Tag Archives: gospel

Call Upon the Name of the Lord

We don’t know exactly when Joel wrote his prophecy. But we know that the people of God had suffered a tremendous plague of locusts. One swarm of destroying swarm right after the other, and the people of God called upon every god and every power that they could think of. But they didn’t call upon the name of the Lord.

God had warned them. He had given them the greatest thing anyone could ever hope for. He gave them Himself. He said, “I will be your God, and you shall be my people.” What an astounding thought! That the creator of heaven and earth, the only power there is, the giver of life and all good things, would call himself “our God!”

And yet, when things got tough, they called on every idol, every creature, every trick in the book, and never once called on the name of the Lord.

And God warned them again. There is no other savior. There is no other deliverer. There is no other strength. There is only the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and He has offered himself to us and calls Himself “our God.”

And the day will come when God will come in judgment and everything unclean and defiling and wicked will be destroyed,

“But whosoever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.” That God would stoop to save the likes of us is a thought that staggers the mind. But He does. In fact, He became flesh and took the wrath of God against sin in His own body on the cross. And He did this so that He could truly be our God, and we would be His people!

And the gospel goes forth to every tribe, every kingdom, every people. “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord will be saved.” Only now it is made more clear than it was even in the Old Covenant.

Paul told the church at Corinth that the church is made up of everyone “who calls upon the name of the Lord Jesus.” He knew what he was saying. He wasn’t inventing a new god, for there are no other gods than the God of Abraham. He was saying that Jesus of Nazareth, born in Bethlehem, crucified in Jerusalem, who rose from the dead and ate and drank with his disciples was none other than Jehovah, the God of Israel.

And whoever calls upon His name shall be saved. There is  no other hope, no other name given under heaven than the name of Jesus.

So when you say you are a Christian, do you also call upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ as your only hope of salvation? Do you call upon Him when you are out of hope? When the world is dark?

Or do you look to everything else, as Israel did of old?

Where do you turn for justice? Where do you turn for healing? Where do you turn for covering for your shame?

Where do you look for beauty and hope and goodness? Where is your heart most satisfied? Are your affections on this earth, or does your heart long to be where Christ is, at the right hand of God?

God will not give His glory to another. He won’t share it with his creatures. It is His will that Jesus Christ be praised from the rising of the sun to the going down. It is God’s will that Jesus Christ be exalted in the hearts and minds and affections of all who claim His name.

So this world tends to fade in the hearts of those who love Jesus. This world is seen for what it is when the heart is turned towards Christ. It is under a curse. It is full of madness and folly. Pain and illness and disappointment, and even times where we are close to despair, cling to our skin. The smell of our failures and cruelties and wickedness overpower our senses. Our longing for beauty and goodness and love leave us gasping. And in those times, when we have nowhere else to turn, we call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. “Lord, save us!”

And that is where we ought to be, and it is good.

For whoever calls upon the name of the Lord Jesus shall be saved.

Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus.

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“Just Keep Quiet, Sister”

Recently I’ve been meditating on the rape of Tamar and the coming of the Christ. These two are connected.

This might need some explaining. King David was anointed by God Himself. He was the king “after God’s own heart.” After the oppression and abuse against him by King Saul in 1 Samuel, your heart is cheering as David is finally anointed king. The good guys won! You expect the fairy tale ending, “And they all lived happily ever after…”

But the accounts of Israel’s history rarely end that way. Ever since sin entered into the world, our stories never end well. David was a righteous king – compared with Saul. But he was never really the point of the account. If salvation could come by government, David’s kingdom would have succeeded and Christ need not have come. But the problem with the world is universal. Not even David is immune. The sin that lies in the heart of every man also lies in the heart of David – and not “sin” in the mild “everyone sins” kind of way, but hateful, ugly, destructive and vile sin.

Like every good story teller, the author of 2 Samuel doesn’t just give us a treatise on total depravity and our need for a greater king and greater savior; instead, he shows us. David’s fall into murder and adultery has consequences for his whole family, including his virgin daughter, Tamar.

Tamar is beautiful, which means she is a target for the kingdom of the devil who hates beauty. Her half-brother Amnon is consumed with lust for her. His lust is not a lust for her beauty, but the lust of a hungry wolf in the presence of a sheep. His lust to kill, consume and destroy has been sexualized, which is what rape is.

He is constricted by Tamar’s position as a daughter of the king and one thing a man like Amnon hates is to be restricted by anything. He has two conflicting beliefs going on. First, he believes as the crown prince that he is entitled to whatever he wants. And second, the king has the authority to command. So what happens when the king’s rights conflict with the prince’s “rights”? It is this conflict that consumes Amnon and makes him sick. To Amnon, Tamar’s personhood and will don’t even enter into it. She’s just an object to be used.

Amnon, like all wicked men, has an advisor that promises to help him through the dilemma. Jonadab says, “Go to your sick bed. When your father comes to visit, ask him to send Tamar to nurse you back to health.”

And Amnon does. We are not told why David didn’t see through such a ridiculous ruse, but based on simple observation, we can make an educated guess. People have no problem confessing total depravity when it comes to people that are different than they are. If one is outside of your circles, you have no problem with confessing their corruption. It is easy to see the sin of Philistines, Moabites – even those of other tribes. The sins of Benjamin are easy to see if you are from Judah.

But where it hits hard is when you are confronted with the total depravity of your children, your brothers, your sisters, your church. “Those kinds of things don’t happen in Israel!”  “Not in my church. Not in my family. Not in my tribe.”

But sin doesn’t give us a pass because of who we descended from. In fact, it is the opposite. It is precisely because of who we descended from that we are all conceived and born in sin.

Even Amnon. Would David have allowed a non-family member to be alone with his daughter under such a flimsy excuse? I think not.

At any rate, David commands Tamar to attend to her brother. Tamar makes food for poor, sick Amnon and he watches her. She brings the bread to him, but he refuses to eat. Then he sends everyone else out of the room.

Tamar stands there alone, afraid, powerless. He commands her, “Come here. Lie with me.”

She protests strongly. “A thing like this shouldn’t be done in Israel!”

She begs him. She pleads for him to remember pity. “Where will I take my shame? I will spend the rest of my life ashamed and reproached. Unable to marry. Unable to live. What will I do? Who will take this shame away from me if you do this horrible thing.”

She pleads with him to remember his own reputation. “You will go down as a fool in Israel! Why would you do such a thing?”

She even gives him a desperate alternative, “Ask our father to give me to you as wife. He won’t withhold me from you!”  It seems desperate, but it is her only option in that culture before Christ. If she is raped, no one will marry her. She will be cut off without children, without protection, without support. She will have nothing but shame and reproach. Even today, in many cultures a girl who is raped faces excommunication from her family, her people, and sometimes is even tried and punished as an adulterer. The devil’s kingdom is ugly, hateful and cruel. How many women do we know who have been driven from their churches and families even in America because they were raped?

Amnon refuses to listen. He wants to destroy her innocence and beauty. His destructive desires are sexually charged. He is not lusting after her beauty. He is lusting after her destruction. So he forces her, because he is stronger than she is. And he rapes her.

The word “forces” is the Hebrew word, ‘anah, which means to afflict, oppress, humble. We will come back to that word.

After Amnon is done with her, he hates her. He hated her before, but now he has what he wants from her. He says, “Get up and get out.”

