That we might know God

Update: Redemption Church removed the heretical statement concerning the parts of God. I am glad for their willingness to receive correction.

Once upon a time, a man’s house was on fire. Every room was burning. The roof was about to cave in. The inferno raged all around. The fire department showed up.

“Oh. I see the problem. Your bookcase is on fire”.

“Well”, he answered. “It certainly is on fire. But that isn’t exactly the problem.”

“Let’s just put that fire out and then we can talk about the rest of it”.

“I guess…”

So they put the bookcase out. Part of the roof caved in. The fire caught the trees outside.

The firefighter said, “Oh. Look at that. Your dresser is on fire!”

The propane tank outside exploded. The firefighters put the dresser out.

This silly example describes the state of our church. The Southern Baptists have been discussing social issues this week. Justice is a crucial calling of the church. But the conservatives were fighting hard to make sure that any hint of injustice stay buried.

The moderates fought hard to bring social justice to the front. Meanwhile, the whole house is burning down.

We are all very aware of where Ed Litton stands on every cultural issue. But he doesn’t understand who God is, and that didn’t even blip on anyone’s radar.

While the church across the country is fighting for whatever social cause comes up, or whatever cultural war they deem important, we have missed the whole point of it all, and the house is in embers.

Jesus said that eternal life is “that we might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.”

The reason that Jesus came into the world was to restore fellowship between God and man, that we might turn from our idols and know that only true God as he has revealed himself in his word.

But that has not become the supreme goal of the modern church. A faithful minister might preach faithfully about who God is and who Jesus is and still arouse the anger of his church if he is on the perceived “wrong side” of the culture wars.

It is as if Jesus came, not to reconcile us to God, but to support our political causes.

Take, for example, this statement from Redeemer Church in Mobile, Alabama. Their pastor was just elected president of the SBC.

“God is One, the Creator and Ruler of the universe. He has eternally existed in three persons: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. These three are co-equal parts of one God”

There are only two scenarios. One is that whoever wrote this knows nothing about theology, or who God is. Or two, they just don’t care, and have a “good enough” view when it comes to doctrine.

God has no parts. If God had parts, then someone or something outside of God would have had to have put him together. In which case God is not God. This is the doctrine known as “the simplicity of God.” God is not composed. IT MATTERS.

This is theology 101. It matters. It is eternal life.

This definition of God is NOT Christianity. It is a denial of the Trinity.

We spend so much time on our social pet peeves, that we have forgotten the point of it all. That we might know God.

When you are searching for a church, if “part” is used anywhere to describe God, keep searching. Either they are outright heretics, or have decided that it doesn’t matter.

Here is my point. This statement of faith made it past the review committee, it was most likely written by a pastor. And no one cried foul and changed it. The house burned down while we were debating the fire on the bookshelves and the dressers.

Would these statements have made the final cut?

We believe that a woman has the right to choose.

We believe that nothing makes God happier than when two people – ANY two people – fall in love.

We believe that the police should be defunded.

We believe that every Christian ought to vote Republican.

We believe that every Christian ought to vote democratic.

If you now wish to debate me on any of those statements, then you are proving my point. We have become very good at putting out the fire on the bookcases and the dressers when the whole house is collapsing around us.

Everyone who has paid attention at all knows what is wrong or what is right with all of these statements. The “Church” has made their thinking on it quite clear.

Meanwhile, the house is burning down. To divide God into parts is to take his great name in vain. It is to deny God, to blaspheme his holy name and to become pagan in your thinking.

The church used to profess this: “No sin is greater or more provoking to God than the taking of his name in vain.” (Heidelberg Catechism 100).

According to this truth and this Word of God, we believe in one only God, who is the one single essence,  in which are three Persons, really, truly, and eternally distinct according to their incommunicable properties; namely, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

The Father is the cause, origin, and beginning of all things visible and invisible;

the Son is the word, wisdom, and the image of the Father;

the Holy Spirit is the eternal power and might, proceeding from the Father and the Son.

Nevertheless, God is not by this distinction divided into three, since the Holy Scriptures teach us that the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit have each His personality, distinguished by Their properties; but in such wise that these three Persons are but one only God.

Hence, then, it is evident that the Father is not the Son, nor the Son the Father, and likewise the Holy Spirit is neither the Father nor the Son.

