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Monday, December 31, 2012

Best of 2012

I thought I'd take a review and see how the year went. You know ... on the last day of the year. First, I added Dan as an author this year. Dan added 11 entries to the blog out of a total of 377 entries. Thus, I hit my target of one per day and exceeded it. Now I need to make a target of one quality entry per day. Too high? Perhaps.

Note: I used the website's tools to compile some results. (That is, actual results may vary.)

In terms of people viewing the entries, the hands-down winner this year was my April 1st post on Amazing Grace. That garnered 524 views, 261 more than the number 2 on the list. Interestingly, it managed to pull not one single comment. So what does that tell me? Number 2 was titled The Upside of Porn (in which I explained "there is no upside of porn"). It got 263 views and 2 whole comments. Number 3 and Number 4 tied with 181 views each. The first was February 11th's The Bible on Sex III and the next was June 7th's Definition of Marriage. You can imagine why, eh? Indeed, while the former drew 8 comments, the latter drew 33. That's actually a pretty high comment count for my blog.

After those entries, Forgetful from March 16th got 169 views and A Short Post on May 31 actually garnered 163 views. Is that a cry for "Please, Stan, shorter posts!"? Forgetful addressed the subject of whether or not God actually forgets sins. No one commented, so it must have been indisputable, right? (Yeah, right.) A Short Post was on the difference between Satan's approach -- "Take it all and surrender nothing" -- and God's approach -- "Surrender all and receive the Me." In total there were around 18,000 views of the 377 posts. Understanding that some of them were my own, I think I'm still pleased with that.

In terms of comments, the post with the most comments was in November. Calling Out Christians (understandably) got the largest number of comments -- 88 in all. Interestingly, it had 110 views. It would appear that it was viewed only slightly more than it was commented on. That suggests that it was viewed as much as it was primarily because people would go back to comment. Number 2 on the comment hit parade was Defining Marriage on June 5th. As you can imagine, there were 52 comments there. And this may come as a shock to many of my regular readers (you two know who you are), but it was not primarily Dan Trabue in this conversation. Interesting, eh? Overall there were some 2100 comments in the last year. I don't think I'll be breaking any Internet records or anything, but I'm satisfied with the interaction.

So, as always, tops on both view and comment lists seemed to be posts on sex. Imagine that. The series on the Bible on Sex (there were three of those) got a lot of hits. The various entries against redefining marriage to something brand new got a lot of comments. Interestingly, the topic of the Sovereignty of God grabbed a lot of attention, too. I can't really say why. Don't have the tools here to determine why. And it would appear that Dan has a following because his posts rated pretty high in the view count listings even if there weren't a lot of comments on them. Thanks, Dan.

Thanks to all my readers. I joke about how few there are, but I'm sure there are more than I realize. Thanks to all of those who have commented. You've assisted in bringing out more in the topics than was originally there. I hope that you've been blessed by what I've written. Some may have been blessed by examining it and figuring out I was wrong, but that's okay, too. And I pray that you will be blessed in the coming year, with or without my work. But that's because you'll need it ... and we serve a good God.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Isaiah 9:6 - Prince of Peace

The Child promised to us in Isaiah 9:6 has several titles. The last is "The Prince of Peace".

The first Hebrew word is the standard word for "ruler, chief, head person", and, of course, the word for "peace" as everyone should know (or guess) is shalom. The word, however, is a little more interesting than you might think. It means most literally "safe". It references being well, happy, friendly. You see, we are at peace when we are safe, well, happy.

Thus, Christ is the prince -- the Son born to the throne -- of peace. He is the author of peace. He is the provider of safety. He is the reason to be happy. Or "blessed", as it is so often stated in Scripture.

This title, "Prince of Peace", is particularly helpful in our day (although I don't suppose it has been any less so in prior days). When life around might not look "safe", when times aren't so "happy", when we don't really see a reason for "peace", we can know that we serve the Prince of peace. It is "the peace that passes understanding".

He is the Prince of Peace first by His position as possessing all authority. While you and I may question the character and wisdom and good intentions of those in immediate authority, the truth is that Jesus told us that "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me" (Matt 28:18). As genuine Prince, then, He has all authority, and as Prince of Peace, His authority provides the ultimate safety in an unsafe world.

He is Prince of Peace most importantly in His death and resurrection.
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 us both one and has broken down in His flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that He might create in Himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility (Eph 2:13-16).
He is our peace. He doesn't merely provide it. He is it. He broke down the dividing wall between Jew and Gentile and between God and Man. Because of our Prince of Peace, God is able to cease hostilities with His creation on account of sin.

Peace is no small issue in Scripture. Jesus is "the king of peace" (Heb 7:2). Peace is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22). We are not to worry about anything, but pray about everything with thanksgiving so that the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ (Phil 4:6-7). We know that, "since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (Rom 5:1), that "to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace" (Rom 8:6), and that "the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit" (Rom 14:17). We are commanded, in fact, to make peace a guiding principle in our hearts (Col 3:15). Peter tells us "Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it (1 Peter 3:10-11).

Peace is a pretty big deal. It's is a major component of the Christian life. It is rooted in the peace we have with God. It is our guiding principle, our calling (Col 3:15), a prime directive. Paul prays, "Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace at all times in every way" (2 Thess 3:16). So, in a world that is not at peace among a people who are not at peace in an economic and political climate that is not one of peace, we have the Prince of Peace, the ultimate source, the ruler of peace -- as good as it can possibly be. On the edge of the new year, I echo Paul's prayer:
Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace at all times in every way.

Saturday, December 29, 2012


I recently wrote about orthopraxy and orthodoxy. One is right practice; the other is right doctrine. In an unintentionally continued theme of theologist's terminology, another concept I'd like to look at is exegesis and eisegesis. Time to learn new terms.

Exegesis refers to a critical explanation of a text. By "critical" I don't mean "in a criticizing manner", but an approach that examines the text for whatever it might have to tell you. The term can technically be applied to a study of Homer's Iliad (as an example) or the like, but is typically reserved for religious writings. You know, like the Bible. What does it say? The point is to examine the text and its context to determine what it means.

Eisegesis is another animal somewhat related to exegesis. Exegesis (from the Greek meaning "to lead out") means to draw out of a text the meaning. Eisegesis comes from the same Greek root word but means "to lead into". It describes a process of textual interpretation that reads meaning into a text rather than out of the text. A quick example comes from the Mormons. They believe we are to become actual Gods (outside the text). They read "You are gods, And all of you are sons of the Most High" (Psa 82:6) and say, "See? There it is!" Of course, it isn't there. The only way to conclude that is to start with the premise and then ... read it in.

Let's look at another current comparison of the two. The topic? What does the Bible say about homosexual behavior? You may be surprised to learn that there are some who say, "Nothing! It says nothing at all!" And here is their reasoning. All biblical references to homosexual behavior are in terms of religious events. Now, before you jump on it, look at this reasoning. First there is the Lev 18:22 reference: "You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination." What is the context? "Do not defile yourselves by any of these things; for by all these the nations which I am casting out before you have become defiled" (Lev 18:24). There, see? That's why Leviticus 18:22 is preceded by Leviticus 18:21 -- "Neither shall you give any of your offspring to offer them to Molech, nor shall you profane the name of your God; I am the LORD." The problem is not homosexual behavior. The problem is that it is the religious practice of the nations around them ... which is the problem. Not buying it? Look at the next one. "If there is a man who lies with a male as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed a detestable act; they shall surely be put to death" (Lev 20:13). The context? "I will also set My face against that man and will cut him off from among his people, because he has given some of his offspring to Molech, so as to defile My sanctuary and to profane My holy name" (Lev 20:3). See? The context is idol worship.

"Now wait," you say, "that's a stretch." Is it? Look at Romans 1. You know the passage that refers to women "abandoning the natural function" and "men with men committing indecent acts." Sure! But do you know that the text begins with "For this reason"? What reason? "They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator" (Rom 1:25). Well, there you have it! It's not a matter of all homosexual behavior being sinful. It's a matter of homosexual behavior practiced for religious purposes as sinful. That's why Paul wrote about those who "exchanged the natural function" you see. They went against their natures -- heterosexual -- and performed homosexual behaviors as a function of idolatrous activities. Clear as day!

There, dear readers, is a prime example of eisegesis. Note that it sounds a lot like exegesis. "We examined the text and the context! What more do you want?" But it did not, in fact, take the text or context into account. Here, look at it again. Assume that all of these are, indeed, contextualized with idolatrous subtext. The items listed are sinful because they are acts of religious activities. Something, I'm pretty sure, we'd all agree was sinful. But what about the text and context? Well, apparently, then, exposing the nakedness of kin (Lev 18:6-17) is only sinful when done as a function of religious practices. When done as a function of a loving, committed relationship, it's okay. Marrying a woman and her sister is fine when done apart from religious practices (Lev 18:18). And so it goes. Adultery is sinful when done as a matter of religious practices. Sex with animals is wrong when practiced as a religious ritual. Killing children is wrong when performed as a religious rite. (Does that explain why those who argue this way for homosexual practices also endorse abortion?) But when these things -- incest, adultery, bestiality, killing babies -- are done apart from religious practices, it's perfectly okay! Leviticus 20 agrees. Even Romans 1 agrees. Thus, "all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice" (Rom 1:29) and so much more (Rom 1:29-32) are all perfectly acceptable as long as they are not functions of religious practices.

