9 Things (April 28)

1. Sometimes grieving death isn’t the worst kind of grief. We grieve broken friendships, we grieve alienated children, we grieve a loss of health and vitality. We grieve the broken things of the past that we can’t fix. We grieve not having those things that others take for granted. We grieve poisonous relationships that force distance. Some of the hardest grief is the grief that one mourns alone.

2. One of my greatest griefs is watching the Church that I love being hijacked by domineering, unbelieving, cruel, racist, women-hating bullies. They pretend to be fighting the “reformed downgrade” and “feminism” but in reality they are fighting against the image of God in their neighbor and baptizing their pathologies.

3. The husband is not the savior of the wife in any way. Ephesians 5 says that he is to love his wife as Christ loves the church – and then the REST of it is about Jesus. If you want to know how to love your wife, learn about Jesus and how he loves his church. Read the Song of Songs and Philippians 2 for a start.

4. My wife was diagnosed with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome about 10 years ago. It was a blow and a relief. A blow because we partly knew that she would never be the same again and her mobility would decline. A relief because we finally had some answers. There were members of our church at the time, including an elder, who were offended that I asked for prayer for her “too much”. I still don’t know how to process that.

5.  I love Reformed theology as it is summarized in the Three Forms of Unity. This, to me, is what it means to be Reformed. However, there is a disconnect between the theology and the practice of the Reformed world. There is something in the culture of the Reformed world that breeds a very, very ugly spirit. Social media takes that spirit and makes it public.

6.  I read this week that 55 percent of Americans believe that the US Constitution is inspired by God. Either they have no idea what inspiration means, or they have a serious problem with idolatry. Either way, we have a huge problem.

7. Nationalism and Christianity are not compatible. They are competing religions. One seeks salvation in power and control. The other is proclaimed through weakness and the foolishness of the message preached. You cannot serve God and Mammon.

8. I long for the day when seminaries training pastors will not only teach languages and theology, but will also provide the guidance and space to begin their healing from past traumas. Until a man deals with his trauma honestly, he cannot be an effective pastor. Until he understands himself, he will invariably feed himself rather than the sheep.

9.  When one believes that God will only bless a nation based upon their national obedience, then one can easily justify the oppression and hatred of the sinner who won’t get on board. It is a scary place to be. Blessings for national obedience is not Christianity.

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“I hate divorce” follow up…

Sometimes I use this platform so I don’t have to keep typing the same thing over and over.

Several years ago, I posted about Malachi 2:16 “God hates divorce?”

And I followed it up here:

Every few years, someone brings up objections to my exegesis. If they are not reviling me (which is fairly common) I answer them. Generally like this:

Every translator translated it like I mentioned until the King James, and then they all followed suit. It became hallowed with use, but it, respectfully, is wrong.

The KJV also translated it assuming that the word “to send away” was an infinitive construct, as you do.

The problem is that the hebrew almost always uses the preposition “lamed” attached to the verb to indicate it as a helping verb. For an infinitive construct to stand alone without a preposition (as is the case here) it only admits of a very few uses, and a helping verb is not one of them. The infinitive construct without a verb is relatively rare in Hebrew.

So, when I translated this some years ago, I struggled with it. It was awkward, it wasn’t how Hebrew was normally used.

And then it occured to me – the 2s imperative has the exact same spelling and vowel points. Why do we assume it is an infinitive construct when the imperative is spelled exactly the same?

So I looked at the semantics that way

“Because” – or “that” (depends on context)

“He hates” – really can’t be translated honestly any other way – but I’ve read comments that say that it is a mistake, and the first person consonant dropped off by scribes centuries ago….)

Let go.

Run a quick search, with vowel points, on the word “send away” with the exact same spelling.

it comes up about 10 times, if I remember, and every time it means “set loose” send away, and almost always it was used by Moses while speaking to Pharaoh.

Thus sayeth the Lord “Let my people go”

Translated, let go, in this instance.

In Deuteromony 24 – the word to send away and the word “divorce” are contrasted to one another and not identical.

Quite frankly it just doesn’t mean what the KJV said it meant – other modern translations kept it the same because most evangelicals (those who buy bibles) don’t want to hear it. It is their favorite verse.

I know that I lost friends, lost church members, and was reviled publicly because of it. That is hard to go through.

But the Hebrew says what it says.

And thank you for the discussion. I have been reviled on it so many times, that an honest and intelligent discussion on it is a breath of fresh air.

Anyway, one other point – the “he”, which is the subject of “hates” can only refer to the treacherous man.

If it is referring to God, why does the Lord God refer to himself in the third person? Sometimes that is the case, but then it is clear that he is speaking of his triune persons. Here it is not at all that clear.

Also, if the first clause IS referring to God, “he hates”, then why does the second clause revert back to the treacherous man “For he covers violence with his garment…”

So the whole context – he is speaking in the third person of the treacherous man and then, all of the sudden, for three words, he is referring to the Lord God of Israel, and then back to the treacherous man.

It is just awkward.

This is why one grammar that I was checking on it posited that the “aleph” indicating first person must have dropped off in the copying process over the centuries and it REALLY says, “For I hate (to send away) – which, by the way, STILL doesn’t say, I hate divorce.

