Category Archives: Marriage

Born of the flesh…

Before Christ came into the world, God promised that the seed of the woman, which was to come through Abraham, Judah, David, and so on – would redeem the world.

For this reason, the genealogies were so, so important and the scripture is full of them. God would fulfil his promise, and the genealogies were given to trace God’s working through history as he brings forth the promised seed.

Until Christ. After Christ, there are no more genealogies.

What the Jews missed is the same thing that the modern patriarchalists miss – salvation isn’t in the family after the flesh. All that we inherit from the flesh is the corruption of Adam. All that we inherited from our fathers is the corruption of Adam.

Jesus corrected this way of thinking when he said to Nicodemus, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh…you must be born again.”

Nicodemus, like every good Pharisee, looked for salvation in the genealogy, rather than in the promised seed. But our earthly families mean nothing if we are not born again. Not even Abraham’s physical seed would inherit anything if they were not engrafted into Christ (Romans 11)

This is why Jesus said that unless we hate our fathers and our mothers and our earthly families, and our own lives we cannot see the kingdom of God.

It is true that many of us “inherited” the covenant of grace by the teaching of godly fathers, but this did not come through the flesh, but through the promise of the Spirit (Romans 9) – but that is another story.

As Christians, on the one hand we appreciate and strive for strong, godly families. But too often, we look for salvation there rather than in the seed. We repeat the same error as the Pharisees of old. We are not saved because of our physical descent. That which is born of the flesh is flesh. God calls his people from every family – the traditional one, the untraditional one. Single mothers, single fathers, divorced parents – to show us that he will have mercy on whom he will have mercy.

When the modern patriarchalists speak of the father as the priest of the home, they deliberately forget that fathers have not been priests since the book of Exodus. The priesthood was given to Aaron and his sons and from that point, no father EVER sacrificed for his family in a manner acceptable to God. God, by the process of revelation, pointed to only ONE priest, and only one acceptable sacrifice – Jesus Christ.

Our whole salvation consists of this: we are taken OUT of our families according to the flesh and engrafted into Christ’s “family tree” by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 3-4) and thus we are children of Abraham.

This is not to deny the 5th commandment. As children, we heed all their good instruction and correction, as the Heidelberg Catechism puts is. And as parents, we are to raise them in the Lord, not according to the flesh. Our boast is not in our family tree, but in Christ alone.

Sometimes we hear “As the family goes, so goes the church. As the church goes, there goes the world. But this is a misunderstanding of scripture. Righteousness will never come by the law, even the good laws. This is simply works righteousness, and we fall for it because who doesn’t want a happy family. But the teaching points us to the law, not to Christ. If the family performs right, the church will perform right and then society will perform right.

This is no different, in effect, then Islam, Mormonism, Judaism, or any other ism.

This is a big topic, but one I’ve been mulling over lately.

It is why Jesus was born of a virgin. Salvation is in the promise, not in the flesh.

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The Banner of Love

I’m preparing for Bible study tonight. God reveals himself to us by his names. His name revealed in Exodus 17 is “Jehovah-nissi” – which means, “Jehovah my banner”.

So I am doing a study on the word “banner” and got sidetracked by the Song of Songs.

3 As the apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among the sons. I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste.
4 He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love. (Cant. 2:3-4)

In the history of the church, it has been noticed that there is a parallel between God’s love for his bride and a man’s love for his bride. This parallel is seen in the Song of Songs. In order to understand it, one first has to understand the ordinary language. This is a bride in love, praising her groom and overwhelmed with his love for her.

She sings, “His banner over me is love.” “Banner” in this instance is a flag. It is used as the flag identifying the tribes as they journeyed through Israel, similar to state flags today. A flag is a rallying point, an identification, a symbol that symbolizes the essence of the social structure.

Think about these words. His banner over me is love. Run it through your brain for a moment. Think about a man and a woman in love. Now think about the basis of a marriage covenant. What flag would you put over your covenant that sums it up completely – Authority and submission? Command and obedience? “Two ships that pass in the night?” “Two separate flags” “The male flag held up by a tired woman?”

Or “love”?

Maybe a quick example. Most frequently in CBMW circles, you hear this advice concerning wives and husbands. “A woman gets her say, but if the man and the woman can’t come to an agreement, then she must submit to what he says.” It sounds like good advice. And I know that I am finite and can’t possibly exhaust every possibility, but I cannot, for the life of me, think of an example of how this would work.

When I ask, I get something like this. “He wants to buy a motorcycle. She thinks it is dangerous and a waste of money. They can’t agree. Eventually, she must submit.”

Hmmmm. I guess I see things differently. If the banner over her is love, that brings to mind another question to the husband. “Why do you hate your wife so much that you are willing to cause her so much unrest and unease over something so trivial as a motorcycle?”

