Ego Custodiam April 16, 2011Posted by preacherwin in Odds & Ends, Reflections.
Tags: a person's value to God, anxiety, being anxious, Ego Amabo, Ego Custodiam, Ego Redimam, Ego Sanctificabo, God's guardianship, God's sovereignty, I will cherish them, I will guard them, I will sanctify them, not being anxious, value, Why worry?
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The fourth of the relational statements that the early church fathers made reflected God’s relationship to the church. “I will guard them,” says God of his people. At first, we might be inclined to think that this statement could be fuller or more involved. We might expect God to say Ego Redimam (“I will redeem”) or Ego Amabo (“I will love”) or even Ego Sanctificabo (“I will sanctify them” or “I will make them holy”). At the same time, if we explore this idea of guarding something, we can argue that it contains at least an element of each of these statements. One guards those things that they love or hold to be valuable and one must have something in one’s possession to guard it, thus God redeems his people from the sin that once held us captive. Also, those things that we guard and cherish, we choose to refine, removing those imperfections that we can find in the object of our affection. Thus the language of Ego Custodiam includes all of the above comments.
So, why does God choose to guard his church? Certainly it must not be assumed that God places his affections upon us because of who we are or because of what we have done. All of our works, we must affirm like the Apostle Paul, are naught but dung (Philippians 3:8). No, he places his affections upon us because of whose we are—his own—and as a revelation of his glory. What we all deserve is eternal condemnation because of our sins and the guilt of sin we have inherited from our forefathers, yet he has chosen us since before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4), before we had done anything good or bad (Romans 9:11), and sent his Son to pay the price to redeem us from our just judgment, substituting himself in our place (2 Corinthians 5:21). As the value of an item is based on the price that one is willing to pay for it, our value to God is without measure, for his Son, Jesus, being eternal God, paid an eternal price for our souls. And because of that price paid, he will never let one of his own slip from between his fingers (John 10:28-30).
Beyond redemption is the idea of his guardianship. God does not save us to leave us saved but to our own devices. No, God preserves us and guides us through life. The Psalmist writes of God’s guardianship:
“For his angels he will command regarding you—
To guard you in all of your ways.”
The picture here is self explanatory; God is a jealous God (Deuteronomy 5:9) and he will not share us with any other. We are guarded, kept, and held secure for this great purpose and he will not revoke his calling upon us (Romans 11:29). Indeed, nothing on earth or in heaven can separate us from the love that is in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:38-39).
But what does that mean for us? It means that there is no reason for us to despair. How often we go through life and feel as if we are standing as one person against a host of enemies and that the world’s sole goal is to tear apart the things that we have sought to bring together. How often we feel lost, confused, and abandoned when confronted by tragedy in this world. How often we feel as if God is not listening to or responding to our prayers. How often chaos seems to dominate our lives and the world around us. Yet, all of these perceptions miss the mark. Because our hearts are deceitful above all things (Jeremiah 17:9) and from our hearts flow all sorts of vain imaginations and sin (Mark 7:20-23), we miss the glory that God has prepared for us even in the challenges of this world (1 Corinthians 2:8-9).
You see, we often get so wrapped up in the events of the moment that we forget that we do not see the big picture. Indeed, even when we begin to try and focus on the big picture of God’s redemptive history, because we are finite and grounded in this world, we still do not see with the scope and breadth that our Lord sees it. Indeed, compared to the immensity of God’s vision, our vision is minuscule to be generous. The sad thing is how often we take our minuscule vision as the whole of God’s vision and then wonder why God is permitting things to take place, all-the-while questioning his character and his goodness. There is none like our God (Psalm 77:13) who calls us not to be anxious about tomorrow (Matthew 6:34), but instead to cast all of our cares before him because he cares for us (1 Peter 5:7).
Reflect on what God speaks through the psalmist as Psalm 91 is brought to a close:
“Because he clings to me in devotion, I will save him;
I will make him untouchable because he knows my name.
When he calls me I will answer him,
With him, I will be in times of distress.
I will rescue him and honor him.
With long days I will satisfy him,
I will reveal myself to him in my salvation.”
Ego Eripiam April 05, 2011Posted by preacherwin in Odds & Ends, Reflections.