Nevertheless, these Persons thus distinguished are not divided, nor intermixed; for the Father has not assumed the flesh, nor has the Holy Spirit, but the Son only.

The Father has never been without His Son, or without His Holy Spirit. For They are all three co-eternal and co-essential. There is neither first nor last; for They are all three one, in truth, in power, in goodness, and in mercy. (Belgic Confession, Article 8)

But today, who God is doesn’t matter. What words you use for him don’t matter. As long as you get behind my social cause; vote the right way. After all, theology is all speculation. What is really important is winning the culture war.

It has destroyed churches, it has torn the house down.

The house is on fire. Wake up, people.

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Filed under theology

Whoever loves their life…

Whether you have been a believer your whole life, or whether you are a new convert, there will come a time when the Bible will cut you to the heart.

God still says, “Adam, where are you?” and invites you to come out of hiding and stand before Him.

The Bible has a way of confronting your deepest identity, your deepest held convictions, your deepest secrets and hurts.

It puts the finger right on who you are and who you think you are, because who you are is a child in the image of Adam. And who you are called to be is a child of God in Christ. That means that Adam must go, so that who you were made to be might live.

You can’t get there if you never put to death the old man. That guy has to die.

And that is painful. It cuts to the heart. The scripture reveals your secrets and says, “Nail this to the cross.” It isn’t just those things that you do; it is the things that you are. Sanctification is only finished when we die. Only our death can finally put to death this body of death. But the little deaths, the taking up our crosses, must be daily. Jesus said that.

So the confrontation will come.

It will come in a sermon. It will come in your reading. It will come in your memories.

But it will come. The Holy Spirit will see to that.

What you do when it comes will be a matter of life or death. Unfortunately, mostpeople attack the messenger. Mostpeople won’t go there. Mostpeople will conclude that the “preacher is wicked. The bible has errors. That guy’s a jerk. That isn’t the Jesus I know…”

The alternative is just too hard. I like that old guy. He comforts me if I ignore the voice of all those that I have trampled in my push to be a god.

But if you go through the painful process of taking up the cross and hearing the thundering voice of the Word of God confronting everything you thought was right and normal and good, you will find your life.

If you want to hold on to “your life” – your life, your values, your identity, everything that you believe you are – the only possible result is death. You will think that you gained everything, but in the process you ironically lose yourself.

You must be born again to even see the kingdom of God. And that means that the old man must die.

Not gonna lie. That hurts like hell. Because it is hell, and it has to go. Your pride cannot take you into the kingdom of God.

(Luke 9:23-25)  23 And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.
  24 “For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.
  25 “For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself?

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Filed under Gospel, growth, sanctification

Instead of “purity culture”

For decades now, Youth Group generally involves some 2o something dude, who may or may not be a little bit creepy, telling kids about staying “pure” until marriage, avoiding the world’s music and movies, what swimsuits girls should wear, and that boys should “bounce” their eyes so as not to ensnared by the inevitable lust.

We lived in terror of our children becoming worldly, so we amped up the pressure, laid down the law, covered everything up and valiantly warred against the flesh.

And we are now reaping the results. Not so good.

What we were actually doing, according to the scripture, was catering to the flesh, believing that righteousness would come by the law. And we are reaping the results of sowing. It is a pretty ugly crop, and exactly what God said it would be:

(Galatians 6:7-8)  Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.
For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.

Everyone has the deep desire, the idolatry to seek to purify themselves. We insist that we can fix our own problems if we just apply the right technique. The Bible calls this “the flesh”, and nowhere was that more evident than in the “purity culture” of the past decades.

All we have accomplished is increased guilt and shame, fueling greater and greater lusts seeking to overcome guilt and shame, which in turn increases guilt and shame even more. We have given our children no tools whatsoever in the battle against the prince of the power of the air, and we have reaped the whirlwind. Despair and death reign, for we made a covenant with death and turned our back on the Lord of life.

Look at your own experience. If you went to youth group, did you hear more about the evils of Harry Potter, exposed collar bones, swimsuits that exposed the tummy and the dangers of lust?

Or did you hear about the Lord of glory, dying for your sin? How he took upon himself our shame and guilt? How he is softly and tenderly calling you into his arms?

