Chantry, Hezekiah and Chloe

When thoughts collide…

Last week I was preparing for my Sunday School teaching on Hezekiah and the siege of Jerusalem. As I was preparing, I was struck by this message from Isaiah to Hezekiah:

Because you have prayed to Me against Sennacherib king of Assyria, I have heard (2 Kings 19:20)

Hezekiah was in bad trouble. Sennacherib had conquered the whole world, and he was unstoppable. He had now surrounded Jerusalem and gave Hezekiah the terms of absolute surrender. There was no strength left in Hezekiah.

And Hezekiah took the letter demanding his surrender and laid it on the altar of God, crying out to the Creator of Heaven and Earth and telling God the problem. He spoke honestly and directly.

God delights when we call upon him. God takes pleasure in our prayers, when we speak to him honestly and directly. When we are in trouble, and when we are weak and helpless, fearful and doubting, in pain and in distress – God would have us tell him about it. He is our God, and we are his people and the sheep of his pasture.

14 Offer unto God thanksgiving; and pay thy vows unto the most High:
15 And call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me. (Ps. 50:14-15 KJV)

But this goes against the culture of most churches. If you have been following the Tom Chantry trial, you see what so many people have suffered. People aren’t believed, they are silenced, when they complain about mistreatment or abuse, they are told to be quiet. To be thankful and put off their “bitterness” and their “complaining spirit”.

And so people are being groomed to take abuse and mistreatment, and put on the happy face. Let’s all play happy families. Only sinners are in trouble. Only sinners complain. Only unthankful people are unhappy.

But Isaiah didn’t rebuke Hezekiah for being bitter or for complaining. Hezekiah was in trouble, and God heard him because he spoke the truth to God.

And while I was thinking about that, I was also thinking about the household of Chloe.

For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house  of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. (1 Cor. 1:11 KJV)

If Paul had been a modern church planter, 1 Corinthians would never have been written. Instead, Paul would have rebuked Chloe’s household for gossip and bitterness.

How many of you have heard these?

“Now, Chloe. Have you gone through the steps of Matthew 18? I don’t want to hear about this.”

“This is just gossip. You need to repent of your bitterness.”

“We are right in the middle of a fund-raising campaign for the saints in Jerusalem. We can’t have this negative talk and gossip going on. It will hurt the Jerusalem Famine Ministry.”

“Chloe, have you spoken to a man about these things? In fact, it isn’t even your household. You need to go submit to your husband and let the men handle it. When women usurp authority, all sorts of gossip and complaining start happening.”

“I know the man who you say was sleeping with his step-mother. He’s a good man. Remember that he is innocent until proven guilty. I know everyone is talking about it, but we really need to get a handle on the undisciplined talk before it destroys a good man’s name.”

“Chloe, I can’t hear this unless you have two or three witnesses. No, the children don’t count. No, the women don’t count. No, those men don’t count. They’re just bitter.”

And on and on it goes.

Aren’t you glad that Paul wasn’t a modern Big Eva guy?

“I hear that Paul is coming to Corinth! Did you get your tickets yet? I hear he will have another epistle to the Thessalonians on sale in the foyer. His conferences sell out every year!”

I thank God for the pastors that are far more concerned about truth than their reputations or their bank accounts!

Hezekiah spoke the truth and was heard, even though he was surrounded by Assyrians. Chloe’s household spoke the truth.

It was when David finally spoke the truth to God that God heard him (Psalm 51).

In fact, all of the Psalms are about speaking the truth to God. Tell God what is going on. Tell God the truth.

And find a church that is more interested in the truth than in the cover-up. That is more interested in the health of the sheep than the hurt feelings of the wolf. That is more interested in being faithful to God than in their reputations and bank accounts.

We need more pastors that want to know the truth about your marriage, your families, your fears and your doubts and your struggles. This is what the church is for. God is not interested in the happy façade. He wants the truth.

Listen to Chloe. You just might learn something.

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Reading notes and a remarkable book…

I am doing something quite rare for me. I am reading slowly! I am reading through Why Can’t We Be Friends (Aimee Byrd) and I am actually taking my time through it. It is really quite remarkable. Normally, it takes me a few hours to read through a book, but I find myself reading one or two sections at a time and thinking deeply about it.

