No More Church Tribes

The goal of a Christian at church should be to “make disciples,” not make friends. If, while making a disciple, you happen to also make a friend, then what a beautiful by-product. It seems to me that reversing these has created a great deal of distraction from God’s clear directives for his church and quite a bit of unnecessary tension. #nomorechurchtribes

If you use social media with even the slightest motive of hurting another person, this is called blatant sin. If you ever post a pic of you and your friends at some fun event, and your motive in posting is to make the uninvited feel jealous, you are in sin. This is true even if your motives are mixed. That is, even if your main reason for posting is to have a record of your fun event or share it with your parents or whatever, and yet underneath that motive you feel satisfaction that certain people will see this post and feel left out, you are in sin. You are splintering the Body of Christ. It’s better not to post. #nomorechurchtribes

If you ever click “like” or withhold from clicking “like” as a way of declaring your allegiance to a certain tribe, you are in sin. You are guilty of splintering the Body of Christ. #nomorechurchtribes Continue reading No More Church Tribes

People Are Unclean Swine Who Can Be Saved

The idea that God deemed certain animals unclean in order to show people that they are unclean, might raise a few eyebrows. But it is a thoroughly biblical idea. Acts 10:9-45 is a key passage where it is most clearly explained. The story begins with a giant sheet-like object descending from the sky:

Acts 10:9-16 The next day, as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray. And he became hungry and wanted something to eat, but while they were preparing it, he fell into a trance and saw the heavens opened and something like a great sheet descending, being let down by its four corners upon the earth. In it were all kinds of animals and reptiles and birds of the air. And there came a voice to him: “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.” But Peter said, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.” And the voice came to him again a second time, “What God has made clean, do not call common.” This happened three times, and the thing was taken up at once to heaven.

What an extraordinary vision! The apostle Peter witnessed this strange object fluttering down out of heaven, which, oddly enough, was covered with animals that God had previously, in no uncertain terms, declared unclean. Nevertheless, the authoritative voice of God told Peter to rise, kill, and eat.

Being a good Jewish man, Peter refused to obey God (what an irony!). Indeed, he was greatly confused by this command to eat. In his mind, God was being inconsistent, since Leviticus 11 clearly forbade him from eating the unclean animals. But God surprised him, stating that these animals once declared unclean have now been declared clean. But why? What could this mean? What brought about the change? Continue reading People Are Unclean Swine Who Can Be Saved

What Happens to a Christian Who Commits Suicide? The Memorial Service for Bill Pomeroy

I have two purposes for this post. (1) I want to answer the question in the title: What happens to a Christian who commits suicide? (2) I want to answer that question in the context of a real life memorial service for my friend, Mr. Bill Pomeroy. We are not dealing here with a mere hypothetical situation.

Mr. Bill (as I called him) died by his own hand on February 15, 2016 at the age of 69. He was a decorated green beret, nicknamed Grit, who served our county with incredible courage during the Vietnam War. He was also a military chaplain and a pastor.

To the best of my ability to understand, Mr. Bill was a genuine believer in Jesus Christ. This made preaching his memorial service one of the most difficult things I have ever done. Out of a desire to say what needed to be said clearly and not to leave out any important details, I typed out everything I wanted to say and basically read the manuscript during the service. That manuscript is copied below (with minor revisions).

The Memorial Service for
Mr. Bill Pomeroy

Matthew 6:33 But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.


This passage was chosen for Mr. Bill’s memorial service because it was one of his favorite verses in the Bible. He loved that verse. He was always encouraged by it, and he quoted to me on numerous occasions to encourage me too. If you were around him much, he likely quoted it to you as well.

Mr. Bill was a man who spent his life seeking God’s kingdom. In spite of the many tragedies and difficulties he faced, his life was a kingdom life. Jesus had saved him, and he knew it.billpomeroy

But before we analyze Bill’s faith more closely, lets take a journey through his timeline. And a most interesting timeline it is! In a sense, Mr. Bill lived a number of lives, or better, distinct phases in his life. I’d like to walk you through each one these phases, because in order to truly honor and remember him well, I think it is very important that we take each of these distinct phases of his life into account. Continue reading What Happens to a Christian Who Commits Suicide? The Memorial Service for Bill Pomeroy

Which Gift of the Holy Spirit Is Best?