She weeps. She pleads. It is now clear to Tamar that it was not an act of extreme love gone bad, but an act of hatred and destruction. All rape is about destroying the image of God. It is never about love or even desire. It is about hatred and defacing God’s image.

Amnon calls in his servant and has her thrown out of the room. She leaves the room in tears. She tears her robe – the special robe of honor worn by the king’s daughters – and flees to Absalom’s house. Absalom is Tamar’s full brother.

Absalom immediately knows what happened and tells her, “Be quiet. Don’t take it to heart. He’s your brother.”

God gave men and women a wonderful gift when he created them. It was a gift of communication. Words and thoughts, the ability to hear, to meditate, to express. It is unique to man out of all creatures under the sun. We can open our lips, choose words and fellowship with one another and with God. We can talk about our feelings, our likes and dislikes.

We can use words like “love”; “joy”; “peace” – as well as “hatred,” “ justice,” “abuse.”

But the devil and his kingdom hate God and hate his image. He seeks the destruction of the voice, of the personhood, of the will. He seeks the annihilation and defacement of beauty and love.

The most effective way to achieve all of these goals of the devil is through rape. For this reason a rapist was not allowed to live in Israel under Moses’s law. There wasn’t anything to be done with him. A man who rapes is a man completely given over to the power of the devil and must be removed from society.

And rape removes the voice. Where will she take her disgrace? Does she have two or three witnesses? Does she have the courage to stand up to her attacker in an assembly of men who in her mind are just like her attacker? She tells her church, and is told to just be quiet. Don’t rock the boat. Don’t ruin the ministry. She tells the magistrate, and is often left just like Tamar. David knew about it. He was angry, but did nothing.

Her choice is gone, because he is stronger than she is. Her voice is gone – silenced by threats, intimidation, coercion. Where will she take her shame?

This is the hopelessness of the kingdom of the devil. After Absalom takes Tamar into his house, we are left with this: “And Tamar lived with Absalom, desolate, in her brother’s house.” She then disappears from the sacred record – except in the mind of God.

Her question still hangs in the air, leaving us empty and hungry for a solution. “Where will I take my shame?”

Many centuries later, Isaiah comes on the scene. He writes,

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
2 to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn;
3 to grant to those who mourn in Zion– to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified. (Isa 61:1-3 ESV)

The good news, the gospel, is proclaimed to the “poor”. The Hebrew word, as you may have guessed by now, is ‘anah – Afflicted, forced, humiliated, poor

And who is this one of whom Isaiah speaks? Does he speak of himself or does he speak of another?

When Jesus of Nazareth began to preach in Capernaum, he opened his Bible to this passage and read it. Then he said,

“Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luk 4:21 ESV)

Do you see? Do you see that Isaiah is giving the answer to Tamar’s question? Do you see those for whom Jesus came? He came into this world in the womb of another virgin daughter of Israel. He came for all who have been broken, bowed, and afflicted. He came for those who have been abused, raped, and humbled. He calls to the broken-hearted, those with no strength, and those who have been the victims of every Amnon of this present world. His gospel is for the weak, the downtrodden – those who mourn.

He never told the outcasts to “be quiet”. He spoke with them. He listened to them. But more importantly than all of that, he brought to them good news. He came to set his people free. He came to give a voice to the voiceless, justice to the oppressed, mercy to the repentant. He came to set the prisoner free.

I know that the world is full of those who are like Tamar. I know many of you personally and see the gospel of Jesus alive in you. Christ has indeed fulfilled his promise and proclaimed the good news to you and has called you his own.

If Tamar’s story is yours and you do not know Jesus, learn of him. His yoke is easy and his burden is light. He hates Amnon, and destroyed the power of the one behind Amnon on the cross. He bore the curse in his own body and then rose from the dead, proclaiming the season of God’s favor to all who are hopeless and voiceless. He came to restore the damaged image of God in you – to restore your beauty, your voice, your will, your courage.

You are fearfully and wonderfully made, a daughter of the king who will never look away and refuse you justice. You have your voice restored to confess his name. You have your will restored to choose for yourself whom you will serve. Have the courage to come out of the kingdom of oppression and darkness and bondage and follow your savior.

If we call ourselves Christians, should we not strive to imitate our Lord? Do we follow him and give the gospel to the Tamars of the world – justice and mercy and renewed hope? Or are we more like Absalom; “Be quiet, sister; don’t take the matter to heart.”

May God give us the courage to proclaim faithfully the gospel of the kingdom of Christ, even when the kingdom of the devil threatens and fumes. May we stand firm.

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Meditations on TULIP, Part three

By anonymous

See part one and part two here.

Irresistible Grace – There is no formula known to man that explains the the timing or how the call will be answered. After hearing the gospel, which draws the elect by the Holy Spirit, many begin a very unexpected journey. Some cry out to him, then are allowed to continue on for some time- wrestling – working out their faith – feeling the crushing despair of unbelief. Others are immediately struck with a deep and abiding faith. God knows every struggle and knows what each individual needs to be refined.

Even those who appear to be strongest in their faith will admit that, in weak moments, they struggle and wrestle with unbelief. As they go through this, their cries don’t go unnoticed by God. His saving grace, once poured out, saturates believers to the point that even though part of them doubts, the overwhelming and irresistible grace of God always wins out.

Sometimes our doubt or sinfulness manifests itself in actions that bring shame or even horrible consequences but for true believers, it never wins. As we grow in grace and knowledge, this becomes clearer. God’s gracious grip on us does not let up -no matter how hard we may squirm to get away.

Perseverance of the Saints – This is often flippantly dismissed by those who say -”Once saved always saved”. True believers cannot claim to be saved then go about living life in whatever way they please because now they’re saved. It cannot be reduced to a simple and trite slogan. No, to persevere implies struggle.

Saints- that’s all believers – will struggle. They will recognize their own depravity. They will gratefully and thankfully recognize that God chose them unconditionally. They didn’t have to do something or prove themselves. The sacrifice of Christ, the atonement is for them. God has given them this and set them apart from those who have made themselves gods.

God gives them everything they need to persevere. Some limp along with physical pains and struggles that discourage and pull them down, others wrestle with emotional or inward grief that they may feel is unspeakable. There are those who deal with both physical and emotional pain. But God never leaves. He never forsakes his people. There are scores of testimonies of many Christians slaughtered throughout history for their faith. Their stories are lost to us but these souls are dear to their Heavenly Father.

We only persevere through the strength and grace that God gives us. Through everything, we keep moving along with our eyes on the cross – knowing He cares for us.

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Meditations of TULIP, part 2

See part one here.

by anonymous:

Unconditional Election – The mention of this term is often the springboard for arguments for and against predestination. To me, the word “unconditional” underlines the importance of understanding the previous point -Total Depravity. God’s election or choosing is not based on conditions – such as those who keep his law perfectly or those with bloodlines to Abraham. He doesn’t choose the best of the best. This is obvious if you know any true believers. They are not the best. God is choosing from a world full of depraved people. Unfortunately, His choosing is assumed to be accomplished in the same way that we might choose something – “Let’s see, I’ll try one of these people because they’re charming and maybe a few of these funny people, oh, and lots of these blonde people. I really love blonde people! And, I guess I have to take all of these outwardly pious people. They try so hard.” Again, we try to squeeze God into our tiny little minds.

It seems that too much time and energy has been put into coming up with an explanation of how and why God might choose certain people. Humans try to pin God down. How could he do this? How can he choose, yet, also say that all who call on the name of the Lord will be saved. But maybe we should ask, “what right do we have to question or ask how this works?”

