Category Archives: Abuse

Dealing with Abusive Men

Thoughts on Psalm 129, from a sermon preached at First Reformed Church, February 9, 2014.

Many a time have they afflicted me from my youth, may Israel now say:
2 Many a time have they afflicted me from my youth: yet they have not prevailed against me.
3 The plowers plowed upon my back: they made long their furrows.
4 The LORD is righteous: he hath cut asunder the cords of the wicked.
5 Let them all be confounded and turned back that hate Zion.
6 Let them be as the grass upon the housetops, which withereth afore it groweth up:
7 Wherewith the mower filleth not his hand; nor he that bindeth sheaves his bosom.
8 Neither do they which go by say, The blessing of the LORD be upon you: we bless you in the name of the LORD. (Psa 129:1-8 KJV)

This is a psalm about evil men.

I recognize that there are Christian people who sin against each other. This Psalm isn’t about them.

I recognize that there are even unbelievers who sin against Christians – this Psalm isn’t about them, either.

This Psalm isn’t about the hurts and pain of living in a cursed world, caused by friction between Adam’s race, for “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” But this Psalm isn’t about that, either.

This Psalm is about a class of people that the Bible calls “Children of the Devil.” Or even, “Sons of Belial” (worthlessness).

Jesus said to the Pharisees, “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it”. (Joh 8:44)

This Psalm is speaking of those men and women who have so united their hearts to the works of the evil one that they are called “the children of the devil”. Their works are not characterized by even the simplest forms of common human decency. The common decency of men are gifts are given even to unbelievers by the common grace of God. This Psalm, on the other hand, speaks of those who are characterized by two words: murder and lies.

Everything that they do is for the purpose of destroying the image of God in man, but they conceal their true motives by a false front of sorrow for sin, contrition, pious platitudes about religion, and a front of kindness and strength. But under it all is murder, hatred and destruction.

We don’t know when this Psalm was written. We know that there were many times in Israel’s history when they were greatly abused by the kingdom of Satan. Both Assyria and Babylon were renowned for their cruelty – smashing the heads of babies against the walls, beating and abusing children, raping women and children – all under the front of honor and glory. They were murderers and liars.

There was a servant in the land of Syria named Hazael. He was a servant to the king of Syria. God sent him to the prophet Elisha and told Elisha to anoint him king over Syria. When Hazael got there, we read that Elisha stared at him until it was uncomfortable. Then Elisha wept.

12 And Hazael said, Why weepeth my lord? And he answered, Because I know the evil that thou wilt do unto the children of Israel: their strong holds wilt thou set on fire, and their young men wilt thou slay with the sword, and wilt dash their children, and rip up their women with child.

13 And Hazael said, But what, is thy servant a dog, that he should do this great thing? And Elisha answered, The LORD hath shewed me that thou shalt be king over Syria. (2Ki 8:12-13 KJV)

Hazael eventually showed that his words and his actions were all a lie. He was intent on murder and destruction and became one of the most corrupt and violent kings of the ancient world. It was not that he lied once, or even that he got angry and killed a man. It’s that his whole life marked him as a child of the devil. Every thought and every pursuit of his hand was dedicated to destruction and lying.

This Psalm is about these people.

They still show up today. Often they show up in the church of God. Jesus said that they would. And the church, for the most part, has handled everything about them wrongly.

Too often we hear of men who are well-thought of in church. They know all of the right phrases, and know when to shed the right tears. They sing with gusto and say “Amen” at the right places in the sermon. But when they go home and are alone with their wives and children, they think only of destruction and murder. They systematically seek to destroy the image of God in their family.

They are the king of the castle and smack their loved ones around just to make sure that they remember it. They belittle, despise and ridicule their wives. They beat and abuse their children.

They do these things not because they lose control of their temper. As horrible as it is to be out of control of your temper, these people are even worse. These are those who plot iniquity on their beds, and their plots are meticulous, planned and systematic, designed to hurt and destroy. They are not governed by passions, they are governed by their father, the devil. Since they are murderers, they think only of destruction and tearing down. Since they are liars, they do it all under a cloak of feigned decency.

They will be in the middle of a tirade against their families and the phone will ring, or the police will show up, and immediately they are under control, speaking reasonably and with such concern for their families. But their wives and children are left terrified, broken, bloodied, and have learned how to keep all their feelings, thoughts, and opinions carefully hidden, so as not to enrage the father.

We know these people. We have seen them before and will see them again.

They are not sinners – even like David – who committed adultery and murder but was himself broken and brought to repentance. They are not sinners like Paul, who obtained mercy because he did it in unbelief. They are children of the devil. They know what they are doing, they plan it, they think through it, they carry it out.

Because they are liars, as soon as they are exposed in the church they know how to weep and stress how sorry they are. And the church usually starts talking about forgiveness. When the children become adults, or when the abused spouse is finally free from the abuser, they get counsel from the church. They are told, “You need to forgive them.”

“You need to reach out to them.”

“You need to give them another chance.”

And when the wives and children are strong enough to acknowledge that their abuser is a murderer and a liar and refuse to allow themselves to be abused again, the church often disciplines the abused! The church throws salt on the plowed wounds and disciplines, for “not being forgiving”, for getting a divorce, for speaking badly of such a nice man who made a few mistakes. And thus we often become partakers of another man’s sins, thinking that we should be more loving than God is, heaping even more affliction on the abused.

But the fact is – God hates abuse even more than we do. A man who systematically beats and terrifies his wife hasn’t “made a few mistakes” or “committed an indiscretion”. He is a child of the devil. A man who will molest a child isn’t a nice person with a personality flaw. He is a child of the devil, and the works of the devil are what he does.

It is true that the Bible commands us to lay aside all bitterness, wrath, and desire for revenge – as befits a forgiven child of God. It is true that we are commanded to do good, even to our enemies. The question is how do we do that? How can we finally be free from the bondage of bitterness and isolation and terror that flow from abuse?

That is what this Psalm is about.

First, be honest with the damage caused by evil men

Many a time have they afflicted me from my youth, may Israel now say: Many a time have they afflicted me from my youth: yet they have not prevailed against me. The plowers plowed upon my back: they made long their furrows. (Psa 129:1-3 KJV)

Our Creator does not want us to deny the damage and the hurt that has been done. This Psalm was written by someone who knew what it was to be as helpless as a field under the cruelty of a plow. Look at the imagery – the plowers plowed on my back. Those who afflicted me from my youth stood over me, hurt me, shredded me, tore me, and I had no power. All I could do was lay there and take it. It didn’t happen once, it didn’t happen twice. It happened many times. They hurt me over and over again. I was continually hurt and abused by those who were stronger and greater than I was.

When I cried out, no one heard me. When I spoke, no one believed me. That isn’t my fault. It isn’t my fault that I was a field under a cruel plow. It isn’t my fault that I was hurt so badly. They did this to me.

The word “afflict” means to bind tightly, to wrap with cords, to tie up. In other words, it is the action of an enemy that is designed to keep you under control, to completely subjugate you to their power – to destroy the image of God in you. Ultimately, our afflicter is the devil. He seeks to destroy you and keep you under his bondage and control. So he convinces you that what happened was your fault, that it wasn’t so bad, that you caused it to happen. He convinces you that it is just how people are. Why does he do this? Because he is a liar and a murderer.

For this reason, the first step in dealing with abusive men is the truth. Quit lying to yourself about it. You were hurt badly by evil men who wanted to destroy you because they are children of the devil. They didn’t smack you around because you mouthed off. They didn’t ridicule and belittle you because you were stupid and foolish. They didn’t blow up at you because dinner was late. They didn’t lose their temper because you just didn’t listen to them. They didn’t molest you because you were seductive or provocative. None of this is true. They did what they did because they are liars and murderers and children of the devil, and they hurt you very badly. You were powerless and as free from fault as a field is under the blades of a plow.

