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February 2004

 

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

     

 

 

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.

Brothers and sisters, 2/3

"[Adam] who is the figure of him [Jesus] that was to come." 
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,
Todd

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 Christian school.
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 beautiful.

Thinking of heart issues,
Todd
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 forever." 
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,
Todd

BTW, the book I read is called Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners.
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 every day! 
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,
Todd
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,
Todd

I have been sending emails to our representatives and senators. Here is the Idaho Legislature internet address, www2.state.id.us/legislat/legislat.html 
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: infocntr@lso.state.id.us (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 we went.
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 unseemly." 
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 glorified.

Thinking of heart issues,
Todd
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,
Todd

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 truth."
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 in Christ.
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,
Todd
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 its neighbor."
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 else." 
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,
Todd

 

 

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