When people question God’s actions, they make themselves as God. They judge him, using feeble minds and tangled arguments, to justify themselves. Imagine your reaction if someone who has openly hated you, and with whom you had no relationship, demanded to know how you decided who is invited to a party at your home. What if they mocked you and said you were unfair while demanding an explanation and questioning your authority to invite specific people into your home. Your reaction…? Would you feel like you owed them an explanation? It is very shaky ground for humans to question God, trying to find inconsistencies as if they can trip Him up and then demand He provide an explanation. This is frightening stuff.

We do this to God when we question and argue with each other. Even the “best” Christians feel somewhat exasperated and wish God would have made it more clearly in line with their own thinking. Again and again, we refuse to believe that God’s ways are not our ways.

So do we argue with God about how people are saved? Do we proudly claim to be the elect, resting on our heritage, while patronizingly accepting that even minorities and bad people are sometimes saved? At some point we have to own up to the repugnant ideas we have accepted for years. We should collapse in fear at the thought of where God could have left us.

Yes, I am one of the elect……I met no conditions or qualifications……unconditionally elected!

Limited Atonement – Not to mean God is limited – God’s hands are not tied. Christ’s sacrifice on the cross was not barely enough to squeak the elect into heaven. Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved. There is never a question of His death and resurrection being incomplete or an atonement that could only handle a percentage of sinners. Jesus’ sacrifice was complete – more than enough for all. Just as when he broke the bread and pieces of fish – He started with a small portion and ended with food left over. His grace has no limits and spills out to even the unbelievers and those who persecute the church.

The atonement, however, is limited to those who call on his name. The limits stem from the sinfulness of people. There will always be wicked people – sons of belial – who have a deep and abiding hatred for God. They hate God and want nothing to do with the saving grace of Christ. They work overtime in their evil ways and justify their actions by saying there is no God. They attack the gospel with vicious and mocking criticism and glory in their own intellect. God is completely and perfectly just and fair to limit the atonement to those who call upon His name. He requires only that we call on him and even gives us what we need in order to do this.

Those who have made themselves into god, angrily and jealously look on Christians as fools, who in weakness, have chosen to believe on the one true God. The wicked believe we live in a dream world – that we believe a fairy tale. But it’s the very weakness, the crying out, the begging for forgiveness, that brings us to our knees, that ultimately gives us strength in Christ.

God is completely just in his actions. Again, the limits come from those who refuse him.

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Headship is not Hierarchy

In my recent post, I made the statement that the phrase “he shall rule over you” was something new that came into the world because of the curse. I wrote, “There was no hint of hierarchy before the fall.” Since this has generated some consternation, and great concern that I might be turning liberal, I thought it wise to clarify a bit here.

To see clearly, perhaps Augustine’s division of the states of man might be helpful. If you recall, Augustine delineated four states of man, which were later repeated by Thomas Boston, neither one of them liberal.  First, before the fall, in his created state, man was able to sin and able to not sin. After the fall, unregenerate man was able to sin and not able to not sin. Regenerated man is able to sin and able to not sin. And glorified man is able to not sin and unable to sin.

Before the fall, before sin entered the world, Adam and Eve served God perfectly. They did not live for themselves; their desires were not to have power over each other, but they both lived as they were created – as one flesh, in perfect unbroken harmony. We can have no idea what this was like, since our state now is far different. If by “hierarchy” you mean that Adam ruled his wife and she submitted to his desires, I reject that. It has no basis in scripture.  If by hierarchy you mean an order of creation, that I happily accept, as Paul wrote

For Adam was first formed, then Eve. (1Ti 2:13 KJV)

This I wholeheartedly confess, believing the Bible to be the inerrant, infallible word of God. I am hesitant to try to apply this beyond how Paul applies this, however, since I have no idea what it looked like practically before the fall. I think it is reading to much into the text to say that this means that Adam ruled over his wife. Did Adam sit on the couch and say “Woman, beer me and shut those kids up!” I think not. He did not rule his wife. They both served God and one another perfectly, being without sin.  This is the only thing that I meant when I said, “There was no hint of hierarchy before the fall.”

After the fall is a world I can relate to. Men and women became idolaters and rebels. They were covenant breakers, serving themselves and their own lusts. The curse that came upon the relationship was that the desire of the woman would be “toward the man”, which I still interpret to mean that she would retain the longing for the one flesh relationship that she would be unable to have, because he would instead rule over her. This is different than before, and part of the curse, and not good.  She, in her unregenerate state, would respond to this rule in a variety of ways, depending on her personality. Despair, hopelessness, manipulation, domination – but it would be a life of slavery and degradation after the fall, which she would resist in various ways, because she would still be human. And she would still long for her husband.

I do not believe you can read anymore into the phrase, “to your husband, your desire”, than that. Nor do I believe you can read anymore into Genesis 4:7 than what is there, but I will address that in another post in another time. There is nothing in Genesis 3:16 that is prescriptive. It is simply a description of what life will be like now that men and women have sold themselves into the slavery of sin and death. They will now be governed by the rules of the kingdom of the devil, rather than the law of God. And this will be the case until the Seed of the Woman comes and crushes the head of the oppressor, which happened when Christ gave himself to the death of the cross.

Christ came to take away the curse, he delivered us from the bondage of sin and the power of the devil. This means that we no longer are to live by the rules of the kingdom of the devil. This is what Ephesians 5 is all about. The wife, instead of seeking her own things and her own desires, is to submit to her husband, as described here.

11 The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil.
12 She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life. (Pro 31:11-12 KJV)

She is not to chafe against him, work against him, or seek his harm, but to do him good. Remember that Christ’s work is to restore what we lost. The goal of marriage is the one flesh relationship, rather than the antagonistic and abusive relationship that characterized the kingdom of the devil. It isn’t about who makes the coffee, changes the diapers, or does the dishes. It’s about love and peace.

Paul also has in mind the marriage of believers. He is not at all talking about marriage to a wolf, who seeks to destroy and devour. He is talking about believers, united in faith to Jesus Christ, where there is one Lord, one faith, one baptism (chapter 4). The church is to endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of love, and this is to be pictured most prominently in the home.

The husband’s job is not to rule over his wife, enforce the rules, or be the commander and king at home in his castle, for it is not his castle. The home belongs to Christ. He is not to usurp Christ’s role as the king of kings, but he is to emulate Christ in only one way, according to the text. He is to love her.

This fits beautifully with Jesus’ definition of authority in John 13:

John 13:1 Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end.
2 And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him;
3 Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God;
4 He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself.
5 After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded.
(Joh 13:1-5 KJV)

We cannot claim the smallest amount of authority that Jesus has. All authority has been given into his hands. And yet, he took the lowest place and washed his disciples’ feet. Wow.

Then look what he says,

12 So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you?
13 Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am.
14 If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet.
15 For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. (Joh 13:12-15 KJV)

So in answer to the question, “Do I believe that the husband has authority in the home?” My answer is “Yes. Certainly. There is no way around it. He is to wash his wife’s feet, serve her, do good to her, love her – even, as Paul says, give himself for her.

This is far different than the curse of Genesis 3:16. It turns it on its head. Instead of either the man or the woman serving themselves, their lusts, their goals and desires, both are to serve the Lord Jesus Christ, and the husband is to take the lead in taking the lowest place in the home. That’s not me saying this. That’s Jesus Christ.

