Tuesday, December 30, 2008

2008 Year in Review

In sitting down to write this year’s review, I took a few moments to look at the 2007 Year in Review. I began last year’s review by sharing that Dobson had been acquired by AT&T. At that time I was not sure how long I’d be employed there. As it turned out, I sought and acquired another position in the Dallas area. I started working at T-Mobile in April. They really worked with me and allowed me to telecommute while I tried to sell our home in Oklahoma. Well, the real estate market wasn’t very good as the house stayed on the market for 60 days with only 3 showings. I’m not convinced we selected the best of realtors. In any case, we wound up removing the home from the market, hoping that T-Mobile would indefinitely allow me to telecommute. After all, I was excelling in the position, and my manager was pleased with my performance. Unfortunately, the decision was not his, and HR eventually mandated that I needed to be in Frisco, Texas full time. You can imagine that that did not sit well with me. I could get from my home in Oklahoma to T-Mobile in Frisco in about 3 1/2 hours. But that was still too far to drive every day. I knew something needed to change. Either I needed to get the family down there with me or I needed to find another job in OK. That was in August. The Lord worked things out so that a company I had contacted earlier in the year, TransCore, called me back for an interview. Though my primary expertise has been in interactive voice response programming since 1994, TransCore hired me as a C# programmer, as that was the language I had been using for Dobson’s IVR for about 2 years. I started with TransCore in September. It was nice that we didn’t have to struggle to sell the house. But this has made for a hectic year of “We’re moving!...No we’re not…Yes we are…Not really.” There were many mixed feelings in the whole process. There were times, and there still are, where we wish we were closer to family in Texas. After all, that was our stated reason for leaving Tennessee in 2005 (I still miss living out there a lot.) Plus there was no way if I had known the future while we were in Tennessee that I would have left there to move to Oklahoma. God is sovereign and not me. So, He used this time to bring us into a very good church. We have established relationships with the others in the body. Another blessing that occurred the month after I started at TransCore is that we had a family visit our church. The man of the household was also a C# programmer looking for a new position. I was able to recommend him for a position at TransCore. He interviewed and was offered the job. He took the position, and moved his family about a mile away from our house. He and I have been carpooling together since October. God is good. He has given me a job in the Oklahoma City area where we didn’t have to sell our house. Plus He has put another believer with me, actually in the cube right next to mine at work. It’s very nice to have good fellowship every day.

In 2007, we lost my grandmother. Well, on September 21 of 2008, her husband, my grandfather, also went home to be with the Lord.

In April I took Brittney and Brianna to the Father Daughter Conference with Vision Forum. In was in Pine Mountain, Georgia. We heard a lot of good messages, saw lots of pretty flowers, and had a great time together. Then in August, I took Michael and Justin to the Father Son Conference. That was located in Winter Park, Colorado. It was likewise filled with good messages, lots of trees, and a great time with my boys.

Probably the highlight of the year remains the Rite of Passage ceremony we held for Michael. I haven’t blogged much about it this year because it remained a surprise for him up until the night we did it. Be sure and read the update under “Rite of Passage” on this blog. I prepared for this since at least 2004. My brother, Jason, seems to think that the planning started much earlier than that. In any case, it was a huge success.

2009 is shaping up to be an interesting year ahead. With a natural eye there is reason for great concern. President Hussein will take his oath of office on January 20. I can’t help but feel that America has elected Osama’s cousin. May God protect us. He has always built His church in times of persecution. It may be just around the corner. Stand strong and quit you like men. God is still on the throne.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Rite of Passage

Last Saturday, the work of about four years of preparation culminated in the "Rite of Passage" ceremony for my oldest son, Michael A Southerland III. He turned 13 on December 27, 2008. At the ceremony he received advice from his great-grandfather (via recorded video since "Pepaw" passed away in September), both of his grandfathers, his mother, his uncle, our provisional church elders, and of course, yours truly, his father.

I charged Michael with the responsibility of preparing to undertake the three roles that a man should fill while leading his family. Mirroring directly from the example of our Lord toward His Church, these roles are those of a prophet, priest, and king. Michael received a gift corresponding to each of the roles for which he was charged.

For the role of Prophet, I charged Michael with the following responsibilities:
- Speak Vision Into Your Family
- Hold Yourself to the Highest Standard of Ethics
- Bridle Your Tongue
- Never Stop Learning
- Know "What You Want to Be When You Grow Up"
- Use Civil Disobedience Appropriately
- Seek a Godly Wife
- Encourage Your Wife and Children
- Be Consistent With Discipline
- Direct Your Family's Ministry
- Realize the Blessing of Children

After charging him with these responsibilities and getting an affirmative answer from him, I presented him with a copy of Charges for a Southerland Son. This leatherbound book represents many, many hours of labor in writing down my charges and thoughts to him. I intend for him to keep it updated in subsequent editions in order to pass down the message to his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

For the role of Priest, I charged Michael with the following responsibilities:
- Intercede on Behalf of Your Family
- Be Cautious of Charismatic Gifts
- Teach the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith
- Teach the Five Points of Calvinism
- Teach the Five Solas of the Reformation
- Catechize Your Children

After charging him with these responsibilities and receiving an affirmative answer, I presented him with a leatherbound copy of the Geneva Bible in a family Bible edition. This is the Bible used by the Reformers and the Pilgrims. This particular Bible has room to record his family tree information.

For the role of King I charged Michael with the following responsibilities:
- Defend Your Family
- Be a Good Steward of Resources Entrusted to You
- Walk With Honor
- Be Sober Minded
- Be a Leader
- Make or Influence Public Policy
- Guard Your Time
- Guard Your Family's Purity

After charging him with these responsibilities and receiving an affirmative answer, I presented him with a Scottish Highland Claymore sword encased in a custom made leather scabbard adorned with our family crest and inlaid with our Southerland (Sutherland) tartan.

I have so many people to thank that helped bring this project to fruition. Some I have personal relationships with. Some I have met. Some I haven't. Some only through e-mail. First and foremost, I thank the Lord Jesus Christ. Without Him, this is all meaningless. Next, my bride and Michael's mother, Sheri. She has supported me throughout all this. The other list of credits include my brother Jason who originally planted this thought in my head; my parents for laying a Christian foundation for me on which to build; Doug Phillips and Geoff Botkin for their visionary messages on fathers leading their families; Phil Lancaster for his book, Family Man, Family Leader from which I pulled the whole concept of a man serving as Prophet, Priest, and King like our Lord; Scott Brown for his counsel on what traits should be found in a young man from the perspective of a father evaluating a suitor for his daughter; Russ Ellis, of Tritonworks, the artisan that gave me advice on where to order the sword and did an excellent job of crafting a custom made scabbard for it.

My goal is that this will not die in my generation. I plan to do these ceremonies for each of my sons (and similar, though not exact, celebrations for my daughters). They are to charge their sons as well. This should be kept up ad infinitum throughout the generations. Yet, I will be satisfied if it at least propagates through 200 years. That is the vision, sons. Now let's make it happen with God's help.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

End of the Year Sale!

From now until December 31, save on over 250 items from Vision Forum!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Raising a Mighty Man of God

This Saturday, my oldest son Michael will turn 13. In light of this event, I highly recommend this sermon by Kevin Swanson. Swanson nails several of the convictions that I have for Michael. A lot of what he says is what was on my mind in thinking of various goals that I have for my sons. If you are a friend or family member reading this, and you'd like a better idea of my thoughts toward raising sons, I'd encourage you to click through and listen to Kevin Swanson's thoughts on the subject.

SermonAudio has proven itself to be an excellent resource for solid Christian teaching. The link to this particular message is as follows:

Monday, December 22, 2008

Lose Your Job, Kill Your Baby...So Sad

In a disturbing article I read this morning, it seems as though Planned Parenthood is getting a surge of new business. If this is true, then it is truly despicable, but believable in this wicked society in which we live.

The Bible calls children a blessing. A family with many children is truly wealthy. Though in our society that wealth is often seen in heritage and non-monetary ways, I believe that God intends for children to bring financial wealth to a family as well. I know several families who work together on their farms or family businesses. Many hands make light work.

So, if God provendentially removes your job, don't cut off His blessings. Rather, find a way to work beside the children He has given you and rejoice that He is sending another helping hand into your fold. Those are my long term plans that could be shortened anytime God wills it. Remember that He is in control and, if you belong to Him, He works all things in your life for good.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

I Think I'll Fire My Mechanic!

OK, here's the deal. I need my thermostat replaced in my '97 Ford Mustang, V6, 3.8L. Easy enough, right? Any mechanic worth his salt could whip that out in about 15 minutes (though he'd probably charge a full hour). Well, my mechanic doesn't seem to be that talented. He's a "moonlight" guy who holds down another full time job during the day. It's a good thing too, because after his performance on my car, I'd hate to see him try to make a living at auto repair. After seeing the symptoms last week, I had him take a look at it on Saturday. Beautiful day...60 something degrees...no big deal, right? Well about four hours later he had broken two bolts off into the engine block. Fortunately he was able to get them out because they broke off "above the threads" of the block. Well, by this time the parts house that he needed was closed. He assured me that the fault was in the cheap bolts he had bought from the local auto parts store and he needed to get the genuine ones from Ford. Ford is the epitome of customer service (sarcasm here) exampled by keeping their hours as close as possible to the time when "normal" people are at their day job. So, my mechanic friend wasn't able to get parts until yesterday (Monday). Last night after work, he shows up, not with Ford bolts, but with a tap to clean out the threads in my block and a couple of better quality, but still generic, bolts. He spent another 3 hours trying to get the thermostat to stay in place on the side of the engine block while he tightened the bolts. When he was "done" we cranked the car. It didn't take long to see the antifreeze start to drip. Oh, and did I mention that unlike the nice day we had on Saturday, last night's temperatures were in the teens, and it was dark? Well, his solution to the drip was to tighten it further. He cranked a few more turns, not wanting to break off these new bolts. Finally, after cranking it, the drips slowed to 1 or 2 a second. At this point, I'm thinking that I really need to fire this guy. Frustrated, I told him he was done for the night. I test drove the car and barely made it back home before it overheated to the point of damage. I popped open the hood and examined his work. The thermostat (or at least the rubber seal around it) could be seen protruding out of the bottom of the housing. So, most likely, this guy crushed my new thermostat because he didn't get it lined up right before tightening down those bolts. I normally don't like to name names, but as a courtesy to my readers I really feel I need to warn you. Whatever you do, don't let Mike Southerland repair your car! He's a programmer, not a mechanic! So, Mike, you're fired! I guess I'll have to do it myself now.

