Category: Family


Thoughts for All Saints

Commentary by Jim Bordwine, ThD

Volume 3 Number 3

February 26, 2014

The Tyranny of the Minority

 

 

Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!

(Isaiah 5:20)

Have you noticed how many aspects of our lives these days are governed by a minority opinion or a minority preference or a minority demand? I am not referring to race relationships; I’m referring to the upheaval that can be traced directly to the willingness of our culture to capitulate to highly vocal, consistently pushy, and well-financed groups that represent minority perspectives on issues that are, from a Biblical standpoint, definitely moral in nature.

Take the institution of marriage, for example. Some in the moral minority, in terms of the traditional ethical context that has been one of the distinguishing features of our history, have insisted, not only on recognition under the law, but also that the institution of marriage be re-constructed in order to accommodate their sexual proclivities. And a related area in which the tyranny of the minority is being frighteningly effective is in the matter of what is being called “gender identity.”

Recently, I read a news article that began with these words: “A California high school student who believes he is a girl trapped in a boy’s body just made the girls’ softball team.” A new state law, which went into effect last month, declares that “a pupil [must] be permitted to participate in sex-segregated school programs and activities, including athletic teams and competitions, and use facilities consistent with his or her gender identity, irrespective of the gender listed on the pupil’s records.”

Consequently, a 17-year-old teenage boy, described as a “strapping senior,” is now a member of the girls’ softball team and is allowed to use bathrooms and locker rooms previously designated for females only. This is just one of many examples that could be cited. To put it bluntly, as a country, we are doomed if such forced acceptance of moral perversion continues unabated. And there really is no evidence to suggest that this movement can be stopped. Politicians, educators, and entertainers, generally speaking, fully support this transition and these kinds of laws are being considered and enacted around the country.

As the prophet Isaiah warned in the verse quoted above, there is no future for those who would disregard the definitions and boundaries established by our Creator. Ignoring His Word or pretending that His will is irrelevant guarantees only one thing and that is destruction, not freedom. This will not end well for any of us, believer or unbeliever.

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Thoughts for All Saints

Commentary by Jim Bordwine, ThD

Volume 3 Number 2

February 14, 2014

In Praise of a Good Thing

He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the LORD.

(Proverbs 18:22)

Well over 30 years ago, I found a wife. Or, to be more precise, God brought a woman of extraordinary grace and beauty into my life and she has been a very good thing, to borrow Solomon’s wording. I cannot begin to describe adequately what this woman has been to me or how God has used her to enrich my life, further my sanctification, provide me with tender care during suffering, supply wisdom and correction when most needed, and display for me on a daily basis the character of Christ in her voice, her demeanor, her touch, her decisions, and her desires.

On this Valentine’s Day, therefore, I want to acknowledge in this public way the most wonderful gift I’ve ever received apart from God’s own Son and that is His daughter—prepared for me long before I knew Him. I was looking in the wrong place and with the wrong criteria in mind, but by His mercy I still found her. I was ignorant, arrogant, and rebellious, but by His mercy I still found her. I thought I knew it all when I really knew nothing, but by His mercy I still found Rebecca. Indeed, “he who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the LORD.”

I know I’m not the only one. Speak up, husbands. Honor your wives by giving thanks to God for His favor.

All Saints Weekly Devotional

Volume 1 Number 35

October 4, 2012

Life in Death

From Pastor Bordwine

“O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”

(1 Corinthians 15:55)

 We know only too well that life is full of challenges and disappointments. And on occasion, we learn that life includes painful tragedies. Regardless of our experiences, we have to admit that we will never be truly at ease until we leave this world. Only then will we no longer be subject to this world’s assaults.

It’s true that we enjoy a great amount of happiness in this life, but we never really escape the threats associated with an environment that has been thoroughly corrupted by sin. The most agonizing of our trials cause us to ponder a multitude of questions. Many of them are answered in God’s revelation and others seem to have no answer at the present time. This is certainly the case when the fiercest of incidents occur. I am referring, of course, to death. Sometimes death comes with a warning, such as a prolonged illness. At other times, death strikes unexpectedly. This latter kind of experience is the most shocking and upsetting.

