True Love

Today is Valentines Day. Rachel and I have never celebrated Valentines Day in the traditional way. If we go out to dinner, it’s because we would go out to dinner anyway. We do not need a made up holiday to remember that we love each other.

On this Valentines Day, however; I have been really focused on love, and specifically the love of adoption. I woke up this morning to my smiling (alright screaming) little man. I got an amazing hug from him as he declared “Daddy, it’s Thanksgiving!” After a quick correction, and a discussion about Valentines Day, he gave me another amazing hug. I told him to give Mommy one, and he said “No, La-La (Elaina) is my Valentine, she gets all my hugs.” I just love that kid to pieces. Adoption made my family so much better, because I got to experience the love of such a wonderful child. God gave so much to me because of him. Rachel and I advocate for adoption exactly for this reason: people need to be blessed by children who need love (to give and receive), and the receiving part is always the bigger blessing.

Adoption is also the perfect picture of what God did for His people. Ephesians 1:3-6 maybe the passage I most identify with in all of Scripture, because Rachel and I have been blessed with adoption of a son.

Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms in Christ. For he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world that we may be holy and unblemished in his sight in love. He did this by predestining us to adoption as his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the pleasure of his will— to the praise of the glory of his grace that he has freely bestowed on us in his dearly loved Son.

Think about the process of adoption for a second: people choose to bring a child that is not theirs into their home: to love them, to raise them, to train them, and when the parents die, to bless them as their own child. To me, it seems like the purest act of love. God showed people His heart, expressed through the tangible process of adoption. This is what God chose to do for His people. God chose His people, He loves his people, He brings us into His family, He trains us, and He gives us an inheritance. It was an act of pure love completely on God’s part. We are His, and He loves so very well.

On this day, I remember that I have been blessed supremely in my relationships with my wife, and my wonderful children. I get the unmitigated blessing of having all my children, regardless of how they were brought into my family. I am so thankful that the feelings of love and joy that I have for my son through adoption, are the same feelings God has for me (times a billion), and that I am truly loved.

Today can be tough for many, but I want to encourage you with the idea that God chose to love, and His love is available through His Son because He chose to reconcile His people. Do not settle for the lies that no one loves you, or that the love of God isn’t as good as the love of a [man, woman, child, mother, father, dog, etc…]. You are not outside it, too far from it, or unable to receive it. He calls and He makes you His own. His love is the best, and all you really need to the praise of His glorious grace.

Just a note to my amazing wife today: thank you for taking me on this journey of life, but specifically for the calling to adopt. Your heart is huge, and I love that I get to experience you completely. You are certainly a picture of God’s love to me!

 

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The Seed of the Woman

The first three chapters of the Book of Genesis set the stage for the drama that unfolds throughout the rest of the Bible. We have the overview of Creation: God making everything ex nihilo, culminating with the creation of humans. The second chapter is a recapitulation of the first chapter, and concludes with the institution of marriage. In chapter three the conflict is presented that will frame the main struggle for the rest of the Bible: people reject God and elevate themselves into His place. This decision by Adam and Eve to sin brought the consequence of separation and struggle for the remainder of their (and by extension, our) existence. The key verse is Genesis 3:15 where God tells the serpent that the “seed of the woman will bruise his head,” while the serpent would “bruise his heel.” This is commonly called the protoevangelium where deliverance from the punishments given is promised.

I think we often miss the point; however, of what is really going on in this passage and throughout the rest of Genesis. When we read Genesis, it is easy to overlook certain things because they are confusing (the names of people, and family relationships, and just what are the Nephilim?), but one word that we can easily miss is the Hebrew word transliterated toledoth which is found throughout the book. The word means “generations,” and gives us the insight to what God is really talking about, the continuation of the generations of “the woman” to get the promised seed. It is one of the the themes of Genesis, and the meta-narrative of the Scripture – preservation of the Seed of woman. This is why Genesis records the family lines the way it does, and why there is always tension that the seed might be forsaken, or lost (the Flood, Jacob/Esau, Joseph). Missing the idea that the Seed is the most important thing, allows us to misapply and wrongly conclude many things from Genesis 1-3.

Why is this important, or what is an application for rightly understanding the seed theme of Genesis? One of the primary arguments for women being submissive to men comes from Genesis 1-3, and Paul’s argumentation in his writings that God instituted a created order. Specifically cited is the statement of God in Genesis 3:16

To the woman He said,
‘I will greatly multiply
Your pain in childbirth,
In pain you will bring forth children;
Yet your desire will be for your husband,
And he will rule over you.'”

First, notice what is in view: childbearing. God is reinforcing the idea that the seed is primary, stating that even though there will be pain in bearing children, your desire will be for your husband. This statement has given rise to many ideas about the nature of women: they were built to be co-dependent, they have to have a man, they want to dominate men (read this passage in the NET), etc… The seemingly obvious conclusion based on the theme of Genesis, is that God is referring to the need to procreate and make more “seeds.” Despite the pain in childbirth the woman, and other women, will seek to have children.

Secondly, God says “and he [her husband] will rule over you.” Notice that everything in the passage from 14-19 is a new punishment, and changes the original design that God had planned. At the end of Genesis 2, the husband and the wife are one, but now in Genesis 3:16 they are separated. When they are one, the preservation of the human race would not seem to be an issue; however, when they are separated by their desires, the safety of the seed is in doubt. The woman (the helper from 2:18, his corresponding sexual partner), will suffer for the seed; but will be brought back to her husband for its sustenance (this is part of the promise of deliverance in the midst of the Curse). The rule of a husband over his wife, is not part of the marriage relationship until the Curse is given; and as a punishment a man’s rule will put the seed in jeopardy also, because it creates a struggle in the relationship.

