The Heart of Paradise

I found it very interesting, perhaps even providential, that as I was reading again The Heart of Paradise: The Godly Hierarchies of Love and Marriage that we are reading and discussing on Sunday nights, I came across a news report about a new book that reveals “a shocking re-examination of Adam and Eve.” The interviewer raised the question, “Are they the original sinners, or the most misunderstood couple in history.” The author of the book answered by suggesting that Eve is the victim of the greatest character assassination in history, and that she was the first independent woman. He further noted that Adam and Eve are the role models we need for modern day relationships.

Diane Woerner, the author of the paper we are reading, certainly wouldn’t agree with his view of Adam and Eve. Both go to the Bible for the story, but one reflects contemporary thinking, and the other strives to reveal the truth, even if it isn’t embraced by modern sensibilities. Here’s some of what she has to say:

“Our enemy was supremely cunning with his enticements. It had never occurred to Eve to be discontent with the plentiful provision she enjoyed. Adam had never had his leadership challenged. In addition, they were both oblivious to the astonishing privilege they had been given in their intimate communion with God. But like the serpent himself, sin slithered into their choices, and creation fell groaning into the chaos in which we still live. And the divine pattern of masculinity and femininity was in some ways chief among the casualties.

“Consider what changed. Humanity failed to honor God’s position of authority, believing that their understanding of what would benefit them was superior to his. Eve became an initiator and Adam ‘heeded’ the voice of his wife— which God specifically identified as the first sin. In the resulting curses, Eve’s daughters would desire to have dominion over their husbands, and Adams’ sons would be compelled to rule rather than lead. Moreover, men would henceforth find their tasks as protectors and providers to be far more challenging, inclining them to shirk these responsibilities.”

I think who has a correct understanding of what happened in Eden is obvious. Join us Sunday at 6:30 if you want to have that belief confirmed.

God Bless, Rick

The Godly Hierarchies of Love & Marriage

My Sunday night class was gracious, and allowed me to move from a brief section on purity in our book, to a rather lengthy article written by a homemaker from Tennessee that I discovered last week in Touchstone.

When I find insightful, thought provoking articles that I want to share with you, I often summarize them in this column, and then put copies of the entire article in the hall rack. Apparently my summaries are so good that few, if any, feel a need to read the whole thing. I knew that would be the case with an eleven page article subtitled “The Godly Hierarchies of Love & Marriage.”

Since simply reading a passage from our book, and then discussing it, seems to work best for our Sunday night class, I wondered if I could do the same with this article. And since it dealt with a topic we were discussing anyway, I hoped the class would go along with the idea. They did, and we started it last week. But since we only covered a couple of pages, there is still time for others to join with us.

The article is not an easy read, but it is well worth the time and effort. The author goes back to the nature of God Himself to answer questions about masculinity and femininity, positions of authority, sexual expression, and marriage. Obviously these are hot topics today, and everyone seems to have an opinion about such matters.

To find answers about interpersonal relationships that go beyond mere opinion to foundational truth based on the triune nature of God might seem like something that ought to be left to ivory tower theologians. Today, however, when there is not even a consensus among churches, and what has historically been the Christian position on matters of gender roles and sexuality goes counter to socially accepted and politically correct opinion, it may very well be necessary for Christians in general, and Christian parents in particular, to equip themselves with answers that go beyond the “this is my opinion what’s yours” playing field.

If you want solid answers to some of the most important questions being asked in our day, join us this Sunday at 6:30. I’ve made up even more copies, and we’ll bring you up to speed before we continue reading the article together.

God Bless, Rick

Daily Bread

After feeding the 5000, Jesus made it clear that He would not continue feeding the multitudes physical food. He had come to be the Bread of Life, not to simply feed people on bread. And contrary to what the people wanted, He wouldn’t prove Himself to be Messiah by giving them bread out of heaven, as Moses had done. Besides, they had apparently forgotten how dissatisfied the Israelites were with the manna.

Manna, you may recall, was the food that miraculously appeared every morning for forty years. What it was, we don’t know. Neither did the Israelites. In fact, manna means, “what is it?” Whatever it was, it was nutritious, and they were instructed to gather as much as they wanted every day. Other than on the Sabbath, of course.

The manna started appearing after only a month and a half in the wilderness, when the Israelites started grumbling about being brought into the wilderness to starve to death. They had left Egypt with their flocks and herds, and had apparently been rationing the food supplies they had brought with them, but longed for the pots of meat they had in Egypt and the freedom to eat bread to the full. God responded by promising to send them all the bread they wanted every morning, and even some quail to eat in the evening.