A couple of days ago, my wife’s sister committed suicide. News of this act stunned us and our grief was immediate. This was one of those onslaughts from which we don’t recover—not in this life. For the believer, receiving news like this is heartbreaking, but it is not necessarily the end.

From the beginning of our history, mankind has been subject to death, which is the chief weapon of our adversary and by which he has tormented those made in the image of God. Therefore, when death strikes, it appears to be a victory for the devil.

While describing the nature of Christ’s earthly ministry, however, the writer of the book of Hebrews states that Jesus shared in our flesh and blood in order to serve as our Representative before God’s bar of justice. As the God-Man, Jesus received the penalty that was due to us. He died in our place. (cf. Heb. 2:14, 15)

The justice of God was satisfied when Jesus paid what we owed with His own life. But that wasn’t the end of His mission. To demonstrate that death no longer bound us, Jesus rose from the dead and this act declared that death was dead. In Christ, even death does not prevail against us.

In this same passage, the writer observes that Jesus became a Man so that “He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.” The defeat of death was long anticipated by the people of God. We were promised that one day the Savior would come and free us from death’s dominion. And so it has come to pass. Death remains active, but we no longer fear it. Life awaits us on the other side of the grave.

As painful as it was for us to hear about our loved one’s death and as unsettling as the circumstances were, we have not been left without comfort, nor have we been deprived of hope. Because of our Savior’s sacrifice, death is now powerless. It can never gain the victory over us. Jesus gives us never-ending life in death, His death. Therefore, with glad hearts we look forward to that Great Day when the redeemed of God will be raised to everlasting glory. And then, Paul’s words, quoted above, will ring throughout creation: “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”

Authorities in South Korea recently seized a huge load of drug capsules that were being transported into the country. The capsules were filled with the powdered flesh of dead babies—the powdered flesh of dead babies. Some people say that the powdered flesh of dead babies can cure disease; therefore, they take these capsules like any other medication.

As you should be able to guess, this “medicine” is manufactured in China, a nation that murders an estimated 13 million babies every year. In the past, most abortions were the result of the government’s one child per couple restriction. It has become evident, however, that during the last few years, single young women, especially those who are students, have become a target of abortion providers. For example, the Beijing Modern Women’s Hospital offers a complete, government-subsidized, abortion “discount package.” It costs a mere $130.

Having a child out of wedlock in this society is considered a much greater dishonor than having an abortion. Along with this cultural attitude, the genocidal policies of the government, and the increasing erosion of fundamental morality have made abortion the preferred method of birth control in China. By the way, in China abortions are known as “artificial miscarriages.”

Until now, I haven’t explained how the flesh of dead babies is turned into powder. In order to make powdered flesh from dead babies, an aborted child is cut into small pieces which are then dried with high heat. After this process, the flesh is ground into powder, packaged, and shipped off.

Are you disgusted beyond words by this horror? You should be, and, morally speaking, you should realize that our country is headed in the same direction.

As a pastor, I have seen many acts of kindness in the ministry. Often the person who is receiving the attention is embarrassed and some even decline offers of help because it is so difficult for them to be on the receiving end, so to speak. This is a problem caused by pride, although we don’t usually think of our reluctance to receive help in this way. Declining the assistance of those in the Body of Christ because we are embarrassed is a foolish response; moreover, this kind of behavior leaves the need untouched. Consequently, the only thing accomplished is the preservation of a façade.

Of much greater significance, however, is the fact that resisting the help of our brothers and sisters interferes with the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the life of the giver. The kindness and generosity of believers is one of the primary ways in which God cares for us. When the Holy Spirit creates in us a sense of compassion, we become the means of God’s ministry to one another.

