Thursday, December 09, 2010

The Dispatching and Disbanding of Deborah

The Unusual Champion of God's Order

Deborah and Jael in Judges chapters 4-5 are two women in scripture who represent one unique case of women at the helm. At first glance they appear to flip God's heirarchy for gender. A second look casts doubt an inversion ever took place.

The more I study Deborah and Jael, the more I marvel how they take up what should belong to a man. There aren't many other biblical accounts of women leading. How did Deborah pull this off, if Paul in all the churches everywhere does not permit a woman to rule over a man?

There looks to be a language difference in God's Word concerning the other judges that ministered to Israel in the historical account in the Book of Judges. With men leaders God "raised up for them a deliverer," but for Deborah's introduction it says "Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, was judging Israel at that time."

Was Deborah a twisted fraud from the truly ordained? Or could it be that God gave her this role in Israel? In her day the people rarely saw honorable and courageous commanders. Though there were a portion of the tribes of Israel and also Barak who showed themselves both convicted and capable of accomplishing God's plan against Sisera, the fact is that they had not seized by faith what God had told them, and twenty years of oppression racked up. It was a woman who had vision of performing God's will. When Barak comes to see Deborah at her request, she prods by asking him a question about God's command. She says in Judges 4:6,
"Has not the LORD God of Israel commanded, 'Go and deploy troops at Mount Tabor; take with you ten thousand men of the sons of Naphtali and of the sons of Zebulun; and against you I will deploy Sisera, the commander of Jabin's army, with his chariots and his multitude at the River Kishon; and I will deliver him into your hand'?"
Satan asked the question "Has God indeed said...?" (Gen. 3:1) to subvert God's purposes. Deborah quoted God in the form of a question out of respect for the authority of men. She was imploring this man essentially - "Declare God over me!" No need to say more; Barak is convicted and conditionally commits to obedience to the LORD (not to her). His condition is that Deborah accompany him to battle. This is faith, but it is not mature. It is faith by which God responds to win the battle, sure. But it is not the full faith required for Barak to gain any personal glory through undertaking God's will. Barak did what he was told. He made no individual contribution to the pool of faith Deborah had seeded. He took none of Deborah's work-load for redemption away from her but made her carry it further. Barak could have graduated from her house of provision if he would understand this one thing: he did not need anyone but God alone to succeed. Unfortunately, the only persons in this account who seem to securely trust in God are the two women.

The unspoken expectation God had for Barak was that he make the battle his own. By doing so he would assume leadership over Deborah. The superficial inversion continued; not by Deborah's choice, but by Barak's. Deborah doesn't rebuke him. In fact she honors his choice and obeys it. It was sufficient for the plan to be actualized, but God gave a consequence. Deborah foretells it before it transpires, Judges 4:9
So she said, “I will surely go with you; nevertheless there will be no glory for you in the journey you are taking, for the LORD will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman.”
Barak calls his ten thousand men, and Deborah "went up with him" (judges 4:10); she is still following the lead of the man. Yet by emotion or by reputation she appears to be a rallying point for the people. Judges 5:15 says,
And the princes of Issachar were with Deborah;
As Issachar, so was Barak...
Deborah's job wasn't finished. It wouldn't be complete until Barak personalized this war, fighting for his own life. Deborah surveys the movement of Sisera by faith and knows the time has come. Again she prods Barak to take the initiative. Judges 4:13-14,
So Sisera gathered together all his chariots, nine hundred chariots of iron, and all the people who were with him, from Harosheth Hagoyim to the River Kishon. Then Deborah said to Barak, “Up! For this is the day in which the LORD has delivered Sisera into your hand. Has not the LORD gone out before you?”
Later Barak and Deborah sing a song together as one in part against their countrymen who did not fight for Deborah, Barak, and most importantly for God. Meroz is an unknown place which the Angel of the LORD curses for not heeding the call. Judges 5:15-17, 23
Among the divisions of Reuben
There were great resolves of heart.

Why did you sit among the sheepfolds,
To hear the pipings for the flocks?
The divisions of Reuben have great searchings of heart.

Gilead stayed beyond the Jordan,
And why did Dan remain on ships?
Asher continued at the seashore,
And stayed by his inlets....
Curse Meroz,’ said the angel of the LORD,
‘Curse its inhabitants bitterly,
Because they did not come to the help of the LORD,
To the help of the LORD against the mighty.’

"Resolves" "in the heart" in the Hebrew can also be translated as "thoughts" "in the inward man." These men had the double-minded faith described in James 2, the kind that does not profit anyone, the kind that does not save. They stayed by the inlets and bleating sheep where things were pleasant and safe; meanwhile Barak's recruiters, his close comrades in Zebulun and Naphtali went forth inciting God's people for the taste of blood.

Deborah was the one who had forecasted the problem and its solution. She had kept the revelations of the scriptures in her heart and they gave her instruction. She had known the milestones from start to finish. She had seen her countrymen as they were in Judges 5:8
Then there was war at the gates;
Not a shield or spear was seen among forty thousand in Israel.
...And she sees how God is quickly restoring faith for the entire nation in 5:11,
Far from the noise of the archers, among the watering places,
There they shall recount the righteous acts of the LORD,
The righteous acts for His villagers in Israel;
Then the people of the LORD shall go down to the gates.
By no means was Deborah in control. Instead, she was a full-faithed follower of God's powerful Holy Spirit. She was well-versed in making way in her heart for God's authority. She used her ministry to raise men back into their rightful and righteous role. She was a champion for God's authority being taken up by righteous men. The prophetess was not without a reverence for men and their position even if they had temporarily lost interest. Deborah was married, and so was Jael. In their hearts, these two women did not let the complacency of men corrupt and exalt them improperly.

Deborah Raises Barak Up; Jael Takes Sisera Down

Deborah and Jael are a fascinating picture of the Father-Son relationship in the Godhead.  Deborah is Strategist.  Jael, Executioner. In what circumstance might God dispatch women to take initiative amongst His covenant people? Jael would tell you, the days were desperate. Judg. 5:6,
In the days of Shamgar, son of Anath,
In the days of Jael,
The highways were deserted,
And the travelers walked along the byways.
Village life ceased, it ceased in Israel...
Common villagers could not walk on the roads. Apparently there was no way to enforce the law. Rulership was impotent. It was every man for himself. Anything of value was at risk of being seized, and perhaps people were afraid for their lives. This - was Israel. Jael learned a whole lot in those years of sneaking along unseen by intimidating enemies. God gave her wits every day, with her very life dependent on Him. These are the circumstances Deborah calls "the days of Jael" (Judges 5:6).