You would then have to change the infinitive construct to a participle to get it there and say, For I hate THE sending away – )

And that is closer, but still not there….so let’s make “send away” the same as “divorce”

For I hate divorce…”

And now you have something that isn’t there at all, but is repeated over and over and over again until it is believed to be biblical.

A couple of final points:

It matters. If you translate it correctly, you have not become a “liberal”, you have not become a white knight, and you are not, all of the sudden, against marriage and for easy divorce. Please try to separate what the scripture says from your modern social agenda.

What God hates is the treachery that leads up to divorce. What God hates is covenant breaking and hard hearts that sometimes makes divorce necessary.

What God hates is twisting his words to call the innocent guilty and the guilty innocent.

When you translate the verse correctly, you see God’s heart in this difficult passage. God hates treachery, violence, and hatred and he will come to judge the living and the dead. He is giving the opportunity for repentance, “Take heed to your spirit and do not act treacherously.”

To twist this around to “God hates divorce”, you turn it into a catch phrase to turn against the suffering and to send them back to their abuser.

“God hates divorce. So you have to suffer for his sake, just like Jesus did.”

Absolutely horrible and it really has to stop. WE’VE become the treacherous man that God is so strongly condemning.

Why do you think so many are willing to suffer so much reviling to get this passage right?

It matters.

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The marks of the church and social media

As God is more and more exposing the rot and corruption at the heart of what passes for Christianity these days; as one famous church after another is embroiled with scandal; as the weak are driven away and the wicked are exalted, there is a question that is on the lips of many, many faithful Christians who no longer have a home:

How can I find a safe church? How can I find a congregation that is faithful to the gospel and a safe place for the sheep?

I understand the question. How can you “not forsake the gathering together” when false churches and dangerous cults abound. Weird authoritarian doctrine, abusive patriarchy, heretical teaching on Christ and the Trinity, are so pervasive that it is no longer sufficient to simply look at the creeds that they say they hold or the denomination of which they are a part.

The Reformers 500 years ago were at a similar place. Being in the local church was one of the most dangerous places to be. If you professed that Christ was not physically present in the Lord’s Supper you could be burned alive.

But they did not abandon the idea of gathering themselves together. Whether it was in homes, or in fields, or in the woods, God’s people gathered together.

So the question – how do you find a safe church – needs an answer.

Our fathers answered it with the now famous formula: If the word of God is faithfully preached; if the sacraments are administered according to the word of God; and if church discipline is administered according to the word of God.

Since this is a blog and not a book, I would like to focus on the last one – discipline.

This means something different than simply practicing excommunication. Rome in the Middle Ages practiced excommunication. In fact, the Reformers that put together this formula were all excommunicated from Rome.

Rather, it means this: The sheep are led to green pastures, and the wolves are driven away.

And you think to yourself: But how can I tell if the church is serious about driving away wolves and protecting sheep?

And here is where social media is actually helpful. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if wolves wore signs announcing that they were wolves? Often times they do.

If they call the rape of a toddler “sexual satisfaction”…

If they defend those who call the rape of a toddler “sexual satisfaction”

If they blame the rape of the toddler on the refusal of the wife to have intercourse…

If they defend those who blame the rape of the toddler on the refusal of the wife to have intercourse…

If they call the abuse and silencing of women “Biblical manhood and womanhood”…

If they call sexual assault “inappropriate conduct”…

If they deny that marital rape is a sin and extreme wickedness…

If they believe that calling the police is “getting the unbeliever involved” and will not report crimes against women and children.

If “Battling feminism” is far, far more important than loving your neighbor and sitting with the wounded.

If battling feminism is more important than the dignity and welfare of their wives and children.

If they absolutely refuse to change their views on these things, and reject all compassion at every opportunity in order to uphold their system.

If their system is more important than the lives of the sheep.

To me, these are, at a minimum, a failure on the part of the church to hold the third mark. Sheep are abused, and wolves are set free on the congregation to prey to their heart’s content.

Jay Adams opened the door and the churches that followed his method became the most dangerous place for the sheep.

There are other signs that a church should be avoided as potentially unsafe:

If Doug Wilson is on the book table.

If they view crying as weakness and manipulation.

If they don’t have a Child Safety Policy in place and enforced.

If the pastor makes “The old ball and chain” jokes, or “You know how women are” jokes.

If the kids all look scared to be in church.

If they continually preach about the “sin” of divorce and never speak of the wickedness of the covenant breaking the leads to divorce.

If it is more important to enforce their view of divorce than to protect the sheep.

These are all red flags. Maybe we should put together a list….

So by all means, check the doctrinal statements. Look at what creeds and confessions they hold to. But don’t neglect the third mark of the true church.

This is where many fail. Check the social media feeds of the elders and pastors and other leaders. Who do they follow? What groups do they belong to?

Can they tell the difference between wolves and sheep? Do they cast away the beaten women and embrace the man who did the beating?

Do they raise funds for the defense of the man who destroyed his family?

Take your time. Look not only at the congregation and the doctrinal correctness of the preaching, but check some of these things as well.

These things are far, far more important than whether you like the music or enjoy the coffee fellowship. A handful of people singing Psalms together in safety is far better than singing with a praise band of wolves.

It is better to meet outside or in your home with the sheep than gather together at the table of the wolves.