That, you see, is the difference between eisegesis and exegesis. The Bible says nothing in support of homosexual behavior. All references of such behavior are in reference to its sinfulness. The Bible makes no reference to marriage between two people of the same gender. All references to marriage are in terms of male and female. Exegesis, then, demands one conclusion. Homosexual behavior is sinful and marriage is between a male and a female. The only possible way to come to any other conclusion is eisegesis. You have to ignore the context, avoid the text as a whole, and read into the text a premise not found in the text.

We are all, I'm fairly certain, guilty at times of eisegesis. We ought to avoid it. In today's world where historic, biblical Christianity is on the chopping block, it is the common theme. We ought to avoid it. Read the Bible for all it's worth, and that's a lot. Avoid reading it for what you hope to extract. The heart is deceitful and desperately wicked. That's a biblical principle.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Only Begotten

I was reading the Bible story of Jesus's birth again and noticed the genealogy in Luke 3. It starts with Jesus and goes through Joseph on through David on to Abraham and all the way down to the beginning where Luke says He was "the son of Adam, the son of God" (Luke 3:38). That is, according to Luke, Adam was the son of God. Does that strike you as odd?

Here, look at it this way. What phrase is perhaps the best known phrase describing Jesus? "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life" (John 3:16). That's it. He is described as God's "only begotten Son". John uses the phrase 4 times in his gospel (John 1:14, 18; 3:16, 18). He uses it again in his first epistle (1 John 4:9). In other words, it isn't a fluke phrase; it is an established description. Jesus is God's only begotten Son.

Then we read that Adam was "the son of God". Now, hold on! If Jesus was God's only begotten and God also begat Adam, then where are we? We're standing on the cusp of a contradiction.

One might be tempted to dance on by. Unfortunately, it's not a small issue. You see, it is this "only begotten Son" phrase that is used by the Arians -- those who argue that Jesus was not God incarnate. Clearly He was begotten. So how can you say that He was the eternal God? I mean, how clear does it have to be? And now we throw in this "son of God" who is not Jesus. Perhaps we ought to try to clear this up.

The term, "only begotten", is two words in English, but in the Greek it is only one: monogenēs. Clearly two parts to that word. Monos means "sole, only" (you know, like we use the prefix "mono" in English). We can go into the second word, ginomai, but perhaps you can see what we use it for. It means "to cause to be" or "to bring into existence", but don't you recognize the genēs in that word? Yes, "genus". So while the term can be used to refer to "the only born" (see, for instance, Luke 7:12 referring to the widow's "only son"), this would cause a contradiction if we concluded that this use -- "God's only begotten Son" -- was such a translation. We know that Adam is "the son of God" as well. Thus, it may mean the only born son or it may be in the sense of "the only one of its genus". As God's "only begotten Son" in this sense it would mean "God's one-of-a-kind Son" rather than "God's only offspring".

Of course, you're free to conclude what you wish. We know that we are given "the power to become sons of God" (John 1:12) and that "all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God" (Rom 8:14). We know that Adam was "the son of God". We know that God's purpose is to make us into His image so that "He might be the first-born among many brethren" (Rom 8:29). Must we conclude, then, that the Bible is contradicting itself when it lists all these "sons of God" and then describes Jesus as the only begotten Son? Or is it possible that this phrase used in reference to Jesus is designed to describe Him as a totally unique entity, the one of a kind Son who is the image of the invisible God" (Col 1:15), the One who "existed in the form of God" (Phil 2:6)?

You see, if you see the contradiction and allow the language in reference to Christ to define itself naturally as God's "one of a kind" Son, it has several effects. It removes the contradiction. It points to Christ as unique. It retains His deity in conformity with so many other Scriptures. And that's all good.

So, for those of you convinced that the Bible is true and Christ was God Incarnate, perhaps it would be helpful for you to stop thinking of Jesus as "the only born Son of God" and start thinking of Him as "the one-of-a-kind Son of God". And for those of you not convinced that Christ was God Incarnate, you have two choices. You can either change that position or you can throw it all out because if Jesus was simply a begotten being from God, you've just managed to produce an unanswerable contradiction in Scripture, and now you have nothing on which to stand. Your call.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Factious Man

Someone pointed me to this passage and told me to pay heed.
Reject a factious man after a first and second warning, knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned (Titus 3:10-11).
Being naturally inquisitive, I had to look further.

First, the words used. The King James calls this man "the heretick". (Apparently they didn't know how to spell back then.) (I'm only kidding about the spelling error.) The New American Standard says "factious", the King James "heretick". Why? Well, as it turns out, the Greek word is ... wait for it ... aihretikos. (Go ahead. Sound that out. Yes, that is "hereticos" -- heretic.) So why does the NAS say "factious"? Because the word references a "schismatic". The root of the word is the Greek word for "to make a choice". Thus, this person causes schisms among believers by choice. He (she) chooses to separate from orthodoxy, to set out on his (her) own, to set up his (her) own way of thinking, separate group, distinct set of doctrines apart from the standard, biblical, orthodox, historical doctrines.

Then there's "perverted". What's that all about? The Greek is ekstrephō. It is a combination of ek indicating origin, "out of", and strephō meaning to twist, to turn, to reverse. The Greek dictionary says the word means "to pervert", so I'd guess that's why the translation says "perverted" ("subverted" in the KJV). The ESV says "warped". All the same idea.

So, what's the idea here? We have someone who has demonstrated that they are choosing to cause division in the Church, to push believers away from biblical doctrine toward their own new beliefs. It's not someone who is confused or deceived. It's someone who is choosing to go this way. We know this because they have been warned ... twice. Indeed, Paul told Titus in this very epistle that this was one of the specific jobs of elders: "holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, that he may be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict" (Titus 1:9). So what is the proper action? Reject. Who do you reject? A heretic who chooses to divide believers from orthodoxy. When do you reject them? You reject them after determining their status of one choosing to be schismatic (as opposed to merely confused or deceived), and that is determined by two warnings. Once and they may not have heard. A second and if there is no move to change, it is now intentional. And why do you reject such a person? It is because they are twisted, turned around, headed away from good, sinning. We're all sinning, of course, but these are choosing to do so intentionally and choosing to head away from the right that they have been given ... twice. They have, by their own words and choices and actions, demonstrated that they are heretics. Paul says they are "self-condemned." (That is, "I didn't condemn them; they did that all on their own.")

Well, I think I've unpacked it just fine. I think it's all clear. So, my friend said I should pay heed. So what do I do with this?

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Mystery of Hebrews 11

I'm about to lay on you some astounding biblical insight. Here it is. Ready? In the book of Hebrews, chapter 11 is the well-known "faith chapter". Okay, here's the insight. Chapter 11 is between chapters 10 and 12. Yes! Check it out for yourself if you don't believe me.

Okay, perhaps not mind boggling. Maybe you're not amazed at the information. But there is something there that might benefit you. It did me.

Hebrews 10 talks about recalling "the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings" (Heb 10:32). The author says, "You had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one" (Heb 10:34). That's the idea. The idea is maintaining confidence (v 35) and full assurance (v 22), holding fast the confession of our hope (v 23) and stirring up one another to love and good works (v 24). "Hang in there!" the writer is saying. "You have something better!" So they "joyfully accepted the plundering" of their property because they knew that their property was not the valuable possession; they had a "better" and "abiding" possession.

Hebrews 12 says, "Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God" (Heb 12:1-2). Do you see the same theme? Jesus, "for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross." The shame was of no consequence because He had a better, abiding possession.

Note, then, that Hebrews 11 is stuck between Hebrews 10 and Hebrews 12, and you may begin to see the "faith chapter" in a new light. Yes, the chapter is about faith. But what is specifically in mind? Yes, it can generally be applied to all matters of faith, but the author is specifically referring to one thing: "All these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us" (Heb 1:39-40). Something better. That's the specific point of faith in Hebrews 11. So Abel offered a sacrifice in faith and was murdered for it. Enoch walked with God and "was not". Abraham was promised countless seed and never saw it. And so it goes. "These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth" (Heb 11:13).

If you're paying attention, you will know that we are living in troubling times. We Americans have enjoyed certain freedom and safety not necessarily afforded to everyone. We have enjoyed a constitutional promise of the "the free exercise" of religion and speech. So it may come as a shock to find that we're living on the trailing edge of that promise. Now you can be sued for holding that a particular behavior is a sin. Business folk are losing court (unless, of course, you're not Christian). A short while ago a family in my part of the world was cited for having Bible studies in their home. "It isn't zoned for that." Huh? Marriage is on the chopping block. If you're paying attention, we are losing our freedom of religion (primarily as Christians) and gaining increasing consequences. Good times are not around the corner.

