Repentance

Abuse is a word that is itself terribly abused in our culture. Our culture has so warped and misused the term that it has weakened and almost demolished its truth. Still, there is real abuse in the world. Bad things really do happen. We live in a depraved and sinful world. It’s life as we know it.

When I was in therapy all those years ago, I had to be convinced that what my parents did to me was, in fact, abuse, and wrong. I was told that what they did was akin to Chinese torture. I’ve never experienced Chinese torture, so I’ll have to take that therapist’s word for it. I was also told that people who grow up as I did often develop Multiple Personality Disorder.

Those are some pretty harsh statements. I don’t want them to be true, but what I want doesn’t change truth. I have worked to overcome all that yuck and not to allow it to excuse me or my behavior. I’m not perfect here, but it’s certainly been my goal.

Sometimes there are things that happen to us, big things, once-in-a-lifetime things. Bad things. And good things. They’re not part of our everyday lives, but they affect every part of our everyday lives.

Recently I got a phone call from my Mother. It’s been years since I’ve talked to her. It’s simply not been possible to have a relationship with someone who lives in a false world when you live in reality. But this call was one of those once-in-a-lifetime, Big Thing, changes. For the first time ever, my Mother confessed that she was a terrible mom, that she did terrible things to me, and that she feels great guilt and remorse, and that she wishes she could go back and change it all.

Repentance requires one to own their own stuff, to make it theirs, to not blame anyone else for one’s behavior, to take responsibility for one’s choices. I have to be very honest, I never, ever, ever would have guessed, in all my wildest dreams or fantasies or imagination, ever, that my Mother would repent and confess and own her sin against me. She is very smart and has creatively blamed her behavior on so many things that it’s become laughable.

But a repentant and contrite heart is hard to disguise. And I am extremely leery of all things regarding my Mother. Yet, I believe her. I believe her. I believe she is deeply sorry. I believe she is contrite. I believe she has owned her sins. And I believe she has or is in the process (and it’s a long one for stuff this big) of repenting.

I have not begun to digest this and its effect on my life, but I do know this much … it’s a total game changer. It’s bigger than winning the Super Bowl or the World Cup or the World Series. It’s bigger than Big.

Forgiveness has been asked and given. Trust will take time. But neither could begin without repentance, and that was on her. And she did it.

#TeamAbigail: “Your Baby Lived, God is Good”

Recently, as I announced to our Facebook friends that we were finally, after 7 weeks, taking Abigail home, a friend of mine–a former pastor’s wife–chimed in: “Abigail lived. God is good.”

The statement bothered me a bit. After all, the survival of a NICU baby is hardly a referendum on the goodness of God.

And Scripture tells us as much. Jesus was very clear that God causes it to rain on the just and the unjust.

Good things happen to good and bad people; bad things happen to good and bad people.

In Matthew, no small number of mothers in Bethlehem had to watch as their babies–from newborn to two years–were sliced and stabbed to death by Herod’s thugs. Their weeping and wailing could be heard all the way in Ramah.

This all happened as God, who so loved the world, had delivered Jesus to provide atonement for sin. In fact, the slaughter was Herod’s attempt to snuff Jesus in the crib. He wanted to share his throne with no one, not even the King of Kings.

Likewise, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego understood the goodness of God, even as they knew that they were not entitled to deliverance from the fiery furnace. They were devoted to serving God, and had faith that God could deliver them from the fire. In perhaps the closest thing to telling someone to do something anatomically impossible recorded in Scripture, they told Nebuchadnezzar:

O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.

These were godly men who, long before Stockdale came along, understood his paradox: they had the faith that they would prevail in the end–as that was a function of the promises of God–even as they were sober enough to realize that things could get a little warm before that happens. Sometimes, the only victory you have will not be of this world. They understood that.

I have friends who have had to bury young children. I have friends who have buried their wives. I have friends who lost one or both parents when they were children. God is good, but this world can suck.

Fact is, we live in a world that is cursed, broken, and dying. Jesus said it himself: “Heaven and earth will pass away.” In Revelation, we are told that there will be a new heaven and a new earth. Jesus promised that He would go and prepare a place for us, and that He would return and take us to Himself. He did not promise to make this world good; He promised he would prepare a place for us. In fact, He said it plainly to Pilate: “My kingdom is not of this world.”