But while you are being honest with the damage caused, there is one more step that you need to take. They tried to destroy you because they hated God – but they didn’t succeed!

Notice what he says in verse 2: “Much have they afflicted me – bound me, constricted me, bent me to their power and control – but they had no ability over me.” In other words, they didn’t succeed in doing what they wanted to do.

How is that?

You are here. You are alive, you are you, you are greatly loved by God. They plowed you under because they wanted to destroy you. God allowed it because he wanted your field to bring forth much fruit. And they didn’t destroy you, for now you are bringing fruit to God.

The only way that you survived the abuse of abusive men, the only way you survived the all-out assault on the devil, is that God did not give them the ability to do what they really wanted to do. They could do nothing except further God’s plan for you.

It hurts, it was evil, it left scars. But it didn’t destroy you. The destroyer did not win.

Second, understand that in Christ, the bondage to abuse does not need to control your life.

4 The LORD is righteous: he hath cut asunder the cords of the wicked. (Psa 129:4 KJV)

Those cords of oppression that Satan has sought to bind you with have been cut asunder by God.

You cannot serve two masters. Satan wanted to control you; when you came to Christ, you turned your back on Satan in order to embrace Christ – and God has broken his power over you.

It is a shame that so many in the church speak of forgiveness in such muddled language. Forgiveness in the Bible is acknowledging that the blood of Christ has covered the sin of the sinner. When you forgive a Christian, you are promising to remember it no more, just as God in Christ forgave you. Since the abuser is not a child of God, but a child of Satan, the word “forgiveness” doesn’t really apply, and is meaningless.

What we must do is acknowledge that the cords of Satan no longer bind us. For too long we have allowed self-protection, isolation, bitterness, distrust, rage and denial to control us – but when these things are broken by God in Christ, we can let them go, leaving vengeance in the hands of the One Who is Far More Capable of Righteous Wrath Than I Am. We are not talking about forgiving an enemy of God. We are talking about laying aside all thoughts of revenge, putting away bitterness, and not letting Satan have dominion over us. We are talking about opening up the door of your heart to truly trust and love and receive love – even though it is risky. I’m not speaking about trusting and loving a child of the devil, but trusting and loving God and your neighbor as becomes a child of God. Because the alternative is the hatred and strife of the devil.

The only way to do that is to understand that God’s work – sending his Son to break the cords of the devil once and for all – has freed us from the bondage and misery of sin. It is also to understand this: Evil and abusive men may have fooled everyone else; but they never fool God. God has a very special care for his little ones, and when men abuse and molest little ones, it is as if they were molesting and abusing God himself.

Jesus said, But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. (Mat 18:6 KJV)

My prayer is that the Church would grow more and more like Jesus Christ, and have the same view of abuse and molestation that Jesus himself has.

And third, pray for justice.

God will certainly hear the prayer. The judge of the earth will do right.

The next four verses are listed in the form of a prayer – let them be ashamed – let them be as grass on the roof. The Hebrew itself could either be interpreted as a prayer, or as a statement of fact. It is in the future tense and the words would be identical in either case.

In other words, the psalmist could be saying “Let them be ashamed,” or he could be saying “they will be ashamed.” Either way, properly understood, the meaning is the same, for God certainly hears the prayers of his people, and how much more does he hear inspired prayers that are written for the godly to pray. We pray with the Psalmist “Let them be ashamed,” and the promise is for us “They will be ashamed.”

“Ashamed” doesn’t mean “embarrassed and sorry”. It means that everything that they hope to have accomplished will come to nothing. They seek to keep their victims under their power and control – but no one can take us from God’s hand. They seek to destroy and to murder you, but God will not allow his sheep to perish. They seek to keep up the front of respectability and godliness, but they will be exposed before the angels in heaven and the whole world, alive and dead, for what they really are. Everything that they sought to accomplish will come to nothing. Satan himself, the great abuser, will be cast into the lake of fire forever – and with him will go every one of his children. They will be ashamed.

God hates abusers and molesters with a perfect hatred, a hotter and fiercer anger than anything that we feel on this earth, and he will certainly do right.

But not only will there be eternal judgment, they will not even succeed in accomplishing what they desire on this earth. For a time, they may appear to be growing in power, untouchable, as tall and lush as the grass that grows. But that grass is growing on the top of the roof. There’s no depth of soil there. As soon as the sun arises, that grass will wilt and wither and blow away.

Don’t fear their power, their money, or even their fame. They might be famous directors or actors or writers or artists, or even pastors. What Does God care for their lawyers, their money, or their friends? Ultimately, they are grass growing on the roof. Whenever God desires, their fear is gone. The wealth is gone. Their life is gone. So their power over you is gone now.

In verse 3, the church suffering abuse was compared to a field being plowed. We know that the devil seeks to destroy us, but God is seeking our produce. In Christ, we WILL bring forth fruit – the fruit of love and joy and peace and faith, hope and self-control. These things come by the power of the Holy Spirit, but they come through the trials that God brings to us. We can look at the damage of the past through the eyes of faith and see that God has used that to make us who we are today, and who we are promised to be tomorrow.

But what about the plow? What about those who have done such great damage? When the reaper looks for fruit, there isn’t any. There is nothing there. There was just wind and noise all along. In fact, when the mower finally cuts them down, there won’t even be enough dead grass there to fill a hand. When we are under the plow, when we are being afflicted by the children of the devil, we think that our abuser is all-powerful, all-wise, and terrifying.

When we succumb to fear, we think that they have far more power, reputation and charm than they actually have. This Psalm is calling us to see them as God sees them. As dry grass on top of a roof, weeds to be plucked down and thrown into the fire.

Finally, look at verse 8:

Neither do they which go by say, The blessing of the LORD be upon you: we bless you in the name of the LORD. (Psa 129:8 KJV)

In Israel, this was a common greeting when passing by a field. We see it in the book of Ruth

And, behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem, and said unto the reapers, The LORD be with you. And they answered him, The LORD bless thee. (Ruth 2:4 KJV)

Among the godly, it was a way of saying hello. but more than that, it was a prayer for God’s blessing. This verse is one of the most freeing verses for those who have suffered at the hands of the children of the devil. How can you pray for or expect God’s blessing on those whom he has given over for destruction? You cannot.

I am not at all saying that the blood of Christ cannot save certain people. He certainly does. But at the same time, we must remember that there are many passages of scripture that speak of those whom God has devoted to destruction, those who have turned the truth of God into a lie, those for whom the fire of judgment is reserved forever.

It is true that all men are sinful and in desperate need of Christ’s blood. Even as Christians, we still sin and hurt each other, and need to seek forgiveness and healing. But, as I said, this Psalm isn’t about that.

The Bible teaches that there are those whom God has removed his hand of restraint, who give themselves over completely to their own lusts, and are full-blown children of the devil. They are characterized, as Jesus said, by their relentless pursuit of murder and destruction, covering it all with a veneer of lies. When these are the people we are dealing with, it is an abomination to God to bless them in the name of the Lord, even as a greeting.

May they be exposed and outcast, may the church see them for who they are, may they be stripped bare and left outside.

It is about time that the church stopped worrying about hurting the feelings of the abusers and started giving the abused the opportunity to heal.

For all who have suffered this kind of trauma, you may have been told how harsh you have been towards your abuser. You may have been commanded to forgive them. You may have been instructed to let them back into your life. Your abuser may have confronted you with tears, demanding reconciliation. You may have forgiven your oppressor again and again and again, only to be abused again and again and again.

How can you be set free? Only by the truth. Quit offering the blessings of Zion to the children of the devil.