The question, then, is what are you going to do? Are you going to go do court and demand your rights? Are you going to sue your employer, your neighbor, your government, to be sure you get what's coming to you? Are you going to defend your human rights with all the force you can muster? Or are you going to joyfully accept the plundering of your property knowing that you have a better, more abiding possession? Are you going to stand on faith for promises you may not receive in this life? Are you going to look to Jesus who considered the scorn as inconsequential and looked to the joy set before Him? I suppose, if you consider that "Christian" means "follower of Christ", the answer should be obvious. And -- just a hint. It's not "defend my rights to the bloody end".

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A Son is Born

I think, amidst the repetitions and hoopla, we might often miss the import of such a statement: "A Son is born." Here's what the angel told the shepherds:
And the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths, and lying in a manger." (Luke 2:10-12)
The event? "There has been born for you a Savior." Who? "A baby wrapped in cloths." Right.

No, think about it. We don't often think of Paul as one telling the story of the Incarnation, but this particular text really brings it home:
Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Phil 2:5-8).
"Christ Jesus ... existed in the form of God." And yet, He "emptied Himself". He took on flesh.

We're so used to the Nativity scenes that we probably find this hard to grasp. We miss it. God the Son became flesh. He "humbled Himself". And this is no trivial matter, no mere trick. I mean, changing water to wine was cool and all, but this was huge. The author of Hebrews says, "Consider Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession" (Heb 3:1). Let's do that. On the subject of the Incarnation he writes, "Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession" (Heb 4:14). You see, there were human high priests. Fine. But this one was absolutely unique. God and Man. Further, "we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin" (Heb 4:15). A God-only Savior would be great, but this one "has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin." Much, much better. More. "Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered" (Heb 5:8). God, the Son, God Incarnate, suffered ... for us.

Oh, we do so like the Christmas story. And we should. But sometimes I think it's too big to grasp. God became Man. He took on the form of a bond-servant. The One who put the stars in the sky, who sustains all things, who made you and me, became a baby wrapped in cloths. In so doing, He became the quintessential High Priest. One of us and yet so much better. Tempted as we are yet without sin. Suffered and obeyed. One of us. He knows what your pain is like. He knows how to comfort from experience. He knows the evils you endure both inside and out. Having put on that appearance of a man, He is completely without equal as both God and Man, the absolutely most perfect, best Christmas gift of all time, without exaggeration. Much bigger than a warm Nativity scene can express unless you're really paying attention.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Why a Virgin Birth?

Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel (Isa 7:14).
Have you ever asked yourself "Why"? Why did God plan to have His Son born of a virgin? I mean, He could have had Him born by Joseph and Mary. He could have had Jesus simply appear on the scene. He could have done other things. Why a virgin birth?

Consider this. Remember that the goal of Jesus's Incarnation was to provide a sacrifice suitable to save us from our sin. Consider also that the requirement of such a sacrifice would first be that it comes from a sinless man. If Jesus had sin, He would have had to sacrifice for Himself (Heb 7:26-27). The first characteristic, then, had to be that the sacrifice had to be sinless -- "without blemish".

Well, if Jesus had merely appeared on the scene like some angels had at various times, He certainly could have been sinless. So why not that? Well, remember that the sacrifice had to come from a sinless man. Other sacrifices had been "tried" (so to speak). Goats, sheep, even vegetable products. They were temporary and insufficient. The problem with other sacrifices is that they only pointed to the solution. The solution to sin is singular: death. And the one doing the dying is supposed to be the one doing the sinning. Animals and plants are out. And so is any non-human ... including an angelic or divine being. The sacrifice, in order to be effective for humans, had to be human.

Okay, okay, so He had to be human. But why not just make a natural-born human (say, through Joseph and Mary) be sinless? Well, there are a couple of problems there. First, according to Paul, "sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin" (Rom 5:12). If you are in the line of Adam, you are in the line of sin. The sin nature, then, is inherited from the father. And while Jesus's mother was Mary (making Him human), His father was the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:23). This meant that Jesus did not have the sin nature (as in Eph 2:3 -- "by nature children of wrath") and He was human.

I said, however, that there were a couple of problems with a natural-born human birth. Besides requiring a lack of a sin nature, there was one more requirement for this sacrifice for it to serve its intended purpose. Remember, the purpose of Jesus's Incarnation -- His birth, life, death, and resurrection -- was to provide a sacrifice suitable to save us from our sin. Note the plural in that statement. It was not to provide a sacrifice suitable to save one. It was to save us -- plural. Now, perhaps you don't yet see the problem. You see, if one person sins and a sinless man offers to pay for that sin on his own, you have payment ... for one person. The payment of one man would only cover one man. But God's aim was to cover many. Thus, this sacrifice must be God and Man. It would have to be human in its nature to match the sinners who were being saved. But it would have to be divine in its nature in order to cover more than one sinner. Thus, Christ had to be born of a virgin (without human father) in order to 1) be human Himself, 2) avoid the sin nature that humans carry, and 3) be God in the flesh for the sacrifice to reach far enough.

The Virgin Birth is one of those things these days. Was Jesus actually God? Well, that's just a tough one. Satan? Not so popular. Maybe he doesn't exist at all. The inerrancy of the Bible? Not really likely. The Virgin Birth? Well, since we haven't seen it lately and since science doesn't support it, that, too, is probably a myth. But, look, that doesn't mean we don't believe. We believe well enough. It's just that this sort of thing -- God-Man, virgin births, demonic enemies, that sort of thing -- well, it just doesn't fly in today's scientific world. So if it's not necessary, why make it a stumblingblock? And the answer, as you see, is that it is necessary. It is, indeed, vital. Jesus had to be born of a virgin (over against those who deny the Virgin Birth), had to be human (over against those who deny His humanity), and had to be God (over against those who deny His deity), or none of it matters at all. These are essential -- part of the essence of Christianity. As is the inerrancy of Scripture, the existence of Satan, and all that other "myth" stuff so many seem to be willing to dismiss these days.

So this Christmas as you're enjoying Nativity displays or reading Christmas cards with Mary and Joseph and the Babe on their cover or you're just thinking about the story as written, remember that it was no trivial thing that Jesus was born of a virgin. Remember the care God put into arranging it all. Remember the gift He gave of both God and Man, His own precious Son, in order to save us from our sin. Our sin is no small matter. His was no small gift.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Isaiah 9:6 - The Everlasting Father

It seems pretty straightforward, but what nuggets can we tease out of "The Everlasting Father"? The Hebrew word translated "everlasting" is ad. It means perpetuity, eternal, world without end. Perhaps the concept eludes us, however. You see, we might be able to grasp "without end", but the concept of "eternal" when applied to God is actually in both directions -- no beginning, no end. All creation has beginning. Not God. The Septuagint says He is the Father of the world to come, but the word is best translated not as "everlasting" (which implies a beginning without an end), but "Eternal."

The second word, Father, is the Hebrew word, ab. It means ... you guessed it ... father. For those, then, who would like to argue against the patriarchal stance of Scripture, this will be a problem. God is not "the Mother" or even "the Progenitor". He (male pronoun) is "the Father."

Note the title applied: the Everlasting Father. That should jar you once you think about it for a moment. This is about "the son", our Savior, Christ. He would be called "the Everlasting Father". For those who would like to claim that the doctrine of the Trinity is not biblical, that it is a fabrication of the 4th century church, they'll have to deal with this. In the Old Testament Jesus is referred to as the Everlasting Father. No, I'm not suggesting that the Son is the Father. I'm suggesting that the Son has the characteristics of the Everlasting Father. While opponents could argue that "the Mighty God" refers to a merely powerful being, together these two leave no doubt that the doctrine of the Trinity is an Old Testament as well as New Testament concept.

Now, I could turn this into a discussion of the qualities of a good father. There is, for instance, a prime factor of "father" found in Christ as that of Lifegiver. As Giver of Life, He has no equal. But I actually don't think I need to explain the qualities of a good father. I think we know what a good father is like. "But what about those people who had lousy fathers? Or none at all?" Strangely enough, I'm pretty sure they know what a good father is as well. Thus, we find that Christ has the characteristics of His Father, the best Father of all time.

When Jesus was talking to the Pharisees one time, He told them, "You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires" (John 8:44). Now, clearly these people had fathers, and it wasn't Satan. Nor were they fathered by Satan as Jesus was by God. So in what sense did He mean that? He meant that Satan was their father in that they wished to do his will, follow his example, do his bidding. In the same way, then, is Jesus your Everlasting Father? Is He your life source? Is He your head? Is He the example you wish to follow, the will to which you wish to conform? The Everlasting Father, when you think about it, really expands into something much larger than you might have first thought, doesn't it?

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Which Comes First?

There are two words bantied about by those who wish to sound intelligent and insightful: orthodoxy and orthopraxy. (Notice that I'm using the words. That should tell you something about me.) The former refers to right thinking and the latter to right practice. In Christianity, there is orthodox theology and then there is the right way to live as a Christian. Most everyone is aware of these two, at least as concepts.

There has always been a disagreement between the two viewpoints. One says that we need to have right theology in order to have right practice. The other says that right theology, essentially, can never actually be achieved, and right practice should be our aim. And, really, you might see why the orthopraxist (I think I just made that term up) would hold that position. You see, what good really is orthodoxy if it doesn't affect your life? If orthodoxy has no hands and feet, of what use is it? Indeed, wasn't that the warning from James? "Even so faith, if it has not works, is dead, being alone" (James 2:17). And the truth is that we will always act on what we believe, so what you believe can be seen in what you do (orthopraxy), regardless of what you say you believe (orthodoxy).