Take another example. “He thinks we must homeschool the children. This causes her great anxiety and she does not believe she can do it. They do not agree. She must submit.”

Really? If the banner over her is love, why doesn’t he love her enough to listen to her concerns? Is she not also a believer led by the Holy Spirit? Do her gifts and abilities matter so little to him? Is his commitment to a principle so important that he is willing to sacrifice his wife on that altar?

Do you see where I am going? It changes the question from authority and submission to one of love.

And a simple reading of the Song of Songs will show that true love of a woman is not the same thing as love for a pet or love for a possession. Love is not the attachment one has to property, but value, honor, respect, attraction, desire, longing. It upholds personhood and dignity, choice and opinion. Love desires communication and connection.

And when we have this straight, we have a tiny glimpse into who God is and what Christ has done for us. He also longs for us as we long for him. His banner over ME is love. And yes, this love changes my nature and my affections so that I more and more die unto sin because I know that my beloved hates it. But that is not the same as “authority/submission”. That dynamic was the dynamic of the Old Covenant, which was broken (Jeremiah 31:31-34).

And so, as the great Song prophesied, the Groom comes for his Bride, and his banner over us is love.

Like marriage, this dynamic changes everything.

How you think of your marriage will affect how you think of Jesus. How you think of Jesus will affect how you think of marriage. They go together.

And the question for both is this: Whom do you truly love? Yourself, or your wife?

Yourself, or Jesus Christ. Is your faith simply a love affair that you are having with your own sense of superiority? Or is it a living faith in a living savior? Do you long for the coming of the bridegroom, or are you more concerned about losing your position and your social status.

It’s something to think about, anyway.

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The Woman and the Vow

Having heard yet again that Numbers 30 teaches that every woman is under a “covenant head” who has absolute authority over every decision she makes, I decided to correct that and draw your attention to the text itself.

Before my meager comments, I would suggest that you read the passage for yourself. I’ll wait.

Now, you may have heard it taught that this means that a woman under her father’s headship until she is married and then that transfers to her husband. You may have heard it said that this teaches that a father can annul a marriage or a credit application or a rental agreement.

You may have heard that it teaches a thing called “covenantal headship”, even though the scripture only speaks of Adam and Christ as covenant heads.

But a simple reading of the passage shows that it teaches no such thing.

First, notice that it is said twice that it refers to young women still at home, or married women. God specifically, by name, excludes widows and divorced or otherwise single women, (verse 9-10; verse 16) assuming that they have enough wisdom and understanding to make their own vows. They are bound to their vows, which shows that God values the voice of a woman far more than most patriarchialists.

Second, this is a passage that has to do with vows. A vow had a specific religious meaning in scripture. To quote from Nelson’s dictionary (or any other bible dictionary you might have),

A vow is “a solemn promise or pledge that binds a person to perform a specified act or behave in a certain manner….All vows were made to God as a promise in expectation of his favor (Gen. 28:20) or in thanksgiving for his blessing (Psalm 119:12-14)…Vowing is joyful worship in faith and love (Psalm 61:4-5, 8)”

In other words, a vow is a specific act of worship. The whole point of Numbers 30 (and you can also look at Eccl. 5:4-6) is that when one makes a vow, one is bound to perform it, for God has no pleasure in fools. This is important to remember. Look again at Numbers 30 verse 2 for the context of what I am about to say.

Scripture gives several examples of these kinds of vows. Jacob took one. Jephthah took a foolish one. Even the Apostle Paul took a vow and traveled to Jerusalem to perform it (Acts 18:18). A vow is a specific act of worship and devotion.

But there is one example of a vow taken by a woman married to a husband that would be very helpful to analyze for this discussion. Hannah took a vow that if the Lord opened her womb, she would dedicate the child to the Lord to serve in the Temple every day of his life (1 Sam. 1). It was a vow of faith by a woman who was a prophet. In her mouth and in her heart, she longed for a redeemer to come out of Zion and she knew somehow that the child that the Lord would give her would lead to that end (See her song in 1 Sam. 2).

This was a vow of worship made by a woman of faith, who was also living with a husband, Elkanah. This would be a direct application of Numbers 30. So let’s look at it from that perspective.

A vow made in the temple before the Lord is a serious thing, and Hannah is bound to perform it. But the vow also involved Elkanah. After all, it was his child as well. Suppose he was furious, and absolutely refused to give his son to the Lord. That would be his right to do so. Vows, after all, were voluntary. If Elkanah was adamantly opposed to the vow, this could cause great trouble to Hannah.

What could she do? She could infuriate, disappoint, frustrate, anger her husband and live with the consequences, or she could go back on her vow and disobey God – which, as we have said, is an offense that God does not take lightly.

It would seem that she would be in a horrible mess.

And this is where Numbers 30 comes in. If the woman is still under her father’s roof, or has a husband, her vow does not just affect her. If the father or husband refuse, she is no longer bound to her vow. God accepts her and loves her and honors her and wants her to be at peace in her home.

