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Here are a few articles I have written and compiled on various subjects:

 

Once Saved Always Saved

The Nature of Christ

When a Sinner Dies

Providence:  Predestination, Fate and Free Will

Tough Love

Nothing is Impossible

Intercession

The Ultimate Sacrifice

Sex and the New Coventant

 

 

When A Sinner Dies

God can never turn from us but, as we run farther and farther from Him, there comes a point where we can no longer hear him—where we step beyond hope and “there is no remedy”.  God is still there with His arms out, loving us and longing for us to come home but past this point we can not respond.  He still yearns to save us but it is too late.  He could give us an eternity of opportunity to choose to come to Him but it would be fruitless.  He respects our freedom of choice and He can not bear for us to live in this eternal hell of our choosing so He allows us, with tears in His eyes, to reap the result of what we have sown and chosen.  And we die is His arms.  And God morns as only a lover bereft of His beloved can.  There is no tragedy greater than this final separation and this breaking of God’s great heart of love.

It just struck me as I was reading this and praying that if we stand by and pursue our spouses with a heart like God’s then the only point of separation is the loss of the lover’s soul!   If we are to mimic God then we must stand for and fight for our spouses till “there is no remedy”.  That is what He does for us and that is His plan and transcendent cause for marriage in this world.  Anything less is not in line with His character.  Of course, if God calls us to stand and fight and leaves us in the battle, then we will see the travail of our soul and our spouses saved eternally!  If God’s people in the Christian church understood this there would be very close to no divorces!   

 

Providence:  Fated or Free? 

The connection between free will and fate has long been one that baffles.  Albert Einstein once said, "I am convinced the Old One does not play dice." And chaos theorist Joseph Ford said, "God plays dice with the universe, but they're loaded dice."   

Tolkien also believed that things were "meant" to be but he believed that you could have it both ways, with humans having real choice too.  His understanding of this came out of his intimate understanding of storytelling.  Peter J Kreeft explains Tolkien's wisdom clearly, "Free will and destiny are always present in every successful story, every interesting story, every (and this is the point) story we find realistic, "true to life".  A story without predestination means a story without an author, and that is a story without any authority.  But a story without free will, a story about machines or falling raindrops, is not a story either.  Every story has to have in it free persons making free choices that they could have mad differentlyotherwise there is no drama."

Chance is a seemingly random, unexpected and unforeseen outcome of events. This outcome comes about because of the many factors involved that aren’t seen or anticipated. Things happen this way because of the order that comes out of the inevitable connection of all things, the order which flows from the source which is Providence and which brings all things about, each in its proper time and place. Everything in our universe, including chance and fate, has purpose, even if that purpose is beyond the perception of human understanding.

Even though many events seem discordant and chaotic from our temporal perspective, they really aren’t because they are subject to this order that proceeds from Providence. God made all thing and by His power they exist and continue to function. Every atom and force field—everything animate and inanimate is created and sustained by God. He allows for choice but even if by chance we change our minds we cannot frustrate Providence. God sees that you can and whether or not you will. You cannot frustrate the divine knowledge any more than you can escape the eye of someone who is present and watching you, even though you may, by your free will, vary your actions.

In Mere Christianity CS Lewis explains God's seeing us excellently:

God is not in time…He has all eternity in which to listen to the split second of prayer put up by a pilot as his plane crashes in flames….God is not hurried along in the time-stream of this universe any more than an author is hurried along in the imaginary time of his own novel. He has infinite attention to spare for each one of us. He does not have to deal with us in the mass. You are as much alone with Him as if you were the only being He had ever created. When Christ died, He died for you individually just as much as if you had been the only man in the world.

If God foresaw our acts, it would be very hard to understand how we could be free not to do them. But suppose God is outside and above the time-line. In that case, what we call "tomorrow" is visible to Him in just the same way as what we call today." All the days are "Now" for Him. He does not remember you doing things yesterday, He simply sees you doing them: because, though you have lost yesterday, He has not. He does not "foresee" you doing things tomorrow, He simply sees you doing them: because, though tomorrow is not yet there for you, it is for Him. You never supposed that your actions at this moment were any less free because God knows what you are doing. Well, He knows your tomorrow's actions in just the same way--because He is already in tomorrow and can simply watch you.

Because of this, I think there is a plan for each of us. I think we have a dynamic part in designing that plan through our choices. How can we look at the world around us and say there is not a plan? All of the complexity and intricate design in our world begs to have a plan. It only makes sense if you think about human craftsmen and human desire—we plan. And if we don’t the result isn’t very impressive.

