Christianity 201

July 19, 2018

Slimeball Sibling (How Not to React When a Brother Reaps What He Has Sown)

by Clarke Dixon

How do you respond when someone suffers a mess of their own making? Do you find your attitude is different when it is one of your own, when a loved one suffers the consequence of bad or even immoral decision? Are you gracious and understanding or do you say “I told you so”?

When foolish people are brought down, we might cut them some slack: “there may be reasons, pressures and influences that we know nothing about”. Or we might think “good, they are getting what they deserve”. Sometimes we are gracious and sometimes we add to the pain the already suffer.

In the Bible we are given an example of how not to be a brother. Back in Genesis we read about two brothers, Esau and Jacob. Esau’s descendants were the Edomites. Jacob’s descendants were the Israelites which split into two kingdoms, Israel to the North and Judah to the South. The Edomites were neighbours and relatives to the the people of Judah when Babylon came along and destroyed Jerusalem and the temple. Here is what the Lord had to say to the Edomites through the prophet Obadiah:

10 “Because of the violence you did
to your close relatives in Israel [Hebrew is “your brother Jacob],
you will be filled with shame
and destroyed forever.
11 When they were invaded,
you stood aloof, refusing to help them.
Foreign invaders carried off their wealth
and cast lots to divide up Jerusalem,
but you acted like one of Israel’s enemies.
12 “You should not have gloated
when they exiled your relatives to distant lands.
You should not have rejoiced
when the people of Judah suffered such misfortune.
You should not have spoken arrogantly
in that terrible time of trouble.
13 You should not have plundered the land of Israel
when they were suffering such calamity.
You should not have gloated over their destruction
when they were suffering such calamity.
You should not have seized their wealth
when they were suffering such calamity.
14 You should not have stood at the crossroads,
killing those who tried to escape.
You should not have captured the survivors
and handed them over in their terrible time of trouble. Obadiah 1:10-14 (NLT)

Out of all the nations, Edom was the closest in blood relationship to the suffering people of Jerusalem. According to the prophet Obadiah, the Edomites ought to have helped rather than heaping on more hurt. Edom acted more like an enemy rather than a brother. Do we serve up opportunities for healing, or dish out further hurt? When our loved ones mess up, do they feel they can come to us? Does our presence feel like a safe place, where they can experience grace and growth? Or does coming to us just feel like yet another war zone?

“But they deserve it!” That might be our next thought. However, Judah deserved the consequences. God had said all along that if He was kept in the picture, He would be in the picture. But if not, then the people were on their own among stronger empires bent on expansion. Judah messed up and paid the consequences. Yet Scripture records that Edom still did the wrong thing in heaping on more hurt rather than helping. When fallen loved ones reap what they have sown, it is better for us to focus on what we are sowing rather than on what they are reaping. We have the opportunity to sow good seeds of “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23 NLT). We have the opportunity to help.

So we ought to be gracious to loved ones when they suffer the consequences of their misdeeds, but we can stick it to to everyone else, right? Not so fast. Esau and Jacob parted ways long before Edom heaped hurt on Judah. In fact well over a thousand years had passed which makes these “brothers” very distant relatives indeed! God expected Edom to be helpful rather than hurtful despite that distance.

How big is our family? Those of us who are Christians are part of a very large family. Having been adopted into the family of God we have brothers and sisters in Christ all around the world. Many of them may seem distant. Some of them might seem odd. Some of them might even make us want to shake our heads in disgust. Nevertheless, are we giving space for healing when we see a brother or sister in Christ suffer a mess of their own making?

Our family is actually even bigger than that; much, much, bigger:

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. Ephesians 3:14-15 (NRSV)

Never mind just loving our relatives, Jesus taught us to love our enemies as well!

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven … Matthew 5:43-45 (NRSV)

Not only did Jesus teach it, he did it:

For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. Romans 5:10 (NLT)

Fact is, you have never had an enemy you are not related to.

