Interpreting the Constitution

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I’ve often compared what the SCOTUS does and how they interpret the Constitution and what a good pastor does in his sermon preparation to interpret the passage he is preaching on.

A good exegete (a pastor that draws out the meaning of a text rather than read meaning into it) has a great deal in common with a judge who is considered to be an originalist.

An originalist seeks to determine in it’s historical context the Framer’s intent when they wrote the Constitution and Amendments.

That is exactly what a good exegete does when preparing his sermon. He asks himself what did the author mean when he wrote what he did in the context in which he lived. The process to do this is laborious and it should be since the pastor is dealing with the Word of God and he wants to be sure he is thinking God’s thoughts after him. The method is called the Historical\Grammatical Method of Interpretation. It’s fits into the discipline of Hermeutics. The strength of the system is that it is objective and that is in contrast to other methods that are often subjective.

This does not guarantee total agreement among exegetes but it does given them a standard of debate that they can appreciate since everyone plays by the same rules.

For more basic information on what I mean by the Historical\Grammatical method go to to this YouTube link to see the subject discussed in a recent service my church.

Whenever the SCOTUS has to debate a law’s constitutionality they do so from one of two positions (in general). The first position is the one I’ve already mentioned, the position of being an originalist. What did the Framers mean when they wrote the Constitution? What was the intent of the words and phrases they used in the context in which they used them.

A jurist who is not an originalist believes that the Constitution and it’s Amendments are fluid; that they evolve according to the whims of the current culture. In that, the method is far more subjective than the more objective methodology of an originalist.

Like the exegete who uses the historical\grammatical method of interpretation the originalist needs some “rules” or guidelines to determine the Framer’s intent. Here’s list of the considerations they are supposed to take into account:

 •​The evident meaning of the words. •​The meaning according to the lexicon of the times. •​The meaning in context with other sections of the Constitution. •​The meaning according to the Framer who suggested the language. •​The elucidation of the meaning by debate within the Constitutional Convention. •​The historical provenance of the words, particularly their legal history. •​The words in the context of the contemporaneous social, economic, and political events.•​The words in the context of the Revolutionary struggle. •​The words in the context of the political philosophy shared by the Founding generation or by the particular interlocutors at the Convention. •​Historical, religious, and philosophical authority put forward by the Framers. •​The commentary in the ratification debates. •​The commentary by contemporaneous interpreters, such as Publius in The Federalist Papers. •​The subsequent historical practice by the Founding generation to exemplify the understood meaning (e.g., the actions of President Washington, the First Congress, and Chief Justice Marshall). •​Early judicial interpretations. •​Evidence of long-standing traditions that demonstrate the people’s understanding of the words.
The Heritage Guide to the Constitution: Fully Revised Second Edition (pp. 25-26). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition. 

As you can it can be a laborious process and it does not mean that all originalists will necessarily arrive at the same conclusion.

This stands in contrast to jurists who never seem to consider original intent. Instead, they think in terms of desired outcomes and that’s why conservatives call them activist judges rather than an originalist or constitutionalist. It’s also why since the Reagan Administration (at least) the Senate hearings for the confirmation of a Supreme Court judge are so contentious. The left wants activists to do their bidding and the right wants originalists to stick to the original intent of the Founders..

The Kavanaugh hearings are example “A” to the degree in which the left will go to ruin a man by convicting him of a crime in the court of public opinion without any supporting evidence.

Like the Bible the Constitution should not be twisted to get it to say whatever you want it to say.

A More Perfect Union

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The Battle of Gettysburg ended on July 3rd, 1863. On July 4th, 1863 the river city fortress of Vicksburg fell to Union General US Grant. The loss of both battles meant the beginning of the end for the Confederacy. Had Lee won at Gettysburg and Vicksburg held out longer it’s entirely possible that one of two things or both could have happened. The first is that France and England would have recognized the Confederacy as an independent nation. Among other things that could have meant the breaking of the Union blockade of Southern ports by the all powerful British Navy. (In 1863 the UK was the most powerful nation in the world and not necessary our pals.)

The second thing that is probable Lincoln would have lost the 1864 election in favor of Northern Democrats and Copperheads (a Copperhead opposed the war). If Lincoln was defeated it would have resulted in an independent Confederacy. The net result of an independent CSA would have meant a continuation of slavery-pure and simple. When news of the Union victories reached the North most realized it was the beginning of the end for the CSA although thousands more would die before the Confederates would surrender in the Spring of 1865. 

Confederate High Tide at Gettysburg

Note this quote from the preamble of Constitution of the USA:

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

Former President Barack OBama used the line, ” a more perfect Union” in a famous speech that spoke of race relations. The central idea of the preamble and presumably Obama’s speech was that the US keep striving for that more perfect Union. 

