A Creational-Approach to Missions

Has the church been doing missions “wrong” for almost two-thousand years? No, but I believe that we can deepen our passion for missions by going back and asking “Why did God make man?” This also relates-directly to the greatest philosophical and theological question of all time, “Why am I here?

As I have worked on my message for the Sunday morning service during the 2017 CNA Spring Conference, I have been drawn to ponder more deeply what the foundation of that message should be. I believe that this must be rooted in what God has revealed about Himself in His Word, the Bible. Lest you think that I have finally lost my mind, bare with me and it should all start making sense.

Creation…
The first four words of the Bible are “In the beginning, God…” Our Creator-God pre-existed all of creation, so He decreed the “beginning“. The first two chapters of Genesis are the story of creation, what God did, and how He did it. As great as the cosmos is, they weren’t God’s ultimate-acts of creation. God simply spoke the cosmos into being, ex nihilo, out of nothing, but when He was ready to create man, He attended to that project personally.

Scientists love to talk about the “big-bang“, as if all matter coalesced into one place and exploded. Where did THAT matter come from? Matter isn’t self-generating. I also believe in a “big-bang“, a God-ordained “big-bang“, because when God said “let there be light“, and the nuclear-fires of a gazillion stars lit as one, releasing an enormous burst of light and energy, that WAS an unimaginably BIG BANG.

We pick up the story of man’s creation from Genesis 1:
26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” 29 Then God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you; 30 and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to everything that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food”; and it was so. 31 God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. (Genesis 1:26-31)

What jumps out at you in Genesis 1?

From Genesis 1:
Man is created in God’s image.

That “image” is both male and female. We are neither one a “greater-image-bearer‘ than the other.

God gave two commands, “be fruitful and multiply“, and “subdue and rule over the earth“. God gave us the reasons for our existence from the very beginning, our “why’s“.

God created mankind to co-create more bearers of His image, and to continue His work in the world.

7 Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. (Genesis 2:7)

15 Then the Lord God took the man and put him into the Garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. 16 The Lord God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; 17 but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.”

18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.” 19 Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name. 20 The man gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the sky, and to every beast of the field, but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him. 21 So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place. 22 The Lord God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. 23 The man said,
“This is now bone of my bones,
And flesh of my flesh;
She shall be called Woman,
Because she was taken out of Man.”

24 For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. 25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed. (Genesis 2:7, 15-25)

What jumps out at you in Genesis 2?

From Genesis 2:
God got His hands dirty, because He hand-formed the man from the dust of the ground.

God performed the first “artificial-respiration“. God didn’t “snap His fingers” to bring His creature to life, He breathed His OWN breathe into the man.

There was only one restriction; do not eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

Man needed companionship.

God performed the first “anesthesia” and the first “surgery“, making God the first Doctor.

The “companion” God created was NOT another man; it was a woman, the perfect-complement to the man. 22 The Lord God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. 23 The man said,
“This is now bone of my bones,
And flesh of my flesh;
She shall be called Woman,
Because she was taken out of Man.”

24 For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. 25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.

Naked and not ashamed“: Adam and Eve had perfect-fellowship with God, just as God intended.

Why did God make man?
We often have trouble separating our “needs” from our “wants“, but God doesn’t have that problem. People have lived for thousands of years, and still do, in “improvised-shelters“, “shelters” that do what “shelters” are intended to do, “shelter” them from the elements. “Shelter” is a basic “need“, and yet, particularly here in the US, most of us aren’t content with “basic-shelter“. WE WANT MORE! We WANT homes with all the “amenities“, even when we could get by with much less. That is only one example of how we have inflated our “needs” into often-overblown WANTS.

Does God “need” anything? God has been totally self-sufficient and self-sustaining for all eternity. To put it more succinctly, God didn’t “need” to make man. The Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit ARE the PERFECT-FAMILY. There is no tension, strife or discord within the Trinity. As God told Moses from the burning-bush, He is the great I AM. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

What if God “wanted” something He didn’t have? What if God wanted a larger family, a “forever-family“? One of the few things God CAN’T do is procreate or replicate Himself. There always have been three persons in the Godhead, and there will always be three persons in the Godhead, because God is unchangeable.

If we want a larger family, we have two options, procreation and adoption. Many couples don’t have the option of procreation for a variety of reasons, one being endometriosis. Endometriosis runs in my first wife’s family, and even though Connie didn’t have that problem, our oldest daughter does, and has had since she was about thirteen. After trying for several years, she and her husband adopted a baby boy. She got pregnant shortly thereafter. They have two boys, and a “blended-family“, including ethnically-blended, because the boy they adopted is black, and she and her husband are white. I am button-popping proud of them as parents, and of both boys as my grandsons. A couple in my church has three children naturally, and they adopted three siblings. The youngest, a boy, is autistic.

For God to have a larger family, His ONLYoption” was “adoption“, which is why the theme of “adoption” comes up frequently in the New Testament. That, my friends, I believe, is why God created mankind, so He could have the larger family He desires.

What happened?
We have seen God’s plan to create and adopt a larger family, but something got in the way.

3 Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?” 2 The woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; 3 but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.’” 4 The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! 5 For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings.

8 They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 Then the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 He said, “I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.” 11 And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12 The man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.” 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” And the woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” 14 The Lord God said to the serpent,
“Because you have done this,
Cursed are you more than all cattle,
And more than every beast of the field;
On your belly you will go,
And dust you will eat
All the days of your life;
15 And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her seed;
He shall crush your head,
And you shall bruise him on the heel.” (Genesis 3:1-15)

Something happened, and it wasn’t good. Satan attempted to usurp God’s place to build his OWNfamily“. While it appears that Satan succeeded in the short-run, God wasn’t having any part of it.

Did this turn of events catch God off-guard? If it did, God isn’t God. The reality is that God knew this was going to happen before He even began creation. God’s “plan of redemption” was NOT some “Plan-B“, and the rest of the Old Testament is the unfolding-story leading up the coming of the promised “the seed of the woman“.

Redemption…
4 But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, 5 so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons (and daughters). 6 Because you are sons (and daughters), God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son (or daughter); and if a son (or daughter), then an heir through God. (Galatians 4:4-7)

Notice that glorious word “ADOPTION“. “Adoption” means that we are part of God’s “forever-family“, furthermore, we can call Him “daddy (Abba)“, and we have become “heirs” of God’s kingdom.

Jesus Christ was that long-promised “seed of the woman” who “crushed the serpent’s head” at Calvary, so that we could become part of God’s “forever-family“.

Why am I here?
For most of us, it is quite easy for us to determine “why” we are doing what we are doing at a particular moment in time, but when we get to the overarching question of “Why am I here?”, we are stumped. We don’t have a clue, UNLESS we have developed a Biblical view of our meaning in life.

About 350 years ago, a group of Bible scholars and theologians met in Westminster Abbey to scour the Scriptures for the most important doctrines of our faith. They summarized those doctrines in short, concise statements, in what became the Westminster Confession of Faith. Many churches and denominations still subscribe to that Confession, including my home church, Cypress Ridge Pres. I also subscribe to that Confession.

From that Confession of Faith, they set out to formulate teaching-tools so that those great doctrines could be taught to the masses. They produced two Catechisms, a Larger, more detailed Catechism, and a Shorter, or more simplified Catechism, which is suitable for even young children.

The very first question they asked was “Why am I here?” Thus, question and answer one is:
Q – What is the chief end of man?

A – Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and enjoy Him forever.

If you are thinking that this question sounds suspiciously like “Why am I here?”, you are right, because the Bible should inform our understanding of “why” we are here, the “meaning of life“. If it doesn’t, we are looking for “meaning” in all the wrong places.

Why am I here? To be part of God’s “forever-family“.

Family rules…
For a family to function smoothly, there have to be rules, rules about how the children are to interact with their parents, and rules for now the children are to interact with each other. God’s family is no different; hence God gave us the Ten Commandments. The first four commandments tell us how we are to interact with God. The other six commandments tell us how we are to interact with one another.

20 Then God spoke all these words, saying,
2 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

3 “You shall have no other gods before Me.

4 “You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, 6 but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.

7 “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.

8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who [e]stays with you. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

12 “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you.

13 “You shall not murder.

14 “You shall not commit adultery.

15 “You shall not steal.

16 “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” (Exodus 20:1-17)

By the time Jesus came to earth, the number of rules and regulations in the Torah had blossomed to over six-hundred, covering virtually every aspect of life. If the Pharisees thought that God hadn’t been “detailed-enough“, they added even more rules and regulations. They were always trying to pick a fight with Jesus, but they ALWAYS lost. Not surprisingly, they kept trying, because He made them look like the idiots they were. Anything to save-face…

34 But when the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered themselves together. 35 One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the great and foremost commandment. 39 The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:34-40)

We will now focus on that second Great Commandment:

You shall love your neighbor as yourself…

We can certainly think of many ways we can show love for our neighbor, and all of them are valid, however, what is our neighbor’s GREATESTneed“? Think about that “need” for a few moments before we go on.