Tags: calling, Ego Eripiam, Ego Onerabo, Ego Territabo, Eternal Security, Harry Houdini, I will snatch, I will snatch out of his hand, John Paton, sanctification, sober-mindedness, spiritual sobriety, the Christian life, watchfulness, watchman on the wall, worldview
The third of our statements deals with the relationship of Satan toward believers—“I will snatch them” or “I will steal them away.” While we would affirm in our theology that the believer is held by Christ and can never be separated from his hand (John 6:37; 10:28; Romans 8:37-39), the reality of Satan’s eventual failure does not dissuade him from this attempt to make us stumble and fall away from our Lord and master. He is a persistent foe. This phrase could be embellished with some of the means that our enemy employs: Ego Territabo (“I will intimidate”) or Ego Onerabo (“I will weary” or “I will oppress”).
In contrast to Jesus, who gives life and life abundant (John 10:10), but the thief, which is Satan, only comes to kill and destroy. He comes to undermine the work of the fellowship and to frustrate our labors. Though he knows he cannot win, he strives toward that end. Peter describes him as a roaring lion (1 Peter 5:8) seeking someone to devour. Jesus describes him as a wolf, seeking to prey upon the weak sheep (John 10:12). John describes him as a dragon who deceives the world and seeks to lash out and destroy the followers of Jesus Christ (Revelation 12:9,17).
So, what is our response to this kind of wild enemy. Peter says that we are to be sober-minded and watchful. Being sober-minded means that one’s mind must be clear from distractions and from all of those things that would flatter us so as to lead us astray. As the man who is drunk acts in a way that is both unwise and unlike his character, so the man who is sober-minded should act in a spirit of wisdom and in a way that is consistent with the Godly character that the Spirit has instilled in us. It is to remain self-controlled even in situations where threat arises.
And to be aware of those threats, we must be watchful. This is a military term reflecting the guard that we must have on the wall to warn us of the temptation of sin (Ezekiel 3:16-21). We are not to be like the ostrich burying its head in the sand. We must not be found asleep at the post. The Apostle Paul even uses this term of watchfulness as an analogy of being alive (1 Thessalonians 5:10), a reminder that life and death are the matters with which we are dealing; a serious reminder indeed, particularly in a world that rarely takes seriously the warnings that scripture sets before us.
Though Harry Houdini may not be a model example of Christian faith (his heritage was Jewish), he is an example of what it means to be sober-minded and watchful as a Christian. Many of his stunts, from the perspective of an outside observer, were death-defying, reckless, and foolish. Yet, when you realize that Houdini never performed a stunt that had not been planned out and rehearsed many times with many safeguards in place, you must confess that reckless is not a term that can be properly applied. From the perspective of a non-Christian, sometimes the work that Christians do seems equally reckless and foolish. Christians regularly go and minister to people in plague infested areas knowing that they too might contract the disease, but doing so for the sake of the Gospel. My favorite missionary, John Paton, went to Tana Island in the New Hebrides which was populated by several cannibal tribes and his life was at constant risk. Yet, he went anyway. I have worked with inner-city drug addicts in a place where at one time the shelter’s director was stabbed by a man staying there. The Christian goes, though, because the Christian understands that the call of God is more important than the risks. At the same time, the Christian goes knowing the risks that are present and does not ever go until one has bathed himself in prayer and sought the prayers of others. Like Houdini, there are risks certainly, but the risks are approached in sober preparation.
The Devil seeks to snatch you out of the hand of God. That cannot be done, but that does not mean that the resultant tug-o-war on your life will always be a pleasant thing. At the same time, in knowing who the victor will be, it enables you to stretch beyond your limits and grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Given our fallen and sinful state, there is a great deal of stretching left to be done to prepare us for God’s heaven—what are we waiting for; step into the call that God has placed upon your life.
Ego Decipiam March 24, 2011Posted by preacherwin in Odds & Ends, Reflections.