It is interesting that God does not forbid women from making vows. He assumes that she has property and goods and strength and the ability to keep the vow. He doesn’t even teach that she should “check with her husband first”.

God cares for the wives and daughters, who are in  his image and also called to have dominion. He honors their voice and their worship; he accepts their sacrifices of praise and he hears and honors their vows. They are called to take that very seriously.

But God also knows that a vow – since it usually involved money, goods, livestock or perhaps even children – also affected the husband or the father. If he was of the possessive sort or simply did not want to give up the goods, she was no longer bound, but free.

For God would have us be free, not in bondage.

On another note, since the Temple worship and the sacrifices and priesthood involved with it all are no longer part of the worship of God, having been abolished by Christ, the vow as practiced by Israel no longer applies. But we can still live in peace and freedom which is what God would have of us.

Never let anyone bring you back under the yoke of bondage, no matter how many letters they have on their name.

And one more thing, it is very beneficial to read the scripture for yourselves and see if it actually says what you have been told it says. Don’t be threatened by credentials. You also are led by the spirit. Search the scriptures, and see if these things be so (Acts 17:11).

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Divorce and Tempting God

Today I am preparing for a Bible Study on the sixth commandment. I am looking at our Heidelberg Catechism, question 105:

105. What does God require in the sixth commandment?

That I do not revile, hate, insult or kill my neighbor either in thought, word, or gesture, much less in deed, whether by myself or by another, but lay aside all desire of revenge; moreover, that I do not harm myself, nor willfully run into any danger. Wherefore also to restrain murder the magistrate is armed with the sword.

I am specifically thinking about that phrase, “nor willfully run into any danger.” The footnote refers us to Matthew 4:7. To understand my point here, I would like to look at the whole context, and then see what Jesus is teaching us.

5 Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple,
6 and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written:`He shall give His angels charge over you,’ and,`In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.'”
7 Jesus said to him, “It is written again,`You shall not tempt the LORD your God.‘”
(Matt. 4:5-7 NKJ – emphasis mine)

Jesus answers the devil’s temptation by referring to scripture. The devil sought to convince Jesus to throw himself down. “Doesn’t the bible say that God will give his angels charge over you? Doesn’t the bible say that God will not allow any harm to come to you? Prove it. Throw yourself down. Be reckless. Put God to the test.”

And Jesus answered “Thou shalt not put the Lord God to the test.” (This is what “tempt the Lord your God” means).

By willfully putting himself in danger, demanding that God protect him, Jesus would be acting sinfully, just like Israel did in the wilderness.

And yet, this is the counsel that thousands and thousands of pastors and counselors give to women and children living in dangerous conditions.

I heard again today of a woman who has lost her Christian friends and her Church because she fled her abusive husband and filed for divorce. He is in prison for his horrible sins towards her and her children. He threatened her. She believed him. She told her counselor. He told her to return to her husband, that it might be necessary to “suffer a season”. But by her “meek and quiet spirit” she will redeem her husband.

The violence is not under question. So many men are in prison for their violence towards their wives and children, but the wives end up driven from the church anyway. They were commanded to put God to the test and refused to do so, and were punished for it.

When you hear this counsel, have the courage to say what Jesus said, “It is written, you shall not tempt the Lord your God.”

Wisdom dictates that a fool returns to his folly as a dog to his vomit. A violent man remains violent. A promiscuous man remains promiscuous. A murderer remains a murderer.

Can God grant new birth and new life? Of course he can. But thou shalt not put him to the test. Can God use suffering for our good? Of course he can, but thou shalt not put him to the test. Can God protect us from evil men? Of course he can. But thou shalt not put him to the test.

Repentance and faith are free gifts given from God’s mercy alone. They don’t come on demand. You must not willfully put yourself into danger and put God to the test.

When you tell someone to put themselves into danger in order to uphold your idolatry of marriage, you are violating the 6th commandment.

God despises murder of every kind. Your life is valuable to him. He is not cruel and is not capricious. He will not have you killed to uphold another man’s desire to build a kingdom for himself.

If you are in danger, please seek help. If you are in a place where you are commanded to put God to the test, resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Such counsel does not come from the Holy One.

Domestic violence hotline: 1-800-799-7233

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As Christ loved the Church…

Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; (Eph 5:25)

Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered. (1Pe 3:7)

There is a growing problem among young men today. Pornography is so available that a large majority of men are not able to love a real woman, even physically. A young woman is simply an object, whose sole purpose of existing is to cater to a man’s whims and moods. A real woman is to be understood and loved, and this is too much to ask for today’s young man.

It is easier to drop out of reality, turn on the screen and love a fantasy, which is simply another word for loving yourself.

This is not love.