God gave me a “love-project” for over three years, a sickly, injury-prone neighbor. She needed MANY things, many of which I was able to help her with, but since she thought that she had gotten her “ticket punched” when she was a young girl, she thought that she “had it made“, and had no interest in the things of the Lord. Her lifestyle reflects that belief. She ONLY goes to church when she thinks it will be “advantageous” to her. She has a great “need“, even though she thinks she doesn’t.

There are MANY like her in this world, for whom God may only be a “useful-accessory“, it at all. We see them everywhere we turn.

Every person belongs to one of two families, either God’s family, or Satan’s family. There is NOmiddle-ground“. They are also going to either Heaven, or Hell. Again, there is NOmiddle-ground“.

What is MANKIND’S GREATEST “NEED”?

Mankind’s greatest “need” is to be restored to a right-relationship with God, and to become part of God’s “forever-family“. The Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ IS the GOOD NEWS that we can be restored to a right-relationship with God, and join His “forever-family

God has given US the awesome-privilege of being part of His “adoption-agency“, so doesn’t it make sense for us to share the Good News of the Gospel so that others can become part of His “forever-family“, and participate in His ultimate-plan for mankind? I sure think so.

That, my friends, is how we can “love our neighbor” in the very-best-way possible.

Sola Deo Gloria!

Bible Study – Healing A Blind Man

This scene takes place downhill from the Temple, in the old part of Jerusalem which was called “The City of David“. Jerusalem had been expanded many times throughout the centuries as its population grew and it became the capitol city of Israel. Built over seven-hundred years earlier, the Pool of Siloam was the principle source of water for that part of the city, and also served as an appropriate place where the Jews could take their ritual purification baths. It was fed by a spring over a third of a mile away through a tunnel or aqueduct. Jesus encounters a blind man, and heals him on the Sabbath.

Healing the Man Born Blind
9 As He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth. 2 And His disciples asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him. 4 We must work the works of Him who sent Me as long as it is day; night is coming when no one can work. 5 While I am in the world, I am the Light of the world.” 6 When He had said this, He spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and applied the clay to his eyes, 7 and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which is translated, Sent). So he went away and washed, and came back seeing. 8 Therefore the neighbors, and those who previously saw him as a beggar, were saying, “Is not this the one who used to sit and beg?” 9 Others were saying, “This is he,” still others were saying, “No, but he is like him.” He kept saying, “I am the one.” 10 So they were saying to him, “How then were your eyes opened?” 11 He answered, “The man who is called Jesus made clay, and anointed my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash’; so I went away and washed, and I received sight.” 12 They said to him, “Where is He?” He said, “I do not know.”

9 As He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth. 2 And His disciples asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?” Many Jews, Like Job’s friends, believed that every temporal misfortune was God’s punishment for a specific sin. With a congenital affliction, the explanation could be that the sin had been committed in the womb, or by parents whose sinful act victimized their child.

3 Jesus answered, “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him”. Jesus dismisses these as improper explanations, but this is not to say that certain trials are not God-ordained punishment for certain sins (e.g., getting an STD from having sex with someone other than one’s spouse). Neither does Jesus here dismiss the doctrine of original sin, which teaches that all suffering is the consequence of our corporate sin and rebellion in Adam. It is unwise and uncharitable to judge that the sufferings of others are specifically punitive. The question put to Jesus presents a false dilemma. Only two possibilities were given as reasons for the man’s affliction, his own sin or the sin of his parents. Jesus offered a third option, that God will be glorified through his healing.

As tempting as it is to judge or point fingers at someone who has a catastrophic-defect or has a life-threatening illness or injury, we don’t know everything, so it is not our place to judge them. We DO have the responsibility to treat them with respect, kindness and compassion. One of the families in my church has adopted a young boy who is autistic, a problem which is still baffling doctors and scientists. He is one of three siblings which were adopted by the family, and the other two are normal. My oldest daughter started showing symptoms of endometriosis when she was about thirteen years old. Our responsibility, as her parents, was to get her the best care, and do what we could to mitigate her symptoms so that she could live a normal life. Endometriosis runs in her mother’s family, and has popped up randomly in the women of the family. She also has asthma, which runs in my side of the family. Likewise, a college buddy of mine died of MS before he turned thirty-five. MS had also claimed his mother’s life before she turned thirty-five.

4 “We must work the works of Him who sent Me as long as it is day; night is coming when no one can work. 5 While I am in the world, I am the Light of the world.” As we will see, John will use day and night, light and dark, to illustrate Jesus’ presence. As we continue to move closer and closer to the time of His arrest, Jesus will continue to say things like “while it is still day” and “the night is approaching.” In fact, as we will see later in the book, Jesus describes the period from His arrest up until His resurrection as “night” or “darkness”. So, at the point of this story, it is still day and there is work to be done to glorify God.

6 When He had said this, He spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and applied the clay to his eyes, 7 and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which is translated, Sent). So he went away and washed, and came back seeing.

There is some very interesting imagery in this account, there must be since spit and dirt are seldom known as a restorative for sight; if they were I’d have tried them myself! When Jesus spit into the dirt, that saliva came from His mouth, as does His Word. Recall the Word in the beginning that was with God, and which was God, and then which became flesh and made its dwelling among us? That is what is being pictured here. As for the dirt, do you recall what God made Adam from? Ah yes, it was dirt! So the Word comes from the mouth of Jesus and is combined with the soil which represents humanity and is applied directly to the part of the man that isn’t whole. Then the man, who has never seen Jesus, does what Jesus has commanded him in perfect obedience and is made whole again, in this instance receiving his sight for the first time. In fact, we wouldn’t be far off track if we said here that the man had seen the light.

Did you notice verse 7? The Pool of Siloam “which means sent.” Think about this for just a moment: Jesus combined His Word with humanity and then they are sent out on a mission. What happens when we receive Christ? His Word combines with our humanity and we are sent to make disciples, and when we respond in obedience, we are made whole. Now in saying this, I don’t mean just that our sins have been forgiven, for that is only the first step in life’s adventure with Christ. For it is within the adventure of following Him, over time you might say, that we are made entirely whole, as we see the light of His Truth at work within us… and so it was with this man. What an amazing little story this is!

8 Therefore the neighbors, and those who previously saw him as a beggar, were saying, “Is not this the one who used to sit and beg?” 9 Others were saying, “This is he,” still others were saying, “No, but he is like him.” He kept saying, “I am the one.” 10 So they were saying to him, “How then were your eyes opened?” 11 He answered, “The man who is called Jesus made clay, and anointed my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash’; so I went away and washed, and I received sight.” 12 They said to him, “Where is He?” He said, “I do not know.” The man’s neighbors had lots of questions, and so do our neighbors when they see Jesus at work in us, but unfortunately, the Pharisees are about to weigh in on this, and that is a whole different story, just as it is for us when the modern-day Pharisees get involved…

Controversy over the Man
13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who was formerly blind. 14 Now it was a Sabbath on the day when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes. 15 Then the Pharisees also were asking him again how he received his sight. And he said to them, “He applied clay to my eyes, and I washed, and I see.” 16 Therefore some of the Pharisees were saying, “This man is not from God, because He does not keep the Sabbath.” But others were saying, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?” And there was a division among them. 17 So they *said to the blind man again, “What do you say about Him, since He opened your eyes?” And he said, “He is a prophet.”

18 The Jews then did not believe it of him, that he had been blind and had received sight, until they called the parents of the very one who had received his sight, 19 and questioned them, saying, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? Then how does he now see?” 20 His parents answered them and said, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; 21 but how he now sees, we do not know; or who opened his eyes, we do not know. Ask him; he is of age, he will speak for himself.” 22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone confessed Him to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue. 23 For this reason his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”

24 So a second time they called the man who had been blind, and said to him, “Give glory to God; we know that this man is a sinner.” 25 He then answered, “Whether He is a sinner, I do not know; one thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” 26 So they said to him, “What did He do to you? How did He open your eyes?” 27 He answered them, “I told you already and you did not listen; why do you want to hear it again? You do not want to become His disciples too, do you?” 28 They reviled him and said, “You are His disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. 29 We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where He is from.” 30 The man answered and said to them, “Well, here is an amazing thing, that you do not know where He is from, and yet He opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is God-fearing and does His will, He hears him. 32 Since the beginning of time it has never been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, He could do nothing.” 34 They answered him, “You were born entirely in sins, and are you teaching us?” So they put him out.

Jesus healed a man who had been born blind with a curious mixture of dirt and spit in John 9:1-12, and now we reach the time when this has come to the attention of the Pharisees; an official investigation of this lawlessness has been opened.

What’s that you say- what’s lawless about healing a blind man?

Oh sorry, didn’t I mention it? Jesus healed the guy on the Sabbath, and we know how they feel about that don’t we?

Look at this text; can’t you just see these Pharisees who have already decided the outcome, trying to get the answers they needed to justify what they have already decided they are going to do? Those Pharisees might even make a Congressman blush!

