On being a human

Jesus, the Eternal Word of God, who is God and who is with God, became flesh. He was the true Israel of God, the true Son of God, succeeding where Adam failed, “Like unto his brethren in all things, sin excepted.”
He, then, is the true Image-bearer of God, who came to restore to us the fullness of our humanity that we lost after the fall.

This is a deep subject, that will take further study. Pick up Colossians, to start with…

If this is true, then that means that Christ came to make us fully human again, instead of the twisted caricature that sin turned us into (Eph. 4:22-24; Col. 3:10)

And if that is true, then why is it that so many conversations with Christians sound like their bodies have been invaded by aliens and they are trying to learn what it means to be human?

Think about it. There is a quick pause, as if they are thinking to themselves, “How would a human respond?” and they almost get it right, but not quite.

Maybe it’s just a Reformed thing…
I, for one, think that we should probably quit putting on some kind of a weird front, and just admit that we like Redbone, Dean Koontz, Stranger Things and let the chips fall where they may.

So today I’m coming out. I’m a human being. I like music and art and best-selling novels. I am currently binge-watching ER. I missed it when it first came out so Hulu is catching me up.

I love seeing God’s image in his creation. I love watching creatures create beauty, sound, lights, color, characters
I’m not afraid of catching sin through my eyes and ears. I have enough of it in my heart, but my savior is greater than my heart and has made me fully human again.
Praise his name forever!!

Now go be a human again.

Advertisements

7 Comments

Filed under Anthropology, Men and women

More notes on a remarkable book

So I finally finished reading “Why Can’t We Be Friends?” As I said in a previous post, I would let you know if I found anything goofy. Good news! Nothing goofy here. Just solid theology and an outstanding exhortation to all of us. Aimee does an admirable work here with human nature, the nature of salvation and sanctification, the holy catholic church and the communion of the saints. As I have said before, I don’t write book reviews, since I have completely forgotten how since my college days, but please go get this book and read through it. You won’t regret it.

I do have a few thoughts on the reaction to the book – in the myriad of blogs, tweets and comments, which I found quite distressing.

First, I am distressed and how many professing Christians seem to be completely obsessed by sex. It makes me sad that we can’t discuss friendship between men and women without “sex getting in the way”. We are obsessed with it. It occupies all of our thoughts and every waking moment. Aimee’s warning is proven by the aftermath. The modern evangelical is totally obsessed with sex. It’s sad to me.

Second, I am distressed by how many pastors confess that they cannot be trusted alone with a woman. Oh, they don’t put it exactly like that. They say, “I never text a woman. That’s how adultery starts.”

Or “I will never be alone with a woman, that’s how adultery starts.”

Or “I would never pick up a woman to give her a ride. That’s how adultery starts.”

So I would like to translate this for the layman. “I, a minister of the gospel, am so out of control and untrustworthy, that you cannot leave your wife or your daughters alone in my vicinity. I couldn’t even give them a ride to the hospital, because it is possible that I would be overcome with lust and attack them in the car.”

Really?

Why, then, are these guys ministers? So, you in the congregation, do yourself a favor. Whenever you hear an ordained minister confess that he has no self-control, and that he is so obsessed with sex that he cannot be trusted giving your daughter a ride to the hospital, or sending a text to your sister or wife, then please remove him from office. Why is he a shepherd to begin with?

And third, we really need to understand love and hate.

I was thinking this through as I was reading Aimee’s book. The Heidelberg Catechism says that we are “prone by nature to hate God and our neighbor.” God created us to love him with our whole heart, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. But when man fell, he became obsessed with himself. He became a fool, and said in his heart “There is no God. I am, and there is none like me. (Psalm 14:1; Isaiah 47:7-8).

When we are redeemed from our sin and misery by Christ, we are taken out of ourselves and our obsessing with ourselves, and our thoughts are directed outwards, first to God and then to our neighbor. This is love. When our affections are placed upon someone other than ourselves.

