Category Archives: Gospel

Why did Lazarus die?

Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha.
  2 It was that Mary who anointed the Lord with fragrant oil and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.
  3 Therefore the sisters sent to Him, saying, “Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.”
  4 When Jesus heard that, He said, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”
  5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.
  6 So, when He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was. (Jn. 11:1-6)

As I was reading this over my coffee this morning, it struck me. (Funny how that works – I’ve read this countless times, and I didn’t exactly miss it before, but it didn’t strike me like it did today).

Because Jesus loved Lazarus and Mary and Martha;

And because he heard that Lazarus was sick…he waited two more days.

Think about that. Lazarus is dying. Jesus can heal him. But instead, Jesus delays. Lazarus dies. And he loved them.

This is astounding. Imagine what Mary and Martha were going through. For days and days they wait for Jesus to show up. Jesus delays. He dawdles. He stays two more days. Lazarus gets sicker.

Finally Lazarus dies. Mary’s heart breaks. Martha’s heart breaks. Where was Jesus? Why didn’t he come? Does he not care?

(If you have never asked those questions, have you really lived on this earth? How often do we wonder the same thing. How much more? How much longer? Why won’t he stop this? Why won’t he heal?)

But at the beginning of it all, Jesus tells them why. “That the Son of God might be glorified through it.”

There is something about Jesus that hadn’t been revealed yet. He hadn’t been “glorified”, that is, he hadn’t been seen for who he truly was – the Resurrection and the Life.

They all thought that not even Jesus could do anything about death. Lazarus is dead. It’s over.

And then Jesus says, “Lazarus, come forth!”

When God allows the pain to take hold; when God allows yet another thing to strike a blow; when God allows the devil to ravish and devour; when God allows us to go as low as we think we can – and then he takes us even lower –

It isn’t because he hates us. It isn’t because he hasn’t forgotten us. It isn’t because he is negligent or evil.

It is because we close our eyes and think we can solve all of our own problems. We can fix this, if we do just one more thing.

But when death occurs, when we reach that point where there is NO fixing it, NO coming back, NO solution – THAT is when we begin to see Jesus for who he is.

Not even death can stop the power of the Son of God.

Not great sin, not great despair, not great pain or great illness – not even death.

We have a hard time seeing it until we do. And that is worth everything.

If the Son of God can be revealed in our suffering and weakness, our pain and sorrow, then it is worth it all. No one falls through the cracks. He never fails.

The day will come when he will call you out of this tomb as well. And there will be no more tears and no more curse.

When we’ve seen the tears and the curse and know what it is to suffer great loss, then we are the first to shout for joy when victory comes.

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Filed under Encouragement, Gospel, Hope

Perspective

I wonder…

Some days are rougher than other days. Some days I don’t know if I can handle one more thing. I then God gives me one more thing. And another.

I asked my wife if maybe we live on an old nuclear testing site, or a sacred burial ground. If I listed every health issue that my family and I have gone through, you probably wouldn’t believe me. Most people don’t. Most of what I do in Emergency Rooms is try to convince the doctor that, yes, we really do have these rare disorders. It was much, much harder to do before everything was computerized. Now if we can only get them to look at charts….but I digress.

And I wonder. Why yet another thing? Why do I spend hours at the doctor’s? It seems to me that there is  so much more I could be doing. I have people to visit, books to read, sermons to prepare, writing to do, communities to be involved in…

But I am sitting in another doctor’s office.

As a disclaimer, I don’t at all begrudge my family for this. I love sitting with my wife and daughter when yet another thing strikes. I wouldn’t be anywhere else. I know that if I am not there to advocate for them, they would be ignored or not believed.

A broken arm or a nail in the head is believable. You can see it. Doctors are good at things like that. We, my family,  never get those. Our are the diseases that they tell you about in medical school. One doctor said that he spent 6 hours in a seminar on it, and then they said, “But you won’t ever find anyone with that, so don’t worry about it.” But I digress.