It is the husband ultimately responsible for the peace of the home. It is the husband that God will hold accountable for what has been entrusted to him. But he does not rule the home by power and control. He governs his home by service and love. You can see a woman controlled by power. She is downcast and the light is gone in her eyes. And you can see a woman who is loved by her husband. She is alive, fully human, confident, and joyfully doing whatever work God has called her to with spirit and life. Why do so many who claim the name of Christ believe that women are to be controlled by entitlement and power?

The husband isn’t the boss, the commander, the chief, the king. All of that belongs to Christ. Rather, the husband is the head, and she is the body. He is to nourish, cherish and love her as his body, because she is his body. That’s the point. To ask the question, “But isn’t he still in charge?” is to miss the point entirely. Do you think that she will turn into a harpy if you neglect to command her for a day? Whom did you marry? Is she not also an heir of eternal life and a firstborn son of God in Jesus Christ?

So for you husbands insisting that you are the head of your home, take it seriously. Go home, cook dinner, draw her a bath, do the dishes, put the kids to bed. Ask her what she is thinking. Talk about her dreams and fears. Assume she also is led by the Holy Spirit and trying to serve her Lord with a pure heart. Do all the modern equivalents of washing the feet.  This is what Jesus is talking about.

Remember that we are bought with a price, the precious blood of the lamb, and do not belong to ourselves. Husbands don’t belong to themselves, and wives don’t belong to themselves. All belong to Christ, and the husband is to take the lead in service and love.

Yes, I believe that the husband is the head of the home. But not like the president is head of the country. But like Jesus is the head of the church – flesh of our flesh and bone of our bone. And he washes our feet, and took the lowest place. This is our example.

As for man in the glorified state, there will be no more sin. The last will be first and the first last. Those who served on earth will be served in heaven. Those who were served on earth will serve in heaven. The kingdom of heaven throws all that we think we know about power and authority on its head.

It’s time we took that seriously.

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Genesis 3:16

…And thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee (Gen 3:16 KJV)

The publishers of the ESV recently announced that they have changed their translation of Genesis 3:16 to this:

…Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you.

I believe this translation to be in error. In this brief post, I shall attempt to explain my reasons.

First, a confession. At one point not too long ago in the past, I also succumbed to the same faulty reasoning. In the paper “Promoting a Biblical Sexual Morality”, of which I was the primary author, I wrote the following:

Second, the curse was on her relationship with her husband. “Thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee” (Gen. 3:16). Her intense longing would be directed towards her husband. The preposition translated “to” primarily indicates motion towards or into. Metaphorically it is used for “against”. Her longing, instead of a covenantal opening herself completely to the love of her husband, would now be directed towards domineering, manipulating, and refusing to be truly loved. (Reformed Church in the United States: Promoting a Biblical Sexual Morality. 2013, page 41)

In this paragraph, I referenced Tremper Longman’s book on the Song of Songs (page 65). Longman, in turn,  referenced an article by Susan Foh, entitled “What is the woman’s desire” (WTJ 37 (1974-75) 376-83.

This article by Foh seems to have influenced quite a lot of thinking (including mine). And now its influence is felt even in the ESV translation of Genesis 3:16. The question is this: is this proper exegesis?

I have to admit that the section that I wrote is somewhat embarrassing. To say that the curse upon the woman involves her domineering, manipulating and refusing to truly be loved by her husband seems a bit much  to read into one preposition.

This exegesis makes much of the similarity between Genesis 3:16 and Genesis 4:7. In Genesis 4:7, we read that God, speaking to Cain of sin, says,

And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him. (Gen 4:7 KJV)

The connection is then made that sin seeks to have dominion over a man. Since the words and the grammar are identical to 3:16, the meaning of 3:16 is that the woman also seeks to have dominion over the man.

But both texts simply speak of “desire”. Why is the desire of the woman assumed to be the same as the desire of sin? This was an uncomfortable niggling that I buried deeply until I recently dug it up and thought about it.

My embarrassing admission is that I wanted to make an assumption, and I manipulated the grammar to do so.

It seems to me that using Genesis 4:7 to interpret Genesis 3:16 is rather sketchy exegesis. It would be similar to saying that God spoke against Baasha (1 Kings 16:12 – the preposition is ‘el) and God spoke unto Moses (Ex. 3:14 – the preposition is the same) therefore, God was against Moses just as he was against Baasha. It’s really bad exegesis. It seems to me that the meaning of the phrases must be determined in the context.

The fact is “sin” and women are not the same thing, and their desires are not the same thing. I wonder why we make the assumption that women’s desires are always for domination and manipulation even when the text doesn’t say so. Simply saying “Sin desires to manipulate and dominate and since the same preposition is used this applies to the woman as well” simply will not cut it. That’s not how language works.

The phrase in question is the one translated “and your desire shall be toward your husband.”

The second part, “And he shall rule over you” isn’t in dispute. Those words are simple and bear only one translation. The connecting copulative “and” is attached to a redundant personal pronoun “he” which indicates a disjunctive phrase. In other words, the second phrase is set in contrast to the first – BUT he shall rule over you.

So what does the first phrase mean? Looking at the words, it begins with a prepositional phrase introduced by the copulative vav (and). The prepositional phrase is simply two words: the preposition ‘el and the word for man, or husband, with the pronoun “your”.  After this prepositional phrase is the noun “your longing”. There is no verb. The complete phrase is this “And to your husband, your longing; but he shall rule over you.”

The question is whether the preposition ‘el ever has the meaning “contrary to”, as the ESV revision committee, following the lead of Susan Foh, claims.

The simple answer is no. If you wish to do a very technical study, you may look at Bruce Waltke and M. O’Conner, Biblical Hebrew Syntax (Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns) 1990. 11.2.2. A helpful summary of that massive work is the work by Bill T. Arnold and John H. Choi (A Guide to Biblical Hebrew Syntax. New York, Cambridge University Press, 2003). Hebrew prepositions generally have a primary spatial meaning, with metaphorical secondary meaning. The primary spatial meaning is terminative (to, unto, towards).

I know, very technical. Let me break it down. The preposition ‘el means to, unto, or towards. It is a preposition indicating the termination of movement. That is its primary meaning. If I leave my office and walk to my house, I would use the preposition ‘el. Towards. Most commonly, it is used with the verb “to say” to indicate to whom the words are said. In the phrase, “And God said unto Moses”, the preposition ‘el would be used. God designed his words to terminate in the ears of Moses. I hope this makes sense.

In the lexicon by Brown, Driver and Briggs (somewhat archaic and disputed by modern scholarship) they indicate that “against” is a valid translation, and give many quotations, primarily by the prophet Ezekiel. For example,

Son of man, set thy face against Gog (Eze 38:2 KJV)

I would assume that since ‘el here has the translation “against”, the ESV revisers took that as their cue to translate it “contrary to” in Genesis 3:16. But in Ezekiel, the meaning of “to, or towards” is still latent in the word “against”. When a man’s face is “set” towards someone, hostility can certainly be assumed from the context, without changing the meaning of the preposition.

Even Brown, Driver and Briggs add this caveat to the translation “against”:

Where the motion or direction implied appears from the context to be of a hostile character, ‘el = “against”

No such hostility is expressed or implied in Genesis 3:16.

In another standard reference, The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, by Laird Harris, Gleason Archer, and Bruce Waltke, we read

Finally, the preposition can also mean “against,” although motion toward is evident, as in Gen 4:8, where Cain “rose up against Abel.” Here °el no doubt retains something of the original sense of both physical and mental motion toward. J.B.S.

