Tough Questions: The Resurrection

This is the second question/answer post in our Tough Questions series. Question (from Loretta Hazel): "Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24 all tell us about the Resurrection, but they all have some key differences in the accounts. Differences that I personally struggle to piece together to form one story. How do we explain how all 3 accounts are accurate?"

Great question. It's one that people have written entire chapters and sections of books on.  With that being said, I don’t think that a single blog post is gong to be the silver bullet that completely resolves this dilemma.  Most answers that I’ve seen and heard are basically timelines that have been constructed (which are often pretty accurate and very well put together).  The only problem that I have is that timelines don’t really help us to read the Bible with any more confidence.  I don’t just need an answer, I need to understand the process of how someone came to that answer.  I need to understand the principles behind the process.

Just to restate, your question is basically how can the resurrection accounts all be different, but all be true at the same time? Common sense tells us that there needs to be a certain amount of congruence or someone is lying.  I remember when I was younger and I knew that me and my boys were about to get into trouble, we would all get into a room and make sure the details of our story lined up so that it would be “believable."  If someone’s story doesn’t line up then it can mess it up for all of us.  Before an interrogation, get your story together.  Why didn’t the disciples have the foresight to do this?  They were all friends.  Surely they could have all gotten together and made sure everything lined up so that the truth wouldn’t be questioned.  Maybe if they all had the same copy editor we wouldn’t be struggling with this.

As I said before, there’s a host of resources that help to line up how all of the events fit together (I’ll reference some of those resources at the bottom of this page).  However, there are two quick principles that make this dilemma a little less intimidating.  I’m grateful to Robin Schumacher for clarifying these two points and making them so plain.

A Partial Report isn’t necessarily a False Report.

One thing about history is that every account of history is a partial report.  It’s impossible for a historian to record to every event that happens.  No one writes a history book and recounts the temperature outside, the color and texture of the grass, the exact amount of people in a crowd, etc.  Every historian edits.  They remove what they deem to be unnecessary events in order to highlight the other events that lend themselves to what they’re trying to communicate.

The Bible is no different.  Some authors record one trip to the tomb, others record multiple trips back and forth to the tomb.  This isn’t a sign that’s meant to move us to to discount their records and disbelieve what they say.  It’s simply a historian seeking to remove the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.  Much like a sculptor creates a statue by removing what he deems to be excess pieces of stone, a historian always tells a partial story.

A Differing Account isn’t necessarily a False Report.

This is really just an implication of the previous point.  Just because two stories highlight different events doesn’t make one of the accounts any less true that the other.  For example, the gospel of Matthew (28:1-10) mentions that one angel speaks to the women, but in the gospel of Luke (23:56-24:12)  it states that two angels appear to the woman and speak to them.  These accounts may seem different, but it doesn’t mean that someone is lying.  It could just mean that Matthew only decided to make mention of the angel that spoke.  It doesn’t negate the fact that there may have been other angels.

Differences can either be contradictions or complements.

Really it comes down to understanding that differences aren’t always contradictions… sometimes they are complements.  Sometimes (as in the case of the resurrection accounts) they all come together to form a series of accounts that complement one another to give us a well rounded picture of all that took place.

Authors, like Luke, who were very familiar with the other gospels that had been written and decided to write another account weren’t trying to contradict the other writers… his intent in recounting the resurrection (as well as the life) of Jesus was to provide a complete picture of this amazing event.

Conclusion

The differing accounts of the resurrection are merely differing perspectives of the same accounts.  It’s the same event seen from various vantage points and relational connections.  Which at the end of the day, makes for a more believable account of the resurrection.

For instance, if every one had the exact same story, with the exact same words and the exact same vocabulary, the same people that already doubt the resurrection would still claim that this was a hoax (and their evidence would be that the story is “too tight”).  Really, at the end of the day, there is no “ideal” way to say that someone who was murdered is now alive and isn’t a zombie.

Once we get past the secondary details, we can remember that everyone was consistent with this one fact… JESUS ROSE FROM THE DEAD.  These people went to their deaths and many of them experienced death as a result of holding on to this truth.  And if you ask me, the fact that their convictions about the resurrection were written in blood should carry more weight than the myriad of convictions that are merely written on blogs.

Resources

1. A Harmony of the Gospels  (for $0.01 on Amazon)

2. Craig Blomberg – The Historical Reliability of the Gospels (You can preview much of the book on Google books.  His section on the resurrection begins on page 136 and is also on Google books in its entirety.)

3. John Wenham – The Easter Enigma (an entire book dedicated to this very question)

Tough Questions: Violence in the Old Testament

This is the first question/answer post in our Tough Questions series. A few months ago, we preached through the book of Judges at Blueprint.  If you’ve ever read through the book you know that there are some tough things to grapple with.  In my opinion, there’s nothing more difficult to wrestle with than reconciling God’s goodness with His apparent command of mass genocide of entire nations.  How could a loving God do something like this?  How could He not only kill innocent people that haven’t done anything wrong, but also enlist other people (namely the Israelities) to be accomplices in this act?  Is it a contradiction for Him to command His people not to murder but then order them to kill people?  How could God’s people be holy while they carry out a decree like this?

See what I mean?  Lots of questions (difficult questions) come to mind and most of those questions appear from reading the first two pages.  My goal isn’t to answer all of these questions exhaustively (because it would take more than an 1000 word blog post to do that).  My goal, however, is to help you understand a few truths that should help you connect the dots (or at least move some roadblocks that exist) between God’s goodness and His command for His people at this specific juncture.  By asking and answering three questions I hope to get to the underlying assumptions that keep us from reconciling these two truths.

Who has the right to decide to end a human life?

I think that before we begin making judgments on what’s good or evil, the first question that we have to ask is who has the right to end a human life?  We immediately look to ourselves and other humans and recognize that we don’t have that right.  That’s why murder is something that is so appalling.  We look at murderers as people who “stole” someone else’s right to live.  Many times you’ll hear people say things like, “you had no right to take his life.”

Which leads me to my point: if we as humans don’t have the right to determine who lives and who dies, then who does?  Really, the only person with the right to determine who lives is the Author of Life Himself.  Hebrews 1:3 says that God sustains all things by His powerful word.  Psalms 104:10-14 talks about how God nurtures the earth and provides the rain and water that brings the vegetation in the earth.  So we see that God both directly (by sustaining our every breath) and indirectly (by providing the earth with everything we need to survive) keeps each and every one of alive daily.  If He were to stop producing oxygen for an hour, the whole world would die.  God doesn’t just wind the clock and let all of us carry on in our life, He actively gives us every breath, He is actively engaged in every heartbeat.  God decides second to second, minute to minute, and hour to hour who lives and who dies.

In a nutshell, God Himself has the right to determine who lives and who dies because He is both the creator and sustainer of life.  If you’re discontent with this, then the question becomes, if God doesn’t have that right... then who should?

Who sets the standard for what is worthy of life and death?

Since God created and sustains our life, then He is the one who determines the standard by which life and death are “earned”.  This is something that you and I praise and are grateful for in every judge.  It’s a concept of justice.  Someone who has power and authority and uses this authority to uphold a standard of good.

God’s command to Israel to wipe out a nation wasn’t something that God determined would be done by His “favorite” nation to a nation that He liked less.  In Deuteronomy 9:4-6 God tells Israel that He is going to drive out the nation because of their unrighteousness (not because of Israel’s righteousness).  God is not practicing favoritism.  God is not a colonialist that is wiping out the Native Americans so that “His people” can possess the best land.  God is a just judge who is (in His infinite wisdom) using sinful people to judge a nation that’s rebelled against Him.

Before we start to cry out that this is unfair, and that the Israelities have it good, let’s remember that God (because He is just) does the exact same thing to the Israelities as they progress in their unrighteousness.  In the book of Judges, time and time again God turns them over to another wicked nation because of their sinfulness.  The book of Habbakuk is a conversation between God and an Israelite.  The Israelite begins the book and is appalled that God is using a wicked nation to enact justice on the Israelites, but by the end He begins to understand that God is just and has the right to govern His creation how He chooses.

Does God have an obligation to keep us alive?

If anything both of these truths should cause us to reflect on the fact that because of our sin, we have earned death (Romans 3:23, 6:23).  God has no obligation to keep any of us alive.  Every breath that we take is a gift from God, and we shouldn’t assume that just because God’s justice doesn’t take place immediately that it’s not deserved (Romans 2:4; 2 Peter 3:8-10).  God’s continuous patience with us is meant to lead us to repentance.  Every breath that we take is a gift of grace.  If he were to judge us for our sin we all would have been gone a long time ago.

On that day when God decides that our life will end (regardless of the means that our death comes about), one thing that we’ll all be forced to remember is that God was extremely gracious for all of the days that He granted us.  Understanding this truth should give us a new perspective on how we spend our days (especially how we acknowledge God each morning).

A brief word to the two types of people who may be reading this blog:

Like I said before, you’ll be hard pressed to find a comprehensive answer on this blog or any blog.  For the person that is doubting and a skeptic this may not be sufficient proof because the underlying assumption that we haven’t dealt with is “is God good?”.  If you come to the table with the assumption that God is wicked, then there are much more extensive works that could help you reconcile some of the apparent paradoxes that you find.  My encouragement, however, would be to start reading the Bible and look at the patience with which God deals with His people.  Look at the gross ways they sin against Him and how much self-control He has.  Ask yourself, if you had no limits on your power and there was no one to judge you or restrain you from retaliation, how would you exercise that power towards people that offended you?  Compare your response to God’s and let me know who is more gracious, more patient.