My father used to tell me that my business is always with God. And that is where I wonder. I have questions and I want answers and I wonder.

I don’t resent my family. They suffer more that I do, and my heart goes right out to them and I want to just take all of this away. But I can’t. I see other people running and swimming, camping and biking. I see other people traveling and golfing and hiking. And I think those days are over for us. (This isn’t about fitness and essential oils, by the way…)

But why does God continue to inflict? Why is it one massive thing right after another?

So I cry out to him. I beg him for mercy. I want answers. But it seems as if he is so silent.

And then I remember that he isn’t silent. He answers the curse that is on the world with the cross of Jesus. God became flesh and took all of this on Himself. He laid it on his only-begotten son (these two sentences do not contradict. They resolve in the mystery of the Trinity. “The word was with God and the word was God”).

There is a curse on the world. By man, death entered and reigned over all. But by Man came the resurrection from the dead. United with Christ in resurrection doesn’t come without union with his sufferings. We are only just tasting that in our family.

Why? I don’t know. I know that we all are one aneurism away from the grave.

We are one virus away from death. One aortic rupture. One spontaneous colon rupture (which I’ve had, by the way – but God spared my life).

And then I remember that this world isn’t our home. This world is “under the sun”, what our forefather called “the valley of tears.”

So I stop. I look up. I remember.

(My daughter lost her ability to smell. She said, “That’s OK, Daddy. I’ll smell things in heaven…”).

I try to remember that but my heart hurts for her.

I try to remember that we will run and hike and stand and walk and sing in the new heaven and the new earth; I try to remember that I will run hand in hand with my wife through the hills in the new earth when our bodies are made new, and that gives me peace for another day.

And I try to remember that God’s grace is not promised to be sufficient today for everything he will bring on me tomorrow, but it is promised to be sufficient for whatever trial he brings me at the time.

My father told me once that worrying is useless. He said that everything he ever worried about never came about. I agree that worrying is useless. But it is a bit different for me. Everything I have ever worried about actually did happen, and worse. But worrying is useless because of the sufficiency of God’s grace and the fact that I am a creature, and do not hold the world in the palm of my hand.

I am still anxious though. I still fear. I still wonder. I still want answers.

And He responds as he always has, “My grace is sufficient for you.” And it is.

I used to think that this meant that he won’t give me more than I can handle. But that isn’t true at all. I have had more than I can handle over and over and over again.

And when I get another blow that I can’t handle, I want an answer. I cry out. I have no idea how to take a step or what step I should take or if this is the right way to go, or if I should just stay, or if I go the the ER again knowing that they most likely won’t be able to help or if I should not go and perhaps watch a loved one decline until it is too late and I could have fixed it but I trusted the wrong guy and what do I do now and I just don’t know………..

And then I stop. Breathe. I try to understand that it is actually too much. My life is not held in my hands. My wife’s life is not held in my hands. My daughter’s life is not held in my hands.

We are all one aneurism away from death, and that won’t change by any decision I make or fail to make. All I can do is the best that I can, which usually isn’t all that great.

There is so much I don’t know. And far more weeping ahead. I know that ahead there will be more suffering and more death and more pain and many, many more questions.

So here is what I’ll try to do.

  • I’ll try not to get involved in disputes that aren’t mine. I have too much already, and God hasn’t promised me grace to get involved in other people’s disputes.
  • I’ll try to remember that today has its own worries. The amount of emotional energy I have been given is limited. It is enough for my day today, my circle today, my family today, my congregation today. God will replenish that for tomorrow, for his grace is sufficient for me.
  • I’ll try to remember that “I will smell things in heaven.”
  • I’ll try to remember that there is not one person who cried out to God for mercy who did not receive mercy.
  • I’ll try to remember that God still sends rainbows.
  • I’ll try to remember that I’m human, and when it is all too much for me, that is OK. I wasn’t made to be a god. I was made to rest in the arms of another.
  • I will try to remember that the day will come when I will again say goodbye to someone I love and it will wrench my heart again.