During the past eight months, our family has depended on the kindness of other believers for the essentials of life. It is true that receiving so much from so many has been tremendously humbling, but we have not been embarrassed at all. If we had let pride guide us, we would have declined help even though it was desperately needed. But by receiving the gifts of God’s people graciously, we have been part of God’s design to bless those who have helped even as He provided for us. We have had a ministry of receiving.

There is no shame in having to depend upon the gifts of your brothers and sisters in Christ. It is, as I just noted, a humbling position, but our difficult circumstances have created opportunities for God to bless the many who have responded in kindness. The time will come, Lord willing, when we will again be able to provide assistance to others, but for now, it is our place to honor the ministry of receiving that God has given to us at this point in our lives.

For a thousand years in Your sight are like yesterday when it passes by,

or as a watch in the night.

(Psalm 90:4)

Recently, I listened to a sermon by George Grant that was based on Genesis 8. In that chapter, we read about the end of Noah’s experience in the ark. For more than a year, Noah and his passengers endured all the trials and tribulations that you might imagine would arise in such a situation. Dr. Grant emphasizes, however, that when the day came for the door to be opened so that Noah could lead everyone out into the new world, his first inclination had nothing to do with himself. He did not think it was the time to walk around and relax, nor did Noah conclude that he had just accomplished some great feat; he did not heave a sigh of relief as if some tremendous burden had been lifted from his back. As soon as Noah left the ark, as Dr. Grant notes, he built an altar and offered sacrifices to God.

Noah’s initial concern was the recognition of God’s hand in that journey. The timing and extent of Noah’s ordeal are never mentioned as issues that troubled him. And this is in spite of the fact that God had not revealed His entire intention regarding the flood that covered the earth. Nothing was said about the duration of that adventure. When it was over, the primary thought in the heart of Noah was God’s worthiness to be worshiped.

As Dr. Grant stated in his sermon, this was such a fitting act given the circumstances. After that extended time of uncertainty, danger, and challenge, the worship of God was the most appropriate thing that could have been done. God had preserved Noah and all those with him in the ark. God had cleansed the earth of sin, as it were, and gave man a new beginning. Noah realized that he was part of a monumental work of God, the full implications of which were dawning on him, no doubt, as he stepped through the doorway and gazed upon the good earth.

Month after month, Noah remained faithful and carried out his duties waiting for God to accomplish His purposes. It was not a series of questions spoken by Noah that dominated those first moments after he stepped onto the dry land. Noah’s act of veneration captured the moment and Noah worshiped God because he believed that God had orchestrated all that had transpired. God had preserved all the occupants of the ark and had done so according to righteous purposes; and Noah was humbled and thankful to be involved in this display of God’s compassion and power.

How many times do we find ourselves passing through a challenging period during which we have little or no comprehension of what God is doing? And how many times are we tempted to think that no end is in sight? One of the most difficult obligations we face as Christians is accepting without question or alarm the timing of God. During challenging episodes, the weakness of our flesh and the limitations of our discernment can create barriers that prevent us from resting in God. But as the story of Noah teaches—and many other examples could be cited—God always has a purpose for whatever He ordains for us. Just because many days or weeks or even months pass, there is no reason to conclude that God has lost control or that He has been distracted. There is no justification for concluding that whatever it was that God planned to accomplish has been interrupted.

The key to confidence during our trials is trust in God’s promises as we fortify ourselves with the many wonderful examples of God’s merciful conduct that we find in the Bible and throughout history. We must remember that God’s timing is not subject to our perceptions. God only appoints and accomplishes that which is perfect. We will have no peace dwelling on the question of “how long?” Our peace will come from our conviction that all of our hours, days, years, and circumstances are held with tenderness and love in the hands of our heavenly Father for whom a thousand years is as a day.