Sometimes, God intervenes in the natural order and delivers miracles. Jesus cleansed lepers; Jesus healed a paralytic; He restored a man’s withered hand; He healed a woman with persistent bleeding; He raised a couple people from the dead; He healed deaf and blind people. In the Old Testament, God drowned an entire army; He delivered military victories against great adversity; He provided healings, even raised people from the dead. And He delivered three men from a furnace, and another from a den of lions.

But good people still suffered: Naboth was stoned to death because of Jezebel; Jeremiah was not delivered from captivity; good priests were killed on occasion; good men died in battle due to the sins of others; most of the Apostles died horrific deaths for their faith.

As MrsLarijani and I prayed for Abigail, we understood that God was not obligated to heal Abigail. This was not a mark against God, but rather an acknowledgement that He is King and we are not. “Blab it and grab it” is theological tripe manufactured in Hell. In my seminary days, a friend of mine and I developed a term to describe such viewpoints: buoyancy. That is because dung floats. It was our humorous way of calling bad ideas “a pile of ****”.

And make no mistake: Word of Faith theology is highly-buoyant.

Equally buoyant, however, is the premise that God is somehow not able to interrupt the natural order, or that He gets some thrill out of seeing His people suffer.

I have an idea, granted it’s speculation but I’d call it an educated guess based on what we know to be true from Scripture.

Ultimately, Satan and his legions will get their day of judgment for the evil they have wrought.

Every tragedy, every death, every instance of human suffering–even the sufferings of Jesus–will stand as a witness against Satan on the day of judgment. On that day, Satan and his legions will suffer from the mountain of evidence against them. While Hell will be ugly all the way around, it will be far worse for them than for anyone else. This is because THEY are the perpetrators of “original sin”. Remember: original sin did not start with Adam and Eve; it actually began with Satan and those angels who chose to abandon God and follow him.

Those not covered by the blood will also be punished, some more severely than others. Their punishment will also be eternal–there is no “Get Out of Jail”, free or otherwise, in Hell–but some will have it worse.

With them, as with Satan and his legions, their record of evil will stand as a witness against them: every widow forsaken, every orphan who starved, every rape victim who was violated and in many cases denied justice, every murder victim, every act of torture, every act of fraud and deceit, every rejection of God.

But human suffering, it will be a witness on the day of judgment.

And for many of us, that may be the only vindication we ever see.

But here’s the thing: while God will definitely make all things fair on that day, “fairness” will be very devastating. In comparison to those who will be welcomed into eternal life, the ranks of Hell will be staggering.

For those of us who have received Him, who are children of God, the words “well done good and faithful servant” will be the most important words for all eternity. It won’t matter if you’re the toilet scrubber in Heaven, you’ll have it better than the richest people–combined–ever had it on earth.

I had a friend from my seminary days–who had been raped in her teen years–tell me, “Nothing I can get from God will restore what I had.” Many years after graduating, she was still very angry with God. This is what drove her theology leftward.

I told her: “You’re aiming too low. Jesus didn’t come to give you what you used to have; He came so you can have something newer and better than you ever had, that will never be taken away.”

I, for one, don’t want what I used to have. Even in my best years of fitness, that young body is still perishable.

Fact is, there is nothing material that you have on this earth that can’t be taken from you. I don’t care how rich you are; I don’t care how powerful you are; I don’t care how many friends you have. Government can seize your property; natural disaster can wipe out your possessions; banks and insurance companies can fail, leaving you broke. Disease and age can steal your health. I believe it was Spurgeon who said it: “Death is the Great Equalizer.”

If you are in Christ, however, you have something no one can take away from you. Jesus said it in John 10: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My father, which gave them me, is greater than all, and no man is able to pluck them out of my father’s hand.”

I once had someone, in a time of grief, tell me, “When I get to heaven, I’m going to have all kinds of questions for God!”

I told her, “I think I’m just going to settle for having the tears wiped from my eyes.” At that point, all of those questions are probably going to be petty.

For now, we rejoice that Abigail is recovering well and is home. We are thankful that God delivered her from near-death.