Men have become perpetual children, demanding and petulant. A woman is seen as an impersonal collection of various body parts, designed to be used until she has no more to give – and then discarded.

A child demands sex; a man longs for intimacy. A child refuses to give anything; a man gives his heart.

So the streets and the clubs and the bars are filled with children, demanding satisfaction, searching for their next toy to use and destroy.

Some young men seek marriage, but are unwilling to give their heart. They play with a woman’s heart until they “find the right one” and then they inadvertently “fall in love” – Cupid’s next victims. But a victim of Cupid is a victim, not a man. He was not strong enough to choose a wife; he was not strong enough to love the one he chose. He simply allowed the currents of desire to carry him this way and that. He falls in love. He falls out of love. He leaves behind him the wreckage of broken and hurting young women who were naïve enough to believe him when he said, “I love you”.

This also is not love.

The question that I have for you is this: Are you strong enough to love a woman?

Are you strong enough to love your wife as Christ loved the church?

Are you strong enough to live with her with understanding; or do you simply wish to never be inconvenienced, smashing the vessel of her heart on the floor like a cantankerous child?

Are you strong enough to protect her heart? To never do anything that would damage her reputation?

Would you rather die yourself than do the least thing to damage the soul of the one you love?

Are you strong enough to ask forgiveness? Courageous enough to call her lovingly to repentance?

Are you bold enough to reconcile?

Are you strong enough to turn off the television and listen to her?

Do you understand her fears, her desires, her longings? Do you have the courage to hear her?

Do you have the courage to open up your heart to her?

Do you have the courage to talk to her about your fears, your desires and your longings?

Do you have the courage to admit that it is not good for you to be alone?

A child desires a mother. A man seeks a wife.

A mother is a tremendous blessing for a child. She nurtures, feeds, cleans, bathes and provides for the child’s every need.

But a mother is not a wife.

Are you strong enough to leave your mother and your father and cleave to your wife?

It is a great calling – but most are not strong enough, courageous enough or man enough to take a wife.

It is easier to turn on the computer and fantasize about pixels of ink, rather than love a woman, so most choose the fantasy.

They do not know that it is for their life.

But a woman desires a man.

A man is strong enough to give himself for his wife. He demands nothing; gives everything.

He is strong enough to make her place in his heart safe; he is strong enough to win her heart and trustworthy enough to keep it.

He is courageous enough to hear the question “What are you thinking?” and actually understand it and answer it.

He is courageous enough to hold her in his arms and wipe away her tears.

He is strong enough to see when she is at her end, and cook a meal, do the dishes, watch the kids, clean the house and still have enough left to hold her and pray for her and know the right things to say.

He is strong enough to understand her, without resentment, bitterness, impatience or rage. If he is a man, the understanding will come in time.

He is strong enough to forsake all others and cleave unto his wife.

He doesn’t whine and complain when there is dust on the windowsill or dinner is late – these are the actions of a child, not a man.

He has nothing to prove; he will not hide behind a façade of bluster and words; he never has to be the “man of the house” nor the “king of the castle”.

He is strong enough to take the lowest place; be the servant of all; wash the dirty feet himself.

For he is strong enough to know that being a leader doesn’t mean being the boss.

A child tells everyone what to do. A man leads the way by being the servant of all.

A man is strong enough to set his wife as a seal upon his heart, as a seal upon his arm:

For a man knows that love is strong as death; jealousy is cruel as the grave: the coals thereof are coals of fire, which hath a most vehement flame. (Sol 8:6)

A man is strong enough to keep the flame going; bold enough to never play with a woman’s heart; courageous enough to never use a woman as a toy to be discarded at whim.

A man is one who trusts the Lord with his whole heart. He therefore does not seek proof of his manhood on the earth, for it is safe with his Lord.

The man who trusts the Lord is ready for a wife; for a man who trusts the Lord has nothing to prove to anyone.

Only then he is ready to love a woman.

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Sex and sandwiches

3 But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints;
4 Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. (Eph 5:3-4)

This horrible meme has been floating around – about how a husband needs sex, sandwiches and submission.

I don’t want to link it because I don’t want to give the godless people who support it any more support, even by a click.

But it got me thinking about this false idea promoted by patriarchialists of every stripe. The idea is this: the cure for fornication is to get married.

The problem is that it is unbiblical. Now I know that many of you are thinking about 1 Corinthians 7:

Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband. (1Co 7:2)

In fact, there are many false teachers that teach that it is the wife’s duty to make herself available at all times in order to keep her husband from committing adultery or watching porn.

I wish I could tell you how many times I have heard of pastors giving that counsel to wives whose husbands would rather use porn. “Well, are you making yourself available to him?”

We have to do better. All of scripture is inspired by God. There are no contradictions. There is only one route to purity, and it isn’t taking your fornicating heart into the marriage bed. “Let the marriage bed be undefiled”, the scripture says (Heb. 13:4).

