Before Abraham was, I am

57 Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham?
58 Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am. (Jn. 8:57-58 KJV)

When Moses saw the burning bush, God spoke to him. God said that he had heard the groans of Israel in slavery in Egypt, and that he would remember the promise that he made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Moses asked his name.

God said, “I am who I am”. This was the Holy Name of the Holy One of Israel.

The word “god” can refer to many things – even princes or angels. It can refer to false gods or the one, true God. But the name YWWH – which sounds like the Hebrew for I AM – can only refer to the one, true eternal God. To refer that holy name to anyone or anything else was the highest form of blasphemy according to the revelation of God.

And Jesus of Nazareth referred it to himself. If he was not the one true eternal God, then he deserved to be stoned. The Jews would have been right.

But if he was truly the one, true, eternal God then he is to be worshiped and adored and feared.

When he rose from the dead, God declared him to be without sin. The grave could not hold him for he was free from all sin. He then showed himself to truly be the Holy One of Israel, as Peter declared on Pentecost:

27 Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.

28 Thou hast made known to me the ways of life; thou shalt make me full of joy with thy countenance.

29 Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day.

30 Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne;

31 He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption.

32 This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses.

(Acts 2:27-32 KJV)

Peter, quoting from Psalm 16, shows how the scripture declares that the one who rises from the dead is indeed the one true eternal God, and is therefore to be worshiped. If he is raised from the dead, then he is holy and without sin, for the wages of sin is death. If he is without sin, then he spoke only the truth, including the truth about himself. Which means that the Holy One of Israel is none other than Jehovah himself.

3 Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh;

4 And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead: (Rom. 1:3-4 KJV)

This is also confirmed by John’s vision in Revelation:

8 I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty. (Rev. 1:8 KJV)

Only Jehovah can say of himself “which is, which was, and which is to come”. This refers to absolute, unchanging being, not created being. Created being is becoming, changing, moving, contingent. But uncreated being is absolute, eternal, unchanging. The very first verse of the Bible makes the difference between uncreated being and created being – “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”

Before the beginning, there was only God. All things were created by him. All that is not God was created by God. Uncreated being is set in contrast to created being.

In Revelation 1:8, Jesus of Nazareth is given the titles of uncreated being, that is, the name and attributes of Jehovah Himself.

In John 8, referenced above, Jesus refers to himself as above time and space – eternal, uncreated being. The same person who is not yet 50 years old is also the I AM of Abraham.

To use the language of classical Christology, the one person – Jesus Christ – exists in two natures, without division, without separation, without confusion, without change. One person in two natures, true God and true man.

That which can be said of God can be said of Christ. Eternal, which is, and which was and which is to come, the I AM of Abraham, immutable, absolute, the Holy One of Israel.

And that which can be said of man can be said of Christ, except sin. Finite, changing, weak, hungry, human, growing, learning, not knowing, bleeding, hurt and dying, submissive to the Father, learning obedience.

And yet there are not two persons, but one person. One Lord. One Jesus. One Christ.

The One who was laid in a manger and wrapped in swaddling cloths was the same almighty being that appeared to Moses at the burning bush.

The One who learned his alphabet is the same almighty being that spoke the worlds into existence.

The One who spoke to the woman at the well in Samaria was the Commander of the Lord’s Armies, who led Joshua into Canaan and overthrew his enemies.

The One who listened to the widow pour out her complaint was the one who struck Uzzah dead for touching the ark of the covenant.

The One who filled the earth with his glory in the sight of Isaiah was the same almighty being who was bruised for our iniquities, nailed to a Roman Cross and left to die.

The One who thundered at Job’s friends from heaven was the same almighty being that cried out, “I thirst” on the cross.

And this is necessary for our salvation, for only the same human nature which sinned can make satisfaction for sin, and only the infinite, almighty Son of God can bear the burden of God’s eternal wrath against sin and redeem others from it.

And this one person is Jesus Christ of Nazareth, born of Mary, crucified, dead and buried. And on the third day he rose from the dead.

And today he is still true man, but glorified, as we will be. The heir to the throne of David ruling over all things according to the scripture, giving us a sure pledge that where he is, we will one day also be.

And he is also true and eternal God. We can cry out to him, for he hears our prayers. We commit our ways to him, for he is able to keep all that we’ve committed unto him against that day. We will never be ashamed, for he does not change, he is almighty, everywhere present, and and no time absent from us.

The same I AM that heard the cries of Israel in Egypt and remembered his covenant with Abraham is the same almighty being that took the form of a slave and submitted himself to the wrath of God for us and for our salvation.

So what do we do?

18 For you have not come to the mountain that may be touched and that burned with fire, and to blackness and darkness and tempest,

19 and the sound of a trumpet and the voice of words, so that those who heard it begged that the word should not be spoken to them anymore.

20 (For they could not endure what was commanded: “And if so much as a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned or shot with an arrow.”

21 And so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I am exceedingly afraid and trembling.”)

22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels,

23 to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect,

24 to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel.

