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.

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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

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.

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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:

National Blame Shifting

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In biblical discipleship counseling a blame shift is exactly what the terms imply, a shifting of blame from oneself and on to a person or circumstance. It allows the blame shifter to avoid taking responsibility for his or her actions or words that contributed to or were responsible for the situation.

For example, a husband with an anger problem will blame his wife for his angry outbursts. A wife will blame the husband for the silent treatment (grudge bearing) she gives him because she disagrees with a decision that was made.

We are good at blame shifts because we are prideful people whose first line of defense for the wrong we do is to blame others or circumstances to justify our bad behavior.

As a biblical counselor I see blame shifts frequently and am perfectly capable of launching one myself even though I’ve learned it’s a bad plan. It’s also sin and nothing good comes from it.

When Jesus said get the log out of your own eye before you get the twig out of someone else’s eye what he meant was “get responsible” for your own sin and faults; then you just might be able to help someone else see their own.

Sadly, blame shifting is so common and so seemingly normal we rarely recognize how detrimental it is in solving problems, both personal and national.

On a national scale we see blame blameshifting on a massive scale. Examples are not hard to find especially in politics. Perhaps the best example is what happens every time there is a mass shooting.

The blame culprit always seems to be the gun. The victim’s families barely have to time to grieve or think before the parade of politicians emerge to blame the gun and the NRA for the problem. Their solution is what they call “common sense” gun control as if some new law would somehow reduce mass shootings or eliminate them all together. The call to “do something” presumably anything, resonates with people because every decent person recognizes that a mass shooting is a horrific event and who would not want to prevent them if we somehow could..

Sadly, even when it is suggested that the shooter himself is at least partially responsible it’s assumed he is deranged or somehow mentally ill thus putting the blame more on what’s assumed to be a type of illness rather than the real culprit-human nature and an act of pure evil.

This is why more astute observers of mass shootings correctly identify the problem as a moral\spiritual issue. Whether a person shoots one person or one hundred persons it’s still murder. The desire to murder someone comes from the inside out; not the outside in. This has been true from Cain and Able to the last mass shooting.

Here are the words of Jesus:

43 “For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, 44 for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. 45 The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. 

 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Lk 6:43–45). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

The treasure in the heart is the key phrase. The word “heart” in our culture is often misused as some kind of emotional response such as “my heart told me” this or that. The biblical meaning of the term is much deeper. It refers to the inner person or soul. It includes the mind, the will, the emotions and what biblical counselors call the desires\passions of the heart.

Jesus clearly says what’s on the inside is what a person truly treasures and if evil is treasured it will squirt out often in horrific ways. This means that mass shootings are a moral\spiritual\societal problem that is not going to be solved by doing something, anything that does not deal with the depravity of man and what evil some are willing to perpetrate on others.

We live in a culture adrift from most moral moorings. What was once assumed to be wrong is now considered right. In fact if you hold to the old moral moorings you are accused of being a bigot. The venom is more often than not directed against bible believing Christians who understand Jesus’ words.

The cultural rot is plain to see for anyone with eyes to see and obviously most do not have the eyes to see or we would not have as much blame shifting as we do.

A portent is a sign or warning that something, especially something momentous or calamitous, is likely to happen. Mass shootings are portents in my opinion. They point to the depravity of man and what evil man is capable of. The evil is on the inside and a gun is the tool, a tool that can be used for good or bad but when wielded by a person bent on evil it has horrific consequences.

The murderer of all types; whether they kill one person, four persons or twenty five take the lives of image bearers-people created in the image of God (although we are flawed image bearers). Mass murder is the warning that tells us just how far down the moral\spiritual slippery slip we’ve traveled.

The solution to mass shootings is not “do something, anything” that means more laws. The solution is we stop blame shifting and that starts with ourselves. When we apply that at a national level it means looking at root problems and recognizing that we are in a spiritual crisis rather than a gun crisis.

Demand and Supply

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The title is not a mistake. Let me explain.

The news reported that President Trump wanted to use the money seized from El Chapo’s drug empire to fund the wall.

Various news organizations reported that El Chapo’s cartel was responsible for 100,000 deaths (murders) over the last decade and that El Chapo’s personal worth was around 17 billion in US dollars. If true, that would go a long way in funding a wall.