They question the man, but not satisfied, they question his parents, after all how can they be sure he was ever really blind? The parents say he was blind and he is their son; they should know. Yet when asked who had healed their son, they are afraid to be associated with Jesus, for the corruption of their leaders is well known; they throw the question back to their son. The Pharisees question him a second time.

They ask him again to tell them who did this, only this time, they want the truth: He answered, “I have told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples too?” (v. 27)

This is one of those times I wish I could see their faces; “would you like to become his disciples too?”

You can almost see their noses in the air and hear the smugness in the voice of their spokesman as: Then they hurled insults at him and said, “You are this fellow’s disciple! We are disciples of Moses! We know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this fellow, we don’t even know where he comes from.” (vv. 28-29)

If you have been following along, then you will remember that it was only a couple of chapters back that the Pharisees were sure Jesus wasn’t the Messiah because they knew where He came from; a tangled web indeed!

The man answered, “Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly person who does his will. Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” (vv. 30-33)

The parents might have been afraid of the Pharisees, but this guy is on fire! If I were advising the Pharisees, I would tell them to end this interview in a hurry before they screw it up even further… and they did: To this they replied, “You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!” And they threw him out.

Like any other group of mediocre politicians, they avoided the truth by calling the guy some names and having him tossed out. After all, isn’t that what you do when the issue becomes too hot to handle?

We’ve already seen the way that the issue of healing on the Sabbath plays out between the Pharisees and Jesus, yet the Pharisees just know they can trip Jesus up so they will have an excuse to murder Him. Their minds are closed, their hearts are hardened and their backs are turned on God, now it’s just the small matter of doing away with the inconvenient truth. Does this remind you of anything today?

Jesus Affirms His Deity
35 Jesus heard that they had put him out, and finding him, He said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 36 He answered, “Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?” 37 Jesus said to him, “You have both seen Him, and He is the one who is talking with you.” 38 And he said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped Him. 39 And Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, so that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind.” 40 Those of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these things and said to Him, “We are not blind too, are we?” 41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but since you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains. (John 9)

Jesus heard that the Pharisees had thrown the man out who was blind from birth because he wasn’t going along with what the Pharisees wanted. When He caught up with the man, the man came to believe in Him and worshipped Him. This brings us to verse 39; why doesn’t anyone ever quote it?

Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.” John 9:39

I would expect that if my next post was titled “Jesus Came to Judge the World” many, probably most, of you would object, but there you are in His own words! Of course He also said that He had not come to judge, as the atheists like to point out as they search for something to claim is a contradiction.

What shall we say then?

This is an unusual context, isn’t it? Jesus is playing on these words to show that the Pharisees have condemned themselves by their ruthless arrogance, for they claim to know all and see all, and yet when confronted with an amazing manifestation of the power and glory of God, as they were when this poor man received his sight, all they can think of is how to downplay the whole thing so they can keep their influence. So they conjure up their little investigation into the facts of the case, but not before they have already determined its outcome, and in the end, they have kicked the once blind man out of the assembly because he had the audacity to tell the truth.

There were some Pharisees present who overheard this exchange; look at their condescension: Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, “What? Are we blind too?” (v. 40)

Can you imagine having that much attitude at that precise moment? Jesus explained: Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.” (v. 41)

In a simple one-liner Jesus smashes any hope they might have of saving the situation. Have you ever noticed that often it is the very person or persons who should know best, who refuse to accept the obvious if it proves a threat to their position and influence? Since they admit they have the knowledge, that they should know better, they cannot claim innocence, no, not ever.

Do we behave like the Pharisees? Do we have our minds made up before we even hear the evidence?

In Christ,
Steve

Dare To Be Authentic!

Are you singing everyone’s song but your own? Are you marching to the beat of everyone’s drummer but your own? Are you performing to an ever-changing, ever-fickle audience? Do you even have your own tune? Do you even have your own drummer? Are you acting for approval which never comes? Does anyone really know the REAL you, or do they see a carefully-crafted persona, an Avatar? If you are, you are NOT alone.

Yes, I have been there too, for the first fifty-seven years of my life, and I was lost when I “struck-out” that last time. I had a name, but I didn’t know WHO I was. Those were treacherous-waters. When I started not caring about what anyone thought about me, the real ME started emerging, peaking out from the rubble of what had been my life. It was hard. It was scary, but I had to do it. I didn’t have any other choice. My old life was in ruins so I couldn’t go back. It was either become ME, or die…

Why did I have to wait until after my dad died to find out the he was “proud” of me? He couldn’t tell me that he was “proud” of me because I hadn’t met his expectations.

Do YOU even know who you are? Are you singing everyone’s song but your own? Are you marching to the beat of everyone’s drummer but your own? Are you performing to an ever-changing, ever-fickle audience? Do you even have your own tune? Do you even have your own drummer? Are you acting for approval which never comes? Does anyone really know the REAL you, or do they see a carefully-crafted persona, an Avatar? If you are, you are NOT alone.

If this is YOU, why not join me on a voyage of discovery? You might just come out a new person.

There is ONLY one YOU! There is ONLY one ME! Even if you have an identical-twin, YOU are different. We are NOT copies and we are NOT clones, so why is it so hard to be who we really are? Is our authentic-selves not “good-enough“?

The short-answer is “NO!”

When we are born, we are given our first “identity“. Our parents named us, and we were their “son” or “daughter“. They soon started teaching us their’s and society’s expectations, whether it was “put some clothes on” or “don’t make a fuss in church“. If we didn’t meet those expectations, we received their wrath. We are taught early-on to CONFORM!!! No “square-pegs for round-holes” allowed.

When we started going to school, they expected us to “make good grades“, however they defined “good grades“. We might have even been punished if our grades weren’t “good enough“. I didn’t always meet “expectations“, particularly in high school. When I was raising my own kids, “good grades” meant the best that they could do. My oldest daughter is very-bright, “gifted and talented“, so her “best” was “straight-A’s“, which was what she made. My other kids weren’t quite as talented, so their grades weren’t quite as “good“, but still the best they could do. They were talented in other ways. I tried to not be a “pushy-dad“.

Next comes the question of college, or… My dad was disappointed that I didn’t go straight to college right after high school, which was his expectation. I fulfilled my dream of being a professional musician by becoming an Army Bandsman. It was there that I realized that I didn’t have what it took to be a professional musician in the outside-world. It was also there where my roles and titles were more important than who I was. I was Sgt. McFarland, Section Leader and Barracks NCO. I was also Fire and Safety NCO, and periodically either Charge of Quarters or Duty-NCO, depending on which “hat” they had me wear. The only place I could be “Steve” was on the outside. Do you see a pattern developing?

As we go along in life, we collect more “titles” and more “roles“, and unfortunately these become our “identity“. “Who” we are becomes buried in “what” we are, and as long as we can “replace” a lost “title” or “role” when we lose one, we may feel like we are doing “Okay“. BUT, what happens when that last “title” or “role” gets stripped-away from us?

Along the way, I became a “husband“, and then a “father“, as well as an employee of “X-Corporation“. I then became a “team-leader” for a Search and Rescue team, as well as a “Captain” and “Assistant Director of Communications” in the Civil Air Patrol.

When we moved, and I changed jobs a few times, “titles” and “roles” came and went, but the core, “husband” and and “father” stayed the same. Then came the “crash of ’97“. Within a few weeks time, I lost my job AND my family. When my wife committed suicide, her family took my kids away from me. Yes, I CRASHED, and I was left without anything to “prop” me up. That was my first, but not my last, “identity-crisis“.

Towards the end of 1998, some “normalcy” was restored when I remarried. I was a “husband” again. That gave me a new “anchor“. I also got involved in the Coast Guard Auxiliary and a Volunteer Fire Department. Those brought new “titles” and new “roles“, and helped me survive the next “crash“, the “crash of ’07“. I lost my right eye AND my wife, who divorced me after I lost my eye. BUT, I still had a job and a “title“, and I was still part of a Fire Department.

By mid-2008, I had remarried – again, and I still had my job and the “title” that went with it. I left the Fire Department because we moved out of the area, but being a “husband” was my “anchor“. Then I lost my job…

Have you spotted the “little-problem” yet? What if I give you a clue? Every “crash“, and every new “normal“, was lower than the one before it. Each time I lost out, I lost more than I would ever regain.

The next “crash” came in 2010. I had lost my job, so the only income I was able to bring in was from the odd-jobs I was able to do and the pittance of unemployment I got each month. My wife had married me for my money, and when my money ran out, she did too. At least I still had a place to live.

The final “crash” came in early-2013. I had remarried, again, just a few weeks earlier. I had left the Fire Department for the last time and moved to an unfamiliar area. Less than six weeks after we got married, she abruptly moved out, while I was out of town for a doctor’s appointment. I had lost my last “prop“, but there was no turning-back. I had to stay in the area while I worked towards a reconciliation that hasn’t happened over three years later.

I could moan and bellyache about all I lost, including the last vestiges of my old “identity“, but I have already written about that extensively in other posts, so I would rather tell you about what I GAINED.