Mike Southerland

Monday, December 01, 2008

Play Kitchen Tries to Teach my Daughter to Swear!

This past Thursday we had a great time as a family. We give our children gifts on Thanksgiving instead of "Christ-mass." (But that's a topic for a whole other blog post.) All the boys except for our one year old got tools. These aren't toys, but "real man" tools. So, they spent most of the day on Friday hammering and sawing into a 2 x 4 I bought them to go along with it. We gave my oldest daughter a book set as reading is one of her favorite things to do. I spent a couple of hours on Saturday working with my second oldest daughter on the doll house we got her. It looks like it may be quite a project, but it'll be some good time together. Oh, and the baby boy got a cloth book that he can stuff in his mouth to his heart's delight without us having to worry about him actually eating it (like all the other books). But the subject of this blog post is the gift we gave our youngest daughter. One of the best gifts we gave our oldest daughter when she was about 2 or 3 was a play kitchen. Little girls love to put the plastic food in bowls and in the skillet and play like they are cooking like Mommy. Brittney's kitchen lasted for years until we finally broke down and threw it away earlier this year. It had gotten really dirty and had been relegated to the back yard rather than the girls' bedroom. So, my wife and I took the opportunity this Thanksgiving to get our almost 3 year old a new play kitchen. We had a hard time selecting it. I liked the wooden ones, but they were quite a bit more expensive than the plastic ones. Plus, the one that Brittney enjoyed so much was plastic. So, we finally decided on the Little Tikes Cook 'N Learn Interactive Kitchen. On the side of the box it advertised that it would make sounds and tell your child, "Good job!" This certainly wasn't a selling point for me. Who of you has a "real" kitchen that talks to you? Hmm...maybe your microwave is fancy and will tell you "Food's done!" or something...but even then I bet this is pretty rare. I know our kitchen never talks back to us. Well, my objective was to get something that didn't look like it would fall apart in a week, but was still reasonably priced. So, we bought it in spite of, rather than because of, the "interactive" feature. After a struggle of about an hour putting it together (there's at least one design flaw that I found!), we were ready for my little girl to start playing with it. I was going to just leave the batteries out of it, but after persuasion from family I succumbed and brought the beast to life with 3 AA batteries. I must admit the first minute or two was pretty neat. The little play egg "sizzles" when you put it in the frying pan on the burner. (OK...so our real kitchen doesn't talk...but it does sizzle from time to time! :-) ) But then the talking started. I didn't hear anything harmful at first, so (here's my mistake) I left her to her play while I focused my attention on another child. Within a few minutes my wife noticed that the kitchen seemed to complain of work stating something like, "If I have to work I'll go berserk!" or something to that effect. OK. Strike one. But it didn't stir me enough to go shut it down based on just that. But, the last straw happened just a short while later. My oldest son comes in and tells me, "Daddy. The kitchen just said, 'I swear!'" Well, that's a no-no in our family. There are scriptural examples of swearing, but to do it flippantly is obviously wrong.

But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God's throne: Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King. Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black. But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.
(Mat 5:34-37)

Yet, this arrogant little kitchen decides that it knows better than me what to teach my daughter. (Or more accurately, the big whigs at Little Tikes think they know better than parents what to teach children.) I went into the room and had my son show me how to make it say the offending language. The kitchen has this thing about rhyming. The "berserk" rhymed with work. So this phrase went something like, "I swear, it's a pear!" At that point, the batteries came out and haven't been back in. Now, some people think I'm extreme or overreacting on this, but I am determined not to have my little girl running around the house repeating "I swear!" to her brothers and sisters.

So here's the plan...we spent $79.99 on this "tutor." I think I'll take the silly thing apart, package it back in the box and take it back. Then I'll fork over another $40 to buy the wooden kitchen that doesn't "say" anything. Better yet, maybe I can get those boys with the new tools to make her one! :-)

Monday, November 24, 2008

What's This Worth?

"Something is worth what people will pay for it." This is the sage advice given me by my grandfather when I was a child. I always was curious about the dollar value of an antique or an old coin. So, what happens when the government starts tampering with prices? To a good businessman, this is an opportunity. There is a website that I really enjoy. Each day, it is updated with the price of silver. It gives you a breakdown of the current melt value of U.S. coins based on the price of the metal. This is available both for modern (post 1964) and silver coins (pre-1965). The website is at http://www.coinflation.com. In the not too distant past I would go to this site, find out the melt value of silver, then hop over to Ebay and bid on U.S. 90% silver coins 1964 or earlier. Though I was not always successful, I could often times buy coins at their melt value (even with shipping considered!). I wish I had done that more than I did at the time. In recent months the "price" of silver has fallen. I quote "price" because that's the dollar figure that I see on coinflation.com or any other site that gives you the spot value of silver. The markets haven't opened yet as I bang out this blog entry. But as of last Friday, the "price" of silver was quoted at $9.68/oz. So...I pop over to Ebay all ready to buy some silver dimes close to the 67 cents I see that they are worth at coinflation. But today, that's not happening. You see, as my grandpa always said, things are worth what people are willing to pay. I'm looking at an auction right now with a "buy it now" price of $50 for a roll of silver dimes shipping included, and I think that's a pretty good deal. I read an idea online that I will pass on to you to do with as you see fit. (standard disclaimer applies that I am not a financial advisor, blah, blah, blah...act at your own risk, etc.) It seems as though you could make a lot of money with the following plan.

Play the commodities market by taking out a "mini" contract on silver. This is 1000 oz. With silver hovering just under the $10 mark "on paper" this should cost you approximately $10000 when the delivery occurs. When you take delivery of these 1000 oz of silver, divide them into 1 oz sections. (I'm not sure how delivery is made...it would be nice if they were delivered in 1 oz bars already...but that may just be wishful thinking.) Set up an Ebay store and sell these 1 oz portions for about $18 each. In my book that's about an 80% gross profit. Granted, they'll be other costs involved, especially if you have to melt the silver and get it into smaller forms, but to get $18000 for your investment of $10000, I think it may be worth it. I don't have the $10000 to play with, or I think I'd give it a shot.

Then again, if you can get this mini contract, you may just want to hang on to all that silver. When the government finally realizes that they can't keep artifically holding down the price of silver, it's likely to explode in value. That $10/oz silver that you just purchased could very well skyrocket to $50/oz or more. Everything I'm reading is forecasting silver to go through the roof. I don't doubt it for a second.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Calvin's Commentaries on Isaiah

I read the following poem this morning in Calvin's Commentary on Isaiah. I wanted to share it with you.

An Epigram vpon the Translation of
M. Caluins Commentarie vpon the Prophecie of Isaiah.

THRICE happie (England) if thou knew'st thy blisse,
Since Christs eternall Gospell in thee shin'd
Thou art. H'is beetle-blind that sees not this,
Brutishly ingrate that with a thankfull mind
Doth not acknowledge Gods great Grace herein,
And learne thereby for to forsake his sinne.

Gods word hat long in thee been soundly taught,
The sound thereof hath rung throughout the Land,
And many a Soule by Fishers net been caught,
Which erst lay thrall in Satans cruell band:
This fauour great by none can be exprest,
But such as haue it felt in their owne brest.

Thy natiue sonnes in thine owne bowels bred,
Like faithfull Shepheards haue done worthilie,
And thee with store of heauenlie Manna fed,
Forcing the Wolues to leaue their crueltie,
To slinke aside, and hide themselues in holes,
In caues and dens, like pur-blind Backs and Moles.

The Gospell preacht by word, by life, by death:
To second them haue spent their vitall breath.
In hot pursuit of that great Romish Bore,
Who spoiled quite this English vine before.

I spare to speake of DEERINGS siluer voice,
Of GREENHAMS zeale, of PERKINS labours sound,
Of hundreds moe of Zion-builders choice,
The like whereof can scarce elsewhere be found:
Such ground-worke they of Gods truth here haue plac'd
As neuer shall by Hels whole force be razt.

Besides all these, of forren Lights the chiefe,
BEZA, and VRSINUS, many other moe,
MARTYR, MUSCULUS, for thy more reliefe
Are seene in English weed abroade to goe
From place to place in euery Shire and Towne,
To teach the Truth and throw all Errors downe.

And here presented is vnto thy sight
The Roiall Prophet Esaias Euangel:
For so me thinkes I may it terme aright,
That Prince of holy Prophets doth so well,
So liuely Christs whole historie presage,
As if h'had liu'd in that same very Age.

Whose Oracles great CALUIN doth vnfold
In thine owne natiue Tongue for thy Soules health.
Here maist thou gather precious Stones and Gold,
And store vp heapes of Heauenly lasting wealth;
Here maist thou find with very little paine
Which would'st not lose for thousand Worlds againe.

