Nationalism: Who makes the bricks?

Moses wrote the book of Genesis to the nation of Israel who had just been delivered from the oppression of Egypt. In Egypt, they were slaves who made bricks and built buildings for their oppressors. They made bricks day and night to build cities for Pharaoh.
Moses wrote about this when he wrote about the tower of Babel:

Then they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They had brick for stone, and they had asphalt for mortar. 4 And they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth (Gen. 11:3–4).

They were building a kingdom to regain what they had lost in Eden. After mankind was exiled from the presence of God, they were scattered. After Noah departed from the Ark, they began to scatter. It didn’t take long for them to organize and seek to build what they had lost.

We will fight the grave. We will make a name for ourselves. We will establish ourselves.

Isaiah later takes this idea and adds to it. Lucifer, by the way, refers to Babylon, not Satan.

Isaiah 14:12–15 (NKJV)
12“How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, You who weakened the nations!
13For you have said in your heart: ‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation On the farthest sides of the north;
14I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.’
15Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol, To the lowest depths of the Pit.

Notice the echoes of the same themes – the tower reaching to heaven. We will be like the most high. We will exalt our throne. We will sit on the mount of the congregation of the Lord. Read the whole chapter. Isaiah is speaking about the spirit that drives Babylon, and every kingdom of this earth.

In other words, “We will establish the kingdom of God on this earth. We will build cities. We will pass laws. We will deal with evil-doers. We will create a society, a City on the Hill. And there will be no more curse.”

View it from the backdrop of the description of Babel. This is a major theme throughout the Bible, but I only want to focus on one aspect of it.

The Tower was built with bricks and mortar. And the original readers of Genesis would have known exactly what that meant. Someone had to make the bricks and build the buildings.

That would not have been Pharaoh, the one with the grand plan. It would have been the slaves.

And so comes the downfall of every single scheme to build the kingdom of God on this earth. Someone has to make the bricks.

Even the founding of our own country, which many claim is the “City on the Hill”, using the phrase of the puritans. Who did the work?

Dabney complained after the slaves were set free that he hardly had time to write anymore because of all the menial labor that wasn’t getting done.

In our own state, the California Indians were enslaved to harvest the crops and build the cities. The adobe houses weren’t going to build themselves.

The “City on the Hill” is a grand idea, until you think about who is making the bricks. One thing is for sure. The one who says, “Come let us make bricks” is NOT the one who is actually making the bricks. The one who holds the whip is the one giving the commands. The one at the other end of the whip is making the bricks.

At the end of Genesis 11, there is a contrast. We are introduced to a new character. Abraham. God gives Abraham a promise, and Abraham believes it. And he learns to wait for it.

Hebrews 11 tells us this:

Hebrews 11:9–10 (NKJV)
9 By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise;
10 for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.

Abraham lived in tents his whole life, because he waited for another kind of city. A city where God makes the bricks and builds the city.

Dwell on that for a moment.

There is no oppression, no vanity under the sun, no pain and toil.

And truly no more curse. No curse for anyone, for God will take it on himself.

HE makes the bricks and prepares a place for you. And you can dwell in a tent while you wait, if that is what it takes.

THIS is the kingdom of God.

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Filed under liberty, Nationalism, slavery

“Christianity has a masculine feel…”

Thus spake John Piper, the wise. It makes me sad. There is a new religion that has entered through the American revivalists over the decades, and it isn’t Christianity. It is a religion of power, authority, money, influence and control. Its ugly babies are abuse, rape, violence, racism, and oppression.

This “religion” has a “masculine feel” – which is now defined as Christians taking dominion, conquering wives, controlling children, taking over counties, states, and eventually countries. (I believe that masculinity is a gift of God that can be used for much good, but that is another subject.)

