Sovereign Grace Church

A free Reformed Church of Jesus Christ



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“The Difficult Critique of War”

With the Memorial Day holiday recently passed & the celebration of our country’s Independence on the horizon, I find myself reflecting on the emotional difficulty of critiquing a questionable war(s) while at the same time reflecting on the moral necessity of such a critique.  It is difficult to hear anything in a public setting, regardless of the political spectrum, which does not speak of those fighting overseas as fighting to ‘protect our freedoms.’  This is more of an emotional expression than a statement of fact. Are our freedoms really being protected?  And if not, what should be our response?

The action of critiquing a war which involves the participation of our fighting men (& unfortunately these days, women) involves the difficulty of perspective.  To speak from the ‘perspective of a soldier/veteran’ or the close kin/friends of such, bespeaks the problem of trying to conduct an objective assessment of the worthiness of our relatives/friends participation in a potentially unjust war.  There is nothing objective about personal involvement in warfare.  It is subjective to the hilt! At the same time, if we are not able to objectively assess the justice of our mission & our participation in it, then there is no hope of extrication from an unjust involvement and our troubles will only increase.  The power of our emotional connections tends to override our objective concerns, so we need to take care to remove them as far as possible.  If patriotism marks a love for our country which exceeds our love for the truth, then we need fewer patriots.  That mentality will mark the loss of our country, or at least the principles upon which it was founded.

Whether someone has served in a combat role or not says nothing about the truth value of the propositions they assert.  Even Hitler was undoubtedly right on some things.  This is all to say that, yes, we need to hold our leaders responsible, but to do that effectively we need to first hold ourselves responsible, soldiers and citizens alike.  Regardless of whether a soldier thinks he is fighting to protect the freedoms of his friends and family does not make it so.  The mere fact of being willing to go to war makes a hero out of no one.  Sometimes the hero is the one who refuses to go along with the group-think mentality that often leads to war, even to the point of social and even vocational ostracism in his community.  We need people who are willing to stand on principle and not on feeling, and to run the risk of misunderstanding & social rejection.  No one doubts that courage is often evident on the part of those who volunteer to fight for what they deem a just cause.  But courage can be misplaced.  You will find courage displayed on both sides of any conflict.  We need to have the courage to take our country back to the moral high ground of fighting only to defend our liberties and not our supposed ‘right’ to meddle in the affairs of foreign lands and certainly not to force our way of life onto those who don’t even understand it, let alone desire it.  When it comes to liberty America needs to lead by example, any other method denies what we seek to see instilled. The Muslim nations need missionaries, not eradication.  To argue the opposite is to get our wisdom from the Koran instead of the Bible. If our current wars are unjust then we must educate ourselves as to the grounds for this injustice, vote only for those who are willing to stand on principle, make our views known to those in positions of authority and quit volunteering to fight these wars, especially under false assumptions. 

Whether a war is just or unjust is not merely for our leaders to decide.  In our Constitutional republic the decision to go to war is vested in Congress.  Congress is the branch which most directly reflects the plurality of states and the people of America.  A declaration of war is said to be passé’ these days but only to the extent that we have given over our civic responsibilities to the professional politicians & their hired technocrats.  The more our senators and representatives are in fear of and are informed by the views of “we the people” the more they will tend to fight for our freedom instead of the big moneyed special interests.

There may be a lot of people fighting in the Middle East who think they are fighting for my freedom.  I appreciate their sentiments & admire their courage but think they are quite misled.  My freedoms are disappearing.  So far as obeying orders go, no immoral order should be obeyed.  To put oneself in harms way under unjust leadership is a very dangerous place to be put.  The call to courage at that point may require you to act alone with only God as your support. Your actions may surely prove honorable but will not be without cost. Such cost should be counted carefully before putting oneself in such a position. There is a higher Law & it is according to that Law that our freedoms are tied and according to it, our country’s motives & actions, as well as those of her individual citizens and soldiers, will be judged.  We are all in this together but our thoughts & actions must first be dedicated to seeking the truth.  Only then will our country be served. Semper Fidelis!

Doug Holmes
Pastor, Sovereign Grace Church, Dows, Iowa





What is Freedom?

