A Refuge and Refugees – A Pastoral Perspective on the Current Refugee Crisis

“to you who to Jesus for Refuge have fled.”

In the past few months I have been asked on numerous occasions, “Pastor how should we respond to this seemingly unprecedented refugee crisis?” We have all seen the multitudes fleeing from what I would identify as the 7th Fascist Islamic Caliphate originating from the same location as the previous six – the Middle East. Many of these refugees are professing Christians who have escaped the ISIS implemented efforts to exterminate them with crucifixions, beheadings, rape, sex-slave trafficking etc. Other refugees are non-compliant “moderate” Muslims who also were targeted for death or imprisonment. The answer would normally be obvious. Let’s open the doors of our nation by an orderly refugee resettlement plan as we have done on numerous crisis refugee challenges in the past. (European, Hutterite, Vietnamese, Korean etc.) Okay, sounds good and sounds right, so why not?

The answer as to why not is simple though the solution is not. The reason why not is that the same movement that created this refugee crisis – ISIS – has boasted and has proven that they could embed terrorist agents within the refugee population.  So what should we do as Christians in America? From a Christian world view I would pastorally propose the following.

Syrian Refugees2God’s Word reveals that our Lord has designed and established three spheres within which our lives are to be developed, lived and sustained – the Family (the institution from Creation), the Government (the institution from the Fall) and the Church (the institution from Redemption) – the answer is to create a policy and a plan that embraces the God-designed roles and responsibilities of each life sphere with “wisdom from above.” Here are three Pastoral perspectives and some action steps.


  • The Government should implement a refugee policy that allows flexibility for the current refugee crisis with a focus upon its primary responsibility to protect its citizens, especially since the crisis is the result of a national movement that has declared war upon our nation and the proven threat of embedding terrorists within the refugee population.
  • The Christian church should initiate a Biblically framed refugee ministry while encouraging and supporting a thoughtful and compassionate national refugee policy.
  • The Christian family should prayerfully encourage and engage in a refugee outreach ministry through the church and exhort as well as support an appropriate and responsible national policy toward refugees under the authority of the government.



    • Collaboration with other nations for equitable division of the refugee population.
    • A refugee camp providing housing, food, water and medical care which would allow for their sustenance while a responsible vetting process in implemented. (i.e. Ellis Island during the European refugee movement during the early 20th century)
  • A vetting process that
    • Prioritizes the refugee categories for processing (i.e. religious refugees, then political refugees, then economic refugees)
    • Identify, vet and organize non-profit, private, religious and familial sponsors to match appropriately with vetted refugees.
    • A commitment to fully vet any refugee for ties to any Jihadist movements no matter how much time and effort required. The dangers are too crucial not to make such an effort remembering that the priority responsibility of the government is to protect its citizens from evil doers. (Rom. 13)
    • The Secretary of State and the Director of the Department of Homeland Security must personally sign off any and all refugees who are admitted into the nation as to the integrity of the vetting process of both the refugee and the sponsoring family or organization to whom they are being released for accountability and documentation of the process.
    • A quarterly checkup process as to the status and activity of the refugee for three years or until a prescribed citizenship process is completed



  • Consider teaching on the Biblical material concerning our Lord’s prescribed ministries to the refugee (i.e. cities of refuge) love to your neighbor (i.e. Good Samaritan) believers suffering under persecution (i.e. Heb. 13:1-3).
  • If refugee ministry capabilities are not resident within the local church, the church should consider how they can participate within their denominational structures and/or with a reputable para church organization that effectively ministers to international refugees. (If desired Briarwood could make its researched list available.)
  • Create multiple entry levels for the congregation as a whole and the members individually to engage according to their gifts, calling and resources.
  • Consider how responding to this crisis can become a foundational impetus to implement an ongoing ministry to both refugees and the persecuted church (an issue that is epidemic and growing throughout the world and could be coming to our own culture which while not presently engaged in persecuting Christians, is engaged in targeting specific Christians who are exercising their first amendment rights.)
  • Promote a strategic plan for a congregation-wide intercessory prayer initiative for the current refugee crisis and the persecuted church.


  • Pray for the government, its policy implementation and the refugees.
  • Use this crisis to teach your children how God’s people combine the Great Commandment and the Great Commission with compassion in such situations.
  • Prayerfully consider how you and your family can engage in the ministry (i.e. hospitality, family sponsor, provide jobs, financial resources and offerings, etc.)
  • Support and expect the Government to fulfill its responsibilities to protect its citizens while implementing a refugee policy marked by wisdom and compassion.
  • Consider how you can personally support your church or the organization with which the church is working.

Syrian Refugees

Historically moments like this have become extraordinary opportunities for God’s people to ignite a winsome testimony for Christ and embrace the Great Commandment that more often than not opens wide the doors for fulfilling the Great Commission. But more than anything, it is the right thing to do for those who are beneficiaries of God’s grace. The God of Glory and grace sent His Son to provide a “refuge” for us at the Cross and sent the people of God in the power of the Spirit of God to bring us the Gospel of God. Then He sent that same Holy Spirit who brought us to Christ our Refuge.

“What more can He say than to you He hath said, You, who to Jesus for refuge have fled?”

Speaking the Truth in Love: Five Deceptive Myths

A witness for Christ in any age—and certainly in this present age—requires a prayer-saturated, Christ-centered, Gospel-motivated, Bible-shaped, Spirit-filled and God-glorifying commitment to “speak the truth in love.” But this essential command for effective Gospel ministry to both those not yet saved and those already saved is easier to say than do. The prevailing tendency and constant tension is to sacrifice “speaking the truth” in the name of love, or to thoughtlessly speak the truth without love. What is clear is that we cannot truly love without speaking truth truthfully; and we can’t speak truth truthfully without loving intentionally and thoughtfully. In a word, you can “speak the truth” without jcryle blog pictureloving but you can’t “love” without “speaking the truth.” To paraphrase a much more able Gospel minister from another age who confronted this issue with a clear, insightful and captivating observation – “Truth without love is barbarity, but love without truth is cruelty”- Bishop J. C. Ryle.

