Thursday, December 18, 2014

Class Warfare Ended?

"AND IN THE SAME region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their
flock by night" (Luke 2:8).

This text should surprise us. God sent his angelic messengers to shepherds. You and I would have sent them to someone important, maybe the Jewish High Priest. If he wasn’t available we would have sent the angels to Herod, king of Israel. Others would have picked the Roman Emperor, Caesar Augustus.

But God is not like us. He has no use for human class distinctions. Social class structures exist because of gifts which God has assigned—beauty, intelligence, aggressiveness, or talent—but now motivated and energized by self-sufficient pride, greed, and self-promotion.

To make clear that God rejects our class structures, and the values upon which they are based, God sent the angels to the lowest echelon on the ancient world’s social ladder—Shepherds.

God is humble. He does everything to demonstrate His humility and our great need of that very same humility. Everything is God’s gift, but we boast as if it were not. That is why God has designed the gospel so that we must stoop to enter his kingdom. 

No earthly attainment will ever impress God. The only thing that impresses Him is a lowly, self-emptying, servants heart motivated by a desire to glorify God and enrich others.

That is why God sent the angels to shepherds, to reduce everyone—president and janitor, college professor and illiterate, CEO and ditch digger, male and female, black and white, heterosexual and homosexual, rich and poor—to the same level. Spiritual and moral bankruptcy. 

Here is the cure for racism, sexism, classism and every other "ism" that has oppressed people since the beginning. 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Are you willing to Embrace Obscurity?

JUST FINISHED AN appropriate book for the Christmas Season, Embracing Obscurity: Becoming Nothing in Light of God's Everything. Who wrote it? Anonymous of course! It only makes sense that the author of  book  would not seek the lime-light.

This is the perfect book for the holidays. The premise is that "although Jesus was in the form of God, he did not count equality with God something to be grasped, but emptied himself taking the form of a servant" (Phil 2:6-7). In other words, he emptied himself of all the rights to fame, attention, and worldly popularity. He pointed everyone away from himself to God.

The author exposes our penchant for just the opposite, pointing everyone to ourselves. "We’re intoxicated with a desire to be known, recognized, appreciated, and respected. We crave to be a “somebody” and do notable things, to achieve our dreams and gain the admiration of others. To be something—anything—other than nothing."(Kindle 78-80).

Although we are all  drunk with a lust to be worshiped we are really only one out of possibly 100 billion people that have ever lived. We will never be really important, and so what if we are? Recognition seldom brings fulfillment. In addition, we are utterly apathetic to the amazing truth of the Incarnation that God became nothing.

The author notes the need to suffer in anonymity. Don't buy into the health, wealth, and prosperity mentality. We may suffer in unknown, unacknowledged anonymity doing the will of God and never be known or appreciated by anyone but an audience of One. In addition, none of our non-Christian friends will understand our willingness to eschew fame and popularity. They might even persecute us for doing so.

The book closes with practical advice for how to handle fame (should God send it) and a strong exhortation to hope for the true notoriety that will be ours in the world to come.

This book is a jewel. I strongly recommend it. It is available for $6.99 in paperback or $1.99 in Kindle here. 

Monday, December 8, 2014

God's Pulpit

THE FIRST THING every aspiring writer learns is “show, don’t tell. In other words, don’t lecture your readers. “Show” your points and premises with stories, anecdotes, quotes, and dialogue. The cross is God’s “show don’t tell.” Systematic theologies catalog and systematize the Bible’s doctrines. Their work is important—but they “tell” us the truth. 

The cross “shows” us the truth. The vital truths illustrated by Jesus’ crucifixion forever transform those with “eyes to see and ears to hear” its lessons. Augustine said that it was God's pulpit. 

The cross has two dimensions. It is something God has done for us, but it is also a revelation of vital truths communicated to us.

When we think of the cross we usually think of the former, what God has done for us. He has reconciled us to himself. He has purchased forgiveness for all who believe and repent. He has absorbed the wrath of God on our behalf. He has loved us with an everlasting love.

