Friday, January 5, 2018

That Pesky Titus 2

“...that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be dishonored.” - Titus 2:4+5

This exhortation to young women cannot be neglected; it is clear in the text, but it is not culturally acceptable today, and as such it is easy to let it go unmentioned. Sinful man is very concerned with self-definition, self-realization, and unbridled autonomy. But God is in the business of bridling His creation; He both creates and defines what He has created. Truly, He is the most qualified to do the defining, and it is in keeping His commandments that our joy is made full. The bridling of the horse unleashes its power. (John 15)

From my own limited experience and observation, it seems that about ten years ago this passage and its presentation of the homemaking woman was very much in vogue in conservative Christian circles; honestly, it was perhaps presented a little too unilaterally, without enough room for Christian liberty and variety in application. A home business was the only option for a single young woman who wanted to be financially productive. For a girl to consider a college education was heresy- maybe not punishable by the tribunal, but certainly deserving of concerned condescension. Christian womanhood was supposed to look the same way for everyone. But that never happens, and it isn’t supposed to. The tapestry of the Church is a varicolored tunic, not a straightjacket.

Now, however, we seem to have taken a ride on the pendulum; now, we not only embrace Christian liberty and variety, but we practically disembowel the Scriptural commands in the process. We have rejected straightjacket and varicolored tunic alike, and we are running through the streets baring our liberty for all to see. Now this passage really means nothing- yes, we accept it as Scripture, and we make a nod to some vague idea about the wife being the homemaker. But Titus 2 doesn’t really have much bearing on whether or not my wife should get a job, or whether or not our girls should learn old-fashioned homemaking tasks. Perhaps most damaging of all is the strong perception that keeping the home and raising the kids is a second-level calling, as if the passionate pursuit of this essential mission reduces a woman to being too easily satisfied. As if “stay at home mom” was equivalent to “the help.”

This passage does mean something, and we cannot shy away from it; we must let God speak. God has called women to a different role than men, and for a woman to set that calling aside is for her to take a step down, not a step up. God does call women to be home-centered (and He does call them to be subject to their husbands, since we’re already stepping on toes here). It is straightforward in the text. It isn’t for me or anyone else to define for everyone exactly what those two things mean in practice. But the point is that they mean something. The application of the principle will vary, but there must be an application.

We cannot be ashamed of the Word of God. His commands are good, and they bring life and joy.

If we do not embrace this facet of God’s design for His people, then we will give occasion for the Word of God to be dishonored.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Tomorrow's Yesterday

The seeds have been sown in the field of memory, and they will grow up into eternal fruits. Before us stretches another empty field, soft and tilled and fertile, its sweet, earthy smell joining the January sunrise in a chorus that sings of promise and opportunity. What are the seeds that we will sow? What are the memories that we will make? We wave a bittersweet goodbye to another Christmas, but it won’t be long before we are putting the lights up again. What will those lights shine upon this next December?

Now is our chance. Step into the house of mourning with me, and take a long draw off the cup of mortality. Look in the rear view mirror and see the string of yesterdays that led to you, here, now- and then look down the road and realize that you are living in tomorrow’s yesterday. One down, 364 to go. How are we going to use them? Where are we going to spend them?

As we walk on legs of recollection through the field of 2017, what do we see? What little eternal sprouts promise the fruits of life and Godliness? Which patches of time are tainted by tares sown in anger or covetousness or laziness?

And what shall we do with the empty field before us now?

That is the exciting promise of the new year. Exciting for the possibilities. Exciting for the opportunities. But most of all exciting for the unshakeable assurance that, whatever may come, whatever wheat and whatever tares may be sown, the Lord of the harvest is working the whole field for His ends. He will be exalted. His children will be cared for. And that makes it a very happy new year.

Easy or hard, we cannot know. Happy or sad, we have no promise. But as children of the living, sovereign God, we can know without doubt that 2018 will be a good year.

It is for us to simply seek first His kingdom; to rekindle the love that has grown cold; to rejoin the battle against sin; to renew our happy gratitude for His abundant blessings; to rejoice in the promise of His victory and the richness of His love.

