We Do Not Faint (Original Song)

from 2 Corinthians 3-5

The clay pot family

We have good news to share
Sight for the blind
We boldly proclaim the truth
Shame left behind.
We have this treasure in jars of clay
Through our body may waste away
Our spirit grows day by day
We do not faint.

We have good news to share
Life for the dead
Suffering prepares the way
Heaven ahead.
We have this treasure in jars of clay
Through our body may waste away
Our spirit grows day by day
We do not faint.

Hallelujah! The veil is gone
And we gaze on Jesus’ face!
Greater glory forever on
His Spirit leads us from grace to grace.

We have good news to share
Peace for the torn
Old things have passed away
We are reborn
We have this treasure in jars of clay
Through our body may waste away
Our spirit grows day by day
We do not faint.

Hallelujah! The veil is gone
And we gaze on Jesus’ face!
Greater glory forever on
His Spirit leads us from grace to grace

No foe will fell us
No blow will break us
Jesus will never forsake
Our bodies will die
Our bodies will live
Assurance no sorrow can shake

We have this treasure in jars of clay
Through our body may waste away
Our spirit grows day by day
We do not faint.

Hallelujah! The veil is gone
And we gaze on Jesus’ face!
Greater glory forever on
His Spirit leads us from grace to grace

Thanks to Bryan Boliver for the arrangement and production.

Pride and Rainbows

View from the Porch

Six months ago we moved to beautiful North Idaho.  So far, I have seen two spectacular rainbows arching over the woods in front of our house.  I am not a great photographer, but many of my neighbors are.  Our most recent rainbow made many encore appearances on Facebook.

What compelled me to stand on my porch and gawk?  What moved my neighbors to share picture after picture?  Science tells us that rainbows are not physical objects, but optical phenomenon, merely light refracted through water droplets.  Yet they have a mysterious power to command our attention.

The heavens declare the glory of God (Psalm 19:1).  When I see God’s bow in the sky, my heart immediately responds.  I recognize the majesty of the Creator, his power to write in the clouds, his pleasure in beauty.  I remember his care and compassion for all creatures, his eternal covenant with all flesh on the earth (Genesis 9:17).

All of this makes me feel quite small.  “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” (Psalm 8:3-4).  But feeling small also feels good.  I have so little control over my life, but that’s OK.   In the words of the children’s song, “My God is so Big, so Strong and so Mighty there’s nothing my God cannot do.”  This includes painting the sky in technicolor rings.

Rainbows evoke many emotions: awe, gratitude, even wistful longing.  “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  The one emotion I do not feel, I cannot feel, is pride.  What is there to be proud of?  I did not make the rain, or the sunlight, or the rules of refraction.  I did not schedule the rainbow, it simply appeared.  My very eyes that see the bow are also a miracle, not of my own design.

Yet somehow, in our demented minds, the rainbow has become a symbol of Pride.  This is not pride in genuine achievement.  This is the Pride of Lucifer, who wanted to become like God (Isaiah 14:12-15).  This Pride corrupts creation order, denies God’s obvious design for man and wife.  This Pride proffers the lie that forbidden fruit does not lead to death.

I find it interesting that the LGBTQ+ movement does not use pictures of real rainbows in their promotional material.  Instead, they use a stylized, cartoon version, a rectangular flag with no curved bow at all.  The most recent “Progress Pride flag” looks even less like a rainbow (although still flown at NASA headquarters for Pride month).  The Progress Pride flag sports a garish chevron of white, pink, baby blue, brown, and black – colors completely absent from God’s original.

Perhaps the LGBTQ+ movement cannot bear to display actual rainbows.  Perhaps the voiceless voice of the rainbow is too loud.  Perhaps if more of us stopped to look, stopped to listen, there would be no more Pride.

Sex Monkeys at the CDC

CDC Celebrates Pride with Monkeypox

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) – a tax-supported government health organization – has created guidelines for sexual activity during a Monkeypox outbreak.  It appears that Monkeypox is transmitted sexually, and men who have sex with multiple men are especially at risk.  This is somewhat ironic timing, given Pride Month celebrations.

