Larry Farlow

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World Vision Jumps the Shark

UPDATE: World Vision in the US has reversed this policy as of March 26, 2014.

It’s one of those things that caused me to do a double take. The headline was “World Vision: Why We’re Hiring Gay Christians in World Vision Jumps the SharkSame-Sex Marriages.” Had I stumbled on one of those news parody sites like The Onion? No, this was on Christianity Today and the headline was real. Heretofore Christian ministry World Vision was seriously making the case that the best way forward for their ministry is to drop the requirement that those hired by the ministry must exercise their sexuality only within the bounds of a biblical marriage.

Their reason? Because, according to president Richard Stearns the issue of homosexual “marriage” is:

…tearing churches apart, tearing denominations apart, tearing Christian colleges apart, and even tearing families apart. Our board felt we cannot jump into the fight on one side or another on this issue. We’ve got to focus on our mission. We are determined to find unity in our diversity.

He goes on to claim this issue is no different than mode of baptism or women in church leadership, issues on which many denominations differ but on which World Vision has chosen not to take a stand. He claims it’s an issue of church unity – implying of course that those who take a biblical stand on the issue are contributing to disunity. This unity at all costs approach is what decimated the liberal mainline denominations in the United States over the last hundred years and I predict it will similarly impact World Vision.

But the kicker was this:

We are absolutely resolute about every employee being followers of Jesus Christ. We are not wavering on that.

Clearly then, in Stearns’ view, one can be a Christian while living in open and unrepentant sin. There is no other way to read that. He sees no conflict between a profession of faith in Jesus Christ and being proud of one’s sin, of flaunting it, of calling the God of the universe who designed sex and marriage, a liar.

So what’s driving this nonsense? My first thought was that they are cowards unwilling to take a stand on a difficult issue, but I think it’s worse than that. This is an issue of pride and self-importance.

Here’s the bottom line from one of their board members:

It’s a matter of trying to decide what the core mission of the organization is…

As with so many other para-church organizations over the years, their mission has become paramount, eclipsing the mission given to the church and to Christians. They see themselves and their organization as indispensable and the truth of scripture as dispensable in service to their cause.

Christian, if you give to World Vision, I urge you to stop. If your church supports them, I urge you to urge them to stop. This is a gospel issue. Either Christ calls us to die to self, repent of our sin and follow Him or He does not. World Vision says for those in bondage to homosexuality He does not. But the Scriptures disagree (I Corinthians 6:9-11) as do countless Christians down through the ages. Therefore, we should not support an organization that claims to be Christian but is committed to putting their personal agenda ahead of truth and of speaking the words of life to lost men and women. It’s as simple as that.





Socialism’s Dirty Little Secret

It is not self-sustaining.

As Margaret Thatcher said “the problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money.” Like cancer, socialism needs a host.

In a revealing article called “Cuba Could be Venezuela’s Biggest Loser” from NBC news, Silvana Ordonez says:

Without Venezuela and its oil and subsidies, “industrial production, trade, transport, agriculture, and the whole economy would be affected dramatically. Medieval nights of the ’90s would return, with blackouts of up to 14 hours in some areas…

In other words, as Venezuela becomes more like Cuba, it becomes unable to be the socialist island’s host, propping them up with subsidies previously produced by a more capitalist economy.

In the United States, the host is the US taxpayer. However, as Thatcher’s quote reminds us, there’s a point at which the host is used up. As with cancer, when enough of the healthy cells have been consumed, the body dies. Given that  70% of all US government spending is now wealth transfer payments, I fear we are getting close to that point.

The laws of economics continue to hold sway, ideology notwithstanding. Universal socialism is an impossibility. For once everyone is socialist, there’ll be no one left to pay the tab.

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The War on Humans

This is worth a half hour of your time. When we read horror stories about Nazi Germany or Stalinist Russia or the North Korea of today, we wonder how fellow human beings can treat each other with such brutality and contempt. The only way that is possible is for the people who are brutalized to first be dehumanized. Mass murder is virtually always preceded by a denial of the special status of humans, or some subset of humans, as created in the image of God. This denial is not limited to repressive regimes and governments. It is also alive and well – and equally dangerous – within the world-wide environmental movement.