It snuck in stealthily and some of us didn’t really wake up to it recently. And many, like me, have asked since “What happened to Christianity? How did it turn in to power and politics and hatred and blustering. How did it turn into abuse and oppression and coverup? How did the dynamic of authority and submission come to take the place of the gospel? What happened to the good news that the church was commissioned to proclaim?”

How could we have gotten it so wrong? Many have written on it and have done well. Most of them have been cast out of their churches, received death threats and suffered all sorts of abuse. All that does is prove the validity of the question. “When did Christianity turn into something so unlike itself?”

This is a blog. It isn’t a book. It is a short commentary designed to encourage thought. So I would like to simply modify Piper’s statement to something a little more Biblical, and leave it at that. If you like, you can compare these statements to Piper’s statement and determine for yourself, if you are willing to do so. Perhaps the answer to the question, “How did we get here?” might spring up in your mind.

Instead of saying, “Christianity has a masculine feel”, look at these nine more biblical alternatives:

“Christianity has a lover’s embrace feel” (Song of Songs)

“Christianity has a mothering hen and sheltering chicks feel” (Matthew 23:37)

“Christianity has a begging widow feel” (Luke 18:1-8)

“Christianity has a dying beggar feel” (Luke 16:20-21)

“Christianity has a babies and nursing infants feel” (Matthew 11:25; Matthew 21:16)

“Christianity has a big, warm, lying in each other’s arms feel” (Luke 15:20; John 13:23)

“Christianity has a desperate, helpless sinner feel” (Luke 18:13)

“Christianity has a hopeless prisoner, outcast, despised, mourning, fringe kind of feel” (Isaiah 61:1-3; Luke 4:18-19).

“Christianity has a safe, belonging, peaceful, nourishing, apron-wearing, serving one another kind of feel” (so, so, so many passages John 13; Romans 8; Revelation 20-21; Isaiah 2; Zephaniah 3)

There are probably many more, and the difference is crucial. There are those who have power, who are masculine in every cultural sense of the word; there are those who are in charge, who have money, who sit on thrones, who rule their houses, who have resources, time, authority and status…

But that isn’t Christianity. If you have those things, you must consider them all to be dung, be willing to give them all away, learn to wear an apron, become as a nursing child or begging widow, or you are, quite honestly, not worthy of Christ’s name. Nor are you worthy to use any of the power that God has given you until you first learn to lay it aside and take up an apron.

But on the other hand, those on the fringes, those who are unclean, those who are weak, beggars, cast-aways, despised, hated, thirsty, longing for love and for embrace and for belonging and safety, Jesus is speaking to YOU.

“Come unto me, and I will give you rest.”

Not “and I will teach you to be manly”

Not “and I will teach you how to have power over people”

Not “and I will teach you what you have to do to earn favor with God”

But “I will give you rest.”

I have heard that according to Babylonian mythology, the gods created humans because they needed workers.

God did not create us because he needed workers in his kingdom. He created us to rest in his bosom. He created us free to create, to plant, to reap, to sing, to dance, to rejoice in the love of the Holy Trinity, into which we have been sweetly drawn in by the power of the Holy Spirit.

When we turn it into a “masculine feel” of conquest, authority, power, control, we always end up in some truly ugly places.

Stop the idolatry of Babel, resurrected as Christian nationalism. Learn to rest in the bosom of the shepherd.

James 3:17–18 (NKJV)
17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.
18 Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

That can only happen when we learn how to rest in God’s love and stop trying to control everyone or make them our servants. Learn to wear the apron. Learn to rest in the embrace. Long for the lover’s voice. This is Christianity.

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Cancel Culture and Lessons from Assyria

Isaiah 8:6–8 (NKJV)
6 “Inasmuch as these people refused The waters of Shiloah that flow softly, And rejoice in Rezin and in Remaliah’s son;
7 Now therefore, behold, the Lord brings up over them The waters of the River, strong and mighty— The king of Assyria and all his glory; He will go up over all his channels And go over all his banks.
8 He will pass through Judah, He will overflow and pass over, He will reach up to the neck; And the stretching out of his wings Will fill the breadth of Your land, O Immanuel.