Because speaking the truth is so important and central to an effective Gospel ministry, there is little doubt that Satan will devise as many reasons possible to discourage Christians from both speaking to those living in the death spiral of sin and idolatry; or to distract them from intentionally, thoughtfully and relentlessly loving sinners drowning in the brokenness of a sin-deceived life.

Furthermore, it is equally obvious that if Satan cannot silence the truth, he will attempt to trap us into speaking the truth without love. But if he can’t stop us from loving he will entice us to quit speaking the truth. He does this in two ways. First, Satan tempts us to minimize truth with meaningless euphemisms that disguise the horrific consequences and the irrationality and blasphemy of sin. Second, and often even more effectively, he will culturally intimidate us into outright silence in the name of love. In reality, though, our diminished truth shushing blog picture
speaking or silence is actually revealing something about us—namely that we are more interested in people loving us than we are in them knowing truthfully the love of Christ and being brought into the life-changing blessing of loving the Christ who first loved them.


So Satan—with an insatiable desire to reduce love into deeds that are void of truth or to communicate truth through self-righteous arrogance—today employs five deceptive myths.


  1. To love someone effectively and appropriately we must initially avoid speaking the truth about sin, the idolatry that produces the sin and its consequences for time and eternity. To love simply requires you to manifest Gospel deeds of love. Do not tell them the truth about sin, even though the love of Christ revealed in the Gospel is directly related to the reality of sin, the sinfulness of sin, and the wages of sin— which is death.
  2. To love someone you must accept them and to accept them you must accept their behavior. At the very least you must be silent about their sin, the rationale for its idolatry, and the lifestyle arrangements created to embrace that sin and affirm it as culturally acceptable—unless and until they give you permission to speak about it.
  3. To love others acceptably we must not simply speak in the terms and vocabulary they understand, but only in the terms and vocabulary they approve and dictate (i.e. deceitful world view euphemisms)—e.g. adultery becomes an “extra-marital affair” or “recreational sex” or “hooking up”; homosexuality becomes “gay” or “an alternative lifestyle” etc.
  4. You have not loved someone acceptably unless they approve and affirm the truth you have spoken and the love you have given.
  5. You have not spoken the truth in love unless those to whom you have spoken are drawn to love you in return.


In the present age the influence of these myths (when they are individually and/or collectively embraced) are almost always initially revealed by “selective truth speaking”—all of which is done in the name of “sensitivity.” The result is that many contemporary Evangelical Christians following their leaders will sacrifice truth speaking in the name of love and yet, amazingly, will boldly address the sins and prevailing issues that the culture agrees are undesirable. While there is nothing inherently wrong with this (sin and cultural justice concerns should both be addressed, after all), it is interesting that though boldly speaking the truth on issues found on the list of “Culturally Approved Topics for Denunciation”, there is an astonishing silence about other prevalent issues the Bible clearly identifies as heinous sins. Why the silence? Well, first of all the ones that are confronted are done so with permission by today’s culture shapers. In fact, it is supposed that by speaking to these issues the cultural capital of the church will be enhanced. But in contrast those sins—corporate, cultural, and individual—which are avoided are the ones that have been declared off limits because they are on the “Cultural Approved Lifestyle List.” Even more, those issues on the Culturally Approved Lifestyle List are not only declassified as sins but now are to be celebrated, perpetuated and propagated. This brings us to the crux of the question: is “selective truth speaking” an evidence of sensitivity or is it a lack of courage; is it compassion or is it cowardice?

Furthermore, Evangelical pastors and leaders are actually imploring Christians to embrace this “selective truth speaking” as an exalted virtue. For example, the present culture expresses concern about refugees, sex trafficking, racism, and other heinous sins and injustices—and rightly so! Evangelical churches and pulpits then join the culture’s efforts by truth speaking affirming these practices as sins and lovingly instituting ministry initiatives to eradicate these acts of iniquity and minister to the victims. And so we should and must! But by doing so an unassailable fact emerges – leadership is speaking—publicly—with compassion, courage and conviction. In fact, when pastors speak publicly on these issues in their sermons and on their podcasts or blogs, they are praised for that very fact – being leaders – and so they should.

But interestingly, at the same time, many of the voices that speak boldly on these issues are silent in the same public square concerning the agenda of culturally normalizing unfettered sexual eroticism, marital anarchy, and the sanctity of life (among others). In addition to their deafening on these issues – which the culture is now promoting and celebrating – it is now considered unspiritual or unbecoming for the Christian and/or the church to participate in the messiness of bringing the blessings of common grace to the culture by promoting and debating public policies rooted in a Biblically informed public theology for human flourishing.


Often, one important theological fact is forgotten. We live in a world that, emphatically, does not desire the love of Christ or the truth of the Gospel. It never has and, apart from the moving of the Holy Spirit, it never will. By the way—neither did I, until the grace of God changed my heart by the power of the Holy Spirit, who brought me from death unto life. Guess what He used? He used believers who spoke the truth in love to me. They did so with varying degrees of sophistication, but praise the Lord they were willing to speak the truth and love me. Now I, as a beneficiary of the Gospel of Jesus Christ through their courageous compassion, must also speak the truth – lovingly – to those who need me to do so – even if they do not approve me doing so – even if they do not want me to do so – I/we still must do so – others did so for me and you.

speak-kindly blog picture


Obviously truth spoken in love is to be done thoughtfully, timely and with words carefully chosen, while creating an environment of love for effective communication. If a doctor knows you have a terminal condition and loves you he will not be silent. He will thoughtfully tell you the truth. Likely he will take you aside in a private room providing an appropriate environment. Then he will tell you the truth in love and he will love you with the truth. While we are not doctors, we are physicians for the soul. We do know sin brings death and we do know God’s grace has provided the solution to sin’s guilt and power. We also know we are commissioned to speak the truth in an environment of love. We cannot be silent about the truth they need to hear in the name of love any more than the doctor could. Nor would we tell them the truth about sin and God’s grace in Christ without creating a thoughtful environment of love.