I am a child of the living God, the second-most exalted status in the universe. Only Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Son of God ranks higher than me. I am free from arbitrary-expectations, so I can sing my own song, act in my own play, and dance to the beat of my own drummer. I have only one Judge and Law-Giver, Almighty God, and His law has been summed up in the two Great Commandments, which are: Love God above all else, and love my neighbor as myself. I am FREE, I am LOVED, I am a child of the Living God, and nobody nor anything can take that away from me. Goodbye old “identity“!

Will YOU Dare To Be Authentic? It is the best feeling in the world.

What is man?
4 What is man that You are mindful of him,
And the son of man that You visit him?
5 For You have made him a little lower than the angels,
And You have crowned him with glory and honor.
(Psalm 8:4-5)

I pray that this is YOUR significance. It is mine, and nobody can take it away from me.

Final thoughts…
I have great worth apart from my performance, because Christ gave His life for me, and therefore imparted great value to me. I am deeply loved, fully pleasing, totally forgiven, accepted, and complete in Christ.

In Christ,
Steve

When Jesus Got Mad…

Jesus, mad? Yes, Jesus got mad and He had a very good reason to get mad. In His ongoing dispute with the Pharisees, this was another skirmish about what was “permissible” to do on the Sabbath. God had given some rules about the Sabbath, but the Pharisees didn’t think that He had gone far-enough in His prohibitions, so they “filled in the blanks“. I can relate, because I grew up in a very legalistic church and family environment. There was a short list of things that I was allowed to do, but a much-longer list of things I wasn’t allowed to do. Even after I was grown and had a family of my own, I struggled with this issue. I came to a conclusion I could live with, but I wish I had known then what I know now. By the way, this is not to imply that I am a Sabbatarian, rather I am a Christian Protestant who worships the Lord on the Lord’s Day, Sunday. I will tell you more about my struggle later on in this post after we look at a passage from Mark 3.

He entered again into a synagogue; and a man was there whose hand was withered. 2 They were watching Him to see if He would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse Him. 3 He said to the man with the withered hand, “Get up and come forward!” 4 And He said to them, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to kill?” But they kept silent. 5 After looking around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored. 6 The Pharisees went out and immediately began conspiring with the Herodians against Him, as to how they might destroy Him. (Mark 3:1-6)

There was only one Temple, which was in Jerusalem, but there were many synagogues, local worship-centers, which we might compare to our local churches. Was the man with the withered hand in that synagogue that day because he knew Jesus was in the area, or did he normally worship there and Jesus just “happened” to drop by? This passage follows several other miraculous healings, so Jesus had already gotten quite a reputation for taking care of people. He had also demonstrated His total-disregard for the Pharisee’s nit-picky rules.

The “they” in verse two is the ever-present Pharisees, who were getting more and more disgusted with this Jesus-character because He was always raining on their parade. They were NOT amused by His “antics“. Jesus made Himself and the man with the withered hand the center of attention when He called the man forward. He wanted all eyes on Him because He was going to teach them an important lesson. The question He asked, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to kill?”, got straight to the core of what the Pharisees believed about the Sabbath. This question presented a no-win predicament, because if they had answered “Yes, it is lawful to heal on the Sabbath“, they would have been admitting that Jesus was Lord over the Sabbath, but if they had answered “No, it is not lawful to heal on the Sabbath.“, they would have shown that their interpretation was wrong and just how cold-hearted they were.

They were too stubborn and self-centered to say anything, and that is when Jesus got mad, hopping-mad. By healing the man, He demonstrated the validity of what He had said shortly before this scene. 27 Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27-28)

Do you see the irony in this scene? The Pharisees were mad because Jesus had healed a man, so they went out and conspired how the could destroy Him. They were plotting MURDER, on the Sabbath, no less. It doesn’t get much more warped than that. No wonder Jesus called them “a brood of vipers” in other encounters.

Jesus, Who was God-incarnate, was the ultimate “Law-giver“, and He asserted His right to have the final-say in how the Law was interpreted. He knew both the letter of the Law and the spirit of how the Law was meant. The Pharisees had it WRONG.

Next, we will turn our attention to Mark 2:27, Jesus said to them,The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.”. When God instituted a day of rest in Genesis 2:1-3, and then codified that day as the Sabbath in Exodus 20:8-11, it was to be a day of rest, a time of refreshing, a break from ordinary-labor, but it was, first and foremost, for our benefit. Let’s see what those two passages say:

Thus the heavens and the earth were completed, and all their hosts. 2 By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. 3 Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made. (Genesis 2:1-3)

8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and made it holy. (Exodus 20:8-11)

Did God need to “rest” after He created all that there is? Of course not, but He rested as an example to us that we also need regular breaks for our usual labors. The Sabbath commandment wasn’t meant to be burdensome to us, rather it was given to us so that we can refresh and recharge before resuming our labors.

Now, we will turn our attention to what the Sabbath means for us today. Priests in the Old Testament and Pastors today were/are exempt from some of the provisions of the Sabbath commandment, because their busiest day is the day of worship. Many pastors take a day off during the week as their “rest-day“. How about, doctors, nurses, police officers, firefighters and EMT/Paramedics? Those functions are essential to our wellbeing. Nurses are the heart and soul of any hospital, and if you don’t believe it, spend some time in a hopital, as I did recently. I rarely saw a doctor for more than five minutes at a time, and only once or twice a day, but my nurses checked on me very regularly. My hospital-stay is chronicled in “Invincible“.

The Pharisees would demand that hospitals all but shut-down on the Sabbath, but I believe that Jesus would attend the ribbon-cutting ceremony when a new hospital opens its doors. The Pharisees would demand that the Emergency Room only care for critical-care patients, but I believe that Jesus would want ALL patients get the care that they need. I have a couple of friends who are nurses, and even though we miss them when they aren’t at church, I am thankful that they are giving their patients the care they need.

Where do I fit in?
I had been in and out of volunteer public-service for several years when I joined two search-and-rescue teams in 1981. My involvement got more intensive and time-consuming because both teams responded state-wide, not just locally. One of the problems was that people got injured or lost mostly on weekends, and some missions extended into or were started on Sunday. My question quickly became “Could I, in good conscience, be away from my family and my church for a mission on Sunday?“, and “Would I be breaking the Sabbath-commandment by being on a mission on Sunday?“. Closely-related was “Could I, in good conscience, be away on a practice-exercise on Sunday?“. My upbringing screamed “DON’T DO IT!“, but was the Bible THAT strict? Following Jesus’s example of doing “good” on Sunday put me in direct-conflict with how I was raised, but I believed then, as I do now, that doing “good” is not only “okay“, it is the right thing to do.

Final thoughts…
Jesus taught us that caring for the needs of people IS consistent with the spirit of the Sabbath, and yes, He got mad, VERY mad when the Pharisees wanted to get in the way of Him performing His mission. May WE care as much as Jesus did!

Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.”

In Christ,
Steve

Bible Study – John’s Testimony

The Word Made Flesh
14 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 John testified about Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’” 16 For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. 17 For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him. (John 1:14-17)

The core of the Apostle John’s Christology is that Jesus Christ is both the Eternal Word, who he affirms as being our Creator, and a man, displaying all the hallmarks of being human. No one was closer to Jesus than John. John had spent three years with Jesus. They may have been cousins, and Mary lived with John and his family after the crucifixion.

The most profound marvel of the Incarnation is that the sinless Son of God was able to do for us what we can’t do for ourselves, fully-atone for our sins. If we die for our sins, we die, never to be raised again. Jesus died the death we could never die and was raised again so that we might be raised again also.
And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. (Hebrews 9:22)

Jesus, in His incarnation, was Emanuel, God with us, and unlike previous times when God dwelt among His people, Jesus, God, was approachable, touchable, with no strings attached. He wasn’t separated by a curtain, approachable only once a year, and only by the High Priest with a blood-sacrifice. God, in bodily-form, dwelt among His people for several years. God came near. The Holy One of Israel got His hands dirty so that we might be made clean and new.

Only begotten” is one of the great mysteries in the Bible, because it would imply to us that the Word had a beginning, however He could not have been Eternal if He had a beginning. It is our language and word-usage which trips us up. If “unique” was substituted for “begotten“, it would give us a much clearer sense of what and who the Word was. Sometimes translation and our word-limitations make for less-than-clear understanding of the original thought.

Maybe I shouldn’t be, but I am frequently amazed by how many Christians have bought into lies, with pastors even preaching those lies from their pulpits. Just because colleges and seminaries teach it, and much of Christendom believes it, doesn’t make it true. The Protestant Reformation was started to confront and correct the rampant-heresy in the Roman Catholic Church. Lies enslave us, while truth sets us free. Jesus came to speak truth into our fallen world, to set us free.

Was John the Baptist demeaning himself by saying the Jesus Christ ranked higher than him? Absolutely not. He simply recognized that Jesus Christ, the Eternal Word, was God, and he wasn’t.