How can you tell who is who? How can you tell the difference between David and Hazael? You don’t have to. That’s the beauty of it. God knows whom he will save, so leave him to it. You, as a human being, have only limited knowledge. You cannot know the heart, you can only know the fruit. Jesus told us to deal with men based on their fruit. When a man hurts, lies, and seeks to destroy the children of God, that fruit is the fruit of the devil, and he may be judged accordingly, even while we pray for true repentance. It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God. God knows who belongs to Him. And God also knows whom he will judge, so leave him to that, as well.

We must understand that these people have always been the same. Here’s a Psalm written thousands of years ago dealing with a very current problem. They seek to destroy and murder you and as long as you keep allowing them into your life, they will continue to do so. It is true that you must put off hatred and bitterness and desire for revenge; but the only way to do that is to leave their judgment or their salvation in the hands of God.

If they come again crying for forgiveness, this in no way obligates you to allow them back into your life where they have caused so much damage. If they are truly repentant, they will rejoice in salvation and understand the depth and depravity of their sin, and will understand and respect your desire to be left alone as a just consequence of their sin which they committed. But on the other hand, if they are not truly repentant, but merely seeking another entrance to cause you more damage, they will accuse you of hard-heartedness. They will get as many of the gullible and untaught on their side as they can. They will seek to manipulate you with their tears. They will continue cause you as much grief as you allow them to.

Put them in God’s hands, and leave them there. When a man plows a helpless back as he would plow a field, just because he can, he has forfeited all right and all expectation of any relationship – and again, this isn’t your fault. He caused it. Not you.

Leave the rest in God’s hands. The judge of all the earth will do right. When you leave it all in God’s hands, you can finally know the freedom that you have been given when God cut those cords from you.

Now live like it.

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“Just Keep Quiet, Sister”

Recently I’ve been meditating on the rape of Tamar and the coming of the Christ. These two are connected.

This might need some explaining. King David was anointed by God Himself. He was the king “after God’s own heart.” After the oppression and abuse against him by King Saul in 1 Samuel, your heart is cheering as David is finally anointed king. The good guys won! You expect the fairy tale ending, “And they all lived happily ever after…”

But the accounts of Israel’s history rarely end that way. Ever since sin entered into the world, our stories never end well. David was a righteous king – compared with Saul. But he was never really the point of the account. If salvation could come by government, David’s kingdom would have succeeded and Christ need not have come. But the problem with the world is universal. Not even David is immune. The sin that lies in the heart of every man also lies in the heart of David – and not “sin” in the mild “everyone sins” kind of way, but hateful, ugly, destructive and vile sin.

Like every good story teller, the author of 2 Samuel doesn’t just give us a treatise on total depravity and our need for a greater king and greater savior; instead, he shows us. David’s fall into murder and adultery has consequences for his whole family, including his virgin daughter, Tamar.

Tamar is beautiful, which means she is a target for the kingdom of the devil who hates beauty. Her half-brother Amnon is consumed with lust for her. His lust is not a lust for her beauty, but the lust of a hungry wolf in the presence of a sheep. His lust to kill, consume and destroy has been sexualized, which is what rape is.

He is constricted by Tamar’s position as a daughter of the king and one thing a man like Amnon hates is to be restricted by anything. He has two conflicting beliefs going on. First, he believes as the crown prince that he is entitled to whatever he wants. And second, the king has the authority to command. So what happens when the king’s rights conflict with the prince’s “rights”? It is this conflict that consumes Amnon and makes him sick. To Amnon, Tamar’s personhood and will don’t even enter into it. She’s just an object to be used.

Amnon, like all wicked men, has an advisor that promises to help him through the dilemma. Jonadab says, “Go to your sick bed. When your father comes to visit, ask him to send Tamar to nurse you back to health.”

And Amnon does. We are not told why David didn’t see through such a ridiculous ruse, but based on simple observation, we can make an educated guess. People have no problem confessing total depravity when it comes to people that are different than they are. If one is outside of your circles, you have no problem with confessing their corruption. It is easy to see the sin of Philistines, Moabites – even those of other tribes. The sins of Benjamin are easy to see if you are from Judah.

But where it hits hard is when you are confronted with the total depravity of your children, your brothers, your sisters, your church. “Those kinds of things don’t happen in Israel!”  “Not in my church. Not in my family. Not in my tribe.”

But sin doesn’t give us a pass because of who we descended from. In fact, it is the opposite. It is precisely because of who we descended from that we are all conceived and born in sin.

Even Amnon. Would David have allowed a non-family member to be alone with his daughter under such a flimsy excuse? I think not.

At any rate, David commands Tamar to attend to her brother. Tamar makes food for poor, sick Amnon and he watches her. She brings the bread to him, but he refuses to eat. Then he sends everyone else out of the room.

Tamar stands there alone, afraid, powerless. He commands her, “Come here. Lie with me.”

She protests strongly. “A thing like this shouldn’t be done in Israel!”

She begs him. She pleads for him to remember pity. “Where will I take my shame? I will spend the rest of my life ashamed and reproached. Unable to marry. Unable to live. What will I do? Who will take this shame away from me if you do this horrible thing.”

She pleads with him to remember his own reputation. “You will go down as a fool in Israel! Why would you do such a thing?”

She even gives him a desperate alternative, “Ask our father to give me to you as wife. He won’t withhold me from you!”  It seems desperate, but it is her only option in that culture before Christ. If she is raped, no one will marry her. She will be cut off without children, without protection, without support. She will have nothing but shame and reproach. Even today, in many cultures a girl who is raped faces excommunication from her family, her people, and sometimes is even tried and punished as an adulterer. The devil’s kingdom is ugly, hateful and cruel. How many women do we know who have been driven from their churches and families even in America because they were raped?

Amnon refuses to listen. He wants to destroy her innocence and beauty. His destructive desires are sexually charged. He is not lusting after her beauty. He is lusting after her destruction. So he forces her, because he is stronger than she is. And he rapes her.

The word “forces” is the Hebrew word, ‘anah, which means to afflict, oppress, humble. We will come back to that word.

After Amnon is done with her, he hates her. He hated her before, but now he has what he wants from her. He says, “Get up and get out.”

She weeps. She pleads. It is now clear to Tamar that it was not an act of extreme love gone bad, but an act of hatred and destruction. All rape is about destroying the image of God. It is never about love or even desire. It is about hatred and defacing God’s image.

Amnon calls in his servant and has her thrown out of the room. She leaves the room in tears. She tears her robe – the special robe of honor worn by the king’s daughters – and flees to Absalom’s house. Absalom is Tamar’s full brother.

Absalom immediately knows what happened and tells her, “Be quiet. Don’t take it to heart. He’s your brother.”

God gave men and women a wonderful gift when he created them. It was a gift of communication. Words and thoughts, the ability to hear, to meditate, to express. It is unique to man out of all creatures under the sun. We can open our lips, choose words and fellowship with one another and with God. We can talk about our feelings, our likes and dislikes.

We can use words like “love”; “joy”; “peace” – as well as “hatred,” “ justice,” “abuse.”

But the devil and his kingdom hate God and hate his image. He seeks the destruction of the voice, of the personhood, of the will. He seeks the annihilation and defacement of beauty and love.

The most effective way to achieve all of these goals of the devil is through rape. For this reason a rapist was not allowed to live in Israel under Moses’s law. There wasn’t anything to be done with him. A man who rapes is a man completely given over to the power of the devil and must be removed from society.

And rape removes the voice. Where will she take her disgrace? Does she have two or three witnesses? Does she have the courage to stand up to her attacker in an assembly of men who in her mind are just like her attacker? She tells her church, and is told to just be quiet. Don’t rock the boat. Don’t ruin the ministry. She tells the magistrate, and is often left just like Tamar. David knew about it. He was angry, but did nothing.