In none of these statements by the universally recognized resources can the word ‘el be made to mean “contrary to”. There is no enmity stated or implied. There is no hostility inherent in the context.

The most widely recognized lexicon does not even admit the metaphorical use of “against” (Koehler-Baumgartner, Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament “HALOT”).

To summarize this rather complicated  survey, the basic meaning of the word is to, or towards. Sometimes, if the context and the verb used are hostile, “against” would be a proper meaning. But this does not mean that we can pick and choose whatever meaning we want. “Contrary to”, in the context of Genesis 3:16 or 4:7, cannot be justified. Only if we make the assumption that the word “longing” indicates hostility can we make this phrase mean “against her husband”.

The word “longing” only appears three times in all known Hebrew literature. In Genesis 3:16, Genesis 4:7, and Song of Songs 7:10:

I am my beloved’s, and his desire is toward me. (Sol 7:10 KJV)

In the Song of Songs, the preposition is ‘al, rather than ‘el. Formerly, I made much of this, but I was mistaken. the two prepositions have overlapping semantic fields and are used interchangeably, much like the English “to” and “towards”. The difference is not great enough to warrant new doctrines.

The word “longing” in all  three passages admits the same meaning: a great desire, a longing. It isn’t the same word as “covetousness”, and it isn’t the same word as “wanting something”. It is a rare word and “longing” is a good translation of it. I would be hesitant to go any deeper than that; that isn’t how language works.

So the simple reading of the text is this: “To your husband your longing”. In English, we would have to supply the verb “will be”. To your husband will be your longing. In other words, “your longing will terminate on your husband”, or, “your longing will be to your husband”.

So what does it mean? What is the longing of the woman? In the context, God is pronouncing the curse upon creation, the serpent, the man and the woman. He has already promised that one would come who would crush the head of the serpent (3:15), and he now moves on to the consequences of Eve’s sin.

How would she have heard those words? Let’s take it with the second part of the phrase, “But he shall rule over thee”, which is set in contrast to the first phrase. It’s a disjunctive clause. The word “rule” (mashal) can be good rule, benevolent rule, tyrannical rule or any other kind of rule. It’s a common word. It means to have dominion over. It is something that was not there in the relationship before the fall. It is something new. If it were there before the fall, then the curse on the woman would be that everything would be the same, which is ludicrous. The context implies that this is something new. The serpent will crawl on its belly; the ground will bring thistles, and your husband will rule over you.

Before, Adam and Eve were one flesh. There is no hint of hierarchy in the garden. (I explain this more fully here). It is beyond the scope of this article to go into the meaning of “help meet”, but suffice it to say that hierarchy, authority and submission are not inherent in the Hebrew word ‘ezer (help). It is the name most often given to God, Israel’s help.

Instead, the relationship of the man and the woman was a relationship of unity and love. They were one flesh, committed, loving, fleeing all others, cleaving to one another.

I believe in that context, 3:16 can only mean one thing. Eve will still long for that. Her longing will terminate on her husband. She will long for that which was lost in Eden. But instead, her husband will rule over her.

The one flesh relationship would be a broken and corrupted remnant of what it was supposed to be.

This fits the context, does no violence to the grammar, and opens up wonderful insights into the marriage relationship.

Remember that God had promised already to crush the head of the serpent. The curse would one day be overcome. This was foretold in the Song of Songs:

I am my beloved’s, and his desire is toward me. (Sol 7:10 KJV)

The Song is a picture of redeemed relationship. One that could not happen apart from the gospel of Christ. His longing to her and her longing to him are mutual. Instead of him ruling over her, he desires her. When the word is only used three times, it cannot be an accident that Solomon is referring to the curse on the woman and looking forward to the time when that is taken away.

Paul, in Ephesians 5 speaks of the same thing. Love your wife. Don’t rule over her.

Since we live in a cursed world and all are tainted by sin, the desire of the wife towards her husband can and does easily become an idolatrous desire. The husband can never give to the wife what only Christ can give.

But as Redeemed creatures, we can certainly live as pictures of the life-giving water of Christ. So the husband is not to be worshiped as Christ, nor is he a mediator between God and his wife. But he can imitate Christ in one area: Love. The marriage is to be a picture of what was lost in the fall. The problem with the woman under the curse is not that she manipulates and dominates. It’s that she longs for what was lost and that longing is to her husband.

How Leah longed for a husband! How Rachel longed for a husband! Look at the harems of David and Solomon, and these were God’s people! How much worse would it have been in Persia or Assyria! Look at Elkanah, Hannah and Penninah; Look at what happened to Esther.

The woman longs for the one flesh relationship that she was created to have. But men have ruled over her. Does she turn to manipulation and resistance? Perhaps. Every human resists domination and subjugation. But this is not what 3:16 says.

Now that Christ has come, we as men are called, not to rule over our wives (whether benevolently or not) but to love our wives, and thus reflect to the world the love of our great savior, who gave himself for us.

See my follow-up post here.

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Eternal Subordination–It’s a salvation issue!

2014-07-03 10.30.43There has been much written lately about the Eternal Subordination of the Son, and much of it is technical. What I want to do in this post is to bring it down to the basics.

Here is the question: Is the second person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ, the Jehovah God of Israel?

The church has always confessed that he is indeed Jehovah God. As Jehovah, He is the proper object of our prayers and sovereign over all things.

Paul explicitly states this truth in Romans 10:9-13

9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.
11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.”
12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him.
13 For a”everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

The two parts of Paul’s gospel are these: First, to confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and, second, to believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead.

The question is, then, what does it mean to confess that Jesus is Lord? There are two possible interpretations if you take this verse by itself. First, it may mean to confess that Jesus is your master, whose law is to be obeyed. This is a possible meaning of the Greek “Kyrios”. It can mean a master, one who owns you and whose will is to be obeyed.

There is no question that this truth is taught concerning Jesus. But is that what is being taught in this particular verse?

Looking at the context, we see that something much deeper is being taught. Paul’s demonstration from the Old Testament scriptures of the truth he is teaching is found in verse 13: “Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

In other words, Paul is teaching that the way that you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord is by calling upon him for salvation, as was foretold by the prophet Joel:

31 The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes.
32 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the LORD has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the LORD calls.

To make this simple, Paul quotes Joel 2:31-32 to bear witness to the gospel. If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord – as is written in Joel 2 – you will be saved.

The word that Paul uses is Kyrios (Lord, master, ruler, owner). But the word that Joel uses is YHWH (Jehovah), which is the personal name of Israel’s covenant God, the creator of heaven and earth, sovereign God and the only object of our prayers, and the only redeemer. “Kyrios” can refer to a husband, an owner of slaves, a landlord, much like our word “lord”; but YHWH can only refer to the one true God.

When the Old Testament was translated into Greek, the Hebrew YHWH was translated by the word Kyrios (lord), much like our modern English Bibles. This follows the Jewish custom of preserving the sacred name of God. Whenever a Jew would come upon the word “YHWH” they would pronounce it “Adonai”, meaning “lord”. This custom continues to our day, whatever language one speaks.

But the Hebrew text itself in Joel 2 doesn’t say “lord”; it says YHWH. In our English versions every letter of LORD is in caps, indicating that it translates the Hebrew YHWH. This is important to our interpretation of this text.