Jael would have been content to stay out of the fight, but the fight came to her long before Sisera fled to her place. Brokenness had already touched her house.  Though the people could not carry on their business, the rulership did. Deborah refused to stay quiet about it. She says in Judg. 5:10
Speak, you who ride on white donkeys,
Who sit in judges’ attire,
And who walk along the road.
Apparently wearing only the outward attire of a judge of Israel wasn't satisfying for her, or God for that matter. Somehow they have easy usage of the roads while the rest of the people suffer.  It would do Jael little good to imagine a remedy for her own dead lifestyle without broadening the scope to the sin-problem of the community. Therefore she turned to God and found forgiveness, hope and purpose in His promises. And the vitality of her life was now intertwined forever in the vitality of her kinsmen. She was a woman intimately intertwined in body-life.

Her story begins in Judges 4:11 with the cataclysmic news that her husband had left her. Indeed, he had left his whole community known as the Kenites; children of the father-in-law of Moses. These people recently inherited the story of God's deliverance in Egypt and were proud to believe alongside the Israelites. But not her husband Heber. He stepped out to embrace Israel's enemies. He had established peace with the King of the Canaanites. Heber's sin covered her home and she may have been ostracized as a consequence. Severing his ties, he took his tent and pitched it far away from Jael... just in her moment of need as the enemy approached her.

Jael knew Sisera. He had been a guest in her home. Sisera knew the way to Heber his ally and was heading her direction. She knew the odds for success against the Canaanites had always been impossible. It was quite the boast; his opposing army had 900 iron chariots. And their general was no less intimidating on a personal level. But God had made her brave. Jael was cunning and not fully honest, shall we say. She promises him comfort, and deceives him. Judges 4:18,
And Jael went out to meet Sisera, and said to him, “Turn aside, my lord, turn aside to me; do not fear.”
She sedated him with milk. She covered him with a blanket like a mother would. She uses her feminine strength to dominate him. How can God allow her to manipulate like this? Remember, she cannot fight as an equal. If she were out on the battlefield, a sobering "level playing field," she's toast. If all the army of Israel could not win in twenty years, how could she overcome, she, as a humiliated Kenite being the least of His followers? In God's sight, her composition was all the LORD needed. God does not need a level playing field.  The LORD prefers impossible odds.

When Jael takes up her weapon, it is the knowledge of the mightiness of God. She takes a hammer and a foundational stake of the tent - its peg - and drives it into his skull. Zechariah 10:3-5
My anger burns against the shepherds,
and I will punish the leaders;
for the LORD Almighty will care
for his flock, the people of Judah,
and make them like a proud horse in battle.
From Judah will come the cornerstone,
from him the tent peg,
from him the battle bow,
from him every ruler.
Together they will be like warriors in battle
trampling their enemy into the mud of the streets.
They will fight because the LORD is with them,
and they will put the enemy horsemen to shame.
Though Sisera was technically laying down when she conquered him in Judges 4, the song in Judges 5 has him looming when she struck him down (5:27). What a long way he fell. Sung symbolically it captures the absurdity of it apart from God's strength - that a woman by Him might overtake a mighty man.

A Full Glory

Deborah's Song is incredibly ancient; it is thought to perhaps be the oldest song recorded in scripture.  The battle took place in the valley of Megiddo, of which George Adam Smith wrote,
What a plain it is! Upon which not only the greatest empires, races, and faiths, east and west, have contended with each other, but each has come to judgment--on which from the first, with all its splendor of human battle, men have felt that there was fighting from heaven, the stars in their courses were fighting--on which panic has descended so mysteriously upon the best equipped and most successful armies, but the humble have been exalted to victory in the hour of their weakness--on which false faiths, equally with false defenders of the true faith, have been exposed and scattered--on which, from the time of Saul, willfulness and superstition, though aided by every human excellence, have come to naught, and since Josiah's time the purest piety has not atoned for rash and mistaken zeal [1].
Who fought alongside these two women as Deborah said, "Has not the LORD gone out before you?" Judges 5:20 acknowledges the stars....
They fought from the heavens; The stars from their courses fought against Sisera.
Who are the stars? Genesis 15:5 calls them Abraham's descendants....
Then He brought him outside and said, “Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.”
The One descendant of Abraham was the Seed, Jesus Christ. And the saints are His Body. When He returns soon to fight in the Valley of Mediggo (Armageddon), His saints will be coming with Him sword in hand.
And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses.
Their glory differs from one another as do stars, it says in scripture. 1 Cor. 15:41-42,
There is one glory of the sun, another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for one star differs from another star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead.
God gives glory to men based on their pursuits, Rom. 1:10,
but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
The location and scale of the battle could not have been larger. It was an intentional choreography by God to anticipate the final battle of Revelation, Col. 3:4,
When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.
Has anyone noted how self-centerd Deborah's song really is? "I, even I," says Deborah. Is she arrogant?  Is she glorying in herself? It feels uncomfortable. But James 1:9 says, "Let the lowly brother glory in his exaltation," therefore the song was Spirit-inspired - and not from the flesh. Her success over Sisera was full of glory, Judges 5:31,
Thus let all Your enemies perish, O LORD!
But let those who love Him be like the sun
When it comes out in full strength
This last verse is a real treat. With the same exceptional vision of God, Deborah portrays Jesus Christ's conquering over Israel's enemies thousands of years into the future.

Just Once Upon a Time

Jael Smote Sisera and Slew Him by James Tissot
(notice the masculine shape of Jael's right arm)

The Virgin Mary sang a song when she had conceived Christ. Did you know Mary was singing about Jael? They are types of one another. Deborah is called the mother of Israel which is Mary also, Judges 5:7,
I, Deborah, arose, arose a mother in Israel
Jael is the most blessed among women in Judges 5:24,
Most blessed among women is Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite; Blessed is she among women in tents.
But... Mary is called the most blessed woman by Elizabeth her cousin; Luke 1:42,
Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!
Glorious power over Satan seems to be given once-a-covenant, to women, in the dawning days of the faith. See now how Mary has Deborah's and Jael's battle in mind as a theology of her own life experiences.

 Luke 1:46-55,
My soul magnifies the Lord,
And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant;
For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed.
For He who is mighty has done great things for me,
And holy is His name.
And His mercy is on those who fear Him
From generation to generation.
He has shown strength with His arm;
He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He has put down the mighty from their thrones,
And exalted the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
And the rich He has sent away empty.
He has helped His servant Israel,
In remembrance of His mercy,
As He spoke to our fathers,
To Abraham and to his seed forever
Mary must have been thinking of Sisera's mother ("The mother of Sisera... cried, 'why is [he]... so long in coming?'" Judges 5:28) when she says "the rich He has sent away empty." Mary gives glory to God's mighty arm, the Arm who was in Jael's arm as she lifted the hammer. God's arm has been awakened! (Rahab (below) represents a Canaanite mythological serpent who opposed God's acts of creation.)  Isaiah 51:9,
Awake, awake, put on strength,
O arm of the LORD! Awake as in the ancient days,
In the generations of old.
Are You not the arm that cut Rahab apart,
And wounded the serpent?
Judges 5:12,
Awake, awake, Deborah: awake, awake, utter a song: arise, Barak, and lead thy captivity captive, thou son of Abinoam.