What does Paul mean? As a Reformed pastor, I hold to historical/grammatical exegesis. In order to understand any portion of scripture, you have to look at it in the historical context to see what it is addressing. Paul is addressing a specific situation, which he summarizes in 1 Corinthians 7:1. There were those who were teaching that marriage was not good, and a man should just avoid it all together.

But then what about those young couples in love? Do you remember those years when the bloom of spring is upon you and young hearts are turning to love? Do you remember not being able to keep your hands off of each other?

And now some false teacher is forbidding you to marry. Paul says, “What do you think you will accomplish?” God created sexuality and called it “very good”. Let them marry. Let them rejoice in the wife of their youth. Let them give thanks to a good God who created them and who rejoices at their union (Song of Songs 5:1).

In a twist of self-contradictory thinking, many patriarchialists also throw so many obstacles in the way of their sons and daughters dating and getting married that fornication increases ten-fold in those kinds of circles…This is exactly what Paul is addressing to the church at Corinth.

 

Paul is most certainly NOT teaching that the cure for a fornicating and adulterous heart is to inflict yourself upon your wife. He is not teaching spousal rape, sexual abuse and domination – no matter what you call it.

Because Paul wasn’t a fool, who said one thing in one place and another thing in another place. The opposite of fornication, according to Ephesians 5, is thanksgiving.

The opposite of fornication is NOT marriage. It is thanksgiving. “But rather, giving of thanks,” God says.

God created men and women and filled the earth with wonderful, beautiful things. He created beautiful things, things with color, shape, form, texture. He gave men and women bodies and made them beautiful. Sin twisted that beauty. Fornication lashes out at beauty, consuming and devouring it for our own twisted lusts. God, who created men and women, created them to be “one flesh”, with sex and touch and sight and smell and taste all rolled into the relationship. Spirit and matter united in a holy bond of love and unity.

And we made it hateful – possession and conquest, lust and demand, devouring and destroying…

The heart of fornication is this: God isn’t good. His gifts aren’t good. I need to reach out and grab the fruit for myself on my own terms. God will not give me every good thing. When you see the heart of the issue, you see that ingratitude and fornication are different sides of the same coin.

Instead of rejoicing at the beauty of the world, the unthankful heart says, “God just created all sorts of beautiful women and then said, “Don’t touch”. But I’ll show HIM!”

It isn’t enough to have EVERY OTHER tree in the garden. I must have them ALL!

THAT is what fornication is, and that is how it has twisted and devoured beauty as God created it. The powerful seduce and devour and consume the weaker like a rich man roasts and eats a lamb (2 Sam. 12:1-4)

And the cure is not to take your twisted, hateful self and inflict it on your spouse. The cure is to take your naked, sinful self to Christ and throw yourself on his mercy. Listen to the accusation of God’s prophet: “THOU are the man!” and then follow David in repentance and faith.

Then you will know what love is. Then you will see what it means that “Christ loved the church and gave himself for her”.

And that is when you are ready to learn how to love a woman (or a man, as the case may be. I do want to be “gender inclusive” in the call of the gospel).

 

In the Heidelberg Catechism, written over 450 years ago, the Reformers understood that. In the exposition of the 7th commandment, they wrote:

108. What does the seventh Commandment teach us?

That all unchastity is accursed of God, and that we should therefore loathe it with our whole heart, and live chastely and modestly, whether in holy wedlock or in single life.

You CAN be unchaste, unholy, ungodly in wedlock. If you treat your wife like an object to be used, a thing to be broken and discarded, if you refuse to learn what makes her rejoice , then you certainly do not have the heart of Jesus Christ.

Before you can even begin to understand the problem with “Sex, sandwiches and submission”, you must first understand that no one who knows Christ can possibly say such a thing. You are in great danger. Flee the wrath to come.

This is not the heart of a thankful man or woman. This is the heart of fornication – I demand to be served. I demand my own way. I demand that this woman take up the cross and follow ME. I demand sex now…

You have no idea what love is. And you also have no idea what sex is. You understand rape and murder, you understand lies and reviling. But you do not know what love is.

Go and learn what love is at the foot of the cross. Until then, please keep your hands to yourself.

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Stay-at-home mom? Or career woman?

There is an article going around by Dennis Prager. It was sent to me and I was asked to comment on it. Normally, I don’t have time to comment on every hair-brained idea that floats around on the internet, but this one is being shared positively by many Christians. I would suggest that you read it before you continue so that you know what I am talking about. Or not. The gist is the same tired thing that I’ve been hearing since the 60s. “Gals, you won’t find fulfillment from a career. You will only find fulfillment from marriage and children. Get married and have children before it is too late.”

Don’t get me wrong. I love marriage. I love children. My dear wife is an intelligent, strong and industrious woman and she stayed home and took care of the house and children. That is not my beef here. By beef is that the gospel is at stake here. It really is.