The orthodoxist (score a second term made up), on the other hand, would argue that orthopraxy cannot exist if you don't first have orthodoxy. That is, if you don't know what is right practice, you can't do it. Or, at least, you can't know it's right. Right theology determines right practice. So orthodoxy would necessarily come first.

The reality, of course, is that, in real life, it doesn't really work that way ... in either direction. We are humans. We start out as sinners with darkened hearts and foolish minds. In Christ, we are a new creation, but renewing the mind is a process. So, of course, as we grow in sanctification, our theology and our practice changes. Sometimes we actually do orthopraxy (in "this" area) by accident and our theology only later catches up. Sometimes we have orthodoxy on "that" subject but only later recognize that it affects "this" behavior. The whole thing is very dynamic in real life.

The question, though, is in general which comes first -- orthodoxy or orthopraxy? The orthodoxist would say that orthodoxy comes first because you can't know what's right if you don't know what's true. The orthopraxist would argue that orthopraxy comes first in practical terms simply because we can never know true orthodoxy in this life. I would like to offer a third opinion.

It is my suspicion that in many if not most cases we humans determine our theology from our actions. I think that it is very common to determine what we believe theologically based on what we do practically. As an example, a person sharing their bed with another person not their spouse is not very likely to agree that orthodoxy demands sex only within the bonds of marriage. That may be right thinking (orthodoxy) derived inevitably from clear Scripture, but I suspect (and, indeed, have seen quite often) the one involved in the heteropraxy (the opposite of orthopraxy) is not going to admit that it is. Their theology, then, will be modified from biblical theology to a theology that aligns with their own practices. "God is a God of love. We love each other. God would never call loving each other a sin." Or something like that. Just one example.

Rationally it would make most sense to determine what is true (orthodoxy) and then, from what is true, determine what is right to do. That makes the most sense. The problem, of course, is and always has been that we are sinful people prone to suppressing the truth and prone to denying God His right to tell us what is true and what is good and what is false and what is bad. One of the reasons, then, that you will find so many disparate theological views tagged as "Christian" is that so many people are more ready to align their theology with their lifestyles than vice versa. Natural Man is more likely to form a theology shaped by what he wants to do than to reshape what he chooses to do based on a true theology. Don't be that guy.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Taking the Shine Off

I've always had a bit of a problem with Christmas. You know, too much tinsel, too much glitter, too much hoopla, not enough Christ. That sort of thing. It's not at all that I have a problem with Christmas, actually, because celebrating that precious gift of His Son from God is certainly a worthy celebration. No, it's what we've done with it. But I'm sure it's not news that it bugs me and I'm sure it's not news that people see it this way.

Do you know another thing that takes the shine off Christmas? Tragedy at Christmas time. You know. People lose things. They lose jobs. They lose family members. They lose health. I always found it unsettling at the company where I used to work that their layoffs always occurred at Christmas time. "Thanks for your years of service. Here's your pink slip. Merry Christmas." And many lose much more. There's nothing like a mother dying on Christmas Day to taint future Christmas Days. So when 27 people are killed -- 20 of them under the age of 10 -- in a senseless shooting in Connecticut not two weeks before Christmas, that's certainly the kind of thing that will take the shine off Christmas.

I was thinking about the dad who walked into his house on Monday to find his wife crying. "What do we do with the presents stored in the closet for our son?" I was thinking about the mom looking at the tree decorated with annual photo tree ornaments documenting the life and now death of the little girl she'll never see again in this life. I was thinking about the pain of those -- brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, relatives, friends -- who have, so very close to the celebration of the Incarnation, lost someone so dear. I was thinking about that kind of agony ... and Christmas.

We're going to debate this for some time, I'm quite sure. Maybe we need to ban weapons or maybe we need to shore up families. Maybe we need more security or maybe we need to arm teachers. Maybe we need more mental health professionals. There are going to be lots of arguments over this for some time. But Christmas is around the corner. I want to know what we're going to do to restore the shine.

What strikes me, then, is the horrible sacrifices. A mother was killed by her son. Children were killed by a disturbed man. Teachers were killed defending their wards. All of it seems senseless, but it is not nearly as senseless as a Father who purposely sent His Son to be murdered for the sins of people who hated Him. Talk about senseless. As it turns out, however, Christmas is exactly about a child being killed because of the folly of others. Now, that is not likely to return a Christmas spirit to those suffering right now, but it does help me. The horror in Connecticut was the murder of innocents. The celebration of Christmas involves gratitude for the murder of the Innocent. I'm not, then, suggesting platitudes and joy. I'm reminded, instead, of the cost. And that brings greater gratitude when I most need it.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Keeping the Cross in Christmas

We all know that Christmas and Christ are too easily separated these days. Has been for some time. It's about "the season", a "feeling in the air", a "sense of good will", a family thing. It's lights and decorations and trees and presents. It's good deeds and all that good stuff. It's "What can I get?" and all that bad stuff. And every Christian knows to some extent that we need to work to keep Christ in Christmas. You may go to the extreme of skipping gifts and decorations (good luck with that) or just work at keeping Him central in all your doings.

One thing I think is equally essential and probably never considered is keeping the Cross in Christmas. "What? What in the world are you talking about??" Well, here's what Paul told the Church at Corinth:
I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified (1 Cor 2:2).
As it turns out, the early Church did not celebrate Christmas. Oh, let's not get too upset about that. It's not that they were too stodgy. It's that no one celebrated birthdays. Death days, perhaps, but not birthdays. The early Church thought that Christians should not only refrain from celebrating their birthdays, but should look on them with disgust (see Origen in his commentary "On Levites"). That passed, of course, but it is the primary reason that we don't know Christ's birthday. It wasn't important. That He was born? Important. When He was born? Not so much.

What was essential, then, was "Jesus Christ and Him crucified." What was important was the Gospel:
I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures (1 Cor 15:3-4).
You see, Jesus was -- uniquely, in fact -- born in a cradle that swung over a grave. We are all born and will die, but He was born to die. His miraculous birth would have meant nothing at all if He didn't go to that cross on our behalf.

Jesus's birth is important, joyous, wonderful. "Tidings of great joy." What tidings? "There has been born for you a Savior" (Luke 2:11). That's the good news. Not that a baby was in the manger, but that a Savior had been born. That Savior would be our Savior by means of the cross.

Remember that little baby. Remember the Virgin Birth. Remember the shepherds and the kings, the angels and the star. Remember it all. But remember above all else that the key is "Jesus Christ and Him crucified" -- the Savior, who is Christ the Lord. Be sure, in your Christmas celebrations, to keep the Cross in Christmas.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

USS Marriage

Recently the Supreme Court agreed to hear two cases on the question of marriage. One is about California's Prop 8. Do Californians have the right to vote to define marriage? The second is the case on DOMA -- the Defense of Marriage Act. Is defending marriage constitutional? We'll find out. I suspect, as has happened too often of late, we'll find out that the nation believes that marriage is not worth defending. No, not right. That defending marriage is unconstitutional.

There are some odd things in this line of thinking. For instance, what does the government have to do with marriage? The concept was established from the beginning, long before governments were established. What does the government have to do with it? Beyond that, I'm pretty sure I haven't read anything at all in the Constitution about marriage laws. What does the Supreme Court have to do with it? Odd.

Some have suggested that Christians are hung up on abortion and "same-sex marriage". To some extent there is some truth to it. When there is a war, you fight where the enemy is attacking. Currently the enemy is attacking at the legal killing of babies and the primary social structure of marriage. That's where you fight.

I would suggest, however, that we're coming a little late to the party. Remember the story of Custer? His hardy little band of soldiers stood against all the Indians in the world and died. His reinforcements arrived ... two days later. Too late. That's us. We're rushing in to stave off the attack and save the day too late. Think about it. This "same-sex marriage" assault on marriage isn't new. It isn't even fresh. Marriage has been under assault for more than a century in America.

In 1914, Margaret Sanger (yes, that Margaret Sanger) pushed social reform to make contraception more available. You see, the society at that time thought contraception was a bad idea. They -- silly people -- thought that having children was a good thing (you know, like it says in the Bible) and that contraception would encourage promiscuity. It wasn't really until 1930's that the laws began to change. Planned Parenthood was formed in the 1940's. But it wasn't until 1965 that the Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional for the government to prevent married couples (Get that? Married couples) from using contraception. Say farewell to "Be fruitful and multiply" and say hello to childbearing as part of marriage as an option rather than an expectation. And in the same stroke, given the ready availability of contraception, say farewell to a good reason to get married at all -- "It is better to marry than to burn with lust."

Feminism has been around a long time. At the start of the 20th century, feminism was largely concerned about the vote. It wasn't until the mid to late '60's that the so-called "Second Wave" hit. We called it "Women's Liberation". This was the point at which women started burning bras, getting out of the homes, and calling good wives "prostitutes" because they had sex with their husbands for reward. It hasn't eased up today. It has primarily just been institutionalized, ingrained, so that suggesting anything else would be considered barbaric and, of course, chauvinistic. Say farewell to the good wife of Proverbs 31 and the submissive wife of Ephesians 5 and say hello to the new "partnership", where two do not become one, but remain "equal partners" who can opt out when they're not satisfied with their cut.