How can we start living out this message from Obadiah? Since we tend to be more gracious and understanding toward our own, we can start by treating everyone like one of our own. When people get themselves into a mess of their own making, ask, “what if it was my son or daughter, mother, father, brother, sister? What if it was the person I most admire and love in the world?” Keeping in mind the Golden Rule we can also ask “what if it was me? Would I want everyone saying ‘serves you right’ or could I use a good friend right now?”

We know that love for family is important. Being gracious and understanding is part of that. We get that. We want to help rather than cause further hurt. What we tend to forget is just how big our family really is. Love for family is super important. Grace within family is super important. You have a big, big family.


Clarke Dixon is the Pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Cobourg, Ontario, Canada. (I also got to hear this sermon preached live at Clarke’s church!)

Listen to the audio of the full sermon on which this based (32 minutes).

clarkedixon.wordpress.com

July 5, 2015

Blessed Are…

“Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 5:3)

Here are two different takes on the Beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount. If you are not familiar with the full text, or wish to do some comparison, click here.

Author and theologian Monika Hellwig gives us the following:

  1. The poor in spirit know they are in need and can’t help themselves.
  2. The poor in spirit know not only their dependence on God and on powerful people but also their interdependence with others.
  3. The poor in spirit rest their security not on things but on people.
  4. The poor in spirit have no exaggerated sense of their own importance and no exaggerated need of privacy.
  5. The poor in spirit are less interested in competition and more interested in cooperation.
  6. The poor in spirit instinctively appreciate family, love and relationships over things.
  7. The poor in spirit can wait, because they have learned patience.
  8. The fears of the poor in spirit are more realistic and exaggerate less, because they already know they can survive great suffering and want.
  9. When the poor in spirit have the gospel preached to them, it sounds like good news and not like a threatening or scolding.
  10. The poor in spirit can respond to the call of the gospel with a certain abandonment and uncomplicated totality because they have so little to lose and are ready for anything.

~found in files; original source unknown; one blog notes a citation in The Jesus I Never Knew by Philip Yancey.

The Beatitude Creed:

I believe that the poor in spirit will inherit the kingdom of Heaven.
I believe there will be comfort for those who mourn.
I believe that being meek is a good thing and that those who give everything will inherit the earth.
I believe that those whose heart is set on seeking righteousness will find it.
I believe the merciful will receive more than they think they deserve.
I believe the pure in heart will be blessed and will see God.
I believe that those who long for peace and do more than others think is safe are children of the living God.
I believe in a place of safety for those who are hurt for trying to do the right thing.

I believe that being poor, and ignored and weak, and sick and tired and broken and messed up and kicked around is not as spiritually dangerous as being self-satisfied and clever and well-clothed and well-fed and degreed and creed-ed and important.

~posted July 17th, 2008 at A Life Reviewed blog – Joe and Heather live in Coventry in the English West Midlands

August 28, 2013

God’s Default Design for Marriage

With so much discussion taking place these days about marriage, it is important for believers to be firmly grounded on this subject when it arises. This appeared at the blog Faithviews; as always you’re encouraged to read at source.

The Divine Pattern of Marriage

By Nancy Eskijian

Nancy Eskijian is Senior Pastor of Bread of Life Foursquare Gospel Church in Los Angeles, California, and author of Restoration NOW!, nominated for 2012 Christian Small Publisher Book of the Year. Her latest book, Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Sex and Gender and the Bible, What’s Hot and What’s Not According to Scripture, deals with the issues of same-sex attraction, abortion, gay marriage and other issues affecting today’s culture.  Along with being a pastor in an inner city church, Nancy worked for several years as a lawyer in the position of Vice President and Senior Counsel for a major Southern California corporation. Visit www.RestorationNowMinistry.com for more information.

marriage         Much has been written about the Supreme Court of the United States opening the door for same sex couples to marry. While any nation may pass civil laws and call same sex unions “marriage,” enabling rights and privileges under the law, such unions have little in common with the Biblical significance, intention and definition of marriage. For those of us who believe in the God of the Bible as the originator and Creator of life, then we accept that everything flows from Him, and all relationships have a spiritual dimension, especially marriage. In the beginning God created man in His image. Genesis 1:27 – 28 (NKJV) states: 27So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply.”