Our redemption, according to God’s design, rests upon His willingness to provide a Substitute to pay for our sins without requiring any works or merit from us. Salvation, as the Bible teaches so clearly, is a gift of God. We are not required to earn it, nor are we able to contribute to it. We are saved apart from our absolute lack of merit (John 5:24; Rom. 3:23, 24; 6:23; Eph. 2:8-10; etc.). Throughout the history of Christ’s Church, however, this pure gospel has been opposed, misrepresented, and misinterpreted. Various efforts have been made to destroy the message that salvation is by grace, through faith alone, by which God receives all the glory. Fallen man seems determined to invent a system by which his labors contribute to our salvation.

A perversion of the gospel that is prevalent in some contemporary evangelical circles is clearly works-oriented, although its proponents insist that their perspective is not the “same old heresy” that has troubled the Church down through the centuries. In this more modern corruption of the gospel, the idea of “formula” dominates. By this I mean that some believers maintain that the salvation of our children is virtually guaranteed if a particular pattern (or formula) is followed. They insist that the Christian household must be characterized by a particular set of beliefs and practices in order to produce believing offspring.

Moreover, those who hold this idea that the salvation of children is largely a matter of parental obedience are ferociously defensive of their views to the point that non-conforming families are ostracized and considered to be in rebellion against the Scriptures. And if a Christian family should include a rebellious teenager or young adult at some point, blame is immediately and confidently placed on the backs of the parents who obviously failed to maintain a consistent application of all the necessary elements of the model.

Rigidness and intolerance are the chief attributes of this mechanical approach to raising children. As a result of this perspective, proponents maintain that all Christian households should basically function the same way, follow the same rules, and employ the same approach with every child regardless of differing personality traits or abilities or interests. It is certainly true that God assigns an incredible responsibility to parents, which includes certain principles that should, indeed, be found in every Christian home. But the Bible does not teach that the salvation of the child is in any way assured based upon the conduct of the parents. In fact, this would be contrary to the notion that salvation is of grace.

Every parent should desire to train a child to live in the fear of the Lord with thankfulness and humility. The crucial element involved in such an endeavor, however, is not within the realm of potential accomplishments for any parent. This is because salvation requires a renewed heart and only God can bring that the pass. It is possible, therefore, for parents to be consistent and diligent in raising their children according to the teaching of Scripture and still have a child who eventually refuses to continue in the faith or who conducts himself in ways contrary to the teaching of the Bible. This does not necessarily mean that the parents failed.

We should be very careful when assessing the relationship between parent and child when the child exhibits signs of rebellion. It may very well be that the parents have been negligent and allowed the fallen nature of the child to go unchecked, but we cannot allow ourselves to put confidence in a particular model of parenting when it comes to salvation of our children. We must not even approach the thought that we can obligate God to save our children based on our efforts as parents.

There are many dangerous consequences if such thinking prevails. I already mentioned the condemnation that is often heaped upon parents with disobedient or unfaithful children. Beyond that, there is also a genuine risk that the child will come to think in terms of reward or merit for pleasing behavior. The gospel, however, will not accommodate a belief that God may be required to reward parents with the salvation of their offspring. Grace is blessing apart from worthiness; grace is divine favor in spite of imperfection. Parents should endeavor to live in holiness and teach their children to do the same. But they should also constantly remember that salvation is God’s gift and should, therefore, prayerfully seek His mercy for their little ones every day. Simply put, grace is not an equation.

There are many negative consequences when Biblical doctrine is corrupted. One of those consequences has to do with terms found in Scripture. When a word that is associated with an important Biblical teaching is, instead, associated with heretical teaching, the word itself immediately raises a red flag when mentioned in other contexts. This creates a hindrance when orthodox teachers attempt to explain the Bible. Some of those listening may already have a preconceived notion about certain terms and are less likely to receive proper teaching without being affected by the flawed instruction previously heard.