A return to Biblical sexual norms would, of course, solve this problem completely.  Sex was created by God as the joyful joining of man and wife, in order to fill the earth with God’s image-bearers.  In God’s good plan, pleasure and procreation go hand-in-hand.  Husband and wife become one flesh, bonding for life, raising up the next generation of worshippers together as father and mother, grandfather and grandmother.  As a side benefit, faithful obedience to Biblical sexual norms eliminates the transmission of sexual diseases.

Yet we have separated what God has joined together.  The birth control pill removed (or claimed to remove) procreation from the equation, enabling sex for pleasure only.  The test tube embryo further distanced childbearing from the sexual act, making children a bespoke commodity.  Today, our world sees no difference between the glory of marital sex and the debauchery of masturbation, whether to porn or with a generic “partner.”

Exhibit A, the CDC guidelines.

Some CDC bureaucrat – probably more than one – took it upon themselves to spell out this redefinition of sex, masquerading as “health guidelines.”  To clarify that they are not talking about Biblical sexual norms, the CDC guidelines include a picture of several people of indeterminate gender (beards are no longer a tell) waiving rainbow flags.  The CDC tells us that sex includes include “virtual sex,” masturbating together (?) at a distance of 6 feet, sex with clothes on and/or without kissing, sex with washed “hands, fetish gear, sex toys, and any fabrics,” and sex with a “limited” number of partners.  All of these, according to the CDC, will lower your risk of contracting Monkeypox.

No mention is made of returning to Biblical sexual norms, not even as a “safer” sex alternative.  Rather than encourage Americans toward sexual responsibility, which is foundational to a healthy and fruitful society, the CDC treats us all as animals, enslaved to our libidos.  As no better than monkeys.

And that is what we are, what we were without Christ. Only Christ can save us from slavery to sin, sexual or otherwise. Only the blood of Christ purchased our forgiveness, reconciling us to God. And only the Holy Spirit, poured out on God’s people, enables us to live up to the standard of faithful, Biblical marriage.

Meanwhile, in light of the above, I suggest guidance from the CDC be given its appropriate weight. Perhaps similar to the weight one might give lies from the pit of hell.

The Housework Question

Question:  Is it unreasonable to ask my husband to help with kids and supper cleanup after work?

The Gospel Coalition forwarded me the above question from one of their readers.  Ultimately — after I prepared the below response — TGC decided to withdraw the question completely.  They wanted me to re-work my article under a more egalitarian framework:  “How can my husband and I split the household chores?”  But, of course, that would have been a different article entirely.

I found the original question interesting for a couple reasons.  One, because it touches on gender roles in marriage, which is a hot potato.  Two, because it challenges women to consider how biblical principles apply to nitty-gritty life.  And three, because of the use of the term “unreasonable.”

Not unreasonable.  As an attorney, I spend a lot of time thinking about, and arguing over, the standard of reasonableness.  Did the employer reasonably accommodate the employee with a disability?  Did the employee reasonably take advantage of the employer’s complaint policies?  In other words, what would an average, ordinary person do under the circumstances?

In this light, the question about housework almost answers itself.  It’s clear that a reasonable wife can ask her husband for reasonable household help, in a reasonable manner.  (And a reasonable husband can decline to help, in a reasonable manner, provided he has a good reason). 

But God is not bound by human reasonableness, not in the least.  In fact, God turns the wisdom of the world upside-down, into foolishness (1 Corinthians 1:20).  God’s standards are higher than ordinary reasonableness.  And he is most concerned with the state of our hearts (Luke 6:45, Matthew 23:25).

Unfortunately, our natural hearts are deceptive and wicked (Jeremiah 17:9).  This is why King David asks God to search his heart, to see if there is any grievous sin hiding within (Psalm 139:23-24).  Asking for help may seem reasonable by the world’s standards.  But it can also be sinful, depending on our heart motivation. 