Let’s ponder that statement for a moment: gender is part of the very image of God, and that is why it is so important and non-negotiable. We also see that God blessed them, male and female, as individuals and as a unit, with the charge to be fruitful and multiply. There are many things we can have and be in this life, but not everything is blessed. In the scripture, we see God blessed their individual identity and unity, releasing them to multiply and exercise dominion, as the rest of the scripture goes.

In Genesis 2:23, the creation of woman and the origin of marriage are described further and merged together.  God put Adam into a deep sleep and took a rib out of Adam’s side.  Genesis 2:23—“23And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man 24Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.”   That’s why husbands are to love their wives for no man hates his own flesh.  The oneness means that she is physically part of him. It’s now personal—the woman is taken out of his side.

Jesus Himself reiterated the Genesis scriptures in Mark 10:6 – 9 (NKJV) 6But from the beginning of the creation, God ‘made them male and female.’ 7‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, 8and the two shall become one flesh’; so then they are no longer two, but one flesh. 9Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.”

Here are a few important points that express God’s order, intent and revelation in marriage from a Biblical perspective:

1.  From the beginning of creation, God created male and female, and He physically designed them to be joined together and they reflect His image. He blessed their gender and unity as “one flesh,” forming a new creative order. Similarly, when we come to the Lord we merge with His body spiritually through the Holy Spirit and become a new creation, His body, and bride, under the new covenant, taken out of His side, the second Adam.

2. The married couple leaves family of origin to start something new. The Lord sets out a personal governmental order, the family unit, with husband and wife, mother and father, if there are children.  The man departs from one home to create another governmental structure with himself and his wife.  As believers, we leave an old life to be merged in Christ for a new life under a new headship.

3.  As the man cleaves to his wife, neither is to be self-identified any more, but instead identified with the new family unit. This is an important spiritual point, too, as we enter into Christ. We are no longer just self-identified, but part of Him under the new covenant.  Marriage reflects the divine purpose of God to form a new covenantal order.

4.  The family unit is where the Lord sets out human sexual order, because it unites God-ordained and God-designed creations, for sexual relations, and to be fruitful and multiply.

5.  Reproductive order:  A new creation has occurred (man and woman as one) to give birth in the natural to other new creations (babies), just as Christ is married to His church, (a new creation), and that union expands His family (spiritual babies).

6.  God’s stamp of approval is on marriage because it reflects a divine pattern of Christ and His church. So, the union reflects a divine order.

In short, the human covenant of marriage, as revealed in scripture, expresses a deeper spiritual pattern. It has roots in heaven just as other profound realities in the Bible. God’s relationship to His covenantal people, Israel, is described in the Old Testament of the Bible as marriage. The relationship of Christ and His church is described in terms of marriage.  There is the marriage supper of the Lamb. The New Testament instructs husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her. The mystery of marriage is the mystery of Christ and His church:  Ephesians 5:31 – 32 (KJV) 31For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. 32This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.” That doesn’t mean that marriages are perfect. It just means that the pattern is perfect, expressing something on earth as it is in heaven.

The earthly relationship of marriage is a reflection of a divine pattern, for unity, fruitfulness, fulfillment, responsibility, and a divine covenant. In fact, all of creation and redemption (God’s act of love to give us a new life through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ) is reflected in the marriage relationship and covenant.  This simply cannot be altered by men and women in black robes or by popular vote.

June 8, 2012

The Right Kind of Family Fight: Fight For Your Family

Mark O. Wilson, author of Filled Up, Poured Out, which I reviewed a few weeks ago, posted this at his blog the week after Mother’s Day under the title Kilkenny Cats and the Home Squabble.

“The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands, the foolish one tears hers down.” Proverbs 14:1

I used this verse in my sermon last Sunday, reminding the mothers to build up the house. Of course, this doesn’t apply to mothers. Anybody who lives in a house is responsible for the upbuilding.

Wisdom builds the house. Foolishness tears it down.

When we fail to think before we speak and act, we’re likely to tear the house down. We’ve been given two ears and one mouth, and they should be used in that proportion.