In my recent experience, I have encountered this problem several times. Take the word “headship,” for example. The concept of headship is a vital teaching in the Bible. It is used to explain the nature of the relationship between Christ and the Church in which He is the chief authority, merciful guardian, and gracious provider. The word is also used to describe the nature of the relationship between a husband and wife, which is patterned after the relationship we have with the Savior. The husband is called to relate to his wife as Christ does to the Church. With Jesus as the supreme example of headship, this means that the husband will give of himself for the good of his wife. He will count her welfare as more important than his own and, demonstrating all of the loving attributes that the Church enjoys from our Head, will lead in a way that creates a strong and honorable marriage in the sight of God.

Unbiblical teaching, however, has caused “headship” to become a suspicious word in many circles. Some churches explain the idea of headship as if it grants a detached authority to husband. He is told that it is his responsibility to rule over his wife and to instruct her to follow him as one would follow a master. This distortion ruins a wonderful Biblical concept and, at the same time, introduces significant tension into a marriage. The wife inevitably begins to feel like an unappreciated servant rather than a beloved and secure companion.

To be clear, the husband does have authority in the marriage relationship, but it is defined by the example of the Savior, not by worldly examples of despots, tyrants, egomaniacs, and self-centered fools who want to take the phrase, “a man’s home is his castle,” literally. As I indicated, a husband should be looking to Christ constantly to learn how the head of a relationship is to conduct himself.

Another word that has been terribly abused in some Christian churches is “multi-generational.” In the Bible, this term refers to the process whereby one generation declares the greatness of God to the next. (cf. Judges 6:13; Psalm 44:1; 145:4; 2 Timothy 1:5) Testimony regarding the promises of God, His mighty deeds, and His love for His people is given in this manner down through the ages as history marches on.

But in some ministries, “multi-generational” has become a buzzword that is associated with a misleading assurance of salvation for the descendants of believers. The idea is that parents must raise their child according to a particular format, which supposedly comes from the Scriptures, in order to secure salvation for that child. This all depends, therefore, on the works of the present generation.

This viewpoint comes very close to teaching that God is obligated to save our children if we perform correctly as parents. Naturally, this approach causes parents to rely on their own efforts rather than the grace of God. It also makes external matters unreasonably important in the child’s relationship with God and the Church. This perspective gives a false confidence to parents and children alike and can become a modern-day expression of Phariseeism.

In my own ministry, I have seen eyebrows raised when I’ve used this word, “multi generational,” in a sermon or discussion. I often provide a disclaimer so that it is clear that I am not repeating the disturbing interpretation to which my listeners may have been subjected previously. Understood properly, of course, this concept is wonderfully encouraging to the people of God. It declares that God has provided for us and works for our good and keeps us as His own generation after generation. The present generation praises God in the hearing of the rising generation so that it, too, will know of the wisdom, power, and mercy of God. Multi-generationalism does not emphasize our works, as if we are attempting to earn a place in God’s family. On the contrary, this Biblical teaching emphasizes the amazing and abundant grace of God in Christ Jesus our Savior.

Other terms and doctrines, such as “patriarchy” and “Christian liberty,” could be cited as examples of this problem. The ones mentioned above, however, should be sufficient to inform us and put us on guard so that we prevent the corruption of the Bible’s teaching, if possible, or be prepared to correct it as God gives us opportunity.

10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; 11 not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; 12 rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, 13 contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.

(Hebrews 12:10-13)

In this passage the word translated “hospitality” is a combination of two terms, one meaning “love” and the other meaning “stranger.” The word “hospitality,” therefore, means “lover of strangers.” As we see this idea developed in the New Testament, it becomes obvious that this Christian characteristic is very broad in its application. The term is not limited in use to strangers only. It describes a desire to develop relationships with others, relationships that are mutually beneficial yet motivated by a sense of duty toward others. I want to emphasize, however, that desire alone is not sufficient. As in most things, the desire is the place to begin, but more has to follow.