Here are some things I would like to say. If you do not understand the relationship between faith and works, read this book.

If you do not understand what purity is, read this book.

If you are unclear about the gospel, read this book.

Aimee has done something very rare here. She has written a book about the relationships between men and women and has applied the Reformed Doctrine of the Holy Spirit and our sanctification to the relationship of the sexes. I have never seen anyone do that before.

Every other book I’ve read is EITHER about sanctification, OR it is about the rules on how to keep yourself pure through the law – but to connect purity with the GOSPEL?? and the work of the HOLY SPIRIT??

It is almost like she knows something about theology and the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit!

You can tell she is on the right track because modern Pharisees are apparently ready to string her up for it. When the gospel is taught, the Judaizers always light the torches and sharpen the pitchforks.

But she is absolutely right. Our purity is in our relationship with God, not in outward, extra biblical rules. In fact, the extra biblical rules, like the Billy Graham rule, simply give the appearance of purity without dealing with the more difficult problem of the heart. The gospel goes to the heart.

At any rate, I haven’t finished yet. I am still thinking through her brilliant chapter on purity, and thinking about what Jesus said,

“Blind Pharisee, cleanse first the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may be clean.” (Matt. 23:26 NAB)

Go buy this book. Read it slowly, and then read it again.

By the way, this isn’t a book review. I haven’t written one of those since college and don’t even remember how. I said that I would never write one again, and I have kept my promise to myself. This is simply a note of my thoughts so far and my recommendation to you.

Fabulous book, so far. (If she gets goofy towards the end, I’ll let you know – but I’m not expecting her to).

Thank you, Aimee, for writing it.

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God in three persons

Since the false teaching known as Eternal Subordination of the Son (ESS) was promulgated by Wayne Grudem in his systematic theology, it has been used to wrongly subjugate women and keep them enslaved. “Equal in being, but subordinate in role.” You can say it over and over, and you can enforce it with threats and intimidation but it still does not make it orthodox or true.

False doctrine always leads to bondage. It is the truth that sets one free. So we need a primer on the doctrine of the Holy Trinity.

There is one eternal being, which we call God. There is only one. He is eternal, simple, infinite in power and majesty. He is everywhere present, beyond all space and time. He is sovereign and does all his good pleasure. He has attributes that belong to him alone. Immutable, infinite, incomprehensible, simple, independent. There is only one being with those attributes. He is not divided, he is not composed of parts, he is not physical, but spiritual.

When we are describing the nature of God, we use the term “essence” or “being”. There is only one being, only one essence, only one will, only one power, only one authority – it is the authority of God. Scripture nowhere speaks of the wills of God. It is only the will of God. Scripture does not speak of the authorities of God, but the authority and power of God. There are not three almighty beings. There is only one.

Hear, O Israel. The Lord, our God, the Lord is One.

And from the very beginning, this one, true eternal God has revealed himself in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Ghost. There are not three gods, or three parts of God. But three “subsistences” if you will. Three separate, distinct persons. The Father is God. The Son is God. The Spirit is God. And yet there are not three gods; but one God.

When it comes to defining exactly what a person is, we come away a bit stumped, since there really is nothing in creation quite like it. We say “persons” so we are not silent. We know that there is an “I” a “you” and a “he” in the Holy Trinity. We know that the Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Holy Spirit. They are distinct and in a relationship of love with one another, for God is love.

It is quite beyond our comprehension.

But it is God’s will to reveal himself to mankind. So the second person of the trinity, of the same essence as the Father, took upon himself the very nature of man in the womb of the virgin Mary. There are not two Christs, but one. Jesus of Nazareth. He remains true and eternal God, even while in the womb of Mary, and even in the sepulchre in Jerusalem. How the living and true God shed his blood is contained in the mystery of the incarnation. He who is life was truly dead for three days.

In the one person of Jesus Christ, there are two distinct natures: true man and true God. Everything you can say about man, you can say about Jesus, except for sin. He was weak, hungry, thirsty, poor, ignorant, liable to death and suffering, submissive, obedient. And at the same time, he was also true and eternal God. Everything you can say about God you can say about Jesus of Nazareth: Eternal, sovereign, omnipotent, creator and sustainer of the universe, simple, uncreated, everywhere present.