Here maist thou see the black-mouth'd Atheists
Confounded quite by Demonstration cleare;
The cunning Papist put vnto his shifts,
And made in his right Colours to appeare;
Her's Christ, his Truth, and Life, thee set before,
Heauens Gates set open wide: what would'st thou more?

By FRANCIS HERING, Doctor in Physicke.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Bell

Stately situated atop its wooden frame “The Bell” watches over the old home place. Long since removed from its original lofty height, its job changed from summoning parishioners or schoolchildren to the meeting at hand to the more menial duty of calling home a loving husband for the mid-day meal known as “dinner.” While my grandmother’s home cooking sat cooling on the stove, she would make her way out to “The Bell” and give it a tug with all the might her feeble frame could yield. In an age before cell phones commanded instant communication, the tolling of the bell wafted across the golden fields of grain. Its voice was loud enough to be heard over the rumble of the old red tractor. A smile appeared on the gentle farmer’s face as he stepped down from the tractor and into the old truck that would carry him to his table to meet the woman and the meal that awaited him.

“The Bell” not only signaled a home cooked meal for grandpa, as a child we also used it to call in the cows. A much more vibrant ringing by grandchildren, and later in life, great-grandchildren, would cause the ears of our bovine friends to perk up. It was quite a sight to see these plump land blimps run at full trot to receive the reward of white bread that the children would feed them from their hands. Very thankful for the fence between us and the cattle, my two year old always wanted to “feed the cows” but she did it from the safety of Daddy’s arms.

“The Bell” is silent now. The wrinkled hands that once prepared the meals and tugged at the rope are folded in peace. The tough, but gentle, grandpa farmer parked his tractor in the barn for the last time. The once open fields are now strewn with homes and businesses. Yet “The Bell” eagerly waits to make new memories in the lives of its next trustees.

What will the tolling of “The Bell” signal for you? Will it be a grand noisemaker for a new generation of children unaccustomed to items that last for several lifetimes? Will it regain its place of prominence in the bell tower of a local church or school house? Will it simply serve as a reminder of better days gone by? Regardless of the use you find for it, its ring is as strong as it ever was. May the tolling of “The Bell” signify to you and your family the blessings and the memories it has given to us.

“The Bell” is 27 inches high, 30 inch diameter with a 36 inch width for mounting. It is marked with “THE C.S. BELL CO” on one side of the mounting support and “HILLSBORO O.” on the other. The number “30” is on the top.

Because of its size and weight this auction is listed as “local pickup” only. But don’t let that discourage you. The charm of its full toned ring and its antiqued iron fa├žade will make the trip to Ovilla, Texas (about 30 miles south of Dallas) worth every minute. Don’t let this auction pass you by. Bid right now while you still can!

View the auction here

Friday, October 17, 2008

Total Depravity Presentation

Last Wednesday I presented a speech in my Toastmasters club on Total Depravity. I'm posting it here for your review, both in recorded form (WAV) and the transcript.

Click here for the WAV file.

Are you a good person? Most of us would like to think that we are. After all, we’ve never killed anyone. We have jobs. We pay our taxes. But I ask you again, are you really good? Mr. Toastmaster, fellow Toastmasters, and guests, I’m going to speak to you today about a topic that used to be commonly taught in the pulpits across our land. Sadly, though, it is more and more frequently being replaced with self-help and pop psychology messages whose purpose it is to make you feel good about yourselves.

What is it about Christianity that sets it so far apart from all the other religions of the world? I hope that by the end of this speech I will have answered that question for you.

According to the Westminster Confession of Faith (and backed up by many scriptural references), sin is defined as any want of conformity unto or transgression of the law of God. In other words, sin is either not doing what God commands or doing what He commands you not to do. God’s law can be summarized in the Ten Commandments.

They are:
1. You shall have no other gods before Me.
2. You shall not make for yourself a carved image.
3. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
4. Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy.
5. Honor your father and your mother.
6. You shall not murder.
7. You shall not commit adultery.
8. You shall not steal.
9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor: which is lying
10. You shall not covet.

The scripture says in James 2:10:

For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.
(Jas 2:10)

Don’t raise your hands in answer to these questions, but I want to ask you a few questions to see how you measure up. Have you ever, even once in your lifetime, told a lie? That would make you a liar, wouldn’t it? Have you ever, even once in your lifetime, stolen anything? Think about it. Anything from a piece of candy when you were a child to a ball point pen from your office? If so, you’d be a thief, wouldn’t you? Have you ever committed adultery? Some of you may be thinking: Well I haven’t done that! Are you sure men? Jesus said in Matthew 5:28 that whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. Finally, have you ever murdered anyone? I bet everyone in this room would be quick to deny this. Yet, once again, our Lord in Matthew 5:21-22 equates being angry with your brother without a cause with murder. So, I tell all of you that by that standard, I am a murderer.

The fact of the matter is that we are all born with a sin nature that we inherit from Adam. How many of you have children? Those who do, know what I’m talking about. We have seven, and I’ve seen it in every one of them. When they get to the age where they can speak just a few words, what is one of the first words they speak? “NO!” It’s usually said with a defiant frown on their face in response to your command. Now, did you ever sit down and teach them how to be rebellious? Did you ever have to teach your children how *not* to share with others? I think not. These things come naturally to our sin nature. Each and every one of us was born with a wicked sin nature. The Bible says that this sinfulness was imputed unto us from Adam. So, in God’s eyes, it’s as if we had disobeyed Him in the garden, right along with Adam. He was our representative and sinned on our behalf. Now, before any of you self righteously think that if you had been there, you would have made different choices, think again. You’ve just acknowledged that you are all lying, thieving, adulterers and murderers. The Lord Jesus Christ is the only man who has ever lived a perfect life here on this Earth. Yet, in order to give us an example on how we should live, listen to his response to a man who called Him, “good.”
And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet? Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.
(Mat 19:16-22)

Look at the contrast offered in this passage. The Lord Jesus, who was very God Himself, refused to take on the label of “Good” as an example to us on how we should view ourselves. Next, you have a guy who was bold enough to answer the questions I asked you earlier with a proud response of, “I have done everything perfectly.” The point that Jesus is making here is not that everyone has to live in poverty in order to be holy. His point is that none of us live a truly holy life. The Lord knew that this man had not performed even the limited number of commandments that Jesus had mentioned. When the rich young ruler tried to claim that he had perfectly carried these out, the Lord Jesus simply showed him how he violated the first commandment to “have no other gods before me.” This young man’s god was money, and the Lord knew it. This man’s original question was flawed. “What good thing shall I do?” He completely missed the point. There is *nothing* he could do to gain eternal life on his own efforts.

Let’s look at some more scriptures to see what God’s view of man really is:

God looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, that did seek God. Every one of them is gone back: they are altogether become filthy; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.
(Psa 53:2-3)

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?
(Jer 17:9)

But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.
(Isa 64:6)

As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: Their feet are swift to shed blood: Destruction and misery are in their ways: And the way of peace have they not known: There is no fear of God before their eyes.
(Rom 3:10-18)

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
(1Jn 1:8)

So, have I convinced you of the wickedness of man? I hope so, for I have only scratched the surface of scripture in showing this to you. We must now ask the fearful question. That question is “So what?” Mike, you’ve told us, and convinced us that we are all desperately wicked and totally depraved. So what does all this mean?

God is a holy God. He hates sin and will not tolerate it in His presence. Consider the following:

But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.
(Rev 21:8)

Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:
(Mat 25:41)

This is terrible news! We have read that we are utterly wicked and depraved. We have read that we hate God and His judgment awaits! Listen to the agony expressed by the Apostle Paul over this very subject:

For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.
(Rom 7:15-25)

Thus in verse 25 we get the message of the Gospel. It is through Jesus Christ our Lord that we can escape this judgment!

For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
(Rom 6:23)

Remember earlier how I told you that we have all sinned through Adam? Some of you may not have liked that. It didn’t seem fair. However, by the same way that Adam’s sin was imputed unto us, Christ’s righteousness is also imputed unto His people.

For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.
(Rom 5:19)

This is glorious news! And this is what sets Christianity apart from every other religion. Every other religion involves man working, as hard as he can, to measure up to the standard that his god has set before him. In Christianity, on the other hand, God in His infinite justice set the standard so high that no one can attain it. Then God, in His infinite mercy, sent His own Son to perfectly fulfill that same standard on behalf, in the place of, those whom He has foreordained from the foundation of the world to enter into His kingdom.

So, I urge you today to repent! Throw yourself on the mercy of God and beg His imputed righteousness on your behalf. It is the only way you will ever overcome your very own total depravity.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Want to Be a Vision Forum Affiliate?

Vision Forum (both their ministry and their business) is one of the most outstanding organizations I have had the pleasure of associating with. They are a "voice crying in the wilderness" calling fathers to turn their hearts to their children and the hearts of children toward their fathers.

I was very excited when I learned that I could be an affiliate and promote their God honoring and family friendly books and products on my own website. From time to time I will post a special in one of these blog entries. You may have seen these links.

If you would like to become an affiliate as well, and earn a bit of extra cash by sharing these wonderful products, click on the link below to set up your own affiliate account:

Webmasters Earn Money Here!

- Mike

Monday, September 22, 2008

A Manly Man Has Fallen

This past Lord's Day, my grandfather, Malcom Alex Southerland went home to be with Jesus. He was "Pepaw" to his four grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren. Pepaw lived a life of bravery and fortitude. He served our country valiantly in the U.S. Navy in World War II. After returning home from the war he went to work for the Dallas Police Department. He served as an officer for 38 years before retiring. For as long as I can remember, until the very end of his life when he was physically unable to do so, he ran his small farm during his free time, raising cattle and growing hay primarily. Pepaw was born May 11, 1919. He was 89 years old.