25 See that you do not refuse Him who speaks. For if they did not escape who refused Him who spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from heaven,

(Heb. 12:18-25 NKJ)

God in these last days has spoken to us by his Son. We no longer stand before Sinai fearful of the thunder and fleeing from the voice of God. We have come to Sion, the city of Jesus Christ, the heir of David, the Mediator between God and man, true man and true God. If we refuse the gentle waters of Shiloah, the river of destruction will flow (Isaiah 8 and John 9). God’s patience is not unending. The Day of Judgment will come. Hear the voice of Jesus – “Come unto me, and I will give you rest.”

He is willing to do it, for he knows what it is like to be tired and hungry and weak, being true man. And he is able to do it, being almighty God.

But at the same time, it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God. The one who came in a manger will appear the second time for judgment.

This is Christianity. This is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, the way, the truth and the life.

No one comes to the Father but by him.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Christology

A plea for sobriety

This has been a hard week for a lot of folks I know…men and women who have been assaulted, bullied, ridiculed, and mocked know that pain – the pain of being outcast, unclean, unwanted. Ben Sasse summed up the dynamics of sexual assault perfectly this week. But there have been so many that have suffered.

This past week, I have heard from many, many of these people.

They told me that when they heard the president mock Dr. Ford, they didn’t see him. They saw their classmates, their peers, their abusers.

They told me that when they saw the pastors laughing and joking, they didn’t hear those pastors. They heard their rapists laughing at them and mocking them.

When their Christian friends ridiculed the accuser, mocking her as a liar unheard and rashly, they didn’t hear their friends. They heard their teachers and parents refusing to believe them all over again. They heard their pastors mocking victims from the pulpit all over again…

One survivor told me that when she heard the crowds laughing and cheering the president on, it sounded like the Romans at the arena. She wondered about compassion, sobriety, respect, at such a serious subject.

I wondered if so many of my Christian friends realize what they lost this week.

In our partisan rush to support all things conservative, we told the whole world, “Don’t come to us with your sexual assault stories. We don’t want to hear them. We don’t care.”

We really did. We supported the mockers. We ridiculed a woman that we never met, never spoke to, never had any first hand knowledge about, before a hearing even took place.

It didn’t matter what the truth was. We didn’t say, “Let this play out. If he did it, then he is unfit.” No. We said immediately that she was lying, that he couldn’t do such a thing. And if he did, he was only 17.

We mocked her for being ugly in High School, for being at the wrong place, for drinking too much…We posted the ugly, hateful memes, we rebuked our friends, and unfriended anyone who differed with us – all to support someone we never met and don’t know at all, before any hearing happened.

And what did we gain?

But we told every survivor in our community not to come to us for help. That we don’t care. We won’t listen.

I hope it was worth it. We traded the witness of the gospel for a seat on the Supreme Court. That seems like a lose/lose to me, no matter what happens from here.

By the way, I have never met Kavanaugh, nor have I met Ford. I am not the one doing the job interview, and no one listens to my opinion at all. So my concern is not at all who is or is not on the Supreme Court. I have nothing to do with that.

But I am held accountable for my love, my witness, and how clearly I present the gospel of Jesus Christ. I am judged by God for the ninth commandment, bearing false witness. I am judged for my words and my actions. Am I so absolutely sure of the truth of this situation that I can ridicule, mock and slander the other party, no matter which side they are on or which political views they subscribe to?

I am posting this because I love the church of Jesus Christ, I love my Lord, and I love the truth of the gospel.

I am posting this because calling your own people to account is not an act of disloyalty, hatred, or blasphemy. It is an act of love.

If you have not partaken in these sins against our brothers and sisters, then scroll past. I’m not speaking to you.

But for the rest, I can’t remain silent anymore. I will not by my silence be a partaker of these sins.

If you wish to unfriend me, there is nothing in scripture that says we must be friends on social media. If you love the Lord Jesus Christ then you also are my brother, whether we are friends on Facebook or not.

I am posting this for all of those – men and women – who have been abused, bullied, mocked, and ridiculed and still bear the marks. There are those who care, who are concerned, who will listen.

21 Then they said to one another, “We are truly guilty concerning our brother, for we saw the anguish of his soul when he pleaded with us, and we would not hear; therefore this distress has come upon us.” (Gen. 42:21 NKJ)

13 Sing, O heavens! Be joyful, O earth! And break out in singing, O mountains! For the LORD has comforted His people, And will have mercy on His afflicted. (Isa. 49:13 NKJ)

5 He who mocks the poor reproaches his Maker; He who is glad at calamity will not go unpunished. (Prov. 17:5 NKJ)

11 Comments

Filed under Abuse, assault, Words

Do you wish to get well?

5 And a certain man was there, who had been thirty-eight years in his sickness.
6 When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he had already been a long time in that condition, He said to him, “Do you wish to get well?”
7 The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I am coming, another steps down before me.”
8 Jesus said to him, “Arise, take up your pallet, and walk.” (John. 5:5-8 NAS)

I read this account a day or two ago and it has been on my mind since then. I don’t know if you have had that experience, where something that the Lord says grabs you and you mull it through your mind. “Do you wish to get well?”