US History is full of warts and injustice but we have always striven to be that more perfect Union and fix what we can. There was a time when people of good will on both sides of the aisle recognized the common goal of striving for that more perfect Union. I truly fear that time has passed and that our country is in more trouble than it was in April of 1861. When one party refuses to condemn mob justice and violence and openly seeks socialistic Marxism we no longer have any kind of unity worthy of the name. It is not out of the question that a second Civil War is brewing and that would be tragic.

So what is the Christian to do? First we are mandated to pray for those in power no matter how distasteful that may be. After all, Paul’s instructions to do so involved the despot Nero. The question is how to pray for them. The most common answer to that question is that we are supposed to pray for wisdom. IMO, the wisdom to be prayed for is biblical wisdom that leads to practical application derived from the inalienable rights derived from our Creator.

The framers, for all their faults recognized this when formulating the Constitution and Bill of Rights. Therefore, it seems to me praying that those in power uphold the Constitution rather than treating it like silly putty would be the pathway to striving for that more perfect Union. That is my prayer.

Red Pill Spirituality

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I have to admit that I’m late to the Matrix party despite being a Sci-Fi fan. It’s only recently that I watched all three movies in the series. Perhaps when number one came out I didn’t quite get the attraction. Nevertheless, a couple of months ago I caught all three movies and enjoyed them all.

So, when Elon Musk encouraged folks to “take the red pill” I realized he said it in relation to opening his Telsa factory despite what the State of California thought about it.

According to Wikipedia taking the red pill means:

In The Matrix, the main character Neo is offered the choice between a red pill and a blue pill by rebel leader Morpheus. The red pill represents an uncertain future—it would free him from the enslaving control of the machine-generated dream world and allow him to escape into the real world, but living the “truth of reality” is harsher and more difficult. On the other hand, the blue pill represents a beautiful prison—it would lead him back to ignorance, living in confined comfort without want or fear within the simulated reality of the Matrix. As described by Morpheus: “You take the blue pill…the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill…you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.” Neo chooses the red pill and joins the rebellion.

If Musk meant take the red pill like Wiki explains I would whole heartily agree. The bad guys in my opinion are those who have functioned as “controller matrix” during the CoVid19 crisis. They peddled fear and hysteria and to this day have not stopped despite evidence to the contrary. This includes most of the media and politicians. Sadly, the controllers have been successful and many prefer the “blue pill dream world” than the risky, uncertain real red pill world.

I think Christians who think about things theologically can see the spiritual dimension that relates to the red pill, blue pill comparison.

Red pill takers understand sound theology and within that sound theology understand the reality of an unseen world. Red pill takers know that it exists and know that it exerts influences on the world’s systems and governments. Paul and others in the Bible recognize the unseen world as the realm of spiritual warfare.

A blue pill taker, even if a professing Christian has poor theology if at all. They assume that all is well and are quite content to live in a kind of dream world where all is in order not understanding they have a weak understanding of the gospel or they really do not know it all.

A person is not saved by being a good person, by chipping in some good works, by being baptized as a baby or assuming that all roads lead to same dream world place. You are saved by placing all your trust in Christ and his finished work on the cross. Jesus becomes your Lord and Savior and that changes your life. Your eyes are opened to the truth; to the narrow way of salvation (John 14:6). All of a sudden the Bible makes sense as it serves as a type of red pill that reveals spiritual realities.

It happened to me about 35years ago.

Jesus was clear; you must be born again to enter the kingdom of heaven. Read John 3:1-21 and take the red pill opening your eyes to spiritual reality.

For a great read on the unseen realm I recommend the books by Dr. Michael Heiser.

I recommend Unseen Realm and for an easier read Supernatural.

Something for Nothing

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My apologies to Dire Straits for stealing the name of their catchy tune, Something for Nothing. It was an 80’s song where blue collar appliance delivery men wished they could play the guitar on MTV instead of their own work drudgery. They saw the benefits of being in a rock band as getting something for nothing.

My wife and I recently received the $1200.00 stimulus check issued by the IRS. The reason for the check was the CoVid19 shutdown. The money was issued to stimulate the crumbing economy (spend it!) and in other cases to simply pay bills until unemployment insurance could kick in. We didn’t have to do anything for it except be taxpayers which is a little like something for nothing hence the song that popped into my mind.

I just read the other day that certain Democrat Senators are now proposing a $2000.00 check per month, per American with incomes less than $130,000.00 per year. The stimulus would last months until the crisis passes. That strikes me as more something for nothing and I think it’s a bad idea.

At first glance this looks compassionate since it’s apparent that many people are being denied the right to work and are hurting financially. It should also be pointed out that the Democrat led states are the most radical when it comes to re-opening. Other Democrats are even suggesting it’s the first step in establishing a universal basic income for every American. That appears to be the real agenda as the power of the nanny state and big government increase.

The motivation under the compassion is to pander for votes and make fiscal conservatives look bad and uncaring. It’s politics that motivates and not compassion. It behooves the political left to keep the country shut down as long as possible. The longer people cannot work then the better it is for the left and their socialist agenda. Whether you like Trump or not the end game is get him out of office and get as many people as possible dependent on government.