Having been in the pastoral ministry for almost 30 years I would rank complaints about relationships as the number one grievance expressed by believers. “That church isn’t friendly.” “I don’t feel welcomed in that church.” “I don’t think people really care if I’m around.” “That church is full of cliques.” “I was sick for a week and no one called me.” Such representative statements could be multiplied. We are, when all is said and done, very self-centered creatures. Our analysis of just about everything in life begins with our own sense of comfort.

Where do I begin if I want to understand this issue more profitably? I don’t begin by looking at others and reaching conclusions about whether they have been as friendly and open to me as I think proper. It is this kind of approach that leads to the opinions I just repeated. It is essential, therefore, that we recognize that the Bible instructs us to practice hospitality, it does not instruct us to judge the hospitality of others.

Typically, when we think of hospitality, we think of having someone in our home for a meal. Without question, that is one of the primary ways in which we show hospitality. Eating is a fundamental human activity and when you share that time with someone, you are involving them in one of your most basic habits in life. So, this is an ideal way to develop relationships. But if, at the heart of this characteristic is the desire to build relationships, then we must admit that sharing a meal, while it might be one of the most natural ways of showing hospitality, is not by any means the only way. The truth is, there are a multitude of activities that would amount to hospitality. Just about anything done for the good of another qualifies. All such efforts contribute to the building of relationships.

In summary, hospitality is not limited to having people over for dinner. It is about getting involved in the lives of others in ways that allow you to serve them and genuinely help them. Would you say that you are a hospitable person?

A Few Good Men

Historically, certain institutions in our culture have been characterized by male leadership. In the family, for example, men have been viewed as heads of homes responsible for protecting and providing for the members of the household. This position requires self-discipline and self-sacrifice in order to establish and maintain a prosperous and happy home. The obligations required of men emphasize some particularly masculine traits, such as bravery and strength. And, of course, the Designer of marriage and family set before men the inspiring example of our Savior. To match the pattern set down in Scripture, a man has to become a servant who lives and labors for the good of his wife and children.

Another institution historically characterized by masculinity is the military. Entering combat for the sake of protecting others has always been a calling that is distinctively male. We can go back as far as we like in history and we will discover that warfare in defense of nations has been dominated almost entirely by men. As indicated above, this is in keeping with the nature of masculinity as defined by God. Men are supposed to fight for country and home. When females are involved in this endeavor, it has usually been in support roles, not positions on the front line. This, too, is in keeping with God’s design of females.

Both of these institutions, in which men occupy unique positions that carry unique responsibilities, have been dramatically altered by homosexual activists and their political supporters. Marriage has always been defined as an arrangement in which a man pledges himself to a woman and a woman pledges herself to a man. As husband and wife, they establish a home, which normally includes children. Although the will of God in this matter remains what it has always been since the creation of Adam and Eve, our culture is rapidly adopting a view of marriage and family that is absolutely contrary to Scripture.

Marriage is being redefined to accommodate men marrying one another and women marrying one another. And since it is impossible for two men or two women to produce offspring, they have resorted to various procedures by which children can be obtained. Such relationships are now sanctioned as “families.” This wholesale reconstruction of marriage and family is enjoying the increasing protection of law. In a very short amount of time, the homosexual agenda has advanced to levels that now profoundly and detrimentally affect the fabric of our society and, consequently, the future of this nation.

Action being taken by the present administration in Washington has hastened a similar corruption of our military forces. A substantial majority of those who are actually doing the fighting clearly oppose allowing homosexuals to serve openly in their ranks. But this opinion is simply ignored and the agenda progresses. Effeminate men are not suited for combat and the close quarters shared by soldiers is not the place for both heterosexual and openly homosexual men. This decision is bound to have the same kind of destructive impact as what we’re seeing in regard to the institution of marriage.

There are now no institutions in our culture that are distinctively male in character. This might be acceptable if God had not created the sexes with different, yet complementary, characteristics and abilities. The compromise of the military represents an enormously significant step forward for the homosexual strategy, which aims to erase all restrictions, both moral and practical, that have heretofore restrained the widespread acceptance of that which the Scripture condemns.