Freedom and rights have been hot topics this election season. Tax day tea parties bemoan the loss of freedom. Groups warn of government infringement on our freedoms. Various groups seem to think of it different ways. It seems to me that there are two main popular definitions. One says freedom is drugs, sex, and rock and roll. Another says freedom is lower taxes and less regulation. I would say that both of these are wrong. To understand freedom we must understand what it means to be a human being. God created us. We were created good, but our first parents sinned and without fail we receive this sin nature as our first inheritance from our parents. This inheritance leaves us slaves. We are slaves to sin and that leads to death and destruction of ourselves and those around us. The good news is that God did not leave us in this state. He sent his Son to die for the sins of all those that trust in him. While we still struggle with sin we are no longer in bondage to it. We are free to be free! Freedom is avoiding the death and destruction brought by sin by living as we were made to live. We are told how we were made to live in God's word and especially in his law. When we hear "law" we do not think freedom. That is because we are either thinking of man's law or we desire to do things that will lead to our death and destruction. The point is that freedom comes from God and nowhere else. When we demand our government to give us our rights and freedoms we have already lost the battle. We have made them god and they will try to be. God has told us what our individual, family, church, and state responsibilities are. Were we to read God's word we would find that churches and families should be in charge of welfare and health care. We would find that families and individuals are responsible for finance and education. When we ask the government to be our pastor, father, and conscience they take the place of our Heavenly Father, Good Shepherd, and Holy Spirit. So if you are taken aback by healthcare policy, sodomite marriage, abortion or anything else, do not despair! The solution is simple and it starts in your own homes and churches. Repent and live in accordance with God's will as expressed in His word. Repent and live free! 2nd  Chronicles 7:14 

Ed Sents
Wellsburg, Iowa


On Friday, April 3rd the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that gay marriage was legal. In my school history classes I have learned that there are three branches of state government. The first is the executive branch, which is the governor. The governor’s job is either to sign a bill passed into law by the legislative branch or to veto it. The second is the legislative branch. Their job is to represent the people of Iowa according to their district. They represent the people by voting for or against a bill. The third is the judicial branch or the Iowa Supreme Court. Their duty to the people of Iowa is to examine and interpret the laws. In short the legislature makes the law, the governor carries out the law and the court interprets the law. This brings up some questions that many Iowans should be asking. How can the Supreme Court make a law that legalizes anything when only the legislature can make laws? Why are the Legislative and Executive branches not upset that their powers are being overstepped? And also, how can the judges pass laws without being able to enforce those laws? I am a descendant of Stephen Tilden, a patriot who fought in the American Revolution. He did not fight for freedom from the British tyranny just so that the Americans could set up their own form of tyrannical government. He fought for a government by the people, not for a government by the unelected judges. My family’s prayer is for Iowans to wake up before it is too late to save what our ancestors fought so hard to give us in the American Revolution.

Caleb Dirksen, age 16
Son of David & Mary Dirksen, Thornton, Iowa


Safe or Sorry

 With the advent of another year my thoughts generally turn from the merry-making of Christmas and the New Year to surviving ‘the Cold Time’.  Not being a great fan of ice fishing or owning a snowmobile or affording to travel to America’s various winter wonderlands I must content myself with more domestic affairs.  Thinking is generally cheap and can be done from the warmth of ones home.

Recently I have been pondering the logic of certain businesses in Iowa who, in an effort to make their employees and customers ‘safe’, have taken to posting signs in their windows banning anyone from carrying firearms into their stores.  The impetus for such action is not a sudden rise in violent crime in Iowa or even an increase in the number of media reports of such events (although the case in Tucson has surely had an impact). Rather it seems that this concern has issued from a change in Iowa’s gun laws which took effect this year.  Before, if someone wanted to get a permit to carry a firearm the decision was entirely up to the subjective opinion of whoever currently held the office of Sheriff in that person’s county.  The ease or difficulty of getting a permit varied considerably from county to county. But with the turn of the year, a sheriff cannot refuse an applicant a permit to carry a firearm except for several clearly defined reasons. 

Evidently many Iowans are taking advantage of this new law and applying for permits to carry.  In response to this renewed interest in carrying firearms in public, certain businesses have taken to posting signs prohibiting them from carrying firearms into their stores. Now I have no problem with this in so far as a business has the right to conduct its affairs in the way that best serves their interests. What I don’t understand is why they would think that having no firearms in their store would contribute to keeping their customers and employees safe. 

It is true that the law now grants a responsible citizen easier access to legally carry firearms.  But it still remains quite illegal to murder someone or to rob them or even to threaten them.  The only people likely to consent to NOT carrying a weapon into a store which prohibits them are the very people I would think you would want to have one! After all, the murderer or thief doesn’t all of a sudden become law-abiding when he sees a sign in the window that prohibits him from entering with the tools of his trade.  Further, it’s not just that the presence of a law-abiding possessor of a firearm is in a position to stop the murderer or at least limit his impact (as significant as that is), it’s that such a sign would seem to attract criminals, contrary to ones intent.  After all, just because criminals are morally deranged doesn’t make them irrational.  If two stores have the same amount of goods and one is populated with people with firearms and one is not, which would you choose to rob?  When’s the last time you heard of anyone robbing a police station of their arsenal?  Schools have had ‘No Firearms’ policies for quite a while but they have sadly not been ‘murder free’. 