Tags: armor of God, deception, Ego Decipiam, Guarding our heart, I will deceive them, I will ensnare them, idols, keeping one's way pure, Psalm 119, the deception of Satan, the deception of sin, the deception of the world
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While the pastor must confess that he will fail his flock, the world makes a different profession. The world says, “I will deceive them” or “I will ensnare them.” How much more sinister is this response than the one that went before, yet how often has this been our experience. The world promises us wealth and success if we just compromise this or that set of morals—which at first seems small, but like a drug, it demands more and more and more. At first it might take the form of justifying a little lie, then it may grow into envy coveting either the wealth or the success of another. Gradually it progresses from there onward. We end up make idols of the things of this world and in doing so, we compromise God’s law as a whole.
Jesus speaks of the cares of the age and the deception of riches as that which chokes the Word of God in our lives (Matthew 13:22). The cares of life often fill our days and rob us of sleep. We pretend that we are just trying to be responsible citizens and parents who provide for our families, but how often those words, while well intentioned, are placed in our mouths not by the Holy Spirit, but by those who are of this world. Yet this world and the things therein are passing away (1 John 2:17). While sounding noble, such cares betray a lack of reliance upon the promises of God to provide for his children.
The world masquerades its temptations as love and care for us, while in reality, the world hates us and the one we serve (John 15:19). Like a treacherous counselor, the world pretends to be our ally, all the while manipulating our thoughts and actions toward sedition against the great King and High Priest, Jesus Christ. Our ego is flattered and our lusts are excused. These are the ways of this world.
How essential it is for a person to keep their guard up against such treachery. The Apostle Paul warns us to be careful that no one takes us captive through vain or empty deceit (Colossians 2:8) and the author of Hebrews warns against the hardening that comes through the deceitfulness of sin (Hebrews 3:13). It is likely, though, that Paul offers the strongest warning on this matter to the church in Thessolanica when he warns that with the coming of Satan’s influence and that the reason we are ultimately deceived is because we have refused to love the Truth and in turn, rejected salvation (2 Thessalonians 2:9-12). How often we are guilty of desiring the so-called comforts of the world that we choose to allow ourselves to be deceived, yet do not consider this willful deception to be a rejection of God’s Truth!
How do we protect ourselves from this deception? The psalmist sets 8 principles before us in the second stanza of Psalm 119.
- We must guard our way according to God’s word (Psalm 119:9)
- We must seek God with our whole heart (Psalm 119:10)
- We must store up God’s word in our heart (Psalm 119:11)
- We must seek to learn God’s statutes (Psalm 119:12)
- We must declare to others the law of God (Psalm 119:13)
- We must delight in the testimony of God and in his ways (Psalm 119:14)
- We must meditate on God’s precepts (Psalm 119:15)
- We must delight in the law of God (Psalm 119:16)
Seek these things, the Psalmist insists, and you will guard the way that is before you. Deception is all around; do not fall prey to the wiles of the devil, but indeed, guard yourself with the whole armor of God which he has given to you (Ephesians 6:11).
Ego Deficiam March 19, 2011Posted by preacherwin in Odds & Ends, Reflections.
Tags: counseling, deficiency, Ego Deficiam, failure, Forgiveness, Grace, how to deal with failure, I will fail you, Nehemiah, pastoral failure, Prayer, repentance
“I will fail them.” The early church fathers reflected on the relationships between pastors, the world, satan, and the church flock and developed a series of statements that described each relationship. The first of these statements was that of the pastor with regard to his people: Ego Deficiam (I will fail).
At first, our response might be to think that this is a rather pessimistic view of the relationship between shepherd and flock. How is it that a pastor could go into his role with the assumption that he will fail his people? As churches, do we want to hire a pastor who says up front, “Oh, by the way, I will fail you.” It is food for thought.
There are two aspects of this statement, that we must understand. The first is the “I.” I will fail you. I will fail as your pastor, as your counselor, and as your friend. I will fail as a husband and as a father. I will fail as an employee and as a representative of the church in the community. I will fail. Yet, this is not a pessimistic view, but a realistic view (as well as a Biblical one). For while I will fail you; Christ will not do so. Christ will gloriously succeed not because of my efforts, but in spite of my best efforts. And when I serve not in my own strength, but in the strength of Christ, then glorious things will happen—not for my praise, but for God’s.