I wish to say at this point that I’m not against the wall. I am all for safe and legal immigration but what we have now is certainly not legal nor safe for US citizens or the masses trying to get in. If a wall helps, so be it. Ultimately a wall will not help all that much with the drugs for one simple reason.

The reason is Demand and Supply. If there is a demand someone will supply it if there is money to be made.

El Chapo was a business man-an evil one, but a business man none-the-less. Think a Mexican god-father here. What does a business do? It sells what people want. A business or a godfather makes money by supplying a particular demand.

Consider our own laws regarding prohibition. Alcohol was banned but it did nothing to curb demand. The laws may have made alcohol harder to get but bootleggers (like the Capone mob in Chicago) managed to supply the demand.

As long as Americans demand drugs there will be an El Chapo seeking to supply them. This does not exonerate an evil criminal; but it does say something about those choosing drug addiction.

Yes, I said choosing drug addiction. I would grant that addictions feel like a disease but on the other hand it’s a disease a person chooses to get (or risk getting).

The human heart is the problem. Scripture is quite clear about our propensity to sin and worship gods other than the God of the Bible (Rom. 1:18-32). Walls, fences, barriers can assist in controlling a problem or a life-dominating sin but unless the heart changes the best you can hope for is some behavioral change that may or may not stick.

This does not mean drug addicts will not need rehab; in many cases they do.

I say use El Chapo’s 14 billion to help drug addicts get off the drugs and to educate others as to what drug addiction actually looks like and how it destroys lives. My prayer is that Christians would be involved so they can point to Christ as the person’s ultimate solution to our biggest problem. That would be change that sticks.

Breaking free from that which enslaves.

Domestic Abuse in the Church Part Two

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The statistics on domestic abuse are alarming and sadly, domestic abuse is not confined to those outside of the church. In fact, in the church the issue made worse by something called hyper-headship-a horrible distortion of strong male leadership that is controlling and harsh and thus a breeding ground for domestic abuse.

This post builds on my previous post on the subject and gives a few more resource recommendations for a woman in an abusive relationship. The post is also helpful for a woman who has a friend in an abusive relationship or for a man who wants to change (since the vast majority of abusers are men).

What To Do When You Are Abused by Your Husband by Debi Pryde and Robert Needham.

Book Description: For wives who suspect that they are the object of emotional, psychological, or spiritual abuse by their husband this volume is intended to provide a benchmark for establishing a responsible diagnosis. For Christian wives who know that they are the object of abuse, the authors have provided guidance to obtain resolution that is consciously biblical.

Recommendation: This book was written in 2003 (my edition) and as such it precedes the #metoo movement. As far as I know it is an early attempt to deal with the issue of abuse in the church and expose it. The title says it all since women often do not know what to do when they are married to an abusive husband,

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Hyper-Headship and the Scandal of Domestic Abuse in the Church by Justin Taylor of Bethel Baptist

Definition of Hyper-Headship by Jason Meyer preaching pastor at Bethlehem Baptist: 

Hyper-headship is a satanic distortion of male leadership, but it can fly under the radar of discernment because it is disguised as strong male leadership. Make no mistake—it is harsh, oppressive, and controlling. In other words, hyper-headship becomes a breeding ground for domestic abuse.

Recommendation: I like this article because too often men and sometimes even church leadership will rip Scripture from its context and hide behind it in their abuse of women. This article focuses on what Bethlehem Baptist is doing to make it right and thus it serves as a template for what other churches may want to emulate.

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The Heart of Domestic Abuse: Gospel Solutions for Men Who Use Control and Violence in the Home by Chris Moles.

Book Description: Domestic abuse and violence are on the rise in our culture today, and just as prevalent in the church. With an estimated one-fourth of women in the church living with abuse and violence, pastors and biblical counselors need to have the resources to offer hope and help. It is time for godly men in the church to call abusive men to repentance and accountability. Here is a valuable resource for every church leader and Christian man.

Recommendation: This is an excellent tell it like it is resource. Chris works with the West Virginia Correctional System with men who are abusers. The men he works with are “in the system.” Chris does not pull any punches yet tries to lead them to hope in Jesus Christ and their ability to change through the gospel. 