Those who have not yet come to Christ need to hear the truth of His Word spoken from those who will love them sacrificially and intentionally. And those who know Christ but have faltered in their walk for Him need us to love them enough to speak the truth, while simultaneously delivering that truth with a love that demonstrates the astonishing and unstoppable love of Christ and Him crucified.

In a world increasingly hostile to the truth of the Gospel, it would be easy to fall prey to perhaps right-hearted but wrong-headed statements like the one famously attributed to the renowned St. Francis of Assisi: “preach the Gospel at all times, and if necessary use words.” With all due respect to St. Francis—who will likely have a zip code with far fewer digits than mine in the new heavens and the new earth– we must preach the Gospel and we must use words because they are necessary. Why—because “faith comes by hearing.” In a word we must speak the truth.

Let’s conclude with a fact of ministry: love is essential as it opens the door for truth, affirms the truth and authenticates the truth; but it is the truth that will “set you free.” We are all born with a desire to be approved. But for believers our approval rating does not come from the world. “Do your best to present yourself unto God… handling accurately the Word of Truth.”

Visit Harry Reeder’s Vlog at www.briarwood.org/askthepastor

Kim Davis – State Criminal? Church Discipline?

“I never imagined a day like this would come, where I would be asked to violate a central teaching of Scripture and of Jesus Himself regarding marriage. To issue a marriage license which conflicts with God’s definition of marriage, with my name affixed to the certificate, would violate my conscience. It is not a light issue for me. It is a Heaven or Hell decision. For me it is a decision of obedience. I have no animosity toward anyone and harbor no ill will. To me this has never been a gay or lesbian issue. It is about marriage and God’s Word.”

The questions which have come to me personally and pastorally over the past week have been both insistent and incessant—is Kim Davis a criminal and/or an out of control Christian who should be the subject of church discipline? This post is my answer.

Her name is Kim Davis. Politically she is an elected Democrat serving as County Clerk in Rowan Co., Kentucky. She also is a professing Christian, newly converted to Christ from a self-admitted lifestyle of rebellion against the Lord of glory and grace—including three failed marriages. Likely you already know this information from the vast publicity delivered through formal and social media, almost all with a definitively negative slant denigrating her conversion and questioning both her motivation and her church. What you may not know is that Mrs. Davis is in jail—perhaps the one where she has been regularly teaching a Bible study for inmates—with no bail, by court order. Even though the judge had a variety of options he decided they would be insufficient to achieve his purpose, which is to force Mrs. Davis to “sign” or “resign” and “teach her a lesson.” At best, this is a miscarriage of justice and at worst intentional judicial tyranny.

Let’s be clear. This post is not specifically about Kim Davis, the authenticity of her conversion, the orthodoxy of her church or divining the motivations of her heart. It is about the issues of this case and its implications. It is about how we should respond to Mrs. Davis and this situation. It is also about the undeniable fact that Christians serving as public officials, military chaplains, as well as simple everyday citizens will soon find themselves in similar predicaments of conscience. Why? Because an increasingly fascist government through an aggressive Dept. of Justice buttressed by an arrogant judiciary armed with the mantra that “same-sex marriage” is the “law of the land” in light of the Obergefell 5/4 opinion from the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) will inevitably put all of us in the same situation—sign on or resign—it’s the “law of the land” isn’t it and you must obey it—or do you—will you?


Mrs. Davis has declared as affirmed in the introductory quote that she cannot in good conscience affix her signature as ordered by the Governor of Kentucky to “same-sex marriage” certificates. Therefore she refuses to sign any and all marriage certificates until the Commonwealth returns to issuing marriage certificates consistent with its Constitution. In addition, she refuses to resign her elected office to ensure that the issues are addressed. She cites two reasons. One is that the Constitution and laws of the Commonwealth of Kentucky define marriage as a legal covenant between one man and one woman. And the Obergefell SCOTUS opinion has no authority to overturn those laws established by the people through their elected legislators. Secondly, as a Christian she cannot submit to the laws of men if they contradict and cause her to disobey the Law of God. The long standing premise as to the supremacy of God’s Law over man’s law is repeatedly affirmed in the Old Testament (i.e., the Egyptian midwives disobedience of Pharaoh’s decree to kill the Hebrew children, etc.) continuing in the New Testament (i.e., John and Peter’s refusal to obey the public authorities command to be silent as to the Gospel of Christ with the salient statement, “We must obey God rather than man,” Acts 5:29), continuing throughout history as affirmed by the martyrs of the church and notably in the Reformation, with Martin Luther’s history-changing declaration before the Church and the Holy Roman Empire:

Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason—for I do not trust either in the pope or in councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves—I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. May God help me. Amen.

Kim Davis, in like manner, has determined that for conscience sake she will not participate in subverting the sanctity of marriage as a Divinely-designed heterosexual, monogamous, conjugal, covenantal relationship for life. So should she be incarcerated by the United States and/or should she be the subject of church discipline due to her lack of obedience to the professed laws of the United States?


While I have no idea as to the integrity of her profession of faith in Christ—although I deeply care—nor the orthodoxy of the church where she worships—of which I also deeply care—let me state emphatically, I stand with Mrs. Davis and all other public officials who humbly yet courageously oppose and refuse to participate in propagating the sinful charade of “same-sex marriage.” More pointedly, I would hope by God’s grace to respond with the same courageous humility as she has if I were in her place. Why? There are multiple reasons, but here are two.