The Lord reigns; let the earth rejoice! For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea. So draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Take every thought captive to the obedience of Jesus Christ. And make the most of your time. You only get one 2018. Every choice is a seed- every moment a memory. Let us strive for a harvest of glory that will please our King, and for a year of choices which we will remember without regret. And let us do so in the power of Christ, knowing that it is His power which makes us alive and able, and His righteousness which makes us acceptable to the Father.

What are your goals? What are your prayers? What is the Father calling you to do?

How will you lead your family? How will you strengthen your marriage? How will you win the hearts of your children? How will you invest in your siblings, or your local church, or the community around you?

What is going to fill your days, your home, your year? Faces or screens? Complaining or thanksgiving? Irritation or joy?

What is going to fill the hearts and affections of your family? Jesus? Relationships? Fantasy? Hollywood?

What will be the things that you make time for? Family worship? Monday night football? Personal prayer? Exercise? Pinterest? The new Star Wars movie? Family dinners?

These are the seeds that sow the fields; these are the memories that weave the tapestry of our lives. Every day is a stitch, a stroke, a note in the song of life, and once sung it cannot be changed.

Let us choose wisely.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Two Ways To Be A Bad Patriarch

Husbands and fathers, we have been given a great authority and responsibility by God as the heads of our homes. There are two easy ways to misuse this authority and place ourselves in the pathway of God's judgment. 
1. To fail to exercise our authority- like David, who "had never crossed [Absalom] at any time by asking, "Why have you done so?"" The passive father who does not actively lead his family has been given authority by God, but has left it sitting on a shelf collecting dust, and he will answer for the resulting disrepair all the more because he neglected to use the very tool God gave to prevent it. 
2. To over-exercise our authority, or to act as if it has no limitations- like King Uzziah, who presumed to offer incense on God's altar and thus overstepped his God-given authority. The father who exercises authority without love, or who acts as if his wife or children are to obey him without limitation, without recourse, and most of all without their own personal sense of duty and relationship to Christ, may expect a similar rebuke: "Get out of the sanctuary, for you have been unfaithful and will have no honor from the Lord God.”

Monday, November 13, 2017

The Highway of Heroism

This article is by turns fascinating and heartbreaking. It is amazing how humanism takes us by the hand and walks us away from God's reality- and indeed from all true meaning and joy.

It's no longer about truth or reality. It's about the experience. It doesn't matter if you are actually a man- if you *feel* like a woman, then you must be. It doesn't matter if you are *actually* the little girl's daddy, so long as you make her *feel* like she has an involved father. It doesn't matter if you are in a committed relationship for life; it just matters that, for right now, she makes you feel good.

Thus we run from the real world that God made, a world of meaning, a world of true family, a world of covenant, a world of unconditional love.

All we want is the experience.

The highway of heroism has a high toll, paid in blood, sweat, and tears. But the game console version only costs a couple of hundred bucks and your manhood.

The road of reality is hot in the summer and covered with snow in the winter. Let me watch the movie about someone who traveled that road instead.

I'll get the experience without the sacrifice. The joy without the pain.

But that's a lie.

Because the experiences of God's World are not only about what we enjoy in them but about what they do to us. And if you remove sacrifice from the equation, you have an anvil with no hammer. The sword will not be sharpened without friction.

Remove the trial, remove the reward. Remove the race, remove the finish line. Remove the battle, remove the thrill of victory.

Rent a perfect boyfriend who plays his script to perfection and you will experience happiness. You will experience wonderful dates and comfortable movie nights.

But you will never taste looking into the eyes of a soul so close to yours that it is almost indistinguishable. You will never have your soul broken by the careless words of your best friend, and re-forged in the tears of her repentance. You will never discover just how deep your selfishness runs like rot into the foundations of your soul, or just how much you need Jesus to rebuild that foundation, or just how much joy awaits when He does and you feel the layers of flesh falling away. You will never know sweet tears or broken laughter. You will never be the last, longest-married couple on the dance floor at the wedding. You will never hold the same hand that you've been holding for sixty years, or wake up an old man to the same kisses you first tasted on your wedding day. You will never bear the burdens of crushing pain beside another weeping heart. You will never see overflowing joy spilling from your heart and splashing shimmering sparkles into the most beautiful eyes in the world. And you will never, one day, wake up alone, and feel like half of your heart is buried under six feet of earth and half of your soul is waiting for you at the feet of Jesus.

