Enjoy these entries - we hope they make you think.
A Time to FightMonday, March 13, 2023
Have you noticed the spiritual armor in Ephesians 6 includes a breastplate but no backplate? We do not turn our backs on the enemy; we advance forward swinging the sword of the word of God. The weapons of our warfare are powerful to destroy the strongholds of the enemy (1 Cor. 10.4-5). God calls all Christians, both men and women, to the fight, but He tasks us men with leading the charge.
Switching our thoughts to the physical plane, men should also be ready to fight for their loved ones to protect them. This is controversial because Jesus did say, after all, to turn the other cheek and love our enemies. But Jesus also said there was a time to take up the sword (Luke 22.36), and Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 3.1–8 there is “a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up . . . a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.”
There is a time to fight.
Godly wisdom teaches us when we should fight, how we should fight, and how far we should go in the fight. Often, we want to fight when we shouldn’t, and when we are in a fight, we tend to go too far. Defending yourself against a bully doesn’t mean you should pulverize the bully’s face.
We should never start a fight, for that would violate the principle of living at peace with all men (Heb. 12.14; Rom. 12.18), and we should “repay no one evil for evil” (Rom. 12.17). But if a man strikes or shoots a robber who has broken into his house in the dead of night, he has not started the fight. The robber proved he intended violence when he invaded an inhabited house, and only a fool would flip the lights on and kindly ask the robber if he were just planning on a peaceful visit.
To train in a martial art or in weaponry (gun, knife, staff, etc.) is to train for battle. The word “martial” in martial art means battle—it’s literally a battle art. I love martials arts, in part, because I can train to be more in control in the event of an attack on my family, friends, or person. The more you understand about the battle arts, the more ability you have to decide in your level of response. You don’t necessarily have to break a man’s bones to stop him. You could choke him out or pin him to the ground on his face with a knee in his back while you wait for the police. However, if he is crazy high on drugs and doesn’t respond to pain, you might have to incapacitate him in a more painful way.
Abraham, David, and Moses knew there was a time to fight, and they stepped forward when the time came. They fought for their loved ones and their people. When David ran to kill Goliath, he was finishing the fight that depraved, bully Goliath had started. When the four kings (Amraphel king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Chedorlaomer king of Ela, and Tidal king of Goiim) defeated the five kings of the plains (Bera king of Sodom, Birsha kind of Gomorrah, Shinab king of Admah, Shemeber king of Zeboiim, and the unnamed king of Zoar), Abraham grabbed 318 trained men (all born in his house), tracked those kings down, and defeated them in order to save the captives, including his nephew Lot (Gen. 14).
Societies remain safe because men willingly stand against enemies.
Our constant battle is with Satan and the forces of darkness, but from time to time we must physically protect our families and loved ones. It’s a duty we should embrace, and we should ready our minds for potential action. Praise God we currently live in such a peaceful society, but even still there are bad actors.
Obviously, we should fight only when we have no other option, but there is a time to fight. Physical altercations interact and intersect with our spiritual battles—they are connected. Again, how will we defend ourselves? Will we hate our enemy in our hearts, or will we fight in such a way as to love them as far as we can? Do we intend to annihilate anyone who would sin against us, or do we temper our responses with mercy? In the moment, we fire at center mass until the target is neutralized, and that might or might not kill the attacker. We do that to protect the family. But if we find him still alive, groaning on the floor, do we put another bullet into his head because of the seething hatred in our heart?
God has called us to live in a sinful world, and we sometimes must make difficult choices. May we learn self-control, may we have the strength to stand against the enemy, and may God save us from situations we cannot handle.
For who is God, but the LORD?
And who is a rock, except our God?—
the God who equipped me with strength
and made my way blameless.
He made my feet like the feet of a deer
and set me secure on the heights.
He trains my hands for war,
so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
You have given me the shield of your salvation,
and your right hand supported me,
and your gentleness made me great.
You gave a wide place for my steps under me,
and my feet did not slip.
I pursued my enemies and overtook them,
and did not turn back till they were consumed.
I thrust them through, so that they were not able to rise;
they fell under my feet.
For you equipped me with strength for the battle;
you made those who rise against me sink under me.
You made my enemies turn their backs to me,
and those who hated me I destroyed.
They cried for help, but there was none to save;
they cried to the LORD, but he did not answer them.
I beat them fine as dust before the wind;
I cast them out like the mire of the streets. (Psalm 18.31–42)
Praise God for Excellent WivesMonday, March 06, 2023
The woman depicted at the end of Proverbs 31 is fictitious. That is not to say she cannot be found or does not exist in many hard-working women across the centuries, but the wisdom writer wrote of the ideal woman.