The first reason is to confront a legal fallacy. It is commonly believed that the opinions of the Supreme Court are the “law of the land.” This mantra is constantly trumpeted by the media, the pundits, the commentators and the administration of President Obama. Nine unelected, though elevated, justices do not “make the law of the land” in our system of government. The law of the land—the Constitution—is supreme in the United States, not the Supreme Court. And the Constitution can only be changed by the people through elected legislators at the local, state and federal levels, not the judiciary at any level. Governors and Presidents execute the law established through elected legislators. The Supreme Court renders “opinions” on cases it hears, but it does not create law. If this delegation of duties is not observed then the warnings of Thomas Jefferson concerning the inevitable tyranny of the judicial branch will be a reality, as even James Madison, the architect of the Constitution, eventually admitted could happen!

In a word, SCOTUS is an arbiter of the law. To make this clearer, they are umpires. Umpires do not make the rules, they make ruling judgments, which may or may not be right. So it is with SCOTUS. And like any other umpire, they can, and have been wrong. Sometimes with catastrophic effects these nine justices have historically made rulings and issued opinions which were politically shaped, but legally and Constitutionally devastatingly wrong. Thankfully in some cases they were rightly challenged by citizens and elected officials in the history of our country. For brevity’s sake, here are just two politically and culturally shaped, but Constitutionally and devastatingly wrong opinions.

  1. Dred Scott – (Oct. 1857) a slave was less than a person without unalienable rights.
  2. Roe v. Wade – (Jan. 1973) Legalized homicide of a baby in the womb for any reason at any time.

Mrs. Davis is right to challenge the Obergefell wrong ruling/opinion as others challenged such legal fabrications in the past. Many in the North and South as citizens and government officials challenged the Dred Scott opinion. If more had done so, there is a good possibility that 700,000 lives in a fratricidal Civil War might have been avoided, and racial hostilities still plaguing this nation might have been rightly addressed. Although Roe v. Wade eventually has been challenged with legislative, ministerial and civil disobedience initiatives, the fact is 57 million plus annihilated lives might have been saved, if citizens, including elected officials had challenged the Roe. V. Wade ruling/opinion from the outset.

Kim Davis is right not to sign and affirm a so-called law affirming “same-sex marriage” with the devastations, sexual anarchy and relational carnage it will bring. Furthermore, she should be commended for not resigning to go quietly away which many would desire. Then admirably she is willing to suffer the persecution of judicial tyranny, thereby forcing a nation to address the Constitutionality of this issue and professing Christians to address it personally. The First Amendment protecting the free exercise of religion (not just the subset of worship), is not forfeited when you become an elected official. As an elected official, she took an oath to uphold the Constitutions of Kentucky and the United States. The Constitution of the United States does not determine marriage laws. Marriage laws are established by the states and the Constitution of Kentucky is clear and unchanged—marriage is between one man and woman.


The second reason begins with acknowledging that one of the great assets to this nation has been the influence of a Christian world and life view affirming the Christian virtue of obedience to the “law of the land.” But Mrs. Davis is correct in affirming that when the professed “law of the land” demands that a believer as a citizen or as an elected official transgress the Law of God, then a Christian not only is right before God to disobey such laws, but actually has a duty to do so out of allegiance to Christ and love for others. I commend to you as an eloquent example of this the Rev. Martin Luther King’s “Letters from a Birmingham Jail,” defending the right and duty of professing Christians to disobey unjust laws that attack God’s Law and human flourishing.

This is particularly true of “lesser magistrates” as prescribed by the Reformers, specifically John Calvin and Martin Luther. They not only affirmed the right and duty of such civil disobedience by Christian citizens to unjust and immoral laws, but especially those Christians who serve as lower magistrates under superior magistrates who decree immoral laws.

It was such “lesser magistrates” who protected the lives of Calvin and Luther. It was such “lesser magistrates” who contended for God-given unalienable rights that led 13 colonies through its War for Independence, resulting in a nation that affirms the God-given liberties of its people—a nation of free people who give defined powers to the state, as opposed to the power of a state giving liberties to the people. It was such “lesser magistrates” alongside brave protestors who eventually eradicated oppressive “Jim Crow” approved but immoral laws.


So, given the history of Christian political dissidence and First Amendment affirmed rights, why have not only liberal progressives vilified Mrs. Davis, but also astoundingly, why have so many political conservatives and libertarians insisted she must “toe the line” or resign because a SCOTUS opinion is now the “law of the land”? Even more pointedly why have many Evangelical Christians and churches remained silent or in some cases chosen to demean her and her church while some have exhibited outright embarrassment that someone like her has taken a stand in the name of Christianity to uphold the Sanctity of Marriage? Why not stand with her in opposition to a destructive immoral law and the bully power of the culture in general and the State in particular, facilitated by a supportive media? I will suggest three reasons:

  1. Intimidation. Everyone wants approval. It seems that today’s Evangelical church is much more interested in the approval by the cultural elite of the academy, the media and political progressives than God. Therefore, the threat of being mocked or slandered as intolerant or bigoted is enough to silence many in the contemporary Evangelical church. Those who are so intimidated will distance themselves from Kim Davis as fast as the Palm Sunday crowd following Christ in Jerusalem disappeared on Good Friday.
  2. Emotional blackmail. Many evangelicals are convinced of the myth that sinners saved by grace must at best be silent about sin, and at worst accommodate sin culturally in order to love sinners not yet saved by the power of the Gospel. Interestingly, those who believe that to accept someone you must accept their behavior, not only are rejecting Christ’s Gospel ministry which identified sin and called for repentance, but in some cases have participated in the vilification of Kim Davis and her church so as to distance themselves from her and her stand.
  3. Isolationists. Some are convinced that Christians and the church are to be silent about the sanctity of marriage and other issues such as the Sanctity of Life, Sexuality, etc. in the public square, and simply address these matters within the church membership knowing that changed lives will change and influence culture. While undoubtedly the most effective apologetic for the Biblical doctrine of marriage are Gospel transformed marriages, the fact of the matter is that marriage is not a church ordinance. Christian marriage ( i.e. a marriage “in the Lord”) is a church ordinance, but not marriage itself. Marriage is a Creation ordinance, like the Sanctity of Life, and the ethical absolutes identified in the Second Tablet of the Law. If we love our neighbor and desire human flourishing we must not, we cannot be silent about Second Tablet and Creation ordinances. The Christian/Church must issue both Gospel streams of Redeeming grace and Common grace. “Let marriage be held in honor among all…” Heb. 13:4