The net result of these type of proposals is to pay people not to work. When you pay people not to work it taps into aspects of human nature that are contrary to what the Bible says about work.

Allow me to use myself as an illustration when the incentive to collect unemployment was stronger than a need to find work.

Many years ago I worked in a manufacturing environment. I belonged to a union and the type business was seasonal. The slow part of the season was late spring, early summer and it was typical that many people, including me, would be laid off. The duration of the lay off could be anywhere from one month to about three months depending on various factors including seniority and supply and demand for the product..

During the time of layoff a person would draw unemployment insurance. At the time you did not have to look for a job. The insurance would last for 26 weeks and it was possible to file for an extension. You simply gambled you could wait out the layoff and eventually get your job back. Since the layoffs occurred in late spring many people did not mind at all if the layoff continued well into the summer.

Obviously, it depended on one’s individual circumstances in how one viewed the layoff. In some cases, the unemployment insurance was inadequate so the longer the layoff went the harder it would be to make ends meet. These folks would be anxious for the layoff to end.

In other circumstances, say a single person with few expenses or someone who had access to a second income, the layoff served as a nice paid vacation. Because my wife worked outside of the home we didn’t mind the lay off much at all and took the gamble I’d get my job back. I always did.

Here I wish to make the obvious observation that I made above. If you pay people not to work, many will not. By removing incentive you appeal to the desire to get something for nothing. In a desire to create a reasonable safety net the result is to encourage dependency on the state and make laziness a virtue. It also should be painted out that some people are actually making more money on the enhanced unemployment than they did when working!

I personally do not believe the Democrat initiatives are all that well meaning but even if they are, providing incentive to not work is not something the Bible would endorse. This New Testament passage is a pretty good indication of what God thinks of honorable work. Note that the passage is written as a command that should result from believing the gospel and being “in Christ.”:

10 For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. 11 For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. 12 Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living.  The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (2 Th 3:10–12). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

But that’s not all. Old Testament wisdom literature places a high value on work.

In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty. (Proverbs 14:23)

Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits will have plenty of poverty. (Proverbs 28:19)

Too often we see work as a burden because work is often hard and laziness is easy; especially when you get paid to do nothing!

These notions fly in the face of what God has revealed to us in Scripture regarding the value of work. Wayne Grudem in his book, Christian Ethics-An Introduction to Biblical Moral Reasoning, begins his chapter of Work, Rest, Vacations and Retirement like this:

Although many people seek to avoid work or to work as little as possible, the Bible presents, in general, a positive view of work. It views work in itself as a good hing and as pleasing to God.

We see this first because, before there was any sin in the world, God gave Adam and Eve work to do: “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion…” (Gen. 1:28). Furthermore, before there was sin in the world, “the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work and keep it” (2:15). Work is not simply a painful part of the fallen human condition, but it part of what God intended for us in his “very good” creation,”

Christian Ethics-An Introduction to Biblical Moral Reasoning, by Wayne Grudem (pg 921)

Many people have been scared half to death by the CoVid19 crisis. Given the initial models that predicted millions would die it makes some sense to help those financially crushed by being forced not to work. But is that any reason to keep millions out of work even as the predictions have turned out to be flat out wrong?

The fact is the issue is so politicized I have little hope that all of a sudden our government as a whole would realize the biblical value of honest work and seek to do the right thing by creating reasonable mechanisms to get people back to work.

Christians should be counter-cultural when it comes to work. Working to please and honor the Lord is a good thing (Col. 3:21, 23). Therefore, we should seek to return to work as soon as we can and at the same time be as safe as we reasonably can. We can do both.

Psalm 91: Confidence for the Believer in Times of Trouble

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This morning I was reminded of Psalm 91 and how the Psalm functions in order to give hope and confidence to the believer in times of trouble.

As a certified biblical counselor I am always interested in helping people to counsel themselves by using the Bible and their knowledge of Scripture in general. Paul himself encourages the Roman Christians to counsel one another through the Word of God. He states:

14 I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ro 15:14). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

Toward that end of trying to help people counsel one another during this time of uncertainly, I will use nothing more than the study notes from the MacArthur Study Bible and the ESV Study Bible for my comments. The point of that is to show how a person can learn to counsel themselves using nothing more than a solid study Bible, making observations from the text and having familiarity with Scripture as a whole..

Read over the Psalm. My observations and comments will follow.

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”  For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence.  He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.  You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day,  nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.  A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you.  You will only look with your eyes and see the recompense of the wicked.  Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place— the Most High, who is my refuge— 10  no evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent. 11  For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. 12  On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone. 13  You will tread on the lion and the adder; the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot. 14  “Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name. 15  When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him. 16  With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.” The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ps 91:1–16). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

The first observation is to note that the Psalm speaks of God’s absolute sovereignty. Today many people do not accept the idea that God is absolutely sovereign. That includes Christians who may not know the Scriptures as well as they should; yet the concept is taught in many places including here in Psalm 91.