Have you ever seen that old 1934 Ginger Rogers/Fred Astaire movie, The Gay Divorcee? (It included zero homosexual behavior. See how language has changed?) Ginger Rogers wanted to divorce her husband. To accomplish this, she needed to have a reason. So she hired a man to spend the night with her (without actually being with her) so that adultery could be named on the divorce petition. Oh, we've come a long way, baby. In 1970 California inaugurated the "no-fault divorce". Prior to that, "We don't love each other anymore" or "irreconcilable differences" were irrelevant. Marriage was permanent and wasn't allowed to die without a fight. By 1983 every state but two had no-fault laws. In the 1800's the divorce rates were as high as 7%. By the 1930's they were up to 16%. By 1970 it hit 33% and exceeded 50% in the late 70's. We're no better now. Say farewell to "What God has joined together let no man separate" and "'til death do us part" and say hello to the temporary marriage -- "'til love do us part."

Today? Well, we've pretty much gone along to get along. Today the Church doesn't much care about contraception. How could I even ask such a thing? Of course it's a good thing! Today most of the Church believes that a wife should not submit to her husband. Mutual submission. That's the ticket. Two heads are better than one, you see ... unless the two heads are one living organism. And while the Church is not pleased with the divorce rates, we're not too agitated about them either. Divorce isn't optimum, we suppose, but it's to be expected. And, look, all that stuff about "for sexual immorality only" is certainly too restrictive. Adultery, sure, but also if he makes you feel bad or if she doesn't meet your sexual wishes (read "needs") or if he insults you or, hey, really whatever makes you feel better. We won't say anything. It's okay.

So now comes the last straw -- "same-sex marriage". We rise up and say, "No more!" Like the battleship USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor, the marriage boat is in flames and floundering from multiple hits and we want to go to court and stop this travesty! Yes, it is a travesty. Yes, marriage is worth defending. Yes, it is wrong. But where were we when those first hits came in? And why do we think that now, having stripped marriage of just about every biblical definition it has, we can save it at this point? Having ingested rather than rejected every other attack along the way, why is this different? I'll still protest. I'll still raise the flag. I'll still stand. But if it weren't for the fact that marriage is God's institution, I'd say we're looking at the end of anything God had in mind for marriage. On the other hand, since it is His, I'm equally sure that God will retain some who remain married as He intended regardless of any public vote or ruling from the Supreme Court. I won't be counting on the government to defend God's institution. But I'll remain disappointed that some who consider themselves friends of Christ continue to fight against it.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Honor your Father and Mother

"Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you" (Exo 20:12).
You know that one, I'm sure. Every parent has, or would at least like to, trotted that one out in front of the kids. Every kid hates it at some time or another. And in the end, no one is really deeply concerned about it.

Some have suggested that the previous commandment, "Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy", is the "forgotten commandment". Some have argued that it should be. Others have argued that it should be just on another day. Still others have simply failed to pay attention and let it go entirely. Any day will do ... or none at all. But I think that this one, "Honor your father and your mother", is right up there with "Remember the Sabbath" at the top of the bottom of the list. "Not really my concern, you see. I'll worry about 'murder' and 'adultery', perhaps, but 'honor mother and father' just doesn't make my to-do list."

It's odd, too, because this particular command is boldly and echoed in the New Testament. You can find New Testament arguments why, perhaps, maybe the Sabbath thing is in question, but there is no reason to think that this command was set aside with the advent of the new Covenant. Jesus warned the Pharisees that their "Corban" -- "given to God" -- rule was being used to contravene this very important commandment (Mark 7:6-13). Paul gave this as the reason that children should obey their parents (Eph 6:1-3). No one even hinted that it was no longer in affect.

But just how serious is it? Well, the Law put dishonoring parents right up there with idolatry (Deut 27:16). In Leviticus sandwiched tightly between "You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy" and "Do not turn to idols" God placed "Every one of you shall revere his mother and his father" (Lev 19:2-4). In Israel the law was that a disobedient child who would not respond to discipline was to be taken out and stoned to death (Deut 21:18-21). Now, there was no record of this ever actually happening, but that should give you a sense of how serious God considered the issue. Even Jesus said, "Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die" (Matt 15:4). So this isn't minor. The Bible considers it important.

There is one interesting aspect that I almost never hear mentioned. The Bible does not say at what age this command is no longer in effect. It does not give an "age of adulthood" at which this command can be ignored. There is no 18-year-old limitation. There is no point that the people in question, "father and mother", cease to be father and mother and, therefore, no point at which they cease to require honor. The method of showing honor may change, but honor, from all indications, would be required by this command.

Here, let me give you an example. In Genesis 9, Noah got drunk and passed out in his tent naked. Embarrassing, to be sure. His son, Ham, saw him and told his brothers. His brothers took a blanket, walked backward into the tent, and covered their father. The result was that Ham was cursed for his dishonoring of his father (Gen 9:20-27). Now consider a couple of salient points. First, Noah was drunk and naked -- not exactly the epitome of a good father figure. Second, the "boys" were not boys. They were adults with wives of their own. We can easily conclude from all this that 1) parents are due honor 2) regardless of their "honorableness" or 3) the ages of their children.

I find it interesting, then, that we live in this day when parents are not deemed to be worthy of honor. Young children are not taught to honor their parents either by their parents or by the other adults in their lives. (And make no mistake, children must be taught this because it does not come naturally.) Adults are laughed at if they show "too much respect" to their parents, where "too much" these days is about anything at all. Obedience isn't expected. Honor isn't required. And we've set it aside. Isn't it pointed, then, when you realize that, listed in among the horrendous evils men would commit like malice, slander, haters of God, sexual immorality, murder, and inventors of evil you will find "disobedient to parents" right up there with the rest? (See Rom 1:29-31; 2 Tim 3:2-5.)

A lot of conservatives today are bemoaning the condition of the country. We've reelected a man they consider dangerous. The institution of marriage is on the rocks. Sin is rampant. Immorality rules. And I don't think I can really argue against that assessment. I would suggest, however, that voting in a better government or making better laws is not the solution some may think. I would suggest that a return to God's commands would be a better way to go. And I would think it perilously obvious that children who are not taught to honor their fathers and mothers would be a key element of the real problem because those are tomorrow's citizens and leaders. Perhaps we would do well to first begin the process of honoring our own fathers and mothers as commanded by Old and New Testaments followed by teaching our children to do the same. God seemed to think it was important. Jesus considered it mandatory. I would think that theists and followers of Christ would want to have the same perspective that He does.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Take Christ Out of Christmas

Have you heard about this story? On a recent Today Show segment on NBC a panel was discussing outsourcing the tasks of Christmas. You know. Maybe you can get someone to put up the lights or decorate the house or wrap the presents ... that sort of thing. Star Jones commented that some could be outsourced, but you couldn't outsource things like religious observances, prayer, church services, that sort of thing. To which NBC's Medical Editor, Nancy Snyderman, responded, "I don't like the religion part. I think religion is what mucks the whole thing up ... I think that's what makes the holidays so stressful."

Now, to be fair, most of the panel understood her to be joking. I mean, who would actually suggest taking religion out of Christmas, right? I mean, the word means "Christ-Mass". It is, by definition a religious event. There are variations in timing or full impact, but it is defined universally as "the festival celebrating the birth of Christ, a Christian festival." But, yeah, let's get that whole "Christ" and "church" thing out of Christmas. Let's see. That would leave you with ... nothing.

You'd like to think that Snyderman was being funny. You know, joking by saying the opposite of reality, that sort of thing. But this wasn't her first time. She commented before that Thanksgiving is a great time because "there are no presents, there is no religion, and you really get to give thanks." Ummm, Nancy, ummm, give thanks to whom? Remove religion and Thanksgiving becomes meaningless as well.

And you'd like to think that the American public in general would gasp and say, "How stupid can you get?" But they aren't. Some pointed out that "Jesus should be our focus," but others are saying, "Thank you for being a voice for those of us who see Christmas as a time for family, community and connection with no need to honor the birth of a 'savior.'"

A Christmas celebration without Christ or religion. A Thanksgiving celebration with no God to thank. No need to honor the birth of a savior. Yeah, I get it. We don't live in a Christian nation. But as a Chinese national I know who came from a communist, atheist country told me, if you don't have God, you don't have any basis for morality and you must expect rampant immorality. You know, like the 22 children knifed in China on the same day that 20 children were murdered in Connecticut. We are shocked at such things, but, ejecting God from the public square, we shouldn't be. And removing Christ from Christmas and God from Thanksgiving is irrational -- right in line with Scripture that says "God gave them over to a depraved mind" (Rom 1:28). Sin rots the brain. We're proving it as we speak. And no one should be surprised when we see what kind of a crazy world we're living in.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Isaiah 9:6 - The Mighty God

For Week 2 of this series, we're going to look at the second phrase from Isaiah 9:6 -- the Mighty God.