So Kim Davis, I do hope and pray you know Christ as Lord and Savior. And I do hope and pray you are in a solid Christian church, and by God’s grace your motivations are saturated by the love of Christ. But regardless, what you have done is right, and you have both the legal right to do what you have done as a citizen and the moral right as a professed Christ-follower. You should not be criminalized by the State nor should you be the subject of discipline or distance by the church. So for whatever it is worth, I am praying for you and standing with you. And in the future if our Lord does not intervene with a Gospel Awakening in the church and this nation, I pray you will graciously stand with me when the unchecked judicial tyranny of the secular state comes to the pulpit for me and for others, even those not standing with you now.

Hacking “Ashley Madison” – A Pastoral Perspective

Upon returning to Birmingham from a refreshing study sabbatical I was greeted with a news flash, a warning and a probing question. The news flash informed me that there was a website devoted to providing a network for married people to pursue adultery – euphemistically identified today as an “affair.” This website predictably was not only easily accessed but also promised privacy to its 38+ million subscribers while attracting them with the catchy motto – “Life is short. Have an affair.” Furthermore the website had been hacked and the hackers had warned they were going to make public the names of its participants. The website’s name is Ashley Madison – then came the warning.

The website had a large number of well-known, well-situated and prominent subscribers. But even more ominously I was warned the list included professing Christians and leaders from Evangelical churches and organizations – then came the probing question(s).

Pastor how are you going to handle this? What are you going to do about the list? Are you going to search it? And more pointedly what will you do if there are church members on the list? These questions were not only probing but rightly demanded pastoral answers. So here is a brief distillation of my pastoral response.

My heart and hopefully yours is deeply grieved. This website’s existence, popularity and purpose reveals a desperate emptiness in our narcissistic culture providing one more cesspool of death and despair camouflaged as a fulfilling well of life. Beyond that, this website represents millions of empty lives about to be destroyed along with their marriages and families including untold numbers of devastated children in the wake of inevitable relational carnage. My grief was geometrically extrapolated as I then contemplated the number of professing Christians and ministry leaders numbered among the subscribers and the devastation soon to be visited upon their ministries, churches and families when the names became public.

But as evil as this website is in its intent and its impact, the fact is, it is also legal – though immoral. And because it is legal it is private property. By the way, when will the public realize social media is never private no matter what is promised? Therefore, whoever hacked into the website is a thief and what they obtained (including the subscribers list) is stolen property.

Because it is stolen property I will not be searching the published lists of subscribers that are now being made available. Personally, and as a Pastor, I will not participate in pursuing stolen property.

Let me illustrate. I really need a new pair of golf shoes. I would certainly enjoy a new pair. What if someone told me about a man who had a truck full of new, name brand golf shoes that he was selling for much less than retail pricing? My next questions would probably be, “Where did he get them?” “How is he able to sell them so cheap?” The answer – Pastor you don’t want to know where or how the seller got the golf shoes. My response? – I would not buy them. If I did, I would be complicit and supportive of his thievery. Although rationalizations to buy them would be numerous and inventive, the fact is, I would be participating and supporting larceny by receiving stolen property. Likewise, the Ashley Madison list is stolen property so I will not pursue it no matter the rationalizations offered to do so. The end does not justify the means.

But what if someone else reads the list and comes to me? Good question-keep reading.

If someone came to me and said, “Pastor I know someone who is a professing believer/Christian leader on the list. What should I do?” This one is easy. I would take them to Matthew 18:15-20 and explain their first and possibly next three steps.

First, I would tell them to go to your brother/sister personally with two intentions – to clarify the accuracy of the information and to “win” them to Gospel motivated and directed repentance. Because there will be cases of false information and stolen identity/credit cards, clarification and verification is crucial. Remember, more importantly, you are trying to win them. You are not trying to punish them, unnecessarily expose them or “catch” them. If they repent and confess their sin then affirm their forgiveness in Christ and guide them to the next steps of “deeds appropriate to repentance.” In a word, shepherd them to restoration, restitution and reconciliation. If they are in positions of leadership, admonish them and hold them accountable to go to those who are in authority over them to confess and step aside from leadership in order to address the non-negotiable issues of Gospel sanctification essential to being a leader “above reproach.”

But what if they don’t confess yet the information seems accurate? Matthew 18 anticipates such a situation.

Secondly take “one or two witnesses with you.” Galatians 6:1-5 directs us in such ministries of reconciliation to make sure that these “witnesses” are spiritually mature. Remember you are still trying to win your brother/sister. But what if they still refuse to respond?

In the case of those who do not respond to the first two steps, Matthew 18 directs us to “tell it to the church.” Now, this does not mean to stand up and announce it to the church at a Lord’s Day worship service; nor does it mean to publish it on the prayer list and circulate it to the members of the church. That, of course, is gossip even if accompanied by the Christian postscript – “bless his heart.” To “tell it to the church” means to bring the information to the elders who then have clear Biblically delineated steps as shepherds of the flock concerning the right way to redemptively pursue “wandering sheep” including elder repetition of Matthew 18.