Though it may seem incredulous to the human mind, Providence can take all of man’s diverse choices in the complex web of the entirety of the universe and work them dynamically according to His master plan. But that in no way takes away our real freedom to choose our course. Certainly God’s desire is for us to make good choices but he must leave that to us.

With this understanding of Providence, I don’t see a problem aligning divine foreknowledge with real and dynamic freedom of choice.

 

Tough Love

I guess the heart of my feeling is that we are drawn to God through His unconditional love, understanding, compassion and connection with us infinitely more than we are motivated to come to Him because of the consequences of our actions.  Consequently, our focus should be less on “tough love” and more on restoring connection and relationship.

We partake in destructive behavior because we hate ourselves and our lives…because we feel as if no one -- not even family -- would love us if they really knew us. Our destructive behavior allows us to blot out that depressive self-focus and socialize as though we think we are okay.

How can being "confronted" about bad behavior help us with that?   The bad behavior is not the problem!!  It is a symptom.   I guess I should not be surprised that in our western world respond allopathically and treat the symptoms instead of the cause.  Why would being humiliated, once we’ve given up the only thing that allows us to feel safe emotionally, make us better? Our problem isn’t that we need to be cut down to size; it is that we feet we don’t measure up.

In fact, I think fear of cruel treatment can keep us from seeking help long after we began to suspect we need it. Our addiction probably could be shortened if we thought we could find care that didn't conform to what we know is the dominant confrontational approach… ie….tough love.

Toughness doesn't begin to address the real problem. Troubled children aren’t usually "spoiled brats" who "just need to be taught respect."  They most often go wrong because they hurt, not because they don't want to do the right thing.

So, Tough Love can seem to work just like treating the symptoms of a disease can appear to remove the problem but it really doesn’t and the fruit born of it may not be of eternal quality.  Understanding - compassion - and spiritual connection - go much farther toward a cure.

Restoring connection and relationship is more important than dishing out our tough consequences.

They say that a person who is acting out self destructively has no reason to change if they do not ever suffer major consequences for their behavior.  If they are rescued from consequences, they are enabled to continue practicing their addiction.

I am not saying that there are not consequences for our actions…certainly there are.  And they play a small part in helping us to come to ourselves.  But they should not be our focus if we are to cut to the heart of the problem.

We are not judge and jury, it is God’s business to deal with the prodigal, not ours…especially when it comes to consequences…..it is our business to listen to God. 

He alone can show us the right way to restore what has been hurt or lost.

How can we prescribe one approach of “tough love” when His way of having us deal with our loved ones will not always be the same in all situations.

You are taking a huge gamble at cutting communication and relationship in the hopes that the one you love will come to their senses.

 

 

Nothing Is Impossible!

I was just reading the story of Jesus' visit to Abraham by the Oaks of Mamre. I've always been captivated at how Sarah laughed (and then lied to God about it!) at the prospect of having a baby even though she must have suspected that God was speaking. It seemed that totally hopeless to her. It was hard for her to believe that even God could help her. After all, it had ceased to be with her after the manner of women ' and she was old.

I have felt like Sarah.  My situation has seemed totally hopeless to me.   After all, it has ceased to be with my wife and I after the manner of married couples and our marriage it just a memory.

It is easy to sympathize with Sarah.

But we need to listen carefully to the words of Jesus at the point of her laughing : "Is anything too hard for the Lord?" In other words God says, "Nothing is too hard for me. I can do anything even though you can't imagine it". God is not the weak link here......we are! We are the weak link in the chain. God is able and ready to do all things at all times and in all places.  But our faith is so weak and we are so unable to comprehend Him or what He can do!

As I was reading Genesis 18 the words in the 14th verse jumped out at me. "The Lord will surely visit you" (or return to you) and it spiked my memory of the words of Joseph in Genesis 50:24 "God will surely visit you and bring you out of this land and fulfill His promises to you."   It is the same message that Jesus told Abraham and Sarah.

God's words are telling us again of what He will do with certainty even if we have to ask Him to give us the faith to believe it. "I will surely visit you and your wife and children and, in my time, utterly fulfill My promises to you!"  

Add to that story the Red Sea, Joseph, The Fiery Furnace, Jericho,  Lazarus and thousands of others and we start to get the picture that our circumstances are not different.  God can and will intervene for us in the same way in His time.  Believe, obey and wait for Him!

 

 

Intercession

I believe in intercession and the absolute surety of God’s intervention, deliverance and salvation when we pray according to His will.  Here is why.  Some of this information is taken from Intercessory Prayer by Dutch Sheets.