The idea that God is absolutely sovereign over all circumstances is a truth designed to give the believer confidence and hope in those circumstances. We can see this as the Psalm broadly details the various circumstances that can produce fear.

Note vss 3, 5, 6, 7, 10. They all speak of scary circumstances including the schemes of evil persons, pestilence (disease), night terrors, war, pestilence again, war again and plague. That is scary stuff but before the scary stuff is mentioned a declaration by the believer is made:

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.

What does it mean to dwell in the shelter of the Most High and abide in the shadow of the Almighty (vs 1)? Verse 2 answers the question by declaring that God is the refuge and fortress for the believer (no matter what is implied) and so the believer trusts in the absolute sovereignty of God regardless of the circumstances. This speaks of the faith (trusting God) of the believer especially when the chips are down and it looks as if God is not in control.

Note that each verse that describes very scary circumstances (3, 5, 6, 7, 10) is followed immediately by verses (sometimes in the same verse that describe the scary circumstances) that speak of God’s protection and his love for those who trust in him (vss 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13,).

One of the questions that comes up is does the Psalm mean that a believer will be literally be protected from all the scary circumstances and trials mentioned? This is a pertinent question for today since most of us are in lockdown over the Corona Virus and that given pestilence is mentioned twice and plague once. All of those terms describe some kind of sickness or disease that threatens one’s health and can produce death.

We know that believer’s experience poor health and die from disease. We know that believer’s get involved in war and are often persecuted, so what kind of protection are we talking about here?

This is where the believer needs to know the Bible well especially the Book of Job. Within the context of God’s sovereignty even Satan had limits as to what could be inflicted upon Job. In other words God often permits and sanctions that believer’s suffer just like anyone else. This is the price a believer pays for living in a sin cursed world. It’s not pleasant but it is temporal.

The genuine believer knows that there is a life to come that comes after his or her physical life ends. The MacArthur Study Study Bible notes that Psalm 91 can be read literally when we understand it in Messianic terms meaning that in heaven there is no more “scary stuff” and all promises are literally fulfilled.

The Psalmist recognizes scary stuff, yet has confidence in God because he or she knows that regardless of the circumstances their salvation is safe and secure. The New Testament believer understands this if they have trusted in Christ alone for their salvation.

In verses 14-16 it is God himself who speaks to give assurance to the believer.:

14  “Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name. 15  When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him. 16  With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ps 91:14–16). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

As a biblical counselor who has counseled many people who have suffered from anxiety I can tell you that I always point to the gospel first. Understanding and embracing the gospel of grace alone in Christ alone (not good works or what I call good person theology) is the first step in putting anxiety away.

It’s the start of thinking biblically about life and about eternity. Remember, that the Bible is God’s love letter to those who trust in Him. Read it, embrace it, study it and use it to counsel others as you learn to counsel yourself.

Psalm 46 is another Psalm that can give comfort in times of uncertainty like we are in. The link will take you to recent sermon on Psalm 46 that was given in my church’s first week of shutdown.

A Mighty Fortress is Our God

There are Things Worse Than a Virus

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The apostle Paul wrote:

The last enemy to be destroyed is death. (1 Co. 15:26, ESV)

Then, as now, mankind’s greatest fear is not a virus from Wuhan but the possibility of death that the virus represents. Viruses and diseases are scary especially when the recipient knows that treatments and vaccines either do not exist or are not necessarily all that effective.


When we are sick we instinctively think in terms of cure and rely on the doctors and scientists to provide that cure and when they have little to offer at the moment we tend to panic.

Why? Because the specter of death looms large in our minds and death is to be feared above all else. A virus serves as a symbol of sorts that predicts possible doom.

Most people do not want to die. Most believe they have something to live for. The exceptions to that are those who have given up hope for some reason. Either they are depressed to the point of considering suicide or they are ready to die to be released from the suffering of what disease is killing them.

The vast majority want to live; but yet the vast majority do realize that sooner or later death will call. The question then becomes, “then what?”

What happens after physical death?

Some believe we are no more than food for the worms. Others think we achieve some kind of nirvana while others believe in some sort of reincarnation. Some believe they are good persons and God, if he exists at all will allow them a pleasant afterlife because they were mostly good.

In Greek and Roman times many believed that physical death meant life was over and like the modern atheist the body was simply food for the worms. This was despite the fact that the general population believed in the various gods.. Educated Greeks and Romans didn’t believe in the gods but recognized the value of some sort of popular religion especially the Emperor Cult.

Others believed in a kind of shadowy existence without substance although that varied in Roman culture. Although the Romans did not believe in eternal damnation they did believe in a kind of warrior’s paradise called the Fields of Elysium. If you are familiar with the movie Gladiator you see references to Elysium more than once. In the movie, the Russel Crowe character tells his soldiers before the battle, that what we do in life matters in eternity (the Fields of Elysium.) When Crowe is dying he has visions of his dead wife and son in the Fields of Elysium where is to join them.