Ashley Madison is just another example of our intricate and exotic efforts to pursue sin now through technological inventions. In so doing, it affirms two facts. One – God’s Word is sufficient to direct us in how to love the lost under the bondage of sin and how to love one another when caught in the deceit of sin. The second is that men and women in rebellion against God, relentlessly pursuing every form of idolatry to exalt self, will do so even though the pursuit always brings death. “The wages of sin is death”- physical, relational, spiritual and ultimately (for the lost) eternal death. Therefore, the real problem is the “heart” – not the tempting website. “The heart of the problem is the problem with the heart.”

But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.Jas.1:14, 15

The death of ministries, marriages, hopes and dreams now become nightmares. But in the midst of this “death march” we have good news. There is a Savior who, on the Cross, has won the victory over sin and removed the sting of death. By His amazing and transforming grace He can make roses of majesty out of the ash heap of sin.

Ashley Madison? Ashley Madison is one more reason and one more opportunity to tell lost sinners and remind wandering saints that there is a Redeemer. His name is Jesus Christ.

Reflections on SCOTUS Obergefell Opinion #1


OUTRAGE: an extremely strong reaction of anger, shock or indignation.

On June 26th, 2015 the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) in a legal fabrication affirmed the charade of same-sex marriage as a “foundational right to those who have chosen to use their personal liberty to self-identify as a homosexual” as articulated by Justice Anthony Kennedy. The absence of any legal support for this obviously politically motivated opinion was embarrassing but not prohibitive for the pre-determined agenda of the 5 judges providing a one justice margin to defeat the 4 opposing justices and unravel a God-given foundational institution which has stood the test of time for thousands of years. Since this is now being trumpeted as the “law of the land”, how should individual Christians and Christ’s church respond? This blog is the first of a series written primarily for the dear church I pastor and then others who might be interested.

While following the posts of many in the wake of this opinion whom I admire and respect, I have been both instructed and encouraged by their exhortations and insights. But I confess there are two admonitions repeated consistently which I am unable to embrace or affirm.

One admonition is that Christians must not respond to with “outrage” and the other is that the way evangelical churches do ministry should not be affected as we move forward in the lengthening shadow of this judicial opinion. Two blogs pointedly declared that the church should simply respond by staying the course and keep doing what we were doing prior the ruling. In a word, we should simply keep doing “business as usual.” So what is the response to these recommendations as to how we should or should not respond? This is mine.

Recently a member of the church I am privileged to serve sent me a Resolution written in response to the SCOTUS opinion with a question as to why I had not signed it. What they did not know was not only had I read it and deeply desired to sign it but could not for one reason.

The resolution overall was well done but it contained one admonition that I could not in good conscience support. The admonition was specific. “Outrage” was deemed to be inconsistent with confidence “in the promises of a reigning Christ.” To sign the resolution and be out of accord with what was clearly a crucial concern and confident assertion would have been both dishonest and dishonoring to the originator of the resolution and the signatories. In a word I found myself in a dilemma. I wanted to sign it for multiple reasons. It contains much that is extraordinarily helpful and insightful. Furthermore the author is a true Christian statesman whom I personally admire and the list of supporters is filled with the names of many whom I know and respect. Beyond that I firmly believe such a statement needs to be made. So why not sign? While the resolution clearly stated that Christians “confident in the promises of a reigning Christ” should not respond with “outrage,” I was and I continue to be “outraged.” So either I am not “confident in the promises of a reigning Christ” or the resolution is to some degree incorrect concerning whether or not Christians can be or even should be “outraged.”

I actually think it is right to be outraged. In addition I actually think Christians at times ought to be outraged, not ashamed of being outraged, nor assume that outrage is inconsistent with the work of God’s grace in our life. As an example I recently listened to a Planned Parenthood video in which a leader calmly over lunch and sipping wine discussed how to kill a baby in the womb in a manner that allowed the abortionist to salvage body parts for sale. I was and I am outraged and believe I should be. Likewise I am also outraged by the SCOTUS opinion and the Kennedy “considered opinion.”

Hot indignation seizes me because of the wicked who forsake your law. Psalm 119:53

But having proposed that there is a place and even a necessity for Christian outrage in response to this ruling, I would also affirm the need for the concern and care expressed in the Biblical warnings against sinful outrage. There is a reason the Scripture calls us to be “slow to anger,” “not to let the sun go down upon your anger” and “be angry yet do not sin,” etc. Obviously there is a sinful outrage that must be shunned because of its faulty origin and/or its resulting sinful behavior. Therefore authentic Christian outrage will be and must be rightly directed. Outrage birthed from self-righteousness and arrogance inevitably leads to the destructive effects of the sinful “anger of man” and must be avoided at all costs. But there is an outrage affirmed in Scripture which rightly burns within the hearts of God’s people even as imperfect followers of Christ. When the God of glory and all that He holds dear is mocked with impunity and that which He has called holy is desecrated, the God-given emotion of outrage rightly directed is appropriate. So where would authentic Christian outrage lead?

God-honoring and God-given outrage inevitably leads us first to grief and lament and then ultimately to repentance. I am fully aware that God needs neither me nor my outrage to secure His glory and honor. Furthermore I am also aware that Supreme Court decisions will not thwart God’s purposes nor ultimately diminish His glory and that in the final analysis this judicial travesty will be used in God’s sovereign purposes for His glory and our good. So….

I am not outraged because God needs me to be but because I need to be. It is increasingly obvious what this opinion reveals about our culture and even more what it reveals about the impotency of the contemporary evangelical church in this culture. It is equally obvious where this decision will lead unless God’s people repent and the God of grace sends a heaven-sent revival to His church in this nation and from that revived church another Gospel awakening.

I am outraged that a nation claiming to be “under God” now legally, institutionally as well as culturally mocks the God of glory. Therefore, I lament that this ruling not only positions this nation under God’s judgment but reveals that we are already under the judgment of God.

Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die they not only do them they give approval to those who practice them. Therefore God gave them over.