For the person who begins with a devotion to God and has the underlying assumption that God is good and just has trouble connecting the dots, I hope this helped.  This is a good starting point, but it may not answer all of your questions either.  My hope and prayer that this will help to ease a little of the tension and cringing that comes as you read and try to explain these portions of Scripture.

Tough Questions: Intro

For most people, the Bible is intimidating.  When I think about how to justify that statement, two truths come to mind.  One truth is pretty objective and the second is more subjective. Truth 1) The Bible is the best-selling and most distributed book of all time.  With estimates of over 6 billion Bibles sold (not counting all of the free digital copies available), the distribution of the Bible dwarfs any other book that has ever existed.  Simply put, people have access to the Bible.  Everyone reading this blog can get to a Bible with just a few keystrokes.  We have the Bible.

Truth 2) While there’s no hard data to substantiate this claim, I would bet that there’s no other book that readers have failed to read in its entirety.  People partially and half-read a lot of books, but I would guess that this happens more frequently with the Bible than any other book.

Simply put, the Bible is intimidating.  This intimidation often leads to insecurity when it comes to approaching to the Bible.  And unfortunately, insecurity eventually leads to inactivity.

Through the course of this summer, however, our desire is that we would use this blog to reverse that trend.  We want to increase your activity in Bible reading by removing the insecurities that comes with approaching the Bible.  If we can remove the insecurity then maybe it will be less intimidating and we’ll see more involvement.

Most of the Bible is Pretty Clear

Most of the Bible is straightforward and clear cut. The Bible isn’t a book full of riddles.  The Bible is God’s revelation to the world.  It’s a book that was written in common language by 40 different men over the course of about 1500 years.  There’s one story line, one thread, and one hero that helps us fit the whole Bible together.  This book is a story about mankind being estranged from their Father (the God of the Universe) because we’ve willingly turned our back on Him in pursuit of other things.  This God has pursued us relentlessly, showing us in one act— the crucifixion of His Son Jesus— both (1) His hatred for sin and (2) His love for His people.  The Bible is a book about Jesus’ work to save sinners and restore them back to an intimate and fulfilling relationship with God.  Every book of the Bible points to this end (c.f. Luke 24, John 5:39).  Seems pretty simple, right?

Hard to Understand

However, while most of the Bible is simple, straightforward, and easy to understand, there are certain things that are confusing.  You have the whole concept of the Trinity (somehow God is one person yet three at the same time?).  Not to mention the apparent double talk that exists.  There are certain verses of the Bible talk about salvation as completely an act of God (God draws men to Himself), yet somehow God is just in holding people responsible for their rejection of Him.  Also, there’s a story of a guy who sacrifices His child to God (Judges 10-11), laws in Leviticus that tell us not wear polyester (Leviticus 19:19), and that eating clam chowder is an abomination (Leviticus 11:9-12).  In the New Testament it even seems like the apostle Paul (the greatest missionary other than Jesus) tells men that they can’t grow their hair long and that women shouldn’t get buzz cuts.  In a nutshell, while most of the Bible is simple, straightforward, and clear, all of it isn’t so.

Easy to Understand, Hard to Accept

There are other things in the Bible that are pretty straightforward and easy to understand, but they’re just hard to accept.  For example, how can a loving God send people to hell for eternity?  How can a loving God order an apparent genocide of tens of thousands of people?  How can this God seemingly condone slavery, but condemn homosexuality?  (Doesn’t that seem backwards from the world that we live in?  I mean, modern society has “evolved” to the point of condemning slavery and condoning sexual “freedom”… didn’t God get the memo?)  That’s just the tip of the iceberg.  There are a lot of things that are clear in the Bible, but leave us feeling like God is anything but loving.  There are things we read that make it seem as if God is cold and apathetic.  It’s bad enough that there are things that aren’t clear, but even the things that are clear are hard to accept.

There Are Answers, But There Aren't Always Easy Ones

If the Bible isn’t confusing enough, we’ve come to know that life itself rarely pans out the way that we hoped that it would.  God does things that puzzle us.  People who don’t want to have kids have them all the time, while people that want kids struggle for years to conceive or adopt.  The wicked in this world prosper while it seems like the good guys finish list.  It’s not just the Bible that’s a mystery— life itself is a mystery. God is a mystery.  The Bible is written to help us to know this great God.  Where else can we go to understand God?  Where else can we go to make sense of why God allows hard times to come to people that love Him?  The only way that we can make sense of this is if God Himself tells us why He does these things.  In the Bible, He does.  He’s not trying to hide Himself.  He’s eager to make Himself available to us.

While the Bible does answer some of the tensions, the Bible won’t answer every tension.  There are certain things that are reserved for God and God alone.  While there are certain things that He won’t ever let us in on, there are other things that He has revealed clearly and we’re to spend our time trying to obey.

Some of the answers don’t close the loop as tight as we would like it.  God is incomprehensible— it’s impossible to grasp Him fully.  His ways are higher than ours.  Oftentimes God’s work makes much more sense in hindsight than it does in foresight.  In this, we learn that success is not a total and complete knowledge of God’s will, but total and complete trust in it.

Over the course of the next few months, we’ll use the blog to seek to answer a few “tough” questions.  I use the quotes around tough because with each one that we answer, my hope is that you see that things aren’t as inconsistent and intimidating at first glance.

We don’t want to dream up these questions or answer questions that you aren’t asking.  We want this to be extremely practical.  We want this to be a place where you can get answers to the questions you come across as you are trying to explain God to people who don’t know Him or misunderstand Him, or even questions you have yourself.

So let’s begin… who’s got the first question? Leave a comment below!

What Does "Circles" Mean?

It was just another day in my Old Testament Historical Literature class. I was taking notes and keeping a literal tally of how many times my professor said "interesting dynamics," his pet phrase. At some point during the class, my professor turned to the dry-erase board behind him and drew a large spiral. "This," he said. "is the book of Judges."

Judges is a book of cycles (hence why we're calling our current sermon series Circles). We shouldn't think of these cycles as individual seasons that directly correlate to seasons in our own lives, but more like a spiral: a series of interconnected circles that move in a direction. As Dhati pointed out in Sunday's sermon, we can specifically see the cycles in the book of Judges.

Judges is a historical narrative; it tells a story. It's not just a metaphor from which we can draw simple applications to our lives. The author of Judges recorded real accounts of real people during this time. So when we read Judges, it's essential to consider what was going on in the nation of Israel at this time. This is where we see the spiral come in, the circles-- the pattern of Israel's state as God's people is circular. There are 7 cycles in Judges, and during each cycle, we can see the nation of Israel going through 5 stages in how they relate to God. These stages are: Sin, Servitude, Supplication, Salvation, and Silence.

Sin. We know that the period of the Judges was a time when "everyone did what was right in his own eyes." (Judges 17:6) After wandering in the wilderness and then fighting to claim their promised land, the Israelites were now settled in their own land, in a time of relative peace. And with this rest came complacency and a lack of staying committed to God. Idolatry became rampant, as many of the Israelites traded in worshipping the God who had delivered them from Egypt for the fake gods of their Canaanite neighbors. There was also vast injustice. People were not treating one another as valuable, but were exploiting one another for selfish gain. Plainly and simply, they were being disobedient to God.

Servitude. God isn't passive towards sin. He takes the disobedience of His children seriously. Throughout Judges, when the culture of the nation of Israel becomes one of unrepentant sin, we see God allowing them to be at the mercy of some other nation that wants to subdue or conquer them. They are harassed, attacked, violated, indentured. God uses the Midianites, the Amalekites, and all the other "-ites" to remind the people of Him, their Rescuer.

Supplication. The people, in their desperation, cry out to God. He has rescued, restored, and redeemed them before, so their circumstances remind them of the faith in Him they were supposed to have in the first place. They repent of their sin and ask God to save them from their servitude.

Salvation. Thankfully, even "if we are faithless, He remains faithful—for He cannot deny Himself." (2 Timothy 2:13). Over and over again, we see God providing a judge to help deliver the people from their oppressors. God is attentive to the cries of Israel, and He rescues them. This is a beautiful picture of God's grace and mercy. The people didn't deserve salvation, but out of His love for His people and His passion for His name, God does what He doesn't have to. He is faithful and mighty to save.

Silence. Once God saves His people, peace reigns again. There is rest. Everything looks good-- people are happy and obedient. But over time, they grow complacent again. Sin creeps in. And the cycle begins again.

These are the stages of each cycle. Each cycle is a similar process, but as time progresses, we see that the cycles form not just a spiral, but a downward spiral. Each judge seems to be a little worse than the one before, each cycle a little more infused with sin and chaos. Israel is not headed in a good direction.

Thankfully, God once again shows Himself faithful when He raises up Samuel as a prophet, ushering in a much better (but far from perfect) time in Israel's history.

Judges has a lot to teach us, but like any book of the Bible, we must study it for what it says, not for what we imagine it says to fit our lives. We encourage you to read the book through for yourself during this series and to learn more about Judges by listening to this previous sermon from Pastor John O.