Did you learn all about your wrong choices? Or did you learn about the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, who has broken the bands of death so that we might live forever before him?

So here are some things that I think are far better things for our youth to learn. Let’s start teaching these things instead of “purity culture.”

  • Boys and girls are created by God. They have dignity and worth as image-bearers of God.
  • Minds and souls and personalities and gifts are wonderful things and ought to be celebrated and honored.
  • But mankind is fallen. We have corrupted ourselves because we wanted to be gods and serve only ourselves. So now we are lonely, miserable, isolated, shamed, guilty, because we were not made to serve ourselves. We were made to reflect another.
  • But God loves his creation and doesn’t want anyone to perish. So he sent his only begotten Son into the world to redeem us from the bondage of lusts and shame and guilt and misery.
  • His goal in sending his Son was not that you might continue to live in shame, but that you might be free and clean and holy and dressed in his righteousness alone, worthy and acceptable in his sight.
  • And now God is calling us all to lay down our weapons. Lay down our demands to serve ourselves, and come home.
  • Whatever we have done, and whatever others have done to us, in Jesus’ sight, you are not filthy, unclean, dirty, unwanted, unloved.
  • You can stand before him exactly as you are. You don’t have to pretend anymore. You don’t have to hide. He already knows. He knows what you have done. He knows what was done to you. He knows your hurts. He knows the dark, secret places; he knows where the cancer is and he desires to take it on himself and nail it to his cross.
  • And he desires that you simply come to him. He wants you to take that guilt and shame that you have been carrying around, and leave it with him. He looks right at you and says, “Do you want to be healed?”
  • And he wants you to receive what only he can give you – a clean conscience. Purity. Worthiness. Dignity.
  • You are worth it. He fights for justice for you and will make every crooked path straight. You can leave that with him.
  • You are worth it, for he died and rose for you.
  • You are worth it, for you are not a ruined flower, you are not a dirty person, you are not whatever wicked men have said you were. You are in Christ. A dearly loved son or daughter. Accepted in the beloved.
  • You are not your own, but belong to your faithful savior Jesus Christ, who with his precious blood has fully satisfied for all your sins and redeemed you from all the power of the devil, and so preserves you that without the will of your Father in heaven, not a hair can fall from your head. In fact, all things must work together for your salvation. Therefore by his Holy Spirit, he also assures you of eternal life and makes you heartily willing and ready from now on to live unto him.
  • Wow. I am loved. Valuable. With dignity. With honor – because I am not my own, but belong to my Savior.

Can you imagine how different our lives would be and the lives of our children would be if we (and they) understood and believed these things?

4 Comments

Filed under modesty, sanctification, Sin and Grace

Imperfections and things that are intolerable

We live in an imperfect world. Since this is so, everything from mites to sea horses, larks to katydids, cabbages to kings, will have imperfections.

We know that this is the case because of the fall of mankind. But it also serves a good purpose. We make choices and we are always forced to choose between imperfections. In those choices, our values surface. And when our values surface, we can see what kind of people we are.

It is not possible to choose any endeavor or any organism or any possession without tolerating some imperfection.

Where no oxen are, the crib is clean: but much increase is by the strength of the ox. (Prov. 14:4)

You can have a clean crib, or you can have an ox. But you cannot have both.

When you purchase a car, you can have luxury, power, comfort, reliability, looks, and affordability, but you cannot have them all. What you choose will show, in part, what kind of a person you are.

You cannot find a perfect human. There will always be flaws. All have sinned and come short of the glory of God. This truth can turn us into angry misanthropes or proud Pharisees, but both options are hard ways to live.

The fact is this: we live in a fallen world, and the effects of the fall echo in every state, every church, every organization, every gathering, every human. You won’t find perfection here. This is true whether you are seeking a spouse, a friend, an employer, an employee, a pastor, a counselor. You won’t find one that is perfect.

The deeper question is “what is intolerable?” and how you answer that question shows what kind of a person YOU are.

On the one hand, you cannot tolerate everything without destroying yourself. On the other hand, you cannot be intolerant of everything without locking yourself in a tiny box, alone against the world. If you pull up all the tares, you will have nothing else.

Soon you are left with yourself and will eventually find yourself saying, along with Bob Dylan, “God,  I’m glad I’m not me.”