The nation of Judah was threatened by surrounding nations. They looked to make a treaty with Assyria to protect themselves and their way of life.

Isaiah was sent to warn them of the dangers of this path. This section begins in chapter 7, for the whole context.

But Judah’s king, Ahaz, did not believe Isaiah’s words. He would not trust in the Lord or the Lord’s covenant. He refused a sign, for his mind was already made up.

He would not rest in God’s promise and God’s provision. Instead, he would trust in human power, armies, wealth, kings and nations.

God’s promises and God’s instructions were like the gentle moving waters of Shiloah (later called “Siloam”, see John 9). Gentle water washes and refreshes. It quenches thirst and gives peace. Sitting quietly by a gentle spring of water calms the soul.

It is a beautiful metaphor for God’s promise of a redeemer. Immanuel, God with us! This promise cannot fail for who can stop the creator of heaven and earth from fulfilling his word?

If Ahaz had simply rested in God’s promise and learned to quiet his soul, he would not have sold himself and his nation into the hands of the Assyrian army. Assyria would not stop. They would destroy everything in their path and consume all who stood in their way.

They were like a huge, destructive flood, crushing everything in its path.

But Ahaz would not listen. From his day on, Israel would never be independent again. They would be subject to nation after nation up until Rome, when Jesus would set up his kingdom just as the prophets foretold.

But here is the point. When we refuse to listen to the gentle voice of the promise and the instructions of God, eventually God will use the Assyrian armies to get the attention of his people. God uses tyrants to call his people to repentance before it is too late.

When we refuse to heed the voice of the gentle waters, the waters of the destructive flood have their way of compelling us.

This brings me to another thing I’ve been thinking about. Cancel culture.

We used to call it “politically correct speech”. If you say the wrong words, the consequences can be dire. I just read of another minister kicked off Twitter because of his incorrect speech about gender dysphoria. He, of course, blames it on “persecuted for righteousness’ sake”, but I think the cause is deeper.

For decades we have accepted reviling speech against anyone we deem “enemies”. Whether it is the LGBTQ community, or liberal theologians, or people who support the wrong candidate, or those who speak out for social justice, or promote CRT, we (as the church) use the most degrading and hateful speech imaginable.

I guess we consider it fair game, because the objects of our derision are so “objectionable”. We justify it to ourselves by saying that these sorts of people will rob us of our place and our nation and we have to put a stop to it.

As a sideline, I know that reviling speech is prevalent on every side of political debate. But my whole life I have been a member of the conservative church and I voted Republican until 2016, so my great love and my great concern are for my own tribe.

Who am I to call out those who are outside of my experience and my knowledge? I will leave that to others.

Another side note, I know that not EVERYONE uses reviling speech against “enemies”, but I know that mostpeople sit silently and say by their inaction that this sort of communication is acceptable.

They might not agree with revilers and the language that they use, but they listen to their radio broadcasts, give money to their ministries, buy their books, read their blogs, vote them into office, and smile quietly to themselves at their silly “antics”.

And it is easy to forget how much God HATES reviling speech, contemptuous mocking, ridicule, name-calling and the hatred that so easily fills the heart.

God has spoken quietly to us with faithful preaching, gentle rebukes from the pulpits, the reading of scripture, the outpouring of the Spirit (aptly described in scripture as cleansing water) – and the church mocked, scoffed, and justified their speech as necessary for “culture warriors” in dangerous times.

We looked the other way as “pastors” reviled women with revolting and hateful words. We held our tongues as they scoffed at their neighbors and insulted opponents. We voted for politicians who “own the libs”. And we stood silently by as the church forgot that the LGBTQ community is also made up of image bearers of God.

We called those “pastors” wordsmiths, culture warriors, and passed around their words and shared their blogs tearing fellow humans to shreds with the most degrading language possible, because – we said to ourselves – we are at war for our place and our nation.