In the beginning the earth was “assigned” or given to man.  Psalms 115:16   In Genesis 2:15 God gave Adam the world to “keep“.  He was the “guardian” of earth, God’s representative here.  As a representative he could speak and act with authority in behalf of God.  God didn’t give away ownership but responsibility of governing.  Adam was to “re-present” God.  Humans were in charge of Earth’s destiny.  Whatever happened on earth would be because of men’s decisions.  Humanity really WAS in charge of earth.   And still is.

Why would God do it this way?  Why would He take such risk?  Because God wanted a family.  That is why He made us in His image, so similar to Himself. And gave us responsibilities similar to His.  It was thrilling to Him to be a dad just like it is too us.

When Adam fell, he gave that authority away to satan.  We are sure of this because when Jesus was on earth He called satan the “ruler of this world” 3 times.  John 12:31,  14:30,  16:11

God’s decision to do things on earth through humans was pretty final because He had to become part of the human race and die to get back what Adam gave away!  I can’t think of a more staggering truth.  Certainly nothing could make the truth more clear that God is committed to doing things through humans here. 

This is the reason why we need to pray.  If something is going to happen on earth, God needs a man to ask for it because God has not changed anything.  He still works through humans.  It is woven throughout the scriptures:

Ÿ God and humans, for better or worse, doing it together

Ÿ God needing faithful men and women

Ÿ God needing a race through whom to work

Ÿ God needing prophets

Ÿ God needing judges

Ÿ God needing a human Messiah

Ÿ God needing human hands to heal, human voices to speak and human feet to go

Obviously God is committed to doing things here through humans.  He certainly COULD have done it all Himself.

Two examples of how God works:

Elijah        In 1 Kings 18:1 it is obvious that it was God’s decision to send rain.  Why did it take praying 7 times before the rain came if God didn‘t need him to pray?  Did it come BECAUSE of Elijah’s prayer?  Yes!!!  In James 5:17-18 it says so.  God’s giving and will on earth is dependant on our asking, even when He wants to do it and initiates it!

Daniel        In Daniel 9:1-3  Daniel discovers that God through Jeremiah predicted that Jerusalem would begin to be rebuilt after 70 years.  God had spoken it.  It was what God wanted.  But guess what?  He moves on Daniel to ask for it by fasting and prayer!  Because of spiritual resistance from demons it took the angel 21 days to reach Daniel to tell him his prayer was answered.  But God began answering Daniel’s prayer when he first started asking.

There is no doubt that when God wants to do something on earth, a man is called to enforce God’s decision.  Read Ezekiel 22:30-31  In this text it becomes even more clear that God needs men.  This verse is clearly saying, “While My justice demanded judgment, My love wanted forgiveness.  Had I been able to find a human to ask me to spare this people, I could have spared them.  It would have allowed Me to show mercy.  Because I found no one, however, I had to destroy them.

Jesus has totally completed the work of intercession, deliverance, salvation and reconciliation.  It is finished! Done!  At the cross.  But all of His agony and pain and trouble is for NOTHING if He doesn’t have men to release it through their prayers into the lives of those who need it on earth. 

We don’t produce anything.  Our function is not to replace God, but to release Him. 

Ÿ     The Generator wants to distribute His completed work through us

Ÿ     The Intercessor want to intercede through us

Ÿ     The Victor wants His victory enforced through us

In order for these things to happen at all on earth we must ask for the release and application of them. 

This is the heavenly pattern: 

Ÿ Jesus is the Victor--we’re the enforcers. 

Ÿ Jesus is the Redeemer--we are the releasers. 

Ÿ Jesus is the Head--we are the Body. 

That is why He sends us.  It is an awesome partnership--God and humans.  My prayers of intercession release Christ’s finished work of intercession. 

His work empowers my prayers--my prayers release His work. He is the Generator.  We are the distributors.

In 2 Corinthians 3:6  it says we are ministers, “able ministers”,  

doing the work of God here on earth as we release, re-present

and administer the blessings and provisions of the new covenant

to those around us.

But we must not just ask for salvation and deliverance of our family and friends but of asking for their forgiveness and cleansing.   In Colossians 3:13 and Ephesians 4:2 it says to forbear one another.  The Greek word in both of these texts, anechomai, means “to sustain, bear or hold up against a thing”  much like you would put a stake on a tomato plant and thus “bear it up”.  In other words, we are to come alongside a weak brother or sister who is “weighted down”  and say, “You’re not going to fall and be broken or destroyed because I am staking myself to you.  My strength is now yours.  Go ahead, lean on me.  As long as I can stand, you will.”