John wrote,

9 He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now.
10 He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him.
11 But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes. (1 Jn. 2:9-11 KJV)

So here is what I am thinking. When we are born again, when we are walking in the light, we become far less obsessed about ourselves and our “purity” and far more interested in the duties we owe to God and the duties we owe to our neighbor.

This is really what concerns me about current evangelical ethics. We have become so self-absorbed and narcissistic that when we see a woman broken down on the side of the road, our first thought is “How will this affect my purity?”

Do you see the problem? It seems that this is hatred. It seems that this is the problem that Jesus had with the Pharisees. He said,

23 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. (Matt. 23:23 KJV)

The tithe, which is the duty we owe to God, was to be paid. But not as an excuse to act in hatred or indifference towards our neighbors in need. We might use as an excuse that we are very concerned with our purity, because it is the duty we owe to God, but we must remember what John wrote – this is a false dichotomy.

20 If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? (1 Jn. 4:20 KJV)

As I see it, this is the problem with current evangelical ethics. We are so concerned with our own personal purity, that we turn our backs on those in need. So we have become exactly like the Priest or Levite who wouldn’t cross the road to help a man in need because of their obsession with purity.

We would empty our diaconal account to make sure someone is not cremated, while abused women and children starve for lack of resources. We pass by a woman in need because we fear that we might start the neighbors talking – or worse, that we might lose control and attack her, apparently….

I don’t get it. We obsess over whether Rahab sinned by telling a lie, even though the alternative would have been the death of the spies. We say to God,

‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed.
25 ‘And I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the ground; see, you have what is yours.’ (Matt. 25:24-25 NAS)

But when you say that, be prepared for the answer from the Master:

‘You wicked, lazy slave, you knew that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I scattered no seed.
27 ‘Then you ought to have put my money in the bank, and on my arrival I would have received my money back with interest.
28 ‘Therefore take away the talent from him, and give it to the one who has the ten talents.’
(Matt. 25:26-28 NAS)

Honestly, it is easier to obsess over your own personal “purity” than it is to reach out to a neighbor in love. It is easier to hide the talent in the earth. You can’t get hurt that way. You won’t catch adultery that way. You can keep everything the way that it is and not be bothered.

But you can’t love that way. The true motivation isn’t purity, it is laziness and wickedness. Jesus calls it what it is.

This is the real problem. I’m glad that Aimee wrote about it.

20 Comments

Filed under Men and women, Pastoral ministry

Transformed somethin’…

My wife reads me certain things from a very popular blog-site. I won’t tell you what it is because I don’t want it to get any clicks. This blogger has tens of thousands of followers. I thought she was simply a fringe kook, but apparently she is being followed by quite a few people – many of whom call themselves “reformed”. The claws come out if you try to talk sense to any of them.

(Once again, to every unbeliever out there – this is not Christianity. This is simply paganism under Jesus name. If you want to know what Christianity is, pick up a Heidelberg Catechism, or PM me)

So anyway, yesterday this woman wrote that higher education for women is contrary to God’s will. Anything beyond high school. As is working in a career. I think she thinks you can have a job if absolutely necessary – like to put your man through seminary – just as long as it isn’t a “career”.

While I still wait for all of the prooftexts condemning women who educate themselves, I would like to remind you all that neither Jesus, nor Paul, nor any of the apostles thought the same thing. Very briefly, with little comment, here are some women who were educated beyond high school. It’s almost as if they are image bearers of God, and have brains and gifts and abilities all their own! (sarcasm alert)

Jesus doesn’t  want you to just turn your brain off and do what the men tell you. He expects all of us, men and women alike, to use our talents for the kingdom of God, whatever those talents might be (Matthew 25). Remember what he said to the one that was afraid and buried his talent in the earth?

The Christian life is to be a life of joy and gratitude for what God has done. Rejoice greatly, O virgin daughter of Zion!

Don’t let anyone turn it into slavery, the bondage of rules and regulations. That isn’t what Christianity is. It is love and joy and peace with God!