Life Verses, Volume 2

We’re currently going through a sermon series at Blueprint entitled “Life Verses.” Each week, one of our pastors is walking us through a set of verses that has been influential in his life. But God’s Word isn’t just for pastors! It has the ability to powerfully affect and transform each of us. Here are the “Life Verses” of some of Blueprint’s other staff:

Shane Kidd, Intern

John 17:3:

And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

“This verse lays out what is true about everlasting life: it's not about us being able to live forever, but it's being able to know the Father and Jesus whom He sent. Living eternally without communion with God is not true life but real everlasting life is found in our relationship with God. This verse gives meaning to the way I live. I pursue to know Him more and have my life be a reflection of knowing Him.”

Dena Burress, Director of Operations

1 Corinthians 1:27-31:

But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

1 Corinthians 15:10:

But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary,I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.

"These verses in 1 Corinthians remind me of being chosen--that God chose to lavish his lovingkindness on someone's whose heart was far from him.  God's reach is never too short; we're always in his reach.  My life is now hidden in Christ.  God's grace to me was not in vain."

Taylor Hendrick, Intern

Hebrews 12:7:

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father?

James 1:2-4:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

"These two passages kind of go hand in hand for me. They have given me hope in the midst of great trial/hardship and they also allowed me to look back through my past and see how God was molding and shaping me through my experiences to prepare me specifically for future events. I learn a ton by examining my past. The rest of chapter 12 in Hebrews talks more about discipline and why it is important and painful at times. Contrasting that with James 1, I saw that we are able to find joy because we know God is at work. These were words that I clung to in my darkest times and in my deepest trials, trials that came because of my disobedience or simply for my sanctification.

The two specific times I surrendered to these verses were my junior year of high school in the midst of an ugly relationship and my first semester of college when I was a Christian in isolation and starving for community. Perseverance has definitely come from both of those experiences and I felt the Lord's discipline.

These are verses I constantly use to encourage people when they are down or going through a tough time. God is showing us that He cares enough to discipline us. And the simple fact that we can recognize a trial or hardship is evidence of the Spirit working. When we are able to take the attitude of clay being molded, we can really say to God 'have your way, even if it's going to hurt.' Being joyful always is something many of us struggle to do, especially when we are also meant to mourn and have other emotions. But this passage in James shows our reason for pure joy is that the end result of this trial is better than how things were before. I also find that this verse points specifically to our future home, because essentially we are under trial for the entirety of our Christian life. We are meant for another world and having joy because we know where our 'end' will be is exactly what this verse is talking about."

 

Check out Life Verses, Volume 1 here.

 

Life Verses, Volume 1

We're currently going through a sermon series at Blueprint entitled "Life Verses." Each week, one of our pastors is walking us through a set of verses that has been influential in his life. But God's Word isn't just for pastors! It has the ability to powerfully affect and transform each of us. Here are the "Life Verses" of some of Blueprint's other staff: Diamone Ukegbu, Music Director

1 Peter 5:5-11:

Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him,firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

"Throughout my life, I keep finding reasons to feel alone, haughty and without purpose. This passage is so clear in reminding the believer of all these things. Suffering has a place in life and it is full of purpose and joy if you let it be; eyes stayed on Jesus will sure up your identity in the suffering, giving you life and direction through it all. Peter is talking to elders and the flock and challenged them in their posture toward all people (v. 5) and then toward God (v. 6). Verse 7 is my 'safe haven' verse; my haven of rest and where my burden is light is in Jesus, so that I may run the race and not tire. With that posture and haven, there is a challenge of awareness of our enemy in verse 8. I feel a call to stay in the fight like Nehemiah and the workers did as they rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem in the Old Testament, despite the threats of their enemies. Verse 9 gives the challenge of resisting the enemy and 10- 11 brings the promise of full equipping and purpose.

In this passage, believers are challenged in their posture, reminded of their haven, admonished to be aware of our enemy, and called to resist our adversary as we rest in the equipping of our God through His presence for His glory. Everyday of my life I need this-- fuel for my life."

Jillian Marsh, Director of Hello World!

Psalm 73:25-28:

Whom have I in heaven but you?

And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.

My flesh and my heart may fail,

but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

For behold, those who are far from you shall perish;

you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you.

But for me it is good to be near God;

I have made the Lord God my refuge,

that I may tell of all your works.

"This passage reminds me that God is in control  and is due my gratitude.  It keeps me humble, reminds me of priority and leads me to worship.  I've loved this verse since my early teenage years."

Evan Moon, Intern

Luke 21:15:

I will give you words of wisdom that none of your adversaries can rebuke or contradict.

When I was in high school a group of friends who were believers got together every Thursday morning near the cafeteria to pray, read Scripture and sing praise songs. Obviously this opened us up to public criticism and mocking. Our desire was to interact with non-believers and to boldly share our faith. No matter how outgoing I am there is something about sharing the gospel that makes me clam up. Luke 21:15 says that when obedient followers of Jesus Christ are being held as prisoners and questioned by the most powerful people then Jesus Himself, the very Son of God, promises to give the perfect words to say.

This forces me to consider who is my source of strength. If I rely on my own understanding, even my own grasp of the Word of God, then I do not have the same sure footing as if I was relying on the Rock of Ages Himself. Pray and seek the face of God. Read His Word to know His character and fall deeper in love with Him. Go boldly with the good news of Jesus Christ and trust in Him for the strength to share your faith."

 

Accidental Pharisee

That's me. Well, a pharisee is what I've been acting like for quite some time now. No sooner than me throwing in the towel, quitting my performance of Christianity, did this reality hit me. One day, visibly frustrated, my friend expressed her displeasure with our constant debates. Of course I defended myself, but I realized in doing so I was only digging a deeper hole. So, for a moment, I stopped thinking of how unfair her sentiments seemed to be, and considered the worst. What if I am prideful? What if I do always think I'm right, so my opinions are really facts I believe other people just haven't been exposed to yet? What if I've come up with my own rules of what holiness looks like? What if I really do look at people who don't have my "convictions" as less righteous than me? What if what I've thought was a pure desire to be holy and honor God has really been a drive to gain righteousness, because I didn't believe righteousness could truly be given to me without my works earning it for me? What if my view of God has been pretty low, especially in the unconditional love department? What if...I'm a pharisee?

As I began thinking through the implications of that discovery and shared it with a wise young woman at our church, who's helping me not go completely crazy lately, she directed me to Galatians 3: 2-3

Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by[a] the flesh?

She basically used Scripture to call me a fool! (Yes, I caught that.) But first, I had to answer the initial question. Had my works or faith earned me the Spirit of God, which is evidence of my salvation? Well, of course I'd say I didn't earn salvation. I can't. But, would I say faith granted me salvation? I was suppose to say, "Yes!" Or "Duuuh." But since I'm on a no-pretending fast, I couldn't answer that confidently. Instead, I asked a question that opened up a world of discovery. "Well, I know believing in Jesus is my only hope for salvation, but what about all the commandments? God gave those for a reason, right?" To which my friend replied, "Well, what about before the commandments were given? How were Abram, Noah, Enoch and Job righteous in the eyes of God?" (Come on Caresse, you oughta know this, I thought. I realized in that moment how often I much rather appear knowledgeable than admit I'm not sure or don't understand something if it seems like I should understand it.) "Uhh...God must have given them a special pass as the children of Isr-wait...no...that's wrong because you're saying before Abram had offspring and before Moses was given the commandments. Well...I don't know," I reluctantly mumbled.

Oh the inadequacy to disciple others and be in a position to share Him over the past years I instantly felt. Yet, simultaneously, three words had freed me. I...don't....know. See, when you're performing, you gotta know everything. When you read or hear something, you have to instantly affirm belief in it. The show must go on. When you're pretending, you gotta fake it 'til you make it. But with God, as long as we pretend, we won't make it. He'll never actually know us. So, I admitted that I didn't know the answer.

 Genesis to Galatians and the love in between

Genesis 15:6 -"And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness," she read aloud.

Wait...what? What exactly did Abram believe to be counted as righteous? The previous verses in chapter 15 tell of a covenant God made with Abram to bless him and his offspring. And guess what? What Abram believed was what God said. He believed in God's promise, which stamped his righteousness. And here's what I'd somehow missed the weight of—it was an unconditional covenant. The blessing (which turns out to be ultimately fulfilled in salvation through Christ centuries later) was given to Abram by faith. He had no rules to keep in order to impress God; all He had was God's promise to believe, and that's what he did.

"Well then, why were all those commandments given?" I wondered.

"To govern, but it wasn't about looking at 600+ commandments and trying to figure out how to keep each one in order to be righteous. They were commandments to govern them. What they were and you are supposed to focus on is what God said to the Israelites before He gave the ten commandments," my friend responded.

"I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery." -Exodus 20:2

"Focus on God being your God," she followed. Realize He has graciously, of no merit of my own, brought me from being a stranger to Him and a slave to sin and now calls me His own. Out of that recognition, let Him therefore be Lord over my life.

"Ok. But knowing just how perfect God is, by virtue of all the commandments, makes you feel like you have to obey a bunch of rules," I replied.

"And then you start adding rules on top of those rules to keep you from breaking the original ones," she joked.