For some reason, we as protestant children of the Reformation are very, very clear when it comes to debating with Roman Catholics or Arminians about justification. We are saved by the perfect righteousness of Christ imputed to our account by faith alone, and that, not of yourselves. It is a gift of God.

Amen. We believe it. We confess it. We celebrate it. We can quote Edwards and Owen; Calvin and Turretin; Machen and Bavinck. We can construct fool-proof logical arguments about the dangers of a “works-based” system and warn most ominously against it. Put us toe to toe with a modernist, and we’ll go to the mat fighting, without mussing our trendy beard or spilling a drop of our IPA.

And then we talk to our wives and daughters, and all of it goes out the window. And all we can do when it comes to the women in our churches is say, “Do this, and you will live.”

But this is the law; not the gospel. Please read Romans 10 carefully, and you will see what I mean.

The problem with the article is NOT whether women should have a career, or whether they should stay at home and have children. The facts seem pretty clear. If you put every minute into your career in your twenties and thirties, you will have a hard time raising children and getting married. God only gave us a certain amount of time.

But so what? I am a full-time pastor. I could also go to work as a lawyer and become a professor as well. But I wouldn’t do all three of them very well, and I’d probably die trying. This is just wisdom. I won’t ever be infinite. Wisdom dictates that I embrace my finitudevand give God glory, as the only infinite, wise God.

If the caller had merely said, “If you pursue a high-powered career, marriage and children might be difficult. You only have a certain number of years on the earth” I would have no problem. But that isn’t what she said.

Let’s go back to the beginning of time.

27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. (Gen 1:27 NKJ)

This is the purpose for human-kind. We were never made to be originals. We were made to reflect God. We either bear the image of God, or we bear the image of the devil. But we cannot be original. In Eden, man and woman walked and talked with God. This was their purpose. In their relationship with God, they were rightly related to one another, to creation, and to their own bodies.

In this relationship with God, they found their identity, their self-worth, their purpose. They found respect and dignity. They were naked and not ashamed. The weren’t objects, but humans in God’s image.

But as you know, man fell and was driven from Eden. The desires that men and women were created with were still there, but now they sought to fulfill those desires with created things, not in relationship with God.

22 Professing to be wise, they became fools,
23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man– and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.
24 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves,
25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. (Rom 1:22-25)

They thought that they could restore dignity and worth, intimacy and significance, through the things under the sun.

And what they found is what Solomon wrote about in the book of Ecclesiastes. “Vanity of vanities; all is vanity.” Everything under the sun – empty, vain, useless. Is it anything?

Nope. Not here. Nothing here.

The fact is, back to our original article, you can be a career woman of the highest degree, you can accomplish everything you set your heart to accomplish – Solomon did. And you will find what he found: One event happens to all. You die. Worms eat you. Everybody forgets you existed.

OR you can stay at home and raise your kids. You can master Classical education and parse sentences in three languages while wiping spaghetti-o’s off of the kitchen counter, balancing a perfectly well-behaved child on your lap the whole time, while picking up LEGOS with your toes.

And your kids will leave the home and go their own way. You will grow older. And then you  will die, they will bury your body in the ground and worms will eat you.

You could even be buried right next to the wealthiest CEO in the world. This is what Hamlet was talking to Yorick about centuries ago. In fact, it is probably what Willis was talking about as well.

It is just wisdom. We forget it, because we have banished death to the back corners of soft organ music and the curtains of the hospital bed. We forget that it is ugly, harsh, cruel, relentless, and without regard to whether you are a CEO or a peasant.

The gospel isn’t about a rosy colored view of the world, about making your mark under the sun or finding your fulfillment in the arms of a man.

It is far more substantial than that. Please do not confuse conservative politics with Christianity. They are not the same thing.

The problem with this woman was NOT that she had a career. It is rather that she thought that a career would give her life. She thought that if she did things right, and climbed the ladder high enough in the corporate world, she could kick her way past the flaming sword and crash her way into Eden.

And then when that failed – when she found that she still was unhappy, unfulfilled, empty – she mourned the loss of children and husband. She wished she had substituted on law – corporate climbing – for another law – married with children.

But whichever way she went, neither way was back into Eden. Career woman? Or married with children? Vanity of vanities. All is vanity. The voice in the back of all of our minds is still shouting, “And then what? What good is it?” This is the knowledge of the wrath of God. It is shame, that voice that tells us that we aren’t enough, we aren’t loved, we aren’t worthy. And it won’t be fixed by mastering a career, or by having a thousand children. Our worth can only come from one place, and that place was lost to us when we were thrown out of the Garden.

There are a lot of ways to move away from Eden. But there is only one way back in.