Solomon wrote most of Proverbs, and his stated intent was to help his reader know wisdom and instruction and to understand words of insight (Prov. 1.2). He wrote as a father to a son, and much of the wisdom found in the book guides a young man away from the pitfalls and traps of the adulterous woman of folly and towards lady wisdom. The first nine chapters instruct with a unified voice, “Listen to Wisdom; she desires your good! Flee the adulterous woman; the path to her house is the path to hell.”
The book begins with Lady Wisdom (Prov. 1.20–23; 3.13–18; 4.5–9; 8.1–9.12) who wants to care for young men and provide them healthy living, and it closes with a marvelous description of a woman who would make an excellent wife. The Proverbs 31 woman is Lady Wisdom incarnate.
Her husband trusts her with everything. He knows she will not squander their money. Instead of wasting wealth, she contributes to the household income streams.
She skillfully makes things for her household: plenteous food, fine garments, lovely bed coverings. Not only does she make them for her household, she also sells them and gives to the poor. She manages a house which provides—largely because she works hard to make sure these things happen. She purchases land and cultivates a vineyard. In a word, she is fruitful.
What can we say of her character? She diligently rises before the sun to accomplish her daily work and works into the night by lamplight. She “dresses herself with strength…strength and dignity are her clothing.” She “laughs at the time to come,” which expresses not only her sense of well-being but also her joyfulness in the face of uncertainty. Because she is prepared, she can laugh.
In the center of the poem we find, “Her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land.” Taking nothing away from his character and work-ethic, we understand this note is not about him—it’s about how his excellent wife has been a great force behind his respected status. As husband and wife are one flesh, we observe in this couple a mutual, harmonious, synergetic relationship where each blesses the other, and God works powerfully between them.
The poem begins with the heart of the husband trusting in her and ends with the husband praising her: “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.”
But the key to everything lies in one of the last statements: “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.” The secret to all is in the fear of the LORD! Indeed, what an excellent way to end the book of Proverbs…much as it was begun, for we read in Proverbs 1.7, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge.”
May my sons each find a woman who they can trust their hearts to. May my daughter become one of these excellent women. God has blessed me to be married to an excellent wife who is worth more to me than any amount of wealth.
These women aren’t found under every rock; they are uncommon. You will not find an excellent woman among people who do not fear the LORD, so only look there! Realize, also, that women grow into this kind of strength and dignity. Proverbs 31 shows a woman who has been diligently working, building, and growing for many years, a picture of long-term walking with God. Again, this is an ideal woman—no one will look exactly like this—but find you a woman (or be a woman) who wants to look like this.
Praise God for excellent wives!
Starting a New WeekMonday, February 06, 2023
Here we are at a new beginning, the Lord’s Day rightly being the fountainhead from which flows the rest of life. Worshipers bowed low and paid homage to the Creator of all things. From their mouths gushed praise and confession. Preachers exposited the word of God to assemblies of saints, who had come to drink deeply from the well of the Holy Spirit. Brothers and sisters encouraged one another in the Lord, ate together, prayed together, and made plans for the week’s work.
What shall we do with this week? What shall we do to honor and glorify God? How shall we work? What shall be our priorities?
Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Col. 3.17)
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (1 Cor. 10.31)
As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength which God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. (1 Pet. 4.10–11)
Not Good for Man to Be AloneMonday, January 23, 2023
God said in the beginning: “It is not good for man to be alone.” He made a woman to be man’s helper, a fully compatible partner who completed him. In creating marriage, God taught all men and women that we are not to be lone wolves or isolationists.
Now, God was not saying that all men and women must marry—marriage is not a mandate. But God created marriage as the norm, and we should raise our children to understand that marriage is good, right, and holy.
There’s more to learn, though, in the words, “It is not good for man to be alone.”
When Satan tore Job’s world down, three of his friends gathered around and sat with him in silence for seven days and seven nights to help him bear his misery. Men and women of the ancient world thrived and survived in communities, small towns, and cities, travelling with their tribes.
Abraham had a household of several hundred. When King Chedorlaomer and three other kings took Abraham’s nephew Lot captive, Abraham rallied the trained men of war who had been born in his household—318 men—to retrieve what had been stolen (Gen. 14).
Jesus surrounded himself with men, and when he sent them out, he sent them in pairs (Luke 10.1)—no loners. In Acts, when Antioch sent men on missionary journeys, they always sent at least two together (Paul with Barnabas, Paul with Silas), and at points we find Paul travelling with a larger retinue (Acts 20.4).
God has always spoken of his faithful ones as a covenant people. Yes, God saves individually, but individuals are never saved in isolation. God’s assembly supports, encourages, lifts up, heals, helps, prays for, teaches, admonishes, rebukes, forgives, loves—each other. Paul needed to be with the brethren whether he was in Ephesus, Philippi, or Corinth because they fed him just as he fed them. God’s mercy and comfort is not meant to be accepted from him and then kept for ourselves—God “comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Cor. 1.4).
God designed us to be team players.