And then I will breathe. I will eat some pie – but sugar free, my body still won’t cooperate with what I want to eat. But I will have great pie in heaven.

I will listen to some music and maybe find something new.

And I will continue to cry out, and continue to wonder, and continue to want answers.

But I will try to remember that God hasn’t promised me to answer all my questions. He has promised much tribulation, but after that we inherit the kingdom.

Until then,

Of making many books there is no end, and much study is wearisome to the flesh.
  13 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, For this is man’s all.
  (Eccl. 12:12-13)

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Filed under Gospel, Grief, Hope

Whoever loves their life…

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

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

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

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

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

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

So the confrontation will come.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Filed under Gospel, growth, sanctification

Jesus touched the leper

Do you get that?

Does that sink into your soul?

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

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

And Jesus touched them.

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

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

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

Think about that. Jesus touched the leper.

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

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

JESUS TOUCHED THE LEPER.

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus touched the leper.

Jesus touched the leper.

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

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

Because Jesus touches you as well.

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Filed under Gospel, Hope

Why so quick to take the blame?

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

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

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

But I know nothing about Anna.

But the blog I linked above got me thinking.

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

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

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

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

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

Something to think about, isn’t it?

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

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

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

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

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

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

What happens when your life falls apart?

What happens when your husband is arrested for child pornography?

What happens when your colon ruptures?

What happens when your child rebels?

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

What happens when your spouse commits adultery?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Filed under Gospel, Patriarchy

“Give me a drink”–a study in shame

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It is a horrible way to live.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She says, “I have no husband.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“The father is seeking such to worship him.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The father is seeking us.

How astounding is that??

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Filed under Gospel, shame

Purity Culture and Christ

According to the Scripture, purity comes by faith alone. We are clothed in Christ’s righteousness – the white robe of His purity. To seek purity anywhere else is idolatry and a denial of Christ.

(2Co 11:2-4)  2 For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.
  3 But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.
  4 For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted– you may well put up with it!

When Paul said that he labors to present the church a “chaste virgin” to Christ, he is referring to salvation by faith alone. A “chaste virgin” is one who rejects all other gods and rests in Christ’s righteousness alone.

“Another Jesus” is another gospel. Another gospel teaches that some or all of our purity, our righteousness, our holiness, comes from another source – ourselves, our will power, our “cooperation with grace” or our good works.

To put this together, when we seek our holiness in anything other than the perfect, completed work of Christ, we have forsaken Christ, and embraced “another lover.” This is consistent with the prophets:

6 “Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel, And his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts:`I am the First and I am the Last; Besides Me there is no God.
  7 And who can proclaim as I do? Then let him declare it and set it in order for Me, Since I appointed the ancient people. And the things that are coming and shall come, Let them show these to them.
  8 Do not fear, nor be afraid; Have I not told you from that time, and declared it? You are My witnesses. Is there a God besides Me? Indeed there is no other Rock; I know not one.'”
  (Isa. 44:6-8)

The “purity culture” taught a whole generation of boys and girls that their purity is identical to virginity. Purity balls, purity rings, purity dances, and so one – became a means to dads to keep their daughters pure. This was the fruit of Bill Gothard, a false prophet who taught a false Christ.

In their quest for purity, they became impure. In their quest for righteousness, they became unrighteous. They built on another foundation, and chased after another lover. Her name was “virginity”, and it became another Jesus, another Christ, another gospel.

3 For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. (Rom. 10:3)

In a weird ironic twist, in the pursuit of purity through virginity, they “spread their legs for another lover” in the words of Ezekiel. Blunt, but accurate.

And since God’s judgment is always fitting, the purity culture was actually rife with incest, abuse, assault, fornication, adultery, and all of the works of the flesh. Just as the scripture said it would be.

And because sometimes, things are deeply ingrained in us, I need to say this. “Purity culture” and Christian sexual ethics are not at all the same thing. To reject the purity culture is not the same as rejecting the bible’s teaching on sexuality. It is simply rejecting the false Christ it has become.