Anyway, here are a few scripture passages:

13 And on the sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted thither.
14 And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul.
15 And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us.
(Acts 16:13-15 KJV)

Astounding! They actually sought out the women’s Bible study down by the river and taught them! They didn’t use the pink bibles, and they didn’t tell them to go home. They taught them.

They followed the example of their Lord:

7 There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water: Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink.
8 (For his disciples were gone away unto the city to buy meat.)
9 Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.
10 Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water. (Jn. 4:7-10 KJV)

According to the Pharisees (and the followers of the aforementioned blog) this woman had three strikes against her. She was a woman. She was a Samaritan (not a good Jew) and she was a sinner. She was living with a man who was not her husband!

But Jesus spoke to her. He gave her a master’s level education on cleanliness, worship, liturgy and calling. Scholars have studied his words to this woman for centuries. He certainly did not water it down for her “simple mind to understand”. He spoke to her as an image-bearer of God, expecting her to understand and act according.

She did, by the way, and witnessed to everyone in her village. I can’t wait to meet her in heaven.

Here’s another one:

38 Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house.
39 And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word.
40 But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.
41 And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:
42 But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.
(Lk. 10:38-42 KJV)

 

This one astounds me. So many pastors, women’s ministry leaders, bloggers, and authors spend countless hours teaching our daughters to be good “Martha’s”.

But look at this. Jesus wants his daughters to imitate MARY. She was sitting at his feet.

As a side note, this was the traditional position for a rabbi and a disciple. Mary was a disciple! No self-respecting Rabbi would take a woman as a disciple. But Mary did not simply glean the leftovers of what he was teaching the men. She took the position of a disciple, sitting at his feet. And he was teaching HER!

Let those words sink into your ears.

Jesus expects all of his children to use every gift that was given to them. This is not at all to denigrate or despise mothers, homemakers, wives. This is a calling I greatly admire.

But the greatest calling of all is the calling to sit at Jesus feet as his disciple and receive the greatest seminary education from his school.

For your secondary calling, whatever you do, do it with your might to the glory of God. Educate yourself, get to a church that values you and your gifts. If the pastor won’t talk to you, find another church. Get some excellent books on theology and learn who our God is. Knowledge will free you from bondage.

I could write of many, many more. I could tell you of Deborah and Huldah, of Rebekah and Leah. I could tell you of Jael. I could tell you of Mary, and Mary Magdelene, and Joanna, and the other women that followed him from town to town as his disciples. Those who were in the upper room, and also spoke in tongues as the first Christian missionaries.

I could even mention that Sapphira was killed by the Holy Spirit for turning her brain off and listening to her husband. She should have cast a vote against him. It would have spared her life (Acts 5:1-11)

Our goal on this earth is to know God and Jesus Christ whom he has sent. Jesus came to transform us to His image, which is the fullness of the image of God. He came to restore us to full humanity – and this includes his daughters, as well as his sons.

So please, quit using the Bible to continue the Victorian view of women. You are so much better than that!

You are strong, capable, intelligent, wise and quite competent to learn from the school of Christ. You are anointed with the Holy Spirit, and given every gift to do the work that He has called you to do. You are a Christian – a partaker of Christ’s anointing. And as such, you also are a prophet, priest and king, with all of the rights and responsibilities of such.

 

By the way, you can also have a career, wear pants, put on makeup and cut your hair as well. Away with every modern Pharisee of every stripe.

Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. (Gal. 5:1 KJV)

14 Comments

Filed under Men and women

When you honor your ministry more than you honor God…

12 Now the sons of Eli were worthless men; they did not know the LORD (1 Sam. 2:12 NAS)

Eli was the High Priest during the years of the Judges. Samuel was not yet born. The Temple had not yet been built, but the tabernacle that Bezalel built in the wilderness was erected in Shiloh. This was where God met with his people. The sacrifices were offered; families ate the peace offerings together in fellowship with the Lord. The word of the Lord was taught.

