Tag Archives: peace

Peace and Rest–thoughts on Psalm 19

Thoughts on reading Douglas Kelly’s Systematic theology and Psalm 19…

The heavens declare the glory of God. God is invisible. He is not accessible to our senses. Our eyes do not see him, for he is not made of matter. We do not hear him, for his passing does not ruffle the wind into sound waves.

And yet, God delights to reveal himself. How does God reveal himself to us?

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” God’s invisible attributes are seen in creation (Romans 1). The colors of the world direct us to look to the one who created the colors. The stars in the sky direct us to the one who scattered them.

The earth is perfectly placed – during the day, the sun shines and the stars are hidden. The stars are greater than the sun, but they are far away. And yet, they are not too far away. They “come out” at night when the sun retreats. And God’s wisdom and beauty and love are seen. He scatters Pleiades and Orion and ursa minor, so the hearts of men will rejoice. They look to the stars and see the familiar, the stability of the universe, they find their bearings.

For what reason does Mars sparkle red, other than for the delight of men and women? For what reason does the eye see in color, other than the delight of the children of mankind? There is far more to creation than the mindless pursuit of sex and food and reproduction. The law of the jungle doesn’t explain the platypus and the rainbow and the snowflake.

The heavens declare the glory of God.

God is supremely beautiful, but our eyes only perceive matter. So God created the world to reflect his beauty and his goodness.

The most common colors in all of creation are green and blue, the colors of rest and peace. How different would the world of men be if the sky shone red instead of blue or if grass was white instead of green.

God created the world to be a home for humankind, for man to rest in peace and rejoice.

The devil hates rest and seeks to destroy it. Shame and fear and guilt pound red in the eyes, the voice of enemies shout in black and white – nobody loves you. You are fat and stupid and worthless. God can’t even stand you. Look at you. You’re a disgrace. Shame on you.

Children of God, this isn’t the voice of God. God calls in love – come to the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved. Find rest for your souls. God is a God of peace and desires that you find rest in Him. He who painted the earth in greens and blues also says, “Come unto me, and rest.” Cannot the one who put the stars in the sky to direct you north and south also guide you to the safe harbor across the Jordan of death? Does not the one who made the meadow know how to give peace and rest?

He leads me beside the still waters. He makes me to lie down in green pastures. He restores my soul.

The sky curves down and meets the earth. The sun descends into twilight. The horizon bursts into colors – blue and orange and purple and red. How beautiful it is when heaven meets the earth! And how much greater is the one who painted the sunset with the word of his mouth! He made the stars also! What a universe of wonder in such a few words!

How can the One who created the brook and the water-lilies be unable or unwilling to do us good?

Cease from warring against him. He became flesh in our Lord Jesus Christ. Immanuel. God with us. We could see him, hear him, watch him, hold him. They watched him eat and drink. They watched him sleep. And then he woke up and commanded the sea to be still. And there was peace.

This is the one who calls to you. Peace, little one. Be still. Your sins are forgiven. Your iniquities are pardoned. No one can harm you under my wings. Peace. Be still.

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Filed under Gospel, Nature, peace

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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Alone?

2 Kings 6:1-23

The Syrian army was brutal. Their oppression of God’s people was relentless and cruel. The helpless were carried away captive; the poor and the weak were the first victims.

Like a lion, the devil’s army seeks to separate the weak from the herd and then go in for the kill. The tactic is very successful. This was also practiced by the Syrian army. Divide and destroy. Pick off the weak.

Even though Israel had a wicked king who refused to bend the knee to the God of Israel, the LORD still had pity on his people. When Ben-Hadad, king of the Syrians, would plan a secret raid on an unprotected village, God would tell his prophet Elisha of the plan and Elisha would warn the armies of Israel. The villages would be spared. But Ben-Hadad was convinced that there was a traitor in his inner circle.

When Ben-Hadad found out that there was a lone voice protecting the weak from destruction, he set his mind on destroying that voice. He sent his armies to destroy Elisha so that he could continue his policy of destruction, lies, and oppression unhindered.

But God had other plans.

The Syrian army approached Elisha’s village. The thundering of the feet, the shouts of the commanders, the snorting of the horses, the clanging chariots. How terrifying for Elisha!

Elisha’s servant goes outside and sees the tremendous army surrounding the village and is overcome with fear. “Alas, Master, what shall we do?”

Have you felt that same fear? Have you felt surrounded on every side, utterly alone and forsaken?

Has a well-meaning friend said, “Don’t worry. God won’t give you more than you can handle”? You know better, don’t you?

The fact is this: the armies of Syria were far, far greater than Elisha and his one servant could handle.

And the armies of the world, the devil and our own flesh are far, far greater than we can ever handle. Our enemies are fierce and relentless.

But then look at what Elisha says,

16 And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them. (2Ki 6:16)

Let those words sink in your ears. Meditate on them in your night terrors. When you are forsaken and alone, remember them.

Those who seek your life to destroy you are strong, relentless and fearless. They are greater than you can bear.

But fear not. There are more with you than there are with them.

Elisha’s servant responded like all of us do. He counted what he could see. Two. There’s two of us. Now, Elisha, look at the chariots, the horsemen, the cavalry, the infantry. Are we having math issues here?

No. We aren’t having a problem with math. We are having a problem with perception.

17 And Elisha prayed, and said, LORD, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the LORD opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha. (2Ki 6:17 KJV)

And you may say to yourself – well, that’s Old Testament. I’m not Elisha. But the inspired author isn’t just relation history, he is also relating theology. The fact is this: Christian, there are ALWAYS more with us than there are with them, and the scripture is full of this. Look at this sampling of passages:

17 The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels: the Lord is among them, as in Sinai, in the holy place.
18 Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive: thou hast received gifts for men; yea, for the rebellious also, that the LORD God might dwell among them.
19 Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation. (Psa 68:17-19 KJV)

You, Little One, you are not powerless; you are not weak; you are not alone. You are in Christ, the king of kings and lord of lords. He is the creator and sustainer of the universe and the captain of the Lord’s army.

His name is the Lord of Hosts. That is, the Lord of Armies. He is the commander of the Lord’s army, which ever surrounds each of us, for he knows us by name.

There are indeed more with us than there are with them.

11 For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.
12 They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone. (Psa 91:11-12 KJV)

For this reason it is a terrible thing to hurt and have contempt for any member of Christ’s church, for he takes it very personally.

10 Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven. (Mat 18:10 KJV)

And when it is our Master’s will to call us home, we don’t even do that alone, but are carried into heaven in the arms of the angels of God.

22 And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; (Luk 16:22 KJV)

So quit doing math with the eyes of the world. You may feel lonely, and despised, and rejected. You may think that there is no one else, that you alone bear your burden. You may feel as if you enemies have gone over your head and that this battle is too great for you.

And you would be right. The battle is too great. But there are always more that are with you than are with them.

God would have us lift our eyes to his throne room, where Christ is seated. There we see that we are not alone in worship, in love, in adoration. Our voices are joined by the angels, prophets, apostles, martyrs and all who have claimed the name of Christ:

9 And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation;
10 And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.
11 And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands;
12 Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.
13 And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.
14 And the four beasts said, Amen. And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshipped him that liveth for ever and ever. (Rev 5:9-14 KJV)

So take courage, Little One. Lift your eyes up where the Lord of Hosts is. He reigns forever and ever, and there are always more with you than with them. The destiny of the serpent and his followers is eternal destruction. But your home is with Jesus forever. Who can separate us from his love.

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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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