"Exactly!" I confessed. "Because I read about Jesus, and He makes it even harder. I realize that I'm still a sinner even if I don't fornicate, because I lust in my heart. So, then, I have to come up with rules to keep me from lusting. And then, of course, I put those rules on other people," I admitted. "But wait- Jesus came to fulfill the law. As in, He came to live out all 600+ to perfection and within His heart remain completely pure as well. So, He was basically telling the Pharisees to keep calm and sit down, because they weren't as righteous as they presumed. He was exposing their hearts. He is exposing my heart. Not for me to go get a heart monitor that I constantly check, but to show me it's impossible to please God...without faith. Oh shoot."

"23Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 24So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slaveg nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise." Galatians 3:23-29

Oh. my. world.

So, I don't have to work for my righteousness? I don't have to think through every possible thing that could be sinful about everything and think through for other people too? Seems too easy, if God is as holy as His commandments make Him out to be.

And that's when it clicked.

Yes, God is holy, and His standard is perfection. We ought to tremble at His holiness and flee from sin. But why? Why should we look at the teachings of Jesus and the apostles and pray for the Spirit to empower us to reflect Christ? Why should we keep the commandments in our hearts and minds? For one, to have an accurate picture of God. And secondly, to have an accurate picture of ourselves. The law reveals a need for Jesus. Its goal was to govern an otherwise ungovernable people, but also to make them see just how jacked up they are and how holy God is. But not for us to wallow in our helplessness, and not for us (especially me) to overestimate my righteousness. It was to stir within us—within the children of Israel even—a hope, a craving, for a Savior. As Ray comfort wrote, "Nothing reveals calvary like Mount Sanai." And the Good News for us is that we got that Savior. We have the blessing Abraham believed God for.

But what did we really do to get it? That's what I don't get.

Simple. In case you missed it like I have been, or thought you already had it, or my words were not clear because I tend to ramble, this blog is "for all of us who have a hard time getting it through our brains that all we did was nothing, BUT the love still came," as the song says.

All you and I actually did, as in earned, was NOTHING.

Thank God for giving us faith to believe and receive unearned promise.

Sometimes, we don't have to understand.

"Life becomes utterly free and daring when [you realize] the strongest being is for you."

Just accept His crazy love.

Forgive me for asking

For the past few weeks, hmm maybe months, I’ve been wrestling with something inside. My friends can attest to it, because just about once every week I’m venting to one of them about it. I even read some articles that communicated much of what I was dealing with (Anthony Bradley and Jasmine Baucham), but not exactly.  I do feel like an emphasis on discipleship and exposing our comfortable Christianity were necessary books and speeches written and given by David Platt and others, but I don't think we've heard enough of the perhaps less radical messages to give us a healthy tension. So, I feel trapped in the thinking that I have to share Jesus everywhere in everything. I wanted to come to some amazing, John Piper-inspired conclusion about it, but I can’t. I didn’t want to keep questioning God or other people, but I know that God (at least) can handle my questions—even if it means He’ll just respond with even better ones like he did to Job (was that not the finest sarcasm ever?). So, please God, forgive me for asking… But can I just live a normal life?

I love you, I do, but that’s not enough it seems.

Do I have to tell everyone I meet about You, otherwise I’m failing at the mission?

I used to share the truth of Your word freely, but now it feels like a responsibility.

I used to spend time with other believers regularly, because I wanted to and knew I experienced You more fully around them than by myself. But now I feel like I have to.

I can't even genuinely talk and listen to an unbeliever without thinking that I've got to share my faith with them. Soon and very soon. But I can't even remember where they said they were from. Is that okay? Is that loving them?

If I don’t knock on my neighbors’ doors and tell them about Your love, do I not love them either?

If I don’t tell the girl I just met not too long ago that she’s not actually a Christian, am I avoiding conflict?

If I write a blog for a secular site and don’t find a way to mention You in it, am I selling out?

But then again, if nothing is more important than people having a relationship with You, should that be my focus all the time?

Or does that require a calling to ministry?

Is it possible that I could actually be doing what You want me to do despite hearing message after message and reading blog after blog about people not being missional enough?

Where is the encouragement?

But, hmm, is there a way to encourage the congregation and still prevent us from getting comfortable?

Can I read the book of Acts and applaud those brave men, but not think I have to go to Little Five Points and stage a Day of Pentecost?

Then again, why won’t I go? Why don’t we plan to do that one Sunday instead of gathering in a building? (Minus the flaming tongues part.)

Why don’t we just take a day to go evangelize?

Oh, yeah. That’s not discipleship. We have to build relationships first, right?

Have we dissected Your word too much?

What did the disciples daily lives, post-ascension, look like?

Were they always sharing with everybody?

Were you honored the same by the early Christians going to work and working hard?

They didn’t have tv, so did they have less distractions?

Do you give us grace for all the distractions around us?

Then again, where does eat, drink, and be merry fall into the call to make disciples?

Am I the only one that’s only been eating and drinking (peach tea), but not experiencing the merry in the mission?

Sometimes, I wish I could just do what I love and talk about who I love the most as I go and know that I’m on the right path without having to think about it so much. Is that possible?

I know that’s what some of my friends do, but why don’t I feel the freedom to do that?

Why do I even question whether they’re doing enough?

Am I trying to earn a few missionary patches on my heavenly robe that’s up there waiting on me?

Am I confusing Christianity with competition?

Do you actually want more from me, and I can't tell if it's conviction from the Spirit or from man?

Do I love you the way Scripture says I should?

Yes. Some days more than others.

Is Jesus my treasure?

Yes.

Do I love people?

Yes, but sometimes I do love myself more.

Does your Spirit live in me?

Yes. Sorry for acting like it didn’t last week. (And a billion other times.)

Am I surrounded by other people who love Jesus and are wiser than me and can challenge me?

Yes.

Do I talk about You and want to make disciples?

Yes.

Is the spreading of the Gospel solely dependent on me?

No.

Do You expect me to be Paul?

No. You expect me to be me and do what You want me to do. I think.

Does that mean that two believers’ missional lives can look different and one isn’t wrong or better?

Can I just rest in knowing that?

I think You’re screaming, “Yes!”

Will you finish the work you started in me regardless of my confusion?

Yep.

If I'm supposed to go to Nineveh, will you make sure I end up there?

Ha. I bet.

Have I been trying to be the perfect Christian and earn your grace?

Yes.

Does that sound noble but actually dumb since grace is something I don’t deserve?

I think you just laughed.

So, you’re telling me that I’ve been overthinking all of this?

Have I read too many books, articles, and sermon transcripts and not lived enough years to process them all?

Did you just smirk?

Ok, last question.

Did You see that Warriors’ game last night?

Woo! Wait- but you knew they would lose, so could you even enjoy it?

Oh snap! What’s it like to know…

Just kidding.

“Love God. Love people. And do whatever else you want.”- Dhati Lewis

I’m going to try that approach...again.

So, help me God.

God In Us

When Dhati kicked off our new series, One, by looking at the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of the church he gave the challenge to study the person of the Spirit as depicted in John 14-16. What follows are my thoughts.

The story depicts the emotionally charged account of Jesus’ last night before he was betrayed and delivered over to be crucified. In John 16, Jesus is trying to warn his disciples of His fastly approaching death. The man who they had come to know and trust as Lord, who they left families and gave up everything to follow, would no longer be there to guide, teach and love them.  I don’t think there is a louder cry in the human heart than the desire to know God. And they had him: tangibly, intimately and very personally.

And he was leaving.

I can’t imagine the sorrow that must have permeated the environment. Right in the thick of this sorrow, Jesus makes an ironic and almost incomprehensible statement, “It is to your advantage that I go away” (John 16:7). Advantage? What could have possibly been more advantageous for the disciples than Jesus staying with them forever? It would seem to me that having God in the flesh with me would be the best way for me to know him, but Jesus says otherwise. “It is to your advantage that I go away. For if I do not go away, the Helper (The Holy Spirit) will not come to you.” Jesus says it’s better for the church to have the Spirit of God living within us than to have the Son of God standing before us! But why?

My thought is this: Jesus being there in the flesh could only do so much to enact the type of heart change that would be needed to love like him. And loving like him is the primary command to us (John 13:34) and the primary task that the Holy Spirit is to help us with. It’s easy for [pull_quote_right]The work of loving one another is a matter of the heart, not the flesh. It is a work that must be accomplished from the inside out.[/pull_quote_right]me to think that if Jesus were physically present it would be so much easier to avoid sin. I’m sure I would never have looked at any pornography if Jesus was actually sitting in the room next to me. I would never yell at my wife, if Jesus was sitting in the room next to me. But the interesting thing is that it doesn’t mean I would never lust in my heart if Jesus was in the room next to me. It doesn’t mean that I would never be angry and bitter and hateful in my heart toward my wife, if Jesus was in the room with me. It doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t want to be selfish with my time and resources when my friends need my help. If anything, it just shows that I value the presence of the Spirit less than I value the presence of Jesus, physically. Maybe that’s why Jesus says the Spirit is a more advantageous helper than himself. The work of loving one another is a matter of the heart, not the flesh. It is a work that must be accomplished from the inside out. My heart is flimsy, and as sad as it is to say, I would probably find reason to doubt God’s goodness even if he stood right in front of me.