In Romans 15:1-3 and Galations 6:2  it says to bear one another’s burdens.  The Greek word here, bastazo, means “to bear, lift or carry away”.  We are to come alongside and bear our weak brother’s burdens away to Jesus.  In Isaiah 53:6,12 it says that Jesus “bore” or “bare” our sin.  This Hebrew word, nasa, in Isaiah means the same thing as the Greek word bastazo.  Jesus bore our sin away from us “as far as the east is from the west”.

So we have to do our part in releasing this “bearing away” of burdens to those around us who need it.  Jesus didn’t quite finish the job at the cross.  We must fill up what is lacking and remains to be completed in Jesus sacrifice.  Read it in Colossians 1:24!!!!

So it is very appropriate that we intercede on behalf of our weak brothers and sisters and ask God to forgive their sins and cleanse them.  For then He can empty all of heaven and begin His work to that end. And we are simply doing our part in bearing away their sins from them.

Like it says in Ezekiel 22:30-31 (above) we must stand in the gap between the promises of God and our friend’s and family’s need and release the blessings of the new covenant.  To stand between the devil’s attacks and them.  God WANTS us to stand there on their behalf or else He must destroy them!  Any promise that we can claim for us, we can claim for them.  That includes 1 John 1:9------ 

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Remember Jesus prayer at His crucifixion, “Father, forgive them...”.  If Jesus asked for forgiveness for others then we should too!

In doing this we release His power and intercession, channel His love, distribute His victory,  extend His grace and enforce His deliverance and salvation.   We fill what is lacking and remains to be completed in Jesus sacrifice .  We cooperate with God and do our part.  We work with Him because we “wrestle not against flesh and blood but demons....”  Ephesians 6:12  God fights the real battle with satan.....we are too weak.  1 Samuel 17:47

Our prayer should be:

“Father, allow me to move into our priestly role as intercessors, enforcing the victory of Jesus in this situation....re-presenting and administering the blessings of the new covenant. 

Stake me to _______ and allow me, along with Jesus, to be touched with a feeling of this infirmity.  Lay on me this burden that I might bear it away to Jesus.  I ask this in Jesus name and by His blood.”

Glenn Coon backed this concept up with his ABC’s of prayer.  Ask, Believe, Claim.   In Mark 11:24 Jesus says that we are to believe that we HAVE received.  In Psalms 126:6 it says that “he who goes to and fro weeping, carrying his sack of seed, shall certainly come again with a shout of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.”  In Luke 8:11 it says that the seed is the word of God.  Ellen White says in Education 253, “Whatever gift He promises, is in the promise itself....as surely as the oak is in the acorn, so surely is the gift of God in His promise.  If we receive the promise we have the gift!”  Let me rephrase Psalms 126:6 according to those statements then, “He who goes to and fro weeping, claiming the promises of God, will certainly come again with a shout of joy, bringing the fulfillment of the promises with him.”

Listen to a few quotes:

“We need to look for no outward evidence of the blessing.  The gift is in the promise.  And we may go about our work assured that what God has promised, He is able to perform and that the gift, which we already possess, will be realized when we need it most.”  Education 258

“So we may ask for these blessings, and believe that we receive them, and thank God that we have received them.”  Steps to Christ  51

“Here is faith, naked faith, to believe that we receive the blessing, even before we realize it.”  Early Writings  72

You let go of the arm of the Lord too soon!  Press your petitions to the throne and hold on by STRONG faith.  THe promises are sure.  Believe you have the things you ask for and you shall have them.  Early Writings 73

“When we have learned to do this,(to pray in faith) we shall KNOW that our prayers are answered.  God will do for us ‘exceeding abundantly’, ‘according to the riches of His glory’, and ‘the working of His mighty power’.”  Desire of Ages  200

“Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.”  Romans 10:11

But, you are saying, “Aren’t there conditions?”.   Yes, there are. 

“He makes it plain that our asking must be according to God’s will...we must ask for things that He has promised.”  Education  258   We must also believe.  Hebrew 11:6  And we must obey Him.  Isaiah 1:19  But “The conditions met, the promise is unequivocal.”  Education  258

So, what is God’s will? 

Matthew 19:5  “....and the two shall be one flesh.  Therefore what God has joined together let no man separate.”   Malachi 2:16 “For I hate divorce says the Lord God of Isreal.”   John 10:10  “The thief (satan) comes only to steal, kill, and destroy but I came that they might have life and might have it abundantly.”    There you have God’s will for my marriage and family.  Clear and simple!