Sometimes, in a passion to say right things, we say things wrong and hurt people. We’re wrong in our rightness, and unwilling to budge an inch in spirit. I think this is at the heart of the polarization in our state and nation. People are eager to share their opinions, but few are humble and patent enough to take the time to listen and understand others.

Too many homes are marked by unhealthy conflict and misunderstanding. Sometimes, it’s just a slow simmer of frustration. Frequently, it leads to checking out, and giving less than one’s best. Occasionally, it erupts into full-scale, brutal warfare. In the squabble, hurtful and destructive things are spoken that can never been undone. Rash words in a fit of anger can destroy the very fabric of the relationship.

As the old rhyme goes:

There once were two cats of Kilkenny.
Each thought there was one cat too many.
So they fought and they fit,,
And they scratched and they bit
‘Til excepting their nails
And the tips of their tails,
Instead of two cats there weren’t any.

Perhaps this is why Proverbs 19:11 reminds us it is “to one’s glory to overlook an offense.”

It’s very possible to win the battle (argument) and lose the war (relationship.) Here’s a question: Is what we’re fighting over worth the fight?

Occasionally, it is. Sometimes, there is a significant principle or human right at stake, and only a good fight will set it straight. However, most of the time, our conflicts are over lesser things. We let our selfishness stand in the way, then hold stubbornly to our opinions as a “matter of honor.” Little issues become major eruptions when we stake our significance on them.

Conflict is an emotional state, and the issue will not be resolved when either party is in that state. You can’t argue someone out of it. The only way to help another person move from the state of conflict is through kindness and patient understanding.

Argument may force the other person into a corner, forcing him to agree – but it will only be a surface agreement, and definitely not be an agreement of hearts. As the old adage goes, “A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.”

Here’s an idea: fight FOR your family instead of fighting against them. What dreams and hopes to you have for your family? What actions can you take to gently move in that direction? If you don’t do anything different, you will keep following the same path with the same patterns. I appreciate Andy Stanley’s observation, “Direction, not intention, equals destination.”

Weigh your words. Bite your tongue. Think twice. Then, as Colossians 4:6 says, “let your conversation be full of grace, seasoned with salt so that you ay know how to answer everyone.”

~Mark O. Wilson

May 22, 2012

Song of Songs (Song of Solomon): What’s it ‘Really’ About?

“I am the rose of Sharon,
The lily of the valleys.”

“He has brought me to his banquet hall,
And his banner over me is love.”

~Song 2:1 & 4 (NASB)

Remember the old Certs commercial? “It’s a candy mint. It’s a breath mint. No, it’s two, two, two mints in one.”  Do we apply this logic to the book of Song of Solomon? Can it be about the love relationship between a man and a woman and be about the relationship between Christ and his bride, the church?

I’ve always leaned toward the latter view. The best explanation is that within the Godhead we have a relational model — God is three in one — and we see dynamics of that relationship in various parts of both the old covenant and new covenant scriptures.

But lately, it seems like every radio, TV, internet and megachurch speaker is doing a sermon about sex.  Someone has observed that the church needs to talk more about sex, but pastors need to talk about it less.  Suddenly a host of subjects that would never be mentioned in the church gym on a Thursday night are getting addressed from the pulpit on Sunday morning; and books that Christian bookstores might not have carried a few years ago are being displayed front and center. The sex pendulum is currently swinging away from the place of balance, leaving people asking, “Why can’t the pastor just speak about Galatians like he used to?”

So how do we interpret this book which our forebears chose to include in the canon of scripture?   I was glad to see Dave Bish address this a few days ago…

Six reasons for a Christological reading of the Song of Songs

I’m persuaded that The Song of Songs has a BOTH-AND meaning. It has much to say about marriage and also much to say about the True and Greatest Marriage, the Typical Marriage, the Real that all marriages echo and shadow – the marriage of Christ and his people. Because:

#1 Marriage is really about Christ.
This is Paul’s argument in Ephesians 5. Really, he’s talking about Christ and the church, though he’s talking about marriage. That doesn’t mean husband’s and wives don’t apply Ephesians 5 to their marriages, but that they’re meant to finally look to Christ and his church. The greater and eternal marriage sets the stage for our smaller and temporal human marriages.