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9 things (April 6)

  • If the welfare of society, marriage, family, culture, and country are all dependent upon men being manly, here are two questions that must be asked: Who gets to define what being manly is? And this one: What do you do with those who don’t get on board?
  • My shoulder hurts. I put some cream on it. Its got arnica, hemp, menthol – some other stuff. So I’ve spend the whole afternoon saying to myself, “What is that smell? Oh, yeah.”
  • Last week, I was out of town withdrawing from the world. I deleted all of my social media apps from my phone. It was wonderful. I left them off of my phone and now am far more productive.
  • Yesterday, my pants rejected me. I was putting them on, and my foot got tangled up and down I went. I think I heard them whisper, “Not today, fat boy.” My pants hate me.
  • My wife thinks I’m curvy and spectacular, though. So there’s that.
  • If women were only given leadership roles because men failed to lead, then how do you explain Huldah? Josiah was king. Jeremiah and Zephaniah were the prophets. and Hilkiah the high priest. All of them were godly and faithful leaders.
  • People have all sorts of experiences and backgrounds. People come from all sorts of different cultures and have different ways of thinking. Christians must not base fellowship on political viewpoints, but on the unity of true faith. The unity of true faith is not the same as a political viewpoint.
  • Last week a man attended our church for the first time. He decided that he could not fellowship with us because of how we responded to COVID in 2020. It was his test of fellowship, so he asked. How did we let this happen?
  • While I was out of town, I went shopping for odds and ends, just for fun. I didn’t take my phone. It felt weird, but totally liberating.

Hold to Christ. He will hold you fast. Patiently await the day when all wrongs will be made right.

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A Pastor’s Treatment of His Wife (Miller)

I love this a lot, and Miller is right on the money.
When was the last time you heard a pastor speak like this?
When we started viewing women as trouble-makers by nature, to be suppressed and silenced, instead of co-heirs of eternal life, we opened the door to so many men who should never be in the pulpit.

The Reformed Reader

(This is a re-post from May 1, 2017)

A pastor’s marriage is a very important part of his life and ministry. It should be obvious that a pastor must be an excellent Christian example of what it means for a husband to serve, cherish, nourish, and love his wife in a humble, Christ-like way. Samuel Miller (d. 1850) gave some outstanding advice along these lines:

As a clergyman ought to be the most pious man in his parish, to go before all his people in the exemplification of every Christian grace and virtue, so he ought to make a point of being the best husband in his parish; of endeavoring to excel all others in affection, kindness, attention, and every conjugal and domestic virtue.

Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Some clergymen, who preach well on the duties of husbands and wives, are, notwithstanding, austere, harsh, tyrannical, and unkind…

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I Believe in the Holy Spirit

Bill Gothard, Purity movements and the Holy Spirit

My Only Comfort

31 “Behold, days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah,
32 not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD.
33 “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the LORD, “I will put My law within them, and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.
34 “And they shall not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know Me, from the least of them to…

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Give me a drink, continued

See part one here:

As the woman recovers from her astonishment that a Jewish Rabbi is speaking to her at all, Jesus answers her.

“If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who is speaking to you, you would ask me, and I would give you living water.”

She misunderstands him, and apparently thinks he is talking about the spring that is flowing at the very bottom of the well. It would be the freshest, coolest water. But Jesus doesn’t have a rope or a bucket. How will he get to that water?

But Jesus has water that is even greater than that. It is water that satisfies our deepest longings. He intends to draw us back into fellowship with God.

We look to Jesus to fix things for us. We want him to give us things that will solve our earthly problems. We want to be free from anxiety, from care, from trouble, from trials, from death…

And eventually, Jesus will give us all of that and more. But he has an even greater plan. He seeks to solve the original problem that is the core of everything else.

We want the Great Physician to fix the headache and the fever. And he will eventually. But first, the cancer must be removed.

We are in a cursed world because we are unclean. We are unclean because of our sins and because we are in a cursed world. We are miserable, because we were created as image-bearers of God, dwelling with him in eternity, and we are cast out of his presence.

God is holy. Man is sinful. We have a far greater problem than we can possibly imagine.

Jesus came to call his sheep, to gather them into his fold. He came to clean them, to lead them, to feed them, to take away their sins, to call them his own.

So he tells her to ask for living water, and she asks.

She genuinely desires it. She thinks that it would be great if she didn’t have to come to the well every day to get water…

So she asks. And Jesus wasn’t tricking her. He is going to give her exactly what she is asking for.

Jesus is lifting her thoughts higher. But first, a common hindrance must be removed.

And there are two things getting in our way of receiving the living water, depending on what kind of people we are. If things have gone relatively well for us – if we have money and health and reputation and a large, well-behaved family – we tend to settle too easily.

This is pride. We won’t allow anyone to shake us out of our complacency, even if it is to give us the Pearl of Great Price.

The other hindrance is the one that is common among those who are the outcasts, the losers, the people just like this woman. These are the normal people, with their normal anxieties and their normal fears.

And the biggest fear is this – if people found out who I really was, they would want nothing to do with me. If people knew what things were like in my house, if people knew what horrible things I’ve done, if people knew that I’m a fraud, if people knew the things that go through my head, if people knew my sins and my struggles and my shame, they would throw me out and never let me back in.