I am outraged that the sanctities of God’s creation ordinances, crucial to human flourishing are being mocked. The sanctity of life legally and culturally disregarded for decades is now accelerated by mocking the sanctity of marriage. The sanctity of sexuality is being mocked with the illusion of same-sex marriage. We now have a SCOTUS opinion which has nothing to do with marriage equality but everything to do with marriage redefinition in order to affirm as natural and normal the unnatural and abnormal acts of homosexuality. Therefore, I lament the cultural loss of a God designed blessing affirming a monogamous, heterosexual, conjugal, life-long covenant of marriage – God’s gift in creation and common grace foundational to the well-being of humanity. But even more importantly the prostitution of the Covenant of marriage distorts that which was designed by God to reveal the unbreakable love secured by redeeming grace which Christ enjoys with His covenant people having left his Father to cleave to His Bride, the Church. I lament what this unsustainable view of marriage will inevitably produce in the cultural carnage of marital anarchy as inevitably the Divinely-designed foundation block for society – the family — is destroyed. I lament the disastrous effects upon children raised in fatherless or motherless homes embracing as normal sexual anarchy.

For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother to cleave to his wife. Consequently they are no longer two but one.

I am outraged at the mocking of the sanctity of sexuality – designed to affirm and bless the sacred covenant of marriage. This God-designed and God-delivered gift is now legally and culturally mocked not only by heterosexual promiscuity – the sinful practice of natural sex – but now also by the legal affirmation of homosexual perversion – the sinful practice of unnatural sex. Therefore, I lament we have distorted marriage to affirm distorted sexuality.

Let the marriage bed be held in honor by all. Fornicators and adulterers God will judge.

I am outraged by the undeniable fact that today’s self-absorbed church having succumbed to doctrinal deviancy, pastor celebrity-ism, church growth pragmatism compounded by the preaching of a muted gospel of dwarfed grace has trivialized the past blessings of Gospel Awakenings visited upon this country by the sovereign grace of God. I lament the response of isolation by some churches (we will simply do marriage right in the church thus making a creation ordinance a church ordinance to facilitate a retreat from the public square and loving their neighbor); and I lament accommodation by other churches (thinking that being silent about truth is the way you love people in the bondage of sin and it is permissible to treat as irrelevant the public, social and legal mocking of God and His creation ordinances). I lament this cultural and ecclesiastical apostasy has occurred during my watch as a Gospel minister.

This is how one should regard us as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.

Finally, I am outraged that there exists a legal judicial opinion affirming the cultural nonsense that men and women have the freedom and ability to create their own identity in life and that choices of sexual anarchy are valid declarations of life identity. Let’s be clear no Supreme Court ruling, academic myopia, philosophical pandering, or cosmetic surgery can ever remove the guilt and shame of denying who we are by virtue of creation even as we culturally sophisticate ourselves into imbecility to suppress the knowledge of God. Thus, I lament that moral relativism and unchallenged Darwinian evolution has so pervaded this culture that men and women no longer hear the truth proclaimed from pulpits that they are created in the image of God – imago Dei – with dignity. Furthermore I lament that the contemporary Church has not only been complicit by its silence but also by its accommodation of cultural idolatry which destroys human dignity. Even worse has been its proclamation of a one-dimensional Gospel, a therapeutic Gospel or the American made blasphemous prosperity gospel, instead of the robust multi-dimensional Gospel. A Gospel proclaiming to sinners come to Christ and be saved from sin’s guilt and power and find your identity in Him. It is this Christ-exalting, sinner-saving Gospel which by the power of the Holy Spirit steadily makes His church a life boat for sinners and a death trap for sin as one “grows in the grace and knowledge of Christ” that must be heard from the pulpits and in the streets again.

But, not only must outrage lead to lament, it must also lead to repentance. There is no way we can respond to this moment by doing what we have been doing – “business as usual.” We must repent. It must begin with me. Yes, it is true and accurate that our God-given message, God-given means and God-given mission and ministry is unchanged and must not be compromised nor edited in response to the issues of the day. But there is no way we can continue to do “business as usual.” This cultural death spiral which is inevitable when Gospel rivers of redeeming grace and common grace no longer flow from Christ’s church into the culture is the result of the way which we are or are not “doing business.” The “salt” has lost its “saltiness” and the “light” is “shrouded.” Therefore we no longer speak “truth in love.”

Christian outrage is crucial and right but must lead to lament and lament must lead to repentance. May the God of Glory and Grace be pleased to give Christ’s church a heaven-sent revival leading to a Christ-exalting, Spirit-empowered, Bible-shaped, prayer-saturated Gospel Awakening flooding every corner of this nation again but like never before. O Lord again.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        


My last conversation with Dad over the phone ended the way they usually did; “Thanks Dad, I love you”. I often prayed that I could be with my Dad when the Lord called him home, but God in His wisdom Providentially decreed otherwise.  He took him home quickly from a golf course as he approached the 18th green.  I cannot think of a more appropriate place unless it had been with his family.  But if I had been with him after saying “I love you, Dad and thanks” I would have mentioned many other things I was thankful for… here are a few of them…

Thanks Dad for…

being my best friend,

being my Father and I never wanted another,

being my coach not only in sports but in life,

Thanks Dad for…

making me so proud of you,

always calling me Son,

giving me Mom and three great Sisters,

Thanks Dad for…

teaching me how to hit a baseball,

how to shoot a basketball and block out for a rebound,

to make a wrap up tackle in football,

and sharing the joy of a round of golf on a summer afternoon with my best friend – you.

Thanks Dad for…

teaching me the joy of reading,

the excitement of history,

the magic of stories and storytelling.

Thanks Dad for…

showing me how to love, honor and respect my parents, by the way you loved yours,

taking me into your everyday life,

sharing with me the places you grew up and the stories of your life in those same places.