From this point on, the struggle for the seeds protection graces the pages of Scripture, culminating in Jesus. If we miss that fact, it is very easy to turn to Genesis 3, see that a man will rule over his wife, and conclude that it is good and proper. God’s design was very different. He wanted husband and wife to be one, not in a hierarchical struggle, but truly one entity. Understanding the story of Scripture, and this one major theme, helps us to get to the right conclusion from Genesis 3:16: Fight against the punishment for sin that causes men to rule their wives, and seek to be one in Christ.

It is high time that evangelicals repudiated the idea that husbands are meant to rule their wives. Rule was a judgement not an endorsement. The Lord wants one thing above all others in our marriages: oneness. The unity of the husband and wife, sex and the continuance of the seed both declare that God’s promise is fulfilled: the seed will come and crush the serpent.

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I Am the Famous One

My wife and I discuss the state of the Church quite a bit. Having been involved in many facets of ministry for our entire marriage, it’s just something we do. I know that there is now a clamor among all those reading this to get in on these amazing conversations, but you are probably not cool enough. HOWEVER, feel free to start one next time we are hanging out!

One of the things that we come back to over and over is the rampant idolatry in our church settings. When I hear the word “idolatry,” I think of a bunch of people gathered around a golden idol. They bow down and worship it, expecting it to do magic tricks for them. The thought is almost so humorous it can be difficult for me to really identify with it. When I am being “spiritual,” my mind runs to Israel in the Old Testament as they constantly struggled with idol worship. Just reading the book of Judges, will make your head spin with their constant merry-go-round of idol worship-repent-deliverance-repeat. We do not identify with this either, because most of us aren’t dabbling in the polytheistic religions of the Ancient Near East, and we think we are superior to the Jews because of the whole New Covenant thing.

However, I think we are equally as idolatrous as the Jews were. 

The difference between the modern church and other idolaters is the object of what we worship, not that we are somehow devoid of idolatry. We don’t worship sticks, or objects, or a pantheon of gods and goddess; but we do worship things in the place of God. While there are many, many idols I could focus on for this discussion; the one that has really been bothering me for some time is “Celebrity Christianity.” I picked just a few reasons why I think this has been, and will be severely damaging to the American church.

The first is that it is antithetical to how Jesus lived. Jesus was sought out by crowds, but He never sought the crowds to build His brand. Jesus told people to keep quiet about Him. How many Celebrity Christians does that sound like? Jesus was concerned about one thing: the Kingdom. Celebrity turns very quickly into being concerned with one thing also: our kingdom. If we claim to be Christ-followers, shouldn’t we follow Christ?

Secondly, Celebrity Christianity teaches people that there are levels of Christians. The famous ones are looked up, everyone else is just ordinary. The truth of Scripture teaches us that no Christian is better or worse than any other. In fact, the Bible teaches us that there aren’t good and bad people, just bad people and a good God. Paul rebukes this type of foolishness, especially when it comes to factions caused by worshipping people other than Christ.

Lastly, the idea of Celebrity pushes people away from THE place of discipleship and growth: the local church. Celebrity teaching replaces pastoral teaching and involvement in the Missio Dei, because one no longer has to be involved in a church to get “solid teaching.” I believe one of the reasons the local church is declining is because people no longer NEED to be connected: get your spiritual scraps from the Celebrity’s table; and you are alleviated from the burden of having to be in the messiness of church life. This also leads to the idea that these famous people speak for Christianity as a whole. There are many people I respect who are “big names” in the Christian sub-culture, but I agree with none of them on everything. This is insidious because people hear a Celebrity Christian speak and do not bother to study to even see if they agree with them; especially when it mirrors their own presuppositions or feelings.

Rachel and I have been talking about this for a long time, and I don’t know that I have a solution. Americans seem to need to fixate on someone/something they can worship that is real. The only way to reverse course is not to miss the fact that God was tangible, and still is if we walk in His truth, and are His hands and feet. God is tangible when we decide we aren’t all that important, and push everything aside to elevate His name. God is still very real when we recognize the truth that the local church is more important than conferences, and conference speakers, and is THE engine for real discipleship. God is the only suitable object for our worship.

We must repent and seek Him, not our brand, not our “hero,” and not ourselves.

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Review: The Polygamist’s Daughter

book

My wife has lots of really cool friends and some of her friends are writers. This is really cool because she often gets books in advance that she reads and reviews. Recently, her friend Anna LeBaron (FacebookTwitter) wrote a memoir about her life and how she escaped a polygamist cult. This is not a book that I normally would read but I picked it up and read the first few pages, and I was hooked.

The story is about Anna’s life from a young age, and details the ins and outs of her experience. Her story is riveting, and captures you from the first few chapters. I have always been curious of life inside these cults. I have watched documentaries on Jonestown and David Koresh; but this story was unique because it comes through the eyes of a child who grew up in this environment. Her story is full of tension, fear, heartache, and shows the struggle that she went through to survive. Her journey is one that we can all relate to in some form or fashion, and it culminates with her finding God through His Son Jesus Christ.

There are many people in her story who helped her along the way, but what I loved most about this book was that the hero of it is definitely Jesus. You can see how He protected her, and provided deliverance even before she knew Him as her Savior. Anna was open with the struggles she had both during and after her time in the cult. Experiences like hers leave scars, and she is open with the process it took for her to deal with them. It’s abundantly clear that the physical, mental, and emotional healing she needed, she received through God’s loving care, and the ministry of His people. Seeing her walk through the struggles she had after her escape should give hope to all of us who have been through literal hell on earth at some point in our lives. God loved and pursued her, that is clear; and He does the same for all His children.

I loved this book and would recommend it to anyone!

You can buy the book Here.

You can read more about Anna’s father here