And these two natures exist in one person, without confusion, without division, without separation, without change.

This is a great mystery that is more fit to be wondered at than explained any further. The all-wise, all knowing God had to learn his alphabet. The God who is life died and shed his blood. He who knew no sin became sin for us. It staggers the mind.

The person, Jesus of Nazareth, was submissive to the Father with all obedience. He kept the covenant of works perfectly in our place. He obeyed perfectly. Our salvation depends upon it.

The problem with ESS is that it takes that submission, that belongs to the incarnate Christ, and moves it into his divine nature, into eternity, apart from the incarnation. This makes the divine nature submissive. That is, not divine at all.

The orthodox speak of a covenant of Redemption in the eternal counsels of the Trinity, but we must understand that without doing injustice to the sovereignty of the Person of Christ. The covenant of Redemption is this. The Father, representing the Triune God, enters into covenant with the Son, representing his people. The Son will take upon himself human nature and suffer and die for the sins of his people. The Father will exalt him and give him a name which is above every name.

This also is a great mystery, and cannot be pried into any more that what is revealed. We know a little about the divine counsels, when the curtain is drawn back at creation and we hear, “Let us make man in our image.”

There was no authority and submission, no melding of diverse wills, no submitting personalities. A simple statement of divine intention.

Any submission in Jesus Christ is attributed to his office as our mediator, the god/man by virtue of the holy conception and birth of Christ in the womb of Mary the virgin.

For further information, please contact me. The creeds of the church are very helpful and clear.

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Bad Listeners

“Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath:” (James 1:19)

Yesterday I was watching old reruns of Monk. I don’t know if you remember the show about the OCD detective. Tony Shalhoub is brilliant, but that really isn’t what this post is about.

Anyway, one scene in the show was the detective interviewing a witness in her home. While she was trying to tell him what she saw and what she experienced, he was extremely distracted. The items on her coffee table were out of place and disorderly. Monk, suffering from OCD, couldn’t hear a word she said until he rearranged all of her knick-knacks.

I’ve been thinking about that. Why are pastors such horrible listeners? Yes, I am talking about you – particularly Reformed pastors. This is a critique of my own tribe. I also have struggled with being a good listener, so these things are coming from my experience.

Have you ever had a conversation with someone and they weren’t listening to anything you were saying? You can see the exact moment they shut down. They have already figured out what they were going to say, and anything else you might say is not relevant. I think it is a problem for pastors. We are really bad at listening.

Why are we such bad listeners?

I have a few suggestions:

  1. We are OCD with theological error. We completely miss someone’s trauma, but woe to the uninformed that uses the word “potluck” (you mean “pot providence”) or “My father was a good man” (THERE IS NONE GOOD; NO NOT ONE!) Just like Mr. Monk, if all of the theological ducks aren’t neatly lined up to our liking, we shut down. Seriously, when was the last time you allowed a theological mistake to just pass you by. Even the attempt to “let it go” causes our muscles to twitch, our words to stammer, our eyes to water…
  2. We forget to remember that Jesus was moved with compassion for the multitudes – like sheep without a shepherd. Are you compassionate enough to actually let someone tell you their story – even if it makes you uncomfortable, even if you don’t know what to say, even if it takes several hours? Jesus was moved with compassion. So should we be.
  3. Most of us heard Jay Adams tell us that after 6 or 8 sessions you have a discipline problem. We feel this urge to rush through, tell people what they need to do and move on. Depressed? Get over it. Still depressed? Church discipline! Angry at your rapist? Quit being bitter. Get over it. Move on with your life. We are convinced that we HAVE to give the solution, give the cure, tell them what to do to make this uncomfortable feeling stop. But only a fool answers a matter before he hears it. Listen first. Then speak. It’s what the Bible commands.

I was at a church years and years ago. There was a young man visiting. After the service, I was talking to a couple of the elders and this young man came up to us and asked “Is there a grocery store around here? I need some food”. The elders looked stunned, and then said,

“We don’t shop on the Sabbath Day.”

Really.