As the narrator of this short documentary says, when human being are considered no better than animals, the result is not greater compassion for animals but less compassion for all living creatures- especially fellow human beings. Humans told they are animals eventually act as if they are animals.


Lazarus Come Out! (But keep it to yourself, you don’t have the only “story,” you know.)

Perhaps you’ve heard of Rosaria Champagne-Butterfield. She is, by her own admission, a former radical lesbian feminist professor lazaruswho became a follower of Christ through the love of a Presbyterian pastor and his wife and the grace of God. Her testimony is detailed in her book The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert.

Perhaps too, you’ve heard about her recent visit to Wheaton University. She was invited to Wheaton to share her testimony of God’s amazing grace. Yet, at this Christian university, not all were happy about that. A group of about 100 students demonstrated outside the chapel before she spoke. Their concern? That someone might hear Butterfield’s story and assume the way she has responded to her sexual sin is the way everyone must respond.

One of the demonstrators said:

We feared that if no conversation was added to the single message of the speaker that students who are not very well informed were going to walk into chapel, hear the message, and have misconceptions confirmed or that students who are LGBT would be told that this story is the absolute way that things happen.

Another held up a sign that said:

I’m gay and a beloved child of God

Then there’s this post-modern gem:

Rosaria’s story is valid, mine is too

Cue “We Are the World” and grab your neighbor’s hand.

I hate to burst the bubble of these young people but Butterfield’s story is absolutely the way things happen when someone repents of their sin and comes to Christ. Now, I don’t mean everyone will get married to a pastor, have children and become a Christian author. But, every person who’s truly been converted will turn their back on their old way of life, hate their sin, cease to be identified by it and begin walking in the direction of Christ – whatever that looks like for them. But one thing is certain, what it doesn’t look like is standing outside university chapels with signs identifying yourself as someone who embraces both their sin and Christ. If that is your “story” then it can be valid only if Rosaria’s (and countless others) is not and vice versa.

When I started to write this, my thought was these students simply don’t understand the gospel. And for some of them that may be true. For those in that category, I pray their eyes will be opened to the truth that no matter their sin, Christ stands ready to forgive and transform them if they will repent and trust Him.

But, I think it goes deeper than that for others. Rosaria Champagne-Butterfield is a tribute to the depth of God’s grace and mercy. She has been dramatically transformed by the Spirit of God. She has by the power of the Holy Spirit turned her back on a life-dominating sin and moved from being a hell-bound sinner to a heaven-bound saint. Those who would demonstrate against such a thing don’t just misunderstand the gospel, they hate the gospel. These are the kind of people who, standing outside Lazarus’ tomb and seeing his rotting flesh restored and his dead body returned to life, worried about the impact it would have on their personal agenda rather than rejoicing at the mighty work of God in their midst.

These students should be ashamed.  The solution is not, as they suggest, a “conversation” – the refuge of all postmodern haters of truth – but repentance. They should fall on their face before the Lord Whose workmanship they have denigrated and seek His forgiveness for treating a display of His grace as an occasion to further their personal agendas.

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” – Luke 9:23


Every Dream in the Bible

Is God communicating with me through a dream?

Jacob’s Dream by José de Ribera

Jeffrey Kranz at has designed a helpful graphic compiling all the dreams in the Bible.

 There are many reasons this is helpful and interesting but here’s what stuck out to me: In the entire sweep of biblical history covering hundreds of people and thousands of years, there are only 21 times God used dreams to communicate something. All but 6 of those times are in the Old Testament. Among those in the New Testament, 4 of 6 were to Joseph regarding his role with and protection of the Christ child.

Also, the majority of the dreams (perhaps all, depending on how you look at it) are given to move forward the history of redemption culminating in Christ. After the dream of Pilate’s wife, just prior to Christ’s crucifixion, no further examples of this kind of communication from God exist in scripture.

So what do we make of this?