But His goodness was not contingent on that deliverance.

This life can suck in ways that few in the West can comprehend.

But God is still good.

P.J. Smyth, His Father, and Covenant Life Church

I figured it would be a matter of time before TWW caught onto the story of John Smyth, the father of Covenant Life Church senior pastor P.J. Smyth.

The elder Smyth, who ran various youth camps and also worked as an attorney advocating Christian values in the legal system, is under investigation for a mountain of abuses at the camps he ran.

Deb provides the TWW perspective here.

Obviously, the story is problematic on several levels:

(1) John allegedly engaged in abuses at the camps he ran in England;

(2) When the charges of abuse began to materialize, he left England and set up shop in Zimbabwe.

(3) In Zimbabwe, he allegedly engaged in more abuses. One youth died on Smyth’s watch: his naked body was found in a pool. He was arrested and even charged with a crime.

(4) Smyth then took off for South Africa, where he resumed his legal career, campaigning for Christian values.

The alleged abuses are pretty horrific: canings, sexual abuse, mental cruelty. While he has not been found guilty in a court of law, the Archbishop of Canterbury has apologized. Ergo, I’d say the accusations are credible and likely true.

Of course, if those are true, that does not necessarily implicate his son, P.J. Smyth. It IS possible, after all, that the elder Smyth could have raised his own son a certain way while treating the youths at his camps a totally different way. He could have shielded P.J. from what was going on at the camps.

But Wilhelm does raise some important issues:

(1) How could P.J. not have known about the abuses? I do think that he owes everyone an explanation regarding his involvment with the camps. How often was he there? To what extent did he interact with other youths at the camp? Was he ever in charge of anything? Did any of the youths report anything to him? If so, what did he do with it?

(2) I’ll admit: I am not impressed with P.J.’s apparent evasiveness in his public statements. While he might be doing the, “there’s an investigation that is ongoing and I’ve been advised to keep my mouth shut” routine, I do think he needs to nip this in the bud and explain what he knew and when he knew it. If he was aware of the abuses and did not report them, then he owes an explanation to the larger Church.

It is one thing if he saw abuses when he was a child–I don’t expect a young child to turn his father in–but it is a totally different matter if he was an adult and was aware of these things.

Could he have been in the dark? Possibly, but, as I said, he owes everyone an explanation that is credible. And given that the victims are also going to be testifying, he’d better be telling the truth. Because the truth will come out.

Covenant Life Church is in quite the quandary in no small part due to their failure to report alleged abuses to authorities. The pastoral staff at CLC covered up for at least one known sexual abuser, and another among their ranks–a former children’s minister–is facing trial.

Now, CLC, seeking to move on from those scandals, has a lead pastor who is either an innocent bystander who was in the dark, or was complicit in egregious abuses by his father.

As I look at all of this, I cannot help but make some sobering observations.

(1) The Church needs to do a better job policing her ranks, in particular her leaders. When I say “Church”, I’m not simply talking about local bodies or even denominational leadership–those go without saying. Oh noes, I’m referring to para-Christian groups who run youth retreats, camps, rehab camps (such as Teen Challenge) and other organizations ostensibly set up to teach youth, some even aimed at troubled youth.

(2) Along the lines of (1), parents need to be more active in these endeavors. Parents should chaperone at camps. We need to be honest here: teenagers, whose hormones have rocketed to Mach 9, are going to want to experiment.

I’m not endorsing the solo version of that practice, but they need to have it drilled into them: keep their hands off other peoples’ bodies. And it takes adults who will address these matters soberly to help them toward that end.

Adults will need to ensure that protections are in place to minimize potential porn exposure.

(3) Along the lines of (2), parents need to be honest about the sexual baggage they allow into their homes. Probably everyone born after 1960 has had at least some porn exposure–yes, even the ladies, as the sales numbers for Fifty Shades of Gray reflect. If you’re surfing the porn on the web, trust me: your kids are going to find out. If you’re stashing smut in your bedroom or attics, they’ll find it.

And when your kids end up with the porn addiction from Hell, you will have some contributory guilt.

