Issues of the heart
is an Email newsletter that comes out 2-3 times a week from Pastor
Todd and what the Lord has laid on his heart.
"[Adam] who is the figure of him [Jesus] that was to
This phrase is tucked almost right in the middle of a big
paranthetical clause, Romans 5:13-17. And it's a clause
defending how we all sinned in Adam (verse 12). For the last two
Sunday mornings, our church family has been looking at this
particular passage. And to be quite frank with you, I have never
been more challenged in trying to understand a passage and then
preach it. One Bible teacher wrote, "The thought outruns
the structural capacity of language!" I had to laugh early
this morning when I listened to a preaching tape on this section
by one of our missionaries, Paul Janke. He spoke of the sheer
"delight" of this passage, the "ecstasy" of
our union with Christ, but how this passage brought about in his
personal study, "multiple brain hemorrhages." I
sympathize exactly with his experiences.
Romans 5:12-21 is extremely important. It is absolutely
foundational to the shattering of false doctrine here in
southeastern Idaho and Utah. About 150 years ago, Brigham Young
blindly dug a whole so deep for himself that spiritual
destruction engulfed his soul. In what I think as terrifying
absurdity, he preached, "Now hear it, O inhabitants of the
earth, Jew and Gentile, Saint and sinner! When our father Adam
came into the garden of Eden, he came into it with a celestial
body, and brought Eve, one of his wives, with him. He helped to
make and organize this world. He is Michael, the Arch-angel, the
Ancient of Days! about whom holy men have written and spoken--He
is our Father and our God, and the only God with whom we have to
do." Yet Adam is a type not in similarity but in contrast!
Adam is no closer to Jesus Christ than "an ant is to the
highest of archangels!" And even that is a shallow
comparison. Of couse, today, the LDS mainstream tries to
distance themselves as much as they can from their respected
Utah forefather in regards to this scandalous teaching, but they
are very squeamish about any union with Adam as talked about in
Romans. Owen Kendall White, in his thesis "The Social
Psychological Basis of Mormon New-Orthodoxy", wrote
"Nowhere within Mormon theology is its optimism concerning
man's natural condition more clearly apparent than in this
denial of the Christian doctrine of original sin."
Agreeing with ancient Pelagius, they refuse to acknowledge they
are born sinners, but believe that each one becomes a sinner
only after he or she individually sins. Brothers and sisters,
mark this down. Anytime anybody agrees with heretical Pelagius
rather than Scripture, that person then places himself on the
horrible path of "works salvation." If one cannot
accept the dreadful slavery and death that accompanies his union
with Adam, he tragically cuts himself off from the overwhelming,
super-abounding union with Christ that demolishes every sin and
makes us reign like kings and queens.
Thinking of heart issues,
The Bible is challenging. I discovered my two-year boy this
morning sucking on a bottle. But he is too big for that. So when
I took it away, giving him a cup, he whimpered and whined. It's
easy, familiar, and makes him secure. Yet he needs a big boy
cup. It's the same for us. We might like spiritual milk-bottles.
But it time to grow. During this year, brothers and sisters,
grow. "Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and
Saviour Jesus Christ."
|Brothers and sisters, 2/7
God created something marvelous for a husband and his wife. It's
called sex. Originating from the creative heart of God, it is
pure and intensely powerful. Proverbs exhorts the husband.
"Rejoice with the wife of thy youth . . . be thou ravished
always with her love." Brothers and sisters, I wonder how
many husbands are neglecting this wisdom. I wonder how many
wives discourage their husbands' passionate excitement and joy.
And I wonder how many of our young people will wait for the
lush, green pastures of biblical sex rather than destroy
themselves in the world's glittering stupidity.
