How Do I Worship From the Sodom and Gomorrah Story?


What do I do with passages in the Bible like this?

The sun had risen on the earth when Lot came to Zoar.  Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the Lord out of heaven.  And He overthrew those cities, and all the valley, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground.

Genesis 19:23-25

Or this one?

Who is this who comes from Edom, in crimsoned garments from Bozrah, He who is splendid in his apparel, marching in the greatness of his strength?  ‘It is I, speaking in righteousness, mighty to save.’  Why is your apparel red, and your garments like his who treads in the winepress?  ‘I have trodden the winepress alone, and from the peoples no one was with me; I trod them in my anger and trampled them in my wrath; their lifeblood spattered on my garments, and stained all my apparel.  For the day of vengeance was in my heart, and my year of redemption had come.  I looked, but there was no one to help; I was appalled, but there was no one to uphold; so my own arm brought me salvation, and my wrath upheld me.  I trampled down the peoples in my anger; I made them drunk in my wrath, and I poured out their lifeblood on the earth.’

Isaiah 63:1-6

Well, let me first give the answer I’d give my children:  Believe them.  God says here in the Isaiah one, for instance, that He has vengeance to be poured out on the nations.  He is God, so I am to believe Him.  

But I can lend a hand when it comes to passages that aren’t as plain Jane God-is-talking-and-telling-me-what-He’s-done-or-going-to-do by expanding on that a little.  So, if the questions are like this:

“What do I generally do with passages and stories in the Bible that talk about God’s wrath?  How do I worship from them?  How do I apply them to my heart?  How do I point my kids to Jesus with the Sodom and Gomorrah story when we come to it in family worship?”

Well, I’d start my answer with a question of my own to get to the heart of the matter:

“What is the Bible?”

The Bible is not a self-help book.  The Bible is not a collection of advice.  The Bible is not the best attempts of human beings to understand God.  The Bible is the Word of the only living God, and that Word is also a story that is all about Jesus.

You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me.

Jesus, in John 5:39

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.  And after fasting forty days and forty nights, He was hungry.  And the tempter came and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.’  But He answered, ‘It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’

Matthew 4:1-4

So the Bible is God’s Word, His communication to human beings, and it is also a story that is all about Jesus Christ.

Well, if that is what the Bible is, then when we get to parts that are about God’s vengeance and wrath, His good anger towards sin, God must be telling us humans something that is ultimately about Jesus.

Okay, fair enough, Wade.  I’m with you so far.  But what?  What is He telling me about Jesus that I should be applying to my heart or teaching my kids or preaching from my pulpit in the stories and the passages like the ones below?

  • The Flood in Genesis, when He destroys all the land animals and people who have the breath of life, all except those on the Ark, because of sin.
  • The judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah, when He destroys two wicked cities because there aren’t any righteous people in them except for one little family.
  • The judgment laid on Israel and Judah when they are conquered and stripped bare and many slaughtered for their idolatry an wickedness, though eventually a remnant get to return home in peace.

Well, there are certainly more than one thing, but I will offer what I think might be the most important one:  God is showing us the unimaginably deep cup of ferocious good anger that Jesus took on Himself.  God is showing us what Jesus bore in order to spare those who would believe in Him.  

And He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, ‘Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me.  Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.’  And there appeared to Him an angel from heaven, strengthening Him.  And being in agony He prayed more earnestly; and His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.

Luke 22:41-44

Jesus was in agony in the Garden of Gathsemane because He was about to be slain on a Roman Cross for all who would believe in Him.  He was less than 24 hours away from being forsaken by God so that we wouldn’t have to be.  He was about to have the sins of the world laid on His scarred and innocent back.  I believe Jesus experienced more shame, more pain, more wrath than any human being ever has or ever will, and He was totally undeserving of it.  God chose, before the foundation of the world, to put Himself forward and receive His own vengeance so that those who trust in Jesus could be spared.  Like Noah and those on the Ark, we are rescued from the raging sea of God’s judgment.  Like Lot and his daughters, we are plucked from the fire even though we are undeserving.  Like Ezra and Nehemiah and Zerubbabel and Sheshbazzar, we who have believed get to go home to God’s country despite our past sins.  And it is all because Jesus bore the flood of God’s wrath for our evils.  He received the fire that Sodom did.  He was exiled so that we could come home.