Her choice is gone, because he is stronger than she is. Her voice is gone – silenced by threats, intimidation, coercion. Where will she take her shame?

This is the hopelessness of the kingdom of the devil. After Absalom takes Tamar into his house, we are left with this: “And Tamar lived with Absalom, desolate, in her brother’s house.” She then disappears from the sacred record – except in the mind of God.

Her question still hangs in the air, leaving us empty and hungry for a solution. “Where will I take my shame?”

Many centuries later, Isaiah comes on the scene. He writes,

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
2 to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn;
3 to grant to those who mourn in Zion– to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified. (Isa 61:1-3 ESV)

The good news, the gospel, is proclaimed to the “poor”. The Hebrew word, as you may have guessed by now, is ‘anah – Afflicted, forced, humiliated, poor

And who is this one of whom Isaiah speaks? Does he speak of himself or does he speak of another?

When Jesus of Nazareth began to preach in Capernaum, he opened his Bible to this passage and read it. Then he said,

“Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luk 4:21 ESV)

Do you see? Do you see that Isaiah is giving the answer to Tamar’s question? Do you see those for whom Jesus came? He came into this world in the womb of another virgin daughter of Israel. He came for all who have been broken, bowed, and afflicted. He came for those who have been abused, raped, and humbled. He calls to the broken-hearted, those with no strength, and those who have been the victims of every Amnon of this present world. His gospel is for the weak, the downtrodden – those who mourn.

He never told the outcasts to “be quiet”. He spoke with them. He listened to them. But more importantly than all of that, he brought to them good news. He came to set his people free. He came to give a voice to the voiceless, justice to the oppressed, mercy to the repentant. He came to set the prisoner free.

I know that the world is full of those who are like Tamar. I know many of you personally and see the gospel of Jesus alive in you. Christ has indeed fulfilled his promise and proclaimed the good news to you and has called you his own.

If Tamar’s story is yours and you do not know Jesus, learn of him. His yoke is easy and his burden is light. He hates Amnon, and destroyed the power of the one behind Amnon on the cross. He bore the curse in his own body and then rose from the dead, proclaiming the season of God’s favor to all who are hopeless and voiceless. He came to restore the damaged image of God in you – to restore your beauty, your voice, your will, your courage.

You are fearfully and wonderfully made, a daughter of the king who will never look away and refuse you justice. You have your voice restored to confess his name. You have your will restored to choose for yourself whom you will serve. Have the courage to come out of the kingdom of oppression and darkness and bondage and follow your savior.

If we call ourselves Christians, should we not strive to imitate our Lord? Do we follow him and give the gospel to the Tamars of the world – justice and mercy and renewed hope? Or are we more like Absalom; “Be quiet, sister; don’t take the matter to heart.”

May God give us the courage to proclaim faithfully the gospel of the kingdom of Christ, even when the kingdom of the devil threatens and fumes. May we stand firm.

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An Uncomfortable Truth

By Sam Powell

As I watch this election unfold, there is something that repeats continually that is bothersome to me. I’ve been trying to put my finger on it. But I think I have finally pinpointed what is causing me grief.

This is not a political post. If you have good reasons to vote for Hillary, go for it. If you have good reasons to vote for Trump, go for it. I don’t care. Neither one will destroy or advance the kingdom of God. Christ’s throne is in heaven, and is not touched or threatened by anything on this earth.

What bothers me is not the candidates for this year’s election. What bothers me is the state of the church and the state of conservative America. I have always considered myself a conservative. I was, until recently, a registered Republican, and that was a large part of my identity, I say with a small amount of shame.

Here’s what bothers me in this election. We all know that Hillary Clinton is morally bankrupt. I agree that she will say and do anything for power. I also do not believe her to be a champion for women’s rights, or anyone’s rights, for that matter. Her relentless attack on the women abused by her husband adequately demonstrate that she is only concerned about power.

As Horatio said to Hamlet, “There needs no ghost come from the grave to tell us that, my lord.”

What bothers me is not that. It’s that we, the church, who are supposed to be salt and light, who are supposed to bind up the broken-hearted, who are called release those in bondage, and be a voice for the voiceless – we have actually shown our true colors, and that greatly concerns me.

What I mean is this. We, the church, have relentlessly attacked the left for their slaughter of the unborn, the redefinition of marriage, the unbridled grab for more and more power. But at the same time we defend Donald Trump as the champion of America. Make America great again, right?

But Donald Trump has relentlessly oppressed the poor, abused and despised the weak, attacks and degrades women, and is currently being sued in Federal court for the rape of a child.

The answer from those who support Trump is that these are unsubstantiated, that the media lies, or that he has changed. But the moral failings of Trump are at least as bad as those of Hillary Clinton. Again, the church, who should be salt and light, is mostly silent on his past abuses and criminal activity, and instead strongly support him. In fact, some influential and loud voices in the evangelicalism are openly and actively supporting Donald Trump for president.

Again, neither candidate will change God’s plan one bit. Vote your conscience. You have every right to do so. This post really isn’t about that.

Here’s my main problem. Evangelical support for Donald Trump, a known abuser, a serial sex offender, and oppressor and a thief, illustrates a very large problem in the church today.

The problem is a lot deeper than simply choosing the lesser of two evils. The problem is this. It seems to me that we have sunk to this: as long as we preserve our lifestyle, our ministries, and our culture, the oppression and abuse of the weak don’t matter.

This is what it seems to me. I am seriously asking the question why Hillary is continuously attacked by Christians for her moral failings, when Donald Trump’s failings are ignored and minimized?

And the only answer I can come up with is this: Hillary’s moral bankruptcy affects ME. My pocketbook, my ministry, my place in the culture. Donald Trump promises to preserve my place and my nation.

So we can overlook Trump’s active and unapologetic abuse of women and children as long as he “makes America great again”, whatever that means.

Do you see what the bigger problem is? This election is simply mirroring what goes on in evangelical circles continually. In our churches, women can be degraded or physically assaulted in our homes, children can be raped or beaten, abusive speech is toleratedas long as our ministries aren’t threatened.

Remember that the reason the leaders of the Jews betrayed Jesus to be crucified?

48 If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation. (Joh 11:48 KJV)

So much violence has been tolerated for the sake of personal safety, wealth and position. We become afraid that our ministries will be taxed, our positions of power will be taken away, that things will be uncomfortable. And here comes a man who promises to make us great again. So what if the poor, the women, the children, the foreigner and the outcast are destroyed, violated, abused and driven away. We have to look at the big picture. At least Hillary won’t be president.

“All this I will give you, if you just bow down and worship me.”  It sounds eerily familiar.

Instead of jumping on the Trump bandwagon, I have a better suggestion from the scriptures:

16 Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil;
17 Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. (Isa 1:16-17 KJV)

As long as children have a far greater chance of being molested in church than in a transgender bathroom, we have no moral ground to stand on. Until we get this right, we might as well close the doors anyway.

God is far more concerned with how we treat the oppressed and outcast than he is with our ministries and lifestyles. It’s time we got that straight.

So if your conscience allows you to vote for either candidate, go ahead. But please quit looking the other way at such great evil. If the salt loses its saltiness, what will it be salted by? If the light is under a bushel, who will see it?

Evangelical America, it is time to be salt and light. We have far bigger problems than transgender bathrooms, gay marriage and Hillary Clinton.

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Unintended (?) Consequence

I’ll be brief. I just wanted to get this thought down. They tend to be elusive.

The false doctrine of Eternal Subordination of the Son has already been thoroughly debunked as anti-nicene, anti-biblical and anti-historical, so I won’t repeat those arguments.