My second grade son has heard of the yucky word,
"sex", by older kids at school, though he doesn't
quite know what it means. I remember as I grew up, how my
Christian school brought unwelcome experiences as well. One day
in third grade I got in trouble, talking when I wasn't suppose
to in class. So the teacher put me and a girl classmate in a
side room. As I worked on my assignment, she pulled down her
dress and panties in one fluid motion. Whoa. Though not even
asked, she desired to give me the show of my life. Thankfully,
she covered herself; and we both just continued working on our
seat work in the isolated room. You know, I didn't watch
America's Super Bowl XXXVIII this past Sunday, but I do know
that MTV "wardrobe malfunction" happens over and over
all around our dear country, even in the third grade of a
Our world and its entertainment is a minefield. They have no
clue about the deep joy that abides in the marriage of a
Christian man and women. For us, the grass is green. The
"running waters" are sparkling clear and fresh. And I,
as a pastor/shepherd and father, am not going by God's grace to
let any wild-eyed, ignorant, Hollywood donkey come crashing
through the protective boundaries and trample on what is so
Thinking of heart issues,
|Brothers and sisters, 2/10
I picked up a book from my brother-in-law last week and read it
this weekend. In clear fashion, the author had captured many of
my heart emotions. Listen to this.
"Fearful torments of hell-fire . . .
When I was but a child of nine or ten years old, these things
did so distress my soul, that then, in the midst of my many
sports and childish vanities, amid my vain companions, I was
often much cast down and afflicted in my mind with them. . .
If now I should have burned at the stake, I could not believe
that Christ had love for me. Alas, I could neither hear nor see
Him, nor savor any of His things.
Sometimes I would tell my condition to the people of God which,
when they heard, they would pity me and would tell me of the
promises. But they might as well have told me that I must reach
the sun with my finger as to have bidden me receive or rely upon
the promises. . . I saw I had a heart that would sin and that
lay under a law that would condemn. . .
I was more loathsome in my own eyes than a toad and thought I
was so in God's eyes, too. Sin and corruption would as naturally
bubble out of my heart as water would bubble out of a fountain.
I thought now that every one had a better heart than I had. I
would have exchanged hearts with anybody. I thought none but the
devil himself could equal me for inward wickedness and pollution
of mind. . . "
These are big-time, horrible thoughts. But these tormented
thoughts for both this author and I have made grace all the more
brilliant. He and I both have cried these words in our anguish,
"Oh Lord, I beseech You, show me that You love me."
And the Lord has given to us both this verse, "I have loved
you with an everlasting love." What mercy when God reveals
to us, "I loved you while you were committing this sin. I
loved you before, I love you still, and I will love you
This past Sunday morning, our church family stood on a mountain
top. "But where sin abounded, grace did much more
abound." In the most desperate moments of my life as the
mocking claws of sin were dragging me to hell's doorway, grace
engulfed me. Brothers and sisters, it came like a mighty flood,
sweeping and supplanting everything in its path. How can I
explain my awe? Perhaps, this author/friend of mine does a
better job. "The Lord did also lead me into the mystery of
union with the soul of God . . . He and I were one . . . His
righteousness was mine, His merits mine, His victory also mine.
Now I could see see myself in heaven and earth at once--in
heaven by my Christ, by my head, by my righteousness and life,
though on earth in my body or person . . . Christ was a precious
Christ to my soul. . . I could scarcely lie in my bed for joy
and peace and triumph through Christ."
I like this author a lot. I remember visiting his tombsight at
the Bunhill Memorials in London. He wrote sixty books, and lived
sixty years. And here is what I like most about my
author/friend's books, "man is humbled, Christ is exalted,
and God is glorified." This guy let it be known who is the
true Hero in the Christian church. The author, John Bunyan is
physically with his Hero right now. I can't wait to join them.
Thinking of heart issues,
BTW, the book I read is called Grace Abounding to the Chief of
|Brothers and sisters, 2/12
Beyond a doubt, this weekend, God scheduled for us an
appointment with a juvenile offender. In the Bonneville County
Jail, it is rare. When we asked the young man if he was a
Christian, he said no. But in hearing God's Word, he admitted
his condition as a sinner. He said this is the first time that
he has ever heard the gospel; and he also declared in the
presence of me, two men from our church, and even his buddy that
he wanted to put his faith in Jesus. We bowed our heads in
prayerful thanksgiving! His name is Chet; and he's seventeen.
Would you lift up a prayer for your new professing brother, Chet
, this morning?