Pepaw was an excellent example of manliness. In an age of ever increasingly effeminate men, Pepaw stood tall as a man who lived a man's life. Yet, he was tender to his wife, children, and grandchildren. I heard tales how he would come home after walking the beat and confronting criminals, and rock my father to sleep when he was a crying baby.

When I totaled his car as a 16 year old boy, his only concern was, "Are you OK?" Cars could be replaced, but he knew his family was paramount. He showed the same attitude when my brother drove the farm truck through the gate. No big deal. Gates, fences, and trucks can be fixed. His concern was for his grandchildren.

I remember the many mornings when I would wake up at his house while staying there as a boy. He'd have fried potatoes and bacon cooking on the stove. Sometimes it was even round steak for breakfast! It was usually the smell that woke me up. The sun would shine in the sliding glass door that overlooked the field of cattle in his back yard.

Pepaw will be missed. He was the last grandparent that Sheri and I had. I will always remember him as a very strong man with a very tender heart. It is those qualities of his that I wish to emulate in my life.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Ponder Pesky Pragmatism and Palin

Since August 29 when John McCain unleashed his bomb shell news that he was selecting Sarah Palin as his vice presidential running mate, I’ve read many opinions about the legitimacy of a woman running for one of the highest offices in the land, with the good possibility that she may ascend to the the highest office in the land should her 70+ year old running mate kill over from old age after they win the election.

The opinions run the gamut from those who think Palin can do no wrong to those who can’t stand her, and everything in between.  There’s a whole host of people who oppose her because she is so conservative.  I will admit that I have not read much of these opinions.  As a very selective consumer of news I don’t subject myself to the typical liberal blather you see on network television.  We don’t even own a TV.  The closest thing I get to secular news is my occasion review of the Wall Street Journal when I have time to read it.  So, for those who can’t stand Palin because she is pro-life, pro-gun, and fiscally conservative…this article is not targeted at you.  If you are an Obama supporter, you may stop reading now.  I personally like Palin’s politics and I can’t stand Barack Hussein Obama’s politics.  Yet, I join with several other brothers in Christ in opposing Palin’s nomination due to the biblical prohibition on a woman in leadership.  I’m in good company.  Some of the men I admire who have publicly opposed Palin’s nomination are Doug Phillips, Paul Vaughn, Voddie Baucham, Scott Brown, Kevin Swanson, Terry Morris, Bill Einwechter, and many others.  Lest you think this is a “men’s club” who have conspired to subjugate women, there is also a host of lady writers who share this opinion.  They include Jennie Chancey, Bethany Vaughn, Jasmine Baucham, Anna Sofia Botkin, and Elizabeth Botkin, plus many others I have failed to mention.  It is my firm conviction that these godly brothers and sisters have done a fine job of expounding the scriptures and arriving at the same convictions that John Knox arrived at when he authored The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women.  I’ll not expend my time and effort in making the same case many of my friends have made.  Besides pointing out one obvious fact that many seem to be overlooking….it is John McCain that is running for President – not Sarah Palin…I want to address another angle on it.

The biggest accusation I have faced in my opposition on voting for the McCain/Palin ticket is this:  If you don’t vote for McCain/Palin, then you are, by default, casting a vote for Obama/Biden.

Is there any truth in this?  Maybe, maybe not.  At the top of this article, I dismissed all those who I consider blatant enemies of righteousness.  Hopefully all the Obama voters have already stopped reading.  I now invite all you McCain/Palin lovers, those who think the McCain/Palin ticket is the greatest thing since sliced bread, to go read something else and leave me to my musings.  OK, what I’m left with now is an extremely large group of Christians who don’t really care for McCain and may or may not like Palin.  Yet, to all those who are left reading this article, the thought of a pro-abortion mohammeden leading our country is “obaminable.”  (sorry, couldn’t resist!)  I daresay that the bulk of you will enter the voting booth in November and pull the lever for McCain while holding your nose, thinking all the while that you are doing the best thing for our country.  Many of you look at people like me, who refuse to vote for McCain, as part of the problem and someone to blame if Obama rises to power.  But I want to put this thought before you.  Who is sovereign?  God or man?  It is God who raises up and puts down leaders.  I submit to you that God has already determined the outcome of this election before the first vote is ever cast.  Certainly, in the United States God uses the votes of the people to put the President in office.  Yet, is man so powerful and God so weak that we thwart His will with our votes?  Perish the thought!  I trust God to place whom He will in authority in the highest office in the land (or the world for that matter).  I can only do my duty to vote for someone who would be a godly leader.

I plan to vote for Chuck Baldwin for President.  As has been pointed out in other blogs I have read, by other men I respect, Baldwin is not perfect.  He is a sinner like the rest of us.  However, he has given his positions on the things I care most about on his website (http://www.baldwin08.com) and the policies that he supports are the very same policies I support.  Not to mention that his running mate is not a feminist woman.  He is also a godly, Christian man, Darrell Castle.

Will my vote for Baldwin propel Obama to the Presidency?  Not unless God so wills it.  To think otherwise is to set pragmatism above trust in Almighty God.  Think about it this way:  If Obama would sentence 10,000 babies a day to die by abortion (the current actual number is about 4,000) and McCain would only sentence 1,000 babies a day to die by abortion, are we holding to a moral standard by voting for the one who would sentence fewer children to their death?  Or do you agree with me that a vote for anyone who would allow abortion to continue for even one more day is a vote that is soaked in blood?  Maybe this is hard for you to visualize, because even our actual number of 4,000 innocent children dying every single day is hard to imagine.  It’s equivalent to 9/11/01 happening every single day for 35 years.  If this is hard to imagine, think of it this way.  Hypothetically you are a parent of four children, and for the sake of “overpopulation” Obama declares that three of your children must die.  Yet, in this same hypothetical world McCain is much better and only requires one of your children’s lives, would you actually vote for this guy?  Though this situation is entirely hypothetical, the truth is that Obama is a rabid pro-abort, and McCain is a moderate fence sitting pro-abort (with exceptions).  There’s no such thing as being “pro-life” with exceptions because you don’t make exceptions when it comes to the issue of life.  Any “exception” to a pro-life stance makes you a “pro-abort.”

 You have three choices in November (actually 5 if you count the other two third party candidates):

1.  A rabid pro-abortion muslim democrat.

2.  A wishy-washy pro-abortion republican with a feminist running mate.


3.  An imperfect, but God fearing man, Chuck Baldwin, who would do everything in his power to end abortion in this land.


Will you vote your conscious or will you ponder pesky pragmatism and Palin?

Monday, September 01, 2008

RSS Feed Messed Up

I've been told, and I've confirmed, that my RSS feed is shot. I've spent several hours tracking this last night and this morning. Bummer! If anyone has any experience with resolving an issue of FTP Response 421 received. Server closed connection when trying to republish my entire blog, I'd be most grateful if you drop me a note at mike@mikesoutherland.com. In the meantime, if you click on the subscribe link at the bottom, you'll get routed to an error page. It's weird that I can still publish blog entries. I just can't seem to get the feed working. If this isn't resolved soon, it may be time to start shopping servers.


Friday, August 29, 2008

McCain’s Running Mate

As for my people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O my people, they which lead thee cause thee to err, and destroy the way of thy paths.
-Isaiah 3:12

It’s been announced. John McCain’s running mate is Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. I know very little about this woman besides the few accolades that I’ve read in the press this morning. Apparently, she is a defender of life to the point of giving birth to a Down Syndrome child. She is also a defender of our second amendment rights. These issues are near and dear to my heart. However, she is a woman. Isaiah tells us that it is a sign of God’s judgment when our rulers are women.

America is the last major nation on Earth not to have a female ruler in this high of an office. God has set His order in place according to His own design. Don’t get me wrong. Men are not superior to women. Many women excel many men in many areas. I do not question their competence. My beef is that Gov. Palin is rebelling against God’s order by accepting this nomination.

Earlier this year, it seemed as though the Democrats would be the ones to seek to place a woman in the highest office in the land. Yet, it is now the Republicans who have actually set this up as a likely scenario. It’s entirely possible that John McCain could die in office. Palin would then rise to the position of president. It’s also likely that if the McCain presidency is popular, Palin could be the presidential nomination when McCain’s two terms are over in 2016.

So, this November, we are left with the choice of electing a Muslim in Obama, or a woman in Palin. There is a third choice. Sadly, though, many Christians will ignore this choice. Chuck Baldwin is running as the Constitution Party candidate. If all nominal Christians would vote for him, he would be a shoo-in. However, we are living in an age when Christians vote for the “lesser of two evils” rather than casting a vote for the best *man* that is running. It is my prayer that this philosophy would change over the course of the next few generations. God help us, though, in this present age.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Family Reunited

Praise be to God who works all things according to the council of His
will! I am nearing the end of my second week away from my family as I
am working several hours away from them in Texas. God's heart is for
husbands and wives, fathers and children to live together, not apart.
It appears that God is making a way not only to be reunited with my
family, but also a way to remain in the Church where He has placed us.
I'm being deliberately vague until such time as things are finalized,
but suffice it to say that He is answering prayer and rescuing me out
of my own unwise decision that I made several months ago.

I believe that God had a purpose for the circumstances in which I
found myself over these past few months. But I also thank Him that it
is not a permanent arrangement and that restoration is right around
the corner.

Perhaps then, I can concentrate on bringing FatherToFather.net online.
No, I haven't forgotten it. But in the everyday bustle of what's
been going on in our lives, it has not received the attention it
deserves. Stay tuned. God is working…

Thursday, August 07, 2008

God, Give Us Men for Sons

This weekend my two oldest sons and I are heading out to Colorado to participate in Vision Forum’s Father Son Conference.

