Monthly Archives: April 2020

Male and Female

The biggest bullies on social media are those who have defined for themselves what masculine and feminine traits are, and then ridicule, mock, and belittle anyone who doesn’t fit that definition. Their definitions usually come from their own opinions based on their observations in their circles. I would multiply examples, but a few moments in a “Reformed” social media group or a few moments on Twitter will give enough examples.

So many are quick to label someone effeminate, or “tom-boy”. Feminist, egalitarian, effeminate, sissy, are thrown around carelessly like arrows, and they are not directed towards sin. They are directed towards clothing, hair style, manners, personality traits, pitch of the voice, or even dialect.

I was recently reviled publicly for wearing a pink shirt, for example.

So now that I have a few minutes, I would like to share a few thoughts with everyone concerning the gospel and good works.

God made humans male and female. There are two sexes, and only two sexes. We do, however, live in a fallen world so there are at times confusions in the biology. These are the exceptions, rather than the rule.

Both male and female are human beings in God’s image. Neither is less or greater than the other. Neither has closer access to God than the other. The only access that anyone has to the Father is through Christ alone. And in Christ, there is no male or female. We must therefore be careful to avoid pride ( “I thank God I am not like the others”). We also must be wary of implying that there is another mediator between God and man, as “covenant headship” theologians often do. The man is not closer to God that the woman, nor is he a covenant mediator. Contrary to so many “sanctified testosterone” types, the male does not image God differently than the female does, as a simple reading of Genesis 1 and 2 clearly show.

Furthermore, God also gives gifts to human beings as he sees fit. There is a diversity of gifts, and diversity of personalities, a diversity of talents. There is nothing in Scripture that states or implies that God gives “masculine” gifts or “feminine” gifts.

We must be careful not to confuse gender observations with ethics. God gave Ten Commandments, and he added no more. Sin is widely spread and diverse, but it is defined, at bottom, as want of conformity to divine law, summarized in the Ten Commandments, and not in the opinions of men. Understanding this is the first step to liberty.

Over the centuries and through the cultures, you can observe certain characteristics in women and certain characteristics in men. These characteristics are seen everywhere. Some are cultural, some are inborn, some are gifts, some are learned. I admit it freely. The Bible acknowledges it. The rich diversity between the sexes is part of the beauty and wonder of creation.

Here is where the problem occurs – when you take the observable and general differences between men and women and make them ethical requirements in addition to the Ten Commandments.

For example, a boy likes the feel of fabrics and loves to experiment with colors and shapes and design. He has been drawn to dressing dolls stylishly since childhood. Are these masculine or feminine characteristics? Is there sin involved? And what is that sin?

Do you see what I am getting at? Instead of encouraging this young man to develop his gifts as a man in the kingdom of God, glorifying Him for all his gifts and benefits, our culture and even our church leaders have mocked him as being “effeminate”, told him he was gay, and tried to force him into more “manly” endeavors. The scripture tells us that it was the Holy Spirit that gifted Bezalel to work with fabrics and colors and jewelry and design and he built the tabernacle in the wilderness.

Are design, art, poetry, music, fabrics, textiles, colors feminine values? Should we be concerned if our children do not follow our cultural stereotypes? What sin is involved? Before you throw the word “effeminate” at me, that word (1 Cor. 6:9) refers to the act of homosexual sex, in violation of the seventh commandment. It does not refer to violations of some guy’s opinion as to what masculine and feminine traits are.

Here is another example. Suppose a woman is drawn to sports, hunting, wearing jeans. Or she is drawn towards the study of theology and wishes to pursue those studies.

Or she is drawn to medicine or law, and desires to pursue careers in those fields. What sin is she committing? Higher education, careers, advancement, sports, and  such things are not “masculine” characteristics. Are we taking a subculture of the fifties or the opinions of some guy and elevating them to the status of the canon of scripture?

The parable of the talents applies to both men and women equally. Why are women to be excluded from pursuing the gifts that God has given to them?

God made them male and female. By taking the woman from the side of the man, he made an equal – a “helper as face to face” (literal Hebrew in Genesis 2:18). This, by the way, was what “meet” meant in 1611 when the King James version was translated. Face to face. Not looked down on; not to look down on. But face to face.

And beyond that, in Christ both male and female are partakers of the gifts of the Spirit (1 Cor. 12-14), and both are considered firstborn sons who inherit the earth. As children of God and members of Christ, we are partakers with him in all his treasures and gifts (Heidelberg Catechism 55, 1 Cor. 12:12-13). Who are we to determine that some of those gifts are masculine and some are feminine? Scripture certainly does not.

There are no male commandments and female commandments. There are only ten and they are addressed to everyone. And he added no more. There are no pink parts of the bible or blue parts of the bible. “Quit you like men” is addressed to both men and women.

As are these:

“Be strong and courageous.”

“Be gentle and kind.”

“Do all to the glory of God.”

