Remembering Where We’re Going

I’m living in the 18th house I’ve lived in.  I’m 32 years old and I’ve never lived at any one place for more than 3 years.  I was thinking about that as I enjoyed this feeling I’ve been having all day.  It’s a feeling of longing for home.  For the place I belong.  The place I fit.  

I’m in the book of Deuteronomy right now, and I’m reading Moses recounting to the Israelites their long journey to this land God had set aside for them.  He knew their sin would sever them from it, but that’s not what I’m thinking about right now.  The picture I have in my head is of Moses trekking this long, providentially hard road to the Promised Home.  Despite missteps and faithlessness and sin and fears and scoffers and enemies and hunger, Moses clung to the Promise and to the One who made it.  And day after day, month after month, year after year after year he wound his way to the spot where he’d been called, right there on the mountain where God would bury him.  

And of course someday raise him.   

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired.  Raising kids isn’t easy, and neither is being a spouse or an employee, and most of all being a Christian is hard.  I forget, a couple of days a week, probably, to remember what I’m actually walking for.  I forget to hope for the day when I can meet Him face to face.  I forget what it was like to long for the return of Christ so deeply you can’t put words to it.  To know that your truest home isn’t in some nostalgic past but in the future.  To have a sweet sorrow in your heart that He hasn’t come yet but will.  I drive to work and drive home and discipline kids and pay bills and do good things as though they’re only things, and I drift from that hope.  The hope that feels magic when you let it out.  

Home.  There is a place, Christian, where we fit.  There is a family we were made to join.  There is a seat at a great banquet table with my name on it, and there will be brothers and sisters and friends all around.  And a God I was made to enjoy.  

Home, Christian. 

This road leads somewhere.  Eyes up.  We’re not just wandering through the desert this time.  


Home Education:  Some Things I Teach My Kids

I’m going to write a few posts on home education.  They won’t be intended to tell everyone everywhere that they shouldn’t send their kids to public school.  First of all, some people (single parents, for instance) may have to.  Secondly, I don’t think I could say that and be faithful to Christ’s Word.  There’s no chapter and verse that say it’s always sinful to send your kids to a public schoolhouse.  All I’m going to do is try to plainly expound some of my own convictions and thoughts on parenting and education, all of which played into why we home educate our 4 kids. 

Today’s is a simple collection of things my wife and I teach our kids, around the dinner table and when we’re driving somewhere and during family worship and while we’re running around the backyard, that I believe American public schools would undermine or outright contradict.  I write this as somebody who graduated with an undergrad education degree and spent a year teaching middle school in inner city Cincinnati before moving to ministry.  I love and respect many of the teachers I’ve known, and I love education.  But there is no doubt in my mind that the vast machine of American public education, from its Washington headwaters through the majority of the colleges raising up its teachers down to the local schools themselves, is teaching many things the Bible-believing Christian would say are false.  And in other respects American public education is simply telling a different story about what the world is, why it exists, and who we are in it.  

We who are Christians need to consider this.  Think about it.  Pray for change in it.  We can’t just accept, without thoughtful and prayerful reflection, that dropping our kids off at a building to be taught by people we don’t really know for 6-8 hours 5 days a week is the only way to go.  It may be what many faithful brothers and sisters in Christ choose, but it is not the only option, and it certainly is not the norm throughout most of human history.  

Again, for today’s post I’ll simply offer some very important things I teach my children that I think my local public school would (perhaps unintentionally) undermine or deny.

  • “God made people.”

This is fundamental to how you will view yourself and how you will approach your neighbors.  Humans did not come from mere natural selection; they were and are made by a good Creator.  God put humans on this planet, and God knits individual humans together in the womb.  

  • “Every human is valuable because they are all made in God’s image.”

Humans are not a blight on the planet; they are the most valuable thing on it.  And each of them, from the womb to a nursing home, is valuable, whether anyone thinks so or not.  

  • “God is good, He saves bad people through faith in Jesus, and someday He’ll make this scarred world totally all better.”

Our kids aren’t born good, and the world around them isn’t so rosy, either.  They need a Savior, so do all their friends and neighbors, and so does this groaning creation.   

  • “It is good to know things because God made us to know things, He made the world we can know about, and He is a God of truth.”

Education isn’t just about getting a good job so you can have more disposable income.  It’s about knowing God and knowing His world.  We want to read good books and do well at math and eventually be good at our vocation and spend money wisely and have a lot of fun all to the glory of Jesus.  We want to learn and love and have the full human experience as people who intimately know the God who made humans.  