Earlier this year I took my oldest daughters to the Father Daughter Conference. We had a great time and our relationships were strengthened. I pray the same will be the case for this conference as well.

Our culture is overflowing with immature boys who are encouraged in their immature foolish behaviour by media and peer groups. Vision Forum is a wonderful exception to this rule. They understand that a boy is distinctly different from a girl. There needs to be physical activity and times for boys to be loud. Yet there are also times of seriousness. As parents we are raising men and women for the glory of God. They start out as boys and girls, but maturity is our goal.

My prayer for us for this conference is that God would really strengthen the relationships I have with my sons. I pray that He would bring a new level of maturity to my oldest son as he approaches his 13th birthday this year. Boys are great, but I really desire to have men for sons. I want to raise godly men who can intelligently carry on a conversation regarding doctrine, politics, and family issues. I want men who desire to lead a family. I want men with whom I can work alongside once I break free from the chains of corporate America. I want godly, Christian men for sons that I can have serious conversation with on the scriptures. I want men who will read their Bibles and other works by godly authors and challenge me in my own life as I lead my own family with the help of God to the best of my ability.

God, give us men for sons. Let the world keep their immature, effeminate fools. I desire men of God to train for His service.

Monday, August 04, 2008

A Multi-Cultural Rendition of Deuteronomy 6

I’ve recently been involved in an online conversation with a pastor who sings the praises of multi-culturalism. It comes as no surprise that he has a problem with requiring homeschooling of the families in his church. Here is my “tongue-in-cheek” version of Deut 6 with a multi-cultural slant.

Deut 6:1
These are the suggestions that the LORD your God really wishes you would do when you go into another land…not to possess it, by the way, because that would be “stealing” it from the current owners…but rather to live peaceably side by side them.

That thou mightest consider the LORD thy God your “buddy” and someone who would never violate your own will. Pretty please, would you just consider following His suggestions? And if it’s not too much trouble, would you mind letting your children know about these things as well?

If you’ll decide to do these things, I’ll give you a honey graham cracker…with milk!

{verse four must be stricken…because to say “The LORD our God is one LORD” is way too exclusive and non-“multi-cultural.”}

Try God for a while. I think you’ll like Him. You’ll at least like what He can do for you.

Think about these suggestions…they really make a lot of sense...but don’t feel compelled to do them.

Here’s the deal. I’d really like you to teach your own children. But, don’t feel like you must do this. In fact, if you’re requiring it of others in your church then SHAME ON YOU.

These little words of suggestions would make a great piece of jewelry that you wear on your head, but never live by. Oh, and by the way, make sure you remove this jewelry if you’re going to be around other people. You wouldn’t want to make them feel uncomfortable.

You can write them on your doorposts, if that really makes you feel good. Just be sure to use a dry erase board and marker so you can quickly get rid of it if you are expecting company.

When God brings you into this land, remember that *you* don’t own it. You are simply borrowing it from the people who were there first. Make sure not to do anything that would disrupt *their* culture.

When you see all the things that they left behind, you should feel extremely guilty. After all, this was all built on the backs of slaves. You should, right now, begin a plan to return these things to the poor souls who have lost it. After all, it is their culture, and you wouldn’t want to do anything to disrupt it.

Sorry, I just can’t keep this up any longer. You see “multi-culturalism” is an evil that is plaguing our land. It is ruining the Church.

Multi-Culturalism respects other cultures and lets them remain as they are.
Christianity changes the culture for the glory of God.

Consider this verse from Isaiah. I covered it yesterday in our Lord’s Day meeting.

Therefore thou hast forsaken thy people the house of Jacob, because they be replenished from the east, and are soothsayers like the Philistines, and they please themselves in the children of strangers.
-Isaiah 2:6

This speaks clearly against “multi-culturalism.” Consider John Gill’s analysis of this verse:

Isa 2:6 - Therefore thou hast forsaken thy people, the house of Jacob,.... These words contain a reason of the divine conduct, in calling the Gentiles, and rejecting the Jews, because of the sins of the latter hereafter mentioned; though some, as the Targum and R. Moses, refer this to the Israelites; and read, "because ye have forsaken", &c. and interpret it of their forsaking the Lord, his worship, and his law. What is hereafter said does not agree with the Jews, literally understood, neither in the times of Isaiah, nor when they returned from Babylon, nor in the times of Christ, nor since the destruction of Jerusalem, or in the latter day, a little before their conversion; for after the Babylonish captivity they were not given to idolatry, nor did they abound in riches, and much less since their dispersion among the nations; nor will this be their case in the latter day: wherefore Kimchi applies the whole to the times of Solomon, when the land abounded with gold and silver, with horses and chariots, and with idolatry also, in the latter part of his life: but it seems best to interpret this of antichrist and his followers, who call themselves the people of God, and the house of Jacob, say they are Jews, but are not, and are of the synagogue of Satan; and are therefore rejected of the Lord, and will be given up to utter ruin and destruction, for the evils found in them, hereafter charged with.

Because they be replenished from the east, or "more than the east"; than the eastern people, the Syrians and Chaldeans; that is, were more filled with witchcrafts and sorceries than they, as Kimchi explains it; of the sorceries of the Romish antichrist, see Rev_9:21 the words may be rendered, "because they be full from of old time"; or, as of old, or more than they were of old; namely, fuller of idols than formerly; so the Targum paraphrases it,

"because your land is full of idols, as of old;''

and so Rome Papal is as full of idols, or fuller, than Rome Pagan was. Some, as Aben Ezra, understand this of their being filled with the wisdom of the children of the east, 1Ki_4:30 and others of the riches of the east:

and are soothsayers like the Philistines: who were a people given to divination and soothsaying, 1Sa_6:2 and some of the popes of Rome have studied the black art, and by such wicked means have got into the Papal chair; for under this may be included all evil arts and fallacious methods, by which they have deceived themselves and others:

and they please themselves in the children of strangers; being brought into their convents, monasteries, and nunneries; the priests and nuns vowing celibacy and virginity, and contenting themselves with the children of others: or they love strange flesh, delight in sodomitical practices, and unnatural lusts with boys and men; wherefore Rome is called Sodom and Egypt, Rev_11:8 or they content and delight themselves in the laws, customs, rites, ceremonies, and doctrines of other nations; many of the Gentile notions and practices being introduced into the faith and worship of the church of Rome; wherefore the Papists go by the name of Gentiles, Rev_11:2. The Targum is,

"and they walk in the laws of the people,''

or study strange sciences, and not the statutes and laws of God; so some interpret it, as Ben Melech observes, and who also mentions another sense some give, that they please themselves in images they renew daily.


Dear Christian. We are told not to be like the world. Rather we are called to change it. Hold fast to that doctrine against all the praises of multi-culturalism you may hear proclaimed from modern pulpits.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

GOSPEL SONNETS – Chapter 3 – Section 3

By Ralph Erskine
Chapter 3

SECTION III. – True saving faith magnifying the law both as a covenant and as a rule. False faith unfruitful and ruining.

PROUD nature may reject this gospel-theme,
And curse it as an Antinomian scheme.
Let slander bark, let envy grin and fight,
The curse that is so causeless shall not light.(1)
If they that fain would make by holy force
‘Twixt sinners and the law a clean divorce,
And court the Lamb a virgin chaste to wife,
Be charged as foes to holiness of life,
Well may they gladly suffer on this score,
Apostles great were so maligned before.
Do we make void the law through faith?(2) Nay; why,
We do it more fulfil and magnify
Than fiery seraphs can with holiest flash.
Avaunt, vain legalists – unworthy trash!
When as a cov’nant stern the law commands,
Faith puts her Lamb’s obedience in its hands;
And when its threats gush out a fiery flood,
Faith stops the current with her victim’s blood.
The law can crave no more, yet craves no less,
Than active, passive, perfect righteousness.
Yet here is all, yea, more than its demand,
All rendered to it by a divine hand.
Mankind is bound law-service still to pay,
Yea, angel-kind is also bound t’obey.
It may by human and angelic blaze
Have honour, but in finite, partial ways.
These natures have its lustre once defaced,
‘Twill be by part of both for aye disgraced,
Yet had they all obsequious stood and true,
They’d given the law no more than homage due.
But faith gives’t honour yet more great, more odd –
The high, the humble service of its God.
Again, to view the holy law’s command,
As lodged in a Mediator’s hand;
Faith gives it honour, as a rule of life,
And makes the bride the Lamb’s obedient wife.
Due homage to the law those never did,
To whom th’obedience pure of faith is hid.
Faith works by love, and purifies the heart,(3)
And truth advances in the inward part;
On carnal hearts impresses divine stamps,
And sully’d lives inverts to shining lamps.
From Abram’s seed that are most strong in faith.
The law most honour, God most glory hath.
But due respect to neither can be found,
Where unbelief ne’er got a mortal wound,
To still the virtue-vaunter’s empty sound.
Good works he boasts, a path he never trod
Who is not yet the workmanship of God,(4)
In Jesus thereunto created new;
Nois’d works that spring not hence are but a shew.
True faith that’s of a noble divine race,
Is still a holy sanctifying grace;
And greater honour to the law does share,
Than boasters all that breathe the vital air.
Ev’n heathen morals vastly may outshine
The works that flow not from a faith divine.
Pretensions high to faith a number have,
But, ah! it is a faith that cannot save:
“We trust,” say they, “in Christ, we hope in God:
Nor blush to blaze their rotten faith abroad.
Nor try the trust of which they make a shew,
If of a saving or a damning hue.
They own their sins are ill; true-but ‘tis sad
They never thought their faith and hope were bad.
How evident’s their home-bred nat’ral blaze,
Who dream they have believ’d well all their days;
Yet never felt their unbelief, nor knew
Their need of pow’r their nature to renew.
Blind souls, who boast of faith, yet live in sin,
May hence conclude their faith is to begin,
Or know they shall, by such an airy faith,
Believe themselves to everlasting wrath.
Faith, that nor leads to good, nor keeps from ill,
Will never lead to heaven, nor keep from hell.
The body without breath is dead;(5) no less
Is faith without the works of holiness.(6)
How rare is saving faith, when earth is cramm’d
With such as we believe, and yet be damn’d;
Believe the gospel, yet with dread and awe
Have never truly first believ’d the law.
That matters shall be well, they hope too soon
Who never yet have seen they were undone.
Can of salvation their belief be true,
Who never yet believ’d damnation due?
Can these of endless life have solid faith
Who never fear’d law threats of endless death?
Nay, sail’d they han’t yet to the healing shore,
Who never felt their sinful, woful sore.
Imaginary faith is but a blind
Which bears no fruit but of a deadly kind:
No can from such a wild unwholesome root
The least production rise of living fruit.
But saving faith can such an offspring breed,
Her native product is a holy seed.
The fairest issues of the vital breath
Spring from the fertile womb of Heav’n-born faith;
Yet boasts she nothing of her own, but brings
Auxiliaries from the King of kings,
Who graves his royal law on rocky hearts,
And gracious aid in soft’ning showers imparts,
This gives prolific virtue to the faith
Inspir’d at first by his almighty breath,
Hence, fetching all her succours from abroad,
She still employes this mighty pow’r of God.
Drain’d clean of native pow’rs and legal aims,
No strength but in and from Jehovah claims;
And thus her service to the law o’ertops
The tow’ring zeal of Pharisaic fops.