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Filed under Gospel, sexuality

thoughts on shame

Shame is universal. It isn’t a gender thing. All humans born of Adam are conceived and born in sin. Sin generates shame. Adam and Eve knew that they were naked.

Seeking to cover up that nakedness is also universal. We blame others. We attack ourselves. We sew all sorts of fig leaves and hide in all sorts of bushes to seek to cover our shame.

Shame isn’t an emotion. Shame is the fear that there is a standard to which you don’t measure up.

Sin misdirects our shame. We seek to meet different standards to cover our shame and continually miss the mark.

We cover our shame by destroying what we perceive to be the threat.

We cover our shame by boasting, by our feats of manliness, by works of charity, by taking a gun, by reviling others, by ranting on social media, by storming the capitol, … the examples are as varied as humans are varied…

Covering shame is universal, for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.

Shame can only be covered one way: Come out of the bushes and stand naked before God and wait for him to clothe you (Please read Genesis 3).

We “come out of the bushes” by acknowledging our sin and shame before God without excuse.

We stand naked by acknowledging our sin without excuse, without shifting the blame on how she was dressed, how drunk you were, how someone incited you, how “the woman gave to me, and I did eat…” Standing naked means saying “Lord, have mercy upon me. A sinner.”

Waiting for God to clothe you is to receive the perfect righteousness, satisfaction and holiness of Christ which only comes as a free gift. It is never earned. It is always free. It is given to all who ask for it.

The call of the gospel is “Where are you?” We come out of hiding. We stand naked before God trembling and afraid. And we receive the perfect clothing of the righteousness and satisfaction of Jesus Christ. This is the gospel. There is no other.

Whenever a pastor teaches that shame can be covered in any other way, he has failed to grasp the power of the gospel.

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Compassion

There is a certain kind of person who gets very concerned whenever anyone starts talking too much about God’s compassion. They are always the ones to remind you that Jesus was harsh with people at times.

They seem to forget that the people Jesus was consistently harsh with were those who had a problem with God’s compassion.

I think that the reason certain people get nervous about God’s compassion is that God might be compassionate on the wrong sort of people.

It was the “wrong sort of people” that washed Jesus feet with her tears and anointed him with costly ointment.

There are those who view God the way the older brother viewed God – he worked hard for God every day and God never gave him anything. The older brother was angry because the younger brother got to “go out and have fun” and still got the fatted calf.

The older brother never understood sin. So he never understood God’s compassion. God’s compassion meant that someone somewhere is getting away with something – and we have to put a stop to it.

“God’s compassion will lead to chaos. Didn’t you know that? How will society survive if God is compassionate on the wrong sorts of people.

(Jesus never whipped people. He used the whip to drive out the animals.)

These same sort of people get nervous when you talk about empathy. One might find themselves being empathetic with the wrong sorts of people. We can’t have that.

As a disclaimer, I am the wrong sort of person. But Jesus found me. He spoke kindly to me. He drew me into his arms with whispers of love.

Jesus loves me, this I know. For the bible tells me so.

It is not possible to be “too unbalanced” with God’s compassion. It is far greater, far broader, far more extensive, far higher, far deeper than any of us can possibly imagine.

If you are the wrong sort of person, you are just the one that the Father is seeking. Come to Jesus and find rest.

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Achan and the Gospel

When Joshua conquered Jericho, God gave Israel specific instructions concerning the goods there. Everything was to be killed, burned or put into the treasury of the temple.

The story of what happened next is disturbing. The next city to be conquered was Ai. It was a far smaller and less powerful city, and the strategy was just to send a few of the army there. But they were soundly beaten, which caused Joshua and all Israel shock and great sorrow. What happened? Why had God forsaken them? Why did the army flee? Had God forgotten about them? What about the rest of the conquest that they were promised?

Joshua fell on his knees and asked the Lord what had happened.