The lazy heart.  From ancient times, God has called his people to labor six days a week (Exodus 20:9).  Even in Eden, God gave Adam and Eve work to do (Genesis 1:28).  The book of Proverbs is full of admonitions against the sluggard, who neglects his work and spends his days in bed (ex., Proverbs 6:6-11).  The New Testament repeats God’s command to work, and work with all our hearts (2 Thessalonians 3:10, Colossians 3:23).

Let me be frank, ladies.  Have you been diligent with your work at home?  Have you been tackling household chores with all your might?  Think about how much time you spend flopped on the couch, scrolling on your phone, having coffee with friends.  Think about whether you have given God, and your family, a full day’s work.  If you have been a sluggard, don’t ask your husband for help.  Instead, repent!  And return to work with your whole heart, as for the Lord.

The resentful heart.  Household chores are not glamorous.  Runny noses and sticky fingers stain your clothes.  Endless dishes chap your hands.   Lifting and scrubbing strain your back.  Plus many times, your efforts will be invisible and unappreciated, even by those you love.  Under these circumstances, it’s easy for the “reasonable woman” to have a bad attitude.

While God created man and woman with equal dignity (Genesis 1:27), he gave them unique assignments (Genesis 2:18, Titus 2:5).  Women have a natural, God-given orientation toward the home, starting with the fact that only women can become pregnant, give birth, and nurse.  Even the Proverbs 31 woman, a confident business owner, cares for her husband, children, and household as her first priority (Proverbs 31:11, 15, 21, 23, 27-28).

Our godless society denies the creation order.  Countless voices scream ambition at us, and damn the consequences to our families.  So let’s check our hearts for signs of resentment against our husbands.  When we ask for help, are we trying to draw attention to a life of seeming drudgery?  Are we subtly needling our husbands for “getting to” work outside the home?  

If you have a bitter and resentful heart over your role in the home, repent!  Perhaps ask your husband to watch the kids for a few minutes, so that you can speak with God and get your attitude in check.  Thank God for a home to tend, children to disciple, and the provision of your husband.  Then return, pick up your cross (Luke 9:23) and your dish towel.

The humble heart.  At times, tending the home is truly exhausting.  Perhaps you have been sick, or a child has been stuck in rebellion mode.  Perhaps you have had extended houseguests, or extra caretaking responsibilities.  Or perhaps you feel weary and weak for no particular reason.

There is no shame in weakness.  That’s when we most need Jesus, when he calls us to come to him, and when his power is most evident (2 Corinthians 12:9-10, Matthew 11:28-30).  Jesus ministered to the sick and bruised (Matthew 9:12-13, 12:20).  As Christians, we should do the same for each other, bearing each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:2). Husbands especially have a duty to love and care for their wives, as Christ cherishes and nourishes his people (Ephesians 5:25-29).  You can help your husband fulfill this duty by asking for the help you need.  If you are feeling weak and need extra support, admit it!  A humble heart, rather than a demanding or resentful heart, is more likely to encourage your husband to act.  It can also open the door to closer fellowship in marriage – a more important result than just clean dishes.

PTL (Taw Year 3)

Psalm 119:171: “My lips will pour forth praise, for you teach me your statutes.”

Ladies, what does it mean to “praise the Lord”?  This phrase, so fundamental to Christian worship, has almost become a slogan:  PTL! <insert raised hands emoji here>.  But how do we do it?

Praise is modeled for us in the Psalms, especially the last five psalms (145-150).  So if your fountain of praise is stopped up – if your lips do not naturally bubble forth in worship – these psalms are a good place to start.  In them, David extols, blesses, praises, commends, declares, meditates, speaks, and sings of God’s greatness.  God’s name is great, his works are great, his majesty is great, his mercy is great, his power is great, the glory of his kingdom is great (Psalm 145:1-13).  And yet God cares deeply for his people.  Even though God is the great creator, he helps the oppressed, the hungry, the prisoners, the wanderers, orphans, and widows (Psalm 146).  God names the stars and heals the brokenhearted – both actions are completely consistent with his nature.  (Psalm 147:3-4).