So what has God promised me?

Here are a few:  

Ÿ Jeremiah 31:16-17  “Your work shall be rewarded, declares the Lord, and Corie shall come again from the land of the enemy.  And there is hope for the future of your family, declares the Lord, and Dustin and Brandon shall return to their own home, family and mommy and daddy.”

Ÿ Ezekiel 36:35-36  “And they will say, ‘This desolate marriage has become like the garden of Eden, and their waste, desolate, and ruined family is fortified and inhabited.  Then your family and friends left round about you will know that I, the Lord, have rebuilt the ruined places and planted that which was desolate.  I, the Lord, have spoken and I will do it!”

Ÿ Joel 2:25  “And I will restore to you the years the locusts have eaten...”

Ÿ Genesis 3:15  “I will put enmity between Corie and Eddy....”

Ÿ Hosea 2:6-7  “Therefore I will hedge up Corie’s way with thorns and I will build a wall against her so that she cannot find her paths or wrong goals.  And she will pursue her lovers but she will not overtake them.  She will seek Eddy but she will not find him.  Then she will say, ‘I will go back to Brent for it was better for me then than now!”

Ÿ Ezekiel 36:25-27  Read it.  God is saying He will give Corie a new heart and make her clean from her filthiness and idols.  That He will give her His Spirit and cause her to walk in His statutes and be careful to observe His ordinances.

Ÿ Jeremiah 32:39-42  “And I will give Corie one heart and one way that she may fear me always, for her own good and for the good of Dustin and Brandon.  And I will make an everlasting covenant with her that I will not turn away from her, to do her good and I will put the fear of Me into her so that she will not turn away from Me.  And I will rejoice over Corie to do her good and I will faithfully plant her in her family with all My heart and all My soul.

Ÿ Jeremiah 34:27  “Then you will know that I am the Lord, when I break the bars of Corie’s yoke and deliver her from the hands of those who enslave her.”

Ÿ Jeremiah 31:42   “For thus says the Lord, ‘Just as I brought all this calamity on your family, so I am going to bring all the good that I am promising you.”

I could go on and on with His promises until you were weary of reading them!!!!!!  And I haven’t even mentioned the promise He made to me personally.

Remember, satan has blinded men and taken them captive to do his will.  2 Timothy 2:25-26   2 Corinthians 4:3-4   But God can destroy the devil’s works. 1 John 3:8  No plan of His can be thwarted.  He can (and will) do anything.  Job 42:2

God is able to break down the strongholds of satan when we ask Him to.  I already talked to you about 2 Corinthians 10:3-5.  The weapons in this battle are Divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses.  That word powerful in the Greek is dunatos and is actually one of the New Testament words for miracle.  These weapons will work miracles!!!!!   Of course the dunatos is also where we get the word dynamite.  This stuff is EXPLOSIVE!!!!

With this powerful, miracle working dynamite behind our weapons, we can become demolition agents violently tearing down satan’s strongholds.  

Have you ever watched a building being demolished with a ball and crane?   That is a great example.  Time after time our weapons  smash against satan’s strongholds in an ongoing, one-blow-at-a-time war until they come crashing to the ground!  It is the same in strategically placing dynamite for demolition.  The dynamite is then ignited to destroy the structure in less than 10 seconds.  (Ever hear of a Damascus Road Experience?)   Every time we take up our spiritual weapons and use them against the strongholds of the enemy, we are placing explosive charges in strategic places.  This may take weeks or months.  But sooner or later the Holy Detonator of Heaven is going to say, “Enough!”  There will be a mighty explosion in the spirit and a stronghold will crumble to the ground and a person will fall to their knees!  Awesome!!!!

We must bind the problem!  Declare God’s word and will into the situation by interceding in prayer.  Listen to 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 again from the Living Bible,

“These weapons CAN break down EVERY proud argument against God and EVERY wall that can be built to keep men from finding Him.  With these weapons I CAN capture rebels and bring them back to God, and change them into men whose hearts’ desire is obedience to Christ.”

God doesn’t wish us luck and tell us that we will win a few once in a while.  He lets us know we CAN break down EVERY wall.  We CAN capture rebels and we MUST!  They will humble themselves and bow the knee to Jesus.

God WILL act! 