What a question! He’d been unable to walk his whole life. Why would Jesus ask that question?

“Do you wish to get well?”

One of the tremendous privileges that God gives us as his people is the ability to choose. And yes, I am Reformed. But the question among the Reformed is not “Do you have free will?” The question, properly understood, is “Do you have the ability to choose to do that which is pleasing to God apart from regeneration?”

This we answer, “No. Before the Holy Spirit quickens us, we are dead in trespasses and sins.” We are unable to do that which is pleasing to the Lord – even to seek after him, as Paul teaches in Romans 3.

But this is a different question than “Does a person have the ability to will and to choose, and is that choice free?”

Without free will, a human is not a human. I decide if I want to marry this woman or that woman. I decide to love or to hate and to destroy. I choose to hurt or I choose to heal, choose to smile or choose to frown. No one coerces me.

It is not my nature, nor is it the will of God, that places my will in bondage. It is sin. Luther masterfully discusses this in his classic “The Bondage of the Will” so I will not belabor that point any further.

But it is the devil who hates the image of God in me. Being in God’s image, I have the ability to choose – I am not a horse or a mule that must be led about by bit and bridle. It is the hardness of sin that makes me like that. Regeneration sets me free. (Think about Psalm 32:9).

9 Do not be as the horse or as the mule which have no understanding, Whose trappings include bit and bridle to hold them in check, (Ps. 32:9 NAS)

Jesus did not come to make me a horse and a mule, to drag me like a robot and force me to behave. He came to give life and healing. He came to restore and redeem me as a human being, in the image of God.

A man like this one, unable to walk, has been severely limited in choices. He couldn’t even decide to get into the water, for he had no one to help him. He had no strength, no friends, no resources.

Which means that he had very few choices.

Jesus didn’t come to put him in further bondage. He came to set him free. The curse that is on the world took away his voice – who would care about the opinions of a poor crippled beggar? And it took away his choice. He was at the mercy of forces outside of his control.

Jesus came to restore to this man far more than simply the ability to walk. He came to restore the image of God that the curse had taken away. He came to give him back his voice and give him back his will.

“Do you wish to get well?”

“You don’t understand, Jesus. I’ve been here a long time. I don’t have anyone to put me in the pool. I can’t get to the water fast enough. Whether I want to or not, I don’t have the strength.”

“Get up and pick up your bed.” And he was healed.

After he was healed, his will was set free. He picked up his bed and he walked.

Of course, he immediately got into trouble with the Pharisees. Abusers hate when the “sinner” has the gall to speak, or to choose, or to make decisions. Their power is over when the bed is picked up. When Jesus heals, the Pharisee loses control.

And the devil never gives up his kingdom easily.

From this point on, the Jews sought to kill Jesus – because he healed on the Sabbath day – the very day that the prisoner was to be set free, according to the scripture.

“Do you want to be well?” Do you want your voice back? Do you want to be light and salt in the ugly and dark and hateful world? Do you want to know the Sabbath rest and be at peace with God and with the world?

Do you want to be free of rage and free of the ugliness that has been binding you to the ground for so long? Do you want to get up and walk?

Are you ready to fly? Do you want to soar above the petty kingdoms of this world and see where Christ is, at the right hand of God? Do you want to be free from sin? Do you want to be well, to be free of covetousness and the love of money that keeps our heads in the trough so we can’t see the sky.

Jesus didn’t come to make you a horse or a donkey. He came to set you free.

This world and the devil have assaulted your body long enough. You have been denigrated and rejected, hated and mocked and scorned. You have had your choice taken away like the ground under a plow (Psalm 129). That is the curse on this world.

But Jesus’s question is for you: Do you want to be made well?

Speak to him. Tell him how powerless you are. Speak the truth to him. Tell him about how you have tried to overcome, but cannot. The water is too far away, and you are too weak. You have no resources. Your will is bound. Your strength is gone. You are helpless and without hope.

Tell him how long it has been.

He didn’t come for those who think they see. He didn’t come for those who think they walk. He didn’t come for the rich or the powerful or the entitled. He didn’t come for the ones on the top.

He came for the hungry, the oppressed, the afflicted, the widow, the orphan. Those that don’t have the strength to get to the water.

He came for those who have had their choice and their voice taken away. And he wants to hear you. He wants you to be the beautiful, strong, wise, and righteous one that he created you to be.

So here’s the question for you: “Do you want to be made well?”

7 Comments

Filed under Gospel, Hope

What to do When Hope Seems Non-Existent

Great Monday morning thoughts!

Unholy Charade - Jeff Crippen

“It’s hopeless.” If you are or have been the target of a domestic abuser or if you have a friend who is, then you have probably said this very thing. “There is no hope. She has no possible way that anyone can think of to get herself and her children away from this evil.” I have certainly thought this more than once after hearing a victim’s story.