But every twisting of the doctrine of God results in tragic, very real consequences. One of those consequences, as argued by our friends at Cry for Justice, is spousal abuse. But there is another, perhaps unintended, consequence.

Those who have been greatly abused as children have oftentimes left the faith, saying that they cannot believe in a God that practices cosmic child abuse. The argument against Christianity is that God tortured and killed his Son instead of you and me for something that WE deserved. How can that possibly be a good and loving God? If a murderer kills my wife, would it be right for me to execute my son in the place of that murderer?

The argument from these hurting people is that this doctrine is what leads to child abuse in the home. If God does it and it is perfect and good, then doesn’t the father in the home have the right to use his sons as he sees fit?

The answer to this charge from the beginning has been Nicene Trinitarianism. There is only one God, and only one will in the divine nature. According to the mystery of the divine will, God sent his only begotten son into the world to take the sins of the world. And yet, because of the unity and simplicity of God, it is also correct to say that God took the sins of the world upon himself (Acts 20:28). It is correct to say that the Father sent the Son. It is also correct to say that the Son sent Himself, for there is only one God (John 1:10-12).

So the question for Bruce Ware is this: How do you defend your faith against the charge of divine child abuse when you hold to an eternal dynamic of authority and submission in the divine nature?

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Things that God Hates

Here’s an incomplete list of things that God hates:

Reviling.

Drunkenness

Taking his name in vain.

Idolatry

Brawling

Oppression

Hatred

Oppression

Abuse.

Being delivered from that? God loves that. In fact, he sent his Son to die that we might be delivered from the kingdom of the devil, both the bondage in our own hearts as well as the bondage inflicted upon us from others.

Again, “God hates divorce” is nowhere in the Bible.

Another thought on that:

Capital punishment and other criminal penalties are also not part of God’s perfect plan of creation. But to say then that they are forbidden by God and hated by God is a stretch of rather sketchy exegesis. They are necessary because we live in a world of treachery and oppression.

So also divorce. Sure, God didn’t create the world with divorce as a part of his perfect plan of creation. But that isn’t the world we live in now.

“Because of the hardness of your hearts Moses wrote that.”

As long as men’s hearts are still full of evil – reviling, drunkenness, brawling, idolatry – divorce is still necessary, just like capital punishment will still be necessary as long as there are murderers.

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A Godly Abuser? Really?

I recently read this comment on “A Cry for Justice“:

You would be amazed at how many pastors in thriving ministries abuse their wives, are involved in pornography or other sexual sins. Men of God are not perfect.

Really?

I continue to be astounded at these kinds of things. A “godly pastor who abuses his wife” is a lot like saying “a reprobate Christian” a “square circle”, or “waterless water”. It makes no sense.

Since Christians are the salt of the earth, it is no wonder that words have become meaningless in our society. Postmodernism isn’t just something that “others” believe. It started right in the church! If this statement is true: “a godly minister who abuses his wife” , then words have no meaning. If a man can self-identify as a Christian even though he has all the marks of the devil, then how can we protest if a man wants to self-identify as a woman? Isn’t it the same thing?

But if we want to uphold reality, we have to say, “No; you are a man. You have all the parts of a man, and your self-identity is false.”

Don’t we then also have to say, “No. You are not a godly man. You are not a Christian. You have all the parts of a son of Belial. Your self-identity is false”

The bible says that a reviler and a drunkard will not inherit eternal life.

10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. (1Co 6:10 KJV)

It can’t say it any clearer. You can be one or the other. Christians inherit eternal life. Revilers do not. Therefore, revilers are not Christians. Pretty simple syllogism. If you revile your wife and kids, if you drink and hit your wife and children, if you sexually abuse human beings made in God’s image YOU ARE NOT A CHRISTIAN! Flee from the wrath to come. Do not be deceived. The wrath of God is coming because of these exact things!

The same evil exists in these statements:
“He’s working on his marriage.”
“He’s trying to change.”

Ugh. Why are these statements acceptable? Would we use them with a murderer?

“He’s working on not killing people.”

“He’s working on not raping and pillaging.”

“He’s working on not robbing liquor stores and gunpoint.”
I once knew of a man who was confronted by his church for his adulterous relationship and he said, “Can I taper off?” Why is this any different. You don’t “work on not abusing your wife!” I can’t believe I have to even write that!!!!!

The fact is this: You are either a Christian or you are not. You are either a child of the devil or a child of God. You don’t “work on it”. You either are or not!

In the words of Yoda, “There is no try. Do. Or do not.” (I can’t believe I just quoted Yoda. How sad is it that Yoda is wiser than so many church leaders!)

Please remember this. Jesus came to give you rest. You should be safe and at rest at home and in the church. If you are not, please flee and join with the people of God.

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Our Desperate Need for Wisdom

King Solomon was famous over the world for his wisdom. The Bible gives us an account to show us how Solomon’s wisdom truly was divinely given.  I would like for you to read it carefully:

16 Then came there two women, that were harlots, unto the king, and stood before him.
17 And the one woman said, O my lord, I and this woman dwell in one house; and I was delivered of a child with her in the house.
18 And it came to pass the third day after that I was delivered, that this woman was delivered also: and we were together; there was no stranger with us in the house, save we two in the house.
19 And this woman’s child died in the night; because she overlaid it.
20 And she arose at midnight, and took my son from beside me, while thine handmaid slept, and laid it in her bosom, and laid her dead child in my bosom.
21 And when I rose in the morning to give my child suck, behold, it was dead: but when I had considered it in the morning, behold, it was not my son, which I did bear.
22 And the other woman said, Nay; but the living is my son, and the dead is thy son. And this said, No; but the dead is thy son, and the living is my son. Thus they spake before the king.
23 Then said the king, The one saith, This is my son that liveth, and thy son is the dead: and the other saith, Nay; but thy son is the dead, and my son is the living.
24 And the king said, Bring me a sword. And they brought a sword before the king.
25 And the king said, Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one, and half to the other.
26 Then spake the woman whose the living child was unto the king, for her bowels yearned upon her son, and she said, O my lord, give her the living child, and in no wise slay it. But the other said, Let it be neither mine nor thine, but divide it.
27 Then the king answered and said, Give her the living child, and in no wise slay it: she is the mother thereof.
28 And all Israel heard of the judgment which the king had judged; and they feared the king: for they saw that the wisdom of God was in him, to do judgment.
(1Ki 3:16-28 KJV)

At first glance, this seems an odd choice to display how Solomon’s wisdom far surpassed the wisdom of his peers. As a child reading the account, it mostly confused me. How did this display such great wisdom? Surely there were other accounts of Solomon’s judgments that were astounding, magnificent and awe-inspiring! What was so special about this one?

My childish mind had only a superficial and rather foolish view of human nature. I did not understand it. It still puzzles me, for the most part, but I think that I am beginning to get a handle on what was so astounding in Solomon’s judgment here.

When these two women presented themselves before Solomon, they both looked and sounded very sincere. Both were sinners (they were harlots). Both had the show of great grief. But they told a different story.

Woman A – we’ll call her Prima – tells Solomon that she woke up and her baby was dead. She knew that the dead baby wasn’t hers and claims that the other woman (we’ll call her Secunda) rolled onto her own baby during the night and then exchanged her dead baby for Prima’s living baby.

Secunda responds that Prima is lying. She claims that Prima rolled onto her own baby and killed it and now is trying to get Solomon to take Secunda’s baby away.

At issue is the living baby. Whose baby is it?

How is Solomon supposed to sort that one out? There were no DNA tests to prove it either way, and he was supposed to make a judgment. All he had to use was wisdom. He had to understand human nature, and especially fallen human nature.