The imagery is easy, even common. The language used, on the other hand, might be a little odd. The second word is what you might expect -- el. It is the classic Hebrew word for "God". You'll find it throughout the Old Testament. Interestingly, though, the word is first translated "strength". For this reason it is translated in some places as "the Almighty". Over in the Psalms we read (God speaking), "I said, 'You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you'" (Psa 82:6). Wait! We are gods? This from the one who said "I am the Lord; there is no other"? Yes, if you understand that el means "mighty" or "mighty ones". And, as "sons of the Most High", there is certainly a sense of power without actually attaining to what we think of as godhood. So the second word leaves us with "God" including an inherent sense of "the mighty".

The first word is gibbor. Strong's says it is literally "powerful" and, by implication, "a valiant warrior" or even "tyrant". That's a little odd, isn't it? But let's just stick with "powerful". Or, as you would expect, "mighty". Putting the two together, then, you end up with "the mighty Mighty One" or "the mighty Almighty". There is, then, built into this biblical description of Christ, a two-term single-meaning concept. What's that all about? Well, in Hebrew there is a fairly common literary technique that uses repetition for emphasis. Use the word once, and it stands by itself. Use it a second time and it is emphasized. Use it a third time and it's being shouted, so to speak. It's like us with our use of italics and bold print. So when the seraphim in Isaiah 6, for instance, cry, "Holy, holy, holy", they aren't being merely dramatic or poetic. They are announcing that God's holiness is taken to the utmost level. Jesus used this technique sometimes when He spoke. He always spoke truth, but sometimes He would say, "Verily I say unto you ...", in essence prefacing his remark with "truth, truth". On rare occasion He would say, "Verily, verily I say unto you ..." Now that would be the professor stamping his foot on the ground to warn you, "This is important; it will likely be on the final exam." It's big truth. Here, then, in Hebraic idiom, is more than just "mighty God". It is a reference to the Almighty, the Omnipotent, the One who holds all power.

Isn't it remarkable that "Unto us a child is born" who is called "the Mighty God"? What might does a child have? Well, He demonstrated Himself mighty when He came on the scene. He drew in shepherd and king alike. He was saved from catastrophe (Matt 2:13-18) and confounded the wise at age 12 (Luke 2:42-47). He started out His ministry after baptism with a trip to the desert to take every attack Satan could give Him and defeated him (Luke 4:1-14). He started out His ministry of signs by changing water to wine (John 2:1-11). He ended His earthly ministry by surrendering to death, rising from the grave, and ascending into heaven. Yeah ... that's Mighty. Despite the subsequent attempts throughout history to annihilate this religion, the Church has survived, grown, and thrived under Christ, the Mighty God, to this day.

We must, in fact, live as if He is this Mighty God. When faced with problems or temptations or trials, it is His power that sustains. When we are weak, He is strong. When we are troubled, His omnipotence provides comfort. When we don't know what to do, His might makes perfectly right. He is without parallel -- the Mighty God.

But, look, it's all well and good that you or I might see that He is the Mighty God and it certainly might be helpful that you or I have a life lived on the basis of this Mighty God, but what about others? What about the "Christian" that denies such a God, either overtly or by action or attitude? Wouldn't it be better just to extend the right hand of fellowship to these rather than the left boot? "Grace" and "humility" would seem to require it. The problem, unfortunately, is that affirming a belief in "Christ" while denying this Mighty God is not merely "an honest mistake". There is a clear biblical term for it. Any time we take something that is not God and apply it as God, the Bible calls it "idolatry", and there is no question what God's view on that topic (both Old and New Testaments included) is. It's not "warm and affirming".

Christ is indeed the ultimate "Mighty God". He demonstrated it during His lifetime. He demonstrated it at the Cross. He demonstrated it by rising from the grave. He continues to demonstrate it in history. To the one who believes it, there is clear direction and great comfort. To the one who doesn't there is great peril. Hopefully you will find yourself in the former position and, recognizing your imperfect grasp of the reality of our Mighty God, strive for a greater confidence in Jesus.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Getting What You Paid For

It's Christmas gift buying time. Are you getting what you paid for?

Anybody remember those Hai Karate commercials from the 70's? Hai Karate, for those of you who don't, was an aftershave. The marketing theme was that when you used their product, you had better know karate because you'll have to fight off the women.

Ridiculous, of course, but it was fun to watch. I mean, no one really believes an aftershave can get you a date ... do they?

It is my suspicion that we, in fact, are shopping all the time for just such miracles. Buy this and get that. Buy our product and we will be selling you something far beyond our product. I mean, you know that's the case with the political marketplace, right? Well it's equally true for the rest of the things you think you're getting.

Take, for instance, a recent Axe shampoo ad. A young man comes around women in his daily life and his dandruff makes them all vanish. But Axe's new anti-dandruff shampoo can fix this. "Lose the flakes; get the girls" the female announcer assures you. "Because girls don't dig flakes", the ad tagline says. So ... what are you buying? Are you buying a product that will eliminate dandruff problems, or are you buying a means of getting women? (And just what are "dandruff problems"? I mean, really.)

Or how about Red Bull? As we all know, it "gives you wings" ... but what does that mean? The cartoon ads indicate that we all get actual wings. One recent ad campaign suggested that Red Bull makes daredevils of us all. But what are they selling really? An energy drink. Do with that what you will. Trust me. Red Bull, despite all its ads and innuendo will not make you able to fly or endow you with courage or a spirit of adventure.

One quite obvious example of selling something you can't buy is all of the weight loss programs and devices. First, it takes very little time and only limited attention to see that disclaimer at the bottom of every claim: "Results not typical." What a washout! "We are about to show you some marvelous or even mediocre results, but you need to know up front that these are not what you will expect, so don't start out thinking that what we're selling you will give you what we're showing you." Beyond that, what are they selling? Are they selling fitness? Are they selling a healthier you? Of course not. There just isn't any market for that. No, they're selling a better you. With this product you can be more attractive to the opposite sex, more confident, more visible, more impressive. Now, none of that is actually available from the makers of, say, the NordicTrack products, but that's what they're selling.

From sex appeal to adventure to confidence and more, these companies are selling you one product while marketing another. Like the classic bikini-clad model next to the sports car, one often has nothing to do with the other. So when Olay tells you its Regenerist product will "work over time to reduce the appearance of wrinkles", that's an honest line. When they tell you it "brings back that youthful appearance", you should be cautious. You see, now they're going places you can't buy. No one has yet made a bottle of youth. But they know that reducing facial wrinkles for the sake of reducing facial wrinkles is a no-win proposition. Giving you back your youth, on the other hand -- now that's a product everyone will want.

Some advertisers are blatant. Axe assures you, "Lose the flakes; get the girls." (Seriously ... girls plural?) Hai Karate warned, "Be careful how you use it." Red Bull is a bit vague with its promise of wings. And Olay's "youthful appearance" is a thinly-veiled promise. Some products are not as overt. Victoria's Secret, for instance, doesn't say much. "There's a sale on" is about it. But the message even without words is undeniable. "Buy our products and look like this." Now, at no time in the history of the planet has some thread and some lace produced a model-quality body (with likely a significant redistribution of body fat, etc.) with finely coiffed hair and expert makeup, let alone the sex appeal and attitude it appears to promise. But that's what they're selling ... without a word. And that's what women are buying (or even men hoping to get it for their wives or girlfriends). I mean, seriously, how many of either gender sees one of Victoria's Secrets commercials and thinks, "Well, now, that looks like a well-designed, comfortable, practical undergarment"? That's just not on the menu.

Gullible, as it turns out, is not in the dictionary. Look it up. But we are, as a race, it seems, just that. We are fodder for the marketeers. We want the impossible -- sex appeal, youth, wings -- and they're selling. It doesn't even matter if the impossible cannot be had. Buy their product and you can get it. And we do. We buy their expensive cars that provide nothing more than a bigger draw on our funds and we buy their exercise gear without getting the youthful, sexy body in the box as promised. We slather on their creams and are a bit disappointed that we don't look 20 ... and 30 pounds lighter ... and shapelier, too. Indeed, so convoluted is this marketing scheme that we don't even know anymore what it is we want. Is the Twiggy look in, or is it something more now? Do we want men with "some gray" or is gray to be eliminated entirely? Surely youth is something we'd all buy as soon as it comes on the market. And who knows what kinds of magic we'll see when we buy that latest technological marvel? Obviously an iPhone5 is far superior to an iPhone4! How could you doubt it? Indeed, how can you live with yourself without it? Sigh. So droll. Full to the gills of gullible.

So let me just say, be careful what you buy. You are being sold a bill of goods. And it is very likely that some of what you think you're getting isn't even on the market. Just because they offer it or hint that they do does not mean that it's available or even good. I'm just sayin'.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Not the Birthday

There are the skeptics who love to titter and complain about those foolish Christians and their "birthday celebration" for their "Christ". Maybe they'll laugh because, "You know it's not his birthday, right?" More likely they'll complain. "You are inflicting your religious beliefs on us!" Some will even transgress, trying to minimize, insult, or even outlaw Christmas. There are the Christians who will respond in varying degrees. Some will take up arms and defend Christmas with force if necessary. They will complain when Nativity scenes are banned. They will protest loudly the use of "X" in "XMas" as an insult to "Christ". Others will be dissatisfied, worrying endlessly about the commercialization of the birth of the Savior. Others will do little. Maybe withdraw a bit. Maybe take on a passive/aggressive stance. "Oh, fine, you guys do whatever foolishness you think is right. No matter to me."