So you hold people at an arm’s distance. You keep yourself to yourself. You might be social, but there is a part of you that no one gets to see.

And the thought of Jesus inviting you into fellowship is terrifying. What if he finds out who I am?

THIS is what Jesus is giving this woman. He isn’t shaming her. He is saying, “I know who you are. I know your living situation. I know what you’ve been through. I know what your home life is like right now. I know all of your sins, even your most shameful.

“And I still asked you to give me a drink. I still want you in my family. I still want to give you living water.”

So he says, “Go get your husband…”

And he puts his finger right on her thirst.

Its funny how we read current cultural battles into the text. We blame feminism for high divorce rates (rather than abusive men) so we read that into this text as well.

We think that Jesus is confronting a fornicator, when there is no such thing in this text. But she is a divorcee! That is just a step above a prostitute, isn’t it?? But in that day, women didn’t divorce husbands. Husbands divorced them. A husband could throw his wife out for any reason whatsoever. And she had been cast out 5 times.

And now, she has given up and is simply living with a man. She still needs shelter. She still needs to eat.

And she is living with the shame in front of the whole community. She’s “that woman.”

But to Jesus she is “my sister, my spouse, my bride. The one I came to seek and save.”

Jesus is pulling back the curtain. He is doing the same thing he did in Eden when he said, “Adam, where are you? I want to cleanse you. I want to clothe you. But first, you must come out.

“You must first realize that I already know exactly what you did, I know exactly what your most shameful secret is. I already know your home situation. I already know who you are.

“In fact, I am going to take all of it on myself. I will take your shame on myself when I am lifted up naked in front of the world. I will be outcast and driven outside the city and take that from you. And I will take your sin and your misery and your death sentence upon myself – so that you can enter into Eternal Life.”

But again – I’m getting ahead of myself.

Because Jesus is God and his words carry power, the woman does NOT change the subject. She gets the subject. Jesus is talking about fellowship with God, which is what worship is. We get pictures of that on this earth.

So it reminds her of a long dispute between the Jews and the Samaritans. “Since you are talking about cleanliness, can you tell me where I can meet with God? The Jews say Jerusalem. But we have always worshiped here.”

When Jesus begins to gather his sheep together, he awakens in them the longing for worship. Where do I go? How do I act? I understand that you are desiring to gather me into your fold, but how, exactly, do we go about doing that?

The pictures and shadows are beginning to fade away. Jesus told her that in this particular debate, the Jews were right. Jerusalem and the worship there was the only proper form of worship.

But soon all of that would change. Soon, it wouldn’t be Jerusalem OR Gerizim.

God is not satisfied with empty rituals. He doesn’t want our sheep and our goats and our feast days and proper sabbath observance. He wants US.

This doesn’t mean that the rituals are not important. It is important to know what you are worshiping.

But if you just stop there, you have missed the whole point (Isaiah 1).

God wants YOU. He is gathering his sheep together.

He is calling us to put off our pride and our silly little dignities that we like to carry around.

He is calling us also to fully understand that he knows us inside and out, up and down, every word that has come or WILL come off of our tongue.

He knows what men have done to you. He knows what shame you are carrying around. He knows the sins that you are carrying around.

He knows your frailty and your weakness. He knows your greatest fear and your greatest longing.

He knows what you would do if you had the opportunity. He knows what you would do if you never got caught.

He hears the prayers under the fig tree when you don’t even know what to say.

And he STILL says, “Give me a drink.”

YES, he can get it himself. But he wants YOU, his bride, to take your part because you have dignity and worth. Just like Adam named the animals, and displayed his image-bearing, so also this woman is called to take part displaying her image-bearing. So just as Jesus asked for a drink, so now she gives that “drink” to her whole community – she brings them all to Jesus.

Bring the hope and the light and the joy of being forgiven, loved and accepted to the world. Take that water and pass it around.

Drink deeply of the Spirit and let that life flow all around you. LIVE!

It isn’t because he needs you. He is almighty God, and He upholds everything with his power. He doesn’t need his creatures.

But he loves you and you were created to bear his image. Give me a drink – because regardless of who you are and what you have done, you are still an image-bearer of God.

And he will wash you, purify you, take away your sins, clothe you with his perfect righteousness, and bring you into his family. He is preparing a place just for you.

And so you have dignity and worth. You aren’t what everyone says about you. Look deeper. Jesus came to seek and save that which was lost. Take that water that he gives you and tell all of your neighbors about it.

This is a little bit different than Jesus simply shaming her for being a sinner and then allowing her to change the subject, isn’t is?

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Give me a drink

15 The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water so that I will not be thirsty, nor come all the way here to draw water.”

16 He said to her, “Go, call your husband and come here.”

17 The woman answered and said to Him, “I have no husband.”

Jesus said to her, “You have correctly said, ‘I have no husband’; 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; this which you have said is true.”

19 The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and yet you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one must worship.”

21 Jesus said to her, “Believe Me, woman, that time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, because salvation is from the Jews. 23 But aa time is coming, and even now has arrived, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:15-24)

I have preached on this passage several times before, but I thought that it might be helpful to put my thoughts down in writing. There are plenty of misunderstandings on this passage, most of them seem to center around our own biases and culture wars, rather than a sober analysis of the words.