A foolish judge would try to determine who was lying by the “looked me right in the eye” test. The one that seemed the most sincere would very clearly be the one telling the truth, according to this test. But this is utter madness. Even the devil can fool the wisest of men on those grounds. In order to use the “sincerity” test, you would have to deny the existence of pure wickedness, wolves, and oppressive sons of Belial. But all scripture testifies to the existence and prevalence of these kinds of people. In fact, right after the fall, God spoke of the seed of the serpent who would seek to destroy the seed of the woman. To ignore that is utter madness and folly, combined with extreme arrogance. Almost every book of the New Testament warn us that these people will be right in the middle of our congregations and we must mark them and have nothing to do with them.

A foolish judge might actually say, “Who cares? they’re both harlots anyway. Why are you bothering me?” But a wise judge knows that he has been given his task by God himself, and is required by God to judge righteously, without “respect of persons.”

If Prima’s story is correct, then Secunda is not a normal woman. She is a child of the devil, thoroughly corrupt – a liar and a murderer with no conscience. Think about it. She killed her own child during the night (according the Prima’s story) and then exchanged her own dead baby for the living one of her friend. She has no natural affection – babies were simply commodities to be used. You normal mothers out there, if you accidently killed your baby in the night, would you mourn and weep and cry out to God? Or would you simply get another baby and pretend like nothing happened?

A normal mother does not simply steal another baby and pretend it is her own. That would take a tremendous hardening of the heart.

If Prima’s story is correct, then Secunda also has no concern whatsoever about the grief she may be bringing to those whom she previously thought of as friends. Secunda is entitled to a baby, she is entitled to win, and if this causes tremendous grief to those around her, that’s not her concern.

In this day, we have a word for these kinds of people: They are sociopaths. If Prima is telling the truth, then Secunda is a sociopath.

On the other hand, if Secunda is telling the truth, then Prima is a sociopath, for the same reasons.

So Solomon may not know which one is telling the truth, but because of his God-given wisdom, he knows that one of them is the “seed of the serpent”, a liar and a murderer who will stop at nothing to establish her own control and sense of entitlement.

If that is the case, then the one who is the seed of the serpent is not REALLY concerned about the living baby; her primary concern will be to win at any cost. Her sense of entitlement – she is OWED a baby – will be far greater than any other need. How is one to determine this?

Solomon commands that the baby be divided into two. THAT’S the wisdom of Solomon that all of us must pray for, seek after and prize. To order this risky sentence, Solomon must know and understand certain things:

1. That there are people in this world whose sense of entitlement is so great that they will destroy everything in order to have power over others, to win at any cost.

2. That either Secunda or Prima was one of those women. They were not “making mistakes”; they were not misunderstood; consumed with grief; out of their minds with problems. One of them was a sociopath who would stop at nothing to win.

THAT is wisdom. It can only come from God. It is extremely rare, even in churches.

When the Prima cried out, “NO! Spare the baby. Let her take it rather than kill it!” Solomon had his answer. Prima was more concerned about life than about winning. She was more concerned about the welfare of her child than about even her own grief. She would rather lose everything than have this little child lose his life.

How we need wise judges. How rare they are!

By now, you have probably heard of the case in Michigan. A judge sentences three children to juvenile detention for refusing to have lunch with their father. They and their mother claim that the father is abusive. The father claims that the mother is alienating the children from him. His attorney says,

“It is unfortunate that the children are in shelter care due to the actions of their mother….She has continued to endorse the children’s behavior that she successfully instilled in them, effectively alienating them from their father. The court took severe action to attempt to remedy a heart-wrenching situation, solely created by the mother.”

I wish that the judge had just a small amount of the wisdom of Solomon. Who is telling the truth? Let me ask it this way, “Who is willing to destroy the children rather than lose the case?”

The father would rather see his children abused and neglected in Juvenile Hall than lose his battle of entitlement over his ex-wife. He’s a sociopath and should be removed from society.

When the Judge ordered the kids to be remanded to Juvenile Hall, a righteous father would have cried out, “NO, JUDGE! Let her have them rather then sentence them to the death of innocence and childhood!”

It is a curse from God when He removes wisdom from the land. Mourn and howl with me, that such foolishness reigns in high places! Pray that God would be merciful and give us judges who can tell the difference between sheep and wolves. Pray that our churches would wake up and discern between good and evil!

Pray that the Lord will be merciful to us!

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To Those Who Have Been Hurt !Trigger Warning!

!Trigger Warning!

I recently heard news from a friend that broke my heart.

The details we hear again and again. A child is sexually abused. At some point in her life, she finally tells the truth about what happened to her. She’s torn up. She relives the horror. She gives the details. She is finally believed by someone.

She wonders if the pain will ever go away. Wasn’t it better before? Wasn’t it better when I didn’t have to talk about it? When it was just my secret?

Then comes the trial. She may be an adult now and have to testify against the one who has tried everything he could to destroy her.

And then those who profess the name of Christ step in to “help”.

He’s repentant now. He’s a new man now. You must forgive. He needs our support, not our condemnation. Let it go. Whatever it is, just let it go. It’s the only way to heal.

And so she goes to the judge. He didn’t mean it. He was always so good to me. He’s really changed. He doesn’t deserve this.

And a man who is capable of doing monstrous things to a child is free to continue as he has always done. He’s better now, so he doesn’t have to answer for his crimes.

Dear child of God, hear me closely. They are wrong. They are so very, very wrong.

Pretending that there are no consequences to wickedness can never be the way to healing.

Pretending that the one who has so wickedly used you is “better now” so he shouldn’t have to pay for his crimes can never make your pain go away.

There is only one way to heal from the grievous, hard and terrible wounds that you have: the hard way. Only with the truth – always, steadfastly, painfully. Tell the truth. Acknowledge what has happened. Acknowledge the hurt and the grief and the pain and the anger. Acknowledge and confess that this happened and it HURTS and you didn’t deserve to be treated this way.

Acknowledge that you were a child and should have been protected and honored and nourished.

It won’t go away if you bury it. It won’t be healed if it never sees the light of day.

Certainly pray that God will forgive the one who hurt you.

Certainly let go of bitterness and wrath and anger and malice.

But you can’t do any of those good things by pretending that horrible wickedness wasn’t so horrible after all.

That you somehow deserved it;

That he was misguided, made mistakes, is really a good person who just has some flaws.

NO NO NO NO NO NO NO

He isn’t a good person with flaws. He is a child of the devil. Perhaps the truth of that will someday set him free – but he won’t ever get there by pretending something that isn’t true.

It wasn’t your fault in any way. Yes, I know that you also are a sinner. But what happened wasn’t your fault.

And you can’t ever let go of your anger and be a peace until you acknowledge the truth.

HE did this. It was wicked and evil, deserving civil punishment AND eternal punishment.

Perhaps God will use civil punishment to wake this man up and drive him to Christ for forgiveness. But that isn’t your job.

Your job is only to tell the truth – tell it to yourself; tell it to God; tell it to the judge; tell it to the jury. It will be the hardest thing that you have ever had to do. But if you think that this is hard, the alternative is so much harder: you can carry it with you your whole life. You can hide it from time to time, but it will always be there. It’s a burden you were never intended to carry.

I am so sorry that you were given this advice. I am so sorry that those who profess to know the love of Christ have conveniently forgotten that it is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

I am so sorry that people who were uncomfortable talking about this forgot that you were the one who had to live through it.

I am so sorry that the church, once again, buried it’s head in the sand and tried to pretend that everyone was just nice, and good and kind and loving.

I am so sorry that we confess total depravity but have no idea what it means, except that it must apply to “other people”, not one of ours, of course.

And I am sorry that you listened to them. This is a hard road and my heart goes out to you. How can you ever “let this go” when it was so monstrous and evil and ugly?