(1) Prov. xxvi. 2.
(2) Rom. iii. 21.
(3) Gal. v. 6.
(4) Eph. ii. 10.
(5) James ii. 26.
(6) James ii. 17. 10.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Psalm 146

There's a reason I haven't personally authored anything on this blog since June 17. It's certainly not lack of desire. Due to an unwise decision I made in my life I am suffering under the thumb of an oppressor. There is an entity that would steal away every last waking moment of my life and rob me of my precious family time. Last Lord's Day I selected Psalm 146 as the hymn I selected for my family. The words in the Trinity Hymnal are metrical, but enjoy with me the Word of God as it is written in the Geneva text. When reading, remember that our trust of provision comes not from man, but from an eternally loving Father God who faithfully feeds His own.

Psalm 146
1 Praise thou the Lord, O my soul.
2 I will praise the Lord during my life; as long as I have any being, I will sing unto my God.
3 Put not your trust in Princes, nor in the son of man, for there is no help in him.
4 His breath departeth, and he returneth to his earth; this his thoughts perish.
5 Blessed is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God,
6 Which made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that therein is; which keepeth his fidelity forever,
7 Which executeth justice for the oppressed, which giveth bread to the hungry; the Lord looseth the prisoners.
8 The Lord giveth sight to the blind: the Lord raiseth up the crooked: the Lord loveth the righteous.
9 The Lord keepeth the strangers: he relieveth the fatherless and widow: but he overthroweth the way of the wicked.
10 The Lord shall reign forever: O Zion, thy God endureth from generation to generation. Praise ye the Lord.

Amen, so let it be. I make this my prayer today. Lord Jesus, overthrow the way of the wicked and preserve me, your son, as I stand in the righteousness of Christ alone.

Friday, June 20, 2008

GOSPEL SONNETS - Chapter 3 - Section 2

By Ralph Erskine
Chapter 3

SECTION II. – Faith’s victories over sin and Satan, through new and farther discoveries of CHRIST, making believers more fruitful in holiness than all other pretenders to works.

THE gospel-path leads heav’n-ward; hence the fray,
Hell’s pow’rs still push the bride the legal way.
So hot the war, her life’s a troubled flood,
A field of battle, and a scene of blood.
But he that once commenc’d the work in her,
Whose working fingers drop the sweetest myrrh,
Will still advance it by alluring force,
And, from her ancient mate, more clean divorce;
Since ‘tis her antiquated spouse, the law,
The strength of sin and hell did on her draw.
Piece-meal she finds hell’s mighty force abate,
By new recruits from her almighty Mate.
Fresh armour sent from grace’s magazine,
Makes her proclaim eternal war with sin.
The shield of faith, dipt in the Surety’s blood,
Drowns fiery darts, as in a crimson flood.
The Captain’s ruddy banner, lifted high,
Makes hell retire, and all the furies fly.
Yea, of his glory every recent glance
Makes sin decay, and holiness advance.
In kindness therefore does her heavenly Lord
Renew’d discov’ries of his love afford,
That her enamour’d soul may, with the view,
Be cast into his holy mould anew.
For when he manifests his glorious grace,
The charming favour of his smiling face,
Into his image fair transforms her soul, (1)
And wafts her upwards to the heavenly pole,
From glory unto glory by degrees,
Till vision and fruition shall suffice.
And thus in holy beauty Jesus’ bride
Shines far beyond the painted sons of pride,
Vain merit-vouchers, and their subtle apes,
In all their most refined, delusive shapes.
No lawful child is ere the marriage born;
Though therefore virtues feigned their life adorn,
The fruit they bear is but a spurious brood,
Before this happy marriage be made good.
And ‘tis not strange; for, from a corrupt tree
No fruit divinely good produced can be,(2)
But, lo! the bride, graft in the living Root,
Brings forth most precious aromatic fruit.
When her new heart and her new husband meet,
Her fruitful womb is like a heap of wheat,
Beset with fragrant lilies round about,(3)
All divine graces, in a comely rout,
Burning within, and shining bright without.
And thus the bride, as sacred scripture saith,
When dead unto the law through Jesus’ death,(4)
And matched with him, bears to her God and Lord
Accepted fruit, with increase pure decored.
Freed from law-debt, and bless’d with gospel ease,
Her work is now her dearest Lord to please,
By living on him as her ample stock,
And leaning to him as her potent rock.
The fruit that each law-wedded mortal brings
To self accresces, as from self it springs.
So base a rise must have a base recourse,
The stream can mount no higher than its source.
But Jesus can his bride’s sweet fruit commend,
As brought from him the root, to him the end.
She does by such an offspring him avow
To be her ALPHA and OMEGA too.
The work and warfare he begins, he crowns,
Though maugre various conflicts, ups and downs,
Thus through the darksome vale she makes her way,
Until the morning dawn of glory’s day.

(1) 2 Cor. iii. 18.
(2) Matt. vii. 17, 18.
(3) Cant. vii. 2.
(4) Rom. vii. 4.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Is There No Hope?

My lovely wife read my blog article yesterday and advised me, "You've left them no hope."

In a way, that is true. When a nation defiantly shakes its fist in the face of God, trampling under foot the spiritual heritage He has given them, they can not long endure. One only need to read of the judgment of God toward a rebellious Israel. Thoughout the scriptures God judged His people. It was a big cycle. God's people would turn away from him. Their sin would become exceedingly great. God would judge them. They would realise the error of their way and repent. God would turn His heart back toward them. Then God's people would walk in His ways, for a while. Then the cycle would continue as they once again turn away from His precepts.

In thinking back on the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, a couple of thoughts come to mind. God was willing to save both cities if (ultimately through Abraham's pleading) only 10 righteous were found in the city. Now, I'm not sure what the population of Sodom and Gomorrah was, but I'm pretty sure that it was much smaller than the entire population of the state of California. If God's mercy was a matter of percentages, then it is likely we need a lot more than just 10 righteous in that state in order to appease God's wrath. There is one big fallacy in this view, however. Our mediator is much greater than Sodom's mediator was. Christ is our high priest. He is entirely God and entirely man. Abraham had a sinful nature that he inherited from Adam. Christ did not.

So, the answer to the quandry and the doom and gloom I left you with yesterday is found in the very same chapter of Romans.

Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.
-- Romans 3:22-26

So then, while there is none righteous, no not one, we can, by faith, apply the righteousness of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ to our account. Stop and let that soak in for a minute. Though born a vile and wretched sinner, I can be counted righteous in the eyes of God. This is possible only through faith in the blood of Christ.

I believe that it is solely due to the remnant of God's people, that He has scattered throughout this country, that this nation avoids catestrophic judgment. Don't be fooled. You may see a church on every corner, but only a tiny remnant can truly be called "God's people." You will not find God's people among the "ministers" performing sodomite marriages. You will not find them among the "Easter and Christmas" only crowd. God's people seek His face daily. They walk in His ways.

And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.
-- Luke 9:23

Friend, turn to Him today. Deny yourself and take up your cross daily, and follow Him. It may well be that either:

1) You will be counted among the righteous so that the nation can be saved from the impending doom of judgment


2) God may provide a way of escape for you and your household, as he did for Lot, when the judgment comes.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Spitting in the Face of God

But the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the LORD exceedingly.
-- Genesis 13:13

But before they lay down, the men of the city, even the men of Sodom, compassed the house round, both old and young, all the people from every quarter: And they called unto Lot, and said unto him, Where are the men which came in to thee this night? bring them out unto us, that we may know them. And Lot went out at the door unto them, and shut the door after him, And said, I pray you, brethren, do not so wickedly.
-- Genesis 19:4-7

Then the LORD rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven; And he overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground.
-- Genesis 19:24-25

Today at 5:00 PM Pacific time, California will become the second state in the nation to legalize same-sex “marriage.” Adding to this madness is the fact that this was done in direct violation to the will of the people. Proposition 22 was passed by a 61.4% majority of the people in 2000 which explicitly defines the union of a man and a woman as the only valid or recognizable form of marriage in the State of California. Yet, through today’s renegade judicial activism, sodomites will be lining up to “exchange vows.” Californians will have to wait until the November elections to vote for an amendment to their constitution to try and undo the damage.