It was different for the Jew. They believed in an afterlife that was regulated by Yahweh. By Jesus’ time they didn’t debate the afterlife as much as they debated the possibility of physical resurrection due to the influence of the sect of Sadducees.

The apostle Paul, once a Pharisee, wants to be clear about a physical resurrection and wants to be clear about Jesus’ resurrection. He states:

12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. 

 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (1 Co 15:12–20). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

Christianity rises or falls on the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Either it happened as the Scriptures report or it did not and in that case Christians should be pitied for being no more hopeful than those who thought we are food for the worms or those who bought into some kind of Elysium.

Verse 17 says that if Christ has not been raised then we are still in our sins, our faith clearly pointless. Dying in one’s sins should be a scary proposition since according the Bible there are worse things than dying. Dying in our sins means eternal damnation. The Bible knows nothing of Purgatory and the possibility of atoning for your own sin in any sense.

This is why we need Jesus and Jesus alone to atone for our sins.

Scripture is very clear that our works or our good behavior does not factor into the gospel (Ephesians 2:8-9) in any kind of saving way. All we contribute to the salvation process is our sin.

Jesus paid it all on the Cross, the debt we owed and it’s only through faith and complete trust in Him and the fact he rose from the dead do we avoid the righteous wrath of God.

For those that embrace Jesus on His terms and count their own righteousness as nothing eternal life with Jesus is a promise.

This causes the apostle to pronounce:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.” 55  “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (1 Co 15:54–57). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

What does that mean when it comes to the latest virus that seems to suck the hope from so many?

It should mean that the Christian is not panic stricken by the threat of death. It does mean that one should use their common sense with any illness but it should never mean we act as those who have no eternal hope.

It is my prayer that those who at least wonder about what I’m saying seek out a good Bible teaching church.

Here is sermon to help you understand. It’s titled Life in Light of the Resurrection.

God Heals a Marriage

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An article in the 2/29/20 issue of World Magazine is titled, God Making Up For Us has the explanatory sentence, “They fought one another in marriage—until God brought a change of perspective.”

As a certified biblical counselor with the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC) the title and sentence got my attention as I wondered how God brought a change of perspective in their marriage.

Spoiler: The couple has been married for 45 years and the story has a happy ending. It is wonderful how the Lord ministered to them and they finally landed with a biblical perspective on marriage.

What intrigued me was what they said about the journey.

First, it needs to be said they had a number of challenges in their early marriage, including the death of a child, Sadly, that can often lead couples to divorce. To their credit they stuck it out.

Second, by their own admission they fought a lot. They mention that parenting style was a major issue between them.

By the early 90s they went to see a psychologist who said they were incompatible. They separated twice and got back together.

They go on to say their marriage issues began to intimidate fellow church members. The wife prayed frequently and attended Bible studies and counseling (it does not say what kind of counseling but their prior experience was with a psychologist.)

The husband tried self-help books, Christian conferences and counseling, again not mentioning what kind of counseling. The husband began to lose hope and after 26 years of marriage again considered divorce.

From there their story improves. The husband puts it this way as he “felt” God telling him to go home and love his wife selflessly. He said that part of him died that day and just did what God told him to do, go home and love your wife and kids. He found new ways to serve his wife like cooking and doing laundry.

After 20 years they still fight, but fight differently. Instead of emotional, selfish fights they have learned to give grace and forgive. The wife said, “the Lord taught us to forgive each other and think of each other as more important than ourselves.”

My points below in no way should be interpreted to diminish what God has done nor this couple’s journey. They are a testimony to God at work in their lives and to some extent remind me of my wife’s and mine rocky start. We were married a year before the couple in the article and now have 46 years behind us.

The difference between the couple and us is that we did not become Christians until 10+ years after we were married. Like them however, as we started to practice some of things we learned in Bible studies, conferences, prayer and so forth things began change and conflict was greatly reduced.

Like the couple we actually went to a psychologist a couple of times. It was non-directive and purely secular. Faith was irrelevant. We left thinking we were incompatible.

I do not know if the couple in the story got a recommendation for a counselor from their church. I do know it’s common. What is often recommended is a secular counselor-a secular counselor who ordinarily not consider God, nor sin.

The fact is the vast majority of evangelical churches do not believe the Bible is truly sufficient for counseling. Not only that, but many pastors do not think they are equipped to do counseling (a pastoral requirement in my opinion) or they simply do not want to because they see themselves as exclusively pulpiteers..

I experienced this first hand at my first ministry assignment. The semi-official position was see a person three times at the most. Tell them to pray more, attend church more, serve more and if that doesn’t help refer them to a psychologist, Christian or otherwise.