Which brings us to the point of this post:

Why do so many leaders tolerate Trinitarian heresy, Christological heresy, heterodoxy on justification, Federal Vision (condemned by EVERY NAPARC Fellowship), rejection of the orthodox creeds, while also tolerating unrepentant drunkards, child abusers, spousal abusers, fornicators, pornographers, embezzlers, and thieves? For everyone who says I am being too harsh, I can give you the list of all of the above that are still in good standing, some even in office, who have done all of the above.

When at the same time women writing books, growing in knowledge, studying theology, correcting errors, protecting themselves, and separating from evil are considered intolerable?

To test this theory, ask yourself a question. There are two churches that you might attend. One has a woman leading a Bible study. The other has man in a three piece suit teaching that one must be covenantally faithful in order to be justified. Which do you choose?

One has a woman leading a conference. The other teaches that the Son is eternally subordinate to the Father. Which do you attend?

Which one do you find intolerable?

At the beginning of 2020, I saw a tweet that claimed that 90 percent of church-goes would tolerate theological heresy over political heresy. I said to myself, “That can’t possibly be true.”

And as we pick up the pieces of our congregations, we realize that it was indeed true.

This blog has been marinating a while. I have written and re-written it. But it needs to be said: what you find intolerable says more about who you are as a person than anything else.

23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.
24 “Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel! (Matt. 23:23-24)

When I see what is invading the Reformed and conservative evangelical world, I mourn the state of the church. We tolerate racism, abuse, pedophilia, pornography, hatred and violence.

And even worse than all of those: we tolerate using God’s name in vain for the purpose of winning elections, which God hates. We tolerate blasphemy in the pulpits. We tolerate gross errors concerning justification, including federal vision, final salvation by faith AND works, calling Jesus the wife of the Trinity, denial of the personhood of the Holy Spirit, and on it goes.

Don’t get me wrong. Not everyone would actually say they HOLD to those things. They would say, “Yeah. There are some problems there. But he is really good calling out sin. He is really good fighting the culture wars. He is really good on marriage and child-raising…” We carefully strain out the intolerable gnats and swallow the camels whole.

But what we find intolerable, the gnats in our soup,  is women writing books; calling out sexual assault; critiquing celebrity preachers; anything that smacks of being “woke”; crying out for justice; demanding orthodoxy in the pulpit and in our books.

I’ve seen preachers swallow the camel of subordinationism and preach valiantly against skinny jeans and long hair. I’ve seen preachers embrace Oneness Pentecostalism and denounce Harry Potter. I’ve seen preachers say “no creed but Christ” and lead the pledge of allegiance from the pulpit. I’ve seen churches embrace the Ku Klux Klan and condemn women wearing pants to hell.

What is desperately needed are preachers who preach the gospel.

2:20 Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations–
21 “Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,”
22 which all concern things which perish with the using– according to the commandments and doctrines of men?
23 These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.

3:1 If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. (Col. 2:20-3:1)

We have made our home too much in this world. What God desires of us is for us to learn to love what he loves and hate what he hates. We ought to strive to conform our thoughts to HIS thoughts. Our flesh seeks to twist God’s thoughts to conform to our opinions and biases. We search the scriptures for justifications of our pet ideas, when we really ought to be learning to conform our thoughts to his.

When we call our Savior the wife of the Trinity and denounce skinny jeans and long hair as effeminate, we might have problems with discernment.

It makes me wonder what we really worship.

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Filed under Wisdom

Thoughts while sitting at the meeting of the RCUS Synod

God sends encouragement from unexpected places.

Sometimes a spark of light radiates from an unexpected place and you sigh and remember that God has not forgotten his church.

I can’t believe this guy is still talking.

Photographs irritate me. We all look about the same as last year. Couldn’t we just change the caption?

I think it is about time to crawl out of the miasma of denial, bite the bullet and admit it: Air Supply is awesome.

I can’t believe this guy is still talking.

There has been several comments and committee reports that mention how we need to become more proficient with technology – social media, zoom, conference calls, etc. It is hard to imagine how we can make this possible with so many delegates that haven’t figured out how to turn their phones to silent.

We just heard from the host church that there is currently no running water. He encouraged us to make good decisions with that information. Our president just said, “If it is yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown flush it down.” Out of every possible thing that we could have expected our president to say during this meeting, this one never once entered my mind.