Someone took gold and silver and clothing from Jericho and kept it for themselves against God’s command. Because of this disobedience, all Israel was troubled and God gave them into the hands of their enemies. God pointed out the criminal and Achan was stoned with his whole family in the valley of Achor.

Read the account. It is disturbing. Joshua 7.

This morning, I received a question about the event. The person asking the question was taught that if a parent had sin in their lives that God would punish the church and their children until they confessed it and turned from it. They were taught that this was the message of Achan. If someone is disobedient, the whole church will suffer, and their children will suffer.

I was greatly disturbed by this and have been thinking about it all day.

This, by the way, is not the gospel. The gospel is NOT “if you sin, God will punish your children.” And didn’t Jesus say that all of scripture taught of him?

We do learn of the holiness of God in this account. He is not someone to trifle with. He cannot bless disobedience. He cannot dwell with sin. He does indeed visit the iniquity of the fathers unto the children to the third and fourth generation (Exodus 20:5) and his character does not change.

How can any of us escape? How are any of our children blessed? How can anything unclean stand in his sight, and who of us are clean enough?

The wrath of God and the horrors of sin are the backdrop of the gospel, but they are not themselves the gospel. “Do this and live” is not the good news, for who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean?

The stoning of Achan is disturbing, for God does not change.

But centuries later, the prophet Hosea saw the gospel from a distance. Israel had been divorced by God – they were no longer his people. But Hosea was shown a glimpse of the gospel.

14 “Therefore, behold, I will allure her, Bring her into the wilderness, And speak kindly to her.
15 “Then I will give her her vineyards from there, And the valley of Achor as a door of hope. And she will sing there as in the days of her youth, As in the day when she came up from the land of Egypt.
(Hosea 2:14-15).

There will be a new exodus and a new deliverance. God’s bride will be gathered from every land and every nation. The gentiles will be gathered in as well. And the valley of Achor will be a door of hope.

What does it mean? How can this scene of the trouble that came on Israel be a door of hope for God’s bride?

Because Achan pointed to Christ. Achor pointed to Calvary. Christ was taken outside the camp and bore all of our uncleanness. Christ was cut off from the land of the living, bearing our curse. Achan’s sin troubled all Israel, and when he was cut off by stoning, the curse was taken away and they went on to victory. But that victory was short-lived, because all Israel were descended from Adam. All of them were unfaithful, just as all of us are unfaithful. The conquest was incomplete. The book of Joshua concludes with the book of Judges. What hope is there for any of us?

All of us have sinned and come short of God’s glory. All of us are unclean. How can Achan be stoned and take the curse away from us when every single one of us is Achan?

Only in Christ. In Christ, true God and true man, the curse that lay upon each one of us is taken away.

Isaiah puts it so clearly.

4 Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted.
5 But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed.
6 All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him.
7 He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He did not open His mouth; Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, So He did not open His mouth.
8 By oppression and judgment He was taken away; And as for His generation, who considered That He was cut off out of the land of the living, For the transgression of my people to whom the stroke was due? (Isa. 53:4-8)

That is the gospel. The curse is on us because all of us have hoarded our stolen things. All of us have trusted in our own resources rather than trusting in the living God. If God marked iniquity, who should stand?

But God doesn’t send US outside the camp to bear our iniquities. He laid them upon Jesus Christ. Or you could say that he took them upon himself. Because of the mystery of the Trinity, both are correct. God laid them on Christ. God took them on himself.

The story of Achan is not “Behave or God will curse your children”. It is “come to Jesus, who bore our iniquities in his body on the cross.”

Teach your children about Jesus when you teach them about Achan.

The valley of Achor becomes a door of hope at Calvary.

Praise God!

On another note, if your church has never taught this, then it is not teaching the gospel. If you are being taught that God’s blessing comes on you when you obey and when you disobey you will earn God’s curse, then you are not being taught the gospel. Flee those churches. It is what God calls a synagogue of Satan. Go to where the gospel is proclaimed.

There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

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