out of their abundance. She gave out of her poverty. They put in a portion. She put in all.”

What can we learn from Jesus here about giving? First, God looks at proportion, not amount. Jesus did not marvel at how much was given. He marveled at how much was left. The rich could give large amounts and never miss it. The widow gave all that she had. Second, giving does not make us God’s benefactor but reminds us that He alone is our benefactor. The widow acknowledged with her giving that God owned her completely, and that her life was in His hands. Third, in God’s economy, giving is sacrifice. After all, that’s how God himself gave in sending His Son.

The poor widow gave recklessly, with abandon. The rich man could walk away from the temple that day and pat his pocket and find money, and look in his bag and find money, and go to his place of business and find money. The poor widow put in her two cents, and she was done. She walked away from the temple that day completely abandoned to God as her only hope. What would it be like to give like that?

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

What Hath Homosexuality to do with Abortion?

First, props to me for using old English in my blog title. I’m not entirely sure if it is old English, and if it is if I’m using it correctly, but I know that you will join me in congratulating me on my old school, yet trendy use of grammar.

Seriously, though. What does homosexuality have to do with abortion, besides the fact that they are two of the most vitriolic sins of our day? To answer this, we need to consider God’s very first command to Adam and Eve, the first people to ever live:
“Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth” (Gen 1:28).
Peter Enns, a Harvard PhD Graduate and Old Testament scholar, calls this the “creation mandate,” and writes that humanity’s participation in it “is a sign of God’s presence and blessing” (The NIV Application Commentary on Exodus, 41). The Genesis creation account divulges that mankind is God’s crown jewel of creation. No other piece of creation was created in his “image.” That God commands mankind to “be fruitful and multiply” is his way of allowing humanity to exclusively participate in his creation. In the briefest of definitions, it is God’s blessing on mankind to reproduce. But it’s not just the act of reproduction; it’s the reproduction of the life that was made in God’s image.

When people reproduce people, it testifies of the very existence of God and his love for human life. Anything that intentionally assaults this is a threat to the most elementary principle of life itself.

It is this consideration that establishes a platform for the argument that the sins of homosexuality and abortion are joined at the hip, for both undermine the most elementary command and glorious responsibility for what it means to be a human being.


Logically, homosexuals cannot participate in the “be fruitful and multiply” mandate. A man and a man cannot reproduce another person, and a woman and a woman cannot reproduce another person. It is only by the consummation of two people of the opposite sex that another person can be reproduced. This is the most foundational argument in the Bible against homosexuality, and the backdrop against which all of Scripture is written. It’s why individuals like Matthew Vines are flat-out wrong in their attempted arguments to fuse homosexuality and Scripture. Vines is the author of God and the Gay Christian, a book that attempts to prove that Scripture is okay with homosexuality, so long as the individuals participating in the relationship are in a loving and committed relationship.

James M. Hamilton Jr., in his contribution to the book God and the Gay Christian?: A Response to Matthew Vines, offers a pertinent illustration that showcases the importance of the creation mandate:
Authors communicate by showing and telling. Once they have told, they don’t have to re-tell when they go on to show. In other words, as a writer introduces his audience to the world in which his story is set, if he tells them that world includes the earth’s gravitational force pulling objects toward itself, he does not have to reiterate that explanation when he shows a plane crash. The author does not need to interrupt the narrative and remind his audience about gravity. Anyone who understands this will question the interpretative skill of the person who isolates the account of a plane crash from its wider narrative, then attempts to prove that gravity did not pull that plane to the earth because, after all, the author did not mention gravity when he narrated the plane crash (29-30).
This example about gravity is precisely the way that the creation mandate functions in the Bible. Thus, homosexuality rejects the creation mandate because it ignores the plot upon which life itself is built. Life cannot continue to exist via homosexuality. It bulldozes the most structural beam of humanity.


Abortion is a direct onslaught of the creation mandate, too. I’m reminded of the narrative of Exodus 1 when Egypt’s Pharaoh saw God’s blessing, via the creation mandate, upon the Israelites:
“He said to his people, ‘Behold, the people of the sons of Israel are more and mightier than we'” (Ex 1:9).
To counteract this, the Pharaoh interjected two laws in an attempt to suffocate Israel’s participation in the creation mandate. First, he enacted enslavement, “appointing taskmasters over them to afflict them with hard labor” (Ex 1:11). And, second, when this didn’t work (because Israel progressed in their participation of the creation mandate, continuing to multiply) he commanded the midwives to kill the Hebrew sons upon birth. When this didn’t work, (again because Israel participated in the creation mandate), he decreed that all Hebrew boys were to be “cast into the Nile” (Ex 1:22).