The serpent has been wounded in the head through the bravery of Jael. This is to fulfill the prophecy given to Satan in Genesis 3:15.  Mary's child wounds the head,
And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her Seed;
He shall bruise your head,
And you shall bruise His heel.
When was the last time you looked at a Nativity scene and considered the meek and mild Mother of God as a victor, blood-splattered and joyful in God, looming over her kill to the magnificence of the LORD?

Epilogue: The Glory Passes

There is in fact no epilogue to the story of Deborah and Jael. However the Word of God can paint the picture. In truth she was from a humble state. God gave her access to His task - which was very short lived and very glorious. But there is no life in the glory of mankind - that was the harlot Babylon's passion. "God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble." After the victory, there was temptation in renown. It is funny how just a small step to the left or to the right can make such fantastic battles in the LORD turn into Satan's triumphs. She must relearn how she was still destitute - and it would come at the price of career suicide. Mary's exaltation in directing the young Savior was hers, yet she surrendered it fully when He was fully grown. She let it pass altogether to her Son. Abruptly we hardly hear of Jael, Deborah or Mary again. Mothering is a job that is only needed for a period of time. Righteous men had arose to do the work of the ministry, now. They were capable to lead in compliment and fulfillment of God's order.

When a righteous woman serves God in a influential way, there is no such thing as a time when she is not under the authority of men.

People often ask how they can subdue a strong woman. What influence makes her "do typical woman things" so to speak? It happens as men graduate from her reminders and treat her like a woman; a worthy treasure; a special possession to be protected. You see, the days of Jael were nothing of the kind. The children of Israel were not treasured by those ruling. Women wanted men to just go crack some skulls and get the job done. Even the LORD doesn't want women to be involved in it. Women want to be the beneficiary of the administration. In this way a woman is both silent and adoring - traditional.

"You made me this way," Adam essentially blamed Eve ("the woman you gave me"). In truth, responsibility lies with him unconditionally. But when a woman is regenerated and cleansed from Eve's sin, then she may turn his words back on him as she's wearing the pants - "You're making me this way."  Jael is remembered by God when righteousness is not to be found among men. Sisera and the men in judges' attire made Deborah and Jael for what they are known. But it is not too late; it is never too late, as Deborah showed Barak, to get up and take up what belongs to the man.

If a man treats a woman as if she were a fellow man, he is untuned and insensitive to her weak form. In his ignorance he expects that she carry the work. Do not be surprised if God not only treats her like a woman - with all His possessive love and behind-the-scenes wonders... but He also passes to her the favor that should have been, could have been, the man's glory.

[1]  Historical Geography of the Holy Land, pg. 409

Monday, October 18, 2010

Understanding the Relationship

Brother Gary helped me notice a really wrong passage I used in the comments under the last post; Romans 13. If I had backed it up just one verse, I think I would have found one that better fits. Romans 12:21

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

This points to the Way without detailing what is "good." The way I used Romans 13 implied I'd blindly respect (obey, in fact!) those I've been trying to follow for awhile now, which for others reading has already proven to cause pain and disappointment. Instead, this verse (and the preceding verses in Romans 12) makes room for God to act on the behalf of the saints. It allows the agents in the situation to both give God's free grace to one another and also continue to declare the truth about doctrine and relationships that still has not been rectified.

Have regard for good things in the sight of all men.

We should regard as good what is widely regarded as good in the sight of others, as much as it is possible, so that we may live at peace with all men [1].

Hopefully this is a more appropriate devotion in the sight of my brothers (and sisters).

Fred Lybrand is availing himself to answer questions regarding the relationship and doctrine between GES and FGA. Please leave a comment or question in the comment field below.

[1] Grace New Testament Commentary, Vol. 2, pg. 690.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

FGA National Conference 2010

This year's conference is going very well. I had not attended last year's conference, but the one two years back, and I am very excited to see some familiar faces from that former time. My former pastor is here, Don Reiher is here, John Doan is here.... It is comforting to have Jody Dillow deliver a message at GES and then also here. I have loved all the sessions thus far.

Dr. Chay's session on where the FGA has come from and where it is going was an overview of the purpose of the FGA to connect and equip. He discussed the interrelationships between conference attendees, ministry relationships, teaching institutions and so forth. There was no reference of any kind at any point concerning the historical disagreement concerning the content of saving faith matter.

Dr. Moyer's session on sharing the gospel with unbelievers was very good. I was challenged and inspired.

I took a breakout session from Bret Nazworth on how to mobilize your local church to get the gospel out. He made a great point about sharing the gospel as a historical event.

Dr. Lybrand is here and he probably gave a very good break out session on how to invite apostates back to faith. I am sorry to have missed that one!

Dr. Dillow had two sessions in this morning to discuss the narrow way in the Sermon on the Mount. He ended these sessions by sharing his personal life application and a worship song to give us the opportunity to reflect on how each one of us are seeking after His righteousness, which he says seems to be synonymous with the Kingdom of God.

My favorite session was yesterday evening by Dr. Eaton. He did a historical and doctrinal approach of how assurance and the joy of our salvation has always been at the heart of every revival. He challenged free grace people to consider that assurance not only comes from doctrine but also from the Spirit (by which we cry Abba Father).

This is a very basic overview and my memory is certainly selective for my own personal interests and lack of education, but I thought I might share for those who might be interested before the DVDs are available.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Which is easier?

What did Jesus mean when He asked this question? And what is the answer?  Matt. 9:2-8

Then behold, they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you.”
And at once some of the scribes said within themselves, “This Man blasphemes!”
But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? 
For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise and walk’? 
But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”—then He said to the paralytic, “Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.” And he arose and departed to his house.
Now when the multitudes saw it, they marveled and glorified God, who had given such power to men.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Doubting my Salvation

The LORD did not intend for me to suffer with doubt after I received the gospel. Doubt is a weapon of the enemy to keep believers inactive. I'm thinking of the woman at the well when I think about God's heart for me. She heard the word and she left amazed. Leaving her water pitcher behind, she went to tell everyone she could find. That's God's best. That's the way He would want it to be like, for all His people, I think. Unfortunately there have been many, many teachers who have squeezed their words in-between Christ and my heart. They promote distortion over what it takes to be saved and by doing so steal the headship of the Spirit. Thank God for Zane Hodges. Hodges cleared that up to let the scripture say exactly what it says. So that I can be like that woman at the well again - confident, and on fire for His truth; personally in awe of it. No longer do I rely on a mediator, a teacher, not even the sincerely beloved Hodges! I have Christ's Word, and my own soul to reply. And that is all I ever needed.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Are the Apostles the Only Predestined?

Ephesians 1:3-13

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love,  having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.
In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him.  In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory.
In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise,  who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.