This is what I mean. Where is the compassion? Where is the discernment?

Be compassionate. Be educated. Be like Christ. Listen.

The hardest thing for a pastor to learn is this: You don’t have to talk all the time. You don’t have to have answers all the time. You don’t have to fill the air around you with a miasma of ignorant pious slogans. You don’t have to correct everyone that is wrong.

But you do have to listen. And you do have to be compassionate.

Let’s practice:

“Potluck, potluck, potluck, potluck.

“He’s a good man. He’s a good man. He’s a good man.

“God loves everybody. God loves everybody. God loves everybody…..

“Last Sunday I went to a restaurant…”

 

Let it go. There is a time and place for correcting theology, but remember that we would be in a far better place to do that if we first learned how to listen.

(By the way, Jay Adams was wrong here. Most people haven’t even gotten to the real issue until the 6th  session. They start out by seeing if you are trustworthy and willing to listen. If you shut them down the first session, they won’t come to you with the real issue. I believe that this is a major reason why nouthetic counseling has been so disastrous with trauma and assault.)

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The Purpose of Life

This is my first blog post in a while. I am recovering from surgery. But there are a few things on my mind.

In the past few days, Christianity has been equated to virginal, tattoo-free and debt free women pursuing godly men…

ugh.

There has been a lot said, but here are a few thoughts of mine in no particular order:

  • The purpose of life is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. This means women as well. Your purpose is not to please or to “get a man” but to serve the Lord Jesus, whether single, married or divorced.
  • If you are a single young woman (or man, for that matter) do not make it your goal to attract a member of the opposite sex. Make it your goal to be a faithful servant of Jesus. Seek ye first the kingdom of God. Everything else flows from there. Let love be without hypocrisy.
  • If you are a man or a woman, your only comfort in life and in death is that you belong to your savior, Jesus Christ, who holds you in his hands and will never let you go. Your comfort will be found only there, whether it is God’s will that you marry or that you remain single.
  • There is a profound and crucial difference between “virginity” and “purity”. They are not the same. We are to flee sexual immorality, but your purity has nothing to do with your “virginity”. A woman who has gotten married is no longer a virgin, but she is still pure in Christ. A woman who is raped or molested has not lost her purity, and anyone who says otherwise is a fool and we should have nothing to do with them.
  • Virginity is a statement of physicality, a scientific fact as to the sexual history of a man or woman. It has nothing to do with purity. Purity is also called “holiness” in the scripture, and is found only in Christ. If you are in Christ, the perfect Lamb of God who was without blemish or spot, then you are pure. If you are not, you are polluted in sin and alienated from the promise, whether you are a virgin or not. We should never, ever confuse virginity and purity.
  • Romans 13:8 has nothing to do with taking out a student loan, or a car loan, or any other kind of loan. The point Paul is making is not an economic one, it is one of love. A loving person is a person who pays all of their obligations, especially obligations of honor, love and taxes (in the context). You can pay off your loan, but you will never be free of the obligation to love. That’s the point. Not whether you should carry student loan debt. Sheesh.
  • If you do take out a loan, pay it off according to the terms. That’s another application of Romans 13:8, but it is not the primary point.
  • What glorifies God above all else is when we all, men and women and children, use our gifts to the best of our ability for the advantage and welfare of our neighbors, wherever we may be. Since men and women have different gifts, they way that they serve will look differently. This is honoring to God, as 1 Corinthians 12 teaches us.
  • Being made in the image of God means to reflect God’s attributes to a watching world.
  • There is a cycle of bondage taught to us in the book of Galatians. If we sow to the flesh, we will reap the corruption of the flesh. To apply this today, if we think that remaining a virgin, not getting a tattoo and not going to college will make us pure, we are sowing to the flesh. If this is what purity involves, then Christ is not necessary. If we sow to the flesh, we will reap corruption. It is not surprising, then, that these teachers who teach these types of things are also filled with immorality of every kind, cruelty, abuse, pornography, incest, pedophilia. Paul said that this is exactly what the flesh produces. We should not be shocked when another exposure takes place. When we see churches sowing to the flesh, by teaching holiness by works, we should expect immorality of every kind.
  • So look at this cycle: a man preaches that women must never get tattoos, never go to college, never wear a skirt above the knee or expose her collarbone or she will not be pure and won’t get a man. Then, because he is an abuser and knows nothing of Christ, he molests her. And then he tells her that she isn’t pure because she is no longer a virgin.
  • Does this sound like Christianity to you? It is a horrible caricature, a twisted imitation, and a cruel and heartless lie of the devil. Cast them out, and be holy in Christ.
  • Whatever we do in word or deed, do all to the glory of God, and quit seeking to please the abusers of this world, the evil Pharisees who seek to keep us in bondage. Cast them out.
  • Our trust is in Christ alone. Trusting in “purity systems” of any kind are a denial of the gospel, and ministers of death. Only the gospel will give us the life that we seek.