So what do I do with the stories and passages about God’s shocking vengeance?

I thank the living and loving God that Jesus bore that vengeance for me on the Cross.  Jesus fulfilled God’s Law so that I can receive His Gospel.  He took my sin’s penalty of death so that I can have His righteousness’ wage of life.

Jesus received the justice so that I can receive the mercy.

The cup my Jesus drank is one I am now spared.  And someday we will both get to share a far different one at a very special banquet table, one that He has been preparing for some time.

Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, ‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!’  And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, ‘To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!’  And the four living creatures said, ‘Amen!’ and the elders fell down and worshiped.

Revelation 5:11-14

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She Must Not Be Silent


It seems to me that 21st century Western culture says that the church may be fine, but should stay in its own sphere and not really effect public life.  By contrast, God says that the church is His instrument of salvation and reconciliation in the world, and that, however much Hell would like to triumph over her, she will stand forever.  

Two very different views.  

Our day and place seem to view the Christian church with ambivalence mixed with a smidgen of scorn.  I argue that the Bible paints her as a blemished but divine sword, being forged (and slowly refined) in a fire to cut through Hell and sin and death and damnation.  She is an imperfect instrument being used perfectly.  She is a flawed body whose Head (Jesus Christ) knows exactly what He is doing.  The church is not a joke.  She is not irrelevant.  She should not stay in her Sunday school room and leave the world to do what it thinks best.  

She has the only message of freedom to an enslaved world, and she should not stay silent, no matter what the world says.  

“But we don’t want you speaking about that sin.”

You mean that thing over there, the one that will kill you and those around you?  That evil that promises God’s wrath on you and will afflict our fellow human beings and will bring judgment on our nation?  That’s the one you want us to pipe down about?  Well then I dare say our finger is actually on a very important nerve there, I’m afraid.  For I venture to say there is a reason you want us to stay quiet about that sin, as opposed to others.  

“But you must not carry that into work or public life.”

You mean I should check my Savior at the door, then?  I’m sorry, but that’s the very thing I must not do.  Both for your good and for mine.

“But you churches don’t even agree amongst yourselves.”

In some ways and in some things we don’t, it’s true.  But if we believe and proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we are a part of His massive body, His Church.  And He is faithful to help us speak His Word, albeit imperfectly, for the salvation of souls and the blessing of the world, even though each of our individual churches or denominations is almost certainly honestly wrong about some things.  The beautiful thing is that His Word is clearest where it is most crucial, and so Gospel-preaching churches will always be able to agree where it matters most:  The sinfulness of man, the perfectness of Christ, His death and resurrection as God and God’s Son to save those who will believe in Him, and His future return to make all things right.  

The church of Jesus Christ should not seek to be as harmless and quiet as our present culture would like her to be.  True, she is not a belligerent Bride, but she absolutely shares the convictions and the mission of her Husband:  The rescue and repentance of sinners to the glory of God.  

Christian churches, we are not to stay in a corner and do our best to not to bother anybody.  Read the book of Acts.  We have a grand mission.  And though it will frustrate many who are hardhearted (like our Savior frustrated many who were hardhearted), it will transform the lives of many others forever.   

We have a calling that only we can perform.  

And we cannot perform it by being silent. 

A Calling, Teaching, Caring Messiah

God’s people were waiting for the χριστος.  The Christ.  The Messiah.  

So picture yourself as a God-fearing Jew at the beginning of the first century (the time when Jesus came and the New Testament starts).   You know the story of the universe.   You would know that a good God, the only God, made the world, that humans turned against Him in sin, and that He had chosen a people for Himself out of all the earth (Israel).   You’d know that He had promised to make everything right, and to begin that by sending a Messiah, a χριστος. And now, as you wait for that part of His story to start, with you and your family and all your people stuck under the boot of a pagan (Roman) empire, here comes a young man from a tiny rural, out-of-the-way town called “Nazareth.”  He’s the supposed son of a carpenter.  And He’s called a few fishermen from the lake to join Him.  And now someone rushes to tell you that this man, making a little bit of a stir out here in Galilee, is the long-awaited Prince of God, the Messiah come to make the world right. 

Hmm…

We’re preaching through the Gospel According to Mark, the second book in the New Testament, as Velocity Church, and we’re in Mark 1.  