He is aroused from His holy habitation.  Zechariah 2:13

“He will go forth like a warrior.  He will arouse His zeal like a man of war.  He will utter a shout, yes, He will raise a war cry.  And He will prevail against His enemies.”  Isaiah 42:13

Read all of Jeremiah 23:19-20 where it says He will not turn back until He has performed and carried out the purposes of His heart.   And lastly, Deuteronomy 33:26-29  It is all excellent but listen to this part, “There is no God like your God, Who rides the heavens to your help and through the skies in His majesty!......He drove out the enemy from before you and said, ‘Destroy them!’” 

Just remember Jericho! That was God's battle and there was no human or demon that could have kept that fortress standing.

 Through my prayers the strongholds that satan holds in those I pray for WILL FALL as surely as the fortress of Jericho fell!  As surely as the strongholds that satan held in my mind fell.  When that happens they will be able to see clearly without the devil's blinders.

God is not forcing their will but freeing it so that they DO have freedom of choice!!!!! This action is so powerful that we can't understand it completely because on it hangs God's promises (some of which I just quoted you) that they WILL return from the land of the enemy. Jeremiah 31:16-17 That He WILL deliver them from the traps of satan. Psalms 91:3 He WILL free their will. John 8:36 He WILL turn their mind. Proverbs 21:1 He WILL open their mind to the scriptures. Luke 24:45 He WILL give them his Spirit, a new heart and cause them to walk in His statutes and be careful to observe His laws. Ezekiel 36 He WILL give them a hatred for sin and put enmity between them and satan. Genesis 3:15 Hosea 2:6-7

He WILL deliver them. Ezekiel 34:27 He WILL give them life. (Eternal life!)     1 John 5:16    The bible screams this truth from every corner!

It really hangs on us and our intercession. We are the weak link in the chain! God is faithful to all generations and ready to do what He says He will at all times and in all places. If it is God's will (as this is!) and we meet God's conditions, which are having faith and being obedient, then the promise is certain---sure----absolute. The very existence of His throne stands behind it!!!!!!  Again, Ellen White says, "The conditions met, the promise is unequivocal."  We can claim it like we already possess it, because we do!  The realization of the promise will come in God’s time.

We need to know and love our God so much more!  We need to be still and know..........

Stand still and see the salvation of God!

 

The Ultimate Sacrifice

There is something that often gets passed over in our obsession with love stories.  To give oneself only for your loved ones is so moving and heroic but look into the heart of a dying soldier who is giving his life for his country and there is more.  He is giving up all he holds dearest and breaking the hearts of those he loves closest and best, not just for them but also for those he will never know. His last full measure is for both the grateful and the careless.  His sacrifice encompasses far more than we usually really contemplate.

But it is never in vain. Nothing is lost in this world. Every gift, however small or unnoticed, comes back one hundred fold. The cycles of life testify to it. The truth is too compelling and powerful to be hidden. Plant a seed and watch the result. How can it be any different if the gift is your life? Such a gift contemplates the extreme of this principle. It also must complete the circle of life—the circle of love—and cannot be lost or die. The very essence of the act attests to its immortality. Other-centeredness brings life. Self-centeredness spawns death. That is what is so hopeful to me about these seeming tragedies.

The sacrifice for friend and nation is so compelling isn’t it! . I think it goes even deeper than this though. It cuts to the objective nature of truth in our hearts—the contrast of darkness against light. A great example of this is what happens with young boys and tales of knights and dragons. These stories give the most effective challenge a young boy could be given. It throws down the question, “How will you live your life?” It exclaims, “There is real evil and there is transcendent good—would you risk your life for good—for all that is noble, pure and honorable?” It gives him a thrilling glimpse of light.

So though other centeredness is at the root of our sacrifice, it goes beyond our love for family, friend and nation. I think it embraces also our love for God and who He is—and consequently doing what is noble, pure and honorable because we love Him and righteousness more than life.

"I go to my fathers, in whose mighty company I shall not now feel ashamed."
                                                                                        -Theoden on the Pelennor Fields

 

Sex and the New Covenant

Recently I have been thinking about the role of women in marriage and in the church.  My understanding to this point has led me to think that, although a man should be a servant leader, a woman is required to submit to him in a hierarchical type of way—in a way a man is not required to submit to a woman.  But as I am beginning to better understand the circle of other=centeredness or servant life-giving that is part of the endless cycles of God's love, I am starting to change my point of view a little.  

There can be no mistaking that men and women are built differently and have different strengths and inherent abilities even though they differ from person to person.  These differences between the sexes are illustrated everywhere in nature and there are great insights to be found in them.  However, to say that we have different strengths and roles to play in life doesn’t make us unequal or place one over the other in any way.

