Easter is . . . All About Me?

Last night my wife was perusing a Wal-Mart advertorial.  If that’s not the proper term, then suffice it to say she had the Wal-Mart advertisement newspaper in hand!  For reasons that shall surely escape me well into the millenial reign of Christ, I asked that she hand it over.  That was a mistake.

What I saw there both disgusted and saddened me.  The advertorial was promoting their annual Easter Sale.  There were colored eggs galore; little girls chasing bunny rabbits through manicured lawns; chocolate bunnies of every shape and size; brightly colored dresses tailored just right for every girl; young boys in handsome struts; and baskets chocked full of useless  sugary stuff. 

Before you log-out thinking, “Oh great, another Christian blogger bemoaning the commercialization of Easter” let me perhaps put just a little different spin on my charades. 

First, I am not against Christian parents buying some chocolate for their children at Easter, so long as they avoid the gaudy extravagance that typically comes with the Easter Basket territory. 

Second, I do not expect the unregenerate culture to reflect the glory of the Risen King, or even have much appreciation for Resurrection Sunday.  Lest we forget, the overwhelming majority of Americans will sleep in this Sunday.  Some will be hung-over from a late night Easter frolic.  Perhaps some will drop by one of Jacksonville’s local porn distributors with more than chocolate on the brain, and a deep sickness in their hearts.  I did, after all, notice the sign outside our local Adam & Eve store said they were giving out free Easter “gifts” with a purchase of $50 or more. 

I do, however, expect Christian parents and families in this country to manifest more spiritual discernment than many do.  Allow me to illustrate.  When my wife and I share with other Christian couples that we stopped buying “Easter outfits” for our daughters several years ago, they stare at us in disbelief.  It is as if we had told them we frequently break our daughters’ arms as a disciplinary measure.  Yet, we do not feel as though we are doing anything all that radical.  We certainly would not file it under “suffering for Jesus.”

You see, Michele and I stopped purchasing those bright, brand-spanking new outfits for our girls because as we read the Scriptures, the Spirit impressed upon us that nothing is more serious in God’s economy than worship.  God desires His own glory above all.  God determined from eternity past for His Dear Son to have preeminence by His death on behalf of sinners and His resurrection from the dead (Col 1:18). 

“Worship” comes from an Old English word, “Worthship.”  It refers to giving glory, honor and prestige to One who is worthy.  Worship is not about us!  Contrary to everything our culture is teaching us and our children, this life is not about us, our way, our will, our want.  We are created for God’s glory, along with everything else (Rev 4:11).  Worship is about the One True Holy God who has made a way for unholy sinners to be made right with Him through the bloody cross of His Son.  This same Son, Jesus, who died, also rose again, literally and physically, thereby crushing the final enemy of sinful humanity (1 Cor 15). 

Does it not strike anyone as odd that on what we Christians consider the most Holy Day on our Calendar, the Day that literally defines us as a people of God and sets us apart from every other religion known to man, that we put our little ones into the best, brightest, fanciest clothes we can find, proudly parade them before all the church folk, take albums full of pictures and youtube videos, let them hunt for eggs bearing earthly treasures, and then try to convince them that Easter is really about Jesus?

I think we are shooting ourselves in both feet, Christian parents and grandparents.  How serious are we about ensuring our children understand that worship is absolutely never about us?  Especially not on Easter.

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Diversity in State Schools

Wake County, NC finds itself embroiled in quite a bruhaha.  The County School Board recently voted to stop busing children long distance to achieve “diversity” in schools.  You can read more on the controversial decision here:

http://www.witn.com/wakecountytriangle/headlines/88972557.html

This all comes as a sad amusement to me.  The state schools have been undergirded for 50+ years now by a Darwinian / naturalist / humanist worldview.  The much acclaimed “Father of Modern Education,” John Dewey, was himself a bold socialist and a proud signer of the Humanist Manifesto I.  Dewey even traveld to Russia in the early 1900’s to assist them in implementing the educational system of Karl Marx.  Dewey was instrumental in bringing German scholars from the “Frankfurt School” here to America, and he gave them “power positions” in schools and universities. 

The Frankfurt School embraced the worldview of Nietzsche and Foucalt, which came to be called “postmodernism.”  Its central tenet is there is no absolute truth (of course we must quickly ask the postmodernists if it is absolutely true that there is no absolute truth).  Nietzsche wrote “God is dead . . . we have killed him.”  Further, his worldview led him to declare “that all life is simply will to power” (Beyond Good and Evil).  In other words, MIGHT makes RIGHT.  This is Darwinian thinking applied to social ethics.  Don’t believe me?  Just ask Hitler.

Why then, should the state-run school give a flip about whether or not each school has socio-economic and ethnic diversity?  (I purposely avoid the term “racial” because the Bible teaches we are all one race – Adam’s.)  Why not just let the powerful keep going to the better schools with greater opportunities?  Why should a Darwinian care if the poorer or less privileged classes suffer?  Survival of the fittest, right?  We’re all just advanced animals, so the natural laws governing the animal kingdom clearly are at work in the Wake County School System.  Let them run their course.  In the end, it will be best for our continued evolution as a human species. 

I am not hiding my sarcasm so well, am I?  The school boards and teachers and parents and children simply cannot live out the worldview that the education system as a whole embraces!  The irony is thick.  No matter how hard Darwinian educators try to get us to suppress this pesky thing called a conscience, and to jettison the absurd notion of actual absolute moral obligations to treat all people with dignity and respect, these things just will not go away. 

Deep inside, tucked away under layers of sinful corruption, mankind still possesses the very image of his Creator (Genesis 1:27; 9:6).  From time to time, even the Christ-less, depraved American culture and society demonstrates that the way of Jesus Christ is still best:  “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength and with all your mind . . . and love your neighbor as youself.” 

The laws of this nation were clearly founded upon that ethic, and were implemented, by and large, by men who were experiencing the restoration of God’s image in them through faith in Jesus Christ.  Friends, the state-run schools may be forever lost in the moral swamp and confusion that is the inevitable result of Darwinistic humanism, but some of the constituents of those schools clearly are not.  You don’t have to be either.

Whether or not it is economically prudent to bus children long distances in the name of diversity is not really the primary issue.  It is not my intent to endorse either economic imprudence or racism.  Both dishonor my God and Savior.  It is my intent, however, to manifest the moral bankruptcy of Darwinism, humanism, and/ or postmodernism.  The real issue for Wake County, and all Americans, is what kind of people we will be.  Good Samaritans?  Or Good Darwinians? 

“As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

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Sanctified Marriage

“And I will put My Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes and be careful to obey My rules” (Ezekiel 36:27).

Thus, the promise of God was made.  One day the Lord would send His Spirit to dwell within His redeemed people, enabling them FINALLY to live a life of obedience and faithfulness to His character and law. 

The New Testament then chronicles how God has fulfilled this promise through the sending of Jesus, the Son of God and the first true “Man of the Spirit.”  As the work of atoning for the sins of His people was coming to its fruition, Jesus restated the promise to God’s people:

But when the Helper [Holy Spirit] comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, He will bear witness about Me (John 15:26).

It is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you.  But if I go, I will send Him to you (John 16:7).

Then Pentecost came (Acts 2) and the Age of the Spirit dawned!  The church was never the same.  The band of competitive, naive and oft ill-tempered disciples were powerfully unified into an evangelisitc force that rocked the world, and is still rocking it!  Those who would renounce sin [repent] and cry out for mercy from Jesus the Christ would now experience the permanent presence of God dwelling with them by the Holy Spirit.  To be a Christian is to be a person of the Spirit (Rom 8:9; 1 John 4:13-16).  Therefore, it should come as no surprise that God now expects His people to “walk in the Spirit” (Gal 5:16). 

The very command from God implies that His people actually can obey.  Indeed, for followers of Christ indwelt by the Spirit of Christ [Holy Spirit], where God commands He enables obedience.  Obviously, Christians will not achieve perfect submission to the Spirit in this life due to remnants of our sin nature (Gal 5:16-17).  Nevertheless, God can and does enable His people to pursue Him in obedience.  This He does by His Spirit applying His truth [word] to our hearts and lives (John 17:17).  This He does as we continually repent, trust Christ and submit ourselves to the Spirit and the Word. 

What has all this to do with Christian marriage?  Everything!  The church desperately needs to recover what I call “You can” theology.  In the church, we are quite good at telling people what not to do, and this is an essential aspect of walking with God.  But, what we do not do enough is to tell people what they can do in the power of the Spirit and the freedom of Christ.  Christ, by His Spirit and truth has set us free!  We can obey Him now because He can and will empower us!  “You can because He can.”  You can because He is, and He is with you!

For sin will not have dominion over you, since you are not under the law but under grace (Rom 6:14).

Christian brother, you can do marriage God’s way.  You can lead and love your wife like Christ leads and loves His church.  You can enjoy life-long, God-like love with your wife.  You can love your wife and children sacrificially.  You can fight lust, the world and the devil.  Your home can reflect the glory of the Risen Savior.  You can because He can!

Christian sister, you can do marriage God’s way.  You can submit to your husband as unto the Lord.  You can respect him and love him as a determined act of your will, even if he is not exercising perfect headship.  You can pour your life into your children and your home.  You can fight worldly ideals of two-income American dream chasing.  You can clothe yourself with strength and honor (Prov 31).  You can have a gentle and quiet spirit which is precious in God’s eyes (1 Peter 3).  You can because your God can!

While we will not fully and finally shake off this sin nature this side of glory, we must never forget that we have been set free, unshakled as it were, to doggedly pursue God’s purposes and pleasure in our homes.  And pursue them we must!  We must because we can!  We can because King Jesus is, and He is with us!

God help all of us, married or yet-to-be married, to live by this creed: “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col 1:27).

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Scared of Marriage (Pt 2)

It was the Puritan John Owen that wrote: “To suppose that whatever God requireth of us that we have power of ourselves to do, is to make the cross and grace of Jesus Christ of none effect.”

Perhaps nowhere is this remark more salient than in Christian marriage.  What is it that God requires of us, as followers of Christ, in marriage?  Mounds of books have been written on this subject, so let me just point to a few of the primary truths and texts concerning God’s expectations for spouses:

1. To understand sin’s effect on us as spouses is critical, and I believe God expects us to study what He has clearly said about us, as it pertains to all of life, including marriage.

a. Genesis 3:16 among other things, states that sin will cause Eve to have “desire” for her husband.  The same word is used again in Gen 4:7 where God tells Cain sin’s “desire is for you.” 

b. In context then, it seems clear that sin will cause Eve to want to control or rule her husband.  But, God essentially tells Eve it will not work, because “He will rule over you.”  God’s design, whether or not our culture agrees, is for male leadership or headship of the home.

c. Implied in God’s words, “he will rule over you” is the subtle hint that sin will cause Adam to abuse his God-given leadership in the marriage.  Sin will corrupt Adam’s headship.  He will not exercise it in God-honoring ways.  Indeed, much of the remainder of Genesis shows us sinful men struggling to exercise godly headship in the family! 

d. Knowing our resident enemy (sin) and its effect upon us as spouses is foundational; for if we are to fight in God’s enabling power to do marriage His way, we ought to know who or what we are fighting against.  

2. To commit to “one man, one woman for life” and to hate divorce (See Malachi 3:16; Matt 19:1-6).

3. For men to lead and love their own wives like Christ leads and loves His church (Eph 5:22-33).

4. For women to respect and submit to their own husbands as the church respects and submits to Christ (Eph 5:22-24, 33).

Numbers 3 and 4 above give many Christians today fits.  Perhaps they fail to see that the two principles go hand-in-hand and are really about Christ, not them?  As men lead and love like Christ, women will submit and respect (dare I say even treasure) the husband’s Christ-like leadership and love.  As wives respect husbands God-ordained headship, men will strongly desire to lead and love their wives like Christ does. 

And the grand purpose in all this?  The honor and glory of the Bridegroom, Jesus Christ, who paid for and purified His bride, the church, with His own blood and sets His bride apart to love and serve Him forever (Eph 5:25-27).  Amazing, huh?  As the church glorifies Christ, so Christ is determined to make His bride “holy and blameless.”  Christian marriage is to mirror this reality.  Who knew Christian marriage could accomplish such lofty things?

But, can a husband and wife really live up to these clear demands of God?  Put another way, is the young Christian’s fear of marriage rooted in reality?  Is there any hope for a Christian husband to actually mirror Christ to his wife?  Can a Christian wife actually submit to Christ’s ultimate headship through submission to her husband’s headship? 

As Paul asked in 2 Corinthians 2:16, “Who is sufficient for these things?”  Who indeed?  Methinks a discussion on sanctifying grace is in order.  Stay tuned . . .               

 

  

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Marylouise Matlin - You made lots of good points. Keep up the great work. Thank you very much.

Scared of Marriage

J. Budziszewski wrote a great article recently posted on Boundless Webzine.  In it, he chronicled how a young college student relayed to him his utter paralysis when it came to the issue of marriage.  This young man had no plans to marry, and doubted whether any couple can really stay married anymore until death parts them.

This is a sad scenario, isn’t it?  This is an animal of our culture’s own making.  Rampant lack of fidelity in marriages and decades of divorce have left our young people today quaking in their boots at the very thought of getting married.  Our baby-booming parents got divorced and remarried at the cyclical rate.  And, my generation appears to be following suit.  It never ceases to amaze me when I hear of folks in my graduating class who have been divorced and re-married three times, four times, or more.  We are not even forty years old yet!  

It is not my intent to be judgmental.  My hearts goes out to every divorcee, to every single-parent, to ever parent trying to make a blended family work.  My desire is to see every family experience the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ, to be healed by Jesus the Great Healer of souls, and to know the power for living that comes by the gift of God’s Spirit to everyone who trusts Christ alone for forgiveness of sins.  So, no stone throwing from this sinner saved by grace!  Precisely because I do understand how deeply sin affects and infects us all, I realize no marriage is immune to divorce.  This is why I love the book by Dave Harvey titled When Sinners Say I Do.  The very title says it all.  Sin is the issue and human creatures do not possess inherent power to do battle against this resident foe.

The deep level hurt that divorce leaves in its wake is now surfacing in the paralysis of college students who have lost all faith in marriage as an institution.  Coming from students who do not have the Risen Christ in their lives, this reaction might not be cause for surprise.  But, what is most disturbing to me is the number of young Christian men and women who now shy away from marriage because they have witnessed their own Christian parents divorce.  

I confess some anger wells up in me when I see Christian couples divorce.  It says to a lost world, and even to Christian children, that there really is no significant power for living available to followers of Christ.  I mean, if Jesus cannot enable two of His followers to stay true to their marital vows, what makes us think He can assure us of eternal life with Him?  

Hypocrisy is the one excuse I hear most often for why someone raised in church has now abandoned it, or for why someone not raised in church has no interest in it.  Ruined Christian families littering the American landscape cannot bode well for our evangelism.  We can address the hypocrisy issue biblically (and maybe I’ll take up that mantle in future posts), but for now can we Christians just admit there is some legitimacy to the reasoning of a person who watches us live and sees no real difference, particularly in how we “do home”?     

So, what to do?  

For starters, Christians “make your calling and election sure” (2 Peter 1:10).  You are not one of the “many” who will stand self-deceived before King Jesus one day, are you?  See Matthew 7:21-23.  Second, followers of Christ must get a handle on biblical sanctification and what I call “You Can because He Can” theology.  Stay tuned . . . more to follow on these matters.               

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