Here is a thought I haven't tested anywhere yet, and it may be a complete dud, because I don't know how to read original languages of the bible. Here goes....

Can we read the "US & WE" in Ephesians 1:3-12 as meaning only Paul and the Apostles? Verse 13 says "YOU also" and the pronoun changes, to perhaps mean the church at large...? So there are two groups being discussed in Paul's letter.  There are the "Us's" and "We's," the Apostles; and from authority they write.  And then there are the "You's," which is everyone else.  Paul says that he learned "the mystery" from God and has been in charge of sharing it (as one of the holy Apostles and Prophets) in the beginning of chapter 3. He uses the pronouns in this way, "it has been given to ME for YOU" eph 3:2. Here is Ephesians 3:1-13

For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles—if indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you, how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ), which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets: that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel, of which I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effective working of His power.
To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ; to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him. Therefore I ask that you do not lose heart at my tribulations for you, which is your glory.

My turning point in being challenged by this was trying to reread Eph. 1:9.  I'm pretty sure it says that God only "made known to [the holy Apostles] the mystery...".   If I re-read verse 1:4 with such an idea, it would imply "He chose [the holy Apostles] in Him before the foundation of the world."  The topic appears to be much different doesn't it?

As one can see, this letter seems to spend a good deal of time talking about the credentials of Paul. Not everyone learns the mystery of the gospel of salvation in Christ from the same source. Paul had it revealed to him by the Spirit of God at the turn of the age. Notice that Apostles come to know the gospel from the new administration (dispensation); however "You" meaning the Ephesian church, comes to know the gospel when it was preached to them from other men. Notice also that the "Us," meaning Apostles, were the "first to trust in Christ," and of course they did precede the Ephesian believers. Would not God predestine that those who would first be given the gospel message personally as Paul had, as specially selected from the beginning of time to successfully bear and share the gospel truth? It would be important that they would receive such a supportive measure of God's power and grace to be sufficient ministers at the opening gate.

Doesn't it make much more sense with the whole "predestination by God to salvation" business if it is for a very limited group? What does the passage really say is "predestined" by God?

In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory.

"Should be" to the praise of His glory. "Should be" is defined as, "to happen." Predestination means... concerning Paul and the other Apostles, He would meet His desire; He would be glorified.

Has anyone anywhere said this before? Is this totally impossible by the knowledge of bible scholars, and that is why I have not heard it as of yet?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Prayer for Jim

This came from Jim's wife last night at 6 pm....

Jim is in the hospital. He had a serious bike accident last night racing. He has 4 broken ribs, pneumothorax with chest tubes placed, cracked scapula, broken clavacle and cracked C7. He is in a lot of pain but doing better today.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

To Participate

On Gender & Authority


Men were chosen as image-bearers of our ultimate authority, YHWH.  Our Lord God would not have given man a job and then not empower him to also succeed.  Women are commanded to think on how their own confidence in this is a measure of their confidence in God Himself (1 Peter 3:5-6).  And it does not take too much investigation to confirm that men are in reality dutiful in ruling by means of sacrificing themselves because of the way God made them (Ephesians 5:23 "...He is the Savior of the body.").

Theirs is an authority established in the Word thousands of years ago and stands to today.  "For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church" (Ephesians 5:23).  "...and gave [Christ] to be head over all things to the church, which is His body" (Ephesians 1:22-23).  "And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man...." (1 Timothy 2:12).  Conversation's over, women.  What can I say after these scriptures?  Many feminist-empathetic Evangelicals tweak the command so that women might steal some authority for themselves - and that is my tough but honest opinion.

God gave authority to men; in fact, the command regarding the tree of life was given to Adam before Eve was made.  Yet a man's role in representing God's authority is not a complete package.  "It is not good that man should be alone" (Genesis 2:18).


Here comes woman.  She has no authority of her own - nothing explicit; nothing institutionalized.  And she never will have the hope of authority over a man.  But she has a contribution to make, does she not?  She comes replete with image-bearing design, too; a "helper suitable" (NIV), a "helper comparable" (NKJV) to him. The common application of the woman's help & succour are to matters of homemaking, and that is fair, but Adam's ultimate purpose is to worship and glorify God.  Is it possible that a woman's help is just as engaged as the man's leadership in seeing God's will be done?  I wonder if Jesus came in to the flesh in a way like Eve's design.  Luke 20:1-8
One day as he was teaching the people in the temple courts and preaching the gospel, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, together with the elders, came up to him. "Tell us by what authority you are doing these things," they said. "Who gave you this authority?"
He replied, "I will also ask you a question. Tell me, John's baptism—was it from heaven, or from men?"

They discussed it among themselves and said, "If we say, 'From heaven,' he will ask, 'Why didn't you believe him?' But if we say, 'From men,' all the people will stone us, because they are persuaded that John was a prophet."

So they answered, "We don't know where it was from."

Jesus said, "Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things."
He was an iconoclast, and they felt threatened.  His mission was not to subvert but to fulfill; Matthew 5:17-18
Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.  I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.
Just prior to His death Jesus promised to send believers "the helper," the Holy Spirit.  The establishment had not accomplished the Spirit of the law; Jeremiah 31:33-34
This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel
after that time," declares the LORD.
"I will put my law in their minds
and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.

No longer will a man teach his neighbor,
or a man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,'
because they will all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest,"
declares the LORD.
"For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second" (Hebrews 8:7).  Christ is the wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:24, 1:30).  Wisdom is curiously also personified as female in the Old Testament.  She raises her voice to commend God's will toward those who already grip dominion, Proverbs 8:1-8
Does not wisdom cry out,
And understanding lift up her voice?
She takes her stand on the top of the high hill,
Beside the way, where the paths meet.
She cries out by the gates, at the entry of the city,
At the entrance of the doors:
"To you, O men, I call,
And my voice is to the sons of men.
O you simple ones, understand prudence,
And you fools, be of an understanding heart.
Listen, for I will speak of excellent things,
And from the opening of my lips will come right things..."
The man and the woman both are image-bearers of God.  The man is so in rulership, self-sacrifice, leadership and provision.  And the woman is so in supplying wisdom without which none could sustain life.  But depravity distorts the image.  In depravity, he forsakes his own responsibility and she no longer stands for truth but instead for a lie.

Depraved Adam

Like Adam in his depravity, any human not accustomed to wisdom find her voice unsettling.  Forget that it was Adam who should have first coined the essence of the popular t-shirt slogan, "I'm with Stupid" (Proverbs 9:13) by passing the buck saying "The woman you gave me," when God questioned Adam whether Adam had obeyed.  He betrays redemption for himself or those he will influence.  He makes life toilsome and unpleasant (Genesis 3:17-18) for everyone around him.  I pity his predicament.  Put any human in the same shoes, and any one might be just as tempted to point out the negative contributions others have made before admitting one's own failure.  A responsibility to influence or protect others is a burden.