The author then contrasts Law and Grace by contrasting its authors. Moses was the great law-giver, but keeping the law never brought-about a righteous life. We have all experienced religious-legalism, and the Scribes, Pharisees and teachers of the law had raised religious-legalim to a fine art. The problem was that even if a person kept 99% of the law perfectly, they were still condemned by that 1% they didn’t get quite right. Another problem was that the law only exacted penalties for failure to keep it but it didn’t have any rewards for compliance. A person may have a perfect driving-record for twenty years, but when they finally get a speeding-ticket, their otherwise-perfect driving-record doesn’t diminish the penalties for that ticket. Even though my only speeding-ticket was over thirty years ago, that ticket, and that I paid it, is still on record somewhere in Illinois. I would never get inducted into the “Safe-driver Hall of Fame” because I don’t have a perfect driving-record.

That is where Grace comes in. God gives us what we don’t deserve, a right-relationship with Him, rather than what we DO deserve, eternal-punishment. Christ has the perfect record we could never attain, and through His perfect life, shed-blood and finished-work, God gives us what He earned for us. Grace goes far-beyond just keeping us out of Hell. Grace also gives us a place in God’s eternal kingdom, with all the rewards that go with that blessed state. I get inducted into the “Safe-driver Hall of Fame” based on His perfect record, not kept out based on my flawed-record.

Jesus Christ, Emmanuel, God with us, came to reveal who God is in an intimate way. He didn’t merely “represent” God, He WAS God.

The Testimony of John
19 This is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent to him priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20 And he confessed and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” 21 They asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” And he said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” 22 Then they said to him, “Who are you, so that we may give an answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself?” 23 He said, “I am a voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as Isaiah the prophet said.”

24 Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. 25 They asked him, and said to him, “Why then are you baptizing, if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” 26 John answered them saying, “I baptize in water, but among you stands One whom you do not know. 27 It is He who comes after me, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” 28 These things took place in Bethany beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

29 The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is He on behalf of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’ 31 I did not recognize Him, but so that He might be manifested to Israel, I came baptizing in water.” 32 John testified saying, “I have seen the Spirit descending as a dove out of heaven, and He remained upon Him. 33 I did not recognize Him, but He who sent me to baptize in water said to me, ‘He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.’ 34 I myself have seen, and have testified that this is the Son of God.” (John 1:14-34)

Why did the religious-authorities question John the Baptist? Didn’t he have the “right-stuff“? Didn’t he have the right “pedigree“? His father, Zacharias, was a priest, and his mother, Elizabeth, was a “daughter of Aaron“, so he certainly had the right “pedigree“, but our answer comes in the “who” that questioned him, the religious leaders. They didn’t believe that he had the “authority” to do what he was doing, specifically, baptizing people. John the Baptist had not graduated from the “Jerusalem Theological Seminary“, nor had he gone through the proper steps to become “ordained” by the “powers that be“. John’s “ordination” came from God, not from man. In a nut-shell, he was operating outside their “system“, and they didn’t like it.

John the Baptist did recognize that he was fulfilling the prophesy from Isaiah:
The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord;
Make straight in the desert a highway for our God. (Isaiah 40:3)

When John the Baptist said that he was not worthy to untie the thong of Jesus’ sandal, he wasn’t demeaning himself, rather he was recognizing the greatness of the very Son of God.

Where have we seen the promise of God’s provision of a lamb before?
6 So Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife, and the two of them went together. 7 But Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, “My father!”

And he said, “Here I am, my son.”

Then he said, “Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?”

8 And Abraham said, “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.” So the two of them went together. (Genesis 22:6-8)

Abraham believed that God would provide the lamb for the sacrifice and his faith was rewarded with that provision. God’s provision of that lamb that day was a powerful symbol and foreshadowing of the perfect Lamb of God. Animal sacrifices could only cover-over sin, but could not take it away. Only the perfect Lamb of God could actually take upon Himself our sin and truly take it away.

Even though Jesus and John the Baptist were related, John knew very little about Jesus or His upcoming ministry until God revealed it to him. The clincher was when John baptized Jesus and the Holy Spirit descend on Him in the form of a dove, combined with the Voice from heaven.

When John the Baptist baptized Jesus, all three members of the Godhead were revealed, Jesus, the Son of God, God the Father by His voice, and the Holy Spirit as represented by the dove. God had never revealed His fullness in this way before, which led John to say: I myself have seen, and have testified that this is the Son of God.” (John 1:34)

What a marvelous testimony!

Wishing you God’s richest blessings in 2016!
Steve

Refining Our Sexuality

These days, lots of people are busy redefining their sexuality. Whether it is their sexual orientation, or whether they are transgender, they want to redefine their sexuality based on their belief system. They want to be something they were not created to be. What I want us to do is REFINE our sexuality, to be more like we were intended to be.

What does it mean to refine something? In classical usage, refine is to remove the impurities, and get back to the pure material. As we go through this brief discourse, I want us to be about refining our sexuality into the purity our Creator intended from the beginning. We need to put off the dross and drivel that our society has put on us.

“26 And 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 fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.

27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” Genesis 1:26-28

In the beginning, God created us, male and female, in His image. Our ideal sexual state must be our guiding light for refining our sexuality. It is also the basis of our true sexuality.

We were created sexual beings. Our sexuality is inextricably linked to who we are as human beings. Our sexuality (true gender) is imprinted on every cell in our bodies. Thus, I am not a male just because I have male sexual equipment, but every cell in my body bears the genetic imprint of my maleness. I am not a male BECAUSE I have male equipment…I have male equipment BECAUSE I am a male. Yes ladies, the same holds true for you. You are not a female BECAUSE you have female equipment…you have female equipment BECAUSE you are female. It is all in our DNA, and our DNA (our sexuality) was determined at the moment of our conception. We aren’t born to BE sexual beings, we are BORN sexual beings.

By way of example…there is a man in the UK who has NO external genitals. If he were to choose his gender based on his genitals, or lack thereof, he could choose whatever he wanted, including gender-neutral. But while his body may appear gender-neutral, every cell in his body screams MALE. He is a man, although he has nothing to show for it. He was born that way, and it was as a result of a genetic anomaly. He is still a sexual being, although he has no way to express his sexuality through sexual activity. BTW, he is also a nudist.

SO, let’s fire up the refining pot, and throw in all the false ideas we have built up about our sexuality. What will emerge, shining like the sun, is our sexuality, as God created it to be.

Let’s start with our overall bodies, because society feeds us false ideals on a very regular basis. Gentlemen, start your engines! Be realistic… Does your body look like the male models you see in the media? Are you a Chippendale? Do you have six-pack abs? Are you a “pretty-boy“? I’ll bet the answer is NO on all counts. Are you skinny, or are you fat? Are you short or are you tall? Do you have a lot of hair, little hair, or no hair at all? DOES THAT MAKE YOU ANY LESS OF A MAN? With that social sexuality dross, we are going to throw in the purifier of the truth, that THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS “IDEAL. You are no less of a man if your body doesn’t conform to society’s false “ideals“. We will get a bit more intimate shortly.

Ladies, start your engines! I believe Danica Patrick has done a marvelous job of retaining her feminity, even in the male-dominated world of NASCAR racing. Ladies, it’s your turn to throw your social sexuality baggage in the pot, because you are hammered daily with false “ideals” also. So ladies, are you a model, or even a super-model? Would you be considered for a photo-shoot with Playboy? How about for Sports Illustrated? Are you an actress? Do you have your own hair-stylist and makeup artist? Are you a sex-symbol? Do the people that take pictures of you routinely photoshop or airbrush-out your blemishes and imperfections? I’ll bet the answer is NO on all counts. Is your hair always perfectly done? Do you hate to leave the house without makeup? Are you skinny, or are you overweight, or maybe about average? Are you tall, or are you short? DOES THAT MAKE YOU ANY LESS OF A WOMAN? Ladies, throw your social sexuality ideals into the pot, and we are going to throw in the purifier of the truth, that THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS “IDEAL! Ladies, you are no less of a woman, NO LESS FEMALE, because your body doesn’t conform to society’s false “ideals“.

I used to have frequent contact with a very lovely little lady. Ruth is all of 4′ 10” tall, with a very petite frame. She is a Registered Nurse, a mother and a believer, and she is all woman. I also worked with another tiny lady…Betty, who is also under 5′ tall, and is half Japanese. Another little lady who I used to know, who is also a believer, is a Captain with a large county fire department. She is one tough lady, but underneath her toughness is a true woman. Pam may make 5 feet tall…

SO, now we have refined away the dross of those social “ideals” from our sexuality, and you have discovered that your sexuality is purer, and getting closer to the true ideal, which is God’s ideal. Without getting into details, the “sexperts” have done men a great disservice by publishing the results of their “research“. Men, your endowment is determined more by your genetics than any other factor, and if you are comparing yourself to porn-actors, that isn’t a fair comparison. Male porn-actors are generally more well-endowed than “normal“. Mass media has likewise done women a great disservice but putting before us some artificial “ideals” of what a woman “should” look like. Recently I saw two pictures of the same model, one “as-photographed“, and the other was the results of their air-brushing and photo-shopping. Those two pictures almost looked like they were taken of different women. Even the models themselves often have trouble recognizing their own pictures after they have been altered. Mattel has also done a huge disservice to generations of girls who have grown up believing that “Barbie” is the “ideal woman“. One woman has spent tens of thousands of dollars on surgeries to “remodel” herself to look like Barbie. Ladies…yours is determined by genetics also.