It seems to always be a trend. Some guy on Social Media will say something cruel and heartless. Maybe dismiss someone because they are gay, or trans, or divorced, or otherwise not worth our honor and respect as human beings. When someone calls them on it, they contend that by pointing out everyone’s sins they are simply doing what Jesus did. And then they quote this passage. The assumption is that Jesus confronted this woman about her sin of fornication and she tried to change the subject. But is this truly what is happening here?

Jesus is traveling through Samaria. Samaria is in the ancient territory of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. For centuries, the citizens of Israel (NOT Judah, that was the Southern Kingdom) had refused to go to Solomon’s temple to worship. Instead, they built altars and idols at the cities of Dan in the north and Bethel in the south. Eventually, after centuries of warning, God cast them off. The inhabitants had all been taken captive by the Assyrians and scattered, except for a few of the poor that were left. Eventually, the few poor that remained intermarried with Gentiles from all the surrounding kingdoms and adopted those religions on top of the religion of Dan and Bethel (2 Kings 17).

You really can’t understand what is happening in John 4 without some knowledge of these events. If you haven’t read First and Second Chronicles in a while, a brush-up might be in order.

It was THESE people that this woman descended from. The ancient nation of Judah – now known as “Jews” – still despised them. They rejected the proper form of worship. They rejected God’s king. They intermarried with pagans. They didn’t know the law. They were sinners.

This woman has three strikes against her in the mind of a Jew. She was a Samaritan. She was a woman. She was a sinner.

But Jesus came to seek and save that which was lost. So he is traveling through Samaria.

He sits down at the well and waits. Soon, the woman comes. She is apparently an outcast even in her own city, for she comes alone.

And then she sees Jesus, dressed in the traditional garb of a Jew and a Rabbi. You can just hear her thought process:

“Oh great.  A Jew. Like I need this today. The toilet backs up,  the goats are breaking through the fence, the kids are totally hyped up and all I need is a little peace and quiet for a minute. And now I have to deal with a Jew!”

A Jew sitting at the well would normally give her a look of absolute contempt and then move away from her. Perhaps you are familiar with that look. Maybe you know what it is to be viewed as something filthy on the bottom of the shoe of life.

This is what she is expecting. She sighs. She has work to do, so might as well get on with it.

And then – something astounding.

“Please give me a drink”.

She might have dropped her pitcher at that one.

He is speaking to her. TO HER! Jews don’t speak to Samaritans and Rabbis don’t speak to women. But he is speaking to her??

After gathering her wits together, it hits her that he has also asked her for something. Wait…I have something this guy wants? I have something of value to offer? Holy Mackerel. What is going on here?

And then it occurs to her that what he is asking her for is something that will require him to put his mouth on something that belongs to her. If she gives him a drink, he would have to drink it out of her bucket. Woah.

The Jews’ rituals of cleanliness were like childhood cooties on steroids. The revulsion that any Jew would have at drinking out of a woman’s pitcher would have been staggering. Much less a Samaritan. Much much less a sinner!

I remember as a child my brothers passing my comb around by the tips of their fingers as if it were the dirtiest thing they had ever seen. It still shames me.

And this woman has been dealing with far, far worse shame her whole life. Can you imagine someone refusing to touch you or even something you touched because the thought of your uncleanness makes them retch?

And here is this Jewish Rabbi saying “Give me a drink”.

What is going on here?

She stammers – how?

What…? Um…

OK – You are a Jew. I’m a Samaritan. Jews have nothing to do with Samaritans.

What is going on here…

Jesus, with one request, has opened up the greatest need and longing of the human heart. Fellowship with God.

This is the problem of mankind. We have been cast out of Eden, unclean, sinners, under God’s wrath and curse.

But God has determined to save a people for himself – to be their God and we will be his people.

Every law and every statute about cleanness and uncleanness pointed to this one thing – God is calling us back to himself, but in order to do so, he must clean us.

The Temple of God, which was at the heart of the debate between Jews and Samaritans, was a picture of God dwelling with his people, just like he did in Eden.

All of the rituals and sacrifices and ceremonies of the law pointed to Jesus who would cleanse us from all sin and uncleanness and defilement so that we might be taken into the embrace of the Father Himself, which is the longing of every human heart.

Another way to describe this longing is to use the word “thirst”. What are we thirsty for?

“As the deer pants after the water-brooks, so my soul pants for YOU, O my God” (Psalm 42).

But the curse that is on us is such that we always seek to quench our thirst with anything BUT fellowship with God. We are prone to hate him and hate our neighbor, and yet the thirst remains. We refuse to see how defiled we are in the sight of perfect holiness, perfect righteousness, perfect purity – so we will not come for dress, for cleansing, for purity.

Instead, we would rather fashion our own aprons out of fig leaves and hide behind the bushes of our own making.

We might be outcast and alone, but at least we did it our way.

So we seek to quench that thirst with money, respect, honor, work, good works, religious rituals, reputation. Or with less dignified idols – drugs, alcohol, sex, putting people in their place, gossip, slander, reviling, violence, abuse…

All of it to satisfy our deep longings for fellowship with God but twisted into an evil thing.