19 Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus,
20 by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh,
21 and having a High Priest over the house of God,
22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. (Heb 10:19-22)

Jesus is the express image of the father. He is the second Adam, who fulfilled what the first Adam failed at. To use the Old Testament imagery, he took the sword of the wrath of God against sin, though he was without sin. And since he is perfect, without blemish and without spot, he now stands before God in our place.

And if we are united to him by faith, we are already there.

Women, I will speak to you directly now, for you probably haven’t heard anyone say this before.

You  will never find fulfillment and purpose by a career. And also, you will never find fulfillment and purpose with a husband and a quiver full of children.

Notice how the writer of this article depends upon the approval or disapproval of a man for her own worth. “Men don’t want competitors. They want a partner.” True. Probably. I don’t know. Who cares?

Your life will not be found in the arms of a man.

Just like all of you men reading this. Ecclesiastes spells it out perfectly. Under the sun, all is vanity. Married, career, pleasure, mirth, wisdom, foolishness…

There is no life there, for the ground is cursed. The relationships are cursed. Bearing children is cursed. Unless God does something to restore Eden, what does it matter if you have 10 children or die childless?

But God has done something. He sent his Son, the perfect image-bearer of the God, so that in him we DO have purpose, meaning, significance.

He took the thorns of the ground on his head, so that work was no longer cursed, but had eternal blessings – the cup of cold water and the meal prepared for the hungry. He was stripped naked, so that we might be clothed and dignified. He was beaten for our iniquities.

In him, we have significance and worth, and we will never, ever find it under the sun. You will never find pleasure in your work, and you will never find peace in your home as long as you continue to think that life will come by doing everything right. Life comes only by faith.

So should a woman in her twenties strive for a career? Or should she strive for a husband and children? Should she somehow do both?

Here’s the answer:

If Christ has died for you, then God already has accepted your work. In him, you have life and love and joy and peace. In him, you are complete. Now live like it.

10 Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going. (Ecc 9:10)

Or, to put it like Paul does:

31 Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (1Co 10:31)

If you get married, marry in the Lord. Look for worth in the arms of the savior, and be a wife and mom to the glory of God, if that is what you choose to do, and God gives you children.

If you work as a lawyer, a doctor, a police officer, a mail carrier, do it well, reflecting the image of God in your work, to the best of your ability.

And whatever else you do, don’t get caught up in the opinions of men. You have one master, and he is in heaven. His yoke is easy. His burden is light.

Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

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The Purpose of Life

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

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

ugh.

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

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

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

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The Pence Rule and Wisdom

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

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

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

Lets look at them:

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

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

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

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

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

Quit giving predators this excuse.

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

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

2. It seeks to honor the marital union.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5. It strives to bring glory to God.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s time we stopped.

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On Unconditional Covenants

“Marriage is not a contract; it’s a covenant.”

Maybe you’ve heard that. It’s catchy. Someone says it at a big conference, everyone nods. They go back to their churches and repeat it. Everyone nods. And so it goes viral.

But does it actually mean anything? I’ve heard it explained that covenants are unconditional, but contracts can be broken. Hmmm.

This got me thinking about covenants and whether they are actually unconditional, and then I started thinking about falsification theory. I know. My mind flits.

Falsification theory was first mentioned by Karl Popper and popularized by Anthony Flew. Both, to my knowledge, were atheists. But they made interesting observations. The thinking is that for a statement to be meaningful at all, it must be falsifiable. I’ll try to explain. If I say that Felicity is a cat, what I mean is that there is a creature in my yard named Felicity and she belongs to a category of creature called a cat. It means something. If someone came to my back yard and proved to me that Felicity was indeed a raccoon, then my statement would be proven false. It is a falsifiable statement. If the statement was not falsifiable, then it is meaningless.

If, for example, I stated that Felicity is a cat, and what I meant by it was that Felicity is whatever you wish Felicity to be, and even her existence is up for debate, then I actually am not saying anything at all and should just keep quiet. In that case, when I say Felicity is a cat, and you say, “No, that is a raccoon” and I respond with, “mmm yes. That’s what I said. Cats and raccoons and fish are all one. It’s whatever you want it to be,” then you could justly accuse me of speaking nonsense. My statement is non-falsifiable. I should be pelted with rocks and garbage. Or perhaps a raccoon.

“This post is weird”

“I thought he was going to talk about marriage”

I’m getting there. When we say things like “covenants are unconditional”, it seems to me that we are making the same mistakes as those who speak non-falsifiable gibberish. If a covenant means anything, of course it can be broken. Otherwise it isn’t actually saying anything at all.

If, for example, I say to my wife “I promise to love you and honor you” and what I meant by it was “I plan to do whatever I want whenever I want to” then I actually haven’t vowed anything at all. I haven’t made a covenant or a commitment or anything of that nature. I was simply speaking gibberish, and again deserve to be pelted with rocks and garbage, because my wife was counting on my words meaning something.