One of the greatest illustrations of those differences and how they compliment each other is the dynamic way in which each partner in marriage plays a crucial part in the whole.  In Wild at Heart, John Eldredge touches on this:

The man comes to offer his strength and the woman invites the man into herself, an act that requires courage and vulnerability and selflessness for both of them.  Notice first that if the man will not rise to the occasion, nothing will happen.  He must move his strength must swell before he can enter her.  But neither will the love consummate unless the woman opens herself in stunning vulnerability.  When both are living as they were meant to live, the man enters his woman and offers her his strength.  He spills himself there, in her, for her; she draws him in, embraces and envelops him.  When all is over he is spent; but ah, what a sweet death it is.  And that is how life is created. 

Although from the beginning of time there has been a hierarchical order in which men dominated women, the coming of Christ and the new covenant brought a new order of things—a renewal of the things lost when we broke the covenant.  The old barriers in the relationship of male and females are transformed in a new order. By his statement in Galations 3:28 it is clear that Paul believed in this new order.   Some new and revolutionary things happened in the new order.  God wrote his love upon our hearts and minds where we could live it out His love in a natural way.  As the fullness of love, or other-centeredness, came to us, our understanding of relationships in this world had to change too.  Gentiles, slaves and women now stood on equal footing with Jews, free men, and males as fellow members of the new order. The Kingdom makes no provision for second-class citizens.  

In light of this, if there is to be a submission of women, it cannot be the same submission (or subjection) that destroys the equality between a serf and a king.  In other words, not the submission we have known and grown up with.

William P. Young explains this concept stunningly in his book, The Shack:

At the fall men and women turned from God and abandoned a relationship with Him to assert their own independence.  Men turned to themselves and the work of their hands but women turned to men or another relationship.  The man’s response was to rule over her, to take power over her, to become her ruler.  Before this she found her identity, her security, and her understanding of good and evil in God.  Man was not made to be all those things for woman.  He was not made to be her ruler.  In attempting to become her identity, security, and understanding he is playing God!

 

One thing that helped me think more critically about this interplay between the sexes was a deeper understanding of what Paul meant by headship in his writings.  Gilbert Bilezikian says it clearly:

Sometimes, the word head in this text (1 Corinthians 11:3) is carelessly infused with its meaning in the English language to obtain this hierarchical order: God head over Christ--Christ head over man--man head over woman. This top-down vertical chain of command would then go as follows: God-Christ-man-woman.

However, such results are obtained by manipulating the biblical text. In order to make the text say what the Scripture does not teach in this passage, its three clauses must be taken out of their original sequence and rearranged. The Apostle Paul knows exactly how to structure hierarchies in perfect descending order (see 12:28, for instance). In 1 Cor. 11:3, he is not structuring a hierarchy. In keeping with the theme developed in the immediate context, Paul is discussing the traditional significance of origination. The sequence that links the three clauses is not hierarchy but chronology. At creation, Christ was the giver of life to men as the source of the life of Adam ("by him all things were created" Col. 1:16}. In turn, man gave life to the woman as she was taken from him. Then, God gave life (through the woman) to the Son as he came into the world for the incarnation. When the biblical sequence of the three clauses is not tampered with, the consistent meaning of head in this verse is that of a servant function as provider of life. (or source of life)

Head is used figuratively in relation to the body only in the five references surveyed above and always with the meaning of servant provider, never with that of authority. When the New Testament metaphor of headship is understood generically and is protected from corruption by meanings foreign to the text, it describes perfectly the relation of Christ to the church and of husband to wife as servant life-givers. The fall had made of Adam ruler over the woman (Gen. 3:16). Christ makes of husbands servants to their wives in their relationship of mutual submission (Eph. 5:21). For this reason, I believe in male headship, but strictly in its New Testament definition.

Those are incredibly powerful and mind blowing thoughts!  This is not about taking power.  It is about giving life.  This application of love within our marriages is just a little of what Jesus gave us back at the cross!

Our earthly systems are all about hierarchy and chain of command.  But Paul’s description in Ephesians 5 is not embracing those systems.  It is contrasting them.  Love and submission are not hierarchical and are all about giving life to the beloved other.  (A beautiful example of this is that out of God came a man and out of man came a woman and out of a woman came God.  Love comes back full circle.)  Headship only indicates the source or spring of love.  To understand this concept is to totally change our understanding of our interaction with each other. 

Love is the great equalizer.   In this paradigm God would not be above his creation even though He is at its head or source.  Love, being a cycle of mutual submission, puts God in a place where He submits to His beloved and they submit to Him.  Looking at it that way, submission is not about authority or obedience; it is all about a relationships of love and respect.  The God of the universe is submitted to us in the same way that we are submitted to Him.