Depraved Eve

Adam was right - Eve was devoid of understanding.  A woman in depravity is just as destructive to redemption because it turns the heart of a man to passion, though toward idols in the stead of God.  Her punishment is intense suffering in trying to cast the seed of the Spirit in the world (Genesis 3:16), and the whining and moaning comes in accordance with such.  In the Book of Proverbs there is the Woman Wisdom and there is another woman also called wisdom, who calls out with the same exact enticement, but the partakers of the false lady discover she provides no righteousness... only bondage and death.  Proverbs 9:1-6 depicts the true woman Wisdom...
Wisdom has built her house,
She has hewn out her seven pillars;
She has slaughtered her meat,
She has mixed her wine,
She has also furnished her table.
She has sent out her maidens,
She cries out from the highest places of the city,
“Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!”
As for him who lacks understanding, she says to him,
“Come, eat of my bread
And drink of the wine I have mixed.
Forsake foolishness and live,
And go in the way of understanding.
and 9:13-18 describes the false woman called wisdom,
A foolish woman is clamorous;
She is simple, and knows nothing.
For she sits at the door of her house,
On a seat by the highest places of the city,
To call to those who pass by,
Who go straight on their way:
“Whoever is simple, let him turn in here”;
And as for him who lacks understanding, she says to him,
“Stolen water is sweet,
And bread eaten in secret is pleasant.”
But he does not know that the dead are there,
That her guests are in the depths of hell.
"Stolen water is sweet" - in the event the enticing call of "wisdom" is resounding noisily, and one cannot tell if she's real or fake, one might ask this discerning question: Does she tell them that they will find abundant life through tweaking His command so they may steal from what is off limits?  True Wisdom leads one to life without a violating sin of omission (1 Timothy 1:5, 8; Romans 14:23).


Conflict may be characteristically female and male.  It's bigger than just our relationship.  It's really about those who hold righteousness ipso facto and those who must carve it out and establish their own provision of righteousness and life through reform and revolution.  God creates position to enforce peace and order in society.  "For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God" (romans 13:1).  But He also chooses people outside of establishment, too.  "...God has chosen... the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence" (1 Corinthians 1:28-29).

God has designed many facets of our world where wisdom is, for example, cyclical or generational in nature.  What constituted a redeeming policy yesterday may not tomorrow.  Therefore, asking the question "what needs to be restored about this fallen world today?" and investigating its answer is a never-ending process that one either abides in or does not.  Consider the following (below) aspects of the world where the male-female tension is exhibited.  There is the one who has been given the position to accomplish God's purposes - and is doing it more or less successfully as God has equipped (caveat--God executes it perfectly).  And, there are those who are being served by the one of position; hopefully, the one in position becomes conscious of repeated requests of permissions to participate.  Like the Man toward the Woman, consider...
  • The Mentor toward the Mentee
  • The Parent toward the Child
  • The Pharisees toward Jesus
  • The Church toward the Lost
  • The Believer feeling the conviction of the Spirit
  • Jesus toward His Church
  • The Entertainer toward his Audience
  • The Business owner toward the Customer
  • The Government toward its Citizens
  • Father God toward the World
Agnostic, religious, or whatever: are God's image-bearers inviting a relationship with Wisdom?  Do they have a rapport with her; are they dependent upon her?  This son of Adam (Adam Lambert) sings, "What do you Want from Me" and intuitively agrees that this woman isn't operating out of depravity; he knows she holds truth.  Adam feels his own depravity.  One solution is to pass the buck.  The other solution has been calling out his name, assuring him that those who love wisdom love their own life.

If you are wise, you are wise for yourself,
And if you scoff, you will bear it alone.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Allegiance to the Enemy

What do you think of this statement? (excerpt from Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume V, 13:4)
Note, It is hard to say whether more mischief is done to Christ's kingdom by the power and policy of its open enemies, or by the treachery and self-seeking of its pretended friends: nay, without the latter its enemies could not gain their point as they do.
Who in Jesus' day was the most obviously unreedemable enemy of Christ?  How did Jesus handle him?  The final interactions of Jesus and Judas Iscariot are accounted in John 13:18-29:
"I know whom I have chosen; but that the Scripture may be fulfilled, ‘He who eats bread with Me has lifted up his heel against Me.’ Now I tell you before it comes, that when it does come to pass, you may believe that I am He. Most assuredly, I say to you, he who receives whomever I send receives Me; and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me.”
When Jesus had said these things, He was troubled in spirit, and testified and said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, one of you will betray Me.” Then the disciples looked at one another, perplexed about whom He spoke.
Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved. Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask who it was of whom He spoke.
Then, leaning back on Jesus’ breast, he said to Him, “Lord, who is it?”
Jesus answered, “It is he to whom I shall give a piece of bread when I have dipped it.” And having dipped the bread, He gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon. Now after the piece of bread, Satan entered him. Then Jesus said to him, “What you do, do quickly.” But no one at the table knew for what reason He said this to him. For some thought, because Judas had the money box, that Jesus had said to him, “Buy those things we need for the feast,” or that he should give something to the poor.
Foreknowledge is not the same thing as foreordination. Jesus had called Judas a devil earlier on. During this passover feast Jesus identifies three times (john 13 vs. 11,18,21) that not all of the twelve are loyal to Himself. What was His motive in revealing the presence of a traitor?
"I do not speak concerning all of you. I know whom I have chosen; but that the Scripture may be fulfilled, ‘He who eats bread with Me has lifted up his heel against Me.’ Now I tell you before it comes, that when it does come to pass, you may believe that I am He."
He revealed Judas' identity for the purpose of fulfilling prophecy and therefore to subsequently build their faith concerning His own identity.   I do not believe that He desired to expose Judas for His own justice. In fact, I believe that during this meal Jesus did everything possible to prevent the coming events and protect Judas.

painting by Rubens

I note the subtle and open ways He interacted with Judas showing him love, and giving him time to reconsider:
  • He washed his feet before he goes.  (John 13:5)
  • He eats the solemn meal with him.  (John 13:1)
  • He honors him as his friend.  (John 13:18, Psalm 41:9)
In spite of the three instances Jesus identified Judas to the other disciples, these disciples did not really understand.  As soon as Judas dipped the bread their question is answered, but, Jesus speaks "What you do, do quickly," which immediately distracts them and intellectually they lose track.  John 13:28-29
But no one at the table knew for what reason He said this to him. For some thought, because Judas had the money box, that Jesus had said to him, “Buy those things we need for the feast,” or that he should give something to the poor.
Consider how this must have affected Jesus. He knew He had the "sons of thunder" and the disciple whom He loved laying on his side. He could have spoken one more time and explained it fully. He could have called them to action against this devil. He might have remembered Simon Peter saying with all his zeal that he would follow Jesus anywhere, even to death; that he wanted to be washed not on just his feet but from head to toe; and how he implored Jesus not to go to Jerusalem and die according to the plan of the Father. Matthew 16:21-23
From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.
Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!”
But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.”
It took the power of His Father working mightily in Him to withstand this temptuous moment, not to seize Judas before he could execute this sequence to come. In His flesh, He should have been terrified; in His Spirit, He was confident in God's Word. Jesus testifies of this combined effect between His two emotions in the midst of His conversation about Judas. John 13:21
When Jesus had said these things, He was troubled in spirit...
The Sop

The dipped bread (called "sop") is the most striking aspect to the ministry Jesus made for Judas.  The offering of this bread is an act signifying allegiance to the one whom it is given.  According to The Wycliffe Bible Commentary (page 1103)
...the sop [is] a morsel given in token of special favor and friendship.  