  • No economic resources (due to his financial abuse)
  • No extended family to help her (he has allied them to his side)
  • No marketable job skills after decades of giving her life to him
  • No church that will support her in a divorce
  • No justice in the legal system (sometimes there is, often there is not)
  • No assurance that she will have full custody of the children

You just have to keep checking off “no” as you survey the landscape for an escape route. …

View original post 537 more words

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The most damaging counseling mistakes

This could also be called, “Lessons from Ignaz Semmelweis.” He was a fascinating man. He was the first one to suggest that doctors wash their hands between patients. He was ridiculed and soundly mocked, put down, and outcast for it. Everyone knew that sickness came for spirits, bad air, bad joojoo, or God’s curse. What did handwashing have to do with it? He’s just being worldly. There’s got to be Bible verses about the evils of medicine. Isn’t it “trusting in man” or something like that?

I used to think the same way. I was taught that anything learned about counseling from a (hushed gasp) secular counselor, or, the most shocking of all, the psychologist (!) was just one step away from inviting the devil to dinner. I heard of a sermon where the pastor said that anyone who goes to a psychologist is denying Christ and the sufficiency of scripture. Stupid hand-washers!

I say this to my shame, for I used to believe and counsel the same way, and have since repented of my ungodly, unbiblical attitude.

If we will put aside our pride and listen to the voice of simplicity, and just “wash our hands” we will learn from our mistakes and quit killing the souls of those who come to us for help.

Here are the biggest mistakes we still make – soul killers – in no particular order. By the way, for you “nouthetic” people out there, each one of these mistakes is a mistake because it contradicts scripture, not because unbelievers say they are wrong. I agree with you that scripture alone is our only guide. So let’s hear what it says. So here is my list. I suspect there will be more to come.

  1. We say, “It takes two to ruin a marriage”. Or “It takes two to fight”. No. The Bible nowhere teaches this. Abel didn’t cause Cain to sin. David didn’t provoke Saul. Jesus didn’t provoke Judas. Joseph wasn’t to blame for his slavery. Stephen didn’t cause his stoning. And on and on. In fact, David said, “I am for peace, but when I speak they are for war.” (Ps. 120:7). There is a difference between David and those who sought to kill him. They wanted him dead because they “were for war”, not because “it takes two to fight.” Quit making this completely unbiblical statement. It simply isn’t true.
  2. When we hear of pornography use, we say, “Are you satisfying him in bed?” This one astounds me. Everyone listen up: Pornography and marital sexuality are as different as night and day, dark and light, good and evil. One is an expression of our one flesh intimacy, an act of love and mutual dignity and honor. The other is assault. A man who assaults doesn’t learn how to not assault by being taught to assault his wife instead. Just stop. Porn is death, murder, darkness. It isn’t “sex with the wrong person”. It is as far from the love of marriage as death is from life. Just stop. Now read Ephesians 5 again – from the beginning, not just the “submit” part. Fornicators need Christ and repentance, not a “porn-star wife”. Sheesh.
  3. (Similar to 3) We hear of a man committing adultery, and assume it is because the wife isn’t loving him enough. This comes from a horrible interpretation of 1 Corinthians 7. If you want to know what it really means, you can listen here. But, again, adultery is not simply sex with the wrong person. It is death, folly, madness – assault. The same applies, by the way, with the sexes reversed.
  4. When we hear the cry of the soul against injustices done, and we say, “You are just bitter.” Not only is this NOT the meaning of “bitter” in the scripture, the hatred of sin and the cry for justice is NOT sinful. It is what it means to be in God’s image. Jesus will not come in justice because he is bitter, but because he is just. We long for that day. We long to see our enemies destroyed, and justice reign. It is what Psalm 72 is all about. The promise of the kingdom is NOT that we should quit being “bitter” but that Christ will come with justice and righteousness in his hands. This is how we learn to put off anger, wrath and malice. Not by pretending that injustice is OK. You can learn more here.
  5. When someone is weeping, we assume that they are trying to manipulate us. Very common, but again, contrary to scripture. I am so glad that Jesus doesn’t treat us like that. Paul said to “weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15). Can someone show me the passage that says, “Beware of those who weepeth, for they are seeking to manipulate thee.”? Compassion with wisdom can only be taught by the Holy Spirit.
  6. We automatically assume that depression is a sin.  Depression is sometimes medical – an imbalance of chemicals.  Counselors, learn the signs of depression and get people to medical help if needed. But sometimes, our sighs and tears are just the proper response to living in a cursed world, far from the shores of the celestial city. We aren’t home yet, and sometimes that makes us sigh and weep.
  7. We make the same assumptions with every medical condition we don’t want to deal with. Chronic illness? Just laziness. Bipolar? Just rebellion. Adhd? Just a scam. Tourettes? Just looking for attention. They could stop if they wanted to. This one makes me want to scream at people.
  8. We assume that every problem that anyone can have can be fixed if we just find the right thing to rebuke them for.

And so we have turned into the most heartless bunch. Cruel, unkind, uncaring, fools. Heaping burdens of shame on those who come to us for help. It is no wonder that people won’t see pastors for guidance anymore. We forgot how to be compassionate. We look for the simple fix, when maybe we just need to listen, to stop and hear, to offer a kind word. Maybe point someone to Christ, who sweat great drops of blood, who was afraid,  who wept at the tomb of Lazarus – KNOWING that he was about to raise him from the dead.