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A Biblical Counselor’s Approach to Marital Abuse-Roadmap to Reunification,  by Julie Ganschow and Bill Schlacks

Book Description: In this straightforward exposition, the counselors at Reigning Grace Counseling Center outline a biblical, heart-focused method for repentance and restoration of marriages ravaged by domestic abuse. The four-phased process of Recognition, Repentance, Reconciliation, and Reunification gives Christ-centered hope in the midst of what is often considered to be a hopeless situation.

Recommendation: This book is as the title indicates a road map to reunification. It assumes that Christian men will want to repent and do whatever is necessary to change by applying the gospel. There is extensive counseling within each phase. There is an extensive Bibliography for even more resources. 

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Debilitated and Diminished: Help for Christian Women in Emotionally Abusive Marriages by Anne Dryburgh

Book Description: Debilitated & Diminished is written for those who are seeking to help Christian women who are being emotionally abused by their husbands. It provides a definition of emotional abuse, describes the behaviors involved and the effects of these behaviors upon the victim. A biblical approach for helping these women is proposed that looks at human nature, marital roles, and what it means for her to live in Christ. Suggestions are given as to how the church can be a support to the emotionally abused woman.

Recommendation: I have not personally read this one but have it on good authority it is helpful.

 

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Domestic Violence in the Church

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Marital abuse is a significant issue in Christian circles. Consider this quote from biblical counselors Julie Ganschow and Bill Schlacks and their new book, A Biblical Counselor’s Approach to Marital Abuse.

Reports and concerns about domestic violence have surged to the forefront in our communities and churches. Since the #metoo movement and the stories of hyper-headship have come to light, more victims than ever before are coming forward with stories of abuse in their own homes. Statistics reveal that “Every nine seconds in the US a woman is assaulted or beaten.” My research indicates that the prevalence of domestic violence is the same in the church. At the time of this writing (Summer, 2018), 98% of the counseling taking place in our biblical counseling center is comprised of couples who cited “marital issues,” or “the need for marital counseling” on their paperwork. Astonishingly, 98% of that group of counselees are abusers or victims of abuse.

Julie Ganschow directs a biblical counseling center in KC, MO. The ministry is set-up to take people from all over the greater metro area and from a variety of evangelical churches. Her research is derived from that context.

I am a biblical counselor as well, but work primarily within the confines of my own church. To receive biblical counseling in my church a couple would have to agree to attend my church. My research into the area of domestic violence within the church is far too limited to claim a 98% abuse rate.

I am able to say that over the last few years I’ve had more than a few contacts from women within my church who are friends with women in other churches or no church at all seek counsel on how to help their friends in abusive situations. I’ve also had one recent case of a young woman who did come to our church for help with domestic violence but her husband refused to take it seriously-a common MO for an abuser. All this to say that even within my limited experience I can verify the problem certainly exists within the church.

I am grateful for Julie and Bill’s book that provides a roadmap for reunification in the Christ-centered path of the Gospel. Their four-phased approach includes recognition, repentance, and when possible reconciliation, and reunification of the couple.

Recognition is when both the abuser and his victim understand that what has taken place in their relationship is abuse.

Repentance is when the abuser admits and recognizes that he has sinned without blame-shifting, rationalization or justification. Most importantly, he has a change of heart about his sin. He no longer desires to demonstrate power, control, and anger in his life and begins to address the sin in his heart.

Reconciliation includes supervised interaction, supervised dating and couple’s counseling.

Reunification is how the couple is gradually reunited.

Don’t be fooled by the simplicity of this process for a great deal of counseling takes place in each phase.

It should also be pointed out that abuse is on a continuum ranging from verbal fights and intimidation to domestic violence of the physical and sexual types. It should also be pointed out that men can also be the victims of domestic abuse although it is far more common that the man is the perpatrator.

I recommend A Biblical Counselor’s Approach to Martial Abuse. 

I also recommend, The Heart of Domestic Abuse: Gospel Solutions for Men Who Use Control and Violence in the Home by Chris Moles.

Link to Reigning Grace Counseling Center in KC, MO (Julie Ganschow, director)

Link to Chris Moles Peaceworks (ministry to men who are abusers)

Both books are well documented and feature a bibliography with other links. If you know someone especially in the church in an abuse situation take them to these resources and the other resources listed in the books.

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