In this last moment He will ever have with Judas living in the flesh, Jesus regards him a friend and thus fulfills the intimate portrayl of God's ancient relationship with Satan before his fall.  In the heavens, God had foreknowledge, but had not foreordained, Satan's original close position and subsequent betrayal.   Psalm 41:9
Even my own familiar friend in whom I trusted,
Who ate my bread,
Has lifted up his heel against me.
By choice, Jesus ties His own fate in to the fate of all his enemies, so that He might atone for the depth of all sinfulness.  Jesus dips his bread before handing it to Judas.  The word "dip" (bapto) is the root of the word "baptize."  Perhaps this was Jesus' unspoken way of replying to Satan the true enmity present between the two.  They locked eyes on one another. We know this because Jesus speaks to Judas using a pronoun saying, "What you do, do quickly."  Though Jesus treated Judas as a friend and servant, he was not in fact a friend but an enemy, because Satan himself was present.  We know this.  As their gaze met, and they both considered Jesus' act of submerging the bread into the bitter mix of herbs and vinegar, Jesus was without a word revealing his strategy of redemption.  "I'll be seeing you in just a few hours on your own home turf."  But Satan did not understand.  Satan had been communing with the heart of Judas as the meal ended (John 13:2).  Satan through his courtside seat saw up close that Jesus was aware that He was going to be murdered, and being reminded of his own primeval desire, he was intoxicated with pleasure and entered Judas fully.

Jesus treated him as a friend to the uttermost interaction.  He left the judgment of "enemy" be determined by events, not by declaration.  He knew how to make Judas' junk stick where it belonged.  The rest of Psalm 41 reads,
But You, O LORD, be merciful to me, and raise me up,
That I may repay them.
By this I know that You are well pleased with me,
Because my enemy does not triumph over me.
As for me, You uphold me in my integrity,
And set me before Your face forever.
By choice, Jesus ties His fate to the fate of all his enemies, so that He might atone for the depth of all sinfulness.  His disciples invite this same atonement and power of the LORD in to their community when they do as Jesus did.  That He intended for disciples to follow in His steps, is seen by this segue (below in bold font) in the narration of identifying His enemy.  John 13:18-21
“I do not speak concerning all of you. I know whom I have chosen; but that the Scripture may be fulfilled, ‘He who eats bread with Me has lifted up his heel against Me.’ Now I tell you before it comes, that when it does come to pass, you may believe that I am He. Most assuredly, I say to you, he who receives whomever I send receives Me; and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me.
When Jesus had said these things, He was troubled in spirit, and testified and said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, one of you will betray Me.”
The Father endured with Satan in this manner, Jesus did, and so His disciples also.

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Mystery: One Body in Marriage and the Church

The promises that God made to Abraham in the Book of Genesis are illustrated in the Epistle to the Ephesians. Ephesians teaches what is happening all around us: the fulfillment of God's Words to the patriarch. It is a theology expressing the theme "one body." It is characterized with the practicing of separation of Abraham from familial bonds, and it is also characterized with his fellowship in God in his Heir. There is a double call to faith for Abraham. One call is faith in the promise of salvation, and another call is for Abraham's holiness and discipleship. This double call is also taught in Ephesians.

Paul uses a term to describe this "one body" theme in marriage and the church; it is a mystery. This mystery has been revealed by doctrine given to Paul from Jesus Himself (Eph. 3:2-4), and that doctrine is written in the letter and is concurrently being manifested by the church to an unsaved world. Eph. 5:30-32

For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.' This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.

ONE BODY: The Promises

It was a single man, one body: Abraham, who received the promises of God. The first speech God ever made to Abram was

Get out of your country, from your family and from your father's house, to a land I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.

It is amazing that God promised Abram offspring as plentiful as the dust of the earth. As of chapter fifteen of Genesis, the LORD had mentioned this promise three times to him, but who would be considered his descendant? He had no children of his own flesh and blood. There was a child born in his home who would be his heir. Abram inquired of God, and He answers. The promise, God explains, will come through a yet unborn child.

It was a single child, one body: Isaac, who became the manifestation of God's promise. Ishmael and all the concubines' children were sent by the patriarch far away from Isaac in a land to the East, and Isaac inherited everything (Gen. 25:5-6). This process was a source of persecution for the heir and a heart-issue grounded in familial love when Abraham chose to exclude his first son (Gen. 21:11).

It was a single individual, one body: Christ, who is the Seed confirming Abraham's covenant. "Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, 'And to seeds,' as of many, but as of one, 'And to your Seed,' who is Christ" (Gal. 3:16).

ONE BODY: The Separations

Abram dwelled with unbelievers in Ur. God wanted to bless Abram, but departure was the condition in which He would accomplish the blessing. The scriptures teach in the New Testament not to keep accord with unbelievers, 2 Cor. 6:16-18

'I will dwell in them
And walk among them.
I will be their God,
And they shall be my people.'


'Come out from among them
And be separate, says the Lord.
Do not touch what is unclean,
And I will receive you.
I will be a Father to you,
And you shall be my sons and daughters,
Says the LORD Almighty.'

But it was not just with the unbelieving quality of his house, family and country from which God wanted to separate Abram. The fact that Terah, Abram's father, and nephew Lot, tagged along with Abram as he followed God's leading, demonstrates a certain amount of faith by his relatives. In fact, Lot was judged righteous and spared from the destruction of Sodom later on in Genesis evidencing that he was a man who most likely believed in the promise given by God to Abram (and therefore was justified, a true brother in the faith as well as the flesh).

It was from family altogether that God desired Abram to separate.

After Abram takes his first trip to Egypt he returns to the original altar he built and calls on the name of the LORD (Gen. 13:4). But the LORD did not respond to his call till after he deals a final separation from his nephew. Afterward God speaks affirmation to Abram. Abram had to say to Lot in 13:9

"Please separate from me."

Much later in life, when seeking a suitable wife for his son Isaac from amongst his relatives, Abraham commands his servant who will bring back this wife in Gen. 24:6-8 saying,

Beware that you do not take my son back there. The LORD God of heaven, who took me from my father's house and from the land of my family, and who spoke to me and swore to me, saying, 'To your descendants I give this land,' He will send His angel before you, and you shall take a wife from my son from there. And if the woman is not willing to follow you, then you will be released from this oath; only do not take my son back there.