I am always amazed at how God orchestrates events. Walking in
Arctic Circle last Wednesday, I saw munching on their
hamburgers, six young missionaries dressed in ties and white
shirts. So I sat down by them. I found out their responsibility
is to saturate the two rural villages of Iona and Ucon, outside
of Idaho Falls, with their religion. But, brothers and sisters,
catch this. They related how forty missionaries walk the streets
of Idaho Falls each day! And altogether one hundred eighty
missionaries are responsible for Southeastern Idaho! That is a
lot of missionaries making impromptu and organized appointments
But of course, God has a sense of humor. He sets up His own
appointments, like desiring me to be a missionary to the
missionaries in Arctic Circle. Just as the Spirit guided Philip
on a gospel appointment in Acts 8, the Spirit continually places
us in interesting places and says, "Go near, and join
thyself." Brothers and sisters, I urge you to welcome
eagerly this week the spontaneous appointments with people that
are set up by the Spirit of God Himself. It can happen anywhere,
and it is really quite exciting! Don't let your heart be afraid.
All the power of God is behind His loving Word.
Thinking of heart issues,
|Brothers and sisters, 2/14
"Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and
shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh."
Palmer soft caramel hearts, Fine Hazelnut chocolates, the new
Hershey's Swoops . . . . Yeeeessss, I love Valentines! But even
better than savoring all the fine chocolate, I revel in the love
of my wife. This morning, I realized I have been in love with my
woman for almost twenty years. Wow!
But with the coming celebration of Valentines for this year
2004, we are hearing some different messages, very loudly by
some groups in America. “Marriage is a HUMAN RIGHT, not a
HETEROSEXUAL PRIVILEGE!” Or something like this, “Be
conservative with the Constitution. Don’t amend it.”
Brothers and sisters, our DOMA laws in Idaho currently outlaw
gay and lesbian marriages, but because of the Massachusetts
Supreme Court fiasco, many here in Idaho are pushing for a state
constitutional amendment. The Idaho House Joint Resolution No. 9
reads, “Only marriage between one man and one woman at one
time shall be recognized as valid in this state. No other
relationship shall be recognized as a marriage or its legal
equivalent by the state of Idaho or its political subdivisions,
regardless of whether such relationship is recognized by the
laws of any jurisdiction outside of this state.” These
important words require a two-thirds support vote by both those
in the State House and Senate. I am happy it passed in the House
this Wednesday. So if the Senate gives the OK, we will see it on
the Idaho voters’ ballot this November. From time to time,
there are certain political issues that I will get fully behind.
This is one of them. Proper understanding and submission to
God’s definition of family is the cornerstone of church and
community life. Church constitutions and state constitutions
must in every way protect family as intended by the Lord. Happy
Valentines, brothers and sisters!
Thinking of heart issues,
I have been sending emails to our representatives and senators.
Here is the Idaho Legislature internet address,
At the bottom of the web page, click the "email."
Idaho Senator Curt McKenzie emailed me this morning. Here is his
suggestion. "Send e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org (ask
for distribution to all Senators). Send letters to YOUR SENATOR,
Idaho State Legislature, State Capitol, Boise, ID 83720."
|Brothers and sisters, 2/18
My family entered a beautiful home Monday night in our
neighborhood. Immediately, you step into a large, vaulted living
room, dining, and kitchen area. Picturesque windows open up all
the back walls. As we greeted the dad, he seated our family on
beautiful, leather couches and then he clicked on the gas
fireplace. Inlaid in the wall, above the fireplace, sat a big
screen. The surround-sound theater is downstairs.
Family pictures on the walls told their story. Seven kids. They
all look sharp. I tried to sort them all out. I think, two are
married. One is presently at BYU. Two are on missions . . .
Greece and Japan. I vocally expressed to the wife my envy of the
one in Greece. She told me its beautiful but a tough place to do
mission work. And then there are two that live at home (one is
in high school and the smallest, a girl, is my son's classmate).
Brothers and sisters, they are a picture family -- kind,
hospitable, and very gracious. For each family home evening on
Mondays, they try to invite a new family to their elegant home.
They have been persistent with us for several months. I am glad
I had read an article in Christianity Today (Feb., pp. 18-19),
entitled "Winning Them Softly." It expressed what
current evangelicals are doing in trying to reach the Latter-day
Saints. Greg C. V. Johnson of Standing Together Ministries in
SLC is actually on a 14-city lecture tour with BYU professor,
Dr. Robert L. Millet. On college campuses, they engage in
respectful conversation about their points of difference. In all
my Mormon-evangelical dialogue, I think it is great as long as
it doesn't become Mormon-evangelical synthesis, which happens
far to often in Idaho Falls. All the Mormon/Christian marriages
in town are the byproduct.