“Love one another”

And this one:

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)

God despises the multiplying of commandments and will judge those who seek to hold his children in bondage to the opinions of men (Heidelberg Catechism 91, Deut. 12:32; Isa. 29:13; Matt. 15:9)

Instead of talking about “masculine” and “feminine” roles, let us use the biblical words. Men and women are obedient or disobedient. Faithful, or unbelieving. In Christ, or cut off. Let’s stop with the rest of the nonsense. We as believers are to not be conformed to the world, which certainly includes following the political arguments thrown against women during the time of women’s suffrage. Those arguments were based upon Darwinism, not Christ.

Instead of wondering if you actions are masculine or feminine, just do all you do in faith, in liberty, and giving glory to the one who made you. Seek to put off the old man and put on the new, and stand fast in liberty.

Don’t let anyone tell you what color of shirt to wear, what hobbies to enjoy, what job you should have or where you should be. Love God, and do as you please.

Let the peace of God rule your hearts and minds.

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Just a little more…

“I’m supposed to be writing something, but I can’t think of anything to write!”

I complain to my daughter.

“What?” She says.

“What should I write about? I can’t think of anything.”

It’s been a long two weeks. At first I was looking forward to a time of exile. Perhaps I could accomplish something. My life is the endless quest to accomplish, accomplish, accomplish….but it seems as if God always has other plans.

I am doing dishes. The dishwasher is broken, so I do them by hand. And it never fails. I drain the water. And clean the sink. And I find one more. Just one more. Just finish that one, and then you can sit. Then you can write. Then you can read. Then you can learn that sonata you’ve wanted to learn. Just one more.

But after that one, there is just one more….

But life doesn’t give you the instruction manual. I see myself at sixteen. I am full of ambition and hope. I see my High School yearbook, full of promises and dreams. I read the “Stay in touch!” from the people that I haven’t spoken to since they wrote that close to 40 years ago…

My brief foray into video games happened at age 15. It was 1978. Asteroids, or some such. I put my quarter into the machine and waited for the instructions to tell me what to do. And while I waited the machine beeped. And then it said, “Game Over”.

I never played again. I don’t like feeling stupid.

At 20, I’m in college trying to fit in, trying to be someone else. I am trying so hard not to be the guy who can’t even figure out Asteroids. I don’t know how people behave. I am keenly aware that I look at the world differently and I loathe myself. I study what other people do and try to imitate them. I don’t know how to matter to anyone, and in my quest to matter to anyone, I lose the friends who care about me. The game was over before I even started.

But there is always another change. So move. Get another job. Pay some more bills. Try to get to a point where I am not paycheck to paycheck and I might even get a few dollars put aside.

But there are only so many hours in the day, and so many of them are working, working, working. And there are bills. And they pile up. And you have to put food on the table. And there are diapers. I’ll get to writing after just one more. Pay off one more loan. Work one more job.

If I could accomplish something, maybe I could get my father to pay attention and see me. If I could just do more maybe my life would matter. Maybe I could leave a legacy behind…

I think about it from time to time. But there are 12 hour work days. One right after another. Horrible pay. No advance. Year after year. Putting food on the table. Paying bills. Just one more, and then I can start my life’s work, my life goal.

Maybe then I won’t end in a mass grave where no one knows my name…

Do more. Work harder…and finally, you hit middle age and then come the chronic illnesses.

For many, many years now my wife and I have had one life-threatening, rare illness right after another. Some have no cure. Some involve surgeries. Some we just live with. Constant pain. Dislocations. Heart trouble. Ruptured colons. Ehlers Danlos. Complex Regional Pain Syndrome.

Maybe I can get something accomplished when the next round is finished. But there seems to always be just one more…

And then you hit fifty five and the machine starts to beep at you. The day when the neon flashes “Game over” is far closer than it used to be. And I still haven’t written that book. I still haven’t done anything that really matters. I still haven’t finished that Sonata. Wrote that music. Accomplished anything, really. I’ll get to it someday.

And then the exile. Quarantine. Outcast, unclean. Locked away.

I say to myself, “This is my life’s goal! I now have plenty of time and nowhere to go!”

But my wife is so sick she can’t get out of bed. My daughter needs full-time care. The dishes need done. The laundry is piling up. Just one more…

“What do I write about, Maggie?”

“I don’t know anything. I don’t get those words…but look, the tree is starting to get yellow…”

And I look, and sure enough the broom bush is starting to blossom.

And the jasmine is breaking open its perfumed buds into tiny white flowers; and the roses are in bud; and birds are singing.

And I think about it….

I put some tomato plants into the ground, and I think about it.

I trim some bushes and I think about it. I pick some mint and make a mojito and I think about it.

This evening I zoomed with my grandson in Colorado. He laughed at my ostrich puppet and called me “Grandpa”. I thought about that too.

And I thought that maybe I have been looking at this whole thing all wrong.

Maybe I’m not just sitting by the asteroid machine waiting for it to start. Maybe I’ve been knocking them all back one after another my whole life. Or maybe life isn’t a video game without instructions after all and the smartest thing I ever did was just walk away from that stupid game and went outside. I just wish I could have embraced that about myself a lot earlier.