But something was rotten.

Eli is an old man, and his sons are preparing to take over the priesthood during his retirement. But they are “worthless men” (lit, sons of Belial). Instead of simply saying that they were worthless, the sacred text tells us exactly what the problem was. It is heartbreaking.

First, they abused the families coming to fellowship with God. The families would bring a peace offering as their feast before the Lord. By the law of Moses, part of that offering was to go to the priests. But the sons of Eli demanded more. They threatened violence on those who sought to correct them.

16 And if the man said to him, “They must surely burn the fat first, and then take as much as you desire,” then he would say, “No, but you shall give it to me now; and if not, I will take it by force.” (1 Sam. 2:16 NAS)

The second problem was similar to the first. There were women who gathered at the tabernacle who served God is some capacity. They were “warrior women of Shiloh

And the sons of Eli were raping them. The sacred text says, “They lay with them”, but the dynamic between the high priest and the women was such that rape is not too strong a word. What choice would they have had? Would these two wicked men, who threatened to take meat by force just stand back and ask politely when it came to the women there?

So that was the dynamic. These two men, who were in place to serve God in the highest position of honor – representing the mercy and love and justice and covenant faithfulness of God to the people of God – were worthless. They used their position for their own gratification. they enriched themselves and sated their own ruthless lusts with the bodies of God’s people.

They acted as if their ministry was their own personal playground, rather than the representation of Christ in Shiloh.

And God took pleasure in destroying them. That is what the sacred text says (1 Samuel 2:25). And it is a terrifying thought.

Why was Eli condemned? Eli did an investigation. He established the facts. He rebuked his sons. He rebuked his sons strongly.

But the law of Moses said that they were to be removed from office, taken outside the city, and stoned to death. They were to be reported to the proper authorities and were liable to civil penalties for the evil that they inflicted upon Israel. They were to be removed from office.

But Eli concluded his investigation. Rebuked his sons. Sealed the report. And they continued doing what they were doing.

And God told Eli

29 ‘Why do you kick at My sacrifice and at My offering which I have commanded in My dwelling, and honor your sons above Me, by making yourselves fat with the choicest of every offering of My people Israel?’ (1 Sam. 2:29).

Eli honored his ministry, his family, his tabernacle, more than he honored God. Think of the scandal! How could God’s name survive if it were publicly known what the sons are doing? No. They need to stop. My heart goes out to the victims. But we really have to keep this quiet – for the sake of the ministry.

And so God intervened, and it was hard. Hophni and Phinehas were both killed in battle. Eli hears the news and breaks his neck in a fall. The ark of the Lord is captured by the Philistines. God removed his presence from Israel because of the wickedness of the priests.

There are many similarities. Pastors continue to threaten and abuse. They make themselves fat through fraud, deceit and threats. Many who say, “Enough” are threatened with excommunication or driven out all-together.

Boys and girls continue to be abused by the thousands by leaders in every denomination. And the Elis of the world know about it.

The investigations are done. The leaders are rebuked. The reports are sealed. The abuse continues.

Because far too often we honor the ministry more than we honor God.

And God hates it.

Paul said that if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged (1 Cor. 11:31). If we do not cast out the sons of worthlessness from our midst, God does. And all who were complicit by their silence will also bear their judgment.

There are those whom God delights in destroying. That is a terrifying thought. It is also terrifying to think that far too often the people of God are standing with those whom God would delight in destroying.

Such a thing should not happen in the church.

For all of the families who have been threatened and cast out; for all of the women who have been molested in the “service of the Lord”, know this: God isn’t sealing and ignoring the report. He sees your tears and he hears your cry.

He has not yet acted because he is longsuffering and merciful. But he will act. He will come in judgment.

The Son of David, Jehovah himself, our Lord Jesus – both true and eternal God and the Son of David in one person – is the King we desire. He isn’t fooled. He doesn’t ignore the cries of the needy. He isn’t fooled by false words.