It is my suspicion that most Christians at some time in their lives have fallen into one or more of those categories. Christmas, both for skeptics and for believers, is a big deal. It's either a big target or a sacred shrine. So I'd like to point out something that, from all appearances, is not patently obvious to all involved. Our Savior was not born on December 25th. I know, I know, revolutionary. But it's true. In all likelihood God's Son did not arrive in winter in Palestine. Some guess May. Most prefer September. But no one doing the math (so to speak) concludes that December is the likely month, and no one can demonstrate that His birthdate was actually the 25th of that unlikely month.

One canned response to this fact from the Christian side of the pool is another protest. "See? We knew that! Christmas is based primarily on a pagan holiday with pagan origins and pagan traditions. We're better than that!" I've actually had some point to Scripture. "You know the Bible says not to have Christmas trees in your house, right?" And they'll haul you over to Jeremiah, where God says:
"Learn not the way of the nations, nor be dismayed at the signs of the heavens because the nations are dismayed at them, for the customs of the peoples are vanity. A tree from the forest is cut down and worked with an axe by the hands of a craftsman. They decorate it with silver and gold; they fasten it with hammer and nails so that it cannot move. Their idols are like scarecrows in a cucumber field, and they cannot speak; they have to be carried, for they cannot walk. Do not be afraid of them, for they cannot do evil, neither is it in them to do good" (Jer 10:2-5).
Never mind the fact that Christmas hadn't occurred at the time this was written. Forget about the fact that the first Christmas tree didn't occur until sometime in the 15th century. Never mind that the text is about making idols, not decorating a Christmas tree. And by all means ignore the fact that the concept of the Christmas tree has its origins in an evangelical effort in early Germany, not pagan worship.

Look, Jesus wasn't actually born on December 25, 0000. Didn't happen. So why are we fighting so much about it? Why do some feel the need to attack a non-day? Why do others feel the need to defend said day? What makes such a day "sacred"? I can understand that the celebration -- the recognition of the Incarnation of our Savior -- would be viewed with high regard, but why the day or its traditions? Did you know that the early church in America banned Christmas celebrations? That's right, the early Puritans in New England passed laws to prevent the false celebration of the birth of their Savior (whom they worshiped, not hated). After laws were removed, the celebrations were still discouraged. There was, you see, no Scriptural basis for such a celebration. Still isn't. But we have Christians ready to go to war (at least in court) over it.

What do we know? We know that Christ came. No question. We know that He was born. No doubt. We know that He was God's gift. He was fathered by the Holy Spirit, born of a virgin in Bethlehem. He was announced to the common folk (shepherds in this case) as "the Savior, Christ the Lord." His coming elicited great praise: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." Those who saw Him worshiped, whether lowly shepherd or great king-makers. And we know that Jesus arrived in a spiritual winter. Israel, God's chosen people, had heard nothing from God in 400 years. The Romans ruled. Hope was gaunt. God's people were scattered. It looked grim. And then, marked by a star, heralded by angels, produced and protected by God, a Savior appeared on the scene, lighting up the world with the Gospel.

Look, the day doesn't really matter. It isn't even the actual day. It isn't real. And we have indeed mixed pagan practice with spiritual sense to produce modern Christmas traditions. We've worked our way so far into "modern Christmas traditions" that I'd guess that it's no small number of genuine believers who no longer even know what "Christmas" (the word) actually means, let alone what it (the concept) means. But I don't think it's all bad that we celebrate the coming of God's love gift in the dead of winter, that we recognize the arrival of our Savior when things are coldest. I don't think it's completely wrong that we share the glory of the light of Christ by putting lights in and on our houses or recognize the ultimate gift of God by sharing gifts with each other. Oh, sure, I see there can be difficulties but, if we keep our focus, I can see value, too. No, it's not His actual birthday. No, it's not all wrong. We can still celebrate with the shepherds and the kings, the lowly and the great, to thank God for His inexpressible gift. I think I'll let the skeptics and their opponents fight this one out among themselves.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Their Fair Share

The president wants to raise taxes on the rich. He isn't asking for much, he assures us. He just wants them to pay "their fair share."

Problem #1: Taking money from individuals simply because it is there to take is not "fair" or even moral.

Problem #2: Assuming completely effective coercion and zero collateral damage, the amount of money this will provide to the government coffers is on the order of miniscule. They tell me it would run the country for a total of 10 days. That's without considering the possibilities of clever accountants and lawyers to hide money or the loss of jobs and other economic factors because of the tax losses.

But consider this:

The top 50% of wage earners filing income tax returns in 2009 made more than $32,000. The top 25% made more than $66,000. The top 5% made more than $154,000.

In 2009 the top 5% of wage earners in the U.S. paid 58% of the taxes paid. The top 25% paid 87% of the taxes paid. The top 50% paid nearly 98% of the taxes paid. The bottom 50% paid 2.25% of the taxes paid.

In terms of tax rates, the top 5% paid 20% of their AGI (Adjusted Gross Income) in taxes. The top 25% paid over 14% of their AGI in taxes. The top 50% paid 12.5% of their AGI in taxes. The bottom 50% of wage earners in the country paid 1.85% of their wages after adjustments in taxes.

In 2009 the top 5% wage earners in the U.S. earned nearly 17% of the total AGI. The top 25% earned over 65% of the AGI. The top 50% earned 86% of the total AGI earned in the country.

Going with the president's cut off of $250,000 as income, those who make that or over are in the roughly top 3% of the country. They pay roughly at a 22% tax rate and pay 52% of the total taxes.

Problem #3: If the top 25% are making 65% of the wages earned and paying more than 87% of the taxes paid, and if this is not "their fair share", at what point does "their fair share" occur? If the top 3% are making 26% of the wages and paying 52% of the total taxes, at what point does "their fair share" occur?

I suppose, though, what perturbs me the most about the constant presentation of the whole question at hand about this "fiscal cliff" is that the president and the Democrats are eager to do something, to fix it, to compromise, and those dirty, rotten Republicans are refusing to do anything and don't want to fix anything at all. The fact that they offered a $2.2 trillion solution without raising taxes on the rich is no indication that they are trying to accomplish anything. The fact that the only available compromise is "to go along or die" is irrelevant. Whatever happens in the next month or two, here's how it will come down. Either the Republicans refused to compromise and threw us off the cliff, or they caved in to the wisdom of the ruling junta and the president saved us. Even if it isn't salvation. Even if it isn't true. Now who's playing politics at the cost of the people?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Jolly Old Saint Nicholas

I hate Santa Claus. Oh, that's probably too harsh. But the images we're given and the concepts we're taught surrounding this fictional character are just ... well ... wrong. You know, for instance, that he has a "Naughty and Nice" list. What happens to the naughty? Well, they're supposed to get a lump of coal in their stocking, but no one gets a lump of coal. In a recent car commercial I saw Santa Claus is examining two lines of luxury cars -- one red and the other white -- which are being loaded onto vehicles for delivery. The white ones go to the "Nice" and the red ones to the "Naughty". "Oh, boo hoo! I'm naughty so I got a red Mercedes instead of a white one." So what does that tell us? Either Santa Claus is unjust or everyone is "Nice". Not good on either count. Parents like to use Santa as a behavioral control tool in that way. Kids have already figured out it doesn't work.

Or how about the Santa letter concept? "Here you go, kid. Focus on everything you might ever want, write a letter to Santa asking for it, and recognize your request as a righteous demand. If you don't get it, you've been robbed. Get mad." You just try to teach the notion that "It's the season of giving" in an atmosphere like that.

Then, of course, there's the whole "Really, kids, Santa is real" problem. You keep that up for as long as you can and then, one day, they figure out that no such being exists. Ditto the Easter Bunny. Now, if you can, try to convince said child that Christ is real. Good luck with that.

So, I hate Santa Claus. That, on the other hand, shouldn't be a problem ... because he's fictional. It's a fictional character I don't like. Saint Nicholas, on the other hand, is another story.

Nicholas (sometimes "Nicholas of Bari" or "Nicholas of Myra") lived in the 4th century. He lived in what is today known as Turkey. Historians believe he was the bishop of Myra. Nicholas did prison time under the Roman emperor Diocletian for being a Christian and was released by Constantine. He was at the First Council of Nicaea.

Nicholas has quite a reputation. He was "good enough" to be deemed a "saint" by the Roman Catholic church. He was very well known for his generosity and kindness. Born to wealth, Nicholas made it his life practice to live a holy, giving life rather than a rich, spoiled one. His best known acts, in fact, involved giving to the needs of children. This attribute, in fact, was the spawn of the Santa Claus theme. One story is told of three daughters without dowries who were going to end up as slaves. Mysteriously, on three different occasions, a bag of gold appeared in the stockings or shoes that were hung by the fire to dry for each of the three sisters, saving them from their fate. The mysterious benefactor was Nicholas. And, of course, you've got the makings of a typical Santa Claus scene there, with mysterious gifts, stockings, and fireplaces all included.