You see at least three strands of the relationship between Jesus, this Messiah, and people in Mark 1.  Three steps Jesus takes towards human beings.  

  • He calls people. 

Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen.  And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.’  And immediately they left their nets and followed him.  And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets.  And immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him.

Mark 1:16-20

Jesus came to Earth to call individuals to Himself, to change each of them, and to make out of them a new family and Kingdom.  This man did not come merely come to teach religion classes in a room at an expensive school. And He did not come just to start a new country. And He did not come merely to write books or give speeches.  This is not Muhammad or Buddha or George Washington or Gandhi or Socrates or Oprah.  Jesus Christ came to save individual men and women from their sins.  This man came to call, spill His blood for, remake, and resurrect human souls. He came to do what only a God can do. 

And He does it out of grace.  

If you claim Christ and yet think there is something in you that made Jesus choose you, you don’t yet understand (or perhaps believe) the Gospel. 

Simon Peter was not called by Jesus because of his abilities.  James and John were not told to leave their nets and the hired hands and their father because Jesus looked into their hearts and saw something worthy.  There is nothing in any of us that is worthy!  Hear me:  There is nothing in you that is worthy!   The ultimate reason any of us were called and brought into this Kingdom is the sheer, unfathomable grace of God. 

What does this mean for your own self-understanding?  Christianare not treasured because of what you are or what you chose or what you perform or what you bring to the team.  You are treasured because God has set His love on you in Christ (see:  Deuteronomy 7:6-8, Deuteronomy 10:12-15, or Ephesians 2:8-10)
What does this mean for your evangelism?  Don’t try to get someone to manifest some quality or to start doing some thing in order to get him ready to become a Christian.   Proclaim Jesus to him!   There is no quality that you can get a person to manifest that will make them attractive to God so that He’ll then save him.  Preach Christ crucified to him, and plead with him to repent and believe the Gospel.

God’s called hookers and blasphemers and murderers and dirty, rotten thieves.  One of the most surprising things Jesus does is shut the mouth of every drug dealer and adulterer and scoundrel who would say, “He can’t change someone like me.”  And just as fast He’ll stop the tongues of the proud people who shake their heads and think, “He won’t save someone like that. Not someone like that.”  This Jesus can hold up prostitutes like Rahab and murderers like David and blasphemers like Paul and say, “No? Watch me.”

Also, see that Jesus is the One who makes these brothers fishers of men.  They do not do it by their own wills or strength (John 1:10-13).  Jesus is saying, “Follow me, and I will make you what you could never make yourself.  I will be what you could never be.”  You cannot make yourself a fisher of men.  You cannot make yourself a Christian.  These men did not call themselves and they did not cause themselves to be born again.  This God offers to do what we can’t, what we never could.  He does not offer to help hurt men heal themselves.  He offers to bring dead men to life.

When we talk about God making people fishers of men or God using each of us, some of you who are Christians probably think “How could He use me?”  And others of you might think, “How couldn’t He use me?”  And both of you need to be reminded of the same thing:   You were brought into this family because of His love for you, not because of your love for Him.  You were brought into this Kingdom because of His goodness, not because of your skills.  He did not call you because of who you are and what you’ve done.   He called you despite who you are and what you’ve done. 

And let’s think about this:  Jesus told them to follow.  He didn’t make a suggestion.

Jesus is not merely our buddy.   He’s our Lord.  He told these guys to leave their livelihoods. 

And Jesus is better than whatever He costs you. 

 These guys obeyed Jesus.  They saw enough in Jesus that they left at a word.  They left their jobs. Jesus Is worth leaving anything this world has to offer.   A life of being poor or disgraced for Jesus is better than a life of awards or accolades without Jesus.   It’d be better for me to be a poor old fisherman for Christ than to be a world’s king without Him.  John the Baptist had his head chopped off and put on a plate as a joke at a king’s party for a bunch of drunken unbelievers.  That’s how John’s life of living for God ended.   But here’s the thing:   John’s resurrected body will be enjoying Jesus on the new earth a billion years after every one of that wicked king’s palaces and crowns and achievements are nothing more than dead dust and old memories.  Nobody at that party knew it at the time, but John had chosen the better life.  It is better to be a nothing for Jesus and forgotten by men and then to be everything to men and unknown by Jesus. 