In his second sermon from Charity and Its FruitsJonathan Edwards argues successfully that the ordinary gifts of the Holy Spirit are infinitely more precious and valuable than the extraordinary gifts.

The ordinary gifts of the Holy Spirit can be summarized as saving grace and the fruit of love. Every Christian gets these. The extraordinary gifts are things like the ability to prophecy, speak in tongues, and work miracles. Again, Edwards argues that the ordinary gifts are infinitely more valuable than the extraordinary gifts, even though people usually think the opposite is true.

Here is brief list of why the ordinary gifts are better:

1. The ordinary gifts change the very nature of a person, while the extraordinary gifts are external. Having the gift of prophecy does not cause the new birth or guarantee salvation, but having God’s grace through the ordinary influence of the Spirit does.

2. In the ordinary gifts, the Holy Spirit communicates more of his actual nature to the heart of the man. The wicked prophet Balaam and the unbelieving disciple Judas both were given extraordinary gifts of the Spirit. But neither one of them truly knew the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit was not working internally in their hearts like he does in the lives of his people. In the ordinary work of the Spirit, he changes a person from the inside out.

3. The ordinary gifts of the Spirit move people to look more like Christ and reflect his image than do the extraordinary gifts. Being made holy from the inside out better reflects the person of Christ than working a miracle.

4. The ordinary gifts are exclusive. This means that they are given only to the saints of God, and are never conferred upon wicked or unbelieving people. The extraordinary gifts may be, as we see with Balaam and Judas.

5. The ordinary gifts are saving in nature, the extraordinary gifts are not. Having the ability to cast out a demon does not save a person’s soul, but God’s grace conferred to a sinful heart does.

6. The ordinary gifts are what make people truly happy in God, not the extraordinary gifts. Happiness consists in knowing, loving, and serving God, which only happens when the Holy Spirit confers grace to the soul in his normal influences and operations.

7. The ordinary gifts are the end, the extraordinary gifts are means. The end goal of the Holy Spirit is to save a person’s soul and make them holy. The extraordinary gifts of the Spirit are only valuable in so far as they serve this end. The end is always superior to the means. The gift of working miracles is only valuable in that it leads people to receive the ordinary gift of grace.

8. The extraordinary gifts profit people nothing at all unless the ordinary gifts are also given. A miracle that does not lead to salvation is a worthless miracle. Speaking in tongues is worthless unless it leads people to receive Christ internally and bear the fruit of love.

9. The ordinary gifts will last, the extraordinary gifts will not. Salvation is enteral, the gift of prophecy is not.

Some believers may wish they had the ability to prophecy, work miracles, or speak in tongues. Indeed, those who have had these gifts have had a great privilege conferred upon them (a point Edwards is careful to make in the sermon). But the ordinary gifts of the Spirit (saving grace that leads to the fruit of true love) is a far superior gift that believers may take for granted. Many think that if they are not endowed with some extraordinary gift that they are somehow missing out. That is a mistake. If you have received saving grace, you have received the greatest gift God can give.

Read Edwards’ sermon here: Love More Excellent than the Extraordinary Gifts to the Spirt. Also, I just noticed (after finishing this) a post on Desiring God by Ryan Griffith covering the same topic.

Forgiveness Is Hard; Excuses Are Easy – C.S. Lewis Explains

Forgiveness “is hard,” said C.S. Lewis. For people who have been wronged severely, or who are wronged persistently, this is quite a profound understatement. And yet so true.

In his short essay called Forgiveness (found in the book The Weight of Glory), Lewis contemplates several aspects of this difficult, but necessary Christian practice. He especially makes an insightful and strong distinction between seeking / giving forgiveness and seeking / giving excuses.

Take a few moments and walk with him through these ideas. Analyze your own willingness or unwillingness to receive forgiveness from God and give it to others.