After a year or so at Sinai, they were led by the cloud and pillar of fire to continue on their journey to the Promised Land. In a matter of days, they started complaining about the manna, and longed for the quantity and variety of foods they had had in Egypt. God responded by covering the ground with quail three feet deep, and they gorged themselves on it. Before long the quail became as loathsome to them as the manna.

The problem they faced in the wilderness wasn’t a lack of food, it was what is today called “food insecurity.” They didn’t trust that the God who had miraculously delivered them from bondage would care for their needs in the future. And, of course, they hadn’t been taught to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.”

While James does make it clear that we cannot ignore the physical needs of others, we must never forget that our primary responsibility is to teach, and to practice, walking by faith, and trusting God for our daily needs.

God Bless, Rick

“I did not enjoy going to church last Sunday”

“I did not enjoy going to church last Sunday” was the first sentence in an article entitled, “A painful apology to a kid at church” that I found on Fox News last week. Obviously the article caught my attention.

The author began by explaining that he had taken his three kids to church by himself because his wife was ill. He faced more than the usual struggles to get everyone to church, and while trying to find a parking place found himself thinking, “I shouldn’t have tried to come.” When he got there a half an hour late, almost on time for CCC I should probably note, he was asking himself, “Why am I even here?“

At the sign-in table he noticed a little girl clinging to her mother, afraid to go to Sunday School, and told his daughter to say hello. She responded, “I don’t want to.” He explained the importance of doing so, and said, “Do it!” She again responded, “ I don’t want to, Daddy.” He was determined to win the battle, so kept ordering her to do it until she had tears in her eyes. He then sent her off to class with a stranger she didn’t know.

During the worship service his baby needed a bottle, so he went to get it. As he passed his daughter’s class he saw her, and started feeling ashamed for what he had done. He knew he had to do something right then and there, so went into her classroom, knelt down beside her and whispered in her ear, “How did it make you feel when I forced you to talk to that little girl?” She responded, “Sad.” When she then acknowledged that he had indeed embarrassed her, her lip started quivering.

He picked her up, took her into the hallway, and with tears in his eyes, said, “I’m really sorry, will you forgive me?” She nodded, and he said, “I’m going to pray and ask God to forgive me too.” In his prayer he asked for forgiveness for being a bad father. She then whispered in his ear, “You’re not a bad father.”

Indeed he’s not. He did exactly what needed to be done.

Paul warned fathers about disciplining their children in ways that lead to unintended consequences. An apology for making a demand without considering the tone of voice used, or how it was received, doesn’t diminish authority. It only makes better fathers.

God Bless, Rick

The Achille’s heel of Bible readers

If you’re still at it, you are to be commended. If you’re not, I want to encourage you to get back with it. What am I talking about? I’m talking about something many of us were encouraged to do when we saw Norma Chasco’s record of annually reading through the Bible.

I have to confess it had been awhile since I had systematically read through the Bible in a year, and I hadn’t done so chronologically, so I decided that would be the way to go this time. I really enjoyed reading through Genesis again. The chronological Bible I’m using then took me to Job, and it’s always good to read of his struggles, the poor counsel that he was given by well-meaning friends, and God’s answer to the question of suffering. I then actually enjoyed pondering afresh the laws that are recorded in Exodus.

Then came Leviticus and Numbers, the Achille’s heel of Bible readers. Even a blending of the two books to maintain the chronological flow didn’t help much. The repetition, the detailed instructions, and the lists of names can cause even committed eyes to glaze over.

If you are still on target for 2017, you’ve made it through the toughest part. You may, however, be feeling a tad guilty for skimming through some passages of God’s Word. My pastoral advice to you is to get over it. Get over the guilt, and just get over the passage. I really don’t think every word in the Bible demands our undivided attention and thoughtful meditation.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s all there for a reason, and it’s all important. It just may not be necessary for us to deeply ponder every passage. Then again, pondering can come even after skimming.

That realization came to me when reading about the offerings brought by the twelve tribes at the dedication of the tabernacle. After reading the list once, I really didn’t read it carefully eleven more times. In fact, I started wondering why Moses didn’t simply say ditto, they all gave the same things. Then I realized God may not have wanted anyone to think He appreciated their offering any less than anyone else’s.

So even if your eyes glaze over, and you find yourself skimming, just keep going. Besides refreshing your memory, you may discover something you never saw before, or even better, gain a new insight into God’s love for us.

God Bless, Rick