“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” (Psalm 139:13-16)

Our bodies were created by God, and He called His creation “very good“, so contrary to the British website and TV show, Embarrassing Bodies, we need have no embarrassment about our bodies and their parts. I have a female urologist, but I am NOT embarrassed to be seen by her during the annual “well-man checkup“. I am also NOT embarrassed to talk to her about things like my erectile-dysfunction, something she believes should be treated to enhance my overall sense of well-being. We talk every time I see her about how well the ED medication is working and whether we need to adjust the dose. That is “wholistic” care.

Guys: God only created one Adam

Ladies: God only created one Eve.

Folks: The rest of us are copies of God’s originals, and I have no idea how many generations have passed since Adam and Eve walked this earth. Each of us IS a special creation, and our job is to accept how God created us, and fulfill our role in His world. Yes, that includes our sexuality also, because we can not divorce ourselves from it. It is an integral part of who we are.

Variants…
As I previous mentioned, there is a man in England who was born with no visible genitals, but he is all male otherwise. There is also another variants that occurs occassionally, and that is someone who is born with both male and female genitals – a hermaphrodite. That anomoly is the result of one too many chromosomes getting transfered at conception. It is real, and has been medically-verified.

Trans-sexuals” believe that their “brain-wiring” is different than their physical sex. They believe that they are “wired” female in a male body, or “wired” male in a female body. Some go as far as to have “gender-reassignment” surgery, however, changing the visible “plumbing” doesn’t change their biological gender. Most Christians will assert that their “original-plumbing” is all that matters, however I am more compassionate towards them. The Fall brought changes to everything, including our bodies. Prior to the Fall, there would never have been any possibility of birth-defects, and yet we need not look very far to come in contact with someone who is affected by physical or mental birth-defects, and some are affected by both. Hence the possibility of a person being “wrongly-plumbed” for their “brain-wiring” is not out of the question.

Same-sex-attraction (homosexuality) is a life-choice. Contrary to what many would like us to believe, they are not “born that way“, although some may have experienced some event, or series of events, early in life which might have influenced their choices. One young man told me that he has known that he is attracted to other males since he was seven or eight years old. Any sexual activity at that age is wrong, and may have been sexual abuse. I have known both men and women who have been in hetero-sexual marriages before they decided they are homo-sexuals. One lady I used to know had a very abusive marriage to an absolute jerk, which was attested to by a mutual friend who has known them for many years. She was constantly put down by a man who considered himself “superior” to her, although she is an extremely intelligent and talented woman. Had he treated her right, they might still have a happy marriage. She has chosen to be in relationships with a woman instead. One man confided in me that he had been married, and he and his wife had children together, but even though he was in a homosexual relationship, he knew it was wrong, but wasn’t sure how to get out of it. It isn’t always easy to just walk away. They are not “gay” or “lesbian“. They are men and women who have chosen to be in same-sex relationships.

I need not “advertise” that I am a “straight” man, because I have been married four times and I am the father of four children. Only those whose sexual-preference is same-sex feel the need to “advertise” their preference. I don’t have a problem with either how I came equipped or my God-given gender-role. I can’t imagine myself any other way. How about you?

Blessings!
Steve

How Human Was Jesus? Part 2

In my first segment on the humanity of Jesus, I focused on the physical evidences of His humanity. While it may be uncomfortable to some to think of Jesus in this way, if He was less than fully-human, displaying all the physical attributes of His humanity, He could not have been our Redeemer. Because some in His day believed that Jesus only “appeared” to be human, the Apostle John focused in one His humanity, not only in the Gospel of John, but also in 1st and 2nd John.

We only get a few snapshots of His early life in Scripture, as if we are only seeing pages ripped out of the photo-album of His life, but those snapshots paint an incomplete picture of Him. What about the rest of His thirty years before His baptism by John the Baptist? Jesus didn’t simply get born, and voila, He was a man. He experienced life as any child does as he or she grows into adulthood.

As a baby…

Jesus entered our world as every child has since Adam and Eve had their first child. He was born, and His birth was in a filthy, smelly stable. Nothing clean or sanitary about His birth. He was wrapped in whatever rags were available. Scripture calls them “swaddling cloths“. There were no Pampers, He had no “baby-clothes“. He was simply wrapped up with what was available.

We are told that He was circumcised and named on His eight day of life, as was the custom. There had been no “baby-shower“, so He didn’t have some cute outfit for this ceremony. When He was forty days old, His parents took Him to the temple to dedicate Him to the Lord, and offer the sacrifices which were required for His mother’s ceremonial purification. His “baby-album” ended with this snapshot.

Was He a cranky baby when He was cutting teeth? Teething is not a pleasant experience for any baby, and I am sure that He was no exception. He experienced the pains of baby-hood just as every child does.

Did He ever have an ear-infection or runny nose? Only about half of all babies born made it to their thirteenth birthday. Infant mortality was very high.

What were His first words? Was He a “super-baby” speaking in whole sentences almost immediately, or were His first words “Ma-Ma” and “Da-Da“? Babies have been learning to talk since the first one was born, and He was no exception.

Did He crawl before He walked? How many times did He skin His nose or knees learning to walk? Floors back then weren’t well-padded carpet. The very poor had dirt floors in their homes. He didn’t enter our world to live in luxury. He left that behind so that He could experience life with the poorest of us. How old was He before He got His first pair of sandals? Did His parents have trouble keeping clothes on Him? Young children, who have never been taught that their bodies are shameful, will happily run around naked any chance they get.

As a toddler…

The next snapshot we get was when His life was threatened and His parents were forced to flee to Egypt. That was a long, hard journey, which may have taken several weeks to complete. They rode donkeys, and if they had a tent, camped in it. Otherwise, they slept on the ground under the stars. There were no motels along the way, perhaps a rustic inn or two, but nothing we would find appealing.

How many siblings did He have by then? Joseph and Mary didn’t consummate their marriage until after Jesus was born, and probably not until after her purification was complete. Did Mary get pregnant on their wedding-night?

Did they travel to Egypt with both a toddler and a baby? Scripture makes it very clear that Jesus had brothers and sisters. That was a journey unlike any we have ever experienced. They were also traveling to a foreign country. It is one thing to travel by car for hundreds of miles and stay with family and friends or in a hotel, but quite a different story traveling that same distance on foot or on a donkey with one or more young children.

Out of Egypt…

Once the threat was no longer there, God told the family to go back home, except that it wasn’t back to their hometown. They would have to start in a new community – Nazareth. Joseph didn’t have his old carpenter shop to go back to. It wasn’t easy starting all over again. There wasn’t a department store on every corner where they could get everything necessary to set up their new home.

Meanings…

You are probably thinking “Steve, why all the detail?”. Until we deal with the nitty-gritty of His life, we won’t really understand why He was described as “A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief“. The nitty-gritty IS what makes Him one of us, fully-human. I grew up poor, but we were rich by comparison.

In the temple…

The next snapshot we find in Scripture is when He was twelve years old. His parents had journied to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. As they traveled back home with their friends and neighbors, Jesus came up missing. His parents asked around if any of their friends and relatives had seen Him, but no one could remember exactly where they saw Him last. They were panic-stricken.

It wasn’t safe to travel alone, which was why they traveled as a group. As a father, and as someone who has been involved with many missing-child searches, I can relate intimately with how they felt. There was only one thing to do, turn back and search until they found Him. That search took three days.

As a foretaste of His roles as our Prophet and Priest, His parents found Him in the temple in Jerusalem discussing Scripture with the religious teachers. They were amazed at His knowledge at such a young age, and they would continue to be amazed throughout His ministry.

Was He Just a rebelous almost-teenager, or was there a connection with God the Father that His parents didn’t understand? “And He said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in My Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49) Jesus, Emanuel, God with us, was no ordinary child.

His parents didn’t understand, because the mystery of the Incarnation was as huge a mystery to them as it is to us today. “And they did not understand the saying that He spoke to them. And He went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And His mother treasured up all these things in her heart.” (Luke 2:50-51)

As an adolescent…

Even though Jesus was no ordinary child in a spiritual sense, He still went through the trials of puberty. As the Creator of our bodies, He experienced first-hand what it was like to go through everything a young boy experiences. How old was He when His voice started cracking and deepening? Did He go through a precocious puberty, or was He normal for His age? Did He ever have pimples? How old was He when peach-fuzz turned into a real beard? Babies don’t become men overnight, and He was no exception.

Questions…

Have you confronted His full humanity yet, or are you content with the sanitized version of Jesus Christ? If we ignore what it actually took for Jesus to go from being a new-born baby to being a grown man, it is quite easy to see Him as a “super-human“. Turning water into wine, walking on water, feeding thousands of people, healing sick people and even raising the dead are more the marks of a “super-human“, not what we would expect of an ordinary guy, and yet, as a human, a man, He was totally-ordinary. God didn’t come down and merely inhabit a human body. God became human. He was the God-Man, and He often celebrated His humanity by using the title “Son of Man“, not the exalted titles of His deity.