God puts a premium on an everlasting sever of orientation with the family of origin. In the New Testament, separation from relatives and family is still the essential test of discipleship to the LORD. Luke 9:57-62

Now it happened as they journeyed on the road, that someone said to Him, “Lord, I will follow You wherever You go.”
And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” Then He said to another, “Follow Me.”
But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.”
Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.”
And another also said, “Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.”
But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Here we can see the double call to put faith in Jesus. First for salvation - these two men both call Him Lord, having already believed in Him for eternal life as a free gift, which is not attained by commitment. But the second call to faith is for discipleship. The choice is theirs. The cost is personal; the cost comes at the expense of family accord. This is not the only scripture juxtaposing commitment to the LORD and the connectedness to relatives. Matt. 10:34-39

Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’ He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.

Leaving all to follow Christ explicitly targets the family of origin as an influence to forsake. Luke 14:25-33

Now great multitudes went with Him. And He turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it—lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish’? Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace. So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.

Jesus is making a family marked by faith. He passionately recognizes those of the faith and no longer acknowledges the family of the flesh. Indeed it is interesting in these passages that Jesus recognizes His family as those believers who obey Him. Matt. 12:46-50

While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. Someone told him, "Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you."
He replied to him, "Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?" Pointing to his disciples, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother."

ONE BODY: The Alliances

Paul speaks to the Ephesian believers just as God spoke to Abram calling that which was dead truly alive. Our justification positionally moves us out from our deserved fate and grafts us in to another fate. Romans 4:16-22 describes the circumstances of death turned to justification:

Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all (as it is written, “I have made you a father of many nations”) in the presence of Him whom he believed—God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did; who, contrary to hope, in hope believed, so that he became the father of many nations, according to what was spoken, “So shall your descendants be.” And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah’s womb. He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. And therefore “it was accounted to him for righteousness.”

We were also spiritually dead dwelling with unbelievers, but raised to life in Him if we believe. Ephesians 2:1-7

And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.
But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

Genesis 2:24 is the first time marriage is given revelation. Adam and Eve's directive has two parts; the "leaving," and the "cleaving." The "leaving" seems a little easier to understand. The "cleaving" is a little more difficult. In this cleaving faith-family there are a few categories of two former representative parties who are reckoned now as one. In fact, the representative sorts (below) comprise many millions of individuals who are considered by God as unified. The five categories of alliance are:

  • The Gentiles and the Jews. In Christ, they are no longer opponents but made one body from the two. Ephesians 2:11-18
Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh—who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands—that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.

God has a plan for increasing the descendants of that small nuclear family of Abraham, Sarah and Isaac. His will is to reach back into that wealth of relatives and families of unbelievers in all the world and call them to faith in God through the gospel of Christ. The enmity in our own household can become peace if its members believe and choose to follow Christ. The peace is ours by position, by justification. However peace is not realized, experienced, or made manifest in experience without fellowship in Christ as we walk in the footsteps of faith like our father Abraham. There is a double call to faith in the LORD. This is why Paul immediately introduces discipleship beyond this positional teaching of justification. He begins by asking the Ephesian believers to reckon on the mystery. Eph. 3:8-4:1

To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ; to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him. Therefore I ask that you do not lose heart at my tribulations for you, which is your glory.
For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling for which you were called....

  • A husband and his wife. In truth, two individuals are reckoned as one body. Eph. 5:28

So husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself.

  • Jesus Christ and the Church. In truth, they are reckoned as one body. Eph. 1:22-23 & 1 Cor. 12:12

And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.

For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ.

  • Jesus Christ and the Father. They are two persons, yet one being. John 17:11 & 17:20-23

Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are.

I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.

  • Heaven and earth. Two realms presently governed by two opposing principalities will one day have total annexation under God's reign. Eph. 1:7-12

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him. In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory.

"In Him" and "In Him also" denote the double calls to faith; one justifying for the gift of eternal life, and the other a choice to follow in Abraham's walk of discipleship, and by doing so becoming the blessing that God wanted to make of him.

Heaven kisses earth and God dwells forever with His people when all enmity has been destroyed - what a stark reminder that there is a real place called hell reserved for unbelief and there will be judgment for our walk beginning with the house of God. It is through our guarded commitment to only orient ourselves in Him and His promises that we will be a blessing to the world and fulfill God's purpose on earth. It is through marriage and the church of Christ that God is depicting His eternal redemptive purposes.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Facing and Embracing the Ethic

The LORD has been moving in the community that gathered last week at the GES National Conference. It was really neat to watch and listen to the work He had been doing! I could hear it and see it in a bulk of the main sessions. It was in the small talk in the corridors; "I was cut to the heart with that!" with a hearty laugh. It was in the banquet and the prayer session. GES people want to examine the scriptures. And I cannot detect anything but humility in the tone. Praise the LORD! This roughly matches the desires of those I talked with a year and a half ago at the FGA National Conference.

Satan is alone in his desire to finish off Free Grace men and women.

A Blogging Constituency (from left to right): Amy Paige, Don Reiher, Jim Reitman, Tim Nichols, Michele Painter, Diane Boring, David Bell

I was standing nearby when one gentleman read Tim's t-shirt and laughed and then thought on a more serious note, "You know, on the back it could read 'My Local Baptist Church.' After all, we're all sinners saved by grace, aren't we?"

Hey: Did you know that I'm broken? It's true. But the LORD has a plan and a hope for me, and He has the same for you. Right now in your struggles He is preparing you for an even greater ministry-don't let anyone tell you otherwise!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Free Grace is a Movement

My husband subscribes to snail-mail from Ligonier Ministries founded by R.C. Sproul [1]. This month's mailing was sitting out where I noticed what was highlighted in red on the front of the envelope:

"'Reformation is a movement, not just a historical event.'
- R. C. Sproul"

Well. If Reformed theology is speaking of itself as a movement, then I'll speak in turn that Free Grace is a movement too.

Besides video lectures and interviews at the Free Grace Alliance website, and articles and newsletters at the Grace Evangelical Society website, there are some excellent blog writers around the internet. A sample follows.

By introduction, Tim Nichols frames the conversation over Reformed theology with grace and perspective writing in a recent post about the historical Protestant Reformation,
The whole point of their system of doctrine was that we must thank God, and God alone, for our salvation, and that thanks must arise from a joyful heart that is certain of its salvation. ... The Reformation confessions and catechisms teach this quite clearly. They also teach clearly the perseverance of the saints, and this created a hairline fracture in their system of doctrine. That fracture permits a squinty-eyed, untrusting person to begin to question whether, if he were really saved, he would commit the sins that he does. Many Reformed people have widened this hairline fracture to an unbridgeable chasm, and as a result whole denominations have been led to abandon both the Bible’s clear teaching of assurance of salvation and the Reformers’ fine example in that area.
Dr. Fred Lybrand, former President of the Free Grace Alliance has written many posts at his blog largely on logic & doctrine from the Free Grace perspective in the last year.