In light of that, it makes sense why we would need a different helper. If Jesus is God with us, then the Holy Spirit is God in us! He is in us (John 14:17), empowering us with courage (Acts 4:31), convicting us of sin, teaching us about our Father (John 16:13-15) and giving us gifts to love one another with (1 Corinthians 12:7). If we are to grow together in the gospel, in the context of family while living on mission, we must come to embrace the Holy Spirit as our Helper in knowing the Father and loving one another. He is to us what Jesus was to the first disciples, only more advantageous! I pray that his presence would be very real to us and that we would see that having God in us is even better than having God with us.

SLOW DOWN

Here’s the problem

I had a conversation with a good friend of mine this past week as we were on the back porch grilling. Having just celebrated a birthday, we were talking about the “good ole days” and what’s wrong with these “young bucks” nowadays. My good friend shared with me a story about a guy he had a conversation with. He asked the younger guy what he was learning, and the younger dude responded by recounting all the books he was reading—restating all the quotes that he tweeted from the books that he read. When he got done, my friend repeated the question, “So what are you learning? Out of all the life-changing quotes that you just restated, what are you applying? How is your life being changed?” Surprisingly (or not surprisingly depending on your view of "this generation"), the guy was silent. His silence answered the question with a resounding NOTHING. I’m reading, I’m studying, I’m processing—but I’m not learning anything.

We need experts, not enthusiasts

Here’s my fear for our community: our overemphasis on “rightness” is producing a lot of enthusiasts and very few experts. Picture this...you’re sitting in a room, and the topic of cars comes up (something I know very little about). In walks a 12-year old who is a car enthusiast and a professional Nascar driver. As they start to talk about cars and argue the finer points of the sport (if you would be so bold as to call it that), you become impressed because the 12- year old is holding his own. He can go toe-to-toe with the Nascar driver about the finer points of cars, how to make high speed turns, etc. At points in the conversation, he even seems to be “winning” and making better points than the Nascar driver, which is even more impressive. Here’s my question for you: If you had to ride in the car with one of them while sitting in the passenger seat with no seatbelt, who would you choose? If the room was filled with 100 other people, who would they choose?

The 12-year old can argue all day and by doing so think that he and the Nascar driver are peers; however, one by one, as people choose the driver they are going to follow, it becomes painfully obvious that what people need are experts, not enthusiasts. These are the people that lead. This is what our community desperately needs.

We have a lot of enthusiasts as it relates to holiness; we have a lot of enthusiasts as it relates to stewardship; we have a lot of enthusiasts as it relates to Bible knowledge and theology, but what I’ve found is that we have very few experts, very few practitioners. If you’re only an enthusiast as it relates to holiness, there’s a word for that—hypocrite.

If that’s you, I have some advice.

Slow Down

Don’t feel the pressure to memorize Systematic Theology by next week to impress your friends, leaders, or the people that follow you. Don’t feel the pressure to read a whole lot of books this year just to reach a certain status in the eyes of people that are around you. Don’t feel the pressure to insert yourself into Twitter conversations with your heroes to prove that you know a lot.

Slow Down.

This isn’t a race.

Take some time and soak up the things that you’re reading. Surround yourself with people that will ask you the "so what" question.

Start practicing the things you talk about.

After you study, get in the car and take a few laps around the track.

You might actually learn something.

(Ordinary)Gospel.(Automatic)Family.(Latent)Mission.

Last night, our college ministry had the semester’s first large-scale gathering of students and others in the college-age range at what we call The Brook. I had the opportunity to co-host the event with a dear friend of mine, and we’d spent the past weeks planning, creating and losing sleep. [Pause] Think about the arrangement of that sentence. I said I had the opportunity to co-host. But what about the planning, creating and losing sleep? Were those opportunities too? Considering that when we think about an opportunity, we usually follow it up with some noteworthy action, a platform, some dream come true or some profitable endeavor, I’d say no. The fact that God would let me stand on a stage was the opportunity. Isn’t that what we all want in some arena or another? To be seen and heard.

 Ordinary Gospel

Over the course of the night, I shared God’s story of redemption manifested in my life, as did the other host, and our student pastor had an open dialogue with those in attendance to probe into their hearts and minds.  One student made a confession that was met with many agreeing nods: the Christian life can become predictable and ordinary, mundane even. He was right. We’ve read this, heard that and already told everyone about it via social media. We talk about Jesus and scripture with bullet points and breakdowns to the point that actually falling on our knees, God forbid our face, in awe of Him is beneath us. My friend admitted yesterday that she couldn’t remember the last time the majesty of God moved her to the point of tears, so heavy she couldn’t stand, until just recently. Personally, I didn’t have to go before God to prepare to share my testimony last night. I’ve already been coached on how to communicate it quick enough to someone who I might not have an opportunity to speak with at-length. No, this is not an attack on doctrine, methods and models; we must be students of the one we worship.  But if all our learning and planning makes us forget who we were when God exchanged our death for life and somehow overshadows the filthy-ragged Christians we still are, then I’d agree with the wise woman who told me, “I never want to know that much.”

Salvation is a miracle.  The fact that God sent His son to take my place in death and now I get to walk free is no point made in passing.  We’d be outraged if the prisons just started releasing criminals to roam free, with the hope that they’d make different choices with their newfound freedom.  What have they done to earn such a pardon? They don’t deserve to live freely! They (we) sure don’t.  But it’s been quite a few mornings since “the morning on which death and sin lay prostrate in defeat and new life and salvation were given to mankind.” So, that thought doesn’t wake us up or provide fuel for our days.

Automatic Family.Latent Mission.

 As if the supernatural exchange of redemption isn’t enough, the fact that we are not left wandering this planet alone in our freedom should give us pause. Not only do we have the spirit of our emancipator living inside us, but we also get to journey through this life with other freed souls.  “It is not simply to be taken for granted that the Christian has the privilege of living among other Christians. Jesus Christ lived in the midst of his enemies.” There are countless Christians who don’t know this common unity customary to some of us today. There are people struggling to stay on the narrow road, because there is no one around to remind them of whose they are.  Not to mention those brave souls risking their lives in hostile environments only finding fellowship in the Holy Spirit.  Yet, for those of us who have a contact list full of other believers, the Body is no monumental piece of art. The idea that God arranged for us to “randomly” encounter one another or choose to live in the same state or end up at the same church when we come from totally different worlds is not a phenomenon to ponder. Oh but it is. And if we did, we’d be brought to our knees. God is sovereign. Don’t just say it, sit with it; better yet, go with it.

 He hasn’t privileged us with family merely for comfort in common hues or delight in shared preferences. “Only because the message concerning Christ Jesus must still go forth and find believers, and because our task is not yet perfected, does God in His patience continue to sustain us with His good gifts.” We are united by Him and for Him alone. Growing in the Gospel alongside family while on mission should mean we’re around other people whose lives have been transformed by the Gospel, which compels us to share with those lost souls whose present lives remind us where God stepped in and changed our own. Being on mission not only takes what’s in you and pours it out to others, but it should serve as a constant reminder of how and why you even have anything in you worth sharing.

 That God would let me…

 As I came across an old friend’s profile this morning, the reality of last night showed itself.  Who my friend is now versus who I am by the grace of God struck me. I could still be like them! Living “free” yet so bound. But the power of God unto salvation changed the course of my life; actually, it introduced me to life.  How could that reality not leave me ravished every day? With that in mind, God letting me do ANYTHING should produce gratefulness. For my life to be seen or my voice heard by anyone for His namesake should be humbling, because I know where I was and where I still am—not tall enough to reach His glory. It’s not about being on a stage or leading a group or discipling some person.  Often times, that’s just us wanting to be seen or feel important for our pride’s sake. It is an opportunity just to get to offer my gifts, my time, my thoughts, and myself to the God who gave them to me and redeemed them all from my own tainting. To get to pray for strength and energy for the day that followed a long night of planning and preparation is in fact an opportunity. To get to do anything with and for God is an opportunity I do not deserve.

May I never forget that. May the thought of it be what wakes me up time and time again.

 *All quotes taken from Life Together by Deitrich Bonhoeffer

66 books in 30 days (part 3)

8.   Solomon’s life illustrates our real problem (lavish whoredom not lack of wisdom)

[list_square] [li]This was by far the one that was most pivotal for me.  If you don't pay attention to any other point, please follow this one.[/li]

[li]I Kings Chapters 10 and 11 lay out this point beautifully.  In 1 Kings 10, we see a chapter that focuses on Solomon’s wisdom.  The Queen of Sheba is impressed with him because he’s so smart.  The chapter goes on and talks about all the money and possessions he had as a result of his wisdom.  It looks like an upward swing.[/li]

[li]1 Kings 11:1 starts off with a sad verse, however, “Now Solomon loved many foreign women...”  Solomon’s heart went after things that God told Him to stay away from.  His head was in the right place, and he was the wisest man to ever live, but that didn’t stop His heart from wandering.  Solomon’s real problem wasn't a lack of wisdom, it was lavish whoredom.[/li]

[li]Throughout the whole Bible, this point is reaffirmed over and over.  People don’t disobey God because they misunderstand Him, they disobey God because they don’t trust Him.  Rarely is it a cognitive issue.  It’s ALWAYS a heart issue.[/li]

[li]Wisdom is a great benefit, but it is a terrible savior.  Our heads aren’t the problem; our hearts are the problem.[/li]

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9.   I can’t be concerned about getting “done”.  I have to find enjoyment in it—and I did.