As a teen…

What was the first thing He built in His dad’s shop? Was it as perfect as He was? Did He struggle with learning all the languages of His era? Many Jews of His day were multi-lingual, and even though Hebrew was the national language of the Jews, Greek, Latin and Aramaic were also in common use. The Roman empire had conquered all of the know world, and all of the languages of the various countries in the empire could be heard in the streets, particularly in Jerusalem.

Manhood…

When did Jesus have to become the man of the house? How old was He when His dad died? Joseph is never mentioned in the accounts of His ministry. I am sure that He mourned the loss of His dad as any other young man would. One of His tasks as the oldest son was to make sure His mother was well cared-for, and even as He suffered on the cross, He commissioned John to be His mother’s care-taker. As He bore our sins on the cross, He didn’t neglect His human responsibility. How many other family-members did He lose on His way to the cross? Had He already lost some of His siblings?

What if…

What if we could look at a complete photo-album of His life? What uncomfortable truths would it reveal? How would our perceptions of Jesus of Nazareth be changed? Would we still worship and adore Him, or would the nitty-gritty of His life scare us away? Would we, like His brothers and sisters, think that He had lost His mind when He claimed to be God?

Why?

Why have I tried to build a photo-album of word-pictures of Him? God didn’t see fit to provide us more details, but that doesn’t mean that those details aren’t important. The Apostle John told us the purpose of his gospel; “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.” (John 20:30-31). John ended His gospel with these words; “Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.” (John 21:25) Your redemption, your salvation, and mine too, depends on His full humanity.

Your turn…

Are you ready to kneel beside that manger and adore the Great I AM? Would you kiss the face of God? Would you cry with the Word who became flesh as His tender foreskin was cut and removed? Would you crawl around on that dirty floor with the Prince of Peace? Would you hold out your hands as the Everlasting Father took His first few steps? Would you play hide-and-seek with the Mighty God on the dusty streets of Nazareth? Would you listen intently as the Wonderful Counselor spoke His first few words? Would you marvel with the teachers as Emmanuel, God with us, spoke wisdom way beyond His years? Would you admire that beautiful wooden sculpture which He made with His own hands?

Are you ready to step down to the edge of the river to be baptized with the Lamb of God? Would you gladly introduce your friends to Jesus? Would you forsake everything to follow Him? Would you dine at the table of a tax collector with Him? Would you have had a heart-attack when you saw Him walking on water? Would you weep with Him in front of the grave of a close friend? Would you throw your garment down before Him as He rode that donkey into Jerusalem? Would you vie with John for the place closest to Him at that Last Supper? Would you be embarrassed as He laid aside His garments to wash your feet, taking on the role of a servant? Would you weep at the foot of the Cross as the Messiah bore your sin and shame, naked, battered and beaten? Would you be grief-stricken with Mary Magdalene when you found that His tomb was empty? Could you contain your joy when you received word that your Lord was alive, risen from the dead? Would you run to the empty tomb with Peter and John? Would you offer Him that bread and fish? Those who knew Him best were never the same. They had been with Jesus.

Do you want the healing of spirit and soul that only comes from the Great Physician? Come to Jesus. Come to the God-Man. Embrace and adore the Son of Man. He is the KING of kings and the LORD of lords, and our own flesh and blood is at the Father’s right hand, forever. You will never be the same.

Come and behold Him,
Born the King of Angels.
Oh come let us adore Him,
Oh come let us adore Him,
Oh come let us adore Him,
Christ, the Lord!

In Christ,
Steve

Image and Likeness…

As I have struggled over the past several months with the implications of being created in the “image and likeness” of God (Genesis 1:26-28), I have also struggled to understand how we, as believers, have strayed from the original intent and understanding of this key passage. Certainly the invasion of Gnostic dualism has played a part, but I have come to the conclusion that, until we go back to a true understanding of God, we will never make peace with God’s image in us.

If our understanding of the nature of God is faulty, our understanding of ourselves will be faulty also. A faulty understanding of God will never create a true understanding of man. There is one key, which just came to mind as I was contemplating this topic, which certainly rings true in my own experience over the last fifty or so years. I am not bold and brash enough to claim that this is the ONLY key…only God knows for sure, but I believe it is a key…a clue.

God is Spirit…

Jesus was speaking to the Samaritan woman at the well when He said: “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). That passage should be straightforward enough, but where I believe it is tripping us up, is that we mentally add the word “only“. Do we, when we read this passage, read it as “God is ONLY Spirit“? That was the essence of what I was taught…

Throughout Scripture, there are many instances where God appeared to various people for intimate, relational encounters. The first of those encounters was in the Garden of Eden, where God walked and talked with Adam and Eve…person to person. (Genesis 2:8 and following) Did God merely “appear” to be a person? Was God communicating merely by “thought-transmission“?

The LORD appeared to Abraham, and ate supper with him, promised him a son, and told him about the impending destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah…(Genesis 18)

Jacob wrestled with God, and saw His face…(Genesis 32:24-32)

When God appeared to Moses on the mountain, and hid Moses with His hand until He passed by, did God only “appear” to be a person? Moses was not allowed to see God’s “face“…(Exodus 33:18-23)

Theologians have tried to explain these “appearances” with high-sound names like “Theophany”, but I believe what they are trying to do is “dis-embody” God. Are they also “de-personalizing” God?

Aaron and Miriam rebelled against Moses, and God called them in for a chat. What God told them was that He and Moses spoke “face-to-face“, and that Moses had “seen the form of the Lord“. (Numbers 12:6-8)

The LORD said to my Lord, sit at my right hand“…(Psalm 110)

Daniel had a vision of God, and in his vision, he saw “the Ancient of Days“…(Daniel 7:9-14)

Jesus, while talking to the religious leaders, said “And the Father Himself, who sent me, has testified of me. You have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His form.” (John 5:37)

Stephen saw “the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God“…(Acts 7:54-56)

In heaven, we shall see God’s face…(Revelation 22:4)

Form“…”face”…just figures of speech? I seriously doubt it, because these descriptions of God appear way too many time in Scripture to ignore.

Man is spirit…

What sets mankind apart from our biological and physiological “cousins” in the animal kingdom is our possession of a spirit, or a soul. After God formed that first man from the dust of the ground, He could have merely caused life to enter that man, but instead, God chose to breath His own breath into the man, endowing him with a part of Himself, giving him a soul…a spirit.

Man is not merely “just another animal“, and neither is he a “disembodied-spirit“. He is a union of a mortal body and an immortal spirit, which God intended to be united for all eternity, and indeed will unite…for all eternity, when we are raised from the dead in the resurrection.

If I had said “Man is ONLY spirit“, that would have contradicted everything we know from Scripture about humanity. If I had said “All that really counts is man’s spirit“, I would have played into Gnosticism’s heretical lie, but I don’t believe either of those lies.

Image and likeness…

When a couple conceives a child, they have reasonable expectations that the child will be in their “image and likeness“. Some of those expectations are:

1) Since they are human, the baby will also be human. Humans don’t give birth to animal babies.
2) The baby will be the same ethnicity as they are, and if it isn’t, the husband will have justifiable reason to believe his wife had sex with another man. If they are a mixed-ethnicity couple, the baby will still look like a mixture of both of them.
3) The baby’s hair and eye colors will match their own, or at least someone in their family line. (My first three children had blonde hair and blue eyes, as I do. My fourth had dark eyes and dark hair, like her mother. I certainly could not have “disowned” any of them as not being “mine”, because they all looked like they belonged to our family. They were my children.)
4) The baby’s facial features will resemble one or both parents.

Have you ever seen a picture of a LARGE family, and noticed the strong family-resemblance? It isn’t “accidental“. That resemblance is part of God’s design.

True worship…

God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). Everything we do as humans, we do through the agency of our body. Our spirit experiences life in and through our body, and as we worship God, our spirit connects with God, as it directs our body to physically give Him praise, whether it is through song, prayer, or the spoken word. However, unless our spirit is engaged in worship, all we are doing is going through some form or ritual. It takes our whole being to adequately worship God.

Conclusions…

What I am NOT suggesting is that God is a “divineman“, however there is evidence to support the conclusion that God has some sort of physical form…which is described in masculine terms. A dis-embodied God is much easier for us to deal with, as is a disembodied Jesus. If God and Jesus are merely concepts…knowledge…gnosis, we need not have an real relationship with God. Indeed we can NOT have a relationship with God. All this gnosis…knowledge…can be formulated into neat “doctrines” and put on our theological shelf. Relationship requires person-hood.

What we DO know for fact, is that our Lord Jesus is in heaven, at the Father’s right hand, in His true human form. Our flesh and blood is at the right hand of God…as real…as human, as we are.

Are we willing to accept what God has said about Himself in His Word? If so, it must revolutionize how we see ourselves, as made in His “image and likeness“…body, soul and spirit, and we must quit calling what He called “very good“, something evil, something to be ashamed of.