#2 History
By far the dominant reading of this book historically is to take it Typologically, pointing to Christ. This is to say we’ve got really got to it’s meaning, intention or application if we’ve not heard it speak of Christ’s love for his people. We might draw a true word for human relationships but the road goes further. Sometimes Typological commentators slip into fanciful allegory – but those who leave the song in the human bedroom do the same! To say it’s *just* about human marriage a popular view today, but is the minority view in the story of the church. The Reformers, Puritans and Church Fathers, Edwards and Spurgeon were not bad handlers of the Bible. They were persuaded that Christ casts his shadow over all of it.

#3 The Language of The Song

This isn’t just love poetry it’s love poetry about a Shepherd King and the one he loves, with wilderness and myrrh, about ‘the lover of my soul’ and love that’s strong as death. The Song is written in the language of the Pentateuch, the language of the LORD’s relationship with his people.  It’s not just any old poetic language and imagery, it’s gospel-laden.

#4 The Beauty of Christ
Christ is beautiful and we need the wasfs of The Song, the love poems that call us to dwell upon the beauty of Christ, to let our hearts sing of him. Human marriage needs the intense contemplation of poetry too, but so does the church’s relationship with her Saviour.

#5 He loves us
Some are reluctant to speak of this, suggesting it’s not substantial enough or is subjective etc. The Love of Christ for his people, demonstrated at the cross, won at the cross, flowing from the eternal love of the Trinity is unmatched and has to be sung of forever. The Song gives words for this relationship – and we do sing it even when we might not realise it. “For I am his and he is mine”, “Altogether lovely”. The Song serves, in this, as an antidote for individualism because it invites our first thought to be of Christ and the church, though Galatians 2:20 tells us he also loves ME, leading careful exegetes to say that The Song does speak of the church but also of each of her members.

#6 The Divine Romance
Martin Luther lifts his language for the gospel from the genre of The Song, Hosea and Ezekiel to speak of the King who marries a prostitute. Why should divine romance OK from Hosea, Ezekiel and Psalm 45 but then not The Song? Jesus is the husband to the church, who has a divine jealousy for us – whose love burns when we’re seduced away, whose love laid down his life for us, whose love is our hope. Human marriage has union between husband and wife because there is union with Christ through the gospel…

~Dave Bish


*Note, the word wasfs in Dave’s 4th point is not a typo, see here and here.  It refers to an enumeration of the physical traits of a bride and groom. 

Looking for more of this type of article?  Here’s six approaches to the story of Joseph; there are more “six” articles at Dave’s blog.

April 27, 2010

God’s Eyes Are On The Loners

It’s been a hectic day.   I’d like to say that I could do a post each day on this particular blog on things that God has shown me from His Word that day, but sometimes reality sets in.    The thing is, I want this to be a blog of substance; a collection of posts which separate it from the crowd, so to speak.

So as I scrolled through my personal bookmarks — which list about 150 or so blogs — I asked myself, “Where do I look today for depth?”   That’s when I knew right away I wanted to share something from Kevin Rogers’ blog Orphan Age.   This post, although it’s from this week, is a kind of signature post for the blogs title.

God’s eyes are watching loners.  He is the shepherd who leaves a flock of ninety-nine in the care of another and travels to find the one-hundredth sheep that wandered away and was lost.

He is the Father who watches and waits for broken rebels to humble themselves and return home to His endearing love and unmerited acceptance.

God is a father to orphans and a new husband to widows.  The societal separation, abandonment and sudden loss create a lack of belonging.  The loneliness of orphans becomes their new identity.  Where will the widow and orphan belong?    Who will provide for them?  Who will be their protector?

God not only finds loners but calls them to belong to His family.  He adopts and marries the ones misunderstood, rejected and divorced from their own family of origin.

His presence in a life can sometimes cause difficulty and separation from your roots.  The sins of the fathers affect the family down to the great-grandchildren.  But God’s blessing goes further in unlimited potential.