But, I want us to think today about what the cross speaks to us. As John Stott noted, “Through what God did there for the world he was also speaking to the world. Just as human beings disclose their character in their actions, so God has shown himself to us in the death of His Son.”[1]
The cross speaks to us about our purpose for existence. It speaks to us about human nature. It unveils the nature of God. It unravels the problem of pain and suffering. It demonstrates God’s wisdom. It shows us what true worship looks like, as well as a host of other issues.

We can become increasingly confused about these subjects if we look anywhere but the cross. But about each of these subjects and more the cross instructs us radically and conclusively. 

The basic truths of life become simple and clear when we focus on Christ’s cross.

[1] The Cross Of Christ, John R. Stott, IVP, 1984, pg 204

Friday, December 5, 2014

Applying Biblical Men & Women's Roles

OUR LAST BLOG post discussed Mr. Mom. Is it OK for another-wise healthy, capable husband to
stay home and nurture his children while his wife brings  home the bacon? We suggested the general principle that God created men and women to fulfill different roles in marriage. Men are responsible to protect, provide for, and lead their wives and children. The general responsibility of a wife and mother is to "help" her husband by nurturing children and caring for her household. But how do we apply this in the 21st century North America?

It is one thing to state the general principle. It is another to apply it in a fallen world filled with multiple ambiguities. Legalisms occur when the application is too wooden and structured. So, let’s begin by talking about what this principle does not mean. First, these principles do not apply to single women. Since she has no children to nurture, or a husband to help, she is free to serve the larger culture by the pursuit of a career.

In addition, this Biblical principle does not mean that it is a sin for a married woman to work outside of the home. She is free to work outside the home as long as it does not compromise her role of “helping” her husband and the nurturing of her children.

It doesn’t mean that it is a sin for a woman to earn more than her husband. Due to training or education this may be the case, but it is not inherently wrong or evil.  A fifty year old female physician, with grown children, married to a fifty four year old pastor, may out-earn him even working part time.

It doesn’t mean that it is wrong for a husband to temporarily be the  primary nurturer of his children. He may do this while going to school, getting specialized training to enhance his employability, or transitioning into a different career. Or, he may be temporarily unemployed. In these instances, it is not sinful for a man to be the primary nurturer.

In each of these cases, the role fulfilled by the husband or wife is either biblical or non-biblical depending upon the violation or adherence of the important principles that follow.

The first principle is the recognition of the fundamental differences between men and women. Those differences are physical, emotional, and mental. Because of these God-designed differences, a man to bring three unique roles to marriage—protection, provision, and leadership. The implications are clear. It is not appropriate for a female to be the primary protector, primary provider, or spiritual leader in her home.  It also implies that God calls each married man to serve his wife by becoming her protector, spiritual leader, and provider. The pastor with the physician wife is still fulfilling his role if he is the spiritual leader, the protector, and a provider. In this case, his wife may be fulfilling her role as help-mate with the income she earns—income that enables him to fulfill his calling to pastor the flock.

Second, the biblical teaching mentioned above should motivate and shape a Christian couple’s relationship. Christian marriage implies the submission of husband and wife to these principles. Christian marriage implies that the wife agrees to become her husband’s “helper,” not his competitor. In addition, Christian marriage calls each husband/father to love his wife and children by leading them, providing for them, and protecting them. In addition, Christian marriage implies that the arrival of children changes things. A couple attempting to be biblical will agree that his fundamental orientation should be toward providing for his family. They will also agree that her fundamental orientation should be inward toward the nurturance of children and helper to her husband.

Third, biblical Christians reject the stereotype of female passivity and weakness. Proverbs 31:10-31 draws a verbal picture of a fully competent woman. She is the biblical ideal. Her husband trusts her. She is industrious, an able administrator, a competent manager of the household servants, a take-charge lady, and a skillful business negotiator.

Therefore, when deciding whether a wife should work outside the home, female “weakness” or lack of incompetence is not a biblical assumption. Instead, love for God and man should be the determining issue. What is most loving for the family? What will best glorify God? Is the pursuit of outside employment the most loving way for her to serve her husband? Is it the most loving way for her to serve her children? Or, are ambition, greed, or escapism driving the decision? The answer to this larger question—whether and when she should work outside the home— will depend upon the number of children, their ages, and the financial condition of the family. It is a decision she should make under the covering of her husband’s authority.