So then the question of interpretation is this. Is Paul saying that salvation is calling Jesus our owner and master? Or is it calling Jesus YHWH, the creator and sustainer of the universe?

And by quoting Joel, Paul removes all doubt. Salvation depends upon calling upon Jesus the son of Mary, who also is YHWH the eternal second person of the divine trinity, to save us.

This calling must be done with the mouth and believed in the heart. When we call upon Jesus we are calling upon Jehovah God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

This is simply a sample passage of many. Throughout scripture, Jesus of Nazareth is identified as YHWH, the God of Israel. The heart of the Christian faith is that Jesus, who walked among men, who suffered and bled and died, who rose from the dead, is one and the same Jehovah God, who spoke to Israel from Mt. Sinai, who is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Since this is true, the following passages also apply to the person of Jesus Christ.

25 To whom then will ye liken me, or shall I be equal? saith the Holy One.
26 Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things, that bringeth out their host by number: he calleth them all by names by the greatness of his might, for that he is strong in power; not one faileth.
27 Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest, O Israel, My way is hid from the LORD, and my judgment is passed over from my God?
28 Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding.
29 He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength (Isa 40:25-29 KJV)

 

18 For thus saith the LORD that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the LORD; and there is none else. (Isa 45:18 KJV)

 

9 Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me,
10 Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure: (Isa 46:9-10 KJV)

 

13 Who hath directed the Spirit of the LORD, or being his counsellor hath taught him?
14 With whom took he counsel, and who instructed him, and taught him in the path of judgment, and taught him knowledge, and shewed to him the way of understanding?
(Isa 40:13-14 KJV)

 

11 My days are like a shadow that declineth; and I am withered like grass.
12 But thou, O LORD, shalt endure for ever; and thy remembrance unto all generations.
(Psa 102:11-12 KJV)

 

14 And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you (Exo 3:14 KJV)

 

8 Give thanks unto the LORD, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the people.
9 Sing unto him, sing psalms unto him, talk ye of all his wondrous works.
10 Glory ye in his holy name: let the heart of them rejoice that seek the LORD.
(1Ch 16:8-10 KJV)

 

3 I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies. (Psa 18:3 KJV)

How many more do we need? If Jesus is Jehovah, then he is taught of no one, submits to no one, does all his good pleasure, is the only source of our salvation, is the only name worthy to be praised, owes his origin to no one and is worthy of praise, glory, honor and blessing forever and ever.

If this is not the case, if Jesus is NOT Jehovah, then we are horrible blasphemers every time we sing praise to Him.

If he IS Jehovah, then he submits to no one.

Compare this, then, to current teachers of ESS – the Eternal Subordination of the Son:

The Father, then, is rightly the primary object of Christian prayer, since he is the one who, as designer and architect of all things, has highest authority and position over all things. The Son, for his part, accomplishes the atoning work by which alone he may bring those who believe in him to the Father (2 Cor 5:18-20; 1 Pet 3:18). The Son, then, is not primarily the object of the Christian’s prayers but rather the one through whom his prayers are brought to the Father. (Bruce Ware)

Though all three members of the Trinity are equal in power and in all other attributes, the Father has a greater authority. He has a leadership role among all the members of the Trinity that the Son and the Holy Spirit do not have. (Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan 1994) p 459

In this chapter, I will attempt to show that this “temporary submission” view is incorrect. In contrast to that view, I will examine the meaning of the names “Father” and “Son” as well as 31 passages of Scripture that give evidence that God the Father has eternally had a role of leadership, initiation, and primary authority among the members of the Trinity, and that the Son has eternally been subject to the Father’s authority. (There are also good reasons to hold that the Holy Spirit has eternally been subject to the authority of the Father and of the Son, but it is not the focus of this essay.) (Wayne Grudem)

And rather than back down when confronted with the charge of anti-nicean trinitarianism (read “heresy”) they continue to teach this and dig themselves into deeper and deeper holes. Salvation is at stake. This is not simply a difference of opinion among Christians. This is the heart of the Christian faith.

You cannot say that Jesus has all the same attributes as the Father and ascribe to him an eternal subordination role. Either he is sovereign, or he is not. If he is Jehovah, he is sovereign. If he is sovereign, then he submits to no one, by definition.

This is the foundation of the faith, according to the scripture and the confession of the church. Anything else is another gospel. Let’s call it what it is. Damnable heresy. That isn’t me. That’s the bible. If Jesus is not the object of our prayers, according to Ware, then he is not God. You can quibble over the meanings of ontological and economical all you want, but the point is still there. Jesus is God or he is not. If he is God, he is the One we pray to. If he is not, then say so and be done with it.

But don’t call yourself a Christian.

There is much more to be said. But you, gentle reader, study this issue from the scriptures. Salvation is at stake. It is not a minor thing. If one is to be saved, according to Paul, one must confess with his mouth that Jesus is one and the same Jehovah, Covenant God of Israel.

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The Meaning of Christmas

It’s inevitable this time of year.  People seem obsessed with “putting Christ back into Christmas”.  They seem to mean by this that we should put Nativity scenes up instead of Christmas trees, and that we should rant incessantly about spelling the holiday “Christmas” instead of “xmas”. Soon we will be asked to share memes if we agree that Jesus is the reason for the season.

Even now, perhaps there are some that are concerned that I might be taking too light a view on changing Christmas to “xmas”.  No, I’m not. “X” is simply a Greek chi, and for 2,000 years it has stood for the name “Christ.” Everyone relax.

I agree that at many times the holiday seems overdone, vain and aesthetically offensive. Christians are not immune to this charge.  There are only so many times that you can hear “Jingle Bell Rock” or “Mary did you know?”

On the one hand, people become obsessed with gifts, wrapping presents and staying busy to ‘get into the Christmas spirit”, and the marketplace takes advantage.  On the other hand are those who decry the commercialism of Christmas, and shout to “remember the true meaning of Christmas”.  Movies and stories abound, teaching us that the true meaning of Christmas is family, doing good to others, sharing, and basically remembering that we can make a difference with sacrificial works and putting others, primarily children, first.  

But did God send His Son into the world in the womb of the virgin in order to teach us better ways of being better people?  Did God really become flesh and dwell among us so that we could go to Walmart and buy plastic idols to put on our front lawn, patting ourselves on the back for putting Christ back into Christmas?  Not according to the Bible.

People have tried for thousands of years to “make a difference” and after a few well-meaning spurts of outward displays of charity they  immediately return to their vain, shallow, cruel and abusive lives.  The fact is that we are all so hopeless, powerless, vain, shallow, self-centered and sinful that there was absolutely no hope in humanity whatsoever.  Every single one of us from the fall of man until now is subject to death and misery.  We aren’t smart enough, loving enough, strong enough or good enough to do anything about it.

But our natural religion says that we can fix this mess by greater motivation, or bigger acts of charity.  We can make a difference by doing better things better, by loving more, by “remembering the true meaning of Christmas all year round”, or by electing people smart enough to fix all of our problems.

It never works and never has.  But as a dog returns to his vomit, we return to our folly.  Every year at Christmas we offer our incense to the plastic gods of our self-righteousness, pat ourselves on the back for being basically good people, cry over “It’s a Wonderful Life”, and try to convince ourselves that we really can make a difference if we just try harder.

But what if we really aren’t good enough?  What if there really isn’t anything that we can do to make a difference?  What do we do when something happens in our lives that leaves us devastated, and there isn’t anything that we can or could have done about it?