This is the reason that a pastor (all Christians really) must be a man of prayer. And not just a prayer in the morning or evening, but a pastor must be a man of constant prayer through the day. One of the reasons that I like Nehemiah is because he exemplifies this. Not only are there formal and structured prayers recorded coming off of his lips, but also he lifts up short little “bullet prayers” throughout the day as he is making decisions. Those of you who know me or who have sat under me teaching on Nehemiah know that I am not overly fond of his model as a manager of people (even though lots of books present him that way); read Nehemiah 13:23-27 and ask yourself if you want a governor or office manager who leads in this fashion☺. I do believe, though, he provides us with a good example of perpetual prayer, seeking God’s wisdom and strength.
The second aspect that we must understand is that the fact that someone fails is not nearly as important as what someone does as a result of that failure. The true humility of a man will always present itself in failures, not in successes. If a person covers up their failures or seeks to shift blame to others, then the person’s character is such that you ought not have him as shepherd. If he is humble, repentant, and takes responsibility for his actions, then that is a man you want to lead you. The Gospel is the good news of God reconciling us poor and spiritually bankrupt sinners to himself; we are all in the same boat together within the church—wretches who have been redeemed by grace. Why should we expect our pastor of not being a sinner and thus a failure in God’s economy?
Sadly, we often create a standard that a pastor cannot hope to live up to and then make him feel like he has to hide his sin to keep up appearances. Yet, if the pastor is living hypocritically, why are we surprised when the members of our congregations live hypocritically? Our goal must be very different. We must endeavor to create a culture of honesty and transparency within our church community that is seasoned with abundant grace. Then, when one fails, the community comes together to work toward grace-filled reconciliation. It must be said, that there are some failures that must, by their very nature, remove a man from the office of shepherd, but not that ought to remove him from the church.
In discussions and counseling sessions with members of my congregation, one of the things that I have said over and over is: “We are going to make mistakes; we are going to mess things up.” The fact is, we are fallen and sinful and despite the grace we have been shown by Christ, we will not always show the grace we ought to show. At the same time, what I have told people is that when we mess up, if you let us know, we will fix it.
Indeed, I will fail you. But in Christ, I will repent and strive to make it right.
Evidence for the Historical Jesus February 16, 2010Posted by preacherwin in Apologetics, Reflections.
Tags: Apologetics, Christian, extra-biblical evidence of Jesus, historical Jesus, historicity of Jesus, josephus, life of Jesus, tacitus, talmud
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Recently, I watched a debate where a critic of Christianity made the statement that there was no historical evidence to support the Jesus of the Bible that existed in Jewish literature. The Christian in the debate made a tolerable answer, but I felt that he had missed a major point of the argument. In this essay, I would like to do two things. First, I would like to pose the question as to just what does constitute historical evidence and second, what historical evidence is there in the world?
To begin with, we need to ask what constitutes “historical evidence” before we can honestly set evidence on the table for discussion. The Historical Method, which is the method used by historians to relate the history of peoples, events, and cultures can be summarized by a series of principles:
- Archaeological Relics are the most reliable witnesses to an event because they were actually present at the time the event took place.
- Primary source material is the most reliable witness, followed by secondary sources and then tertiary sources, etc…
- The more independent sources testify to an account, the more credible the account becomes.
- When looking at source data, one must take into account the sympathies, biases, and agenda of the author.
- The less biased a witness is, the more credible the witness.
These are the criteria of those who practice what is called the “Historical Critical” method, which is dominant in historical evaluation today.
In light of the above criteria, I would begin by suggesting that the Biblical text itself satisfies all of the above requirements to be considered reliable primary source data of the most credible degree. Manuscript evidence of the Bible dates back to the first century AD, during the lifetime of some of the original 12 Apostles. It is primary source data in that it records first-hand accounts of the life, the works, the teachings, the miracles, the death, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. These early witnesses are also testified to by first and second century manuscripts, themselves constituting either primary or secondary witnesses. Given the large amount of independent sources that corroborate the Biblical account, the biases can be recognized as minimal. In additional, since all of the Biblical writers, save perhaps Luke, were Jewish, even the New Testament counts as primary Jewish source evidence. Those who reject the Bible because of its religious nature have allowed their own biases to cause them to be inconsistent in their methodology. Yet, in addition to the primary source material contained in the Bible, we additionally have references like the following to support the life and ministry of Jesus Christ:
- Josephus (a Jewish historian in the Roman court) in Antiquities, Book 18, Chapter 3 mentions Jesus as “a wise man” and a doer of “wonderful works.” Though this text is debated, here Josephus also attributes Jesus as a teacher and Christ who was executed.