Prolonged sitting and overcast, humid weather is not good for fibromyalgia. My body feels as if it has been run over by a truck.

I miss my family. I miss my wife. I miss my church.

Abba is also awesome.

I can’t believe this guy is still talking.

Speaking of unexpected things, the Synod struck a blow for Christian liberty – perhaps without even intending to. The hand of God has been with us.

Sometimes a light radiates, the glory of Christ is glimpsed through the gathering clouds…whatever the future brings, the Sun of Righteousness still shines, and he has healing in his wings.

When one plays Beethoven, one is struck at how important the silences are. I believe that everyone would benefit from listening to Beethoven.

Knowing when to wrap things up is a remarkably useful skill.

Take note?

Take note.

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Filed under Random thoughts

Jesus touched the leper

Do you get that?

Does that sink into your soul?

A leper was unclean. He was untouchable. To touch a leper was to make yourself unclean.

They were cast out. They were driven from society. The were not allowed in the Temple.

And Jesus touched them.

(Mark 1:40-41)  40 And there came a leper to him, beseeching him, and kneeling down to him, and saying unto him, If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.
  41 And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth his hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will; be thou clean.

And when he touched them, they became clean. And he took their uncleanness upon himself.

And then the Romans and the Jews and the World dragged him outside the camp, with all of our uncleanness, and crucified him – along with all of our uncleanness.

Think about that. Jesus touched the leper.

Who are we afraid to touch? Who are we afraid are too dirty for us?

If you think that someone is too dirty, then you do not yet understand. Read it again.

JESUS TOUCHED THE LEPER.

The greatest sorrow that crushes our soul is the sorrow of uncleanness. Being driven away; being hated; being considered unclean.

Too dirty, too sinful, too seductive, too “other” for all of us clean people.

Do you feel like you just showed up at the feast and you are filthy? Do you feel that in your soul?

Your soul crumbles under the weight of your uncleanness. You are unclean yourself. What you have endured left a film of stain on your soul that you just wish would go away.

How you long to be one of the normals! To just live and shop and eat and drink and love as if you didn’t have a huge, ugly sign attached to your neck: UNCLEAN. DON’T TOUCH!”

Jesus touched the leper.

Jesus touched the leper.

Stand up straight. Lift up your eyes. strengthen your knees.

You are the circumcision of God. You are clean. You are in his presence.

Because Jesus touches you as well.

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Filed under Gospel, Hope

Why so quick to take the blame?

This morning, an excellent blog showed up in my feed. I would suggest you read it here.

I would like to stress – as strongly as possible – that my comments have nothing whatsoever to do with Anna Duggar. I don’t know enough about her to judge anything one way or another.

(Well, I can judge one thing. Josh Duggar is a creeper, has always been a creeper and the fault that he is a creeper is his own. But the patriarchy/quiverfull /purity environment that cultivated him allowed him to thrive for decades. There are scores more of them in that environment.)

But I know nothing about Anna.

But the blog I linked above got me thinking.

Why did the woman mentioned in the blog (NOT Anna Duggar) disregard her church, her friends, her pastor, her therapist and everyone she knew and wait for “special revelation” from God? She waited until she got an answer she liked better. Why was the “answer” she received better than the godly counsel of her pastor?

So that got me thinking – why would a woman choose to take the blame for her husband’s sins upon herself as a viable alternative?

Why would she rather ask his forgiveness for her manufactured sins than deal with his very real sins?

And as my mind is mulling through this question, I remembered an anecdote from a missionary years and years ago. He labored for decades with little result, and he said, “If I preached that they had to crawl across broken glass to achieve forgiveness, my church would have been full.”

The free grace of God is terrifying for people. They would rather manufacture guilt than be free from it. If we have to crawl across broken glass to be saved, then ultimately the power is ours. But if the gospel is true, then our only hope is the free mercy of Christ, which is not in my control whatsoever.

Something to think about, isn’t it?

A few years back, my large intestine ruptured with no warning. I did not have diverticulitis.  I do not have any genetic weaknesses there. I did not have a poor diet.

In fact, there was no cause for it at all. My surgeon said, “Sometimes it happens.”