Thanks Dad for….

showing me the importance of family,

and how to be a Dad,

and how to both work hard and play hard.

Thanks Dad for….

not sending me to church but taking me,

giving me wisdom about how to live life and to enjoy life,

explaining how I could have eternal life in Christ,

reminding me that God’s grace is greater than my sin,

returning to the Lord, finishing strong and seeking to bring others across the finish line with you.

Thanks Dad for…

being my Daddy,

giving me your name to both bear and wear for life

loving me and,

for not only being my Dad but also for being my hero.

And thank you Lord for…

giving me not just any Dad but one who became my best friend and Hero.


Mammy, that 8 year old grandson, who read the Bible for you after school every day because you couldn’t read and then prayed with you as you interceded for everyone in the Reeder family; he is now with you, along with all nine of your children and many other grandchildren.  Thanks for praying Mammy. And thanks O Lord for answering so graciously and tenaciously Lord.  So now Mammy, one more is home Mammy and more are coming.

Not one day goes by that I don’t miss you (and Mom). Would love to one more time “play catch” or “tee it up” or a “Golden Gloves Friday night” or another late afternoon at Sunset Beach, just hear another Reeder family story. While that will not be happening on this side, I’ll see you and Mom soon Dad and because of our Lord’s faithfulness, Vicki, Amy and Beth and all of our families are coming home too. Tell Mom we won’t be late our Savior will see to it…     

A forever grateful Son


At the Presbyterian Church in America General Assembly this past week I experienced an event that was an unbelievably bittersweet moment for me as a man, a Gospel minister and the Pastor of a church I love, Briarwood. The moment was when I had the privilege to read a Memorial that was received and adopted by the PCA Denomination to honor the life, legacy and ministry of Dr. Tom Cheely who served Briarwood for 31 years as perhaps the most faithful and effective Missions Pastor any church could ever hope to have. What Tom did to propel Briarwood forward in fulfilling the Great Commission as a local church and what he did for our denomination as well as for the Kingdom as he served so many wonderful parachurch missionary agencies is almost staggering. Many have asked to see the Memorial so, with permission of our leadership; I have included it in this blog. I think you will enjoy reading it and I invite you to spend some time as you walk through it and meet, at least to some degree, a man of God, by the grace of God, who served effectively for the glory of God.


Whereas, on May 7, 2014 after he had “served the purpose of God in his own generation,” our Creator and Author of the destiny of all men, in His infinite wisdom has seen fit to call from our midst Teaching Elder, R. Thomas Cheely into His glorious presence, and;

Whereas, in1969 Tom Cheely was ordained to preach the Gospel and has faithfully kept his ordination vows through continually affirming his belief that the Scriptures did not “become the Word of God” or “contain the word of God” but the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, as originally given, are the inerrant Word of God and the only infallible rule of faith and practice, and;

Whereas,  during his forty five years of serving the Lord he pastored several churches before accepting the call in 1983 to minister at Briarwood Presbyterian Church as its first Missions Pastor, and;

Whereas,  for thirty one years as Missions Pastor, he faithfully served the Lord at Briarwood Presbyterian Church by undertaking each and every responsibility with diligence, grace, and focus always seeking to honor Christ through leadership to reach the world for Christ through “tenacious and tender” leadership, and;

Whereas, his leadership was blessed by the Lord through ministering to and supporting 500 foreign missionaries in 70 countries around the world through his visiting missionaries in all continents through personal encouragement and participation in the ministry work, and;

Whereas, he also lead the Briarwood Ministry initiatives to plant and revitalize churches as well as send missionaries to evangelize and disciple locally, in Birmingham, regionally, in Alabama and nationally, throughout North America with extraordinary vision and effectiveness, and:

Whereas,  he faithfully provided leadership to Evangel Presbytery and the General Assembly of The Presbyterian Church in America and was widely recognized for his denominational leadership and participation on numerous General Assembly and Evangel Presbytery committees, and;

Whereas, he also faithfully and effectively provided visionary as well as strategic leadership for various para-church mission agencies, projects and endeavors, and;

Whereas, Briarwood Presbyterian Church, it’s membership, fellowship, and leadership will miss greatly his presence yet knowing that the Lord “does all things well” and is grateful that Teaching Elder R. Thomas Cheely in his thirty one years of serving the Lord as Missions Pastor, the cause of Christ was advanced through Briarwood’s commitment to “equip Christians to worship God to reach Birmingham to reach the world for Christ.”, now:

Therefore Be It Resolved, that Evangel Presbytery does note the death of our brother in the Lord, with a deep sense of loss and sorrow by acknowledging that a “prince in Israel” has fallen yet because of the Gospel a “prince in Israel” has been promoted, we offer the prayer of thanksgiving for the life of Teaching Elder, Reverend, Doctor R. Thomas Cheely as he lived among us and served the Lord so faithfully.  “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.”  Evangel Presbytery rejoices in the full and certain assurance that our brother is in the presence of God to worship Him throughout eternity.  To God be the glory, honor and power, both now and forevermore, Amen, and;

Further Be It Resolved, that this Resolution be approved as a Memorial by Evangel Presbytery and that Evangel Presbytery likewise forwarded this memorial to the 43rd General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America and;

Further Be It Resolved, that this Resolution be spread upon the minutes of the Evangel Presbytery and that a copy be furnished to his wife, Kathy, as an expression of Evangel Presbytery’s deep appreciation for the life, testimony, and forty-five years of ministry by Teaching Elder R. Thomas Cheely to the Kingdom of God.

I do hope and pray this Memorial has been an encouragement. Now I would ask that you join me in prayer asking that our Lord might raise up, for the sake of the Kingdom, more Gospel servants who, like Tom, are unalterably committed to the Great Commission, the exaltation of Christ and the expansion of the Kingdom of God through the Gospel of the Kingdom for the Glory of the King.


For Christ, the Gospel and His Kingdom,