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[li]Early on in this process, it would take me about 2 ½ to 3 hours each day to finish...especially, when I was reading larger portions of Scripture.  The way that I would approach each section of Scripture was flipping to the end of the amount I had to read and counting down the pages until I was finished.  I just wanted to get done.[/li]

[li]Then it hit me…I’m going to be here for a few hours whether I count the pages or not.  Rather than just trying to get done, I have to find enjoyment in what I’m currently doing (which is the message of Ecclesiastes).  Somewhere in that process, it clicked for me, and I once again enjoyed reading my Bible.  It became a place of rest and comfort for me and it was then that I started to gain the most out of my time.[/li]

[li]Since then, this has been the case for me, and I enjoy getting away and reading and hearing from my Father.  He’s so good to me, and I love communicating with Him.[/li]

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10.   There is great relief in not putting our stock in earthly leadership

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[li]Throughout the duration of the Bible (especially reading through 1Samuel-2 Chronicles) one thing that I noticed was that even God’s chosen people had terrible ungodly leadership.  What that means is that for most of history the highest level of earthly leadership has been godless and wicked.  And you know what? God has still invaded the world with the gospel and lives are being transformed![/li]

[li]Don’t get me wrong, godly leadership in government is a blessing, but it by no means is a necessity for God’s will to thrive in this world.  So pray for your leaders, put your hope in God and lead the life that God has given you to lead.[/li]

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11.   I HAVE TIME!!!

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[li]Do you know how I found out that I had the time to read the Bible in a month?  Because I did it.  I saw just how worthless my past excuses were and how lazy I was.  Do you know what?  A lot of the excuses you give for not being able to spend time reading the Bible are pretty pathetic as well.  You have time to read (maybe not the whole Bible in a month, but you have time.)[/li]

[li]For the month of August, I was pretty much absent from Twitter and Facebook because every time I picked up my phone in my spare time it was either to read from the You Version app (which was a huge help) or to play Words With Friends (come on...give me that one).  You have the Bible on the device that you’re reading this blog post.  So read it![/li]

[li]You have the time.[/li]

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12.   God is not an introvert

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[li]God is not self-conscious.  No one in the Bible has to guess God’s plan or wonder if He’s pleased or not.  He’s a masterful communicator that readily expresses Himself.[/li]

[li]Where He’s pleased, He says it.  Where He’s displeased, He says it.  When He wants someone to do something, He lets them know.  God isn’t introverted.[/li]

[li]You want to hear God speak more.  Read the Bible more.  He speaks through His Word.[/li]

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13.   Revelation is a full display of the true colors of everyone in this story

[list_square] [li]Revelation – the one book of the Bible that confuses everyone, finally made sense to me! To be honest, at the end of this 30 day journey, I can honestly say that this was the first fruitful reading of Revelation that I’ve ever had.  Primarily, because I stumbled upon the above truth.[/li]

[li]Revelation is a book of the Bible, just like the rest of the books of the Bible, which means the PRIMARY point of the book is to reveal the character of God.  We get so lost in all the sequences and events and bowls and trumpets and four-headed monsters with bear claws and ostrich necks that we miss the fact that this a book about God.  [/li]

[li]At the end of the story (the Bible), everyone’s character is revealed for what it is.[/li]

[list_ordered] [li]God is holy, and He’s setting everything in order.  His anger and wrath against sin are brutally unleashed, and by the end of the book He makes everything right.  Creation is restored and there is paradise thanks to Him.  What an amazing and gracious God.[/li] [li]God’s people thank HIM.  The craziest thing that I realized is that Revelation is a book of thanksgiving.  In almost every chapter, God’s people are praising Him for what He’s doing.  (Rev. 4:8-11; 5:9-10; 6:10; 7:9-12; 11:16-18; 12:10-12; 15:3-4; 16:5-7; 19:1-8). No one is apologizing for God’s wrath.  While there is a lot that I don’t understand right now, it’s comforting to know that one day I won’t be trying to work through in my head how to apologize for God’s wrath, but I’ll be thanking Him that He’s restoring everything.  When God reveals Himself, His people praise.[/li] [li]God’s enemies curse him.  Did you know in the entire book of Revelation no one on the receiving end of God’s wrath repents or asks Him for help?  Nobody asks for God's help. "They were scorched by the fierce heat, and they cursed the name of God who had power over these plagues," according to Revelation 16:9.  They did not repent and give Him glory. Verse 11 makes the same point again.  Throughout Revelation, people that are God’s enemies prove that they are his enemies by cursing Him instead of pleading to Him—showing that God’s judgment is just.[/li][li]God makes everything right.  His people thank Him.  His enemies curse Him. He destroys evil once and for all and brings us back into perfect relationship with Him.  What an amazing God.  Thankful I get to know Him.[/li] [/list_ordered]

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66 books in 30 days (part 2)

[blockquote] Part 2 of the lessons I learned from reading the entire Bible in one month. (see Part 1)[/blockquote]

4.  Doctrine leads to Doxology

Very early on, something else occurred to me.  The Bible is filled with people thanking God.  Wherever God’s character is seen and revealed, His people explode with a kind of spontaneous and robust praise—they can’t help it! It just comes out as the natural response to God revealing Himself.  The only people that don’t respond with praise when God reveals Himself are people that have a hard heart and are frustrated with Him (i.e. the Pharisees in the gospels).

It exposed how hard my heart was and just how little I was appreciative that God would choose to enter into relationship with me and show me things about Him that are beautiful. I’ve begun to take special notice of the things that I’ve learned about God and respond with thanksgiving in return.

5.   God’s promised presence is the comfort of the anxious heart & motivation towards radical obedience

When stuff goes wrong and people start to stress, the great comfort for God’s people isn’t in Him changing their circumstances.  God offers His presence, and His people are content with that.  More than a situation switch, God says, “I’m with you; don’t worry,” and people that trust, believe and love Him are good with that.  It puts them at great ease.  People that don’t trust Him are constantly clamoring after something else or something more (as if there were something better).

Not only does it provide comfort, but it always infuses people who have a strong sense that God is “with them” with great courage.  Obedience in the face of the most adverse conditions is made to seem so simple when people grasp the fact that God is "with them."  It’s amazing the great feats that are done by the hands of people who understand one thing about God...He is “with them."

What would you do if you really had a sense that God was with you?

6.   I constantly think about the Bible

Simple.  I think about the Bible and Jesus a lot.  It’s no longer peripheral but it’s central to my mind and my thinking.  It’s the first thing I think of waking up; throughout the day, I have so much of it to read that I constantly think about it, and it’s the last thing I think about before I go to bed.

When I talk to people, I can’t help but talk about Jesus and what I’m learning about Him.  It just flows out. I can’t stop it.

Imagine that.

7.   I miss a lot, but I end up retaining more than having not read the Bible at all

Honestly, I don’t understand what Isaiah, Jeremiah, or Ezekiel were talking about most of the time.  And that was just the tip of the iceberg.  Daniel’s visions confused me, and there were plenty of other places where I was lost.  I missed a TON OF INFORMATION.

But the reality is that I gained a lot more than I would have if I never read the Bible at all.  I saw things from a 30,000 ft view that I never would have seen if I was up-close trying to unpack every sentence that was a little confusing to me.  I saw that God is good.  I’m not.  He loves me.  He keeps His promises...ALWAYS.  And He treats me better than I deserve.

Part 3 to come...

 

66 books in 30 days

Confession

I’m a pastor.  That means that, in some sense, I get paid to read my Bible.  I’m a Christian.  That means that I’m supposed to read the Bible.  You can see how being a pastor has its advantages.  I get paid to do what I’m supposed to be doing!  Since this is the case, you would assume it wouldn’t be a struggle to read my Bible.  Right?

I had to include this intro so that you don’t think more highly of me than you should.  The last thing I want to do is post this in order for you to be impressed by my iron will or steadfast determination.  The reality is that I don’t have either of those and that’s exactly the reason I had to do something this radical.

Here’s how it went down...

We have a team teaching model at our church.  So, although I’m a “Teaching Pastor,” I don’t preach every week.  I share the pulpit with two other phenomenal preachers.  This past summer, I started on my doctorate and really needed to do well in the first seminary classes I’ve taken in three years, so I asked the guys if I could take the summer off from preaching to focus on my work at the church and my work at school.  They graciously agreed, and I started grinding away in June and July.  Towards the end of July, I realized something that was disheartening.  I hadn’t read my Bible with any consistency the whole summer!  Because I didn’t have to preach, I found that the Bible became dispensable to me.  Don’t get me wrong, I still believed all of it was true and inspired and inerrant and God’s Word, etc. etc.; however, I just never really felt a huge need or a burden to pick it up and read it.

I knew this was a HUGE problem on so many levels.  Not just for the church that I was leading and the position I’m in as a pastor, but for my own relationship with Jesus.  I found myself becoming so busy that relationship took a back seat.  It was at this point I knew I had to do something drastic to reorient my life.  So, I decided that I needed to read the Bible from cover to cover.