Think about what it means to be owned by Jesus.  To be redefined by Jesus.  To be totally governed by Him.  To have all your life’s meaning rooted in Him.  That is what being a disciple of Jesus is.   You are no longer your own.  You are no longer primarily an American or an IT guy or a Thomas or a Democrat or a Republican or a Bengals fan or a high school dropout or a winner or a loser or a salesman or a mom. You are primarily His.  

God calls us as disciples of Christ to do things. One of them seen here:  To send us out to make more disciples. 

We are not called merely for our own sake. We are called to make more disciples. 

How beautiful is this, that God would use us?   Shallow, tired, weak, petty, lonely, fake, angry, scared, scarred people like us?  That He would call us to so miraculous a thing as making more sons and daughters through His blood-bought grace?  We who’ve been truly saved are called to go and preach and watch the grace and Spirit of God use us to make more sons and daughters of God.

  •  He teaches people.   

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel…’. And they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and was teaching. 

Mark 1:14-15, 2 

This Jesus came to teach people who God was, what He was doing, how He was going to do it, and why.  We all believe in something.  Humans are designed to act on belief.  We don’t know everything and so we have to act on belief.  And since Romans 1 says we all know God is there, we all also have theologies.  

We all believe and we all have specific beliefs about God.  Every human being, whether they recognize it or not, has a philosophy about how the world works and how to get what he wants and what God is like.  And Jesus came to undermine all of our false ways of thinking and to teach people the true story of the universe:  That the Father, Son, and Spirit who made all things are totally good, are going to make things right, and are bringing men and women into the Kingdom of God by grace through faith in Jesus. 

Right belief leads to right behavior.  This is why teaching is made out to be so essential in your New Testament.  Jesus absolutely prioritized teaching people about who God was, what He was doing, how He was doing it, and why. 

We are always learning and internalizing something.  We are always becoming more of something.  Like plants, we are always growing in the direction of something.  Even if we are just watching videos on a Smart Phone, we are always, always teaching our hearts to love something, treasure something, enjoy something, hate something, fear something.   We are always training our minds and our hearts to navigate the world in some way.  

An addict may teach his heart to run from pain by getting high.  A workaholic may teach himself to find worth in what he can achieve in his career.  A woman living in sexual immorality may teach herself to find value in the attention of a man she isn’t married to.   A lazy man may teach himself that life gets no better than a screen making him giggle.  We are always being taught and teaching ourselves.  And so even a Christian’s heart and mind must be constantly retaught to think and to feel rightly.   

And in the middle of a world with people believing false things, here comes Jesus.  “You think life is no more than food and fighting and family and a job and gossip and pleasure and a little power over other people and money and games…  That’s not life. You are missing the truest treasure.  Let me show you where life really is.”  And that is Christian teaching!  That is Bible teaching.  This is what true theology is!   It isn’t cold, sterile, religious math equations.  It’s teaching your heart where life is, and then teaching other hearts where you found it. 

So this Jesus is teaching because He wants people brought into relationship with God, and by God’s design this involves faith in a God people must know and know about.  This reconciliation to God involves trusting Him.  And you cannot trust a God you have not been taught about. You cannot believe a message you have not heard.  You cannot live out a totally uninformed faith. 

And it is Jesus teaching this.  The messenger delivering this Message is God and the Son of God.

Jesus has the authority to declare absolute truth (1:22).

And this is what astonished these people.  Mark tells us things like, “For He taught as one who had authority, and not as the scribes…”  The religiosity scribes may have had a measure of power, but they didn’t have this.  

Imagine being this demon-infested man, or one of the lepers who comes running to Jesus later; the last thing you’d need was one more hypocrite scribe…  “I look around the synagogues, I’m seeing scribes who take advantage of the weak and the unaware, and I just need someone with the authority to really do good and to speak the truth.  I need someone who can do what he says. I don’t need another pretender.  And I don’t need any more opinions. I need someone who’s been sent by God.”  Well that’s who was in this synagogue.

Everyone is making truth claims and value claims, even those who say there is no absolute truth or no objective values.  One way or another, every person on earth is living out a system of what they believe is true and good.  While every human has opinions on it they live out, Jesus knows.  He reveals what He has seen from the Father.   His statements on what is true and what is good are not opinions. 