  • “A boy is someone God made with special inside and outside boy pieces, and a girl is someone God made with special inside and outside girl pieces.  And God has special things for boys to do and be and special things for girls to do and be.  But there are a lot of things that both boys and girls should do and be.”

No one is a boy by choice.  No one is a girl by choice.  Neither is it by therapy or surgery or self-identification.  God made (and makes) human beings male and female, and God is good and wise.  

  • “Sin brings death, Jesus brings life.”

Things that are evil are evil, and things that are good are good.  This is basic human knowledge.  It is fundamental to approaching the world with wisdom.  Good and evil are not opinions; they spring from the very character of God.  

I’m responsible for the education of my children, and I want them to know the most important things in the world.  I want them to know them through and through, and to love them from their deepest hearts.  I want them to know the God that authored them, the God who made the wide and interesting and unexpected world around them, the God who can forgive and remake them through His good plan called the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  

We’ve been home educating each of these kids He’s given us since his or her first drive home from Good Samaritan Hospital.  The truth is we are always walking them through this world of math and science and words and art as best we can with the help of the God of Truth, who by mercy happens to be our Father and Friend and Lord.  Whether we’re pumping gas or reading a book or cleaning the living room or having a fight, our little kids are always learning something for us.  Sometimes I just have to repent of what it is!  But each of us who are parents are already home educating to some degree; the question is just whether we’re also handing the reigns to someone who will back up what we’re giving to them.  

For me, every day the goal is for my kids to see a little bit better the world and her Maker.  And the view from that perch is something I want to take great care to protect.  

60 Seconds On the Best Answer for Racial Hate

A political solution cannot thoroughly revolve a moral problem.  Moral problems involve what a man loves, what he hates, why his heart wants one thing over another and why it leads him to one action instead of another.  Racial hatred involves selfishness, contempt, anger, fear.  These things can’t be changed in a man by legislation, though they can certainly be restrained or punished by it.  We should have political solutions, and we should have laws.  But we shouldn’t expect them to be the answer.  They can’t rewrite a man’s heart.  One of the great lessons of Holy Scripture is that law, though good, cannot change a man.  

Racial hatred is a sin against God and a sin against neighbor.  It is enough to send a man to eternal Hell.  Just as important, it is something that can be forgiven and addressed in a man by the Father, Son, and Spirit.  Racial hatred is sin, and in order to be successfully reckoned with it must be reckoned with as sin.  God must be involved if a hateful man is to be fully and finally reclaimed.  There is no one else who can offer him final forgiveness, and there is no one else who can fundamentally change him.  The current climate sees legislation as the most complete answer, which implies that government is God.  But government is not God.  It is good (or at least is called to be), but it is not God.  Government cannot change what a man loves or hates, through laws or through any other means.  If God’s Law could not change a man’s dead heart, how can man’s?  

A political solution to racial animosity will not be the last one.  We who know Jesus have something much more fundamentally transformative to offer the racially hateful:  A God who can pardon their evil and then make them something new. 

We have a better and truer Gospel.  

Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called ‘Uncircumcision’ by the so-called ‘Circumcision,’ which is performed in the flesh by human hands — remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.  But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.  For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity.  And He came and preached peace to you who were far away, and peace to those who were near; for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father.  So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.

Ephesians 2:11-12

60 Seconds for Sunday

The church.  

We have the most important message in the world.  It is that God can take bad, broken people and remake them.  And that He likes doing this.  It is His (in two senses of the word) passion.  It is what He died to do, and what He rose to enjoy.  

The message we have to proclaim, to sing, to eat and drink and live out is that God has come to do an amazing thing, and that that thing is very nearly done.  There is only one note left to sing, and it is one that will never be quieted.  God came to reclaim sinners for Himself, and in so doing to nail every last one of their sins to His own bloody Cross.  Now we await His second great act, His returning to put the finishing touches on death’s obituary.  He has come, He is coming again, and He is taking on new friends.  

The church.  

We have the most important message in the world:  God is good.  And because He is good, He has chosen to forgive many who have wronged Him.  Any who trust in Jesus Christ, who lay themselves bare to Him as Lord of all, will be remade and resurrected.  In every sense of the phrase, they will enter eternity new creations.  

The church.  

We are the people of His message.  We have been formed from it and for it.  We are to speak it to all who will listen, and many who will not.  Our God is good, and He is patient, and He is seeking worshipers.  He has called us to help.    

The church.  