When we praise, we join all creation in harmony.  The hosts of heaven, angels and stars, praise God (Psalm 148:2-3).  So too “fire and hail, snow and mist, stormy wind fulfilling his word!”  (Psalm 148:8).   The plant and animal kingdoms are called to worship, along with all people:  rulers, subjects, men, women, children, and the aged (Psalm 148:9-12).  And, of course, God’s people have the greatest reason to “exult in glory” and “sing for joy on their beds,” because the Lord will save us (Psalm 149). 

Praise is also intertwined with music and instrumentation.  We are called to praise with trumpet, harp, tambourine, strings, pipe, and even with “loud clashing cymbals”!  (Psalm 150).  Even if you are not musical, you can still use your breath and your body to worship to the best of your ability.

I think it is interesting how our psalmist ends his great composition, Psalm 119 — not with praise, but with a declaration of future praise.  He doesn’t say that his lips pour forth praise, he says his lips “will” pour forth praise.  If you look closely, the psalmist is in something of a slump.  He begs God to hear his prayer, cries for understanding, pleads for deliverance.  It’s not that he has forgotten God’s commands, but he has strayed and needs God to seek him (Psalm 119:169-176).

This is the reality.  God commands our praise, indeed, the praise of all creation.  But we can’t get to that exalted place on our own.  God must find us, teach us, and raise us up.   In faith, we trust that he will do those things.  And in faith, we declare we will live to praise him.

No Such Thing as Disinformation (Sin & Shin Year 3)

Psalm 119:163:  “I hate and abhor falsehood, but I love your law.”

Ladies, why does our psalmist keep using the H word??  Why does he have to be so binary all the time?? 

The dichotomy here is between lies – which the psalmist hates – and the word of truth – which the psalmist loves.  And the psalmist’s strong emotional reactions are not off base.  God hates the lying tongue – in fact, it is one of seven abominations to him (Proverbs 6:16-17).  Bearing false witness is prohibited in the Ten Commandments, right after murder, adultery and theft (Exodus 20:16).

The chasm between truth and lies goes further still.  Jesus, Son of God, is the Truth, the source of grace and truth (John 1:14, 17; 14:6).  In contrast, there is no truth in the devil, who lies and fathers lies (John 8:44-45).  This is why it is so important to hate lies and love the truth.  When we exchange the truth of God for a lie, our hearts turn dark and our minds debased (Romans 1:21, 25, 28).

Today it is popular to talk about “disinformation.”  This is just a weasel word.  The people who concocted the term “disinformation” don’t recognize objective truth, only power.  They are like Pilate, who was charged with finding the truth about Jesus.  Jesus told Pilate, “Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.”  But Pilate responded, “What is truth?” and delivered Jesus to death (John 18:37-38).

Let us speak plainly of truth and lies.  With emotion, like the psalmist!  And if you don’t know whether something is true, speak plainly about that also.  How will we recognize the truth?  Jesus says, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciplines, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  (John 8:31-32). 

Lean into the binary. Love God’s word. Hate lies.

Are You Seeking? (Resh Year 3)

Psalm 119:155: “Salvation is far from the wicked, for they do not seek your statutes.”

Ladies, a distinguishing characteristic of the wicked is that they do not seek God.  Seeking is a form of faith, desiring and hoping for and straining toward that which is unseen.  “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.”  (Hebrews 11:6).

And God does reward seekers.  “Seek and you will find!” says Jesus (Matthew 7:7).  Of course, it doesn’t help to seek the wrong things, or to be self-seeking.  Believers must seek God’s statutes.  We must “by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality.”  (Romans 2:7).  As Jesus taught, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things [food, drink, clothes, life] will be added to you.”  (Matthew 6:33). 