Thanks for putting up with my scattered thoughts. I hope you find them edifying.

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The Humility of Caleb

My Only Comfort

“But My servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit in him and has followed Me fully, I will bring into the land where he went, and his descendants shall inherit it. (Num 14:24 NKJ)

I’ve been thinking about Caleb lately. Caleb was a slave in Egypt and saw the plagues that God brought on them. He cheered when the Red Sea covered Pharaoh. He sang Miriam’s song of Redemption. He watched his nation under the watchful hand of God travel through the wilderness. How he longed to receive his inheritance!

When the congregation came to the border, ready to invade and take their inheritance, they rebelled. They were afraid of the giants in the land.

And Caleb’s hopes fell. His desire and expectation crushed. And then God spoke to Moses. “Caleb will enter. He was faithful.”

But he had to wait for 40 years. And the worst thing about…

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The Pence Rule and Wisdom

This topic keeps coming up. Again, I want to stress this. I do not at all care, nor have any issue whatsoever with what Mr. Pence does. As a high powered politician, he might have many reasons not to eat with a woman alone.

My greatest concern is with false teaching. As Christians, we all want strong marriages. As Christians we despise sexual immorality, and seek to flee from it. For these reasons, false teaching sounds appealing and it is hard to put a finger on what is wrong with it. It isn’t that it is completely wrong. It’s that it is almost right, which in many ways is far worse. Almost right is more deadly than completely wrong.

For example, here is a post today from Beautiful Christian Life: Why the Pence Rule Shows Wisdom. These five reasons listed are purported to be Biblical. But are they?

Lets look at them:

1. It helps men and women to avoid sexual temptation.

“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” (Matt. 6:13)

I don’t see the connection. If a man meeting with a woman alone leads to sexual temptation, then there is a serious problem with the heart. It is the heart that must be addressed.

I think that this is often an excuse. A pastor gets caught in adultery. The facts are that he selected his victim, singled her out, met with her, groomed her, and then seduced her. When he is caught, he says, “I made some poor decision.” Which sounds far better than, “I’m a predator and got caught.”

But let’s not be foolish. A pastor committing adultery is a predator, not someone who made poor decisions concerning the Mike Pence rule.

Quit giving predators this excuse.

If your commitment to righteousness is so thin that being alone with the opposite sex puts you in danger, then you need to examine your heart, rather than add a rule.

I am afraid that this reason simple adds pride and will-worship to the gospel, making it of none-effect.

2. It seeks to honor the marital union.

Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous. (Heb. 13:4)

I would say that a far better way to honor the marital union would be to love, honor and respect your spouse. It is absolutely true that a man who honors his marriage will never allow another to cause his wife pain. But, again, I fear this is an excuse.

I knew a man whose wife was jealous of him, for just cause – as it turns out. He spent many hours dining alone in romantic restaurants with another woman. His issue wasn’t that he violated the Pence rule. His issue was that he was committing adultery. Let’s call it what it is.

So, yes, absolutely go home and love, honor and respect your spouses. But don’t think that adding a man-made rule is the same thing as honoring your wife or husband.

I would suggest that we let scripture define what it means to honor your spouse, rather than a rule imposed from on high.

3. It recognizes the battle within all Christians between the flesh and the Spirit.

For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. (Rom. 7:22-23)

Paul’s whole point in this passage is that the battle is fought and won with the gospel (Romans 8:1), not the law. If the law of Moses is of no effect in the battle against the flesh, how on earth can the law of Pence do that which the law of Moses cannot do?