The only way is to acknowledge and confess what it was, like David did:

Many a time have they afflicted me from my youth, may Israel now say:

 2 Many a time have they afflicted me from my youth: yet they have not prevailed against me.

 3 The plowers plowed upon my back: they made long their furrows.

 4 The LORD is righteous: he hath cut asunder the cords of the wicked. (Psa 129:1-4 KJV)

The wicked who afflict the helpless have them tied up with cords that only the Lord can break. And the Lord breaks those cords because He is righteous.

But first we must acknowledge the truth.It happened. It happened many times; It was affliction. It hurt. I was helpless. But they didn’t prevail against me!

It is not an easy road to healing, but it is the only one that there is.There is no easier path. It won’t come by pretending something that isn’t true.

Whatever road God calls you to take, remember that the day will come when all tears will be wiped away. But part of this wiping away of tears is when the wicked are cast into the lake of fire.

Perhaps those who afflicted you will be saved by the blood of Christ. Pray for that. It is truly terrible to fall into the hands of the living God. But they will never come to repentance if they are never called to account for the crimes they have committed.

When Christ comes again, those who were so powerful and so haughty and so rich and untouchable will be crying out to the hills to fall on them, to hide them from the wrath of the lamb.How can a wicked man ever understand the love of the lamb, when he refuses to acknowledge the wrath of the lamb?

How can the church be faithful in its witness of the gospel if it refuses to be faithful to the hard doctrines of hell and wrath and judgment?

What did Jesus come to save us from if even the rapist of a child is just a “nice person who made some mistakes? – or whatever tripe we spin to pretend that sin is something that it isn’t?

Ideas have consequences. We say that Jesus loves the sinner but hates the sin, ignoring all of the scripture that teaches that Jesus HATES the wicked. And now we have the results.

Jesus just loves this child rapist to pieces, doesn’t he? Shouldn’t you just let it go, like Jesus did?

And we have no justice, and ultimately, no gospel.

I think it is time we stopped, don’t you?

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Whom Will You Serve?

8 Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them;
9 And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.
10 Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.
(Matt. 4:8-10)

When Jesus was born, the angels told Mary that God would give Him the kingdom of His father David.  Jesus came to do the will of His Father in Heaven and He knew that this will would lead Him to the cross.  Only by suffering the death of the cross would He inherit the kingdom through the resurrection from the dead.

The kingdoms of the world had been given into the hand of Satan as a just punishment for sin.  When Adam fell, mankind became slaves of sin and misery and under the bondage of the devil.

If Jesus was to “plunder the kingdom of Satan”, Satan must first be bound (Matt. 12:29-30).  In order for Satan’s kingdom to be plundered, Jesus must deal with sin.  The only way to deal with sin was to go to the cross and suffer the pangs and torments of hell in the place of His people.

But when Jesus was in the wilderness, Satan offered Him another way.  “I will concede every kingdom to you.  You can usher in peace, prosperity, long life and endless joy – just fall down and worship me, and all this will be yours. No cross.  No wrathful God to deal with.  Just me.”

And so it always is.  He offered the same thing to Adam.  He offers the same thing to every believer.  “Just fall down, serve me, and I will give you your heart’s desire.”

“Are you lonely?  Just one night with that girl in the bar”.

“That man that you have your eyes on can make all of your dreams come true.  God is not good.  He won’t bless you.  Reach out.  Serve me.  Everything will be better.”

“Perhaps if you just work a bit harder; submit a bit more; make sure dinner is on time – then you can have the home of your dreams.  Your husband is angry and stressed.  Make things easier on him and you can have all you want.  Serve a little harder.  Try a little more.  Work a little longer.”

And how often do we forget that God alone is the fountain of all good.

17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. (Jam 1:17 KJV)

We reach out to people or to things or to ideas in order to ease the pain of a cursed world, and forget that Jesus already paid it all.  He alone can salve this broken and contrite heart.  He alone can take away the curse.

But the devil and his children will always offer another way.  “Just serve me a bit better, a bit more; just work harder, and you can have whatever you dream of.”

But whatever you do, and whatever you say, and however hard you work, you will never attain it.  It’s a lie.  It’s a lie because the devil is a murderer and a liar and his children follow in his footsteps.

They can’t give you eternal life.  They can’t give you peace.  They can’t even give you food and drink.  They can never ease the loneliness and the heartache of living in a sinful world.  But they can enslave you to a life of “work harder; do better; submit more; don’t make me mad – you know how my temper is!”

If this sounds like your life,  please remember what Jesus said to the tempter.  “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.”

Wow.  Astounding words! He will do good to all men.  He will willingly wash feet.  He will take the lowest form and die the death of a criminal.  He will do good deeds of love and mercy and truth.  He will become servant to all and call us to do the same thing.

But He will never, ever worship anything or anyone other than the One True God who has revealed Himself in His word.

As redeemed men and women, we have the glorious calling of reflecting Christ’s glory – of being transformed into His glorious image.  We have the Holy Spirit.  God calls us the apple of His eye!

When the devil and his children give this promise, “I will give you what you want if you will only serve me,” remember where it comes from.  That which comes from God is pure and peaceable, brings joy and reconciliation, and gladdens the heart.  the promise of the devil brings shame and guilt and bondage.  There are always strings attached to every promise of an evil man.

You shall worship the Lord Your God, and Him alone shall you serve.

But there’s more.  Jesus commanded Satan to depart.  Satan and his children will never settle for anything less than worship. They will continue to hound, berate, revile and reproach you until you are finally grovelling at their feet – but even then, they will not be satisfied.

There is only one thing to do with this:  Cast him out.  Get out!  I will worship God alone.

I will serve God in my marriage by seeking my spouse’s good; by taking the lower place and joyfully doing what God has called me to.  I will joyfully give up my rights and even my life if that is what God calls me to.  But I will never, ever, worship and serve the creature.  I will worship and serve God alone and expect good only from His hand.  If my marriage has been irretrievably broken by the wicked actions of my spouse, I will pursue divorce; but I will no longer submit to the demands of the wicked one to bow and serve and worship the creature rather than the Creator.

I will not grovel at the feet of a scoffer and reviler hoping for some crumbs of peace to fall.

I will not serve a son of Belial in the desperate hope for a smile from the sneering face.

I will not seek from the creature what only the Creator can give.  I will seek reconciliation; I will seek forgiveness; I will seek peace, but if they are for war, I will withdraw and plead my case to the Almighty.  But I will never worship the creature.

Only the Creator can give me peace.  It will never come from the lies of the devil.  Jesus has freed me from the bondage of sin and misery.  He has made me an heir to eternal life!

I can’t earn it.  I can’t work harder and get it.  It’s the devil that tells me to work more, be better, grovel more, abuse my body more.  Jesus’ love is sanctifying, cleansing, unearned, complete and infinite.

Husbands, if you are withholding love and tenderness and honor from your wife until she works harder, submits more and learns her place, ask yourself who you most resemble.  Is this the picture of Christ, who loved the church and gave Himself for her?  Or is it the picture of Satan who said, “All this I will give you, if you only fall down and worship me.”

Perhaps this is why Paul said that a reviler (one who uses abusive and vicious speech to belittle and intimidate others) will never inherit the kingdom of heaven (I Cor. 6:9).  Nothing can be further from the beauty and love of Jesus than a reviler.  A reviler says, “Worship me, and I will give you rest.”  But the reviler is the one causing the unrest!  So not only is he a reviler, he is also an extortioner.  How can he inherit the kingdom of heaven unless he repents and becomes something else?

But Jesus actually gives rest.  He takes away sin and shame, doesn’t use it to control and manipulate.  He covers our ugliness and bitterness with His perfect righteousness.  He gives us a new heart and a new spirit so that we can become more and more like him.