Weeping doesn’t mean I don’t believe the promise; fear doesn’t mean I’m not trusting God; sadness doesn’t mean I am unthankful. These things mean I am human, just like my Lord. And he came to redeem this flesh and this blood. He suffered with every infirmity, and was without sin, to redeem me, body and soul. The day will come when every tear will be dried, but that day is not today.

So excuse me if I weep now and then. Don’t mind me if I get afraid sometimes. Don’t sing “joy, joy, joy” at me when the infirmities of the flesh are sometimes too much to bear. Yes, I know that God is good. Yes, I know that he is coming again. Yes, I know that all things work together, and so on. But right now I’m sad. If all you can say is “All things work together for good!”, then just go away.

These are some of my thoughts today. What are yours? What is the worst thing you’ve heard? It seems like I am missing some. I expect that this blog will be continued…

78 Comments

Filed under counseling, Grief, Pastoral ministry

Worrying about worry

Today I was reminded that worrying is a sin. So I started to worry about whether I worried too much.

And then I started thinking – it is true that worrying is a sin, but how do you overcome the sin of worrying. Do you worry about worrying? Do you work hard trying to overcome worry? But it seems that working to overcome worry simply involved more worry.

At least, I worry that it might.

And then I started thinking about the relationship of good works to the gospel. We know that our only righteousness before God is the righteousness of Jesus put on our account by faith. We know that we cannot ever do even one work that can stand before the judgment throne of God.

We also know that those who continue to live in sin have no inheritance in the kingdom of God. How these two concepts relate is sometimes difficult. The Reformed Creeds (such as the Heidelberg) put good works into the category of thankfulness to God for our redemption. The Bible teaches that good works flow from a thankful and renewed heart. But how does that work?

There are particularly yelly preachers that like to yell at people about everything that they are doing wrong. They like to make sure that you know that worry is a sin, and lusting is a sin, causing people to lust is a sin, They yell about gossip and slander and anger and covetousness. They usually then add a list of other things that aren’t sins  just in case someone is getting away with doing something fun. It’s as if they ran out of sins to yell about so they had to invent a few more. So they yell about alcohol and cigars and dancing and tattoos and movies and boycotting Disney and ABC and what you can and can’t do on the Sabbath. They yell about cakes and piercings and rock ‘n roll (or maybe not that one so much anymore) and haircuts. But there is always something. And when you confront them with the gospel of Jesus, they will say, “yes, but now that you are a Christian you are supposed to be thankful. BE THANKFUL. WORK HARDER AT IT. MORE GRATITUDE, YOU TOTALLY DEPRAVED SCUM!”
You know the type.

So I wonder about whether they have the relationship between the gospel and works right. Are good works those things that we do because we feel guilty about causing Jesus to go to the cross to begin with? Are they those things that we do so that we make sure that we really do make it in the end – proving that we are actually thankful enough to earn the free gift of grace? Is God the harsh slave driver just waiting for us to worry about something so that he can zap us and teach us a lesson for our own good?

Think about the Sabbath. The yelly preacher will be happy to give you a whole list of things that you are and are not allowed to do on the Sabbath. In fact, he will probably shout them at you. It’s a day of rest and thankfulness, you scum. Work harder at being thankful. Rest more now or God will get you, you filth of the earth…
Do you see the problem? How do you work hard at resting? Should we worry about whether or not we are resting enough? That doesn’t really seem like rest to me…

And as I think about worry, it occurs to me. Worry is a sin. Jesus made that clear. But that highlights my sinful nature, doesn’t it? The only thing I can do with a command to rest is to work harder at it, defeating the purpose. The only thing I can do with a command to not worry is to worry more about whether I worry too much and try harder to stop it…

And then I see what the writers of the catechism meant when they wrote, “I daily increase my guilt.”

That can’t be the gospel. So let’s think about the sin of worry.

Yes, I worry. And, yes, worry is a sin.

The gospel teaches me that the perfect righteousness of Jesus is put on my account, and that all of my sins – including the sin of worry – is nailed to his cross, put away forever. If I worry about that, that one is nailed there too.

And whether I worry or whether I don’t worry, Jesus has it all covered. He cannot love me more. I cannot be any more righteous that I am right now.

So I have nothing to worry about…

Do you see, now?

I can rest. I can stop worrying, because even my worrying is paid for by the blood of Christ, now and forever. I can give it to him and put it away and rest.

And I move a little closer to understanding what resting in the gospel means and what it means to put off worrying. I won’t get it perfectly in this life, but I don’t have to worry about that anymore, because Jesus already knows, already died, and lives forever making intercession for me, preserving me, guiding me.

His eye is on the sparrow, and I know he watches me.

The gospel is not a Bobby McFerrin song. The gospel is not a yelly preacher screaming at you to quit worrying, work harder, do more, stop being such a horrible sinner, you jerk!

The gospel is the most liberating, freeing, comforting message you can imagine. Jesus is the propitiation of our sins, and not our alone, but the sins of the whole world.

This is the only way we can put off worrying. That’s the only way we can put off any of the other sins as well. By looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. We abide in him, for without him, we can do nothing.