And because God loved the world, and because he desires to enter into fellowship with his fallen and filthy creatures, he sent his only begotten son into the world that whosoever believes on him should not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16).

So Jesus is on a mission. He must go through Samaria, because he has a sheep there that needs to be introduced to her true thirst. The one who can’t fellowship with God because she is unclean, and so she needs a savior.

Jesus opens the conversation by talking about cleanliness.

“Give me a drink.”

And she understands – You think everything about me is unclean. You think that even touching my bucket will make YOU unclean. You think having a conversation with me makes you unclean.

What is going on here?

What is going on is this: Jesus is about to make you clean and give you your hearts desire…

More next time….See part two here:

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Why do I do it?

There are two distinct religions in the country. Both go under the name of Christianity. Both claim to follow Jesus. Both understand the importance of living a righteous life.

But they are two entirely different religions.

One can be summarized by the phrase, “Do these things, and you will live.”

Get married. Obey your husband. Control your wife. Discipline your kids. Homeschool them. Move to a homestead and grow your own food. Learn to shoot a gun and do self-defense. Get proper exercise. Eat right. Make the right choices. Vote the right way. Go to the right church. Attend the right conferences. Be manly men and feminine women. Become the best complementarian the world has ever seen. Go on pilgrimages to all the holy sites – Focus on the Family. The Giant Ark.  Chick Fil-a. Search the scripture and find the formula. Apply it, and your life will be orderly, happy and blessed. You will live.

But things don’t always go to plan. Your husband turns out to be abusive. Your kids rebel and dye their hair green. You get sick anyway. Your body grows weaker by the day. You struggle with chronic pain. Your marriage falls apart. Your kids turn out differently than you expect. Violence still finds you and you are attacked by someone stronger than you are and there is nothing you can do about it. No matter how often you say, “I’m not a victim” you suddenly are a victim.

And you say to yourself: I did everything right, and God didn’t keep up his end.

And so perhaps you try different things.

Leave your husband. Leave your wife. Dye your hair blue with your kids. Exercise harder. Buy a bigger gun. Vote for the other guy this time. Go to another church. Choose different conferences. Quit listening to what others say and do your own thing. Send the kids to another school. Eat at Burger King because quite frankly they taste better than Chick Fil-a.

And you still feel empty inside. Abandoned by God. Lonely.

And worse than all, the same sins that you always struggled with are all still there.

I “did this” and I “didn’t live”. Death is still king. Chaos, war, illness, pain, suffering are all still with me.

So now you turn on the sinners. It has to be their fault you are losing the war. Attack the gay guys next door. Launch campaigns against the LGBTQ agenda. They are destroying the country, you know.

Those effeminate preachers who wear pink and refuse to get their women in line are destroying all of us. The feminist agenda will destroy the church. Preachers who speak to sinners. Guys who listen to women. Same sex attracted people coming to church. Black people getting uppity and not wanting to be shot by the police anymore…They’ll destroy us all.

And you look fondly back to the days when America was great. People knew their place. Men were men and women were women and we were God’s country…

(at least, if you were white, middle class, male and had the right haircut, didn’t grow a beard, like good Christians…now I guess the beard is the mark of righteousness…It’s hard to keep up).

And the result of this religion was death. It always was. And it still is. The legacy of this false religion is the wreckage of innocent lives, abuse, incest, destructive addictions, women and children crushed underfoot, “beta males” incessantly mocked and ridiculed, shame and disgrace…

The problem with “do this and live” is that if you look to ANY list of rules to find your righteousness, then you are on the hook to keep the WHOLE law, not just the parts that you like.

If you strongly denounce the “effeminate” then you also must denounce the revilers. The liars. The heretics. The adulterers.

The point of Romans 1 ISN’T just that men lying with men is a sin against God. Romans one builds to Romans three, and the conclusion is this: ALL have sinned, and come short of the glory of God. There is none righteous.

NO – Not one.

Not the manly hunter that lives next door. Nope. Not him.

Not the mother that has everything together and perfect kids that don’t ever ever wiggle on Sunday? Nope. Not her.

Not the pinnacle of the patriarchy – the guy on the cover of the books with the huge ministry and the well-coifed wife and happy faced children? Nope. Not him.

The homesteader? The liberal? The conservative? The anti-woke preacher? The woke preacher? – nope. Not him either.

The wife who never backtalks or ever has her own ideas? Nope. Not here.

None.

No. Not one.

It is almost as if the Holy Spirit is anticipating our objections….

Not one.

But I’m heterosexual and cisgender!! Nope. Not you either.

This is the problem with the first religion masquerading as Christianity. It isn’t Christianity at all. It is what Paul calls “The law”. It is the reason why the Jews of Paul’s day hated Jesus. They thought that righteousness would come by keeping the law. They thought that they could establish their own righteousness.

Do this, and you will live.

For not knowing about God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God. 4 For Christ is the end of the Law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
5 For Moses writes of the righteousness that is based on the Law, that the person who performs them will live by them. (Romans 10:3-5)

But there is a big problem with this way of thinking. You don’t have any righteousness of your own. If you want to establish your own righteousness, you have to keep EVERYTHING in the law, not just the parts you want to keep.

It isn’t enough to be against abortion. You have to love your neighbor as yourself, continually, every time, without one failure.

It isn’t enough to be anti-LGBTQ. You also have to never once, not ever, lusted after anyone – same or opposite sex. EVER. The law doesn’t give you a pass because you are heterosexual.

You get the point. It Paul’s day, the ultimate “righteousness” was circumcision. Get circumcised, and live. And he says this.

For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. Galatians 5:3.

Then he goes on to warn the Galatians. He tells them that thinking that they will somehow establish their own righteousness is of the flesh. Really, it is the same thing that every human born of Adam tries to do. We inherited it from him.

It is why Cain got so angry. How dare God not keep up his end of the bargain!!

And God told him, “If you do well, will you not be accepted?” And that is true. If you do well.

That is the problem with the thinking of the flesh. “If you do well.”

Compare that with the other great truth. There is none righteous.

No. Not one.

And the results of this false religion are always the same thing.

Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: sexual immorality, impurity, indecent behavior, idolatry, witchcraft, hostilities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-20)

And doesn’t that pretty much sum up the results of what we are seeing in so many ministries that are rooted in the thinking of the flesh?

It isn’t a disagreement over an interpretation. It is another religion entirely.

Which leads us to the second distinct religion. True Christianity.

True Christianity is this (Go back to Romans 10). In contrast to “do this and live”, Paul shows the righteousness of God. Righteousness comes outside of ourselves, for we have none of our own. We have no righteousness, ever, not even after we are saved, that can stand before God’s righteous judgment.

But God has provided another way. He first announced it in Eden. Then foreshadowed it in the sacrifices and ceremonies of the law. It is the righteousness that is ours by faith. Jesus did it, and it is as if we have never had nor committed any sin, if only we accept it with a believing heart.

As the scripture says “Whosoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

This is the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, which is why Paul calls this “the spirit” as opposed to “the flesh”. The flesh is what we inherited from Adam. “Do this, and you will live.”

The Spirit drives us to mourning, true humility, and an overpowering sense that we are in desperate, desperate trouble unless God is merciful to us.

Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.

And does this have fruit? It certainly does! But it is a far different kind than the fruit that the flesh brings forth.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

So why do I do what I do? Why do I endure the continuous insults, ridicule, threats and abuse online? Why do I continue to critique the idols of this present age?

Because I hate the flesh in myself and know that I have no hope other than in Jesus Christ.

My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.

Ask yourself, what is your view of someone who DOESN’T do things the way that you do things, and then you will know somewhat of where your idols are and where your hope is.

As for me, my hope is not in my view of gender roles, my control of my wife, the way I choose to raise my children. It isn’t in submission to your husband, in your ability to homestead and homeschool. It isn’t in your heterosexuality. All of those are the way of death if you are holding on to them as your righteousness before God. All of our sexuality is corrupted by sin. All of our works are corrupted by sin. All of our masculinity and femininity are corrupted by sin. The only one who was not, ever, corrupted by sin was Jesus.

And he took my filthy garments – including my self-righteousness, lusts, pride – and nailed them to the cross. And then he gave me his perfect, spotless righteousness.

If only I accept them with a believing heart.

And now is the time when one hears, “yeah, but also…”

That’s the beauty of Christianity. There is NO “Yeah, but also” in Christ. You add nothing. He already did it all. It is finished. It is yours without any “yeah, but also”, other wise it isn’t good news at all!

So why do I continue to stick my hand in that hornet’s nest?

Because I hope that at least one person will hear me, and come to know true freedom and joy, no matter who they are or where they are from or what they have suffered. No one is beyond the reach of God’s compassion.

But even more importantly than that, it is because God has called me to be a preacher of the gospel. Not a purveyor of the opinions of men. So I will continue to do so and I will continue to call out the false messiahs of this age, because it is what God has called me to do.

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the childless woman and the miracle child

by: anonymous – guest post

I am very thankful for this guest post by a brilliant woman, a Mother in Israel, who wishes to remain anonymous.

And it happened, as He spoke these things, that a certain woman from the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, “Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts which nursed You!”

But He said, “More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”

— Luke 11:27,28

Those tedious bits of the Old Testament, the genealogies, make a final incursion in Matthew and Luke before they disappear from the Bible (Matthew 1:1-17; Luke 3:23-38). All the difficult-to-say names, often of obscure children born to obscurer parents, culminate here. They are bewildering, breaking up the narratives — but each name represents two hands gripping a promise. A promise to Eve, and later to Abraham, of a child (Genesis 3 & 15). Miraculous births, beginning with the birth of Isaac, whispered of this miraculous baby to come (Galatians 3:16); but I think Israel’s hope in the coming child is especially poignant in the book of Ruth.

Ruth begins in a time of famine — a woman loses her home and country, then her husband and sons, until finally, past childbearing years, she straggles back to Bethlehem. She has no future — no heir, no one to redeem the land heritage that used to belong to her. She has only a bereaved and childless daughter-in-law, for whom she cannot provide. When women from her hometown come out to greet Naomi, she tells them not to call her by her name, but by a name that means “bitter”: “Mara” — “I went out full, and the Lord has brought me home again empty… the Lord has testified against me” (Ruth 1:21).

But somehow a tale that begins with flat tones of famine and a parched life ends in the rhythms of harvest — and in greetings of blessing from the same women to whom Naomi spoke of the Lord’s curse (4:14). What has taken place between the beginning and the end, that transforms the story? The same thing that took place unobtrusively in the first chapter, in the land of Judah, transforming it into a land of plenty: the Lord has “visited his people” (1:6). The form of the Lord’s visitation (as the tale winds up with a genealogy) is a child.

I can almost trace Naomi’s features through the genealogy in Matthew. The people in that list successively sinned away their blessings until they scattered in exile. They lost the Davidic monarchy, and had no one to redeem their heritage. But the lineage straggles back to Bethlehem, and culminates in a miraculous birth.

Matthew and Luke write the last biblical genealogies because the last name they record is the name of the promised child. The Lord “has visited and redeemed his people” (Luke 1:68 ).

The dilemma of the barren or childless woman disappears with the genealogies. It is associated throughout the Old Testament with the theme of the miraculous birth. Surely there were many childless women in Israel in Jesus’ day, but the gospels contain no record of anyone coming to him to lament their childlessness — though he was the place where God tabernacled with men, the place Hannah went to lament her childlessness. Perhaps women did come to him with this trouble: what else should we do with troubles? And God has a special care for the heartache of being childless (Psalm 113:9). But it has no further episode in the Bible, after Jesus comes.

Because the longing for a child in those Old Testament stories is all mixed up with the longing for this child. The joy of the miracle birth is all mixed up with this joy. Mary’s Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55) is like a voice carrying back through time in a hall of echoes (1 Samuel 2:1-10, Psalm 113).

When Jesus comes, we read about him interacting with women without even being told if many of them have children: we presume the singleness of several. Their lack in this area never arises between him and them. It is not something they are recorded as being disturbed with in his presence. It is a point made as unobtrusively as the visitation of the Lord which changes everything, in the opening verses of Ruth.

Jesus never took a wife, nor did he father children. Not in the Old Testament sense. But the creation mandate takes on new aspects in the second Adam, when Jesus speaks of fruitfulness for those who abide in him. This is not the fruitfulness of natural fertility, per se. Motherhood is the image of fruitfulness in that which is female (the church) to Christ; and one of the forms fruitfulness takes in individual women (1 Timothy 5:10). But the fruit of the Spirit is “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22,23).

This may and often does take the arduous and devoted form of bearing and rearing children; and it may and often does take the form of bearing eternal children. So Ann Judson had only two little ones, both of whom died very young; but she helped to share the gospel with unreached people.

Yet the fruitfulness of abiding in Jesus does not necessitate being able to bear children, or traveling to distant lands. It is more immediate and spiritual, more immanently eternal: it is Jesus’ image formed in us. His miraculous life born in us even though we were dead in sins, already erupted into our bodies with a quality of resurrection. The Lord has visited his people.

Childlessness was a reproach because it was a dead end. It was the bitterness of Naomi, cut off from her inheritance in the land; her children buried without issue, without hope of any further part in the promised one. These shadows are swallowed in substance when a child is born to us (Isaiah 9:6), and we inherit God (Psalm 16:5,6).

So even David in the Old Testament can say that the greater blessing than children is to awake in God’s likeness (Psalm 17:14,15). And the reproach in the New Testament is not for the widow who has never given birth, but for the widow who is “dead” while she “lives” — living only for what makes her feel alive in this world (1 Timothy 5:4-6). The true “dead end” is spiritual unfruitfulness: every branch that does not bear fruit is removed (John 15:2).

I have been married a couple decades now, and am unable to have children. It is doubtful if I can adopt, and I won’t credit myself as the agent of anyone’s salvation. Over the years, I have been told in general and even in particular that my childlessness is a reproach in God’s ongoing economy. I’m grateful for my church family: unless I bring it up — my childlessness never arises between them and me. That is one way my brothers and sisters are like Jesus.

After wrestling through some hard years, I have nothing but delight in other women’s joy or in their children that race around me. We all have our fair share of sorrow (it is poignant to think of the sorrow that came to Rachel, Rebekah, to Samson’s mother, to Elisabeth & Mary even after they had children). But the above truths have comforted me. And there is a further wonder, which I would have liked to share with those who told me the childless woman still stands in the church as a symbol of reproach. We no longer overhear her prayers or her praises, but the childless woman doesn’t exactly vanish from the New Testament. She is transfigured. In one of those bewildering reverses of grace, the Old Testament shadow shifts, and she becomes the symbol of a miraculous hope. It is she whose inheritance Jesus redeems. This is the woman Jesus marries (Isaiah 54:5).

—Maybe that’s the thing you stand for in your community, if you are a reader who wonders why God works in other women’s bodies but not in yours; why God hears other women’s prayers, but not yours; why you should stand there year after year overlooked, and whether you will have to die childless (& for many, husbandless). Maybe you are standing there in the midst like a symbol of more staggering hope.

The new creation mandate that Jesus gives to his bride is to go and make disciples of all the nations: it turns out that all along, the childless woman has been Eve, come again. Eve, the mother of all living. The barren one has become the mother of us all (Galatians 4:26,27). She is the church. And all her children are miracle children — born when their mother was desolate, carried to her on the shoulders of kings and queens (Isaiah 49:20-23).

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