So we can say with confidence, “I will do good to all whom God has placed in my path.  But I will worship and serve God alone.”

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God’s grace an excuse for cruelty??

A pastor’s primary function is to preach and teach God’s word to the sheep that Jesus has placed in his care.  In order to do this effectively, he must be a lover of language. He must become a master of communication.  Not, indeed, the language of the world wielded by the manipulators of rhetoric, but as a steward of the treasure that God has placed in his care.  The ungodly man uses language to manipulate people, to get people to act in a way that he wishes them to act.  As Christians, however, we must learn how to use language in order to convey truth clearly and effectively.  But unfortunately, pastors frequently become manipulators of people instead of preachers of truth.

To be a God-pleasing preacher of truth, a pastor must understand two things:

First, he must understand what God teaches in His word.  Good seminaries drill this into the heads of their students with original language classes, systematics, apologetics, Old and New Testament survey classes, exegesis classes, and other offerings.

But unfortunately this is not enough.  A man may be an expert in the meaning and theology of the scripture and be completely unable to communicate that effectively, for he has not yet understood the English language.  Through poor choices of words, truth is skewered and equity is fallen in the streets.

So the second thing that a pastor must understand in order to communicate God’s word effectively is how the English language works and how to put the truth of God’s word into accurate language to be understood clearly by his audience.  The goal in communicating truth is to speak in such a way that the ideas in the speaker’s head are transferred to the mind of the hearer with as little loss as possible.  We may think that we are communicating one thing, when in fact our hearers hear something else entirely.  If pastors do not understand this, their work will be ineffective at best and outright harmful to the soul at worst.

A word in any language may have different nuances or even different meanings altogether depending upon the context of the word.

Take the word “love”.  I saw a car with two bumper stickers.  One said, “I love my Golden Retriever.” The other said, “I love Jesus.”    Same car; same bumper.

What the owner of the car was attempting to communicate was lost to me.  Two abstract thoughts, one referring to the affection that a man feels for his dog, and the other a religious affection for our Lord and Savior, were both denotated by the same word: “love”.  Two thoughts.  One word.

At the very least, I would hope that in the mind of the car owner these were two separate ideas.  But perhaps he meant that his love for his dog was exactly identical (univocal) to the love that he has for Jesus, in which case we would have to charge him with polytheism, in the same way that you would charge a man with bestiality for loving his dog and loving his wife univocally.

For those who may think that I am splitting hairs, or using ridiculous examples, I would like to remind you that we are currently inundated with predators and pedophiles who use the same techniques to cover their horrendous and vile actions.  I take great offence at the North American Man/Boy Love
Association for using the word “love” to describe their filthy lusts, hoping that our refusal to analyze language will give them a pass.  But do not be deceived.  What they mean by “love” and what I mean by “love” are two different things entirely.

A recent blog, A Christian Wife’s Marriage Catechism  commits a similar error, with similar deadly consequences for the truth of the Gospel.

You can find some excellent refutations here.

I have much to say.  But I will limit my comments to only one question of this catechism:

Q11.    How good a husband is my husband to me?

A11.    Much better than I deserve, and therefore I will thank God for him every day.

Here the writer makes a deadly error.  Here we see the error of using a word with several different meanings as if it only had one meaning.  Let me illustrate:

What he is saying in effect is this:  Because I deserve eternal punishment in hell for my sins, it follows that I deserve to take whatever injustice and abuse that my husband wishes to dish out to me.

But does this follow, or is it possible that the English word “deserve” has different meanings depending on the context?

In Shakespeare’s great tragedy Hamlet, Hamlet the Prince asks Polonius to take the newly arrived actors to their accommodations and make sure they had what they needed for their comfort.  Polonius replied, “I will treat them according to their desert.”

Hamlet replied, “God’s bodkin, man, much better!  Treat every man according to his desert and who shall ‘scape whipping?”

Hamlet has made the same error.  Polonius was merely speaking of giving them the accommodations and amenities that their station and their labors warranted.  Hamlet then replied, swearing by the bodkin, or dagger, of God, referring to their standing as sinners before the Throne of God. But the desert of the actors at the hands of Polonius and the desert of the actors at the hands of God are two different things!

Are we to believe that since no one has ever earned any favor from God whatsoever, but has received every good thing by grace alone that it would therefore follow that my boss can withhold my paycheck from me, since I deserve far worse?

If the blogger in question would be consistent with his univocal use of the word “deserve”, we would expect the following exchange:  “My employer has robbed me of my wages.  What should I do?”

Answer, “Rejoice that you have received far more than you deserve and continue to work for him with a meek and quiet spirit.  Don’t make a fuss.”

Take it one step further:  “My family was slaughtered by a wicked man.”

Answer: “It was better than they deserved.  Let it go, and don’t make a fuss.  No need to involve the police.”

It is indeed true that God’s mercy can never be earned – or deserved.  We increase our guilt daily before God.  We are fallen sinners.  Unless we are born again, we deserve nothing but eternal wrath and damnation.  This is taught clearly throughout Scripture.

(Eph 2:8-9 KJV)  8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:  9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.

But this is speaking of our standing before the Judgment Throne of God.  It does not follow that we therefore deserve to be treated with cruelty, hatred and dishonor by wicked men.

If the grace of God can be used to justify injustice and cruelty, then words no longer have any meaning.

From the hand of God we always and continually receive far more that we can ever merit or “deserve”, for even the best works in this life are all polluted by sin.

Does it then follow that we do not deserve kindness, love, respect and honor from our fellow man?  Not according to the Bible.

Consider the following passage:

(Rom 13:7-8 KJV)  7 Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour. 8 Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.

God teaches here that there are those who deserve our taxes, our honor, and our tribute.  But then in verse 8, he carries the argument further:  We owe all men love.  Not the love of the world, but love defined by the law of God.

For a husband, we owe our wives the same love with which Christ loved his church.  Does she earn it?  Of course not.  But does she deserve it?  She certainly does.

In another place, Paul teaches that husbands and wives are both owed benevolence – they deserve it because they are husband and wife:

1 Corinthians 7:3 Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband.

If it were not possible to treat our wives worse than they deserve, as this blog implies, then it would not be possible to defraud your wife, and Paul’s command would make no sense (1 Cor. 7:5).  Paul’s argument depends upon the Biblical truth that a husband owes his wife benevolence (favor, good-will, sexual intimacy).  To put it passively, she deserves it because she is his wife.  To withhold those things is to defraud her – or to treat her less than she deserves – directly contrary to the statement made by this blogger.

To the beloved daughters of God, do not allow your husband to treat you less than you deserve as his wife.  On the same token, do not treat your husband less than he deserves as your husband.  God requires equity in our dealings, not fuzzy appeals to misunderstood grace.

Equity means that we treat others fairly, or as they deserve.  Fulfill those obligations and remember that you have a right to expect the same in all of your relationships.  This is what a covenant of marriage is.  We are in a covenant and there are covenant obligations.  A husband owes his wife the fulfillment of his vows, and she deserves that fulfillment, because she is his wife.

If I make a contract, the other party deserves for me to fulfill my end.  Why is marriage any different?

Let us exegete scripture correctly, lest we become prey for the devil, and expose ourselves to the abuses of wicked men.

To affirm the covenant of marriage is to affirm the obligations of that covenant.  The husband deserves for the wife to fulfill her vow, and the wife deserves for the husband to fulfill his vow.  Neither party deserves to be treated with abuse, cruelty, violence and hatred.

The Bible also teaches that a husband or a wife can behave in such a monstrous way that they ultimately forfeit the benefits of this covenant, but that is another post for another time.

I have much more to say, but I have wearied the reader enough for the day.

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