5 Comments

Filed under ethics, Gospel

The Opinions of men

Recently, I saw that someone posted the following quote from Dr. Jay Adams:

In my opinion, advocating, allowing and practicing psychiatric and psychoanalytical dogmas within the church is every bit as pagan and heretical, and therefore perilous as propagating the teachings of some of the most bizarre cults. The only vital difference is that the cults are less dangerous because their errors are more identifiable.

I am sharing my response to this here – not because I have any wish to be controversial, but because I really think that it is time we as conservative, Reformed Christians, started to compare the words of our heroes to the scriptures and to the creeds. It is supposed to be what we do.

So here is my response:

Statements like these from Dr. Adams have caused more harm to the body of Christ than anything I can think of in the last 30 years.

“In my opinion” – the opinion of Dr. Adams has been elevated to creedal status, woe be to anyone who may question it.

Those who have dedicated their lives to the study of the human soul and to the easing of the suffering of so many millions are dismissed if they use “heretical” words like trauma, narcissist, abuser, pedophile…
Victims are cast out of the church and wolves are given safety within because we look for quick proof-texts, and refuse to do any soul-searching.
Those who have suffered unspeakable trauma and suffering are given 8 sessions with their pastor, not allowed to speak their story, given a few proof-texts and then cast out of the church for “bitterness”.

All because Dr. Adams had an opinion. This opinion is not backed up with any scripture, which is odd (since it is purportedly based on Sola Scriptura) but simply declared so to be.

So I would ask here – what scripture is used to cast everything with the title “psychiatric and psychoanalytical dogmas” into the bowels of hell? By what authority does Dr. Adams’ opinion supersede the creeds of the church?

Why is it, that in the ancient Heidelberg Catechism, which we all revere, we learn that good works are “not such as rest on our own opinions or the commandments of men” but are based upon the law of God, which is further defined as the Ten Commandments, – why is it now that Dr. Adams’ self-declared opinion is the criterion by which thousands and thousands of sufferers are allowed no relief, no second opinion, no question, and no other answers?

Some serious things that we should perhaps think about…

To back up my whole point, I am well aware that I am now going to be branded a dangerous heretic and anything I might say will be suspect from henceforth – because I dared to question Dr. Adams opinion.

How many of those suffering from real mental illness are allowed no relief because of this man?

How many have been beaten and abused and raped by their husbands and sent back home because of this man?

Those who follow Adams would have rebuked Jesus at the tomb of Lazarus for bawling like a baby.

I’m sick of it.

Yes, he said some good things, and some of his critiques were valid.

But he was just a guy. His opinion isn’t a creed. Speaking of trauma and narcissism and abuse and PTSD and depression isn’t heresy. It is naming what most of the Psalms are all about. We are created in the image of God, and naming things is what we do.

I would add a few things here:

When God created the heavens and the earth, he gave names to some of the things that he created. When he created man, he gave man the task of naming the animals. Men and women exercise their dominion as image-bearers of God by naming. Any study, any discipline, and lessons, first begin with learning the names of things.

The scripture gives us the outlines, the framework, the first principles. But because we are image-bearers of God, we are called to use wisdom and give things names as we study them.

Classifying biblical concepts is not being “worldly”. It’s called wisdom, and it is what we are called to do. I thank God for those who have spent their lives studying and classifying human behavior. The bible says that Jesus knew the hearts of men, and answered accordingly. We don’t have that ability, because we are finite. So we are called to listen, to classify, to stop our mouths, to hear what others might have to say.

But that takes work. It is a lot easier to simply classify all opposition as heretical, cult-like and evil and be done with it. But this keeps us steadfastly bound to our ignorance and happily immune from loving our neighbor.

God would have us reach outside our little bubbles and see that there is a huge world out there that cannot be explained by Christianized behaviorialism. Skinner is not the gospel, no matter how you baptize him.

Think about it.

10 Comments

Filed under Pastoral ministry

On being a human

Jesus, the Eternal Word of God, who is God and who is with God, became flesh. He was the true Israel of God, the true Son of God, succeeding where Adam failed, “Like unto his brethren in all things, sin excepted.”
He, then, is the true Image-bearer of God, who came to restore to us the fullness of our humanity that we lost after the fall.

This is a deep subject, that will take further study. Pick up Colossians, to start with…

If this is true, then that means that Christ came to make us fully human again, instead of the twisted caricature that sin turned us into (Eph. 4:22-24; Col. 3:10)

And if that is true, then why is it that so many conversations with Christians sound like their bodies have been invaded by aliens and they are trying to learn what it means to be human?

Think about it. There is a quick pause, as if they are thinking to themselves, “How would a human respond?” and they almost get it right, but not quite.

Maybe it’s just a Reformed thing…
I, for one, think that we should probably quit putting on some kind of a weird front, and just admit that we like Redbone, Dean Koontz, Stranger Things and let the chips fall where they may.

So today I’m coming out. I’m a human being. I like music and art and best-selling novels. I am currently binge-watching ER. I missed it when it first came out so Hulu is catching me up.