But I certainly agree with treating all our LDS neighbors with a
kind and gracious love. When I hear demonstrations of street
preachers that stomp on LDS underwear or use it to blow their
noses or wipe their bottoms, I feel very compelled to ship them
to another mission field, perhaps among the penguins in
Antarctica. Has I Corinthians 13:5 been taken out of their
Bibles? Biblical love "doth not behave itself
I dearly love my neighbors and the children around me. I have to
chuckle at the kids in our Wednesday night, Patch the Pirate
Club. When I have games in guessing Bible characters, our
sailor's public school friends excitedly join in, interjecting
these answers, "Is it Moroni . . . Is it Lemuel . . . Is it
Nephi . . .Is it Mosiah . . . Is it Ammon?"
I thank God for the opportunities every week where we can
interject the powerful truths of our Lord Jesus Christ. Many in
LDS country soon find out that ministry can not be based on loud
yelling, big business, super-duper programs, or palm-pilot
organization. It is the patient ministering of truth in the love
of Christ over the long haul. We know that without God, we can
do nothing. And in fact, without God, we are nothing. May He be
Thinking of heart issues,
|Brothers and sisters, 2/20
Words are powerful. And four words in particular keep cascading
down the spine of my heart. "Baptized into Jesus
Christ." Yes, I have heard the phrase before. It seems like
I have read it hundreds and hundreds of times. I have seen the
words dissected on bright overheads by great teachers in
scholarly fashion. But right now, these words churn and rush
wildly through the corridors of my soul.
A couple days ago, I had a debate with a man ten times greater
than my intellectual capacity. I read his description of what it
means to be "dead to sin." And I disagreed with him.
So who won the debate? I did, even in my quiet, halting fashion.
To be quite honest, brothers and sisters, I am very good at
debating those who are no longer alive. But there is something
that Charles Hodge said that lingers with me. "To be in
Christ is the source of the Christian's life; to be like Christ
is the sum of his excellence; to be with Christ is the fullness
of his joy." Hmm, I think the words, "baptized into
Jesus Christ", effected the esteemed Dr. Hodge, too. What
do you think?
Well, in adding to all this, through the encouraging tip of a
friend back East, I went into our mall bookstore and bought a
musical CD charted number one on the bestseller list in Idaho
Falls. It's the first time I've done this. The CD carries a song
written by my favorite author in our church music. He is a
monkish fellow that lived about a thousand years ago, Bernard of
Clairvaux. Actually, his sayings make up three songs in our
hymnbook (though I find the music doesn't do justice to the
words). But this particular song moved me to tears. It is the
most beautiful Bernard of Clairvaux song I've heard.
"Baptized into Jesus Christ." The words ring like four
great cathedral bells. In my moving back and forth from
victorious burstings to a quiet numb shock of what it all
entails, God gave me this song tucked in the CD labelled
"Consider the Lilies". Listen to the last of Bernard's
words in his work, "Jesu, the Very Thought is Sweet":
Jesu, thou sweetness, pure and blest,
Life's Fountain, Light of souls distress'd;
Surpassing all that heart requires,
Exceeding all that soul desires.
No tongue of mortal can express,
No letters write its blessedness;
Alone who hath thee in his heart
Knows, love of Jesus, what thou art.
I sing this song as "baptized into Jesus Christ"
continually ripples through my mind.
Thinking of heart issues,
BTW, the CD is the Mormon Tabernacle Choir's latest Easter
soundtrack. To some, these hymns are pretty words and pretty
sounds. For me, Bernard's words capture the very experiences of
my heart. I again say thanks to my friend, Scott, saved out of a
background of Mormonism, who gave me the email tip on this CD.
We worship the living Lord Jesus Christ "in spirit and in
|Brothers and sisters, 2/20
My son has asked me, "Dad, if some of the parts in the
Bible were made into a movie, wouldn't it be rated-R?" It
looks like Hollywood has just now seriously answered his
question. I think many in the religious community are excited
about the showing of this movie, "The Passion." The
mail in our church mail box reports other churches buying whole
blocs of tickets. But the conservative religious are not so
gung-ho. Last Friday, as I ate my hamburger, my friend told me,
"I am not going to watch any R-rated movies." The
answer seems to be a general consensus around here and derived
from headquarters in Salt Lake.