One of my favorite Psalms is Psalm 72, describing his reign.

2 He shall judge thy people with righteousness, and thy poor with judgment.
3 The mountains shall bring peace to the people, and the little hills, by righteousness.
4 He shall judge the poor of the people, he shall save the children of the needy, and shall break in pieces the oppressor.
5 They shall fear thee as long as the sun and moon endure, throughout all generations.
6 He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass: as showers that water the earth.
7 In his days shall the righteous flourish; and abundance of peace so long as the moon endureth. (Ps. 72:2-7 KJV)

Even now, although there is much that is not right, we see the Son at work exposing evil, bringing justice. And that work has just begun.

We will continue, as long as we have breath, to expose evil, reflecting God’s justice and righteousness as his image-bearers.

But ultimately, our hope is that the King is coming. He brings justice with his arm. He sees. He knows. He isn’t mocked. He isn’t fooled.

12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him. (Ps. 2:12 KJV)

He is longsuffering. But the offer of peace does not last forever.

8 Comments

Filed under Abuse, assault, justice

Chantry, Hezekiah and Chloe

When thoughts collide…

Last week I was preparing for my Sunday School teaching on Hezekiah and the siege of Jerusalem. As I was preparing, I was struck by this message from Isaiah to Hezekiah:

Because you have prayed to Me against Sennacherib king of Assyria, I have heard (2 Kings 19:20)

Hezekiah was in bad trouble. Sennacherib had conquered the whole world, and he was unstoppable. He had now surrounded Jerusalem and gave Hezekiah the terms of absolute surrender. There was no strength left in Hezekiah.

And Hezekiah took the letter demanding his surrender and laid it on the altar of God, crying out to the Creator of Heaven and Earth and telling God the problem. He spoke honestly and directly.

God delights when we call upon him. God takes pleasure in our prayers, when we speak to him honestly and directly. When we are in trouble, and when we are weak and helpless, fearful and doubting, in pain and in distress – God would have us tell him about it. He is our God, and we are his people and the sheep of his pasture.

14 Offer unto God thanksgiving; and pay thy vows unto the most High:
15 And call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me. (Ps. 50:14-15 KJV)

But this goes against the culture of most churches. If you have been following the Tom Chantry trial, you see what so many people have suffered. People aren’t believed, they are silenced, when they complain about mistreatment or abuse, they are told to be quiet. To be thankful and put off their “bitterness” and their “complaining spirit”.

And so people are being groomed to take abuse and mistreatment, and put on the happy face. Let’s all play happy families. Only sinners are in trouble. Only sinners complain. Only unthankful people are unhappy.

But Isaiah didn’t rebuke Hezekiah for being bitter or for complaining. Hezekiah was in trouble, and God heard him because he spoke the truth to God.

And while I was thinking about that, I was also thinking about the household of Chloe.

For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house  of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. (1 Cor. 1:11 KJV)

If Paul had been a modern church planter, 1 Corinthians would never have been written. Instead, Paul would have rebuked Chloe’s household for gossip and bitterness.

How many of you have heard these?

“Now, Chloe. Have you gone through the steps of Matthew 18? I don’t want to hear about this.”

“This is just gossip. You need to repent of your bitterness.”

“We are right in the middle of a fund-raising campaign for the saints in Jerusalem. We can’t have this negative talk and gossip going on. It will hurt the Jerusalem Famine Ministry.”

“Chloe, have you spoken to a man about these things? In fact, it isn’t even your household. You need to go submit to your husband and let the men handle it. When women usurp authority, all sorts of gossip and complaining start happening.”

“I know the man who you say was sleeping with his step-mother. He’s a good man. Remember that he is innocent until proven guilty. I know everyone is talking about it, but we really need to get a handle on the undisciplined talk before it destroys a good man’s name.”

“Chloe, I can’t hear this unless you have two or three witnesses. No, the children don’t count. No, the women don’t count. No, those men don’t count. They’re just bitter.”