Please follow my advice: If you have any sort of porn or other fetish materials in your home, don’t waste any time. Get that crap out of your house. NOW!.

You need to also provide appropriate Internet controls. While you cannot protect your children from every item of smut out there, you do owe it to them to do the reasonable due diligence on your end.

(4) Churches need to foster a culture where everyone is accountable and no one is above the rules.

TWW spends a lot of energy trying to blame the prominent abuses on complimentarianism or patriarchy or other authoritarian structures. Fact is, abusers can–and do–lurk and strike in egalitarian circles, too.

All it takes is a body where (a) people think “it can’t happen here”, or (b) protections are not in place, or (c) some leaders are effectively above the rules, so people fail to see what they see.

In the Scriptures, Paul ripped Peter about a matter “to his face”. Peter was the top dog of the Twelve, but Paul had the stones to set him straight in public.

THAT is what I mean by accountability.

If you’re a pastor, and you get offended when someone asks you a hard question, then you’re the one who has a problem.

(5) Churches need to apply–strictly–the requirements of 1 Timothy and Titus for all would-be pastors, deacons, elders, and others in ministerial capacity. Even those serving on teaching rotations need to be subjected to thorough background and character checks. That means that, if they are married, I want to know how they are as a couple. I want to observe them. I want to know what kind of spiritual mileage they have. If they’ve made some bad calls in life, I want to know how they responded.

I’m a firm believer that, if churches did a better job vetting their pastors according to Scriptural requirements–rather than looking for someone who has credentials and charisma–you’d keep about 80 percent of the wolves outside the gate.

Standard? or Double Standard?

The idea that there is a double-standard for men and women has come across my path several times in the last week, so I thought I’d explore this some.

Double Standard – a situation in which two people, groups, etc., are treated very differently from each other in a way that is unfair to one of them. Merriam-Webster

The truth is that God set different standards for men and women. When men and women don’t like the standards God has set for them, they cry foul … or, rather, ‘Double Standard.’

Creation:

Man: Created from Dust.

“And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” Genesis 2:7

Woman: Created from Man.

And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. Then the rib which the Lord God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man.” Genesis 2:21-22

Work:

Man: Tend and Keep the Garden.

Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it.” Genesis 2:15

Woman: Help the Man.

“And the Lord God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.” Genesis 2:18

One Law:

Both:

And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat;  but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Genesis 2:16-17

And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’” Genesis 3:2-3

Consequence for Breaking One Law:

Man: Consequence to listening to woman – work will be harsh.

Then to Adam He said, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’:

“Cursed is the ground for your sake;
In toil you shall eat of it
All the days of your life.
Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you,
And you shall eat the herb of the field.
In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread
Till you return to the ground,
For out of it you were taken;
For dust you are,
And to dust you shall return.”

Genesis 3:17-19

Woman: Consequence of eating fruit first, listening to serpent – sorrow, pain in bringing forth children, and a desire for our husband who shall rule over her.

To the woman He said:

“I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception;
In pain you shall bring forth children;
Your desire shall be for your husband,
And he shall rule over you.”

Genesis 3:16

Marriage Established:

Man: Leave his father and mother. Have sex with woman.

Woman: Have sex with man.

“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” Genesis 2:24

God: Joins the two into one flesh.

“and they shall become one flesh.” Genesis 2:24b

“And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made[a] them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’[b] and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?[c] So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” Matthew 19:4-6

Marriage Maintained:

Man: Love your wife as yourself; sanctify and cleanse her to be holy.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her,  that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word,  that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself.  For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church.  For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones.  “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.  Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself,” Ephesians 5:25-33a

Woman: Submit to your husband in everything and respect your husband.

“Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.” … “and let the wife see that she respects her husband.”  Ephesians 5:22-24, 33b

There are many others, but these are the basics. God created us differently. He gave us different roles. He gave us different consequences for disobeying him. And we do not have equal authority. Men and Women are … Drum Roll! … DIFFERENT!

In whining that men are different and get to do things women don’t, feminism has destroyed our culture and lives down to the very core. It has infiltrated our churches and every fabric of society and is continuing to destroy all of it.

The cry of Double Standard has erased The Standard and taken our focus off that which God intended.