What sacrifice will you offer to your gods that will take away the pain, misery and emptiness of the vanity of life?

Now we can begin to see the true meaning of Christmas.  The angel told Joseph “You shall call his name Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins”.

It isn’t about the spirit of giving.  It isn’t about the message of Santa inside of each one of us.  It isn’t about our basic goodness and kindness, for we have none.  The fact is this:  We are so hopeless, vile and corrupt that there is no possibility of saving ourselves in any way.  If there is any hope for man, God must save him.  So God became flesh in the womb of the virgin Mary in order to take the curse of death upon himself.  He gives us His righteousness, for we have none of our own.  And He takes our vile rags on Himself, dying under God’s curse, so that we might live.

When He rose from the dead, He showed the world that the curse was finally taken away, and He now reigns until all of His enemies are put under His feet.  The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

Fellow professing Christians, please quit fretting about “secular humanists” or Hollywood taking Christ out of Christmas.  We have been managing the mangling of the gospel just fine without their help.  When we send the message that it’s about nativity scenes, “xmas”, Merry Christmas versus Happy Holidays, giving and works of charity, all we are doing is enforcing man’s natural religion: that we can make a difference by our efforts and good will.

If we could have made a difference in this world, Jesus would not have had to come. The baby in the manger was the eternal, almighty, glorious Son of God, “whose goings forth are of old”. Instead of teaching us the inherent goodness of man, it teaches the opposite. We were so lost and helpless that it came to this. God became flesh and came to save us. He became poor, despised, rejected of men; a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief in our place.  That was what we deserved – the outer darkness of hell. But Jesus took it upon Himself. Every child but one was born to live. Jesus was born to die.

Only when we get that figured out can we eat our bread with joy, drink our wine with a merry heart, live joyfully with our wives, and do what we can to relieve some of the suffering around us.  But this is only possible if we aren’t trying to save the world.  God will not give his glory to another, and there is only One Savior.  We will never save the world.  We will never HELP God save the world.  Only Jesus is strong enough, wise enough, good enough and loving enough.  All we can do is offer our lives to Him with gratitude and awe.  All we can do is wait and see the salvation of the Lord.

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King David and Bill Gothard

Lately there has been a lot of chatter on the blogosphere.  Through the efforts of some in the church, abusers, child molesters, predators and other wolves have finally begun to be exposed for what they are.  I thank God daily that my prayers are being answered and the wolves among us are finally being exposed for who they are.

However, there is also a dark note to all of this.  With all of the exposure, the old way of viewing things still rears its head.  I have lost track of how many times we have been chided and admonished to “remember mercy”, as if it operates differently than justice.  An abuser cries the right tears, says the right things, and blame is then placed on the victim and the church for not forgiving.  “David sinned”, is the repeating cry.

Bare sentiment gives no comfort. Lack of sentiment is even worse.  How hard must a heart be to hear the stories of victimization, terror and abuse of God’s little ones without weeping with those that weep?

But true comfort must come from the Holy Scriptures alone.  Is it true that we are to forgive everyone for every sin because God forgave David?  Is it true that David’s sin and David’s repentance are guides to follow to allow an abusive man access to our children?  Or could it be that David’s sin is still being used as an excuse for the enemies of God to blaspheme?

I would encourage everyone who is reading this to open their Bibles to 2 Samuel 11 and 12.  Please read these accounts before continuing.  I will wait…

Finished?  OK.  Notice several things.  I will in no way say or imply that David’s sin was minor.  Both the adultery and the murder of Uriah showed the ugliness and entitlement of David’s heart.  “I am king.  I deserve what I want to have.  I could just take it.  Being king is stressful.  Besides, Bathsheba shouldn’t have been bathing on the roof in the first place.  Really, it is her fault.”

It was ugly to the very core.  Premeditated adultery, planned and executed outright murder, cover-up, deceit and entitlement.  Please keep this in mind.

If your response is that since David sinned and was forgiven, then we need to go easier on adulterers. abusers, murderers and molesters, then you have missed the whole point, and do not at all understand the grace of God.

If you read Chapter 12, you will begin to understand justice and mercy meeting together without doing violence to either one.

Nathan confronted David with a parable (12:1-4).  The actions of the rich man of the parable were reprehensible.  And David sentenced the man to death and ordered restitution.  Then Nathan exposed David as the one that was under the death penalty, which he commanded by his own lips.

Then, verses 8-12, Nathan continues stripping away every excuse from David, exposing the wickedness of his heart, and pronouncing the dreadful justice of God.

He did not say, “You made some bad choices, but God still loves you”.

He did not say, “I think that God still desires to use you for His work in His kingdom”

He did not say, “You have acted in an inappropriate manner, and we are suspending you until you get therapy”.

He said, “You are the man.”  After listing all of God’s goodness to David, he said, “Why have you despised the commandment of God, to do evil in His sight?”

All of those who compare wicked church leaders to David seem to miss this point.

We have the hindsight of history.  We know that David repented and that God was merciful to him, and that he was the elect of God.  But this is important: at the point that Nathan confronted David, neither Nathan NOR David knew any such thing.  What David knew was God’s impending judgment, that he was rightly under the death penalty – both civilly and eternally.  David only knew that his own wicked heart – without excuse, without double talk, without blameshifting – put him directly under the judgment of God, and that he was hanging over the chasm of hell by his fingertips, without hope, without excuse, without appeal.  It was finished, and David was finished as king and as a man.

And then, apart from any entitlement, apart from any demands, God’s incredible grace, wonderful mercy, comes through.  “The Lord has put away your sins.  Thou shalt not die.”

Wow.  There were millions of others who committed murder and adultery and justly died.  Paul refers to them in Ephesians 5:5-6.  David knew that as well.  At the point of Nathan’s confrontation, David had NO REASON whatsoever to believe that he was even a Christian.  He was a filthy sinner, defiled and alienated from God.

This is what made the grace of God even more astounding.  David wasn’t entitled to it and he knew it.

He didn’t simply quote verses on forgiveness, nor did he cite his fathers as examples of God’s grace and demand the same as his due.

He fell before the awful judgment throne of God, recognized that he was justly a dead man.  And then he received mercy.

He also understood that his whole life from that moment on was not his, and God could do with him whatever God pleased.

So David never railed against God when God removed his kingdom.

David accepted Shimei’s cursing, as perhaps coming from God.

David understood that he was crucified with Christ, so that he might live in him.

Compare that with the current statement from the Board of Directors of the Institute of Basic Life Principles.

“Mr. Gothard has acted in an inappropriate manner.”

The board realizes the “seriousness of his lack of discretion.”

“He failed to follow Christ’s example to be blameless and above reproach.”  This one really gets me.  Look behind the fancy words.  The really problem, according to IBLP, is that people were talking and blaming Mr. Gothard.  He didn’t do anything.  but his inappropriateness caused others to talk.  Blame the victim.  If they just kept quiet, none of this would have happened.

They also badly interpreted and spun 1 Thessalonians 5:22.  They wrote, “As a Christian leader, he is to avoid the appearance of evil.”  In other words, Mr. Gothard didn’t do anything evil, but he is liable for appearing to do something evil.  This, however, is not at all the meaning of 1 Thessalonians.  (I might remind them that as church leaders, they are also responsible to rightly divide the word of God, but they haven’t done that for years).  Paul is using the analogy of a stage play.  The “appearance” that he is referring to is like the mask that evil puts on when he makes an appearance on the stage of our life.  Paul is saying, “No matter what mask evil wears, shun it completely.”