And forgot that God hates it.

    22      “How long, you simple ones, will you love simplicity?
     For scorners delight in their scorning,
     And fools hate knowledge.

And we rejected the gentle waters of Shiloah.

So now we have the flood of Cancel Culture. God sends tyrants to gain the attention of those he loves, to bring them to repentance.

So I would make the following suggestion. Instead of railing against “cancel culture” as an enemy of righteousness, take it as an opportunity to correct your speech patterns.

Use words of life, and not death. Don’t join in angry scoffing and scorn against people you disagree with. Put off name-calling and ridicule. Learn to listen to others with an open mind.

View your neighbor with compassion instead of contempt. Turn off all who cause unrest and stir up strife. Pray for those who disagree with you. Look at your neighbors and coworkers NOT as commodities to be used to fill your empty places at church, but as human beings with their own thoughts, experiences, journeys, tragedies and pains that they carry with them.

And remember that the fruits of the Spirit are love, joy and peace…and there aren’t any laws against those things, nor can there be.

And also, please note that I am NOT saying that our spirit of cancel culture is a good thing. In many ways, it is exactly like the tyranny of the Assyrian king, and great injustices have been done. We also should do what we can to have compassion on those who have been brutally “canceled” and refuse to play those wicked games ourselves.

My only suggestion is that perhaps we view it as an opportunity to learn better ways of communicating ourselves and repent of those times we have used words to hurt and cancel others.

This, I believe, is a more biblical approach to the cruelty of tyranny.

My two bits.

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Filed under Image of God, Love, Words

9 things (October 13)

Some beatings take longer to recover from. Beatings accompanied by ill-will administered by those one mistook for friends are the hardest ones.

I know it has been several months since I have written. The day may come when I can talk about it. Today isn’t that day.

I was looking for 4 gallon water jugs for my dispenser. They were not in their usual spot at Sam’s. I checked several other aisles. I found an employee and asked her. She said, “Did you check the furniture aisle?” I said, “Yes.” She said, “Did you happen to notice if there were any there?” I gawped. Paused. I think she understood what she just asked. It will come to her in the middle of the night when the movie of her life runs through her head.

I sympathize with her. I often speak before I think. Maybe I want to be just as surprised as you are at what comes out of my mouth. I don’t know where I read that, but I felt it deeply.

The beatings mentioned above are even harder to recover from when they were administered for the sole purpose of hurting you.

They reviled Jesus by calling him scornfully a “friend of sinners”. We should ask ourselves how he conducted himself around sinners to keep getting invited to their feasts.

Normalize going a whole day without telling someone what you think is wrong with them.

How did we get here? How did the church devolve into this? We are suspicious of compassion, of joy, of rejoicing, of laughter, of love, of empathy, of tears, of emotions…the only thing we aren’t suspicious of is the false doctrine that takes away our humanity and the possibility of redemption. We’ve turned into cold slaves, offering our heartless service to an angry God, trying to convince him to get off our backs by rebuking everyone around us. It isn’t working.

When we think that the blessing of God is connected to how well other people are keeping the law, we become heartless, cruel, suspicious, restless, angry and vindictive. Maybe we should strive to be known as the friends of sinners, rather than the inquisitors of sinners.

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9 things (catching up and thinking about followership)

I am very thankful to God for warm and rich fellowship with many sisters in Christ. I have no biological sisters, but many warm friendships online, and in real life.

The Oregon Coast is beautiful and I’m glad that we were able to spend some time away. I got pretty sick two days into my trip, so I didn’t get to recreate as much as I wanted to – but I got a lot of reading in.

I have heard my whole life that the reason God called Deborah to lead was that the men had all failed to step up. This is found nowhere in the text. But if we assume that it is true, the practical outcome was identical: If the men listened to her, they would live. If they rebelled against her they would die. Whatever God’s motive was for raising her up makes no difference in the outcome. What was important was not her gender, but whether she spoke God’s word.