Is there hope? Yes, there is hope in Christ Jesus for us individually:

“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.  And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.” John 3:14-21

And 2 Chronicles 7:14 shows there is hope for us as a people:

“If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14

May it be so.

The Mrs.

Y’all … I just have to say … Mrs. Larijani is awesome! Amir done married well when he snagged her!

Yes … I need brownie points with her … cause, apparently, I encourage certain behaviors that are not always necessarily the easiest to live with. I really wouldn’t know about that. But there was an implication on facebook as to such.

So, I thought I’d make sure Mrs. L and the whole rest of the world know how awesome this Beautiful woman is! She’s super smart, very quick-witted, loves the kitties, including our own Recon. She can definitely hold her own (don’t get on her bad side) but has no problem being the lady and following her Man, Amir. And despite my apparent trips falls from grace, she’s still loyal. I’m very grateful she’s my friend!

For the Bible Scholars …

I have two questions for the Bible Scholars out here:

1. God obviously condoned polygyny in the Old Testament. Did He ever reverse that? Did God ever condemn polygyny?

2.If marriage begins at consummation:

  1. Is a ceremony necessary?
  2. What role does the church have?
  3. Are vows necessary?

Setting the Standard

Deep Strength wrote a post titled The Headship Conversation. I love everything about this whole post.

“This conversation is not so much as a ‘discussion’ as it will be you telling her your vision for the relationship (in terms of Biblical standards) and finding out if she is on board. The leader of the relationship is the one who defines the vision, sets the tone, and leads by example. That is the calling of the husband.”

I would guess this would weed out a lot of women rather quickly.

God Bless Vox Day!

I know he didn’t create the SJW list, but, to his credit, his blog was an integral forum through which the idea emerged among his readership (aka “The Dread Ilk”).

What is the big deal here?

Social Justice Warriors (SJWs) are activists–almost always left-wing, but there are exceptions on the right–who target their opponents for personal and even professional destruction. They’ll dominate the HR departments in companies; the key committees and leadership posts at universities; the rulemaking committees at various forums; you get the picture. SJWs will target anyone–sometimes other SJWs–in order to get a leg up. They get ahead by destroying others and fomenting a culture of fear.

The Dread Ilk of Vox Day has been instrumental in fighting back: the SJW list allows conservative business owners to take notice of people who might be corrosive influences in their organizations, in order to avoid hiring them.

Yes, it is a cruel tactic; at the same time, it’s long past freaking time that the SJWs tasted their own medicine.

Another High-Profile North Korean Defects

If this report is correct, then what we have here is a very high-value defection.

In this case, the defector is someone who was well-connected in the country’s intelligence establishment. If he can name names and provide both strategic and operational knowledge, then this will be huge.

When North Korean fighter pilot No Kum-sok (Kenneth Rowe) flew his MiG-15 into Kimpo Air Base on 21 September 1953, he provided great insight into the hardships and atrocities of the Soviet (and Chinese)-backed government of Ding Dong I (uhmmm…I mean Kim Il-sung). He wrote a book about it–(A MiG-15 to Freedom) available in both hardcopy and Kindle–and, last year, Blaine Harden wrote a book contrasting the lives of Lt. No with Kim (The Great Leader and The Fighter Pilot). Both are excellent reading. And I don’t simply say that because he was one of my professors at Embry-Riddle!

But this latest defection, if the reports are correct, will be even more damaging to the mercurial reign of Ding Dong III (Kim Jong-un).

I shall drink to the demise of Communism.

“Life is a story of suffering.”

Over at Donal Graeme, one of his commenters, Michael Kozaki, has written an excellent guest post titled, Life is Suffering.

Mr. Kozaki starts off writing on a topic that has been presented out here before:

Few Christians embrace suffering nowadays. A thumbs-up, therapeutic Jesus is in vogue. No historic follower of Jesus would have recognized this guy. For good reason. The “therapeutic” or “feminized” Jesus is not the Jesus of the Scriptures nor of the Church. He’s a pagan god, forged in man’s image.

Take a quick trip over there and finish his post. It’s short, yet powerful. I’ve often said that we need to learn to lean into the storms of life rather than fight them, and Mr. Kozaki does a great job articulating just that.