I got to tell you, that is terrifying. The fact that an intestine can spontaneously rupture was far scarier than even cancer or diverticulitis. If I could have prevented it by changing my diet, or by doing preventative care correctly, or anything else, that would put the power of health in my hands – which is far more comforting to the natural me.

Because the alternative is trusting in the sovereignty of God, which is scary to fallen man.

I think it is why there are so many people quick to give medical advice. Life and death MUST ULTIMATELY BE IN OUR OWN HANDS, because the alternative is unthinkable.

It comes down to the goodness of God. Is God truly good?

What happens when your life falls apart?

What happens when your husband is arrested for child pornography?

What happens when your colon ruptures?

What happens when your child rebels?

What happens when you have to call the police on your own child? Your own father?

What happens when your spouse commits adultery?

And in all of those situations, it is more comforting for us to take the blame ourselves, whether it is valid or not. For if we take the blame ourselves, then we can live in a fantasy world where WE control the outcome and WE protect ourselves and WE are captains of our destiny.

At least, if we go down, we can say that we did it our way. If we say it is our fault, then we have some control.

But if death happens, if illness happens, if sins are committed, if crimes are committed – and we have nothing whatsoever to do with it; if there was no choice whatsoever that would have changed the outcome; if there were no action at all that we could have taken to prevent it…

Then we have no alternative but to throw ourselves on the mercy of God, glorify him even in pain, trust his goodness and his sovereignty, and say,

“The Lord has given. The Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

It is terrifying to live that kind of life, but it is the only reality that there is.

There is a curse on this world that we can’t do anything about. But God can.

So we can wait for him, stand for the truth, exalt those things that are beautiful, and put no trust in the flesh.

And help one another. It is terrifying to admit that your spouse is a covenant breaker. Your whole world turns upside down. But often that is the reality.

Help one another with their burdens. Reality is difficult. But the solution is not to create a fantasy world. It is to face reality squarely and walk right through it.

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me. Thy rod and thy staff comfort me.”

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Filed under Gospel, Patriarchy

Whispers

There is much that we could get worked up about.

It doesn’t take special insight to know that this world is twisted, broken, oftentimes ugly.

But briefly there are glimpses of justice. Not much, but enough to remind us of perfect justice to come.

Briefly, there are glimpses of beauty. Never enough to quench our thirst, but enough to remind us of beauty beyond our imagining.

Briefly, you might glimpse like a shifting shadow out of the corner of the eye – an echo of Eden. A reminder that God has not cast us off.

An ethereal tune that you can’t quite catch, but it causes deep sighs of longing.

A touch of a lover that reminds you that you are desired

A shimmer of a cool breeze with the hint of jasmine that reminds you of spring

The hint of another country never traveled

The whisper of citrus and plum and berry on the nose of the wine…

The grandkids are laughing.

When you look at the glimpses from one angle, you might be tempted to think that they are God, rather than gifts of his bounty.

You miss the good because you are always searching for the better.

But from another angle, you might miss those glimpses because you are too angry that the world isn’t what it is supposed to be.

So the jasmine goes by unnoticed.

The music goes unheard because you don’t like her politics.

The wine isn’t French or Napa so you miss its bouquet…

You’re too afraid of lust to notice that her hair is shimmering in the sunlight.

You’re too afraid of catching sin to smile and be kind.

You miss the joy of the kids because you demanded idols to justify your wisdom and strength, and instead you got kids with their own minds who mystify you.

Don’t miss the joy. Don’t miss the beauty.

It isn’t God. But it is from God.

It points to God.

Jesus will come again and when the marriage supper of the lamb is served it will be perfect.

Justice will be perfect. Beauty will be perfect. Contentment will be perfect.

Fellowship will be perfect.

So smile. Listen to that beautiful music. Sit and smell the jasmine. It fades quickly.

The whispers go away quickly. We fade and die. But He remembers our frailty…

So teach us to number our days.

6 Comments

Filed under Encouragement, Goodness, Light

“Give me a drink”–a study in shame

If you haven’t lately, I would suggest that you read John 4 before reading this.

I’ve been thinking about this woman lately. I’ve preached on this before, but this is an account that floats around the mind and hits you in the heart.

The traditional interpretation is that Jesus sits at the well, confronts the woman with her fornicating ways, she tries to change the subject and then he talks about worship.