- In Book 20, Chapter 9 of Antiquities, Josephus also mentions James as the brother of Jesus “who was called Christ.”
- Tacitus (a late 1st century Roman Historian) in his Annals 15.44 mentions “Christus” as the namesake of the Christians and that this Christus was executed in Judea during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of Pontius Pilate.
- Thallus (a Roman historian writing in the mid first century) records an unusual eclipse as well as an earthquake during the time of Passover in Judea. The eclipse was unusual because Passover was held at the time of the full moon where eclipses do not take place naturally.
- The Babylonian Talmud (Hebraic tradition and commentary) records that on the eve of Passover “Jeshu” was hanged. Jeshu is a Jewish name for Jesus.
- Mara Bar-Sarapion (a Stoic Philosopher in the mid to late 1st century AD from Syria wrote the following in a letter to his son: “What advantage did the Athenians gain from putting Socrates to death? Famine and plague came upon them as a judgment for their crime. What advantage did the men of Samos gain from burning Pythagoras? In a moment their land was covered with sand. What advantage did the Jews gain from executing their wise king? It was just after that that their kingdom was abolished. God justly avenged these three wise men: the Athenians died of hunger; the Samians were overwhelmed by the sea; the Jews, ruined and driven from their land, live in complete dispersion. But Socrates did not die for good; he lived on in the teaching of Plato. Pythagoras did not die for good; he lived on in the statue of Hera. Nor did the wise king die for good; he lived on in the teaching which he had given”
It should be noted that this list contains only a small sampling of the extra-Biblical evidence to the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. We have not begun to talk about some of the archaeological evidence like the “James Ossuary.” We also have deliberately kept Christian writers out of the discussion, though there are many. The bottom line is that there is an abundance of evidence to support the existence of the Historical Jesus—even in the Jewish writings. If we were to include Christian writings, layers upon layers of textual evidence would be added. Ultimately, to deny the historicity of Christ is like trying articulate a new scientific law without ever having taken the time to test it in the lab; it is intellectually dishonest. Those who deny the Bible as Historical evidence are not being honest with their methodology and the evidence that is available.
 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historical_method — footnote 1: Thurén, Torsten. (1997). Källkritik. Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell.
Does Your Location Affect Your Religion? December 30, 2009Posted by preacherwin in Apologetics, Reality Check, Reflections.
Tags: Absolute Truth, Apologetics, atheism, born again, Christianity, cultural Christianity, cultural religion, dangers of cultural Christianity, dawkins, false religion, genuine faith, morality, new creations, religion as a cultural expression, religion as an expression of morality, students leaving the church, true religion
Recently, I heard a challenge to Christianity that was worded like this: “The only reason you identify yourself as Christian is because you were born in America; if you had been born in Iraq, you would be Muslim and if you had been born in northern India, you would be Hindu—religion is nothing more than a cultural expression of morality.” The person making the challenge was Richard Dawkins, a popular atheist in our culture today. Though I had not heard that objection worded in the same basic way, I have heard this objection of Christianity before, and thought that I would like to pose a response from two perspectives.
The first perspective is purely a practical one, for I know that there are many nominal Christian parents that are essentially banking on this principle, hoping that their children will remain Christian (at least in name), while never truly training their children up in the faith. They think that of course, America is a Christian nation, so of course, my children will remain Christians all of their life. This not only exposes a faulty understanding of Christianity (as I will mention below), but it is a dangerous assumption, for America is becoming more and more of a secular, atheistic nation, and not a Christian one. Thus, some are estimating that as many as 80% of teenagers leave the church when they hit their college years, often without returning. Don’t get me wrong, many of them still think of themselves as Christian, but their Christianity has no bearing on the way they live their lives and for all practical purposes, they are secular humanists in practice and thought.