One lesser known story of Nicholas describes well a man zealous for His God. As bishop of Myra, Nicholas was in attendance of the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD. The council was called to address the Arian Heresy. Arius (who, by the way, had the favor of Constantine) held that Jesus was a created being, not God the Son. Nicholas listened to Arius presenting his views at the council meeting and, finally, could stand no more. The story goes that he walked up to Arius and argued with him for a bit. Arius didn't budge, so Nicholas hit him hard enough to knock him to the ground. Nicholas was arrested and then released, but there could be no doubt that he was passionate about His Savior.

Santa Claus? Fictional. You can have him. Saint Nicholas? To me, he's a pretty good example to follow. He was rich but saw it as a means to be generous. He was generous but not frivolously -- he met the real needs of real people. He was not "jolly" -- no "belly full of jelly" -- because he skipped meals in order to give more. And his biggest passion was not "toys for all the boys and girls", but a serious love for Christ reflected in a life lived for Him. Now that is a Saint Nick I can get behind.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Genesis Principles - Sin

One final Genesis Principle. One final big principle. That is the condition we all have come to know as "sin". The biblical version occurs in Genesis 3.

You know the story. It begins, "Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field ..." (Gen 3:1), an ominous beginning to be sure. Satan in serpent form asks, "Did God say ...?" Contradicting God, he informs Eve that she could be "like God" (Gen 3:5). The outcome? "So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate" (Gen 3:6). Well, you know the rest. God came and found them hiding. They finally revealed their sin. Everyone paid the price. Each player in the scenario -- the serpent, the woman, and the man -- received their curse. Adam and Eve were banned from the garden. Not a pleasant story. Sin had entered the world.

There are more details in that story, more components to get a clearer picture of the Genesis Principle of Sin. You see, we tend to think of sin as "bad things". Sometimes they are more like "mistakes". (I've actually had people tell me that. "I don't sin; I just make mistakes.") Genesis (and God) would disagree.

First, the severity of the problem. God warned Adam, "Of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die" (Gen 2:17). (And clearly Adam passed that on to Eve.) Now, let's see. If "sin" is "a mistake", doing a "bad thing", one would think the consequence would fit the crime. So ... what ... maybe an hour or two in the corner of the garden or something? No. "In the day that you eat of it you shall surely die." Wait! Death? Really? For eating a piece of fruit? Sin, you see, is far more serious than "a mistake" or "a bad thing". It is a violation of God's command, an act of Cosmic Treason. As Eve demonstrated in her actual intent, it is an attempt to "be like the God" in ways we are not authorized. It's a big deal.

Second is the principle known as "Original Sin". Now, the term may be used to refer to the event itself -- Adam and Eve's first sin. But usually it refers to a human condition that has existed ever since that first sin. You see, the Genesis Principle of Sin holds that "sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men" (Rom 5:12). The Genesis Principle is that all humans are born with a sin nature because of Adam's sin. There is no such thing as "innocent" in these terms (with the sole exception of Christ). Sin is not an action anymore, but a condition. It's a condition we've all inherited (so to speak) from our father, Adam. Humans are not "basically good". They are rotten at the core.

So, sin is a serious, deadly problem and sin is a pervasive, all-encompassing problem. These are two components of the Genesis Principle of Sin. The good news is that there is a third piece. God told the serpent, "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel" (Gen 3:15). This verse is called among theologians "the Protoevangelium" -- the First Gospel. No sooner did Adam inflict the pervasive and deadly problem of sin on the universe but God arrives with a solution. His Son would arrive one day in the form of a human -- an offspring of Eve -- to crush Satan's head. It wouldn't be without injury ("You shall bruise his heel"), but it would be successful. Thus, included in the Genesis Principle of Sin is the Gospel, the promise of redemption, the provision for salvation from the problem of sin. In a very real way, then, throughout history anyone whose confidence of salvation was in this early promise of God for redemption by His Son, the Christ, would be a "Christian", saved by faith in the Son of God.

The Bible takes the subject of sin very seriously. Its consequences are deadly, both spiritually and in so many other ways. All creation is subject to sin (Rom 8:20-22). The consequences range from immediate spiritual death all the way to permanent separation from God. No one escapes the problem. God explained (repeatedly) the depth of the problem with tools like the Law and His commandments to illustrate how far we are from what we ought to be. We, in turn, minimize it. And the Bible harkens back to the event as proof text of other concepts (e.g., Rom 5:12; 1 Tim 2:12-14; etc.). It is, in some sense, one of the singular main themes of the Bible and all Christianity. It is the "Bad News" answered by the Good News. It's big ... really big. Minimizing it doesn't make it go away. Thank God for the Good News of His remedy, the sacrifice and resurrection of His Son.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Genesis Principles - Marriage

One quite clear concept from Genesis that has carried through from the beginning to our time is the concept of marriage. The very first marriage was between the very first two people. We know the concept has carried through because Jesus referred to it (Matt 19:4-6) and Paul confirmed it (Eph 5:31). Thus, this Genesis Principle continues without deviation. What principle?
Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh (Gen 2:24).
Now, walk with me for a few moments because I think we might get a lot more out of this Genesis Principle than you might have first imagined.

First, we clearly have "a man" and "his wife". To stretch that to "a man" and his wives (plural) is to deviate from this original version. They did, but it isn't in the original. To stretch it to a man and anything else (or a wife and anything else) is ludicrous. A man and his wife -- the original design.

Second, "they shall become one flesh". Two components are in play here. First is the union that marriage becomes. It isn't a simple relationship. It isn't a committed relationship. It is a union. Two "become one flesh". Paul indicates that there is something else going on than mere sex here: "Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her?" (1 Cor 6:16). This union goes beyond an event. It becomes a condition. It is the primary reason that Paul warns against sexual immorality (1 Cor 6:13). It is a union.

The second component is somewhat easier to figure because it is easy to see. Sex. The Genesis Principle of Marriage includes the idea that husband and wife engage in sexual relations with each other partly to become one flesh and partly to fulfill the commandment "Be fruitful and multiply" (Gen 1:28). That is, it is not true that either sex is solely for reproduction or for mutual pleasure. It is for a union and reproduction.

But we're not done. I think we can gather more from these first two chapters on the Genesis Principle of Marriage. There is, for instance, another purpose indicated -- a reason for Man and Woman. According to the text, Eve was designed as "a helper fit for him" (Gen 2:20). The Genesis Principle of Marriage here will have none of modern feminism that claims that everyone is the same. Adam had his role. Eve had hers. She was "a helper fit for him."

"Ah!" you will complain, "You are making women as less than men." Not at all. Indeed, included in this Genesis Principle of Marriage is exactly the opposite. We read in the first chapter of Genesis "So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them" (Gen 1:27). Humans, if you recall, derive their God-given value from the Imago Dei, their being made in the image of God. Who is made in the image of God? The text says "male and female". Thus, men and women are of equal value. So Peter warns husbands to "live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered" (1 Peter 3:7). "Heirs with you." Not creatures of lesser value. Joint heirs. And not people worthy of less honor. They are people to whom honor is due. Remember, a different role does not equate to a different value.

"Okay," you might counter, "but you're still setting up a hierarchy. You're still making man over woman." Well, if you wish to put it that way. But I'm just telling you what the Genesis Principle says. It says that Eve was "a helper fit for him". Paul confirms this when he says, "I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God" (1 Cor 11:3). Am I setting up a hierarchy? Only in so far as God has. Only in so far as Christ has agreed to. (Isn't it ironic that God is the head of Christ, but wives refuse to have husbands as their head?) The Genesis Principle of Marriage includes the honor a wife deserves as well as the submission (Eph 5:22-24) that God demands.

There are some ramifications to all this that should be apparent. First, if husband and wife are one, a union that exceeds mere physical coupling, what would that say about adultery? Clearly the notion would make no sense at all considering this Genesis Principle. Uniting with others outside of this union would be wrong in so many ways. In fact, this is why adultery in the Law was punished by death. There was no remedy for such a disastrous event.

Jesus brings up the other obvious ramification (Matt 19:3-12). If husband and wife are one, where does divorce fit in? In what possible sense does that union come to an end? What are the conditions required to terminate that union? Clearly death would do it. You know, "'Til death do us part". That makes sense. And Jesus pointed to "sexual immorality" (Matt 19:9). If sexual relations produce a union and sexual immorality produces an immoral union, that would make sense as well. How about "irreconcilable differences"? If you understand the Genesis Principle of Marriage, that doesn't work at all. How about "mental cruelty" or the like? If you continue to hold to the modern perception of marriage as simply a relationship between two people, that would seem reasonable. But if you see marriage as a genuine union, it would make as much sense as cutting off your leg because it hurts you. Such an act might be necessary in extreme circumstances, but only after every other possible avenue has been exhausted. Surely that is obvious when marriage is viewed through the biblical concept.

Well, there's more than enough to mull over here on this particular Genesis Principle. I am fairly certain, in fact, that I've left stuff out. Feel free to pick up your own connections from the text. I hope, however, that you see that it's much bigger in scope than today's simple "committed, loving relationship" that so many think defines marriage. Much bigger ... if you're willing to take your principles from Scripture rather than culture.