One thing is, if I think God is communicating with me directly via a dream, I’m probably wrong. The instances of God communicating this way are so infrequent in scripture as to be statistically insignificant and seem to be reserved for those with a special role in God’s outworking of redemptive history. Dreams are never given just to convey information about personal life decisions or even for the purpose of evangelism.

However, there is one sure fire way to be sure we’re hearing from God and that is to be a student of His Word. The truth is we don’t need dreams or other extra-biblical communication from God in order to know and do His will. There is nothing we need to know to live a life pleasing to God that is not contained within the pages of the Bible.

 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. – II Timothy 3:16-17

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Spring in Atlanta, 1958

Spring in Atlanta, 1958

My grandfather working in his garden, spring, 1958.

Some time in late 1957 or early 1958 my father bought an Argus C3 Rangefinder camera. This began a life-long love affair with photography.  His father loved gardening. He grew beautiful flowers and plants. I remember him having nursery beds behind their house. These were frames he built out of lumber and then filled with coffee cans. Each can had a cutting he’d taken from a plant that was being prepared either to plant in the yard or give away to family and friends.

I enjoy both of these things. I love to take pictures and I love to garden. I guess I come by them honestly from my father and grandfather.

So, when I began looking at slides dad made with his new camera in the spring of 1958, I was excited to see these two passions intersect. Though faded with time, here are some pictures of my grandfather’s flowers that year:

Spring in Atlanta, 1958 Spring in Atlanta, 1958 Spring in Atlanta, 1958 Spring in Atlanta, 1958 Spring in Atlanta, 1958

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The Gospel of Consumption

Jeffrey Kaplan in an article from 2008 for Orion Magazine called “The Gospel of Consumption” makes the case that our obsession with having The Gospel of Consumptionmore and more can be traced, at least in part, to a deliberate decision by American industrialists in the 1920s.

There was a fear that the American public might stop buying things when they had what they needed.  He writes:

…despite the apparent tidal wave of new consumer goods and what appeared to be a healthy appetite for their consumption among the well-to-do, industrialists were worried. They feared that the frugal habits maintained by most American families would be difficult to break. Perhaps even more threatening was the fact that the industrial capacity for turning out goods seemed to be increasing at a pace greater than people’s sense that they needed them.

It was in response to this fear that Charles Kettering of General Motors Research wrote an article in 1929 called “Keep the Customer Dissatisfied”.  As Kaplan points out, he was not advocating a dissatisfaction due to the quality of the product but a created dissatisfaction.  The American people did not yet know all the things they “needed” but advertisers were about to tell them.   Kaplan describes it this way:

By the late 1920s, America’s business and political elite had found a way to defuse the dual threat of stagnating economic growth and a radicalized working class in what one industrial consultant called “the gospel of consumption”—the notion that people could be convinced that however much they have, it isn’t enough.

Did it work?  Here are a few statistics cited in the article:

  • In 2005 per capita household spending adjusted for inflation was twelve times higher than in 1929.  For larger ticket items like cars and houses it was 32 times higher.
  • Between 1979 and 2000 the average number of hours worked annually by a married couple with children increased by 500 hours.
  • In 2004 and 2005, 40 percent of American families spent more than they took in each year.

Clearly we’re working more than ever before and spending more as well.  The industrialists’ dream of a market where people are never satisfied seems to have come true.

Hundreds of years before the business boom of the 1920′s, however, there was another dissatisfied consumer:

Whoever loves money never has money enough;
whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income.
This too is meaningless. – Ecclesiastes 5:10

While we need to be aware of the impact advertising and culture have on our purchasing decisions, ultimately indulging ourselves with more and more things and never being satisfied is not the fault of Madison Avenue but of our own wicked hearts.  During the time of King Solomon, few men could afford to indulge themselves this way with material goods.  However, thanks to the unprecedented prosperity we’ve enjoyed in this country – not to mention free and easy credit -  it’s now possible for the average person to indulge him or herself in ways only available to royalty in the past.

We must always be on guard against this Gospel of Consumption – the belief that that next thing I aquire will be the answer to the longing of my heart.  Only Christ can fulfill that longing. Only when I realize that He is all I truly need can I stop being a slave to materialism.


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