With that interpretation, it is rather difficult to get from point A to point B. How does living water fit in with her 5 husbands, her living situation and worship in spirit and in truth?

And this got me thinking about their first exchange together, which sets the scenario for the entire discussion.

7 A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.”
8 For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.
9 Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.
(John. 4:7-9)

A hot, dusty afternoon. Jesus is tired. He is sitting by the well. It is clear that he is Jewish and that he is a rabbi.

A woman comes alone to draw water. She is tired. She is an outcast in her own community. She knows what it is to be unwelcome, unwanted, unloved. And then she sees Jesus.

You can just see the roll of her eyes. “Great. A Jew. All I need today.”

She knew that in a Jew’s eyes, she had three strikes against her. First, she was a Samaritan. An unclean race, mixed-blood, idolatrous worship – most Jews would go all the way around Samaria rather than risk being defiled by contact with all of the unclean people there.

Second strike against her, she was a woman. A Rabbi would pray, “I thank God that I am not a Gentile, not a woman, and not a slave.”

And third strike, she was a sinner. Everyone knew it. She was living with a guy without marrying him. She had been divorced 5 times. She was probably used as an example to scare children into proper behavior.

And then she sees Jesus. “Ugh. I am so not in the mood for this today!”

And he astounds her with a few simple words. “Give me a drink”.

She is stunned. Even touching this woman would make him “unclean” according to Jewish thought. Even the dust on the ground is unclean. And he wants to drink out of MY vessel?

When you see the scenario for what it is, you realize that something far deeper is going on.

This story is about shame. Shame is universal. We all dread and fear being cast out, being despised. No one dreams of being stupid and unwanted and on the outside looking in.

I am one who knows that feeling. As a child, the congregation would gather in circles after the service to talk (watch how people do that. It is fascinating). I would try to join a circle, and my brothers would move in front of me slowly to make it clear that I wasn’t welcome there.

I know that feeling. It is called “Shame”.

You don’t belong. Get out. You aren’t one of us. You are filthy. Defiled. Unclean. Dirty. Just go away.

And people deal with it in all kinds of ways. We shame others, thinking it will take away our shame. We lash out in anger, or we boast arrogantly, or we exaggerate our successes, depending on them to give us that elusive feeling that maybe our lives aren’t useless and wasted, that maybe we are accepted and loved…

But our shame has a reason. We were cast out of Eden. We used to be in God’s presence – welcomed and loved. But then we fell. We turned our backs on God, and learned that we were naked. And then we knew what shame was. We tried to sew fig leaves together. We hid from God and from each other.

Shame makes us lonely, for we hide our true selves, terrified that someone will find us out. And at the same time, we long to be known. Longing for intimacy and terrified of it at the same time.

It is a horrible way to live.

And it is exactly what Jesus came into the world to free us from.

“Wonderful the matchless grace of Jesus, greater far than all my sin and shame…”

This woman knew what shame was. She had been rejected five times, and now is trying to belong by simply living with a man who doesn’t respect her enough to marry her.

She is cast out in her own village. And she is a Samaritan woman. She knows what it is to be rejected, despised, thrown out like garbage.

And now, something astounding. “Give me a drink.”

He then talks about living water, and the thirst for belonging and purpose, the cleansing of the Holy Spirit…

But something else needs to happen. “Call your husband and come here.”

She says, “I have no husband.”

And he says, “I know. You have had five husbands. I know who you are, I know what you have done. I know what has been done to you. I know your shame. I know your fear. I know you. And I want to be with me. I want your service. I want to drink from your bucket. I want you to come with me into my father’s house.”

She isn’t changing the subject. She knows that this conversation is about cleanliness. She is unclean, meaning that she is not fit to enter into God’s sanctuary. But this man is talking about drinking from her vessel. Is she clean, or isn’t she?

“Our fathers taught us to worship on this mountain. But you say Jerusalem. Who is right?”

And he answers her. Worship isn’t about performing the ritual right in the hopes that God will be coerced into doing what you want. Both temples are going away. (But, as it turns out, the Jews were right about Jerusalem). But now, the reality has come.

Jesus is here. He is sent by the Father to seek and save that which was lost. He was sent to gather the sheep together into one fold. He came into the world to save his own.

And he had a woman that he loved in a little village in Samaria. The whole world might think she was nothing, but the Father was seeking her.