I love seeing God’s image in his creation. I love watching creatures create beauty, sound, lights, color, characters
I’m not afraid of catching sin through my eyes and ears. I have enough of it in my heart, but my savior is greater than my heart and has made me fully human again.
Praise his name forever!!

Now go be a human again.

7 Comments

Filed under Anthropology, Men and women

More notes on a remarkable book

So I finally finished reading “Why Can’t We Be Friends?” As I said in a previous post, I would let you know if I found anything goofy. Good news! Nothing goofy here. Just solid theology and an outstanding exhortation to all of us. Aimee does an admirable work here with human nature, the nature of salvation and sanctification, the holy catholic church and the communion of the saints. As I have said before, I don’t write book reviews, since I have completely forgotten how since my college days, but please go get this book and read through it. You won’t regret it.

I do have a few thoughts on the reaction to the book – in the myriad of blogs, tweets and comments, which I found quite distressing.

First, I am distressed and how many professing Christians seem to be completely obsessed by sex. It makes me sad that we can’t discuss friendship between men and women without “sex getting in the way”. We are obsessed with it. It occupies all of our thoughts and every waking moment. Aimee’s warning is proven by the aftermath. The modern evangelical is totally obsessed with sex. It’s sad to me.

Second, I am distressed by how many pastors confess that they cannot be trusted alone with a woman. Oh, they don’t put it exactly like that. They say, “I never text a woman. That’s how adultery starts.”

Or “I will never be alone with a woman, that’s how adultery starts.”

Or “I would never pick up a woman to give her a ride. That’s how adultery starts.”

So I would like to translate this for the layman. “I, a minister of the gospel, am so out of control and untrustworthy, that you cannot leave your wife or your daughters alone in my vicinity. I couldn’t even give them a ride to the hospital, because it is possible that I would be overcome with lust and attack them in the car.”

Really?

Why, then, are these guys ministers? So, you in the congregation, do yourself a favor. Whenever you hear an ordained minister confess that he has no self-control, and that he is so obsessed with sex that he cannot be trusted giving your daughter a ride to the hospital, or sending a text to your sister or wife, then please remove him from office. Why is he a shepherd to begin with?

And third, we really need to understand love and hate.

I was thinking this through as I was reading Aimee’s book. The Heidelberg Catechism says that we are “prone by nature to hate God and our neighbor.” God created us to love him with our whole heart, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. But when man fell, he became obsessed with himself. He became a fool, and said in his heart “There is no God. I am, and there is none like me. (Psalm 14:1; Isaiah 47:7-8).

When we are redeemed from our sin and misery by Christ, we are taken out of ourselves and our obsessing with ourselves, and our thoughts are directed outwards, first to God and then to our neighbor. This is love. When our affections are placed upon someone other than ourselves.

John wrote,

9 He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now.
10 He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him.
11 But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes. (1 Jn. 2:9-11 KJV)

So here is what I am thinking. When we are born again, when we are walking in the light, we become far less obsessed about ourselves and our “purity” and far more interested in the duties we owe to God and the duties we owe to our neighbor.

This is really what concerns me about current evangelical ethics. We have become so self-absorbed and narcissistic that when we see a woman broken down on the side of the road, our first thought is “How will this affect my purity?”

Do you see the problem? It seems that this is hatred. It seems that this is the problem that Jesus had with the Pharisees. He said,

23 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. (Matt. 23:23 KJV)

The tithe, which is the duty we owe to God, was to be paid. But not as an excuse to act in hatred or indifference towards our neighbors in need. We might use as an excuse that we are very concerned with our purity, because it is the duty we owe to God, but we must remember what John wrote – this is a false dichotomy.

20 If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? (1 Jn. 4:20 KJV)

As I see it, this is the problem with current evangelical ethics. We are so concerned with our own personal purity, that we turn our backs on those in need. So we have become exactly like the Priest or Levite who wouldn’t cross the road to help a man in need because of their obsession with purity.

We would empty our diaconal account to make sure someone is not cremated, while abused women and children starve for lack of resources. We pass by a woman in need because we fear that we might start the neighbors talking – or worse, that we might lose control and attack her, apparently….

I don’t get it. We obsess over whether Rahab sinned by telling a lie, even though the alternative would have been the death of the spies. We say to God,

‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed.
25 ‘And I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the ground; see, you have what is yours.’ (Matt. 25:24-25 NAS)

But when you say that, be prepared for the answer from the Master:

‘You wicked, lazy slave, you knew that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I scattered no seed.
27 ‘Then you ought to have put my money in the bank, and on my arrival I would have received my money back with interest.
28 ‘Therefore take away the talent from him, and give it to the one who has the ten talents.’
(Matt. 25:26-28 NAS)

Honestly, it is easier to obsess over your own personal “purity” than it is to reach out to a neighbor in love. It is easier to hide the talent in the earth. You can’t get hurt that way. You won’t catch adultery that way. You can keep everything the way that it is and not be bothered.

But you can’t love that way. The true motivation isn’t purity, it is laziness and wickedness. Jesus calls it what it is.

This is the real problem. I’m glad that Aimee wrote about it.