We live in an isolationist world. Ironically, we hold the illusion that we are super-connected and have hundreds of friends, yet how many real friends do we have? Do our online communities fulfill us the way God intended, the way he designed us? When we post our latest success on Faceplant or Instapotty and our digital network throws thumbs and hearts at us, is this healthy human interaction God’s way? A sizeable percentage of our eight billion brothers and sisters now seem to accept this online fiction as reality.
And they are so lonely.
Because it’s not real.
God created us to be together, to talk face-to-face, to literally be there for one another.
Anyone need some help with some chores around the house? Let me know
Put Off Bitterness and Anger – Put On Kindness and Forgivenessand ForgivenessMonday, January 16, 2023
Here is the last in a series of dirty clothes Paul instructs Christians to take off and clean clothes to put on in their place, and this one is a doozy. He began this list in Ephesians 4.25, and we have now come to Ephesians 4.31–32:
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
Take Off These Corruptions
The first set of attributes, which we are to remove from our persons, reminds us of storybook villains.
Bitterness eats us like spiritual cancer, doesn’t it? We harden our hearts towards one another, and over time our unresolved conflicts and untreated wounds result in irreconcilable differences. Bitterness traps our hearts in quicksand which swallows up our joy of living and stains our relationships.
The next two words—wrath and anger—seem synonymous.
The first (wrath in the ESV) is thumos in the Greek and only appears a handful of times. In Acts 19.25, a crowd in Ephesus became enraged (thumos), and the Nazareth Jews were filled with wrath (thumos) when Jesus contrasted their unbelief with the faith of Gentiles (Luke 4.28).
The second word (anger in the ESV) is orgē in the Greek and is translated variously “wrath” and “anger” in different verses. Jesus displayed this anger in Mark 3.5, as he saw the hardness of the Jewish leaders’ hearts towards a man with a withered hand. Orgē is often used for the “wrath of God.” In the context of these two verses in Ephesians 4, this has to do with wrath and anger we have towards one another.
Interestingly, Paul already dealt with anger just a few verses prior in Ephesians 4.26, “Be angry and do not sin.” He used the verb form of orgē, orgizō. Like we observed when we examined that verse, anger is not necessarily a sin in itself, but it can quickly lead to sin, and it becomes sin when we let it fester and grow.
Clamor has to do with loud cries—a high volume of sound. Hebrews 5.7 uses this same word saying that Jesus used “loud cries and tears” in crying out to the Father. In Acts 23.9 a great clamor arose among a crowd of Jews as they argued with one another. What kind of clamor does Paul address here? We should not be yelling at one another! We should not be contending, fighting, arguing with one another. We all know that guy or that gal who is always pushing back, raising the temperature, and getting into arguments.
Slander is the Greek word blasphēmia, from which we get “to blaspheme” and “blasphemy.” It means to speak against someone. Why would we speak against one another? Why would we tear down a brother’s or sister’s good name and cultivate mistrust and suspicion? Slander does that. Even if elements of truth exist in the slander, it leans hard on negative characteristics, so a hearer walks away upset and disgusted at the slanderer’s target.
Finally, we are to put away all malice. This word is variously translated “wickedness,” “trouble,” “evil,” and “malice.” When you intend evil towards someone, when you devise wickedness in your heart toward someone, you act maliciously. You intend for someone to fret, to fail, to fall.
Put On These Graces
It would be wonderful if none of us harbored any bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander, or malice toward another. Every man, in his flesh, will act this way at times. It takes the grace and power of God to eliminate these corruptions from our lives and to cultivate mercy and grace in our hearts.
Therefore, by the power of Christ and his Holy Spirit, we should replace those evil things with:
Kindness! For the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy peace, patience, kindness… Love is patient; love is kind. If God is kind to the ungrateful and to the evil (Luke 6.35), how much more should we, being listed among the evil, be kind to our neighbors and our brethren?
And we are to be tenderhearted. First Peter 3.8 also uses this word: tender heart. We should be sensitive to the troubles of our brethren, weep with them when they weep, and rejoice with them when they rejoice. Help them when they hurt.
Forgiveness! We should forgive each other as God has forgiven us, and that’s a high calling! Here, God teaches us how to overcome bitterness. Why do we think we will lose when we forgive someone of an offence? Don’t we, though? We think we will lose power, our right to retaliate. Satan is selling his lies again. In fact, we will lose heartache and the bitterness of soul that eats away at us. We will lose the desire for retaliation. If we let go of the offense, we may gain a fast friendship. How fully has God forgiven us when we asked? Has he not given us everything we’ve asked for? How can we still harbor resentment and evil thoughts towards our brethren?
As we complete this short list of things to take off and put on, I hope we can see the secrets Paul reveals to show us how to enjoy healthy and holy relationships with our brethren. He lights the path of peace; we just need to trust and obey! God has promised awesome rewards down this road.