And on and on it goes.

Aren’t you glad that Paul wasn’t a modern Big Eva guy?

“I hear that Paul is coming to Corinth! Did you get your tickets yet? I hear he will have another epistle to the Thessalonians on sale in the foyer. His conferences sell out every year!”

I thank God for the pastors that are far more concerned about truth than their reputations or their bank accounts!

Hezekiah spoke the truth and was heard, even though he was surrounded by Assyrians. Chloe’s household spoke the truth.

It was when David finally spoke the truth to God that God heard him (Psalm 51).

In fact, all of the Psalms are about speaking the truth to God. Tell God what is going on. Tell God the truth.

And find a church that is more interested in the truth than in the cover-up. That is more interested in the health of the sheep than the hurt feelings of the wolf. That is more interested in being faithful to God than in their reputations and bank accounts.

We need more pastors that want to know the truth about your marriage, your families, your fears and your doubts and your struggles. This is what the church is for. God is not interested in the happy façade. He wants the truth.

Listen to Chloe. You just might learn something.

8 Comments

Filed under Pastoral ministry

Reading notes and a remarkable book…

I am doing something quite rare for me. I am reading slowly! I am reading through Why Can’t We Be Friends (Aimee Byrd) and I am actually taking my time through it. It is really quite remarkable. Normally, it takes me a few hours to read through a book, but I find myself reading one or two sections at a time and thinking deeply about it.

Here are some things I would like to say. If you do not understand the relationship between faith and works, read this book.

If you do not understand what purity is, read this book.

If you are unclear about the gospel, read this book.

Aimee has done something very rare here. She has written a book about the relationships between men and women and has applied the Reformed Doctrine of the Holy Spirit and our sanctification to the relationship of the sexes. I have never seen anyone do that before.

Every other book I’ve read is EITHER about sanctification, OR it is about the rules on how to keep yourself pure through the law – but to connect purity with the GOSPEL?? and the work of the HOLY SPIRIT??

It is almost like she knows something about theology and the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit!

You can tell she is on the right track because modern Pharisees are apparently ready to string her up for it. When the gospel is taught, the Judaizers always light the torches and sharpen the pitchforks.

But she is absolutely right. Our purity is in our relationship with God, not in outward, extra biblical rules. In fact, the extra biblical rules, like the Billy Graham rule, simply give the appearance of purity without dealing with the more difficult problem of the heart. The gospel goes to the heart.

At any rate, I haven’t finished yet. I am still thinking through her brilliant chapter on purity, and thinking about what Jesus said,

“Blind Pharisee, cleanse first the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may be clean.” (Matt. 23:26 NAB)

Go buy this book. Read it slowly, and then read it again.

By the way, this isn’t a book review. I haven’t written one of those since college and don’t even remember how. I said that I would never write one again, and I have kept my promise to myself. This is simply a note of my thoughts so far and my recommendation to you.

Fabulous book, so far. (If she gets goofy towards the end, I’ll let you know – but I’m not expecting her to).

Thank you, Aimee, for writing it.

7 Comments

Filed under Book Notes

God in three persons

Since the false teaching known as Eternal Subordination of the Son (ESS) was promulgated by Wayne Grudem in his systematic theology, it has been used to wrongly subjugate women and keep them enslaved. “Equal in being, but subordinate in role.” You can say it over and over, and you can enforce it with threats and intimidation but it still does not make it orthodox or true.

False doctrine always leads to bondage. It is the truth that sets one free. So we need a primer on the doctrine of the Holy Trinity.

There is one eternal being, which we call God. There is only one. He is eternal, simple, infinite in power and majesty. He is everywhere present, beyond all space and time. He is sovereign and does all his good pleasure. He has attributes that belong to him alone. Immutable, infinite, incomprehensible, simple, independent. There is only one being with those attributes. He is not divided, he is not composed of parts, he is not physical, but spiritual.