Now, I wouldn't give two-cents for the opportunity to be around
most vain Hollywood actors. But I think a conversation with Mel
Gibson could be interesting, for he declares boldly in USA Today
that "secular utopia" leaves one "empty."
With no understanding, Hollywood elite is on the verge of
branding him an unrecoverable religious nut. They will wait and
see how his future plans unfold.
So what do I think of the "The Passion"? I am sure
when people see brutal agony portrayed on big screen with
surround-sound, they will be overwhelmed. Some will turn their
heads away. Some will leave. The majority will exit the theaters
emotionally stunned. I know I would. Christians are praying that
this movie might be a catalyst for bringing people to salvation
But, brothers and sisters, here are my concerns. 1. Though I
know it is not politically correct to say among certain national
Christian leaders in America, the teachings of the Roman
Catholic Church are incompatible with fundamental Bible
doctrine. 2. I am finding that Americans lean more towards the
joy of experience than what they admit as the dull text of the
Word. If everything was taken out of our houses, what would we
miss the most? Our Bibles or all of our Christian books, movies,
and music CD's. What is it that excites the average person more
in America, an "image-based" or a
"text-based" gospel? Brothers and sisters, I can go
down to the LDS visitor's center here in Idaho Falls and watch
the most gripping, "wordless" films on the life of
Christ and walk away in tears. What is it that stands on the
throne of mainstream Christianity in America? All the upcoming,
anticipated, spiritual experiences that are being announced or
the Bible that sits on our bookshelf? Awakening! Revival! Faith
itself! It comes when people put their noses in the Book!
On Thursdays, I do a Bible study with six senior ladies. We just
started Amos, finishing chapter two this week. There are some
words directed to the Jewish nation in chapter 8, that I dread.
They make my soul shudder. "Behold the days come, saith the
Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of
bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the
LORD: And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north
even to the east, they shall run to and fro and seek the word of
the LORD, and shall not find it." These warnings should
cause any nation to tremble and get their priorities straight.
Thinking of heart issues,
|Brothers and sisters, 2/24
Travis Lovell wrote a popular book last year that is circulating
around Idaho Falls. It's entitled "Ririe: You Just Thought
You Were Lost." It's a picturesque tribute to small-town
Idaho. He writes, "A small town has different things to
offer than a larger city such as Idaho Falls, Salt Lake City, or
even New York City. It's not better -- just different. The place
you call home will depend on what you are seeking and what you
need. You must pick the side of the fence you want to live on
and then love it for what it is. Don't focus on what it
isn't." The author insists that you "Don't judge a
book by its cover" or that you "Don't judge a town by
Which makes me think immediately of this, "Don't judge a
church by its size." Let me ask you a question. Would you
perhaps be in the church size category, "2 to 99"? Let
me just stop a minute, brothers and sisters, to encourage all of
you that are in small churches. You are in a great spot to be!
Your kids are in a tremendous place. I could tick off quickly
ten tremendous blessings that come along with your being in a
small church that are unavailable or would elude you in big
church atmosphere. And note this. When you consider the size of
your church family, really, you are in the majority.
"41% of U.S. churchgoers attend congregations that have 100
or fewer adults each weekend.
12% of U.S. churchgoers attend congregations with 1,000 or more
attendees" (CT, Nov. 2003, p. 23).
It's interesting. I get lots of mail, introducing keynote
speakers from big churches on how to utilize their big programs.
But where is the average Christian? Where is the average pastor?
I like this quote: "Always be a first-rate version of
yourself instead of a second-rate version of somebody
If I can emphasize anything in this short "Issue of the
Heart", I pay special tribute to the powerful working of
Christ in the small churches of America. If you are
contemplating being a part of a Bible-believing church family
that is small, I say "Jump right in like the rest of
us!" As the psalmist declares, "Come and see the works
of God!" It doesn't matter how small the group or how
remote the area. God thunders, "But as truly as I live, all
the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD!"
Thinking of heart issues,
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