Instead of life being about how much we accomplish, maybe we should just learn how to rest. Maybe that is what it is about. It isn’t about putting away more money in the bank, or leaving a legacy, or making your life matter, or getting a high score – because in the long run, none of those things will make me matter at all.

Maybe it is finally realizing that I DO matter, because Christ died for me and has restored me to his image and not a hair can fall from my head without my heavenly father…

And maybe I’ve been so busy trying to win some imaginary game, hoping that some imaginary person might recognize my worth that I forgot how to just live.

Youthful habits are hard to break, though. But I am going to try.

I’m going to try to just sit and listen to the birds. I’m going to see the jasmine and watch the roses open.

And most of all, I’m going to love my wife, continue to perfect Lebanese Hashweh and maybe just play the piano because I enjoy it, and not because I have anything to prove.

And I pray above all else that my heavenly father will forgive me for all the time I have wasted trying to prove something that didn’t need proving. And instead, I need him to teach me how to just stop and rest and finally know what it means to be accepted in the Beloved – to listen to the music. To quit talking. Quit overthinking everything. And just walk through the woods. Listen to that bullfrog outside. Smell the jasmine. Watch TV with my wife and daughter and praise God that I have them to walk through this valley with.

Sometimes I forget what a tremendous blessing it is to have a wife. And not only that, but a wife with whom I am never alone. 25 years of marriage, and I have not had one day alone, even when she is ill. Not everyone can say that, and that, it seems to me, is far greater than any earthly blessing. I wouldn’t trade that for anything.

So I gave my daughter a hug. Now I know what to write. I’ll get to it in a minute. After one more dish….

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Filed under Abuse, Coronavirus, Hope, Trust

Judging God in a Time of Covid-19 — Tim’s Blog – Just One Train Wreck After Another

For “Megan” – thank you for your comment. This might help answer some of it. I will add my response when I can…

via Judging God in a Time of Covid-19 — Tim’s Blog – Just One Train Wreck After Another

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April 2, 2020 · 7:40 am

What to say?

I’ve been having a hard time finding words to say. Perhaps it is because I’ve said them before, or perhaps I am just tired. The world now is experiencing what many of us have experienced for years.

Some of us know what it is like to have a debilitating, and perhaps deadly, illness that doctors can’t do anything about.

But I really don’t mean this to be a “I told you so” post, because it isn’t. Quite the opposite, in fact. I mean it to be a comfort with the same comfort that my wife and I have learned over the years of struggling with isolation and illness.

It has something to do with idols. Where do we turn when we don’t have any answers? Where do we go when we don’t have any strength? Where do we place our trust when the world is upside down.

When it strikes hard, your idols are revealed. That is painful, and it is a hard ride, but it is glorious in the end. As long as you learn what the Psalmist finally learned:

(Psalm 33:16-22)  16 The king is not saved by a mighty army; A warrior is not delivered by great strength.
  17 A horse is a false hope for victory; Nor does it deliver anyone by its great strength.
  18 Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear Him, On those who hope for His lovingkindness,
  19 To deliver their soul from death, And to keep them alive in famine.
  20 Our soul waits for the LORD; He is our help and our shield.
  21 For our heart rejoices in Him, Because we trust in His holy name.
  22 Let Thy lovingkindness, O LORD, be upon us, According as we have hoped in Thee.

Remember all of the money that you spent on conferences? Remember all of the power that you gave your favorite celebrity pastor? Remember the televangelist that promised you that you would be healthy, wealthy and wise?

Remember all the books you bought? The long theological debates that you had online?

Remember when you thought that the person you voted in office would really save you from all your troubles?

All of the times you thought that your righteousness and your own hand would save you?

Just 6 weeks ago, I spoke to someone who told me that these kinds of diseases only happen in other countries, where they don’t know how to eat healthy food, and sanitize themselves, and live like proper Christians….

And to a certain extent, we tend to think the same way. These kinds of things happen to others. Not to us.

We are God’s people. We are American Evangelicals! We finally won the cultural wars! We are back in the business of building that “city on the hill” for the whole world to see. The American dream!

Funny how things disappear, isn’t it? Funny how it proves true, over and over again, that we are but dust. Like the flowers of the field, we fade and die.

And God sends things to remind us that the greatest assets that men and women have – wisdom, righteousnesses, social charity, cultural wars, armies, battleships, money, power, institutions (even “Christian” ones) – will all fade and die and be forgotten. One tiny virus brings the world of men to its knees, until the Keeper of Time says, “stop now”.

It is interesting how and illness that no one can do anything about can change our perspective.

And why is this? Because God will never give his glory to another.

So here is the comfort. God has ways of stripping away our trust in horses, armies, kings, medicine, doctors, politicians, elections, church leaders, celebrities.

And the purpose for all of it is for us to finally fall on our knees and say, “Our soul waits upon the Lord. He is our help and our shield.”

We can’t even get toilet paper unless he decrees it. And that is a wonderful thing, for he is good and his lovingkindness is forever.

We hope in YOUR lovingkindness, O Lord. Remember us, for the sake of Christ. He is our help and our shield.

Amen.

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