LORD God,
I want to see you as You are, so that I may gain a true picture of who I am, as Your image-bearer. Show me Your glory, and remove the blinders that the evil-one has placed over my eyes, so that I may know Your truth, and that Your truth may set me free. Remove that wall of false dualism, so that I can become whole, and a new creation in You.

In the majestic and powerful Name of Jesus, Amen!

What is Man?

What is man?” is really a question of our significance. To be fulfilled, and to be complete, we have to know that we are significant…that we matter. We ask “Am I just an insignificant speck in this giant cosmos we call the “universe”?, or “Do I really matter in the grand scheme of things?“. What is man?

These questions beg for answers, because deep in our hearts, we really want to know if our brief existence on this earth counts for anything beyond our immediate sphere of influence. This is not just another study of our creation, although that is a vital part of the answer to these questions, but instead we need to look at what makes us significant as human beings, made in God’s image. What I want to try to answer is “Are we significant?“, and if we are, “Why are we significant?“. This reaches deep into the core of our person-hood.

Looking for significance in all the wrong places…

For a person without the sense of true person-hood, their significance usually comes from the roles they play in society, the things they do, and their achievements and titles. These people often have grown up without any affirmation of their value as a person. Their only value is in what they could do, not in who they are.

Recently I was talking with a friend of my parents, and he told me that my dad had told him that “he was proud of me“. My dad passed away last year, and this was the first time anyone had ever told me that dad was proud of me. Dad had never told me that he was proud of me. I asked mom “Why?“, but she didn’t have any answer. Growing up, I was only what I could do…

Strip all of their “doing” away, and they are an empty shell…with no significance…with no sense of who they are.

My story…

As I have already alluded to, I grew up with no sense of who I was, because all I had was what I could do. Dad was a demanding perfectionist, and I very rarely met up to his high standards. That made every rejection even more difficult, because it stripped me of some piece of “what” I was. Finally, last year, the last vestige of my “whats” was stripped away from me when my wife left me for another man. I was left as a hurting, empty shell…a non-person. I had moved away from the fire department where I was the Safety Officer to marry her, and then my wife had ripped my “husbandhood” away from me. Yes, I often asked God “Do I really matter?“, but all I got was stony silence. Sometimes I thought I would be better off dead, and that if I just disappeared, no one would ever miss me. That was one of the lowest times of my life…

Man…

During the early days of creation, God had spoken and the universe took shape. He had waved His hand, and the galaxies fanned out across the cosmos. He had said “Let there be light“, and the nuclear fires of the stars started burning. God spoke, and plants and animal sprang to life. Then God paused and had a conference…

God said “Let us make man in our image…” (Genesis 1:26), and rather than speaking man into existence, God came down to earth to do this project Himself. Man was going to be a creature like no other…

Imagine with me, if you will, the curiosity of the animals and birds, as God knelt down and scooped up a handful of dirt…cosmic dust. Perhaps they were wondering what God was going to do with that dirt… Then, as God formed a head, the great apes might have thought that it looked a lot like theirs. From the head came a sturdy neck, then broad shoulders, with long, strong arms, and unique hands. As a master-sculptor forms a figure from clay, this being started taking shape. A strong trunk then extended down from the head and shoulders, with a narrow waist, and then long, muscular legs…with unique feet. Between the legs God formed the unique genitals…the creature would have a definable gender. It was going to be a male. God then took a slender twig and started placing openings in the nose, the mouth, the penis, and between the cheeks of that muscular bottom. Each opening had a purpose, but at this point, all it was, was a lifeless piece of sculpture, a body made of clay, but God wasn’t done quite yet…

As the animals watched, God did something else they had never seen before. He bent over and place His face above the face of that lifeless sculpture, and He started breathing His own breath into that nose and mouth. As God’s breath entered that lifeless body, its eyes opened, its heart started beating, its lungs started pumping, and the man became alive. As God stood up, so did the man, and the birds and animals marveled at the resemblance. “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being“. (Genesis 2:7)

As the birds and animals watched, God laid His new man down to rest. They were totally-unprepared to watch God perform surgery on His new man, but God did, taking a rib from his chest. Then they watched as God formed another new creature from the rib, except that the new creature looked different. Sure, there were similarities, but there were differences as well. This new creature was given breasts…something all the mammals recognized, and then the genitals went inward. This one was going to be a female. Even the shape of her body was different, and they had never seen a creature as beautiful as she. God took her by the hand, and she stood up, just like the man. When God woke the man up, He introduced the woman to the man. What a lovely couple.

Man was God’s personal creation…his finest work of art… After God form the man and his wife, He rested, because His creation was finally complete. God had commissioned the man and his wife to continue the creative process, by having children. They were to become “co-creators” with God.

Our search for significance…

As our other sources of “significance” are stripped away, and crumble around us, our search should lead us to the ultimate Source of our significance…the LORD God. Unfortunately He is usually our “source of last resort“, and for many who have lost all hope, suicide seems to be their only way out.

In 1997, my first wife took that way out. With our marriage in shambles, and our family badly splintered, she sat in our living-room, put a pistol to her head, and pulled the trigger. She was dead before she hit the floor. Her problems were over, but mine had just begun… My own kids have refused any contact with me for over sixteen years. She was dead, and I was totally devastated, because EVERYTHING I held dear had been ripped from my grasp. Those WERE the darkest days of my life, because I had lost my home, my job, my wife, and even my own children. I didn’t have any more to lose, except for my own life, and even that was threatened…

I was introduced to “Search for Significance“, by Robert McGee, in a support-group, but its marvelous message never made it much past my eyes. It would take fifteen more years, and three more failed marriages, before my heart was finally ready to start letting go of the old way, the only way I had ever known of gaining my own significance. Fifty-seven years was long enough…actually fifty-seven years too many.

Do you see yourself in my experience? If you do, hang on, because I am going to reveal our true Source of significance momentarily. If you don’t see yourself in my experience, get down on your knees and thank God.

What is man…

If you are familiar with the Psalms, you will immediately recognize those words as the first three words of Psalm 8, verse 4, and to put it in context, here is the whole Psalm.
O Lord, our Lord,
How excellent is Your name in all the earth,
Who have set Your glory above the heavens!
2 Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants
You have ordained strength,
Because of Your enemies,
That You may silence the enemy and the avenger.
3 When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
The moon and the stars, which You have ordained,
4 What is man that You are mindful of him,
And the son of man that You visit him?
5 For You have made him a little lower than the angels,
And You have crowned him with glory and honor.
6 You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands;
You have put all things under his feet,
7 All sheep and oxen—
Even the beasts of the field,
8 The birds of the air,
And the fish of the sea
That pass through the paths of the seas.
9 O Lord, our Lord,
How excellent is Your name in all the earth! (Psalm 8)

King David, in contemplating God, His excellence and glory, and His creation, was moved to ask “What is man?“. Even though David had many triumphs in his life, his personal life was in shambles. He was a great warrior, but he spent many years on the run, fearing for his life. Even though God had called him a “man after His own heart“, David had committed adultery with the wife of one of his commanders, and then had the man murdered. David had no reason to believe that he had any true significance…apart from the significance God gave him.

David came to discover, as we must, that God has bestowed on mankind a special kind of significance, as His ambassadors and viceroys in His world. As God’s ONLY personal creation, man stands head-and-shoulders above everything else that God has created.

Being human gives us a dignity that nobody, and no situation can strip from us. We are the only creatures in all of creation that bear the image of God…and that includes angels. Satan must have cringed every time he saw the unclothed forms of Adam and Eve, because they possessed the one thing he could never possess – God’s image. I pray that you allow the implications of this Psalm sink deep into your heart and soul.

One more thing…

If you are thinking: “WOW! It doesn’t get any better than this!“, I have some good news for you… the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. If you are in Christ, you are a child of God, and an heir with Him of everything God the Father owns. If you are a child of God, it DOESN’T get any better than this, but it is all you need, for all eternity.

If you are not in Christ, and have not accepted Him as your Savior and Lord, I am pleading with you to do so today, because your future is very bleak, regardless of your earthly successes and achievements. Those things will be forever stripped away from you the moment you take your last breath. You may be a billionaire in this life, but you will die a pauper, because EVERYTHING stays behind when you die.

I may be a pauper on this earth, but I am an heir to riches untold, and when I die, they will be mine for all eternity.

Take your pick…riches now…for a few brief years, and poverty for all eternity, or poverty now…for a few brief years, and untold riches for all eternity. I’ll take mine then.

What is man?

4 What is man that You are mindful of him,
And the son of man that You visit him?
5 For You have made him a little lower than the angels,
And You have crowned him with glory and honor.
(Psalm 8:4-5)

I pray that this is YOUR significance. It is mine, and nobody can take it away from me.

Final thoughts…

I have great worth apart from my performance, because Christ gave His life for me, and therefore imparted great value to me. I am deeply loved, fully pleasing, totally forgiven, accepted, and complete in Christ.

God bless!