I didn’t want to prolong the time that it was done in, because I knew my tendency to fall off the wagon once I started seeing a little “progress” in my spiritual health.  I looked through a six-month plan, a 90-day plan and even a 60-day plan, but I felt like I needed something that would really stretch and challenge me.  So, I made the commitment to read the entire Bible in the month of August in between my summer classes and fall courses.  It basically amounted to about 40 chapters per day.  It took me 2 ½ hours on a good day and somewhere in between 3 ½ - 4 hours on the longest days.  It was LIFE-CHANGING, and I kept track of lessons that I learned from taking in such large dosages of Scripture.

Lessons Learned

1. God is the great preserver/preparer of His people.

  • Throughout the story of the Bible, God is proactive about protecting, avenging and serving His people. No one has to stir Him up to action. He’s always aware and already has a plan in motion long before we ever realize there’s a problem. I walked away with a strong sense that God has things under control.
  • Preparer – Without fail, God is using situations from birth to prepare His people for His work long before they even have a burden to accomplish a task. So, relax and understand that God has already been shaping you, long before you came to the realization that you need to be shaped.

2. Death is welcomed by His followers.

I was floored by how the deaths of God’s people were described. I was hard pressed to find examples of people going to their deaths kicking and screaming. Rather, there was a peaceful sense in which death was recorded. The people that really knew God’s character and understood that he was a preserver and protector also knew that if death was on the horizon, it wasn’t because God had failed to act ontheir behalf.  They knew it was because He had determined that their role in this story was coming to an end.

 3. God is the main character.

This sounds simple, but if you’re anything like I was, you don’t read the Bible this way. Case in point, say that you were going to study the book of Joshua for a month. You would probably spend a lot of time studying the way that Joshua leads, the way he relates to God and others (his highlights, pitfalls, etc.). What we end up doing is placing Joshua as the main character of the book of Joshua, and God is there in the background teaching me things about Joshua. Reading the Bible at this pace, however, I realized that after the third day was done and Joshua died...he wasn't coming back. I’m never going to read about Joshua again. It  then occurred to me that God is not in the background to teach me about Joshua. Joshua is in thebackground to teach me about God. So are Moses, Abraham, Issac, Paul,David, Peter , and (insert your favorite Bible character here). When the Bible is read this way, and we focus on God, we end up seeing the most familiar stories with new insight into the character God. What better way to know somebody than to see how he interacts with all different types of people and personalities. God’s character is crystal clear in the Bible when we understand that He’s the main character.

*Part 2

Different But Equal (Part 2)

2: ROLE of RESPECT: You have the power to breath life or death.

The best way we can help is to breath life into our husbands.

How do you breath life?

God created man with such a uniqueness from women.  I wish someone had TOLD ME SOONER!   As a woman, I don’t need the same things a man does; they don’t need the same things we do.  I see this in my sons and daughters already. Trinity, Jade, and Briaiah need to be protected, pursued, told they are beautiful, affirmed, hugged; their hearts need to be shepherded.  Dhati, Brayden and Nathaniel need to conquer, they need to be the strongest, they need to know that their lives count for something and they naturally protect.

Not too long ago, my oldest son stood up for my oldest daughter on the playground—Dhati-4, Trinity-9.  A little boy was picking on Trinity and Dhati saw it.  He ran, stood in front of her and told the boy not to touch Trinity.  Dhati got knocked to the ground, but stood back up and got back in front of his sister.  His natural instinct was to protect. [pull_quote_left]They need respect.  If they don’t get it, it is like you are taking their very air away from them.  They cannot breathe, they cannot conquer, cannot protect, cannot shepherd, cannot love, cannot pursue.[/pull_quote_left]  When Trinity told me the story, and I asked Dhati about it, he was proud; he didn't need us to say thanks, he was naturally proud of his role.  On another note, a couple weeks after this incident, Dhati got punched in stomach in the lunch line.  He tried to keep it together and, he was fighting his emotions, but when I happened to walk into the lunchroom on this day to have lunch with him, he lost it.  He felt embarrassed and disrespected.  My boys need respect.  I pulled Dhati aside in that cafeteria, told him I was proud of him for being a boy who cares about people and wants to protect.  I told him I was proud of him for being a good boy and not a bully.  His eyes lit up and all that embarrassment, all the self-doubt seemed to melt away immediately.  THIS IS WHAT RESPECT IS.

They—boys, men—need this respect.  If I discipline the boys in front of others, I do not get the same result as if I pull them aside and talk to them; that shows respect.  THEY NEED IT.  It breathes life into them.

Look at 1 peter 3: v.1 won without a word by respectful conduct v.4 precious in sight of the Lord is the gentle and quiet spirit (this does not mean being vocally quiet; it’s a quiet spirit) And Ephesians 5: v.33 See to it that the wife respects her husband.

I have also seen the opposite of this in the adult world. I have had countless opportunities to mentor young ladies in their role as married women.  I would say the number one area that is just ignored is the woman’s understanding that she can breath life by respecting her husband.  I remember talking to one young lady who had only been married a few years. She consistently told her husband what to do, complained all the time about what he did/didn’t do, talked bad about him in public, raised her voice at her husband and then later complain that he did nothing to help around the house or with the kids.  I challenged her one day, “You are breathing death into your marriage.  She looked at me like I just cut her right arm off.  She had no idea she was a major part of the problem; she had no idea she was being disrespectful.  She had the same misconception that many of us have, that men are strong, so we can just say what we are feeling.  They are men; they should be able to take it. Not the case. They need respect.  If they don’t get it, it is like you are taking their very air away from them.  They cannot breathe, they cannot conquer, cannot protect, cannot shepherd, cannot love, cannot pursue.

Another couple that we have known for years shared a story that one day, the wife sat in front of her husband and told him, “I don’t love you or respect you.  I never have.”  Tears streamed down the man’s face—crushed.  Death.

US: What does this look like for us?  We come in with a love deficit as women.  Dad didn’t accept us, friends have rejected us, or we have believed the lies of the enemy and that alone has stolen our love capital. Whatever way, we come to the table with a love deficit.  In the same way, regardless of the upbringing and background, a man comes to the table with a leadership deficit, a respect deficit.  They are secretly waiting for someone to tell them that they are good at what they do.

ME: I assume all the time that Dhati knows that he’s great, but I also tell him. And regardless of how many times I say it, I see life breathed into his soul every time I say something that affirms his leadership over our family.  “Babe, you are such a great leader. I am so excited we have 3 boys that will get to see it modeled well.”  “Babe, that sermon was great, but the best thing about it is that you are able to speak with confidence, because you are a man of integrity. Not everyone can say that about their husbands, thanks for leading in that way.” “Babe, I can follow you wherever you see fit to lead this family, because I trust you at the core.”  You would be amazed at what that does for a man.

Dhati said in one of his manhood sermons, “Imagine if every man in here got this...got what it means to be man." I have the same heart for our ladies.

Imagine what it would look like, how society could be transformed if every wife saw dignity in her role, chose to respect her husband and be a life breather.

Helpmate: means literally ‘a help answering to him’ or ‘one who answers’...Adam needed a helper.

God has called our husbands to work, and we are called to help.  We are a team. If we can play our role as Helper, die to self and embrace the team’s best interest, we can be so much more effective for His glory.

 

Different but Equal

I am a mom of six, and I take this parenting thing very seriously. When I am asked to share about marriage and women’s roles in marriage, I ask myself, “If I could have had only two concepts shared with me or two concepts I could share with my daughters, what would they be?” The other night, I was reading the story of Bathsheba with my girls before going to bed, and I made the comment that Bathsheba’s role as wife to David was one of value, but it was very different from David’s—he was leader.  Trinity’s face soured, “Mom, I don’t like that.  I think I am a pretty good leader,” she told me.  There is something innate in a woman that wants to lead, wants to take over.  In many ways, we can be more competent and better at certain things than men (I’m sure there are statistics to prove it). And the funny thing is that Trinity is right; she is a good leader, and she will probably continue to prove to herself that she is smarter than the boys around her. I didn't have to teach her that; it is real in a woman even at a young age.

Society has dealt with this very issue in a couple of different ways: egalitarianism, chauvinism, and complementarianism.

The Egalitarian view is the idea that men and women are the same and equals.

The Chauvinistic view says that men are more valuable than women.

The Complementarian view describes men and women as equal but distinct. Equal in value but holding different roles and responsibilities.

I ascribe to the last view.

To some women, this view brings comfort, but to some, it brings fear.  Honestly, early in my walk with the Lord, having a different role did not comfort me. Submission = bad word.  You see, I had goals.  I was valedictorian of my high school, and I had scholarships upon scholarships (I even had money left over after I paid for school, books, room and board, etc.). I had my heart set on becoming a pilot, and I scored high on my aptitude tests, so I was on the path to being just that.  I didn't need a man to lead me!  Besides that, my parents and the models I saw made the idea of following someone look gross, belittling.   Being married and submissive meant cooking dinner for a man that just watched tv all day, putting up with someone calling me names because they had the right to do so, and feeling threatened because they were bigger than me.  This idea was not comforting, and I am sure a lot of you have the same discomfort.  But I want to show you the dignity we have with our roles as wives.  Let’s look at the wife, by looking at who the Holy Spirit is.

WHO IS THE HOLY SPIRIT?

The Holy Spirit is a person of the triune Godhead. The Trinity is Father, Son, Holy Spirit.  Each of those is a person within a triune Godhead.  All three are God. The father is God. The son is God. The Spirit is God.  All three are perfect and holy. All three are equally God.  And the Holy Spirit, just like the others, is alive today and lives in the hearts of every believer.