When we are describing the nature of God, we use the term “essence” or “being”. There is only one being, only one essence, only one will, only one power, only one authority – it is the authority of God. Scripture nowhere speaks of the wills of God. It is only the will of God. Scripture does not speak of the authorities of God, but the authority and power of God. There are not three almighty beings. There is only one.

Hear, O Israel. The Lord, our God, the Lord is One.

And from the very beginning, this one, true eternal God has revealed himself in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Ghost. There are not three gods, or three parts of God. But three “subsistences” if you will. Three separate, distinct persons. The Father is God. The Son is God. The Spirit is God. And yet there are not three gods; but one God.

When it comes to defining exactly what a person is, we come away a bit stumped, since there really is nothing in creation quite like it. We say “persons” so we are not silent. We know that there is an “I” a “you” and a “he” in the Holy Trinity. We know that the Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Holy Spirit. They are distinct and in a relationship of love with one another, for God is love.

It is quite beyond our comprehension.

But it is God’s will to reveal himself to mankind. So the second person of the trinity, of the same essence as the Father, took upon himself the very nature of man in the womb of the virgin Mary. There are not two Christs, but one. Jesus of Nazareth. He remains true and eternal God, even while in the womb of Mary, and even in the sepulchre in Jerusalem. How the living and true God shed his blood is contained in the mystery of the incarnation. He who is life was truly dead for three days.

In the one person of Jesus Christ, there are two distinct natures: true man and true God. Everything you can say about man, you can say about Jesus, except for sin. He was weak, hungry, thirsty, poor, ignorant, liable to death and suffering, submissive, obedient. And at the same time, he was also true and eternal God. Everything you can say about God you can say about Jesus of Nazareth: Eternal, sovereign, omnipotent, creator and sustainer of the universe, simple, uncreated, everywhere present.

And these two natures exist in one person, without confusion, without division, without separation, without change.

This is a great mystery that is more fit to be wondered at than explained any further. The all-wise, all knowing God had to learn his alphabet. The God who is life died and shed his blood. He who knew no sin became sin for us. It staggers the mind.

The person, Jesus of Nazareth, was submissive to the Father with all obedience. He kept the covenant of works perfectly in our place. He obeyed perfectly. Our salvation depends upon it.

The problem with ESS is that it takes that submission, that belongs to the incarnate Christ, and moves it into his divine nature, into eternity, apart from the incarnation. This makes the divine nature submissive. That is, not divine at all.

The orthodox speak of a covenant of Redemption in the eternal counsels of the Trinity, but we must understand that without doing injustice to the sovereignty of the Person of Christ. The covenant of Redemption is this. The Father, representing the Triune God, enters into covenant with the Son, representing his people. The Son will take upon himself human nature and suffer and die for the sins of his people. The Father will exalt him and give him a name which is above every name.

This also is a great mystery, and cannot be pried into any more that what is revealed. We know a little about the divine counsels, when the curtain is drawn back at creation and we hear, “Let us make man in our image.”

There was no authority and submission, no melding of diverse wills, no submitting personalities. A simple statement of divine intention.

Any submission in Jesus Christ is attributed to his office as our mediator, the god/man by virtue of the holy conception and birth of Christ in the womb of Mary the virgin.

For further information, please contact me. The creeds of the church are very helpful and clear.

4 Comments

Filed under Christology, Eternal Subordination, Eternal Subordination, Gospel, Trinity

Bad Listeners

“Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath:” (James 1:19)

Yesterday I was watching old reruns of Monk. I don’t know if you remember the show about the OCD detective. Tony Shalhoub is brilliant, but that really isn’t what this post is about.

Anyway, one scene in the show was the detective interviewing a witness in her home. While she was trying to tell him what she saw and what she experienced, he was extremely distracted. The items on her coffee table were out of place and disorderly. Monk, suffering from OCD, couldn’t hear a word she said until he rearranged all of her knick-knacks.