I wonder what may have happened to the couple in the story has they gone early on to a biblical counselor who was direct in challenging them to follow the Scriptures. After all, what does the Bible say about grace? What does it say about forgiveness? What does it say about conflict? What does it say about parenting? What does the Bible say about being selfish? What does it say about grief? What does it say about serving? What does it say about the gospel and how the gospel applies to marriage? Perhaps a Biblical counselor would have asked them if they wished to obey the Scripture or not? :Perhaps, that would have saved them from 20 years of conflict?

My wife and I figured out somethings with the Lord’s help just as this couple did so praise the Lord for his help despite the fact we turn to psychology before we turn to God. ! I just wonder how much sooner it all could have been figured out if their pastor or our pastor at the time was a pastor committed to the sufficiency of Scripture in counseling.


Bearing the Sword in Vain

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At one time the British Constabulary drilled with cutlasses, a type of sword used primarily by navy personnel for the purpose of boarding an enemy ship and fighting the crew hand-to-hand. According to the original caption these British policeman are drilling with the cutlass in 1877.

Because of the way my mind works I saw a few applications for the picture even though I confess my first thoughts were, how quaint and amusing.

Those initial thoughts soon became more serious.

I immediately thought of the fact that most British police routinely do not carry firearms. For a long time the well known “Bobbie” made his or her rounds without a service gun and that still is the case.

It suggested there wasn’t much of a need and it was assumed that Great Britain was a relatively peaceful country and violent crime somewhat rare. How nice some Americans thought wishing that our police would not have a need for a firearm. By the same token some British think our country looks more like the Wild West because so many people have guns.

News flash, it’s not the gun that commits the crime; it’s the person using the gun, but I digress.

The picture of the Constabulary drilling with swords suggests something different than a country with little violent crime. Why drill with a sword unless you believe you just might need a sword? (As a point aside British police have almost immediate access to firearms and apparently judge a situation on a case by case basis.)

I am a biblical counselor and pastor who counsels and teaches counseling. That means that the application of a biblical text is my speciality. The text that came to mind when I saw the picture was Roman’s 13:1-7 and in particular Romans 13:4

But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer

 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ro 13:4). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

The “he” in the verse is a reference to the governing authorities (v1). Paul clearly states that the governing authorities are servants of God. If we back up a little in the passage we see the purpose that God intends for the governing authorities:

For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good.

 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ro 13:3–4). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

The question that often comes to mind is what is meant by “good.” It’s a logical question since most of us are aware that governing authorities are capable of much evil.

The first thing to remember is that the governing authorities are people and because they are people they are fallen people in the need of Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. That the governing authorities are sinners just like anyone else means we should not be surprised when they use their position “as ministers (or servants) of God in an unrighteous manner.

The “good” then in the passage is a reference to the governing authorities punishing evil and pursuing justice. Verse 3 indicates that rulers (governing authorities) should be a terror for those guilty of bad conduct.

Wayne Grudem in, Christian Ethics-An Introduction to Biblical Moral Reasoning sums up the point nicely:

This means we should think of government officials as serving God when they punish evil and promote what is good, whether they realize it or not. This is a strong passage in support of the idea that we should view the civil government as a gift from God, something that brings us great benefits. Although individual people and individual governments can do evil, the institution in itself is something good, a benefit that flows to us from God’s infinite wisdom and love.

Grudem, Wayne, Christian Ethics, pg 430

I had a conversation the other day with a retired policeman who lives near by. He served in a local police force for 28 years until the department gave him early retirement due to a back injury he received in the line of duty.

I knew the area where he was a policeman and I asked him what was the most frustrating aspect of his job. He said it was not the risk associated with enforcing the law. He said that just goes with the job. He said what is most frustrating is when the “governing authorities” go soft on crime and practice the all to common “catch and release” methodology that seems to dominate many large and medium sized cities.

The policeman sometimes has to use his or her sword to make an arrest. The prosecutor then has to make a case to convict and then the judge has to pass sentence. The sentence then becomes the point of catch and release and the criminal is free to commit more crime with little consequence.

The policeman I spoke to was not sorry to be retired. He added that his replacement was recently struck in the head with a machete (a type of sword). My acquaintance wondered out loud what kind of juvenile and adult record did the perpetrator have and how many times was he caught and then released.

Sometimes the police believe they bear the sword in vain. That’s on the governing authorities and the police.

Biblical Stewardship and Student Loans

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My parents were depression era kids. The experience made them frugal and they worked hard to earn what they had and to provide for me and my sister.

As I came of age I learned a couple of lessons from them regarding some basic principles of borrowing and lending. One principle was derived from my wife’s and I wanting to purchase our first house.

I didn’t ask, but my parents volunteered to help us with a downpayment. They gave us $6000.00. This was back in 1976 and interest rates were much higher (10-12 %) than they are at the time of this writing (Jan., 2020).

The conditions for the help were we had to pay back $5000 of the $6000. The first $1000.00 was a gift; charity from my parents. The $5000.00 to be paid back was a loan without interest. We had to make a monthly payment. I do not remember what the payment was but it was reasonable.

I confess that at the time I resented the fact that the entire sum was not a gift of charity. I was not over-the-top resentful but it bothered me that other parents paid for their kids education or gave far more substantial gifts to their kids. In other words, I was jealous and covetous. If you are a Christian that should remind you of a commandment.

My parents sought to teach me valuable lessons about life and finances.

My wife and I both worked full-time. We were childless for the first six years of our marriage. We saved next to nothing. While we did not make a fortune we did just fine with two incomes spending the surplus on “stuff” rather than saving anything substantial. We were immature and in our early twenties.

The rule of thumb at the time was you needed 20% of the total cost of the house for your down payment. The house we bought cost $35,000 so we needed $7000.00. My wife and I had a little over $1000.00 in savings and my parents provided the rest. I should have been grateful rather than jealous of others who received bigger breaks from their parents.

So the first lesson from my parents was, learn to save your money so you won’t have to borrow or borrow as much when the time comes to purchase something big like a house or car.

Although I’ve said that was the first lesson it really comes after what I’ll call the first principle. Both my wife and I worked from the time we were teens. I had my first job the day I turned 16 and my wife had a job at age 15. The principle is of course, work and then save. Start early.

The other principle that my parents taught was pay back what you owe regardless of to whom it is owed. We already had a car payment so we understood we had to pay that back because it was a legal contract.

Understanding that we had to pay back a parental loan was an animal of a different color since I was still thinking it should have been a gift of parental charity. Gee, aren’t parents mean when they try to teach you to be responsible.

A little while after the birth of our son my wife and I became Christians. I slowly began to realize that I had learned some basic principles of biblical stewardship from my parents who were not steeped in chapter and verse.

We attended a class at our church on biblical stewardship and were surprised by how much we had learned of personal financial responsibility from our parents. They really did know what they were talking about.

It’s beyond the scope of a short blog article to be comprehensive about all the Bible has to say about stewardship, especially borrowing and lending. For a comprehensive treatment on the subject I recommend Wayne Grudem’s book, ,Christian Ethics and the chapter, Borrowing, Lending and the Question of Debt.

One passage will suffice:

Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. 

Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. 

 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ro 13:7–10). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

In verse 7 Paul expects the Roman Christians to pay their debts. It would be stealing not to (verse 9). Paul assumes the repaying of debt is a simple moral responsibility. He does not attach any conditions to the responsibility. if you borrow pay it back.

In verse 8 Paul says owe no one anything, except to love each other because that fulfills the commandment to love your neighbor. Verse 8 does not contradict the command in verse 7 where he commands that payments be made for debt. How so?

Grudem comments:

Paul’s point here is to direct Christians in Rome to pay whatever is rightfully expected of them, including taxes, but also including honor and respect. This teaching does not prohibit all borrowing, so long as the debt is repaid at the time it is promised. The point is that we should pay what we owe when we owe it, and the command, “Owe no one anything” is simply a summary of the preceding verses and means we should pay our debts when they are due.

Christian Ethics, Wayne Grudem, pg 1047

In verses 9 and 10 Paul references the law regarding human relationships. Love your neighbor as yourself does not mean to love yourself more as some seem to believe. Rather, Paul tells us in verse 10 love will do no wrong to a neighbor. In other words, we are to do what is in their best interest.

My parents whether they knew it or not did that for me and my wife. They came from a “Christianized” culture that recognized the idea of taking responsibility for your decisions and actions. Later I came to learn the hard way the dangers of credit card debt-something my parents had cautioned me about the day I received my first credit card. Those cautions were ignored for a long time and because of that we had a hard time saving money since much went to debt service.

As we near the 2020 election there are a number of politicians campaigning on the issue of forgiving all student college loans. In particular, Bernie Sanders the avowed socialist and Elizabeth Warren, a socialist wannabe are promoting the policy. The premise seems to be that the debt is oppressive (and that no doubt is true) so the government that gives the loan should be merciful and just wipe it clean.

It is a popular idea for the student with a ton of debt. I can see where the idea gains traction to people who do not know any better and/or have been indoctrinated to believe that Marxist collectivism is a good thing. I can also see that way back when my wife and I were in our twenties we would have jumped at the opportunity for “free stuff” including someone forgiving all of our debt.

Besides the obvious pandering to young voters with a lot of student debt there is much wrong with the idea. At the outset it raises the question of basic “fairness” since there are plenty of students who have worked to pay off their loans-you know, the principle I just cited, pay what you owe when you owe it. If you think you can’t pay back then don’t take the loan.

One of the other things wrong with the idea is the whole idea that the government should forgive the debt. Allow me to state the obvious. Where does the money come from that goes to the government? In a word, taxpayers. Paul has much to say about that in Romans 13:1-6.