Furthermore, many of these children will openly reject Christianity because they see how self-serving, jaded, lazy, and corrupt so many churches have become. Many embrace the atheism of their college professors, but others are embracing false religions like Islam because they are attracted to the self-discipline and rigid lifestyle that such religions offer. We should not need to be reminded that one of the reasons that the Byzantine empire fell so easily to the Muslim expansion was due to the corruption and self-seeking nature of the church—people saw its weaknesses and rejected it as diseased and dying. Such an observation has been made of much of the church in America. Thus, it is not enough that we are actively pursuing the Christian faith, it is essential for us to recognize that our children must be actively pursuing the Christian faith as well.
That is the purely practical perspective, now for the theological one… While many religions may very well be simply cultural expressions of morality, Christianity, by definition, is different. For in Christ, we are called “new creations” (2 Corinthians 5:17)—in other words, we are changed from the outside in. Christianity is not a mere self-help program, it is a total change of lifestyle that can only be accomplished if one is supernaturally changed by God—we refer to this as being “born again” (John 3:3). This change is impossible to do for oneself, but God must effectively draw us to Christ as well (John 6:44). God draws us from the world, God gives us new life, and God makes us a new creation. This is more than mere morality, it is transformation. And, it is a transformation that takes place all over the world, even in countries where you can be put to death for claiming Christ as Lord and Savior.
The sad thing is that too many Christians simply treat Christianity as a self-help program, and when that happens, they do not live like new creations and Christianity becomes nothing more than a social norm—a norm that is quickly being redefined in America.
An Urgency of the Reforms of Church and Society: Calvin 500 September 19, 2009Posted by preacherwin in Odds & Ends, Reflections.
Tags: Calvin 500, International Calvin Conference, Moscow, Reformed Church in Russia, Russia, Russian Calvinism
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This year marked the 500th anniversary of the birth of John Calvin, the theologian of the Reformation. While Luther’s preaching sparked the fires of reform, it was Calvin that God had raised up to articulate the theology of those who protested against the Roman Catholic Church. To commemorate what God did through Calvin, there are conferences that have taken place all over the globe. I was given the great privilege of speaking at the international pastors’ conference held in Moscow. I was one of three representatives from the USA, joined by representatives from Holland, South Korea, Japan, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Belarus, to encourage the Russian Reformed pastors.
In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, when the Roman Catholic Church was oppressing the Reformers, Russia opened its doors to the Protestant refugees. Since the Russian Orthodox Church had already fought their battles with the Roman Catholic Church, they took the attitude that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” Thus, many Calvinistic Christians found their homes in Russia. These Christians not only brought their faith with them, but also quite a lot of technology from the west.
When Peter the Great began modernizing Russia in the late seventeenth century, it was the Calvinists he turned to for support. The Russian Orthodox Church preferred the “old ways,” but these Russian protestants proved to be very progressive and built Peter the Great’s navy, army, and artillery as well as much of the Russian infrastructure to support the modernization of the nation. These protestants, along with Peter’s vision for a modern Russia, are responsible for making the nation a European power.
When the Bolsheviks revolted in the beginning of the 20th century, the Calvinists in Russia supported the monarchy, thus, when the Communists took over, the Reformed Christians were systematically eliminated. When “Perestroika” took place in the late 1980s, the Protestants rushed back into Russia to evangelize and at first were largely successful. As a result, people were leaving the Russian Orthodox Church at a rapid pace; something that the Russian Orthodox leaders did not much care for. Thus, they began pressuring the government to restrict the ability of the Protestants to meet and organize.
A year ago, one of the Russian pastors, who was connected with a Reformed movement from South Korea, decided to separate from the liberals in his denomination and re-form a conservative and evangelical church from the “dry bones” of the older Russian Reformed church. He was joined by three other pastors, and the four of them formed the Russian Evangelical Reformed Presbyterian Church. One year later, they had grown to nine churches scattered around the greater Moscow area. The primary purpose of this conference was to encourage and help equip these nine pastors to continue to build as God would allow them. As a result of the conference, three churches in St. Petersburg, who were in a similar situation, decided to join the other nine in fellowship. In addition, the two representatives from Holland were there to determine the possibility of fraternal relations between their denomination (a conservative sect in the Dutch Reformed Church) and this new Russian denomination—something that seemed to go very well.