So yes. We can trade this life in for a facade. Yes, there will be less pain. The dead don't feel pain.

But neither can they laugh.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Is America under Judgment?

Eclipses and hurricanes and floods and fires and the conversation is inevitable- is God punishing us?

The answer is undoubtedly yes. But not necessarily in the way that we are used to thinking.

Throughout Scripture, signs in the heavens and catastrophic natural events are seen as being sent by God. However, unlike Biblically prophesied events, modern natural disasters- while being no less acts of God- have no clear word from God that says that they are anything more than His Providential and glorious weather-working. So could tragedies like Harvey and celestial anomalies like the recent eclipse be signs and judgments upon America?


If they are, do we deserve them? We murder our babies by the hundreds of thousands, we dismember and dismantle the most foundational elements of God's design for marriage, sexuality, and the family, we blaspheme our Creator, we institutionalize theft, we divorce our wives and abandon our kids- yes, we deserve them.

But do we know that they are judgments?

No. We have no direct revelation from God saying that they are.

It is all too easy for us to let physical appearances eclipse spiritual realities. We cannot know that Harvey was a messenger of Divine retribution- although it might have been. But we can know that God's judgment is very real and active upon our nation on a deeper and more chilling level.

As a country we no longer know what it means to be male or female. We fly into riots over trifles and are offended by the slightest transgressions. We don't believe in truth and are shocked that we cannot make sense of reality; we deny that words have meaning and then discover that conversation is meaningless.

This is the judgement of God. "And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind..."

There is salvation in no other Name. Yes, America is under judgment, and conservatism will not change that, Republicanism will not change that, even traditional values will not change that. Only real and lasting repentance before the One True God of Heaven through His Son Jesus Christ caused by the outpouring of His Spirit can save this country. It is for that repentance that we must pray and labor.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The Crying Baby In The Room

I'm going to start off by saying that I unilaterally and unequivocally condemn racism of every shape, color, and size, white supremacy included. God made us all in His Image. The Sacrifice of Christ and His Gospel are offered to all people regardless of the amount of melanin in their skin. And God is the One Who put that melanin there anyway. Any belief that one race of humanity is inherently, genetically better than another is anti-Christian and immoral. There only, really, is one race- descendants of Adam. The question for everyone of every race is not about the bloodline they were born into, but whether they have been born again by the blood of Christ.

That said, I think we are contributing to the race-driven dialogue of this country by spending so much time harping on this wonderful truth. Unwittingly- indeed, against our will- we are allowing the Antifas and the Alt-Rights and the CNNs to control our dialogue as a church and as a nation. Antifa and the Alt-Right together make one tragic fiasco after another, driven by racial hatred; the media, loving a good tragedy, focuses on, meditates on, propagates that conflict and the worldviews of those involved; the left successfully sets the tone of the dialogue- "anyone on the right who does not come out and condemn the Alt-Right in the strongest of terms is a racist." And we know they have succeeded because all over the right are calls for conservatives and Christians everywhere to come out and publicly denounce white supremacy.

The right fires back by telling the left to condemn the racism and violence of Antifa and Black Lives Matter and the rest.

And all of these things should be condemned. But that's not the point.

There have been white supremacists and black power groups and rioting socialists before. They are advancing an evil ideology, sure. And sometimes a particular Klaner or Black Panther does something particularly repugnant, and I am in no way downplaying the evil of both those ideologies and the actions of their adherents.

But just because I am white does not mean that every time the Alt-Right guys do something evil I need to come out and disassociate myself from them. To consider me automatically associated with white supremacy because of my skin color *is racism*. Just because Joe is black doesn't mean that I have a right to automatically assume that he supports the smashing of shop windows.

The most disturbing thing to me about this whole issue, this whole dialogue, is that nationally we are becoming more and more polarized by skin color- not less and less. It is becoming less and less acceptable to actually look at one another as humans- to actually talk about skin color with all the same emotional freight as I would talk about hair color or height or dialect- in other words, with no emotional freight at all.

Frankly, I don't care what color your skin is. And I don't want to care what color your skin is. You're a human. I want to see you as such. To know you as such. To love you as such and offer the goodness of Jesus to you as such.