Who will deliver us from this body of death? Only the Lord Jesus Christ, who died for me and rose the third day! Blessed be the name of the Lord!

By all means, if it is wise in your job to protect yourself then do so. But please do not pretend that the law can deliver us from the bondage of the flesh. Not even Moses could do that.

4. It shows respect for one’s family by keeping boundaries.

Whoever troubles his own household will inherit the wind, and the fool will be servant to the wise of heart. (Prov. 11:29)

I love that verse. It has nothing to do with the subject under consideration. A man troubles his family with pride, arrogance, abuse, adultery, pornography, tyranny, abdication, abandonment, hatred, violence – and on, and on, and on.

A man who does those things certainly doesn’t care about what people think when he goes to a bar with whomever he wants. But the problem is not the Pence rule. The problem is that the troubler of the family is a child of the devil.

He needs converted, not another rule to thumb his nose at. Are there not enough laws in the Bible about honoring your family without adding another one? If he keeps none of the ones there, how can adding another one change anything.

5. It strives to bring glory to God.

Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. (1 Cor. 6:18-20)

Again, a great verse. I love it. It has nothing to do with the Pence rule. In fact, this one bugs me the most. It equates being alone with a woman with sexual immorality.

Really? If this one is true, then Jesus himself sinned when he was alone with the woman at the well, and the woman taken in adultery.

By all means, flee sexual immorality. But have a little bit more respect for our sisters in Christ. You may have a lot of reasons not to meet alone with a woman, either in church or at work. But if your reason is that you are afraid that you might commit adultery with her, then you are an adulterer, and perhaps a predator. You don’t need the Pence rule. You need to be born again. Let’s quit minimizing sexual immorality by equating it with meeting with a woman. It’s degrading to you and to your sisters in Christ.

We need far more than sound bites and twisted scripture. We need the Spirit of God poured out on our hearts. We need wisdom, which only comes from God (Proverbs 2).

Wisdom does not come from the law. The ability to keep the law of God comes from the wisdom of the heart, which is a gift of God. It only comes through the gospel; never through the law.

The difference between almost right and right is the difference between the gospel and another gospel. I fear, whenever we speak of the Pence rule, we aren’t speaking about the gospel anymore. We are adding the law into grace, and pretending that having begun in the spirit, we are now made perfect by the flesh.

It’s time we stopped.

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An Open Letter to Heath Lambert and Leadership of ACBC

An honest critique of nouthetic counseling. We can do better. Please consider what Marie has to say.

Marie_O'Toole.com

victimsToday Dr. Heath Lambert, Executive Director of ACBC (Association of Certified Biblical Counselors – formerly “NANC”, National Association of Nouthetic Counselors) sent out a Statement regarding their upcoming annual conference, which purports to support and minister to abuse victims. He seemed especially concerned about how their counsel will come across, in the wake of disgraced pastor Paige Patterson’s recent remarks regarding abused wives and the subsequent scandal (one of many involving the evangelical/Reformed Church and their cover-ups on abuse).

Having been both on the inside as a nouthetic counselor and subsequently re-victimized by an ACBC-affiliated group (one of whom graduated from the same seminary as Lambert), I wrote the following open letter to share some of my years of experience in counseling and talking to survivors of spiritual abuse:

“Dear Dr. Lambert, and Board of ACBC,

It is with great sadness and concern that I respond to your…

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To the Newly Married

From the archives – but in time for wedding season.

My Only Comfort

There is a fascinating verse in Deuteronomy. It isn’t marriage advice; it is a marriage command.

When a man hath taken a new wife, he shall not go out to war, neither shall he be charged with any business: but he shall be free at home one year, and shall cheer up his wife which he hath taken.1 (Deu 24:5 KJV)

The command is for a newly married husband to refrain from anything that takes him away from his home for a year. And the purpose of this command is so that he can “cheer up” his wife.