The Russian churches are still in need of a lot of prayer as they face a great deal of obstacles—some that we face and others that we are not currently facing (though may in time). It was a privilege for me to represent Westminster Presbyterian Church, Milton as well as the PCA to these pastors. Seeds have been planted, I am excited to see what our Lord will do with them in the years to come. Please commit Pastor Ten and this infant denomination to your prayers.
Two Group Pictures from the Convention
Defending Job’s Wife July 09, 2009Posted by preacherwin in Odds & Ends, Reflections.
Tags: dehumanizing Biblical characters, euthanasia, faith, fearful Christians, Job, Job 2:9-10, Job's Wife, like a fool, Mercy, Was Job's Wife a blasphemer, weakness
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Recently, I read an article that really came down hard on Job’s wife because of the statement that she makes to her husband, to “curse God and die.” The author went as far as to suggest that this was a woman who clearly had no faith and was a blasphemer because of the statement that she made and her unwillingness to follow her husband’s example. Granted, Job’s wife does not follow her husband’s example, but that being said, we need to be very careful about making judgments about her character and about her faith.
All too often, when folks come to texts like these, the matter of primary concern is, “What is the doctrine in question?” or “What moral or ethical principle can I learn?” And while texts like this do raise moral and ethical questions, when we look to answer these questions first, we oftentimes lose the people who are living out the event. Job and his wife are not fictional or allegorical characters, but they are real, historical people—human beings like you and me. They come complete with worries and fears, good days and bad days. They struggle with the same kind of struggles that you or I would struggle with, and Job’s wife, more-so than others in the narrative, needs to be looked at through this lens. We need to see her humanity and her hurt and as a result, we need to discuss her character flaws with compassion and not analytical scorn.
Look to other characters in scripture that have committed equally heinous sins. Look to King David who had his friend murdered to cover up his adultery with Bathsheba. Look at Peter who denied our Lord three times and then later, after Pentecost, still falls into fear of the Judaizers and had to be rebuked by Paul, “to his face.” Look at Abram and Sarai who doubted God’s promise and tried to force God’s hand through Hagar. Look at God’s people through history and their stumbles and failures, their doubts and their fears, and when we look at Job’s wife in this light, we see her very differently. Granted, we never see her recanting her statement, but she is restored in the end alongside of her husband. Eliphaz, Zophar, and Bildad are strongly rebuked in the end; Job’s wife is not.
Remember something as well, it is not just Job that is going through this trial, but Job’s wife is going through the testing and trial as well. Are not Job’s children also the children of his wife? Are not the lands, the wealth, and the property of Job also the lands, wealth, and property of his wife? Thus, in all these things, she has lost and suffered and hurt and grieved right alongside of Job—and been faithful, according to the account. Now, though, she sees the hand of trial turn upon her husband to the point where he is reduced to a wretched state, covered with sores and scraping himself with pottery shards, sitting in ashes. And it is here, at this point, that she breaks down and makes the comment that is recorded above.
Let me pose the question, how many confessing Christians have you known through the years who have come to this point? How many Christians have sought euthanasia for a loved one to end their suffering? Is this not the same thing as what Job’s wife is advocating? How many confessing Christians have been so overwhelmed by the grief over the loss or suffering of a loved one, that they have railed against God in anger and rage? Even many of the theological giants have gone through such crises—C.S. Lewis does us the favor of allowing us to see his inner doubts and fears about God as he watched his wife, Joy, wither and die of bone cancer. Friends, if you do not see her grief in these matters, you will interpret her badly, but when you see her grief you will see that these are not the words of a faithless blasphemer, but are the words of a fearful, hurting believer who is not able to bear what she sees taking place in the body of her husband.
The beauty of this whole event, and of our own lives when we face such trials, is that God is bigger than our grief. He is gracious in our doubts and merciful to us even in our anger. And sometimes we need to be brought by God to that point where we can just stop and be still, finding peace in Him—even in the midst of our lack of understanding. He is like a loving Father that once he has loved and held his child through a fit of rage, sits calmly with them and comforts that child in the wake of the fit. The beauty, loved ones, is that we don’t need to understand, simply trust that God understands and will work even the most horrendous things for our well-being. Thus, the next time you are ready to condemn Job’s wife, remember that she is human and remember that you are too; that ought to show her in a different light.