In summary, it is our conviction that God created men and women different at the most basic biological, emotional, and social level. He did this to equip us to fulfill different functions in home and marriage. God created Adam to work the Garden. He created Eve to be Adam’s helper. The application of this principle to specific situations necessitates much wisdom, flexibility, and patience. 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

God's Design for Men and Women

NOTHING IS MORE CONTROVERSIAL in our present climate than biblical men and women's roles. However, the Bible says much about God's intention for work responsibilities in marriage. Here is a short summary. 

God created Adam first. He created him with a task in mind— “work and keep the garden!” He did this before he created Eve. To fulfill this task God made him different from Eve.[1] These differences are patently apparent to any objective researcher. “All the [research] points in the same direction,” notes George Gilder. “From conception to maturity…the man is …more aggressive, exploratory, volatile, competitive and dominant, more visual, abstract, and impulsive, more muscular, appetitive, and tall. He is less nurturant, moral, domestic, stable, and peaceful, less auditory, verbal, and sympathetic, less durable, healthy and dependable, less balanced, and less close to the ground.”[2]
God designed men to lead, provide for, and protect women and children. We don’t need sociologists to confirm that men are taller, heavier, and stronger than women. Men have better eyesight, and stronger powers of concentration. They score lower on verbal tests but higher on mathematical tests. Male metabolism is higher. The right side of a man’s mind does what the left side of a woman’s does. Men are more oriented toward achievement. These differences are not socialized into males. They are biologically inherent.

God also designed Eve with a specific task in mind. “Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him” (Genesis 2:18). Physically, God designed the female to be the helper of her husband and the nurturer of their children.

The social sciences also confirm this design. Women are more durable, better able to endure pain and monotony, more nurturant, less volatile, and more stable. “Women have about 67% of the endurance and 55 percent of the muscular strength of men. Even when size is held constant, women are only 80 percent as strong as men.”[3]  Women have broader hips designed to carry children. They have breasts to suckle infants. Women hear better and have a greater capacity for multi-tasking. God designed women to bear children, and nurture them from infancy onward. In this sense he designed the female sex to “help” their husbands achieve the task God created him to achieve. This includes being “fruitful, multiplying, filling the earth,” and exercising dominion over it (Gen 1:28).  It also involved working and keeping the Garden (Gen. 2:15).

Their task differentiation became even more apparent after Adam and Eve sinned. God cursed the task that he designed each of them to achieve. He didn’t curse Eve’s career. He cursed her child-bearing.  “To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you” (Genesis 3:16).

In the same way, he didn’t curse Adam’s parenting. Rather, he cursed Adam’s calling to provide for his family. “And to Adam he said… cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field” (Genesis 3:17–18).

These assumptions continue into the New Testament. Paul assumes that each Christian husband’s orientation is outward toward the world, not inward to the nurturance of children. His primary responsibility is provision—providing food and clothing for his family. “If anyone does not provide for his relatives,” Paul writes Timothy, “and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8). The “anyone” Paul has in mind is not a wife. It is the male household head. Paul makes this clear by the use of the masculine pronoun “his.”
In the same way, on the basis of Genesis 1-3, Paul expects each married woman’s orientation to be inward toward her husband and children. When young children are at home, the wife’s primary task is nurturing children and helping her husband fulfill his calling, not providing food and clothing. “Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled” (Titus 2:3–5).

In summary, the Bible teaches that a married man’s basic orientation is outward. He is to provide for his family by fulfilling the calling for which God made him. His wife’s fundamental orientation is inward toward the nurturance of children and the support of her husband as he attempts to fulfill his calling.

(More on how to apply this will follow). 

[1] For more on the biological, emotional, and mental differences between men and women see New York Times, John Tierney, Sept 8, 2008, "As Barriers Disappear, Some Gender Gaps Widen;” Men and Marriage, George Gilder; Man and Woman in Christ, Stephen Clark,
[2] George Gilder, Men and Marriage, (Gretna, LA: Pelican, 1986) pg 20
[3] Ibid, Gilder, pg 132