With these commands, Egypt’s Pharaoh opted to antagonize life at its most fundamental level. Israel testified of God’s blessing and glory, and that threatened his agenda to advance his own glory, which, I personally argue, is what we do whenever we issue laws that parallel these. This is precisely what our country did in 1973 and will likely do (and is already doing!) with marriage. In so doing, we set ourselves up as taskmasters and executioners over life itself.

The Exodus 1 event is probably the earliest account of abortion in history, and it is a direct attack on the creation mandate, thereby connecting it with homosexuality as one of two vehement ways that humanity can sabotage the very thing that makes us, well, human.

The Importance of the Creation Mandate

The creation mandate is of the upmost importance in Scripture. It’s not only what God commanded Adam and Eve to do in Genesis, but also what he commanded Noah after the Flood, an event that hit the reset button on the human race:
“And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth'” (Gen 9:1).
It’s also what God promised to Abram, the father of Israel, in Genesis 15:
“And he took him outside and said, ‘Now look toward the heavens; and count the stars, if you are able to count them.’ And he said to him, ‘So shall your descendants be'” (Gen 15:5).
Ultimately, God wanted to display the totality of his creation mandate through Abram’s descendants. They became the nation of Israel, a nation that, to this day, has impacted the world more than any other nation in humanity’s history. When men like Nebuchadnezzar and Hitler summoned Pharaoh’s antagonistic methods against the creation mandate, the Jews miraculously overcame the events because God promised that they would.

Homosexuality and abortion may seem like two different issues, but they sprout from the same antagonistic trunk. The more we affirm these things in society, the more we decay society. The more we approve them, the more they disprove us. And the more we use our lives to ratify these things, the more these things deny our lives.

As Peter Enns writes, the fulfillment of the creation mandate is a testimony of “God’s presence.” Participating in homosexuality and abortion ceases the mandate, and thus uninvites God from his own party.

Picture Credit

Monday, February 2, 2015

Hold firm to the trustworthy Word

In the first handful of verses in his letter to Titus, Paul lists the qualifications that church leaders must have in order to effectively lead a local church. As you read through the list, and indeed the entire letter, you may be struck with this idea: the importance of instruction in sound doctrine that must come from the pastor and the elders cannot be over-emphasized. “He must hold firm to the trustworthy Word as taught,” Paul writes. That is and must always be the very foundation of ministry. Do you love your pastor because he knows your name and smiles at you? Or because he comes to visit you when you’re sick? Or because he tells funny stories and has a great sense of humor? All of those are good qualities and cannot be dismissed. But there’s one quality that your pastor must have that trumps all the rest. He must be a faithful preacher of God’s Word. Alistair Begg told his congregation that they will know he has stopped loving them when he stops teaching them the Bible. That’s it. Don’t measure your pastor or your elders’ love for you by how many warm fuzzies you feel when you are around them. Smiles and hugs will not change your life. Solid biblical preaching and teaching, under God’s authority and by His grace, will.

There is no substitute for this qualification in church leadership. An elder or a pastor may have a great marriage, solid kids, and good character in the community. He may be known far and wide for his kind words and good deeds. He may be well respected by other ministers for his pedigree and his grasp of biblical languages. But if his teaching undermines the authority of God’s Word, he is the blind leading the blind. If what he holds firm to is the popular notion that all religions are valid and true, or that only part of the Bible can be trusted and he will determine that for his congregation, or that biblical truth must bow to culture, he is standing on shaky ground and will lead others to do the same.

The Dakota Indian tribe was known for its common sense wisdom. They said for example that if you discover you are riding a dead horse, dismount. Here’s how this basic wisdom has been re-worked for church life in America; think of the dead horse as unbiblical thinking and unbiblical preaching. Some churches do nothing about the dead horse, and simply change riders, or pastors. Others say, “This is the way we’ve always ridden dead horses.” Some churches form a committee to study the horse in order to see how dead it really is. Other churches reject the notion that unbiblical thinking is a dead horse at all. They merely re-classify the dead horse as “living impaired.” No, the only way to address the dead horse of unbiblical thinking or unbiblical teaching is to hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught. That’s what pastors and elders must do.

We just had the pleasure of a visit from a family that lives on the island of Jersey, which is a bailiwick of the United Kingdom. It is off the coast of Normandy, France, and my new friend is an Anglican pastor there. He and his family stayed in our home for five days, and much of our discussion centered on the church all around the world as it drifts from its moorings. His prayer is the same as mine: that God would bring those who stand in pulpits everywhere back to the trustworthy Word.