Perhaps this ‘No Firearms’ policy should be re-visited, especially if we are really interested in the safety of those we seek to serve.  I would think it would better serve the purposes of providing security for others by putting a sign on the door which says ‘Firearms Welcome’, or perhaps, ‘All Firearms Prohibited - except MINE!’  In my own life I’ve found that keeping a ‘low profile’ has had certain advantages.  Perhaps ‘not knowing’ would prove adequate; at least more so than an open invitation. 

Doug Holmes, pastor of SGC, Dows
Executive board member of Iowa Gun Owners





On Same Sex “Marriage”

One of the benefits of writing is that it necessarily requires you to focus your thinking.  We live in a day when ‘change’ is not only in the air but shaking the ground under our feet. The news is filled with so many troublesome reports. Such reports include economic/financial meltdowns; taxpayer funded ‘bail-outs’; foreign wars; terrorism; pirates (real live ones!); and encroaching government tyranny in areas such as health, education and environmental regulations. It becomes difficult not to be overwhelmed by this multifaceted assault on common sense moral values.  The moment one begins to analyze one issue, another vies for your attention.  One simply does not know where to begin to sort it all out.  Fortunately for me, the Iowa Supreme Court’s recent contribution to legalized debauchery was enough to bring me out of the spin of events and focus my mind on the issue of same sex “marriage”.

Much is being discussed on the air waves and newspapers about the legal, social and personal ramifications of this decision.  I think WHO Radio’s Steve Deace has done an excellent job of analyzing the legal issues concerning this decision.  Much can be learned about the abuse of this court concerning the separation of powers.  Clearly the courts are not to be in the business of making law.  To say that the Iowa Code concerning marriage between one man and one woman violates the Iowa Constitution is not the same thing as to require that marriage licenses from henceforth be made available to homosexual/ lesbian couples.  A more sane approach may be for the state to re-think its involvement in the licensing of marriages all together.

Now I am a Christian with strong libertarian (NOT liberal!) leanings.  But I have those leanings because I think the Bible requires them.  Governmental checks and balances are a biblical means of controlling the effect of our very sinful dispositions.  There are many sins in the Bible but not many crimes, at least compared with the Federal & State Codes of today! For example, one cannot be punished for the mere thought of murder.  The thought must be followed by action. Drinking and smoking cigars are not sins at all.  Unfortunately for our sodomite fellow denizens of this fair land, God’s Word declares that homosexuality is not only a sin, but its blatant & deliberate practice is a capital crime.  But then so, in many cases, is adultery.  It seems that the reason for these strong measures is that the family is to be considered the bed rock institution for a Christian society.  Treason against the family (which both homosexuality & adultery are) is a capital offense, while treason against the state is pretty much non-existent.  This is because biblically speaking the state is to have only a very narrow jurisdiction in a Christian (i.e., free) society.  Ultimately, however, I stand against the notion of legal same sex “marriage” because God insists on my doing so.  I am a Christian before I am a libertarian or even an American for that matter. A free society is possible for any length of time only because God’s Law gives it transcendent support.

The legal status of same sex “marriage” has become a problem because the Church feeds the broader society morally.  And the Church has been remiss, not only in refusing to confront her own sins (easy divorce & out of wed-lock pregnancies being but two examples), but in neglecting to honor and teach God’s Law as the moral foundation for a free society and the necessary consequent of saving faith in Christ.  Many Christians worry a lot about when we may expect Jesus to return in glory but not nearly enough about what He commanded us to be doing until that time.  He commanded us not to wait, but to occupy and extend His Kingdom by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The simplest solution to the same sex “marriage” issue is to put the Iowa Supreme Court in its place and ignore its decision on the basis of appeal to a higher Law, viz., “the law of nature and of nature’s God” inscribed in our Declaration of Independence.  A piece of paper (yes, even one with an embossed symbol of state authority) does not make a marriage!  Marriage is defined by the One who ordained it & not by the state.  Sodomites can SAY they are married but so can two parrots.  A marriage occurs when a man and a woman exchange vows in the presence of God and other witnesses.  That’s what marriage is, and no ‘Supreme Court’ can change that.  It is time to revert back to the biblically informed foundation of common law and call nonsense what it is.  And if your church doesn’t teach the application of biblical law to the issues of the day, find one that does! Your political and spiritual sanity depend on it.

Now, back to the spin of events we call life.

Doug Holmes, pastor
SGC Dows