The highlight of my trip was when a young child pointed at me and said, “Hey, look at the old man!” It must have been my hat…

While breakfasting in Medford, I glanced through the “Frankfurt declaration”. I decided to pen my own Medford Declaration: “I the undersigned will continue to be unaffected by the opinions of cult leaders and heterodox celebrity preachers”.

And back to Deborah – CS Lewis has a marvelous segment in “Prince Caspian.” Lucy, the youngest of the four children, sees Aslan who tells her to follow him and tell the others. The others can’t see him, but he tells her to follow anyway. They reluctantly follow her, and eventually they can see Aslan leading her. It seems to me that neither age nor gender are nearly as important as whom one is following.

One blessing in illness is the time to read. “The Call to Follow; Hearing Jesus in a Culture obsessed with Leadership” by Richard Langer and Joanne J. Jung is worth every penny and every minute. I’ll post a review on Amazon shortly.

August is bittersweet for me. The memories come up on my social media. It was in August that my wife had a surgery that left her in severe pain for years to follow. It was an incredibly difficult time. It was also in August that my youngest daughter spent weeks in the hospital hovering between life and death. The scars remain with both. August leaves scars that only Jesus can heal.

Next week, I will again be sitting in the hospital with my daughter and she goes through more tests. There is nowhere that is a better training ground for patience than at the bedside of a loved one. You wait regardless. You can do it patiently; or you can do it impatiently. But you will wait. Sometimes for years.

Come quickly, Lord Jesus.

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Here’s to the ones who fail…

We like to watch certain contest type shows. America’s Got Talent; Chopped – that sort of show. People arrive and show off their skills for the judges. They are fun to watch, and fun to see what gifts God has given to people.

There is a running theme in all of these. Contestants will almost invariably say a variation of the following.

“They might have more experience …. but no one works harder than I do”

“I just want to show my (daughter, son, nephew, niece) that you can achieve your dreams if you work hard and set your mind on it.”

“I’ve had some sort of adversity, but I overcame and showed myself strong…”

“I didn’t let obstacles keep me from my dreams…”

These sorts of statements warm the hearts of the audience and judges. I don’t really want to cut down those who have worked hard and achieved their dreams, nor do I want to belittle hard work. Hard work is better than idleness; dreaming is better than hopeless despair. Trying is better than not trying at all.

But several decades of adversity tend to bring something else out about life.

The strong don’t always win.

The ones that work the hardest don’t always succeed.

The talented don’t always get the record deals.

Sometimes a virus travels up into your brain and eats holes there. Sometimes the joints degenerate.

Sometimes, you are a fighter and  work hard and are determined to beat the cancer, but it wins anyway.

Sometimes, the world doesn’t work the way that it is supposed to.

11 I returned and saw under the sun that—

The race is not to the swift,
Nor the battle to the strong,
Nor bread to the wise,
Nor riches to men of understanding,
Nor favor to men of skill;
But time and chance happen to them all.
12      For man also does not know his time:
Like fish taken in a cruel net,
Like birds caught in a snare,
So the sons of men are snared in an evil time,
When it falls suddenly upon them. (Ecclesiastes 9:11-12)

This is actually a comfort, because I know how often we beat ourselves up with guilt.

If my illness overcomes me, does that mean I have failed morally?
If I didn’t win, is it because I didn’t work hard enough?
If my dreams didn’t come true, is it because I didn’t visualize them enough and strive enough?

What if I am just ordinary. What if I just write a few things from time to time, plant some tomatoes that never seem to grow, and never leave any kind of name or spectacular achievement behind?

What if, like the vast majority of the human race, I die, go into the dust, and fade away and in 6 months no one remembers me, my loved ones have a hard time picturing my face, and the universe continues on?

To all of the ordinary ones like me, here’s to you!