I’ve been thinking about that. Why are pastors such horrible listeners? Yes, I am talking about you – particularly Reformed pastors. This is a critique of my own tribe. I also have struggled with being a good listener, so these things are coming from my experience.

Have you ever had a conversation with someone and they weren’t listening to anything you were saying? You can see the exact moment they shut down. They have already figured out what they were going to say, and anything else you might say is not relevant. I think it is a problem for pastors. We are really bad at listening.

Why are we such bad listeners?

I have a few suggestions:

  1. We are OCD with theological error. We completely miss someone’s trauma, but woe to the uninformed that uses the word “potluck” (you mean “pot providence”) or “My father was a good man” (THERE IS NONE GOOD; NO NOT ONE!) Just like Mr. Monk, if all of the theological ducks aren’t neatly lined up to our liking, we shut down. Seriously, when was the last time you allowed a theological mistake to just pass you by. Even the attempt to “let it go” causes our muscles to twitch, our words to stammer, our eyes to water…
  2. We forget to remember that Jesus was moved with compassion for the multitudes – like sheep without a shepherd. Are you compassionate enough to actually let someone tell you their story – even if it makes you uncomfortable, even if you don’t know what to say, even if it takes several hours? Jesus was moved with compassion. So should we be.
  3. Most of us heard Jay Adams tell us that after 6 or 8 sessions you have a discipline problem. We feel this urge to rush through, tell people what they need to do and move on. Depressed? Get over it. Still depressed? Church discipline! Angry at your rapist? Quit being bitter. Get over it. Move on with your life. We are convinced that we HAVE to give the solution, give the cure, tell them what to do to make this uncomfortable feeling stop. But only a fool answers a matter before he hears it. Listen first. Then speak. It’s what the Bible commands.

I was at a church years and years ago. There was a young man visiting. After the service, I was talking to a couple of the elders and this young man came up to us and asked “Is there a grocery store around here? I need some food”. The elders looked stunned, and then said,

“We don’t shop on the Sabbath Day.”

Really.

This is what I mean. Where is the compassion? Where is the discernment?

Be compassionate. Be educated. Be like Christ. Listen.

The hardest thing for a pastor to learn is this: You don’t have to talk all the time. You don’t have to have answers all the time. You don’t have to fill the air around you with a miasma of ignorant pious slogans. You don’t have to correct everyone that is wrong.

But you do have to listen. And you do have to be compassionate.

Let’s practice:

“Potluck, potluck, potluck, potluck.

“He’s a good man. He’s a good man. He’s a good man.

“God loves everybody. God loves everybody. God loves everybody…..

“Last Sunday I went to a restaurant…”

 

Let it go. There is a time and place for correcting theology, but remember that we would be in a far better place to do that if we first learned how to listen.

(By the way, Jay Adams was wrong here. Most people haven’t even gotten to the real issue until the 6th  session. They start out by seeing if you are trustworthy and willing to listen. If you shut them down the first session, they won’t come to you with the real issue. I believe that this is a major reason why nouthetic counseling has been so disastrous with trauma and assault.)

22 Comments

Filed under Pastoral ministry

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.

12 Comments

Filed under Gospel, Marriage, Men and women

The Humility of Caleb

My Only Comfort

“But My servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit in him and has followed Me fully, I will bring into the land where he went, and his descendants shall inherit it. (Num 14:24 NKJ)

I’ve been thinking about Caleb lately. Caleb was a slave in Egypt and saw the plagues that God brought on them. He cheered when the Red Sea covered Pharaoh. He sang Miriam’s song of Redemption. He watched his nation under the watchful hand of God travel through the wilderness. How he longed to receive his inheritance!

When the congregation came to the border, ready to invade and take their inheritance, they rebelled. They were afraid of the giants in the land.

And Caleb’s hopes fell. His desire and expectation crushed. And then God spoke to Moses. “Caleb will enter. He was faithful.”

But he had to wait for 40 years. And the worst thing about…

View original post 1,049 more words

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized