To the Lost and Abused


You are not forgotten. 

You are not irrelevant.  

This world of sin and sinners is often a place where young girls are sexually abused.  Where little boys are ignored by their fathers or beaten by their fists.  Where the small or disadvantaged are trampled by the anger or selfishness of warped men with warped hearts.  

Creation groans under sin.  

And Satan delights in it.  

He hates truth, hates Jesus, and loves pain.  

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.  He said to the woman, ‘Did God actually say, You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?

Genesis 3:5

And behold, there was a woman who had had a disabling spirit for eighteen years.  She was bent over and could not fully straighten herself.  When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said to her, ‘Woman, you are freed from your disability.’  And he laid his hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and she glorified God.  But the ruler of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, said to the people, ‘There are six days in which work ought to be done.  Come on those days and be healed, and not on the Sabbath day.’  Then the Lord answered him, ‘You hypocrites!  Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger and lead it away to water it?  And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?’  As he said these things, all his adversaries were put to shame, and all the people rejoiced at all the glorious things that were done by him. 

Like 13:11-17

This is a world where Satan often whispers a violent and treasonous song over the most helpless of people, and then dances to their fear and their pain and their bewilderment.  And it is a world where others join his twisted song.  

But it is not his world.  

Hear me.  

Let Hell and death and sin clamor for your soul.  Let them.  But their loudest ragings will not prevail if you will despair of all other hopes and instead call out to Jesus, like a lost and helpless child.  

Let your anxieties and all your most jagged memories creep up on you like old ghosts with sharp teeth.  They will not get to claim you if you are ransomed by the King of Kings.  

Let pain be pain and fear be fear.  Neither will have the last word if you will believe in Jesus.  

I know you have been wounded to the bone.  

You don’t trust people.  You don’t trust God. And you don’t trust “the world,” by which you probably mean people and God.  

You have heard that God is different from the one who abused you, but you don’t believe it.  

Believe.  

The one who violated you?  I know he used you.  But this is a God who was obliterated to bless people just like you.  

He lied to you.  But this is a God who speaks only truth; He can do no other.  

He promised to change, to be better, only to hurt you time and time and time and time again.  But this is a God who endured Hell and shame and death and agony to keep His promises. 

This God is different from the one who hated and harmed you.  Unimaginably different.  This Jesus will never leave, never forsake, never forget you.  He would rather die than lose those He claims, and the Cross stands as a vertical proof of it.  This is a Lord with a heart for the lowly and the bruised, and who breaks all the violent who refuse to repent. 

You have suffered.  

So has He.  

And at the place your suffering and His meet, namely your faith, a new song starts.  One that sin and death and Satan hate to the core.  

And one that is no whisper, no lie, and that never, ever ends.  

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.  Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 

1 Peter 5:8-9

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Transgenderism, Homosexual Behavior, and Racial Hatred


Yes, all 3 have something in common.  

I grieve what transgender confusion, homosexual  behavior, and racial hatred each due to human beings.  What do I mean?  They are each, in their own way, a symptom of the same disease:  A desire to be God.  They are each an effort to redefine or recreate what God has already defined, what God has already created.  

And each of these symptoms has at least one effect in common:  They do violence to the human who manifests them.  Which is why I hate to see what they do in people I care about.  

True human flourishing can only happen when humans enjoy and delight in what God has created, how He created it, and what He created it for.  So, as it relates to these 3 harmful evils, let me say:  

It is not good for humanity (or for individual human beings) to think

  • That maleness and femaleness are interchangeable (or identical in every way, or arbitrary)
  • That it is good for a man to be romantic or sexual with another man, or a woman to be romantic or sexual with another woman
  •  That skin color is a true and right distinction between human beings.

None of these 3 are good. Transgenderism, homosexual behavior, and racial pride each attempt to disfigure and obscure the image of God in human beings and the plan that God has for human beings.  Each of them does violence to the imago Dei.  

The truth is that God did design men and women as different with different roles to play in His Kingdom, different notes to sing in His song.  He did design romantic affection and sexual relations to be between a man and his wife.  And He most certainly did not designate skin color to be any sort of a meaningfully distinguishing characteristic between human beings (you will find God referencing His approval or disapproval on different nations in the Bible, but nowhere does He seem to even have a category for “race,” referring strictly to skin color).  

We ignore what God made, how He made it, and why He made it to our own peril.  

God made human beings to be and do glorious things, namely as image bearers of Himself, to enjoy and worship Him, and to have fruitful dominion over the Earth.  When we try to be or do things that He did not design us to be or do, when we look at humans or humanity or gender in a way contrary to the way He intends, we are walking a dangerous road.  We are taking a path away from joy, meaning, and dominion, and one towards pain, despair, and slavery.  

It is suicidal to set out on your own, humanity. 

Just ask the first Adam.  

For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 

Romans 8:22

For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. 

Romans 1:26-32

Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come. 

Romans 5:12-14

60 More Seconds of Christian Comfort

Look at the birds of the air:  they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not of more value than they?  And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?  And why are you anxious about clothing?  Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow:  they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.  But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 

Matthew 6:26-30

Look around you, Christian.  God feeds birds and causes flowers to grow and makes lilies and tulips beautiful.  This is His world.  And if you have truly been born again in Christ, then the God who owns and runs this universe spent His all to adopt you.  

Look at how tender this God is with robins and finches and dandelions and grass.  And you are His child.  Trust Him!

The word Jesus uses at the beginning of verse 28 doesn’t mean just to watch.  He uses a word like that in verse 26, but in the sentence that begins verse 28 He uses a word that means to study or observe or learn from.  So, seriously:  Go outside and look.  Step into your backyard and watch the petals of a flower flicker in a breeze like a candle flame, and know that every step in that dance is by His hand.  Go look at a tree and see the odd shape and direction of its branches, gnarled like an old man’s fingers, and know that every moment from that tree’s first break through the soil to its falling back down back into it are all by the decree of the God who loves and adopted and values you, Christian.  

“Do you see that sun coming up over the horizon, over there, tracing the blue sky with its warm gold?  Do you see that bright yellow star our side of the earth is facing right now?  Study it.  Look at it.  Birds and plants and stars and sins; this is all in His hands, child.  Trust Him.”

This is a good God.  This is a King we can trust.  This is a beautiful, caring, creating, provident, kind, remaking, rescuing, adoring, wise God.  

Let us seek His Kingdom first.  

Let us trust Him.

Grace and peace.

Peace.

Why My Family Won’t Celebrate Halloween

  

A couple of days ago my family and I were walking through Home Depot.
 Towards the front of the store were some cartoonish inflatable Halloween decorations for a front lawn.  You probably know the type:  Graves, skeletons, tombstones with humorous inscriptions.  And as we walked away from them I felt strongly that I needed to tell my oldest (5) that our family doesn’t celebrate death.  And then she started to tell me all the things that we’ve talked about as a family that are from God’s stories of Creation and Consummation in Genesis and Reveation:  That death is bad, that it came from sin, and that someday Jesus will come back.  And when He does, she said, “No more death, and no more tears, and no more boo boos.”  These are the truths we’ve tried to communicate to our 3 little children.  

And so while I don’t think there’s anything sinful in dressing up or in giving away candy, we won’t go door-to-door on Halloween this year because so much of what my kids would see would be a playful or morbidly curious attitude towards death.  At least 1 of my kids heard us sing “Laid Death In His Grave” this Sunday at our church gathering.  I don’t want us to sing joyfully that Jesus conquered something on Sunday and then playfully observe it a few weeks later. 

God grieves death.  And He hates it.  He gave up His own Son to defeat it.  He will someday cast it into the Lake of Fire with Satan and all his demons and the (finally) unrepentant.  And because of all that, my family shouldn’t view death as a game or a joke.  I love games, and I love jokes, but the goodness of each comes in knowing what’s fun and what’s funny.  And death is neither.  

God built this world without death, and it is sin that unleashed it upon His beautiful work.  Death distorts and deteriorates God’s marvelous creation, and He allows it to for a time.  But while I wait for His Son to return and put this enemy under His feet, I want to have the same posture towards it He has.  

Death is nothing to play about.  It is not natural.  It is not something to entertain a morbid fascination for.  Death is the outworkings of an awful rebellion.  I don’t want to celebrate it any more than I celebrate idolatry or adultery.  

One of the best gifts I can give my kids is the awareness of what is good and beautiful as opposed to what is ugly and passing away.  And so for me, this isn’t about forbidding something just to forbid it, and it isn’t about laying down some sort of distinctive Thomas family law.  It is about preparing my kids’ hearts for the beauty of Jesus’ return, and teaching them to grieve what God grieves, hate what God hates, and hope for what Jesus is bringing. 

Death is monstrous.  I don’t want us to celebrate it.  I want us to celebrate its defeat at the hands of the greatest of Kings.  

Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.  The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 

1 Corinthians 15:24-26

60 Seconds On Sarcasm

  
I can think of 2 differences between sarcasm that awakens the conscience or enlivens the mind (which I’m for) and sarcasm that shreds people, and exalts the self (which I’d rebuke as sin):  

Hope and charity.  

Good sarcasm, irony or humor that show the ridiculous to be ridiculous or that bring more people into the conversation by way of generous laughter, believes in the goodness of the Creator despite the badness of the groaning creation.  Good sarcasm knows the point of this story all us human beings are in.  It believes bad people might be won, and that there is a good Author who can win them.  

It also cares.  Not with a flimsy, cheap sort of “caring,” but with the sort that knows that a single human soul is worth more than all the empires and pleasures of history.  It wants to win the argument because it wants to win the man, and if it becomes convinced that it can’t win him, it still knows what was at stake.  If it cuts down the proud and powerful, it does so for the sake of the souls of the spectators, and for the sake of the proud and powerful.  

I say all this because I was thinking tonight:  Much of internet sarcasm is simply bleak and self-serving.  It’s not meant to be cold water on a spiritually sleepy face (good sarcasm); it’s simply a sword thrust from someone who hasn’t yet figured out what a sword is for.  

Wit is a good tool when used to bring men to their senses.  But most tools can be used as murder weapons by foolish people, and the one who uses this one that way will have something to either repent of or answer for. 

And at noon Elijah mocked them, saying, ‘Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened… Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.

1 Kings 18:27, 37

60 Seconds On Men and Women

  
You honor neither women nor their Maker by treating them as if they are identical to men.  Men and women are both made in the image of God, both reflect His beauty and glory, and (if believers in Jesus) are both co-heirs of eternal life.  

But they are not identical.  

A husband is called to honor his wife as the weaker vessel.  He is called to love her as her head as Christ loved the church, for whom He is head.  He is to manage the household of which she is a (vital) part.

He is called to these things.  

And he will not do them, will not even understand them, if he has been deceived into thinking his wife is exactly the same as he is, and that she is called to exactly the same purposes.  

I think the cultural confusion and deceit on what men and women are has spun out in a few different ways.  For instance, a man who knows (and loves) the truth about what he is and should be and what a woman is and should be is a man more likely to hold the door for a woman and a man more likely to lead his wife and daughters in prayer.  But a man who does not know (or hates) those truths is a man who has made himself primed and ready to watch strange women be debased on the  internet or to passively observe the disintegration of his marriage.  “Women are the same as men, remember?” Satan can whisper.  “No need to protect them and no need to step up to the plate at home.”  

Gender lies are not the only cause of the rampant pornography use in American men or of American divorce (obviously), but I think that they are, for many, a cause.  Our culture should call men to be men, hold them accountable to it, and then hold them in honor when they behave as men should.  But at the moment it seems to have a problem at that very first level:  It doesn’t really know (or want to admit) what men are to be.  

Men and women are not identical.  It does not honor a porcelain vase to call it a dining room table and then take a handsaw to it.  

Men and women are designed, and their designs reflect the good purposes of a great God.  

Here’s hoping (and praying) our culture recovers a sense of wonder at just how good.  

The Boy Mattered More


It’s a profound moral failure to think that an animal’s life is just as precious as a human’s.  It is not.  While both have value, they are not equal values.

Let me summarize my argument in three simple sentences:

  1. An animal’s life matters to God.  
  2. A human’s matters much more. 
  3. Therefore, it was right to kill the gorilla to save the boy. 

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.

Jesus, in Matthew 10

Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’

God, in Genesis 1

Last week, here in Cincinnati, a gorilla grabbed a 3-year-old boy after he got into the gorilla’s enclosure.  Knowing that tranquilizers take time and that the gorilla could kill or seriously injure the boy in a second, the staff shot and killed the gorilla to save the little boy’s life.


Now, while I can understand some sadness in the fact that the gorilla was killed, what I cannot empathize with is the particular kind of sadness that wails as though something wrong was done here.

It wasn’t.

Both the gorilla and the boy were made by God, but the boy mattered more.  He should grow up knowing that He mattered more.  He should grow up knowing that his neighbors and his friends and his enemies matter more.  Because to be wise is to value things the way God values them; to assign to individual things the weight that He does.  God did not die on the cross to offer His Gospel to animals, but to people.  God made man and woman in His image and gave them dominion over the animals and the earth.  And during the time of Israel God commanded animal sacrifice while condemning human sacrifice.

God says He values us and animals, but that He values us more.

This boy should grow up knowing that while a sad thing was done, the right thing was done.  Because that’s how much his life counts.  

One of the ways to make tell of a society’s wisdom, or lack thereof, is to see what it gets outraged over.  Animals are wonderful and made beautifully by an awesome God.  But human beings are the crowning jewel of His image on Earth.  And if a society can’t tell a pearl from a sandstone, it’s lost its moral high ground when it comes to being outraged.  

As someone who loves this society, I hope we retain our moral health, and so we prize things in their appropriate order.

Two final sentences:

  1. I love animals.
  2. The bodies and souls of humans, of children, take precedence over them.

But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.

Jesus, in Matthew 18