He does not at all mean that anything that anyone could possibly interpret as wrong should be avoided.  Christians are always falsely accused, and always will be.

However, to apply this correctly, we would have to say this.  Mr. Gothard has repeatedly and continuously preyed upon women and children.  He has set himself up as a leader apart from the church, with no accountability (as is evident from this horrible publicity spin from the board of directors), and has used that position to gratify his own lusts for preeminence, control and power.  These are not shortcomings, they are marks of a wolf.  There is no biblical reason whatsoever to conclude that he has repented of any of these actions – it is simply more of the same, and he still does not acknowledge that he is what God says he is.  That. as it did with David, always comes first.  There can be no offer of grace without first a stripping away of every pretense and excuse, which also is the work of God.  As long as Mr. Gothard is still spinning, he is not repentant, but what the Bible calls, “Stiff-necked and hard of heart, always resisting the Spirit.”

It is true, as I continually say, that God can call anyone to repentance and faith.  Every believer is a testimony of life from the dead.  I also am not saying these things out of hatred of Mr. Gothard. I don’t know the man, although I have first-hand experience of the damage that his false teaching has caused over the years.

I am saying this actually out of a sincere desire to see Mr. Gothard and his board truly get right with God.  There is not one instance of true faith in the bible that came without first a full understanding and horrible dread of the awful judgment of God.

Only when you realize that you are a sinner in the hands of an angry God can you truly understand the beauty and comfort of the Gospel.  But when you understand that, as David did, there is no more room left for presumption and demands.

As it has been said, “If you wish to follow David in his sins, follow him also in his repentance.”

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Apricot Jam and Hope

We are a proud bunch.  I remember my youth.  I thought that any problem that came along I could fix.  I was pretty clever, healthy, able to hold down a job.  I was catechized when I was young so I knew my theology.  I figured that I had the answers to whatever life threw my way.

But I didn’t understand this: to believe the gospel is to declare war on the devil.  And the devil doesn’t let go of his kingdom easily.

I always knew that there was a devil and that he was our enemy.  Our catechism said so.  But he seemed far away and not really relevant to anything in my life.  I guess that I had the same view of God.  When it came right down to it, I got in trouble because I was foolish and if I would just be wiser, I could get myself out of trouble.

This is our human condition, isn’t it?  The Bible calls it pride.  We’ll take care of ourselves, thank you.  We can protect our families. We can save people if we just explain it right.  Just a little more love, a little more forgiveness, a little more hard work and everything will be fine.

But what do you do when the curtain of your life is pulled back a little and you see just how weak, helpless, poor, powerless and  blind you really are?

What do you do when God brings about something in your life that you can’t do anything about?  What do you do when God allows Satan to attack your family, your health – or even your faith?

You can gnash your teeth against God; you can shake your fist at the heavens; you can rage against the dying of the light.  Or you can mourn, cast your cares upon God and wait.

Jesus said, “Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

We tend to think the opposite.  A happy man is one who has a full pantry, a full bank account, health and youth, and an untroubled life.  Isn’t that the American Dream.  Isn’t that what we pay our politician to achieve for us?

But life doesn’t work that way.  God has something far, far greater for us than the baubles of this world.  He has reserved for us something far greater than wealth and health and friends and security on this earth.  What each of us really long for is to be in His glorious presence forever.  That is how we were made, and we will never have purpose and meaning in our lives until we are with our Maker, reconciled at last, standing as priests before Him.  And God would teach us to lift our eyes out of this earthly trough and learn to long for heaven.

This is why Jesus came in to the world, to take away our sin and reconcile us to God.  He came so that our eyes might be opened and our tongues loosened to worship someone far greater than our bellies and our health and our own desires.  And He will indeed bring us finally into the presence of the living God. But first our pride has to go.  What stands in our way so often is that we still like to think that we’ve got this life thing under control.  But as long as we think we are in control, we will never fully learn to trust God and lean on Him for all good things.

And the way we learn to put our trust in Him completely is when everything else is taken away.  First, we take up our cross.  We lose our lives so that we might find them.

What do you do when you think you have this life thing under control and then the rug is pulled away?  What do you do when wicked men have he upper hand?  When the righteous are ridiculed and persecuted and the wicked man is exalted?  What do you do when Satan runs amok and is too powerful? When he attacks your children through abuse?  When God takes away the health of a loved one?  When everywhere you turn there is no help, no earthly hope, no justice, no light?

All we can do is mourn and wait.  Sure, there are things that you are commanded by God to do.  Confront sin.  Alert authority when crimes are committed. Rely on the assistance of the church officers.  We can obey, but often we can’t fix anything.  That’s because it is only God who can fix what is wrong in this world.  We can’t fix it.  I can’t fix the world.

I can’t find the words to say in the face of tremendous evil.  I can’t wish you healthy.  I can’t make your pain go away.  I can’t wipe away your tears.
How I wish I could!  How I weep with you.

I mourn for the millions of babies slaughtered at the altar of Molech.  I weep for Meriam, about to be lashed and executed for her faith.  I weep for the hundreds of girls stolen and sold as wives to children of the devil.  I mourn for those who are persecuted and ridiculed for their faith.
I mourn for those who are chronically ill that cannot find help with the doctors.  I mourn for all those in constant pain.  I mourn for those who have been slandered and abandoned by their friends and families.

I mourn for our little ones.  I mourn for the hundreds of thousands of children in our country sexually assaulted each year – with no help, no way out.  Often, not even the church believes them, and when they do they don’t want to deal with it.  I can mourn for them.  I can help wherever I can. I can preach and teach against it. I can give a glass of cold water.  I can make meals.  I can offer a shoulder, and I do it gladly and without reproach.

But I can’t wipe away the tears.  I can’t stop the evil.  Only Jesus can comfort the mourners.  Only God can wipe away the tears.  Only God can bring justice and salvation.

So I’m making apricot jam.  I can’t find the right words.  My heart sinks within me.  But in this vale of tears, God brings what first seem like very small blessings – but they are tokens of Eden, foretastes of heaven.

The apricot, for example.  Such delight, such charm.  An apricot in season off of a northern California tree is something to be marveled at.  That we can preserve them in little jars to have all year is a wonderful thing.

God could have justly cast us all into hell.  God could have begrudgingly given us black bread and water and it would have been far more than we deserve.  But he gave us the apricot!  A token of hope.
This world is not all that there is.  We were created for something far greater and God has promised us that he will wipe away all tears and comfort all who mourn.
And as a token, he gave us the apricot.  Of course, not just an apricot, but all good things – wine to gladden the heart, oil to make the face shine, as the Psalmist says.

Life is very often not found where we look for it.  We look for something smashing; we look for those special moments that come along sporadically.  We look for that which is grand, exciting, magnificent.

And we miss apricot season.  God’s goodness abounds to us and we look the other way and say, “What else?”

The devil has declared war on God’s people.  He seeks to destroy and devour.  You will suffer tremendous pain and heartache on this earth, for Jesus promised that every Christian will have trials and persecution.

But He has also promised to comfort those who mourn.  To wipe away the tears.  He points us to something far greater than this valley of the shadow of death.

So I got up, closed my book, lifted my eyes to heaven in thanksgiving.

And now I’m making apricot jam.  God is so good to us.  Wait for Him.  He is coming again and all this will pass away.

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