That doesn’t mean that God isn’t still our lord.  There is a difference between headship and lordship.  They are not synonymous.  Lordship puts God in a position of hierarchical authority over us but is differentiated from headship.  They are not the same in our relationships either.  Paul says that man is the head of the woman but nowhere does he say he is lord of the woman.  Instead, they mutually submit to one another in ways that compliment each other and this is how life is breathed into the relationship. 

I have already alluded that love, as God would have us understand it in the new covenant, implies the concept of mutual submission.  It is an other-centered cycle.  There is a readiness to give up your will for the sake of the beloved. (other)  There can be no love without submission.  Submission is the natural outflow of love. Love is the supreme obligation which members of the new creation owe each other (Rom. 13:8, 10) and which characterizes their mode of existence.   

As I said at the beginning, this takes on different expression depending on position, gender and personality, but it is still the same thing.  For example, I have always taught my boys the 4 pillars of manhood: To be a King or provider, a Warrior or protector, a Friend or lover, and a Mentor or teacher.  But, when I first started to understand this, it struck me that a woman is all of those things too!  Just in a different way!   

This (headship) is about being a servant life giver.  The man is a provider of life but the woman gives it back which makes her an equal participant as a provider of life.  Neither one is in any way above the other although they may have different parts to play.  In giving life to others we continue to complete the great circle of love.

 So really, it is not what Paul said to women in Ephesians 5 that is revolutionary.  It is what he said to men—a call for husbands to enter into a relationship of subjection with their wives.   Paul emphasized the sexual distinction between men and women but it was not about superiority and inferiority or dominance and submission as an authority structure between them. 

If you think about it, God engineered this equality right from the beginning.  Again, William P. Young says it well in The Shack:

From the first day God hid the woman within the man, so that at the right time He could remove her from within him.  God didn’t create man to live alone; she was purposed from the beginning.  By taking her out of him, he birthed her in a sense.  God created a circle of relationship, like His own, but for humans.  She, out of him, and now all males, including Jesus, birthed through her, and all originating, or birthed, from God.

If the female had been created first, there would have been no circle of relationship, and thus no possibility of a fully equal face-to-face relationship between the male and the female!

 So we are equal and submission is equal in God’s new order.  The old authoritarian barriers have been removed and Ephesians 5:21-33 stands in continuity with Galatians 3:28 and flows out of it.  If this can be understood clearly, Paul’s other statements on how men and women should worship can be understood more readily. 

 The conclusion of an article by Fred D. Layman really nails the heart of what I have come to see:

“Paul understood headship to mean that man was the source of woman and woman had her origin from man according to Genesis 2:18-25. The idea of headship does not serve a governmental function for Paul but is a basis for his claim, asserted against certain gnostic counterclaims, that sexual differences and marriage have a continuing role in the new order, in the purposes of God.

The hierarchical interpretation cannot be squared with Galatians 3:28.  Women still face the same hierarchical positioning that they have had from creation.  But the new covenant and order attempts to rectify the situation.  There is no way one can still speak of equality between the sexes and yet retain divinely appointed governmental structures which require a uniform submission of women and a dominant role by men.

One is on firm biblical grounds to insist upon male-female dualism and the complementarity which exists between the sexes. Biologically men and women both resemble and differ. How far differences extend into the psychological sphere is debated and generalizations at that point are always suspect. Nonetheless, sexual distinctions in no way affect sexual equality in Christ and the new creation. There may very well be pragmatic reasons for role assignments and employee selection-education, training, experience, physical ability, etc.-but such decisions cannot appeal to a biblical base for an ordered subordination of women to men, if Paul's concept of headship is in view.”

I guess the wonder of all this is the insight it gives me into love.  A byproduct is an acceptance in my heart of women as leaders and pastors in the church—women freed to pursue God’s call in their lives.  This viewpoint clears up some things in my mind that I intuitively knew were right but couldn't put flesh on the way I understood things. 

I think in light of these concepts, traditional interpretations of the headship and submission statements in the Pauline letters run into serious problems if looked at closely.  The details would be too lengthy to include here but if you are interested in bending your mind that direction sometime this article pretty much nails the crux of it.  

For the articles of Gilbert Bilezikian and Fred D. Layman:

http://www.cbeinternational.org/new/free_articles/male_headship.shtml

http://wesley.nnu.edu/wesleyan_theology/theojrnl/11-15/15-04.htm