I’ve heard it said, As California goes, so goes the nation. As we stand by and watch our falling dollar, ask yourself if maybe this is just the beginning of God’s judgment on America. Abraham interceded on behalf of the people in the following conversation with God:

And Abraham drew near, and said, Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked? Peradventure there be fifty righteous within the city: wilt thou also destroy and not spare the place for the fifty righteous that are therein? That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right? And the LORD said, If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes. And Abraham answered and said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, which am but dust and ashes: Peradventure there shall lack five of the fifty righteous: wilt thou destroy all the city for lack of five? And he said, If I find there forty and five, I will not destroy it. And he spake unto him yet again, and said, Peradventure there shall be forty found there. And he said, I will not do it for forty's sake. And he said unto him, Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak: Peradventure there shall thirty be found there. And he said, I will not do it, if I find thirty there. And he said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord: Peradventure there shall be twenty found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for twenty's sake. And he said, Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak yet but this once: Peradventure ten shall be found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for ten's sake.
-- Genesis 18:23-32

Now read the sobering truth:

As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:
-- Romans 3:10

God help us.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


It's with great pleasure that I announce to you the "pre-launch" of FatherToFather.net. The Lord has laid it on my heart to offer encouragement to other Christian fathers out there trying, in spite of all the challenges the world throws their way, to raise a godly family.

It is by God's grace alone that I can ever hope to offer encouragement in this area, as I continue to learn so much myself in my journey as a father.

In the next few weeks I will be starting up a newsletter that I will send out on a weekly basis. There are still a few loose ends I need to tie up before I make this happen. But I am looking forward to it with eager anticipation, even as I work toward that end. I will continue to post articles out here as well, but the focus of the other site will be specific ministry to fathers.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

An Unprofitable Servant

So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.
(Luk 17:10)

In each of the commentaries on this verse that I have consulted, there appears to be a common theme. We are "unprofitable" servants because even our best efforts are intermingled with error. We have no righteousness of our own. Everything that we have is due solely to God's working in us.

Now, I will not dispute the godly teachers of the past. Surely men such as John Gill and Matthew Henry spent many more hours in the Word of God than me. Yet, when I approach this passage, I must ask myself if this is just yet another passage speaking to the total depravity of man? Is it just one more reference that proves our inadequacy? Maybe. But what I read here is that a servant *has* successfully done his duty. Yet, he is still found lacking. He is described as "unprofitable."

Could it be that the servant is called unprofitable because he has done the bare minimum of his duty? Consider the following instruction of our Lord:

And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.
(Mat 5:40-41)

In this passage, wouldn't the "duty" described be the bare minimum? Duty would dictate that you give up the coat that has been judged against you. But duty does not require the giving away of the cloke. Duty requires us to "go a mile." Yet going "twain" is above and beyond the call of duty.

I was listening to Geoff Botkin present a message from the 200 Year Plan Practicum. In it, he was relating the comparison of the army of Christ with an earthly military army. He was talking about ranks of privates, corporals, sergeants, captains, colonels, and generals. He stressed that being a private in Christ's army is not a bad thing. In an earthly military, we absolutely need the efforts of privates. There is honor in serving as a private. Yet, if the entire army is made up of privates, something is terribly wrong. There needs to be those who will rise above the ranks of private both in earthly armies, as well as Christ's army.

Mr. Botkin did not bring up the scripture from Luke 17:10, but I could not help but think of it while he was presenting. If all we ever do is just our bare minimum duty, which, by the way, includes daily Bible reading, prayer, homeschooling, family worship, and releasing control of the womb to the Lord, then we will never rise in the ranks to the officer status that the Lord needs in His army. The duties I mentioned above are vital. Sadly many Christians do not even strive to maintain these "minimum" standards. Indeed, observing someone doing these things is most often a rarity in today's depraved times in which we live. Yet, I agree with Mr. Botkin, that greater efforts need to be done. Bravery in the midst of battle should be apparent. God is calling men to be leaders who can make quick, wise decisions while engulfed in the thick of the battle.

If a young man comes desiring to court our daughters, and all he can claim is that he consistently reads his Bible, prays, desires to homeschool, desires to lead in family worship, and believes in having many children for the glory of God, is that really "enough" qualification to release our daughters into his care? If you have set yourself on having your daughters marry a "private" in Christ's army, then maybe it is "good enough." Yet, for those of us who desire leadership qualities, for those who have a clear vision and passion for the next 200 years, we will not hand our daughters over to someone who is an unprofitable servant that has simply done what was their duty to do.

Men, this is a challenge to you. This is a challenge to me. The answer is not to simply hold off in giving away our daughters until an officer in Christ's army comes to court. The answer is also that we must rise in the ranks ourselves, and we must raise sons who do likewise. In listening to Mr. Botkin's message, I realized that what he is describing is a range of ranks. In my own self assessment, I feel that I am above the rank of private. Yet, that same self assessment shows me that I have much, much further to go before advancing to the ranks of the upper leadership. And yet, that is my desire. I can think of no other purpose in living than in living a life that is constantly desiring the deeper, greater things of God. I take seriously our Lord's great commission:

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
(Mat 28:19-20)

So, if we see that being unprofitable is simply doing our duty, what things in scripture are described as "profitable?"

This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men.
(Tit 3:8)

Hmm... Are good works "profitable?" The scripture declares that they are profitable. But they are profitable unto men. It's a good thing to do things that are profitable unto men. The Lord has told us that we are to treat one another with kindness. Yet, my greater desire is to be profitable unto God.

For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.
(1Ti 4:8)

Godliness is profitable unto all things. True godliness cannot be faked. Godliness is not simply a matter of performing a check list of duties that bring us to a rank of private in Christ's army. I submit to you that godliness is the trait that God is looking for in His officers. This is not something we drum up within ourselves. It is God who imparts it. Yet, we are responsible to be willing vessels. We cannot hope to walk in godliness while harboring habitual sin. We all fail. But what does our heart look like after we fail? David was king. He certainly failed on more than one occasion. But when he did, his heart was sincerely grieved that He had sinned against His Lord. His repentance was deep and meaningful. And we are told that David was a man after God's own heart.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

GOSPEL SONNETS - Chapter 3 - Section 1

By Ralph Erskine
Chapter 3

SECTION I. The sweet solemnity of the marriage now over, and the sad effects of the remains of a legal spirit.

THE match is made, with little din 'tis done,
But with great pow'r, unequal prizes won.
The Lamb has fairly won his worthless bride;
She her great Lord, and all his store beside.
He made the poorest bargain, though most wise;
And she, the fool, has won the worthy prize.
Deep floods of everlasting love and grace,
That under ground ran an eternal space,
Now rise aloft 'bove banks of sin and hell,
And o'er the tops of massy mountains swell.
In streams of blood are tow'rs of guilt o'erflown,
Down with the rapid purple current thrown.
The bride now as her all can Jesus own,
And prostrate at his footstool cast her crown,
Disclaiming all her former groundless hope,
While in the dark her soul did weary grope.
Down tumble all the hills of self-conceit,
In him alone she sees herself complete;
Does his fair person with fond arms embrace,
And all her hopes on his full merit place;
Discard her former mate, and henceforth draw
No hope, no expectation from the law.
Though thus her new-created nature soars,
And lives aloft on Jesus' heav'nly stores;
Yet apt to stray, her old adult'rous heart
Oft takes her old renounced husband's part.
A legal cov'nant is so deep ingrain'd,
Upon the human nature, laps'd and stain'd,
That, till her spirit mount the purest clime
She's never totally divorced in time.
Hid in her corrupt part's proud bosom lurks
Some hope of life still by the law of works.
Hence flow the following evils more or less;
Preferring oft her partial holy dress,
Before her husband's perfect righteousness.
Hence joying more in grace already giv'n
Than in her Head and stock that's all in heav'n.
Hence grieving more the want of frames and grace,
Than of himself the spring of all solace.
Hence guilt her soul imprisons, lusts prevail,
While to the law her rents insolvent fail,
And yet her faithless heart rejects her Husband's bail.
Hence soul disorders rise, and racking fears,
While doubtful of his clearing past arrears;
Vain dreaming, since her own obedience fails,
His likewise little for her help avails.
Hence duties are a task, while all in view
Is heavy yokes of laws, or old or new:
Whereas, were once her legal bias broke,
She'd find her Lord's commands an easy yoke.
No galling precepts on her neck he lays,
Nor any debt demands, save what he pays
By promis'd aid; but, lo! the grievous law,
Demanding brick, won't aid her with a straw.
Hence also fretful, grudging, discontent,
Crav'd by the law, finding her treasure spent,
And doubting if her Lord will pay the rent.
Hence pride of duties too does often swell,
Presuming she perform'd so very well.
Hence pride of graces and inherent worth
Springs from her corrupt legal bias forth;
And boasting more a present with'ring frame,
Than her exalted Lord's unfading name.
Hence many falls and plunges in the mire,
As many new conversions do require:
Because her faithless heart sad follies breed,
Much lewd departure from her living Head,
Who, to reprove her aggravated crimes,
Leaves her abandon'd to herself at times;
That, falling into frightful deeps, she may
From sad experience learn more stress to lay,
Not on her native efforts, but at length
On Christ alone, her righteousness and strength:
Conscious, while in her works she seeks respose,
Her legal spirit breeds her many woes.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Buried With Him By Baptism

Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death:

that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
(Rom 6:4)

I had the great pleasure last Lord's Day (May 25, 2008) of baptizing my second son and fourth child, Justin Thomas Southerland. Afterward he participated in the Lord's Table for the first time in the meeting of the Church.
The Lord implores us in Matthew 28:

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
(Mat 28:19-20)

I believe that our children are the easiest ones to teach "to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you." Yes, we are told to go and teach the nations. But I believe that it must start at home and eminate out from there. Don't try to save the world while losing your children. Fathers, they are your first and foremost "congregation." Be faithful with the little flock He has given you, and He will entrust you with ministry to others He has called into His Kingdom.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

A Treasure of Gospel Grace Digged Out of Mount Sinai

This week I have been reading, a little bit at a time, a sermon by Ralph Erskine entitled, "A Treasure of Gospel Grace Digged Out of Mount Sinai." The scripture text for this sermon is Exodus 20 v. 2-3, "I am the Lord thy God. -- Thou shalt have no other gods before me."