Here’s to the one whose body is wracked with pain and getting up in the morning is a monumental task.

Here’s to the ones who can’t memorize their catechism, no matter how hard they try.

Here’s to the ones who lay awake at night sweating and trembling and not really quite able to conquer their anxieties all the time.

Here’s to the ones who just get tired and want to throw in the towel.

Here’s to the ones who work 9 to 5 on the same job their whole lives who have learned contentment.

Here’s to the ones who can’t get work because their bodies have betrayed them.

Here’s to the ones who have mastered running a 10k. And here’s to the ones who can’t walk across a Walmart without having to rest.

Whoever you are and whatever your struggle, here’s to you.

Jesus didn’t come just to save the strong, beautiful, talented. And sometimes the curse on the world is just too much.

Sometimes, you don’t get over grief, but carry it every single day.

Sometimes, you don’t wish your way into good health, but will limp every day.

Sometimes, you don’t succeed, no matter how hard you work at it.

Sometimes, your hidden talents remain hidden, because you are too busy trying to put food on the table.

Sometimes, people abandon you and the hardest battles are the ones you face alone.

Sometimes,

In fact, usually –

people are born. They do some things. They die.

And while they are doing some things, if they are sometimes overwhelmed by the futility of it all, overcome with despair and isolation, and sometimes crushed by the weight of it all – if they cry out to the Lord, they might find that he hears, that he cares, that he is faithful, and that he has flights and flights of angels waiting to bear us to his rest…

If we just call upon his name.

For the scripture says,

“Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Not – “Whosoever has their lives together”

Nor – “Whosever works hard enough and dreams hard enough

Nor – “Whosoever contributes enough to society”

Nor – “He who has friends in high places

Nor – “He who gets the best invites…”

But whosoever calls.

Because if you count on your strength, you will probably trip.

If you count on your horses and riders, you might lose a nail.

If you count on your health, one microscopic virus could lay you in a chair the rest of your life.

If you count on your beauty, one fire, one accident, one bacterium…

You get the picture. The race isn’t too the swift…

BUT – whoever will call upon the name of the LORD will be saved.

This is repentance. It isn’t trying to work up enough energy to quit whatever sin you struggle with. It is turning from your trust in your will-power, the power of your dreams, the power of your love, the power of your determination – and realize the hopelessness and futility of all of it.

And call upon Jesus alone. He alone saves us. Turn away from the worship of self-reliance and lean upon him alone.

For whosoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved.

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9 things on grieving

Some grief you carry in community. The worst grief you carry alone.

You grieve the relationship that should have been. The missing people in your life that you can’t talk about. The loved ones that were taken away because of great evil. The loved ones taken away by death, illness or broken relationship.

You grieve the loss of community and the things that you know that no one would believe even if you told them. You grieve the fear and the terror and the unfulfilled longing to be known and the terror of rejection and pain if you are known.

You grieve not being able to tell anyone of what is really going on because you still are grieving from the fallout of the last time you spoke.

You grieve the damage that unimaginable evil can do that you can’t speak out loud because you would sound like a paranoid nut job if you did. You grieve the appearance of evil that sunk into your soul and took away your safe place to stand that you can’t tell anyone because the fear of rejection is greater than your desire to be known. So you carry it alone. There is a heaviness attached to seeing the worst side of humanity.

You grieve the innocence that you lost; the child you never were. You grieve lost health, lost opportunities, lost youth, lost children, lost friendships, lost gardens, lost fellowship.

You grieve the loss of the place where you thought you stood, when the ground finally shakes and everything falls and nothing is left except Christ and His Cross.

And you grieve for that little boy that you once were, the one that you hate, the one that fills you with disgust and shame –  and the hardest thing to do is to grieve for him and to realize that maybe he was just trying to do the best he knew how and maybe you should give him a break because no one else would …

And you grieve the life that you thought you would have but the curse on the world got in the way, and you realize that “godliness with contentment is great gain” is the hardest concept to embrace when your soul is screaming – and then, you bow your head and worship. “Yet not my will, but thine be done.” I know. I truly know that the day will come when all of these tears will be washed away. How I long for that day.