We are the Church of God, the Bride of Jesus Christ.  And we have an astonishing message:  Come with us, for our God can bring you home.  

A Foolish Transgender Ruling

Last week, a visiting Juvenile Court judge in Hamilton County ruled in favor of parents losing custody of their 17-year-old.  The reason?  They would not allow their minor child to pursue transgender surgeries and therapies at Children’s Hospital in Cincinnati.  

A quote from Judge Hendon and the article:  

The family would have been best served if this could have been settled within the family after all parties had ample exposure to the reality of the fact that the child truly may be gender nonconforming and has a legitimate right to pursue life with a different gender identity than the one assigned at birth,’ she said.

Hendon also called on state lawmakers to craft legislation that would give the juvenile courts a framework to evaluate a juvenile’s right to consent to gender therapy.

The judge took away the minor because the parents would not permit him to pursue genital mutilation surgery, hormone transplants, etc., and then recommended that my state pass laws to make it easier for juveniles to supercede their parents if they will not support transgender surgeries or therapies. 

Let me say first that feelings and desires can often be self-destructive.  A boy desiring to turn himself into a girl through mutilation or hormone transplants is simply one extreme example, but my own desire to give into anger or selfishnessis another.  Feelings do not determine reality or morality.  Courts don’t have the authority to tell parents they must let their children receive hormone transplants or genital mutilation, regardless of whether the child wants it.  If a 17-year-old felt like he was really an amputee despite the fact that in reality he had two healthy arms, and he wanted to have one arm surgically removed, the parents would be right to keep that from happening.  And a court would be wrong in pretending it was right, or that it had the authority, to step in.  

Secondly, Judge Hendon’s assertion about gender being “assigned” is incorrect.  Gender is not given out like a social security number.  That is not reality, nor is it fact, nor is it basis for this sort of act.  

But my sadness and anger isn’t just that the Hamilton County Juvenile Court grossly overstepped its authority.  It isn’t merely that a powerful judge is wrong on what “gender” is and used that belief as a basis for removing a minor from his parents’ custody.  

No, I’m also angry for the kid.  

It isn’t simply that cutting off your penis or breasts in order to act like a different gender is sinful and self-destructive and foolish.   It’s all those things, but there’s something else.  It’s too small.   Our world has a habit of offering promises it can’t deliver on.   “Do this and you’ll be better.  I promise.”

Jesus Christ has a better offer.  He delivers on every last promise He makes.  “I made you.  I know what’s evil and broken and scary inside you.  And I came to die and be raised to fix such things.  But the first step is to come to me.  All other saviors are liars.”

Mutilating yourself is sinful and foolish.  But it’s also impotent.   It can’t resolve what our world currently promises it can.  This young person made in the image of God has been promised a false bill of goods, and that’s what gets the dad and pastor and former teacher in me worked up.  If I could spend time with him, after listening to him for as long as he wanted to talk, that’s what I’d tell him.  “This is sinful, but it also won’t fix what you think it will.   It won’t heal what they’re telling you it will.

“Jesus has a better offer.  And I know to the marrow in my bones He can deliver.”

This Man Deserves It

For all his fornications, he is guilty.  For his selfish manipulations and lusts, every teenage violation of his future wife, he is unquestionably guilty. 

For all of his anger, his petty hatreds and grudges (which he so often carries deep under his skin, where he thinks no one can see), he is guilty.  The thoughts he sometimes has about people, the nastiness he wages against his fellow humans right there inside his skull, is appalling.  

For the thousands and thousands of lies he has told, too.  Big ones as a child and a young man, lies so ridiculous they’d be laughable if lying weren’t a sin against the God who always tells the truth.  And, as he’s gotten older, subtler ones.  Exaggerations, and little expressions on the face which were calculated to get a response but made to look like genuine emotion.    

And, oh, the pride.  Deep, poisonous, nearly constant pride.  Always believing he is more worthy of his needs being met than another.  Always making allowances for himself that he would never make for someone else.  The quiet belief he nurses in his heart that the reason the fallen brother or sister has tumbled is that he or she wasn’t quite enough like him.  The self-centered, self-focused, self-righteous clamoring for his own reputation, his own pleasure, his own validation without half as much, a tenth as much regard for the well-being of others.  Oh, believe me, this one is proud.  

For the cowardice, the meanness, the vengefulness, this man is irrefutably guilty. No one, not even God Himself can deny that, on his own standing, this Wade Thomas Jr, born at Good Samaritan Hospital in the Year of Our Lord 1985 (and having sinned every year since) is guilty as (and of) sin. 