The problem is that no one seeks God on their own initiative.  “God looks down from heaven on the children of man to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God.” (Psalm 53:2).  But there is no one who does good, not even one.  (Psalm 53:2, Romans 3:11).  We are all wicked, and salvation is far from us.

But thanks be to God, our salvation does not rely on our own seeking.  Jesus came to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10).  And when he finds one of his wandering sheep, the angels in heaven rejoice (Luke 15:1).

The Lord is seeking you, and he is very near.  If you respond in faith, seeking him with your whole heart, he promises you will find him — and be found by him (Jeremiah 29:13-14, Acts 17:27-28).

Before Dawn (Qoph Year 3)

Psalm 119:147: “I rise before dawn and cry for help; I hope in your words.”

Ladies, has worry woken you before your alarm?  Have you cried to God in the dark?  Then you know the desperation of the psalmist.  Yet as he pleads for help, the psalmist has hope.  He knows God’s promises in his word.  He knows that, in just a short while, the dawn is coming.

Dawn in the Palouse is beautiful, a fresh surprise of color each day.  God’s mercies are new every morning, and the rising sun confirms it (Lamentations 3:23).  The sun bursts from the horizon, a bridegroom in his wedding duds, eager to run his race (Psalm 19:5).  Over and over, God commands the dawn to shake the wicked from the earth, removing their cover of darkness (Job 38:13). 

The sunrise is a living metaphor for salvation.  When the sun sets, the earth dies a symbolic death; when the sun rises, the earth is resurrected.  The psalms declare that God will help his people when morning dawns (Psalm 46:5);  the prophets promise that, “for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings.”  (Malachi 4:2).  Zechariah, just months before Jesus was born, sang of “the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death” (Luke 1:78).

And, of course, the sun of righteousness himself, Jesus the Lord, rose from the dead at sunrise (Matthew 28:1).

The next time you are troubled at night, go ahead and get up.  Cry to Jesus for help.  Then open the curtains and wait.  Know that God hears and will answer you, just as surely as the sun will rise (Hosea 6:3).

Zealousy (Tsadhe Year 3)

Psalm 119:139: “My zeal consumes me, because my foes forget your words.”

Ladies, does it sound a little extreme to you, to be “consumed by zeal”?  Do you just want to pat the psalmist’s hand and say, “calm down, it’s all going to be ok”?  Yet we know that Christ himself was consumed by zeal, when he saw how the moneychangers misused the temple, his Father’s house (John 2:17).  So there must be such a thing as righteous, burning zeal.

It gets even weirder when we realize that “zeal” and “jealousy” are translations of the same word in the original scriptures.  If we are uncomfortable with zeal, we are doubly uncomfortable with jealousy.  Yet God describes himself as a “jealous God,” to the point that “Jealous” is one of his names (Exodus 20:5, 34:14).  This is the reason we are not to commit idolatry and worship anything else, because “the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.”  (Deuteronomy 4:24).

Jealousy is a powerful force, inseparable from love.  According to the wisest man who ever lived: “Love is strong as death, jealousy is fierce as the grave.  Its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the Lord.  Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it.”  (Song of Solomon 8:6-7).  In fact, it was God’s love and his jealousy that moved him to save us and conquer death (Isaiah 9:7).  “The Lord goes out like a mighty man, like a man of war he stirs up his zeal; he cries out, he shouts aloud, he shows himself mighty against his foes.” (Isaiah 42:13).

As imperfect humans, we can be zealous for the wrong things.  Paul was (Galatians 1:14).  Yet we are commanded to be zealous for the right things, including repentance and good works (Titus 2:14, 2 Corinthians 7:11, Revelation 3:19).  Our zeal comes from our relationship with God, where the things that offend God, offend us, and the reproaches of those who reproach God, fall on us (Isaiah 69:9).  This is why the psalmist considers those who forget God’s word to be his enemies, stirring up his zeal.

Pay attention and you may find yourself experiencing feelings of zeal, or jealousy.  Don’t squelch those emotions right away.  Instead, pause and ask:  what is the object of my passion?  Is it the Lord or something else?