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A Review of It’s Good to Be a Man

In other words, the book is not Christian at all – but an idolatry of strength, dominion and power. Which, strangely enough, is exactly what Baal worship is.
If you are attending a congregation that is promoting or teaching this, flee and find a church.

Reforming Anthropology

Michael Foster and Dominic Bnonn Tennant’s book, It’s Good to be a Man (Canon Press, 2021), hasan innocuous title, and yet their book comes loaded with a view of themselves as men, Christianity as a masculine religion, and world dominion as a masculine pursuit, that reveal a fundamental misunderstanding of themselves, the church’s mission, their neighbor, and finally God. They aim to call their male readers to what they have settled on as the full measure of the stature of manliness, an understanding shaped by their experiences and theological convictions, Foster’s sharpened within his denomination. They anticipate the transformation of the world through planting churches so that “God’s name will be great throughout the nations.” On the surface, nothing might seem amiss. Don’t we all desire that the ends of the world be reached? But the question is “Reached with what?” According to Foster and Tennant, the gospel…

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Imagine a marriage of liberty

Imagine a marriage of liberty.

He loves Jesus and prays through the power of the Spirit. If he sins, he confesses his sins to the ones he sinned against and brings his faults to the throne of grace.

His sins are forgiven by the blood of Christ.

He uses his mind and his body for good. He works diligently so he might have to give to those in need.

He knows how to wash a dish and do his laundry and go shopping. He knows what bills are due and how to pay them.

He understands the condition of his flocks and herds.

When there is disaster, he prays. His Father in heaven hears because he stands in Christ as an heir of eternal life. When life is prosperous, he gives thanks and bends the knee to his Father in heaven.

Imagine he meets a woman.

She loves Jesus and prays through the power of the Spirit. If she sins, she confesses her sins to the ones she sinned against and brings her faults to the throne of grace.

Her sins are forgiven by the blood of Christ.

She uses her mind and her body for good. She works diligently so she might have to give to those in need.

She knows how to wash a dish and do her laundry and go shopping. She knows what bills are due and how to pay them.

She understands the condition of her flocks and herds.

When there is disaster, she prays. Her Father in heaven hears because she stands in Christ as an heir of eternal life. When life is prosperous, she gives thanks and bends the knee to her Father in heaven.

His eyes catch hers from across the room. He goes and introduces himself. They talk about rationalism and irrationalism and textual criticism and colors and poetry. They talk of wisdom and flowers and sixteenth century Italian poets.

He thinks that she is beautiful and she thinks that he is handsome, but they aren’t trying to dominate or control or use each other. They are just dreaming and talking and sharing and learning what it means to love.

Sometimes they agree. Sometimes they don’t. And their love grows.

They get married, not because he needs someone to cook and clean and do laundry. But because he loves her and the yoke is easier if you pull it together.

They get married, not because she needs a provider and a protector, but because she loves him and the yoke is easier if you pull it together.

She has been hurt before so her natural inclination is to be guarded and closed off, but she opens to him because she trusts him with her heart and her body and her mind. She knows that he is in Christ and she is in Christ so she opens to him in love and joy.

He has been taught his whole life that he is to lead her and rule over her to keep her from getting out of control – but he knows that she is in Christ and he is in Christ and that they both have the Holy Spirit and the word of God, so he just loves her and longs to understand her more every day. He opens to her and she opens to him and as their trust grows their love grows.

She sins and she confesses her faults to God because she is an heir of eternal life. He hears her and forgives.

He sins and he confesses his faults to God because he is an heir of eternal life. God hears and forgives.

And they grow closer.

He still thinks that she is beautiful and she still thinks that he is handsome, but they aren’t trying to dominate or control or use each other. They are still just dreaming and talking and sharing and learning what it means to love, and doing it together.