There is no excuse.  No justification.  He had no valid reason for lust and brazen manipulation and gossip and deceit, he has no just cause for his anger and bitterness and idolatry of heart.  His head is in his hands because he knows this.  There is no defense he can mount.  There is no mitigating factor that will justify his willful, ignorant, faithless, rebellious wickedness.  

None.  He is guilty. 


And now let this one speak.  

For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are of sound mind, it is for you.  For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.  Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer.  Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.  Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.  Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.  He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

2 Corinthians 5:13-21

Death is the sentence.  The serpent knew it in the Garden, though of course he lied (he always does).  Sin brings death, the only thing it can bring.  And so death is the sentence for Wade.  Shameful, inglorious, painful and God-forsaken death.  God gave life, sin brings death.  So Wade is owed it.  He merits it.  In at least one sense, he has asked for it.  

The executioner is ready.  The crowd is assembled.  

But the guilty man is not the one to die.  

When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.

Colossians 2:13-14

Every guilt the serpent lays on this man is valid.  He sinned.  He did.  He did rage at his brethren and sin sexually and deceive people and play out his proud hypocrisy in the most sinister of ways.  If he isn’t the chief of sinners, he is certainly a lieutenant.  But here is where the serpent plays into his own undoing:  Since he is the father of lies, he rarely expects the full, undiluted, 80-proof truth.  When God says He loved this man, He really meant it.  And when He pledged from love, right there in that sin-stained Garden, that a son of man would crush this ancient liar’s head, He wasn’t just talking to talk.  

This love from God didn’t hinge on Wade’s faithfulness.  It preceded his faithfulness.  Beyond that, it superceded his unfaithfulness.  This God slew the dragon by being slain, and He gave pardon by taking on punishment.  He undid the sin and death Wade wrought by becoming sin and then dying. 

This God made Wade, gave Him a Law, watched him break it, and then bore the punishment Himself.  He is exactly who He has always claimed to be:  Good, holy, loving, and just.  And the truth will always undo a liar.  And, as the saying goes, it is also quite likely to set free.  

And so while Wade is, in at least one sense, guilty, the charge will not stand.  You cannot punish two men for his crimes.  The debt is real, but it is no longer his.  

The criminal’s cross has already been stained with man’s blood.  And the tomb has already had the body laid in it.  Sin brings death, and death it has brought.  Wade deserves to die, but in this great exchange called the Gospel, he gets to live.  By the grace of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, he has been given unshakeable, eternal life.  

And the guarantee of that gift is that his Jesus Himself did not stay dead.  Look over there, on that hill.  

Like the charges against this guilty man, both cross and tomb are by now quite empty.  

More Than Good Works

The world does not need more mere good works.  

Being a nice man can’t get me eternal life.  Having solid character won’t make me right with my Creator.  It won’t unstain what I’ve stained.  Being a good guy won’t fix me.  

We are in a much deeper hole than common wisdom suggests.  And a much different kind of hole.  Specifically, this hole is a grave.  

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.  Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.

Ephesians 2:1-3

We are born spiritually dead, all of us.  Lovely and human and valuable, but also wicked and spiritually dead.  And so the world needs much more than deeds of kindness.  The Middle Ages had deeds of kindness.  But what they thirsted for was a power that their churches had long obscured, and the Reformation was the rain that fell on that parched ground.  

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.  For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘But the righteous man shall live by faith.’

Romans 1:16-17

The world needs salvation.  It needs regeneration.  It needs people who have been taken as one thing and remade into another.  And since mere good works won’t do, a mere teacher won’t do.  It needs someone who can undo what we have done and who can remake us from the feet up.  

For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority; and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.  When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.

Colossians 2:9-14

Only God can remake a man.  Only God can kill the worst in him and bring him back something better, and not only better but something altogether different.  Only God can pay a man’s eternal debt, a debt incurred from breaking the best of laws, willfully and daily.  

The world doesn’t need more mere good works.  The world needs the power of God.  It needs a Messiah, a Χριστός.  It needs someone who will do what we cannot, and who can make us what we should be.

The world needs something it cannot offer itself:  A death and a resurrection.  A divine rescue.  It’s a great need.  Impossible, apart from a miracle.  

But thankfully the only thing that can outpace that need is His grace.  

As deep as our grave is, His grace is deeper still.  

We have the Gospel we need.  

But what does it say?  ‘The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart’ —that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.  For the Scripture says, ‘Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.’  For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; for ‘Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.’

Romans 10:8-13