That’s an unfortunate translation. It means something in English that it doesn’t mean in Hebrew. In Hebrew the basic meaning of the word is to rejoice, to exult. In the form that the word is in, it means to cause that state in someone. In other words, the husband is to “make…

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Brothers and Sisters

Do not sharply rebuke an older man, but rather appeal to him as a father, to the younger men as brothers,
2 the older women as mothers, and the younger women as sisters, in all purity.
(1 Tim. 5:1-2 NAS)

Aimee Byrd recently wrote an excellent article on the relationships between men and women. She rightly critiques the multiplying of rules that make interacting with the opposite sex so complicated. (I will take a moment here to plug her new book, which I have not yet read. I am greatly looking forward to it. It is called “Why Can’t We Be Friends?”). Aimee has done some excellent work, calling for a renewal of simple friendships between brothers and sisters in Christ. Anyway, her latest post has caused some discussion on the web. Some edifying, some not so much.

So I started thinking, naturally, about 1 Timothy 5:1-2, particularly where Paul commands Timothy to think of younger women as sisters and older women as mothers. This verse has always puzzled me, maybe it is because I never had any sisters. But I also know that there is much abuse that takes place between siblings. What does one tell a woman or a man who was abused by a brother or a sister? Did Paul mean here that we are to treat our sisters in Christ as a good brother would treat his sister?

Perhaps. Of course, a healthy sibling relationship can be a tremendous blessing to all. If it happens that way, then that would be wonderful to emulate in the church.

But when Paul wrote to Timothy, it was not at all a given that brothers and sisters were living together in chastity and purity. Caligula was emperor, and we all know what that did to the reputation of purity among siblings.

I’ve been thinking about it and thinking about Heidelberg Catechism question and answer # 1.

“What is thy only comfort in life and in death? That I, with body and soul, both in life and in death, am not my own, but belong to my faithful savior Jesus Christ…”

Natalie Hoffman writes,

Her body belongs to Jesus, not her abuser. And by the way, not only does YOUR life and body belong to Jesus, but your spouse’s life and body belong to Jesus as well. So if you’re not treating your spouse’s life and body with loving honor, then you’re missing the point of grace.

And that got me thinking. I think that Paul’s point to Timothy is deeper than simply a reference to a sibling group. The reason that we as believers are one family is that we are all members of Christ, of his flesh and of his bone (Ephesians 5:32).

This union with Christ is so unbreakable and so close that Jesus considers mistreatment of one of his children the same as mistreatment of himself. Consider what he said to Saul of Tarsus:

Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? (Acts 9:4 KJV)

Likewise, to the sheep and the goats

Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. (Matt. 25:40 KJV)

Think about what that means. Christ considers what is done to his members as being done to his own person. Why are you persecuting ME, not others, but me? When Paul applies it to Timothy, he means that when he is speaking to a young woman who is a believer, he better remember that she is a sister – a member of Christ, a prophet, priest and king. A firstborn son. A daughter of a king.

And he better remember this. Whatever he says to her, whatever he does to her, whatever he coerces from her, Jesus will consider it as done to his own person on the day of judgment. Because that is precisely what it is. On the other hand, the respect and honor, kindness, gentleness, patience and love we show are considered as shown unto Jesus himself. “Be careful to entertain strangers, for some have entertained angels unawares.”

And even greater, in the body of Christ, you are serving Christ himself with every cup of water given, every meal served, every person clothed.

On the other hand, every harsh word, every act of contempt and hatred, every intimidation and power-play over one of Jesus sheep, He takes it very, very personally.

He does not take kindly to the abuse, ridicule, insults, contempt and hatred of the members of his body – of his flesh and of his blood.

Here is what we all must keep in mind. the young woman in the congregation, the older woman in the congregation, the young man and the old man – they aren’t objects to be used and controlled according to the pleasures and whims of the pastor, but they are dearly loved members of the body of Christ. Whatever is done to them is done to Christ.

Remember that, and you won’t need any “Billy Graham rule”. Love will flow from the heart, if, of course, you belong to Christ.

Take courage, you who have been mistreated and abused and assaulted in the name of Jesus, your Lord is coming again. He grieves with you and he hates what was done to you. He will come with recompense and vengeance.

He truly will. For by faith you are members of his body and are greatly loved by the Creator and Maker of the universe.

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Filed under Abuse, Faith, Union with Christ