Now imagine another scenario. Imagine a church that does not use fear to keep marriages together.

Imagine civil laws that impose no penalties on divorce.

Imagine that either the man or the woman could leave and divorce anytime they choose without shame, without penalty, without consequence (this is an “unreal condition” for grammarians. That means it does not exist, nor should it necessarily exist, but for the sake of this argument we are imagining that it exists).

Neither the husband nor the wife even consider divorcing, nor does adultery ever enter the heart – not because they are afraid of consequences, but because their love is so complete and perfect.

THIS, it seems to me, is what it means to be sanctified. It should be the goal of our marriage, and it should be the goal of our life.

To be made perfect in love.

‘Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished.

Because sin and treachery are still in the world, we still need the sanctions of the state. We need to regulate and protect the weak from the strong. We need to punish those who act treacherously.

But that is not the goal of humanity, nor is it the goal of the new birth.

The goal is to be made perfect in love, where not even the least thought or inclination of our hearts even consider acting treacherously towards our God.

8 But we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully, 9 knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, 10 for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine, 11 according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust.

1 Timothy 1:8-11

It should also be the goal of our marriages.

I can never understand why a man desires a marriage based on fear.

Why would you want your wife to stay simply because she is afraid to leave?

Perhaps our focus should be elsewhere as husbands. Perhaps our focus should be to love our wives as Christ loved the church. To provide the atmosphere together with your wife for both of you to prosper, to freely love, to plan, to dream, to live freely as joint-heirs of Christ.

Isn’t this what we were all made for? Why settle for fear and coercion when the feast of love is promised and offered to all who will submit to Christ? Learn from him, for his yoke is easy and his burden is light.

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9 things (August 1)

Today is my youngest daughter’s 24th birthday. A few years back, we almost lost her, so today there is much to celebrate. We had a great day.

I found out today that it is illegal to name your child “Robocop” in Mexico. I don’t have any opinion about that. I am going to practice not having opinions about more things. I find the lack of opinions refreshing sometimes.

A few years back, there were a lot of on-line voices stridently pushing me to get worked up over net-neutrality. I forget if I was to be for it or against it, but I apologized profusely and begged off at the time, stating that I had my plate full with things to get worked up over but as soon as I clear some of those things up, I would throw a right fit – for or against. I don’t remember which. At any rate, I have some time now, but I forgot what I’m supposed to do. So I threw some water on a stray cat.

I will, however, always get worked up over those false shepherds who continually seek to add human merit to our salvation. Jesus is the Author and Finisher of our faith. It is impossible to be united to Christ without bringing fruits of thanksgiving, but that adds nothing to our standing before God.

I will also always get worked up by those who continually stir up discord in the church over their opinions. Reviling, threats, contemptuous speech and pride are as hateful to God as any “sin” you might be railing against.

My grandson is in my Sunday School class. he can’t remember the name “Esau”, but he remembers that his name (and his nickname) means “Red Hair”. So he calls him Red Hair. It’s fabulous. I ask, “How did Jacob steal the blessing?” And he says, “He pretended to be Red Hair”. That makes me quite happy.

Solomon judged between two harlots. One of them would rather destroy the baby than admit she was wrong. Solomon saw through her. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we had the same wisdom. There are those who would destroy souls, churches, and even countries rather than admit that they might be wrong.

When you keep company with those who mock, scoff, and scornfully use those who are “not approved,” you will find yourself caught up in wickedness and eventually unable to extricate yourself. Remember Psalm 1. There is a difference between life and chaff.

Jesus told us that his disciples would be known by their love. No matter how much you try to twist the meaning of “love” to mean “telling people what is wrong with them”, they are not the same concepts. One is of the Holy Spirit. The other is the spirit of the Accuser. The Accuser of the Brethren has been cast out of heaven. Do not be keen to take his place.

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