  • He cares about people.  

And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her, and she began to serve them. That evening at sundown they brought to him all who were sick or oppressed by demons. And the whole city was gathered together at the door. And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons. And he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him. 

Mark 1:31-34

You can see up close in Jesus the compassion of God.  This Jesus is proof positive of God’s posture towards sinful, rebellious humanity. God has chosen to bless them, and to die to ransom those who will believe in His Son.  That’s how this God treats those who spit in His face.  He gets tortured and dies in shame to bless them.  This God is more merciful, more charitable, more good than any of us can ever even begin to really understand.

This is a God with an outstretched hand.  

In the Old Covenant, you could not come into God’s presence when you were ritually impure.  But here, God is Himself touching the ritually impure. 

Jesus is Good News for the unclean, the destitute, the beaten down, the lost.  The lepers who are going to come to Jesus are forgotten men, flicked out of society because of their ugly disease and their uncleanness.  They’re gross and have sores people don’t want to see or catch and nobody wants to go near them.  They aren’t allowed in the pretty or happy places, where people laugh with each other and share meals together and give hugs and talk about the good times.  They don’t have any good times to talk about.  They don’t remember what a touch feels like, or what it’s like to be looked at without disgust.  And so their whole, painful lives they can just ask, over and over, “Where do we go?”  And then, crazy thing, here comes this carpenter’s son who also happens to be the King of the world.  And this man will speak to their wounded hearts an answer they never expected to hear, not in a million years:  “To me.”  And one of them might say, “No, you don’t understand.  No one wants me. No one. I’m sick.”  And this Jesus can look him right in the eyes, right into his heart and say, “That’s exactly who I came for” (see:  Mark 1:40-41).  

This Jesus stays up late into the Sabbath night healing these people of Capernaum.  

Jesus cares about individual people.  About their pain and their agony and their discomfort and their anxiety and their hopelessness and their sin.  This a very intimate God we worship. 

And this Jesus’ hand is outstretched toward you

And He is the victor over everything that assaults us.  

Jesus does not ask permission to raise little girls from the dead or turn back the skin diseases of outcasts or send demons over a cliff in the bodies of pigs.  He will not have to take a vote when He comes back and throws Satan into a Lake of unending fire with death hot on his tail.   This is no well-meaning counselor.  The King has come. 

And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit.  And he cried out, ‘What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us?  I know who you are—the Holy One of God.’  But Jesus rebuked him, saying, ‘Be silent, and come out of him!’  And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him.  And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, ‘What is this?  A new teaching with authority!  He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.’ Mark 1:23-27

“Have you come to destroy us?”  The demons know what should give us hope:  That Jesus Christ is going to destroy every last one of sin’s shadows:  Death, pain, worship of false gods, violence, deceit, pride, poverty, all of it.  “Are you going to destroy us, Jesus of Nazareth?  Have you come to put a stop to all the things Hell loves?  Hunger and bitterness and faithlessness and fatherlessness and rape and anger and broken families and bitterness and disease?   Have you?   I know who you are, Jesus of Nazareth, so just tell me:  Have you come to destroy us!”  And I praise God Most High that ultimately Jesus’ answer to this demon who’d tried to destroy this man for so many years is, “Yes. Yes, I have.”  

“Holy One of God!   Tell me:   Have you come to crush Hell’s twisted hopes?” 

“Yes.  And in a way you could never, ever imagine.  I am going to use your own worst weapon against you.  From sin came death, and I will use death to slay sin.”  

This compassionate Jesus is the victor over sin, demons, death, and Hell. 

So, to the Christian:   You have been called. You are being taught, by the Spirit, the Word, and the Church.  You are cared about.
And to the unbeliever:  This is the only Messiah.  This is the only hope.  Don’t exhaust yourself looking elsewhere.  Come to Jesus in faith and all He is will be yours.

Jesus asks a wonderful question to Andrew the first time they meet.  Andrew is following Him, wondering if this is truly the Messiah.  If this is truly the One come to set all to rights.  If this is truly someone worth living and dying for.  

Jesus turns around and asks a short, simple question. 

τι ζητειτε

If you have not called on Christ, it’s my question to you.  

What are you seeking?