What you have in effect is taking from one person to pay off the debt of another. The emphasis is on the word “taking.” While Christians are to pay their taxes and this means the government can do what they will with those taxes, we must realize that what is being proposed is a form of stealing. It is not government charity since the government does not produce income, it taxes income.

I can imagine that back when Paul wrote the words he did that the Roman government spent the money on all kinds of stuff that a taxpayer might find objectionable. Do we really need a new aqueduct? How about that Coliseum, seems a bit much, don’t you think? You get the idea. The taxpayer had no say-so in these matters while we do.

We have the privilege of electing leaders. We also have the responsibility of examining their policies in the light of what Scripture says.

Those proposing the forgiveness of student college debt have a far more reaching agenda than simply pandering for votes. They seek to change the basic fabric of our country and turning it into a soft Marxist\collectivist state. To get there they need the votes from young people who have been taught to rely on government to solve all their problems. Perhaps they have been raised by parents who believe the same.

I have no objection if a corporation wants to hire a college grad and pay off their student loans. I can see where that might be a rather large incentive to take a job with that corporation.

I can also see some nice soul coming forward and helping a student pay off their debts as an act of charity just like my parents gave us the $1000.00.. gift. Charity, rightfully defined, is a biblical principle, but stealing from “A” to give to “B” is not charity nor is it in my opinion really helping the student to get responsible and prepare them for like.

I am forever grateful that my parents did not give me what I coveted. Their motto was earn, save and pay what you owe when you owe it.

Some will argue that you can’t apply biblical principles to a culture that does not hold the Bible in high regard. Well, I get that but I do get to vote (so far) for the politicians who do seem to be for sound financial principles. Whether they know it or not, they like my parents line up with good biblical counsel.

Taking the King’s Schilling

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When the United States was still thirteen colonies and part of Britain there was a popular saying related to joining the British Army.

The saying goes something like this: If you take the king’s dollar (schilling in those days) you become the king’s man. The meaning is obvious. If you get paid by the King then you do his bidding.

The saying has multiple applications today and I believe it applies especially to the federal and state governments and their relationship to faith based organizations.

To give a relevant example consider the concerns from Don Wilkerson from Adult and Teen Challenge (ATC) as recorded in the in the October 12, 2019 issue of World Magazine: “What concerns Don Wilkerson and others about these programs is that by accepting state licensing and funding , ATC centers won’t be free to present the gospel to all addicts.”

For those of my readers unfamiliar with Don Wilkerson and ATC understand that Don and his brother David started ATC way back in the 1960’s.

The ministry was for drug and alcohol addicts and the basic premise was faith in Christ could free an addict from bondage. To make this happen they developed Teen Challenge (later ATC). The strategy was a total spiritual immersion in a long-term residential program that featured evangelism, mentorship and Bible study. The program relied on donations.

The process was in stark contrast to the prevailing notion (that still prevails) that an addict will always be an addict. This meant that many secular clinicians believed in the rehab approach that often included medications and secular type therapies that had nothing to do with the gospel.

ATC exploded with about 200 centers situated in cities in the US and even abroad. With any faith based initiative funding can be a problem. Faith based ministries rely on churches and individuals to float the ministry boat and at times there isn’t enough funding.

Therefore, some ATC centers started to take the king’s schilling and with it came state licensing and with that came detox programs and short term programs that competed with ATC’s long term, gospel alone stance.

What ATC has now is a mess. It’s a mess to the point where individual ATC centers have to affirm the traditional stance or separate themselves as separate non-profits. World’s article in its entirely can be found here.

As a certified biblical counselor in a local church I immediately understood the tension. My church takes care of my ministry needs and we do not charge for counseling-counseling that is based on the sufficiency of Scripture to change a person from the inside out.

If I was in a parachurch ministry that was a separate non-profit it would be debatable as to the funding of the ministry. The temptation to take the king’s schilling can be huge and even thought to be a good thing “as long as it does not interfere with the gospel.” The problem is of course if you take the king’s schilling you eventually do his bidding and these days it often means “no gospel.”

Although the progressives have the whole separation of church and state thing wrong from a big picture point of view they do make a point with the little picture.

If you accept the king’s schilling and become state licensed you belong to the state and you must do the state’s bidding. In the anti-church climate of today this means the gospel is more offensive than it’s ever been in our nation’s history. All you have to do to realize that is be aware of the news on a daily basis. Conservative Christians are under fire and government is being weaponized in an effort to remove conservative Christianity from the public square. If you complain about that you are labeled a bigot. Well, Jesus said it would never be easy.

Separation of church and state did not mean the church could not have a public presence. It meant that the state could not control the church nor interfere with it. It had everything to do with imposing a particular state religion on a state and nothing to do with removing the church’s influence on society and culture.

Nevertheless, non-profits that are faith-based risk their ability to turn to Scripture and the gospel alone to help people when they accept a state license and the king’s schilling.

There is another old saying that comes from the Middle-East. It goes like this:

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