20 Comments

Filed under Men and women, Pastoral ministry

Transformed somethin’…

My wife reads me certain things from a very popular blog-site. I won’t tell you what it is because I don’t want it to get any clicks. This blogger has tens of thousands of followers. I thought she was simply a fringe kook, but apparently she is being followed by quite a few people – many of whom call themselves “reformed”. The claws come out if you try to talk sense to any of them.

(Once again, to every unbeliever out there – this is not Christianity. This is simply paganism under Jesus name. If you want to know what Christianity is, pick up a Heidelberg Catechism, or PM me)

So anyway, yesterday this woman wrote that higher education for women is contrary to God’s will. Anything beyond high school. As is working in a career. I think she thinks you can have a job if absolutely necessary – like to put your man through seminary – just as long as it isn’t a “career”.

While I still wait for all of the prooftexts condemning women who educate themselves, I would like to remind you all that neither Jesus, nor Paul, nor any of the apostles thought the same thing. Very briefly, with little comment, here are some women who were educated beyond high school. It’s almost as if they are image bearers of God, and have brains and gifts and abilities all their own! (sarcasm alert)

Jesus doesn’t  want you to just turn your brain off and do what the men tell you. He expects all of us, men and women alike, to use our talents for the kingdom of God, whatever those talents might be (Matthew 25). Remember what he said to the one that was afraid and buried his talent in the earth?

The Christian life is to be a life of joy and gratitude for what God has done. Rejoice greatly, O virgin daughter of Zion!

Don’t let anyone turn it into slavery, the bondage of rules and regulations. That isn’t what Christianity is. It is love and joy and peace with God!

Anyway, here are a few scripture passages:

13 And on the sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted thither.
14 And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul.
15 And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us.
(Acts 16:13-15 KJV)

Astounding! They actually sought out the women’s Bible study down by the river and taught them! They didn’t use the pink bibles, and they didn’t tell them to go home. They taught them.

They followed the example of their Lord:

7 There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water: Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink.
8 (For his disciples were gone away unto the city to buy meat.)
9 Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.
10 Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water. (Jn. 4:7-10 KJV)

According to the Pharisees (and the followers of the aforementioned blog) this woman had three strikes against her. She was a woman. She was a Samaritan (not a good Jew) and she was a sinner. She was living with a man who was not her husband!

But Jesus spoke to her. He gave her a master’s level education on cleanliness, worship, liturgy and calling. Scholars have studied his words to this woman for centuries. He certainly did not water it down for her “simple mind to understand”. He spoke to her as an image-bearer of God, expecting her to understand and act according.

She did, by the way, and witnessed to everyone in her village. I can’t wait to meet her in heaven.

Here’s another one:

38 Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house.
39 And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word.
40 But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.
41 And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:
42 But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.
(Lk. 10:38-42 KJV)

 

This one astounds me. So many pastors, women’s ministry leaders, bloggers, and authors spend countless hours teaching our daughters to be good “Martha’s”.

But look at this. Jesus wants his daughters to imitate MARY. She was sitting at his feet.

As a side note, this was the traditional position for a rabbi and a disciple. Mary was a disciple! No self-respecting Rabbi would take a woman as a disciple. But Mary did not simply glean the leftovers of what he was teaching the men. She took the position of a disciple, sitting at his feet. And he was teaching HER!

Let those words sink into your ears.

Jesus expects all of his children to use every gift that was given to them. This is not at all to denigrate or despise mothers, homemakers, wives. This is a calling I greatly admire.

But the greatest calling of all is the calling to sit at Jesus feet as his disciple and receive the greatest seminary education from his school.

For your secondary calling, whatever you do, do it with your might to the glory of God. Educate yourself, get to a church that values you and your gifts. If the pastor won’t talk to you, find another church. Get some excellent books on theology and learn who our God is. Knowledge will free you from bondage.

I could write of many, many more. I could tell you of Deborah and Huldah, of Rebekah and Leah. I could tell you of Jael. I could tell you of Mary, and Mary Magdelene, and Joanna, and the other women that followed him from town to town as his disciples. Those who were in the upper room, and also spoke in tongues as the first Christian missionaries.

I could even mention that Sapphira was killed by the Holy Spirit for turning her brain off and listening to her husband. She should have cast a vote against him. It would have spared her life (Acts 5:1-11)

Our goal on this earth is to know God and Jesus Christ whom he has sent. Jesus came to transform us to His image, which is the fullness of the image of God. He came to restore us to full humanity – and this includes his daughters, as well as his sons.

So please, quit using the Bible to continue the Victorian view of women. You are so much better than that!

You are strong, capable, intelligent, wise and quite competent to learn from the school of Christ. You are anointed with the Holy Spirit, and given every gift to do the work that He has called you to do. You are a Christian – a partaker of Christ’s anointing. And as such, you also are a prophet, priest and king, with all of the rights and responsibilities of such.

 

By the way, you can also have a career, wear pants, put on makeup and cut your hair as well. Away with every modern Pharisee of every stripe.

Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. (Gal. 5:1 KJV)

14 Comments

Filed under Men and women