And if you call me white, it doesn't offend me. I'm white. Technically, I'm more of a light brown- at least on the parts of me that are regularly exposed to the Arizona sun. And I don't really care. That's how God made me.

"Black," "White," "Indian," whatever it is- it's not an insult. It's simple, common-sense English.

The simple fact is that the Alt-Right and Antifa together probably make up less than a tenth of one percent of the population of America. You probably don't know anyone personally who knows anyone personally who knows anyone personally who is a member of either.

Have you ever noticed the remarkable phenomenon of a crying baby/toddler? When everyone stops and pays attention to them, usually the crying increases. When they are given a pat on the head and life goes on as usual, they calm down.

I think it's high time we began ignoring Antifa and the Alt-Right altogether. They're a paper tiger problem being given real weight by all the massive attention put upon them. They are an anthill, and we need to stop viewing them through a magnifying glass.

When they break the law (vandalizing statues, harming people, etc.), they should be punished according to the law.

Beyond that, they should be devoutly ignored. They are driven not by principle but by emotion- an emotion that is fed by the swirling dialogue of our national conversation. That is the Marxist crisis-creation machine working in full swing. Let's not contribute to it.

We need to allow the issue of race to fade back into the background of irrelevance where it belongs and see people the way God made them- in His Image. Let's stop playing in their sandbox. It's just making everything more messy.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

On Modesty and Dead Horses

Ah, we have dug up the corpse of the modesty horse from the backyard once again. Grab your bats, everyone.
But it's not really beating a dead horse; more like a zombie horse; some battles need re-fought, and some need re-focused. In all the back-and-forth, we may hope and trust that God is honing the effectiveness of His Church.
Like most issues, the modesty issue really boils down to whether or not we are seeking God wholeheartedly. If we are, we can grow in wisdom. If we are not, then we will dig into one side or the other and stay there.
Blamers gonna blame. Legalists gonna legal. Libertines gonna liber.
For the girl who wants to feel justified in dressing in ways that are worldly and reminiscent of the Proverbs 7 woman, articles like the recent viral wonderpost provide the perfect ammunition to cast blame on the men around her. 
For the guy who wants to feel justified in ogling his sisters in Christ, any given call to modesty for girls is the perfect ammunition to cast blame on the women around him.
So the real question is- have we removed the log from our own eye? 
Am I arguing for "modesty" because I'm unwilling to repent of my own sin, or maybe because I am desperate to uphold man-made standards and too proud to lend an honest ear to a critique? 
Am I arguing against "modesty" because I want to be free to dress the way that makes me feel beautiful, rather than the way that best honors Christ and serves others?
We are all responsible for how we dress- for how it represents Christ, and for how it affects others. We should be dressing for Christ and for others, not for self. This would obviously include having some sort of standard for decency (and I believe that that goes for both guys and girls-…/magic-mike-and-male-mode…). (1 Cor. 13:4-8)
We are also all responsible for how we think. Guys, if we don't take our lustful thoughts captive, our poor sisters could walk around in burkhas and we would find that their eyes were enticing. "Girl, the bridge of your nose is causing me to stumble." (Matt. 5:28)
And girls, it's also unfair to tell guys to keep their eyes under control while posting drool-stained fangirl comments about the screenshot of Mr. Hotness, coming in HD December 2017. I'm just sayin', all that drool ain't good for your keyboard.
Somewhere out there on the war-torn battleground of sexuality and decency is wisdom. 
The devil would be happy to convince us that God doesn't care, and to render us as Christians just as naked and licentious as the world. "You shall not surely die."
The devil would also be happy to see us fenced up in a bunker of our own traditions and legalisms, so focused on this or any other peripheral issue that the Christ that we claim to serve fades into the background. "Hath God said?"
And the devil would probably also be happy to divide us into the two above camps and keep us busy fighting between ourselves and representing a divided Christ to the world around us.
We all know (or should know) that some attire is not fit for the public eye. If we are humble enough, we should be able to discuss one another's standards, learn from each other, discover how best to love and consider each other, embrace liberty in Christ, and seek wisdom.
It's not "girls, wear what you want." It's not "guys, think what you want." We're Christians. The whole point of this thing is that for every one of us the command is crystal clear- "do what Jesus wants."
So let's humble ourselves and seek God together.