The Faith/Works Logic Issue

Antonio daRosa, workshop speaker at the Grace Evangelical Society has written some slightly more lengthy arguments in his blog's index of Free Grace articles.

For more information on the teaching of Free Grace, keep reading these blogs or contact the Grace Evangelical Society (GES) or Free Grace Alliance (FGA).

[1] Accessible are some basic teachings of R.C. Sproul at Reformation Theology: Are You New to Reformed Theology?
Sproul interprets Hebrews 6, Romans 9, free will, regeneration preceding faith, God never 'changing His mind,' intercessory prayer, and more in the online mp3 titled Chosen By God: 2005 St. Louis Conference.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

"But God--You Can"

These are the words I said by faith last September, and today, God has. Since that time last year I have seen many prayers be answered both mine and those of others. God is amazing, even miraculous. I asked a couple of friends to evaluate the work of God in one arena by asking, "Is that simply awesome or do you think it is a miracle?" They both believe it a miracle.

Below are those recorded in scripture forever so that I might know the magnitude of God's power and love, and how hope in Him is never in vain. Hebrews 11:32-38
And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah, also of David and Samuel and the prophets: who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again.

Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented—of whom the world was not worthy.
I hold tightly to these poetic passages when it is difficult for me to see. More than just holding on, I am learning to claim the will of God in messes and God is honoring His own purposes. He is amazing--and I am blessed.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Lacking Afflictions of Christ

Elisabeth Elliott wrote about trials in her book A Path Through Suffering. I can't quite remember her exact application of Colossians 1:24, but afterward it left me with the impression that we are co-redeemers with Him. I'm surely to blame for my confusion. The verse says,

I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His Body, which is the church....

Is Christ lacking afflictions? Does He desire Christians to suffer the remainder? What does this mean? The NKJV Nelson Study Bible notes say we are not coredeemers:

"In this verse, Paul is not saying that Christ's death was insufficient or that somehow he was a coredeemer with Christ. Paul is making the point that a Christian will endure the sufferings that Christ would be enduring if He were still in the world. Christ had told his disciples that if the world hated Him it would hate His followers. If people persecuted Him they would persecute His followers. Paul believed he was suffering the afflictions God wanted Him to endure. Instead of facing his difficulties with dread Paul saw his troubles as a sign of joy, because they were producing an eternal reward."

They were producing more than eternal reward. I'm looking at the context. It says that the afflictions are being filled up in Paul "for the sake" of the Body. More of the context beginning in verse 24:

I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church, of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God which was given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God, the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints. To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily.

Paul's focus is for others, as he agonizes. He's thinking about the Gentiles for their salvation and the Church for their perfecting. He writes similarly of the same issue in 2 Corinthians 1:5-7.

For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ. Now if we are afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effective for enduring the same sufferings which we also suffer. Or if we are comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation. And our hope for you is steadfast, because we know that as you are partakers of the sufferings, so also you will partake of the consolation.

Here I notice that the consolation is for Paul and the consolation is also for others. The consolation to Paul is so that he might "give aid" (another definition of being "effective") to those who are enduring affliction in the present. This goes far beyond eternal gain. What kind of aid is being dispensed in the midst of Paul's sufferings? Salvation? Sanctification? I think I'm hearing both.

I still wonder about those "lacking afflictions" (Col. 1:24) with which Paul is being filled. Aren't his descriptions of purpose and design in those passages a very Isaiah 53 feel? Verse 5 of this Old Testament prophecy about Jesus Christ says:

But He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.

Jesus and Paul appear to be doing exactly the same business. This is the Way in which justification and sanctification are catalyzed.

Jesus came not to do His own will, but the will of the Father. He emptied Himself of the privilege to exercise His Deity nature, so that everything He had came to Him directly from the Father. In His affliction He was modeling for us this new Way; He was effecting for us our total salvation (deliverance from the punishment, power & presence of sin). But He did not surrender being fully God. He is the perfect Lamb of God from before the beginning of time and this is why we are not coredeemers with Christ. It is so important for the lost person to come to conviction that Jesus is the Son of God. He may have suffered like a criminal or heretic. He may have been crucified in weakness. He sure looks like we do and us Him. He was afflicted and we all after Him, but He is also eternally Messiah. Let that be part of the testimony as Comfort flows out.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

God's Strategy Meetings

If we could sit in on heaven, what would we see happening there? Dr. Wilkinson asks this question in his book "You Were Born For This." Most might answer that God is receiving worship from angelic beings. Is that all? Dr. Wilkinson writes,

"Any committee meetings going on up there?" I ask. "Strategy planning sessions?"

Folks laugh. They think I'm kidding.

"How about God? Does He do any work? What about God asking for opinions on important matters? Does Heaven have anything like an agenda for the day?" [1]

Wilkinson looks to a few passages in scripture to help his readers sit in on heaven. 1 Kings 22:19-22

Micaiah continued, "Therefore hear the word of the LORD : I saw the LORD sitting on his throne with all the host of heaven standing around him on his right and on his left. And the LORD said, 'Who will entice Ahab into attacking Ramoth Gilead and going to his death there?'
One suggested this, and another that. Finally, a spirit came forward, stood before the LORD and said, 'I will entice him.'
'By what means?' the LORD asked.
'I will go out and be a lying spirit in the mouths of all his prophets,' he said.
'You will succeed in enticing him,' said the LORD. 'Go and do it.'

In this passage, the LORD asks those in His presence "who will" do His will? Isaiah 6:8 says,

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?"
And I said, "Here am I. Send me!"

Isaiah did not hesitate to offer himself as a candidate for accomplishing His purposes. He passionately replied to God's invitation.

John 5:17 says,

Jesus said to them, "My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working."

Wilkinson asserts that heaven, and events on earth, are inescapably linked together in innumerable ways. There are four "keys" he introduces in his book to help align readers to hear God's invitations and participate in delivering miracles. In the next post, those four keys will be discussed.

God's purpose for doing a miracle is always the same: to meet a person's need. [1]

[1] Wilkinson, Bruce & Kopp, David. (2009). You Were Born For This: 7 Kets to a Life of Predictable Miracles. Colorado Springs, CO: Multnomah Books, pg. 31, 35.

An Everyday Miracle

By video, Dr. Wilkinson recounts a story from chapter two in his new book, You Were Born For This.

Dr. Wilkinson gives examples of many everyday miracles throughout his book. They are accounts of miracles he himself was involved in delivering, and also those that others were involved in delivering.

I praised God meditating on this true account of how ready God is to answer needs in miraculous ways as we serve Him.

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