60 Seconds On the Truest Love


Worldview matters.  Ask anyone who’s spent time in both Riyadh and Beverly Hills.  Or in Pyongyang and Paris.  How a people views the world dictates much of what they do.  And why they do it.  

Sharia reveals Islam to be an ultimately political worldview.  Contemporary life in the West reveals secularism to be a materialistic worldview.  But what we see in Scripture is that the Trinity reveals Biblical Christianity to be a relational worldview.  The Bible teaches that the foundation of reality is a God who has always existed in relationship with Himself.   

True Christians worship a God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and who always has been.  We worship a God who did not need to make people to love; He already was loving and indeed Himself was love.  Instead He made people and things out of pure grace, and then invited human beings into the blessed love that He already enjoyed.  

Christians worship a God who has always been in community, a God who loves to love.  The Father has always enjoyed the Son, the Son has always loved the Father, the Spirit has always adored and glorified the Father and Son, and all the way around and through the Godhead.  We worship a God who is three persons, each of whom is thoroughly other-centered.  

Compare that to the gods of Beverly Hills.  Or Riyadh.  Or Pyongyang.  Or ESPN.  

Unlike the world’s other worldviews and religions and messages, Biblical Christianity proclaims a God of pervasive, truthful, complete compassion.  We worship a God who has never known a moment without radical, unfathomable love.

True Christians worship a God of three persons, each loving the others in beautiful, harmonious community.  We worship a God of love.  

And remember:  You become like what you worship.   

Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands.  They have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not see.  They have ears, but do not hear; noses, but do not smell.  They have hands, but do not feel; feet, but do not walk; and they do not make a sound in their throat.  Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them.  O Israel, trust in the Lord!

Psalm 115:4-9(a)

How I Apologize to My Kids

*There seems to have been some interest in these practical family and parenting posts.  I do not write as an expert in anything.  This is simply one sinner saved by grace explaining his best approach to those awful 5 minutes after slamming a door or yelling at his children, when he realizes he behaved like a fool.


The screaming starts.  Almost always over a toy.  If it’s not that, it’s that somebody hit somebody.  

Then Daddy throws open the door, angry that his 9:30 PM peace and quiet is being interrupted.  

He isn’t angry because his children have sinned against God and each other by stealing or hurting each other.  Well, maybe a little, but not primarily.  Primarily he’s angry because the created thing he wanted (peace and quiet, food, TV) was disrupted.  That’s what has his fingers digging into his palms.  

And do you know what we call it when a created thing is so important to you that you freak out if you don’t get it?

Idolatry.  

So, now Daddy’s idolatry play out in all its ugly glory, here.  He clenches his teeth and points with his finger at Kid #1’s bed.  “Get.  In.  Bed.”  He raises his voice a few decibels to Kid #2.  “If you do anything to him again I will spank your butt.”  Then he shouts over the crying of Kid #3.  “Enough!  I don’t want to hear it!  All of you:  Be quiet.”  He turns on a dime and slams the bedroom door.  

And now sin has wrapped its poisonous vine around these four souls.  Three children sinned against each other out of idolatry, and their father responded with anger at his own idol being threatened.  None of these four souls were, at that moment, resting in the Lord Jesus Christ and savoring Him.  That would’ve resulted in joy, forgiveness, peace, and patience.  

Oh, and if you haven’t figured it out yet:  This Daddy is me.  

So, after a few minutes, I open the door, and tell the two who are old enough to get down out of bed to sit down with me.  The other can listen from the crib.  And then I say the following.  

  • “Daddy sinned.”

Before you apologize for a sin, you need to acknowledge that it was sin.  It was not merely a “mistake,” it was not that you “lost your cool,” it was not that someone “made you” do it.  Jesus did not die on the Cross to redeem good people for their “aw shucks” mistakes.  He died to save sinners from their sins.  

I sinned. Period.  No excuses, no qualifications.  

My kids need to know that sin is serious.  If they don’t see Daddy taking his sin seriously, they’re less likely to take their sins seriously.  And to live a Gospel life, a true Christian life, one must take sin seriously.  

  • “Daddy is sorry.”

If I’ve sinned, then I have at least two parities I need to apologize to, two people with whom I need to reconcile.    

  1. The God whose Law I broke
  2. The person I sinned against

These apologies are essential for these relationships (mine to God and mine to the person I sinned against) to be restored.  In general, if I am not a person who confesses my wrongs from the heart, I will not be a person who has healthy relationships.  