It is commonly stated that the New Covenant is unconditional. But is this really true? Is it actually true that God will just zap us into heaven and we can do whatever we like to do whenever we want to do it?

The teaching of scripture is not that the New Covenant is unconditional, but that Christ has fulfilled the covenant in our place. He also creates in us clean hearts as was prophesied by the Prophets:

33 But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. (Jer 31:33)

We are justified, sanctified and glorified in Christ. Our salvation is assured in Christ. It can never be lost in Christ. But this is far different than saying that the covenant is unconditional.

Even the covenant with Abraham was conditional.

Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations. This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised…. And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant.
(Gen 17:9-10, 14)

We need to be more careful with our speech. How can an unconditional covenant be broken? Did God say to anyone, “Live exactly the way that you want to and do whatever you want when you want to do it. It’s all good.”

Never!

It is also true that we can never fulfill the conditions of the covenant. But this is different than saying that the covenant is unconditional. The gospel is that Christ has fulfilled the covenant in our place. He is the mediator of the New Covenant.

To say that a covenant is unconditional is to speak gibberish. How can I enter into covenant with you if the covenant doesn’t mean that I will do something and that you will respond in some way? Are we just speaking gibberish?

Classical Reformed Theology speaks about unconditional election, but this is a different thing. It was an answer to the claims of the Remonstrants that God’s election is dependent upon foreseen faith. The Council of Dort answered that God’s election flows from his good pleasure alone, and does not flow from a condition of any kind that he foresees as being fulfilled by the creature. Someone somewhere simplified the decrees of the council with the acronym TULIP, but to my mind, that is an over-simplification of the Canons of Dort. (For those new to TULIP, the “U” stands for “unconditional election.”)

But this doesn’t say anything about “unconditional covenants”. A covenant is an arrangement between two parties. In the case of God’s covenant with man, it is decreed by a sovereign and is therefore non-negotiable. God says, “I will be a God to you, and you will be my people”. He didn’t say, “I will be a God to you and you can dance around a calf or whatever if that makes you feel groovy.” When Israel whored after other gods, God called them “covenant breakers” and finally issued a bill of divorcement.

Because God never speaks gibberish, a covenant means something. It asserts a relationship based upon conditions and therefore can be broken. Just as a statement that is non-falsifiable is meaningless, so a covenant that cannot be broken is gibberish.

If by “unconditional covenant” you mean that Christ fulfills all of the conditions of the covenant and I stand before him perfect and whole as if I had never committed nor had any sin, then I’m with you. I wish that you would use different language, but you have no argument. If, however, you mean that God is stuck with taking us to heaven no matter what we do in this life as long as we accepted Jesus into our hearts at church camp when we were teenagers because we wanted to get it on with Betsy – then I am going to have to part ways.

The Jews thought like this. John said to them, “Don’t say that you are children of Abraham. God is able of these stones to raise up children of Abraham.” God is never “stuck” with a scoundrel because of some nonsense about an “unconditional covenant”. Repent, and be converted.

Back to our original statement. “Marriage is not a contract; it’s a covenant”. I still think this is meaningless. But I fear that it is used to teach this strange and unbiblical idea that covenants are unbreakable, even though scripture is full of those termed “covenant breakers”.

To apply it to marriage, a man takes a vow. He says, “I promise and covenant before God and these witnesses to love, honor, and cherish you, to keep myself only for you, as long as we both shall live.”

These are solemn vows. If they are unbreakable vows, then they mean nothing. They are like a cat who is also a raccoon. But God would not have us speaking gibberish. If a man fails to love, fails to honor, fails to cherish, and is unfaithful, he has BROKEN THE COVENANT!

If that is not the case, let’s change our wedding ceremonies to whatever we want, marry our livestock, dance naked in jello, and do as we please. Words apparently mean nothing.

Call it a contract or a covenant, we take solemn vows when we marry. Our spouse takes solemn vows. The solemn vows are dependent upon one another. A woman won’t vow those vows to a man who has no intention of vowing those vows. Lives are at stake, which is why we take solemn vows. If one of the parties taking those vows has no intention of keeping those vows, then the covenant is broken.

Let’s look at it from a business standpoint. I sign a contract promising that I will haul a cord of wood to your barn in exchange for 200 dollars. Since words mean things, this is an enforceable vow (or contract, or covenant – whatever you want to call it.) If I fail to haul the wood to your barn, then the covenant is broken, and you are not obligated to pay me 200 dollars.

Covenants can and are broken, because of the hardness of men’s hearts. This is what Jesus meant when he said concerning the decree of divorce, “Because of the hardness of your hearts, Moses wrote that.”

Men and women are covenant breakers. For the sake of order, it is sometimes necessary for the law to recognize that the covenant is broken. God would not have his children in bondage to the gibberish of the devil. Shine some light on it. Speak words that mean what they say. Keep your vows.

This is what a Christian does.

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