By C.S. Lewis

We say a great many things in church (and out of church too) without thinking of what we are saying. For instance, we say in the Creed “I believe in the forgiveness of sins.” I had been saying it for several years before I asked myself why it was in the Creed. At first sight it seems hardly worth putting in. “If one is a Christian,” I thought, “of course one believes in the forgiveness of sins. It goes without saying.” But the people who compiled the Creed apparently thought that this was a part of our belief which we needed to be reminded of every time we went to church. And I have begun to see that, as far as I am concerned, they were right. To believe in the forgiveness of sins is not so easy as I thought. Real belief in it is the sort of thing that easily slips away if we don’t keep on polishing it up.

We believe that God forgives us our sins; but also that He will not do so unless we forgive other people their sins against us. There is no doubt about the second part of this statement. It is in the Lord’s Prayer, it was emphatically stated by our Lord. If you don’t forgive you will not be forgiven. No exceptions to it. He doesn’t say that we are to forgive other people’s sins, provided they are not too frightful, or provided there are extenuating circumstances, or anything of that sort. We are to forgive them all, however spiteful, however mean, however often they are repeated. If we don’t we shall be forgiven none of our own. Continue reading Forgiveness Is Hard; Excuses Are Easy – C.S. Lewis Explains

C.S. Lewis on Cliques

Having briefly analyzed cliques and how they work, especially in a church setting (here and here), I am intrigued by C.S. Lewis’ message, titled The Inner Ring, in which he addresses the same issue. The message, by the way, is included in the book The Weight of Glory, which I highly recommend.

Of course, Lewis does not use the term clique, as we often do. Rather, he speaks about the universal and desperate desire to penetrate an invisible line in order to be a part of what he calls “the inner ring.”

I am frankly surprised that The Inner Ring is not better known. As big a problem as cliques are in our modern world, it seems this short address should be taught to children in the cradle, long before they wreck their hearts trying to “belong” to this or that group.

My intention here is to work through it bit by bit, making a few comments about each section. I feel that if you stick with it to the end, you will be, as I was on first reading, convicted and relieved. Convicted because we are often guilty of the idolatrous desire to belong to a particular group, and relieved in understanding that there is a solution. Lewis’ message is in red, and my comments in black.

The Inner Ring
By C. S. Lewis

May I read you a few lines from Tolstoy’s War and Peace?

When Boris entered the room, Prince Andrey was listening to an old general, wearing his decorations, who was reporting something to Prince Andrey, with an expression of soldierly servility on his purple face. “Alright. Please wait!” he said to the general, speaking in Russian with the French accent which he used when he spoke with contempt. The moment he noticed Boris he stopped listening to the general who trotted imploringly after him and begged to be heard, while Prince Andrey turned to Boris with a cheerful smile and a nod of the head. Boris now clearly understood—what he had already guessed—that side by side with the system of discipline and subordination which were laid down in the Army Regulations, there existed a different and more real system—the system which compelled a tightly laced general with a purple face to wait respectfully for his turn while a mere captain like Prince Andrey chatted with a mere second lieutenant like Boris. Boris decided at once that he would be guided not by the official system but by this other unwritten system.

Tolstoy was an expert on human nature, painting subtle word pictures of how it works. In this excerpt, two underlings are a part of an exclusive and powerful group within the Russian military, and yet the group itself is not official, nor is it recognized by the official organization. Throughout the talk, Lewis uses this brief image as a backdrop for how cliques develop and work.

When you invite a middle-aged moralist to address you, I suppose I must conclude, however unlikely the conclusion seems, that you have a taste for middle-aged moralising. I shall do my best to gratify it. I shall in fact, give you advice about the world in which you are going to live. I do not mean by this that I am going to talk on what are called current affairs. You probably know quite as much about them as I do. I am not going to tell you—except in a form so general that you will hardly recognise it—what part you ought to play in post-war reconstruction.

It is not, in fact, very likely that any of you will be able, in the next ten years, to make any direct contribution to the peace or prosperity of Europe. You will be busy finding jobs, getting married, acquiring facts. I am going to do something more old-fashioned than you perhaps expected. I am going to give advice. I am going to issue warnings. Advice and warnings about things which are so perennial that no one calls them “current affairs.”

Lewis introduces his subject by indicating his desire to give advice and warnings to his young (college-aged) audience. His self-deprecating humor shines through as he identifies himself as a middle-aged moralist. Continue reading C.S. Lewis on Cliques