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

1 John 1:8-9

If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 

Matthew 18:15

My kids need to hear me grieve my sin, hear me say that I am sorry that I did such a thing to God and to them.  I realize that to some people this may sound like overkill for something as “small” as angrily raising your voice, but I firmly believe that that sentiment is usually arising from the flesh.  

See, our flesh always wants to minimize our own sins and magnify others’ sins against us.  We understand that it’s good for someone to apologize to us when he has committed even some “small” sin against us (and we are usually unhappy or feel slighted if he doesn’t).  But because of our flesh and our pride, we often think that it isn’t necessary for us to apologize for our own “small” sins. 

But it is.  Jesus died to bear God’s wrath for every instance of bad anger I’ve ever committed, every harsh word and bitter thought and nursed grudge.  Those sins are no small matter.  

And, hear me on this part, too:  Sin brings death.  And so if I want life flowing through my relationships, I must confess my sins in those relationships and receive the grace and restoration of God.  

  • “Do you forgive me?”

Say what?  You’re going to ask your kids to forgive you, dude?   

Yes, because I (almost always) make them ask my wife or I to forgive them after they have sinned against us.  

So, obviously we are in authority over our children, authority given to us by God for their good and His glory.  They answer to God and to us.  But one of the truths of the Bible is that authority comes with responsibility.  I have a responsibility to God and to the children He’s given me to love them selflessly.  When I treat them, even for a moment, as an impediment to my own pleasure, as an annoyance keeping me from TV or a snack or a good book, I am breaking that God-given responsibility.  I am putting my own good ahead of theirs.  And after acknowledging that sin and then grieving it, I need to give them the opportunity to forgive me.  

Now, until children are born again through faith in Jesus Christ (something I hope all you parents pray for for your own children), they cannot forgive like a Christian can.  They aren’t able to forgive from the bank of grace they have received in Christ Jesus, because they haven’t received that grace.  But they can begin to see how important forgiveness is.  And they can also begin to see how impossible it is to truly and humbly forgive without being made a new person.   

See, one of the best things I can do to drive my children to the Cross is to make them try to forgive from the heart.  Because in time, they will see how weak and selfish their hearts are.  And so, I pray, they will call upon Jesus to change them and save them.  

So, there you have it.  That’s how this one Christian father does it.  Daddy sinned.  I’m sorry.  Do you forgive me?”  

They’re no magic words, and it doesn’t always go smoothly.  But often enough it builds trust, and it shows them just a little bit of what Christianity is, of who Daddy is, and of who Jesus is:  The God who saved sinful father.  

It’s no silver bullet.  But I can honestly say that they increasingly feel comfortable enough to tell me if they think I’ve sinned, and they also feel a little more comfortable with owning up to their own sins.  

Which is the point.  

Because by God’s grace, I pray, someday each of them will come to Christ’s Cross on their knees and say to Him, in faith, words they once heard from their imperfect Daddy.

“Jesus, I sinned.  I’m sorry.  Will you forgive me?”



To the Lost and Abused


You are not forgotten. 

You are not irrelevant.  

This world of sin and sinners is often a place where young girls are sexually abused.  Where little boys are ignored by their fathers or beaten by their fists.  Where the small or disadvantaged are trampled by the anger or selfishness of warped men with warped hearts.  

Creation groans under sin.  

And Satan delights in it.  

He hates truth, hates Jesus, and loves pain.  

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.  He said to the woman, ‘Did God actually say, You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?

Genesis 3:5

And behold, there was a woman who had had a disabling spirit for eighteen years.  She was bent over and could not fully straighten herself.  When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said to her, ‘Woman, you are freed from your disability.’  And he laid his hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and she glorified God.  But the ruler of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, said to the people, ‘There are six days in which work ought to be done.  Come on those days and be healed, and not on the Sabbath day.’  Then the Lord answered him, ‘You hypocrites!  Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger and lead it away to water it?  And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?’  As he said these things, all his adversaries were put to shame, and all the people rejoiced at all the glorious things that were done by him. 

Like 13:11-17

This is a world where Satan often whispers a violent and treasonous song over the most helpless of people, and then dances to their fear and their pain and their bewilderment.  And it is a world where others join his twisted song.  