We find in the scriptures that the Holy Spirit is called 'Helper.'  The Greek word Parakletos is used for ‘helper’, which means: advocate, defender, helper, comforter, counselor, representative of Christ, teacher, and one who reminds us of truth.  That is the Holy Spirit.

Now, what does this have to do with being a wife?

If you read Genesis 2:18-19, you will see that God says he will give Adam a helper (parakleto)—someone suitable (or fit) for him.  He created a union between man and wife and He says He wants to give Adam someone that can help him and be suitable for him.

1:  The role of the wife, like the spirit, has tremendous dignity. We are given the same job description as that of the Spirit!

THIS LEADS US TO AN IMPORTANT QUESTION:  Is the Holy Spirit less of a person in the Trinity than the Father or Christ?  And in regard to wives, is our role less than that of our husbands?

Looking at chapters 14-16 in the book of John, we see the importance of the Holy Spirit’s role; He is God-given (14:16), He will bear witness (15:26), and He will teach (16:12).

The role of the wife, therefore, like the Spirit’s role, is not lesser but plays a part of ONENESS.

The Holy Spirit is a part of a Godhead where three persons exist with equal importance but different roles, yet united as ONE.

The husband and wife are also called one.  Genesis 3:24 says, “Therefore, a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife and they shall become ONE flesh.”  A marriage is supposed to be a team designed to accomplish God’s glory.

Application: Ladies, shift your mindset of what it means to be a HELPER. God graciously put us in this position and in this role.  We have to accept it, and I pray that we would be satisfied and energized in it as well.  Seriously ladies, this is where the enemy has kept us in a trap.  We are paralyzed and unable to enjoy our roles in marriage, because many of us have bought into the lie that it is not dignified. Or, we are unwilling to even marry because we have bought into the same lie.  Who wants to ‘just help’ someone else?  But, if we can really own the fact that God gave us our role, and He gave us dignity in it, then, and only then, can we really make a difference!

Let’s transition.

My second point

What I wish was shared with me before marriage, and what I am definitely teaching my daughters now is that our role in marriage is to be respectful.  I had no idea what this meant.  I thought ‘respect me’ meant, “You gonna respect me!” But I’ve since realized that we have the ability to breathe life or death into our husbands...

*Part 2 will be featured on Wednesday.

SEX: The Joys and Pains

[blockquote] Over the next few weeks, as a church, we will be examining 1 Corinthians 7 and specifically focusing on Sex, Singleness and Divorce/Remarriage in our sermon series #RelationshipStatus.  This past Sunday, we looked at SEX: A Spiritual Battle; with that in mind, this week's posts will provide more personal reflections/experiences from others on this topic.   [/blockquote]

My Journey

Six years ago, my husband and I struggled with sexual intimacy.  As a woman and wife, I was devastated. Doctors weren’t sure what was going on until a year into our marriage. They gave me several medical diagnoses due to painful intercourse. Three years and 60 lbs later, I was told I had Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), which is a life-long disease causing: cysts on the ovaries, an increase in testosterone, weight gain, excessive hair growth, and infertility due to an irregular menstrual and ovulation cycle.  Ahhhhh!! Deep breaths. So many times I would tell myself that, but I never knew whom I was talking to because in the midst of all of this myself was fading. Can you imagine the stress and communication breakdown our marriage endured? My testosterone levels were so high, I often felt out of control. I mean overly aggressive, moody and sometimes abusive.

While I was trapped in my broken reality, my husband was suffering from his own—pornography. We were rarely having sex, due to my pain, his addiction and all of our other mess!  The stress and turmoil grew, and at times one or both of us emotionally disengaged from the relationship.  It felt safer, because we were no help to each other; it was as if we were on opposing teams.  My faulty expectations told me that if he were more of a man and I was more of a woman, then maybe we could be a couple. I felt so helpless as a wife and abandoned as a child of God.

Though the pain of our struggle was remarkable, we have learned that we were not nearly as alone as we felt. In fact, the Lord was indeed using that experience to refine our relationship and draw us into a deeper dependance on Him. He has stirred in our hearts a deep compassion for couples who struggle in similar areas, and has given us great opportunity to minister to marriages that resemble our own.

Sex is a Gift from God and it is good

Gary Collins wrote, “When sexual problems appear, some couples simply ‘give up’ and don’t try to resolve their difficulties. They may fear discussing the frustrations or believe that things will never get better. Others develop headaches, abdominal pain, fatigue, emotional distress, or other symptoms that hide the sexual problem and can provide an excuse for abstinence.”  In addition, couples may have major effects such as: lowered self-esteem, the selection of substitute activities (explicit novels, porn, extramarital sex, etc.,), anger, impatience, and communication breakdown.  Ahhh… “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10 NIV). Marriage is definitely a covenant that shouldn’t be entered into lightly. And within the covenant of marriage, sex can be enjoyed freely and passionately. “Sex is a gift from God and it is good” (Debra Taylor, MA). Togetherness with your spouse is a picture of our relationship with each other and with God. The Bible tells us that God created everything in our bodies and all of their functions; this includes genitals, sexual response, and even orgasms (Gen. 1:27,31).  So sexual responses/drives and urges are natural functions given to us by God. But used outside their design, these functions can feel strong and uncontrollable.  The enemy will do everything within his power to get you to have sex before marriage and everything possible to keep you from having sex while married.

Our world doesn’t help the encouragement of moral and Biblical sex and sexuality.  In fact, we’ve been desensitized and influenced by media and cultural norms that influence and imprint unrealistic and unhealthy views of sex and sexuality.  Take Abercrombie and Fitch, in their ads, what immediately grabs your attention the most? Is it the jeans? Or is it something else? What types of images get imprinted into your brain? Sex is everywhere in our culture, and it has become more and more readily available with no questions asked, no commitments made, and no thought as to why.

Education and Prevention Plan

I want premarital and marital couples to know that although sexual urges and desires come naturally, the art of making love is something that is pursued and learned in your covenant relationships with your spouse, as you grow closer and closer in oneness.  Psych education is so important in premarital relationships. It creates a strong foundation by stripping away myths and unrealistic expectations about marriage and sex in marriage.  For instance:

  • Female

1. Women don't enjoy sex as much as men. 2. Men should know how to feel and think. 3. I should always desire an orgasm. 4. Women's sexual desire should be like men's sexual desire. 5. Our first time will be magical and romantic. 6. I have pain during sex because God is punishing me.

  • Male

1. Men know all about sex. 2. The size of the penis determines manliness and your ability as a lover. 3. Men are always horny and erections come instantly. 4. Sex equals intimacy. 5. Women have low sex drives. 6. I must always be the best performer sexually.

These myths may be your reality, but having the correct knowledge can be a bridge leading to wholeness and sexual fulfillment in your current or future marital relationship. When sexual issues are discussed, as a part of premarital counseling, there can be more realistic expectations and a clearer understanding of physiology or lovemaking techniques, as a result, sexual problems are less likely to evolve in the marriage. And if for whatever reason problems do develop, having established a good relationship with your premarital counselor can encourage you to seek help from them.

A strong foundation or prevention plan is important in eliminating the devastating effects of sexual problems in your marriage.  If you are reading this and can relate in many areas the following is available:

  1. Counseling (Marital, Premarital, and help for the abused or struggles with sexuality and gender)
  2. Sex education to help prevent sexual problems in the marriage
    • An understanding of what the Bible teaches about sex
    • Basic facts about male and female anatomy and physiological reactions
    • New information about types of intimacy
    • Healthy sexual attitudes
  3. Moral guidance
    • Boundaries
    • Skills for abstinence and sexual retraining for abuse victims

I personally don’t want to see marriages struggle due to a lack of knowledge.  As His workmanship, he has more in store for us then our expectations.

 

 

Monkey See

[blockquote] This week features posts from Angie Lewis.  She is the wife of our lead pastor, Dhati, and proud mother of six. Angie's unique voice and perspective promises to encourage and strengthen those who read. We hope you enjoy and are blessed.[/blockquote] Everyone in our family has memorized the verse about not doing evil for evil or insult for insult—1 Peter 3:9,“Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.” One night, we put the kids to bed by 7:30 pm. Note: they are in their room—not because they are tired—but because we are. The boys are allowed to play in their own beds and talk, but not to get up. Nathaniel, on this night, disobeyed. He got up and threw a toy at Brayden's head. Who knows if he was being mean or not? But we do know he likes to throw everything! So, I can assume that he didn't actually mean to hurt him, but he did. Brayden starts crying. I head upstairs to shut down all of the commotion. As I walked up the stairs, I hear another big thud, and then Nathaniel begins to cry. "What happened?" I asked. Dhati Jr. (DJ) proudly answers, "I took care of it, Mom. I just did evil for evil. Nathaniel threw a toy at Brayden, so I threw a toy at Nathaniel." The huge smile across his face told me that he thought he did the right thing. I held back my laughter. I explained that 'evil for evil' was actually a bad thing, not a good thing. I had discussed this very thing with all of the children while we memorized the scripture. I thought that everyone had a solid understanding of the text that we worked so hard to hide in our hearts by committing it to our memory. DJ was so disappointed by his misunderstanding. Hmm...I guess memorizing doesn't necessarily give you an appropriate view of its explanation.