What strikes me initially is the length of this sermon. It is 38 pages long! Contrast this with the typical "sermonette" given in most churches today. The attention span of modern man is so shallow that he couldn't sit still while this was delivered in its entirity on a Lord's Day morning. This is to our shame. May we repent from our shallowness and declare, as did King David, "One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord."

I'm going to give you 4 pages of this 38 page sermon. You will find in these four pages more "meat" than I would ever expect to hear from the pulpits of this land. The remaining 34 pages are just as good, but is just a little too much to type into this blog. Enjoy.
This premised, I would have you consider, that there are two grand idols worshipped and served by the generality of the world, yea, of the visible church, viz. self, and the world.

1. I say, self is the great Diana, which all the world worshippeth, excepting a very few whom God has called out of the world. Every man, while in a natural state, makes a god of himself. Hence it is that the principal batteries of the gospel are mounted against this idol. The very first lesson in the school of Christianity, which is materially the same with the first precept of the moral law, is, "Let a man deny himself;" let him renounce self as his god, that he may have no other gods before me, who am God manifested in the flesh.

This idol of self is pregnant with a numerous brood of lesser or subordinate idols. Some make a God of their own understandings; "for vain man would be wise, though he be born as the wild ass's colt." What cursed pride is it in some, even in our own bowels, that they will needs exalt their own depraved reason, which is nonplussed by the least work of nature, is able to comprehend? Is not this a giving that glory to our own understanding which is due unto an infinitely wise God? If ever we be believers indeed, reason must quit the throne, and lie down at the foot of faith, owning that reason is but folly before teh wisdom of God revealed in his word. Others idolize their own understandings, when inwardly they disapprove of God's providential dispensations, as if they could manage things more to advantage, if the reins of administration were in their hands.

Some make a god of their wills. When a person follows the swing of his own corrupted and rebellious will, in opposition to the commanding will of God in his word: what else is that but to exalt self-will above the will of God? It is the will of God, that men should read and hear his word, attend his courts, wait upon his ordinances, sanctify his name, keep his sabbath, that they should forego such a lust, that shey should pluck out a right-eye, and cut off a right-hand sin, in obedience to him who is the Lord our God. No, says the rebellious depraved will, "I have loved strangers, and after them will I go. Who is the Almighty, that I should serve him? and what profit should I have if I pray unto him? Let him depart; for I desire not the knowledge of his ways;" I know not the Lord, neither will I let my lusts go.

Will any man practically treat God after this manner, and yet pretend that he obeys this command, Thou shalt have no other gods before me? No, his own will is his god: and therefore he never yet closed by a true faith with this covenant-grant, I am the Lord thy God.

Some again make a god of their righteousness, putting it in the room of him who is JEHOVAH our righteousness;" like the Jews, Rom. x. 3. who "being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness would not submit themselves unto the righteousness of God." This is the idol which of all others it is the hardest to pull out of the sinner's embraces. And the reason is, because self-righteousness is a thing which seems to have the countenance of the law of God; and while a man has the law on his side, he thinks himself in safety, and that he has the approbation of the Lawgiver: "God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men," said the self-righteous Pharisee. It is harder to convince this man of his dangerous state, than to convince and hundred profane wretches of their danger: hence Christ says to the self-righteous Pharisees, "Publicans and harlots shall enter into the kingdom of God before you." I shall only say to you who are hugging this idol of your own law-righteousness in your bosoms, you shall as surely perish in your righteousness, as ever any of Adam's race perished in thier sins. Why, because God has said, that "by the works of the law no flesh living shall be justified;" and "As many as are of the works of the law, are under the curse." You are pretending to keep the law, and seeking righteousness by the law; and yet are living in the neglect and contempt of the first and greatest command in the whole law, Thou shalt have no other gods before me. You never yet discarded the idol of self, and therefore never learned that first lesson of religion, "If any man will be my disciple, let him deny himself," &c.

2. Another grand idol, to which the greatest multitude do bow, is the world. Solomon tells us of some who have "the world set in their heart." Ever since the fall of Adam, the world and vanities thereof, have usurped that rooom in the heart of man which is due unto God only; and nothing less than infinite power can unhinge the world from that feat which it has got in our hearts. Hence it is, that until a day of power come, we are ever making a god of one thing or another in this visible perishing world.

Some make a god of their worldly riches and substance. This is done when the desire, delight, and esteem of the soul terminates more upon these than upon God who is the chief good. O "who will shew us any good?" is the cry of many. But few say with David, "Lord lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us. One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord," &c. The covetous worldling sees more beauty in gathering dust, than he sees in him who is the brightness of the Father's glory, and is more concerned to get and keep the mammon of this world, than how to be interested in the unsearchable riches of Christ, or to lay up for himself treasures in heaven, which moth and rust do not corrupt. And will such a man pretend, that he keeps the first commandment, or hath no other gods before the Lord?

Some make a god of their worldly relations. The husband may idolise his wife, the wife her husband, parents their children, and children their parents, by giving more of their affection to them than unto God himself. Upon this account Christ tells us, "If we love father or mother, brother or sister, more than him, we are not worthy of him." When we delight more in societies of our friends and relations, than in fellowship with God; or are more impatient of their absence, than we are under God's hidings and withdrawings from our souls; in that case we put them in God's room, and so break his command, Thou shalt have no other gods before me; and also sin against the love and grace of his covenant, where he says, I am the Lord thy God. Of this kind of idolatry they are guilty, who value themselves more upon their relation to, or descent from, such and such families or ancestors, than upon their relation to God, or those who are dignified with his image, or are of his household and family by regeneration and adoption.

Some make a god of their worldly pleasure: 2 Tim. iii. 4. the apostle tells us of some who "are lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God." The drunkard has more pleasure in his cups, the swearer in his oaths, the unclean person in his swinish lusts, the unjust person in his unlawful gains, than in God. Many will rather risk the displeasure of God, and "rush upon the thick bosses of his buckler, than make a covenant with their eyes" or other senses, that they may not be porches for the fiery darts of Satan to enter in and inflame the fuel of inward lust and corruption. The apostle speaks of some "whose god is their belly," Phil. iii. 19; they are more concerned what they shall eat and drink, or wherewith they shall be clothed, than how they shall glorify God, or advance their own or others spiritual and eternal well-being. They have more pleasure in an ordinary meal among friends, than in eating the flesh and drinking the blood of the Son of God, among his friends and members at his table. And is this to have no other gods before JEHOVAH our God?

Some again make a god of their worldly credit and reputation: John v. 44. the Pharisees loved the praise of men, more than that honour which comes from God: and this was the reason of their rejecting Christ. Will not our spirits rise with resentment when our own character or reputation is attacked; and yet bear it with patience when God is dishonoured, or his holy name profaned? which plainly says, that our own honour is dearer to us than the honour of God; which could never be, if we had no other god before him.

Some make a god of their worldly helps and confidence in the time of danger, and trust more to these for deliverance than unto himself: Is. xxxi. 1. "Woe to them that go down to Egypt for help, and stay on horses, and trust in chariots, because they are many; and in horsemen, because they are very strong: but they look not unto the Holy One of Israel, neither seek the Lord." There is a solemn curse pronounced against idolaters of this kind, "Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord." Some again make a god of their very enemies, and are more afraid of him that can only kill the body, than they are of him who is able to cast both soul and body into hell. Some make a god of the devil, who is indeed called the "god of this world." When any lust or idol is set up and served, either with body or mind, the devil himself in that case is worshipped and served, though not intentionally; hence Jeroboam's calves are called devils, although by these he only intended to worship the true God. The devil is then worshipped, when we are more afraid of him than we are to displease God by sin; and when people run to wizards, or such as are supposed to be in compact with the devil, in order to ask advice, or to know future events, or to discover what is stolen or lost; this I say, is devil-worship, and was the immediate forerunner of Saul's ruin, when he went to the witch of Endor to seek counsel. It is joined with the abominable idolatry of Molech, Lev. xx. 6.

To conclude, how many are there that make gods of their vile lusts, and serve and obey these rather than God? Some serve the lust of uncleanness, some that of intemperance, some the lust of revenge, others of covetousness or ambition, or the like. O how innumerable are the lusts of the unmortified heart? yet, according to the number of thy lusts, O sinner, so are thy gods. "Know ye not (says the apostle), that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?" Rom. vi. 16.

Thus I have given you a short account of some other gods which people may have secretly lodged in their hearts, which they pretend to obey this command, That shalt have no other gods before me. Take heed that the word of the Lord be not against you; and that, while I have been minting to open this law or commandment of God in its spirituality, conscience be not saying, as Ahab to the prophet, "Thou hast found me, O mine enemy." Has not this commandment, which is exceeding broad, discovered some other god in thy heart than him who says here, I am the Lord thy God? If any one of these idols be reigning upon the throne of thy heart, thou never to this day obeyedst the first commandment of the law of God.