And Jesus found her and brought her to himself, taking her shame and giving her glory.

“The father is seeking such to worship him.”

There is much more to say here. There is a lot about thirst, about water, about cleansing, about the Holy Spirit, about the Father.

There is a lot about worship, about Spirit and truth. There is a lot about how Christ makes us acceptable.

But the whole passage is about shame and belonging. Jesus came to bring us to Himself. He desires us to be with him where he is. He seeks and saves his people because he wants to.

He took this woman, cast out as a sinner, unclean, unwelcome, alone – and gave her purpose, gave her meaning, gave her glory. In other words, he gave her himself.

Glory, you see, is the opposite of shame. And glory is belonging to Christ. We shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.

Earthly glory fades away and is replaced with shame. In the end, those who seek glory on this earth hear the voice of Jesus saying, “Depart from me, I never knew you…” the ultimate shame.

In the world, you might be like this woman. Outcast, lonely, shamed, unwanted. Insignificant in this world. But take heart. This world is not the last word. We have laid in heaven for us a crown of glory that can never be taken away. Significance, beauty, cleanliness, the proper clothing (!), and we are accepted in the beloved.

Because Jesus took our shame upon himself, and was raised from the dead. Crowned with glory and honor, for us – just as it was for this woman.

He was despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.

Wherefore hath God highly exalted him and given him a name which is above every name.

He is our glory, our crown, our purpose. When we know him and he knows us, we belong. Even though belonging to Christ means that we are strangers and pilgrims on this earth, often times outcast and scattered, yet he gathers us together.

The father is seeking us.

How astounding is that??

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Filed under Gospel, shame

If she is telling the truth…

Another one.

A rich, powerful, mover and shaker.

A young girl. Lots of them, it turns out.

Each one of them is an image-bearer of God, used to satiate the lusts of another rich wolf.

Not only does she have to bear the scars of unspeakable trauma, she now has to hear the attacks and slanders on her name.

(Have you heard the one about the 9 year old girl that was “overly sexualized” and “seduced” her rapist? Yeah. That was what he said. And they believed him.)

The powerful man – whether minister, representative, president, judge, father, husband – MUST be innocent. If powerful men are this wicked, what hope do any of us have? She, therefore, must be lying.

Why are we so quick to condemn the innocent and acquit the guilty? Why is our gut reaction always, “She’s lying”

“Why didn’t she tell someone?”

Why did she wait?

What was she wearing?

What was she drinking?

Because if she is telling the truth, we live in a different world than the one we want to live in.

If she is telling the truth, then God was right when he said, “Their mouth is an open sepulcher, there is none righteous. No, not one…” and that is hard to swallow.

If she is telling the truth, then the world is ugly and dangerous. But we want it to be safe, at least for people like us.

If she is telling the truth, then “weep and howl, you rich men, for the miseries that shall come upon you” and the judgment of God is terrifying.

But if she is lying, we can go back to the conferences. If she is lying, we can vote for the guy again. He’s so good for our side. We can go on like we always do.

If she is lying, we can shake our heads sorrowfully and go back to the football game.

If she is lying, then our people are still OK and as long as we stay away from those others, we can be safe and happy and blissfully unaware of her hurt and pain and trauma. Our boat stays secure.

As long as she plays the part right. Submit. Keep quiet. Don’t rock the boat. And everything stays the same.

But God sees it. He warns us. It is very, very easy to believe the rich and powerful and influential. We want our heroes sparkling clean, so it is easy to believe that she is lying.

When one is without power, there is no gain in believing her. And if you do believe her, your world will turn upside down.

People will ask, “What happened to you?”

What happened was that I believed her. And my world turned upside down.

I believed her, and I was right. He did it. And the world is upside down. The only hope is the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

We need a resurrection, because death and destruction and hatred and ugliness is very, very real.

God sees it all. And he warns us about believing those from whom we can gain, and dismissing those who cannot profit us.

22 “You shall not afflict any widow or orphan.

23 “If you afflict him at all, and if he does cry out to Me, I will surely hear his cry;

24 and My anger will be kindled, and I will kill you with the sword; and your wives shall become widows and your children fatherless.

(Exod. 22:22-24)

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Filed under Abuse, Grief