But it is not his world.  

Hear me.  

Let Hell and death and sin clamor for your soul.  Let them.  But their loudest ragings will not prevail if you will despair of all other hopes and instead call out to Jesus, like a lost and helpless child.  

Let your anxieties and all your most jagged memories creep up on you like old ghosts with sharp teeth.  They will not get to claim you if you are ransomed by the King of Kings.  

Let pain be pain and fear be fear.  Neither will have the last word if you will believe in Jesus.  

I know you have been wounded to the bone.  

You don’t trust people.  You don’t trust God. And you don’t trust “the world,” by which you probably mean people and God.  

You have heard that God is different from the one who abused you, but you don’t believe it.  

Believe.  

The one who violated you?  I know he used you.  But this is a God who was obliterated to bless people just like you.  

He lied to you.  But this is a God who speaks only truth; He can do no other.  

He promised to change, to be better, only to hurt you time and time and time and time again.  But this is a God who endured Hell and shame and death and agony to keep His promises. 

This God is different from the one who hated and harmed you.  Unimaginably different.  This Jesus will never leave, never forsake, never forget you.  He would rather die than lose those He claims, and the Cross stands as a vertical proof of it.  This is a Lord with a heart for the lowly and the bruised, and who breaks all the violent who refuse to repent. 

You have suffered.  

So has He.  

And at the place your suffering and His meet, namely your faith, a new song starts.  One that sin and death and Satan hate to the core.  

And one that is no whisper, no lie, and that never, ever ends.  

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.  Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 

1 Peter 5:8-9

I Know Someone Who Can Kill Your Racism


I write as a Christian, here.  And the Christian has a unique calling in the face of things like Charlottesville, because the Christian has something that can truly dismantle these evils.  

 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise. 

Galatians 3:27-29

There is nothing in the universe that can unify human beings with more power and more permanence than the Gospel of Jesus of Nazareth.  Where the Gospel is believed and lived out, racial hatred cannot long live.  There is no Jew nor Greek among His people.  

But let me put the disease under the microscope for a second.  Pride is at the heart of what we call “racism.”  And pride divides.  Now, the Gospel divides, too, but in a very different way.  Where pride seeks to exalt the self by demeaning some other person or group, the Gospel divides the redeemed, those made meek and holy by the Father, Son, and Spirit, from the hardeharted and impenitent.  Pride divides by breaking an island off from a continent; the Gospel divides by chiseling off a family from a mob.  And pride produces men who hate those from whom they’ve divided.  The Gospel produces men who pity those still in the mob.  

Now let me step away from the microscope and use what we just saw to form a hypothesis:  If you let the racially proud have their way, if you gave them a country made up of people who only share their skin color, it would only take about 10 years before they would start turning on each other for some other reason.  They would find a new way to identify the “pure” or the “fit,” and of course in each individual’s case that ideal citizen would always be someone just like himself.  Because pride always exalts the self, and thus it always produces factions.  Proud people always end up with smaller and smaller circles, because they always want to be the one at the center of those circles.  And a circle can only have one center.  

Allow me an athletic metaphor:  Pride always ends up being a solo sport.

But now back to the Gospel.  The Gospel sets a man’s sight on the One who is truly the center of the universe.  It takes a man out of himself.  It makes him hate who he was and love who his neighbors are.  It does to pride what RoundUp does to weeds.  And so here we as Christians stand with something, and truth be told it’s the only thing, that can kill what’s killing people.  The only thing that can destroy racial hatred and its cause.  Here we have something that can bring men and women of all shades and all cultures together forever in the face of a sin that pits one violent heart against another.  We have the power of the living, triune God:  His Gospel.  The Good News of the Christ who died to save sinners through faith in His Name.  This thing does what no law nor education nor mere moral reform can:  It kills old men and brings forth new ones.  It slays proud men and resurrects them humble ones.  We stand in a world of divided people, and we have something that doesn’t merely force black and white, old and young, city and rural people to tolerate each other; it changes them into men and women who want to die for each other.  

We have a power, here Christian.  

So, I know someone who can kill your racism.  

He is the maker of all men, the King of all cultures, and the Savior of people from every tribe and tongue.  

He is the God of the Gospel.  

He is Jesus the Christ.